Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Castles and Crusades (Session 7, Nov 24 '09)

Players - PCs
Ed - Roog (1/2 ogre fighter)
Ray - Lassirial (Elf assassin)
Wes - Brother Thabitor Fisk (Human Cleric)
Jeff - Fast Fingers Freddy the Filcher (1/2-ling thief)

Thiala - (Human Female Paladin)
Elmo - (Human Ranger)
Spugnoire - (Human Merchant / Wizard)
Drizzle Spatchcock - (Human Wizard)

We played another of our bi-weekly Castles and Crusades games this past Tuesday. Starting a bit earlier than normal, we had a wonderful session and got quite a bit of the dungeon under the Moat House explored.

Brother Fisk wakes up to take his watch and heals Roog's bleeding wound before the elated 1/2 ogre falls off to sleep. The next morning dawns sunny and windy as the party tries out some of Roog's "cinnamon toast" invention of the cooking warrior. (I'm going to start assuming that when the rest of the characters are gearing up for an extended stay in the dungeons, Roog is off purchasing food items that are NOT your standard adventure fare.)

Down into the dripping, mold and moss strewn halls the party descends. They head immediately for the sections of the dungeon that have yet to be explored. The first room that they run into is an old library of sorts, books lie strewn across the floor in puddles of moldy water. Most of them ruined beyond repair. But this doesn't stop Spugnoire, books are what he's been searching for, and he dives right in.

Most of the titles are of little interest, but after a few hours of searching the ceiling-high shelves, three likely books are located:
  1. 'Bubbles from the Bottom Most' - A prayer book.
  2. 'Divine Hunger' - Deals with how to gorge oneself and why it's important.
  3. 'Follow the Flies' - Some type of book about expansion plans.

All of the books mention a god named Tsathoguaa...which tickles the memory of the cleric, Fisk, but he can not remember anything substantial. A man named Roark also features prominently as well. The book 'Follow the Flies' has maps of the local area, bills of lading, plans of expansion and a map showing the location of the "Main Temple" on some island far to the south.

Adventuring further, with Freddy and Lassirial leading the way as silently as possible, the party wanders into an area that is mostly flooded. The black surface of the water ripples slightly, indicating some type of movement within. The room itself seems to have been a storage room for writing implements, including parchment, ink pots, leather bindings, quills and such.

Water is not something that the party is prepared to cross so they back off and head around the other way. (Two things here: One, the party is really using the map well. Jeff is the party mapper and takes a lot of pride in detail. I love this. Two, it's interesting to me to see how water can deter parties of nearly any level.)

Exploring more of the dungeon, they find a passage that leads around to the opposite side of the flooded room. This section though appears to have been a scriptorium of sorts. Tall wooden desks stand throughout the room, or what remains of them, while paper and books lie throughout. The majority of the room is flooded as well, but it's not till Spugnoire and Roog adventure a bit further to nab a book lying on the side of the water, that they find the water's fairly deep.

As they reach for the sodden tome, a crested, lizard-like head slowly surfaces from the middle of the "pond", hands raised showing no weapons. Roog raises his hands as well, one containing a large mace. The creature grunts out that it doesn't want to fight and is interested in trading.

A difficult conversation follows, resulting in a trade of the silvered sphere for a key that allows access to a secret room located in a yet to be explored section on the map. Freddy considers this a fair trade and contrary to Fisk's warnings, he trades for the key, visions of riches dancing in his head. Nodding, the lizard-like creatures (one other was detected further back in the shadowed hallway.) slowly slip into the water and disappear.

Immediately the party postulates on how these creatures got in here...And Fisk suggests that there's quite likely a natural spring that emerges here in the riven rock and they've swam back and forth this way.

Exploring towards the undiscovered portion of the map, in search of the hidden door and "great riches", the party soon moves into a roughly 'U' shaped room. The northern wall is partially collapsed but, following the lizard creature's directions, they find a well hidden door with only about a half hour worth of searching. Using the key, they enter a dry, well sealed room to find a large desk behind which sits an ancient skeleton pinned to the chair with a silvered crossbow bolt.

A careful search of the room reveals a strange scepter with a frog-like eye sitting atop it. When picked up though, it feels as if the handle is moist, and when Lassirial looks at it, it appears that the handle is actually now a tongue. He drops it immediately. A small bag of agates are discovered in a locked drawer and a scrimshaw thigh bone is found beneath the skeleton's robes.

