Thursday, June 20, 2019

More were-rats, fewer regrets

Our DM essentially decreed that we got a room at an inn after our fight with the were-rats; we started this session by waking up after a variety of nightmares. Since most of us are elves, and therefore trance instead of sleep, these were clearly some sort of magical attack. Clearly, we needed to hunt down the Blessed One that the were-rat leader Squim mentioned when we questioned him after the last battle, and we needed to murder him to death.

Only... we were waking up in an inn. So we went downstairs for breakfast, ate, and tried to gather some information and get our bearings.

Reverend Mercy (our cleric, the apostolic snake handler) approached a couple of elderly elves at a table and began asking them if they knew of the healing love of Artemis. Upon realizing that the older man was staring at his mouth, he began talking louder.

Marshall Mercy doesn't speak Elvish.

So he dragged the wizard over to translate for him, which the kid did... after a fashion. Except that the elderly couple were both deaf. So Martini did the translating instead, albeit not completely accurately. Mercy prepared a blessing for the older couple and managed to apply it before they politely ran off.

The wizard wandered off and talked to a few other people. It seemed the Baron was due to give a speech tomorrow. Also, Captain Merduc Forum was missing, and had been since just before the beginning of the festival.

Azrael (the wiazrd) came back to Ruin to say that we should find the Baron and make sure he supports our cause. Ruin was more cautious; he'd been assigned to gather information about how the populace regarded the return of the True King and return that intelligence to the True Elves. Still... maybe.

In talking to a few people, Ruin learned of a local smith, Shuma, who was both respected and plugged into the community and might be able to provide some halfway reliable information.

Martini, meanwhile, went to talk to the bartender and heard a fairly solid rumor that there had been a number of murders -- or at least bloody crime scenes lacking bodies -- in Southspur. She did a really good impression of being upset and possibly about to faint at the mention of all that blood.

Keeping with our original mission, we tried to go see the Baron. His keep was locked up tight, and even after passing liquor through the gate all we learned from the guards was that it had been locked down since the attack in the market yesterday -- presumably the same attack that we'd defeated.

With the Baron unavailable, we went to the blacksmith. She was a dwarf and a skilled craftswoman, housed in a quaint smithy that fit the local architecture. (We'd also run into her son in the market last session; he's... prone to taking credit for her work when he's trying to make a sale.)

Ruin stepped up, speaking Dwarvish, and charmed her. (Just charisma, not magic or any sort of domination.) He opened by asking about the Baron. The Baron, it turned out, had never been that popular, but just lately there had been a lot more crime on the streets and the act of locking down the Baron's Keep was unusual to the point of unprecedented. Things were starting to get bad, and they were only going to get worse. Shuma thought that the rise in crime and the appearance of the were-rats might be connected.

There's a belltower in the middle of town, and it's said to be overrun by rats. We didn't go there immediately, of course; instead, we let the cleric wander around asking questions like the missing guard captain apparently had.

A pair of were-rats attacked him. We jumped in, and eventually defeated them: barely, sort of. I will note for the record that damage reduction is a helluva drug. The surviving were-rat (thoroughly intimidated) directed us to the bell tower, but we went back to the smith to re-equip with silvered weapons first.

So when we reached the bell tower, Martini had a silvered rapier and a silvered shortsword, while Ruin was wearing his falchion and a silvered greatsword in an X across his back.

The Keeper of the Belltower didn't want to let us in. We.... broke in anyway. Then we fought our way up the tower, facing were-rats and dire rats. Mercy is supplementing his melee with spells to increase his attacks; Martini is angling for flanking positions where she can add Sneak Attack damage, Ruin is basically beating things down and trying to help with flanking, and Azrael is mainly exercising battlefield control spells -- blinding our enemies, or hitting them with Stinking Cloud, or like that. With silvered weapons, things go much more our way, and we move up the tower clearing out one floor at a time.

Eventually, we reach the fourth floor, where Squim -- the were-rat leader that we released last session -- is lying on the floor being wildly sick, while two other were-rats and the bell keeper are up in the rafters. Azrael hits the ones in the rafters with Stinking Cloud, and Mercy sets fire to the rafters. Ruin and Martini try to question Squim... and succeed.

