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Messages - jgants

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So, it's been over a month since I last posted about this campaign so I'm going to wrap it up with this post.

Back on 2/10, we had the 16th session. And because the Mulroney player decided to throw a tantrum again, it killed the session and the gaming group.

It started off pretty straight-forward, the Mulroney player wanted to sell his horse back because he figured out it would be a liability more often than a help. Of course, the merchant only offered him half what he paid. So then he tried to use a spell on the guy. I pointed out his using magic would be obvious, so then he has Shoes cast it. The NPC makes the save, but then he wants to cast it again. What I should have done is just start using a rule that you can't cast the same spell against someone who already saved in the same day or whatever. Instead, I hinted to the Deadly Snow player that his character would, at best, be confused by what was going on (as he's made it clear in the past his character doesn't like it when the Mulroney character goes out of his way to commit petty theft or pointless murder). So, he plays that his character (the little girl) assumes the horse trader had a stroke or something and takes him to the priest for healing, which removes the confusion spell. When the merchant wants to know what is going on, Tickles and Deadly Snow have a humorous time trying to get out of the situation without fingering Mulroney.

Everyone else thought it was funny and added tension to the story. Unfortunately, the Mulroney player sees this as another example of the personal vendetta he now believes the Deadly Snow player has against him. He sits quiet and stews for the next 15 mins or so while they get supplies before heading out of town, but then launches into a diatribe about how the Deadly Snow player isn't playing his character's Aberrant alignment correctly (while at the same time insisting his own dysfunctional behavior in the group is justified because his character is Miscreant).

This is EXACTLY why I fucking hate alignment and when I use my own D&D ruleset I always get rid of it. 99.9% of the time, the only thing alignment does is give people permission to act like an ass at the gaming table or whine that another person isn't doing it right. What I should have done is houseruled alignment out of the game to begin with. Alignment is, without any doubt, my least favorite part of RPGs. I fucking, fucking, fucking hate it and believe it is one of the stupidest inventions Gary every made.

So the next hour is spent with the two arguing. I don't blame the Mulroney player 100%, but he's easily 90% of the problem in this case and was clearly overreacting (which he grudgingly admitted later, but feels he was entitled to do so because it was the "straw that broke the camel's back").

In the end, we tried ret-conning the whole part where Deadly Snow took the merchant to the priest to have never happened and continued on with the session for another hour or so, until they were nearly killed by some kelpies attempting to reach the Thieves of Harr-Ki, but it wasn't any fun. And by the time the next session was to come, I just sent an email saying I was ending the campaign for personal reasons.

Me, the Mulroney player, and the Deadly Snow player are all still pissed about the incident weeks later. The Tickles player just said the situation was crazy and doesn't want the drama. God only knows what our poor Skype player thought of all this.

Discussions have been attempted, but have gone nowhere. The Mulroney player is a close friend, but he's fucking stubborn as hell and gets really paranoid, so any attempts to discuss the situation won't work because he claims any problem we bring up with how he was playing the game is just an excuse and some deep-seated personal problem he insists the Deadly Snow player has is the real root of the issue. This enrages the Deadly Snow player, who also considers the Mulroney player a close friend but feels betrayed that a close friend won't take him at his word that he just finds his character obnoxious and there is no deeper personal issue.

For my part, I'm not sure I want to game with the Mulroney player any more. Over time, he made a lot of concerning comments that suggested he only wants to play violent, wacky criminal characters; which I wouldn't have such a problem with (though that does limit our gaming options), but then makes a huge issue when the actions have consequences (either daring me to kill him off, or insisting the other players have their characters ignore his behavior).

In the end, I feel he is playing in the way John Wick warns about in some of his books (he talks extensively about it in the 1st edition of 7th Sea) - where one player is trying to put his fun ahead of the groups. That just won't work. Especially when I have enough fucking nonsense to deal with my management job (which pays a hell of a lot better than running a RPG group).

Anyhow, I've talked with the Deadly Snow player about some other friends of his interested in gaming and I'm prepping some one-shots of games I want to try out - the second edition of 7th Sea, the classic RuneQuest, Numenera, Coriolis, and D&D 5e / Adventures in Middle Earth (that last one is more of the player's expressed interest; for my part I've never been a big Tolkein fan).

*** Session 15 - Session Notes ***

For once I've finished typing the game notes right away, so last session's notes and this session's are almost back to back. Friday's session started a little late (Panchero's was apparently taking a long time to make a burrito bowl to go for Deadly Snow) and ended late. And when we did start, it took at least a half hour or more to get characters leveled up (as Mulroney and Deadly Snow took forever to pick a new spell / new skills). Then there was the part where Deadly Snow took at least another half hour to solve the riddle (though to be fair, we got sidetracked when there was a debate over whether it was Randy Quaid or Dennis Quaid as Doc Holiday in the Wyatt Earp movie - IMDB solved it for us, it was Dennis).

Still, a very fun session overall with a mix of light combat, problem-solving, and character interaction. The Tickles player was out of town and missed it, but the Viktor player (formerly the Nardig player) was able to participate far better over Skype as he finally bought a new fucking webcam and is no longer using the best technology 2001 had to offer. Oddly, all of the video and audio connection issues seemed to just disappear when he upgraded that.

This session also finally knocked out another of the open plot threads I started way back in the beginning. It also introduces the new Viktor character, which I suggested to the Nardig player as a concept and he liked it. I think having a vampire in the group will prove fun but challenging for them.

Random notes about the session:
* I started the session after they already got all the money, recovered, and identified the magical items. It seemed easiest to handle all that "off-screen".

* Mulroney buying a horse took a while because Palladium is all over the place with where you can find that information (and things like the price of a saddle don't appear to be anywhere). It also revealed how inconsistent Palladium is with pricing - a simple mule is 1000 gold.

* I'm not really a fan that Mulroney chose to name the horse after a false name used in Cthulhubusters Crescent City. Frankly, I'm getting a little tired of his obsession with the Cthulhubusters campaigns.

