Serpent’s Skull, overview

•November 14, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I think it’s fitting that the previous post – from the October of last year – talked about long breaks. Nuff said on that front, I guess.

I’ve found that wrapping up a campaign nice and proper comes with a nice feeling. It’s much too late for my memory to go back and try to grasp at the process beyond this last stretch, but it was good to end on a high note. Also, Kuros finally came to life (a bit) after a scene where he stood his ground in the face of the ape king of Usaro by telling the demon a story (about Kuros’s own adventuring motivations) that was deliberately chosen for its moral conflict with the Chaotic Evil society of the apes. The idea was more impressive than the delivery, but it was a nice little moment.

This could have been shown in writing, which was the idea, back in the day. I meant to write more as events progressed, but that plan fell through due to school and breaks from the game itself. Also, the prospect of writing up adventures now have the added competition of my Zelda fanfic, which I have to say takes precedence in terms of priority.

Even so, I do want to do something to commemorate the vanquishment of Ydersius the serpent god. I mean to add a chapter or two of character epilogues to Welcome to the Jungle, as soon as I can find the necessary momentum. Here’s to hoping that that won’t take long enough for the intent to wither away.

Our party at the end was:

– Kuros Ackler, male pacifist human cleric who didn’t deal any damage to the enemy in all his adventuring career that I can recall. There may have been one time with an incorporeal undead that required positive energy, but I’m not sure. Not so pacifist as to refrain from summoning tyrannosaurs should the situation so require. The resident buffer with healing enough for two full parties. Replaced Sujiu.

– Niero Brandt, a human alchemist who would have done well in Korvakopla with his sentient tumor familiar and frequent muttering to himself. Probably the most conflicted and messed up of our merry band, so getting a firm grip on his person is difficult.

– Kailn, a halfling sorcerer and slave who escaped servitude following the death of Malje. A ladies’ man throughout the campaign, and the appropriator of the skull of a god and the staff of his high priest at the close of the game.

– Tiikki, an elf archer and career Pathfinder who adventured to save his (?) mate, who had been erased from existence by powerful magic. One imagines several more references in the Pathfinder Chronicles following the events in Saventh-Yhi and Ilmurea. Replaced Malje.

The City of Seven Spears

•October 8, 2011 • 1 Comment

In which we go on and past the third installment of Serpent’s Skull.

I’ve had to drop the idea of writing up scenes for the campaign. The overly long breaks between sessions, the death of an established character whose replacement didn’t grow into his role, and the third adventure path’s regression to what amounted to little more than dungeon crawling were, in combination, too heavy a load to work with. The breaks were particularly crippling: this is definitely not a student-friendly game for those preferring to take it seriously; it’s for either teenaged kids with all the time in the world, or adults whose homeworkless jobs can go on with unchanged schedules for months on end.

But aside from these tertiary concerns, what of the AP itself?

Can’t say, really. It was more of a pit stop in between going to get what we wanted and… something. The leadup to the next one is less than clearly outlined. If memory serves, the original motivation for most of the characters to go to Saventh-Yhi was, in all possible Platonic purity, to Get Them Treasures. Well, we’ve switched employers now that our first sponsors have packed up their things, and presumably the investigation and looting of the city will proceed for a time until a more pressing concern is unearthed. For our dauntless party, the whole thing about being involved with the excavations and the like was purely a marriage of convenience; to my knowledge, none of the characters really cared about the forgotten secrets half as much as the swag – with, perhaps, the exception of Kuros: I still don’t know what that guy is about, and I play the man. Awkward. Somewhat embarrassing.

I wouldn’t know how to grade this one because I’m not sure we played it the way it was meant to be played. This was partly because of group dynamics (“lol lore, hell yeah geepees”), partly because of out-of-game reasons (them breaks, man… them breaks), and partly because, as the GM admitted, it was mostly just an XP grind to get us into such a level that we won’t all of us get immediately and gruesomely killed come the next phase of the adventure. The whole adventure took four sessions, which makes it the shared second shortest path thus far, along with Sins of the Saviors from Rise of the Runelords. Come to think of it, CSS was quite similar in style to Fortress of the Stone Giants, which we played through in only three sessions.

Racing to Ruin

•August 14, 2011 • Leave a Comment

The second adventure is now in the bag.


In Souls for Smuggler’s Shiv I liked the permanent little bonuses that you could get from the other survivors of the shipwreck. I was very pleased to see that there was another such thing in the second adventure path.

– As for why I like it so much: firstly, accruing these little bonuses from adventure to adventure is a concrete reason to hang onto a character through the whole adventure. Not that doing so should require special incentives, but all the same, I approve of rewarding the practice.

– Second, it makes for an excellent “You Been There” certificate, like a sticker on your suitcase. One duh-class gripe I’ve had for a long time is that regardless of what you write up for your character’s history, you don’t ever really get anything special to show for it; your starting gear and wealth is what it would be for a character of your level, end of story. You could write a novel’s worth of backstory when making a character that starts out at level 6 or whenever, and you can choose your skill ranks and all the rest to match, but that’s it; no extra mechanical candy. Here, you can actually point to something Unique on your character sheet (or on your character itself, as the case may be) and say, “I was trained in combat by a disciple of the Red Mantis!” or “I rescued the holy dancers of a tribe deep in the Mwangi Expanse and they gave me these mystical tribal tattoos that awaken the power of my inner hippo.” This, to me, is awesome.

This sort of thing should totally be a standard part of any adventure path. Generic XP that don’t care where you got them from just don’t have the same oomph. I have good memories of another game where abilities gained this way played a much more salient role, and seeing them in a game like D&D is great. I hope there will be more of these down the line, and I wish even more that my first character hadn’t died. Wherefore hast thou left me, Sujiu?


Other than that, in terms of story the module was a solid continuation of the first. We had an unfortunate months-long break between the last and second-to-last sessions, and I don’t remember all of it as well as I should.