There is a bookshop in the West Hill district, where Squim meets with the Blessed One in a back room. Identities are secret; Squim only knows the Blessed One as a hooded figure who delivers instructions from the Speaker In His Dreams. Squim is of the opinion that the Speaker is in control, and may be controlling the Baron as well.

Our cleric is running a kind of DC Comics Two-Face vibe, drawing snakes from his pouch at random to express the judgement of Artem-hiss on our enemies. (His snake-pouch holds three snakes; one of them is venomous, the other two harmless.) The bell-keeper (human, as far as I know) didn't survive this test, but one of the were-rats did. Mercy pronounced the goddess satisfied and turned it loose.

At this point, we think the Speaker In Dreams is the real threat, but the Blessed One is the only way we have to find it.

After that? We murder the Speaker to death, of course. At least, that's Ruin's plan right now.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Blogging Challenge: Favorite Things To Do In The Summer

Right, so, the usual: Weekly Blogging Challenge over at Long and Short Reviews. (If you're just joining up, swing by their homepage and add your response to the current post each Wednesday.)

This week's challenge is Favorite Things To Do In The Summer.

...Which is weird.

Okay, maybe not all that weird. But at my age, the things I do in the summer aren't really all that much different from the things I do in the winter -- except that I have to keep the boys occupied so that they stay on some kind of sleep schedule and don't drive us completely insane. (So far? Engineering camp for Firstborn, which I think went really well, and Summer Safety Camp for Secondborn, which is taught by the police department where my brother works and seems to be going splendidly.)

I actually walk around outside less in the summer, in no small part because I work in a server room (a.k.a. the morgue, or the refrigerator) and so anything like summer weather makes me uncomfortably sweaty (and eventually stinky). I try to avoid the heat. But I also try to make sure the boys are getting enough exercise, and do have some new experiences.

Being a parent in the summer is a lot different than being a kid was.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Defeat Of The Ogres

So, when last we left my children and their friends, they were fighting a trio of ogres.

In their next episode, they finally killed them. It wasn't as close a fight as it could have been, but the Barbarian and the Monk still took a fair amount of damage. The cleric used the last of his spells to heal them, and the sorcerer was running low as well. So the rogues stood guard while the others took a long rest in that room. While they were waiting for everyone to recover, they heard footsteps outside the door... but the footsteps passed by.

Out of character, this game was a lot less chaotic than the last one. We weren't trying to find a dynamic with a new player, we were back to our original two-hours-with-a-break-for-lunch-in-the-middle schedule, and we were also finishing up an existing combat, so everybody was able to stay pretty focused. (We also weren't just coming back from a month-long break.

One of our players -- the cleric -- will be out of town for a bit, but I think we can manage with Skype.

The only real issue I have now is that the players have turned on me: they're refusing to leave the dungeon until they absolutely have to, because they know that the Dwarf Barbarian (originally played by my niece) will get reassigned to other duties as soon as they emerge. So they're keeping her in there and forcing me to keep playing her as an NPC.

There are worse problems to have.

Monday, June 17, 2019

The Accidental Secretary

So a few days ago Beautiful Wife took Secondborn with her to work. She had to be there for a meeting, and he didn't want to be left alone at the house with his older brother. (Being left alone in her office was apparently fine.) So she set him with his kindle fire and his laptop and went to the meeting.

When she came out, he was having a grand time in the main office with one of the Admins. She explained that she'd left a note on Beautiful Wife's office door, and that Secondborn had left a note on her desk. So, naturally, Beautiful Wife went and looked.

The note from the Admin was exactly what you'd expect: "Secondborn is with me at my desk, come find us there," or words to that general effect.

The note on the desk in the office (hand-written, mind you) said:
mom im in room
4129 Been
ansering your calls When
somwhon call's you
I say: Beautiful Woman
is at a meating so
Please caLL Back in 2
So yeah, he'd been sitting there answering her phone when it rang and telling people she was in a meeting and they'd need to call back later. I assume that's how the admin found him. He's a very helpful kid, Secondborn is. (He doesn't refer to her as Beautiful Woman, either; that's something I do here on the blog because it's easier than using [REDACTED].)

Friday, June 14, 2019


Ruin laid his weapons out on the floor of his room, regarding each of them in turn as he considered what his mother had told him.

