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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in crothian's LiveJournal:

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    Thursday, April 18th, 2013
    2:06 pm
    Hedge House finished
    We skipped a week but it wasn't for health reasons so that was something new. I think every game that people missed in the past 6 months before this one was due to health reasons for someone.

    The group went back to explore Hedge House so I made things creepy. They kind of knew what was going on and they had rescued a little girl who might be 80 years old. They at first thought the little girl was the demon but for a little twist I just made the girl's immortality linked to the demon so they shot the demon the girl got hurt. But the girl was in the hospital and frankly they aren't sure if the girl is really an innocent so there was no hard feeling in hurting the girl through the demon or if the girl would have died when they killed the demon.

    They explored more of the grounds and found a play train station that was built for the train tracks that circle the grounds. Inside the station was a model train layout of the house and grounds. They thought that was creepy especially when I said it did look like their were vehicles in the model driveway. One of the PCs picked up the miniature replica of the scarecrow that they think is a demon and smashed it.

    In the end they think they killed the demon. The girl lived and then was removed from the hospital by unknown persons. The official report that an NPC FBI agent turned it was nothing like what happened and even altered the location of the original killings. Non of the PCs questioned it. I'm curious as to how much is going to happen before they speak up.

    One PCs did find some clues to a closed investigation. Or might be clues, he's not to sure what it all means and how it connects. I have been slowly dropping bread crumbs about the over all plot since session one and am curious at what point the PCs make that realization. Even if they know I've been doing it I'm not sure they will know what the clues have been as they have been subtle.

    The Hedge House layout is a GURPs product called Floor Plan 1: Haunted House. That gave me the house layout with Carriage House, but the labyrinth and other details came from me. The basic plot was inspired by Changeling the Lost but not based on any adventure for that game. I used a lot of real life facts for the Gould family, the town, and that era for when the house was built and lived in. It was a bit of research that was fun to do.
    Sunday, March 31st, 2013
    7:26 pm
    Hedge House
    The game continued with the PCs in Phili. I think they believe it went to easy, but the players did what they needed to do. They did research, found a contact, got the contact to give them the information they needed, and then came up with a good plan. I didn't punish them by making them roll dice for most of it. The only purpose for rolling dice is to see if the characters fail. With competent FBI agent characters and good well thought out plans that emphasize the PCs strengths I felt no reason to roll dice for most of it. They also chose to not arrest but blow up the Frankenstein Monster, Oleg.

    One of the players choose to miss game to watch basketball with his fiance. Therefore I needed a way to remove his character from the adventure and I choose to make him a hook. He left without telling anyone else and when they were finished in Phili and went back to DC they found he was not there. He was out in Wayne Nebraska. They tracked him down but it took some time. They rented a big and black SUV with tinted windows and they drove around the small Midwest town looking for the missing character's rental. It took all of ten minutes for the local police to stop them and see what is going on.

    The missing PC mystery lead them to Hedge House, a 200 year old house built by the the family that eventually become the majority shareholder in Union Pacific, so Billionaires and old money at that. The house though has not been lived in since the depression era. It had local rumors of being haunted of course, but the family has a trust that funds keeping the grounds and house in good condition. I find it creepier to explore an old house that looks in great condition yet still basically abandoned.

    This is a sequel to an adventure I ran in Albany New York back in 2008. In that adventure college kids explore a haunted house and all but one ended up dying. So, in the missing PC's back story I added in his first assignment as an FBI agent was to explore the disappearance of the 7 college students. He was not able to for reason I can't post yet as they are still at Hedge House.

    I went for creepy. At times some of the PCs had encounters with people from their lives that had died. It wasn't really ghosts more like the Star Trek Next Generation episode with the Traveler called Where No One has Gone Before. When the character is distracted the encounter vanished like it never happened. One of my players requested that I use Torchwood actor Gareth David-Lloyd as an NPC in someway mostly because she finds him really hot. So, I used his picture as the patriarch of the Billionaire family from back in the 1800's. Then I used a different picture of him to show the current 20 something party boy who they encountered at the house who was more then a little hungover. Of course that makes them wonder if this is somehow the same guy alive after 150 years.

    They had creepy encounters, found a weird stone circle inside a hedge Labyrinth with a very creepy scarecrow in the center. I got this cool picture from the TV show Face Off that does monster makeup on SyFy channel. The session ended with them finding a very drunk PC they were looking for. And of course the sun is setting and they will have issues leaving the grounds.

    The adventure as I said is one I created and then decided how would the police and such investigate it. The house is from the GURPS Map Pack called Haunted House, a well done floor plan for a large house. Other then that it was a lot of research to add in details that set the house in the 1930's and before with the description of furniture, accessories, clothing they find, etc.
    Monday, March 25th, 2013
    8:00 pm
    Frankenstein Post
    The title fits for two reasons. The first is that the blog is coming back to life after a few months absence. Secondly the new campaign we started last week's first adventure has strong references to the classic Mary Shelley book. The blog will focus more on the RPG elements of the weekly game and none on the mammoth amount of books I read. Goodreads now solely serves that purpose.

