Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Youth DnD: New Adventurer, New Room!

So apparently I utterly failed to write up the previous session, wherein Barrith (halfling arcane trickster) and Toruv (dragonborn draconic sorcerer) tried to chase down a thief as he fled the market, only for Barrith to find himself in a net loosed by two of the thief's accomplices -- who promptly fled. A pair of warriors moved in from the side-passages, and were completely surprised when Toruv (who'd been jogging rather than running) rolled up and lit one of them on fire. There was a brief exchange attacks while Barrith cut himself loose, and at the end Toruv and Barrith were standing over the bodies of two dead thugs.

They turned them over to the guards, which -- with the incident being this close to the main marketplace -- earned them some commendations from both the guards and the vendors. Toruv (who was shot with a crossbow from cover a while back) suspects foul play on the part of one or more of the other noble Houses, but of course it's impossible to prove anything.

They returned to House Aldenmier only to be awakened shortly after midnight by the sound of someone sneaking through Toruv's room. Toruv followed the shadowy figure, and Barrith woke up and followed him; the intruder turned into the grand hall. By the time they reached the open doors, the figure was nowhere to be seen. The two adventurers spread out, and managed to spot the intruder and wound her - whereupon the figure threw down a smoke bomb, reducing visibility to all but nothing. Both adventurers started forward anyway, just in time to see a bright flash from the far end of the room.

By the time the smoke had dispersed, they had found the body. She'd been trying to steal the banner, and got herself electrocuted instead. So they yelled for the guards, and left them to clean up the mess.

So that was actually last session. (Yes, you'd think I could keep up with this, but you'd probably be wrong.) So this session the group was joined by a new player. Apparently he was not the one who'd been talking about making a Circle of the Moon Druid for the game (don't ask how that all went down; I don't have the energy to explain the details) and when we were looking over his character he really didn't seem committed to the druid concept anyway: apparently he makes his characters by spreading his ability points around evenly (14 in everything) and then going from there. Since he didn't seem to have any spells picked out, I asked him if he'd be willing to try a barbarian instead (because I'd been looking at barbarians for something else and I'm deeply impressed with the class). He was willing, and his druid already had a flame tongue sword that he'd inherited from his family, so making the switch was really easy... and I think really successful.

He's a very unique and interesting barbarian, because he's really not optimized at all: his ability scores are 14 across the board, plus the bonuses he gets for being a half-elf (which are dexterity and charisma, rather than the barbarian standards of strength and constitution) and he's got a background as a sage (which he declined to change, despite the offer). So what we've got here is someone who's very devoted to his family, who has the potential to be fairly good at anything he turns his hand to, who knows how study and do research, and who also knows how to pick up that flaming sword and go to town with it.

I'm actually really charmed by this. We need to talk out the character background a little more, but I'm going to see if we can't do that either via text or email or something during the week. If not, I might need to have him stop by a little earlier next week; with the new arrival and getting his character sheet printed out (even though he'd already created the PC) we got off to a bit of a late start.

It was worth it, though.

With the party back up to a group of four, they were able to enter a room that they hadn't been to before. The rest of the group talked their new barbarian through the dungeon so far, up to and including the Delving Orcs (which we hand-waved away as having come out and gone off with one of Lord Aldenmier's lieutenants to be shown to their potential new job). So they entered, and were unsuccessfully ambushed by bugbears. And the ambush was largely unsuccessful because the barbarian is rather difficult to surprise and substantially hard to kill, especially while he's raging.

It was a close battle for a while there, but it was easy to see when the tide turned. (And also, when the weird trend of All The Dice Rolls Going Badly For The Party In The First Half Of The Battle finally stopped being an issue.) And while we did run a bit late -- we finished the battle with All The Moms waiting at one end of the kitchen -- we did get it done. The new barbarian is named Arch, and his player seems to be a good fit with the rest of the group, so I think this is going to work.

Current party treasure by my count is 25 PP, 1482 GP, and 31 SP.

