Picking up after a couple months off, the PCs assembled a contingent of eight that included Rooks and four other able-bodied men and took to the forest trails outside Morningsong. Shortly after reaching the first outpost, they encountered a twelve-foot tall bear, which advanced toward them aggressively before being held fast by Leilana's entangle. Moving fast, the contingent circled around it and pressed on until it fell out of sight. From there, they reached the river-crossing, and elected to follow the stream downriver.
Toward late afternoon, one of the men-at-arms, Vedrane, spotted a fast, fleeting movement on the opposite shore. Investigating from afar but finding nothing, the party hoped (but did not truly believe) that the sighting was simply a large fox. Continuing on, the contingent arrived at a previously uncharted fork in the river as twilight began to set in. The fork led away from the opposing bank, into the open mouth of a small cave. Rooks pondered the strange formation, doubly concerned that it seemingly had sprung up from nowhere, as Morningsong's hunters travelled this route often.
Deciding to camp for the night, a fire was set ablaze and watches were arranged. In the early hours of the morning Nora caught sight of two yellow eyes peering near the cave opening, but as with the earlier phantom, a shake of her head and they were gone. Unsettled, Nora awakened Leilana and passed the remainder of the night in the druid's company.
Rooks advised that the river could likely be crossed a short way further down, so the party continued on, traversed the shallows, then doubled back. Near the cave mouth was a semi-concealed rocky passage that led behind the stream, into a cavern and along a precarious ledge that ended in a man-sized tunnel. The river fork itself poured down a fifty-foot waterfall, ending in darkness below. Wary of delving too deep underground, the contingent marched back upriver, back to the outpost, and finally back to Morningsong before nightfall.
In the village, the PCs and Rooks convened privately with Jorah, Kleigha, and Aginot. The older residents of Morningsong showed grave concern for the findings, citing similar happenings from twenty-five years ago, when hunters would return from the forest bearing tales of inexplicable new landmarks amid well-known territory. Their most serious failing, they believed, all those years past, was in neglecting to root out the evil that threatened them until it was almost too late. As such, Jorah particularly impressed the need to investigate further, and not again leave the village's fate to mere chance.
This was a tough one, starting back after some time off. It's always hard to get your head back into the game and recall all that transpired previously. The party's investigative approach, too, didn't feel all that exciting, though it did uncover some interesting new details. No XP to award right now, we just need to play again soon so that we don't feel the lag next time too.
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Picking up after a couple months off, the PCs assembled a contingent of eight that included Rooks and four other able-bodied men and took to the forest trails outside Morningsong. Shortly after reaching the first outpost, they encountered a twelve-foot tall bear, which advanced toward them aggressively before being held fast by Leilana's entangle. Moving fast, the contingent circled around it and pressed on until it fell out of sight. From there, they reached the river-crossing, and elected to follow the stream downriver.
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Last session left the characters in a particularly bad spot. We resumed with the orc gazing down at them from the top of the ten-foot pit where they were trapped; after growling a few undecipherable orders to the surrounding kobolds, the orc left and I put the players on the clock, with one minute of real time equalling one minute of game time.
They tried a few things initially (searching the walls, attempting to scare the kobolds away with a torch, attaching a grappling hook to the underside of the raft), but didn't seem to yield any real benefit. Finally, seventeen minutes in (three minutes before the orc would return with allies to turn the pit into a cook-fire, though the players didn't know this), Alaric donned Lady Silva's black mask.
Black tendrils of smoke clasped the mask to his visage, and Alaric took the form of a hulking orc chieftain bearing a giant hatchet. Succeeding a few key ability checks, he climbed the already-secured rope and swung to the nearest ledge, pushing the raft aside just enough to fit through. Where prior to the change, the kobolds prodded at the PCs aggressively from above with their javelins, from orc-Alaric the creatures backed away, slowly and warily.
Nora was hoisted up next, and as Leilana followed her out, a half-dozen orcs came running for the corridor. Alaric slung Nora over his shoulder and burst through a line of kobolds, racing for the upriver raft while accepting hits from flying javelins. Once aboard, Alaric cut the tether and he and Leilana paddled with all speed.
The orcs reached the bank and leveled crossbows, but with the party outside the range of their infravision, the bolts sailed wide - and with the last remaining raft still covering the pit-trap, the enemies had no easy means to follow. The companions crossed the river, took to the tunnels, and fled from the well, all alive.
Back in Morninging, Alaric sought healing for Nora, and as she was revived, Leilana organized a team of villagers to collapse and seal the well. In the following days, the trio recovered from their wounds and readied a team of hunters and men-at-arms to scour the forest for additional threats.
This was a short session; we didn't have a ton of time, and while I didn't know at the beginning how things would play out, I figured that one way or another, resolution would be quick. Things ended as well as the players could possibly have hoped, and I'm not really sure if the party had another out after the mask (of note, Alaric required a save vs. spell to remove it from his face, though he made the roll easily). Alaric's Strength checks in the pit were key - while failure to climb out quickly wouldn't have caused damage, it would have cost valuable time. When finally the PCs escaped, Alaric was left with one hit point from the javelins (the players saw my actual damage rolls).
Morningsong, while thankful that the well is sealed, is more concerned than ever that orcs and kobolds are lurking barely a mile from the village, albeit underground. To those villagers that survived the battle twenty-five years prior, the fear of imminent danger is all too familiar.
Not a ton of XP to award, but the party's foray in the catacombs wasn't entirely unfruitful:
- 12 kobolds slain - 90 XP
- Sealing the well - 500 XP
Sunday, February 2, 2014
Fighters are by far the most common character types in normal campaigns. They must meet the least stringent class requirements and are drawn from the biggest pool of talent--soldiers of innumerable armies, mercenary companies, militias, palace guards, temple hosts, and sheriff's men. In these and other forces, the potential fighter learns his trade. He is taught how to handle weapons and care for them. He picks up some basic tactics and earns acceptance as a fighting man.
From these ranks some go on to become 1st-level fighters. Such men are often given rank in recognition of their talents. Thus, a 1st-level fighter may become a corporal or a sergeant. As the ranks become greater and more influential, the tendency is to award these to higher level fighters. However, this trend is not absolute and often breaks down at the highest levels. The captain of the company may be a 12th-level fighter, but he would still take orders from a 0-level prince!
Level is no guarantee of rank, nor is rank fixed to level. Some people don't want responsibility and all that comes with it. They would rather let other people tell them what to do. Such characters may become accomplished fighters but never advance beyond the rank of common soldier. Political maneuvering and favoritism can raise even the lowest level character to the highest positions of authority.
