Tuesday, December 28, 2010

D&D Log: 2010 Recap

There was no D&D session this past Sunday due to the holiday season, and that means that the next D&D session will take place in 2011. I was feeling the itch to talk about D&D, so I wanted to see what people were curious to hear about. @jbevan70 on Twitter suggested that I talk about the last year of our D&D campaign and talk about our favorite moments, but after he mentioned that I realized that it actually has been just about a year since we started playing this campaign. I sat back and thought about how far we’ve come, and it’s honestly pretty incredible. I never expected to have thousands of fans who contribute views, discussion, and fanart to our campaign when I suggested getting a D&D group together with Jason early in the year.

The first session we played it was seven us on a Skype call awkwardly trying to roleplay, and now a year later it’s nine of us on a Skype call awkwardly trying to roleplay in front of a crowd of fans making rape jokes and shouting “RAM IT!” It’s beautiful, isn’t it? I’m still stunned that so many people enjoy us playing the game, and that even more started playing D&D because of our stream. I was actually at one point going to try to contact Wizards of the Coast to tell them about that, and maybe I should consider doing that again. I doubt anything would come of it, but it’s certainly worth telling them that that thousands of viewers weekly watch a campaign set around their game. We might not be Penny Arcade, but hey, I still think it’s impressive.

So the topic of this article was to look back on the last year and recollect what we’ve done in throughout seventeen sessions, twelve characters, five levels, and one crazy campaign. There’s a lot of great memories but some of my favorites include Jonn asking if we’re on fire, Grae’s epic kill steal, Viktor decapitating Lord Esgalion, the insane throne room battle, and the one kinky night we all spent stripped, gagged, and bound in the elf camp (i.e. the Sexiest Session Ever). I’m still stunned there’s no fanart about that last one. But really, there are so many memories and I’m actually more curious to find out what you guys think about the last year of our campaign.

What have you guys loved? What have you hated? Do you have a favorite character? What about a favorite session or encounter? I’m very curious to see what the fans think about everything because I’ll be honest the campaign’s success is mostly because you guys. You guys have made this simple Sunday pastime into an event and a spectacle, and for that I thank you.

I also want to give very special to thanks to anyone out there who has drawn fanart for the campaign because honestly, that stuff is astounding to me. We’ve got some amazing artists in our community, and it means a lot that you guys put so much work into your fanart for our characters or our sessions. I’ll be honest when I say I’ve had entire days that were complete shit turned around because of an awesome piece of fanart. I try to give credit to the artists whenever I can, but I still feel it’s not enough. If you’ve ever drawn a picture of Juliet and you don’t see it in the gallery here then send an e-mail to ChrisLarios@ChannelAwesome.com with a link to the image, a link to your gallery, and a name for the credit. I want to make sure everyone gets their proper respect, and this is the absolute least I can do at this point.

Well let’s finish wrapping up a year of outrageous gaming with a great group, a fantastic DM, and the best fans in the world. There’s been a lot of fun, a few awkward moments (Lord Vane I’s death anyone?), and a lot of great discussion. You can probably tell by now, but I absolutely love talking about the D&D campaign, and if you feel like asking me anything from my thoughts on a particular character or session to something silly like what is Juliet’s favorite basketball team then send a question over to my FormSpring. Also if you’re particularly fond of the D&D campaign, check out the wiki and the TVTropes page and maybe edit some stuff in. Regardless of what you guys do, I just hope that you return next year when Team Dethklok returns to derp their way through another adventure; this time with Pascoe the Gentleman Bear!

See you guys for the next D&D recap in 2011! Until next time, Namaste!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

D&D Log: Session 17

Oh snap, it’s a D&D recap! Shit is going down people! I repeat, shit is going down! Now I know I always say this recap will be short and they always wind up being long, but this time it –should- be short because I missed much of the session when a friend of college stopped by. By the time I entered the campaign our big demon encounter was over. Actually when I first got home I asked Jason if anything important had happened and he responded “no, not really”. Then I immediately here Spoony say “you look over to see Juliet burned husk slumped in the corner”. Commence freaking out.

No, it seems that since I was absent for the encounter I was instead the victim of a Sneak Attack from Darstine who has become completely controlled by Morgana which is one of the few times Darstine has remembered to use Sneak Attack. So yeah, I basically got instant KO’d for this encounter, and then afterwards I was used as a hostage so that Morgana could get away in Darstine’s body (even if Lord Vane did use the Ring of Ram to send her flying). Kind of a shame that Juliet was pretty much used as a damsel in distress this encounter, but it does work as fuel for a rather large change in her character, but I’ll get into that later.

Anyway, following Morgana’s escape we made chase only to find that Morgana has pretty much left a field of destruction in her wake. She cut Amendread in half and nearly killed Alice, but it was clear that she had already gone back to the future to take out the Witch Queen, so it was up to Dethklok to chase after her. We returned to our time, and already we could see the effects of Morgana in our world. Tamier’s army was devastated, and those that did not choose to worship Morgana were killed. Grae managed to find a half dead Tamier, and asked, quite bluntly: “Hey Tammy. Why so dead?” I do love Grae.

The session pretty much ended there as next time our party debated on whether we should chase after Morgana, or let Morgana and the Witch Queen duke it out and try take out the winner by gathering an army from Sarmanath. Considering the holidays and MAGFest coming up it’s actually very likely we won’t be able to get a session of the campaign together for a little bit, I figure we can use this time to plan. So what do you guys think we should do?

In addition I should explain here that Juliet is going to be undergoing a character change. She’s still going to be a Druid, but she’s switching to the Essentials Druid, the Sentinel. That means a lot of changes—the most major being that I will now become a Leader as opposed to a Controller, though from what I’ve seen I won’t be really healing beyond the two Healing Words I have. More so I’ll be buffing defenses, and mixing it up in melee. Yes, while Juliet is still a spell caster (and thus prone to gagging should we get captured again which just feels inevitable at this point), she’s actually going to become a front line combatant now. I am trying to justify this change as Juliet realizing that she needs to take a more active role in improving herself. When she found herself completely helpless and used as a hostage she realized her limitations, and after that attack she could no longer hear Pidgeotto’s spirit. Thus she’s going to become a warrior for nature in the truest sense.

As for the bear that will now follow her around and can telepathically communicate with her… um… yep. He’ll just be there. Yeah, the Essential Druid gets an animal companion right off the bat which is one of the big reasons I wanted to change, but I can’t really justify him in any way. Same with why I won’t be able to Wildshape. I could say that I no longer need the ability to turn into an animal now that I’m embracing the animal within, but most of the time I just turned into a salmon and slapped people, so whatever. Yeah, I’m excited for this change, but I do have one hang up: a name for my bear companion.

As a Druid of Summer, I get a Bear Companion who stays with me forever (unlike Pidgeotto it can be killed, but like Pidgeotto it’s really just more of an annoyance), so I need a name. I’ve got quite a lot of names, so I want to see which one you guys like the best. Here are the suggestions:

- Pokemon: Considering my past animal bud was Pidgeotto, there is the possibility of keeping the streak going. As a bear I could call him Ursaring, but that’s about the only bear pokemon I can really think of.
- LOST: I have a LOST theme going with most my characters, so I could keep it up with this summon. Maybe call him Hurley? Or just call him the Polar Bear from LOST?
- New York Giants: I do like naming characters after cool last names, so I could always name my companion after a Giants player. Maybe Osi? Snee? How about Ahmad? My leading favorite? Name him after New York Giants Bear Pascoe. He’s already got Bear in his name!
- Punny Name: I could make his name a pun, and I have heard some good ones. My leading favorites are Bear Arthur (Bea Arthur) and Captain Bearbossa (Captain Barbossa).

It’s a tough choice I know, but let me know your input. We probably won’t be able to play for a while, so take your time. Also, do people like the character change in Juliet? I am trying to slowly let her character come out more and more, though I haven’t had the change to have her talk about her backstory. Was planning to mention it in the tower, but we never rested it until we reached Amendread. I kinda feel like revealing her backstory now, but I should probably keep that hidden until I can reveal it in-character. What do you guys think?

Until next time, Namaste!

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Swift Kick to the Nuts: My Life as a Giants Fan

In my short time as a Giants fan I’ve seen some heartbreaking losses, some crushing loses, and some embarrassing loses. Though I will state for the record that the worst loss I’ve seen as a fan was back in ’09 when the Giants got completely dominated by the Eagles at home in the playoffs, Sunday’s 38 – 31 meltdown is a very close second. In a game with playoff implications abound and first place of the NFC East on the line, this was a huge game already. Then add that this was a Giants home game against our most hated rival who has a five game winning streak over us. As a Giants fan we needed this win, but more than that we wanted to make a statement.

And we did. For the first thirty minutes of the game the Giants completely dominated the Eagles 24 – 3. The only Eagles points came off a Giants turnover in their own territory, and the Giants defense held Michael Vick and the #1 Offense (now calling itself the “Greatest Show of Turf Part II”) to a field goal. NFL MVP candidate Michael Vick was getting completely shut down and hit so hard that on a few plays his legs actually gave out on him. This was becoming a massacre. The Giants defense was flying around and making plays, and the “elite” Eagles receivers were being shut down by two corners that no one outside of the NFC East could even name. This was the game we needed, and going into halftime I started licking my lips at the thought of clinching the #2 seed with a Bears loss.

However it’s strange… for as excited as we should have been, I feel like we all knew what was going to happen. When FOX returned to the Pre-Game crew, everyone began handling special props to Michael Strahan, but Stray was very reserved and said football takes a full sixty minutes. He didn’t gloat or get cute. My dad called me and when I told him the score he got ecstatic and said I should probably call me Uncle (a huge Eagles fan), and start rubbing it in now, but I hesitantly declined. It’s as if collectively Giants fans knew that if any team could screw up this sort of lead it was going to be the Giants, and if any team could find a way to pop this high it was going to be the god damn Eagles.

What followed in the second half was everything I hate about the New York Giants. While I love our smash mouth running game and our overwhelming pass rush, I absolutely hate our defense when we take the lead in a game. I don’t know why it is we do this, but for some reason when we take the lead in a game we stop playing intense defense and we play this blasé no thrills coverage that gets beat. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I’m trying to recall if this ever happened under Spags, but I remember seeing it with Sheridan, and I’m seeing it way too often with Fewell. The moment we take the lead we stop seeing blitzes, and we take away the defense that put us in this position. At this point Corey Webster and Terrell Thomas had completely shut down the Eagle’s receivers single-handedly, yet once we took the lead Perry Fewell gave them extra help and thus allowed Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy to beat us with the run. Most irritating of all is that I went to high school with McCoy, so every time he gains yards on the Giants it’s like twisting a knife in my heart.

