That’s Cpl. Blackfen, thank you very much!

27 February, 2014

At last! Or nearly so, at least. The Underdark! So close, so tantalisingly close.

It has been some time since I made my little bargain with my patron. Service for power, a little of my life for a little of his. My flesh partly replaced by shadow – I claim to be part drow, it fools most.

The key is time. A human does not live long, not compared to most races. Oh, there are libraries of tomes, there are years of fusty research on the surface, growing old and feeble, finally attaining wisdom and then death shortly after at fourscore and ten.

And then again, there are the secrets of the darkness below.

To be young and vital, not for a few decades, but for centuries. To have the leisure to pursue knowledge and power. To know a single tree from seed to its eventual fall. To simply live as long as an average elf or dwarf – it is not wrong to desire this. I do not seek immortality, only to live a few years longer than my allotted span.

AKA: “I don’t want all the land in the world, I just want the land that borders mine.”

So. To explore the underdark, to wrest from it its secrets, is more easily said than done. In practical terms, the only way is to join the underguard. A strange rag-tag bundle of misfits, a dumping ground for the unsociable and the criminal. Patrolling a few holes in the ground – it’s possible they have not even reached the real underdark at all. Its possible they merely patrol a few simple caves.

Be that as it may. Being part of a military party is the only practical way into the deeps. Having command of a military party is even better, and I have begun taking my first steps in that direction today.

Guys, I don’t have my notes with me right now. I’ll do the best I can. We had me, John, Jez, Alix, and new dudes. Six players, but I only have five characters below.

Our first mission – to clear a field of kobolds. We numbered myself, a pair of fighters, a god-botherer of some kind, another who had made some kind of … pact (it takes one to know one), and a gnome tinkerer. The sergeant had spoken to me – he wanted a report on the other recruits. Excellent! I resolved to make this my top priority, observing and keeping notes. The main thing being to identify someone to blame for any problems. This went swimmingly well, as the gnome tinkerer threw bombs of some sort that se the tall grass afire. We got the fires out (while fighting kobolds, I might add), but the point is – I had my patsy.

The kobolds gave us little trouble. They were kobolds. But as we looked for the little nuisances and fought them, we discovered a few very large reptilian or possibly avian footprints, and a cage that had been left open. Some of us had a sensation that we were being watched. Stalked.

After a time our superiors came in, declared that we had performed sufficiently well, and dispatched the remaining kobolds with startling efficiency. Most of them departed, leaving one behind to speak to us.

It was then that the demon attacked. It tore the corporal in two, and we fought it. I did little but watch and take notes.

When we were done, I investigated the cage. Inside was scored with clawmarks, and I found a fragment of talon. I tested it, it chimed with power. In the privacy of the cage, screened by the grasses all around us, I plunged the talon into the muscle of my chest, towards the pit of my left arm.

I regained conciousness with the rest of the group around me, tending to the various wounded. Of the talon, and the wound in my chest, there was no sign.

We returned to base.

I reported to the sergeant. I gave, I think, a fair accounting of the performance f the other recruits. Our fighters fought well (if with foolish impetuousness), our god-botherer healed, even the other warlock showed competence. And I openly expressed my bad opinion of the gnome – I judged that this sergeant would have no time for subtle insinuations. A display of plain forthrightness was what is called for in dealing with such men.

But the gnome is a civilian volunteer to the underguard. Such are unusual, and they can’t simply be ejected from the corps. The sergeant told me that he wanted me to keep an eye on the gnome, and I leapt at my chance. Leapt at it. Feigning no more than concern, I said “Well, sarge, I don’t know what I can do. I’m just a private like everyone else.”

And so now I am a corporal. On the one hand, a nuisance – I will be held to account for our group, and I can’t blame the gnome for everything. But on the other, I now have six troops.

The underdark will not give up its secrets to me willingly. But I am now on the right path. I can feel it.

Guys, I just want you to know that if it turns out that the party decides that it needs to frag its corporal for everybody’s safety, then that’s a role-playing outcome that I am cool with. We’ll see how badly this bootlicker fucks things up.


25 February, 2014

Started Season 8 tonight. Should be good. Andrew is running the game, and we no longer have 900 people playing so it’s a bit more manageable.

My character A is Blackfen, a shade Warlock/binder. He has very rapidly turned into a “power-hungry bootlicker”, as I posted on the email list. I should write up the game, but it’s 1AM and I am going to hit the sack and do it maybe tomorrow. This post is really just a note-to-self to get it done.

