Invisible Sun

People We Can't Trust

This was a great game. It’s been a few weeks since we played, since we were playing Wes’s campaign, but everyone jumped right in with barely a refresher. The group then went shopping in the market. This may sound like a pretty hum-drum activity, but this actually was a fairly big deal, at least for our group. OMG, SHOPPING guyz! Erm, well, not because the group likes shopping, but because it gave the group a chance to role play more than the previous combat-heavy adventure had.

I’m not knocking on combat, but D&D 4th edition tends to have slower combat, and the combat encounters can feel repetitive. I had encounters planned, but we didn’t get to the actual combat stuff until much later in the day. On the one hand – thank heaven, since I don’t have to plan more encounters next week! I still have my main quest-line’s encounters for later! On the other – drat, I was hoping to get further along than we did.

The shopping, in itself, was fun. T’Chack learned that holding swords at merchants in busy cities may attract the attention of the guards and Mikal learned that if you feel your party member is getting cheated, you need to speak up. D’Jee took the time to set up her sub-plot involving her sick friend Marq. He’s set up a quest for the party to find the location of the cure to his disease by drinking from the Lake of Golden Dreams, far north of Nibeney. Mikal then took Alain with him to buy some arcane ritual components. I’m house-ruling that as they start learning more complicated and specialized arcane rituals, reagents are going to become nigh impossible to find without having the right connections, and then they’ll be ridiculously expensive. Since Mikal (the party bard, and the only one of the arcane casters who hadn’t revealed the nature of his power) was the one who wanted the reagents, he and Alain took a moment to discuss briefly why Mikal needed them. Alain seems pretty chill with knowing that Mikal has some arcane power. Not unexpected, not unsurprising, either. Since T’Chack, Fips, and D’Jee weren’t there, I think Mikal’s secret is still essentially safe. After that, they went to get their dragonhides tanned into armor for T’Chack and a shield for Mikal, and to get two of the dragon’s fangs honed into daggers for Alain and Fips. D’Jee has the rod she found on the wizard’s corpse in the arena labyrinth for her focus.

They then went to handle their business with Kang, who revealed that he was having issues with Min-Suu. She was apparently displeased with his beasts not actually destroying the party in the labyrinth, so he’s fallen out of favor with her for the time being. He’d like them to bring back a white tiger to hopefully appease her. He took note of Alain’s slip that revealed the party had had a problem with fire, but didn’t have any intent to kill them off hand. He seems to find them too valuable.

The party then spoke with Min-Suu, who gave them 100 gold each, which they used to buy some discounted supplies (area merchants were still impressed by their success in the arena). They then went on their quest to find the white tiger.

They found a regular tiger not far along their quest, but they killed and skinned it in short order. They continued further, trying to find their prize. As they went further, they came upon a mark on a tree, which they determined was arcane in nature– some kind of warning. Further along, they came upon a clearing. Almost immediately, they determined something was wrong. The best description was that the trees seemed to be in the wrong places, and that something unnatural was going on. They came upon a man in this clearing- a man D’Jee quickly determined was using some sort of illusion. He revealed himself to be a Rakshasa youth, and quickly set his tiger pets on the party to watch them fight for his amusement. They rolled pretty well on a diplomacy check, and they were surprised by his actions. I told them, “Trust me, if you’d made him mad, he’d take all of you out, himself.”

All in all, it was a pretty fun game, both as a DM and (I hear) as a player. Awesome. _

The Dragon's Teeth

Once Fips and T’Chak realized that the shriekers were defending a dead end, they quietly returned to the party and suggested they fight the dragon instead. There was no reason to these hunters to fight creatures that were simply defending their space. So into the dragon’s reach they went. The dragon filled the chamber with painful swirling sands, and dealt them massive damage, but they fought valiantly against it! The little red dragon was too afraid to confront the larger brown dragon, and The Ran was in total defense mode, guarding D’Jee and Alain, but he never was called upon to attack.

The dragon’s horde granted them a tidy sum of coin, Nibenese clay currency, and jewelry, but the party seemed much more interested in harvesting parts of the dragon. They’ll be using the hide to make one set of leather armor and to cover one shield. D’Jee is using one of the four fangs for a hair piece, and Alain was excited at the prospect of making one of the fangs into a masterwork dagger– a tactic I believe Mikal and Fips will be emulating. T’Chak wanted to use the tendons and smaller teeth to make jewelry, a wonderful bit of flavor, I thought, so I made Fips do it, too. With twelve claws to sell and all their loot, the party figured they had accumulated a nice haul. They also left with a new group name: The Dragon’s Teeth. I was reluctant about it, but it’s really growing on me.

