Friday, December 20, 2013

NPCs for Fun and Adventuring: The Kobold Mariachi Band

 

A new feature at Don't Split the Partyis NPCs for Fun and Adventuring where I will introduce new NPCs that you can fit in your campaign. We will start with a light-hearted idea I developed with my kids - the kobold mariachi band! Please note: I alone am responsible for any lame jokes. Please hold my family blameless.

Backstory: Decades ago an unscrupulous bard used his songs, magic, and some items to rule a remote kobold band as a demi-god. The bard, named Jalascience, son of Huasteca, had the kobolds play music as part of their worship of him. Over a number of (kobold) generations they became very proficient and eventually the Jalascience would pick the best 10 kobold musicians each year to perform with him. These ten kobolds, the Sons of Jalascience, were a vital part of the kobold community.
  After many years Jalascience (realizing he was dying) told the band that he was returning to his celestial hall and would continue to watch over them from there. He left some of his personal items with the Sons of Jalascience and vanished, never to be seen again.
  After this the best singer of the Sons, called Little Black because of his small black horns, began to lead the kobold band. Over the next decade they gained wealth and influence by becoming mercenaries to other humanoids. Now the Sons of Jalascience are highly sought after by other tribes of humanoids for their help on the battlefield.

Appearance: the Sons of Jalascience dress in tight trousers with flared legs, tunics, and short jackets with wide-brimmed hats. Their clothing is highly decorated with embroidery and buckles. Four of the Sons play violin, two play guitar, one a rather large 'rhythm' guitar, and three play trumpets. All can, and do, sing.

Abilities: The Sons are all 'kobold bosses' with maximum hit points and fight as 1+1 HD monsters. When singing and playing together they have the following abilities, usable one at a time:
  - +3 on morale on all allies within 60 yards
  - -2 on morale on all foes within 60 yards (only foes who speak kobold, goblin, orcish, or giantish)
  - negate all sound-based attacks (harpy song, dragonne roar, etc.) within 60 yards
  - drown out all sounds within 40 yards, making it impossible to hear orders, yell alarms, etc. Spellcaster trying to cast a spell within this effect are 20% likely to fail to cast any spell with a verbal component (the spell vanishes from memory but is not cast)
  - +1 to hit and damage for all allies and -1 to hit and damage for all foes within 30 yards

Using them in your campaign: While largely for fun, the Sons of Jalascience can make a big difference on a battlefield and could be introduced as the 'secret weapon' behind the sudden battlefield success of a humanoid force. Also, perhaps some of the things left behind by Jalascience are important! They could be anything from a map to a lost treasure to the command words for a folding boat. Or simply a few magic items.

Changing the NPC: Simply avoid the mariachi  symbols and make them a group of kobolds with bard powers. Maybe throw in some magic left behind by Jalascience, such as: one of the trumpets is a Horn of Blasting and one of the guitars acts as Pipes of the Sewers

Friday, December 13, 2013

The 'Inverted' 2e S&P Skills Chart

  One of the things that bugs me (and my players!) about 2e S&P is the mechanics of doing s skills check. Want to hit a Hobgoblin? High is good! Wnat to save vs. dragon breath? High is good? Want to make a skill check?
  Low is good!
  So I finally, after a decade or so, reversed the numbers so that now when you check a skill - high is good! Below is the alphabetical list of the skills from S&P and S&< with one or two skills form my campaign. CP costs are listed, as are the abilities and sub-abilities. To get your target number do this
[[(base number listed) - (ability modifier from S&P) = target number].
  So a low INT/rea score will make your target number for the Administration non-weapon proficiency higher than your base score but a high INT/rea will make your Administration target score lower than the base score. To make a non-weapon proficiency a skill check roll a d20 and if you get the target number or higher you succeed. Just like with saves and 'to hit' rolls.

  NOTE: the background formatting of the blog page may interfere with your ability to see the chart. Printing in black and white or doing a cut and paste into a text editor should fix that.

  The notes on the chart are particular to my campaign, but I included them for your comments, too!


Skill Type CP Cost Base Number Ability Note
Administration Priest 3 12 INT/rea
Agriculture General 3 14 INT/kno
Alchemy Wizard 5 15 INT/kno
Alms Priest 3 13 CHA/lea
Anatomy Priest, Wizard 4 16 INT/kno, WIS/int
Ancient History Priest, Wizard, Rogue 3 15 WIS/int, INT/kno
Ancient Languages Priest, Wizard 4 16 INT/kno
Animal Handling General 3 14 WIS/wil
Animal Lore Warrior 3 14 INT/kno, WIS/int
Animal Training General 4 16 WIS/wil, CHA/lea
Appraising Rogue 2 13 INT/rea, WIS/int
Aquatic Fighting Warrior 4 - STR/mus, DEX/bal
Arcanology Wizard 4 16 INT/kno
Armorer Warrior 5 16 INT/kno, STR/mus
Astrology Priest, Wizard 3 16 WIS/int, INT/rea 1
Blacksmithing General 4 15 STR/mus, INT/kno
Blind Fighting Rogue, Warrior 4 - WIS/int, DEX/bal
Boat Piloting General 2 15 STR/mus, INT/rea
Bookbinding Priest, Wizard 3 13 INT/kno
Bowyer/Fletcher Warrior 5 15 WIS/int, Dex/aim 2
Brewing General 3 13 INT/kno
Bureaucracy Priest 3 13 INT/kno
Carpentry General 3 14 STR/sta, INT/kno
Ceremony Priest 2 14 WIS/int
Cobbling General 3 14 DEX/aim, INT/kno
Concentration Priest, Wizard 5 15 WIS/wil
Cooking General 3 14 INT/rea
Cryptography Rogue, Wizard 3 15 INT/rea, WIS/int
Dancing General 2 15 DEX/bal, CHA/app
Deep Diving General 2 16 DEX/bal, CON/hea
Diplomacy Priest 3 15 CHA/lea
Disguise Rogue 4 16 WIS/int, CHA/lea
Dowsing Wizard 3 16 WIS/int
Endurance Warrior 2 18 CON/fit
Engineering General 4 16 INT/rea, WIS/int
Etiquette General 2 13 CHA/app, WIS/int
Fire Building General 2 13 WIS/int, INT/rea
Fishing General 3 15 WIS/int, INT/kno
Forgery Rogue 3 16 DEX/aim, WIS/wil
Gaming General 2 16 WIS/int, INT/kno
Gem Cutting Rogue, Wizard 3 15 DEX/aim
Glassblowing Wizard 2 14 DEX/aim
Healing Priest 4 16 WIS/int, CHA/lea
Heraldry General 2 13 INT/kno
Herbalism Priest, Wizard 3 15 INT/kno, WIS/int 2
Hunting Warrior 2 14 WIS/int
Hypnotism Wizard 4 15 CHA/lea
Investigation Priest 4 15 INT/rea, WIS/int
Juggling Rogue 3 14 DEX/aim
Jumping Rogue 2 13 STR/mus, DEX/bal
Law Priest 3 14 INT/kno
Leather Working General 2 14 INT/kno, DEX/aim
Local History Priest, Rogue 2 13 INT/kno, CHA/app
Mental Resistance Priest, Wizard 3 16 WIS/wil
Mining General 5 16 WIS/int, STR/sta 3
Modern Languages General 2 12 INT/kno
Mountaineering Warrior 4 14 STR/sta, WIS/wil
Musical Instrument General 2 14 CHA/lea
Navigation General 3 15 INT/kno, WIS/int
Observation Priest 3 14 INT/rea, WIS/int
Omen Reading Priest, Wizard 3 16 WIS/int, INT/rea 1
Oratory Priest 3 14 Cha/app
Orienteering General 3 14 INT/kno, WIS/int
Painting General 2 14 DEX/aim, WIS/int
Papermaking Priest, Wizard 2 13 INT/kno
Persuasion Priest 3 16 CHA/lea
Pottery General 3 14 DEX/aim
Prestidigitation Wizard 3 14 DEX/bal
Reading Lips Rogue 3 14 INT/kno, WiS/int
Reading/Writing Priest, Wizard 2 13 INT/kno
Religion Priest, Wizard 2 15 WIS/int
Research Wizard 3 15 INT/rea
Riding, Airborne General 4 16 WIS/wil, DEX/bal
Riding, Land General 2 13 WIS/wil, DEX/bal
Riding, Water General 4 14 WIS/wil, DEX/bal
Rope Use General 2 13 DEX/aim, WIS/int
Running Warrior 2 16 STR/sta/CON/fit
Sage Knowledge Priest, Wizard 4 16 INT/kno 4
Scribe Priest, Wizard 2 14 DEX/aim
Sculpting General 2 16 DEX/aim, WIS/int
Seamanship General 3 13 WIS/int, DEX/bal
Set Snares Rogue, Warrior 3 15 Dex/aim, WiS/int
Singing General 2 16 CHA/lea
Spellcraft Priest, Wizard 3 14 INT/rea
Stonemasonry General 4 16 STR/sta, WIS/int
Survival Warrior 3 15 INT/kno, WIS/wil
Swimming General 2 12 STR/sta
Tactics of Magic Wizard 3 15 INT/rea
Tailoring General 3 14 DEX/aim, INT/rea
Thaumaturgy Wizard 3 16 INT/rea
Throwing Rogue 2 13 DEX/aim, STR/mus
Tightrope Walking Rogue 3 16 DEX/bal
Tracking Warrior 4 14 WIS/int
Tumbling Rogue 3 14 DEX/bal, STR/mus
Undead Lore Priest 3 15 INT/kno
Ventriloquism Rogue 4 16 INT/kno, CHA/lea
Weaponsmithing Warrior 5 16 INT/kno, Dex/aim
Weather Knowledge General 2 14 WIS/int
Weaving General 3 15 INT/rea, DEX/aim






