Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Khan’s Report: Drums in the Marsh – Part 2

[Vacaria Brotherhood] - D&D Expeditions: Drums in the Marsh
Khan (dwarf cleric), Klin (elf druid), Lanza (elf bard), Septimus (tiefling warlock)

Previously: People have gone missing in the farmsteads around the Twilight Marshes. On his way to Gilthanas’ marriage, the gnome Archibald decides to investigate… and disappears.

Recycling Characters
We rescued a bunch of people being driven in rafts by the lizards. A friendly dwarf named Kill Him told us that a competition was being held in the Island of the Lizard King (no, I'm not talking about Japan and Godzilla), involving three tribes: Dusk-Dusk, Gob-Gob, and Jib-Jib.
Alas, the freed farmers needed someone to guide them along the swamps, so four of our party members were volunteered to accompany them (yeeeah, the players were absent and we had to dispatch their characters...). But alongside the friendly Kill Him (dwarven baker extraordinaire) we discovered my good friend Lanza (bard not-quite-so-extraordinaire, but really smart) and the druid Klin (that somehow got teleported from another campaign, in another time, in another place).

The Hermit, The Dragon, and The Horned Ones
Kill Him told us to visit the hermit named Gregor that lived in the swamp. I have absolutely no idea what transpired inside Gregor's hut, because the entire time was spent with Septimus speaking with Gregor and the imp in abyssal. Yup, the horned guy with the imp was the single one remaining from the original ensemble (why me, Marthammor Duin... why me...).
The hermit eventually told us that a COLOSSAL BLACK DRAGON was the one responsible for the lizards' competition. Oh, joy… this just keeps getting better...
With the Island of the Lizard King's location in mind, we carried on.

When we felt that the beating of the drums was close, we halted our march. It was night, and we spotted a strange big lizard destroying several effigies that resembled a dragon. Septimus tried to allure him into an ambush, but the guy didn't fall for it. In that moment, our horned warlock decided to unleash an eldritch blast on the lizard... but apparently his batteries were out. Humm... what could possibly be the reason for his magical powers to wane so suddenly? When he answered that question, the world stood still.
"My patron, Mephistopheles, the Archlord of the Eight Hell, has denied me access to the arcane powers."
We must bear in mind that I am playing with a righteous dwarf cleric. Remember the guy who was protecting the pouch with the 15 gp belonging to the old folks from the farm, who is also a Harper agent? Yup, that's me.
The entire party fell silent, and looked at me in expectation. Ok, NOW is the time to roleplay. I wasn't going to attack another player's character (unless he harmed me in any way), but obviously I wasn't going to simply dismiss this info as "nothing to see here, move along". So, I displayed my most serious dwarven-face and questioned my companions if we were going to make the final assault on the lizards having at our side a servant of an archdemon that could - and probably would - betray us at any moment.
Septimus argued that I was judging him too quickly, and that his servitude wasn't a question of choice. Instead, he was bound by something previous to his birth. An interesting exchange of arguments followed, in the eternal struggle between good and evil, and the tiefling eventually revealed that Mephistopheles ordered him to kill the hermit, which he refused.
At that moment I considered hitting the imp with a Guiding Bolt, but my spell slots as a 3rd level cleric are very limited, and we had already decided to press the attack on the island this night.

We had to be pragmatic. Albeit the issues with "Hellboy", we needed manpower to hit the lizards and free the captives.
Although Lanza is far from being among the 100 best bards of the Moonsea (teeheehee), we must remember that he is one of the smartest persons in the region (Hello-Kitty-Headband of Intellect). So, he decided to do the SMARTEST THING POSSIBLE: steal the flag from the Dusk-Dusk camp and run around shouting "GOB-GOB! GOB-GOB! GOB-GOB!" And thus another memorable moment was born in Vacaria Brotherhood's history.
Mayhem ensued, and the lizards started killing each other. At that precise moment, the imp decided to attack the tiefling. And there we were, dear readers: a bard running insanely with a horde of lizardmen in pursuit, a tiefling in mortal kombat with his own imp, and my righteous dwarf being cooked alive inside the chainmail by the tribal shaman's Heat Metal. Thankfully we had the bear-shaped druid to do something!
Amid the chaos, the big lizard who had escaped our ambush appeared from nowhere and assumed control. While we tried desperately to free all people from their cells, the Megalizardtron gathered all the tribes under him. The druid rushed to free all the animals captured in cages... and was trampled! Yes, there was a stampede of chickens, sheep, goats... and one cow!
Megalizardtron ordered all the lizards to throw javelins at us. Our DM is a kind, loving, merciful person, and so decided to roll a d20 to see how many javelins would hit us... and rolled 19. I hate the DM.
My brave Khan, seeing that death was upon us with a stampede of lizardmen coming our way, started unleashing Guiding Bolts at Megalizardtron. My comrades started losing crossbow bolts towards him, and when we felled the bastard... the lizards ran away!
Marthammor Duin be praised.

