Dark Heresy, Session 8: Damned Cities

And thus we found ourselves on a drenched shuttle platform at the spaceport of Sinophia Magna.

We spoke briefly with a clerk at the fairly abandoned starport and begged his services to take us to the Adeptus Arbite compound, which he agreed to by way of watercraft down a channel. I didn't like this one bit, but the ride was nice, despite the pouring rain. Then, ahead, we saw what appeared to be a destroyed crane boom across the channel, blocking a barge that was under attack from channel pirates.

We assumed this was one of the skirmishes between gangs and nobles we had heard about, and that was confirmed by Charon, our friend from the spaceport, who then cowered behind the console of our craft, as he was not combat trained.

We joined the fight on the side of the outnumbered guards of the noble house and were able to chase off the assailing marauders after a few short moments of exchanged gunfire and the taking of one of their boats. I will say now that firing upon these Imperials, be they criminals or not, made my heart heavy. We don't know the true reasons for these little wars on Sinophia, and it worried me to my soul that our shots were fired in vain. I've never thought of combat like this. Perhaps the constant feeling of fighting for our lives on Quaddis has left a bitter taste for the moment.

At any rate, we conducted ourselves onto the barge and confronted a commander of some sort who appeared with late reinforcements in the form of the Enforcers, what serves as the planet's PDF. Growing tired of their attitudes and hard questioning, Nico bade me reveal the Rosette and we revealed our work for the Holy Ordos. This only lightened their tone a little, but we were shown quick escort to meet with the Arbites.

Once at Haarlock's Folly (a significant name, if I say so myself), where the Arbiters have made their base on this world, we were met with a Junior Marshall, where we were met with another of our Interrogator's agents that was there to aid us, and then made our way to the latest crimescene, where a murder matching the others that have given the authorities a rise happened just short hours before.

One Bal Grey, mangled in his 4th floor hab, blood and gore spread to his door, which had been shut then battered in. The body ripped and bludgeoned, lay across the floor next to a mangled shotgun that had been recently fired. An ammo box lay nearby as well, with a spare bit of money, some shotgun shells, an Infantryman's Primer and a piece of cloth that held something jagged and small at one time, as the imprint was still noticeable in the material.

There was also a body lay out in the alley, possibly one of Bal's attackers, but who appeared dead a bit. This one had fresh shotgun blasts to the chest and abdomen and lots of old stitched up wounds. Later, when speaking with an agent of the Arbites, we would find this one to have been dead roughly three days, with some of its organs removed. Dark sorcery of the Ruinous Ones is at work, I am sure!

An exciting and dangerous part of our day came when we were investigating the scenes around Grey's hab, when I noticed a dark-clad figure atop an opposite hab building watching us work. I meant to rush over to question the person, but they took flight, prompting me to try to take a leg out from under them. My shot hit home, but they merely staggered and continued on.

A chase was initiated, with all of us after our mysterious voyeur, and though we caught up to him as he leapt upon a bike to make his escape, and many of our shots found home, a couple of well-timed grenades, one a hallucinogen, which made me feel as if I had died and was unable to act. The other, a flash-bang dropped by our mark, if I'd heard the story right, allowed for his escape.

We finished up our investigation at the hab and returned to the Folly to report to a Marshall Scarmen, whom I did not share all information with, as I had not ran it by my fellow Acolytes yet. I am not prone to deep thought, so what I feel might be important could be nothing, anyway, but I have a hunch.

I am worried about Nico, and our newest member. Both are very withdrawn. I don't even remember the new guy's name, honestly. I think that's a symptom of war. Don't get close to the new guy. He might be gone tomorrow. Nico, though...he's usually watching my back, and I fear the effects of the hallucinogen may have been too much for his older brain.

Cast of Characters
Rhia, Gunpoint (Hive World) Investigator (Arbiter 5) - Angela
Xantippa Thebe, Son of Nightmare (Void Born) ?? (Imperial Psyker 5) -  Paul
Nicodemus, Regulus (Imperial World) Scholar (Adept 5) - Taylor
Mohrdecai, Cadian (Fortress World) Veteran (Guardsman 5) - Me
??, (Feral World) Assassin (Assassin 5) - Sam

Jon didn't make it this session, and I hope he does return, though the last session he showed up at, we got next to no actual playing done, and just a lot of talking and horsing around. Our new arrival, Sam, seemed rightfully overwhelmed with making a Rank 5 Dark Heresy character, but she seemed excited to play 

Dark Heresy, Session 7: Damned Cities

With the dust settling around us, we made our way out of the mansion after claiming some spoils of war from the fallen. Though we hadn't destroyed the unnatural things plaguing the planet, whatever Nico did seemed to have done the trick of banishing it/them, at least for the time being. It still felt a hollow victory.

As we exited and regrouped, the question of how we would get off-planet lay heavy with us. Nico and Xantippa suggested we sell the guns and jewelry taken from the manor to fund our departure, and Rhia and I agreed that the sooner the better.

No sooner had we started to gather everything to leave, however, than our salvation came in the form of dropship. A crusty old clunker practically fell out of the sky and we were met with Inquisitor Karkalla's former Interrogator, come to collect us.

We'd never met the man, but he had the right credentials, and explained that the taint of the Haarlock's ran deeper than just those transgressions we discovered on Quaddis. He explained to us that Karkalla was also interested in the Haarlock family's involvement with a planet called Sinophia. We were briefed on a history of the planet and its current troubles: gruesome murders that have prompted unrest and small-scale wars amongst the nobles and street gangs of the capital, Sinophia Magna.