In terms of play mechanics, the tale is rather more gritty. There have been some questionable encounters where the balance issues seemed skewed enough to stand out. My character, Sujiu, died in a nightly ambush against which the only reliable defense that I’ve been able to think of would have been to have high Perception skills on every character on the watch rotation. Well, our watchman failed his roll, and the result was a surprise charge from a “CR 3” bear (my ass) that almost killed a lvl 4 Fighter with solid defenses in a single round, give or take a surprise round. The kill came on the second round, as I recall. In another fight there was an incorporeal foe that could only be hurt by the one magical weapon we had in the party. We had run completely out of healing by the time that bugger died, and three of our party of five couldn’t even have outrun the enemy if it had come to that.


We are now one session into the third adventure path, and the only reason we didn’t lose a barbarian to a similar damage overload as the one that claimed Sujiu was that our Cleric (newcomer, played by yours truly) incorrectly thought all his Cure spells were empowered. There at least the whole encounter was purely our own stupidity; the halfling went and flapped his gums at a ranking servant of Angazhan. I’m wholly on board for difficult fights, even TPK-potential-difficult ones, but I hold that they have to be fair: death shouldn’t come as a lottery. If the bear that killed Sujiu had charged our sorcerer or oracle (and possibly our rogue/alchemist), they would have died just as hard. If I had had but a few less Cure spells left upon fighting the incorporeal enemy, the casualty count would’ve been up to nothing but the DM’s discretion. And if I’d calculated the effectiveness of my healing correctly, we would have had at least one death in the party from the Angazhan-Servant encounter, probably more. Though again, the balance issues of that fight get a pass from me, because the fight did appear evitable. We’ve had one death thus far, but, no joke, we could have had more than one full TPK.


So. I miss my archer, but on the whole it was still a good module.

Souls for Smuggler’s Shiv

•February 25, 2011 • Leave a Comment

The first adventure is now in the bag.


This is what proper wilderness exploration is. Our party was less than perfectly geared for the effort, with two characters with move speed 20 trying to fight through constant difficult terrain and no one having really invested in Stealth, but that’s part of the charm. The fighting balance of our party is fairly good, the only thing missing is a dedicated trap-springer. No one in the party has an even moderately good Perception, so I expect we’ll be walking into those things for a while yet. Other than our wisdomless party structure, we’re in pretty good shape.


Compared to our previous starting adventure Burnt Offerings, this one was more brutal in that the jungle is just stocked with all kinds of threats, and the safest spot on the island is nowhere near as safe as your average Varisian border town. You are essentially camping out in a dungeon, and the safety guarantee of your home base is “we just cleared this room, let’s hope the monsters all sit still in theirs.” That is to say: the work day is longer than five minutes, boys and girls, and you do not ever truly leave the dungeon to rest in between. No one leaves the island._


Continuity-wise, SfSS is the close blood sibling of Burnt Offerings in that they drop hints about the things to come in almost identical ways. Neither one ends in an explicit ‘This way for your next adventure!’-sign, but both drop ancient symbols that are signs of a bygone age, old empire, forgotten civilization, ancient ruins, etc. Picking up those serpent-skull holy symbols it actually occurred to me to think, “Is this a devious sendup of some sort? A bit of deceptive foreshadowing to get you to think this is going down exactly the same plot path as Rise of the Runelords?” I don’t think anyone who stopped to pick up both those Sihedron holy symbols and these newer serpent skull ones could escape the déjà vu. I just hope the plot won’t turn out to be a new skin of novel color sewn on the skeleton of a forefather.

Promises, promises

•February 23, 2011 • 1 Comment

…And deliveries!


The Fictionpress account will mostly consist of original arrangements of songs, usually Finnish-to-English. What original writings I have do not as of yet form enough of a narrative whole to warrant posting. Perhaps later, but that’s not yet on the itinerary. At the moment there are only two songs in there (Finnish and English versions of Finntroll’s Aldhissla, lolwtf¡), which were uploaded primarily to see how the system works. I have three arrangements sitting in the queue (Uriah Heep’s Lady in Black, Heather Dale’s Mordred’s Lullaby and Hassisen Kone’s Jeesus tulee), more or less ready to post, but there are some minor issues and authorial reservations involved, so they’ll have to keep for a while still. Writing post-worthy song lyrics? Not all that easy.


The account will, for the foreseeable future, only hold the one story sitting in there now. I plan to build on that one more or less regularly, though; there’s lots to feel (and thus to say) about tha Jungle, after all.

Writings of a new kind, but not here

•January 30, 2011 • 2 Comments

Originally, this blog was about RPG game reports. I’ve thought to add original writing and schoolwork to the menu, but I won’t do it here.  The reason is that the commenting system here is unbelievably counterintuitive. Having to manually accept people’s comments? I just realized that I have two comments “pending” that have sat there for eighteen fucking months. No notifications in my mailbox or nuthin’ that I recall. One of them I would’ve been really interested in answering, if only I’d noticed it on time. Whoopdy doo. I’ll also swear to anything that that black ball to the left of where I’m writing right now wasn’t always there. My (late) apologizes to those commenters.


So. I’ll eventually upload these new texts I have on and and keep this blog around for RPG posts. Links will be posted when the first uploads are made. As to this place, maybe this time I’ll write up a post on each module we finish in our latest Pathfinder campaign Serpent’s Skull. Better to do that timely-like instead of as a recap after thirty sessions.

Recent gaming, meaning the past year and a half

•November 25, 2010 • 1 Comment

This was a while back and not too fresh in my memory (this was over a year ago), but first things first:

Korvakopla’s tale reached its conclusion. I jumped back in at around level 27 or so and we finished at 30. So, the campaign spanned some 25 levels all in all, which I find respectable.

This is how each character ended up: the team got to return to their own cosmology or stay behind in Greyhawk’s world. If I recall, we all went over, even the GH natives. Not sure, though. Joaquim became a star – literally, of course – as per his epic destiny. Now starlocks can form pacts with him. I’ve no recollection whatsoever of what happened to Tannel or Tsardis, unfortunately. Serric set out to find new evils to avenge, and Sarfgrou rolled along into the sunset on Korvamobiili, happy as one like him could expect to be.

And no, I never did overcome Bardegran’s damage-per-encounter record from twelve or thirteen levels and one tier back.