The One and Only Lizard King in the Universe

The "Protector of the Fifteen Coins" and The Missing Gnome
We managed to organize the panicking prisoners, but not a single gnome was among them. Where the hell could Archibald be? Well, at least I found the old farmers alive and restituted the pouch with the 15 gp to its rightful owners. No one can accuse this Harper of not keeping his promises!
We told the people to take refuge in Phlan, since we had learned that the COLOSSAL BLACK DRAGON would be returning in a ten-day. After a few days walking the marshes, and with the inn on our sight, guess what happened? We found Archibald. The dumb gnome had spent the entire time running in circles.

Now, about the horned fellow...
The day was saved. Well, Archibald tried to ruin it by summoning a fire elemental in the barn... Oh, and apparently Gilthanas' marriage went down the drain... But aside from that, all is well when it ends well!
There was, nevertheless, one loose end: Septimus! I confronted eye-to-eye (you'll understand pretty soon the pun in this...) my comrade-in-arms with his forthcoming choices. I wasn't about to allow a servant of Mephistopheles to go back to Phlan. But, if his claim to be innocent in the entire "demon pact" thing was true, I would be willing to look for powerful allies among the Harpers in order to help freeing him from servitude. My insight told me he was genuinely willing to explore this path.

The Eye of Septimus

There is, although, one minor detail that we are unaware of in-game: Septimus' powers only returned because he pledged to Mephistopheles his willingness to sacrifice one of his eyes. Will this go forward? And, if so, will the DM take the chance to further develop this seed and make this a powerful trinket in the future? We... shall... SEE! >:)

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Khan's Report: Drums in the Marsh - Part 1

[Vacaria Brotherhood] - D&D Expeditions: Drums in the Marsh

Were I to make a joke D&D-themed and it would start like this: two Harpers, two evil-looking warlocks, and two rogues walk into a bar...
Well, I'm not much of a joker, but let me tell you about my last D&D session... This is EXACTLY how it happened!
When the brainiacs at WoTC decided to promote the D&D Encounters (and Expeditions) as a support to D&D's 5th Edition they weren't exactly pushing us into a conundrum. I mean, it's easy to calculate the odds of having six complete strangers walk into a public game having totally incompatible characters!
Is it possible to have both Harpers and Zhentarim in the same party? Check!
Is it possible to have neutral good dwarven clerics and shady warlocks with imps as familiars? Check!
So, yeah, my neutral good dwarven HARPER cleric decided that his ZHENTARIM tiefling comrade-in-arms was simply a guy wearing a kabuki mask, and that his evil-as-fuck devilish IMP was... just an exotic bird!
Otherwise I would need years of therapy in order to understand why exactly we were banding together. You know, because, TIEFLING ZHENTARIM WARLOCKS WITH IMPS AS FAMILIARS are usually what HARPER DWARVEN GOOD CLERICS hunt in the campaign! So forget about any MINOR INCONSISTENCIES in all of this...
So, there you have our starting point for the "Drums in the Marsh" quest. And, yes, we were walking into a bar...

And the reason we were doing it was to search for the missing Best Man for our friend Gilthanas' marriage. A gnome named Archibald something-something-something yet-more-something XIV apparently disappeared while travelling to Phlan. We headed towards an inn in the middle of the road, where we were told that "Archie" had been there, but decided to go into the marsh to investigate the strange drums that sound in the night, and its link to several missing persons from the farmsteads nearby.
This farm boy comes to us in shock, having just returned from the farm belonging to the old couple he works for, finding it attacked, and with the old folks missing.
We take the ferry and rush upriver to the farmstead. On arrival, we observe that the doors were blasted, there were signs of claws on the floor, and marks of cattle being driven out of the farm.
So, do we decide to run after the assailants while the marks are fresh? Well, no...
"Hey guys, look! There's a pouch with 15 gp above the table. It must be the old folks’ savings. Well, let's just steal it..."
This is one of those moments where you can do one of two things:
a) Forget about your character's personality and simply ignore anything roleplay related;
b) Stay in-character and go against five other players, thus earning their hatred both in-character and out-of-character.
Well, with almost 20 years of roleplay over my shoulders this wasn't going to be the first time I'd break character just to gain popularity points. Therefore, Sergeant Khan put his most judging stare over his beard and claimed: NON!
45 minutes later they were still trying to convince me that we were entitled to the pouch because the old folks were probably dead. After much debate the thieving bastards ended up agreeing to give me the coins for safekeeping until the farmers' destiny became known.
My gut feeling was so right about my esteemed companions that as soon as we started the session I told the DM: I'm gonna leave my money (200 gp) entrusted to the Harpers' bank before we leave town..." 
Jumping into a barge we sailed upstream, but not before another 45 minutes were lost deciding who was going to row...
*Sigh*... Next time I'm bringing a pony...
 Yes, that is a pig inside the barge.

