The Sage Welcomes You

So, here you find a blog about life in general, but with a focus on family, games, books and creativity. Other "stuff" will creep in from timt to time.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Star Trek--Into SPOILERS!!!!


Damn it Jim, I'm a SPOILER!

Okay, with that out of the way, I would like to discourse about Star Trek Into Darkness, Trek in general, and, of course, me (my blog and all).

Bottom line first: I liked the new movie.

It is clever and exciting.  I think they have a solid cast for the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, and the supporting cast, particularly Peter Weller and (break out performer soon to be starring in everything) Benedict Cumberbatch, were outstanding.

Still, I have problems with the movie, and even moreso for what it says about the future of Star Trek as a franchise and cultural phenomenon. 

This history of Trek is well know and covered by pop cultural historians and science fiction gurus of much greater brain than me.  However, I have my own personal take.

Star Trek was first broadcast in 1966, the year before I was born.  Before I was two, the show was off the air.  But the phenomenon was just starting.

I don't remember when my father first introduced me to Star Trek, but I was probably fairly young.  Until I was in middle school, we only had a black and white TV, so my memories of Star Trek start without color, though I have mostly overwritten those memories with having seen all the episodes in color, and many of them remastered and enhanced.  Still, my father, who had worked in the aerospace industry and contributed to the development of the Saturn V rocket (one of thousands of engineers, but still, SATURN V!), introduced me to science fiction, first with Star Trek, and later with books like Ringworld.

As a little kid, I not only got to get acquainted with the Original Series, but I also saw quite a few episodes of the Animate Series, which, despite mediocre animation, actually holds up with pretty good writing for a lot of the episodes.  I absorbed a lot of Trek.

When I was in fourth grade, my dad spent a semester back as a visting professor at his alma mater, University of Utah, teaching in the math deparment.  This would have been 1977 and I was 10 years old.  I remember owning a Star Trek uniform shirt with the insignia patch (blue, though I think the patch had the "Command" insignia, because it was just some off the rack novelty shirt).  I also had bought the plastic model kit that let me build my own phaser, communicator and tricorder.  I was a firm fan.  And one magical night in Salt Lake City, my dad took me to a Star Trek presentation.  I wore my shirt.  It was not really a convention, as far as I can remember.  We went to an auditorium, and Gene Roddenberry was there, and gave a talk, and then showed "The Cage" and then a blooper reel, and it was really cool.  And my dad gave me the Star Trek Concordance, by Bjo Trimble, which I devoured.

So, I have to say I have a fundamentally emotional connection to Star Trek, which starts with my childhood and my dad, and continues to present.

Along the way, there have been other notable connections.  In 1979, when the Star Trek movies launched with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, I went on my first date with a girl to see the movie.

I'm not sure whether she thought the movie or me was more boring, but I mildly enjoyed the movie.  They had successfully got the crew back togeher.  The film is ponderous, a script and production that was neither in touch with the old series, nor with the cinematic zeitgeist that had seen the revolutionary change wrought by Star Wars.  Star Trek TMP harkens back to films like 2001 A Space Odyssey in its shots of space and space ships, and that was rendered a dead language by the fast flight of the Millenium Falcon and the run of Luke's X-Wing down the trench on the Death Star.  It did, however, manage some of the character work decently, especially the critical relationship between Kirk and Spock.  Still, the movie is hard to watch.

However, without The Motion Picture, and its modest box office success, you would not have had the next movie.

I saw Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, with my family in Monterey California in 1982.  Everything that had been wrong with the first movie got corrected.  The writers and the director understood the series, the characters, and understood the cinematic language needed to tell a story of the 23rd Century as envisioned in the Original Series.  I was on board for almost anything they would feed me.

I enjoyed Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, despite some flaws.  I loved Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.  It's focus on the characters, especially Kirk, Spock and McCoy, the humor, and the setting (some of which was filmed in my home town) all hooked me.  Also, it came out on my birthday in 1986, and I managed to make it home from college and to the theater just in time to join other high school friends to see it.

Also, by this time, I was not only watching Star Trek, but playing a role playing game, run by a friend, with my own captain and ship.  We were not content to just watch Star Trek, we were making our own memories and adventures with our imagination, using the tools Trek had given us.