Since fighters tend to rise above the level of the common soldier, few armies are composed of high- or even low-level fighters. While there is little difference in ability between the typical foot soldier and a 1st-level fighter, it is just not possible to find an army of 20,000 4th-level fighters. It's rare enough to find 1,000 or so 2nd-level fighters in a single unit. Such units are elite, superbly trained and outfitted, and are normally held in reserve for special tasks. They may be the shock troops of an assault, a special bodyguard, or the reserve of an army held back for pursuit.
Adventurer fighters (whether player characters or NPCs) are those who have struck out on their own. Not every man is content to take orders or give orders, and fame seldom comes to the common foot soldier. Some men are willing to try to rise through the ranks, but it is by no means an easy or speedy process. There aren't many openings, nor is it a path where skill at arms guarantees success.
Given all this, it's not surprising that most fighters opt for the more direct method of adventuring. In the course of adventuring, though, many fighters find themselves becoming leaders and commanders, assembling men around them as they carve their own place in the world.
Paladins are rare, in part because of the statistics of dice rolling and in part because paladinhood is an exacting road for characters to follow. It is easy to err and fall from the special state of grace required. Not every character is up to these demands, but those few that are can be truly special. You will not find units with thousands, hundreds, or even tens of paladins. At best, they form small groups (such as the Twelve Peers of Charlemagne or some of the Knights of the Round Table).
Often, because of the sterling example they set, paladins lead others in battle. But, at the same time, they tend to be ill-suited to the task of ruling, which too often requires compromise of one's principles. It is common to find the paladin working in association with the clergy of his religion, but lone paladins, carrying their faith into the wilderness, also appear in the tales of bards.
Rangers tend to be loners, uncomfortable in the company of "civilized" men. They are also uncommon, again due to the demanding ability requirements of the class. These two factors make armies or companies of rangers most unlikely, only marginally less common than hordes of paladins.
Although loners, they do not mind the company of other rangers, those who understand the ways of the wilderness and the need for space. Small groups of rangers will sometimes join an army as its scouts, especially if the need is pressing. They will occasionally be found in forest villages or near untracked wildernesses. Here, guides, scouts, woodsmen, trappers, pioneers, and stalkers form the pool from which the ranger ranks are filled. Few can be found in civilized lands--rangers in cities are truly oddities.
Wizards are the most iconoclastic and self-important of all the character classes, for they are unique among all character classes. The peasant can pick up a sword and fight; a pious man can hope to serve his faith; a local wag can spin a good tale; and an unprincipled cad can rob the local merchants. But no one other than a wizard can cast magical spells. The need for highly specialized training truly sets them apart, and they know it.
When mages gather, they tend to form societies or associations, organizations for men who speak of things not understood by the common folk (much like scientists today). But wizards are too fractious and independent a lot to organize themselves into proper unions--they can barely manage to form moderately organized guilds.
Generally, their groups exist for such high-minded reasons as to "facilitate the exchange of knowledge" or "advance the state of the science of magic." Some prepare texts or papers to share with fellow mages, detailing their latest experiments and discoveries or outlining some new theory. They enjoy the recognition of their peers as much as anyone.
To outsiders, wizards seem aloof and daunting. Like craftsmen, they are most comfortable in the company of their fellows, speaking a language they all understand. The untrained, even apprentices, are intruders upon this fellowship and are apt to receive an icy and rude reception.
Wizards are an eccentric, even perverse, lot. They're likely to be found just about anywhere. Nonetheless, they have an affinity for civilization, ranging from small villages to vast cities. Only a few mages actually care to adventure since it is an extremely dangerous undertaking to which they are ill-trained and ill-suited. The vast majority spend their time experimenting in seclusion or working in the service of others, preferably well paid.
Many mages, especially those of lesser ability, turn their art to practical ends--almost every village has a fellow who can whip up a few useful spells to help with the lambing or simplify the construction of a house. In larger cities, these mages become more specialized, such that one might lend his talents to construction, another to the finding of lost things, and a third to aiding the local jewelers in their craft.
Nearly all major families, merchant princes, and nobles have a mage or two in their employ. A few attempt (generally without success) to have these wizards mass-produce magical items. The problem is that wizards are as difficult to manage as rangers or paladins. They do not care for others bossing them around or encroaching upon their perceived privileges and rights, especially since they have the magical resources to make their displeasure known. Also, they are usually kept busy finding ways to strike at their employer's rivals (or thwarting such attempts against their own lord). Foolish is the king who does not have a personal wizard, and lamentable is the ruler who trusts the wrong mage.
Not all wizards spend their time in the service of others. Some seek naught but knowledge. These scholar-mages tend to be viewed much like great university professors today--noble and distant, pursuing truth for its own sake. While not directly in the service of others, they can sometimes be commissioned to perform some duty or answer some question.
The wealthy often provide endowments for such men, not to buy their services (which aren't for sale) but to curry their favor in hopes that they will provide honor, glory, and just perhaps something useful. This situation is not unlike that of the great artists of the Renaissance who were supported by princes hoping to impress and outdo their rivals.
There are wizards who spend all their time shut away from humanity in dark, forbidding towers or gloomy, bat-infested caves. Here they may live in rooms where opulent splendor mingles with damp foulness. Perhaps the strains and demands of their art have driven them mad. Perhaps they live as they do because they see and know more than other men. Who knows? They are, after all, eccentric in the extreme.
Priest characters are not required to take up arms and set out on adventures to smite evil. No, their hierarchies require administrators, clerks, and devout workers of all types. Thus, although there may be many clergymen and women at a temple or monastery, only a few will have a character class and levels.
Not all monks at a monastery are 1st-level (or higher) clerics. Most are monks or nuns, devout men and women working to serve their faith. Non-adventuring clergy are no less devout than their adventuring brethren, nor do they receive any less respect. Thus, it is possible to have leaders within a religious hierarchy who show no signs of special clerical ability, only proper faith and piety.
Even more so than with military men, though, level is not a determiner of rank. Wisdom and its use, not the application of firepower or the number of foemen smitten, are the true pearls of the clergy. Indeed the goal of some beliefs is to demonstrate the greatest wisdom by divesting oneself of all earthly bonds--power, wealth, pride, and even level abilities--in an attempt to attain perfect harmony with everything.
In the end, adventuring priests tend to form a small nucleus of crusaders for the faith. They are the ones who demonstrate their faith by braving the dangers that threaten their beliefs, the ones who set examples through trials and hardships. From these, others may spiritually profit.
Thieves are often people who don't fit in elsewhere. Unlike other classes, nearly all thieves are adventurers, often by necessity. True, many settle permanently in a single area and live off the local population, but when your life tends to be in defiance of the local law, you have to be ready to leave at a moment's notice! Each job is an adventure involving great risks (including, possibly, death), and there are precious few opportunities to relax and let your guard down.
