Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Building Character: What's in a Name?

Welcome back everybody to Building Character, an in-depth series detailing how to build RPG heroes (or villains) chalk full of character! Last time I discussed how you can turn the mechanics of the game into more poignant character traits, and this time I want help smooth out the rough edges of your character and look at the finishing touches of the character sheet: name, height, weight, age, gender, deity, etc. To some people those are the most important decisions of the character, but to others they’re stuff decided at the end, usually by a generator, and they don’t put much stock into these choices. That’s fine mind you, most of those choices are rather meaningless, but when you do put thought into them they carry much more meaning than something a random number generator came up with.

Let’s start by looking at the name which is admittedly one of my weaker areas. It’s not that I don’t like having depth behind a name mind you, but rather that the best names usually have meanings behind them, and I’m awful at picking that sort of stuff without feeling like it’s coming off cheesy. Caitlin was an exception to this rule however as I did put a good deal of work into her name (at least more than “name this character after someone from LOST” which was my MO most of the time). For Caitlin I picked something Irish for a few reasons: 1) I’m part Irish and damn proud of it. 2) I wanted something foreign. 3) Irish names have an elven look to it. Caitlin (pronounced “Cat-Lean”) looks a lot more exotic than “Katleen” which would be the standard spelling of the same name. Cormac was another Irish name, meaning raven which I went with just for alliteration sake. Originally I was going to call Caitlin Rose, or rather the Gaelic expression for “child of the rose” as I was going for a “rose” theme with Caitlin (punctuated by naming her rapier the “Thorn”). In the end I decided against this theme as the names didn’t do anything for me, and I decided on Caitlin. I like the name a lot now, and I’m glad I put some decent work into it.

The most work I put into a name though was for Eli DeLucci. Both parts had significance. DeLucci is Italian for “the light” which worked well for Eli being a cleric of Pelor. I’ll admit I sorta stole that theme from One Piece’s Rob Lucci, a villain whose name basically meant “robbing light”. I knew a DeLucci in school though who explained what his full name meant, so that’s what I worked off of. Eli was not a reference to Eli Manning (QB for the New York Giants) as many have suspected. Rather I wanted a biblical name for Eli considering his backstory. I went through the major prophets and couldn’t find a name that worked, but I eventually settled on Eli as the name. I find the bible to be a great source of names for characters if you’re curious. Name your next hulking behemoth Samson and you’ll instantly like him more. Trust me.

Also, if you’re ever really stuck for a name try opening up an old year book and finding former classmates with awesome last names. I’ve used this trick several times before.

To be blunt, names should carry some sort of meaning. I know not all parents name their kids with any sort of thought put into it, but look at it this way. You have two cities: “Fairview” and “Dubnard”. Without knowing anything about these two cities, which one seems more interesting? To me, Fairview is stock. It’s not intriguing and there’s not very likely to be an interesting story about how Fairview got its name. Dubnard on the other hand? Well the immediate question is “where does the name Dubnard come from?” Might it be based off of a king or the city’s founder? Maybe it’s based on a festival that is intrinsic to the town’s identity. Maybe it’s the name given to its people by a goddess who says in her tongue Dubnard means “strength” or “hope”. The point I’m getting at is something being strange for the sake strange gives you the opportunity to come up with a reason for this down the line. Remember that you don’t need to have a full idea in your head when you come up with something, so leaving an opportunity explain it down the line is a great tip to follow.

Now let’s move onto two stats that I fully admit I ignore for the most part: Height & Weight. In real life these two measurements nearly define us in many cases, but in my fantasy RPG I couldn’t care less if my Barbarian is ideal weight or not. Still, it’s worth paying attention to these numbers as they can be used to help flesh out the image of the character in your mind which is essential to a medium of storytelling where all you have is your imagination. I understand some people aren’t crazy about weight /height measuring, so a protip would be to use other people’s heights/weights. I don’t record you walk around asking people these two numbers though. Instead, look to famous athletes as almost all of them have their numbers posted as official statistics.

Take a warrior for example. I might build a warrior who is stout and speedy, so the build of linebacker would be a good idea like Patrick Willis (6’1”, 240 lbs.) Or I may want a big and powerful warrior shielded in thick plate built like Defensive End Justin Tuck (6’5”, 274 lbs.) Or maybe you want a less pristine champion and you envision a more hefty and brutish fighter, like Offensive Guard Jahri Evans (6’4”, 318 lbs.) You can do this for swimmers, gymnists, basketball, sumo, heck, anything. Personally for Caitlin I just used my sister’s height of 5’7” as that’s an average height for a girl. For weight I put her in the mid 120’s after looking up healthy weights for a woman of that height, then subtracting about ten pounds due to being an elf. Not a flawless system, but it works better than picking numbers and having a 5’6” 314 lb. wizard.

Now onto gender, and I’ll use this moment to address the audience regarding a question I receive a lot: “Why do you always play women in roleplaying games?” First off I don’t “always” play women. The two most famous characters my audience knows of (Juliet and Caitlin) both came about after a male character (Sayid and Eli) left the party. In addition my first character and longest running one I should add was Leo Castillo, a guy. But more importantly playing a woman doesn’t feel strange to me, at least no more strangely than playing anything else. When I roleplay I like to have my character be separate from myself and I’ve found swapping gender to be a very easy way to help keep me in the mind of a different person.

Personally (and I must stress that these are my own personal views) I view gender as one of those last minute options. I know a lot of people will disagree with me as they view gender to be pivotal to a character’s identity, but for me it’s just a check box you have to make. I don’t view gender as a character trait as aside from biological difference, there’s nothing absolutely associated with either gender. When I make a character I think in terms of personality like attitude, arrogance, bloodlust, personal vendettas, fears, dreams, secrets, etc. Choosing to be a woman or a man doesn’t force me to be anything else, at least not something not dictated by the setting. If it’s a world where women are viewed as property and the idea of a female knight is taboo, then yeah picking a gender might have string attached, but in general I feel you should do with what you want to do. If you’ve never played a character of the opposite gender before, I recommend giving it a try. Just remember that “girl” and “guy” aren’t character traits. Acting excessively feminine or masculine is, but on your own just remember that gender doesn’t define a role. For Caitlin I’m playing a headstrong, brash, loyal to a fault, determined, and protective elf that happens to be a woman. All of these traits could easily be carried over to a male character, and nothing would change except the relationship with Dhother (either it would be nixed, or I’d make the male character gay).