Suddenly, LIZARD MEN! Rising from the waters and throwing nets from the margins. Eldricht blasts, and spears, and arrows, and everything, shooting everywhere. Yay, it's HAMMER TIME! I swing my warhammer... and the die rolls below 4. More eldricht blasts, more arrows, more hits and bumps! I swing my warhammer... and the die rolls below 4. Some comrades get poisoned from the lizards' blowguns, and I don't have enough spells to cure them all. But since it is not lethal, and wears off after one hour, I swing my warhammer... and the die rolls below 4.
Humm... I'm starting to notice a peculiar consistency with my warhammer.
My fellow Harper is put unconscious and dragged by two lizards through the reeds. They would get away with him, if not for my providential guiding bolt shot from inside the barge in the middle of the river. Yes, you can say it: I'm totally awesome. After smoking one of them, they got scared and ran away.
Nightfall was upon us and we needed to rest. Both warlocks said "oh, it's cool, our familiars can stand watch". The tiefling tells his imp to stand watch, and the answer he gets (in Infernal) is something along the line of "sod off". The tiefling throws a stick at the imp. The imp catches the stick and bashes the tiefling in the head with it. Confused, my dwarf watches the entire scene thinking "hmmmm, what an interesting relationship the kabuki masked guy has with his exotic bird..."
We jump into the barge once again, and this time it only takes 38 minutes to decide who would pick up the oars.
A few miles later a giant pinkish tentacle-like thing sprouts out of nowhere and grabs the female warlock.
Prepare yourselves, hentai time is about to start.
We dock the ferry in the right margin and start attacking a half-hidden giant toad. That is when the OTHER giant toad on the LEFT margin decides to "tentacle-grab me" and pull me near him. Oh, this is gonna be great... The other five guys are on the other side, and I have this friendly giant toad all to myself. No problem! I start swinging my hammer... and the die rolls below 4. I scream, and shout, and let it all out, swing my hammer again... and the die rolls below 4.
Showing some solidarity, one of the other players tells me: Well, that die is cursed. Here, try rolling this one.
At this point you are all already guessing what did happen. That's right. I rolled a 1. The toad swallowed my warhammer.
Yeeeah, around this time I'm pretty much thinking I should've stayed home combing my beard. Eventually, the toad is blown by an eldritch blast from the kabuki dude, and now comes the epic scene: I grab my warhammer midair, turn around, decide to spend the "inspiration" I had gained previously, and unleash a thunderous guiding bolt straight at the other toad across the river! The evil marsh batrachian gets toasted, and one of the other players just kicks him dead.
Never mind combing the beard, this dwarf IS GAME!!!!

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Riga’s Log: The Mad Baroness

[Divine Flame]
Baccardi Riga The Third (gnome illusionist), Gilthanas Sunblade (half-elf paladin), Klin (half-elf druid), Malak (half-orc rogue)

Here, have a half-orc
Since the bastard DM continues to refuse to offer us a three meter high statue of Sune covered in rubies and draped in red silk, our temple has to survive with illusory images of the goddess, provided by the greatest magician in all of Neverwinter’s sphere of influence. That’ll be me.
One of our team mates had to move from Lisbon to Madrid (ciao Marco!), so this session we had a new player join the party. Thus, Malak, a half-orc, received a warm welcoming to The Divine Flame… with the paladin spitting on the floor and saying something along the line of “I hate your filthy race. Get away from me.”
As my favorite bard Freddie Mercury used to sing: “Friends will be friends”…
Putting things in perspective, I’m now surrounded by two HALF-elves and one HALF-orc, thus making me the only FULL MAN in the group. That clearly makes me party leader.

