Merric's Musings

Thoughts from an Australian Board Gamer and RPGer

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More of the history of my Greyhawk campaigns

Merric Blackman
Australia
Waubra
Victoria
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Ramping up my reviewing.
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Happily playing games for many, many years.
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Continuing on from my last post, we'd reached 2003 and 3.5E was released. We just transferred everything over and kept going. We didn't notice that much.

Ruins of Greyhawk (2005) About this time, we ran into an interesting fellow by the name of Caine Chandler. (There's one or two Dungeon adventures written by this fellow). Anyway, he was a local Ballarat D&D player, and we persuaded him to run us through the Ruins of Greyhawk adventure, updated to 3.5E. We had a lot of fun with the adventure, with my character, Alvares Yulos, a cleric of Pelor, advancing to 15th or 16th level without dying at all in the campaign. This was some achievement: Adam almost managed it, but his halfling thief died in the final encounter. Greg O and Greg M also played, and had much, much higher PC deaths (and number of PCs as often they needed to start anew). A few events in that campaign - the finding of the Greenleaf Tavern, the existence of Alf - would find their way into my later Greyhawk games.

The Age of Worms (2005) I met Caine at a RPGA event I ran, but the more significant meeting was with Martin, Peggy and Bradford, newly arrived D&D players from Sydney who were now making their homes in Ballarat. We quickly became friends, and we started some D&D games. The most significant of these was the Age of Worms adventure path from Paizo, which we started and completed with the PCs at 21st and 22nd level when it was done. I drew upon my previous Greyhawk campaigns to enrich it (thus Alvares turned up during some of it), and it was one of the most rewarding games I've played, even though I still shudder at the thought of The Spire of Long Shadows, one of the weakest D&D 3E adventures.

Return to Ulek (2005) Another really important campaign also began this year, with Sarah and Dave - and a few other players - starting up a new campaign that saw us revisiting the setting of the previous Ulek campaign. It was a few years later, Penny was now a young woman, and the Priests of Chaos came roaring back into the frame as the harbingers of the Fhoi Myore (Fomorians), which I adapted from Moorcock's Corum books, although I made them extraplanar possessing spirits that warped the giants they possessed.

Nathaniel rejoined the campaign shortly after it began, with his character from the previous campaign (who had been enslaved by a mysterious figure from a demiplane known as the Grey Lord). We'd previously established how his character didn't like his father, so I threw in tragic bits with his sister possessed by one of the Fhoi Myore (they failed to save her), the Count of Ulek sacrificing himself to break the unnatural winter, and eventually it was revealed that Nathaniel's PC's father was behind a lot of the grief, and had been possessed by the chief of the Fhoi Myore. In the final session, Nathaniel got to kill him, and there was much rejoicing.

It was a massive campaign, and took us up to the release of 4E...

4E: Changes
With 4E being released, for the first time my Sunday afternoon campaign (which had been Ulek) was no longer a Greyhawk game: instead I started running the HPE adventures. They've been a lot of fun, but lie outside the scope of this article. Our Friday game (which had been Age of Worms) switched to Savage Tide for a time, and though it began well, it got further and further away from what we wanted to do. I don't properly hold it as part of my Greyhawk games, despite it returning to the Isle of Dread, which some of my players had enjoyed earlier.

After that stopped, it was time for a new Greyhawk homebrew, and that leads us to...

Castle Zagyg (2008)
I began by taking my players through The Mouths of Madness, part of the East Mark Gazetteer, a preview of CZ2: Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works, whilst using CZ1: Castle Zagyg, Volume 1: Yggsburgh to detail the Free City of Greyhawk further than it had been before. Nathaniel chose to play Will Jr, the son of his character in the Ulek campaign, and as a result I included Teresa, daughter of Meliander and Caitlin as a recurring NPC (and Will's girlfriend). As she's now almost 20, one can see the lapse of time between this and my very first steps running Meliander back in the late 80s.

