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Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Four, Eighth Session

hl-mutiny-bountyEighth Session (13 page pdf) – “Treachery Island” – One of their new recruits suckers the Teeth of Araska into a nasty ambush! After a bumper crop of burials at sea, they go make friends with a Nisrochi necromancer in order to get traveling papers in-country.

Well, the island cove ex-Captain Sempronia lures the ship to as “a good place to repair” has an “interesting magical obelisk” on it! This calls for a landing party, which is promptly attacked by Sempronia as her men, who have been laid up here on the island, board and try to take the Araska. She doesn’t want to be an ex-Captain any longer and wants their ship!

Sindawe knocks her out with a flurry of blows.
Serpent asks, “What do we do with her?”
Sindawe says, “Kill her.”
Wogan pulls off her helmet, presses a pistol to her temple and shoots (34pts).
Sindawe snatches up her glaive and runs for the ship, followed closely by Hatshepsut.
Wogan tells Serpent, “We should have hired that other guy over her.”
Serpent replies, “What other guy?”

I LOL’ed. Apparently the whole big scuffle with Duke Ron that Serpent took so poorly was promptly forgotten. Luckily with this party we can just chalk it up to the booze (in-character, naturally).

Bonus Game Content: Character sheets for Sempronia, her privateers, and Duke Ron and Kitty the Cantankerous, since they were in the same Hero Lab portfolio!

The privateers had a plant on board the Araska, who did some careful door-jamming prior to the action so as they board they swiftly overpower the crew.  The ToA crew rallies a bit and holds them back till the PCs manage to fly/run/dimension door back to the ship from the island and then the murder level escalates.

Once they repel the boarders the butcher’s bill is high – 23 dead or wounded; rapid clerical help takes that to 5 dead. That’s the most losses they’ve ever taken at once, and it’s quite sobering. A little time under the lash has the couple surviving prisoners reveal that Cannonball Jack and Kent the Rusty Butter Cutter (he had claimed no nickname at his interview) were from their crew, and secured a bunch of hatches to make the takeover easy.  Kent died in the fight and his corpse is hung from the yardarm but they decide to give Jack a pass because Samaritha dominated him and claimed he didn’t take part in the mutiny.  True, or is she going soft? We’ll see.

NidalThen they reach the borders of shadow-haunted Nidal.  If you’re not familiar with it – it’s a whole dark magic Hellraiser-infested shithole of a country.

Luckily they know a necromancer from Nidal – they had previously fought an angry whale while at sea, then later faced that same whale as an angry undead whale, and then had been visited by the necromancer’s homunculus with a market research survey asking about how terrifying the resulting creature was on a scale from one to ten. Ever ones to make friends, they got his deets to look him up if they ever came this way.

They deal with Thartane the necromancer, who has a keen sense of necro-style. He briefs them and can get them some travel papers (Nisroch is all super “let me see your papers” Nazi style). But he wants something to experiment on.  Here’s how that conversation went, which pleased me no end.

As a research oriented necromancer, he polls the PCs to come up with his target lifeform…

“So now for my part. Each of you, describe to me the most disturbing part of the worst creatures you’ve encountered. What is truly horrifying? I want to take something that fits that description and turn it undead to see if it’s even more effective.”
“Tentacles! I hate tentacles. They drag me down, down…” says Sindawe, with a far-away look. “And being ripped apart by undead tigers.”
Wogan shudders. “Those slimy, three-eyed aboleths, I can’t stand their eyes.”
“Being raped into having chlamydia. And secretions.” Serpent shrugs off the concerned glances of his crewmates.
Thartane muses over his market research. “Something slimy, with three eyes, tentacles, and rapes you into having chlamydia while it tears you apart. Hmm. I can take care of the undead part myself of course…”
“Sounds like a froghemoth,” says Serpent idly.
“A froghemoth!” Thartane brightens. “Brilliant! Yes, bring me one of those. I think some can be found in the northern swamps of Nidal. I need it alive, of course.”
The command staff’s feet grow cold quickly. “Can’t we bring you a baby one? How about an otyugh, they’re kind of like that…” Everyone hems and haws about the difficulty of the task.
“Oh nonsense, you’ll do fine.”

I was laughing my balls off, it was very much like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man scene from Ghostbusters with Serpent as Dan Aykroyd.

With an accord reached, they head to the capital of Nidal…

“To Nisroch!” declares Captain Sindawe.
“Those are reasonably common last words, just for your information,” notes Mase Venjum.

