D&D Encounters Quest: Legacy of the Crystal Shard, Part 3

Last night was a rather strange session of encounters, in that our group did not get have a single round of combat. Typically, we’ve had three combat encounters every night I’ve been there, so it was definitely a departure from the norm.

Most of the usual players were there: the Dwarf Cleric who saves our butts time and again, the Dragonborn Druid whose nifty shapeshifting ways are very helpful, the Human Ranger who likes to hide in trees while raining down arrows upon our enemies, and and the Elven Mage who is looking forward to casting level 2 spells, as we were all told to level up our characters to three at the end of last week’s session. Our Halfling Rogue / super-assassin extraordinaire was missing, but I assume either work or weather-related issues kept him from coming, and that he’ll be back next week, as he’s been a regular most of the time I’ve been coming to Encounters. Also, we were joined by three new characters: Val, a Human Rogue specializing in Assassination, Bruce, a Dragonborn Fighter, specializing in Acid Breath and savant-esque stupidity / brilliance, and Javert, a Drow Paladin who specializes in being so ridiculously charismatic, he’s become the new face of the party.

The player for our original human fighter Jon moved to Australia. The “official” story is that he decided to leave our group and head south when the majority of us refused to back him up when he decided to pick a fight with Gant in a tavern, and was scorching ray’d into a crispy, burnt, roasted under-seasoned fighter in a single turn. “Unofficially,” I personally like to think that, after his near-death experience, he decided to retire, and settled in the Australian Quarter of Baldur’s Gate.

So we start off in the tavern, the Mythril Pot; it’s morning, and we’re making conversation with our new friends, when a messenger comes to us to tell us the Speaker of Easthaven (essentially the elected ‘Lord’ of the area) wishes to speak with us. My character gives a generous tip to the kid, who leads us to the Messenger’s office in turn. The Speaker, Danith, was so impressed with the way we defended Easthaven from the previous day’s pirate attacks, that he offers to cover our stay at the White Lady, the tavern we got kicked out of last week when “we” (as in our former fighter Jon) tried to pick a fight. I let the Speaker know that the proprietor of the tavern doesn’t take kindly to us due to a “misunderstanding” with a former member of our party, and we’re assured he’ll smooth out any problems we may have in that department. Moving on to the meat of the issue, he wants us to take care of the pirate problem plaguing Easthaven and he’ll pay us 100 gold pieces each to do so. Naturally, we accept, though we’re also saddened that he has absolutely no new leads for us.

That’s not to say we don’t have leads from the previous week to follow up on, from an oily Luskan trying to buy weapons at the armory, to the local ferryman, Creeden Connoly, buying large amounts of various supplies, much more than a mere ferryman would need to continue his / her operation. We go to a local woodworker to see if any such purchases occurred, and with some skillful charismatic persuasion, find out that Creeden bought 4 large spars, much more than he’d need for his ferry. We return to the armory of Rooden the Dwarf; partially to get some weapons silvered, of which he gave each of us 100 gold pieces worth of store credit after he had the night to think it over and realized we totally saved him from being turned into Dwarf stew the previous day. He also remembered a new detail he hadn’t before; Creeden had bought a tub full of chain from another smith in town.

We proceed to the docks to inspect Creeden’s ferry; it’s a large ship with a single mast, and notice he’s loading goods, including 100 lbs. of smoked meat (Mmmm…smoked meat…Mmmm!) A tavern by the docks, the Big Fat Knucklehead, is calling to us, as sleuthing is thirsty work. There, we discuss matters with the local fisherman, where we find out that ships, including the ferry, never go out to the lake, but stay by the shore. We also discover the location of Creedens’ home, and that he’s married to a Katelyn Connolly.

So off to the home we go, where we intentionally split the party; those with strong thieving / search skills went to pretend to do errands, while the charismatic remainder took Mrs. Connolly to the Speaker’s office for questioning in a matter we’re investigating regarding her husband. With incredible stealth, we unlock the door to the Connolly home and search the place, to discover absolutely nothing out of the ordinary in that the home is not luxurious and seems more than appropriate for a hardworking ferryman. Gavan does note however that there’s no strongbox present, which brings up a question: Where is Creeden’s strongbox, and why isn’t it at their home? With pirates attacking recently, one would think keeping it on the ferry would be overly risky.

