Monday, January 31, 2011

Mysterious Enemy #2, Part 3

The Third Month
Itwasjustmeat. Itwasjustmeat. Itwasjustmeat. Itwasjustmeat, was what he forced himself to think when he sat down to eat now. He couldn't not eat, he was already starting to feel weaker and he tired more easily than he had when he first was trapped down here. It was a vile thing to do to his allies, but a necessary thing. He told himself that between mouthfuls of burned meat.

He was making excellent progress with his crude tools. Chips of stone-like dirt littered the floor, and he had made a pile of them to use as a step ladder as he ascended out of the depths of the earth. The dirt was as firm as stone and once he made enough room to stand in the dirt ceiling, he began swinging great blows at the earth with his faux-pick.

It was lightless here, except for the occasional spark of his crude pick hitting stone. He lacked the night vision that some of his friends had had, but he was starting to be able to discern shapes more clearly in the darkness. It was said that his ancestors could see well enough in the dark that that could shoot a night fowl out of a tree at midnight from a several hundred paces with shocking ease, perhaps the enhanced vision was just a side effect of that heritage.

He dug for hours on end, sleeping only when exhaustion came upon him, eating when he was hungry and he could force himself to eat. He had never been a builder, and his trade had given him all the exercise he needed or wanted, so he had no clue if he was pacing himself properly or safely digging his way out of this tomb.

He wasn't.

He was perched precariously in his upward sloping tunnel, his pick a twisted and bent thing now. He would need to find more metal. Inspiration suddenly hit him and he wondered if he could perhaps heat the metal in the oven in the mess hall to shape it more easily. Smiling, he took a half hearted swing at the toughly compacted dirt. He heard the noise of his pick biting into the dirt, and the noise of chips of compressed dirt clattering to the ground, then a new noise. A noise that sounded like a sword or spike being shoved into soft earth as his pick lodged in something.

He had broken through. His efforts and barbarousness had been rewarded. He had found dirt. He didn't even need a pick any more. He'd dig till his fingers bled and his nails tore off if he had to to get out. That was when a torrent of dirt came sliding down and shoved him off of his ledge and smashed him against the ground of the tunnel below him.

When he came to, his mouth was open from screaming in agony, and there was dirt in it. He spat and looked around. He could see the opening above him. Still gloriously intact. The rush of dirt hadn't filled the hall or suffocated him. He looked at himself and saw that his left forearm was snapped and deformed, bent and twisted like a noodle and bleeding everywhere. He had time to notice that his upper arm was in the same shape. He'd never seen his own bones before.

He then noticed that he was still screaming in agony and his blood was turning the dirt to mud.

Friday, January 28, 2011


I submit to you The (Much More Fresh and Robust) Robust Five (More Or Less):

Led (More Or Less) by D'alton Braun, a Human of Fell Human Descent Fighter (and pistolier), accompanied by Xein Mac'Fumos, a Human of Fell Human Descent Alchemist (and businessman), supported by Kethralzahn, a Soulless Monk (and passive aggressive malcontent), further bolstered by Pyrel Areth, a Fell Human Swashbuckler (and wielder of mind powers), rendered more complete than originally intended by Ran'dahl Koltchrain, Fell Human Summoner (and life giver of nightmares), with a rear brought up by Kuyst the Okwighta Witch (and vizarder).

I dare say that this is the fellest collection of adventurers that I have ever laid eyes upon.

...I also have an NPC, his name is Fas'binder and he is a Greenskin Abraxen Commoner (and cooper).

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mysterious Enemy #4

The muscles of his long arms were taut with strain as he hefted the axe, just as he had hefted it a thousand times before. Once, he'd been thin and almost fragile, like all of his people. Once he had been a drunk, happily slurping watered down swill by the flagon and wasting time in a border town racking up debt to the local money lender.

Now he was hardened. Scarred and coated in slabs of muscle. He' been beaten and raped and nearly murdered here in the lumber camps. When the drink cleared from his head and bones re-knit and bruises faded, it all happened again, and again, and again. That was the lumber camps and they had been his crucible, a crucible of hate and violence that no creature could survive unscathed.

There was no weakness in him any more. His pale grey flesh was tough like that of his desert-dwelling cousin race. His extra knuckles and joints were no longer fluid and limber, they were tough and knobby from blows struck. His thin fingers and small palms were callused from hefting the axe and moving lumber.

His uncaring, hedonistic heart had been replaced by something cold and as callused as his palms. This empty, hollow heart of his cared for nothing. His mind was a blank thing that only thought in terms of instinct, survival, with higher functions limited to placing his axe blows with skill and remembering which guard to avoid eye contact with.

His mind was empty, his axe blows precise, but he heard the roaring from above. Like a beast from the south hunting for prey. His orange eyes flicked upwards, his arms still swinging the axe, and all he saw was fire raining down from the sky. His axe fell from fingers and he raced away from the falling piece of burning sky, now noticing screams and cries of rage that had been going on for some time.

As he ran, he saw death and fire raining down from the sky on the heads of his jailers and his co-workers. As he ran towards a crumbling piece of the camp's wall, something slithered out of his heart. Something as cold and hollow as his heart, the cold, banked coal of vengeance, and a grim smile like the blade of an axe split his face as he fled the camp's borders.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Long Time Coming...

Xein had sent a runner to the mansion the day after they arrived back from saving most of Kusseth. Things had not turned out the way he had envisioned and he certainly had not tought that Nakmander was a flat out terrorist. He had assumed that it was going to be a sneak attack on the government of Kusseth and taking over the city, not total destruction... Things were different now, with the loss of their friend Spineplate. He wanted to talk to D'alton about the loss of his close friend and sort things out between them. It would be unwise to have bad blood within the group at this point, the others already making plans to go separate ways... The Robust Five may be done...

