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3D terrain fun

This report in from last week’s session. Thanks to Danurai.

Storm Cage!

 

Kallista snuck down the dry stone steps, the room behind the heavy velvet curtain looked like a mess hall. Several gaunt creatures were hunkered over wooden tables, chomping and slurping at their food but something was amiss. There was a crack of bone as Kallista took in the blood spattered tables and discarded human remains on the floor.
Her voice echoed through the stone room as she recited the familiar incantation, a point of crackling energy appeared in the air then burst into a raging storm of lightning, scorching the tables and sending crockery flying.
Oracle hefted her shield and strode into the room swinging her icy blade, occasional tongues of lightning arcing off her armour she addressed the occupants with a grim promise “Prepare yourselves for the final death.

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Previously…

Read Chris Perkins’ great column  The Dungeon Master Experience over at the Wizard’s site today. I’m really enjoying both this and Mike Mearl’s column too. They seem to be replacing the blog posts we (very occasionally got from the two of them, but these are free to read, and are thought provoking and illuminating in equal measure.

What was perhaps a little odd about this column was that Chris’ advice directly contradicts that given by James Wyatt in the DMG. Compare and contrast, DMG p19 first:

You can give the recap, but it’s a great task to delegate.When a player or group summarizes the events of the last adventure, you get a glimpse inot the players minds….. it let’s you see what the players remember and what they think is important, shows you their understanding of the story, and can give you ideas for future plot twists

And from Chris:

Some DMs rely on their players to provide the recap. Having tried it as a DM and experienced it as a player, I think that’s a mistake. Left to their own devices, players will often focus on the wrong details, or get the facts wrong, or phrase the recap in a way that doesn’t reinforce the atmosphere you’re trying to evoke. The recap is the DM’s best tool to get the session started on the right foot, and to immerse players in the moment.

Of course they’re both right. I’d been quite happily going along with the DMG for some time, and getting some good results, some of the time. Having said that, I had been finding myself having to take over the recap to make sure everything was covered. I think that might be because we’ve been playing modules rather than home grown adventures. If I were writing more of my own stuff, I think the DMG advice would still stand true. For modules though, I think Chris’ advice would have gotten me out of the hole I found myself in with last night’s  game.

Last night we continued Kingdom of the Ghouls, and following last weeks stellar session, I was anticipating great things. Trouble is, the recap showed that the group hadn’t really taken on board the cool plots and hooks that I’d provided, or maybe that they didn’t think much of them. Dan even took notes! The game never really got off to a strong start, partly due to this, and partly due to a lack of direction or impetus.  I keep forgetting I don’t have  any real ‘instigators’ at my table (myself excluded) and that they really don’t enjoy being given complete freedom of choice. A decent recap, from my side of the screen, could well have helped get the game off and running in a clear direction.

So, note to self, bullet points it is in future.

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21st century, 21st level

After a couple of weeks off for real life stuff, our regular game got back under way last week. The big news is, we’ve hit the heady heights of the epic tier! This is uncharted territory for all of us. Even the guys who played previous editions of D&D never got near the old cap of 20th level, so to get to this sort of level is a serious achievement.

We’re going through the H/P/E Orcus adventures, and I’m glad to see the back of Nightwyrm Fortress. It was a slog and the monsters just lined up to be killed in order. Add to that the poor mechanical implementation of the monsters back then and well, let’s just say we made the best of it.

Onwards  and upwards. Internet opinion of Deaths Reach is quite high, and I have to agree on rereading it (I bought the thing 18 months ago!). It seems to get stuck into a big story, pulling together various strands that have been touched on in the earlier parts of the series. Even so, it’s presented in the usual dry mechanical linear fashion. I knew from past experience that it would be best to put my own spin on the adventure. I don’t have a huge amount of prep time, so I wasn’t going to rewrite every encounter or move things about wholesale. I just wanted to add a bit of flavour where I could and bring the characters into the heart of the plot.

