Friday, 5 December 2014

PotS 1x08 - Death by Dragon

These posts are from our DnD group's latest game. The current adventure is a return to the world of Eberron, and specifically Xen'drik.  Now returned from the Catacombs, the crew are called upon to defend the Watchtower from an invading force of dragons! 

Three Seconds of Preparation
As they acclimatised themselves to the inside chamber of the watchtower, Kami and her away team noticed over a dozen figures watching on, hustling about, and bringing in small bits of food and cups of water. The should have only been a handful of people here - Regdar, the Kaapiots, and the remainder of Kami's crew. But now, Zandrian, Analastra, and Berrian were all there, as well as many of the fey knights. Not only that, but there were armoured soldiers, led by none other than Cousin Walid! Before they had time to explain, the call came from higher in the tower: "Dragons sighted!!"

"There's no time to lose - get on your feet, and ready your weapons!" Cousin Walid called, and everyone jumped into action. Most of the eladrin joined the watch at the top of the tower, readying their bows. Berrian, with a few more of the troops, left quickly, wanting to return to their grove in case the dragons attacked there, too. Galinndan left with him.

Cousin Walid and his knights moved with the pirates to stand before the tower and face the oncoming storm.

The First Waves
Two black dragons led the assault, breaking forth from the clouds and carrying with them their own auras of darkness and despair. A dozen scaled hunters - some gifted with working wings, others with nasty teeth or enlarged claws - charged beneath the circling dragons, and they all came together to crash against the tower's defences. Hassan tried to embolden the others, but his speaking skills paled in contrast to his martial skills. Wading into battle, he pulled down each dragon in turn, ensuring that their flights were swift, and their bodies close to the blades of others.

At one point, Kami placed Tvennr atop one of the dragons, allowing the dwarf to stand there momentarily, before he was shaken free and fell back to the earth. Still, the dragons did not last long, and were thoroughly defeated before the storm arrived.

With a shudder, the enormous blizzard dragon landed, finally leaving behind its storm of clouds and
mist. It threatened to freeze those around, whilst two green dragons shot past to harass those behind.

Bravely, Hassan and Tvennr stood in front of the elemental monstrosity, whilst Urquilla raced around to flank it. Ogg dodged between them, throwing blasts here and there, whilst Kami discovered the power of one of his collected cards, and banished an enemy. By the time it had freed itself from the magical prison, its allies had died or fled; the skirmish was over!

The Final Push
The final wave hit hard. Two golden dragons swept in, vomiting fire and summoning a volcanic dragon. Its noxious fumes almost ended the lives of those it engaged with, whilst another enormous dragon - with the magic of the cards radiating from its body - dove in to tear the rest apart.

Kami's Donjon was most effective again, banishing one of the golden dragons, whilst the second one harassed those atop the castle. But the main dragon hit hard, and was relentless with its attack. Only when the battle was clearly against it did it consider retreat an option, and turn, limping, from the battlefield.

They had won the battle - but would the dragons come back again, or had the might of the watchtower's guard proven to be too great a threat?

Friday, 7 November 2014

PotS 1x07 - The Catacombs' True Evil

These posts are from our DnD group's latest game. The current adventure is a return to the world of Eberron, and specifically Xen'drik.  The crew sent a forward party into the Catacombs below the ruins...and found themselves trapped with a variety of unfriendly undead! 

Lost Beneath the Earth
With no connection to the watchtower, Kami and her small crew had to camp overnight in the catacombs. It had not gone well - Hassan's fever continued to rage, and Ogg's illness returned so much that, by morning, he could barely stand.

Fortunately, the Kaapiot Four recovered their strength as the party rested, and as they were packing up their meagre camp, the Kaapiots managed to send one more person in to join them - Urquilla.

The scaled barbarian came with unsettling news - the watchtower's view was clouded when trying to focus on the catacombs, and could not pinpoint those inside (which was necessary to extract them). Indeed, moments after his arrival, Urquilla lost his connection with the dwarven quartet, and realised that he, too, was now trapped.

Desecrating Graves
There was no other decision but to press onwards, so the group forced their way through another stone door, and found themselves in the Dragonslayer's Tomb. In here, special honour was given to those who had fought against the dragons. heavy curtains made with the hides of their foes decorated the chamber - and created large areas of darkness, perfect for creatures to lurk behind.

Hassan made the unfortunate discovery of Onatar's presence - or some residual magic, they couldn't really be sure - as he was struck down with a second curse after disturbing one of the tombs. And then, the ghouls struck.

With his health already shaky, Hassan was hard pressed to fight back the turned paladins, though with Tvennr's aid, they succeeded. The wraiths were more troublesome, as the two dark shadows played with them, using hit-and-run tactics for optimal damage. Urquilla's Winter Fury aided them well, as he locked down the shifty sprites, allowing the others to better battle against the threat. Kami was quick to dismiss the fragments left behind, and in the moments that followed, the group carefully planned their next move - how to best stay alive.

A Bowl, and a Room of Khyber
Putting the ghoulish paladins back to rest seemed to gain some forgiveness for Hassan, his body recovering from both curses whilst the group also found a second Sacred Vessel - Onatar's Bowl. Kami's keen eyes also found a secret alcove they had overlooked earlier. Within was a small room, with two other passageways leading back to previous areas of the catacombs. More interestingly were the rough Khyber shards decorating the walls..and the bodies of three more knights, long dead.

The room promised to give great strength to those who remained within it, but they could tell that there was more - a frantic frenzy, a mindless rage, that could cause those within to attack allies as if they were hated foes. They did not spend long in the room, and left with the only thing of worth - three topazes, infused with a taste of the room's strength (and hopefully not its madness).

The Tainted Pirate
The Final Battle

The next chamber - thankfully, the final chamber of these catacombs - was immense. It seemed to hold the remains of the leaders of the abbey, along with many, many of its other important individuals. Sadly, it was no longer a place of reflection and reverence - Khyber's foul presence had influenced it for the worse. As they gazed about, trying to pierce the darkness before them, a glowing figure moved forward. Hook and peg-leg aside, the figure could only be Hawes, the pirate Kami had been warned of.

With him moved a slippery vampire and her spawn, whilst a dark shadow of a dragon lurched and glided overhead. Ogg, not able to do much else, took on the spawn, allowing Tvennr to rip into the vampire, whilst the others assaulted Hawes and his tamed dragon essence.

The fight was brutal, but Tvennr's axes were worse. The vampire barely had time to scratch him before she was reduced to her corrosive mist, and sent seeping from the chamber. Disposing of the underlings, Ogg carefully moved to track her, following her back to her chamber, and ensuring she did not rise again.

Hawes proved more difficult, and slippery, using the power of three cards he had collected to thwart and confuse the party. More than once he dodged a potentially fatal blow, and even convinced Urquilla to charge headlong at Hassan at a critical point in the battle. The shadow dragon continued to swoop and bite at those below it until the fallen pirate was finally silenced. With his grip on the dragon loosened, it howled in frustration one last time, then glided through the far wall, not to return again.

Visions Come to Pass
The chamber had little else in it, but for the Khyber shard growths that moved to warp everything. Lying discarded in a bunch of rags was a blade, which sung out to Urquilla, and shone with the moon's light as he approached. It could only be the weapon Jillepse the Blind had foretold!

Collecting the cards and disrupting as much of the shards as possible (lest more undead be formed from those resting here), the group moved to track down Ogg. Eventually, they found him outside another hidden room - a tomb holding the remains of knights who had also been seduced by the call of Khyber. Clearly, this was no new threat - the order of old must have had some expectation, or perhaps a defence, against it.