He sat in the basement, the lantern burning above him. The new cask of Ice Ale was done brewing while they were traveling, frost on the edges. He had a glass poured for himself and one poured for D'alton, waiting for him to arrive any minute.


D'alton walked the halls of the Braun mansion, quiet, it seemed, for the first time in ages. Yet, the walls seemed to echo the clang of metal on metal, the laughter and bickering of camaraderie, and the tromping about of his dearest friend, Kethranmeer. The silence seemed all the louder for its absence, Wiping a hand across his eyes, D'alton walked down the street to the Boil, nodding to the greenskin Abraxen as he entered. He went through the kitchen and to basement door, steeling himself for a conversation with Xein, one long overdue.

Xein heard the footsteps coming down the wooden stairs, creaking with each step, when D'alton was in full view, he indicated to the chair across from him, “Welcome D'alton, please... sit down, we have things to discuss.”

D'alton sat down across from Xein, pulling the tankard of ale to him. He looked up. "Yes, Xein, it would seem we do, What's up?"

"I have ordered us food from upstairs, you will find that my chef is a great cook and will be making it personally. Mr. Bordeen has traveled and cooked around the world, but that is not why you are here," Xein slowly shook his head in despair. "I would like to honor our good friend Spineplate by patching our wounds, as it were. This may be very important, as Derf is terrifying me from his seeming change of sanity, and his apparent want to make us go back to prison. Why did he attack that warden?" he mused aloud.

"And John talks of starting a gunshop. It seems our big metal friend may have been the glue that held us together. I do not, however, wish to see you and I drift apart," he took a long pull from his Ice Brew, and started again,"D'alton, my friend... Too long have we been at odds over the ill-fated heist. We would make a far better team together than we do apart. Let's show the Known World a thing or two about who the Robust Five were, and avenge our friend!" he held his glass up to toast with D'alton.

D'alton choked on his Ice Brew, and forcibly removed his own tongue from the side of the glass, for it had become stuck, such was the ice of the brew (really, it's not that cold). "Xein, I agree that Kethranmeer's loss was felt across the group, and I, too am unsure what the future holds for it. But perhaps you are right in that it would be best to set aside our differences. I am not certain that our paths will remain on the same track, at least for the time being. I am planning on departing this city, to find Kethranmeer's progeny, and make his cause my own. It is, however, good to know that I have at least one friend left in this world..."

Xein looked at D'alton, and for a moment, wondered how one could choke on such a smooth drought beer. It's boldness, coupled with it's ability to stay at a comfortable just above freezing temperature was something he figured people in this hot part of the world would enjoy. Well, some people just don't know good beer, he mused.

He cleared his cool throat and began,"Yes, but I would rather we just forgot about the whole fiasco that was the heist. Let's just say it never happen. I mean, we used to get along. We watched each others backs in Beltan and at one time had a strong friendship because of it," Xein took another pull of his beer.

He continued,"I am contacting someone to try and get us pardoned for our past crimes so we can roam Kusseth as free men, unhindered by the fear of apprehension and re-jailing. I will let you know if this goes through. Also, I was wondering, I have hired some mercs of the Nightfowl Claw Clan to help maintain a level of... safety around this district. I need a place for them to stay, and I thought that if we were to allow them to stay in John's room when he vacates to go to Port Brass... It could help offer even more protection for the Mansion."

There was a shuffling of feet down the stairs into the cellar where the table was set up. His cook set down two plates of good looking roast boar with potatoes and some type of grilled vegetable and went back upstairs. "I would also like to talk to you about why you are leaving the city..." Xein stated.

“A full pardon, eh? I can't say that isn't intriguing...” He chewed on the boar thoughtfully. “This is really good, by the way. As for the mansion, I don't have a problem with that, so long as the place stays in once piece while I'm gone.” D'alton's face darkened. “As for why I am leaving...I feel like it's something I have to do; I feel...weak. Watching Kethranmeer repeatedly take those hits, and not being able to do anything other than fire pointless shots at Nakmander, was the hardest thing I've ever done. I've got to do something to better myself. As for Kethranmeer's sons, and the battle they're fighting: I feel like I owe it to them to help them out any way I can. I feel responsible for their father's death. I feel guilty, and lost, and helpless. I've got to find myself again. That, Xein, is why I'm leaving Meroteth.”

He understood his comrade's conflict. He was not as close to Spineplate as D'alton was, but it hurt him as well. "I will watch over the mansion for you, and wish you good speed in your journey and hopeful metamorphosis. Be careful, for I fear we are wanted in more than one circle now... I am going to keep an ear to the ground, if I hear trouble calling, I will send warning to you as soon as I know. I am glad we had this talk," he embellished with his hand and fork, "Now, let us eat, enjoy, and depart..."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mysterious Enemy #3

"He was never a smart boy," she whispered, "but he was strong."

"He was never a good boy," she whispered as she turned her gnarled hands to the task of kneading the dough, "but he was loyal to his friends."

"He was greedy," she whispered as she shaped the dough into five vaguely man-shaped figures and an octagon shape, "but he served his country in its time of need."

"He was a gambler, liar, and a thief," she whispered as she put the dough men and octagon in a tray and shut them up in an oven, "but he always sent his wages back to his sister and I."

"He was rude and obnoxious," she said later as she removed the cookies from the oven and tossed them to the floor of her kitchen, "but he always had a sweet smile for his mother and his sister."

"He was an awful, callous little shit," she whispered as she stared into the darkness. In the darkness of the kitchen, red eyes blinked and a long rat tail swished out of the shadows beneath them, "but he was my boy." she finished.

