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The Lurking Gherkin

The Gherkin Patch

….where the Lurking Gherkin ponders various gaming-related issues.

The Lurking Gherkin

WAR! What is it good for? Well, it can make for a damn fine adventure…

Time for an update on the latest happenings in Gherkin’s Greyhawk.  I am presently running a large-scale battle – involving thousands of troops – as an adventure. The challenge with this is to keep the action focussed on the player characters while giving them the feeling of being part of a huge battle that is going on around them.

The PCs’ involvement occurs through a series of ‘scenes’ which depict particular combat engagements or missions that they find themselves in.  The players are told what their objectives are and how this will affect the overall progress of the battle if they succeed.

The first scene – retaking a village that had fallen into enemy hands – took a couple of sessions to conclude, but since then I’ve been aiming to make each scene last one session.  As a group we are lucky enough to have a large collection of figures (that’s ‘minis’ to you youngsters) so we can lay out a large number of combatants on the tabletop.  However, in order to speed up some of the larger-scale combat engagements, things happening on the periphery that do not directly involve any of the PCs are run in an abstract sense only – in other words, I make it up as I go along rather than making hundreds of dice rolls, knocking down kills and moving the battle lines forward or back to provide the flavour of what is happening.

The ‘bad guys’ that the PCs are facing here are mostly orcs, ogres, trolls etc.  That may sound a little mundane but actually they don’t often come up against these mainstays of fantasy villainy, so it makes for a pleasant change.  They have axebeak cavalry and a squadron of wyvverns.  The PCs tend to find themselves up against the enemy’s elite forces and commanders – although they do sometimes find themselves up against opponents that they significantly outclass and they then get to enjoy the pleasure of putting them to the rout with contemptuous ease.  I think you owe it to your players to give them these sorts of encounters once in a while.

I have made good use of the 3.5e ‘Heroes of Battle’ supplement for this adventure.  The authors suggest constructing a battle adventure flowchart and a complete set of diagrams of all the potential battlefield states corresponding to flowchart outcomes; I toyed with the concept but realised that this would be a huge amount of work and much of it would be wasted as only one actual path through the flowchart would be followed.  (I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has tried using this method exactly as the book suggests).  Maybe if I were writing an adventure for publishing, this amount of rigour would be required.  Instead, I have taken an incremental approach, drawing up a plan of the battlefield and the location of units for the players, then running them through a scene or two, then drawing up a revised plan based on the outcome, and so on.

Battle of Westkeep - Phase 1

Battle of Westkeep - Phase 1

Battle of Westkeep - Phase 2

Battle of Westkeep - Phase 2

Battle of Westkeep - Phase 3

Battle of Westkeep - Phase 3

I started by drawing out the terrain and then overlaid a sheet of acetate and used OHP markers to draw in the units; a wet cotton bud is used to erase a unit prior to repositioning.  (I totally have the skill to do all this on a computer but it’s so much more fun doing it by hand…..)

When working on this kind of thing it very much helps if you have experience of tabletop wargaming and/or military re-enactments.  What I’m effectively doing here is creating snapshots of the battle in progress.  These are shown to the players.  In fact, their characters would not know what is going on across on the other side of the battlefield.  However, showing these to the players gives them a sense of being a part of the greater whole and the feeling of the scale of the event that they are immersed in.

Plenty of description plays an important part in this kind of adventure.  This locale has now seen three armies turn up and lay seige within the past three months; it’s war-torn, and corpses have lain unburied for weeks.  It’s also nice to mention magical explosions that are seen and heard going off in the near distance, from the PCs viewpoint.  Sometimes stray riderless mounts are encountered.  Lady Ambarran, an elven healer riding a unicorn, breezes in after an engagement, escorted by her guards and protected by a banner that radiates a Sanctuary effect, and offers healing to the poor wounded humans.

The player characters are a large and diverse bunch so I split some of them off to go on a commando raid on a catapult battery, secretly ‘parachuting’ them behind enemy lines – dropping them off the backs of griffon cavalry with the aid of potions of feather fall and invisibility.

I have also given some players a chance to run some high-level NPC heroes, just for the pleasure of being really outrageous combat monsters…..

If the Keoish army is successful in defeating these forces, which seems likely, they will march upon their final objective – the City of Monmurg.  The main issue with this battle is not so much whether they will win, as how dearly that victory will be bought, and whether they will be strong enough to take Monmurg afterwards.  This final assault on Monmurg will be the culmination of a four-year campaign.  Epic!

