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Saturday, 5th November, 2011, 10:00 AM #1
Defender (Lvl 8)
The Continuing Adventures of Korrigan & Co.
I am starting a new thread to pick up from previous posts in 'Our Party', which gives a profile of each character in the group, and details Sessions 0-1.
In this session, the strengths of the party generation method we employed really came to the fore. In our previous three-year campaign I had noticed how the rest of the players tended to defer to Tom (who plays unit leader Marshal Baldrey Korrigan) when making important decisions. Tom is a steady, methodical player with a sombre demeanour. I asked him if he would be interested in playing the actual party leader and suggested that he choose the tactical warlord.
Given the rationale of RHC membership that links the party together, I decided to ask the rest of the players to consider themselves (and their builds) as applying for a job. (This was in addition to the keyword element discussed in the first post of the Our Party thread.) Build-wise, each player needed to ensure that they had a good basic attack and that they were second-to-none at their rolls; the best that Korrigan could choose for his hand-picked unit.
It was great to see how the combination of role, player and mechanics has forged a genuine leader in Tom (who was previously reluctant to take on that responsibility). Marshal Korrigan is the perfect leader - very serious, moral and level-headed. The other players defer to him frequently (and compete to gain the extra basic attack each round by ensuring they are in position).
Here we have a bullet-point account of what happened in Session 2:
- In Stover Delft's office, the Danoran Minister for Outsiders, a young tiefling named Lya Jierre, presents the unit with a puzzle. Impressed by the speed with which they identify that the problem has no solution, she agrees that they are up to the job Delft has recommended them for:
- Duchess Ethelyn of Shale has invaded Axis Island, a Danoran stronghold in the Yerasol archepelago. Because Korrigan, Uru and Leon know the island - and because the unit were the last to interact with the Duchess - they have been assigned to accompany a Risuri naval task force with the intention of recapturing the island and handing it back to Danor. If everything goes according to plan, their role will be purely advisory and diplomatic.
- Boarding the RNS Impossible, the unit makes good speed for the rendezvous, discussing philosophy along the way with Captain Rutger Smith.
- They meet the infiltration team (Tanya, Letmas, Seven-foot Dan and Burton) whom they are to follow into action. The plan is to sneak onto the island through a sea cave leading to some mines. From the mines they must make their way on foot to fortress and open the sea gates, giving the naval task force access.
- Tragedy strikes in the form of a schism, and the infiltration team are killed. The unit sends the sole survivor (Burton) back to the Impossible with El Perro, and enter the sea cave themselves.
- In a mine at the end of the cave tunnel they encounter Nicolas Dupiers, a hysterical Danoran mine foreman. They subdue him and his elemental minions.
- Nicolas' strange powers are derived from three ancient golden icons that have been discovered in the mine. The unit approprioate the icons and persuade Dupiers to guide them. They call in El Perro.
- At the entrance to the mine they find evidence of a massacre. Many Danorans have died at the hands of the Duchess' fey allies.
- On the way to the sea fortress the unit encounter (and avoid) a headless iron golem, leaking a strange black fluid. They also come across a hidden site revealed by the golem's rampage. Leon expresses some interest in the place, but the unit simply mark it on the map and move on, prioritizing their primary mission.
- They reach the sea fortress and prepare to infiltrate it.
Last edited by gideonpepys; Saturday, 12th November, 2011 at 04:49 PM.
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Saturday, 5th November, 2011, 10:32 AM #2
Defender (Lvl 8)
Session 2 post-match analysis
Lya Jierre went down very well with the group. They liked her. (I can do a very elegant - and I daresay faintly alluring - French accent, it turns out, and presented Lya as both poised and equally admiring of the group due to their actions on the Coaltongue and immediate solving of the Three Towers puzzle. Turns out players love compliments!)
They also loved the infiltration team - particularly when I intimated that they would get to play the team later in that session. (I didn't actually say this, just rifled through some sheets for their stats while describing them.)
The philosophical debate with Rutger Smith was fun too: Malthusius (who is still not officially part of the unit) was a professor of philosophy and history at Pardwright University, called in as a consultant by the police and RHC on so many occasions that he eventually joined the RHC as an inspector 10 years ago. His player is enjoying the erudite detetive roll and has been at pains to develop the personal philosophy of his character (based on the teachings of Triegenes).
Rumdoom - our echatologist dwarf - has become something of a tragicomic mascot for the group with his zealous pursuit of 'good endings'. It helps that his player - without any prompting from me - decided during character generation that Rumdoom was terrified of water and of boats (which have featured heavily in every session...) He spent his first RHC stipend on a Floating Shield! He too joined in the debate with Smith.