Thieves occasionally form guilds, especially in major cities and places with a strong sense of law and order. In many cases, they are forced to cooperate merely to survive. Influential thieves see guilds as a way to increase their own profits and grant them the image of respectability. They become dons and crimelords, directing operations without ever having to dirty their hands.
At the same time, the membership of a thieves' guild is by definition composed of liars, cheats, swindlers, and dangerously violent people. Thus, such guilds are hotbeds of deceit, treachery, and back-stabbing (literally). Only the most cunning and powerful rise to the top. Sometimes this rise is associated with level ability, but more often it is a measure of the don's judge of character and political adeptness.
Curiously, thieves who are masters of their craft tend not to advance too high in the organization. Their talents in the field are too valuable to lose, and their effort is expended on their art, not on maneuvering and toadying. There is, in fact, no rule that says the leader of the thieves' guild has to be a thief. The leader's job involves charisma, character appraisals, and politicking--the powerful crimelord could turn out to be a crafty merchant, a well-educated nobleman, or even an insidious mind flayer.
Bards are rare and, like thieves, tend to be adventurers, but for somewhat different reasons. They do occasionally violate the law and find it necessary to move on to the next town--and the next adventure--but more often they are driven by curiosity and wanderlust. Although some bards settle down in a town or city, most travel from place to place. Even "tamed" bards (as the settled ones are sometimes called) feel the urge to go out and explore, gather a few more tales, and come home with a new set of songs. After all, the entertainment business demands variety.
There are generally no bard guilds or schools, no colleges, societies, or clubs. Instead, bards sometimes band in secret societies, loose affiliations that allow them to improve their art while maintaining an aura of mystery.
Most frequently, however, bards rely on the informal hospitality of their kind. Should one bard arrive in the town of another, he can reasonably expect to stay with his fellow for a little while, provided he shares some of his lore and doesn't cut into his host's business. After a time, during which both bards learn a few of the other's tales and songs, the visitor is expected to move on. Even among bards it is possible to overstay one's welcome.
Of course, there are times when a bard decides not to leave but to set up shop and stay. If the population is big enough to support both bards, they may get along. If it isn't, there will almost certainly be bad blood between the two. Fortunately, though, one or the other can usually be counted on to get wanderlust and set out on some great, new adventure. Bards do tend to be incurable romantics, after all.
Sunday, January 26, 2014
"Leilana seems desperate, but she is right that we were hasty in our retreat," Alaric thinks while furiously pacing. "Because of that haste we have jeopardized our lives, and put an entire village in danger. It was not supposed to be this way. The heroes in the stories always had a solution at hand. Perhaps I am not like the great heroes. I must have been a fool to think that an orphan from a small town with no true master for training, could be like one of the great heros in the stories." The thought makes Alaric sad and angry at the same time.
When Alaric finally gets his emotions under control, he stops pacing. Not knowing what to do next, he does the only thing that makes sense to him, he prays. He kneels down with the point of his sword in the ground. He puts both hands on the hilt, and begins to pray. "How has this happened to us? How can we get out of this? I do not see a way out of this. We will not be able to fight our way free. I do not see how any of the items I have will help to free us. Leilana has formulated a plan of escape, but I fear that the orc will not be easily overwhelmed. She also talks of using the mask to escape. That is something I do not condone. The mask is evil, and wearing will bring no good. Is it worth risking my soul for a chance to escape. However, if not wearing it causes us to die, and thus the entire town to be attacked, how can we not wear the mask. The heroes in the stories, always put the greater good ahead of their own lives. This feels difference though. I would gladly lay down my life to allow Leilana and Nora to escape back to the surface. I cannot leave this place alive if Leilana wears the mask. I cannot allow one of my dearest friends to wear the mask and stand idly by. That leaves but one option. If we cannot escape by Leilana's plan, then I must be the one to wear the mask. As the heroes always show, 'The good of the many outweigh the good of the one.' I ask that the Creator shelter Nora in His hand as we make our escape, and allow Leilana and I to do what is necessary."
Alaric stands, and begins to help Leilana with the rope. The thought of wearing the mask terrifies Alaric, but he refuses to show that fear. He thinks to himself, "I cannot allow Leilana to wear the mask because I could never bring myself to kill Leilana if she were to don it."
"Maybe Lord Hanwey will save us," Leilana whispers quietly. "He wouldn't let us die here, would he?" she asks it aloud, though seeks no response. Waiting upon a ghost to save them seems rather unlikely and unfortunate.
She cradles Nora's lifeless form in her arms. Her slow, shallow breaths, the only evidence that life still flows within her veins.
"How could we have been so careless, Alaric?" Leilana asks, as her eyes roam over the stone walls of the enclosure. "We were so careful upon entering, checking each hall for traps, and at the first sign of defeat we panicked. We let fear consume us, and now..." her eyes slowly meet his, "...the village may be lost."
Desperation paired with exhaustion rolls over her spirit in waves. Her eyes search his for an answer, any answer. She knows the brave paladin would gladly sacrifice himself in order to save his friends, this town, or his village. There is courage in that, she thinks, perhaps not wisdom, but courage no less. Her eyes study his, filling with pity at the thought of the oaths he has sworn, the sacrifices he has made, the promises that will go unfulfilled. And for what reason? Because death has been brought at the hands of creatures that use rocks for weapons.
When the boat is pulled over the enclosure from above, their situation suddenly feels all the more dire. As the darkness settles in, Leilana's senses become more acute as her half-elven heritage surfaces.
Suddenly the fear of dying, of defeat, of all of Morningsong being utterly destroyed by these pesky little rodents, is too much to bear. Fear turns to determination and she pulls herself upright. The hair upon her arms stands straight up as she turns to Alaric and declares, "This will not be our tomb. We will not surrender ourselves, nor the town."
She sets her jaw as she looks for a way out. She turns the remaining spell over in her mind, Create Water, as she studies the walls. The rocks seem jagged, but may provide enough foot holes to climb. If the creatures were to climb down, a slippery surface would hinder their descent.
She paces the small floor, thoughts forming quickly. "We have a rope. We have a hook." Her voice, just above a whisper, is higher than normal, though her words come out even, set with determination, "We will need a distraction." Her eyes catch the sight of the torches in Alaric's bag. A thought quickly arises, and she pushes it out in a rush before changing her mind, "Smoke will blind them. We will set the boat on fire, flip it over, use it for cover, pull Nora up with the rope, and run like hell." Even as she says it, she knows it seems unlikely that it would succeed.
"And if that doesn't work," she faces Alaric and quietly states, "I will put the mask on." Without hesitating she adds, "I know you don't agree." Her eyes meet his one last time, pleading for understanding, "But Alaric, we must escape and warn Morningsong." She lays a hand on his shoulder and plainly says, "I expect you to destroy the mask by whatever means possible once they have been warned." The ramifications of what she implies lies heavy in the air between them.
