Monday, June 27, 2011

WeeklyGrind4E - Week 5 - RUN!

After a many week hiatus, the Fourthcore Weekly Grind 4E started back up again!

This was a weird week. I had a lot of players who couldn't be there the whole time so throughout the session you'll catch people either showing up late or having to leave early. Made for a really hectic time for me (not planning on allowing that again), but we still had a great time. This was a devious room and the party barely survived it.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Saturday, June 25, 2011

How to Weasel Cool Stuff Out of Me as a DM

So after a month of real time hiatus from our weekly Scales of War campaign, we started up our epic tier campaign and the team is off for the Shadowfell and generic quest that they get asked to take on. Since we had such a long break I had decided to have a month pass in game and I wanted my players to tell me what their characters did in that time off. Each of my players wrote up a little something to explain what happened and since most of their characters split up and had little side adventures it worked really well. I love little bonuses like this that add depth to who they are as people and it really helped them develop the characters the way that they wanted.

My dragonborn cleric used his hard earned gold to collect artifacts and trinkets from old Arkhosia and his previous heritage (and bought a house to put them in) and also hired on an old NPC the party encountered as a servant. This was especially cool because one of his friends from old Arkhosia has become the exarch of Tiamat that the party is now seeking so we'll see how far the rabbit hole goes on this one. The half-elf paladin embraced her conversion to the Raven Queen and took on a quest to stop someone cheating death. She found a healer woman and basically destroyed her magical trinket extending her life and forced her to train someone else to replace her, embracing the natural flow of life. The gnome artificer and drow rogue had adventures in town fighting their companion creatures in a pokemon style combat arena (SO PROUD) and they have more information to hand off to me next week. The dwarf barbarian spent time drinking for half the month off, but then spent the rest of the month in a library reading books and trying to learn new things (the player behind this barbarian is much smarter than his character and I appreciated him trying to level the discrepancy between player and character behavior).

The one that really impressed me was the human wizard. Her idea was definitely inspired by the Order of the Stick Origin of the Heroes book I lent her before she was off on a real life vacation, but that made it even sweeter. Essentially, she competed in a wizard's competition at her old arcane academy. As part of the competition she had to create a new attack spell and for her entry (which she didn't win in her own story!) she created a spell she called Slow Time. The effect she described is simliar to a Time Stop spell only it is an effect where she targets a particular area and all the creatures within are frozen in time allowing the party to make attacks with impunity. She told me she didn't win because the judges thought the spell would take a long time to get approved by some "dungeon master." She didn't understand the reference, but accepted her defeat. I was floored. So now I'm writing up and tweaking an ability to make it work based on the False Reality spell at level 29 for her to learn and use. Coming up with something like that and just out of the blue was a pleasure to come across as a DM and I desperately want to honor her creativity and reward that with something special. The sure fire way to get something cool out of me is to provide a great narrative that supports why it should happen and then just sit back while I work it in. The story wins, the player wins, and I win because my players are invested and enjoying themselves. What a night!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Gold, Frankincense and Murder Episode 4

Part 2 of Session 2

Will the chamber of frozen door hold hidden treasures or a terrible beast waiting to strike?!

Find out in this week’s episode of Gold Frankincense and Murder!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Free RPG Day Recap! In case you missed it.

Yesterday (June 18, 2011) was Free RPG Day, so I went to Black Diamond Games and played three amazing games.

For those of you who don’t know:

“Free RPG Day is a day for you to go to your local participating retailer to play new games and get free stuff. Every retailer has their own version of Free RPG Day, each running the games they want to run. What they all have in common is free stuff donated to them by all your favorite publishers. It's a day to play games celebrate the hobby and play games.” --, FAQ, What is Free RPG Day?

I would describe it as a mini con for players in your local area. I’m lucky enough to live close to my “local participating retailer,” the amazing Black Diamond Games located at 1950 Market Street Concord, CA.

As For the games, I’ll introduce each with as little detail as possible so I don’t spoil any of the actual gameplay, and I’ll talk about 3 things I liked about the game and 3 things I think the game needs to work on.

