Saturday, 16 February 2013

Oil shortage hits Keep on Borderlands

How could anyone hate Gelatinous Cubes?

Preparing to run a game can be a chore. Writing your own scenario takes time but in return the session will be easy to run with little need to look things up. Running a written adventure smoothly can be tricky depending on how the adventure is presented. Format is the key and here I find Paizo adventure paths too dense to run at the drop of a hat while a one-page dungeon format like Stonehell’s is perfect. Friday nights game was at short notice so I had to fall back on something pre-written. I printed an easy prep one-page dungeon winner, but when the game started Pete and Optimus Prime were eager to get back to B2 Keep on the Borderlands. The prior session had clearly left an impression. I know this classic adventure well so there was no drama running the monster bashing sandbox / petting zoo. Here’s what happened:
When searching a medusa most folk don't look for contraband amongst her hair.
  • Last time I blogged about B2 I mentioned that I’d make hirelings a finite resource. This session I did and there was much grumbling and attempts to recruit stable boys. The fragility of level 1 made the players feel like they needed fodder. I think their current level and accompanying buffer of HP make disposable meat shields unnecessary. I also figured the guards and barkeep had warned folk against adventuring with the pair as all who did had not returned. In the end a jolly cleric, Darius Train (inventing names on the spot is fun!) signed up for a tour of duty.
  • Optimus Prime never fails to apply logic to things. He mounted a convincing argument to recruit/bribe some guards into joining the group for their foray into the Caves of Chaos. I was tempted to have a charisma check determine the results but his arguments were convincing and he role-played it well enough that I ran with it. He did this last session convincing an Orc Warlord to lend him some warriors. Even when I reluctant to give them things the party eventually find a compelling way to convince me.
  • Pete’s Halfling found a young stable boy to bully. Leif the halfling has a bad case of small man syndrome. The group is no longer welcome in the inn as a result.
  • The keep was fleshed out. I hate starting adventures in town but given that the group spent a lot of time at the keep looking for hirelings and oil it made sense to give them the lay out. There was some discussion about looting the keep but this was dismissed as the defences looked too great.
  • Oil was still very much desired by the players. I didn’t give them any as the few supply caravans that had reached the keep were not carrying supplies of oil. They got by with the flasks they had from last session using them to kill the majority of foes they faced in the caves. Medusa – doused in oil and burnt alive. Gelatinous cube – burnt by fire. Wight  - set alight while emerging from its sarcophagus.
  • Optimus made the call ‘I bet it’s a Medusa’ while rescuing a ‘maiden’ whose upper half he could not see. He was right, promptly failed his save and turned to stone. It was for a limited time only as the medusa had a vial that would reverse the stoning effect. We had to puzzle out the hiding place for this vial, as the medusa had been a prisoner of a Chaotic Cult. In the end we figured she had hidden it amongst the nest of snakes that served as her hair.
  • The hero’s finally cleared the Temple of Chaos section of the caves. They killed a medusa, torturer, wight and gelatinous cube before breaking in to the neighboring Gnoll’s caverns.
  • The players weren’t keen on the Gelatinous Cube considering it a lame monster. I see it as iconic but agree it is a bit crap to fight. It’s AC is horrible, it tends to have few HP, dies quickly and it’s slow. It's not terribly useful though it did eat an ‘off duty’ man at arms.
  • A secret door led to the Gnoll Chieftain’s room. Optimus' Half Orc assassin snuck in, with newly found elven boots, and struck. Once again the assassination check was failed. With the element of surprise the group all but slew the chieftain who promptly surrendered. Once again Optimus Prime surprised me by taking the Gnoll Chief's son as a hostage / front line fighter to ensure against Gnoll treachery. Brilliant stuff that reminded me of the taking of sons as hostages in medieval Europe. 
The great thing about running a site based adventure with no 'script' or planned course of events is that you never know how a session will work out. Its the surprises along the way that make role-playing great fun.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Sri Lanka narrowly avoids killing party

Just another Snake Cult

A Google+ Hangout game is not the same as a face to face game. It’s not as real. There is no pizza, no clatter of dice and less ‘table talk’ as you try and cram as much game as you can into 2 to 3 hours. The stakes aren’t the same and so you can be forgiven for not taking it seriously. Milgos the mage/thief, a long standing PC, nearly perished in combat with a Dragon when he was reduced to just ‘attacking’ as the Sri Lankan’s closed in on Australia’s total. Milgos has a potent wand and an arsenal of spells all of which were forgotten as the excitement of a close finish in the cricket overcame the excitement of a combat with a dragon.

Events from the last game included:
  • Encountering a camp of Goblins who had moved into the vacated Mountain Troll halls and scaring them off with the old Ring of Invisibility + booming voice trick.
  • Joining forces with a band of ‘rogues’ whom I based on the group in Jule’s fortnightly Dragon Age game. This gave them enough character to allay suspicion. Which was just as well as the group were happy to recruit them to assist in the battle with the Dragon.
  • A temple to Yig the father of serpents was searched. A fiendish trap was outwitted and the Cobra Codex liberated. The priest Chuck contemplated destroying the relics of Yig but reconsidered and during a particularly hectic and desperate battle reluctantly called on Yig to send serpents to aid him.
  • A wall of crystals was bludgeoned and a Dragon, in the guise of an elf confronted them. While in elf form the Dragon was ambushed and pummeled badly. Losing the initiative, his carefully laid plan fell apart and he reverted to dragon form and began the killing.
  • The rogues turned on the party and were revealed to be Dopplegangers causing Chuck to cry “WHAT FOUL BETRAYAL IS THIS?”  The monsters teamed with the Dragon and looked to be on the verge of destroying the party. A single Dragon can be isolated and worn down quickly, in this situation he lasted a turn or two longer.
  • Milgos was saved from the Dragon’s bite by his Cloak of Displacement. This has proven to be a very potent item.
  • Milgos was reduced to muttering “I attack” when the battle hung in the balance. Chuck was surrounded by Dopplegangers and one good hit from dying. Betty had been felled by acid breath. Chuck’s henchman was running and Milgos chose to stand toe to toe with a Dragon and simply swing his swords? Fortunately Milgos snapped out of his cricket induced befuddlement and used his Wand of Frost to snap freeze first the Dragon and then a Doppleganger. The tide had turned.
  • The Dragon fell unconscious once bested as it had taken some subdual damage while ambushed in elf form. Milgos stabbed the incapacitated beast in the eye ending the scheming creatures life. With the Dragon defeated much treasure was gained.
The Dragon's lair was guarded by a wall of crystals