Tag Archives: 3.5e

Second Curse of the Crimson Throne “A History of Ashes” Session Summary Posted

We’re moving quickly, and we finish up the fourth chapter of the Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path this session.

In Part II of A History of Ashes (10 page .pdf), Annata, Malcolm, and Amiri successfully complete our Shoanti ritual as Thorndyke rejoins us.  And then we have to face the biggest Red Mantis hit squad yet.  Amiri and Krojin Eats-What-He-Kills benefit greatly from their barbarian unflankability.  Sadly Malcolm does not, and the fight turns into a WoW-style format of Annata pouring healing as quickly as she can into Malcolm as he hacks at his opponents.  Annata is pretty lucky with striking people blind, her blindness spell succeeds on Cinnabar the Mantis leader.  It’s one of Sarenrae’s prime punishments for infidels so her good luck is dramatically perfect.

Annata respects the Shoanti people a lot more now.  In the beginning she was fearful (as around Korvosa they’re generally considered to be the murder and rape brute squad) and looked down on their “savage” ways.  But living with them, and seeing how they conduct themselves both in battle and in camp, she’s impressed.  They’re certainly brave – Krojin didn’t even bother considering the whole “turn them over to the Red Mantis” spiel from Cinnabar – but they are also surprisingly joyful.  Annata’s never been a big partyer (being largely confined to a temple for most of her post-street urchin life) and their celebrations, even after being attacked, seem much more honest and unabashed than Korvosan life, which appeals to some of her understanding of Sarenrae’s teaching (their worship of the sun also seems symbolic to her).  She gets a bit of a Spring Break experience out of the celebrations and she needed that; being underground resistance in Korvosa had her wound pretty tight.  By the time she has to leave, she is proud to be a Sun Clan Shoanti!

Amiri stays with the clan and Annata works to get her hooked up with Krojin.  Brandie was just temping as a player, and Amiri’s backplot says she was trying to find acceptance with the barbarians so that wraps up neatly.

At the end of Part II, we actually started The Skeletons of Scarwall and did the initial briefing, Harrow readings, etc.  And we get to see Laori again when we go find the Bortherhood of the Bones people!  Shadow Count Sial and Asyra are lame, but Annata really likes Laori.  Except for the evil-god thing they are two peas in a pod and happily chatter away with each other till Malcolm and Thorndyke are driven to distraction.

First Curse of the Crimson Throne “A History of Ashes” Session Summary Posted

We continue into the fourth chapter of the Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path from Paizo, using the Pathfinder RPG beta rules.

Part I of A History of Ashes is kinda Part II since we got a lot of the initial plot explication out in the previous session.  We were really short on players, so Chris’ girlfriend decided to dive in as Amiri the barbarian, and she learned the joy of the UltraHack!

It was a short session, we screwed around a lot beforehand.  We went to get devoured by the sandworm, but the noob is the only one who got swallowed!  Then we go to perform some barbarian initiation ritual where we have to keep our poles erect for three days straight.  Has anyone else noticed that this whole adventure path has been pretty homoerotic?  In the art, even in the character descriptions, there’s “a lot for the ladies” in Curse of the Crimson Throne.  Good thing I’m playing a female character.

Speaking of females, we pressure one of our groupies into playing this time, and she outshines her bf easily!  Woot!

Third Curse of the Crimson Throne “Escape From Old Korvosa” Session Summary Posted

Part III of Escape from Old Korvosa is a jumbo session.  It’s actually the end of Escape from Old Korvosa and the beginning of A History of Ashes.  And the hits keep on coming!

First, we find Vencarlo at long last!  Once we escape, he passes on the mantle of Blackjack to one of our heroes.  But that’s not what Annata wants the most from him…  She tries to provoke him into starting up a romance, to little effect.  In reality, the DM admitted that he wasn’t comfortable role-playing the romance.  Which was a little surprising to me, as our DM is gay.  “Between the two of us,  you’re the one who’s uncomfortable with this?  Damn, I guess I need to be hitting the gym!”   The rest of the party was no help; they just suggested I start writing Annata slashfic.

But before we leave the city…  Annata feels obliged to speak out!  Yes, I actually prepared that whole speech (entire text is included in the session summary).  So sue me, I’m a roleplayer.  Educated folks and people with enough of the Old Country in their blood may recognize the bit towards the end that I included as an homage to Irish patriot Michael Collins.

