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90s Cringe Rock
Nov 29, 2006
:gay:


Tuxedo Catfish posted:

Tolkien's elves should basically be understood as human beings without Original Sin (although they can be and frequently are huge loving assholes entirely of their own volition), and make zero sense outside of an extremely Catholic context.
Are you saying that Fëanor may have, perhaps, not done nothing wrong? And that the War of Teleri Aggression might have been some kind of unprovoked and unjustified brutal massacre of his Teleri kin, a kinslaying if you will?

But yeah, they're kind of humans except their fëar and hröar are properly in-tune, making them superhuman immortals who only started dying because of Melkor marring the world.

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Tuxedo Catfish
Mar 17, 2007

You've got guts! Come to my village, I'll buy you lunch.


90s Cringe Rock posted:

Are you saying that Fëanor may have, perhaps, not done nothing wrong? And that the War of Teleri Aggression might have been some kind of unprovoked and unjustified brutal massacre of his Teleri kin, a kinslaying if you will?

There are some interesting parallels between Feanor and Adam (in terms of him basically casting himself out of Eden, committing a horrible crime that he passed on to his sons, and his soul existing in a Hell-like state awaiting his personal redemption in the final battle against Morgoth at the end of the world) but exactly how, when, and whether this applies depends on the Second Prophecy of Mandos, which Christopher Tolkien claims his father abandoned.

Meanwhile, I find it hard to read this part:

90s Cringe Rock posted:

But yeah, they're kind of humans except their fëar and hröar are properly in-tune, making them superhuman immortals who only started dying because of Melkor marring the world.

as anything but "elves are capable of volitional evil, but either don't or barely have concupiscence."

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





If you mean that JRRs elves weren’t that horny, I think you are correct. :chast2b:

90s Cringe Rock
Nov 29, 2006
:gay:


Nessus posted:

If you mean that JRRs elves weren’t that horny, I think you are correct. :chast2b:
We all know about the tentacles, yes. Thanks Elise. Thelise.

Warthur
May 2, 2004

WEIRD LOOKIN' DICK

Dawgstar posted:

So they tried to make the Dragonmen in terrible CGI?

Not only that, but it's one of the few movies I've encountered where the CGI is so cheap you can see the framerate visibly drop at points.

1994 Toyota Celica
Sep 11, 2008

by Nyc_Tattoo


Snorb posted:

Direct quote from the Characters and Combat book here:


To be fair, though, XXVc assumes that said AD&D characters are going to entirely use their weapons, as opposed to having the wizard drop Meteor Swarm on RAM Corporate Headquarters. (XXVc's mum on whether magic will actually work in our solar system if you and the gang decide to take a little trip out of Faerun.)

I'm assuming that my fighter will want to pick up a monosword on this little side trip to this strange realm before we get back to our fantasy campaign!

Yeah, this is more what I'm interested in: if your high level AD&D second edition plane-hopping campaign somehow got their Spelljammer to 25th century Sol, how would they stack up

because tbh, that sounds like a much more fun way to tip the scales against RAM than Buck Rogers waking up: a posse of double-digit level Faerunian murderhobos shows up through a portal and just starts taking on the obvious evil empire.

Seatox
Mar 12, 2012


1994 Toyota Celica posted:

Yeah, this is more what I'm interested in: if your high level AD&D second edition plane-hopping campaign somehow got their Spelljammer to 25th century Sol, how would they stack up

because tbh, that sounds like a much more fun way to tip the scales against RAM than Buck Rogers waking up: a posse of double-digit level Faerunian murderhobos shows up through a portal and just starts taking on the obvious evil empire.

Even if magic works in 25th century Sol-space, if you're using Spelljammer rules your Cleric is going to have a miserable time getting their spells back, because there's no local allied god to petition for a recharge - unless they're high enough level to cast Gate, which lets their god reach them.

But then you're letting an AD&D Faerunian god get their tentacles into an alien cosmology, and, well, see the general thread opinion of those assholes.

...also, digging out my Spelljammer PDF, a spelljammer ship moves at 100 million miles a day in a straight line outside of a gravity well, and Spelljammer helms break all kinds of physical laws about inertia. It would be a serious Out Of Context Problem for RAM to try and catch a Spelljammer vessel, but there's a fun adventure seed right there - everyone in sol space would want to get their hands on a Spelljammer vessel.

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

Spewing insults, pissing off all your neighbors, betraying your allies, backing out of treaties and accords, and generally screwing over the global environment?
ALL PART OF MY BRILLIANT STRATEGY!


Seatox posted:

everyone in sol space would want to get their hands on a Spelljammer vessel.

Don't forget that they'd want to get their hands on a mage to power it, too.

GimpInBlack
Sep 27, 2012

That's right, kids, take lots of drugs, leave the universe behind, and pilot Enlightenment Voltron out into the cosmos to meet Alien Jesus.


Seatox posted:

Even if magic works in 25th century Sol-space, if you're using Spelljammer rules your Cleric is going to have a miserable time getting their spells back, because there's no local allied god to petition for a recharge - unless they're high enough level to cast Gate, which lets their god reach them.

But then you're letting an AD&D Faerunian god get their tentacles into an alien cosmology, and, well, see the general thread opinion of those assholes.

...also, digging out my Spelljammer PDF, a spelljammer ship moves at 100 million miles a day in a straight line outside of a gravity well, and Spelljammer helms break all kinds of physical laws about inertia. It would be a serious Out Of Context Problem for RAM to try and catch a Spelljammer vessel, but there's a fun adventure seed right there - everyone in sol space would want to get their hands on a Spelljammer vessel.

Isn't at least one Faerûnian minor pantheon literally just the ancient Egyptian gods because some Red Wizard millennia ago gated in a bunch of slaves from the real world to build his pyramids or something? I bet you could use that to rules lawyer your way into using Earth-Horus as a go-between to Faerûn-Horus and any of his divine allies, for instance.

(I hate that I still remember that much Realmslore from my callow youth.)

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018



GimpInBlack posted:

Isn't at least one Faerûnian minor pantheon literally just the ancient Egyptian gods because some Red Wizard millennia ago gated in a bunch of slaves from the real world to build his pyramids or something? I bet you could use that to rules lawyer your way into using Earth-Horus as a go-between to Faerûn-Horus and any of his divine allies, for instance.

(I hate that I still remember that much Realmslore from my callow youth.)

Yes.

Dave Brookshaw
Jun 27, 2012

No Regrets


Yup. Ed’s whole “Elminster is my friend and I am transcribing our conversations” schtick comes from the Realms being a portal fantasy. In-setting, only Dragons, Giants, Dopplegangers (yes, really), Lizardfolk and... uh... one other are native to Abeir-Toril. Everyone else is the result of portal immigration. Where realms civilisations resemble Earth ones, it’s because they literally are Egyptian / Mesopotamian / Mongol people transported from Earth millennia ago. Orcs arrived late enough that the Orcgate Wars are in the Realms’ dated history, preceding World of Warcraft’s similar treatment of them by decades.

And, again, I wish I had spent my youth better, that I might not know this poo poo.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Baldur's Gate came out the same year I started playing RPGs, I was never not going to know more about faerun than I should.

Robindaybird
Aug 21, 2007

Neat. Sweet. Petite.



Warthur posted:

Not only that, but it's one of the few movies I've encountered where the CGI is so cheap you can see the framerate visibly drop at points.

it was so atrocious looking, the non-cgi characters look like the dregs of 80s fantasy cartoons (I mean DL is pretty 70s-80s but it doesn't have to look like it's been animated in that era) and the CGI from the mid-90s.

Warthur
May 2, 2004

WEIRD LOOKIN' DICK

Robindaybird posted:

it was so atrocious looking, the non-cgi characters look like the dregs of 80s fantasy cartoons (I mean DL is pretty 70s-80s but it doesn't have to look like it's been animated in that era) and the CGI from the mid-90s.
I honestly think it would have been better to just be 100% 1980s-style, then at least a) it could be claimed to be a homage to that aesthetic and b) it would have an actual unified aesthetic rather than horrible traditional animation and horrible CGI with no effort to smoothly blend the two whatsoever.

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!





The Anvil of Time Adventure

Some people have already asked in some forums regarding the general playability of time travel. Time Reaver is a 9th-level Sorcerer/Wizard Spell,* while the Device of Time Journeying is in possession of the Master of the Tower of Wayreth and will inevitably fall back into the original owner’s hands if stolen. What of lower-level adventuring parties, and those who do not necessarily want to deal with the aforementioned wizards?

*meaning you’d need to be 17th-18th level to learn it.

Well this adventure provides such an answer with a bonafide time machine dungeon suitable for four 5th-level PCs! The synopsis is that the Anvil of Time is a magical structure built back in the halcyon 2nd Age (Age of Dreams) so that its users could travel through time. An adventurer trapped in the place manages to teleport the PCs into the complex in order to help him get out, and in order to do so they must gather three crystals from the dungeon in different time periods to rebuild the exit portal. Although the overall layout of the dungeon is the same, its inhabitants and state of affairs change based on the time period in question.

Fun Fact: the Anvil of Time was originally published in Dungeon Magazine #86, the first proper Dragonlance Adventure for 3rd Edition. It was written by Tracy Hickman himself to boot, and had very light material on adapting setting material to the new D20 System. It even had some art which wasn’t reprinted in Legends of the Twins, most notably of Huma being a badass. Here’s a few samples:







Our adventure opens up during the 4th Age* when they are approached by a bard looking for a means to earn his keep, and offers to tell them a story of Glory or Doom in exchange for a pittance. A story of Glory has him speak of Huma Dragonbane, legendary knight whose example would go on to form the Knights of Solamnia, and one of his lesser-known adventures where he and his good friend Magius pursued a terrible dragon to a mysterious place known as the Anvil of Time. A story of Doom tells of one of Lord Soth’s lesser-known tales when he and a retinue of Solamnic knights in the service of the Kingpriest hunted down a group of Black Robe wizards in a mysterious place known as the Anvil of Time…

Then the PCs teleport in the middle of the tale, a sensation akin to falling from the world through a tunnel of light.

