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Category: Writeups

The Widow’s Regalia

I just sent my Blades in the Dark players a summary of one PC’s research, since he finished up a long-term project clock during the latest downtime. Useful knowledge: Setarra is Dock’s chosen friend from character creation, and his long-term demonic patron. Last session, Dock performed a ritual which shows him the history of an item in order to break into a safe. As a perhaps fortunate consequence of the ritual, he learned that the a powerful set of demonic relics woven through the story to date was originally Setarra’s, and she wants them back.

On the regalia: actual possession of the belt is exactly the key you need to unlock the ciphers in Violette’s husband’s library. (Not a fun experience per se; this is a really dark set of tomes. Human sacrifice, techniques for raising the ambient level of misery in a neighborhood in order to encourage deals with demons, that kind of thing.)

The Regalia is made up of five items:

  • The Widow’s Collar (necklace)
  • The Widow’s Cuffs (bracelets)
  • The Widow’s Shackles (boots)
  • The Widow’s Leash (belt)
  • The Widow’s Shroud (dress)

The Hexhounds stole the Collar for the Attic. You heard on the streets that the Attic got their hands on the Shackles. Lisette the gambler lost her final tournament game, with some assistance on your part, and that put the Cuffs in Lord Scurlock’s hands. You currently have the Leash. The location of the Shroud is completely unknown.

Apparently Dock now knows some things about the origin that nobody else knows, so that’s exciting. Various scholars have assumed that the Widow was a demon of some sort, but nobody’s attached the name Setarra to the story. It’s widely thought that the paladin who fought the demon, Bran, is just a metaphor for the strength of humans in the face of temptation, because everyone knows paladins never existed. Dock knows his history; this would mean that the theft occurred well before the Cataclysm, which was a thousand years ago. Given his knowledge that the paladin really did exist, it’s pretty easy to piece together the next steps — once Bran got his hands on the Regalia, he carefully scattered it to the ends of what is now the Shattered Isles. The individual items used to live in monasteries, temples, churches, and so on. Since then, well, a thousand years of thievery and danger and murderous ghosts do a number on your ability to protect dangerous demonic artifacts.

It is definitely the case that letting a demon assemble all five of the items is a recipe for disaster. They are sort of thaumaturgical batteries when they’re apart; making a set of three or four is no big deal, it’s a linear addition; but getting all five together is potentially world-shaking. Setarra’s threats in the vision are not mere bluster. Perhaps she’s mellowed over the millennium? Also: useful for demons, overwhelming for humans. Trying to channel that much power through a mere human body is not a good idea. 

Shadows over Six Towers: Session One

After a bit of searching about, I finally found the Blades in the Dark game I’ve been looking for. I dug up two people on Reddit, of all places, and we had our first session last week. It’s a cool group of PCs, sort of occult-leaning novices to the criminal world. Dock is a kid who was raised in a cult and has no idea how the world works (but lots of occult knowledge); Crucible is an alchemist and sailor from the Dagger Isles who got kicked off her ship for stealing things and now has to figure out how to live well in Doskvol; and Loretta (aka Etty) is the child of a noble family who lost all their money and status, so she’s stuck living on the streets with the ghost of her childhood pet for company.

This game sparked my documentation obsession, so we have a wiki. For the click-adverse, the record of the first session follows.

About 2011

So what now?

Not as much LFR. I feel less cranky about the campaign than I did when Susan and I talked it over before Christmas, which is when we made the initial decision to cut back. On the other hand, I’d bet that part of my good cheer is that decision itself, so revisiting it doesn’t seem either wise or necessary. I’m glad to be stepping back in a good mood rather than a pissy one.

2010 was a very poor year for the campaign. I enjoyed it a lot personally, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the rate of new content dropped alarmingly. Even worse, there were almost no new mods for private play. Private play was a very important part of the success of the campaign, and cutting off legal private play hurt badly. As a nasty side effect, this encouraged people to blow off the restrictions on private play and start breaking the rules. With no real enforcement available (or perhaps even desirable), this meant all the rules started to seem less important.

This combined poorly with a serious communication issue. I appreciate everything the globals do; I also think they, as a whole, are not skilled community managers. Which hey – I’m not either. But it is absolutely awful when one of your global admins is bitching about how poorly the players treat him. Here, read the MMO take on it. All of that is relevant except the volunteer note, since some of our admins are pure volunteers – but let us not grow confused about what it means that WotC isn’t spending money on the campaign.

One of the other more cheery things in the last month is, however, improved communication, which is nice. While not all deadlines are getting met, they’re getting better about communicating the issues at hand. Probably not coincidentally, the campaign has control over new module distribution. My uneducated hypothesis is that the admins had, for most of 2010, very little control over the mechanical process of releasing content and that this generated a lot of frustration. If this is accurate, the new livingforgottenrealms.com is helping a lot.

