Sunday, 16 May 2010

In which the DM loses his way, the party have fun, and plot is glossed over

Over the next 2 scenarios, I produced filler material while trying to work out where the entire campaign was going. Now filler scenarios can be great fun. If used correctly and adequately disguised. Which, alas, I did not. In the case of our role-playing group it was more akin to throwing a child in the deep end of the pool and shouting 'SWIM! I'M OFF TO GET A CUP OF TEA!'

Here's a quick rundown of the 2 scenarios:

Assassination and Ghost towns!

Our band of heroes had been assigned guard duty after the adventure in Vue. They were escorting local nobles back home after a summit. Lys and Larisse were seeing off a female dignitary to her home city 'off-screen' due to Phil and Sophie's absence, while Tez, Ethanuel and Shoohey were helping out guardsmen and an arrogant, cocky 'Prince John' character. Cue some dialogue with the guards about how the guy is an idiot and all-round greedy sod. Lys arrives on scene, his charge being ushered into her city by Larisse as it's a female-only zone. Suddenly: CONVENIENT AMBUSH! Goblins appeared out of the bushes alongside the road, quickly dispatched by several rounds of combat. The goblins call out the big gun – a troll! Due to abnormal luck this two was quickly dispatched much to my DM chagrin. Just when you don't want it, players have a tendency to roll absurdly high, killing off big bosses, gutting the villain that you spent 4 months working on and generally making your climatic reveal something less than climatic (see the ending to G.I Joe: Rise of Cobra as an excellent example of the anti-climatic reveal). A couple of failed perception checks and my unsubtle shoe-horning meant that no one noticed a couple of snake-man assassins kill off the foppish noble and escape into the trees, leading our mighty heroes on a long run through the forest to find a burnt out village with a tolling church bell at its heart. Upon entering the church they find the assassins dead and themselves transported into a ghostly realm. *Panto ghostly sounds cue here...*

Meanwhile Larisse, suddenly dissolved into thin air at the lady-city, guided along a strange spirit journey by a mysterious trio of little girls and catches glimpses of the future. She emerged from her own grave and it just got weirder from there.

In the ghost village, we found it populated by long-dead folk from about 60 years previous and the villagers explained to the newly arrived heroes that they were massacred by a company of corrupted knights returning from duty in the East. Our heroes made the most of this interlude to relax (a memorable moment is Rob passing strength checks on natural 20s, resulting in Tez juggling 2 barrels of ale and a villager) and unwind (Ethanuel was his lecherous self and bedded a young maiden in nearby barn).

Larisse showed up in the village just in time to see the sky turn crimson and hear the thundering of hooves. The knights had arrived to re-enact their part in history. The three young girls stood before the assembled heroes and explained that this could not be changed but that they were instrumental in the coming war of nations. The knights charged the mass of peasants, both sides evaporating with unearthly screams, leaving our heroes back in the real-world facing off with 3 knights, one of which looked suspiciously like a plot hook. Tall, unhelmed, blood-red eyes, maniacal grin = future, possibly recurring villain. Cue botched attempt to instill a sense of mortality in our heroes and then end of adventure.


DM Note: I really had high hopes for this adventure. Unfortunately my tight schedule with work, a now pregnant wife, and driving lessons meant I ad-libbed half the thing resulting in a basic plot held together with forced plot hooks (like the noble dying no matter the actions of the party, the weird spirit journey of Larisse just to get her involved in the story, and the recurring villain developing the power to fly off as a raven when reduced to 1 hit point). Note to self – write events up well in advance to stop this happening again.


Haunted mansion and inability to schedule!

The following scenario was lifted and tweaked from a certain gaming book for a certain role-playing system. Our heroes were returning from their ghost town debacle, only to find a dying noble by the roadside who promises them riches if they return his body to his family nearby. Not forced in anyway, no. *Cough-cough*

Cut to our intrepid adventurers carting the poor man's body back to the family manse, meeting a strange family who all appear incredibly creepy. Then the party split into 3. Which became sodding awkward as it dissolved into ad-libbing again. And this was a scripted adventure!

DM Note: Alas, an important problem with role-playing campaigns is real-life. Not everyone has the time to devote to these things as they are extremely time-consuming. A typical session with our particular band lasted around 4 hours every evening. Add to this the fact we were in different time-zones and 3 of our party were usually one hour ahead and we ended up with late evenings, cranky mornings and scenarios running over months! A sad fact that can never be helped, it is to a DM's credit if he can keep his story going cohesively while handling missing players and conflicting schedules. Alas my lack of experience I think may have shown through...especially when I created recurring characters that weren't meant to be there, and forced daemonic possession on a player with no warning. All of which may get retconned.

Cut to a lot of bungling about a haunted mansion, ghosts, the reveal that the head of the house is a crazy necromancer and the sexy daughter is a brainwashed vampire, and that covers the story. Oh and I had Tez sleepwalk in his underwear and get possessed randomly. Not quite sure what happened with that. We'll move on...

After defeating the villain in short order (which was becoming an annoyingly regular thing. Note to self – get a bunch of villains next time.) the heroes discover a brainwashed Guild member and manage to use their words and a large number of diplomacy successes to get him back to the Guild.


And there we have it – 9 weeks, 2 scenarios and a bunch of dangling plot threads and I had no idea what do with. Who's the man with the red eyes? Why do ravens keep cropping up? What was the point in possessing Tez? Would we have to write out Lysimakos, while Phil settled into a new job, new house and , indeed, new country? Would there ever be any repercussions to what happened in the first scenario in Vue?

Some quick brainstorming with Rob and a close friend, Alex gave me the answers. That and 4 weeks between scenarios helped out a lot. And that'll all be in the next blog!






Sunday, 25 April 2010

In which our heroes feel guilt, kill zombies and finish the scenario

Previously in DnD: Larisse, our beautiful but slightly vapid Tiefling Warlock attempted to have a bath but was intercepted by zombies, and accidentally and inadvertently caused the death of the local barmaid (a favourite of her elven Warlock friend, Ethanuel). The rest of the party had reunited with Lysimakos, the cynical but level-headed Human Fighter, and met with the local sheriff, Stefan. While it was held that Stefan was hiding something or protecting someone, the party felt it more appropriate to rest and investigate the following day when they were wide awake and at full fighting strength. We return to the main group returning to the sleepy village of Vue, a little past Midnight.

"Hark what is that noise, a scream?" said Lysimakos, his ears straining for some other noise in the darkness.

The group has just approached the village, when an ear-splitting shriek had pierced the air (see previous blog entry and what Larisse got up to). Wasting no time, the four adventurers rushed off to offer whatever aid they could. As they arrive at the inn, they saw the lights inside remain bright, no folk were wandering the streets, and a stunned Larisse was just coming round the side of the Green Man. After some hasty questioning, Larisse has filled the group in on here bath-time adventure while they were in the forest. While reeling from this new development, it is decided that resting and collecting their wits for the night is for the best. From inside the inn, there were sounds of crashing, and a heavy thud as the bolt on the door was removed. The innkeeper emerged, stumbling into the night, waving a longsword and crying for his daughter. (What the group knew, that the innkeeper didn't, was that his daughter was dead. He simply saw her stumble off into the night.)

