Saturday, December 8, 2012

Not sure what to do with this...

So I just played yet another game written the year I was born, Ysgarth 2nd Edition. A lot of the people I played with seemed to think that this game was "mind numbingly complicated", however it actually wasn't that bad. Actually, from the perspective of someone who likes playing with mechanics, it had some interesting features.

First, every ability, skill, etc. is derived from one or more pools of points...which are randomly determined. So, rather than having "72 point buy" or the like (which has become popular in modern iterations of D&D because it improves "balance"), your number of points has a degree of randomness to it. Another piece I found interesting was the idea that multiple, seemingly un-related attributes (including your character's height and weight) determine all of your other statistics (not unlike Burning Wheel).

Likewise, the system is "pseudo-classless", which is to say that while you have to declare a class (or classes), any class may learn skills from any other class (so you could have an berserker that can lob fireballs, or a necromancer running around in full plate armor).

I must admit though, that the combat system was painfully complex...roll a die, compare it to 3 or 4 tables to see if you hit, then roll anything from 1d200 to 1d1000 to see which part of the body you strike, compare that to the armor worn on that part of the body, then roll some combination of dice to determine damage (where some combination equals any that would add up to your max damage, so max 12 would be 1d12, 2d6, 3d4, 4d3, 1d6 + 2d3, etc., as the player desires). There are several places where it gives the person rolling the freedom to determine the curve of his roll in this way, allowing the player to choose whether he's willing to increase the likelihood that his roll will only be average in exchange for negating the probability of extremely low rolls.

From playing it seemed like a lot of the complexity in character creation that was bothering the other players could be extrapolated away with a simple spreadsheet (by having it auto-calculate all the derived values such as missile rating, hit points, saving throws, etc). While I'm not sure what I plan to do with this game, I do want to spend more time messing with the system, so I think this (creating the character-generating spreadsheet...or maybe even a ruby/perl script) might be my first step.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Because I'm bored

Your results:
You are Spock
Mr. Sulu
Geordi LaForge
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
Will Riker
Beverly Crusher
James T. Kirk (Captain)
Deanna Troi
Jean-Luc Picard
Mr. Scott
You are skilled in knowledge and logic.
You believe that the needs of the many
outweigh the needs of the few.
Click here to take the "Which Star Trek character are you?" quiz...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sons of Balentyne: Session 1

Erika peered out the window of her room. It was getting dark and the town of Almwick was a bleak, barren place even in the day. The war raging to the south was bad enough, every able-bodied man had marched off days before she arrived, and likely died on a goblin spear at Tarrington Fields. It was worse for the women, children, and graybeards that had remained in Almwick. Her arrival was greeted by locked doors, closed lips, and cold stares, but the signs of carnage were obvious. Three stakes still stood in the center of town, charred corpses piled around there bases. At every entrance to the town was a pike, topped by the tar-soaked head of one old man or another, placards identifying them as traitors or heretics, or both.

She stared out the window of a small house on the southern edge of town in which she had taken up residence to await her friends. She had been here a week, and still no one would speak with her, but no one challenged her when she took a bed in the empty house. The house’s prior occupants were piled outside with the rest of the bodies, the mother burned at the stake and her child trampled under hoof by the rogue witch hunters as they rode away. She watched as the tell-tale dust cloud of fast-moving horses approached Almwick. She listened as the already hushed and frightened town grew even quieter.

Erika stepped out of the house and waved as her friends approached. Sir Richard rode at the head, followed closely by Sister Carthix and “Mad” Meinhard Mott. The three of them, heavily armed, clad in battered plate, and prominently displaying Mitra’s holy symbol and the eagle of the Knights of Alerion were likely not helping the villager’s frightened condition.

“Ho, Sir Richard!” she called as they reigned up, “welcome to Almwick, or what’s left of it.”

The knight pulled up his horse just before the pikes and stared intently at the town. “You certainly picked a dour place to wait for us, Ms. Varning. We came as soon as we got your letter…”

“Yes, Makalu told me you were on your way,” Erika said as a hawk swooped down from the housetop to perch on her arm. “Did you pass the wall on your way?”

“Aye Erika,” Meinhard interjected, “and a sea of goblins as well. Which we should be riding back to put an end to. This place looks bad, but Balentyne was worse…”

“Mott, there are hundreds of knights riding from all corners of Talingarde to deal with the goblins, but there is only us to bring justice for these people.”

“Ms. Varning’s right, Meinhard,” Sir Richard replied. “This was an atrocity the likes of which I’ve seldom seen. Even after so long these implements of slaughter still bear the trace of evil. This was no righteous purge, but base murder and terrorism.”

Meinhard and Sister Carthix dismounted, the mail-clad nun looking around at the shuttered houses. “So what have you learned?”

“No one has been willing to speak with me, but luckily the people have been too scared to move about much, so I was able to find plenty of tracks. At least a half-dozen men rode in on the south road from Balentyne and left by the north. Tracks around the fire indicate that they wore heavy mail and their horses were shod for war. Unfortunately, the tracks end quite abruptly about a half-mile outside of town in either direction. They must be using some magic to mask their movements when afield.” She gestured north and west. “Lhotse, went scouting as far as Longsheaf and found similar signs of slaughter in every village up the river. That’s at least eight other towns that were similarly terrorized.”

“Following the Trasik…” Sister Carlotta looked at the river, “do they seek refuge in Farholde?”

“Yes, they do!” came a voice from behind them.

They turned to see a man stumbling into town, wearing armor apparently taken piecemeal from knights and goblins, his left hand wrapped in bloodied bandages, his belt festooned with crude weapons of all kinds, and the silver and sapphire holy symbol of Mitra about his neck.

Meinhard’s hand went to his blade, but Sir Richard positioned his horse between them. “Who are you Sir, and what do you know of the ones who did this?”

The man laughed, “I am Sir Fallon Nightly, Special Inquisitor to the King, and, to some, the bane of Aldencross. I don’t know for sure who did this, but I can hazard a guess. Balentyne was destroyed by a band of witches, the day before the goblins attacked the wall. I have it on good report that they then left by the river, headed for Farholde…”

Sister Carthix stepped around Sir Richard’s horse, “A special inquisitor? This far north?” She stepped towards the man, “You hand Sir, what happened to it?”

“Sister, wait!” Erika said. “The refugees I spoke with on my way north said that Aldencross was set ablaze by one of Mitra’s Witch-Hounds…”

“That is true,” the man replied. “I smelled the witches when I got to Balentyne and searched Aldencross for them, unsuccessfully. When I reached the town’s inn I found that everyone there had been charmed and had the witch’s stink on them. A fight broke out and I was forced to call on Mitra’s Fire to defend myself, but ended up burning the inn and several of the people there in the process. The charmed villagers chased me from the town, and I assume the witches did a good job of spreading the tale of my failure…”

Sister Carthix looked hard into the man’s eyes, “I feel as if you’re not telling us everything…”

The man shrugged, “Fine. After escaping the villagers I was captured by the goblin warlord, Sakkarot Fireaxe, and learned that he was in league with the witches I was hunting. I also learned that the witches had been tracking me by means of a cursed ring I had been tricked into putting on when investigating a jail-break at Branderscar Prison. I took my own hand and the goblins left me for dead when they marched south…”

“You met the Fireaxe?” Sir Richard looked stunned, “and did not slay him?”

“I was outnumbered, unarmed, bound, and helpless…”

“Argh, that’s no excuse!” Meinhard growled. “If I’d been there I would have torn the blooder’s throat out with my teeth!”

“Whatever Mott,” Erika sighed. “As I said, we have more pressing business. If the people who did this are the same people who destroyed Balentyne, and, as Sir Fallon says, also witches and in league with the goblins, then we have to find them, and fast…”

“North then! To Farholde!” Sir Richard looked at Sir Fallon. “Will you ride with us, Sir?”

“I don’t trust him.” Erika and Meinhard said in unison.

“Trust him or not, we’d best take him with us,” Sister Carthix said. “The fact that Sir Richard has not yet taken his head tells us that he is not an evil man, and having a sniffer might be our best bet of finding these witches in knight’s clothing…”

“He’s on foot. He’ll slow us down…”

“Shot up Mott,” Erika sighed again. “If Sir Richard and the Sister have decided to bring him along, then Sir Fallon can ride with me. Rainier can easily carry the two of us.”

Just then another hawk flew in, shrieking.

“What’s that?” Sir Fallon asked, reaching for the axe on his back.

“Lhotse says there are several creatures approaching from the north. Man-like, shambling, smelling of death and smoke.” Erika climbed into her saddle, and pulled Sir Fallon behind her. “Come, quickly, before these poor townfolk have to face any more trauma…”

Within moments Erika and her, now four, allies were racing north out of town following the directions of her hawks. When they saw the things at a distance, she unleashed a blast of flame in their midst, to little effect. “They resist fire,” she told the others.

“Let see how they like steel!” Meinhard said, the familiar blood-red haze of a rage entering his eyes, and he and Sir Richard urged their horses into a charge. Just when they reached striking distance, Sir Richard’s Gray Lady faltered. Meinhard’s mount dropped dead instantly, sending him crashing to the ground. He stood up sputtering and looked at the things…and immediately went pale.

Sir Richard leaped from Gray Lady’s back, impaling one of the creature’s with his lance and shouting for the horse to continue on. “Bodaks!” he shouted to the others, “do not meet their gaze.” The one he impaled pulled itself forward on the lance and began pummeling him with its fists.

