"I wonder if that was from the pastrami rueben I had yesterday?"

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Session Four Report, Freidvale Campaign, part 2

I'm going to level with you guys, I know I've got the sequence of events out of order.  I believe the correct order was you talked to Corporal Wiggins, he implicated Menfa, a witness who claimed that Li Hao perpetrated the murders, and then Menfa quickly cracked under interrogation from Karsh and admitted that he had been threatened to frame Li Hao to free Tan Shuhui (Centipede) after Hong Wei Tung had bribed the Magistrate.  They then went to see Li Hao, gave him 2/5ths of the Scorpion gold, and Li Hao was promptly arrested.  They busted him out of jail and went to confront Hong directly at his manor.  Fallister advised waiting for the Lizard to return, but Brog was certain the Toad (Li Hao) was invincible and could help them beat Hung (who turned out to be the Snake of the Poison Clan).  All would have probably gone according to plan, had not the Scorpion been waiting at Hung's manor in hiding and instantly hit the Toad in his weak spot, his ears.  Li's kung fu was broken, and the party now faced the Snake and the Centipede (who had just that day been released from prison) without Li's help against them.  The party agreed to call it a night then.


You are currently at 3440 xp each.  You need 1560xp each to advance to 3rd level (total 5000).

Monday, December 12, 2016

Session four report, Freidvale campaign

The players convened at a party thrown for them by the Duke of Friedvale, the honorable Lord Gormless Fatsbury.  Attending the party were numerous persons of import, and Brog seemed determined to speak to each and every one of them, with or without the Bard's help.  Their first attendee was Lord Malrond, the official ambassador to Hell for the city of Friedvale.  Their conversation was rather productive, where Brog learned he could procure a Get-Out-of-Hell-Free scroll if he aided Malrond in convincing the Good Bishop Gorgio (another party goer) to sign over his immortal soul in exchange for the High Priesthood of the church of Abadar (still the 'official' religion of the Empire, although it is rumored that the Emperor has himself made deals with Asmodeus, ruler of the 9 Hells.)


Next, the trio of Falister, Tannis and Brog spoke with Bishop Gorgio, and his assistant, Postulant Clark.  They asked if he would be willing to sell his soul for the High Priesthood, upon which the good bishop made it known that he would do so only if he were assured of a prominent place in Hell upon his demise....


Brog also had a brief conversation with Lord Bartimeus, who was quite obviously not human.  Bartimeus asked if Brog would be so kind as to exonerate him in a small matter involving the illegal feeding upon non-slaves.  Lord Bart stated that he was innocent of any non state-sanctioned feeding and that someone had planted a body in his stables to discredit him.  Brog agreed to help investigate later.


Sharp-eyed Tannis noticed one of the guard corporals acting suspicious.  Corporal Wiggins was sweating profusely, eyes darting nervously.  When Fallister questioned him, Wiggins said, "Not here, it's not safe.  Meet me at the [name escapes me] Tavern at dusk tomorrow."


Grog spoke to Lord Kinrei and his body guard Virasu Leafcutter (an elf) and inquired why elves were tolerated at this party.  Lord Kinrei allowed, rather sheepishly, that this elf in particular was only allowed in because he was Kinrei's slave and body guard.  When asked why he was here from the capital, Kinrei explained that he was seeing to Lord Bartimeus after he complained of bad dreams.  Lord Kinrei was an expert in the Eastern Healing Arts of directing the flow of chi through the body using acupressure and acupuncture, and he was assisting Lord Bartimeus with these dreams.  He asked to examine Brog's aura, touched him in the middle of his forehead, after which Brog had a strange vision but could remember none of it.  Lord Kinrei allowed as how Brog had a very bright future ahead of him, and then Brog excused himself.


It was around this time that Brog had the presence of mind to ask about when the next full moon was due.  It just so happened, through his knowledge of astrology, that Fallister recalled that the next moonrise would occur in just a few minutes.  Brog dragged Fallister to the stables (as he began sprouting long whiskers) while Tannis appealed to Bishop Gorgio for help in removing the curse from their friend.  Bishop Gorgio said he would lend the services of a priest in his service who was also attending the party this evening, but the Heroes of the City had to agree to help him ascertain what Dr. Jessup was up to in the harbor at Friedvale.  Numerous explosions had been witnessed in the bay, and Gorgio wanted assurances that his assets at the docks were not in any jeopardy.  Tannis hastily agreed and led the good priest to the stables where Brog was wrestling furiously with the now transformed bard.  Fortunately, Brog was armored head to toe, and the vicious wererat failed to inflict any damage on the valiant ranger.  The priest removed the curse from Fallister, who instantly regained his human form.


The final party guest consulted that evening was Hong Wei Tung, a wealthy silk merchant's son.  Lord Hong informed Brog that he had made a grave error, that the Black Hand Murderer was still at large and that the identity of the murderer was one Li Hao.  [Much excitement from Vocifera as she looked over her notes from previous sessions.]  When asked how he knew this, Lord Hong stated that the person they had apprehended was at his residence when several of the murders were perpetrated, so the person they had caught could not be the real murderer.  The party remained unconvinced, but said they would investigate, if for no other reason than to ensure their good name and that they remained in the good graces of Duke Fatsbury.


With the final interview completed, the party took their leave of Fatsbury Castle and retired for the evening, leaving watches and taking their ease and recounting tales of their exploits to Karsh and Vocifera. 


It was decided the following morning that they would keep their appointment with Corporal Wiggins that evening after interviewing Li Hao at the Inn where he was staying.  The party made a deposit at the Temple of Abadar on 9th street, and then proceeded to the inn where Li was reputed to be staying.  At the mention of the Centipede and the Black Hand Murders, Li promptly picked Fallister up by the throat with one hand.  Fallister hastily convinced Li that they were friends, and the smooth talking bard even got Li to admit that he was none other than the Toad, the fifth of the last pupils of the Poison Clan.  Li stated that a share of the gold belonged to him and his friend, the Lizard (whom he did not identify by name), and the party agreed to give two fifths of the Scorpion gold to Li and his friend.  They went to the bank, gave Li his money, saw a bunch of guards coming their way and wished Li well and then ducked down an alley.  The watched as Li promptly beat the stuffing out of the guards, but then another guard approached and seemed to convince Li to stop fighting.  The group left together and the party left satisfied that Li was in good hands.


The rest to follow in Part Two.



Monday, November 14, 2016

Session Three Report, Rogues and Ninjas

Our brave heroes discussed their plans at length on how to capture the Black Hand Gang, perpetrators of a series of heinous murders on the Freidvale waterfront.  Some wanted to parade Oberon along the docks until the killer took the bait.  They eventually decided to take some of the gold they had acquired from Oberon that bore the symbol of a scorpion and spend it at the Skinny Puppy Tavern, hoping that the killer would hear word of this and track them back to Oberon's house.  Fallister was chosen to carry out the mission with his silver tongue, while Karsh would provide backup should things go south.


