Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tyranny of Dragons Minis

For my birthday I received an Amazon gift card.  I bought a booster box of the new Tyranny of Dragons minis from Wiz-Kids.  I also purchased the first module of the new Pathfinder Iron Gods Adventure Path titled "Fires of Creation".  The premise of the adventure path is the introduction of technological items into the Pathfinder world of Golarion.  A massive starship crashed in the barbaric land of Numeria some time in the distant past and it has altered that land in strange ways due to radiation, leaked chemicals and rogue robots and androids.  This really hits my Gamma World buttons and I love it.  Because it is set in a land of barbarian tribes and warlords, it's really screams Thundarr the Barbarian to me.  You can even see some influences from the old TSR module "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks".

But anyway, back to the minis.  I received the minis today and opened the box.  I received a Huge Stone Giant, a Human Paladin (which I am going to get good use out of since I am playing one in a Rise of the Runelords game), a Wood Elf Druid and a small Mane Demon.  These minis look good and my only gripe is that you can't read the label that identifies the mini on the underside of the base.  Only the Huge mini is readable because for some reason Wiz Kids put the label in white ink, but didn't do so for the other minis.  Very strange.  At least the Pathfinder Battles minis are consistent that all of the labels are readable in white lettering.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Thinking About D&D 5th Edition

So, I downloaded the free PDF of the D&D Basic Rules for 5E and read through it.  I was skeptical about this new version of D&D and I did not participate or read about any of the play-testing, so I was curious about how it all turned out.  I like what I see, especially that combat has been stripped down and using a grid is optional.

One of my gripes about Pathfinder is the tactical miniatures play and how long it takes to get through a combat encounter.  Things really slow down because players spend so much time optimizing their position on the board for the best combat advantage and reducing their risk (I'm looking at you Attacks of Oppurtunity!).  It's almost like playing chess sometimes and I don't like my role-playing games devolving into a board game.  But given that the combat section discusses movement and some class abilities trigger when allies or enemies are withing 5 feet of you, I wonder if the game can truly be played gridless?

A lot of people out there in the blog-o-verse are playing 5E and the general consensus is that they are liking the game and it is fun to play.  Sure, it has its faults, but I think those are easily remedied with house-rules.  I'm enjoying reading other people's play-reports to see how the game runs.

A friend of mine let me borrow copy of the new Players Handbook to read.  There looks like some good stuff in it.  I'm not sure about the Feats.  If I were to run a game, I would want to keep it as simple and fast to play as possible.  Once you start introducing more options, it can start to drag things down.  Those fighter archetypes of Eldritch Knight and Battle Master (4E's Warlord) I was disappointed by.  You would think that Wizards could have come up with better archetypes for the fighter instead of using it for a vehicle to shoe-horn in previous edition Prestige Classes and Classes as a sub-class.  Some of the other classes suffer from this as well, such as the Rogue's Arcane Trickster archetype.  I never really liked the Warlock class.  Why introduce yet another arcane spell-using class?  What, the Wizard is no longer viable anymore? 

Frankly, I think sticking with the Basic Rules and using the Backgrounds to flesh out the character is good enough than adding more classes.  Want to play a Ranger?  Pick a Fighter and take the Outsider Background.  Play a Bard?  Pick the Rogue and the Entertainer background. Done and Done.

I may post more thoughts on 5E in another post. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

[NSFW] Now This is an Abberation

In the famous words of Jack Burton:  "What the HELL is That?!  Don't TELL Me!"

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Kickstarter Rewards Rolling In

I've received a few rewards from some of the Kickstarters I backed very recently.

Firstly, I received the Through the Breach RPG books based on the Malifaux minis game from Wyrd Miniatures.  I got the Fated Almanac which is the players book, the Fatemasters Almanac which is the referee's book, the Fatemasters Kit which is a DM Screen and a ton of character record sheets, a Fate Deck for the game and several minis which I would have to assemble.  I don't really care much for the miniatures, so I'm going to have to figure out what to do with them.