*Age of Despair when the original Chronicles are set

The Anvil of Time is a 34 room dungeon, but the PCs have the opportunity to venture to the same complex during the 2nd Age (Age of Dreams) and 3rd Age (Age of Might). It is in these Ages the PCs can meet the aforementioned characters and their quarries from the bard’s tale. In order to escape the dungeon they must find three transport crystals required for the exit portal’s operation. And as said transport crystals are long-gone in the Age of Despair, they must be found in the earlier Ages. And in order to get into said earlier ages, the PCs must find slips of paper containing Transport Codes detailing the proper number coordinates to time-travel in a special room. The complex’s location proper is beneath the ruins of the City of Lost Names in the wastelands of northern Ansalon, and the adventure discourages the party from exploring too far outside*: obstacles range from a Dragonarmy or Solamnic knight battalion outside in the 3rd or 4th Ages, or being attacked and burned down by red dragons in the 2nd Age. Given that the city in most cases is but a ruined heap and surrounded by wasteland, this feels rather artificial as a barrier.

*a hole in the exit portal room’s roof leads up there.

The adventure is quite descriptive in places on how to set different atmospheres as well as the effects of time travel in the dungeon. During the 4th Age the Anvil’s fallen into disrepair and much of its rooms are dust-choked, its treasure almost entirely stripped by looters. In the Age of Might, Fistandantilus’ wizards have been renovating the place while the archmage’s clone makes use of research in the library. In the Age of Dreams, the place’s foundations are far stronger and while still old are not decrepit. A giant dragon skeleton in the 3rd and 4th Ages is the very dragon Huma and the PCs fight in the 2nd Age, while the after-effects of battle in rooms reconfigure based on said PCs’ actions in earlier Ages. However, you cannot “duplicate” treasure by taking an item from a later Age and going back in time to retrieve it in an earlier Age: there’s only one of said item, and if taken it’s presumed to have been with the PCs all this time in the intervening centuries/millennia.

During the 4th Age the dungeon’s mostly inhabited by ghouls and draconian looters,* both of whom are in a sour mood on account of the Anvil’s relative lack of warm edible flesh and treasure respectively. The person responsible for teleporting the PCs, a disreputable rogue part of a now-slaughtered group of adventurers, is Darmath Goodfellow. He’s eager to use the PCs at a chance of escape and will explain how they need to find the transport gems to power the exit portal. But he is not averse to turning on them if he figures another group has a better chance of helping him escape (or sparing him) and is Chaotic Evil in alignment.

*The 2nd and 3rd Ages have minotaur or Ergothian looters instead, who are opportunistic scavengers hostile to the other factions but will not seek out combat unless they have a clear upper hand or the PCs run into them.

A few rooms contain descriptions of the Anvil of Time’s features, and are quite complicated (averaging one page worth of description per mechanism) so I’m going to sum them up best I can: a Crystal Globe is used to view images of the outside world in the current Age and teleport people into the Anvil of Time, and thus transport people out to a desired location once the coordinates are set. The PCs put the 3 transport crystals into slots to power the device; its current image is the place where they were hearing the bard’s tale, who now appears frozen in time:



There’s a magical elevator known as the Up-Down which has teleportation portals set in the walls and floors of identical rooms in a continuous loop; you go to a desired floor by grabbing a colored stone corresponding to a specific level from a convenient nearby bowl, and the stone slows down one’s descent until you can safely “air walk” to the proper level:



A room containing a device known as a Transfinite Repeater has a rotary display of 12 numbers designed to accept transport codes, and said rotary is changed by cranking one of three giant winches in respective nearby rooms:





The Transfinite Repeater’s room contains a window looking out into a giant cube straight out of an MC Escher painting:



This cube room is the Anvil of Time proper and from which the dungeon derives its name. Each ‘wall’ and floor of the room corresponds to one of Krynn’s six Ages, the final Age being an as-yet unknown and unpublished Age. Entering in a transport code to a certain Age reorients the cube so that said Age is on the floor level. People on the other sides still exist, but are considered to be in a different time period and thus phase through each other and seem to be on their own gravity orientation but can oddly be witnessed and spoken to. This last part will be found out when the PCs encounter a party of elven soldiers on the 2nd Age side who attempt to arrest them for being “suspicious,” only for their arrows to harmlessly phase through the party.

It should be noted that the above devices’ natures can be discovered via successful Knowledge checks or have it explained by an NPC who understands the Anvil’s workings, although besides Darmath the latter options are all in earlier Ages.

The Anvil in the Age of Might: The Anvil at this time takes place a mere few years before the Cataclysm. The dungeon is inhabited by Solamnic Knights who are slowly winning ground against the Black Robe Wizards; the former are suspicious of the PCs and barring a Diplomacy check, aiding them in combat, or a promise to help them kill the mages, they will presume the party to be on the wizards’ side. The wizards are here on a super-secret mission by Fistandantilus and so will not tolerate any intruders. Should the PCs choose not to intervene, the adventure also suggests running combat between the two factions round by round (hah!) or presuming that a given room has the knights win but lost all but 1d10 HP instead. Being squishy arcanists, the wizards will attack intruders through arrow slits and use the Up-Down elevator to attack from different levels.

The PCs can also meet Lord Soth in his pre-evil undead state, but signs of his fall are apparent given his obsessive single-mindedness of the mission. A Simulacrum of Fistandantilus can be fought, and although greatly weakened and running out of spells from earlier combat is still very dangerous on account of having a high caster level and Fireball traps set in strategic choke points by the wily wizard. One other notable encounter includes an animated bronze statue with electrical-powered fists thanks to an internal Wand of Shocking Grasp powering its blows.* A ghostly gnome and former living inhabitant of the Anvil is remote-controlling the statue to defend the complex against intruders, and she initially presumes the PCs to be up to no good.

*and whose charges are drained per attack.

The Anvil in the Age of Dreams: A party of Silvanesti elves are accompanying Huma Dragonbane and Magius in hunting down a red dragon who took refuge in the Anvil of Time. The dungeon at this point is in its best condition, and its rooms have the largest amount of magical treasure. The red dragon has amassed a considerable hoard in the room with the exit portal and is very strong: Challenge Rating 10 with an 8d10 breath weapon and melee attacks all but guaranteed to hit PCs at this level. The adventure recommends making the fight with said dragon super-cinematic, where fire breaths, tail swipes, and area of effect spells cause pillars and walls to break, granting granting access to adjacent rooms and forming debris which can cause damage from falling or serve as cover. Fortunately the PCs have a chance at gaining the aid of Huma and the elven soldiers. The elves are mostly dicks, speak only in an antiquated form of Elven which doesn’t translate perfectly to its modern counterpart, and whose leader is the most likely to meet the PCs on non-violent terms.

Huma Dragonbane and a Silvanesti cleric are in a room inspecting a Dragonlance and trying to figure out its properties, while Magius is in the library and may tolerate an interruption from his research to answer questions. Said ancient library is entirely in the language of the irda (good-aligned ogres) and has a few books of events which have yet to pass in the current history. There’s a few easter eggs of IRL novels with titles such as Draconian Measures and the Annotated Dragonlance Chronicles.

The named NPCs are quite powerful, although not overly-so: Huma is 8th level, Magius 10th, the elven leader and cleric 5th, and the 8 elven soldiers 3rd level Warriors. The dragon’s guaranteed to kill the latter with a well-placed breath weapon and possibly Magius and the Silvanesti leaders with some focused strikes, but with a Dragonlance Huma has a good chance of putting on the hurting. It’s likely that the party can easily overwhelm the dragon due to sheer action economy alone.

And in case you’re wondering, no, Soth and Huma’s parties will not accompany the PCs to different time periods given that they still have much work to do in their own eras. And if Huma is ever in danger of dying then Magius will step in at the last moment and teleport him to safety, for he has a destiny to defeat Takhisis.

When the PCs manage to go through the exit portal, they appear before the bard who continues his story as though nothing happened. He includes some exaggerated descriptions of notable actions two or three PCs performed in the appropriate Age as he finishes the story, and will be surprised at the notice of any new treasure or survivors which seemingly appeared out of nowhere. He will be interested in said unusual changes and ask if the party has any tales worth telling about them.

Magazine/Legends Changes: the bard has his own stat block in the adventure although entirely unnecessary given he never takes part in combat. In the Dungeon Magazine adventure he was a Bard classwise, but to reflect the lack of “primal sorcery/spontaneous spellcasting” during the 4th Age he has levels in Master (Performer). Master can be summed up as Skill User: the Class from the War of the Lance sourcebook. Several other stat blocks are changed to make use of material from the Dragonlance sourcebooks, such as Huma having levels in Knight of the Crown and Magius/Fistandantilus levels in Wizard of High Sorcery Prestige Classes. Lord Soth is a much-stronger 10th level Paladin in Dungeon, but a 7th level Fighter in Legends.

There’s notes on how to scale the adventure for higher or lower-level parties, a common thing in Dungeon Magazine. Most of them involved changing the number of creatures or or changing the red dragon’s age category.

The Silvanesti Warriors and Black Robe Wizard mooks are all dudes in Dungeon Magazine, but in Legends of the Twins are given a more even gender parity.

Darmath’s stat block is reworked to give him a better Bluff check (+8 instead of +3) in the Legends sourcebook given the adventure mentions he will “lie to save his skin.” The ghost gnome’s an Expert in Dungeon, a Rogue in Legends.

There are stat blocks for draconians and kender in the appendix in Dungeon.

Thoughts So Far: This is a pretty nifty dungeon crawl. Some of the time travel and device mechanics may be a bit complicated to explain, which may not be to every group’s liking. The Anvil serves as a useful “home base” of sorts for making forays into other eras, although its remote location on Ansalon places it out of the grasp of the party once they finish said adventure until they travel to the aforementioned City of Lost Names. It feels a bit too easy to end up in combat with the “good factions” in this module, and a bit hard to narratively discuss how the PCs may be on good terms with Soth/Huma/etc when they’re covered in the blood of their companions. And while most encounters are simple “war of attrition” style fights dungeons are renowned for, the presence of allied NPCs risks making the dungeon crawl too easy depending on the PC makeup.

Concluding Thoughts: And so we come to an end of the Legends of the Twins review. I hope that those reading along found it an entertaining one, even if Dragonlance is not everyone's cup of tea.

As to my next review, both choices were popular, but I’m going to begin work on the Towers of High Sorcery. Once I finish that review, I’ll tackle War of the Lance next.

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

Spewing insults, pissing off all your neighbors, betraying your allies, backing out of treaties and accords, and generally screwing over the global environment?
ALL PART OF MY BRILLIANT STRATEGY!