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Four, Seventh Session

pirateshipatseaSeventh Session (11 page pdf) – “Nip and Tuck” – The Teeth of Araska limps away from port and tangles violently with both privateers and venereal disease. Each takes its own toll.

If you’re familiar with historical seamanship, returning to sea after shore leave means one thing – bad cases of VD. Wogan has his hands full with diseases sexual and normal – the crewwoman Zita nearly dies despite a bunch of healing magic!

They love wavecrawling, and some things they investigate and some things they don’t. They take a merchant ship, the Sharon’s Grotto, and get a bunch of mint, mustard, nuts, and coffee, which they regret after the ship’s cooks have gotten their hands on that combination for a while.

  • Ship doing target practice? Avoid.
  • Electric eel following along? Ignore.
  • Floating poorbox with 12 cp in it? Loot it and wonder.

Then they tangle with some privateers in the Broadsword. As they are taken over they send a messenger falcon (oh I wonder where these guys are from) but this panics the pirates so much that Serpent spends a precious Infamy Point to burn the message off its leg.  The ship’s mage flies away with some more success, but a much shorter range. They send threatening message spells after him.

Bonus Game Content: Crewman stats of the Broadsword (captain, mage, and three classes of crewman, all elite Grey Corsair types)

And that’s a wrap! Taking two ships takes a while. The Teeth of Araska is banged up so they head for a secret cove Sempronia knows of to repair…

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Four, Sixth Session

Sixth Session (9 page pdf) – “Dark Wings Over Riddleport” – The celebration grows toward “Project X” levels but is interrupted by a sinister old guy with a “message” from an old enemy. And raven swarms, don’t forget the raven swarms.

The pirates are partying, and voodoo loa Mama Watanna shows up and possesses a bar maid for some Sindawe ravishing. But part way through, everyone’s cypher glyphs burn…

In a very anime-style turn, a cloaked old guy at the head of the dock turns out to be a crazed shadow raven supernatural killer (special CR11 advanced vrock named “The Messenger” from Green Ronin’s “Dark Wings Over Freeport”). The party erupts into chaos as partially incapacitated members of many potentially  hostile power groups leap to arms amidst darkness and confusion and raven swarms (“unkindnesses,” technically).  Ah, I love being a GM.

messenger

He keeps generating swarms of ravens, which threaten all the partygoers. Pirates with swivel-guns and Sindawe with a potion of fiery breath are some of the few things that hurt them (swarms, the ultimate threat in all 3e-derived games).  After a big fight they kill him, though Serpent gets his staff all shadow-infected (a little “thank you” from K’Stallo, aka “The Serpent Man Formerly Known As Elias Tammerhawk”). In fact, Clegg Zincher and Akron Erix are the ones that really did most of the killing of the Messenger himself, which really enhances their local rep! And their status with the PCs – they’ve been ambivalent about whether Zincher is “a stand up guy” or “that guy we really want to kill.”

So – return to party!

Finally, having blown out Riddleport as much as one can blow it out, they return to the sea to seek Piracy, Wogan’s sister, the head of Elias Tammerhawk, the rape-murder of the Stormdaughter, and whatever’s messing with Sindawe’s people.  What’s the chance all those plot threads are related?  This is D&D, so 100%!

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Four, Fifth Session

Welcome back!  We’ve still been playing Reavers and writing up session summaries, but I am sadly delinquent in posting them as blog posts.  This summer, I intend to catch you all up!  Follow along and read the adventures of the most dastardly batch of pirates to ever bedevil Golarion!

Salvadora Beckett Fifth Session (21 page pdf) – “Patching In” – More business on the streets of Riddleport; beating up locals, recruiting new pirates, plotting and scheming… And it is capped off with a pirate party to end all pirate parties!

First they interrogate an anti-Cyphermage agitator and realize his organization is backed by the Zincher crime syndicate, who since the tsunami have become a lot more of the “patriotic community association, that will still break your kneecaps” type.

Then Wogan starts to get concerned about his sister, who has moved to Nidal and married some local.  A visit may be in the offing!  And Serpent and his wife Samaritha go shopping for an egg-case (lest you forget, she is a serpentfolk who disguises herself as a half-elf).

They also follow up with Salvadora Beckett of the God Squad, an undercover branch of the gendarmerie that investigates evil cults and keeps there from being too much religious influence in the city. This is something I imported from the Freeport setting into Riddleport.  Keep in mind as you read the following that I use the picture of butch iconic half-orc inquisitor Imrijka as her character portrait (above).

