Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Diamond Sky - Session 2 (22/07/15)

This week saw one of the players (Salderban) leave us temporarily whilst he goes on holiday, but we were joined by another new player to replace him, so party numbers remained at five.

Bullywugs go to war - courtesy of WotC

The Party:

Karik (?) - Sorceror
Rhogar (Dragonborn) - Warlock
Skins (Kobold) - Barbarian
Torric (Human) - Bard
Zook (Gnome) - Ranger

Whilst the four companions watched what was happening at the cave and discussed what they were going to do with the captain when they got back from investigating the distant combat, one of the former slaves edged away from the rest of his companions and rooted around on the now broken and deserted sky-ship for a few items that may come in handy at a later time and place.

Skins and Zook were the first into the fray, their axes and swords carved crimson swathes through the
amphibious and insectoid enemy; their chosen enemy was no longer the warband of towering 5' tall frog men but also their attendant fire beetles. Torric began to sing a ballad to magically aid his companions whilst Karik hung back with his loaded crossbow at the ready.

The beings, now recognised as bullywugs, had encircled the fire-headed bronze dwarf and began to strike at him in earnest, but upon contacting the warrior their heads burst into flame. This great loss of batrachian life caused the rest of their companions to turn tail and flee, but the party managed to overcome and dispatch the remainder before they made it back inside the cavern. Skins and Zook cut the firestones from the beetles for later use.

The dwarf took up position before the cavern in front of the party. He introduced himself as Krokdahk Oxar; the prenom being his rank of chief mason as translated by Karik and Zook. Skins stepped forward to shake hands with the now recognisable metallic construct but burned his hands before he could pull them away from Oxar's purposefully light grip.

At the same moment, there was a great roar from the distant volcano and it began to erupt with fire and brimstone. Oxar suggested that the party followed him if they wanted to leave the magnarock alive. The adventurers unanimously agreed and Torric ran swiftly back to the captain to tell him that they were going to aid Oxar and then come rescue him and his remaining crew and passengers. As the party entered the cavern, they failed to spot a sixth shadow slip silently in behind them.

Oxar led the small band of explorers into the mountainside through a great pair of brass valves. The gigantic chamber beyond seemed to resemble a huge workshop or factory with great walkways and tunnels leading off all over the place. However all the finery of the machinery was off-set by the air of disuse.

The party passed through a second, smaller door into a further chamber full of caskets that contained many brass body parts. Oxar introduced them in his gruff language as "Father". Many further doors led off from this chamber into what looked like living quarters; enough rooms for a whole settlement. Oxar did not stop and led them further into the mountainside settlement but the air was laden with the doom of many deaths. Scattered about the chambers were the bodies of many of Oxar's kin as well as many half snake-half man creatures that were recognised as salamanders.

The flame-headed dwarf finally came to a halt at a fourth chamber that contained two large conveyer belts that ended above two deep holes. A great door between them blocked any further progress. Oxar moved towards the hatch wheel that locked the great door but halted, as did the rest of the party as they heard in the distance the sound of many flopping feet approaching. Oxar growled at the party to hide whilst he took up a defensive stance in front of the final door. Skins and Zook made ready next to him but Torric and Karik found the darkest of corners. Nobody noticed in the kerfuffle the trailing shadow take up position in the darkness beside one of the entrance doors.

A large patrol of bullywugs marched past the entrance without looking into the room, obviously bent on going somewhere in a hurry and would not have stopped until Zook launched an arrow at them. This caused the amphibians and their large fire snake companion to turn into the chamber and attack the party. As the first few enemy warriors passed over the threshold into the room Skins threw his hand axes at the following rank felling one of them whilst Zook carried on shooting arrows into the midst of the front rank. Torric chanted to spur on is companions and sewed confusion into the ranks of the enemy whilst Karik looked for a way out at the great hatch door end of the chamber.

As the second wave began to enter the room the shadowy shape emerged from behind the door and a great wave of fire was launched at the incoming bullywugs. This surprised not only the bullywugs but also the party. However, the greatest surprise was on the bullywugs as the great fiery breath dealt death and destruction amongst their number. Seeing that the dragonborn seemed to be a friend, the rest of the party concentrated on the bullywugs and their snake companion rather than worry about who the reptilian was, but Zook recognised him as one of the ex-slaves from the sky ship.

