Tag Archives: D&D

Reavers Season Three Retrospective

And that’s a wrap on Season Three of Reavers on the Seas of Fate! The crew went out to sunken Azlant, changed the balance of power of the Sun Temple Colony, bested Captain Morgan Baumann, and returned safely to Riddleport with only moderate losses. And, they’re seventh level! The campaign has had 78 sessions over 3 1/2 years by this point.

  • Sindawe got away with Jaren the Jinx’s murder, and even got rid of the resulting curse!
  • Serpent got Samaritha pregnant!  With what, we’ll see later.
  • Wogan… Is Wogany!
  • Tommy and Lil had a scare when Lil got kidnapped by a vampire! But she’s back and they’re seducing others to Nocticula at a good clip.
  • The Teeth of Araska is well manned!

I used Tammeraut’s Fate and Rana Mor from Dungeon Magazine (back when it was good and Paizoey), Lost Cities of Golarion, and more to stitch together this baby.

Next – Season Four! There will be a lot more pirating. Wogan hasn’t had enough story arc and so we’ll have to go visit his sister… IN NIDAL!!!  (I hear some Vikings may be planning to attack there.) Samaritha will come to term. And Sindawe will heed the call of his loa and head south… Stay tuned, there’s plenty of Reavers yet to go.

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Three, Twenty-sixth Session

Twenty-Sixth Session (16 page pdf) – “The Cursed Earth” – The group hacks their way through frisky vegetation and use the druidic shrine to regenerate everyone’s missing parts! And then their relations with the local werewolves break down. But in the end… It’s back to Riddleport!

In the dungeon, they muse on their spectacularly bad luck – Sindawe hasn’t admitted that he killed Jaren and got his curse, but he does allow that “he was around when he got killed and maybe it jumped to him.” After mulling that over, it’s into a festival of bizarre vegetation the irate shrine is growing.

Mase says, “My mother used to make a dish called ‘blood sap’. It was awful.”
Not to be outdone, Serpent replies, “Samaritha’s people made it from slaves.”
The other pirates fall silent and stare at Serpent, waiting for a punch line, because they don’t know that Samaritha is actually a serpentfolk and her people probably did convert human slaves into  exotic dishes like “blood sap”.
Sindawe covers by saying, “That’s Ulfen pillow talk, you guys. The snow men are a weird bunch.”

Serpent’s player insists that he never casually gives away clues as to his wife’s true monstrous identity.  You be the judge.

Anyway, they reach the altar.  Bloodsuckles!  Canopy creepers!  Time for me to pull out all the new plant monsters no one’s ever heard of! And like last time, it reanimates the dead, in this case Peg-Leg Pete. Lefty, Orgon, and Bel all just about buy it.

But they finally calm the shrine and regenerate everyone!  Huzzah!

When they leave, Mythra is waiting for them – just to betray them!  Actually, it was a doppleganger, the escaped sister of the doppleganger they killed on their last visit.  This ploy works beautifully; the enraged pirates blindly follow her into the forest and attack all the werewolves; they get jacked up so bad they break off but won’t believe Mythra’s protestations of innocence. They announce a cease-fire and hole up in the shrine until the ships return.

Sindawe sees his crew safely aboard the ships and then bravely heads back to get the curse removed, with every expectation that he was going to get killed instead. She removes his curse “like in the deal.” He is grumbly about it. They bury Peg-Leg Pete at sea and sail to Riddleport!

That night in their cabin, Serpent and Samaritha indulge in a little pillow talk involving “squeezing the slaves” for “blood sap”.  In the next cabin, Sindawe buries his head further under a  pillow.

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Three, Twenty-fifth Session

beeeeeeeeesTwenty-Fifth Session (13 page pdf) – “Wrath of the Lost” – It’s deeper in to the shrine to regenerate people’s lost parts. The pit of flesh-eating locusts they bypassed neatly last visit becomes quite the encounter – think Nic Cage from The Wicker Man. “BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!”