Then we move into A History of Ashes.  I have to say, we were pretty nonplussed by the Byzantine plot laid out before us.  “To find out about the relics in the Queen’s crown, you need Guy#1 to tell you, but to do that you need to perform Heroic Task 1, but to do that you need Guy #2, but to do that you need to perform Heroic Task 2, but for that you need Guy #3, but for that you need to perform Heroic Task 3.”  Michael Kortes, we have our eye on you.  The action setpieces better be spectacular to make up for this lead-us-by-the-nose plot.

Annata is in a weird place right now.  She is starting to see the hand of destiny laid strong upon them.  It had already been impressed upon her that the two men she was fighting alongside were a Korvosan Guard and a Sable Company Marine, which is very symbolic of the founding of Korvosa.  But now with venturing out among the Shoanti, she is starting to wonder if she’s Saint Alika the Martyr in this tale.  As a Korvosan city girl, she has been told since she was young that Shoanti are barbarians, pretty much into arson, rape, and murder in whatever order occurs to them, depending on how much they’re out of their primitive minds on fermented horse urine or whatever.  So mentally she’s hovering between “chosen of Sarenrae” and “martyr complex.”

So now we’re in a weird dungeon with two Brotherhood of Bones weirdos.  Laori was all right, but Annata’s not sure about these two.  They did help kill the latest wave of Red Mantis assassins though.  And did the author really think the tentacle beast was going to be a surprise?  The second we heard “drop down to dark water” we all said “Yep, it’s Helm’s Deep.”  Although apparently the tentacle beast in Lord of the Rings is really at the entrance to the Mines of Moria.  Eh, who can keep all that Tolkien stuff straight.

Second Curse of the Crimson Throne “Escape From Old Korvosa” Session Summary Posted

Things get hot and heavy in Part II of Escape from Old Korvosa.  Annata, Malcolm, and Thorndyke venture into the belly of the beast.  We go to stay at Palace Arkona and decide to do some snooping!  We suck at that, but luckily Lord Arkona seems to be in our corner.

We traverse a weirdo Cube dungeon.  It’s kinda cool, and the decorators knew how to carry a motif, though the proliferation of symbols is more annoying than dangerous.  And finally, we find Vencarlo – or DO we?!?

And then, we find out how three level 8 adventurers fare against CR10 and CR12 opponents – at the same time!

First Curse of the Crimson Throne “Escape From Old Korvosa” Session Summary Posted

In Part I of Escape From Old Korvosa, the third chapter in the Curse of the Crimson Throne adventure path, we defy the Queen’s quarantine of Old Korvosa to get to the bottom of some things!  The first thing we get to the bottom of is the taste-meter, as this session has 200% more bestiality jokes than usual.  And then, we liberate Old Korvosa from its most proximate oppressor, a new local crime lord.  We took him seriously until we found out he was really a bard with a pet gimp.

Then, after dealing with the local decadent aristocracy, we go looking for our buddy (and Annata’s would-be squeeze), Vencarlo.  His fencing school’s been burned down, and his house seems like it’s been abandoned just minutes before we arrived.  And then the ninja bug-men attack!

In the wake of that, we find out that the old seneschal, one of the few people with the legal power to thwart the evil Queen’s plans, may still be alive and in Old Korvosa!  And we also find an outfit of Vencarlo’s that reveals an awesome secret…

Fourth Curse of the Crimson Throne “Seven Days to the Grave” Session Summary Posted

We wrapped up the chapter in Seven Days to the Grave, Part IV.  It was a little disjointed, as we left and returned to the warehouse/dungeon sooo many times.  I halfway hoped the nurse that fled would bring down the Queen’s goon squad or something so that we didn’t have unlimited back-and-forth access.  It becomes too tempting to play it safe (clear a room, rest, clear a room…)

We fought Nosferatu.  Not sure if that is what it was called, but its pic was a total copy of the original from the movie.   Then we leave, and go back to free the ocarina player, then leave, and go back to clear the place.

I was a little unhappy with the writing towards the end, though.  In both chapters there’s been some “Korvosa is totally rioting and there’s starvation!  Well, not really.  Plague has closed down the city!  Well, not really.  They all hate the Queen!  Well, not really.”  Last we heard, the city was in flames because of the city being enraged that this new Queen was now in charge, but when we come up with proof that her own hand-picked SS guys and goon squad are behind the plague, Guard captain and populace alike are all “Oh, must be a coincidence.”  What!?!  But to no useful end, since immediately afterwards, in a cutscene we’re not there for, she reveals herself as evil anyway.  It seemed like a big “fuck you” to the players.