The fighting-knife had forward-curved edge that made it capable of delivering powerful blows; it would never be his first choice, but it could be worn in places where larger blades were not acceptable.

"I need you to travel with Fartathren and Lelilian Elisbian to Annun," his mother had said.

"I thought I was coming with you to treat with the Dwarves." Ruin had frowned.

"You were, but Councilor Marigill has asked that you go with them to gather information, and send it to us as you can. The word of the True King, and then his arrival with this... war-leader of his... has thrown everything out balance. We need more information."

"Councilor Marigill fears I'll spoil the negotiations with the Dwarves."

"Councilor Marigill is less worried about having you with us among the Dwarves than she is about sending you unsupervised to Annun. Still, she recognizes that you are the only one among us who can travel to Annun without attracting notice -- and the only one who might be assumed to have left this delegation en route for reasons entirely of your own."

The two-handed scimitar was next, with its heavy-tipped, curved blade and its elegant handle and guard. It was an unusual weapon, not one favored by True Elves but not wholly foreign to them, either. They trained in the one-handed versions of the weapon readily enough. To focus on this weapon was to depart from his heritage without disregarding it entirely.

"So she will make my savagery work for the greater good?"

"She wishes you to use your reputation for willfulness to our advantage. Council Loraan may see your behavior as reckless and savage, but Marigill recognizes that your desire for blood is a desire to fight on behalf of our people." Baethira Anthelorn paused, meeting his gaze directly. "So do I."

The glaive was a polearm, essentially a single-edged shortsword mounted on the end of a staff. Ruin had asked for it when the High Provost offered to provide them with equipment, just in case he needed to strike farther away than the scimitar could reach. Using it, he could attack opponents before they had the chance to close in, and it could do more damage than the two-handed scimitar... though perhaps not as reliably. It was also possible that he'd end up using it as a walking stick more than anything else; travel, and any trouble they got into, would give him a better idea of whether or not it was worth carrying around.

"So what are you expecting me to find?"

"Information. The return of the True King has been affirmed, but it still seems... improbable. As True Elves, we are on the edge of extinction. The appearance of a True King upsets the fragile balance that we've held with the Humans... and upsets all manner of political balances throughout Duendewood."

"Do we work to support him?"

"Do the people support him? Does the High Provost? Does the Senate? As a center of trade, Annun is also a center of power. It is not all of Duendewood and does not reflect all of Duendewood, but what happens there will be important to what happens elsewhere. And our host is a very old friend of the High Provost, who will likely be open and receptive to his children.
That is why I want you to travel with them."

The longbow was the last of the weapons he'd brought. No True Elf, he'd once been told, should be without a bow. And he'd infuriated his would-be instructors with his insistence on charging in to do battle at close quarters. Still, a bow offered stand-off capability, and he would have been a fool to refuse that.

"So we have no idea where all this is going?"

"None," his mother had answered. "Even the mission to Dwarves has changed in character. We sought a defensive pact; now we explore the possibility of a military alliance."

"You don't sound pleased about that."

"I am..." she had sighed. "...uncertain."

"And sending me with these others is also uncertain?" He'd been thinking, especially, of the cleric who had joined them at dinner: a worshipper of Artemis, but also a human.

Baethira Anthelorn had sighed. "Sometimes when you loose an arrow, you know the path of your target and where it will arrive. But sometimes when you loose an arrow, you fling it into the chaos of battle and hope it will find a worthwhile path."

She had stopped then, reaching into one of the small pouches on her belt, and withdrawn an amulet. "Take this," she said. "It belonged to... an old, dear friend. I think she would have liked for you to have it. She said it helped her to understand the worlds..."

Ruin reached out and took the amulet, feeling equal parts puzzled and wary. This seemed a little too orchestrated to be an afterthought, but he couldn't imagine why his mother would
arrange to give him something when she could simply ask him to take it.

With a sigh, he turned and fetched the amulet from his pack. It was a small circle, no larger than a curled finger, with a loop at the top where it hung from a simple silver chain. The design was odd, circles within circles, divisions overlapping divisions, and... it seemed as if it could move. He laid a finger on the surface, pressed and tried to twist...

For a brief moment he was looking over a desert, seeing both the emptiness and the life within it. He felt the dragging heat of the sun, the draining cold of the night, the absolute darkness when the moon set. Then he let go and was back in his own skin, looking at the weapons on the floor of the guest room.

