Saturday, November 30, 2013

New: Tug's Letters Home

I'm currently playing in two games and running a third.  One of the games I'm playing in is my friend Kaiser's Castles & Crusades game, write-ups of which appear here in the Chronicles of the Amazing Trevor and the Journal of Katherine.  The other game is my friend Steve's Pathfinder-based game.  I haven't been writing that one up, mostly because there are so few sessions per year.  However, my friend Kirk (who is also in both of the aforementioned campaigns, the C&C one as Katherine) has begun write-ups of Steve's game done as letters home by his character Tug, the oracle.

Dear Papa,
I traveled to this large city, called Tower Rock.  When I arrived, everyone was talking about the "giant slayers".  I found an inn, a reputable inn called The Leaping Shark, where I will stay while I inquire at the temples here.  I could only afford a meager bed in the common room.  Betsy, my riding horse, is fine in the stables.  I'll put away my writing instruments and go down stairs to the eating room and see if I can find any information about the giant slayers.

Dear Papa,
I must add to the note before I send it, I met the giant slayers!!  They are an interesting lot.  They all seem to be older than me.  Let me describe them:
An outspoken man, Pierce, has suggested that I spar with him, since after we met, that I told them of how you taught me to use the sword and shield.  He also invited me to join in with them on the next outing.  That will be fun.  However I also mentioned of the healing I performed.  And that of my injury to my leg.  Tam'Rash has a breastplate and a great axe.  He is half man and half orc.  Laura is an elf, about the same size as me.  She works in this inn.  Elarsil is a tall elf with dark brown hair and has leather armor and carries a long bow.  Bren Hightower is very tall, and he carries a long sword.  Karista is a halfling with very red hair.  Joe, is similar to me, as he is average, but doesn't walk with a limp.  And Luriana, a young half sea-elf, carrying a crossbow, mace, and many herbs.
Then, at one point the mayor of the town comes into the inn and starts talking with the giant slayers.  The next thing I know, he is giving coins to them for their work.  And then offers a job for them to map a city tower.  Since I already had parchment and ink and pen, I offered my services to make a map.  Can you believe it?  These slayers have connections, to be able to talk with a mayor of this city! 
I will sleep tonight knowing that the next days will be awe filled.

Dear Papa,
In anticipation of the afternoon sparing, I wanted to relax, and so, I search for the hospital and watch the healers work.  What they do there is not what I would do for injured.  This work is day after day caring for the sick and dying.  I could do nothing but watch and learn of the healers.
Then my first and only sparring with Pierce, who really put my fighting skills to a test.  This slayer was very hard to hit, for all my best efforts, I was not able to hit him.  Before I knew, I was on the ground, rolling and dodging the next blow.  I took a sharp blow, and I knew I was not going to last long.  I dodged a little more and then conceeded.  I have fought my last battle with men.  I knew you would be upset but ever since my injury, I cannot fight.  I am much more suited to heal.  That is what I did next.  After the matches, I healed the injured so they could fight in the next sparring.  It came naturally to me, only this time, I didn't try to control it, it just came natual.  Amazingly, the injured were healed very well.
Then there was a custom, called: "Blessing of the Harbor".  Strange customs they have here. 

Dear Papa
We completed the tower mapping.  Placing the parchment on my shield, I was able to draw the tower map.  Light was not an issue, as one of the group, made light from their herbs - this is a most strange crowd.  Many traps existed, but since we had the keys, one was to disarm the traps, and the other was to open the doors, we simply used the keys and walked around.  A few times we forgot to disarm the traps, and some felt the shock.  I was also able to relieve their shock. 
In the cellar of the tower, there was a woman, called Bearnia, held captive by shark people and we rescued her, but we had to battle the shark people first.  We had the advantage, because we had time to plan an ambush, before they came back.  It took a while to come to an agreement with what we could do.  We set an ambush from equipment that we found at hand.  We located ourselves at one end of the corridor, in a position to rain arrows and crossbow bolts at the intruders.  It was bad for the shark people, for they were cut down fast.  It is easy to see how these giant slayers dispatched the giants so easily.  Last to be defeated was a large fellow, if one could call a half man- half shark a fellow, that seemed to be telling us something, but we could not understand.  Once we got to the woman, she said she knew of more places where shark people were hiding. 
In an upper part of the tower, we were attacked by blood sucking huge stirgens.  I got hit by one and do they hurt.  They stick on and suck blood, and their bodies swell, and eventually fall off and head back to where ever they came from.  Our party was close to being killed by these monsters, if not for a quick coordination between Laura and me.  Laura does the opposite of me, harming instead of healing.  I have my reservations about this, but when it is put to good use, it does have benefits.  This hurt the party, but also hurt the monster stirgens.  Then just as she did hers, I reach deep inside of myself and blasted the healing from me as best as I could, but only into our party, not the stirgens.
That was enough to awaken most of our party, but there were some that required special attention.  That was a close encounter with death for our group.
But not the last.  For we had very little time to regroup, when we saw shadows, spirits from another world.  Again, once more, I called upon the healing force and let it flow from me, healing us, and it seemed that this harmed these shadow spirits.  We banished them from this place, but they are not far.  We must revisit this with more powerful person than me or any one else in the slayers.
Anyway, I am so glad the slayers allowed me to come along on this excursion.  I feel I helped in the mapping and with healing, when the group was really in trouble.  I hope they will let me stay, as I may have found my place.  I am not the fighter or guard you wanted me to be, Papa, but I know deep inside, I'm a healer. 

Your son Tug.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My Advanced Class Guide Mashups for Pathfinder

Okay, so to follow up on my earlier review (pre-review?) of Paizo Publishing's upcoming Advanced Class Guide I thought I'd throw together a list of ten hybrid/mashup classes I'd like to see:

Avenger (ninja + paladin)
- a sort of paladin commando or holy ninja; first you sneak up on them invisible, then Backstab with Smite Evil; maybe looking like Storm Shadow from G.I. Joe.?

Hexguard (paladin + witch or paladin + oracle)
- obviously not suitable for all deities, but a nice alternative to plain-vanilla paladins; could also be a specialized type within certain paladin orders, like each company of paladins has one

White Monk (monk + paladin)
- yup, swiped the idea from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance; how about Stunning Fist with Smite Evil cast on it?  White Monks use only hand/fist weapons like claw gauntlets, spiked gauntlets, cestus, etc.

Valkyrie (paladin + sorcerer/celestial bloodline)
- female-only angel-paladins; however, you move the Wings of Heaven bloodline power down to 5th level to replace the paladin's mount

Grenadier (alchemist + gunslinger)
- the new heavy assault version of the gunslinger

Hexblade (witch + magus)
- first you curse them, then you bring on the flaming sword

Hexbolt (witch + gunslinger)
- hexes, curses...and a bullet to the face

Arcane Brother/Arcane Sister (monk + sorcerer)
- this is from my earlier idea for an all martial arts gestalt campaign; check out some possible sorcerer combos at Righteous Cloud Temple.

Gun-Fu Master (gunslinger + ninja)
- Yup, just like in those Hong Kong action films; just swap out the shuriken for a pair of quad-barreled wheellock pistols and you're good to go.

Pokemaster (summoner + alchemist)
 - in this mashup the alchemist's mutagen type abilities only work on her eidolon

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Journal of Katherine, Entry 41 Postscript and 42

Entry 41   (continues...)

I am out of that house!

But I must make one more visit.  I made my oaths when I became a cleric.  These are my guides and beacons that I follow.  One is to make sure the dead stay at rest - in eternal peace.  The mention of the coffin open in the cellar of Broderick's mansion is most disturbing for me.  I must make sure.

After we leave the carnival, Brute, Trevor and I arrive at the house and meet Kevin cooking.  The food fills the air with wonderful smells.  I deny myself the food, for I cannot take advantage of his hospitality anymore.  I wait with patience, smothered in the aroma, for Kull, Ohm Uri, and Boomtuck to finish eating and to join us in the cellar.

