Thursday, October 7, 2010, 11:27 PM
Hei Corellon Shar-Shelevu. High God of the Seldarine. Your eyes and hand here on Abeir Toril survives and stays true.
Hail Erevan Ilesere who watched over us this night and aided us with your guile in our plot.
Hail Shevarash, lord of vengeance and retribution. You were by my side as I plunged into the icy depths of revenge.
Hail Naralis Enoreth who eased our wounds and was present during this evening of death.
Hail to the bright lady Sehanine, consort to Corellon Larethian. Your gaze has pierced the veil between worlds and judged the unworthy.
Hail to the all the Seldarine. Xara is dead.
Writing those words fills with me many emotions. Relief is chief among them, but there is also joy, sadness, and a strange emptiness. I feel completely spent, and not just from the exertions of battle. My hatred for Xara has flowed out of me into her corpse and I am left with a hollowness inside. I have spent so much of the last ten years hating and fearing her, that now she is gone I feel scoured out. Do not mistake my words. This emptiness is a good thing. It is like excising a festering wound. I hurt, but maybe now I can finally heal.
I wish to record now how it is that we managed to bring her down, not only for personal reasons, but for historical purposes. I suspect many of these details may be relevant to the future and I wish to record them now while they are fresh in my mind.
I admit now to this paper that Brandis and I came up with a complot to ensare Xara. You might say we wove a web to catch a spider. It's weave was elaborate and included deception even amongst our companions. This deception was only to ensure the success of our plan and did not harm our friends, but Kadath was very upset with me when the ruse was revealed. I will not apologize for it and think that Kadath should recognize strategy when he sees it. As a warlord, surely he will come to put his personal feelings about it aside and recognize our success.
Part of the deception he disliked, and the first part of our plan, was a note that I gave to Brandis the night before. The note said that I intended to face Xara alone, without my companions, to save them from her. This was a lie, but part of our scheme was for Brandis to spread the rumor of this around the city, and to make that rumor more believable we needed everyone in our party to be convincing. There is no better way be convincing when you believe something to be the truth.
I departed the Menagerie early in the morning before everyone else. The rest of the party also left before sunrise, each with a different destination, but all with the same goal: to gather allies. Brandis and Ulik went to seek Araezra and Talanna in order to convince them of our innocence and gain their aid. Kadath and Valandra went to find Arrath, the beardless dwarf we briefly saw and have heard about. Rumors say he is a skilled warrior and we thought to recruit him to our cause as a mercenary soldier. I made for Fieldward to approach Onstal Starbrow about aid from the elven community.
Before I left for Fieldward, Ilira was generous enough to outfit me with a reasonable disguise involving a mask, which is luckily a fashionable accessory for elven women in Waterdeep, as well as an alarmingly low cut dress. Ninea outfitted me and insisted that I looked good in it. I have spent so many years covering myself that the dress felt far too revealing. Perhaps that helped make it that much more convincing a disguise. When I approached the gates to Fieldward I saw that it was Rhagaster who was on duty. He was friendly and charming when we last saw each other, so I thought I would talk to him. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to convince as many of the guard as possible of our innocence. It was only later that I would realize the consequences of this conversation.
He did not recognize me immediately and I played the part of a distressed citizen who needed the guard's help. I convinced him to accompany me to a nearby inn, the Swift Spear, where I obliquely revealed my identity. Our conversation started very seriously and over its course he revealed to me that Onstal Starbrow fathered him with a now deceased human woman and now wanted nothing to do with him. That explained the animosity between them on my first visit to the district. He also told me that Onstal saw me as a rival for his position of power in Fieldward, which is completely absurd considering I met the man for all of a few minutes. Despite the brief first encounter he has now begun to raise a faction of people against us in the city, using the misunderstanding at Blackstaff as a springboard for this movement. He did however give me enough insight into Onstal to prepare me for what ended up being a poltical negotiation.
As our conversation ended I found myself charmed by the handsome young half elf. I think I might have even flirted with him. Perhaps it was the dress I was wearing that made me act so foolishly. Still, I find I am strangely fond of him and I told him that if I survived the evening, that I hoped we could spend more time together.
My meeting with Onstal was less productive.
Upon second inspection I find that I agree with Rhagaster about him now. He is an odious and pathetic excuse of an elf, a petty bureaucrat. I flattered him, appealed to his political motivations, and made promises of my departure from the city to allay any fears he may have had about me as a rival. In the end he promised “subtle” assistance. I say he promised nothing, provided less, and is worthy of my scorn. Even if he had no animosity towards the drow and saw me as a political enemy, I offered him a true opportunity to do a service to the city of Waterdeep by bringing a dangerous criminal to justice, a criminal the city guard had yet to capture. Surely this would have raised his popularity and influence in the city and advance his agenda. He instead chose to play games and be cowardly. Now that Xara is dead, I wonder if perhaps I SHOULD try and gain power in Fieldward to oust him from his office if for no other reason than to punish him for his cravenly behavior, which is unbefitting an elf. I had no intention of doing so before, but now that he has shown what kind of man he is, it might be an amusing diversion.
When I left Fieldward is when the day began to get interesting. I was making my way back to the Menagerie through an alley when a hand reached out from the shadows and grasped my shoulder. I saw that the hand was black like a drow's, but I did not panic. If it had been Xara or anyone else who wished me dead, they would have stabbed me, not grabbed my shoulder. Also Ilira employed shadowy servants and I did not want to attack a potential new ally. I spun around and drew my rod, but did not attack. Standing in the shadows was Varzynthiir, the chain wielding assassin who had hesitated to follow Xara’s orders during the attack that killed Rote. I still did not attack. If he were here at Xara’s order I would probably be dead. I also couldn’t help remembering his hesitation when we last met.
We both stood very still for some time until he finally spoke. He claimed to have a warning to deliver: Xara was attacking the menagerie at that very moment.
My stomach sank. Here was another trap. If his warning was true then Xara was trying to lure me into facing her by doing violence on anyone I knew. She was beating the bushes, trying to flush me out, and the bushes were my allies. If his warning was a ruse, it could have been a distraction from a real threat against my friends. Either way I knew I could not do what I wanted to, which was to fly as quickly as I could to the Menagerie and blast her back into the demonweb pits from whence she came. That would be exactly what she wanted and what she expected. I made a hard decision then. I had to be cold and calculating and risk the lives of any who were at the menagerie. My stomach sank further and I felt sick.
I dismissed Varzynthiir from my presence and returned to the Swift Spear. The barmaid there confronted me about Rhagaster, who she called Star Eyes, and thought me a rival for his affections. I had no time for her shallowness, so I played to it by showing her part of my face and assuring her there was no way Rhagaster would want me. I then pressed on and flattered her, convincing her to let me make use of a private meeting room nearby. The whole time I clenched and unclenched my fists, desperately trying not to beat her senseless with my rod, but time was of the essence and I knew what I needed to do. Obviously spending so much time with Brandis is starting to have an effect on me.
