Sunday, September 30, 2012

But tonight we dance.

So. Inspired by Erik Tenkar here I've made an initial stab at an abstract battlemap.

What I'll want to do with this eventually is blow it up to a 2ft by 4ft or some such measurement so that the central 'hex' area is big enough to be useful for detailed positioning if need be - perhaps printed out at that Cheap Banners place.

Behold (at a legal-sized sheet, warts and all):

There's that. Short, Medium and Long ranging on both sides, a Flanking spots for those that Sneak to get to, a hex-gridded melee area, and two paths for those that wish to live another day.

I guess I need a 'scrimmage' line. I certainly don't have enough room on an 8.5x14 legal sheet to do this with minis.

Friday, September 28, 2012

First Party, Session One, Part 3

I've started playing back my audio recording of the game at 1.33x speed, so welcome to our first installment of "Alvin and the Chipmunks Play Dungeons And Dragons".

The dwarf volunteers to go down first. On the way down, he notes the runes "VIII" carved into the wall (He's about 4 rungs down when he sees this). He knows this is an ancient way to write the number eight. He thinks for a minute, decides this must be a number of rooms or opponents or traps at the bottom, and continues.

This is the youngest player. I let him go with what he decides. I slooowly count down the rungs he's on - I put up my hand, 4 fingers. "Four". Five fingers. "Five rungs." Second hand - 6 fingers. "Rung Number Six". I'm hamming it up, he's raptly paying attention, as if expecting something cool. "Rung Seven". Eight fingers - "You're about to  place your foot on Rung Number Eight."

No reaction. I announce the rung has broken under his weight, and he's fallen 20 ft, taking 9 points of damage. He looks hurt. I feel bad.

The party troops down the corridor - the drow marching up front, misses the tripwire across the hallway, and gets hit upside the head with a club swinging from the ceiling.

I'm playing a little loose with the thief/spot skill rolls. Unless it's a *horrible* roll, I'll let them figure something out so they can infer enough to not get trapped.

The enter a study - there's bookshelves, an alchemist's lab, a coatrack with some coats and a broom, and three other exits. The druid casts Detect Magic. There's 4 magical potions on the alchemy table, 2 magical books in the bookshelf, and the broom is magic.

Knibbs moves to grab one of the magical books (Golems for Dummies) and it, and it's companion volume, fly out of the bookshelf and begin to bounce around the room. They're quickly dispatched by the drow and the dwarf ranger. The druid moves (in that same round) to grab the broom, which immediately animates and attempts to attack her. The elf noble quickly splits it in twain with a superb arrow shot.

Off to the left, there's a wooden portcullis blocking a lit chamber that seems to be full of wooden cages - a hammering sound can be heard. The drow and dwarf break through the portcullis, and the party enters the room.

Success! The townsfolk are found - a bit beat up, but alive. In the far corner of the room a dwarf works on another cage.

 "That's not me." says the youngest, playing the dwarf. "No, it's not. It's another dwarf". "I bet it's the dead one we put in the coffin.". 'No,' I say, "this one looks alive. He's got skin on him and stuff." 'Is it the one-armed one?' 'No, totally a different dwarf.'

The druid, noting the dwarf lightly glows with enchantment, figures he's charmed - he hasn't noticed the (loud) party yet. The thief sneaks down to club him unconscious, manages to accidently knock his heel with her toes, and the dwarf looks back at her. "Hello! How are things?" he says, a bit glassy eyed, as he overlooks her hastily hiding her sap and goes back to work.

Dale shrugs, and starts inspecting the locks. That gets the dwarf's hackles up, and he turns, still holding his hammer. "What's that all about? You can't be doing that. What are you doing?"

"The, uh, Commissioner said it was OK?" Knibbs throws out. 'There's no commissioner. There's the wizard.' "The wizard is called the Commissioner." 'No,' says the dwarf, 'it's Suto'. "Yes, I know. He said it was OK." The dwarf thinks a bit. 'No, no. Let's go talk to him right now'.  "I'm right behind you." says Knibbs, who attempts to hit the dwarf with the flat of his blade as he storms past.