Both Lys and Tez argued that it would be better to search for his daughter by daylight, while they attempted to escort him back inside the inn. The old man reeled against their decision, saying they weren't heroes, merely arrogant mercenaries and nothing more. Larisse was already inside the inn, making her way to her bed. Shoohey was waiting at the doorway, feeling uncomfortable with the argument raging in front of her and unsure of who to side with. On one hand, there was little they could for the man's daughter and a search in the daylight would minimise the risk of ambush. On the other hand, if it were someone close to her, the colour of the sky would do little to deter her from searching.

Ethanuel, Lys and Tez continued to argue with the old man, Tez at last leaving him to his own devices upon seeing nothing would change his mind. Ethanuel and Lysimakos had other ideas.

"You're not going anywhere. The last we need is another missing on our watch!" Ethanuel said through gritted teeth. The old man's stupidity was beginning to grate on the half-elf and he could feel the dark mystical energy in his blood begin to rise to the surface.

"What good will you do your daughter when you stumble over the first rabbit hole you meet? Come think this through. Keep a fire warm and a home prepared for her return," urged Lysimakos, his free hand outstretched to the older man in a calming gesture.

"No! I will not stand idly by when my daughter is out here somewhere! I lost my wife to this witch, and I'll not lose someone else!" screamed the innkeeper.

As the innkeeper made to push past Ethanuel, the half-elf whirled round with his staff to knock the man unconscious...and missed. With a snarl of rage born of sadness and loss, the old man turned on Ethanuel with his sword and slashed across his chest in one clumsy strike, carving a wide, bloody gash on the Warlock's chest. Staggering back from the innkeeper's frantic attack, Ethanuel felt the dark magics inside him finally boil over and hissed a string of syllables in an ancient language. As he raised his hands to the innkeeper, a burst of purple-black energy burst from his fingers, engulfing the distraught man. The innkeeper dropped his weapons and threw his hands to his head, and screamed. None could know what was happening inside the man's head. He began to start fighting unseen foes, his hands lashing out at invisible enemies above his head, as his darkest fears were given form and brought to life in his mind. After a few brief seconds, he fell to his knees, blood dribbling from his nose and crumpled to the ground unmoving.

For a brief moment, Ethanuel felt elated and relieved. A man, deranged by sorrow saved from an ignominious death in the darkness. This was short-lived. Tez gave the old man a quick check. He wasn't breathing.

The paladin rose slowly, his head bowed in regret. "You going to come inside or are you going to attack any more grieving parents before bed?"

"He's not breathing?"Shoohey slowly approached, her animal senses telling her Eladrin mind already knew.

"I only gave him what he deserves. i was trying to get him to bed and he hit me with his sword." Ethanuel couldn't believe it. He had taken an innocent life. Surely the Dragonborn was wrong.

"You hit him first, you punk! You're not as stealthy as you'd like to believe! We're in a dangerous situation, but don't think we won't talk about this some more tomorrow," cautioned Tez, as he picked up the limp body. "Get out of here before I forget we're on the same side."

The group retired to their rooms in the inn. An awkward silence had descended a tension present that was never there before now. While the other's slept through troubled dreams, Tez remained awake, keeping a vigil on the innkeeper's body throughout the night.

The next morning, Shoohey awoke to a sharp tapping at the bedroom window. Her bird familiar, left at the Sheriff's hut, had returned. Opening the window, she took the small starling in her hand and instantly saw the scene played out before her. The sheriff and a young woman matching Elena's description. Night. Running through the forest. Not chased, chasing. Towards the manor. Hand in hand.

A shocked gasp, and she was herself again. Kissing the starling gently, she rushed into the other rooms to wake her companions. As everyone groggily rose from their troubled slumber, Tez and the innkeeper were conspicuously absent. As the group rushed outside, they heard the sound of digging from behind the building. Moving cautiously round the inn, they found Tez digging a grave, the innkeeper's body behind him and wrapped in cloth. There was once more a heavy silence, as Tez focused on the task at hand, unable to look at his friends or the one who caused the tragedy.

"Do you want some help Tez? Elena has been sighted you know," said Lysimakos at last, breaking the quiet.

"This won't take too much longer," replied Tez, gesturing to a pair of spare shovels proppred against the side of the inn.

Ethanuel silently took one and stepped into half-dug grave.

"Fine I shall prepare some food for us, we shall await you inside," murmured Lysimakos, turning back to the inn. "Help me with the food Larisse, please."

"I'm sorry Tez. It shouldn't have happened and won't again," whispered Ethanuel when the others were out of earshot.

The pair dig in silence until their task is complete.

GM Note: It is moments like these that make great role-playing. Sure the group could have followed the script (which would have made it easier for me!) but it is these unexpected moments that really make the characters come to life. It is the moments of group tension, of character – vs – character build-up that tells you that the players are doing something right. A GM can construct the most elaborate, convoluted and complex scenario that has more emotional conflicts than a soap opera and it wouldn't have the same weight as these individual instances. I can only say thank you, guys. The scenario screwed up and you made it work.

Once back inside, it was business as usual. The group began to draw up plans for investigating the manor. It was the destination of the sheriff and his female companion. Shoohey's animal sense could pick up the stench of decay wafting from the ancient building. Quickly getting their belongings together, the adventurers made all haste to the Marshall's home. As they approached the manor at the end of the main street, seeing the mill in the daylight seemed very strange - the ugliness of the building was striking , the structure leaning in several directions at several points as if were some curling tentacle stretching from the ground. The mill was only crudely attached to the manor, as if anchored to the side of the old building. There was a palpable aura of evil in the air.

Stepping up to the front door, Tez knocked several times, only to be greeted by silence. While Lys and Ethanuel entertained the idea of setting the place alight and waiting for the enemy to come to them, Tez was slightly more restrained after the previous night's events. As Tez tried to force his way through the manor's front door, an unearthly scream emanated from the mill. As they rushed to the side of the mill, the doors down to the underbelly of the building are open, possibly from Larisse's excursion the previous night. Grabbing a flaming torch from the wall, Tez lead the group down the stone steps into the darkness.

The adventurers' footsteps echo loudly in the dark silence, and after about ten minutes they reached the bottom of the staircase, and found themselves at the opening of a long carved tunnel, leading to a dimly lit cavern. As they carefully paced along the tunnel, they found statues of old gods and deities lined the sides in small, damp recesses. The place reeked of death and rot. Approaching the middle of the tunnel, a couple of the statues began moving. Several silhouettes blocked their way out and their way forward. A quick head count of the foes meant they were facing five unknown assailants. Yelling a warning to her companions, Larisse immediately recognised the shambling creatures as the zombies from the previous night.