    We finished up Pathfinder early. I was burned out and the Adventure Path started strong but did not end well. Once they got to the Jungle and the city it just seemed like there was little well written plot and mostly just combats of ever increasing difficulties. The Serpent Skull was not for us at least not after over two years of straight Pathfinder.

    We were going to have scheduling issues so we picked a game that had little in need of weekly cohesion. We played Dungeon Crawl Classics for a couple of months and while fun just wasn't a good enough fit. I know most of the players liked it and don't know if they saw what I was seeing about the lack of understanding from them.

    Now we have gone to a different kind of game and campaign. It is modern supernatural with horror elements. They are all FBI agents starting in a new division and mystery and conspiracy will arise from this. I hope. The first session had the players in my opinion a little to trusting of everything and accepting of the impossible. And when things got tough I do feel they missed something. But it is not a problem as there is nothing that can't be fixed and they can be trained.

    The session started with a meeting in the J Edgar Hoover building with their new boss. He told them their first assignment is to lend aid to the Philadelphia Office and locate an 80 year old Russian nuclear physicist who facial recognition software detected. Seems simple enough but the scientist was thought to have dies in 2004 and so it begs the question why is a dead scientists on a watch list that includes facial recognition software. And being over 80 years old and never been to the US one might wonder why he would be on the watch list to begin with. It is fine the players didn't immediately think this. They are not used to playing in games where things get questioned like that. Also, in gaming even if the thought comes to you it could be a purposeful event the GM has included to be part of the mystery or it could be a GM that didn't realize it or think about that. How many things to you point out that are odd with the adventure before it looks like pointless nitpicking? It is a fine line in gaming.

    The PCs travel to New York and went straight to the mall the scientist had been seen in. I gave them a few other investigation options though the mall was the best choice. If they would have gone elsewhere though the adventure would have shaped up much differently.

    They find the scientist easy enough and he doesn't run just plays like he doesn't understand. The group eventually got through to him but the obvious clue there was he was reading the Philadelphia Tribune. They took him back to the FBI offices booked him and interrogated him. When the arrest was made there was the possibility that they would have run into the Monster as he was after the scientist at the mall. But they just arrested him and left so once again that dictated the next set of events. While they are questioning him his pager like device goes off. Except it is of course not a pager it is a detector. One Agent thought it was a bomb so they ran it down to a secure area but then the monster attacked. Like the monster is it was pretty much indestructible. They fought it and no one died but a character did get hospitalized. The next day one of the PCs gets a file folder documenting a conversation with a Russian about the Monster. The Monster is named Oleg and is part of the Russian Mafia. It is a great if a little long bit that really sets the tone for Oleg and how nasty and bad ass he is. The person who gave the interview is dead and whoever put together the folder includes an article of his death in it. Who gave the PCs this info is of course a mystery.

    We ended it after that. The session went well though we might have too many quick to shot characters. The scientist told them a story on how prior to World War One Romania was taken over and ruled by Victor Frankenstein and I think the PCs accepted that as fact a little easy. I had more information on that included country name, maps, events, and history but pulled back from it as I was worried the PCs would accept it all so easily that they would want to travel there and that would take the campaign a direction I don't want it to go.

    The whole idea of Frankenstein country comes from Dark Harvest: The Legacy of Frankenstein published by Cubicle 7. It is a great book with gaming in the country at the turn of the 20th century. The adventure about Oleg and the papers in the folder are all from Horror Recognition Guide from White Wolf. I really like that book and have wanted to use it ever since it was published. Many of the PCs I'm using I got inspiration from the book Masks by Gnomestew. It is a great resource for NPCs that a good friend got for me for Christmas. The game system we are using is Mini d6 but already the players are asking for some things that book does not cover so we will adapt some concepts from d6 Adventure. That was my original plan to start simple and then upgrade to more complex as needed.

    General inspiration for the game has been drawn from almost every game line White Wolf has ever made (Promethean of course for this Accenture), Call of Cthulhu and Delta Green, Unknown Armies, Indiana Jones RPG, and plenty of others. This is the kind of campaign I've been prepping for a while. It is one of the reasons I have a vast RPG library to help find the perfect fits for what I need.
    Wednesday, October 31st, 2012
    6:01 pm
    Serpent's Skull session 7
    This was the travel portion of the adventure. I didn't do any random encounters but the set encounters really felt like random encounters. We did it over Skype which in my mind is always a strike against a good session and with busy work, work, and school I didn't have the time to enhance or make the book much better. I can see now why many people didn't like this adventure path. It has great promise but the details and excitement on the pages is just not there.

    This week they go into the ruins of Tazion the city that holds the secrets to were the lost city is. Or does it? I might change it some to make them seek out a second lost city just to use a module I was also hoping this AP would last longer then City of Thieves and while it might it won't by much. It has a lot of filler dungeon crawl like bits in the last four books and I'm not a fan of those right now. Plus I'm looking forward to playing something different so my own excitement for the campaign has waned a bit. But once we get past this bit we get to better parts of the AP and that is something I'm looking forward to.
    Thursday, October 25th, 2012
    4:10 pm
    Serpent's Skull session 6
    This session helped build more of the second book in the series. I had the group go out and find a guide and to do that we used that as it turned out mediocre module River into Darkness. The module idea is good and I liked the used of a magical boat to basically make it a steam boat. The encounters though going up the river were kind of random and pointless. The writer it seemed really had no idea what to do with what should have been the cool main part of the adventures. It ends in a small outpost in the jungle and sadly this is where most of the adventure takes place as the uninspired mystery reveals itself. I did change some things to give it a more Heart of Darkness feel.