Complete miss, as does the drow. The dwarf is focused enough on getting to Suto he doesn't even notice the breeze from the two-handed swords barely missing the back of his head. The dwarf uplander finally knocks him down with the pommel of one of his axes, however.

The party frees the townsfolk, sets the dwarf in a cage for now, and then convinces the townsfolk that the party's wolves will safely escort them into view of the town.

They ransack the next room, which was a bedroom. There's some magical research on the desk, mostly on summoning extraplanar creatures. There's a pair of thick leather gloves under the bed.There was a chest in the room - the rogue pokes around with a stick and hears the hiss of a snake - the druid steps over, talks the snake out of the chest, and the party retrieves a blank spellbook, a diary, a set of ten keys, and a handful of amethysts.

The party heads out to the last tunnel, drow in the lead. An alcove to the right catches his attention, and he turns the corner to find an enormous mushroom, with odd vent-looking structures on its crown. It immediately begins to swell up, as if breathing in. The party attacks, downs it quickly, and it deflates with a sad little squeak.

At the end of the tunnel there is a set of stone doors. The dwarf walks in, and sees an older man filling an arcane summoning circle pattern with molten silver. The man looks up - "You're not my dwarf." 'Yes I am. You're just going crazy.' replies the dwarf. "I may be, but you're supposed to be building me my cages. Get back to it." 'OK, I will.' says the dwarf, and steps back and closes the door.

There is quite a bit of discussion about what to do next, as the dwarf relates this all to the party. There's an enormous, roughly (and poorly) carved stone frog, with giant gems for eyes, and a brazier next to the summoning circle. There's a small hole in the ground in front of the frog, which goes straight down.

The youngest: "There's a silver circle, with a hole in the ground in front of a giant stone frog. There's an angry old man in there. He thought I was the dwarf."

While that goes on, there's muffled conversation going on in the room - an odd, small, evil voice speaks to the wizard:

(muffled evil voice)
"Well you should have told me that while he was here."
(muffled evil voice)
"Fine. I will. Calm down. I'll take care of it."
(muffled evil voice, dismissively ending the conversation)

Knibb's familiar notes, as it peeks it's head slowly into the room through the crack of the door, he now has a pair of spent scrolls at his feet.

The party charges in. Knibbs throws a Charm Person, which the wizard shrugs off. The old man summons a quartet of Lemures, which the party's warriors attack. The wizard backs off, and tosses a Wall of Smoke across the room, disappearing behind the barrier.

The lemures are dispatched, and the party moves behind the wall. The wizard has Levitated, and seems to be immune to normal missiles, as well as shielded. It's a slog of a battle - the Druid summons 4 giant bees, which are lightly effective with their stingers. Most of the party is engaged with a summoned hero the wizard has called, which is evidently a hero from the Lower Planes, being a beast of multiple arms and a gaping maw with two rows of teeth. That melee is occuring on top of the giant, rough-carved frog statue.

The dragon attempts to blow away a portion of the smoke with his wings, to no effect.

The wizard webs the bees, and starts to pull himself along the wall to get out of the corner he's backed into. The druid summons a very small earth elemental to harrass the wizard at his level, and the elf noble gives the dwarf a Spider Climb to climb up to his level. Further missile attacks are ignored, and the wizard takes an action to Dispel the Spider Climb.

The drow misses attempt to leap from the frog to grab the wizard.

The summoned demon is getting beat up pretty handily, and the wizard starts to panic - he makes a mistake pulling himself along the wall (trusting chance) and is felled by the wood elf princess and the drow. The demon is taken down the very next turn.

We ended right there - we'd ran pretty long on this. Audacity says this was about a 4 1/2 hour long gaming session, with a break for lunch, we went from around 11AM to about 6PM. We'll do treasure and experience and an 'epilogue' of sorts in email.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

First Party, Session One, Part 2

Fresh-ish from the defeat of the ghoul Tulwar, the part tramps down the corridor.

