Thursday, 21 May 2015

Riga’s Log: Bears Wrestling and Statues in the Forest

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

Previously: After unmasking a doppelgänger plot in the neighbor town of Leilon, Faerûn’s Mightiest Heroes were promised statues for the House of the Divine Flame (Temple of Sune).

Get out of the paladin’s way
The party receives disgruntling news! The caravan with Sune’s statues was assaulted in the middle of the road by “one gnome, one bear, and two humans”. Huummm… let me start using my 18 Intelligence: I am a gnome, Klin is a druid that passes half his time in bear form, and both Gilthanas and Malak are “half-humans”. Wait a minute, wasn’t the doppelgänger complot the theme from last session?
The druid wasn’t quite bothered, but I was pissed! I mean, beyond the statues, MY regal portrait was also in the caravan. Then, suddenly, we focused our attention on Gilthanas. Try to say “Keep Calm and Carry On” to a paladin whose temple’s statues have been stolen. His pointy ears turned red, turned yellow, turned blue, turned violet with green circles, and two seconds later he was threatening half the town, and willing to burn the entire forest to find the bandits. NOW was the time for the druid to be bothered!

And thou shall burn the forest!
Scouting the forest we manage to find a guy… which we were supposed to “inquire friendly”. But, suddenly… paladin! In less than a minute he was all over the dude, making the World Wrestling Federation proud. Well, his friends weren’t far, so we were hit by a bear, some guy, and a female gnome. Being the Illusionist Extraordinaire that I am, the bear is somewhat hindered by my illusion of a bear trap holding his paw. But, “my druid” decides to go all bear-shaped against him. Hmmm, ok, Gilthanas is rolling in the floor with the first dude; the bears are wrestling each other…  Hey, female gnome, wanna go wrestle with me, “roll in the grass and shake some leaves”?
I start using my news spells (Scorching Ray), and the bastard DM decides to start singing Adele, and “I set fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiire to the raaaaaaaaaaaaaain”, except there’s no rain and I’m not even rolling fumbles. He’s just a freaking sadist! Sorry druid, I really didn’t mean to torch the forest with my fiery bolts. Hey, I’m a forest gnome! Look at me: I’m a treehugger!

How – exactly – do you keep a druid in jail?
We capture the gnomish druid, and the non-bear guy. Without much effort, we make them reveal the spot where the statues were hidden.
Immediately, we return to Phandalin with the bandits and the statues. Gilthanas reserves four ropes to hang the bandits (the gnome managed to convince him there were two guys hiding in an encampment in the forest, responsible for the theft). But the moment we’re leaving town I realized: exactly how are we going to keep the gnomish druid in jail? I mean, can’t she shapechange at any time, transform into a lizard and get away? Seriously, guys, how do you do it? A mage’s hands can be tied, but what about a druid? After much debate, we decide to take her (the name’s Ella) with us.

Look into my eyes, I’m a charming gnome
My big hearted gnome starts having a soft spot for Ella. She tricks Gilthanas pretending to be touched by Sune’s grace. This is hilarious! She’s a charlatan, just like me! Hum, and she has that feral good looks… You’re not going to fall for a wildling, are you Riga? You know nothing, Jon Snow…
Well, just in case, I wink my violet gnomish eyes and blast her with Charm Person. She confides the encampment is guarded by a brute named Boris, who has a bear named Panko, and some other thugs. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm: Baldrick, I have a cunning plan!
So, we captured a gnome, a human, and killed a bear. Our druid morphs into a bear, Gilthanas uses his disguise kit and passes as a “random human”… and I strip Ella’s clothes, put on some makeup, and pretend to be a female gnome. Oh boy, this is going to do wonders for my career in politics…

Love is in the air, everywhere I look aroooooooooound
We leave Ella tied to a tree, and try to walk casually into the encampment. But – alas! – the bastard DM foils my cunning plan, and states that the bad guys already knew their pals  had been captured. With no space for gnomish cunning, it’s CLOBBERIN’ TIME!

Although with some effort, we make short work of the brutes. When the situation is under control, my gnome turns invisible and withdraws from the area, leaving Gilthanas and Klin to gather the spoils of war. Going back to Ella, I give her a passionate kiss, untie her bonds, and tell her to go free. Her heart is racing like fire. I knew Gilthanas was dead serious about taking the thieves to be hanged in Phandalin. But she’s a pretty, rascal, charlatan, forest gnome, and we live in a strange perilous world. Sorry, Gilthanas, but my gnomish empathy speaks louder, and you can but blame yourself. After all… Sune’s love totally overwhelmed me!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

2.22 – Woe betide us! Our saint has fallen.

[Pendants of Tor-Logos]
Barion (rogue), Bellerophon (paladin), Thorkron (cleric/wizard/mystic theurge)

Session Highlights
The heroes of Agatarkion's kingdom continue to chase Taurus McKymera in search for the pregnant succubus. During a fight with a pack of vrocks they have a glimpse of the balor, Kelsier, who manages to breach the Planes and strike at Bellerophon with his vorpal whip. The clash with the party’s nemesis (Taurus) finally arrives, with both the paladin and the general dying in the process.

