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! . . .

Durak becomes useful

19 January, 2014

Rise of the Runlelords SPOILERS!
Had to break the session kinda-sorta in the middle of a fight, Friday night. We haven’t dealt with the BBEG, but Durak was very handy against the mini-boss.

We took down a trio of bearded devils. Durak and Bahlek both failed a fort save, so something unpleasant is coming up.

The casters did some crafting – Durak now has a nice suit of +1 lamellar stone armour, a +1 double-headed dwarven axe, and Boots of Striding and Springing. The armour was enchanted by Aeona, so is covered with runes and designs of horological significance.

I’m becoming concerned that taking the cleave option might not have been the best choice. It’s great for move->hit things->move->hit things, but the stonelord stance means that Durak must be mostly immobile (although there is cheese to counteract that). With Haste, you are getting three attacks per round anyway, two at your top attack bonus, which is as good as cleaving. Great Cleave will give you N hits, but realistically you are never going to get more than two or three in a round.

Oh well. It’s cinematic, and it might work out ok. My plan is still Great Cleave followed by Orc Hewer. We will be up against giants eventually (not that he knows this), and needs to be fighting them enlarged. After Great Cleave at level 7, it would be fun to have a scene involving mowing down a room full of goblins.

Just sayin’.

We eventually wound up at a clock tower. Basically a lighthouse – hollow on the inside. Some fun environmental challenges involving rickety stairs.

The mini-boss on the ground floor was an awakened flesh golem. Our party bypassed it, but then it headed outside – screams of terror. Durak, paladin that he is, decided that an attack on actual people happening right now took priority over what might hypothetically be at the top of the tower. Goddamit. Bahlek stayed below, but everyone else was already heading upstairs. So, team dwarf.

Flesh golems are immune to magic and have DR 5/adamantine. So Durak was the perfect – Stone Strike makes your hits adamantine, and enlarged he is a pretty heavy hitter. He blocked the door, Bahlek behind plinking arrows into it which unhappily didn’t do much thanks to the DR. Worst of all, this thing was rocking a scythe and we are using the paizo critical hit deck. But we had a stroke of luck – it crit fumbled. We are using the crit fumble deck as well, and Durak grabbed the scythe off it – dropping his axe to do so. On his round, he threw the scythe out of reach over his shoulder, picked up his axe (AAO), and kept swinging.

Main problem was that our party was split and our healer had gone up the stairs. I wasn’t keeping track of my HP as I should and was running lower than I realized. Managed to stanch the damage with lay on hands when I realised what was happening, but it was closer than it ought to have been.

Oh – did I mention that it was a clock tower? Bad guys on the rafters above, dropping bells on us. Big bells. There were two fights simultaneously. Up above, Vik (a summoner with an eidolon that can fly) was bull rushing bad guys off the rafters. Splish. Zoran the swashbuckler neatly riposted a blow, and crit fumbled. You see, his practised riposte unfortunately involved a turn and sidestep and with a splendid “Ha ha!” he stepped off the rafter. He also splished, but has a few more hp than the average mook and survived.


Bahlek got the kill steal, but Durak had used a potion of Enlarge Person with no way to dismiss it, and had no way to get up the rickety stairs. Meanwhile, Vik confronted the real BBEG above and was promptly charmed – the BBEG suggested that she fetch Aeona and bring her upstairs for some healing.

However, the last thing that happened prior to this was that Vik had asked Aeona to cast Silence on her. Which, on her turn, she did. So Vik picked up Aeona and flew her up to the BBEG, who could not use her magic thanks to the silence. So it attacked – dispelling the charm/suggestion/whatever, and the two casters came back down to ground level, the BBEG retreating upwards.

(Part of this was that we had Protection from Evil on and the suggestion should not have worked at all. But magic, you know, is tricky and unpredictable.)

And that’s how things stand. We are back on the ground, badly beaten up, there’s something nasty in the top of the tower, and Durak weighs a metric ton and cannot ascend the stairs.

A small miscalculation

13 January, 2014

There is little to tell.

We rode from Sandpoint to Magnamar, fighting off a gang of three trolls on the way. We were a little short of fire – a situation I have somewhat remedied. The trick to dealing with trolls is to keep them down once they go down, but we managed well enough.

Once in Sandpoint, the more stealthy of us went to investigate the residence of the very late Squire (Lord? Sir? Whatever!) Foxglove, and Aeona and I went shopping. Much to see, of course, but we were not offered any difficulty.

