A collection of rambling posts about gaming, running, and politics. (and, in 2009, photography.)

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Joys of Other People's Perspectives

So I got to have lunch with someone who will not vote for Obama because his middle name is Hussien, and apparently he's secretly still Muslim.

And you can't trust muslims, just look at the problems going on in the middle east! A muslim in the white house would probably change the constitution and our money and stuff, and take "God" out of it. Read the constitution! God is IN THERE! This nation was founded on God and Christianity. Its surprising muslims even live here, with all the problems that they cause. To elect a person who is secretly muslim would be a slap in the face to our troops who are over there fighting against the muslims!

Narrative Control

One of the coolest things about the game of Shadowrun of Yesterday that we did, was that thanks to using Shadow of Yesterday rules, I had much more control over the narrative of the story.

Case in point: the Cyberzombies busted in. In a normal game of Shadowrun, one of two things would have happened. 1) The players manage to somehow take down the cyberzombies. 2) more likely, the players shoot back in an intense firefight, cause that's what players do, and the cyberzombies would have eaten them for lunch.

Two vastly different systems. In Shadowrun, which is pretty hard core "Sim", the rules are the boss. With TSOY, which gives alot of space to "Narrative", I had the ability to direct the story by deciding the stakes. And I guess that's the difference. With Shadowrun, I have no real control over the stakes/outcome. Its all down to the dice. I can influence it, by rolling more dice, but I can't control it. With TSOY, we talk about what happens, instead of letting the dice decide for us.

/game nerd

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Questioning your players ethical choices

Questioning your players ethical choices is tricky business, and one should be very careful when doing so.

Obviously, its just a game, and everyone except the most pure and expert of theatrical role players will, to some extent, behave and respond accordingly.

D&D functions best with well defined black and white/good and evil. While groups will vary wildly, D&D doesn't feel geared for soul searching morality plays (go play Sorcerer, or Dogs in the Vineyard, or maybe even Vampire). Its all black and white - "That guy is evil. We're gonna kill him." And then, to some extent, the end justifies the means. If he's fleeing, riding away as fast as he can? Shoot him down.

Games like Sorcerer or Dogs in the Vineyard are geared toward being stories about morality, and as they put it "how far will you go?".

So, if I follow my own line of thought, I'd say that D&D should probably be kept simple. Its a game about heroic adventure against dastardly foes. Do D&D players want to have to deal with tough choices, or choices in which there is not a reasonable choice? I'd say no, for the most part. I'm not insulting D&D players by any means, but I think that people sit down to play D&D so that they can take part in what D&D does well. I'm not saying that they want mindless "old school" adventures in which the toughest choice that you'll face is whether to take the left passage or the right passage when trying to get to the minotaur at the bottom of the dungeon.

Note: I probably owe a short apology to anyone that read this. I started this post like 7 times, and erased it and started from scratch 6 times. I don't think I really have a point, or much of a conclusion. This is just me musing.

Monday, August 25, 2008

D&D Session 8: Blood of the Innocent and the Guilty

Used to, when I was running a game and we'd all assembled, I announced in some fashion "Okay, everyone shut up, its time to play." This typically did not work very well. Then it "occurred" to me that the players sitting around the table actually enjoy talking to each other, catching up, and so forth. So I adopted a much more relaxed policy, where I show up, anticipate 30 minutes or so of chit chat, and will run the game when the players look to me expectantly.

Well apparently I was not paying enough attention, because shortly after we were all assembled, someone inquired if I was planning to run a game today. So we did some gaming!

The players had decided that they wanted to have a chat with Athurn, who was running around, apparently doing nefarious things on behalf of the Lathiens. They shadowed him for a few days, looking for an opportunity to strike.

Quick aside: When running a game, this is an excellent spot to get totally stuck in. Secret information: I have no idea what Athurn does every day. He's the henchman of a probably bad guy. I do not have a copy of his schedule. I've never been a henchman, so I'm not sure what kind of things that he'd be up to all day. This is the part where a responsible DM throws the players a bone, and crafts something to meet what they're looking for. "Uhm.. he goes to some places, and talks to some people. He meets with, um, a guy, at a, um, tavern..." blah blah blah. Remember that your players don't actually care what this dude is doing, or where he's going. Its easy to forget that all they want is a handy place to ambush him. So, they soon learned that he was planning a trip in the next day or two out of town to Moore's Creek.

