GG5 – Urban Survival

12 February, 2013

I attempted an urban adventure this week – a change of pace from “here are some monsters, fight ’em!”. Doing this requires improv, which is just something that I am not awesome at. But I know someone who is, and by a twist of fate this week of all weeks the man himself was there at the shop.

I am, of course, talking about Matt.

Matt isn’t playing this campaign. He has, like, a job or something and can’t be there Mondays. Yeah, I know: obviously his priorities are screwed up. But spending a while more or less broke and then not being broke anymore will do that to a bloke.

Anyway. I ran into him in the bottle shop – funny story there, too – and described the night’s game which I was hoping to run. He sat in and very kindly took over to describe the scene where the players met a lord of the dragon clan (we are using l5r as background flavour for the elves).

It was just as I remember – vivid, memorable, and players shutting up because they were keen to hear what happens next. I was as enthralled as everyone else.

Anyway. This was what went down.

So the two brothers Haddock and Sam reunite at the agreed-on rendezvous, and Haddock announces that they will sail again in a week, so they may as well hit the tavern. Miston cuts in and says that he would like an escort around town, say about four of the more presentable members of crew.

John, Daniel, Drewf and Brendan. Don’t know the character’s names yet. Wizard, Alchemist, Bard, and I think sorcerer. Yes, I know what you are all thinking: oops, this could be a problem.

The first day or two passes uneventfully. They do some shopping, tag along after Miston as he visits the libraries in the clan quarter of town and some less reputable spots. After the first day, the other group have gone off on a paid job somewhere.

The town is, is … restless. The bard makes enquiries. First, a elven child has been abducted. Second, in a few days there will be a lunar eclipse. Bad times, and people are planning on staying safe indoors over the inauspicious interval.

By chance, one of them mentions this to Miston. He is alarmed, and asks them to please investigate. The child is of the dragon clan, and it is there they make their first call.

They march up to the front door of the Dragon Clan compound – an embassy, perhaps, or a holiday villa. The bard works his wiles and persuades the guards on the door to go get the butler, who is likewise persuaded to see if the master is receiving visitors. It seems he is, and the party are conducted in.

The bard got his chance to shine. To tell the truth, most of this week’s play was me and Brendan, with interjections from the always irrepressible Daniel. It’s nice to give the bard something to do other than sing his song while everyone else is fighting the monsters.

This is the bit where Matt took over for a while. I can’t do it justice.

They were conducted to a large chamber where, in silence, they participated in a tea ceremony. The tea was drugged, of course, and the Lord’s Lady checked out the party magically, announcing “this is not they” at the end.

Released from thier enscorcelment, they offered thier respects. The rat-man and the human mage were politely rebuffed, but Brendan’s half-elf bard and Drewf’s Ifrit Sorceress were welcomed more warmly – particularly in view of the the sorceress’ command of Ignan.

After a fair bit of table-talk, Lord Tatsuo (?) announced that since fate had sent these to him, that’s what he would work with. His daughter had been kidnapped while shopping about town. He had been hoping to receive a ransom demand, but in view of the fact that he hadn’t got one – well, that was bad news.

“Perhaps it is well that you are not of the clans. What I tell you now must remain in confidence – will you agree to this?” The players agreed, and truthfully (so not running afoul of the Zone of Truth). “Very well – I will tell you this: our daughter has power. Power that she must not use.”

Dun dun dun! And after a bit more, they depart. Having not discussed money. They turn the kid’s room over for diary clues, but nothing there. Then it’s off to town, to check out the route she took on the day.

Dragon clan are mystics. Class-wise, they tend to be monks. They inhabit a mountainous, volcanic set of islands to the north of the rift. As for the cold shoulder to the rat-man and human: ok, he might be a good guy; doesn’t mean he isn’t racist.

Campaign-wise, I wanted the characters to make peaceful contact with some of the elves. As Daniel pointed out: “these are the first elves that haven’t been trying to kill us”.

So they went and spoke to some shopkeepers, waving about a dragon-clan seal. Eventually they tacked her down to a alleyway, a shortcut that she and her four guards took. Signs of struggle? Possibly, but although out-of-the-way, the alley is not unused. Difficult to tell. There was a street-kid clumsily inserted into the alley. The bard tried to fascinate him, and the wizard to approach him, but he beat the save and took off.

