Thursday, February 28, 2013

Harlem Shake

It's been awhile but here's an amusing basilisk hack scenario for Eclipse Phase.  Firewall has the PCs investigate a bizarre series of incidents where everyone is found dead.  Security footage initially shows everyone acting normally but one person.  After about 15 seconds the footage flash cuts to everyone acting crazy (similar to the initial person).  The footage slows and then ends.  Cut to the present where all who were dancing are dead.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Castle Whiterock Playthrough

Finally finished Castle Whiterock this Friday.  Completing it felt pretty epic and I thought I'd write out some thoughts and observations on it now that I am done.  Spoilers will abound here so if you don't want to know probably should stop read right about now.

Some background: this was a two player game.  I ran the entire party and my wife DMed.  We used Pathfinder rules although if stats were provided by the books those were used.  XP was initially gained using the fast track in the Pathfinder core.  Later this was modified (around level 9 or 10) as the party was starting to outpace the encounters.  At that point CR for encounters was calculated as CR -2.  This seemed to balanced things out a bit.  Additionally the party was allowed to sell anything back for full value so they were probably rather better equipped then their "default" counterparts.  Psionics were allowed and initially handled as entirely separate from magic but later a few tweaks were added.  One creatures immune to magic were immune to psionics and anti-magic fields suppressed psionics as well.  (Null psionics fields in turn suppressed magic.)

Initial party starting out at 1st level were a Half-Giant Fighter, Dwarven Druid, Gnome Rogue, Blue (psionic goblin) Psion, Half-Orc Paladin, and Human Ranger.  The Dwarven Druid died on the 3rd level and was replaced by a Dwavern Cleric.  Due to the fact that the party was all run by me I had no problems with party members acting purely in support roles or withdrawing from fights they were ill-equipped to handle.

Overall feeling on the campaign as a whole: pure awesome.  In general the early levels were probably the most enjoyable.  This was probably due to the fact that they felt quite challenging although this may have partly been due to the lack of a strong healer.  Paladin/druid just don't match up to clerics for healing!  Least favorite levels probably were the later levels of the duergar fortress.  This was due to the fact the encounters tended to be one way pushovers where all the defenders would be dropped in the first round.  It's fun to be able to blow away the opponents once in awhile but do this for 3 levels and everyone just wants something fresh and new.  Unfortunately for the DM the scaling information just added more enemies who died just as quickly.  Kinectist psion == mass destruction.  This was the point where we realized that the party was rather massively overpowered for the scenario as written.  See above for the adjustments made to try and balance this out.

Scariest monster prize goes to the destrachans!   Pathfinder really toned down these beasts from D&D 3.5.  A fair amount of disagreement was had over which edition of the monster to use was had and several pieces of equipment were lost.  In my view at higher levels these kind of monsters can problematic unless the party is very careful or lucky enough to have some who can cast "Silence" a lot! In the end we learned to have the rogue (who did carry anything shatterable) ahead to check for these metal breakers.  Previously I would not have thought much of them but Whiterock has given me a new appreciation on them.

I greatly enjoyed that there were non-hostile NPCs scattered throughout that we could interact and ally with or save.  The party would generally go out of its way to help all sorts of creatures despite the extra trouble it might cause them.  The moral conundrum of what to do when encountering oppressed evil creatures came up several times making for some memorable roleplaying moments.

In the end the party opted to have a couple of the NPCs negotiate with the local king to gain them the deed for Whiterock and intend to use it as their new base of operations.  Sadly as far as I'm aware there are no Dungeon Crawl Classics for level 15+.

Final thoughts: had a blast!  This was totally worth it.  I'm sad it ends at 15 but look forward (after my DM gets a break) to letting the party develop Castle Whiterock into their own!

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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Thoughts on specific products

Warning shameless plug incoming!
Curious about my thoughts on different gaming books I'm reading?  Head over to The Oxford Reviews where I slowly review the huge library of material I've picked up over the years.

End shameless plug.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Fae War (nWoD super scenario?)

Reading about fetches in Changeling: The Lost gave me an interesting idea for a massive scenario for the new World of Darkness. The basic scenario is that the Fae start abducting a massive amount of people, many orders of magnitude greater then previous abductions. The reason for this is up to the storyteller, it may be unknown or Changelings may bring back the news. Whatever the reason is presents a truly epic problem for humanity: within a century all of them will be slaves in Arcadia.