Black talons like tiger claws clicked against the tile floor and the red eyed rat scurried out of the darkness, its fur was oil black and faintly luminous and the creature itself was the size of a small dog. Its scything claws and blocky teeth tore into the crudely man-shaped cookies in lightning quick swipes, leaving nothing but stray crumbs. The elderly woman smiled a bleak smile.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mysterious Enemy #2, Part 2

The Third Week
When he threw his former allies into the refrigerator unit, he'd stripped them of their armor. There wasn't much metal down here in the tunnels, but he was able to cobble together a metal shovel blade from a metal breastplate. He ground the faux-shovel against the stone walls of the one brick room down in the tunnel, leaving scratches in the wall and slowly turning the thing into a bladed digging shovel that he felt could perhaps penetrate the hard earth above his head.

The first time he dug with it, the haft snapped and the blade bent back. He responded by drinking the rest of the ale and beer in the stone casks the builders had left behind when they left. It took a week, he thought.

When the booze faded, he remembered his father, in prison orange. He remembered his father looking tired as he hefted the pick over his shoulder, breaking stone searching for ore. He went to the armory and found a warhammer, not a perfect tool, but sufficient, and collected the remains of his shovel and the breastplate he'd built it out of. He hammered as long as he could, until lack of nourishment made him pass out.

When he woke, he went to the food supplies and ate sparingly, enough to feel fed, but not overindulgent. He returned to his task, hammering and sweating and sucking in huge lungfuls of the stale tasting air. When he finished, he had sore arms, and a compacted mass of metal narrowed into a crude pick shape at both ends. He attached it as best he could to a piece of wood.

He went back to where his shovel had twisted and broken and raised a hand above his head to touch the thin line he'd but in the dirt. He took three test swings, sighting on the line and hoping it was a weak point. The fourth time he swung back, he brought the pick forward and let go with all his slightly malnourished might.

There was a soft clink, and in the darkness he saw something bouncing on the dirt floor, a small chunk of dirt so packed together that it was more like a chip of stone. It was the size of his big toe. He smiled then. It was a savage and grim thing and he did so because he knew he would have his freedom, and perhaps his revenge, whatever the cost.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Goofy Stuff

This is something from the wiki, which most people don't read, nonetheless, it is kind of amusing and effectively and concisely runs down the contents of each scenario.

The Known World - Scenarios

01 - Beltan
In which imprisonment ensues and later comes to an abbreviated end.

02 - Kemmel and Mesl
In which heads are successfully (more or less) laid low.

03 - To Kusseth City We Go
In which underground curiosities are discovered and brigands are lit afire and buried alive.

04 - Kusseth City
In which a theft, a reunion, and a fireworks festival occur in the largest city of The Known World.

05 - On the Road Again
In which a ghost town and the meteoric curiosities associated with it are discovered.

06 - The Heist
In which a bank is robbed and a conveyance's location is questioned.

07 - Of Course That Wasn't The End Of It
In which an election is forced and a formerly fat individual is summarily deposed after being mostly ignored.

08 - Descent Into The Depths
In which Kethranmeer shames the group with his untrained stealth, and the results of poor pet care are viewed.

09 - Kidnapping
In which the effects of chemistry, poison, and anatomy are utilized to unreave a reaver.

10 - Convoooyyy!
In which a pixelated game is referenced and a mechanical mass bludgeoning device is fashioned.

11 - Further Descension
In which Okwighta are curt and Fell Humans do not act in a militaristic fashion.

12 - Burn The Mother Down
In which the mother does not in fact burn down, a disguise is fashioned, and the merits of technology are irrefutably displayed via a lightning bolt to the face.

13 - Evasive Maneuvers
In which horses are forgotten, much to the chagrin of Rhetkhan Kannunn.

14 - The Night The Sky Cried Tears Of Fire
In which both Kethranmeer and Nakmander fall, and only one gets up.

Monday, January 17, 2011

It Ain't A Mine, But There is Crafting

Or: Mysterious Enemy #2

The First Week
I was dark down here, dark and cold. The cold was worse than the dark though, you couldn't grow accustomed to it the way you could the dark. There was nothing down there with him, he knew that, he had walked these cramped tunnels a dozen times after the lock in. It was safe and monster free and he could calm himself by reminding himself and reasoning that he would hear something invading his darkened hole. You couldn't reason away the cold though. It crept in, sapped strength and vitality, made you lethargic, which made it hard to get up and move around to lessen its grip on him.

He started digging almost immediately, breaking apart boards from the tables and bunk beds and using axes and knives from the armory to fashion them into crude shovels. That hadn't worked, the earth was too hard, packed too well by the builders. For days he smashed his crude wooden tools into the earth, but even if they didn't immediately snap apart, the ceiling was too low for him to get much leverage on it. He couldn't break through the door, it was solid metal, amazingly constructed, and shut irrevocably.

It was quiet and he was alone and that was hard, but he was healthy and uninjured. The vents brought him fresh air, and there was a cistern full of crisp clean water, the foodstuff was mushrooms and dried jerky, but there was a lot of it and it was fresh enough that it was edible. He had enough, the necessities, he would survive and find a way.

He had to keep active, that was key. If he slumped down and let the cold take him, he would die down here. He needed to exercise, to practice in the training room, to keep his blood pumping and his muscles firm so he would have the strength to get out of here. If he grew fat from sloth, or weak and sickly from rationing, he would die.

The deep freeze refrigeration unit, built by the builders of this place, was still functioning. His main thought was the eventual stench when he threw the bodies in there, but he would have been lying to himself if there wasn't just the tiniest little niggling thought in the back of his mind that said he might have need them before he got out of here.

When he finished putting the bodies in the unit, he threw up and cried till sleep came.

Friday, January 14, 2011

If The Robust Five (More or Less) Were in a Mega Man Game

Do I dare?

There are groups that have multiple campaigns, with the player of one GMing the other. This is something I have sought as the goal of a Grail Quest for over a decade and have finally achieved, thanks to Shawn. Other groups have multiple campaigns all run by the same GM. Which is impressive and terrifying.