I also received the Primeval Thule Campaign Setting PDF from Sasquatch Game Studios.  It's a sword & sorcery setting for use with either Pathfinder, 13th Age or 4E.  I was reading the PDF today and there is a lot of good ideas for adventures.  The map of Thule is awesome and I'm digging the place names and NPC names as it is appropriate for the setting.  I'll probably use some of the material for my Pathfinder World of Xhuul campaign.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

First Game of Pathfinder in the World of Xhuul

Yesterday, I GM'd the first game of Pathfinder set in the World of Xhuul, my home-brew campaign setting.  The campaign is centered around the City-State of Throxia ,which I am borrowing from Scott of the now defunct Huge Ruined Pile blog.  For this campaign, I am using the Emerald Spire mega-dungeon from Paizo, but adapting it for my campaign world.

The party consists of a Human Fighter named Malik, a Human Cleric named Arkon, a Dwarf Rogue named Brogan and a Gnome Sorcerer named Kord.  They started the adventure in Throxia at a local tavern named The Headless Harlot where many adventurers and fortune-seekers hang out.  Word going around was that a wizard of the Order of Saiboth (the major wizard's guild in Throxia) was seeking adventurers for a job.  Kord, the gnome sorcerer approached the wizard that was sitting in the corner table at the back of the tavern and introduced himself and inquired about the job.  The wizard, Ilaria Storen told him that she wanted a party to find and rescue two missing wizards named Tiawask and Jharun of the Order who went to the ruins of The Emerald Spire several weeks ago to research magic portals.  They have not returned.  She is willing to pay a sizable reward of 2,000gp for each wizard rescued.  She explained that the Emerald Spire is a local dungeon outside the walls of Throxia in the area of ruins beyond known as the Badlands.  The party assembled, purchased some last-minute gear and headed out the following morning into the Badlands towards the Emerald Spire.  The trip to the ruins is a short hour and a half hike through the ruins, and rubble piles of the ancient city, which appears to had been primarily destroyed when the structure of the great geodesic dome collapsed in the distant past.  Some areas have been overgrown with vegetation, and some areas are open clearings.  The Badlands are the domain of bandits and dangerous monsters that lurk and hunt among the ruins.

The party did not encounter any wandering monsters and when they reach the location of the Emerald Spire, they were told by Ilaria that it was situated past a small clump of jungle that ringed the Spire, which itself sat in the middle of a 500 yard clearing in the middle.  The party searched the area for any signs of a camp possibly made by the wizards, but given the fact that several weeks had gone by and the fact that the steamy jungles that surround the outer perimeter of the Badlands cause daily rain showers that last several hours, would have eliminated any tracks.  With that, the party approach the ruins of the Emerald Spire and make their way up a worn trail that winds its way of an escarpment of rubble to a rough sized hole in the green glass-like walls of the structure.  Arkon casts light spells on himself, Malik and Kord.  Brogan, being a dwarf has darkvision and did not need such magical aid.  Entering the structure, one thing became clear, some magic effect absorbed the light so that the light of the spells only produced normal light in a 5-foot radius.  Beyond this radius, it was darkness, so that Kord's low-light vision was useless.  Brogan was unaffected and could see perfectly in the dark.

In the module, the first level of the dungeon is written to be inhabited by Goblins, Goblin dogs and a Bugbear leader.  In my campaign world, I decided I didn't want most of the standard humanoid monster races, so Orcs, Goblins, Hobgoblins and Bugbears don't exist.  I replaced the monsters on the first level with Kobolds instead and tweaked the encounters.  Needless to say, the first encounter with 4 Kobolds with 1 level in Ranger made it a CR 3 encounter and the party had a challenging time.  There were two things that made the encounter tougher.  The first level has a magic effect that absorbs light, so any light source only radiates light in a 5-foot radius.  Beyond this 5-foot zone, it is normal darkness, so even a race that has low-light vision would not benefit from it.  Another thing was the floors are littered with rubble and half-melted chunks of a greenish glass-like material, making it difficult terrain.  The Kobolds are not affected by it, so this slowed the party down, but gave the Kobolds better tactical advantage to run around firing their short-bows.  Things looked grim as there were some crappy attack rolls on the party's behalf and my rolls were scoring some decent hits, but small-sized shortbows being what they are, the damage was low.  The favored enemy of the Kobold Rangers were Human and since Arkon and Malik are human, they took more damage when they were attacked.  Kord the gnome helped make things a little easier by the smart use of a Dancing Lights spell which enabled him to light up a larger area with four dancing lights, using them to overlap their 5-foot radius light to make it easier to spot the Kobolds who kept retreating out of the light radius from those who had the Light spells cast on them by Arkon.

