Work related posts have been moved.

9 November, 2010

My work and computing related posts are now at

If you have come here from a work-related perspective (computing, semweb, bioinformatics, math). Perhaps you could go there right now and not read the gory personal stuff here.

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Xavier blows (a bubble)

22 August, 2014

We continued on. Our plan was to find where the tunnels led, then to teleport out. We decided to send a scout – Zoran, the obvious choice, cannot see in the dark, and so I went under cover of invisibility.

I came after a short distance to a partially worked cavern, full of carefully sorted and classified junk. There was a Kobold there, and I took the risk that it might be able to be reasoned with. Sadly, it attacked without provocation and I was forced to Dimension Door away, back to the party.

That’s not quite how it happened, but Xavier is telling the story.

We proceeded forward. Gorlax has a permanent Enlarge spell on him. While this makes sense when fighting giants, it’s a great nuisance when attempting to get through squeezy little tunnels. It so happened that Zoran and Bahlek were the first two out, and the kobold attacked them. The little creature turned out to be a savage fighter, and at home amongst it’s piled of junk.

Difficult terrain, and we forgot that most of us had FOM.

It in swift order managed to nearly kill Zoran and Bahlek. Vik summoned an anklyosaur, and Aeona teleported Gorlax into the room. But it was too close – I cast Resilient Sphere around the Kobold to give us time to regroup.

First time ever using that spell – it worked great.

While the Kobold frothed at the mouth in a rage and pounded at the sphere, we healed the worst of the damage. Then boulders started being lobbed into the chamber from beyond, the first of them hitting Thumpy the Dinosaur, of whom we have all become somewhat fond.

Zoran, Bahlek, and Gorlax went to deal with the giants. I wandered along at my own pace, as I was nearly out of spells, and really these three do not need a great deal of help. I was in time to see Bahlek down a giant with a flurry of five arrows, and Zoran slice up a rather bigger and better dressed giant a treat. This one eventually consumed a potion of Gaseous Form (I assume) and retreated.

OMG, so many crits! Both Bevis and Andrew managed to roll and confirm three crits in a single round. The regular giant just went down in a hail of arrows. The tougher guy has a splendid ‘Z’ carved into him.

We returned to the Kobold. Vik, frankly, has gotten mostly nowhere attempting to reason with it via the subtle art of mime, and so we surrounded it and I dismissed the sphere. It lasted about ten seconds.

Then we thoroughly looted the place. After carefully surveying the chamber, (I also fixing the place in my mind), Vik conveyed us to Magnimar.

It has been two days. Aeona mostly healing, and the rest of us shopping. For myself, I have prevailed on certain local mages permission to scribe into my spellbook certain useful spells – divinations, mostly. Oh, and Darkvision, which I can transfer into my ring should we need to spend time underground. Also Teleport, which I can cast from the book twice a day. This should relive some of the burden from Vik. And Invisibility Sphere, as there will almost certainly be a welcome waiting for us when we teleport back in.

A wand (perhaps two?) of Infernal Healing, one of Gravity Bow for Bahlek, one of Reduce Person for Gorlax, and a wand of Eagle’s Splendour for myself (I am not willing to give up my headband of counterspelling, and so I must resort to the spell).

Ah – and a Lesser Metamagic Rod of Widen Spell. Not cheap, but multiple times I have been able to get only two giants in a fireball. This should even things up a little.

We should return as soon as we may.


Not a fan of tunnels

16 August, 2014

And so, Xavier – shall I write in third person, do you think? Bah! Such affectations are beneath me!

And so, we – which is to say may new companions and I – arrive at the fortress of the giants. Or, more to the point, to a place in the road where we can see it. A massive tower and other buildings, surrounded by a wall, surrounded by an army, and with a gatehouse of some kind.

We were told that our enemy – the main giant shall we say – lives beneath the fortress. There is discussion as to how best to approach. I make my own contribution, being a keen flyer and able to make myself invisible, I offer to scout. All agree that this seems to be a good plan. Being keen to not make a fool of myself, I am careful to ask what I should be looking for. The truth is that I am not a great student of battle – I should not wish to miss something that might be obvious to another.