Anyway, the final topic I want to hit on is deities as lord knows the Wyrmwick campaign has its fair share of dealing with the gods. For a Divine character picking a deity isn’t recommend; it’s required. For other characters though the option is left open for people to pick their main deity of choice or take the option of giving a middle finger to the gods. The latter option is abused far too often in my opinion. Sure the guy who willingly ignores the gods known to be existent in the gaming world is cool, but he’s rather rare, y’know? Picking a god is great for your character as it can help define what they hold most precious in life. A warrior who considers Kord his main deity shows he prides battle most of all, but a knight who worships Erathis daily shows that the expansion of his kingdom is paramount to him. The 4E pantheon is varied enough to work right out of the box (so to speak), but you can always add new gods for flavor. My recommendation though is to think what your character wants most in life, and have them decide who they would pray to most often to ensure good fortune. For Caitlin I decided on Corellon for the sake that Caitlin held tightly onto her elven roots. It doesn’t have to be complex—a short explanation will do.

And that’s it for this edition of Building Character. These details might seem very minor, but they can be essential for getting into the head of the character you want. Having a name adds a level of customization to show this character is yours, and gender/height/weight help to paint a better picture in your head. Same with appearance, but I always sucked at appearance, so no help there, guys (sorry). To some people these choices are at the top of the list when you make a character, but for others (like myself) they’re add-ons to help flesh out your character once the major points are settled.

I hope this helped, and I do hope you’ll return for the finale of Building Character when I take a look at backstories and explain to you how I would build a logical and entertaining history for your hero.

Until next time, Namaste!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Wyrmwick Log: Session 14

Hey everybody, I’m going to just go ahead and link all of these videos here for you to use as a soundtrack for this recap. If you haven’t picked up the hint by now, this was a sad session. There were several major deaths and a lot of painful moments to accompany them. And yet, there were some very uplifting moments to counteract them, and of course it wouldn’t be Wyrmwick without a few mind-numbingly derp moments to go along with it. Gentlemen, I suggest you get ready to hold back the man tears, because we’re diving right into the recap!

With the Toothpick Brigade’s victory of the tower of Redwulf, they moved on to what would be the final tower in the Demon Baron’s territory sans his own fortress. Along the way they passed by a sign that led to “Boatmurdered” or “Boat Murdered”. I’m hoping for the former as geez… the latter is just an awful name for a city. This dwarven settlement was interesting, but not necessarily worth exploring at the moment, so our heroes pressed onwards and found the last remaining tower. This tower was still incomplete, but as we peered in on a ritual we knew we had to act now or risk an even greater threat.

Though we did vanquish the forces in quick fashion (Dahl even got to chuck one of his swords like a javelin and kill one!), the ritual was completed and from the ritual raised an enormous fiend who we had to put down—lest we face extermination so close to our goal. We survived this brutal encounter and proceeded to damage the teleportation circle that would allow the Demon Baron’s forces to continue building this structure. Victorious, we went to bed only to be awakened by a familiar mage. Ghadi, from Vante’s Tower.

Ghadi asked what we were doing at the tower stating that we was there to finish building it. We got the jump on him and interrogated him to find out what we could. He told us what little he knew about Caitlin, and then proceeded to demand we let him go. Dhother however was not going to allow this fiend to walk away knowing that all of the towers are his doing. Dhother was ready to execute the guy, but Ghadi was far too powerful for that. He started to tear us apart with his magic, and our party had yet to get a full night’s sleep so our powers were limited. By the time Ghadi finally fell our party was nearly wiped, and to our utter horror a bolt of lightning recharged the life of the fallen mage. Dhother was adamant about killing the mage, but when it suddenly seemed that things weren’t going our way we attempted to retreat. However Ghadi would see to it that we were punished for our aggression.

Dahl was hit with a spell that sent him flying back into the tower, and trapped him there. When the party members attempted to enter they found the floor trapped, and Dahl was sealed off from them. It seemed they would have to leave him behind, but before he died Dahl gave two last requests to the party. The first was to bring Caitlin back home, and the second was to build a memorial to his fallen wife and daughter; a task he never finished in life. Following that he passed out, and the magic trap enveloped the tower remnants in flames. When they finally died down all that remained of the former pirate was a pile of ashes and a lingering feeling of guilt in the heart of Dhother as he knew his brash decision to kill Ghadi was ultimately what cost his friend's life. The death of Dahl hit the party hard, but they were adamant in finishing the task he asked of them and proceeded back to Boatmurdered to try to find the proper equipment necessary to traverse the harsh obsidian roads to the Demon Baron’s tower.

In the tower Caitlin’s luck had finally run dry and the High Priest had begun to torture his prisoner. She was subjected electrocution, stabbing, and even forced vomiting (don’t ask) for weeks as the party slowly made their way to the tower, and she even received the horrible news about Dahl. That night she prayed to Bahamut in order to confirm the truth, and indeed it was correct: Dahl was dead, but he was happily reunited with his family in the Astral Stream. However Bahamut then gave her the somber news that this wasn’t the death he alluded to previously, but rather that Alpert’s life was rapidly coming to an end. Stricken with grief Caitlin spent the night wildly lashing in her cell, unable to cope with these tragic revelations.

The party entered Boatmurdered to find the Dwarven settlement to in truth be a dreary fortress constantly underseige by elephants (don’t ask why), and the party had to venture through the maddened slums of the city to find the proper boots that would allow the adventures to traverse over the superheated rock that surrounded the Demon Baron’s tower. In addition they found a young Dwarven girl known as Harley who was orphaned after the Dwarves accidentally dug into Hell and well… released all Hell on the city. Her parents committed suicide, but the young girl remained blissfully unaware to this fact knowing that they had only “gone swimming” in molten lava. Feeling guilt over Dahl’s death, Dhother took to caring for the girl, and the party took her with them when they left Boatmurderd (still an awful name for a city).

Before making their final advance on the tower the party wanted to drop Harley off on the Mighty Gauntlet, but when they arrived they found their ship nowhere to be seen, and instead only the living headache known as Bomar the Baker was there. Bomar explained how he wanted to surprise us with bread, but he instead ended up burning our ship. Dhother did not take this well. Curse our good-alignment because I seriously want to choke the living crap out of that baker. HOW DID HE EVEN GET HERE!? I DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW HE KEEPS GETTING TO THESE PLACES!

Now without a boat the party made (in my opinion) the absolutely horrific decision to bring Harley with them towards the Demon Baron’s towers. As the party approached, the Demon Baron came to Caitlin and escorted her out of her cell and into a new one in a more accessible area with her armor and equipment waiting for her. He warned her that the High Priest would be busy working on a ritual, and before leaving he handed her a letter and he instructed her not to read it until after she was gone. The party arrived shortly thereafter, and freed Caitlin for a touching reunion (y’know up until Caitlin realized they brought a little girl with them). Still, after three long months the party was reunited, and without a moment’s delay they evacuated the tower and headed to Redwulf.

