Thursday, May 25, 2006

C'mon... They're Just Goblins!

Normally, I try to get these synopses out one to two days after the event while it is still fresh in my memory. This one was a little late due to a lot of job interviews, fighting depression, and racing around like a maniac before KublaCon, so -- I'm sorry already! I hope I get this right. If there is anything I left out or got wrong I am sure someone, next week, will alert me to it. Here goes:
First of all, Dramatis Personae: Flaine, Laurel, Mondavi (the rogue returneth), Link & Mishka (the leopard. Finally! I remembered!), Avinal the elf ranger, Qurynack Lock version 1.0, a half-giant barbarian played by Matt, and Ix, the cleric of Pelor.
Not here: Sir Galotte the aasimar paladin (he will no longer be with us as the player has moved to Arizona!), and Gin the human fighter played by Ken (he pulled 80 hours straight at some company function...), he later gets played in absentia by John H.
Okay, so at the end of last session, we received an invite from the constable of Cauldron. We start the game showing up there and he tells us about a rash of goblin raids going on throughout the city. We wander about like zombies trying to ferret any information about their point of origin. While Flaine, Avinal and Qurynack Lock are taking in the lovely goblin graffitti (Draknar is the Fog!, Draknar is dead - Long live Draknar!, Burzag is stinky, etc.), Mondavi is getting information from the insidious 'Mr. L.', a street-savvy underworld ganglord. He learns that most of Mr. L's soldiers are noticing a lot of activity near the bathhouse. As he later relates this to the party, Flaine realizes that he spent a day at that same bathhouse last week! The party pays the dwarf proprietor, Orak, a visit. He grumbles and gruffs at us and after Flaine tries to be conciliatory (being a semi-famous, previous customer) he relents and lets the party take a look around. Luckily, today, business isn't exactly booming as no one else is in the place. There is one door that Orak won't let us near. Well, as you can imagine, all sorts of hijinks take place trying to get into that door. Flaine tries singing a song of fascination - Orak is non-plussed. Qurynack Lock and Avinal try to get around the dwarf and to the door, but Lock can't seem to bust it open. Orak pulls out an axe and Lock is ready to fight him, then falls into a 3-foot deep pool (remember Lok v.1.0 is 7'5" tall) and pretending to drown. Ix, Mondavi and others try to 'rescue' the half-giant from this sorry attempt at bluffing. Finally, the bard casts Tasha's Hideous Laughter while playing a comedic lay (a comedic lay is an Old English phrase for funny song, not the Modern English for your first time, so stop it out there), and the dour dwarf starts guffawing involuntarily, rolling on the floor laughing - you know - ROTFL! The party takes advantage and ties the poor chap up in some hemp rope, we open the door and we saunter right in... little did we know....
The immediate area beneath the bathhouse seemed to be more forgotten dwarven ruins from an earlier era. However, these were infested with goblins. After searching through a few rooms, we were ambushed by a patrol of goblins with their worg buddy. Lock v. 1.0 was swinging his two greatswords with such abandon it was difficult for anyone else to get through to the goblins. Flaine ended up using his Cure Mod. Wounds wand to help the half-giant while Mondavi struggled with his goblin. The rogue scored a critical hit with his venomous dagger, but it had little effect. Laurel blasted a few goblins with her electrical breath (this is a common tactic for her now). The elven ranger shot arrow after arrow at the goblin threat. Then, at the sound of myriads of goblin feet, we were flanked! Crossbow bolts scattered toward Avenal and Laurel. Link and Mishka moved in for the kill and held the line, moving the party further away from Lock, Ix and Flaine (who are kinda busy with their own problems).
During this time there was a dispute with the Dragon magazine fumble charts...yada yada yada. Ain't wuth it McGee!
Suffice to say, the worg was slain, Lock went down due to the pesky goblins, Flaine jabbed him with the wand, Lock crawled away from battle to get back up. Ix was swinging and casting like a madman! (You gotta wonder about a cleric who wears a perpetually flaming feather in his helmet). After Ix and Co. mopped up their mess, they took off after the rest of the party. Catching up, they dispatched the remaining goblins who then lost morale and closed some double doors on them. I'm not sure about this, but I think we broke open those doors and killed the remaining goblins... oh, but not before some shaman put Flaine to sleep. Nice.
We killed off the rest and searched some more through the tunnels. Link discovered a collapsed tunnel. It looked like someone was trying to bore through to our side. Lock reaches in, grabs the hand and pulls him out. It's a human with barely a stitch on him! He was missing sixty-odd days ago according to our information. Apparently, he was sold as a slave to the goblins some weeks ago. He was in a holding cell and was burrowing his way out with a sharpened spoon when he ran into us. So we escorted him back up to the Church of Pelor, which, btw, the tied up dwarf ended up as well. After they returned, we found a passage leading to rough hewn stone tunnels with a definite negative grade. Great. Deeper means deadlier.
The tunnel branched out into three forks. Wonderful. Mondavi used the invisibility potion that we gave him last session to scout out ahead. (Mondavi threatened to goose Laurel while invisible which would have ruined his invisibility -- hence, he thought the better of it). Now here, John, our DM, made a small goof and never knew that Mondavi was invisible (I guess he didn't hear us) so he was putting out all these goblins down one corridor surrounding Mondavi and attacking him. Mondavi was in a state of shock as he couldn't believe these guys could detect invisibility. John later removed them after learning about the mistake. Mondavi failed a search check and informed the party that the coast was clear. Flaine will never trust that shyster again. Knowing it was safe, Flaine went traipsing down the central corridor at full speed hoping to quicken the pace as the party seemed slow and indecisive (cautious is another word one could use, I guess, in retrospect).
Well, here it comes... every known goblin came out of the woodwork. Every one of the three forks were filled with goblins, worgs, shamans, and other circus freaks. Welcome to the Circus of Death! I felt really bad about this because it was Flaine who ferretted out these creatures and put the party at mortal peril. Four of us went down, including myself (thanks to a sleep spell cast by one of the shamans). Ix had his back against the cavern wall, smiting the foes as best he could. It was nearly a TPK (Total Party Kill). Finally, some headway was made as Ix healed Lock and went to town on the goblins. I remember Pelor helping out Ix in some minor way when he called on him for aid. Ix seemed to glow for a time, filled with the holy might of The Shining One. Lock went into a rage and goblins started flying in all directions from his two weapons (this is still the 1.0 version). Laurel breathed lightning twice down the cavern, eliminating her fair share of miscreants. Avenal stayed behind, sniping goblins with his longbow. Link and Mishka were keeping the flank clear with their complimentary attacks. Face it, that celestial leopard makes a difference any way you slice it. I think in real time, that battle took nearly 3 hours to resolve. And at that time it was getting close to the Customer Appreciation Day fiesta at Hobbytown USA which John and Audrey were hosting. Btw, Mondavi had for the whole day been trying to use this 'customer appreciation' to his advantage, asking for help and favors as well as 'combat mercy' during the game. Of course, this all fell on deaf ears, much to Mondavi's dismay.
So, we called a break and some of us ended up at Hobbytown USA to eat, drink and be merry. A word must be said here for the kindness of Mike and his wife (whose name I have forgotten, sorry) who fed us until we were stuffed and watched the players' children during the game. This was much appreciated and I hope to play there again as the atmosphere was very relaxed and the sunroom was a refreshing place to play a roleplaying game. I am sure all of our hats go off to Mike C. and his significant other (I will edit this later on once I remember her name, I promise). So I paced around Hobbytown for a few hours eating this pink paste called salmon mousse. Ughh. I will say that it seemed to me that the fiesta was a success considering the largest number of people I have seen in that shop. I dunno if it broke any records, but if it didn't, I'm sure it came close.
After that, we reconvened at John Peterson's place to continue our dismal quest. Btw, we won that goblin battle just barely. We healed the injured and went back up to the surface to buy equipment, ready spells, and advance in levels. Most everyone went up a level. Flaine was now 4th level, as was Laurel. I can't remember where everyone else ended up.
At this reconvention, Skip had to leave, so Mondavi was out. Ken wanted to make it, so he had John H. play his character in absentia. So Gin was in (kind of). Qurynack Lock was revamped to version 2.0 thanks to help from Mike and John H. So, instead of wielding two greatswords, he was now wielding a huge sized fullblade. Pelor help us all!
We went back into the ruins under Orak's bathhouse and went to the three-way forked tunnel. We searched out the central and rightmost tunnels only to find some hobgoblins, a couple shocker lizards and some weak treasure. Not much else. However, the left tunnel led to a huge chasm beyond which was a room manned by a large scorpion, a bugbear who suddenly turned into a gaseous form and left, and a couple of goblin shamans. This battle was congested and lengthy. We finally got rid of them, but it took a while. We searched the remainder of the level and we decided it might be better to return to town and refresh ourselves before we advance further, especially after that battle.
To make a long story short... we came back to the tunnels again and this time, Laurel felt a presence behind her. She whirled around to find a vampiric bugbear trying to hypnotize her. Being an elf, the attempt failed. However, the party attacked the foul beast only to see him turn to gaseous form again and spirit away. Ix kicked himself for not turning the beast while he had the chance. But soon, that chance returned. This time I was the victim, being I was in the back of the party. Ix not only turned this sucker, he consigned him to the deepest pits of the Abyss, turning his unholy form to ash! Looks liked we kicked some ash! (sorry...)
We investigated the rest of the complex, found some hefty treasure and returned topside to spend gold and celebrate our success.

