Wrath of the Righteous Chapter Two, Sword of Valor – Sixth Session

Sixth Session (12 page pdf) – And finally we liberate Drezen and retake the Sword of Valor! We relax by going to kill some grandmas.

Deeper in the dungeon, a bunch of Deskari statues do a phantasmal killer on the NPC Sosiel; he lives but is driven insane. I have to choke him out too (I choke out about one person per game session). Then, it’s a Grimtooth’s Traps moment with a pit of green slime that nearly devours Shawanda totally.

Then we find Aron Kir (Sam Winchester) under the thrall of a shadow demon. I KO him, the demon comes out and it gets frisky. It tosses Shawanda all the way back into the green slime pit, which is entertaining in a morbid way. It turns into a festival of me and Shawanda tanking it, the healers pouring healing into us, and Calanthe magic missiling away (sovereign against incorporeal foes!).

We come away with the Sword of Valor.  Huzzah!

Then we get Drezen in order and try to redeem/heal our various evil and/or insane posse.

  • Joran Vhane – evil dwarf
  • Chaleb – evil homicidal cavalier
  • Uziel – evil tiefling rogue
  • Sosiel – insane cleric
  • Aron – formerly possessed drug addict
  • Jestak – evil homicidal barbarian

Yes, these are the understudies for our party of paladins.

We go out on patrol and find three crazy grandmas who are actually hag cultists of Lamashtu conducting Island of Dr. Moreau experiments and have created a largely-useless “octoeagle” (octopus/eagle hybrid) and “clawyote” (coyote with crab claws). We kill them for crimes against nature. We loot their country-clutter decor with abandon and take the two animals back to be mascots for our two army units.

 

Track Your Treasure

Ah, killing people and taking their stuff.  It’s great fun, but in this era of Christmas Tree Syndrome it’s hard to keep up with all that loot!

The GM tells you about some stuff when you loot your dead opponents – and a lot of details are held till later (magic, street value). Sometimes no one writes it down, and that item is lost forever.  Sometimes multiple people write it down and you have a conflict later on. Sometimes when you go back and ask the GM “OK so was that morningstar magic?” he responds “what morningstar? You mean two or three sessions ago? I have no idea.”

For our Pathfinder games, I developed a solution.  (It’ll work for any game though.) It’s an easy to use Excel spreadsheet that you use to log treasure, distribute treasure, and handle selloffs and money splitting. So I’m sharing it with you! (cc-attribution-sharealike).

The Geek Related Treasure Distribution Spreadsheet

It has an instructions tab, but here’s how it works.  When you get loot you log it on the Party Treasure tab with who you got it from and when thus:

partytreasure

Then any time someone claims an item, you cut and paste it to the Distributed Treasure tab and add who got it and when thus:

distributedtreasure

 

And you never have to worry again! It makes organizing distributions easy, and selling off unwanted loot and splitting the profits. Money is handled slightly differently on the Coinage tab thus:

coinage

It has a couple formulas but it’s not fancy, mainly it’s just a well thought out format that is a) really fast to enter when you’re in the middle of a game and b) efficient to do distributions and sell-offs. Now the GM has some context to help him remember that maybe-magic morningstar (Oh, the dead cultists right after the temple to Torag, right…), you know who got a piece of loot, and most importantly no valuable treasure just goes missing. We often do a big selloff at the end of a session when someone’s had to hurry off – now they can just go look and see how much money they got out of it.

And it’s entertaining to review late in a campaign. It’s like a historical record of things that happened.  (We gave two snake corpses to a mole-man?  Oh yeah, I remember that…).  It’s amazing how big the spreadsheet gets, when we get finished with an Adventure Path we look back and there’s four-hundred-odd entries… Add extra tabs for other stuff you need to track (like I added a tab to track army food and stores for Wrath of the Righteous, or caravan food and stores for Jade Regent). Your party will love you for it! Once we started doing this we got hooked and now every single campaign has a big ol’ treasure spreadsheet at the end of it.