Whilst the combat erupted around the chamber, Karik tried the great door to see if he could escape. He did not have the strength to turn the great hatch wheel so he jumped up onto one of the stationary conveyor belts and wriggled through the chain curtain into the room beyond. The room was full of various wonders but what grabbed his attention most was the vast amount of potions and precious stones. He stuffed a couple of handfuls of the processed stones into his pockets and went about testing some of the small vials. One particular group of the potions contained within a box upon a side table seemed quite familiar to him so he grabbed a few and made his way to the back of the door to see if it could be opened from that direction. He had just as much luck on that side of the valve so, after pulling 3 levers beside the door, he decided to return to the fight.

Inside the conveyer belt chamber the fight was not going well for the party; Oxar had fought the fire snake to a standstill whilst the party slowly mopped up the bullywugs with their combined magical and martial prowess. Unfortunately, numbers began to tell and the party slowly succumbed to their wounds. When they heard the whine of turbines come from beyond the door they were fighting to protect, Oxar swore an oath and redoubled his efforts against the snake.

Looking over his shoulder, Karik saw that a great cauldron in the centre of the room had begun to bubble with clear liquid whilst great fans in the ceiling began to blow cool air into the room. At the same time, the conveyor upon which he was standing began to move him back into the room he had just left.

Skins was very badly injured and extricated himself from the melee he was in in order to try to lick his wounds and rejoin the combat at a distance whilst the fresher Rhogar, the dragonborn, covered his retreat. Torric and Zook held their own and dealt out more damage from a distance whilst the combat between Oxar and the snake remained in deadlock.

Just as Skins thought all was lost, Karik came through from the far room, stood upon the moving conveyer belt. He caught the small vial that was thrown at him, pulled the stopper and drank the contents at the signal from Karik. He felt better very quickly as the magical Healing properties of the liquid coursed through his veins. Following his lead, the others who had been thrown a vial followed suit.

Karik rode to the end of the conveyer belt, leapt off and then removed one of his gloves which revealed a pallid, thin white hand. From this hand shot a Ray of Frost, which struck the fire snake and turned the combat in favour of Oxar. It was with a renewed vigour that the rest of the party rejoined the combat and swiftly put paid to the remnants of the bullywug patrol and their fire snake compatriot.

Torric quickly leapt onto the serpent and removed its poisoned fangs whilst the rest of the party collected their spent arrows and axes, and tended to their wounds. Oxar opened the door to the chamber beyond and led them into the now cold interior. He pulled the levers back into the opposite position to which Karik had pulled them.

With a grunt, he led the party back through the chamber where the combat had just taken place and headed off in the direction that the bullywugs were taking before they were ambushed by the party. He led them through a mine where more dead dwarfs and snake-men lay. Scattered around the huge chamber were huge piles of unrefined jet - a small sample of which was now sitting in Karik's pockets.

Finally, the last corridor opened into a huge chamber that held over one hundred bullywugs that appeared to be worshipping a tall, skinny, old elf with a ring around its neck that held four beings at the end of chains attached to it. The bullywugs were in awe of the elf and as a result failed to spot the party arrive.

There were two exits from the large chamber; to the right was a stone path and bridge that led towards the volcano and opposite was a brass lift with the insignia Azroc (ship) inscribed above it. The party decided to split at this stage but just as they began to move, the elf's speech reached a crescendo and the bullywugs began to rapidly leave the chamber via the bridge exit.

With only the old, skinny elf and his four attendants left, the party advanced amongst the shadows towards the raised dais upon which he was stood. Rhogar created a diversion with a Noise cantrip, but one of the beings attached to the elf via a chain was not fooled. The old elf undid his collar, left the small band on the dais, and moved off towards a table and began to read a book laying thereupon; he began giggling to himself.

The female half-elf that had previously spotted the party began to work on her chains whilst the party advanced upon the elderly elf. Torric crept up behind him and grabbed him firmly by the throat. Skins unpacked his rope and tied the villain up with it. Meanwhile, the female half-elf had been able to free herself from the chain and had found a dagger from somewhere. She walked over to the elderly elf with menace in her eyes. Torric asked if this was what she really wanted and without saying a word, plunged the dagger into the old elf's neck, killing him instantly.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Diamond Sky - Session 1 (15/07/15)

Well, here I go on a whirlwind of adventure into the realms of D&D Fifth Edition. I attended the RP Haven for the first time in 10 months on Wednesday last week to start playing in a new campaign. Along with the DM, there were three other permanent players and one player who may or may not come back after his holiday (I hope he does as he was also an occasional player at the table during my long stint as DM of the Doggerland campaign).