But there’s perhaps no better way to describe the Jekyll and Hyde complex the Giants have then to look at third year receiver Mario Manningham. At certain points he’s absolutely brilliant; making bobbling circus catch for a huge gain, or making yards out of nothing by making a defender miss. But then he’ll do something so mind numbingly stupid that I’m taken aback by how absolutely idiotic it is. Like when he tries to run a reverse across the football field just so he can get a few extra yards and winds up costing us a first down, or to be more relevant, fumbling the ball as he falls out of bounds simply due to careless carrying. That fumble changed the game’s momentum quickly, and not enough can be said about how much of a bonehead play this was. I don’t understand why Manningham dropped that ball other than admitting that Manningham might be gifted with amazing physical talents but also cursed with a baffling level of stupidity. It’s like he’s DeSean Jackson, except without the impressive numbers to help you justify why he takes his helmet off when he leaves the field.

Tom Quinn is a terrible Special Teams coach and two meltdowns on special teams cost us this game. The DeSean Jackson punt return was a mess, but I’ll be honest when I say that an electric player can’t be stopped. He may be an idiot, but DeSean Jackson is a damn good player and he had the talent to beat us. No, I’m far angrier about that onside kick mistake. There comes a point in football where you have to know the situation and the team you’re playing. Time is ticking down and our opponent is still down two scores. Given the situation you’d have to expect an onside kick, but more than that IT’S ANDY-FREAKING-REID AND THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES!!! Come on! They couldn’t telegraph this play anymore even if they held up an enormous neon sign and hired Bruce Springsteen to show up and sing a song about it. Seriously, what possible reason could Quinn have had to doubt that Reid would call for an onside kick?! More than that, why didn’t Tom Coughlin start strangling him for giving up a play like that!?

This was supposed to be a statement game for the Giants, and they made a statement alright: We don’t really like winning.

Actually wait, can that bumbling sound the Three Stooges make count as a statement? I think that describes this game perfectly.

Monday, November 29, 2010

D&D Log: Session 16

Huh? Is that a D&D Log I see? It is! It is! It’s a D&D recap!

So this was our first session using MapTools as opposed to OpenRPG for the main reason that MapTools can do a lot more than OpenRPG. Its white board is a lot more flexible, it allows you to place tokens on a creature, and it is insanely difficult to log into for some people. We spent a better portion of the night trying to get Liz and Nik into the game and I mention this because this will be a rather short recap--mostly because of the aforementioned connecting difficulty, but also because combat still moves like a gimped hippo walking through molasses in a blindfold. It is good for multitasking though. I did get some more gametime in Rune Factory 3 while I waited, and I did catch a few scenes in Boardwalk Empire. Now that’s a damn good show right there.

Alright, so last time we played we had just been transported to some other time/place and fought off a group of aberrant monsters. Left with nowhere else to go but up we climbed the nearest staircase and came across a beautiful woman playing the flute. She greeted us and told us that the tower’s master was expecting us, and apparently we were all smitten with her beauty. Juliet apparently tapped into that latent lesbianism that I didn’t know about, but hey I’ve yet to complain about lesbians before. Oh wait, Jimmy’s shitty lesbian wife subplot in Boardwalk Empire. Scratch that.

So it turns out the master of this tower is indeed Galendread, but Galendread is off slaying the Dragonborn Empire. Skipping the history lesson, this was pretty clear indication that we had traveled back in time and that was bad news. I hate time travel; brings up too many questions. Are we changing the future, or is this already decided? LOST worked with the latter, so if that’s the case Juliet just needs to fall down an enormous well and pound a nuclear device with a rock until everything resets. Then she can get coffee with Viktor and remember. Sorry, LOST fanboy-ism took over for a bit.

Back on track we met the current master of this tower, Amen-dread, Galendread’s apprentice. He was expecting us and was quite willing to hand over the Well of Souls assuming we could kill the demon that inhabited the vault where the Well was kept. There was a catch though… you know beyond the demon killing one. Amen-dread has no qualms about parting with this arcane army slayer on the condition that he could access everything else that is inside the chamber. Surprisingly I was suspicious of this, and I kick myself for not being more inquisitive, but it’s too late to do anything now.

Oh, and I want to address something. When we first met Amen-dread I asked him what was up with the chessboard. He said it and the other obstacles were tests designed to allow only skilled, swift, and smart adventurers through, etc. I asked again what the purpose of the chessboard was and was promptly met with “isn’t that what I just fucking told you?” I already gathered that the monsters and traps we faced were tests. I don’t think wizards sit around all day waiting for opportunities to build elaborate contraptions just because they have free time and never heard of Minecraft. I wanted to know why there was an obstacle that specifically required us to peacefully negotiate with an opposing force. It was very different from our normal encounters and I wondered if there was a reason behind it. Sorry, but I just wanted to clear the air.

Okay, so to sum up the next few hours of gameplay thusly: Lilea wants Garret to kill Amen-dread because he’s made pacts with a devil, Garret had another spooky evil vision when he looked at Alice (the flutist), Lilea found a bunch of rituals that are somewhat useful, and Juliet apparently once again tapped into her latent lesbianism when she had a late night talk with Alice. Truthfully my intention was to find out more about Alice, but looking back it did seem like Juliet was hitting on her. Maybe that’ll be her new character trait. Lord Vane and she can go out looking for chicks. That’s a ménage à trios anyone would want to be a part of. Though we did find out she was a slave girl who has dreams of the future that include Garret so I’m going to put money down that this isn’t a disposable NPC that we’ll never see again.

That’s actually a big problem with this current part of the campaign. We’re in the future and I fucking know that something we do here is supposed to have a monumental outcome in the future. Like if we give the artifacts to Galendread then it will turn out he creates the Infernal Plains and a legendary destroyer of our time, or that Alice is truthfully the Witch Queen at an early age. I’m fucking calling this now so that I can ram my head through the wall later that we didn’t kill both of these assholes when we got the chance. This is when I wish I could play Leo Castillo again because that fucker would have had Alice against the wall with a rapier against her neck. And he wouldn’t need a reason for it either. He was kind of a douche like that.

After spending the night (except Garret and Lilea who missed their required six hours of sleep) we were freshened up and ready to kick demon ass. We entered the vault, and thus began a very lengthy encounter. I could talk about it in depth, but honestly I can’t recall a single moment of real comedy or interest to be had. This was just a really long encounter that took up the majority of the session. It was fun, but I still dread the moment combat starts because it essentially drops the game to a standstill. Seven players are just too much, and we didn’t have Joe to add to that already drawn out initiative order. It’s a shame because I used to really enjoy 4E combat, but sadly the additional players make it a time-consuming annoyance rather than a climactic battle.

The night ended with us killing the last of the demons we found inside of the vault only to have an archfiend rise up out of a summoning circle. So our next session will begin with a big solo encounter, though it won’t be next week--too many people will be absent so we won’t be able to play. The weekend after is my birthday, but unless something big comes up I’ll be good to play. Of course the night before will be the Spike VGAs, so I might have entered into a drunken stupor so I could forget. It’s entirely possible.

So what did you guys think about this session? Any theories for how we will inevitably cause our own fucked up future? Am I right to place absolutely no trust in Amen-dread? Is Juliet a lesbian? How often can Garret have his crazy visions before the party just says “fuck it” and ignore him? More importantly, how do you guys feel about the length of combat? It’s entirely possible I’m just cynically negative regarding the group’s size but I did notice a lot of comments in the chat with people being surprised we were still in battle. You know I would like to try an RPG sometime that doesn’t place as large of a focus on combat as 4E does, but maybe return to a more simple type of battle system like 3.5. I miss the simplicity in being a scout who runs around flinging arrows into people. I killed a cloud once with an arrow. Maybe I’ll tell you guys about it sometime…

Until next time, Namaste.

Monday, November 22, 2010

My Birthday or Why I Do Not Want Gifts

Hey everyone, guess what happens on December 12th?! Well I’ll probably be recovering from a night staying up watching the Spike TV VGAs and praying to god that the Giants crush the Vikings, but that’s not my point. My point is that it’ll be my birthday! Yay! Jubilation! Other excitement! Yep, I’ll be turning 22 and I’m not sure exactly what my game plan for that day will be. Maybe I’ll head out with friends and get drunk, or maybe I’ll spend it with the family and get drunk. Or I could stay home and play D&D with the fellas… and get drunk. Point is I’ll be getting wasted.

Actually that’s not the point of this post at all, though it did make me thirsty. No rather the point of this post is to address what fans can do for this oh-so-special-but-not really day. I haven’t really advertised it, but I imagine someone will ask if I have an Amazon wishlist or something. I actually do have one, but I just use it to keep track of the DS games I plan to review in the future, so it’s really just a shopping list for me. I’m not providing a link to it because the truth is: I don’t want people to buy me things.

I’m sorry, but I’m just not comfortable taking donations or gifts. Several people have given me free stuff or gifted me games on Steam, but the problem is that I always feel awkward in those situations because I can’t do anything to pay those people back. I really appreciate the generosity of these fans, but I would much rather these fans save their money. There’s tons of much better ways fans could spend their money than to buy me things.

- Donate your money to AngryJoeShow as I know every dollar he receives goes to improving his show.
- Save your money for the next TGWTG Charity Donation Drive. There’s one coming up, and this way you can give money to a good cause, and get something back in return.
- Keep it for yourself. Hey, if you have extra money, save it. It’s never a bad idea to have extra money in the bank. Fuck, start a savings account. Lord knows I should.

I’m not trying to come off like an ungrateful jerk. Anyone who wishes to donate me something are extremely generous and I thank you for your very kind intentions, but I just don’t feel comfortable taking money from fans unless I can give you guys something back in return.

I’m really a fan of simpler things. Look up to my birthday plans above and you’ll see they’re all about going out and just hanging out with friends or family. I’m not expecting gifts on my birthday, but if you still want to do something let me give you some suggestions. Send me a happy birthday message on Twitter. Watch one of my old stand up videos or the Dragonball: Evolution review. Read an article I wrote on Blistered Thumbs. Draw some fanart or make a TVTropes page for me. Leave a comment on a video or article I wrote because those mean so much more to me than any gift could. If you guys want to do something nice for me, I thank you, but please don’t open up your wallet to do it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

D&D Log: Session 15

Holy crap, a D&D recap?! Yep, after a month of no gaming, the Dethklok D&D group got back together to derp up another session with new player, Linkara! As a note, Angry Joe wasn’t able to make it this week as he’s hard at work on the recently launched BlisteredThumbs.net, which, if you haven’t heard, I’m going to be working on as Lead DS Editor. Now that’s awesome. Okay, with obligatory plugs out of the way (http://neuroticfanboy.deviantart.com/ is taking commissions!) and now shameless plugs out of the way, it’s time to get to the recap.

