Why Kobolds?

Last night’s game ran over time, but was great fun, mixing the freeform joys of a festival with a guest player who needed to recruit the DDC. As with last week, I’d drawn up a timetable for events to help keep us on track for the session and by and large it helped us clip along at a brisk pace all the way through.

Was a good session

Our guest character, Zorra, was a warlock from the University library, well known to Kerne. An aarakocra looking like a large humanoid owl in a smart suit, Zorra had been shut out of her home by an invasion of kobolds and needed the DDC’s help getting back in.

Home Alone style hijinks then started before the group managed to break in and fight off the small statured but persistent pack – while Valenia and her wolf fell through into a sub basement which looked to be where the kobolds had come from.

We did overrun, so the story will continue next week with our guest returning – but if you’d like to hear and see what happened then go to www.twitch.tv/princessleah1980 and you can catch up there.

Games Report

Last night’s game dipped into more pulp and espionage elements after the side trip taken the last couple of weeks. A long-bubbling subplot regarding a missing artificer and artificially produced narcotics came into focus with a bit of a bang.

The session started gently with the identification and sale of various treasures recently recovered. This allowed them to have a bit of a shopping spree to update some of their equipment, and so everyone’s mood was high.

The courtesan Belle, last met in the Undercroft on the arm of Lord Harm, arranged to meet Valenia at The Brazen Hydra, the tavern just down the street from the group’s home.

Valenia brought everyone along, so they were all there when Belle revealed herself to actually be Sobrein d’Phiarlan, an Agent of House Phiarlan who specialise in entertainment and information brokerage. The House was concerned about the potential damage the drug could cause and so wanted to help point the group in the right direction.

Before they could move somewhere private to discuss it further, an assassin launched a fireball from an alley across the street, and struck Sobrein down. Iron Ryan, who has become Kerne’s companion, stayed to stabilise the fallen Bard while the group raced in pursuit.

It wasn’t destined to be a long chase, as Caeluma and Kerne both discharged spells in response. Caeluma’s eldritch blast clipped the fleeing assassin, but Kerne’s spell melted him into little more than a pile of gloop, much to the alarm of bystanders and a local guard patrol. Sobrein suggested that he might have been an agent of House Thuranni, bitter rivals of her house in spycraft.

Eventually they were able to get Sobrein to their house and complete their discussions. She was able to describe a conflict between the lowlives of the Dhaask gangs and the extensively connected Boromar Clan in the city of Sharn. House Phiarlan was concerned that if either group was successful they would wreak havoc in different parts of society and so wanted it taken out of both their hands.

The clue that she could offer was that Lord Kemsler had been to a meeting with someone at Casino Tanja. If they could find out who it had been with they would find it easier to track where the artificer had gone.

And that’s where we left the session. It’s probably just a coincidence that House Phiarlan’s symbol is a hydra.

And We’re Back

Merry Christmas everyone, much food and drink has been consumed and a state of pleasant befuddlement has been enjoyed. All this despite the last minute lockdown.

We spaced out presents through the day, and enjoyed spoiling each other rotten in the unexpected quiet.

And then this evening we ran an online version of what I’d been planning as a tabletop one shot – or at least the beginning of one – in what I’ve started calling the one point five shot session.

It is a goblin themed one shot, set in a goblin village. We have:

  • Truxi the Bard played by Lady M
  • Angre the Wizard played by myr s
  • Dranverk the Barbarian played by the cub
  • Morrus the Monk played by Lady W
  • Meekface the Artificer played by Lady B

All the characters are goblins, and this has given license for a certain degree of silly voices in the stream and for some reason 80s and 90s-themed football references to the retired hero, now brewer, called Cann Tonna and his missing rival Red Knapp who disappeared while raiding the New Castle to the North.

If it weren’t for the lockdown we would get out more.

Oh, and a goblin scout was chased into the village and shot down by elves wearing the insignia of the Silver Flame before the goblin heroes could drive them off. In two days a force of these fanatics will raid the village. They will attempt to steal away the goblin children at the height of the Winter Festival.