Vik, Bahlek and Zoran returned, reporting that the place had been boarded up. They were keen to investigate overnight, but I was adamant that we ought to present our credentials to the local authority and proceed that way. By credentials, I mean that we had requested a letter of introduction from the Sheriff of Sandpoint.

That evening, we listened to gossip. I seems that Mangamar, too, has had a series of ritual murders. How wide does this plot extend?

Next day, introductions made, we visited the Foxglove townhouse, one constable doughnut in tow. We knocked, and the door was answered by … Aldern Foxglove himself! And his wife! What strange doings were afoot here? Both we knew – or thought we knew – to be dead!

They explained the boards on the windows – they were expecting renovations, it seems. An … odd explanation. The well-to-do do not generally oversee tradesmen in person. They invited us into a parlour. Two of us accompanied and – when our group was split – they attacked. My calls that they were under arrest going unheeded, we fought, we being careful to knock them out rather than kill. They did not fight as civilised humans would, forgoing weapons they struck us with their hands with unnatural strength. When they were subdued, our arcanists pronounced that they were very likely not human.

We secured them, and searched the house for evidence.

We found a small cache of documents, detailing that the residence near Sandpoint had been financed mainly by the “brotherhood of seven”, and was to revert to them after a mere hundred years (which I suppose may seem a long time to a human). The parallels were too obvious to miss – the seven points of the Sihedron rune, the letter stating that a “brotherhood” was involved. But all very thin and inconclusive.

We also discovered that the woman Aisha (Aldern’s wife, or rather the someone who seemed to be her) would make periodic payments to be collected at a sawmill at midnight.

We returned to the Magnamar authorities. The “brotherhood of seven” are, it seems, a merchant company. All above-board. Regardless, we requested leave to investigate this sawmill further. During the afternoon, the more bookish of us went to the registry office and investigated, but discovered little of substance.

That night, we visited the sawmill. A large building full of machinery powered by waterwheels. The first two floors held nothing of interest to anyone except perhaps an gnome of engineering bent. We discovered a hidden closet full of some sort of robes and mention of the god of murder and assassination – Norgorber. On ascending the stairs to the top floor, we heard a scream – exactly the kind of scream that would be emitted by someone having a seven-pointed star being carved into his chest.

Bursting into the room, we found it full of perhaps eight or a dozen cultists led by what was plainly a priest. The fight was straightforward – Aeona dropped a Silence spell on the whole area, and without their spellcasting the cultists were easy meat.

And wasn’t there just one very unhappy DM at the table that night? All these guys were equipped with Command, which just doesn’t work in a Silenced zone. Absolutely correct action by Brett, there, when dealing with a roomful of religious cultists (ie: spellcasters).

We had the drop on them, and Zoran simply walked through them to get at the main guy – no AAOs because they were flat-footed. That put him in a nasty spot. As soon as I was able, I moved Durak in to take some of the heat off him. At one point, I used my extremely cheesy interpretation of the rules to have Durak make a 5-foot step, use lay-on-hands to remove his own fatugue, resume his defensive stance (free action) and then make a full-round attack.

Oh, speaking of cheese, I need to have Durak talk about Vik.

The cultists fleeing, including their leader, we ran in pursuit – Vik teleporting down. Which I will write about in a moment. I being slower than the rest, opted to make an opening in the wall by which I was standing and walk through. This proved to be a small miscalculation, as I plummeted down into the river wearing full armour. It took a moment for me to find a pier with handholds, but I managed to drag myself up out of the water before my breath let out. By that time it was all over.

An eventful night. But we have aside from flushing out a nest of these cultists (and let us not make light of that, we have saved one man’s life, at least), we have discovered little but that we are working against a large, organised group, associated in some way with the cult of Norgorber. How this relates to the runelords of ancient Thassilon, I cannot say.

I am most concerned about Vik. One of the two sisters, Vik’s art mainly concerns the summoning of creatures from – well, from wherever such things are summoned. It is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the red-eyed slavering of these creatures. Clearly Vik, though not evil in herself (yet), is having some sort of truck with the lower planes.

Last night, she summoned a being which she calls her “eidolon” and – for want of a better word – clothed herself with its substance. This being has all the red-eyed, bewinged, fanged ferocity one would would expect of a demon. But despite its appearance there was not the stench of evil coming from it. I simply don’t know what to make of it.

