Friday, October 10, 2008

Something wicked this way comes.

Well, not exactly wicked. But it will fundamentally change the game for all our players. On the road to Winterhaven an eerie light appears on the distant horizon. Our heroes have seen nothing like this darkening violet light which traces the clouds in purple fingers of lightning scratched along its edges.

As the eldritch lightning flashes in the distance a deep violet glow illuminates the features of the adventurers. This light plays across their features and images flash through their minds. Images somehow familiar yet strange and distant. Dracon the paladin is driven to his knees as he beholds in a flash of lightning his God Kord riding on the rolling thunderheads. The might War God rises his Storm Spear high and unleashes the mighty weapon. In flight it turns into a flash of brilliant lightning that strikes Dracon dead center in the chest.

The other heroes are enthralled as well. Whether in divine vision or in hallucinatory trance is uncertain. Ciedris Cleric of The Raven Queen is the only soul whose are not cast upwards. His head is hung low, his shoulders slumped. Unbeknownst to his companions he stares into a yawning abyss. Its nether reaches wreathed in darkened mist. From the swirling darkness below a rider appears on a jet black pegasus with wings trailing tendrils of mist in the night. Riding atop the darkened mount sits a lady of haunting beauty, cloaked in the mist herself. As she mounts the depths she raises a curved sickle shining with a deep violet light. Bearing down with increasing speed on her priest her pegasus screams a war cry. The Raven Queen raises her arm and rushes past in a blast of misty wind, cold as death's touch. As she passes she swings her sickle in a slow and graceful arch. With a flash of light it passed through the neck of her priest and leaves his head spinning in the air.

Barkel, paladin of Avandra finds himself standing on a dusty road in a flat desert expanse, alone. Dust swirls in shimmering eddies across the surface of the road. His eyes fail to adjust adequately to the distance ahead. Was something moving in the distance haze? Rust red hills line the horizon. Heat and perspiration blurs his clarity of vision. Sage and cedar blend into dark amorphous shadows like spots of scorched earth on the hillsides. He tries to clear what seems a dazed haze which has descended upon his mind. The sun catches and plays with the swirling dust ahead. Barkel clenches his mailed fists to ground himself-- his hands tight with blood coursing as if from a long journey. What was happening?

The figure at first seemed but a shimmer of heat, dancing in slowly wavering patterns above the sun baked clay of the desert floor. Then the form slowly resolves into that of a man. A tall gaunt man who seems to step into the world through a window framed in sun-speckled dust. The wind blown sand slowly forms into pinpoints of what could only be light gathering about the figure's upper torso and head. Lights that dance around his head as if crystals circled his brow playing about with sunlight in iridescent, mind confusing patterns. Barkel's heart began to beat even faster. The figure walked towards him, or so it seemed. Was just another hiker? Perhaps he had simply not seen him due to the hazy heat and the dust. A wave of hot wind blew up and a swirl of dust caused Barkel to avert his eyes and shield them with his hands. Blast this wind, he thought.

When it had abated Barkel looked up again and could see that no dance of lights played about the advancing figure's head, but a cascade of glimmering orbs. He walked with that long legged measured step common to all jugglers. A mesmerizing pattern of at least five clear crystal balls wove in a complex rhythm in the air before him. Barkel couldn't help but smile. His eyes, a shining light blue, stared straight ahead. In fact he stared straight at the confused Paladin, unblinking and seeming to glide down the road towards him. The figure's eyes held the knight spellbound for seconds that seemed to stretch into eternity. In those eyes the blue of the sky he could see those crystal orbs flashing and swirling and floating like planets hung in space on sunlit summer day. Each orb swirling with rainbow colors which formed images, forms, pictures, until they filled his vision, a window onto other worlds.