* The giant list of open plot threads was once again given to the PCs ahead of the session (I even organized it for them this time). They are having an increasingly hard time keeping it all straight (which is sort of the point).

* I'm still not 100% sure if Viktor was purposely being cagey with the other PCs by not mentioning Bragosani, or if he just forgot was he was supposed to be doing. In the past, he's had a hard time with forgetting plot points from even a few minutes prior.

* The off-hand reference to "Nasser" may or may not be an homage to a real-life person with a similar name who may or may not deserve a similar fate. Nobody knows for sure.

* Mulroney did joke Tickles was out sick, but I added the part about it being mange.

* I've been waiting 15 sessions for Mulroney to finally use his changeling powers.

* Mulroney and I had far too much fun suggesting Deadly Snow needed to be smeared with horse manure in order for her disguise to be effective.

* I have no idea where Mulroney came up with the name Stan. I added his father's name as "Randy" in the write-up to make it a South Park reference.

* The ceiling trap door (and especially the path across the waterway they didn't take) were heavily inspired by the Dragon's Lair video game.

* My favorite part was when Mulroney suddenly figures out they can't possibly get the horse up there. We all had a large laugh, as the group rapidly losing all forms of newly-acquired conveyances when I'm the GM has been a running gag for over a decade (and across different groups of players). Mulroney kept the horse just to spite the trend (and me).

* The rickety bridge over a chasm is an oldie but goodie I use all the time. Because of the way they solved it, the planned bat encounter was little more than a minor inconvenience.

* The riddle about the ratskin tribes was adapted from an old riddle. The version I remembered hearing first was in some old Randy Quaid movie (hence, the debate about Wyatt Earp because that was suggested by Deadly Snow as one of his movies it may have came from).

* The Priests of Pah-Ma and Brandt, along with the suggestion of the Star Stalker, are adapted from the stories in the Avengers comics in the 1970's written by Steve Engleheart about Mantis and her father Libra.

* The actual monks and the Zalawad are adapted from the novel The Wheel of Darkness by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.

*** Session 15 - Scene 7 (of 7) ***

At the end of the path is a small settlement of ratskins. A woman approaches Deadly Snow and greets her, saying her name is Ne'chi. She tells Deadly Snow she smells horribly, which the girl says is because of her leprosy.

Ne'chi asks what brings Deadly Snow there. She says she is looking for the temple of the Azure Dragon. The woman says that is the temple here, but only those who are not truly evil may enter it. Deadly Snow says she is not, but that her bat will need to remain there.

Approaching the temple, Ne'chi and Deadly Snow are greeted by the head custodian monk, a man named Tsering. Tsering and Deadly Snow exchange formal greetings.

Tsering says he can tell there is evil inside the girl, but also honor. He says he will allow her to enter the temple, but only if she gives her word of honor not to kill anyone or steal anything inside. She does so, saying she comes seeking only knowledge.

The monk allows her up the stairs and they pass through the temple gate. He says he will show her to her room, where she can rest and bathe (he emphasizes the bathing part). Before she heads in, she has the monk clarify that his order is the Priests of Pah-Ma.

Her quarters have a nice hot springs bath and she is given fresh new robes to wear. Tsering also delivers a small meal to her, and afterwards they head into a hidden courtyard in the center of the temple. The courtyard is a small forest, filled with various trees, faerie folk, and rare herbs. They spend some time meditating in the gardens and the girl is able to replenish her inner strength.

Once they are done meditating, Tsering asks Deadly Snow what has brought her to the temple. She says several things have brought her to the temple but starts by saying she wanted to check on the fate of Kandia, the priestess of Rurga from Rodemus.

Tsering relates that Kandia died of old age some time ago. He asks the girl if she is connected to the Rodemus family. She says she is seeking the return of several heirloom items from the family that Kandia brought with her.

The monk asks her to clarify she is seeking to return the objects to their rightful heirs. She says she is, and pledges on her honor to do so (as she and her companions are the rightful heirs due to the Rodemus family being killed off and their treasure the right of anyone who found it).

Tsering takes her to the vault of treasures, a room in the back of the temple. It is guarded by a large monk named Thubten. Thubten opens the locked gate and Tsering takes out three items from the many on the shelves, saying these are the items belonging to the Rodemus family.

The first item is a set of three healing potions, the remainder of what Kandia had left after her travels. The second was a ring Kandia wore, a magical ring of spell protection. Deadly Snow quickly puts the ring on for "safe-keeping".

As she puts on the ring, Tsering brings out a final item he calls the "silver scimitar", a magical blade with runes of Rurga on it. He says it is not an actual holy weapon but is an enchanted sword with a very sharp blade. Deadly Snow puts the sword in her waistband.

With the treasures recovered, Tsering asks the girl that since she is honorable, could he ask for her help in a different matter. She agrees to be of service if she can.

Tsering smiles, saying her coming is unusual and must have been aided by the gods to deal with their problem. He notes she is serendipitously qualified to assist. Deadly Snow agrees she has many skills.

The monk tells her to follow him. He takes her to the back of the temple and opens a secret passage. As they continue down the passageway, he tells her some time ago the ratskins guarding the temple found a blind man, badly injured and dying, in the tunnels nearby and brought him to the temple.

According to Tsering's tale, the man gave his name as "Brandt". Tsering says he and the other monks healed the man and spent several years training him in their martial arts so he would be able to defend himself despite his disability.

At the end of the secret passage is a dead end with a broken wall leading into a very small chamber that appears to have been bricked in as some point. Tsering explains one of their order, Hakushin, was an immured anchorite who lived in that chamber and protected a powerful artifact his order calls the Zalawad.

Deadly Snow asks what the Zalawad does. Tsering says he isn't exactly sure – it is a dark artifact from the Age of Darkness back when the Old Ones ruled the world. The monk says the word Zalawad is from an ancient language and literally translates to "The Darkness".

Continuing the tale, Tsering says that somehow Brandt managed to find the secret passageway, broke down the wall, killed Hakushin, and stole the Zalawad. The thief then disappeared into the night, which was several months ago.