    This week the group still has to pick a group to ally with and start the long trek across the dark continent. I think this might be the weakest book of the five. Because of the way I set things up though some of the later books are going to be significantly changed. One thing I don't like is they get to the city and soon learn they didn't discover it. Someone beat them to it and then these NPCs do a very large information dump to get to the end of the AP. I'm not going to do that. I'll let them discover the mystery for themselves and not have some worthless NPCs spoon feed it to them.

    I'm already looking at what to possible run next. It's like a disease. I did find all six of the Jade Regent AP for less then half price. I will also be foreshadowing Carrion Crown in a weird way. I think though what I want to do is run Rise of the Runelords using Dungeon Crawl Classic RPG but I know that will be a tough sell for some of my players.
    Thursday, October 18th, 2012
    1:47 pm
    Serpent's Skull session 5
    The final session on the island. I knew it was going to be short as there was not a left to do there but I also lately have really not liked the idea of just adding frivolous encounters just to take up time. They had place left on the island to deal with and so it made it for an easy start with no need for the players to try to plan out the options. They had the Red Mountain Devil to fight which was really just a large winged chupacabra. The battle wasn't difficult but I did have it pick up one of the PCs and drop then forty feet into the surf.

    From there they discovered and entered another ancient temple. I added more traps in there and placed in more undead monsters to fight. It was more exploration then fighting the woman that had shipwrecked them on the island. The battle with her didn't last too long. I'm not trying to challenge them yet I just want to showcase some of the differences and find ways for them to enjoy the game. The challenging combat comes later in the AP for now it is establishing setting, NPC's and theme.

    We did some things about them trying to signal a rescue boat but we mostly just had them rescued and then taken to Eleder, capital city of Sargova. Right off the boat on the docks they find people waiting for them and they are summoned to the Govenor's house. I went through what each was going to do now that they are back in a city with real food, a real bed, real baths, and clean new clothes. I allowed them each to write letters home and enjoy not being on the island. We sold and bought items which we never do during game play, we use the message board for that. I wanted to establish they were in a safe city and could relax and enjoy life for a little while.

    This week they go find their guide. I don't like the guide in the book or the tests they he has them do. So, I'm using the Sargova character from the NPC Guide book. They just have to find her and to find her I'm using the module River into Darkness with some changes influenced by the classic novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. I don't expect the players to catch the references as they probably haven't read the book but it works for good inspiration for me. I knew I wanted to run the two modules Pathfinder has set in the same area so I'm pleased to find a way to easily fit in the first one. It is also not as important part of the campaign and I know I'm going to have one player missing.

    We might ease into book 2 when they get done tonight depending on time. I'm prepared to start that with the introduction of the groups now interested in the PCs.
    Wednesday, October 10th, 2012
    2:50 pm
    Serpent's Skull session 4
    This session say three of the four players. One guy was sick and so we decided to game by Skype but the sick player didn't even feel well enough to do that. I had been making the NPCs roles more transparent allowing the PCs to use them more and that worked out well. At the beginning of the session one PC and two NPCs went out for a few days of scouting. They killed some cannibals and got a good idea of what they were up against. Every session up till now had combat that turned out harder then I thought it would so I had made arrangements to still have good combats but not so difficult. Turned out that wasn't needed.

    After the scouts came back the party started planning. They were ambushed that night by the Cannibal witch. In the book she is 4th level with a mostly used robe of bones. I made her 6th level and allowed her to repair the robe so she could make full use of it. Early in the session one player confused campaigns and started talking about the giants they had killed (that was like 4 years ago in a different system, gaming world, and campaign) so I made the ogre skeletons of the robe hill giant skeletons. One advantage of skype is that the players couldn't see that I was making huge changes on the fly.

    It started with green mist that put some characters to sleep. I had the PC that wasn't there automatically fail his save, all the other PCs made theirs and half the NPCs failed. So, that combat interesting with 4 out of 10 out of the fight. The undead arrived in consecutive rounds as the witch could only animate one a round. I did that so the characters could investigate in the jungle, find the witch and maybe deal with her ahead of time. But they never did that so they fought the undead, had the witch threaten them. They threw a stone at her and she flew away.

    They went an assaulted the cannibals the next day. This battle turned out a lot easier. They expended every charge of a staff of woodlands to summon creatures and animate trees. And the battle with the tribal leader and witch was cake as everyone made their saves.

    They investigated under the lighthouse and fought some undead and found an ancient temple to an unknown god and pictures of serpent men. This is the first hints of what ties the campaign together. In the module it says at this point to have an event happen to remind the players that they are not to leave the island and there is more to investigate. My players for some reason never need that to happen. They are like a dog after bone when there is something unresolved they go right after it. I also had the NPCs express that they to want to know the reasons the bad woman crashed the ship on the reefs and left them to die here. What is so important on this island that she would do this? That gets answered this week.