Barkel shook his gaze away, with a feeling of falling. The paladin reached out to steady himself, stepping forward, feeling awkward. This man, this figure, this whoever he was, surely saw him about to faint from the delirium. Barkel opened his mouth to utter some remark of greeting and could not speak. He noticed the jet black clothes the man wore. They seemed to scintillate with sparks of light flecked dust. Each dust a star, swirling. Galaxies spinning, and rainbow hued nebulae hanging in space. A universe, that he seemed to . . . and he was falling, falling, falling. The man was upon the shaking paladin now, or becoming a part of him, taking him in. And Barkel fell into the universe of his being. Orbs of crystal light swirling around his soul and in his mind and in his eye. My mind. My eyes. My mind. My falling mind. were his last thoughts. And Only at the last did he see the symbol of triple waves hanging in the ether. The symbol of Avandra--his God

The other dragon born warriors are besieged with images of fire, and flaming haired elves. Of humans dancing amid pits of burning lava and infernal fumes. Of huge scaled dragons dwelling in steaming caverns and of war. War with demons of unseen horror and oblivion. Darkened blades of evil rip open the forms of Dragonborn children. Fields of red, burning as much with blood as with fire. Demons working magic that twists the souls of these fire worshipping mad men. Filled with the primal fire of dragon's blood, human and elf twist in a dark embrace to become something other than what they were--something that should not be.

The Tieflings, so used to the darkness and the realms of the sinister, the left handed path, are faced with fear as they have never known it before. Darkness envelops them. Hands from the pits of hades pull at their very souls, drawing them downward towards damnation. Visages of dark demon lords flash before their mind, holding the chains of bondage. The chains that bind their race. Humanoid dragon forms dance around the crippled and mangled bodies of their loved ones. Then they too are bound in hellish chains and cast into an endless pit. Bound until they can no longer do aught but fall; plummeting downward into ruin and further into oblivion of the waiting maw of a massive ancient red dragon.

The elves and Eladrin are besieged with horrid images of war as well. A terrible war in which elves fall like red rain in a forest devoid of life. A separation of a bloody river into two raging forks and a splintering tree burst asunder by lightning. And the bodies of elves. Each twisted and broken one representing the hopes and dreams of all the elven nations.

Visions, images, intuitions, flashes of another time. Of another place. Of the past, of the future. Of death, of rebirth. Of opportunities lost and a need for change before the world devolves back into madness, chaos and loss--eternal loss.

What do these vision mean? Could this fell omen simply be falling upon Winterhaven? Their import seems so much more than what our adventurers ever could have guessed. What could it mean for our fledgling heroes? As they recover from their waking dreams still the vivid dark lightning flashes. The cold icy grip of fear runs through their veins. But they quickly regain their composure. Confident in their powers and their might they regroup and continue the quest forward to something much more than just Winterhaven and forward to their destiny.

The battle ends

The dragonshield warriors were engaged in fierce blow for blow trade with Silver the Ranger & CJ the Fighter, when our warlock summoned his eldritch energy from the other realm and shot bolts of cold magical fire to the center of a dragonshield fighter almost frying him out of existence. As Silver dealt a following death blow to this now beleaguered kobold the his kobold companion shifted and retreated to a more strategic location. Dracon rushing past the flames into the battle at road's center felled another kobold with a mighty sweep. Cut in two the kobolds two halves fell with a bloody thud to the road. Quasar moved to engage the Slinger only to be hit by a pot of binding glue with held him fast. Fortunately Dracon was right behind and dealt a swift blow to the kobold now hemmed in on every side, his back to the woods.

Nuranata the tiefling thief rushed in to sideswipe the retreating Dragonshield. He delivered a wicked stab to the dragonshield's side and then painfully twisted his blade with a turn of his wrist and the Dragonshield howled in pain. The dragonborn rogue darted in an out of the battle hurling shuriken and wielding his dagger raining painful strikes upon his erstwhile foes. The Elven archer took careful aim and from the rear and released a shot which pierced the last minion in directly in the eye. The force of the blow whirling him off his feet. The eye-pierced kobold spun head over heels to land with in a heap on the earth.

The Last dragonshield warrior still yelling in pain from the blow from the thief took a thrusting strike from the ranger into his other side. The silver blade buried itself up to the hilt with the thrust of the blow. The ranger quickly withdrew his blade as did the thief. No sound uttered from the dragonshield foe now. Bloods gurgled forth from his mouth. his entrails fell from each side of his now dying form. And he crumpled to the blood strewn road.

Dracon dealt repeated crushing blows to the remaining kobold--the slinger--as he pursued him through the forest until he fell amidst the decaying leaves of the dark woods.

