New PFS character

25 May, 2014

Ok! I have my new PFS character: Azureban Wikileak! Tiefling inquisitor. Charisma 5, but with class features that mean that he uses Wis instead of Cha for social stuff. Str and Wis 16. He’ll be front line with some buffs.

Working for Asmodeus, fighting the good fight. It’s Year of The Demon, and the Blood War is being fought up at the Worldwound. Realistically, I won’t be able to level him up fast enough to fight high levels this year, but I can play the YoTD modules later.

Arena fight!

20 May, 2014

One of the things which I think we all recognise and appreciate is how much work Andrew puts into the game. He does story for all of the characters. We each have two characters, which is a lot, and yet he’s given Rapha my hobgoblin more work than I have.

Tonight we started off with a bit of story, a bit of a cutscene, but then Andrew dropped us into an arena fight. And it was just great. Three waves of enemies. First, we fought team B. Then, Durian the size L dwarf/goliath champion decided that we were worthy and crashed the party. We dropped him in one round 🙂 . Then OMG! Zombies! Shit just got real.

It was great to have a long combat. Most of our fights have been a few rounds then win or run away, and they have mainly been there to drive plot. Not that that’s a bad thing – nothing duller than a “here are some monsters, fight them” campaign. But goddamn it – you build these characters, you want to try them out! It was cool to do that, and everyone got a feel for what their own characters and all the other characters could do.

And this is not to say there was no plot. Alix’s warlock and Durian are due a rematch, for starters.

For me, Blackfen is a bad guy, which really I personally can’t play forever. He’s definitely an alter-ego. Blackfen is a bit of an a-hole, so new people who have only played with me as Blackfen can’t help but see me in those terms. Him becoming a revenant gives me scope to edit his personality a bit, but he’ll still be pretty dark. Playing my other dude – who has a couple of heals and buffs – it was good to take a break. Support caster (“controller”, in 4th ed parlance) is where I am most comfortable.

And I continued my usual “screw up the DM’s encounter” modus operandi. Everyone was already beaten up when the zombies came out. Rapha had one heal, which he dropped into – Durian! “Durian! Durian! Wake up! Zombies!” Andrew is like “Didn’t think of that…”, but handled it with aplomb, as always. Durian took care of the minions, but Andrew made us do the BBEG.

We are all looking forward to meeting Handsome Hank, whatever his incarnation in this campaign. God, he’s a dick.

Budget 2014

16 May, 2014

Only a couple of thoughts on the budget.

First, if the coalition were serious about the debt, they wouldn’t be buying billion-dollar aircraft that don’t work. I mean – Who TF do we expect to be shooting? The real reason for the purchase is that military hardware is how the USA extracts tribute from its subject nations.

The USA is an empire, after all, and every empire takes tribute. That’s kinda how they work. The money for the needless planes goes to the defense companies, and they provide employment to the commons and bribes (Sorry! Campaign contributions) to the politicians.

Second, the cruelty of the new dole system: six months on, six months off. If you have no money, you cannot get a job. You don’t have a phone/mailing address, can’t get to interviews, can’t dress for them, can’t get to work for those crucial two weeks before your first pay. Participating in straight society has a barrier to entry. It’s low, but it’s there.

Much like their seven-dollar co-pay, the coalition just does not understand that some people regularly have no money at all.

So what will people do?

Well – many people will beg for money during those six months off. Live off charity organised and unorganised. Expect even more beggars in Civic (Yes, peoples: what they are doing is properly called “begging”. Why should we be comfortable using that word when we are talking about Calcutta, but flinch to admit that that’s what it is here in Canberra? Too Dickensian for you?)

Other people will pair up, form little groups, and share their dole communally. Families, most obviously. The best way to survive this regime is to be a pot-smoking bogan in a family with six adult kids, all on the dole. Another option might be a tiny religious sect.

Thing is: one of the main things you must do to become a productive member of society is to get yourself away from certain people. This budget makes that impossible, because the people you most need to get away from are people who you will most likely be depending on in six months time when your dole stops.

Look, I understand why Australia was sick and tired of the Rudd/Gillard soap opera. It’s heads down and weather the next three years. Lots of people won’t. The Greens did not do a good job of distancing themselves from Labour, so it might be time for another minor party along the lines of the Australian Democrats.

Pingback to Mssr Ian Hall.

Level 7

16 May, 2014

Well, Zack Jackson has hit level 7.

I suppose I should do a new 1st-level character. For PFS, I wonder if an Urban Ranger or an Inquisitor might be the go? Problem is, I’m really happy with Zack.

