Saturday, November 27, 2010

In Which The Warlock Creates a...Well, a Warlock!

Elric of Melnibone
 One of my favorite characters--and the subject of my senior thesis at Wittenberg--is Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone.  So, when trying to build a character for Chaotic Frederick's upcoming Dark Sun game, I couldn't pass up the opportunity for an homage to such a vivid, tormented sword-and-sorcery character.  As such, let me present my own take on a pseudo-Elric...the fallen Prince Actorios of Theleb Orethia!

The Ten-Minute Background: Actorios, Prince of Theleb Orethia

Step 1: Write 5 background and concept elements that you feel are important to your image of the character. These can be a concept overview, a list of important life events, a physical description, a personality profile...whatever you need to get an image in your mind. 5 is just a minimum...more elements are encouraged!

1. The Chosen One… Actorios was raised to be the savior of his people. The kingdom of Theleb Orethia (The Dreaming City), hidden away amidst The Lands Within the Winds, was maintained by a generational ritual, which imbued its ruling scion with immense arcane and psionic power. Actorios, the entitled only son of Mathrion, was chosen to become the next “gekozen”, renewing the fey pacts that gave the city its might.

2. Storm-tossed on the Seas of Fate. Actorios, however, cared nothing for this role or his obligations. Rather, he used his title, wealth, and considerable arcane and psionic training to delve into forbidden lore, to refine his swordsmanship, and for other decadent ends. Despite the pleas of his family (and even his arranged-betrothed, Caelyn), Actorios chose himself over his kingdom…

3. Pacts Made, Pacts Broken. Instead of relying on the Court of Stars, as eladrin traditionally do when committing themselves to the warlock-arts, Actorios instead sought power with the infernal lord Yrkoon the Ever-Dying. Yrkoon gifted Actorios with a rune-etched black blade, which tears forth souls from its victims, feeding the always-hungry daemon. This act was near heresy in the eyes of the eladrin, which led Actorios’ cousin Thibault to rise up against him.

4. The Fall of Theleb Orethia. Thibault rose up against Actorios in a battle that none won. The eldritch powers of both ever-ravenous Yrkoon and the mighty Court of Stars ravaged Theleb Orethia, leaving it as bleak and blasted as the rest of Athas. As Thibault confronted Actorios in his throne room, the usurper confronted Actorios as Caelyn pled with him to surrender. In the ensuing struggle, Caelyn was slain…not by Thibault, but by a careless blow from Actorios. Guilt-ravaged and bereft of influence, Actorios left in self-imposed exile.

5. A Lesson in Self-Disaster. It seems that nearly everything that Actorios touches turns to ash. Loved ones die, compatriots are betrayed or killed, towns and villages are burned to the ground. Actorios has a difficult time believing in anyone or anything, much less himself, yet clings to his infernal practices as the source of his power. It may be the one thing in life he can ‘control,’ yet even that is truly in the hands of Yrkoon.

Step 2: List at least two goals for the character. At least one of these goals should be one that the character has, while another should be one that you, as a player, want to see developed over the course of the game.

1. (Character) Atone for the death of Caelyn or, “better yet”, find some way to bring her back.

2. (Player) I’d like to walk through Actorios’ descent into despair and, if possible, find a way to bring him out of it. Actorios is truly a guy who’s had everything, and lost it by his own hands. It’d be very fitting to see him change pacts at some point during the game, should the Court of Stars ever forgive him (and if he can forgive himself).

3. (Player) I’d further like to traverse the line between corruption and atonement. Certainly, Actorios is a ruthless, unpleasant individual, but I’d like to see him use those ends to (maybe someday) become a just person. Or, at least, one who can look himself in the eye again.

Step 3: List at least two secrets about your character. One is a secret the character knows, one is a secret that involves him but that he is not actually aware of yet. This will help me in creating plots that center around your character. I will also be creating a third secret which you as a player will not be aware of, so expect some surprises!

Stormbringer, the black runeblade
1. (Known) The black hell-blade that Actorios uses literally steals souls. It’s not a figurative term. The blade is literally a conduit into the void that is Yrkoon’s bottomless maw. Each creature that Actorios slays feeds him some power, but that astral energy works towards freeing Yrkoon from The Gray. Actorios is literally addicted to this power, and will sicken to the point of death without it.

2. (Unknown) Caelyn is alive. She survived the accidental stabbing, and is currently “head consort” in Thibault’s harem. She hates Thibault as much as she mourns Actorios, and wants to see him return to The Lands Within the Winds, even if he cannot return to Theleb Orethia.

Step 4: Describe at least three people that are tied to the character. Two of them are friendly to the character, one is hostile. If you like, you can include an enemy of yours here as well, so I have an instant NPC nemesis to throw at you.

1. (Friendly) Rackhir the Red Archer—an old adventuring partner of Actorios, he knows what magicks that Actorios is capable of. In an incident that he still won’t speak of, Actorios lost control of a lesser daemon, which slew everyone in the group aside from Rakhir. Rackhir currently lives in Urik, acting as a smuggler.