What Tsering needs is for Deadly Snow to find Brandt and retrieve the artifact to bring it back to the temple. He says the only problem is, he doesn't know exactly what the artifact is or what it looks like, for only the immured anchorite was allowed near it.

The monk says what they do know is that it was contained in a 3' x 2' wooden box with special wards on it. He also recalls a set of verse passed down through their generations to warn about the object: "Value the world's many'd splendor; And keep it safe with your endeavor; For man's heart will grow as dark as beast; If this object ye do release."

Deadly Snow asks if they know anything else about Brandt. The monk says the man rarely talked about himself or where he was from. Brandt did mention a dead wife named Lua, and Tsering suspects he may have harbored thoughts of revenge related to her death.

Tsering hopes she can find the object, for it is not safe out in the world. Deadly Snow asks what they want done about Brandt, but the monk says that is of no concern to them. The girl also asks if they can teach her their special unarmed combat skills, but he tells her it would take many years.

Before she leaves, Deadly Snow tries to get some other answers. She discusses the hooded thief who uses the symbol of the Azure Dragon. The monk agrees the appearance of the man sounds like it could be Brandt, who is probably staying hooded to hide the fact he's blind.

Tsering isn't sure why Brandt would use the symbol of their temple. He says the constellation of the Azure Dragon has to do with their temples founding hundreds of years ago, back during the age of the Kingdom of Baalgor. According to their legends and writings, their order was formed to protect the world against the coming of a black dragon, a stalker from beyond the stars who is said to come to destroy the world.

Deadly Snow asks if it is a literal dragon, but Tsering says the current scholars are split on whether the tales are meant to be literal or metaphorical. Because they have been around so long, it is difficult to keep track of which of the teachings handed down over the centuries are meant to be literal truths and which ones are metaphors for larger messages.

The young assassin asks if Sa'lid Dra'lah or the Ebony Blade factor into their tales at all. Tsering says he has never heard of them.

He also asks about the zombie plague Kandia was escaping when she came there. Tsering explains they were unable to help Kandia with a cure for that.

Tsering offers some knowledge of the plague, that it was started by a necromancer named Bragosani the Damned. Deadly Snow asks if they know anything about Bragosani's whereabouts. The monk says they know he came through a portal from another dimension several hundred years ago and used dark arts to transform himself into a Mummy Immortalus, an undead creature of great power. As to his current whereabouts, they do not know.

Deadly Snow also asks about the Great Mulroney. Tsering says he has never heard the name and asks if he should have. The girl offers Mulroney himself would say they should have but he is probably not worth their time to know about.

Tsering can offer no help with Lorna or Ma'leese either. He has heard of the Thieves of Harr-Ki and their worship of the false god, the warrior bird Harr-Ki. Tsering is clearly not fond of the thieves, saying they lavish themselves in finery, lavishing in monuments to recreation instead of helping the poor.

After finishing up her conversation with the monk, Tsering wishes her well as she meets up with Viktor and they begin heading back to Beartooth to meet back up with Mulroney and Tickles.

*** Session 15 - Scene 6 (of 7) ***

For what seems like hours or even days, the map leads Deadly Snow and Viktor most of the way to the temple. But just as they near it, they find another split in the passageway that is not on the map.

Between the two passages leading on is a stone statue shaped like a ratskin tribesman. Next to him is a carved plaque in the rock with a riddle. It reads, "The paths before you each lead to the domain of a local ratskin tribe. One tribe is of good nature, always tells the truth, and guards our temple as faithful servants. The other tribe is of evil nature, always lies, and will surely kill and eat anyone who stumbles into their lair. Before you is a simulacrum of a member of one of the tribes, but which no one can say. You may ask but one question of it to determine which path to take."

Deadly Snow groans, noting how she hates riddles. Viktor mumbles something about not really being very good at them either.

She knows she's heard a version of this riddle before but can't remember what the answer was. The young assassin does recognize it is a logic puzzle and sets about carving decision trees into the dirt with her knife to work it out. She spends several hours ruminating on the logical math before coming to her answer.

Stepping up to the simulacrum, the girl asks it if his tribe likes the tribe who are found in the passage to the left. Her logically reasoning is that if the statue answers yes, the passage is safe (because the evil tribe would lie about liking the good tribe and the good tribe would like itself). Conversely, if it says no then the other path is safe. After she gets her answer and travels down the path she believes is safe, she realizes the easier way to ask the question would have been to have the simulacrum say which path its tribe was located down.

*** Session 15 - Scene 5 (of 7) ***

Sometime later, the cavern eventually leads to a fork. According to the map, either passage can be used to reach the temple. One way is identified with some kind of underground waterway that must be traversed. The other path appears to lead to some type of bridge over a large chasm.

As a vampire, Viktor knows running water can be deadly to him. He suggests they go to the bridge. Deadly Snow also feels the bridge is the safer route.

Meanwhile, some distance away in the other cavern, Mulroney spots another patrol coming his way. This group looks angrier and less tolerant of outcasts.

Thinking quickly, he approaches the men keeping Gorn Clinker at a slow walk. Just as he gets near and starts to greet them, he has Shoes cast a spell to cover the area in cloud of smoke while he has the horse break into a gallop, knocking his way past the men.

The gambit works, and he is able to escape. He decides it is too dangerous to stay in the area, so he leaves the minotaur territory to go get the remaining treasure at Rodemus and bring it back to Beartooth (if for nothing else, Mulroney believes he may need the money to pay for stable fees for Gorn since clearly the horse will not always be useful on their adventures).

Back at the bridge, Deadly Snow is thinking of her own way to overcome an obstacle. She doesn't trust the rickety bridge to hold if she tries to cross it (though Viktor won't have that issue since he can take the form of a bat) and the chasm appears to drop into the earth forever.

Using her psionic abilities, Deadly Snows makes herself float above the bridge without actually forcing her weight on it. Using the ropes on either side of the bridge, she pulls herself along.