"Aha!" Said my players. We discussed what their characters knew about the road between here and Moore's Creek, and they talked about how to ambush their quarry, and how many men he would have with him. They considered delaying Athurn somehow, hoping he'd get a late start, and be on the road at night, but we talked about how there are a few villages along the road, and that there are places for travelers to bunk up for the night.

Finally they settled on a simple and straight forward "ambush along the road" plan. They left ahead of Athurn, and found a farmstead not far from the road that was abandoned during the winter. They setup and waited, some of them hiding in a copse of trees, a few in a barn, and a couple behind the farmhouse. Traffic was light but steady along the road. Eventually they spied a group of men on horseback coming their way, headed to Moore's Creek. It was not until the horsemen were almost even with the characters that they realized that it was Athurn and his party. Complicating matters slightly, were a pair of young farmers on the road a short distance away, and a covered wagon and escorts, just a short distance the opposite direction. So they'd have an audience.

As the riders were even with the party, Devlin (John's warlord) ran out from behind the farmhouse and got the riders attention. Athurn recognized him, and charged after him. There was some brief shouted dialogue along the lines of,

"You tried poisoned us, you bastard!"

"I won't leave you alive this time around."

Athurn and his riders charged after them, into the clutches of the ambush.

Let me get mechanical, then I'll be narrative. Scroll down a few if you're not interested in the D&D mechanics, or if you're one of my players and don't want to "ruin the magic" or something.

This was a hard encounter. I'd toyed with a couple of ways to run a fight with Athurn. Since I'd come to the session without any clear idea about how the party would go about the confrontation, I'd tried to give myself a few options. I considered having them confront him in a tavern/inn setting, where they'd have to face his men in the main room, or get around them, and then him and one or two guys in a back room somewhere. Setup that way, he'd be a "solo" opponent - basically just meaning that he'd be a reasonable challenge for the group. I'd also given myself an option of a fight with Athurn and his men, with Athurn as an "elite" opponent.. elite just being a tougher sort of mob. I'd noticed recently that the party seemed to be making pretty short work of the encounters that they'd come across. The encounters seemed to be leaning on the easy side of things.

Per D&D math, a party of seven 3rd level characters should get an XP budget of 1050 for an exactly even ("normal") encounter. The budget goes up to about 1200 and is still normal. Between about 1400 and 2100, its "hard". This fight was about 1900 xp. There was Athurn, who was an elite soldier, so he had a lot of hit points, really good AC, good "to hit", and a few nice special attacks. With him were two lurkers- guys who were able to move around the combat and strike for a goodly amount of damage. Two controller type of guys, men with long bull whips, which I totally made up and am a little proud of- they could strike up to three squares away, and move people around a little, and knock them prone. Then there was a brute type, who had high hit points, low ac, low "to hit", but laid out large amounts of damage when he did manage to land a blow. Finally, he had five soldier types, who's job is to be somewhat hard to hit, lay out consistent damage, and tie up the melee guys in the party. This seemed to me to be a very well balanced party of bad guys. They had most all the bases covered.

Mechanically, the fight went pretty well for the players, but it was certainly not easy, and I'd definitely call it a challenge. The fighter and the paladin tied up with the soldiers, the thief and the ranger ended up stuck near the edge of the battle fighting a couple of the soldiers, Athurn charged in and handed a massive hit to John's warlord, and then tied up with the warlord and the cleric, and later the thief. The sneaky blade types rolled terribly, and didn't get to do as much in the fight as I'd hoped, but they harassed the defenders and the wizard. The whip guys kept up the pressure on folks by constantly sending the fighter to the dirt, and hassling the other good guys. The fight was pretty spread out. The good guys very loosely surrounded the bad guys, before everyone tied up. So there was not really a line of scrimmage or anything. The players seemed just a little surprised when the bad guys did not start to drop quickly, perhaps expecting a few minions to be mixed in. John's warlord took a brief dirt nap when he tried to move around some of the bad guys and got totally clobbered, and Jason's fighter took a pretty beating. Nearly everyone, I think, took a number of hits. It was a good, and tough fight. And I'll try to run more like it in the future.

Also, although the bad guys were mounted, I made a decision to have the horses in the fight play no more role than adding two to the riders movement. Mounted combat rules in 4e are really light, but I didn't even want to bother with the few that there were. I'll try to incorporate them next time around that we fight mounted folks, but the horses were mostly just fluff in this fight.