THE END (finally...)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

"Follow The Game That Failed..."

It was a great Kingdoms of Kalamar game we Olivehurst Boyz had on May 13th. As in there wasn't one. At least Dean and Glen had the courtesy of letting me know ahead of time that they wouldn't make it. Seth, however, had no excuse. I tried to get a hold of him all day with no luck. I guess he was out of range or his phone was off. Willie showed up and we played a few hands of Magic: The Gathering then we got on Mike's X-Box and played Halo 2 for 4+ hours! We were playing the cooperative campaign and made it to the point where you play arbiters of the Covenant. Mike said by the time we called it a day that we were halfway through the single-player campaign. Wow. We must have kicked ass! After Willie had to leave (something about a boxing match he had to watch), Mike and I broke out Mom's Ronrico white rum and started playing Carcassonne for shots. Mike had never played before, so he got soused. Our rules were thus: Your opponent drinks one shot for every meeple you get back after a successful score. Of course, we soon amended it to: score must be at least 4 points to qualify for a shot. That way Mike had a semi-decent chance of staying sober through one game. Mikey, I think he likes it! The game that is, though the rum probably helped. It came out pretty even. Mike beat me on his first game as far as points (the farmers kicked down at the end) but we were even with shots. I think we had six each. So now I got my Mom and Mike hooked on Carcassonne! Yes!! Glen likes it, too, judging from the last time we played, so progress is being made toward total ludographic supremacy.
We played Settlers of Catan the next day (Mother's Day) and Mike was not impressed (probably because no alcohol was involved). He said he liked Carcassonne better because there was less downtime. My mom agreed. Oh well, can't win 'em all....
We played another game of Carcassonne after Settlers and, this time, we added the Inns & Cathedrals expansion set (along with The River I). It was quite interesting. I used my big meeple to good effect as I blocked off my mom (regrettably) from making any points on her road. I tried to do the same for a field against Mike, but it ended up getting shared as he had two meeples in the same field. Mom lost out on mega points because her unfinished megalopolis had a cathedral in it. I won that game, with Mike a close second. Mom refused to play again... (but we ended up playing another round anyway, go figure).

But, man, I was so looking forward to this D&D game. It was a shame that it didn't materialize. But this is to be expected when the sun starts coming out from its long hiatus behind the clouds. We had a long, wet winter this year and everyone is chomping at the bit to get outside and do something. I can't blame them, why would I? The next game, however, won't be until the middle of June because 1) I have a D&D game on the 20th in Tracy. 2) The week after that, Mike and I will be at KublaCon. 3) June 3rd I promised a friend that I would show up at her wedding. So, there ya go.
Until next time...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Going Aeropostale