Anyway... the players were shocked and taken aback when the infiltration team died (heh heh heh) and nervous about taking their place. The watery schism that caused the rockslide also had a strange effect on Marshal Korrigan whose rocky form (caused by an earth-schism on Axis Island during the last Yerasol war) began to periodically soften and react to this new influence. (More of which later.)
The encounter with Dupiers was disappointing on one level. Or rather, it disappointed me because I had such high hopes for it. The group didn't utilize the space as much as I had hoped and Dupiers dropped pretty quickly. Great bit of roleplaying here, though: Uru (our pacific-island fey assassin - a reskinned, hlafling-sized drow with filed-down teeth and batlike ears) hopped up to the top platform and - assuming Dupiers was a 'wizard' thanks to his elemental mastery began to stitch up the unconcious Danoran's mouth to stop him casting spells. Oh, how we laughed! Korrigan intervened just a little too late, so Dupiers had to conduct negotiations (when brought back to consciousness) through one side of his mouth!
Last edited by gideonpepys; Saturday, 12th November, 2011 at 04:26 PM.
Saturday, 5th November, 2011, 03:37 PM #3
The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)
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Crazy creepy cannibal halflings! I love it. And it's cool to hear about parties digging philosophical discussions.
Saturday, 5th November, 2011, 03:51 PM #4
Defender (Lvl 8)
Not much to report here: Action took up most of the session. They made no attempt to sneak to the lighthouse, choosing to bluff their way past any guards they encountered. The presence of a Danoran in their number, (party member Leon Veilleux, not Dupiers, who they dumped back at the mine) and their RHC uniforms, were capitalised on by the 'spokespersons' of the group, Leon and Marshal Korrigan. They were ready for action, and so was I, but kept acing bluff check after bluff check.
- Using a Passwall ritual, the unit gain access to the interior of the Fortress, and make their way to the sea wall.
- Finding the lighthouse area well-guarded, they cast a waterbreathing ritual and sent Uru, El Perro and Korrigan ahead to gain the advantage of surprise by approaching from the sea.
- An air elemental bound to Uru through the force of his Icon of Avilona steadied a rope for him at the foot of lighthouse.
- Malthusius set off Pyrotechnics, alerting the Risuri fleet of their impending success, and simultaneously giving the signal for the attack.
- The unit swiftly dispatched the lighthouse defenders; so swiftly, indeed, that Rumdoom complained.
- Uru opened the sea gate and disabled the mechanism.
- The unit then defended the lighthouse with traps and barricades as wave after wave of enemies crashed against it. They held out for ten minutes, whereupon the Risuri strike force swept into the harbour. Ships wizards, druids and riflemen swept the seawall clean of rebels and thousands of marines followed on transport ships. The secured the outer perimeter, and began constructing siege engines as the Duchess' troops fell back to the keep.
- Korrigan did not wish to rest, insisting upon honouring their promise to Lya Jierre, but received assurances that her cousin Nathan would be unharmed.
Saturday, 5th November, 2011, 04:03 PM #5
Defender (Lvl 8)
Session 3 post-match analysis
The players' conhesion as a unit really paid off here. The lighthouse encounter was dealt with very professionally. (I love it when a plan comes together.) Uru has the water walking ritual, so he and half the team took the seaward route to the base of the tower, handing a rope to the air elemental and surprising the guards on the wall. They stayed focused on the task in hand and got the gate open quickly.
Defending the Lighthouse was great fun too. We used the abstract rules as we have just come from the climax of a paragon tier game in which the players were controlling whole armies, so mass combat - while not something we normally eschew - wasn't an attractive prospect.
The players loved it.
I sent in an extra wave of rebel soldiers just before the Risuri ships arrived in the harbour, to make them sweat. But they were swept of the wall by loyalist artillery before they could breach the lighthouse.
Friday, 11th November, 2011, 04:30 PM #6
Defender (Lvl 8)
- The unit's recuperation was interrupted by an explosion on a Risuri ship, that presaged the arrival of an eladrin dreadnought: a fiery warrior who cut a swathe through the invading forces, dashed up one of the seige towers, killing all who opposed him, and leaped over the outer wall, dispatching dozens of the Duchess' soldiers too.
- An hour later - once the outer wall was breeched and the rebel forces had withdrawn to the inner wall - the unit was called to a makeshift brig where many captured Danorans had been imprisoned. They did not find Nathan Jierre among the many tieflings there, but they did secure the co-operation of a belligerent Danoran officer, learning how to approach the tower-observatory at the centre of the keep through either the sewerage system, or via the roof.
- Before they could pursue any of this, the 'fire monster' appeared again, darting over the rooftops. He used a powerful immurement to breach the inner walls and sped inside. With only seconds to spare, the unit followed, as the immurement failed and the wall closed behind them.
- The central tower was defended by a labyrinth of hedges. The fire-warrior had simply dashed across the top, setting light to the maze as he went. The unit could not follow so easily, and besides, their way was barred by the creator of the maze: a fey entity named Gillie Dhu, and his twig sprite allies.
