Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ethan's Journal - 8 Rhaan 998 YK

This dagger is exquisite. The balance perfect, the tip sharp. Even the blade, normally dull on a dagger, has a razor's edge to it. The hilt and crosspiece are intricate in their design and the jewel in the pommel must be priceless. I've never seen anything so beautiful, expect Larien, but that's different. Surely this dagger was crafted by a Master Artisan of House Cannith! Olladra has shone her light upon me to bless me with such a gift. I will call it 'Nibbler' for it's ability to strike through my enemies defenses.

It bothers me that Jonathon dismisses the find of the dagger so easily. Tower Spit! Does he not know what a treasure such as this is worth to me? Likely not, he grew up with dwarven craftsman and has seen weapons like this his whole life. Well it matters not what he thinks. Nibbler is an upgrade from the rusty blade I was using previously. I'll need to speak to Sterling about proper care and maintenance of such a weapon. He's always fussing with his equipment so surely he'll have some pointers for me. Perhaps I'll even get a closer look at the blade he claimed.

Jonathon's criticism aren't without merit. While my companions and I lived through the day, one of the people Eranin sent us to save did not. I hope he does not subtract this death from the gold he has paid us. Delian and Jonathon have come to words over this. Delian faulted Jonathon for his rash actions. For going in when the rest weren't prepared and for not having a plan. Yet, I can't fault Jonathon. He acted and followed his principles. My own instincts are to act, to just get the job done. Yet, I can't help but wonder if a plan might have aided us.

Another possibility tugs at me. I wonder if my own skill isn't up to the task. I had that one thug dead to rights! Six take me, but my shot should have dropped him. He didn't even see me. My bolt hit home between his ribs. It should have killed him. Instead he raised his halberd and killed that poor man. Delian and Jonathon are busy pointing blame at one another, but I fault myself. I feel that I have much to offer, but that I'm always falling short of what's required of me.

The bear we encountered in the caves was a terrifying sight! Ogre's Eyes, I thought Bug Bears were bad, but this beast was colossal! Braddoc's plan of dropping the gate on the creature was genius. As I reflect back on the encounter I realize that I was gripped with fear and for several moments was unable to act. My hands still shake as I think of it. I'll need to mask this trembling lest the others question my abilities. I can't let them know how truly terrified I was, this group is as close to a family as I've known. I don't want to loose them, I don't want to be cast out.

My thoughts now turn towards Delian's speech to the group. His words were harsh, yet he spoke with such conviction. I'd always heard that those who followed the Silver Flame were steadfast in their beliefs, perhaps this is an example of that. I wonder though if Delian isn't trying to subvert Jonathon and the Sovereign Host. My limited knowledge of the Silver Flame is that they don't have time for many other beliefs. I'll have to pay closer attention to what Delian says. It's all fine and well to believe in something, but not if it sabotages our group!

I also think I'm going to need to learn Dwarven! It angers me that Jonathon would insult the rest of us by speaking openly to Braddoc in a manner the rest could not understand. Clearly they shared some jest at the rest of our expense! Jonathon tries to live a life of honour, always quoting how this deity or that deity influences his actions. Then he deliberately slights us. If he has something to say, he should say it so that we can all hear and understand it. I know that Larien would never do such a thing.

Such thoughts tire me. Though I enjoy this new freedom I've discovered and I yearn for the next new adventure. I have come to realize that life was simpler back at the guild house. When all I needed to worry about was cleaning the stables and unloading freight. I'm afraid those days are gone for good. I miss them in a way, I realize I've lost some innocence. Though my life has never been easy, I'd managed to find a place. Now as we travel I question whether I'm up to the task, if the road Olladra has placed me on is right for me. I suppose I'll just have to trust and to do my best.

Delian's Observations -- 8 Rhaan, 998 YK

The battle in the caves is over. The slavers have been killed and the townsfolk have been freed. The party has searched for clues, treasure, and information. During that time Delian has been quiet. He’s deliberately kept out from underfoot of the rest of the party, deliberately avoiding them. It’s not until everyone exits the caves that Delian finally address the group.

What are we doing? We’re six strangers forced to work together. We are together because of a shared desire to bringing some good into the darker recesses of the world, and of course to pay back a shared debt. We’ve been a “party” for over a month and we’re still acting like strangers. Our performance here today was a disgrace. I’m embarrassed at our performance.