The damsel in distress
Malak had been selected by the town mayor to accompany us to the neighbor town of Leilon, where we should meet Baroness Helena d’Tabbart, whom had written him worried with “enemies hidden in the shadows”.
Being the town elections in five months, I’m suspicious that this is just a maneuver from the bastard DM to send me away from Phandalin, thus benefitting his candidate, the inept Mayor Harbin. But, alas!, I’m a hero, and as the bards of Waterdeep usually sing: there’s a damsel in distress, she goes by the title of baroness, Riga’s on the way to clean the mess, so keep calm and have no stress, for this gnome was born to impress! BOOYAH! Shaggadelic, baby!
Hu-Hum! Sorry, I got a little carried away. I blame it on Gilthanas’ bagpipes.
Anyway, our band of merry men (more appropriately, HALF men) arrives in Leilon. We head towards Tabbart Mansion, where we find the baron on his horse posing for a painter. Immediately we rename him Baron Harkonnen, albeit the DM’s attempts to make us embrace his real name. He tells us the baroness is rather ill, and will soon be taken to Lathander’s temple (I’m pretty sure the bastard DM already gave the Lathanderites a gigantic marble statue with diamonds and platinum…). She won’t be able to receive us before the next morning. We say our goodbyes to Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, and I immediately focus on the most important thing in the mission: I go talk to the painter and try to commission him a portrait of myself. But, proving once again that the bastard DM hates me, he only has time to do so in one year. WHAT? I’m having an election in five months! Bah!
While Malak roams the city’s slums looking for information about the baroness, I go with the two half-elves searching for sculptors and painters. But we only find THIEVES! Eight thousand gold pieces for the statues and portraits? Do these bastards believe they belong to Michellangelo’s School or something?

Hello, I’m a priest. BOOM! Headshot!
Come next morning we head once again to the mansion. I combine an Unseen Servant spell with some Minor Illusion, and walk the streets with a floating ghost beside me presenting myself to the populace. This is good P.R., and all propaganda is welcome if it benefits the future mayor of Phandalin.
We are taken to the baroness’s scriptorium, and along the way I lay my eyes on a particular painting of “The Battle of the Cliffs”. What’s peculiar about it is that all the heroes portrayed are gnomes! I write down the artist’s name: Ipe. I have to say that I particularly enjoy his interpretation of events.
Baroness Helena is clearly disturbed and “drained”, but she doesn’t seem to be crazy. She insists that Baron Harkonnen isn’t really her husband, but someone pretending to be him. Before we have the time to extend our conversation a quartet of priests of Lathander enters the room, announcing they are here to take the baroness to the temple. She gets despaired and refuses to go, shouting she never agreed with that.
We tell the head priest he can’t force her to go, and he replies by putting a crossbow bolt to the paladin’s face. Combat ensues, with one of the now-evidently-false priests hitting the baroness, and almost killing her. The druid, in bear form, makes short work of the assailants, while the half-orc rolls under a table shooting a bolt under my legs, and rolling a critical against the guy hitting the coiling woman. This filthy scum tries to escape jumping out of a window, but my gnome jumps to the window and incinerates him with a Fire Bolt.
The surviving assailant runs out of the room but is immediately caught by the guards, who in turn storm the scriptorium ordering us to lay down our weapons and stand still. But wait: now comes the fun part! I’m still with my ghost-butler floating around, so he keeps majestically presenting me to each guard that enters the room, which is hilarious, and makes me more famous than Taylor Swift.

Captain Colgate and the Goblin Goblet
We are detained for questioning by a guy named Captain Colgate. Well, ok, his name wasn’t actually Colgate, but it sounded a lot like Corellon (patron god of elves), so we rebranded him.
Captain Colgate seemed genuinely concerned with the attack and decided to trust us. So, he gave us what they found in the escapee’s pockets: a triple figurine of platinum, and a pouch with the initials “G.G.”.
IT’S GARY FREAKING GYGAX!!!!! The guy who invented D&D is responsible for the attempt on the baroness’s life! Hum? What? The pouch has an image of a GOBLIN drinking from a GOBLET? There goes my brilliant conspiracy thesis…
It’s time again to hit the slums, but since we’re having some trust issues with Malak we decide to take the entire party. Both he and the druid look like bums, so no one will notice them, but a flamboyant gnome (with a pompous ghost butler) and a paladin of Sune? Relax, everything is under control. I’m an illusionist, so I can look however I want. As to Gilthanas, he has a kabuki theatre kit, so he loads himself with lots of makeup and disguises himself as a bum.
With a few coins, a few mugs of ale, and a lot of BULLSHIT, we discover that the Goblin’s Goblet is a secret gambling house run by a band that goes by the name Leilon’s Bashers where few are allowed to enter.

The hanging
Baron Harkonnen seems rather hurried to get rid of the sole survivor, taking him to be hanged in the main square. In a desperate attempt to gain some information about the culprit behind the attack, I cast a Message spell that allows me to speak mentally with him. The idea was to take advantage of the shock he was going through in order to make him talk, but the dice decide that my persuasion isn’t good enough.

Well, it seems our only chance lies in the Goblin’s Goblet. What’s our plan once we get there? We have absolutely no clue, but apparently goblin beer is a thing, so that’s where we’re heading!