The Sage Welcomes You

So, here you find a blog about life in general, but with a focus on family, games, books, creativity and that big old etc. category.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

This blog is not dead. Also I am a winner, so there

One could be forgiven for thinking that this blog and my 13th Age game had died.

However, neither is true.  The hiatus has lasted much longer that I would have liked, but it turns out teenagers are really busy, which makes me, as their father, also really busy.

Nonetheless, we will play again, and you will read about it here.

In the meantime, I wrote a little something and the kind people over at the Iconic Podcast recognized my entry about how the Wizard King (before he became the Lich King in 13th Age's Dragon Empire) came to kill and enthrall the lich of the White Dragon Icon as the First Place winner.

I have already spent the money, so they can't take it back.

I read the other entries that placed (and I look forward to making time to read the other entries as well), and I have to say that there are so many creative minds out there, and I would have just been glad to compete.  But I am glad to have been selected this time around as the winner, and you can read my entry here.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Heroes of the 13th Age: Part 10: Politics are hard; killing monsters less so . . .

Well, back on February 22, 2014, we managed to squeeze in a few hours of play.

Our cast continues as follows:

Cerise, the Spirit-Touched Cleric
Indigo the Gnome Cleric
Silent "Z" (as always, the name changes), the Half-Elf Rogue
Legolis, the High Elf Ranger
Hey Watchit, the Half-Orc Fighter
Lief, the Human Bard
Delthen Eversoar, the Human Paladin, and
Rolen Stillwind, the Wood Elf Sorcerer

Unfortunately, neither Indigo nor Z's players were available for the last game, so those characters stayed in the background and otherwise were checking out things around town which kept them out of the main action.
When we left the intrepid adventurers at the end of our previous game, there had been an unfortunate incident with a High Elven paladin who had become possessed by some demonic spirit. The party had been able to defeat him and free his squires from demonic influence, but he remained mostly in its thrall, with moments of lucidity. He asked to be taken to the Temple of Dawn in the town of Tampu Tinku to see if he could be freed of the demonic possession.
The group continued with the local teamster boss, a Hafling named Hull, and a Half-Elf named Quill who was returning to live with and take care of his "gran gran." They intended to meet at the Temple with Canoness Shar Patali, whose report to the Cathedral had helped spur their commission as auditors and whose request for help had reached the Order of the Great Gold Wyrm which had sent Sir Kalarai, the now possessed Elf, to the aid of the town.
They departed Stone Bridge Creek and not long thereafter arrived in the town of Tampu Tinku. They immediately headed to the rather grand Temple of the Dawn and met a Priestess named Mara at the temple gates.
There, she informed them that the Canoness had recently left on a mysterious pilgrimage to seek for aid for the town, she took with her two of the temple acolytes, Mari and Rob. Mara had been left in charge of the temple and the brother and sisters of the order who kept the holy shrines. Priestess Mara had no idea when Shar Patali would return.
The adventurers asked what her thoughts were on what was happening in town. She launched into a fairly detailed discussion of local politics, including the rivalries between the Baba brothers, Wari and Lenari. Wari and Lenari were once close (Lenari owns the dairy and Wari is a prominent farmer), but several years back, Wari had a religious conversion and began to heavily patronize the Temple of Dawn. His example helped many see the light of the way of the House of Dawn, and gradually many households began to turn from the druidic Old Faith to the Dawn Temple. Lenari is a staunch member of the Old Faith followers, and Wari is a zealous convert of the Temple. Their feuding has had the town in an uproar for some time.
Added to this, Wari is running for mayor, the first member of the Dawn congregation to do so, as the mayorship has, in the past, always been held by someone of the druidic faith. Also, to complicate things, the Old Faith candidate, Pitch, the Miller, recently dropped out of the electoral race. Rumors have circulated through town that members of the Dawn congregation intimidated Pitch into quitting.
Priestess Mara assured them that such rumors were nonsense. If anything, it was the Old Faith followers who were involved in their dark and emotional nature spirit practice who were scary and intimidating. If Pitch quit for any thought out reason, it was probably because he knew he was going to loose.
Also, the town is in turmoil because the old Druid who used to keep the Old Faith Grove decided to move on to a new territory (who knows why those people do anything?) and a new Druid of the Grove has yet to be appointed. Additionally, Lord Bari, the Emperor's representative and local military administrator (resident at the local fortress keep) recently also converted to the worship of the Dawn Gods, which drove a wedge between him and the local Archmage representative, Lady Kinara, who subsequently left on a mission of her own. Lord Bari's soldiers have been concerned with incursions that seem to coming in from the Red Wastes and have not been concerned with the local bandit problem, which is the concern of the local civil authorities, represented by Constable Kwan.
The bandits have been troubling, but in general, Priestess Mara opined that it was mostly just overblown town politics and family matters that really were not worth the Cathedral's time to investigate.
Delthen decided he would try to assess whether he thought she was lying, but he could not get a clear read on her. She seemed earnest enough.
Hull spoke up that he still thought the bandits were the worst of the town's problems.
Quill noted that he really needed to get to his Gran Gran's.
Priestess Mara promised that she and her brothers and sisters would confine Sir Kalari and take care of him until the return of the Canoness, when they would be able to perform an exorcism. The Squires Valerie, Rupert and Jock helped the Priestess move Sir Kalari into the Temple, but stated that they would go to seek aid from their Order for Sir Kalari.
Indigo decided to go a pray at the temple, and Z mysteriously disappeared to snoop around unencumbered by the other party members.
The adventurer's accompanied Hull as far as his depot, and then, they proceeded through town with Quill to his grandmother, Vamil's, home. While on their way through the town, they noticed that the largest and nicest building (after the Temple) a large inn complex, announced as the Serene Empress Inn, was shuttered and boarded up. Quill expressed surprise, as the Serene Empress had always been the heart of the town, at least it was when he was here 10 or 15 years ago.. He has no idea what happened to it.