I should speak to her first, I think, before acting. But act I suspect I shall have to do.

The Greater Good

4 January, 2014

Durak’s personality is coming along, I think. If there’s a door, and there might be something eeeevil behind it, then what you do is you open the door and strike at the eeeevil with your hammer until it is gone.
He’s not stupid, but he is uncomplicated. It also moves the game along briskly. This party doesn’t have any “You go!”, “No – you go!”. Durak just goes. Why? ‘Cause he’s a paladin. Opening the door and stepping through is why we came down here.

Rocky (his earth elemental familiar) is a potential game wrecker, especially down in cellars. We are handling it by him being stupid and lacking initiative. He has Int 4 and is an alien – he can’t describe what’s in a room in useful terms. And although he does have decent Wisdom, I suppose here on prime he relies on being told what to fight because he’s unfamiliar with the place. The tremorsense, however, is handy and doesn’t give too much away – no more than a really good perception check.

Less than a year is not sufficient time to cease finding strange the human habit of building homes where the “floor” is a wooden platform suspended in the air. The elves, at least, use living trees. I can respect a tree – you know it is going to be around a decent time.

I would guess the reason for living in “houses” it is that they are quick to construct – humans being a short-lived race. The orcs, being even shorter-lived, make tents of stick and hide so it all makes sense. A habitation made of dead wood cannot stand for more than decades, but the humans live their lives quickly – should a house fall or burn, they will build another just like it in its place. The humans, then, are no less practical than we, it is just that the facts of their lives make what is practical for them different from what is practical for us.

But the subject of houses brings us to that of haunted houses. Which is where we spent yesterday.

Clues lead us to the abandoned home of a local noble family. We searched the bottom floor, discovering it to be haunted indeed. Various apparitions appeared and attacked us – a Manticore, an animated scarf, a piano, and from the floor above us the sound of weeping. Each manifestation telling us something of the tale of what lived here.

Haunts are a cool pathfinder idea. You can tell stories with them (which is what the module did) without having to have an actual ghost.

The ground floor more-or-less explored, we opted to go down, rather than up. I called Rocky to assist us.

The cellar was – a cellar. Cold storage for food, a wine room (which we regrettably destroyed. Not that I am usually a wine drinker, but some of the vintages would have fetched a good price.). We were attacked by swarms of rats and eventually came to a strong door, warded by an excellent lock. Reasoning that if there were still a key, it would be above, we resolved to search the upper rooms of the house.

There were more haunts above, telling the tale of an unhappy marriage, a murder, a picture of a man with an odd puzzle-box. We found the key (or, what Zoran juded to very likely be the key) in a study. But we passed a door from which the sound of weeping was loudest. We opened it.

Within was a spirit, an unquiet dead, cowering away from a mirror. She was clearly the shade of the murdered wife, and did not respond to our questions. As we discussed what to do – I was keen to look into the mirror – the summoner Victora said “civilised people often cover mirrors when there has been a death” (which I hope was not an insult directed at me). The taller of our party threw a sheet over the mirror, and the spirit rose and proceeded to walk through the house, heading for the lower floor.

We followed. The spirit went to a room with a great bloodstain on the floor, and began tearing at the floorboards. We assisted it, and opened a hole to a hidden room below in the cellars. In that room was an old dry well, and the spirit went down into it. We followed – Bahlek looking a little green for some reason.

Below was a natural limestone cave (probably carved by water, if I am any judge). We were attacked by ghouls, and prevailed thanks to Victoria’s earth elementals.

The DM was playing hardball – the ghouls would paralyse then attempt a CDG. Hapilly, there were enough summoned dudes to AAO them to death. Dave is summoning earth elementals because Durak has “Earth Channel”, being a stonelord. We actually haven’t used it yet, but now at 6th levels he has enough grunt to drop 3d6 healing into any earth critters nearby. He has 4 lay-on-hands, and it takes two charges, so realistically he will only be able to do it once. I will reserve a lay-on-hands to get rid of the “defensive stance” fatigue should it become necessary.

Catching up to the ghost, it was tearing at a door (ghosts often dont realise that they are ghosts, and act as they would in life). We assisted.

Within was an expensively dressed undead. On a bench behind – a ruined puzzle box. It addressed Aeona, and the ghost of his murdered wife (for surely it was they) attacked. He called out in the local language – Zoran telling us that he had called for help. Our casters retreated outside, and we fought the undead, the ghost assisting. More than assisting, really. In truth, we barely put a scratch on it.