Some table talk while there's treasure taking going on - the older boy asks when they can slay dragons; the younger pipes up - 'Well, we can just fight the elf's dragon'. I totally expected that, and was surprised it took so long. Emphasizing a dim view of such proceedings from the remainder of Elven nobility quashed that thought.

Working their way down another few tens of feet, the party comes across the room the dwarf's wolf reported about - a small pool of fresh water in the corner, fire beetles nosing about a trash heap in the other, two exits. The fire beetles don't seem to take much mind of the party milling about, so, the thief scouts down one cooridor, and the fortune hunter the second.

Knibbs comes across a humid room, a infestation of ochre mushrooms crowding the floor. Off to the left, a tall ledge, 8-10 ft high, leads off into the darkness. Knibbs goes back.

Shortly thereafter, Dale, the thief, comes back running at top speed. 'Giant rats!' she yells, skidding to a stop amongst the rest of the party. Sure enough, sets of beady eyes start bouncing towards the party from the dark corridor.

The drow charges the rats, killing the first, and missing his cleave into the second.

ACKS's fighter damage bonus, the drow's STR, his bonus to damage for his Fighting Style (2-handed) proficiency adds up to +5, which takes out average HP 1HD creatures on a single hit. He'l get to cleave a lot. By seventh level, barring magic weapons, he'll be able to cover average 2HD creatures with a minimum roll.

The druid casts Entangle, raising up old roots up out of the cave floor to snap and grab at the rats, slowing them down in their rush down the hall. The drow, dwarf, and noble elf cut them down without too much trouble.

The beetles never really look up. It's a tasty trash heap.

If  you're wondering why I'm only showing the PCs ripping and tearing through the opponents without any apparent harm, it's because they are. I dunno what's wrong with my dice.

The party continues down the passageway the rats chased Dale from, traveling for a while, probably up under the middle of the whole hill to the other side where the main entrance was. They find a secret door, and come out into a storeroom, with what looks like a lot of crates and barrels the ogre had taken from the town.

A bit of crosstalk goes on here - the elder boy is anxious to get the ogre. He suggests splitting the party (secondary objective of finding the ogrenapped townsfolk), which I immediately proclaim a great idea. Older, wiser heads prevail.

After some poking around, the party moves up - wider corridors here split to the left and the right, and the wolves inform the party there's an ogre and animal smell to the left. The thief creeps up, begins to hear snoring. Her shoe scuffs a rock; the snoring stops - the drow charges in.

The ogre is laying his head against what looks like a large rock covered in a ratty old bear pelt, slowly waking up at the noise of the dark elf in plate mail clanging towards him.  The drow promptly misses his swing.

The wood elf steps over and casts Sleep, the ogre looks distracted for a moment, but it subsides. The thief slips in and stabs the giant with her swords. The ogre swings, misses: his pillow turns out to be a real grizzly bear, which stands up, and completely misses all attacks against the dexterous rogue.

I start switching dice at this point. It's getting a little ridiculous.

The druid summons two giant shrews. Knibbs comes up and slashes at the ogre with his two-handed swords; the elf ranger misses with bowshot.  The drow hits this time. The wood elf casts Spider Climb on the drow, who then gets lightly bitten by the bear.

The druid attacks with her sling, the shrews bite at the bear's feet. The battle progresses for a while, the ogre being slowly whittled down, until the drow utilizes his Spider Climb to climb up the cave wall, and leap onto the ogre's back, slaying it.

The bear begins to panic at this point; and the druid and wood elf princess quickly step in to calm it, parley a bit, and the bear agrees that this is no longer the best of dens, now that his 'keeper' is gone. The druid makes sure the bear gets a bite to eat from the ogre's table, and it goes on it's way.

The bear was quickly named the ogre's 'Pillow Pet'.

The ogre's massive, self-spiked club holds a handful of magical weapons, which Knibbs laboriously cuts out of the hunk of wood with a hand axe while the rest of the party searches around.

A rough curtain cuts off a quarter of the room, behind which are more old crates and barrels, and, a secret door! A short tunnel behind the secret door leads to a hole in the floor, with a ladder attached to a side of the vertical shaft going down into the darkness., what lies underneath!...