Yesterday evening we had a strightforward cleric, a paladin, a ranger with a 2-handed sword, and an archaeologist. So: a full cleric and three backup healers; two hitters – tank and striker; detect evil and detect magic at will; all the knowledge; and a trap disarmer. It was a really, really good party and we had no trouble whatever. Only thing we were light on was arcane and AoE.

The final fight, Zack took down the BBEG with a “Cacophanous Call – six rounds of nauseated, and the cleric disposed of the zombies. Game over. The two hitters destroyed the evil MacGuffin by whacking it. Job done. Barely a scratch on anyone.

For level 7, I am putting a rank in Perform (Oratory), which is occasionally a thing, and rounding out the rest of his skills. I’ll leave just one point in the knowledges, except for K(Local) which is his day job.

Feat – Extra Rogue Talent (trapfinding).

Spells – Vanish (level 1, five rounds of invisibility), and the two best buffs in the game: Haste and Displacement.

He has 14.5kgp, and 29 fame, so 11,750 gp limit on any single item. Headband of charisma is the obvious pick for a bard, but it’s one extra 1st level spell and a +1 to some skills and spell DC. Unlike a plain bard, he doesn’t use Versatile Performance so it’s not going to help enough to make it a good pick.

Definitely time for a mithril chain shirt, to reduce that armour check penalty to zero. A +1 shirt and a +1 buckler is a cheap way to get AC. I could go shield, but he often needs to switch weapons (whip/rapier).

Adding “dueling” to the whip is an extra 6k. Cool, but not cool enough. Rod of lesser extend would be worthwhile, think. Wand of Sound Burst – maybe a bit too pricey. Handy Haversack: can I trade in the bag of holding? Slippers of Spider Climbing – need a price check. I should check out Ioun stones for the wayfinder. Ring of ffall, perhaps.

Dude last night had a stunning bit of cheese – gloves of reconnaissance. Only 2k. I’m tempted.

And there are several 3rd level spells that might be worth purchasing a scroll. You can spend a lot of money that way. Clairvoyance, Daylight, Communal Delay Poison, Elemental Speech, Mass Feather Step, Gaseous Form, Invisibility Sphere, Jester’s Jaunt, Mad Monkeys, Remove Curse, Scrying, See Invisibility, Speak With Animals, Tiny Hut, Tongues (communal) – that’s 5k right there for just one of each.

Perhaps one of the main things that will get ZJ killed is drowning. Swim is not a class skill, and it’s strength based. Can’t put enough skill points into it to address it that way, so I need items. There’s an ‘air crystal’ in one of the books. Hey! A cracked irridescent spindle is only 500gp!

Other thing that will get him killed is his lousy Fort and Will saves. He’s going to start spending time Vanished, buffing, and healing. Oh – need another wand of CLW, at least. It doesn’t cut it in combat anymore. I have chronicle sheets for a cure mod wand with fewer charges.

OMG! Sunstone is 350gp! Faerie Fire and a chance of stunning! An Origami Swarm is also a handy thing to have. Nightdrops are 250gp – although ZJ has Dancing Lights and darkness isn’t usually a problem.

Money, money, money.

So, this is death.

2 May, 2014

When the sun, and the light, and the moon, and the stars, be darkened,
    neither the clouds return after the rain:
In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble,
    and the strong men shall bow themselves,
And the doors shall be shut in the streets,
    and all the daughters of music shall be brought low;
When the silver cord is loosed, and the golden bowl is broken,
    and the pitcher is broken at the fountain, and the wheel broken at the cistern.
Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was:
    and the spirit shall return unto the god who gave it.
Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.

I took a calculated risk, it did not go well. Bolts to the chest and the eye. I am dead.

I lie on a mound of bodies, just another corpse given to the maze. In the place between life and death the demon whose tooth I stole came to me, reclaimed his tooth and took his price, but it was little more than a beast – no bargains to be made there. In truth, I have little left to bargain with.

I watch my silver cord fray – a metaphor come to life (A metaphor? Or simply plain description of the reality?). Soon my spirit will detach from my body, and fly to face an uncertain future. I see it now – so obvious: the spirit to the immortals, the body back to the primordials. The ancient compact that made sentient life possible. I wonder for what gain they each bargained?

Around me … strange. The power in the corpses around me does not return below, as it should. The flesh remains … capable. Ready to be occupied. Animated. The spirits – I am no priest – but they do not fly as they should. Their path – they travel inward.

Into the maze.

What in the natural world appears to be an ever-changing, interlocking puzzle of shifting stone is here in the between-place a great vortex, a maelstrom. Slow at the edges, breezes merely tugging at the spirit, but a great roaring windstorm at its heart. The ground tremors and hums with the power of it – how could I not have noticed it before?