Erika dismounted and give Sir Fallon the reins. “Help them,” she said, aiming a lightning bolt at one of the creatures near Sir Richard. The bolt struck the creature and grounded out into the dirt, seemingly doing it no harm at all.

Sir Fallon drove her horse into the fray, pinning one of the bodak’s under Rainier’s body as the horse fell and stabbing into the creature’s foul eyes with a crude dagger of goblin make. The blade struck home, blinding the bodak, but causing Sir Fallon’s own eyes to seep blood. Sister Carthix rode in behind him, her armor glowing like the sun and blasted the bodak’s with a burst of holy energy.

The bodaks screamed and shrank back from Mitra’s holy light, their undead flesh melting away. Enraged the creatures focusing their dread gazes on Sister Carthix. She averted her eyes, holding her holy symbol firmly before her, but her friends saw her waver, her arms fell, by the time she thought to close her eyes, it was too late. The holy symbol fell from her hands and she collapsed, her eyes burning away into wifts of acrid smoke.

Sir Richard and Meinhard screamed in rage and laid about them with a fury. Meinhard cleaving the heads from two of the beasts that Sister Carthix had weakened, Sir Richard pulling out his holy symbol and destroying two with his own blast of holy positive energy. Still, even as they pressed the assault, Erkia could see them weakening. She thought back to everything she had heard about Bodak’s and suddenly remembered that the creatures lacked any defense against cold.

“Duck!” she shouted, as a cone of icy wind exploded outwards from her hands. Sir Fallon dove to the side, easily evading the blast, Meinhard gritted his teeth and shook off the cold, but Sir Richard and the bodaks took the full brunt of the icy assault. Sir Richard fell to his knees, shivering. The remaining bodaks froze in place.

Sir Fallon and Meinhard set about shattering the frozen bodaks as Erika rushed to help Sir Richard and Sister Carthix. Sir Richard was already healing himself, but the nun was dead.

“Burn her body,” Sir Fallon stated plainly. “This is clearly the work of the witches and anything their undead minions kill is sure to come back as such.”

Meinhard and Sir Richard nodded gravely. They stripped Sister Carthix’s body of any useful possessions, then stood back as Erika called up a gout of flames from her hands to destroy the remains of the nun and their undead assailants.

The cleanup done, Erika and Sir Fallon took Sister Carthix’s horse, Mitra’s Gift, and Meinhard climbed up behind Sir Richard.

“If these witches can summon such creatures to their aid, then we must hurry…” Sir Richard said.

And hurry they did.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Week in the Life of a Witch Hunter: Solo Session 3

As he turned away from the burning ruins of the town of Aldencross, Sir Fallon half-collapsed with exhaustion. The mob chasing him had dispersed, but he had been running for hours, and now, after the brief pause, his wounds caught up with him. He unshipped his great axe and used it to help prop himself as he descended the far side of the hill.

When Sir Fallon reached the bottom of the hill he fished in his pockets for his last healing potion and quaffed it greedily. The potion worked its magic, taking the sting out of his burns and softening the pain from his many bruises, but it was not enough. He was tired, and it felt as if he had a cracked rib. With no other options, he began searching for a place to rest, finally settling on a large hollow log. It was a tight squeeze, but just large enough to hold him, and the best shelter the dark woods could provide.

He awoke with the dawn, cold, damp, and aching, crawled out of the fallen log, stumbled what he hoped was a safe distance away and relieved himself. He then crawled back in the log and fell back to sleep. He was next woken by the sound of his own stomach. He tore into his pack and scarfed down the handful of soggy biscuits that he had grabbed on his way out of the keep the morning before searching Aldencross, then, somewhat sated, passed out again. Three days passed there in the fallen log. At some point he apparently woke enough to catch and eat a rabbit, and to bandage his wounds, though he remembered little of it.

When Sir Fallon finally did wake, he found that the pain of his wounds had mostly subsided, to be replaced by the ache of spending days sleeping in the cramped confines of the hollow log still clad in his armor. He was still tired, and felt as if he may have had a fever during those three restless days and nights, but he at least felt as if he might be able to defend himself again. A good thing too, for he woke to the sound of harsh voices speaking not far away. He could not understand what they said, but knew enough to recognize the vile speech of goblins.

He crawled warily out of the log, staying as low to the ground as possible and keeping a hand on his axe. He wished that he had thought to borrow a sword, or at least a knife, from the keep’s armory, for his axe required considerably room to swing properly and would be of little use if the goblins caught him before he was on his feet and clear of the log. Luckily there was a large rock between himself and the speakers, and the disgusting creatures were too caught up in whatever they were talking about to look in that direction.

Free of the log, he hazarded a peek over the rock and saw not only the two speakers, which were, as he suspected, goblins, but dozens, even hundreds more of the creatures. While not well organized, the goblins were well armed and equipped for a march; clearly a war party. More importantly, Sir Fallon was starving. Whatever the foul creatures carried with them for provisions had to be better than starving to death…right?

Sir Fallon slid his axe back into the straps on his back and picked up a sharp-looking stone, which, while not a proper weapon, would be better in close-quarters. He waited. One of the goblins turned towards the rock and lifted its kilt to relieve itself and gasped, seeing Sir Fallon there. The rock took it between the eyes, stunning it. In a flash, Sir Fallon was over the rock, axe in hand, and the urinating goblin’s companion lost its head. Sir Fallon stifled a laugh as the splash of goblin blood began healing his remaining aches and pains. He punched the urinater, which was apparently female, in the face for good measure, then quickly drug the two bodies back behind the rock, pausing only very briefly to make sure the others in the band had not noticed.

He beheaded the second goblin and found it very hard to draw his gaze away from the lifeless eyes of the creature’s head. Finally tearing his eyes away, he stripped them of their gear, claiming a pair of short, crude swords, a number of strange bag-like projectiles, a skin of what he hoped was water, and a couple hands-full of smelly, watery cheese. At least, he hoped it was cheese as he crammed the milky-white globs into his mouth. While he nearly gagged from the smell and it tasted more like spoiled milk than properly cultivated cheese, the stuff was at least edible.

Sir Fallon re-shipped his axe and removed all his armor save for his breastplate, stashing his boots, greaves, cuisse, gauntlets, vambraces, and gorget inside the log. He then shoved the remaining goblin rations into his pack, took up the two swords, and lit out away from the goblin war party, hoping to put some distance between himself and them before any of them thought to look for the two missing ones.

Sir Fallon had not gone far before he spotted another band of goblins. He routed around them only to encounter another, and another. Within the span of a mile he spotted at least six such bands, each larger than the last. Knowing that so many sightings could not be a coincidence, he found a large pine tree and climbed, and there, on the edge of Lake Tarik, he saw it. A huge encampment of goblins, twenty-thousand strong and arrayed for war. A larger force than had ever been seen in all the history of Talingarde.

Sir Fallon half-climbed, half-fell in his haste to get down the tree. He knew that, regardless of the events of the other night, he had to warn the defenders of Tower Balentye about the goblin horde. Somehow he knew that the events in Aldencross and the massing army of goblins had to be related. It could not be a coincidence that the town and keep guarding the gates of Talingarde had been infiltrated by the forces of darkness just days ahead of this mass of savages.

Unfortunately, he had been so intent on the main force of goblins by the lake that he had not spotted the group that had amassed around the base of the tree. He came down right in the middle of them and was immediately grabbed by a pair of large, dark-skinned goblins, and the smaller, faster goblins quickly deprived him of his weapons and gear. He struggled to escape, but the grips of the two goblins holding him were like manacles of iron.

Sir Fallon was dragged, struggling the entire way and with several beatings, towards the camp on the edge of Lake Tarik. From the ground the camp looked even larger, but somehow less impressive. The goblin army was armed, but only loosely organized. Tents were scattered in haphazard clusters, fires were not banked, weapons lay strewn in piles on the ground, just a little too far from the hands of their intended users. He saw enough disorder that he was sure that, if he could only get free, he could turn it into true chaos…possibly even escape alive…

Sir Fallon was dragged to a large tent on the shore of the lake. While larger than some of the others in the camp, and clearly some sign of status or place of meeting, it was nothing like the pavilions kept by the knights in Talingarde, but rather a makeshift kind of thing of sewn-together bear hides, staked from the outside with crude wooden pegs and ropes woven from animal fur. A banner hanging in front of the tent bore a crude drawing of an axe surrounded by flames. Then he smelled, it. The tang of witchcraft in the air was faint, but smelled very similar to that in Aldencross.

As he was shoved into the tent the smell became stronger. Within was a plain wooden table, bearing a rough diorama of the wall, the Tower Balentyne, and Aldencross. Even the damage from the recent fire was, as best he could guess, accurately represented. Standing behind the table, staring intently at it, was the largest goblin he had ever seen. A great, black beast with shaggy fur and a giant axe strapped across its back. The eyes that examined the table gleamed with the vicious cunning that Sir Fallon had learned to expect from goblins. While filthy, disgusting, and disorganized, goblins were exceptionally bright, especially where it came to spreading mayhem and
destruction. The stink of witchcraft clung to the great goblin like a sickening perfume.

After what seemed like minutes, the large goblin looked up at him and smiled. “Greetings soldier of Talingarde. You arrive on an auspicious day. Tomorrow our great army will storm the gates of Balentyne and conquer your pitiful nation.”

Sir Fallon glared at the goblin and struggled against his captors. The great goblin looked carefully at Sir Fallon, seeming especially intent on his hands, then at the two holding him and, with a wave of his hand, ordered that Sir Fallon be released. The two goblins let go of him and took a step back to stand beside the entrance to the tent.