The night Caitlin and Dhother spent the night together sharing their experiences of the past three months. Before the night ended the two shared their first kiss, and finally Wyrmwick has its own official couple! After this touching moment the party took a new ship to Wyrmwick to see on the condition of the dying councilman. Caitlin arrived to find her surrogate father on his last breaths, but he held on long enough to see his adopted daughter one last time. He told how he always saw her as family to him, handed her his last will, and then passed on. Following his death Caitlin finally cried; the first time it had happened in over 15 years.

The next morning Caitlin woke up with a heavy heart before she opened the last will Alpert gave her. Caitlin inherited his estate and 1,000 gold, and the rest of his fortune was to be donated to charity. Following that she opened the letter from the Demon Baron, or rather Daevick Tarkimos, and it started “If you’re reading this, then this means I’m dead.” The letter continued to wish her luck on her quest, but all it did was leave a broken heart even more shattered, and further fueled Caitlin’s desire to see that High Priest and Tiamat suffer for their crimes.

The session ended after Caitlin & Dhother convinced the church of Bahamut to take care of Harley, Bomar showed up again (HOW DOES HE KEEP GETTING TO THESE PLACES!?), and the party was rewarded with 25,000 gold for taking down the towers. The armies of Tiamat are crippled, but the finishing blow still needs to be applied. Next session the party shall travel north to Fort Alewyn to find a way to Bahamut’s realm where Caitlin will undergo the ritual to become the firstborn of Bahamut.

So what did you all think of this session? There were plenty of tragic moments to go around, but a few memorable scenes to balance it all out. Which death hit you the hardest? What did you think of the character development (Dhother, Caitlin, Deavick, etc.)? How about the romance between Caitlin and Dhother? What do you think should be done about Ghadi? We’re slowly approaching the endgame of this arc everybody, so get ready for the inevitable epic showdown between the forces of good and evil for the future of the continent!

Images credited to Kluu and DarkVolt!

Until next time, Namaste!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Wyrmwick Log: Session 13

Have I ever mentioned how bizarre that we allow Left 4 Dead 2 to make us furious, yet we still continue to play it? It’s baffling to me. I mean we’re aware of this every single time we open the game up too. We’re all very aware that there’s about a 60% that one person in the call is going to get angry and probably rage quit. And yet we still choose to play it. That’s insanity people. Of course, that actually has no bearing at all on recapping this week’s D&D session, but I couldn’t think of a witty opening, so I thought I’d just wax nerd on you all for a little bit.

This was a long session of D&D (around 7 hours I believe), but sessions usually run long only if they are particularly epic. This session had action, drama, triumph, failure, and some very cryptic messages from Corellon, but we’ll get to that in time. For now, let’s get into the recap!

After killing the Goblin King and taking his “epic lootz” as it were, our party ventured back into the Borreal Maze for another run with insanity. This time around we weren’t attacked by any trees (not that that prevented Dahl from freaking out anyway), but we were essentially attacked by the Hunters from Left 4 Dead. Holy crap, my intro suddenly makes sense now! I need to go back and modify it to make it look like this was a brilliant and witty observation discovered on my front prior to writing this article! Ah… but the backspace key is so far way… ah fuck it.

So yes, our party was attacked by these strange monsters that attempted to pounce on us and do us harm, but we fended them off rather well after Denora went all Solar Flare on everybody and blinded the monsters. After that we escaped the maze a little worse for wear, and we began to plan our next move. Dhother was now fully recovered from his time spent at the Demon Baron’s tower (which was our reason for why Dhother was not participating last week, so the party had to catch him up on current events—the biggest of which being, of course, Caitlin’s prisoner exchange. Dhother seemed legitimately shaken by this news especially as he read the letter she left behind for him, and for those still a bit late to all of this Caitlin and Dhother have a crush on one another. So with newfound conviction, the party makes a move to head to Wyrmwick and see if they can find the location of any of the other towers.

Meanwhile in Demon Baron land, Caitlin is still at the mercy of her captors, though despite this she’s doing everything in her power to irritate and antagonize the followers of Tiamat, and Dhother will tell you if there’s one thing Caitlin is great at it’s annoying people. She began by carving a symbol to Bahamut out of a chunk of rock, and used it to pray to Bahamut which she managed to successfully do. After getting the information about the towers from the Demon Baron (who is still trying to convince Caitlin he’s on the up and up), Caitlin asked Bahamut if he could send this information to the party. He agreed, but he could only do it in the form of a dream. Caitlin was pleased to know she still has a way to help the party, even if it isn’t the most direct way.

However Caitlin wouldn’t go unnoticed by the High Cleric for long and one day he came upon her cell with an entire force of guards. Caitlin was her normal, cocky self, and was promptly gagged for her arrogance and dragged off to a chamber where they strapped her down to a table. The High Cleric was preparing to perform a ritual, and just before he began he removed Caitlin’s gag probably on the hopes she’d start begging for her life, but instead she fired off a Disintegration Breath. Sadly, this move did nothing (which makes me worry how BAMF this cleric is), and immediately afterwards a white gem was forced into Caitlin’s chest. As the crystal settled, its magic bonded it to her skin and the magic began to take effect. All at once her dragon mutations began to revert; leaving Caitlin as the same normal elf she had been before entering Zalelah’s Crypt. She passed out from the pain only to wake up hours later back in her cell with the crystal implanted firmly in her chest.

Back to our intrepid heroes, they have finally made their way to Wyrmwick and the first order of business is to inform Alpert of Caitlin’s situation after neglecting to speak with the councilman during their past visits. The party informed Alpert of Caitlin’s decision to surrender herself to the Baron, and the shock of knowing his daughter is a prisoner of the Demon Baron was too much for Alpert’s heart. The poor councilor suffered a heart attack and proceeded to fall into a coma. Denora tried every spell she had to bring the councilman back, but sadly his condition was very poor and the prospects for his future looked grim. Before leaving Dahl let the unconscious Alpert know that his daughter was doing great things and that he should be proud before promising to bring her back home. The party left for Redwulf in somber spirits.

It seemed Bahamut came through for the party by providing our heroes with a dream—or rather one party member. That party member was Dahl as he’s the only follower of Bahamut currently in the party, and these dreams were a doozy. They all involve Dahl seeing his family, then the location of other towers. There would be one to the northwest, and one to the east. Then Dahl’s family would become zombies and try to eat him. Caitlin really does need to scald Bahamut for that one. Like poor Dahl needs anymore stress in his life at this point. Dude’s already paranoid of three trees less than a mile apart. This dream was the guidance that brought us to Redwulf, and there we attempted to find the location of perhaps another tower.

We did find the location of another tower, but the biggest discovery had to be finding out Grieg is worth 100 Platinum for his crimes in the past. Yeah, if you weren’t there when we rolled it up, Grieg used to live in Redwulf, but he took part in several revolutions that got him labeled a revolutionist and had an insanely large price put on his head. Luckily no one in our party is driven by avarice because if they were Grieg probably would have been sold out. Instead we gathered supplies and headed for the tower to take it down before the forces inside could overwhelm the Redwulf army and create an undead legion.

