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Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Condensed Campaign Update

As mentioned in the last post, my group has been in the wilderness travelling cross country for a few months of game time to get to the city of Pax Valis, Capitol of the Great Kingdom. They encountered mostly light fighting from monsters (thought carrying the Witchfire meant if they didn't destroy everything they killed right away, it would reanimate and start another fight), although there was an encounter with a group of undead giants, a clan of hill giants and a hidden temple of Demogorgon they tricked their way out of (especially fun because it involved some quick on their feet RP with an intelligent mutant 2-headed ape and some lucky reaction rolls).

I was looking ahead to the city. I don't normally run city adventures, they don't suit me as a referee so I was planning what to do next. Looking at my notes one night, I stumbled across an old Swords & Wizardry adventure I made 3 or 4 years ago with some of the current group's members. Low level wilderness and dungeon crawl, they inadvertently freed a Death Knight. He hung out for a few rounds while he got his bearings, fried some NPCs for good effect and put a whupping on a couple of PCs before using his Word of Recall ability to TP away. In life the Knight's religion was as a follower of the Deity of Lords and Rulers and he fell from grace not long before he died, was consequently entombed in what would have been the dungeon of the keep he was building for himself...where he had awoken as a Death Knight trapped by wards and barriers (until our unwitting heroes stumbled across him a few thousand years later).

Fast forward to now, the new group of totally different characters. They deliver the sword triumphantly to the High Priest of the Deity of Protection and Healing in the temple in Pax Valis. In the process, they find out that Alexia's uncle in the swamp city died shortly after the witch trials that killed her mother 10 years ago...that left them wondering who the good father really is since he was far from dead and no temple sanctioned resurrection was performed.

When they go to hand over the sword, one of the group's fighting-men lunges after it. She had been in contact with it and lost a contest of wills during the course of bringing it here, it decided if there was a chance, it would use her to escape the city and find a suitable wielder that didn't fight it so much. The sword clatters to the ground when she bull rushes the High Priest and the group restrains her as...

The Death Knight appears, setting off all sorts of wards and protective magic, sizzling and popping and bursting into holy flames. The group, filled with the horror of what they are witnessing, can't do anything to save the High Priest as the Death Knight reclaims his sword and slices down the man then exits out onto the street, leaving them with a sense of dread as he causes a commotion and then vanishes.

Once things calmed down (in game and around the table) the Cleric decides to seek permission to build a stronghold (he had reached 8th level) and set about building a monumental temple dedicated to his Deity. The hirelings have decided they were rich enough to retire, the fighting-man has decided to use his wealth to build an inn & tavern in one of the villages that falls within the Cleric's Barony.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Witchfire Trilogy in Onn

For about 20 sessions last year I ran Privateer Press' Witchfire Trilogy (Collected Hardcover). Now it's written for the 3e rules, but I believe in Referee (or DM / GM) innovation and free thinking during a game, making stuff up on the spot  is something that goes way back the the beginning (and is something I find 'new school' with all of its formulas hampers since the players know them as well). So when I pulled this trilogy out, I did no converting on it at all. I substituted the named monsters and made stuff up on the fly to cover the rest (normal humans, hillbilly goblins, some undead witches and a bunch of other stuff).

Now I've run this three times before in different groups (though some members play across different groups so some have played it before). I wont spoiler everything, but my groups so far have had 3 outcomes: they won a moral victory but Alexia destroyed the Witchfire; Alexia tpk'd them; they won and secured the Witchfire. The first and the last were worst case scenarios...the Witchfire is a bad, BAD minor artifact-level two-handed sword. It being anywhere but the PCs hands is bad for the PCs. The first outcome I made part of Onn's history - the swamp of Whitemarsh was the location of the events in the module, the PCs were victorious but in the end Alexia destroyed the blade and the Big Hurt really happened afterwards (I won't spoil it for anyone).

Its been a few years and most of my current group are newer gamers that have never played it and so I dusted off the module again. Things were par for the course...some players liked the investigative nature of the beginning of the module, others the developing story, and so on and such. I threw in Onn-esque tidbits as well, such as renaming the Deities, making references to places in Onn and the people they encountered, as it is, the module really does drop in well with minimal fiddling to its background parts.