Well, that was interesting. It wasn't a scrying tool, whatever it was. He'd had no control of what he was looking at. It was almost as if the amulet itself was selecting the views to show him. Still... the chance to explore other places, from the relative safety of this guest room or anywhere else he found shelter? He'd have to experiment more with this amulet.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Wererats Everywhere. Everyw(h)ererats.

Ruin nudged the dead wererat with his toe, then shoved the corpse over onto its back. It looked human now, the bestial features fading away in death. No wonder they seemed to come from nowhere.

The guards were finally arriving, now that the fight was over and they were no longer needed. Ruin ignored them, surveying his companions instead. He'd met Azrael -- or Lilly, as his sister insisted on calling him -- on several occasions. The boy was strange, but also one of his mother's more accomplished students; small wonder that he'd acquitted himself well in the fight. He'd met young wizard's sister only once or twice, but she'd not only charmed their way with the High Provost, she could also apparently stab things rather thoroughly to death when she put her mind to it.

The human priest was the real unknown as far as Ruin was concerned. He might have argued against traveling with a human, save that this one worshipped Artemis and appeared to have come to Duendewood because of the goddess' popularity here. He, too, had handled himself well, fighting when he needed to and then healing the last of the wererats so that they could get the answers they needed. He'd even turned the beastman loose afterwards in a rare display of human honor. And it wasn't as if there were no humans in Duendewood; it was just that they tended to live in the larger cities, well away from the area that Ruin called home.

But I do not forget... He never really forgot. The memory, twin to the rage, was always there with him.

"Is that... wererat blood on your hands?" One of the guards was standing beside him. Between his musings and the chaos of the street after the attack, Ruin hadn't realized he was there. This one was a halfblood, what most humans considered an elf: slender and handsome, more graceful than a human but also more easily broken. Bishounen. He thought that was the Dwarvish term.


The guard looked perplexed. "You have to get to one of the temples, and quickly. Have them purge you of diseases, or else you might become one of those things."

"The condition really is infectious?" asked Ruin. He'd heard that before, he just hadn't been sure whether or not to believe it.

"Do you want to take the chance? Even for a True Elf..."

No, he didn't want to take that chance. And he wasn't ready to trust his fate to the human priest, however well the man had carried himself. He'd go to the temples.

"Uh-oh," said the guard. "The Sergeant's coming. Look, just don't forget what I said: get yourself cured, just in case. I'd really hate for you or your friends to go over to their side."

Ruin turned his head to watch the guard's back as he walked gracefully away. Bishounen, he thought again, appreciatively.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

This party rocks...

Okay, so we started our third group of characters for this campaign, and I have two immediate observations:
1. Our poor DM has an awful damned lot to keep up with.
2. This may be my favorite party out of all of them.

To recap:
Our original characters were almost a spoof -- some of them, at least. The intro was a classic Elder Scrolls approach: release the PCs from prison with a mission that they have to accomplish or go back to prison. I came in later, so I was mainly there for the bits where we discovered that centuries ago the Humans of Sol Povos had promised Elvish sovereignity to various areas of traditional human land as part of a peace treaty. Sheriff Joe R. Pious (human paladin who genuinely thinks he's lawful good) sent the documents off with his intern, who promptly sold them off to the Elves instead of the Humans; shortly after that, we found the statue where the last Elvish king (and descendant of the Legendary Heroes) was imprisoned, released him, and saw him off to the Elvish reservation of Duendewood.

Our second batch of characters started in a completely different area, defending Fort Dedo in the southeast corner of the Kingdom. Events... quickly got out of hand, but between retrieving ancient Formorian artifacts and texts, killing off would-be allies of the invading army, and rescuing kidnapped members of our own party, well... What we essentially discovered was that A) worshippers of Vecna were the motivating force behind this strange, multi-headed invasion, and B) we'd been fooled and/or betrayed, and one of the enemy champions had taken over the body of our colonel and had been using us to recover artifacts. We escaped, but that was about the best that could be said for it.

So this week's episode was character creation for a third party to look at events from the Elvish perspective.