Now that my mind has somewhat recovered from the reeling nightmare of the past week, I think I can begin to relate the tale I have to tell....
I did a contract job for Vision Point-Of-Sale this past Thursday. I was supposed to meet another tech at the Aeropostale store in the West Valley Mall in Tracy at 6 am and then go in and replace three registers. I recieved the instructions via e-mail and it seemed simple enough. After all, I've done this stuff a hundred times before during my stint with Rite Aid. So far - so good.
Well, I get there 15 minutes early. I break out the brand new cell-phone I bought the day before just for this occasion, because God knows I can't afford to have one, and call my boss to let him know I'm there.
Ten minutes later my partner shows up. I will call him Juan. Juan is much older than me and rather sheepish. He's not very sociable, but he warms up later on that day. I take command and try to get the mall guard to open up the double doors. Eventually, we get in. We're now ten minutes late.
Now, this job was slated for 6 am to 10. A four hour job at $19/hr. After the bits I bought for the drill I had to borrow from my roommate, and the cell phone, and a screwdriver set (all my tools I had at Rite Aid was company property), that meant I was working for free.
But I gave my word that I would be there, so what can I say? Stupid, chivalric honor still has its adherents in this day and age.
Well, as I'm sure you're expecting, nothing went right. The registers had certain marked differences from the photos we have in our booklets. So we ate up some time figuring out what to do with the crossbeam (turned out we just crowbarred it the hell outta there). Then we stripped my cheapo #2 square bit. Thank goodness I had a carbide tipped one in my stash or else we were sunk. Now, our instructions said to bring a drill of more than 14 volts. Juan brought a 14.4 V Skil, I borrowed my friend's 18 V Ryobi. Both were battery powered. MISTAKE! I figured I had enough juice for four hours. Hell, after putting a 1-inch auger bit on it I couldn't make it drill one frickin' hole! The drill starting smoking and I pulled it out hoping I didn't owe my roommate a power tool. Juan's had the same result sans smoke, he was smart enough to get the drill out of there before that happy occasion. We were pissed off and exasperated. I then called out boss and let him know what the situation was.
"Mr. Baron, we have an issue here." I reported.
"I don't need to hear that." My boss replied.
"I understand, sir. But our drills, which conform to the specs given in our instructions, were not powerful enough to handle a one-inch auger bit."
"Well, can't you get to a hardware store around there and rent a drill?"
"Uhhhh. Yeah. I guess I can. I don't know if--"
"Look, we're in deep as it is! We don't need to be rubbing salt in the wound, you know?"
"Yessir. I'll get this done no matter what."
"Good. Thank you. Bye."
So I told Juan to hold the fort while I went out to find who the hell rents drills in Tracy. First stop was Home Depot. They said I had to go to Ace Hardware on Eleventh and Tracy Blvd. That was clear across town! Okay, so I get there and all they had was this hammer drill (but at least it was electric). I pay the $15 for the one day rental and I figure I might as well stop by Jack in the Box and grab a couple Cokes for Juan and I since it was already NOON! I figured, after getting the drinks, that Juan had done nothing during my absence and we would be racing to get the second register done. Turned out that he almost had the second register going by the time I got back! (Okay, now I was beginning to think maybe I was the problem here). The drill worked beautifully but it was too big to fit in the box. Great. So I drilled slanted holes. Who cares? The holes are for venting anyway. So I drilled 11 holes per register. Btw, our instructions said that two templates for the holes would be shipped in the Register #1 box. Surprise! It wasn't there. Good thing Juan brought his tape measure. It didn't help that after we replaced their main CPU server that our register tests didn't work due to bad connectivity. That slowed us down even more. I called Aeropostale tech support and they got a tech there within the hour (wow!) and he swapped out the 3-Com hub and replaced it with an IBM switch. Now everything works! This is just like Rite Aid!
All this time, mind you, I got Juan telling me that he has Lou Gehrig's disease and the miracles of medical marijuana! I mean, he kept going with it. I kept working just so I didn't have to hear it anymore. I mean, I felt sorry for him and all, it's just that he kept going on about the THC regenerating his nerve endings and stuff and I just didn't want to talk about it. We were there to put together registers not to be friends. Sounds pretty harsh I know, but I'm sure you know where I'm coming from here. After we finally get the third register working, we discover that its cash drawer only opens halfway. I peer inside and notice it's bent on the inside due to shipping damage. Circus Fantasticus! So we give them back their old drawer. Voila! Works like a charm.
So now we have to pack away all the old registers and label them and all that crap. Turns out some thoughtful soul decided to throw away one of the cardboard lids to one of our boxes, not to mention some foam that was needed to cover the bottom. That improvised box Juan and I constructed looked like a Rubik's Cube designed for the fifth dimension, or maybe a badly damaged Borg vessel.
"Juan, I don't think UPS is gonna take this." I remarked sullenly.
"Trust me, they'll take it." he retorted.
(Brian gives a grim look and rolls his eyes)
Net result: 6 am to 4:30 pm. Boy, were they pissed! Needless to say, I didn't think they would pick me to do the Pleasanton job the next Monday, and due to the lack of phone calls today I would guess I was right.
It was not my intention to go long with this job, but what could I do? Once again, I was the victim of circumstance. That's okay. That job sucked anyway. I mean, the job wasn't anything I wasn't used to already, it just seemed that my immediate overlord -- er, I mean, supervisor seemed like a real jerk. I know it's not considered politic to badmouth your boss on a blog these days, but I really don't care. I'm not working for them again.
I dunno how I got talked into doing contract work anyway, it doesn't pay. I need a full-time job. But you gotta do what you can to survive....

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

What is D&D?

I'm sitting here listening to Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov. If you have never heard this piece I implore you to do so, else you are really missing out on something. It seems to be breaking my melancholia; so much so that I'm composing another blog. Oh no!