Every good DM hates seeing good characters die. When it happens, there are two possible outcomes:
1) The character stays "dead-dead", and all the story investment done so far goes down the drain, possibly compromising several major plots;
2) The character is resurrected, thus banalizing "death" and therefore damaging what possible suspension of disbelief exists in the setting.
If losing characters at low/mid-level can easily be dealt with, the same isn't valid for high level. All the map of relations established between PC and NPCs goes away, and any replacement PC that enters the story will mostly be an alien to the campaign. It would be like losing the main character of a TV show around season 3 or 4. Playing Pathfinder (or D&D 3.5) at high level (12+) can - and will - easily face you with such a scenario.
And so it came to be with our most beloved Saint Bellerophon, the dracopegasus riding paladin.
I tend to favor roleplay-heavy sessions, having less combat, and saving it for good and interesting scenes. But, when appropriate, it is good to prepare epic fight scenes. That is what I tried to do in Castle McKymera, dragging the fighting along several rooms, with different groups of enemies building up tension until the final moment, where Taurus and the succubus awaited. I used a high level fighter template for Taurus, knowing that he would hit hard, but be an easy target for any control spell cast by Thorkron. Any Hold Person, Feeblemind, Dominate, would rend the fearsome Taurus McKymera useless. That is why I threw a wizard loaded with dispels into the game. Taurus knew Thorkron's power and had previously been targeted by his spells. Therefore, it would be reasonable to have a mage nearby to protect him. As to the succubus, a regular one would be to subpar for the party (currently at level 13), so I pumped her slightly, boosting her spellcasting score a bit with magical items, and other less significant things. I have to say that I'm becoming a master at deception, since none of the players suspected that the good Commander Magnus was indeed the succubus in disguise. I mean, come on! Yes, the balor was originally Magnus' son, but I don't usually turn to such cliché plots!
In the end, Bellerophon had a majestic dismissal, throwing himself in front of a Fireball to save Thorkron's life. But this is not the last we've seen of our glorious hero. He will return, with permission from his god, fulfill his mission, and then enter the afterlife. And that is an inspiring story for a saint.
Let us see how the battle will end (we stopped midsession with both the succubus and the mage alive (although heavily battered). The campaign is lively, vibrant, deadly, and glorious!

Session Chronicle and Epilogue (Portuguese): link

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Riga’s Log: Baron Doppelgänger

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

Previously: The Divine Flame is summoned to the city of Leilon in order to investigate Baroness Helena’s claims that her husband isn’t who he pretends to be. On arrival, a group of thugs disguised as priests of Lathander make an attempt on the baroness’ life.

Journey to the Red Light District
We were chased by a group of thugs, managed to capture one, and took him for questioning in a brothel. To loosen his tongue, I used illusions to give my eyes a draconic look and started mumbling random stuff in a strange language, while leaning over my exotic cane (staff). With Gilthanas and Malak pressuring him, he pissed his pants and told us what he knew.
We left him gagged and tied to the bed with a "do not disturb" sign hanging in the door.
What? Who are you calling chaotic evil?!?

The Goblin's Goblet
Entering the spot where all evil bastards meet, we try – unsuccessfully – to bargain some magical items. Eventually, we reach conversation with Konnal. The guy is a member of the Leilon Bashers, and reveals that a sculptor named Proust was behind the attempt on Baroness Helena's life.

Monsieur Proust
Turns out that Proust is a tiefling, and, apparently, schizophrenic, because he was all scared that someone could have followed us, revealed the "main plot" (the Baron, the Magistrate, and the Bashers' Leader had all been replaced by doppelgangers), tried to knife Gilthanas, and immediately took a pill... and died.
Along the way, Proust also told us that in the baron's dungeon a man was being held captive (an old acquaintance of the real baron).
Turns out we were wrong! The culprit wasn’t Baron Harkonnen, but Baron Doppelgänger!

Sune Sheds Light Unto the Dungeon
After revealing the plot to our friend, Captain Colgate, we lure the false Baron to the dungeon pretending that the baroness was awake and talking to the captive.
Gilthanas disguised himself as the prisoner, and as soon as he entered the cell I hit him with "Riga's Hideous Laughter". We shackle him. Being the good liar that I am, he is convinced that both his companions are already under our grasp. Either he cooperates and gives us the location of the real baron, or else...
But getting the info out of him proved harder than expected. The DM called for a DC 25 Persuasion check. I suggested casting Charm Person to lower the DC, but it wouldn't do. For several minutes we were faced with a "Kobayshi Maru scenario" (no win). I was already suggesting the other party members for us to deliver the guy to the real priests of Lathander (and hope that they could extract the info from him), when Gilthanas' player, out of desperation, decides to "have faith in Sune" and - literally - throws the die up for Persuasion. And Sune answered! A 20 lands on the table. We cheer like madmen. The real persons are imprisoned in magical rings, which the Lathanderites manage to dispel.

Statues and Portraits and Gold and Glory! Oh my!
The baron's daughter covers us in gifts, offering to send the best artists to Phandalin in order to carve statues for our temple of Sune. Also, the best painter in all the Realms will be doing a magnificent portrait of Baccardi Riga III.

My gnome illusionist already favored Sune, but after the visit to Leilon he decided to convert fully. The beer's on you, Gilthanas! ;)