Adam threw an interesting spanner into the works when his first character, Archibald, betrayed the group and soon became a recurring NPC villain. Otherwise, the early exploration of the Castle Zagyg material was abandoned for later threads involving priests of Iuz (and Archibald), and then dark druids and necromancers who were threatening the city. 2010 was a very, very disrupted year (we got only 7 sessions in) due to travel and illness on the part of the players, but so far in 2011, we've just started in on the Paragon levels, and the group is now investigating the Garden of Graves in the Feywild.

I've got enough adventures for this group to take up to the early Epic levels, and ideas for beyond that. Once my other group finishes the Epic Tier, the next campaign for them will be back in Greyhawk. Exactly where I'm not sure yet, but it'll just add more details to a world in which I played a very great deal over the past 20 years and more!
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Tue Feb 15, 2011 3:13 am
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A history (of sorts) of my Greyhawk campaigns

Merric Blackman
Australia
Waubra
Victoria
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Microbadge: Ultimate Session ReporterMicrobadge: AD&D fan (1st edition)Microbadge: Doctor Who fanMicrobadge: Citizenship Recognition - Level II - If I have seen further, it's only by standing on the apex of other's dice.Microbadge: Geek of the Week
It began back in the late 80s, when I was invited to play in a AD&D campaign run by a fellow, Bruce, from a school I'd left and my brother still attended. Thinking back all these years now, I have no idea how it happened that we all lobbed together, but there we were - Bruce as DM, myself, my brother and one other playing through some of the classic D&D adventures.

The system we were using was a meld of AD&D 1st edition and 2nd edition, with a few other bits and pieces thrown in. However, the campaign world that it spawned is still sort of alive today, some twenty years later. Of course, the world isn't exactly the same as the one that Bruce used, for it's now very much my world, but it dates from those early seeds.

The First Campaign - Meliander and Brunak (198?)
In the beginning, there were four adventurers: Meliander (my magic-user), Brunak (my brother's fighter/barbarian type), Scarlett (Bruce's NPC) and Bardal (an elven rogue played by L. the fourth member of the group). We began by playing through a couple of minor adventures before we entered the first major classic adventure of the old times: The Temple of Elemental Evil.

By the end of the adventure, we'd rescued Prince Thrommel, and we were about 8th level or thereabouts. I'd picked up a wand of fire in the Temple, and watched Bruce's face fall as I used it with glee, creating walls of fire to protect us from the gargoyles and trolls as Brunak and Scarlett laid around them.

At this time, L left the group, and the game became primarily Bruce, my brother and me. Occasionally, another person would briefly join us, and then L. would pop up from time to time.

In any case, Brunak, Meliander and Scarlett soon found themselves helping save Furyondy and Veluna from a poisoned river (Sabre River) and then, when Scarlett's unusual sister turned up, going to the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth to recover Daoud's Wondrous Lanthorn.

Our original ideas for our characters had Brunak a Frost Barbarian from the far north-east. I was playing the son of a cavalry officer from the County of Ulek - in the far south-west of the world. How did we meet up? Brunak had severe wanderlust, and we ended up both chasing a thief through the streets of Mitrik and befriending each other.

By this stage, after a couple of years, the campaign was faltering. In the longish gap between a couple of adventures, I used the old book "Cities" (published by Chaosium, but originally Midkemia Press) to work out what was happening to Meliander in the meantime, as he was wintering in the City of Greyhawk. By sheer luck, he made a fortune investing in business, and met the love of his life, Caitlin Raelthayer. Bruce was more than a little surprised when, at our next session, I informed him that Meliander was married.

We managed to play through one more major adventure series before the campaign dissolved: the Slave Lords. At this point, Bruce and I were playing a lot of excellent games together in other systems, along with the new friends we were meeting at University: Amber, Marvel Super Heroes, and especially the West End Games Star Wars RPG.

Transitions (1991)
Meliander returned to the County of Ulek with his wife, and the campaign rested - almost. I was beginning to do more DMing in those days, and with a few friends from Uni and my brother, ran the introduction to the Greyhawk Wars adventures: Five Shall Be One and Howl from the North. This was 1991. They fit my brother perfectly: he was a Frost Barbarian, and they were designed for a group of Frost Barbarians. So, using a bunch of pregenerated characters for the other players, we launched into the adventure.