NOTES:




1 only available to specialist Diviners or clerics with major access to the sphere of Divination




2 a successful check grants a +2 on Healing checks




3 Gnomes have a +1 bonus to this skill, Dwarves have a +2 bonus




5 a specific specialty must be chosen; different specialties are separate skills




Monday, December 2, 2013

DM's Log: Blackstone Campaign - Group 2. Underwater!

  Blackstone 2 needs a lot of sessions - after the long Giants/Pack arc of Blackstone 1 Blackstone 2 is '2 years behind' in the game universe!
  The main party is low level (average of 3rd) and is a pretty tight group:
  My son J. plays a 2/3 Illusionist/Thief Gnome named... Steve.
  My son A. plays a Half-elf 2/2 Fighter/magic-user named Drake
  My son S. plays a Half-elf 2/3 fighter/Thief named Sir Neun Hammerfist
  My son N. plays a Human 3rd level Fighter specialized in the falchion named Tellon
  My wife plays a Human 4th level Cleric named Marigold
  The party has taken up residence in an old, formerly abandoned, lighthouse which has some rooms Wizard Locked and with a broken light. They have an NPC maid, Matilda, who is an amnesiac they found washed up on the beach, lashed to some ship timbers. The lighthouse and the tiny island it rests on are the inheritance of Sir Neun, the youngest son of a minor noble.
  This session began with Matilda letting the players know something was washed up on the strand. They found a wounded locathah warrior. Marigold cured him of damage, allowing him to mutter something, but died of the poison still in his veins. Matilda told the party the dead fishman warned of a koalinth warband trying to start a war between the sea elves and teh locathah. In the dead locathah's pouch was a kepl paper map and some potions marked with Gnomish runes.Steve determined that they were Potions of Water Breathing with a 24 hour duration each.
  The map  showed the location of a sea elf village, a locathah village, and a koalinth camp. The sea-elf village was closest so at dawn the next day the party loaded up their small ship and sailed that way, bringing matilda for her newly-discovered abili8ty to speak locathah. Drake and Tellon made their seamanship rolls and there were no encounters on the way.
  Once at the location of the amp they sounded and were surprised the sea was shallow enough for them to drop anchor (if just barely). and began to discuss going into the water. The discussion was interrupted by a ring of sea-elf warriors who surfaced around the ship! After a discussion they all drank one of the potions and dove into the sea.
  They learned that their anchor was resting on a sort of watchtower that overlooked the sea-elf village. they were escorted to an air-filled room where they met the village chief. The chief explained that the daughter of a sea-elf noble was missing after her group was attacked and that locathah weapons were found nearby. The noble was rallying sea-elves for a raid on the nearest locathah settlement to look for his daughter, a move that might start a small war.
  The party showed them the locathah map and the coral spearhead that had killed the locathah, a weapon the chief recognized as koalinth in design. The chief explained that koalinth had been a problem ever sine their underwater city had been assaulted and captured by a kraken. The sea elves had driven the refugees away, but there were obviously some still about. If the sea-elves and locathat were to fight and weaken each other a koalinth war band could thrive in the area for years.
  The chief would send word to the noble to wait on his raid on the locathah but asked the party for help. The map showed the koalinth camp as between their lighthouse and the Great Stones and within 4 leagues of the Bay of Zane - a treaty between the Prince of the Sea-elves, King of the Locathah and the King of Blackstone prevented the sea-elves or locathah from entering that area. Only the party could go. The party agreed. The chief then loaned them 5 hippocampi and promised to keep Matilda safe until their return.
  The party set out with a sea-elf guide as far as the treaty border. I rolled positive for a random encounter, rolled on the chart, and...
  Let me take a break from the narrative.
  I am not a cruel man, nor am I a killer DM. I do, however, tend to let the dice fall where they fall and for numbers to stand.
  Back to the narrative.
  Near the border there was a gout of muck from the seabed and a mottled worm consumed the guide in one swallow. Now, I expected the party to take advantage of the tremendous underwater speed of their loaned mounts and turn this into a 'man, underwater adventures are scary!' encounter.
  I should know better. The party immediately attacked the mottled worm. A long handful of rounds later and the party was cutting Neun out of the worm (successfully). Marigold healed everyone up and they continued - except for the still-wounded guide, who headed for home rather than wait for them at the 'border'.
  As another aside, I was amazed how the party just piled on and killed the creature.
  Before long the party was near the location on the map and the thieves began to scout. They found a small hut of coral within a clump of seaweed. With a little maneuvering they ambushed and killed the guard without raising an alarm and found that the hut was....
  empty.
  Some searching followed and they eventually found the trap door leading down into the seabed. The rest of the party joined them and in they went. The tunnels twisted up and down as much as left and right and they were a bit disoriented. Steve spotted a hidden guard and the party eliminated him, again without raising the alarm. Eventually they found a room where they could barely make out the captive sea elf princess in a cell with guards nearby. Throwing caution to the winds they swam in and just started fighting.
  The koalinths' advantages were reduced in the tight quarters, although the squad leader put up a stiff fight. After a few rounds the koalinth were all down and the princess was saved - and every member of the party was still wounded after all healing was used up..
  The party searched through the tunnels and eventually found a hidden room that was magically full of fresh air - it was a study! Some research revealed that these tunnels were the last remnants of the dungeon beneath the long-destroyed tower of Juthan the Sea mage, a powerful figure from the early days of the Emerald Empire. The scrounged out 2 1st level spells and left.
  They had no more than mounted their hippocampi when they heard the roar of a pride of sea lions! Exhausted, wounded, and effectively out of spells they had to rely on the tremendous speed of their mounts to escape which, luckily, they did. They were grateful for the help of the princess for the mottled worm had killed their guide and they would have been quickly lost without her assistance.
  Once back at the village of the sea elves the party returned the princess, averted war, received a modest reward, and returned home!
 