From this last encounter, the group (once they finish looting) will add:
600 SP
6 morningstars
6 sets hide armor

Perhaps more importantly, that's another room clear and another room closer to being able to reach the next level of the dungeon.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Session Notes: IMPART one-shot

So the Dungeon Master for our usual Saturday Night got very sick back on Thursday, and contrary to what Harlan Ellison may have thought, I Have No Voice And I Must DM is not actually a viable strategy. So, another player stepped in with an intriguing idea: "Make a bunch of twentieth-level characters, and then fight whatever I throw at you." There's a loose framing device around this to smooth the edges, but that's the concept. So we tried it. These... these are my notes from the episode.

Since it might help anyone who wasn't there (and even some of us who were), here's a cast list before we get started:
-Dala (human rogue, swashbuckler)
-Grimblood Darkborne (half-orc barbarian, totem warrior) (me)
-Lexx Bloodgood (fallen aasimar fighter, champion)
-Luka Alphason (human wizard, Evocation)
-Meghan Bridie Glivet (human, cleric 19/fighter 1, grave domain)
-Sirro (Aasimar, cleric, life domain)
-Vulferam Fireflower (Goliath, fighter 18/rogue 2, battlemaster)

Let us begin...



Everyone no matter what your adventures were in the past, what you did, what you achieved... you all became very powerful. So when we were all recruited (in various ways) it because I.M.P.A.R.T. needed our help. (Interplanar Mystical Protectors and Arcane Research Teams.) They will provide resources, and we will help... everyone. We protect against things from outside the material plane. Our job is to get the job done, and the job is something nobody else can do.

We may have been here for different lengths of time. Whenever we joined, we received a medallion. It's not large, but it's carved with the name of the organization and a handful of gems; when it glows, we grab it and concentrate and it'll bring us to the conference room. (The concept reminds of this old series of toy-advert cartoons, actually. That is not a criticism, though; I loved that whole idea.)

Introductions!

Dala is attractive but nondescript except for a particularly garish bracelet that matches nothing else she wears. Megan is a small human woman with a very large scythe. Luka is a human male, young, dark-skinned, bright auburn hair. Vulf is large but surprisingly unobtrusive. Lexx is gray-skinned and deshabille. Sirro is wildly unkempt and complaining about an interrupted tryst. Grimblood is a large half-orc wearing only a kilt and a pack.

At this point Scythe appears in the room. She's the one who gives us our assignments.

Giant monsters are coming up out of the sea and destroying cities. Only six months apart. Then another three months later. Usually these giant monster attacks happen maybe once a century; this is far too frequent. Or there are far too many of them.

There are some local cults that may be calling this thing up. That's our way in. Find them, bring them in, make sure we can still ask them questions, then stop them from doing whatever they're doing to call these guys up. Let's go to the armory and get suited up.

We go through a couple of checkpoints and into a large room. The equipment is mundane, but there's a massive and varied supply. (OOC Note: there isn't much description of the facility, but that's because this is a one-shot that might become an every-once-in-a-while thing for when we can't do the main campaign.)

In the back of the room is another security checkpoint. Here Scythe starts showing us magic weapons, Vanna White style. Lexx grabs the longsword. A Flame Tongue greatsword - after a bit of arguing Bloodgrim takes the flame tongue, Vulf takes the Frost Brand longsword. A Sunblade longsword is next, and Sirro shivers lustfully. A rapier that's a holy avenger: no immediate takers. The second rapier is a luckblade. Dala snags the luck blade rapier. The wizard immediately takes an interest in the staff of frost. We do a couple of swap-outs; since the holy avenger isn't well suited to any of us, Scythe puts it away and retrieves a straight +3 rapier instead. She also reconsiders on Grimblood's flame tongue, and manages to scrounge a luck blade greatsword for him instead.

A couple of enchanted suits of armor come over and take the holy avenger back, and Scythe produces a magic scythe for Meghan

Next: armor! It's all +3. Grimblood and the wizard grab bracers of defense instead; everybody else suits up.

Then we're off for dinner (IC), then a long rest so we can get attuned to the new weapons, and then it's off to Cultist City and/or Tarrasque Target Town.

