Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Alaric's Backstory

Early Life
    Alaric was orphaned as a baby.  As a baby he was left on the altar of the church in Chatain.  The priest looked for many weeks for the mother and father, but neither was ever found.  Due to this the priest raised Alaric with the help of everyone in the village.  Everyone in the town treated Alaric kindly.  All during his childhood, Alaric was instilled with church doctrine.  He developed a strong moral compass at a very early age.  This caused trouble with the other children, as he was inclined to tell the truth about their "antics".  Due to this he spent much time alone in the church reading the scrolls in the church's modest library.  He also spent a lot of time in prayer because he was taught to pray when he was troubled.

The Sword
    At the age of 10, Alaric came across a sword in a forgotten room in the church.  He took it even though it was rusty, and was so dull.  He took the sword to Chatain's blacksmith who helped him remove the rust and sharpen it.  The blacksmith taught Alaric how to care for the sword, and the basics of using it.  It was not longer after this that the priest discovered the sword and confronted Alaric about it.  He made it clear to Alaric that he did not like that Alaric had a sword and pleaded with him to get rid of it.  However, Alaric was fascinated with the stories of great heroes that he had read about.  The priest relented and let him keep it.  Alaric spent many hours outside practicing with his sword, and began wearing it all the time.  At first he did not know what he was doing.  However, he found a couple of people around town that taught him what they knew of swordplay.  He soaked this up and practiced whenever he had the chance.  Occasionally, visitors came to the town, and Alaric was able to convince them to help him with his swordplay.  After six years of this, he was quite proficient with the long sword.

The Incident
    When Alaric was 15 something starting harassing Chatain's outer farms.  At first it was just a sheep here and a cow there, but the attacks became more frequent.  It was discovered that this was the work of a band of brigands living in the woods outside Chatain.  Alaric took it upon himself to end the raids.  One day, Alaric strode out in the direction that the brigand camp was located.  He confronted the brigands and commanded them to leave.  The brigands' answered him by drawing their swords and coming at Alaric.  Alaric was able to hold off all three for awhile.  During this dual Alaric continued to demand that the brigands throw down their swords and turn themselves in.  The brigands never complied with this.  During the fight, Alaric was getting tired and had been cut a few times.  During all of this, Alaric was fighting very defensively, and had yet to bloody any of the brigands.  Alaric soon realized that he was going to have to kill the brigands or be killed by them.  Alaric then caught the brigands off guard by going into an all out offensive.  After the many years of practice with the sword, Alaric was able to dispatch the brigands, but not without taking wounds himself.  He then gathered up everything of value in the camp along with the bodies and made his way back to Chatain.  He went first to the church where he implored to priest to give the brigands burial rites, and to help bury them.  The priest agreed, but said this had to wait for the next day.  When asked about what Alaric planned to due with the camp findings, Alaric replied that he would split it amongst the affected citizens.  After distributing the findings and returning to the church, the full weight of what Alaric had done hit him.  He stayed awake all night playing for forgiveness for killing three men.  For many weeks Alaric was distraught by the events, and refused to touch his sword.  He spent many hours discussing what happened with the priest, and the priest was able to convince Alaric, that there was no other solution.  He explained that by Alaric confronting the brigand, he set in motion events that would end up with one of them dead.  Alaric was slowly convinced that it was better for him a devout, and good man, to have survived than the lawless brigand.  Once he had come to terms with that, he reread the stories of great heroes, and only now realized that they had killed men as well.  They did not seem to have problems with doing this, but only ever killed when it was necessary.  Alaric realized that he had done the same thing and began to think of himself as a Servant of the Light.  When he mentioned this to the priest, the priest smiled, and agreed.  He said that Alaric was right, but to be careful of who he mentioned that to.  Alaric began to feel much better.  However, he vowed to never kill a man again unless there was no other option available.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Insta-kill Rulings

As this stuff seems to come up again and again in our games, here are some official rulings on "coup de gras" attacks in conjunction with various spell effects. In general, I'm deferring to OSRIC where the intent is clear, and trying to use fair judgment otherwise:

Hold Person

The OSRIC spell description says this:

Persons held by this spell may be killed or bound at a rate of one per round, or, if the attacker chooses, may be attacked at twice the normal rate with an automatic hit, for maximum damage.
From all I can gather, hold person completely immobilizes the opponent. They have no ability to react whatsoever, therefore automatic kills are allowed. In fact, I think it's probably correct to rule that held individuals aren't even able to speak.

Entangle

Sourcing OSRIC again:
[If] the saving throw fails, the creature is so securely held in the plants that it cannot move, attack, or cast spells for the duration of the spell.
This is a little more gray, however I don't interpret this as the degree of helplessness indicated by hold person. First off, the individual is only "held" as securely as the foliage can wrap them (as opposed to being outright frozen in place). Secondly, it's reasonable to think that the entangling plants themselves may obstruct the target area for an insta-kill attempt (like the throat). Third, anyone engaging in melee with an entangled foe obviously needs to make a conscious attempt to not succumb to the entanglement themselves.

I think a fair ruling on this spell is that magically entangled opponents are considered prone:
Prone Opponent: Attacks against a prone opponent negate the benefit of a shield, negate dexterity bonuses, and are made at +4 to hit.
Lastly, I was able to dig up a decent thread on this subject on Dragonsfoot. The responses are a little varied, but there's a pretty solid consensus that being entangled is not as severe as hold person with regards to mobility.