‘Nite all.

This is some text which I have added for the purpose of testing the style.


18 February, 2014

Been collecting WOTC miniatures for years. Today, I lent out a swag of them to Andrew, who is running Season 8 at Good Games. It was fun showing off my collection, of course. Who on earth collects things who doesn’t want to show them off?

I also have flip mats, map tiles (didn’t show him the map tiles! Drat!), and I and the dudes I play with on Friday between us own far, far too many Dwarven Forge dungeon tiles. A pity that merely owning that stuff doesn’t make you competent to design and run a campaign *sigh*. Yes, I still feel bad about season 5.

Anyway. As I said to him, “anything you can think of, we can probably do”.

The key is to overcome being paralysed by choice, and I think planning out what you want to do. If you are using dungeon tiles, you can’t rock up with a vague idea of “we will fight some bandits in a forest”. You need to map out your forest using the tiles beforehand.

Anyway. Nice to see my collection getting used.

Big weekend

14 February, 2014

Big weekend of PFS. They were running Echoes of the Overwatched at GG on Sunday, then moved back to Ben’s house (Venture-Captain Ben Jordan to you) for Glass River Rescue. Then Feast of Ravenmoor all day Monday.

Echoes of the Overwatched – we had to play uptier, which I always hate. Boss was bad news.
Glass River rescue – a pretty straightforward extraction job.
Feast of Ravenmoor was a horror-themed game. Creepy as hell.

Oh, and on Wednesday played the Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment. We didn’t complete the scenario. We figured out what was going on, but we had a bad party mix – no melee at all. We did the mission we had been assigned (map the pace, take some rubbings), and then GotTFO without confronting the BBEG. Zack saved another character from being killed outright. Oh, and there was some in-game intra-party sex. Chicks dig hairy toes. We were considering using a potion of reduce person to put the two parties on a more even footing, but the level 1 spell only goes for a minute and Zack is definitely a two-minute man.

Other highlight was using Grease to get into a lootful spot. I also have a potion of Reduce Person for the purpose. Grease is such a great spell – its value is that it remains useful as you level up, unlike (say) Sleep. An important consideration for a spontaneous caster.

Zack Jackson is now level 4.

I’m thinking of writing something along the lines of a formal rules question re “Dirty Trick” in PFS games. The rules appear to be contradictory and unclear. I’m pretty sure I can cite the problematic material and reduce it down to a set of yes/no “is X legal?” questions.

On another note, I have taken the spell ‘Revelation’, which is a GM fiat device like Augury. I used it when we were assigned our mission, sort of to provide an in-game mechanism to fish for anything we might have missed asking about. The GM pointed out that we had failed to ask for a rather pertinent bit of info. If the GMs are cool with it, I’ll make a habit of it. The other use of the spell is to provide a bonus to a single Disable Device attempt. Zack is a bard with a trait (vagabond child) that gives him DD as a class skill.

On the whole, Zack shines in a party which has combat covered. A party with a non-combat cleric, a gunslinger, and a sorcerer not so much. I think I’ll kit him out with consumables (much like Switch, really). In Feast of Ravenmoor he gave a potion of Protection from Evil to the tank in the first round of the big fight, and it was both tactically good and also characterful.

Other thing he needs is a way to switch between whip and rapier without having to drop ’em. A glove of storing would be great. A few potions of invisibility would also be a good investment.

Next level – lingering song. His Archaeologist’s Luck goes up to +2, so it will be more worthwhile. His feats are Agile Maneuvers and Spellsong – spellsong is mainly for applying Charm Person when needed.

As always, it never pays to get too attached to PFS characters. They do tend to get killed. But Zack is ok for now.

Season 8!

3 February, 2014

Season 8! Season 8! God-damn season 8!

Well, I hope it’s ok, anyway. Dropped out of the game at Good Games a few months back. New game starts in a few weeks – looking forward to it. I have built a Shade Warlock (binder). I think I should build a couple of characters. Thing is – I have played most things that interest me. I could go Warlord or Cleric, but they would inevitably be Baharash II and Orsik II. There are plenty of other classes, but most involve learning new rulesets (points, infusions, companions).

Oh, it’s such a drama!

Anyway. Here’s proposal #1. A Mr Blackfen, who normally just calls himself Phil.

Controller class. All the social skills. Lot of odd-numbered abilities, which will get bumped as we level up. Pretty balanced. Str dump stat.

