Also, just wanted to point out that I know the Abiding One shouldn't really require fonts of magical energy to focus its psionic powers. Unfortunately, the players are only Level 2 at this point, so an Aboleth is so much more powerful that it's not even a contest. I needed to figure out ways for the low level group to somehow affect this ancient, other-wordly creature, without actually, you know ... fighting it. So they've dealt with its agents, and now they're learning that it needs these fonts of power to focus its mind, since its so far away from the seas of its birth. Those are things the 'Watch can handle right now, you know?They have no hope of defeating the Abiding One directly, but if they can weaken it by destroying these Hearts, maybe they can force it back into the Underdark. That's a start, at least. When they're higher level, they'll have the option of taking the fight to the Abiding One on its home turf, which could be really interesting.Also, I really wanted to play up the Abiding One as this creature of unimaginable power. I want the players to fear it. I want it to warp the world around it with illusions, and give people who encounter it nightmares. I want it to be unique, I guess. So I never even describe it as an aboleth. In my version of the world, maybe it's the only one of its kind, you know what I mean? I don't imagine an underwater city where hundreds or even thousands of these things live. That's just ... way overboard.If it's a single, unique monster, who's terrorized the world since the race of Men was young, that's a lot more memorable, I think.
Thanks, man! I really appreciate all the support for the story. I've always liked aboleths, but truth be told, I probably wouldn't have chosen the Abiding One to be the primary antagonist for the story just yet, but the players decided that's what they were most interested in. It requires a little finesse on my part, but I think we're going pretty well at this point. The Abiding One hasn't appeared "on screen" at this point, and I'd like to keep that from happening as long as possible. The players understand that it's an aboleth, but at this stage, they're really still relying on my creepy descriptions of it. The Abiding One doesn't necessarily look like an aboleth from the book at this stage; the players see it as a writhing black mass beneath the water, with three lantern-like eyes, and thousands of yawning, toothless mouths lining its tentacles, each oozing foul mucus into the water.
At any rate, it's a lot creepier than the way it looks in the book. And I want to keep that feeling with the players as long as possible. By battling its agents, and thwarting its goals from the periphery, they're able to be a thorn in the side of an impossibly powerful creature. But you're right: as they continue to get nearer and nearer to their ultimate goal, it's only going to make things more difficult for them; friends become enemies, safe havens become traps, etc.
There's a lot of potential here to mess with the players, and it's going to be a lot of fun.
Third SessionIn game 3, I wanted to change things up a bit; step away from the Abiding One story a little, and focus a bit more on the characters and their backstories. Also, because 2 of our players haven't had any D&D experience for about ten years, and the other 2 only get to play every once in a while, my first two sessions were pretty much "on rails"; I had a specific set of actions I basically wanted them to perform, and that's what they did each night. I felt like I kind of had to do that the first few sessions to get everyone on the same page, and to get them to understand new concepts, like Skill Challenges, under optimal conditions.Now that we've got a few games under our belts, I decided it was time to let them sand-box it. I sat down with the players, and really described certain sections of the city, and basically let them do whatever they wanted: Virgil made his way toward a Guard House on Cecil's Wall, to speak with an old friend about the conflict with Zessith; Akkarin took some time to study some new scrolls; Phaedra felt as though she'd spent a little too long on the right side of the law, and began writing up plans to steal something important; finally, Victoria decided to check out the new "Bounty Board" I'd set up at the Brazen Foal.It's basically just a place where I can put up random "quests" that need doing around town. They don't necessarily have anything to do with the main plot, but if the PCs feel like dispatching some out-of-control undead servants that are locked up in the lower sections of the Ferryman's Institute of Practical Necromancy, or putting down a Dire Wolf that's been stalking human prey on the far side of Old Lake Strasa, they have that option now.At an early stage in the game, I tossed some plot the players' way. Before I continue with that, let me touch base quickly on Phaedra's storyline: she's a relatively young Eladrin, raised in the Feywild, by a noble Elvish family. Her