The year Star Trek: The Next Generation came out, I was studying abroad and missed the first run of the season.  However, my friend and Trek RPG game master, sent me a huge care package for my birthday with included posters of some of the cast, the novelization of the first episode, and also hilarious "radio drama" he had made with friends at college, which was all about the crew of my starship in the game going in search of their lost captain.  In my friend's letters, I got an overview of how the series was developing, the positives and setbacks.

Then, when I got back, my mom had a friend who had video taped all the episodes, so I had my first experience with binge watching a series in 1988, as I caught up on the entire season.

My fandome was firmly renewed.

Then Star Trek V came out and my fandome was sorely tested.

Still, I stuck with it for seven seasons of TNG. 

I loved Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (actually, I think I cried a bit when they did the sign off at the end.

I stuck with Deep Space 9 for all seven seasons.

I enjoyed Star Trek Generations.

Star Trek Voyager lost me in season 4 or so.

Star Trek First Contact was a revelation, and I saw it on a day that was one of my best and then became a nightmare of one of the worst times in my whole life.  Through it all, the fictional heroism, sacrifice and friendship of the crew of the starship Enterprise shadowed me and help hold me together just a bit.

I terribly disappointed with Insurrection and Nemesis. 

I never watched Star Trek Enterprise (though riding a wave of nostalgia, I watched the pilot: Broken Bow, this past weekend, and it was actually pretty good).

So, in 2009, when they were leading up to the JJ Abrams reboot/What If? version of Trek, I had not been watching a regular show since 1999, and the last movie I had seen in the theater was First Contact in 1996.

I was skeptical.  Very skeptical.

It seemed to be taking one of the worst rejected ideas of rumored Trek development "Starfleet Academy," which would recast the main crew with new, young and more attractive actors, and running with it.  Also, by doing a kind of reboot, it put the creators in the position of taking the pieces of what made the Orignal Series great, and just cherry picking from them rather than doing much new.  I wasn't sure how it would work out.

However, the first movie in 2009 was a lot of fun.  They did play with the elements of canon and character to recombined them in new, but interesting, ways.  Sure, in some ways it was a revenge movie akin to Star Trek II, madman Nero and all.  Also, it rehashed some of Star Trek The Motion Picture and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home with giant space probes coming to destroy Earth.  It also had a dash of the time travel timeline change elements of Trek IV and Star Trek First Contact.  The changed a great deal about the technology and they rode roughshod over a lot of logic.  They left the timeline "polluted," but all in the name of a "fresh" start.  Yet it all worked.  It made me interested in what they would do next.

So fast foward four years.  In that time, many things had been tossed around as being what was "next."

The thing I was certain would be a terrible idea would be to bring in Khan Noonian Singh.  TOS episode Space Seed and Star Trek II are pretty sacred objects in the Trek pantheon.  It seemed like there would be so much room to screw it up, and, in a limitless universe, it seemed like you could find some other stories to tell.  Besides, the whole reason for the reboot was in order to escape the shackles of the canon.  Take the characters, with some twists, and do them afresh with new adventures and new developments.

So, what did Star Trek Into Darkness bring us?


Now, I have to concede that they were extremely clever with the "What if?" scenario.  In the wake of the last movie, including the total destruction of the planet Vulcan and the majority of the Vulcan race, we are in a darker, more frightened Federation.

So, in a timeline that fractured off from the old timeline when the Narada (a Borg enhanced Romulan supership) crossed back into this period, destroyed the U.S.S. Kelvan and set Kirk on his divergent path, you get Khan, but a Khan who makes a different entrance into the Federation.

He is not encounted on the Botany Bay by the Enterprise, but instead by some other ship, and he and his crew are not revived, but instead, brought back to earth.  Admiral Marcus wakes Khan up and employs him as a special advisor on weapons and tactical developments because it is a darker and scarier universe out there.  Marcus is eying war with the Klingons, Khan is biding his time to free his fellow Botany Bay exiles to return to his dreams of conquest and rule.

Clever.  Well done.

But . . .

Like the last movie, there are more than a few holes.


Why is Khan paler than the paint on the Enterprise hull?