And south they went.  The bartender, a Halfling named Rolf, immediately tried to drug Fallister when he flashed the scorpion gold and asked for a drink.  Fallister was not so easily drugged, rolling high on his Fort save.  Karsh readied his sword, a half orc in the tavern readied her axe, but Fallister quickly de-escalated the situation with some calming words.  Fallister agreed to give the bar patrons 50 gp in exchange for foregoing any hostilities, and the denizens of the Skinny Puppy readily agreed.  Karsh was dispatched to fetch the additional gold, while Fallister lost 4 copper in a game of Old Maid with two scarred elves named Benny and Joon.  When Karsh returned with the gold, the bartender offered Fallister another drink, just to show there were no hard feelings.  The drink was drugged yet again, and despite profuse apologies from Rolf, Karsh and Fallister quickly took their leave.




The party made preparations for attack back in Oberon's basement.  They didn't wait long.  Karsh stood guard by the door, shadows flickering in the dim candlelight.  He heard the tiniest creaking of the floorboards above them at midnight, and quickly woke the others.  Moments later, Joon, one of the elves from the Skinny Puppy, leapt from the shadows to attack.  A vicious brawl broke out, with Joon expertly diving between Karsh and Brog without a scratch to flank the half orc between herself and her compatriot, Benny, who had appeared in the stairway.  The party launched several tanglefoot bags (at the walls), while the fighters and rogues exchanged blows.  Brog was brought low by a strike from Joon, but was quickly revived by healing from Vocifera.  Meanwhile Karsh and Brog had managed to deal considerable damage to Benny, who was spitting blood.  The tide finally turned when Tannis grappled Joon, rendering her largely helpless as she was unable to break the grapple.  The monk rained blows down upon her, while Karsh pursued the fleeing Benny up the stairs.  The party converged on Joon and rendered her unconscious. 




The party debated on whether to revive Joon or let her bleed out.  Brog was the voice of reason on this one, wanting to question her first.  Vocifera healed her enough to stop the bleeding.  Joon promised not to cross the party again, saying they had learned their lesson.  The party kept her weapons and magical items:  a rapier, a returning dagger and a magical belt, but let Joon live to fight another day.  An additional reward for their efforts was that they had earned enough experience to reach level 2. 


Having been a night of considerable energy expenditure, the party set watches and rested.  They didn't rest for long as a crash from upstairs woke the group and brought them to full alert status.  A man in red emerged from the staircase, did some nifty martial arts moves in rapid succession, and left little doubt in the party's minds that this was the infamous Centipede, believed to be the perpetrator of the Black Hand murders.  The Centipede moved quickly and disarmed Karsh, who immediately drew another weapon.  Vocifera threw her returning dagger, only to have it snatched from the air by the nimble Centipede.  His hands now full, the party attacked him in earnest.  Tannis struck true with her oddly-named weapon whose name I can never remember or spell, Brog hacked away with his twin axes, and Karsh landed some shots with a long sword.  Were it not for their recently acquired new abilities, the party might have been doomed, but instead they prevailed after a tough fight.  Even Vocifera landed at least two critical hits with a regular dagger when her healing spells were exhausted.  They bound the defeated foe hand and foot and brought him to the fortress for trial.




Lord Gormless Fatsbury, Duke and ruler of the city of Freidvale, was delighted by the news that the killer had at last been apprehended, and he invited the party to a... well, a party at his castle.  Brog, Tannis and Fallister accepted while Vocifera, fearing she would be discriminated against as an elf, stayed in Oberon's basement with Karsh.  They needn't have worried, so it turned out, as Lord Gormless revealed his master at arms was a Drow, a dark elf.  The Duke explained his love of the undercity of Detropolis and his fascination with the races that populated it.  He brought the three heroes to his armory and gave them special gifts, hand wraps for the Monk, a sword for Karsh and an axe for Brog.  Lord Fatsbury explained that these weapons were used in the Third War for the White Plains, and area filled with the undead, and that each of the weapons had the special quality of enabling the wielder to affect non-corporeal creatures.  He then led the party down to his stables where he introduced them to Caius, a trained rhinoceros mount that he had personally ridden into battle in their youth.  He also showed them Cassiopeia, a dire bat mount, and Brutus, a giant spider mount ridden by his Drow master at arms.


The session was ended just as the other party guests arrived.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Locutors

There is much mystery surrounding the means by which King Lennox managed to defeat an elf host 10 times the size of his own army in less than 4 years time.  At the heart of this mystery is the ultra secretive order known as the Locutors. 


The Locutors were the vanguard of the King's army, the shock troops sent to decimate the enemy elves.  Using unknown methods they managed to level the emperor trees, colossal elven city-strongholds that had remained unconquered for centuries prior to the human arrival on the continent.  The Locutors were feared and loathed in the days of King Lennox, even before he banned their very existence at the elven campaign's conclusion.  Very few battles were conducted with the King's conventional ground forces, the City of Opsalathys being a very notable exception.  Given the outcome of the battle of Opsalathys, it is not surprising the Locutors were called upon so frequently in the elven war.


The members of the Order of Locutus (which may be a name of an individual, the founder, or even a place) were selected for their trustworthiness and discretion.  They took a vow of silence, never speaking of the secrets they witnessed once initiated.  They numbered less than 100, and none are believed to have survived very long after the war.  Their symbol consisted of a spiral with an eye at its center.  Anyone witnessing a Locutor in combat other than the King himself was immediately sentenced to immediate death.  Speaking about the Locutors or their secrets was a crime punishable by worse than death.  It was made very clear by the King and his enforcer that revealing or even speculating about the Locutor secrets was punishable by undeath - the victim was left to walk the earth as a mindless zombie, but only after that zombie was set loose upon the victim's own family.


Why the secrecy was so intense or the penalties so severe is also unknown.  What is known is that upon the elven war's conclusion, King Lennox called for the total dissolution of the order and that all its members be sentenced to death.  The secrets of the Locutors would die with them.  Approximately half of them instantly complied, killing themselves with a poison capsule each kept in case of capture.  The other half fled.  Of those, only 20 odd survivors were reported to have escaped the carnage.  The King (now first Emperor of the Lewisian dynasty) assembled a force of crack fighting men to hunt down the remaining Locutors.  The official word handed down from the emperor was that the remaining 20 were all killed.  Many doubts and concerns were voiced at the time.  Those who voiced them quickly felt the displeasure of the Emperor.


There have been many rumors of Locutor sightings throughout the last 300 some years.  Their infrequency and lack of a credible source put them in a dim light.  Of note, however, is that every emperor down to our present Emperor Channyk has taken each rumor seriously enough to investigate every one thoroughly.  Why the emperor would entertain such rumors is a mystery unto itself.  Also a mystery is why the ancient law stating any who speaks about Locutors openly in public is still punishable by death.  What is known is that the symbol itself is still outlawed to this very day, as is speaking of the order it represents.