“I see you serve Thorn’s Girls as well…” the goblin began, holding up a hand bearing a ring identical to the ring of protection Sir Fallon had taken from Branderscar.

The knight, coiled and ready to spring at the goblin, stopped and looked at the goblin incredulously. “What?” he asked.

“Your ring, Sir. It is the same as the one I wear. Perhaps it is presumptuous of me, but I suspect it means that you have met the three lovely girls who presented this one to me.” The goblin smiled. “They are probably watching us right now if you’d like to speak to them.”

Sir Fallon’s eyes grew wide and he reached for the ring on his hand, and, in terror discovered that he could not remove it. He concentrated on the ring and could feel the curse embedded in the item. It must be one of the prisoner’s rings from Branderscar, somehow magically disguised when Aidan had examined it. No wonder the witches had created that storm. They knew he was in Aldencross. He growled and tore at the ring, cursing Sir Aidan and himself for fools.

“I take it you do not wear yours willingly?” The big goblin laughed and stepped around the table. He grunted something to the other goblins, who laughed as well. “What are you doing alone north of your precious wall, soldier of Talingarde?”

“Scouting…” Sir Fallon began.

“Do not lie, Sir,” the goblin interjected. “Scouts from Balentyne always travel in packs and on horseback. I should know, I slew six of them just a few days ago.” The goblin laughed again. “Now let me repeat, why are you here?”

Sir Fallon looked at the big goblin’s ring, his maps, his weapons. He figured he could take as many as a half-dozen of the smaller goblins in a fair fight, but somehow he was certain that this one was more than a match for him. He looked around for an escape route, saw none that presented itself. “Very well,” he said, “I am Sir Fallon Nightly, Special Inquisitor to His Majesty, King Markadian the Brave, the fifth of his name, Protector of the Righteous. I was sent to Balentyne to investigate possible laxities in their soldiery. While there I caught the sent of a witch…”

“Ha! You are one of Mitra’s Hounds?” The goblin laughed at him again. “Is it really true that you can smell sorcery? And yet, you were tricked into putting on one of Thorn’s Girls’ rings?” The tent practically shook under the force of the goblin’s guffaws.

“Thorn’s Girls? You said that before…”

“You smell them, yet you do not know them?” The big goblin leaned back against the table. “They are three of the loveliest females of your species I have ever seen, and believe me, I have defiled a great many of your women. Three girls of exquisite beauty, a blonde, a brunette, and one with hair like fire. And, I may add, most persuasive.”

Sir Fallon fought down his rage.

“Tell me, Special Inquisitor, if I released you right now and promised you safe passage back to Belentyne, would your warnings be of any use?”

Sir Fallon thought for a moment, then sighed, “No.”

“Good, you are smarter than most soldiers. Even at its strongest, Balentyne houses maybe two hundred soldiers. I have a hundred times that many. Even without the girls there to throw open the gates and undermine the tower’s leadership, my hordes would overwhelm the keep within hours.”

Sir Fallon started to respond, but was cut off again. “What? You think that if you return with the knowledge I just provided that you might catch the girls?”

“Yes!” Sir Fallon replied emphatically.

“No! They see your every move, hear our every word. They’ll know where you are and where you are going.” The goblin grinned, “You will never catch them…unless…”

The goblin stood up to his full height, plucked a dagger from the table, and tossed it to Sir Fallon. The knight grabbed the blade out of the air, looked at his hand, and gulped.

“You know what to do. Tomorrow my forces will overrun Balentyne and burn it to the ground. We will slaughter your people and topple your wall. There is nothing you can do to stop it.” The big goblin waved at the map. “By the time we reach the wall, the girls will be gone. Their benefactor will be waiting to pick them up once they signal that the gates have been opened. She tells me that the girls will be taken north to deal with some other task of importance.”

Sir Fallon nodded grimly, laid his hand flat on the table, and began to cut…

Sakkarot Fireaxe watched as the knight, axe across his back and blood still dripping from the stump that had been his hand, and smiled. “That one is formidable,” he said to his commanders standing beside him.

“Then why let him go great Sakkarot?!”

“Because he is no danger to us. Our war is no longer his concern. He has been beaten and humiliated. All he cares for now is vengeance against the witches. He will stand by and let his country burn as he hunts those girls to the ends of the earth…”

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Why you should hate and fear gnomes.

So, Erin over at Lurking Rhythmically has started posting about the races in her Pellatarrum world. I can't help but think, to myself, "Oh, that's a good idea." So, for starters, lets take a look at the oft-maligned gnomes.

Gnomes are a diverse breed, born of humans, elves, dwarves, and other humanoid creatures. Regardless of their parentage, gnomes are universally small, and instantly recognizable by their strange multi-hued eyes and brilliantly colored hair. Greatly feared and much maligned, gnomes are not so much a race as a disease. Most people know of gnomes as degenerate fey creatures. Unable to reproduce on their own, gnomes magically “infect” other humanoids to bear their young. According to the folklore of humans, even seeing or being near a gnome can result in a woman’s offspring being replaced by a gnomish changeling.

Gnomes trace their lineage back to the mysterious realm of the fey. Unknown forces drove the ancient gnomes from that realm long ago, forcing them to seek refuge in this world. Sadly for the gnomes, they were unable to adapt to this world, losing the ability to procreate. In an effort to prolong their race, they have been forced to adopt drastic means in keeping with their alien natures. Today gnomes are scattered far and wide, hiding in the shadows of their adopted cultures, fighting for the survival of their race.

Physical Description: Gnomes look like smaller versions of one of the more common races (humans, elves, dwarves, or even goblins), generally standing just over 3 feet in height. Their hair tends toward vibrant colors such as the fiery orange of autumn leaves, the verdant green of forests at springtime, or the deep reds and purples of wildflowers in bloom. A gnome’s eyes have swirling rainbow-hued irises, the effect of which is said to be hypnotic if stared at for too long. Despite their fey backgrounds, gnomes age and die at the same rate that their parent race does.

Society & Relations: While gnomes once had a proud society among the fey, they are now largely outcasts wherever they are found. Forced to rely on other races to bear their offspring, gnomes slink about human, elven, or dwarven cities, taking work where they can find it, and avoiding the other races when possible. Because of their unusual births, gnomes are very seldom found together.

Humanoids of all stripes fear and distrust the gnomes for the gnomes’ ability to cause their women to bear gnomish children without the need for copulation. The gnomes, for their part, do all they can to make positive inroads with their neighbors, occasionally convincing a kindhearted woman to agree to be a host for their children. On rare occasions, even an unwilling human or dwarven parent will care for their gnomish offspring as they would one of their own race. There has been at least one report of a human woman having a human, a gnome, and a halfling as children.

Gnomes bear a special dislike for halflings due to the fact that halflings are just as likely to be born from a gnome-infected woman as one impregnated naturally. The addition of the mystery behind halfling births and their growing number has the gnomes greatly fearful for their continued existence.

Among their own kind, gnomes share a kind of racial memory. Regardless of their progenitor race, all gnomes quickly grow to become aware of the plight of their race and their melancholy past.

Alignment and Religion: Gnomes are impulsive, with sometimes inscrutable motives and equally confusing methods. They are prone to powerful fits of emotion, and find themselves most at peace within the natural world. Because of their inbred desire to prolong their species and willingness to force others into carrying that out for them, most gnomes are neutral at best, with many leaning towards chaos or evil.

With the fear of extinction looming over their heads and the loss of their culture, a very great many gnomes are drawn to the worship of the Nowhere Man.

Adventurers: Disconnected from the cultures they grow up in, gnomes are prone to wander. Many feel themselves to be on life-long quests to save their kind, spend decades searching the world for the perfect hosts.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Week in the Life of a Witch Hunter: Solo Session 2

Sir Fallon was up before dawn to meet with the guards assigned to him. They were a sorry lot, not the worst that the Talingarde armed forces had to offer, but far from the best as well. When they had mustered he took the pile of drawings that the acolytes had made and distributed them, two to a man. He then divided the 50 soldiers, 25 to search the section of Aldencross south of the watch wall, and 25 to accompany him to search the north side.

“Alright men, we have few leads and little time. Our quarry managed to infiltrate Tower Balentyne and murdered several men, so they are not to be underestimated. Always stay in your groups…do not allow yourselves to become separated. You’ve all been here a while, you know the people of Aldencross. Warn them. Question them. We need as many people looking for the perpetrators as possible. If you see anyone you do not know, detain them…And if you detect any threat, sound your signal horns. We need success, not heroes…”

He dismissed the men to their searches, joining the last group out the gate. He sniffed the cold morning air. The smell of magic was weaker outside the keep, faint, but undeniable. The trail inside the keep had run cold as he searched last night. Several guards, though none assigned to him, had the stink on them, but, outside of the rookery and mage’s quarters, their were no concentrations in the tower. That meant that the witches must be in the town…if they had not fled altogether.

The guards spread out once they were out of the keep. They went door to door, knocking, questioning, startling townsfolk from their sleep. They hung the wanted posters at every street crossing, every notice board. Sir Fallon followed, watching them, observing the people that they roused from slumber, sniffing. An hour passed. There was nothing. The town was clean.

And then the rain started.