Fully instructed, I take to the air.

I tend to have a crap grasp of tactics, so I asked everyone else at the table what my character should look for. Xavier is basically me, after all.

Seeing as I was building a sorcerer with Fly, I gave him 8 ranks in the skill. That is – Xavier does not merely have the spell, he has put time into practising his aerobatics. 8 ranks + class skill + dex gives him a base of 13, and the Overland Flight spell (Arcane bloodline) gives him another +5 (½ caster level) to make it +18. He can do a 180° or fly upward steeper than 45° so long as I don’t roll a 1.

Overland Flight goes for hours, and is better than Fly, but it’s personal only and 4th level. Xavier’s invisibility goes for 11 minutes, and he can pop over a dozen of them if he has to. So Xavier as an aerial scout makes a lot of sense.

It was a fine day for flying, if a trifle cold. The fortress was surrounded by the tents of an army. I shall not say “small army”, firstly because they were giants, and secondly because there were many of them. They appeared to be segregated by race – ogres in one section, hill giants in another. Most of them appeared to be stone giants.

The fortress itself had clearly been engineered by magic – Stone Shape and other transmutations if I was not mistaken. Massive walls, a massive door. There were structures inside, one remarkable and clearly very old tower (perhaps dating back to Azlant?), other smaller buildings, a stable. I did not investigate closely – it would not matter much to us what was in it and I did not wish to get close.

Perhaps the main notable thing was the absence of troops of any kind inside the walls. Politics, no doubt. Teleportation or simply flying in was an option.

The second notable thing was a female giant standing at the top of the great tower. She must have been 20 foot tall – quite magnificent.

Andrew had us all pick a phobia or weakness for our characters. Guathak, Morgan’s character, has a problem with “big women”. Even permanently enlarged, this giantess is bigger than Gauthak. Fun times!

Having seen the fortress itself, I decided to take in a circuit of the surrounds (splendid day for flying!). To the left (the north? Whatever!) a cave set into the mountains. As we had already been attacked by dragons, it seemed a fair surmise that it was a lair, and I gave it a wide berth.

Behind the fortress to the east was a deep, steep canyon. Recalling that our enemy lived below the fortress, I set about looking for cave entrances and saw two – one about 50′ up with bones about the entrance (worryingly large ones), and another further up with spiderwebs.

Needless to add, Andrew’s dwarven ranger is claustrophobic, and David’s summoner has a problem with spiders.

On my return, I described what I had seen. To my relief, a frontal assault was quickly ruled out of the question. Teleporting in, also, was problematic as Vik is not able to teleport all of us; we would have to fight our way into the tower itself; and who knows what magics protect this clearly ancient structure?

(I simply must scribe Teleport into my spellbook at earliest opportunity – with my robe and my ring, I can manage two per day, and between myself and Vik we can move the entire party. Alternatively, a wand of Reduce Person I think would allow her to move everyone.).

In any event, we elected to try the caves in the ravine. The excellent dwarven ranger conducted us thereto with no difficulty whatever.

The lower cave proved to be the come of three Wyverns, which gave us no real difficulty although Zoran had the bad fortune to find himself poisoned. Still, Aeona was more than up to the task of restoring him. We found the cave to be a dead end, although there was some loot.

The higher cave was absolutely crawling with spiders. Quite disgusting. Vik summoned a fire elemental a dozen feet tall to clear the way. Natural webs are not flammable in the same way that magical ones are, but an elemental from the Plane of Fire nevertheless will do the job. When we entered the cave, we were attacked by three large spiders which proved later to be husks inhabited by colonies of smaller ones. Truly revolting. I used my Metamagic Rod – Reach Spell to place a Protection from Energy (fire) on everyone, and then began firing Fireballs, which is one of the better ways to deal with swarms.

Eventually, between the fireballs, the elemental, and simple hack-and-slash the threat was dealt with. And we found an ordinary, nonmagical secret door at the back of the cave.

We proceeded through a maze of small, twisty tunnels all alike. And were ambushed by fey – redcaps, I believe. Naturally, they went straight for the dwarves as there are very ancient enmities between the undergound folk. The close-quarters fight did not suit me well at all, and I was eventually reduced to using my last line of defence, Emergency Force Shield. It takes me out of a fight, but in this particular battle it was oddly useful, as my unconscious form with a bubble of force around it blocked off one of the passages.