For me, the day started out a little slow. But at Black Diamond, about a dozen people arrived right as the doors were opening. By the time the time of the event the store was flooded with players. I was invited to come by my cousin Mike who works there. He told me that Free RPG Day is always a blast so I just went out of curiosity plus the FREE aspect of the event is too alluring to pass up. Then right around 11am, people started sitting down and opening all the free modules and began to play.

My first game of the day was We Be Goblins! I loved this game. It is a new Pathfinder Module for 1st Level Characters written by Richard Pett. In We Be Goblins, players actually “be” goblins. I chose to play as Mogmurch the alchemist who likes to create chaos by hurling bombs into the thick of the battle disregarding the safety of the victims of his destruction. Now this was also my first time ever playing Pathfinder, EVER! But I heard it was similar in some was to D&D 3.5 which I’m moderately experienced in so I wasn’t too nerves going in.

3 things I like about We Be Goblins!

1. The Goblins and the setting are fun and entertaining. I’ve never heard a bad comment about a pathfinder setting (yet) and I was not disappointed. It was really well written and even though we were playing goblins the story was rich enough to keep us involved in the plot. “Are these Goblins paying attention to important details?” I must be crazy.

2. The module itself was easy to pick up and play. It doesn’t have any of the core rules in it but if you are a fairly new GM (not DM, weird) then this adventure is great. All the monsters and pregens have their own page in the booklet which makes them easier to understand. The game doesn’t throw anything at the players that is too overly complicated, while maintaining a compelling and entertaining style of play.

3. The characters are great! Each goblin felt like a real goblin and the details of the characters draw you in to the role play more than any one shot I’ve ever played. I think the fact that the entire character is on one page makes it easy to understand the character better. A problem I have with most D&D one shots is that the characters have pages and pages of details that are often blended with their stats and powers, which can turn picking up these characters into a daunting task. Except I do have to say “D&D Wednesday Encounters” does provide really nice pregen player cards that are very stream line so I know D&D can and will develop more one shots with shorter character sheets.

3 things I dislike about We Be Goblins!

1. Pathfinder Goblins are not my favorite variation of goblins in the world. These goblins sing songs and mirror the goblins of the old folk tales and children stories while I actually prefer the more fearsome and gritty goblins of Tolkien and D&D. But this is purely a matter of opinion. If you like playing a 5 or 6 year old singing goblin, then be my guest.

2. The combats toward the end of the adventure seemed a little unbalanced. At my table we actually had a party of 6 which is more than the recommended amount of players, but we still had one hell of a time fighting the bigger baddies. I think the table next to us playing the same game had a TPK before the last combat, but they only had 4 members in their party. I would recommend that GMs running this mod should really analyze and evaluated the player party and make adjustments to monsters where necessary.

3. I really liked playing this module which is why I could only think of 2 things to complain about. I’m sure that the people who didn’t like this module have their reasons.

I would recommend this game to pathfinder lovers or D&D lovers who think playing some goblins might be fun and believe me, it is!

At lunch there was free pizza, yum! And then round 2 of Free RPG Day began around 1ish. Out of the many chooses of games I chose to join what sounded like another Pathfinder/Dungeons and Dragons type game but I was surprise by what it really was. My 2nd game of the day was Dungeon Crawl Classics the Role Playing Game Adventure Starter. There is no game board or grid map, only the limits of your imagination and a bunch of “funky dice” which include d3’s to d8’s, d10’s, d12’s, d14’s, d16’, d20’s, d24’s and d30’s. That is a lot of crazy looking dice. The adventure takes a group of 15-20 level 0 characters through a dungeon. All who survive move on to level 1. Character creation feels a lot like a cross between Gamma World and a stream line version of AD&D. Each player gets to randomly generate 2 to 3 peasant characters. It’s like Darwin and Gary Gygax sat down with some coffee on a Friday night and figured that survival of the fittest applies to fantasy as much as it applies to reality and created this trippy adventure to express that discovery.

3 things I like about Dungeon Crawl Classics

1. Whenever I find a game with a random character generation system I always want to try it out. I love playing characters that you have to grow into because you didn’t choose it, it chose you. Dungeon Crawl Classics uses several lists of tables to determine every aspect of your character from race to starting equipment. I made 2 characters this way. One was an Elvin artisan with nothing but a holy symbol and a hand full of clay. The other was a Dwarven blacksmith with a hammer and 1oz of mythril. I’m already excited at this point.