    This week should see the defeat of the chupacabra. I will make Venture Brother jokes that only one player will understand. Then we will randomly roll to see what is in this things liar. Could be something awesome or useless, only the dice can tell us. Then into the painfully short and easy final stage of the module. I'm not going to lengthen it, in fact I'm getting rid of some pointless rooms. But I am beefing it up. The first three sessions very little was changed. The session I'm writing about some things got improved. This next session things gets scaled up considerably. It will still be relevantly easy for them or should be. But it won't be the cake walk of the rest of the island.

    That could take a short time and leave a good bit of the session for getting off the island. I've got that all planned out and I'm ready to introduce new NPCs and see what the PCs do when they finally get back to civilization.
    Thursday, October 4th, 2012
    2:02 pm
    Serpent's Skull session 2 and 3
    Last week we gamed longer then normal and had only two of the four players there so we got through a lot. We also got a good amount of things done on the boards so I'm declaring it two sessions for purpose of session counting.

    The adventure has the character on an island. Food, water, shelter are all important elements of the adventure. I did not want them to become a big deal for the whole time so I weakened some of the useful NPCs in the first session to make it more difficult at the start and then allow them to get better so the basics get easier. That way now when the PCs are not needing to gather food and build shelters it makes sense in game because the NPCs are now filling these roles. I imagine I place a bigger importance on it then the players and I'm not sure how much of it they notice, but I like to establish certain things at the beginning and then move away from them because doing them weekly would get old fast.

    I haven't been using many random encounters. I have a few planned out but I only use them if we need something extra brought in. We haven't needed many so there has been few. The PCs explored most of the island. They found all the places of significant to the NPCs allowing the NPCs to become helpful and participate more. One of those discovered was a buried treasure. Instead of using what the module had for the treasure or defining it myself I used the random charts of Ultimate Equipment. I liked that aspect of 1e that had all those treasure and hoard tables so I had the book open in front of me and let the players roll dice. It created a treasure find of items that I or the module would not have selected. The items were more valuable then what should have been there but at the same time more limited in their use. They found two items that are for Wizards and there are no wizards among the PCs or NPCs.

    The night was filled with a lot of small encounters and discoveries. They met the Dryad of the island who looked at the Bard like a piece of meat. He disappeared twice for a few days at a time. If they aren't careful she's just going to steal him like back in 1e.

    Tonight we should have the gang all back together as they deal with some big enemies and have a chance to discover some of the secrets of the island. At this point they've been there for about three months and who knows how much longer they will have to endure the island.
    Thursday, September 27th, 2012
    3:30 pm
    Serpent's Skull session 1
    Last week we started the Serpent Skull AP. I'm doing things a bit differently by allowing the players the option of keeping their 10th level character from Council of Thieves or starting a new character at level 1. One player started a new character and I think everyone was shocked but how challenging the first adventure was even though it is for for 1st level characters and most of the PCs are not. I did limit their magical items to one of their choice. Actually, that was the only item those higher level characters started with. It sounds insane and like I don't know what I'm doing, but the genius is that everything is set up for fun.

    None of the characters are going to excel away from the urban environment. Their high skills will help, but only one of the PCs had any points in Survival and only one has points in Knowledge Nature. They are fish out of water. Also, the classes are Bard, Inquisitor, and Rogue for the high level characters and no one is going to accuse those of being ground breaking classes. The rogue is the one I'm worried about most because she can do a lot of damage. I know the spells picked by the Inquisitor and Bard and not going to be very helpful outside of healing. And the healing is hit points only. There are poisons, diseases, and attribute damage the group has to worry about that they can't heal quickly.

    I also knew that the magical item picked by the players would be anything but ground breaking. Instead of choosing something that might have some versatility two of them picked magical weapons and one picked a magical belt (a plus to her strength and dex). The weapons are helpful but I was ready to start the campaign with the group having no weapons. But without any armor their ACs are lower then a first level Wizard's. So, that means while the group can do damage in a fight they also get hit all the time and that means fort saved from poison and diseases a lot of the times.

    Serpent Skull starts with a fort save. I didn't like that so I spent about an hour or so introducing the different NPCs, describing the locals the ship stopped at, and allowing for some role playing. And then we got to the fort save. Basically the ship wrecked, the group wakes up on a beach being attacked by large crabs, and the fort save indicated who wakes first and in what order the rest wake.

    I think I've done a good job establishing the NPCs. A couple of them have been sick since they arrived on the island. The group has to go one quests to unlock the NPCs and allow the NPC to train them in something. It actually works out better then that description and I upped the reward from a little +1 bonus to something that people lost track of to a full fledged feat. Yes, it is more powerful but I balance that with removing pretty much all the magical items the group should have found by now.

    Like most low level adventures there are potions and scrolls to be found that would greatly aid in this circumstance. I removed those and added in more powerful but odder items. They found a magic pistol that they don't know what it does with a magically waterproofed powderhorn. They also found a powerful battleaxe that none of the party can use or wanted so an NPC is now using it. There will be more magic and treasure to be found but I'm changing that up. In Ultimate Equipment they have tables for treasure so when the players find the treasure we will roll it up right then so it could be anything. And I won't limit or edit it. If they get something awesome and powerful great, but if they get something boring and useless to them then that's what they get. I'm going old school on that.