Just as the sky was lightening a storm blew in, and fast. It had none of the preamble of a natural storm. No clouds moving in. No warning breeze. In just a few minutes the sky changed from a clear spring morning to pouring down sheets of rain. Rain that reeked of witchcraft. Where only a minute ago he had smelled nothing, now the entire city stank. Every drop of rain, every overflowing gutter, every water-streaked window bore the stink of powerful magic. Sir Fallon hung his head in despair and let the rain soak into his boots…he had lost. He wouldn’t be able to sniff out anything as long as this magical deluge lasted. He urged the guards to keep up despite the rain. While he had no chance of sniffing out the witches, they might still find someone who had seen the old serving man from the night before.

It was late evening when Sir Fallon finally called a halt to the search. The guards, sopping wet, regrouped outside the central gate separating the two halves of the town and reported. No one in town had ever seen the man on the posters. Every house had been searched, every person in town had been questioned. The few strangers in town were all merchants, and the guards who had questioned them insisted that they were the most perfectly amiable, good-natured, normal-seeming folks they had ever met.

Only after the last guard had reported did Sir Fallon notice something. Several of the guards, all of whom had reported meeting some of these “good-natured” strangers, has a certain slackness to their features, a slight staring, unfocused quality to their gaze. They had been charmed. He couldn’t smell them, but had found his witches after all…

Sir Fallon questioned the charmed guards, having them recount when and where they had met these kind strangers. After an hour of questioning, he carefully reconstructed the accounts. It seemed as if the witches had been stalking the guards as much as they had been searching for the witches. While the descriptions of the merchants varied, the times and locations of the encounters implied that it was the same three people, working their way systematically through town…and starting from the Inn on the north side of town. The first group of guards to mention them spoke of meeting a nice family of six in the Inn first thing in the morning, just as the storm had started. Sir Fallon dismissed the guards, he could certainly dispel the charms on a few, but too many had been infected. If he was going to cure them he had to find the witches and put an end to their evil.

Fighting the fatigue of having stayed up too late the night before and the sickening smell of a city drenched in magical rain, Sir Fallon ran for the inn as fast as he could. His boots slid in the thick mud and splashed through the deep puddles that made up the streets north of the wall. In many places the water had pooled so deeply that he had to cover his nose to keep from retching at the smell. While his nose had gotten him out of a lot of trouble in the past, his ability to keenly smell out witchcraft now seemed a liability.

Sir Fallon skidded to a stop just outside the door to the inn and shoved open the door to the common room to find the place bustling. While it was not surprising to find the inn busy on such a wet night, he was not ready for the site that greeted him. Wine, ale, and stronger drink were flowing freely and everyone was laughing and carrying on. When he entered their were a few cheers and everyone waved at him…there were even a few random calls of “Norm!” At first he was certain that they had just mistaken him for a local personality, but then he noticed the look. Everyone in the bar, the barkeep, the serving girls, the dancing girls, and every patron had the same slack-faced, glazed-eyed look as the guards. They were all under the witch’s spell, every last one of them.

With a cry of frustration and rage Sir Fallon lashed out at the nearest patron, calling on the holy power of Mitra to undo the witch’s curses. It only took a few blows to cleanse enough people of the enchantment for a brawl to break out. People fled, tables were over turned, chairs and fists went flying. Sir Fallon didn’t care. The entire town had been bewitched right under his nose. The witches could be long gone by now, but they had done their damage. Between the magical storm and the charmed townsfolk he would never be able to find the witches.

He lashed out around him, striking as many people as he could with no thought of defense. The more he could hit, the more he might be able to free. He took blow after blow as the drunken, mind-controlled mob descended on him. But he was strong. The more he hit, the more allies he had. The more he hit the safer the town became.

The fight stretched on for minutes, combatants steadily dropping to the floor or running for safety from the enraged witch-hunter. In the end Sir Fallon found himself faced off against a septet of drunken, charmed dwarves. He had always heard that dwarves were naturally resistant to magic…of course, he’d also never heard of an entire town being enchanted in a day. The thing that always made witches catchable was that they tended to have limited reserves of power. Just as he could not dispel an infinite number of magics, so witches were not supposed to be able to affect people on this scale. But now he had seen it. His powers were spent, and the witches’ clearly were not.

Sir Fallon stumbled with fatigue and took a hard blow to the midsection from the leading dwarf. Sure that this would be the end, he called once more in Mitra—if he could not cure everyone in town, he could at least win this fight. Holy flames engulfed his hand and he threw all his weight behind the next punch…but he wasn’t fast enough. The dwarves upended a table in front of them and the explosive power of his attack caused the old wooden furniture to burst into gleaming life, red and yellow flames licking along its surface.

Only then did Sir Fallon realize what he had done. The place was a matchbox, made entirely of wood from ceiling to floor and everything was soaked in spilled liquor. When the flames reached the kitchen there was an explosion. Flour? Oil? It didn’t matter what had caught, just that it had. The inn filled with fire. He heard breaking glass from above…probably the patrons who had sought refuge in their room escaping through the windows.

He stumbled out into the street to find that a mob had gathered. While people had fled the fight, they had not fled far, and others had come to watch. As the fire spread through the inn the crowd grew. He walked out into the arms of at least a hundred people, the magic-laden puddles of rain and the people’s enchantment-glazed eyes reflected the light of the burning building eerily. Then a cry went up from the people. “Murderer!” they yelled. “Arsonist!” cried others. Fingers pointed his way. Then fists. Then clubs, knives, and pitchforks.

He ran.

As the angry mob chased him out of town, north, towards the cold, uncharted lands north of the Watch Wall he could see the fires spreading. Gouts of flames seemed to leap from building to building as if the fire were a living thing. Where he expected the rain to suppress the fire it did not. Some buildings seemed to ignite without being anywhere near the initial conflagration. By the time he crested the last hill and Aldencross faded from sight the entire town north of the wall was ablaze…

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Week in the Life of a Witch Hunter: Solo Session 1

Dusk was settling as the rider finally caught sight of Tower Balentyne. Sir Fallon reigned in his horse, Cazador, and pulled his cloak tighter about him. Even with the spring thaw coming on, these northern climbs were too cold for his liking. It had been two weeks since he had been reassigned. His friends had been left behind to continue overseeing the repairs to Branderscar Prison, while he had been sent north to the Watch Wall to investigate rumors of impropriety among the garrison.

Since the destruction of Branderscar and his discovery of the corruption among the guards, the king had been adamant that any similar misconduct be dealt with harshly. Even now, three months later, the prisoners of Branderscar were still at large, somehow evading Mitra’s Watchful Eye. Time and again over the last months, Sir Fallon had pleaded with his majesty to allow him to go in search of the escapees. Finally, though those requests continued to be denied, he was assigned as special inquisitor for the crown, tasked with visiting the keeps along the Watch Wall to ensure that they had no troubles similar to those in Branderscar. Tower Balantyne was the first on his list. Rumors carried by guards, reassigned to other quarters, spoke of the tower’s mage conducting unusual experiments, of alcohol abuse among the captainry, and even of a feud between captains over a woman.

Sir Fallon urged Cazador on, into the town of Aldencross. It was small, dirty, everything he’d come to expect from the borderlands. The roads were cobbled, but the caked mud on the street spoke of excessive traffic from the other side of the Wall, where, he knew, no such efforts at road maintenance would have been made. The Wall itself towered black and foreboding in the early evening shade, separating the two halves of the town. Then, just as he was passing the clean white walls of the town church he smelled it. A witch! More than one actually, recent, and within the walls of Mitra’s holy church.

His hand went to his axe and he spurred Cazador forward with greater haste. A few townsfolk dodged aside as the great warhorse barreled through the streets towards Tower Balentyne. He did not stop until he reached the gates of the keep.

The keep itself was a bustle of activity. Everyone seemed to be awake. Guards patrolled the walls in threes and fours, bullseye lanterns sweeping in every direction, the gates were barred, and Sir Fallon heard a great deal of commotion from within. “Ho!” he called at the gate, “open in the name of His Majesty, King Markadian the Brave, the fifth of his name, Protector of the Righteous!”

“Who’s there?” came the returning cry from the wall.

“Sir Fallon Nightly, Special Inquisitor to His Majesty! I have business with Lord Havelyn!”

Sir Fallon heard a muffled discussion above and then the reply. “Stand clear then, we’re opening the gate. When its down come through quickly, the keep is on alert.”

As soon as Sir Fallon was inside the walls his nostrils flared. The witches had been here too. “What’s happened here?” he demanded of the nearest guard as he dismounted from Cazador.

“There was a murder sir. Magister Tacitus went mad, blasted Old Martin Rayard out a window, and burned the rookery. Then his pet golem got loose. Killed twenty men it did! They say they found most of the bodies, but a passel of servants have gone missing too…”

“Where is Lord Havelyn now?”

“Up in the rookery with Father Donnagin and Captain Eddarly, sir.”

“Very well,” he handed the man his reigns, “see that the horse gets fed and groomed. I’m going to see the commander…”

“Now sir?”


Sir Fallon walked into the rookery to find the bald-pated chaplain, Father Donnagin, a clearly too-attractive-for-his-own-good man in a captain’s uniform, and Lord Havelyn examining a blackened corpse on the floor.
The captain gave him a withering stare as he walked through the door, “Who’re you then? This is a private meeting, officers only.”

Sir Fallon sniffed at him contemptuously. “Shut up. You stink of witch-craft. You shouldn’t be here…”
“You must be Sir Fallon, the Special Inquisitor.” Lord Havelyn stepped past the impolite captain and shook Sir Fallon’s hand. “You’ve arrived just in time, Father Donnagin was just about to interrogate Magister Tacitus.”

“Magister Tacitus?”