Discussion of tactics ensues before bedtime:
1. Yeet the Goliath into the Tarrasque's mouth.
2. Seduce it.
3. Rum. Lots and lots of rum.
4. Or, maybe, we could go look for the cultists and try to prevent them from summoning the thing.

Dala concentrates on her necklace to get Scythe back in for a minute. "Can we get some maps of the area, and maybe a book or something on the area?"

Scythe: "Sure."

Us: "Can we get rum?"

Scythe: "There's wine on the table."

Us: "No, enough to get the tarrasque drunk and maybe seduce it."

Scythe: "..."
Scythe: "..."
Scythe: "It's immune to poison, I don't think..."
Scythe: "No. Just no."

The cults are mostly just rumored, and there may be two of them. The devastated cities are essentially no-go zones. Dala wants to know how far the cities are apart.

Lexx: "Okay, so we could start a *third* cult and really mess things up."

The distance between the cities is a matter of hours or days. The rate of the attacks has been increasing, and there's a distinct possibility that we'll get there just before the next attack. And... it's on Waterdeep. Which, you know, nobody's really going to miss Waterdeep, right? Daggerfall is already gone.

Next morning: Best Breakfast Ever, then through the magical gate. It's closer to nightfall than we thought it would be, and we've come in on the outskirts of town.

This is an alternate Waterdeep; we're in an alternate timeline, it looks like. We're not too far off the road into town, on the northern side where there are a lot of farms. The wizard who's with us says this is an alternate dimension.

We decide to circle the city once, while Dala employs her investigation skill. She spots two guys running along, one struggling to keep up with the other. They're similarly dressed, but the one that fell dropped something. Dala turns us that direction, quickly but subtly. She picks it up and it seems to be some kind of rough amulet, with a rough footprint as the central design. It's not a religious symbol that anybody recognizes; it's probably reptilian, but not a dragon. It's probably a (the?) tarrasque.

We take off after them. Not all of us are particularly stealthy, but the cultists are oblivious. They come out of town and head down a small peninsula, and they seem to be heading for a crowd of maybe eight other people (so ten total). There are a lot of bags with them and a heap of something. As we approach the group, we hear talking and complaining about the couple who are late. ("It's a dork cult and they're trying to summon dork forces.") We think it might be fish in the bags. It's a lot, whatever it is, and it definitely smells like fish.

So Dala slides into concealment, and the rest of us follow.

Their cloaks are patched, mismatched. There's one person with a larger medallion, very hand-crafted and crude, but much more elaborate than the others. We're... roughly 100' out, close enough to hear them shouting. Sirro approaches Dala and suggests that if we rush them he can throw down an anti-magic field that will prevent summons and whatnot.

There... is a magic circle on the ground, just past where the cultists are standing.

Okay, so: Dala the rogue sneaks forward to dashing range, and then the Goliath (Vulf) yeets the Aasimar (Sirro) while Grimblood yeets the other (fallen) Aasimar (Lexx). Sirro drops an anti-magic field, while Lexx sprouts bony wings and black eyes and just goes TERRIFYING. So Dala pops out of hiding and puts a blade to the throat of the leader, who stays *very* still. The back of his amulet says PTT, which he explains as... Pet The Tarrasque. They want to pet the tarrasque so it won't destroy the city. Tell it it's a good boy and send it on its way. Oh ye gods...

Cultist Leader: "You used an anti-magic spell? Oh, no, the other cult is gonna summon the tarrasque! They're on a boat. They were going to summon it and we were going to try to lure it over here. Fucking Todd took our fucking book and they're just way better than us."

Okay, new plan: we can gate out of here and gate back in to the boat.

...Or not. The boat out on the water disappears as we all sense a great rush of magic. So yeah, the would-be monster fuckers are fucked. The Tarrasque is now rising out of the water.

We handwave the next little set of actions, where we all run back towards the town, yelling for everybody else to evacuate, and get into a position to intercept the beast as it comes tearing into the docks.

We attack. Grimblood... hits, but basically just dents a scale. Lexx does a ton of damage; Sirro gets his wings back through a divine intervention and does more, but... this thing is way, way too big for even a solid hit to make a lot of difference. We're going to have to whittle it down. Meghan casts divine aura, making us all a lot harder to hit. Our wizard makes an attack but misses.