Anyway, on with the topic at hand: What is D&D? Now most people who read this blog would think this a rather silly topic and quite redundant. However, I'm gonna take a different tack with this query. Maybe I should rephrase the question to: When is D&D not D&D?
Case in point: My YC group or as we like to call ourselves "The Olivehurst Boyz" since all of us were raised in the Marysville suburb of Olivehurst, played a variant of D&D using the d20 system called Monte Cook's 'Arcana Unearthed' which later became Monte Cook's 'Arcana Evolved' after Wizards of the Coast had a hissy-fit with the previous title. (Gee, I wonder why?) Btw, as an aside, I hate the book 'Unearthed Arcana' more than I hated the original 1st edition book of the same title. It is a collection of munchkiniana (is that a word?) designed to rip the toupees off the heads of many a DM. I do not use it in my campaigns and I have refused to buy it. How do I know if I don't own one? I downloaded a .pdf of it and said to myself after perusing it, "I am not purchasing this piece of crap." There, you know my secret. Anyway, I digress...
Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved was a wildly divergent version of D&D, and in the minds of many who have played this game, it really stretches the boundary of what D&D is. I guess this would be a thematic question. You see, there were no dwarves and elves and halflings in Arcana Evolved. There were Litorians, Mojh, and Faen. These were not analogs with different names, mind you, these were actually different races. Litorians were bipedal lion-people, Mojh were half-dragons, but were not the same as the template, and the Faen were small elves, in fact, they had two subraces: Quickling and Loresong either of which could spin a chrysalis at 3rd level or higher, in place of getting a feat, and come out as a tiny Spryte with wings and all your gear mystically transformed to the correct size. And this is just a sampling. Giants ruled the lands that were formerly ruled by humans. These giants were nice guys and you could actually play them. Spells were different. I mean a whole different list. Not only did you have to worry about what level the spell was, now you had to find out if it was a Simple, Complex or Exotic spell. One could take a spell template to augment or concentrate on a specific genre of magic (Psionic mage, Elemental Mage, Hunter Mage, etc.). Then when the Arcana Evolved book came out (this was similiar to the 3.0 to 3.5 debacle. Basically, Monte Cook cursed Wizards for coming out with 3.5 so early and then he did the same damn thing and made the former Arcana Unearthed book irrelevant by coming out with his 'director's cut' Arcana Evolved book. Needless to say, I was a tad pissed, and it wasn't too long after that I gave up that campaign setting.), they added a new race, the Dracha (another half-dragon, but instead of the intelligent and bookwormy Mojh, they were more into the warlike aspect of the dragons), and they added evolved levels. And here's a kicker for ya: Rather than divide the book into a DM guide and a player's handbook, they put them both together in one volume, and then slapped a $49.95 sticker price on the sumbitch, and Malhavoc Press did this just a couple months after we all shelled out for our Arcana Unearthed books. Can I hear an amen? (crickets and chirps)....
But even during our stint with this campaign setting, many of my players said, "This isn't D&D" in fact one person said it was "bankrupt D&D". And I had to suffer through this for 8 long months. (When DM's ask, "What type of game do you guys want to play" there's a fundamental reason...). So we eventually quit it (after one night when I threw my books in exasperation and hid in the bathroom for half an hour due to my embarassment of blowing my cool so badly in front of my friends), and played Kingdoms of Kalamar (which conforms more to what D&D should be, I guess).
But that's the question, isn't it? What IS D&D?
What constitutes a D&D game as the players see it?
Another case in point: Audrey P. once told me in passing that she couldn't play in Eberron because it just didn't feel right. It didn't feel like classic D&D. Well, what is classic D&D?
I took a look at Eberron and saw what she was saying. Living constructs, halflings riding velociraptors, magical technology advanced to such a high degree that there were shuttles run by air elementals, telegraphs, airships, etc. I wouldn't say that this was as bad as Arcana Evolved, I mean all the main races were there with the addition of the warforged, the shifter, the shapechanger and all that, and only one added class: the artificer, but the world had just enough of a difference to call into question it's D&D status. I could see a person playing in this world and saying: "Well, it's not the D&D I know."
So what is?
Final example: Way back in 1992, I was playing 2nd edition D&D with the Olivehurst Boyz and it was a homebrew campaign called Syracuse. One day, a star fell into the bay just outside the port city of the same name and it caused a tsunami and washed out the dockyards and coastal shops. This played havoc with the city and the Lord of the City demanded an investigation. Well, no one stepped forward, so the party did. They found the 'star' that was now half-submerged in the bay. After describing it to them, some of them sighed. "What's the problem?" I asked. "Is it a spaceship?" Brent implored. "I dunno. Is it?" I replied cryptically. "Dammit. This isn't D&D! This is Gamma World!" "Well, Spelljammer has spaceships of a sort, and it's D&D." I responded. "Well, it's not REAL D&D." Brent concluded after downing his beer. They were further dismayed when inside the vessel, they found the exploded carcasses of beholder-kin and had to fight Xenomorphs (you know, aliens from the movie Alien and Aliens. And NO I did not mix beholder DNA with the Alien DNA in the offspring as that would have been overkill.... But it's a nice idea, hmmm?).
And so it goes. I seem to remember a module way back in the 80's called "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks" in which the players actually investigated a crashed spaceship and got to mess around with laser pistols and such (with limited ammo, of course). And that was D&D, right? I mean you can't get much more D&Dish than 1st edition. Right?
So what's the answer?
I think for most people D&D has to pass the Tolkien test. Plain and simple.
Question 1: Is the physical technology medieval? I would say as long as the physical tech did not go past Renaissance, possibly primitive firearms, it should suffice. (for most people).
Question 2: Are there Tolkienesque races involved? i.e. elves, dwarves, orcs, etc. It isn't just are these races involved, but are they very similar in culture and lifestyle as those same races in Tolkien's books. I mean, an Athasian Elf is a far cry from the Noldor... but, this can come back to bite you. I mean, after all, does the halfling of 3.5 look anything like a hobbit? Hell, no! What about the gnomes? Gone are the big schnozolas. I hope there weren't e-mails saying that the 1st edition gnome was antisemitic?? When I think of a gnome, I think of that red-hat guy on the Travelocity commercials.... which is why I am appalled to see that in 3rd edition the gnome is taller than the halfling!! When will Wizards correct this? I am tearing my hair out!
Question 3: Is there magic? And how strong is it? I have a heavy preference for low-moderate magic worlds (much to the chagrin of my players). Some people don't mind and are truly excited by the advanced magic of Eberron and Forgotten Realms. Kingdoms of Kalamar is low-magic. Greyhawk is moderate-magic. Dark Sun was almost no magic with a heavy reliance on psionics which I think was a mistake, I think many people would consider Dark Sun to be 'not D&D' or at least pushing the boundary. Now this is a question that really fails the Tolkien test. I mean, how many times in all of his books, from The Valaquenta to Unfinished Tales did anyone cast a spell? I can count them on both my hands. And that covers the entire recorded history of Middle Earth! Magic was a very mysterious and subtle art in Tolkien's world. I doubt many players would have the patience for it. The closest thing to a fireball was when Gandalf called out fire from the trees of Hollin. That's it. But in Tolkien's world the wizards or Istari as they are known in Sindarin were really more like priests. They were Maiar serving as emissaries of the more powerful Valar on Middle Earth. So, their power came from the gods, not arcane symbols and proven methods. It's not Hogwart's.
So the Tolkien test doesn't really work, does it?
So where does that leave us? With a meme that is constantly evolving over time? Are we subconciously comparing it to the D&D we knew as kids, i.e. 1st edition?
It's all subjective anyway. One person may not care if it fits some eidolon of D&D as long as it's fun to play. And I guess I can put myself in that fair category. But I guess some people have a hankering to play a specific type of game and when that game is not what they had in mind, though it may share the same dubious name, then it sours them on the idea.
I guess, that's the best way I can put it.
Let me know what you think. Is this an issue worthy of consideration? Or totally irrelevant?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Deeper Means Deadlier