Magic Item of the Week - Ring of Maniacal Strength

This week's item is an old favorite of mine and some of you may figure out where it is found in the 1e DMG - sorta'. These rings are usually simple and unadorned. While worn it grants the wearer 18(00) strength. That's it - a just a ring of strength. It is just one of the first meta-game tweaks I ever did.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Magic Item of the Week - Figurine of Wondrous Power, the Hematite Badgers

  I know, it hasn't been very long since my last magic item, but this is a new one the kids came up with this week.
  The Figurine of Hematite Badgers appears to be a small puzzle ball about 3" across. Close inspection reveals the ball is made of 5 small badger figures that interlock. When activated the Figurine of Hematite Badgers transform into 5 badgers of maximum hit points that obey the commands of their owner. If 'killed' the badgers revert to figurine form.
  The Figurines of Hematite Badgers may be activated once a day for up to an hour at a time.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Useful Magic Item of the Week - Tinker's Hammer

  I love the Mending spell; useful out of combat, sneakily important if you want a homunculus, and a spell no magic-user with an Intelligence under 16 would waste a slot on. I am half convinced that spell was put in the Player's handbook just for me.
  But of all the magic-users you know, who ever takes it?
  The tinker's hammer is a small tool hammer weighing less than 1/3 a pound. In desperate circumstances it could be used as a weapon, but things need to be pretty bad (speed 2, damage: 1 h.p.,, -2 to hit chain armors, -4 to hit plate armors, proficiency as club). It is, pure and simple a light tool.
  Once per day the Tinker's hammer can cast a Mending spell as a 12th level magic-user. The Tinker's Hammer may only repair metal items. If used by a skilled person (in 1e someone with a secondary skill like blacksmith, in 2e the appropriate non-weapon proficiency) the effects of the Mending are increased (and DM's discretion) to repair greater damage or to even restore hit points to full plate armor.
  If wielded by a spell caster that knows the Mending spell the Tinker's Hammer can be used an additional time each day by uttering the word 'damn' while using it. No Tinker's Hammer may be used more than twice in 24 hours.
  Similar items (the Seamstress' needle, the Leatherman's Awl) exist to repair items not made of metal.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Quote of the Week

"I believe we should follow a 'you Polymorph it, you buy it' policy"
Followed by
"which means we own a cow"

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

DM's Log: Blackstone Campaign Group 1- The Pack parts 3 & 4

Part 1 &2 can be found here
  After moving to a new camp site and resting the party picked new spells and headed out, again, in pouring rain [I will put weather rules here eventually!].
  They re-crossed the river in their stolen longboat and decided to bypass the fortress this time. They were soon on the path leading through the valley toward the mountain. The theif made her danger sense roll and was on the ground when the first telephone-pole sized arrow slammed into Doomsman. After a bit of confusion they took cover from the sniper. Stardust and Mournglow slipped off, invisibly, to look for the attackers and a duel between the two invidible characters and the invisible female jungle giant stalking them began! After a fair amount of maneuvering, cover, use of Stardust's Gem of Seeing, etc. they were able to attack the jungle giant and were almost surprised by the mountain giant with her! Luckily Mournglow had been communicating with the rest of the party with his Arcane Servant familiar, so the rest of the party was close enough to save their bacon.
  After some healing the party continued until they saw a rather large bonfire ahead. Moving cautiously they saw a massive fire giant tending the fire. While the party was still far off he laughingly challenged their champion to a duel to the death, prompting Doomsman to begin to trot forward. When Soomsman was within range the fire giant reached into the fire, pulled out massive iron bolas glowing red with heat, and hurled them! With an excellent (read: lucky) throw Doomsman was entangled and taking fire damage while the giant charged the rest of the party, hurling boulders as he came.
  Mournglow and Darkwalk made short work of the giant with spells and Doomsman had freed himself by the time the party arrived. After more healing, they continued.
  After a time the party was on the long switchbak up the mountain. By mid-day the rain had stopped and they were above the treeline and heading into the clouds by mid-afternoon. Hoping to pierce the layer of clouds before camping, they stopped when they heard a rumbling - a boulder was coming down the trail. This began another encounter; fighting in the clouds with a fog giant. he rolled boulders down the trail, released rock falls on the party, had rope snares to toss party members off cliffs, erected barried that the party had to climb but that he could step over, etc.
  The party began to call out to him, bantering a bit and when I replied I did so in a posh British accent - I have no idea why.  The party enjoyed the banter during the duel (I did, too) although it ended when Stardust was able to locate the giant in the fog and use her rope of climbing to get Doomsman behind him and the party in front. After it was over the kids told me that they now envision ALL fog giants as mannered, polite British types who just happen to be trying to kill them.
  The party pierced the clouds right about sunset and saw that the cloud island was attached to the mountain by a bridge arching 100 yeards over a sheer drop. A 10' wide bridge. With no rails. Beat up, tired, and out of many spells they healed up and then camped in the fog.
  The party took a 1 week break in between session, finishing with a short session.
  When they returned they crossed the bridge,\ - carefully - and passed through the outer clouds to see a massive castle (I used a picture of the Disney castle) in a lush, garden-like setting 2 miles on each side, a square with gardens, fountains, orchards, etc. all 4 times normal size. Massive oaks lined the gravel path between the bridge and the castle entrance, although there was a large grove of normal sized oaks by the entrance, where they were.
  As the party was discussing their possible actions the local grove transformed into a squad of 20 Verbeeg with a frost giant leader.
  My son, J., immediately slapped his forehead,
  "Massmorph! The normal sized trees should have warned me!"
  That's my boy.
  The verbeeg opened with a salvo of giant-sized heavy crossbow bolts (2d8+1 per bolt) with a LOT of hits - everyone in the party but Doomsman was hit with Mourglow and Ember reduced to single digits and Darkwalk close to it. Doomsman closed with the frost giant leader, trading blows, as the verbeeg split - 1/2 drawing swords and charging, the other half reloading. Mournglow and Stardust went invisible to get some distance while Darkwalk drew his weapon and Ember decided to go ahead and cast.
  A Fireball from Ember wounded many of those with crossbows and Darkwalk surprised me by using an item to erect a semi-circular Wall of Fire between the party and the verbeeg crowwbowmen. Stardust realized another giant, a fomorian, was coming across the bridge behind them and prepared for that. Mourglow killed the frost giant with a Chromatic Orb allowing Doomsman to wade into the verbeeg like the incarnation of Death.
  The fomorian had one arm just 1' long and another 25' long - carrying a halberd. Heavily armored he was a hideous sight. Mournglow tried to Ploymorph him - the spell failed and a bolt of electricity from the fomorian hurt Mournglow down to single digits.  The fomorian finally closed with the party and attacked with his halberd. Because of his massive reach and height he coul strike virtually anyone within 30'.
  Stardust opened with a backstab, only to learn he had an eye on the back of his shoulder and being just missed by the halberd. 3 rounds of combat ensued with more damage being doled out and the fomorian going down.
  During this time Stardust noted that the cloud the fortress was on had turned into a thunderhead and was drifting away from the mountain. The party healed up as fast as they could and prepared spells for when the Wall of Fire went down.
  When it did the space beyond was filled with more verbeeg and the leader of the Pack - Lord Thundercloud. A huge cloud giant dressed in black plate mail with a shield and sword. He greeted the party politely, if coldly, and asked Doomsman to duel with him, to the death, with the party to go free with 3 boons if Doomsman won, the party to be enslaved if he lost. Doomdman accepted.
  [If you aren't familiar with Player's Options: Combat and Tactics, I suggest you get it for ideas if nothing else.]
  The duel went on a LONG time. Doomsman and Lord Thundercloud were high enough level and had enough bonuses that misses were uncommon. Doomsman had more attacks and did more damage per hit but Lord Thundercloud had a free parry from his enchanted shield and his weapon was an Unholy Drinker - every point of damage he did to Doomsman healed him the same amount. Pretty soon both were parrying as often as attacking in an attempt to wear down the other.
  In the end Doomsman's grand mastery won through and he squeaked out a victory - again.
  The boons the party received were; a letter from the leader of the Drow to Lord Thundercloud; the return of Starwing (Darkwalk's henchman) from capitivity; a rocback ride back to their fortress.
  The letter (plus research and divination) releaved a few key facts - the Drow leader is actually an exile from the Drow capitol; she has a great deal of influence over the leader of the Redcaps; she essentially tricked Lord Thundercloud and the pack and the 3 giant Lords into starting a war with Blackstone; the Drow leader is a high priestess of the Lord of Evil Earth Elementals; Lord Thundercloud was an anti-paladin of the Lord of Evil Air Elementals; the Flaming Skulls tribe of hobgoblins to the far West are worshippers of the Lord of Evil Fire Elementals; some as-yet-unkown group in the sea follows the Lord of Evil Water Elementals; these groups are attempting to destroy all Human kingdoms.
  This ends an arc that has been the focus on 20 real-world months of gaming. When I first started dropping hints on this arc my son N., who plays Darkwalk, was nine. Because of the high average level we are probably going to mostly retire the entire party except for political intrigue and the occasional high-level adventure.