– – –

So, the more recent thing I did was participate in the Pathfinder campaign Rise of the Runelords that NiTessine ran for us. Perhaps the most remarkable thing for me personally was getting to play a D&D 3.5(-ish) character for so long. We went from level 1 to 16 (would’ve gotten 17 and 9th-level spells if we coulda’ cashed in on the XP from the last fight, mehmehmeh), which definitely marks my high with a character in this kind of game. So we did it with by following the “Fast”-column level progression, whatever. It’s still a personal high by a lot.

The party consisted of Skrym, a shoanti barbarian, Jearis Tarlangaval, a gray elf wizard-scout, Michiell “Kajo” Grellsson (or smthng, name’s translated), a human cleric-type with levels in three classes, Sir Gelrick of Magnimar, a human paladin, and me, with an elf druid named Dairhe Faulilj. The party and their details can be found on the Mekanismi Wiki (it’s in Finnish).

Not only did I get to play through a long campaign, as I like to do, but I got to do it with a character I liked. He was a bit out of place as the play was rather less “conquer-the-wild-frontier” than I had thought it would be, but that’s not so important now; the epilogue I got to write for Dairhe is pretty much what I’ve wanted to do for a druid character ever since I first played one years ago.

Dairhe didn’t have too much downtime between in-game projects of various sorts, be it repairing a fortress of chanting up the party’s magic items, but he’s definitely got a life to live now that his game is over. Dairhe sits solidly as my number two character ever. At two it’s a pretty short list, but the competition is grossly unfair.

I need to finish more long games. Fortunately, there’s another one on the way. Next year we’ll see what happens to an archer in the Mwangi Expanse.

The Chronicles of Korvakopla #17

•August 17, 2009 • 4 Comments

Here’s the conclusion to my participation in the mad ventures of Korvakopla. My gaming will now go on another indefinite hiatus. After Tannel’s player moved away, I don’t have a handy means to transport myself to the game anymore. There are a number of complications to the matter that would likely interest no one at all. This (most likely) last post will deal mostly with stuff that required the perspective of a longer game and stacks of material.

I don’t remember the events of the last sessions too well as plot goes, but mechanically, now… that’s another story. We had finally switched to 4e-designed content, meaning no more official or GM-made conversions. The effect was immediately noticed. Downright staggering.

Admittedly, my bookkeeping leaves a lot to be desired on this one, but I’m fairly sure we smashed our way past our previous encounters-per-day record at least once (meaning seven in a row now) and tied the previous record of six twice. We also – and here my bookkeeping is quite accurate – went from playing between two and four encounters per session to five or six (!).

Also, we weren’t even as pressed to make these records as we were the old ones; there was at least one encounter where no one in the party took a single point of damage (indeed, if temporary hit points wouldn’t evaporate, some of us would’ve ended up higher than we started) nor expended any dailies, though this last one isn’t so rare, considering our style. As I recall, the record of seven encounters in a row wasn’t eight because we Dinged and wanted our cool new abilities.

I’ve been told that my dropping off hasn’t significantly hindered Korvakopla. In my last sessions the avenger had already been dealing as much damage per strike as I would deal in the whole encounter, so small wonder. Of course, this is certainly in part due to the inherent easiness of the 4e material – and I dare anyone to argue that point. There still is no healer, nor any leader unless you count Tannel since he was the one who sometimes remembered to plant the party pooled Battle Standard of Something. And don’t forget that they’re now four players hopping through hoops intended for five with a healer to back them up. I can’t really sit myself down and settle on what I’m supposed to think about that.

Also, we were at level 25 when I dropped off, which means that people have been getting their hands on their lvl 24 and 26 ED abilities. As an example, for Joaquim this means that if things are looking down, he can make himself practically impossible to hit or damage for the rest of the encounter.

If the GM forcibly holding back player strength isn’t intended as a necessary balance tool, 4e stuff has a long way to go at the later levels to where party cohesion would be nearly as important as at lower levels. I can see in my mind’s eye how a party of five bow rangers would deal with every encounter in three rounds, tops, possibly without losing hp with even the slightest effort put into mobility and defense.

Here are some statistics. I love statistics, please ask questions.

-Personal highest damage per encounter: 748 by Bardegran the level 17 or 18 character. In my efforts to design a character that wouldn’t get nerfed, I ended up truly outdoing myself in the end; Sarfgrou, who retired eight levels higher and had access to all the perks of epic-tier feats and such, never got higher than 531.

-Personal highest average damage per encounter in a session: 440, also by Bardegran. Sarfgrou’s highest was 394. Here’s a breakdown that unfortunately doesn’t include levels. However, they progressed in a fairly linear fashion. Sarfgrou started at level 18. Average damage per encounter/number of encounters that session: Bardegran – 440/2, 222/2, Sarfgrou: 242/2, 265/3, 274/3, 358/2, 300/2, 207/2, 394/3, 219/4, 157/3, 222/4, 367/3, 214/3, 265/2, 159/5, 270/6, 122/6.

The last three sessions there were the 4e ones. You’ll also notice that the last one has the lowest average damage per encounter ratio recorded. 122 per fight? Total suck, Serric could and did deal twice that in a single well-placed hit. Didn’t exactly scale appropriately, my damage progression didn’t. Still, the comparison is somewhat ill-placed; the avenger was well built and was actually rivaling Joaquim in total damage output in the last sessions.

The Chronicles of Korvakopla #16

•June 28, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Here’s a character recap for you, describing attitudes and appearances where necessary. I’ll attach an update like this at the top of new posts every time there’s a character change, though I don’t think there’ll be any of that anymore, barring some actual obstacle to ressing the current characters. Anyway, when Serric joined we all described our characters and it seemed like a good idea to me to have that stuff typed up for all to see. Some previous erroneous statements will be corrected here.

-Tannel, elf wizard. Usual-looking elf with a big thing for electricity, thunder and teleportation. Has a staff with a kind of fluffy hair sausage twined or floating around it due to the abounding electrical currents. I imagine it flaps around energetically with dailies due on the mighty winds of melodrama. Known to use two staffs occasionally. Has the ears of a red dragon grafted into the side of his helmet. Large-sized dragon, I believe it was, but possibly Huge.