I am not allergic to story – all the “sandbox” or “old school” gamers out there say “story baaaad!”  Not me, I like me some story.  But this is really the first time in the APs I’ve felt like they were more in love with their own story than the PCs’ part in it.

Sure, Paul our DM hews very close to the written word and you could say he should just change it, but having to change it reveals a weakness.

Anyway, in the end it’s a minor nit – the chapter was still enjoyable overall – but it seems to me a bit of a warning sign.  Interesting characters and driving plots are great, but should never threaten the primacy of the PCs in the story.

Best session quote:

We find an operating room, and cells beyond with more hapless Varisians.  As Annata tries to calm them in Varisian, Thorndyke demands, “Stop speaking that dog language!”

Next time – Escape from Old Korvosa!

Third Curse of the Crimson Throne “Seven Days to the Grave” Session Summary Posted

We started our first proper dungeon crawl in Seven Days to the Grave, Part III!  Annata had hoped to somehow spy around in the Queen’s Physicians’ “hospital”, but we pretty much had to disguise up and go in the front.  That worked very well!  She gave Valash her doctor’s mask, and she used the glamered armor they had found to simulate a Grey Maiden’s armor (at the cost of a point of AC).  She was a little uncomfortable at how… form-fitting it was, but serving the Goddess requires personal sacrifice.  I made up Malcolm to look sick and Valash turned Thorndyke invisible.  And off we went!

We managed to penetrate all the way to the boss before we were discovered.  The session summary gets it a little wrong and it’s confusing what happened – when Valash brought out the disease-box he was like, “What could this thing be, Doctor Davalus?”  Apparently every single Physician is in on the plot and knows what they are, so Davalus decided to fight us.  Bad plan, we unloaded on him.  I was worried we wouldn’t get out of there after, but the Maidens and Physicians didn’t stay crunchy in milk and the nurse apparently didn’t summon the cops.   So we wasted them all and extracted the Varisian experimental subjects.  Annata’s still fretting about what to do about the 60 plague victims in there.  And then, the dungeon!

Best quote from this session:

Annata offers, “I need to contemplate the religious implications of these murals.”
Malcolm points out, “They’re going to kill everyone. You think too much. I never think about things, that’s why I’m such a good fighter.” Malcolm grabs one door handle and opens it. This triggers the trap: the skeletons breathe out poisonous gas, then animate. The creature’s arms and weapon spring from the door and cut through him.
Malcolm gasps and falls as his lifeblood sprays out against the wall.

And it happened exactly like that.  The scythe critted and did 63 points of damage to Malcolm!  We were really worried he was going to die, so worried we didn’t laugh and gloat at the time.  But now we can.  Mmmwah hah haaa!

Predictably, when we finally got to fight Rolf the necromancer he d-doored away.  I always hate that.

Second Curse of the Crimson Throne “Seven Days to the Grave” Session Summary Posted

In Seven Days to the Grave, Part II, we go scuba diving!  In Korvosa’s equivalent to the Hudson River.  As is traditional, the ranger gets screwed out of actually affecting anything with his ranger powers.  Reefclaws?  Sorry, they’re aberrations.  A shark?  Sorry, it’s a hag’s buddy.  Poor bastard.

Annata used Speak with Dead for the first time, to demand the truth from the dead priest of Urgathoa we found.  We were not all that shocked to find out that the head of the Queen’s Physicians was implicated.  And the Red Mantis, some improbably-garbed assassin cult (they kinda resemble Ambush Bug, my favorite supervillain, but not because of his menace factor).

Worried that the guard might decide to arrest them at the Queen’s behest, Annata insisted on going into Citadel Volshyenek alone to tell the Field Marshal this information.  She thought Kroft had generally been fair with them, but had also turned over Trinia to the Queen’s goon squad when instructed.  Luckily, it appears she’s practicing being less Lawful and said we should go find more proof!

I had a long confusing exchange with the DM from trying to roleplay Annata’s relationship with Grau.  He was there in the Citadel.  I wanted him to want to see me so I could give him the cold shoulder.  I had trouble getting this across.  “Does Grau want to talk to me after?”  “Yes, what do you want to ask him?”  “No, no, I want him to want to talk to me, but I don’t want to talk to him.”  “What?”  It’s so hard being a chick.