Starting from where we left off, we had just finished killing the dimensional spiders and were ready to further investigate this tower when a Paladin approached us from behind offering assistance. This new character is Bayben, a Human Paladin of Bahamut sent from the church in Sarmanath to assist us as they feel well… we suck too much. Actually I’m a little offended by that. Fuck you Sarmanath. We saved you from the corporal form of a goddess, rescued a magical cursed tome from a demi-goddess, and managed to infiltrate a kingdom that saw us as kingslayers, defeat the elite guards within said kingdom, and saved the king. I think at this point we’ve proven we’re capable of doing the impossible. But sure, send us help because you think we suck. Fuck Sarmanath.

Okay, sort of went on a tangent there, but it did ruffle my feathers so to speak. Getting back to the point, with Bayben joining our party we decided to investigate further in the cavern until we came upon a room full of strange statues and a single coffin. For a reason I’m having trouble remembering, we sent the big heavily armored loud Paladin to investigate the room to find that the statues didn’t immediately spring to life and try to kill us. No, that happened later. It’s come to a point where I seriously want to destroy every statue I come across. I mean really, I couldn’t give two shits about culture if there’s about a 90% chance that any statue we find is going to suddenly become animate and try to skewer us. Seriously, I might purchase a sledgehammer just so I can take it to every statue I find and batter it into pieces. I don’t care whose fucking throne room we’re in.

It should go without saying that we had to investigate the coffin, and the moment we did the lid flew off and a vile demon popped out and attacked Bayben. Now was Bayben’s time to impress. He introduced himself as an enigma; a man whose legends cast fear into the hearts who know of his deeds. Was he a hero? Was he a villain? All we knew was that wherever he went death seemed to follow. What would happen when Bayben the Butcher swung his bloodstained axe?! He botched and split his pants. No, seriously. He botched, and the botched roll said that he damages a piece of clothing. What an awkward roll. I think we said he tore his cloak, but it’s so much funnier to imagine this big armored hulk of a Paladin trying to swing his weapon and instead ripping his pants. Sorry Linkara, but that will forever be Bayben’s legacy to me. Welcome to D&D.

If it weren’t obvious, the statues in the room began coming to life and attacking us, and truth be told we started getting absolutely hammered by these monsters. Well, I say we but I mean them. I sat back safely in the hallway tossing thunder bolts and stuff. We figured out the trick to the statues was that until a spirit possessed them they were harmless and easily destroyed, so we had to destroy the empty statues before the evil spirits could possess them, and once that was done we could take out the head demon. He went down, put a curse on both our houses, blah blah blah. Actually I think he was glad we killed him. Probably some adventurer who wondered down here and found himself driven mad. Sounds reasonable considering what we face later on, but I’ll get to that.

With the battle over it was time to collect “teh lootz”, and inside the coffin was some money and trinkets. Most curious of the trinkets was a small silver object that looked like a crescent moon sitting on a stick, or as all of us anime nerds immediately identified it: “that moon wand from Sailor Moon”. It did bear an eerie resemblance to it, and because of it I immediately demand fan art of our characters as Sailor Scouts. Make it happen internet. Make it happen. Oh right, the point! I was getting to that. So the trinket appeared to be part of a puzzle concerning the next door where we ran into a stone door with a small recess in it. It appeared the piece could fit inside of it but only in one of the four corners. We choose top right and the door opened for us, though I wonder what would have happened had we picked another corner. A trap? A different room? It’s that lingering question that keeps me up at night. That and the BBQ chicken bacon pizza I ate last night. It gives me gas.

The next room had five cubicles in it with human shaped imprints on the wall. I immediately feared our next adventure would be removing staples out of things that were originally stapled for 7.5 hours, but instead five of us pressed against the imprints and were transported to a chessboard without the pieces. The only other thing on the board beyond us was a king that stood directly across from us with his hand outstretched blocking the entrance. With a few trial and error tests we figured out that we were pieces on a chess board and we had to remove like our respective pieces. We traveled the board and then came face to face with the statue of the king. The king was decorated with a crown and a magnificent sword, and we kind of figured taking the crown or sword would be a bad move. At first I thought his outstretched hand was asking for something, like a toll, but it wasn’t. Instead I offered my hand, he shook it, and our party was allowed to pass. Wow, that one statue may have put my statue prejudice into question. I only realize now what a statue-ist I’ve been. Not all statues are evil assholes that come to life and kill you. I think I may need some time to dwell on my inner hatred of statues and learn to accept them in our world.

So we moved along after Darstine decided to be a dick to the one statue in this world who doesn’t try to kill us by stealing the dude’s crown. What a bitch. The next room was a featureless room with blank walls and floors that had eight chairs lining the floor. We sat down in the chairs and suddenly the room starting spinning and we could all feel ourselves undergoing strange pressure. When it ended we found ourselves back in the room, but a large hole had appeared in the ceiling. We exited the hole only to find ourselves in the same ruined castle we were investigating, only it wasn’t so ruined. It appeared we had gone back in time to before the climactic battle between the Tieflings and demons destroyed this area of the world. Or worse, we went back in time to when that happened. That’d be sucky.

Still we did run into a series of monsters that were quite strange. They were fiendish monsters, abhorrent I believe, that fed off of the madness of humans. Plus they had rape tentacles, yet Juliet actually managed to avoid being Rule 34’d in combat. Barely too actually. It would have hit my garbage Reflex if it weren’t for Pidgeotto’s Super Awesome Amazing Encounter Buff. I love that bird. We killed the creatures, collected our XP, and the game ended there to hopefully continue next week. As far as things happening, there wasn’t a lot. This is essentially a dungeon crawl, but I’ve yet to ever do a real dungeon crawl, so I’m excited. I like the puzzles and thrilling battles. Also, the traps confuse Jason. After a wall closed behind him he tried to walk through the wall, then later tried to walk up the walls. It didn’t work. Combat is still a killer. I actually found time to play two or three songs in Rock Band 3 while I waited for my turn to come up. It helps me get more game time in for my reviews on Blistered Thumbs, but still I’m not thrilled with how long combat will take. I’m actually a bit concerned that when Joe returns to the game we’ll have three defenders running around marking and that combat will become needlessly tedious, but all we can really do now is sit back and wait for it to happen.

So that was our adventure for the week. Sorry it’s been a while, but with Spoony’s recent health problems he hasn’t been able to play, and we have to understand that. I’m hesitant on saying we’ll play next week. We should, but it’s always possible something could come up. Regardless I am glad that people really enjoy our sessions. Of course all of really come to see our ass backwards attempts to save the world and to laugh at our misfortune, but I like to pretend that you enjoy our rich characterization and interesting dynamics. HA! As if we have those…

Until next time, Namaste!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Character Death: A Follow Up to Full Metal Alchemist

The following is a follow up to my Weekly Manga Recap thoughts on Full Metal Alchemist—particular the ending and my thoughts that not enough happened during the initial invasion. I post this to clear confusion, and to admit to some mistakes. Also to make my stance on character death hopefully a lot clearer. Be warned that the following will contain spoilers for Full Metal Alchemist, along with small spoilers for One Piece and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.

Character death is an important part of story telling across all mediums. It’s a sure fire way to grab the reader’s attention, for better or worse, and is a great tool to use during the conclusion of a story. A death has impact and adds weight to a situation. To use some common manga examples, would Marineford had meant anything if Whitebeard hadn’t died and symbolically set an end to the last generation? In contrast what are we to take from the Fake Kakura Town arc in Bleach when at the end of the story only the evil characters suffered any losses? Doesn’t that just prove that in the end the greatest threat not only against the Soul Society but even reality ever faced was completely ineffectual? A character death is a very important factor to me for a lot of reasons. The emotions they can draw can truly define a story, again for better or worse. I apologize for the spoilers below (and possibly above), but to make my point I need to reference some actual examples of death in character.

A death is not as simple as “Character A dies”. The length, emotion, circumstances, and cause are all keys in determining if a death was justified or not. I read a lot of manga, and I’ve seen death abused for the right and wrong reasons, so let me identify some of the more severe examples I’ve seen. I don’t like it when characters are simply killed for no purpose. A series like Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure both abuses and subverts this in liberal fashion. A character death like Kakyion who died after having his final technique destroyed by Dio served two purposes: the first was to show Dio was a threat—one that couldn’t be stopped and one that was a legitimate threat to the entire cast. The second was to show his commitment to his friends and that even as death was taking him, his last act on this earth was to help his friends figure out the power behind Dio’s stand.

Then let’s look just one fight earlier against Vanilla Ice (just roll with it) the Stand, Cream, killed Abdul and Iggy. Their deaths served little point other than to draw some character development out of Polnareff, but did both of them have to die to show that Cream was dangerous? I don’t think so, and personally I wish the two had survived the fight as their deaths, while noble (or at least in Iggy’s case) felt largely unnecessary. Now let’s compare this to Part 4 of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure where death was decisively avoided. In total only a couple of characters died through the course of the story, and I enjoyed that. It meant that when death did happen, it mattered, and in some cases drew a lot of emotion out of me when I believed a character had finally met their maker.

Let’s return to Full Metal Alchemist as it’s the crux of this situation. I thoroughly enjoyed the way the manga-ka treated the gravity of the situation through 90% of the story. Nina was murdered and I felt legitimate sadness. Hughes died and while I didn’t really feel like we knew him, it still was sad (though I still feel like we should have had more time to really know him). Gluttony is another example. His death drew regret out of me. I couldn’t help but feel that Gluttony was an innocent victim in the story. Sure he was a serial killer, but unlike Barry the Chopper, he didn’t choose his life. He was created to eat and he did just that. It’s like making a dog with a bladder control problem, then shooting it when it takes a piss on the rug. You really can’t help but feel that wasn’t totally his fault. Even though he was a villain I felt bad that Gluttony died—to contrast I wanted to fucking toast Kimblee dying as that piece of shit didn’t deserve the slightly redeeming death he got. He was a horrid monster.
Of course death isn’t the only emotion that you can draw from this story. I felt deep sorrow when Havoc found himself paralyzed. There we have a soldier stricken down in the line of fire, but he has to endure living believing he is useless to his comrades who must carry on the war without him. He believes he’s failed them, and this development was quite strong. In another example Lan Fan sliced her arm off to fool Wrath and keep them off their trail. That noble sacrifice endeared her character to me and I began to enjoy her character for that reason. These are all sacrifices meant to show that this is a conflict that requires them. Yes, the point of many stories today is to create a world without sacrifices, but a story that plays itself straight is one that is hopelessly idealistic. FMA was not that. It proved time and time again that sacrifices (sins) are made and that redemption comes not from forgiveness but rather from tolerance and progress. That’s a good message, and eventually the point comes around that they won’t be able to stop the entire central army without a fight (rather they won’t be able to kill the Homunculi without a fight). Once that starts the story again becomes fantastic. Mustang faces a sacrifice he didn’t deserve, Scar and Wrath have a bloody fight between two unnamed warriors, and the entire county faces extinction at the hands of a mad homunculi. This is all very tense and interesting. This is what I enjoy from a story. A story without tension or suspense becomes banal and predictable. Until Wrath showed up in Central, this is what the final arc was boiling down to. Once he did, the story got better, but until he did I found myself bored to tears and really wondering what happened to the serious nature of the story. That feeling, like the feeling of a character’s death, stayed with me. I felt like the manga lost what made me enjoy it, and when it came back I enjoyed the series again, but I won’t forget how I felt for those few chapters.

