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.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Better actual play blogs than mine and other inspiration

I labor away here, and I put up records of the 13th Age games we have been playing.  If people enjoy them, that's great, but really they become my notes and records for my campaign.  They are in no way polished.

If I had more time (and perhaps more talent), I would do something sophisticated, because I admire the heck out of people who elevate write-ups through multiple character perspectives, add illustrations, and generally do way better than me.

A couple that I have really enjoyed include:

Brooklyn Encounters: Murder in Baldur's Gate
This blog captures the 13 sessions it took to play through this adventure.  It is beautiful to look at and a pleasure to read.

Eberron: The Winter Coalition
This is the chronicle of an epic ongoing campaign.  I think it has been going about three years.  The write-ups are sometimes from a third person narrator (presumably the Dungeon Master), but most entries are character entries, narrating what happened from a particular character's perspective.  I love reading the write-ups.  I never knew much about Eberron (it came into being during a long interregnum when I was not playing or paying much attention to D&D), but man, I would love to play in Eberron in this campaign.  There are hundreds of ideas to steal from the write-ups, and it is inspiring from a player/character develpment point of view, as well as from a Dungeon Master/campaign creation point of view.  There is quite a back catalogue of entries, but it is well worth reading!

Other Stuff

So, I think I have sung the praises of Hunter Black before as a source of inspiration.  I continue to be a big fan.  If you are not reading this web comic, why not!?  The team that writes, draws and letters the comic is outstanding, and the writer draws from his long experience with Dungeons & Dragons to inform his Fantasy Noir setting and characters (in the best way). 

This too has an extensive back catalogue of panels to read, but every one is worth it.

Finally, yesterday I somehow managed to stumble onto Skullkickers.  I may be the last guy to know about this low fantasy web comic, but it is gorgeous, action packed and funny.  So far (because, again, huge back catalogue) two no-name, amoral mercenaries, a big human with knives and six shooters, and a stocky red-bearded dward with twin hand-axes generally kick butt, take names, and win and lose fortunes as monster killers.  Their (mis)adventures have been very entertaining.  Apparently, later in the series there is a bit more gender balance in the storylines, but I can't eveluate that yet.

What I can say is that Skullkickers is very entertaining, and again full of interesting ideas to plunder.  If I am not the last person to hear of this comic, go and do yourself a favor and take a look!

That's all for now.  Go play games and have fun!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Heroes of the 13th Age: Part 11: Shadows and Light from the Past

On Sunday, February 2, we were able to resume our game.  We had one last minute change, in that one of the teenagers decided he no longer wanted to play his old character, Legolis the High Elven Ranger, and so we retired him, in favor of a new character, Froodo, the Halfling Monk (Legolis’ old roommate).

I’d say that you can’t make this stuff up, except that clearly we did.

The adventure is one I adapted from an old Dungeon Magazine #83 (“Iriandel”).  Much like my first foray, where I adapted a module published in Dragon Magazine, I am taking the broad parts of the adventure, and the support framework (maps, etc.) and improvising with the great tools that 13th Age equips me with.

The characters then were

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

The party found itself trudging through the frontier lands of the Empire, West of Hammer Falls.  They had vague Imperial orders to find a magic spear of light.

As day turned into twilight, and rain fell on them, they approached a high wooden palisade which surrounded a rustic town.

Two Halfling watchmen hailed them from atop the wall and asked them to state their business.  By and by, the Halflings welcomed them to Pebbleton and admitted them to the town.  The watchers also directed the party down the street to the Mayor’s home to register their visit (mainly because the Mayor likes meeting new people).  The town was heavily populated by Halflings, but Humans and some Half-elves were also in evidence.

The heroes led their mounts through town to the humble abode of the mayor, Jimi Jimepro.  The Halfling invited the heroes in out of the rain and gave them some tea.  He then asked them about their business in the this out of the way outpost.  They recounted their vague instructions about finding a magic spear of light.  Jimi noted that they were a simple town, dependent on woodcutting and the lumber and charcoal trade.  He noted that the Wood Elves of the Cairnwood, though not friendly, did keep the lands buffered from the horrors of the Hellmarsh.  He also told them that they had friendly relations with a Gnomish settlement nearby (to the degree that anything is near Pebbleton).

As to the spear, well, he thought that the wandering minstrel who had taken up residence in the Common Hall in Pebbleton, might have some insight into the history and legends of the area.  In the meantime, before the adjourned to the Hall, he suggested that they stable their animals in the town stables, and that they come with him to meet someone else.

At the stables, he showed them a large, grey-maned horse with a white spot on its forehead.  Jimi introduced the horse as “Treetrot” and he told how the horse came to be a guest of the town.  Jimi had been caught in a terrible storm near the Cairnwood, and miraculously, the horse had found and led him home to safety.  Thereafter, Jimi had made sure that the horse was provided for in the town, and “Treetrot” has aided in pulling and carrying heavy loads and generally being useful around town.