Then we went to the cool zombie death house to find the Ocarina of Gypsies, and rescue Hugh Hefner.  Annata actually took that crossbow bolt from interposing herself between the crazy-lady and the lord; that’s not clear in the summary.   It was pretty entertaining how the villainess’ S&M act largely defused any Intimidation-based interrogation of her.  I am nothing if not persistent so I got her to open up more later in her cell.   And then comes the best quote of the session:

Once Annata is finished talking to her, Malcolm steps up with his cosh. “Sleepy time!” WHACK!
Annata protests, “But she’s already in a cell!”
Malcolm calmly answers, “Well, now she’s unconscious in a cell.”

Boys.

First Curse of the Crimson Throne “Seven Days to the Grave” Session Summary Posted

Our brave band continues their struggle against evil as they begin the second chapter of the Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path!

In Seven Days to the Grave, Part I, Annata and her friends were busy bees indeed.  First, they are trying to nip this darn Blood Veil plague in the bud.  Grau came to her and asked for her help because his niece was sick and needed help.  They set out immediately.  Grau was standoffish and wouldn’t talk to her much, which hurt Annata’s feelings a little.  He was just like “OK, here’s my sister-in-law’s house, get to healing, gotta go!”  Hmph!  She’s practicing her icy demeanor for the next time he shows up.

Next, Vencarlo asked them to come over!  Annata had been wanting to ask him about the political situation (and see him again on general principles).  When they got over there, he had the escaped assassin/victim Trina Sabor with him!  Blackjack had entrusted her to him to aid in her escape.  (Yes, it’s obvious to the rest of the party that Vencarlo’s Blackjack, but not to Annata!)  They promised to smuggle her out of the city.  Vencarlo said that things had gotten too hot for him politically and he was going to need to go underground in Old Korvosa for a while.  Annata’s breathless “Oh, Vencarlo, are you in danger?!?” provoked a round of groans and “Jeeezus”es from the other players at the table.  I am proud.  Anyway, we snuck her out of the city, the other characters largely foiling any of Annata’s efforts to learn more about the girl and what her deal is.

Upon reflection, this is the first major crime Annata’s performed.  She didn’t really think of it that way at the time, but all these postings about new capital crimes in town made her face that fact.  She had just talked with her spiritual mentor, Father Valdur (incidentally the head of the Bromathan family), who confirmed to her that serving the greater truth and good sometimes required some minor deception.  So she’s OK with it, but a little sobered now in retrospect.

The appearance of these “Queen’s Physicians” and “Grey Maidens” seems ominous.  Annata is willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, despite her companions’ immediate ranting about cryptofascist conspiracies.  But it is fishy enough that she’s willing to check into them a bit more.

Meanwhile, Valash appears to be going totally and completely insane.  Obsessive/compulsive mania and paranoia.  Up till now Annata was tolerant of her friend’s quirks but now she’s getting concerned.

The dungeon crawl against the wererats went well.  Annata managed to save the lives of all but one of the wererats, still being very reluctant to have anyone die.  She was disappointed that she couldn’t talk Girrigz, the wererat leader, into repenting of his evil ways and accepting redemption.  But, the Mark of the Outcast she placed upon him will likely prevent any further shenanigans.  And they saved an otyugh!

Third Curse of the Crimson Throne “Edge of Anarchy” Session Summary Posted

The party’s capture/rescue of Trina Sabor, alleged assassin of the King, in Curse of the Crimson Throne: Edge of Anarchy Part III is about the last straw for Annata. She can’t be sure that Trina didn’t have anything to do with the King’s demise (a poor artist with a magical mithril shirt, dagger, and potion loadout? That’s a little suspicious) despite her convincing-sounding story to that effect, but she doesn’t feel right about how everything happened – Field Marshal Croft seems honorable but she’s bound by her orders, and the orders coming down to her seem more and more questionable.  She had wanted to talk to Trina herself, have the goddess prove the truth of her words, but they’d been sent off immediately on an errand to retrieve that poor Shoanti boy’s body from the boneyard.  And while they were gone, the Queen’s guard spirited the girl away.  She wept in anger and frustration when they returned from the crypts to discover Trina’d been taken without even an interrogation to her execution.