She takes a step back and begins preparing the rope and grappling hook. The thought of dying by Alaric's hand is actually a relief then the idea of dying by whatever lies above.
Our group has decided to keep playing, without Aginot temporarily, under the pretense of the party electing to remain in Morningsong to help prepare for winter. The PCs have delayed their departure for Stangengrad until the situation in the village, under-provisioned and lacking a true leader, is more stable.
In the wake of that decision, what happened last night was far from expected. However the party comes out of it (if they do), is likely to alter the campaign forever.
We picked up a few days after the unmasking of Lady Silva; late one night, Alaric, Nora, and Leilana were awakened by an alert call from one of Ellidora's cottage guards. The guardsman was injured, bleeding heavily from a puncture wound in his side, and nearby was the body of a three-foot tall, dark-skinned creature which Jorah identified as a kobold. Kobolds were known to toil as the slaves of orcs; suddenly, the timing of Azrael's attacks against the hunters after years of apparent dormancy seemed not so disconnected and random.
It felt even less so when the PCs trailed the kobold's snowy footprints back to the dried out well behind the cottage, where Azrael had been spotted loitering suspiciously.
The friends elected to watch the cottage for the remainder of the night, and when dawn came, they descended the narrow well-shaft using a rope. At the bottom, Nora discovered a five-foot-high dug-out tunnel leading away from the village. Alaric bid the remaining guards to send word to Jorah and Aginot, and the PCs took to the passage, following it by torchlight with heads and necks bowed for nearly two hours before emerging in a taller, rocky cavern with slime-laden walls.
Leilana's timely casting of detect snares and pits revealed a hidden pit trap which the PCs averted by sidling along the slimy walls. Seemingly unharmed by the ooze, they traversed a new series of dry, forking tunnels, triggering a lone spear-rack trap from the ceiling and felling two kobolds that threw stones at them from the darkness.
The tunnels led to a massive, underground chamber bearing a two-hundred foot wide river that flowed with a powerful current. The party's torchlight couldn't reach the other side, but as they made their approach, they spotted a lone kobold drifting away from the nearest bank atop a log raft. Acting quickly, Alaric plucked the creature with an arrow, and Nora expertly grappled the raft back to shore. After careful evaluation of the current, the PCs dragged the vacated raft upriver and rode it across. On the opposite bank were two more empty rafts and a single, wide passage that led deeper into the complex. They shipped their raft downriver and made their way to the tunnel, whose entrance was adorned with a six-foot wide barrel-drum, tactfully disabled by Alaric.
Satisfied, the PCs advanced along the passage walls, taking care to not disturb the center of the floor. Stones (many stones) assailed them from the darkness, and Nora hurled her torch forward, illuminating the kobolds' lair. Dozens of the minions scrambled to evade the torchlight whilst bringing more stones and javelins to bear. The party returned fire, Nora and Alaric loosing arrow upon arrow as Leilana conjured a dust devil to attack their adversaries. More than a third of the kobolds were laid low in all, but when finally the dust devil was defeated, the horde united in a final push to drive the invading characters away.
Assailed with flying kobold weapons, the PCs fled back down the passage, utterly failing to exercise the same caution with which they entered. Leilana, in front, sprung a pit trap in the floor. She and Nora both fell, and though Alaric initially kept his balance, the trio had also triggered another spear-rack from the ceiling. The pikes swept down and struck Alaric from behind, toppling him forward into the pit atop his friends.
Nora was incapacitated by the fall, having suffered numerous lesser wounds in the battle. As Leilana worked to stabilize her, the monsters surrounded them from above, dragging one of the large rafts from the river to cover the pit opening. Minutes passed, the companions helpless and injured, kobold guards watching them hungrily. Finally, a larger creature arrived, its towering form shadowing down from above as its pig-nosed face and yellow eyes bore into them like drawn daggers.
The face and eyes of an orc.
That's where we had to stop. At this point, we'd been playing for more than four hours and it was well after midnight. The players at least deserve a chance to play this part out with clearer heads, though I think everyone's prepared for the fact that this might be the party's end. It looks really grim. The characters were bold in descending the well with no additional support from the village; ironically, the success with which they navigated the tunnels initially made escape that much harder in the end.
This game was a hard lesson in how one wrong move or moment of carelessness can undermine a whole session of solid play. I cringed when I saw the PCs running for the pit trap, especially after they smartly avoided it by staying to the walls on their way in. The decision to flee (along with three failed Dex checks) negated all the good they'd accomplished to that point. Leilana's spell selection was excellent, Nora had some really insightful plays (studying the river current and throwing the torch to illuminate their enemies and help conceal the party), and Alaric and Nora's attack rolls were efficient.
So where do they go from here? Nora is "stable" at -4 hit points. The players should read this to make sure they know exactly what that means. The kobolds made a lot of high attack rolls against her during the fray, making the added fall all too deadly. Alaric and Leilana are in reasonable shape, but Leilana is out of meaningful spells.
The idea of donning the black mask was raised. Alaric dismissed it immediately, saying there's no way he'd allow it, though I made a point to remind him that not only his friends' well-being, but possibly the entire village might be at stake. Alaric has been willing time and again to sacrifice his body for his allies, but what about his morality? This is by far the toughest dilemma he's been faced with, if the party really does want to try that route.
The players have some time to think (a lot more than their characters do). Whatever ends up happening, I doubt the party comes out of this the same. It definitely will be a turning point, for better or for worse.
Thursday, January 23, 2014
I don't have very much to add. This was my greatest D&D moment as a player, ever. For me, Rich, and Jason, the words "Mordenkainen's disjunction" will forever conjure a specific and vivid scene in our imaginations. These are the things you play the game for, even 15 years later.
As for the rules, it wasn't that 2e did anything special to support what happened in the session; the important thing was that it didn't stand in the way of it happening. When you empower the DM to make context-sensitive rulings, this is the kind of epicness that results.
Sunday, January 19, 2014
(Thirteen must really be unlucky, because I had almost my entire post written when a single keystroke inexplicably wiped it out with no way to recover. This is attempt #2.)
Thursday night, after three arduous sessions, the party finally brought closure to the dealings in Morningsong. Upon their return from the forest, word of Dowding's demise spread like wildfire. A gathering ensued, and Lady Silva was quick to implicate the PCs, claiming Alaric's red talon mark a baleful omen. Jorah and members of the travelling party dismissed the notion and tempered the governess, though it was evident that fear of a desolate winter had begun to set in amongst the villagers.
Of note, as the gathering dispersed, the PCs caught hearsay that Silva had fallen ill and bedridden the previous day. Apparently the Lady suffered from some chronic ailment whose onset was sporadic and usually short-lived. (If the party's suspicions of Silva weren't heightened already, they most surely were now.)