After a relatively short space flight, we alighted rather rockily on a rainsoaked port slab with noone there to greet us at all. Our Interrogator left one of his agents (Jon's Adept) with us to bolster our band and bade us farewell, lifting off back to the cruiser we arrived in and letting us handle things on the ground.

Cast of Characters
Rhia, Gunpoint (Hive World) Arbitrator (Arbitrator 5) - Angela
Xantippa Thebe, Son of Nightmare (Void Born) ?? (Imperial Psyker 5) -  Paul
Nicodemus, Regulus (Imperial World) Inditor (Adept 4) -Taylor (hasn't spent necessary xp to rank)
Mohrdecai, Cadian (Fortress World) Veteran (Guardsman 5) - Me
??, ?? ?? (Adept 5) - Jon

First, I'd like to apologize to David for this session. All of us were very jokey and the session derailed pretty hard despite David's best efforts to get the thing going. I think everyone was just weary after a week of work and were looking more toward unwinding than playing, so this session was pretty short.

This is exciting, though, as we actually got to advance into Damned Cities with the same characters as we had in Tattered Fates. The last time we played through, Taylor and I ended up duking it out at the 13th Hour so that we both might complete our heretical goals. I won, taking the mantle of the Widower for myself and basically wiping out a whole civilized planet.

Fun, yes, but a different kind of rewarding than actually completing the mission and moving on with the band of Acolytes to continue work for the Inquisition. 

30 Day Challenge, Days 21, 22, and 23 - The Skips

I skipped a few posts during the 30 Day Challenge, but thought I would make them up here, for completeness, to satisfy the curiosity of my readers, and because I find the Challenge's questions neat.

Day 21 - Favorite Dragon Color/Type

My favorite dragon is the Fang Dragon, originally debuting in the Forgotten Realms setting, if I'm not mistaken.

The fang is appealing to me because it wants to engage you in melee. While most dragons, at least in my mind, would rather send minions into hand-to-hand and play the range game with its attackers/its victims, the fang dragon is at its most deadly in close range.

The bite of a fang dragon drains Constitution, weakening the opponents it has in front of it, and making for an even quicker death of its foes. Judicious use of its sound imitation ability can facilitate up-close fights and its trip ability ensures that once the fang dragon has you in melee, it will be hard to get away. 

Not only all this, but don't forget that the fang dragon is still a true dragon, and as such still have frightful presence, high spell resistance, multiple attacks, insane ACs and spell-like abilities, as well as casting ability like a sorceror and damage reduction.

They might not be as smart as some other dragons, but ferocity more than makes up for it.

Day 22 - Favorite Monster Overall

This one is harder to do, since the Challenge asks you to list quite a few favorite monsters by category. Obviously, I feel like I can't use previous answers, though wouldn't one of them be the favorite overall?

Well, no.

I'm going to be interpretive a little with this one, and append "that I've used in a game." This makes the choice quite a lot easier, as there are two monsters that I fall back on time and again. The first, and would be winner is the zombie, but I'm not including it, as I haven't used it in a long time, and it seems like cheating to do so when their use has declined, and so I'm going with the lowly goblin.

Goblins are just fun. Creepy little craven psychopaths that, unchecked, will eventually overrun and corrupt any place they call home. Goblins, like any other humanoid, can fit quickly into any niche you need at the time, as they can be any class you would like. Need a spellcaster? A goblin shaman or pyromancer might fit the bill. A couple of goblin shadow dancers could quickly wear the party down by forcing use of resources, eventually routing even a somewhat prepared party.

They can be as cunning or as stupid as you would like, and are usually fun for your players to bash, as well.

Day 23 - Least Favorite Monster Overall

This one comes from not only my experiences with it as a DM, but also because of my opinion of the thing as a player. My choice for least favorite monster has to be the mimic. 

Perhaps my friends and I don't follow some unwritten plan somewhere, but no party we've ever been in that has encountered mimics has ever truly been that successful against the things. Sure, we eventually defeat them, but the seemingly insane amount of hit points coupled with their annoying adhesive abilities usually sees the party struggling by the end of the fight. 

We never have solvents of any kind to break free and our characters can never seem to roll well at all in any aspect of a fight with these monsters, so I'm just not a fan. Nothing about them are fun to me.

30 Day Challenge, Day 30 - Best DM I've Had

So, we've finally made it to the end, and I actually did a lot better than I had anticipated, with just a couple of misses somewhere there in the middle. This has really made me realize that I do like writing about gaming, even if I don't have much to say, and I'll probably be posting with more regularity, at least in the near future. A possible second job may cut into that time a little, but maybe more on that later.

Anyway, on to the meat of this post...by far the easiest one of the whole month. The best DM I've ever had, without question, is my friend Paul. I've been playing in his games since I got into the rpg hobby and he has been an invaluable sounding board for my own campaigns and designs over the years.

Even though I originally went with Vampire for the first game I ever GM'd, Paul was pushing me into the GM role, saying he thought I would be good at it. I think any time someone has agreed with him that I am a good GM is simply praise on Paul, because the core of my style is practically an emulation of the style Paul had back when I started playing under him.

Paul is a gracious DM, always willing to listen to his players when they have alternate features for their characters or differing views on rules or rulings in situations, but is never afraid to lay the DM hammer down when he feels the ruling was justified and the game needs to move on.

