Monday, February 24, 2020

Saltmarsh 002: Near-Death Experiences

So, after finishing their big fight with the boss-and-minions for this adventure, the group retired back outside join their carriage driver, Remy Mertin, who was willing to stay and camp overnight but not to enter the house. Remy was cooking his dinner over a fire when they returned, and while the others ate from their rations the noble gave Remy cooking advice and then ate his meal. Then they settled in to get some sleep -- though they did, at least, decide to set a guard. The Chevalier took first watch, for at least a solid ten minutes before he fell asleep beside the fire. Raven, the little girl/halfling, woke herself up for the middle watch... which was a good thing, as about halfway through she noticed movement from the direction of the house.

Two dark figures had come into the yard and were looking at the campfire -- at a distance, but still easily visible. "Get the others," said one, as Raven snuck back to camp.

There were four when they approached the camp, a number which forced Raven to awaken her father and Kane the Undertaker. A brief battle ensued, which ended with the party victorious and even mostly unscathed. Salty Walt had slept through most of it, only awaking near the end to help give chase to the last two as they fled. The carriage-driver Remy, on the other hand, was huddled down beside the last remaining coals of the cookfire, having seen actual battle for the first time in his life.

Concluding that the haunted house contained no further enemies, the group sent Remy back up the road a little ways to camp somewhere safer and return during daylight. They then trooped back inside, looking for proper beds to sleep in. Deciding that the ground floor was no use for that, they trooped up to the second floor, found an empty bedroom, got distracted by something shiny, and then very nearly got themselves completely wiped out when swarms of spiders attacked them. Concluding that they'd killed everything in this room, at least, they elected to throw down some bedrolls and sleep there.

In the morning, partly but not fully rested, they explored the rest of that wing of the second floor, discovering some interesting clues -- and a bound prisoner in his underclothes, who'd been knocked out, tied up, and left in that room for a day and a night. The prisoner was a rather handsome half-elf named Venred Kindleaf, an adventurer who'd stopped in the house for shelter on his way to Saltmarsh. The Chevalier de Lorraine, who'd previously been entertaining lascivious thoughts about Remy the coachman, now turned a lustful eye towards Vennie, and went all the way back down to the basement to fetch him clothing from the corpses there.

With Vennie (dubiously) dressed, the group proceeded to explore the rest of the second floor. Or they would have, if a section of balcony hadn't given way and dropped the paladin all the way to the first floor. "We'll have to jump across," cried the halfling/seven-year-old Raven, and proceeded to completely fail her skill check and come crashing down on top of the slightly-stunned paladin.

"This is not so difficult, sirrahs," announced the Chevalier, and leapt across to the far side of opening with surprising ease.

"I can do this!" announced Salty Walt, and promptly leapt to a point halfway across before plummeting down atop the paladin as well. Raven dodged out of the way onto Kane's head; Kane dodged... well, no, actually he didn't.

"I should try again!" cried Raven, and took off across the entry hall and back up the stairs.

"Come, you handsome devil!" called the Chevalier, with a saucy wink at Vennie. "I'll catch you!"

The half-elf took a running jump and landed gracefully -- so gracefully, in fact, that he ended up in the Chevalier's arms, with one arm around his neck and their lips temptingly close together. Raven, meanwhile, came racing back down the balcony and jumped across again... or, well, actually she missed and fell back down on top of the paladin again. C'est la guerre.

And that was where we stopped.

I'm still not sure this was the best campaign for this group, but what the hell. It's a pre-built world that requires minimal prep-time from me. And I think they'll get through it, in their own idiosyncratic way. So... onward! Let the dice fall where they may!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Oh Fuck No

Right, so: last weekend was beating. This week has been a beating. I think I want to rewrite the last scene from Dark Armor -- I don't think it's going quite the way I want it to, though it does accomplish its two primary objective so I suppose I could leave it and fix it later -- but I can't quite focus well enough to see what needs to be done.