Narumata quickly called the party in to regroup and directed a search of the bodies. Little was turned up except for an undamaged shield of the dragonwarrior. Narumata allowed Barkel the paladin to heft the shield and keep it if he liked. He did. Draconis carefully searching the still warm body of the kobold slinger uncovered several very nice items. A sling and cache of bullets, two firepots to be used with the sling and fey dagger of wicked draconic design.

Rejoining the party Dracon showed the groups leaders his find. Narumata eyed the dagger eagerly. He approached Dracon reasoning with him that he could put the dagger to fine use with his sinister roguish attacks. Yet Dracon was loathe to release the find. His only weapon being the greatsword, he longed to keep the blade. This was his first Battle and his first significant find of treasure. The Teifling eyed him through narrowed slits. "You must think of the greater good of the party and yield the blade to the one who could do the most good." Still the Dragonborn was resistant. He snarled, uttering an oath in Draconic. Then in guttural common he declared with finality "It's mine."

Narumata turned away, a scheme already running through his crafty tiefling mind.

4e?

I post here a copy of my thoughts on 4e which I posted to a DnD yahoo group.

Okay, so I’ve been DMing 4e for a while now. Large group (8 players, 9 w/dm). Lots of Dragonborn, couple Eldarin and an Elf, 1 Tiefling. 2 warlocks, 2 Rogues, 2 fighters, 1 ranger, 1 paladin. I’m DMing Keep on the Shadowfell.

Without kindling flames I thought I’d give my take on 4e “feel”, since I’ve been so vocal about D&D being D&D regardless of version.

4e seems like a different game. Fantasy, after a fashion, but not D&D, not to me. Now, granted 4e will obviously be considered D&D to the majority of the kids I’m DMing, because they’ve never played anything else. But to me it seems fundamentally different. I will also admit that what “feels” like D&D to me is based on 1st, 2nd and to a lesser extent 3.5 edition. What I mean by fundamentally different is elucidated below.

_It is high powered from the start_. I simply couldn’t believe the effect of powers on combat. Wow! I mean we are talking major magic walking around with any group of heroes. Now granted I suppose Heroes are taken to be rare—but to be able to do all that at 1st level?! I’m not saying it’s bad, just very different from what I’m used to. I will admit that the monsters have been powered up hp wise so they don’t exactly drop like flies.

_All the players seem like high level wizards_. From what I understand 4e creators wanted to “balance” all character classes by the addition of powers. To me it achieved this albeit offering a high level of power. However, all the characters seem like super powered wizards after a fashion. All characters have huge magical options at first level with a slight variance in skills, feats, hp, weapons etc. They all seemed a bit generic. A wizard with a mace, wizard with a sword, wizard with a bow—you get the drift.

_Powers_ Okay, so far it’s all about powers. That’s true this is THE big element of 4e in my opinion. And powers are where character customization comes in to a large degree. (Though high level characters likely end up with a lot of the same low level powers.) This just seems more like a supers game or a high powered magic game than a true fantasy game with all these powers thrown in.

_Unrealistic_ I’m sure this is a sort of hokey criteria for a fantasy game. What level of realism are we talking about anyway? But for me AD&D always seemed to me like you could walk through a portal into that fantasy world and it would differ very little from this world. I mean the setting is basically medieval and the fantasy is basically Tolkienian—classical fantasy. The laws we know and understand apply in this world with the exception of magic. If I were transported to an AD&D world I could at least compete with low level characters. Again I know this is hokey but I hope my point is getting across. 4e is massively different—bordering on alien even. It simply doesn’t seem familiar fantasy wise. Now that’s all good if it’s what you are looking for—something so “other” that it bears little resemblance to medieval fantasy. I mean how do these characters DO what these powers allow them to do? Is it magic even in the case of fighter and rogue types? Is this just to be taken to be a very high magic world where everyone is imbued with magical prowess? If I stepped into this world I’d be hard pressed to tend pigs.
More to the point is it realistic for characters to be so powerful at first level? Now this is probably just purely personal but it seems like characters should start relatively normal. Maybe stronger or quicker than average. Maybe know a spell or two. Know how to hold their own in sword fight—and then grow from there. The powers come later. Of course I haven’t played high level 4e games. If I do I might be in for a sanity check.