This is my first time in the cellar.  Others were here a few times, while at least one other made a daily chore.  But now, we are here on business, all of us.  We pass a wet floor with many broken glass pieces, the shattered remains of Trevor's acquired wines.  I weave my song, and Trevor conjures, together our light illuminates the way and defines the shadows to damp and musty corners.  An iron gate bars the way, but is unlocked.  Brute swings it open and it makes a loud rusted metal sound.  The way leads into a hallway, with two suits of armor of old design, one on each side.  This does not phase Brute as he walks right past.  Trevor follows me with the "detect undead sword" and it is not glowing.   The passage opens to a five sided room.  Five coffins are in the middle of the room.  At the far side, flooded with water, I hear a dripping or bubbling sound as the source.  A moldy smell hangs in the air.  I shrug off any feeling of discomfort, knowing that the undead, if present, will bring worse.  The sword in Trevor's hand still does not glow.  About now, I begin to think that maybe the lore master was wrong about the sword.  I still must look into the coffin.  The stone coffin has the words of Miranda inscribed at one end.  I hold my breath as I peek in.  It is empty.

Satisfied there are no undead here, I suggest leaving.  However, we discover in the far wall a secret door.  To go farther, I must get wet.  The water is only knee deep, but it smells of sewer grime.  Trevor almost falls in a hole in the floor, because the hole is concealed in the water.  I pull up my new dress as I enter the water, so it does not get wet, and the attention is diverted to the rats swimming away.  Besides the smell and the floating brown things, the water is cold and wet.  I might have to get new sandals.  The secret door swings wide and in the room behind, we find a statue of stone, made in the likeness of Miranda, the witch.  A pentagram, drawn on the floor and centered on the statue, has burnt candles at each point.  This is bad.  I think back to the days when I scribed books, if any contained information that could help us and what we should do to destroy this.  I request that no one goes in the pentagram. 

Too late.  Someone triggers it.  A vibration occurs in the room, next the candles light, and the runes on the walls turn red.  Foul witchcraft is at work.  Then I feel a force stretching out towards me, to grab me from my body.  I cloud my mind to deflect this attack.  After its attack pauses, I review the scene and both Brute and Boomtuck bleed their precious blood from their eyes.  The very same force hits them, and part of their lives is drawn towards the statue.  And then the statue began to move.  Kull threw a large object, and we ducked and jumped out of the way.   Again, I feel the force stretching out for me, and again I cloud my mind.  Once I can focus on the room again, I see Ohm Uri lying on the floor, and his eyes are bleeding too, like the others.  My oath leads me no choice, I quickly get to him and without thinking of myself, stop the bleeding and drag him clear of the room.  I am careful not to let his head drop in the water with his eyes injured.  I prop him on my lap.  I am not sure if he is alive.  I call upon the Light to heal and revive him.  He starts to move, and I want to do more, but I am mentally exhausted.  I am happy that he recovers.  As he opens his eyes he must see my face in a tearful smile.  Ohm Uri is very thankful - or rather is overjoyed that I am holding him next to my body to keep his head above water.  Then he jumps back into the ruckus.  Only at this point, do I realize that my clothes are soaking the sewer and rat infested water.

Brute sends his new axe chopping at the stone and it seems to injure it.  Trevor and Booktuck conjure, but their magic has no effect.  Brute remembers Trevor stumbling near a deep hole in the floor concealed by the water.  Then with a combined assault, Brute, Ohm Uri and Kull are able to push the moving statue down into the hole.  Trevor gets trapped under the statue.  In its last struggle to keep from sinking, Trevor is able to break free, and pops out on the surface.  The depths it sank to and whether it is able to get free from its watery prison is not known.  Trevor uses a spell to clean and dry himself.  (Did he offer to clean anyone else's clothes?)  Many of the party are injured, but I am exhausted.  I can heal again when I recover.  If not for the quick wits of Brute, Kull and Ohm Uri, the rest of us would have had a difficult time. 

Tired, wet and worn out, Brute and I go to the inn.  I asked if others have rooms, but he replies that he only paid for a room for me.  I do not know how I can repay him for his generosity.  I pass through the entrance and quickly get to my room.  I wash the sewer smells from my clothes and purify it the best I can, nothing that a few moments with elbow grease cannot fix.  Once I am washed and properly dressed, I ask Brute to share a nice warm meal.  I look for the others in the party, but do not see them.  It is strange now, I return to my room, alone, to relax and wait...

Entry 42

Sitting round our camp, the fire and my own light add an ambiance that is different from the city inn or houses.  And I can enjoy it now, for the others are on watch.  When I traveled by myself, I could never watch or just study the lights and smells and sounds.  The birds flying, the crickets chirping, the smell of the morning dew, all of this, we do not have in the city.  It is like an entirely different world here.  One I am beginning to enjoy.  Four days have passed since I wrote here last.  I want to write before we head north, for it will be difficult to write while we are in hostile goblin lands. 

Trevor, a city dweller displaced in the wilderness here, tosses and turns in his sleep.  I see a magic man, a future master, of one that I can be a witness in the making.  To see the faults and the triumphs, this is much better than being captivated by a master.  I see a man that has held a promise to me, until I released him of it.  I see him now, a man that has finally admitted to himself that somehow, he cares for me, but for what reason?  We have not spoken about this since the carnival.  We got too busy.  I am doing double duty with my responsibilities and my practice.  Remembering what the paladins said, this could be a difficult trip for us.  Some may not return, as Ohm Uri had a rather close encounter already, and Trevor nearly drowns.  I would prefer to have things out in the open, and no questions un-answered.  I must confront Trevor.  How much does he care for me?  And I must answer this too, why am I attracted to Trevor?

Let me retell the events that occurred over the past four days, and add my thoughts, too.  Since the last entry, it is the morning after the day at the carnival - my first night away from the inn.  I remember...

... It is morning now.  I fell asleep at some point, waiting.  I had hoped for a knock on the door, and we could have shared a toast to his success, but no one ever came.  But did he even know where I stayed?  I see Brute out side, waiting.

There is a new revelation, of what Trevor said.  To show that I appreciate his kind words, I should plan on getting him something.

Brute and I eat a morning snack, and then head outside towards the temples.  Trevor quickly joins us, still getting dressed, as he must have slept in.  So he did stay and the same in.

We head to the Law and Order Temple to check on the woman who we found in the cell.  However, we see a slow moving cart with two paladins, severely wounded.  They were brought back from the goblin battles.  They tell us that ten of them went, and only the two of them returned.  This lays heavily on me.  Might I be struck down, like my sorcerer friend years ago, or like any of the other paladins?  Returning from my thoughtful state, I move to check on their wounds.  But at only a glance, I see they are already bandaged and are in good care with the healers of this temple.  In short, we do not see the woman, and we get no more information than we already know.  But we do gather information about where we are going.

Nothing left but to leave the city and head north.  We head back to get the others.  I tell Brute that I want to get a bottle of wine - I want to brighten someone's mood.  That's what friends do.  Brute pays for it again. 

We collect the other party members for they stayed the night at the mansion - maybe they aren't affected by the witchcraft like I am.  I see that Ohm Uri is hurt.  I again call upon, and the Light answers two times to heal his wounds.  I feel different, like a surge of something more, but I couldn't grasp it.  I never realized this before. 

Seeing the mansion, and the memories I have from that place:  Trevor first seeing me not as who I was in disguise, but for who I have become and his promise to me, the book that I have, the woman discovered, the portal room in the attic, and finally the fight for our lives with a stone statue.  I look upon the house with finality; I will not go inside this place again. 

We head towards the gate, and we have one more incident before we escape the city.  Trevor's Veronica spies him, but before she makes a scene or says a word, Brute intercepts.  He picks her up like a sack of flour, throws her over his shoulder and her screams draw laughter from onlookers.  If this is any other man treating a woman like this, I would have interfered.  But I hold back - this is Brute - I trust him.  He sets her down out of ear shot, I can see them talking, then they leave.  Brute returns in about a half hour, alone.  He has that look in his eyes that states a problem solved.  I don't ask what he said.  I can only summarize that Veronica listened and accepted Brute's kind but firm words, over and over again, until it sank in. 

We leave the city.  I say a short traveling prayer as we head out of the gates.  The day is not eventful.  And rather boring.  I try to contain my excitement, for all I could think about was my surprise planned for this evening. 