Monday, October 14, 2013

New Magic Item - Mage Gauntlet

  I invented the mage gauntlet waaaaaaaaaaay back in 1983 - 30 years ago! It was later part of the loot from my adventyre 'The Island of the Gauntlet Mage' about the ruined fortress of a powerful magic user that mafe many unique gauntlet and glove items and spells. I referred to this as a 'metamagic item' when I first made it because of its function.

  Mage Gauntlet: These are always found singly; 80% are for the left hand. Typically a mage gauntlet appears as a common leather glove for riding, but some (less than 10%) are either richly decorated with wmbroidery or resemble a battle gauntlet with metal plates over the knuckles (DM's choice). Whatever the appearance, the gauntlet has no effect on A.C., spellcasting, etc. A mage gauntlet will magically change size and shape to the fit the hand of any humanoid from halfling to ogre size. The gauntlet fits snugly and comfortably
  The wearer of a mage gauntlet may wer three magical rings at the same time; two on the gauntleted hand and one upon the other hand.No more than one mage gauntlet may be worn at a time. Attempting to place more than two magical rings on the gauntlet will cause it to cease functioning for a full day (i.e., only one magical ring can be worn on the gauntlet during that time).

Friday, September 6, 2013

Custom Spell - Lesser Fireburst

  I have seen a ton of Fireball variants, some good, most bad. But some of the best were from Hackmaster, 4th edition. Since the character of Brian from the comics it was derived from was fireball happy they had a TON of variants.
  Mostly unbalanced.
  But my kids loved more fireballs, I love more fireballs, so I made some variants of my own. This spell uses the magic missile mechanic I discussed here.

 Lesser Fireburst
Level- 1                               Range- 60' + 10'/rank
Casting Time- 3s                  Components- V, S, M
Area of Effect- 5' r. sphere   Duration- Inst.

  When cast a spark streaks from the caster's extended fingertip until it bursts into a sphere of flame 10' in diameter at its destination. All creatures within the area of effect take 1d3 h.p. of damage per rank of the spell caster, save for 1/2 damage.
  While otherwise similar to Fireball the Lesser Fireburst differs from that spell in important ways. The flames of a Lesser Fireburst are not as hot, causing spells such as Protection from Fire and items such as a Ring of Fire Resistance to be twice as effective in reducing damage from this spell. Also, the Lesser Fireburst does not expand within confined spaces and items exposed to the heat of this spell save vs. normal fire with a +1.

 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

DM's Log: Blackstone Campaign Group 1 - the Pack parts 1 & 2

  Having returned from the large battles to the East the party wanted to settle down and focus on completing their large, combined stronghold. Through a combination of experience points and an arcane book the party fighter and leader, Doomsman, is now 13th level and the cleric/mage, Darkwalk, is 8th/9th. Unfortunately, the Redcaps still pose a major threat.
  The Redcaps are the spiritual descendants of the rebellious humanoid legions that brought down the last Human Empire a few centuries before current game time. The have a mysterious leader and employ mainly humanoids and giants. Typically they have Goblin scouts/skirmishers and Hobgoblin infantry/etc. with Bugbears as shock troops. Above all that, however, is The Pack.
  The Pack is a group of exceptional giants (one each of Hill, Mountain, Fire, Frost, Fog, Fomorian, Desert, and Jungle) with a Cloud Giant leader that act as the best of the best troops for the Redcaps.They are supported by an army of Verbeeg and have Ogre troops, too.
  The party is building their fortress to command the only so-far unprotected pass between the West and the Redcaps and the Blackstone region. They have a lot of attachment to the area since from 1st level to about level 5 they adventured heavily in the region and pushed the Redcap-allied Goblins from the same pass.
  Concerned about an attack on the in-progress stronghold by giants, the party decided to take the fight over the mountains. After a long discussion/argument Mournglow convinced everyone to leave the hippogriffs at home and travel by horse. This led to only Darkwalk bringing a henchman (Starwing, a 3/3 cleric/magic-user).
  Travelling north along the Old Mountain Road the party soon ran into something they had encountered before - animals acting oddly with a single eye glowing green or red. After three days of dodging these creatures and scouting the thief, Stardust, found something odd; two human guards speaking in bored tones as 5 other humans sat crouched over glowing stones, insensate. After a relatively quick skirmish three thinsg happened;
1) The lead guard was Charmed
2) The other guard was dead
3) The insensate people were bound
  The charmed guard talked, of course, revealing that there were two other groups hunting for the party and that the men with stones were controlling/diving through the animals as scouts. Because the party was a bit split up and there was combat with some animals and undead, they did not get back to the bound diviners for several game hours. By the time they did the diviners had been devoured by a pack of... somethings.The charmed guard was sent away. The guard did sketch a brief map and give the players a run down on the pack, leading to a 10 minute argument about going back for the hippogriffs.
  They pressed on.
  Two game days later they encountered the second party sent for them, a group of humans that were 'on loan' to the Redcaps. The battle lasted longer than I expected, mainly because of the '2e monk' that I made with Combat and Tactics and his magic items. In the end, though, the party prevailed. They finally reached sight of their destination, a walled town protecting the only river crossing for miles. While they knew from their interrogations that the majority of troops were gone, they realized that they still had to somehow deal with the left behind. The portion of the village on their side seemed largely empty but with hobgoblins, the far side with Verbeeg.
  The also realized the Pack's fortress, in the mountains beyond, was probably on a cloud island. Between that and the river there was a heated discussion with Mournglow about bringing the hippogriffs.
  After resting the night they left Starwing at camp with the horses and gear and set out. Darkwalk used a Rainbow spell to cross the river near a small waterfall (and its rainbow). With a combination of items and spells they then scaled the walls of the fortress on the far side of the river to eliminate a strongpoint behind them.
  While creeping along the outer walls towards the main fortress a roc flew by overhead with a giant riding it. They could hear the faint screams of a woman from the roc, too. Puzzled, they pressed on.
  They made it to the main fortress from the outer walls but drew the attention of a guard. Before too long the alarm was sounded and battle was engaged. Stardust just avoided an attack by a Marilith (!); she got away and Doomsman engaged her in melee, cutting her down in just 2 rounds (!!). After temporarily sealing the stairs behind them with a Wall of Fire (and leaving a set of Explosive Runes behind) they engaged about 25 Verbeeg, including a shaman, outside the door leading from the base of the tower. Between spells and combat they killed or injured all the Verbeeg there but were driven off by giant-sized heavy catapults from the main keep hurling 120 gallon barrels of flaming tar.
  Returning to the tower they decided to go all the way to the top. Once there they were engaged by the invisible Hill Giant member of the Pack who wielded a massive war club of stunning. In a scene far too familiar Doomsman cut him down in short order. While this was going on, though, the roc returned and dropped something. The party dove through the trapdoor and fled down the stairs as a massive barrel of vitriol burst, eating away at the top of the tower and damaging the stairs further down another floor.
  It was looking a bit grim, I thought. The main keep (400' tall) had the ability to hurl more flaming tar; the roof was effectively gone and with the stairs above gone they couldn't go up. The only other exit, on the ground floor, still had a large tar fire on the other side of it. I started moving in the Verbeeg and the roc rider circled lower.
  Being careful and taking minor damage Stardust used her Rope of Climbing to get the party to the level with access to the walls. Darkwalk then used a Fireblast to destroy the catapult from the keep that could fire at them and the party moved to the walls. The were engaged by 2 Verbeeg (including the one that first noticed them and raised the alarm) but Ember hurled a Lesser Fireblast which seemed to drop them. The party rushed onto the wall as the roc swooped in, the Fog Giant on its back preparing to hurl another barrel of vitriol. Darkwalk rolled a good initative, though, and hit the giant with a Flamestrike and the barrel failed its save (with a 1) shattering and coating the giant and the roc with vitriol. The roc and its rider flew away as the party scrambled down from the wall, commandeered a longboat and recrossed the river and fled toward their hidden camp.
  When they reached camp, though, it was destroyed; tents gone, horses missing or bitten in half, all their gear missing, and Starwing nowhere to be found. Looking at the massive claw marks they realized the roc had been there and that the screaming woman they had heard earlier was Starwing being carried to the fortress in the clouds.
  There was a moment of sheer terror when Mournglow and Darkwalk realized their spell books were missing. Then Ember told them he had stashed copies of their travelling books in his Portable Hole. There was also some anguish about Doomsman's warhorse, Spanky II, meeting such an ignominious end.
  The party is now on foot deep inside enemy territory (walking back to the closest safe place, their own stronghold, is at least 8 days assuming no encounters, they are travelling in the open, and the weather is perfect), they have 1 day of food and water on them (although water is plentiful nearby), their enemies know roughly where they must be, and a beloved hencman is captive of the enemy.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Sorry for the Delays

