Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Campaign Report: Shadowcast Company: Episode 2

The Third Voyage of the Shadowcaster

The Shadowcaster sailed from the port of Tam back to what we're now calling Wyvern Isle, west of the main island. The company knew that somewhere on it's southern tip they would find a wereboar.

We certainly didn't expect to find such an organized outpost. Carved into a hillside was the stone visage of a dwarven face, with a doorway inset inside the mouth. Three balconies were also visible above the face and the scouting effort by Sparrow revealed another entrance on the other side of the hill.

Nevertheless, we sneaked through the main doorway. Security was somewhat lax, though I suspect that will not be the case when we return for future exploration later. Once we were inside we were quickly able to confirm that this was no dusty ruin, but a fully functional stronghold.

We made our way through a few rooms on the main floor before deciding to try a stairway hoping to reach a less trafficked area. We came upon a series of chambers that were each inhabited, but using stealth we managed to deploy our force in such a way to grant us a tactical advantage.

We encountered the wereboar and a lieutenant of his. Pyre the dwarf's run of bad luck seemed to finally draw to a close, and we were lucky to survive the battle without any major loss of resources. Of course, we had specifically prepared for this challenge, by purchasing silver weapons and wolfsbane while we were in Tam for those among us who were without magic, which includes most of our company.

We began to loot the chambers when we were discovered by another wereboar, and this second one was a sorcerer to boot. Damn our luck! Amalia the Sea Witch fell quickly and the rest of us were hurting badly from a well placed lightning bolt spell.

Sparrow mounted a rescue of our fallen comrade while Eaman the Bard arranged a line of defense. We fought a retreat out of the stronghold using the cover provided by Corwyn's now barely trained dragon, Relvoth. We returned to our ship and considered Amalia's wounds which would require a great deal of time to heal. Reluctantly, we set sail for Tam once again, as we have decided not to test our reputation in Deemos without greater strength among our company.

Once in Tam, the company agreed to take a break for more than a simple resupply, as Corwyn the Necromancer wants to travel back to his master and it seems that most of the rest of the party would like to spend a bit of time on dry land as well.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Charter of the Shadowcast Company

After the first few sessions of our current campaign the players decided to write up a charter for their adventuring company to define how they would divvy up treasure, treat the wounded, etc. Some like the idea because it showed good faith and helped to mark down their fellowship. Others, because they see the written covenant as a tool to be manipulated. Such is the nature of characters. But the players all enjoy the fun both sides inspire within the game.

So, without further ado here is the contract of their fellowship:

We, the undersigned, in the spirit of adventure and fellowship of arms, do hereby affirm the creation of the
Shadowcast Company
and enter into covenant with our fellow members.

The purpose of this company shall be to recover lost treasure and lore, to explore uncharted wilderness and underdark, and to provide common support, counsel, and protection to all fellows of the company.

In accordance with these aims of endeavor, the Company doth hereby adopt the following bylaws for membership:

A Company member shall give his or her best effort in all tasks for the company, above all, defending the lives and property of fellow members. A member ill-suited to a task shall nevertheless aid those who are able. One found by majority to be willfully harming, or allowing the Company or its members to come to harm shall be expelled from the Company and forfeit all reward.

A fellow who falls in the line of duty shall be accorded the following consideration: Immediate aid to injuries if possible, a proper burial & treasure distributed to the member’s kin if not. If Fate allows, the company shall put forth the coin for a ritual of resurrection.

These bylaws are subject to change pending the approval of the majority of the Company’s Fellows.

Profit shall be divided into three tiers. The first tier is that which is known to be of magical quality, including but not limited to magical arms and armor, potions, rings, wands, arcane formula, books of spells, etc. These items shall be divided by only the members as they see fit, but once selected may be given, sold, or loaned to others as decided by the owner. In the event that consensus cannot be reached contested items will be selected by drawing lots or other agreeable method among those contesting the item. If no agreeable method be known, casting fair dice shall be selected as the contest.