Finally, the first evening on the road, I surprise Trevor with the bottle of wine to share.  We toast many things.  But still, we don't talk about it.  After Trevor drinks a few more glasses of wine, I could sense he was loosing a bit of control and the wine casts his stories of his triumphs with illusions of grandeur.  Definitely Trevor also realizes this, and is a little bit upset.  Does he think I am testing him?  I hope he does not take this the wrong way.  I begin to see the Trevor I saw before, and the one I like the best.  When he swore to keep my secret, it was the one thing he did right for me.  For four nights, when resting from traveling, we practice our magic.  During that time, I feel again the energy, circling around, just out of my mental reach.  I also try to capture my heal on a scroll.  I have seen this done before.  However, it does take time and concentration.

On the fourth day, and possibly the last peaceful day before we head north into hostile goblin lands, Brute is focused.  He seeks Death - death to a mighty goblin.  The two injured paladins we saw spoke of their encounter with this king among goblins.

However, I seek Life - the lives of any survivors.  I may only find Death, too.  Another of my token oaths is to heal and not harm humans, and half humans, and the "civilized" races of elves, dwarves, and halflings.  But with sorcery, this power can harm, even if I take precautions.  I have worked on a new song to create a force disk, and I think I can use it like a shield.  But it is not tested.  After these four days, I conclude there are two new distinct essences.  First, is an energy flood that happens and I might be able enhance my songs somehow.  I felt it the last time I healed, but was unable to manifest it.  And the second, I feel a constant circling of raw energy, like I can reach out and touch it.  It is not of a Divine origin, but of something else not tested, and terrible.

Thoughts on the Upcoming Advanced Class Guide for Pathfinder

Okay, so I'm a big fan of Pathfinder and one of the reasons for that is the wide selection of classes available for play.  Pathfinder has 19, plus three alternate versions, plus a huge array of archetypes which create specialty versions of all of the classes.  With such a huge selection it's really hard to not find something you want to play.  Nevertheless, the creative people at Paizo are after my money again (darn those creative type people with all their creative creativity!).  This time they are doing the Advanced Class Guide.  However, rather than presenting entirely new classes, the guide will have ten mixes of existing classes.  As revealed on the Paizo site they are:

Bloodrager: This blend of sorcerer and barbarian can call upon the power of his blood whenever he goes into a rage. He also has a limited selection of spells he can call upon, even when in a mindless fury!

Hunter: Taking powers from both the druid and the ranger, the hunter is never without her trusted animal companion, hunting down foes with lethal accuracy.

Shaman: Calling upon the spirits to aid her, the shaman draws upon class features of the oracle and the witch. Each day, she can commune with different spirits to aid her and her allies.

Slayer: Look at all the blood! The slayer blends the rogue and the ranger to create a character that is all about taking down particular targets.

Swashbuckler: Break out your rapier and your wit! The swashbuckler uses panache and daring to get the job done, blending the powers of the fighter and the gunslinger! For those of you who don't use guns in your campaign, fear not—the base class is not proficient in firearms (although there will certainly be an archetype in the book that fix that).

Warpriest: Most religions have martial traditions, and warpriests are often the backbones of such orders. This mix of cleric and fighter can call upon the blessings of the gods to defeat enemies of their faiths.

Brawler: This class blends the fighter and the monk, creating a warrior whose sole focus is unarmed combat and martial maneuvers, without any of the mysticism of the monk. This class is designed specifically to beat up monsters, with a full base attack bonus progression (like a fighter) and improved unarmed strike damage (like a monk). To top it off, the class is also very skilled at making combat maneuvers.

Skald: Taking parts of the bard and the barbarian, this class can rage and inspire rage in its allies (we initially called it the “bard-barian” in-house). Instead of inspiring speeches and words of encouragement, the skald incites fury and anger in his allies, allowing them all to go on a murderous rampage.

Arcanist (a mix of sorcerer and wizard)

Investigator (a mix of alchemist and rogue)

Well, after reading through those I'm a bit disappointed.  Because these are mixes of existing classes, shouldn't this really be called the Advanced Multi-classing Guide?  Can't you do all of the above by either multi-classing or modifying an existing class with archetype and skill and feat selections?  I would rather they did an Advanced Player's Guide 2 and make up half a dozen completely new classes.  Granted, with so many existing classes it might be hard to come up with something really new--plus, the great third-party publishers supporting Pathfinder already have some good stuff out there.

Anyway, here are my quick gut reactions to the ten offerings:

Bloodrager: Barbarians are generally dumb and boring, but this might actually make them interesting by adding sorcerer bloodline magic.  However, I can't see myself ever playing one.

Hunter: Rangers are also kind of boring, and you can multi-class into Druid already. So, I can't see myself ever playing one.  I'd just play a druid

Shaman: Oracles and Witches are two of the coolest classes in the game (the third being clerics).  So yeah, I'm looking forward to seeing an organic blend of the two.  I'd probably play one.

Slayer: Rangers are kind of boring and rogues have a limited role.  You could just multi-class here, couldn't you?  Highly unlikely I'd play one.

Swashbuckler: You can already do this with fighter builds and/or gunslinger builds.  Fighters are boring so it's unlikely I'd play one, even if it comes with a free pirate eye patch.

Warpriest: Okay, this includes a cleric so it can't be all bad.  A blasty cleric with extra fighty goodness baked in could be very fun.  I played a blasty-oriented cleric in my buddy Steve's last campaign and it was a lot of fun.  This is my second favorite after the Shaman.  I would probably play one.

Brawler: I just can't see a non-mystical (i.e., no ki powers) fighter type.  A monk punching a dragon is a martial application of mystical forces.  Some big knuckle-dragger punching a dragon is just not credible.  Like Rocky taking on Smaug.  Not gonna happen.  Plus without weapons it's a really, really boring version of the already boring fighter.  I'd never play one, except maybe as a joke in a one-off game.

Skald: Barbarians are generally dumb and boring (as noted above), but this compounds the problem by adding in the dorky Bard.  Bards are so dorky it's hard to describe how totally dorky they really are.  As with the Brawler I'd never play one, except maybe as a joke in a one-off game.

Arcanist: Hmm, I couldn't find much detail on this one, but I can't see how it would differ from just multi-classing sorceror and wizard.  I might play one if the class included some interesting casting mechanics or something.

Investigator: I couldn't find much detail on this one either, but a mix of Alchemist and Rogue sounds really weird.  This sounds like a niche class for games centered on exploration and mystery-solving.  It's so weird I'm not sure if I'd play one, but I'm interested to see exactly how it works.

Naturally, thinking about the ten class mashups above got me thinking about what class mashups I'd do if I only had a blog or something to post them on...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Thor: The Dark World (review)

Okay, so I went to see Thor: The Dark World recently and it was epic.

Umm, okay maybe I should say more than that  =)

I'm not a comics ("graphic novel") fan.  I first started reading comics in the late 60's and most of them were pretty crappy.  The art itself was poor, there wasn't much of a story line in each short comic, and the production values were low.  They really couldn't compete with proper books with real artwork in them.  I was much happier reading a Conan novel or a Tintin book than anything from DC or Marvel.  The early Superman and Batman TV shows were really cheesy; well, the Batman show was supposed to be campy, but it was still cheesy.

But now motion picture special effects have finally reached the level where it is possible to make great supers films.  And Thor: The Dark World is a great supers film.  They had a lot of really big scenes which were epic but not over top in the way that so many films today are.  I was left slightly confused by the extra end scene after the credits (which were visually enjoyable in their own right) because I really had no idea who the "Collector" is.

Anyway, go see it.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Chronicles of the Amazing Trevor: Chapter Eight

Following a bittersweet but brief return to the center ring under the hightop, Trevor and his companions regroup and depart the festival...and Trevor's nemesis Veronica finally gets what's coming to her.

The festival-goers had already enjoyed picking over the unconscious fellows lying about where Kull had left them so there was, alas, no coinage to be garnered.  A light drizzle began to fall and we were ready to turn in for the night.  But Katherine had other ideas.  With a certain fire in her eyes she insisted that now was the moment to explore the secrets of the crypts beneath the old mansion.  I thought she was mad.  Magnificent, yes, but mad all the same.  The others agreed, oddly preferring a cold crypt to a warm bed.  Well, if everyone else was going mad I might as well join them.  And so we returned once again to the mansion of the Natals.

