Seeing is believing

11 February, 2017

I haven’t been blogging RotW, but tonight’s little bit of ingenuity deserves a mention.

So, we are in the Ivory Labyrinth  – part of The Abyss. The Ivory Labyrinth has several … places. Connected in strange ways. All are mazelike – a simple maze of bones, a swamp of mazelike streams, a lightless maze of caverns. You get the idea.

We were in the slums of Blackburg – a maze of twisy, winding alleyways. A sprawling favella. We needed to get to The Breathless Mountains – a maze of treacherous mountain passes (avalanches, rope bridges, gales – you get the idea). But how?

We dealt with an inhabitant of the Labyrinth. After speaking to it, it descended into a pit. We determined that the pit led to The Lightless Maze. We put some light down there, but on doing so discovered that as soon as we did, the pit no longer connected to that place. Why?

Because we had lit it. Affinity – that was the key. To get to the Breathless Mountains, all we had to do was to create a little piece of those mountains here in the favella. A big ask – the mountains are cold, snowy, mountainous, and uninhabited.

We hatched a plan, and it was awesome. I don’t know if the module permitted it specifically, or if the DM invoked the Rule of Cool.

First, we needed an open area without so many buildings. Our cleric refused to earthquake the slums, but we located a battle in progress – the slums were on fire. We wandered over and earthquaked that whole area. The demons that could fly, scattered. The ones that couldn’t died in the rubble.

While one of us put the nearby fires out with Create Water, our cleric proceeded to use Wall of Stone and Stoneshape to make a mini-mountain, maybe 20 ft high. Craggy. Treacherous.

We then used Obscuring Mist and Sleet Storm to turn it into a cold, sleety, foggy mountainside.

And then – this is the cool bit – we used a Limited Wish to reproduce the effect of an epic Mass Reduce Person. A Limited Wish is more than enough to reduce a party of six by two size categories for a few minutes or so, which is all we needed.

We then proceeded to climb our sleety, foggy, dangerous mountainside. Roped together, hands and feet crawling up the slope. We didn’t know whether it would work or not. We crested a ridge, and found a twisty, dangerous track on the mountainside. The fog cleared a little, and it seemed the maze had obliged us. The air was thin, our breting laboured, and we saw a range of peaks, separated by impossibly deep ravines.

The Breathless Mountains. We are not going to be able to survive for long here. We must find or create a portal to somewhere even worse.


Baphomet

19 December, 2016

Like a boss. The code for this is mainly on thingiverse.

20161219_021143.jpg


Alarum!

16 December, 2016

Mother and Grandfather,

I write to you of a most urgent matter, as it appears that Santa Cora has been blockaded – I am told that there is no way to get a message out of the city. I hope that the way by which I send this message may yet be open.

Edmund of the Council of Four informs us that a massive orc army is some few days away. It seems that our little company for the past few weeks has unknowingly has traveled scant days ahead of it.

To out best information, the orc incursion is based at Proudfort. The army approaching Santa Cora appears to comprise at this point, James puts in the details that he got from Edmund and the commander about the composition of the army – numbers, naval, siege..

Although this information was initially not strongly credited, I was able to confirm to the city commander that Chancer’s Hope was indeed assaulted by a large orc naval fleet and land army, backed by giants. (Reassuring that the names “Mallard” and “Griffinsheart” carry at least some weight). The city now prepares for battle and siege, but I fear that Santa Cora is woefully unsuited to such, having always relied on its magics.

The magics of the city appear to be – well – not working properly, and it’s impossible to be more precise than that at this stage. I fear that the Lich King may be involved in all this, as there have been liches in the city and other phenomena relating to the undead.

It is something of a puzzle to me as to how this very considerable army – if these orcs come from their usual lands to the northwest – was moved to Proudfort. The logistics are challenging. The only feasible route, I suspect, would be along the behemoth path, to the ruins around the Grey Towers, down the coast and through the Koru Straits. This means that Drakenhall must also be involved – Drakenhall controls the straits, and in any case orcs simply don’t have ships as a rule.

Thus the most terrible enemies of the empire – the orcs, the dragons, and the undead – would seem to be in some sort of alliance, one of at least several years standing, which is now moving into open action.