During the encounter, the Kobolds made it a habit to fall back out of the area of light as the party moved to engage them, thereby gaining advantage of not being seen and leading the party further into the ruins.  The Kobolds were trying to lure the party into a trap, but were not able to trigger it as they were eventually killed.  The party did discover that the room that one of the Kobolds retreated to had a pull-rope anchored to a wall and that on the following round if it was still alive would have pulled on it, which would have dropped a large pile of rocks in a 10 foot area, most likely burying them.  In the same room they found a concealed tunnel covered over by a sheet of canvas painted green to blend into the green color of the glass-like walls.  It was a narrow, 4-foot tall tunnel.  Brogan decided he would scout it, but took the precaution of tying a rope around his waist and had the party hold one end.  He stated he would tug the rope which would be the signal for them to pull on it together in case something bad happened, so they could pull him out.

Brogan followed the tunnel for about 40 feet before it ended in a sheet of green-painted canvas.  He could tell there was a chamber beyond and decided to listen for any noises.  He could hear breathing and he slowly lifted part of the canvas to peek into the room where he saw 2 Kobold guards sitting at a small table with four chairs.  He then decided to go back to tell the others, but his Stealth check wasn't good enough against Kobold's Perception, which I gave a penalty to as they were not expecting any trouble.  This prompted them to investigate and move aside the canvas sheet that covered the hole only to see Brogan moving away and they attacked, firing at him with their shoet-bows.  These were much weaker Kobolds, but the players had no idea of that.  Brogan pulled on the rope and the party began assisting in pulling him back.  The Kobolds entered the tunnel, giving chase and continuing to fire at Brogan.  Managing to exit the tunnel where he had entered back into the room where the party was, Brogan ran towards the back of the party.  The Kobolds rounded the corner in the tunnel, seeing the party and began to fire into the room with their bows.  It was a short battle and the party learned these Kobolds seemed much weaker.  These were Kobolds with only 1 level of Warrior, so they only had 5 HP, whereas the Kobold Rangers had 15 HP and better AC.

We ended the game there as time ran out since one of the players had to leave.  The party had taken a beating and they were low on spells, so they decided to camp in the dungeon by barricading themselves in a guard room in a tower the Kobold Rangers they killed were stationed.  This is a terrible idea.   Their best bet is to go back to Throxia since it is only an hour and a half trek back and this is an active Kobold lair.  The odds of them being interrupted during their rest is going to be very high.  As for loot, they have only so far found a Potion of Cure Moderate Wounds and mostly just the gear, weapons and armor the Kobolds carried.

This campaign world is low-magic, so there really isn't a magic item economy.  The knowledge of creating magic weapons, armor, wands, wondrous items etc., has been lost.  The only magic that can be made and purchased as potions and scrolls.  This will make any magic items they find rare and precious commodities.  Also, there is no Raise Dead or Ressurection magic.  There are the Genesis Vats where you could be regrown, but that can have some strange and unwanted side effects.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Another Oracle Plot

I'm having fun thinking up adventure seeds using the randomly-generated results from online Oracles.  This one I'm definitely going to use in the City State of Throxia when I run my Pathfinder game.  I may polish it up some more, but figured I'd share it to give readers some ideas to adapt it to their own games.

Sahdina, the 7th Favored Concubine of the Immortal Omnithrox has been having romantic liaisons with Kinziru Yash, Captain of the Citadel Guard. She has recently revealed to him that she is pregnant with his child since the Immortal Omnithrox has not lain with her for a long time (hence the affair.) Kinziru, fearful of the consequences, has decided to arrange an unfortunate “accident” for Sahdina. He has discretely arranged for Mukan Kala, a Sargent of the Citadel Guard, who is a ruthless bully and is ambitious to kill her.