It works best if you put it in a Dropbox so everyone in the group can view/edit it from their computers and phones and stuff. Enjoy!  Feel free and ask questions about its use after you’ve given it a look.

 

Wrath of the Righteous Chapter Two, Sword of Valor – Fifth Session

Fifth Session (13 page pdf) –  Though we’ve killed Staunton Vhane, there’s a lower level that still needs clearing in Drezen. “Someone’s in my root cellar. Someone with a fresh soul!”

First we do loot distribution.  I should do a separate post with our 3l33t loot tracking and distribution spreadsheet format, it makes it easy to keep up with it all. You find literally 100 different things per AP volume and tracking it needs some rigor.

The dumb demonblood addict has run off again. We head into the dungeons of Drezen to find him and the Sword of Valor (really a banner, in a case of false advertising). Vampires and demons and such annoy us until we’re finally at a loss as to where to go, we have to bring in Staunton Vhane’s brother Joran to do the dwarf thing and show us the secret door we can’t find.

Salamander

Salamander

Inside, we find the Corruption Forge and a bunch of salamanders.  I love salamanders, I don’t know why. Probably the super boss AD&D MM art. Everyone else starts taking the slow way down and I just swashbuckler-swing down there, get in the middle of ‘em and start whaling away. It hurts, but a lot of my Iron Mountain and Champion of Irori powers have to do with staying in one place and being surrounded…

Then it’s a priestess and schir demons and crystal widgets. Calathe actually has shatter for some reason (well, there have been a lot of demonic crystals in this campaign) and she brings it down while we destroy them in detail.

Wrath of the Righteous Chapter Two, Sword of Valor – Fourth Session

staunton_vhane_by_andantonius

Staunton Vhane

Fourth Session (14 page pdf) – We slay and slay and slay until we finally get to the dwarven antipaladin Staunton Vhane. And then we slay some more!

First I choke out another succubus. My new imprinting hand mythic trick is very Irorian.  Then we fight a bunch of insolence demons that make us insolent for a while. The difference is hard to notice.

Then it’s antipaladin time! He has a brother, blood demons, fiendish minotaurs… Finally, a stand-up fight! We get a good tactical exercise and wipe the floor with ‘em.  Then it’s all over but the looting and the intel gathering.

Why Paizo Still Has An Edge Over WotC

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition is out – and it’s pretty good!  I hated Fourth Edition and, like many folks, defected to Paizo’s 3e-derived branch called Pathfinder and Paizo rose to the top of the sales charts for a long period. But now with a viable product, good community engagement, and the nostalgia factor (Drizzle the elf! Space hamsters!) WotC is back in the game.  Will Paizo just fade away, only beloved by a fringe of the old guard?  No, and here’s why.

Let me preface this by saying these are “big boy” reasons, not game system details – how many hit points a bard gets is very meaningful to some ultrageeks but is not relevant to market position. If you wanted to hear something about 5e gnomes vs Pathfinder gnomes, please go play and let the grownups talk for a minute. With that preamble, here are the three major edges Paizo has over WotC and why those will help them maintain their market position.

1. The subscription model. Paizo’s subscription model of selling is like printing money. You’ve heard how comics subscriptions are basically the single largest factor in keeping comics and comic stores afloat right? Well, same effect applies with Pathfinder subscriptions.  The convenience wrenches the money right out of me and many other customers automatically without requiring us to re-make purchasing decisions each month (and to be at the mercy of stores just happening to stock products we want). It’s the same reason why WoW always made huge bank and that model became very compelling to video game producers. Paizo keeps quiet about how much of a big deal this is, probably deliberately so folks like WotC don’t get the memo. But from a business point of view, this is probably the single biggest innovation and leverage point they have from a revenue model perspective. And it’s a big one. I work in software, where we desperately try to get people into subscription models – maintenance, SaaS, etc. because it’s so financially productive.