- The unit defeated these creatures and found their way through the maze to the tower.
- Within, they found that the eladrin - an ancient fey warrior named Asrabey Varal - had cut down the Duchess' advisors and bodyguards and now stood over the badly injured Duchess. Cowering in a corner was Nathan Jierre.
- Before they were spotted, they learned that the Unseen Court had dispatched Asrabey to prove they had nothing to do with the Duchess' treachery by killing her themselves!
- The unit could not allow that to happen. Despite the apparently suicidal risk, they threw themselves at Asrabey.
- A quick but bloody battle followed. Many of the unit were felled. The decisive moment came when Rumdoom stood toe-to-toe with the eladrin, facing a 'good ending' at last. Faced with this prospect, and aided perhaps by the strange nature of Axis island, he found himself transported, not to another world, but to the icy end of this world. The intense cold damaged him and all those around him. Thankfully, though, Asrabey was now on his last legs, and this was enough to drop him.
Here, for the first time, we see some of the alterations I made to each encounter alluded to in the session report. I have a six-person party, and the characters are beefed up with an extra at-will and a DM bonus apiece. (More of which some other time.)
The Ghillie Dhu encounter needed some more oomph as a result, so I placed two non-evil twig blights (or 'twig sprites') in the maze.
Other simple changes from earlier in the adventure included allowing Sokana Rell to summon several waves of fire sprites instead of one; adding an extra rebel soldier to the lighthouse encounter - fairly basic stuff.
The highlight of this part of this adventure was definitely the encounter with Asrabey. I opted to use the level 20 version, knowing that my players would relish the challenge (and the frisson of fear). What I could never have predicted was that Uru (our gremlin-like assassin) would score a critical on his first hit - easily enough to drop Asrabey! Fortunately, one of the other players reminded us that if the hit would not be enough to strike ordinarily, then a natural 20 is just a normal blow. Still, Asrbaey was reduced to single figures in an instant! (Or he would have been had I not known my party and left him with just a few more hit points to compensate for numbers.)
From then on, it was no holds barred: Asrabey dropped party members left, right and centre, although both Korrigan and Malthusius had luckily saved dailies that left him close to dropping point.
The most dramatic moment came when Rumdoom Kagan was the only character left standing. Up to that point we had played it that he had not yet developed the 'Icy End of the Earth' power; that it was not a matter of simply becoming an eschatologist and - hey presto! - the power was yours. The power (and several of the other thematic powers in the campaign) is more of a one-off; a Trigenes-like manifestation of the will of the individual - and an accidental one to boot. This decision was taken during character generation when the player said he loved the theme but wanted the power to manifest spontaneously. I confidently predicted that he would know when best to use it and... lo and behold, the one-to-one stand-off with Asrabey was just the moment Rumdoom had been waiting for.
It was a beautiful moment. Especially when the player portayed Rumdoom as terrified and shaken as a result of this discovery, despite his victory over the eladrin.
Friday, 11th November, 2011, 05:03 PM #7
Defender (Lvl 8)
- It transpired that Nathan Jierre himself had given the Duchess access to the Danoran fort, providing codes to a teleportation circle within the walls. He had done so because he realised the Danorans were creating secret weapons on the island, and hoped (naively) that the Duchess would use this information diplomatically.
- He begged the unit for asylum, which they granted.
- Left alone with Malthusius, the Duchess challenged him to defend his actions, while at the same time explaining hers. She held fast to a prophecy that predicted the fall of Risur, and was convinced that the Danorans would destroy the nation she loved, and the Unseen Court.
- Meanwhile, the rest of the unit used what little time they had left to retrace their steps through the jungle - in the company of the brutally honest (and somewhat negative) Sergeant Glassman and his troop of allied solders - to the strange building they had seen on their way here.
- They fought off some hungry ankhegs and went inside. This turned out to be very place where the mortally wounded Leon had been nursed back to health by a beautiful eladrin woman during the fourth Yerasol war. There were signs of a struggle within and the woman was nowhere to be found. What they did find was a huge apelike construct: a marriage of technology and fey magic, which they brought back to the fortress and shipped back to Flint.
- The Danoran ship Lux Profectusque steamed into harbour. Lya Jierre disembarked, flanked by strange bodyguards. She thanked the team, reclaimed the island, and invited them to her wedding in a year's time. For she was the very Danoran woman who King Aodhan intended to marry!
- Mission accomplished.
Despite being exhausted from their many battles, the unit was particularly anxious to return to the strange location revealed by the rampaging golem in session 2. This was linked to Leon's background:
Leon's story is that he was forced to flee his erstwhile allies having mutinied against his own general, a ruthless fanatic known as Le Corbeau - infamous among the Risuri for his ability to sow terror in their ranks. In fact, Leon is 'Le Corbeau', who managed to kill his mutinous underling, discovering in the process that political enemies in Danor wanted him dead. Having escaped, he was then subject to a terrible bombardment by his own side and left for dead.