Within the hidden chamber, they found the vampire resting, recovering. The lid of her sarcophagus bore the image of a female eladrin, clad in plate mail. She held a long bastard sword atop her body, her gauntleted hands crossed over its pommel. It was a good likeness, though the Khyber presence had twisted and changed her over the years. The sarcophagus also had her name engraved on the side: Aidelvenne Velfarren.

After doing what was needed, the party settled down and waited for the Khyber presence to fade, for the interference to lessen, and for the Watchtower to retrieve them. Though it took many hours, there was joy and relief as the familiar presence touched their minds, and fresh air swept across their faces.

But the relief did not last long. "Quick! Stand ready!" the cry came. "They will be on us in minutes!"

All around them, people moved in a panic. People they didn't recognise. People wearing uniforms, carrying tools and weapons. People with a familiar insignia.

Before they could get a proper bearing on what was happening, a friendly face finally found them. "Stand, arm yourselves! The dragons will arrive soon!" Cousin Walid shouted at them, fear and concern on his face. "We have no time - we must defend the watchtower!"

Friday, 3 October 2014

PotS 1x06 - Into the Catacombs

These posts are from our DnD group's latest game. The current adventure is a return to the world of Eberron, and specifically Xen'drik. Their time in Stormreach had to be cut short - shipless, they return to the ruins, to search out and solve its mysteries!  

Contenders for the Cards
Almost as soon as they had arrived in Stormreach, they had started hearing rumours of another group who were also looking for the cards. They had been asking questions throughout Stormreach, and had even ruffed up a few individuals, who were still shaken by the experience. They also left for Zantashk at least a week before Kami and her crew even made it to Stormreach. With knowledge and time on their hands, Kami wanted a speedy turnaround.

Cousin Walid was delighted with their map, and eager to set up the portal to start trade with the eladrin encampment. His promised work to the Kami Kaze would take time, though - probably at least a month - and so he suggested another option. The trade portal would be linked within a few days, and they could return to Zantashk via it. Once he was finished with his work, he could sail Kami's shop down for her. After a bit of discussion, he instead offered to send some of his men via the portal to inform Kami of the work's completion, and then she could return to sail her own vessel back.

Sir Edric, of course, was coming with them, and eagerly moved into research mode as they arrived in the feygrove. There, they briefly met with Galinndan, who surprised the party by not rejoining them - instead, he used the now-functioning portal to travel to Stormreach, in search of answers to his own questions.

A Return to the Ruins
Hassan was most impressed with what the Kaapiots had achieved in their month-long Watchtower investigation. Taking the ideas Hassan had come up with, they had turned the observation utility of the tower into a rudimentary form of transportation, being able to draw those they scryed into the chamber, and deposit them at another location. Each trip exhausted one of the quadriplets for most of the day, meaning that they couldn't handle more than two transportations a day and leave the tower manned, but they were able to quickly take the party from the grove to the ruins without the required hours of travel.

Sir Edric was delighted to have found the temple ruins, even though he was deeply saddened as to what had happened to the order. Before the afternoon sun had started to dip behind the mountains, he had confirmed that there were indeed other areas beneath them. Once, they would have accessed them by steep and elaborate stairwells, or short-range magical travel. Now, the stairwells had collapsed, and the magic had long since dissipated. It was down to the Kaapiots to throw them into the catacombs...but such a trip would exhaust them completely! So it was that Regdar's eyesight and Urquilla's brawn would guard over the four dwarves until they were once again ready to run the Watchtower.

Venturing Far Below
The catacombs were dark and reeked of decay. Hassan quickly brought a light into play, with which they could make out the faint shadows of sarcophagi lying here and there, the final resting places of the paladins of the order. More dead had been placed indiscriminately in niches in the wall, piled upon each other so that their remains no longer remained separate.

From ahead of them, they heard the faint sounds of chanting. As they approached, four individuals were spotted kneeling before an altar - adorned in armour, but the metal was covered in grime and dirt, as if they had been underneath the ground for far too long. Expecting the worst, the party were momentarily confused when the knights rose and greeted them. They introduced themselves as paladins, trapped and barely surviving after their path inside had collapsed behind them. Their leader, Sir Glenndin, explained the altar, dedicated to the cycle of life and death - at the top, Balinor; at the bottom, The Keeper. Somehow, they claimed, Balinor had kept them from the Keeper's grasp for now. They had meagre magic to create plain food, but no real way out... which was when Kami realised that she had no presence of the Watchtower any more. They were, apparently, cut off. Trapped, like Sir Glenndin and his companions.

With promises to return, and warnings about what lay ahead, the group moved onwards, which was when the paladins showed their true forms. Lashing out at the party's back, they may well have had the victory, had they not spent so long together, knowing each other's tactics, and being formed into a formidable 'land crew'.

Giving Rest to the Wicked
The next two areas were more straight-forward. There was little doubt that the occupants would be aggressive, undead, and in need of being subdued, though that was not to say it was easy. As they moved into a room dedicated Arawai, complete with a floor mosaic and a spring of life-giving water, Hassan was nearly roasted alive by two flaming skeletons. Tvennr also had to throw back a hungry wight, whilst Ogg cleared away the remaining skeletal guardians.

Though Tvennr and Ogg had each recovered from their month-long bout of mummy rot, they were not eager to engage directly with the two mummified paladins they found next. The room, coated in thick moss, and with masses of roots hanging from the broken ceiling, held two of the creatures, along with an expansive swarm of rot scarabs, and a rather crazy flameskull. Once even his fiery light was dimmed, and the two mummies returned to their resting places, the group looked around to work out where to store the skull. Strangely, the other two sarcophagi were firmly closed, and had been that way for many, many decades. Perhaps, the skull belonged elsewhere?

The search was left for later - with Hassan's skin taking on an ominous (and now familiar) green hue, the party agreed that they had to stop for the night. They all would have preferred to rest outside the catacombs, but with no way of contacting those at the tower, that option was unfortunately removed. Hopefully, that would be dealt with in time.

Friday, 19 September 2014

PotS 1x05b - Whilst in Stormreach

These posts are from our DnD group's latest game. The current adventure is a return to the world of Eberron, and specifically Xen'drik.  With their scouting completed, the (mostly) dwarven pirate crew set sail for Stormreach, for well deserved down-time, and their greatly desired financial compensation!!  This post is a recap of things that happened via email in-between games.

The Tale heard by the Dread Pirate Kami
The month-long journey back to Stormreach went by without incident - at least, by the time they arrived, no one remembered anything of interest. That, and their grog supplies were very low.

Whilst searching through the taverns on the dock for a good, cheap supply to restock her vessel, Kami came across an old friend - Captain Spack Jarrow, her first ever captain. After much discussion about her recent adventures, and much drinking, Captain Spack shared a tale with her.

"Did I be ever tellin' ye about why I stopped captaining? The story already be told that it be me loosing one too many crew; that th' spark for adventure were quenched by th' sorrow over too many deaths. That be true - in part - but th' whole story, it be something much, much more." Even though there were only the two of the at the table, Captain Spack leaned in closely. "Me first mate at th' time, a rutheless fellow by the name o' "Hawes the Coldhearted" (though, mind ye, th' last bit weren't so much his family name as it be how we be calling him). He be a nasty piece o' work, even on a ship full o' nasty pieces o' work. But he got th' job dome, and he obeyed me commands pretty quick, so I be putting up with his...less than warm attitudes." 

"Well, one time, we take over this one ship, nary a crew member left alive by the time we boarded, and way too much fire and soot to tell why. But the treasure, oh, Kami, t'was a sight to behold! We each had our share that time! Each had gold and trinkets aplenty. And gems - crystals, mind ye, big, blood red stones th' likings of which I'd never come across." Pausing to finish is current tankard - and then another one, just to be sure - Captain Spack eventually continued.