Delthen and Rolen shared a meaningful glance after this story, which seemed to say “well, the horse could be an enchanted being, or possibly a unicorn who lost its horn . . . “

From the stables, the group moved to the Common Hall, a combination of a meeting hall, common kitchens, and modest Inn and Tavern for the residents.  There they met the Half-elf Bard, Ruallin.  She and Lief eyed each other warily, as possible performing rivals.  Lief’s dark look seemed to say “I will burn this place to the ground,” and it was not entirely clear if he meant with his musical performance or just with actual fire.  The party Bard seemed to be in a strange mood.

Nonetheless, Ruallin, at Jimi’s prompting told her story of the happenings in the area near Pebbleton many years before its founding.  Some 300 years before, a human tribe had settled the lands.  They were building settlements and becoming firmly established.  They called themselves the Lorai.  They had respectful relations with the Wood Elves, and they looked likely to flourish here on the outer edges of the Dragon Empire (during the Eleventh Age).  However, a demon worshipping human barbarian tribe, the Sya-Negan,  came from the North, wiping out everything and everyone as they travelled.  The Lorai realized that they must try to turn this tide of evil back.  Their chief, under the codes of the north, seemingly subscribed to even by the Sya-Negan, challenged the invaders’ chief, Tamaich, to a single combat to determine whether the Lorai would submit or whether the Sya-Negan, would withdraw.  Tamaich accepted the challenge.

To aid the Lorai, the Wood Elves enlisted the aid of one of the protectors of the forest, Iriandel, the Unicorn.  Iriandel agreed to temporarily give up his horn, so that its powerful magic could be fashioned into a weapon for the Lorai’s chief.  The Elves and Iriandel knew that the Sya-Negan would seek to destroy the Cairnwood and replace it with the spread of the Hellmarsh through their demon worship.  However, the Elves, when they called upon their sorcerers and spirit talkers to cast the ritual to create the spear from Iriandel’s horn, failed to account for the influence of the Trickster deity Pillizoro when they invoked their moon goddess Sendowa.  While not revered by the Elves, the trickster is often paired with the moon, and as the ritual ended, Pillizoro pronounced that should Iriandel not be rejoined with his horn after three days, it would be three hundred years before there would be a chance to reunite horn and beast.

The spear nonetheless was magnificent and proved to be a powerful weapon in the hands of the Lorai chief.  Unfortunately, although he dealt the death blow to Tamaich, the Sya-Negan chief also mortally wounded him.  Tamaich ordered his followers to wipe out the Lorai, although he had been defeated.  The Sya-Negan obliterated the Lorai settlements.  They also were rumored to have raised a huge burial mound and tomb where they laid Tamaich’s remains along with treasures from the Lorai and the spear made from Iriandel’s horn as a trophy.

Ruallin finished by saying that she believed absolutely that “Treetrot” was in fact the now hornless unicorn, Iriandel.  Jimi shook his head ruefully, saying it was a beautiful fairy tale, but hard to believe that right about 300 years since the Sya-Negan battle, that you could believe that a stray horse was really a unicorn severed from its horn.  Ruallin was firm in her belief.

Delthen and Rolen exchanged a knowing “told you so” glance.

After Ruallin finished her tale, Hey went to the kitchens to help and to pick up gossip and stories from the townspeople.  Zeva and the others asked Jimi and Ruallin some questions about where the tomb might be located.  Ruallin and Jimi agreed that the tomb of Tamaich was likely in the local foothills known as “The Knuckles”.  Zeva asked if anyone knew more about the location.  Ruallin told them that likely the Wood Elves knew more, but that they were prickly to deal with and suspicious of strangers.

Meanwhile, Hey’s help was appreciated in the kitchen, after initial apprehension of the Half-Orc was overcome.  He had a great evening cooking and preparing his signature croissant’s to rise and be baked in the morning.  He also learned from the gossipy Halfling cooks that not too long ago some people from the village had found a strange mystical mark on a tree, some half a day walk from the village.  They did not know exactly where it was, but it seemed infused with old and powerful nature magic.  They thought it seemed relevant to the search for Iriandel’s horn.

In the morning the party discussed whether to try to find and question the Wood Elves or whether to try to find the glyph as a clue.  The decided to search for the glyph, and turned to Rolen the Sorcerer to see if he could sense the glyph with his magically attuned spirit.  His Icon roll of 6 with the Archmage proved invaluable, as he got a clear sign of where to go.  He was soon leading the party directly to the tree marked with the mystic glyph.  About half a day’s easy travel, the arrived at an ancient oak, on the outskirts of the forest, and there in a magic script, Rolen could see what he knew to be the mark of Iriandel the unicorn.  As he touched the glyph, a voice from the tree said “You are perceptive, and I sense no evil intent in you.  Who are you who seeks the mark of Iriandel?” 