We slipped past the guards at the gate out front and came across the shifty servant Kevin busy in the kitchen.  He was preparing some unidentified meat as a roast.  The viand's parentage was indeterminate.  It was larger than a cat and none of the horses were missing, but beyond that I could only speculate.  Kull grabbed himself a ham hock and munched as we moved towards the cellars.  Katherine handed me her magic shortsword which the loremaster at the carnival had said would glow in the presence of undead.  I have a firm personal habit of not using swords.  If swordplay is necessary I'll cut someone in for a share of the loot.  But as a magical detector of things unliving it would be quite useful.

My first look at the crypt was a bit underwhelming.  It was pentagonal, with five stone coffins in the center and niches in the stone walls filled with rather rather disrespectful piles of bones.  The floor was under about three feet of water which apparently bubbled up from a large jagged hole in the floor.  Other than that there was little of note.  I held out the magic sword but it apparently detected nothing unliving.  However, one of the coffin lids was askew.  I peered at the name: Miranda.  If memory served, that was the name of the woman betrayed as a witch ten years before by the now-deceased owner of the house, Remi Natal.  This was curious.  As we understood the tale, Remi was married but had dallied with Miranda and then later betrayed her and she was burned alive.  Why was her name on a coffin in his family crypt?  Every exploration into this place revealed yet another peculiar secret.

Katherine seemed a bit disappointed as well, but undaunted she essayed another bit of magic.  She wove a spell to detect concealed doors--and it worked!  Clearly my K was coming into her own as a weaver of the wyrd.  I felt quite proud of her.  We opened the door and found yet another chamber of witchery! The room was hexagonal like the one in the secret attic upstairs.  The house literally had black magic from top to bottom.  In the center was a dais with a statue of a woman lying on her back with her arms crossed on her chest.  Around the dais was a magickal pentagram drawn on the floor with black candles placed alight at each point.

I was about to urge caution but Brute and Boomtock surged ahead to investigate.  As they crossed the pentagram, arcane forces were unleashed.  The room shook and glowing red runes appeared on the walls.  A spell took hold of the two and both were drained of vital energies.  They staggered, blood running down from their eyes.  The "statue" on the dais, apparently having received the energies drained from the two, arose and advanced.  A wild melee broke out as we attempted to stop it and in the confusion Uhmri also stepped on the pentagram and was drained.  Katherine, caring as always, dragged Uhmri out into the main crypt room and attempted to revive him.  As the battle raged around the statue behind me I was annoyed to see Uhmri looking quite pleased by Katherine's attentions.  The cad was obviously faking serious injury again just to elicit the tender therapies of my K!   Finally Brute and Kull were able to knock the statue over and shove it into the jagged hole in the floor.  I used Read Magic on glowing runes on the walls and made out something about life transference to the statue.  Apparently if statue absorbed the life energies of three persons the woman depicted would return to life.  I wondered suspected the statue was of the murdered witch Miranda.  There was no telling where that gap in the floor might lead and I worried that we had not seen the last of the woman of stone.

Back upstairs, Kevin had prepared dinner with the mystery meat and, suspiciously, drawn a bath for Katherine.  The fellow becomes more creepy and insolent by the day.  We certainly will not be taking him to the summer house when we retire.  Katherine, naturally, refused it all.  K, Brute, and I left and returned to the inn where we now had rooms.  I certainly did not want to spend another night in a mansion full of witchcraft.  Uhmri, the gnome, and Kull elected to remain although I could not fathom why.

  As we departed, Brute noticed that the town guards previously posted out front were missing.  Back at the inn I cleaned up with a deft application of prestidigitation and prepared for bed.  I decided to have another look at the bits of magical jewelry I'd found in the upstairs hex room in the mansion.  Handling the velvet bag I was pleasantly surprised to find a fifth ring like the four which matched the mirror portals hidden in the thick folds.  This one had a green gem.  Clearly there was at least one more secret do be discovered.  I also took advantage of the privacy of my chamber to try on the magical "ladies' pectoral enhancement" nipple clips.  The effect was profound and most amusing.  I reckoned that it would be extremely useful should I need to disguise myself as a woman.

The next morning I had a proper breakfast at the inn--a refreshing changed from the revolting porridge-like substance which Kevin had been foisting on us.  K wanted to check on the injured woman we'd rescued from the secret dungeon in the mansion and so the three of us went to the Temple of Law and Order.  Normally I avoid the place but visiting there in the company of a priestess of from the Temple of Light might be useful in establishing a character reference with them.  On the other hand, visiting there in the company of a mercenary looking odd-fellow might have the opposite effect.  We arrived to find a wagon out front containing two grievously injured L&O paladins.  The pair of unfortunates seemed to have most of their blood on the outside of their bodies.  We learned that they were wounded fighting the goblins up north.  A farmer had found them and brought them back in; he told a wild rumor that the goblins had an unbeatable leader of some sort.  Inside, the L&Os suggested to Katherine that with all their wounded coming back from up north she needed to move our injured woman to her temple.  Another "shiny" was summoned and K worked out an arrangement with him.

That done we went to the mansion to meet our companions.  Out front the town guards were still missing--instead we beheld a rather gruesome sight.  One of the strange clansmen who had fought with Kull at the carnival the night before was impaled dead on the iron railings atop the wall!  How tragic, I thought, do die so publicly in so tacky an outfit.  His spirit was likely to return and haunt a nearby tailor's shop in despair.  Inside we found several more clansmen bruised and bloody in their unfashionable attire.  A group of them had attempted to attack Uhmri the night before, then returned to resume the assault at breakfast.  It was a bad plan and this time several would not live to tell the tale.

After some discussion we decided to move up our plans to depart the shining jewel of culture named Adan and go north to meet our destiny.  We had just loaded the wagon and saddled our horses when Veronica again showed up.  By the gods, did the woman really have nothing better to occupy her than to stalk me throughout the city!  She began to berate me in typical fashion, but this time Brute intervened.  Always a master of the direct approach, he simply threw her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes and carried her off.  He was gone for a longer time than we expected and reappeared looking slightly smug.  He later explained that Veronica had rather enjoyed being carried off in rough fashion.  She had offered him a quick tumble and he'd accepted.  That was certainly not what I had expected but I was secretly quite pleased.  Perhaps now V's attentions were finally transferred elsewhere.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Review: Adventurer Conqueror King System (Part 2)

Okay, so I'm finally getting around to continuing my review of the Adventurer Conqueror King System (ACKS) rules.  (You can check out Part 1 here.)  For an  OSR game, there is a lot of detailed content in ACKS.  I'm fine with that, but it makes for more work when doing a decent review.

Chapter 6 is entitled Adventures.  This starts by covering dungeon, wilderness, and ocean travel, survival, and encounters.  You've got your solid bits on movement, mapping, time, traps, etc.  There's a nice chart of stats for sea vessels.  I was amused to see that the carrying capacity for ships is given in stones.  It adds a nice bit of flavor, but I'm pretty sure it will throw non-UK type persons off a bit.  Then you've got encounters, surprise, reactions, etc.  This section is good basic stuff.

Combat initiative is done by each player rolling 1d6 and adding the character's Dexterity bonus. Mathematically that increases the relative value of the bonus over using a 1d20 roll: roughly, each +1 is now worth +15% rather than +5%.  Why not just use a d20?  I have no idea.  In ACKS spell casters must announce their spell cast before initiative is rolled, which I rather like.  Since it should take most of a round to cast and they would have to start at the beginning of the round to have time to cast that same round.  Hmm, I might add this to my Pathfinder games.

But then comes How to Attack.  This section has charts for monsters attacking and for characters attacking, with separate columns for fighters, clerics & thieves, and mages.  Just looking at the charts put me off.  Rather than going with increasing To Hit bonus with levels (as in 3rd or 4th edition), it uses a decreasing Attack Throw Value which must be equaled or exceeded on the roll to hit.  The target's armor class is added to the Attack Throw Value and any bonuses or penalties for Strength, Dexterity, or magic are added to the die roll.   Yes, it's really just another way of expressing the same thing in the end, but I didn't see any advantage to this system.  If anything it complicates the math because you're routinely making adjustments to the Attack Throw Value and then also to the die roll rather than applying all modifiers to the d20 roll.

Two-weapon fighting, however, is more realistic in ACKS.   The fighter gets only one attack but gets a bonus to hit for having the 2nd weapon (plus any magical bonus on the 2nd weapon).  Two weapon fighting is very rare historically.  Even then the off-hand weapon is usually for defense or opportunistic strikes, like a rapier and main gauche.  Because of the body mechanics involved you don't get double the attacks with two weapons, except perhaps with very light weapons like knives.  I prefer this treatment of the skill.