As the creatures moved to surround their prey, the players began to fight their way through. Or attempt to. What followed was the most protracted combat I have ever known, with the most abysmal I have ever seen rolled before or since then. One hour and twenty five minutes of combat with five zombies. I personally was shocked. Especially when one started gnawing through Tez/Rob's armour! Suffice to say, the group emerged from the skirmish, bloodied and battered and unsure if they could face what lay in wait for them in the cave.

A deep sonorous chanting was echoing along the tunnel, though there seemed to be only one male voice chanting. After their battering by the undead, the group approached the cavern mouth with considerably more caution than usual. Ethanuel snuck ahead of the party, into a wide cavern, dimly lit by flaming brands on the wall. In the centre was a large altar with a young, bound woman lying on it, unconscious. The recognisable form of the sheriff lay in a corner. Over the altar stood Marshall Uther Kryp, chanting in his deep, gruff voice, his hands raised to the heavens, an orb of strange substance in his left hand.

Shifting quickly back, Ethanuel quickly filled the rest of the group in on the situation. No cover, a scary looking, chanting Marshall. A bound damsel in distress. No other exits. This was all that Tez, the headstrong but stereotypical knight in shining armour needed. Rallying his friends to him, they charged into the cavern and confronted the Marshall.

"You couldn't leave well enough alone, could you?" muttered Uther, his hands dropping to his sides, his beady eyes darting between the heroes. "You adventurers are all the same. Not content with the simple answers. I should have killed you when I caught you in the forest with the skeletons."

As he continues muttering, our intrepid heroes noticed the Marshall slipping a silver wand from his coat.

"But never mind, your lives will making an added enticement to Kharnak the bloody when I call forth his spirit tonight with this woman's blood!" screamed Uther, raising the orb again to the cavern roof.

At this, before anyone could react, Uther screeches some enchantment in an evil language, and a layer of ice covered the cavern walls and floor, spreading out from Uther's feet. And at this point, I shall have to pause for a brief moment. Another problem with DnD combat is that things can go horribly wrong. And things can go horribly right. Remember those five zombies? That was horribly wrong luck. What follows was horribly great luck. Six weeks had led to this climatic confrontation with an evil necromancer who had held the lives of his village to ransom. This was not what was meant to happen.

While her companions struggled to get a grip on the ice, Shoohey managed to shape-shift into the form of a bear. Running at full pelt, she carved huge gashes in Uther's side, darting out of the way at the last second to avoid a counter-attack. While the necromancer was distracted, Larisse weaved her magicks and let loose an Eldritch Blast at the foul man, wreathing him in a dark fire. This was swoftly followed by Ethanuel masterfully rolling forward and firing his loaded crossbow, hitting Uther in the arm and spinning him on the spot.

Uther struggled to keep his feet, and aimed his silver wand at the two armoured warriors approaching him. An electrical blast arced out and struck both Tez and Lysimakos, sending them staggering back a little at the force of it. But it was not enough. Tez managed to get within swinging distance, his great axe cutting a glittering arc in the frosty air. Slamming into his chest, the axe opened a gaping wound in the necromancer's chest, sending him hurtling down the steps of the altar. Lysimakos was not far behind and followed the falling necromancer, feinting with his blade before bringing his foot down on the man's knee, sending a sharp crack echoing through the cavern. Uther screams in agony. His screams are swiftly cut off though, as Shoohey's bear-form closes in, her maw clenching around his left arm, mangling it. Unable to get a clear shot, Larisse could only close the gap, along with Ethanuel. Struggling to his good knee, Uther muttered a strig of dark words, the air around him filled suddenly with ethereal daggers as they darted into his enemies.

"Now you'll pay," he screamed, holding his bloodied, chest and using the altar to steady himself.

While the heroes recovered, Uther began murmuring what sounded like a lullaby, and they began feeling a heavy weight on their shoulders, their thoughts turning to sleep. Tez and Lys remained awake, though groggy, but both Ethanuel and Shoohey succumbed to the spell and fell into a light slumber. With an oath on his lips, Tez struggled to his feet, and began to stumble towards the necromancer. Raising his axe he plunged it down into the crippled man. As Uther's life slowly slipped away, he whispered to the Dragonborn. "You have won here, dragonchild. But I was still right about the witch..."

Freeing the woman, and reviving both her and Stefan, it is revealed that she was indeed Madam Elena. Her trip to Vue was far from what gossip circles had supposed though. She was a spy in the Emperor's court. Simin, her 'lover' was her contact in Vue and Stefan was the only one here who knew her purpose. It had long been supposed that the plague was part of Uther's machinations, though it is now clear that this was not the case. Uther was corrupted by the plague, he wasn't the instigator. When he discovered she was to report his change, he had her chased by patrols of the ndead and since then she has hidden with Stefan in his hut.

The strange, silver rod and the orb are pocketed by Larisse, as she noticed Tiefling script on both, though in an ancient dialect.

And the group got experience, though not the treasure Tez/Rob had expected.

And with the end of the first scenario, after seven weeks of gaming and schedule-changing, I leave you with the group's final act in the gaming evening that night.

[18/09/2009 00:04:32] Rob: can we end the adventure with us all standing around laughing, like a bad cartoon?

[18/09/2009 00:04:39] Andrew: i don't see why not

[18/09/2009 00:04:43] redmanphill: HA ha

[18/09/2009 00:04:45] Sophie: XPPPPPPPPPPPP

[18/09/2009 00:04:58] Andrew: but in the short animation after the credits the cavern would collapse, killing you all

[18/09/2009 00:05:00] Sophie: Hahahahahahahahaa *takes breath* hahahahaha

[18/09/2009 00:05:05] Rob: "I guess you could say Uther's zombie necromancy plans have come to a DEAD END"

[18/09/2009 00:05:06] Andrew: lol

[18/09/2009 00:05:16] tamara: hahaha

[18/09/2009 00:05:18] Rob: HOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHO

More moonlit village shenanigans

After a short hiatus, it's back to blog time! Woo!

We left our adventuring team in a bit of a bind. Shoohey, Tez, and Ethanuel were in the middle of the woods, surrounded by skeletons. Lysimakos was missing in action. Larisse was looking for a bath tub. All great dilemmas as you no doubt agree.