-Joaquim, eladrin wizard with obscene stats and defenses. Joaquim underwent the half-dragonization ritual a while back, becoming a half-mirage dragon as a consequence. Among the powers he gained from that was a breath weapon, which I envision as a cloud of dull, psychedelic gases with a tendency towards pink and purple. He also gained a set of perfectly white mustache (and possibly a beard) that he really likes to twirl when, well, when given any solid excuse at all. (Really, just hold a picture of an elvish Pai Mei in your mind and bask.) Reminiscent-of-evil speeches, gloating over beaten enemies or taunting the still standing ones, an occasion to drain a glass of wine, it’s all good. He also has cat ears enchanted onto the shoulders of his armor (or the side of his helm?), which he looted off a defeated enemy after they were denied him as a quest reward. For added visual awesome, wears a Skull Mask nowadays.

Joaquim fell (or purposefully hopped) ”slightly” off his rocker in an enchanted forest. Now he aspires to become a star – literally, of course – via his Epic Destiny. For spell fluff purposes, he has the souls of an earth elemental and a fire/smoke elemental captured in an orb, like two pokemon in one pokeball. When they emerge, they tend to take on colossal size and smash everything to smithereens with any attack that hits or doesn’t.

Yeah, this guy is the soul of the party.

-Tsardis, air/fire-soul genasi swordmage. The only female charater in the party. She also underwent the half-dragonization ritual. Her dragon was actually a half-black dragon basilisk, so as an end result she is a quarter-black-dragon-quarter-basilisk-half-air/fire-soul elementally inclined humanoid. With four legs. If she ever has children, I imagine we’ll get straight to Mongrelfolk with a one-generation stunt.

A typical way for her to take a Short Rest is to sit down on a rock, effectively straddling it with legs on all sides. Unfortunately I don’t recall what kind of ears Tsardis is sporting.

-Sarfgrou, half-orc rogue. Sarfgrou is a murderous bastard who was found in a jail cell which had been his abode for fifteen years. Sarfgrou has good disposition towards life despite the hand life dealt him (murderous, but optimistic). Gurgling speech these days. Half-dragonized with a water dragon. So; a manic quarter-human-quarter-orc-half-water-dragon mutant murderer, with a battle cry ripped from ‘I Am Murloc’.

Combat-wise, likes making fountains out of enemies with ongoing damage. With a starting Con modifier of zero and an AC of Hell No he’s a perfect glass cannon. Nice Ref, though. Sarfgrou’s ears are a desmodu’s (think up the ears of a seven-foot bat), and they’re affixed to his Snakefang Snakeskin, which is a form of magical leather armor. They really should be moved to his helmet, as he also has a Skull Mask.

-Serric, elf avenger. Appearance is elf standard. He was locked somewhere in Death’s Reach by the gods around the time of the war with primordials for being just too damn dangerous. I’m not sure if he earned his ears yet (meaning getting the frag on an enemy with ears). Probably did and I’ve just forgotten. The most level-headed person in the party, like as not. Combat-wise, he’s an elf, a Deadly Trickster, and avenger, with auto-crit powers, and uses a Vicious execution axe as his weapon. Every fight is a crit party for one and all.




We played one session on a sunday, another on the next monday, and went for the rest of the week without one, and also the next week as the GM had some school project which needed doing. So there’ll be almost three weeks in between games assuming we get one set up this weekend, which means I’ve forgotten almost everything we did in the last two sessions.

I do remember one scene, in which we’d killed some bad guys after though not necessarily because they refused to tell us some things. The ritual Speak With Dead was put to use, which is really a good option for all situations, all told, since the target is forced to answer and there’s nothing in the ritual description suggesting they’re allowed to lie, either.

The GM didn’t have them tell us everything so openly, though, and there was some social maneuvering necessary. Meaning diplomacy, intimidate, or bluff. Only the wizards could use said skills, of course, since they would be the ones casting the spell. No serious complaints from anyone, despite our wizards not exactly being masters in the subtle arts of interpersonal manipulation. Here’s the gist of how the first attempt with the ritual went:

Joaquim (of course Joaquim, ya fools): Hi homie, remember that one time we went drinking? Had a blast, didn’t we? How’s about you do me a favor and tell me [something about something]?

Dead guy: You killed me! I’m not telling you anything!

J: Come on, man, don’t be like that!

And suchly on for a bit more, until bluff was rolled. J knows little about bluffing, and nothing was gained except a memory of the scene. x’D

Second attempt:

J (again J, again of course): Hi.

Other dead guy: Huuurgh. Why do you keep me from my reward in eternity?

J: Not much of a reward for Orcus-worshippers, I fear. Anyway, remember when I introduced you to your wife?

ODG: That hag was horrible. I sacrificed her to Orcus and ate her. Tasted like [something].

J: Smooth moves, dog! Anyway, that was a good turn I did you, right?

ODG: Sure wasn’t. Horrible bitch.

J: Well I did find you a woman, aight? So how’s about you tell me [something about something] in return?

And bluff was rolled, with similar results.

We’ve had scenes of that mold before, and once J rolled a 20. T’was good.




Houserule update: when disabling traps, the disabler has to use the lower of his perception or thievery. Meaning the guy with thievery – that’s me – can’t disable any traps beyond a tough heroic-level one because my perception is untrained and with mods and bonuses of zero. Our MO used to be Tannel goes first and sees everything immediately, then I follow up and disable what I can. Tannel has a higher passive perception than I would have if I took 20. As a matter of fact, he might have higher perception even if he took zero while I took 20. So now our main (read: cosmetic and purely formal) trap disabler (read: trap-springer) is either Joaquim or Serric, as one of them has the best balance of perception and thievery. Another useless and more or less unrealistic houserule. Still, traps are mostly jokes so it’s not that much of an issue in the end.

The Chronicles of Korvakopla #15

•June 6, 2009 • 4 Comments

The first part of this post is an introduction to a tool that I will now give to those who know me IRL. The tool in question is a kind of get-out-of-jail-free-card for conversations – a social joker, if you will. A ticket, even.

Here it comes. What I said earlier, about everyone being satisfied with Gregg’s utility and application? Never mind that. The player had some undisclosed disagreement with the GM on the subject of what constitutes a fun encounter. This disagreement had been present for most of the game, but for whatever reason it now finally culminated in enough of a divide that Gregg’s player left.