This is where my players really come into their own. I simply asked everyone to say what they’d been up to in the game months since emerging from Nightwrym Fortress. How was the epic destiny going to manifest? What had changed? Whatever really. Danurai had sent out a pre-emptive shot with this e-mail from before game night:

With the hissing crash of a wave breaking on a shingle beach the planar skiff materialized in the grounds of the ruined Keep above Winterhaven. A tall man stood on the prow of the ship clad in brown and grey snakeskin which appeared to writhe around him and an inky black cloak clasped in place with a plain silver brooch. He wore an obsidian mask carved with the visage of a handsome drow but the ivory horns curling above them and the purple glow of his eyes from within the mask identified the traveller as the Tiefling known as Raelthos the Radiant.

Carefully re-rolling the scroll in his hands he replaced it in a carved ivory case. In the blink of an eye his form collapsed into smoke that rolled off the deck of the ship and re-formed on the rocky ground beside him a magical horse formed made purely of Obsidian it ducked it’s head and pawed the earth a clicking sound of stone on stone. Quickly mounting his steed Raelthos wheeled once gesturing to the Githyanki captain before galloping off towards the tower of Valthrun the prescient. Somewhere in Valthrun’s books was the key to unlocking the secret of the scroll and the ring of Lady Janstine Helltalon.

Julio’s retort:

From the shadows of a nearby bluff Flynn slouched idly rolling a platinum piece across his knuckles. “Hmmm” he mused “Tiefling’s back then…”Flynn paused, his head cocked to one side “good to have him back I reckon….still a ponce mind”.

Heh.

Stevie went with the idea that his Shadar Kai swordmage has become a devoted acolyte of the Raven Queen. He had fasted and undergone many rituals in a far flung temple devoted to her. He’d handed over all his loot to the priests and set out into the world refreshed and renewed. Cool.

Julio plays Flynn the Rogue. What had he been doing?

Setting up a fake temple to the Raven Queen and buying some second hand robes. Made a stack of cash out of one idiot.

Priceless.

Love it. Stacks of character getting us off to a great start. I knew I had to raise my game.

If you don’t know the first encounter in Deaths Reach, it’s fairly basic as written. There’s a street scene, a Marut appears to give the party a message from the raven Queen, and then the bad guys launch a mounted ambush. To give it some extra oomph, I set the street scene in Moonstair, from the adventure King of the Trollhaunt warrens. I also set it at night during the monthly opening of the moon gate. I went for a post celebration vibe with the taverns full and couples stumbling drunkenly down alleyways as the party sat on the town fountain and caught up. Then I had time freeze completely and the statue in the fountain come to life and address the characters while water flowed from his hands. As the statue finished, the clatter of hooves announced the arrival of the Ebon Riders. Roll for initiative!

The monsters were utterly trounced in short order (epic characters are rock hard!), but the adventure  was properly underway. The party stepped through the portal to Zvomarana….

To be continued

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Five at the brink of Desolation

Tonight is a special game night. I get to play. I never get to play. Awesome.

Dan is DMing and we’re returning to his Eberron game. This will be the second session and it’s been ages since the first. I’m absolutely stoked at the prospect. My character is a human bard, and it’s going to be really interesting to play a leader with this group. Also cool is the fact that Matt is coming along too. He’s Dan’s brother and has never, ever roleplayed before this campaign, so it will literally be his second outing. Dan did his character for him, but you can tell Matt is loving it. He’s playing a wizard, and I think this is perhaps the best edition for letting newbies get away with that class.

It’s four years since the day of mourning, and we’re in Sharn. I can’t wait.

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Eberron Field Report

Here’s how Dan’s character saw our Eberron One shot last week. Awesome work as always!

Subject: Field Report: Kiera d’Lyrander

Spellshard #11563
Field Report: Kiera d’Lyrander
Confidential: Clearance Level 7 – Eyes of Aundir
#NOTES# added by The Eyes of Aundair.