Real quick let’s revisit Caitlin who is now back to being a normal elf. She has continued trying to pray to Bahamut since reverting, but communicating with the Platinum Dragon has been a difficult ordeal for the former first-born due to (most likely) magical interference from Tiamat’s influence. Eventually she did manage to contact Bahamut so that she could show him her new condition. Bahamut was weary on the gem and instructed her not to let anyone remove the gem, or else it would likely kill her. Instead she would need to visit him in his realm and he would remove the device, but until then she’d have to survive as she was. Finally he told her that the party was faring well, but one of her loved one’s was not doing so well. Before he could reveal who, the meeting abruptly ended as Tiamat became aware of it. The High Cleric came down and destroyed the makeshift holy symbol with conviction. In response, Caitlin fashioned a makeshift chisel and began carving prayers to Bahamut on the walls which again prompted the High Cleric to come down to her cell and restore the wall to normal. Caitlin, in response, went back to carving her prayers on the wall as she refused to be broken by these fiends. Until he physically prevents her from opposing him, either by strapping her to a table or breaking all of her bones, the High Cleric is going to have to get used to Caitlin being a bitch.

In another attempt to assist the party Caitlin asked the Demon Baron to send a message to her friends with the remaining locations of the towers and indication that Caitlin was alright. He agreed, and at this point Caitlin is beginning to sincerely trust the Baron. However she will not follow along with his plan. In three months time (two months have passed since), Caitlin is to be taken from the Demon Baron’s Tower to the Realm of Chaos where Tiamat resides as she is become the new second-born of Tiamat. However the Demon Baron’s plan relies on him sending someone else in Caitlin’s place which she adamantly refuses to happen. As it is should the party not arrive in time, she will be heading to Auntie Tiamat’s, and honestly I totally want that to happen as that will be one interesting family reunion.

Switching back to the party, our heroes are greeted in the night by a mysterious messenger bringing them a map of the area. On it are six marks. Two Xs that seem to indicate the towers still standing, three Xs in squares where the demolished towers once stood, and a circle around the area where Vante’s Tower stands. This circle is the most troubling aspect, but a message on the back indicated that while Caitlin was safe, she wouldn’t remain that way for long. This added pressure spurred the party to put this curious marking behind them for the moment and instead head towards the tower closest to them.

This new establishment was different from the past towers in that this was a complex with two towers separated by a small building. On the left tower we could see the standard white orb of evil land destroying, but the right tower had a brand new blue orb. We decided to scout the place out to investigate, but before doing so Dhother received a vision from Corellon. In his vision Corellon stood naked before he jumped on a surfboard. He flew around in a circle for several moments before a tower grew in the center of his rotation. He then landed, pointed at the tower and said “I just had lunch today”. Verbatim. I do wonder how Dhother keeps his sanity in these situations considering the company he keeps.

Taking that new information into account, we attacked. First we went after the right tower to discover what the blue orb might do, and after a quick encounter outside we came upon a hideous mass of assorted goblin parts. This was a very difficult encounter as this mass of parts has to have close to 450 HP. None of our characters are insanely high damage dealers at the moment, so bringing this mass down took quite some time. Luckily our rolls were hot pretty much the entire encounter, and the mass rolled rather poorly so we escaped without too much lost. As we discovered the blue orb seemed to be some type of incubation beam that was growing the mass—likely until it was large enough to stomp all over the Redwulf army. By stopping it now we prevented a potential future travesty! Go Team Us!

The second tower was filled with shadow monsters, and before anyone suggests I make Smoke Monster references, understand that already happened in Dethklok so I got out my LOST fanboy-ism there. These smoke monsters were actually freaking beastly and nearly wiped out depleted resources. We got lucky again with some great rolls, and discovered all the monsters were linked together as one. Just when Dhother and Jonn got hit with an attack that dominated them, Dahl lot loose a final blow that killed all the monsters at once. Following that we weakened the support of the white orb, and then took it out from afar destroying nearly half of the complex. What remained of the forces was quickly taken out by the Redwulf Army, and we, the Toothpick Brigade, were hailed as the heroes of Redwulf. With only one tower left to destroy, our party approached what may finally be the climactic showdown with the Demon Baron! Only time will tell, but stayed tuned viewers as next week promises to be exciting!

Images credited to Kluu, Sighter, and DarkVolt.

Until next time, Namaste!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Wyrmwick Log: Session 12

Well hello there everybody! I hope you all had a fantastic Mother’s Day and spent this cherished holiday celebrating the matrons who made our lives possible. I spent mine swearing at Noob Saibot for being a cheap teleporting whore and crying, so it was a good weekend all around due in no small part to a great D&D session on Saturday. As a quick head’s up Nik was not able to make the session due to prior commitments (I think he was at a gay bar), so we were without our silky haired lead man for the session. No worries though because it’s not like we got our asses handed to us by trees or anything, right?

Picking up from the end of the last session we (Caitlin, Denora, and Jonn) decided to leave the tower standing so as not to piss of the guys holding our friends captive—though it wasn’t an easy choice. Our only attempt at vengeance was slicing up the power box in the basement that enabled the teleportation device on the tower’s ground floor. We truly are the vandals of this world! With our juvenile shenanigans behind us we rode off to Colingrove to give Duke Ned the news. We arrived to see the city nearly deserted with a report left behind that the city’s forces (including Duke Ned himself) marched towards Wyrmwick to help repel a Demon Baron attack from the South Tower—the tower we had just recently destroyed.

We sailed south only to find Wyrmwick fine and Duke Ned drinking himself silly in the bar. Apparently a runner came to Colingrove baring a message with Wyrmwick’s seal that asked for assistance, but after speaking to Kahn Musarog we learned no such message was sent and instead it seemed some shorter man with long red hair and a facial scar was responsible for sending the message. We gave our message to both Duke Ned and Musarog who took it in stride mostly because we explained our position, and following that Duke Ned left for Colingrove. We took it upon ourselves to investigate this mysterious red-headed runner while we waited for the High Cleric of Tiamat to give us a new assignment, but before we set off Caitlin gave Jonn the remaining vials of the ritual liquid used to make her the first born. She wanted him to have it as insurance should something happen to her.