So I say ”all clear”, and before the next session rolls around, a head has rolled. I found this out on the exact same day as I wrote my last post, actually. The ticket I promised to you now follows; when you who know me find yourself inolved with me in a conversation that concerns or relies on my ability to gauge the mindset of another person – or any such matter of empathy – you may speak these words at me, and I will yield: ”You are not qualified to make statements concerning another person’s mood or intentions.”

You may translate the wods to Finnish if you like, so long as you stay true to their meaning and application.

The first session after Gregg we played with four players. Mostly uneventful, the only noteworthy thing is that now everyone settled on their epic destinies. Houserulings that applied: those who had received inherent stat bonuses on adventures so far couldn’t increase those stats beyond the theoretical maximum, as defined by the point-buy system’s limits and core material.

Most importantly this meant that Joaquim got shut out from his two or three most important choices, those being some Lich setup, Demigod, and Chosen, I believe. He ended up with Radiant Servant or Ascendant or some such. Tsardis took up the Lich one due to having started out with an Int sufficiently low that he could still stack the new bonuses with the inherent ones he’d received. Tannel became an Archmage, and I became a Demigod. My only other choice was Deadly Trickster, but since Demigod was suddenly freed by the houserule, it was left for me. Yay.

This last session we had a new fifth player join in. He plays an elf avenger-X?-Deadly Trickster who uses a Vicious executioner’s axe. Name’s Serric. Between all those abilities he’s got more attack rerolls than Joaquim has defensive junk, and that’s saying something. I might mention that this session ended with J, Ta, and Ts at level 22, and Serric and myself at 21. J now has all NADs at exactly 38 and AC at more than that.

The avenger does what I do, except better. I suppose he’s a bit more sticky as he deals more damage that I do so I have slightly less reason to bemoan my pitiful defenses that I used to, but still. No nerf-stick imminent so far, though I have been wrong before when trying to guess the intentions of people. *grumble* The next session should tell for sure…

The second out of the three encounters in this session I didn’t deal any damage, or even attack. Yeah, not once. Guess why? Flying enemies. Fuck that, up the ass. There were two landbound enemies that I tried to get at but the first one died before I made it to melee range and the second sat through his whole fight inside Tannel’s immobilizing tentacle rape zone. Fun, fun, fun.

The Chronicles of Korvakopla #14

•May 28, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Episode X, Bard Power!

Rage’s player changed characters. Again. I’ll be the first to agree that sitting still and sucking it as a melee character against all these flying freaks isn’t cool at all, but I also agree with the GM when he said that free character change time is over; next time there’ll be a price tags of some sort. Small enough danger, though, for I’m already committed to this one, the wizards have nothing to complain about, the swordmage is far more versatile range-wise than most melee characters, and the new character is a Bard. One more arcane character means four out of five, which fact wants to tell us something, even if that something is nothing more than “no one cared to read up on another whole book full of classes and abilities”.

And not only is he a functional controller, but also a primary healer. He’s got seven heals per encounter and five more as dailies to fall back on. That is all kinds of awesome. The character’s name is Gregg. He’s modeled after something I wasn’t familiar with. He wanted to ride an elephant but the GM didn’t like that, so phooey. Joaquim’s player reminded me of a comment he had made when there still was only one PHB; in effect, it went like “once PHB 2 gets out a lot of the stuff there will get nerfed or banned or PHB 1 is made obsolete”. It might have come to that if the GM wasn’t already holding such a tight leash on what characters (and especially strikers) are allowed to do.

So far it hasn’t happened but I assure you, sure as sunrise J’s player, Gregg’s player and I could, between us, get any remotely effective combo h4xed onto the black list.

J’s player seems firmly rooted on the opinion that bards are straight up superior to wizards in just about every way, and while Gregg’s player didn’t agree out loud he didn’t object either. Examples cited were damage, size of AoE’s, amount and quality of controlling effects, utility of utility powers, as well as the fact of bards being every inch as much a leader as a controller. I found that hard to accept at face value so I made some comparisons based on what’s in the PHBs.

Damage was quick to check up on; if the bard goes for melee and uses his melee weapon powers, the damage dice will be larger, otherwise it’s even. As amount of dice goes, wizard either has a clear advantage or it’s even. Wizard has far more lingering area damages and secondary targets. Considering the natural power creep that one can expect as more books pile up, it’s even more noteworthy that the wizard not only kept up but pulled ahead. Wizard wins.

As AoE’s go, wizard has more of them and they’re often larger. Since many of bard’s abilities are melee, it obviously cuts down on the choices. There was one level, maybe 13, when bard had only single-target attacks, something which wizard doesn’t suffer of. Wizard wins.

Control effects and utilities follow the same pattern. Most utilities are defensive, mainly personal buffs for wizards and mainly party support for bards. Wizards control enemies with penalties and effects, while bards control allies with buffs and effects. The variation between “amount and quality” of controller effects is so broad in both method and purpose that comparison is useless. Can’t declare a winner here as the two simply don’t even attempt to do the same things. All in all, both hold their own just fine.

Now, bard is also a fully fledged healer. In addition to that, its multiclass versatility means that for the cost of feats he can pick the best abilities and combos out of any other class. Doing that, however, makes him King of the realm of Glass Cannons, never mind all the healing you have or could have. And not to forget seeking out the combos is not worth it since you’ll get to use them exactly once. In any case, bards are so customizable that playing playing them is bound to be interesting.

To sum up, I don’t see the wizard’s turf being in any way compromised, at least by the bard.

Our swordmage was absent this last session and our bard kept his range, so I was the only melee guy. Huzzah. The newly acquired healing hit the spot since I got no flanks at all throughout the whole session and got to play meatshield some more. On the other hand, with two primary and one secondary controller the enemies were kept dazed or blinded practically through the whole fight, so it wasn’t such an issue. Gregg was established as a functional and interesting character.

I don’t remember much about the plot. There were shadar-kai monks as good guys and undead as bad ones, and the shape of our quest is “find something so you can get someplace”. The last fight had, if I recall, three flying enemies, one earthbound enemy, and one dwarf who could ride on one of the flyers. This is not 3e conversion anymore, either, we just still get fucked, Fucked, FUCKED over with these flying enemies. Jesus. Well, at least our party now consisted 75% of controllers so no one had to die as a consequence.