The second tier of treasure is made of the items which have been designated by simple majority to belong to the company as a whole, until such time as they be sold and the profits be divided by share, or if magical, they be designated as treasure of the first tier. Items of the second tier may be placed into the stewardship of individual memberships, but such treasure must be used for the benefit of all members.

The third tier of treasure is made of all saleable goods or moneys not of the first or second tiers, which shall be apportioned by shares. Any member may purchase at fair market value any goods which can be afforded from this tier with the payment entering into the common treasury to be split accordingly.

Members of the Company may hire servitors, men-at-arms, or other such attendants and offer them as much as one-half share each of the third tier of treasure. The hiring member is responsible for the conduct of said servants which may be dismissed by the company as a whole by simple majority. All other agreements of remuneration such as additional monies, magic, or services are the responsibility of the individual member, and the Company is under no obligation to meet these fees or promises.

The Shadowcaster Sailing Ship has been designated as treasure of the second tier, or property of the company as a whole. It is to be outfitted and operated by the company. The company will hire a Captain, who will exercise authority in sailing over the crew, but not in battle or in choosing ship’s destination. This Captain will be hired by Malia, and will act as her henchman, so will be owed one half of one share of treasure of the third tier found won by the company.

The Crew of the Shadowcaster will be paid double the customary sailor’s wages and will split one half share of treasure of the third tier among them equally. Deserting crew will forfeit all claims to payment or share.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Campaign Report: Shadowcast Company: Episode 1

I should have started a campaign report from the first game we played about two months ago, but it's never too late to start. This installment will cover the story so far, so will be quite lengthy but not as detailed as I hope to be in the future.

The Shadowcast Company consists of five characters:

Eamon: The bard, played by Randy. He has been selected as party spokesman.
Sparrow: The assassin, played by Missy.
Amalia: The nephini sea witch, played by Amy.
Pyre: The dwarven vaultguard, played by Eric.
Corwyn: The mage (necromancer), my character.

Corwyn has a henchman, Gorex, the fighter.

Our adventures started in the old Duchy of Tam. We had a few small adventures. If my memory is correct we ventured into some ruins, fought some bandits who were scavenging a battlefield, fought the remnants of a military company that had survived a battle, and finally entered the hideout of said company which appeared to be gearing up to form a new mercenary unit. While there we recovered a mysterious item that we call the Sceptre of Strife, though we know nothing of it's history and have only a vague understanding of its purpose.

Corwyn managed to subdue a (very young) dragon that was drawn to the sceptre. Keeping it has been a challenge, and it has turned on him twice during captivity.

In the mercenary camp we recovered a contract for a ship that was being constructed in Tam. We set off for the port city, impersonating the owner of the vessel, and took possession of The Shadowcaster, a small sailing ship. We hired a crew, and using some charts we had recovered from the mercenary captain earlier, set off for Colossi Isle. The voyage was made much safer due to the special knowledge Amalia the Sea Witch had of placating angry spirits which normally make travel to the Isle difficult.

The First Voyage of the Shadowcaster
We circumnavigated the main island and a few nearby islets. The island is large, about 200 miles north to south and up to about 120 miles wide. We have researched some tales of great magics unleashed there during the first age, but everything we have recovered is fragmentary.

We landed on a small islet to the southwest of the main island, where a small, crumbling keep was visible. We discovered that the building was in use as a slaver outpost, though at the time we didn't understand where the slaves came from or who they traded with. Only a minimum guard had been left behind, which we battled, though there was little treasure to be found.

We investigated an islet directly north of the slaver outpost, where we spotted a wyvern nest in a low mountain. We hid our ship and marched overland, arriving at the nest when we expected them to be away by the behavior we had already observed. Inside the cave, we discovered the sealed entrance to an ancient tomb. We decided to plunder the tomb, so began our exploration.

On that first foray into the tomb beyond the cave we only managed to look into a few rooms we were forced to turn back by losses of resources and strength. Pyre, our stalwart dwarf, had fallen and would need many weeks to recover, so we carefully withdrew without encountering the wyverns.

We sailed to Tam to take on supplies.