The casters heading outside was a mistake, for more ghouls came from that direction. We were split in two. Had I known how badly they fared out there, I would not have stayed in the smaller chamber to ineffectively swing at the ghoul. But it seemed to me that my place was to help deal with the greater evil.

Eventually, the ghost prevailed. The noble was dead, and with his death the ghost dissolved, its geas accomplished. Our casters inspected the ruined puzzle box, and decided that it was likely meant to be a phylactery for a lich. Thus was all explained – this noble was a caster attempting to secure undeath for himself by becoming a lich. He murdered his own wife, and who knows how many others, to secure sucess. It is well that we intervened. Such a great evil would have been worth out very lives to forestall.

We found a letter from a party in Magnimar. It seemed to indicate that someone was offering this evil man assistance, spoke of a “Sihedron ritual” – this being the seven-pointed star that we keep encountering associated with the ancient runelords of Thessalay. The letter indicated that there were to be seven ritual murders in all – I am not sure that we stopped them all.

I shall go from here to Magnamar, then, and bring this person to account. The other four heroes of Sandpoint – each for reasons of their own – have made the same choice, which is very well. We remain a party of five, then, and traveling with these four comrades who I have come to know and rely on eases my spirit considerably.

We attempted to fire the house when we were done. But even with fire elementals, the place would not catch. There is older evil here, I think, beyond our power to cleanse. All we can do is inform the church.

But this is all background. The question with which I must wrestle is: ought I to have attacked that ghost, the spirit of the wife, when I saw her rather than helping her?

Torag revealed to me that the apparition was evil. And that her aid probably made the difference in slaying the greater evil below is in no wise. After all – she might have joined with that evil and made it more powerful, so far as I could have known at the time. And although that did not happen, although we accomplished a much greater good, yet I assisted her accomplish her evil goal, which was to do murderous revenge on her husband. I helped her succeed in this act, I cannot escape my complicity and guilt in this respect.

Why did I do it? What were my motives at the time?

First, cool calculation. I judged that the murder of the wife by her husband was central to the riddle of that house, that the matter was best concluded, and that this spirit would lead us to the heart of the mystery. I was resolved that this spirit must be dealt with, one way or another, but the better way to do it was to permit her to reveal her story rather than simply attempting to kill a ghost with weapons (a tricky prospect, even with magic). It transpired that I was right – but that matters not. It is true that I took a risk, but every choice was risky.

Second, pity. This woman, in life, had been murdered by her husband. Can there be any keener betrayal? Yes, the evil spirits of the undead feign distress to lure noble fools to their doom. But still. Even a heart turning to stone can know pity. And I knew something of her story – there was adequate reason to belive the spirit was not feigning its fear.

It would have been simpler to simply charge in and attempt to hammer that spirit into oblivion. My conscience would be happily clear. And we would be slain by the undead below, Aeona subject to a terrible fate, and in all possibility a lich loosed upon the world.

No, I must content myself with this. My goal was to bring the evil of this house to an end. I acted as I did – following that ghost and assisting it – for that reason. That we succeeded in large part is a great comfort, but my hands are not clean.

I’ll take “Moral Dilemmas” for 5 points, Bruce

26 December, 2013

For what purpose do we temper steel? We heat the steel to red heat and swiftly quench it, the swift cooling making a blade or chisel so hard so that only a precious gem can mar it. Yet after this is done, we place it in the kiln and reheat it to just below red heat and leave it to cool. We undo some of the hardening. Why? Surely the hardest blade is the best blade?

Every child knows the purpose. A quenched blade is brittle – the chisel will chip, the axe shatter. Though it be true a that tempered blade becomes less hard, it regains a needful flexibilty. The skill of the smith is to temper the blade enough, but not too much.

For a servant of Torag, the rule of life is simple: do right, and suffer not wrong to be done. But what is right? In the mountains, it is simple. Obey our laws. Work hard at whatever labours are given you. Be you a warrior, then strike down the giants, ogres and trolls who attack us. Conduct yourself with obedience, sobriety, and valour, and if you must sell your life for the safety of others, then sell it dearly and without regret.

Here in the downlands, though, things are less clear-cut. I lack a chief to show me the right way, and so must find it for myself. More, I lack the dwarf-laws, or rather everyone else does. Yet they are not without laws – they have laws of their own that serve them well enough. Their laws differ from ours in several respects. So by which am I bound, while I am here? To whom am I answerable? And: if there be any respect by which their laws be more just than our own, what then when I return home?