“The corpse,” Father Donnagin corrected. “This body belonged to our mage. I was just about to question him regarding the recent events…”

“Then by all means, go ahead.” Sir Fallon knelt beside the body. “It smells as if powerful sorceries were used here recently…”

Father Donnagin placed a blessed wafer in the corpse’s mouth and chanted a prayer to Mitra. “Tacitus of Morimun, Magister of Balentyne, I, Father Donnagin, Chaplain of Balentyne and Archdeacon of Mitra bid you speak. Answer me, who killed you?”

The corpse’s eyes opened in their blackened sockets, and a rattling hiss escaped for its lips. “I did,” it gasped out.

Lord Havelyn shook his head. “Suicide? A monstrous crime. His soul will burn in the fires of Asmodues.” Lord Havelyn bowed his head. “I never would have suspected he was that disturbed.”

Father Donnagin addressed the deceased again, “Magister Tacitus, did you kill Martin Rayard?”

Again the corpse rasped out, “Noooo…”

“Then who killed him?” Father Donnagin looked incredulously at the the mage’s body.


“This is getting us nowhere.” Sir Fallon interjected, “Father may I question him?”

“I’m afraid that’s the last question allowed by the spell…” Father Donnagin replied. Sure enough, as he spoke, the corpse’s eyes closed and the breath left it. “I will make preparations so that we might question him more after morning prayers.”

“And in the meantime the servants that killed the bird-keeper will have escaped…” Sir Fallon began stalking about the small room. “All of these birds were killed by magic. The walls are burned. Clearly the Magister used his magic to kill himself and destroy the room, but what happened to the rooker.”

“Sir Fallon,” the captain spoke up, “when my men and I were dealing with the Magister’s golem, there was an old serving-man in the Magister’s rooms, and there was another who met us on the stairs as we were rushing to investigate the rookery. A girl.” A gleam in the captain’s eye as he said this told Sir Fallon that the girl was probably an attractive one. “She told us about the Magister blowing up himself and the rookery and killing Old, Mad Martin.”

Sir Fallon sniffed the captain again. “You touched her?”

“Yes? What’s that got to do with anything?”

“She was a witch, her stink is all over you. Where are these two servants now?”

“I…I don’t know sir. They disappeared while we were battling the golem.”

“And where was that? Take me there…”

The captain snapped to attention and led Sir Fallon and the other officers downstairs to the mage’s chambers. The door to the chambers were broken and splintered. A pair of saw-horses had been set in front of the door as a temporary barricade and four guards were stationed in front. Pushing past the guards, Sir Fallon found a room in shambles. Tables and book-cases were knocked over. Huge gouges in the walls and floors, and splatters of blood on every surface showed signs of a great battle. And the smell…
Sir Fallon retched, spilling his last meal on the floor to mingle with the smells of blood and witchcraft. When he had recovered he sniffed around the room, stopping at a gap between two bookcases. “They were here. Several witches. They used some powerful magic in this room…”

“But…” the captain spoke up again. “When we were fighting, I’m sure there was another bookcase there.”

“An illusion?” Sir Fallon began walking around the room, touching everything. “Hmmm…the rest of this seems real enough. Captain…?”

“Eddarly, sir. Captain Zack Eddarly.”

“Captain Eddarly, can you describe the two that you saw?” Sir Fallon turned to the chaplain, “Father Donnagin, can you round up all the other guards who were on duty at the time of the attack?” The chaplain nodded and departed immediately.

After hours of questioning guards Sir Fallon was tired and frustrated. No one in the keep, save Captain Eddarly, had any recollection of having seen the girl the captain had described, even the guards who were with the captain at the time could not remember her. And the captain’s own descriptions were vague and useless, speaking more about her beauty and sense of desperation than any real description of her appearance or features. The more Sir Fallon heard, the more he was convinced that the keep had been infiltrated by witches. The Magister may have been in league with them, and he was certain that Captain Eddarly had been bewitched…and that he might, indeed, still be under their influence.

Sir Fallon went to Lord Havelyn’s rooms and knocked on the door. When he was admitted he bowed to the keep’s commander and explained what he had learned, or not. “I need to begin searching immediately while the trail is still fresh. We have a good description of the old man and he clearly managed to leave the keep before the lock-down. I need as many men as you can spare to begin searching the town for the man, its possible that the witches will be with him.”

Just then, Father Donnagin came in, “the acolytes have finished the drawings you requested Special Inquisitor.”

“Thank you, Father.” Sir Fallon, took the stack of papers from him, stifling a yawn. “I’ll head out at once and begin searching for the culprits.”

“But, Sir,” Father Donnagin interrupted, “its almost two of the morning. Surely you can rest a little before continuing.” Sir Fallon nodded, grudgingly.

“I’ll have fifty of our best men waiting for you buy the gate at sun-up.” Lord Havelyn said. “And I’ll send out the heralds to begin posting the drawings of the old man immediately. When the town awakes we’ll be ready…”

Sir Fallon nodded politely and turned to leave. “I’ll be claiming the Magister’s quarters. If I’m not awake in time for Matins, send an acolyte for me…”

Monday, April 2, 2012

Greyhawk Ruins Session 1

So, last night I started a new campaign, running a group of four players through the AD&D 2nd Edition module Greyhawk Ruins by Blake Mobley and Tim Brown.

Here are the results of the first session...

It was a quiet day, or as quiet as a day can be in a monastery dedicated to the god of eccentricity. Bill “Primus” Sikes peeled the last banana and groaned. Thirteen thousand, nine-hundred, and ninety-nine similar peels sat piled beside him and even his expansive halfling stomach was beginning to strain uncomfortably from the a ton and a half of fruit it now contained. Hesitantly he moved the fruit to his mouth. It had been a command from the abbot — they needed 14000 banana peels to cover the road which Zagyg’s new acolytes would be running as part of their initiation. Fourteen thousand banana peels meant fourteen thousand bananas.

Just as Bill was about to shove the last banana in his mouth the abbot appeared. Abbot Ernest was short, even for a halfling, but made up for his slight stature with subdued and stately garb. He wore ballooning pantaloons and a fine doublet slashed in purple corduroy and pink velvet, fine shoes of purple leather with elegantly turned up toes, a matching purple half-cape, a large floppy hat of pink velvet, and, most prominently, he wore Zagyg’s holy symbol proudly displayed on a medallion on his chest. Bill quickly averted his eyes from the medallion lest he be stricken as mad as his god.

Abbot Ernest took a banana peel from the pile and placed it on top of Bill’s head. “Good, good, tomorrow’s ceremonies will be quite fun thanks to all your hard work Brother Sikes. Now, I have two more tasks for you…not related to the initiations but equally important…” The abbot spoke with deep gravity and purpose, alternately opening and closing one eye and then the other to get a better perspective on Bill. “First, Brother Sikes, I must ask that you make sure our latrines are full, a task which I believe you are uniquely suited for.”

The abbot paused, acknowledging the look of relief on Bill’s face before continuing. ’Secondly, I am assigning you a holy quest! A QUEST! The mortal remains of our Lord Zagyg lie interred beneath his tower which lies on the outskirts of the city, you shall go to the tower and fetch his remains, for Lord Zagyg as informed us that he wishes his body to be fired out of a cannon held by a giant with two thumbs on each hand. You are free to keep whatever other holy relics you can find in the tower catacombs."

Bill nodded his assent, shoved the banana in his mouth, and ran for the loo keeping his eyes carefully fixed on his feet lest he catch a glimpse of the holy symbol.

Several hours later, after having relieved himself, Bill sought out his three companions in the faith. Brothers Tilliam Well, Wedge Potts, and Semilroth the Verbacious sat in the common room of the abbey playing at dominoes. Bill sighed with relief when he noted that none of them were so pious as to wear their holy symbols openly and sat himself down at the table. He quickly described the holy mission given to him by the abbot and, after brief discussion, the four halflings decided that they should set off that evening.

As his friends went to gather their belongings and supplies, Bill carefully camouflaged himself. The brothers had agreed that they should approach the tower by stealth so as not to attract the attention of any “takers of opportunity”, so Bill carefully glued three wispy pine branches to his back and made himself a hat and hood of dried, fallen oak-leaves. Confident that he would now be indistinguishable from the surrounding shrubbery, Bill grabbed his crook, collected his sheep, Dolly and Parton, and ran to meet his friends at the abbey gate to set out on their great adventure.

As they neared the ruins the party came upon a large stone falcon, nearly seven feet tall and leaning precariously against a tree. Tilliam and Semilroth immediately decided that they should try to move it, with the unfortunate results of Tilliam being pinned under the thing when it slipped away from the supporting tree. After some ineffectual straining to move the thing the party managed to dig Tilliam out and proceeded on their journey.

Roughly two hours after leaving town the party came to a deep chasm crossed by a very narrow and treacherous-looking stone bridge over three-hundred feet in length. On the far side they could see the walls of the keep of Castle Greyhawk and the three towers beyond, silhouetted against the bright gibbous moon. Deep in the chasm, nearly a hundred feet below, they could see the banners and watchfires of a large encampment of orcs.

Screwing up his courage, Bill led the way out onto the bridge, driving Dolly and Parton before him. The going was slow from the start and Bill had to fight hard not to look down. Not more than a quarter of the way across Dolly the sheep looked down, froze, and began bleating loudly. Bill, thinking fast, created an illusion of tall stone walls rising on either side of the bridge and fine green grass on the far side. Thus calmed, the sheep allowed Bill to drive them to the far side with no additional interruptions.