I did run into one small glitch, but it was primarily my fault. At the tail end of the fight, when only two bad guys remained standing - the fight was effectively over. A few times in the past, I've called the fight, and wrapped up. I see it as a waste of time, sometimes, to continue to run turn by turn when its really just mopping up. This time, one of the bad guys tried to get away on horseback. I said something along the lines of,

"Okay guys, this last fellow spurs his horse to a gallop, and is trying to get away. Let's make this a skill challenge, and have you guys try to catch him."

To which, a few of the players inquired as to why they could not just used their ranged weaponry to bring him down. I let one or two take their hits on him, and again said something along the lines of "Alright, so he's riding away, lets talk about what you can do to catch him." Still some folks wanted to shoot him out of the saddle. Admittedly, I got a little exasperated at this point and was a little snappish. I think that I was simply not communicating in an effective enough manner. I should have gone with "Guys, shooting someone out of a saddle as they flee is boring and sucks. I'm trying something a little new and different, to liven things up. How about if we see if you can catch him."

So, we did move on, and managed to do our little impromptu skill challenge to catch the guy. I told them that they needed.. I think 6 successes to win the challenge. Skill challenges are still kinda new territory for me, and I'm playing a little bit loose with their interpretation. Jerry's cleric used Insight to get a lead on which way the fellow was headed and such, yelling for his associates to head the guy off. The other players used athletics or acrobatics to leap onto other riderless horses and charge off after him. They caught him.

After the fight, they went and spoke to the wagon guards who were regarding them warily. Our warlord clarified that they had been dispatched to seek out and destroy blood cultists, and that these men... well, had it coming. The wagon guards assured them that they weren't cultists, and everyone went about their business. The party looted the dead, and had spared Athurn, dropping him but not killing him. They then set about interrogating him. Again, I wanted to use a skill challenge for it, as I've always hated "one-roll intimidate for lots of information" checks. This was a check that required 8 successes before they had 3 failures. The party used good cop/bad cop tactics, some of them rolling intimidate checks, some bluff or diplomacy checks, and at one point, if I recall, the wizard even pitched in with a magical effect, using his arcana skill (or this might have been during the chase, I forget which challenge it was a part of). Again, they beat it, and Athurn started spilling his info.

Athurn had no idea about any blood lord or blood cult. He'd been in charge of kidnapping the farm family on the other side of the Shadow Deep, but he had not seen them since he delivered them to the Lathien compound, to Osric and Wayen, more specifically. He figured that Wayen was dabbling in slavery. Athurn said that he was on his way to Moore's Creek to pick up a package from a criminal fellow named Velder. (Why do I only have five or six character named people and places?) The party wanted to talk Athurn into betraying the Lathiens, letting the good guys pose as his entourage, and going back to the Lathien compound. They even offered Athurn his life for the deal. Athurn told them that his life wasn't worth it - that none of the civilized territory around was far enough away from the Lathiens for them to not have him found. He said that if he helped them, he'd be accepting death, or life in exile into the wilderness, which is a slow death. His argument was convincing enough, and our Raven Queen devotee sent him on to meet her mistress.

The group decided to head on to Moore's Creek and meet with Velder. They'd pose as Athurn, the warlord donned his armor, and they came up with a scheme to pass him off as Athurn, despite that he did not resemble him at all. As they made their way to Moore's Creek, I felt certain that surprises abounded.

They made it into the city and went to the meeting place, the name of which I cannot recall at the moment. The party decided that they'd go inside, find the darkest corner available to put Devlin/Athurn, and the wizards was prestidigitating to help mask his not-likeness-to-Athurn. They sat down and scanned the place, looking for "someone else that's looking for someone". The place was busy, crowded with a fairly nefarious and wicked crowd. No one was carrying a sign that said "Athurn". After a few moments, they stopped a serving person and asked if she knew Velder. She sized up the party, took the offered gold, and pointed out a man in a blue jacket seated at the other end of the hall, near the fireplace. Andrew's thief, Nate, headed that way.

He sat down at the table beside Velder and said "Okay, we're here for the package."

Velder blinked at him, and asked him who he was.

Nate responded that he was here with Athurn.

Velder wanted to know where Athurn was, and when Nate pointed out "Athurn" in the corner, Velder waved him over. Nate responded that Athurn was very ill, and not at all able to carry on even a conversation, and that Nate would be acting in his stead. A few dice rolls for randomness later, Velder agree'd and told Nate that he would have the package available in a few hours, at 3AM at the Eastern Gate.

