Saturday, 28 November 2015

Network Zero - Episode 0

Chris and Sam (Darker Days Radio) are joined by David (Twisted Tales) to explore the weird and horror filled worlds of White Wolf/Onyx Path/Paradox Interactive. In particular the focus will be on the "New World of Darkness" game lines - Vampire the Requiem, Werewolf the Forsaken, Mage the Awakening, Promethean the Created, Changeling the Lost, Hunter the Vigil, Geist the Sin-Eater, Mummy the Curse, Demon the Descent, and Beast the Primordial.

Think of this episode as a "get to know us", and that future episodes will take on a more focused structure.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

[Actual Play] AD&D 2nd - Ravenloft, House of Strahd Session 9

Ravenloft Session 9

The party mills around in the water, confounded by the Count’s anguish elsewhere in the castle above, annoyed at the undead’s lack of treasure, and the generally lamenting the awful fortnight they’ve been having. Beetlebottom hands out some heals to the injured party, specifically Kolbo and Belzon. The party climbs up the balcony to the thrones overlooking, Thenn giving Kolbo a boost. The black curtain behind the thrones oscillates back and forth ominously and Kolbo pokes the curtain with his 10-foot pole, eventually extending it the full 10 feet only to find something hard behind the curtain. Finally peering through the corner of the curtain, the party finds an empty alcove and a sturdy iron door. The party checks for traps and Thenn listens behind the door, hearing snap, crackle, and pop.

Opening the door, the party finds a chamber with a large, bright brazier in the center, an hourglass overhead and a golden chest to the left, two alcoves on each side with a giant four armed bronze skeleton in each. Gargoyles line the ceiling and the wall opposite the party has three closed iron doors. Belzon steps into the room while the others wait outside, silently moving to inspect the hourglass. He reads to the others, “In the palm of my hand, is the time left to thee, when it is consumed, will the flame set you free.” Belzon inspects the skeletons statues, which almost seem to be watching him, and the gargoyles. Nothing seems threatening. The rest of the party joins him in the room, and that’s when the door behind them slams shut and the sand in the hourglass begins to fall.

The party frantically searches the room for anything that might have triggered or changed. Kolbo approaches the center door on the other sides of the room and tries to force it open - it won’t budge. Thenn listens behind the doors for any sound, but hears nothing, only the blazing fire in the center of the room. Meanwhile, the sand continues to fall. “That brazier probably explodes when time runs out, just like a fireball, if the fire sets us free,” Kolbo ponders aloud, straining to open a door. Grayven looks closer at the skeletons and finds that they have gems in each outstretched hand - a ruby, sapphire, opal, and emerald amongst them. All the while, the sand falls. Belzon offers that maybe the party needs to destroy the gems to be set free. He carefully grabs the sapphire gem from one skeleton’s palm… and nothing happens. He throws the gem into the fire and the hourglass stops as the northeastern most door grinds open. The sapphire reappears in the skeleton’s hand.

Before moving on, Thenn decides to investigate the chest further. He begins to open it and notices a small lever by the inside hinge. Pressing down on it with his dagger, the half-elf thief opens the chest without triggering the trap, only to find an empty wooden bottom. Realizing this is a false bottom, Thenn knocks around on the chest and finds a panel in the back, discovering a deck of tarokka cards, two health potions, and a number of spell scrolls.

The party walks through the northeast door to find a staircase leading up. They walk up for about a hundred feet before Kolbo declares that they’re probably getting too far from their objective. He suggests that they return to the brazier chamber.

The party returns and tried each gem, realizing that the different colors correspond to a different door, the party checks all the doors and proceeds through up the stairwell that appears to take them up only 20 feet. They find a rough cut tunnel, the stonework sickens Kolbo, heading to the east. The party narrowly dodges a false floor trap and then enters the catacombs themselves. Waist deep mist shifts and swirls as the party walks through and the ceiling itself seems to move - the demihumans infravision indicating hundreds of bats. The makes out a few names in the crypt, Countess Dilisnya and Isolde Yunk, and Kolbo wisely suggests to Trayven that they not open any crypts.

The party finds a cold iron portcullis on the northern wall and working together, they lift it and enter a misty tomb. Inside they find they find three alcoves, all with what looks like a woman-raven hybrid standing watch in the far back. Two of the alcoves have a marble coffin, while the third looks as though the coffin was dragged out some time ago. There is a tapestry on the west wall with a young man playing the lute and surrounded by fairies and a unicorn. An inscription on the east wall notes that this is the tomb of Sergei von Zarovich.