Look, I know Benedict Cumberbatch is a great actor, and his performance was terrific.  It was a great way to make a counterpoint to the way that Ricardo Montalban owned the role.  However, while you could almost believe that the Mexican Montalban could be a Punjabi Sikh, I can't for a minute see Cumberbatch in a beard and turban and being at all convincing.  Of course, the selection, beyond the intensity and capability of the acting, served another purpose.  It is hard to guess that Cumberbatch is Khan because it is so ludicrous that the Sikh Khan Noonian Singh could be played by the very English Cumberbatch.  Further, Cumberbatch is a decade younger in his portrayal of Khan than Montalban was for the filming of Space Seed.  So, it serves the deception.

JJ Abrams could have cast someone who knew and trusted as a much more believable Khan, Naveen Andrews, who is of Indian heritage, who played a Sikh in The English Patient, and who worked with Abrams on Lost.  He is also in his 40s, just a Montalban was.  Of course, if he had been cast, it would have ruined the surprise.  Everyone could have guessed that he would play Khan, because it is an obvious choice.

They had to preserve the gimmick.  As much as I loved Cumberbatch in the role, I think Andrews would have been better casting.

That aside, the other BIG THING, is the death scene for Kik.  Now, on the whole, I thought they handled things well.  They made the dialog between the dying Kirk and Spock a similar, but different conversation than the reversed situation in Star Trek II.  It was clever.

But it was not earned.

Between the Chris Pine Kirk and Zachary Quinto Spock we have hardly any relationship built.  The 2009 movie started it, but then we had a four year hiatus, and then this movie.  While we can accept that off screen they built the relationsip that brings Spock to tears as Kirk dies, all the work, all the heavy lifting is done by the work done by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy in three seasons of The Orignal Series and five movies (okay, there were six, but I really want to forget one of them).  The emotional depth is there because we know not this Kirk and Spock, but because we know the REAL Kirk and Spock (or at least the original versions).

I mean no slight to Pine and Quinto.  They nail the scene, but they had to come to that scene with little groundwork for their portrayals of the characters, not to mentione them just being younger men and actors than Shatner and Nimoy were when they played their version of the scene.  They just don't have the mileage in the relationship on and off screen. 

For this accelerated, streamlined version of Trek, this has to happen, not after decades of service together, but after just a few years.  Further, it continues the trend of sidelining McCoy.  DeForest Kelley was at the center of the dynamic that made The Original Series work.  While Karl Urban is doing a fine job with what he's been given, this version of Trek has him sidelined.  While the Kirk-Spock relationship is key, where it is not leavened with McCoy, it just is not working as well as it could be.  It seems to have been replaced, in some ways, with the Three being Kirk, Spock and Uhura.  There is some interesting dynamics there, and I am not opposed to widening the roles of other characters, but McCoy either is a central part of balancing Kirk as a leader, or we are not balancing the characters in a way that I think is needed.

And finally, as we are moving at Warp speed through the highlights of the Trek universe in the new version, we already know from not one, but two BIG HINTS, that Kirk won't be dead for more than a few minutes of screen time.  For Spock, there was a funeral and a whole other movie.  For new Kirk, we know before he went into the warp core that he would be back on top before the movie was over.

Some other obsevations I had that nagged me from the movie.  The second half is choppy. 

We get the battle, Kirk's death, but then KHAN!!!! and we are having a huge mass casualty crash of the Dreadnought (another old Trek concept) into San Francisco, then a foot chase between Spock and Khan, then Uhura is beaming down and shooting Khan and calming Spock, then Kirk is waking up Alive! (what a surprise!) and then he is making a speech a year after the events.  Then they start the 5-year mission.

That was a bumpy road to the ending.  They tried to do a lot.  It was all exciting and all, but it did really give me a little mental whiplash.  Not a smooth conclusion.

Okay, and a year later and . . . why aren't we at war with the Klingons?  Kirk and Khan beat, kiled, and exploded a bunch of them and their ships.  How is it that there are absolutely no reprecussions?  Well, in our accelerated Treknoverse, either 1) the just didn't notice because it would be an inconvenient plot development, or 2) it all got resolved off screen before Kirk made his speech. 

Either way, a little cheap there.

Carol Marcus.  I have mixed feelings.  Clever introduction.  Good tie back and across to Star Trek II.  She gets added to the crew, so, maybe they will try to realize some really different ideas, but I knind of think they are going to blow it.  I did think it was interesting that in Star Trek II she was a total peacenik scientist, at odds with, but begrugingly cooperating with Starfleet (really a reflection of what was the zeitgeist of the early 1980s), but here she is a weapons expert who was only a few steps behind her crazy warmongering Admiral dad.  But they have to go somewhere with the character or it is just a "look how clever we are" moment which is all sound a fury, signifying nothing.