Sorry for not getting this out in a timely manner, but my allergies kicked up this past Sunday and I have been fighting a severe bout of depression so I hope you all understand. Anyway....
May 6th we played another game of D&D at John and Audrey's. The size of the gang increased significantly this time. Gone were Sir Galotte the aasimar paladin and Mondavi the fire safety inspector (the paladin and rogue gone simultaneously?.....hmmm). In their places were Gin or Jin or Djinn however he spells his name, who is a human, twin bastard-sword wielding Quisanart; Arvenal? the elven ranger; and Ix (he says it's a short form of his actual name, I think his full name is Ixitxichitl), the cleric of Pelor (but not that kind of cleric). These were played by Ken C., Brian Q., and John H., respectively. The 'old hats' were Flaine, my human bard; Laurel, Audrey's drunken, female elf sorcerer with a penchant for deep blue eyeshadow; and Link, Mike's warforged scout archer with his chain-armored, celestial leopard (whose name I have forgotten for the sixth time).
The game took a while to get started because we had newcomers putting the finishing touches on their characters and we had to sell the loot we procured from the previous adventure. It was during that interlude that we met and roleplayed with the new characters and asked them to join our 'selfless' cause in rescuing the missing orphans.
Having cleared out the first level, we took the elevator room to the second level which we noticed was carved out of a darker rock - malachite, it turns out. Well, the Mystery of the Mace seems to be nearing completion! (See my previous post with the same pic if you're confused). Then Ix hammered a spike through the chains of the elevator to keep it from moving or at least letting us know at a distance if the elevator was in use. Then we found a secret door that had another lever in it to (hopefully) keep the elevator down while we were traipsing about in this deeper level. To further bolster this point, no pun intended, we wound the lever in silk rope and tied it down in the down position (adventurers are such prudent souls...). Then Flaine Gilgahar (that would be my bard) opened the door out of the elevator room and saw a quartet of hobgoblins that turned to notice me. One of them grunted something. Not knowing Undercommon or Goblin, I went erect and saluted like a Prussian Hussar, while summarily closing the door. The party groaned their dissatisfaction. Gin Tanqueray then opened the door and intimidated the hobgoblins to come into our room. After all four marched in, we demanded they tell us some information, but Ix could not contain his hatred for these foul creatures and started slicing with wild abandon (Laurel simultaneously started shooting magic missiles from her wand, as well). Combat!
Three were dead and one unconscious. Link says, "Let's bind this one and question him."
Gin says, "COUP DE GRACE!!"
Link says, "nevermind..."
Venturing further, we find an ogre with a large falchion. I don't remember much about this battle for some reason. But I think we killed him. I think his last words were, "Zo'molog, chop!"
Then as the party moved past a strange stalagmite, it animated into some weird golem and though it did some damage, we did destroy it.
Now we had a choice, a secret door to the right and a normal door to the left (gone are those pesky and atrocious gear doors of the gnomes - thank Pelor!). We decide to open the secret door and go in. Inside is apparently a temple or memorial of some kind. A great statue of Zenith Splintershield (some dwarf hero) and a statue of a xorn at each corner with flames erupting from their mouths providing illumination. Around the dwarf statue's legs was a wrapped, barbed chain. Well, the party inspects the chamber and spends an inordinate amount of time hemming and hawing which caused a group of four hobgoblins, two automatons (I think they were pulverizers) and a half-dwarf/half-troll, oh and let's top off this cavalcade of fun with an animated barbed chain, you know, the one wrapped around the dwarf's legs?
All I remember is blood, cussing and screaming. I remember "Get the hell outta here!" "We're in over our heads!" and someone cried "Daddy!" but I dunno who that could be.
I began to get visions from the movie Black Hawk Down.
I ran around with my much maligned and maltreated wand of cure light wounds, jabbing and prodding everyone I could to my deligh-- er um, to my great constipa-- er uh... consternation. (My bard has an issue with wands... I probably need to see a cleric of Pelor about that, I tried to see Ix about it but he grabbed his holy symbol and cried, "I'm not that kind of cleric!"). So anyway after the numbness of battle subsided, I noticed that Gin was down. I rushed over to cure him. He crawled over to the side of me, attacking the automaton while prone. Though the party tried to concentrate their firepower on the half-troll, we ultimately failed. The automaton struck me after I healed Gin and I was in a near coma on the floor.
I'm not sure how I came to, but I remember the secret door closing with a thud and our getting into the elevator and returning to town.
It was during this interim that we gained 3rd level. Or 2nd for the newbies or the warforged.
I played a few ditties at the Tipped Tankard Tavern for a few goldies. It was then that I gained my feat, Lingering Song. After getting a bit tipsy with Gin at the bar, we felt like we could take them on the next day.
We make our way back down the elevator and guess what? The hobgoblins built a barricade of stout wood and were firing arrows at us from behind it. (This battle reminded me of the Tantive IV sequence in Star Wars: Episode IV or the Rue de Clerguet scene in Les Miserables). I instantly began playing my masterwork mandolin to inspire courage in the party. Laurel opened her mouth, which was not unusual, but the electrical bolt that mouth let loose, was. Whether that was a spell or something to do with sorcerers being of the kin of dragons I don't know. Maybe if I had Knowledge (arcana) or something, I would. And coming in from behind the hobgoblins was another automaton. Oh goodie! Gin and Arvonal moved in to melee with the hobs, while Link and his cat were messing around with the automaton. In the end, all opponents were slain.
This time, we went to the normal wooden door to the left. This led to the chamber we affectionately call... The Crap Room. (I thought maybe this was a portal to the Demiplane of Crapola, but my character wouldn't know that...). Some artistic soul marked with genius decided to do something... I dunno... festive... with the excessive amout of excrement piled up in this room and shaped a kind of throne out of it. Oh boy! Who's gonna sit on that and crown himself king? Link had no compunction about going in there to search around. (I guess constructs are like that). He came out with a smelly wooden chest filled with copper and silver. Gin complained, "Man, that's some crappy treasure." (Ba-dum, bum, bum).
We then opened the secret door to the dwarf memorial to discover... that the room was empty and the chain was missing. We made our way beyond to the south and Arvenal nearly fell into a pit with poisoned spikes at the bottom. Gin helped him up and out of it. Gin then broke apart the wooden barricade the hobgoblins used earlier and made a makeshift bridge over the pit. Then Link nearly fell into another one nearby. Gin helped him out of it. We opened a couple rooms only to find another quartet of hobgoblins. After dispatching them easily enough, we found a lever that disabled one of the pit traps and then opened the double doors that led to the auction hall. Here, the half-troll/half-dwarf, the chain, a duergar and another four hobgoblins were selling the orphans. I think the duergar was the buyer. As soon as we opened the doors, a beholder teleported in and demanded one of the enslaved children and said he would return him to the orphanage. (Yeah, right! A good-aligned beholder. Now, I've seen everything). And then after he received the child, he teleported away. WTF?? I think the following dialogue took place like so...
Ix: "Give us the children!"
Duergar: "I've already paid for them. They're mine."