By the end of it, the Frost Barbarians had released their god, Brunak was king of all the barbarians, and the Greyhawk Wars had started. Unbeknownst to the barbarians, their "god" was actually Iuz, pretending to be Vatun. All of this didn't make much sense in the real Greyhawk campaign world that TSR was putting out, but it all made a lot more sense in our world... because Bruce and I had been running some adventures on our own.

One of those was Vecna Lives!. In fact, I wasn't much involved in that; as I recall, L. may have ran it for Bruce. In any case, the adventure's end didn't go as TSR had designed: Vecna had overpowered Iuz and dispossessed him of his kingdom. So, where there had once been the land of Iuz and the Horned Society, Vecna united them both and started a reign of terror. Bruce's original plan for the campaign was to go through the four major AD&D campaigns: Temple of Elemental Evil, Slavelords, Queen of the Demonweb Spiders, and end it up with the Bloodstone series. So, the new land that Vecna ruled was called "Vaasa". Furyondy and Veluna had been united (with the heir to Veluna marrying the rescued Thrommel) and would take the place of Damara.

A little side adventure I ran after that saw Iuz seeking the Codex of the Infinite Planes, and Scarlett and Meliander teaming up to stop him. The resulting disastrous confrontation saw the Codex "destroyed", and Meliander (and possibly Scarlett) thrown into the planes and away from Greyhawk.

And then the campaign really dissolved, and we didn't do much more for a long time. My brother and I moved to Ballarat (where I remain today), and basically fell out of touch with our old RPG friends in Melbourne.

A brief interlude (1995)
My brother and I did have one short one-on-one D&D game together, where Brunak realized he was being manipulated by Iuz and escaped, taking two henchmen through an maze of icy tunnels - and somehow falling into EX1: Dungeonland. I don't remember much about it; but eventually he escaped to Greyhawk, and the campaign rested again.

The Feast of Xan-Yae (1997?)
In the intervening time, I'd been playing a lot of Magic. Some of the friends I'd been making in Ballarat through that pastime also proved to have an interest in D&D, so I started up a new AD&D (2nd edition) campaign - using the Player's Option books to create the characters. We had four main players: Dave, his wife Julia, Shane, my brother - and I was the DM for most of the campaign.

The original campaign had spanned the years of 576-582 CY in the Greyhawk calendar. For this campaign, I set the clock back to 576 and assumed we were in the same world; so events of our original campaign would take place in the background.

The plot of this campaign I'd eventually call "The Feast of Xan-Yae". The idea was this: the adventurers were called together by the Church of Xan-Yae to retrieve a stolen relic from the dungeons of Castle Greyhawk, where the thief had taken it. (In fact, a very similar plot to the first adventure that my brother and I had gone on in the first campaign).

As these things do, the campaign grew: the relic proved to be one of many, and a group of shrines in the dungeons would eventually prove to be the prophesied downfall of Vecna. Things got interesting: characters were captured and needed to be rescued. Shane's character, Starlin - an archer of some ability - proved to be of questionable morality, so that he would work as an assassin and occasionally directly opposing the other PCs (though secretly).

As more of the relics got uncovered, the forces of Iuz were discovered to be main opponents of the PCs. To make things worse, the high priestess of Xan Yae was killed. My brother was playing a lesser priest of Xan-Yae (Yahlos), and was not impressed. He was even less impressed when more priests began turning up dead - including high priests of other lands who were travelling to Greyhawk to see who'd be the new high priest! (Unbeknownst to him, some of them had been killed by Starlin!)

Things rose to a head when my brother's girlfriend (now wife) joined the group: an elf from the Vesve forest - and I made it seem like she was the assassin who had killed the latest priestess! It was an incredible session of roleplaying, with my brother taking centre stage, and it saw the group eventually depart Greyhawk with their reputation in ruins, travelling to Vesve to help against the plans of Iuz there.

The Vesve section of the adventure was fairly straightforward in comparison, with the group fighting against various military forces and finally stopping the forces of Iuz from capturing the forest (and, more importantly, the village of Skytree, from which both Julia's and my brother's PCs hailed).

