Sunday, December 31, 2017

Moonglow Cave: discoveries and dialogue

For convenience, here are the clarifications I provided after the session over email.

  • It does seem possible that stirges (or similar creatures) could have killed the druid. Though the cave bears no immediate signs of being occupied, you find droppings similar to those of birds fairly littering the floor. Stirges (as Rould explains it) tend to move from place to place as food supplies are exhausted. Upon closer examination, Damyca's dead skin looks patchy and discolored - perhaps residual stains from bloodletting? If she was attacked in such a way, she was likely taken completely by surprise.
  • It stands to reason, too, that the claw marks on the walls could have been made by the same "cave bear" that attacked the party in the forest, perhaps having been previously driven out by stirges, other enemies, or even Damyca(?). The "cats on furniture" hypothesis seems to fit the nature of the scratch marks.
  • No other tracks are apparent, to Rould or anyone else. The area around the cave mouth is rocky and dry, ill-suited for leaving footprints and the like.
  • The runes aren't so many, and Zeb can certainly begin scrawling them onto parchment, if he's willing to take some time before the party leaves.
There also were questions posed to Tussugar about the origin of his ring, along with a request to search Damyca's corpse...
  • The dwarf has a stubborn air about him when questioned about the ring, but this seems more rooted in his own pride than a result of magical influence. He remembers not (or declines to say) the name of the man he acquired it from; the piece was unique, dwarvish in make, and he suspected (but had no way of proving) that it harbored some form of protective enchantment. In fact, he hadn't donned it at all until the morning of the group's departure. The ring was supposedly recovered amid a lot of plundered treasure from an abandoned mine.
  • The trader was traveling with a larger mercantile company from Mirabar, which was following a similar route along the River Mirar, around midsummer. He remembers the group, given that few travelers pass through the village even during the height of trade season, but knows (or admits) little else.
  • Damyca's body seems barren of anything useful. A nomadic druid, she carried a staff, a few basic provisions, and lacked anything magical (unless such valuables have already been plundered).
Feel free to post comments to this thread with any additional questions.

Friday, December 29, 2017

#1: Shadfeld

Our new campaign opened upon Shadfeld, a woodland village along the River Mirar in the lower foothills of the Spine of the World. The characters, Audric and Zeb, a Mystran crusader and refugee Malaran cultist, had arrived in escort of a fur trader named Erathmar, having traveled east from an outpost known as West Tower and, previously, Mirabar.

Erathmar, a retired adventurer in search of rare ore from the nearby mountains, bade the PCs to take leave during their stay; soon after, their presence was sought by Shadfeld's high priestess who, along with a hunter named Rould, questioned the party's intentions and origin. The duo explained that a local druid had recently fled after imparting a premonition that great evil would descend upon the village. The druid, Damyca, served as a pillar of protection for the area, and her departure to seek meditation at a site known as Moonglow Cave spawned concern, both for her vision and in her failure to return after several days. Pledging their aid, Audric and Zeb offered to accompany Rould and Tussugar Grim, dwarf and village marchion, in search of the missing woman.

A day's travel took them deep into forested terrain, where they set a defensive camp in the bowels of a low valley. During the night, their alarms were triggered by an enormous bear that assaulted them from the darkness. Unable to run, they fought, Tussugar exchanging blows from the creature's paws with a gruesome cut from his rune-encrusted dwarven axe. Then, inexplicably, Tussugar dropped his weapon and convulsed, his stocky form melding into that of a bear, equal in size and strength to their aggressor. As the allies rained missiles upon the attacking bear, the transfigured Tussugar crushed its neck with his mighty jaw. The creature fell limp and Tussugar convulsed again, his body contorting back to that of a dwarf, ere he collapsed. The others, distraught, guarded the camp until sunrise.

Tussugar awoke to interrogation, and though he acknowledged what had transpired, he failed to explain his transformation, gruffly asserting that the company should continue on. After persisted questioning, however, the dwarf conceded possession of a pewter ring, purchased from an ore trader many weeks prior, which he suspected to be the source of the previous night's event. Using detect magic, Audric discerned an overwhelmingly powerful aura emanating from the artifact.