After leaving things exactly as they were, including the locked door, we rejoin our friends at the Speaker’s office, where we discover nothing new from Mrs. Connolly. We then decide to book passage with Creeden’s ferry; splitting into pairs and pretending to have just met, we work out cover stories. Solis and I are couriers. The rest our doing various things from bar-hopping to touristy stuff. We try to get information out of Creeden and take a closer peek at his goods, but don’t glean anything useful. We arrive at the port of Caer-Dineval, where we quickly make our way to complete our made-up “business” and book another passage, to Caer-Konig, nothing that almost all of his cargo remains on-board. Upon arrival at Caer-Konig, we intend to book passage once more, but find Creedeb left immediately, dropping off none of his cargo, and that his ferry is out-of-sight. Our Dragonborn Druid, Ragner, then transforms into an Eagle and finds him sailing along to coast to the left, away from Caer-Konig, but interestingly enough, not in the direction of Caer-Dineval. In fact, he goes in the opposite direction.

Sadly, our Dragonborn can only sustain his transformation for 90 minutes, so he eventually returns to let us know what he discovered. We rent two boats and so sailing, actually bumping into Creeden’s ferry, but we sail past, noting that his cargo his now gone. only discover…nothing. No pirate base / headquarters. We surmise that the ferryman met with the pirates and loaded his goods onto a pirate ship, so we sail another mile or so on the look-out for any ships. We discover two ships, which we make our way towards. One of the ships appears hostile as we approach, taking out weapons, while another ship appears to not pay attention to our approach. We do notice that the weapons and dress of the hostile ship are not in-line with the pirates that attacked the town, so we approach the less hostile ship, one of them points to a strange symbol painted onto the side. My mage approximates that it’s a very ugly approximation of an arcana symbol. We peacefully approach, and learn that the symbol is supposed to be a magical ward that keeps pirates away, and that not one but two oil men from Lusk have been bugging the Speaker of Caer-Konig to pay money to have his ships painted with this “magical” symbol.

We return to Caer-Konig, return the rented boats, and talk to the speaker of Caer-Konig, Elton Lowell, who points us in the direction of the two oily Luskans, who are apparently staying at the Northern Light Inn. The play session ends as we make our way towards the Northern Light Inn, where presumably shenanigans will ensue next week.

I have to say, combat is fun in games, but it was absolutely refreshing to have a role-playing session where we did nothing but put on our Doctor Who hat’s, and make a meaningful attempt to investigate, find clues, acquire evidence, and try to unravel this mystery through peaceful means rather than break down the door and smash our suspects into oblivion. Though I’m confident next week we’ll get into a fight, or three.

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D&D Encounters Quest: Legacy of the Crystal Shard, Part 2

Once more, unto the breach…

This past Wednesday, Gavan and co. had arrived in the town of Easthaven. We were momentarily joined by two new people, twin elf rogues with a background in thuggery, going by the name: Boba Fett, and Asgard. I say momentarily because, due to prior plans in real life, they could only stay for one battle, where they proved to be very helpful.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So as part of the ‘learning as we go’ plot thread, apparently the party pre-Gavan had opposed a fellow named Gant (sp?). Details were rather sparse, but apparently we had heard through the grapevine that he was in the area, and if his previous activities were any clue, a danger to everyone. Interestingly enough, the town that doesn’t like us (again, pre-Gavan) also aren’t fond of Gant.

So we arrive at the gate of Easthaven, and almost get into a fight with the gate guard. Who had initially let us through with no issues, but then our fighter Jon insulted his intelligence when he asked us if we were pirates, and being hyper-aggressive, felt that was a stupid question and ridiculed the guard’s intelligence. To be fair, this was our fighter’s last day in the group, as the player in real life was moving, and he had indicated that he wanted to go down in a ‘blaze of glory.’