After that we traveled around to Sharan’s Pass, fucked with a bartender, tried to be totally sneaky, and eventually headed back towards Colingrove to find this red-headed runner. We learned there that the runner headed to the east, and without a moments delay we marched on the North Tower only to find our runner standing outside the tower doors as if he was waiting. Caitlin snuck up behind him and placed him in a hold so we could integrate him, but (twist!) it turns out this red-headed runner was none other than Thorian Hawklight, douche extraordinaire! After some persuasion (see headbutts to the back of the head) we learned he was waiting for a report from the High Cleric of Tiamat, and conveniently so were we. However we were privy to the little detail of the broken teleporter, so we decided to play engineer and go fix it.

Back over to Dhother and Grieg it seemed that this magical sun was taking its toll on poor Dhother. Grieg tended to the Invoker as best he could before searching for clues only to find a dark obsidian surface beneath the sand. As he continued to dig he found it eventually reached an edge, and after a good Perception roll Grieg woke up from the illusion to find that he and Dhother were actually on top of the Demon Baron’s Tower. Yipes.

Back with Thorian & Friends, we took our favorite recurring character into the basement of the tower and forced him to hook up the teleporter again. It electrocuted him which we found very funny. Caitlin asked Jonn and Denora to take Thorian to Colingrove so he could be arrested and then she would stay behind and wait for the High Cleric, but before that could happen the tower flashed with lightning and the cleric arrived. He demanded we release Hawklight, and against our will we did so, only for the Cleric to stab Hawklight in the heart for failing… which admittedly was pretty fucking hardcore. The Cleric then explained to us that we could have our friends back if we entered a portal with him.

Instead Caitlin proposed a counter offer. If the Cleric returned Dhother and Grieg to the party with all of their equipment and permitted everyone to return to Wyrmwick, then Caitlin would offer herself up as a prisoner. Caitlin urged her party members to trust her on this, and left her weapons with Jonn before joining the Cleric. In a flash Caitlin and the cleric disappeared and in their place was Dhother and Grieg, equipped and confused. Caitlin was stripped of her armor and equipment and placed in a dark cell inside of the Demon Baron’s Tower to await whatever foul cruelties the Demon Baron had planned for the first-born of Bahamut. Tell me that seeing this motherfucker coming towards you wouldn’t make you shit your pants with fear—if only Caitlin were wearing pants at the moment. However instead of using Caitlin like a toothpick like I assumed, the Demon Baron dropped to one knee and begged his cousin to help him.

He explained that he was an unwilling pawn in this army, and that he wanted Caitlin’s help. In return he would ensure that there was a mix-up during a prisoner transfer scheduled to occur in a few months (and before anyone suggests that’s a long time away remember that it takes weeks to get anywhere in this world). Caitlin (and myself) were obviously a bit weary of this revelation and didn’t make a commitment either way, though I intend to cut to the core of this situation next session. I just can’t trust him because I totally get a Gin/Rukia vibe from this situation where all the Demon Baron wants to do is give me hope of rescue only to cruelly snatch it away to let the despair really sink in. Call me crazy but I just don’t trust that the Demon Baron is on the up and up yet—I have too many questions.

Turning our attention back to the party, we join them as old friends reunite, though there is a somber feel about this knowing that Caitlin traded herself for them. It seemed this was a plan of Caitlin’s for awhile as she left a note behind for Dhother that basically explained that she didn’t want the party to worry about her. Instead she urged them to find the Goblin King’s orb to prevent further teleporting hijinks and to blow up any towers they find. They did just that, and the tower at Watchman’s North was utterly obliterated. With one more tower in ruins, our heroes ventured to Colingrove to resupply before heading off to the Boreal Maze.

Before leaving though they stopped by Bomar the Baker’s only to find a familiar face arguing with the beloved baker over his bizarre bazaar. It was none other than Dahl, the former-pirate turned poop shoveler… you know, the guy who lost his family. He told the party that he overheard their plight and that he was going to join them in their quest in order to pay back Caitlin for sparing his life and attempting to find his family. Can you guys say “Guest Party Member”?

Without wasting another moment the party ventured into the Boreal Maze and began navigating its twisted design. Each night the party would attempt to rest only to leave Dahl shitting his pants on the final shift muttering “I can hear the trees”. Just as our party was about to exit the maze we found ourselves under attack by Treants, and for those unaware what those are, think big fucking trees with a pissed off disposition.

These fucking trees nearly TPK’s us which I can only imagine would be the greatest downer ending to a campaign ever: “yeah, Caitlin you’re still prisoner of the Demon Baron, and the rest of the party was killed by fucking oak trees. GG.” Thankfully we did survive the encounter, but it was not a very glamorous victory—i.e. there were quite a few girlish screams going around. Let it be known that thus far in the campaign our biggest challenges have been a Death Knight, and fucking trees. Worst part is no one believed Dahl when he was crying about the trees until their 1d12+10 branches were lodged half way up our asses.

After that we managed to climb up to the top of the tower that made up the Goblin King’s prison with Denora pulling off some very special Daredevil-esque acrobatics to make it inside. Once we had broken in we descended the tower and ignored the jeers of the prisoners who clearly knew far too much about us which is, admittedly, something we should look into. We managed to traverse the dungeon just fine though and we battled the Goblin King is a climactic battle. Through good teamwork we dispatched the Goblin King without too much of a hassle, and were left to reap the spoils: his orb of anti-teleportation, and the necklace that prevented mutation.

We escaped the tower and called it a night following that encounter. We’re in a very unique position now as the party now has to figure out where the remaining towers are as we only knew of Watchman North & Watchman South. Until those towers are destroyed they can’t march on the Demon Baron, but it might take quite some time to accomplish this. On the flip side Caitlin is set to be moved to a new prison in a few months, so there’s a timetable going on right now that the party doesn’t even know about. So, what do you guys think? Do you trust the Demon Baron? Was Hawklight’s death satisfying? Will Dahl freak out even more when he learns that Dhother has an evil magic rosary following them? Could Bomar the Baker really be behind everything!?! Tune in next time to (maybe) find out!

Images credited to Sable, DarkVolt, DungeonsandFlagons, and Sighter.

Until next time, Namaste!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Building Character: Mechanical Makeup

Hey everybody, welcome back to Building Character: A Guide to Character Creation as told by some fat guy on the internet without credentials! This time on Building Character I’m going to take a look at turning the mechanics of your hero (the feats, powers, and weapons) into character traits. Now admittedly this isn’t my strongest area of expertise as I’ve mostly built optimized characters as sadly 4E is not a system built for flavor when it comes to the mechanics. Still, even a min/maxed character in 4E can still take a look at their mechanics and think character, so let’s start where we left off.