15th Barrakas 1009YK I was on shore leave from ‘Arawai’s Honour’ and had been breakfasting with veterans at the #LOCATION CONFIDENTIAL# in Sharn . A messenger delivered a note to our table, it was signed V of the Dark Lanterns to meet him an unassuming location – The North-East stairs of the Myriad Tower. The letter also included four Platinum pieces, one of each kingdom except Breland. We went to the location and quickly identified the guard disguised as a beggar and gained access to the tower by handing over the coins. Inside we met with V and passed his ‘Interview’ by battling an Owlbear in a garden at the top of the tower. Upon completing the ‘Interview we were then commissioned by Brelish intelligence to track down a rogue agent Luccan Stellios and a sword he had stolen called the Soul Blade. #LOCATION SEARCHED – NO INDICATION OF V#

Provisioned with Magebred horses we pursued the rogue agent and caught up with his carriage approximately 10 leagues from Trollenport, Zilargo. At that point we hailed the rapidly moving coach which refused to stop so we boarded her, disabled the driver and proceded to apprehend Luccan, who was wielding a dagger with a ruby pommel. It was at this point that we discovered that Luccan was in fact a vampire. I heartened my allies with a prayer to Arawai and we pressed the attack however when Lo Kag #Lo-Kag VETERAN SLAVE CHAMPION# removed the roof of the carriage, Lucan turned to mist and escaped. We searched the area but could not find either Luccan or his red haired driver. We found Luccan’s coffin aboard the carriage, destroyed it and consecrated the earth knowing that he would not be able to recuperate without it for a few days. #ABANDONNED CARRIAGE LOCATED – APPEARS TO CORROBORATE REPORT#

We continued on to Trollenport and ascertained that Luccan planned to attend one of the dozen or so masked balls held each year, this one hosted by House Aundair, and that the red-haired woman was his sister Grilsha Stellos. We infiltrated the masquerade and using gnomish glamours to disguise our weapons and armour, discovered that he was there to contact #NAME WITHHELD#. I discovered Luccan after dancing with him, as he turned away I recognised his long, white hair. As Luccan and his sister went to leave the ball we moved to stop him, this time he was wielding a greatsword with a ruby pommel. With the aid of the Eyes of Aundair we apprehended Grilsha. Luccan escaped once again but was severely wounded. Grilsha appeared to be unaware of her brothers involvement with the Dark Lanterns or his Vampirism. #GRILSHA STELLOS IS CURRENTLY HELPING THE NATION OF AUNDAIR WITH THEIR ENQUIRIES#

#NAME WITHHELD# told us she had arranged passage to Karnath for Luccan on an Airship and we proceded to the docking spire. Upon our arrival we were confronted with a horde of zombies, dressed in Aundair Livery! After smiting the foul undead we boarded the airship. All hands had been put into an unnatural sleep, we awoke the captain and made a cursory search of the ship but there was no sign of Luccan. We had regathered on the deck when agents of the Emerald Claw rammed the airship and we moved quickly and decisively to repel them – boarding their skiff and attempting to apprehend their leader who was accidentally decapitated as he attempted to feather-fall to safety.

Following this latest ambush the Captain suggested that maybe Luccan had stowed his coffin in the Locker of Holding below-decks. We duly retrieved the coffin and opened it on deck. Luccan was at repose within the coffin and lauched out to attack us. A brief battle ensued on deck and we subdued him, at which point the body of Luccan Stellos crumbled away to dust.

#The Soul blade has been requisitioned by The Eyes of Aundair and is currently being researched. Kiera d’Lyrander and her associates were rewarded by Audair and Kiera has returned to her unit. She shows discretion and valour and may be a useful asset to Aundair and House Lyrander. Breland are still searching for The Soul Blade but have been diverted for the time being#

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Let me tell you about my character

Well, I’ll let Dan tell you about his anyway. This is his backstory for the character he used at the big one off Eberron game last weekend.

