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Archive for November, 2011

Icky Feeling

I had that icky feeling last session; you know when your bad DM sense starts tingling. I wouldn’t necessarily say it was DM fiat but it kind of felt like it. You see we left the previous session with the heroes standing in the middle of a desert after collecting an ancient artifact being sought by the emperor of Netheral and fighting off a group of his Templars. As I was prepping for the next session I tried to anticipate what their next moves might be and plan accordingly. Prior to their foray into the desert they had set up a cover identity in Netheral as a fighting school training gladiators. The cover was to allow them to act as spies for Cormyr and re-establish contact with the spy network that had been “mysteriously” silent due to a series of disappearances.

In my mind I was thinking that the jig is probably up in the city and if they went back and spent any significant time there they were going to be captured and thrown in the slave pits.  If this happened then they would have to figure out how to escape and I would just sort of work with any idea they came up with. I guess not surprisingly they decided to go back to the city and start poking around and fiddling with the artifact which then activated it.

I was pondering about how to capture them and whether there would be a chance to avoid it. I felt avoiding capture would be slim given the emperor putting the full weight of his  resources to bear, so the party would have to do something pretty creative. I thought about a big throw down where they are pummeled into submission but given this is 4e I thought it would take forever and be kind of unpleasant and not very much fun. So I settled on poison, as Heroes of Shadow has mechanics for high level poisons that can incapacitate people. I had their contact in the city send them a message to meet at one of their regular places, an outdoor café. The owner was going to poison them all including their contact. It was on the way to this rendezvous that the icky feeling came in. The goliath ranger stated in a metagame voice that they were going to be poisoned. I of course kept my poker face like I had just turned a set and the player betting into me is asking if that card helped me or not. I should still note they continued on to the meeting and began discussion with their contact about a lot of the urgent happenings going on within the palace after the return of Torin (the assassin that got away in the desert) with some suggestion that the emperors mages where attempting to track the artifact through it’s arcane signature. Again the metagame talk surfaced as drinks and food where brought to the table so I had them make an insight check versus a hard DC to get a danger sense, but they all failed miserable and one by one their heads slumped to the table (I had the poison on the cutlery and glasses so just contact would do it). The cleric pointed to his amulet of health and said would this help and even though mechanically it wouldn’t I said “okay it flares to life and you see the rest of your comrades hit the table, Azhim backs away from the table and you see several Templars moving through he crowd towards you”. He didn’t do anything so it was off to the slave pits, although in my mind if he tries to escape I think I would have let him with the aid of the beggars that he has befriended. 

So why did I have that icky feeling? I think I had trouble with or was worried that having them captured seemed to rail-roady despite it seeming very logical from a narrative/story perspective that if your cover is blown in a large city and the emperor uses all his resources to capture you it’s probably going to happen. The metagame comment didn’t help though as it set me on edge a little. I think I gave them opportunities to not have it necessarily happen (i.e they could have not gone back to the city) or to do something to avoid it, although mind you if they tried to fight their way out the Templars weapons would have been coated with some nasty shit as well from Heroes of Shadow. Had it come to this it would have been interesting to see what they would have done when some of their comrades dropped? I think also that my players are too accepting of things, like they are following the script I have laid out for them when in fact I am working hard to have multiple possibilities and am open to collaborative story telling. They weren’t upset by being captured either, everyone had a good time. I think I need to have a discussion with the players about my thoughts and the possibilities that are there at the table which they can be apart of if they choose.

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5 fucking dragons…… That’s right I picked up the new collectors set the other day and it is pretty sweet. To be clear I have no expertise when it comes to assessing the quality of miniatures other than guttural aesthetics. I can’t speak to the sculpts or the paint jobs, I’ll leave that for others, as I personally can’t draw a straight line with a ruler. I will say that they look very cool and the quality seems higher than what comes out in the regular sets.  I guess the only drawback is that they are all large sized, regulating them to the young dragon versions if that is something that is important to you. I don’t think I would have a problem using one of them to represent and adult dragon but an ancient one hmm…probably not.  I also picked up a copy of Heroes of the Feywild prior to its street date through the early release program offered to premier FLGS. This in itself is not very notable as I frequently do this, but what is notable is I found a FLGS that was selling it at Amazon prices which is unbelievable and guarantees a lot of future love from me.