And then everything fell apart again, as Dave and Julia moved away to the far west of Victoria, and once again there wasn't an active D&D campaign. However, it had been a real highlight for the short time I'd run it. It would also be the last time that my brother and I played D&D together. (Nowadays, we live in different cities, and we'll only play a boardgame together now and then, alas!)

However, Shane and his character Starlin were still around. We still saw a lot of each other as we were playing a lot of Magic and the Star Wars CCG... and soon enough 3E would be released and the next chapter would begin.

3E Greyhawk - The Rainbow Portal (2000)
The first couple of sessions of my new Greyhawk campaign saw three players, Ernie, Shane and Gofa, entering a cave to find it contained a buried tower. D&D 3E wasn't released yet - it was only a couple of weeks away - so we were using AD&D rules (with Player's Option) plus some tidbits of 3E (like AC going up!) that had been released. Gofa's bard died in his first session, so a new character was created...

Then 3E was fully released and it started my longest period of continuous role-playing. Shane continued to play Starlin, his character from the previous campaign, picked up a henchman, and had a great time before work took him away from us. We headed off to the Grand Duchy of Geoff, where a bard (really the Prince of Geoff) joined them. They found the "Rainbow Portal" - my take on the Stargate - which sent them into the depths of the Sea of Dust, off to Hell, and finally back to the City of Greyhawk.

Characters from my previous campaigns (particularly Meliander and Brunak) turned up as cameos. Ernie's cleric started building a castle overlooking Woolly Bay, and discovered an ancient tomb in the area that needed to be cleared out: upon doing so, Gofa's character ended up enslaved by a Lord of Hell and, sadly, the game ended with members of the group dispersing to parts around Australia. Gofa would continue in my next Greyhawk campaign.

The County of Ulek (2001)
During the play of the previous campaign, I started up a second campaign which took place in the homeland of my original AD&D character, Meliander. His wife (Caitlin) was still there, with a baby daughter, and both of them plus Caitlin's pseudodragon familiar, Teri, would make important contributions to the feeling of the campaign.

The game revolved around the royal court of Ulek, of which Caitlin was now Court Wizard; in particular, the young ward and heir of the Count, a young girl called Penny. (Trying to work out a properly Celtic sort of name years later, I coined "Paenaetha" for her full name, but she'll always been Penny to the members of that game).

At this point, I placed the Keep on the Borderlands in the mountains between Ulek and the Wild Coast, and sent the group there. They got their first view of the Priests of Chaos there, and they found in their temple another manifestation of the Rainbow Portal from my previous game. One of the characters smashed the gems that powered it, and in a surge of wild magic, the group found themselves sent to a new plane: that of the Desert of Desolation.

After that quest was over, the group returned to Ulek (much to the delight of Penny, who had been befriended by several of their members), and I tried to pick up some of the Priests of Chaos plotlines, but the campaign didn't last that much longer before player turnover, mostly caused by jobs, required its termination.

Tales of the Great Kingdom (2002)
This was the campaign that replaced the Rainbow Portal campaign, and saw Gofa plus a host of other players now playing new characters in the Great Kingdom, a realm fallen into evil ways. The original idea for this was to eventually end up running Robert J Kuntz's "Maze" series (at the time I'd no idea I'd do the d20 conversion of the final module), but as it turned out, the campaign diverged before then and we never got to the Maze.

Keeping my penchant for using classic modules in new settings, we began with The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, which went well. Danger At Dunwater went less well (the group actually negotiated, thus negating most of the adventure!) and The Final Enemy went terribly, as the group just couldn't enter the sahuagin lair. Gofa actually got his character - a very annoying gnome - killed as he insulted a NPC villager who'd just lost a brother on the doomed assault.

Then the group travelled inland where they met Gofa's new character, Cassie: the illegitimate daughter of a local baron. It was also a LE mind-controlling enchantress, the only time I've allowed such a character, and it'd become one of the best characters I've run. By a hilarious event involving an ettin, every character except Gofa's (who was absent that session) was killed. So, new characters created, and the group headed to a larger city.