The Tarrasque attacks! Grimblood and Lexx fail their saves and are terrified, but everybody else is okay. Grimblood takes some slashing damage (but hey, rage!) and the two fighters take some as well.

Okay, so we're fucked. New plan: we're going to need a giant enchanted fishhook and a lot of enchanted chain.

Lexx the Fallen Aasimar reaches out for something, anything, and gets his wings back. He can now do necrotic damage and for the length of this battle can also fly. It seems the Raven Queen supports us.

Sirro does something to damage it, and it's now down at the 3/4 mark on its hit points. The pattern on its attacks seems to be roar, then bite, claw, claw, horn, tail.

The wizard tries a magical star attack, and the star turns away from the tarrasque and hits him instead. Irritated, the wizard casts Freezing Sphere for some godsawful amount of damage; the Tarrasque is annoyed, and swallows the barbarian. Then it goes to attack Sirro, hits itself instead, and then attacks Sirro again, this time doing some damage.

Grimblood uses his wish to get out of the monster's stomach and winds up on the beast's back, where he makes a single attack to stay in place... and crits. The tarrasque tries to buck him off, and instead drives the sword in deeper. Sirro casts a healing and restores us, then brings Grimblood all the way back up to max by flying up and slapping him on his naked ass. (Grimblood fights completely naked. Armor on the battlefield is for the weak. So is clothing.) Vulf attacks and smacks the fuck out of it.

Meghan points with her scythe and recites "Ye hold the doorway and none shall pass." Meghan is casting Blight, and even with the save the tarrasque takes 50 damage. The Goddess of Death is generous.

Sirro suddenly remembers that seduction was supposed to be Plan A, and... winds up in the beast's mouth. The wizard promptly rescues him.

The Tarrasque is not happy. It takes a bite at Lexx, then tries to claw Grimblood off. It does some damage but doesn't manage to pry him loose. The tarrasque attacks Vulf and does some damage, but loses Lexx from its mouth. Grimblood attacks and does some more damage, then manages not to get bucked off. Taking advantage of his shadow wings, Lexx swoops around and attacks its ass, reaming the monster thoroughly with his longswords. Sirro swings up and plants a blade next to Grimblood, then offers him a ride off. Meghan blasts it with Blight again, solidly damaging it. The wizard casts Control Water, then uses that to lift Grimblood off the Tarrasque; Grimblood takes advantage of Sirro's presence and leaps into his arms just before the water would have dropped him onto the docks.

Dala has been dancing around the monster, attacking, then moving away, then hiding. The Tarrasque finally notices the rogue and starts scratching around his legs, but fails to find him. It slashes at Vulf and does a bit of damage, then hits Lexx. It tries another tail sweep for the rogue, and finally manages to connect. Dala attacks in return, and the Tarrasque falters and turns away, roars, and heads back into the water. We have felled the Tarrasque.

Someone is washed up on the shore in formerly-lavish robes. He too has a medallion, but this one is custom. It's got the footprint on the front, and on the back it says F.T.T. This is Todd, and his group was summoning it for sex. ("We thought... if we tied it down... it would be safe...") So we grab Todd and start focusing on our medallions, and Scythe appears.

We get a bunch of experience and Grimblood goes off to retrieve his kilt.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Music: Thumbsuckers

So one of the responses to the Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge reminded me of Shel Silverstein and his music, so I'm just going to put this one here for this morning:

Thursday, November 7, 2019

ItB 003: Approach

The raptors were a string of obsidian arrowheads, sparkling with small bursts of thrust as they spiraled in towards the capital ship. "Four of three," broadcast Caden and watched as their line staggered out and fell apart, separating their approach.

Nothing moved on the station, or on the surface of the capital ship. The Ultima Ratio was coming in behind them, shields up and weapons at the ready, but Caden didn't believe that her presence kept the unfinished capital ship quiescent. It looked too close to completion for that: systems in place, weapons powered, quarters ready to be crewed. If it considered them a threat or intended to assault the Majesty of Earth, it should have been doing something. Even its shields were down.