Things start to get complicated in the dungeon.  The shrine a) stimulates growth of all kinds and b) is very sensitive to emotions. Having a bunch of wrathspawn around is doing it no good, hence a shambling mound coming from the remains of the cave bear they killed last time they were here. They finally take it down during a fighting retreat. They ignore another overture from a talky raven that lives here (it wants them to kill the dwarf – it wanted that last visit, too). An ambush on some sinspawn using the “Han Solo gambit” goes well.

Then it’s time to cross a rope bridge. This went fine last time so the swarm of flesh-eating locusts went undisturbed.  Not so this time – in fact this becomes an hours-long fight, capped off by Wogan summoning a fire beetle with the thought that it must, you know, have fire or something. They don’t, of course. “STUPID FIRE BEETLES!!!”

Finally they come across the main wrathspawn arena area and decide to just bring the pain. It’s an epic battle – the pirates they brought with, since they’re all crippled, aren’t as effective as they are usually but they fight with heart. It’s vicious and Peg-Leg Pete is slain in the combat; most everyone else is felled at least once and brought back by timely healing from Wogan. Next time – the Season Three finale!

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Three, Twenty-fourth Session

Twenty-Fourth Session (13 page pdf) – “The Wicked and the Maimed” – It’s back into the dungeons from Season One, Twenty-Third Session! This time it’s full of wrathspawn pirates. As usual, when they have a small landing party with NPC pirates along, it is hilarious.

The shrine complex was cleared out by the PCs before.  But now, it is full of a bunch of wrathspawn pirates from Hollow Mountain – I read about them in Dungeons of Golarion. The Ulfen sank their ship and the remnants have holed up in here.

They go in and have a big fight with the wrathspawn- “Hatefreaks,” they call them, and their big spider slaves (shriezyx). They are scandalized that the witch outside said they were armed with axes when really they are armed with ranseurs. “Women!!!” they concluded.

Then they wander the dungeon. They have such awful Knowledge skills; they come across a bunch of stuff but just have no idea what’s going on; their exchanges about them are pants-wettingly funny however. It’s so totally like pirates confronted with the more esoteric wonders of the world.

They find an egg shaped stone with a toad sitting atop it. Serpent fumbles his  Knowledge: Nature and declares it, “Just an ordinary rock. And an ordinary toad.” The pirates  realize that the toad if moved off the rock will just hop back to it. After lengthy experimentation, they decide that’s some sort of “bad mojo”.

Cockatrice Dragon EggThat is, of course, a classic cockatrice egg.

They debate the edibility of cockatrice eggs, if they were only able to find some, and decide that the spiders are “immune to being cut open” since no one wants to ruin their silvered scimitar in such an engagement. They do start to remember details about the dungeon last time, though, so make some clever determinations (hey, that green gas is probably an illusion, this place was full of illusionary mist and stuff…).

Sindawe’s curse is in full form in this dungeon – people just keep rolling 1’s and fumbling, fumbling, fumbling. They opened one door with two lurking wrathspawn behind it – one fumbled and critted the other, then the other fumbled and critted the first one!  The pirates just closed the door on the two dead wrathspawn, deciding that they and/or their weapons and/or that room are clearly cursed and not to be further investigated.

We end up with a bunch of pirate cripples heckling Serpent as he “repairs his staff” before venturing into “the bear room.”

 

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Three, Twenty-third Session

Twenty-Third Session (10 page pdf) – “Ill Luck on Argavist Isle” – As the pirates prepare to flee, the Witch of the Darkpines and her werewolf minions show up and present the PCs with their position – between a rock and a hard place. I like it when player confusion, executed in-character, creates humor.  When Sindawe and the others return, Wogan demands to know “his wife’s name!” Sindawe isn’t married, Serpent is, and this leads to a fairly lengthy “Who’s on first?” exchange at weapon-point to determine if someone in the group is indeed a doppleganger or just retarded. Then when some lurking people warn them about ettins, Serpent claims “there are no such things here!” but Sindawe and Wogan remind him that yes indeed, last time they were here there was an ettin. He blames it on being previous to getting his Azlanti Headband of Vast Intelligence which he claims makes him smarter than anyone else now. Mythra Werewolf

They get ambushed by werewolves.  I dug out my old randomly generated dungeon and remembered that they had bypassed a room with a bunch of low level adventurers in it, I had sheets printed out and everything.  I decided they had fallen victim to Mythra, the Witch of the Darkpines – werewolf, former-lover-now-hater of Jaren the Jinx. This ends with a standoff and parley.