I feel like probably the biggest challenge would be accounting for changes from, say, the 2nd Age propagating into the 3rd and 4th. It suggests having the dragon knock down a wall, sure, but what if that wall no longer being present would considerably change the balance of power between the battling parties in the 3rd age?

Also Magius and Huma have plot armor, but what about, say, Soth? His death would considerably alter the timeline.

Not to mention, uh, you'd figure that Magius, being a clever wizard fella, would figure out that he's found a time machine and make use of it... in fact what does the adventure suggest happens if the players blab about the Anvil's purpose and capabilities to any of the locals?

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

PurpleXVI posted:

I feel like probably the biggest challenge would be accounting for changes from, say, the 2nd Age propagating into the 3rd and 4th. It suggests having the dragon knock down a wall, sure, but what if that wall no longer being present would considerably change the balance of power between the battling parties in the 3rd age?

Also Magius and Huma have plot armor, but what about, say, Soth? His death would considerably alter the timeline.

Not to mention, uh, you'd figure that Magius, being a clever wizard fella, would figure out that he's found a time machine and make use of it... in fact what does the adventure suggest happens if the players blab about the Anvil's purpose and capabilities to any of the locals?

:shrug: None of these questions are answered in the adventure. :shrug:

The walls of Rooms 18 and 24 are the ones the red dragon will knock down if she gets the chance to, but the meat of the knight/wizard fighting occurs in the western portion of the Anvil. Although there are indications that the wizards have been elsewhere such as Room 32 which is very close to 24.

DAD LOST MY IPOD
Feb 3, 2012

Fats Dominar is on the case





The Great Modron March Part 11: Floral Reckoning

We're closing in on the end here. The modrons have made it nearly all the way around the Great Ring and even now tromp through Gehenna, the volcanic lawful evil/neutral evil plane and home of the yugoloths. The bright side is that they're back on the Order side of the Great Ring, which is presumably safer than the Chaos side; on the other hand, having weathered Limbo and The Abyss (which severely reduced the March's numbers) there aren't many of the little pikers left. Canny bloods who remember the first post in this series will recall that, as modrons on the March die, others are promoted, ensuring that only the toughest survive-- so while the March is a lot smaller than it used to be, at least its remnants can mostly take care of themselves.

The various fiends and sundry other inhabitants of the Lower Planes don't bear the modrons any particular animosity, at least not over and above their generalized omnidirectional hatred of everything. Others, though, have their eyes on the reduced March. Foremost among these are the Tacharim, an evil planar order of "knights" that the aforementioned canny bloods may recall from episode 3. There, the Tacharim attacked the March in search of Modron parts, hoping to use them to create an army of "modronized" warriors. The Tacharim's headquarters are located in Gehenna, and as the March passes by, they're not going to pass up an opportunity for a really big score.

The modrons are currently in Gehenna, having found a secret portal in the marshes near the gate-town of Torch. They're tromping through Khalas, the furnace-like first layer of the evil plane. Gehenna's layers take the form of massive "earthbergs" that resemble nothing so much as two huge volcanos set base-to-base. Khalas's volcanos are active, and visitors face the twin perils of bursting lava flows and steep slopes. There's basically no flat ground anywhere on the plane, and gravity doesn't orient itself towards the ground like in some other planes. If you fall, you might fall right off into the void between earthbergs-- that is, if you're not torn to shreds by the jagged terrain on the way down. Anyone walking around who's not protected from heat takes 1d2 damage every round.

However, the PCs probably start in Sigil. They're visited there by Sir Vaimish Crasad, a paladin of Excelsior who they had the pleasure of dealing with the last time they faced the Tacharim together. Crasad's a good guy, and he's here with good news: his allies have tracked the evil Tacharim to their lair and are even now preparing to put an end to them. He's come to thank the PCs for their help earlier, but he waves off any offer of help. If the PCs insist, he'll put his foot down, insisting that they leave the Tacharim to him and his men; he can't risk bystanders' lives on such a dangerous errand. He will do everything he can to dissuade the PCs, and if they actually start to follow him, he'll slip through a portal at the very last moment to keep them from using it.

This, I don't like. The PCs are almost certain to assume that "help Crasad" is the adventure hook, and they should want to, too, since he's a nice dude and the Tacharim are major bad news. The players will surely assume that they're supposed to go with him and his protestations to the contrary are just playing hard to get. It also sort of beggars belief that he'd push back so hard, especially since he knows the PCs can handle themselves in a fight. If I were running this I would rework the timeline so they either hear about Crasad's mission after he's departed (from a letter or something) or just... go along with him. It would require some retooling of the later portions of the adventure to account for his presence, but that's not impossible.

Anyways, assume Crasad pops in, tells the PCs "we're about to go smite some fools gg no re" and peaces out before they can follow him. A few days later, the PCs are preparing to go out on the town or on an adventure or whatever when there's a knock at the door, followed closely by the sound of a body hitting the ground outside. When they open the door, it's poor old Crasad, looking somewhat the worse for wear. He's covered in burns, missing an eye, and parts of his flesh look like metal plates have been peeled off him. Any attempt to heal him with magic fails and the motes of magic sizzling against his skin visibly pain him.

"Ain't gonna work, friends... the Tacharim took care of that when they welded those modron plates to my body. Ruined all chance of magical recovery, and my body's not going to last long without it. 'Fore I go, I've got to ask a favor of you... please, travel to Torch, pass through the gate to Gehenna, and look for their headquarters, the Flower Infernal. It's pretty easy to get there... the Tacharim are starting to wear a trail. Y'have to sneak up, and probably in. They have guards posted all over the place. When you get in, find the prison and free my brother. And if the cursed sods who run the place have done to him what they did to me, kill him. Then torch the place. Please."

With this, Crasad passes out, lingering in pained unconsciousness for a few hours before finally dying. There's no magical healing allowed, and only a wish can save him. From here, the PCs have the choice to disregard his words and carry on with their lives, or plan an attack on the Tacharim, for revenge or just for the good of the planes. Hope they pick the latter 'cause that's the adventure!

It's not too hard to get to Torch, and while it's not fully described here, the other Planescape materials have plenty on it. I'd linger in the town for a bit, since the adventure notes that it's changed. Never a nice place (gate-towns to the Lower Planes seldom are), Torch is gripped by superstition and paranoia right now, since something has been waylaying caravans outside of town. The survivors of these attacks claim that they were attacked by metal men and mechanical creatures. The people of Torch assume that the March (which just passed through here) left a few rogue modrons behind in the hills, and they're responsible. There's a lively debate on this, since going rogue is pretty rare especially on the lawful side of the Ring, but the town is preparing for potential modron invasion. They're in a siege mentality, and that should be apparent to the PCs from the start. The adventure actually takes place in Gehenna, but the PCs might want to stick around Torch for a session to gain info and prepare, especially since the portals are somewhat hard to take. There's one in the marshes, but it's not well known at all. Fortunately the modrons' trail makes it pretty easy to find, but it's still hours of wading through muck and mire, and PCs are likely to catch a nasty disease. Alternatively, they could take the well-known midair portals in Torch, but those come with their own hazards. See, traditionally, the way into Gehenna involves climbing the spires of Torch and leaping off to jump through a midair gate; this requires a Dex check to climb and another one at -2 to jump. Failing the second leads to 20d6 falling damage, so basically nobody just jumps hoping for the best. Flying magic is ideal, but PCs are creative. This portal puts the PCs a bit closer to the Tacharim base, but it's up to the PCs which one they use.

It's not too hard to locate the Flower Infernal. For one thing, it's a gigantic flower! It's two stories tall and occupies an island in one of Khalas's jagged canyons. A thousand feet below, the stinking waters of the Styx foam and froth. The plant itself is metallically dense, possibly as a result of its roots reaching down into the heavy waters below. Its nine jagged, hollow petals thrust skyward and reflect the volcanic red glow of Khalas. The Tacharim have hollowed out the stalk and petals of the flower to make their home. They discovered a seed pod in the center of the Flower that, when exposed to heat, can cause the entire structure to rotate, and individual petals to raise and lower; they use this to turn the petals into "drawbridges" that let them access their home, or keep it safe from invaders. This is a very effective tactic, since it lets them divide and isolate an invading force within the petals (this is probably what happened to poor Crasad's paladins). The Tacharim have bribed the various fiends of Gehenna to leave them alone, and here they carry out their twisted experiments. They've kidnapped modrons and humanoids alike, and used parts from the former to augment the latter. Their eventual goal is an army of modronized soldiers, deadly and loyal.



PCs who see the flower might recognize it as the logo from the Tacharim's armor in Chapter III. It's pretty clear this is where their enemies are, but how to get in? Crasad wasn't kidding about the guards. Only one drawbridge petal is down at a time, and the guards are on edge. They all carry bronze horns and are deployed so that they can see and reinforce each other quickly. A large force is not going to slip in unseen. However, there are options. The most obvious one is magic: invisibility and silence spells work here, and while the Tacharim have set tripwires (and the uneven terrain poses its own hazards) there's no reason that the PCs couldn't walk right into Mordor. Another option is the ol' stormtrooper gambit. The organization is big enough that not everyone knows everyone, and it should be easy enough to waylay a small patrol and lay hands on their super-duper-cool black armor. The PCs might still give themselves away by doing or saying something stupid, but this might actually get them in the door. Ambushing a patrol can also get the PCs some good information: the Tacharim are gearing up for a major attack on the March, to get all the modrons they'll ever need. Even if the PCs don't really like the modrons at this point, they'll surely want to stop an evil force from laying hands on an army like that. The March is about a day away from the strike point, so... chop chop!

There are 250 or so Tacharim in the Flower, a mixture of 2nd and 4th level Fighters, plus various servants and staff. Their commander is Doran Blackarm, a 12th level Fighter who's been... enhanced with some modron parts. Specifically, nonaton legs, which make her super-fast and able to leap 40 feet at once. She's dedicated, professional, and competent, and she knows all the guards by sight, so the ol' "I'm new here!" trick won't work on her.

There's one other person in the fortress who the PCs might recognize: Valran Stonefist, from the fifth chapter. You may recall him as a mad wizard experimenting along very similar lines to the Tacharim. The two of them hooked up, compared notes, and decided to join forces. Access to the Tacharim's resources have led Valran to a breakthrough, and he's successfully accomplished his goal: he's transplanted his brain in the body of a decaton modron. The change didn't destroy his sanity, either, though he's more aggressive a bit more lawful (and thus less intuitive) than he used to be. If he sees the PCs, he'll certainly remember them, though they might not have parted on bad terms last time. If they weren't hostile before, he'll assume they've come to join up with the Tacharim, and he's eager to share his discoveries and what he's been up to.

