Infinity: Attrition League Narrative

Intro:

78 hours ago, Sphere Standard Time, the PanOceanian salvage ship Ambition attempted to take in a Templar craft found adrift in the Human Edge near the gas giant HD 23523 c. The Ambition was attacked by a Combined Army ship as it was towing in the Templar craft. In the ensuing combat, all three ships were damaged and trapped in the gravity of the planet’s second moon, designated c/2173 (HD 23523).

With the HD 23523 system being too far from any circular route for timely reinforcement from the Sphere, patrols in the area were redirected to the moon to neutralize the Combined Army threat, and provide aid to any survivors.

The potential to quietly secure lost Templar technology while achieving their main objective has not been overlooked by any military command.

About  c/2173 (HD 23523):

Early colonization efforts were abandoned when what was thought to be a rich Teseum deposit was depleted not far below the surface. This left scattered collections of buildings across the otherwise gray, monotonous surface. The surface is composed primarily of shale, forming an irregular, soft landscape.

The atmosphere is breathable, but thin, and slightly acidic. The lack of maintenance following abandonment has allowed the acidity in the atmosphere to slowly wear at the structures, leaving them in varying degrees of instability.

Gravity is low, at about .75G. Considering the low gravity, soft, breakable landscape, and decaying structures, surface parties should be reminded to mind their footing. Any troops familiar with adjusting to peculiarities of terrain should have little difficulty.

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Play Report: Malazan Session III

At session II, which I missed, we introduced a new character: Sadddique, the rogue.

And at session III we introduced another, Timmie, using a Ranger variant i made a few days earlier, just removing spells in exchange for being able to take the fighting specialization repeatedly.

The party spent a lot of time split, and did a lot of information gathering and not a lot of murdering, more or less to their chagrin. More because they were itching for combat by the end, less because I think they’re getting pretty uncomfortable with all the morally ambiguous decisions working for the Empire is encouraging them to make.

They met another soldier named Jackal when they arrived at Darujhistan, and with them they brought some stolen trade goods and girl who’s not all there and they know to be a Soletaken. Jackal brought them to Fiddler and Quick Ben, of Bridgeburner fame, who have also snuck into Darujhistan at this time, and they handed the girl to their care. Timmie was introduced as the Empire’s contact for the Daru Thieve’s Guild, and so he was able to help the party fence the stolen goods – granting them a small source of income during their time in Darujhistan. From there they worked primarily at making contacts in the city.

First, they went among the people to get an idea of what’s going on in Darujhistan these days. The only really interesting tidbit they got in the markets was that the newest Council member was going to be holding a party that night. They set out to get into that party.

To that end, they split up and half of the party sought to make contact with a character the Thieve’s Guild knows only as “The Eel.” They were able to meet with one of The Eel’s agents at the Phoenix Inn, with a little bit of bribery, and the agent agreed to help get them into the party in exchange for doing some yet-unnamed task for The Eel. Simultaneously, the Thieve’s Guild was working on another way to get them in.

Meanwhile, the other half of the party, masquerading as a traveling merchant and part of his retinue, went to try to meet the Lord in question – Anish. They were unable to meet with Anish, but met with his senechal – Zavoz. Zavoz provided them with invitations.

The Thieve’s Guild had their names added to the list of extra contacted servants, but when they met with The Eel’s agent again, they were provided with uniforms of the regular servants, allowing them even easier access to the party. In exchange, they were given a packet of three dossiers on individuals The Eel wanted “taken care of.”

Once they were all at the party, they snuck around looking for anything incriminating they could blackmail Anush with, and stole a few things. They found evidence that Anish was personally meeting with a powerful wizard in the city, including shortly before his father died, giving him his council seat. They also were able to pick up another job from a different wizard, contracting them to “punish” a rival for “stealing” an apprentice. The “artist/art merchant” was able to secure an invitation to stay at Anish’s estate for the entire party, under the guise of them all being part of his retinue.

The next day, they set out to find a way in to the home of the apprentice-stealing wizard. They split up again. Half the party held a stakeout on the house, the other half tried to find a way through the tunnels under the city to get under the house. The half under the house encountered some armed Daru meeting with a wizard that the Claw member with them recognized as bearing the sigil of the Pannion Domin. They briefly engaged with the group and then parleyed, the wizard disappearing into the darkness during the exchange. The ones on the stakeout recognized one of their targets from the dossiers, and followed and attacked him. It turned out that he was a member of the assassin’s guild, and they revealed their other targets to him and he confirmed that they are all also assassins, and all on the same contract, but he didn’t know why The Eel would want them dead. They took him captive and hauled him off to their hideout behind Quip’s bar, hoping that The Eel’s eyes and ears would think they took him off somewhere to kill him and dump the body quietly.

I left this session really open ended, but the nature of the Empire makes it easy to make morally ambiguous decisions. The next session should have some opportunities to do Good things, which might be refreshing for us all.

Play Report: The Siege of Pale

The group playing the custom Malazan rules I’m working on with /u/prerus met and played through the first scenario, the Siege of Pale. They all seemed happy with how it went.