We'll start with Larisse. Having decided that there was no appropriate bath to be found in the inn, she decided to leave for the Marshall's mansion and the promise of a long soak. (You'll be forgiven if the dulcet tunes of porno jazz start playing in your mind.) Deciding that the village folk bar their doors for a reason, Larisse decided the obvious route was to leap out the window nimbly and land with the grace of a cat. She managed one of the two. Leaping nimbly from the landing window, she landed with the grace of a blind, crippled tortoise and sprained both ankles in the process. Dusting herself down, she decided to make her way to the mansion, as a strange music filled the air (think back to Disney's Hocus Pocus starring Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker, you'll know the sort I mean). Larisse, managing to fail her will checks on a repeated basis, suddenly felt her body drawn to the abandoned mill, her fear rising as she saw shambling corpses emerge from the woods to her right. Further and further her legs dragged her, until she was on the doorstep to the mill, a set of winding steps leading down into the utter blackness. At last, her sense of self-preservation (and my botched dice roll) allowed to her to snap free of the chanting's eerie, hypnotic pull and she fled back to the inn and to the safety of her friends. The zombies seemed oblivious to her passing, but then a sharp shriek split the night air before it was cut short. Arriving beneath the open window where she first leapt from the inn, lay the body of the innkeeper's daughter, her limbs bent in awkward angles, her eyes glazed. With a shudder, the corpse began to twitch, the popping of bones and cracking joints sending a wave of revulsion through Larisse. The innkeeper himself appeared at the window, shocked at the sight of his daughter below, dead and taken from him like his late wife. He cried angrily into the night before turning back into the inn.

Annnnnnnd scene.

We cut to the ambushed group in the woods. Skeletons wielding rusted blades and rotted wooden bucklers moved to surround the trio, while Ethanuel was still oblivious to the danger, too busy relieving his bladder. It was only Shoohey's animal growl that alerted both Tez and Ethanuel to the danger. As the skeletons approached, arrows flew into the melee, as undead warriors in the bushes pulled on bowstrings with emaciated fingers. As the trio fought a desperate battle, surrounded by the dead, Lysimakos made his dramatic entrance. Having tailed the undead for the last hour, he made his move, charging headlong into the archers and cutting them asunder before they managed to notch another arrow. With no fire support to keep their foes guard up, the trio of Ethanuel, Tez and Shoohey managed to dispatch their assailants at last.
As they explained the situation to Lys, the decision is made to continue into the forest in the hopes of finding the Town Sheriff, hoping he may shed some light on the situation. Following Shoohey's enhanced animal senses, they at last came to a small clearing, a hut sitting in the centre. Smoke billowed from a squat chimney as the group approached. The Sheriff, Stefan, was waiting there, a stern expression on his face, stroking his goatee, a longsword strapped to his back over a leather long coat. Tez called out, "Ahh, you must be the sheriff! We were looking for you! Greetings, we are heroes, and we are known collectively as Tez's Templars, although that has yet to be finalised." (To date, the group is yet to finalise an adventuring name, a fact I still reason is the problem for their poor dice-rolling). Stefan is a gruff and ill-tempered individual it seemed, as he dismissed the group out of hand saying, "I have two words of advice for you. Get. Out." As the group tried to get a conversation struck up and gather information, it became clear the Sheriff was hiding something. Not wanting to be drawn on the happenings in the village he turned back into his hut saying simply that he had work to do. Thankfully the party, as with all players, are nothing if not persistent.

Tez - "You seem to be entrenched against whatever lurks in this wood, though, Stefan. You don't mind me calling you Stefan, right? Good! You are one man, alone against whatever is out there *puts arm around Stefan's shoulders and uses his free hand to gesture wildly at the woods* But not anymore! You have allies now! We must join forces, and rid the woods of whatever evil befouled them! That fool in town only cares about his own comfort! The villagers cower, afraid to help themselves! It is a time for heroes, Stefan! A time of LEGENDS! You must help us, and together, we will bring the light back to this village!"

Convinced by the sincerity of Tez's words, Stefan invited the group into his cabin, expanding on the village goings-on. He had been the target of several attacks and had setup several waypoints from which to guard the village's perimeter. The attacks of the undead had been regular occurrences long before tales of a witch came up and he seemed convinced that Lady Elena wasn't to blame. There had been an evil here since a plague had swept through the village and claimed the lives of half the citizens there. The only one afflicted who survived was the Marshall and he had been a changed man since then.
While Stefan told his story, Ethanuel/Jory spotted a small medallion hanging on a nail on the wall. Hoping that the Sheriff was distracted, he pocketed the item. In seconds an axe blade whirled through the air, catching the half-elf's sleeve on the wall. Lys was on the immediate defensive, his battleaxe out, while the Sheriff had drawn his own blade.
"Drop it, half-elf," was all Stefan managed to say.
"Relax, Sheriff! I was just taking a look!" stammered Ethanuel, as he reached with his free hand into his pocket. Throwing it back to Stefan, he pulled his arm free from the wall. "What's so special about it?"
Stefan explained the medallion belonged to his wife, passed away in the plague. Since then he'd been grieving for her, and had hoped to rid the area of the evil that remained behind.

Lys began questioning the young sheriff's motives. Over a year had passed since the plague that decimated the village, since rumours of witchery have circled the Lady Elena, and still Stefan was without information of any sort. Who was he protecting?

As things turn heated, Stefan forced the group out into the night again, shouting that there's more going on here than they could possibly know. Tez tried to placate the weary man, while Lys and Ethanuel kept an eye on the area outside the hut.

"Come Stefan, surely this matter is too serious to let a lapse in manners cloud the issue?" said Tez, waving a meaty, scaled hand in the direction of his parting companions.

"You can all go play hero elsewhere, there's nothing you can do here," came the reply, as Stefan slumped in his chair.

"Tell us what we face, and we will leave you alone, if you wish it," said Tez.

"You face evil."Stefan lifted his head, a haunted look in his eyes. "Simply put, it's in the air you breathe, in the soil beneath your feet and in the people you meet in that village. So unless you want to start smiting the ground you're walking on then i suggest you get out now while you can"

"I couldn't stop it when it started, and now it's too far gone, Elena was the only thing keeping it clean!" Stefan made a move to a table on the other side of the room, uncorking the bottle of whiskey sat there.

Shoohey, somewhat hesitantly, stepped back into the small wooden hut. "Well, if you continue to be so uncooperative, you will never stop it for sure."

Stefan gave her a long, hard stare, his filled shot glass halfway to his mouth. With a sad, humourless smile he let his hand drop and slumped back into his chair.

"When did i get so damn angry?" The sheriff let his glass fall to the floor, spilling its contents, and rubbed a calloused hand over his tired eyes. "I'm sorry. I mean no offence. It's just that...that it's been too long now. I've spent too many nights fighting dead men to really believe anything is going to change now."

"Listen up, Stefan! *pokes finger at Stefan's chest* I thought you were different, but you're the same as that fool in town! You say this evil is in the ground? Then we'll smash open the ground until we find it! It's in the air? The sword of justice will reach up and pull it down! You've given up, well sit back and watch! We're real heroes, and we will see this place free and we will bring this evil to justice! You sit here and brood, watch us blaze a trail through destiny!"*turns his back on Stefan* Come, friends! we're obviously not going to get any help here. Let's get back to town and make sure the people are still safe tonight!"

As the party left Stefan, he took his medallion in his hand and stroked it affectionately, muttering something under his breath.

Outside, in the gloom-filled clearing the party resolved to return to the village to check on Larisse (yikes!) and ensure everything is going alright (double yikes!). They begin debating whether Stefan is a good guy now broken, or if he is indeed hiding something or protecting someone.