Still, it was a nasty business and everyone got at least somewhat beaten up. I have depleted perhaps half of my magic, and there is still the fortress left. I need to get that Teleport spell scribed into my book as soon as may be so that we can recoup somewhere safer and return. As it stands, we can continue on at least a little more, and can return to the now cleaned out spider cave once we have mapped out a way into the bowels of the fortress itself.


Hester proves himself useful

8 August, 2014

More fun times in Scotland (Cumbria?), 400AD.

Hester still doesn’t have much of a personality, but this last session he did considerably more than the usual “stand at the back and shoot things”. The game involved a fair bit of overland travel, some navigation, survival checks. Hester took the lead, scouting ahead, being a Ranger. It’s very clear that as a rogue is to a dungeon, so a ranger is to overland travel – a party absolutely must have one. Hester has two levels of Scout, which gives him a lot of skill points. His Survival skill is 10, which is enough to take 10 and deal automatically with most common wandering-about-the-woods tasks. His two levels of Ranger give him track as a bonus feat.

David is using allies/contacts rules from some sourcebook. My mail on the topic was

I’d still like to make Hester an Order of the Bow initiate. He will be eligible for this at level 7 (you need a +5 BAB, but scout is a 3/4 BAB class, same as rogue – I’ll multiclass him Scout/Ranger from now on).

Aside from the BAB and feats, you need 2 points Knowledge (religion) and 5 points in bowmaking. The bowmaking is not a problem – he already has points in it and now has a masterwork bow to study and be inspired by. But the Druid, it seems, has no formal religious training. Furthermore, to become an order of the bow initiate, it seems fair that you would need to be – you know – initiated into the order of the bow.

Hester has the “native briton who turned to the worship of Diana” background, perhaps the gods of Britain would like his loyalty back? There’s elves, there’s fey, maybe his granddad was an initiate – whatever, the point is: I’d like for contacts for Hester to put him on the path, even if he is unaware for the moment that that’s where his destiny lies.

And maybe those contacts might also be a source, occasionally, for level-appropriate magical archer gear :) .

DM agrees that this is appropriate. Mechanically, contacts become a thing when a character hits level 5.

At the start of the session we were travelling briefly with an elf guide. The masterwork longbow that Hester has come into possession of turns out to be elvish, so I did a bit of fluff about him inquiring about it. The particular elves we were with weren’t bowmakers or out of the ordinary, but it seems there are indeed some rather special elf archers.

It explains where granddad learned to make a longbow, at any rate :)

Main fight of the night, Hester managed to take down one bad guy all by himself, thanks in great part to a crit and a series of bad rolls by the DM. We found a tower with bad guys, Hester got off a good shot and hit one, then they ducked behind the battlements. “I’m not surprised”, was the comment at the table, “Sniper.”

Then I rolled a 1 on a survival check and it all turned to shit. Hester stepped into a bog. Got 8 points of strength damage off a hag, reducing him to 2. But we have a big party, and a pretty decent front-line fighter who took down 2 bad guys while Hester got fished out of the drink. The druid and the psion’s astral construct took out the BBEG – a mummy. We are short on magic weapons, but druid has Sheleighleigh.

Oh, the actual mission was assigned to us by the ghost of a roman tribune who had died on a mission up here in the north. I quite liked it as a plot hook – a reminder that the campaign is indeed about Rome, not simply wandering about the woods encountering fey and the other locals. It was a nice bit of play – we are roman military, after all. Kinda. We did the salute, said “Ave”. We were ordered by the ghost to recover their draco and return it to Ebaracum.

Loot includes a bag ‘o holding and a ring of some kind. XP is pending – we have a fair way to go till level 5, but it was a pretty substantial fight: a mummy, a couple of hags, and a few bog beasts. And maybe a story award for recovering the draco.

Campaign website is here.


We walk straight into a trap

2 August, 2014

The rest of the night passed uneventfully, as they say. Perhaps being found by the patrol was mere bad luck.

