Monday, February 28, 2011

A Bit Stumped

I am having an NPC related issue. I really want to have an NPC for my Hekinoe campaign, but a) The players completely ignored him in the first scenario and expressed no desire whatsoever to find him, even when they were looking for information regarding the past ten years (an era of time he has been part of), and b) I've grown bored with the "Fas'binder evolves as the players interact with him idea."

I like having an NPC, it gives me a way to talk to the group without having to go all metagame, and it can potentially shore up a weakness in the party. Plus, it makes me feel like part of the group. I mean, I am gaming with the guys, but Steve isn't really a part of The Robust Five, I am the GM and am really a means to an end. They have to deal with me to actually play the game. Having an NPC that wanders along with them, kind of makes me feel more like part of the group.

Since I came to the realization that I was bored with Fas'binder... That isn't precisely right, what I mean to say is that I need to play something I enjoy, and what the players evolve Fas'binder into, might not necessarily be fun to play for me. To continue, this whole NPC idea has gone through a crap ton of iterations. The thing about Kethranmeer was that he was quiet, he was content to do his own thing and if the group decided they needed a half-ton of metal to hit things with a hammer, they could wander downstairs and he'd be enthusiastic about getting stuck in with them. He was quiet enough that when he said stuff, they kind of listened and I could hint that "Hey, you guys are about to get yourselves killed over something stupid." without having to say those precise words. Best of all, they actually developed a bond with him, so when he died, it kind of mattered to the group. Because he was quiet and only really spoke as a last ditch effort or because he was spoken to, it also helped me to avoid guiding the group.

I don't want this new NPC to be just another Kethranmeer. That would dishonor the memory of my fallen NPC and it could get boring for me. With this NPC, I don't want to play the strong silent type, I want someone who forces the players to interact with him, whether they want to or not. I want someone useful to the group, but someone who might not be the easiest to get along with. Someone who's value and use to the group must constantly be weighed against the trouble he brings around. Perhaps during play, they could convince the NPC to be less troublesome.

Anyway, as I said, I've gone through several iterations of the NPC. The first was basically just Fas'binder, but as an Archer Fighter that made his own longbows and arrows and was kind of sniper-like. There was a Zen Archer Monk build that seemed kind of neat and off the wall, then I moved into some psionic ideas, back towards Monk, but as an Elduman Weapon Master wielding a temple sword. The idea moved around a lot is what I'm saying, perhaps a list will follow. Heh.

I want to create something I enjoy playing, but I also want to create something that doesn't step on anyone's toes. I would really like to toy around with an Alchemist, I feel like I could do some interesting things with that class. However, there isn't a lot of variation in what the class does, so I feel like I would be stepping on Eric's toes. I thought about playing that Zen Archer Monk, and while Fred is playing a Monk, his is regular, and mine would have used bows, which leads to a vast difference in play style.

The problem is that the group doesn't really lack anything. In short, there isn't a real area of deficiency among the players. To go long, rather than short, and use 4th Edition terms, we have a Leader (Xein the Alchemist), we have a Controller (Kuyst the Witch), a Striker (Kethralzahn the Monk), two Defenders (D'alton the Gunslinger and Pyrel the Swashbuckler), and a hybrid Defender/Controller (Ran'dahl the Summoner and his eidolon). There's no gaping chasm in the lineup where I can comfortably fit a character without stepping on anyone's toes.

I'm leaning, at the moment, towards a Barbarian using the Drunken Rage class feature from the Advanced Player's Guide. Some of the rage powers are pretty interesting, and the Barbarian does have a few skill points to distribute that could let the NPC back up Xein. I envision a Child of Volung that brews his own beer and chucks his flagon(s) at enemies during his rages. I dunno. It is different, and it might cause the players some trouble, but a Drunken Brute barbarian gets to rage for free as long as he quaffs booze each round. The class concept definitely interests me.

I came up with a build for a Rogue/Wizard/Arcane Trickster, kind of a sneaky type of character that used his spells to augment his skill use and general unpredictability. I just couldn't settle on a build. I was too tempted to be the guy stealthily hiding behind Xein's buzzing chainsword and lobbing fireballs, instead of sneak attacking. Granted, the Arcane Trickster actually gains the ability to sneak attack with spells. I dunno, I built out the guy to 20th level and it just didn't interest me any more.