Sindawe changes the subject, “We are having a patching in ceremony and party tomorrow night. The Overlord and other bigwigs will be there. You’re invited, of course.”
Salvadora replies, “I am a law officer. My presence would put a real dampener on your party. Besides, I’m already running too high of a profile for my line of work.”
Sindawe says, “You could wear a disguise.”
Serpent blurts out, “You could always come as a stripper… uh.”
Salvadora’s eyes slide over to Serpent, who shuts up.
Sindawe laughs at his friend’s mistake, then jokingly tells Salvadora, “You could fake your own death, just like those famous detectives do in the bardic songs. Then you can investigate without having to answer to your boss or the rules. You can bring the villains to justice.”
Salvadora consider this then replies, “I do have a hanging harness.” She clomps off.
Wogan tells Sindawe, “I think she was hitting on you.” Sindawe thinks about that possibility.

Also, they are rewarded for giving over the remaining Yellowjackets (Calistrian assassins) to the law by a raise dead scroll for the murdered Little Mike. Then they recruit some new pirates.

This is always a fun time, and something I have to prepare a lot for.  I have to come up with a list of pirates for them to interview, some high level, some low level, all with various personality disorders, some actively traitorous and some just passively traitorous. You never know what they’ll like or not like.

Duke Ron (based on Kurt Russell’s “Captain Ron” character) was meant to be all lively and piratey but they hated him.

Cannonball Jack, Nemo, Kent, “Ragged” Pete Morgan, George Peters, “Long” Bonifacio Copper, and Kitty the Cantankerous are all welcomed aboard, despite some of them kinda obviously sucking. And Melella, a half-elf druid they met during their investigation of Little Mike’s murder who took a liking to them.

Then they meet Captain Sempronia, who has open enmity with Duke Ron.  They go with Sempronia, which will be revealed as a terrible mistake later.

Then it’s time for the after-party.  The huge, Sons of Anarchy style dock party with loads of rented hookers and VIPs and crime lords and disguised succubi and Cyphermages and demon assassins.  But before the demon assassins, Sindawe came up with a whole motorcycle gang vest and patching plan. Check out the summary for the details. And the Overlord gives them a warrant for the serpent man known as Elias Tammerhawk – 10,000 gold, dead or alive. They like this, they hate that guy (lest you forget, he blew up the Riddleport Light and caused a tsunami to hit Riddleport and got glyph-shards embedded in the PCs and all kindsa stuff like that).

wanted

The PCs really enjoy their party, and I generate all kinds of interesting “party fouls” for them to watch or participate in or whatnot.  I enjoyed Wogan maintaining his priest-of-Gozreh chastity despite a succubus grinding on him.

We leave off in the middle of the party…

D&D 5e PHB Readthrough, Chapter 8: Adventuring

adventureAnd now we get to the Adventure!  Welcome to this installment in my D&D Fifth Edition PHB readthrough and review. This time, Chapter 8: Adventuring.

First they reiterate the D&D Decision Loop (DDDL) from earlier:

  1. The DM describes the environment
  2. The players describe what they want to do
  3. The DM narrates the result of their actions

Firmly establishing the trad playstyle.  I’m actually a little ambivalent about this, I like some player participation in limited environment narration and especially action narration but I can see they’re setting the baseline here.

Then we get the usual sections that have been in every PHB since time immemorial. Time, Movement, Vision and Light… It’s all pretty straightforward.  6 second rounds like the kids use nowadays. Crawling and swimming and stuff are simplified to just use 2 feet of movement to go 1 foot. Skill checks are described as being binary – you might make Strength (Athletics) checks to be able to climb or swim, but then the speed is invariant.

I like the “Interacting with Objects” section, instead of a big chart of substance hardness and hit points like in 3e it just says “DM will decide, and if he says you can’t cut a rope with a club, then that’s the way it is.”  I could see a DM advice book with things like the 3e hardness chart as “Here’s some guidance, if you don’t happen to personally know where bone fits vis-a-vis wood and stone in the hardness follies” but I like it being kept out of the core rules for simplicity.

But wait… Then a section on Social Interaction and Roleplaying?  What’s the world coming to? Isn’t D&D just torches and swords and orcs and Cheetos? They describe third person (“Descriptive”) roleplaying and first person (“Active”) roleplaying, and correctly note the second is more immersive. Affecting NPCs is a mix of roleplaying with the possibility of Charisma checks.  This is great, like a lot of things it moves the dial back to Basic/1e/2e times before affecting NPC attitudes was a completely rules exercise where “Diplomancers” could min-max happily enslaving anyone they could talk to with their +50 Diplomacy skills.