Kolbo steps over to the middle coffin and thrusts the cover off with his mighty dwarven strength. It tumbles to the ground revealing it to be empty. Kolbo steps over to the side coffin and begins to push, but the cover won’t budge. Kolbo pants and whispers audibly, “Gosh, what do you want from us!?”

An ethereal voices emanates throughout the chamber, the voice of a young, pained man. “It has been centuries since any have summoned me. Be warned! My brother’s tomb is guarded by powerful magic. Take up yourselves the Bright Blade in my tomb and with pure heart undo the kinslayer.”

Kolbo recalls that tarokka reading from a week ago, and how the reading spoke of Strahd’s brother and the purity he would require. “Only the pure of heart can open this tomb, but I’m not strong enough on my own.”

Belzon steps forward to help Kolbo, and as the elf grabs the coffin cover, an arc of crackling lightning jumps from the tomb, searing his arms. He runs backwards, patting his smoking sleeves - the burns are bad enough that he quaffs the party’s final healing potion.

Thenn and Beetlebottom help Kolbo move the cover, revealing a dusty skeleton in gleaming, perfectly clean plate mail. Resting across it’s chest is a broken lute and a golden sword hilt, with no blade. Kolbo curses aloud as he picks up the hilt - all this effort and exploration for nothing. He sets the hilt down on the side of the coffin and begins to remove the plate mail for Ioana.

The hilt begins to oscillate, and shake. It springs off the coffin and flies towards Thenn, replacing the hilt of his own sheathed sword. The half-elf draws the blade - the once dull steel now revealing the pale blue glow of glasteel. Thenn had the sunsword blade the whole time…

Fully equipped, the party decides to achieve their second objective before confronting Strahd - destroying the black heart beating in one of Ravenloft’s tall spires. The party back tracks and takes a winding spiral staircase up for over a hundred feet. They walk through a door to find a study filled with books, couches, and a blazing hearth. In the corner is a rotting corpse just barely standing. Belzon sneaks over and backstabs the zombie - but it keeps standing. The elf notices a gold chain around its neck and removes the amulet. The corpse collapses to the ground, relieved of its burden, and Belzon inspects the amulet, finding a red gem, symbols of truth and light, and a sun blazing motif. The party decides that Thenn should wear the amulet.

Rifling through the stacks of paper, the heroes find a few documents of note - a balok translation of the Great War’s history by someone known only as “S,” as well as a genealogic tree of those descended from a Sturm von Zarovich.

The party continues through the southern door and finds a cobweb filled dining room. In the center of the table is a lopsided, rotten wedding cake with only a bride atop it. The party heads east and finds another spiral staircase to ascend.

The party walks onto a landing a finds a portrait of a portly bearded man staring back at them. The portrait’s jowls roll as he says, “You aren’t supposed to be here.” A rainbow spray of color shoots out from his mouth, incapacitating everyone but Trayven. The half-elf looks around shocked and starts throwing his darts at the portrait. The portly man yelps with pain and then calls out, “Strahd, you have intruders.” The portrait makes another gesture and Trayven is held in place.

The portrait just stairs at the heroes for a few minutes and tries to make idle conversation, “How many portraits does it take to screw in a light bulb.”

Thenn and Belzon awaken before the portrait can finish the incantation of another color spray and quickly eviscerate the painting. Kolbo soon awakens and the hold on Trayven is broken. The party hears the soft tap of footsteps walking up the staircase behind them.

The party flings open the door to their left to throw off their pursuer, seeing a bedroom before they dash up the stairs. The sound of footsteps follows.

On the next landing, Belzon throws open the door to see what’s inside, finding a room with shattered furniture and claw marks all over. Trayven says, “Noooooope,” and the party runs up the next flight of stairs. The sound of footsteps follows.

The party ascends to the top of a watersoaked tower, thunder roaring and sheets of rain pelting the heroes. Thenn and Kolbo recognize the towertop from their last expedition to Castle Ravenloft - the heart of darkness is just ahead, across the bridge in the other tower. The sound to footsteps draws closer.

The party scrambles into the dry safety of the next tower, the patter of rain replaced by the sound of a beating heart. The party’s rings of continuous light dim significantly as they enter. Before the heart can do anything treacherous, Belzon dashes up the stairs and quaffs his entire potion of fire breath. As he exhales, a stream of searing fire shoots forth, shriveling the squealing heart.
On the top of the other tower, Kolbo, Thenn, and Trayven watch as Count Strahd ascends the final step. Lightning reveal his grimacing face, “What are you doing?”