Once arriving at Vamil's ("Vamy's") cottage, the old woman hobbled out to greet her grandson and embrace him. Hey Watchit decided to get in on some group hug action and gave a gently crushing embrace to the two of them.

Quill explained who these strangers were and what they were doing, and how they had saved his life. Vamy dispensed tea, wine and ribbon candy to each of the visitors and offered to allow some to sleep in her loft free of charge (she does not have quite room enough for everyone, but Hull's wife would probably put up the rest if they don't mind not staying at an inn).

They asked Vamy what had happened to the Serene Empress Inn, and she allowed that it was a big mystery. About a month back, there was a huge commotion at the inn: fighting and screaming. When the Constable and his deputies finally came, they found the inside of the inn laid to waste and every living person, the owners, their family and employees, the townspeople and the travelers who were guests, all dead in some kind of huge melee. The fight apparently raged throughout the Inn, leaving no survivors. No one understands what kind of madness must have happened, and no one was able to figure it out. The bodies were taken out and the families buried their dead. The travelers were buried in the hallowed ground of the old Druid Grove, and people were afraid, but just did not know what to think.

The adventurers wanted to talk to Pitch Miller about pulling out of the mayor's race, but they thought they would just have a look at the Serene Empress first.

They began their investigation by forcing open the door into the kitchen. They carefully toured first the main floor and then the upstairs. They found every chair in the inn to have been broken, and much of the other furniture damaged or destroyed. There were areas of blood staining and spilled drink and food that was not cleaned.

Hey did notice that the kitchen, if cleaned up, would be a great place in which to cook.

As they looked through the main floor, Delthen in a careful search found a broken blade with strange script on it. The blade itself looked ornate, as if it had been forged for ritual use.

Lief examined the script and found that it seemed to be of the ancient Serpent Script, and that the characters probably translated as "[of]fering."

Upstairs was less disturbed, but still it looked like the fighting had happened up here as well, and everything was broken into. Nothing of real value seemed to remain.

They finally proceeded down into the cellar.

The cellar looked strangely cleared out, with only a few decrepit ale or sour wine barrels still left as far as provisions. Otherwise, there was just trash and debris left around.

Something else surprising they found was that the basement had been left trapped.  Rolen managed to fall down into a relatively freshly dug pit, though he avoided the spikes at the bottom.

Then, shadowy and chameleon-like Kobolds struck, from surprise.

The “ninja” Kobolds hit each of the characters not in the pit, and they hit the cleric Cerise for critical damage.

Then we rolled initiative.

Round 1 (no escalation)

The Kobolds handily won initiative (n.b. I was using the playtest Kobold Shadow-Warriors, who turned out to be much more pumped up than the final published versions in the Bestiary).

Three disappeared into the shadows. 

The other three all attacked with eggshell bombs filled with stinging dust, damaging Delthen and Lief (both in one shot) and Legolis.  The last shadow warrior successfully disengaged on Hey and three a metal star at Hey, but missed.  Hey invoked his “reach tricks” and took a surprise opportunity attack, but missed.

Legolis missed with his axe.

Delthen invoked Smite Evil and missed for half damage [which maybe should have just missed because of the Kobolds’ “evasive” ability, but I let it count].

Lief dealt some damage with Battle Chant, dropping one shadow warrior.
 
Hey swung his trusty enchanted tree and struck with a critical hit, not only smashing  the Kobold before him, but flinging it into the Kobold attacking Legolis, killing both shadow warriors.  It seemed they had taken out the opposition.

Rolen was unable to get out of the pit.

Cerise stepped up and did some healing for herself and others.

Round 2 Escalation 1

The three shadow warriors who had slipped to the shadows came back with a vengeance.  Delthen, Hey and Legolis were all hit for 30 points of damage each.  Delthen staggered, but stayed up.  Hey invoked “Heavy Warrior” to take only 15 points of damage.  Legolis went down.

Legolis rolled a death save on his initiative and failed.

Delthen attacked with Smite Evil and killed one of the warriors.

Lief attacked with his Battle Chant, damaging another of the Kobolds.

Hey invoked “Tough as Iron” and rallied, and then struck with a “Power Attack.”  Hey missed [n.b. I should have invoked “evasive” but forgot again], doing 12 damage because of his Power Attack feat.

Rolen continued to be stuck down in the pit.

Cerise then cast Spirits of the Righteous which blasted the last two warriors into oblivion.

End of Combat.

Delthen was disappointed that he was not able to retrieve any of the stinging powder bombs unbroken. 
 
Cerise healed Rolen.
 
Everyone helped Rolen get out of the pit.

Otherwise, in searching they Kobolds, they found that each bore the ritual tattoo of an ancient Snake Cult, which generally was something at odds with the Kobolds’ draconic nature.

They carefully searched the rest of the cellar floor and found two more recent pits.  Both of Kobold make.

They then began to search for some secret way into the cellar.  Neither Hey nor Delthen could discover anything, but Cerise found a secret door into a hidden store room.  In the room, Cerise, Legolis and Lief all discovered an exit from the room, a trap door.

Beyond the trap door was a passage, similar to a mine tunnel.  They proceeded down the tunnel until they came to an underground stream, which they would have to ford.  There was a handy guide rope across the stream.  Delthen waded in first.

This drew immediate attack from a group of Lizard Men.


Round 1

The leader propelled himself out of the water with a stroke of his tail, and he charged Hey, striking him.

Delthen took out his mace and started Smiting at the two Lizardman Hunters attacking him.

Cerise hit the leader with Spirits of the Righteous.

Lief then lifted his voice and unleashed Soundburst, damaging two of the enemy and killing one outright.

Legolis then killed another firing his bow, using one of his last Twin Arrows, and hit the leader with his magical second arrow.