 "Now - I know, ye'd probably been seeing these things yerself now, moreso these days, now'at the war done gone make them special. But in those days, we aint seen dragonshards before, we aint knowing their power. An' the few o' us that did, well, we figured it was more'n just talk, just something ta let the Houses collect them more easily like. So when old Hawes took th' big one, hey, more gold for me, right?"

"...see, stuff that be buried, should sometimes stay buried. We know the tales, of how Khyber killed Siberys, of how Eberron saved what was left o' the world, and trapped Khyber good an' proper like below. Well, sometimes, some part of that ancient dragon works its way back to the surface - as it did with Hawes. An' Hawes ain't a friendly type beforehand. W' th' darkness o' Khyber inside o' 'im, there weren't nothing 'e weren't do. Slowly, but as sure as th' tide, he turned from a coldhearted first mate ta something spawned o' th' darkness itself! Th' crew - some were corrupted, taking their own chunks o' dragonshards, or being implanted wi' them by 'im, but the lucky ones, they simply died. A scarce few o' us survived, made it t' shore near Zantashk, an' slowly worked our way back up 'ere. I know th' ship went down... but I be sure that Hawkes lives on. I feel it in here. An', he needs to be put down."

By now, there were more than a few other interested folk watching the pair, but the Captain was focused on Kami. His collection of mugs empty, his tale told, and his burden now shared, he pleaded his case before his former crew member. "Kami, ye be needing t' find th' man. Ye be needing t' do 'im in." 

Hassan Elfbane, and The Man with One Hand
Meanwhile, whilst Ogg went to get his ruined armour repaired, and his Eberron shard transferred to his new weapon, Hassan set about finding his House Kundarak contacts, and opening that darned chest. There were few locks they could not open, so it was a surprise when, instead of returning with an opened chest, Uncle Ali instead returned with a knight.

 And, as it turned out, a knight with which Hassan was already familiar with - Sir Edric the Gauche.

"Hassan Elfbane, we meet again!" he spoke, simply giving the dwarf a curt nod, instead of offering a hand in greeting. "I believe you took something from me when last we parted...I hope you still have it on you?" The item he referred to was his hand - a mechanical device, created by a particularly insightful House Cannith artificer to make up for the one lost in the Last War. In a particularly vicious bar fight, Sir Edric had saved Hassan from a similar fate, but his own hand had become detached in the process. "I searched that bar quite thoroughly after I finished off those who dared stand before me, but two things continued to be most elusive - one, my hand, and two, the dwarf I had fought beside, had defended, even though, as I recall it, he was one of the instigators. So - do you still have it?"

Waving a hand - his one, remaining hand - towards the chest, he added "I know what lies inside it. I have been researching these items for some time, ever since I learned of the destruction that came down upon our sister order. It is one of three sacred vessels with which I intend to purify the temple, and banish the evil presence that seeks to sully the good name of my brethren! You will take me back there, and I will complete this most noble quest!" 

Urquilla the Scaled is Given a Vision
Whilst most of the crew remained within the city, some needed to escape out to the wilds for a moment of relaxation. Being trapped on board the ship was rough for Tvennr, but Regdar sorely needed to return to his trees and animals for a few days. Urquilla took the opportunity to visit his father and tribe, and let them know what he had been up to.

The news there was both good and disturbing. Good, for his father's injuries had shown great strides in recovery; though, instead of scar tissue, he had grown scales back over the wounds that had almost claimed his life. It was not unheard of, but even within their tribe, it was a sign of strange things happening. And indeed, there were great movements in the glimpses of draconic prophecy they managed to snatch.

 Jillepse the Blind, the tribe's oldest shaman, shared a recurring vision he had been experiencing. There was a mountain, with the red waters washing up it, trying to drown all who sought refuge upon it. Dragons flew overhead, swarming as thick as crows, blotting out the sun. Stars formed within them, to rain down death and destruction, until one man stood against the onslaught. Reaching up, he grabbed at the sky, though the sky. His hand moved, grasping at the moons, feeling them, but letting go, until finally, it reached the thirteenth moon, the unseen satellite, and pulled it down to the earth. It struck with a resounding explosion, scattering the dragon-swarm for a moment, and then he held it aloft - the invisible moon was now a sword, a sword that would cut down any dragon that stood against it. No longer would the dragons destroy every threat that rose against them; finally, the time of dragons was ended, the time of the Takamak tribe was only just beginning!

Clearly, the other tribal elders explained, much of the vision was strange shapes and images, and probably wasn't directly related to the real world situation. But there were more and more reports of many dragons scouting around the south-eastern coast of Xen'drik, and their presence felt like the precursor to another annihilation event. Something has upset them - something big, and that means something dangerous. Jillepse believed that Urquilla was the one to find this "weapon of the moon", and wield it in defence of their people - of all the people of Xen'drik. And with nothing else to go on, the tribal elders all stood backing this choice.

Friday, 5 September 2014

PotS 1x05 - Scouting the Ruins

These posts are from our DnD group's latest game. The current adventure is a return to the world of Eberron, and specifically Xen'drik.  Along with a strange chest, they now held information that should see them cured from their Xoriat-induced monstrous deformities, and their mission proper could continue.

The Loss of Curses and Limbs
...yes, I know it has only one head. And wings. I don't have any hydras - feel free to send me one, if you want!
The Hydra Battle
The trip back to shore seemed to take far longer than their journey out to the island garrison - perhaps it was Kami playing it safe with her ship, and the lack of Hassan's guidance, or maybe the cause was more supernatural than they wanted to accept.  Maybe even the tide itself was fighting against them, keeping them from completing their mission, and exploring the ruins.

Whatever it was, the crew eventually planted their feet on solid ground once more.  From there, they quickly returned to the eladrin grove, giving Analastra and Berrian the information taken from Gordian's library.  Together, they worked to rid the grasp of Xoriat from their father, and saw that the party was cured of their touch, as well.  Handing the mysterious chest over to Hassan for further investigation, they moved to the mountain path, and started the slow climb to its guardian - the green-scaled hydra.

The battle was fierce, but with Kami's well-placed haunting serpents spectres, the beast's spirit to fight was lessened.  Despite its caustic venom, enough heads were severed to bring the guardian low, and allow the team passage to the ruins proper.

The Tale of Two Galinndans
Good old "Lord of the Rings" & "The Hobbit" LEGO setting the scene!
Approaching the Gate
The climb to the mountain's top took the better part of the rest of the afternoon, leaving them with little over an hour to scout the actual ruins.  And that didn't include the time it took to fight back the current occupants!

The gate that had once stood proudly before the mountain settlement now held dust, cobwebs, and soot from when the dragons had razed it.  One of the gigantic doors remained upright, its hinges long-since failed.  The other was little more than part of the path, pressed into the dirt and rubble surrounding it.  Regdar sensed they eyes watching him before he noticed the tell-tale movements of the gargoyles.  With a warning call, he kept the others back, and made the enemy come to them.

Unfortunately, it was not just gargoyles that attacked them.  Mid-battle, one of the enemy abruptly took on the form of Galinndan, and the eladrin warlord himself turned to attack his own captain.  Fortunate he was that Hassan had remained behind, else the azure guard might have experienced just how Hassan Elfbane had earned his surname!

Who knew LEGO "Mixel" figures could so easily come in to DnD games?
A Wild Decay Beast Appears!
Amongst the ruins lurked another creature, driven mad by hunger, empowered by the arcane disaster many years ago.  This decay beast had long ago stopped preying on simple metal items, and had instead taken a liking to anything that could decay. Weapons and armour started tearing, rusting, and splintering before him, as his hunger brought his teeth about Ogg's person, dissolving and consuming his armour.