  But I do have a new job, a 5 month old, and 4 other kids!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Kids Broke 3e - Part I

N., age 10, came to me, excited, and explained how he broke 3e this time.
N.: "It is simple, really. Use the metamagic feat Explosion on the Telekinesis spell and cast it on a bucket. Explosion moves objects inside an area of effect spell to the edge of the area of effect. Telekinesis affects an object, has a radius of 10', and travels with the object it is cast upon. So now that bucket is travelling at infinite speed and if it hits something, does infinite damage!"

Magic Item of the Week: Light Grenade Arrows

 Yeah, another rather mundane item using Continual Light.
  On a normal arrow or bolt inset a small piece of quartz with Continual Light cast on it near the fletching; then place a loose metal ring that fits well around the shaft of the missile over the quartz to block the light.
  When needed, fire the arrow. The fletching keeps the metal ring from slipping back when fired. On impact the metal ring slips forward, exposing the quartz and suddenly flooding the target area with light. In addition to providing illumination to distant areas light arrows can startle enemies, perhaps causing them to flee, or mark a target so that they are easier to follow, such as a wild animal.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

When is Treasure not Treasure? NPCs as Campaign Rewards

  For the last two game years the main party of my campaign has been building a joint stronghold - the soon-to-be-12th level Fighter is creating a large concentric castle which will contain a cathedral for the 9th level Cleric and two towers for the magic-users. The Thief will have a hidden fastness across the river, overlooking access to the castle. As usual I am using this as an excuse to vacuum wealth out of the characters' pouches, but it is also a huge use of treasure that isn't treasure.
  That's right; the characters are calling in favors, goodwill, and connections.
  The Dwarven architects and master masons? Working at 1/2 normal fee because the party did their king a favor game years ago. The troops protecting the place? Barbarians saved from a curse when the party was 4th level. The ship bringing in exotic materials? Doing it as a favor since the captain paid for the ship with treasures given by the characters. There are more examples, but you get the idea.
  But this only works if the DM is creating opportunities for players to build relationships between characters and NPCs. I started the (new, young) players out gently with a friendly publican named Boz. Garrulous and connected, Boz introduced the characters to their first 3 adventures - but he also introduced them to NPCs that didn't need rescuing or mercenaries, just people who lived in the city and frequented the same pub. Once they realized interacting with Boz was valuable in and of itself, they started doing the same with other NPCs.
  Soon they were friends with the officers of the merchant ship they had hired to carry them to a distant city. After fighting pirates together on a different trip (and having the 2nd officer save the life of a character) the crew of the Black Parrot became a fun part of the game with characters corresponding with the NPCs about matters like in-game family and trade. A mission to retrieve a rare component for a reclusive Diviner and her warrior husband led to the wizards of the party passing on information and even minor magics to her and, in return, receiving the occasional prescient letter from her. When she and her husband died it was much more than a plot point!
  When the party realized that they faced a foe too powerful for themselves they quickly sent dispatches to bishops and war chiefs, barbarian kings and crime lords, soon forging an impromptu alliance to save the world - all by utilizing their connections.
  So - how does a DM do this? Here are a few tips;
  1) Think about NPCs and flesh them out. I know, I know, this is about the most common advice to DMs ever. But it is repeated often for a reason. If the party is chartering a ship, name all of the officers and senior enlisted. Allow the party to interact with them. Same with Inns. And with caravans. Etc.
  2) Keep notes. I have 'the NPC box': a small filing box full of 3 x 5 cards arranged with alphabetical dividers. If the players have anything approaching meaningful interaction with an NPC I jot notes own during play. After the game that NPC gets a card in the NPC box that looks a bit like this;

  NPC Name            NPC Location
  Level/Profession/Alignment/Alliances
  NPC Stats, H.P. A.C.
  Gear, Magic items, etc.
  Characters Known
  When met, how met, where met
  important information the NPC knows (if any)
  Notes (may continue on back)

  Then I keep track of all future interactions on the card. Once every 2-3 months I go through the box and determine if any NPCs contact the characters. I also keep track of relationships between NPCs this way, especially if the NPCs were introduced by the characters!
  I keep a box for each of my campaigns.
  3) Have some NPC interactions pay off immediately. Did the party just rescue an Elven warrior from becoming the main course at a Hobgoblin convention? He might offer service to his rescuer (instant henchman) and, if that is refused, he might still stick around to help for an adventure or three. If sent off he might just send a bit of coin, or a weapon, or something to the party once he gets home. 
  4) Have some NPC interactions pay off much later. The 4th level party just saved King Snurri's lands from a horde of Goblin wolfriders? King Snurri pays them the agreed upon fee and rides off to rebuild the border forts and the characters sail back home, over the sea. That's it, right?
  Maybe. Or, maybe, King Snurri sends the now 9th level party an envoy to give them a book he found on a dead necromancer, a book with a few rare spells in it. he was too busy at the time to feast with them but he never forgot the party. Do this once or twice and at least some players won't forget NPCs, either, maybe sending off letters or gifts to NPCs to build that relationship.
  5) Don't be Galactica. What I mean by this is, while it can be fun and shocking to have a seemingly-innocuous or friendly NPC turn out to secretly be a bad guy, don't overdo it. Have I ever had a damsel in distress turn out to be a Shapechanged Greenhag? Yes. ONCE. Was the friendly linkboy in town secretly a wererat? Yes. ONCE. Keep the shocking twists to a minimum or the players will never trust any NPC.
  6) Don't count on it working out for the NPCs you think it will. I spent weeks lovingly crafting a Mage's Academy in the home city of the campaign. Fully developed members; names and stats for 12 servants; maps; unique magic items; rare spells; you name it. I had a score of plot hooks lined up and ready, even potential romances if the players wanted to go that route. I slowly introduced the NPCs and made their potential benefits obvious and...
  Zip. The players yawned rather collectively. The characters never met all the wizards let alone the multiple maids, butlers, and hostlers I had written up. Remember how I mentioned Boz the innkeep above? Yeah; he is a key NPC because I had to have someone give hooks to the players after they completely blew off all my hard work. I hadn't even named 'the guy who owns the Inn near the mage Academy' when the party decided that is where they were going to congregate.
  With a little hard work and some luck pretty soon your players will be part of a gaming world that includes a lot of 0-level NPCs that they really care about.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Magic Item of the Week: Necklace of Warning