Hey launched his Power Attack, which missed, but still dealt 11 points of damage.

Round 2 Escalation 1

The leader launched his attack, but missed.  Delthen then stepped up and brought his mace down in a crushing blow, killing the leader.

Cerise flung her Javelin of Faith at one of the last two Lizardman Savages, but did only miss damage.

Lief sang his Battle Chant, which did little damage, but with his Stay Strong! Battle Cry he aided Hey.

Legolis launched another arrow, striking one of the Savages for 10 points.

One of the Savages hit Hey.
 
Rolen did not manage his Elven Grace roll, but he summoned his Chaos Bolt of Thunder Energy and blasted one of the Savages.

Hey then struck out with his tree, killing one of the Lizardman Savages, after using Heavy Blows to reroll damage.


Round 3 Escalation 2

Delthen whirled his mace and struck another crushing blow (16 points!) but could not take down the last Lizardman.

Cerise invoked her Halo and then threw her Javelin of Faith, striking down the Lizardman.

The party then decided to rest a moment by the underground stream and decide what to do in exploring further.
 
One thing was sure, however, this was much easier than figuring out the Mayoral race in town.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A whole lot of Tolkien!

This past holiday break has allowed me to delve deep into my love of Tolkien, and in particular to benefit from some terrific available resources in Tolkien scholarship. 

Now, it may not sound like "studying" Tolkien would be as much fun as just reading (or going to the movies), but it is actually a lot of fun, as well as giving me a deeper appreciation of Tolkien's writings and imagination and teaching me a great deal about writing and scholarship.

Before I touch on my actual activities over my holiday break, I need to go back to how I started delving into this.

A few years ago, on a trip to South Carolina, my son picked as our audio entertainment Rings, Swords, and Monsters: Exploring Fantasy Literature by Professor Michael DroutIt was a brilliant set of lectures which first focused on Tolkien and his process and creations, and then explored the genre of modern fantasy literature which Tolkien somewhat unwittingly helped to create. This was really my first exposure to deep and thoughtful Tolkien scholarship, and it opened me to all sorts of new ideas and understanding about what Tolkien did, what he was interested in and how his academic life as a Medievalist and Philologist informed his imagination.

Hungry for more, I began to look into what else was available and found The Tolkien Professor.  Professor Corey Olsen, like Professor Drout, is by profession a Medievalist (though he has far less focus on Philology than Drout does), but by avocation he is a lover of Tolkien and fantasy literature.  He is also, even more than Drout, highly focused on making Tolkien and Tolkien scholarship accessible to the public.  He has dozens of chats, lectures and seminar episodes available on his website and also available through iTunes.  He writes, lectures and appears for the public in many venues, and has generally done a ton for promoting the understanding and enjoyment of Tolkien's works.

He also wrote the book on The Hobbit: Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit".

So, over break, I finished reading Professor Olsen's book, and I listened to a ton of stuff.

Particularly, I listened to about a dozen episodes of his Silmarillion Seminar through which I have learned a great deal.

I also listened to his discussion of the latest Hobbit movie, The Desolation of Smaug (here & here) which I found to be really interesting and helpful.  

There are tons of other materials accessible through the Tolkien Professor site, and it is definitely a gateway to lots of wonderful and imaginative worlds and thoughts.

I really highly recommend it, and it helped me have a great vacation, even while I was busy and sick.



Heroes of the 13th Age: Part 9: A venture into the hinterlands

After a short break, we were able to play our 13th Age game for a second time in November (November 30 to be precise).

Now, very, very long delay, I can write what happened after our previous game.

Our cast is now as follows:

Cerise, the Spirit-Touched Cleric
Indigo the Gnome Cleric
Zailey (as always, the name changes), the Half-Elf Rogue
Legolis, the High Elf Ranger
Hey Watchit, the Half-Orc Fighter
Lief, the Human Bard
Delthen Eversoar, the Human Paladin, and
Rolen Stillwind, the Wood Elf Sorcerer


We sadly note the absence of our Samurai Half-Elf Yoshi who has had to part ways with us for now.

We resolved the final actions of the spear quest.  The party made its way to Santa Cora, and the carefully (if temporarily) neutralized spear made its way through inspection by Imperial and Archemage officials, and by representatives of the Elf Queen.  It was then handed over for safe keeping, for the moment, within the Cathedral of the Priestess.

In the aftermath of the quest for the cursed spear Alkaarg, the adventurers were able to level up, each becoming second level.  Several of the players took an opportunity to look at things they never used during the first mission and everyone was allowed to retool their characters to better fit how they ended up playing, given that this was everyone's first outing with the game.

The information on the retooled characters will be it's own post in the future.

After leveling up, the characters each engaged in some activities within and around the city of Santa Cora.  Lief the bard sang and performed around the city, just casually, building his fame and earning some 70 gold.  Zailey the rogue also tired to pick up some extra cash and information, but ended up with only a dented silver cup, perhaps worth 5 gold pieces.

Indigo, gnomish cleric took the cursed ring of fear found within the ancient Orc warrens and deposited for safekeeping in the Temple of Bastash, a god of the House of Light and one of the tutelary gods of the Gnomes.

Legolis the High Elf Ranger sold cheese from his (1UT) Cheese Trees, netting a whole 5 silver pieces.

Rolen, the Wood Elf Sorceror, sought to investigate current affairs among the magical circles of society, but came up snubbed at every turn.

We then moved towards assignment of a new mission, this time overtly on behalf of the High Druid and the Priestess (secretly, Dark Paladin Delthen also received word that the Crusader's forces had its own concerns that he should investigate).