I forgot to mention that the half-troll/half-dwarf had a pet howler with him.... sorry. So here we go again... I play a courageous ballad, Link lets his cat loose and fires his bow, Gin cries havoc and lets slip the bastards of war, Laurel uses her wand more than Harry Potter, Arvenal lets fly with his arrows, while Ix goes down in front of the howler. I stopped playing my mandolin and rushed over to jam him with the cure wand. He heals 7 hp. He gets up. Howler hits him on an attack of opportunity for 7 hp. Ix goes back down. (It reminded me of Dungeon Siege. Or maybe an old Yes song: I get uuuuuup. I get dowwwwwwnn). My wand had one charge left on it by the end of the battle. After dispatching all involved, including finally taking out the half-troll and Gin pouring oil all over him and igniting him, we approached the duergar. He demanded payment for the slaves we stole from him or else he would attack us. We were already pretty badly beat as it was. Laurel and Ix were adamant about not paying this low-life as that would, in principle, make us slavers as well. I could see it either way: either we save the children's lives now or we risk losing the children for honor's sake. Flaine is a little more pragmatic than that, I'll take the former option. Gin gave the duergar the money (450 gp) before we even reached a consensus. He took the cash and disappeared. Ix responded with a few expletives. Gin merely looked at Flaine and shrugged.
We took the children back to the Church of St. Cuthbert (because, Gin reminded us, that's where the money is). We were well rewarded by the clergy. Ix, Link and I visited the orphanage to see if the fourth child was sent there by the beholder. Evidently, he was, but not by the beholder; by a woman in black robes. And therein hangs a tale....
We went back down to clear out the lower level and rescue more slaves. We rescued another five or six slaves. We also found a treasure trove and a letter which the half-troll apparently gave no mind to and threw away. It was written by another villain I'm sure we'll have to deal with in the future. We go back up with the haul, and news of our exploits are described in the periodical, The Cauldron Bubble.
'Link's lads...." what am I? Chopped liver?
Oh, thank you citizen Fario Ellegoth for comparing us to the Stormblades! Hey alright! Now I bet we have to confront these bozos while we injure their pride.
Maybe our party needs some badass moniker. Like... The Order of the Blue Flaine. or The Wandjammers... or I dunno. We'll come up with something.
It was a very splendid game all told. I had fun. This game went to 9 hours instead of the 12 I'm used to. But, again, everyone had a great time and I look forward to continuing the quest on the 20th. See y'all there, ya hear?

P.S. Oops! I forgot to mention: John P. was kind enough to roast some wieners and hamburgers for us while we were there (not to mention the occasional microbrew) and Ken brought over his family recipe BBQ sauce that went very well with the burgers. I like sweet BBQ sauce, and I like the fact that even in this day and age tradition is not a creed outworn. Thanks to John and Audrey for the wonderful feast!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Not Such a Ra Deal

I got to play some Ra last Friday with two Johns and an Audrey (that's the name of my next film). And I must say I was quite impressed with the game. The little scoring mats that John (not Peterson), the owner of the game, had run color copies of, turned out to be so essential to my understanding of the game that I was disappointed to discover that the game did not come with any such instructional device. From what I understand, one must visit a website and download them. That's cool. I can hang.
How to describe this game... I guess I can start by saying that it is a Reiner Knizia game, and that in it you bid for resources (monuments, pharaohs, Nile tiles, civilizations, gods and gold). These tiles are put out randomly in a continuum on the main playing mat (ma'at?). Of course, a person could invoke 'Ra!' instead of drawing a tile which would start the bidding process for the resources already in play, or one could draw a Ra tile which would force that player to invoke Ra and start the bidding. The bidding is done by sun tiles (they are wooden and aesthetically pleasing) numbered from 1 to 15 (I believe), the higher number having priority. There are many strategies one could employ just in the bidding process alone. But whoever wins the bid gets all the tiles on the ma'at (sorry, I can't quit). These tiles are then placed on the downloadable players scoring ma'at (I'll stop it, I promise!) and scored accordingly. Each type of resource has a special way of scoring, por ejemplo, you could have four Nile tiles, but they wouldn't score until you got at least one flood tile. This is consistent with Egyptian history in that the fertility of the Nile valley was wholly dependent on the periodic flooding of the Nile river. No flood.... no harvest... no life. Therefore (using the calculus), Flood = Life whereas using the Newton substitution, Flood = Nile, so Nile = Life which explains why the ancient Egyptians revered the Nile river so much in their mythology that it even gave life to the gods themselves. Sorry for the aside, but I was just emphasizing that there are some historic truths incorporated into this game. No, there is no West Nile virus tile in the game, thanks for asking...
But there are bad tiles that you do not want (Earthquake, Unrest, Famine, Funeral, etc) that can remove your tiles from your.... mat. Another example, you have three pharaohs and you win the bid. You gain a pharaoh, a couple Nile tiles, a monument and a Funeral. Now you remove the pharaoh you just gained and another one from your mat because a Funeral removes two pharaohs. See? However, you do not want to be caught with NO tiles on some of them as they will give you a stiff score penalty. For instance, if you have no civilization tiles at the end of an epoch then you lose 5 points, by having at least one on your mat you keep from losing points even if you don't gain any.
Epochs? You mentioned the end of an epoch? What's that about?
Well, there is a track located above the resource continuum that holds all the Ra tiles. If enough are picked (and that depends on the number of players) it ends the epoch and scoring begins. There can only be three epochs, then the scores are tallied. The one with the most victory points wins. Th'ankh' you. (Yeah, I know, that was a reach).
It's a good game. We were able to play two games that evening, one with three players and another with four and it took two hours all told. So even with the learning curve, they were quick games. I imagine with less advanced boardgamers it will take an hour longer. But like most games, once you learn it, it becomes a matter of mastering the strategy and not the rules. I would love to play it again.
I give this game 5 out of 5 ankhs.