We got through the first module, the Longest Night, with little difficulty. Most of the monsters I needed to use were either already in existence in oldschool references or made on the fly. I used parts of the bridging module, Fool's Errand, as well. We had just got a couple sessions into the second module, Shadow of the Exile though when the party made a left turn and went off the reservation. Now, There is one thing about 99% of modules that can't be helped, they expect the PCs to follow the plot. Well I bucked the plot from day 1 myself by making changes to a bunch of things, most of which the PCs aren't aware of, but a couple of things the experienced players are.


Now from the start, after the PCs got into the investigation they didn't trust Father Dumas, his niece Alexia or the Captain of the Guard, Julian Helstrom. In fact, they tried several times to enlist the aid of the town's elected official, Mayor Borlock only to hit an endless wall of red tape, then find that he is missing through the use of some good deductive reasoning (and magical charms). Once they had proof it was Alexia, she managed to get free (and logically at that, fortunately I didn't have to resort to railroading the PCs into freeing her) and give them a couple fights and a good chase. So far mostly according to the module.

The first noticeable HUGE divergence though happened at the climax of the Longest Night - Alexia and her animated Coven did retrieve her mother's body and the Witchfire, but only the coven made off successfully. That's right, I let the PCs kill the module antagonist fair and square. I let them keep the Witchfire, knowing full well what would happen next...and when it sunk in a session later when an older woman that resembled Alexia showed up, talking heatedly with Father Dumas...the Coven used a great magic to reclaim Lexaria, Alexia's mother, from beyond the grave.

Lexaria did manage to get the body of Alexia and the party ended up following the module loosely, travelling to the Machine Temple where they faced off against Lexaria and her still undead coven. The PCs won eventually, Lexaria was shoved off the Great Machine and fell into lightning-filled darkness, the coveners destroyed and they took Alexia's body with them, eventually cremating it.

That's when the second HUGE divergence happened...the party decided the Witchfire wasn't safe in a small town in the middle of a swamp. Father Dumas informed them a while back, the only priests powerful enough to seal the Witchfire and keep its evil at bay were at the Sactaeum, the highest temple (of his religion) located in the capitol of the Great Kingdom, far to the east.

They decided to go for it!

Now, from a module standpoint this isn't possible. From a gaming standpoint, I was about to jump out of my seat and high five everyone. Every time I ran this module, no one has said "let's go THIS way". The invasion force spearhead of Vinter was close by, they decided to AVOID it. The party has created its own mission now, get the sword safely to a place where it won't hurt anyone again and I think it rocks.

Vinter knows about the sword though, so he will be looking for it, Lexaria and the coven had more secrets buried that haven't been uncovered as of yet and there is always Vinter's right hand man, the sadistic Magic-user Vahn Oberon and that's just the enemies the PCs know.

Where we're going from here isn't defined now. The party has a long trek overland, I plan on doing it sandbox-style. I have a few planned events for them, but largely week to week I'm going to roll a bunch of dice and let the story unfold for all of us. I see alot of good oldschool exploration coming...all because of a sword, some undead and players that decided they had better chances elsewhere to do some good.

The first session of this is kicking off soon, boy I can't wait. Game On!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

New Spell: Fiery Burst

Fiery Burst
Spell Level: Magic-user 1
Range: 30 ft
Duration: Instant
The Magic-user points his finger and a bolt of flame lances to the target point, bursting in a 5 ft radius fire blossom. Any creature in the area receives 1d6 points of damage, plus an additional point per 2 levels of the caster (maximum of +6).

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Fighting-man Combat Option Clarification

I was asked this in a couple emails so I'll post it here for anyone curious enough to look and see. One of the Fighting-man Combat Options, Manyshot, allows more attacks with a missile weapon at the expense of accuracy.Since all have different rates of fire, it's been asked time and again how many can be made when one has a base RoF of 2, another 1/2, etc. So it's been clarified and made simpler:

·     Manyshot (select missile type) - You can make a bonus missile weapon attack each round with one type of missile launcher you are proficient with by hurrying your reload at the expense of accuracy. All of your attacks suffer a -2 penalty ‘to hit’ with the exception of the final attack you make in the round, that being made at a -4 penalty.