The party looked up astonished to find the words came from an ancient, but proud of bearing, owl, perched high in the tree.

“I am Tashek.  I have lately returned to this area after long travels.  Who are you?”

The party explained their mission and the stories about Iriandel they had heard.  Tashek was scandalized that no mention had been made of him in Ruallin’s account.  He muttered something about “no wingless bard is to be trusted.”  When asked what else Ruallin might have left out, Tashek confirmed that most of the details were correct.  He complemented Ruallin for at least ignoring the silly romantic subplot some had placed on the interaction of the ruler of the Wood Elves and the chief of the Lorai.  Though they had become allies when threatened with the Sya-Negan, it had not been based on infatuation.  However, after the loss of Iriandel’s horn, and the power of the Unicorn to protect the Cairnwood, the leader did go into exile tragically, and may have passed beyond this mortal realm.  In any case, the most important fact that Ruallin had not known, was known to Tashek: the location of Tamaich’s tomb.  It would take four days, but he could lead them into the Knuckles directly to the mound.  He did state, however, that he would not go underground.  Someone might have coughed and said “chicken” under their breath at that, but no culprit could be determined.

After the second day of travel, deep into the wasted lands that once were inhabited by the Lorai, the party made an uneasy camp.  The land was exposed and forbidding.  At the third watch, Cerise, the Spirit-Touched Cleric, essentially felt a distant disturbance in the force (Critical Roll on her perception check) and roused everyone to arm and prepare for battle.

Down out of the sky came a demonic flock of six bat things that some call “Squishies” due to their particular tactics of trying to crush opponents one by one under a “bat pile.”

Round (R) 1 Escalation (E) 0

The bat things proved fastest in the initiative and all descended upon Delthen, Dark Paladin Inquisitor of the Crusader.  The “murder pile” of demonic bats resulted in two hits and four misses with a total of 32 points of damage.  Delthen managed to use a recovery and then retaliated with a smite evil, which unfortunately missed and merely wounded one of them. 

Lief the Bard then unleashed a soundburst, Hey struck with his tree (after using Lethal to reroll), Indigo summoned the Spirits of the Righteous (but to little effect) and Rolen belched forth the Breath of the White.  Cerise then fired her Javelin of Faith, Froodo missed with his Greeting Fist, and Zeva shifted her tactical position and lashed out with her Evasive Strike.

At the end of all that, only two Bat Demons remained.

R2 E1

The two Bat Demons surged to attack Rolen, but Delthen killed one with his opportunity attack.  The last Bat missed Rolen.  Delthen wound up another Smite with his mace, but it was a swing and a miss with minimal damage.

Lief failed with his Battle Chant attack.  Rolen failed to invoke his Elven Grace, and then missed with his Scorching Ray.  Hey took a swing and a miss with his tree.  Indigo hit for minimal damage with his Javelin of Faith.  Cerise fired and missed with her Javelin of Faith. 

Froodo finally leaped forward and struck the demon down with his Basic Attack, after spending a point of Ki to make his miss a hit.

End of Combat.

After that night attack, the journey to the tomb was relatively uneventful.  At one point, Tashek and Rolen’s familiar, affectionately known as “GPS”, guided the party away from what looked like an organized and uniformed patrol of goblinoids (Hobgoblins, Goblins and Bugbears) that all seemed to where the uniforms of the Drakkenhall security forces.

Once at the Tomb of Tamaich, the adventurers took a quick look around.  It was a large rounded mound, surrounded by standing stones marked in demonic script. 

The party formed up and broke through the doors at the entrance of the mound.  Zeva almost immediately detected a trap just beyond the entrance that blocked their way into the passages within the burial mound.  The trap consisted of a pivoting floor, which would dump the unsuspecting into some kind of pit.  The back of the plate would go so far as to hit the ceiling, as the front part dropped people into the pit, and the ceiling would then drop heavy debris down into the pit to strike the trapped victims.

Everyone agreed it would be a bad thing to set off the trap.

Zeva determined that Froodo could walk across without triggering the trap on his own.  They also determined that they could jam the pivoting plate to allow everyone to cross if they used some poles against the ground and the ceiling.  After a little jury rigging, they managed to get even the heavily armored across.  However, it seemed like the pivoting plate might, in the near future, just crack at the pivot point and drop whoever was on it into the pit.  A reckless retreat over it seemed inadvisable, which they tucked away into their minds for the future.