I’ll admit that the way I felt skewered my enjoyment of the ending, and I’ll admit I didn’t give the ending the thought and reasoning it deserved. I was overly ignorant to the message the ending tried to convey, and for someone trying to finish up and gather my thoughts on a very long manga to prepare to discuss it that weekend, I failed to give it the appropriate attention. I’ll admit that and confess that was probably rather unprofessional of me. I will ensure that doesn’t happen again. Still, I want to defend that I’m not unjustified in the way I saw the ending. I still maintain the story took a lot of missteps towards the end of the series. I still maintain the story included too many characters and made many of the human villains out to be irredeemable fuck wits only serviceable to be a feast for the otherwise ineffectual puppet army.

I don’t want to say anyone commenting on my video was wrong—quite the opposite; I was the one who was wrong. However I want people to know my stance on character death and understand that I enjoy rich characterization and conclusion rather than “die die die”. Maybe this was an extremely long winded and ineffectual way to do it, but gagoosh—it’s there. I hope to improve my analysis of series as time goes on and maybe in time I’ll reread the ending and do a follow up with a clearer head. Until then, I apologize for the confusion and for being overly hasty in my judgment. Also, why does Bleach have to come back? I was kinda getting used to not reading it.

Until next time, Namaste!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

D&D Lessons: Druid Class Review

I’m returning to my class review series with a class you guys probably know about. Each week you see her punch people and turn into a fish to use Savage Rend. Sadly, awesome imaginary bear companions named Captain Bearbossa are not a standard in this installment’s class: the Druid.


One of the stranger parts of 4E D&D is the power sources. While I haven’t a single problem with their choices of power sources, I do question how many classes take their powers from the same source. In the case of the Druid, she is one of five different classes based around Primal powers. My problem is that with so many classes taking their powers from one source the lines separating them start to blur a little bit. In 3.5 the Druid was your all purpose “nature” character. They controlled nature, got an animal companion, and could turn into an animal. In 4E the Druid loses a lot of this unique charm as the Shaman and Warden essentially play as the same thing: nature themed warriors.

The best way I’ve found to separate the classes comes down to their main mechanic. For the Warden it’s all about using nature to strengthen oneself, for the Shaman it’s about communion with the spirits, and for the Druid it’s all about animals. Look at it that way and you get a bit more defined flavor, but it feels a little too pigeon holed. Pretty much the only thing separating the Druid from the Warden is that she can wildshape, and she commands nature via spells as opposed to the Warden who uses weapons. This is a case of too many classes trying to do the same thing: fight with nature. 3.5’s Druid dabbled in a little bit of everything, but now she feels less unique when (after the mechanics are stripped away) she’s no different than the Warden and the Shaman.

Ironically, the Druid does feel distinctly different from the other Primal Controller, the Seeker. Where the Druid is fighting using nature directly, the Seeker is more like a tribesman who reveres nature and uses it to his advantage when hunting. Heck if the Primal classes were limited to Barbarian, Druid, Seeker I’d be fine, but I suppose I’ve gone on enough of a rant. The Druid isn’t bad at all. She still maintains her charm and if she’s the only Primal character in your party then there’s no problem. It’s only when the Shaman or Warden joins the group that you’ll start to feel a little less unique.


Two features define the Druid: Wildshape and Primal Aspect. Wildshape is the power all Druids have and is the class defining ability. Flavor wise it means you can turn into an animal, but mechanically what it means is that you can switch between melee and ranged at ease and you are perhaps the most versatile character when it comes to combat situations. Basically with a minor action (and with Paragon level feat, a free action) once per round you shift between your natural form and your “Beast Form”. The two forms work separately, and no power that works in one form will work in the other. Essentially Druid powers may or may not contain the term “Beast Form” in the keywords. If it does, you can use it in Beast Form, and not natural form; if it doesn’t, then vice versa. Making both forms competent is the key to the Druid, and as such all Druids are allowed to pick three At-Will powers (four if you’re human) under one condition: One must have the Beast Form keyword, and one must not. Thus no matter what form you are in you’ll be able to fight.

Making this mechanic work is the primary duty of the Druid. If one part of the Druid isn’t up to par then her usefulness decreases. What truly makes the Druid frightening is that she can be a huge impact on the battlefield either at range or at close range without the mess of changing weapons or managing implements. One implement (either the Totem or the Staff) and that device works in Beast Form as well. Since Wildshape has no limit to how many times it can be used per encounter (once per round however) a truly frightening Druid can effortlessly shift between the two forms to control the battlefield as she sees fit.

The Primal Aspect is the class feature chosen at the beginning of character creation that defines the character. This choice can never be changed, and will define the way the character is played and which powers are strengthened. For the Druid there are three: Primal Predator, Primal Guardian, and Primal Swarm. All three have a unique benefit and play to a secondary role. First up is the Primal Predator which is a mobile Controller that functions as a secondary Striker. Whenever a Predator isn’t wearing heavy armor their base speed increases by one, so for an Eleven Predator they can have a base speed of 8 at level 1! Mobility is their strong suit and they will often use beast form to move through the battlefield dealing damage.

Primal Guardians lean more towards spellcasters who excel in repositioning powers making them good secondary leaders. As long as they don’t wear heavy armor they get to add their CON score to their AC as opposed to the DEX/INT that other classes use. This makes them burly spell casters who spend most of their time in their natural form casting spells from afar. The last aspect is Primal Swarm with the idea being that instead of turning into a single animal you turn into a mob of smaller animals (like insects or snakes). This makes it so every attack that hits them while in Beast Form is reduced by the Druid’s CON modifier. Their powers help them function as secondary defenders, though their generally low AC keeps them from full timing in tanking. Still, they have plenty of powers to ensure their foes stick with them.

So the choice in Aspect will define the Druid, but all of them still find their abilities rooted in a balance between forms. They have the ability to use simple melee and ranged weapons, but this is next to useless considering you have melee and ranged options built right into your powers.

Learning Curve

Like all Controllers the Druid is tough to play without spending time to learn what they can and cannot do. Even if you can play a secondary role, you’ll never be as good as a full time member of that role, and building a Druid can be difficult. The number one thing to boost is Wisdom as that is their attack score for every power they have. Predators should then place a good amount of points (16 – 18) into Dexterity while Swarm and Guardians should put those points into Constitution. The remainder of points should go into boosting the NAD their Druid is weakest in—so for Predators put a few points in Strength or Constitution (probably the latter), and for Swarm and Guardians put them in either Dexterity or Intelligence (preferably the former). Charisma will be your dump stat as your Will defense is already high to begin with (class +1 bonus and you’re attack stat is Wisdom), but some may keep it so they have good diplomatic skills. That’s the only reason to keep it.

Playing the Druid can be a complicated and sometimes overwhelming process. You are far from simple, so if you want to play something as simple as “swing and kill” then try the Barbarian. Here you need to plan your turns out in advance and think how you can make the biggest impact on the field. Is it killing a monster? Is it shifting the battlefield? Is it locking down a big Elite? Your versatility means that you should never find yourself in a situation where you can’t do something. Like all Controllers, don’t think “how do I kill that”, think “how can I stop that guy from doing what he wants?” Finding the balance between forms can take some work but eventually you’ll learn when you’re needed in combat, and when you aren’t.

A common theme you’ll find with Druid powers is “zones”. Learning how to manage zones can be a difficult part of playing the Druid, but used effectively you may just turn the entire tide on a battle. In addition Druid have access to summoned creatures as a daily power, but unlike other summons the Druid’s are useful without wasting actions on them. Every summon has a built in instinctive effect that activates if you don’t give them any commands on your turn, so it’ll be worth it to at least invest into one or two of these guys to help in controlling. My personal early favorites are the Giant Toad (Reach 3—meaning it can attack enemies within three squares), the Shadow Ape (grants concealment to all allies on a hit), and the Crocodile (large, and he grapples the enemy with a hit). Remember that a Druid’s daily power should help change the flow of battle, so don’t be afraid to change your Daily out after leveling up if it’s not working out.


I still like playing the Druid in 4E even if I find the flavor a bit too… common. They’re fun classes to play albeit a tad bit confusing. Sadly that’s the state of most Controllers, but hey you should know what you’re getting into already. Learning the balance takes time, but there’s always something inherently enjoyable about turning into a wolverine and ripping your opponent’s face off. Or turning into a bear and punching people*.

Alright, well that’s my review of the Druid. Next time I’ll take a look at the Warlord—everyone’s favorite commanding asshole.

Until next time, Namaste!

*Warning! Punching people as a bear is apparently NOT a good way to stop a panic attack. Use at your own risk.

Monday, September 27, 2010

D&D Log: Session 14

Like a bolt from the blue, it’s the D&D recap! Sorry, that was an obscure The World Ends with You reference. Great game by the way.

So if we pick ourselves up from last week we’re back at the charred remains of the farmstead where the few surviving family members were. As Juliet and Viktor started preparing graves for the fallen, Garrett started to go through crazy mental flashes (*sigh* again) seeing an enormous army to the north I believe. Before passing out he went all Super Satan and warned us that “she built them for war” and that “she’s coming” or something to that effect. Everyone freaked out and wanted to leave, but Juliet was adamant about burying the bodies. Now I should mention I had reasons for doing this both in and out of character. In character this incident affected Juliet quite personally, and I’ll be mentioning it in character when the time is right. Out of character I remembered Spoony saying that the army was passed a major road, and I figured that road would be at least a day’s travel away. Well uh… der I was wrong out of character as our party went to sleep and before we could finish our last shift we found ourselves surrounded by elves. I think they outnumbered us by three or four, and I thank God Joe wasn’t here yet because I can guarantee Lord Vane II wouldn’t have surrendered like the rest of us did. So not long after starting the session our group was captured. Fantastic.

