Thursday, July 30, 2015

Soylent E(ntertainment)

In ancient times, when we were all in tribes, if someone was bothering to entertain you (gossip with you/tell you a story, sing to you, cook food beyond mere practical necessity for you), it was something valuable in survival terms (and thus, valuable in general) because you were essentially interlinked with them - that they entertained you meant they were looking out for you (maybe one would say they entertained you so as to curry your favour, so you'd look out for them. But whatever - some amount of mutual looking out would occur, centered around entertainment)

But it's pretty clear the people who entertain you now...are nowhere near you. Maybe, at best, you go to a music concert and see them way, way over on the stage over there (with a line of burly, violent looking bouncers between you and them) and they shout 'How ya doing?'. And maybe you scream out. But they don't know, even though they act like they do.

Your TV - your movies, egregiously so given hollywoods distance from you.

But they thing is, they put the human in the entertainment. That's how they unlock the money from you - they need the human in it, not because the human somehow is the important thing itself (as it loves to sing as if it is). It's because the system still needs to make objects that have human in them, to get resources from humans. They need to feed you the human in order to get your money.

And you buy into it, because of your ancient instinct that entertainment is good. And it was good, back when the singer/storyteller was across the campfire from you and was watching for what might come up behind you.

Or else why gravitate towards working hours of your life and even the unrewarded pursuit of labour (for which to be lowly rewarded) to give over the proceeds of that for some sound waves and some flashing colours?

If someone was watching out for you when they did that, that'd make sense.

I say this as a potential writer myself, with around the 50k+ words needed, or more if I patched together my nanowremo effort (man, that was a bizzare month!). What would I be selling you anyway?

What would I be being, trying to sell - I can see the system using human to extract from human. I can't pretend I'm just naively writing books and hoping gosh darn the good people just lurve the books. I can see the money. I can see the exploitation, wraught from being entirely wrenched from the ecosystem that made entertainment have value to begin with.

So what up from here?

Meanwhile I haunt bitcoin faucets...

Monday, July 27, 2015

Phandelver ( Part 3.1 ) A quick delve

I'm a little behind (well, part of me is, anyway!) since we've had a session and I hadn't summerised the one before.

Well, they ran into wolves stalking them on the way to the manor. And the druid decided to sit amongst them - and not call to them soothingly or cast magic upon them. Just sit. So they ate him.

Or attempted to, anyway.

Next amongst the ruins, spiders droped down from the upper stories to ensnare Murden (who promptly busted out of it a moment latter with a nat 20, IIRC. He can't hit, but when it comes to stunts, he's the bomb!).

The spy undead looking humanoids in the more distant ruins - but decide not to engage. Instead they enter.

Underneath the ruined manor that was the Redbrands hideout, they find a pit trap, get the party split in half by said pittrap (until we find how far strong characters can jump) so of course throw fire at the coffins in the next room before the party joins up. They battle skeletons awkwardly.

Then the first two into the prison area suffer a surprise attack by the redbrands within. But it does not go well for the two and they are quickly slain. Then they rescue the prisoners Sildar sent them to rescue, one of whom mentions treasure hidden in Thundertree to the north, as they have nothing else to give to the PC's as reward.

On the way back the druid almost goes to pick a fight with the undead, but back out of it in the end...

Back in town they ask around for information on Cragmore castle - and find that a druid who is in thundertree knows about its location.

So after resting overnight, off they head, for three days of travel north to get to the ruins of thundertree!

And that ended that session, IIRC! They still didn't pick up the beaver pelts, which are gone now...

Saturday, July 25, 2015

D&D Bonus Story #2

The bugbears heard the commotion in the hallway, but decided to brace themselves to ambush the intruders once they entered the bugbears quarters. But the noises dwinded as the intruders seemed to go north...then never return.

When the bugbears ventured out, it seemed most of their Redbrand allies were slain or tied up.

Thinking not much of this lot, they decided to leave - but not before taking the beaver pelts that were stored here!

However, on the way the strange, one eyed beast of the cavern disturbed them, leading them to spill some of their loot on the way out. While the adventurering party members might, casually searching around the place latter, find the lost loot!

How much did they lose?

Up to six players can claim 5 beaver pelts, each worth 2 gold pieces (so 10 gold in total )

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Phandelver ( Part 3 )

Okay, a recap of the characters motivations to start the session. And with six players that takes awhile!