But why you ask did I have to rush out by these trinkets? Aside from my pathological need to constantly throw money at new shiny baubles, it has to do with making choices matter in my home campaign. I have begun to make a concerted effort to have the things the players do have effects, positive or negative, trivial or major in the unfolding story and their interactions. For example, one of the players whose character is a cleric of Pelor off-handily mentioned that he would often go out during the day and toss coins to the homeless and beggars in the slums district of Netheral. As a reaction I have made the street people into a small cult-like silent army that is dedicated to giving aid to the player’s, and particularly the cleric, at unexpected times as well as providing the occasional quest.

So back to the dragons. Earlier in the campaign the players sought out and exterminated a black dragon to get the necessary components to power a ritual that would remove a divine brand that was acting as a homing beacon for every nut-job devote of Shar. That adventure was aptly entitled “cleansing the taint” 🙂 . The Goliath Ranger in the party (a total grognard) wanted to make a suit of armour out of the dragon skin hoping it would bestow some potent magical benefit and you know look pretty badass. So after he was able to find a dwarven craftsmen and dropped a few thousand gp he was pimped out in one fine suit of black dragon armour (+2, 5 acid resistance).  It has been several levels and almost a year since this happened so it seems about time for that action to have a bit of a consequence.  You see Shadowraith, clutch mate to Blightongue, is lees than pleased at having his sibling being worn as a decoration by a bunch of talking meat-sacs.  And what better way to have this unfold than with a badass black dragon miniature, am I right? You see how I have this special at-will ability that enables me to essentially rationalize away any nerd purchase as being necessary and of utmost importance, I can assure you it aggravates my wife to no end.

 

 

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A Proper Villian

Well my face to face home campaign has started back up after a brief hiatus due to the regular bullshit that life dishes out to prevent us older folks from partaking in frivolous pursuits. The group still appears to be invested in their characters and the story so over the past couple of weeks I began re-organizing myself and putting some materials together.  Part of this processes had me looking over one of the main villains in the campaign so far. The party has squared off against him twice already, both times at differing levels, so I have had to level him periodically to keep him a proper villain. Because we don’t play super frequently I have the player’s level every other session making them currently 7th level and due to the possibility of contact in the next session I needed to ready him for action.

I started the campaign out running the Keep on the Shadowfell with the Forgotten Realms conversion.  After the party bitch slapped Kalarel and closed the portal to the Shadowfell they earned the enmity of the Goddess Shar, for you know like fucking her shit up. So as a consequence her organization sent an assassin out to have them answer for this. Thus enter one Torrin Stormclaw, shadow infused and flamboyantly evil assassin of Shar. On a side note I have noticed that a lot of my villains are flamboyant, I am not really sure what that’s about, but something defiantly to ponder. I originally went with a Human Assassin that I found on the old monster builder with the drow shadow stride power added for good measure. In actual play I found him a little complicated to run at the table so when I was gearing up to resume the campaign I began flipping through some of the new monster books looking for inspiration. I really like what they have done with the lurker monsters post Monster Manual 3. I feel they have cleaned up some of the mechanics and simplified them a bit. I particularly like how you can drop some massive damage dice on a player, often evoking that deer in headlights/I just shit myself look. This is balanced and achieved by lurkers having a power that typically takes them out of the field of play for a round, which then enables their money shot attack.

I found an awesome elite lurker in the Dark Drake of the Moon Hills from Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale that fit exactly what I was looking for and was easily re-skinned.  I added a ranged attack due to cleric in the party with his stupid Iron to Glass power that can effectively neuter any big bad guy with only melee attacks, and when coupled with Moment of Glory can make me want take my ball and go home.  If I was the paranoid type I would be thinking that Wizards is trying to ruin my life. Lest you think I am a total dig back, Mr. Torrin can’t do his big money shot with the ranged attack, so the cleric can still shine, unless he is already making death saves.

Here is what Torrin looks like currently. I expect he will level one more time for the big throw down at the end of the heroic tier, unless something unexpected happens next session when they catch a glimpse of him.

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