The party left to lay low and stay out of trouble for a few hours, while Nate stayed behind to keep an eye on Velder. After a bit of time, Velder and a few men left and made their way across town. Nate shadowed them until they turned down an alley beside some militiamen that Velder spoke to. Nate used his knowledge of Moore's Creek to circle around a couple of buildings and enter the alley another way, but by the time he got there, Velder was nowhere in sight. There were a couple of men standing at an open door in the alley, and some sleeping vagrants, but no one else in sight. Nate considered going in, and then they all considered gathering and going in, apparently to shake down Velder or have a conversation or confrontation with him, but it was decided instead to wait for the 3AM meeting.

They headed to the Eastern Gate shortly before 3. As they approached in the dark streets, they could see a group of people gathered at the gate. About ten militia men with long spears, as well as a group of about a dozen people, seemingly with Velder amongst them.

The party hesitated, smelling a trap. Eventually, Nate (Andrew) went forward. They noticed also that some of the dozen people, perhaps five of them, seemed to wear chains. The party realized that they were to be slave couriers. Nate spoke with Velder, but Nate was very aggressive toward him, yelling and pointing in his face. One of the militiamen poked Nate with a spear and told him to back off. Nate brandished his sword, and immediately everyone was moving.. the militia began to circle him, while the half dozen men with Velder moved to shield him. The rest of the party was entering into the courtyard before the gate now as well. Just as Devlin/"Athurn" was reigning in Nate, Velder tried to calm the situation by declaring that it was certainly a misunderstanding. He asked "Athurn" to come have a word with him to the side, and that he was sure that everything could be cleared up. The whole party, and particularly "Athurn" looked anxious. He walked off just a little ways with Velder.

Velder said to him that he was uncertain of what his scam was, or what his interests were, but that he (Velder) didn't really care. He was happy to proceed as normal, but that the price had increased, for his troubles. "Athurn" nodded his head, and paid 100 gold to Velder. Velder turned and told his men and the militia that everyone was fine, there were no problems, and that they would transfer the package and be done. The slaves were handed off to the party, the gate opened, and they began to leave, when Velder called out to them that he'd forgotten something. Everyone looked anxious again for a moment, and Velder said that there was another package that they were supposed to get along their journey back to Drugen. Near Balidonen's Last Stand, they were to make a pick up on a hillock. He bade them safe travels, and the gate rattled shut behind them.


This was a good session, I thought. I very much enjoyed the combat encounter, and I believe t he players did too. It felt very satisfying in the sense that it was challenging and dynamic.

The session itself went very well overall. The party's dealing with Athurn went well by my perspective, as did the meeting with Velder and the package pickup.

Next week: More surprises, I think.

New Home

So, I've waved goodbye to LiveJournal, and I'm sorta finished settling in here at blogspot.

I hope that the folks who had the perseverance to scroll through my posts on LJ will join me over here for more of the same.


Friday, August 22, 2008

While I'm On Hold

I'll entertain you with the following:

Keyboards can be a source of mild entertainment.


There! That is a (not actual) example of my password, typed when my fingers are on the wrong home keys! Yay touch typing! I always catch it almost right away, but there's always half a second of confusion, where I wonder if I've had a stroke, or if someone has randomized my keyboard.

Speaking of home keys, a great prank to play on your friends that rely on hunting and pecking is to move the keys around on the keyboard! You can even do this with just a couple of letters on the keyboard to totally throw them off. Ahhhh good times.

Besides, I'm sure your hunting and pecking friends needs a good excuse for punching you in the face. Everyone wins!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

D&D Session 7: Cat and Mouse

So the gang was gathered for some more D&D.

Krissi and her ranger were suffering from a headcold, and so they were not with us.

This week's adventure was a change of pace for all of us. Our previous sessions have been spent either in the underground or in the wilderness. Aside from a few villagers, most everyone they met was interested only in a good fight. So, our previous sessions could easily be categorized as Dungeon Crawling. This week, they got to test their diplomacy and socializing.

When we'd left off last week, the group had just arrived at the gates to the town of Illyes. Of the three towns that form the majority of this community, Illyes is the religious center. Pretty much all of the good and neutral aligned deities have a temple of some size here. Jerry's cleric went off and spent a little time at the temple of Pelor, Maddie's paladin went and spent some time at the temple of the Raven Queen.