No one in the party is able to read the scrimshaw writing, but Lassirial comes up with a theory that if one looks "through" they amphibian eye-rod it could be deciphered. This is partially correct, and as he picks up the disgusting scepter, the writing appears to be in common now. Reading it reveals this:

"Brother Roark, The foulsome enemy has found us, and we are now under siege. I have emptied the treasury and am sending it by boat as per your instructions. We will follow in all haste. Once in Tel Qa, we'll ask for Captain Ganlon at the Wharf Rat as we have in the past, and show him our coin. He is a trusted agent, we should be with you soon. Be wary, be vigilant, and my you hunger always."

The eye scepter also reveals a thin seam around the top, which when unscrewed, divulges a tightly rolled vellum scroll within. Drizzle looks at the scroll and doesn't recognize the three spells:
  1. Excruciating Cauterization
  2. Furngoth's Force of Forbidment
  3. Word of IOUN

After exhausting all options in the secret room, the group cautiously explores more of the dungeon. Freddy and Yassirial soon come around a corner and spot two back-lit figures standing stock still. Slowly pulling back they inform the rest of the party.

Fisk decides that these must be undead and comes around the corner bearing his holy symbol, "In the name of Odin, I bid thee BEGONE!". No luck. The zombies charge and combat is on. Roog and Elmo take the fore and meet the creatures half way. Blows are traded and much damage is dealt out on both sides. In fact, Roog takes a mighty blow from one of the foul creatures and falls to the floor, unconscious.

Fisk steps into the gap with his spear and slays the undead monstrosity while Elmo's is soon taken down by Drizzle's magic missile. Roog is brought to consciousness just as the room from whence the zombies came turns pitch black. Roog has never seen such a thing and sticks his head into the black "wall"..."Bad dark darkness" he mutters.

Freddy hears a rhythmic muttering from within the room, decides that he can navigate relying only upon his dexterity and hearing, and proceeds towards the voice. A shuffling groan is emitted just as he clears the spell's borders and he finds a tall bean pole thin human kneeling next to a mystic circle on the ground, facing away from him towards a zombie who has just risen from the mess of bodies strewn around the room.

The halfling sneaks up behind the necromancer and without further ado, buries his dagger in his brain, to the hilt. (rolled a natural 20) The evil spell caster does not utter a word and falls to the floor lifeless. Roog comes in and quickly takes care of the recently raised zombie quite quickly.

A sickening sight meets the party as the darkness dissolves. Cadavers, stacked like cord wood, lay along the eastern wall, while evil devices, drawings and experiments lie scattered across the room. The only other exit is an obviously new door in the northern wall.

After looking carefully through the room, the party discovers a brain pan bowl of obvious necromantic worth along with a pile of discarded loot gathered over years of raiding. Bolts of expensive cloth, objects of art and a couple of chipped urns containing coins lie nearly forgotten...a further testament to the necromancer's true interests.

Fisk pushes the northern door open to find himself facing 5 grey goblins. They leap up from a table and attack the priest with gusto. Landing three lucky shots, they bring him to the ground...unconscious and bleeding badly. Charging in, the rest of the party brings three of the goblins down quickly, while the other two break and run. One gets Lassirial's dagger in the back for his troubles and Spugnoire quickly casts a sleep spell...ending their departure.

Meanwhile, Freddy tries the Necromancer's potion on Fisk, in the hopes that it heals his friend. Fisk disappears, it was invisibility. ARGH! What a waste, thinks Freddy. Oh well. He then applies the potion that he knows is a heal draught and brings Fisk back to consciousness. But the priest has fun with his newly acquired invisibility.

There are 6 donkeys tied up to the wall of the goblin's roughly circular room, these, along with a couple of kegs (one small beer and another fine pipe weed.), some rotting food, sleeping pallets, and a rough table and chairs, completes the rooms contents. A long, rough hewn tunnel leads to the east.

The party loads up their newly acquired loot and heads off down the tunnel, assuming that it leads outside. It does, and they emerge into the late afternoon sun, not more than 100 yards away from the Moat House. From there, they head back to Hommlet and the Inn of the Welcome Wench.