Next resting. Like 4e there is a “short rest” (1 hour, and you can roll up to your level in Hit Dice to heal) and a “long rest” (8 hours, and you regain all your hit points and 1/2 your Hit Dice).  This is the primary healing mechanic, which is pretty – perhaps overly – generous (on average, you can heal 2x your entire hit points in the first day). So don’t expect much in the way of lingering wounds.

Then there’s a between adventures section involving lifestyle expenses (from Chapter 5) and downtime.  This is very similar to the Pathfinder downtime system – options include making money from crafting or professions or doing research or training or recuperating from diseases or other effects.

This chapter’s a bit of a laundry list but it is a necessary laundry list of how you do what you do when you’re not murdering.

D&D 5e PHB Readthrough, Chapter 7: Using Ability Scores

beholderWelcome to this installment in my D&D Fifth Edition PHB readthrough and review. We are entering “Part 2: Playing the Game” with a chapter on using ability scores.

First they reprint the Ability Scores and Modifiers section from earlier, in penance for their questionable organizational skills. They explain advantage and disadvantage, one of the big new mechanics in 5e – in many cases, instead of an additional bonus or penalty to a d20 roll,  you roll twice and take the best or worst die result instead. Advantage and disadvantage cancel each other. Simpler and elegant, though they’ve retained enough bonuses/penalties and other stuff to track that it doesn’t hugely simplify the system.

Finally they kinda explain skills.  They try to keep skills on the down-low in this version, basically you generally use ability checks but you can add your proficiency bonus to skills you have. Since proficiency bonuses really only range from +2 to +6 that means that, barring other abilities, there’s not a huge difference between having a skill and not having it.

They also describe passive checks, which is just taking 10 on the die, done when you’re doing it repeatedly or the GM wants to do it in secret (different from 3e’s taking 10 and 20). And working together, which provides advantage.

Group checks have an interesting mechanic – everyone makes the check and if half or more succeed, the group succeeds.  This removes the shitty “everyone makes a roll and one person is going to fail/succeed because probability” problem in earlier editions, very elegant.

Next they just go into what you use Strength, Dexterity, etc. for.  None of this is all that new and surprising, except DEX gives you bonuses to both attack and damage with ranged and finesse weapons, 4e-style. A sidebar on hiding sweeps away hundreds of pages of rules lawyering from previous editions, just saying “you can’t hide if someone can see you – but if you’re hidden you can sneak up on someone if they’re distracted, at the DM’s discretion.” You know, like all sane people have done it. (Google “The Rules Of Hidden Club” if you want to see how pathetically insane rules lawyers have gotten on this topic.)

And then saving throws are just ability checks (plus proficiency if applicable).

So the general message is… Ability checks! Roll them!

D&D 5e PHB Readthrough, Chapter 6: Customization Options

customWelcome to this installment in my D&D Fifth Edition PHB readthrough and review. We’ve reached the end of the Character Creation section.  Now it’s time to customize.

By customize, I guess we really mean “some more spare rules.”  We start with multiclassing. It works like 3e where you can add levels ad hoc in whatever classes.  It has the additional twist of having ability score minimums, which is an interesting and IMO satisfying middle ground between the 1e “you need this much ability to be this class” and 3e-style “minmax however you want.”

Then there are feats. Feats are optional in 5e, you take them in place of an ability score advance (every fourth level). Since you have fewer of them than in 3e, each one is pretty buff.  In fact, oddly, some give you one point of ability advance anyway. Even the “skill” ones are good – let’s take “Actor,” which would be +2 to 2 skills in 3e (yawn).  Here, it gives you +1 Charisma, advantage on deception and performance checks, and an ability to mimic someone’s speech. Many are of course combat focused, like Dual Wielder gives you +1 AC and the ability to 2-handed fight with non-light weapons, and the ability to draw or stow 2 weapons at once.  I like how many of them add those little details (like the draw/stow) that show they’ve thought through the little details. A couple are boring (Skilled – Gain proficiency in 3 skills!) but that’s the minority, and they’re designed to help you push in some character direction you can’t get by class min-maxing in the new regime. And, they’re not strictly better than the +2 to a stat (though since the limit is 20, if you put a high number in your primary stat, a couple advances probably cap you out and you are looking to diversify anyway).

There’s only 42 feats, but each one is meaty, and you’re only going to get a fistful with any character, and I’m sure more will come (whenever they decide to publish anything else…).

And we’re done with character generation!  Solid all in all. Streamlined and not as fiddly as 3e, but more consistent and customizable than 2e. And a real role-playing game and not a pure tactical boardgame like… Uh… Some editions.