This is where Sindawe finds out he probably has contracted Jaren’s curse, which Mythra put on him in the first place. I had been making them pull crit fumble cards on rolled 1’s when he was around but he figured that was just me being a killer GM and I didn’t disabuse him of that notion. Mythra wants them to clear out some local freaks in her shrine and she’ll remove the curse – Sindawe does not take this gracefully and they part without firm agreement. They interrogate their Ulfen prisoner via Domination and discover that White Estrid’s fleet plans on hitting Nisroch – again! By wintering here they will be able to strike before anyone would usually worry about Ulfen incursions from the ice-shrouded north.

The ships are ordered to sail to nearby Roanoke Island, anchor there, keep a sharp eye, and return in five days, an hour before dawn. The landing party will show one torch for ‘unsafe’, two for ‘pick us up’, and three for ‘we have been devoured by the locals; send more pirates’.

They decide to still brave the shrine despite the Ulfen threat – Bel the Eunuch asks to come along; they totally forgot about him when taking stock of the crewmen missing limbs. “Oh… Yeah,” they say. And it’s off to the shrine!

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Three, Twenty-second Session

Twenty-Second Session (8 page pdf) – “Regeneration Run” – The crew puts together an extra gimpy away team to head to the shrine on Argavist Island. But a pair of ambushes reveals a greater threat than the island usually holds!

To remind everyone of past events, back in Chapter One (Sessions 23, 24, 25) the party went to get Jaren the Jinx’s arm regenerated on Argavist Island; I comboed up a randomly generated dungeon with Wicked Fantasy Factory’s “Throwdown with the Arm-Ripper” for the occasion.

But first – Samaritha finally decides it’s time to give Serpent the news – she’s pregnant!  Apparently the magic of Wedding Rock back on Nal-Kashel did the trick, even though she’s a serpentfolk. (I mean, it is kinda used as deep one-on human-roofies in From Shore to Sea, so I figured it’s reasonable – and dramatic!)

Then they scout out the island nervously (they know there’s some doppelgangers on the loose there, and so their paranoia level is high). They find a couple goblins – an an assload of killer Ulfen! That’s quite a surprise and they have a good fight, and follow their trail back to find – an entire Ulfen invasion fleet wintering there on the island, to get the early-spring drop on somebody! And the flagship flies the banner of none other than White Estrid.

whiteestrid

This causes the pirates to shit their pants good. White Estrid is the Linnorm King who sacked Nisroch, ran the blockade at the Arch of Aroden, and defeated and enslaved a live linnorm. Nautical lore indicates she’s some mix of demon, white witch, giant, and murder-hobo and she’s here with dozens of Ulfen longships.  Run away!!!!!

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Three, Twenty-first Session

Twenty-First Session (7 page pdf) – “An Unusual Route” – The Araska and Bunyip decide to stop in at Hermea to refit. They get a little bonus.