Just outside the hut, however, Ethanuel saw the sheriff move a rug from beneath his Spartan bed to reveal a hidden door. Descending a set of earthen steps, Stefan disappeared from view, leaving Ethanuel to rush back to his companions to tell them of the discovery.

GM Note: In my short time as Games Master, I have often found that dropping blatantly obvious plot hooks to work. You put in a mysterious set of stairs, a man with questionable motives and a secret, and surely the group is due to investigate due to their curious nature. Surely...

After some quick discussion, it was deemed more appropriate to return the village straight away and investigate in the morning when the group were rested and Larisse was present. While Ethanuel was up for investigating there and then, the rest thought he was in it just for the loot (a player after loot! No!), everyone felt a rest was in order. Besides, if there was to be an attack on the village then they would do more good there than in the creepy basement of a sheriff.

GM Note: Of course an investigation was never to occur after what the group discovered upon returning to the village. To give you all an insight though, here's the conversation where they discuss what may be going on.

[27/08/2009 23:41:18] Rob: The marshall did it. Larisse has been captured, we'll bust in and rescue her/defeat the marshall, and the sheriff will be all "i misjudged you i'm here to help" and then we get lots of gold

[27/08/2009 23:41:50] Andrew: lol - not quite but all will be revealed

[27/08/2009 23:42:06] Rob: Also the sheriff is actually Elena in disguise, she is undercover trying to solve the mystery

[27/08/2009 23:42:08] redmanphill: Ha when we find hundred of corpses in his basement then we shall see who was correct!

[27/08/2009 23:42:31] Andrew: lol

[27/08/2009 23:43:04] Rob: whose basement? The sheriff's or the marshall's?

[27/08/2009 23:43:14] Rob: maybe they're in it together!

[27/08/2009 23:43:30] redmanphill: Maybe it is a tunnel from one basement to the other??

[27/08/2009 23:43:40] redmanphill: That would be confusing

[27/08/2009 23:44:01] Rob: it's totally a tunnel under the sheriff's hut by the way. I bet it leads to his other huts

[27/08/2009 23:44:07] Andrew: I think we're reading a lot into what was originally a very simple story

[27/08/2009 23:44:14] Rob : it's how he's not been captured by baddies yet

[27/08/2009 23:44:33] redmanphill: He is a baddy!! The biggest of them all!

[27/08/2009 23:44:45] jory: :D

[27/08/2009 23:45:01] jory: i bet its a room full of medallions

[27/08/2009 23:45:28] Rob: and a big photo of Ethanuel in the middle, taunting you

[27/08/2009 23:45:07] Rob: Andy, in 3 years time when we're all level 20 and this campaign is epic and amazing, it'll turn out the sheriff was the mastermind behind all evil in the world!

[27/08/2009 23:45:34] Andrew O'Connor: lol - ideas are awesome but what makes you think in 3 years you'll be level 20?

[27/08/2009 23:45:45] jory: lol

[27/08/2009 23:45:48] Andrew O'Connor: it took us 5 weeks to complete one scenario!

[27/08/2009 23:45:50] Rob: yes that may have been over reaching somewhat

Thursday, 12 November 2009

How not to investigate a haunted village...

So, while our campaign has been moving a-pace, the blog has been neglected due to my busy (I use the term loosely) schedule.

The party, having recovered from their minor debacle against the flying beasties. Our intrepid, cool-headed fighter, Lysimakos has decided to return to the main road and search for sign's of the kidnapped maiden's passage while the rest of the group forge ahead into the village of Vue.

Over the space of half an hour the party emerge from the forest, their sense of unease deepening, while the party Druid (Shoohey, played by the ever-inquisitive Tamara) feels dark magic and tastes death in the air.
The village itself is relatively small, the buildings are lined along one street, with a large manor at the head of it, a windmill crudely built onto the side of its eastward wall. Only a faint glow emanates from the windows of the houses, given off by small votive candles sat on the sills. Some have only one lit, while others have up to 3 or 4. Only glimpses of the villagers can be seen before curtains are pulled too and shutters closed over. Night has fallen, and the residents seem reluctant to emerge out of their homes.

While Tez seeks out a platform from which to announce the groups arrival in stunning and charismatic fashion, the rest notice 2 figures outside the manor arguing over something. One is a prtly fellow with a moustache and wearing fine clothes, the other bedecked in the manner of a ranger or woodsman. After a few moments the two stop talking, share angry looks and the woodsman wanders off into the forest. The village Marshall (or militant Mayor) finally notices the party, smooths his clothes and approaches them giving them a very warm, but obviously fake smile. Before he reaches them though, Tez breaks into his speech:

"Behold, people of Vue! Listen to my words! My name is Tezlastazex, and these are my friends! We're Heroes, so everyone stop being scared right now! We'll sort out your problems, because that's what we do!"

Stirring, as I'm sure you'll agree.

Silence is the only response. After a few moments, Ethanuel (the devious and thieving warlock played by Jory) resolves to find the nearest inn, The Green Man, and finds the place empty but for a barman cleaning glasses. Looking surprised he leaps up before scampering into the kitchen behind him. As Ethanuel approaches the door, the innkeeper returns, smoothing back his hair and is closely followed by his daughter, Kira.

Meanwhile outside, the Marshall has finally reached the party, only to be greeted by a very blunt Tez (played by the word-gifted Rob):

"Hey, you! What's going on in this village? This placwe has a bad feel to it!"

Startled for a moment (by both Tez's greeting, and the fact that Shoohey has begun sniffing him [out of habit]), the Marshall goes on to explain how a witch has been plaguing the small hamlet for some months, stealing citizens in the dead of night and taking them away, though he is unsure as to where. When the local guard move to explore the forest proper, they are chased out by undead creatures.
The woman the Marshall describes fits the description of the noblewoman Elena that they've been sent to look for, and the Marshall confirms her by name. Before he goes any further though, he casts about him with worried looks.

"Out here is no place to talk. Quickly, inside the inn. We can speak further there."

With that, he quickly ushers the party into the Green Man. Inside the inn, Ethanuel has already been trying to question the innkeeper and his daughter to no avail. The innkeeper seems reluctant to say anything except "D'you want a drink?" while his daughter keeps silent, though her eyes call out to Ethanuel. As soon as the Marshall enters, the innkeeper shrinks back against the wall as if afraid of the man, or possibly the huge Dragonkin behind him.

"Terol, some privacy please. Shut up the doors. We may have the help we've needed in these folks."

Quickly the innkeeper moves to the door, dropping a large beam across the brackets on the frame, and closes all the shutters. , all except for one with a small votive candle sitting on the sill.
Terol, the innkeeper then takes his daughter by the arm and leads her upstairs but not before she glances back at Ethanuel, pleading silently with her eyes.

"What's with all the candles?" blurts out Ethanuel.

"Those are a...personal thing. The families here believe that their loved ones may return if they see the light in the darkness, guiding them back like a beacon of sorts."