Once in private I pulled out my satchel of residuum and began to prepare a sending. While applying the arcane dust to my eyes and brow in the usual way, I called up all the feelings of sorrow and loss within me. I thought on Rote’s death, my longing to return to the feywild, the injustices I have faced, and fixed those thoughts in my mind to present just the right picture. I completed the short ritual and created the psychic link with my enemy, Xara.
When doing a sending, I have found that just as you make the connection, you receive flashes of emotion from the recipient of your thoughts. Knowing it also works the other way around I disciplined my mind to present what I wanted Xara to see. I wanted her to see me feeling desperate, sad, and afraid. After enduring the rush of hatred and anger I received from her, I sent to her this thought, “Xara, you coward. This ends tonight. I challenge you to single combat. Spare my friends and face me or lose me to the feywild forever.”
I scarcely remembered her response, though having her in my mind again felt like spiders crawling all over me. I had things to do. I pulled out my potion making supplies and set to work on an elixir of invisibility. Once the first draught was bubbling I did another sending, but to an unlikely recipient.
Fayne was toying with someone sexually when I contacted her. After an initial surprise at the telepathic link she didn’t seem to mind the interruption. I told her that if she wanted a chance to kill the drow that murdered Rote to meet me at the Swift Spear in one hour. She agreed.
The time passed quickly while I worked. It seemed only a moment later that there was a knock on the door. The bar maid told me a gentleman named Lueth was here. When the person entered they wore Brandis’s face. I greeted Fayne, unfased and unamused by her illusions by now, and turned back to my work. As usual she played a game of innuendo and meaningless chatter. I ignored it and cut straight to the heart of the matter. In the end she only made sly comments about the Ruby she had given Rote, seemed amused that Kadath now carried it, and deigned to join in the fight. Wondering why I bothered to contact her I told her to leave, and she did so, with a parting insinuation that Lilten was my father as well. I ignored it and returned a farewell that suggested Brandis might be his child just as easily. Her tricks do not amuse me and even if Lilten WERE my father, it wouldn’t matter to me. Corellon and the Seldarine are the only family I need.
...and I have my friends.
Once the second potion, one of mimicry, was complete I departed and headed to the place where Brandis and I had planned to meet. It was a brothel, no surprise there, called the Blushing Mermaid in Dockward. Brandis selected it because he knew we could rent the whole place for relatively little money, it was in a seedy part of town so the sounds of a fight would not draw attention, and most importantly, it had the biggest, ugliest, rug you had ever seen. Really, I don’t know how the person who made this sealife themed weave did not go blind in the effort. It was quite hideous, but it was large enough to cover a magic circle, and that is what was important.
Brandis was already there along with the rest of the party. I continued the ruse Brandis and I had concocted by saying that I had reconsidered my idea to face Xara alone and had come to my senses. They had only needed to remain ignorant while Brandis spread the rumors, but now that we were at the place of ambush, I did not need to continue that particular deception. Kadath was not pleased, but I had more work to do and didn't have time to coddle his feelings. I also needed Valandra and Ulik’s help. I showed them the pages in my book for creating a magic circle and they were familiar enough with it that they could help me draw the marks required to cast the spell. We worked for several hours to make sure it was perfect, leaving the very last rune to be completed later.
While we worked everyone filled each other in on how their respective meetings had gone. Brandis and Ulik successfully convinced Talanna and Araezra of our innocence, but they were only able to commit to keeping the guard off our backs for several days. Ulik said that it seemed like Araezra wanted to pick up her sword and join us straight away, but Talanna reminded her of the restrictions upon them due to their position within the guard. They could not be vigilantes.
Brandis also confirmed that Xara had in fact gone to the Menagerie. I was relieved to hear that no one there was harmed. It seemed that Ilira held her own against Xara and that my sending came at an opportune moment, giving her the opportunity she needed to driver her out while she was distracted. Ulik mentioned that Xara suggested that she and Ilira share a past of some kind together. That is troubling, though Ilira has seemed to prove her friendship with a large bundle of gifts to us as aid against Xara. I hope to discuss this with her soon, though I don't intend to confront her about it. I merely wish to ascertain if there is any truth to it and if I have anything to fear from other associates of Xara's I am as yet unaware of.
Valandra and Kadath found the beardless dwarf, but they said it was very clear that he was no mercenary, but rather an unscrupulous assassin. They deemed, rightly so, that hiring him would be too risky, despite the great help he might provide. Before they found him though, someone else had found them. Luckily it was not a drow, but rather was another genasi. He fought them, claiming that they were “false heirs” and something about not being deserving of the love of a genasi woman. I admit I forget the details as I was preoccupied with the unfolding plot, but Valandra gained a curious new sword from the fallen genasi and when this is all over I intend to have them tell me what happened in more detail.
Once the circle was done Valandra and Kadath went to a private room to sleep off the exertions of their previous battle. Just after they retired I noticed a flick of shadow come in from the back of the brothel and flit upstairs. I saw a face in the shadows just before it disappeared into a room. It was Varzynthiir. Not knowing his intentions, Brandis, Ulik, and I went upstairs and tried to confront him. He was skittish and paranoid in the way of the drow and sadly roughed Brandis up a bit. He claimed I was betraying him, but I calmed him down enough that he released Brandis. Before any meaningful conversation could happen though shadow jumped through the wall. His parting words were “You know this isn’t going to work.”
I hurried back down to the rug covered magic circle, fearful of an imminent attack, but none came. We waited until late at night, near high moon, before we baited the trap. I did one last sending for the day, again to Xara, telling her where I was.
We took our positions, Ulik, Kadath, and Valandra hidden away in the private rooms while Brandis and I stayed in the common room, and waited. I had spelled the doors so that should any drow approach we would hear the sound of alley cats howling.
Instead of that noise, there came a knock at the door.
I shot Brandis a look, but he protested that he had put up a sign saying the brothel was closed for the night. All the same I did not want some bumbling sailor to be caught in the imminent battle. Brandis went to the door and saw the shape of a tall man through the cracks. When he opened it a familiar voice asked if I was inside. It was Rhagaster. How everyone but Xara seemed to know my whereabouts is a mystery apparently, though one I won't question. I hissed for Brandis to bring him inside and to shove him in the back room with Kadath and Valandra. I flung a series of epithets at him as he was hurried to the back that I couldn't help but intersperse with an embarrassing amount of gushing. The fool had come to help me and that warmed my heart, despite how stupid it was.
Once he was squared away Brandis and I put ourselves back in position and it wasn't long before we faced our fate.
We heard my eyes of alarm and in that instant both Brandis and I quaffed the potions I had created earlier. He one of mimicry to look like me, and I one of invisibility. Just after we went through our metamorphoses Xara kicked down the door. The scene that greeted her was Brandis, disguised as me, standing on a hideous rug, seemingly alone. Brandis traded threats, quips, and other pleasentries with her while we waited for her to come far enough onto the rug. She must have heard some minute creak of leather or armor from my friends, because she quickly deduced I was not alone, but that was to be expected. Brandis played it off nicely. I believe he said, “Well of course I'm not alone. Did you honestly think I'm so stupid to think you would come here without your own allies?”. He continued to ply our scheme, convincing her that my allies were there only to prevent interference in our duel. By now Xara stood just outside the edge of the circle, which still lay hidden beneath the carpet.