They steeled themselves and finished their trek through the labyrinth. When they reached the Pit, a heated battle was already going on between three gladiators, but when the announcer saw the prisoners had made it through the labyrinth, Min-Suu stopped the battle and soon pit the gladiators against the party. The party won, sparing the Dragonborn champion and one of the human gladiators with the other having fallen before he could yield.

Min-Suu invited the victors into a nearby room, allowing the party to rest, eat, and drink. Naturally, the party was horrendously suspicious of the woman who put them in this dungeon. The announcer, an Elven man, was in there as well with the elven woman from before, Vilnek, but Min-Suu dismissed them. She told them she would like to see the party again after they had rested and that she would let them stay in a nearby hotel, and she made a point to call Alain “caster,” a tidbit that set off the whole party in one of my favorite moments to date.

You see, so far, the party has role played enough to get to know each other and to generally plan their way through the labyrinth and strategies in battle, but now they really had to talk to each other and let their characters shine. D’Jee went for the wine, knocking back two glasses before Min-Suu dismissed herself to attend to her templar duties. Once the cruel woman left, T’Chak became fairly hostile to Alain, calling him out for his powers. D’Jee was the first to call him out, but he insulted her heritage, and for his trouble, she threw her glass of wine in his face. Fips tried to deflate the situation, but revealed she knew something of magic as well, pissing T’Chak off even more. Eventually, a servant came in to ask them to leave the room and meet the adoring public. D’Jee knocked back her third glass of wine and the party left, a hairsbreadth from fighting amongst themselves.

Once they got outside, T’Chak promptly climbed up the wall and left to collect his thoughts. The rest of the party was overwhelmed by fans. One of these fans was Mikal’s old friend, an Elven trader named Hasim. Another was a monster hunter named Kang, a fat human man that the dragon recognized and became hostile towards, making the party wary of him. They became even more wary of him when he offered them a job, and if they wanted to accept the position, they needed only speak to Min-Suu and she would arrange a meeting with him. D’Jee became rather smitten with Hasim, who invited the party back to the Elven market district. Fips and Mikal decided to take the dragon to go find T’Chak and try and encourage him to rejoin the group. Meanwhile, Hasim seduces D’Jee and Alain wanders the market, trying to act like he doesn’t know what the Tiefling is doing in Hasim’s tent. Mikal and Fips eventually convince T’Chak and they all go back to the Elven market to sell their wares and resupply, which I need to remember to do next session…

Hasim pulls Mikal aside later to offer him a job transporting some illegal magical herbs to some druids who want to use them to free Vilnek, whom he learns is a powerful druid of the Crescent Forest that Nibeney keeps as one of his ‘wives’ to humiliate her. Alain and T’Chak make amends, and Fips teases D’Jee a bit about sleeping with Hasim, revealing that she has had three children of her own. When Mikal returned to the group, they discussed their plans. They will be agreeing to speak to Kang in order to have the appropriate cover for smuggling the herbs.

I have a lot to plan for, but fortunately, we’ll be taking a break for a few weeks to return to Wes’s Eberron campaign and let me work out the next leg of this adventure! I’m excited!

New Faces, Deep Places

This session (11/06/2010) was a fun one. Our group, still shell-shocked over calming a dragon, debated briefly who they would send to go get the dead scorpion carcasses from the last session to feed the dragon. They wanted to send Fips because she was fastest, but then they realized that she was too small and too weak to carry three medium sized insects, no matter how small the pieces she cut them into were. (I’m still not entirely sure I understand the logic of the party wanting to cut things into smaller or more manageable sizes when they don’t have bags to carry things with. I’m guessing they’re using their pockets?) Eventually they sent T’Chak and he went to gather the carcasses (he was not pleased by the necessity, I might add).

As he returned, the dragon started smelling something delicious and wandered down a hallway, the rest of the party in hot pursuit. As the dragon rounded the corner, he startled Alain, a warlock who had multi-classed into rogue. (In fourth edition, there is a big difference between a hybrid [which is what Fips is] and multi-classing [which Alain did]. For story purposes, Alain was trained with some rogue abilities before the Fey made a pact with him, making him a Warlock with some rogue training. Fips’s training taught her to use magic and sneaky attacks in conjunction- she is not a swordmage with rogue abilities or a rogue with swordmage abilities, she is a blend of the two classes.) Alain is played by our newest group member, Chris.