The Chronicles of Korvakopla #13

•May 18, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Since 4e doesn’t have any much divination spells that we knew of, our method to contact Mordenkainen in the last session was unorthodox; Joaquim just raised his voice a bit and said, “Hey Mordenkainen, I know you can hear me anyway…” The GM then muttered something speculative about whether M was tough enough a guy, and made a Tough Guy Roll. Turned out he was tough enough, and did hear, and cast something 3e-based so we could talk. It tasted like victory.

Also, something long in coming! I give you: Korvamobiili! ^^




Now then. This session we had a different GM. The usual one showed up with flu and a raw voice and got miffed at some comment from Joaquim’s player that no one else (including J’s player) seemed to notice, and refused to run the game. Luckily another Excalibur member who has occasionally sat in on our sessions showed up around that time, so he just took over the material and ran the game for us. Since we were long in deliberating certain issues to be detailed later, he got enough time to familiarize himself with the material. No complaints about how the game was run.

This session we found the portal that was supposed to take us back to Toril. Yeah, supposed. Anyway, it included a couple of posts lining said portal. Taking Korvamobiili along was not in question, of course, so we drove through with it. Now, as a mechanical creature, Korvamobiili is able to squeeze into tight spaces. That didn’t go over so well though, and the GM said we just ran over the portal’s posts. Owned! or so I claim. The ritual we performed to activate it worked and we were whisked away.

We arrived violently in some generic limboish world-between-worlds full of ambient light. Korvamobiili took some damage, but we have a ritual to fix it so we weren’t overly worried. Then, if I recall (this took place all of about 24 hours ago, don’t expect too much of my memory) we needed to use the portal again and did. This time Korvamobiili was smashed utterly. After the inconsolable wailing and a long time of discussing our options – including everything from carrying, dragging, magicing and bag-of-holding the Huge-sized stone vehicle – we left it there. Joaquim insisted on a complete formal burial and rolled around 35 for his Religion check, so all were comforted somewhat. Rest in peace, Korvamobiili. 😦

The first fight was some ghoul horde and their resident leader. Encounter level was estimated 23 (initially 22, plus reinforcements and optimized monster potitioning due to some circumstance I didn’t catch. We’re all 20), and there were flying enemies and the leader had an at-will stun attack and every ghoul damaged people in melee range upon death. Initially there were two swarms that damaged all around them when simply attacked, so you can imagine how well that went with our melee characters, who, again, have no healing support. And of course swarms take half damage from non-area attacks, joy of joys. End result, four people died and the fifth survived only because the flying monsters – of whom not a one died as I recall, since the wizards had to at least try keep the melee folk alive – left as a deus ex machina. Laaaaame.

The survivor was Rage. He looted Tannel for a magical four-leaf clover that was the second-oldest item in our loot, and certainly the oldest that had had any potential use for over twenty sessions. Back in 3e it would’ve been a one-use Limited Wish, so he wished back to life Joaquim, who then resurrected everyone else. Hey ho, and off we went. Oh, and a ghoul ran away with our one hundred thousand gold battle standard.

The other fight was apparently to balance the first one, and had monsters whose only attack was straight-up melee with no effects. There was something of a boss, Large-sized and everything, but Rage disarmed him before he got to use his weapon for anything. All his useful attacks the the Weapon keyword to boot, and since our wizards had immediately Mage Handed the weapon a dozen feet away and over a wall, it was really just straightforward butchery. Anyone remember what I said about the mix of yber-encounters and inconsequential ones? Well; applies still.

How I got into fantasy and RPGs

•May 7, 2009 • 4 Comments

There’s this new initiative going on where RPG bloggers make a post about how they got into roleplaying and how things progressed from there, started by Sami Koponen at Mythopoeia. ( The idea seemed nice, so here’s my piece. This also delves heavily into how I got into fantasy in general, as that was a far stronger turning point for me than my discovery of RPGs. I can track all my current hobbies and all but one remaining friend to the day I discovered fantasy. For an inestimable debt owed in favors you don’t know you did me; thank you, Thomas Abrahamsson.

You are advised to consider every statement I make to be prefaced by several doubt-conveying and indefiniteness-marking statements such as “I think but I’m not sure”, “As best I recall”, “What most likely happened was” or some such. Especially as regards chronological distances and sequences.

I got introduced into RPGs by a friend called Jukka, who dragged me twice into an RPG session with Tommi and the Niku also referred to in his history. I don’t remember when this was, but before I started highschool. (As I wrote that, I had a flashback to sitting in a bus and hearing Tommi and Niku, who I didn’t know at all at that time, discussing Orcrist and Glamdring from the Hobbit. Huh.) I have this impression that Jukka was more along for and after the shits and giggles, as evidenced by the Paranoia session, which was anathema to me because I generally don’t like playing against friends no matter who’s winning or if victory as such is even possible. I don’t think the Paranoia session was my first; might’ve been, my memory sucks, whatever, no one *coughelsecough* actually cares at this micro-of-a-level.

I’m not sure how it managed to happen but I started to play with Tommi and Niku fairly quickly after that, without Jukka there. Though there was always the healthy sense of self-irony of anyone discussing fantasy, they regarded RPing as something apart from mild and temporary amusement, and that elusive sense of seriousness struck home. There was a lot of a session of this and two of that back then, with pre-designed systems and homebrews that I barely recall, and D&D 3e. The first character that I connected with was an elf archer in one of Tommi’s homebrews, named Kisfal in a groundbreaking move of precedence-setting as regards the naming of my dime-a-dozen elf characters. The name was actually reused from a certain forum where I made such an ass out of myself that my very memory shies away from that whole topic. Brr…

It now seems odd to me that I got in as deep as I did. This for background:

There was a time I wasn’t into reading, fantasy or RPGs. Then I found Elfwood. (Just Google it.) I wish I remembered when that was, but it was long ago. The site’s bound to be nowhere as novel as it was back in the day, nor commercial-free, and nor am I impressed so easily, but the impact then was immediate and immense. (If you can, think back to a time when video game webcomics were a new and novel concept, a site with some thousands of members could boast to be the largest fantasy art site there was and how slowly the pages used to load…) I could and would show you the exact picture that served as the soul hook, but it’s not there anymore, nor anywhere else that I can find. On the Very Off Chance that anyone knowledgeable enough reads this, it was Min Rho’s coloring of a picture by Adele Sessler, of Faeren holding a sword to his throat.