Speaking of doubling, I wish they'd done something with doubled damage.  The problem with specifying double damage, particularly for critical hits, is that if you roll low then the doubling effect is inconsequential.  It's sort of a gyp.  In my games, for critical damage the attacker gets full damage and then a normal damage roll on top of that.  That makes all critical hits do seriously critical damage.

Then there's the Mortal Wounds table.  It's a fun read, what with all the gruesome permanent injuries and colorful effects, but I'm not sure I would use it.  The brutal permanent damage is certainly realistic, but I can see it resulting in the abrupt retirement of lower level characters merely on a bad roll.  Many of the injuries require Restore Life and Limb to repair, which is a 5th level spell.  Either the party must have a high-level cleric or there must be one in travel distance and the party have sufficient funds to pay.  Okay, so these injury effects do make for interesting "remember when" stories, and the retired characters can even hang around as NPCs, but does it make for a better game?  It still has that Old School "we're going to create rules just to f*ck with you for no good reason" vibe to it.  I'd probably ditch it.  The complementary Tampering With Mortality table is more to my taste.  The results are more likely to provide interesting role-playing and plot ideas.  The difference between the two tables is like the difference between someone jabbing you in the eye with a spoon or using that spoon to feed you a mix of very hot peppers and spices.  The eye jab will leave you with partial or permanent blindness, disfigurement, and possible pains for life.  Afterwards you'll want to hunt the a**hole down and gouge his eye out with a spoon.  The peppers and spices will cause intense effects, but only temporarily.  Afterwards you will have positive memories of the interesting mix of flavors and maybe want to invent some great mixes of your own to share.

Then we're on to the old school style saving throws, with tables by class for Poison & Death, Staffs & Wands, etc.  I was never really comfortable with these, particularly when you needed a save against something which didn't exactly fit one of the save types.  It's another area which feels like "reinventing the square wheel" of OD&D.  The old style structured tables are retained in ACKS when there's probably a simpler, smoother way to get the same effect.  As a DM I find the Ref, Will, and Fort saves of 3rd/Pathfinder simpler and easier to apply flexibly as situations arise during play.

After that are more specialized combat rules  and then the very, very important section on earning experience.  In the old school groove, ACKS awards XP for treasure items--but only if they are sold right away.  Items retained and used do not bring XP if sold later.  I really have no idea why characters should get XP for treasure--except maybe thieves.  Well, okay, if you think of all classes as simply variations on a core Murder Hobo Robber class then they all should get XP for treasure. As noted earlier, characters with high scores in their class prime requisites get a 10% bonus to experience earned.  I've never understood this rule.  Why should a character get more XP just because the player got lucky with the dice?  It's another "we're going to create rules just to f*ck with you for no good reason" situation, this time by giving lucky players a chance to repeatedly gloat over less lucky ones.  The completely illogical bonus provides constant irritation and resentment for players who just were simply unlucky with the initial rolls.  It's rules like this which led to the development of point-buy systems (and probably communism).

Anyway, that's some thoughts on Chapter 6 and all I have time for tonight.  Next time we'll continue with Chapter 7: Campaigns.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Backing Reaper Miniatures Bones II: The Return Of Mr Bones!

Okay, so I have been avoiding buying any miniatures for gaming because they cost quite a bit, need painting, and take up space.  However, I saw how well the first Kickstarter project by Reaper Miniatures (one of my favorite miniatures companies, BTW) went and figured that I'd missed out on quite a good deal.  So, when they started a second one I was really torn.  But when it was almost too late I jumped in.  The massive number and variety of figures is amazing!  Just the core set will meet the needs of most campaigns.  I am also tempted to get some of the add-ons, but they're still processing the pledges and can't add more until later.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Chronicles of the Amazing Trevor: Chapter Seven (What's the Opposite of Trevor?)

I was awakened very early the next morning, around ten of the clock, by a gentle but insistent knocking at my bedroom door.  For a moment I considered just lying there...forever.  After last night what was the point, really, of ever getting out of bed again.  (And there was a servant available, after all.)  Then I heard her voice calling my name.  "Trevor", always sounded so mellifluous coming from her lips.  For her alone would I rise, even though it most likely would be to let her put the final nail in the coffin of our relationship.  I pulled on something presentable and opened the door.  And it was indeed Katherine. She looked tired, no doubt from a long night of looking after the woman we'd rescued from the secret cell the previous day.  And that on top of all I'd put her through recently.  But she clearly had something important to say so I braced myself and let her speak.

"I'm sorry, Trevor."

It took me a moment to comprehend her first words, as she stood there with her fair hair shining against the dark wood of the mansion hall behind her.  She went on about how she needed to leave this house with it's insalubrious effects on her, how she could not return to the temple for certain reasons, how she still had much to atone for from her monastery...but I was still transfixed by those first words. My wall of inner darkness cracked just a bit and a ray of hope peeked through.

I wasn't sure what she was on about concerning her temple, although I avoid temples as a rule, but her desire to depart the mansion found resonance.  The place was becoming increasingly disturbing.  First there was the secret chamber off the main bedroom with the Black Mirror, then the whispering, and now clear signs of witchcraft.  On top of that came yesterday's discoveries in the secret chamber of sorcery in the attic and torture dungeon below.  And there was no telling what might lurk in the still unexplored crypt down below.  In addition, the posting of guards from the town watch outside the house foreshadowed a more tangible threat.  Yes, much as I had otherwise grown fond of the old thing it was looking less and less like a ticket to my desired station in life.

A bit later the company all assembled at the dining table and Kevin presented some alleged gruel which was obviously warmed-up library paste with sawdust mixed in.  I suspected he was trying to kill us.  Predictably enough, Brute and Kull ladled every last bit of it down and declared it quite satisfactory.  Given what they likely were fed as young cubs I excused their utter lack of discrimination.  For my part, I finished off the last of a bottle of chateau something-or-other instead.  Katherine laid out her misgivings about the manse and her desire to leave, probably to head north against the goblins.  Boomtock agreed with her, adding the patently ridiculous claim that it was most likely the influence of the house which had made him so naughty recently.  The discussion then ranged over the mirrors upstairs, the goblins up north, the cellar crypts, young Broderick Natal's inheritance, the watchies standing guard out front, and the disposition of the as yet unidentified woman rescued from the dungeon.

During the discussions, which became rather tedious after the wine ran out, Kevin again intrigued us by attempting to pantomime something important.  This at least was somewhat diverting but not initially particularly enlightening.  Eventually we were able to gather that his former master Remi Natal had fled the house in fear of his life.  The by-now-rather-moldy-in-the-ground councilman had attempted to reach a summer house somewhere to hide out.

This was important news indeed.

With the integrity of the city house compromised by witchcraft the prospect of the summer house sounded rather delightful.  I imagined relaxing on a wide veranda, glass in hand, as one of the new serving girls brought me a refreshing refill.  Another comes up, delightful in her frilly maid's outfit and offers a plate of baked goods fresh from the oven.  I was just reaching for one of her delicious warm buns when Katherine said sternly "I'm not sure that's such a good idea".  I was jolted back to the dining table.  Brute was standing up with that look of thoughtful determination he gets when he's about to give someone a piece of his mind--or give someone else's mind a piece of his axe.  Katherine was just saying to him "I'm not sure that's such a good idea".  Brute was arguing, as usual, that the best course was a direct one and was ready to simply ask the guards out front what was up.

Suddenly I felt a most peculiar sensation.  It was emanating from the pouch I'd taken from the secret attic chamber of witchcraft.  I pulled out the four rings set with gems which corresponded to the colors of the frames of the magickal landscape mirrors in the chamber.  The red one was actually vibrating in my hand like a stunned bee.  Brute noticed and we decided to go upstairs and see what me might learn.  Entering the chamber of witchery cautiously we looked into the mirror.  The scene in the mirror was dark, apparently nighttime, and a woman was just walking away into the desert.  On an impulse I slipped the ring onto my finger.