His games are engaging and entertaining (he ran the Arcane College game I posted about for the longest), and I have never felt truly dissatisfied with any of his campaigns when they ended.

If there was an award for best DM, I would certainly nominate Paul.


The Defenders, Vol. 2, Issue 3 - They Took My Toy(man)!

The group blundered about the city in search of...something. Perhaps going a'hero-ing, but turned up empty handed in the end, retiring to their rooms, where Beast found a small dark-skinned halfling sitting cross-legged on his bed. Magneto was also there, and after the rest of the team had been called into Beast's chamber, he presented the group with a mock-up of the component, which they had sent him the blueprints of after Toyman copied them for the group.

Though Magnus' component followed the printed plans, his copy was made from steel, and he noted that a metallurgist of more skill than himself would have been required to construct the component pieces, and he wasn't sure what metals would be used in the final product. He did note that he felt an inner sphere on the component would twist freely within, meaning a powerful magnetic force would also likely be used.

Taking this newly gained knowledge, our heroes attempted to make another appointment with House Cannith to meet with Winslow Schott, the Toyman, but he was not on Cannith grounds. The receptionist, remembering them from their earlier meeting with the artificer, recommended they visit his small, personal business and gave them the address.

Upon arriving, they found Schott's Toys and Wonderments to be eerily empty in the storefront. They called out, heard nothing, then ventured to the back, where they found the obvious signs of a struggle. Metal shards and blood splattered and scattered throughout.

Exodus robbed the Toyman's lock box while Beast and Jean searched the room where the apparent attack had taken place. The back door had obviously been smashed in, and on the outer back wall of the shop, they found an odd etching that resembled a crane or peacock. Questioning of the neighbors also led to no leads as to what had transpired or the whereabouts of Schott.

Beast had caught a faint trail of the Toyman and his presumed assailants, but Bennet pushed for certainty and some amount of time was spent finding and using a scroll of Scry. This magic use was fortuitous, as Bennet saw the Toyman, beaten and bloodied, with other figures around him - the mercenary assassin Deathstrike and some of her Reavers, as well as the Valenar noble, Pierce, known as The White King of Hellfire. The Toyman's abductors spoke briefly of the Tinkerer and needing Schott for 'his grand design'.

The party then moved into action, Beast taking the lead, as he followed a weak trail through the city streets of Fairhaven, to Chalice Center, the transportation hubof the city, where they floated up/climbed the airship docking tower, much to the delight of the wealthy nobles in the VIP lounge awaiting their flights.

A short investigation and verbal confrontation with the security posted here led them out onto a docking pier where a ship was moored that bore that same crane-like emblem on the prow. They told the security that they feared a kidnapped man was aboard and security escorted them onto the ship, where they began a search belowdecks. Jean had been scanning for harmful intent during their search and pinged above them, so they rushed to the main deck to find Pierce with Lady Deathstrike and some of her Reavers present.

Pierce demanded the departure of the heroes or face a fight, at which point the security departed, wanting no part in sparking any kind of Aundairian/Valenar conflict, since the airship was technically Valenar soil. The PCs were under no such obligation, however, and quickly engaged with the Reavers, finding out where the metal shards were from when a member of the mercenary team began flinging them from his own body!

The battle was quick, and saw the three most deadly enemy combatants - Pierce, Lady Deathstrke, and Skullcrusher - flee into chambers behind the wheel. Beast gave chase in a running battle with Skullcrusher, but stopped in his tracks when he saw a former ally, a young student of Xavier's named Warlock, physically melded with the airship.

The young hero initiated "Expulsion Protocol' and Beast was levitated into the air before the ship vanished, seemingly teleported from the area. The heroes, not having been touching the airship at the time, remained above the streets of Fairhaven, much to Beast's chagrin, since he was unable to fly, and fell, smacking hard against the airship tower, but holding on and climbing up to the top to meet with his companions, who both had been levitating.

The group began a frantic search of the interior of the tower, but had yet to find a trace of Schott.

Next issue, the heroes come to their Senses. And...new team members emerge (maybe)!

Cast of Characters
Jean Grey, Elan Psion 4|Wilder 4  - Angela
Bennet du Paris (Exodus), Human Psion 4|Spellthief 4 -Taylor
Henry (Beast), Artificer 4|Anthropomorphic Ape 2/Monk 2 - Paul

Bonus Feature: Running A Superhero Campaign Using D&D
This game is challenging to DM, because even though I have a rough draft of where I think the logical course of the plot is, my notes are just bullet-pointed and the players shape the story. Only two things (I'm not telling which) in the third session was "scripted", and one was written entirely differently than it turned out to be, so I don't even know if you can say it was scripted to begin with.

This player-driven campaign, coupled with unexpected tussles and random night-time hero scenes has meant that I have to come up with stats I otherwise wouldn't have. The fight with the Reavers, for example, was certainly not something I had anticipated this early in the campaign, so what do you do in a time like this?

First, don't have the heavy-hitters stick around. They have stuff to do and goals to achieve, and it really pisses off your PCs when their enemies get away, and they'll be itching for the fight later on where they get to wreck faces. And be sure that fight does come down the road. Especially in a game like mine, which is decidedly D&D, and a group like mine, who are hard to convince to back down from fights, frustration can build fast when they can't engage (and beat) enemies they've seen before. Recurring villains is more a trope of comics than it is D&D, and you have to find that balance.