When she gets about halfway across, a pair of ripper jack bats take interest in her. They swoop in to bite. Keeping one hand on the rope, she uses her other to draw a dagger. She manages to fend off one bat but is bit by the other.

Deadly Snow slashes back, but the bat moves out of the way. Swooping in using his own bat form, Viktor uses his claws to tear one of the ripper jacks in half.

The other bat attempts to bite Deadly Snow again, but she fends him off. Stabbing into him with her dagger, she kills it as well. With the threat of the bats eliminated, Deadly Snow pulls herself the rest of the way across and meets Viktor on the other side.

*** Session 15 - Scene 4 (of 7) ***

Advancing further into the minotaur territory, the group eventually comes to a dead end in a tall chamber. Deadly Snow is momentarily confused as the map indicates they should be able to continue.

The girl asks the bat-man, Viktor, to fly up and check out the ceiling of the chamber. He does so and spots a metal trap door in the ceiling of the cave. A short chain drops down a couple of feet from the handle of the door.

Deadly Snow uses her rope and grappling hook to snag the end of the chain and pulls. The door at the top opens but appears to be connection to a tension spring; if she lets out any slack, the door will re-close into the ceiling.

They try to figure out what to do next. Viktor flies up into the door to get a better look. He relates back to the others that it leads to another tunnel continuing in the direction they were heading; clearly, they will need to find a way to get up and use the tunnel.

Deadly Snow doesn't want to leave her rope and grappling hook tied to the ground to keep the door open. After discussing with Mulroney for a few minutes, he feels the best thing is to jam something in the door to keep it wedged open.

Viktor flies up into the upper tunnel and grabs a rock. He jams it into the door to keep it open.

Mulroney discusses a plan with Deadly Snow on her to detach her grappling hook from the chain and get them all up to the upper chamber. After going into great detail, he realizes he forgot one crucial element – Gorn Clinker! There's no way he can think of to get the horse into the upper cavern.

Viktor offers to feed on the horse, but Mulroney does not like the idea of losing his new method of transportation; particularly after having only recently acquired it. He also doesn't want to risk leaving the horse behind to die of thirst, starvation, or being eaten by monsters.

Deliberating on the matter a while, Mulroney ultimately decides he has no choice but to stay behind with Gorn Clinker while the others continue to the temple. Deadly Snow is shocked at his putting the horse above their alliance, but only for a second.

The girl then has Viktor shimmy over and grab her as she climbs up. She manages to get to the upper chamber and get her grappling hook back out without falling. She and Viktor then continue on; she wishes Mulroney good luck in staying safe until they return.

*** Session 15 - Scene 3 (of 7) ***

As they travel, Deadly Snow explains how they are headed to a secret temple and asks the vampire if he's ever heard of it before. Viktor says has never heard of a temple of the Azure Dragon before. Mulroney sardonically notes this is more information the vampire doesn't have to share and that the alliance is already paying off big time.

Deadly Snow reads the map while Viktor uses his long-range night vision to scout ahead. He notes they are heading into the dangerous territory of the Zidhuran minotaurs who will capture and eat other humanoids if they find them. The vampire also says the minotaurs usually have patrols in the area.

Since it will take some time to get through the territory, Mulroney decides it is finally time to employ his shape-changing powers. He transforms himself to appear as a minotaur, explaining to the others he is using some of his more powerful magic as he fakes casting a spell. As they have little understanding of magic, neither Deadly Snow nor Viktor see through the subterfuge.

Deadly Snow considers trying to decide herself as a young minotaur. Mulroney feels having her pose as a prisoner would be a better deception. As for Viktor, the minotaurs won't try to eat him but may try to kill him so he'd be best to hide in plain sight as a bat.

After some talking, Mulroney convinces the girl to try and disguise herself as a plague victim. Her disguise is less than convincing when he looks it over, so he has Viktor collect some of Gorn Clinker's manure and spread it all over the girl, so she will smell offensively, and no one will want to get close. No one but Mulroney is happy with the plan (and Viktor tries asking if it is part of some kind of religious ceremony), but they go along with it anyway.

With Mulroney looking like a minotaur, Deadly Snow tied to a rope and covered in manure and fake plague sores, and Viktor as a bat, they head on. It doesn't take long before they come across a patrol of five minotaurs. Mulroney tugs at Deadly Snow's rope and grunts for effect while Viktor keeps a look out from the top of the cavern for any other patrols.

The leader of the patrol calls out to Mulroney in Giantese. Luckily, the witch knows that language and can understand. The minotaur asks Mulroney who he is and why is he hauling the smelly child along.

Mulroney sizes up the patrol, noting they all wear heavy armor and are carrying battle axes. Choosing his words carefully, he tells the creature he found the diseased human wandering into their territory and is attempting to lead it out before it gets all of them sick.

The leader looks at Mulroney suspiciously, asking who he is. Mulroney isn't sure what a good local minotaur name might be, so he gives his name as "Stan". The leader finds that name suspicious, giving his own name as Reztal of clan Raktar. He asks which clan Mulroney is with.

Since Mulroney is lacking in knowledge of racial histories, he isn't really sure what clan name to give. Instead, he claims to be an outcast. Mulroney goes on to say he and his mother were cast out because his father was accused of being a traitor. Mulroney stresses his father was falsely accused but killed just the same while the rest of the family was cast out.

Reztal's eyes narrow. He is horrified to learn that Stan's father, Randy, was accused of being a champion of light. Mulroney shows the right amount of sorrow as Reztal declares what shame his father brought upon them all and gives a tale of his father being drawn and quartered for punishment.

Saying his mother and brother subsequently died of the same plague the human is carrying, Mulroney says he lives at the edge of the territories and hopes for the day he can return home. Since he knows the horrors of the disease carried by the human he wants to get her out of the area as fast as possible.

Reztal isn't sure why they can't just kill the girl. Mulroney claims it is too dangerous to touch her, as the disease is very deadly. He said he had to use his special roping skills to get her tied up in the first place.

Mulroney goes on to say that one with the plague rots from the inside. He invites Reztal to smell the girl, as her rotting has already made her smell like feces. Reztal agrees what Mulroney says makes sense.