2. The concept is that a group of peasant band together to venture into a nearby dungeon to free the village from some kind of evil ruler. I love this concept! It was super fun playing level 0 and even though characters where dying left and right, and everywhere else, I still had a great time.

3. The Dungeon itself was fantastic. I won’t say much about it because I don’t want to spoil anything but I liked the themes and rooms. It felt very old school while keeping me on my toes around every turn.

3 things I dislike about Dungeon Crawl Classics

1. The characters don’t develop at all during the adventure. So you basically have to assume that after the dungeon the survivors develop their abilities later on their own time. Wait what?!? Why the hell did I drag my level 0 ass through that death trap in the first place if it had nothing to do with my character’s actual design later in life? The whole point of a level 0 adventure should be the character development but not in this game. And don’t tell me I did it for the treasure! My party probably collected about 200 gold pieces worth of equipment and treasure. Divided between 10-16 survivors, I’m only walking away with about 20gp-30gp. Oh joy, now I can buy that one non-magical item I always wanted! Yeah no, I left the table feeling cheated. It doesn’t make any sense for a level 0 character to go into a dangerous dungeon for so little reward and no additional abilities. I might as well use the time I could spend in the dungeon just practicing sword play or learning the basics of magic or something. But if you like playing a game where you and your allies die quicker than Alvin and the Chipmunks on crack can sing, then this could be your kind of game (also try Gamma World, or the Darksun setting).

2. There are too many characters. My party had 10 people (20 characters) in it which was a nightmare because the party split 8 different ways every time we entered a room. I imagine a game with fewer players is a lot easier to manage and the fact that there are still technically 20 lv.0 peasants in a room means rounds take a long time. I had one guy at my table fall asleep from waiting so long for a turn. Not good.

3. 99.999999% of the crap you get at the start of the game is absolutely useless. My Elf had a random ability to spend Luck on spell checks- oh wait, I’m a damned peasant, and I don’t know shit about magic! This means my character must think he is magical, when he is not, and that makes him CRAZY BONKERS!
I wouldn’t recommend this early version of the game. I believe it is a newly designed game that is still under development so I’m going to wait for more material to be released before pursuing another game of this madness.

Later into the afternoon I joined another game as the main event began to end. My final game of the night was Vampire published by White Wolf. There was a World of Darkness adventure featured for Free RPG Day but I didn’t get a chance to play it. Instead, Jesse (new friend, yay) started running an impromptu game of Vampire. I love the d10 story teller system of WOD! But I hadn’t played a WOD game in ages. I created a Brujah Clan member named Malachi. He once was a lowly computer jokey but after he was blessed with the curse of immortality he became Malachi a henchman of the Camarilla. Being a very powerful vampire early on aloud him to gain a bit of recognition from influential clansmen who like to hire him to do some of the dirtier jobs that the clan wanted done quickly and quietly.

3 things I like about Vampire

1. The story telling system is great. There is no map and no game bored. The Storyteller (DM basically) is telling a story and the players are the protagonists. As the story unfolds players roll from a pool of 10 sided dice to perform difficult tasks. This system is really interactive and leaves a lot to the creativity of the players. Sometimes a just need a break from all the tactical combat oriented games like D&D. Vampire makes the perfect vacation spot.

2. The theme is compelling and well developed. The system is flexible enough that you could just play as a generic vampire or you can amerce yourself into the shadowy world of the vampires and their various clans. Jesse described the game to me like this, “every vampire story you ever heard is true, in some respect. It just depends on the clan.” There are crazy fast and strong vampires and then there are mind controlling vampires and then there are shape shifting vampires. So depending on what your preferred vampire lore is, you can play any kind of vampire you want. Except a Twilight vampire, I heard the news version of this game has something like Twilight vampires in it, but anyone who plays as one of these sparkly freaks, should be sucked dry and thrown into the sun! “Does it burn yet you bastard!!” oh man, I’m sorry. I almost lost my temper there. Minus one Humanity point for me.

3. I would go into the finer detail about actual game mechanics, which are fantastic, but I don’t want to repeat myself. The game’s system and themes are great, enough said.