In much need of rest, the PCs slept until early the next morning. At sunup, they located Rooks, one of the hunters who accompanied them previously, and enlisted him as a guide. Together, they delved back into the forest, reaching the first outpost at midday under a veil of light snowfall. Deciding to remain for the night, the PCs dispatched Rooks to the village, bidding him to return on the morrow with any able bodies willing to join.
A fire was built hours before dusk to battle the wintry winds, and when night fell, Alaric and Leiliana kept watch while Aginot and Nora slept. Shortly thereafter, Leilana became aware of (and rebuked) an attempt to infiltrate her mind. The party was wakened, and Alaric, on a hunch, pinpointed the location of an invisible presence using detect evil.
Leilana cast faerie fire to magically outline their foe, and Alaric and Nora advanced. In the ensuing rounds, Leilana cast entangle, and after a series of thwarted attempts to control and poison the PCs, the foe became caught in the twisting branches. At long last, both armed with magical longswords, Alaric and Nora ran the creature through. As it convulsed and died, its invisibility subsided, revealing the visage of the mute, Azrael, before transforming into the body of an imp.
The companions waited out the night until Rooks returned with a small continent at midday, then they all returned to Morningsong, where Lady Silva was nearly comatose in her cottage. When Alaric's attempt to detect evil was met by chaotic visions of a swirling black mist, Leilana used detect magic to reveal a powerful illusion aura upon the woman's face. Pledging his trust in the PCs, Jorah presented Aginot a clerical scroll inscribed with dispel magic.
Aginot uttered the incantation, and a thin, black mask peeled away from Silva's visage. As it did, her features transformed to those of another - Lord Hanwey's (supposedly) long-dead daughter, Ellidora.
In the little she was able to offer in terms of explanation, Ellidora revealed that, in the waning days before Azrael's control over her became absolute, she imparted the details of her condition unto her older sister. Subsequently, Angelina's "attack" on Ellidora, regarded as an act of jealousy by the village, was actually an attempt to exorcise the imp from her sister's mind. But when Azrael used his powers to feign the younger sister's death, Angelina's grim fate was sealed. Ellidora succumbed fully, and later would don the guise of Lady Silva (a purely fictional persona) by way of the magical mask.
Overall, this was s very successful session for the group. Alaric had some outstanding revelations, particularly in identifying the common thread between the men-at-arms' behavior in the forest and the conflict between Hanwey's daughters. Equipping Nora with one of the party's enchanted longswords was key as well. In addition, a few critical dice rolls landed in the party's favor - notably, the random chance to detect evil in Azrael's direction (25%), Leilana's racial resistance to charm (30%), and the two final attack rolls against the imp.
Protection from evil was paramount in the combat with Azrael. While the effect is generally useful against most malevolent enemies, it really shines against otherworldly creatures like an imp, preventing physical contact with the protected individual. Without protection from evil, it's likely that one or more characters would have perished.
Despite all the good, one thing the party needs to sort out going forward is Leilana's use of entangle. The lack of coordination between the caster and her allies when it comes to this spell is a ticking time bomb, surely to kill at least one PC before long. Entangle is an extremely powerful spell in woodland environments, but one that needs to be wielded tactfully and with the utmost care.
Really glad to finally be able to award some well earned XP. The spoils:
- Saving the Morningsong men from Azrael's mind control - 700 XP
- Defeating Azrael - 1,200 XP
- Freeing Ellidora from her imprisonment - 1,000 XP
- Recovering the black mask - 3,000 XP
- Alaric - 7,054
- Leilana - 7,054
- Aginot -7,004
- Nora - 6,622
With real life events soon coming to the forefront for one of our players, it may be a while before we play again. I hope not too long - the campaign's going strong, and everyone seems to be having a lot of fun. We're at a decent stopping point now, with the party readying to strike out for Stangengrad before the early-season snows make many roads and trails impassable.
Winter is coming.
Sunday, January 5, 2014
It's really fun having players new to the game in our campaign, though (continuing the sentiment of my previous post) it holds me responsible for ensuring that everyone has a basic understanding of certain things about AD&D in order to play. The following is a relatively short list of things I'm classifying as "need to know":
Your ability scores (Str, Dex, Con, Int, Wis, Cha). The six abilities represent how physically and mentally talented your character is. Many of the game's mechanics take ability scores into consideration, and scores of 15 and higher typically yield significant advantages.
Your THAC0 (To-Hit-Armor-Class 0). This is the number you need to roll on a twenty-sided die (d20) to hit an opponent of armor class 0. The higher the opponent's AC, the easier they are to hit. For example, if your THAC0 is 18 and your opponent is AC 5, you only need to roll a 13 (18 - 5 = 13). Other bonuses or penalties can also apply to your roll (for example, when using a magical longsword +1 or attacking an invisible opponent). THAC0 decreases over time as a character gains levels, based on class.
Your armor class (AC). Armor class represents how difficult you are to hit. The main things that influence AC are quickness (Dexterity score) and the type of armor worn. The base AC for anyone is 10 and gets lower the better protected they are.
Your hit points (hp). Hit points measure how much damage you can sustain before being knocked unconscious or killed (this happens when reduced to 0 hp or lower, see here for details).
How many attacks you can make in a round. Low-level characters only make one attack normally, however bows (short and long bows only, NOT crossbows) can fire two arrows every round (rate of fire/ROF = 2). This makes bows ideal when attacking at range, though they can't be used right next to an enemy and suffer a -4 penalty (as all missile weapons do) when fired into a melee.
How much damage your weapons inflict. The weapons on your record sheet have numbers like 1d6 or 2d4 next to them. These are the number and type of dice you roll for damage when you hit with an attack.
Ability checks. Often, I'll ask you to make a check against one of your abilities, which means you want to roll equal to or lower than the value of that score on your record sheet using a d20. This is a simple way to determine success/failure for arbitrary feats like jumping onto a moving horse (Dex) or finding a marble in a pile of weapons (Wis).
Any special things your character can do. You shouldn't feel like you need to memorize a rulebook to play D&D, but you always should read the full description for your character's race and class in the Player's Handbook. This will tell you what extra things your character can do, like cast spells, backstab, and turn undead.
That some enemies require special or magical weapons to be damaged. When you swing your run-of-the-mill sword at a ghost and it passes right through, you don't deal any actual damage. That's because ghosts (along with many other creatures, particularly magical ones) require special or magical weapons (or spells) to hit. For example, that simple dagger you're holding won't do a thing to that werewolf if it's not coated in silver. Also, the DM won't tell you when this is the case for an opponent you're facing - you typically have to figure it out through trial and error.