Oh, one final thought: When a person invokes Ra, according to John (not Peterson, I think his last name is Hunter though I'm not sure. I'm bad with names), I am supposed to take the blue, wooden Ra piece and bellow forth in a firm and unflinching voice: "Raaaaaaa!" If I had known this was a roleplaying game I would have dressed up for the occasion, replete with kohl eyeliner, hook sceptre and golden false beard. So I do it. It's fun.
Then, in a later turn, Audrey sees there are tiles in the continuum she wants and grabs the Ra counter, "I do Ra." she announces.
...and lo, the populace thence assembled did chortle and guffaw.... (Book of the Dead, verse 322)
"You do Ra?" I asked her.
"Yes." she replied.
John and I sheepishly gave our sidelong glances to each other.
"Is that in the rules? Can you do Ra?" I asked.
"Why not?" John answered.
"Do you get any special benefits for doing Ra?" I continued.
"If you did, would you do Ra, Brian." John asked.
"Well.... it would depend on my point total." I replied.
"What?" John spat.
"Ra and I are very close." Audrey opined.
"Yeah. I bet." I said.

This only confirms what I have already known for a long while: Ra is an Egyptian god with the head of an eagle and the body of a well proportioned muscular male. You see, looks doesn't really matter with women... it's what lies beneath... as in look further down... or as Pharaoh Amenhotep III so eloquently put it, "It's not so much the headdress as the sceptre." Got it? Good.
Audrey didn't win either game, so I guess Ra is quite a fickle god.
Looks like I'll have to end this blog with a 50's style rock ending...

a - doo Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh!

One DM's Deleterious Circumstance

I had my game this past Saturday (Kingdoms of Kalamar 3.5) at Yuba City (Session #12), and I have to say I wasn't too impressed. Oh, the roleplaying was better than usual, but I was victim to the oldest trick in the book: Players who don't take the adventure hook (the bait).
You see, my game opened up with a bang. Last session, our fighter/wizard, Lazarus the Undying... died. A trio of trolls jumped the party while they were camping outside (there were three PC's in the party at the time and the average level was 6th), and though two were able to escape their clutches, Lazarus ended up in a crossfire of four claws, two bites and an evil rend! Sadly, and predictably, he didn't make it. Thus ended that session (#11)...
This latest game, we started the next morning after Lazarus' untimely demise. They picked through the remains to retrieve what possessions had survived the onslaught. They were resolved to journey north back to the city of Inolen, but at that moment a band of five rangers approached the party (one of them was Willie's new character (originally (maybe not so originally) named Lazarus but I forced him to change it. He chose Jules Ingamin, a 4th level fighter/ 1st level wizard). These rangers were after the trolls (as they were their favored enemies) and they were a day behind. After expressing their sorrow to the party for not being here soon enough to confront the trolls before their companion (Lazarus) died, a great shadow swallowed up both parties and WUMP! A gargantuan red dragon LANDED on the ranger party from above. The PC's made their Spot and Listen rolls and so avoided the 15 ton creature's surprise entrance. So did Jules, but the NPC rangers didn't (of course!), the dragon then ran away from the party where a tall githyanki with a silver sword leaped onto the dragon's leg and climbed onto his back while the dragon took off again toward the Elenon mountains to the east.
Needless the say, the party was a little shell-shocked. (Brian doesn't do this in his campaigns!) I have to admit, Willie roleplayed Jules' attitude quite well. He was distraught at the sudden and needless deaths of his childhood friends. After building a stone cairn for the fallen (which Dean's character Ariel (a female half-elf ranger/sorcerer), and Seth's character Nash (a male halfling rogue/warlock) helped him to complete, Jules then made a Knowledge (the planes) roll regarding the githyanki he saw and scored a 26! I told him some basic info on the githyanki plus the fact that Ariel was wearing a githmake bastard sword across her back sans scabbard. Jules knew that the githyanki cared more for their weapons and armor than they did for their own mates, so he confronted Ariel about getting rid of her sword lest it attract more githyanki.

I have to insert an aside here: Willie (Jules' player) is old school. When he thinks githyanki, he's thinking about the cover of the 1st edition Fiend Folio, so he assumed that these githmake weapons were trans-dimensional beacons putting out an APB. I never told him that, but that's what he interpreted. This, of course, started a two-hour long argument. While Ariel was mostly in character during this argument, Jules lapsed in and out of the game talking to Ariel and Dean every other sentence. I finally had to end it and ameliorate both sides as best I could to maintain a viable gaming environment. Eventually, Ariel agreed to find a scabbard for the weapon as soon as they reach a village. This solution seemed to satisfy all involved. The bottom line here was I thought Willie was trying to prove to me that he could play a 'good' aligned character (because he rarely does, and we had a discussion last game because I thought his character (Lazarus) was Neutral Evil even though it said Neutral on his character sheet. Though Willie proved to me that his character had never DONE anything evil, I was more into his intent than his actions, but anyway), coupled with the fact that the whole githmake weapon thing wasn't even a moral issue to begin with, made this event needless and tedious. It probably wouldn't have been so bad if Willie didn't take the argument out of character as often as he did. There -- I'm done with that aside, now.

Since Jules is from the kingdom of Mendarn to the south, where the anti-demihuman racism is a bit less, the party decides to go back to his home city of Ospolen (which is the capital of Mendarn). At this point, I mentioned to Nash that his riding dog was acting up. He seemed to be frightened of the troll cave to the east. This was the same cave the githyanki left to leap on the dragon. Nash and Ariel decided to investigate. Jules stayed behind to wish his friends farewell. Ariel and Nash discovered the slaughtered remains of three trolls. One was very dead, while the other two were down, but regenerating. Ariel ignited her githmake bastard sword (with a Burning Blades spell) and performed coups de grace on both of them. They noticed also the remains of Lazarus and near him a shattered githyanki device (this device was well known to the party. They found it off a low-level githyanki scout. It was a large, glass vessel and if you broke it, a githyanki hero would arrive and plane-shift the scout back to their astral fortress). Near the shattered glass was a shimmering warp in the air in a flat, roundish shape. They knew damn well it was a dimensional portal.