We travel eastward, and in the distance see a winged creature circling. The decision is quickly made to head straight towards it. We are not here to avoid trouble, there would be little sense leaving enemies behind us, particularly not one that can spy on us from the sky. And we saw giant bodies earlier with clear marks of acidic dragon breath. The enemy of our enemy is our friend, no? I must say that I am very pleased that this group seems to favour the direct approach.

Nevertheless, preparations are made in case it should come down to a fight. I had earlier replaced Secure Shelter in my ring with Charm Monster, something more likely to be useful – a fortunate choice as it transpired.

We came to a wooded area and a cave mouth, currently barricded from within and being assailed by some sort of dragon. I, Vik, and Aeona proceeded forward in hopes that the creature might be able to be reasoned with. The rest of us dispersed into the woods, on the chance that it might not.

We approached ready to make parley, but too late I recognised the dragon as a mere forest drake – barely more than a beast. Of course, it turned and attacked us.

After a few seconds it was clear that we six were more than a match for them. I resigned myself to mostly sitting out the combat. As we had scattered earlier, I could not even usefully Haste my allies. The human warrior, in addition to being enlarged also has armour that permits him to fly – although he has little skill at it.

Xavier has fly as a sorcerer spell, so has ranks in fly. He has a skill of 13, and the fly spell adds half the caster level to that to make it 18, which is pretty respectable. Guthak’s armour is CL 5, the minimum, and he’s large, so he can’t really manoeuvre. But he doesn’t need to.

A few seconds into the combat, more dragon kin appeared – a large one which appeared to be an Umbral dragon (it, like me, from the plane of shadow). Crossbow bolts were shot at us from the cave mouth. After a second more, we were assailed by spells. The area in which we were standing was affected by a Spike Growth spell, and a pair of large scorpions appeared, possibly summoned.

We had walked into a trap. Dragons, and at least one spellcaster (it transpired there were two – a sorcerer and a druid).

But, we have Gauthak. And Aeona. And Vik’s summoned dinosaurs. The lesser dragons and the scorpions were dealt with. I gave a Resist Energy (communal) [acid] to the people immediately around me. Unhappily, this is a touch range spell and we needed to be in a group. We were targeted by a Lightning Bolt, and I took a precious few seconds to cast Greater Invisibility. A good move, the follow up Chain Lightning would probably have killed me.

(In retrospect, using my Metamagic Rod of Reach Spell would have been the correct thing to do.)

Protected by invisibility, I commenced to lob Fireballs at the Umbral Dragon, whom Aeona had slowed by some means. (an odd effect that I have never seen before).

Of course, arrows were being shot (haven’t gotten New Andrew’s characters name, yet), and Vik herself seemed to be attempting to make parley with the people in the cave. There was battle on top of the small hill over the cave too – Zoran and I believe one of the spellcasters – the sorcerer who shot the Lighning Bolt – was there. There was, simply, rather a lot of things going on.

Eventually the creatures were dealt with, and all that remained were the casters. After loudly requesting Aeona to drop the strange wall that lay between me and where the casters made their stand (an odd thing that obscured vision), I prepared for caster battle – having made some study of the countering of spells.

Xavier has arcane bloodline, and so I gave him quite a lot of spellcraft and K arcana. He’s a bit more well-read than the typical sorcerer. He also has Improved Counterspell feat, and a headband of counterspelling.

The caster’s first spell was Black Tentacles, a useful conjuration to keep warriors at bay. I had nothing specific to counter it with, and attempted a Dispel Magic. But my counterpart was somewhat quicker than I, and managed to cast sucessfully. Next, the caster used some other ability rather than casting a spell, and so I ventured a Fireball of my own, modifying the spell to not burn my allies.

Selective Spell feat, and bloodline ability to apply metamagic without extending the casting time 3/day. I figured that if this dude was going to be a blasty sorcerer, Selective Spell was the feat to take.

And then the caster attempted to ensorcell Gauthak with a Charm Monster! Happily, I had placed exactly that spell into my Ring of Spell Knowledge IV earlier, and the power of my wondrous headband permitted me to counterspell reactively. The spell failed, and in a trice Gauthak and the archer between them ended the final foe.