That some enemies are perfectly capable of wiping out the entire party. Never assume that just because you're up against something that you're likely to come out victorious. Part of what keeps the game "real" is the idea that sometimes the characters are simply outmatched. When this happens, find another way to deal with the situation or, if all else fails, RUN! It's usually fairly obvious when the party doesn't stand a fighting chance, though the characters ultimately need to decide for themselves.
That some enemies can kill a character with a single attack. Last session, Dowding died from poison after only being hit once. That wasn't because his hit points were reduced to 0, but because the specific attack forced him to roll a "saving throw" (a last-ditch effort to avoid a horrible fate, which he failed), or die. It's not always easy to predict when these kinds of attacks are coming, but you should definitely be aware that they can happen.
That sometimes good vs. evil is not absolute. Not every person or creature you meet in the game will be cookie-cutter good or evil. Sometimes bad things result from good intentions, and vice versa. Sometimes what's good in one person's eyes is malevolent in the eyes of another. Sometimes motivations are conflicting and blurred. Subjectively is a remarkable thing.
That you can try pretty much anything you can think of. Don't ever feel restricted by the numbers and abilities on your character sheet. If you can imagine it, you can try it in the game. That doesn't mean everything you try, however, will work. I'll typically use a combination of attack rolls, ability checks, and common sense to figure out if your attempt succeeds.
That I'm not out to kill your character. It's pretty easy to come to the conclusion that my job as DM is to make the bad guys kill everyone in the party. Nothing could be further from the truth. My primary responsibilities are to adjudicate the game fairly, preserve the realism of the campaign world, and (most importantly) help make sure that everyone has a great time playing. I actually feel terrible when a character dies. That said, it isn't fair and takes away from the challenge of the game if I start fudging decisions or dice rolls to keep it from happening.
Trust me, if I wanted your characters dead, they would be. ;)
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
(This ended up being a lot longer than I intended, but once I started writing I just kinda went with it. Hope the party finds it helpful.)
This last session, I saw so many 2s, 3s, and 4s rolled by the players in combat, I swear I wanted to throw up in my shirt. And it wasn't just attack rolls. DM rolls a 2 for initiative? Players roll a 1. Players roll 5? DM rolls 6. Players roll 6? DM rolls 6. (All of those actually happened.)
So many unlucky rolls, how could the PCs possibly prevail?
That's what I was asking myself afterward, particularly when Jason mentioned a "dice bowl" idea where players can remove a d20 from a bowl of dice to re-roll an attack or save, then the party gets XP after the session for any dice still unused. It's a neat gimmick, a little game within the game that helps solve the fundamental "problem" of a party bogged down by terrible luck.
I'm always a little hesitant to make changes like this to my games. Partly because it feels like cheating, but also because it's hard to remove them without causing disappointment.
So, I took a step back and started thinking more deeply about what I was trying to solve, and specifically the combat math from Monday night's game. Let's take Alaric, the party's undisputed best fighter (actual rolls notwithstanding).
Alaric is a 3rd-level paladin that hits a well-armored (or very small/dexterous) opponent of AC 3 on a 14 or better with his longsword +1. (The math is THAC0 18 - AC 3 = 15 needed to hit, with +1 to his roll from the sword.) That's a 35% chance, an expected hit rate of about once every three rounds.
That's not super great to begin with, but passable enough to justify a swing, especially considering that the player doesn't know the opponent's actual AC during combat. But what about when the opponent is invisible? That's another -4 to hit (see here), which plummets his hit chance down to 15%, less than once every SIX rounds, on average.
Six rounds? The PCs are likely dead before then - and that's the party's best fighter. I'm pretty sure the other three characters each need to roll a 20 in that situation.
That brings me back to the dice bowl idea, which subverts the "natural" AD&D combat mechanics in favor of the party. Now, if your hit chance is already around 40% or better, or if trying to survive some kind of save-or-die effect, the dice bowl is pretty helpful. But at 5-15% to hit an invisible enemy, a single mulligan roll doesn't improve the success chance all that much. Taking last session's rolls as examples, even if those 2s, 3s and 4s were all 12s, 13s and 14s, almost every one of them still would have missed. And that's a testament to the fact that, last session, luck wasn't really the problem. Knowingly or not (and I think mostly not), the PCs made very statistically poor choices.
The truth is, when you're up against an invisible enemy who's darting around and stabbing people in the back with poison, you're best off finding another way to address the issue. Attack rolls are normally well and good (not to mention a core element of the game), but in this situation the attack roll shouldn't have been plan A. Spells, chalk, rope, blankets, practically ANYTHING should be tried before swinging a longsword for a 1-in-6 chance to hit. Shooting 3s from half-court just isn't winning basketball.
And that's where D&D really shines, because RPGs are all about thinking outside the box to find another solution. For me, it's probably my favorite part of the game, the biggest reason I still DM and play. It's about stepping into your character's shoes and asking, "My life is literally on the line here, what do I try to do?" AD&D is awesome at accommodating that mindset.
The flip-side to this is that players can sometimes drift so far in the direction of "outside the box" that they forget the box even exists. This happens when you see a party trying to take down a trio of orcs by tying all their daggers together as some kind of ridiculous lasso-tripwire. This approach to combat tends to not be very lucrative either. You want to find the right balance between being creative and pragmatic.
So, having gone through all that, I think the first thing I can do to help with the "bad luck" problem is to show some typical hit percentages for our party:
|Roll needed to hit...|
opponent (AC 8)
opponent (AC 5)
opponent (AC 2)
|Alaric (longsword +1)||9 (60%)||12 (45%)||15 (30%)|
|Aginot (staff)||12 (45%)||15 (30%)||18 (15%)|
|Leilana (spear)||12 (45%)||15 (30%)||18 (15%)|
|Nora (short sword)||11 (50%)||14 (35%)||17 (20%)|
Look at those numbers closely, because there's only one in the whole grid that's higher than 50%. It's noteworthy that Nora has a +2 Dex bonus when firing her bow, making those chances 10% better (bows also can fire two arrows every round). Opponent invisibility effectively reduces any hit chance by at least 20%, so that's something to keep in mind as well. Incremental advantages like being on higher ground can impact the rolls, too.
The point is, before blindly choosing to bust out sword or mace, try to think a couple rounds ahead to how events might play out if the dice fall like the numbers suggest they should. If that result looks a little grim for the PCs, you may want to reevaluate your options to see if there's another approach worth trying.
In closing, my games have never been strongly focused on mechanics, and I don't want players to feel like they have to memorize the rule books to play. A side effect of this, though, is that I probably need to do more to ensure that players are comfortable enough with basic combat math to have a feel for when it makes sense to attack as opposed to looking for other ways to win.