Once back in town, they eat a wonderful meal, regaling the rest of the Inn's patrons with the story and then get a comforting night's sleep in their rooms.

That evening, while the rest of the party is telling tales, Lassirial takes care of business. He makes his way to the worker's camp, finds his "mark" and waits. Once the man goes to sleep, the assassin sneaks into the tent and quietly slits the man's throat. He rifles through his stuff, finds proof (a family crest on a medallion) and quietly sneaks back into the night to return to the Inn.

The next day they visit Burne and speak to him about their adventures. He is convinced that the raids over the last few years have been a combination of both the brigands as well as the necromancer. He's surprised to hear that the evil spell caster had been there as long as he had.

He pays the party for their services and speaks to them about the two lost children. This will be the group's next mission. Freddy figures that this might clear his name...

Lassirial pays Burne 100 gold pieces to cast an identify upon a dagger that he discovered in a drawer's hidden compartment in the secret chamber. It turns out the black blade, upon dealing a killing blow, transfers to the user a bonus to his next strike. (See below for more details.)

This is where we ended it. The party has decided to travel to the Jagged Stones in order to track down the children. The parents of the children have left the day before, with two militiamen in tow. But no word has been heard since.

  • 5 bolts of cloth, stained and in poor condition, but worth 60 gold nonetheless.
  • A jacinth anklet portraying a woman hunting a stag. (10 gold)
  • A garnet pin. (60 gold)
  • A porcelain statue of two dogs playing with a little boy. Chipped but worth 30 gold.
  • Two tapestries in fairly good condition. (100 gold)
  • Two urns (chipped and worn but valued at 10 gold ea.) full of coins: 223 gold, 97 silver, 576 copper.
  • A brain pan circled with brass and strange runes. (MAGIC: powers unknown)
  • A black obsidian knife. (MAGIC: Normally +1 to hit and damage, but upon a killing stroke, a bonus of 1d6 is added to the next to hit.)
  • A small bag of rare black agates (12 of them at 60 gold ea.)
  • Scroll of three spells (see above) (MAGIC)
  • Eye scepter (MAGIC)
  • Necromancer's black iron chainmail (+1 in essence, but also inimical to fey)
  • Bone scroll tube with scrimshaw writing
  • Potion of invisibility (Used on Fisk)
  • Three books (see above)
  • Stack of papers from the secret room detailing day to day operations of the hidden cult
  • 643 exp ea.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wouldn't THAT be cool!

I've been playing Dragon Age Origins on my Xbox 360. I like the game. I don't LOVE the game, but I think it's certainly entertaining and has some replay value, which is something I look for in a console game. (I hate buying a game, playing it once and returning it to some store for credit on my next purchase. Bleh!)

But I was cogitating on what might make a really COOL game. And here's what I came up with from a high level:
  • Has the cool character / surface capabilities that Assassin's Creed offers. i.e. You can climb nearly any surface. (Prince of Persia has some cool features in there too...not quite as deep as Assassin's Creed though.)
  • Has the neat open-ended character / item interaction that Oblivion offers. i.e. You can go into any house and get up on any table, walk across it and watch dishes break...
  • Has the neat scenery-as-NPC features that Tomb Raider offers. i.e. The cool obstacles and scenery in Tomb Raider is as large (or larger) a part of the game as the baddies.
  • Has the excellent character / NPC interaction that Dragon Age Origins and Mass Effect offers. i.e. There are some really cool choices that your PC needs to make that affect the game immensely.
  • Plays like Diablo, in the respect that you can guide a party from a 3rd person vantage point.
Now, put all of these together and imagine a game where you have a party of characters that adventure through cool, other-worldly vistas and interact with neat obstacles like huge, tumbled cyclopean blocks, or cenotes in an ancient jungle. The mechanics are there, someone just needs to put them all together and come up with a game that incorporates both adventure at the grand level as well as exploration on a personal level.

Imagine coming to a cliff wall while on a deep delve some lost caverns somewhere, you have the ability to climb walls, but you've forgotten a rope in your inventory. Uh oh. Now what? Either the game provides for alternative methods of overcoming the obstacle, that aren't so obvious as an ascent with a rope, or you go back and purchase one at the nearest retail outlet. ;-)

There are so many neat possibilities here. I'm sure that someone has thought about it somewhere. But the things that make older edition D&D so cool, the exploration, the strategic thinking required, the gritty swords and sorcery feel...All those things could be incorporated with today's technology and I feel that the resultant game would be spectacular.