Just as Bill and the sheep reached the far ledge, he heard Tilliam spluttering behind him. He looked back to see Tilliam wildly gesticulating towards the far side. When Bill turned back around he saw a massive ogre bearing a long hook-like pole weapon barring his path. The beast roared and Tilliam quickly translated that it said something about mutton. The party offered up Parton and the beast, smiling greatly at the free meal, turned and let them be.

Sliding inside the curtain wall, the four halflings and one sheep made their way quietly towards the central tower, maneuvering around the various dilapidated buildings that marked the old castle town, trying to avoid the large group of ogres they could see encamped within. As they crept past the ogre camp, Tilliam peeked through the window of a half-collapsed building and noticed a massive pile of coins and gems accumulated by the ogres. Wedge quickly boosted Bill through the window, who proceeded to begin filling bags with the loot and passing it out the window to the others.

As Bill passed the second bag of treasure out, he accidentally knocked over some of the coins alerting the ogres. Tilliam quickly set Dolly the sheep on fire, sending the beast bleating and running out away from the four halflings. Seeing fresh, and self-cooking, meat, the ogres quickly turned away from the sound of scattering coins and went rushing after the sheep. For good measure, Semilroth conjured a number of horses into the ogre camp using his wand of communal mount. The ogres thus distracted, the party crept away, laden with treasure and quickly made their way to the entrance to the tower dungeons.

Through a towering archway in the base of the tower, the party found a set of wide stone stairs spiraling down into the darkness. With Semilroth and Tilliam bearing lights and leading the way, they carefully made their way down the stairs. As they passed the first landing, a massive iron portcullis dropped from the ceiling behind them, sealing them inside. At the third landing another portcullis also closed. Thus trapped with no way to go back, they pressed on.

At the fourth landing Tilliam spotted a number of long, green, clawed arms peaking out of the back wall. Not wanting to tangle with whatever was attached to the arms, the party made a mad dash down the stairs. Tilliam tripped and went skidding and screaming down the stairs and through the wall of the next landing…into a room filled with corpses. Once he recovered from the shock and stopped screaming, Tilliam noticed that the skeletal corpses were both not moving and were clutching a vast array of valuables. He quickly gathered up piles of gems, stripped the corpses of their finely made armor, tied a rope around a large chest, and dragged the loot back out of the illusory wall to his friends.

Now well armored and feeling as rich as kings, the party descended the last few flights of stairs. Only one more turning of the stairs from the bottom, Wedge, bringing up the rear, stepped on something. He felt the stair give slightly under his foot and the party heard the sound of breaking glass. Within moments the stairwell began to fill with a thick cloud of gray-green vapor. Semilroth opened his mouth to scream again, taking in a lung-full of the poisonous mist and dropped dead on the spot, tumbling down the stairs. Seeing this the others bolted for the bottom, trying hard to avoid breathing the gas and plowing right over a number of caltrops that someone had spread over the stairs. Wedge managed to kick Semilroth ahead of him as he, Bill, and Tilliam tumbled the last fifteen feet to the bottom, smashing hard into a heavy wooden door.

Once they had recovered, the group thanked Zagyg that the poisonous cloud appeared to be lighter than the air of the dungeon and was rising up the stairs away from them. Catching their breath, now that they could, they paused to take stock of their situation and strip Semilroth of any useful gear.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Week in the Life of a Witch Hunter: Session 7

Eleven people stared at each other around the campfire, eyes darting back and forth to each other, looks of confusion glazing their faces. Beyond the perimeter of light cast by the fire the rest of the king's army slept peacefully.

Sister Carlotta sighed and collapsed to sit on a fallen log pulled up by the fire, "So, does anyone know what's going on?"

"Well, last time I checked you, Tristram, Sir Robert, and Brother Justice were dead. Brother J got thrown off a tower by a spellcasting lion. Tristram had his bones picked clean by cockroaches. And you and Robert fell into a pit and got eaten by a grue." Aidan the Herald piped up.

"Yet, clearly we are not dead." Brother Justice turned to Sir Fallon. "And you're certain that we've been bewitched?"

"Yeah, all of us. The whole campsite reeks of witchcraft, and I'm also detecting several curses."

"Could it all have been an induced Nightmare?"

Sir Willem rubbed his eyes. "I'm too tired for this sh*t. Even if it was just a dream I feel like I've been fighting for days. Now it looks like we have to go back to that f*cking prison tomorrow morning and do it all over again..."

Sir Reginald shook his head, "If we dreamed it all we might find something completely different in there..."

"Enough of this! I'm not letting that witch mess with our heads any more. Hold still this won't hurt much..." Sir Fallon walked up to Sir Reginald and punched him in the face.

Sir Fallon woke up in a cold sweat. The combined smells of blood, woodsmoke, rotting flesh, and witchcraft immediately assaulting his sensitive nose. Eyes still closed his hand slowly reached for his axe. Once the weapon was firmly in hand he opened his eyes and looked around. He was in his tent. It was night. In the distance he heard the "All clear!" call of night watchmen changing shifts.

He crept out of his tent and looked around. They were in the keep. He noted the tents of his six friends, the slightly bulged tarp on the ground covering the bodies of Robert, Tristram, Justice, and Sister Carlotta, and Sir Reginald sitting by the fire clutching his eye. "You okay?"

Sir Reginald pulled his hand away to reveal a black eye. "What'd you hit me for?"

"Haven't you studied basic spellcraft? Dream manipulation is a form of Illusion. Mitra has blessed me with the ability to remove such effects, but only if I have a foe to strike. You just happened to be the nearest of us...and I remembered that we had been sharing a tent."

"So we dreamed all of that? Bloody hell!" Sir Reginald clutched at his swollen eye, "You killed that lion, right? How is he still messing with us all?"

"Yes, and no." Sir Fallon pointed at the sky. "See that fell at dusk, but has returned. That must be the lion's star. Something brought it back."

"F*cking witches! So something raised the lion and now its going to f*ck with our dreams..." Sir Reginald walked to the other tents. "I'm going to wake the others and make sure they're okay."

Sir Reginald woke everyone and checked to make sure their four fallen friends were still corpses. The seven friends then spent the rest of the night sitting around the fire. Not much was said, but no one slept.

When the trumpeters announced the arrival of the king and his army come morning our heroes were quite tired. They lined up to meet the royal commanders in front of the gatehouse, dark circles beneath their eyes and each stoically ignoring the aches of combat and the throbbing of their remaining wounds. The king and his commanders listened patiently as the party explained the situation at the prison, the hordes of undead plaguing the place, the lion-witch, the corrupt garrison sergeant, and their troubling dreams from the night before.

King Markadian IV nodded sagely, "Our diviners have already been searching for the escaped prisoners and have come up with nothing. Every indication is that they have vanished off the face of Tel-Avi or else have some powerful magic concealing them even from the Eyes of Mitra. They will continue searching but we may have to simply wait until they show themselves. We will send proclamation to all of the hunters that they are at large."
"In the meantime, Sir Reginald, we are giving the command of this prison to you and your companions. Sufficient troops to re-garrison the keep will be left under your command. We will return to court and begin searching for a suitable replacement to serve as Warden. It is our wish that you remain here and bring this prison back up to our standards before the escapees are found. Use whatever resources you need to repair and re-fortify the walls and keep."

"My lord," Sir Fallon stepped forward, "I cannot just sit by knowing that there are such dangerous criminals at large. Please, give us leave to go and track down these miscreants."

"No, good Sir. By your own words you have admitted that you are vulnerable to the influence of these witches and we cannot have you wasting time searching the countryside for that which even Mitra cannot see. When we know something more we will see that you are all returned to active service. For now, we need this prison repaired and ready to take on new prisoners." The king's tone was final. Sir Fallon nodded and returned to line with the others.

"As soon as a new warden has been selected you will be relieved. For now, you all have your orders. You are dismissed..."

A Week in the Life of a Witch Hunter: Session 6

The party awoke in the night to the sound of the nuns, Sister Carlotta and Sister Eloquence screaming, their piteous cries filling the dark halls of the keep. Just below their screams could be heard chanting, three deep sonorous voices intoning words unfit for mortal ears.

Aidan the Herald and Sir Ainsley rushed down the corridor, stumbling over the rotting and still slightly animate corpses of the prison's guards. "What the f*ck!" Aidan exclaimed, "How did they get both girls?"

"Nevermind that," said Ainsley, "I thought Carlotta was dead. Was the whole thing some f*cked up dream?! Mitra save us, where are the others." They rushed on, kicking bodies aside. Around the next corner they plowed headlong into Tristram, the three tumbling into a heap. "Tristram?! I thought you were dead too." The Lion, as he was called, did not respond, but mearly raised his head, revealing the bloody and empty sockets of his eyes and the blazing pentagram branded into his forehead. The thing that had been Tristram lashed out at his two companions with a sword already slick with blood.

Aidan parried Tristram's blows then dove to the ground as Aisley let lose a gout of flame from his gun. Tristram's pained cries overwhelmed all other sound save the shrill screaming of the nuns as his bodied toppled in a burning heap. "WHAT...THE...F*CK!" Aidan reiterated.

The knights, Sir Fallon, Sir Reginald, Sir Willem, and Sir Robert strained mightily against their chains but they wouldn't budge. Just outside of the cell they could hear Aidan's cursing and the screams of the women.