The outfit clearly had meant a lot to Ogg, for he didn't take that slight lying down.  His carefully-aimed blasts of raw power were able to distinguish friend from foe, and within moments, only crumpled, shattered remains were left behind.

Atop the Plateau
The majority of the settlement was now in ruins.  The arcane cataclysm had destroyed much of the structures, and now only three remained upright.  Dragonfire had reduced most of that to rubble and ash, but the temple standing in the middle of the plateau still had half of a roof. 

The stone walls of a former barracks stood to one side, but when investigated further, only the dead bodies of a bulette and two carrion-crawlers were found.  The creatures were killed recently, and violently, prompting Urquilla to investigate more thoroughly.  The tracks and remnants of the battle suggested that the mysterious group who had taken out the spiders in the forest had cleared up here, too.

Along the opposite side of the settlement, there stood a structure that was perhaps once dedicated to those who looked after the temple.  Its walls bore faded frescoes, covered with thick webs.  It was no surprise to anyone that some giant spiders had settled here - and, as no one felt strongly about taking it back, they left the overgrown arachnids to their thing, and focused on the temple.

The Temple of Battle
Three statues were the central focal point of the temple, though various alcoves here and there had their own, smaller, dedications to the various members of the Soverign Host.  But the main three - Dol Dorn, the god of courage; Dol Arrah, the goddess of combat; and a third figure who was unrecognisable in its currently degraded state - were clearly seen as the most important by those who built and had operated the temple.
I had a lacking of appropriate "fiery warforged" LEGO and DnD miniatures, so I went with the fire motif, and something that looked imposing.
Final stages of the Temple battle

Galinndan stepped forward, trying to work out who the mysterious figure was, but a voice high in the rafters "All the faithful of the Knights of Battle, come and pay them worship!" it cried, as the figure of a twisted harpy settled before them.  Long dead, and driven crazy by some unseen force, this ghostly remnant of one of the temple's former servants screeched and cursed at them, activating two warforgeds to come to her aid.  Their fires burned strong, and even after the ghost was dismissed with certain finality, they locked together and fought on, almost bringing an end to the valiant heroes who stood before them.
stopped his study. 

But in the end, they did triumph, and with the settlement now cleared of enemies (aside from those nasty spiders, who were just left to do their own thing), they were able to finally scout and map the ruins. 

The Ruins, Scouted
Knowing that a sizeable paycheck awaited them upon their return to Stormreach, Kami set the crew's sight towards the month-long journey it would take to get there - but she knew, as did the others, that there were still mysteries here to search further.

Hassan was eager to get some help in unlocking the chest, but at the same time didn't wish to leave the tower unguarded.  Two of the Kaapiot quadruplets volunteered to remain behind, though no one was sure which two, so Kami just declared that all four would remain, and the matter was settled.

Galinndan, on the other hand, didn't cherish the thought of spending another month trapped aboard the dwarven ship.  Instead, he elected to remain with Analastra and her family, helping to set up the arcane waypoint once the crew returned to Cousin Walid.  Although she wasn't overly happy to let the eladrin out of her sight, Kami eventually agreed to this, and the crew set sail once more.

Friday, 6 June 2014

PotS 1x04 - The Paladins' Nest

These posts are from our DnD group's latest game. The current adventure is a return to the world of Eberron, and specifically Xen'drik. After taking over the Watchtower, and being touched by Xoriat's foul presence, the crew search for information that may be used to rid themselves of their monstrous deformities.

An Unnatural Mist
The crew reached the Kami Kaze at early dawn, and quickly readied it for their trip to the islands.  Hassan was able to reach out and confer with Kami some more, guiding them quickly to the most obvious location of the garrison.  In his Watchtower-aided-searching, he had come across a large expanse of mist that had not evaporated with the rising sun.  Able to get a high view of the cloudy expanse, he could also tell that it seemed to sit neatly in a circle, as if magic was involved.

Indeed, once Kami had led her ship into the fog, it was clear that the oppressive vapours were magically aided.  They dulled all sound, and shortened all sight -  not even Regdar could pierce it, nor convince any of his feathered friends to scout much farther ahead than they could already see.

By late morning, they had passed two smaller islands, and confirmed they were empty.  The third one, large enough to actually contain a small camp, they sent the rowboat to investigate further.  Ogg, Tvennr and Galinndan joined Kami on the away-mission, and moved over sand that had no trace of guests for many a year - indeed, the only life they found on the entire island was a few birds roosting atop the broken tower.

Their first stop was the garrison proper - the ruined first floor of a structure that once, centuries ago, held a portion of the paladins' order.  Now, its mostly-crumbled remains were guarded by the wraith-like form of one of the former soldiers, and an enchantment-bound door that stood against the test of time.  "Only the Lonely Sword can pass!" and "Gordian must open the seal!" were the only information they could get from the poor individual.  Not wanting to disrupt him further - at least, not for now - they moved off and searched the rest of the island.

Unseasonably Chilled
Moments later: the "statue" icons turned into the gargoyles (portrayed by Chima ravens)The only other thing of interest was half a wizard's tower (the bottom half), which seemed to be built to overlook the garrison.  The ground floor was a macabre laboratory, complete with a twisted, grotesque cadaver upon a fallen pillar.  The chaotic magic that danced about the lab lit the golem-creature, and as Tvennr disturbed it, revealed its violent nature.  Joined by two gargoyles from outside, the battle was dangerous, but whatever had given a false life to the poor individual had not restored its mind - it fought with ferocity, but not with skill, and was soon put to a more permanent rest.

Crazy wizard...Radagast feels like a good fit!Upstairs, Gordian was finally discovered - though, the fellow was clearly not the same as the wizard who originally built the tower and set up the protective wards over the paladins.  Time, heartache, and a whole heap of broken magic had warped him and his study, which was now filled with the frozen forms of past 'guests'...and he wanted to add more. 

His work with animating the dead was not restricted to Elaida downstairs - he was currently working on two corpses as the team broke in, and after Tvennr went to smack him with his axe, the two mummies joined the battle, spreading their curse and their rot to the party.  But once the frail, lifeless form of Gordian was put to rest, the team were able to gather up enough of his writings to open the Garrison, and hopefully, restore all those touched by Xoriat's influence.

The Paladins' Chest
...yes, the duplo block was the chest.  I couldn't find an actual chest in a reasonable amount of time!The garrison had its own bound demon, as well as two paladin-wraiths, but after the horrors of the tower, they were easily dealt with.  The chest within, however, was not so easily bested.  Four intricate locks, each needing a separate key, ensured the chest stayed closed, whilst intricate and powerful spells woven through its very structure kept out less-physical options of opening it.  Without the ability to investigate further, Kami had the chest moved to her ship, and set sail for the mainland once more.  Her crew needed to be strengthened, and these ruins weren't going to investigate themselves!

Friday, 16 May 2014

PotS 1x03b - Watching the Watchtower

These posts are from our DnD group's latest game. The current adventure is a return to the world of Eberron, and specifically Xen'drik. The pirate crew have taken to the land, and after defeating the nightmarish terror within the Watchtower, are trying to recover, and work out what to do next. This post is a recap of things that happened via email in-between games.

The Aftermath
Leaving Hassan behind to study the watchtower further - for even with a cursory look, it was clear that there was more to the tower than mere vantage points - the party took Zandrian and Gernathiel back to the eladrin camp in the woods.  Analastra and Berrian were, to no one's surprise, both overjoyed at their father's return, and horrified at his twisted form.  After their countless attempts of restoring him (and the others who found themselves to be changed by their brush with Xoriat), the eladrin siblings had to admit defeat.  They saw to his comfort, and properly listened to the tales, both of his initial quest, and of Kami's crew's travel through the tower.