Each of us brings a different skill-set to the group. We need to watch each other and learn how our companions operate. Everyone has a role to play and we need to be crystal clear on what that role is. That’s not to say that these roles are inflexible. Quite the opposite, we each need to know our role and ensure that we are fulfilling it yet understand that there will be situations where a more non-traditional approach is warranted. But the non-traditional approach needs to be the exception and not the norm.

We need to act as a single unit. Ever since we left Black Pit and headed for the mine we’ve all been doing our own thing. No one seems to be paying attention to what anyone else is doing. We need to act as one group with one plan. Not six individuals executing six different plans. When circumstances permit, we need to discus what we are going to do and then stick to the plan.

I’ve been watching this party and I can’t believe some of the things I’ve witnessed. I was content to mind my tongue and not criticize, but through my inactions this party has taken multiple beatings and an innocent man was killed. I refuse to remain silent any longer. If my criticisms will act as a slap in the face and force this party to wake up then I won’t hold back.

When it comes to exploring there are two scouts in this party: Ethan and Larien. Ethan has demonstrated his ability to move undetected, perform reconnaissance, and open locks. Larien has demonstrated her ability to move stealthfully and her keen senses have detected sights and sounds before any of the rest of ours. Everyone else, me included, is wearing heavy, metal armor. None of us should even be attempting to be part of the silent minority. Each step we make is loud and clumsy. Our place is well back of the scouts, not at their side ruining any chance of gaining an advantage through stealth. And to the scouts, you need to stick together. Wandering off alone without informing the party of your intentions is a potential death sentence. The next time someone goes off on their own may be the last time we see them.

Our combat technique is also disgraceful. Some of us have formal training others have picked up what they can from the streets. We need to work at becoming a team during a fight. What I witnessed in the cavern was disgusting. The actions of some have put this party at risk. (Delain glares at Braddoc.) You dishonour yourself and this party by being selfish and narrow-focused during the combat.

Our chaotic approach to saving the townsfolk led to the needless death of an innocent man. (Delian scowls at Jonathon). I place his death on your head. I hope the Sovereign Host will forgive you because it will be a long time before I do. During the fighting you were so busy swinging your mace that you were unable to hear your friend’s cries for help. You need to be more mindful of the battlefield and use your healing magic to help those who are in the thick of battle.

So far we’ve been lucky. Perhaps we need to decide on a party leader. Discussion is fine but we need to know that once the leader has made a decision that the rest of the party follows that decision.

Based on what I’ve seen so far I think the leader should be Sterling or me. This is a decision that we all need to agree on or else it’s not going to work.

Janathon - Combat Related Info

Jonathon takes pride in the fact that he fights with honor and considers each battles a test from Dol Dorn. He tries to live his life in battle as he would at the dinner table. With distinction, class and a respect for his enemies.

He will rarely strike someone from behind, will in most cases move to protect women, children or other innocents from being attacked even if it means giving up some combat advantage.

While he won't personally say anything to other characthers for their combat tactics you may see him shake his head from time to time in disbelieve if someone steps out of a shadow to backstab someone.

Flanking is ok, but he is not a fan of other sneaky stuff in combat. As a player I understand that our overall combat effectiveness may suffer occassionally as I won't be in an optimal position to give the sneaky characthers their sneak dice.

Just sharing how I intend to play this characther to give him flavor.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Jonathon's Journal Entry - 8 Rhaan

Now that we have some time to rest I feel the need to journal.

Boldrei, please forgive me for failing in my duty today to protect the innocent slaves from the evil thugs that occupied the mines. I should feel good that we saved 3 of the 4. I should be raising a glass of ale and having a toast with my friends. I think it’s because we could have (and should have) saved all 4.

If only I had yelled at the party to get off their ass and stop checking bodies so we could reach them in time. Then, I wasted valuable time trying to talk with those scum. Dropping my mace was stupid. No more talking to scum like that. Next time, jumping into action is required. I had a moment to redeem myself, but failed a second time. If only I had hit with the Javelin that Dol Dorn had blessed with an Avenging Flame. My opponent’s duck out of the way from my first blow was a novice move that should not have fooled me. May the host look after his soul.

I need to be a little more direct with my friends and traveling companions when we are rushing to save someone. It’s been frustrating to watch the lack of enthusiasm with my friends when we have evil to slay. Perhaps this is a good time for me to practice leading by example and hope that some of my companions will see the way of light and honor.

Perhaps an additional prayer in my morning ritual dedicated to each party member will be a good start tomorrow morning. May the host bless my companions and I in our future missions.