*Editor's note - the author of this work was put to death shortly after this piece was written, and all copies of it ordered burned.  I kept this copy for posterity sake, perhaps against my better judgment....





Monday, October 10, 2016

Saint Mel of Freidvale

The life of Melrose of Freidvale does not appear worthy of sainthood at first glance.  He was a scribe, a seventh son of the Lord Yuntoth Malbork, who as such had little hope of an inheritance or a landed title, so he ted to enter the priesthood of Saranae in the seminary at Hartgestein at the age of 18 in the year 206 Y.L.  He was rejected as a postulant (hopeful priest in the service of the temple) for his refusal to engage in combat or to handle any sort of a weapon.  He is reported as having refused in a rather disastrous fashion, throwing his mace behind him which happened to strike the Archbishop of Hartgestein as he was passing by on a visitation.  As Mel was a noble's son, he was relegated to the role of temple scribe rather than banished from the faith entirely, as even an Archbishop will think twice before crossing a lord of Malbork.  He was sent to the city of Freidvale, miles from Hartgestein, where it was expected he would toil at making copies of holy texts in anonymity until the day he quietly retired from the clergy.


Mel did toil as a scribe for some time, though the years were not quiet.  His superiors were continually vexed with his production.  The young scribe was slow, sloppy, and perpetually made errors that had to be rewritten.  Neither was he well liked by his fellow scribes, who often played pranks on him, such as filling his inkwell with skunk essence or booby-trapping the outhouse so that it collapsed when he sat down on it. 


This ignominy did not deter faithful Mel.  He continued on at his labors, taking derision in stride as his due.  When his Father Superior could not shame the young scribe into leaving of his own accord, he decided to take matters to hand directly.  Mel was given an ultimatum - copy an 200 page holy manuscript of Saranae's teachings in 10 days time or face expulsion from the order.  While this was humanly possible for an ordinary scribe, for a person of Mel's limitations they might as well have asked him to fly from Freidvale Abbey to the Capital and back in two days.  Mel resolved to try, nonetheless.


In what was for him a superhuman effort, Mel slept only four hours a day, ate very little, and wrote every waking minute for the next 7 days.  When it was discovered that he had nearly completed his task ahead of time, the other scribes put their heads together and hatched a plan.  On the 8th day of his trial when Mel made his way from the tower spire to his living quarters, carrying the completed manuscript pages, his quill, and his bottle of ink, one of the scribes contrived to trip him in passing, sending the manuscript, the ink, and Mel tumbling down the stairs.  The results were predictable.


Mel was devastated.  All he had wanted was to serve Saranae in whatever capacity she saw fit.  Rewriting his work was quite literally impossible now, with only a night and two days left.  He prayed to Saranae that night to show him the way, and fell fast asleep at his cot for several hours. 


When he awoke, from a dream he could never later recall, he found a quill in his hand that seemed to burn like fire in the morning sunlight, and there were manuscript pages under his face.  In astonishment, Mel looked over the work beneath him and found the holy book had been copied perfectly, in his own handwriting, no less!  He set the quill down and ran to the Father Superior to report the miracle that had happened.  The Father was no less astonished, nor was he pleased.  He accused Mel of using arcane magic (an accusation made more ridiculous by the fact that Mel showed no aptitude for magic of any kind) and demanded he reproduce the feat with witnesses by his side day and night.  Mel, of course, could not refuse his Superior, and, though he was by now exhausted, assented once again.


On the very first night, Mel again fell fast asleep at his desk, as did his witnesses shortly afterward.  When the three awoke, the another copy of the manuscript, in Mel's shaky handwriting, had been completed.  The Father Superior ordered the room scanned for magic, and the quill that had appeared overnight in Mel's hand glowed brightly - it was of artifact level.  When asked how he had come by it, Mel explained his story yet again, and no amount of attempts to divine lies would prove that he was not telling the truth.  The quill was confiscated as an unholy thing (even though it was identified as having a holy aura) and locked away in side a secure chest and sent by carriage back to Hartgestein for study by arcanists.  Mel was ordered to copy the book once more, this time with the Father Superior watching and having cast protection from evil over the study in advance.  Once more Mel fell asleep, as did the Father Superior some time after midnight.


When the two awoke, the Father Superior roared in anger.  The book had been copied in his sleep... all over his face and hands.  Every inch of his skin bore Mel's handwriting of the holy words of Saranae.  To make matters worse, Mel held the fiery quill that had been sealed and sent away in his hand.  It is said that the two had to be separated then and the Father's hands pried from around Mel's neck.  The poor Father Superior never recovered from his shock and rage over this event, and he had to be committed to a home for the irretrievably insane and the infirm for the rest of his years. 


The writing is said to have never faded from his skin.


The matter of Mel's three miracles (so they have been declared some time ago) was thoroughly investigated by the Bishop, but none could reach any conclusion other than that Saranae had intervened directly on the part of the poor hapless scribe.  Mel was invited to rejoin his studies for the priesthood once more, which he declined.  He spent his days copying texts with the Holy Quill, sometimes in his sleep, and his writing grew more beautiful with each passing year.  Holy texts copied in the hand of saint Mel are believed to bring healing and long life to the bearer.  The Holy Quill itself was buried with him beneath a small chapel outside of Freidvale, not far from his abbey.  No one has attempted to separate the quill from its rightful bearer since.  Saint Mel is the patron saint of patience, endurance, and divine intervention in the face of insurmountable odds.  An order of priests known as the Mellites sprang up shortly after his canonization, a band who refused to use weapons, quite unusual for followers of Saranae.  Vestiges of the order still exist in scattered monasteries throughout the western half of the empire.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Freidvale Politics and Religion

The Church of Abadar is still recognized as the official religion of the Western Empire (renamed "The Glorious Human Empire" by Emperor Channyk 3 years ago).  Abadar is the god of the wealth and order brought about by civilization.  While churches to Abadar are still present in all major Imperial cities, it is also well known that since Channyk became emperor, he instituted an order of Inquisitors who drew power from Asmodeus, ruler of the nine hells and prince of archdevils.  While devil worship is not officially sanctioned or promoted by the current emperor, neither is it discouraged.  Another practice adopted since Channyk's reign began is the appointment of an ambassador to hell in every major city.

Freidvale, the third largest (living) city in the Western Empire, is no exception to this rule.  Gorgio, the Bishop of Freidvale, is the head of all religious activity in the city, but he has seen his influence in politics diminish with the appointments of Inquisitor Levitard, who now acts as judge and executioner in the city, and Lord Malrond, the Freidvale ambassador to Mammon, the archdevil presiding over the 3 layer of hell.  The Inquisitor now handles legal issues previously handled by Gorgio, while financial matters relating to taxation that fell under Gorgio's domain now fall to Lord Malrond.