Berrian spoke with concern once the tale was told.  "What you discovered within the tower disturbs me.  Such a bridge across the planes should not be possible, especially to Xoriat.  There must have been powerful magic involved to cause such a breach.  And, where one breach is, others surely linger.  We must learn more."

The unspoken statement clearly leaves the searching in the hands of the party, not the eladrin and his team.  However, Zandrian does have an idea of where to start.  "There is an island in the gulf, one of many, to be sure.  But one island alone has a garrison, a defensive point from which we paladins used to draw strength.  A wizard who worked with the order - Gordian Pierce was his name - had done much study on the planes.  Perhaps something of his study remains?"  

The decision was reached - Kami would allow this minor distraction in the hopes that their crew members' afflictions could be cured, and that they would all prove more useful for the remainder of the mission. It would be a solid hike down to the shore, and who knew how long it would take them to find the island garrison, but the hope was that it would all be worthwhile in the end.

Secrets Found
Fortune was with them, however: for in the morning, when they rose to begin their trek, Kami was surprised by Hassan's voice greeting her.  The keen Kundarak-taught dwarf had learnt many things about the Watchtower over the night - the first, as he was using now, was to project his voice at great distances.
More importantly, Hassan had learned how to project his sight, and was now capable of viewing locations all around the gulf, and up and down the coast, too.  No wonder the Watchtower had been such a strong point of defence for the gulf!
But there was more - though he hadn't worked out how to activate it safely, Hassan had uncovered transportational magic within the tower.  He hoped that, given some more investigation, he could set it to aid their movements around the gulf.  For now, though, they would have to travel on foot and by ship.  And, after learning of their new mission from Kami, Hassan would focus on scouring the islands for a sight of this garrison.  If he could find it by the time they reached the Kami Kaze, Hassan could guide them straight to it, still saving them valuable hours (or days) of searching for it themselves!

Friday, 2 May 2014

PotS 1x03 - The Twisted Watchtower

These posts are from our DnD group's latest game. The current adventure is a return to the world of Eberron, and specifically Xen'drik. The pirate crew have taken to the land, and after a considerable walk, have made it to the Watchtower that looms overhead atop the gulf's cliffs. 

A Piece of History
Creatures from Xoriat, or the Realm of Madness, had once tried to take over Eberron.  Roughly 9,000 years ago, the plane had overlapped enough to allow Daelkyr and their aberrant armies to flow across and destroy the Dhakaani Empire.  The Gatekeeper Druids of Khorvaire had pushed them back, aided by at least one dragon.  Since then, Xoriat had not become close enough for another invasion to occur.

However, none of the Daelkyr were returned to their home.  They, and their aberrant creations, were trapped below in Khyber, and from there, slowly let their madness leech through their surroundings.

One such soldier - a beholder - was trapped within a tower.  It had tried to use the tower's magic to bring the surrounding lands under its rule, or failing that, find a way home.  Instead, a group of paladins led by the eladrin Zandrian Velfarren trapped and fought the beholder, unwilling to allow him access to the watchtower's power.  They fought him, but could not overpower the eye tyrant; ultimately,  they found themselves locked in an eternal struggle, as they were twisted and reshaped by its ties to Xoriat, just as it was trapped behind by their presence.  

Over the many years that followed, the watchtower remained as a bridge between the realms, neither properly within Eberron, nor quite reaching to Xoriat.  That is, until the Dread Pirate Kami and her crew arrived.

The Oozing Watchtower
The tower looked like a giant slug.  Or, more correctly, it looked like it had been created out of a giant slug.  There were windows and even a door, the parapet stood at the top, and as Ogg flew around, even the inside rooms looked to be stable.  But instead of being formed of stone, the entire thing felt like it had a squishy, black coating.

Ogg had joined the party as they left the forest, bringing fresh supplies and updates from the crew.  There had been sightings of more dragons, but after the loss of their great white, they had not risked another encounter with the pirate ship.  Wanting to prove his usefulness, the goliath stepped forward and zapped the tower's wall with his harnessed lightning, causing a flood of small black oozes to spring forward.  Though they were easy to deal with, the party agreed that an alternate method was needed.

The idea of fire was quickly brought to bear, but before a bonfire could be built, Hassan's card - Flame - was discovered to have an interesting reaction with the oozing wall.  Tvennr took the card for some experimentation, and before long, it was discovered that the ooze would back away from the card, allowing them entrance to the inside of the tower.  Unfortunately, the trip was only one way, so once they were inside, they felt distinctively trapped.

Travels through Madness
Regdar lost a wolf to the first wave of ooze-like puddings that attacked them, and Tvennr was lost within a crevice for longer than anyone was comfortable with.  But even after the ooze issue was dealt with, things only became stranger.  The tower became less solid, and more Xoriat-like, as it stretched out into the stars, and offered many portals of tentacles for them to be caught within.  Every now and then, someone would see reality amongst the maddening spectres before them, or simply see reason in what was quickly becoming a waking nightmare.  

By the end of their endeavour, half their number had been severely twisted and changed by their journey - Ogg was thinking that he was a mythical unicorn, Tvennr found it increasingly hard to wrap his tentacle-like fingers around his axes, and Urquilla kept misstepping, now that he had a third foot, but not enough legs to go around.  

Their new appendages, extra eyes, and other horrific physical changes were not as bad as Zandrian and his paladins - the years had turned them into horrific shells of their former selves, bonding weapon and armour with flesh, and causing their minds to retreat so far as to not recognise friend or foe.  The beholder, still alive and still very much not happy with his situation, fought to create more underlings.  He almost had a Hassan-statue, and a few people had segments of flesh and armour disintegrated, but they proved stronger, slaying the aberrant and, with his death, severing the tower's link to Xoriat.  Slowly, the jelly-like walls returned to their stone, and the staircase replaced the flight-through-the-stars they had to use on the way up.  

Only two of the paladins survived the battle - Zandrian, who was able to relay much of his tale to the party, once he was free of the beholder's influence, and Gernathiel, who no longer had much of a mouth to speak of (or through).  Though his return would be celebrated by his children, Analastra and Berrian, their joy would be lessened at his strange and highly disturbing appearance.

Friday, 21 March 2014

D&D Insider Expiration

I received the following email this week.

The subscription detailed below will be expiring 6 days from today. Since you were one of the first subscribers, we wanted to invite you to renew your service before it runs out.

Product Name                        Subscription Date  Expiration Date  Amount
1 Year Dungeons and Dragon          03/25/2012           03/25/2014           $71.40

To renew your subscription, you'll want to wait 6 days until your subscription is completely finished. You'll have a few days grace period before your access to D&D Insider officially goes away. At that time, please place a new subscription order at

Please note -- if you want to use Manual Renewal again, you will need to notify Customer Service in order to turn off Auto-Renew on your new purchase. We apologize for this inconvenience and are working on streamlining this process.

We hope that you've enjoyed D&D Insider and we look forward to your continued participation!

Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

I have to admit - it was nice that they "remembered" me from the start of the subscription service.  Though, that fact didn't really seem to change much else.