The first session of almost every RPG game I play in involves the task of rolling up a new character and fleshing it out. This time round was certainly no different and the diverse nature of the characters is fantastic; plenty of scope for inter-character banter and hopefully they will make for some funny, memorable moments (there certainly have been so far although I tend to write my summaries a bit more seriously than they actually played out).

The Party:
(with thanks to Rod for his character summaries below)
Salderban (Human) - Paladin of Doom. Currently sunk in a fugue when the end of the world failed to materialise as the party crashed landed onto the slope of an enormous magmarock instead of plunging directly into the active caldera
Zook (Gnome) - Ranger and explorer
Karik (?) - Taciturn, hooded and slightly odiferous man? of mystery
Skins (Kobold) - Eggbearer Barbarian, not currently bearing any eggs as far as we can tell
Torric (Human) - Singer, Dancer, Juggler, Entertainer. Bookings available. Hen nights a specialty

Although there was a palpable split of loyalties between the rag-tag band under the command of Captain Harlott and the well-heeled crewmen who seemed to show allegiance to the maester, things were calm between the two crew factions for several days after the passengers were picked up.

On the lower, passenger, deck of the sky caravel Caraway, the talkative, and fidgety Kobold, Skins chittered to those who would listen, in constant competition with Torric who was ever telling the small band of his colourful and self-satisfied life. Salderban usually kept himself separate on occasion and prayed to his god in order to save him from the oncoming doom of the world, but Karik was very reluctant to join in with the conversations going on and always sat alone on his bunk with his hood permanently obscuring his face and his gloves hiding his hands.

It was all going so well on the lower deck of the Caraway until the peace was shattered by an almighty explosion that emenated from the upper deck. The passengers were flung from their comfortable positions and looked around nervously. Shouts suddenly erupted from the crew above and the sound of steel clashed upon steel; a sure sign that combat had broken out. Several men from each faction stumbled down the stairs fighting for their lives.

Salderban, Torric and Skins took to the fight, supporting the brigand captain's crew over the better dressed soldier-like cohorts of the maester. Karik, true to form, began to extinguish the lanterns, which plunged the passenger deck into semi-darkness. This did not affect Zook the Gnome with his darkvision, and he made his way to the hold in order to see if he could find out what was down there.

The fight was not going well for the captain when Salderban arrived up top. Through the steam and smoke of a rapidly approaching magmarock (a floating volcano), he could just make out that he was backed up against the figure-head battling for his life against two adversaries, whilst the maester held sway on the deck. The maester shot off some Magic Missiles at the last remaining brigand crew member on the deck but was not prepared for the paladin, who cut him down with his great sword; his body toppled over the side rails of the floating sky ship.

Skins leapt onto the deck, over the shoulder of the paladin and began to lay about him with his axes. The mutineer's crew slowly backed away from the two fighters as the captain's crew slowly hauled themselves back onto the deck after being blown over the sides by the blast of magic that was the source of the big explosion.

Meanwhile, down below, Zook had broken into the hold and saw that there was maybe a score of slaves held within. It was at this point that Karik looked out of one of the port holes and saw something he hoped never to see. A full-grown red dragon and three younglings, one with the maester's body on its back, circled the sky boat and swooped in for the kill. He yelled to the others what he had seen and sprinted for the upper deck to warn all of the danger, but his yell was lost in the sound of carnage which was caused by the red dragon that ripped out the rear mast, which just narrowly missed him in his retreat from the safety of his dark hidey-hole.

When he reached the top of the stairs there was one of the measter's men positioned with his back to him but blocked his way. Karik let loose his crossbow bolt and stepped past the falling corpse. Skins nodded to his mysterious companion and sprinted for the front of the ship to aid the captain.

Torric, in the meantime, had spotted that one of the maester's crewmen had hacked away at the postern where the ship's wheel was attached. He struck down the crewman with a Magic Missile of his own and tried to bring the ship under control. The mess made by the crewman coupled with the residual damage caused by the dragon meant that the wheel could no longer turn the rudder. He called for aid, and saw that the nearest comrade was Karik; Salderban had dropped to his knees in a revelry of self-doubt and the obvious prospect of the end of the world.

Whilst Karik tied off a rope for Torric to use to descend over the side to investigate the damage done to the rudder, a couple of the captain's crewmen had managed to scramble aboard again and load up one of the ballistae that dotted the deck. They let fly and their bolt flew true, which seriously hurt the adult dragon and caused it to fly off in pain and anger.

Skins let fly with one of his throwing axes, which brought down the last of the captain's adversaries and returned the ship to his control. This gave time for Torric to free the rudder, which enabled Karik to turn the wheel, and thus the ship away from an imminent collision with the magmarock.