This new state of affairs has put a serious dent in the Church of Abadar's considerable coffers, much to the displeasure of the High Priest at Hartgestein and Bishop Gorgio (who makes no secret of his hopes to one day ascend to the office of High Priest himself).  The Bishop still has immense resources at his disposal, not the least of which is a rather large network of spies throughout the city, and he has been working to disparage if not outright disgrace the new Ambassador at every turn.  For his part, Ambassador Malrond has seemingly decided to turn a blind eye to the Bishop's machinations at this time,focusing on securing his newfound power and increasing his growing influence over Lord Fatsbury, the Duke and ruler of Freidvale (in the emperor's name, of course) and head of the butcher's guild.

Other major players in Freidvale include Lord Bartemeus, ambassador to the nation of White Plains; Lord Weitung, a young aristocrat and heir to a wealthy family; Captain Skarros, the commander of the Imperial forces at Fort Freidvale, and Chief Constable Ma, head of the police force.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

That Thing Where You Title Your Game World a WoW Character

Yeah, that's me.  I've never touched WoW, but I guess trite minds think alike.  No wonder the hits were increasing on this site.  So, apparently Illandria is a 100th level NPC in WoW.  Hopefully they don't visit this site and tell me to cease and desist.


Or I'll just rename my planet.  I'm thinking of calling it 'Peanut Butter Egg Dirt' if that isn't already taken, too.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Talk to the Hand, Session 2 report

June 25th


The party decided to stay at Fong's house for the night, having escorted him home safely.  He agreed to escort them through the castle in the morning to give them a list of other known Werbergians over the age of 60 to aid in the party's investigations.  The night was uneventful, and everyone survived without acquiring a black hand print.  Vocifera cast comprehend languages on some papers Fong had lying about his house, but it turned out to be bad poetry.  Brog did not believe that the documents were bad poetry, so Vocifera recited it to him.  All agreed that the poetry was bad.


Later in the morning, the group of bold adventurers made their way to the long stone walkway which was the only approach to Castle Freidvale.  After much discussion on what they should say at the front gates, the guardsman said to them, "You the ones here about the murders?  I'll get Fong."  And in they got.


Fong escorted them through the courtyard to the Alchemist's tower, the lower levels of which constituted the dungeon and a laboratory.  As they made their way down three levels they saw many strange sights.  First they saw the usual assortment of drunks and disorderlies making up the first level of the dungeon.  On the second level they saw a gnome in prison grey rags, his cell door wide open, working on a pile of assorted locks at his feet.  Though Fallister the Bard attempted to engage the gnome in conversation, the prisoner was too enthralled to look up from his work.  Fong explained, "That's Gnosh, the master locksmith.  He has something of an... unusual arrangement with the guards.  He was arrested when a lock he crafted failed to keep thieves out of the city payroll....  While the guards have to acknowledge that no cell can hold him, really, Gnosh had to concede he had no where to go even if he could outrun the guards (which he can't).  So Gnosh stays in his cell and works at improving the locks on the other cells all day.  We've had far fewer escapes since he arrived!"


The third level of the dungeon consisted of cells filled with what could only be described as 5' tall eggs with arms and legs and anthropomorphic features.  Someone from the party identified them as 'Eggmen', the offspring of an enormous 10' tall chicken-like creature called a bandersnatch.  The eggmen all looked quite miserable and listless, and they gibbered nonsense in a despondent tone.  The last cell held a bandersnatch, which certain members of the party who had the foresight to take Knowledge: Arcana knew were an endangered and protected species within the Empire, and possession of them was highly illegal.  Certain environmental rights activists groups would go crazy trying to liberate these creatures if they knew of their existence in the Freidvale Castle dungeon.  The party filed this information away for another time.


Lastly they came to the laboratory of Dr. James Jessup, the Chief Alchemist and Medical Officer for the castle.  There were many test tubes, beakers and smoking vials of liquid present, but by far the saddest sight they had seen that day was a horribly scared female humanoid lying on a lab table.  "Ah, fresh subjects!  And human, too!  You've done well, Fong."  "Oh no!"  said Fong, "These people are here regarding the murders in town."  Fong and Dr. Jessup disappeared through a door in the back of the lab for a moment.


During the good doctor's absence, the team quickly went to work.  Fallister attempted to read several documents on the table where the doctor had been working, while Tannis attempted to speak with the woman on the table.  "Are you alright?" she said.  "Mss...mss...mss.." was all the figure could manage to say.  She did not appear conscious.  Brog listened at the door where Fong and the Doctor were talking and heard, "You know how difficult finding live subjects is right now, particularly humans... Oh, very well."


Just then, Fong and Jessup returned to the room.  Fong escorted the group into a room filled with cadavers and gave them the list of the remaining Werbergians over 60 believed to be still living in the city limits.  I won't repeat the entire list here since I was told the names I generated might be construed as a touch insensitive.  Two of the people on the list, Why Mi and Why Not, could be found on the docks.  One was a monk who meditated while standing on a pylon and the other was a 60 year old prostitute.  While this raised eyebrows among the party, they were reminded that everyone had to make a living somehow.


On the way out of the castle, the group noticed several imperial ships in the harbor and a pair of underwater explosions.  Fallister and Karsh had Knowledge: Engineering and were quite sure the explosions were submerged and not the result of cannon fire.  Filing this under 'Odd situations to be ignored since we've got too many other things to do,' the group continued on.


They found Why Not meditating whilst standing on a pylon.  He wrote a note telling the group that he had taken a vow of silence.  They asked him where Why Mi was, and he pointed to a bundle of rags further up the street.


A rather uncomfortable bargaining session broke out over drugs for information with Why Mi.  Fallister used his skill at gathering local information to quickly procure the drug Harlot's Sweets.  He was also informed that he could get anything he liked at the Skinny Puppy Tavern.  The aged harlot said the killer wears red.  Why Mi also told the group that she knew the person the killer was looking for:  a retired monk named Oberon who fed street urchins what scraps he could.  He had a kitchen on Division Street where he also taught children martial arts to help them defend themselves. 


Just as Why Mi said this, the elderly monk on the pylon ran in the direction of Division St.  The party mercilessly beat the hapless old monk within an inch of his life, but failed to stop him.  Well, okay, they beat him with the flats of their swords and tried to knock him out, but this is still tantamount to beating an old man.  A very fast old man, but an old man nonetheless.  Fortunately the DM has not yet rolled a successful check for local law enforcement to notice these things. 


Brog tracked the blood back to Oberon's kitchen.  Oberon and Why Not prepared for their inevitable end....


It may have gone even worse, but the Bard managed to roll a natural 20 on a diplomacy check, and further violence was averted.  Oberon would agree to give the treasure the killer was looking for to the PC's.  In exchange, they would find Leif's sister Lithe, last seen in Freidvale's sewers, and grant them safety... somewhere.  Oberon did not fear for his own life, and cared nothing for treasure at his point in his life, but did not want the children to suffer should something happen to him. 