They continue to make the galaxy feel very small.  It takes seconds, seemingly, to travel to the Neutral Zone with the Klingons.  And seconds to get back from there too.  This is just like the seconds it took to get to Vulcan.  True, there are explosions and chases and huge starship crashes that need to get on screen, so spending time getting from point A to point B is kind of a waste for what they wanted to do, but it does kind of take the Trek out of Star Trek.  There is little sense of journey.

Finally, Old Spock.  Okay, glad to see Nimoy and Quinto on screen besides a car commerical.  It doesn't add much.  Hey young Spock, as you guessed, Khan can't be trusted, he's a dangerous, and it might cost a lot to stop him.  Of course, most of the cost is off screen.  Kirk is less than temporarily dead.  The thousands of people that would seem to be killed with a Dreadnought crashing into San Francisco, well, we don't even get to spare a thought for them.  This is, after all, a BIG MOVIE.

And my really big but . . .

While we have been shown two movies where the writers and production staff have cleverly reimagined the Federation and the Enterprise crew, they have not reached escape velocity from the gravity of Trek Canon, which was something they had intended to do.

We are still telling the same stories.  This movie, expertly made (with some issues), is a mash up of themes, events, ideas and characters from Star Trek II and Star Trek VI.  It is bright, shiny, exciting, but it is essentially a retread.  There is not much new here.

Now, maybe all the stories have been told.  But then, that might mean trouble for Trek.

I don't believe all the stories have been told, but I think it is going to take a great deal more brain and imagination and a willingness to leave the clever twists behind.

I think they need something new.

Ironically, I think they could get there by going old school.  JJ Abrams can't direct the next movie as he takes over the Star Wars franchise, though he will stay on as Executive Producer.  Who should direct?

Paging Nicholas Meyer! 

Really, I think it could work.

So, to bottom line it, again, I liked the movie. 

But I fear for the future of Trek.  I mean, it will never die.  Fans proved that after it was cancelled.  But, as a living franchise that can add ideas that appeal to people going forward.  We are on the point of losing it, it seems to me.

First, with no episodic series, there is no journey, no long development of characters and relationships.  The movie cast won't be coming to our small screen, and it is unclear if any other story vehicle for the new or old Trek universes ever will again.  So, what we can look forward to is perhaps a few more New Trek movies, spaced out over many years.  And, while they have achieved great success as spectacle and action, they are coasting on character.  I don't mean to downplay the performances of the actors.  I admire them, but much of the ensemble gets little to do, and so these alternate versions of the beloved characters are either coasting on the groundwork laid by other actors, or reduced to mere characatures.  While there are fine moments for Kirk, Spock and Uhura, and a good portion for Scotty, McCoy, Sulu and Chekov don't do much.  I've already commented about how we really don't have enough screen time with these characters to have had the new journey with them.  So instead, we are forced to rely on what came before.

I think we need a movie that is less explody and chase filled, and one that explores some ideas, and most especially this crew and their relationships.  If they can do that, they can trascend just cleverly reconstructing plots and reassembling characters from old Trek movies, and move really into a new universe.

If not, well, its been fun, and it probably will be fun.  But it won't be the kind of Trek that Gene Roddenberry bequeathed us. 

Maybe they will bring us the next Voyage Home or Undiscovered Country, in that they bring us original elements of character, humor, zeitgeist and an ineffable feeling of Trek, or maybe they are going to jump the shark and give us Insurrection or, gods forbid, Final Frontier.

Or maybe they will just bring us a big loud Transformers like Sci Fi movie, or some other pleasant enough actioner with Star Trek trappings, but the fact that it is Trek won't matter at all.

I am hoping that Nicholas Meyers or the next generational heir of his approach is coming to set a strong course for us.

But I just don't know.

Live long and prosper.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Heroes of the 13th Age: Part 6-Dungeon Ecology 101--Everything IS trying to kill you

Our last 13th Age play session happened last month, and we found a few hours this last weekend to get in a play session for May.  With one combat after another, I thought we might settle down into more exploration and role playing for this session.  I even mentioned this to my son.  He laughed.  He was right.  Read on to find out what else they decided to fight in this session.