They were silent for a few seconds as the raptors spread out in trios and their sensors explored the surface of the capital ship.

"I mark eight one-person maintenance airlocks, four connecting airlocks, and a main docking bay on the capital ship. Two primary airlocks and four maintenance airlocks on the station." Nobody pulsed back a correction, which meant that they were seeing the same things that Caden was. "Docking bay has an atmosphere shield in place, but the gate is open."

"Confirm, sir," pulsed back Padma, who had taken her trio past the front of the capital ship and then looped around the station. Caden was vaguely aware of the slender triangles of the raptors passing between the alloy ribs that encased the capital ship; his attention was more on what they were picking up, the map that was coalescing in his implant. Padma continued; she had always shared something of his sense of humor. "Capital ship transmitting warning is open, while station transmitting emergency beacon is sealed."

Caden bundled the new information and pulsed it back to the Ultima Ratio.

"The capital ship's the one that spoke up as we approached," said Drake, pulsing back from the Ultima. "They may want us to go away, but there are definitely people there. No further contact from the station."

"Concur," said Celia, and Caden knew that she was not only targeting but warming her weapons up to fire. Facing a ship like this she would be well within her legal rights, but Caden pulsed her a private message: "Hold, tenth stan."

Celia pulsed back: "Holding."

Apparently at her order, Drake broadcast: "Capital ship and station crew: if evacuation is needed, please gather in cargo bay of capital ship and prepare for transport. Raptors are inbound and shuttles will be provided."

There was a long, empty moment as Caden and his team continued their approach and the beacons continued their conflicting messages. Then the same voice that had warned them away came on the broadcast again, re-transmitted by Drake: "Approaching ships, do not make contact. Repeat, do not make contact. Station is compromised and Ascendancy may be as well. Forget the beacon; pull back and destroy us from a safe distance. Hirakawa's Ninety-Fifty, out."

Caden cursed to himself. The broadcast he'd just heard made its own advice impossible under panhuman law. If this is a trap, it's the best and most convincing I've ever seen. He kept that though to himself as well, because it didn't change anything. If there were people alive and a rescue was possible, they had to make the attempt.

Akira pulsed him a half-formed query, the emotional equivalent of Should I? Caden sent back a nod.

"Hirakawa's Ninety-Fifth," Akira broadcast, "We are inbound at this time in accordance with the Treaties. Please advise on what we should expect and how we can best assist."

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Challenge: Books I've Recommended & Why

Starting with the usual bit of context: the topic is from the Weekly Blogging Challenge over at Long and Short Reviews. Hit their homepage to see the current week's responses, and add a link to your own if you're so inclined.

This week's challenge is Books I've Recommended & Why.

I feel compelled to point out that over the course of this weekly challenge, I have already recommended an awful lot of books... So for today I'm going to point out three titles that I know I haven't mentioned so far. (Well, I haven't mentioned them here on the Blog o' Doom, anyway. I have recommended them to people in person; otherwise they wouldn't qualify for today's prompt! But I digress...)

First up: Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather. So why am I recommending it? Well, for starters: nuns in space! Nuns in space making difficult choices, both personal and moral! Nuns in space in a living spaceship! Nuns in space with a decidedly ambivalent attitude about the mother church back on Earth! Nuns in... well, nuns in a very enjoyable story about different kinds of and approaches to faith, flavored with elements of adventure and danger, and several very nicely-crafted storytelling moments which I won't talk about until you've also had a chance to read it. It's a relatively short novel featuring a very unusual and well-done take on a number of classic science fiction elements.

Next: The Outside by Ada Hoffman. Why this one? Well... Lesbian conjurors in space! Reality-bending eldritch monsters! Cybernetic angels! AI gods! Mad science! Own-voice Autism representation! Conflicting loyalties! This one is longer than the previous book, taking the time to fill in a much larger world and slowly unveil its mysteries and its horrors. It mixes science fiction and cosmic horror and makes the combination work -- and it has a good time doing it.