Session Loot: The Sunsword!, Sergei’s Armor, a tarokka deck with alchemical and magick glyphs on the box, 2 healing potions, scrolls of protection from magic, raise dead, restoration, flame strike, and dispel evil.
Session XP: 28,000

Friday, 13 November 2015

[actual play] Kingdom Death - Lantern Year 10 - The Stranger

The King's Man had slaughtered many of the best of the tribe, and with Alcestis in her hovel, preoccupied by the events of the battle she had survived, Aiakos, one of the last remaining tribe founders, led Atlanta, Antigone and Aella out to hunt a large lion. If they were to survive they needed a big kill.

Out in the wilderness they came upon a bubbling black cauldron, where Aiakos and Atlanta fed. He found that his skill in the sword was somehow improved, but that he was also now more keen than ever to find the lion. Atlanta herself was now more hungry than ever.

Further on the found signs of their quarry, recovering claws of their prey. Their pursuit of course had got the attention of the lion. It had their scent.

Onwards they travelled, and at a strange statue Atlanta stood and gazed. In a bust of light she was gone, nothing more than shredded flesh and broken bones. In her place a man stood, Aeneas. He met the others, bearing her armour and weapons, and explained that he was a skilled warrior with whips and the Atlanta was no more. It was confusing, but Aiakos was in no place to complain, given that their tribe was mainly women, this replacement would make things easier.

As they rested, in the dark they heard the lions in heat roaring for their mates, and it was maddening to hear. But onwards they travelled, and soon they found the lion.

Surrounding the beast, Aella took the brunt of the attack with her shield, as Aeneas struck a crippling blow to the beast (I also forgot about this persistent injury... sigh). The battle continued with, with Aiakos displaying his expertise with the scrap sword.

Even as the lion dragged Aiakos away, the others were able to take advantage of their fighting prowess and weapons and armour. The lion was severely injured, but in turn it powerfully swiped at Aella, sending her and Aeneas sprawling across the ground. But Aella was able to return fire with her bow, as Aiakos continued to attack the beast from the rear (perfect hits letting him attack for a grand strength of 8, and so wounding on 2+!). 

The beast was heavily injured an bleeding, and with the help of Aiakos, the final wounds were dealt to the beast, as Aella and Aeneas and Antigone were able to preempt the beasts counter attack.

Returning to the settlement, a strange maw opened in the ground, but the settlement choose to ignore it. Instead the focus was on new weapons and armour, and innovations, all in preparation for the next hunt. The tribe also was blessed with the birth of twins. A hunting party was gathered again, and more of the lantern horde dimmed. An even larger Antelope would be their quarry, for more was needed to prepare the tribe for the return of opponents like the King's Man.

So this hunt went really easy. Shields, full sets of armour, and various weapons are playing crucial roles. Also damn I forgot a lot working in my favour, like the chance of keeping survival points for those wearing the raw hide armour set, or the fact I crippled the lion and on a roll of a 1 or 2 each turn it would brain fart. Hopefully the combination of armour and weapons and gear will help deal with a level 2 antelope. The King's Man was obscenely hard, so hopefully the Antelope will be easier now.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

[actual play] Kingdom Death - Lantern Year 9 - The King's Man Cometh

Achillis, bearing his twilight sword, Alcestis, Abas, and Anius, headed out to hunt, only to come face to face with one of the sinister armoured figures that had some years back slain all their newborns. This time there would be no hiding or running away.

The King's Man awaited among the columns and the party sped forward, encircling the figure. They all darted in, striking to find some sort of weak point, but the warrior was able to deflect their attacks. Anius was beginning to get a sense of how the King's Man fought, but this newly acquired insight was short lived, as he was brutally slain, his chest being cut in half by the halberd of the King's Man.

The warrior continued, striking quickly, with Abas and then Alcestis learning the King's Step. But it would not be enough. The monstrous figure erupted acid which maimed Abas, as Achillis cowered behind his shield. The group would strike, run, and strike again, looking for a gap, until Abas was brutally injured, bleeding to death from his injuries.

With only Achillis and Alcestis left, the fight continued. They were able to wear down the warrior, with Alcestis often setting up openings for Achillis. But the Achillis, in an attempt to learn how to fight the armoured figure, had his left foot hacked off. He then gave his life as Alcestis was able to strike with her paired lion katars.