2. (Helpful, but Indifferent) Balaan the Grim (daemon of law)—When Actorios uses any sort of divination ritual, Balaan is typically the first to answer. Balaan is an associate of imprisoned Yrkoon, and has an uncanny ability with riddles, wordplay and contracts. He also knows much of what happens in Athas on a daily basis.

3. (Actively Hostile) Ayarkan Shalod, Warrior of Orethia—When Actorios went into self-exile, his lieutenants and followers were almost-universally put to the sword. Ayarkan Shalod was the exception. Escaping from his cell the night before his execution, Ayarkan swore vengeance on his once friend and commander, whatever the cost. Ayarkan foreswore The Lands Within the Wind, arriving in Balic, set to hunt down Actorios.

Step 5: Describe three memories, mannerisms, or quirks that your character has. They don't have to be elaborate, but they should provide some context and flavor.
Elric, in all his decadence...

1. Actorios is arrogant, entitled, “mentally superior”, and generally an utter dick. However, he has a massive guilt-complex, making him pitiable. He’s something of a fatalist, but will go through the motions of helping his friends. In some ways it makes him feel better, but little helps to relieve the sting of everything he’s lost.

2. The mark of the “gekozen” is Actorios’ albinism. Actorios has pale white skin, near-white hair, and pinkish eyes. In The Lands Within the Wind, this isn’t as big of a problem, but in Athas proper…well, let’s just say that Actorios is very, very careful when he’s going to be in the sun.

3. At his heart, Actorios is entitled and lazy. If there’s a way to do a menial task in a showy arcane/psionic way, he’ll find it. If that means using his low-grade telekinesis or telepathy rather than picking up a drink or speaking to someone he thinks is beneath his station.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

In Which The Warlock Reaches the End...

The usual end to one of my games..
 I feel like it's been ages since I've actually reached the natural conclusion of a campaign.  Both "Pirates of the Underdark" and my Wittenberg Eberron game fizzled out before reaching their true ending.  Even before that, there was my defunct Expedition to the Demonweb Pits game, and the TPK that pre-empted our Dark Heresy adventure.

In truth, to reach an actual end was really satisfying for me.  For once, the story could come full circle.  For once, all of the plot hooks and threads that had emerged over the course of the campaign had managed to reach their natural end.  For once...there would be a worthy end.

Something of a tangent:  my favorite character from The Lord of the Rings isn't Aragorn or Legolas, nor is it even Gimli (though, I'm pretty sure that my dwarf-loving tendencies started with him).  Rather, it's Theoden of Rohan.  This is a guy who truly rises up, facing each challenge set before him, even though it costs him his life, his kingdom, his family, and all that goes with them.  Theoden sets the bar for 'heroic speeches', and sums up my feelings on endings par excellence:
Theoden of Rohan, being inspiring!
 "Look at my men. Their courage hangs by a thread. If this is to be our end, then I would have them make such an end, as to be worthy of remembrance."

It's that mentality that I took into mind when I designed the final battle of the "Tear of Ioun" saga.  After fending off the siege of Morgordal Keep, our heroes found themselves venturing once more to the source of both the corruption in the area, and their own adventure--the Forlorn Tower of Wellspring.
Ia! Ia!  Fhtaghn!
At the top thereof lurked Volarn--the Opener of the Way--and several of his corrupt, degenerate fleshlings.  Energy streamed from archaic runes etched on the tower's face, pouring forth into a corrupted symbol of Ioun.  Beyond that symbol...Zalgo.  The Render of the Veils.  The Hunger with a Thousand Eyes.  The eternal, the ever-dying.  That which waits beyond the walls.

Our heroes leapt into battle as the energies poured forth.  Charging forward, Guf was so unnerved that he tripped, face-planting into a stream of putrescent water tainted with unholy eldritch energies.  As soon as Martook and Lupin managed to join the melee, they were snatched up by Volarn, being dealt horrific woulds by his claws and writhing tentacles.  Shantira cast bolt after fiery bolt, doing  her best to stem the tide of energy that poured into their world.  Aster and Elladan skirted the flanks of the battle, firing arrows and slinging daggers into the cultists, while the enigmatic Blink charged after Volarn.

In the end?  Victory!  As the battle raged on, Elladan raced to cut off Volarn's escape, hamstringing the creature and casting it down in eternal defeat.  As the Forlorn Tower finally collapsed, and the waters of the nearby river ran clear and clean for the first time in decades, the party escaped in triumph.