CAUTION – ADULT CONTENT

First, a tide worm gives them some trouble, but ends up on their dinner table. (It’s from one of the many random d20 naval books I have, I’m not even sure which.) Then – after all the carnage last time, what do pirates want?  Sex, and lots of it. They put in at Promise on the island nation of Hermea. Hermea’s a weird place – run by a gold dragon trying to perfect humanity via eugenics and a Star Trek-esque polity of plenty.  James Jacobs and other Pathfinder designers like to argue about whether this is really Lawful Good or not. (It is “interesting,” however, which is wayyyyy more important than that, so I don’t really care.) Enter the dock district prostitutes.  You could argue that there wouldn’t be prostitutes if all the women were free in a utopian-aspirant society. I figured that general Golarion sexual politics tends to say that no, there’s definitely plenty of “it’s what they choose to do” sex workers. So what’s the next natural conclusion? Well, if they can’t risk conception because of eugenics, then it’s an “anal only” zone. I like this conclusion because you can just imagine how every shipful of pirates (and merchants, and…) SO wants to dock there from the sheer novelty. “Let’s go to Hermea!  Did you hear…  Hur hur hur!” And, let’s be honest, the place already is reminiscent of Greece, and… If you don’t know where that’s going I’m not going to tell you, but Google away. (As an aside – some Pathfinder writers tend to like to “cheat” and come up with convenient risk-free alchemical concoctions that do everything from guaranteed birth control to problem-free sex changing. I understand blatant wish-fulfillment in RPGs but don’t go in for it – heck, those things aren’t 100% effective and risk free with 21st century science, let alone smooshing some St. John’s Wort into some tea – so I prefer not to do stuff like that which reduces common Renaissance-era risks. Sorry, it’s expensive/powerful magic or pretty poor hedge treatments in my game.)

A Hermean officer reads from a prepared script, “You may dock in Promise. You cannot pass the sandstone walls. The island is governed by the Council of Enlightenment. Trade is only permitted at the docks. No immigration is permitted. No organized religion is permitted. Do not land anywhere else on the island. You are not permitted to get Hermean citizens with child. We have additional laws – they will be explained as they come up. Enjoy your stay. Don’t forget to visit the gift shop.” The command crew isn’t sure if the stories that Hermea is ruled by a gold dragon that eagerly burns pirate ships to the waterline is BS or not but they aren’t inclined to risk it.

Well – most of them, that is.  Tommy and Lil, however, have accepted Seyanna the succubus‘ profane gift and become followers of Nocticula. They decide the best course of action is to find one of those Hermean prostitutes (in this case Britt, a spoiled fourth-generation Hermean), convert her to Nocticulaism, and tempt her into illegal normal-style sex. (Tommy’s player, usually absent, returned for this session so we gave him a starring role.) I made them do a lot of scheming and make a lot of rolls of one sort or another to make this succeed, but in the end they summoned their friend Seyanna to consummate the deal.

The crew also lucks out otherwise.  Whenever the crew is at liberty (in port, or left to themselves for a while) I do a d20 roll per pirate to see if anything good or bad happened to them – 1 or 20 is dramatic, 2-5 or 15-19 is something worth note at least, 6-14 is just business as usual) and no one got into any really bad trouble. Then, the captain throws me the GM for a loop by declaring they want to go back to the Shrine of the Arm-Ripper on Argavist Island next time. They have enough people with missing limbs to make it worthwhile.  To my books!

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Three, Twentieth Session

Twentieth Session (9 page pdf) – “A Dish Best Served Cold” – Escaped sorceress Daphne brings back some Mordant Spire elves for revenge on the PCs, and by “some” I mean “four ships full.” The Teeth of Araska and Black Bunyip fight for their lives against an ambush on the high seas.

First, they almost lose Tanned Hank the ship’s carpenter to a sea horse (yes, really). Then… Things get out of hand.

navalbattle

Daphne, the sorceress that they had Samaritha keep mentally dominated for so long, managed to escape in the fight with the Bunyip – she got hit by a dispel magic that dispelled the domination; she grabbed a dragon staff one of the crew had gotten as booty and flew off.  Well, she’s back with some friends. The Mordant Spire elves take offense at anyone prowling the ruins of Azlant and they drive off or sink any they find.

The Black Bunyip and Teeth of Araska are lured into attacking a ship which turns out to be two Mordant Spire elf skimmers.  Well, that’s not too bad… Oh wait, suddenly there’s a blue dragon fireballing us from 500′ up! That’s bad!  Wait, there’s two more Mordant Spire skimmers catching us in a pincer?  HOLY SHIT! A six-ship battle, the largest we’ve dealt with in the campaign.