Last Week But One Game Write-Up

I’m finally getting my brain back in gear, so last week’s Monday game is now up and in place as Week Seven of Wartorn Chapter Four

Assuming my brain continues to cooperate, I’ll get this week’s writeup done tomorrow, and hopefully include some more updates to other stuff along the way. Woo hoo.

Yuck – here comes the rain

There was definitely a nip in the air today – my face went from normal to “ohmygodIcan’tfeelmynose” within a couple of seconds as I left the flat – but at least it didn’t then start to drip when I got in to the warm library fifteen minutes later. It’s been a long day, with the last customer kicked out about seven in the evening, and then some more articles written when I got home.

Lady M has been out at a networking event this evening, so I’ve just been rattling around the flat – but I have at least also managed to write up Monday’s game. This was one of those flat out battle sessions that lasted pretty much the whole evening and gave everyone a chance to do something heroic.

Bleah – it’s late, I’m tired – I’ll write something witty later – be cool and excellent unto each other in the meantime.

A Few Site Changes

I’ve been getting some good feedback from my fellow Roll20 players about the write-ups, so I thought I’d make it easier for everyone to pick up the narratives without seeking through all the blog posts.

To that end there are now pages devoted to the various campaigns we’ve been playing over the last year, each session listed in order – and when I’ve finished, fully linked so you don’t have to use the drop-downs to follow the story. (The only reason I’ve not done it all yet for the Croomik campaign as of the time of writing is that it’s getting late and I’ve got both a job interview and a full day of work lined up for the morning)

Anyway, enjoy, catch you later.

Some useful resources for setting up Roll20 games

I’m still doing preparation work for the new D&D campaign, but that’s more because I’m doing it in a rather piecemeal fashion than from it being particularly difficult. I’ve got a lot of sourcebooks and rulebook on various shelves in the flat that I’ve accumulated over the years. If anything, the challenge has been to choose how to limit the material available to me, having decided to use the Eberron campaign setting.

This is partly down to my having gone on a bit of a mad spree for various reasons when the 3rd Edition came out in an Open format known as D20. Suddenly there were rulebooks for shows and settings to make everything compatible, should I desire to use them. I’ve actually stopped myself from seriously considering using D20 versions of Call of Cthulhu and Judge Dredd in this current campaign – something that will no doubt be a relief for my players to read here.

Adding to the challenge of running a 3/3.5(ish) campaign for the first time, it’s also the first time I’ll be running a game using Roll20. Unlike a traditional tabletop environment, I don’t have quite the luxury of winging things so much, especially when it comes to maps for encounters. In days of yore I would grab a scrap of paper or lengths of printed card, dice, books and anything else of approximate size to denote features of an encountered area – especially if the party had gone off on a tangent and I needed to distract them with a fight while I worked out the best way to steer them back on course.

With Roll20, this can seem like a bit more complicated, given that you have to assemble maps from tiles, and populate various layers with tokens for objects, characters and opponents, along with the GM layer of information, let alone setting up dynamic lighting and line of sight markers. The Roll20 site helps by performing searches for tokens and maps that have already been submitted, or that are hosted on sites like http://www.dundjinni.com/ or www.cartographersguild.com/ which can help immensely when you are first starting out, and offer software to help you along the way.

By way of an alternative though, I’ve just discovered Pyromancers.com, which has a free online floorplan creator that will, crucially, allow you to export your floorplans as a .jpg to your desktop so that you can upload them to Roll20 as a mapping layer. Any additional tokens or markers I want to add can then be slotted into place.It’s proving quick, simple and reliable – and did I mention free? – just what I need.

So far I’ve been focusing on creating the set piece maps – so when they’re done I’ll start assembling some template designs to allow me to rapidly piece together the more random encounters along the way. As my ultimate fall-back position, I’ll also be looking at how effective simply drawing on a blank template with my graphics tablet is if I need to do something rough and ready in real-time.

So, I’m getting there, as they say. In the meantime I’m using the forum features on the site to encourage the players to create their characters and do a bit of roleplay to introduce themselves. If nothing else I’m hoping it’ll give me a heads-up on their interactions and common themes before I dive straight in, and that’ll inspire some more encounters and plot twists.