The warlock, in no shape to fight and surprised by the dragon and the humanoids following behind it, backed against the wall and tried to hide, but fortunately for him, the dragon was more interested in eating the rats he’d been cooking than attacking him. The party gave the dragon the scorpions instead and introduced themselves, kinda… I don’t think any of them gave him their names… Or an explaination for why they were in the arena… Or anything really. They just took his food. Okay, to be fair, the party was non-hostile towards him and he offered the food in good faith and Mikal returned his kindness by healing him up. The party proceeded on, fighting some encounters and looting the corpses of previous poor souls who had been lost in the labyrinth. Their fight with some fire beetles was surprisingly difficult because of a rechargeable the fire beetles dished out that knocked T’Chak, Mikal, and I think Alain unconscious. Fips and D’Jee, mostly with the help of the still-unnamed dragon, managed to fend off the insects and heal Mikal, letting him rouse the others. They took and extended rest again at that point to fully recuperate. Later on they discovered the corpses of two warriors, both in heavy armor. Only one was buried and was a fair distance from his ally, who must have wandered off to try and escape. The buried man was, however, wearing the vestments of a Tyrian soldier of high rank, which D’Jee claimed for herself, and a wristband that bore the symbol of Tyr, which Fips snatched and is now wearing as an armband (since her wrist is much too small), and was scarred to the bone with a slave brand. This may or may not end up being significant. They also found a dead mage of some sort wearing jewelry and carrying a rod, which may or may not also be significant. The party continued and stumbled upon a secret door, which, they discovered upon opening it, had a zombie standing on the other side of it. They panicked, slammed the door behind them, and moved on. It was probably for the best since my circular map was quickly showing it’s flaws and I wanted them to just go to the next floor, the ladder for such being down the hall they were already in proceeding down. At some point along the way they also encountered some cavern chokers and ended up making jokes about tentacle rape. Maybe it’s more of a had-to-be-there kind of thing, but they really thought it was funny that Fips was the first one “grabbed” by the enemy. Perverts. T’Chak got grabbed, too, though I guess they didn’t think it was as funny that a giant bug-man had a tentacle around his neck.

On the next floor, they came upon a dwarven caravan guard slumped over and near death. They revived him and he told them some of the map’s layout. Due to some misspeaking on my part, the dwarf came to be known as “The Ran” (pronounced Rahn, not like the past tense of run). Thanks to their goofy behavior, The Ran is going to be a cool, level-headed guy who starts talking like a pro wrestler when in combat. “Oh, miss Teifling, please take shelter while I attack. Ho hum… Raaaargh! The Raaaaaan is going to smash your head innnn, hideous mon-ster!” And my campaign was supposed to be the more serious one. Go figure.

Anyway, they wandered closer to the pit when the dragon started getting nervous and retreated a little bit. This struck the party as odd since the dragon had been growing more fond of them as they progressed (it really likes Mikal, is tolerant of Fips, D’Jee and Alain, and respects T’Chak without actually being fond of him). They listened carefully and could hear deep reptilian breathing coming from the distance. T’Chak determined that it was another larger dragon. T’Chak wanted to press on and fight it, but the rest of the party over-ruled him and headed towards a fight with some shriekers instead- unknowingly heading the wrong way in doing so.

We ended the session before combat with the shriekers because Wes had to work. We’ll be picking up again on the 21st, probably at my house since our local game store closes at 7 on Sundays.

Already I’m starting to get a sense for the characters. T’Chak is aggressive and prefers combat to subtlety. D’Jee is more nurturing and passive, but is willing to fight if necessary. Mikal has a merchant’s eye for loot, but only prefers to fight when there aren’t other options, or if he’s in a strategically superior position (being well armed and armored or having some other tactical advantage). He also likes to be at the front of the marching order, which is surprising to me because he is, at least tactically, more useful at a distance where he can be safe to offer healing and movement to the party, despite his predominantly melee combat powers. We’ll see how it plays out. I still haven’t nailed Fips’ personality, since she’s fairly quiet (yes, I know, she’s my own character, but I’m not sure how she fits in the party dynamic yet). The dragon, I’ve decided, is rather catlike– it will put up with the party, even find them amusing at times, but won’t really act on its orders. Since it likes Mikal, though, it will try and keep him safe– but it’s more like a child protecting her favorite stuffed toy than like a pet defending its master. Alain hasn’t been in the party quite long enough for me to see how he fits in the party dynamic.

The Ran is not an actual party member, as he plans on leaving as soon as they escape the pit so he can return to his life and his job. He’ll probably become a recurring NPC though. Yes, folks, The RAAAAAN will be back! _

Soothe the Savage Beast

This was my first campaign and my first session as a DM outside of the mini-adventure I ran with my brother.