I am compelled, in other words, to think about things a little. To choose, and to risk choosing wrongly. Will I stray too far from the path? Will I be tempted into compromises, each a little worse than the former? This is no idle fear. Should I lose my way, I shall not be the first to lose it, here in the downlands. (Bahlek, I belive, has kept to the right way, in his own fashion. There is no darkness in him, which gives me courage.)

Or will I learn nothing? Will I prove them right when they say that dwarves are stubborn? With I return home as brittle as when I left, to chip and shatter at the first true crisis of right and wrong that I face?

I am here to face these choices, to ask these questions, to question even the dwarf-laws, I think. Perhaps I trouble myself needlessly: surely that which I have been taught of right and wrong will be vindicated.

The matter is simple: I must trust the judgment of the great smith who has placed me in this kiln. It is he who watches over my tempering. Enough, but not too much.

And so to the question of Zoran.

Zoran, it grieves me to say, is probably a thief.

This is the first strangeness. They have not the death penalty for thievery here, I think because the land is rich – full of game and grain and fruit. To steal is not necessarily to take a life. Zoran’s whole people are thieves, I gather, and no-one thinks it odd. I heard him say one, in passing: “We must not steal from the mouths of babes”. Said it as one repeats a precept learned in childhood, an incontestable truth. In other words, his people have laws that proscribe the theft-that-is-tantamount-to-murder. There are great wrongs, and lesser wrongs, and here in the lowlands it seems that to steal from one who can well afford it is not so great a wrong.

Or perhaps: it’s ok when it is Zoran doing it.

No, that cannot be right. In any case, that is not the story I wished to tell.

The facts of the matter are these. Zoran and I both became infected with ghoul fever. I was cured by a local priest. Zoran refused healing – he seemed to have some sort of personal objection – and became worse. After some few more days, the town grew agitated and demanded that we do something about the undead attacks, which we could not effectively do without our comrade. Eventually, we stole into his room while he slept and the preist cured him. He arose in the morning, his fever broken, cheerfully informing us that he was better without the aid of magic healing.

Were our actions wrong?

I think not, on balance. And I say ‘balance’, but a balance very heavily weighted on our side. It is true that we violated his body against his wishes – taking advantage of his weakness to force on him magical healing to which he did not consent. This is particularly wrongful under the principles of his people, which seem to value individual decision more than most.

Neither can I plead “no harm done”. An act is right or wrong at the time it has done. What we did would be no more right or wrong had it turned out that Zoran – unknown to us – was under some kind of curse with ill effects should he receive magical curing.

When my comrades looked to me to see if I would be with them, however, I answered “a person does not have a right to make of themselves a threat to public health”. And there we have it. Remember: do right, and suffer not wrong to be done. Zoran ought not to have refused healing, not when what he suffered was ghoul fever, not in a town of hundreds, not when his disease showed no sign of abating. He ought either to have accepted the cure or – if his principles bound him so straitly – asked to be put outside the wall. The town would have been within its right to have slain him as a threat to quarantine, although it did not come to that.

As it was, we abated his wrongdoing in a way as caused least harm to all.

Finally: should he be punished for so threatening the town? At that point, I think it is safe to say that I would be exceeding my authority here (it seems I am a shire-reeve’s deputy, or some such) to take such upon myself. As far as I understand how these things are done here, I’d be inclined to let him off with a warning – although “next time you get so severely sick we’ll heal you again” is hardly a threat.

No, we did the right thing. I did the right thing. And if curing a sick comrade causes me this much anguish and introspection, I thing I should get over it. There’ll be worse to come.

With grateful thanks to Isaac Asimov, and his first law of robotics.

A little under the weather

7 December, 2013

Durak turned in his bed again. He was down in the basement of the church as he had asked, close to the stone, resting on the rock as fever raged through his body.

Well, not raged. Not yet, anyway. But dwarves are rarely ill and to tell the truth he was being a bit of a sook. But not without cause. Three or four ghouls had attacked him while he stood paralysed, only his will, his training, and his mystical bond with the earth keeping him conscious.

One of the wounds had become infected. Ghoul fever. Oh, he had a ways to go before death. The priest would certainly be able to cure him, but the priest could only manage one magical cure per day, and Durak was about fourth in the queue. Durak had treated his own wounds, replaced the dressings with his magical Vest of Surgery, but now was troubled with more than a little guilt. Zoran’s condition was about as bad as his own – he ought to have seen to his companion before himself.