There they met a merchant - Darien - who was looking for adventurers to explore a newly discovered Isle: the Isle of Dread. This adventure proved very popular with the group, so much so that they returned to the Isle two more times in the campaign, each time discovering more of the isle. I had intended for Darien to eventually lead them into the Maze series (as he was an agent who opposed the King), but such did not occur.

Instead, Cassie managed to ingratiate herself into the political affairs of a town - Cofston - in the See of Medegia. And, eventually, became its leader, which effectively retired the character. The rest of the group, realising they were no longer welcome in the Great Kingdom, headed off for the City of Greyhawk where they had a few adventures before being hired for a major mission... which ended up being in a different plane altogether. They had to save the country of Khemet from a dark evil: the Set Rahotep. Yes, I was running Gary Gygax's Necropolis, which saw some characters betray the party (and were killed). After that was finished, the campaign ended with characters at about the 15th level of experience. The longest surviving was Greg's character, Lukas, a high level ranger/wizard.

This is turning into a massive post; I'll break now and return shortly with the further adventures of my groups in Greyhawk.
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Tue Feb 15, 2011 1:30 am
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New Arrivals

Merric Blackman
Australia
Waubra
Victoria
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Ramping up my reviewing.
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Microbadge: Ultimate Session ReporterMicrobadge: AD&D fan (1st edition)Microbadge: Doctor Who fanMicrobadge: Citizenship Recognition - Level II - If I have seen further, it's only by standing on the apex of other's dice.Microbadge: Geek of the Week
Well, after several weeks when MilSims site wasn't displaying new stock because of some flimsy excuse (they were in Canberra for CanCon!), they finally got back and started stocktaking and putting up the new arrivals. So, like the board game addict I am, I got online and ordered a few things. Some of them arrived today - others, one hopes will be sent in the near future (like Merchants & Marauders).

So, what arrived in the parcels today?

Struggle of Empires
I wasn't expecting to see this on the MilSims catalogue. Hey, I wasn't expecting to see it on the Eagle Games site either, when I went to their site to see if it were possible to get the Mexico cards for Railways of the World cheaply. (No, it isn't - not in Australia, anyway). I'm not a fan of all of Martin Wallace's designs (particularly not Runebound or After the Flood), but when he hits it, he hits it well - games like Brass and God's Playground being among my favourite boardgames.

Struggle of Empires is no longer in the lofty position it was in when I first visited BoardGameGeek, but it's still at a very healthy #68. I wonder if the new reprint will cause it to gain rating? Perhaps not, as the game doesn't seem to be as elegant as some of Wallace's later designs - and it certainly takes a bit of time at 3-4 hours.

My real problem with this game will be working out who to play it with, and when. I may try to give it a shot tomorrow evening, but I feel it needs a certain type of player, and getting them all together at the same time (without anyone else wanting to play lighter games) may be tricky. We'll see what happens. In any case, this was one of the games I've been wanting for a while, and I'm very happy to finally have it in my possession.

Wait for my session report in a few weeks where it ends with me throwing it against a wall...

Traveller RPG: Book 08: Dilettante
Last year, I ran a very successful Serenity RPG campaign, which was mainly marred by the fact that I detested the Serenity RPG system. (Yuck!) Following the campaign, and considering the possibility of a sequel, I chose to buy Mongoose Publishing's latest version of the Traveller RPG. I was struck by (a) how playable it seemed and (b) how well it fitted the Firefly setting. Any game that comes with rules for trading and flying between planets with (basically) a tramp freighter works really well for a Firefly-type game.

Meanwhile, Mongoose have been releasing the main character sourcebooks as "Little Black Books". They're the same as the bigger softcovers, except that they're a fraction of the size (with text reduced likewise, which occasionally might require a magnifying glass), and also a fraction of the cost. So, I've been picking them up: I have all of 1-8 now.

Dilettante was particularly interesting to me because it dealt with the character type that Sarah was playing in the previous campaign: a Southern Lady (or at least she represented herself that way) who ended up as second-in-command of the ship in no time at all, especially as she was pretty much the only one with any diplomatic skills at all.

Of course, at this point I've got no idea at all whether or not I'll actually run the sequel campaign, but I have a lot of resources for it. Now, I just have to watch all of Firefly...