====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Blackfen (aka Phillip), level 1
Shade, Warlock (Binder)
Pact: Gloom Pact (Binder)
Arcane Pariah (Diplomacy class skill)
Theme: Deep Delver

STR 8, CON 13, DEX 15, INT 10, WIS 15, CHA 18

STR 8, CON 13, DEX 13, INT 10, WIS 15, CHA 16

AC: 14 Fort: 11 Ref: 13 Will: 15
HP: 25 Surges: 6 Surge Value: 6

Bluff +9, Diplomacy +9, Dungeoneering +9, Intimidate +9, Stealth +9, Streetwise +9

Acrobatics +2, Arcana +2, Athletics –1, Endurance +1, Heal +2, History +0, Insight +2, Nature +2, Perception +2, Religion +0, Thievery +2

Basic Attack: Melee Basic Attack
Basic Attack: Ranged Basic Attack
Deep Delver Utility: Subterranean Survival
Shade Utility: One with Shadow
Warlock Utility: Shadow Warp
Warlock Attack 1: Web of Shadows
Warlock Attack 1: Hound of Dark Omen
Warlock Attack 1: Echoing Dirge
Warlock Attack 1: Shadow Claws

Level 1: Skill Training (Diplomacy)

Leather Armor x1
Adventurer’s Kit
Rod Implement x1
Syllable of Grace
Potion of Cure Light Wounds
====== End ======


1 February, 2014

Another nest of evil vanquished, but I fear that this conspiracy is far wider than our limited efforts can bring to heel. Then again – what pride is this? Of course the all-father has many irons in the fire! We are surely but one piece of his plan. All we must do is our whole duty.

Our inquiries in Magnamar led us to a clock-tower, rumoured to be inhabited by some snakelike creature. Entering, we were attacked by a construct stitched together of flesh. We would simply have bypassed it, but it went outside the tower and would have attacked bystanders. I judged that a present danger to the people outside was more important that whatever might or might not be at the top of the tower, and so Bhalek and I engaged it. On discovering that it was impervious to magics, Aeona and Vik ascended the steps on the inside of the tower, Zoran guarding them. (A flashy and distracting fighter, but not without valour).

The fight against the golem was tough, and made tougher by enemies above us dropping the bells of the clock onto us. I do not know what transpired above, saving only that Zoran fell a good hundred foot onto the floor, only his natural grace saving him.

Withal we brought the golem down, and our casters came down from the roof – Vik in her winged form (a creature not of evil, but of pure chaos – I mislike it: such a creature by definition cannot be bound to service forever) carrying Aeona.

We spent a moment healing ourselves, the potion of increased size which I had drunk to fight the golem wore off. Avove, we saw a great winged creature – an illusion (as we later discovered) that the snake thing had created to distract us while it descended to attack.

There is not much to describe, in truth. It was a tough fight. I lost concentration at one point and fell unconscious – revived by Aeona. Finally, the thing chose to run. Sadly, I am not well-suited to running down a fleeing foe. Vik’s eidolon, however, and Bahlek’s bow most certainly are.

We searched for evidence, we uncovered items of value. We found yet another letter leading us on to our next port of call – Turtleback Ferry, which lies in the shadow of Hook Mountain. I confess it will be a relief to get away from these swampy lowlands: the smell of the sea is not to my taste at all.

It concerns me somewhat that at each stage of our investigations we have been led thither by a note or letter left conveniently lying about. Do these people lack the commonsense to destroy their correspondence? Are we deliberately being led by a trail of breadcrumbs, placed by our foes? I hope not. But we have little choice but to proceed. At least – I do not. The motives of by companions are less clear to me, but I thank Torag for them.

The letter indicated that the purpose of the Runelords (or those that imagine they serve them – who knows? The Runelords are figures of myth.) in Magnimar was to harvest the souls of those prone to the vice of greed. And it mentioned that the Lord Mayor was a particular target. When we reported our results to him, I made particular mention of this – that the ancient thassolonian vice of greed made him a target. In truth, each of the ancient vices is a virtue mistaken. Greed is merely the virtue of prudence, of thrift and hard work, the virtue of taking care for the future, to prepare for it and to stockpile the today’s harvest against future’s want taken to extremes and placed above all other considerations. It is good for one who rules to be somewhat greedy, if you will, but he should be greedy on behalf of all his charge, and not forget the many other things also of import.