Ander the rogue, 'Best served cold', out to get Windharrow
Tumbleweed the rogue, 'Best served cold'
Lucian the druid, 'Ominous dream' - a dream of the elements of the world falling out of harmony
Murden the Dwarf noble and fighter, 'Shatterkeel' - hunting down Shatterkeel for nearly drowning him and drowning a bunch of others by sinking the boat they were on.
Rickarian the paladin, 'Ominous dream'

And the note they found in the Redbrand hideout, the one signed with a black spider, refered to dealings with Windharrow, Shatterkeel and working from Cragmore castle (a place shown in the ominious dreams as being the start of the trouble). This black spider guy is tied into everyone!

But Sildar does seek them out, in regards to finding missing people from town that he suspects are in the Redbrand ruins. He also gives a tip about the Wyvern Tor job that the townmaster offered - that there might be quite some orcs and perhaps even an ogre as well. It could go poorly for them if they take a frontal approach.

Sildar also talks about Cragmore castle, as he thinks the bosses of the goblins are there and offers 400 gold to find the castle and defeat or drive off the goblin chieftan.

Background info, the module has him offer 500 gold - but as adventure league wont let me add treasure to the game (and give no budget for me to add anything, because they want to be throwbacks to the 1990's) I reduce it to 400 for Cragmore, using 50 gold as the offer to find the lost towns people and the other 50 gold simply in case I need it for some other reward.

So they have an option of find the people, travel to Wyvern Tor or start looking for Cragmore castle.

Really I'd like the choices to be more thematic - not just 'do you follow your motivation something else for the time being?'. But in a way the modules are set in just one direction and so it takes some work to do anything else, otherwise the motivations have to tie into the main direction OR you do something else/ignore the character motivations. I'll have to see if I can figure some choices that actually hinge on motivations next time.

In the end they decide to take up the cause of finding the lost people. So back to the Redbrand ruins they go!

Friday, July 17, 2015

D&D Bonus 1

When Glasstaff fled the Redbrand hideout to escape the party, he took a stash of gold with him!

Unfortunately for Glasstaff, in his hurry the bag of gold tore open upon thorns and branches. Having tracked his footsteps for awhile, you find part of his stash scattered on the ground and collect 7 gold!

( up to 6 players can claim this, once per player )

This is a bonus for players on my table, if they visit here!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Phandelver ( Part 2.2 )

Well what happened next?

Well they decided to try and track the boot prints - and the module says nothing about this idea, so it's improv time. I figure that Glasstaff would head towards the Redbrands hideout in Phandalin, the sleeping giant. There I could plausibly confuse the trail (from all the other Redbrands around) because I'm not sure you should just be able to find a main character just like that (otherwise why don't monsters with tracking simply find the PC's all the time - they don't. People who want to be special characters who get to ignore half the rules of the world are a bit too metagame for me). And maybe they could find the Ruffian who took the spoils of the gaming table in the dungeon before, as a sort of compromise towards their tracking efforts.

So they approach the sleeping giant inn - with two Redbrands on guard duty at the door. I think the dwarf fighter noble called Murden intimidated them (nat 20, I believe?), and while they were intimidated  maybe they let slip the guy the party was tracking was hiding out in a shed in the back - so they just started walking around the back openly. Well, the rogues may have stealthed, but Murden and the druid just strode around, where Murden proceeded to just kick in the door of the shed - another nat 20! Boom, the door flies inward and the startled redbrand has it hit him in the temple side on, instantly knocking him out! They grab the remains of the loot from the gaming table!

Now technically this would be a little loud - but on the other hand the second nat 20 was so cool it was kind of enjoyable to just have the PC/player have the badass moment without having to throw in whatever complications you might think might occur. Pure realism tends to dash just having a good spotlight moment.

At this point the townmaster of Phandalin spots them lurking around the side - and the townmaster, being afraid of the redbrands, tries to distract the PC's he sees with a quest to beat up some orcs at Wyvern Tor. The PC's he can see assure him they will, with some diplomacy checks and walking in with him to town...then going right back to the sleeping giant afterward!

Meanwhile the sneaking types, Tumbleweed, Anden and Pliskin are all climbing into the back of the Sleeping Giant one by one through a window and poking around - finding a door ajar and seeing six Redbrand Ruffians playing cards at a table or standing around watching.

To summerise what happened next, the rogues (and the grappler, Pliskin) decide they can totally tank - they shoot through the door that is ajar, miss alot, hit once and then suddenly they each have two redbrands each. And they get hurt quite a bit! For some reason they split the party, Murden and the Druid at the front door.