 The Priestess was represented by Sister Sanjana, while the High Druid sent the Druid Biturix as her representative.  Jointly they expressed their concerns about the community of Tampu Tinku (also know as Tinku Tampu, because the residents' dialect does not distinguish).  This town lies at an important crossroads of trade deep within the Wild Wood.  Historically it was settled by members of the Druidic faith, led by a hero, Wamani Tinku.  However, over time, and through centuries of hardship and disasters, the town has been resettled several times, and now the population is split between followers of the old Druidic faiths and the beliefs in the gods of Light, especially now the House of Light, led by the Canoness Shar Patali.  Recently, the local Druid leader moved on, and in the interim time, things have been unbalanced within the town.  While there has always been a peace (easy, uneasy or otherwise) between the religious communities, now there is growing conflict.

The auguries of both faith communities indicate dire danger if the conflicts do not get resolved, but the locals seem unable to resolve their differences.  Thus, the Cathedral and the Wild Wood have agreed, after difficult negotiations, to send forth a set of auditors to investigate and seek to resolve (at best) or report back (at the very least) what is going on. 

Given the strong ties to the High Druid and the Priestess held between the party members, and the general reputation for competence and bravery as well as a least some wisdom, the Cathedral and the Woods have agreed to send these eight adventurers forth as auditors.  The Elf Queen (due to Icon Relationship Rolls) also gave her blessing for the journey, in the form of a cloak for Legolis, boots for Hey Watchit, and a protective dagger for Rolen.  Also, the Priestess offered a magic orb to assist the cleric Cerise.

The first part of the journey proved to be long and boring river barge travel up The Grandfather until the river became to difficult to navigate and final approach had to be made over a trade road leading from the docks to the crossroads at Tampu Tinku.  

They fell into traveling with a halfling teamster named Hullorn ("call me Hull"), who was allowing a half-elf named Quillern Nureddin ("call him Quill") to ride along in his wagon to Tampu Tinku.  Hull lives in Tampu Tinku and is the proprietor of the local shipping company.  Quill is moving to Tampu Tinku to help his grandmother ("gran gran"), Vamil Eddin, manage her affairs within the town.

Hull began to tell the party of all the varied problems currently plaguing Tampu Tinku, but he got sidetracked on his particular complaint.  Bitterly he told them of the return of the scourge of bandits who have returned to the area.  Once a terrible bandit camp was know to be centered at the Blackfort, and it is as if the bad old days have returned.  He hoped that someone could deal with the bandits who have been robbing him blind, injuring and killing his employees, and taking bread from the mouths of his hungry children.

This discussion segued then to a discussion of the history of Tampu Tinku.  Wamani Tinku founded it in the 12th Age, but he disappeared and shortly thereafter, the population who was present in the town completely disappeared.  Survivors who happened to be away and others who moved into the area eventually resettled.  Some one hundred years later, the bandits built up the Blackfort and terrorized the area, and then there was a huge battle with bandits and evil monsters who had attacked the town.  Fortunately, adventurers and Imperial forces beat back the attacks and scattered the bandits, burning the Blackfort.

Everyone observed that after the first disaster happened to Tampu Tinku, a second disaster followed about 100 years later, and the present day was again about 100 years after that.  Hmmmmmm.

The Half-Elf Quill mentioned that his "gran gran" knew a lot of the old stories.

At this point, the wagon was hailed by a set of riders.  Though the party thought they might be getting to meet some bandits, it turned out to be a High Elf paladin of the Great Gold Wyrm, Sir Kalari Sunstorm, and his three human squires, Valerie, Rupert and Jock.  They revealed that they too had been summoned to Tampu Tinku.  They were traveling at the behest of Canoness Shar Patali, the leader of the worshipers of the House of Light in Tampu Tinku.  She had asked for aid from the Paladin's of the Great Gold Wyrm to deal with "troubles," but she was not otherwise specific.  Nonetheless, the Golden Order sent forth Sir Kalari to help.  

Upon their meeting, Hey Watchit brought forth his croissants, and everyone had a snack as they traveled along.  During the afternoon's travel, it became clear that Quill had become smitten with Squire Valerie, and he was embarrassingly love sick, much to people's amusement (except for Squire Valerie).  Finally they came to a bridge over a tributary to the River Grandfather.  Sir Kalari and his squires were in the van, and on the other side dismounted at a lazy pool that was fed by the river, to get water for themselves and their horses.

As Sir Kalari approached the pool, and suddenly a rush of shadow burst from the pool and engulfed him, and then possessed his body.  From him then shot lances of darkness, taking his horse and transforming it into a hellish monster, as well as possessing his three squires.  

The now demon-possessed companions turned to attack the wagon, which was just rolling across the bridge.  Quill and Hull, two non-combatants, we up front and began to panic and scream as the demonic Squires approached them, blades drawn.

COMBAT!

Round (R) 1 Escalation (E) 0

Cleric Ceris reacted first and unleashed her Spirits of the Righteous on the demonic force that now animated Sir Kalari.  She stuck with a critical, blasting it with holy fire.

Lief the Bard unleashed a soundburst upon the Squires as he stepped forward to defend Hull and Quill, and incidentally weaving magic from his song to protect the Dark Paladin Delthen.

Delthen struck, using his Smite Evil, but did just half damage with a near miss. 

Legolis, the High Elven Ranger stepped forward to engage the Squires and defend Hull and Qull with his axe.  He missed, but presented himself at least as a target.

Possessed Kalari then struck back, hitting Delthen.

One of the Squires hit lief.

Rolan, Wood Elf Sorcerer, unleashed a Chaos Bolt, but to no effect.

Zailey stepped forward to make an attack, but ended up falling off the bridge and dazed from a fumble.

The now demonic steed leaped the river entirely and attacked Hey Watchit, but missed.

Indigo, the Gnomish Cleric, also unleashed his Spirits of the Righteous, but misdirected his holy fire and missed.

Half-Orc Fighter Hey also missed his swing against the demon steed.