He commands Mulroney to take the smelly girl away from here. Reztal suggests if he comes across one of their cave witches to give the girl to her for sacrifice. He then wishes Mulroney well, telling him to go with Xy (one of the Old Ones worshipped by their kind). Mulroney gives a dark blessing in turn to the minotaur leader.

*** Session 15 - Scene 2 (of 7) ***

For the past several days, the newly-vampiric Viktor has been waiting near the ruins of Rodemus. After being completely drained of blood, he remembers rising again to find himself under the mental control of the vampire who killed him – Wi'zou.

Wi'zou instructed the former thief to make contact with Tickles and his band of mercenaries (or whatever they were; Viktor was never sure, and it found it strange a group of mercenaries included an old man with a cat and a young human girl). His new master, speaking telepathically into his mind, wants Viktor to travel with them in case they encounter someone named Bragosani. From what Viktor understands, Bragosani is some kind of necromancer who is the former master of his master. It is all very confusing for the addled goblin's mind, particularly as he has trouble clearly remembering much of his mortal life despite dying only a few days ago.

Viktor has tried to make the most of it by enjoying his new powers. He particularly likes the ability to metamorphosis into a bat, wolf, or cloud of mist. He also finds his ability to see very far in the darkness to be quite useful. It is with this ability he first spots a man on a horse and a young girl approaching from in the distance. He's fairly sure these two are part of the group he seeks; while the coyle isn't with them, the little girl and the cat are uncommon enough that it would be quite a coincidence if these weren't Tickles' allies. He steps out into the light of their torch to get their attention.

Deadly Snow and the Great Mulroney see the pale goblin step out into the light. Mulroney recognizes him as Viktor, one of the thieves who previously attacked him. Between the goblin being pale, having slightly longer teeth, and the fact he's pretty sure Wi'zou got the goblin while in wolf form, Mulroney is fairly sure the man before them is a secondary vampire.

Deadly Snow asks who goes there in Gobbley to be safe. Viktor responds with his name, saying he has been sent to make contact with them by Wi'zou. Deadly Snow asks what kind of contact, worried he may be planning to drain their blood. Viktor tries to assure them he means no harm and is discussing forming an alliance with them. As they speak, the mention of the goblin "making contact" with the girl reminds Mulroney of the vile rapist Nasser, who was tortured and killed in the most heinous way by the tumbler's guild after his crimes were discovered. The memory of the well-deserved torture and death of the evil man warms Mulroney's heart.

The conversation between Deadly Snow and Viktor takes a while to get anywhere. The goblin does not reveal why Wi'zou wanted him to make contact with the group but doesn't say much more than Wi'zou is not in the area any more. Trying to cut the conversation to the quick, and considering how powerful a vampire ally could be, Mulroney asks Viktor if he is trying to say he wants to join their "merry band". Viktor agrees.

Deadly Snow tells Viktor they are on their way to find a hidden temple. She asks if he wants to accompany them since it would take him away from Rodemus (as she's still unclear if Wi'zou himself wants to see them). Viktor says he'll come along and notes he can always make contact with the master later.

The Great Mulroney asks Viktor why Wi'zou wanted to contact them. Viktor simply says the master didn't want anything except to make an alliance, being careful not to say anything about Bragosani.

Mulroney asks what Wi'zou is offering as part of the alliance. Viktor says his services, as well as a mutual non-aggression pact (phrased as "not trying to kill each other") and sharing information. Though after asking some questions, it quickly becomes clear to Mulroney that the vampire has no information to exchange ("at this moment", Viktor insists). Mulroney notes the alliance seems rather one-sided, but he's happy to have Viktor along as Tickles is currently indisposed (joking the coyle is off dealing with a case of mange). Anxious to get going, Deadly Snow has them get a move on following the map to the hidden tunnels nearby.

*** Session 15 - Scene 1 (of 7) ***

Despite initial concerns, the group makes it back to Beartooth without any trouble. After selling off some of Nardig's unneeded goods and selling the jewels, the group is flush with gold. They take a week or so to recuperate and refresh their equipment.

The Great Mulroney uses their contacts with the Scarlet Alliance to get a couple of their magic items identified. The other amulet Tickles carries is identified as the Amulet of Rurga, which makes sense as the entry in Lady Lissa's journal specifically mentioned Kandia had left it behind when she went to find the Priests of Pah-Ma. It is said the amulet has the power to grant Rurga's beautiful visage on anyone who wears it.

As for the magical arrows Nardig took from the Rillietann elves (the Harlequins of the Cult of Cegaroch) at the Black Vault, those are said to be the Arrows of the Dark Reaper, capable of piercing any armor. Mulroney gives them to Deadly Snow, who purchases a small bow to use them with.

For himself, Mulroney keeps the Armor of the Exarch but elects not to spend the time and gold to have it fully repaired. Instead, he decides to spend the money on a horse for himself. But the limited availability and high costs of mounts leads him to purchase a rather rough-looking draft horse instead of the magnificent riding steed he envisioned. Despite this setback, he still thinks of himself as somewhat a knight riding his horse in plate armor and considers changing his nom de guerre to "The Grand Mulroney". For the horse, he wants to name it something absurd and comes up with "Gorn Clinker".

With Tickles busy for a while on guild business (particularly making sure to keep a close connection with Materich after killing Doyle, so as to not seem a threat), Mulroney and Deadly Snow discuss the various items on their to-do list to see if they can accomplish anything in the meantime. The list is getting rather long, and they are having trouble keeping track of what all they need to do between Bragosani, the Zombie Plague, and the Cross-Dimensional Conspiracy; Sa'lid Dra'lah and the Ebony Blade; Lorna, Ma'leese, and Charno; the Overlord of Rikki, the Thieves of Harr-Ki, and the Herald of the Giants; the thief and the Azure Dragon; Lady Lissa's mention of the lost temple of the Priests of Pah-Ma; the job Nardig set up with Theosius at the Inn of the Red Bull; and the dinner Jogores requested with them to discuss a business venture. After much deliberation, they decide the best thing to do is start with the map they found at Rodemus showing a hidden path through a series of tunnels leading to a temple with the mark of the Azure Dragon.