Serpent flies up to do battle with Daphne the dragon, while the blinded Sindawe gives Samaritha the wheel and instructions to ram. Read the session summary for more, it’s hot action indeed – blood and screaming among cannon-fire and smoke. Besmara’s thirst for slaughter is well-slaked today.

 

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Three, Nineteenth Session

fishwifeNineteenth Session (10 page pdf) – “The Long Voyage Home” – The Teeth of Araska and captured Black Bunyip sail through the hazards of sunken Azlant. And a second chance encounter with the Fishwife ends up with a high body count.

First we get to  know the surviving crewmen of the Black Bunyip. Then we find out that JJ was built with a watertight internal cavity. Then Serpent weathers the wrath of Samaritha – she’s pregnant, but he doesn’t know that, so theories about why she’s acting psychotic range widely.

And then, they meet an old nemesis – the fishwife!  She lures sailors to their doom, and the squid she has dragging her ship around is no mean opponent either. A decent chunk of ship’s crew dies in the conflict, but most notably is the demise of Jaren the Jinx – allegedly at the hands of the squid but actually at the hands of Sindawe! He’s had it with that darn jinx-curse he bears (it turns all 1’s into critical fumbles). But you know why you never kill a cursed man, right? Every pirate knows that…

Finally, they make it out of the Azlanti islands into the cold northern waters! To get there you go along the trades to the south, but to get back to Avistan you have to come around far north to get the winds. More shipboard drama, next time!

D&D 5e Basic Rules First Thoughts

The “free version” of the new fifth edition D&D rules are out – 110 pages of pdf, available at Wizards of the Coast.

My initial reaction is that I like it.  Background: I’ve played D&D from the original BECMI “Red Box” Basic through 1e AD&D, 2e, 3e, 3.5e, hated 4e, play Pathfinder. (Plus many other games of course).

Things I think it does right:

1. As a free PDF, it will really help draw in new/casual players. Game stores can have a couple copies laying around. You can forward a copy to a friend who has expressed interest in the game. It’s not as nice for future in-play use as the free hyperlinked SRD approach of Pathfinder, but it’ll be very accessible to new players.

2. The three pillars of adventure are listed as exploration, social interaction, and combat.  They list combat last and try hard in this PDF at least to not give it primary billing, which may result in less pure hack and slash than in the future. The Combat section itself is only 9 pages! (Obviously there’s rules affecting combat everywhere else, but that was nice.)

3. Clear call-outs to GM discretion.  GM describes, you say what you want to do, GM narrates the results. That gives me hope that we won’t see the return of the rules that cater to the over-legalistic players, which leads us to…

4. Light rules.  Now, we’ll see how much of this is because of the short format and how much they’ll run over this once the PHB is out, but this is pleasingly not all legalistic and rules heavy.  There’s already people fretting over the “Rules of Hidden Club” and other “rules as written” minutia as they have in past editions, even though the Basic rules say clearly “you know, GM discretion whether you can sneak up on someone, man.”  The spell descriptions take a couple steps back towards being sane in length, with type, casting time, range, components, and duration being the only “required fields.” I’ve written before on the relative sizes and bloat across the editions – using the Knock spell as a benchmark, this one is 132 words, shorter than 3.5e’s 206 words but longer than BECMI’s 122. Replacing 100 fiddly bonuses with advantage/disadvantage – seems fun, we’ll see how it works out (I imagine smart min-maxers will find a way to have enough advantage that it’ll always cancel out any disadvantage).

5. Inclusivity.  They totally even one-up Paizo on this, by openly saying in the Sex section “You don’t need to be confined to binary notions of sex and gender. The elf god Corellon Larethian is often seen as androgynous or hermaphroditic, for example, and some elves in the multiverse are made in Corellon’s image. You could also play a female character who presents herself as a man, a man who feels trapped in a female body, or a bearded female dwarf who hates being mistaken for a male. Likewise, your character’s sexual orientation is yours to decide.” It’s just a short statement saying “Yes, you all can play too, and play characters like that if you want.” If backed up with art and more diverse characters in stories, then maybe we’ll get more women, people of color, people of differing sexualities, etc. into gaming, which I think is fine and dandy.