Don't get me wrong, I far prefer a face to face, table-top RPG to an electronic stand-in any day of the week. But during those all too common times when you thirst for adventure and you can't whip a group together out of thin air at 10 pm, then the e-game will have to suffice.

Ciao for now.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Castles and Crusades (Session 6, Nov 10 09)

Players - PCs
Ed - Roog (1/2 ogre fighter)
Ray - Lassirial (Elf assassin)
Wes - Brother Thabitor Fisk (Human Cleric)
Jeff - Fast Fingers Freddy the Filcher (1/2-ling thief)

Thiala - (Human Female Paladin)
Elmo - (Human Ranger)

We had another session of Castles and Crusades last night... Here's what happened.

While the party was going on downstairs, Freddy decides that he'd take the opportunity to make a little "coin" on the side. After a bit of perusing the crowd downstairs, he figures that the best mark would be Spugnoire, the merchant. A bit of chit chat with one of the barmaids and he figures out which room Spugnoire resides in.

But there's a problem, the upstairs common room has people inside and Freddy's afraid that they'll catch him in the act. So what to do? He figures out a plan, goes back downstairs to pay the barmaid enough for 9 small beers, head back upstairs and tells those in the room that someone downstairs has bought a free round of drinks. The common room clears in a heartbeat. One problem solved.

Next he heads to the merchant's room and hastily unlocks it. In he slides...the room is dark and well kept. A cloak hangs on a peg behind the door and inside he finds 8 silver pieces. Under the bed is a backpack and 5 potions. And at the foot of the bed sits a small, dark wooden chest. He looks for any traps and not seeing any he unlocks it.

PSHHHH! Tinkle, tinkle... A glass vial breaks and acid is sprayed everywhere. Only Freddy's fast reflexes saves him from a full-on blast. Still, it sears his skin and burns holes in his shirt. Ah, but inside are 3 scroll tubes of bone. And under that, hidden in a secret padded compartment lie 4 gems of moderate size. He takes all but the scroll tubes.

Hearing motion outside the room he rushes to the window and hurriedly climbs out. A little too hurriedly in fact, he slips in his haste and falls. He lands poorly and twists his ankle but immediately recovers and hobbles to the side of the Inn, feigning drunkenness. Around back and across to the house next door he stumbles....and behind he hears a gruff voice. "You OK? I saw you fall from that window."

Freddy turns and there stands the Blacksmith, from across the way. Freddy explains that he was partying with some folks up in the room and they got a bit too rambunctious and he fell from the window in his drunken state. The Blacksmith seems mollified and leaves. Freddy wanders to a nearby grove of trees, buries his treasure, wrapped in his shirt, and marks the tree w/ a small 'W'.

Now he needs a shirt. It is a warm evening, but it's rather unusual to be running around w/out a shirt at this time of night. The work camp for the castle is near and Freddy finds a rather-too-large shirt there. Afterwards he decides to see if he can't sneak back into the Inn. He climbs to the roof but finds that there's too much traffic now for him to make it inside. Seems that in the interim, Spugnoire has gone back to his room and found it pilfered.

Ostler Gundigoot gets into the action and has guards circle the building in case the thief is still out there...Little do they realize. But by this time Freddy has taken up refuge high in the old oak standing next to the Inn. The guards find nothing.

During the entire interlude, the party has let out and Spugnoire, before he's figured out that he's been robbed, approaches Fisk asking if it would be OK if he tagged along to the Moat House. He's dreadfully interested in libraries and wizardly tomes and such... and there's sure to some of that at the old Moat House right?

Also, Yessirial has taken it upon himself to find his mark. He heads to the work camp, knowing that the mark was last seen there. Sure enough, after about an hour of observation, he find the man. He's changed...of course, hard labor can do that, but Yessirial recognizes the walk. Seems he's in some type of position of authority, the men pay a certain deference to him. Well, now he's go the location, he'll save the rest for later.