So they use their actions or bonus actions to disengage and run...leaving Pliskin there, all alone...who is quickly beaten into the ground by three Redbrands as the rest partly chase after the rogues, after not really getting to attack. But not too far as the Redbrands realised they would be standing out by some bushes and cover with some rogues who might pop out at any second with an attack from stealth!

Then the druid Lucian turns into a bear and show how at low level druids of the circle of the moon are destroyers!

Basically a massacre at the front door, even though the fight in the interior goes quite badly!

Eventually the front door PC's enter and start to attack the Redbrands inside as the rogues snipe from outside - and Pliskin gets an image in his semi concious head of a Nothic who could heal him - apply the healing potion he had on him to Pliskin, magically. Pliskin will have none of this freaky Nothic mind probe stuff though and denies him...fortunately the Redbrands had only beaten Pliskin unconscious (because the PC's hadn't hurt any of them at that point) so he wasn't making death saves. Reflecting on it now I might let the player decide that next time when the enemy only goes to beat them unconcious - whether they want to make death saves (with the chance of a nat 20 reviving them!) or just be unconcious. I think I gave Pliskin an asterix for that - it's my sub currency for character choices which aren't quite worthy of a inspiration point. Get three asterix and you get an inspiration! So he got something from lying down (as well as XP latter!)

I think another PC got knocked out during that battle - the druid certainly got knocked back into druid form at one point, despite being a CR 1 bear with 2D6 damage!

But they beat them in the end!! This encounter which is NOT in the module! Sadly adventure league will not let a GM add treasure and has no budget to let the GM add treasure built into the modules, so fighting at the Sleeping Giant gains the PC's absolutely no loot at all! Woot fun, adventure league!

But beaten and bruised, the party now considers its motives as individuals and what to do next...meanwhile, Sildar is seeking them out with an offer...

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Had a big week

So I'm just recharging a little - hope to get onto the next part of Phandelver soon! Indeed I better - we skipped D&D last Saturday because the store was moving. But the game is on this saturday, so I'd better get the last session written out soon!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Phandelver ( Part 2.1 )

So, it's a twisty turny road back down to Phandalin (ah, that's why I kept calling this Phandalin rather than Phandelver to begin with!) and I realise the players were so quick to take up the tunnel entry rumour previously that I never actually ran the Redbrand 'In your face!' encounter. So I have them walking up the road while the PC's are walking down the road. Well actually they were tracking boot marks from the ruined manors cellar - it's the usual thing players do - they just have to try and kill any potential recurring villain as if they were terminators, even though they never met Glasstaff and frankly he never actually did anything to them. But he got away! I'm not sure why this provokes this responce.

I kind of imagine the Redbrands as a little lax and frankly not expected opponents to be coming from their main secret base, so I have the players roll perception checks and atleast one of them spots the Redbrands. Of course, when you ask for all players to roll perception, really one of them will make it generally, though not always! So I know I'm making the task pretty easy when I do that. But on occasion everyone stuffs up. Come to think of it though, I might want to work something out on that - the more players there are, the even easier it gets. Perhaps some DC adjustment per player over 4?

They decide to set up an ambush in the bushes by the side of the road. For this I decided only those who pass stealth AND use a ranged weapon can get a surprise attack - because of the distance between bushes and road (if they could just jump out five feet from the bushes and melee attack, that'd work). Not sure if adventure league rules is picky about that distinction - probably some pendant would be picky.

In addition the player of the Grappler turns up at this point, late to the session. I decide that he was following the Redbrands from town and ran around the side and ahead to set up an ambush - or atleast I air the idea of that and get no dissent from the player (lack of dissent = consent! lol!, don't take me seriously on that!).

My oh my.

The Redbrands roll terrible initiative (as I understand it, you roll even if you're the surprised party and doing nothing).

So the whole group goes...then goes again! If you've ever wondered what is the point of initiative, well this is a magnified version!

They utterly trounce the Redbrands, the Grappler only just barely getting one into a lock, while the Druid showing that early level circle of the moon druids turning into CR 1 bears is broooken!

Having fought a pitched battle with Redbrands before, the party is now relieved at how easy it was...err, from latter events it seems they think they have become more powerful than Redbrands rather than it being the power of surprise attacks (and good initiative rolls).

This makes things go quite wrong latter on...