The desert breeze wrapped me in stifling heat.  I could hear the faint hissing of sand blown across the surface of the dunes.  The woman was out of sight but the trail of her footprints in the sand were clear.  I looked behind me and through a shimmering oval saw Brute standing in the chamber--next to me.  Ah, so it was not I who was standing in the desert but a simulacrum.  Perhaps it was a marvelously intricate form of illusionology.  The me next to brute appeared to be daydreaming, probably because my intellect was here on this side.  So was the woman here in the desert also a simulacrum of someone in Adan, the witch perhaps, or a desert native?  I considered following the trail, but Brute motioned me back insistently.  Returning to the chamber I removed the ring from my finger, but Brute was not satisfied with that measure and removed me bodily from the room just to be sure.

Meanwhile, Katherine and Kull had gone around to the watchies out front so ask why the mansion was under guard.  The two underpaid officers of the law informed them that now that the entire ruling council was dead by assassination the authorities were were worried about the general situation.  In addition citizens had reported vagrants and shifty types in the vicinity of the mansion recently.  "Shifty types" indeed!  Clearly they had not yet seen me in my new attire.

Downstairs Kull placed a sofa in our cart, then wrapped the rescued woman in a a blanket and placed her gently on the sofa.  Kull, Uhmri, and my K. were to take here to the temple and make arrangements for her care.  The semi-incompetent Kevin offered to care for here but the suggestion was an obvious non-starter.  Brute and I would head for the courts make inquiries.  But just as we were wondering what Boomtock was up to the gnome appeared from the cellar with an alarmingly sheepish look on his face.  He admitted that he had accidentally broken "a few" bottles while messing about down there.  I felt like Kull had just kicked me in the midriff.  My precious vintages!  The only thing making life truly bearable under the current circumstances was the mansion's real treasure: the hoard of bottled sublimity in the cool racks in the wine cellar.

I dashed down the worn stone steps, heedless of my safety, followed by Brute and Uhmri.  Alas, it was far worse than the little rapscallion had admitted.  Over half of the trove was done for, splashed about on the floor like the noble blood of ancient dragon kings slain by assassins. 
Hardly a bottle left intact (pic from the internet, not mine)
The aroma was heady but it only increased my despair.  So, now, indeed there was no real reason left to stay in the dusty old pile.  I mourned the dearly departed for a few moments then rescued a few of the survivors to take with me.  But then Brute and I noticed that Uhmri had not caught up with us.

As he related later, the lupine-clad one did not join us but rather followed a cool breeze coming from another passage and came to the crypts which were also below.  He made his way to the barred iron gates flanked by ornamental suits of armor earlier discovered by Brute.  They were unlocked and so he ventured in.  A passage led to a pentagonal room.  Five stone coffins were in the room and each wall had niches piled with the bones of presumably lesser personages.  Water leaking from somewhere filled the room to the depth of a few inches, causing Uhmri to question the overall soundness of the structure.  Brute then came down, having made some comment about "herding cats", and brought Uhmri back up to join the company.  Brute and Kull also forcibly removed the gnome's magic boots and took custody of them in order to prevent further "accidents".  Stout fellows!  Kevin by this time had mysteriously produced delicious eggs and bacon from somewhere and fed them to the rescued woman.  Clearly he'd been holding out on us this entire time.  I was almost angry at him but realized that she was certainly more entitled to them than I was at that point.  With all that resolved, our two groups parted and headed to the courts and the Temple of Light respectively.

Because the Temple of Light was not open that day, and K preferred to avoid it in any case, they went instead to the Temple of Law and Order--which turned out to be immediately across the street from the Temple of Light.  They approached the L&O clerical staff, who consisted of uniformly humorless specimens sporting identical unattractive bowl-cut coiffures.  After grilling our companions on the particulars of the case they agreed to arrange care for the victim.  One of them also mentioned that the L&Os earlier sent a young paladin named Osric up to the mansion to look into things.  As our group departed they noticed just down the street, which apparently contained all of the temples in the city, a group of young ladies garbed in little more than a few ribbons and scarves.  They happened to belong to the L&O's complementary religious establishment the Temple of Iniquity, or the "Sinnies" as we usually called them.  The young ladies were not actual anointed clerics of the temple but a few of the "lay sisters", if you catch my drift.

Kull, Brute, and yours truly meanwhile traversed the cobbles in search of the city courts.  While passing a rather pleasant park, the sort of amenity one expects when in the bosom of civilization, we were accosted by a rather remarkable fellow.  He wore loose pantaloons and an unattractive sleeveless tunic.  His arms were covered with tacky dragon tattoos and a garish gold medallion hung from a chain around his neck.  I naturally assumed he was going to ask me for some gentleman's wardrobing tips, for all the good it would do him.  Instead he confronted Uhmri and challenged him to a duel to the death!  Given that Uhmri was still parading around in his hand-crafted garment of deceased lupines I then thought that perhaps the fellow was incensed that anyone would dare challenge his  hard-won title as Worst Dressed Citizen of Adan.  However he continued his belligerent verbal posturings, claiming that Uhmri had defeated earlier challengers from something he called his "Dragon Clan" who were after some secrets of ancient mysteries or something to that effect.

Uhmri accepted the challenge. The two then took up remarkable sophisticated-looking stances, unarmed but for their fists.  I was unaware that druidism had such intricate rituals.  I had generally understood that their sylvan soirees involved a lot of herb-based alcoholic beverages, mushrooms of questionable type, pounding on large drums, and naked frolicking late at night.  Perhaps he was of some more developed branch of the naturist philosophy, such as a Pongolean Arborologist or Adanite Sylvanist.

The two posed and flexed for a few moments, eyes locked in impressive intensity.  Then Uhmri shot forward like a bolt from a crossbow and delivered a massive blow, which he later described as a "stunning fist", to his opponent's head.  It should have stunned an ox.  To my surprise the challenger shook it off and attempted a counter-blow of his own.  At this point Brute lost what little patience he had for the impertinent fellow and joined the affray with a mighty swing of his axe.  The vicious instrument bit deeply into the man's chest and he staggered back.  Then, to our astonishment, the wound began immediately to heal.  Well, this was clear evidence that he was unfairly using some magic to win the contest.  The quickly-restored challenger leaped into the air and succeeded in a complex double-kick which struck both Brute and Uhmri.  Brute was undeterred and reopened the chap's chest with another two-handed swing.  This time he was fazed by the injury.  He began to stagger off, blood dripping all down his already unfashionable attire, threatening to return later.  Brute offered to finish the cheater but Uhmri declined, stating cryptically that "monks do not kill monks".  The odd-fellow hefted his axe in contemplation then decided to let him go for Katherine's sake, remembering her earlier distress at his common-sense dispatching of defeated bandits.

With that bit of unpleasantness out of the way we were about to resume our perambulations when another bit of unpleasantness reared its ugly head.  A crowd had gathered to enjoy the martial display but were much displeased by Brute's entry into the lists, apparently considering it dishonorable "ganging up".  Then they actually began to fling rotten fruit and other unpleasant items.  In my many years with the carnival I'd seen this sort of thing before.  There was little point in trying to reason with them and point out the challenger's unfair use of a healing magick so I began the incantations for my trusty Color Spray.  Brute, however, simply drove them off with a display of odd-fellow menace.

We soon arrived at the main Justice Square, which was mostly deserted.  A scruffy commoner sweeping the flagstones informed us that all the judges, lawyers, and other legal types had all gone to the city's Autumn Festival--besides which the courts were always closed on Saturdays anyway.  While we pondered this disappointing bit of information the rest of our company arrived.  With most things closed on the following Sunsday, Moonsday would be the earliest we could return to the courts.  Katherine and Brute were prepared to head north against the goblins, but I expressed my lack of enthusiasm for pointless violence and danger.  Brute then wisely reminded me that Veronica was still at large in Adan.  I promptly decided that hordes of vicious spear-wielding little fiends were the lesser of the two evils and agreed to accompany them.  Brute went off and engaged a set of rooms at an inn for the next couple days.  We would need somewhere to stay other than the compromised mansion while we wrapped up our business and finalized plans.