James debated mentioning the very secret fact that the city has a second node, and that it is deactivated, and that activating it would worsen relations with the dwarves and elves. It seems that the nodes used to be more active in the past, and played a role in the old wars.

He is not mentioning it because it’s a military secret, and because it doesn’t directly relate to what the recipients of this letter need to know. If he included it, then grandad Lancet and Ducalis could not show this letter to anyone else, which is something they might need to do.

Irrespective of my speculations about history, obviously major action cannot be taken on my word alone. However, I hope that if indeed no communications are getting into or out of Santa Cora, at least someone has noticed and wondered why that might be the case. The situation is extremely grave.

Oh, mother – in happier news, it appears I am now a Captain.


On Empire

12 December, 2016

This is not a letter to anyone in particular. Maybe James just writes things down to organise his thoughts

The Lich King asked me an important question earlier today.

Yes, truly. I rather foolishly decided to attempt to wear a certain ring, judging that better me than someone else. In the end, perhaps I was right. I seem to have emerged mostly unscathed and un-ringed. (How on earth was Cannis simply able to remove it?)

Neverthleless he asked me: why should it matter who in particular is emperor? Is not the empire its people?

The answer struck me immediately as “no”, although I was at something of a loss to defend it. I answered that my loyalty is given to The Emperor, but the Lich-King’s question was a fair one. There have been other Emperors before the man we have now, and there will be others subsequently. If another man were Emperor, I would serve him as willingly and completely as I do this one. So to what, then, is my loyalty given?

Although, obviously, the possibility of having an empress doesn’t cross his mind. Can I just say, at this point, that Her Maj Elizabeth the Second by Grace of God Queen of Australia does a wonderful job, God blessah?

The notion that The Empire is its people belies itself the moment you start to examine the notion. Let us start with the obvious: there is nothing special about we the inhabitants of the empire. The people are simply people, the same as in other times and places, and nothing more. Nothing less, either: people are quite remarkable. But there is nothing inherently different between a work-gang of farmers and a pack of bandits. They eat and drink, they bleed, they have hopes and virtues and vices. It’s possible for a sailor to be punctual, diligent, and obedient and yet crew a pirate ship.

The difference between bandits and farmers is law. Framers obey the law because they are confident that the law – the emperor – protects them. That is, the substance of empire is its laws, its governance, its traditions. Why do people obey the law? Well, for some it is purely a pragmatic affair. But hopefully, most people obey the law because it is right that they do so.

In a word: the substance of empire is its legitimacy. A nebulous idea, to be sure. And so the need for strong symbols – flags and parades, a crown and a man to wear it. To give one’s loyalty to those symbols is not in itself wrong, even if that loyalty might be understood more deeply.

Nevertheless, we are in danger of a solipsism here, that the empire is legitimate because it is legitimate. As the Lich King points out – if he were Emperor, I would serve him. He may be right about that, but it does not follow from that that I should therefore support his efforts to overturn the current Emperor. To put it another way – it may not matter all that much who the emperor is, but it matters a great deal how he came to become the emperor.

If I travelled to another part of the world, with different laws and a different emperor, should I be obliged to follow the laws there?

I say yes. No – I say maybe. Laws can be unjust and oppressive. If the laws in this hypothetical kingdom were worth honouring, then they would be substantially the same as the laws here. They would outlaw murder and theft and sedition, they would oblige the strong to protect the weak, they would make it possible for a common man to pursue a trade and raise a family in security.

Perhaps I have just changed my mind. No – perhaps I have found a way out of the quandry of legitimacy. The emperor and his laws are right because they do right for the people that they are protected by. So it does come back to the people, but not in the manner the Lich King argues.

What a load of nonsense I have written! Necromancy disgusts me – I shall not serve a fleshless head under any circumstances, it’s as simple as that. Likewise, I shall not forswear my oaths – how could I have forgotten? I will oppose the Lich King, all who serve him, and any other enemy of the Dragon Empire to the limit of my power to do so, now and always.


Suicide bombers (Oooh! Controversial!)

17 October, 2016

Now that James has someone to report to (in-character) and a way to do it, it makes writing these things a bit easier. I’ll see how much I can recall of the last two sesssions.

James will make two copies, I think – one for dad via mum, and one for granddad. James is thinking that Ducalis would be more interested in magical happenings, and grandfather more interested in staying abreast of current events. He may be wrong about that 🙂 .