The past week has been a tiring time. Three days ago we finally made it the Black Pit. After an encounter with a few slaves drivers in the inn we made our way to the mines. Another battle with slave drivers and Goblins. Which reminds me, I must sit down and chat with Larien about her hatred of Goblins some day. I can see it in her eyes. That hatred will drive her insane one day and I’m worried that she will be corrupted and turn evil. With my faith in the host, I can’t stand by and allow that to happen. She has a good soul and with the right words she can be shown the way. I’ll invite her to sit with me in prayer tomorrow morning after we break camp.

And then the encounter in the cave, which I’ve already expressed my concerns about. Our last encounter was extremely frustrating. We were trapped and no one seemed to be interested in deciding what to do as a group. We had plenty of time. Not sure what the rush was. In the end Braddoc, with a little luck from Olladra timed it perfectly and killed the bear by crushing it with the portcullis. Brilliant display. I must buy him a drink and the next town.
Until next time. May the host be with us.

Observations on an online gaming experience

This post is not about the technology used to play online and how it's working. Rather playing online and being 'removed' from the table provides an interesting perspective on how the party operates and makes its decisions. So this is a critique on some decisions we made as a party and as individuals during the gaming session. My intention isn't to single anyone out or offend, it's to open up some dialogue.

I'm going to start with the first encounter with the thugs and their prisoners. The way I viewed the encounter we had two options: 1) Skill challenge or 2) Combat. Rob who acted first in initiative went with option 1, though I'm not sure he approached it the way Jay was looking for. The rest of the party choose option 2. At the end of the encounter we were all still standing and only 1 slave was dead. I'll take it as a success. However, we could have been more effective.

The encounter with the bear was extremely frustrating from my perspective. Technology was lagging out my voice responses and all I heard from your end was everyone talking at once, all wanting to do something different. Again I saw 4 options available: 1) Sit and die (not likely going to happen) 2) Climb back up the cliff and lift the portcullis to escape 3) Riddle the bear with arrows 4) Open the gate and melee. Dropping the gate on the bear's head did not enter into my mind as a possibility and I will say it was brilliant. What frustrated me is when my turn came around I was asked "What does Ethan do?" I responded "nothing". Why? Because I didn't know what the party was planning. Everyone had a different idea and no one was making any decisions.

This caused me to think about how we make decisions as a party. My thoughts are that as a party we don't tend to make decisions. Or we don't make them very well. Our current process is to go around the table in initiative order and say "What do you do?" This allows the individual with the highest initiative to make the decision for the party, which is not the best way to make decisions.

What I would propose is two things: 1) Rather than go around the table and ask what do you do? We go around the table and ask what do you think we should do? Each player then gets to provide input as to what they feel the best way to handle the situation is. We try to be brief and we try not to interrupt others. Granted this won't always work or happen as Jay may indicate that we have 2 rounds to act or we are trying to be silent etc, but it is a starting point. This leads to idea 2) We need a party leader to then make the decision for the party based on the feedback of everyone. Then the party follows through with that plan.

Jay has said that he's taking it easy on us right now as we learn the system. However, once we hit level 2 he's indicated that the gloves are off. This has given us 10 encounters (1 still to be played) to learn the system, to learn our characters. Of these 10 only 1 has been completed as a skill challenge. Jay hasn't introduced minions yet and once he does there will be a lot more enemies to hit and we'll be taking much more damage. Which means we need to get our act together.

All this being said if the party thinks the idea I've laid out above makes sense then we would need a party leader, and a backup for when the primary is absent. Based on the characters created, their stats, backgrounds etc I would nominate Sterling or Delian as the party leader, with the other being the backup. I know my character certainly was not created for such a role.

My final point is about knowing what your character can and cannot do, along with what other party members can and cannot do. I'm going to use the final battle from Sunday for my example: At one point Delian moved to create a flanking opportunity. This opened him up to an opportunity attack, which he survived. When I saw this, I thought perfect I can move in to flank granting me Combat Advantage and an extra 2d8+2 damage dice. However, it wasn't my turn next and Braddoc moved into that position. Now I don't fault Dave for making that move. It granted him +2 to hit against the opponent. However, it denied me a lot of extra damage and forced me to move into a position that opened me up to additional attacks. As a rogue, I am a striker, I do a high amount of damage to a single target, that's my job in combat as I see it. However, I need combat advantage to do this. I think you'll all agree based on my crit of 37 pts of damage and consistent damage dealt in the low 20s that I do this fairly well. I also think you all want me doing that extra dmg rather than just d4+4.