3 Things I dislike about Vampire

1. The books are long and stuffed full of fluff. The actual game mechanics are buried under pages and pages of plot devises and story development. I love the themes and concepts but there is way too much reading involved when it comes to figuring out how to do the simplest thing. But once you know the system pretty well, it is easy to pick up and play on the fly. Just do your homework.

2. There is too great a potential for loner characters. Almost every time I’ve played this game the team splits up faster than Scooby’s gang in a haunted mansion. Each vampire will have their own motivations and style. There is no mechanical aspect of the game forcing the characters to work together unless the Storyteller creates some sort of powerful entity or reason for them to want to stay together. It’s just natural that vampires don’t like each other. But that’s no excuse for slitting the party.

3. This game is not for new gamers. It is role play intensive and a hard game to learn on the fly unless you have a really patient and experienced Storyteller. I would only recommend a World of Darkness game to a moderately experienced role player. Video Gamers however, don’t even bother.

And that’s it. I had a great time at Free RPG Day. I got to play a goblin, a couple peasants and vampire and I can’t wait for next year. The event is a worldwide phenomenon and is 100% free entry so you have no excuse not to go.

Anyway, thanks for reading my rant. Play hard or play safe but at all costs never stop playing.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Arkham Asylum and Shadowfell Swamps

This section will contain spoilers for the Scales of War Adventure have been warned.

You only have to watch the beginning of this clip to get a feeling for how this level plays out.

I finally had the opportunity to play through Batman: Arkham Asylum and absolutely loved it! Every level did something new and crazy to really give each layer a different flavor and the sewer levels were particularly terrifying. There were several moments when I literally jumped while playing through this level. Then tension and knowing that you are facing something much more powerful than yourself was absolutely terrifying.

Now of course this turned my mind to my next major D&D adventure and how I could take what worked well in this game and input it into my campaign. My players are beginning the epic tier and the major quest in the Scales of War adventure leads them deep into a Shadowfell Domain of Dread, The Dark Realm of Monadhan. And this domain is a land of treachery, betrayal and darkness.

The first part of the published adventure Betrayal at Monadhan is an interview with an angel who asks the party to infiltrate their way through a perilous dark domain to find access to one of Tiamat's exarchs who is up to something. The party is sent on their way into the dark domain, which is an awesome opportunity to use the new Despair Deck from the Shadowfell Boxed Set I just picked up (which I'm going to write my thoughts on later). The party is set to arrive in a swamp, a dismal place in a jungle long forgotten and the adventure is detailed to merely throw the party against a hydra, just to show that the Shadowfell is dangerous. Now I could see how that could be semi-meaningful, but just throwing an encounter against my party for the sake of it isn't interesting to me so I decided to have some fun with it and that is where my experience with Arkham Asylum comes into play.

So the party arrives on a wooden platform in a tremendous swamp reaching out in every direction they can see. Wooden walkways extend out in every direction and large mangrove-like trees extended thick, black roots into the muck and mire. The mist lies thick and the heat is stifling, suggesting a tropical environ, but the time of day is nondescript as some kind of pale sun burns, veiled behind the cloud filled sky. Even with the oppressed feeling of this dark place, the party feels the need to move on. Every so often, the can see bubbles rising from the muck indicating a bizarre presence to the place. After walking along for a short time, they sense something very off. The bubbles of the swamp begin to coalesce to one large section of swamp and one large bubble explodes forth and the swamp falls still. At this point, the encounter parameters kick in and initiative will be rolled!

The party will start up near the first branch of the walkways from the bottom. As the party struggles to figure out what is going on, they will notice bubbles moving under one of the walkways closest to the largest group of characters. The walkway will begin to shake at the top of the initiative count and on the initiative of the hydra, the hydra will burst up as a free action and make a bite attack on all the characters on that walkway platform.