As the map begins at Rodemus, they decide to head back their first. Mulroney wants to grab the extra treasure from there, but Deadly Snow notes it would be best to get the treasure on their way back to Beartooth once they find the temple.

Design, Development, and Gameplay / Session 15: Trail of the Azure Dragon
« on: January 28, 2018, 12:36:51 PM »
*** Session 15 - Cast of Characters ***

Yukiko Amagi (aka The Deadly Snow): A ten-year-old aberrant human girl; a major psychic trained as a secret assassin. She considers Tickles to be her father after he raised her as an orphan.

The Great Mulroney: A miscreant changeling witch who believes he is human and masquerades as a prestidigitator. He sold his soul to the devil prince Glebecar and has a devil familiar named Shoes.

Viktor: A former thief working for Doyle. Turned into a secondary vampire by Wi'zou at Rodemus. Joined the group under his master's orders to keep an eye on them and their connection to Bragosani the Damned.

*** Session 14 - Session Notes ***

The oddest thing about this session is how brief the write-up really is. The session itself was the same 2 1/2 hours or so our sessions usually are. There wasn't a lot of OOC talk not related to the game. The combat did take up a good chunk of time but wasn't nearly as involved in the previous session. Overall, it's was a fun session and moved the game forward. And yet, in the end, not a whole lot was there to be written up.

I record the audio for sessions then type it up. This was one of the only times I could do it without stopping the audio all that much (usually it takes me 5-6 hours to type up the notes for a session, I easily did it in 3 this time). The reason was the players took a very, very long time to make the few decisions they made. There was a ton of OOC debate on what the safest option to take would be and clearly not everyone always agreed (thus, the group splitting up).

My favorite part of the session was getting to throw down some exposition with Wi'zou. Usually the PCs don't let the villains talk long enough to get the plot points out.

My least favorite part was Nardig's (unnecessary) death. The problem is, that player requires a fair amount of hand-holding to get a new character up and running so it will be a mad dash to have something ready for next session.

Other notes about the session:
* The Mulroney player (correctly) foreshadowed in some of the IC/OOC chatter about where to rest that Doyle and his men were totally planning to murder the group to take whatever treasure they had found.

* I suppose it was in character to leave Nardig to fend for himself with the vampire, but still kind of a crappy thing to do. I gave the Nardig player multiple chances to try and break out of the super hypnosis, but he kept rolling terribly.

* Since Mulroney already used the globe of daylight on him once, I figured it wouldn't be as effective a second time. My problem with Palladium magic overall is that extremely effective spells have very low PPE requirements. Also, Kevin Seimbeida's rules are written for vampires are terrible and make them far too weak to be a real threat.

* I was totally going to let the fountain water keep Nardig alive. Failing that, I was ready to have Nardig stay in the game as a vampire. When I told the Mulroney player that after he killed / destroyed Nardig, he felt really bad.

* The PCs felt very threatened by the thieves, but honestly none of the thieves were remotely a real threat stats-wise. The real threat (which the PCs eventually figured out) from them was in delaying things long enough for the vampire to emerge.

* The Mulroney player kept insisting Shoes should be able to claw out the eye of his opponents. I'm not sure how serious he was.

* Everyone mocked the Tickles player for trying to use an action movie line that made no sense when he killed Doyle with the club.

* Hopefully Wi'zou's conversation with Deadly Snow will help the group start to put some of the plot thread pieces together. I sent out a separate "open plot threads" email to them as well as some other hints. While I understand my plots are purposely complex, sometimes I think the players don't take nearly enough time to even try to unravel what is going on.

* The players did a great job finding all the treasure. But I had to kill the mule after they foolishly forgot to dispose of the other new vampires (more on that next session).

* The players finally got a large cache of treasure. They expect to lose it on the way back to Beartooth, which is why I plan to surprise them next session by starting after they've already arrived back there safely.

* After this session, all three of the surviving characters have reached level 4 which should keep them fairly powerful. Given Palladium's XP tables, I assume this will be about as far as the PCs get in the campaign but who knows...

*** Session 14 - Scene 4 (of 4) ***

Back in the crypt, Tickles and Mulroney continue to explore the remainder of the crypt but find little outside of two more large rooms with sarcophagi in them. They spend a few hours to check all the graves, but find nothing of value.

Mapping the area out, Mulroney notices there appears to be a large space in the middle of several rooms. He and Tickles search around a particularly oddly-architected section of wall and the thief immediately finds a secret door there.

Tickles looks over the door carefully and notices it is coated with a deadly contact poison. Using the gloves he took off of Nardig, Mulroney gives them to Tickles so he can use them to carefully open the door.

Opening the secret door, there is a hidden room between the other rooms filled with six large chests. It appears to be the hidden treasury of the lost Rodem family fortune.

After confirming the chests appear safe, they open each in turn. The first chest holds 1,500 gold worth of jewelry, a map, and a special-looking amulet.

Tickles takes the map and the amulet. He notices the map appears to detail a hidden series of tunnels leading to a temple. A symbol next to the temple appears to be the same astrological symbol Deadly Snow was researching before – the Azure Dragon.

Mulroney examines the magical amulet, but isn't sure what it is. Tickles decides to put it in his pocket for now.

Moving on to the other chests, Mulroney finds the next three contain 500 gold coins each and the last two contain 500 silver coins each.

Since the treasure is too much for them to move by themselves, Mulroney suggests they go up to see if Deadly Snow survived against the vampire. He notes to Tickles they may need to "cure" her too, but the coyle won't hear of any such violence against his adopted daughter.

They head up just as Deadly Snow is leaving the tower to head back to town after a night of rest. She sees them before they see her, and uses her powers of levitation to float and ectoplasm to create a mist to try and fake being turned to a vampire.