She did something unexpected then. She asked if I minded her using her own means of ensuring we fight uninterrupted. Brandis agreed and she pulled out a scroll. From where I stood behind Brandis I could see the scribblings on the parchment and it looked to be a ritual similar to my own magic circle. At that moment though she crossed the threshold of my circle and it was time to act. Still invisible, I threw back the edge of the rug where I stood to reveal the incomplete rune of my own circle. I quickly scratched the last few strokes of the symbol to close the circle, which was attuned only to fey creatures. The circle ignited in magic, shining through the garish carpet, and I felt its strength. I knew Xara was trapped.
This is where our brilliant plan should have worked perfectly. With the circle activated, Xara would be trapped inside and Brandis, only being half elf and not a proper fey creature, could step outside the circle, leaving her alone and helpless. Then my companions could blast her with their ranged attacks at their leisure until she was dead. I envisioned her face burning under Ulik's acid as she had once burned mine with her magics.
That is not how it played out however. Just as my circle went up, Xara completed the incantation on her scroll. Black flames erupted from my own runes and a second magic circle appeared, overlaying mine. This circle I could tell however was attuned to ALL creatures, not just fey. Brandis was trapped in the circle with Xara and none of us could help him. To make matters worse she then raised her hands and said, “You were right Suriel. I didn't come alone.” Green light flickered from her hands and the floor boards trembled. Undead horrors erupted from the floor and came for me while Xara howled with laughter. I recognized some of them as victims from the blast yesterday morning. She had crafted new minions after we had dispatched her band of drow.
These undead were fast...too fast. Before I could yell the signal for my hidden companions to attack, one of the creatures made straight for the door where they hid, broke it down, and attacked them.
The battle that ensued was a whirlwind of knives, darkness, blinding light, acid, chains, and swords. Brandis landed hit after hit on Xara, holding his own. She struck back even more viciously, wounding him badly. Rhagaster, that brave, handsome fool, felled one of the undead creatures, but took a beating himself. It didn't take long for us to shatter the undead creatures Xara had summoned, but it took its toll and Brandis was hovering on the brink of death by the time we could wade out of the bones and rotting meat.
Valandra, Ulik, and I worked furiously to try and undo her circle so we could get to Brandis before it was too late. Perhaps it was the mix of too many magics or the complexity of both circles on top of each other, but in trying to undo it, we triggered a cataclysm of magic that exploded outward, hurtling everyone outside the circle back in a blast of arcane energies.
When we looked up, her circle was gone, but so was mine. All that remained was an inky cloud of blackness that contained my unbound enemy and Brandis floating in the air in the clutch of darkness.
note to reader, below this point is the slightly modified writing of the DM, Erik Scott de Bie
We pressed the attack and struck valiantly, but to no avail--we could not find our foe in the darkness, but Xara fought unhampered. Even worse, Brandis hung suspended in the air, slowly suffocating as her dark power closed tighter around him. Finally, Ulik charged into the darkness, heedless of his own safety, and lashed out with arcane talons of magic. Xara stumbled back, the darkness following her, and Brandis fell to the floor, unconscious but freed of the grasping spell. We made to charge her immediately, but she covered her retreat with a burst of Lolth's blessing: a black web of demonic magic that sapped the life from our limbs.
I was the only one still free. I used all my binding magics and sent my angel of fire to cut off Xara's escape. Tears of fury and rage streamed down my face as I gave my all to stop this monster who had murdered so many innocents. I realized, however, that my friends were dying within Xara's conjured demonwebs, and so I abandoned the assault upon her in order to haul the fallen Rhagaster from the webs and administer healing potions to those in need.
"What are you doing, Suriel?" Xara mocked as she writhed in the conjured chains. "This is your chance to defeat me, and you would waste it on pathetic mongrels such as these?"
"I am doing what I must!" I snapped back. "I would not expect you to understand!"
Finally, as Xara stood poised on the threshold of the brothel having defeated my angel of fire and fending off all attacks, she stopped to mock me once more: "This is not ended between us, Suriel. You are not worthy, you were NEVER worthy, and I will kill and kill again and again, devouring everything that you love, until at last you BEG me for release--grkk!"
Her words cut off unexpectedly, and in the space of a breath her aura of darkness faded, only to reveal Varzynthiir--his spiked chain wrapped around her throat--holding her back from escape. She looked at him with an expression that was startled, tender, and betrayed all at once. "Treachery!" she choked out. For his part, Varzynthiir refused to meet her eye--instead, his urgent gaze was only for me, silently pleading with me to strike while I could.
All of us lashed out at her, and Xara kept deflecting and dodging, even hampered as she was by Varzynthiir's strangling chain. She viciously stabbed him once, twice--like a black widow caught in its own web--and still he held on, though his strength flagged. Finally, in one last desperate gambit I drew on all the powers of the Seldarine that would aid me. I channeled all the power that remained inside me, power gifted by Corellon himself, and gouged a tear into the fabric of the realm. When I finished a rift directly from this plane to Arvandor flashed and rippled in air. I felt the power of the gods sweep through this portal and sensed the presence of Sehanine strongly. I pulled all the power I could from that holy place, drawing forth a blast of astral wind, and sent a tornado of force straight into Xara, crushing her in its grip.
Xara gave me one last, surprisingly sorrowful glance. Then she fell limply to her knees with a crackle, and thence crashed lifeless to the floor.
The astral winds flew out from her around the chamber, billowing away the remains of her black webbing. Even filled with gore and death, the chamber offered us a sweet, crisp smell, as of a beautiful autumn morn. Then the opening to the realm of the elven gods healed itself and the wind died.
In the Seldarine-blessed stillness that followed, we could once again breathe easy.
No sooner had Xara breathed her last, however, than her body began to writhe as though with horrid life. Though she was dead, her mouth opened and she screamed in such agony as mortal creatures cannot know. We recoiled as her flesh rose in livid welts that moved across her skin, as though something skittered beneath on chattering legs. Mandibles ripped outward through her skin, and all of a sudden eight black scorpions (not spiders, as one might expect) burst from within her to rove across her corpse, biting and tearing. Seemingly alive once more, Xara screamed and batted at them, but to no avail. The scorpions seemed to be a magical effect, insubstantial, and invulnerable to attacks.
Through all the horror, Varzynthiir watched impassively, his eyes never leaving Xara's agonized movements.
Finally--seemingly after longer than anyone should have been able to stand--Xara shuddered to rest, and the scorpions continued feasting. When they were done, there was nothing left of her but black-dyed bones. The scorpions themselves faded away like shadows in a bright light. The whole process could not have taken more than a dozen heartbeats, and yet it seemed to go on forever.