So I told him. I do not know if he listened, but I said my piece.

We were rewarded and fêted. In truth, we were in receipt of a prodigous amount of money – much of it in the form of credit to be spent in the city (I believe merchants in receipt of these notes can use them to pay tax, at which point the notes are are voided. The implications are stunning – this man has found a way to create gold out of thin air.).

We all purchased useful equipment, I am pleased to say. Aeona and Vik have spent considerable time purchasing ingredients and crafting items of magic. We have lingered here in town for weeks, in truth – but we know of no special timetable on which the runelords are operating. I have alternated between drinking and serving as an auxiliary with the town guard. A number of nasty little fights – I have become rather good at striking a target with the follow-through.

Aeona has enchanted my shield and – at my request – placed an illusion on my armour. To the ordinary eye, my half-ton of stone seems to be a simple suit of decent but somewhat worn leather. Deception is part of war, after all. I am not swift to run about the battlefield like Zoran – I need my enemies to come to me, or at least to stay in range. Stone armour tends to discourage that. I can better defend my companions if I appear easier meat.

Aeona has also greatly strengthened the enchantment on my axe. According to her, [aplologies to Brett for speaking for his character] her enchantments (as I understand them) work by choosing a future when the axe strikes true. Before, there was a slight blurring when I swung the axe, a trick of the eye easy to discount. Now, it is unmistakable – as I swing the axe there are multiple images of its flight through the air. Oh – less than a fingerwidth apart, true, but placing a blow here rather than there by less than a fingerwidth is the difference between a blow that bites and one that glances away.

Vik also gifted me with her time, and wove a belt with the enlargement charm. Now with a word I can battle a giant on more equal terms. A helpful trick if we head into the mountains.

Might also pick up a protective ring – I think I have the gold.

As to Vik’s eidolon – I will write no more today. It continues to be an issue of concern to me.

Lewt! Lewt! Sweet, sweet lewt! The level up to 7 is not as exciting – not a lot of goodies: extra hp, and a feat. Feat is ‘Orc Hewer’: you can cleave foes that are not adjacent to one another if they are your size or smaller. This + the belt ‘o enlarge makes it doable vs giants. Duke Jope was rocking one last campaign, so Andrew can scarcely object. Paid for 20 rounds a day b/c I have 17 rounds of defensive stance. Standard action to activate, which is a bit of a bummer, but very reasonable and takes some of the limburger off it.

After looking through all the possible cheese, I settled on simply upgrading the axe to +3. The extra pluses are always useful, all the time – not just in special circumstances. A +3 weapon also beats DR/cold iron or silver, and we were up against bearded demons earlier.

Upgraded the shield. It’s pretty basic: if you are sword-and-board, then a +1 shield and +1 armour is way cheaper than a +2 on either. There are one or two cool shield enhancements, although I haven/t looked through them yet.

With grateful thanks to Rudyard Kipling, that horrible old racist and snob, who penned this D&D player’s anthem:

If you've ever stole a pheasant-egg be'ind the keeper's back,
 If you've ever snigged the washin' from the line,
If you've ever crammed a gander in your bloomin' 'aversack,
 You will understand this little song o' mine.
But the service rules are 'ard, an' from such we are debarred,
 For the same with English morals does not suit.
    (Cornet:  Toot! toot!)
W'y, they call a man a robber if 'e stuffs 'is marchin' clobber
 With the --
(Chorus)  Loo! loo!  Lulu! lulu!  Loo! loo!  Loot! loot! loot!
               Ow the loot!
               Bloomin' loot!
            That's the thing to make the boys git up an' shoot!
             It's the same with dogs an' men,
             If you'd make 'em come again
            Clap 'em forward with a Loo! loo! Lulu! Loot!
    (ff)  Whoopee!  Tear 'im, puppy!  Loo! loo! Lulu!  Loot! loot! loot!
Now remember when you're 'acking round a gilded Burma god
 That 'is eyes is very often precious stones;
An' if you treat a nigger to a dose o' cleanin'-rod
 'E's like to show you everything 'e owns.
When 'e won't prodooce no more, pour some water on the floor
 Where you 'ear it answer 'ollow to the boot
    (Cornet:  Toot! toot!) --
When the ground begins to sink, shove your baynick down the chink,
 An' you're sure to touch the --
(Chorus)  Loo! loo!  Lulu!   Loot! loot! loot!
               Ow the loot! . . .