    This week will be more exploration and probably solving more NPC problems and gaining those benefits. There are NPCs on the island I expect them to encounter and start figuring out some of the mysteries.
    Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
    4:48 pm
    Council of Thieves 18
    And thus it ends. Not with a whimper but with a bang. It was a night of some set up and stalling by me till we neared the end of the session so I could spring on the big fight. There were no surprises even though I made it less obvious then the Adventure Path.

    It was fun and a lot of work to make the adventures sing. It is not something I would recommend. Luckily, with the right group who was willing to not worry about the plot holes and the railroading and the ridiculous story lines it was a lot of fun. I'm not sure as a player I'd have been as forgiving.

    Each player now gets to write their character epilogue. The importance if this is the next campaign is Serpent's Skull and it is going to start five years later. Some of the same PCs are going to go on this adventure. Am I crazy for having some player play their 10th level characters while others are coming in with level one characters? Yes I am. But believing it or not I've been planning for this situation since about week 2 of the first campaign. I've got a few tricks up my sleeves.

    Serpent's Skull start with what might be the best first adventure in any of the APs. I like the writing and I'm exciting to see how the players like it. One player I think will enjoy it and one I'm not expecting will like it as much. There is some mundane survival in it that will appeal to some and not to others. But there is more then just that and I like the different layers of the adventure. There is drama, exploration, desperation, confusion, and hopefully mystery. Having read through the books the first four are pretty cool. The last two not so much as it gets really dungeon crawl like. Those will be fixed.
    Thursday, September 13th, 2012
    2:16 pm
    Council of Thieves 17
    After a few weeks off it was difficult to get the players back on track. We divided up some of the treasure that was never divided up before but I think the players were not really into it as they new the campaign was close to being over.

    We started with a party announcing the new Mayor of Westcrown. The AP has this happen as a result of book 6 but I found that boring and since none of the PCs wanted the job I see there is no problem of having it just be announced now. Its the Bard's father and then in a surprise wedding the rogue of the group, a woman a good thirty years younger then the mayor, married the Mayor. She had been setting this up for many sessions unbeknowst to any of the other players especially the player playing the son. So, now his step mother is younger then he is.

    I wanted to deal with the undead threats that I had been hinting at for the past several sessions. They went up and fought them and found out it was the the dead remains of the Bastards of Erebus who they killed in the first book. The fight was fun and pretty good with horde of zombies and a few elite undead to contend with.

    After that the Bard had his fiance kidnapped by Thesing, a rival actor from book 2 who is now a vampire. I set it up like an over the top Batman villian with the woman hostess hanging over a vat of acid and Thesing demanding combat with the Bard. It was a tough battle but with the group they were able to kill Thesing.

    This week will be the final session. In it we will finally meet one of the other PC's fathers. Fathers are an unexpected theme of this campaign based on what the players did. Each of their character's fathers has played an important NPC role at different times in the campaign.

    The other theme I added which was not used as much was Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. One PC's father is a Tailor, one's is a soldier, one's mother is a Spy, and one's close family friend is a Tinker. It was there but difficult to see if one was looking for it as I didn't force the theme.
    Thursday, September 6th, 2012
    10:20 am
    Council of Thieves 16
    The session was pretty basic. They assaulted Walcourt and fought a lot of thieves, but in the end were victorious. The thieves were too low a level even with me keeping the PCs a lower level then the book suggests. I sped up the exploration and played it out more like a 4e game that went from important encounter to important encounter and not worry about exploring the couple dozen empty or pointless rooms. They did have a good fight against a high level wizard that was tough. We had our first death there as a character got disintegrated but with action points he got better.

    I also didn't have the PC's trying to figure out how to open doors and get through hallways. The module places in things like this and I'm just going to skip them to get to some more enjoyable parts of the adventure. Down below they fought some vampires and at last Westcrown is free from the shadow creatures that haunt the night. It was some good battles and lots of fun. It worked very well as the climatic end to the campaign. Except there's a sixth book.

    Then we took three weeks off. Gen Con happened and life happens. But it seems to happen when we hit the end of an AP. The same thing happened at the end of Kingmaker. I'm planning on a two session ending to the AP. Tonight they celebrate and I remind them who the bad guys are. They investigate, hopefully they take care of some of the problems that still plague the city and rescue some important NPCs. Next week we have the climatic end.

    Then we are doing the insane. We are going to have about 5 years of down time where the players can give an epilogue of their characters and then we are going to tackle a new AP with the same characters and just do a sequel. It's going to be interesting.
    Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012
    9:41 pm
    Gen Con 2012
    This is going to be long so I'm putting it all behind spoilers to not disrupt people's pages too much. It's mostly about the games as is fitting for the con.