I had already written to WotC, as well as expressed elsewhere (eg here), but felt that the email needed a response. So, I wrote:

Dear WotC Insider folk,
Thank you for your email alerting me to the ending of my (long term) subscription, and for remembering that I was amongst the first subscribers to the service. 
Unfortunately, I do not wish to continue the service at this point in time.  Sadly, as WotC has moved away from the 4th Edition of DnD, and towards the 5th Edition (currently referred to as "DnD Next"), there has been a significant drop in products and usefulness of the subscription service, including:
  • No new Dragon or Dungeon magazines
  • No new rulebooks introducing new content into the Compendium or Character Builder
  • No updates or fixes to the Character Builder
  • No updates of fixes to the Compendium
  • No updates or fixes to the Adventure Tools
  • A total lack of many other programs (virtual table, character visualiser/portrait, etc) that were promised back at the start of the service.
Plus, there has been no clear response from WotC about what will happen with the 4e online tools, once 5e is released in a few months time.  I don't think it wise to sign up for another year when I might only get a few months out of that subscription.
In short, the price-point of the subscription has been hard for some time now, but with these issues, it has become greatly undesirable.  I do not think it a fair, nor wise price point to commit the asked amount of money to a service that provides me with a slow and broken character builder, and a compendium of rules I already own in paper form, and that should be free anyway.   
If you were to offer a downloadable version of the compendium and character builder (preferably one that allowed us to fix what WotC does not seen to feel it necessary to fix), where we could work to include our own house rules, where we could fix links to use in such programs as, and where we could have as many characters as we want, instead of the very restraining 20 hard limit, then I'd be interested.  But for now, I have to say "no thanks", and leave my subscription expiring.
As I said before, it is sad that it has to go, but they have continuously given less than they promised up-front, and with the culling of all new mechanics, the price-point leaped into the absurd.  The asked-for price was harsh when it was for a number of articles, a few books of info, and the online tools.  For simply the tools, I have to say "no".

Now, let's see where that leaves me in a months time...!

Friday, 7 March 2014

PotS 1x02 - Whispered Secrets

These posts are from our DnD group's latest game. The current adventure is a return to the world of Eberron, and specifically Xen'drik. The pirate crew have taken to the land, and are trying to make their way to the Watchtower that looms overhead atop the gulf's cliffs. But before them are some trees...many trees!

The foreboding forest loomed overhead, it's dark branches thick with webs. A path had already been cut through sections of webbing and brambles, presumably by those who had camped at its edge before them. There were no signs of Galinndan, who had vanished at some point in the night.

The party moved into the wooded area, cutting through webbing far too thick to be the work of regular spiders. Regdar found a relatively clean tree, and climbed to the top. From there, he gained enough knowledge to direct their paths more clearly, eventually leading them out of the spider-infested trees. However, even as they left, there were surprises remaining to be found: bodies of three giant spiders sagged in trees and lay cut apart across their path; the floor of the forest was littered with dozens of smaller (but still overly large) hatchlings. All were quite dead; crushed, stabbed, even scalded by magic. And not only the arachnids showed the signs of battle - trees had lost leaves and branches amidst the skirmish. But once again, the mysterious party had not left enough to identify themselves.

The Budding Feyspire
By about midday, the party had made it to what felt like the heart of the forest. Trees stood around them as far as any could see, and though the dark tower loomed ever waiting in the far north, they didn't feel quite as unnerved by it as they had done earlier. But this grove was not just a safe-haven - it held a pond, and from the pond protruded a strange object. The grove was filled with a strange magic...and, as they grew aware of their surroundings, a number of eladrin, too.

The leader turned on them sharply, demanding answers from the dwarves, but his companion stilled his hostilities. "No, Berrian," Galinndan spoke calmly. "They are not the ones you saw earlier - they are...with me."

Once introductions were made, the eladrins explained their own presence. Sir Berrian and his sister Analastra had been searching for their father, Zandrian Velfarren, for a significant period of time. They had travelled far, and been lost in the chaotic jungles of Xen'drik more often than not, but had finally found traces of him here. The pool had a budding feyspire, a growing eladrin tower, that their father had hoped would one day become a castle enchanted with fey magic, and provide a way back to their lands. But neither had actually found their father. And Analastra had gone missing during a routine scouting operation... Kami and her crew begrudgingly agreed to join the scouting effort.

Of Beasts and Maidens
The short bell-tower was falling apart, decades (if not centuries) of neglect had allowed the surrounding forest to reclaim much of the area about it. But still, the touch of the feywild had changed the place. Analastra was found, running, nearby the ruined tower; the feybeasts catching and throwing her to the ground as the party charged in to her defence. The displacer beasts were tough, sneaky and quick, but the rugged dwarves fought on, and slew them both before the elf was lost to her other enemy - a pair of stirges. The dire bloodsuckers had been awoken from their nest within the bell-tower, and happily shifted their attention to the meals-on-legs that the dwarves offered, but eventually even they were disposed.

When she could sit and speak again, Analastra explained why she had been trying to fight the beasts. She had found a cottage that she assumed was her fathers. Within it would be magics and enchantments that would help them defend and grow the spire, but a pair of owlbears had taken up residence. Knowing the owlbear's dislike for displacer beasts (the scents sent them running), she had foolishly tried to heard them in that direction. But now, perhaps there would be an easier task?

Regdar and Urquilla helped skin and de-gland the beasts, before "preparing" the dwarves with the musks of the creatures. Tentacles were slung across shoulders like elaborate scarves, and a few extra glands were handed across as short-ranged splash weapons.  Then, the pair helped Analastra back to the fey camp.

The dwarves had been surprisingly stealthy upon their approach to the hut.  They had even practised their mimicry of the beasts well beforehand, and felt confident in their calls.  But still, mistakes happened, roofs were collapsed, and a little too much displacer-gland was sprayed on the wrong individual.  They managed to get one owlbear to flee; the second, they had to kill (after using Hassan as live bait).

Secret Revelations 
There was one further task that the Velfarrens asked of Kami and her crew - to search for any further sign of their father.  Even more begrudgingly than last time, they accepted, and spent the better part of their afternoon combing a section of woods for any further information.  The only thing they came across was a grove of nymphs.  Well, that might have been enough for some folk, but Kami, Tvennr and Hassan?  No, they did not like it, not one bit.  They put up with them, in the hopes of information.  They listened to their singing, they obliged their music, and much of the rest of their little 'games' session may well never be told again.  In the end, the nymphs promised knowledge in return for secrets, and so, one by one, the three dwarves eventually gave of themselves in order to learn more.

Tvennr revealed a personal shame.  He liked the seas, and he thoroughly enjoyed sky-ships...what lurked behind the dwarf's tough, rough exterior was a fear, however.  Though born to the mountain caves, the ranger found himself prone to claustrophobia, especially in naturally-forming caves. For a dwarf, this was pretty grave indeed.  In return, one nymph told him about the dragons, how they flew in from Argonnessen, attracted to the raw magical power of the artefact, and had decimated the nearby town when they first arrived.  They would allow nothing to come between them and their riches...though that dark tower still had them paused.  For now, they lurked on the eastern side of the gulf, and on a few of the islands in between, watching and snapping at anyone who looked to be a threat to their increased wealth and power.

Eager to learn more about the tower, Kami offered one of her less desirable past experiences.  Her first "First Mate" role was not given to her purely based upon her talent as a sailor, but rather because she slept with the captain.  Nothing more about the captain was said; that was incriminating enough.  Nodding, one nymph stepped up to tell the trio of the black Watchtower, which had stood central to the downfall of the area.  It was a place used to keep the cove, and the settlement within it, in security and safety, until it was linked to Xoriat, the Realm of Madness.  For almost 9,000 years, the realm had been locked away, after Daelkyr had crossed over and caused the downfall of the golinoid Dhakaani Empire.  Druids and dragons had worked alongside then, barely managing to stop the chaotic forces from destroying all life on Eberron.  This time, the Watchtower had been the battleground, and it was the cork that stopped the madness leaking into our world.

