Skip to content

Dark Sun: Sands of Blood, Part 3

Continuing the story of an old 3E Dark Sun game. Our heroes (?):

  • Krik, a thri-kreen fighter-in-training, alone and hunting for a new clutch
  • Basal, a female half-elven earth priestess, wastelander healer
  • Karick Reshaw, a male human psion (kineticist), wanderer and guide
  • Aral Karef, a male human psion (kineticist), scion of the merchant houses
  • Kanyth, a male human bard, free-spirited story teller

Read more…

Kingmaker: Blood for Blood, Session 5, Part 3

Baron Jaroslav Kruskel’s army had retreated to the border fort, while the rulers of Caerelia and their forces repaired to the nearby town of Oleg’s Gate. In the evening, the PCs discussed what to do next. Their soldiers were in better shape than the opposition’s, overall, and could probably take the fort without too much trouble. But that would be boring! Instead, Satampra the swashbuckler wanted to teleport into the command center of the fort and defeat the Baron personally while the armies battled outside. It sounded so cinematic, that the other players were all for it! They hammered out the details and waited until morning.

With the sunrise, the Caerelians marched north to the fort. Iofur the druid used wildshape to sneak into the gatehouse, where he summoned several large beasties to eat the guards while he lowered the drawbridge. That was the signal! The Emperor’s Guard and the light cavalry rushed into the breach, while Remesio the cleric used teleport to move himself, Satampra, and Orseen the warpriest into the fort commander’s chambers. There they assumed they would find Baron Kruskel, and they were correct!

Now, I had created the Baron as a middle-aged aristocrat 4/cavalier 4. He wasn’t much of a physical threat, unless mounted. Having thought that the players might try for an assassination and given his high station, I had already created some support to accompany him, a fighter 7 and a cleric of Abadar 7. When the PCs teleported in, they found Baron Jaroslav and his entourage directly outside the chamber, standing on the parapet and preparing to join the battle below.

Satampra immediately rushed forward to get in a sneak attack/vital strike combo on the Baron, but in true Satampra fashion, he flubbed his roll and missed. Then the cleric of Abadar dropped an order’s wrath on the Emperor’s head, and he flubbed his save as well, taking some moderate damage and getting dazed in the process! Remesio had been planning to flame strike the group of enemies, but hesitated because of the swashbuckler’s presence. “Do it,” urged Drew, “When do I ever fail a Reflex save?” When avoiding a spell cast by a party member, that’s when! 😀

After eating the full might of Remesio’s flame strike, Satampra was in trouble, hit point-wise. He was also blocking the doorway, preventing Orseen from getting into melee, so the warpriest created a spiritual weapon to stab in his stead. Then it was Kruskel’s bodyguard’s turn, and he scored a nice juicy critical hit against the swashbuckler! Man, my dice were smoking that evening! The only reason why Satampra was still upright at that point was that he had been blessed with a stoneskin before the battle.

Some healing magic was distributed by both parties, and then the Baron and his champion moved away from the door, with the bodyguard blocking the path to his boss and readying a vital strike against anyone that approached. When Satampra was finally able to act again, he advanced right into that readied attack and ate another serious wound. Then the priest of Abadar summoned a spiritual weapon of his own, which also smacked the Emperor. It was a pretty crummy day for the swashbuckler, all in all, and his vision of storming in and overwhelming the Baron was now in tatters.

After considering the state of affairs and how little progress they had made towards killing Jaroslav, Remesio made a command decision to bug out and dimension hopped all three PCs down to the mass combat in the courtyard below.

Charge of the Light Brigade

After Iofur lowered the drawbridge, the light cavalry was the first through the gate, where they crashed into the much more elite Rostland heavy horse. But the cavaliers were operating without the Baron’s leadership (as he was tied up in the personal-scale battle), and already down on numbers from the previous day’s battle. With the demoralization factor of losing the gatehouse added to that, they could not withstand the charge, and were routed!

The Emperor’s Guard weathered a good deal of arrows and stones in the meantime as they rushed the fort’s entrance. But once they were inside the walls, the peasants broke, and the House Kruskel army was cut down as Remesio and the others entered the fray. Caerelia was victorious! And without suffering any major losses, for once.

Baron Kruskel was taken hostage, along with the surviving knights, so that they could be ransomed back to their families at a later date. The Baron’s priest and bodyguard, on the other hand, were swiftly executed by the Emperor for giving him such a hard time. The Emperor’s Guard stayed at the fort to keep watch, while the Grand Magus Order returned to fortify Oleg’s Gate. The rulers took their prisoners and some soldiers to guard them, and headed back to their capital. They were weary but genuinely hopeful for the first time in weeks, for they had struck an unequivocal and serious blow against their much bigger neighbor!