All of us were tied up and stripped of our weapons and armor, and the spell casters were gagged. Considering this is the second time we’ve been captured like this, I think in the case of Juliet, Viktor, and Garret this could be a running… gag. See, get it? I can make bad puns too. But seriously, we were ushered into a camp where more elves and machines started to pile in until almost 3,000 units were in the camp. As they began to loot our stuff they found the Word of Morgana, and predictably Darstine began to howl like she’d just been stabbed in the heart with a burning hot pike. Hmmm, that was too graphic. Alright she screamed like someone told her they were going to force her to watch Ultraviolet. Oh man, that actually seems worse. Well this prompted the lead elf to question the book, and we noticed then that the head elf was Tamier, Lord Esgalion’s squire. He held ill will towards Viktor. Surprisingly little towards Juliet who carried around his lord’s head for about half a month. Dodged a bullet there I guess.

We learned the army was an advance wave that was on route to Sarmanath, but they were quite eager to send us back to suffer the Witch Queen’s wrath. Garret managed to convince Tamier to let us get the Well of Souls however or else Tamier would never have the book, and as such we remained prisoners of the elves for the night. Thank God word doesn’t travel fast about Grae inciting racial riots against the elves or Juliet carrying around lobbed off parts of elven lords. Truth be told for being prisoners things weren’t too bad. It mostly just amounted to spending an evening bound and gagged, and for Juliet that’s nothing new. Hey~Oh!

We woke up, they cut our bonds, and gave us our equipment back—except Lilea who was kept as a hostage. Spoony said in any other situation Juliet would have been the hostage, but fuck that, Juliet ain’t no damsel in distress (well, I guess excluding the two times she’s been taken prisoner, but let’s ignore those). Had he done it you’d have seen Juliet throw down! I’d have gone all bear form and started fighting like they did in the 1920’s. You know, like how the Notre Dame Fighting Irish fights? I’d have gotten myself a novelty oversize cigar and started calling people palooka, and then Captain Bearbossa my awesome bear companion (who totally exists!) would have shown up and we’d have gotten into a rumble, a tussle, a scrap, a box social even! Yeah, who’s the damsel now? Tamier knows he was scared. Punk.

Anyway, we were led due west to the Fiery Plains, though the journey proved difficult for the iron constructs in the army. They continued to get stuck in the crumbling landscape, and many were left behind. The longer we traveled the more casualties the army suffered, so uh… go nature? Before long even Lilea was freed and re-equipped as Tamier, I assume, wanted to give us every advantage. Tamier is kind of stupid though because now he doesn’t have anything to use against us. Oh wait, he still has an army. Crap.

Well we entered the Aberhold Keep which is rumored to be where Galendread’s tower was and thus where we can find the Well of Souls. The castle, predictably, was mostly destroyed but with large stacks of rubble placed curiously around the courtyard. The ground itself was unstable, and the heat was so intense that we’d be asked to make Endurance checks every few hours. So our plan is to be in and out, right? Nah, I think we’re trying to explore the entire castle to give us time to escape. I’ve got a few ideas myself, though truth be told I kinda want to talk to Tamier again. The guy said some things I’m interested in learning more about. S’well, we shall see what happens there. Our adventure ended after an encounter. We came upon a set of steel door beneath one of the corner towers of the castle. We opened the door only to find a room of cobwebs and a creepy laugh not unlike a child. At this point I was booking it towards the exit…

BUT WAIT! Grae is here to save us as he’s already got his bedroll cocked and ready to hurl it into the chamber. It succeeded and the room was lit ablaze, and we promptly shut the doors so we could let our good friend Mr. Fire sort things out. Done and done. Oh wait, they could teleport. That’s right. Yeah, so these fuckers teleport out of the room and then actually proceed to teleport us back into the room, well at least Grae. Poor Grae got manhandled by those creepy mantis things. The rest of us squashed some bugs, and the session ended after Lord Vane killed the last mantis and then my Storm Spike made the bug explode afterwards. I was easy to please by the end of the night.

This was a rollercoaster of a session. Looking by the end when we were slaying bugs and throw burning sleeping bags you’d almost forget that like two days earlier we all spent the night tied half naked to wooden poles. Good times, good times. We’re to play again next week, so stayed tuned for the continuing adventures (and inevitably dehydration of) “TEH GREATEST PARTY EVAR!!!” That’s our name now.

Until next time, Namaste!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

D&D Lessons: Paladin Class Review

Hey there everyone! I promised before that I’d take a look at the different classes in D&D 4E, and found myself slightly delayed in starting this series. Research is difficult as for a great majority of the classes I’ll be relying on theory as opposed to application, and even for the classes I have played I’ve only played them one way. Regardless I’ll try to rate classes on a few factors: Flavor (which those who play for combat can dismiss), Mechanics, and Difficulty. I can’t guarantee how often these articles will come out, but I’ll try to keep them consistent. Forgive me if they get a tad delayed for any reason. And now, onto the show! First up is my favorite D&D class: The Paladin!


I find simple to be more appealing when it comes to class flavor. Let individual players adjust the specifics of the role, and don’t pigeon hole them into a certain concept if it can be avoided. Aside from the few martial classes you don’t get much broader than “knight in shining armor” which is probably the most straightforward way to interpret the Paladin. Sure, there’s the religious aspect, but it’s honestly an underplayed part of the character in comparison to past editions where a Paladin had to be Lawful Good or his powers were immediately lost. Now Paladins can play around with morality as they wish, and feel free to worship the Goddesses of Knowledge, Trickery, and Death without any problem. The Paladin is still a very religious class, but gone is the day when a Paladin had to reprimand the thief for pick pocketing—well unless you DM houserules a new system in. Regardless that’s not the intention of the class anymore.

Paladins are a fun archetype. They’re the guys in the big shiny armor wielding overly ornate swords and who have a chip on their shoulder. They’re either rugged warriors of faith, or handsome missionaries, but they still retain their most appealing factor to me—nobility. A Paladin, regardless of deity, is a pious warrior devoted to his code and should do everything in his power to act on his deity’s behalf. That might be Paladin of Ioun questing into a library of demons to retrieve a tome of knowledge, or a much simpler Paladin of Bahamut who stands defiant as a horde of orcs approaches the tiny hamlet. This is why I prefer broad classes. If I want to play something simple, like a Paladin of Pelor who travels the land instilling hope and slaying demons, I easily can. If I decide to play a Paladin of Kord who quests across the land killing anything evil for the challenge, I easily can. And if I even want to play a Paladin of Erathis who quests not necessarily for good, but rather for justice and progress, I just as easily can. Sure some of the more unique gods like the Raven Queen and Sehanine require a bit of justifying for following, but it’s still possible without too much work.

In short the Paladin remains a stable in Dungeons & Dragons and Roleplaying Games alike. If you like to play “the good guy” the Paladin is a pretty solid class to go with, and fills the “combat oriented Divine class” quite well.


Unlike most classes the Paladin doesn’t have a Class Feature to choose that defines the build. All Paladins get access to plate mail and powers like Divine Mettle & Divine Strength, so the aspect of the class that separates the builds is their attribute scores. There are three basic builds that a Paladin can take: Strength-based Paladins focused on big damage and single target elimination (Straladins), Charisma-based Paladins focused on healing, buffing, and mass-marking (Chaladins), and Paladins focused on balancing the two attributes to be a Jack-of-All-Trades, but a Master of None (Baladins).

Now before I get into the strengths and weaknesses of these classes, allow me to explain the marking mechanic unique to the Paladin: Divine Challenge. Well, actually there are two: Divine Challenge and Divine Sanction. Divine Challenge is a power activated with a Minor action that marks the enemy. Should the enemy betray the mark and make an attack that doesn’t include you, then they take scaling (3/6/9) plus CHA-modifier damage under the requirement that you attacked the enemy the round before or ended adjacent to them. What’s nice about this mark is that unlike the Fighter and Warden, you don’t need to spend your Opportunity Action to do this attack, and there’s no attack roll. It might not be as big in terms of damage, but it is definite. Even dazed or stunned your mark will take effect. Even blinded your attack will hit. It’s a reliable threat that enemies always have to be on the lookout for. Divine Sanction is just another version of Divine Challenge that is inflicted via powers, and can often times multi-mark or mark for extended periods of time. Plus it doesn’t require you to engage the enemy, so it can benefit from the oh so beloved “mark and forget” mentality.

Alright, now that we’ve got your main ability straightened out, let’s attack these builds. Curiously enough that’s what Straladins do: Attack. Straladins are powerful characters who focus on dealing with one target at a time and dealing large damage. By taking the feat “Mighty Challenge” you can add your STR-modifier to your DC and DS. You still play like a Defender, and you aren’t as much of a sticky Defender as the Fighter, but you’re still a big threat on the field. You aren’t focused on healing, but Wisdom is a good secondary stat along with Constitution. Getting yourself a good weapon and powers to ensure your target stays with you is essential.

Chaladins play a tad bit differently in that they aren’t as focused on doing big damage. They still lay down the pain of course, but Chaladin’s get alternate roles. They dabble as an off-Leader with a plethora of abilities to throw out healing, temporary hit points, and saving throws. They also possess plenty of abilities to maximize their marking potential with mass marking abilities and other powers dedicated to punishing enemies who betray your mark (not having to spend an Opportunity to use your mark allows you to set up some pretty cool combos). Wisdom is still very important to these characters, and Constitution should be a focus as well (perhaps more if you’d rather be hardy than perceptive).

Baladins are a tough nut to crack. They get the best of both words as they can deal big damage and pick up healing powers as necessary, but the problem is Paladin powers are mostly strictly one way or the other. Either they use Charisma or Strength to attack, and thus you’ll be either taking a majority of powers from one class and thus performing as a slightly less effective version of the Straladin or Chaladin, or you take equal powers from both, but you’ll never reach the full potential of either play style.

The mechanics of the Paladin change radically depending on how you play them, but what I like most is that the Divine Challenge/Divine Sanction system feels unique. There’s a very specific difference between playing the Paladin and playing the Fighter just as there’s a big difference between playing the Straladin and Chaladin.


Okay, so managing Divine Challenge/Divine Sanction might be a bit more complicated than “I mark it, and if it does anything but attack me then I smash it”, but it’s still a fairly simple system once you realize that Divine Sanction is just a simpler version of Divine Challenge. Paladins start off easy to play. You get some of the highest HP totals to start, the highest amount of surges you can get, access to the best armor (Plate) right off the bat, access to military weapons right off the bat, and a class bonus +1 to all NADs. Oh, and real quick your NADs are your Non-AC Defenses (Will, Fortitude, and Reflex), so mind out of the gutter please. Essentially you get huge bonuses to your AC, Health, and Defenses that you don’t have to manage in the slightest. Whether you never get magic armor or take special feats your AC and health will remain high, and thus you make a good Defender.

