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Archive for April, 2012

I wouldn’t say that the campaign up until this point has been a railroad job, but there was definitely a track of some sort involved. I guess they could have chosen not to save the world from the douche emperor.  So with the end of the campaign arc last session I have decided to mix things up a bit and do more of a sandboxy type deal. There is one slight catch; I haven’t really done something like this before which leaves me fumbling a bit with how to go about things

At first blush it does seem a little more labor intensive than running a module or having a specific plotline that the players are following, and you know how I feel about “labor” given my lazy bastard default setting.  Plus I find that the more ambiguous things are the less focused I get which results in less activity and a little avoidance as I struggle with conceptualizing things in my head.  

What I have begun to do is create more NPC’s/organizations for the characters to interact with and then tying certain adventure/plot options to them. The players are then free to pick up on the adventure seed or not or pursue something of their own. My one concern is that they are a bit conditioned and I am worried they will just automatically follow the first adventure seed they come upon, and assume this is what I have planned for them.  I have been openly stating for a while there will be multiple options as well as a need for them to drive what they want to do, so well see how it shakes loose.  

I have a sense of where some for the players might want to take things and have been planning accordingly. For example, I am pretty sure that the Paladin is going to want to hunt down his former man-at-arms who shanked him in the back and left him for dead, funny how something like that will stick with a guy. So I have been thinking a lot about where good ole Sultan Griss might be and the shenanigans he and the splinter faction “the blazing suns” are up too. I think I am going to have him spotted in Neverwinter so I can make use of the cool setting book put out by WOTC.  This is one of the things I struggle with as the campaign setting is not supper defined and a bit of a mish mash of generic fantasy. I am not so much a world builder as I am a world pilferer.

Another possible plotline involves the cleric’s desire to build a church, so I have been struggling a bit in conceptualizing what might be involved in that and what complications or challenges to have him overcome. I am thinking some kind of corruption/hoop jumping and religious conflict. I think there is some definite potential for adventure from having parishioners.

So we shall see how it goes. I plan on milking the last bit of the heroic tier for a while. If I get in to trouble and are unprepared for the direction they set of in, well then hey this is 4th edition and you can  always eat a lot of time in a surprise combat 😉

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One what? One fucking Highlander movie, that’s what. I don’t think I am going out on a limb here or risking a tsunami of impotent nerd rage crashing down upon me in saying that every movie since the original has been flaming piles of human feces with some animal feces mixed in for good measure. What has spurred this rant you might ask? Well I have just starting watching the latest, and hopefully last, sequel in “Highlander: The Source”.

Few things have captured my imagination like the original Highlander. I love that movie so much. It would be impossible to count the number of times I have watched it. My love affair began before I had even seen it, as I was evidently too young to be allowed into a movie theatre showing decapitations. I remember just staring at the movie poster, transfixed by the black and white image of Christopher Lambert and the text reading:

“He fought his first battle on the Scottish Highlands in 1536. He will fight his greatest battle on the Streets of New York in 1986. His name is Connor MacLeod, and he is immortal”

I was already way in to fantasy literature and Dungeons and Dragons so it seemed like they had made a movie just for me. When I finally saw it on video I wasn’t disappointed, it was fantastic. The sword play, iconic villain, Sean Connery, and perhaps the greatest soundtrack in the history of cinema made me shiver with multiple nerdgasms. I later bartered with a classmate who worked in a video store to let me “rent” the only copy they had indefinitely.

Therefore, it would be an understatement to say that I was a tad disappointed in the first sequel (I refuse to even name the offending offal) and it just kept getting worse (offal 3 and offal 4), I mean there is only so many aliens on hover boards a guy can take. This brings us to the latest offal. I have to stress that I long ago stopped having any kind of expectations when it comes to Highlander sequels, I mean groin kick me once shame on you but groin kick me twice shame on me. When it came to the “Source” my expectations were so low that we are talking negative integers and yet I was so thoroughly flabbergasted and bewildered at how truly horrifying this film is. Watching this monstrosity made me physically ill; I might be less sickened actually watching my parents have sex. Yes it was that bad.

It wasn’t just that the story and acting were terrible, and believe me they were terrible, but it actually looked like they used my iphone to film it. The main villain I shit you not had the “speed force” and zipped around the screen like the flash.

I just don’t understand how they can continue to turn out movies that are so awful. They had it right with the television show, which was fantastic; it captured the essence of the original nicely. Why couldn’t they have just done a few Star Trek/X-Files style movies and called it a day, instead of repeatedly violating us with these hate films.

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Smackdown

It was time. The table was set, the encounters were in the oven, and the 1943 bottle of chateuneuf-du whoop-ass was opened and gently breathing. All that was left was for our heroes to cock-punch the emperor, curb-stomp their hated arch-nemesis, and save the world. Just a walk in the park Kazansky, except I forgot my fucking mini’s. You remember my last post where I babbled on full of girlish glee about the perfect miniatures I had found for my big showdown? Well, such is life and sometimes you just gotta make the best of it.

So with various dice, chips, and bottle caps staring down the players the end of the campaign arc unfolded, culminating in the turbo-charged encounter put together by the Evil GM. The party had taken an extended rest, so were well rested when they set off after the emperor. I set up one encounter at the fey grove where they needed to open a portal to the feywild, an appetizer if you will. I wanted to get a final gauge or sense of things to help fine tune the final battle. We had 4 players (paladin, ranger, cleric, and slayer). I had finally convince the paladin to try a solid defender build, another gem courtesy of the Evil GM and Witchknight so I wanted to test the waters a little to see how much I could beat off..er I mean on him. It was an at level encounter verses the dreaded “quad”, a squad of assassins raised together since birth (I ripped the concept from Goodkind’s “sword of truth”) consisting of a soldier, artillery, controller, and skirmisher de-levelled from Gloomrought. As a tune up fight it still left me a little perplexed as how to handle the big showdown. On the one hand they focused fired on opponent, uncommon for them, and paladin was much more effective, however, I still bleed the shit out of them as the cleric was down to 2 healing surges.

The players made great haste and arrived at the temple just as the foul ritual was starting. I staged the final battle in 2 phases, as had been discussed, as way of managing the difficulty level of the encounter. I dropped one of the “bandit” grunts based on party number and their somewhat unconvincing performance in the tune-up fight, which in hindsight was probably a mistake. They dusted the mook and bloodied Torrin pretty easily with only the ranger taking serous damage. The change in the paladin became evident here as he was much harder to hit and I could see the recognition dawning on the players face as he began to dig this iteration of his character more and more. After Torrin was bloodied he became invisible and retreated into the rectory (total dick move and oh so Torrin), joining the emperor for the last act.

The final scene went down without a hitch as the heroes pummelled the emperor, saved the day, and finally achieved satisfaction seeing Torrin finally meet his end at the hands of the ranger. I was surprised and slightly disappointed that they only triggered the emperors minions once as the party made  good use of the clerics “sprirt of healing” power, which allowed for a decent amount of surge-less healing. I added about 50 hit points to the emperor on the fly to help straddle that intensity line, and was rewarded with 2 players making death saves as the final blow was struck giving a more epic and tense feeling. I also held off on using the minons cock-punch attack (3d10+8) until the second wave, after I got a better sense of things and felt that it wouldn’t wipe the party. It did allow me to drop that pesky paladin, which brought a smile to my face. Overall the entire encounter worked out great and again much thanks to the Evil GM and gang.  Having it unfold over 2 acts, upon reflection, was definitely necessary as I would have wiped the floor with them in a single slugfest. If I had to do it over again I think I would have kept the extra mook in the first act, but that’s just me being…EVIL

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