Last night (which is earlier this week at this point), I was over to the house of my friends Jeremy and Laura. Heather and Serwin soon followed. The main point was so Jeremy and I could possibly finalize some of his thoughts on D'alton and the brooding existential crisis the character was going through in dealing with post-Kethranmeer life. I ended up grabbing a bunch of page protectors from my wife and going through our catalog of old character sheets and protecting them and placing them in binders as well. Fun stuff. Once Old Firebeard came over, I turned myself to the task of getting him squared away for next campaign. He alternately wanted to play a gunslinging pirate with stabbyness and hints of vampirateism and a witch.

Now here is the thing, and my wife pointed this out, I handed Sean Erwin the core book for Pathfinder and said, "Here are the rules, first thing you should do is to look through it and kind of get an idea about what class you wanted to be." I then proceeded to tell Serwin no about thirty seven times. "Can I be an elf?" "No, there aren't any elves in my world." "Can I be an Inquisitor?" "No, there are no divine classes or gods in my world." and so on.

What followed was a discussion with my wife and Jeremy about how perhaps you need a background in DnD to play my campaign, and can't just be thrown to the wolves. We then moved onto a discussion about how perhaps I could do a beginner DnD campaign with people who have little or no experience with DnD in addition to my Hekinoe campaign. It was a tempting and fascinating discussion, and at one point it involved this other group hunting down my Hekinoe group and hatemurdering them.

The problem with doing two campaigns is burnout. I wanted to take a whole month off with no DnD or planning for DnD to recharge the batteries, and now I'm considering immediately running not one campaign, but TWO, in addition to being a player in another. It seems like I've just thrown caution to the wind and said fuck it all. Which is dangerous. To get this far, to make this world and this campaign, I would hate myself if three months into our new Hekinoe campaign I was just like "Fuck you guys and fuck DnD, I'm playing Minecraft."

Now, if we imagine for a moment and say that I am going to do this, how would I stave off burnout? What kind of campaign would it be? Who would play? What system would I use? We can't use my current campaign world, my wife kind of convinced me that it is far too complex and goofy for beginners. Not because I am awesome, but just because it is too overly complicated and even if you have the core rules for Pathfinder, you still need to read a bunch of other materials to figure out what is remotely playable and how it operates. My world has all kinds of goofy alternate rules and feats and traits and flaws and restrictions on races and classes. It is kind of like throwing the kids into the deep end and letting them flounder. Plus, Serwin doesn't have the attachment to the world and characters that the other players would.

So what am I doing here? Considering a new campaign world? Is this a noob group? Not per se, but kind of, and I certainly do not mean noob in a negative or condescending context. Who would be in it? Serwin Firebeard obviously, my wife, Laura, and perhaps Kerry. Martel as well if she wanted to, though she already has a group and is technically a veteran of two campaigns. Basically people interested in DnD, that don't have a ridiculous fifteen years of experience under their belt are who I would invite.

So how would I stave off burnout? How would I keep myself interested?

As a veteran gamer, it is kind of my duty to expose new players to the game. To usher in the next generation so to speak. We've done that with Josh and Jeff, though neither of them really plays anymore as far as I know. Helping to generate new players and new interest in the game and genre is something that really appeals to me, and doing that is something I could definitely be committed to.

The brunt of the work of my other campaign is done as well. We're not starting a new campaign world with the guys, they're just continuing their adventures in a world that is already built. The plot is done and I have roughly eleven thousand words of an outline for it that are basically a collection of plot hooks and adventure ideas. Ultimately the goals will be shaped by the players, rather than me, I just have to make the scenarios, and if we're working under the whole 3-4 hour long session format, that is pretty easy to accomplish with a little bit of dedication. This is not to say that I am done putting effort into Hekinoe, not by a long shot. It just means that the world is there, the wiki is there, the only thing that isn't there yet are the players and the stuff they want to do.

The goal these days is to work smarter and not harder, it makes everything easier. I don't really write dialogue anymore, I write the intent and goals of NPCs and base the conversation with the players on my notes. I don't write DCs, I just keep in mind whether a task is hard or easy and watch the result of the checks the players make. Stuff like that makes everything easier and less stressful on me. I want to carry that over to this potential new campaign.

I have an obsession with making things not a carbon copy of other things. I started with odd things like desert Elves and non-metalwork obsessed Dwarves and whatnot, now I've moved to a place where there are no "normal" fantasy races in my campaign and no race is dark and evil and monstrous, every race is just sort of annoyingly grey as far as morals. I'm going to skip that if I do this second campaign. Everything is bog standard DnD (whatever system we use, but we'll get to that later), Elves like forests and Orcs are evil, all the classes are available and work normally. The background will be minimal, the gods will exist and do godly things and be involved in the exploits of mortals. That way, when you read the book, you know you're reading the actual rules and don't have to worry about them being different than what you're reading.

If I were to do any background, it would probably fairly simplistic. This is a forest, elves live here and have done so for some time. This mountain range is where Dwarves live, and they have lived here for some time. Etc. I think I would create a frontier area full of monsters and lawlessness, like a newly discovered continent or island or something. A place with ruins and swamps and that kind of thing. Then make a big continent nearby and say, "This is where all the old and ancient empires are. You are colonists and adventurers here in this new land, don't worry about the past four thousand years of history. Just go clean up the colony. With swords." I think I would also let the players determine some background, like if they were sick of Goblins are evil and Elves like forest cliches, I would let them determine what things should be like.