    Read more...Collapse )
    Thursday, August 9th, 2012
    1:16 pm
    Council of Thieves 15
    We dealt with some of the political mess last week. They got through the first bit and the most challenging part. They think the Mayor race is going to be a mess but that should take care off it self before the voting takes place. Mayor races in Westcrown are murder on the candidates. This week there will be blood in the streets of Westcrown. I posted a bit of an undead rising on our boards but everyone is so focused on the succubus in their midst that the city might burn around them as they solve a problem that is not a problem yet. It will be but like in book 6.2 not book 5 where they are. But we'll start with that.

    They went through the first part of book 5 which mainly had them rescue the Mother of Flies (a nasty and evil hag) from a siege by the council of Thieves. She knows the location of the secret rebel er council of Thieves guild house and they didn't want her talking. So the PCs fought some giants, ogres, and thugs. We wrapped it up a little short but they had killed the main force and the leaders so it was easiest to just let them have a good victory.

    The gaming group is in a little bit of potential choas. The guy who's house we game at is at some point going to move in with his fiance. This is great for me as she lives a lot closer to me but a couple of guys who have a long drive will have a much longer drive. There is no good solution here except for the house not to sell which would be bad for other bigger reasons.

    We are also deciding on what to play next. I gave the option to one of the guys to pick first and so far he's mentioned five different options. We still have two or three sessions of Council of Thieves but with Gen Con next week if we are going to tackle something new I might be able to pick some useful books up there. Some of the options are:

    The Serpent Skull AP. There is actually a pretty easy way to connect it to Council of Thieves so I was thinking of just using the same characters if players want to and then move through this AP a little faster with higher level character. It would be a great change of pace for the characters and offer something pretty fun but it does have a lot of dungeon crawls towards the end which is not a good thing.

    Rise of the Runelords would be great and if we do it I could DM it but so could someone else. With the updated book of it out I think a lot of groups are going to do this and that would be a good bonus of resources to take advantage of.

    We have some talk of going to 1e D&D and I imagine I'd run that since I'm not sure anyone else has played or run in in decades. I played a campaign of it last year and ran it last two Gen Cons.

    Another option is the new Dungeon Crawl Classic game. If we did this I would not run it because I don't know the game at all. I'd need to pick up the book. I don't know what it is like and what separates it from all the other so called old school D&D games out there. Some guys in the group like it so it could be a good option.
    Thursday, August 2nd, 2012
    9:46 am
    Council of Thieves 14
    The end of the dungeon crawl was almost a TPK. I skipped a few encounters as it would have just eaten away at the PCs resources and killed them at the end. The Pit Fiend battle was nearly enough to kill them. But they got through it and it felt like a good victory. So to reward them we have gone off the rails to something much better then the AP has.

    In the AP in book 6 there is a way to accumulate points and these determine if the group is victorious at the end. I'm not a fan of that way of doing things. One group I know went through it all, rolled the dice , and ended up with Martial Law and the heroes were not seen as heroes. That would be frustrating. So, I have created a simple political situation in which the players can try to influence those making the decisions. So far the PCs can't even agree on who to support in the promotion of someone to commander of the guard.

    I created a group of Judges each one in charge of one of the seven districts in Westcrown. With the Mayor and many of the leaders dead it is up to these judges to appoint people in these positions. The first position is for commander of the guard. This person will then act as Mayor and be able to bring law and order back to the city. There are four captains of different factions of guards who are all up for this promotion. Each has positives and negatives as I didn't want there to be an one obvious choice. It worked too well, three of the four different PCs have suggested they support.

    Once this happens then there will be a push to get the new Mayor appointed. This will take some time as I wanted to allow the PCs time to react and figure out who they want to support and make a political campaign for them. Right now there are two Mayor choices the PCs like so they are even split on that.

    To make matters worse one PC, a Tiefling Urban Ranger, has befriended a Succubus. Out of game the players know what she is but not in game. She has been whispering things in his ears and encouraging him to be good and become Mayor. Odd activities for a demon but she has a very long term plan in place. She has also dominated on of the Judges so his vote is in her hands.

    Now we see how the players want to proceed and at what point to they get frustrated with the political process and just start killing people.
    Tuesday, July 31st, 2012
    12:42 pm
    Exercise
    The rare non gaming post.

    Starting in July I started seriously exercising. I'm sure I could do better but I'm way over weight and out of shape so it is tough to get to the point were I feel I can do a serious exercise and not have to take the next week off. I started with just the elliptical. It has preset programs called weight lose, cardio, and competition. Each has has seven programs in it. I started with the easiest weight lose which was 20 minutes long and has some difficulty. After a week and half of that I went to program two, and then three. Each had a bit higher difficulty but still was 20 minutes. Least week I moved on to program 4 which increased difficulty greatly and went to thirty minutes. I've been sticking with it but not as often.

    This week I added in some good weight training. I'm not sure how this will effect the exhaustion of using the elliptical, we'll find out tomorrow, but I did go through 10 different weight training exercises with a set of jumping jacks in between every couple of exercises. It is just free weights so not always the best form but it feels good.

    Two things prompted this latest attempt to lose weight. The first was a long tax season of sitting at a desk that flowed right into a school quarter of sitting at a desk the also involved me breaking my foot. I'm not the most active person to begin with but that 6 months was particular bad and I reach the heaviest weight I've ever been. I'm happy to say that weight has been lost.