Aundair Gazetteer
18 Zarantyr 998YK


‘After the Mourning’ Where are they now?

In this regular article we catch up with some of the heroes of the great war and find out what they are doing now hostilities are over.

Kiera d’Lyrandar, youngest child of Brandon and Elahara Jean-Gris d’Lyrander grew up in the Jean-Gris family home in Aundair. At age 9 she had her first communion with one of the Sovereign Host, Arawai, and joined the monastery on her 13th birthday. At 16 she was sent to train with the “Flying Templars” on the island of Stormhome amongst rumours of unruly behaviour.
She’s grown into an attractive young woman and has joined us fresh from a training exercise aboard the Sky-galleon ‘Arawai’s Honour’, fully armed and armoured.

AG: Thanks for joining us, Miss d’Lyrander. You grew up in Aundair with five older brothers, how was it being the youngest and a girl?
KdL: It was great really. My brothers teased me something awful sometimes, hiding my dolls and pulling my hair, that sort of stuff, but they looked out for me too. Mother was always dressing my up in these little dresses and things but they’d always ended up torn and muddy, I was a bit of a tom-boy and much preferred Tabard and Trews and a pair of sturdy boots.
AG: Speaking of which, can you tell us about what you are currently wearing?
KdL: Of course, this is ‘Sky-Silver’ layered plate forged in Cyre, made for me by Elgrim d’Cannith and is enchanted for mobility. I’ve accessorised with this light jousting shield and matching tabard. As usual I am carrying my lightning sword ‘Ampere’, gifted to me by father when I went to study on storm-home. Last, and most precious to me is this (Kiera lifts her arm to show the rosary wrapped around her gauntlet and the delicate wheatsheaf hanging from it). Arawai is always by my side, but this makes that connection stronger.
AG: We know you first communed with Arawai when you were nine, pur readers would like to know how you got the honour of serving with the third wing of Arawai’s Templars AKA The Flying Templars. Any truth to the rumours?
KdL: (sighs) Well, it seems such a long time ago now, there was this beautiful young elf working the local orchard, all tanned and, ooh, wild. By the five, I can’t even remember his name, anyway, I’d just turned 16 and was rather naive. Sister Morodale caught us in the hayloft with a bottle of scrumpy, as you can imagine, as an earthly representative for one of the Sovereign Host and a Lyrander, such behaviour was deemed unseemly. We had a huge argument. The next day I received travel papers with a note from father just saying I was to travel to Stormhome to learn some discipline.
AG: Some would consider that an honour, rather than a punishment.
KdL: (shrugs) It’s been hard work.
AG: Moving on, what’s the political climate like on Stormhome? Is it true house Lyrander is mobilising troops to invade the Eldeen reaches?
KdL: I cannot comment on the policies of house Lyrander, I am Arawai’s vessel and storm-bringer.
AG: You served for three years during the war, you were honoured for your actions on the day of Mourning, can you tell us about that?
KdL: We’d been re-provisioning at the border keeps and were flying back abourd ‘Arawai’s Hope’ to support the Cyran troops against the invading forces. Our orders were to strike the Zelish wands at sunset but when we arrived the Brelish army was scattered. We weighed anchor and worked all night trying to help the refugees, most were sick from the mourning, whatever we did, even Arawai’s blessings, it wasn’t enough. Most of those few that walked out of the wasteland died within hours. It was dreadful.
AG: What’s next for Kiere d’Lyrander?
KdL: I’ve ten days leave so I plan to take passage on a sky-ship back home to see mother and father and then to volunteer at one of the refugee camps in Breland. I always try to return to that site we landed at once a year to pay my respects and do what I can.
AG: Thank-you for your time.
KdL: Arawai’s blessings be with you.