Another thing I could do to lighten the load of this campaign is to get a co-GM. By this, I mean an actual GM. Someone to actually run scenarios or work on them if I can't or need to take a break. Now the obvious choice would be Eric, or even Tony if he'd do it. They both have experience. No, though. I would choose Jeremy. Seems an odd choice perhaps, I'll explain. Jeremy really started to get a handle on playing DnD in 4th Edition, more than he ever had in the past decade or more. He hit a rough patch changing to Pathfinder, but he wants to get back to where he was at. The best way to get better at gaming and understanding a ruleset is to run the game, to be the GM and have to find all the answers to the questions the players are asking. Maybe he wouldn't agree to that level of commitment, but he would be my first choice.

The main thing, if I do decide to do this, would be to ensure that the group is very interested in doing so. I'm not even going to help roll characters if they're not genuinely, seriously, interested in playing along. I also want to make sure that we all go in with the understanding that I will drop this shit like a hot coal if it begins to affect my attitude regarding DnD in general or begins to detract from my other campaign. Don't mean to be harsh, I just have a gaming commitment first and foremost to the Hekinoe group.

There is a concern about time. If I am running two campaigns, there will be an investment of time into DnD. Maybe not a shit ton more, but I'll need to let go of something, and that something will probably be the dream of playing Warmachine. Which is not to say I won't buy a figure, I will, because there is one that is perfect for an NPC in my next Hekinoe campaign, but I just don't think it would be prudent to buy a bunch of rulebooks and minis and not really have time to paint them.

The final issue of this whole nebulous idea comes down to system. 4th Edition has a certain amount of ease of use to it that appeals to me. It is easier to learn and easier to GM. It is also less complex, which makes it harder to get what you envision your character to be. Pathfinder has the appeal of being Pathfinder, it is more streamlined than 3.5 but more complex than 4th Edition, so it would be harder for beginners to get a handle on, but when they did, it would probably allow them to get more out of it. Heather and Martel want unicorns, hard to do in 4th Edition, easy to do in Pathfinder (albeit at 14th level, and you have to be good). I'll mostly likely discuss it with whoever I invite and see what they want to do.

Whoa, text.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mysterious Enemy #1

"It was their fault," he thought, as he stared down at the shrouded body.

The mourners doused the body in black pitch from the clay urns they carried. It would take a while to burn, even in death, she was resistant to fire.

He held the torch in his left hand, in the other was a torc of black metal and a sickle of the same, the sickle periodically glowed the sickly green color with hints of puss that spoke of bound sorcerous energy. He tossed the torc and the sickle onto the pitch covered corpse of his sister, before bending to pick up the suit of leather armor that lay at this feet. It was patched with portions of leather writ with arcane sigils, it too joined his sister's body.

Instead of throwing the torch, as was custom, he approached the body atop the wood pile and held the flaming brand to the pitch, welcoming the roar and rush of heat that bathed his skin in harmless warmth. He stood there long after the other mourners left, long after his father spat in his face and his mother held him, her body shaking with soul wrenching sobs. He stood there, silent, his face blank, until the fire finally ate his sister's body and burned his torch till it was a short, sharp piece of superheated wood.

He took up the torch and pressed the flaming tip to his brow, right between his bushy black eyebrows and the horned ridges they hid. It took some time, but eventually his flesh sizzled and he could stand it no longer, he hurled the torch into the pyre, finally speaking as he did so. Just the barest whisper above the crackling flames. No one was near enough to hear him anyway, but he spoke nonetheless.

"If not for them, my sister, if they had not left you. It is my fault, I am responsible, and nothing will bring you back or change things, but they wrought this with their uncaring callousness. Vengeance will be cold comfort to me, and none to mother and father, but I will take it nonetheless."

Then he left his home, pausing only long enough to spit upon the black rock of the gate.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Erevan's New Weapon

A rat king in a sack, on a rope, is the most potent "magical" weapon I have ever encountered in my career as a player of DnD, and Erevan leverages it against his foes with the utmost skill.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Well, That Went Well

We finished our campaign. I think it went rather well. The guys were put into a Kobayashi Maru. There was no win button on the final scenario. A portion of Kusseth still burned, innocents still died, and they tried to kill a cop. Nakmander escaped as well, despite the blade in his face. The final fight was just a mish mash of sorcery in the air, Derf trying to kill a cop, and everyone else trying to kill Nakmander or stop a ritual that was pulling stars from the sky and crashing them down on a city. I mean, we can't even say it was a win in that no one died, Kethranmeer fell in battle trying to stop the ritual.

In the end it came down to magic. I used Quicken Spell almost every round to get off two spells a round with Nakmander, and after the modification to the level, I was casting a lot of 7th, 8th, and 9th level spells during combat. One spell misfired, Nakmander's final spell, and it was the one that took him out. He was about to level a Finger of Death at either D'alton or Gonigi, I wasn't sure which one though, and instead, the spell misfired and destroyed the life sustaining qualities of air in the area, knocking most of the combatants unconscious. Kethranmeer would have been immune to it, but he had already died. D'alton stepped forward, at the urging of others, and coup de graced Nakmander to death. It didn't quite take, because Nakmander had Stoneskin on and Contingency: Greater Teleport on as well.

Now, maybe that is a cheap shot. But the purpose of Contingency is to cover your ass. You put Contingency: Stoneskin on if you know you might be getting into a fight. You put Contingency: Greater Teleport on if you know it might get hairy enough that you might not be able to extricate yourself from hostilities safely. Nakmander was a boss, and a very competent individual in a variety of fields, I thought it made sense that he would have Contingency in place and also come out to play with some gadgets. No one seemed to be bothered by Nakmander's exit or the use of Contingency, so I think we're ok.

Everyone seemed to really enjoy the fight, there was no real chance for them to sit around and dilly dally for fifteen minutes like they sometimes do. Kethranmeer stepped forward and Nakmander did as well, and the fight started. Kethranmeer and his hammer were a thorn in Nakmander's side, he continually attacked the sorcerers, only stepping away from them long enough to save D'alton's life with his "magic" hammer. Almost every spell Nakmander fired targeted Kethranmeer, and my beloved NPC with several thousand words of back story that he never got a chance to talk about, was reduced to a melted and twisted wreckage of a Soulless. He survived a Disintegrate spell, multiple bolts of black Lightning Bolt (not D'alton's shadow lightning, the real stuff) and purple Fireballs. In the end, it was a Cone of Cold that dropped him down far below his ability to stay standing.