So instead, um, here's a perfectly insane clip of a wrestler leaping off a second-floor balcony of a mall into the ring; I'm honestly amazed that nobody died.

More worthwhile material when I'm rested. And no, I have no idea whether that'll include the next scene of Into The Black. That's going to depend entirely on how tomorrow goes.

I need to figure out a better schedule for this.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A Dog and His Boy

I had a request for a picture of the dog. The handiest one available features Firstborn, too. Kind of a two-fer.

Challenge: Types of Exercise I Enjoy

This is part of the weekly Blogging Challenge over at Long and Short Reviews. If you'd like to participate, you can find the prompts here. They also put up a post every Wednesday where you go and link your response -- and see everyone else's. Check out their homepage to find it.

This week's topic is Types Of Exercise I Enjoy, and folks, I have a confession to make. (It probably won't surprise anyone.)

I don't actually enjoy exercise in any form. I suspect I am far from alone in this. Also, I have no discipline; I suspect I am far from alone in this as well.

So in order for me to get exercise, I have to do it almost by accident. It has to be part of something else I enjoy. That used to be things like gymnastics, martial arts, even track. (I don't actually like running on flat surfaces like an actual track, but give me the sort of cross-country that borders on Parkour and I'm in. Or at least I used to be; my knees aren't as cooperative as they once were.) Gymnastics has kind of an age limit on it - nobody reputable will even let me near their equipment, and that's been true since my late twenties -- and while I'd love to get back to martial arts I've been out for nearly a decade now and I don't see anywhere in my schedule to put it. (I'd love to get the boys into some sort of martial arts, but the same problem applies there: there's nowhere in the schedule where it wouldn't be hugely disruptive.) Same on all accounts for various sorts of fencing.

Most of my current exercise comes of walking our newly-acquired dog. Mind you, it's not the walking I enjoy, it's that this give the Beautiful Woman and myself a chance to get out of the house together for a little bit. (Sometimes the boys come too, but usually it's just us.) These can be fairly extensive walks, so it definitely counts as exercise (and with the way the dog pulls on the leash, it's more work on the stabilizers and the core than you might expect). I do make it a point to get up and move around at work also, but again: it gets me out of the building for a little while.

The rest of what I get comes from boys jumping on me, often with Nerf weapons. Which is more enjoyable than you might expect, since I get to fight back with the Nerf battleaxe.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Saltmarsh 001: A rogue, two bards, and a paladin walk into a bar...

We had our first Saltmarsh game (and got the Tuesday night group back together for the first time in weeks) back on Tuesday. It went... really well, all things considered.

What things, you ask? Well, first of all, this is a group of players that tends to go off in its own direction. The characters are not always going to focus on what's best for the group or what's best for the mission. Which is fun, as long as you're ready for it. It means the characters are pulling the story along. It also means that the story is likely to depart from whatever you were expecting.

An example? Well, okay: our heroes have been hired to investigate a reputedly-haunted house a few miles outside of town. An ordinary group would have approached cautiously, perhaps made a thorough search of the area. With this group, well... the noble just strode up to the door, banged on it with his cane, and demanded to know if there were any ghosts inside. His newly-self-appointed daughter, who acts like a seven-year-old human girl but is actually a halfling in her twenties, used her mind-speaking power to pretend to be a ghost and answer him. Also? As far as the rest of the party is concerned, they've brought a seven-year-old to the dangerously haunted house -- or at least allowed her to tag along. They were a bit startled when she turned out to be an extremely competent murderchild, but they weren't concerned in the way that another party might have been.

And they got surprisingly far into the house with this approach. An ordinary group might have done some exploring, perhaps found some clues to the history of the house, and eventually uncovered its secrets. This group essentially walked straight into the middle of everything, managed to survive the fights they found themselves in, and are well into the secret areas at the end of the first gaming session.

The group consists of:

Raven, a halfling rogue masquerading as a human child; she has selected the Chevalier to be her human father for this role. Also, as the group discovered later, a gleeful and effective killer.