Suddenly the empty square was filled with flowing crowds headed for the Autumn Festival.  It was the carnival parade, accompanied by happy citizens on their way to celebrate.  We joined them and went to sample what the festival had to offer.  Uhmri quickly availed himself of the services of a fortune teller apparently in regards to the ancient secrets alluded to by the cheating duelist with the desperately unfashionable outfit.  Later we sought out a self-proclaimed "loremaster" to determine whether the various prize weapons selected from the crusader horde at the Temple of Light had any extraordinary qualities.  Luckily for them he was indeed a genuine master of the arcane and revealed all.  One after another each instrument of destruction proved to have something unexpected about it.  Brute's new bow magically produced its own arrow when drawn properly.  Brute's huge new axe had a name, "The Executioner".  Uhmri's marketplace bracers turned out to be enchanted to provide more protection than met the eye.  Katherine's new mace was blessed by the Light to strike down the undead.  The shortsword had previously had only one owner, a cleric, and would glow when undead were near.  This was far more than any of us had anticipated.  I was mildly disappointed there was nothing there appropriate for a scholar of the arcane such as myself.  But the new spell I had been perfecting in my off hours would likely help keep me up to par.

Last but by no means least was the immense greatsword which Kull had taken as his own.  The loremaster took some time divining its secrets.  He revealed that although not imbued with arcane wierding, it had a name, Right Hand of the King.  It was a royal sword of king after king.  From the legends I'd grown up with a boy, swords with mighty names often come with mighty trouble attached to them.  I hoped the big chap would not end up in a sticky situation.

After the others left to wander about the fair, I slipped back with a few items of my own.  The loremaster was just tucking into a depressingly ordinary dinner of fish sandwich at the back of his tent when I entered.  I offered him a bottle of decent white wine to go with the fish and several lovely round shiny bits of the noble metal for his services--and a side order of discretion.  I handed him the three other pieces of jewelry which I had retrieved--at great personal danger, as you may remember--from the witch's attic ritual chamber.  He applied his considerable skills and the results were reasonably satisfactory.  The red stone amulet was one which provided protection from fire and heat.  The peculiar pair of metal fiddly bits turned out to be a pair of nipple clamps designed to provide female mammary enhancement (what will they think of next).  The final item, the ring with a clear gem on it, remained an enigma.

As we were walking about we noticed crowds moving towards a large tent and several people mentioning "The Amazing Rovert".  It took me a moment, but then I realized that Rovert was Trevor backwards! Some swine had the unmitigated gall to impersonate me and surely ruin my carefully built legacy on stage!  Looking back I was a bit of a prat about it all, but at the time I was not prepared to accept that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  After attempting to plan a suitable response I lost patience and simply went to the main tent and stormed up on stage to confront him.
So, I meet at last! (pic from the Internet, not mine)
The cad was there all right, dressed as near to me as possible.  The resemblance was uncanny.  He'd even given his hair a bad dye job to match mine.  But that wasn't the real shock of the evening.  There next to him was his Lovely Assistant--Veronica!  An expectant crowd, the charlatan, Veronica, and Katherine there in the wings watching everything.  Sad to say, it all went a bit down hill from there.  My magick was in top form as I cast spell after spell to amaze and confound. But "Rovert" or whatever his name was, cast and cast again in reply, struggling to save his sham of a show.  Boomtock threw in a bit here and there and soon it was over.  The crowd got up and left, confused and a bit angry at the unexpected display.  Rovert took his sorry self off.  But Veronica did quite the opposite.  Rushing up, all bosoms and brass, she proclaimed that "Rovert" had really meant nothing to her and that henceforth we would be together forever--and promptly clapped a pair of shackle-cuffs on us.

I was rather non-plussed.  After the chaotic scene with "Rovert", I was entirely unprepared to immediately launch into yet another emotional dust-up.  I had rather expected the Big V to run off after her crestfallen romeo.  But just then my cuff unlocked itself and latched onto Veronica's free wrist.  I looked at Boomtock, but he nodded towards Katherine.  Katherine?  And indeed she was there, and looking rather pleased with herself.  So, our young sorceress was becoming as talented as she was lovely.  I was rather impressed.  Then I noticed Veronica was still going on about how our love was forever no matter what.  I felt it was time I set things straight with the Big V and the lovely K.  Remembering how I'd botched things at dinner in the tavern I straightened up and declared to Veronica in no uncertain terms that I cared for another.  However, I was still reluctant to bring the Wrath of Veronica down on Katherine and so avoided revealing her identity.  To my consternation, Katherine suddenly blurted out "Who is this other?".  After a further short exchange with Veronica the woman finally took herself off.  I looked over to Katherine but she had also moved off somewhere.

The Brute came up.  Apparently he thought it was time to set things right all around.  With a firm but kind tone he told me that if I indeed cared for Katherine then it was time I told her so.  I was just mulling this over when we noticed alarums and excursions in front outside the tent.  Something was up--and from the roars it clearly involved Kull.  I just hoped one of the female elephants hadn't taken a fancy to him.  Katherine heard as well and came to join us.   I offered K my arm in gentlemanly fashion to depart the tent.  She looked pleased by the gesture, but coyly demurred, saying "Not now".  Well, perhaps the air between us was clearing again.

The area in front of the main tent was a scene of absolute disarray.  Carts were knocked over, banners down, and strewn about were several unconscious chaps in the same tacky get-up and tattoos as the fellow who had challenged Uhmri that afternoon.  Apparently he'd gone for reinforcements.  Little did he realize that when facing the mighty Kull summoning reinforcements merely increases the magnitude of one's defeat.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Journal of Katherine, Entry 41

The searching yet determined cleric turned sorceror Katherine shares her latest journal entry with us.  Her Trevor will soon tell his story as well.

I awake refreshed, once more, in this house of the son Broderick.  I am determined this will be the last night in this house.  I must also make peace with Trevor, and find out who is responsible for the woman's injuries.  After the loose ends are woven, we can go hunt goblins to the north, and rescue survivors. 

I knock on Trevor's door.  He answers, a bit tired.  In the first few moments, I immediately stumble my apology.  It was early, and I can only remember half of what I said, and Trevor, probably only heard half as much, and remembers even less.  But I must make amends.  He says it is not necessary.  But I know it is.  I continue, and state that I don't want to leave on bad terms.  I cannot go to the temple, and I have no coin for a tavern.  I go on to explain that the house is causing me to have feelings that are not natural, feelings for Trevor.  Wait.  I never said that last sentence, at least not that I know.  That was what I wanted to state.  I forgot.  I remember trying my head, thinking, there was something else.  Trevor says that it is time to end the stay at Broderick's, and he will suggest to the others to also leave.  He was in agreement with leaving the house.  It was like with the Priest, Lore, at the temple, we were in total agreement.  I also ask Trevor if he can help with my sorcery practice, for I feel the sorcery brewing and he agrees.

Trevor calls a meeting this time.  Brute is playing with his new bow.  He shows how he pulls the string back and an arrow appears.  Very neat.  I mean, not every day one sees a bow and how an arrow appears on it, and no one, other than Brute and I are interested in that.  Trevor explains that we should move out of the mansion.  To add to Trevor's statement, I explain again about my plans to leave.  Brute states that we can stay at a tavern, the party coin will pay.  Not my favorite choice, but it is better than in the streets.  So, we set our agenda for the day: Ohm Uri, Trevor, Boomtuck and Brute will go to the court to see about ownership papers, while Kull and I will take the woman to the temple, and then later will meet at the courts.  With a room at the tavern, we can stay longer to figure out who did this to the woman.

Kull and I take the woman to the Law Temple, while Trevor, Brute, Boomtuck and Uhm Uri go to the court to get the ownership papers transferred.   Kull's and my trip is without incident.  We did discover that the guards were placed there to stop looters.  I make a mental note that some one might be watching us.

Unknown to me at the time, the others, despite my urgency I expressed strongly to Brute, are delayed by the house business, yet again.  This time, in the cellar, Trevor is heart broken over a discovery of smashed wine bottles that the little gnome did.  If Broderick were to press charges on the gnome, we might be minus one.  And Ohm Uri wonders off to explore the family crypt.  Brute is like herding cats to a bathhouse.  Boomtuck states nothing of note, except five coffins and one is opened.  This could be bad.  How did this little detail not get passed on to me, sooner?  Someone is either robbing the graves, or the dead are moving...   This could be really bad.

When we meet I see both Brute and Ohm Uri bruised and Brute's weapon is bloodied.  They state it was a challenge, from a clan member that Ohm Uri knows, and the challenger retreated, after taking some wounds.  I notice blood also on Trevor's shoe, but he is not concerned.  Ohm Uri explains that he is protecting some scrolls that a rival clan wants.  A new interest is in Ohm Uri, a protector of knowledge.  I call that a librarian.