2. The iconics. With their iconic characters – an idea enhanced from 3e D&D – Paizo doesn’t just have a game system, they have intellectual property. They have then used those iconics to fuel their comics, audio dramas, card games, mini-figs – and I wouldn’t be surprised to see movies or TV in the future. I thought it would be a no-brainer for WotC to have a strong stable of iconic characters in 5e but they completely didn’t for reasons that elude me. Sure, they have some older recognizable characters from their campaign settings – Elminster, Drizz’t, the Dragonlance characters – but they’re not capitalizing on them. One big reason why the D&D movies sucked was that both the good guys and the bad guys were just new made-up generic folks.  “I have purple lips and am evil!” Screw you. Call me when you make Strahd or  Bargle or Vecna or someone the bad guy. Hasbro is supposed to be “branding” geniuses, but even Paizo’s unique visual take on goblins generates stuffed animals and cute comic spinoffs and miniatures while with the 5e launch WotC’s critter of choice, kobolds, has pretty much zero sizzle and visual styling. [Normal] People relate to characters way more than setting way more than rules. Companies work very hard to get good commonalities to use to push customers across product boundaries inside brands, and that’s a great way to do it that WotC doesn’t seem to have an answer for, making it much harder to really capitalize on cross-media opportunities.

3. The adventures. “It’s the adventures, stupid.” Why do people have such nostalgia-love for the old days of Basic D&D/1e AD&D? Do they go back and talk about their love for weapon speed factors and to-hit tables? No, they talk about THE ADVENTURES. Temple of Elemental Evil, Ravenloft, Scourge of the Slavelords, Isle of Dread… These were the shared experiences people had and what they find compelling about the hobby.  Adventuring is the entire point of all the rules and setting content, it’s the actual activity of the game. WotC gets this enough to keep revisiting those classic adventures every edition (Now – Return to the Return to the Keep of the Elemental Hill Giants!) but not enough to actually put out frequent and compelling adventure content themselves except for a smattering of mostly indifferent products. In 3e, the Open Gaming License covered this gap and new adventures are what propelled third party companies like Green Ronin and Atlas Games into the larger businesses they are today. In 4e, they kicked off with a couple and then slid into nowhere and now with 5e, they managed to get two out – but frankly, they’re not all that good, and again, it’s a matter of amount.  Paizo gets out an Adventure Path chapter per month, every 6 months it’s a new one, there’s previous ones where if you want to do gothic horror or Arabian Nights or whatever there’s something to scratch that itch – WotC’s just planning to retread the same old properties, at a plodding pace. And as they are still farting around on licensing, third parties aren’t filling that gap as avidly as they could be. That is leaving player engagement on the table and providing fewer shared experiences to build the nostalgia that’d drive their sales in the future, especially in other media.

So though 5e is a fine game – I’m not sure that as part of the overall package, Paizo has a lot to worry about.  Sure, Hasbro can pump in marketing dollars and get things into bookstores, but a) do they care enough about a small line to do so, as opposed to making more Iron Man doodads, and b) can they really successfully capitalize on multiple product lines and the D&D IP? You’d think that’s where they would be Vikings, but so far early results don’t show a lot of spark there. Anyone that’s listened to Paizo employees talk about behind-the-scenes stuff at Gen Con/PaizoCon seminars (all available on various podcasts) know that they are very smart, squared away professionals who tightly manage their own work, freelancers, licensed products, everything. They’re a well-tuned machine producing huge amounts of product across various channels and product types – Hasbro/WotC could probably do the same – but they don’t seem to be. So sure, brand recognition and deep pockets and being a decent game product will help push 5e into the limelight, but their execution isn’t crisp enough to push Paizo out, is my prediction.

Wrath of the Righteous Chapter Two, Sword of Valor – Third Session

Third Session (12 page pdf) – We reduce the remaining demonic armies and lay siege to the fortress of Drezen. The command staff inserts via a poorly defended point and sweeps and clears a good portion of the ground level, allowing the paladin forces into the keep.