Part of the problem with the "Name" baddies is they might mop the floor with your PCs, and that wouldn't tell a good story. The flip side to this is, I simply didn't have stats for them. I have rough ideas, of course, because I will stat them, eventually, so I could make them take some pot shots, but otherwise, I just have a blank slate with them.

Second, break the fight up, so that there still are combatants for the PCs to engage. This reduces tension that might build between the DM and players when they might otherwise be feeling like their ability to hero hard is constantly being deflected by the escape of bad guys, and gives a little purpose and release for the heroes, even if it doesn't really advance the plot much.. Even if you haven't planned for something, it's ok to wing this, or even to open up a monster tome and finish out the fight, but don't bog the game or your prep time down with eventualities like this.

The Reavers that the team actually engaged were just reskinned Warforged with a couple of light modifications. I wanted the one dude to shoot pieces of his metal body, so I didn't change anything on the stat sheet. I used his crossbow stats and said he was flinging bits of robotflesh at the party. I've learned over the years that KISS is the best method when running something on the fly. Don't fall into Snowflake Syndrome if you can avoid it. A cool 5-second description of something can be worth a lot more than 30-60 minutes of prep time.

30 Day Challenge, Day 29 - What Is The Number I Always Seem To Roll On A D20?

'One under what I need at any given time' seems most accurate sometimes, but - and I don't know if this points to my d20 being manufactured a certain way or what - I actually see a lot of 11s from my die.

I didn't purposefully buy a die that was weighted or cast to roll certain numbers, and believe me, it does seem to be perfectly randomized! That said, I might actually put the percentage of 11s rolled at 5.3, rather than the flat 5 that the d20 assumes, which reduces the percentage of all other numbers, in turn.


30 Day Challenge, Day 28 - A Character I Will Never Play Ever Again

Though I've stated before that roguish characters are my favorite character type, and I prefer the 'face' type scoundrel, if we want to get more specific, I will likely never again play a bard, especially one made specifically for social interaction (assuming there even is a good combat build for the bard, I dunno).

The last one I played, in Angela's Age of Worms, was the last person killed in a near-TPK when he was trying to save another party member. The one before that was ripped to shreds by dinosaurs when trusting another PC's lead in the Savage Tide adventure path, and the one before that took a critical to his head in an Eberron war-time campaign just short moments after removing his helmet (which would have saved his life).

Each of these characters thrived in their element, but couldn't stand up to even moderate combat challenges. I do suppose that the class isn't designed for that role, but I can't help but think that I just have terrible luck playing bards.

I've sworn off them, at any rate. For the foreseeable future, at least.


30 Day Challenge, Day 27 - A Character I Want To Play In The Future

This one is tough. I know that, for the most part, my game group will deviate very little from D&D 3.x/Pathfinder, so it makes more sense for me to describe a character for that type of game. However, I would really like to play something other than d20 or Dark Heresy eventually, so I have ideas for other things, as well.

In D&D or Pathfinder, I think I'd like to play a religious extremist. The deity followed and the class and race of the character are secondary concerns (though I think a lay person might be more fun than a cleric or paladin), as long as there is a level of fanaticism that makes everyone around the character a little uncomfortable. Moral transgressions like blood sacrifice and/or legal transgressions like defamation of other faith's shrines, or even excessive theft if the character followed the God of Rogues, would play into the character, as well.

I've not really played a religious zealot in a game, and I think it would be fun.

On the other hand, with a game other than D&D/Pathfinder, my style of character would be a bit different. If I could have things my way, and someone ever decided to run a Mage or Vampire game, I would like to play an ex-Irish Mob leg breaker who was either suddenly Awakened or Embraced by the Tremere clan.

In a Mage chronicle, I have the idea that he would be a Mastigos and member of the Guardians of the Veil. An honorable, no-nonsense tough who has a job to do in his capacity with the Guardians, who still goes about things the way he did in his Sleeper life - hit it first, and if that doesn't work, then bring out the tools.

In a Vampire chronicle, assuming The Masquerade, since my group has played that the most, you have similar lines. For whatever reason - perhaps needing to fill a niche that the Chantry needed at a particular time, perhaps the clan controls the Irish Mob or wants to - a Tremere Embraces this low-ranked soldier and for the most part he just goes about things like when he was alive, only now his hits are done by exsanguination and  he would rarely resort to magic, despite perhaps knowing quite a few Paths and Rituals.

Inspiration for this character came after watching Ray Stevenson's excellent portrayal of Danny Greene in Kill the Irishman.


30 Day Challenge, Day 26 - Favorite Nonmagical Item

If the sheer number of characters I have played throughout various systems and games that have owned this item is any indication, my favorite nonmagical piece of kit would have to be the grappling hook.

Though sometimes weighty and/or bulky, the grappling hook is an invaluable piece of gear for it's usually light price tag. Not only can it be utilized in the primary functions it is designed for, such as pulling ships in for boarding or hooking parapets to climb towers, but the grappling hook can also be used as an anchor if it can catch a reef or tree (for airships, for instance), as the pulley mechanism for a harness if the ropes are strung correctly, as a hunting/fishing tool, to help wrangle monsters (especially those that fly), and as an improvised weapon.

The grappling hook is the type of item that rewards cleverness and ingenuity, as it only has as many uses as one can think up.