The first major decision I have to make excluding class/race is my main class feature, and for the Scout it’s a choice between Flashing Blade Mastery and Spinning Axe Mastery. Basically these two choices boil down to whether you want to have a light blade or an axe as your off hand weapon, and admittedly I chose light blade for mechanical reasons, but there was a character reason as well. When I think axes I tend to think of them as more savage weapons than your classical broadsword or halberd. When I think of a scout using axes I tend to think of them as a much more primitive or primal sort of scout—like the scout of a tribe of Half-Orcs or something. My initial idea for Caitlin was to have her as a soldier, so the idea of a more traditional sword user struck me as more appropriate. In addition I’ve seen light blades used by humans as a more refined way of fighting, sort of like the elegant counterpart to the more tradition broadsword and shield fighter. This is what initially led me to think Caitlin would have a more noble upbringing, but since Wyrmwick has no monarchy this idea eventually led to having some relation to the councilmen, but I’ll get more into that later.

After picking a class feature it was time to look at stats which quite honestly is where you really do need to put character aside unless you’re dead set on wanting to play a stunted character. It works for some people, but in general playing a moderately intelligent mage or a fragile fighter will get you killed in 4E, so you have to go along with the system here. Now as an elf Caitlin received a natural bonus to her Dexterity (her attack stat), and a secondary bonus to either Wisdom or Intelligence. I went Wisdom as it has the chance to affect a few powers down the line, and simply let the builder build an array from there. It ended up giving me one last point to Strength (understandable), and making Charisma my dump stat. I was a bit weary on that latter point. Charisma is a dangerous dump stat in my opinion because that naturally makes your character less diplomatic which I was already very poor at, so I swapped Charisma for Intelligence. Since my Dexterity was already 20 and I didn’t figure Caitlin would be the party’s Arcana/History checker, there was next to no point in investing in Intelligence. At that point though I made a note about having a below average Intelligence as that’s something I could always work into the story.

It’s natural to have a dump stat in a roleplaying game, so my advice would be to find a reason to justify this weak stat. For example a mage with 8 or lower Strength can explain as they spent their life studying and as such their arms have become frail. A cleric with low Dexterity could say they suffered an injury as a child and that has made them flatfooted. For Caitlin I explain her low Intelligence is due to her never being properly educated which I can then explain in her backstory as she was raised as servant and a warrior so her education was always a little handicapped.

With skills you have a good opportunity to explain why your character is trained in one area over another. For example when I built Caitlin I was allowed 5 skills, so I took Nature, Perception, Stealth, Acrobatics, and Athletics. Nature and Perception were shoe-in choices as they’re keyed off my secondary stat (Wisdom) and I receive a race bonus to them for being an elf. Stealth and Acrobatics were also givens as they were based off my primary stat (Dexterity), so they would both be solid skills. For my final skill I had a few options. I could go with Heal and get another Wisdom based skill, but ultimately I decided on Athletics. As I looked over the skills I picked prior, I took note of Stealth and Nature which for a city-based soldier (particularly one of noble relation) seemed like odd choices. I started to think why Caitlin would be skilled in something like that, and I thought about what if she was an experienced hunter? What if, as a soldier, she was trained to live off the land and as such as learned to hunt animals in the wilderness? It would be an easy way to relate all of my current skills (Perception to spot, Nature to track, Acrobatics to balance, and Stealth to sneak up), and as such taking Athletics to help trek through the difficult landscapes of the wilderness felt like the right choice. I started to figure if I built my Scout as a soldier using light blades then mobility would be key to their fighting style so having good Acrobatics and Athletics skill fit that concept quite well.

As I move onto powers I find myself a bit stuck for advice because here’s where you make or break your character in 4E. If you pick powers based on how they work for your character concept as opposed to what they actually do in battle you have a very good chance of ending up with a crippled character. For example if you choose to only take cosmic powers as a Sorcerer you might be building a very thematic character, but they might not be right for what your character needs to do. Sometimes theme and mechanics work well, but sometimes they don’t and then you may need to come up with a reason why your Tempest Thunder Mage is using a fireball spell. My recommendation is to instead ask your DM if you can reflavor the move so the attack is thunder related. Since your powers (or in some cases lack therefore of) define your class, making sure they are justified should be extremely simple. Don’t fret if you do have to take the odd power that you just can’t reflavor to work—just try to think of a way to justify it in character, or ignore it and just handwave it so no one questions why the flail wielding Knight is using a move that’s supposed to slice the opponent’s legs off.

Since Caitlin was an Essential’s Scout she didn’t have many powers to pick and thus I don’t have much from a recent personal experience to speak from, but with Juliet I remember often times struggling to find a power that was effective yet still worked for the concept. For example I remember often debating about whether it would be appropriate or not for Juliet to take a summon, and before I respeced her to become a Sentinel I had penciled in that she would take Summon Shadow Ape at level 5. When it comes to mechanics in 4E and character developing, don’t stress the small stuff. Take powers that you know will be fun over ones that perfectly represent your character because the fact is that 4E is heavily focused on combat and if you have a terrible build you won’t be able to enjoy your character for very long anyway.

However, when you get to equipment you can start to really play with what these choices mean to your character. For example, instead of debating between more accurate proficiency or a larger damage dice, ask why your character learned to fight with a battle axe instead of a broadsword, or why your character has a magic implement. In some cases your character may start with magical equipment and this is your opportunity to include a great in-character reason for it. For example, Caitlin started with a +1 Magic Rapier. I justified this in character as saying the weapon was a gift from Alpert and it holds personal meaning to her due to very personal touches on the blade. Heck, I even named that weapon (Correlon’s Thorn for those who care, though the name seems ironic now). In fact naming your weapon is actually a great way to add a personal touch to your equipment. Anyone can own a +1 Broadsword, but only King Arthur wields Excalibur.

I say that knowing full well that Arthurian nerds are going to explain how wrong that last example was.

What I’m suggesting with this article is not to look at your character sheet and see nothing but numbers. If you want nothing but numbers, then you really want an MMO. Try to find reasons that justify the numbers. Look at your 18 in Charisma and figure out how people react that—I mean an 18 in Charisma would make you a very memorable presence afterall. Try to explain why your character has a 13 in Stealth at level 5. For Caitlin I explain her choice in weaponry as being a more refined type of soldier as she’s not a standard troop in the Wyrmwick army, but rather a personal bodyguard/servant for a councilman. I explain her skills as being taught to her by elven trainers that Alpert paid for so that Caitlin would be able to learn the same skills she would have learned from her parents.

I would suggest that players new to adding this kind of depth to their characters really should avoid trying too hard. The fact is that you can create a brilliant and memorable character without ever thinking why they chose a spear or a flail as opposed to a sword. Sometimes you just like a choice and that’s all the justification you need to make it. The fact of the matter is that D&D and tabletop in general is meant to be fun, and if you’re getting frustrated coming up with a reason why your dwarf is trained in stealth then you’re not doing right. Also you made a ninja dwarf, and that is awesome.

On the next edition of Building Character we’ve finished building our initial mold, so now it’s time to detail them. I’ll look at names, gender, and all the little details that get your character ready for the big time.