I dunno, I'll figure something out, maybe.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Different Saddle Altogether

Do you remember my post with my grand scheme to come up with a background and rules light (as much as Pathfinder can be, at least) campaign with a bunch of new players with little or no experience with DnD? That idea has changed a bit. I am thinking about doing a group of the guys and their lady friends basically. Me, Jeremy, Eric, and Fred, and our significant others. The reason I decided to throw most of the experienced crew in is because I think we need a break and some variety.

I love Hekinoe. It is my other home and I adore what I have created. However, it is tiring. It is exhausting in fact. I have done so much work on it, and it does take quite a bit a work to maintain it. Sometimes, I want to try something different. Plus, I think the guys having a bit more experience with Pathfinder and playing some different classes might be good for them. Eric and Jeremy have been playing the same characters for probably close to, or more than, two years now. A chance to change it up might be good for them.

It might also be nice for me to GM in a world where I don't have to worry too much about the consequences of them not caring about details and just murdering everything that moves. That is kind of their MO, and it makes setting up scenarios in Hekinoe somewhat difficult to do. They ignore important details a lot, and also kill people in droves for no reason a lot of the time, and that can be hard for me to deal with from a narrative standpoint. I wouldn't really have to worry about that in this other campaign. I could just make my NPC a homocidal maniac that goes around murdering and lighting fires and let them deal with the consequences of his actions.

...Actually, that might be fun... Hehe.

Now, I'm not planning to game in this world exclusively or something like that. My plan is to play some Hekinoe scenarios, like three or four in a row, then throw one of these other scenarios in. Just to spice things up. You know? Then we hop back in to Hekinoe refreshed and kind of missing it. I figure it'll help alleviate my gamer ADHD and give us all a break.

It would be the barest bones of a campaign world. No real background to speak of. No long winded emails describing the ancient empires or long wars or anything like that. No crazy rules or technology. Just the core races and classes and anything else the players wanted to throw in, they would decide on that.

Anyway, I sort of went full speed ahead on this idea and started work on the first scenario of this campaign. It is pretty straight forward and very high fantasy. There are goblins, they are evil and harassing a town, someone needs to defeat them for money, obviously the guards and mercenaries already there cannot, only adventurers can. It took me about eight hours to get it almost finished, then my Word file went wonky and I lost 3/4 of my work and had to redo everything I'd just written. Fun times.

I figure we'll play the first Hekinoe scenario (I know technically we have already, but I am writing this post before we do, whoa! Paradox!) and see what kind of stuff we can come up with for quests in it. If I need some time to create a backlog of scenarios for Hekinoe, I can pop this goblin scenario out to give some of the group, and myself, their DnD fix.

I dunno, we'll see how it goes. Perhaps once we get into the first Hekinoe scenario, I'll be all bat shit crazy obsessed and this idea will drop to the wayside. We'll see.

Edit After The Fact: Yeah, I'm bat shit crazy about Hekinoe. It is pretty great. Nonetheless, I've got two scenarios of this other thing prepped and ready to go.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Have you heard of achievements? Cheevos? An e-penis? The Xbox 360 game system has something called achievements (the Playstation 3 has trophies). Basically, you do something in the game and a little icon pops up and gives you points for doing it. The points don't mean anything really, other than you've played a game a bunch. Actually, that isn't true, some of the achievements are actual achievements, stuff that is difficult as Hell to do. Others are funny, like there is a 0 point achievement for falling down a sewer in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game (I think, could be wrong, can't remember). Some you just gain for completing a chapter or segment or whatever you call it, of a game. The points don't do anything, you can't use them for anything, unless you have a lot of 100% completion rates for games and a collection of hard to obtain achievements. Then you can brag a little. I guess.

I'll be honest, I am an achievement whore. The first thing I do when I put in a disc or fire up an arcade game, is look at the achievements. The logic is, if there is something jacked up that I need to do and can only do it at a certain time, I want to know beforehand. So I can get me some cheevos.

If you've ever played Mass Effect 1, you may have noticed that the achievements in the game not only add to your e-penis, some offer in-game bonuses. For instances, earing one million credits in the game gets you the Rich achievement and twenty-five achievement points. In addition to this, it unlocks special weapons that can be purchased at certain stores in the game. Others include killing lots of organic enemies to get an achievement that gives you extra health or killing lots of synthetic enemies to get an achievement that give you extra shield energy. It is a neat system that I really like. It would be super swell if all games tried to do stuff with their achievements like this.