The party continue to press the Marshall for information which he all-too freely gives up. He explains how Elena came to the village around 4 months ago, trying to escape her court life.

She befriended a local miller boy called Simin. The two were constantly together before Elena returned to her city life, leaving the poor lad heart-broken. She returned some weeks later, though something had changed in her. The two had an argument and Simin disappeared shortly afterward. She seemed much colder, harsher, even assaulting a guard when he asked her about Simin's whereabouts. Slowly more folk disappeared, whether it was the guard she assaulted or women in the street who gave her funny looks. Indeed anyone who displeased her mysteriously vanished into the forest. While they had no proof that she was taking these poor townfolk away, they all felt it. Except for the Sheriff - the man the Marshall had been arguing with. The only reason he hadn't been locked away was because he was popular with the people. He thought that Elena was innocent, that some other force was driving these people to wander into the forest.
With that, Tez stood up and proclaimed (in true cheesy, paladin fashion*):

"We must find the source of this evil, and end it, no matter what form it has taken! I smell mystery here, and nothing is what it seems! No fear! The light of justice will illuminate the truth!"

*GM Note: There seems to be some unwritten rule that, no matter what sort of person you are, you character always reverts (at least at the beginning) to it's basic stereotype as seen here. Paladins are seen as glory-seeking, evil-smiting charming-machines. Rules-wise this works, but every person playing it feels the need to play the daring, glorious Prince Charming acrchetype. In a similar vein fighters are always either foolhardy vets with a deathwish or sensible vets who are very taciturn and suspicious, while bards are often gloryhounds who run to the back at the first sign of trouble.

The Marshall, introduced as Uther Kryp, then asks the players help in ridding the village of this witch, happily compensating them for the rooms they are bound to hire for the night (oh what little did I know what these guys would have in store for me later...). He also introduces the absent Terol (innkeeper) and Kira (daughter to Terol/barmaid), pointing out that the candle is for Kira's mother who disappeared several days ago.

While the Marshall gives the party directions to the Sheriff's abode in the forest (roughly) but explains that man also lives rough, constantly moving round the forest and keeping a weather eye on poachers, adn more recently undead. Ethanuel, for the meantime moves upstairs hoping to speak with Kira in private.

Larisse (the image-obsessed Tiefling warlock played by the equally beauteous Sophie) asks for the nearest bath in predictable fashion, to which the Marshall chuckles and advises it's located in the mansion where he currently resides (*cue porn-jazz*).

While the group enquire about Stefan (the Sheriff) and his dubious loyalties, Ethanuel locates Kira on the 2nd floor of the inn. Stepping into her room, he tries to question her about the goings-on in the village. She confirms her mother has recently gone missing but she seems certain it isn't the accused noble Elena. She had always been a gentle soul and can't see how the woman could have committed any of these kidnappings. She can see how it all fits with Elena's appearances but is sure that the Marshall is somehow involved. He seems too eager to prosecute the woman. her father is also trying to keep her quiet for fear that she may be next. as Kira takes consolation in the arms of Ethanuel, he hears a creak outside the door. Before the two can share a tender moment, Ethanuel moves uickly to the corner of the room as Terol violently opens the door.

"Where is that half-elf, Kira? I know he's in here! You know you shouldn't be speaking to these people, they'll fill your head with dangerous thoughts! How do we know that evil hag hasn't sent them here to finish off?"

Following this is possibly the best line I've heard in this context:

"I was just asking for a towel," says Ethanuel, stepping from behind the door.

The innkeeper spins round, and scolds the young half-elf, wagging an accusatory fingfer at him:

"Uther may have paid for your rooms, but if you come near my daughter again, I'll beat you like a child! I don't rust your friends and you even less so."

He quickly grabs Kira by the arm again and stomps out.

- Meanwhile downstairs, the discussion gets heated as Tez becomes furious at the Marshall's lack of conviction. There have been no clues as to the identity of the witch except the wild accusations of the Marshall, no bodies of the missing have been found and now the village seems content to simply hide away and wait till they are all taken, one by one.

"Look here, dragonchild, you may have led a wide and strange life outside, but here among these forests we have no one! No trade routes bring patrols here, no wandering knights come to our rescue! I have watched families mourn over empty graves, for loved ones they may never see again! I'm doing everything in my power just to keep these last few people alive!"

The group then puzzle over the reasons why Elena (if it is Elena) is snatching people at random - rituals? practice for animating the dead? The lot of them seem at a loss.

At this, Marshall Kryp bids the group goodnight, leaving the inn. Tez lowers the beam over the door again after he leaves.

after both sides recap their stories, there is some discussion as to who should take first watch in the inn that night.

Then this happens:

Tez - "I say we go into the forest and see what is REALLY there!"*

*GM Note - never underestimate the party or indeed individuals in the party. Specifically their nerring ability to run off into areas that as a DM you haven't mapped/written/even considered for role-playing purposes because you thought they may do the sensible thing and not wander into a haunted forest in the dark when a witch is wandering around with undead minions kidnapping people. But there you go...

They decide to leave one member (Larisse) in the inn to keep watch and bar the door behind them. Meanwhile, Shoohey, Tez and Ethanuel make the short journey into the forest, in the direction Sheriff Stefan went. Shoohey quickly shifts into the form of a wolverine and leads the trio into the woods, her animal senses immediately picking up the fact that something is deeply wrong with these trees, something evil is lurking in the soil beneath the peasoup fog that clings to the muddy earth. As the group comes to a stop to get their bearings, Ethanuel decides now is the best time to *ahem* relieve himself against a tree. Oblivious to the rustle of armour and snapping of twigs which both Shoohey and Tez have picked up on. As Ethanuel continues to soil the soil, so to speak, 5 skeletons emerge behind him bearing rusted blades and beaten bucklers.

Tune in next blog to find out what happens!

Will Ethanuel realise the doom headed his way? Will the fighting fit Lysimakos (the ever-dramtic Phill) make glorious entrance? What tomfoolery will Larisse get up to while the rest of her friends are away? Will Tamara roll a successful score for a skill check?

Friday, 7 August 2009

You All Meet In An Inn...No Wait!

I hate computers. Technology and I do not seem to get on well. Let me explain.

We began our first gaming session in high spirits. Using a mix of Skype, MSN messenger we rendevous at our agreed time and my eager victims sat at their computers, fingers poised over their favourite D20s. Meanwhile I was desperately trying to figure out technological faff like opening router ports, dropping firewalls and wondering why I couldn't host our game. That and trying to write the scenario. Starting your first session the day after you return from your honeymoon and your first day back at work seemed like a stupid prospect, and everything was going wrong.

In the end I threw in the towel. The program I had chosen, since it was simple to use, was Gametable. And it seemed my router didn't like it, the swine. After an hour the party-to-be were getting restless and I shared their discontentment. A few quick messages and we were all on Skype. And Jory had a faulty keyboard*.

GM Note: For the majority of the night Jory's accent changed from West Country to French much to everyone's amusement. A prime example was when we, for a brief and shining moment believed he was playing an ALF elf warlock.