6. Hits the high points that made D&D such a classic in the first place.  It doesn’t try to sell “some new thing we made up just for this edition” like Dragonborn, it is the big 4 classes and big 4 races. Not sure of the need for the subraces, especially the dwarven ones (“the hillbillies and the mountainbillies are fighting again,” said no one ever), but perhaps that’s more included just to show that it’s possible.

The negatives:

1. The art. First of all, there’s not any.  It’s not that we’re “entitled” to it and sure, “it’s free what do you expect” – but this is being put out to try to be a thread to draw people into the game, and it would benefit from a freaking cover with a picture on it. We all know that blog posts, articles, etc. of all descriptions convert readers a lot more when there’s media in them. Same goes for when you forward a PDF to an RPG-curious friend. Second of all, the one piece is in the back and it’s from the Basic set cover; I’ve seen some of the other cover art online. What’s with the art style, it all looks like you’re viewing it through static? It’s not like the pop-off-the-shelf Elmore stylized colors of the 1980s, and it looks like every other damn fantasy cover out there.  I think they’d be better served going a little more of a modern direction on it, some anime influence, at least some more vivid colors and lines.

2. They jacked with the PDF so you can’t cut and paste out of it.  Really, Wizards? That just makes me *want* to pull it up an Acrobat and fix that little problem and re-disseminate it.  I had to retype in even the small quotes in this review. Weak. [Edit: Apparently you can cut and paste out of the "printer friendly" version. Thanks waxeagle.]

But other than that, I like where they’re going with it.  If only there will be restraint such that the rules stay light (more content is fine – having more classes is great, having more rules for everyone to keep in mind and follow isn’t) then I’ll be tempted to use it because I am so tired of spending hours rules-wrangling on Pathfinder.

Link

D&D Basic Rules Are Out

If you didn’t know, the free D&D Basic rules are out today and can be downloaded from Wizards’ site.

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Three, Eighteenth Session

Eighteenth Session (9 page pdf) – “Capture of the Black Bunyip” – The crew of the Araska finds out that Morgan Baumann has set an ambush for them. “What’s the plan?” “Let’s get ‘em!” It’s touch and go and many a gold Infamy Point coin is spent. Who leaves the crew on this very special episode of Reavers on the Seas of Fate?

All right, we’re back on board the Teeth of Araska and they’ve finally located who they came here to find, Captain Baumann, and gotten rid of pesky Flying Azlanti Death-Ray Lenses that stood in their way.

Most of the guys have read various naval fiction so I like throwing in some realism; they had to get started by towing the ship with the ship’s boats out of the cove. The Black Bunyip has laid a trap, as well, which in classic adventurer fashion they deliberately run right into!

Lacking any other options, Sindawe declares, “We’ll ram and kill them all in hand to  hand!” The pirates cheer, because that’s the way they roll.

The fight is brutal but in hand until a rogue dispel magic removes Samaritha’s domination of Daphne the sorceress. She snatches up the fallen Gareb’s dragon staff (he found it some damn place, it’s worth a fortune) and turns into a blue dragon and turns on the Araskans.

They manage to fell Baumann and drive off the dragon for now, at the cost of many Infamy Points. Sindawe cuts off her thumbs, an idea he got from when they found the thumbless Mase Venjum in the Araska’s brig originally.

JJ [the disturbingly anatomically correct sea-homunculus] approaches the officers and says, “Hey, hey. You know why thumbless people can’t  betray you?”

A concerned Sindawe replies, “No. Why?”

JJ hunches over and talks in a stage whisper, “Hey, do you know who’s going to betray  the captain?” He looks around conspiratorially and says, “This guy!” He begins poking his own chest, but keeps his thumbs hidden indicating that they have been cut off. The conspirator is crestfallen to realize that he can’t identify himself as “this guy.” This amuses the command staff greatly.

Those that survive, level! Ooh, level 7!  They all writhed in glee. (Remember we started in 2009, so it’s a little more than a level a year.)