I watch the spirits around me rise, float away towards the astral sea and the immortals, but they become trapped, snared, slowly but inevitably drifting inwards to the maze. Their bodies rise and follow, like a dog its master, but the spirit drifts away faster as it is caught by the winds. I divine the purpose (or one purpose, at any rate) of the maze: to keep both body and spirit trapped together and yet lost, separated from one another. The paradox of the labyrinth – you know where you are, yet you don’t. So you wander. So close to its spirit, the body does not return to the primordials as it should. But separated from its rightful master, the body is left to its own devices – to walk, to kill and eat – and is ready to fall thrall to a spirit not its own.

It is manifestly a work, an artifact of magic. Its power is immense. Here, here is what I came to the underdark to find. Here is what I schemed and planned for. Are there even greater powers deeper below? Perhaps. But this maze lies before me. It calls me, as it calls all the rest. A snare, a trap – the naked spirit cannot walk it safely. Only armour of flesh can shield the spirit from its reality.

I will not go. I must go. I will not go. Not like this. Not like all the others – an uncomprehending spirit, while my flesh serves the will of another. I will not wander lost and forlorn without my body. Torn and ruined as it lies, yet I need it.

I have chosen my purpose, and my fate.

I will enter the maze. I will puzzle its riddle. I will decode its power.
I will gather what is mine, I will take back my flesh,
I will endure the pain of living once more,
I will seize the silver cord,
I will bind the broken bowl,
I will gather together the shards of clay,
I will enter the maze in my body,
I will tread its paths on my feet,
I will unlock it,
I will solve it,
I will know it,
I will,
I will …

A roar of shock and pain. Harrowing, as only the sounds of the undead can harrow. Among the pile of bodies at the base of the great cliff, one more rises. But this one does not shuffle dumbly towards the maze. It inspects itself, cursing its left arm hanging almost useless from a shoulder shattered to bits by crossbow bolts, which it pulls out of the wounds. One eye a gaping hole, and a great diagonal slash from shoulder to hip – ragged edged exactly like a wound ripped open by demon claw. Within, more horrifying than viscera spilling out – nothing. Nothing at all.

Shadow congeals around the corpse’s stump of a right wrist – it seeming unaware that it has called the shadows together for the purpose. It inspects a somewhat gaudy amulet, marked with a symbol of an eye. After briefly tinkering, it puts the amulet on, concentrates for a moment, and suddenly is clothed in a simple but clean dark grey robe – its eye still missing, but most of the worst of its scars effaced. It looks more or less as it remembers itself looking. It tucks the amulet away, out of sight.

It speaks. “I will also need some help, or at least some shields.” It looks up the cliff down which it so recently was thrown. “Damn them all.”

It clambers off the mound of bodies, kicking aside the occasional grasping hand, its movements becoming smoother by the second. It pauses, its attention caught by something invisible to mundane sight. It picks something up, then something else. It heads towards a pinprick of light in the distance, a flickering torch.

The guards stand their post, communicator close at hand. Cold comfort, that. If they are attacked, there are no spare troops. Did something move out there? No – all was still.

Wait – there was something moving. Shit. A single figure walking towards them, striding, not shuffling.

A hand on the communicator.
“Base! Base! We got incoming.”
A pause.
“What you got?”
“We got – looks like fast zombies.”
“How many?”
“Just the one visible.”
“Deal with it.”

So much for back-up.

The zombie, or ghoul, or vampire, or god-only-knows-what, approaches. Spears are leveled. “Halt and be recognised.” Standard procedure. Stupid, but you have to do it.

The figure halts. Raises its right hand. What the …?
Both hands!”
“I apologise, gentlemen, but my left arm seems to be injured.”
“All right. Approach slowly.”

The figure steps forward. Slowly. Its grey face, its mangled eye-socket: unmistakable.

“Shit! Zombie!”
“Stand down! I assure you I am not a zombie. As you see, I am in my right mind.”
“Well, what are you then?”

“I honestly do not know.”
“Blackfen. Blackfen Undergallows, I think. It has a nice ring to it.”

“Wait a moment – the one that was tried for treason?”
“And completely exonerated, I remind you. I was killed in the attack by the traitors in Justice division, along with all the others.”
“Wait, what? So you are walking dead?”
“Yes, I never said I wasn’t. Look, you are clearly incapable of dealing with this. Take me to the oracles – they will wish to inspect me at the very least.”
“And don’t call me sargeant. Do you see a badge? I stopped being a member of the underguard when I caught a crossbow bolt to the eye, and I’m not inclined to volunteer again. Find someone to tell you what to do. I’ll just wait here. I assure you – the oracles will want to see me.”