Now, imagine if this had happened instead. Dave moved 1 square to the right, putting him adjacent to 2 mobs (where a defender should be!). He then does his combat challenge on the mob he attacked and makes his attack. Then I move down and make an attack doing a high amount of damage. If the target attacks me Dave gets to attack it as an immediate interrupt which would have likely killed the target. This sequence sees Derek's sacrifice being best used, my abilities being allowed to be used, and Dave's abilities being best used as Dave would have gained a 2nd free attack on the mob. If the mob had attacked Dave, well fine. He's got more hit points and AC than me, he's built to absorb damage.

Now my intention isn't to point a finger at Dave, I don't fault him for what he did (even though it frustrated me!) and it could be argued that this is what his character would have done based on the back story. I know I've made a few moves that were specifically in character that weren't the smartest and I the player knew that and the rest of the party may well have said wtf? I'm trying to RP the character through combat (hopefully not getting him killed in the process) so that the character can learn and grow. Fortunately, most of that is now done.

My point is for all of us to do 3 things: 1) really learn what your character can do, and make the most of all the action types especially minor actions. 2) Learn what the other players can do to create situations to maximize their abilities. 3) Pay attention in combat when it isn't your turn, because you still might be able to do something!

Ok rant off, I look forward to a healthy discussion.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Recap #3 - Into the Mine

An eerie silence falls upon the buildings outside the mine entrance.

However it is shortlived. A desperate call for help comes from inside the rough palisade beside the party. Opening the gate reveals a sole occupant who identifies himself only as Bart. He is weak, starving, and his arm is in a crude sling. He quickly assesses you as his rescuers and, bursting into tears, informs you that the rest of the surviving townsfolk are inside the mine. He begs you to act quickly and rescue them before their captures begin silencing them - permanently.

The party begins to heal up and does a quick search of the area to ensure that no more goblins or slavers are a threat. The search of the two barracks reveals some gold which the party quickly scoops up. Delian also finds a key upon the slain human guard. The key unlocks the door to the final building where the party finds a finely crafted dagger. Ethan claims the prize and soon learns it is known as a Duelist's Dagger +1.

Having healed and regrouped, the party ensured Bart would be safe on his own and joined Jonathon and Braddoc who were guarding the entrance to the mine. Jonathon's concern for the endangered slaves seemed to get the better of his senses and he proceeded to enter the mine ahead of his comrades. A few short steps in he heard the voice of one of the guards in the mine warning him to leave or the slaves would be executed. Jonathon's attempt at parley was met with a volley of crossbow bolts and the battle was on.

The party's attempt to quickly take down a guard near the terrified group of slaves was eventually successfulbut not before one of the slaves lost his life when he was nearly decapitated by his master's halberd. Questionable tactics aside, the group was able to overcome the 4 guards and rescue the remaining slaves. Or so they thought.

A quick exchange of information revealed that there was possibly one more slave within the mines. A rather bold - or foolish - slave named Salji had been sent to the "Pit" to test his fate with the beast within. None of the slaves knew the nature of the beast. They only knew that no one had ever been seen again once sent to the Pit. They begged the group to rescue or determine the fate of their friend. They claimed that it was Salji's temperment, hope, and encouragement that had kept them alive within this hell hole. If anyone deserved their freedom it was Salji. The group said they would do what they could. However they still had to deal with the taskmaster of the place as well.

With Larien and Braddoc in the lead the group proceeded down the tunnel. They soon came upon a wooden door on their left and a branched tunnel to the right. After determining that the door was not locked or trapped they opened it to discover yet another much larger more solid door about 20 feet farther up the tunnel. The group slid the barred door open and discovered a sloping floor ending in a black hole. Obviously they had found the Pit.

There was quite a lot of bickering about how to proceed at this point. The pit was about 25 feet deep so the group opted to tie off a rope to the large doors as well as disable them so they could not be blocked in from behind. As they all readied themselves near the edge Larien came running down the tunnel. She had decided to guard the branch in the mineshaft. Luckily (or unluckily) she made it to her comrades side just a a huge portcullis slamme down behind them and a small giggle was heard up in the darkness above them. It seems a Clay Scout was waiting for victims to the "Pit Trap". (Hahahah! I love the pun.)

It was not over though. A sudden diluge of water sent most of the party members plunged over the dropoff in a heap. Only Ethan was unscathed at the bottom and Larien's surefootedness allowed her to remain up above. They were now trapped in the Pit and had to face it denizens themselves.