I totally had a witness for this. Sheer luck.

The inhabitants of the cave turned out to be a small group of escaped slaves. We suspect that they were simply bait, we being deliberately lured here. Gauthak skinned the Umbral Dragon, leaving a small piece for me to cast Create Treasure Map using my Mnemonic Robe and my spell book of useful spells that you aren’t going to build a sorcerer as having permanently, but which come in handy when you really need them.

Ahem.

The pelt of the dragon will make a very fine suit of armour for the more stealthy types, I wager. Zoran and the archer might wish to sort it out between themselves. There were sundry mix of other items, more or less at random.

As for the map, it revealed that the dragon’s lair was at or near the giant’s redoubt, where we are heading anyway. The slaves continue their journey to the west, and we ours to the east.


Xavier speaks!

25 July, 2014

Magic! Ahh, magic! So subtle, mysterious, fragile and yet powerful. She must be wooed, persuaded, tempted!

But forgive me, I must introduce myself.

I am Xavier, the sorcerer, most beautiful man in creation! Who better to move the strands of The Weave?

Forgive me my conceit. And my appearance. Of my family I will not speak, but as for my race – I will satisfy your curiosity. Humans are an adaptive lot, perhaps most adaptive of all the species. We have settled everywhere in the multiverse, on every plane of existence. Including the Plane of Shadow – even there, there are enclaves. And as with the various other races of human, over time we come to adapt. Thus my skin, my hair, my admittedly stunning eyes, and most of all my fabulous beard. Yes, the dwarves pride themselves on their facial extrusions, but they go for mere volume! Can any of them match the luster? The softness? Yes of course you may feel it! Go right ahead, and tell your grandchildren the story of the day you ran your fingers through a beard the like of which you never saw again in this life!

I think Xavier may be channelling Edwin, from the Baldur’s Gate games

Of course, my appearance excludes me from most company. But not all. I speak, of course, of Adventurers! Those whose profession it is to have adventures! Quite the euphemism, I assure you, but neverthless so it is, and I count myself among them. Once you Fireball a pursuing pack of giant wolves, they really don’t care where you come from. I have travelled alone and with companions for many years, and now find myself in the Illustrious company of the Heroes of Sandpoint.

How so? Well, the matter is simple. I made the error of passing through Sandpoint on the day that it was raided by an assortment of giants – a mere scouting party according to them, but dangerous. Being the man of action I am, I saved several of the townsfolk (I will not boast or inflate the tale, they were a mere dozen or so). The most serious part of the fight was dealt with by these aforementioned heroes. Having saved some myself, it was assumed that I was one of their number, and after some confusion they and I were introduced.

It seems they had information to the effect that the giants were massing up in the mountains, above the Storval Stairs. Again, modesty forbids me to say they begged me to join up with them, but they were pleased to have me and I pleased to join. I am not averse to doing good deeds for the mere sake of it, the rigours of travelling rough bother me not a bit, the finger pointing and whisperings of the common people in cities tends to grow tiresome after a bit, and there was sure to be loot and good company. And if that seems to you to not be reason enough, well – it is reason enough for me.

So, to the Storval Stairs!

The journey was uneventful, as they say. At a guess, every living thing the entire region is hiding underground to avoid being clubbed by giants, or has already been so clubbed. The stairs themselves are not, as one might suppose, a natural scarp or trail but are indeed a literal flight of stairs. Giant-sized, of course. We climbed all day and eventually came into the view of a gatehouse. We were immediately assailed by boulders, thrown and bouncing down the stairs – a sensible way to deal with intruders, in all truth.

Happily, I was able to step briefly into the etheral plane and to bring some of the fighters with me, while Vik Teleported the rest, depositing ourselves on top of the gatehouse. Our combatants charged (one of us has a permanent enlarge on him, and cuts quite the figure), and we spellcasters unleashed our various power. Mine are a ball of fire, and a cone of cold. Vik is a summonner, it seems, and Aeona – is difficult to categorise. Godkin, I think, and quite genuinely beautiful but in a weird nonsexual way and we have none of that sort of roleplaying in our group, thank you very much.

Ahem.

