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.