Organization has also been better. DDXP came off very well this year, although eyeballed attendance was down. Nonetheless, the BI was done before the show, people got modules in time to prepare, and the story was interesting and most forum reports were good. I was mentally prepared for a disappointing, semi-chaotic DDXP, and it wound up being quite the opposite.

This leaves me looking at 2011 and thinking that I can take my LFR when I feel like it and leave it alone otherwise. Our primary characters, Reed and Faral, hit level 19 at DDXP. We still don’t plan on playing the epic any time soon (more on this later), which means they have four or so adventures left before they leave paragon play behind. We’d like to make three of those the upcoming Waterdeep adventures, and one is probably the end of the Tyranny arc. That is pretty much OK. I have a level 16 character who could do P2 and P3 content, but Susan doesn’t, which means paragon play won’t be a big feature of our gaming time.

We do have plenty of heroic level play in us. Whether or not we do a lot of it in practice – well, we’ll have to see if we ever get down to the Monday night Columbia game.

I also intend to run semi-regularly, because I like it. I am still looking for the sweet spot between creating a challenge and overpowering players. 

Paragon Planning

There are some experience point spoilers in what follows; pray be careful, if this might offend.

Reed and Faral would like to play the three upcoming Year 3 Waterdeep modules and SPEC 2-2 P3 before hitting epic. Reed is slightly ahead of Faral on experience; he has 137,495 experience and it takes 175,000 to hit level 21. This gives him 37,505 experience points to play with.

SPEC 2-2 P3 will chew up 11,200 of those, leaving him and Faral with 26,305 experience points to epic. High tier experience for P3 modules is 8,840. Three of those would be 26,520 experience, which would just push them over. But Faral’s a bit lower. Note made: try to play at least one of the Waterdeep modules or SPEC 2-2 on a lower tier, to open up room for another adventure in there somewhere. Sadly it can’t be a double-length one unless it’s the last one they play.

Bah, math fun is not. This is not why I play, and it’s bugging me that I have to care about all this crap just so Reed can get some play in the locale I really want to play in.

DDXP 2011 Report

LFR Mods

I played everything new for LFR at DDXP except the epic. Brief, non-spoilery thoughts:

The BI had a slightly less interesting story, but I thought it was better structurally. They had one special mission per encounter slot, which only one table could take; when more than one table wanted a given mission, they let the rest of the BI decide who should get it based on a brief speech. The special missions were level-band limited. Also, at the end of the the BI, the Coronal of Myth Drannor awarded unique items to randomly selected players. One of my friends got a special banner, and one got a pumped up version of the Bowstring of Accuracy that allows him to use any bow as a divine or arcane implement. You can give these items away to other players, but you can’t ever get them back.

The BI was fairly tough but not ridiculous. I think they amped it up a bit for the second day, combining two encounters into one. As per expectations, charging into battle was not always the right move. Both days failed one particular encounter, heh.

There were only two specials. While they took place in Myth Drannor and were tightly linked to each other, I didn’t feel like they were super-closely linked to the BI. The paragon one has a ton of replay value and if you do it at APL 18 or 20, you can face off with a pretty big name villain. I played the heroic once and the paragon twice and had a ton of fun both times.

The Elturgard modules were both fun. I was pleased to see that they used the  flowchart I sent in after playtesting ELTU 3-1, so if that ever turns out to be useful for you, you’re welcome. I’m getting pretty optimistic about the new story region system.

In general, quite a few adventures had story awards that allow you to buy specific uncommon consumables and so forth; they also seemed to have a lot of bundles of the style “Any uncommon neck slot item of level + X.” So that’s some of how they’re handling the new rarity system.

Oh, and everyone seemed pleased with the epic.

Rumors

New BI at Origins? Maybe!

Heroes of Shadow

I played the HoS preview game, Kalarel’s Revenge; my character was a blackguard, which is a striker paladin build. No mark, lots of ways to burn your own life for extra damage, plus an encounter power that inflicts damage even on a miss and adds ongoing on a hit. Essentials-style character, no attack dailies. Str/Cha. Fun flavor, I liked him. The other characters were some sort of dark cleric, a necromancer with both necromantic and nethermantic powers, an assassin, and something I’m forgetting maybe. I’m sure someone will post the character sheets somewhere.

Also I loved seeing some of the post-Keep on the Shadowfell activity in Nentir Vale. From a roleplay perspective this was great; this module should be made available for download somewhere.

Seminars

I didn’t go to any because I was gaming and someone always liveblogs.