The party resolved to find Lithe.  They reluctantly entered the sewer.  The ranger Brog was a wealth of information about dangers of the sewer, specifically filth fever, a disease which was common among sewer dwellers and could be contracted by the bite of many animals and could also be had by dunking one's head in sewage. 


While the group successfully navigated the sewers without contracting disease, Fallister, the rather sickly bard, did get bitten by a rat.  Vocifera tried to cure disease with her skill at healing, but Fallister was not diseased.  It seemed the rat who bit him was a wererat, and so, too, would be Fallister in a few days time if he could not find a cure or cleric of sufficient level to cast remove curse on him.  The group resolved to settle the matter at hand and help poor Fallister later.


They did not proceed much further before several other wererats, in hybrid form, came a calling.  Their leader, a chainmail wearing wererat who identified himself as Jenner, offered to make the whole group wererats, showing them the dubious benefits of membership.  The group declined, but did pay a fee of 500gp for passing through the wererat's area of influence in the sewers.  The rats led the party to the edge of elven territory.  The plight of the sewer elves was truly pitiful, but Lithe was located and brought back to Oberon, poste haste.  Oberon gave the party a map to show his gratitude.  It was the location of the treasure sought by the Black Hand Killer.


On the road to the treasure, clever Brog found wolfsbane, the cure for the curse of lycanthropy.  Vocifera successfully administered doses of the cure a number of times, but Fallister could not make a Fortitude save to save his life.  Many ones, threes an fours were rolled, to the vast amusement of all but Fallister, who lost his breakfast, his lunch, and the caramel skinny latte he had had earlier that day, many times over. 


Mighty Brog swam underwater and found the entrance to the treasure,  20,000 GP and a mysterious deck of cards.  Fallister identified the cards as a Deck of Many Things, which had disastrous or beneficial effects depending on which card was drawn at random.  Wisely, no one drew from the deck.  The coins all bore the mark of a scorpion on them, and though none could pass a Knowledge History check, it was agreed that the coins were 'not from around here.'  The group agreed that the strange coins ought not be spent until more information on them could be gathered.


The group returned to Oberon with the plan to remove his disguise, parade him around the wharf a bit, and then lure the killer into a trap back at Oberon's kitchen.  Tanglefoot bags were purchased, plots were hatched, yawns were yawned, and the group adjourned until next session.


Each character gained 1250 xp, bringing their running total to 1750 each.  250 further xp is needed to reach level 2.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Illandria Campaign Lore: Kwalish, Greatest Inventor of our age

One can hardly make their way through the streets of any modern city without witnessing several of the great inventions of Kwalish, a great mechanist and a great arcanist whose accomplishments far dwarf those of any other inventor of our age.  Air dirigibles bring goods and passengers from remote settlements to the capital; our walls are guarded not only by stout men at arms with bow and arrow and pike, but also by troops armed with pistol, powder and musket; at night our streets are protected by constables outfitted with night goggles, repeating crossbows, sending stones; the list goes on an on.... 






While his inventions have made an enormous impact on the world around us, surprisingly little is known about his personal life.  He was born a locksmith's son in Y.L. 292 in the small village of Mundts.  As a boy he showed great aptitude for the trade, a bit too much aptitude for the liking of local law enforcement. When the boy was found one day working at picking the lock on the  community chest in the mayor's private chambers (his excuse being that he wanted to see if it needed repairing) he was given two choices:  3 weeks in the stocks or be branded with the sign of a thief.  The boy chose the former punishment, although he did not serve his full sentence by any means.  The sheriff found the stocks, his armory and his purse all empty the following morning.  The boy had vanished into the night.




Kwalish set off to seek his fortune in Y.L. 303.  He travelled north to Grand Marsh where he booked passage upriver to the Capital City, hoping to lose any pursuit in the crowded streets of that thriving metropolis.  He lived for a short time in a hovel a few blocks away from the dwelling of the eremite, Landis.  Landis had been a famous lecturer and a professor of Abjuration in the School of Arcane Arts in his younger days, but had retired from the public life long ago and sought to spend the remainder of his days in solitude with his books and his thoughts.  It was perhaps fate that brought Kwalish to the back door of the famous Abjurer very early one spring morning.  Landis later reported that when his alarm spell triggered and he saw the scrawny waif at his door, his first inclination was to let the wards trigger and incinerate the young upstart then and there.  But first with amazement and then fascination, Landis watched the boy set to work upon deciphering and then disabling the magical wards, one by one.  The boy was obviously too young to have had any formal training, and though he had missed the alarm spell, he showed a preternatural skill at perceiving and decoding magical glyphs.  Like tumblers for a lock, Kwalish could sequence them and even roughly disable them by scratching off just the right mark.  Rather than leave the boy to possibly perish with the slightest mistake, Landis opened his door swiftly and invited him in for breakfast.  Kwalish accepted and spent 4 years as an apprentice, during which time he learned to incorporate the magical and the mechanical.  Upon completing his apprenticeship, he left Landis' inner city keep more secure than he had found it and received a letter of recommendation for acceptance to the University in the school of his choosing.  Kwalish is believed to have had no further contact with Landis after the day he left.




Kwalish began attending University in the year Y.L. 307.  He was at first unaccustomed to the highly competitive atmosphere of academia, and he made no friends during his studies.  His masters reported he was only an average student but had a voracious appetite for knowledge.  He was frequently disciplined for attempting to access books off limits to first year students, and he asked questions incessantly about the lowest levels of the library which only tenured faculty were allowed to read.  It was at this time that he lost all his hair during a mishap with a locked door in a library.  Kwalish had apparently, finally, met his match with a lock he could not pick.  He then shifted his studies from magical locks to magical keys and eventually received his doctorate in the school of Transmutation in Y.L. 313.  His primary achievement was the Key of Kwalish, which was held at the University until Y.L. 320 when it was discovered the item held in the University Museum of Magical Artifacts was in fact, a non-magical fake.  Kwalish was sought for questioning but he had moved far to the West by this time to the city of Hartgestein.


It was in the western empire that Kwalish came into his own.  Blueprints for new designs flew off his desk.  His most profitable venture was selling the plans for firearms to the imperial army.  He could have rested on his laurels with this achievement alone, but he went on to invent the dirigible, which he also sold for military and commercial applications.  In 329 Y.L. the law finally caught up to him. Kwalish was arrested by special police for suspicion of theft of University property, but he was quickly pardoned by Emperor Spanks for outstanding contributions to society.  The Key was never located and never returned.


Retiring to the outskirts of Freidvale in 330 Y.L., he began laboring on his magnum opus, what would become known only as the Apparatus.  The device, when completed, would allow 5 men and a pilot to explore flora and fauna under the sea.  Breathing was enabled by a conduit that channeled air directly from the Elemental Plane of air, and the device could crawl like a crab or shoot backwards like a crawfish at high speeds.  It was also capable of floatation. Kwalish and his crew made a fateful 10 day voyage to the bottom of Lake See to seek the lost city ruins of Opsalathys.  They returned successfully, but Kwalish refused to expound on whether or not he reached the city ruins.