Next: magic carpet ride!

Dark Sun: Sands of Blood, Part 2

Continuing the story of an old 3E Dark Sun game. Our heroes (?):

  • Krik, a thri-kreen fighter-in-training, alone and hunting for a new clutch
  • Basal, a female half-elven earth priestess, wastelander healer
  • Karick Reshaw, a male human psion (kineticist), wanderer and guide
  • Aral Karef, a male human psion (kineticist), scion of the merchant houses
  • Kanyth, a male human bard, free-spirited story teller

Read more…

Kingmaker: Blood for Blood, Session 5, Part 2

Caerelia invaded once again! An army from Brevoy had smashed the fort at Caerelia’s northern border and bypassed the well-defended town of Oleg’s Gate for squishier targets. The Brevoy vanguard consisted of:

  • The Crown Knights of Rostland, a Medium army of human cavalier 5’s with mounts, masterwork arms and armor, and good morale; led by Baron Jaroslav Kruskel; ACR 4
  • House Kruskel’s private army, a Large army of human fighter 5’s with ranged weapons and 2 siege engines; ACR 6
  • A peasant levy, a Colossal army of human commoner 1’s with ranged weapons and poor morale; ACR 7

Emperor Satampra decided to pull his army from behind the walls and confront Baron Kruskel’s forces in the open before they could cause more damage! At his command he had:

  • The Emperor’s Guard, a Huge army of human fighter 5’s with ranged weapons; led by Emperor Satampra himself; ACR 8
  • The Caerelian Immortals, a Colossal army of human fighter 1’s with 2 siege engines; ACR 8
  • The allied Nomen Centaurs, a Large army of centaurs with ranged weapons; ACR 5
  • The Nomen Heights cavalry, a Medium army of human warrior 1’s with mounts; ACR 1
  • High Priest Remesio; ACR 3
  • Keeper of the Grove Iofur; ACR 3
  • Orseen; ACR 3

So, obvious mismatch, right? The players’ army had been recruited for the purpose of sacking Fort Drelev – hence the siege engines – and the players really went for broke. I had prepared the initial Brevoy force ahead of time, and only realized once the invasion started that they would probably get curb-stomped by the PCs’ units. Baron Kruskel had absolutely no chance of taking Oleg’s Gate (Defense +16) when it was guarded by real soldiers, and so I had him avoid the town in the hopes that he could draw the Caerelians out into the open. The strategy worked, but even so the… Brevoy-an? Brevic? Brevoyian? troops were badly outclassed.

But! There’s a reason we play the game and roll the dice! 😀 Baron Kruskel was an accomplished veteran, and he had not only expected the Caerelians to come after him, he had anticipated many of their tactics. Or that was the story that the dice told, anyway, because as the two armies clashed, the players couldn’t manage any double-digit rolls on the d20, and I was rolling in the high teens for the bulk of the battle!

Back to the Front

The Immortals took heavy losses right away from arrow volleys on their approach, while the Rostland cavaliers smashed into the Nomen centaurs and completely eliminated them as a fighting force! That was the last of the Nomen’s strength, as it had been mere months since their numbers were devastated from a battle with the cyclopean lich Vordekai. The centaurs had responded faithfully to Caerelia’s request for aid in the war, and they had now paid dearly for it. Soon after, the Immortals’ name proved to be ironic, as House Kruskel’s soldiers killed them by the dozens until they fled the field.

But despite the early successes, the numbers were not on the Baron’s side. He called for the peasants to retreat, as they were close to routing themselves. They escaped 1 hp away from having to save vs. rout, a roll that they probably would not have passed. Then his knights finally started to fall to the might of the enemy spellcasters, and he ordered them and his remaining foot soldiers to fall back as well. The battle was over, and the bodies of men and horses and centaurs littered the plain. The Caerelians had won, though it was a Pyrrhic victory; the centaurs were shattered, the Immortals – the bulk of their army – had routed, and the invaders, while bloodied, still had their units intact.

Next: regroup and revenge!

Dark Sun: Sands of Blood, Part 1

When 3rd edition D&D was published, I had been out of RPGs for a few years and out of playing D&D for even longer. The changes sounded great and I was excited to play, but I was on the other side of the country from my old gaming buddies. So I posted some online ads and found my way into a new group that was looking for players.