The Fae are playing this very smart though. They have started making fetches who are actively in on the scheme. They cover up the abductions through whatever means their daily lives allow. With a massive increase in fetches the Fae soon have their hands in politics, the police, the press, Hollywood, the church, and just about any other influential organization. The general public will remain in the dark until it's far too late.

Supernaturals on the other hands will become aware of it. Changelings know all too well since they are escapees from that very prison. In fact the number of Changelings may likely surge a huge amount as the number of humans in Arcadia balloons. (Or they might not if the Fae have a need for humans other then as servants.) Either way Changelings are the first to sound the alarm. It's likely it will take Changeling society a long time to organize themselves and that presents many stories in and of itself.

It's possible, even likely, during this time that other supernaturals will encounter fetches. A lot of them won't know what to make of these odd soulless constructs. Reaction will be on a local scale as each type deals with the fetches in their own way. Encounters will inevitably become more common though and soon the local supernatural communities might do some serious investigation. It's until they probably get in contact with Changelings that the full scope comes together.

At the same time as supernatural entities begin encountering the problem some hunter groups may encounter fetches. It's likely that they will just find their initial fetches as another hidden monster lurking among men. There's not much left over to dissect or examine so some of the more research/sample mind conspiracies and compacts don't have much to go on. Many of them may encounter resistance from various parts of their organization that have quietly been compromised with fetches eager to bury the evidence of their dead fellows.

At this point Changeling society has now roughly unified in an attempt to deal with the threat to their, and everyone else's, existence. They already made some tentative alliances with other supernaturals and now as those groups become aware of the problem they begin to attempt to unify themselves as well. At some point hunter conspiracies get pulled into the fray. Things are not harmonious. All of these groups have their own antagonists and these have not gone way. Additionally all of them are fractious and wary making a stable alliance amongst each other a challenge much less with creatures that are huge unknowns to them. The going is slow with many setbacks and dustups.

The Fae soon hear of this attempt at a grand alliance and take steps to deal with it both through the subtle lens of human society (though they are unwilling to pull the wool over human eyes as a whole lest they are seen in the unveiling as well) and by influencing various supernaturals of their own. They work to subvert or co-op many of the existing enemies over to their side. Soon their enemies are being provided with either overt or subtle assistance furthering sowing the seeds of discord and confusion. The Fae keep working at subversion of these groups eventually taking outright control of several conspiracies and compacts, nominal control of VII, and striking cautious alliance with the Seers of the Throne. The Pure remain wary of the Fae but many packs are pragmatic enough to take some limited assistance if it will help them to finally crush their hated Forsaken brethren. Similarly Belial's Brood's vampires will gladly use information to cause additional mayhem and destruction but they lack the overall organizational structure to be completely subverted. Banishers may be pointed to obstinate mages the same way a hunter unleashes hounds.

Tactics vary. Up to this point the Changelings have been playing a delaying game. They lack the numbers and strength to do much more then police limited areas. Given past attempts to invade Arcadia but some of the more zealous they are also wary of an all out invasion.

With a vast array of supernatural beings aligned for the first, and likely only, time the variety of stories is huge. Researching why the Fae are abducting mass amounts of humans, uncovering fetches who've infiltrated key human establishments, leading scouting missions into the Hedge, diplomatic missions to keep the tenuous alliance together, bug hunts against Fae & their servants in the world, raids into the enemy camp, and strikes against their servants and allies in the world are just some of the missions that crop up for a group.

Some connections to pull different types:
Vampires discover fetches when they try to feed on one. Naturally it doesn't work. Worse some of their minions are being replaced. The Masquerade will soon almost certainly be breached by the fetches leaving them vulnerable.

Werewolves discover people who are being ridden very easily by spirits. Or are they trapping spirits and then using them for their own means. Investigation leads to the discovery that they aren't people at all.

Mages run into these odd soulless creatures and investigate. There seem to be a lot of them. What are they and where are they coming from?

At first Prometheans might mistake a fetch as a kindred spirit if they realize their construction but it's quickly obvious they work by different rules. They already act as if they are human and in fact are treated as such by people. Can Prometheans follow this path. When they later realize the true nature of fetches the truth will be the most horrifying to a Prometheans: their entire existence trying to become a human only to have that snatched away!