So we enter the town unscathed, and find ourselves in a rather up-scale tavern called the Mythril Pot. After a couple of drinks, our halfing rogue, Waltin, who happens to have the highest charisma score and is thus the most likable and by default the face of the party, manages to acquire some information; a character resembling the description of Gant might be at another tavern called the White Lady.

So to the White Lady we went, except we didn’t. Screams from the port sent us scrambling towards there, where unsavory types were leaping off two boats, killing substitute dockworkers, and making their way into the town. We opposed them and put them down much more easily than expected. Among the strangest moments was a figure who appeared to be standing in the back commanding the invaders, but disappeared in a puff of smoke when the battle started going badly for his crew.

With the battle ended, before we could catch our breaths though, more screams from the armory had us scrambling there, for more invader-killing shenanigans, where we saved the life of the dwarf smith. In a rather ‘no guts, no glory’ moment, Gavan runs in, takes an attack of opportunity (it hurt), and gets himself in a position where he’s able to cast ‘Burning Hands’ (imagine a flamethrower coming out of your hands) to hit multiple enemies at once, while using a neat trick called ‘spell sculpting’ so that the flames magically avoid his allies standing in the way. It was definitely risky, as he was in a bad position to get hurt, and actually went from 14 to 3 hit points in a few rounds of combat, but an 2nd ‘Burning Hands’ spell turns the remaining invaders to ashes.

We managed to glean some additional information from the dwarf smith, where the regular town guards and volunteers (regular dockworkers) were off raiding a pirate camp. However, it looks like it was a ruse, as the pirates knew the town was rather defenseless and tried to take advantage of that before bumping into us. We also find out that an oily Luskan (sp?) human (i.e. human from a place called Lusk) had in the past week, suggested to various surrounding businesses to provide payment for protection from future ‘accidents’.

Questioning surrounding businesses, we discover someone had recently purchased large amounts of tar, though for what purpose was not clear. Going back to the dock and searching one of the boats, (the other was gone), it was clear that a battle to acquire the boat had taken place. While not 100% confirmed, it was likely bandits had killed the original crew, and had planned to use this boat to sneak into Easthaven.

So we finally get to the White Lady, run by a dwarf with a giant crossbow. As Gant had never seen / met Gavan, Waltin, or Solis (our female, human ranger), and based on the description we were given from the remaining party members, we entered the place to see Gant enjoying a rather peaceful dinner. Our charismatic halfling tried to pry some useful information out of the tavern owner as well as Gant, but to no avail. We leave the tavern to tell our remaining party members that Gant was sitting right there and then. Solis, Waldo (dwarf cleric and generally the guy who consistently saves our hides with his healing) and Jon proceed enter the tavern. Jon attempts to use his ‘bounty hunter’ reasoning to pick a fight, pointing a sword at Gant and insisting that he will now be brought to justice. The tavern owner pulls out the crossbow and gives him a single warning to not start a fight at his place of establishment. So naturally, a fight breaks out.

In a single turn, Gant uses a powered up ‘Scorching Ray,’ (essentially rays of fire coming out of your hands) to make Jon crispy, burnt, and unconscious. Solis tries shooting an arrow into Gant, but it does mild damage, and he receives a crossbow bolt to the back for his efforts. Gavan heroically peeks into the tavern, sees what’s going on, and considering a.) he only has 7 out of 14 hit points left, and b.) he only has one worthwhile spell left to cast for the day, courageously decides to stay outside where it’s safe, for the moment. Meanwhile Waldo, who had been enjoying a drink witnessing this spectacle, drags our burnt fighter outside and heals him up.

It’s debatable if this could be considered a tactical retreat, or this, but one thing was abundantly clear; Gant was very powerful, and even if we were to turn the tide of battle and take him down, we’d probably also have ended up killing the tavern owner. It’s not like we need more people to hate us, so we made our way back to the Mithral Pot to lick our wounds, have a drink, and figure out what to do next. I know one thing for sure: Gavan wants to acquire Gant’s spellbook really badly, assuming he’s a mage. He could be a sorcerer, come to think of it.

Jon may or may not have gone out in a blaze of glory, that’s debatable, but certainly not for lack of trying. For us squishy folks, I’ll miss hiding behind his plate-mail armored hide. Oh, and thanks to some DM awesomeness, we’re now all level 3 after tonight, though he also admitted, that to be honest we’ve reached a point in the adventure where we should be level 3 to be competitive. Yay!