'Guys - introductions.'

Our motley crew consists of:

Rob -My name is Tezlastazex, the Dragonborn Paladin, and I fight on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves. I am blue and enjoy smoking cigars, long walks on the beach and smiting evil. (GM - An honourable, glory-seeking hothead with his heart in the right place)

Sophie - Good Evening, my name is Larisse, a Tiefling Warlock. Red sking, d/blue hair, feline eyes. I am a complete snob, so if you think you are good at something then I am ten times better (or at least i think I am). Not easily impressed and I have a sueductive nature. (GM - An arrogant, looks-obsessed Warlock with a mean repetoire of spells)

Jory - I am a Half-elf Warlock. I am nimble and sneaky and strangers may want to check their pockets when I'm around. (A cocky, roguish Half-Elf who has displayed feelings for Larisse, though he has a dark past and possibly a dar future ahead)

Tamara - A logical though isolated Eladrin Druid dubbed Shoohey. (GM - A lonely Druid despite spending her last five years training with these people, who feels more comfortable in animal form than as her true self)

The group began in the bar of the Guild, celebrating their recent initiation into their roles as fully registered Heroes. Over the last five years the young warriors were trained and then put into their current Cadre, their mentors seeing that their natural abilities and personalities complimented each other well. The party are toasting their recent victory in the Trials (a sort of graduation test) against their obligatory rivals, The Brotherhood of the Sword*.

GM Note - A title stolen with love from another campaign in which this group featured prominetly as the unseen rivals to the party. I'm sorry and thank you Alex.

A quick background note - The Guild is falling into disrepute. Over the last two decades it has been hiring out its sword arm to the highest bidder rather than upholding the values for which it stands. Due to this the publice view many of the Heroes that come its halls with wary eyes. Much like Spiderman, they love them when they are saving the day but once they've done the job then they're dubious, untrustworthy individuals. At best. King Voltera, a handsome, charismatica and all-round nice guy had just recently come to power under dubious circuimstances. While he is an alright gent, his court is full of sycophants and schemers.
The Guild Master, Thorne, had signed over to the King, the strength of the Guild as his standing army for a very handsome of money.

Cut back to the party, sat at a table commenting on their final test with the Brotherhood, playing 'Save the Peasant' which uses real peasants. Our noble Players were of course the rescuers, the snobbish Brotherhood playing the role of raiders. Now sitting round the table they make comments about how they feel the battle went (it seems Larisse did little more than fix her hair 'so the enemy may know I am a respectable warrior', much to the frustration of Lysimakos). Unfortunatley they wer shouting and getting raucous, especially when berating the damnable peasants who didn't seem very pleased about being used in the Guild's tests. Go figure. Three tables away the peasants from the test began to get a dark look in their eyes, and the images of broken furniture and shattered bottles seemed an iminent possibility.

Luckily in the nick of time the esteemed Taskbearer, Crux entered the bar. A quiet and hermitic man, Crux's only duty is to collect and distribute missions to the Heroes who have residence in the Guild halls.

'GM: A human with one leg, he walks hunched using a cane to support himself, his head bald, his face gaunt and thin like a blade, his eyes in shadow.

"Greetings Cadre 245. " said Crux, holding to his chest a large page of parchment.

"Good day to you Taskbearer," replied Lysimakos, before returning to his pint of ale.

"Greetings Crux! Do you have a mssion for us yet?" Tez stood up abruptly, squaring off with the Taskbearer, his form towering over the robed man.

The human seemed to bristle at the informal use of his name but bit his tongue despite it.

"It would be about time," muttered Larisse, sulkily holding her small glass of wine and leaning back on her chair.

"The Guildmaster and I have deigned to grant you your first mission, in the land of Meadowvale," snapped Crux, "And we shall do so as and when we decide Mistress Tiefling!"

"Now calm down friend." Ethanuel stood from his seat beside Larisse, placing himself between her and the Taskbearer.

Sneering, Crux quickly passed the parchment to Tez then spun on his heel and strode quickly through the parting crowd in the bar.'

With this opening interaction it seemed the party had been put immediately into the Taskmaster's bad books.*

*GM note - And because of this I'll be giving them a series of crap missions, reflecting Crux's attempts to deny them glory! Enjoy guys!

Tez quickly reviewed the sheet's instructions:

"Cadre 245,

Dire news has reached us from Lord Ely Bach that his daughter, the lady Elena Bach has disappeared. Travelling to a village named Vue in the realm of Meadowvale, she seems to have gone missing. No correspondence of any form has been received and the trade patrols confirm she reached her destination. No evidence of attack on the roads in the area has been discovered. Lord Bach has donated a significant sum to the Guild treasuries in return for the quick and safe return of his daughter.

Make haste to Vue and find Elena."

Tez quickly made an oath to find the young maiden to no one in particular before being reprimanded by his more sensible comrade Lysimakos. This lead to a five mionute debate as to when was the most appropriate time to make an oath and how much information you should ahve about a situation before swearing one. Meanwhile I recounted to the party what information and gossip they are aware of, regarding the fair Elena.

"A young and often flirtatious lady, Elena was seen with many men, and never the same one twice. Most men wanted to be with her, and most women simply called her tramp. She was known for disappearing for a few days at a time but never for as long as two weeks, which was the current case. What was strange was, as much as she flirted with the men at court, she never did more than that. None ever saw the inside of her bedchamber and there were rumours she was in love with a lowborn miller in Vue. Others thought she simply enjoyed the chase rather than the kill. She had few enemies, and the same could be said of her father. Though he was one of the wealthiest nobles, he was a libertarian and had little influence in the politcs of the court."

Upon reviewing their mission and their knowledge, Cadre 245 debated on the best methods to track down the girl's whereabouts. Three groups became evident. Lysimakos and Larisse wanted to trace Elena's journey (Lysimakos thought it was prudent, Larisse didn't want trees in her hair). Ethanuel and Shoohey wanted to make as much speed to Vue as possible through the forests. Tez was simply eager to get there. In the end the woods won out. Trade patrols had not seen any wreckages by the roadsides, and it was assumed that Elena had reached her destination. The group quickly snatched their belongings and leapt astride their horses*.

*GM note - Horses I felt they were obligated to name. Its much more difficult for them to ditch their steeds or forget about them if they've named them.

Tez - a mighty Destrier named Platelet

Larisse - a sweet-tempered and pampered mare called Passionfruit. That had tassles on its saddle.

Ethanuel - Pannowa, a strong and sturdy black stallion.

Shoohey - a light brown mare called Brina

Lysimakos - a compact, stocky gelding called Tragedy. No, seriously.

Trusting to Shoohey's preternatural sense of direction, the Cadre left the mighty walls of the Guild and rode to the forest edge. Still some debate raged between the party, unsure of having to sleep rough and fight wild beasts in the forest. Despite Lysimakos misgivings, they ventured into the thick foliage.