Jerry and Maddie both asked at their temples about jobs - side quest time. Which was totally cool, but left me in the lurch for just a moment. As I mentioned, this week was a pretty serious change of pace for us. I'd been a touch anxious about exactly this, leading up to our game. Maddie wanted to secure a holy symbol of some kind for her Paladin. Jerry wanted to build up some good karma with his people. After a moment of quick thinking, I explained that the head mistress of the Raven Queen's temple wanted Maddie to go to the down of Drugen to pick up the unclaimed corpses of a family that died in a fire. The disciples of the Raven Queen took it upon themselves to handle the unclaimed or unwanted dead. Jerry's cleric meanwhile was asked to take a minor relic to Drugen and bury it, in the hopes that it would help to hasten the coming of spring, since winter was turning out to be particularly harsh this year.

The gang also spent a little time going around town, some to the temples, others to the barracks to inquire if any unusual travelers had come through recently - as they were tracking the missing farm family and their kidnappers. They were told that yes, an agent from one of the well-placed families in Drugen had passed through recently. Obviously, all signs pointed to Drugen.

We also noted that the party was pretty close to third level. In an effort to encourage my players to come up with background stories for their characters, I'd offered a reward of 1/10th of a level worth of XP for a background. Jerry and Jeremy had taken me up on it, contributing toward the entire parties advancement, and with level 3 being just about 30 xp away, John and Andrew both quickly committed their backgrounds to paper, and bumped the party over into level 3. Woo!

The party headed for Drugen, and managed to provide some security for a large train of wagons carrying grain. This netted them some cash. They all looked a little disappointed though when I did not spring an encounter on them. Noted.

The party started digging around in Drugen while the cleric and paladin went about their side quests. Andrew's thief and John's warlord kept their ear to the street, while Jason's fighter passed the time sparring with some of the militia. Nate the thief put out word that he was interested in slaver activity, and they waited to hear from someone. They didn't have to wait very long, as a page boy approached them, and said that someone wanted to meet them at midnight in a disused barn outside of the town.

The party headed there early and staked the place out and waited for Midnight. Andrew's thief and John's warlord headed inside, while the rest of the party stayed outside, hidden in the nearby trees. Soon, a fellow named Nusak showed up, and told Nate and Devlin that he was on the run and hiding from someone people that he was certain wanted to kill him. He'd been invited by someone named Osric to a "secret meeting". He went, along with a couple of other first timers, and found that the meeting had people in long red robes with masks, who brought in a young man, killed him, and drained his blood. He left, and was not interested in going back, neither were the other two first timers there. And he'd learned that they'd both been killed, and that someone was staking out his place. He fled, and contacted the characters, hoping that they could help him. About this time, Maddie's paladin noticed a group of armed people moving in toward the barn, and the fight was on.

The party dispatched most of the bad guys, capturing their leader, a guy named Roric. He was a simple sell-sword from Drugen, who said that he'd been hired by a guy named Athurn to come and kill Nusak. The party learned or was already aware that Athurn was a retainer for house Lathien- the patriarch of which was the head judge in the town, and his son, the subcaptain of the town militia. Devlin (John) convinced Roric to head back to Drugen with them, and to tell Athurn that the job was done - the party would pose as the other sell-swords that were with Roric. He agree'd, and they headed back to Drugen and staked out the Fiery Griffin tavern, a working-class drinking hall frequented by rough necks, sell swords, and town militia. Soon, Athurn and some of his men showed up as expected. He conversed with Roric, who assured him that they'd done the job and killed Nusak (who they'd actually given some money to, and sent away to Illyes to lie low.) Athurn seemed pleased, and bought them a round of drinks. Devlin gave Athurn a false name and asked if he had any work available. Athurn said maybe, and that he'd look him up if he needed people. Athurn and his men left. Roric and Dzur (Jason) drank up, and they went their separate ways, the party sending Roric away to Moore's Creek.

A day or two passed, and Dzur became very ill - apparently from poison. With the help of Father Kreuz (Jerry), he pulled through. Sorrow (Maddie) got a message that she had a package at the north gate. Upon arriving, she was told that some farmers had brought in a body that they'd found along the way, and they wanted to turn it over to one of the Raven Queen's disciples. The body was that of Roric. Dead by poison, presumably.

The party decided that their next course of action would be a meeting with Athurn, who they'd been keeping tabs on.