The source of the conjured scorpions is unknown to me, but one thing is sure: Xara is very, very dead.
Thursday, October 7, 2010, 12:03 PM
-continued from previous post-
When I sat up, the square was silent chaos. Dead bodies surrounded me and the living fled the square. It took me a moment to realize the silence was due to the explosion deafening me. Kadath came and put his arm around me while I shook my head, trying to clear my mind. He was talking to me, but I couldn’t hear him. I tried to tell him it was Xara, but I don’t know if he could understand or hear me himself.
I looked around the square and saw for the first time just how powerful the blast really was. Besides the scores of dead around me, nearby vendor carts were in splintered pieces, and buildings made of firm stone had lost entire walls. It was only by the grace of the Seldarine that the three of us survived such a thing.
Somehow the fountain where Althius’s now obliterated body had sat was untouched, though it glowed with a pale blue light. My hearing started to return and I heard Valandra say something about the light being a warning when a masked woman teleported into the square near us. She was tall and stern, with long black hair and a mask covering her face. She held out a dark hued staff and said, “Halt in the name of the black staff!”
My hearing seemed to have fully returned and I intended to hold up my hands in supplication and surrender. Though I heard some yelling frantically that we were to blame and others pointing accusingly at us, I thought it would be easy to show that we were bystanders, especially considering that I was so injured. My hands did not obey me. To my horror they raised not in surrender, but in attack. My rod vibrated with power and unleashed a blast of astral wind at the woman with the black staff.
Everything that happened after that is fuzzy. What I do remember is hearing Xara’s laughter, no longer issuing from corpses, but from within my head. She had somehow dominated my mind. I wrestled with her for control, but having just survived one magical assault and now sustaining additional injuries from the woman with the black staff I was unable to gain control of myself. Later Brandis told me that he could tell something wasn’t right with me and so knocked me unconscious with the butt of his dagger.
When I woke I was in a comfortable bed fitted with fine silks. Lorien stood over me. I was in the Menagerie. Her face was filled with so much tenderness and concern that I lost my composure and began to cry. I told her everything: my childhood, Xara’s torture, my rescue, and all the recent events that had killed and hurt so many. She was very kind and listened to me without interruption. When I finally pulled myself together we sat for a moment in silence and a plan formed in my mind.
Xara was not going to go away to lick her wounds from our previous battle and I seemed unable to hide from her. The cold waters rose within me again and I knew vengeance would wait no longer. Xara must die and it would only be through subtlety that it could be accomplished since direct conflict had failed.
First I would need allies should subtlety fail. Lorien seemed eager to help, but Ilira emerged from the shadows and revealed herself, cutting short our conversation. Soon the rest of my companions came to the menagerie and I joined them by a small fireplace. They told me of their mad dash escape from the city guard after the fight in the square. Only Kadath was missing, so I did a sending to him to let him know where we were.
Ilira offered to let us stay there that night, since it was obvious that it was no longer safe to stay at the Red Crown. I probably missed the meneg hwand glaer she made, which is disappointing, but I’m glad that we are not putting her in danger with our presence. Once this is over I will have to find a way to make it up to her. We stayed up late talking and I told them that I intended to do something about Xara. We decided to leave early the next morning to seek out allies.
Before going to bed I noticed the light on in Ilira’s room so I knocked. After a moment’s hesitation she allowed me to enter. She gazed preoccupied at something in her hand, though I didn't see clearly what it was. We talked about many things, including a desire for friendship between us as well as hints of her dark past. Mostly she made clear that whatever friendship we may foster would wither like a flower in winter if I did anything to endanger Lorien.
When I left her room, the others were all asleep, but Brandis was still awake. He lounged haphazardly across a sumptuous arm chair by the small upstairs fireplace. For once he didn’t seem to be putting on a show of any kind and was obviously lost in thought. When I came back into the room he shifted slightly to a more lurid position and took out one of his knives. He toyed with it, flourishing it about. His mask was back on. I sat across from him in silence until he gave up on the knife play and looked at me.
“I think it’s time we started playing dirty.”
A grin on his face gave way to a flash of his teeth from the firelight, and we set to plotting.
May Sehanine guide our path.
Friday, October 1, 2010, 4:26 PM
Hei Corellon Shar Shelevu.
Zara has struck again and Althius is dead.
When the day began I had no idea what lay in wait for me. I thought to fill the time before my midday meeting with the Harper researching the scroll I found in the temple of Mystra. I took it to the Bard College of Waterdeep, having heard that they were the largest library in the city. I needed someone who could handle the delicate parchment in my possession. Ulik and Brandis decided to accompany me, though why Brandis did, I’m not quite sure. When we stepped through the large double doors the smell of dust, parchment, and leather enveloped me in its comforting embrace. I had not stepped foot in a house of knowledge since I left Mithrendain and the familiar scents were soothing. Brandis broke my revery with a question I will not repeat here. Suffice to say it revealed that he might never have stepped foot in a lore hall his entire life. Feeling slightly disgusted I picked up the closest index tome, thumped it against his chest and strode off to do my work.
I later found out that Ulik spent his time researching our new friend Lady Lorien and her lover Lady Ilira. Most of his information came from the city’s broadsheets, one of which was rather pointed in its criticism of both women. Lady Lorien seems roundly adored, but this broadsheet painted Lady Ilira as a shady business woman and accused her of using robbers and assassins to prevent other merchants in the city from competing with her.
My concerns this day lay in the more esoteric. I searched for, and quickly found, one of the library caretakers. I inquired as to their facilities for restoration with delicate pieces and showed her the scroll case from Spellgarde. I think the poor dears jaw may have come unhinged when she saw the case. I was quickly ushered into a room with several other caretakers who were all very excited. Soon a sizeable crowd had gathered to witness the unveiling of my scroll. I admit to being completely swept up in the excitement. Sadly, once the scroll was revealed, it was not immediately decipherable. We very quickly came to a very agreeable arrangement however. I allowed them to keep and study the scroll for the time being and they agreed to reveal anything they were able to discover about the ancient text. They also paid me several large bags worth of gold for the privilege of “renting” the scrolls so to speak as well as granting me access to a very respectable cache of arcane rituals.
I greedily drank in the knowledge of those ritual scrolls for the rest of the morning, vastly expanding my knowledge. All to soon it was time to depart if I was going to be on time to meet Althius. I collected Ulik and Brandis on my way out, witnessing the aftermath of what I suppose was a tutoring session for Brandis with several young bards. Then again, it’s very possible that it was Brandis who tutored them, based on the exhausted looks on their faces and the less than coy smile on his.
When we reached the square beneath the Blackstaff Tower, we did our best to search for traps and ambushes. No bowmen waited in the surrounding widows or roofs. No soldiers lay hidden in nearby alleys. As far as we could discern, all was safe. We were wrong.