As we put away the minis for the last time in this game, I provided a brief vignette for each character, summing up their actions, as they parted ways in pursuit of their own epic destinies:

  • With Morgordal's new alliance with the Doomguard, Clan-Father Russell of IronVictor was able to lead his combined clan into a new era of prosperity and unity.  Morgordal became an important planar and Underdark trading up, with the Doomguard establishing their first ever Prime Material armory.  Russell rebuilt the temple of Kelemvor, providing a new era of law, order, and peace for the dwarves.
  • Lupin, with the assistance of High Templar Wesley Baracus of Blackfall, established a chapel to Bane within Russell's temple.  Lupin also married Shantira, in a Banish ceremony that...well, it probably looked more like an S/M rave than a marriage, but that's life!
  • Shantira joined with the enigmatic invoker Belzadi Riftember to create a new school for fire mages, within the halls of Morgordal.  Their combined expertise broke new ground in elemental research, as well as new opportunites to scorch their foes.
  • Guf, still delveless, joined the IronVictor/Riftember clans as their sergeant-at-arms, reinforcing and rebuilding the keep outside, and training a new generation of dwarves in the arts of war.
  • Aster, still seeking vengeance for Lord Criswell's "betrayal", joined with the assassin 'Cruel' Seirrah and infiltrated the Blackfall Opera House, where Criswell was in attendence.  As Seirrah snuck up on Criswell, Aster fired a single arrow which exploded with fantastic force.  Both Seirrah--who had maimed Aster's ear--and Criswell were slain in the blast, while Aster left, retiring to Gloomwrought.
  • Martook, however, was not granted a peaceful retirement with his family.  His pact with Mighty Bane meant that he was once-again a full-time soldier, being recruited to the eternal Blood War.  While his family moved to his massive manor in  Morgordal, Martook soon found himself returning only to an empty house.
And, from here?  Well, we're taking a week off for the Thanksgiving holiday, but after that, we're back in action.  The exiled Prince Actorios of Theleb Orethia will make his debut, in Chaotic Frederick's Dark Sun game!  Until then, fellow gamers!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

In Which The Warlock Sleeps it Off...

Ahoy, fellow gamers. 

Just so you know, there's no entry this weekend.  After spending some time around the table with a few beverages, the PlatinumChick and I are going to relax for a bit.

Keep your eyes peeled for this Wednesday's entry, which will detail the climactic final showdown against Volarn, Opener of the Way!  Also, get ready for a new character, as I reveal what I'll be playing in Chaotic Frederick's Dark Sun game!


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

In Which The Warlock Becomes a Doomsayer...

When Wizards of the Coast first announced their Digital Initiative, I was skeptical at best. It was hard to believe that a company so focused on print role-playing materials could put forwards a quality online application that effectively summarized their work.

However, upon closer review, I was pleasantly surprised. The downloadable Character Builder and the later Monster Builder quickly became invaluable tools for me, as I both ran and played D&D. Character generation time dropped from the hours it had become in 3.5e, down to mere minutes. I’ve often been quoted as stating that I could make a 30th level character, fully-equipped, playable, and reasonably optimized, within a 20 minute timeframe. The Monster Builder, similarly, allowed me to print out sheets with chosen creatures—both custom-made and pregenerated—reducing the amount of time that I spent preparing for games.

RIP--The Downloadable Character Builder (11-16-2010)
The down side to this functionality was the reliance on updates. As August and September rolled on with no update—and no word of an update—DDI customers grew frustrated. The revised version of Dark Sun came out in hardback…but had no support via DDI. Whole articles and books were being left out of DDI, with no word from Wizards of the Coast on why or when.

Then, the announcement: Wizards of the Coast would no longer be supporting the downloadable Character Builder software, choosing instead to implement an online-only toolset. The online-toolset debuted yesterday to much outcry amongst the gaming community.

With that in mind, I’d like to get on record now this thought: If the D&D brand is set to fail within the next decade, it will be because of Wizards of the Coast’s utter refusal to commit to either a set online plan and, through that, their customers.
Having examined the new Character Builder, it has several fundamental flaws that not only defeat its design intent, but also harm the gaming community as a whole.

The Character Builder is online only. This is the biggest problem, yet one that WotC refuses to address. The company line is currently one that states that the online-functionality of the CB software makes it accessible from anywhere that has an Internet connection. There are two flaws with this logic: not only does this make the CB harder to access, but it also makes it less available overall.

o Online-only MEANS online-only: For some people this may not seem to be a problem, but when thought through thoroughly, cracks emerge. If I go to play at any of my 3 local game stores, there’s no wi-fi available. My characters, saved on my computer, would be inaccessible, whereas with the Downloadable CB, they were at my fingertips. Similarly, if the WotC website goes down or crashes, my characters are inaccessible. This limits access, rather than making it more available.

o Silverlight is left in the dark. The new CB runs on the Silverlight framework, put out by Microsoft. That’s all well and good, but most mobile devices—including the iPad, most palmtop computers, and any smart-phone that doesn’t use Windows 7—can’t run Silverlight. Considering that these were the target users of the new CB, this design precept is utterly a failure.

Your characters are no longer yours. This, as a writer and blogger, angers me beyond belief. Not only does the new CB have an absurdly-low limit of 20 characters, WotC has now made it expressly clear that the characters—despite the fact that you, as a player, assembled them—are not yours. With no ability to export a character to your hard drive (and no ability to even view it, once you have done so!), you will have absolutely no access to your own creations, should you choose to cancel your subscription. As someone who runs D&D at conventions and uses pregenerated characters, this limit is crippling—with 6 seats at a table, a mere 3 games fills out the limit, and that doesn’t even count any ‘home’ characters that I might have!