Until next time, Namaste!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

From Their Eyes - Caitlin (Growing the Wings)

Have you ever made a decision you immediately regret, like ordering one drink too many at the bar or starting up a conversation with a particularly verbose acquaintance? This was sorta like that, but a thousand times worse.

I’m not even sure why I did it. I knew we had to get across the pit, but we had no clue how to get across such a large chasm. I wasn’t thinking straight, or rather I was thinking in the brashest sense of things again. After all there had to be a reason for that liquid to exist, and everything else we had tried with it thus far had failed. After a sip I didn’t notice anything; some rather thick and bitter taste but it didn’t seem lethal. I guess that lulled me into a false sense of safety because right after that I chugged the remainder like it was a mug of mead over at the Golden Hand Clubhouse.

I don’t remember when I really started to lose myself, but it must have been pretty early on. After just a few moments I was doubled over on the floor; throat clenched with my fingers digging into my arms. The initial feeling was like razor blades pushing against the inside of my skin. The serrated edges ripped their way through my flesh only slightly but as soon as there was an opening it was as though someone forced their fingers into the laceration and began pulling at the edges to widen it.

The pain was immeasurable. I can remember my own painful shrill echoing through the cavern for what seemed like an eternity. I had never heard myself scream before, at least not that I can remember—it’s a horrible sound I never wish to hear again as long as I live. Somehow that one noise was so piercing and violent that it dulled the rest of my senses sans the agonizing pain. I remember writhing in shock with my body thrashing in all directions. In all likelihood I probably slammed my head against the smooth stone floor more than a couple times in my horrid spasms, but my transformation left me numb to those minor inconveniences.

Soon my wounds were large enough to be used as gates, and I felt the long scaly wings start to emerge from my back. Where they came from I can’t even begin to fathom. Was this the power of magic? To make the impossible a reality? If that’s true I worry for the sanity of every mage out there who dares to claim they have the power to manipulate these eldritch forces at their fingertips.

Every nerve on my body was sensitive as if they had all chosen this exact moment to reveal their frailty. The wings extended out from my back in what seemed like an endless march and nothing I could do stopped the pain. I can’t remember what the others were doing during this. I can remember glimpsing during the brief moments my gaze could focus for even a moment, but even in my clearest recollection I didn’t see them reacting. Instead one distorted images fades into a blur of dull tones—likely the floor during one of the many times I was hunched over hacking up a thick wad of blood onto the ground. Or so I’m told. I wasn’t aware I was doing it, but my allies said it must have happened six or seven times as evidenced by the large crimson stain beneath me.

When it finally ended all I can remember was an overwhelming sense of relief. My face was drenched with sweat, but my back was covered in blood. When the wings emerged they forced themselves through my armor, and what tattered remains were left of my clothes were now a ragged ruddy mess. Regaining my senses took time and my body was still adjusting the pain very slowly. My breath was worn and haggard as though I had just ran from Colingrove to Wyrmwick without stopping, and despite my best efforts I couldn’t stop a slight quiver in my body as if my nerves were dreading the possibility that the process could start again at any moment.

After my breathing returned to normal and my eyes could once again focus on a single image I looked up to find myself under the judging eyes of my flabbergasted party members. I was not used to showing a vulnerable side—especially not to strangers, so I quickly discarded my pain-stricken frown and replaced with the same bold grin I had when I suggested our earlier “diplomatic” decisions. “Hey guys,” I said meeting their bewilderment with a smirk, “I bet I can fly now.”

Monday, May 2, 2011

Wyrmwick Log: Session 11

Let me apologize ahead of time readers for the following article as there is a good chance that random “USA! USA!” chants will appear throughout this piece as a result of last night’s big news. For those foreigners out there (and according to my traffic I have a pretty nice following in Sweden) this might all be a bit too exotic for you guys to comprehend, but just let the silly Americans wave their flags and enjoy the recap. “USA! USA! USA!”

Back onto the topic, the theme of this week’s session was character development. In some cases it was very traditional and in other cases quite literal, but the constant this week was character development and everyone got some. Some will also note this session had a much darker tone than normal, and that’s true. It’s not to say we didn’t derp and have some fun, but in general this session was a good deal more somber. To put it bluntly if the Demon Baron arc were a trilogy, this was the Empire Strikes Back session. We ended hopeless, defeated, and conflicted—but remain optimistic because that means next session Caitlin gets to rescue slave-bikini Dhother from an evil slug and then we’ll blow up the Demon Baron’s tower. I’m getting ahead of myself (though the imagery is awesome), so let’s start at the beginning.

We returned to the chronicles of Wyrmwick having just left Vante’s Tower with knowledge of the White Orb of Lockton’s Keep. On the request of Bahamut we decided to seek out the orb and add its incredible power to our ranks so that we can use it to take down the Demon Baron. We wasted no time doing this and we arrived in Lockton Keep just a day later. The Keep itself is a lighthouse with a budding city built around it with a heavy emphasis on Moradin, the God of Creation, Hammers, Dwarves, Liquor, and probably Overblown Religious Festivals. We couldn’t get in the church to see the White Orb, so we needed an alternate plan. First we did some reconnaissance with Grieg using the power of his Shadow Orb to turn invisible and insubstantial so long as he remains in the presence of shadows. With this he snuck into the Church before dawn and investigated a trap door that lead into the lighthouse above the church. There he found a blind old woman sitting a wheelchair which we then deduced was the host of the Light Orb.

After debating the morality of killing old women (a tabletop tradition), we decided it would be best just to speak with the old woman directly, and after some negotiating we were allowed to do just that—or at least Denora was. Our meek little cleric headed upstairs and spoke with the old woman about the orb. Not only did we find out that to possess the Light Orb meant losing your eyes, but any owner of an orb is slowly having their soul devoured so that upon their death they fade away to nothingness instead of going onto the afterlife. A harsh price, but the power you receive in return is supposed to be great, and Denora made the decision to put lives of those around her over herself. It was painful as Denora had to experience her eyes literally melt out of her face, but the deed was done. I could link you to one of the many images of Denora without her eyes, but I already have enough nightmares about waking up next to nuns missing their eyes due to thirteen years of Catholic school so you're on your own there.

It was a heavy sacrifice, but Denora made it for the benefit of everyone else, so props to her. The poor girl passed out from the pain and we had to carry her back to the ship. When she awoke she found she could no longer see, and even worse the orb which she was told would guide her after she lost her sight was not speaking to her. It was a tragic scene. If that’s pulling your heartstrings guys then hold on because things do not get any easier. On the plus side Grieg has taken it upon himself to take care of Denora and guide her. Maybe it’s a budding romance, or maybe just the two orb wielders looking out for one another, but at the very least you get your “d’awww” moment which is quite necessary for this session.