R2 E1

Cerise invoked her Halo as a Spirit Touched and then stepped forward and cast a quick Heal on Lief, then cast Cure Wounds on Delthen.

Lief drew his sword and struck one of the Squires.

Legolis struck Squire Valerie with his axe and his snake pet poisoned her.

Delthen then smashed his mace into Kalari, taking him down, but simultaneously, one of the Squires slashed Delthen, putting him on the ground.

The other Squires each hit Legolis and Lief, but then, as the demonic power receded into the unconscious Kalari, it's control fell away from the Squires.

Rolen fired his scorching ray at the hellish horse, but missed.

Zailey, staggering up from the base of the bridge pulled out some rope and tied up Kalari.

The hell horse tried to take a bite out of Hey, but missed.  

Indigo stepped forward and quickly healed Delthen, then pulled out his crossbow and critically hit the hell horse as he invoked his Strength Domain, leaving the hellish monster dazed.

Hey unleashed a power attack on the monster, but did lesser damage with a miss.

R3 E2

Cerise invoked her Leadership Domain and advanced the Escalation Die to 3 (which robbed the demonic steed of a chance to use a special "odd escalation die" power)

She then missed with her Javelin of Faith.

Delthen charged back over the bridge and struck the steed with his Smite.

Legolis then struck the monster mightily (15 points) with his arrow.

Lief moved into position, but took a moment to rally and recover damage.

Rolen, with a moment of Elven Grace, gather power and blasted off as sadly ineffective Chaos Bolt.

Zailey let loose with her Flying Blade skill and hit.

Once again the demonic monster missed.

Indigo summoned the holy power of his Javelin of Faith, fumbled, and hit Delthen (the other target of darkness)

Hey then hit the steed with a critical.

R4 E4

Cerise summoned her Javelin of Faith, striking the monster.

Delthen missed, as did Lief with his Battle Chant.

Legolis then fired his bow, doing a mighty 14 points (which was more than enough as the monster had but one hit point left).


The hellish force left the steed, leaving the sadly broken body of Sir Kalari's once splendid steed in it's place.


The characters then turned to the bound Sir Kalari.  His wounds were healing, and a darkness still lurked behind his eyes.

The dark power possessing the Paladin had not much helpful to say.  They learned that:

1. "you know not with what you deal, ha ha ha ha"
2. "I am the substance of nightmares!"
3. "You will all bow down before me and do my bidding.  You will pave my way to conquer this pathetic realm!"

Finally, Sir Kalari was able to have a moment of lucidity.  He asked them to keep him bound (no problem) and to get him to the Temple of Light.  He said he could only maintain control for short periods.

Then the darkness started babbling again, threatening them all, so the gagged the poor Paladin.

What dangers lie ahead in Tampu Tinku remain unknown, and what the roots are of the conflict or conflicts in the village are yet mysteries.  However, the strange fate of Sir Kalari points to there being much mreo than meets the eye.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Heroes of the 13th Age: Part 8: Exeunt

After a long break, we were finally able to play our 13th Age game again on November 9.

Now, after a rather long delay, I can write what happened.

Our cast continues to be as follows:

Cerise, the Spirit-Touched Cleric
Indigo the Gnome Cleric
Zeema (as always, the name changes), the Half-Elf Rogue
Legolis, the High Elf Ranger
Hey Watchit, the Half-Orc Fighter
Lief, the Human Bard
Delthen Eversoar, the Human Paladin
Rolen Stillwind, the Wood Elf Sorcerer, and
Yoshi Antien, the Samurai flavored Half-Elf Fighter


The one sad note was that our friend who plays Yoshi was not able to make it to play and has had, for the time being, to drop out of the game. You will see that we found a path for Yoshi to take so that he may wander back into our adventures at a later time. Until then, we wish him, and more importatntly our friend, safe travels and good fortune until we meet again.

At the end of the last session, the heroes stood triumphant over the undead guardians of the Accursed Magic Spear Alkaarg, and also over their rival, Seth, who had sought the spear for his own dark purposes.

In the aftermath, the debate of whether to proceed away with their prize immediately, or to see if there was more stuff to loot became the topic of discussion.

Dark Paladin Delthen represented the "loot" faction, suggesting that they set a modest time limit and try to grab as much stuff as they could in the unexplored portions of the dungeon.

Zeema and Rolen argued that it was improtant to get out with the spear while they could.

Indigo added that they could do something to collapse the stairs behind them so as to seal other explorers out and keep whatever else was down there in.

The NPC Brother Crommard was, in the meantime, going through the room as a fascinated scholar of Orcish culture and history, exclaiming at this and that. Nuri, the apprentice workman trailed along. They slowly made their way forward to the throne upon which Mondru, Fourth of His Name, had rested all these centuries.

Taking a break from the argument of "stay and loot" or "go while the going is good," Delthen chopped off Seth's hand to keep as a grisly prize. The Owlbear, Who-grrl, meantime began to act very agitated and hungry. Zeema attempted to call on her experience travelling with a meanagerie to calm the beast, but to no avail. Who-grrl was tired, wounded and hungry, and she wanted to EAT RIGHT NOW! Half-Orc pastry chef and sometimes warrior, Hey Watchit, stepped in, distracting the Owlbear by wrapping one brawny arm around its neck, and then shoving his remaining supplies of pastries (chiefly croissants) down the beast's maw. This temporarily mollified the murderous beast. There was some discussion of whether Who-grrl should be encouraged to eat Seth's corpse, but the general feeling was that giving her encouragement to eat a humanoid would set a bad precedent for everyone else.

During all of this, Brother Crommard and Nuri had made their way, at last, to examine Mondru's throne. Crommard noticed that a metal plate was set into the seat of the throne. Before he could touch it, there was a brief scuffle and Nuri pushed Crommard aside to take up the plate himself. Members of the party saw that the plate was etched with lines, like a map. A moment after Nuri took up the plate, there was a bright flash, and many of the party that witnessed it, saw in the afterglow the symbol of the Prince of Shadows. Nuri and the plate were gone.