D&D Encounters Quest: Legacy of the Crystal Shard, Part 1

I was going to title this ‘Gavan Quest,’ then realized that what would happen if Gavan were to permanently die during his adventure in Icewind Dale? I’d have to change everything, so ‘D&D Encounters Quest’ it was.

Technically, I’m going to write part 3, but the first two parts were in my ‘Game Industry Quest’ postings. First, I’ll recap (and fix a few typos) by copy/pasting Gavan’s initial adventures below. The text is bolded and italicized, so you can skip ahead to his latest adventures if you prefer.

A game store recently opened in my area. When I say game store, I don’t mean Gamestop. I mean a brick-and-mortar store that sells board games, collectible card games, and tabletop role-playing games. So last week, I participated in Dungeons & Dragons Encounters. Since it’s tough to routinely blog about stuff, since his adventures are weekly, I can at least blog about that.

We are using the latest D&D Next / 5th Edition rules, and I guess 40% through Legacy of the Crystal Shard. At the time, the party consisted of a Dwarven Cleric who routinely saves our bacon with his healing, a tank-like Human Fighter, and an incredibly unique Dragonborn Druid. Thinking we needed either some magic or the skills of a rogue, I ended up creating an Elf Mage named Gavan. Why Gavan? I’m not the greatest fan, but earlier that day, I had heard the opening song to “Space Sheriff Gavan“, an 80′s (I think 80′s; may have been 70′s) Japanese tokusatsu (live-action) show. If nothing else, it’s a catchy song, so Gavan it was.

So the adventure began with us aiding the Elk Barbarian tribe rescue hostages from the Bear Barbarian tribe. Apparently lots of Barbarian tribes in Icewind Dale. So we opened up with storming up a treacherous hill; 3 dexterity checks of moderate difficulty to make it up this hill unscathed. Naturally, Gavan failed all three checks; at the bottom of the hill, he began with 14 hit points; by the time he limped to the top, covered in cuts, bruises, blood, broken ribs, probably a broken arm, a fractured leg, and busted eye socket, he had 2 hit points.

Remember the secret of comedy?

What’s sad is that Gavan actually get’s a bonus to Dexterity checks! (Negative bonus on Strength though.) I felt like Jerry Holkins or Wil Wheaton rolling my D20. Still, Gavan managed to redeem himself later in the fighting, taking out an an enemy spellcaster with two Magic Missile spells, and helping contribute to take down an Ice Queen that may-or-may-not have been the real Ice Queen causing the problems in the area with areas. Oh yeah, an Ice Queen has been terrorizing the lands with monsters, and elves in D&D Next are proficient with longbows and shortbows.

Hopefully, Gavan will be less clumsy this week.

Gavan wasn’t the only new party member to join last Wednesday at D&D Encounters; we had a Halfling Rogue join our group, and as it turned out in our final encounter of the night, with his final dagger he threw it and defeated the Ice Queen-that-may-not-have-been-the-real-Ice Queen for us. Gavan helped with that shooting arrows with his longbow, while the remainder of our party took out the a summoned Skeletal Dragon. We ended up with a decent amount of treasure for a level 2 party, and with a bunch of saved former hostages, we had to figure out a way out of the Icy Cavern.

We had another new party-member join us last night, a female human ranger named Solis (sp?). So we’ve got a pretty balanced party right now, including:

  • Ragner, male dragonborn druid
  • Jon, male human fighter
  • Waldo, male dwarf cleric
  • Walton, male halfling rogue
  • and last, but not least (except when traipsing up a hill): Gavan, male elf mage

So one interesting aspect to this adventure is that since Gavan is coming in mid-way through, he / I basically learn as we go along what’s happened previously. Apparently, a group of Dwarves around Icewind Dale previously asked the party (pre-Gavan) to help them with a necromancer in their mines, killing and re-animating their brethren into zombies. Due to time, or lack thereof, the party chose to assist the barbarians instead, but hoped to help the dwarves at a later time. Additionally, we have Dwarves being driven to be hyper-aggressive by black ice (it’s really crystal, but everyone refers to it as black ice).