Now I said before that a good Defender should appear vulnerable in some respect. This is dependent on your DM, but this isn’t something you really have to worry about. Your mass marking and powers will ensure that monsters go after you first without question, and then just watch as most attacks bounce right off your armor. Enjoy the sweet sound of your DM asking if 19 hits your AC at first level and responding with a satisfactory: “Nope”. Again, not much work needs to go into making sure this happens. Paladins are built right from the beginning to be walking tanks of pure holy ass-kicking.

Gameplay wise Chaladins are going to be a bit harder to play than Straladins. Understanding how to get the best out of mass marking powers can be tough, especially when a fantastic one is provided to you at level 1 (Valorous Smite). You might be paralyzed with fear to activate a move that will potentially turn every enemy’s attention to you, but remember that you are a Defender and that is the point of your job. Count on the party’s leader(s) to handle your damages, and worst case scenario you have plenty of health, a high AC, and healing of your own. This class isn’t fully self-sufficient, but truth be told a class with naturally high AC, high damage potential, and healing is about as close as you can get.

More advanced players can enjoy plenty of unique builds like those built around Radiant Abuse (my GOD is Bless Weapon a beastly power for those builds), and others will use a Half-Elf (perfect Chaladins by the way) to get an arcane power so they can abuse the White Lotus Line. Building a Paladin can be easy, but can just as easily be done wrong. The number one mistake first time players will make is to balance Strength and Charisma. Don’t. I know Baladin is a perfectly reasonable option, but it’s not for a first time player. If you’re playing a Paladin for your first character, or for your first Defender, choose Strength or Charisma and stick to it. Spend your other points on Wisdom and Constitution and maybe a few points in Charisma/Strength for Straladins/Chaladins respectively (no more than thirteen to qualify for feats later on). Dexterity is not a major point for you as your AC is already high enough. Intelligence is your dump stat. Sorry, but PALIDUN IS NOT TEH SMRT!

Gameplay wise you shouldn’t have too much trouble, and if you keep most of the tips above in mind you’ll build a fine Paladin. Like most of the Player’s Handbook 1 classes, the Paladin is a good beginner class.

Final Verdict

I love the Paladin. They’re not too hard to play, and played correctly they can perfectly blend Defender with either Striker or Leader without sacrificing their major responsibility: taking the big hits. They’re self-sufficient, unique, but best of all, completely awesome. I’d recommend it for anyone who wants to be “the hero”, or for those that just like being a one man army badass.

Well that’s it for my first Class Review. Hopefully with this lesson you’ll understand the best way to play your champion of holy justice. Next time we get primal and take a look at everyone’s nature loving hippy spell caster: the Druid!

Until next time, Namaste!

Monday, September 13, 2010

D&D Log: Session 13

Oh right, I still do these recaps. It’s been a while, so I completely forgot. Truth be told there’s not much to say about this session, but let’s get into it anyway.

So we started our session the night of our big epic one minute fight of hell. Our group met to discuss our plans, and unanimously decided that removing Darstine’s curse was paramount. After the meeting Vane, Juliet, and Garrett agreed in private to not let Darstine be alone, and furthermore to ensure that she doesn’t cast anything out of the book. The next morning we were greeted by Donovan who told us that a movement against the Witch Queen would have to come soon. We were to see Morwaytha to discover a way to defeat the Witch Queen, and to assist us he gave us all one magic item (either +1 piece of armor, or +1 weapon) and a few supplies. Viktor and Juliet left the castle to pick up a few extra supplies and then speak with Father Emmitt regarding resurrecting Lord Vane the First, and while Spoony was impressed with the foresight he couldn’t justify the castle keeping Vane’s body. I got extra RP for roleplaying, but sadly Lord Vane the first is gone for good. Sad, but s’well. Meanwhile in the castle Garrett began to feel a terrible chill as Darstine found herself lost in the Word of Morgana slowly rubbing the cover of the book, and doing other weird cursed people stuff.

Grae demanded this stop, and choose to use his chain to lock the book up! Except he had no padlock. TO THE ARMORY! Yes, we bummed a cruddy lock off the castle to lock up the cursed tome of a demi-goddess who is possessing the party’s Rouge. I repeat, we tried to keep something away from the party’s thief by locking it up with a shitty padlock. DETHKLOK D&D!!! So yeah, we locked up the book, and left the key behind (I want to note that Juliet and Viktor were not there for this. All of these terrible plans were not my idea, and I could do nothing to stop them!), oh and Grae’s master plan was to lock the book in a box with another lock. We’re the people destined to save the world everybody. Weep for your futures.

So after those events we headed off to Ihestas on our new horses. We could have gotten there faster, but Lord Vane asked for a warhorse which is much slower. Douche. Oh, and when he rode up to Morwaytha’s he rode through her turnip patch. Excuse me, I’m still a little baffled at that. I sometimes take a moment to digest such stupidity.

… okay, I’m good.

So we spoke with Morwaytha, and she informed us about the Well of Seals. Actually, the name escapes me, but it’s a diamond of great power that was said to belong to a great Tiefling wizard, Galendread. Galendread’s tower was said to be destroyed during the fall of the Tiefling Empire, but some say the tower still exists and the Well is inside. Our mission is to get the Well as the very power of the gem is said to rip souls from the body. This will help rip Morgana out of Darstine (hopefully), and with luck also seal the Witch Queen. However the location of the tower is to the far east near the Fiery Plains. You guys didn’t get the world description, but basically the Fiery Plains are full of monsters and demons and the Prince of Hell supposed has a castle nearby. In short, we’re in all likelihood boned, but fuck it we’re heroes so let’s ride off to slay evil or something.

We set off from Ihestas after deciding to completely forego the roads and just travel there on the most direct route possible to get there quicker. After two nights we came upon a farm on fire being attacked by mechanical beasts and elves and… we won. And that’s about it. The campaign ended after the combat, and the combat was a majority of the session. With seven people combat gets clunky, so hopefully this group learns to start planning their moves out in advance so that each turn doesn’t take twenty minutes. In the end it was a short session that served to set up our next quest. Our first quest was to destroy the pyramid. Our second quest was to save the king. Our third is apparently to enter hell on earth and achieve the all mystical device of soul plucking. This is going to be interesting.

Until next time, Namaste!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

D&D Recap: Sessions 1 - 3

So our D&D exploits have gotten rather popular and fans have really taken to the story and the players. Hell, someone actually made a TVTropes page for us (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SpoonysCampaign) and as a Troper myself, that’s awesome. Now sadly with Spoony going to PAX this weekend there will be no D&D, and obviously there was no session this past weekend as Spoony was busy getting his newest review out before he had to leave. This means two weeks without D&D, and two weeks without a recap, so allow me to fill in the time with a look back at our campaign before we started streaming: Sessions 1, 2, & 3.

Let me start off this by saying our original group was Garrett (Skitch), Darstine (Sean), Viktor (Nik), Andraste (Paw), Jonn (LordKaT), and Sayid (me). Yes, Jonn and Sayid. Who were these two? Well Jonn was a human Barbarian and Sayid a Tiefling Warlock (Infernal for those who cared) and well… they didn’t last long. You’ll find out why shortly.

So our game began with our characters outside of the Kingdom of Sarmanath for one reason or another only to be in awe of the hundreds of refugees stationed around the city walls. Why they were there was a mystery, but one that was answered fairly quickly as our group was ushered in to see King Donovan. The King saw our team as brave adventurers and he wanted us to travel south from Sarmanath to find out the cause of whatever magic was forcing the people to his city. I recall vividly having someone barter with the King to give us extra gold for the sole purpose of buying supplies, and then nobody buying anything. Anyway, our group entered a tavern in town so we could acquaint ourselves with one another, and this was where our first big D&D joke started. Upon entering we were asked to roll Perception checks and we did. To my knowledge no one botched, and we all noticed that the restaurant was empty (I think Spoony said the DC was about 5). We asked what would have happened should we had missed, and he said we would have come in an immediately said “Oooh! Onion rings!” Thus the joke began that whenever our characters botched a roll it was because onion ring-related reasons. Onion rings can be rather banging.

Without any further delay our group set off to the south to stop this great magic and all become big goddamn heroes! Except it got late, and we were tired, and my feet hurt. So we put our brave quest on hold to go take a rest in a nearby abandoned farmhouse, but this moment was a rather terrifying one as well you know… abandoned farmhouse… middle of nowhere… evil magic in the air… things didn’t look good basically. You know people always cite Antwion the Halfling betraying the group to be the source of our paranoia, but I’ll have you know we were quite paranoid far before we were getting robbed by furry midgets thank you very much. So, we spent a good fifteen to twenty minutes investigating the home for any sign of foul lurking evil. You know monsters in the cupboards, boogiemen in the closet—that sort of thing. To our surprise we survived the night without being eaten alive, and we were awoken to a flavored description from Spoony.

I believe it went along the lines of an “orange light beaming through the windows” or something to that degree, and Jonn for some reason assumed that meant we were all being burned alive. When he asked Spoony if “are we on fire” Spoony responded with an instantaneous “no”. I’m not sure if Spoony had ever expected to hear something so stupid in his life, but this wouldn’t be the most baffling amount of stupidity he’d encounter in this campaign by far.

So we left the home uneasy, but rested. Not long after we came upon a caravan which had been torn apart and burned severely. Ever the curious explorers we had Darstine sneak ahead to see what the deal was. She was by the caravan when Jonn stormed up to her and assumed she had destroyed the cart. He immediately screamed “DARSTINE, WHAT DID YOU DO!?” and (surprise) a collection of fire beetles rose from the wreckage to attack. Not much was memorable about this battle besides the fact that Jonn and Darstine were nearly killed for well… you know… being idiots. I do recall Jonn laying a critical hit on one of the beetles with his battleaxe and Spoony’s resulting description pretty much amounting to the beetle exploding from the impact. Pretty badass if I do say so myself.

After the battle we continued on our way and I should note that the further south we traveled the more these farmlands began to fade away and turn into badlands until finally the ground itself turned to sand and we came upon a huge dip in the ground where it looked like a meteor collided with the dirt. In something out of Super Mario Brothers our verdant Forest Land totally just climate changed into Desert Land in a couple of miles. Just beneath the cliff we were standing on we could see a group of men with scorpion features forcing a group of slaves to cut down the few remaining trees in the area, and being the awesome heroes we are, we swooped in to help! Not much to say about this battle either other than we won, and if I recall the scorpion men tossed enormous tree trunks as javelins and I think Jonn took about four of them to the chest before the end of the battle. We took a rest here, and this is where Session 1 ended. Session 2 started the next morning where we now traveled towards an enormous pyramid that sat at the heart of this crater.