WotC has framed this as the ability to store these characters “in the Cloud”, implying that storing them on a hard drive or flash drive is somehow an inconvenience. Such is not the case. Again, it’s much easier to port over a character via a USB drive than have to log into a website, which may or may not be available/functioning.


Maybe this can tell me why new the CB crashed 4 times in 15 minutes...
The Character Builder is buggy beyond belief. Admittedly, it just debuted yesterday, but when WotC already has a fully-functional product that performs the same function, the idea of having basic, fundamental sections of the new version unworkable. The current “Known Issues” list on the WotC Character Builder site reads like a laundry list, with basic class features—such as the use of a weapon as a implement, which is core to classes like Assassin, Swordmage and Warlock—left to be totally unworkable. When a product already exists that fills this niche—one already produced by WotC—switching horse midstreams is foolhardy at best.

WotC’s Track Record: Promise Much, Produce Little. We’re told, through the occasional forum post or the CB FAQ, that the ability to export characters will be incoming. We’re told that core components of the game, such as the ability to house rule items, to include inherent bonuses, and to modify the character sheet on a fundamental level…all that “has not yet been implemented,” but it’s on the horizon. We’re told that all of this is coming.

But, I ask this: what about the rest of the functionality that was promised us? What about the rest of the Monster Builder updates, which have gone untouched? What about the much ballyhooed Virtual Tabletop, which would allow you to play with your friends across the country, with full chat utilities and stylized virtual minis? What about open communication, within the gaming community? Anyone remember GleeMax, WotC’s utter travesty of a social networking site?

So, how long did GleeMax last?  6 months?  A year?  Did anyone care?

All of this adds up to bad news in my eyes. It’s been mentioned—unofficially, of course—that WotC made this move to keep more nefarious gamers from cracking and subsequently bit-torrenting hacked version of the downloadable CB. If this is the case, though, it’s a paranoid attempt to deal with a minority of the gaming community, which only harms the majority’s ability to enjoy a product as a paying customer.

WotC has dropped a fully-functional, smooth program in favor of trying to rebuild their image. This, on a fundamental level, is a misstep. While I doubt that this would bring the D&D brand on the whole to a collapse, it does make for poor tidings for the world’s most popular RPG.

I, for one, will not be witness to this pratfall. Upon the completion of my already-paid year of DDI subscription, I’ll be cancelling.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

In Which the Warlock Raids the Furniture Store for Inspiration...

With the 2011 convention season on the horizon, I’ve been scheming what to run at this year’s cons. My Cthulhian WEGS scenario—WEGS + Cthulhu = WEGSThulhu!—is already locked and loaded, with only minor changes necessary after the playtests I ran at Champion City ComicCon.

I’m tempted to play through one of my already-made “Pendulum” adventures, but I’d rather come up with something new. However, the Pendulum idea hasn’t been at rest. Rather, John—over at World vs. Hero (go check it out!)—got me thinking.

Two of the basic precepts of the Pendulum Method are shifts in time and shifts in place. Certainly, there are other shifts that are available to GMs, but what about shifting the very PCs themselves? What if you could create a game in which the PCs aren’t really fleshed out until the players flesh them out…at the table?

This idea’s still in development, but I think I really could be on to something here. There’d have to be a hard limit as to how many advancements a player could get, as well as a finite system for when characters may advance, but it’d be fantastic to see what the players come up with! It would really provide a unique play experience on both sides of the table, which nothing else really emulates.

What do you think, fellow gamers? Could I be on to something here? Perhaps a playtest at WittCon? Let me know what you think!

What if, rather than before the game, a player-characters were created as the game itself progressed?

The site of the next zombie outbreak?

Bear with me as I change topics. A few months ago, the PlatinumChick and I were off, roaming around the Ikea in West Chester. Ikea’s a store unto itself—rather than wander up and down aisles, you walk through showrooms based around different rooms in a house, each of which display the various furniture options that Ikea sells. The whole store is rife with “secret passages” leading from one section to another, from “Home Office” to “Kitchen and Dining”.

Then, an idea struck me. The idea of a zombified shopping mall is one of the most classic in all of horror, starting with George Romeo’s classic Dawn of the Dead, and even being spoofed in the Dead Rising series of video games. What if, rather than a shopping mall, the invasion started in an Ikea!? The passages between sections would make for glorious gaming, to say nothing of the improvised weapons one could make from kitchen implements, light-duty furniture, and prop displays!

Maybe he's got the Berserk edge?

That’s where the Pendulum kicks in. Using the Savage Worlds system, all of the characters would start with d6s in each of their 5 stats. Rather than having assigned Skills or Edges, the players would be granted the ability to design their own character, based on their actions in the game. Need to get through a locked door that leads to the employee break room? Come up with a reason in-character to do so, and fill in one of your empty Edge slots with the “Thief” Edge! Want to hot-wire a forklift? Maybe you were a heavy construction worker in the past, giving you “McGuyver”!