    The second thing to inspire me was seeing a friend in the Cancer ward fighting for her life. She is much younger then me and keeps herself in much better shape. So, I'm doing what I can especially now over the summer before things get busy again at the end of August. I hope to really get in some good habits so I'll be able to continue them.
    Thursday, July 19th, 2012
    9:30 am
    Council of Thieves 13
    Still in the dungeon crawl. To allow them to move through it a bit faster I brought together a number of enemies into one bigger battle. It started out with the bad guys trying to recruit the PCs to their side. There are three sides so I was having one set of bad guys try to go after the other set of bad guys. It was a good battle.

    Most of the night was exploration and dealing with cooling chambers to weaken the Pit Fiend at the end of the module. I like the idea of going up against a Pit Fiend but it seems kind of silly to do so at 8th level and then specifically and significantly weaken the Pit Fiend so it can be killed by characters who shouldn't be facing a Pit Fiend.

    The highlight for me this session was undead former Mayor of Westcrown. I did make him more powerful but I also made it a role playing encounter instead of just a fight. I modeled his attitude after the Mayor from Buffy. He was polite, well spoken, and very evil. He calmly answered all the characters questions and was reasonable. Then the PCs violently attacked him. Good times.

    This week we will finish the last few encounter. Actually, I'm tossing out over half of them just because it's combat after combat for no good reason. I'm keeping a few important encounter but the Pit Fiend will be tough enough. And then we will see if they want to dive into Politics. If not we jump into book 5.
    Thursday, July 12th, 2012
    10:14 am
    Tag line for this is: When Campaigns stop being nice and start to get real. Real World: Pathfinder.

    We are into book 4 so just beyond the halfway point of the campaign. Things have changed drastically in both plot and game mechanics. Plot wise the Mayor's house exploded and there is a Pit Fiend that is going to escape and wreck half the city. I know this because the text tells me that is what happens if the PCs fail. They feel hurried and they think time is of the essence. Well, it's not. The book actually doesn't say in three days or whenever the Pit fiend will escape. It's a problem with the book and one of the few. If the PCs feel like they have little time they will rush through and probably get themselves killed. They aren't built for dungeon crawling so it's going to be interesting.

    Mechanically things change because they aren't built for dungeon crawling. I encouraged certain skill based classes and it worked. I have PCs that are versatile, can handle a wide range of problems, but are not as combat focused as a normal Pathfinder group is. To aid with that I made sure the supporting cast of NPCs is helpful and this is the most helpful and most proactive set of NPCs I've ever dealt with in any RPG. Only one NPC death so far but another one could very easily be happening.

    Since the PC classes are skill oriented and not power oriented I have given some little bonuses. The biggest concern is of course healing. So both the bard and inquisitor have gotten the cure spells and bonus known spells for each spell level. This way the player doesn't feel like they are being punished by having to select cure spells as there few spells known and the party is getting dead when the player doesn't select a cure spell. I've also placed in more cure potions and wands but not too many.

    The session opened with a large and great combat. There were devils in the area and spread out. I placed a female archer devil on top of a building and bone devil a little bit away and the party had lemures and bearded devils to deal with first. The rogue immediately climbed up to deal with the archer devil. It was a great scene as she climbed up there attacked, got attacked herself, jumped off the building with some great acrobatics, and then hid while she healed herself. And then climbed the building again to go back after the Archer devil. While that was going on there was a big melee and I had NPC city guards launching crossbow bolts trying to help out the PCs. I the module it seemed the guards were there as an obstacle for the PCs but I saw no reason why they wouldn't help out but stay a safe distance.

    Once that was over they descended in the basement or large dungeon crawl of the Mayor's house. They had some tough encounters, finally talked to a group of bad guys and intimidated them and didn't fight them. Usually someone, the rogue, gets impatient and shots people first. The best part was the colossal failing of will saves. They had one encounter where they rescued some trapped nobles and they knew with the failing of will saves something was wrong but they couldn't quite figure out what. And they still haven't so I'm not spoiling it here but this is going to be great. I like it when it happens like this a few failed checks makes an encounter turn from something into something completely different. At least in this case the author realized it was a possibility but I did change the presentation because it wouldn't have happened with the authors set up even with the will save fails. The trouble will be a male PC and a woman NPC.

    One PC, the bard, took leadership so I'm making his cohort useful. The cohort is the wizard NPC from the Children of Westcrown. She has magical communication with the Bard and is going to gather supplies they may need like healing potions. She has a good alignment as does the bard so she isn't looting she told him flat out she's paying for these things and he's getting the bill; she's not made of money.

    This week more of the dungeon crawl and I'm not sure we are going to complete it. There are some neat encounters but the Real World is going to happen once they safe Westcrown and have to deal with the fall out and political power plays of a city without leaders.
    Thursday, July 5th, 2012
    1:57 pm
    Council of Thieves session 11
    We are completely off the rails of the adventure path and it is great. The group wanted to rob House Drovenge leader of the famed and evil Council of Thieves so I let them do it and encouraged them. Not everyone was really into it or thought it was a good idea (it wasn't but they did get rewarded for it) but it was too much of a fun and entertaining plot bit that they came up with to pass up on.