  These pieces of magical jewelry can come in almost any design - braided cord with amber; silver links with topaz; whatever. But they always take the form of a necklace with a single valuable stone about the size of a thumbnail. When worn the Necklace of Warning gives its wearer a split second flash of warning about danger thus preventing the wearer from being Surprised, in or out of combat.
  Being magical, the necklace does have limitations. It cannot warn its wearer of attacks from a person under the effects of a Mind Bar or someone wearing an Amulet of Undetection. Likewise, a person within an Anti-Magic Shell or under a Scroll of Protection from Magic would not activate the necklace.
  If you feel this effect is too powerful, reduce the Necklace to simply reducing Surprise by 1 or 2 rounds.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Looks Like it is Time to Act

  Initiative has been a topic on Google+  this week, so I am chiming in. First, let me just say - this is my way, not THE way.
  Rounds: I use classic AD&D rounds of 1 minute split into 10 segments of 6 seconds each.
  Movement: Creatures can move their full movement per round (so a thief with a move of 12" can move 120', or 12' per segment). You can move faster than that, up to 200%, but if you do so things change a little. If you are moving up to 150% of your base movement you are 'rushing' and get no dexterity bonuses to A.C. Faster than 150% and you are 'charging' and get no dex or shield bonuses. When rushing you can turn no more than 90 degrees from your initial facing during movement and charging is, essentially, in a straight line. If you rush or charge directly at a target that can fight and has an unused attack it gets to attack you when you close, longest weapon strikes first. A rushing or charging character also may attack when they close, although they aren't required to.
  Surprise: When an encounter occurs without warning every character rolls a d6 for surprise individually. The rolls is modified by dexterity, etc.Typically a character is surprised on a 1 or 2, although this can obviously vary. A surprised character gets no dex or shield bonuses to A.C. An unsurprised creature fighting a surprised creature can attack a surprised creature as if each segment of surprise were a full round, i.e., all of their normal melee or missile attacks. A segment or segments where all of one or both sides are surprised are resolved 'by themselves' and not as part of a larger round.
  Here's the deal, though - it is still just 1 or 2 segments, so movement is still as above and spell casting still takes the normal amount of time.
  Initiative: Each character rolls a d6 with modifiers for initiative. The resulting number is the first segment in which they can effectively attack/cast, so low 'wins'. A thief with a +2 reaction adjustment for a high dex would roll a d6-2 while a fighter with a -1 reaction adjustment for a low dex would roll a d6+1. For creatures that were surprised in a segment that is part of a round roll normally and then add the number of surprise segments they experienced. Maximum initiative is 10 and minimum initiative is 1.
  Multiple Attacks: If you get 2 attacks per round the second attack is possible 3 segments after the first. If you have 3 or more attacks per round the additional attacks are possible 2 segments after the previous.
  Example: a high level fighter with 2 attacks per round rolls a 3 initiative. On segment 3 he strikes a foe - his next attack will be possible on 6. If he had waited until segment 7 his next attack would have been possible in segment 10.
  Exception- Fighters vs. Vermin: If the character is a fighter class that gets multiple attacks versus low HD monsters I do it this way - if the fighter is 5th level or below he rolls a d6: on 1-4 his initiative is 1, on 5-6 it is 2 and he gets an attack every other segment. At 6th-10th level his initiative is just flat-out 1 and he gets an attack per segment. I will post my 'fighters vs. vermin' rules one of these days. And they are going into Far Realms, too.
  Spellcasting: The initiative rolls is the first segment in which you can start casting. If you are struck during casting one of two things happen: in my 1e campaign, the spell is disrupted. In my 2e campaign if you fail your Concentration roll your spell is disrupted. During the actual casting time the spellcaster does not get their dex bonus to A.C.!
  Spell Holding: Because it is possible for targets to move or die during casting a spell caster has the option of 'holding casting' of a spell they have already begun casting. Effectively they keep the incantation/preparation going, delaying the completion of casting. A caster doing this cannot move more than about 3' every other segment and can have their spell disrupted as normal. Holding a spell can't be done for more than 2-3 rounds.
  Dropping a Spell: At any time before completion a spellcaster can cease the spell. The spell is gone from their mind but not cast.
  Missile Weapons: Initiative is the first segment that missile can be fired effectively. If a character with a bow, throwing knife, whatever states they are holding for a target the following things happen: 1) they lose dex bonuses; 2) they can only move at 1/4th normal speed; 3) they can fire at a target when they wish for the rest of the round; 4) if they don't fire they get an automatic initiative of 1 for the next round. You can only effectively hold a missile attack this way for about 5 rounds at a time.
  General Combat Sequence Per Segment: 1) missile weapons are fired/hurled/held; 2) spell casting starts; 3) missile weapons hit; 4) movement; 5) melee; 6) spell casting ends. If an attacker with a held missile weapon fires 'out of sequence' the missile hits 2 steps later, i.e., if a shortbowman were holding a nocked arrow and saw a Hobgoblin shaman begin casting (step 2) they could fire in the next step (3, missile weapons hit) but the arrow wouldn't hit until 2 steps later (step 5, melee). Yes, a missile can be fired so that it strikes early in the next segment. Yes, if you time it badly you can have a target move out of the way during the movement portion of a segment.

  Example: The intrepid adventurers have crept into a dungeon on the edge of civilization. After a few minor incidents with giant spiders and pit traps they have come to a door. Sessy the Thief carefully examines the portal but finds no traps and hears no odd noises beyond. She also determines the door is just swelled shut, not locked. The burly fighter, Eirik, draws back then smashes the door open. In the next room, however, are 4 Orcs silently reading books of poetry! The Orcs are just 10' away from the door, too.
  Since neither group expected the other, everyone rolls surprise. Since I am a lazy jerk I roll once for the Orcs. Eirik rolls a 4, Sessy rolls a 2, modified to a 1 for her dex. Brother Reynaud rolls a 3 and Maury the Magnificent rolls a 2. The Orcs roll a 1. So the Orcs are surprised for 1 segment, Sessy is surprised for one segment, and Maury is surprised for 2 segments. Since one side is surprised and the other side has some unsurprised people the 'surprise segment' is resolved first and separately.
  Surprise Segment: (the Orcs, Sessy and Maury are Surprised): Eirik has a movement rate of 6" due to his heavy armor so typically only moves 6' per segment. He decides to charge the surprised Orcs, picking the one to the right so he can keep his shield ready versus the rest. He strikes the Orc with his broadsword and does enough damage to drop him! At the same time Brother Reynaud walks forward to hold the doorway and protect his surprised friends.
  Full Round #1, Segment 1 (Maury is Surprised): Everyone but Maury rolls initiative normally. Eirik rolls a 3, Sessy rolls a 1 (after modifiers), Brother Reynaud rolls a 6, and the Orcs roll a joint 4. Sessy holds a dart, waiting for a clear target (Brother Reynaud is in her way and she is squishy). One of the Orcs starts to close with Brother Reynaud and the other 2 do close with Eirik.
  Segment 2: Maury rolls initiative getting a 5 (he rolled a 4 and adds one since he spent the first segment of the full round Surprised). The Orc closes with Brother Reynaud. The two Orcs on Eirik are jockeying for position, as is Eirik.
  Segment 3: Now that the Orc is engaged with Brother Reynaud Sessy slips into the room past her friend - because of her movement exceeding 1/4th normal she is no longer holding her attack, but still has an attack action. Maury moves up into the doorway so he can see more clearly. Eirik strikes at the Orc to his right, wounding him.
  Segment 4: Sessy throws a dart at the back of the Orc to Eirik's right, striking - and killing! - him. She draws another and looks for her next target. The orc attacking Eirik misses and the Orc attacking Brother Reynaud hits, doing 2 points of damage.
  Segment 5: Maury starts casting Daunting Dart which has a casting time of 2. Sessy slips further into the room. Eirik and the other Orc are still engaged. Brother Reynaud strikes at the other Orc, but misses with his mace.
  Segment 6: Sessy throws a dart at the Orc fighting Brother Reynaud, hitting him for 1 point. Maury's spell finishes and the Daunting Dart slays the orc fighting Eirik.
  Segment 7: Realizing that he is now alone and surrounded the last Orc starts to edge to his left, trying to get his back into the corner. Brother Reynaud, however, shifts with him as Eirik closes. Sessy moves closer tot he middle of the room. Maury enters the room, finally.
  Segment 8: Seeing the situation well in hand, Sessy covers the far door with a dart in case more Orcs come in (she has a missile attack left with her darts).
  Segment 9: The increasingly desperate Orc is able to use a table to block Brother Reynaud just enough so that the Orc's back is to a wall as Eirik closes with him.
  Segment 10: Snarling in defiance, the wounded Orc's situation is grim as the round ends.
  Full Round #2 - Initiative: Eirik rolls a 3, Reynaud a 4,Maury a 1, and Sessy a modified 2. The Orc rolls a 2.
  Segment 1: Sessy reaches the far door and begins checking it. Maury prepares spell components for a Magic Missile but does not start casting.
  Segment 2: Sessy determines the far door is not locked. She bars it shut to prevent any more surprises. The Orc strikes at Brother Reynaud, but misses.
  Segment 3: Eirik strikes the Orc for 6 points, killing it.
  Combat ends after 14 segments.