So after helping out the Elk Barbarian tribe last week (and becoming honorary members), we were on our way to the Dwarves when we encountered Dwarven zombies intent on eating our remains. We put a stop to that with fisticuffs and our Dwarf Cleric turning undead.

We continue on our journey into a valley when we encounter a barricade defended by a group of Dwarves brandishing black ice weapons and the like. Previously, they had apparently treated our fighter rather poorly, so he was feeling rather aggressive. The Dwarves insisted that payment for passing the barricade was be our heads. We didn’t take kindly to that, but thought that if we managed to separate the Dwarves from the black ice, they might normalize into decent people. So we tried to fight with non-lethal damage. That plan quickly went south when they proceeded to kick our arses. and ended up going lethal, as a Gavanized magic missile spell killed one of the Dwarves. We did manage to subdue two, while killing the remaining four. We bury the dead and loot the corpses. Our heroes, ladies and gentlemen!

In a rather poor plan lacking in foresight, but partially out of necessity, we proceeded to rest at that barricade, starting up a campfire, to recover hit points / spells. The previous two encounters left us in rather poor shape. The first hour went uninterrupted, but as we began our overnight, a Dwarf patrol came up from the valley, essentially flanking us. Thankfully, our perception checks were good enough where we noticed them and naturally, another fight breaks out. Gavan manages to take out two more dwarves with magic missile spells, but is now out of magic, excluding cantrips. The fight gets really dicey when our fighter, cleric, and dragonborn all fall. Thankfully, our ranger gets hot (no pun intended) and some high to-hit / damage rolls take out the remaining two dwarves. Of course, we bury the dead, and loot the corpses. Mage Hand is a rather useful cantrip spell for the former, as well as messily covering our tracks. We then proceed to find another spot to camp, and the rest of the night in uneventful.

Our Dwarf hostages are rather untalkative; they accuse of of being Ten Towns spies (I added a link to explain more about Ten Towns.) In the meantime, Gavan inspects the black ice weapons and attempts to to use his arcane knowledge to figure out what makes the black ice tick. With a natural 20 on his arcana check, he figures out that they are magical, but not arcane; he then fails to figure anything further out when he blows his religion check.

In the end, we go to one of the nearest town’s to find some help for our Dwarven hostages (we are so heroic!), and then decide to make our way to another town called Easthaven, where we’ve heard rumors there’s trouble afoot. That concludes Gavan’s adventures for the moment, though he does discover something rather worrying. Pre-Gavan, the party apparently were in a bit of a moral quandary, when one of the town’s were going to execute some of the barbarians for whatever reason. Apparently, the party rescued the barbarians-to-be-killed, but in doing so earned the distrust of the local town’s. Honestly not sure how welcome we’ll be. Maybe some cloaks to cover our faces would be helpful; we probably don’t need a full blown disguise, but walking around like we belong probably won’t help matters. Or I could be worrying about nothing. Oh well, I’ll find out next week when Gavan and co. make their way to Easthaven and get into more, crazy shenanigans that probably involve a lot of violence / non-peaceful resolution. A part of me can’t help but wonder if all of Icewind Dale will hate us (except the Elk barbarian tribe) when this is all over.

Game Industry Quest, Part 21A

I really should name my Gavan oriented posts to ‘Gavan Quest’

Anyways, I was suddenly struck with why I’m not terribly fond of blogging. At least I now think / feel like I know why; by my nature, I’m a perfectionist. I like to take my time and make sure I’ve said everything that I wanted to say.

A vast majority of posts I make on this blog, there’s always been a thought “Oh, I forgot to say this.” or “Oh, I should have said this! Why didn’t I think of that?!” It becomes an exercise in frustration, because on one hand, I want this to be natural and free-flowing, and to not take this too seriously, but all of that goes against my natural inclinations.

Take the reason I’m writing this very post; there are things about Gavan’s first day on the job that I totally forgot to mention until after I hit the ‘Publish’ button. D’OH! C’est la vie! I guess this is where displaying adaptability is important.