From there I got into fantasy art (meaning Elfwood). From there, Tolkien. I started reading in the upper grades of comprehensive school, but only really got beyond Tolkien in highschool. After Tolkien the next stop was RPGs – which would never have stuck if I hadn’t been a fantasy fan at the time already – and the broader scope of reading came last. So as a checkpoint summary; Elfwood -> fantasy art -> Tolkien books -> RPGs -> literature (first Star Wars and then all things fantasy).

Back to where what I say has something directly to do with RPGs. The One Game that stands out to me was a D&D-based game where Tommi was GM and three players (soon two) played dragons. My character, Animagynth, was actually reused from another game that had been far more of a oneshot. I don’t know if the others thought of Dragongame as another such short jaunt, but it never seemed so to me. The other player lost interest in the game far sooner than I did and his character’s death ended the D&D incarnation of the game.

It was resurrected in a homebrew system of Tommi’s, where I later also submitted large stacks of material. (The process of thinking up stuff and the discourse which passed for “quality control” are fondly remembered.) It was a solo campaign with me playing and he as GM. In the best times we could play almost every day of the week, several hours a day, with almost no time sacrificed to working out detailed battle tactics or counting roll modifiers a’la D&D. Long story short, I have a Log, over fifty pages long, written in small print with no marginals to speak of and not much more space between the lines – really, just imagine enough digital text to choke a donkey – that sometimes brushes by weeks of playing in-game and out of game with a couple of sentences (this somewhat balanced by going into excessive detail at times. Ke ke ke…). Shorthand and acronyms galore.

Before, after and during that there were other games with the two other players in our village, but they didn’t stick in any way. I wouldn’t have minded another long-term game but it was simply not happening with that group, and there already was the epic solo of the Dragongame going on, which eliminated any interest I might have had in another solo game. There was a short interval somewhere with a game posted on an internet board, which quickly provided evidence suggesting that I’m far better at “actual roleplaying” (I hate even saying that. Duh) online than face-to-face.

As an aside on that topic, while I do understand that there are people who can best relate to the acting and dramatics of intense conventional roleplaying as opposed to any other element the hobby can offer, it might as well take place in a different galaxy for all the part that it I can find for myself there. I’m not that expressive.

My RPG hobby or at least its interactive ground to a halt after Tommi moved away from town. I was never interested enough in RPG theory (and indeed I hate the whole scientific analyzing approach to anything with a vengeance), hadn’t made any new contacts in my playing days that I’d uphold later, and had bad memories of trying to be an active member on forums (*shudder*). That lasted for about a year or two or so, up till I started playing at the Tampere university of technology (TTY), with a group consisting of myself and various members of Excalibur, the RPG club based there. For more on that, read every other post I’ve written thus far. Unless I’m mistaken, Niku studies at TTY and is an Excalibur member. If not, I’ve at least spotted his name on the roster of one of the campaigns hosted for first-year students there. (So-called fuksi-DD. And I do hope I didn’t make an idiot out of myself my mistaking the meaning of the word ‘fuksi’ here.) Haven’t spotted him at the club so far, though.

The Chronicles of Korvakopla #12

•May 4, 2009 • 5 Comments

First I will spell out something that needs spelling out.

My character’s stats: Str 24, Con 11, Dex 24, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 13. Race half-dragon half-orc. Alignment Evil. Basically, he is phenomenally strong and fast, but on the frail side. Also dumb and simple, nasty and bloodthirsty, but energetic and positive despite having been locked in a prison for 15 years. (Not part of the original concept, but it’s the way the GM introduced me and I didn’t care enough to contest.)

From my PP (Death Dealer) I have the following ability: “No Respite: Enemies adjacent to you take a -2 penalty to saving throws.” This also works with Sleep, so in an earlier battle I used the following to describe my actions: “I stroke the dragon’s head gently to lull it into deeper slumber while feeding him my rapier through his eye.” Now, it later occurred to me that an ability called “No Respite” might need to be a smidgeon more violent. So as a rule of thumb we can assume that I always kick enemies on the head.

Now, the following quote from how No Respite works is full and literal, and this means that it requires no actions to use or any awareness of anything on my part. So I’m constantly kicking all enemies upside the head when they get near. I need not be aware of doing it (and indeed it’s likely that I’m not, as my passive Perception (taking ten) is 20 and my Stealth without any roll is 22), and I even do it in my sleep, gurgling all the while of course. My allies might notice a mild breeze as my feet are constantly brushing past them without inflicting any ill effects, but my enemies’ concentration suffers from unending kicks. And remember;

Thus, before you as our end result proudly stands a tortured but manically optimistic half water-mutant murderer who gurgles like a murloc  and is continually kicking all enemies around him in the face without knowing he’s doing it.

Goddamn, but that is one fine sum-up for a character. If I manage to have that printed on a T-shirt, you’ll see me walking around the next Ropecon in it. There just are certain unique avenues of eloquence of expression and priceless visual images that can not be found on too serious a game.

In the game, we finished what had turned out to be a mini-module, still a 3e conversion. Next session is the custom-designed adventure, I think. During this one, Tannel ran into copyright problems with the spell he specced for himself and Tenser sued him. Despite help from Mordenkainen in the trial (skill challenge that wasn’t possible due to no Aid Another allowed and Tannel not having any skill in diplomacy), Tannel was DOOMED to pay 1000 gold in reparation for the infringement and to keep paying royalties (5 gp per month) for continued usage of both his own spell and Tenser’s Floating Disk from here on. Hah, I still well remember the first time Tenser’s apprentice came demanding tribute for the spell, and Faler vippa’d femma to him out of amusement.

There was a fight with the evil Erythnul-worshipping adventurer party, which we killed. Wizard-show again, their healer must’ve spent a dozen rounds locked in a tomb without line of sight to his party and taking cold and poison damage the whole time, and later immobilized and taking tentacle damage in addition to that. Same thing with their paladin, though he didn’t stay there quite as long. Their invoker was inconvenient but got to do as much as he did mostly because people started ganking his summons instead of him for whatever reason. There was also an avenger, but since he was rather hard to hit most folks’ attacks hurt me more than him. And yes, I got to be the main tank again. Easy fight, all told, for everyone except me. I dropped twice.