So he lay in the church basement, close against the stone, sick as a dwarf is rarely sick in his life, determined to treat Zoran when the magic of his vest could be used again, and prayed to his god – as a paladin is wont to do.

Hamming it up maybe just a little.

“All father!”, he prayed, “Torag! I pray you – I beg you! Don’t let me die a ghoul!”

“Don’t let me die a ghoul!”

And Torag, as a DnD god is occasionally wont to do, answered. A presence assembled itself in the rock beneath Durak. An intelligence. A purpose. The stone … shifted, configured itself into a lump of rock and stones, shifted itself up from out of the floor. To those with an eye to see, a holy radiance came from it.

It spoke in the language of earth, and the language of the gods.

“I am sent for you, to be your companion”, it said. “You shall not die a ghoul. Rest. I shall guard.”

Durak’s mouth snapped shut. It is not unknown for Torag to answer prayers so directly, but still, you never expect it to happen to you. And he understood the implied threat/promise. It was, after all, what he had just been praying for. Be careful what you wish for, indeed.

“Wake me when the priest comes down to see me – I’ll need to explain you to him. Do you have a name?”. “Name?”, answered the elemental. “Never mind,” said Durak, “I imagine I’ll call you ‘Rocky’ when I need to. Wake me when the priest comes to see me.”

Rocky didn’t respond. Why would he it? Durak settled down to get some rest.

Yeah, we got ghoul fever. Big fight, some nasty moments. Durak would have gone down if not for the extra con that defensive stance gives – standing there paralysed, thinking “I am stone, I am stone, I am like totally immovable stone”. We should be ok. Hopefully. Zoran is a dex/mobility based fighter, and so is royally boned by paralysis.

Level 5, and Durak gets his celestial earth elemental companion – the stonelord’s substitute for the Paladin’s divine bond. And extra attacks, a ping to his stone strike, and various other goodies.

Coming along

30 November, 2013

Durak is coming along nicely. I hero-labbed him up to level 10, just to see. I’ll be taking Great Cleave and the improved surprise-cleave thingy. Enlarged and with a Bull’s Strength Durak will make a DM sad, which is the whole idea. He’ll take the remove fatigue mercy, which will take care of the main problem that a stalwart defender has. Next level he gets a small celestial earth elemental as a companion, and that dude will earn his living as a scout. A scout that can earth glide through solid stone. A sleepless sentry with tremorsense. With the runelord’s fondness for underground complexes, it could break some of the modules.

Sadly, although a paldin’s mount levels up as a druid’s companion, as I read the rules the stonelord “Stone Servant” class feature replaces the paladin “Divine Bond” and therefore the elemental does not get the additional fun that a druid’s animal companion gets. But there’s always bling. I wonder if an earth elemental can wear dwarven stone armour? Or if we could have it use Ioun Stones by swallowing them.

Andrew wrapped up Burnt Offerings and commenced on the Skinsaw Murders last night. There was a sanatorium.

It was interesting to see how a party of PCs can simply roll over regular humans without class levels. We ignored the mooks, taking the AAOs, and chased the bad guy and confronted the bigger bad guy basically without breaking sweat. Helped by the fact that we did not waste time on the mooks and did not give the main BG time to buff/summon. A necromancer without at least a few undead meatshields is in a bad situation.

Bevis is running a swashbuckler, which relies on panache points that you get from kill stealing. Need to be more careful to weaken dudes without killing them so Bevis can power up. Interestingly, Durak using cleave synergises well. By its mechanic, it spreads damage over foes rather than taking out one at a time. The swashbuckler’s combat reflexes and high dex were brutal against the human mooks.

Playing a paladin of any sort is always rife with moral dilemmas. I’m simplifying things by taking the attitude that given that a paladin’s Detect Evil detects supernatural evil, not simply evil alignment, Durak can without hesitation whack someone who detects. This necromancer is not simply a bad guy, he is someone who has opened a gateway to supernatural nastiness. It would be morally wrong to let him live, aka: for evil to thrive, all that needs happen is for good men to do nothing. His apprentice does not radiate badness – he’s redeemable. But the necromancer has made his choices, and he is going to die for it.

I need to re-think Durak’s role-playing flaw. The ‘afraid of water’ doesn’t cut it. Perhaps his black-and-white view of the world is his flaw.