I’ve almost always wanted to DM, even when I was a little kid playing with my older brother and his friends. I just had no idea how to do it! Through grade school, middle school, high school, and college, I tried and failed again and again, aside from one campaign in high school. That one successful game (in that it lasted more than a session or two) happened to be set on Athas, the world of Dark Sun.

With the advent 3rd edition D&D and the publishing of the (first and not so great) 3e psionics book, I thought Dark Sun could be much better realized than it had been in AD&D, and whipped up my own “keep it simple” conversion. When the new group’s first campaign ended, I offered to run a Dark Sun game using my rules. It was not a success – we started at 3rd level and didn’t make it past 5th – but it did spawn my first attempt at a “story hour” of our sessions, which I posted over at EN World. That wasn’t a success, either! It took me 6 weeks to transcribe the events of just the first session, and that level of effort was simply not sustainable. As such, there is no end to this story, but having re-read it, I think it’s pretty good regardless.

So read on, if you dare, for an incomplete tale from the world of Athas (circa 3rd edition D&D): Read more…

Kingmaker: Blood for Blood, Session 5, Part 1

Three companies of warrior mages had separately moved into the cities of Stagfell, Salar’s Rest, and Shrike’s Crossing, led by Orseen the warpriest, Warden Kesten Garess, and Marshall Pelagia Medyved. Publicly, they were there to guard the urban centers against possible attack from Fort Drelev. In reality, their targets were some of Caerelia’s wealthiest citizens: the cabal that commanded the Thieves’ Guild. In Stagfell, Remesio the cleric had prepared three prayers of sending, ready to give the orders in the dead of night so that the companies could strike near-simultaneously.

Given that the Thieves’ Guild had been welcomed into the kingdom since its founding, what were the chances that the leaders of the guild were not forewarned of what was about to happen? I had the players make a Loyalty check (the kingdom’s lowest bonus, and one that could potentially fail) with a -10 penalty to see if they could maintain operational secrecy. And they made the check! Miraculously, no one outside the council (and even one particular person within the council) had no idea what was about to happen.

The prayers were made, the go-aheads were received. The Grand Magus Order (an army of magus 3’s) stormed several estates that night and rounded up all of the guild heads. Those that survived capture were thrown in the deepest dungeons available. In the weeks to come, guild assets would be seized by the kingdom as the network of thieves, fences, and forgers would be undone. Caerelia was no longer open for business for organized crime.

Royal Enforcer Ianomara, who had been the guild’s representative on the council, was less than pleased by her bosses being arrested and killed in the night. But the deed was already done, and she was offered a rather sweet severance package of 3 BP from the treasury… as long as she agreed to leave the kingdom and not return. She reluctantly took the bribe – what other choice did she have, at that point – and fulfilled her part of the agreement… for the time being. She was replaced in her role by Athammaeus, a large and imposing executioner from a long line of esteemed Brevoy executioners, who had been Ianomara’s deputy for many years.*

* Back in the early days of the kingdom, I bid the players to come up with characters to populate the government, that could serve as replacement PCs should their current character die. Athammaeus was one of Drew’s creations from that time.

Of course, Ianomara was not the only one to object to the arrests of some of Caerelia’s most powerful “merchants.” Family, friends, and business associates showed up at the capital to complain of the unfair slanders, wrongful deaths, and loss of business, and begged for the prisoners’ release, recompense for those slain, and/or made threats. Emperor Satampra pawned these meetings off on Athammeus, who would address each group with his executioner’s axe in view. The new Enforcer explained to the concerned parties that there was a new sheriff in town and that previous lawbreaking, or overlooking of lawbreaking, would not be tolerated. He was going to restore law and order, drain the swamp, make Caerelia great again, etc., and if they didn’t like it, they could join the condemned. The aggrieved parties left empty-handed, although I raised Unrest by 2 to represent the, um, unrest caused by the arrests.

Confounded Expectations

House Medyved was officially informed that Caerelia had severed its ties with the Thieves’ Guild, and with that, the rebellion against House Surtova was officially born. Caerlia, Restov, House Orlovsky, and House Medyved would together face the remaining might of Brevoy in the hopes of taking the Dragonscale Throne!

But there was still the impending attack from Brevoy to contend with! Satampra the swashbuckler, Remesio, Orseen, and Iofur the druid, along with the Grand Magus Order, all rode hard for Oleg’s Gate after it appeared that the guild had been successfully decapitated. Shortly after they arrived, word reached them that the fort on the border, located just one hex northwest of town, had fallen, and the army guarding it (Oleg’s Troubadours, a medium army of human warrior 1’s) had been destroyed.