Plus, it just seems a natural fit for my usual character type - the Rogue.


The Defenders Vol. 2, Issue 2 - French Dip

When we last left off, Bennet and his gathered band were in a safehouse of the Knight Wing, who was eager to hear news of what they knew of what was going on, both with the attack by the Religon of Crime cultists with Abra Kadabra and Abner Cadaver, and with the disappearances of The League, Xavier, etc.. Grayson offered them food and a place to rest before they decided where to go after that, and when they had finished resting, came out in a costume more reminiscent of his mentor's, explaining that he would take up the mantle of The Bat, as the Dark Knight.
The Joker by Michael Turner

As they spoke, however, The Jester (Joker) appeared, teasing the Knight Wing about his ally's (and adopted father's) disappearance, stating it was "quite a puzzle" what had happened to the Bat, then casually strolling out and letting the heroes deal with some of his Killer Krewe. The battle was began awkwardly, as Kurt made mention of flanking the Krewe, but disappeared entirely when he teleported (David was unable to make this session, and so his teleport went haywire, more on that later!).

The Jester's clowns were tough, but fell eventually to the heroes. Their Last Laugh bombs were taken and the heroes decided to split up, first taking the Krewe members to jail, then wanting to check out the store front that Abner had smashed and grabbed from (a pawn shop, as the PCs had discovered). The band had taken the shop's ledger and doing a quick inventory of names and items, found the item "component" sold by "W. P. Schott", who they deduced was the Toyman.

After interrogating the owner of the pawn shop, a low-level organized crime member named Anton Grammach, they then used their detective skills (and Henry's knowledge of House Cannith) to set course for Aundair, where they had decided they would meet with the Toyman. Once in Fairhaven, they made an appointment with Schott and discussed his role in the component that Abra and Abner had taken an interest in. He explained that it was a component, possibly a coupling, and he didn't know what it was for. He simply designed and assembled it, then followed instructions on its delivery to the pawn shop in Korth, explaining he was paid very well for the rather simple work.

After paying a fairly exorbitant rate, themselves, the Toyman reproduced a quick sketch of the schematics for them and bid them fairwell, saying he would be happy to do further business with them, if they were interested.

The team decided, after hearing tale of The Bat having surfaced in Fairhaven, to go a'hero-ing at night. Though they did not run across the League member, they did find another trained by him and wearing a suit that evoked the fear and mystery of the Bat. This hero was in hot pursuit of the Grey Goblin across the rooftops, and though warned away by the more experienced Bat-like hero, interfered, ultimately causing the Goblin's death when it looked as if he would get away, knocking him from his glider high above the streets of Fairhaven.

The heroes stripped the armor from the fallen Goblin and took what was left of his curious bombs as they discussed with this strange Bat who and what he was. The costumed figure turned out to be a hero who normally used the name Nightrunner, but who took the mantle given him by the Bat, as instructed, when he found out that the elder hero hadn't been seen in some time. Nightrunner explained that the Bat had done similarly throughout the continent.

Next issue, a king escapes check!

Cast of Characters
Jean Grey, Elan Psion 4|Wilder 4  - Angela
Bennet du Paris (Exodus), Human Psion 4|Spellthief 4 -Taylor
Henry (Beast), Artificer 4|Anthropomorphic Ape 2/Monk 2 - Paul

Bonus Feature: Special Powers
As I mentioned before, I give each character a special power in addition to all the class and race features they would normally get. Though Jean's has not been revealed yet, even to Angela, I thought we would take a look at what the others got.

Nightcrawler has an ability called Teleport Master. With this, David may choose to have Kurt take at least one person with him any time he uses a spell or ability that lets him teleport. With powers that already let him take passengers, he may take an additional one. Unwilling passengers get a Will save.

Beast, when in a laboratory/workshop setting, gets Intuitive Genius, which allows him to craft items as if he possessed the feats Exceptional Artisan, Extraordinary Artisan, and Legendary Artisan. In addition, any researches conducted by Henry take half as much time.

Exodus was granted a boon in his past by a former mentor and patron, whom he betrayed. This figurative Deal with the Devil granted him increased mental capacity and more power, but has forever strained his relationship with Baselines, as well as his former master.

The Defenders, Vol. 2, Issue 1 - Every Story Has Two Sides

This is the first session recap for my superhero game set in Eberron. Angela had just placed her game on indefinite hiatus and we had to choose something else, so I stepped up to run something, presenting the players with the list of all games I want to run. Only Taylor had no opinion on what, exactly, we played, and the other three skimmed the list and all had included the the following in their short list.

The Pitch

28. D&D 3.5 - The Defenders, vol. II This game will be a continuance of sorts for a former gaming buddy’s gestalt superhero campaign using the D&D 3.5 rules. The idea is, using a combination of classes, races, and equipment, you create as close as possible, a rendition of an established superhero – or villain (from any comic book source) – and take on and team up with other supers who want to shape the future of Eberron for good or ill!

That is all they had to go on, but Paul and I filled in some details and character creation got started almost immediately. While this was taking place, a little bit of backstory was doled out, as well as the list of restricted and prohibited characters as it stood at that time.

A Little Background
During the Last War, extraordinary circumstances including the mixture of various magics, advances in sciences, and the unpredictable effects of experimental weaponry, led to the advent of extraordinary beings upon the face of Eberron. 