Next morning comes and Elmo shows up, looking for his share of the pay. Ooops. The party tells him that they don't have it with them at the moment but that they'll buy him a magic axe as soon as they can afford it. He seems happy enough with this arrangement.

Freddy has since woken up and wandered off to find a shirt that fits a bit better. He comes across the tailor, who's tossing knives, with no small amount of skill, into a board. Perfect. He purchases, for one copper bit, a shirt previously made for a child. Outfitted thus, he heads back to the Inn to tell his story of woe.

He was beset upon while upstairs in the Inn last night. The men, possibly up to four of them, came from behind, knocked him unconscious and took him outside, via the window, to roll him. Everyone is upset. Spugnoire sits there with his mouth open, and Ostler is horrified. To think, this all happened in HIS INN! At Ostler's urging, they all decide over breakfast (which coincidentally, Roog helped cook) to go and see Burne about this disturbance. After all, it has been suggested that the escaped bandits from the Moat House could quite possibly be behind this bold assault.

Burne, ever level headed, suggests that they ask around town and find out if anyone saw anything suspicious. Gulp...Freddy's not too keen on that score. The topic soon changes to the Moat House though. Burne pays them each 20 gold talons, as agreed, for the first foray. But he's willing to offer 20 more per head, if they go back and map out the dungeons. He's got maps of the upper floors and would like to reconcile them with what the party comes up with, but he's got nothing for the lower sections.

The party agrees and takes their leave, just as a two men and women, obviously husbands and wives, come across the small draw bridge, guided by the sergeant-at-arms. The women are both crying and the men are obviously very upset. Seems that their children, a little boy of 7 and a little girl of 9, have gone missing, after heading out to the Broken Stones on a dare.

Freddy, eager to somehow clear his name, comes back and asks if there's something they can do to help. Burne says that there might be, and after a bit more research into the matter, he'll contact them. For now though, off to the Moat House.

The party gears up at the Trader's establishment, Fisk purchases a shield, Yessirial some crossbow bolts and inquires about some poison. Somehow he just knows that these two can get their hands on some. Indeed they can whispers Ranos Davl, but it will take a week to get it in. Too long says Yessirial and leaves without.

Summer breezes blow across the land as high clouds scud through the sky, the journey is actually quite pleasant, considering the last half is through a swamp. Nothing untoward occurs though and they reach the Moat House about 40 minutes before dark.

A little reconoitering by Yessirial and Freddy and they find out the the trap's still in place and it doesn't appear as if they brigands have returned. As night falls it's decided upon by the group that they will bed down in the same room that they'd occupied nearly a week past. They find it abandoned, close the door and proceed to make camp.

Later that night, on Roog's watch, the 1/2-ogre decides that the lure of spices, in the old kitchen, is just too much. He quietly disarms the pans from the door (Fisk's wily warning system), and sneaks out. Coming to the old kitchen, he peers through the door to see some type of enormous bug crawling upon the counter. He quietly sneaks in and deals the creature a tremendous blow. But the bug proves more resilient than that, it spins about and leaps upon the surprised Roog.

As the monstrous tick attempts to find purchase upon the warrior's body, Roog deals it yet another blow...that would have felled an ox. Yet the creature still moves and scrabbles for a hold.

The probiscus finds a target between Roog's neck and the armor, where it sinks in deep and starts to suck. Roog yells and pulls the disgusting bug off, dashing it to the ground whereupon he deals the final blow, smashing it to pulp. Disgusting.

Looking though the broken and rotted cabinets, Roog finds a small tun of sealed cinnamon. Hopefully it's still good... With his prize happily tucked beneath one arm, and a finger staunching the flow of blood from his wound, the tired warrior makes his way back to the room. He quietly replaces the door alarm, waking only Yessirail, and he reclines peacefully up against the wall to resume his watch. All is right with the world.

And this is where we cut it off for the evening.

I didn't feel as if I had the proper energy level last night. It was unfortunate because we only play once every two weeks and the sessions are too few and far between for me to be flat. Work has been a bitch lately though so it's been tough to mentally and emotionally get to that place I need to be. Nevertheless, I think that the guys had fun during our brief session.

We played from 7 - 10 pm. 3 hours every other week doesn't seem like nearly enough to get any kind of emotional impetus going in a game. Oh well, if that's the best we can hope to do, then we'll certainly make due.