Events relating to attacks on dwarves in Santa Cora, (insert-date-here)

  1. Information

    1. Yesterday, our unit undertook a mission to kill a lichling in the dwarven tombs of Santa Cora.
      1. The lichling was present, and we sucessfully dealt with her.
      2. The lichling mentioned, I belive, something about “court”, which I take to mean the court of the lich-king.
      3. After the creature was dealt with, we recovered a heavily magical ring. I have it for safekeeping, but I have not worn it and doubt it is safe to do so.
    2. Yesterday evening, Xavier’s Home for Wayward Dwarves was approached by a person wearing a vest of
      explosives.

      1. Our unit intervened
      2. I rendered the explosive inert with a Dispel Magic abjuration.
      3. The attacker was This was game two weeks ago – I forget most of what happened, except what my character did. A don’t know what became of the dude, or if he was human.
    3. Today, the dwarven embassy here in Santa Cora was attacked
      1. The attacks took the from of large missiles, apparently from a heavy siege weapon.
      2. The embassy caught fire. I was not near enough to see if the source of the fire was the missiles themselves, or some other cause.
      3. We identified the source of the fire as being a particular tower at (insert address here).
      4. As there was already a bucket-chain forming to deal with the fire at the embassy, we chose to investigate the tower.
      5. We entered the tower – the door was warded, I believe the cloak I wear disarmed the wards.
      6. We found no-one and nothing at the top of the tower, from which the fire had been coming.
      7. We found a drag-mark on the roof, near the edge and in the direction of the embassy, consistent with something having been pushed off the roof.
      8. After a brief interval, Edmund of the Circle of Four arrived. He stated that:
        1. Nobody had entered this tower for centuries, and that he himself had made failed attempts to do so; and
        2. That a certain magical effect about 15′ above the roof of the tower was the source of the protection from adverse weather which covers Santa Cora.
    4. We have moved into this unoccupied tower and taken it for our base of operations.
  2. Evaluation

    Two attacks on dwarven establishments is most certainly not a coincidence. Quite obviously, some party in the city with considerable resources is attacking dwarves. They are not likely to cease. As it is unlikely that we just happened to be present for the only two attacks this party has made, there have probably been others.

    Whatever party organised these attacks has access to considerable magics. The missiles being fired at the embassy may have been conjurations, and it may be possible that the weather enchantment may have been used to enable or amplify the effect. I am reminded of the Ebony Watch node, where also an attempt was made to “hijack” an existing magical emplacement.

    Likewise, the explosives in the explosive vest was magical rather than alchemical – hence why the abjuration was able to disable it.

    Another odd parallel with the Ebony Watch incident is the presence of undead. There is no direct link, however, it is very suggestive that this lichling should have been active, in the dwarven tombs, immediately before at least two attacks on dwarves. The involvement of some kind of undead nobility would certainly account for the the presence of a mage skilled enough to enter a tower that has withstood every attempt by Edmund do do so.

    Unless, of course, that party had a cloak like mine. The possibility that a party loyal to the empire (the cloaks magics require this) might be responsible for these attacks is gravely disturbing.

    Our unit numbers two dwarves. Mal Shieldglider will most certainly insist on taking some action. He is, after all, a Shieldglider – rank does come with responsibilities. The sympathies of the entire unit, myself included, are rather on his side in this.

  3. Action

    At this stage, the goal of any action would be to keep more dwarves from being killed, both as a goal in itself and to stabilize relations.

    1. Mal will wish to consult with the dwarf temple and community. I am concerned that they are not likely to know who is doing this, why, and may fall back on blaming the usual suspects, whoever they may be.
    2. In general: our unit comprises individuals of diverse skills and backgrounds. Most likely, what will happen next is that people will split up and each investigate in their own way. We will rendezvous here to compare notes.
    3. It might be wise, today at least, to prepare multiple castings of Message.
    4. I intend to investigate the magics of this tower further. I have not yet investigated as to how far (and in what sense) the structure goes underground.

      Examining this tower further will probably not advance our goals.

      Perhaps rather than this I should simply hit the books. There is no shortage of them here in Santa Cora. Why should these attacks be happening now?

      Perhaps I should simply systematically visit each graveyard and look for suspicious activity.

      I should just accompany one of my allies who does have a plan of action and would like a little back-up.