These beings came from all races, all stations and walks of life - and in some cases - other worlds. Each is an individual, with their own motivations and goals, and each has the power to see those goals to fruition. These Extranormal beings, as they have come to be called, lent their power in whatever way they saw fit during the Last War, and like the nations that waged that war, left their machinations during it behind when Cyre was destroyed on The Day of Mourning.

Since, these beings have begun to paint a gray world in strokes of black and white. There are those who have arisen as great villains and those who have become heroes in their defense of the common people.

However, it seems that a great evil is afoot and those who could help the most have been removed from the playing field. The League (JLA) have disappeared. Individually or as a group, they have either removed themselves from the concerns of Khorvaire, or have been targeted and removed so that they may not interfere. Likewise, the Iron Lord (Iron Man) has been slain in the skies above Sharn. Many witnessed his death, but none saw his attacker.

Strange, a professor of magical theory in Sharn, gathered a group of Extranormals, which he dubbed The Defenders, to his side and set off in search of Kal, the Super Man. No one has heard from or seen these heroes in months.

Likewise, another team assembled to right the wrongs of the League's disappearance, calling themselves The Avengers. These heroes were more recently active than Strange's Defenders, but have also not been seen in weeks.

Our Story Begins... 
This is where we pick up, with many of the world's most heroic Extranormals missing or dead. Magnus (Magneto), having been targeted early on by a kill squad, then attacked again during a misunderstanding with The Avengers, has only his youthful students, The Acolytes, and a few of his Brotherhood left at his disposal. He entrusts his most promising Acolyte, Bennet du Paris (Exodus) to the mission to find his friend, Xavier, who was taken recently, presumably by the same people who tried to get Magnus and has already gotten to The League and the Iron Lord.

Exodus traveled to Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, really a training grounds for Extranormal youths, and recruited some of the students there to his mission. Kurt Wagner, an animal-like man appropriately calling himself Beast, and Jean Grey all agreed to Exodus' mission, then meet with Magnus, who tells them to seek the 'Scion of the Bat' in Karrnath.

During their preparations, we learn that Beast is connected to the more radical Cannith South faction, headed by Baron Merrix d'Cannith, when he asks the House for transportation to Karrnath. Perhaps for assuming he could meet with the Baron, himself, Henry and companions are granted only travel via House Orien coach.

Once in Karrnath, the group immediately travels around gathering information at the circus, which Kurt is familiar with, and where they know the Knight Wing (Robin I/Nightwing) performed before his adoption by Bruce ir'Wynarn (Bruce Wayne/Batman), whom they infer the identity of quick enough. This information leads them a slight ways out of the city of Korth, to ir'Wynarn Manor, where they are met by the manservant, Alfred, and told the the Master of the house has been on holiday for quite some time. When asked, Alfred directs them to the Low City district of Korth to find Master Grayson.

Once in Low City, the band encountered a rampaging group of cultists of the Religion of Crime, who are methodically looting and pillaging each building down a row. A small group of cultists engage the heroes, testing them for the first time, but are defeated despite serious injury sustained by Beast.

Perhaps by no coincidence, during the fight with the cultists, Abra Kadabra and Abner Cadaver show up. They, like the cultists, break into a building, but seemingly find what they are looking for. Abner comes back onto the street after entering the building he smashed into, holds his hand out to show Abra a small, shiny, metal sphere. Jean moves to engage the villains and Abra sends her hurling into a building from afar with but a wave of his hand. A warning is issued and our heroes stand aside as Abra and Abner make their escape, vanishing into thin air.

The Knight Wing shows up just minutes later, apologizing for being late, explaining that he was busy with some of the other cultists. He leads them to a safehouse he keeps in the district, then asks them to tell all they know.

Next issue, information is shared and a powerful hero (re)emerges!

Cast of Characters
Kurt Wagner (Nightcrawler), Lesser Tiefling Rogue 3|Totemist 3 - David
Jean Grey, Elan Psion 3|Wilder 3  - Angela
Bennet du Paris (Exodus), Human Psion 3|Spellthief 3 -Taylor
Henry d'Cannith/Beast, Artificer 3|Anthropomorphic Ape 2/Monk 1 - Paul

Another important point in this game is the Extranormal Check. It works like Bardic Knowledge, as a basic Int check, with Collector of Stories and other, similar abilities applied. This works only for Extranormals, and first tells their name, then abilities, known national headquarters (focusing the higher one gets), and aliases or real names, dependent on which is used.

I like this mechanic, but I don't have it fully codified, and it seems like I'm giving away A LOT of information. I originally wanted it used like the stereotypical "You're the Jackal, I presume?" lines that supers deliver to each other. One has to wonder how they know about each other before they meet?

Anyway, I'm probably going to be looking toward setting down strict mechanics for this check soon, and I'll post them as bonus content with a session recap.

30 Day Challenge, Day 25 - Favorite Magic Item

Here I am, enjoying a day off indoors, as my part of the world is gifted with freezing rain. I'm taking the opportunity to go ahead and do my Challenge post for the day, this one dealing with magic items.

My favorite magic item, an artifact really, comes from the brain of my friend Paul, and was retrieved by my character, Nastrond, during the Arcane College/Gnomad campaign (You can start here, if interested. Just click The Arcane College tag to continue on).

The item in question appears to be a simple leather bracer with brass fittings along the outer portion that house a small hourglass, like is used as egg timers. The hourglass can be removed and refilled, as needed, though ordinary sand just sits in the glass and has no special effect.