The current party consists of:
-Martini Grey (not her real name), Grey Elf (from the 3.5 Monster Manual), presumptive heir to her House, courtesan and assassin.
-Azrael (also not his real name) Neutral Grey Elf Wizard, and seriously emo high school senior (or the Elf equivalent, anyway).
-Waylon Mercy, human cleric of Artemis -- except that he's a Pentacostal snake-handling cleric who pronounces the goddess' name as Artem-hiss; he's come to teach the Elves how to worship the goddess properly. There's a decent chance that he'll be emphasizing the fact that he's 1/72 Elvish on his grandmother's side.
-Ruin (not his real name - he hasn't chosen one), True Elf Barbarian and Fighter, basically an angry revolutionary. True Elves are a homebrew specific to this campaign; basically, I sacrificed 3 levels in exchange for a host of nifty bonuses and abilities. Ruin was meant to be the tank of the group, but because of the level adjustment his hit points aren't all that much better than the wizard or the rogue. (The cleric is by far the highest, having about twice as many HP as I do.) His armor class, on the other hand, is the highest in the group, and he can deliver melee damage like nobody's business.

So we opened the session at the home of the Grey Elves, where Ruin and his mother had stopped to consult (and, well, scheme) and the local evangelical human preacher was making the rounds and happened to drop in. The result of this was that the PCs were sent off to the city of Annon, which is one of the major cities, to see if the populace and the political establishment supported the True King and what they thought of him.

The... essentially the mayor, I think the formal title was High Provost... of the city was delighted to meet with the son and daughter of his old friend, and said that of course everybody supported the True King but without the presence of this one Baron in a particular burrough a little ways outside of the city they couldn't hold a formal vote to say so. The Baron had been absent for some months, and the last people he'd sent down there hadn't returned with any useful information.

Naturally, Martini -- as a favor to her father's old friend -- offered our services to go investigate.

So we traveled to this burrough, which was just beginning its autumn fair, and let the guards put peace-bonds on our weapons so we could enter.

We'd been moving through the fair for a little bit when we heard screams and -- unlike sane people -- charged directly towards them. This put us into combat with four were-rats, who were in turn commanding about six dire rats.

It should be noted that Ruin has no sense of self-preservation. His fighting style is rooted entirely in rage: you kill the thing in front of you because you want it dead more than it wants you dead. So he charged right in and killed a were-rat with his first attack. The rest of the party followed, and the remaining were-rats moved to flank Ruin while the rats moved back to attack the others.

Ruin killed a second were-rat, and our wizard killed a third. Two of the dire rats attacked him, but one missed and the other one got its teeth stuck in his greaves. The head were-rat then fled, but Ruin (being a Barbarian, and therefore awesome) was able to chase him and cut him down, before finishing the dire rat that he'd been dragging along with him as he ran.

The rest of the party was having a ridiculous amount of trouble with the remaining dire rats (bad rolls, mainly). Ruin had moved back to help them when he realized that he wouldn't get any answers out of the were-rat leader if he let him die. He ran back and started trying to stabilize the werebeast.

By the time the rest of the party had finished off the rats (and it was neither quick nor easy) the rogue and the cleric had both been infected with diseases, and Ruin was plugging the were-rat's wounds with his fingers.

The cleric approached, healed the wererat up to a single hit point, then dropped a poisonous snake on its chest and let it bite him. Then, with the threat of death by poison looming, he asked questions: what were you doing? do you realize that most of the people you killed weren't guards? who sent you to do this?

And once we got answers, the cleric cast another spell and sent the wererat on his way. Ruin, assuming the cure had been given as promised, told the werebeast to get out of town. Already feeling better, the beast agreed and left. (At some point, the party will probably figure out that the Cleric is casting Delay Poison instead of actually curing people, but right now only the Wizard knows that and he thinks it's incredibly metal of the Cleric to do that. We... may not actually be the good guys, here.)

And that was where we stopped: we haven't spoken with the Baron, we haven't found the "blessed one" who was commanding the wererats, but we've had our first battle and worked at least moderately well together even if the brother and sister won't stop taunting each other (which is, I admit, possibly my favorite part of the campaign so far). I'll have to scrap something I was putting together with Ruin facing a challenge from he Dwarves, since in the Intro his mother changed course and sent him off with the rest of the PCs instead -- but looking at the overall timeline, that makes sense. The True King has only just returned, and everybody is scrambling for reliable information.