Poseidon
This one is particularly interesting as it is basically a gateway 18XX game released by Z-Man. As someone who enjoys a number of boardgames, and would like to be considered a scholar of them (however poor), my lack of knowledge about the 18XX games was a sore point with myself. I do in fact own one: 1856, Railroading in Upper Canada, but my one attempt to play it ended with my friends threatening to set it on fire and then drop it down a well.

Actually, they didn't, but Derek and Sara were not the best people to play it with. I hope Rich and Sarah might find it more to their taste.

A big advantage of this version of the 18XX series is that it plays in 2 hours. A lot of the classic games of the past have absurdly long playtimes, which for some reason makes them very difficult to play today. The big zip-lock bag holding all the wooden pieces (so many wooden pieces!) was split when it arrived, but as I'm going to be moving the pieces into separate containers anyway, that one isn't an issue. If Struggle of Empires doesn't get played tomorrow evening, maybe this one will.

There's no doubt that Poseidon is a lot simpler than 1856: no track tiles, no two-dimensional share price chart. I doubt I'll need a laptop to keep track of everything like many people do during other 18XX games, but I might just bring some poker chips, as the money looks pretty flimsy.

Hansa Teutonica: East Expansion
I only got Hansa Teutonica a couple of months ago, but it has quickly cemented itself as a game that I really, really enjoy. I wish more of my friends felt the same way about it! (Mark does, so I need to hit him with it again on Friday afternoon). I really don't know much about this expansion - a new board with some cards - but if I'm very lucky, it'll alter the game play a little so that some of my other friends can get into the game.

BattleTech: Mercenaries Supplemental Update
I very much enjoy BattleTech, and I've been slowly acquiring many of the back-catalogue items. (I just wish I was able to play it with someone at present; alas, most of the potential players are involved in a BloodBowl league at present). This was one of those items that MilSims still had in stock, so why not? Interestingly, the Mercenaries Handbook it is a supplement for is something I only have in pdf form...

A lot of the game information here is probably going to be revised or irrelevant once Interstellar Operations finally comes out, but I find the world material in these books something I really enjoy reading; it might be the only game world for which I can say that.

Commands & Colors: Napoleonics
Sigh. I couldn't resist, in the end, although I tried to. At this point, I own every version of the C&C system except for the "Battles of Westeros" game, which I don't properly consider C&C anyway. I own all the expansions for C&C: Ancients, and I've very, very rarely played that. So, why do I get C&C: Napoleonics? Completism? Yes, that'd be why.

It's not like I don't have people who'd play it with me. I do! It's just that I have a lot of games I could play with them. Combat Commander. BattleLore. Memoir '44. Manoeuvre. Let's face it, I picked up Napoleon's War: The 100 Days recently along with its first two battle packs, and I really enjoy that game as well... and it's basically in the same design space as C&C:N. However, the lure of the wooden blocks and stickers was too much for me in the end.

I note with some sadness that the list of playtesters includes Dave Arneson, the co-creator of D&D, who died almost two years ago. D&D has been such a massive part of my life, that it's appropriate that I make mention of this. Unfortunately, I never interacted with him, not like my many messageboard conversations with Gary Gygax, so my points of contact with Dave Arneson consist only of the legacy of D&D, and the C&C boardgames he helped shape.

There were a few more games I ordered that didn't arrive in this post (and a few more games I ordered today), so I guess you'll see another blog post from me when they arrive. Until then, Good Gaming!
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Wed Feb 9, 2011 7:28 am
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Planning for my Greyhawk campaign

Merric Blackman
Australia
Waubra
Victoria
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Ramping up my reviewing.
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Microbadge: Ultimate Session ReporterMicrobadge: AD&D fan (1st edition)Microbadge: Doctor Who fanMicrobadge: Citizenship Recognition - Level II - If I have seen further, it's only by standing on the apex of other's dice.Microbadge: Geek of the Week
Well, this Friday, my D&D Greyhawk campaign gets back underway. When we left the group, they'd just finished killing some evil necromancer druids and gaining an artefact, the Mask of Riflis (or Rufus). I guess I better design what the Mask does, huh?