Mulroney takes out his wooden cross to keep her at bay while Tickles says they don't want to kill her. Deadly Snow continues to float towards Mulroney, so he decides she is faking it. He tells her as much.

She drops the act, and Tickles tells her it wasn't funny. Deadly Snow then explains what Wi'zou said to her.

Mulroney doesn't want to spend too much time dwelling on her tale, as he is concerned with how to get the treasure back. She offers Nardig is strong and should be of help, but Tickles has to explain the hobgoblin is dead. Mulroney says something about the cure being too strong for him and goes into a melodramatic tale of Nardig's last words (which are fairly flattering towards himself).

They look around for anything to help them transport the treasure. Nearby, they find a mule used by Doyle's gang for transport. There is no wagon, but the mule does have saddlebags.

Mulroney's idea is to take some spare lumber lying around and construct a sled. They spend some time talking about whether to keep some of the treasure hidden at Rodemus. Mulroney eventually convinces them to take it all back to town (insisting that would be "what Nardig would have wanted").

Tickles gives the map with the symbol of the Azure Dragon to Deadly Snow. He also asks her about the amulet, but she suggests he just try putting it on.

When he does so, it transforms his appearance. Suddenly he appears to have beautiful long, blond hair and sparkling blue eyes along with softer, more feminine features. Mulroney finds the appearance very attractive, making him quite uncomfortable. He insists Tickles take the amulet off as he resists the urge to try and smell the coyle's hair. The reason he gives are that there are many magical amulets in the world but none should be taken lightly.

They manage to construct a sled for the mule, but don't want to head back to town before resting. They tie up the mule near the crypt stairs (as the mule will not go down into the crypts), and head into the undercroft to rest by sealing themselves in the treasury. The next couple of days are spend resting and healing up.

When they emerge, they find the mule dead and drained of blood. Mulroney quickly surmises it was attacked by the vampires of Viktor and Sirko, who he didn't think to destroy when he had the chance. He also wonders if he should have thought to have Shoes stay out there to keep watch.

Deciding it is time to head back to town, they leave half of the treasure sealed up under Rodemus while Mulroney takes the chest of jewelry and Deadly Snow and Tickles taking a chest of gold each. Then they head off into the caverns…

*** Session 14 - Scene 3 (of 4) ***

Not wanting to face the vampire, Tickles suggests they head back down into the crypt. Mulroney isn't so sure, but guesses dealing with Nardig will be safer than Wi'zou. Deadly Snow isn't so sure of their logic that the crypt will protect them, so she stays above in the tower to see if she can protect herself there.

Mulroney, Shoes, and Tickles head back down into the undercroft. Deadly Snow does her best to fortify her position in Doyle's tower.

When they get down into the crypts, Mulroney says he needs to cure Nardig. Unfastening the hobgoblin's breastplate, he quickly takes out his wooden stakes and mallet and hammers one into Nardig's chest. Then, using moonblade, he separates the creature's head from his body and burns both after making sure to collect all the mercenary's possessions.

Tickles can only watch in a state of shock and horror. As the remains burn, he wonders if the magical fountain water could have cured Nardig. But it is too late now…

Up on top, Deadly Snow looks around the tower but finds little other than Doyle's makeshift throne. She looks outside one of the windows, but all appears quiet now.

As she looks for any type of secret passage into the lower level, the assassin spots some movement out of the corner of her eye. She begins to wonder if it was a bat she saw.

Out of the shadows, Wi'zou emerges in his humanoid form. She instantly puts up her mind block to protect her from his mesmerism powers and puts on her child skull mask.

Wi'zou laughs. He tells the girl he likes her spirit and asks her to come closer. She steps ever so closer, and gives her name as the Deadly Snow. He shares his name as well, confirming he is indeed Wi'zou.

The assassin then offers the vampire he may feed on her, but she is small and has little blood. She says if he lets her live, she can let him back into the undercroft, where he will find a better meal waiting.

Wi'zou says he does not want to go back to the crypts, as he was trapped there for a long time. According to him, he was cursed to remain there after his master killed off the Rodem family long ago.

Deadly Snow asks after his master, but Wi'zou says he does not know where the man went. He mentions his master used magic to trap him in the crypts because he was getting too powerful.

The assassin offers to help find Wi'zou find his master for revenge. The vampire says he thinks he can locate the master, but is interested if she already has any helpful information.

The vampire scratches a jagged spiral symbol into the wall, asking if she knows it. Deadly Snow recognizes it as the symbol her group has seen before – it was in Lady Rodem's journal and associated with a necromancer responsible for the zombie plague (though Mulroney lied about recognizing as the symbol of a demon named Reedikus; the same fake demon name he used in Beartooth when talking to Zaladane). Unknown to her, Nardig had also encountered the symbol on the chest in the lair of the evil wizard Bargle, who was also suspected of having ties to the plague zombies.

Deadly Snow mentions seeing it in the journal. Wi'zou says it is the symbol of the god his master serves, though doesn't give the deity's name. She also says the journal mentioned a necromancer, who the vampire confirms is his master.

She asks if the necromancer controls other creatures. He simply says, "some" but notes most of them at Rodemus have already been eliminated by her and her group.

Wi'zou asks if she knows where the master is. She says she hasn't yet, but is confident as she has various connections including people in other dimensions.

Hearing the mention of other dimensions, Wi'zou is intrigued. He says the master also came from another dimension a long time ago before becoming an Immortalus. Deadly Snow isn't sure what that means.

She says one of her companions might know more, as he is better versed in magic than her. She says he is down in the crypt, but Wi'zou doesn't wish to go see him, saying he'd rather go search for himself.

Wi'zou tells the girls she intrigues him, and notes he's already fed quite a bit, so he agrees to let her live for now. He also is sympathetic to her due to her appealing skull mask.

Before turning into a bat and disappearing back into the darkness, Wi'zou tells the girl to keep an ear out in case she comes across any information on "Bragosani the Damned" and they meet again. She assumes Bragosani must be the name of the vampire's master.