The Chevalier de Lorraine, a noble human bard who comes from the highest society but has no money of his own; when his lover cast him aside, he took the first ship available and wound up in Saltmarsh; he was crying into his cognac there when Raven found him. ("Are you my daddy?" she asked. He poured her a glass of the cognac and shared his tragic tale.)

Kane, a human paladin and the town's mortician; he feels responsible for making sure that the dead stay in their graves. A brooding, stoic sort, he came to join the others when a fellow in the bar announced that his master wished to hire people willing to explore a haunted house. He carries funeral dressings with him, and will prepare bodies with the proper rites after he kills them. Fights with a sharpened shovel.

Salty Walt Collins, a human shantyman (bard) haunted by ghostly fish that only he can see; he came along in the hope that exploring the house might give him some insight into the spirit that haunts him.

So next week I need to tell the group what they found after their big fight; I also need to work out a better way to take notes during the session. But on the whole, it came together pretty well and I think everybody had a good time -- and that's what you want out of a game.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Sleep Study & Writing Self-Accountability

I didn't get anything written for Into The Black this week, and I really don't want to rush through writing the next scene just so I can throw something up. I did at least get something written for Dark Armor, though I may yet go back and revise that. I'm trying to get back into the habit of writing regularly -- or, more to the point, stay in the habit of writing regularly -- but life as a married adult with a job and kids offers plenty of distractions and interruptions.

Last night's particular distraction was a Sleep Study. My doctor, noting that I'd complained of being tired at my last dozen or so annual physicals, suggested that I fill out a "might be Sleep Apnea" form and see about getting set up for this, and since my brother definitely has sleep apnea, well... So anyway, last night I went to bed at 10:00 -- Who even does that??? -- and got a full eight hours of sleep, albeit with a box strapped to the front of my chest, an infrared sensor on my finger, and a breathing tube sampling the air in my nose and mouth. (That last part isn't as intrusive as it probably sounds.) I'm supposed to turn the test device back in today, so we'll see what they have to say about it. At this point, anything that can get me back to having more energy is worth a try. Well, I mean, maybe not Meth, but... anything that helps and doesn't have horrible side-effects. Yeah. Let's go with that.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Dark Armor 008

Okay, new plan... Pallian rolled over and brought his shield up, covering his chest just in time for an arrow to slam into his left knee. It didn't pierce, but as Pallian rolled back to his feet he could see where it had left a dent. Another arrow slammed into his right knee and shattered. Testing for weak points in the armor, Pallian thought, and cursed.

Then his shield slammed back into his chest, and he was on his back on the ground again. He caught a brief glimpse of an arrow hanging in the air before it began to fall, completely intact despite the fact that it had just struck him like a battering ram. He needed to respond, now. Another spell? His ranged options were limited, intended more for spreading chaos on the battlefield around him than for picking off a single target. And his armor wasn't invulnerable, at least not to this archer; the arrow in his palm had come loose on its own, but it had pierced the inside of his gauntlet and the flesh underneath it. The archer had drawn blood. She has to run out of arrows sometime, doesn't she?

He got his shield up again and moved his body around behind it. Black neighed as another arrow shattered against his barding.

Then the edge of the ridge erupted in a wall of flames, and his brother drifted down out of the sky beside him. "Get up, little brother," said Ravaj. "Get Black, and get back to the camp." The flames surged, and even at this distance Pallian could hear screams.

He crossed quickly to Black, and yanked the arrows out one at a time. It wasn't as gently as he would have preferred, and the stallion shrieked with each one. Still, a moment later Black drew a shuddering breath and rose. Back to the camp. He was reaching for the reins when another arrow dropped out of the sky, falling almost vertically, and slammed into the top of Ravaj's right shoulder. Ravaj looked startled; then he swayed and collapsed. The wall of fire went out.

Pallian cursed and scooped his brother up, mounting Black with Ravaj hanging over his shoulder. The stallion huffed, then turned and trotted away. More arrows followed them, but Ravaj had recovered enough to throw up some protections and none of them found their mark.