Fortune Cards

I played with some at the Heroes of Shadow game. They were not super-unbalancing with a random selection. However, the rare ones seem to generally give you a floating reroll card when a specific condition is met – stacking a deck with ten of those could be ridiculous and unbalancing. I’m still waiting to see the full card list before I make up my mind either way.

About 2010

So there you go. 120 games in 365 days, which maths out to a game every three and a half days. That seems about right. Something like 28 of them were at cons, not counting the game days we ran at our place, which still leaves me at a pace of one game every four days. This may not have been entirely wise, since I’m a bit burned out, but it was fun. I regret very few of those sessions.

I’m not industrious enough to figure out the online vs. face to face count or anything. Half and half, probably. I never really warmed to online play as a main venue for me; more often it was an easy way to get a character into a new band. I liked the people but I didn’t like the medium most of the time.

Susan and I went to DDXP, RegulatorCon, Dexcon, Gencon, and GASPCon. I also went to a local one-day minicon at Games & Stuff. In January, I’d already moved my store game day to Legends; in the summer I gave up on Legends out of frustration with communication problems and (to be honest) a lack of desire on my part to take responsibility for difficult players. I can be tolerant, but I don’t necessarily want to have to be tolerant.

We played at Games & Stuff fairly often. I never got down to the Columbia game day, which is a shame.

The best thing about LFR in 2010 for me was gaming a lot with Susan. Other best things, in order: the Embers of Dawn mini-campaign, the Elturgard Battle Interactive and resulting plot lines, the White Petal Demise major quest,  experiencing paragon play. And of course the people involved in all of these.

120. Ripples in the Stream of Souls (CORE 2-6)

Susan and I went down to Games & Stuff the day after Christmas to play Ripples in the Stream of Souls with Faral and Reed. Jimmy ran; Mark B., Jason B., Amanda, and Terrence were our fellow players.

I liked the moral choices in this module a lot. There was a lot to mull over, there was stuff to investigate without the risk of getting stuck without enough clues, and so on. For the last adventure of the year, I’d say this was pretty good. It was also pleasantly apt that we’d meet a fun new local player in the last game of the year, since that’s always been a big part of the LFR experience for me.

119. Set Adrift (AKAN 2-1)

I ran this down at Games & Stuff for Alan, Hudson, Mark B., Jason B., and Evil Tony. Like most Akanul region mods, it’s a straightforward linear mission. The story is a bit weak for paragon tier PCs, but the opposition is fun and it’s a very tunable module. You can make it deadly dangerous or you can dial down the difficulty as appropriate. It’s also got some interesting monsters.

The entire module takes place on a single map, which happens to be the WotC DM Reward ship tiles. The Fat Dragon Medieval Cog model is just about the same size as that map, so I built the ship, which I am very pleased with. The players liked it too.

Also fun: I came within inches of forcing Alan’s pacifist cleric to give up his peaceful ways. He has this personal vow; if he ever does damage to any creature at all, he’ll give up the pacifist path. This is obviously much more restrictive than the feat requires, but that’s cool. I didn’t know any of this, but I sort of dominated him and forced him to make a charge attack against one of his allies. Barely any chance he’d hit… but he rolled a 20.

Fortunately his 4 points of damage weren’t enough to get through the ally’s damage resistance. But it was close. Neat stuff.

118. A Stab in the Dark (DRAG 1-3)

The second game we played on 12/18 was A Stab in the Dark, which was one of the few H3 modules nobody had ever played. I dragged Alesk out of the folder, since Amanda was GMing and Susan didn’t want to play two games. Jimmy and the Bradleys were the other three players, of course.

This is pretty much your usual Dragon Coast Westgate module. (Previous versions of this post may have been confused, ahem.) I liked the terrain even though it was not at all rewarding to melee – but playing Alesk as a polearm battle cleric was tons of fun anyhow. Plus I’m a sucker for Westgate.

117. Tyranny’s Bitter Frost (SPEC 2-2 P2)

We played a couple of games at the house on 12/18. The first one, which Susan ran, was Tyranny’s Bitter Frost: a bunch of the local peeps who’d played Tyranny’s Bleak Depth’s at Gencon wanted to play the sequel. I happened to have Collin sitting comfortably at the beginning of P2, so that worked out well. (This made his fourth SPEC module in a row, and he’ll be playing the BI later in January. No mundane mods for him.)

The other players were Amanda, Jimmy, Mark B., and Jason B. The usual suspects. It was a super-balanced party and the module went very smoothly despite a couple of nervewracking points. I never enjoy repeats quite as much, but it was fun seeing if Collin could stand up to the task. He could.