When he came round - his left side horribly mutiliated and scarred by fires even a tiefling could not resist - he found that he had been nursed back to health by an eladrin woman, who had been hiding out on Axis Island for years.
'Leon' reacted badly to this turn of events, such was his hatred of the fey and eladrin in particular. So he attacked and seriously wounded his rescuer before escaping once again.
Since then, Leon has had a huge change of heart, repenting of his ruthless ways and seeking to make amends for past misdeeds (beginning with his fey pact, and seeking - without success so far - to join the Vekeshi Mystics).
It was a great surprise to him, and his player, to find the 'bunker' where the eladrin woman healed him, and even more concerning when the rest of the party insisted on returning to examine it. It was a surprise to me to. I placed it there as a point of interest to be returned to later in the campaign - assuming they went back to Axis Island at some point. I figured the party would be too bruised, and without time to rest, they wouldn't risk it.
I figured without Malthusius, who has a ritual to share out healing surges, and sacrificed his own so the party could explore, while he remained behind to talk ethics with the Duchess (another fantastic player-driven episode in which the Duchess caused the old deva to question his loyalties).
So the group struck out for the structure they had seen: an ancient undergroudn complex built by the prehistoric folk who created the Axis Seal. Even the ankhegs I put in their way didn't stop them. And so Leon was forced to confront his past much earlier than I'd anticipated, and the group got their hands on the golem the eladrin woman was building to defend her. (It is now safely in the RHC vaults, its half-completed 'heart' around Uru's neck.)
The reasoning behind this may become clear later. I'm not sure...
Last edited by gideonpepys; Saturday, 12th November, 2011 at 08:47 AM.
Friday, 11th November, 2011, 10:25 PM #8
Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)
It's amazing to see what a creative DM and willing players can create. I'm jealous.
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Saturday, 12th November, 2011, 07:13 AM #9
Defender (Lvl 8)
Why, thank you, Colmarr. You might then be gratified to learn that you are at least in part responsible for some of these roleplaying moments, thanks to the 'Session 0' idea you posted, and which I adopted ahead of this campaign. Having the players respond to a Q&A session really helped round out their personalities.
What's more: having established that Korrigan was a family man with a young wife, and that his condition was causing strain on their relationship and preventing her from conceiving, I 'borrowed' your idea about the fey taking the baby in its entirety. Korrigan's wife announced that she was pregnant at the end of Island at the Axis of the World. But she has begun to act very strangely ever since: baking salt into the bricks of their house; buying a wrought iron cot; mumbling ritual wards - that kind of thing. So far, Korrigan can't make head nor tail of it. Anyway - thanks for that superbly malicious idea!
I am also encouraging players to roleplay using the Benny system borrowed from Savage Worlds. If a player plays their character well, entertainingly, or imaginatively - in particular, if they embody their keyword, which was a descriptive element I added to character-generation along with race and class - they earn a Benny.
Bennies are the sort of bonus players love. They allow them to bend the rules. If they want to be really boring they can use them to reroll a miss, avoid damage that might drop them, stabilize when dying, that sort of thing. But they can also be used to alter the game rules temporarily (within reason) or insert a story element of their choosing into the game.
To maintain balance, I can earn Bennies too, and Benny distribution is entirely democratic. Players can award one to each other, and to me.
Best example of their use so far: creepy little Uru decided to spend one to ensure that a sinister nursury rhyme he taught to the kids in the Nettles caught on in the area. The rhyme encourages children to bring their stories to Little Jack (the ghost of a dead child who is one of Uru's contacts).
Saturday, 12th November, 2011, 07:36 AM #10
Defender (Lvl 8)
Before continuing with our session reports, I should just add that my players and I unanimously agreed that Island at the Axis of the World is by far the most grandiose, exciting and surprising Level One adventure that any of us have ever played. (Is that enough superlatives? Have I made my point?)
What was particularly good was the way in which the adventure was structured to allow suspension of disbelief: it never felt like the players were being cut a break because they were only level one. There were enough close shaves with high level opponents (such as the Duchess and Asrabey) that it seemed like they were really out of their depth at points.
The near-TPK (or the sheer magnitude of the stakes) in the very first tactical encounter was an equally nice touch.
Kudos to RangerWickett, Morrus and the rest of the ENPublishing team for enabling such lively and imaginative sessions.
Bear in mind: we were coming fresh from a beloved 3-year campaign in Monte Cook's Ptolus A hard act to follow! But now a dim and distant memory as the players truly embody their new characters and explore the world of Zeitgeist.