I'm using a modified version of the hydra included in the module to include some of the solo adjustments from the monster vault (essentially taking the traits of the hydra from the monster vault and applying them to the heroslayer hydra included in the adventure path). While the hydra is submerged under the muck, it is in search mode. While it is in search mode, if a character moves more than half their speed during their turn, the platform they are on begins to quake. At the start of their next turn, the hydra makes an attack centered on the platform. Each creature is attacked and the platform is destroyed and anyone on it is thrown into the mire/mud. If no character moves in a round while search mode is active, the hydra comes screeching out in the mud closest to the largest cluster of players on it's turn and merely destroys an unoccupied walkway section instead of taking an action.. At the end of its next turn it dives back under the mud after making normal attacks.

My goal is to make the party not only get roughed up by a tremendous hydra creature, but also to inspire terrible fear in my players by basically completely removing the movement speed issues of the hydra and giving it free reign in the muck. If the players find themselves in the muck, they must succeed in an Athletics check (moderate difficulty) in order to move within the muck and if they fail they begin to sink into the mire. A character that starts their turn buried in the mire is targeted by a +20 vs. Fortitude attack, on a hit, the target takes 15 poison damage and is weakened (save ends) by the sludge.

So from here I took an encounter that was just a throw away (no story importance) and gave it a little bit more spice to try and create a more memorable and flavorful introduction to this stage of the adventure. I'm going to try and run it this upcoming week and hopefully it will be something to really grab them AND DRAG THEM SCREAMING INTO THE MIRY DARKNESS!!!!!!!!!! Or maybe just be a cool adventure. We'll see. ;)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gold, Frankincense and Murder Episode 3

Part 1 of Session 2

Enjoy, as our favorite adventures journey deeper into the Twisting Halls of the Goblin’s Lair.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Short Rest: War is Coming

War is Coming

Illustrated by HumorousEndeavorers
Inspired by Conquest of Nerath the Board Game

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Change of Times for the Githyanki Empire

*This post will contain spoilers to the Scales of War adventure path*

Last time I talked about going off the tracks on the adventure path a in a much more intentional manner than I had previously dared attempt. And not only that, I split the party. Well, the gnome did put the magical lovely ring of retreat all by herself. She didn’t know it would teleport her away from the party. And the party sure had no clue what was coming their way. They thought she went invisible or something. This gave me a really cool opportunity to do something special with the gnome player since she disappeared right as we ended the session.

I used a series of messages to play through the scenario of what was going on with the gnome apart from the party. Essentially, the gnome was teleported back to the homebase of the Githyanki rebellion and was brought to a very sick Gith’s bed. She was not feeling ill because of the amount of energy she had expended in suppressing the Mark of Justice on the party. She mentioned something about being worried about the party not giving her back her scepter (which they had noticed she wasn’t being completely honest with them in regards to what it was) and as she muttered this, something crazy happened to the gnome that was suggested all the way back in the heroic tier. Something the githyanki have apparently had in their backpocket, but hadn’t really used recently.

Back in the end of the heroic tier, some mercenary armies were being brought to bear against the city of Overlook and in one particular adventure, several githyanki warriors possessed key members of the city bureaucracy in order to ease the invasion. The githyanki can possess people. Wait, what???? Since the end of heroic tier, we haven’t seen this. We just spent an entire tier fighting the githyanki, but they didn’t make this a primary form of dealing with their enemies. So while the gnome is talking to Gith and leaning in to hear what she has to say, suddenly she finds herself possessed by Gith’s lieutenant.

My favorite part was just how much my player running the gnome loved the idea of being taken over as some kind of double agent. So now, she has some alien presence essentially overriding her body with one simple command, get the scepter by whatever means necessary and bring it to Gith. She knew the scepter was the means by which the active rulers of the githyanki took command of the red dragon flights. No scepter = no dragons to help the githyanki. The other thing she learned is that the scepter is an incredibly powerful artifact with pieces of both Gith’s soul and the soul of the grand daddy of all red dragons and could manifest both some of Gith’s telekinetic power along with the flaming bursts of the red dragon. I spent some time using the charged item section of the Fourthcore Armory to create this particularly nasty magic item and if you haven’t checked out the Fourthcore Armory yet, stop reading this and go download it now and start reading because it is AMAZING! Simply the best piece of fanmade material I’ve ever seen and totally FREE!