The party pursued him over a open hatch for some bakery’s underground oven. They nearly cornered him at an alley, but he managed to scamper over the wall and across a crowded street – the party in pursuit. Finally he tried getting over a roof but slid back: the bard tripping him with his whip. Finally cornered, the party commenced to question the frightened and sullen kid.

We used the paizo chase cards. It went ok – I’ll use ’em again. The main problem for a DM is that you have to have a backup plan for what happens if the party don’t catch him.

And all they really got out of him was that it was ninjas what did it. So they decided to check the bad part of town. They proceed to make clumsy enquiries (Drewf or John rolled a 2) and were ambushed by 4 ninjas!

But these ninjas were crap. Two falling to a Colour Spray, and two simply being killed. After regaining consciousness, the bard proceeded to intimidate the crap out of them (need to check the rules – is there a limit to how far you can shift someone’s attitude with repeated intimidate attempts?). The ninjas revealed that the girl was being taken to Takaoka (High Hill) by some gaijin.

Everyone is “OMG, we is goig to die!”, but the spellcasters did just fine, even without fighters.

The ninjas were then permitted to commit ritual suicide.

Then it’s back to Miston to ask where TF Takaoka might be.

I gave ’em a geography, nature, local and I think arcana check to know about this hill, but they persisted in rolling crap.

So next week – heading out to a high hill, killing some dudes, and rescuing an elf. Yay! It’s that simple – what could go wrong?

I think some of the players have worked it out

5 February, 2013

The party returned to the ship. There, Capt’n Haddock was able to give them three extremely crappy underwater lanterns. Next day, they returned to the underground fort.

OOC: It was Australia Day long weekend, but the guys on my table last week had agreed to come play at about 6 – a bit earlier than usual. On the night, I had my players but Alix didn’t have hers and left. Wouldn’t you know it – the players on the her table mostly turned up at the usual time. So I had seven players. Arrgh! I slotted them on on a “look, we won’t bother trying to justify this in-game, we’ll just play” basis.

I pumped up the encounter … possibly just a little too far.

But the spriggans were ready for them, and had called on reinforcements. They had put a barrier across the entrance and had a couple of pixies.

It was a bit of a demo on how to use magic to fortify an area. The pixies dropped and entangle over the area, slowing down the assault and making that party easy targets. The spriggans used their scare to run off the tanks, and Fluffy – who was not scared – was dealt with by a sleep arrow.

I forget the details. Half the party – having lost the tanks – turned and ran. The pixies followed them. The ninja ran forward to a breach in the barrier and got clobbered to death and quite a bit of the way past it. Eventually the scare wore off and the tanks returned. They made for the breach and dealt with the remaining spriggans.

The barrier was some crap put across the entrance, 10ft deep. I treated each square as a wooden door for purposes of clearing it. The pixies flew off to follow the characters that ran because shit, they were a bit much and everyone at the table knew it.

A real stand-out was the mage with the wand of Magic Missile, especially with archers behind arrow-slits. He and the other archers made steady progress clearing up the dudes.

We discussed this encounter in email over the following week. Fact is – the EL was insanely high: 8 CR4 monsters vs 7 2nd level characters. It was a DM fuckup, but on the positive side I do think it showcased tactics and magic. This week, the party was far more cohesive.

The party returned to the flooded stairwell and followed it down. It finished at a 20 by 20 room completely underwater. One of the characters, failing to see the danger, walked straight into a Gelatinous Cube. The Gelatinous Cube paralyses its victims, but with seven in the party and counting here was never a danger that they would all fall prey to it. They fell on it and tore it apart, it’s remains carrying a great deal of loot and magic.

I hadn’t been doing treasure as I should, so I put enough loot in the cube to be reasonable wealth for 4 3rd level characters. The drop-ins scored some cash (gems) – I didn’t want to screw up Alix’s table by giving them items. A +1 buckler, +1 weapon, a pearl of power and some cold iron weapons, and some consumables – scrolls for the wizard. I missed including something for the druid. It all adds up, and was actually quite a haul.
This was all according to plan, BTW – I foreshadowed the gelatinous cube by telling the party that the complex was oddly clean, that the floors looked like they had been swept.