Gavan wasn’t the only new party member to join last Wednesday at D&D Encounters; we had a Halfling Rogue join our group, and as it turned out in our final encounter of the night, with his final dagger he threw it and defeated the Ice Queen-that-may-not-have-been-the-real-Ice Queen for us. Gavan helped with that shooting arrows with his longbow, while the remainder of our party took out the a summoned Skeletal Dragon. We ended up with a decent amount of treasure for a level 2 party, and with a bunch of saved former hostages, we had to figure out a way out of the Icy Cavern.

Just re-organized Gavan’s character sheet; really looking forward to tomorrow night.

Game Industry Quest, Part 21

Wow, it has been awhile. I guess the the idea of blogging is related to genes, it’s definitely not in my blood. Oh well, let’s see if I can improve on this for 2014.

Regarding full-time employment in the game industry focused on entry-level production, I have now officially been looking for 1 year, 8 months. I have a part-time job on a Kickstarted project, and that’s about it.

A part of me finds this frustrating, while another part finds this fascinating. Having been looking for so long, I can say with confidence of all the various production openings I see, many are for high-level or mid-level positions. This leads me to the question, where are the entry-level production jobs?

A third part of me wants to submit to pitch to Gamasutra, where with some suggestions / feedback, I work on an article not necessarily talking about my experiences job hunting, but more in line with where production / producers stand in the game industry. Basically, I’ve been led to believe the following:

  1. There are companies that do not use producers. Off the top of my head, Naughty Dog (Uncharted series), and Valve are on this list.
  2. There are companies where producers emerge from quality assurance testers. But who are they?
  3. There are companies where it is preferred that QA testers stay in their field. But who are they? I believe Bungie is one of them, as they are one of the few companies I have seen entry-level positions.

The idea needs some work, and to be clear, I have zero interest in trying to get into gaming journalism, as I’m probably not a talented enough writer to pull that off. By the end of the day, I would want this to be informative, not a bitch-and-moan session.

While I continue to look, onto more fun writings, I game store recently opened in my area. When I say game store, I don’t mean Gamestop. I mean a brick-and-mortar store that sells board games, collectible card games, and tabletop role-playing games. So last week, I participated in Dungeons & Dragons Encounters. Since it’s tough to routinely blog about stuff, since his adventures are weekly, I can at least blog about that.

We are using the latest D&D Next / 5th Edition rules, and I guess 40% through Legacy of the Crystal Shard. At the time, the party consisted of a Dwarven Cleric who routinely saves our bacon with his healing, a tank-like Human Fighter, and an incredibly unique Dragonborn Druid. Thinking we needed either some magic or the skills of a rogue, I ended up creating an Elf Mage named Gavan. Why Gavan? I’m not the greatest fan, but earlier that day, I had heard the opening song to “Space Sheriff Gavan“, an 80’s (I think 80’s; may have been 70’s) Japanese tokusatsu (live-action) show. If nothing else, it’s a catchy song, so Gavan it was.

So the adventure began with us aiding the Elk Barbarian tribe rescue hostages from the Bear Barbarian tribe. Apparently lots of Barbarian tribes in Icewind Dale. So we opened up with storming up a treacherous hill; 3 dexterity checks of moderate difficulty to make it up this hill unscathed. Naturally, Gavan failed all three checks; at the bottom of the hill, he began with 14 hit points; by the time he limped to the top, covered in cuts, bruises, blood, broken ribs, probably a broken arm, a fractured leg, and busted eye socket, he had 2 hit points.

Remember the secret of comedy?

What’s sad is that Gavan actually get’s a bonus to Dexterity checks! (Negative bonus on Strength though.) I felt like Jerry Holkins or Wil Wheaton rolling my D20. Still, Gavan managed to redeem himself later in the fighting, taking out an an enemy spellcaster with two Magic Missile spells, and helping contribute to take down an Ice Queen that may-or-may-not have been the real Ice Queen causing the problems in the area with areas. Oh yeah, an Ice Queen has been terrorizing the lands with monsters, and elves in D&D Next are proficient with longbows and shortbows.

Hopefully, Gavan will be less clumsy this week.