"By keeping a piece of the modron brain within the body, not only do we cure the modron madness, we also ensure that there's a built-in tendency to follow orders in the new modronoids. Of course, it tends to slow down the mental processes of some bashers, and it still drives others completely barmy, but that's a small price to pay for an army of creatures like this, eh?"

Yeah, he's still nuts.

Valran will show them around, but even he gets suspicious after a while. Of course, if the last time they met they parted on bad terms, he'll call for the guards right away. He's pretty beefy himself, now; he still has access to his old spells, including disintegrate, globe of invulnerability, polymorph other and lightning bolt, plus he has the decaton body's natural armor and attacks, plus spell-like abilities to buff and heal other modrons.

Here, have a map:


The drawbridges are barred by portcullises, each carved with magic-nullifying runes. Archers can fire through the bars, and they have murder holes above them, complete with pots of hot oil at the ready. The Tacharim have also constructed racks of spikes that slide into place in the portcullises; once they're set, they raise the drawbridge petal, spilling invaders onto the spikes. Past these portcullises is a ring-shaped balcony, which is separated from the fortress proper by still more gates.
Area B (the five numbered petals) consists of barracks and labs; these petals are typically not lowered, since they're in use. Area 1 is a stable, with 40 trained warhorses that will attack anyone not bearing the Tacharim symbol. Area 2 is the modronoid barracks. It's a mess, but in an orderly way; it looks as though the litter on the ground has been purposefully dropped in a specific spot, "as though the inhabitants were trying to assert their individuality while still conforming to a greater pattern." Area 3 consists of partially dismembered modrons hanging from chains and in baths of sludge, all of them twitching feebly. See, if a modron dies, all of its parts disappear, so they have to keep modrons alive so the grafts will remain active. Killing a modron here is an act of mercy and also kills the modronoid to whom its parts were assigned.

Area 4 is the surgery, and it's certainly grisly. There's a Tacharim squire hosing it down as the PCs enter, but if they're disguised, he won't see any reason to challenge them.
Area 5 is an infirmary for sick and injured Tacharim. All 30 beds are occupied, but none of the inhabitants is awake.
Areas marked 6 are barracks, where most of the inhabitants dwell. During daytime, there are about 30 Tacharim asleep here; at night, it's about 170. Anyone awake and active when the PCs arrive will assume they're new arrivals if they look appropriate and don't give themselves away.
Areas marked 7 are armories, full of nonmagical weapons. They're not locked or barred or anything since the Tacharim might need weapons at a moment's notice. The largest armory also has the portcullis mechanism.

The lower level of the Flower is for day-to-day life. Area 8, as you might deduce from the map, is a prison. The cells are all full right now, some with modronoids who haven't yet learned to obey, others with prisoners captured on Tacharim raids. The modronoids are pacing like crazed beasts, the prisoners are listless and hopeless. One of the prisoners is Vaimish's younger brother Tairish Crasad, but unfortunately, the PCs're too late for him; he's been modronized, and he's howling in frustration and fury. The PCs can soothe him and get some information out of him-- his mind's not gone yet-- but the only useful thing he knows is the dark of the Flower's seed-pod control system. Tairish has a pretty good idea that destroying that pod will destroy the whole flower. He also has a pretty good idea that he'd like to die, and soon, and this revelation is accompanied by new howls that are sure to bring down the guards unless the PCs knock him out or end his life. The book suggests good PCs go for the nonlethal option, but that's another weird conflict, since all the evidence they've seen indicates that this process is irreversible, and both Crasad brothers asked them to kill this poor sod. So who knows. I certainly wouldn't penalize a party who put him in the dead-book.

Area 9 is a smithy, with three anvils and three smith-guards, all of whom like to grouse and complain, though they're only on duty during the day. Area 10 is the Knights' Quarters for the higher-ranking Knights; they're alert, since many of them are up dicing and playing cards at odd hours, and they'll question any sod who stumbles into their room. Area 11 is an administrative room, used for strategic planning meetings and the multiplanar equivalent of McKinsey powerpoints. There's a lot of jink here, too, since this is where they keep payroll-- about 10k gp in gold and gems.

The areas marked 12 are the mess hall, with nothing particularly unexpected present, and 13 represent repair rooms. The 0th-level Prime Alana Sieron serves as the tinker here, but she's just in it for the money and has no loyalty to the Tacharim, so threats or a bribe should keep her shut up. Area 14 is just storage.

The Central Pod is where the action's likely to go down. As you can see from the map, it's like a chambered nautilus shell. Doran and Valran share these quarters. The walls of the center pod are translucent from the inside and opaque from the outside, which helps them keep an eye on the rest of their crew. 15a is an anteroom and Doran's library. Her books reach from floor to ceiling. She may be an evil, modron-legged knight, but at least she's a well-read one. 15b is Valran's room, which is spotlessly clean and orderly, though it shows some signs of once being quite opulent. His mind is slipping towards order due to his new modron body, and he spends his free time in here meditating on the joys of law and order. Areas 15c-d are Doran's rooms. She's a bit of an artist, and next to her bed is a writing table and painting station. Her paintings are beautifully composed, and the chamber "seems to radiate the health of a well-balanced mind." The thought occurs that well-balanced people usually don't kidnap and vivisect modrons to graft their parts onto unwilling captives, but what do I know? Anyways, area 15d is her exercise chamber, filled with weapons; she often spars with a randomly chosen knight. She's here at night and midday.

Area 15e is a guard post, manned 24-7, mostly in charge of operating the Flower's controls and keeping it rotating and raising/lowering drawbridges on schedule. Area 15f is Valran's library, which contains his spellbooks as well as his diaries, notes and favorite fiction (the lusty modronian maid?). Area 15g is the central pod, from which the Knights can control the whole Flower. It's not hard to figure out what it does, and it's not too hard to set it on fire, either. The trouble is making sure the whole Flower burns, since as soon as the pod starts to crisp, that'll alert the whole place-- and the PCs will definitely have to confront Doran and Valran, if not before, then when they arrive to put out the fire. The PCs can't just set it and forget it, or the Tacharim will easily put the fire out.
Once the fire's blazing, the PCs still have to escape, with whatever prisoners they've managed to free. This'll be chaotic, with flames spreading and Tacharim running to and fro. As the pod burns, the petals will raise and fall randomly and the whole Flower will spin ceaselessly. This'll cause some general panic and confusion, and might be enough to cover the PCs' escape, though they'll surely have to fight their way out.

Assuming the PCs burn the place down and make good their escape, they'll have done a great thing. The lords and masters of the Tacharim weren't present, but Doran was pretty senior, and the cream of their crop has just been wiped out-- along with their most substantial power base. They won't be destroyed, but they'll be a shadow of their former selves. And of course, like so many others the PCs have crossed in this adventure, they'll want revenge. Any escaping Tacharim will want to go after the PCs, and they'll use a variety of tactics, so one will just barrel down on them in the Lady's Ward while another might bribe a waiter to poison their beer. Of course, lots of people hated the Tacharim, and if news of the PCs' exploit gets out, they'll be feted in the Upper Planes. It doesn't hurt to be able to call in favors from the various Orders of Good out there. If Valran or his notes escape, the modronoid scourge isn't eradicated, either. The PCs may have to finish him off and burn his work to stop any other madman from picking up where he left off. The March, at least, is safe, and closing in on home.

Thoughts: this is probably my favorite of the adventures thus far, aside from the weird intro, since it has a good mixture of hook and freeform room to play. I can see a lot of different ways this could go down, depending on party creativity, and the Flower is a great setpiece.

Next time: a short break wherein we learn just what the hell is going on, actually.

Zereth
Jul 8, 2003




Seatox posted:

Even if magic works in 25th century Sol-space,
if magic didn't work there how did the d&d characters get there

Battle Mad Ronin
Aug 26, 2017


Zereth posted:

if magic didn't work there how did the d&d characters get there

Quantum physics.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





Zereth posted:

if magic didn't work there how did the d&d characters get there
The intervention of Mentor of Arisia

Tuxedo Catfish
Mar 17, 2007

You've got guts! Come to my village, I'll buy you lunch.


Zereth posted:

if magic didn't work there how did the d&d characters get there

i don't remember what they are but I 100% guarantee that detailed rules for the interaction between Gate and Antimagic Field exist in AD&D, which should be close enough to "spelljammer helm" and "non-magical setting" to kludge

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

Spewing insults, pissing off all your neighbors, betraying your allies, backing out of treaties and accords, and generally screwing over the global environment?
ALL PART OF MY BRILLIANT STRATEGY!


If the PC's off the partially-living modrons in Area 3, how much of the local Tacharim can they actually destroy? Like can they use it as an effective way to kill off Doran without having to fight her? Because a Fighter in the double-digit levels is goddamn scary.

Also what sort of stat changes do the Tacharim gain from being partially modronated? Special attacks? Boosted AC? Higher HP and Thac0?

Seatox
Mar 12, 2012


Nessus posted:

The intervention of Mentor of Arisia

Exactly! AD&D psionics are totally not magic, honest (they unified it a bit in 3rd edition).

DAD LOST MY IPOD
Feb 3, 2012

Fats Dominar is on the case




PurpleXVI posted:

If the PC's off the partially-living modrons in Area 3, how much of the local Tacharim can they actually destroy? Like can they use it as an effective way to kill off Doran without having to fight her? Because a Fighter in the double-digit levels is goddamn scary.

Also what sort of stat changes do the Tacharim gain from being partially modronated? Special attacks? Boosted AC? Higher HP and Thac0?

You’d have to find the nonaton from which her legs came. That part of the adventure is a little vague, which is another thing I’d change. That room should be more heavily guarded and Doran’s modron should be kept separately.

The baseline Tacharim are just human, the modronoids have different stat blocks, which are inconveniently located in Part V. They have spell resistance and arm blades and the like.