Monday, July 1, 2013

DM's Log: Blackstone Campaign, Group 1 - BONUS: Why your players should use Chant

 I have mentioned the background on the Blackstone Campaign a few places but this is my first post-adventure update.
 Which needs more background.
  This group, which we call Blackstone 1, has been playing for about 4 years, or about 120 individual sessions. The group is relatively high level for a number of meta-reasons. It consists of:
  Doomsman, a 10th level Fighter. A fairly realistic take on the barbarian, he is less like a raving berzerker and much more like an actual barbarian. Using the advanced weapon mastery and style mastery skills of Player's Option: Combat and Tactics he is a Master of the two-handed sword with 2 combat styles from the campaign - combined with a girdle of giant strength, a good armor class, and a magic two-hander he is a fierce hand-to-hand foe.
  Darkwalk, an 8th/8th Cleric/Magic-user. Since I use spell points (from PO: Spells and Magic) he casts about 100 spells a day. OK, that is an exaggeration, but Darkwalk is fine example of a cleric/magic-user and their flexibility.
  Stardust,  a 13th level Thief. Stardust is the character of the oldest and most experienced player in the group and is very good at the role of scout. She has worked to maximize her skills and items but is, frankly, about to the upper limit of what a thief can do (more about what I think is 'high level' in another post)
  Mournglow, a 10th level Magic-user. The player has focused Mournglow on the 'generalist with a lot of academic skills' mold and it is working. Very fond of using Polymorph Other to change foes into innocuous creatures, especially beavers and cows.
  Ember, a 10th level Fire Elementalist. Used the Skills and Powers rules so that he can fight with a short sword. The only spell the character likes more than Fireball is another Fireball. Ended the adventure Steading of the Hill Giant Chief about 8 rounds into the game when he caught the log fortress on fire with his 3rd or 4th Fireball.
  The party is very familiar with each other and is, frankly, fun to DM for.
  The Setup: About a game year ago the Grey Elven Kingdom to the East collapsed under the weight of a certain revelation and a Drow attack, greatly weakening the Eastern Elven Alliance. About 4 game months ago the party rescued a High Elven princess from the (rather modified) Hall of the Fire Giant King and sent her to her home with an escort of NPCs. About 2 game weeks ago the party received an urgent letter from the Princess informing them that 1) Her father and brothers were either missing or dead, leaving her in charge, 2) the Evil Eye Orcs were marching on her eastern border and 3) the remaining forces of the EEA had no hope of stopping the Orcs.
  The Previous Session: The party raced East on their hippogriffs and barely arrived in time. The session was a struggle to revent the Orcs from crossing the river border of the Elflands and, essentially, only delaying it. They were successful in wiping out a lot of the (leveled) leadership of the Orcs including the head Orc scout (a leveled thief), the Orc's chief Shaman (with levels in Cleric) and a number of other orcs.
  There was also a setup where Doomsman faced the champion of the Orcs, a half-orc with fighter levels, weapon mastery, and a sword of Human slaying. Although the toughest fight of his career, Doomsman prevailed and, as per the rules of the duel, the Ogre and Orog allies of the Orcs departed and the actual battle was set up for the next morning near the river banks.
  This Session: In between sessions the players had been a bit nervous because the Elves were outnumbered by 50% and the Orcs had used the time of the duel to set themselves up on a hill with the river at the back and left flank and a wood on their right while the elves would be forced to advance over an open field. During session setup Stardust discovered that the Orcs had also secretly hidden reserves in that same wood - the Elves were actually outnumbered over 2:1! Ember and Doomsman got the Elves into formation and began their advance while Stardust and Mournglow approached the enemy while invisible and flying. The general idea was that Stardust and Mournglow would target enemy spell casters and leaders while Ember provided battlefield spells, Darkwalk supported the troops and Doomsman fought in the front line.
  With his divinations Mournglow quickly realized the main Orcish leaders were within a Globe of Invulnerability and that the missing Elven king and prince were shacked to the Orcish banner right next to them, so he shifted his focus to the reserves. His engagement with the reserves resulted in his own Minor Globe being dispelled (!) but he was able to summon 3 Brown Puddings to engage the reserve forces and then fly away. Stardust left to see what she could do against the leaders and Mournglow looked for more targets.
  Ember began sending Fireballs against Orcish heavy crossbowmen while Darkwalk cast Bless, Prayer, Recitation, etc. over the Elven troops. Even with their help the Elven front line of swordsmen quickly went down as they hit the Orcish pikes. As the second line Elven Heavy Spearmen engaged the Pikes the Light Spearmen on the flanks prepared to be encircled by Orcish Spearmen. It was looking pretty grim when Doomsman, Darkwalk, and Ember all decided to do what they do best.
  Doomsman simply hacked his way through the Orcish Pikes to their rear as Ember put up a Wall of Fire on the Elven right flank and Darkwalk called down a Flame Strike on the Orcs menacing the left flank.
  About this time the invisible silent Stardust landed behind the Orc leaders and began to surreptitiously free the Elven prisoners while the Orcs were busy watching and directing the battle. During this process she realized that the Orcish banner seemed to incorporate some sort of holy relic.
  Ember slpped another Wall of Fire on the other Elven flank as Darkwalk kept using spells to assist the Elves. About this time Mournglow decide to Polymorph the Orc who had dispelled his Minor Globe into a - Ki-rin.
  This was interesting since the new Ki-rin 'lost his mind' and became a Ki-rin. I soon decided the Ki-rin would help, but not by crassly impaling orcs - the party watched as the Ki-rin flew up and away into the clouds.
  About this time Doomsman blew his Horn of Valhalla and 3 Einherjar joined him as he charged up the hill toward the Orc King.
  In the battle of armies the Elves superior skill and armor was beginning to tell and Darkwalk's spells were starting to really swing the fight, although the match was still against the Elves.
  The reserves soon finished off the puddings and started to form back up to join the fight, prompting Mournglow to head back towards them.
  Whew! We took a break at this point and gathered ourselves.
  Once back at it Doomsman and 2 of the Einherjar cut their way through the Orcish infantry behind the Pikes and continued up the hill. Ember started Fireballing Orcish shortbowmen, Mournglow began to start dropping spells into the reserves, and the Elves brought down the Pikes and resumed their advance, this time against the Orcish infantry.
  Meanwhile Stardust freed the Elven prince and began to free the Elven king.
  The Elves engaged the infantry but now had the reserves threatening their left flank. Mournglow was doing his best to slow the reserves but was struggling a bit. Doomsman was down to 1 Einherjar but was almost through the last troops before the Orc King's bodyguards. Stardust was rushing to free the Elf king before she was spotted by those same bodyguards. Ember was doing well but was actually running low on Fireballs, which is weird.
  About this time the party as a whole noticed that a storm was brewing very suddenly and Stardust realized the Orc king was occasionally casting spells, seemingly on his own troops!
  Mournglow attempted an attack on the leaders (he was still flying) and was hit twice by the Orc king's spear for his efforts. The Orc king's spear returned when thrown and Mournglow quickly learned it was a Wounding weapon, prompting him to return to slow the reserves.
  Doomsman and the last Einherjar engaged the main group of bodyguards in a fight that soon turned into a cuisinart. While he was taking damage a bit he was dropping a bodyguard per blow and was hitting 3 times a round! The Einherjar was keeping the bodyguards off his back but was fading fast.
  Ember shifted his focus to the reserves using the last of his Fireballs on them as Mournglow also returned to hitting them. The elves were starting to overwhelm the infantry but still had the reserves approaching their flank and had taken pretty severe losses.
  Doomsman finally cut his way through the first group of bodyguards, although he had taken two hits from the Orc king's spear of wounding (which had been thrown from the hilltop). The Einherjar finally went down as Doomsman charged the second group of boyguards around the King. The Ki-rin finally had enough clouds and did a Call Lightning on the reserves as Mournglow and Ember also continued hitting them. Stardust got the elf king free and began cutting down the Orc banner, hoping this would drop the Globe of Invulnerability and allow Mournglow to assault the leaders with magic.
  Although greatly slowed and weakened the Orcish reserves had still drawn to within moments of engaging the Elven flank and rear. Ember was almost out of spells and was contemplating drawing his own sword and joining the line. Darkwalk was out of attack spells and was tending the wounded and also preparing for the worst. Mournglow had a spell or two in reserve in case the Globe went down but was also largely out. Stardust was hopeful she could bring down the Globe but was very isolated.
  The Orc king shouted an order and his bodyguards allowed Doomsman direct access for the king and Doomsman to duel. Doomsman was not just hurt but the Wounding effect meant he was losing more h.p. each round while the Orc king was fresh and had Prayer, etc. active on himself.
  The duel was a lot of fun to DM simply because the party felt that the battle was riding on it. The previous day's duel had been the closest Doomsman had ever come to losing such a fight, and he had been fresh then. Being wounded and Wounded there was a bit more tension during combat!
  It was still over in just two rounds! Doomsman's player rolled well and hit hard and was able to parry each of the two blows that would have otherwise hit. As the Orc king died he uttered a curse on Doomsman.
  With the death of the Orc king his spells ended (he had the War sphere, granting him access to spells like Courage and Rally)  - this, combined with the shock of the last of their high leaders dying, broke the Orcish units that could see the duel which led to a cascade and, within 3 rounds, the Orcs were in a panicked retreat.
  Soon the Elves were gathered up and being cared for by their own healers and Darkwalk, their king and prince were returned, and the Ki-rin harried the retreating Orcs with his Call Lightning. Darkwalk had memorized Remove Curse for just such an emergency, so Doomsman received that before all his wounds were bound.
  Of the Elven force of almost 900 less than 430 survived the battle and many of the survivors were wounded. They lost no leaders and no spell casters.
  Of the Orcish force of about 2,100 less than 900 survived the battle and retreat. They lost all top leaders, most of their spell casters, the majority of their tough bodyguards, and even a large number of 'sergeants'.
  The party received the following treasure as a reward;
  -Each received a cloak pin that grants them a +2 on reaction rolls with Good elves from the continent and a +2 on saves vs. Cold.
  -2,000 g.p. in various gem stones.
 -Doomsman was granted the boon of being allowed to court the Elf king's daughter.