I’ve decided to go ahead and put details into these play reports, because I’m not planning to run this again or for other people concurrently.

Dramatis Personae:

2nd Army, 11th Mage Cadre:

  • Svea – Fenn Shaman (Ranger)
  • Caitriona – Human Healer (Wizard – Denul)
  • Boris – Human Mage (Wizard – Serc)

2nd Army, 10th Infantry Squad:

  • Kint – Barghast Heavy Infantry (Fighter)
  • S’ki’ps – Human Sapper (Rogue)

The Session started out with the PCs being escorted through the Imperial Warren, to finally arrive in camp outside of Pale. They are quickly whipped up into the ongoing combat when an injured soldier rushes them to defend some sappers working on the wall.

While guarding the sappers, they were attacked by 8 guards of Pale and a Demon. The Demon had damage resistance to everything physical, so the limited spellcasting definitely had an affect on how tough it was for them. The guards themselves were not an issue. Two NPCs were killed by the guards, and the Serc mage was rendered unconscious by the Demon, but the healer brought him back. I modified Spare the Dying to give 1 hit point, rather than only stabilize. That seemed to help. The healer was also the first to invent her own spell. We haven’t typed up and finalized Ranger yet so nobody outside of that table has seen it, but Svea was given a war dog (a mastiff she named Euphemius) as an animal companion at 1st level instead of 3rd, and will not be getting a fighting style at 2nd level, or Foe Slayer at 20th. Euphemius helped a good deal with the guards.

As the party and the sappers were preparing to move back from the wall, a chunk of Moon’s Spawn fell onto the wall, detonating the charges. The sappers were all killed in the blast. The PCs looked for survivors in the rubble. Svea found an 11th Mage Cadre corporal and took a necklace invested with Telas from his body. S’ki’ps found a dying sapper who explained the mission to him, and gave him munitions for the job.

The party was now charged with sneaking through the hole in the wall and into the tunnels under Pale, in order to strategically place charges to punch a hole in the wall of the inner keep. They would know the place under the keep walls by the otataral dust in the mortar.

The party proceeded through the hole in the wall, and into the tunnels under Pale, successfully evading notice of any guards. They moved a ways forward and then started resting. Rest was interrupted by the sound of approaching footsteps, so Svea and Kint, who were uninjured, moved forward and allowed the rest of the party to finish their rest. They encountered a single mage on patrol and Svea shot her through the throat before they were seen, killing her silently. They brought the body back to the crossing the others were resting at and left it there.

They continued again together, and ended up in front of another patrol. They decided to hide on either side of another crossing, and wait for the unsuspecting guards to stumble into their trap. The first guard was nearly liquified by their combined assault, and the other two made fairly short order with as well.

The party found a place under the wall and S’ki’ps placed the charges. They decided to proceed back the way they came before lighting the fuse. All but S’ki’ps proceeded to the landing point under the grate they entered the tunnels through. S’ki’ps waited until he could no longer see the burning fuse and climbed up to the surface with the rest of the party in time to see the Malazan forces pushing their way through rows of Pale’s defenders at the hole in the wall left by Moon’s Spawn and the explosives. One guard heard the players behind him just in time to turn and see the detonation underground shake the keep and bring part of the wall down. The players joined the rest of the 2nd Army and successfully overcame the guards and took the keep. Moon’s Spawn fled, presumably with the Governor of Pale who was never found. The Moranth were given their terrible Hour of Retribution. Another city belongs to the Malazan Empire.

All players received 175xp and a reward card noting that they can increase the level of a character they choose to use in any given session if their level is lower than the next lowest character selected.

D&D 5th Edition Starter Set Play Report

This play test happened on Sat Aug 9th, but just now getting around to finishing the play test. I’m going to keep the adventure details very vague since it’s a published adventure and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who may be planning to play it. Additionally, I’ve only played 4e once so when I make comparisons I’ll be comparing to 3e.

I ran this for two people, using the characters that came with the Starter Set. The characters were Thoradin Rockseeker, Dwarf Cleric, and Eldon Greenbottle Halfling Rogue. The adventure was The Lost Mine of Phandelver (comes with the 5e Starter Set.) We got about half way through after 9 hours

We were all concerned with how combat would run with only two PCs, but went ahead and gave it a try. The adventure doesn’t specify anywhere, that I saw, what number of PCs it is expecting. The first combat was the first real test of the system. We had gone over the character sheets and had some exposure to the new rules, and were able to get through combat with only having to look up one thing. I think that’s a good sign, so far. The first combat was challenging for only two PCs. Afterward the adventure provides for two options, one which suggests more danger and one which suggests safety, and given that pursuing more danger is an expected outcome I don’t believe that first combat was meant to be challenging. The PCs did both survive, but needed a rest and so pursued the option of supposed safety.