Aside #2: Now we come to it. This was the hook... the bait... the entrance into the two-week slaving of the DM's convoluted imagination. My adventure for tonight! Did it ever occur to the DM that there was NO FUCKING WAY anyone with a modicum of common freakin' sense was going to enter that portal? I dare say not. I mean, this is the DM's basic death trap setup right? Enter portal, make saving throw, begin to die. Right? OR "You enter the shimmering pool of air and arrive on the other side inside a great feast hall where the KING OF ALL GITH is holding a meeting of his top generals and advisors. The portal closes behind you inexplicably. Now fight these twenty-five top-level githyanki all armed with silver swords and pumped so full of psionic goodness that you will be long remembered as THE GUY WHO LEFT AND NEVER CAME BACK!" Now I would never do anything remotely like that, but I guess I have a history...
Here's the conversation that occurred after the game:
Brian (Darth_Tanyan): I can't understand why you guys didn't go into the portal back in the cave?
Dean: You....don't....understand?
Brian: Yeah.
Dean: Brian, the last time I went through one of your portals I ended up in the Elemental Plane of Earth. Thank God it was somewhat muddy so I could reach my rod of passage or Torseti and I would've been dead. Remember that?
Brian: I gave you a clue, dummy. You asked me what color the portal was and I said shit-brown. Now why do you think I used those words?
Seth: Brian told me months later that that was the Quasi-Para-Semi-Elemental Plane of Fecal Matter.
Brian: No, actually it was the Demiplane of Crapola.
Dean: It was what??
Seth: Remember Brian remarked on how smelly you guys were when you came back?
Dean: Mud can be smelly.
Brian: Shit.... brown.
Dean: Screw you, Brian. You suck! Dammit, you had me make Constitution checks for swallowing that shit.
Brian: Yep.
Dean: And you still can't understand why we're a little hesitant to jump through portals?
Brian (looking disconsolate): Oh. I get it.
Seth, Willie and Dean (exultant): Yeah!!
Brian: Wait a minute, that was over five years ago, dude. I've had portals since then. Remember the portal in your castle in Monte Cook's Arcana Unearthed?
Seth: You mean the blue one?
Brian: Right.
Willie: Correct me if I'm wrong, junior, but didn't we find out that that gate was looking for a necromancer and it would close if one went through?
Dean: Yeah, it was looking for a necromancer.
Brian: So what?
Dean: Who the hell wants to go through a portal that is LOOKING to snag a necro? What might be lurking on the other side? Hell? The Abyss? Some vengeful angel or paladin of significantly high level?
Brian: You guys used the akashic memory and discovered the name of the sorcerer who made the portal.
Seth: Wasn't it Thomas Jefferson or something?
Willie: It was Jefferson Davis.
Dean (rolling his eyes): Jeezus, gimme a break.
Seth: I've heard that name before....
Dean: He was the president of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Brian: Hey, that was a cool world, man. The Colonies of Columbia versus the Confederacy of Dixie in 1858. Instead of black slaves there were Whitney Golems picking and combing out the cotton. Jefferson Davis was the Grand Wizard of Dixie and he was losing the war and needed to find a necromancer to help animate his dead confederates and have them march to the District of Columbia. Also, Pittsburgh was a nexus to Phyrexia (from Magic: The Gathering) where they would construct strange arcane steamcraft devices, like colossi and defilers and such...
Dean: Omigod, this blows. You actually wanted us to visit this place?
Seth: Sounds cool.
Dean: Shutup suckup!
Willie: Didn't you tell us that their guns were just wands with pistol grips and you had to sprinkle them with pixie dust to get them to ignite or something?
Seth: Are you kidding me? Ha-ha-ha-ha! That's the gayest thing I ever heard!
Brian (slamming books on the floor): Alright! That does it. You assholes wanna come up with something better? You wanna DM? Get your asses into this chair and start rollin' dice! Otherwise grab your stylus and your dice and prepare to be dismayed. I do not have the time nor the inclination to babysit your candy-asses through an adventure when all you had to do was go through the stupid portal!
Willie: Honestly, why are you getting all upset? It's just a game. We're here to have fun, right?
Brian (quieting down): Yes, but not at anyone's expense....and certainly not mine.
Seth: Okay, we're cool. Let's get back to my character...
General silence. (crickets and chirps)
Dean: You know, you could package that Civil War campaign for Wizards of the Coast, Brian. You could call it, Dixie Guns and Pixie Dust!
Willie: Nah! Call it Dixie Chicks and Pixie Sticks!
Willie, Seth, Dean: Guffaw!!!

Suffice to say, getting me pissed off at the D&D games has turned into a spectator sport.

Sooooo, The party looked at the portal in fear and awe and made their way back out of the cave and back to Jules where they decided to journey south to Ospolen. So they travel south, hoping to find the gnoll bandits they were commissioned to find by the Duke Davrosil of Inolen last session. Well, they don't find the gnolls, but they cross the Eldoran/Mendarn border, making it to Ospolen 4 days later.
At this point, I was no longer running a programmed adventure created by yours truly, now I was in 'wing it and sling it' mode. I had the clerics of the Riftmaster charge Ariel (a devout worshipper) to quiet an influx of magic just outside the city in a nearby village. This influx of magic was centered on a rival church devoted to the Lord of Scorn, god of hate and racism. They had captured two halflings and tomorrow, on the first quarter of the moon Diadolai, they intend to sacrifice them to their vicious god. The party's job was to break it up and kill all the priests and anyone who tried to protect them. So after doing some preliminary scout work they decided to attack the temple under cover of the evening fog (this village was near a bay). They all set up their places as the two halflings were about to be lynched outside the temple on the gallows in front of all the village. Over 80 people came out to watch and chant their rage. After the high priest in his golden regalia addressed the crowd with a hate speech he tried to hit the latch that would drop the noosed halfings. But Nash had sneaked in earlier and rigged the latch to stick. It was at that time that the party moved in. Jules shot an arrow into the high priest while Nash cast a darkness spell which enveloped the gallows. Ariel moved in with her flaming bastard sword and attacked an attendant priest. To make a long story short, the fight was going against them as the jackal-helmed, khopesh wielding fighters came out of the temple to defend the priests, the high priest summoned a bearded devil to tangle with the interlopers and it didn't help that Jules fumbled and pulled his shoulder muscle while drawing back his composite Strength longbow. Ariel and Jules absconded the premises while Nash shot a few more eldritch bolts before leaving himself as the bearded devil and some of the fighters began to take an interest in him on top of the first tier of the temple.
Thus ended the evening. I gave out 500 xp in roleplay.

I guess in the future I'll just have a portal open underneath them if I really need them to go somewhere.... oh well.