This idea’s still in development, but I think I really could be on to something here. There’d have to be a hard limit as to how many advancements a player could get, as well as a finite system for when characters may advance, but it’d be fantastic to see what the players come up with! It would really provide a unique play experience on both sides of the table, which nothing else really emulates.

What do you think, fellow gamers? Could I be on to something here? Perhaps a playtest at WittCon? Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In Which The Warlock WEGSes Out!

With this week’s Witt-Guild sponsored run through the WEGSventure Hobgobble’s Eve, I figured that it’d be fitting to take a look at one of the scarcely used variant rules of WEGS Old Skool, the “Multi-Arkin’” rules. While WEGS is a game that revels in the classic fantasy archetypes of Fighting Man, Skolar, Trickster, and Ranger, one of the classic fantasy staples is missing: the Paladin!

So, without further adieu, here’s your guide on how to build a WEGSing Cavalier!

Time to WEGS out!

Remember, all characters in WEGS are randomly rolled, but if you’re shooting for an old-school Paladin, you’ve got to hope for great stats in two areas: Prowess (which governs your melee attacks and will become your Prime stat) and Grace (which governs your Spoint usage and your spellcasting ability, as well as your Secondary stat). When assigning Ranks, however, you want to be sure to be careful to strike a balance.

That's right...STRIKE that balance!
Traditionally speaking, players tend to place their starting rank of 30 in their Prime stat. However, striking a balance may provide a better benefit in this case. As an example, if you were lucky enough to roll a stat of 32 in your Prowess—the best possible result on the table—your 30 rank would be better served in your Grace stat, rather than in your Prowess. Rather than boost your already high melee attacks, you’d be better served ensuring that you have the Spoint reserve to back up your spellcasting. Generally speaking, it’s better (in this build, at least), to have two stats in the 50s than a single stat in the 60s.

Regardless of which stat gets your rank of 30, the other should definitely merit one of your two 20 ranks. The other 20 absolutely should go towards Stealth, increasing your mobility on the battlefield by increasing your Move Strength, and increasing your Invulnerability. Remember, you’re going to be in melee all day long—that extra 10% Invulnerability matters!


Only a Dwarf will do!

There’s precisely one race you want to look at, in order to make the WEGS Paladin work: Dwarf! Dwarves naturally gravitate towards the Mystic sphere, and gain the coveted +6% Grace rank bonus. That bonus becomes critical to your spellcasting ability, and provides you with an additional 6 Spoints—that’s a free Cast and Blast, friends!

 Some may think that a Humnz may make an equally effective Paladin, but that’s statistically erroneous. The drop in Grace % that you forfeit—that 6%--is simply not worth the single Spoint that you’d gain in recompense. Essentially, you’d be dropping 6% on all Grace-related rolls, as opposed to a single roll with a 10% bonus. Permanent bonuses trump temporary ones, so Humnz Paladins aren’t in the question.

Arketype and Vitals:

As your primary Arketype, you’ll want to choose Warrior. At its core, the Paladin is a melee fighter, which is going to mean high Wounds and Invulnerability are a priority. You’ll gain the 30% Armor Invuln from the Warrior Arketype which, when combined with your 20% Stealth Rank, will start you off at 50% Invuln as a brand new Ark! You may be at a slight disadvantage in terms of Wounds, in comparison to a “straight” Warrior, but your spellcasting ability and sheer number of Spoints will take care of that shortcoming.

Your secondary Arketype, naturally, should be Sage. This provides the Mystic edge that you’ll use to take down foes. Naturally, you’ll be taking skills from each category, but don’t forget that you always have to have more skills from your primary Arketype than your secondary.

Skill Choices—The 9 Skill Hand

Remember that, when Multi-Arkin’, your Kreator/Minion Master gets to decide upon the hand size of your skills. Traditionally, 9 skills are considered to be an acceptable number. However, hand sizes of 11 and even 13 are not uncommon. I’ll make recommendations for the first 9, then provide some “honorable mentions” to fill out to 13.

Warrior Skill—Charge! A classic Paladin staple, Charge absolutely has to be in your repertoire. The ability to Move and Attack as a single action in WEGS is par excellence, providing mobility, a possible Invulnerability penalty to the enemy (if you’re able to get a Back Attack), and the ability to get across the battlefield quickly. Charge can also help to offset a weak Stealth stat in this way. So what, it’s a Cold Roll skill? It’s still glorious!

Warrior Reaction—Resist Fear Again, a Paladin staple here. Paladins fear nothing, and a WEGS Paladin is no exception. The bonus to Lost Action Phase rolls is just gravy on this one.

Warrior Skill—In Your Face! Just like a Paladin’s “Divine Challenge” or the like, In Your Face catches a foe’s attention and gets his claws away from your allies. Plus, it’s a hands-free skill for you, levying a hefty Invuln penalty against your chosen foe for your next 4 attacks. Can’t beat it.