For abridging purposes I’ll skip over the uninteresting battles and just start again after we infiltrated (see: smashed into) the pyramid and we found our way into a side chamber. The room was covered in weapons and appeared to be a shrine of some sort (well we assumed that cause we sorta killed a priest who had just come out of that exact room) and a room adjacent to the weapon room looked to have quite a bit of history in it. It also had a series of monsters that all instantly came to life the moment we stepped in the room, and they possessed several powers used to unequip our weapons. Garrett lost his sword and become frustrated that he had no weapon to attack with… while standing in front of a room lined with weapons. The imagery alone is hilarious, but it was another one of those moments where Spoony had to wonder how stupid this group was. And yet still, not the stupidest thing this party has done. No, no that comes now when our group tried to head upwards in the pyramid and came upon a magic portal separating our party from a room filled with treasure. An obvious trap to be sure, but we debated about what to do. Should we jump through anyway? Should we investigate the rest of the pyramid? Should we try to disable the trap. To be honest we bickered about this for around ten minutes before Jonn just said “FUCK IT” and jumped through. He vanished and because in character and out of character I was friends with Jason I jumped in as well. The rest of the group (led by Andraste’s suggestion) said “eff it” and left us to die. No seriously, they left us to die. I know they didn’t want to die either, but seriously they left us to die and I’ll never forget it… Poor Sayid he had such an interesting backstory.

Well anyway, the remaining players went and found some ancient statue, a magic necklace (Viktor wears it still), and some history about the pyramid. A mural revealed (or at least implied) that the pyramid was actually a temple from way back during the Blood War which was a vicious war between the gods that resulted in many deities falling out of power or leaving existence entirely (this is major part of our campaign). The goddess of this temple apparently used some magic that launched her portal forward in time so she could rise to power after the war had ended, and the pyramid had chosen here and now to appear. So yeah, we’re dealing with a goddess. Fun, right?

Back to Jonn he appeared from his cross dimensional trip in a dark room reeking of death and the sounds of swinging chains swinging against the walls. Jonn decided he would investigate his surroundings by lighting a sunrod, and that set off the swarm of ghouls that instantly devoured him. Now this wasn’t a trap—this was an encounter. The problem is that Jonn (and later Sayid) is a Striker and not built to take out multiple targets at once. There were around six or seven minion ghouls, and two stronger ghouls and without anyway to do burst or area attacks we were done for. Jonn died and I appeared after the ghouls were feasting on his body. Spoony was actually being nice and giving me a chance to escape, but I figured I was done for, so I decided to go out epicly. I gave my best war shout and intimidated them! Only to find out ghouls really don’t care and they nom-ed Sayid dead. So yep, Jonn and Sayid were eaten by ghouls and that’s when Session 2 ended with Session 3 being the introduction of our new characters and Angry Joe. You guys know these characters (Juliet, Grae, and the original Lord Vane), and there’s not much to say about Session 3. The only things I recall was LordKaT not being able to play so I NPCed Grae, and he stunk. Never hit anything except the back of Darstine’s head and Andraste’s butt. Oh, and Joe could never decide on a name for Vane. In fact the name Vane wasn’t even his idea. He originally started as Jonah, but then I suggested Vane as Vane was the name of an infamous pirate. So Joe probably looked up Viking names and renamed his character Youst Kempfer, but no one could take the name seriously so he renamed himself Matrix, and then finally Lord Youst Matrix Vane Kempfer. He settled on Lord Vane.

Oh, and that all happened during the game. Midway through battle he’d change his name over and over. Pretty funny, at least to us. Again, there was almost nothing else to mention during this session. I got a nifty crown I still wear and we avenged Sayid and Jonn by killing the ghouls, but beyond that nothing happened. We returned in Session 4 which is where my recaps and the recordings already pick up. So that was our start guys. I’m really glad people dig this session so much. It’s awesome people are actually debating our characters with one another and creating tropes for our characters and exploits. It’s really far out to see you guys take such an interest in our game and it makes it all the more fulfilling for us. Thanks again guys, and I’ll return to my normal recaps when we (hopefully) return to playing next weekend! Until next time, Namaste!

Friday, August 27, 2010

D&D Lessons: How to Play the Defender

Alright, it’s time to finish off my D&D roles guide with a look at my favorite role: the Defender. Why is it my favorite role? Well, allow me to return back to the earlier football comparison I made with the Striker. While the Striker is the Wide Receiver/Runningback who everyone buys jerseys for and the Leader is the Quarterback that everyone knows is the face of the team, and the Defenders are the linemen who are often times neglected by even fans of their own team.. It’s a thankless job, but a necessary one. Without a good line a quarterback can’t get the ball off, and a runningback can’t break out into the field. That’s the Defender in a nutshell. Remove the football analogy and the job still remains the same: take a beating so your team doesn’t have to.

A Defender might be a very difficult job for people to understand as people hear “Defender” and think “Tank”. It’s not that cut and dry, and truth be told a Defender will be played differently depending on your DM, but I’ll get to that in a bit. The thing that makes each Defender unique is that they all have a mark. Now a mark is something plenty of classes (and monsters) can do, and on the surface it’s a simple -2 penalty to attack anyone else but the person who marked you until the mark ends. However each Defender has their own unique way to mark, and their own unique way of punishing a mark so that it’s actually threatening to disobey. See, that’s the key to a Defender: being threatening. A monster has to actively fear what you can do for a mark to be effective causing perhaps the most unique class feature in the game. This is a power you never want to activate. Yes that’s right you have super cool punishing powers designed to lay big damage down on the enemy, and you don’t ever want them to be used. The reason being that if they violate your mark that normally means they’re going after one of your teammates, and it’s your job to prevent that as much as possible.

A Defender is a tough role to play especially considering your DM. On one hand a DM may honor your mark in almost all situations meaning building a good Defender is easy, however some DMs will play monsters with a tad bit more intelligence. See a monster will realize when it’s futile to continue attacking someone who isn’t reacting to it, and will usually try to find someone else to beat on—afterall there’s little point in fighting a battle you almost statistically can’t win. This means that you can’t just build a Defender with super high defenses and HP who sits there and takes punishment. Realistically you want monsters to hit you. This sounds crazy, but trust me, you do. Every moment a monster hits you is a round they’re not hitting your allies. It might not be fun to be the guy getting wailed on, but that’s what a Defender is. They’re the tough sons of bitches that can actually survive said beatings.

I suppose I should mention the elephant in the room and talk about how you’re going to die… a lot. Well, actually you’re not going to die, but you probably will drop to 0 HP and pass out every so often. This isn’t as bad as it sounds as you’ll often have a Leader ready to save you, but to be honest some Defenders actually take falling in combat as a sign of honor. It’s like a battlescar—proof you were there, did your job, and lived to tell about it. Now your goal isn’t to die in every encounter of course, but the thing to note is that it’s going to happen. Some of you pansy, squimish types might grimace at this thought, but look at it like this. You know that fiery ball of hellfire that crit you and took you from bloodied to – 5? Yeah, think about what would have had happened had that attack hit your squishy wizard or your fragile thief. Such a strike would turn them into mushed paste oon the ground. That’s what you prevent everytime you get hit. That’s –why- you want to get hit! Again, I know it seems like a weird style of gameplay to sit tight and take attacks, but truly that’s the job of a Defender. If fighting like a man isn’t what you want to do, then roll up a Striker. This isn’t the role for the weak of heart.

So what tools does a Defender have that makes them effective? Well each Defender has a particular way of marking, and a method of playing that either makes them sticky (or in the case of the Swordmage; not sticky), or makes it so enemies are drawn to them. Let’s look at the Warden. The Warden is considered by many to be the best class at surviving with their high HP and ability to roll saving rolls at the beginning and end of their turn. Their method of marking is an automatic mark on anyone adjacent to them, so they’re not too tough to play, however their punishment is less than impressive. However Wardens are incredibly hard to get away from with their powers that pull enemies in and their famous Level 1 Daily “Form of Winter’s Herald” which makes them nearly impossible to escape from. On the inverse look at the Paladin. They have almost no way of keeping enemies next to them. No pulling powers, no abilities to attack enemies who try to get away, etc. However, no class is better at marking tons of enemies at once. Heck, a Level 1 Encounter power has the ability to mark all enemies within three squares of them for a turn. That’s only one of many powers a Paladin has to dominate the battlefield by forcing enemies to stay with him, or betray his mark.

Since Defender is the smallest role (in terms of available classes) I’ll actually try to explain the other roles more so you guys understand how the classes work. Fighter’s are the Striker Defender. They deal big damage, and they are the best Defender. I know it’s tough to say any class is “best” at their job, but truth be told a Fighter will normally be more effective than a Paladin or Warden. This isn’t to say don’t look at other classes, but simply put Fighters are monsters. A Fighter’s mark is the only mark that will be betrayed that you actually be happy about as they get to lay down the hurt whenever the enemy so much as shits their pants wrong. Save for ending their turn doing nothing or attacking the Fighter, there’s almost nothing an enemy can do to escape the Fighter without the Fighter attacking, and some Fighter Builds can even stop the enemy’s movement should they hit. Damn.

Swordmages are different depending on which aspect you take: Assault, Shielding, or Ensnaring. Each plays very differently from one another, so this choice will define how you play the role. Assault and Ensnaring are the closest, yet polar opposites. Both activate when an opponent attacks one of your allies, but Assault teleports you to the enemy while Ensnaring teleports the opponent to you. Both are good, though Ensaring keeps you sticky while Assault is best when your DM often betrays marks. Shielding however is right up there with Fighter as best Defender as her power is very simple. Mark enemy, and run away. Yeah, run away. See a Swordmage is at her best when the enemy has to chase her down every time the enemy attacks someone not marked by a Shielding Swordmage the damage they take is reduced by the Swordmage’s Constitution. This is the best example of mark and forget, and again, you want to leave your mark alone. Even if it does attack the opponent its damage won’t be very significant, and more than likely the monster will take some time tracking you down. A great Defender.

Last is the Battlemind which is the newest Defender, and thus the most underpowered. Many Battlemind problems are fixed including the Battlemind’s Blurred Step which is a class feature that allows the Battlemind to follow along with any marked foe that has shifted away from him. More than that they have the dreaded Mind Spike which causes an enemy to take damage equal to that it inflicts while it is adjacent to a Battlemind that has marked it. One aspect even has a nifty special power that lets it move before initiative which is pretty awesome.

Playing a Defender requires a mindset like many roles. You shouldn’t think “I have a lot of health and my AC is high”. You need to think “How can I keep that monster from attacking my allies”. You’re a self-sacrificing character, and yeah, people might not remember your exploits, but take solace in the fact that if your allies are around afterwards then you did your job.