Sleep and Command

I'm grouping these two together since relevant command words for the command spell generally result in the same sort of effect as sleep. Again, OSRIC spells this out pretty clearly:
Magically sleeping creatures may be killed or tied up at a rate of one per round by a single person, or can be attacked at twice the normal rate with an automatic hit for maximum damage, if the attacker chooses not to kill or bind them.
This is effectively the same as hold person. So, when casting command, words like "die," "hold," and "sleep" all result in the same degree of vulnerability - the main difference is whether or not the opponent falls to the ground first.

One last thing: it's also important to note that magical sleep and natural sleep are not the same. The OSRIC entry for natural sleep is:
Sleeping Opponent: Sleeping opponents (natural sleep, not magical sleep) may be attacked with the same chance to kill as if the attacker were an assassin. The effect of magical sleep is described under the entry for the sleep spell.
All for now.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

RL #9: A Debt Repaid

Sometimes, under the threat of utmost peril, even the most downtrodden and oppressed can rise up to defend that which is worth defending. And so it was that, as Leilana rode the Talon captain's plundered steed back to the edge of Chatain, a party of six able-bodied villagers strode boldly out to meet her and travel at her side: Karsten the innkeeper; Merena the warrioress; the boy Elias and his uncle; Alpin the loremaster; and an armored militia fighter. Together, torches blazing, they made their way into the night.

After a several-hour march, a campfire was sighted in the distance, and the company from Chatain extinguished its light sources. The party knew that the Talons had been slowed, both from having lost two horses in the village and from the burden of prisoners among their ranks.

Making use of her infravision, Leilana circled around the camp whilst the remaining would-be rescuers fanned out to either side. At Leilana's call, the allies began clashing their weapons, causing steel-on-steel to ring across the glade and alerting the Talons to an unseen threat.  The Talons stood with swords raised, firing arrows haphazardly between the trees at their captain's call, though they hit and saw nothing.

Suddenly, the trees around the camp began wrapping the Talons in unnaturally-moving branches, holding fast the captain and two others, along with the still-shackled Aginot and Alaric. The rescuers charged into the fray, and bloodshed quickly ensued. Talons fought vehemently, but they were outnumbered in the wake of Leilana's spell. In the end, Karsten and two enemy soldiers were laid low before the last standing Talon surrendered. When the entanglement finally ceased, the Talon captain was held at sword point.

Leilana tethered two of the surviving Talons to their horses by their feet, though a third bolted into the night after serving a boot to the druid's face. The captain yielded the key to unlock his prisoners, and then was bound hand-and-feet in those same iron bands. Victorious, the companions deliberated their course.

At long last, the party turned back for Chatain, five horses and three Talon captives in tow. They arrived at sunrise, though instead of entering the village, they circled around it, to the edge of Souragne. Throughout the morning, a makeshift raft was constructed of fallen logs and rope, and as the sun rose high overhead, the Talons, still bound, were set adrift in the marshes, never to return. Finally, the contingent returned home, where Karsten would be laid to rest and the adventurers could heal.

Taking only enough time for Alaric to recover from his wounds, the trio of Aginot, Alaric, and Leilana rode forth from the village on horseback two days hence under a cloudless sky, leaving their memories of Chatain far behind.

DM's Commentary

It was definitely a crazy night, and once again the entanglement spell played a huge role in the outcome. At this point, I think it's important that I do some research and provide official rulings as far as what can and can't be done within the spell's area of effect. Off the cuff, I don't think that insta-kills of entangled opponents is reasonable - "held fast" isn't the same as unconscious or completely incapacitated in my interpretation, and coup de gras should really be saved for those situations where the opponent has zero awareness. (Aside from that, though, such an action is likely not something Alaric would ever support...)

In that vein, the most interesting part of this session, for me, was the moral discussion around what to do with the Talon captives. Alaric wasn't present for the game last night, so Aginot's and Leilana's players had to weigh not only their own characters' actions, but the paladin's moral compass as well. In the end, the decision to ship the soldiers off into the swamp was a pretty brilliant way of letting justice be served while not resorting to rash solutions like maiming or execution (both of which were considered...).

XP/Spoils

First, a list of noteworthy items plundered from the Talons:

  • The captain's longsword (given to Alaric)
  • The captain's iron ring - embedded with a red, swirling, marble-like gem, which looks very out of the ordinary
  • The captain's belt and boot daggers
  • The captain's belt pouch - containing 100 gp in coins along with a valuable-looking, jewel-encrusted necklace
  • Three longswords, two short bows, and several daggers and dirks taken from the remaining Talons
  • Five suits of chainmail - all either left behind or submerged in the marshes
  • Various food and miscellaneous supplies found in saddlebags - the PCs are free to assume whatever reasonable provisions they can carry, with the rest handed over to Chatain

As for XP, I'm only posting a high-level breakdown to avoid revealing too much specific information:

  • Soldiers defeated - 1,060 XP
  • Items recovered - 2,750 XP

That totals 3,810 points, however the XP is divided five ways, between Leilana, Aginot, Alaric, Merena, and all other surviving villagers (none of which warrant a fully equal share). Therefore, each PC receives 762 XP for the past two sessions - the fact that Aginot and Alaric were captured doesn't detract from their awards. Additionally, Leilana receives two individual awards of 100 XP and 50 XP, the first for orchestrating and executing the rescue plan, and the second for the idea of setting the Talons adrift in the swamp and reconciling the moral disparity within the party.

All that said, updated XP totals are:

  • Leilana - 5,579
  • Aginot - 5,529
  • Alaric - 5,479

No levels gained, to my knowledge, but this was nevertheless a very solid end to an extremely problematic situation. Leilana, especially, should feel proud of what was accomplished. I'll end the post with Karsten's dying words:
"Someday, a champion among men will defeat Vlad Drakov and put an end to his reign of terror. Do not let me have died in vain."