Tuesday, February 1, 2011, 3:58 PM
Well, this has taken a little longer to upload than normal. I was all ready to post this directly after my review of the Dark Sun comic, but for some reason this site refused to accept it; several times, in fact. No idea why. So, here are two sessions' worth of recap in preparation of the next session, tomorrow.
Hoping to face no foes as terrible as the Nabassu gargoyle, The Red Order descended into the tower. They found a drow priestess giving an incomprehensible speech to a group of dark elves and fire giants, further proof of the alliance the two species had formed.
The Order wasted no time in cutting through them, save for Kawaii, who spent a great deal of time suffering under various curses unleashed by the priestess, rendering her all but unable to strike a blow. Perhaps this was Lolth's form of vengeance after the shifter so thoroughly desecrated Her shrine in the astral sea?
Regardless, our heroes pressed further downward, into the sweltering heat, searching for any sign of the elemental king. While rummaging through one particularly empty chamber, they overheard a drow guard patrol stumbling across the bodies outside.
The Red Order charged into combat again, to prevent the alarm from being raised.
The next session (2.34) isn't actually terribly exciting to report, with The Red Order spending an entire session taking down a group of drow; I know we're not the fastest group when it comes to combat, but when most of the monsters delight in dazing the heroes, that can make things drag.
We took the priestess in charge captive, and she gave us directions to where the giant king would be sitting (the bottom of the tower), and information on the slaves that would stand in the way. Gregeon (our pet blackguard) was careful to hide his execution of the prisoner from his generally more honourable companions. It will be worrying to see what else occurs due to this, but number one concern at the moment is that Kawaii is running on empty (no healing surges!).
Tuesday, January 18, 2011, 5:28 AM
The first issue of the Dark Sun comicbook came out last week, and it's quite different from its sister title, the D&D book.
This is obvious from the very start with the distinctly non-glossy form of paper it's printed in. It's still high quality, just as drab and down-to-earth as the world where the story is set. Unfortunately, the same thinking has led to a rather monochrome palette for the art inside. I understand that Athas is a desert world, by nature covered in sand with a lot of sun shining down on it, but still. This mcuh orange just makes the book look really horrible, which is a shame because the art itself - dynamic, shadowed, blocky figures - is actually pretty good.
The story obviously has a shift in tone from the D&D one. Being a miniseries rather than an ongoing it has less space for characters, and so we're introduced to only two in this opening chapter. Naturally, they don't get on, but must rely upon each other to survive in the desert. I would elaborate, but not much actually happens. There are a couple of fights, and enough dialogue to establish that one character is chatty and positive, the other grim and taciturn. Given that this is one fifth of the story gone through already, there'll be a lot more ground to cover later on.
In fact, a lot more happened in the preview story from the D&D issue 0. While the Fel's Five story from there was actually an extra, not necessary to enjoy the main tale, the Dark Sun introduction contains rather a lot of backstory, which is explained rather more excitingly than the exposition in the orange wastlenad here in issue 1.
Hopefully, here is where things will pick up! Unfortunately, without a cliffhanger or a preview image featuring more than a portrait of our main hero, there's no way of telling. All in all, not quite as good as the main D&D comic, and if the colour orange is to be so predominant, perhaps the medium isn't the one best suited for Dark Sun.
Monday, January 10, 2011, 12:03 PM
Leaving the Frostspire behind, The Red Order returned to Vermillion with what few residents denizens of Flotsam were willing to leave their squalid chaos hole.
Obanana had been keeping up with current affairs with his scrying tools, noting Tymbarque's strangely effective warforged army. It was certainly good news that Order member Kordell was still doing his part to combat the giant menace!
With hill and frost giants defeated, fire giants were all that was left, and their commanders would be hanging around the Flamefall. Heading straight there to sort them out once and for all would be handy, but Gregeon implored his comrades to first head to Brillton, site of the last remaining unclaimed chunk of the Divine Engine.
The Red Order arrived (via portal, naturally) to find the place burnt to the ground. A single survivor remained, a scared little girl who was strangely not comforted by the sight of three dragonborn and an emotionless shifter. Token human Arthur did his best 'there, there' while everyone else headed off to the town hall.
A secret door led to an open and plundered vault; it looked like the giants had another shard of their primordial-releasing doohicky.