The point of all this is that I've been trying to come up with something along these lines since before we fully started the Rebellion Arc campaign. I recently read some stuff on the At-Will blog about achievements and bounties and karma and wealth points, and that wasn't precisely what I was trying to do. More recently, I found the Pathfinder SRD website and a section called Achievement Feats. Basically, you do a lot of something, like take one thousand points of damage over time, then you qualify for a feat that gives you a bonus to natural armor.

The achievement feats are pretty much exactly what I was looking to make, so now I have a starting point and I can hopefully come up with something interesting and useful for my players. Weee.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Back In The Saddle Again

In a word: lackluster.

That is the word I would use to describe the first scenario of the new Hekinoe campaign.

Ok, that isn't entirely true. I had fun gaming, and everyone else seemed to as well. The guys were confused and didn't know what was going on or where to go, and everything they knew was different. I really liked the way the random memory mechanic worked. They drew a neat looking card and got a memory that they had no idea how to process. The memory cards are pretty cool. They are a Cthulhu themed tarot deck, so there are all these vaguely creepy images and Great Old Ones on them. Definitely neater than a 5 of Spades.

The players woke up in a basement with no memory and no equipment, at level 1. Over the course of the scenario, they thought real hard and got a few memories back, albeit ones that didn't really explain much of anything, so by the end of the scenario they didn't know too much more about anything than they did at the start. I loved it when they discovered that it was ten years after the events of last campaign.

Jeremy didn't seem to be having any fun. He seemed more frustrated by what was going on than interested in figuring it out. Hopefully, as they do research and figure things out he'll become more interested. Fred role-played Kethralzahn's attitude very well and exactly as I asked him to, and Eric and Jeremy had D'alton and Xein respond as I expected they would, which is to say loudly, Jeremy more loudly than necessary. The role-playing was a little rough, most of the scenario was the group talking with each other about what to do, but when they did talk to NPCs, it went pretty well. John spoke up a lot more than last campaign, which I really liked.

Thinking about it now, I guess that it makes sense that Jeremy is frustrated. I designed the first scenario and the memory mechanic to make them confused and to turn everything upside down on them. This campaign is supposed to be them figuring things out and returning to their previous position of power. I guess it makes sense that for a while, they'll be off kilter and confused about what is happening. I'm just concerned about them being too off kilter and confused and getting more pissed off than intrigued. If they're not interested in figuring things out, there's no point to the campaign.

The whole empowerment thing I've been hoping to happen went alright. For the longest time, I have wanted them to take their character's destinies into their own hands and start making decisions about what they want to do. I hated that they were 15th level and they thought they were all badass, but were still waiting around for Nakmander to tell them what to do. This campaign is about them and the decisions they make and the things they want to do. Planning and decision making are not their strengths, but they set out some goals, and as they get more information and become more accustomed to making decisions and plotting out what they want to do, I think it will get better for them.

Overall, I think it could have gone better, but I am very optimistic about the future of this campaign. Even if the campaign doesn't work out and they lose interest in what happened over the past ten years, we still have that door in Derf's old room to play with.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dragon Age

So, I don't often post about non-DnD things, but I felt like it today. I recently saw on Steam that they have the super ultimate mega edition of Dragon Age: Origins for sale. I already own Dragon Age, but this ultimate edition has Origins, Origins Awakenings and a butt ton of extra little DLC quests and such. Even having previously purchased Origins, it was still something of a deal for me.

The game starts out pretty niftily. There are three races and three classes to choose from, the only rule is that dwarves can't be mages. Anyway, each race has a few beginnings to choose from that give you a bit of a story to play through. Little vignettes to play through that explain how you ended up as a Grey Warden fighting against the darkspawn and whatnot.

The game was developed by Bioware, perhaps you've heard of them. Neverwinter Nights, Baldur's Gate, etc. I only mention it because there is a lot of party interaction and side quests, much like there was in Knights of the Old Republic and the Baldur's Gate games. Your companions have thoughts and ideas and opinions, and they will leave you if you piss them off too much.

The game is fun and you gain levels and loot and all manner of nifty things as you play. The story seems decent as well. They're definitely not breaking any molds here, but it all works. I haven't beaten it yet, but it is a pretty good story so far, and the main quests are fairly good as wells. Some of the sidequests are good as well, others are hilarious. As you walk around in the game world, your party members will engage in conversation with each other as well, which can be grand at times.