Sometimes it definitely makes sense to swing the sword. Sometimes it's the only option you really have. But often, success or failure is ultimately determined before any rolls are made at all.
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
The party delved into the forest while the sun was still low, following the walking paths established by Morningsong's woodsmen, and numbering twelve: the four PCs, Dowding, Kleigha, four additional men-at-arms, and two hunters. After stopping at a small campsite for their midday meal, the company came upon a stream, where a weathered cowl adorned with a lion's head brooch was found in the shallow rocks. Splitting themselves six-and-six to investigate further, the upstream group located the corpse of a woodsman, bearing a single piercing wound between his neck and shoulder. A few erratic bootprints and a lone claw-like track were spotted in the mud nearby.
The downstream group returned with no similar discovery, only a wounded militia man after an altercation with one of his allies related to the logistics of their search. Dowding seemed not overly concerned; undaunted, the company continued on as the sun set, hoping to reach the next outpost before nightfall.
As they marched along the darkening, forest trail by torchlight, the altercation from the stream again rekindled, this time resulting in both weapons and blood drawn. The other men-at-arms were ordered to bind the aggressors with rope, but as they did, more skirmishes erupted amid the contingent until a full-on melee ensued. Attempting to think quickly, Alaric used to detect evil while Aginot cast enthrall.
By the time the men from Morningsong were clinging to the priest's every word, Leilana had turned against the captain and Alaric was striking off after a presence he located in the trees - and according to the paladin, the ghostly, mounted rider presumed to be Lord Hanwey could be seen in the distance, beckoning him on. Nora and Dowding followed Alaric on faith, not seeing the "apparition" for themselves but sensing that something was amiss.
As they searched the grounds, Dowding was attacked by an invisible assailant who leaped upon his back and stabbed (something) into his neck. The PCs struggled to fight off the attacker, and though they eventually caused it to flee by way of sword and spell and the militia men were saved, Dowding succumbed to poison in his wound and perished.
All through the night and for the better part of the next day the party trudged back along the trail until they returned to the village, both their condition, and news, grim.
I hope this was a fun one to play, because it was frustrating as hell to run. The players' rolls were beyond awful, and every 50-50 decision felt like the wrong one. Kudos to Aginot for the enthrall spell, an effort that single-handedly saved the majority of the woodsmen. That really was the highlight, as every other course taken seemed to end in disaster.
Not how I expected the session to end, but that should make things all the more interesting for next time. The party definitely has a lot to think about. All for now.
Monday, December 2, 2013
The group picked up last night (all in person, this time!) in Morningsong, eager to learn more of the village and its happenings - and the deeper the party delved, the more certain they became that something dark and sinister was shrouded in the past. Aginot, particularly, felt drawn to a sense of duty that the supposed "ghost" of Lord Hanwey needed the PCs' aid to somehow reconcile the events that led up to his demise in the famed battle against the orcs.
As the party plodded about the village and conversed with Dowding and Lady Silva, they met two new personalities of note: Nora, an unbranded, runaway thief from the town of Morfenzi whose history with the Talons was all-too-similar to their own, and a retired man-at-arms named Kleigha who spoke his remembrances of Lord Hanwey and his daughters inside the pub. Nora had arrived in Morningsong only two days prior, and circumstances warranted that she join the party as their ally straightaway.
After uncovering little in their first full day in the village (aside from a local rumor that Lady Silva's mute servant was actually her younger brother and only living relative), the companions took their sleep willingly. During the night, Aginot woke in a haze and spotted the mute, Azrael, peering into his first-story window. A second later, he was gone.
The next morning, the PCs plotted to tuck a slip of parchment bearing a message on Azrael in the village square, though the attempt failed. Afterward, as Dowding assisted a feign-swooning Aginot back to the Lion's Head tavern, Nora and Leilana trailed Lady Silva back to her cottage, then followed Azrael around back when the governess and her escort stepped inside. The mute approached a lonely well and delved briefly into the surrounding trees before Leilana revealed herself and drew near. The mute shook his head when asked if he could read, eyed the druid with suspicion and retreated from her advance. In the end, Nora and Leilana returned to the tavern to reconvene with their friends.
Aginot yet hoped that Azrael would return to meet them, but his augury yielded only more uncertainty:
The session ended as the party prepared to depart the village with Dowding and his contingent, unsettled as they were that so many questions remained unanswered...
This was a relatively quick session run on little preparation, and considering that, it went well. Most importantly, we welcomed a new player (new to our game and to D&D in general) into the party. Hopefully Kristen had a good time and came away with a good (and positive) feel for how the game works. Her PC, Nora, was rolled up only about an hour before we played, and even so meshed seamlessly with the rest of the characters.
As last time, no XP to award right now. Jason, would you mind posting the contents of the message that Aginot intended for Azrael, when you can? Anyone who has questions/clarifications or any other thoughts to add about the session can feel free to post them in the comments below.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
That seems to be a recurring theme in this campaign. But that's kind of what Ravenloft is all about, so I try to play it up as best I can. ;)
Tonight marked the tenth session in our game, which is now just over a year old. We started off with the PCs exiting Chatain on horseback en route to Stangengrad; over the vast, green countryside they rode, descending a low valley on the second day of their journey as the road wound northwest, deeper into Falkovnia. That night, as they prepared to camp, they heard the distant clangor of what sounded like a veritable army mid-march within the valley.
The noise grew louder, and soon the PCs shuffled off their hillside to avoid whatever was making its approach. But no matter where they moved, the racket only became more thunderous and frightful, booming in the companions' ears as they found themselves fleeing in a dead run. When finally Aginot tumbled over a jutted root, the commotion suddenly stopped.
The PCs had wandered far off of the road, and at a distance, Alaric spotted a mounted rider wearing a great helm and braided beard, and carrying a shield emblazoned with a lion's-head crest. Again and again the figure slipped away into the foliage and then reappeared again, always barely out of reach, as the companions diligently followed it, eventually discovering a hidden trail that led further into the forest.
They took to the trail by the moonlight, losing sight of the rider but arriving at the edge of a small village, nestled secretly within the surrounding groves. Warily, they entered a lamp-lit tavern bearing the same lion's-head insignia on a banner outside. Inside, the patrons and proprietor met the PCs with suspicion, and particularly so when Alaric told tale of the horseman, whose description elicited the name "Lord Hanwey." One tavern-goer dashed out to fetch Jorah, the local cleric, and after a sultry greeting, arrangements were made for the party to take refuge for the night at the pub.