"How did we get here?" Sir Willem inquired of the others. "The last thing I remember we had just cleared the keep..."
"Witchcraft!" Sir Fallon insisted, "I can feel it everywhere. They must have taken us in the night while we slept."
"But those screams, they sound like Sister Carlotta..." Sir Robert shook his head. "Didn't she die?"
"What about you? I watched you die with my own eyes..." Sir Fallon glared at the paladin. "You reek of witchcraft as well. Another illusion sent to torment us? Another undead beast in disguise put here to catch us unawares?"
"No, its me, I swear it in Mitra's name."

Outside the chanting grew louder, another voice chiming in with the three. Ainsley, hearing his friends voices from inside the cell blew the lock off and rushed in. "Aidan, looks like the whole gang's here..."
"Aside from the ones that turned into undead horrors you mean?" Aidan stepped gingerly into the cell behind him. "Where is Squire Filth?"
"Who?" Sir Reginald gave the herald a quizzical look.
"The dwarf. He came here with you last night."
"Oh...I haven't seen him. Maybe he's in another cell. How did you two get free?"
"What do you mean free?" Ainsley interjected. "We woke up in our tents to screaming. When we came out everyone else was gone. It was like the whole army just vanished. We came to find the girls and instead we find you all trapped in a cell and Tristram's corpse standing guard."

"Speaking of corpses..." Fallon nodded his head towards Sir Robert, "I saw him die and he smells like a bloody witch. Get me out of these chains so I can deal with it..." Aidan looked at Sir Fallon, nodded and began picking the lock on his chains.
"No, I swear. How can you think I was dead?" Sir Robert looked to each of his friends, "We were just together last night. We killed the witch-lion. I was injured. Sister Eloquence nursed me back to health..."
Aidan shook his head. "He's clearly lying." He stepped back and Sir Fallon stood, walked purposefully over to Sir Robert, and broke the paladin's neck.

Aidan wasted no time blowing the shackles off of the others, "Quickly, we have to find the girls."

The five friends found the knights' weapons and armor stashed in the next cell and rushed towards the sound of the screaming. The ran down corridor after corridor and down two flights of stairs before reaching a large iron-bound door, charred and blackened, and carved in a crude hand with numerous unholy sigils and prayers to the dark god Asmodeus.

Sir Fallon rushed the door, beating it to splinters with his flaming axe. Beyond the door they saw the two nuns, naked, screaming, and tied to an altar of black basalt. Three lions stood before the altar, their fur soaked with blood and their inhuman mouths chanting infernal prayers. Behind the altar stood Brother Justice, looking quite alive, dressed in black robes and sporting a pair of large curving horns on his head. He smiled at them as the door burst open and plunged his readied dagger into Sister Eloquence's breast, silencing her screams.

Enraged, the Knights of Mitra charged the unholy abomination. They were met by the three lions, one breathing a gout of flame which quickly consumed Sir Willem. The second pounced upon Sir Reginald, tearing his throat out with one critical strike of its mighty jaws. The last sprouted black bat-like wings and began clawing at Sir Ainsley.

Aidan and Fallon slipped bast the beasts, and rushed the altar where the demonic Brother Justice had disrobed and was beginning to have his way with Sister Carlotta. Aidan stabbed at the perversion of his friend, running both the priest and Sister Carlotta though as Sir Fallon took off his head.

Aidan shoved Brother Justice's corpse off of the nuns only to see that they were both already dead and rotten. The two turned, terrified, to see their friends lying burned and torn and the three witch-lions closing in on them.

Aidan and Fallon both awoke with a scream. A fire crackled around the campsite where the eleven friends had bedded down for the knight. Squire Filth and Brother Justice sat on watch, nibbling on the remnants of the roast hind they had for supper the evening before. Aidan looked around to see the two Sisters and his other five brothers-in-arms sleeping peacefully, their breasts rising in falling with their rhythmic breath.

"What happened brothers?" Brother Justice knelt next to the two of them.
"I had a horrible dream..." Sir Fallon, sniffed the air, "I think I was bewitched. I can still smell the stink of sorcery in the air."
"I had a dream too," Aidan spoke up, "we had all been captured. There was fire and chanting. Everyone was killed...and you..." he looked at Brother Justice, his eyes widening, "You appeared to be possessed by a had taken the Sisters and sacrificed them upon some dark altar, then you set the lions on us."
"Lions brother?"
"Yes, three lions." Sir Fallon stood up, "It seems we had the same dream."
"Well I'm hoping that's no premonition..." Squire Worthless Filth filth handed Aiden a wineskin. "We're set to reach the prison tomorrow morning..."
"Tomorrow?" Aidan looked confused. "Didn't we investigate the prison yesterday? I remember it was overrun with undead...and..."
Sir Fallon spoke up, "...and everyone died. Sister Carlotta, Sir Robert, Tristram, and..." he looked hard at Brother Justice, "and you Brother. Devored by a lion."
"Another dream perhaps?" Brather Justice nodded his head in a brief prayer.
"We'd best wake t'others." Squire Filth began walking around the camp shaking everyone. "Up and at 'em, seems like there's witch's work afoot..."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A game in a hurry

So, a few weeks ago the monday regular "Boyant Republic" game I've been playing in got moved to Wednesdays. Normally we try to be pretty flexible about attendance. We have seven players (plus GM) involved, and as long as any three players show up we're usually good to go. Last night we had the requisite three players, but, as the campaign is nearing its finale, we decided not to roll without a majority.

Never one to accept the lose of an evening of gaming, we decided to do "casual D&D". Simple set up, Pathfinder rules, 4d6 (drop lowest) in order for stats, standard races and classes only. The adventure was provided by donjon's random dungeon generator, using random seeds for everything except dungeon level. Rather than tracking encounter levels or XP, we went with a straitforward dungeon level = character level mapping (otherwise read as, "finding the stairs down is the only thing that earns you XP").

To begin with, let it be said that everyone died...twice over, and that I haven't heard that much laughter in a game for several years.

The party consisted (to begin with) of Dreyfus (a human cleric) and Orson (a human fighter). The two friends rappelled down into the well known to lead to the dungeon in search of "retirement money". In the first room, the two encountered a Troglodyte, which was a surprisingly tough fight for only the two of them, requiring them to expend a significant amount of healing. After defeating the troglodyte, they found its hoard (2500 copper pieces) and decided that that was enough to "keep us in ham and eggs for a good long time". Rather than rest on their laurels, they proceeded to enter the next room...and quickly found themselves at the bottom of a 40-foot deep pit trap. Dreyfus was dead, and Orson was unconscious, but stable, but stuck and at risk of dying from dehydration, and buried under his own loot from the 50 pound bag of coins bursting as they fell.

Two days later Henry (Dreyfus's older brother, also a cleric) and his friend Nutzfuggle the Magnificent (or something to that effect), a gnome sorcerer, dove into the dungeon in search of Dreyfus. It didn't take them long to find Orson, whom they extracted from the pit. Saying a prayer for the deceased Dreyfus, the three decided that they should "honor Dreyfus's dying wish" and went looking for more money.

Several winding corridors and a few ineffectual traps later, they heard weeping from ahead. Henry, correctly, identified the weeping as the sound of a crying crocodile (correct because if someone offhandedly names a creature you should probably throw it at the party in situations such as these), but the party paid it no mind and proceeded to the end of the hallway where they were stopped by a heavy iron door. As Orson attempted to pummel the door open with his fists, Nutzfuggle was swallowed by the crocodile that crept up behind them. The beast continued to cry as Henry cut its head off with his axe.

After several minutes of punching, Orson managed to open the door (and break his hand). Inside Henry and Orson found a dwarf sleeping inside a circle of protection. They quickly woke up the dwarf, a cleric who introduced himself only as "The Doctor", and asked him to join them. The three proceeded to the next room where they fought a troglodyte zombie, which, while it took a lots of hits, was not able to strike them, and found stairs leading down.

Now second level, the three descended into the next level where they were assaulted by fire, smoke, and oppressive heat. They wandered for a time, then encountered a fire mephit. The mephit surprised them and managed to summon one of its kind for aid. Our heroes fought valiantly, defeating the creatures, but not before Henry was slain by a critical hit from a scorching ray. Luckily another cleric of their order, Frank, was wandering lost and the dungeon and came along to heal the other two.

Now, Frank, Orson, and the Doctor proceeded to explore the fiery dungeon, eventually coming upon a forge, and a sleeping azer...who was quickly and repeatedly doused by water conjured by The Doctor. The creature woke angry and sputtering, only to have The Doctor cave in its head with a single shot from his mace. The party looted the azer's weapons and armor, including a fine warhammer which The Doctor took and proceeded to the next room, where they found a fiery altar which The Doctor also smashed. The Doctor went on to explain how he hated "fire dwarves" because his father had tried to turn him into one as a baby by dangling him over a burning forge.

In the next room, the party encountered a beautiful tile mosaic of Hercules fighting the Lernean Hydra. Orson, apparently an art critic, punched a hole in the mosaic with his remaining good hand. A thoqqua burst from the hole and proceeded to assault the party, burning up several of Frank's weapons. When the beast was defeated, Frank insisted that its appearance was the result of the "art gods' anger".

The next room sported a mural of dragons in flight painted on the ceiling. Orson punched that as well, and, sure enough, another thoqqua came bursting out to assault them. Likewise, the next room was filled with frescos of the Greek pantheon, and when Orson attempted to destroy that, another thoqqua attacked. Frank quickly decided to change religions, converting to the worship of the vengeful, but unnamed, Art God.