New Cleric Spell - Undeath to Death

Undeath to Death
Spell Level: Cleric 3
Range: Self
Duration: Instant
When the Cleric holds his holy symbol aloft and utters the prayers of his Deity, a wave of divine energy issues forth. All undead in a 30 ft radius of the Cleric suffers 1d4 points of damage per caster level (maximum of 10d4), with a Toughness saving throw allowed for half damage. Any undead of HD under half the Cleric’s level that are killed are turned to dust.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

More uses for Spell Slots in a Vancian World

I don't know about all gamers or other people's games, but from playing D&D for over 30 years I know this has happened to me more than a few favorite class are Magic-users (Wizards, Arcanists, Arcane Spellcasters, however you want to call them). Being that 1st level noob to the career is always fun when you find ways to make your cantrips last, load up on normal gear and find interesting ways to use a wet bedroll, 10 ft of rope and a 10 ft pole to confound your enemies and amaze your friends. To say the least, having a vancian spell casting system makes you think hard not only in spell selection, but how to survive without spells too.

There comes a time though, if your lucky and smart, where you reach the level when your character is ready for the heady power of a 2nd level spell...and you don't have any. Back in the day the Referees I've played under have run the gamut from 'tough luck' to allowing the use of the spell slot for lower level spells and adding some wild effects. In more recent years I've toyed with the extra effects for using a higher powered slot for lower level spells. When 3e came out it provided more of a template for what those slots can do (via Metamagic feats). Now don't turn your nose up Gentle Reader! While 3e may have been a departure from D&D (only in my own humble opinion) it took alot of things from what WAS in many homegrown D&D campaigns. So presented here is one such retro system that grants more felxability to those spell casters that may be suffering from a small spell selection, hopefully allowing them to remain useful for their party.

As a side note, we've allowed this for all spellcasting classes (including Clerics). While it might not seem like much use, it is impressive when a Cleric uses a 4th level slot to make a Cure Light Wounds spell into a range 30ft magic that increases the healing done by +50% and can be cast even while silenced, allowing him to keep an ally on his feet that's in melee while he guards the Magic-user.

Mixing Spell Slots
If a player wishes to do so, he may use higher level spell slots to memorize lower level spells by exchanging the slots (not the spell’s level vs the spell slot level used to memorize it) on a 1-for-1 basis. For example, an Arcanist (3rd level Magic-user) could use his 2nd level spell slot to memorize a 1st or 2nd level spell if he desired to.

If a spell is memorized in a slot 1 level higher than normal the caster can apply one of the following effects:
·          Increase the base duration of a spell by 50%.
·          Inflict a -2 penalty on saving throws against the spell’s effect.
·          Increase the range of a spell by 50% or give a touch spell a range of 30 ft.
·          Remove the need to use somatic (gestures) or the need to recite the spell’s chant to cast.

If a spell is memorized in a slot 2 levels higher than normal, the caster can apply one of the following effects:
·          Apply any 2 separate effects from above.
·          Change the area of area effect spells to a cone, cube or diameter of the same size.
·          Increase all dice effects of a spell by 50%.
·          If the spell deals elemental (Cold, Fire or Lightning) damage, change it to another element.
·          Inflict a -3 penalty on saving throws against the spell’s effect.

If a spell is memorized in a slot 3 levels higher than normal, the caster can apply one of the following effects:
·          Apply any 2 separate effects from above.
·          Double the area of effect.
·          Increase all dice effects of a spell by 100%.
·          Increase the range of a spell by 100% or give a touch spell a range of 60 ft.
·          Inflict a -4 penalty on saving throws against the spell’s effect.

A couple more Combat Options

In addition to the Fighting-man Combat Options presented here: Fighting-man Combat Options, presented are 2 more for your campaigns (should you use them)

  • Defensive Strike - If you are using the total defensive action and an enemy misses you in melee combat, you may make an immediate free attack on him. You can do this a number of times each round equal to your number of melee attacks.

  • Expert Tactician - When in melee with an enemy and you have an ally also in melee with the same opponent, you gain the same benefit as if you are flanking (even if you are not).