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Phandelver ( Part 2 )

So, after deciding to rest in the wizards quarters for an hour (I tossed the idea around, but as the module describes some other rooms occupants, they simply prep to ambush rather than roam around) to patch their wounds, the party sets out again, crossing the chasm by the north bridge and looking into a room that dead ends...though it does have a lot of beaver pelts in it. Which I note are both heavy yet players often forget to come back for such things.

Now the thing is there was a secret door in the wall. And I'm kind of at a loss for how to run such things - because while a video game might have some slight difference in the graphics as a clue, if you say anything about a particular wall in tabletop, the players will then swarm that wall. And you can't describe every single wall. And making up some sort of ambiguous clue that is attributable to the room but is a clue to the secret door (ie, strange air currents) - well, why didn't the module maker do that?

Never mind, it's not a big deal - the players decide to leave the pelts where they are for now and head south along the east side of the chasm, coming to a corridor that leads east and...right to a dead end. Now THIS time the PC's recognise something is amiss! But of course the person who looks fails the check and the next person who looks because they looked, gets it. Ah, that special anti-climaxical quality of D&D - so much like reality, in a way!

They go through and...the thing is, in this room there's a cistern and some barrels and a door to the east (and one to the north I failed to read the map properly over!) and it's the rogue who goes and checks the barrels. Now he's a rogue so I don't imagine he'd just roll the dang barrels around - but there are enemies in a nearby room who would hear that (the module tells me). So I have him do a stealth check as a compromise between the two positions, which he passes handily and searches the barrels without incident! And then he checks the cistern as well, where he rolls well and spots a rope going down into it and a bag at its end.

Now the thing is the wizard is supposed to have run from his room way back and taken whats in the bag. But you know, players actually exploring their environment is good. So it'd suck to say there's nothing in the bag. So I make up the fiction that the bag had a second part that was hard to get into and so the wizard gave up trying to grab what was in it - I have the healing potion and eight of the gold from the wizards stash still be there (four players at that point). That way I'm not inventing treasure (because Adventure League says NO to that!), just distributing what was there. I'm pretty sure there are some gamers so rigid of mind they'd treat the wizard taking everything AS a rule. You guys suck. But if no one would do such a rigid thing, then I'm good with that.

So the Druid, Lucian, decides to look for tracks - a fair move. And so he finds a pair of them. Boot marks leading to the east door (so it's kind of okay I mistakenly didn't mention the north door!). Unbeknownst to them (though guessable!), one set is from the Redbrand who almost slayed the Tubbleweed the Rogue. The second is from the wizard (I noted some wet water around the cistern - in fact maybe the events happened in the reverse order. It may have been the druids tracking which showed the wet ground which lead to the rogue searching the cistern).

So they decide east! I ask how they move and they go with stealthy - it's funny how one player will do it and then suddenly every other player follows suit. But anyway, the enemies in the west room (the door to which I have revealed to the players by now) do not hear them, even though the Dwarf Fighter Murden fails dismally. Because I went with a group stealth check and half passed and frankly it is SO predictable someone will fail that you are basically (deliberately or not) railroading the party into something if you expect everyone to pass their stealth check to avoid something. I think the designers know that and that's why they made group checks. Which is eminently sensible!

And they climb some stairs, finding themselves in the ruins of the manor on the edge of town - having exited the dungeon from its entrance!

And shortly after this, the ambush happened....

Monday, July 6, 2015

Kids shows are junk food

You're not gunna get this. I don't even get this.

Kids shows indoctrinate kids to A: think the villains are outsiders, rather than someone protected and even nurtured by the very laws and forces that are supposed to be good/on the kids side and B: (if they are inclined to become artists of some kind) to make more kids shows like this.

Because you never turn on the villains who shelter under the same laws as you. Villains are always bwahaharing outsiders - doing clearly destructive things to your world. And always acting very neatly as being outside of your world, bent on destroying your world. Like Sauron. Always aim you at the outsider villain.

Even wormtongue is a puppet of an outside villain. Wormtongue is never THE villain...amidst you. Because that's the greatest trick the wormtongue ever pulled - convincing the world to look outward.

And you think you know that.

But look at your fantasy. Look at your kids shows.

Outsiders. It's always an outsider who is the villain.

Where's your celebration of the villain within your ranks?

You don't want to celebrate such an infiltration.

You wont stand vigil without celebration.

You're not gunna get this. I don't even get this.

How fat we are.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Phandelver ( Part 1.3 )

So let's wrap up last weeks story because we ran a session yesterday so there's more to get to...