After the fight with the cube, some of the party went back to the ship, and a new person turned up – an Assimar Paladin (Maddie’s new character). They then exited the room. It opened out onto a 25′ wide colonnade – all underwater – opening out onto the ocean. A look over the edge revealed a sheer worked stone wall, dropping 30′ to the seabed below.

The party wanted to summon a dolphin to explore, but when you summon a monster, you don’t get a super intelligent talking dolphin – you get a dolphin. It can fight, and you can attempt to get it to do a “trick” (I think). But without a way of talking to it, it’s just an animal.

Proceeding along the colonnade they investigated another room, inhabited by a giant salt-water leech (whatever). It was dealt with by battle-pig and (I think) the bard. As they did so, a circling shark decided to have a go, and was also dispatched without trouble.

Underwater combat and movement is savage if you don’t have a swim speed. Even with a successful DC 10 check, your are at 1/4 movement with penalties to hit. We had a couple of ranged combatants who discovered that being underwater makes bows damn near useless, although I think one of them did manage to kill-steal the shark.

Having said that – perhaps it’s as it should be. I am going to have to trawl some of the supplements to find purchasable mundane gear to make underwater fights possible to do.

Battle pig has barding and +6 natural armour. Ow! Damn near impossible to hit.

Further along the colonnade was another door, but in the gloom beyond it the paladin detected eeeeevil! At the base of the great ramp leading down from the upper floor was some sort of platform on wheels and six undead – one of which had webbing enabling it to swim. Again, the fight proceeded without major incident.

Four zombies, two ghouls, one of them a lacedon. The ghouls didn’t get a hit in, mainly because the party are putting the fighters up front. The better tactics are making it tougher.

The undead dealt with, they investigated a little more. The platform had a mound of some stuff on it, and an old, nearly rotten cargo net over that stuff that radiated very faint transmutation magic. The spell casters agreed that the aura was faint on account of the enchantment being very old. The stuff turned out to be rust, but where the net was touching the rust was still fragments of bright steel. Hoping that underneath all that rust might still be some salvageable loot, they investigated and got lucky – several ingots of steel, and a couple of cold iron, each stamped with a hallmark of some strange script.

In the final room was a magical ring, a pearl of power, and crates and boxes and piles of thin clay tablets – mostly broken and old, but many still legible, covered with that same odd writing.

The ramp up was blocked by a stone portcullis. They considered breaking or open in it somehow, but then decided that an easier solution was to bring the ship around and lower a net which they could load underwater.

Didn’t think of that. A better solution than the one I provided – raising the portcullis and using the ramp.

On the way out they discovered the lairs of the spriggans, and a small network of secret passages leading to the arrow-slits above the stairs, and to the wheelhouse above the portcullis.

Well, Capt’n Haddock was most pleased to hear about a load of steel ingots. Less pleased when the party reminded him that all loot bar writings was theirs. He tried to negotiate for a salvage fee, but the paladin persuaded him and the crew that since they had lost a man, he should be a little less miserly.

During the negotiations, Miston prompted the captain – in elvish – to try to grab the cold iron if possible. Andrew’s character confronted Miston in private, demanding to know why. Miston was unimpressed:

He rolled a 2 on his intimidate 🙂

Boy, I am 800 years old. I have faced nightmares. The cold iron is particularly useful against some of the nightmares we face. Sail with us for long, and you may find yourself wielding weapons made from the very iron you brought back today.

They set sail to return to rendezvous, dropping in to the Naga Clan magick shoppe and chandlery on the way.

Summer, bloody summer

22 January, 2013

Man, January is not a good time for gaming.

Everyone’s head is fucked up. I’m depressed, Alix is not 100%, the players got no concentration. I outright forgot stuff because my brain told me my minis were at the shop. They’re not – there in a bag right bloody there where they always are. But – summer. Is it the heat? Of course it’s the fucking heat. It’s 40 degrees.

Not just that, but it’s light outside. No-one really wants to start game until 8. Interestingly, that’s when the pubs move trivia to, during summer. Daylight savings and longer days – people don’t want to be doing indoor things till it’s dark, and it’s not dark until 9. Shop shuts at 11. I’m lucky to run two encounters.

Another month or two of this shit, then colder days and we can all play some D&D.