First we personally assault the brimorak-manned catapult towers, then we lead our forces against their armies and rout them. That then leaves the citadel buttoned up – time for PC SpecOps strikes!

citadel_drezen

Here’s an example snippet of purple prose describing how that goes:

Calanthe then peppers the other brimorak with a magic missiles to leave it horribly wounded. Trystan finishes the job with two shots, clean through the creature’s eyes. It falls from the parapet, screaming like a hell-muppet.

We kill constructs and demons and cultists with gimp masks and elementals. We come across another shrine where Iomedae appears to us again.  Oh, as if, we’re LG not Lawful Stupid, we channel some positive energy and when she takes damage we smoke her. She’s a succubus and she enslaves Shawanda but I give her an Egorian style beat down.

They all pause to pray at the altar of Iomedae. “Forgive us our lusty thoughts!” mumbles Shawanda under her breath. The other crusaders try to make sense of her words. “Lusty slots?” thinks Trystan. “Hungry slots?” thinks Tsuguri. “Lusty sluts?” thinks Antonius.

This is real dialogue, Patrick was muttering and we couldn’t hear him, and we all heard variations on dirty things, as we are wont to do. We fight a mimic, during which Tsuguri insists that pee is the only thing that will get the monster’s adhesive excretion off people.

After several rounds of death and Tsuguri attempting to urinate on his party members, they all come unstuck.
They find four suits of masterwork full plate, one of which is magical, mithril, and painted gold and Iomedae-y. Shawanda swoons. Trystan starts to explain how he might benefit from it as well and she yells, “Bling bling honky!” and flees the room with
the armor.

In Aliens fashion, we declare the area “secure” and let in our paladins through the front door to occupy the better part of the first floor.  We go up to one of the parapets and find a crazy barbarian woman that’s decapitated all her tribesmen. Calanthe (Tim) decides to use a spell to impersonate antipaladin Staunton Vhane halfway through this which comes close to ending in fratricide. I choke her out (monk grappling is so great against casters and two-handed weapon users!). We toss her in a tiger cage and wrap up!

This was a fun session, we were a little punchy so it got a little silly but good.  We’re decently overpowered in this AP and it’s a nice change – it’s boring rolling over opposition when it’s meaningless grind like a couple sessions ago, but when it’s interesting stuff it’s as fun as being on the ropes all the time. Plus, it makes us feel more OK with taking prisoners and negotiating and stuff, as opposed to “I MUST USE MY ACTION ECONOMY FOR TOTAL WAR OR WE WILL BE TPKED.” That gets old.

 

 

Wrath of the Righteous Chapter Two, Sword of Valor – Second Session

Second Session ( 14 page pdf) – Our army reaches Drezen and we start in on the reduction of its defenses, fighting both armies and monsters with increasingly ridiculous names.

Nabassu

A lot gets done this session!  First, we fight a nabassu in ruins. It’s a lively battle and there’s much loot to be had.  After that, we head towards Drezen with our army.  We are semi thwarted by demonic locusts but get through that.

Then we find out that Aron Kir, aka “Sosiel’s bottom,” has a demon blood addiction problem like Sam from Supernatural. We decide immediately that Sosiel looks like Dean and Aron looks like Sam and it’s all slashfic all the time thereafter.

When we get to Drezen, we reconnoiter and find it’s basically a bunch of zones with armies in it…

Drezen

Drezen

We take out Southbank first and then try to capture the bridge, but unlucky rolling lets them destroy it before we can secure it. So we clear out the cemetery and Paradise Hill (apparently even crusader citadels have low income housing projects) while we rebuild.  We stretch the mass combat rules to their breaking point with our cunning tactics.

In the cemetery we come across a monster, “Moxaboo the berbalang.” I laughed so hard at his name I nearly peed myself and named him “Riddleyboo” for the couple rounds he lasts against us. Come on Filipinos, you have a perfectly good monster and give it the goofiest ass name ever.

Then a mythic cold chimera thing (I call it a cryo-mera!) attacks us. It’s a brutal fight and I get in my patented backbreaker move! It counts as a mythic trial so we all get a new mythic level and everything goes all Highlander for a minute. Good times!