The little girl was left in the loving care of Vermillion's resident kobolds - a fine upbringing for a child orphaned by war. The Red Order headed to Flamefall, aware now that there could be no telling how long it would take for the giants and drow to complete their plans.
Arriving through a portal on top of a scalding tower, The Order was greeted by three giants and their pet gargoyle. A brief challenge, one might have innocently suspected. This assumption was partially borne out as the giants died easily enough, but the nabassu gargoyle proved less willing to go quietly. Able to maintain mobility and offensive action while supposedly frozen in statue form, it drained life from our heroes to keep itself empowered.
Traditional methods proved futile, and given that the thing could fly, escaping it by running toward the tower entrance was not an option. An unconventional solution involved Akra grabbing the thing bodily while Shibboleth doused it in a vial of precious Oil of Flesh Returned (a lucky charm purchased the day after he'd gotten over his own petrification, so long ago). That rendered it soft long enough for swords and flames to kill it.
Hopefully, no one within the tower heard any of the scuffle...
Monday, January 3, 2011, 10:24 AM
In the moments when I wasn't reading comics, I was partaking in that other highbrow activity of reading a D&D tie-in novel. The Seal of Karga Kul was the book in question, mainly due to that kickass cover featuring dragonborn charging at each other.
The pages inside are nothing spectacular, but it reads easily enough, urgency sufficient to keep going for long periods. Instead of chapters it's split into 'books', and while that makes no real difference to the content, I find that annoying.
The story is traditional D&D stuff, with evil demonic hordes to be denied and artefacts to be collected, with fights along the way. Each of the characters gets a quick sketch of a backstory, there are several intriguing new spins on old concepts ("so, what if the lich's phylactery turned out to be...") and the general atmosphere is true to the spirit of the game.
The biggest problem is the lack of descriptive detail. The fights are choreographed well enough, but the monsters that are featured in them are passed over with not even a line. Non-gamers will be utterly confused as a sorrowsworn appears, without a clue as to what it looks like. And while these are taken for granted, other creatures are over-complicated. Is it necessary to know that the scorpions that leave the courier in need of help at the opening were stormclaw scorpions in particular? Some monsters are stuck with game-terminology titles, as they appear in their monster manual entires, which when used in casual conversation by the characters don't sound very natural.
So... it's not the best book ever, but it's good enough, with no glaringly bad things beyond a few pieces of gamer jargon, which most of the target audience (D&D players) won't even notice. Having a hot female dragonborn on the cover doesn't hurt either.
Monday, January 3, 2011, 9:52 AM
There's been no drop-off in quality from the first to second issue of the D&D comicbook. It's maintained its sense of humour along with the skippy pacing, transitioning very smoothly from the conclusion of the first plot point to the start of next. Looking closely, it in fact happens at exactly the halfway point, so this may be a feature of their storytelling method, and this whole business with the orcs will be wrapped up in the next eleven pages, ready for another encounter.
Oh, but what orcs they are - they talk in traditional big, dumb style, but manage to be cool at the same time. They're not just mindless goons to be slaughtered by the heroes, but get their own moments in the spotlight, without taking away from the main party members.
Little backstory nuggets are being hinted at for each of those heroes, and with these subplots scattered among the main thrust of the quest, there's plenty to wonder about while reading it and waiting impatiently for the next instalment...
Saturday, December 11, 2010, 11:36 AM
Crafting a magical key out of pure elemental ice was a trivial task for The Red Order, taking but a few minutes of fussing around Helstaff's forge. With it in hand, they set off to the door behind which the frost giant jarl was hiding, opening it to discover the corpse of the white dragon that had dogged them some days previous. One more loose end tied up.
The fact that it was missing its heart was somewhat worrisome, as nothing good can ever come of tearing such organs from chests, but The Order would deal with that situation when they found it. For now, they hurried down a tunnel into the depths of the earth, emerging into a frozen lake which suspiciously tentacle-like forms visible beneath the surface.
The jarl was performing unspeakable rituals over the dragon's heart, its blood running into the water. His giant underlings and pet titan ran forward to hold off The Order while he completed his preparations to summon Solkar. Given that Glenn and Shibboleth could fly, and Arthur was fond of teleporting, this wasn't as effective a strategy as the villain might have hoped.