    The group continued their planning for the robbery. At first Dantin didn't want to do it as he's got a relationship (it's complicated) with the granddaughter Drovenge. But eventually he asks her about her family's ties to the Council of Thieves and she openly admits it. She also says how she hates her grandfather and so Dantin brings her in on the robbery. She tells the group that her grandfather recently bought something very valuable that he spent about 200k on.

    This took a few weeks to plan out as the heist was to take place on the Equinox, a large holiday that the granddaughter could get the grandfather out of the house. During this time Kendrin and Caseinica are hitting the big parties and getting lots of press. Avia is having Tuesdays with Aerodus (Kendrin's father). Dantin continues his relationship with Chammady Drovenge. The group meets with the Dealer, the halfing that is investigating the Knights of the Dawn. Using Tarrow he knows Avia is a member and wants to know who else is a member. Avia doesn't name anyone but each PC gets his own Harrow reading and the results are strangely troubling.

    The big day comes the group has a good plan, makes some tough skill checks, uses all the dispel magic scrolls, but successfully finds the object of value: the famed Sun Orchid Elixir! Avia gathers information from Mithini (the former high priestess of Pharasma) and learns that the Sun Orchid Elixir is a super rare magical liquid that brings youth to whomever drinks. And possible more importantly it has no side effects or negative aspects. This is obviously a huge part in grandfather Drovenge's plan to rule the city as Mayor and leader of the Council of Thieves for decades to come.

    The heist becomes front page news. The guards are arresting the usual suspects and trying their best to learn anything. This goes on for weeks and as there are no leads it just causes the guards to push harder making mass arrests and interrogating them all. Avia decides this needs to ends and plants the rumors that the Dealer is responsible for everything. The Dealer gets caught, names people including Avia and dies in custody. She is questioned but no one believes the starlet could have anything to do with this and the issue is not pressed.

    It is now spring the month of Desnus. Areol comes back after having delivered items to the Pathfinders. The group gets rewarded. He is worried about hearing of the Council of Thieves and doesn't like what that means. Then the world shakes and windows break. Everyone runs out side to see a pillar of smoke rising from what used to be the Mayor's house. They rush there and find the Mayor sneaking away. It seems the magical lights, and warmth, and all those cool things at his house are powered by a Pit Fiend. The Council of Thieves sent spies to capture the contract (he gives it to the PCs) and free the Pit Fiend. The Mayor gives the players some info and then leaves the city never to be seen from again.

    This places us back on track to start with book 4. There is plenty going on and lots for the PCs to do and hopefully they will. The more they do the bigger heroes they will be when the dust settles. This is also the biggest dungeon crawl of the AP and I'm hoping the players don't get too bored with that as the lack of dungeon crawling has been very nice.
    Wednesday, June 27th, 2012
    8:23 pm
    Council of Thieves 10
    We didn't get as much done this night. We are in the middle of distractions and it's okay the group needs time to unwind and move along at their own pace.

    We finished Delvehaven. They went back in and with the artifact were easily able to deal with the vampires. It seems like more bad adventure design. If you can get the artifact it becomes way to easy but if not it is probably a TPK. They secured a little extra loot and are making plans to return much of the items to the PAthfinders which is a great touch and they'll get rewarded for that.

    After that they choose to go after one of the small bits of info. I was trying to introduce things from book 4 before book 4 and even though book 3 is done we haven't started book 4 so we are still a little before it. They went to talk to the Dealer, a halfling gambler and leg breaker who had been trying to learn who killed the Bastards of Erebus. Once again the PCs surprise me. They have a good conversation with him and no combat happens. He is a bad guy they know that. So, his plot continues onward. But they did role play well and so I gave them an important clue that the Council of Thieves is back (had never actually left) and is run by the Drevenge family.

    The group then decides to learn of a party Drevenge is having and got themselves invited. At this point we are totally off the rails of the AP and the party for the first time this campaign is becoming proactive which is just awesome. They used connections to get invites for some of them and the rest made stealth checks while invisible to get in. It was a great plan. The reasons they wanted to go was to case the joint for a robbery. I had them do that. The rogue had a fainting spell so she could get upstairs and steal a small diamond for herself. The ranger meet the lovely socialite and grand daughter of the Drevenge Patriarch and had some interesting things happen there.

    The dolls from Delvehaven have made more appearances and they are just great. They won't be around as much as I don't want to over do it with them. This week the group is going to put the robbery plan in motion. I have some interesting things in store for them to make it more then just a robbery and to again reward them for good thinking.

    168) Agent of the Stars: This is the oddest first contact book I've ever read. It's a good book just not what one expects from first contact science fiction.

    169) Kushiel's Dart: It was okay fantasy, nothing great though it does seem to be a favorite of plenty of folks.

    170) Spider man #1: The first collection with the new spider man, the non Peter Parker one. It was good with a simple story and I'm so happy Spider woman showed up.

    171) Ultimate x-men #1: Another reboot but keeping plenty of characters dead. The x-men are no more and mutants are in trouble. So, business as usual.

    172-3) Hard Eights and To the Nines: Two more Stephanie Plum novels and both pretty good.
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