Well, the rogue chases after the Redbrand who grabbed the money from the table. Side note: In the end I had the NPC grab half the money - sure, it might make sense that he'd get it all (he had several turns), but you weigh up sense VS fun for the players and find a compromise. Or atleast I do - going the extreme on either end is extremism. Making sense lacks fun, and being 'all about the players fun' would have meant the next part of spontaneous story would never have happened.

That being that the rogue chased the Redbrand and eventually made himself adjacent (my, can level 3+ rogues run! That bonus dash!!) so if the Redbrand ran, he'd take an attack of opportunity! Well, he decided not to and instead turn around with his two attacks and start slicing up the now by himself rogue!

And slice him up he did!

With that, the Redbrand ran, leaving the rogue called Tumbleweed bleeding out by a bridge by a chasm in a hole in the ground.

And that's when the nothic approached...

"Ah, my little marble murderer...."

Something reaching into his mind...and stabilising his wounds.

Meanwhile the other characters are wrapping up when they heard a cry from far away and suspect the rogue is the owner! The druid follows (by himself! It'd have been great if I'd had an abush waiting! PC's come one at a time around a corner where I knock them over the head...). He finds the rogue and carries his unconscious but stable body back to the group, where the palladin lays on hands.

In the end they go into a final pair of rooms but only find a chest with some coin and a mysterious note with a spider at the bottom as a signature! The note mentions various entities party members are pursuing! Windharrow is one, who is speaking against the owner of the spider signature! Shatterkeel is another, who is hiring some Redbrands from the spider mark for mercenary work. As is someone called the mud sorcerer!

This is the record of PC motives so far (missing some players when I recorded this)
Ander the Rogue : 'Best served cold' (hunting Windharrow)
Tumbleweed the Rogue : 'Best served cold' also!
Lucian the Elven Druid : Ominous Dream
Murden the Dwarf Fighter : 'Shatterkeel'
Pliskin (the likely to be rebuilt) : 'Mud Sorcerer'

And that wraps up last week....soon onto last Saturdays session!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Phandelver ( Part 1.2 )

So the party decides to take a passage to the west. This leads to a corridor that has a door on the south wall just before the corridor turns north and shortly ends at another door.

The first level druid prompts the...I was to say first level dwarf fighter to open the door. Who just does what he's told and...there are several redbrand ruffians inside playing a game of chance. I think the PC's tried the 'we live here' - this time the lunatic was met with the violent!

Since the dwarf is in the doorway, the redbrands can't get around him - so they all end up focus firing on him! And they win initiative! Though on reflection two of them would have a -2 to hit for cover. Not sure if that would have made a difference, as the dwarf is pummeled into the ground because two attacks each from the ruffians! And I think a crit was in there as well! So he did nothing and then was beaten unconscious - but the player was pretty cool about it, to his credit.

The next bit makes me think I should have sketched out the corridor and room a bit on some paper (I have no battlemat - donate me some money so I can buy one! :) ), because the position of his body and everyone crammed in the corridor was a little hard to track with theatre of the mind. I'll take a scrap of paper for this next time (though a battlemat would be so much cooler, doncha think?)

There's ruffians standing over the dwarfs body, then the person who steps up goes to fight the ruffian rather than try to stabilise the got pretty chaotic!

The thing was, two people tried to stabilise the dwarf and the dwarf got a death saving throw - can you believe three natural ones on every single occasion (with the death saving throw making it two failed saves out of three, of course!). Then when it was the dwarfs turn again - just failed normally and died!

But on the other hand, one of the PC's that went to stabilise...did have a cure spell (the other healer couldn't get near the body and had a touch healing spell only).

I've run into this before where someone who could heal decides to continue to fight. I'm not sure adventure league has touched on this at all. Thing is, I think it's pretty dishonest to not explicitly say 'take the players choice (on whether he heals or fights) away from him/her' but perhaps both expect it because of the text that implies PC's should work together and maybe even scald a group for not...taking away a player choice that's explicitly outlined in the rules. If they want that choice taken away, then they can suffer the players ire at being told how to play his character. The GM shouldn't be the focus of that ire for what is an adventure league decision. OR if adventure league are okay with that choice, well you have a pretty massive non co-operation going on when PC's that could live die because someone wants to save their spell for latter.

Anywhoo, we've yet to enter the tale of the ruffian who was stealing all the money from the table while his mates fought the PC's - and the rogue who took offence to the ruffian stealing his money...

Next Session!