father was a diplomat of sorts, who traveled to Strasa often. During those visits, she'd sneak out and get into trouble whenever possible. She ended up falling in love with a thief named Mal, and the two of them essentially ran off together. He taught her how to be a rogue, and took her in as his apprentice at the "Thieves' Guild". Things went well for a while, then, during the night of a big heist, the owners returned home and caught them red-handed. Mal, apparently concerned only with saving his own skin, killed th home owners, then turned on Phaedra, and knocked her out cold.She woke up some time later in chains, framed by Mal for the murders. Fortunately, Victoria happened to be in the area when Phaedra was scheduled for execution, and was able to pychically detect the girl's innocence. Using her influence as a member of Kord's clergy, she saved the girl from the noose, and the two became friends.So, in game 3, a raven comes to the 'Watch's HQ (which they call "The Roost") with a message for Phaedra. It's from Mal. The message is only brief, but he expresses his undying love for her, and says that he thought she was dead. For years, he's agonized over what happened, and he says things aren't as she thinks. He says he can prove it, if she'll meet him alone at the Crooked Coin, a tavern in the Elvish district that doubles as the headquarters for the local Thieves' Guild.Phaedra contacts the other members of the 'Watch, and let's them know where she's headed. They ask if she wants backup, but she says she can handle it. At this stage, Phaedra fully intends to murder Mal when she sees him again. In my world, Elves are sort of seen as second-class citizens. They don't belong in the cities. Their customs are strange. Their gods are different. You know what I'm saying? The Elvish district is on the poor side of Cecil's Wall, and it's pretty run down. It's a haven of thieves, and the Crooked Coin is the closest thing that district has to a capitol building.I wish I could keep writing this, but it's taking me a while lol, so I'll have to split it up into two sections, and do the other one later.
Milkducks, you sir, are a scholar and a gentleman. If at all possible you should make a gameblog (and just copy paste all the stuff you've written so far) and post a link in your sig to preserve it for posterity, should this thread fade into obscurity (which I hope it shan't).Anyway, I was wondering if you would be interested in any submissions for little side story quests that might round out the city? I'd be really happy to make some. (if you can't tell I really want to run a campaign in Strasa, but currently I've got too much else going on and my players can only commit to one campaign right now[and it would probably be silly for me as well, considering I want to do it in a custom 3.5 variant with sanity, vitality points, armor as DR, variant/possibly custom classes and about half of the Unearthed Arcana book] *sigh* )
Anyways, I told everyone I'd make it up to them.I've got some extra time now to work on what's going to happen in the Feywild. The end of my story originally just involved them heading through the Feygates, finding a sacred wellspring and doing battle against its guardians, being betrayed by Mal and figuring out how to handle that situation, etc. It was going to be an intentionally short session, but now I'll need to draw it out a bit for next time.Any suggestions for encounters? New story ideas that can pop up while they're in the Feywild? Phaedra's family still lives in the Feywild, actually, so maybe they're encroaching upon ancient elvish land and stealing the water for the Mirror's a big taboo? At any rate, I'm open to any suggestions you guys have; I want this next session to be great.
I agree that Mal should be directly involved, as well; I'm hesitant to use him as a DM-NPC during combat, however, so I'll need to puzzle out a way to remove him from the Guardian fight. I'll sit down soon and draw him up properly, to see how slimy and manipulative I can build a Rogue; that should be interesting. Let me know if you think of anything else, man. These ideas are great.
they already know Mal's a greedy, self-serving coward
Oh, man. Unbelievable. I just wrote out the entire session -took me about 20 minutes- and then the forum messed up and didn't post it. Uhhh ... yeah, I don't feel like doing it again right now, lol. I'll try to get around to posting it later.
Hey guys, our 6th session is tonight. I know I haven't posted a summary of our 5th session yet, but that's because it basically got cut in half. The second half of that session is essentially what we'll be doing tonight. It felt a little awkward trying to post the events of the 5th session, because honestly, it didn't amount to much of anything. Tonight's session brings it all around, though, and introduces some pretty serious issues that the PCs will have to deal with. I will post a summary of both sessions tomorrow -- scout's honour.
Okay, as promised ...