General Notes from this Adventure: These are both my own insights and what the players shared after the two sessions.
  1) Unless prepared for it, even a high level party can really struggle against an army of more than small size. As Mournglow put it 'they can't really hurt us unless we are really foolish, but every encounter that slows us down means other units get through.' Even against really tightly-packed formations a Fireball can affect no more than about 60 targets. Since even the Pike walls weren't 40' deep Ember's Fireballs were affecting between 36 (pikes) and 12 (heavy crossbowmen) Orcs at a time.
  The orcish army was in three columns, each heading for a different river crossing. Even with hippogriffs it was difficult to even find the Orcs since they typically travelled at night and used trees for cover as much as they could during the day.
  2) Siege weapons are very vulnerable to PCs. A Flaming Sphere can wreck a catapult very fast. Fireballs tend to do it faster.
  3) Some combat spells work great on the battlefield; but most combat spells don't. Fireball and Wall of Fire had an impact on the battlefield as a whole. Almost no other combat spell (in this battle) had that level of impact.
  4) Clerics can be more important on the battlefield than mages. The War sphere spells of the Orc king had a huge effect, preventing three of his units from breaking and allowing another to fight more effectively. Without those spells the Elves might have suffered far fewer casualties and, perhaps, even won without the support of the PCs.
  On the other hand, Darkwalk's use of Bless, Prayer, Recitation and similar spells had a major impact on the battlefield, especially along the front line. Let me show you why with raw numbers;
    Orc = 1 HD and A.C. 6
    Elf - 1+1 HD and A.C. 5
  Right away we see that the average Elf will hit the average Orc 55% of the time and only be hit 45% of the time. Combined with an average of 6 h.p. vs. an average of 5 h.p. the Elves have a quality edge to begin with.
  Now, let's get the front line of Elves under a Bless spell;
    Orc = still has a 45% chance to hit
    Elf = now has a 60% chance to hit and makes Morale checks at +1
  Ok, that is a nice boost, especially since mass combat is a game of numbers. Now, let's look at the same situation if the Elves were under Prayer
    Orc = 40% chance to hit, -1 damage
    Elf = 60% chance to hit, +1 damage
  Even better, right? Now let's look at just Recitation;
    Orc = 35% chance to hit, -2 damage
    Elf = 65% chance to hit, +2 damage
  Wow, this is a major change! Here's the thing, though - these three spells stack their bonuses! The Elven front line were longswordsmen (who get a +1 to hit from being Elves) and were under all three spells at the same time, meaning that at the initial shock of impact the forces looked like this;
    Orc = 25% chance to hit, -3 damage
    Elf = 80% chance to hit, +3 damage
  The spells alone provide a 40% change in the battle odds! Add in the Elven long sword bonus and the damage shift and this is why a force of 100 Elven swordsmen were able to devastate 400 Orcish pikemen before they went down. Even with the fact the pikemen were making 3 attacks before the elves were able to respond with one the huge difference in ability to hit and the damage shifts made all the difference in the world. In the battle above if Darkwalk and not prepared the front line with the spells he did (which was a major impact on his spell ability) the Elven front line would almost certainly have simply been cut down in the initial shock while doing effectively no damage to the pikes. Instead while the swordsmen did fall to the pikes it took 3 times as long and they wiped out half of the pikes doing so.
  Imagine if the Orcs had simply put 3 low-level clerics along the back rank of the Pikes, all casting the spell Chant spell before and during the battle - AND Darkwalk wasn't there - this would have made the Orcs equal to the Elves!
  Suddenly the Chant spell makes a lot more sense, doesn't it? Low-level clerics man the walls of besieged castles chanting for hours at a time; the monks in the cathedral aren't just singing in the choir - it is a continuous Chant to help protect the sacred space; etc.
  Now the players are back to the West and where their Dwarven hirelings are still working on their combined stronghold!