Anyway, the thing I find the most fascinating is the whole friendship mechanic of the game. As you talk with your party and make decisions, you can gain favor or dislike with your allies. If they dislike you too much, they just up and leave (possibly with all the badass equipment you just bought to equip them with).

On the flip side, as you give your party members gifts and get to know them through conversations and appease them with actions they approve of, they like you more. If they like you enough, they'll eventually (some of them) give you a quest specific to them. Before you get quests though, as you gain favor with a character, their abilities will improve. The assassin gets more dexterity, the tough fighter gains more constitution, the golem gains more strength (or constitution, I can't remember which).

It is a really neat mechanic that reminds me a lot of Planescape. One of the coolest things you could do in Planescape was talk to you companions. If you talked to them enough, and helped them work through some of their issues (or fuck them up more), it altered their stats and abilities.

I think that is really cool, and is kind of what I'm basing my Pathfinder NPC on. I mean, he won't be getting stat upgrades or bonuses based on stuff the players do. His skills and feats will be determined, to a certain extent, by what the players say to him. The more interested they are in him, the more pseudo-control they'll have over what he develops into. I dunno, I think it is neat.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Mysterious Enemies #6-15

At the moment, they were standing across the street, smoking and gambling with dice to look nondescript, but they were really glancing with hawk eyes at the structure across from them. There was a miniature shanty town surrounding the place, cardboard and particle board shacks taped and nailed together and leaned up against the building and covered in sheets of tin to keep out the rain.

There were bums dwelling in these shanties around the building, begging for coin or liquor, but also cooking small animals over fires, and also shitting and pissing anywhere they felt. The area around the building was clean and modern, most of its citizens well to do, but this shanty town had been here for some time, a festering sore in an otherwise nice area of town.

"We're sure they're gone?" asked the youngest of the group.

The leader nodded, "Our information, collected by our brethren, says they've gone south with the master of this city. In a zeppelin no less. If they had returned, we'd know about it. For your weakness of courage, you get to strike the first blow."

The youngest of the group blanched.

"Aim for the door, next to that cluster of homeless. Our intelligence says this place is armored and resistant to burning. The door is far more destructible than the walls, and six burning hobos with spread chaos and fire most effectively. Do it."

Another of the group produced a huge revolver like weapon with eight chambers clustered around a center barrel. The youngest of the group hefted it for a moment, then kneeled down on the street and took aim. He pulled the trigger and there was a whooshing sound and a metallic clink as a projectile far bigger, and slower, than a bullet popped out of the weapon's barrel and arced over the street.

It hit the door directly and the world around the building suddenly became a tornado of fire and noise. The door buckled and blasted inwards, and the fire swirled around the outside of the building, lighting half a dozen homeless afire. They began screaming and running around, igniting their shanty town, which was far more flammable than the structure they had built it around.

"Now what?" asked the youngest one.

"Now we wait and watch and leave. We weren't hired to murder anyone, only to destroy this place and torment the owners."

The crew returned to their dicing and calmly watched the structure begin to burn.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mysterious Enemy #2, Part 4

Ten Seconds Later
He dragged himself up off the floor, his left arm dangling limply and bleeding everywhere. He stumbled back and forth, from room to room, trying to find anything to staunch the flow of blood from his mutilated limb. He tried a tourniquet, and screamed in agony when he applied it to his arm.

He didn't have anything to splint the limb though, and even if he did, he only had one working hand to use. He had no choice, there was no first aid down here and the cold and malnutrition would make it impossible for him to heal broken bones easily. Besides, the tourniquet was barely working, there was too much wrecked flesh wrapped around jagged pieces of broken bone.

He stumbled towards the mess hall, reeling from blood loss and pain. Given the situation, he only really had one option. The stove fired up quickly and the burners were already heating up as he grabbed the cleaver. The blade bit through the mangled flesh and broken bone of his arm and went straight through to nick his ribs.

The arm flopped down onto the floor with a wet smacking noise, and the cleaver followed quickly with a clang. He yelped and slapped his hand onto the slice in his side. Gritting his teeth, he bent over and slapped the twisted stump of his arm onto the red burners.

The last thing he thought before he slumped to the floor and passed out was that his arm smelled like what he'd eaten for breakfast.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Metal 101

My campaign has a few weird goofy metals in it that serve different purposes. I figured I should collect them all in one place so that I can eliminate some possible confusion regarding what they are and what they do.