The adventuring party still consists of
Cerise, the Spirit-Touched Cleric
Indigo the Gnome Cleric
Zazz (and once again 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

All players were present and accounted for, and we had a fun, if shorter, session.

Initially, there was a firm conviction on the part of the party as a whole to continue down the main passage forthwith, and to find the way down to the crypt level, where they hoped to find the Elf-slaying spear Alkarg and keep it out of the hands of suspected Man-Orc Seth. 

Ominously, they heard the cry of the Owlbear echo down the main passage.  Again, they went over the fact that, though the Owlbear was in the courtyard cistern (upon which they had placed the old partially broken stone cover, it was possible that there was some access to the cistern from this lower level, as that would be a convenience that would fit the design of an early Imperial fortress (according to researcher Monk Crommard, one of the two essentially helpless civilians that they were having to drag along since the party had rescued them).  Listening carefully and creeping forward, they determined that the Owlbear had not yet broken its way into this level, but, it seemed possible that it could.  They noted that the main 20' wide passage continued after taking a sharp left turn off into the darkness (towards the sounds of the hungry Owlbear).  They noted several side passages, and, after the turn, several old tapestries covering possible openings on both sides of the main passage.

Then they go distracted by the side passages.  Retreating back up the main passage, they first proceeded twenty feet down a side passage where they found a door, which had been jammed by the settling over the years of the stone lintel.  However, they also noted that some animal or animals had, over the years, chewed open a significantly large opening at the base of the door.  After some examination and discussion, they concluded that probably giant rats were the culprits.  They also decided that someone needed to check the room.

There was a lot of joking about how it was a low entry and that the Gnome, Indigo, ought to fit right in.  Indigo was having none of it.  Every dutiful to the party, Samurai Yoshi set aside his pack and larger weapons, drew his wakizashi and crawled through the hole.  Unfortunately, despite years of training, Yoshi's characteristics are no great shakes for alertness, and he was easily surprised by the giant spider dropping onto his back as it crossed the threshold.

Unfortunately for the spider, it totally failed to make an effective attack. 

Round 1

Everyone rolled initiative.  Yoshi (with Improved Initiative and a high DEX) scored a 27, to easily win ahead of the spider and everyone else.  That was the good news.  He planed to stand and fight the spider in the room.  However, the superior initiative allowed him to wisely scan this "battlefield" before standing, and he spotted the five additional spiders rushing down the webs that lined the ceiling and walls of the room.

New plan.

He quickly backed out, shaking off the Spider and grabbing his larger weapons while shouting "burn them!!"

Now, among the party is one spider expert, Indigo.  He was very interested in the spiders and was ready to use his background (+5 Raised Spiders) to assist in the battle.

The rest of the partly simply let loose, initially on the spider they could see at the base of the door.

Legolis the Ranger, however, missed his bowshot.  1 point miss damage.

Leif the Bard shouted thunder with his Battle Chant.  This was, unfortunately, a fumble.  Borrowing from Dungeon World, I asked "What happens?"  The players quickly decided that the blast of thunder blew the door open, so that their plan to pour flammable liquid under the door and ignite it was spoiled, and also permitting the six spiders all to boil out of the doorway more easily to attack the party.  Oops.

Hey Watchit, the Hal-Orc Fighter swinging his mighty tree. . . missed, doing miss damage.

Zazz the Rogue dashed forward, still hoping to used lamp oil to some effect.  However, her attempt to parkour her way forward and throw the oil flask forward in a cool action-movie like slo-mo coating spiders and then igniting was interrupted by her fumbling her roll.  In order not to land among the spiders coated in oil herself, she invoked a maneuver using a combination of DEX and her Raised in a Tavern background (which is perhaps the most broadly useful background ever perpetrated in the game; it is also highly amusing, and thus the player gets to push it a lot).  I let her roll.  She rolled a 20.

Okay, we had a fumble followed by a critical.  Both had to be honored.  So, the oil flask skittered harlessly into the web strewn room without breaking.  The Rogue remained uninjured.  However, she was now front a center and made the main target for the spiders, and slightly tangled up in the doorjamb such that she could not easily retreat.