We left Lockton Keep having acquired the second orb and information about where the blue orb might be (hint: it’s far to the east in an enormous cyclone) and then headed south for a quick stop at Wyrmwick before continuing on to Felbrigg Stronghold to find Doll’s family, find out the location of the other towers, and handle Dhother’s vampire problem because (shocker) the rosary came back. We arrived and Caitlin, Dhother, and Jonn made their way to the poorer district to find Doll’s family. We learned the family had been imprisoned for not paying their taxes. Outraged, we went to the castle to pay their taxes and get the family the heck out of dodge only be alerted of some very grim news from Lord Felbrigg himself.

The family is dead and what remains of them was fed to the pigs in a farm to the west. No, I’m making a joke—that’s quite literally what happened to them. I should note that Caitlin smelled a very terrible evil coming from the castle and particularly Lord Felbrigg himself while Dhother’s rosary was reacting strongly to the stronghold. Caitlin tried to stay her hand as long as she could, but to the shock of everyone (or maybe just me), Dhother was the one to attack.

We started up a battle with Lord Felbrigg and his guards, and Caitlin got to show off one of her new breath weapons! Yes, in case you missed it Caitlin now has her own breath weapons and the first she used was the special Bahamut breath, Disintegration Breath. It does decent enough damage (2d12) upon hit and 10 ongoing damage afterwards, so yeah expect to see a lot more of that. As for the battle itself it was difficult considering our two Leaders were gone and thus no healing. Still we proved to be victorious and Lord Felbrigg was torn to pieces. We collected his body parts for “disposal” and decided to investigate the castle a bit further. We found a dungeon that appeared to be a feeding pit for the vampire lord, and after exploring his bedroom we found a journal and a scroll. The scroll’s seal was foreign to us so we pocketed that for the moment, but the journal we easily picked and read. It detailed Felbrigg’s life starting from a very long time again before eventually reaching the end where he wrote about making a deal with the Demon Baron to spare Felbrigg in exchange for materials and supplies. With this new information we left the castle and headed back towards Wyrmwick stopping on the way to toss Felbrigg’s remains overboard so that he can rest at the bottom of the ocean ala Dio from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. If I recall correctly we should have about a hundred years or so before Felbrigg comes back, so that’s a plus.

The trip to Wyrmwick was an uneasy one as we had to report that we essentially left Felbrigg without a government, so in other words we left it in complete and utter anarchy. Muzarog came up with a plan to install a temporary puppet government and try to send refugees to Holmin Falls where a fort is currently being established. With that done Dhother and Caitlin headed off to their respective churches for prayer. Caitlin spoke with Bahamut directly and learned the sad truth that Doll’s wife and daughter were indeed dead. On the plus side she did learn that the orb’s effect on the user could be reversed in some fashion, though we’d have to destroy the orbs themselves which wouldn’t be an easy task. Finally she learned that to complete the ritual to become the first born of Bahamut she’d need to travel far to the north to find a way to Bahamut’s castle. Cryptic, but man it might as well been step by step directions compared to Dhother’s experience with Correlon. I kid you not, Dhother prayed long and hard for guidance, and Correlon answered his prayers with a meat spin. Yeah, LordKaT is our DM alright, and consider yourself lucky if you don’t know what meatspin is by NEVER searching for it. After that Correlon decided to cock slap Dhother which was all a very cryptic way of saying “go to Colingrove”. Following that not-so-bitching prayer session, Dhother and Caitlin got drunk, though for very different reasons.

Get your tissues ready guys because it gets worse from here. We left Wyrmwick and returned to Colingrove to see the city preparing for war. As Grieg spoke with some of his old compatriots Caitlin headed to the church of Bahamut to tell Doll the bad news about his family. He immediately felt defeated as though his attempt to change his life was completely meaningless, but Caitlin shared with him the truth behind her own painful loss. She, like Doll, had lost her family, though for a man who just lost everything it was little consolation. It would take time, but hopefully Caitlin could keep Doll optimistic and on the right path. However now she felt rather defeated though she wouldn’t let the party see that as she quickly began offering Dhother public handjobs. Caitlin is good for a great mood whiplash like that.

After we got our supplies we rode off to Watchman’s North to try to take out the tower before Colingrove met the Demon Baron’s army head on. We arrived outside the tower and began an intense fight with the Gnolls inside and a fiendish Chain Devil. The party got lucky in that Caitlin used another one of her breaths, Misty Breath, to turn the Chain Devil and two of the Gnolls into a fine mist making them useless until they save. That allowed us to focus fire on the remaining Gnolls and eliminate them before the Chain Devil returned so we devote our full focus on him. On the plus side Denora possesses a new ability that allows her to project a field of light that makes it so good aligned creatures get total concealment while unaligned creatures are blinded. Even with those bonuses the Chain Devil still nearly took us down in a wild flurry of attack, but we survived just long to take him down.

Now all that was left was to take down the tower, right? No, we were greeted by a man in dark robes who applauded our abilities. It appeared he was a servant of the Demon Baron, but before we could ask him much he cast a spell. In a flash both Dhother and Grieg disappeared and the man told us that if we wanted to see our friends again we were to return to Colingrove and tell the world leaders to give up their resources to the Demon Baron. After that he left leaving the party conflicted and defeated. Caitlin, head hung low, started to head back towards Colingrove while Jonn demanded we try to take down the tower. It was a pretty tense moment full of conflicted emotions that probably stand out as the best moment in the campaign for me thus far. On one side it’s a classic “needs of the many outweight the needs of the few” situation and Jonn has a very valid argument in bringing the tower down, but Caitlin and Denora are both hesitant to do so as it would put the lives of Grieg and Dhother in jeopardy. Five sessions ago Caitlin would have agreed completely with Jonn about blowing up the tower, but now she’s grown close to her compatriots and after just having to relieve the pain of losing a family she’s not willing to risk their lives. Making this even more complicated Caitlin is the fact that Dhother was one of the two kidnapped, and I’ve made it canon that Caitlin and Dhother have a thing for each other—or at least Caitlin does for Dhother.

So yeah, the session ended with Dhother and Grieg waking up tied to posts in the middle of the desert with the same dark robed man from earlier promising to take the orb from Grieg by whatever means are necessary. Fade to black.

You see what I mean now about this being the Empire Strikes Back of the Demon Baron arc? Dhother & Grieg are captives of the Demon Baron, Denora is blind, Caitlin has given up hope, and the Jonn is at odds with his allies about what to do with the tower. It’s a pretty tense moment that will undoubtedly lead to some great storytelling down the line. I love that everyone got the chance to delve a bit more into their characters this session, and I think we’ll learn a lot about each other in the coming sessions.

Credit for the images goes to DarkVolt.

Until next time, Namaste!