After he's gone, the assassin realizes she recognizes the master's name – it appears to be the same name Zhang Tong gave to Mulroney as one of his allies when he believed Mulroney to be someone named "Arlo", and part of a larger conspiracy involving people named "Nigel" and "Paldemar". According to Zhang Tong, Bragosani was suggested to be located somewhere called the "Pyramid of Shadows".

*** Session 14 - Scene 2 (of 4) ***

As Tickles runs up the stairs, he triggers a tripwire ringing a bell and firing off some crossbows. Two bolts fly out and hit him, but only one manages to penetrate his armor.

Downstairs, Nardig continues to be drained by the vampire while his companions leave him for dead.

Up at the top, Tickles sees a couple of Doyle's men running towards him. He tries telling them he needs their help to come gather the treasure (briefly considering heading back down into the crypts), but they don't seem to be in a friendly mood.

As Nardig falls into the embrace of sweet, sweet unconsciousness Sirko attacks Tickles with his club. Tickles parries back with his own club. He asks Sirko why he's attacking, saying he thought they were friends.

Two of the other thieves, Viktor and Jurg, are heading for Mulroney. The witch draws on Shoes' energy to cast a levitation spell on Sirko.

Shoes rushes over to Novik, jumping up to claw at his eye. The claw scratches the hobgoblin's face.

Deadly Snow sees Sirko in the air near Tickles, with Novik getting ready to attack him. Nearby, Viktor and Jurg are closing in on Mulroney. She decides the best way to help her companions is to attack the levitated Sirko, but the thief parries the blow. Sirko throws his club at Deadly Snow, hitting her.

Tickles attempts to fight Novik, but the thief parries his blow. He attacks back, but Tickles is also able to fend off his attack. Shoes attacks the thief's face again with his claws.

Viktor and Jurg attack Mulroney, both cutting into him with their daggers. Deadly Snow ignores the witch in trouble against the goblins, and starts pushing Sirko in the air towards the stairs so he can be food for Wi'zou should the vampire emerge.

Tickles presses the attack against Novik, striking him hard with his heavy club. Novik strikes back, sticking Tickles in the gut. Tickles swings again, smashing the thief's head into pulp.

The thief then moves over to take on Jurg. He hits the goblin with a powerful strike, badly wounding him.

Deadly Snow manages to get Sirko over to the stairs as he curses and threatens her along the way. Just as she finishes, Wi'zou emerges from the stairs. Seeing the snack left for him, he begins feeding on the thief.

With the emergence of the vampire, Tickles leaves Mulroney to fend for himself and makes a run for it. The two goblins press their attacks against Mulroney, he blocks one but the other cuts him.

Deadly Snow moves over to assist. Using a telekinetic kick, she slams her foot into Jurg. The force of the blow breaks his neck, killing him.

Mulroney decides to make a run for it as well. Viktor stabs him as he passes by and starts pursuing him. The witch points back at Wi'zou, warning Viktor. Viktor, terrified, runs off in another direction.

It doesn't take long for Wi'zou to drain Sirko. Once he's done, he transforms into a wolf and chases after Viktor.

Meanwhile, Tickles is running by the tower when Doyle emerges. He decides to head over to kill the thief. Mulroney and Deadly Snow start heading in that direction as well, as the tower is near the path leading back to Beartooth.

Doyle sees everything going on. He asks Tickles what is going on. Tickles says they did exactly what they planned, they looked for the treasure and released the vampire in the process. Doyle calls him an idiot and tries to make a run for it but Tickles attacks him from behind, hitting him in the head with his club.

Running towards Doyle, Deadly Snow hurls a dagger into him. Mulroney reads his firebolt scroll, casting the spell at Doyle. He is blasted by the beam of fire. Shoes adds insult to injury by clawing at his eye.

As Viktor screams off in the distance, Tickles crushes Doyle's skull, killing him. Tickles tries to make a witty comment to Doyle about "here's your cut!", which would have made more sense had the thief been using an edged weapon. He then searches the corpse, taking the 15 gold coins he finds.

*** Session 14 - Scene 1 (of 4) ***

The group spends some time discussing what to do next. The Great Mulroney feels the most important thing is to get a couple of days of rest before continuing to explore the ruins as they are getting weak.

Mulroney and Nardig favor trying to find a way to rest in the crypt, while Deadly Snow and Tickles want to leave but rest in the tower with Doyle and his men. Mulroney is nervous about Doyle discovering the magic sword he's found and doesn't want to hand it over to the thief (or engage the thieves in battle); he figures it would make more sense to go back to Beartooth if they leave the crypts.

Various schemes are discussed to hide the sword, avoid Doyle, fight Doyle by bringing back Materich, and other ideas. Tickles wants to finish with the crypt before getting embroiled into the guild war. They ultimately decide they will head back up and try to get back to Beartooth, with the plan for Mulroney to use his silver tongue to talk them past Doyle if needed.

With the plan finalized, they decide to make a run for the main door leading to the stairs up to the surface. Mulroney sends Shoes ahead to scout and make sure the area is clear. The cat moves across the rooms and gets to the door at the next room without incident.

Tickles heads out next, attempting to move quickly and quietly. He manages to be quick, but not quiet. He stops to listen at the door, but hears nothing. He motions for the others to approach.

The scene repeats itself as Shoes heads to the main door up to the surface. Tickles again attempts to move quietly, but fails again. Mulroney notices the thief is actually getting louder as he continues.

Back across the room, Mulroney starts to notice some mist forming behind him. He tells Snarg and Deadly Snow to make a run for it.

Everyone begins charging for the door. Nardig is a little slower at moving than the others, and the vampire forms behind him. Giving the hobgoblin a glance, the vampire mesmerizes him as he tells him to look into his eyes.

Leaving Nardig to fend for himself, Deadly Snow and Mulroney run off. As they make their way towards the stairs, Mulroney turns and casts a globe of daylight. Wi'zou hisses and recoils behind his cape, but the light does not drive him off this time.

While still shielding himself from the globe of light, Wi'zou begins feeding on Nardig. As the blood drains from him, the hobgoblin has a feeling of euphoria.

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