After he fell, I read off the description I had prepared for such an event, and went to the bathroom. I'm not going to lie, I didn't have to pee, I needed to mourn. My first post on the blog was like May of 2009, it is now about a year and eight months later. I was very fond of Kethranmeer, I did not have a bunch of ideas I wanted to try out after he died, he was the idea I wanted to try out, the character I wanted to discover. When he fell in battle, the guys said nothing, which kind of twisted a knife in my heart, as if they said: Ok. Is it my turn yet? I even had Nakmander roar at them, asking if this was a high enough price to pay for the people of Kusseth and their safety. They did what amounted to a shrug in response to Nakmander's words. Later, Jeremy said that he was stunned and believed they had all been in shock, they'd never dealt with a death in the party. Whatever happened, I played Kethranmeer and Nakmander true to their natures and didn't hold back out of fondness for the warrior of steel flesh and mind.

Eric had noticed that Kethranmeer had been in rougher shape lately and had interpreted this as some inability to repair himself. Kethranmeer was a better electrician/Soulless repair man than Xein is an alchemist, just FYI. Heh. Perhaps the other guys noticed as well, but they didn't really vocalize it. I eventually told Eric that he isn't broken, that would be stupid and unbelievable. Somehow, after 140 years of fixing himself up he suddenly forgot how. No, I told Eric he was replacing pieces of himself with inferior parts. I hope that after reading the Rankethlek 101, it has become clear where Kethranmeer's wolf-iron parts went.

So, Eric got it in his head that we should surprise the guys with something for the Christmas season. Jesus does love him some DnD, after all. Anyway, this surprise is ultimately what got Eric into Warmachine I think. Eric thought it would be awesome if we purchased and painted miniatures for everyone in the group, we ended up purchasing and painting Warmachine models for the players. I was originally kind of reluctantly dragged along, I only painted two minis and they were the easier ones, no customization really. Fred didn't have experience with miniatures to my knowledge, and I don't know John that well so I didn't know what he would think of them. Anyway, we gave them to the guys as a surprise before we started the final session and it was a winner of an idea. They loved them. Eric even went so far as to paint the character's name on the mini box and cut up a steampunk picture into pieces that he placed within the cases of the minis as a background. The effect was amazing. Everyone loved them. Fred just could not stop touching Derf and picking him up and peering at the detail. John said that he would have happily paid money for a service like this, and I think Jeremy really likes having a representation of D'alton and his Shadow. It went really really fucking well, and I recognize now that it was a brilliant idea. Eric put a lot of time and effort into finding the right minis for the guys, and his painting style is so much more involved than my own. It turned out super well and everyone owes Eric a big pat on the back for spearheading this.

At the end of the scenario, I asked what the guys plan to do for the next year or so. John immediately said that John starts a gun shop. Which is great, because it means he thought about it. Everyone actually had plans for what kind of trouble their characters get into. Xein is planning on becoming a land owner and philanthropist, in addition to making an entertainment industry based spy network. Which is what bards yeah, might want to be careful, lest The Robust Five (More Or Less) get embroiled in a turf war or something.

D'alton is haunted by the death of his friend Kethranmeer, he is crippled with guilt by his inability to aid his friend in battle. He plans to devote the next few years to aiding the Rankethlek and becoming a more savvy combatant, which involves a class change from Rogue to Fighter, I believe he will be continuing with the Shadowdancer progression though. Fred and I have discussed Derf's plans, and they will prove to be interesting I think.

Now, the meat of it. We know the guys headed back to Kusseth City to search for A'lst and the mansion to ensure it didn't burn down in their absence. Is Hell free? Is Kusseth broken? The ritual was designed to specifically drop meteors on Kusseth City to break the city's government and make the country so unstable that Hell (which was also pretty unstable) could finally be freed. The ritual was interrupted by the players, weakening the targeting in the first place, and then Derf stepped in and took control of the ritual and directed the meteor strike to the northwest of Kusseth City.

Now, a disaster of this magnitude hitting anywhere populated in the country could disrupt things. Without the reavers and with all of Nakmander's surgical strikes to remove officials and reavers unwilling to leave, Kusseth had only the barest of grips on the city at this time. Hell is free. Nakmander has his free city-state where sorcery can be practiced freely and can be explored as much as he wants. Unfortunately, Kusseth is still strong. The lumber industry is certainly impinged upon (the Abraxen Reforestation Project is a bit to the northwest of Kusseth City, thousands have perished in the flames and destruction wrought upon the northwest portion of Shanty Town. So yeah, the day cost Kusseth a bit, but it isn't broken. Commander Kothos is going to suffer beneath the mountains of Whurent, he won't be getting reinforcements and building materials and supplies as steadily. If they desire it, the Vyanth can probably make life brutally unpleasant on the convict warriors and soldiers of Camp Osfell for the same reasons. If the Fell Humans desire it, they could push the boundaries of Kusseth and try to expand their own. More likely, a few enclaves of Fell Humans might decide to do some raiding. Perhaps because they believe a group of five Kussethians invaded one of their enclaves, beat up and killed a bunch of their kids, and then broke their magic island (the Fell Humans believe that everything in the Fell Peaks is theirs, including the ruins of the ancient Glenwighta empire and the Glenwighta themselves). If these pissed-off-because-their-kids-are-dead enclaves of Fell Humans do attack, I assure you, they will act in a militaristic fashion. Heh.