Warrior Attack Form—Invuln Down Simply put, anything that lowers Invulnerability in WEGS is golden. Being able to do this at will, especially when coupled with In Your Face ensures that you’ll be doing damage consistently.

Warrior Skill—Mighty Whack! You won’t use it often, and it has a Spoint fee to even try it, but if you want to Smite Evil, this is the way to do it! Get yourself in position first, make sure you have In Your Face set up, and let that heretic have it!

Sage Skill—Sense Mystic You want to cast spells? Then there’s no choice here…gotta have it.

Sage Spell—Bless with Fire A classic weapon blessing that can really up your damage output, this one automatically takes off a Wound chip, as long as you can land the hit. This one’s great for whittling down those 8/88s!

Sage Spell—Sphere of Light Since you’ll be in melee so much, this spell can really increase your accuracy (ensuring that those lethal hits land) as well as that of your nearby allies. Keep this one for when you’re in flanking position with that Trickster ally of yours!

Sage Spell—Laying of Hands This one’s a limited use Spell, but it can really make the difference in hits, particularly after you’ve been in battle for a while. A well-timed, well-rolled Laying of Hands can totally refresh your Wounds, putting you back in the fight and those Phew points safely in hand!

Honorable Mention Skills:

Sage Skill—Pocketful of Miracles With a lower-than-normal Spoint reserve for a Mystic caster, this one really merits some thought. While you’ll only use it once, the Spoints that it provides can really be a lifesaver. I wouldn’t take above one of the others listed, but it merits consideration.

Sage Spell—Clash of the Spheres Oh, man…so tempting. You’ll be in melee with so many monsters that dropping them all into Lost Action Phase looks great, right? There’s one problem—you have friends that’ll be in melee with you. They won’t appreciate getting LAPped by their own party! If you’re a solo tank, this one makes the foes into easy pickings for Mages and Rangers, though.

Warrior Attack Form—Strength Up If some damage is good, then more damage is better, right?! Plus, with another Attack form, you can Blitz!

Warrior Attack Form—Stat Up With a slightly lower-than-normal Prowess, this skill can help land some attacks as you start out on your adventuring career. Over time, though, it becomes somewhat unnecessary, once you near the 66% mark on your Prowess %.

A real Old Skool Paladin!

Playing the WEGS Paladin:

When playing the WEGS Paladin, it’s all about preparation. The key is to bide your time. If the enemies come to you, they afford you time to prepare your buff spells and skills which only make them easier to take down. Starting off a with a two-inning cycle of Sense Mystic and Bless with Fire or Sphere of Light will make that combat go all the faster once you wade into melee.

When entering combat at a distance, Charge will allow you the opportunity to avoid spending a turn doing nothing but moving, and will set you up in a position where a friendly Trickster or Ranger will get a Back Attack, as the foe focuses on you. If the enemy focuses elsewhere, a well-placed In Your Face will change that instantly.

If in between foes, try to ensure that you have a Sense Mystic up and rarin’ to go. A well-timed Laying of Hands or Clash of the Spheres can really turn the tide of a battle, but both require the Sense to be on-deck. If you can take care of that step a few innings earlier, you’re in a winning position.

Naturally, you cannot put all of these strategies into effect simultaneously. Rather, move as the situation dictates. If you’re Spoint-rich, don’t be afraid to let loose with a Bless with Fire. If you’re running low, hold your Sense for a needed Laying of Hands or the like, relying on your Warrior Attack Forms for your offense. Judge the situation as it comes, and you’ll be smiting heretics in no time!
A Final Note!

If you get the chance and want to throw down the 6s and 10s, swing by the Wittenberg University Shouvlin Center this Friday at 7pm. I’ll be running the holiday classic, Hobgobble’s Eve for any and all comers. Spante up, children!!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

In Which The Warlock Tears Down the Wall!

When I planned out the end-game of the Friday night "Tear of Ioun" game, I wanted to ensure that the ending would be an epic one.  As Chaotic Frederick says, I wanted them to "be saying 'wow' every time".  As I mentioned earlier, I had been hoping for a set-piece battle that really demonstrated the weight and power of the characters' actions thusfar in the game.  Moreso, I wanted them to feel massively threatened, while simultaneously maintaining that feel of supreme bad-assness!

So, when I decided upon a siege on Russell's home clan, I was a little worried.  In fact, I was downright  intimidated.  I had never run a game session on this scale before, and doing so proved to be quite the challenge.

The Defenders of Morgordal Keep
 After building their castle, writing up rules for siege weaponry and other defenses, and preparing troops using the DDI Monster Builder software, the field was finally arrayed against the hordes of Volarn, Opener of the Way.  It was a ton of prep, which culminated with a 4 page long e-mail on my part, detailing troop costs, toughness and more...and then prompted a similarly lengthed response from Chaotic Frederick!

In game, each player was responsible for four items each:  their own character (currently near-epic level, sitting at 17th!), an NPC ally of theirs (also near-epic!), a siege engine that ranged from the traditional ballistae and trebuchet to the mighty acid cannon and pseudo-sentient Hellfire engine, and a legion of troops.  While this seemed like a lot, the rules were incredibly streamlined, moving quickly for each character.  To be honest, each turn only took slightly longer than a normal D&D turn!