Soon, we see people, many people are talking about a fair or a carnival.  It was years since I went to one.  The smell of greasy fried food, sweats, trissle tops, smoked and roasted meats, cheeses all filled the air.  I am awe struck -  all of the tents, fire-spitters, sword-swallowers, jugglers of fire balls, or of swords, animal trainers, and all manner of performers, fortune tellers, and con-artists.  I can see why we never went when I was at the priory, I see many more entertainers than actual honest working folks.  I can lose myself there, but, I have so many responsibilities and I am swamp by them; I keep my wits.  Trevor and I wander around, enjoying the sites.  Then Trevor starts explaining to me about a rival of his and how he is here now.  And he wants to make right a wrong done to him, by this rival.  I agree to help, as I still felt so bad about what I said earlier.  Brute disappears and reappears, later, with news that he has a room for me in a tavern.  But Ohm Uri and Kull are elsewhere.

While Brute is away, Trevor explains:

The mocking performer, called Rovert, copies Trevor's act, and uses Trevor's name backwards.  Trevor plans to stop this, in Trevor's way.  Since I already agreed to help,  I suggest a few things, one to burn down the tent once everyone is out.  That I did to see if anyone was listening to me.  With the weird looks from the group, yes, they are listening.  I continue with more serious tones, "Trevor should talk to him, and ask him to stop."  Trevor jumps in and states, "What if he will not?"  "And if he refuses," I add, "then challenge him to a match."  The challenge was fresh in my mind, since Ohm Uri just had his challenge.  It was better than the normal tactics that Trevor would use, and since I am involved, it must be acceptable to me.  Trevor concludes his plan to just go straight for the challenge, in public.

While we wait for the "Greatest Show on Earth," Brute, Trevor and I find a reader of items, a lore master.  Brute shows him the bow and axe, and I show the mace.  The cost for two items is one gold coin, and Brute pays it.  The unnamed lore master weaves magic, and his eyes turn blue.  This one is not a charlatan.  He examines the axe, and states it is called the executioner.  Somehow, it seems that the lore master is identifying Brute, and not the blade.  Or I hope a Brute of the past.  The lore master adds that the axe will be doubly better against evil.  The bow he looks at next, and he says it will shoot arrows without putting shaft to string, just pull back and the arrow appears.  Other than that, it is normal, just normal?!  This is really nifty.  Its odd how some think this bow is just passive, or not great.  I think it is one of the coolest things I have ever seen.  But, I cannot use it.  The magic involved is powerful indeed.  It is one thing to make people believe in an illusion, for the mind is easy to play tricks.  Unless you have powerful magic, you can't get something from nothing.  This is what I see in sorcery, to create force, from nothing.  This bow does that, much like I use the sorcerers palm push, to create a force from nothing. 

The lore master is done.  I say, "You didn't look at my mace."  He wants another five silver coins to read it, and Brute pays again.  Again, the master loreman's eyes turn blue, as he starts the weaving.  As I watch this colleague in the arts, I see my reflection - aglow or bathed in bluish light.  The lore master's spell is close to my domain, so it is reasonable that its affects are similar.  He starts speaking: "The mace requires a good person to hold," and I affirm in answer.  He continues "...there is extra power against undead."  When we leave, I look for a sign to his tent, but see none.  That is strange, but strange too, that Trevor disappears after we leave the lore master's tent.

Trevor returns back in a little while and is set on exposing the imposter.  In the end, Trevor did ruin the show and thus Rovert's show, but Trevor's reputation also suffered.  What better way to end a copy cat, than to stop - the copy cat cannot copy anymore?  Although I am not sure if that is Trevor's wants.  I don't see much point in entertaining, for there are so many more important things to do, and it doesn't matter of Trevor's reputation since he is not performing.  I wanted to help a few times during the performance: I thought about standing up, and have the challenge progress by working the crowd, but Brute suggested no.  His eyes told me that Trevor got himself in this madness, let him work it out.  I see Brute enjoying the show, too.  I also see that woman from the tavern, Veronica, and it would be much harder to appear impartial, if she points me out.  I would just make it worse.  I could not use any sorcery in camouflage, as I am bound by my vows, to use it openly and honestly, and only for good.  The domain of the Light is not here.  I am helpless and can only watch. 

Trevor's magic is better I think, trying to be objective.  His hounds are more ferocious.  The others are poodles.  They do minor trade-offs of illusions.  Then Trevor sees an opening and he pulls the trump, he un-masks the fraud by revealing the true hair color, the dark hair color fades to red - truly impressive!  Rovert's real name escapes me now, but he is exposed.

The feud took its toll on the crowd, too, and they left upset with both Rovert and Trevor.  Then they exchanged words, and only time will tell if Rovert will stop.  Last of note is Veronica, after seeing Rovert leave, she tries to force, by way of a hand shackle, to lock her arm to Trevor's, to be with him - forever.  Forever - are her words.  I have never seen a woman act like this, totally strange and alien.  Most would be fleeing for their lives, at least the ones that father brought home on a number of times, after mama died.  And now I can act - Veronica steps into the domain of the Light when she imposes this force.  I open the shackle and put her free arm in the other cuff, with my now mastered songs of sorcery.  She does not even notice.  It is a gesture to Trevor that he is free from anyone or thing, and is almost lost in the chaos of the moment.

Finally with Veronica shouting, Trevor is emboldened, and states to Veronica that he "cares for another."  Most unexpected - or is it what I wanted?  I wait for Veronica to leave after she says another few words.  After I am sure they are gone, I start to ask “is this other: me?” but, that would set the answer.  Instead, I blurt out, "who is this other?"  I set him up.  I put him on the defensive.  Trevor replies some one else.  The same answer at the tavern a few days ago.  I think it is good.  Nothing's changed - business associates.  Did I want him to admit it was me?  It is easier if he doesn't care for me.  Or is it Trevor just not wanting to admit it?  I turn and walk away, but stop, so I can just hear if Brute talks.

He does.  I don't hear much, because of the carnival sounds, but do hear Brute saying something like, "Do you like her?  If so, tell her!"  This was bad.  What did I tell Brute?  We agreed that Trevor and I have nothing more - Trevor's and Brute's words: business associates.  How did this happen?  But this now makes matters worse.  Do I also care for him more than I want?  Maybe I only want it when I knew it is impossible.  I cannot let it happen. 

I see and hear noises and a ruckus outside of the tent.  Trevor and Brute come to me.  Trevor lends an arm for me to take, a kind gesture to sum up the evening.  I hold back.  Was it because I had to tell him more: that we may be under a spell?  I cannot allow this?  Or was it the ruckus of Kull outside, that made me say, "Not now.  I hope you have more up your sleeve, for things may get nasty."  Trevor gives me that wink of an eye, stating, "of course," confident he is a magic man. 

We all depart Rovert's tent and go outside and see Kull chasing Ohm Uri's rival clan members all over the place.  One jumps in a well, and another on Kull’s back.  Kull can certainly handle these guys without our help.  That was a welcome relief after Trevor's show. 

Then we drop back into the usual business, swapping the casual tones for more business talk, as we then travel to get the remaining newly acquired items identified.  The spear is of double distance, the Rapier is of the first circle of force, and will not break.

My thoughts move to the group.  Brute continues to be so kind to me and so is Kull.  Ohm Uri has revealed to us that he is protecting certain scrolls, and adheres to certain combat traditions, where he must duel by himself.  With Boomtuck, I have seen very little virtues in the gnome.  All of the others have qualities that make them nobler than the rest.  Now that I know Trevor is truthful with me, I must make sure no witchcraft is involved.  And maybe this caring for me will dissolve along with the witchcraft.  It will never work out - I am too busy with the sorcery and all of the other business.  I must tell him.

The lore master finishes with the short sword: it glows when near undead, a handy beacon.  The he tells this was from a cleric.  I knew some clerics that could sense the presence of undead when invoking the power of the Light.  This is definitely handy to have as it can save a spell.  I think of how I can relax in the tavern room tonight, with Trevor helping me with magic - no, he and I must keep a distance - but I will be away from the mansion. 

"And we should see if the sword glows in that mansion, in the cellar, in the crypt, where there are five coffins, and one of them is opened," says Boomtuck!