So what does all that mean? Kusseth is still strong, but it could take a beating and lose the recently gained ground beneath Whurent and perhaps to some bolder and angrier enclaves of the Fell Peaks, and they might lose their camp within the territory of Vyanthnem. Hell is free, and gets renamed Meroteth in about five seconds, but Kusseth is going to do its level best to retake the place before Nakmander can consolidate power. This is going to put Nakmander on the defensive, and make him desperate, he and his city are strong, but one city cannot hold off the mightiest nation in The Known World. Not without having an ace up their sleeve, heh. Meroteth will be free I think, but it might take a decade or more for Kusseth to give up the dream of retaking it, assuming the city can survive that decade. It is conceivable that Fell Humans may attempt to take it from Nakmander to restore it to its rightful place as the jewel of the Fell Peaks, which is something Nakmander will want to prevent. Perhaps the Vyanth will take an interest in the city as well, it is quite fortified and they would be quite at home within the black, sorcery infused walls of the place.

So, the final scenario, it was made of win. Kethranmeer died and I was sad. The minis rocked. The Known World is altered, folks died and some borders might fluctuate, but Kusseth is still strong. Hell is freed and its original name has been restored, but Nakmander has a long and bloody road ahead of him.

Questions? Concerns? Thoughts?

A Final Side Note: Finally nailed down the date of this campaign's true creation, as in the earliest time I started writing things down for it. It took quite an effort, I had to dig through some old Dell receipts in my Yahoo! email account to date my laptop and how old it is, then find when the first files were transferred over to it, that was back in 2007. The earliest dates I can find on my laptop for this campaign are from June 2008. So there, it is three years and seven months old. I did the math there correctly, didn't I? The first emails I sent out to people regarding the campaign and actually playing it were in early 2009, so it looks like the campaign began on June 7th. We played Eric's campaign in like March or something and had two trials for 4th Edition before that, but my notes indicate June 7th of 2009 was the first session of Hekinoe. All of that is useless info, but it is nice to have a date finally.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Xein, me, and our faults. I think.

So, here I am, guest posting on Steve's blog... Maybe every Wednesday (let's see how school goes).

I think I will start out with role playing. No, it's not a sexual thing... I think. When we game and there are slight interactions between characters, I (and I think most of the people I game with) find it very hard to do this. Role playing is when you assume the role of your character which may have a different personality than you. Of course, what makes it hard is not having your own personality show through. This would be easy if you were an actor. We... are not. Not even close. By. A. Long. Shot.

With that said, I am going to try and do a better job in the future RPing my character, Xein, in the next story arc... I think if I wrote down his personality on what I *THINK* it should be, I may be able to get a better handle on the character...

Things I think Xein is:
*cough* Slightly Egotistical
A Business Man
An Intellectual
Somewhat Devious
Jack-of-All Trades
NOT A People Person
Going To Do What Needs To Be Done
Willing To Help Others (feels like I am writing a Resume')
Willing To Cut The Bottom Line
Treats Those That Treat Him Well/Protect Him/Help Him/May Be Friends
Slightly Less Trusting Of A Certain Person
Not Too Trusting After Jail For Eight Plus Years
Obsessed With The Sciences, ie: Mechanics, Chemicals and Sorcery

Truthfully, I think this will be very hard to play... There is a lot there, and apparently my own personality comes out in Xein. I do see a lot of myself in the character, for instance: I am capable of many many tasks and think I am a sort of Jack-of-all Trades... You don't think so? Oh well... I am witty and clever the majority of the time... I don't know, are these the reasons that Steve doesn't think that I am roleplaying? Not sure. I also think that Fred is the only one in the group that is actually playing his character. He does a damned good job too. I want to do that, and I am trying, and yet I am not trying to bicker with Jeremy's character D'alton for the sake of bickering. I do actually believe Xein would say underhanded comments; maybe D'alton would then do something that could help him out or make up for the time spent in 'Ol Nakky's service. Asking Nakmander for Xein's freedom was kinda pointless last time, because it was already arranged between Nakmander and Xein in advance.

I think he (Xein) has a large potential to be a beast in combat... I could, if I wanted to, make him that way... You know something, I used to make characters that would deal decent damage and always ignored the other classes or choices. From now on, when I make them... I will do so for the sake of aesthetics. I want them to look good in my mind's eye, not on paper or to kick ass. Granted, there is a certain amount of fun dealing out tons of damage, but if we really want to be a role playing group, I think this is the way we should go. Next character I create, I will try to make them unlike me as much as I can. We will see if that would make it easier to RP the damned guy.

On another note, Steve has since expressed interest why Xein would need to make so much money. Is it greed? Is it because I think it would be cool? Well, no. Xein was always on the poorer side, before prison, and then after, he wanted a better life. He has that now, can do as he pleases... to an extent. He is a tinkerer and as such, needs money to do so. I want to have him take a level in the Effigy Master prestige class next time around so he can build clockwork animals... Because I think it is something this character would do. The problem? It is super goddamned expensive. 15k in Marks to make a Clockwork Razorback and that isn't the only one I want to build. I kinda want to make a night fowl that will be able to deliver messages for us, stuff like that... Maybe even build and sell them between scenarios just for shits and giggles. Mechanical Shmeeps! Now with WINGS!


So Jeremy said a word tonight (it is still December in my world) and Heather and I took umbrage at its use. Jeremy was talking about something or other and used the word feening in lieu of fiending. We interpreted this as a misspelling and decided to knock Jeremy the Ever-Right down a peg or two.

Me: It is fiending!

Jeremy: My mistake. I believe feening is an acceptable variation.

Me: We have conferred, and it is not.

Jeremy: What of Macy Gray? WHAT OF HER?

Me: She, like you, is WRONG.

Me: How does that taste? Does it taste like shame and broken dreams?

Jeremy: May I direct your attention to the diagram from the other day?