Sessions 5 and 6:The events of the fifth game (and to a lesser extent, the sixth) center around an annual festival I created called Storm's Harvest. The name doesn't refer to any kind of specific agricultural crop, but rather, to the people of the city themselves. The kinds of challenges that face Strasa are unlike any that other cities face, and it takes a certain, special kind of people to live and thrive there. The citizens of Strasa need to be enterprising, hardy (both physically and mentally), and above all else, innovative. Storm's Harvest is a celebration of the people of Strasa, because they're the driving force that's turned it from a sunken, mud-filled wetland into a sprawling capital of mercantile strength and industry. I'd say that it's a mix of the American festivals of Thanksgiving (with its emphasis on gathering together as a community/family and giving thanks to those around you) and Veteran's Day (when you celebrate the importance of people, it's only natural that an emphasis is placed on those who've given their lives in defense of everyone else).On the eve of Storm's Harvest, a great masquerade is typically held, and there's dancing, feasting and drinking in the streets into the long hours of the night. On the day of the festival itself, a grand parade is held through the city streets and canals. People crowd the narrow cobblestone streets to be close to the action, while thousands of others watch from their windows and balconies. This year, the Council wants to present special honours upon the Raven Watch, for all the help they've given the city. The members of the 'Watch happily accepted, and it was decided that an award ceremony would be held during the parade.But let's wind it back a bit, first: Session 5 actually starts the day before the award ceremony and parade, on the eve of Storm's Harvest.Over the last few sessions, Virgil has indicated that he'd like to hire on some additional manpower to help take care of the Roost. Essentially, he'd like some people that will cook meals, tidy up the rooms, maintain the equipment, manage communications (a raven master, essentially), etc. These are all things the members of the 'Watch could do themselves, of course, but Virgil explained that he's got plenty of gold, and he'd like to see that money get put back into the community. In 3rd edition, you could hire on folks for mere silver pieces per week, and if that model still holds true, the 'Watch could employ a sizeable number of people for almost nothing. Virgil wants to give these folks a good wage, and build up the organization's reputation throughout the city (as if it could be any better, but still). He also wanted to hire on a kind of personal assistant that would travel with the group on adventures. This guy would essentially be in charge of a number of "little things": say the group goes into a dungeon and leaves their horses or campsite set up just outside; this guy's job would be to whistle as loud as he could if anything happened to the camp while they're gone. He'll get paid more than everyone else, of course: Hazard pay, and all that. Once he and I had everything squared away in that regard, we got on with the rest of the session.The group decided that they wanted to spend the evening at the Brazen Foal, amongst the other "local heroes"; it's a tavern for adventurers, of course, so Storm's Harvest is a really busy and exciting time for them. They spent the next few hours exchanging old stories with the regulars, participating in some bawdy drinking songs, and just generally having a good time. When it got late, and time to leave (they've got an award ceremony in the morning, after all!), they headed back toward the Roost. As they stumbled through the crowded city streets, surrounded on all sides by masquerading Strassans and laughter, they thought they could pick out several unusual figures moving through the crowd up ahead. Everyone's dressed up in costumes, but these guys looked ... different, somehow, and the group decided to investigate.As they got closer, Victoria was able to pick out that these were actually Lizardmen in disguise. She determined that they must be using the masquerade as cover to infiltrate the city. After she informed the group, they did their best to sneak up through the crowd without catching the Lizardmen's attention. Phaedra was able to creep up within striking distance without being noticed, and she opened up with a brutal surprise attack while she had the opportunity.Roll for initiative!Phaedra scored a nasty sneak attack on the first lizardman during the surprise round, and since she rolled highest for initiative, she was able to score another, thanks to her First Strike class feature. This lizardman ate two sneak attacks in the span of about 6 seconds, and it was essentially dead before it even knew what happened. At this point, the crowd started to part