The village, Morningsong, was home to only a hundred or so villagers - that number made fewer in recent weeks when a handful of able-bodied hunters inexplicably failed to return from the forest. The next morning, the PCs met Dowding, the militia captain, and Lady Silva, the town governess, who rode on horseback, accompanied by a non-mounted escort of two casually-outfitted men-at-arms and a lowly-looking servant who appeared to suffer from mental illness. Through exploration and questioning, the party learned a bit of history behind the town's modest chapel, whose signpost out front bore the following scripture:
As explained by Dowding, some twenty-five years prior, two fair sisters fell in love with a brooding, young soldier from a faraway land. The younger girl, Ellidora, was to be married to the the gallant, but out of jealousy-turned-hatred, the elder sister, Angelina, slew Ellidora, slitting her sister's throat on the steps of the chapel where she was to be wed. Three days later, Angelina was stoned in the chapel courtyard by the light of the full moon. As she was bound to the totem, she vehemently denied wrongdoing and accused Ellidora of being a witch, possessed by evil."Let this chapel stand for eternityAs a reminder of the consequences of sin."
In the wake of the sisters' deaths, the young gallant rode off into heavy mists one cold autumn morning and was never heard from again. A month after ordering the execution of his eldest daughter, Lord Hanwey, the town's governor, was slain by orcs in a great battle to protect the village (which the militia ultimately won).
We ended with the PCs pledging their aid to Lady Silva as village sought to learn the fate of its missing woodsmen.
No XP to award at this time. Players can feel free to use this thread (or just email) to ask questions or carry out menial dealings and conversations in the village. Not much else to add other than I thought this was a really good session, with fantastic atmosphere throughout.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
A couple more sections from OSRIC, important enough to quote directly:
Damage and Death
When a character or creature is hit, the amount of damage is deducted from his or her hit points. When hit points reach 0, the character is unconscious and will continue to lose one hit point per round from blood loss until death occurs at –10 hp. Note that any additional damage suffered by an unconscious character (aside from bleeding) will kill him or her instantly. The blood loss of 1 hit point per round may be stopped immediately in the same round that aid of some kind is administered to the wounded character. Being knocked unconscious is quite serious; even after returning to 1 or more hp (by means of a healing spell, potion, or natural rest) the character will remain in a coma for 1-6 turns and must rest for a minimum of one week before he or she will be capable of resuming any sort of strenuous activity, mental or physical. If a character is reduced to –6 hit points or below, the scars of the wound will likely be borne for the rest of the character’s life.
Characters who are slain may be raised from the dead if a cleric of sufficient level is available to perform the casting (exception: elves do not have souls, and are unaffected by the spells raise dead or resurrection). If no such character is available in the party, as will be the case for most low-level parties, the group may choose to approach a NPC High Priest for assistance in raising a dead character. The NPC will always charge a fee for such a casting, typically at least 1,000 gp.
A character will recover 1 hit point per day of uninterrupted rest. However, if the character has a constitution penalty to hp, before rest will begin to affect the character’s hp the character must rest for a number of days equal to the constitution penalty. A character with high constitution gains a commensurate benefit after resting for one week; the number of hp regained during the second week will be increased by the amount of the character’s hp bonus at the start of the week. Four weeks of rest will return any character to full hp regardless of how many hp the character has lost.
This post is a reference for how I currently run combat. AD&D/OSRIC leaves a decent amount of room for interpretation when it comes to intricacies, and that's by design. I try to stick to "by the book" rulings as much as possible, but I know my personal style for running combat changes and evolves over time. I started putting this together after the last time we played, but I'm posting it now to help prepare for this week's game.
It's important to note that a lot of this tends to go out the window mid-session, especially when trying to keep everything exciting and fluid. That said, it's never bad to have a quick reference to defer to when needed.
(Much of the below is sourced from OSRIC. Anything that's not is generally my own.)
- A combat round is one minute. A "segment" is six seconds. There are ten segments in a round.
- At the start of combat, each side with a chance to be surprised (i.e., unaware of the opposing party) rolls a d6.
- 1 = surprised for 1 segment
- 2 = surprised for 2 segments
- 3-6 = not surprised
- A character with high Dexterity (16+) gets a "Surprise Bonus" which negates that many surprise segments for that character only.
- If there are any segments where one side is surprised but the other is not, the unsurprised party may act during those segments. This includes:
- Movement (limited to the character's movement rate / the number of surprise segments)
- Making a melee attack
- Making a charge attack (limited to the character's movement rate / the number of surprise segments * 2)
- Making a single missile attack (i.e., a single arrow, etc.) if in range
- Attempting to turn undead
- Casting a spell (only if the spell's casting time is equal to or less than the number of surprise segments)
- Once surprise segments are handled, each PC declares actions for the first round, then each side rolls d6 for initiative. The result is the segment on which the opposing side may act (therefore higher is better).
- Each character's action occurs on his or her party's initiative segment (i.e. the opposing party's die result).
- Melee attacks occur on the initiative segment.
- Missile attacks normally occur on the initiative segment, however characters with a "Missile Bonus to Hit" (Dex 16+) apply this bonus to their initiative count in addition to their attack rolls.
- A charge begins on the initiative segment, but consumes enough segments to cover the full charge distance (at 2x normal speed) before the actual attack occurs.
- Spellcasting begins on a character's initiative segment and consumes a number of segments equal to the spell's casting time (during which time the spell can be disrupted and foiled).
- Movement is otherwise considered to be ongoing and fluid throughout the round. Determining a character's exact location on a specific segment is left to the DM's discretion.
- After all sides have acted, if the combat is still ongoing, a new round is started with new initiative rolls by each side.
Attacking into Melee: If an attacker has multiple adjacent opponents, the target is determined randomly. The same applies when attacking at range against "engaged" opponents (in these cases, the attacker can elect to take a -4 penalty to hit in order to try to hit a specific target).
Charge: A charging character gains +2 to hit, but if the defender's weapon is longer than the attacker's, the defender can attack first. A character can only "charge" once/10 rounds.
Fleeing: Fleeing characters immediately draw an additional attack from adjacent opponents at +4 to hit.
Parrying: A character who parries cannot attack, but may subtract his or her "to hit" bonus from his or her opponent's attack roll.
Invisible Opponent: An invisible opponent can only be attacked if the general location is known, and the attack is at –4 to hit.
Prone Opponent: Attacks against a prone opponent negate the benefit of a shield, negate dexterity bonuses, and are made at +4 to hit.
Concealment: Concealment is anything that obscures an opponent’s vision, such as tree limbs or smoke, but does not physically block incoming attacks. The GM must decide whether the defender is about a quarter (-1 to AC), half (-2 to AC), three-quarters (-3 to AC), or nine-tenths (-4 to AC) concealed.
Cover: Cover is protection behind something that can actually block incoming attacks, such as a wall or arrow slit. Cover bonuses are as follows:
- 25% cover: -2 AC
- 50% cover: -4 AC
- 75% cover: -7 AC
- 90% cover -10 AC