Still with no answer to the whereabouts of Analastra and Berrian's father, Hassan stepped forward with his own revelation to give.  All knew of his hate of elvenkind; many had heard rumours of childhood complications with the fey people; but none had known who had started his vendetta.  None, until today, when he uttered four simple words..."It was a girl..."  Nothing more would be said, but the nymphs, perhaps sensing something deeper, or knowing something left unsaid, nodded solemnly. "Zandrian Velfarren was last seen defending the Watchtower. He never left. He can be found there, still."

After hearing about the nymphs advice, Galinndan decided to visit them.  He had struggled with this secret long enough - it was time for him to share it with another...and gain from the experience.  As it turned out, heights were his weakness; he is fine on a ship, but secretly dreads ever completing his mission, and managing to get one to actually fly.  With a knowing smile, the closest nymph nodded her head, and offered up a riddle - "Cards collect atop towers, and with commanders of companies."  Simple enough, Galinndan thought, and perhaps that is why the nymph had given it as such - was that a wink that had passed between her and the eladrin?

Ominously as it sounded, the dwarves' actions did not change. They were headed to the Watchtower before; now, there was but another reason to head there. Circling back to alert Urquilla and Regdar of their plans and to let the Velfarrens know of their learning, Kami's crew marched out of the forest, killed a few extra spiders on their way, and started their trek to the cliff walls, and the base of the dark Watchtower.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Pirates of the Thunder Sea - Meet the Crew! (part 2)

This post is some background for our latest game.  The current adventure is a return to the world of Eberron, and specifically Xen'drik.  Last week, we met the dwarven half of the PCs, now let's see what the taller half are like!
Admiral Galinndan Duskwalker, Emissary of the Spire

"Admiral" Galinndan Duskwalker

Galinndan left his Feyspire numerous years ago to explore the possibilities of harnessing the power of airships without a Dragonmark.  His title is less of a naval rank, and more of a rough translation of his position back in the Feyspire.

Galinndan's current predicament - being trapped at the mercy of a dwarven crew of pirates - came about after his latest voyage of experimentation failed.  The experimental ships foundered and sunk not long into the journey, leaving the renamed (and re-crewed) Kami Kaze to be attacked and plundered by the piratical bunch of dwarves.

The eladrin believes that he can find a way to bring the airship technology to the Feyspires, though he concedes that the half-elves, and House Lyrandar in particular, may not be too keen on losing their monopoly.

Urquilla the Scaled, Delegate of the Takamak Tribe

Urquilla the Scaled

Urquilla recently joined the dwarven crew after their latest stop off in Stormreach.  There, the dwarves managed to save his father from the hands of savage orcs, and he signed himself on as payment for the debt he felt he owed them.

Brought up as one of the few remaining warriors in his tribe who still drew their strength from primal forces, Urquilla has been trained to fight the hated Argonnessan dragons from a young age.  Already mastering the fighting styles of the Black, Red and Gold dragons, his recent foray with the White aboard the Kami Kaze has further expanded his repertoire of manoeuvres.  

Despite his rough appearance, Urquilla has had a good amount of schooling, already speaking Dwarven fluently, and making good headways into the Elven tongue.  He hopes he may be able to soothe tensions between the two races, though realises that there will probably be few opportunities to perform such tasks.

Regdar d'Vadalis, Outcast Animal Handler

Regdar d'Vadalis

Regdar the Druid wouldn't even admit to his last name or dragonmark until Kami forced it out of him "for official reasons".  What the House Vadalis animal trainer was doing on his own in Stormreach has not yet been divulged, though it is only too apparent that he had some sort of falling out with his house.  Those that knew him vouched that he had been in Xen'drik for a few years, back from before the Last War ended, though none could add to his mysterious background.

What he lacked in clear answers he made up for in other talents, not the least of which is his uncanny ability to see clearly in the darkest of nights, and at a distance far outstretching any other on board the ship.  So, the mysterious traveller joined the crew as lookout, causing Redtail to return to his rigging role.

Although he keeps to himself, he has no lack of companions - animals of all kinds come to him, fighting alongside or even ahead of Regdar, and all with a fierce loyalty that would see them dead before he should take injury.

Thanks for reading about our crew! Now, look out for their future adventures, coming soon!

Friday, 21 February 2014

Pirates of the Thunder Sea - Meet the Crew! (part 1)

This post is some background for our latest game.  The current adventure is a return to the world of Eberron, and specifically Xen'drik.  One character (Kami) has carried across from our previous Drow game, but is no less worthy of introduction.  So, please meet the first half of the characters!
The Dread Pirate Kami, once more upon the seas!

The Dread Pirate Kami

Somewhere in her past, Kami's family descended from those in Mror Holds, but the land she holds as "home" is a little east of that: the Lhazaar Principalities.  It was there that her family raised her, and there that she learnt her trade - piracy.

With a (unfortunately fake) treasure map in hand, she took her meagre crew south to the untamed lands of Xen'drik, in search of wealth, magic, and fame...and ended up shipwrecked and drunk, lost in the jungles, and captured by drow.

Between drink, jungle, and crazed drow, Kami somehow managed to survive and eventually cut herself free from all three.  With a bare-bones crew and a vessel hardly worth the name, she set out again, this time finding riches on an elven ship. It's crew put up little in the way of defence, and soon it was hers: the 'Kami Kaze'.

Now with ship, crew, and enough wealth to (barely) feed them, Kami is back on her search for lost treasure along the Xen'drik coast!

Tvennir Breiox Farmaor, Scourge of a Hundred Battlefields

Tvennir Breiox Farmaor

Tvennr has been around boats and ships (both sea-bound and those aloft in the skies) since he was relatively young, when his family moved into a small port town.  They were working as blacksmiths and armourers, but he was never interested in that line of business; instead, he set a task for himself to escape the area, and head to the sea.

Over the years, he has spent time working for "independent" airships, helping to clean out various caverns and other locations that folk of more reputable means would have little use for.  However, the end of the war brought a crackdown from House Lyrandar on the "independent" airships, meaning Tvennr has had difficulty recently gaining work, and so has taken more sea-based jobs.

Though he misses the sky, especially as the sea air intensifies the crustiness of his beard, he was thankful of Kami's captaincy after being stranded in port so long.  The other company could be better, but he admits he has put up with worse.

Hassan Elfbane, Treasurer of House Kundarak

Hassan Elfbane

As a child from a minor line of House Kundarak, Hassan was "bullied" by an "elf" - the exact nature of these events have been clouded by time, but Hassan has dedicated himself to righting this wrong, primarily by killing most any elf he can.  Or eladrin.  Or half-elf.  Or a human with particularly pointy ears... He's not a barbarian (not quite), so he does manage to restrain himself at times... and if the incentive is right.

Being not only a member of House Kundarak, but also dragonmarked, Hassan is the only member of the pirate crew who is widely trusted to hold the ship's treasure - which he does, in a magically linked chest, deep within the Mror Holds vaults.  Interestingly, this trust sees him also act as the ship's cook.  The thinking is that he would be the least likely to deliberately poison the crew - the taste of the food might suggest otherwise.

Although he was very happy to have liberated the shop from the elves, he was not so happy when one of them was allowed to stay aboard.  The promise of riches did, as it often does, turn his blade.  For Hassan is thinking that after some twenty years away from family and home, it may be time to return soon - he just needs to establish some independent wealth, first.

Stay tuned for next week, when the second half will be introduced!

Friday, 14 February 2014

Pirated Mechanics

I cancelled my DnDI subscription this week.  It felt kind of sad, a more official end to the long journey I had with WotC through the fourth edition of DnD.  Now, we're parting ways - they are going on with their 'next' edition (come on, let's all just call it 5e, we all know that's what it is!), whilst I'm happy hanging back with the wealth of information and adventures left with 4e.