When filled with the Sands of Time, however, the bracer has a number of abilities, not all of which I think I discovered during the campaign. First off, at the most basic, the bracer could activate Haste, as the spell with a 10th level caster. In addition, the bracer could grant +10 to initiative to anyone within close range, and could be used to make someone reroll their last attack or save roll. Each use expended some of the Sands of Time within the hourglass.

The most powerful thing the bracer could do, however, is an ability much like a Time Stop spell, except with as long a duration as I was willing to spend charges from the Sands of Time.

Now, it's no mystery as to where the inspiration for this item came from. A certain Prince of Persia game had been out a while and was pretty popular amongst my friends at the time.

Paul can be very generous with interesting and powerful items that fit into the story of his campaigns, somehow, and this campaign was no different. I loved my "time gauntlet" as I called it, and abused it quite a lot when I had the charges to do so, but right before the campaign dissolved, Nastrond had learned that he had contracted a degenerative disease that was aging him quicker than usual. With the added push of learning he could fuel the gauntlet with his own life-force, this item became a real threat of character death at a time when I was probably going to become more reliant on it.

A New Campaign: Superheroes in Eberron

And so, with Angela unable to run a campaign now due to the time demand of her job, I presented The List (likely soon to be posted) to my players and they made their choice. Thus, we have picked up a game wherein the players use Dungeons & Dragons 3.x rules to, as closely as possible, create a gestalt character that resembles a hero from any superhero comic source.

In addition to the character build, I give a unique power to each character the rounds out and compliments the character chosen. All heroes, anti-heroes, villains, etc., are represented by gestalt characters and carry an additional "Extranormal" subtype. All characters not bearing the Extranormal subtype are granted the "Baseline" subtype, and may never have gestalt classes, barring extraordinary circumstances.

Character choice, as previously stated, can range the entire breadth of superhero comics, with a few exceptions. The founding members of the Justice League (Aquaman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Superman, and Wonderwoman) are disallowed to players, as are any character previously played in this or the original campaign (ruling out characters like Deadpool, Forge, Dr. Strange, Vision, Thor, and a few others). Also, any unique character that has previously died in campaign cannot be chosen. There are, of course, certain loopholes - there are hundreds of Green Lanterns, for instance, and only the Hal Jordan analog is disallowed, same for the Wally West Flash.

The campaign itself is the sequel to one ran by my friend Zack in the early to mid 2000s, wherein super-powered beings (by virtue of gestalt classes) had begun to manifest on the world of Eberron over the past few years. Suddenly, though, the greatest of these heroes had vanished, and Dr. Strange (played then by my friend, Chris G.) gathered a team he called The Defenders to get to the bottom of the disappearances. That was months (game time) ago, and those heroes are, perhaps, still on their quest, but another team has been assembled for similar reasons more recently.

The adventures of this new team will be presented in upcoming posts, as we've already had a few sessions, but for now, I'll introduce the team....

Cast of Characters
Kurt Wagner (Nightcrawler), Rogue 3|Totemist 3 - David
Jean Grey, Psion 4|Wilder 4  - Angela
Bennet du Paris (Exodus), Psion 4|Spellthief 4 -Taylor
Henry (Beast), Artificer 4|Anthropomorphic Ape 2/Monk 2 - Paul
Scarecrow [DC] - Jon (Tentative)
Ghost Rider - G2 (Tentative)
Shadowcat - Sam (Tentative)

As you can see, the team we started out with (the non-Tentatives) are very X-centric (ha!), and their story falls more into the vein of what I feel fits the X-Men vibe. It's interesting to note that only two characters don't fit the X-Men team theme, and I was excited when Jon said he wanted to play a DC character. Integrating the separate mythos of various comic book worlds with the world of Eberron and each other has been a challenge for me when trying to plot my story, and I'm eager to see how and why Jon puts the Scarecrow, a notorious adversary of The Bat, in the midst of a young group of heroes.


30 Day Challenge, Day 24 - Favorite Energy Type

And so, I failed my goal. I didn't get all 30 days in, as I went out of town over the weekend, and I honestly have no idea why I didn't post Thursday, perhaps I thought I had, then didn't. Ah well, it's still a good run for this blog, and I'll post as much of the rest as I can, hoping for as many as I can get.

Today's point is favorite energy type, and that's one that's split for me. As a GM, fire is my favorite to utilize, because most players will gravitate to protection  from fire as a default, and it's nice to give your players the satisfaction of shrugging off some or all of an attack with use of spells or items from time to time.

I once also stole an idea from a Dragon magazine about an albino red dragon, so all of the PCs in that group had made preparations to face a white dragon, then were surprised by the fire coming out of the thing's mouth, leading to a TPK due to unpreparedness.

As a player, however, sonic is my preferred energy type. The game designers of D&D and derivative games nerf sonic attacks, usually by decreasing die step by one or two, or hard limiting number of dice of damage dealt, but sonic damage is very effective against not only creatures - very few of which have resistance or immunity to sonic - and objects, which take more actual damage due to sonic attacks often bypassing their structural hardness.


30 Day Challenge, Day 20 - Favorite Monster (Humanoid/Natural/Fey)

Another one with too many categories. I kinda covered my favorite humanoid back at Day 2, and I suppose "Natural" was covered a few days ago when I mentioned my like for the badger (though, admittedly, "Natural" is an oddly named category). This, of course, leaves me only with the Fey.