They arrived in town safely, and made contact with some of the NPCs and gathered information around town. They elected to, after resting the night, attempt to recruit help with continuing their quests. I selected a fighter, who I named Hesiod, from the other character sheets included in the set and provided them with the assistance of an NPC. From here on combat went much more smoothly. It actually felt a little too easy to me, but the PCs both seemed happy with the pacing. I will try to get them to provide me with some input that I can share with you, gentle reader.

I noted a few things about the combat. First, it seems like a lot more damage is slung around in 5e. I don’t consider this to be a bad thing, and it seems to be well balanced, but it does feel like combat goes faster, with a lot less repeatedly bashing on the same monster. There would be even more damage if criticals don’t need to be confirmed. The rules in the starter set don’t address confirming criticals, but we continued to use that rule. I have not yet read the new PHB despite owning it for several days now and needing to before tomorrow when I’m going to be trying out the local Adventurers League group at the local game shop.

Something adjacent to combat is the perception check rules. I like that perception is one skill. Having both listen and spot always sat strangely with me. I also like the passive perception check because it means I as the DM don’t have to raise suspicions by making a bunch of rolls or asking for rolls and then saying nothing happened. There were times, however, when I wanted better chances of success with perception checks. I assumed that the intended way of running the adventure, should the PCs choose to be sneaky, is to use the monsters passive perception checks against their sneak checks, but the monsters almost universally failed using their passive perception checks. I could, of course, make the decision to roll those checks instead and I may do that, and see if it escalates the challenge level when we continue this adventure.

Another thing adjacent to combat is the short vs long rest mechanic, which I believe to be entirely new in 5e. I remember 4e contained mechanics for each class to suddenly heal themselves, I think they were called healing bursts. It felt very hokey to me, but I like the short rest mechanic. It allows for the same little boost without having to spend an entire day in game, but restricts it to non-combat situations, and has a better thematic explanation for it. That was useful for my small party.

By the next combat situation, I brought another NPC along who was part of the story and it seemed reasonable to include him. The adventure didn’t seem to expect the aforementioned NPC to go along with them, but it seemed reasonable for that point in the story. That next “dungeon” was more challenging than the last, so adding the fourth combatant seemed to mostly keep it at about the same level. The PCs and my NPCs all took hits, and needed to use that short rest about half way through, but it didn’t have the deadly edge I tend to like personally. My players seemed happy with it though, and that’s more important. That was the last combat scenario of that day.

Another thing I did that may have made the combat encounters easier was that I allowed them to level up immediately, rather than needing to rest or to rest in a safe place. I do not know what is intended to happen in 5e, but the difficult beginning lead me to try to ease things up a bit.

Overall, I enjoyed running the game and my players enjoyed playing it, the system was smooth and easy to use. In addition, while I would make my calls to keep the game going smoothly anyway, the new rules encourage doing that, and I like that. In addition to just being smooth and easy to use, everything has a good production quality in a lot of ways. The quality of editing is good, and there is a handy index on the back of the adventure telling you what page in the starter set rules to reference for each mechanic referenced in the adventure. I can’t quite get over how great that is. The quality of the materials is nice too. Quality paper, a nice texture on the new books. I’m generally very impressed with the thought, time, and effort that went in to all the 5e materials, rules, and the Phandelver adventure itself. It’s easy to follow, I haven’t ran in to any inconsistencies, the NPCs provided in the adventure have enough detail to portray easily, there are compelling side quests, and the adventure doesn’t feel like a railroad. It leads the PCs down a clear path, but doesn’t drag them, they have freedom of choice and will end up where they need to end up, most likely.

 

I don’t know when I’ll be able to finish the adventure, but when I do I intend to write another report with additional thoughts. If you’ve played this adventure, or done anything else with 5e, or even just looked at the rules, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Paranormal Investigations of Los Angeles

Another short post. My friends for whom I developed the Tarot rules I posted last time voted for Urban Fantasy, so I’m writing that up for them. It’ll be ready to run soon, and then I can do a play report once that happens. For now, here’s the little introductory text block I’m giving them.

Hey, guys…

You work out of a small warehouse in Midtown. It’s hardly a warehouse. More of a large storage space. The three of you have set yourselves up against the long side walls of the often too-warm main room, often staring at your individual computer screens, displaying nothing of particular interest. One of you occasionally gets up to shoo away a prostitute or drug dealer loitering outside your “office,” obscuring the sign that reads “Paranormal Investigations of Los Angeles – When it’s too weird for anyone else.” The police chatter coming from the radios on each of your desks is normal for this time of day – lots of traffic stops, a DUI arrest in progress that you’re betting dinner on getting violent. The phone rings. You feel weird about having a desk phone in 2014, but it makes it feel more like a job. It’s your turn to answer the phone, you pick up the receiver, prepared to say “you have a wrong number,” but before you can even say “LA PI, how can I help you?” the other voice says “We have a job for you.” and hangs up. You hear something slide under the office door. You consider that this job might be getting too weird for you too, as you stand and seek the attention of your colleagues: “Hey, guys…”

 

Let me know if you think it’s an affective hook. Or if you want to see more of this adventure.