More notes:

As I said, this was a real change of pace. This session differed greatly from the previous ones in that our previous sessions have largely been combat with cut scenes/travel/dialogue between. Like I said - kinda Dungeon Crawl. This session was mostly talking and intrigue. I think that it took everyone a little bit to shift gears, I know it was a transition for me. It felt a little strange - I've run tons of games, mostly Werewolf and TSOY, and done tons of unplanned dialogue and city stuff, and not had any qualms about it - but this felt a little different somehow, I assume just because its D&D. But it went down really without any problems that I observed. Intrigue games can be tricky, one wants to be careful that they clues aren't too subtle or difficult to find, cause then the players sit around and get bored/frustrated. The clues and/or action should pretty much come to them, which is what I did. But again, it was a transition. Combat heavy games just require a little tactical planning, and so when you switch to requiring deduction, reasoning and a little cleverness, it can throw folks for a loop. But I'm going on about it, only because it made such an impression on me. My players seemed to run with it.

Good side quests are a little tricky though. I was kindof on the spot, and so I just threw out the first things that I came up with. I'll have to writeup some ideas for this kind of thing so it doesn't blindside me next time. I want to try to avoid "Uh, yeah, the baron needs you to deliver a letter to, um, a priest." Cause carrying letters and packages back and forth is boring, and more the territory of CRPGs. I can do better than that. :)


This will mean little to most of you, but still I celebrate.


Hearts of Iron 3: late 2009.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008


So... I haven't had the blogging bug lately, it seems.

On the running front: things were good for a week or two, then late last week I got de-motivated, and didn't run on thursday, saturday or sunday when I should have. I got back on it this morning with 8 miles, and it was a good run, and I'm glad I did it, but I can't say that I enjoyed it. Just not feeling motivated. I'm really quite lazy at heart, you see.

I need to get my ass in gear and do my session writeup for D&D for this past week.

I got together with Michael and Kelly and ran some Jedi in the Vineyard the other day. I started to do a longish, somewhat detailed writeup, but I got two or three paragraphs in and then got tired of writing and busy at work. In brief: it was pretty cool. I like the "* in the Vineyard" system, but its pretty tricky. I said the other day that every time I run it, it feels as though I've just donned a super shiny and sleek and awesome space suit, and that its about two sizes wrong and stiff in some uncomfortable places, and just needs to be broken in and grown into. Enough analogies. Moving right along.

I have kinda been in a computer gaming funk - like some people are with books, I'm never not in the midst of playing some computer game. I played a few real time strategy titles, before dusting off my copy of Fallout 2 and cranking it up. Such fun! (I'm serious. Fallout 2 rocks.)

I'm sure there are some other things that I'm forgetting about, but that's my roundup for now.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Y'know, I was thinking the same thing

So, blogging is slow going for me lately. I'll have some content again soon I'm sure.

Meanwhile, here's more fuel for my "The Media and Politics are mind numbingly stupid" thing.

(Image from Todd Alcott's livejournal)

So.... McCain is totally right. It is wrong for one nation to invade another. Wait - why does this sound somehow familiar?

(Image from Frostfirezoo)

This is dumb, but not altogether shocking. I'll call it "We Are Winning The Olympics!" spin.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Running Roundup

So, I'm off to a pretty good start with my running.

As I mentioned, I've taken to getting up early and going out for a run.

Last week, in addition to my semi-disastrous 3.5 mile run, I managed a 6 on Tuesday morning, an 8 on Wednesday morning, another 8 on Friday morning and a 4 on Saturday.

I had a long run scheduled for Sunday, and I got up at 6AM and hit the streets in the light ran and cranked out 12 miles in 2:07. I'm pretty pleased.

D&D Session 6: Food for the Vultures/The Road Home

The gamers assembled and soon we were playing!

We transitioned almost immediately to an encounter, as the party continued their journey south and west toward their destination with the villagers in tow. They'd come out of the rugged hills into more gentle terrain. Ahead, they saw carrion birds gathering, and soon came upon a scene of carnage. There was a pile of a dozen or so orcish dead, and another five staked out on the ground and slit open. Most of the dead, and all of those that were staked out had their faces painted with ash and coal to resemble a black skull. A few of the dead had a large red handprint dyed onto their armor. Amidst the dead was a broken banner, baring a large skull. They sent two still-living orcs on to meet Gruumsh, and then saw a party of Red Hand orcs come over the crest of the hill nearby. The largest among them called out "Blood for the Blood Lord!" and they charged into battle. Maddie's paladin was closest to them, with Andrew's thief not too far behind. The paladin charged right up and engaged them, as the rest of the party began to close in. The orcs swarmed around the paladin though, and very nearly brought her to the ground.