Once across the trap, the passageway split at right angles.  The party turned right, and they soon found that the passage was marked by a line of capstones to dozens of pit burials.  Each capstone engraved with a strange glyph, each glyph different.  Indigo proposed casting a ritual to make sure that the dead within the pit graves stay sleeping.  Each party member made a small contribution to the ritual, and Indigo empowered it with his Turn Undead spell.  He found that each of the forty occupied graves’ inhabitants would stay resting, but he also detected that one pit tomb was unoccupied.

The adventurers made their way over the graves where the ancient Sya-Negan warriors rested until they came to the empty grave.  Zeva detected it as a trap immediately and the party carefully made its way around another pit trap.  They then continued along the passage into a circular room, with a passage out the other side.  In the middle of the room was an open passage down, with hand and footholds forming a ladder down carved into one wall of the downward passage.

As they entered, a chilling moaning began to issue from below.  Suddenly, they heard weapons being readied, and from the passage on the other side of the room, flying, animated swords appeared and began to slash and stab at the party. 

R1 E0

Lief sang forth his Soundburst at one of the swords. 

The swords hacked and slashed at the party, missing Delthen, but two wounded Zeva, and one slashed Hey, but the others failed to connect with Lief and Cerise.

Delthen took a swing and missed.  Rolen blasted one with a Chaos Bolt.  Froodo attacked, missed, used a power to take a reroll, and missed worse.  Cerise fired her Javelin of Faith, but missed.  Zeva fumbled and fell down the hole, taking minor damage (“Just as I planned!”).  Indigo swung his war hammer and connected.  Hey thought he missed at first, but ended up taking one out due to his Lethal talent.

R2 E 1

Lief destroyed one with his Battle Chant.

The swords attacked, one wounding Delthen.

Delthen destroyed a sword with his mace.

Rolen destroyed another with his Chaos Bolt.

Froodo almost missed again, but scored a hit with a reroll, smashing a sword with his staff.

Hey struck with his tree, to destroy the last of the animated swords.

End of Combat

So, after the combat, Zeva climbed up out of the lower level.  She counseled a full exploration of the upper level first.  The moaning from below continued.

What lies in the next chamber and any other crypts, caches or rooms beyond?  Will they find the spear made from Iriandel’s horn?  Will they live to see daylight and fresh air again?  Will anyone else get to cash in an Icon Roll.

Tune in next time a manage to get around to updating the blog after we play.


Until then, play games and have fun!

Monday, February 9, 2015

13th Age & D&D: Brilliant Podcasts and YouTube Actual Plays

Heyo everyone, just a short post while I am putting together the actual play report from my last 13th Age game.

I don't get to play as much as I would like.  Scheduling as an adult parent of two teenagers when the other players in your game are also adult parents or the actual teenagers, is rough.

So, in the meantime, I like to see what other people and doing and thinking about relavent to 13th Age and other classic tabletop RPGs.

So, first, I want to highlight Whit Mattson of A Game of Whit's.  He has a bunch of videos of his new adventure/sandbox for 13th Age with his play group.  The sandbox is Balan's Gorge.  Just watch the first episode, and if you don't think that the setup for his mining boomtown with a twist is brilliant, there is no talking to you.  See it here.  I love the idea of mixing the classic dungeon crawl environment with the boomtown atmospher of Deadwood.  Just check out the setup Whit does.  I think it is brilliant.

Second, I have to give a big shoutout to J-M, Mark and Nick of the ICONIC Podcast.  Their latest episode is on DRAGONS and it is epic.  Also, they come up with a campaign idea (and offer it to all of us for free) that makes an amazing framework for a challenging 13th Age campaign involving dragons and the struggle between two of the Icons (specifically the Great Gold Wrym and the Diabolist).  As an exercise for your imagination, as well as for some very informative discussion, I highly recommend this episode and everything else they put out.  You may recall from this post I also was fortunate to be picked by those kind gentlmen as the winner of their contest about giving a backstory to the White Dragon for 13th Age.  As a bonus, I recently participated in recording another episode with them.  Hopefully I helped add to the already considerable information and entertainment that they deliver.  In any case, Episode 16 on dragons is really worth your time and an introduction to the very best that ICONIC turns out!

Finally, last year another  tabletop RPG had a bit of a release, my old love Dungeons & Dragons.  I have to say, I am falling in love all over again.  I still will be running 13th Age, but I am really happy to see 5th Edition D&D do so well and be such a great game.

To keep me in touch with that reality, I have started to listen to bigAl (@bravenewdungeon) with his actual play podcasts and D&D talks here.  Listening to Al manage his actual plays really gives me great respect for all those Dungeon Masters willing not only to virtually DM through the internet, but also to go out and just open a game to a bunch of people (or even just some people) he has never met before, and make it all work.

Brave New Dungeon has been a lot of fun to listen to, and there is a huge back catalogue of Big Al's main campaing, The Pearl, which I have yet to tackle.

In any case, he definitely deserves a wide audience, so check it out!

Until later, keep playing games and having fun!