Across a rickety wood and rope bridge the party found a room with a spiraling labyrinth of white tiles on a black floor. Orson decided to follow the labyrinth and encountered strange resistance as he walked, sparks shooting up around his feat (yes, the random dungeon generator made a labyrinth on the floor and I could not pass up making an Amber reference). After walking the pattern on the floor, Orson discovered that he could walk through shadows. Impressed, The Doctor followed, but Frank was not able to walk the thing successfully and only barely avoided being disintegrated by the black areas of the floor.

Backtracking from the room with the pattern and taking a side passage, our heroes found a large dining room, with a lone azer finishing his dinner and the stairs leading down behind. Orson, feeling a bit rogue-like, crept under the table and began to make his way unseen towards the distracted azer. The Doctor, much less concerned with stealth, doused this azer with water as well. As the creature stood up sputtering and reached for its weapon, Orson struck, lopping off both of its feat at the ankles with a well-placed blow of an axe he had taken from a failed trap.

The three headed down to the next level, at which point everything went wrong.

At the base of the steps they encountered a party of fiendish (as per the template, not the general unpleasant descriptor) orcs. Orson leaped into the fray and grabbed the orcs, dragging them with him into the plane of shadow. He abandoned them there, only to miss when returning to the material world. Rather than returning where he expected, he was shunted 20 miles through solid stone to a neighboring dungeon, and quickly eaten by a grue (a cloaker rather).

Frank and The Doctor pushed on into the next room, where they found a human paladin, by name of Scott, buried under a pile of rubble. After freeing the paladin, The Doctor decided that they should go in search of Orson, and took the others with him into the plane of shadow. Once there, Frank decided it was too dark and cast a spell of light...which pissed off the locals. Another cloaker (go-go random encounter tables) engulfed Frank and began to gnaw his face off. The Doctor continued his shadow walk, fleeing back to the material plane. The cloaker, hauling Frank along, gave chase with its own shadow walk, leaving Scott lost on the plane of shadow. Back on the material plane, the cloaker finished eating Frank...

And a good time was had by all.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Week in the Life of a Witch Hunter: Session 5

The remnants of our gallant band, Sir Fallon, Sir Willem, Sir Ainsley, and Aidan the Herald, breathed a sigh of relief as the lion stopped moving and set about seeing to their fallen friends.

His eyes straining in the oppressive darkness of the dungeons and hurting from the sudden burst of glittering lights just moments before, Sir Fallon dug a torch out of his backpack and fumbled to get it lit. “Mitra! It smells like sh*t down here…”

“Ugh, that’s for certain,” Sir Willem agreed, tearing a strip from his cloak to cover his nose. “I’m also still detecting a significant amount of magic…”

With the added light from Fallon’s torch, Sir Ainsley gazed around the small guardroom they had fallen into and pointed at an empty side chamber. “Lets move Robert and Sister Carlotta in there. We’ll have to come back for them after we finish exploring.” The others agreed and hauled the corpses of their friends away from the site of the melee.

With Sir Fallon and his torch in the lead, the four cautiously moved into the cell block. All of the cell doors were open or missing, some apparently torn from their hinges or bashed down by some incredible force. The entire area reeked of excrement, the walls were charred and blackened, and the hallway was filled with an ankle-deep layer of spoiled and rotten fruit.

“What happened here?” said Aidan, carefully examining the bent and battered remains of a heavy iron portcullis which had served as the door of the final cell at the end of the hall.

“They were holding an ogre.” Ainsley stepped into the cell and pointed at some overly large manacles. “This must have been its cell.”

Fallon stepped in behind Sir Ainsley and looked at a large hole in the wall, “So, whoever was in that cell must have tunneled through the wall and freed the ogre. Then the ogre broke the gate down and freed the other prisoners…”

Ainsley pointed at the hole, “How’d the ones in that cell get free then?”

“Hey!” Sir Wllem called from the adjacent cell, “I’m detecting a couple more auras in here.”

Aidan stuck his head in the door and immediately retched from the smell. The floor was almost knee deep with feces and rotting vegetation and was swarming with flies and maggots.

“At least its not more roaches.” Willem opined, then plunged his gauntleted hands down into the waste and began fishing around. Moments later he came up with a ring, a rather fresh finger still attached to it. “Check this out.” He tossed the finger to Aidan and reached back into the filth, coming up with three more rings.

Aidan vomited again as he caught the chunk of flesh.
“That’s a goblin finger.” Sir Fallon pointed out.
Gasping Aidan nodded, “yeah, and the ring is a dungeon ring. You use them to keep track of prisoners…”
“So the goblin cut…or tore off…his finger so that the warden couldn’t track him? Then used that blind-spot in the scrying to take the time to dig in to the ogre?”

“These three are different.” Willem handed the other rings to Aidan and the two examined them carefully.
“Aha! That’s how they broke out…” Aidan held up the first ring. “A ring of the ram. It’s out of charges, but still has some residual magic to it. With this they could have blown that whole in the wall in a jiff. They probably just threw it away when it ran out.” He wiped the ring off and slipped it onto his finger, then handed the others back to Willem. “Maybe one of the king’s mages can recharge it for me…”
“What about the others?” Sir Fallon interjected.
“A ring of protection and a ring of sustenance. Someone must have smuggled them in to the prisoners, but, chained up, they probably fumbled and dropped them in this offal while trying to figure out which one was the Ram.”

“Somewhat plausible…” Sir Fallon took the other two. “You’re sure there is nothing funny about these?”

“No, I’m quite certain about the ID on those. I agree its weird that they would leave these behind.” Aiden looked at the piles of filth. “Of course, if I’d been chained up in that, I’d be in a hurry to get as far away as possible…”

Fallon nodded, “who wants these?” Aisley took the ring of sustenance and Sir Fallon put on the other. “Alright, looks like there is nothing down here. Lets head upstairs. The sergeant in charge of this place should have had a manifest of all the prisoners. I want to know what’s up with this witch-lion…and what could have made all of those undead.”

The party made its way back to the guardroom. Sir Ainsley pulled the rope and grapple out of his pack and climbed up to the upper floor. As they were hauling the bodies of Sir Robert and Sister Carlotta up they heard a loud trumpet call from beyond the walls. “Hey guys,” Sir Ainsley called down, “the cavalry has arrived!”

The four companions finished climbing out of the pit and, carefully carrying their friends bodies, walked out of the keep to see a large contingent of the kings army, including a trio of the Sisters of Saint Erentrude, a half-dozen mounted knights, several archers and foot soldiers, and a score of dwarven irregulars. The dwarves had quickly errected a bridge across the pit by the gatehouse and the army was mustering in the courtyard.

As the party emerged they were met by Sir Reginald Starbreaker, the commander of the expeditionary force, accompanied by Sister Eloquence, who led the nuns, and a dwarf, who Sir Reginald referred to simply as “Worthless Filth”.

After the introductions, Sister Eloquence went away with the four companions to see to their fallen. Sir Reginald and the dwarf set the troops to work with practiced efficiency. Archers and crossbowmen moved to the top of the gatehouse and took up defensive positions over entrance. Foot soldiers began setting up camp. The two Erentrudine Sisters went about blessing the remains of the undead to keep them from rising again. “Worthless” set his dwarves to scouring the keep, searching it from top to bottom for any further traps or hazards.

After about an hour a runner returned from the keep carrying a sheaf of papers. “From the commander’s quarters sir.” He handed them to Sir Reginald, “I think you should see these.”

Sir Reginald called the others together and they examined the papers.

“Wow!” Ainsley exclaimed, reading the documents aloud to the others, “Midnight poker games in the gatehouse…only half the recommended garrison…and the sergeant was skimming funds. No wonder the prisoners escaped!”
Aidan peered over his shoulder, “That might explain where the prisoners got those rings. The sergeant would have had free access to their cells. If he was corrupt he could easily have smuggled tools and magic items to them without arousing too much suspicion…”

Sir Reginald nodded. “We’re setting up camp here for the night. We need to be absolutely certain that the prison has been secured before we leave. The king is sending a force to re-occupy the keep in the morning. In the meantime, I suggest that you all get some rest…”

There was much agreement with that and everyone retired to their assigned tents to sleep.

Friday, February 24, 2012

20 Rules Quick Questions

Brendan posted these 20 rules clarifications that are likely to be needed at some point.

Here are the answers for my home campaign:

0. Base system? Pathfinder
1. Ability scores generation method? -- 2d10 6 times in order
2. How are death and dying handled? -- Die at negative your Con modifier (minimum 0).
3. What about raising the dead? -- Rare and not for sale.
4. How are replacement PCs handled? -- Roll one up and you're back at the next earliest convenience (beginning of next session at worst).
5. Initiative: individual, group, or something else? -- Group. PCs go in seating order.
6. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work? -- 1 Fumbles (GM fiat), Crits based on weapon range as per d20 system (extra damage as described and extra effects when the GM feels like it).
7. Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet? -- Yeah, head-shots are less likely to instantly kill you.
8. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly? -- Almost guaranteed.
9. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything? -- Run. Run for your lives.
10. Level-draining monsters: yes or no? -- XP draining
11. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death? -- Yes, and often.
12. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked? -- Very strictly, bring a spreadsheet.
13. What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time? -- Level up the next time you rest.
14. What do I get experience for? -- Good storytelling, creativity, sometimes for killing stuff.
15. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination? -- Either/or.
16. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work? -- Encouraged. Morale based on how well you are paying them.
17. How do I identify magic items? -- Trial and error.
18. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions? -- Yes, if you have hundreds of thousands of coins and spend months searching for the right seller.
19. Can I create magic items? When and how? -- Take the feat(s) and start collecting body parts from monsters.
20. What about splitting the party? -- Yes, and good luck to you.