Then there was an Artifact-class rubik’s cube that we failed to open (skill challenge that was possible) and everyone took 150 damage. Tannel died instantly, two others dropped but didn’t die. We lost the prisoner we’d taken in the fight earlier, though. Oh well. Tannel got ressed and the adventure got finished. DING to level 20! I’ll be taking Deadly Trickster for my ED next level, since the immediately acquired rerolls are nice and the utility power promises to have an amusing introduction…

As a curiosity and a boredom-break I recreated Lordi Jää as a 4e sorcerer. There were two fairly basic avenues, a Dragon Magic build and a Storm Magic build. More are certainly there with other classes, but I wasn’t that bored. Both builds make good use of Arcane Energy Admixture or whatever the hell the name of that feat was, Lasting Frost, Wintertouched, and careful power selections, as is only usual. Originally it was just the Dragon Magic build down there at Paragon, but I later bumped it to full 30. The Storm build was fully a thought exercise based on changes made to the dragon build. The dragon build was far simpler, made available by a specialist PP that completely monkeys any and all Close Blasts. Both builds had easy access to more or less wtfh4x attack bonuses for little effort.

So, Dragon Magic Man is a twin-staff-wielding guy whose all Blast attacks penetrate all immunities and resistances, no matter the damage type. All his cold-type attacks penetrate cold res of up to around 30-40 points, which should punch through just about anything. He’s mostly made of blasts, bursts and ranged attacks. This guy bumps up AoE (particularly Blast areas) sizes, AoE damage, multi-target vulnerabilities, and damage resistance penetration. He veered away from pure Ice Power due to the simple fact of Blast > Cold.

Magic Storm Trooper is a more melee-oriented build that utilizes the tried and true Pew-Pew-Power-Phreak Paragon Path that is the Daggermaster. Twin-implement wielding here as well. Less AoE but more single-target DPR, less cold penetration but still enough to suit most needs. This build turned out going above 100  DPR with at-wills fairly easily, and all without the self-damaging Bloodclaw masochism that plagues all melee ranger builds I’ve seen.

Houserule updates:

-as of level X, I’m thinking 13-15, we can have an extra Daily and Encounter power in our ability pool. We can still only use the regular amount per day/encounter, but it’s like a free level-specific Expanded Spellbook feat for all classes. I only found out about this now.

-Weapon/implement expertises got errata’d into oblivion, freeing up a feat. They are now inbuilt into all chars, but to get the full adavantage in encounters and dailies, we have to describe the attack. This also I just now found out.

The Chronicles of Korvakopla #11

•April 21, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Aight. We got to fight another dragon.

This one was a controller-dragon, loaded with shit designed especially to keep everyone from moving away, or very fast. The fight being underwater halved our speed, and the terrain was difficult within five squares of the dragon. This, along with Rage’s movement speed on five squares, meant that he could move one square per move action. Two if he Ran, which lowers defenses nastily, but that was a moot point since anything within 5 squares of the dragon was always dazed, meaning one action per round only. This, and an at-will of the dragon’s which let it yank all enemies with five squares to its side, meant that once combat was joined, only the wizard had any options left for leaving.

As a water dragon, he himself could, of course easily shift upwards out of flanking positions and the like, so our defender was locked in place and our rogue without combat advantage. Once again, only the ranged characters – you guessed it, the wizards – could do much anything at first. That was simply the nature of the fight. Well, eventually Joaquim Sleeped it and we sawed it to pieces and that was that. Beyond that we’ve now had another two fights where Rage didn’t get to do much anything. The player wants to change characters, I believe, but his plans have involved either a warlock or a sorcerer, meaning ranged striker. I’m not sure if that’s going to happen yet, as our last fight was a defender-show.

The GM had used monsters without checking them first, and in this case the error was that they all had [to-hit bonus appropriate to this level]-4 as their to-hit bonus, and our defenders had an AC so high that they could only hit on criticals, meaning 19-20. Rage and Tsardis tied four such folk for many many rounds, with Rage taking only light damage and Tsardis nothing at all. I had trouble grasping that, but there it is. Fire resistance and high AC + crippled salamanders = gg.

For contrast, the other half of the fight was taking place way elsewhere and was myself and the wizards versus some salamanders and their hellhounds. Guess who got upstaged? I wasn’t short on combat advantage this time because the wizards have so many dazing effects to put on enemies, but all in all I got to kill one dog. The wizards Tentacled the others to death. Something that lets them immobilize/slow everything in a huge area, plus of course their thundercages, thunderwaves, thunderlances and so on which means that the enemies were lucky to get in a single attempted attack. Cloudkill wasn’t even needed. I’m hoping the next fight will be my turn to be useful.

So, after the dragon died, the wizards played butcher and made me into a half-water dragon. Now our scout can scout because he has darkvision, yay. Also swim speed and water breathing, but that’s, of course, not the best part. It’s usually something about the shallow, exterior layer of th ephysical changes that’s the coolest, as in Joaquim’s moustache. Well, as a tried and worldly Warcraft 3 and Guitar Hero player, I immediately realized that there was now the perfect theme song out there, just for me:

The opening words of the song are now my battle cry. With that, if I can but go first, all fights are already moral victories.

There was also a scene before we went to fight the salamanders, which is a quest from a desmodu city we found. They also gave the job to another adventurer group that was passing by, but we couldn’t determine if they were Evil or Not, so Joaquim wanted to see their cleric’s holy symbol. The fact that it was being kept out of sight was indication enough for most, but we wanted to be sure. So he went to chat with their tank (or someone other than the cleric anyway). Here’s the gist of it:

J: I was wondering if I could purchase some healing from your cleric.

T: That might happen. What do you need healed?

J: My injuries. I’m wounded.

T: I don’t see any wounds.

J: Well… *takes his staff and cracks it on his arm for a respectable 12 points of damage* That. I need that healed.

The discussion went downhill from there, but hey, there was a lofty height to get down from!