Even tired and out of spells from their battle with the minions of the necromancer Rolth, she would have stood up for the girl publicly had she been sure of her innocence.  She tried to find anyone to talk to who might be able to do something, but she couldn’t find Vencarlo or the Field Marshal, and Sabine and the Queen were inaccessible. She felt for that poor girl – as they marched her out to meet the headsman, she fervently prayed to the Dawnflower to spare her if she was innocent, or to grant her a quick end with no pain if she was not… But then the goddess answered her prayer in the most unexpected and awesome way ever – Annata’s heart leapt in her chest when Blackjack himself appeared to spirit away the condemned artist right off the chopping block!

Sarenrae’s word on the matter could not be any more clear. If Blackjack is against the Queen – then she shall be too! No more accepting questionable jobs in the alleged name of order and the public good. Annata will get to the bottom of this, and as the Book of Light and Truth says, “Where the Dawnflower’s rays shine, the darkness can not stand.”

Greyhawk Gods, Paizo, 3e, and More

There have been some good Greyhawk deity writeups recently on MerricB’s blog over at ENWorld.  Greyhawk will always be my first game-world love, so I read them even through I try to avoid the ENWorld blogs – they are really ugly and clunky enough that it physically hurts me to try to use them.

He also has some very insightful other articles lately, including one called “How Paizo made me hate 3e.”  Heh, not a dis to Paizo, but just that their Adventure Paths have made him (and me) play 3e past the levels we usually do, and to realize how badly it starts to fall apart – really post about level 12.  The main problems he notes are:

  • AC and attack not tracking at higher levels
  • The 15 minute adventuring day
  • Grappling is overpowering (not a pun)
  • Rogues are too powerful or too nerfed, depending on their opponents
  • Clerics are essential but boring to play

Now, to me, 4e’s “answers” to the problems he rightly identifies is like the old practice of using electroshock and/or lobotomies as the cure for any mental problem.  “Grappling’s having problems?  Get rid of it totally!”

So far, I like the Pathfinder RPG‘s answers – to some of these.  In our new Pathfinder RPG Beta “Curse of the Crimson Throne” campaign, my experience is that the cleric/pally revamps have made the cleric, while still essential, a lot more fun.  The at-will powers, unlimited cantrips/orisons, and channeling energy to heal have largely fixed the 15 minute adventuring day problem.  And their new combat maneuver bonus (CMB) approach has made grappling etc, not superpowerful.

What they haven’t addressed, in my opinion, is the AC/attack split at higher levels and the rogue problem.  And the 15 minute day may reemerge – I suspect the at-wills and channels, and of course the cantrips, won’t be so useful to keep you going when low on spells when you’re at level 10+.

Anyway, this is all to say, “Brave the scary graphical design of ENWorld to read Merric’s blog!”

Second Curse of the Crimson Throne “Edge of Anarchy” Session Summary Posted

Edge of Anarchy, Part II continued the urban fun, as we took on missions for the Korvosan Guard to help stabilize the city.  Sure, we stopped some killers and met with the crime boss known as the King of Spiders to get blackmail material on a Chelixian ambassador, but more importantly, Annata has been meeting some interesting men!

Last time, actually, is when we met Grau, the Korvosan Guard sergeant who was wandering the chaotic streets drunk and depressed.  We escorted him back to Citadel Volshyenek at the time, and now we’ve been sent there by the Queen to help Field Marshal Kroft and the Guard.  He’s cleaned himself up and has been showing the heroes around.  She got the whole story out of him – how he and his fencing master had both fallen in love with the same woman, another fencing student, and it had all ended badly.  (And the woman was Sabine, the Queen’s bodyguard and rumored lover!)  A sad story and six pack abs.  He definitely needs an understanding ear, and maybe hearing about the Dawnflower can help him.

Then, she met Vencarlo Orisini, a dashing gentleman, who was bringing important information to the Field Marshal.  He’s well connected, very honorable, handsome – and Grau’s old fencing master!  Annata was ready to not like him, but her standoffishness melted in the face of his nobility (he actually asked after his old student, who he wished well despite their falling out.)  And you don’t get your hand kissed much on the streets of Korvosa nowadays.  And he owns his own villa…  And the long hair looks good on him…

What’s a good girl who’s been largely holed up in a temple for the last seven years to think!?!

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