So, the Paladin was in the thick of things, but the rest of the party swarmed in and kicked some Orcish ass.

They pressed on, and soon came to a farmestead, not far from the village that they were headed to. They made it to the village, and made arrangements to leave their charges here, to be incorporated into the community. Illgiliant made sure to leave some gold with them to help them out. There was a feast held, and it was revealed that something was stirring in the Shadowdeep, a forest nearby. Recently a family had gone missing from their farmstead not far from the Shadowdeep. Smelling a quest, the party was soon headed in that direction, after Father Kreuz spent a little time healing sickness and illness among the villagers.

They entered the Shadowdeep, and were soon set upon by a greeting party of kobolds. The kobolds were hidden in the dense foliage, and it took a little doing to get out there and engage them. Once they'd dispatched the kobolds, they wanted to know if there was any sign of tracks, to see where the kobolds had come from, hoping to track down the missing family. The kobolds tracks led into a low, narrow tunnel carved into a huge and thick hedge. After a bit of hesitation, the party went hands and knees into the hedge.

They moved along for some time, before coming out and landing right in another ambush. This time, a number of minions and a couple of dual wielding kobolds attacked them. Between Andrew's multiclass Thief/Wizard, and Jason's Dragonborn breath weapon, the minions fell quickly, and soon it was two vs seven, and the remaining kobolds fell.

Moving quickly between encounters, they pressed on toward the center of the forest, and found a circle of huge trees, obviously not just mundane. Within the circle waited a group of heavily armored kobolds. The wind whispered through the trees, and they heard a voice on the wind, "Kill them, my little ones." And the party leapt into combat.

Again, the party wiped out the five armored kobolds pretty much without breaking a sweat. Then the Witch stepped out of the tree. She darted *out* of a tree, across the grass, fired off an attack at the party, and leapt *into* another tree. Smelling a tricky fight, the party began to spread out to the trees in the circle, to try to catch the Witch. As she'd dart from one tree to another, she'd beckon large tree branches to sweep down and smack some of the characters, or she'd whisper on the wind to one of the characters, and that character would turn and strike his or her companions! At one point, she reached out of a tree, grabbed Father Kreuz, and pulled him into the tree. Half a second later, he fell from the branches overhead. The party soon caught her in the open, and worked desperately to keep her from vanishing into the trees again. They swarmed around her, as she fought fiercely against them, turning two of them into trees, and dealing out powerful attacks. When the paladin bloodied her, the entire ring of trees began to flail with their thick branches, striking most of the party and knocking many of them down. Finally, despite the trees healing her wounds, the party brought her down. One of the trees gently lowered its branches and gathered her up. She spoke to the party, telling them that the stars carried portents of the Blood Lord. Also, that the family that they sought went West, with their kidnappers. The kidnappers had bought passage through the Shadowdeep, and she gave them the mace that they'd use to buy their way through. With that, the tree carried her up into its branches and out of sight.

After resting, the party carried on west, and after another few days of travel, they made it to the gates of the three communities that they called home.

Now some notes and thoughts about the game.

During the first encounter I realized that we'd failed to mention whether any resting had occurred between the last session and this one. Quick mechanics: characters can take a short 5 minute rest, which recharges their "encounter" powers, and lets them use healing surges and such to regain lost hit points; or they can take a "long rest" that will regain all healing surges, all hit points, and recharge "daily" powers. They can only take a long rest once per day. After a long rest, action points, which they can accumulate after successive combats, reset to 1, which means that unused action points can go to waste.

A few times before I'd forced long rests on the characters, due simply to in-game time progression and lack of bad guys to fight. This seemed somewhat unfair for the players, so I offered to let them take a mechanical/metagame long rest that would recharge them, but also reset their action points, or to let them take a long rest, that a bunch of people would normally do once per day - but would them them keep their action points, and would not reset their surges or dailies. They liked this, and we're going to run with it.