I took Kadath and Vilandra with me to meet Althius while Ulik and Brandis stayed on the outskirts as backup and hopefully early warning should anything go wrong. Althius appeared to be dozing next to the fountain in the center of the square. When he didn’t respond to a gentle tap on his foot or me calling his name I immediately knew something was wrong. Every instinct in my body told me to flee. Before I could act, Kadath gave his shoulder a good shake. With the movement we could now see that Althius was covered in blood and quite dead. That movement also triggered the arcane trap. A familiar voice issued from his corpse followed by hysterical laughter. It said, “Your end is your beginning.” It was Zara’s voice and in the midst of her laughter Althius’s corpse exploded in a burst of arcane energies.
I landed some distance away, injured and stunned. I did not feel any pain though. All my attention was on that voice I had heard. Zara. She had killed again to get to me. She was here in the city still and I had walked directly into her web once again.
-To be continued-
Friday, October 1, 2010, 11:48 AM
So there is a nasty paragon level Drow lady after my character. She has twice now ambushed the party, killed on of our party members, started killing NPC's I know, and is trying to frame us for some nastiness. Obviously that can't continue.
I have a plan for dealing with her. Will my DM let me get away with it though is the question. We'll find out on Sunday.
Thursday, September 30, 2010, 9:21 AM
My players have finished up the Rivenroar dungeon and moved on to Overlook. I'm very proud of them. They are a very effective group, despite many of them being pretty new. I also like how the pinch hitter system is working. Each person that fills in for a character gives a little new twist, a new bit of depth to its persona.
I'm finding its pretty challenging to run a weekday evening group though. There is definitely a time crunch aspect to it and it's challenging to just chill and relax into the game. Food also seems to be a bit of an issue. There have been times where people have gotten overburdened with the cost of dinner and I know I've been guilty of doing that as well.
Things to ruminate on for better solutions:
-Finding ways to reward being on time and/or structure the evening to allow buffer time to allow for cutting cards, ordering food, and socializing before the game actually begins.
-Finding ways to engage people more in the story (I think this will become easier once they get to Overlook and there are more opportunities for character specific hooks and NPC's)
-Ways to engage players when it's not their turn
-Figure out how to do encounters so the party doesn't always get locked down at the entrance to a room. I think this happens because 4 of the six party members are ranged
Thursday, September 23, 2010, 9:51 AM
--continued from previous entry--
...onto a room full of statues. Very, very full of statues. We couldn't even step into the room for the stone monoliths shaped like people. On close inspection I think they might have actually been people that had been turned to stone. I have heard of creatures that can do this, but the name escaped me then. All of the statues looked to be adventurer types who had come into downshadow for perhaps similar reasons that drew us.
We abandoned this course and went back to the tapestry with the handle next to it. Behind the tapestry was a portal into the next chamber. It was dimly lit with pillars of stone that glowed with blue light. The hue reminded me of the color of light that surrounds those who work the magic of the spellplague. In fact I suspect the magic powering the pillars is from the same source. Unfortunately for us there were two very large snakes slumbering within along with two smaller, but no less deadly, serpents who spat fire. They quickly woke and we dealt with them in due time.
Down another hallways we found a simple wooden door that looked like the ravages of water and rot and eaten away at it. Sadly there were not sufficient openings in its surface to see through. Brandis however worked his magic and this time managed to open the door softly and silently as falling snow. With it open a crack we were able to see inside. More snake men were chanting in a sibilant tongue over a woman was tied to an altar. Several platforms rose above swampy water in which something moved, disturbing the surface to reveal that it must be very large.
We quickly devised a plan, which to be honest mostly consisted of bursting into the room, spells and swords singing. Before that happened I hoped to surprise them in a different way to stop their chanting. I summoned an illusion of the symbol we had seen in the tunnels so that it appeared above the altar. Next I conjured the image of a giant snake headed creature peering through a crack in reality. Recognizing the language they were chanting in draconic, Ulik whispered in my ear a phrase to project onto the illusion, which was “You butcher the holy tongue of your god.”
It had the intended effect. All but one of them were confused by the illusion. Their chief holy man, snake, or whatever it was saw through the ruse though and spied me peeking through the door. We took that as our cue and broke down the doors.
At first the battle seemed to be heavily stacked in our favor. Most of the worshipers went down easily and the priest was not looking good, but then the creature beneath the waters made itself known. A gigantic snake, bigger than any we had yet seen, erupted from the water and wrapped Velandra in its coils. Brandis, in his infinite inscrutability, ran forward to help calling the snake by name, which he apparently decided was Rachel. For his trouble he took an arrow to the chest and cried out in pain from the poison on its tip. The missile had come from a shadowy alcove above the room where a medusa made herself known to us, empty bow still in hand. Here was the creature that had turned those other adventurers to stone. Sensing our danger I called out to the Seldarine to send me aid. My angel of fire burst into existence in front of her, shielding us from her attacks.
The woman on the altar called out to us and we recognized her voice. It was Lady Lorien Dawnbringer. She would later explain how it was she ended up in this dank, dark place all alone, but as it was, all we knew is that we had to save her. When she yelled out during battle it was not in fear, but in calm and firm tones directing us to free her so she could aid us in the battle. Kadath, using the magic of his parents' armor, glided across the swamp water as if it were solid ground and jumped up to the altar. He headed towards one of the last remaining worshipers. Before he could attack him, a shadowy form came out of the wall and knocked the snake man off into the swampy water and then disappeared back into the stone surface it emerged from, never to be seen again.
Once the Lady was free she strode to the edge of the platform. Her forceful will emanated from her like the light of the sun and snared the gaze of the giant serpent that had again wrapped Velandra in its coils. With it firmly held with her eyes she battled against its mind until she had the creature under her control. She quickly sent it on its way, eliminating it as a threat. It was an inspiration to behold such a display of holy power. Her will is quite formidable.
Once the snake was gone, the medusa retreated into her alcove, hissing threats and promises of future violence as she departed.
Lorien thanked us for assisting her, including a healing kiss for Kadath and Brandis. She was then able to explain that she came down into Downshadow to minister to the needy; healing and giving comfort where she was able. Despite her obvious power I was surprised that she did so alone and indeed as we strode the passageways of that place she walked completely heedless of any possible traps, hazards, or waiting ambushes. If I hadn't witnessed her abilities I would say that she was a fool, but considering her strength, not to mention the flash of shadow that came to her aid at the altar, I suspect she just might be capable of doing this with a relative lack of danger, her recent captivity not withstanding. She hinted that our help would earn “her” gratitude and it was obvious that she was not speaking of herself. I suspect she referred to the Lady Ilira, Lorien's companion at the temple of Tempus. I also wonder if the shadow that came to her aid might have its origins in the black clad Eladrin, since it would be a curious thing indeed for a servant of the goddess of love, named for the newly renewed light of dawn, to be able to draw on the power of shadows.
Lorien invited us to join her on her travels through Downshadow, but we were in need of a rest and had our appointment with Althius to keep the next morning. She led us to a safe exit out of the underground and bid us farewell, striding off into the darkness as if she were walking through the midday market.