Next Week: Lord Major Bren ir’Gadden of house Medani talks to us about the Vital role of the Brelish Intelligence corps in bringing about the Treaty of Thronehold.

Awesome.

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Eberron at LemurCon 2009

Every year we have a bit of a reunion. Most of our gaming group met at university back in the early nineties. Since then we’ve spread out across the country and obviously we can’t all get together every week. So instead we try to have a full weekend of gaming every now and then, once or twice a year.  Usually we meet up at Pete’s and we must be on about our 14th or 15th mini Con by now. This year we were down on numbers, and we played at Julio’s for once, so we tried something new. Usually we play 4 or 5 different games over the weekend, plus board games etc, and have rotating GMs. This time we devoted the whole of Saturday to D&D 4e.

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Pyramid of Shadows AP

This in from Danurai, who plays Raelthos Moonchild III in our weekly game:

The final demise of the Arboreans was short and bloody. We found an illusory room resembling the sprawling countryside of what I can only assume to be their homeland. It was late spring, and the the early morning sunshine was warm on my face as Callista and I strolled throught the grass, soaking our boots through with fresh morning Dew. We were drawn to a low stone in the middle of a clearing, surrounded by grey stone pillars and a handful of trees, upon the stone were a sequence of glowing red symbols and we took it to be a gravestone of some sort.
Suddenly we heard a warning cry from Flynn on the right and Illvelios on the left as an ettercap launched itself at me from a nearby tree, I stepped through the fey to evade it but felt a spasm of pain as it struck me with a solid blow across the back. From a few feet back the final desparate attack upon us unfolded. Flynn had ambushed an ettercap trying to sneak up on us from our right flank, it’s many legs flailing as it desparately attempted to fend off the rogues swift, precise sword strikes. The scene disappeared in a gout of flame from Callista and I heard the the thing scream briefly in pain then crackling as it’s chitinous hide burned.

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Falling off the learning curve

steves-notesSteve forgot his character sheet for last night’s game. Usually this would be an issue to say the least, but, rather wonderfully, technology saved the day. Steve had previously e-mailed his character out to all of us, so 2 mins on my netbook got him his original mail. Then he cracked open the character builder online and ported everything over to there. He already had his power cards in his dice bag, so we were ready to rock n roll.

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Sleepless in Spellgard

This in from Danurai:

Fáelán squinted up at the weak winter sun, then spat on the dry ruins of Spellgard.
“They passed by here not three days hence.”
He waggled his fingers in the air and muttered under his breath, like he was petting a dog. Big bloody dog if he was, his companion thought.

The two had been travelling together for a couple of weeks now, tracking the small group that the woman had described. They’d found the cave where her daughter had been held, empty now except for the rotting corpses of it’s previous foul denizens, and picked up the wagon trail to Spellgard and the ruins of the north wall where they now stood.

“We doin’ this or what?” Rumbled the big man. With a voice like gravel and skin like rock he was the physical embodiment of the land he was sworn to protect.
“Aye,” replied the Fáelán, “there’s unnatural doings down there. C’mon Lupa.”
The warden ducked as he followed the wild elf through the broken doorway, and shrugged to himself, why did he keep calling him ‘Lupa’?

The corpses here were much fresher, a few days old at most, and the trail of destruction was easy to follow. Fáelán grinned to himself, from the tracks he was sure they had a Drow with them, no-one else had mentioned a renegade. They’d waded through the underground stream and clambered through the tombs,the dank, dark tunnels reeked of death and decay. The wild elf quickly raised his hand to call a halt, faint strains of a familiar tune echoed through the darkness, amplified by the spirits for Fáelán alone, the screams and shouts of battle joined.

“Lupus, garbh!” the shaman whispered. With a sudden feral roar like a crack of thunder, a ghostly wolf leapt ahead of them. Spear held low Fáelán sprinted after his spirit guide.

“So that’s Lupus” the goliath mused as he unsheathed his full sword and rumbled after them.

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