Without a doubt, my players rose to the challenge brilliantly.
Clanfather Russell rides the Hellfire Engine into battle!

The battle was joined, and everyone at the table threw themselves into the defense.  Lupin led Banish skirmishers from Gloomwrought against the eldritch horrors, while Martook confronted one of the massive mutants head-on, being swallowed in its toothy maw!  Shantira, Aster, and Guf manned the walls, leading troops directly, while Russell and his clanbrother Thorgrim swung their hammers in unison before the gates of their new home.

Friday Night Will, Chris the II, and Pyro-Jessie survey the field...
 Things looked grim for our defenders for quite a while.  While the defenders had great success wiping out the aberrent hordes with their siege weaponry, their numbers seemed countless.  However, with Martook swallowed and Lupin overwhelmed, the two largest of Volarn's minions--literally, walking engines of destruction themselves--focused their fire on the Hellfire Engine and the keep's walls...

The gates come crashing down!

In that moment of despair, all seemed lost and the Far Realm beasts seemed on the verge of annihilating all within the keep.  Martook let loose yet another unheeded prayer to Moradin from within the beast's gullet.  Cursing once more, he turned to a different source of divine intervention:  Bane, Lord of War.

I was floored!  For session after session, Lupin had (half-jokingly) been trying to convert the party to Bane, only really succeeding with the embittered Aster.  Totally at a loss for what to do, I resorted to an old tactic from "Pirates of the Underdark"--I asked him to 'roll the bones'

"Do ya feel lucky?"

"The Bones" is a simple mechanic, which I culled from Skull and Bones:  Swashbuckling Horror in the Golden Age of Piracy, while I was running "Pirates of the Underdark".  Essentially, a character can toss 'the bones'--2d6--once per session, and hope that Lady Luck can help him out of a dire situation.  Martook's roll?  A ten...near perfect...

Mighty Bane manifested in his mind, offering ultimate victory on this battlefield, in exchange for his fealty.  Martook hastily accepted, his Moradinian regalia reforming and restylizing as Banish armor, and he burst forth from the creature's belly in a shower of gore.  With a half-crazed war-cry, he leapt back into the fray, hewing down aberrations with each mighty swing. 

Chaotic Frederick and Chris the I have the situation under control...

Our session ended late--almost at 1:15 am--with the aberrant army crushed and Morgordal Keep saved.  But the players, triumphant and energized, were excited.  This was a battle for the ages, and was really memorable for all of us.  This was what I was hoping for.  This, my lovely readers, was what it was all about.  this was the culmination of a truly epic yarn.

While we're off next week, the following week will bring our final battle and take our PCs back to where it all began--the Forlorn Tower, just north of the ruins of Wellspring. 

And honestly?  I can't wait. 

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

In Which The Warlock Mans the Walls...

With the Siege of Morgordal Keep on the horizon, now's a great time to show off some of the NPCs that'll be aiding our heroes through their trials.  So now, as a special preview are three of their NPC allies:  Thorgrim (clan-brother to Russell and Sergeant of the Novgorod), Fracture (the mysterious shardmind freed by Lupin's sundering of a githyanki silver sword), and the always-charismatic Elladan Redhand!

Thorgrim, Clan Messenger Level 18 Soldier

Medium natural humanoid XP 2,000
HP 174; Bloodied 87
AC 36; Fortitude 31; Reflex 28; Will 30 Speed 5
Saving Throws +5 vs poison effects Initiative +14
Perception +15   Low-Light Vision

Stand Your Ground
When an effect forces a dwarf to move—through a push, a pull, or a slide—the dwarf moves 1 square less than the effect specifies. When an attack would knock the dwarf prone, the dwarf gains an immediate saving throw to avoid falling prone.

Standard Actions
R Throwing Hammer (weapon) • At-Will
Attack: Range 5/10; +23 vs. AC
Hit: 1d10 + 9 damage.

M War Pick (weapon) • At-Will
Attack: +24 vs. AC
Hit: 1d10 + 9 damage and the target is marked.

m Blood Frenzy Strike • Recharge 4 5 6
Attack: +25 vs. AC
Hit: 3d10 + 9 damage and the target gains Vulnerability 7 to all damage until the end of Thorgrim's next turn.

m Shield Breaker • Recharge 5 6
Attack: +24 vs. AC
Hit: 4d10 + 9 damage, and the target takes a -2 to AC and Reflex until the end of Thorgrim's next turn.

m Barrelling Charge • Daily
Effect: (One, Two, or Three Creatures); Thorgrim shifts his speed and makes a War Pick attack against each target. On a hit, the target is also dazed (save ends).

Minor Actions
Dwarven Fortitude • Recharge 5 6
Effect: Thorgrim makes a saving throw against each effect currently affecting him, even if the effect does not normally allow a saving throw. On a success, the effect ends.