This rusty red ore was originally going to be a lot more important to The Known World, but over time it became something else. Anyway, it is a rust red and typically pitted looking ore found primarily in Kusseth. It has no redeeming qualities as a metal, it basically amounts to red lead. It is soft and does not conduct electricity. It is shit. However, it can absorb sorcerous energy over time. The mechanics of how it does this seem to be random and are not really based on any concrete rules, it either works or it doesn't and is completely unrelated to the amount of sorcerous energy and the size of the ore. It is widely believed that beltanizine (first discovered in the depths of Beltan) is the last fused bits and pieces of Kaleshmar.

This is literally black stone. Not glassy black stone that looks like obsidian. It is black stone found deep beneath The Fell Peaks. The Fremwightan have discovered huge fortresses composed of it in the depths of The Fell Peaks, they believe that it was a building material of the ancient and extinct Glenwighta Empire. These fortresses, though they are old, are not as old as the most ancient ruins of the Glenwighta and the Fremwightan believe that these stone fortresses were only built after the Fell Humans began their war of subjugation. Any abilities it has are unknown at this time, but Xein and Kethranmeer did have some success penetrating the shield on the sorcerers in the final scenario of the Rebellion Arc with weapons made of blackstone.

Elduman Bone Material
Elduman bone material is a living crystalline stub stance that gives life and motion and intellect to the Elduman race. The nervous and musculoskeletal systems of pure Eldumans, are completely composed of this substance. Essentially, the only non-living crystal substance in their bodies is their flesh. This crystal is very psionically reactive and makes the Eldumans seem hyper intelligent and perceptive at times. Attempts have been made to harvest the crystal remains of dead Eldumans and use them as psionic foci, though the absence of the Elduman intelligence does diminish the psionic capabilities of their remains, they are still psionically reactive.

Necropolis/Meroteth Stone
This is the glassy black stone that looks like obsidian that Meroteth and the Necropolis are made of, along with some other fortresses built in The Fell Peaks. Supposedly, the stone absorbs excess sorcerous energy, though what it does with this energy is unknown. The origin of this stone is unknown as well. It should be noted that the Necropolis is all smooth stone, as if cut by humanoid hands and built by them, though there are no seams anywhere in the city to indicate that it was built block by block. However, Meroteth and the few obsidian-like fortresses of The Fell Peaks are crude things with bumpy walls and no clear planned building, they look like they were grown.

Springsteel is pretty straightforward, it looks like steel and it perhaps a little shinier. It is lighter and more flexible than normal steel. Think of it as titanium, or aircraft steel, or actual spring steel from our world.

Wolf-iron is just as straightforward as springsteel. It is tungsten. It is heavier and harder than steel. It is also dark gray in color.


Friday, February 4, 2011

Mysterious Enemy #5

They had just been young boys, young rascals out for a lark, screwing around and playing games. He bowed his head, his iron grey hair falling down past his face. He raised his red eyes and peered out across his lands. Lands that were supposed to have been his son's. Gnarled fingers clenched against the stone railing.

He wasn't terribly old, but sorcery had burned its way through his blood far quicker than he would have liked, leaving tiredness and grey in its wake. These lands, these slaves, this keep, was supposed to have been his son's. His wife had died quicker than he was, and his nieces and nephews lived under the sun. He had no one left to leave the reins of the estate to.

He watched the slaves at their tasks, bored and only vaguely interested. He saw only the thoughts within his mind. He was the last of his line bereft of legacy and a last moment with his scion. His eyes unfocused as he thought back on his short life and the shorter life of his son.

Slaves scurried away from him, and his unseeing eyes let them pass. His head was wreathed in a corona of heat haze, and fire licked at his fingertips. He had nothing left here in this cave, and no one to give it to. He could feel his life ticking away, one sizzling drop of sorcerous blood at a time. There was one course of action left to him.

He went to his study and collected his staff, his rings and bracers, all the items he would need to make war and shed blood again. He was old man, but these caves had not been conquered by kind words or indulgent smiles. It had been his hate and bloodlust that had done that, fueled by the immense sorcerous power within his ancient bloodline.

Let his brother sing and play the mercenary murder, let his nephew play the games of a politician. He had been a soldier, and though he found the work distasteful, he would take up his trade one last time to see that his line well and truly died, or that those that had ended it paid with their blood.