Jeremy: My god. Is that what you taste? How sad for you. Correctness, which is what I taste, tastes like bacon and pussy.

Me: I can't hear you anymore, I'm listening to Macy Gray say FIENDING. As if she knows the English language or something.

Jeremy: It's on Look it up. I am right you are wrong. Enjoy your shame and broken dreams cocktail.

Me: It is interesting that when I put feening into it tells me there are no results and perhaps I meant ferning. Is that what you meant Jeremy? The formation of a fern-like pattern in a specimen of crystallized cervical mucus secreted at midcycle? Is it?

Jeremy: Try "feen for" Clint. Try that!

Me: Your character is dumb and a Brasscoat is going to rapekill him in the night.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Rankethlek 101

The Rankethlek is the freedom fighting organization that was given life by Kethranmeer's desire to free his people from the control of The Fallen Empire of Man and the Fallen in general. They are a large and widespread organization at this point, and the majority of them are fighting men, as that is the nature of most Soulless. They even have their own free city, heh, aptly named Steeltown, near the border of Volungshemle.

I'll be honest, Soulless, even ones free from the Fallen, aren't terribly creative.

The Rankethlek has few tenets. The main being the cultivation of a strong willpower. Most PC and NPCs that are members of the Rankethlek would have Iron Will and Improved Iron Will. Kethranmeer actually had the highest Wisdom of the Rebellion Arc group. The other main tenet is free will. No creature, living or otherwise, has the right to make choices for others or to deny them their freedom. If for some reason Xein had jumped Derf and attempted to trephinate the crazy out of his head, Kethranmeer would have split Xein's Dogdamn melon with that massive blackstone hammer of his, not because he likes Derf. Kethranmeer isn't a super good judge of character, but he recognizes an unbalanced meatbag when he sees one. No, jumping Derf and putting a hole in his skull goes against Kethranmeer's beliefs about free will. The Rankethlek does not truly seek the downfall of The Fallen Empire of Man, or even to carve their own country out of that kingdom's already established borders. They merely desire the choice to serve or not serve the Fallen. If that does mean tearing the Necropolis apart brick by alien brick and staking the Council of the Dead out in the sun, then they will do so.

The Rankethlek is led by five Soulless. These Soulless were the first, after Kethranmeer, to be granted freedom from the Fallen by A'lst's process. They have been without Fallen in their minds the longest, their wills are iron, stronger than even the hulls that are their flesh, and each of them is a hero to his people. They are bound by a code and by a dead father, and there is no wedge that can be driven between them. D'alton and Xein should actually be pretty familiar with these guys, they used to regularly visit the lower portions of the mansion.

Mokethneer is the true son of Kethranmeer, built from the steel and wolf-iron and springsteel of his father's body. He is the leader of the Rankethlek and the brilliant tactician and inspiring commander that keeps the fires of freedom burning in the lightning and steel hearts of his people. His will is as iron as his father's was and he is utterly committed to the freedom of his people. Unlike his father, he is truly a leader, he is not the strong silent type like Kethranmeer. He is loud, angry, demanding, and he misses the calm presence of his father. At this point, the rebellion against the Fallen is his rebellion, his father sowed the seeds, and A'lst aided in the growing, but Kethranmeer died long before true rebellion could begin. Mokethneer is the one that sought out Omne-4 and begged him for aid. It is Mokethneer that forged an alliance with the Fremwightan. Unlike his father, Mokethneer's outer plating is made of springsteel, rather than wolf-iron, making him much quicker and more agile than his father. He wields two axes with his metal limbs and is a cyclone of hacking blades in battle. Mokethneer should be extremely familiar to the group, they were there when Kethranmeer killed him the first time.

Kerencarthal is a sluggish beast of metal, huge, over sized limbs and fists studded with wolf-iron. He is a living weapon and is Mokethneer's second in command. He is as cunning and willful as any of Kethranmeer's sons, but he is not a leader or tactician in the same way Mokethneer is. He is quiet and thoughtful and his personality bears more than a passing resemblance to their father's. When he speaks, it is because he shares something important with the group, and his brothers and allies know the merits of allowing him to speak his mind when he decides it is needed.

Unlike his four brethren, Carenkere is not made of springsteel or wolf-iron, or even base steel and iron. He is made entirely of copper and bears no weapon. Though he is not a sorcerer, Carenkere's knowledge of sorcery is unparalleled in the Rankethlek. When reborn soulless recover from the destruction of the Fallen that are their minds, it is Carenkere and his lieutenants that teach them to steel their new minds against the influence of others. Carenkere goes unarmed, but he is not defenseless, in his chest is a heart of lightning so bright and violent that when he strides forth into battle, the power of the storms rings his fists and does his bidding.

Tolenmeer is a small soulless, like Mokethneer, he is built of springsteel, though he lacks Mokethneer's bulk and makes up for it with greater speed. Tolenmeer is the marksman and rake of the group. The devil may care gunslinger that makes no plans and never thinks beyond the next bullet he fires. His attitude is an affectation, and his mind is as much a steel trap as any other soulless of the Rankethlek. When things are grim among the first five of the Rankethlek, it is Tolenmeer that breaks the quiet, it is Tolenmeer that shoots Mokethneer in the ass when he grows too serious among his brothers.

Kethlunran is barely returned from the madness of his rebirth. His mind is an impenetrable wall of rage and hate. His rage is a cold and crystalline though, and it fuels his every action, but it is bound by chains of will and kept locked within his metal body and only turns to violence and death when he wills it. He is a cold and dispassionate steel sentinel among the Rankethlek and he is the unstoppable force that they unleash against immovable objects in their path.

So those are the Rankethlek, the first of the Soulless freedom fighters after Kethranmeer. They are terrible, terrible foes to face in battle. If they have been wronged in some way, it would be most prudent to find a way to get on their good side.