    In summary: at this stage we lack a clear plan of action. Which is to say: I do. My allies will seek information in their own ways.


We will have a talky, role-playing game tonight at the bar. I need to examine the books for some cheese that will permit James to craft some walky-talkies. Not as good as Edmund’s, obviously, but


Reporting In

6 October, 2016

As we have just arrived in Santa Cora, I write to “report in”.

Our group has taken lodging in Xavier’s home for wayward dwarves. The city is full, and so I have prevailed on cousin Buffy to take us in. She seems less than pleased, and it would be best if we found other lodging before long.

Some of us have business here, especially Misthanar, who seeks treatment for his petrified arm. I myself will be seeking some sage to consult about the reactivation of the Ebony Watch node, the change in the Chancer’s Hope node, and my part in it.

Hopefully, we will spend only a few days here before proceeding on.

(Initials J.M.)

Out-of-character, granddad has contacts, granddad knows people, but James is being round-about about asking for help. Perhaps he’s in a “Lancet” frame of mind, not wanting to create a debt. Meta-game, of course, it’s just a way for the DM to pass info to the party in-game. Although James isn’t happy about the drama, ut seems Andy is perfectly happy for us to stay at cousin Buffy’s 🙂 .

James did get some help from granddad, though – it seems the expert on nodes is Aeg Ilsa. The necromancer. I suspect he might be a Professor Snape character – everyone thinks he’s bad, but he’s was secretly good all along.

James doesn’t like necromancy. None of my good characters do, even though it is one of the best schools of magic for sheer hit-point damage 🙂 (the others being transmutation and evocation). Then again, I have always preferred utility casters.

Back to it – James has been a little rude to Aeg in the past, a little cool and distant. But, Aeg had previously said something about the nodes (“Do you think re-igniting the node was a good idea?”) and now granddad is saying that he’s the man to talk to. James is going to suck it up and be civil.

Oh – a fun moment in-game. Speaking of utility casters. Bad guy magically locked a door and split the party. Misthanar belted the thing but not enbough to break it. The DM permitted me to use the Hold Portal utility spell to undo the bad guy’s Hold Portal. Rolled a 20. In game, “The magic was the only thing holding the door together after Mist hit it, so with the magic gone it just [hand gesture]”.

Now that I have level 3 spells, I pack the wizard Utility Spell at third level, giving me access to Levitate, Speak With Item as well as the first-level effects. I even took the feat, so that I get two castings from one slot. James has High Arcana talent, which among other things grants you access to Dispel Maqic, so putting it all together its reasonable he might be able to undo an enemny Hold Portal on a 20.

Nice to see the utility spell come in handy straight away, although the main reason I took it was for Levitate, which will get you out of a number of jams (being thrown in a pit, drowning). At fifth level you can cast it on an ally. Still, seeing how the bad guy so effectively split the party with it was a nice lesson. And Message also has its uses.

We are mid-combat. Andy has permitted us a sort of semi-short-rest, recharging encounter powers, and carrying over over my command points and Nova quick actions. I have plans for the lichlings’s book, which doesn’t seem to be a phylactery but which is nevertheless so, so evil.


Brother Warming

14 September, 2016

But as the demons companions began to materialize, its summoning was interrupted, and Drodja stepped forward again and slew the monster in a single blow. Brother Warming ground out in frustration: “Dammit, I just dropped my two best buffs!”. Reverend Cleophothus looked at him quizzically, asking “Would you have preferred to fight three vrocks?” Brother Warming – honest in the heat of battle – exclaimed “Yes!”, and headed up around the corridor looking for more demons to fight.

“Yes!”, he would rather find more demons to fight. “Yes”, he craved honest battle with a simple foe. It is not for nothing that a man abandons his name and his past, and takes a name “Warming-light-of-Sarenrae”. Long ago he had fled an enemy not simple, but devious and subtle. A lifetime ago he had fled into the arms of the goddess of sunlight and health, of purity and cleansing, of simple green and growing things. The first prayer he had practiced until he perfected it was “light” – Sarenrae’s light, yellow-white and warm, with all the promise of summer. It was his talisman, his promise that his goddess was with him always.

Yes, he sought combat. It occupied the mind. He greatly feared that something of the enemy that he had long ago fled might be ahead of them. Waiting.