Roll20: The Big Bang

And so, on with the fight we went, warriors trading blows with duegar and rogue dwarf lieutenants, troll shamen, goblin assassins and a small horde of fleeing minions. It was really all coming down to the wire this week. A wererat summoned by the mage wreaked havoc among the lesser minions and nearly made the cleric need to change his shorts; while the party’s kobold thief and master of poisons found himself evenly matched with the goblin assassin who seemed to be immune to pretty much every noxious substance thrown at him. (Well, he certainly made a series of excellent saves in quick succession).

The tide of the battle seemed to largely turn thanks to a successful casting of Hold Monster by the mage, which took enough of the lieutenants out of action for long enough for the party to rally, though the target was able to scurry out the way and take cover. We had a moment or two to pause and then the party’s old nemesis, the demon Ferrikus, reappeared. This time he possessed the kobold (“yes, it’s true, I’ve always wanted to be a dragon”), and prioritised the paladin of our group for some percussive maintenance.

In the meantime, our dwarven target was trying to negotiate for his life and freedom, claiming to be able to call off the demon and to be able to pay the group off with a million gold coins – his payment for betraying the country to the orcish invasion. In almost the same moment, the doughty warriors of the party defeated the demon and demanded the dwarf’s surrender. Despite some last minute attempts at evasion, he was quickly tracked and cornered in his vault, a successful capture and one less traitor running around.

Our next target? A goblin poisoner, currently believed to be in hiding in the Thieves Guild back at the capital city. Plans to draw him out of hiding are now being hatched…

Roll20 – A Quick Spelljam before the finale

This week’s session was odd in as much as it was partly wrapping things up from the last session and the unexpectedly quick defeat of the Big Bad and led into a glorious new chapter in the rolling campaign.

I’m still setting up the campaign to come, and while I have the major set pieces plotted now, I’ve still got to get to grips with uploading maps, setting tokens and teaching myself the more arcane aspects of the interface like managing the fog of war, so I was grateful that we were able to roll on, so to speak, from where we’d left off – I had a real fear that I might suddenly be catapulted into the driving seat with so much left to set up.

Of course it didn’t help that we had a few communication issues getting set up this week – with the Hangout invites being sent from the wrong account (our GM’s girlfriend had left her Google account logged in, leading to a slight bemusement about where the unexpected Hangout invite was coming from) – and then my not being able to see the renewed Hangout led to my missing about five to ten minutes of the session itself. This led to the first words I heard from the group being: “Hi, take thirty one points of damage!”

Spelljammer Motivational - Dungeons and Dragons meets Starwars: Porn for Nerds
Snarky? Well just a little, but horribly accurate

Cue one grumpy mage pointing out the various protections that made this unlikely or at least reduced (layers of defence that included a ring of spell turning, a staff of the magi with spell absorption capacity and a shield spell still active from the previous session. Not wanting to spend the entire session in a huff, I then made an active effort to lighten my own mood and stop being precious so we could get on with the show.

The show in question was the journey of our group back home by means of a spelljammer spaceship – just go with it – that allowed us to travel from the Big Bad’s pocket dimension back to our homeworld. This effectively translated into a number of encounters during the voyage’s duration with a number of strange entities that included metallic flying space monkeys and an enormous snake about the size of our boat. This latter beastie was seen off by our previously departed and now draconic wizard, dropping in for a cameo appearance.

On arrival back home, the ship was confiscated by the dragon and we were free to pick the next target of our campaign. We chose to hunt down a dwarven collaborator who had been responsible for betraying the nation’s defences in the initial invasion. If this sounds a little brief then that’s a fair description of the session up to that point. Our GM had had to rapidly rework the entire endgame for his campaign with only a week’s notice, so if it was lacking in pace and detail it was entirely forgiveable. I don’t think we were quite expecting that the campaign was going to continue when we got started that evening – and I certainly fielded a few whispered conversations with players about options and preferences for the new campaign so that they could get started with character creation.