Changelings are self-explanatory. Like it or not they are the frontline of this war long before anyone else is aware what's going.

Hunters may discover fetches only to realize very quickly that they are everywhere in human society including their own organizations!

Sin-Eaters may learn about the issue in an odd way. The Fae stealing massive numbers of people may disrupt souls in a very specific way. Souls of people who in Arcadia are unlikely to be able to reach the Underworld due to the nature of the Hedge, Sin-Eaters may be enlisted in rescue missions to bring souls back from the far side of the Hedge. Their Geists may also realize that the Fae intend to take away their only means at interacting with the world!

Finally regular mortals with second sight or just everyday Joes may eventually get pulled into this through encounters with supernaturals engaged the war. Some may actually be able to handle the forthcoming information overload and be willing to help out as best they can. Lightweights in a super-heavyweight bought they still can contribute in unique and interesting ways.

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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Call of Cthulhu scenario

So recently bear hunters discovered a huge pot growing operation in a remote national forest in Oregon. This got me to thinking, what if they hadn't stumbled onto a pot operation in the woods but something more sinister? A simple concept but a great scenario with a small group of hunters in an isolated canyon dealing with mythos goodness. The party is well armed although that may not help them much depend on the setup.

An alternative to the hunters that may present an interesting moral twist is to be the drug growers/guards for the operation who run into something in the woods. That allows for more isolation (noone is looking for them and they won't want to go to law enforcement) and still allows for some armaments. Since the skills sets would be more varied it might also make a better party.

Off the top of my head Ithaca (sp?) and Shub-niggaruath (sp?) might be good candidates to have cults or creatures in such a place.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Castle Whiterock 3 & 4

Returning to the castle the party finally begins to explore the main building. They enter through a broken hole in the wall and carefully avoid a nest of bees. They find several rooms, all that are empty. One of the rooms is filled with rubble with the indications of a trap door buried under it but the party opts to explore one of the guard towers nearby that is collapsed. They determine that while overrun with vines that the vines themselves are not dangerous but that something large appears to be lairing in the tower itself.

Kazmuk examines a corpse from afar and determines that it's probably a giant mantis. Maka and Davor lead the way in unfazed by the threat of a large bug. The mantis obliges and leaps out and successfully clamps onto Davor. The paladin is knocked out and badly injured by the attack. Kazmuk manages to dart in and heal him almost immediately while Maka and the rest of the party lay on the hurt.

Mantis defeated the party explores further. They find the room of the boss half-orc (from session 1) and take a few minor things of his including a key. The also find a secret door leading deeper into the castle.

Exploring through the door they find a dark main room with several side rooms. The main entrance can be seen to be choked with rubble from this end as well. Kazmuk sees several bones lying near it and the party gives it wide berth. In one of the side rooms they find access to the guard tower (from session 2) and opt to not press upwards. Another side room is choked off by rubble. From the looks it used to be a room filled with statues or dummies for holding armor. The group determines it might be a good camping site though.

Finally the party decides to investigate the bones in the rubble. Their investigation is welcomed by a skeletal bugbear raising up and attacking. The fight goes slowly due primarily to the inability of either side to hit the other. Eventually the party manages to shatter the skeleton to bits. Below it they find a chest inside which lies the treasure of the half-orc boss.

A bit weary and beaten up the party decides to rest in the statue hall for the night before proceeding down the stairs to level 2. They also level up.

Moving down to the next level Besh finds two trip wires. She manages to easily disable one but the other she pulls when trying to cut it. Oddly nothing happens. She does hear sounds of movement at the base of the stairs. In attempting to sneak down though Besh isn't quite as stealthy as she believes. An orc jumps out and hits her with a guisarme and pummels Besh. Maka and Davor rush in to protect her engaging the orc and one of his buddies. After healing Besh rolls under the orc that hit her and stabs him in the back. She sees several other orcs hiding behind a low wall with crossbows. Maka finishes off the other orc and then charges the three with crossbows. Apparently these orcs attended the same archery school that Aeryn went to as they can't hit the broadside of a half giant. Aeryn shows a bit of improvement with her bow though and Maka cleaves the other two crossbow-orcs.

Besh hears movement from the room on the right so the party investigates in that direction. Davor gets a spear for the parties' curiosity, thrown by a mini-minotaur. The room is filled with hanging weapons. Maka and Davor wind their way over to the minitaur and proceed to slug it out. It's the toughest thing they've fought yet but Maka pounds on it and it finally falls.