The Second Voyage of the Shadowcaster
On our second voyage, we returned directly to the wyvern lair. We had bought some nets and were familiar with the schedule of the wyverns, so Eamon the bard and Sparrow the assassin carefully covered the entrance to the nest when the wyverns were sleeping. We used crossbows and magic to dispatch the wyverns with relative ease from outside.

Our second delve into the tomb beyond the cave was fruitful, and we recovered more treasure than we had before. We uncovered a room full of sarcophagi which was ripe for looting, but once again took heavy losses, meaning specifically Pyre the dwarf was lucky enough to survive but would require bed rest for quite a while. We hastily made our way back to the ship.

Unfortunately, some piece of treasure we had recovered from the tomb attracted guardians to it. The next night we found our ship, which was still in harbour, under attack by elemental forces. At one point in the fray, Amalia summoned a water "fundamental" (weak elemental), but lost control of it, and it took one of the men to a watery grave. Our mainsail was damaged, but we won the battle at great cost. Three more of the men perished in the blaze.

We were forced to wait while the crew performed repairs on the Shadowcaster, and in the meantime our band of adventurers, minus the dwarf, set about on another mission into the tomb beyond the cave.

We managed to discover a decent bit of treasure and we explored the limits of the tomb, but we were disturbed to find signs that someone else had entered the tomb between our explorations. We found an immortal creature, a Tabi, trapped within a magic cage. We gathered that the mystery explorer was a wereboar who lairs on the southern tip of the island. Corwyn wanted to challenge the interloper, but the remainder of the party voted against him, ready to lick their wounds.

We sailed to a native village on the main isle, called Deemos. We found that the locals were savage but friendly. They had little metal and spoke a barely comprehensible version of the language we commonly spoke. Their leader was known as the Matriarch, who was assisted by the Master of the Hunt and some other advisory committee that we can assume is tied to a priesthood of a local death cult. We learned that their numbers were few, so they used undead to perform labor for the tribe. We also learned that they traded with dwarves to the north, and that those dwarves were apparently much more advanced.

The Dwarven Incident
We set out north to contact the dwarves, hoping to gather information and to see if their hall would be a hospitable base of operations for exploration on the isle.

We found them easily, or I should say that a dwarven patrol found us, and we travelled to their keep together. The dwarven leader was not friendly but not immediately hostile. We saw that they had human slaves which they had acquired through trade with Deemos and other southern villages, and would only speak directly with Pyre, our dwarven companion. Pyre is not a skilled diplomat, but we quickly learned that the dwarves expected to either purchase the rest of us as slaves from our dwarf, or tribute. Corwyn the mage surrendered the Sceptre of Strife (which had torn several mercenary companies apart because they were unaware of its special qualities), and the dwarves welcomed us.

That night the dwarves held a feast. During the feast it became apparent that they still were not to be trusted, and a confrontation turned violent. Pyre was once again struck with a crippling wound, and the party was forced to retreat. Amalia the sea witch managed to use a spell to turn an enslaved ogre against the dwarves, and Sparrow the assassin struck a fatal blow against the leader of the dwarves. Still, we were lucky to escape with our lives. When we returned to Deemos we set sail immediately for Tam.

Safely in the port of Tam, Eamon brokered a quiet deal with a death cult for some magic that we were unable to make use of. We sold a powerful artifact that could be used to raise the dead but required a blood sacrifice, and a ring of wraith-form. In exchange, the cult gave us a chest of 10,000 gold pieces, some draughts of healing, and three uses of said artifact. Some among the party failed to realize the full implications of what use of the artifact would entail, though the mage and the assassin would be unlikely to be upset by it.

Now we must divide our loot and pay our crew. It will be time for a third voyage soon.

Three Necromantic Spells

Ray is playing a necromancer named Corwynn in my current ACKS game. He is having a blast with his aspiring mage and has started coming up with some ideas for some unique spells.These are three low level spells his character has begun to work on. They are his creations that I only made minor tweaks to.