Once back at the Red Crown, the inn where we had taken up, the proprietress Simone greeted us warmly and struck up a conversation. She told me that a young man had been here asking after me, but did not leave a message or any way to contact him. Being the soul of discretion Simone did not reveal that we actually stayed at her inn. Sadly this may have resulted in the lack of information from my mysterious visitor, but considering the presence of Zara in the city and the intrigue that is all too common in large cities, it was very much appreciated. I am very fond of Simone. She seems to be a warm hearted soul who savors the simple pleasures of life and is a masterful cook. She even offered to make my favorite dish meneg hwand glaer, a mushroom stew common at Eladrin tables, for dinner the next day. I look forward to a taste of home.
Tomorrow is my meeting with Althius. I'm not sure we will have much to discuss since we already discovered the identity of the assassins that pursued me, but I am not the kind to miss appointments. It also never hurts to cultivate friends and allies who are connected and resourceful. Since we will be going to a very visible and public location though we will of course scout for traps, ambushes, bow armed snipers in windows, and other evidence of foul play at hand. I don't necessarily suspect that Althius will betray us, but that doesn't mean that Zara won't take the opportunity of me being out in the open to try something. I'm hoping that she has gone to ground to lick her wounds, but one can't be too careful.
Friday, September 17, 2010, 2:24 PM
Hei Correlon Shar Shelevu,
A morning of melancholy led us into the shadows of Waterdeep. At breakfast no one spoke much, but all of us seemed preoccupied. Kadath seemed especially distracted as he gazed into the Ruby that Rote wore around his neck. My own meal was spent contemplating all that I had done wrong, which led to Rote's death. It was foolish of me to chase after the drow into such an obvious trap. My own zeal caused me to blindly fly into danger and now someone I had come to count as a worthy companion, and maybe even a friend, is dead. I am partially to blame for his death, but his blood is on Zara's hands.
A note came from Araezra Hondyl, the guardswoman at the revel who responded to the sounds of our battle, while we ate in silence. She assures me the guard are doing everything they can to track down Zara and her band. I know they won't find her. She is obviously too powerful, too clever, even if weakened at the moment. It did give us the opportunity to slip away to downshadow though, hopefully without being noticed. The idea was that it would be harder to track us down there and it would be a good place to hide until things quiet down. The location has the added benefit of giving me creatures of darkness and evil for me to work out my aggression on.
The bartender in the Knight and Shadow gave me something to focus my anger on. He told us of a ring of Yuan Ti slavers known to inhabit the northern reaches of the underground city. Kadath was reluctant to wade into the fray of them, not wanting to tip his hand while he tried to discover the leader of the slave operation, but we convinced him that the slavers themselves might make for good sources of information.
I entered downshadow spoiling for a fight, but my anger was cooled by the denizens of the first settlement we encountered. Brandis sweet talked our way past a guard post and into a camp of sorts and immediately set to making friends with the locals. He is rather good at getting people to like him. The place was very...untidy, but I got the distinct impression that these people were here due to circumstance, not design. I saw much evidence of the spellplague among them. Sadly these people seem to have been deformed by the plague, rather than gifted with benign gifts like Ninea in the Menagerie. They were obviously hungry. I shared what provisions I could. One woman in particular sticks out in my mind. She looked like any other human woman, except for her mouth. It protruded like the snout of a kobold and she had rows of needle like teeth. Her mouth could easily be described as a maw. Sheltered by her tattered robes was a small horde of children. I took out some travel biscuits and dispered pieces to each of the children and to her. She quickly turned and, with surprising speed, skittered off into the darkness. When she did, I noticed that the children were no longer there. They were illusions.
This was a sobering place for me. Sitting in the darkness with only a few small campfires, surrounded by these unfortunate people that were simply unlucky enough to be affected by the spellplague...I suddenly felt very small. The hardships I have faced in my life seemed insignificant in the face of the despair these people must face every day. Though my body is scarred and people wince when they see me unveiled, I am still able to walk the paths of the world with freedom. These people are altered to the point that the world has forced them into this darkness where they eke out a living. They are obviously capable people. A fire sprang up at one point and immediately there were dozens on the scene, summoning water and quelling the fire with arcane skill. It is the people of the world above that have forced them down here. If I had not been found by the eladrin on the night Zara burned me with her magic, I could have ended up little different than these people.
This meeting left me feeling strangely renewed. I see now that Zara and her cruelties, though to be dealt with in the future, are no greater than other cruelties that afflict the world. My personal vendetta is a tiny crystal of ice on vast plain of snowy inequities that blanket this world. I have the power to do good things in this realm, and already have. We eliminated the threat of both a young white dragon and a small goblin horde for Loudwater, saving lives in the process. We routed out a slave trade in the same town, preventing children from living a life of endless toil. We freed Lady Saharel from the grip of denizens of the shadowfell and discovered ancient secrets in the process. There are good things we have done and continue to do. Zara will be dealt with in the fullness of time, either by me or some other of servant of the Seldarine. In the meantime we will continue to seek out the answers to our personal mysteries and, though it was not part of my original charge, help those we meet along the way.
The more time I spend here, away from the feywild, the closer I feel to the peoples of this land. As always I serve the Seldarine and the People, but it was the kindness of the races of this land that saw me through my childhood and into the arms of Corellon. I shall repay that debt however I can.
To that end we left the encampment of the spellscarred and downshadow residents to seek out the slavers. We hired a dwarf in the camp to guide us past the known dangers. One of the more interesting obstacles was what I've decided to dub the "Mage Hater". It was a colossus of a statue, but missing its arms and head. Where the appendages and head had broken off, the statue crackled with lightning. The dwarf warned us that in order to get through the room unharmed we would have to discharge some magic before making a run for it. Ulik, Vilandra, and I each spent a bit of our magic. Each time the statue hurled great bolts of lightning wherever we had sent it. Unfortunately Vilandra's sword seemed to attract its attention and she got singed by a discharge. Then we dashed for it. My robes are not meant for running, but I made the best of it. Kadath scooped up the dwarf, who lagged behind, and we all met on the opposite side of the chamber, mostly unharmed.
Further on into the tunnels we fell into a trap laid by some changelings with a displacer beast but we taught them that we were not to be trifled with. One escaped. We left him to his fate and chose another door. Finally we came upon the marks associated with the slavers. We found a swampy antechamber teeming with snake men who spoke of a captive priestess and a ritual. Ulik recognized by their talk that it was a ritual of sacrifice. That was all we needed to hear. We burst into the room, swords drawn and spells blazing. The flush of battle was a glorious remedy for our recent defeat. My blood burned with the light of the sacred stars of the Seldarine. Aerie Faenya, goddess of birds and flight, must have been with me in that battle because I found myself leaping up to balcony where I could strike our foes in the room with impunity.