Giants began coming out of the rear of the gatehouse, and so I raised a Wall of Force to deal with boulders from that direction. And there is not much more to tell, aside from that these “Heroes of Sandpoint” do seem to live up to their reputation: cleaning up perhaps a half-dozen giants with really no difficulty at all.

We have six players, rather than four, and bypassing the boulders crashing down the stairs made the encounter far less dangerous.

We proceeded on into the mountains.

I personally prefer to ride a Phantom Steed when Shadow Walking is not feasible. It is not a spell that comes naturally to me, instead I have a most marvelous (and terribly expensive) ring into which the patterns of it are put. And where from, you may ask? Well – fancy myself something a student of the arcane, even if I do not work the weave by memorising the formulas as some do, and so I keep a book of spells. Mainly the odd and out-of-the-way sorts of things. One of the other spells in my book is one that conjures up a secure shelter from whatever comes to hand. I – foolishly, and keen to demonstrate my skill to my new companions – conjured up a shelter for us to camp in, and they – also foolishly – permitted themselves to be persuaded to sleep in it. After all, we had been untroubled all day.

Of course, the reason we were untroubled is that the entire plateau is currently being patrolled regularly by giants. We were, of course, found (giants and their pet wolves, if you must know). Worse still – one of them got away. There are other spells that permit one to safely camp in hostile territory, I simply must scribe one into my book at earliest opportunity.

Be that as it may, we are discovered. The next few days will prove to be diverting, if nothing else.


Xavier lives!

25 July, 2014

Just as I reprised Zack Jackson for PFS, I am reprising Xavier the Sorcerer (pronounced Xavier, the Sorcerer, most beautiful man in creation!) for our home game. We are swapping out Father Whatshisname, leaving Brett’s character back in the role of primary healbot.

I built Xavier as a drow, to which the DM – when I brought him to the table – basically said “Fuck, no!”. Ok, then. Rebuilt him as a Fetchling which is almost the same thing, but without that annoying SR.

I’m trying to distance him from being another Switch. That said, it’s pretty hard to beat “Go invisible, fly, and blatt things” as a tactic. I’ve given him AOE spells and Selective Spell metamagic feat. Aside from blasting, his secondary line is counterspelling and getting himself out of trouble.

(Trigger warning: rules lawyering!)

He has the Arcane bloodline, and carries a spellbook. Now, although he cannot prepare the spells in that book, nevertheless he knows and can read them – he has plenty of spellcraft, Read Magic and whatnot. So his bonded item (bloodline feature) will let him cast one of them per day. He is also rocking a mnemonic vestment and two rings of Spell Knowledge. The spellbook contains spells that are situational, rather than things you always need. Unhappily, the description of the Ring of Spell Knowledge does not tell you how often you can teach it a different spell, so I am playing it as a once-per-day thing.

I have tricked him out with 82k of items, standard for a 11th-level character. The rings take up most of it, +3 cloak of resistance, a metamagic rod (reach spell), and sundry crap.

Just the one game night. I might write it up as a separate post.


Treasure Generator

21 July, 2014

Been a while since I posted anything on wordpress.

A while ago, I used to play in the Die With Honour campaign, which runs at various cons as well as having some home games. 3.5 DnD, with the “Complete” series of splatbooks permitted. Great fun, except for one thing: they were using the Magic Item Compendium treasure generator to dole out loot, and it just took forever.

So I implemented it in JavaScript – a single, stand-alone HTML page that generated loot with a click. You can run it in an iPad, you can run it in an iPhone , if you must. You can save the page and use it without an internet connection. You can see it at GitHub. If you are up against a CR 6 monster, two CR 4 sidekicks, and four CR 1 mooks, just click those buttons. Job done. It speeds play up quite a bit.

“But”, you cry, “What about Pathfinder”? Fear not, the Ultimate Equipment Treasure Generator is here! Same deal. Frankly, I don’t much like their method of doing it, and the generated treasure seems a bit low-value. It all adds up, but it’s still kinda meh. Nevertheless, if you ever looked at those tables in the back of UE and thought “you know, there ought to be an automatic spreadsheet or something for this”, well now you have one.

Go nuts.


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