Triggered Actions
Vengeance of the Clan • Encounter
Effect (Immediate Interrupt): Thorgrim makes a melee basic attack against the enemy.

Skills Dungeoneering +22, Endurance +20, History +18, Intimidate +18
Str 25 (+16) Dex 16 (+12) Wis 22 (+15)
Con 22 (+15) Int 19 (+13) Cha 19 (+13)

Alignment:  Good  Languages Common, Dwarven
Equipment scale armor, war pick, throwing hammer x4

Fracture--Shardmind Monk Level 18 Skirmisher

Medium immortal humanoid (living construct) XP 2,000
HP 171; Bloodied 86
AC 32; Fortitude 30; Reflex 30; Will 29
Speed 8
Resist 10 psychic Initiative +17
Perception +18

Standard Actions
m Fist of Nine Shadows (psionic, implement) • At-Will
Attack: Melee 1 (one creature); +21 vs. Fortitude
Hit: 1d10 + 15 damage, and the target is pushed one square.
Effect: Fracture may make an Athletics check to jump with a +5 power bonus to the roll. It is treated as having a running start when jumping.

C Five Storms (psionic, implement) • At-Will
Attack: Close Burst 1; +21 vs. Reflex
Hit: 1d8 + 15 damage.
Effect: Fracture may shift two squares before or after this attack.

R Tumbling Boulder (psionic, implement) • Recharge 5 6
Attack: Melee touch (one creature); +20 vs. Reflex
Hit: 1d10 + 21 damage and the target falls prone and cannot stand until the end of Fracture's next turn.
Effect: Fracture shifts 4 squares and gains a +2 to all defenses until the end of its next turn.

A Mind Swarm (psychic) • Encounter
Effect: Area Burst 1 within 5 (enemies in burst); All enemies in the burst grant combat advantage until the end of Fracture's next turn. He also gains a +2 to all defenses until the end of his next turn.

M Dancer on the Living Gate (psionic, implement) • Daily
Attack: Melee 1; +21 vs. Fortitude; Fracture shifts its speed and makes this attack once against each adjacent enemy during the shift.
Hit: 3d10 + 15 damage.
Miss: Half damage.

Move Actions
Immortal Spider Technique (psionic) • At-Will
Effect: Fracture may climb its speed and may even move across overhanging surfaces like ceilings. If Fracture ends its turn on such a surface, it falls.

Skills Athletics +20, Endurance +18, Stealth +20
Str 22 (+15) Dex 22 (+15) Wis 19 (+13)
Con 19 (+13) Int 22 (+15) Cha 8 (+8)
Alignment:  Unaligned   Languages Common, Deep Speech, telepathy 15

Elladan Red-Hand (Level 18) Level 18 Lurker

Medium fey humanoid (eladrin) XP 2,000
HP 139; Bloodied 70
AC 32; Fortitude 30; Reflex 29; Will 30
Speed 6 Initiative +19
Perception +17    Low-Light Vision

Standard Actions

m Acrobatic Strike • At-Will
Attack: +23 vs. AC
Hit: 1d4 + 12 Hit: If Elladan is grabbed, he escapes the grab. Before or after the attack, Elladan may shift one square. This power may be used at Range (5/10).

M Scoundrel's Philosophy • Recharge 4 5 6
Attack: Melee or Ranged 5/10; +23 vs. AC
Hit: 3d4 + 12 and make a secondary attack vs. Will. On a hit, the target is dazed until the end of Elladan's next turn.

M Tornado Strike • Recharge 5 6
Attack: +23 vs. AC; One attack per target.
Hit: 4d4 + 11 damage and Elladan may slide the target 6 squares. Effect: Elladan may move 3 squares after the attack.

M Courage Breaker • Daily
Attack: Melee or Ranged 5/10; +23 vs. AC
Hit: 6d4 + 11 damage and the target is slowed and takes a -2 penalty to all attacks (save ends both).

Move Actions
Fey Step • Encounter
Effect: Elladan teleports 5 squares.

Triggered Actions
Leaping Dodge • Recharge 6
Effect (Immediate Interrupt): Trigger: An enemy targets Elladan with an attack. Elladan makes an Athletics check to jump with a +5 bonus, and jumps the appropriate distance.

Other Powers
M Sneak Attack (Backstabber)
Effect: Once per round, when Ellandan hits a creature that he has combat advantage against, he deals an additional 3d8 damage.

Skills Stealth +20, Acrobatics +20, Arcana +17, Athletics +17, Bluff +21, Diplomacy +21, Dungeoneering +17, Endurance +18, Heal +14, History +14, Insight +17, Intimidate +18, Nature +14, Religion +14, Streetwise +18, Thievery +20

Str 22 (+15) Dex 22 (+15) Wis 16 (+12)
Con 25 (+16) Int 16 (+12) Cha 25 (+16)

Alignment:  Unaligned Languages Common, Elven, Dwarven
Equipment just about anything needed...

(All of these NPCs were created using the Monster Builder software, created by Wizards of the Coast.  All rights are reserved by their respective holders.)