Brandis gave me a scare near the end of that fray. He went down under a snake man's blade. I yelled his name but he didn't respond. The goddess must have still been with me because I leapt off the balcony without a thought and glided down to the ground with ease. I came to his side and invoked Naralis Analor's aid. He survived. I don't think I could have handled losing another companion in such a short time. Later, Ulik told me he saw what he thought were wings spring from my back when I jumped, but I felt no such thing happen.
When the battle was over we had killed all the snake men and their minions without raising further alarm. Brandis and Kadath were injured and winded, but now that we knew there was a sacrificial woman on an altar nearby, we pressed on. We discovered a door behind a rotting tapestry in addition to the door that led to my balcony. We decided to try the balcony door. It was entirely metal and ancient in appearance. When Brandis finally managed the lock the whole door made a terrible loud noise and swung open to reveal........
-To be continued after our next session-
Monday, September 13, 2010, 10:07 AM
So on Friday, the party saved another townsperson in a chapel to the Raven Queen. There were two gnomes and a bunch of dire rats. The gnomes were yelling about things being ruined, but no one was sure what they were talking about since Satya was able to determine they were not performing any kind of magic ritual.
The party considered taking a rest, but pressed on into the dungeon, feeling that time was of the essence. They went down the stairs where previously they saw the escaped gnome duck down. They encountered a desperate band of goblins with a pair of spitting drakes, but dispatched them easily. They next found the chamber where Jalissa was previously held, but now there was only a torn dress on the floor beneath empty shackles. Mang Thwip, using her scent from the dress and calling on the spirits for aid, was able to discern which direction she was in. Through another set of doors they found a a room filled with undead creatures feasting on a small body over a giant mosaic of a black sun.
(flavor text) Looking down into the room with the Black Sun:
The light seems to fade to a grey dimness just beyond the threshold of the door, though it is enough to see the small pale figure in stark relief of the black stone beneath it. Dry ripping sounds reach your ears even here as whatever the pale being used to be is torn slowly to pieces by the hunched creatures gathered around it. Soon the snap of what can only be bones can be heard.
The onyx celestial body seemed to fill them with vitality, but the party wiped them out. Another consultation with the spirits led them down one last corridor where they found a crypt with a little boy tied up inside.
(flavor text) Antechamber to Wight Room:
A still fountain sits recessed in an alcove. A small boy is tied in rope to the fountain and shivers from the cold, or in fear. To the south a wall of burial niches contain moldering corpses and bones. To the north a passage lined in columns stretches into the darkness. Each column has the hand of Vecna carved into it at eye level.
He was scared stiff and refused to talk louder than a whisper. He kept glancing down a hall lined with columns. Each column bore the mark of Vecna.
Charging down the hallway they came into a thrown room with a grisly scene.
(flavor text) Wight Room:
Two thrones sit along the wall of this immense chamber. One is occupied by a dusty skeleton, its jaw agape. The other throne stands empty. Its former occupant, a withered corpse dressed in decaying finery stands on the dais over a magic circle made of ash and shards of bone. In the circle, held aloft by buffeting shadows and motes of ash is a beautiful naked woman with flowing blond hair. Surrounding her is an unfurled scroll of parchment. As you watch, her hair begins to turn from blond to white, her skin wrinkles, and her form begins to hunch. As this happens, words begin to appear in black ink on the length of the scroll.
The corpse opens its eyes, which glow with purple light, and it regards you. As it speaks the room seems to grow deadly cold. It says, “No. I will not be stopped again. Arise my warriors. Consume them!”
Jonn inspired the party with a battle cry he drew up from his deep memory (a utility power that allowed everyone to take a history check he makes and use it as their initiative...he got a 27). And while trying to fend of a horde of skeleton minions and the risen boneshard skeleton that sat upon the throne, others in the party tried to disrupt the ritual and save Jalissa. In the end, they scattered the bone runes and the ritual ended before Jalissa was killed. They then mopped up the rest of the undead with ease.
Following is the skill challenge I devised for them with the ritual:
Lich Ritual Skill Challenge
Level 1 (4 successes before 3 failures)
Time limit: 4 rounds.
Primary Skills: Arcana, Thievery, Religion, Intimidate.
Arcana (DC 15): You directly counter the the magic of the ritual with your own chanting, use mage hand to alter the runes, etc.
Thievery/Athletics (DC 20): You attempt to alter the runes by hand. Regardless of success you take 1d10 necrotic damage. A failure on this check does damage to Jalissa, reducing the time limit by 1 turn.
Religion (DC 15): You invoke the proper deities to intervene on stop the ritual or aid you in your attempts. A success on this check adds +2 to all other checks. The PCs can earn only one success this way.
Attack (radiant damage): Succesfully hitting the wight with radiant damage counts as a success.
Success: The ritual is ended prematurely, Jalissa survives.
Failure: The ritual ends, but Jalissa is killed in the process. The wight regains 10 HP and any downed decrepit skeletons are reanimated by the blast of necrotic energy.
So the party has gone through something like 11 battles without taking an extended rest. Part of this is because of the damn Shaman in my party, but obviously I'm not doing something right too. The adventure, as written, was for five characters, but I thought it didn't take into account the lack of extended rests they would take. I have six players in a potent combo. Two controllers, two defenders, one leader (the damn shaman) and one striker. I thought that the lack of extended rests over a long string of easier battles would balance each other out so I didn't add extra monsters to most of the encounters to make up for the extra person. I see now that was a mistake. One of my players even seemed a little disappointed that no one almost died in the battle with the wight. Part of this is also because the adventure was written in the early days of 4th edition so there are some inherent mechanic balance issues even if you use the proper experience budget. In the words of my own DM, Mr Erik Scott De Bie, "First off, for all the heroic tier Scales of War adventures, you should add to the monsters' damage output a flat modifier equal to half the creature's level. (This is just to bring it into the proper balance.) Monsters should be putting out an average amount of damage equal to 8+level, and the original Scales of War monsters are doing 8+HALF level. Thus, if you add half level to damage, you bring it into correct balance." I trust his advice and he's actually working through the same campaign at a higher level with a different group.
I guess I was also reluctant to add too many more monsters because we play on weeknights and I was trying to streamline the battles so they wouldn't take forever with six people. But as Erik also pointed out, the more people, the less experience they get, so they will end up hurting in the long run of the campaign. Additionaly I perhaps have the bad trait for a DM of WANTING my players to succeed. As a result, I've perhaps been a bit too easy on them.
SO...more monsters, more blood, more traps, more almost dying. Hell, maybe I should find a way to incorporate the Tomb of Horros into the campaign just to force myself into trying to kill them. *innocent smile*
Tuesday, August 24, 2010, 2:28 PM
I cannot begin this writing with an exaltation of my god. I have failed and a friend is dead. My hands are shaking and I stain this parchment with my tears, but I don’t know if it is from anger or despair. It was the Drow. They killed Rote. He is dead. His body remains, with an enigmatic smile on his lips, but his spirit is gone. I weep silently at his loss and his sacrifice.