Monday, September 3, 2012

First Party, Session One, Part 1

So, session one happened.

The first party, at level 2:

Lia, Druid, my wife, followed by her faithful wolf totem animal.
Victoria (for now), noble wood elf, my daughter, her wyrmling dragon henchman, and an elven ranger (Loura), sent out of the woods with her.
Knibbs, fortune hunter, friend of mine, and his compatriot Dale, a thief, and familar Salizard, a venomous small horned viper.
Jalisco, drow undead hunter, his son.
Oldcrab, dwarf uplander, his other son, followed by his wolf totem animal.

Surprisingly, I don't have one non-custom class besides the thief. Thanks, ACKS Player's Companion! Druid is essentially a wizard with HD value 1, Divine (Druid) value 3. The elf is a modified Courtier from the ACKSPC. Knibbs is some thief, some arcane, and some divine, based on his 3.5E Knibbs which was fighter/rogue/wizard/cleric/humanparagon/mystic-theurge (it worked!). Jalisco is a modified paladin, and Oldcrab came out as half-barbarian, half-ranger.

I'll post all those later. There's a chance the drow is already going to change his PC, may be a moot point.

The followers of whatever type have either 1 level or 1 HD, and their stats are too high. I am going easy on the children, yes. Shush.

And here we go:

There's a bit of jealousy at the amount of dice I toss on the table from the boys; it's noted that I have to run everyone else in the world.

The party, escorting a small wagon train to Fair Haven, push through sunset to make it to the fait village of Dundraville.

I've made an audio recording from a set of USB headphones clipped to the grid of my basement's ceiling. I hate my voice.

Once there, on that dark and rainy night, they first encounter the guard shack, knocked over. After a bit of poking about, and finding extremely large boot prints, they continue into the town proper, seeing evidence of a scuffle with a very large humanoid - buildings dented, street-torches knocked over.

Speculation on the large boot tracks ranged from trolls to ogres to giants to dinosaurs.

There's a bit of discussion between the party on whether to just drop off the wagons and follow the tracks, or to stop and gain information. Knibbs notes light coming from shuttered windows and under the door of the only inn in town, and knocks on the door.

It opens a crack, and the villager inside gives Knibbs a short lookover, and says "Giant gone?" 'Yeap,' says Knibbs. "Come on in then before he comes back". Most of the town seems to be in the inn, huddling around tables, some crying, most scared. What looks to be the village elders quietly argue in the far corner.

The dwarf accosts the first person he comes across. It's explained to him that the ogre comes by every few weeks, demanding ale, wine, and a sheep. The villagers have acquiesced so far, not having the wherewithal to deal with the problem. However, just tonight, he demanded people, and there was a scuffle. The ogre made away with a guard, the stonemason, and one of the barmaids.

The dwarf, the PC of the youngest player, barely ever stops talking :) That's why he's up here, out of the vaults.

The vintner reveals he poisoned the last barrel of wine the ogre took.

There's some discussion amongst the party again, as to if they should run out right now or sleep the night. Patiences wins, and the town puts them up in beds for free for the night - the party will wake up super early and hope for the ogre to still be sleeping off the alcohol.

In the morning, a one-armed dwarf approaches the party at breakfast. He explains that the ogre is pretty dangerous (he lost his arm) and has a vicious club he's hammered other weapons into, for some sort of crazy bladed-spike-club thing. He wishes the party well as they head out.

The party takes some of the caravan horses out to what the one-armed dwarf described as Skulltop Hill, a rocky protuberance with what looks like two eyes and a mouth. Some distance away, the dwarf and druid send out their wolves, and the elven princess her dragon, for a scouting mission.

The dragon is only 1 HD, and is weaker than a wyrmling. I'm not sure how I'm going to handle growth, I'll probably make a difference between 'henchmen' dragons and actual dragons, and while it may gain 'levels', it'll advance in actual ability at half or even one-third speed. I'll play it by ear and post how advancement went if she switches characters. I treat it as INT 10 or so, and it's paid in gems and gold still, which it will eat (good for it's scales!) until it's old enough to hoard, at which point it'll leave and be a remote ally. Yes, I am spoiling my daughter.