The major threats in the campaign from before are as follows:

Necromancers of the Verdant Way - the final few sessions before we broke were dealing with a group of Necromancers and Dark Druids that were drawing on a corrupted form of life-energy, drawn through the Mask of Riflis (an artefact of a one-time archdruid), to create undead abominations which were attacking the Free City of Greyhawk. You tracked them to their lair in the Forest of Shadows and basically killed them all and reclaimed the Mask.

This has made the druidic circle in Greyhawk very happy with Gillaine, Martin's dwarven druid; they're now discussing making her their leader.

However, the source of their power is still out there, and the druidic circle would like it investigated; that'll form the bulk of the next few sessions.

Archibald - Adam's old Warlock is still out there causing trouble. He's been working with the forces of Iuz from time to time, but it's unsure how much they're using him or that he's using them! The last time you saw him was at a ball held by relatives of Adam's new character, Maximillian, the bard. He was going into business with Adam's brother... foolish of the brother! What's going on there?

Doompriests of the Elder Elemental God - a few Doompriests (the guys in purple robes) have also been shadowing the group from time to time; they last were seen in action in the demiplane of Farika, which Archibald had trapped them in. There, they were responsible for the death of Lsuj (Adam's other character in this game). Yes, they'll be showing up again, but perhaps not for a few sessions.

Those are the main enemy forces active in the campaign - or formerly active.

Adam - now on his third character, a bard - has requested more City of Greyhawk material. Awesome idea. I'd set up a bunch of it before Nathaniel went on holiday. We'd had this party run by a lady, where they got to interact with a few important and interesting character. My notes for such were as follows:

Lord Kieron Raelthayer
• Teresa’s Grandfather
• Noble Lord & Merchant of Greyhawk
• 60s

Lady Eileen Starkweather
• Hostess of the party
• Her family makes her money through mining (so Diamond Lake mines, etc.)

Lady Rose Starkweather
• Daughter of Lady Eileen
• Father dead; Lady Eileen wants her to marry.
• She wants to be involved in the family business (and is smart enough), but Lady Eileen disapproves – her husband will become head of the business
• Good personality; but glasses and not attractive.
• 22 years old.

San, Guildmaster of Thieves
• On the Ruling Council. Is married and now middle-aged.
• Quite interested in reports of adventurers.

Lord Myka Traveller
• Young lord (30s), owns carters and other travelling merchants.
• Very worried about rise in bandit activity.
• Call me “Mike”.
• Greyhawk Shipping.

Maximilian Somerset
* Adam’s new character.

Horatio Somerset
* Adam's brother, involved in merchant deals with Archibald.

Here's a fun fact: Adam's old character was Archibald, the evil warlock who betrayed the party and now works against them... and his new character has a brother who is working with Archibald. Lots of fun entertainment due there!

Despite this interest in Greyhawk, I also want to run the new version of Tomb of Horrors, as it ties directly into the Verdant Necromancer plotline I was running. Astonishingly, the first section (The Garden of Graves) has corrupted fey/necromantic stuff, which is just perfect!

Unfortunately, it starts at 10th level (the PCs are currently 11th), and is not in the Free City - although the way the adventure works, divided into four sections which are intended to be separated by GM-created material, will allow more Greyhawk material from me in-between. So, a problem.

What I'm probably going to do is run Friday mostly as a Free City session, with a bunch of NPC interactions, and then for the next session continue into the Garden of Graves at some point.

The characters at present are...
* Will (Nathaniel), a half-elf ranger, who is the son of Nathaniel's previous character in my Greyhawk campaign. He's romantically involved with Teresa Corthan, the daughter of my main Greyhawk PC.
* Maximilian (Adam), a bard, the new addition to the team after Adam's first character betrayed them, and the second one was killed by an elemental summoned by a Doompriest.
* Drakult (Rich), a paladin, who is fairly undefined except as a do-gooder. I need to spend a bit more time defining some contacts for him.
* Gillaine (Martin), a dwarven druid, who is important to the plotline, but I really need to define her contacts more, especially the druidic circle she serves (or may soon be assuming control of!)