1994 Toyota Celica
Sep 11, 2008

by Nyc_Tattoo


My preferred way to use the essential compatibility between Buck Rogers and the rest of AD&D would be a Dark Sun crossover. One or several of the Sorcerer Kings manages to open a stable portal to what turns out to be the bowels of a colony in the outer planets of Sol. The invaders start out using obsidian and chitin weapons, but almost everyone from Athas, the Dark Sun planet, is at least a little psychic (and some are TREMENDOUSLY psychic), while anyone who's a warrior on a professional basis is a brutal veteran of gladiatorial pits and heinous psychic monster battles, and they're lead by their frightful double-digit level arcano-psionic Sorcerer Kings. All it would take is a few quick victories before you've got Hamanu or Nibenay in control of rocket ships and mass drivers.

Maybe the magic the Athasians used to get to Sol starts warping our sun into something like the eponymous 'Dark Sun' of Athas, bringing with it arcane magic--and the potential for defiling magic wherever sufficient life energy exists--along with both psionic and physical mutations to the inhabitants of Sol. If you want to get really wacky, maybe the Athasian invasion stirs awake ancient forces on Earth that've been dormant since before the nukes, and Earth mythological pantheons/forces start empowering divine characters to oppose the invaders.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


1994 Toyota Celica posted:

My preferred way to use the essential compatibility between Buck Rogers and the rest of AD&D would be a Dark Sun crossover. One or several of the Sorcerer Kings manages to open a stable portal to what turns out to be the bowels of a colony in the outer planets of Sol. The invaders start out using obsidian and chitin weapons, but almost everyone from Athas, the Dark Sun planet, is at least a little psychic (and some are TREMENDOUSLY psychic), while anyone who's a warrior on a professional basis is a brutal veteran of gladiatorial pits and heinous psychic monster battles, and they're lead by their frightful double-digit level arcano-psionic Sorcerer Kings. All it would take is a few quick victories before you've got Hamanu or Nibenay in control of rocket ships and mass drivers.

Maybe the magic the Athasians used to get to Sol starts warping our sun into something like the eponymous 'Dark Sun' of Athas, bringing with it arcane magic--and the potential for defiling magic wherever sufficient life energy exists--along with both psionic and physical mutations to the inhabitants of Sol. If you want to get really wacky, maybe the Athasian invasion stirs awake ancient forces on Earth that've been dormant since before the nukes, and Earth mythological pantheons/forces start empowering divine characters to oppose the invaders.

'D&D invades a different setting' is one of my favorite ways to use D&D, so this sounds like a great time to me.

Ultiville
Jan 14, 2005

The law protects no one unless it binds everyone, binds no one unless it protects everyone.



Night10194 posted:

'D&D invades a different setting' is one of my favorite ways to use D&D, so this sounds like a great time to me.

I was just talking about this with Eberron, it's too bad that all the best ways to use D&D aren't the relatively-faithful-to-RL Medieval pastiches that D&D tends to imply with the core books. It works so much better with Eberron, Spelljammer, Dark Sun, or even Ravnica - settings that acknowledge that magic is prevalent, reliable, and replicable.

Of course even those settings don't make me want to use D&D 5E's actual rules, but at least the fluff and the mechanics are a better match.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


In general, D&D as a genre (and make no mistake, by this point D&D is its own genre of fantasy) and a system is much too focused on the big epic magic crazy to pull off the thing the 'oh it's all mud and peasants' crowd thinks it should.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018



"relatively faithful to RL medieval" in the same way that the Lion King is relatively faithful to RL biology and nature.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


It's kind of telling that Warhammer, the setting about mud and ratcatchers, spends more pages and more time on the actual material effects of suddenly widespread and licensed magic than something like Greyhawk does.

Though to some extent that's a matter of priorities. Greyhawk mostly cares that wizards exist so you can have the wizard class and magic items and artillery.

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

Spewing insults, pissing off all your neighbors, betraying your allies, backing out of treaties and accords, and generally screwing over the global environment?
ALL PART OF MY BRILLIANT STRATEGY!


Dragonlance



Dragons of Ice



Welcome to scenic DL6! You'll notice we skipped over DL5, because as mentioned in the first post, DL5 just has general setting info and collates the stats and descriptions of all the player characters in one place. Now, one of the fun, "fun," fun" things about DL6 is that a number of your players won't get to play. If you've been playing through the module series since DL1(and haven't been hung and quartered by your players yet), the number of PC's has been slowly growing since DL1, and no PC's that you've gotten used to having around have been removed. DL6 changes that up. A number of PC's split off from the rest and won't be back until DL9, entirely by story fiat that the players get no involvement in. Like, the players do not get to pick which the southbound party consists of, DL6 just decides that.

Missing are: Tanis, Tika, Caramon, Goldmoon, Riverwind and Raistlin. In return, Elistan becomes a PC(but not Laurana, she remains an NPC for a while longer for baffling reasons, considering that she's been a constant member of the party since the start of DL3). Of the original-ish party we have Gilthanas, Flint, Tasslehoff and Sturm, with two Solamnic Knights(Derek and Aaron) and their fabulous moustaches thrown in as assisting NPC's and potential alternate PC's for players whose characters are absent.



They are, at least, decently statted and kitted out, but the party's now lacking a primary arcane caster of any kind(and how the hell is Gilthanas higher level as a Magic-User than as a Fighter? Did 1E have dual-classing rules and are they somehow applied to this poor sucker so he's only gaining levels as a Magic-User? Jesus.).

So anyway, let's catch up with things, this is our journey thus far:



In between DL4 and DL6, half the party has journeyed south to Tarsis to see if they can ship the refugees off to safety, apparently, despite them being statedly in the safest place they can be. Only after arriving in Tarsis and finding that there's not actually a way to send the refugees to safety(on account of Tarsis now being landlocked, something that the party, despite most of them having gone on long trading trips with Flint in the past) weren't aware of, do they reluctantly decide to actually fight the Dragonarmies and maybe kind of try to save the world.

Chapter 1: The Fall of Tarsis

By the time the game starts, the party's been in town for about eight days or so. They've shown up and found that the city governor is being advised by a draconian(and that draconians are openly walking in the streets, but in a more or less completely peaceful way, not butchering and killing civilians or anything of that sort) and, rather than marvelling at happy interspecies cooperation, they're horrified that the city is essentially already in the dragon highlords' thrall. Two days before the game starts, they're almost arrested(for unspecified reasons, maybe they killed some random draconians in the street or something), and meet up with a Silvanesti elf(Alhana Starbreeze) and some Knights of Solamnia who're both seeking to bring the battle to the Dragonarmies.

The "missing" PC's are actually still in the city, hanging out with Alhana and most of the knights, the remaining two and the in-play PC's are just hanging around away from their friends, for some reason checking the city for "sources of aid" despite there being literally zero indication that anyone in the city has a problem with the Dragonarmies or is in any way the source of knowledge needed to defeat them. But of course, that's what we have plot railroading for, an old mysterious man just sort of randomly shuffles up and goes: "I HAVE THE NEXT PLOT TICKET, FOLLOW ME." and doesn't seem to account much for the players not doing so. You see, if they don't, they have no real idea where to go after the next bits.

So they follow the old man, knowing better than to argue with the GM, and he shows them a fabulous hidden library that doesn't contain anything except a couple of scrolls(and some fresh glasses of True Seeing if they didn't loot the Floating Tomb and kick Evenstar screaming into the sky), but which really only exists to contain a mysterious reference to an ORB OF DRAGON CONTROL hidden in Icewall Castle. Seems like a handy artifact for dealing with dragons, right? Anyway, the PC's probably high-five and leave the library to tell some people about the rad artifact they found out about, but oh no, as soon as they go outside, the blue dragons and their armies are attacking Tarsis. Oh noooooooo.

The leader of the Blue Dragonarmy shows up briefly to pose, and holy poo poo do the writers hate the players for attempting any sort of agency. She doesn't attack, but if the PC's attack her, the GM is told to just casually double the size of the next encounter. As the PC's try to leave Tarsis, they're supposed to get jumped by 16 Draconians, this is increased to 32 if they tried to fight the Blue Dragon Highlord. At this point the stats of the Kapak Draconians aren't too scary, but that's still enough that just sheer weight of attacks might wear down the PC's, especially as their only arcane caster, Gilthanas, has a very poor spell selection and can't wipe a big chunk of them with AoE damage or something.

Now, the PC's don't get to do anything other than escape. The city has a small resistance movement of smugglers and thieves, but they casually say they don't plan to do anything about the occupiers for about a year, and all of the citizens will just betray the PC's to the occupying forces 2 times out of 3. Because they're assholes, I guess.

Presumably the PC's finally get the point and skedaddle from Tarsis. To the south, I hope, for their sake, since all the other gates are heavily guarded. Just to make the goddamn point. If they go the right places, they might spot that the "missing" PC's and NPC's are escaping from the city on griffons, pursued by blue dragons.

So much for Tarsis! I mean, poo poo, it's a cool and interesting set piece, a city where the draconians are apparently coexisting in relative peace with humans and demihumans, rather than the scenarios seen so far where they've been bullying and shoving them around. It could really have been used to say some things about whether the draconians are perhaps as much victims of Takhisis as the other races are, but no, all the draconians are just evil plotters that betray the city roughly five seconds after the scene is set. Ah, but perhaps we could have had some sort of interesting campaign about a resistance movement against the occupying dragon ar- no. You guys have to go chase the big magic thing, right away. Off you go.

Chapter 2: The Ice Reaches


And yes, those are big evil walrusmen.

The descriptions of the terrain south of Tarsis is, at least, mildly evocative. It was a sea floor, hundreds of years ago, so there are relics of said times lying around, like the skeletons of ancient behemoth sea creatures(that's cool, weird sea stuff is always cool), but sadly they don't really do anything with it. Like, there's potential here. You could have weird Flying Dutchman-esque encounters with ghost pirates, or hell, even ancient sailing ships that sunk and whose cargoes are now accessible, or maybe even sea creatures that were warped by the divine fuckery of the cataclysm to be horrifying land dwellers. Instead, what do we get? A check every two hours for random encounters. One of the potential encounters is a loving Blue Dragon or, you guessed it, more loving level-drainers.



The players are meant to travel south to Icewall Castle but, again, unless they accepted random plot tickets from shady old men in Tarsis, they won't know it. I'm surprised that the authors resisted the temptation to have Fizban show up and prod them along. In fact, he doesn't seem to re-occur at all in DL6, thank gently caress.