However, this was not enough and the ship ploughed into the side of the floating volcano just as Zook and the slaves made their way onto deck. Everyone was knocked off their feet until the ship slowly ground to a halt on the floating volcano. Torric, still attached to his rope that was dangled over the side did not fare well and he too ground to a halt face-first in the coarse pumice and lava stone.

As the remaining ship's crew and passengers regained their feet they saw that the wreck was only one of their current worries. The dragons could be seen circling the vent of the volcano and over the deck a few hundred yards in the distance they could see a bronze-skinned, flame-headed dwarf fighting a horde of frog-like beings.

The adventurers, after they had berated the captain for being a slave carrier, leapt over board to aid their companion. After a quick show of willingness, they decided to approach the fight that was going on before what they could now see was a cave mouth. The Abyssal symbol the frog-beings hung around their necks was a sure sign of whose side they should fight on.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Frostgrave - What's in the Box?

This took a little longer to get round to than I first thought. Wednesday saw my first gaming session back at the RP Haven (more on that tomorrow hopefully), and Thursday evening was taken up with my usual hill running stint with a couple of my running friends. Last night was just a relaxing night after a long week at work.

Anyway, onto the main point of this post - Frostgrave. When I heard a few months back about the Nickstarter that was happening in July I was immediately intrigued. Fantasy is probably my favourite genre for gaming as I cut my teeth on Dungeons and Dragons from way back in 1979, and have pretty much played or read it since. I have played a wee bit of historical gaming lately too, but fantasy does keep rising to the fore... Songs of Blades and Heroes, D&D, Dragon Warriors, Lord of the Rings:SBG, Savage Worlds and so on.

So, around April time I had my eyes open for a couple of tabletop skirmishing rules for fantasy that were due out soonish - Frostgrave (July) and Dragon Rampant (out December I think?). As mentioned in the previously post I have never succumbed to a Kickstarter but as this one for Frostgrave was only for a relatively small amount of outlay (depending on the level you enter the scheme) I took a good look. Rules and figures in a complete set for a reasonable price. I ummed and aahed and then jumped in right at the top level after a little encouragement from my wife.

So, what did I get for my £111.00 Level 5 Wizard pledge?

Here is what the whole pile looks like, sorted into a little order...

I received a grand total of one hardbacked rulebook, one softback book of Frostgrave short stories, a box of 20 plastic warriors to be used as henchmen, 6 resin basic treaure markers, 3 resin advanced treasure markers, 10 metal wizard miniatures, 10 metal apprentice miniatures, 4 sets of metal henchmen miniatures, a couple of extra metal miniatures as pledge goals, a badge and 3 small sheets of paper with download details.

Here is a better picture of the main components of the order; the good quality hard back from Osprey (better known for their range of military guide books) is the main rulebook and the softback to the left of the picture is a collection of short stories set in the world of Frostgrave (there is also a download available on one of the sheets mentioned above). The badge was a nice little surprise but the plastic soldiers were one of my main draws - so I can compare them to the plastic miniatures from other manufacturers that I have previously bought.

This is a picture of what was inside the figures box. There were 4 identical sprues each containing 5 warrior bodies and a great variety of weapons and accoutrements. I will have some fun putting these together. Also, each warrior comes with a separate plastic round base. The 9 items at the front of the picture show the 6 basic treasure markers and 3 advanced treaure markers made of a good quality resin.

Now onto the metal miniatures. Each bag contained a wizard and his/her apprentice. These represent the 10 classes of magic available. I am looking forward to seeing what these are and how they function.

Next up are the four sets of henchmen. The first set certainly nods towards the two Fritz Lieber characters Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. The other three sets include a variety of heavies and supporting cast.

The remainder of the box included the stretch goals. For my level of pledge I received an extra knight miniature, a representation of the Lich Lord (linked to the next set due out apparently) and a small metal treaure chest. The other knight miniature was a consolation figure for the Nickstarter falling short of the next stretch goal by only a few quid. Nick (owner of Northstar who commissioned the figures for this game) has come across as a great guy here and compensated those of us who had supported his venture by supplying a Crusader Miniatures knight with two handed weapon as a sweetener.
The final couple of items were two small sheets of paper that detail downloads for three screen savers for my computer and another book called Hunt for the Golem, which I am assuming is either another set of short stories or maybe a set of scenarios for the game. Hopefully, my next post will see me putting the minis together and prepping them for painting. I will also try to comment on the rules after a brief skim through and then after a proper read and first game.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Frostgrave Arrives

I recently indulged in my first pre-order game. I have not participated in any crowd funding schemes before but this new Nickstarter by North Star caught my attention. It was more of a pre-order system than a Kickstarter, but I thought I would give it a go.