away from the action, and the rest of the players joined the fray.This encounter started off really well for the 'Watch, but things slowed down after the first few big hits. There were only four lizardmen, and the Poisonscale Magi did a great job of spreading around the ongoing damage, and keeping themselves just outside of reach. At one point, Phaedra dropped below 0 and had to start making Saving Throws. Combat had been rough up until that point, and Victoria had almost used up all of her healing spells, so Virgil (who had been all kinds of Slowed, Immobilized, and pushed away during the fight), stopped to give her aid himself. He's trained in Healing, actually, so that was a really good move on his part. Virgil's player, in my opinion, is really learning what it means to be a "group leader"; he's the defender, so it's his job to keep everyone else safe. Sometimes that means physically creating a bottleneck in the environment and soaking up punishment, and other times it means stepping away from combat to administer aid. All in all, I'm really impressed with Virgil.After the fight had ended, the group did a little investigation, and noticed that some of the lizardmen had what appeared to be red paint splatted across their heavy robes. Some of them had it on their hands, as well. The players did some knowledge checks, and while some of them were aware that a lot of red paint gets used in the festival (for masks, parade floats, banners, etc), they decided not to investigate the matter any further.The truth is that these lizardmen were in Strasa for a specific purpose: Zessith is planning a daring full-scale invasion of Strasa, and these spies had infiltrated the city to sabotage one of the parade floats with a black powder explosive. There are other spies within the city, of course, sabotaging other areas, so even if the group had followed up on the red paint lead, they're ultimately powerless to stop Zessith's attack. But more on that in a minute.The next morning, the members of the Raven Watch washed up, got dressed in their finest armours, and made their way toward the central festival area, which lies in the courtyard of the Temple of the Everlasting Storm, Kord's primary temple in Strasa. At the height of the celebration, the 'Watch was called up onto the dais and presented with a magical staff that had been created for them by the Council (a Scalebane Staff, capable of doing incredible damage to reptile creatures, like Lizardmen). The 'Watch graciously accepted the weapon, along with a set of medals, while parade floats passed by through the streets and canals: one was in the likeness of a huge blackbird, crafted using real raven feathers; another was essentially a series of boats filled with the kinds of bright and colourful flowers that only grow in the lands of the East; but another float was the grandest sight of all -- crafted to resemble a great red dragon, it lumbered on thick wooden wheels down the rain-slick cobblestone streets. Crowds of people had to step back to make way for its massive bulk. The beast was powered by some kind of elemental magic, and every minute or so, it would raise its massive head and let loose an impressive jet of flames.As they stood upon the dais, someone noticed a large red handprint on the base of the float. They immediately sprung into action, knowing that something bad was about to happen, but it was too late: an explosion tore through the streets and sent people flying into the canals like rag-dolls. Those closest to the blast would have been killed immediately, but those further out were set aflame, or shredded with glass fragments and shrapnel. The fiery shockwave shattered windows in every direction, and knocked the members of the 'Watch prone. The explosion momentarily deafened everyone, and it also released the elemental spirits that had been trapped within the dragon:Three fiery spirits shot up into the air like rockets before landing on the streets below. They immediately lept into a nearby building, which went up in magical flames. The 'Watch remembered that, just moments before, they had seen a few children standing on the balcony of that building, and determined that it was possible they were trapped inside. They had to rescue them; they had to get there in time; a lot of people had just been killed, but the Raven Watch wasn't about to let those kids burn to death. They found their feet, drew their weapons, and rushed through the bloody streets toward the old building.And that's where session 5 ended.This has been a long post, so I'll come back with the 6th session review a bit later in the day.
I need to brainstorm some ideas for the next session. I hope you guys don't mind if I use this thread to do it, lol. I'd really appreciate any input, because even though I know pretty much exactly where I want to go with this, I'm not sure how best to handle it.