Tragedy struck soon after the expedition to Opsalathys.  Kwalish become ever more reclusive, and no further work was produced from the normally effusive creator for the next two years.  It is not known why Kwalish took his crew and the Apparatus into the bay at Freidvale in the winter of 332, but Kwalish, his apparatus and its crew were never heard from or seen again.  Some have postulated that a malfunction resulted in the death of all hands and the destruction of the device.  Some believe he became mentally unstable in his later years.  It has even been speculated that he found a great undersea paradise and his descendants live there still.  Many wizards and mechanists alike have searched the bay extensively for the marvelous Apparatus of Kwalish, but none have ever found it or its creator's remains.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Illandria Campaign Lore -- The Great Convulsion

In the final year of the reign of Emperor Lennox (Y.L. 42) the following question was posed to the Imperial court  of the Capital City:  If a priest cast Miracle and a wizard cast Wish at the same time, and each wished the other dead, which one would Nethys spare?  Would he slay them both?  Ignore them both?  Would the god of magic turn them both into chickens?


It is said that the elven traitor Yeltil first posed the question to the court jester who then posed the question to amuse his emperor.  Such an act of mischief is very in keeping with Yeltil's character.  He was known to have been jealous of the power wielded by N'gorak the Archmage and Elipsus the Priest of Nethys.  While all three had been instrumental in the defeat of the elven king, Seydar Moonkiller, the elven traitor Yeltil was the least trusted and esteemed of the three, both in terms of magical prowess and owing to the fact that if Yeltil could betray his own people, who was to say he might not one day betray the humans as well?  In any event, the seed that the traitor planted bore fruit.  At first the remark was met with universal laughter by all but Elipsus, who stated that 'Nethys would never turn his faithful one into a chicken.'  N'gorak stopped laughing for a moment, then retorted, 'And which of us is the faithful one?'  To which Elipsus then huffed and said that it 'ought to be obvious.'  'To be sure,' said N'gorak acerbically, 'Who better to represent the faith than one who filled my water jugs all day beneath the hot Illandrian sun.'  Elipsus' cheeks colored and allowed as how perhaps N'gorak needed so much watering owing to his choice long flowing dresses and a ridiculous hat.  N'gorak also colored and increasingly heated words were exchanged that are best not repeated here. 


To the credit of the two mighty spell casters, their disagreement did not come to blows that day, but both resolved to a compete in a duel.  Just as the jester had suggested, each would cast a single spell simultaneously, and Nethys would determine the winner by whichever spell prevailed.  Legend has it that Mount Gaul was settled upon for a battleground owning to it's remote location and it's relative lack of local flora and fauna.  Emperor Lennox protested, though he was waning in health at this time and most of the court deferred to the judgments of his son, Vladimir, the crown prince.  Prince Vladimir stated that only good would come of the competition, which would answer the question of supremacy of divine or arcane magic once and for all and would rid them of the inferior spell caster.  Prince Vladimir would soon become renown for favoring the advice of his Fool over all other councilors, despite the disastrous results of the spell duel.


The summer before the death of our beloved first emperor Lennox, the two spell casters gathered with a single witness atop Mount Gaul.  The air was hot and the wind was still on the mountain, as if in anticipation of what was to come.  The witness, a lackey of Yeltil's named Ilwe (no one much cared if an elf was injured or killed during the duel) explained the terms of the duel:  Each would prepare their spell but for the final command word and signal Ilwe when ready.  Ilwe would then raise his arm, and when it dropped, the two would unleash their spells -- Miracle for Elipsus, and Wish for N'gorak.


What precisely happened next is lost unto time, for none of the three could have survived the resulting blast that ripped apart the mountain top and rent lands asunder for hundreds of miles in every direction.  The results were calamitous to say the least.  The women of Ixonia emerged from the cataclysm unable to bear male children, and strange beasts from another time now walked their lands.  All the residents of the White Plains were turned to various forms of undead.  To the west and east of Mount Gaul, it's denizens were transformed into horrors and abominations, alive but deformed beyond all recognition, both sentient and beast alike.  The resulting carnage became known as the Great Convulsion, and none dare attempt to reach the top of Mount Gaul since.  It is rumored that the closer one approaches the site of the horrible conflict, the greater the chance of some mutation befalling the wanderer. 


There are those who claim to have reached the peak of Mount Gaul and returned intact, but their accounts do not agree and are dismissed as boasting or quackery.  Some say the wizard and priest are locked in an eternal duel atop the mountain, and neither will yield to the other.  Some have said that death awaits atop the mountain, and that every kind of beast can be found lying at the summit, all dead.  Some few claim to have found the final resting place of the three, a tomb that holds the remains of Ilwe, Elipsus and N'gorak.  Such a one who boasts of these tales has yet to produce a jot of proof.  Those who are sane do well to stay clear of the mountain and its deformed, cursed inhabitants.

Illandria Campaign Lore -- Emperor Trees

The elven cities of Sylvania are all built above ground in the trees, but the capital city itself is built upon the largest tree in all Illandria.  There were 15 such trees when Illandria was conquered by King Lennox, but now the capital city of Sylvania is fashioned amid the boughs of the last of the so-called emperor trees.  The rest were burned to the ground by ancient magics.  The exact means by which King Lennox and his traitorous elven advisor Yeltil destroyed the trees is lost to history and shrouded in mystery.  The eldest of the long lived elves are old enough to remember the event and may have lived through it in person, but they are remarkably tight lipped whenever human historians come asking questions. 


What is known is that the elven kingdom, estimated to have had some 20 million elves at the time of the invasion, were overwhelmed by the humans in little over 2 years time -- a remarkable feat and unparalleled in our present day, even with the advancements in technology made in relatively recent times largely by the inventor Kwalish


Official court documents state that the humans had superior numbers and superior spell casters.  Neither statement is adequate to explain how a tree miles in diameter could have been destroyed in a day's time.  Even several high level casters employing Wish spells or a cleric of sufficient power to request a Miracle would be hard pressed to reproduce the feat, and at the time of the invasion, King Lennox had only two -- the Grand Wizard N'gorak and Elipsus, High Priest of Nethys.  Now it is possible, given the unrivaled power of these two spell casters, that they had accessed to magic no longer available to even the brightest and most studious University graduate.  But there is not even a reference to the specific magic used by them to enact such terrible destruction.


The second assertion, that the humans had superior numbers, is verifiably false.  The First Imperial Census in 15 Y.L. put the human population of all settlements at a little over a million inhabitants.  Even allowing that there was significant attrition due to the war effort, this still meant that at the time of the initial invasion, elves would have outnumber the humans by 20 to 1.  Why such a bald faced lie exists in the official Imperial Archives is a mystery, one even more inexplicable than the assertion that superior magics were responsible for such overwhelming and lightning fast victories.