That's not to say we're going to continue playing as-written - we weren't really doing that anyway. That's one of the great things about DnD, adapting and mutating it as your group sees fit.  And that's going to happen moreso now, as we're left without the tools that many, especially myself, feel have become a stable part of the game.  But sadly, they have failed - whilst the online compendium certainly made games easier to run (I look back with horror at the many years I tried to run online games of 3e DnD, with only the SRD online, and everything else in a book on a shelf nearby - how hard it was to look up a power, a feat, or a spell! The compendium, and great sites like iplay4e, helped look up and understand rules so simply), they never fully delivered on their promises.  The virtual table never surfaced, the character portrait vanished without a trace, and even those tools that made it through were sickly and malnourished (Monster builder? Encounter builder?).  The Character Builder, arguably the best part of the package, is still slow and sluggy, in need of updating, and capped at an embarrassing 20 characters.  I have over 400 saved character files, and even though some are doubles (characters at various levels), the majority are unique characters.

And so it is that I have made the decision to stop my many years of my DnDI subscription.  Of course, it helped that they have stopped the Dragon and Dungeon magazines (and had many months of irrelevant content beforehand), and that no new books or information have come into the compendium for some time.  Much of what was offered has not been given, and a lot of the rest is sorely missing.  I can only assume that will get worse once 5e is finally released officially.  I would hope that they open the compendium up to the "few" folk remaining behind in DnD (at least, that seems to be WotC's take - not enough to merit continuing to support the product, not enough to shape the coming 5e?), or failing that, allow it to be downloaded and used at home.  The latter would save them server costs and allow fans to update it as needed.  But whatever they choose, the simple fact is that a whole lot of 4e games will need to start running without it, or pay an exorbitant fee for a fraction of what was originally promised them.

The big question is then, how do you run 4e without those tools?  Well, maybe you don't ask yourself that.  I do. I wonder how I will keep track of character powers without having to pour through books continuously.  How to look up rules when needed.  How to know which errata has been applied, and what the correct reading of that particular feature is.  Strangely, my engineering mind wants to simplify the least, a little.  And so, over my home games this year, my group will be taking in some big houserules adapted from another adaptation from (or take on, or houserules for) DnD: 13th Age.

Simply, we are shortening character levels (by a third) to soften maths, but keeping the power level the same.  Less feats, more base damage.  Less powers, but the powers remaining are more impressive, being built up and strengthened.  Our aim is to have characters that are still of the same power level (or perhaps a little tougher), but are simpler to play, are quicker to run, and have less rules-baggage dragging behind them.  Now all that is left is to see how effective the change are!

Friday, 7 February 2014

Pirates of the Thunder Sea 1x01 - A Salty Start to Adventure

These posts are from our DnD group's latest game.  The current adventure is a return to the world of Eberron, and specifically Xen'drik.  Although one character (the Dread Pirate Kami) has carried across between campaigns, the rest of the party is new, and the adventure has little bearing on the Drow game of old. 

The ship was sailing south, along the coast of wild Xen'drik jungles, towards the Gulf of Zantashk, despite some of the crews' strong resistance.  Tvennir in particular was muttering amongst a few of the other dwarves about the horrors he has faced over the past thirty-four voyages across the dreaded bay.  Still, despite his reluctance, the Dread Pirate Kami was able to convince him to stay with the group, thanks to some flowery promises of riches and wealth, and Tvennir's apparent lack of understanding as to basic mathematics.  

The elven crew that once inhabited the decks were all gone, save for one individual - Admiral Galinndan Duskwalker.  He had bargained, first for his life from Hassan Elfbane's axe, and then for his place on his captured ship.  Information was his main bartering good - he alerted the crew to a hidden valuable they were about to throw away, a small box hidden in a secret compartment of one of the chests of elven goods.  The box contained but a single item - a solitary card.  But the card had power - on its face was a flame, flickering back and forth as if it were real.  There was much power in the card, magical enchantments just waiting to be focused and used.  And Galinndan said he knew where they could find more.

Selling of Stolen Supplies
When they had arrived in Stormreach - almost a month ago, now - their intention was to sell off all the mundane elven-treasures found in the store below via Kami's usual fence.  It would not get them the best prices, but it would be quick, easy, and without questions.  This time, however, Hassan suggested trying his cousin Walid, whom he had ties with from Khorvaire.  Walid has trade contacts in Trolanport, Zilargo, and could get far better prices on the goods than any fence could manage. However, it would take time to ship them across to Khorvaire and get the money returned.  Whilst they waited, Walid offered them another job.

A simple scouting mission was all he asked - sailing down the the Gulf of Zantashk, map out the ruins, determine a safe path to the watchtower that overlooked the Gulf, discover the truth about the dragon sightings (for more than a few folk had started talking about the Argonessen folk being sighted along the shores of Xen'drik), note the safe harbours for ships to travel, and determine what sort of threats there were in the area (in addition to dragons, that is!). 
By the time they returned from such a scouting trip, their money - and their payment for their task - would be waiting them. 

A Few New Hands on Deck
Whilst in Stormreach, the ship picked up a few more crew members.  First, the dwarves came across a rowdy bunch of feral orcs, who had nearly torn a scaled man apart.  This thing was quite rare - the violence, and the scales.  Not many humans had scales, and almost all who did lived on Argonessen with the dragons, or Q'barra, with the other lizardfolk.  But there was a tribe of barbarians - the Takamaks - who sought to battle the dragons, and who took on scales through their primal magics.  The Takamak elder lived, and his son Urquilla, wanting to pay back the debt of his father's life, offered to join the crew. 

The other human to join the crew was an animal handler by the name of Regdar d'Vadalis.  He bore the mark of Handling, and saw with the eyes of Hawk and Owl. Naturally, he proved to be an excellent lookout, though exactly why he wanted to travel with them was never answered clearly...

Scaled Terror on the Seas
The dragons, clearly, had no such problem.  On the third day, Redgar called out to Kami, and the crew prepared for an attack.  Three dragons, including one monstrous white one, swept down from the cliffs towards the ship, swooping in close to allow their riders to jump and engage the crew.  Despite their ferocity, the dragons were ill-prepared for the skill and might housed on the vessel.  The riders were finished quickly, and the copper dragons only survived by keeping well out of reach, and fleeing when the battle turned.  The great white would have followed them, but for Galinndan's display of might - the eladrin caught the gargantuan dragon and held it fast atop the ship, blinded and immobilised by his own magic.  There, the crew (and especially Tvennir) cut into its unprotected belly, whilst Kami kept the ship moving just so.  The deck would need a good week of scrubbing, but the dragon's dead body fell to the side as it struggled for safety, and didn't deal too much damage to the ship.
The inland coast proved as harsh as the cliffs that met the sea, and it took them a further two days to find a safe spot to port.  Safe might have been a hasty word, for there were numerous wrecks sighted beneath the clear waters, but at least they could anchor the boat for cleaning and repairs, and send a party to investigate the land.

Landbound: Ruins and the Ruined
The town had been destroyed.  Tvennir was particularly saddened by the destruction of a favoured inn, but the entire settlement had been reduced to ash, burnt timbers and scalded stone.  Dragons had been through here, weeks, maybe months ago, destroying anything that dared to suggest interest in the ancient ruins.  And somehow, a hydra had been left to guard the way to those ruins.

Not wanting to face the four-headed beast just yet, the party elected to first make the trek through the forest, and up to the watchtower.  Before entering the dark forest, they camped and rested on solid ground for the first time in over a month. 

They weren't the first to camp outside the forest - small tell-tale signs of another group passing this way within the past few days were only too clear. A boot-print here, a scuffed tree there, some discarded waste behind a bush... Could they be survivors from the town?  Natives of the jungles further inland?  Scaled riders, or other allies of the dragons?