The first thing I want to do is flesh out this black dragon. It's important to me that my players understand that it's a unique character in its own right, and not just "Zessith's dragon". I've had this idea of the character for a while now, but it wasn't until a little while ago that I decided to toss her in as a part of Zessith's invasion plans. I'm calling her Vhauglohrl (Vow-Glor-il): she's a young black dragon (young in the reckoning of wyrms, anyway -- I imagine she's at least a hundred) that's worshipped as a god by a local tribe of goblins called the Crow Eaters. These goblins are particularly vile, and they're fanatically devoted to their "Mother-In-The-Swamp". She's an incredibly capricious character, prone to fits of tremendous anger, yet seemingly easily placated by the offering of jewels and fealty. Vhauglorhl is a consummate miser, and treacherous to a fault. She really has no redeeming qualities, save that she's always been relatively uninterested in Strasa -- for the past century or so, she's been content to lurk about the surrounding swamplands, being worshipped as an all-powerful god by savages. She stays out of Strasa's way, basically, and Strasa stays out of hers ... until now.My imagining of the situation is that, at some point, Zessith approached Vhauglohrl with a number of offerings, hoping to secure her partnership in the invasion of the Raining City. Zessith's a tactical genius, and he knows that with her help, he'll be able to devise a plan that's capable of bringing Strasa to its knees. What I imagine he didn't count on, however, is that Vhauglohrl is every bit as cunning and perfidous as he is. Strasa would make an excellent lair for a young black dragon: it's well-fortified, packed full of resources, and the deep, maze-like canals would be a perfect place to lay her eggs. Vhauglohrl also knows that Zessith hasn't the military strength to dig her out if she decides to settle in with the Crow Eaters.I imagine that Vhauglohrl will suffer the indignity of being ridden into battle by Zessith in the beginning, but after the initial push, when the 'Watch is holed up in the Temple of the Everlasting Storm, she'll abandon the lizardmen's plans, and do her own thing: I suppose I can see her taking up residence in a ruined section of the city, and establishing a base of her own. The Crow Eaters scramble up and down the streets, hunting for survivors, and bring them before their Mother-In-The-Swamp. Black Dragons are fond of "pickling" meat, so I can see her drowning people in the canals, and waiting until they're especially rotten before devouring them.Meanwhile. Zessith's invasion continues throughout the rest of the city. He doesn't have the strength to force the dragon's allegiance any longer, but at the moment, he doesn't need her. His focus will be on conquering the rest of the city: hunting down survivors, eliminating pockets of resistance, and orchestrating a bloody siege of the Council building.Anyway, like I said before, I'm really just brainstorming here. These are things I'd normally write in my notebook, but I figured, what the hell, I might as well post it here and see what everyone thinks. Any advice would be greatly appreciated, of course.
I'm not sure, I guess. I'm more or less just brainstorming out loud at this point.
I certainly wouldn't force the players to go after Zessith or Vhauglohrl first. That's completely up to them. I'm likely to place them on opposite ends of the battle area, so the 'Watch would have to choose which "direction" to head in: going after Vhauglohrl first might allow the players the opportunity to persuade her with gifts of their own, or it would be a chance to take her down before she can wreck any more of the city.I've been considering Zessith's motives a lot lately. Obviously, they're pretty important. To be honest, I hadn't even considered the possibility that he'd want to capture and hold the city. Maybe I can see him thinking it, but I can't imagine it happening. I love the idea of his forces laying siege to the Council building, infiltrating it, and forcing the Council to legitimize his rule. Unfortunately, I can't see the group playing along with that. Like, I know these guys; they're not going to allow Zessith to take command of the city. There will be no integration of guards along Cecil's Wall -- they'll lay siege to the Council building the same way Zessith did: infiltrate it, then force him out of power.I don't think it's a bad idea at all. And I could certainly play it out that way, but the fact of the matter is that my group will not allow that to happen, lol. But, honestly, I'm loving the idea that the local Thieves' Guild is responsible for helping Zessith infiltrate the city. I think that's fantastic, actually. There must be some reason they'd want to work with him, which is something I'd have to work out, but I think the idea is rock solid. Obviously, the idea that he's after some ritual scroll or something that benefits Zehir (but is actually helping the Abiding One) is perfect -- that might also be going on in the background. I need some way to turn this back on the Abiding One, after all, so that's a route I'll more than likely flesh out, too.Let me take all this on board for a bit, and see where I can take it. Thanks for all the help, Shov.
I don't think it's a bad idea at all. And I could certainly play it out that way, but the fact of the matter is that my group will not allow that to happen, lol.
My hope is, and we've spoken about this several times, that he'll eventually feel comfortable enough with the system that he'll want to be the DM. I'm hoping that, sometime before paragon tier, we'll be able to swap out, but we'll just see how it goes.
Fourth edition is so miniatures-focused, though. I'm thinking the best route to take might be to narrate most of the way, then slap down encounter zones when they pop up. Maybe that sounds obvious, but at first, I was considering using all my tiles to actually create the entire dungeon setup.But that's a lot of work.
Anyway, I may run some of these ideas by Akkarin later today, and see what sticks. I'll probably tell him that I've got multiple ideas for how this whole thing could go down, and that it'd be nice if he could give me a little input on what sounds best. After all, stuff that sounds good to us might not appeal to him. We'll see how it goes.
By the way, I do actually have a character ready to go for whenever I get a chance to play, and I can post him here whenever. Maybe I'll do that later today.Anyway, more on that in a bit.