There are no locations of any importance otherwise. Once they step out on to the ice, the encounters at least change so they now have a chance of encountering THANOI(bad walrusmen) and other ice-themed enemies instead, as well as the mysterious "snow-covered crevasse" encounter. Approaching one of these prompts a surprise roll, if you gently caress it up, every character has a 50% chance of falling 20 to 200 feet(calculated by a roll of 1d10*20). I don't believe I need to point out that falling 200 feet, even in 1E D&D will utterly and completely gently caress you sideways, with some 20d6 damage. That's 20 to 120 points of damage at worst. The most fragile party member is Gilthanas with 25HP, anything but the smallest possible fall has the potential to splatter him.

I know Raistlin isn't in this one, but he only has 15HP, this could at worst have killed him loving eight times over. In fact, on the suggestion of a friend, from now on the lethality of a given situation will be rated in Raistlins. This one is 8Ra.

Chapter 3: The Ice Folk

Yes, I know, Chapter 2 just vanished, that's because Chapter 2 really only exists so the players will wander on to the glacier and get lost in a blizzard that almost kills them, so some brave and noble ICE VIKINGS in their ICE BOATS can rescue them. Specifically the rescue only happens once the blizzard has almost, ha ha, iced them, so they're gonna be low on health(it specifically doesn't trigger until someone is under 12HP from frostbite) and it's specified that HARALD and his ICE MEN will be eager to loving murder the players stone cold dead if they make the slightest mistake. Harald himself is a loving level 14 Fighter who can do 1d6+7 damage per hit. Now, that'd be manageable except he's also got a bodyguard of ten 12th-level Fighters, each able to hand out 1d4+7 damage per round, that's approximately another 8Ra's, except they don't have to just kill one guy at a time, they can spread around the love. The only thing that can soften the initial circumstances is if the players have rescued a random encounter bear from minotaurs, doing this is also a good idea since the bear is about the only way the players have of avoiding the deadly crevasse random encounters.

So, you know, easy place for a TPK against a bunch of hardened ice dudes. The lesson is to always be nice to bears.

The vikings then bring the PC's home(their culture is a combination of inuit and viking, I suppose) and warm them up and let them get healed, at which point Aaron(or his player), suddenly remembers there's an overarching plot and goes: "Well dang, we should fetch that orb, guys, and then bring it to a place far to the west called Sancrist Isle since it's in a bunch of prophecies. Also if we don't get the orb we should get there anyway to slice some evil nerds up." And the vikings suggest salvaging an old ship from the ice to sail there, which sounds like a great idea, no way a wooden sailing ship would have suffered any damage from being icelocked for 300 goddamn years or anything.

Before anyone can suggest to Harald that this is a loving stupid idea, someone charges in and goes: "egads! 200 minotaurs and 500 thanoi are headed right for us! we're all hosed!" And that's right, they are hosed, the next section is really just an extended cutscene where the players fight some thanoi and their battle bears until a white dragon shows up and forces the defenders to pile into their ice boats and flee, allowing a pittance of the hundred or so ice vikings to escape. The players' reward for playing along with this and saving some vikings is that they get an ice boat so they can get to Icewall Castle without freezing to death along the way.

Surprisingly the module doesn't force you into a guaranteed TPK against thousands of draconians or thanoi or whatever if you end up fighting and killing Harald(fat loving chance of that, anyway), but without the ice boats of the ice vikings you'll be moving slower and thus having to deal with far more random encounters.

Chapter 4: Icewall Castle


oh yeah if the party rescued that bear from a random encounter it's a semi-permanent companion, that's kinda cool

So the party approaches the sinisterly silent ICEWALL CASTLE, aside from the usual random encounters(every hour around Icewall Castle there's a chance that a white dragon named Sleet and its rider will decide to strafe the PC's with its breath weapon for 3.5 Ra worth of damage, which is approximately 2 dead Gilthanases per attack), nothing hassles them until they start climbing the ice wall to reach it, which prompts a series of module-mandated, forced dex checks to avoid suffering damage for up to 2 Ra each time. This would suck less if there was some sort of alternative, like the dex checks were the risk of taking a stealthy climbing route and there's a proper, albeit icy, route up to the front door that risks getting into a fight instead or something.

One of these events is an avalanche that reveals a secret cave entrance to the castle. It contains nothing awful, but it does contain a dead, frozen gold dragon with a non-Dragonarmy rider(also dead and frozen) on its back. This is supposed to be a "SHOCK GASP! THERE ARE ALSO GOOD DRAGONS????"-event but it's kind of spoiled by the fact that Blaizsce the Brass Dragon(or was it Bronze? I always mix those two up) was potentially chilling with the party for a good chunk of Skullcap back in DL3. The party can pry a broken Dragonlance from the frozen rider's hands, but it has no utility.

Anyway, the players are in, they can also ignore the secret passage but that just means getting ambushed by more enemies than are strictly necessary, as Icewall Castle has very few specifically placed enemies, and most of them are pretty uninteresting, except for stuff like how a couple of failed dex checks can drop a character alone into a battle with a loving Remorhaz, which is a huge ice worm that drops 6d6 aka up to 2.4 Ra on enemies every round and attacks like a 12th-level Fighter. There's also Feal-Thas, the Dragonlord of the White Dragonarmy who's thankfully a huge idiot. Rather than having bodyguards or riding his giant dragon, he instead hides in a library, invisible, and will try to destroy the PC's on his own mano a party.

He's a pretty horrifyingly effective Fighter, and he also has a few save-or-die spells up his sleeve, like Polymorph Other and Web, so a few bad rolls can severely compromise the party's ability to fight. Oddly enough he won't summon anyone for help even once the fight is joined, nor will he consider, say, retreating. Unlike Verminaard he won't somehow deprive the PC's of a chance to loot his body, but unlike Verminaard he also only has a small amount of relatively generic +1 and +2 gear. Despite being a relatively low-magic setting, as in mages themselves are relatively uncommon and untrusted, low-level magic items in Dragonlance seem extremely abundant and there isn't really any sense of "oh boy, how awesome!" when one of them pops up in the writing, it's generally with very little fanfare.

Probably the deadliest encounter in Icewall Castle, though, is Sleet's hatchery containing three awake hatchlings that can toss out 168 HP worth of breath weapons in a round(until they're damaged, anyway), equal to 11,2 Ra. Needless to say, this is also enough to annihilate any other member of the party if the hatchlings win initiative, even if everyone is uninjured and makes their saving throws.

Eventually, either only kept alive by canon immortality or sheer luck, the party will reach Sleet and eat poo poo. 3 Ra worth of damage from her breath weapon until she takes damage, and then she'll "merely" hand out 1.5 Ra a round. The only thing that's noteworthy about her is that she has a relatively novel escape route, she keeps her third breath weapon use back in case she's getting clowned on, then leaps through a waterfall on the edge of her lair concealing a secret tunnel and blasts the waterfall with her breath weapon behind her, sealing the tunnel with an icy wall that it'll take the party long enough to hack through that she can make good her escape. If she does escape, though, she comes back to blast the players with her breath weapon three times from the air while they escape from Icewall Castle themselves. Without battle magic from Raistlin supported by Tanis and Riverwind with bows, this also means that the players are stuck hoping that Gilthanas and Aaron can whittle down Sleet in the air enough that she won't be able to get off a second ice breath, except whoops the first one will annihilate Gilthanas every time even with a passed saving throw, even doing max damage to the dragon Laurana goes down on the second pass and Elistan is almost certainly dead on the third pass.

With absolutely maximum damage and zero misses, Tasslehoff's sling(assuming Sleet gets that close) and Aaron's bow can take out Sleet in two rounds, because she's pretty fragile, but that's still 84 damage pre-saving throws. ANYONE who flubs both throws is dead, even Sturm with his 74HP.

And this time Sleet has a dozen minotaurs on the ground for backup. That's a pretty loving lethal encounter.

Her lair also has the Orb of Dragon Control which some PC will probably try to check out. Firstly, it contains the soul of an evil dragon that will try to mind control anyone fiddling with it. Then, remembering that it's called the Orb of Dragon Control, someone will probably try to use the handy-dandy command words written all over it to whistle up a ride. Whoops, bad idea, that has a 66% chance of doing nothing and a 33% chance of summoning up 1d3 randomly statted white dragons. Hope you like randomly getting into a fight with three Ancient White Dragons. It is in fact just a massive ruse to gently caress with the players and this entire quest has largely been a waste of their time.

Whomp. Whomp.

Chapter 5: Icemountain Bay

This chapter exists PURELY to have the players walk west, find one of those icelocked boats and set off for Sancrist Isle far to the goddamn west. There is no other content.

Why is this even a chapter? I swear these chapter titles exist only to make these lovely modules feel bigger than they are.

And why do they keep giving us these maps when anything but moving in a straight line to the next objective is harshly punished and there's practically never anything off the beaten path worth interacting with?

Kree! I liked the part with the bear! Why wasn't the bear in the books?

Search me, Skeleton Warrior, maybe we can pretend it ate Tasslehoff and has taken his place in all future scenes.

Coming up: DL7: Dragons of Light

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



PurpleXVI posted:

They are, at least, decently statted and kitted out, but the party's now lacking a primary arcane caster of any kind(and how the hell is Gilthanas higher level as a Magic-User than as a Fighter? Did 1E have dual-classing rules and are they somehow applied to this poor sucker so he's only gaining levels as a Magic-User? Jesus.)

Welcome to the wonderful world of 1E racial level limits! If you're an elf with a Strength of less than 17, you can never become more than a 5th level fighter. But if you're a multiclassed fighter like Gilthanas is, you still divide your XP between your fighter and magic-user classes, even though that means you're flushing away half your XP. That's what you get for wanting to be good at more than one thing!

Yes, this means Laurana will never level up again. I recall later rules were added (in Unearthed Arcana or 2E, I forget which) that allowed a single-classed demihuman to rise 2 levels higher than the limit, so Laurana could potentially rise to the dizzying heights of level 7.

Selachian fucked around with this message at 02:37 on Dec 13, 2019

MonsterEnvy
Feb 4, 2012

Truly Cursed


Man the White Dragon Army leader was way more pathetic than the Red one.

Edit: Thinking of that, do the Dragon Armies have the Red, Blue, Green, Black, White hierarchy?

MonsterEnvy fucked around with this message at 07:50 on Dec 13, 2019

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

MonsterEnvy posted:

Man the White Dragon Army leader was way more pathetic than the Red one.

Edit: Thinking of that, do the Dragon Armies have the Red, Blue, Green, Black, White hierarchy?