Everyone interpreted this event as a reason to pack up and head out quickly.

The took the stairs from the Orcish level, up to the underground level that had been built in old Imperial times, but repurposed first by Elves and later by Mondru's Orcs. They decided to seal off the lowest level with a ritual that would place illusion and a deadly trap over the entrance to the deep dungeon. After some discussion at the table, the players decided that the "ingredients" of the ritual included spears (of which there were many in the dungeon), reflective surfaces (they polished some pots) to dazzle, and poison that disoriented. The illusion was to be woven like a spider's web, and a "sting" powered by Spirits of the Righteous provided the punch to anyone who would seek to pierce the veil. Spirit Touched Cerise cast the main ritual, and Gnome Cleric Indigo, a spider expert, helped with the weaving of the enchantment. After that was completed, they decided to exit up the main stairs from the first subterrainean level back to the fort.

The fort was mostly smoldering ruins at this point, but it still presented some obstacle to easily exiting it's courtyard. After some work, they made their way out. Who-grrl had simply muscled her way through the rubble and over partially collapsed walls and headed out to find food (that was not the adveturing party).

Then, they found their mounts gone, having seemingly broken off their tethers. Briefly they wondered if Who-grrl was to blame, but the signs indicated something else. In the distance, they could see a massive amount of smoke from where the town of Awad must be burning.

Yoshi whistled for his mount, and it just showed up. None of the other mounts did. He saddled up and rode off to find the other animals. The others got moving.

Rolen sent up his familiar, the Raven they affectiuonately call "GPS." The Raven returned with disturbing news. A pack of Kobolds and a continent of Orcs were heading towards them. They decided to hide and either let the monsters pass, or attack by ambush.

Not everything went exactly to plan. The High Elf Ranger, Legolis, got them all situated on the far side of a hill, hunkered down. But a sharp-eyed Kobold Archer spotted Legolis and sounded the alarm. Everyone rolled initiative and started combat.

Round 1

Legolis, Lief, and the Kobold Archers all acted at once. Legolis let fly with one of his precious Twin Arrows, six of which had been gifted him by Yoshi. He rolled a hit and a miss, but rerolled the miss with his Archery and hit killing three Kobold mooks. Lief began his Battle Chant, but failed to hit a Kobold with his magic. The Kobold Archers put three arrows into Legolis, but all other attacks missed, and one fubled due to the power of Lief's magic hood.

Zeema initiated her Shadow Walk.

Delthen killed two Kobold Warriors with his Smite Evil.

Hey killed one Kobold and seriously injured another Kobold Warrior with his tree.

Rolen summoned his power to fire a jet of flame at the Kobolds, but failed.

Cerise, the Spirit Touched cleric summoned her Halo and then cast Javelin of Faith, however, with a fumble she became Daze because of the powerful presence of the divine which she had touched to cast her spell.

Indigo fired his heavy crossbow, but missed.

A troop of six Orc Archers then entered the battle and rolled very poorly for initiative for the next round.

Round 2 Escalation 1

Legolis, for the first time, successfully cast his Acid Arrow, instantly melting four of the six Orc mooks, and leaving the last two with ongoing acid damage.

Lief leveraged his Battle Chant to kill off a Kobold, and he also allowed Hey to pop free of engagement with a Battle Cry.

The Kobold Archers loosed their arrows, hitting Delthen, Legolis and Rolen.

Delthen attacked and missed. Hey attacked and missed. The Kobold Warriors attacked and missed.

Rolen failed his Elven Grace roll, and then failed his attack roll with his fiery attack.

Cerise missed with her Javelin of Faith.

One of the remaining Orc Archers managed to hit Rolen.

Indigo moved up to cast heal on Rolen and then fired off his Javelin of Faith hitting an Orc Archer.

Round 3 Escalation 2

Legolis loosed another of his Twin Arrows at the Kobold Archers, making one hit and one critical hit and causing devestation to the Orc Archers. Lief sang another Kobold to death with his Battle Chant. Kobold arrows missed Legolis, but a critical hit found its mark on Lief.

Zeema then returned from the shadows and attacked with Flying Blade, killing the last Kobold and ending the engagement.


The adventurers were then a a crossroad. Do they continue back on the side road to get to the main road, facing increasing danger of more Orc patrols? Do the head for the coast and try to proceed along the shore? Do they strike out through the rough overland terrain to take arrive at the main road while keeping the marauding Orcs at their back? After some deliberation, enough of them felt that they had wilderness experience to make it across the rough, wilderness terrain and catch the main road away from the main body of Orcs that burnt the town of Awad.

As they head into the wilderness, a Thrush, sent by the High Druid, came to Lief and communicated to him the best way to go. In return, he had to once again find Who-grrl the Owlbear and bring her to the main body of the Wild Woods. Delthen suggested that they pack along some of the Kobold bodies for her to eat. It seemed that Who-grrl was tame (ish) to Hey Watchit's hand, given the many pastries he had fed her, so between his calming influence, Zeema's menagerie experience and the Kobold kibble, Who-Grrl came along redily enough.

Finally, as they slept out under the stars, Lief had a dream granted by the Priestess. In it, he saw that Yoshi had gathered their mounts, and that the mounts would be waiting for them near the road. However, a ship had signalled Yoshi when he was gathering the mounts on the beach. A fast ship from the Imperial Capital Axis had found Yoshi through the Archemage's magic and Yoshi was summoned to imperial duties. He was reluctant to leave his friends, despite being honor-bound to heed the command of the Emperor. The Archemage's envoy used magic to guide the mounts to where Lief and the others would find them, and Yoshi left with the ship to find his way in the Capital.