I'm a big fan of the fey. I don't think they get enough play in most fantasy rpgs, as historically, they made up most of our folklore of ancient cultures. Even most of our common fantasy monsters and races were once fey - the goblin, hobgoblin, gnome, elves, dark elves, kobolds, dwarves, and trolls, at one point or another were vaguely categorized as fey. This isn't to mention creatures more closely related to what rpgs have most commonly attached the label to, like sprites, naiads, and satyrs.

My favorite, however, are pixies. In my Wilderlands campaign, they are usually heralds of a larger fey presence or greater fey power, and are passive-aggressively mischevious, often trying to provoke those they torment in front of their unknowable masters in hopes that they will see the ancients use their powers in the real world.

That game aside, a pixie's natural invisibility, along with their small size, makes them ideal scouts and spies. A stereotypical pixie is also a fun, playful companion who is always curious and ready for adventure. In another campaign I ran many years ago, my friend, Kortney, went another direction with a pixie fighter who came from a very militaristic society that resembled the lifestyle of aggressive ants or wasps.

And again, a creature type that is widely represented with images on the net, but with not many that convey the traditional rpg pixie.

Dark Heresy, Session 6: Tattered Fates

And thus it came to pass that we had found ourselves, at last, at the time of reckoning that was the 13th Hour. I was confused, I admit, by the happenings. I live to serve the Emperor and fight against His enemies, wherever they may be. My seconding to His Holy Ordos was a blessing, as I have ever been eager to bring His unforgiving will to those who serve the Ruinous Powers, may we all spit at their name.

This night, however, we saw a planet almost lose itself to Chaos. The Jackal Mask was a vile servant opposed to our God, and he tried to vanquish us. Then the sky opened up and the great being we had seen on the avenue before appeared, trying to stop us from finding out a way to save the planet and the people upon it. Though debauched they may be, I don't think we could condemn them all to whatever Hell may have been made ready.

At any rate, I'm rambling. Must be the nerves. Nico had rejoined us and was trying to do something to the clock. The rest of us were concentrating fire upon our enemies, eventually putting down all targets but the strange and powerful man thing, tentacled and shrouded.

In the final moments, our scholar had proven to have the right of it and pulled a piece of the clock out, thus ending a tense moment that seemed to drag for weeks. The Widower, as the large being was called, was seemingly vanquished, or banished for a while, at the least, and we promptly made haste to collect what spoils we could so that we could buy a ride off-planet as soon as possible.

Cast of Characters
Rhia, Gunpoint (Hive World) Investigator (Arbiter 4) - Angela
Xantippa Thebe, Son of Nightmare (Void Born) ?? (Imperial Psyker 4) -  Paul
Nicodemus, Regulus (Imperial World) Inditor (Adept 4) -Taylor
Mohrdecai, Cadian (Fortress World) Sergeant (Guardsman 4) - Me


30 Day Challenge, Day 19 - Favorite Monster (Elemental/Plant)

This one's a bit unfair, yeah? I get the natural theme of choosing amongst elementals and plants, but the two things offer quite a range, and it becomes hard to choose. And so, I'm going to cheat on this point and choose one from each category!

Representing the elementals, I think I have to go with the classic earth elemental. This guy combines great movement ability with staying power in the form of high hit points, as well as the physical might to stand toe to toe with some fighter types when damage is concerned.

A summoned earth elemental is a great boon in holding passages or harrying spellcasters that cannot fly, or making them grapple said spellcasters to prevent them from flying. Earth elementals, however, are just as fun and useful to utilize for the GM as they are the players, especially if their earth glide special ability comes into play.

In the plant's corner, we have the assassin vine. I admittedly do not use many plants (though I tend to roll for shambling mounds often enough in my Wilderlands campaign), but one that I have used over the years to measured success is the assassin vine.

This is a nice "trap beast" to use for parties who like to retreat from the dungeon every 15 minutes, camping in the woods between forays into the deeps. If only they had been more attentive, they would have noticed the creepers trailing up the trees nearby were deadly flora.

The assassin vine is also easily scalable, meaning it can be a threat even when the PCs start ranging into mid-levels.

As a final note, there aren't really any super neat images of either of these things on the net, but there was an earth elemental on some person's blog that reminded me of an old Rock Lords Go-Bots.


30 Day Challenge, Day 18 - Favorite Monster (Immortal/Outsider)

Today's point on the 30 Day Challenge list asks me to pick a favorite Immortal or Outsider, and I think the most solid choice one could make here is the Marut. As the Monster Manual says, the Marut (see Inevitable) represents the certainty of death, which can put them in opposition with PCs a number of ways.

The Marut may come after the party after they drink potions that may extend their lives, or if they abuse the recurrence of life that spells such as raise dead or resurrection bring. Otherwise, they may run afoul of the Inevitable as it tries to bring an end to the party's enemy, like a lich who has cheated death for centuries through its undead state, or a powerful cult who sacrifice virgins and bathe in their blood to prolong their life.

Not only is their mission dire, but the Marut are completely unflagging. As constructs, they never need to rest, and would search planes for eons before they find their quarry...assuming one lived that long.

This is not to mention that they just look ready to bring eternal rest to those who seek to cheat death. From their fists, crackling with powerful energy to their elaborate bronze armor covering their jet black bodies, the question of if these enforcers of universal truths come in peace or seeking to mete punishment is moot.