_mini based_ Now don’t get me wrong, I love little minis, but I’ve never been much of a mini gamer. I use them basically for complex combat. 4e is very minis based and the modules seem to be heavily geared towards that type of play especially where combat is involved. This hasn’t appealed to me.

_Is it an RPG Video Game_ Okay this is bound to stir some feathers, but allow me to explain. I have watched the WoW crowd for awhile. Never been into it, but then I’m not a real video game hound. I watch these characters in WoW and it seems a lot like what I see as 4e in my head. Maybe I’ve just been biased by the slanders that claim WoTC is just trying to appeal to the WoW crowd with 4e. Well, I think they’ve done it. But I’m just not into that. Now is it a video game—obviously not—it’s definitely an RPG. But to me in terms of an RPG it has the whiff of Rifts about it. So far out there as to have reached the border of D&D genre and moved into something else. I even have students saying it is like WoW in many ways. I haven’t asked them for specifics or anything—mainly because they like this aspect of it.

Others may feel differently. In fact I know they do—and maybe my age is showing through. But I’m seriously considering gating my party through to a 1e world to bring me back to sanity. Funny thing is the kids love it. I’m the only one chugging pepto-bismol at night from our over the top gaming sessions. But I can't help but wonder if it wouldn't do them some good to actually have to work for their power and to have to use less raw power and more intelligence and roleplaying.

You have to understand that I have always been an anti-montyhaul gamer. Over the top has never appealed to me. And we did some high level demigod playing when I was playing 1e. Somehow it all seemed hemmed in. This is causing me to have that after-Halloween-too-much-sweets hangover.

Anyway, we’ll see how it goes. I’m still designing that gate though.

Okay, go ahead and thrash me I can take it : - )

Keep on the Shadowfell resumes

So first Gaming meeting was the Thursday following our community meeting. We don't waste any time!

We first voted as a club on which game we wanted to start with. Dungeons and Dragons won hands down. Star Wars and GURPS came in a distant second tie. So maybe after our first adventure in D&D we can switch to one of those games, but we'll vote when we get there.

And with that decided we jumped back into Keep on the Shadowfell!

We left our heroes engaged in a fierce battle with 8 shifty kobolds on the road to Winterhaven. The kobolds jumped from their hiding places behind the mounds of boulders that littered the ancient roadside. 5 minion kobolds rushed our adventurers brandishing spears and uttering shrill kobold battle cries. Our heroes were not surprised however and lost no time reacting quickly. They quickly fanned out to meet the initial onslaught. Dragonborn being some of the first in the fray spewing acidic breath weapons left and right. A few kobolds were caught in their dissolving blasts, but many dodged and escaped harm. The kobolds struck back wounding some severely. When the heroes responded our dragon born paladin Draconis summoned his mighty divine power branding his enemy in the process. With a single fell swoop of his greatsword he brought down his scaly opponent. Others also dealt their damage in strategic strikes and arrow shots. When the kobolds regrouped two massive dragonshield kobolds arose from their hiding places to engage the closest heroes they could find stabbing Quasar with a thrust of a wicked short sword. A Kobold slinger also arose whirling a flaming sling which he hurled into the fray. A spewing wall of flame arose in the road blocking most of the adventurers behind the bright red tongues of fire.

And that's where the session ended for the day. It had been an exciting session for the adventurers--but I was left with some lingering questions about 4e in general.

Committe meeting a resounding success!!

So it's been awhile since my last post--but the lcub has been very busy. We had our community committee meeting to see if the club was a go. We had 6 parents show up with their children. All were staunch supporters of the club and their children. They were very positive about the club and about the fact that we should be able to play any game we wanted that was good for kids. I was humbled by their support and their devotion to something their kids were involved in. It shows good parenting skills to take the time out of their busy lives to fight for their kids.

So the decision was that the club was not only a go, but strongly supported as it does move forward! And D&D is back on track! Though we may play some other games as well.

I was surprised that no antigaming individuals came. Either their concerns were answered or they didn't really feel strongly enough about the club's existence or their opinion of D&D and gaming in general to make their voice heard. So we now go forward with District, Administration and Committee support and strength. We are stronger than ever.