Two and a half days of travel passed uneventfully, as they Cadre journeyed through the forests and vales of the land*.

*GM note - I like the idea of the country being similar to Tolkein's fantasy world, and I felt particulary about combining the hills of the Shire and the thick forests of Fangorn.

Finally coming to rest on the early evening of the third day, they reached the edge of the forests that border on the village of Vue, having reached the land of Meadowvale. Though the village was only a short ride away, Lysimakos and Ethanuel felt it prudent to camp in the clearing before journeying to the village the next morning. The others, particularly Larisse who was becoming increasingly distressed by the absence of a bath, wished to press on and finally get a good night's sleep in a bed rather than on the dirt. Finally it was decided to risk the forest at night and they pressed on into the trees. Shoohey was the first to sense it. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end, and she felt a strange and sudden emptiness in her as if she had lost her connection to the land around her. Thick fog rolled across the forest floor, smokey tendrils wrapping around the players' ankles and obscuring the ground they rode across. The animal noises they had become so used to in their journey had stopped and all was silent save the clumping, trotting noises of their steeds' hooves. The ground itself seemed soft, as if the land itself was slowly decaying and rotting away. Dismounting quickly and drawing arms, they continued to lead their steeds on, now on the lookout for the first sign of danger. All that is except Larisse who was desperately trying not to let her fine quality boots get sucked into the mud. Slipping for a moment, she squealed as her hair suddenly was tangled in the bare branches of a nearby tree. Her allies looked round, frustrated at her lack of commitment and priorities. Her vanity would be her downfall. Distracted, the player's failed to hear the flapping of wings in the night approaching quickly.


The group ware suddenly beset by a swarm of Stirges, seven large bat-like creatures with noses that were long and pointed like a mosquito's. Thankfully the players reacted quickly and set about the flying creatures with abandon. Both Tez and Lysimakos stepped forward and swatted the winged beasts from the air with mighty strokes of their swords; Larisse (whose hair was finally free of the dastardly tree) flung blasts of eldritch energy at her foes though her shots went wide; Ethanuel cursed one of the creatures, throwing a blast of energy at it as he did so. Unluckily it managed to dodge his attack, wrapping its leathery arms around his thigh and piercig his clothing with its razor sharp beak. Shoohey morphed into her panther form, leapt into the air and became a flurry of fur and claws, beating several of the monsters from mid-air and leaving them stunned on the forest floor. The creatures on the ground struggled to get airborne again, while their companions made futile attempts to attack the party. The one attached to Ethanuel's leg found itself feeding on nothing as he teleported his body a few feet away and blasted the creature to the ground. Lysimakos put himself between one of the airborne beasts and the desperate Larisse and knocked it from the air as it collided with his steel shield. Tez dispatched one of the creatures with a final slash of his sword. Shoohey, reverting to her Eladrin form, sent a massive gust of cold wind racing through the branches, flinging the remaining creatures into the trunks of the trees, their broken bodies littering the ground.

Brushing themselves down and checking their equipment, the party took sock the situation. They had come out of their first unmonitored combat with only a few scratches and no serious wounds to speak of, something to be proud of and hopefully an indicator of their combat successes in the future. Taking a hold of the reins of their horses, they continued to push for the village of Vue, realising that this mission may be more than just a case of a missing damsel and her lover.

Week 1 drew to a close, the scenario not even halfway through*.

*GM note - it is a true testament to the skills of any party that they are able to draw out a 3 hour scenario over a much longer period. Combined with my rusty skills at force-railroading them along the plot and it seems this first mission may go on for much longer than intended. Not that it's a bad thing. The more the players draw it out, the more inventive I need to get. Expecially if I can find some way to make their arsing around turn round and bite them in the...uh...arse.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

OMG and other such acronyms.

Well, here it is. My first blog. I'm not sure whether I should feel excited, worried or simply meh.

But anyways, my motivation for starting this little script 'o' words is my first online role-playing experience. And no I don't mean World of Warhammer Ultima whathaveyou Online. I mean pens and paper and dice and books. Through the internet. Crazy, I know but bear with me here, it gets stranger. It'll be with people I know. Or with people who know people I know.

I've played MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) and can't help but feel a strange sense that I'm disconnected from this fabulous game world that the developers have so lovingly crafted. This, I feel, is a fault on my part, not the developers.

Unless some DM is actively describing the colour of the local shrubbery or there are some form of hijinx a-foot with the party clown, I generally lose interest. Quickly. That and stupid side quests that have no comedy value. Dammit, if I'm going to collect mushrooms for the local shaman because of some vague reason, I want some motivation other than a shiny pair of boots. Boots don't really do it for me. The fact that the local fauna attacks me everytime I'm halfway through collecting said mushroom simply gets my metaphorical goat.

At least in a pen-and-paper game, you've got in-game comedy in those filler missions when the GM has decided he had to play Halo 3 instead of write this week's scenario. You'll be facing off against a Saturday morning villain with the voice of Brian Blessed and the evil moustache of Fu Man Chu. Because, what players and GMs lack in preparation, we make up for in pure entertainment, or something resembling it anyway.

But anyway, on to the game. In theory, it begins 9th July 8pm GMT. In theory, we have myself as GM and 5 other players. And in theory it's dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition. I say in theory because as I've mentioned already, preparation is a rare thing in role-playing games, and the players and games masters that are actually prepared are the ones that you should be wary of. This is because they know the Rules, and this is a gift that is never to be underestimated, especially when they have a smile on their face, despite no one telling a joke (or making a deplorable pun).

Our basic backstory is somewhat inspired by my recent travels through the Fable games by Lionhead Studios and Microsoft, for which they should be rightly proud.
Envision the world of Varasana. A land of green fields, forests, villages and cities.
Here there is a fair amount of peace after the War in the Skies, in whcih the ancient Gods defeated the Hag Goddess Morai and her evil spawn (through which the orcs and goblins are descended and are thus reviled and are second-class citizens). After the War, the Gods departed the lands and left for other realms. In their final decree, so there might always be a balance, they had their mortal Champions set up the Guild. Here young men and women would train to be part of the Order of the Skies. They would venture into the world aiding those who needed it.

Of course over time, the Guild became corrupt. Initiates would help those they saw fit, whether it be altruistic or for personal gain, and the majority of it's members became mercenaries after a sort. Those who remained with the Guild were paid to prevent a migration of its members into freelance business, but it restricted the actions of its members so that they served only the Guild's interests. In the end they became overly-glorified hired muscle.

Cut to present day - our players are part of the Guild, forming a Cadre (a party). They have just been fully initiated into the Guild and are therefore given more responsibility like escorting the members of state and running after influential nobles who may have the Guild's interests at heart.

Meanwhile, across Varanasa, the orc tribes are growing restless, attacks on trade routes are becoming more frequent and vicious, and there is news that a dark force is rising within the noble houses of Varanasa.

So, fun!

next blog shall be a run down of our cast of characters, who they are, what they do and possibly their first adventure.

Watch this space!