The Defender role includes the Fighter, Paladin, Warden, Swordmage, and Battlemind classes. When Heroes of Shadow comes out in March of next year, it is rumored that the Hexblade class will also be a Defender. That wraps it up for my look at the roles, but I’m not done here. My next plan is to start looking at each class individually to help people see the positive and negatives to the classes. Also I’m always around to help with any other questions you guys might have, so never hesitate to ask! Until next time when I return with my look at the Paladin class, Namaste!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

D&D Log: Session 12

Well guys, it’s a day late, but I’m here to give you guys your regular D&D recap! I apologize for the lateness, but the epic level of this session took a lot out of me. No, it did. I wasn’t able to get to sleep that night until about 2:30, though part of that may be credited to the heat. Regardless, I woke up yesterday feeling all kinds of terrible, so I slept the day away to recover; hence the lateness. However there shall be no more delays! The D&D recap begins… now!

So picking up from last week’s session we licked our wounds following our battle with the mushroom people and traveling south once again to Ihestas (specifically Morwaytha’s shack). Though days passed in game, we traveled the distance quickly and came upon the shack under siege by a Gnoll Hunter and two festering Witherlings. What proceeded was complete and utter domination, and for likely the first time in this game, we were the ones doing the dominating! The first round of combat Garret was hit with two attacks that, had I remembered he was to have +4 to all defenses for a round due to Nature Sense, may not have counted anyway. Regardless, after that attack the enemy never got another hit on us, and I think in three rounds we wiped out the monsters without expending any Daily powers. We managed to save Morwaytha before she could be attacked, and then delicately pressed the issue that we needed her to help us translated the cursed tomb of an ancient demi-god. Yep.

She was hesitant at first (surprise surprise) suggesting that we destroy the Word of Morgana, however we explained the situation with Darstine. We were then treated to a very interesting tidbit of news. The book is Morgana’s phylactery. All that stuff about Darstine’s mind being erased? Well her mind wasn’t so much being erased as it was being slowly taken over by Morgana until she would eventually become the demi-god herself. Fan-freaking-tastic. So we now find ourselves on a very limited clock as each day a page of the book disappearing further putting Darstine’s mind on a timer. We don’t know when her mind will be lost, but we do know that it will happen if we can’t break her curse.

One problem at a time though since, you know, the whole “king slayers” thing. We asked Morwaytha to help us learn the language, and she agreed to teach Vane, Juliet, and I believe Viktor. Sadly Viktor and Vane blew their Wisdom checks so they were all “derp”. Juliet learned it fine though and shared the info with Vane so we knew, without a doubt how to undo the curse. Phew. It was time to leave Morwaytha for now, and we bid her farewell. Actually first we waited to see if she had ritual casting herbs. Okay then it was time to leave. Actually wait we wanted to know if she had a box. Okay then we left. Actually wait no then Grae asked for arrows. And then we came back to ask for rations. And then I think Darstine came back in to ask how long she had left or something. Jeez, talk about abuse of the whole “one more thing” trope. I’m surprised she didn’t shoo us out of her cabin. Heck, she probably wanted to considering how much she hated Vane.

So we left (for real this time), and now it was time to start my plan. I said before I had a way to get into Sarmanath, but it wasn’t 100% guaranteed. When Vane spoke to the Halflings last session (I didn’t mention this in the last recap as little came out of it) he asked how Queen Elena was doing, but they had no news. More specifically I wanted to know if she was seen in public appearances, and we never found that out. I curse myself for not sending Vane into Ihestas to find out as that information would have been crucial. Anyway, my plan was thus: Upon nearing Sarmanath I was going to send an animal messenger to Queen Elena from Garret that would instruct her that we had a way to save her father, and that we had proof of our allegiance. The proof would be Esgalion’s head, and we would show this proof to her by having one of her most trusted servants come to a meeting spot to see the head. From there we would ask that Vane be given a private audience with the Queen to find a way to let us in. The plan was working fine for awhile, and the rest of us set up camp after the messenger was off. Vane waited in the tavern for the “trusted servant” to arrive, and eventually a woman cloaked heavily in robes arrived. The Queen!

Vane took her to his room to continue the story, though I suppose at this point I should explain a joke I don’t think many got that night. Vane was operating under a fake story that he was a mercenary named Bomar. Bomar was a reference to joke running in LordKaT’s stream about a game of Madden 11 where Jason was playing the Giants. Eli Manning threw about four interceptions, so we jokingly had Jason bench him for third string QB Rhett Bomar… and Bomar played better. This started a joke that Bomar would carry the Giants to the Superbowl, and for some reason we made Bomar retarded. The idea being that after winning the Superbowl, Bomar’s interview would go along the lines of “BOMAR PLAY FOOTBALL GOOD! BOMAR WIN SUPERBOWL!” Funny to us, though honestly I don’t know why we’re so mean to the guy. He’s not a great player, but that’s why he’s the third string back up who might not even make the team. Hell, the guy’s only a 2nd year player, and he’s not an idiot so I’m not sure why we made him a caveman in our joke, but we did. This joke then carried over to D&D, and when we needed a fake name for Vane, Bomar fit the bill. BOMAR GOOD NAME! BOMAR MAKE GREAT DECEPTIVE FRONT!

Back to the story at hand, Vane realized quickly that he was speaking to the Queen, and that he needed to get her to us, however a few things were suspicious. Why did the Queen come herself when we asked for a trusted servant? Why was she so adamant about speaking to Garrett? More importantly, how did she even get out of the castle if Talbot was being such a douche? At this point I wish Juliet had gone instead of Vane. Not because I didn’t trust Joe, but unfortunately Vane was at the mercy of his own skills. Juliet’s passive insight was a 20, so even without a roll she’d know something was up, but Vane unfortunately rolled a 15 on his insight and detected nothing. He led the Queen towards our camp and she nervously asked “is that Garret? Is that where he is?” When Vane finally confirmed that he received a blade in the back as the Queen shifted into a horrid raven like monster. Yep, we were deceived, and we quickly found ourselves surrounded by a flock of those raven like monsters. Or is it a murder of ravens? I can never remember.

We had to engage the assassins in battle, and being that we never lit a fire, we fought in complete darkness. This battle didn’t go as easy for us, but still we benefitted from Spoony rolling like absolute dump last night. We fought off the assassins, however the leader of the group escaped to warn Talbot placing us in a very awkward position. More than that, we learned that Talbot was going to marry Elena in a few days. So we had to stop the wedding, and more so we had to hurry as now Talbot knew we were here and we planned on saving the King.

So our plan failed, and again I refer back to my earlier questions. I wanted to know two main things. How Queen Elena was after the death of her father, and if she made any public appearances. With the latter I’d know if she was still a public figure head, or if she was Queen in name only and, as I expected, Talbot had basically taken power. Had we known we could have come up with a new plan as Elena was compromised, but we weren’t as prepared as we thought. Shame too, because I liked the plan. Well, we now sat a good while outside of town with no idea how to get in, but a knowledge that we had to. We couldn’t just run away. At this point we had exposed our hands, and the only option left was to do it like prom night and go all the way!

At this point Darstine began to remember different curses inside the Word of Morgana that could help—specifically a spell of clairvoyance, and a dimension door that could transport us anywhere we had been before. So we made a new plan. Lord Vane needed to see the amber statue of King Donovan to cast the ritual, and a full minute of preparation before he could finish the spell. That meant one full minute, or 10 rounds, of uninterrupted casting. In addition Darstine would need to stay back so she could maintain the dimensional door as without it, we would be trapped and Vane couldn’t cast the spell. That left Viktor, Grae, Juliet, and Garret to enter the throne room and distract the guards for one minute. This was a tense battle planning session as the likelihood of surviving a full ten rounds against who knows how much reinforcements would be nearly impossible. There was a good chance some or all of us could die in the battle, or worse that we survive the ten rounds only to have Vane fail the incantation. Still, this is that badass moment where none of the matters and we all get to be big god damn heroes!

We all gave ourselves a pep talk and a few epic speeches before we did it. We charged in, swords, arrows, and spells readied. The battle field was about even odds at the start. Four of us versus two average guards, two elite guards, and one mage. Right off the bat Viktor almost killed the mage, and we thought maybe this battle wouldn’t be as hard as it appeared, but this was not the case. See, the two elite guards were complete and utter rape machines. Yes, rape machines. These guys hit hard, hit often, and hit you from far away. Even with Viktor and Garret’s high ACs we found ourselves in danger quite often. Garret’s healing spells went quickly, and we all found ourselves very, very bloodied. At one point I was running about three rounds at 4 HP. This was a very tense battle, and the person I felt worst for was Joe as he had to watch us get torn apart and know he couldn’t help. It’s crazy how much action was compacted into a single minute, but it was intense. There were some rolls I had to hold my breath during. The battle with Esgalion may have been more epic due to the whole punching off the pyramid thing, but this battle, at least for me, carried a lot more weight as every dice roll seemed like the roll to determine if we lived or died. Finally the moment came and Lord Vane completed his incantation and it came time for the final roll. The roll to determine if those ten rounds of hell were for naught.

… 25.

GAGOOSH! Vane cast the spell and light shot out of the amber prison freeing the king. We were quick to march upstairs, almost dragging the king with us as we had to stop Talbot. We arrived to find one of the Queen’s handmaiden’s stabbed (Juliet healed her), and then Father Emmitt in critical condition (I believe Juliet and Garret saved him too), only to find Talbot holding a blade to Elena’s neck with his back to the window. He was prepared to use her as a hostage and run away with his new bride, until Donovan showed up. Talbot was… stunned to say the least. He momentarily hesitated, and that allowed Lord Vane (or maybe Viktor) to toss him out the window. He clung to the edge, but Juliet turned into a beast and cleaved off his fingers causing the fiend to drop to his death. In retrospect probably should have kept him alive for questioning, but come on, how often to you get to throw assholes off a building? Come on, cinematic value alone says we had to do that.

We ended shortly thereafter. Next session we’ll begin the long process of explaining exactly has happened in the past five sessions to the King, and that’s sure to be interesting. Assuming we leave free men, our next goal is to find a way to save Darstine. Truth be told, I’m not 100% happy with how we won. While epic, what we did was take the easy way out and we tripled how much of a hit to Darstine’s mind that we initially planned when we started this adventure. I don’t know how else we could have managed such a feat, but the fact is we’re abusing this book and that’s going to bite us in the ass. But I suppose I should be optimistic as we’ve now finally defeated Talbot and saved King Donovan. For half of our group, we dinged at Level 4, so expect newer, stronger characters next level for Juliet, Viktor, and Garrett. In addition I believe we’ll be receiving a new party member next week in Iron Liz who will be joining us as a much needed Cleric. Sweet.

Okay well, that’s all there was to the session (I say two pages later…), and a session next week is a maybe. Spoony has PAX coming up, so we may not play for the next few weeks. Again though, if you were going to choose any session to have a break on, this would be the session.

Well that’s all for this week everyone. Until next time: BOMAR KILL BADGUY! BOMAR WIN D&D! NAMASTE!