 Frostgrave by Osprey Games
The new game book is written by Joseph A. McCullough and looked really interesting, so I jumped on board. The main reasons were that you got a ton of miniatures, a couple of books, some in-game markers; the beginnings of a tabletop fantasy skirmish system. The setting seemed quite interesting, so all this added together made me go for it whilst I was on a high for new gaming challenges (D&D was last month's purchase that will be played tomorrow night).

I opened the box yesterday but I did not get a real chance to go through its contents. I shall endeavour to do so tonight whenI get home fro work and give my thoughts on the product as well as the process.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Lullingstone Roman Villa

The weather was terrible this morning; it rained constantly from the moment we left the house for the kids' weekly Junior Park Run until the early afternoon. I have been doing the Saturday morning adult Park Run for just over two years and just recently they started up one for the under 14s, so it was a natural progression to take my two youngest along for a weekly dose of fresh air and exercise.

After returning home and getting showered etc. I decided I fancied going out and doing something with the family for the day that did not cost too much. My wife agreed and, as we are English Heritage members that narrowed down our choices and the weather did the rest. We wanted something that was indoors and not too far away. As we hadn't been to Lullingstone Villa for a few years, we decided to go there as it ticked all the boxes (inside, not too far away etc.).

The last time we went to this villa my youngest was just three years old, so this was like a new experience for him. As (bad?) luck would have it, the rain stopped just as we arrived and the sun came out. The air conditioned hangar the villa is situated in made for a different kind of refuge; rather than an escape from the rain, it proved to be an escape from the now hot and humid weather. Anyway, we had a great time looking at the ruins and running through the quiz sheets the youngest kids were handed, and then we watched the film about the site.

Basically, the first stage of the villa was built circa AD 100. A bath house complex and an extra north wing were added between AD 150 and 275, but the wing was then superceded by a heated room and kitchen complex in around AD 275 to 350. With the coming of Christianity, the villa went through one final phase around AD 360 where the latest version of the wing was converted to a house-church and a half-round apse was added to create an extensive audience chamber/dining room. The villa fell into disuse probably as the result of a fire.

We had a great time at the villa and I hope the kids learned something long lasting.

We have decided to try to get to a few more archaeological/historical sites over the coming summer holidays.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Dungeons and Dragons 5e - New Campaign

After a 10 month hiatus, I signed up for a new game at the RP Haven. As I had bought the D&D Starter Set when it came out, I thought I would put my scanty knowledge of the game to the test. I signed up for a brand new campaign that should be starting in a couple of weeks' time.

Diamond Sky - D&D 5th Edition

A long time ago all the races of the sky lived on the ground - not on nomadic floating islands called "Rocks". Everyone was a slave, bred from a mix of stock over the millenia, under the control of a powerful reptilian race known as the Old Ones. With each dynasty their Empires grew ever more powerful and with their mastery of magic they grew too confident. One day, the sun went black and darkness fell across the land. In this darkness a mighty evil came forth to claim the surface of our world. The Old Ones, reliant on the power of our sun, fled up the tallest mountains and took shelter from the wastes below whilst our slaves armies fought and died in an increasingly toxic atmosphere.

The Old Ones died out during the great eclipse. The warm-blooded stock races survived. All the remaining peoples - Dwarves, bred for construction - Elves, bred for pleasure - Beastmen, bred for war - discovered their own unique way of survival against the rising threat of the world below.

Now, with the power to maintain flight, the races have reestablished a civilization above the clouds. Entire cities are built on the biggest Rocks, whilst a single oasis might exist on another. Most Rocks float about on the winds without any external influence - called Nomad Rocks - whilst others are curated and guided by their inhabitants to become something of a gliding metropolis. 

Lost magic, swashbuckling jet-pack pirates, wind-based navigation, powerful gems and abominable monsters are what life has become in the world of the Diamond Sky.

As mentioned previously, this will be played using the new D&D 5e rules. So, as a diligent player I popped onto the interweb and purchased the new Player's Handbook. Rather than go to Amazon (who expected me to wait 3-6 weeks!) I found a new independent book company called Wordery who got it to me in 2 days with free postage (anywhere in the world). I suggest everyone maybe look them up for future purchases as they are also as economical as Amazon - in fact they are cheaper today (by £4!) than they were when I bought the PHB two days ago - aw, nuts!