Dark Paladin and Inquisitor Delthen Eversoar then charged forward shield first to hold the door.  Normally, he could have placed himself alone between the monsters and the rest of his companions, but Zazz was all tangled up beside him, so that put both him and the Half-Elf Rogue at the top of the target list for the spiders.

I ruled that three spiders could make their attacks that round.

I rolled three attacks (1 for Delthen and 2 for Zazz).  I rolled 3 consecutive 3s.  Stupid d20!

Shimmering with holy light, Cerise, the Spirit-Touched Cleric loosed her Javelin of Faith.  Miss.

Finally the spider expert Indigo had his turn.  He rolled a phenomenally good roll using his background to find out what odor would attract the spiders away back into the room (a helpless fear drenched halfling was the suggestion of one of the players).  Using his Illusion Domain, Indigo created the smell in the room, forcing all six spiders to make standard saving throws (11+).  All of the spiders except the first one failed the save (yes, that's five failures in a row--stupid d20) and turned to charge back into the room to retrieve the mysteriously appearing yummy snack.

The last spider continued to hang at the top of the door frame, attempting to bite Delthen's head.

Rolen the Wood Elf Sorcerer focused his Scorching Ray at the last remaining spider.  Fizzle.  Nothing.

Round 2
Yoshi, with the initiative, lunged forward over Delthen's shoulder with his katana, and he missed . . . no wait, hit!  Thank you Escalation Die!  Max damage!

Legolis also rolled a miss, and invoked his Archery feat to reroll, which was unfortunately a miss.

Lief determined to try to charm the spider, using his Linguist feat and enormous CHA.  The spider was not impressed.

Zazz then pulled herself away from the door and made a quick crossbow shot at the spider, making a hit!

Delthen then swung his mace, powered by his Smite Evil, and landed a 14 point damage blow.  However, he then went on to try to flick the spider off the doorjamb with a maneuver, but failed.

Cerise sent blazing forth another Javelin of Faith, this time landing a critical hit.

Indigo also fired off his Javelin, but missed.

Rolen then cast his Scorching Ray to minor effect. 

The spider was mostly done for, but not yet dead.

Round 3
Before the spider could make a move to retreat, the swift moving Samurai Yoshi thrust into it again with his katana, slaying the arachnid.

With the immediate combat ended and the other spiders still looking for a helpless hafling that they could smell, but could not find, the party backed into the main corridor to regrroup and continue to explore.

A couple of things became apparent.  First, as Lief looked down to the left turn in the main corridor, off of which was another side passage, he began to feel a distinct foreboding.  Second, Rolen, the Sorcerer, realized that the cursed mark on his left hand reacted with what seemed like hungry interest every time it could "see" Legolis (whom Rolen nearly incinerated last time with a critical fumble).  If the curse were a being, it would be saying something like the Wild Things in Maurice Sendak's book "I'll burn you up I love you so."

Both revelations got the appropriate "well, that's not good" reactions.

Moving down the corridor, they noticed that the next side passage was filled with bones.  Indigo suddenly sensed a powerful emanation of undeath from the passage.  Lief suddenly realized what was bothering him, as he had the same feeling he had experienced when he was ensorcelled by the Tribe of Necromancers (his One Unique Thing).  From the dark, some THING started to call his name and to call him to the service of the Lich King.  The voice told Lief that they could glorify the Lich King and leave his living companions behind (by killing them).

That was enough for the party, who all prepared for a fight.

Round 1
Zazz was first, tied with the suddenly rampaging giant rat skeletons (mooks).  The Rogue easily slipped into the shadows with a Shadow Walk.  There were ten skeleton rat attacks, with more coming out of the piles of bones.  Most missed, one fumbled on Rolen, preventing another's attack, but Cerise, Indigo and Lief were hit, with Lief being hit critically.  The hit on Cerise caused her Halo power to do down, much to her chagrin.  However, the little rat skeletons did not pack much of a punch otherwise.

Delthen and Hey then counterattacked, quickly destroying three skeletons.  These, however, were just as quickly replaced from a total pool of 20.  Yoshi had a swing and a miss.  Cerise's Javelin of Faith missed.  Lief began his Song of Spilt Blood and then hit with his Battle Chant and Rolen made a successful Elven Grace roll, allowing him to make an empowered Scorching Ray attack.  Legolis also scored an arrow hit.