All are 11th level. We might have a fifth player joining, but I'm not sure yet if that will occur.
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Tue Feb 8, 2011 7:27 am
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A disrupted weekend of gaming

Merric Blackman
Australia
Waubra
Victoria
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Ramping up my reviewing.
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Happily playing games for many, many years.
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I was able to play some games this weekend, but fewer than I'd hoped for. This was entirely due to the rainstorm that occurred on Friday night, dumping almost another 100 mm of rain on our already sodden lands. It also caused a large puddle to form on the Sunraysia Highway on the way home, which I hit after concluding playing an D&D 4E session run by Martin. The consequent splashing of the car got into bits of the car that aren't meant to become damp... and the car then stopped.

Which was not a good place to be: at least 10km away from Ballarat, at 11pm, in the pouring rain.

Eventually, I was able to get a life back to Ballarat where I ended up on Martin's doorstep again. Martin and Peggy were very kind to me, and put me up for the night, drove me out to my car the next morning, then drove home, called the RACV (since we couldn't contact them from the highway for some reason) and drove back again. When the RACV finally came, it took them about 5 minutes of unscrewing bits of the engine and 20 seconds of blowing it dry before the car worked again. However, fearing the state of my road (a dirt one that had been badly washed away in the *last* rainstorm), I only got to the afternoon of the Board Game Day I'd planned, heading off home afterwards.

This was particularly disappointing as both Josh and I had picked up copies of the latest expansion to BattleStar Galactica, Exodus, and were eager to find out how it played. Josh may have gotten in a game, but - alas - I didn't.

What did I get to play? Well, I played Thunderstone with Rich, using the new Doomgate Legion expansion (and the Wrath of the Elements) set. It was not an inspiring game. We had a lot of cards that worked very badly together. The only hero who could use the good weapon had a penalty when using weapons; we had Magic Missile (only against Rank 1) with an archer (only against Ranks 2 & 3), and it got more depressing from there. A hero that worked with mercenaries, and no mercenaries in the village cards. All of what combined to form a very slow and depressing game. Rich scored very well considering he only gained 5 scoring cards in the game - about 27 points! I won with about 38, but 13 cards remained in the draw deck when we finished, as so many opponents just couldn't be defeated.

Thunderstone is really getting the tag of "not as good as Dominion" around here. Great theme, but it just feels clunky.

Rich and I also played his (German) copy of Thebes. The difference between the German and English versions lies entirely in the rulebook provided with the game, and there's one rule I keep forgetting (how long it takes to replenish cards in Warsaw). We persevered without that minor rule clarified, and Rich was astonished and not a little frustrated by my luck: my first 7 tile dig found 6 treasures, and that continued for most of the game. Rich didn't do that badly, but he was often just a lone turn behind me at arriving at the dig site, and was punished for it. Thebes is a very enjoyable game, but the randomness of the draw can break you.

The highlight of the afternoon was our play of Navegador, which Sarah joined us for. It was an intensely entertaining game, despite my complete dominance of the board. (I'd already played the game, which is part of the explanation for that). Sarah scored pretty effectively for someone who had only five colonies at the end and a handful of factories and never made the $500 per Merchant step that Rich and I were achieving. The most gratifying thing about the game was that Sarah and Rich were fascinated by it and will play it again; my first game with Neil and Paul was not so positive.

I definitely feel that 4 or 5 players might suit Navegador a lot more; I need to play it with that many players!

Sarah, alas, wasn't so enamoured of Hansa Teutonica (for which I've recently ordered the East Expansion), which is a great pity: I consider it one of my most interesting Eurogames. So many games you need the right players for, and I'm feeling now that I almost need a database of the reactions of players to various games so I know the right ones to bring in depending on the group!

It's another week until the Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon Board Game gets released. Unfortunately, there'll be no massive set of preview game session reports from me this time. I don't even know if the game's arrived yet at Good Games Ballarat!

There are a couple of boardgame orders that should be arriving in the post in the next couple of days; I'll post about them when they come.
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Tue Feb 8, 2011 7:02 am
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