As the King's Man fell dead, Alcestis was gripped with pain. She convulsed, her ribcage exploding outwards, shredding skin and pulling her organs free, before reforming and twisting into plated metal. He breath was now cold and hollow. And she looked down in horror as she realized the nature of what she was becoming. She took up the King's Man's steel sword, and returned to the settlement. She hid her disfigurement, and led her tribe to recover their fallen friends. They collected their armour and weapons, and feasted on their bones.

Looking to hunt and train those who had yet to hunt, to ready themselves for the next King's Man, Aeson was tasked with acting as a white lion, as Asterion stalked him. Their play was to teach the ways of the hunt. But in a freak accident, Asterion fell on Aeson's clawed glove, and died. It was another person to feast upon. What skin and hide was recovered was used to create more armour. And in this darkest of times, the tribe was learning the joy of each others company. Romance was blossoming.

As Alcestis lurked in her hovel, marvelling at her new metal armour, Aiakos readied a new hunt. A lion would be their prey.

The King's Man is a enemy of no comparison. You need speed and planning to grind through the Battle Pressure hit locations, which are auto fails unless you have the King's Step - which is not learnt without risk. Basically this fight will cull your tribe.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

[actual play] Kingdom Death - Lantern Year 8 - The Hero of Another Time.

Knowing that the Phoenix was out there, somewhere, in the dark, Aeolus, Aeacus, and Abas set off with one of the youngest hunters, Antandre.

The gear is racking up.

It was as they were walking through the endless plains that they came upon something unnervingly familiar. It was a settlement. But this one was filled with skeletons. There was little to recover save for the founding stones that the survivors clutched.

Onwards the hunters walked, and something felt strange. Memories were fading, and as they looked about, seeing injuries and scars fade away, as too did Antandre. And along with that all memory of her were gone.

The remaining three hunters trekked on, and came upon  field of rotten faces. The faces under foot squelched and burst, and Aeacus and Aeolus were unlucky to lose their boots (so both hunters now had incomplete armour and lost their bonuses - bugger!).

Resting along the way Abas and Aeacus shared a vivid nightmare, or perhaps a premonition. The next day had the hunters waylaid by a fierce wind, sapping their strength and allowing their quarry to escape.

Still the hunters journey, and rested before a faceless statue before finding something Aeolus has not seen in 8 lantern years. It was the site where he, Ariadne, Arachne, and Aiakos faced lion after they had first awoken. The others had only ever heard of this place in stories.

And so they marched on, and Aeacus was struck by lightning. The storm raged as overhead the phoenix flew, landing on a tree in the distance. 

Aeacus, armed with his katars, was able to strike with accuracy, thanks to the cat's eye charm that Abas carried.

The phoenix was able to retaliate, sending Abas flying with a burst of air sent forth from its massive wings. 

The phoenix was an unusual opponent, teleporting and attacking and sending the survivors flying in all directions. By spreading out, they were able to surround the creature and strike. Aeolus, bearer of the Twilight sword, tried in vain to hit the beast.

Battered and bruised, and the phoenix also wounded, the survivors felt time change around them. Armour was repaired, and wounds healed. The phoenix also shrieked and blazed back to life.

Thanks to Aeacus and Abas, and the founding stones they had recovered, the phoenix was severely wound, shattering its beak. The giant bird seemed dazed, and the luminous wings flickered, loosing their inner light.

It was then that something strange happened. The phoenix looked into Aeolus's eyes, and the bird blazed with a mystic aura. His name, his identity was gone. But he gained a level of knowledge of the beast, and could feel how the monster would act.

Abas, emboldened by the injuries inflicted to the phoenix, attacked with his great axe. In return, the monster was to strike. It blazed, ready to materialize, and as it did, something went wrong. The creature appeared, but upon its back. It tried to attack again, and the same happened. It was stuck, and the survivors struck.

The frequent attempts to teleport had caused the phoenix all manner of complications, saving the survivors for its wicked attacks. The man who was Aeolus was able to use these openings, and so was able to begin his mastery of the Twilight sword. It was Aeacus, fighting like a lion, who slew the phoenix.

Arriving back in the settlement, laden with their hard won bones and organs from the phoenix, Aeacus was haunted by memories of battle. His madness was troublesome, and rather suffer, the settlement cast him out. In the darkness he did not last long, and his body was scavenged.

The man once known as Aeolus was renamed, dubbed Achillis. New armour and a shield was fashioned for him. The tribe was also blessed with a birth, the child being named Anius. He grew strong, and by the end of the lantern year he was ready to hunt. But on leaving the camp with Achillis, Alcestis and Aiakos, the hunters were met by a familiar form. It was a King's Man.