The next day, the party found their mounts and saddled up to go back to Santa Cora.

Everyone leveled up to second level, the details of which will be worked out next game.

We are all going to miss Yoshi and our friend who plays him. We hope that someday Yoshi will come back into our stories.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

More Musical Inspiration for My 13th Age Dragon Empire

I have previously written about some musical inspiration for my 13th Age Campaign (see here).

Since I last wrote, a few more music tracks have made it into my essentials list, so I thought I would record them here.  I hope others may find these pieces as interesting and enjoyable as I do.

Artist Clannad
Album PastPresent
Title(s) Newgrange, Coinleach Ghlas an Fhomhair
Clannad is a quintessential band in the Celtic Folk revival that went beyond the reinvigoration of the old tradition (so capably done by other bands like the Chieftains) and on into creation of new forms of popular Celtic style music.  Some of their experiments showcased what could be best and worst about the so called "New Age" music, but mostly they just made really interesting and beautiful songs that laid the foundation for artists such as Enya (who is from the same family as the members of Clannad) and Loreena McKennit.  Clannad created some groundbreaking fantasy music for the 1980s series Robin of Sherwood, which is still, for my money, the best TV series ever done around the Robin Hood myth.  These two pieces, Newgrange and Coinleach Ghlas an Fhómhair are two beautiful songs that definitely speak to sounds one might find in my Dragon Empire, possibly in Concord, or the Wild Wood.

Artist Jack Wall
Album Mass Effect 2
Title Suicide Mission 
Usually, I keep my science fiction (Star Trek, Babylon 5, etc.) music and my epic fantasy music (Lord of the Rings, Willow, Conan, etc.) in different boxes.  Star Wars does some crossover.  Jack Wall's "Suicide Mission" from the Mass Effect 2 soundtrack also can end up in either list as far as I'm concerned.  Its soring instrumentation and urgent vocals sets a heroic and resolved tone that could be the prelude to any hopeless battle or potentially fatal act of courage.  Good stuff.

Artist Inon Zur
Album Lord of the Rings War in the North
Title Nordinbad
Inon Zur has established himself as a major player in electronic fantasy gaming music.  This track evokes the feeling of a lonely frontier fortress, ever watchful, standing guard against the forces of darkness.  The kind of place I need to send my gamers' player characters to check out.

Artist Jamie Christopherson
Album The Lord of the Rings: Battle For Middle Earth II
Title(s) Joining Forces, Elven Morning Light, Elven Nightfall
I have already extolled the great virtues of Mr. Christopherson's Middle Earth music.  Let me just add, it is so good that I had to add these three additional pieces into my regular mix because they so consistently evoke the wonder of a fantasy realm.

Artist(s) Bill Brown, Jamie Christopherson
Album The Lord of the Rings: Battle For Middle Earth
Title Heroes Shall Rise
In my original list, I had not included a track from the first "Battle for Middle Earth" album, composed not only by Jamie Christopherson, but also by Bill Brown.  This track does exactly what it says on the package.  Heroes rise to the challenge on the majesty of this music.

Artist Two Steps From Hell 
Album Legends
Title(s) Infinite Legends, Goddysey
You will hear Two Steps From Hell (a music company that specializes in Movie Trailer music, heard in trailers for movies, computer games, and TV and in commercials) everywhere.  This is not a bad thing, because their music is reliably excellent.  Both of these pieces evoke the huge sweep of an amazing and fantastic world.  Infinite Legends unfolds for me over the sprawl of a vast and fabulous city.  Goddysey takes me across the vast oceans of an imagined world.  Very good music.

Artist Jack Wall
Album Jade Empire
Title Into the Fray
Here's Jack Wall again.  Before he helped define the amazingly successful Mass Effect universe, he scored an earlier BioWare game called Jade Empire.  Jade Empire . . . Dragon Empire, you can see how things might fit together.  This piece is pretty much just the kind of thing I want to play during a martial arts smack down.  Great east Asian percussion worthy of Jet Li or Michelle Yeoh.

Artist Two Steps From Hell 
Album Dynasty
Title Elementum
Here's Two Steps again, because they are awesome.  Another track from the Dynasty album.  I visualize some serious spell slinging to this track with its driving beat and soaring chorus.

Artist Inon Zur
Album Dragon Age: Origins
Title I am the One
The signature track from Zur's first foray into the Dragon Age franchise.  I already highlighted the album for another track in my last music post, but this one also found a place in my heart.  A song of destiny, and we always have those characters in our games it seems, especially in the 13th Age of the Dragon Empire.

Artist Oscar Araujo
Album Castlevania Lords of Shadow
Title The Warg
Araujo's Castlevania is a triumph of an album with dark and powerful musical set pieces, but I had a hard time choosing the right track from it.  I settled on The Warg.  This is a dynamic musical piece with great choral parts (of course).  It might narrate a battle, or a frenzied ceremony, or even a cat and mouse chase (with explosions maybe).  Whatever images are inspired by this piece, it is a little piece of dark majesty.

Artist Nox Arcana
Album Blood of the Dragon
Title The Mystic's Keep
Nox Arcana can be hit and miss, but they produce a lot of very moody and interesting theme albums.  This one is tailored for a fantasy campaign.  The Mystic’s Keep is perhaps not the best track off the album, but it has such great atmosphere, with a recurring chant, I just can’t resist it.  Visions of a horrible death cult for my players to face? Check!  Mission accomplished.

Artist Two Steps From Hell 
Album Archangel
Title Norwegian Pirate
Here's Two Steps one more time.  What is the meaning of this song title?  I don’t know.  What it has to do with pirates or Norwegians is not entirely clear, but it is a rousing tune that could take one from the heaving deck of a dragon longship to a vast fantasy battlefields.