At this point, out of the bones sprang a rag clad, tattooed Ghoul Necromancer.

Gnome Cleric Indigo then called on the gods of his people and blasted out with his Turn Undead spell.  This had an immediate effect on the rat skeletons, two more of which disintegrated, and the rest became dazed (-4 to hit, as if they were not rolling badly enough already).

Round 2
Zazz stepped out of the shadows behind the Ghoul Necromancer, but only nicked him with her dagger, rolling a miss.

All the rat skeletons attacking missed.

The Necromancer turned on Zazz.  Madness burned in his dead eyes.  Dark power shimmered across the foul tattoos etched on his corpse body.  The temperature dropped around Zazz, as the cold of the grave seeped into the space between her and the Necromancer.  Her breath frosted in front of her.  With a cackle of glee, the unclean spellcaster unleashed his blast of necromantic energy.

Zazz carefully stepped aside as he missed, leaving his lethal attack nothing more than a cold spot on the wall (stupid d20!)

Delthen, Paladin of Darkness, charged forward swinging his mace at the Ghoul's head.  The Ghoul neatly side stepped and it was Delthen's turn to miss. 

Hey mashed some rats with his tree.

Lief unleashed the thunder of his voice, smashing more rat skeletons.  The magic of his voice also allowed Zazz to freely disengage from the Ghoul.

Yoshi drew a bead on the Ghoul, and his fumble almost put the arrow into Delthen's back.  Fortunately, the arrow pinged harmlessly off his armored shoulder.

Cerise, suffused again with holy light, cast forth the Spirits of the Righteous, dealing a serious, but far from lethal blow to the Necromancer.

Rolen's Elven Grace failed him in this round, yet his Scorching Ray was effective, not only frying another skeleton, but also setting the rat mooks alight for ongoing damage.

Legolis fired his bow at the rat skeletons, rolling a critical hit.  The table suggested that he had made a double shot, loading two arrows onto his string and hitting two separate rat skeletons, destroying both!

Indigo hurled his Javelin of Faith and did damage AND befuddled the Ghoul.

Round 3
Zazz, having taken a few steps back, let loose with her Flying Blade attack, arcing her throwing glaive at the Ghoul.  Once again, the capering spell caster stepped aside, only getting nicked by the miss. 

The Ghoul again called upon the cold of the grave to attack Delthen and Zazz.

And . . . nothing.  Swish.  He did save and end the effects of being Befuddled.

The few remaining burning rat skeletons tried to attack, but failed.  One fell apart. 

Hey missed his main swing, but the slight impact of his tree on a miss was enough to shatter the last charred rat skeleton.

Delthen had a swing and a miss.

Cerise called upon the powers of light and cast forth her Javelin of Faith once again, this time landing a solid hit on the foul undead Necromancer.

Yoshi's arrow missed its mark.

Lief's Battle Chant only rattled some old bones.

Rolen's Elven Grace once again failed him, but his Scorching Ray sizzled the tattooed skin of the Ghoul.

Legoli's arrow found its mark.

Indigo's holy Javelin of Faith also struck.

Suddenly, the fearsom Ghoul Necromancer was down to very few hit points (13).

Round 4
Zazz loosed another Flying Blade attack, with another glaive and hit . . . for 12 points.

The Ghoul, now with one hit point, sought to disengage with Delthen and dive back into its river of bones.  However, that (stupid!) d20 roll failed.  So it instead launched itself in a frustrated physical attack against Delthen.  It bit and slashed and battered the Paladin, finding every chink and weakness in his defenses, doing 21 points of damage after scoring a special attack with its rolll.

The Paladin, battered and bleeding swung his mace . . . miss.

However, the one point of miss damage, the slight glancing blow, easily shaken off usually, felled the dread Ghoul.

End of combat.

Once again the, the adventurer's triumphed!  Everyone celebrated by digging through piles of bones and trash in the Ghoul's lair to find coins, gems, jewelry and other sundries!


Delthen sucked down a healing potion, because he was about, literally, dead on his feet.

In the distance, they heard again the wild cry of the Owlbear seeking some way to enter the level.

They decided they needed to find a place to rest, and indeed, after suffering so much punishment, with their recoveries nearly all exhausted, they had earned a full rest.

But where . . . ?

Find out next time as we continue Heroes of the 13th Age!!!