Sahdina has gotten the sense that Kinziru was not entirely pleased with the news and she has decided to seek out an apothecary in the Great Bazaar to purchase a potion to terminate the pregnancy. While going to the Bazaar, she realizes that she is being stalked, panicking she runs. The person chasing her is Mukan and several thugs he has hired to help finish the job quickly.

PC Hook: Sahdina runs into (literally) the party, obviously shaken and looking behind her. She apologizes and continues to run. The party, if they wish can try to see what she is running from and will see the men working their way through the crowd towards them and Sahdina. If the PCs decide to intervene, a fight will break out between them and Mukan and his men. Mukan will try to escape if the battle goes badly, but if he takes enough damage, have his ring-finger be sliced off during the fight. In the aftermath of the battle, a signature ring of the Citadel Guard will be found, still on his severed finger. If the ring is closely examined, a small compartment will be revealed that contains a crystal lenses-like object. If held up to the light, it will project a map of catacombs apparently beneath the Citadel. This shows the location of the fabled Aslanyan Blade, a sword held in great esteem by the Band of Iron, a secret warrior order within the Citadel Guard. The order reveres the blade as a religious relic and their zealotry to protecting it is legendary. The Band of Iron is outlawed.

Complications: A hungry rat snatches the finger and runs into a nearby sewer access. The PC's will see the glint of metal from the ring with looks valuable... A chase may ensue into the sewers to get the ring.

If Mukan escapes, he will plot revenge against the PC's for maiming him and for his humiliating defeat.

Mukan may later be found dead (if his second attempt to kill them fails) when Kinziru discovers that he failed to kill Sahdina and has complicated matters by involving the PCs.

A Concubine of the Immortal Omnithrox doesn't go unnoticed for long within the Citadel, so after a few hours, patrols of Citadel Guards will begin searches and making inquiries. If the PCs have Sahdina, this can go against them if the Guard see them as a threat to her. Sahdina will not reveal who she truly is for as long as possible. She wants to keep her secret of her pregnancy from anyone in the Citadel, as that would mean severe punishment for her and the death of Kinziru. She will try to get the PCs to get her to an apothecary to complete her mission.

The potion that Sahdina purchases from the apothecary is more potent than it should be and not only does it kill the unborn child but induces an unstoppable bleeding and Sahdina does as well. Just in time for the Citadel Guard to come crashing through the door of the shop, following their leads.

Notes: These complications are suggestions to throw set-backs into the story to create drama and tension. I'm not advocating Sahdina's actions as any kind of social or political statement. This is a sword-and-sorcery inspired setting and these are gritty and grim tales.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Pathfinder Xhuul

So, I have about 2 months before my Pathfinder campaign launches for our group.  I have decided to set the game in my world of Xhuul, though albeit a much modified version of it.  I'm working on a new map and I am going to use (steal) the campaign set-piece starting city-state of Throxia from the World of Thool by Scott (formerly of the now defunct Huge Ruined Pile blog).  Scott wrote some really cool stuff for his setting and I was bummed when he abandoned that project many years ago.  It just oozed with flavor and was always an enjoyable read.

Whereas Scott's Thool setting was set in a black desert landscape, my setting is a mixed bag, but mostly jungles and swamp.  The setting can best be described as Dark Sun meets Tarzan meets H.P. Lovecraft, but it has all the races from Pathfinder.  I'm going for a Sword and Sorcery vibe.  It's going to be low-magic in terms of magic items (except for potions and scrolls which will be more common).  And so there will be no Item Creation feats (besides Brew Potion and Scribe Scroll), as the knowledge to make magic items has been lost.  This is a post-apocalyptic world that has rebuilt it's civilization, though albeit a more primitive one than what came before.

As far as rules and house-rules, we are using 20-pt buy on ability scores, races and classes from the Core Rulebook only.  Archetypes and Traits from the Advanced Players Guide and Spells from Core Rulebook, Advanced Players Guide, Ultimate Magic and Ultimate Combat.