I had spent about two hours planning the campaigns and another three and a half starting some plot threads to keep the story going, presumably no matter which way the party chose to go. I never expected them to take my adventure this route…

The campaign opened with three of the four party members locked in a jail cell. T’Chak, D’Jee and Mikal. I gave them a little time to get their bearings, and threw my fourth character, Fips, into the cell with them. They overheard the guards talking about ‘her’ wanting them brought together at Lord Nibeney’s behest. They don’t know why the sorcerer king was interested in them, and didn’t ask. I suspect they don’t care because I doubt any of the party wants to stay under his scrutiny long enough to find out.

A high-ranking templar named Min-Suu offered them the opportunity to fight in the arena to survive and earn their freedom. The party, seeing little other choice agreed. What none of them realized was that the Nibenese arena contains a treacherous labirynth beneath the entrance, which prisoners are periodically let loose into to try and escape to reach the pit, fight the champion, and earn their freedom.

The first thing they encountered was the maze of the labyrinth itself, and fortunately they picked the right direction (they went left first instead of right), so they didn’t have to double back later. Their first encounter was against three burning devils and one pain devil. I thought I had balanced the encounter when I designed it, but apparently the pain devil waaay out-classed the party and had to be (unsuccessfully, really) scaled back. They did destroy the devils and moved on. Further through tbe maze, they encountered four stormclaw scorpions, which they fought very well against, despite being immobilized and grabbed at points. As they followed the footprints of former prisoners, they successfully found the ladder down to the next level and were for some reason stunned to realize they hadn’t cleared the dungeon yet. (A two-encounter dungeon? Yeah, right!)

Anyway, I was really nervous as we took a break to eat. After that unbalanced devil encounter and the scorpions, the party had been forced to take an extended rest. I knew their next encounter was going to be brutal, too. The party marched on, soon finding themselves nose to nose with a dragon. Admittedly, a red dragon wyrmling, but a dragon nonetheless. The party attacked, and slowly they whittled its hit points down well past bloodied. Then Mikal, played by Wes tried to intimidate it, and failed. It was such an amusing failure (he rolled 7 total) that I had the dragon try and intimidate him back. It failed so hard it almost looked cute (rolling a 1 and only getting a +2 bonus). So, before Fips could attack it again, Wes said offhandedly, “Well, if we can’t intimidate it, maybe we can use diplomacy.” It had -2 to it’s will thanks to an attack of Mikal’s that lowered the defence and Mikal invoked words of friendship. After all the bonuses, he rolled a total of 23 against the dragon to try and get it to stop fighting.

For level 1 characters, a “hard” Difficulty Class is 19 for a skill challenge. With a 17 (-2, so 15) will and the Hard DC in mind, he still calmed it down. I was laughing my ass off at the fact that they succeeded, just because of how awesome and off the wall it was! I made it coo, since as a baby dragon, I figured it would rather play nice with the party rather than attack and risk dying. Plus: awwww, isn’t it cute? They then decided they should try and tame it. And they did! T’Chak, our ranger, rolled well enough even without Fips’ help (though she did sucessfully ‘aid another’ for his nature check) to beat the hard difficulty that would allow him to successfully ‘handle’ the dragon. So they’ve tamed it. I was practically rolling on the floor laughing!

I had planned they fight and kill the dragon and leave the game session feeling badass for fighting the damned thing and winning. I never expected them to tame it!

I guess that’s the first lesson for all DM’s: you can never plan for every choice the players will make; they will always surprise you.

Even though we had planned on picking this campaign up the week after next, we’ve decided to pick up next week. They all want to know what’s going to happen with the dragon. I already explain that I’ll be making them make diplomacy checks with it every short rest until I’m satisfied it likes them or it tries to kill them, and both diplomacy AND nature checks to try and further tame it. Basically, it’s an elaborate skill challenge for them. A difficult but incredibly rewarding one if they succeed and disatrous one if they fail. Either way, looks like a lot of fun!

I have to come up with a bunch of details about the dragon now, which is both annoying and exciting. Red dragons are ‘always chaotic evil’ in my old Third Edition books, and I reckon that’s not going to change even in my Fourth Edition campaign, but chaotic evil has so many personality types with it… Will it be selfish, arrogent, or just willfully destructive? Is it going to be nice enough or an absolute monster? I can’t say, yet.

So, yeah. My first session of my first campaign… It was AWESOME! I’m so happy.


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