The other thing that I really noticed in the first encounter, and through the rest of our session, had to do with the balance of characters vs bad guys in a fight. Maddie's paladin ran in, got surrounded, and got pretty beaten down. Obvious point: a character, even a defender, is pretty quick work for the concentrated attention of three or four or more bad guys. This is pretty normal, and I only mention it because I'm picking the mechanics apart. On the other hand, I noticed repeatedly during this session, that the party seemed to make incredibly short work of the opposition. To the point that I am going back and closely looking at encounter setup, trying to make sure that its' appropriately balanced. I won't say that the combats have necessarily been a cake-walk for the party, but at least two combats were over pretty much within two rounds.

I think I've mentioned before how simple monster design is. I love how easy it is to change and tweak beasties. For instance, there are orcs in the monster manual, but none that are 2nd level. So I just took the orc "types" that I wanted, and reworked them for the appropriate level. Took maybe 5 minutes to do. Its easy to create "powers" and abilities and such as well. Instead of using a bunch of stock powers and such for monsters, I'm creating my own with no hassle, just coming up with some cool fluff description, thinking about what I want it to do, doing a quick comparison with similar level stuff for power balance, and I'm done. Again, five or ten minutes max. The Witch that they fought - not in the book. Made her up whole-cloth. And she was a fun fight.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

geek god, or mere mortal?

So, this will probably get me lynched. But let me first say that I'm not dissing on your homeboy Joss.

I'm a little surprised at the mass appeal and rabid frothing fanboy-ness of Joss Whedon and everything he touches. I'm a little confused myself. I'm just not sure whether he is in fact as awesome and coated in delicious gooey chocolate, like everyone seems to think, or if somehow, for some reason, he, and all of his works, have been elevated to some geek godhood, that all else pales in comparison too, and is above criticism or skepticism.

I saw Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog. Good stuff. Funny, clever. I liked it.

But now I can't turn around with seeing someone going on and on about Felicia Day - the romantic interest. Again, I'm not saying that she's undeserving of recognition, she did a great job. I'm just not sure that I recognize the need for her to be as famous as pie.

Then again, maybe I'm just rattling my cage.

Running in the Morning

So after my hard-learned lesson, I endeavored to get up early, before 6AM, and go for a good 5 or 6 mile run.

I made it to bed after some hard core rock band drumming last night, around 10:30. I oozed from bed this morning when the alarm rang about 5:40. Got my running gear on and hit the streets. It was just starting to get light out, so I wore my bright yellow reflective vest, figuring that being clipped by an inattentive driver would not be a fun way to start my day. I did a little bit of brief stretching before, but it took about 5 minutes and half a mile for my body to get warmed up and my legs to stop complaining. It felt hot and muggy out, but in truth, it was around 75 degrees.

It was a really good run, I cranked out 6 miles in 57 and a half minutes, without too much difficulty. I'll be curious to see how it affects my energy level today, whether I'll be good all day, or totally crashing around 3pm.

I figure I'll need to keep this up while its ridiculous hot outside, so maybe for a couple of weeks. I'm slightly terrified about the marathon in December, and I desperately want to train adequately. I'm technically already behind, and off to a slow start. I'm going to push it, while being careful not to overdo it. Wish me luck.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Marathon Training, and Learning Lessons about Running in the Heat

So, because I have very little proficiency with formatting html tables and junk, here is a link to the schedule that I'm going to be working on for the St. Jude marathon in December.


To provide a legend, Week #1 is, well, now.

By the way, it is hot around here.

I went out for a run two Sundays ago, the 27th of last month. I planned to do 8 miles. I got 5 cranked out before I was just to spent to continue running. So I walked the remaining three. It was just ridiculously hot. And it was about 10:30 or 11 in the morning, so the sun was nice and high. Made it home in time to get a heat induced migraine.

Yesterday, I set out to get a run in. Of course, I did not wait for any time that did not qualify as The Hottest Part of the Day. It was about 2pm when I set out, and I only really planned to do between 3 and 5 miles. By my turn around for 3 I was feeling pretty good, so I pressed on, and made it to the turn around for 5 miles. I headed back, and then the sun kinda opened up on me. It was somewhere between 100 and 105 degrees. Walked about a mile or a mile and a half of that. Made it back in time for a migraine, again.

So the lesson that I have learned is this: Do not run in 100 degree heat in the middle of the day. (Moron.)

This still leaves me though with needing to crank through miles and miles, and its still August here, and the weather has apparently not gotten the memo about my training schedule. There is a gym just around the corner from my house though, that does month-to-month membership. So I may do that, just until its a little more survivable outside.