That eve, Moonglow Cave came within view, a rocky outcropping emanating a blue luminescence atop a small peak amid the forest. The company approached, discovering the blood-drained husk of Damyca inside its mouth. Too, they found claw marks from some massive creature and, in the cave's depths, undecipherable runes scribed in an unknown language.

DM's Commentary

Sean, Jason, and I have been playing at the idea for this campaign for a long time, so it's great to see it finally kicked off. Zeb and Audric are already deep characters, with aspects that extend well beyond anything written above. I think this session was a decent start, despite a bit of strangeness and quite a lot unanswered. Hopefully the player's agree!

It's Really Not Lord of the Rings

I don't love D&D games having a MacGuffin; I realize that the plundered scepter felt like one during the last campaign, and that the sudden appearance of a transcendent ring ushers in similar vibes here as well. I don't stage the exact way sessions will unfold (even first sessions!), and there were elements of chance involved that I can't elaborate on presently, but that definitely contributed to much of what transpired in-game. You guys may just have to take me at my word, for now...

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

New campaign prep

Think I'm about ready for Thursday night's new campaign. We're splitting our players into different games, with Sean, Jason, and me setting off on our own. Not much to disclose yet, but planning is coming along well. I'll continue to use this site to chronicle our sessions; anyone not playing in the offshoot can unsubscribe from posts if they become overbearing.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Company Charter

In an effort to align some of our character backstories, motivations, and to provide some top-level direction to justify the existence of our jolly band of adventurers, I think it's worth investigating the idea of a company charter.  This isn't so much a list of rules or regulations as it is a general statement of purpose--within the charter, characters can certainly have individual motivations, and we can even act against the charter's purpose as a group when the situation demands; it's more an underlying set of principles that we share that can help guide group decisions.

The charter need not be set in stone.  One of the great things about roleplaying games is that characters develop and change over time, and so to should our charter change to suit great events that befall us or changes in outlook or perception.

One underlying theme, at least in some of the characters currently being developed, is magic or the pursuit of magic.  As such, I put forth the following suggestion for our company charter, at least at the beginning.

  • Magic and the produce of magic, be it spells or items or creatures, are beyond the comprehension of most common folk.  As adventurers possessed of unique abilities, we are responsible for protecting the common folk from magic that would do them harm.
  • Magic is ancient, and current civilization is built upon the ruins of great magical cultures.  Relics of these cultures sometimes surface, and it is of great interest to us to pursue and secure the safety of these items, lest they fall into the wrong hands.
  • Magic is a powerful and sometimes unpredictable force; when magical mysteries manifest, we are responsible for discovering the source of these mysteries, and to control them when necessary lest they bring harm to others.
  • Not all magic is benevolent; magic whose sole purpose is to harm should be pursued, controlled, and when possible destroyed.
This should give our DM some fuel for adventures, especially ways to kick off new plotlines.  It should also provide some direction when confronted with decision points, while allowing us the flexibility to pursue our individual moral direction.

Do you have any suggestions to add to or alter the direction of the company charter?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Crusader (creating a new character class)

For the next campaign, Sean and I have been discussing terms for a new character class that fits the mold he wants to play. The 2e FR accessory Warriors and Priests of the Realms provides a write-up for a class called the "Crusader," which matches Sean's idea thematically (a combat-oriented missionary priest with ties to the goddess of magic) but comes with some mechanical baggage that we're struggling to get past. As a result, we turned to the 2e DMG (pp. 22-23) which describes a framework for creating a new character class from the ground up. Here's our current working model. Each trait listed below has a corresponding modifier; the modifiers are aggregated to determine the XP advancement table.