The mood was tense in the heavily fortified city all through the night and into the morning, as everyone waited for the enemy to arrive at the walls. But the invaders instead bypassed Oleg’s Gate and were headed south! It appeared they had no intention of trying to fight their way past both the city’s formidable defenses (+16), and were headed for softer targets. Reluctantly, Satampra gave the order to move out. The armies of Caerelia would meet the Brevoy forces on the Rostland fields, and gods willing, would send them packing!

Next: the battle of Rostlandor fields!

Role Playing for Kindergarteners

Not Age Appropriate!

When I started this blog, I thought I might have more to say about being a father (hence the name). But as it turned out, I feel a little weird talking about that aspect of our lives, and anyway there hasn’t been a lot to talk about. It’s a lot of work, it’s exhausting, it’s amazingly rewarding. There hasn’t been much fatherhood/gaming intersection, either. My daughter is young – she’s starting kindergarten in the fall – but even so she hasn’t shown a lot of interest in games to date. She likes to make up her own games with her own rules, and she’s constantly coming up with her own stories. She can spin these imaginative tales that go on and on and on and on, and will write the parts for other people to play in them (she’s not so great at accepting other people’s wishes at this stage, but that’s normal for her age). A budding railroad GM, perhaps. 😉 Our attitude has been to encourage her where she shows interest and don’t push her (unless we have to) where she doesn’t, and she just hasn’t shown much interest in “Daddy’s games” so far.

That may be changing? Who knows. I took her to the local comics/gaming shop this past Free RPG Day. I was mainly there to grab the Torg Eternity intro scenario (now downloadable for free here), and picked up a few other items that looked interesting as well. Complete tangent: one of them, the 13th Age offering, I took because I’ve long been curious about the system, although it ended up just being an adventure with no rules. So, not so great at bringing new people to the game, I would say. It came bundled with a “TimeWatch” scenario, which is apparently a GUMSHOE-based game that I had never heard of before (also no rules included, so not terribly useful to me either). But I recognized the TimeWatch author’s name from somewhere… Eventually I remembered that it was the real life name of Piratecat, a poster/moderator at the EN World forums, where I had spent much of my online gaming discussion time in the 2000’s. Piratecat had DM’d this long-running D&D campaign that had started in 2nd edition and got moved over to 3rd edition when those rules came out, and it was incredible. I was blown away by his session writeups, and by his amazing players. His game was practically everything I had ever wanted from tabletop role-playing, and had rarely experienced, and even then only as a player. If you like my Kingmaker writeups here, if you think our campaign sounds like a good one, you have Kevin “Piratecat” Kulp to thank for that, because he and his group unknowingly inspired me to be a much better GM. So, maybe check out TimeWatch. It’s written by a great DM.

But I digress. After getting home, my daughter was really fascinated by the covers to the Torg and TimeWatch/13th Age booklets and wanted to know more about them. I explained that they were games where you chose a character and decided what that character said and did. We talked about it some more over a couple of days, and eventually she told me that she wanted to play (with absolutely no prompting from me)! She chose Torg, based on the cover.

There was no way she was going to understand how Torg’s rules work, not at her age and not with her lack of experience with games, so I figured I would just run it like an interactive story. I also simplified Torg’s complicated and mind-warping backstory into “New York City is being attacked by dinosaurs and lizard people.” I showed her the pregen character portraits and explained who each character was. She picked the “movie star”, my name for the “quasi-celebrity” pregen, and picked a name for her and her dog. She has a dog? She did now! I wish I could recall the names now… Then I ran her through the non-violent encounters in the scenario. When her character saw a triceratops attacking a woman in a car, she had the dog bark at the dino, distracting it enough for her to climb on its back and ride it around! Then the woman escaped from the car and said that her son was trapped in the nearby building, and begged the movie star to rescue him! The celebrity stood on the triceratops’ back, and thus was able to reach the kid at his window and pull him to safety. The mother sobbed as she embraced her boy and then thanked the star, and everyone cheered for her! The end.

She loved it! She had me tell her who all the other pregen characters were again, and said that she was going to play the paramedic next. Maybe when we do that, I can introduce her to dice-based conflict resolution. But first I’ll need to come up with a slightly different dinosaur scenario that would be appealing to an almost-kindergartner that loves stories.

I did start to wonder if there were more age-appropriate RPGs out there. I found a My Little Pony RPG that seemed to be aimed at young kids, and she does like those characters. So I hope to pick that up soon and play it with her, if she’s interested. The session writeups for that would probably be pretty funny… to me, anyway. Her humor might not translate so well outside of the family! 😉