This has led us to an isolated fortification that appeared to have been hastily repaired and enhanced – so with all due caution we started to scout the area to see what we were walking into. Perhaps scarred by our encounter with the minotaur demigod we overdosed on caution, so before long the thief was invisibly scouting the walls and my wizard was invisibly flying overhead – becoming aware of a virtual army waiting for us that was milling around doing… something…

In the grand tradition of our group of dysfunctional mavericks we then began our assault, going on a basis of “well we might as well start somewhere and adapt to what they can throw at us.” A passwall opened a hole in the outer walls for the fighters to storm the breach, stealth kills of troublesome-looking spellcasters were performed under cover of – well not much really – and some strategic area effect destruction was unleashed on the nearest low level troops to clear the breach.

Then the counter attack began. Giants, some of them spell wielding, and surprisingly tough ground troops began to press back and we realised that we had done a rather clever impression of kicking a termite mound with bare feet. Summoned creatures started popping up on both sides, and our fighters began retreating back to the breach to give themselves some more easily defensible terrain.

We ended the session with the fight well and truly hanging in the balance – so let’s see where Monday takes us…

Why do I play Dungeons and Dragons?

So as you may have been reading in the last few months I’ve been engaged in rediscovering the joys of Dungeons and Dragons, using Roll20 to overcome issues of distance and scheduling with other players. I’d played Dungeons and Dragons in its many forms right from the publication of Basic Dungeons and Dragons and had just started buying the third edition rules when circumstances led to it being impractical for the group I was in at the time to continue.

I still bought third edition rule books and material because I loved the way the D20 system fitted together, but being a new parent and having a stressful job I never got a chance to do anything with them. I then heard such horrible reactions to the fourth edition from friends and acquaintances that I never even gave it a chance, and I wasn’t at all sure to make of the concept of Pathfinder or wanted to have to buy yet another series of core books that seemed to be practically identical.

As for how I started playing, well I was actually introduced to it by my father, who ran a session for my family one evening using the simple adventure included in the back of the rules. (I played a wizard and I got eaten by a giant spider). I remember being swept up in the event, and pestering my dad to do more. Being a busy vicar, it didn’t happen – and I suspect a slightly lukewarm reaction from the other players may have contributed to it too.

Nonetheless, having been inspired by Tolkein and a rapidly expanding library of fantasy and science fiction I kept nagging as only young boys can, and he allowed me to borrow the boxed set. I never looked back. I introduced friends at school to it, and my brothers as they grew a little older, and soon there was a cluster of us who played Dungeons and Dragons, Traveller, Star Wars, Marvel Superheroes and indeed pretty much anything we could get our hands on. This was no small feat in the late seventies and early eighties in the UK.

Indeed, I only got introduced to Advanced Dungeons and Dragons when I went away to boarding school and met people who had been able to secure copies from the States. These precious rulebooks were passed around, and practically hand copied at times as they fell apart. New printings were avidly hoarded and became objects of desire among us. Attaching myself to the Wargames Society at school introduced me to painting figurines. The historical battle recreations were soon supplanted by the fantasy games, and vast epic and interlinked campaigns soon came to dominate the five years I was away.

Gaming with friends and my brothers became a shared glue binding us together with in-jokes and references that still raise smiles twenty years later. Life may have thrown me curve balls in the form of work, family, depression and divorce, but it never suppressed that love of stories and fantasy in me. My brothers all went on to become LARPers, and some of them are still involved in the running and playing of the Aftermath LARP. They keep asking me to come along and join them, but the timing or money has never quite been right to draw me along. Yet.

So the last few months exploration of technology as a way of getting the old gang and some new faces together has been a great joy. Having a wife more than happy to let me disappear into a virtual space every week as a lad’s night is a huge boon. Indeed most of us have families now, so having the ability to step aside from the web cams for a few moments to look after children, or sort out household problems is a lifesaver. That and it’s cheap – no petrol money needed or the stress of being somewhere if the traffic is awkward.

It’s reinvigorated my inner child, given my geekery an infusion of enthusiasm, encouraged me to keep writing and most importantly for the purposes of this blog post has led to me stepping up and agreeing to run sessions again.

So I’m teaching myself the GM side of Roll20 and will post about that here too – and am putting something together loosely based on the Eberron setting so that I can finally use those third edition rulebooks I bought all those years ago. So far I’m resisting mixing it with the D20 Call of Cthulhu rules, or even the D20 Judge Dredd rules.

Oh the fun we’re going to have…