The true fate of the Emperor Trees may be lost to time and, perhaps, deliberate obfuscation.  What is known is that King Lennox is written about having expressed regret over the fate of the elves and their once-great cities in the archives of the Imperial Historians.  He knew there was little likelihood of a lasting peace between the two nations so long as the elves held a numerical advantage.  If such devastation was truly necessary is a question best left to philosophers and military strategists. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Illandria Campaign Lore - Legend of The Lost City of Opsalathys

Opsalathys, as you may or may not know, was an elven city in the days before they were all conquered by King Lennox.  It was one of the very last of their cities to fall.  Unlike most other elven cities, the buildings were not constructed in the treetops of the forest.  Rather, it was made from bricks of mud and straw and built upon the banks of the Guyver River.  Elves had little need of the river for transport, as most of their major cities relied on teleportation between the emperor trees. 


So the Guyverian elves were viewed as the backward cousins of the more traditional elves who lived in the trees, both for their choice of homes and for their religious views.  They followed the practices of their forest-bound brethren by cutting no timber and building no fires (the bricks were all sun dried) but they favored Callistria in their worship over Erastil.  They tolerated the forest elves well enough, allowing them safe passage through their lands, but did not invite nor did they welcome any visitors or trade.  Further, instead of mounting griffons as aerial cavalry, they cultivated swarms of enormous wasps. 


Opsalathys was a singular development in the kingdom of Old Sylvania.  By the time the humans got about besieging the place, they were well practiced in the art of destroying the elven emperor tree colonies.  They had it down to a science, it is said.  While the particulars are lost to history, what is still known is that the emperor trees did not last long to imperial magical fire.  But Opsalathys was not a typical colony.  The wasp cavalry proved much faster and more difficult to kill than their griffon counterparts.  It has been said that more human lives were lost in the siege at Opsalathys than at any other battle during the war of elven subjugation.


Despite their valor, the elves were heavily outnumbered and could count on no support from other regions which had already fallen by this time.  It is unlikely that the independent Guyverians would have called upon Sylvania for help in any event, even if aid could have been had.  The killing stroke came when the eastern wall was breached by human sappers.  By morning, the burning wall would collapse and imperial troops would take the city.  Rather than face defeat, the elves of Opsalathys called upon their strange god, making a pact with her and Urgathoa alike.  They would sacrifice their lives in a mass ritual that profaned the ground with their own blood.  Each male soldier was charged with killing 10 women and children, who are said to have willingly lined up for the slaughter.  Then groups of soldiers drew lots, with 1 slaughtering the other ten.  This continued until the remaining soldier killed himself, breathing a curse to the human invaders and a prayer to Urgathoa and Callistria to honor their sacrifice.


When imperial troops entered the silent city, they found some 6000 elves, all dead.  The retinue that examined the city left in tears, some retching at the scene, some refusing to continue to serve.  A few court martials and hangings brought an end to any insubordination rather quickly.


Would that this were the end to the story.  It is said the army encamped around the city, making pits for mass graves.  They worked all day and were still not finished by nightfall.  Accounts vary as to what happened next.  It is said that the dead elves rose to wreak revenge on the imperial troops within the city limits, and those they killed also rose and killed their former comrades.  In the morning, over 3000 imperial troops had gone missing in the night, and horrible slaughter had followed horrible slaughter.  No trace of the bodies was ever found, and the place was shunned for 40 years by the living until completion of the Guyver dam, which flooded the plain and the city of Opsalathys.  It is said that King Lennox visited the city once years later during the daytime (this was before the completion of the dam) to leave some great treasure at its heart, but none who dared to look ever survived to claim the prize.  It is unknown whether the dead still walk in Opsalathys in their underwater graves.  It is hoped that now they rest in peace.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Do we really ever need another edition of Dungeons and Dragons?

I was moving my collection of 4th edition D&D books today and the title above occurred to me.

The answer for me is largely no, provisionally.  If I played with people who were willing to settle for an older edition of D&D and didn't ever have to play the new hotness, I would have zero need for a new edition.  I make my campaigns, modules, worlds, maps and player aids on my own.  And largely those ideas are transferable to any edition and any system.  Sure, all editions have their own quirks and flaws.  I guess, fundamentally, I have always seen D&D as a narrative-driven game, a story or back drop created by the DM but largely determined by the agency of the players and not by whatever mechanics you choose to employ.  It's a game of make believe, not a board game with a set of tactics and codifications.  It utilizes those things, but it shouldn't, in my opinion, at the expense of immersion.

That probably sounds like a contradiction to some, and probably people who have thought more deeply about the game could tell me where I'm wrong, but in my experience, players want a story that they are a part of, not just a sandbox to play in.  They want an overarching theme that binds all their adventures together.  The want clues dropped in Act I that pay off in Act I, sure, but I think (my players in my experience anyway) they also want clues that pay off at the very end of the campaign.

Now, I've played long enough that I know my style is not everyone's cup of tea.  I've played with players who want a narrative backdrop created just so they can demolish it.  I've played with players who just want to smash 'bad guys' and I've played with my share of murder hobos.  But in the end, the majority seemed to like a story going on, one that they could take part in, but one that could be independent of them if they so chose.  And if that's really the case, I think the game is more dependent on a DM's imagination, ability to dramatize and set the scene effective, and ability to improvise.

What the DM doesn't need is the expense of a new set of rules every 4 years or so.

A few of my players hated 4th edition.  I came at it largely from a DM's perspective and played as a player only briefly.  I get why many people split for Pathfinder or the OSR.  But to me, the creation of 5th edition was more market driven than any other edition previous to it.  Wizards was losing to Paizo.  People were dissatisfied with the new product. I wasn't.  I switched to Pathfinder because that's what the majority of my group wanted to play.  And I get that.  If I were to summarize the difference between Pathfinder and 4th, I would say it's the meta-game of character optimization that suffered in 4th.  And this was largely by design.  Wizards wanted to put an end to the 'linear fighter, exponential wizard' progression phenomenon.  And they succeeded, all too well it seems.  The problem was that this was a conundrum few of the existing fans of D&D wanted solved.

Now I have yet to play 5th edition, and I likely won't play it unless some upstart in my current group demands we shift.  And even then, I may just bow out.  I'm getting old.  I have a kid that will need to go to college someday (assuming western civ decides not to collapse for the next 18 years or so).  And heaven forbid, I may actually get to retire someday. And I ain't going to be able to take my pension in old editions of D&D or Pathfinder....

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A retraction

Brog (not Grog as I previously printed) would like it known that I have misspelled his name.  He would also like it known that he is not currently holding me at ax point and... what's that Brog?  No, this is just a draft.  No one will ever see this and know I'm being held hostage at the Old Cockatrice Inn on Oaken St....