Artist Taro Iwashiro
Album Red Cliff
Title Battle to Battle
Red Cliff is a terrific movie (see the extended two part Asian release).  Lots of heroic combat and beautiful cinematography.  Also, the music is a highlight, and this piece is just what I look for to visualize the clash of great armies.

Artist Atli Örvarsson
Album The Eagle
Title Return of the Eagle
The movie "The Eagle," based on one of my favorite books as a kid, "The Eagle of the Ninth," was a big bust at the box office, and one of several quite bad sword and sandals movies in the last half decade.  However, both "The Eagle" and "Centurian" had good music.  I featured a piece from Centurian in my last discussion, but I am glad to include this piece by Örvarsson here.  It is a dynamic, Celtic fiddle inspired piece that conveys a sense of motion, an urgent chase or desperate escape.  A very fun piece of music.  Atli Örvarsson is someone I hope keeps making great music.


So, I hope this helps someone out there find great music and great inspiration to continue life in the Dragon Empire.

Stay Legendary.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

13th Age, Organized Play, Actual Play and the universe of great ideas

For anyone who reads this blog (Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?) , you know that I try to keep up an actual play description (pretty much bow by blow) of my current "Heroes of the 13th Age" game.  Our progress has been slow, as we can only manage about a gathering once a month at best.  Still, we are close to done with our first epic adventure and dungeon crawl, and the characters are all going to get to level up to second level.

While I have been developing my 13th Age game, I have tried to absorb all that I can from other people's experience with the system and the world of 13th Age.  There is a lot of fun stuff out there from which to learn.

One thing in which I have not been able to participate is the 13th Age Organized Play.  Pelgrane Press, with the work of 13th Age luminarie Ash Law (head of organized play) & Wade Rockett (strategy and promotion), have put together a plan for a series of regular games in which friendly local gamings stores and individual groups can participate.  Each will apparently revolve around places and issues important to one of the 13 Icons of the game.  The first, Crown of the Lich King, is already done, and a second set of adventures, Wyrd of the Wild Wood, is in progress (dealing with the High Druid).  Each regular game is 6 weeks of adventures (at least in its ideal form), much like the pioneering D&D Encounters model used by Wizards of the Coast.  However, after the 13 individual icon inspired adventures, there will be an epic scale 13 week "end of age" adventure released (read more in this article).

Why am I not getting into this?

Basically, timing.  The organized play is interactive.  Play reports need to be submitted, because events in the earlier adventures help shape later planned events.  Given the timing of getting my ten person group together, we would not have even started Crown of the Lich King.  So, Organized Play, will have to go on its own way.

But, I can still draw inspiration from it, because so many other people are sharing it.  If you want to vicariously experience the organized play (or just compare your experience to others'), I highly recommend the following:

A Game of Whit's Whit Mattson is currently running his play group through Crown of the Lich King using an online meet up, and he is recording and posting the play sessions.  They are very entertaining, and I have learned a lot about pacing and technique from just watching.  The videos are posted through YouTube, so you can find them directly there, but Whit's website has a deep library of video and audio actual play, as well as reviews and other interesting things.  Whit and his friends were early playtesters of 13th Age, and their actual play recordings of the playtest definitely help to inspire me to run the game (part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5).  Whit and his group are running a little behind on posting their actual play, and they are not on the strict schedule for Crown of the Lich King, but they are a fascinating group to watch.  Highly recommended.

Tales of the 13th Age is the website for the written (and illustrated!) actual play reports by a GM tag team, Ben and Sarah, who are running the organized play at Fair Game store in Downers Grove, IL.  They are keeping to the strict schedule of the Organized Play, and have already completed Crown of the Lich King.  It has been fascinating to see that they played through the same structure that Whit's group (above) is following, yet the play packets are so flexible, that so many details are different, and so responsive to the individual characters, their Icon relationships and their One Unique Things (1UT) and Backgrounds.  So now Ben and Sarah are running Wyrd of the Wild Wood, and I am hooked on their narration.  Their write-ups definitely show how to run a good store game, where people may have to drop in and out.  They clearly have a lot of discipline in keeping the pacing.  Also, they are geniuses with bringing interesting visual terrain and monsters (hey, play doh giant monster tenticles--awesome!!) to the table.  They document this with actual play photos.  I love reading the reports and I learn a lot. 

After I got hooked on the Organized Play write-ups/broadcasts, I started looking for more examples of play.

There is a very intribuing start of a blog at 13th Age: Squires of Skyharbor Abbey.  I am hopeful that more will appear at it soon, but what is there so far has been very interesting reading.

Also, a really interesting set of actual play recordings can be found under the term 13th Age MadCast.  A GM that goes by the moniker Khaos and his group have been new to playing 13th Age, and they obviously started with the adventure in the rule book (having to do with the Bolt Strike Tower (of which an earlier version Whit's group above played through for the playtest).  The actual play picks up in the aftermath of the written adventure, and it is the epic way the game springboards from there that is really fascinating. 

It is also prolific.  They began to record their third play session (at least that is the earliest I can find), and they are well into ten or so sessions recorded at this point.  They play in a virtual play space and are calling in from different time zones.  Unlike A Game of Whit's, we don't see the players, but instead we see the (often static) play space, so it is more like listening to a podcast than watching a video.  Still, despite it being visually less engaging and despite it dragging at times as the group is very large (so the juggling Khaos has to do as GM is daunting), the way the characters and the story develop is really fun and interesting.

Here are all the links to what they have put up on YouTube so far:

MadCast 13th Age Session 3 (2/2)by MadCast13thAge
MadCast presents: 13th Age, Sept. 7th (Part 2)
13th Age, led by Khaos (22/9/13) - Part 1
I am on Session 5, and before I figured out the order, I listened to some of a later session, and Khaos is clearly building to some epic challenges for his players.  This is harder going than the other write-ups or recordings, but it is definitely rewarding and entertaining and there are ideas I will be stealing.