The next room answers the question on where the people captured by the slavers have been going. A ledge goes around the edge of 3 sides of the room. 10 feet below are cages half filled with slaves. The cages are open with wood planks laid out over some of them to allow access to the slaves.

None of the slaves are evil and one was an adventurer previously sent by Lady Chauntessa to investigate Castle Whiterock. Just as Besh is pulling out rope to start hoisting the slaves out an orc guard appears at the far end of the room. He shouts a warning as Davor, Lem, and Maka (in that order) race to engage him. One of the slaves shouts that he will help fight if the party can get him out in time. Besh sends some rope his way and helps pull out prisoners.

Davor gets to the orc just as 7 of his friends arrive. He and eventually Maka duke it out with the orcs while, Besh (who proves surprisingly accurate with her crossbow), Aeryn, and Kazmuk engage in a shoot out with most of the orcs. Lem causes one orc to fall with ectoplasmic sheen but then is unable to it any others with his energy ray. Between Besh's crossbow bolts and Maka and Davor's blade & pick the orcs are whittled down. One flees through a door.

Pursuing Davor is attacked by three dog-like creatures. They have nasty bites forcing Davor to use his remaining lay on hands to keep himself and Maka in the fight. Besh arrives from the far side of the room and adds some crossbow firepower to the engagement. The group needs it as an orc archer adds additional strength to the slavers. The dogs almost have the two melee fighters on the rope before Maka connects with a cleave and clears two of them. The last falls almost right after and the orcs not soon after.

The party opts to leave the mother dog and her pups alone. They find the slaves' old gear and give it back to them before directing them how to escape back to Cilamar. One of the slaves informs the party that her brother is trapped somewhere else on this level in the mines. The party promises to do their best to find and free him.


Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Castle Whiterock 2

The party makes it through the night without incidence and gathers up most of the remaining fake mining camp supplies (including horses and wagons) and returns to town with the surviving prisoners. They burn a couple tents and the stables to cover their tracks. The prisoners who didn't have much information other then slaves are given to the orcs one level down and there is a watchtower keeping an eye on the approach from the town. The party turns the "monks" over to authorities. The party picks up some healing potions and returns to the castle the next day but stays off the main road to sneak up on the watchtower.

Returning to the fake camp the party manages to find a path above it which leads to a tower. The entrance to the main floor appears to be sealed from the outside but undeterred Maka breaks his way in. A spider looms up from the back of the room and Maka charges in full speed...only to have his armor and dire pick rusted away. Besh attempts to pick her way but fails to see more webs and loses some daggers. Davor is hit by the spider's web attack causing his armor, shield, and weapon. In a stunning display of horrible ranged combat skills the party is unable to kill the spider at a distance. However the spider can only damage metal with its web attack so eventually moves into melee allowing Maka to kill it with his back up weapon.

The next level up is secured by a trap door. Peaking in Besh sees a bunch of large blood raven nests including hatchlings. Using her innate ability to speak with animals she manages to convince the birds that they only want to go up to the next floor. They warily agree and the party sneaks up the next floor. Here they ambush the lone guard and capture him and a caged raven (who doesn't seem to mind the cage). There are indicators that the bird was taking messages back to town. Needing new equipment the party opts to return back to town. They let the guard go outside the town with the hint he should make himself scarce.

In town Besh forges a message and attaches it to the raven which is then released. The message requests a back alley meeting. The party manages to locate where the raven goes, a coffin factory. The party lies in wait in the alley, Besh playing the role of the person who sent the message while Davor and Maka hide behind some barrels. Lem, Kazmuk, and Aeryn hide on a roof to provide fire support.

Soon 5 people appears, a noble looking man and 4 thugs. The man is obviously aware it's a trap and things degenerate almost immediately into a fight. Davor and Maka struggle to land blows but the fire support disrupts the noble's (obviously a wizard) spell. Lem hits the area with ectoplasmic sheen giving Davor and Maka a chance to rough up the guards. The wizard is knocked out by Aeryn before he can use his summoned swarm against the party members on the roof.

The party members relieve the wizard of his equipment (and also some money at his business the coffin factory) and turn him over the authorities. They re-equip and get ready to head back to Castle Whiterock.