Ethan's keen eyes found someone alive in the corner. It was Salji. He was starved and delirioius but alive. The party also discovered a large winch, a portcullis, and a sign that read "Best the Beast that lies within and win your freedom beyond." That was when the cave bear appeared.

The inexperienced party could not decide how to proceed. One of the members tried to clam the beast with food. An excellent idea except the creature had its eye on a much larger main course. Two of the members tried to shoot the beast through the bars. However it was difficult to hit and the beast - being in this situation before - retreated out of harms way to await an opportunity to catch its dinner. Another member decided the direct approach was the way to go and started raising the portcullis.

When the portcullis was high enough the bear charged. However Braddoc timed the charge and released the winch in time to drop the gate upon the beast's body. His well-timed blow killed the enemy. The party was free to enter the chamber beyond where they found a flaming longsword +1 upon one of the previous victims. Sterling claimed this prize.

Climbing the ladder on the far side of the chamber the group and Salji found a narrow passage that lead back to the entrance of the whole Pit affair. The clay scout calmy moved out of the way as they passed. The victors had earned their reward of freedom. Its job was to await the next victims.

Salji was able to make his way toward the entrance of the mine and meet up with his comrades. The party made their way across the tunnel to the other door they had discovered earlier. Ethan checked the door which seemed safe and unlocked. He was able to hear a faint metallic scarping from beyond. Bursting through the door the team was met by 3 snarling metal beasts known as Iron Defenders and their human master. Unfortunately the entrance to the room was crowded with a kiln, bellows, and a small well so the party had difficulty filling into the room. The human took advantage of this and cast Thunder Burst on the crowd which left several members hurt and dazed. He later followed with lightning that danced around the room striking 3 of the team. Dispite a couple tactical gaffs, the party was able to finally subdue their enemies and look around the room in detail.

It seems that this human mage/artificer was none other than Orile - the name mentioned in the note from Black Pit. This was the individual responsible for heading up the mining operation and enslaving the townsfolk. His death would not be mourned by many.

Among the tools scattered throughout the shop and the accompanying bedroom/shrine, the team found a number of magic items; 2 holy symbols +1, some Darkleaf armour +1, and a Vicious Battleaxe +1. Amongst the distribution discussion Ethan was able to locate a small box that contained a letter addressed to Orile and a fist-sized ring. The letter read as follows:


The ore you are supplying is satisfactory. I assume you have put the Iron Defender schema to good use. Ensure the supply line is not broken. My master does not take delays lightly.

I have a special job for you to complete.

A lone traveller is passing your way South from Crawar. He should pass the road to Black Pit in a week's time. This old human carries an item of great import to my Master. You are to obtain the item from him at any cost. Use this accompanying ring to indicate when and how you intend to accomplish this. If I do not receive a reply post-haste I will take matters into my own hands. An Iron Cobra schema shall be your reward. Failure is not an option.


With that the party prepared to leave the mines.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Braddoc Stoneshield

Braddoc was raised as the youngest son of the chieftan of the esteemed Stoneshield clan. Renowned throughout the Mror Holds for their courage and steadfastness, the Stoneshield clan was an established warrior family. Braddoc grew up listening to tales of how his ancestors turned the tide in many a battle by standing their ground and not wavering in the face of overwhelming odds.Eager to live up to his family reputation, Braddoc enlisted to fight in the Last War. In his first engagement there was a pitched battle against Karnnathi mercenaries. Part way through the battle, Braddoc's commander called for a withdrawal. Filled with tales of glorious steadfastness of his ancestors, Braddoc refused to follow orders. He stood his ground which forced his comrades to stay and cover him. Although his refusal to follow orders was bad, it was the insults to the courage and ancestry of his commander while doing so lead to his dishonourable discharge from the army.

In disgrace, Braddoc returned to his homeland. His father was furious with Braddoc and his insubordination, telling him he 'missed the point' of the stories and that he was too 'pig-headed' to stay. Braddoc was exiled from his clan home and told not to come back until he became more open minded and flexible and able to follow orders.Braddoc then wandered morosely through Khorvaire until he ended up in Sharn with the Clifftop Adventurers Guild. Around the guild Braddoc has a reputation as extremely dour, even for a dwarf. You guys are not so much his friends as the only ones that can stand being around him.You know his backstory, but it is coloured through his disgruntled eyes where he has no blame in the events that occurred.