To help spur some ideas for plot seeds, I used this Oracle to create the following.  Not sure if I will use these at the start of the game, as I would like to run a dungeon adventure or two first.  I may use these at a later point in the campaign.  But for now it was a creative exercise to get ideas flowing. 

Plot 1:
Sovris-Dhorn a conjurer of the Order of Saiboth has summoned the Naga, Szallah to perform a service for the wizard. The Naga has only agreed to perform the service if the Sorvis makes a blood sacrifice of one of his Order's initiates. This would violate the Order's rules of non-aggression between wizards within the Order. Sovris-Dhorn has chosen a student, the wizardess Mara Nevoon, who has recently passed her initiation into the Order, but is largely unrecognized.. This is due to the widely held belief that they suspect she cheated in her exams and tests, but have no proof. This situation presents the opportunity for Sovris-Dhorn needs to fulfill Szallah's demand. 

The death of Mara by his hand would most likely not have any consequences for him.As such,  Sovris-Dhorn has planted information which is now in Mara's possession that an old fortress, guarding a mountain pass in the Zhaugo Mountains to the north holds magical knowledge that could improve her standing in the Order. Sovris-Dhorn and Szallah will be waiting for her when she arrives.

PC Hook: Mara hires the PCs as guards and escorts for the journey to Fortress Dzan. She will be jealous of any arcane spell-casters in the party and will not reveal her true motivations for going to the Fortress as she does not want to share the magical knowledge contained there with any of them. She tells them that the old Fortress is an ancestral holding of her family's and she intends to establish it as her new sanctum.

Complications: Mara actually did cheat in her magical studies, by contacting the Naga Szallah. When she learned all she needed from her, she broke her deal with the Naga and refused to pay her and dimissed her back to her plane. Szallah has been fuming ever since. When Sovris-Dhorn conjured her for a service, it was by simple fortune and she intends to collect on the debt from Mara with her life.

The fortress has long since been abandoned, as the pass was blocked by an avalanche caused by an earthquake many years ago. The fortress was built to protect the holdings of the City State of Thalan from northern barbarians that occasionally raided through the pass. The fortress is now haunted by ghosts of soldiers who died defending the pass. They long for their remains to be properly buried among their family back in Thalan.  They will not allow anyone to take anything from the Fortress without them attacking.

Plot 2:
Sabir Vakroon a young warrior and faithful to the god Nergal, has joined the cult's warrior-elite known as the Black Lions. He has been visited by the ghost of his father, Jalaan, to seek revenge against his older sister Nessa who had strangled him in his sleep and therefore inherited the family fortune. Jalaan had long suspected that his daughter had ambitions and made arrangements to have his then-pregnant wife who was carrying Sabir in her womb to be secretly taken to another city. When Sabir finally grew up to be strong, Jalaan pleaded with the god Nergal to have his revenge. The price was to have his son join the order of the Black Lions to fight in the name of Nergal.

Nessa has become a scheming and shrewd woman in her years, securing her position by arranging ties to several merchant families in Throxia. She is hosting emissaries from far distant land of N'kai in the hopes of securing a trade deal between the merchants of Throxia and the powerful N'kai merchant cartel of Li-Han. Several guests from the various local merchant houses are present during the event. The head of the N'kai delegation, Sung Li-Han has brought several samples of their popular ware:, silks, spices, jade and polished teak hardwoods to display.

Unbeknownst to all, a creature known as a Black Wisp, native to N'kai stowed away in one of the containers and has been roaming the estate, killing servants in secret to feed. The Black Wisp drains the life energy from its victims and devours magic and is highly resistant to spells.

PC Hooks: The PCs could be guards hired by Nessa to patrol the estate grounds outside. They could also be hired by some of the local merchant families present as body-guards. They could discover one of the dead servants, thereby alerting them of potential danger. Soon, the PCs discover the Black Wisp and while engaged with the creature, Sabir who has used this night to strike against his sister uses the distraction to enter the estate.

Complications: The death of Nessa or any of the Li-Han delegates or local merchant family members while under the protection of the PCs can invoke the wrath of powerful merchant interests in Throxia. Killing Sabir will gain the PCs rewards but at the expense of gaining enemies of the Church of Nergal and the Black Lions.