So I spent all this time crafting a new magic item to tempt the party with, reworked the ending of the story (the scepter was supposed to be without power anymore, but I thought it was more compelling if it still held the authority to command the dragons and gave the party a more dificult moral decision in the end), I even possessed one of the party members in order to get the scepter back and when I brought Gith with her retinue up to the party and the possessed gnome went for the scepter, the party handed over the item and all my planned stuff went out the window. This is the danger of planning your own material, you never know the group is going to go in the directions you expect and spending time planning out cool ideas and individual "carrots" to give them interesting choices and with one simple decision they can ignore hours of preparation.

So paragon tier is over. The party successfully defeated the githyanki emperor and set a new leader on the throne to direct the empire to new greatness and they even got a free ride back to the natural world. I ended our session (knowing that we had a month off in real life) by telling the party that are going to have a month pass in the game and that I want them to tell me how that month passes for them. Setting up the motivation and the actions of the epic tier is going to take some serious time and I felt a little break from such extreme story stuff would help bridge that gap.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Gold, Frankincense and Murder Episode 2

Here is the second half of my home game’s first session (download here). Sadly about 30 minutes of gameplay between Parts 1 and 2 were lost during post production due to failed knowledge rolls made by one of this blog’s contributors (*cough* HumorousEndeavors!!! *cough*).

Here is what happened…
In the last podcast, the party found the goblin lair and was about to enter the dungeon. Nymphadora stealthily cracked open the door to the dungeon but she was spotted by a surprised goblin who was stand directly on the other side if the door. The players rushed into the room like Tusken Raiders, while shooting and stabbing at the goblin. Another goblin at the other end of the room was tending to the black rider’s horse, which was tied to a pool of water on the floor of the dungeon. The second goblin dashed for the door of a small chamber and released a foul guard drake which lunged into the combat and attacked Javeck. Then a goblin hex hurler decided to show its ugly face. This episode starts in the middle of that combat. The first goblin lies torn to pieces on the floor, the drake is in the middle of the party gnashing his teeth, and the goblin hex hurler just placed a dangerous and powerful hex on Nymphadora which causes her to hesitate for a second.

Player Credits:
Scott Farspell (human wizard)– Devan Blair
Rikkus Raincloud (mule warpriest) – Ryan Harral
Nymphadora (elf rogue) – Sarah Jones
Javeck Gloomhollow (half-elf bard) - Joshua Kaplowitz

Special thanks to:

Zack, Ben, Rail, Joe, Dana, and Ryle

Anyway, thanks for listening to my rant. Play hard or play safe but at all costs never stop playing.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Short Rest: Bag of Disaster

Bag of Disaster
Written by Scott Farspell (inspired by PAPVP actual play Dark Sun)
Illustrated by HumorousEndeavorers

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Dilemma at Fallcrest

So HumorousEndeavors and I were sort of bored the other night and our friend Josh had just gotten off work so we called up a few other people to come on over and run through a little one shot adventure. This is one of the very first modules I ever ran, it's an AD&D adventure that I had saved tucked away in some books in my room. I dusted it off and made a few changes so it would run well in a 4e setting. Please enjoy.

*I know the sounds isn't that amazing, we were simply using a computers mic and Mavoy the slayer sitting at the other end of the table can be hard to hear at times as well as the other people but if you simply crank the volume up a bit you shouldn't have too many issues.

Scott Farspell out.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Epic Endings and the Beginnings of Epic