The Dragonarmies (in theory) are more or less equals and their Dragon Highlords (Verminaard, Feal-Thas, etc) obey Emperor Ariakas. Who in turn takes orders from Takhisis herself.

But overall, the total strength and power of the respective Dragonarmies are congruent to their matched dragons: the Red has the most territory and range, but the Blue's a strong contender for being commanded by Kitiara, making liberal use of undead troops, and controlling much of Solamnia which is the breadbasket of Krynn.*

The Black Dragonarmies' territories are mostly in eastern Ansalon and thus are more of a domestic police force, while the Green Dragonarmies are the other major "domestic military" unit andwere tasked with uniting the Khur tribes by force. They also had a hand in invading Silvanesti, who was one of the first countries attacked by the Dragonarmies on account of them being a high-magic nation in a low-magic world and thus a veritable threat.

The White Dragonarmy gets the short end of the stick where most of their territory is in the wasteland of Icewall.

Fun fact, the Blue Dragonarmies remnants are able to hold onto the most territory post-War of the Lance and try to invade Palanthas in the Legends trilogy.

All five Dragonarmies have a presence in the heart of the Empire, including the capital city of Neraka and the nearby city of Sanction. Sometime after Verminaard's death Ariakas takes control of the Red Dragonarmy himself to make up for the power vacuum.


Another interesting thing I'd like to bring up is that while it's not out and out said in the modules (cannot speak to the books) but you may have noticed that so far the Dragonarmies have been heavily monstrous. They do have human soldiers and officers, but you start seeing them as encounters more during the Dragons of Spring Dawning arc, aka deep in the Empire's territory, and during the Battle of the High Clerist's Tower near the end of the Winter Night arc.

It's been discussed in other sourcebooks, but a lot of Dragonarmy officers are human, using the draconians and goblinoids as expendable shock troops. Minotaurs, thanoi, and the like are akin to foreign mercenary units. When running the Chronicles I played up this inequality, where a lot of the Dragonarmies while successful in uniting the monstrous races often took them for granted. But when the war started turning against them and the Dark Queen needed more troops to toss into the meat-grinder (or when infiltrating the Empire proper) the PCs saw and fought more human Dragonarmy soldiers.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 08:36 on Dec 13, 2019

Aoi
Sep 12, 2017

Perpetually a Pain.


Libertad! posted:

It's been discussed in other sourcebooks, but a lot of Dragonarmy officers are human, using the draconians and goblinoids as expendable shock troops. Minotaurs, thanoi, and the like are akin to foreign mercenary units. When running the Chronicles I played up this inequality, where a lot of the Dragonarmies while successful in uniting the monstrous races often took them for granted. But when the war started turning against them and the Dark Queen needed more troops to toss into the meat-grinder (or when infiltrating the Empire proper) the PCs saw and fought more human Dragonarmy soldiers.

I noticed this even as a ten year old just reading the novels. Just about the only time human (or half-even, *wink wink* ever got mentioned as being members of the Dragonarmies, it was as officers, commanding goblin and draconian troops. It really stood out, the disparity and inequality there, even with a white Canadian child's understanding of colonialism, that the inhuman forces were taking all the risks and being used as cannon fodder, while the humans decked out in (largely imitation) dragonscale armor were bossing them around and getting much swanker living conditions while so doing.

I almost want to think it was some kind of intentional commentary from Weis and Hickman, but...

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

Spewing insults, pissing off all your neighbors, betraying your allies, backing out of treaties and accords, and generally screwing over the global environment?
ALL PART OF MY BRILLIANT STRATEGY!


EimiYoshikawa posted:

I almost want to think it was some kind of intentional commentary from Weis and Hickman, but...

I hate to slander two authors I don't really know that well, but considering the intense goblin racism in the 2E DL core book, I feel like Weiss and Hickman didn't really intend to consider the goblins to have human rights.

Moldless Bread
Jul 10, 2019


The Dark Eye 4.0

Skills

Before we actually get to the skill list there are some other rules (after the generous permission to alter, invent or toss skills if we think that’s necessary).

First off is the division of basic, special and professional skills. Basic skills are the ones every character has, either because they are natural or so widespread you’re almost guaranteed to know the basics. You can also roll a check on these if the skill rank is negative.
Special skills can only be used if you have at least one positive skill rank, and they need to taught by someone. Most skills in this game are special skills.
Professional skills can only be used if you have at least one positive skill rank and they need to be taught by someone. The difference between them and special skills supposedly boils down to them being really rare and esoteric knowledge, but the skills listed are incredible arbitrary. I mean, Agriculture is a professional skill. You know, what literal peasants are doing for a living. I’m going out on a limb and claim that is more widespread knowledge than cryptography…

The following optional rules teach us about requirements (some skills need other skills to be on a certain rank before we can learn them or improve beyond a certain rank - I can’t figure out if that’s a *realism* rule or to enforce more widespread skill picks.) skill specializations (buy up to two feats for each skill, add two to the rank when the specialization comes up.), encumbrance and effective encumbrance (each skill mentions if the encumbrance penalizes the roll, and if you have to modify the encumbrance first) and derived skills (You can use a different skill at a penalty).

Weird things here are that the text for specializations mentions that some combat professions pay half the cost for weapon skills, which is a rule that IIRC never comes up again - unless it is referring to discounted feats, but that specific mention for specializations feels out of place. Also, buying a specialization at character generation apparently costs 2.5 times as much as it does in play? WTF?
I also feel the need to point that the standard penalty for derived skills gets suggested as +10, which is almost half the maximum skill rank. Derived weapon skills get a much more manageable -2 to attacks and -3 to parries (shouldn’t those be +s?) but get limited use out of their combat feats.

Combat skills show up here strongly abbreviated, we’re referred to With Flashing Blades instead. We’ll just continue and I go over the combat skills when we get to that book.


An upper class woman from a garetian city.

Physical skills are more expensive to improve than the other skill groups. My take is that this Skill group has more ‘Adventure important’ skills than the other skill groups (Sneaking, Willpower, Perception, Physical control…) and this is an attempt to incentivize to spread the skill points around to create a more well rounded character with hobbies and fluff skills. In my experience, it just leads to more exp hoarding since - well, you still need physical skills, and now they’re so expensive…
It also creates some weird situations, like dancing, singing and juggling now having to share the higher costs with the ‘useful’ skills, and the fact that it is noticeably easier to learn all the musical instruments, a new language or higher mathematics than it is to imitate animal calls.
This skill group consists of everything you can imagine a fighter and/or a rogue being good at, plus some fluffier extra stuff. There some oddities though - Athletics, Acrobatics, Climbing and swimming have pretty narrow defined fields, but you also have Physical control, which is the catch-all skill for physical actions, including keeping balance and action hero rolls and jumps. (The writers were probably weary of getting rid of this specific skill because it was a mainstay in 3rd edition).
Flying is only used for witch brooms and flying carpets, and therefore useless for 99 % of available characters. You ride flying creatures instead.
Physical skills are also the the group that houses the most important skill of all: Carousing. It gets used to determine how drunk you are after downing that dwarven ale or thorwalian brandy (and how big your hangover will be), and nothing else. I love it. I mean, it’s a bit useless, and if I would be writing this game, I would fold things like ‘resist poison’ or ‘socializing in a tavern’ into this skill, but I wouldn’t want it to be subsumed into Willpower either. Just having this skill on the character sheet puts so much emphasis on the fact that TDE adventures aren’t supposed to be just about fighting orcs and delving dungeons. They are supposed to be just as much about getting roped into friendly drinking contest and unwinding in a tavern during downtime. It also adds some texture to the characters - sure, the Thorwalian Pirate and the Novadi Warrior Monk are both really tough guys, but only one of them can down half a bottle of brandy without passing out.
The racial modifiers also keep reminding us that overripe fruit is enough to get an aventurian Elf drunk, and that will never cease to amuse me.
One good thing I had forgotten is that the skill descriptions point out that you don’t actually need those skills for simple stuff (paddling back to the edge of a calm stream, sitting on a horse that is lead in a caravan etc.), but on the other hand it keeps pointing us toward the falling damage rules for the vertical skills, so I guess if you fail a roll you’re just supposed to fall down?

Social skills bring me to a screeching halt as I read the description of the seduce skill. I don’t mind the skill itself, a charming rake flirting with people to get what he wants is perfectly on-genre and the text specifically mentions the end result is just the target liking the character, but not necessarily doing everything they want. But after reminding us of the cultural modifiers* it points out that there is also a penalty for seducing the characters own gender. Come on game, I specifically praised your inclusiveness earlier…

* A weird thing, editing wise. At the beginning of the skill group, there is a sidebar that introduces the rule that every skill is calibrated to the characters native culture, and dealing with people from outside should involve a penalty. Fair enough, but they repeat this fact in every single skill.
4.1, incidentally expanded on that idea making understanding the subtleties of a specific culture a feat. (and giving each character his native culture for free).

Notable are Etiquette and Streetwise, skills that allow you to blend in and socialize with high society or the shady underworld respectively in an abstract way. There is no equivalent for general situations or common folk, though.
Read people and Disguise also fall under Social skills, as do outliers like acting (on a stage) and written expression (as well as gallantry, a skill for entertaining guests - also entertaining guests - and dressing fancy. A skill so niche - and overlapping with both etiquette and seducing - that it was removed in 4.1).
Somewhat noticeable is that there is really only two active social skills. One is seducing, the other is convincing, and that one stands for every conceivable interaction. From bluffing to haggling to intimidation to begging. Kind of weird for for a game with such a finely grained skill list.
(Okay, there is also converting, which reads just as vague as convincing, but gets used for actually changing a characters outlook instead of just fast-talking them)
The skill group gets bonus points for the snarky examples where you could apply encumbrance, though (Preaching in a closed helmet, playing a beggar in platemail, any armor for gallantries more intimate specializations.)

Nature Skills is the smallest group. Everything a proper ranger does can be found here: Tracking, Navigating, Survival etc. Use Rope is something I personally would have seen as physical or crafting skills, but whatever.
What is noticeably absent, though, are the animal- and plant lore skills, which count as knowledge skills. Since nature-focused professions usually get skill points in those regardless, that is only important in edge cases, like taking dis-/advantages that affect your competence at skill groups. Still, the simple person from the wilderness with no need for theoretical education is both a common archetype and a reasonable hook for a newbie to choose, and this messes with that concept

Expert rule: Meta-skills to hunting and food gathering.