One of the spells deals damage that increases by 1 per level rather than increasing dice of damage. I went with treating that as equal to capping it out at 2 dice damage giving it a multiplier of 0.25. In running average math numbers it falls at just about the same spot the capped magic missile does for damage when comparing the single dread bolt vs. the multiple magic missiles.

DREAD BOLT (death)
Arcane 1
Range: 180’
Duration: Instantaneous

The caster conjures a bolt of necromantic energy that inflicts 1d6 damage + an additional 1 point of damage per level of the caster to the target.

Spell Calculation: 1d6+1 per level (35), Maximum 1d damage +1/level (x0.25), Target 1 creature (x1), Range 180' (x1.1), No saving throw permitted (x1). Total: 10 spell points.

Arcane 2
Range 30’
Duration: special

This spell creates a number of tendrils of weak negative energy which emanate from the caster to 4d8 HD of creatures within range. The lowest hit dice creatures are affected first. Each creature affected by the spell is wracked with pain and cannot take any action (although it can still defend itself) unless it makes a saving throw vs Death. All targets receive a new saving throw each round. The field of pain lasts as long as the caster concentrates upon it, or until all targets make successful saving throws.

Spell Calculation: Target Held Helpless (15), 4d8 HD of Creatures within 30’ (x3), Range 30’ (x0.6), Duration: Concentration or until target saves (x1.75), Save to avoid effect (x0.5). Total: 24 spell points.

Arcane 1
Range: 10’
Duration: 1 Day

This spell summons a number of skeletons equal to the caster’s level, which appear anywhere within range. The skeletons will serve and obey the caster for 1 day, until slain, or until dispelled.

Spell Calculation: 1 creature / level (75), 1 HD (x0.15), Restricted to Skeletons (x0.7), Summon from Thin Air (x1), Range 10’ (x1), Duration 1 Day (x1.25). Total: 10 spell points.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

My Daughter the DM, part 2

My daughter has spent the last few days reading over the rulebook I gave her and the module, but she was unhappy with adventure. Her complaint was that it was just a little bit too big. So we took what we learned from it and applied it to making her own adventure.

Tonight she is writing her own adventure, "The Cult of Nyarlahotep," which is a fairly straightforward dungeon crawl. The first level of the dungeon will have about 10 to 15 rooms, and about 8 encounters. Three pieces of a key will be hidden that will open up the passage to the second level, which she will design later, but she intends for it to be bigger.

I let her walk me through character creation, as a I roleplayed players who don't know anything about D&D. The stickiest point for her was on thief abilities. She thought that it was unfair how ridiculously unlikely thieves are to succeed at their chosen abilities. I have to say that I agree, but maybe there's something I don't understand.

She was also quick to come up with another house rule, allowing the player to reroll one attribute of their choosing - but not necessarily the lowest one. For example, if the player knows they want to play a fighter, maybe they want to reroll that 8 dexterity, or maybe instead they want to reroll that 11 strength.

It did tickle me that she's memorized the attributes in the old school order and when I tried to write them down in another order she corrected me and told me no, because everyone has to roll them in the same order.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My players did a great job mapping

Just wanted to share this fun little bit. My group just completed exploring an ancient hidden crypt on their Great Island Adventures. Well, Ray's character, a Necromancer, decided to map the dungeon as they went along so they could find their way out and also know how to get back whenever they had to flee. And they did have to twice. Once while they were gone someone else explored a portion of the dungeon on them. The second time the monsters guarding the treasure they stole followed them back. All in all it was great fun.

Below is the original copy of my map sans numbers along with the player's hand drawn version. The only portion they were unable to explore was beyond a cold pool of water protected by Ice Mephits. The mephits were hostile to the dwarf in the party and so it wasn't thought safe to chance it after the group had accepted their kindness.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

My Daughter, The DM

This Friday my 14 year old daughter is going to run a tabletop RPG for her friends, all of whom are new to gaming, for the first time. She asked me for pointers today on being the DM. Admittedly, I'm not much of a DM myself. I've run a few simple games for her, but I think she's gotten most of her knowledge from an old stack of Knight of the Dinner Table comics.