He saved us all, sacrificed himself so that we could survive. I don’t know what I did to deserve such an act of selflessness. Maybe it wasn’t for me at all. I’ll never know. What I do know is that the ice cold waters of vengeance lap at the edges of my mind. They call to me, demanding that I plunge into them and deliver a tribute to their depths. My offering to them shall be the lifeless body of Rote’s murderess, the Drow Xara. No other tribute will satisfy them, or me.
Xara. I finally have a name to match the face of my nightmares, the face of the woman that plucked me from the innocence of my childhood, leaving me scarred and helpless. Those injustices alone were reason enough to kill her, but now she has sought me out and again killed those who were close to me. Such a thing cannot be allowed to persist in this or any realm. She must die.
I must keep my wits about me though. Now is not the time or the place for vengeance. I will beg Rote’s spirit, and the chill waters, for patience. Twice now I have flung myself heedless into battle against her and twice I have failed. Xara is even more powerful than my nightmares made her out to be. At the end, when she struggled with Rote to remove her blade from his chest, I heard what foul prayers she uttered. I saw her sprout limbs from her body, beginning the transformation from Drow to living horror. I summoned the presence of the Seldarine in hopes of counteracting her vile magics. Perhaps they helped, but it was obviously Rote’s strength of arm and heart that silenced her before she could assume the shape of the drider. Had she succeeded, we would all be dead instead of just our companion.
I know she did not die in the eruption of black energies that consumed her and Rote at the final moment. I feel her malignancy out there somewhere, feel it in my bones, but we cannot hope to overcome her as we are now. I will bide my time until the moment is right, until I have the power I will need. Now more than ever I must unlock the secrets contained in the vial I wear around my neck.
I think about what the Lady of Spellgarde said when she gave me this holy gift:
"Your beginning and your ending are one and the same: the same weapon will redeem both your foe and you."
The words are maddening. My beginning was as a foundling on the steps of Torm’s temple in Veltalar. How that relates to my end I don’t know. Redemption is also dubious if Xara is the foe she refers to. I can think of nothing that could redeem such evil.
Perhaps the lady is not as omniscient as the legends say. Perhaps the long years and sight through time has driven her mad. Did she not tell Rote that his story would end happily? I dare say that dying on the end of a Drow blade is not what I imagine to be a happy ending. I don’t know why I so quickly put my faith in the prophecies of the dead.
Friday, August 13, 2010, 3:52 PM
An exploration of my feelings and ideas on role playing:
The other day a friend of mine came upon some LARPers doing their thing in a parking garage somewhere in the suburbs of Seattle. Being the snarky, bitchy kind of friend that this person is they snapped a picture of them and posted it to facebook. Everyone quickly jumped on the "point and laugh"" band wagon.
LARPers seem to be the geeks geek, the lowest in the food chain. They reside perhaps only above furries in the never ending game of internet mockery. Myelf, being the sort of person who's happy to let people do what makes them happy, has no problem with LARPers, though I know that i myself have no desire to particpate. With that thought in mind I threw my two cents in to the fray by saying that, while I enjoyed me some RPG's I wouldn't LARP because it felt too disconnected from reality. A friend of mine called me out to explain, out of genuine curiosity, how table top role playing is less disconnected from reality than LARPing.
I found myself befuddled for a moment and then came up with the following:
"Though I feel slightly on the defensive about this all of a sudden I will give it a shot. It's more of a feeling than something I can really point to. I think it has to do with how deeply you immerse yourself into the character you're playing and shrug off your own persona. When playing a rpg video game you are controlling a character in a limited way. You are that character, but in a very detached and non immersive interaction. There is also frequently no interaction with other real people. (This is of course not taking MMORPG's into account) In a table top rpg you create the character, so it's more personal, but you can still keep it 3rd person if you wish. You can say what your character does, rather than BE your character. Or you can choose to speak with your character's voice. There are options. You can take yourself as deep or shallow into the character as you like. In LARP though....you are your character. You are dressed like them, speak as them, and everything you do is as that character. In order to talk to another person as yourself you have to actually let them know that you're speaking "out of character". You are totally immersed and actively pretending that you are another person, in another world, doing other worldly things. At the table you're all just sitting around, eating thai food or whatever, and usually socializing in a removed way from the game."
Thinking more about it after the fact I realized that it is the social aspect of table top I mention that is the thing I like most about it. Even when you speak as your character, you almost immediately remove yourself from that immersion and other players will frequently comment on your action or crack a joke on what you've just done. There are all kinds of opportunities to build social bonds between you and the other players as yourselves. In LARP I'm sure there are still socializing opportunities, but it just feel like that since you're there as another personality, that the interactions are somehow ingenuine. On the other end of the spectrum they may actually be too personal.
My first exposure to LARP was actually my first exposure to Role Playing outside of Dragon Warrior for the NES. I met a boy and fell for him when I was somewhere in my teens. He was into Vampire: The Masquerade pretty heavily, primarily through LARP. He invited me to go and I went. I observed for a couple sessions. It seemed very bizarre to me...and also boring. I got very into the V:tM mythos and backstory, but the actual act of role playing it live seemed tedious and not entertaining.
The one thing I remember most was one of the players and his character. He was playing a Nosferatu, which was the type of vampire that developed a grotesque and repulsive appearance upon being turned. This guy was a very very large gentleman. While playing, in character, he introduced himself and said something to the effect of: "My name is Charles, Sherriff of Chicago and, as you can tell from my great size, I am a Nosferatu."
I was dumb struck. In two sentences he had peeled back layers of psyche, self loathing, and pain right before my eyes to reveal a pretty deep core part of himself. He was playing a class of character who's inherent feature is a physical deformity, which in his case was shape of his actual body. I felt immediately uncomfortable and embarassed. It felt like a very intimate moment between strangers...a moment that normally wouldn't happen until you had developed a closer bond with someone.
I think it's very common for people to explore their own psyche through role play. In fact that is probably one of the things that draws people to it most. You can poke and prod at your own insecurities, personality quirks, and ideas about life in a safe and non threatening way. This is because you're just acting, playing a character...not actually talking about yourself. Right? I mean I'm doing that right now with my current d&d character. I'm doing it purposefully and intentionally. It's been very interesting. I like it quite a bit, as this blog has probably shown.
This guy could have been doing the same. But since it was LARP there was a palpable immediacy of his character background, a glaring light to it. There was not even a veil of him just manipulating a character like you might in a video game or a mini on a DM mat. This guy was playing himself in his own character, referring to his physical reality, playing with his own life. Further more he was doing this around complete strangers. It was way too personal, too much like watching a car crash, and was too serious of an atmosphere. It was not at all like sitting around a table with friends and food having a good time. It was like group therapy.
I think that moment turned me off to LARP very quickly and strongly.
In the end I make no proclamations for or against LARPing. I don't understand it myself, but that doesn't mean pointing and laughing is the answer. My general rule of thumb for most situations in life stands for this as well.
Whatever tickles your pickle my friend.