Last week, we split the part. Half went with Tinkerbell to help out a dryad. The other half (my table) with Miston to check out some ruins – an old port.

First, my guys needed to organise some amulets of water breathing. A visit to the naga clan turned int a quest, as the elves were a bit WTF about selling a dozen of the things. Happily, a naga dropped in on the conversation and indicated that he would approve of the sale if the players could demonstrate their worthiness.

The party dealt with some aquatic troglodytes that had ransacked an immature pearl bed, and then dealt with the sahuagin that were behind the troglodytes.

The elves permitted the party to keep the pearls they got from the troglodytes (immature pearls – little better than rubbish. No magical use at all.) And permitted then to purchase the amulets.

The naga sent them on their way with a bit of a – Warning? Prophecy? “You do not know who you serve.”

And so they came to the nameless isle, home to an ancient port according to Miston. Why this port was no longer a port was a mystery. One side of the isle was cliffs, the top of them sloping down to a more or less sheltered beach on the other side.

Captain Haddock anchored and called for volunteers to search the ruins: “Any loot you find, apart from writings of interest to Miston, is yours to keep.”

Four volunteers. A ninja, a mage, a samurai and his pig, and a bard.

There were ruins of a town, very old. Curiously, the ruins extend down into the surf. The explorers spot a high point – an old temple or other prominent building. They head up to investigate. And are set upon by a leopard which had been stalking them, it nearly killing the mage.

After dealing with it, they determine that the roads seemed to head up the hill towards the cliffs and down into the surf. They decide to go up.

The road crests a rise and then heads down to a curious fortification set into the ground. A gaping entrance where there once were great gates stands before them. They head towards it, and are fired on by archers standing behind arrow slits. Charging forwards into the structure, they see three small twisted little creatures which drop their crossbows and magically enlarge to the size of small giants, drawing monringstars. Upon death, the revert to small size, their faces even in death still twisted with hate. The bard (or possibly the wizard) is somewhat at a loss to identify them. Plainly they are humanoid, they bleed normal blood, but there is something faintly otherworldly about them. They are not from around here.

Inside the structure it seems built into the hill, but not a nest of goblin-tunnels. No: a wide area with a vaulted roof – some sort of work area. A great passage leading down into the hill, towards the cliffs outside, and stone posts where (the sailors recognising it instantly) a pair of great capstans once operated, the ropes or chains of it pulling something up from the unlighted deeps. The floor is tiled with masonry tiles which, while old, still are arranged in a pleasing but practical geometric pattern. A smaller passage leads off into the darkness, it too is well made, tiled, and with an arched roof.

They investigate. They check for tracks, but the passage seems swept clean – not even the dust your would expect. A passage leads off to the left. They leave it for now and press further on. They come to a large room – a hall – perhaps a barracks, a mess hall, a meeting room. They notice the remains of a mosaic on the wall, the pattern of the design only just visible – a harbour set against cliffs, and ships.

It becomes plain. This hall is the harbour of which Miston spoke, the great capstans pulling goods up from the passage leading down to the water at the cliffs. But much is still a mystery.

At the pack of the hall are two smaller passages, one leading down, one level.

They choose to go down. The Ninja notices that the ceiling is suspicious – textured with a deeply cut geometrical pattern. They is nothing behind it at the entrance, but the texture is made to conceal something, without a doubt.

The bard conjures a small rubber ball and tosses it down the stairs. The mage, of all people, hears ever so faintly a sound.


The samurai elects to charge down the stairs, shield raised over his head. Two arrows rattle off it. The others follow, the mage firing a “sleep” spell into the darkness above the stairwell. They head down – 80, 90, 100 or so feet, perhaps more. And come to the waterline: the stairwell is flooded with salt water.

They have their amulets, of course. But after a brief discussion discover that they have no way to light their way underwater – only torches. They must turn back, running the gauntlet once again. Quickly they check the level passage at the back of the hall. It leads out to the cliffs, to a concealed lookout.

Unable to make further progress, they turn back, returning to the ship. The bard recounts their story. The scholar Miston tries to hide his reaction, but is unable to conceal his excitement at their description of these ancient stone ruins.

They ask for some waterproof light source, and it seems Captain Haddock has just the thing. It is an hour or so to midday.