The wolves report a ogrish smell and trail into the main mouth entrance. The dragon notes one 'eye' holds a nest, the other one has a wisp of smoke coming out of it. She also notes a back entrance - a crack in the wall about 3ft by 5ft, through which the party members will fit. The wolves note a skunkish smell coming from there.

The party enters the crack, goes a few tens of feet down a rought stone corridor, and comes into an largish room, floor covered in bat guano. The druid urges caution, and they sneak through without waking what is probably a large bat colony on the ceiling.

The tunnel splits off to the left and right. The druid sends her wolf to the left tunnel - he comes back reporting he met a skunk - the skunk presented aggressively and the wolf, knowing better, backed off and let him have his territory. The dwarf sends his right, and he reports a door, then some glowing bugs, and fresh water.

One day, this animal companion scouting will end poorly.

The party treks down right to a stone door, about 20 ft further up before the corridor ends into the next open area. It's well carved, of dwarven manufacture, with a large keyhole in the center. There's a double set of engravings - one, roughly crossed out by other, later hands, proclaims this the tomb of Jodun, Dwarf of the Thorncrist, fallen in the year 4311, some 300 years ago. Newer runes at the side of this door declare this the grave of Lord General Tulwar, Foe Eater, downed 4566, roughly 50 years ago as the last Empire was ending it's fall.

The lock ends up being a bit too gummed up to pick, so the drow and dwarf bash in the door. Inside, a dwarven tomb is laid out. The walls are carved in a dwarvish style - done quickly, but skillfully, depicting frescoes of various historical events, presumably in the life of the deceased. At the end of the 30ft long room, a raised dias hold a sarcophagus and a pair of heavy metal sconces on poles, each with a magical golden light emanating from them.

In front of the sacrophagus lies a dwarf skeleton, seemingly evicted from it's home. There are silver holy symbols laid on the floor at each side, and the sarcophagus looks newly sealed, as opposed to the rest of the room. The skeleton still wears it's armor, dragonbone chain. The dwarf falls in want, and exchanges the skeleton's chain for his own, with a hastily added promise to his distant cousin to restore him to his rest.

His dad, ever the mercenary, suggested that. :) Gotta train them right from the start.

The dwarf and drow take crowbars from their pack and begin to crack open the sarcophagus. The lid pushes off far enough to admit an arm, and another lashes out from inside, a grisly, withered claw slashing the dwarf across the face - he experiences a momentary numbness, which subsides. The two fall back, and the ghoul Tulwar throws off the lid and stands in his stolen tomb.

The elven princess reacts first, throwing her dagger at the undead, striking it in the chest. The thief acts, a glancing blow with an arrow. The ranger fires a bow as well, and lands a good hit.

A bit of conversation went on here - the drow's player read Turn Undead literally, thinking he, himself, could turn into an undead. New eyes, old words.

The drow skewers him with his two-handed sword, and the dwarf lands a solid hit with his two axes. The fortune hunter shoots wildly with his bow, narrowly avoiding the engaged party members.

I'm slowly introducing more tactical rules. I'm doing singular initiative, and I'm not requiring the Precise Shooting proficiency to fire into melee - they can take their -4 and risk me ruling a party member hit. We're not declaring spellcasting yet either.

The ghoul, evidently off-balance, maybe a bit stiff from being in his box for 50+ years, misses all attacks on the drow.

I roll for crap until later on when I switch dice. It'd been years since we playied in any form, and I think storing my PC and DM dice separately mussed up the balance. I've hence put them all back in the same bag, leaving out my daughter's and my wife's dice.

The elf princess momentarily considers a Sleep spell, before remembering undead don't rest. She instead fires her bow, and the ghoul falls, again.

The party hauls the ghoul's body out of the tomb, picks up a random assortment of small gems from the bottom of the sarcophagus, and replaces the dwarf in his rightful place, closing up the coffin and the tomb. time, ogre!...