The Pathfinder group, West Bend edition

The Pathfinder group met last Saturday for the first play session.  The group consists of Grog, the half-orc ranger, Karsh, the human fighter, Tanis, the human monk, and a human bard and half-elf cleric of Pharasma whose names I forget.  The met in the usual fashion, gathered at the Wounded Gull tavern in the small but thriving city of Freidvale, seccond largest city in the Glorious Human Empire.  After perusing the wanted posters, the group decided on going after a giant crab that had been menacing poor Himador Iago the lighthouse keeper at a small island within sight of the coast of Freidvale.  They also decided to disguise the half-elf's ears, since there was a bounty on elves as traitors in this region.

Another tavern-goer, a lithe-looking humanoid with it's features concealed by a mask made of shark-skin, was feeding pieces of meat to a rottweiler.  As the strange figure got up to leave, the dog walked over to the half-elf cleric, sat there wagging it's tail for a moment, then coughed up a wad of paper at the cleric's feet.  The note simply read, "Meet me at the corner of Division Street near the docks in 1 hour."

Tanis followed the odd figure out of the bar, noticing that they were not alone on the early morning streets.  Two figures were concealed on the rooftops across from the tavern, and Tanis could clearly see the crest of the Imperial guard on their gear.  One of the rooftop figures left to follow the Leather-faced tavern goer, while the other remained watching... Tanis.  A few moments later. The rottweiler joined his companion in the street.  The party convened and hastily decided to meet with whomever had written the note and left the tavern through the back alley with permission of the tavern keeper.

An hour later at Division Street, near the tavern called the Skinny Puppy, they found the dog waiting for them, tail wagging.  Grog was a bit miffed when the dog growled at him, but the half-elf was met with happy barks.  Soon, the mysterious leather-faced note giver from the Wounded Gull appeared.  He took off his mask to reveal the face of a young elven child, and he identified himself as Wren.  He said he knew the bar was watched, and that was why he didn't make direct contact with them.  He told the cleric that she needed registration papers, and that he knew of a friend who could produce them for her:  Pasqual the bookseller.  He gave them directions to the shop, then disappeared quickly down the alley.  The group decided they would first try to kill the crab, then get papers for the cleric at the next opportunity and hope they weren't stopped by imperial patrols in the meantime.

The seas were fair but it's denizens were not as the tiny skiff the PCs rode to the island was attacked by sharks almost immediately.  The jigsaw sharks in Freidvale bay were notorious for lunging out of the water to take a bite of fishermen trying to ply their trade.  Karsh and Grog made short work of the sharks, then continued on their way.

Negotiations were a bit rough with Mr. Iago, as Grog was somewhat hostile toward him and the bard rolled a one on diplomacy checks.  Still, it was agreed upon that the group would buy one of Himador's goats and stake it to a likely spot to increase the likelihood of the crab attacking at just their ambush spot.  The plan was agonized over in real time for about 30 minutes, and the battle lasted about 2.  Karsh took one swipe at the thing and severed a claw, and Tanis finished the crab off for good with some weirdly-named weapon I can't pronounce or spell.  Himador thanked the party and paid them a hefty bonus for the intact crab meat.

Safely back in Freidvale, the party set out to Pasqual's to see about getting papers for the cleric.  Pasqual did so, and proved to be a font of information on local goings on after little probing from the Bard, who had been wise enough to put ranks in knowledge local.  They learned that a series of murders that had been terrorizing Freidvale were only being perpetrated against Werbergians, a race from the far east known for their monastic traditions and prowess at martial arts.  The victims were all males in their 60's.  Each victim bore a black hand print on their chest, with multiple contusions and broken bones.  All the attacks were believed to have occurred at night, with no witnesses as of yet to any of the murders.  Armed with these leads, the group resolved to capture the Black Hand Murderer, and set about following the first elderly Werbergian male they saw on the street.

The session was concluded shortly after this, as it was approaching midnight real time, and all of us were (relatively) old, except, of course, my darling wife who remains eternally youthful.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Another review of Batman V Superman

A Review of Batman V Superman By Scud Farkas Jr. Before discussing the film at hand, I have to delve into its precursor a little, namely the movie Man of Steel in which the Henry Cavil take on the Superman character is introduced. I believe that film (and Batman V Superman) revolves around two central questions: What would superheroes really be like in our world today, and how would that world really receive such heroes? The answer given in Man of Steel is that largely no matter what kind of saint that hero tried to be, with that much power he or she would be viewed with a modicum of suspicion and mistrust. If it seems like I’m getting a bit too philosophical right off the bat about a movie that deals largely with men in tights (or power armor, as the case may be) then I think you and I will agree with one of the fundamental flaws in these films: they’re taking themselves just a bit too seriously. This is not to say that significant issues fundamental to the human condition can never be examined in a super hero film, or that they can’t be cynical or dark and brooding. But when I see a superhero film, I have some expectation that said hero, who is empowered with laser beam eyes, super speed, and the ability to punch through brick walls like they’re made of paper mache is going to spend more than a small portion of the film solving problems by punching things and shooting them with laser beam eyes. And if you title a movie Batman V Superman I am going to expect more than approximately 10 total minutes of the film where the title characters beat the stuffing out each other. I wanted more of an epic fight. Issue number two I had with the film: I think they’re trying to do too much in one film. DC is setting up the franchaise for a superhero extravaganza in the form of a Justice League film, and Bats Vs Supes is the wind up for that series. In this film, they’re introducing a number of heroes for the very first time, including Batman. Only Superman has been established from the onset of the current film. Even Batman is a newbie, with a take on him unlike any I’ve seen. He’s even darker than the Christian Bale interpretation. This is a Batman who is no above using guns, even killing his enemies with maximum force. And that could be okay, if we’d been set up from the beginning to accept that kind of Batman. But to attempt to combine a Batman origin story (for this is only one of the things packed into the story at large), introduce Wonder Woman as well, set the stage for 3 other possible heroes in wings, and on top of that come up with a plausible explanation why Bats and Supes would fight in the first place? I think all these things could have been done, but not in a single film. The resulting film is a porridge of themes that turns cold before the first bite. Compare this approach to the film Justice League is doubtless trying to emulate, at least in box office returns: the multi billion dollar Avengers films. Each hero had their own origin and a tight, self-contained story line in separate films complete with crossover guest appearances and stingers after the credits rolled. Bats Vs Supes could have been a great film, if it had been given enough time to develop and gestate. One film was not enough time. That being said, I had to see it. My dad’s been seeing these things with me since Christopher Reeve first donned the tights in the 70’s, and I pretty much learned to read on my dad’s old comic books. They’ll keep making them, and I’ll keep watching, hoping for that spark of wonder I felt when I first read the promo: “You will believe a man can fly.” See Bats Vs Supes in the theater if, like me, you must. Wait for it to come out on Netflix if you’re more patient and try to piece together the two or three good films that might have been with a bit more thought and planning.