Gregeon, Akra and Kawaii took on the giants, while the others went for the jarl. Glenn was determined to prove that he alone was a suitable vessel for the spirit of the primordial, and began chowing down on the heart in cat form. Shibboleth had the jarl pinned down, but could hear some invisible wizard sneaking about to the rear of the cavern. Glenn was forced to postpone his eating while he dealt with the problem.
Gregeon finished off the titan, but the strength of the remaining giants threw an unconscious Arthur into the tentacle-choked (and freezing!) water, leaving Akra to dive in after to drag him back to the surface.
Once visible, the wizard was revealed to be none other than Brevan Foss, the thief that stole the first piece of the divine engine from Vermillion, and cohort of the hill giant chief. In his possession he had another chunk of the device, taken from the jarl who'd been somewhat deviating from their original plan.
Against the combined might of The Red Order (once Arthur had been revived, and Glenn had finished off the heart and slain the jarl) Foss was unable to elude them for a third time. With him defeated, Solkar's rising was prevented, The Order was ahead on pieces of the engine gathered, and a means of getting back to the real world was obtained (some magickal doo-hicky he had in a pocket would quell the storms stymying Caseem's ship).
Leaving Gorq to do whatever he wanted with what remained of his people (and locking the key to Solkar's lake behind the door itself) The Red Order prepared to return to Vermillion, to prepare to face their next foe, the Flamefall giants.
Saturday, December 11, 2010, 11:08 AM
The particular variety of magical breath that a dragonborn exhales bears no relation to the coloration of its scales. Dragonborn buck the trend of creatures being graded by their hue.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010, 9:11 AM
Of course, before flitting off to the giants' tomb to deposit the bodies of the traitors, The Red Order would need to round up the last of the three urns that their geas-granting ghostly chums needed restoring. A trip all around the island seemed potentially exhausting, but finding some giants cowering in a cave in the mountains solved the search.
Trapped, the frost giants put up a struggle but were eventually defeated, the final urn having been centrepiece of their gambling. Restoring it to a more respectful place (the bottom of a bag of holding for the moment), The Order set off for the tomb, corpses and crematees in tow. Hopefully, the recipients wouldn't notice that one of the urns had had its seal broken.
A windy (as in, a breeze blowing, not snaking) bridge passed to the tomb complex, and Shibboleth soon learned not to try flying in such a storm. Old hands at negotiating crypts, The Red Order promptly blundered into a trap, Arthur and Akra toppling down a pit onto a pile of bones. Their comrades struggled to try and move some boulders aside to follow them, while the two victims found themselves facing down a quartet of angry, dead giants.
Arthur's applied arcane skills convinced the restless dead of The Order's honest intent of returning some burial urns and setting down those responsible for punishment. This was duly done, and our heroes were off on their way after burying the tomb so deep that none could find it again, and holding their tongue about the practicality of a protective trap that drops would-be tomb robbers directly where they want to go.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010, 2:50 AM
For all their newness and difference from previous core races, Dragonborn still retroactively fit rather neatly into established campaign settings like Dark Sun.
Monday, November 29, 2010, 5:55 AM
I've run a few 4th edition games here and there (and even an aborted attempt at Gamma World), but never anything long-running. The settings and adventures that WotC released for the first couple of years didn't really inspire me, and after that Star Wars campaign I didn't want to have to put so much effort into making stuff up myself.
Then, a few months ago, both the Dark Sun setting and Tomb of Horrors adventure were released, either of which I'd have been happy to run. No, more than happy; I want to run both of them, but of course there's not enough time to do both. If only one had come out a year or two before the other...
Then I recently came to the genius realisation that I could simply combine them, and then that'd be a single campaign to run. Naturally, this idea first occurred when they came out back in August, but I cast it aside then, since translating the Tomb over to Athas would lose much of the important and incompatible backstory of Acererak.
Then again, who cares? There are plenty of villains in Dark Sun 'lost in time and space' enough to substitute for the demi-lich, and changing things enough to make them seamless is enough work for me not be frustrated by running another pre-written campaign (I've had problems with them in the past).
As to when exactly I'd run this game (seeing as how I'm taking part in three games already and don't want to devote my spare time entirely to roleplaying), that's another matter...