*This post will contain spoilers to the Scales of War adventure path*

I just can’t leave well enough alone. Epic tier is coming along and I really wanted to get things rolling, start things off with a bang! I think the transitions from tier to tier really need to be distinct and over-the-top cool, so I put some extra work in fixing up the encounters here to make it work well. I did this by 1) making some adaptations to the combat with the emperor and 2) by changing the possibilities of the ending of the adventure as a whole! I’ve already written before about how unsatisfied I have been with the stock ending of just completing a mission (i.e. defeating the big bad) and then reporting back in to some NPC that they gave them the mission in the first place.
image from A Tyranny of Soulsa paragon tier adventure
published  by Wizards of the Coast
In this particular adventure, the PCs were sent out to the fortress of the githyanki emperor while rebel forces began a major offensive against the imperial forces (cue death star 2 scene from Return of the Jedi). Fun times was that the party had no idea the rebel forces were attacking, so they are walking through the city towards the fortress and dragon riders start flying out from everywhere and engaging in battle with other githyanki. The party sees hundreds of red dragons flying out from the castle they are headed towards and away to battle all over the city of Tun’arath. The party began the assault against the fortress (conveniently less guarded due to the rebel attacks) and worked their way through the various chromatic-themed chambers and eventually through the secret door that led to the emperor’s throne room.
The emperor of the githyanki is supposed to be a tough customer and he should be since the entirety of the war with the githyanki has been at his command so the entire paragon tier has been focused on his work. (DDI sub required ahead!) He’s a serious elite and has some handmaiden minions to help him stand against the party while they scale the steps up to the emperor’s throne. His handmaidens are pretty generic so I thought I’d soup them up a little. Even though they are minions, I tied them to the emperor’s vitality. Essentially he was extending a psionic shield to cover them (they are essentially invulnerable) and that shield granted him an element of resistance (10 all) until the hitpoints of the shield (150) were depleted. The shield could only take damage by the handmaidens getting damaged. Each time a handmaiden was damaged, instead of just dying (like a good little minion), the shield took 15 points of damage. Once the shield dropped to 0, the emperor lost his resist all and the handmaidens acted as regular minions. The connection between emperor and handmaidens made for a more dynamic encounter as well as gave the players something to think about as they were defeating the handmaidens because they thought they were just puppets being controlled by the emperor. They felt a lot less comfortable just killing them outright. 
image from A Tyranny of Soulsa paragon tier adventure 
published  by Wizards of the Coast
I can’t forget to mention the elder red dragon in the room. Literally, there was an elder red dragon in the room. So the party encountered this particular baddy before (he bit the paladin in half to be precise) so they had some serious baggage to deal with in this particular fight. I decided that the solo dragon originally designed for this encounter needed to be adjusted (since Solos had some SERIOUS problems pre-monster vault) and I just subbed in the monster vault elder red dragon (few modifications more) and ran him as the brute he was intended to be. Every round equaled a dragon breath due to some amazing recharge rolls and the party felt the wrath of a red dragon the way it was supposed to be felt.
At the end of the night, Vraxanault the red dragon villain was slain, the emperor was defeated and the scepter, which had been used to mark the party so unjustly was reclaimed. Now the party had to decide what to do with it. Supposedly it could help free the party from their mark, but they had a sneaking suspicion that things were not what they seemed. And then out of  the blue, the gnome (self-forged artificer) put on a magic ring they found and disappeared from sight. So we left the end of that night with a feeling of satisfaction, but many unanswered questions and a nagging doubt that would lead up to one of the most difficult parts of running a game...planning a bunch of stuff that doesn’t actually end up getting used in my game. I diverted the final ending of the adventure, but as always if the plot has the opportunity to go off course, it will. And that’s okay, but that story will have to wait until next time. :)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Gold, Frankincense and Murder Episode 1

The Redbox is a great starter of
Essentials goodness

Here is the recording of the First Session (Part 1) of my new Home Game. In this campaign I made a difficult decision to run my players through the core 4E DnD adventures produced my Wizards of the Coast. I am one of those DMs who like to work with abstract hooks instead of pre-written adventures, so going into this game I knew it would be a bit of a challenge for me. I’m not use to following a script but so far so good.

We are starting this adventure in the Red Box by WOTC which has been fun to both play and prepare for. The Nentir Vale provides an excellent backdrop for players of all experience levels and the Twisting Halls adventure is rich with interesting hooks, complex monsters, and exciting combat scenarios. Once we finish this adventure I’ll be sure to post a complete review of the Red Box and my experience playing it.

The Nentir Vale: Setting of the core settings of D&D 4E
and also a great place to vacation!

Player Credits:

Scott Farspell (human wizard)– Devan Blair
Rikkus Raincloud (mul warpriest) – Ryan Harral
Nymphadora (elf rogue) – Sarah Jones
Javeck Gloomhollow (half-elf bard) - Joshua Kaplowitz

Special thanks to:

Zack, Ben, Rail, Joe, Dana, and Ryle

Anyway, thanks for listening to my rant. Play hard or play safe but at all costs never stop playing.