She knew that she wanted to run something "like D&D" so I gave her copies of the Basic D&D Rules and B2: The Keep on the Borderlands. The rules aren't an issue for her (she's read lots of rule books before and played some), but we're going to brush up a bit this week. My DM, Phil let me know that B2 is something of a meat grinder, so I helped her come up with a few house rules.

  1. When a PC reaches 0 HP, they are knocked unconscious and will die in 1d10 minutes unless someone helps them. If they are helped, they will return to 1 HP, but will need to rest in town for d6 days, after which they are fully healed.
  2. Every PC starts with a potion of healing.
  3. An additional potion of healing will be available for sale in the keep every week for 100 gp.
  4. Encumbrance will be ignored as long as it's within common sense.
I gave her the following bits of advice so far, but I don't know how helpful they will be:
  1. Read the rules and the module twice. (We'll do a quick play through of a few areas this week.)
  2. Let the players decide what they want to do. If you want them to know something let an NPC tell them.
  3. If it sounds cool or fun and at all reasonable, let the player roll a die to see if they can do it. If you don't know what the odds should be, say 50% or 25% (11+ or 16+.)
  4. When the players make suggestions, try to answer with "yes, and..." or "yes, but..." if possible.
  5. Your job as DM is to make the game fun... Don't worry about how much is being accomplished as long as it's fun. If something isn't fun, then you can narrate it quickly to get to the fun part.
  6. Award XP when the characters return to the keep (or other civilization.)
And I gave her the following to pass on to her players:
  1. The goal of the game is to have fun, but the goal of the adventurers is to get treasure.
  2. Never fight when you can steal or trick the monsters out of their gold.
  3. Never get into a fair fight on purpose.
  4. Avoid attacking in melee when you can fight with ranged weapons instead.
  5. Avoid fighting with ranged weapons when you can sneak around instead.
  6. Go back to town frequently. Rest up and resupply.
  7. The best overall character is the cleric. If anyone doesn't know what they should play, then play a cleric. Good HP, heavy armor, a few spells eventually, and a pretty good warrior.
Tonight she is reading the game rules. Tomorrow she will get to DM for me a bit as I make a character and play through a few mock battles.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Venom - A Magical Short Sword

At the height of the petty skirmishes between the gods in the First Age Kydan crafted a collection of items for his Favored Five. These cruel riders delighted in imposing their god-liege's twisted dictates over any dominion Kydan might choose to claim for a day. One of the Five was a warlord named Ildris who preferred to fight with two weapons. Ildris' longsword, a blade named Tempest, was said to have been destroyed by the hobgoblin despot  Ruuk,but Ildris' second blade, Venom, was cast by him across the heavens before he died so that his last surviving gift from Kydan might be spared.

Venom, is a shortsword and was enchanted in Kydan's preferred "thrice-charmed" style giving it three different magical aspects.

First it bears a +1 enchantment giving a bonus to attack and damage.

The second enchantment is the ability to poison. If used to strike down three intelligent enemies, living or undead, it gains the ability to inflict a deadly poison (as the spell) on a successful strike. The magical nature of the poison allows it to affect any enemy be they living, undead, or a construct. It can hold up to three doses of deadly poison, although this does require it dealing a death blow nine times, three for each charge. The poison is exceptionally potent and becomes more potent per charge held. Each one in the blade at the time the power is invoked causes the victim to suffer a -1 penalty to their saving throw. For example, if only one dose is in the blade the target suffers a -1; but if it has all three doses in it the target suffers a -3. 

The third enchantment is a defense against poison. When holding Venom's hilt, its bearer cannot be poisoned, but will be aware of the attempt. Further, if Venom isn't already holding its maximum allowance of poison doses, one of them becomes charged. So, if Venom has only 1 dose left in it and the owner is poisoned, the poison has no effect and it gains a second dose that can be used as desired. Venom doesn't need to be drawn for its protective nature to work. But its master must have a firm grip on its hilt to work.