Crusader (work in progress)

  • Must be human (modifier: 0)
  • Priest combat values (0)
  • Priest saving throw table (0)
  • d8 hit dice (+1)
  • All armor allowed (0)
  • All weapons allowed (0)
  • +2 hp per level beyond 9th (+1)
  • Cast three spheres of priest spells (+6)
  • Learn and cast one school of magic (+3)
  • No ability to turn undead (0)
  • Use magical items allowed to priests (+1)
  • Must be good-aligned (-1)
  • Has particular ethos that must be obeyed (-1)
  • Cannot keep more treasure than can carry (-0.5)
  • Cannot own more than 10 magical items (-0.5)
Modifier total: 9

Experience levels (mage and cleric listed for comparison):

Level Crusader Mage Cleric
1 0 0 0
2 1,800 2,500 1,500
3 3,600 5,000 3,000
4 7,200 10,000 6,000
5 18,000 20,000 13,000
6 36,000 40,000 27,500
7 72,000 60,000 55,000
8 135,000 90,000 110,000
9 252,000 135,000 225,500

The crusader's XP advancement begins much more favorably than the mage and only slightly worse than the cleric, but over time requires greater totals at higher levels of play. I think this is fair and appropriate for a character with multiple types of spellcasting (for anyone concerned about balance with other classes).

One major facet of the class that we need to figure out is how wizard spellcasting should be implemented. The reason for the ability to cast a single school of wizard spells (Sean is choosing conjuration/summoning) is the character's devout ties to Mystra. As such, I think there are two main approaches to consider:
  1. The crusader casts priest spells as a priest and wizard spells as a wizard. That is, the crusader's priest and wizard spell slots are independent (the character effectively gets both); bonus spells apply only to the priest spell slots; wizard spells must be learned through study as opposed to prayer; and armor cannot be worn when casting wizard spells (same as a wizard or bard). This treats the character as a multi-classed cleric/mage in terms of spellcasting.
  2. The crusader casts all spells as a priest. That is, all spells are gained through prayer, using the character's single set of priest spell slots; the wizard spell school is treated as just another priest sphere; no spellbook is needed and no armor restrictions are applied.
I'm not sure that I have a preference, yet. Mechanically, there are trade-offs, mainly that option #1 gives the character more total spell slots, while option #2 removes the wizardly armor and spellbook restrictions. I think either approach can be justified in-game.

Creating a new class isn't something I've dabbled in before, and it's important that the end result is reasonably fair and balanced (at least, as balanced as anything in AD&D). Interested to hear anyone else's take; the class as constructed seems relatively strong and versatile at low levels, but suffers from a slower rate of advancement the longer the campaign goes on.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Party creation recap and next steps

Revving up for a new campaign in the wake of the recent TPK, this post is a summary of what we know so far.

  • The selected classes are transmuter, ranger, cleric/abjurer (dual-classed), and "crusader" (2e fighter/cleric kit, pending final approval)
  • It appears that all PCs will likely be human
  • The party has agreed on a good-aligned moral compass, rejecting thievery but with a possible anti-establishment penchant (e.g., Robin Hood analogy); the overall party alignment looks to be "neutral good"
  • All ability score rolls are completed
  • Starting XP will be 5,000 per character (prime requisite bonuses apply)
  • Max hit points are assumed for 1st level; all other levels should be rolled; all 1's may be re-rolled
With two character concepts rooted in the Forgotten Realms pantheon, it's reasonable to assume the use of FR gods for anyone concerned with religion. For the sake of backgrounds, while I'm withholding any formal setting announcement until we begin, assume that the starting locale will be a small village in a fantasy realm akin to where the previous campaign left off. In other words, assume forests, mountains, a nearby mining city, a coastline within reasonable distance, etc. The party is assumed to have traveled to this location together leading up to the start of the campaign.

If more detailed information than this is needed, it may be best to pose specific questions or pitch me your background ideas for me to help work them in. Backgrounds are not of the greatest importance in the big scheme of things.

First Session Date

I'd like to get a first session in before the end of December. While the holidays are a busy time, we should be able to find one out of 25+ evenings that three households can be brought together. If it's easiest to plan something between Christmas and the new year, when many of us are off work, that's certainly doable.

All for now!