Finally: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. Why? Well, you may notice a pattern here, but: lesbian necromancers in space! A derelict gothic palace holding an arcane mystery that could unlock untold power! Magic! Sword fights! Murder! Enemies to friends to lovers! A series of deadly tests! Ancient secrets! This book is just... it's a whole world of its own. Easily the longest of the three, but it's worth every minute.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Death by Science Fair Project

So, in the midst of the utter chaos a couple of weeks back, I discovered that Firstborn was a full month and half behind on his science fair project. He essentially hadn't submitted anything to the approval site, and so despite the fact that we'd come up with a pretty good set of experiments he wasn't even approved yet. And yeah, the whole thing is due in the middle of November.

Well, Friday night he updated the last of his corrections and Sunday morning he received his approval.

And thank the dark gods for the time change, because without that extra hour of sleep I don't think either of us would have survived.

Setting up the experiments wasn't actually too bad; the real issue was that he has to keep a journal of all this, which meant I needed for him to write down everything that we were going to do before we started doing it. And that took a lot longer than it should have, mostly because he was radically overthinking the whole thing. Finally I made him pull on shoes and the two of us took a long walk while I talked about what the journal really needed to have, which is basically "a lot of sentences". (I did refine that to point out that yes, they needed to be a detailed description of what we were doing and why, and what issues we were expecting to encounter and what we were going to do about them.)

So I finally got him writing while I went off to pick up some supplies that we were going to need to resolve one of those problems, and shortly after I got back we were ready to start. (And, of course, I have to remember to take pictures all along the way.)

So now it's two-thirty on Sunday and we've got the main multi-day portions of the experiments set up, and more journal-writing done, and I am drained. I need to do some laundry. I want to do some writing. But I think this blog entry is about what I'm going to accomplish.

School projects are going to be the death of me yet.

Monday, November 4, 2019

DnD: Why is the other half of Half-Whatever always human?

It's an under-discussed fact (particularly among human cultures) but where other races have intrinsic qualities like luck or racial spells, humans have the magic ability (and the moral flexibility) to breed with nearly anyone. There are competing theories on why this is, and in fact among Sun Elf scholarship there's a whole anthropological subcategory devoted to the question of, basically, "Dear gods, WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?" Is it a gift from whatever deity originally created them? A curse laid on them (so to speak) by some long-extinguished enemy species? Is there actually such a thing as truly purebred human?

Dwarven scholar Durdek Two-Hammer claims that the behavior comes from a fundamental instability in the human bloodline, and speculates that without breeding in bloodlines from other races humans would eventually become infertile and go extinct. The gnomish wizard Litha Glitterball, however, has published a number of scathing critiques of these claims, claiming that the sheer number of humans in the world could not possibly exist if that were true, and that Durdek should stick to the truly wild all-dwarf parties that earned him his name. Sir Artur Proofwaithe of the Human Anti-Defamation League (whose motto is "We Can't Be Racist, We Allow Half-Elves To Join") claims that the ability isn't magical at all, but instead reflects the "fact" that humans are the original bloodline that all other "humanoid" races were created from, which is why the human bloodline is compatible with all of them. (n.b. The Waterdhavian Scholarship Exchange does not hold with the use of this offensive term, and also notes the circular logic which undergirds it, as Proofwaithe elsewhere defines "humanoid" as "any race capable of breeding with humans", a category that apparently includes even dragons.)

Not everyone is troubled by this peculiar racial trait. Famous moon elf therapist Mona Highglow has long advocated for bringing in one or more humans to "spice up" elvish marriages which have fallen into a bit of a sexual rut after a century or three. More ominously, the infamous Grigor The Butcher directly attributes his success in looting, raiding, and pillaging to his mixed parentage and urges the orcish clans to take full advantage of the services (both military and sexual) of the more ambitious, mercenary, and horny sorts of humans. Halfling courtesan Delicia Gallops also famously announced that humans were "an experience everyone should have", a controversial remark that was widely associated with her rise to prominence in the Erotician court.

This proposal will explain why it is so vital to perform further research into this unique and under-studied phenomenon, and why the authors are uniquely situated to do so. It is our hope that the Whaterdhavian Scholarship Exchange will see fit to fund this important field work.