Oh boy, I get to explain meta skills, already.
So the writers of TDE did understand that the fine granularity of the skill list meant that some actions that are better handled off screen have several applicable skills. Rather than demanding several rolls each time the characters want to hunt small game for their rations, we’re offered meta skills. That is, skills that aren’t bought or improved by themselves, but have a skill rank equal to the average of all the applicable skills. They are capped to twice the smallest skill rank, though because realism.
Of course now you have the option of writing down every all the possible meta skills you can up with on your sheet (and check them all if you’re improving skills) or have to reference them for the used skills and Attributes and calculate them every time you need one.
Also two of the examples are gathering Food and gathering herbs, which totally could have been a simple survival or plant lore check.

Knowledge skills. Yeah, basically all the skills you can improve without putting down a book. Aside from the usual ones like Religion, Magic and History you also get uncommon ones like Law, Philosophy and Metallurgy.
Clear favorite of mine is the Tales and Legends skills. It sits between History and Magic lore and encompasses all kinds of heroic myths, fairy tales and folk stories that may or may not have a kernel of truth in them.
By the way, the Mathematics skill mentions that characters with zero skill ranks cannot count, but make a difference between ‘more’ and ‘fewer’. It’s definitely possible to end up with a negative rank. Talk about a roleplaying challenge…
(Also the Law skill lists ‘Disrespect against worldly or clerical dignitaries’ as typical crime committed by player characters, so the writers do know their audience)

Languages and scripts work different from all other skills. Instead of using a check and being able to raise them to cap dependent on attributes, each language and script has a set max rank. They are also cheaper than other skills, for the most part.
We get a rule of thumb mixing absolute ranks and fractions of the cap to determine how well a character can communicate in that language and how well they can read (Aventuria emulating mainly the early renaissance means the majority of people are illiterate). Each character gets one native language, with the skill rank derived from their Cleverness, which should be enough reach the requisite half-cap marker to speak in a natural, everyday manner (Although the Average Cleverness of 10 actually ends you up slightly below that mark for the most common languages.
Garethi (German) and Tulamidiya (Arabic) are the two most common languages, if you are decent at both of them, you can get around most civilized places on the continent. If you can read their scripts (Kuslician Letters and Tulamidian) and know the precursor languages Bosparano (Latin), Aureliani (Old Greek) and Ur-Tulamidiya you can also read about every book not written in the Wizard-specific Language Zhayad.
Most other languages are used by small communities, tribal cultures or are secret languages you can weave into everyday conversation.
Most interesting ones are Isdira and Asdharia, the elven languages non-elves cannot perfect because they lack the necessary second set of vocal chords, the painfully simple Oloarkh and decently complex Ologhajian (because I didn’t expect high orcish to be a thing), Kobold, because you need to cast a haste spell to speak it and Troll, which is no more complex than most human languages but uses three-dimensional stone towers and their arrangement in a room as a script.


So, back in my overview I complained about the unnecessary skill list of this game. As mentioned back then, I was running the game (and the overview) from memory and bile, and I hadn’t taken a closer look at the skill list in years.
Turns out, the skill groups so far aren’t so bad about skill bloat. Oh, we’re far away from streamlined system, and some skills are too granular or specialized for my taste, but all things considered, it is a perfectly usable Skill list that mostly offers reasonable suggestions how to use the skills - either self evident, or mentioned in the skill description.
All this changes with the Crafting Skills. Now, 4.0 wants to be a game where you can play not just as heroes rescuing virgin dragons from evil princesses, it also wants to be the game where Alrike that tavern wench, Bogumil the fisherman and Cella the goat herder have some low-stakes adventure where nobody even draws their weapon. The writers attempt to picture those everyman characters is not just by making professions for all those regular people, but also giving almost everyone a fitting skill that they can point to when asked “What are you good in?”.
Does it have a skill dedicated solely for conducting orchestras, or driving dogsleds? Yep. Does it have a skill for making weapons and tools from flint, because that’s not an metal so you obviously can’t use smithing for it? Absolutely. Does it have different skills for brewing beer, distilling liquor and winemaking? You bet.
Now, the skill descriptions occasionally try to mention where you can use a skill outside of its specialization, and Adventure modules do tend to blindside their parties with an uncommon skill use for a bonus here and there. But none of those skill descriptions are interesting, and the book reiterates you can make up new skills if you need those right in the beginning of the skill group, so the game would have been better with a generic Craft (whatever) skill.
The way it’s written now, you look at the skill list and, if your eyes don’t slide right off it, notice skills here and there you feel compelled to take, because they kind of fit your character (and I guarantee that happened to the writers who build professions too), so now have a skill sitting on your character sheet that never gets used.
The funny thing is, all of those skills were present in 3rd edition as well - partitioned away in a ‘trained artisan’ special mechanic, which also meant each of the limited picks stood out more. Which was nice not only because it felt like an important part of the character (and the unspoken message to the GM that you want it to come up), but most of those actually gave concrete bonuses to your character.
Anyway, on to notable skills: Train Animal introduces the Expert Rule of Loyalty, which means you cannot neglect you animal companion when they’re not useful (and Dogs have a higher cap than all the other animals), Blacksmith and Bowyer refer us to a later chapter for crafting weapons and Healing Arts is split into four different Skills - Poison, Diseases, Soul and Wounds. Each healing skill requires multiple rolls for every action and carries the risk of making things worse if you fail one or more of them, so I just remembered why my group doesn’t bother with those. We’re also supposed to track the damage from each kind separately so we don’t accidentally heal poison damage with Healing Arts: Disease.

Feats

Following the skills, the game list all of it’s feats and…
The thing about the game wanting to be more than heroic adventures and fights?
There is half a page of full-write up general Feats, followed by two and a half pages of abbreviated combat feats. (Although those include unarmed techniques, which are actually a subsystem of the combat feats…) I’ll go over the latter in the combat book.
The general Feats are:
A repetition of Skill specialization, because it is actually a feat.

Master of improvisation and Nandusian Knowledge , which halve the penalties if you are using derived skills in the crafting and Knowledge Groups, respectively. You want something similar for the other skill groups? Too Bad!

Terrain knowledge. Pick a certain kind of environment, you get a bonus if you make nature check here. Also requires you to spend 12 Months in this environment, so I hope your table tracks ingame time.

Next time: Advancement

-----

Culture Corner

People form the Svellt valley come in two flavors: citizen from wealthy trading cities, who were allowed to retain their freedom when the orcs invaded, and hard bitten, simple folk from the wilderness who have arranged themselves with the orcish occupants (or became resistance fighters).
Even before the orcs invaded, the infrastructure carved out of the wilderness was only what was necessary to get trading goods to the coastal ports, so the defining word for this area is pioneers. The people in the country live in secluded farms where they can only rely on themselves to deal with hardships, and woodsman hunt and travel in the deep forests for days or weeks without (hopefully) meeting another soul. With only the orcs providing something like authority (which, while it has gotten more peaceful since the invasion, is still very tyrannical) most people rely on unwritten rules of civility to deal with each other.
The faith in the twelve gods produced a pretty distinct offshoot here: The dualists boil down the pantheon to good Praios and evil Boron, and seek their salvation in absolute obedience, stern and uncompromising faith and eschewing pleasures in favor of hard work.
Svelltlanders have the best names: They use the Garethi names, but shorten them to one or two syllables and add a typical characteristic. That way, we get people like Bear-Benja, Nine-Finger-Al and Ogre-Belly Fin.
Mechanically Svelltlanders are rather pricey, which seems like a ripoff for the array of +1s and discounted Terrain knowledges we're getting. They do get bonus hit and stsamina points, though


A Svelltlander. I do appreciate the page reference. "If you think this guy looks cool, here's how you can play him."

Profession Parade

Guards exist to be clowned on by roving bands of adventurers, sure, but you can also choose this profession as a background if you want to be a cheap trained fighter who is also proficient at diplomacy. There aren’t actually any suggestions why you’ve turned your back at your job, but you know: If you can’t beam them, join them.
You can be a rank-and-file City Guard, a Village Sheriff to be a big fish in a small pond, a more nature oriented Road warden, a jailer to get some additional brawling skills and a free fighting style, or an Elite/Honor Guard.
All Guards get decent training in Polearms and a side-weapon, a fair smattering of physical and social skills as well as some basic combat feats discounted. City- and Honor Guard get the option to train Staves instead of Polearms, presumably to depict the guards of one specific city.
The different variants vary wildly in cost, ranging from the 1 to 8 GP, but the general skill spread goes in the same direction. The City Guard is, curiously, the most expensive variant, despite the description making them sound the most basic. The Honor Guard especially, whose combat bonuses and lower all-rounder skills should offset each other seems pretty cheap in comparison, to the point where I’m doubting the costs were calculated correctly.

Spell selection

Animatio silent servant allows you to build your own self-sweeping broom. Pick up an object, do the same movement seven times and for the next few months the object will perform exactly the same motion whenever you trigger it.
There is a magic battleship whose inner workings are fueled by this spell, and graduates of one academy have to return regularly to perform bizarre movements with even more bizarre objects to keep it running.

Applicatus magic storage is a quick and dirty light-version of Create magic item. Cast it and a different spell on an object, and the spell gets triggered when that object gets touched or moved. It’s mostly used for traps and alarms, but with some modifications you can create a portable item that gets triggered on command, if you have the need for a healing baton or a fireball grenade.
It only lasts for day, though, and the variant to extend its duration requires a feat from a future supplement.

Arachnea crawling swarm is a pretty esoteric spell. It draws all the insects, spiders, worms etc. (including giant snails) to the casters position, and offers the casters no protection whatsoever against the crawlies. No one really teaches the spells and the it’s creator is implied to have gone mad from forbidden knowledge.
If you can reverse spells, you have a pretty potent magic circle against bugs, though.

Moldless Bread fucked around with this message at 21:39 on Dec 13, 2019

Cooked Auto
Aug 4, 2007

If you will not serve in combat, you will serve on the firing line!




You forgot adding the game title to the beginning of the post by the way.

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Nemo2342
Nov 25, 2007

Have A Day





Nap Ghost

PurpleXVI posted:

I know Raistlin isn't in this one, but he only has 15HP, this could at worst have killed him loving eight times over. In fact, on the suggestion of a friend, from now on the lethality of a given situation will be rated in Raistlins. This one is 8Ra.

I just wanted to say that I wholly endorse the idea of using the Raistlin as the standard unit for bullshit damage.

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