(Some previous posts relating to the Monmurg campaign:

http://www.covengaming.org/wordpress/?p=209

http://www.covengaming.org/wordpress/?p=235

http://www.covengaming.org/wordpress/?p=583

http://www.covengaming.org/wordpress/?p=614

)

June 21st, 2010 by Lurkinggherkin

Return of the Lurking Gherkin

Well, it’s been a longer sabbatical from blogging here than I expected.  Goodness, what a lot of spam I had to deal with on my return….amazing the stuff people try and sell you, and the pretexts they use for selling it, eh?  I am very sorry to anyone who may have posted a genuine comment but after twenty minutes of scanning through comments in moderation for genuine ones and making very little progress through the stack I decided that the only thing to do was junk the lot.

What have I been up to?  Finishing my Masters’ degree has loomed large, had some exams to get through and a project and dissertation to complete.  Modelling magnetohydrodynamic interfacial waves in aluminium reduction cells, if you must know.  Anyway, all that’s out of the way at last.

Though my blog has fallen silent, I’ve still been keeping up the tabletop gaming goodness.  When I stop doing that it will be time to switch off the life support.  Gherkin’s Greyhawk has been rumbling on like an unstoppable juggernaut.  I’ll post some updates on the latest goings-on over the next few weeks.

Here’s hoping that everyone has enjoyed a fruitful gaming life in my absence.

June 13th, 2010 by Lurkinggherkin

All Quiet On The Blogging Front

Battling with my MSc dissertation leaves me little time for blogging right now.  Probably going to stay that way for the next couple of months, too.  But gaming still happens, for the moment.  Gherkin’s Greyhawk continues apace.  Sharing the DMing workload makes it easier – I’m running sessions on alternate weeks, interspersing the Monmurg War storyline with Return To The Temple of Elemental Evil which is run by my good buddy John a.k.a. guydebec.

If I don’t post again before Christmas, have a good one y’all.

November 28th, 2009 by Lurkinggherkin

So, let’s talk about your fear of multiclassing

I occasionally hear or read comments in which unrestricted multiclassing in 3.X D&D is held to be a bad thing.  People will confidently assert the ridiculousness of having, say, more than 3 classes – 3 seems to be the limit beyond which the multiclass-phobic become really twitchy.  What leads them to have such confidence in these assertions?  What’s so bad or wrong or ridiculous about having any given number of classes listed on a character sheet?  If you are playing a point-build game like GURPS, you can have an arbitrary amount of flexibility in how you structure your character, yet people who don’t bat an eyelid at the flexibility of GURPS have been known to get upset when they see someone popping multiple classes onto their D&D character sheet.  Can this behaviour be rationalised in terms of conscious reasoning, or is it purely instinctive based on their ideas of how D&D ‘should’ be played?

As you may have guessed by now, I’m not at all multiclass-phobic.  Let’s consider various reasons that people might have for harbouring these feelings, and my response to these.  If you think I’ve missed out something important please feel free to point it out – I’m not trying to construct a strawman argument here.

Three classes was the limit back in the days of 1e AD&D – having more than this ‘feels wrong’

Clearly, this is nothing more than an appeal for a game that has a familiar, comfortable structure, based on what you are already used to.  What’s more, it’s a ‘gamist’ argument – in terms of flavour within the game world, the number of character classes a person has is surely nothing to do with it.  Game world flavour is about culture and setting, flora and fauna, and character classes are simply abstract tools used to codify a character’s abilities and the way they progressively improve.  So you’ll have a hard time persuading me that ‘feels wrong’ here has anything to do with the roleplay aspects of the game.  When you say ‘feels wrong’ here you surely mean it in the sense that making attack rolls with 3d6 instead of a d20 in D&D ‘feels wrong’.

This is not to say that these feelings are unimportant.  Humans don’t always do things for purely rational reasons.  But it is important I think to recognise and admit to our irrationalities in order that they do not master us.

The concept of everyone being described by a ‘character class’ is a bit artificial already; allowing people to have as many of them as they like makes this seem even worse

Hmmm.  Now this one contains an embedded self-contradiction.  Character classes are artificial because they artificially constrain someone to follow a particular progression of abilities.  So you think that allowing total multiclass flexibility somehow…makes this worse?

It makes it harder to pigeonhole a character and think of them in terms of an archetype if they require a multiplicity of classes to describe them.

Well, yes it does.  That is certainly true, and some people would consider that a virtue.  But others crave the simplicity of archetypes in their gaming.  This is very much a style choice.  Myself, I see that IRL a person may either stay in the same career their whole life (single-classing) or may spend stints doing this or that job and enjoy a chequered career (multi-classing) and so the capacity to multiclass assists my sense of immersion.  Yet I find that I still prefer some class-based structure rather than total freeform point-building of characters, because if you do quickly want to throw together a character that follows a certain archetype the progressions are ready-made for you.  So I do appreciate the simplicity argument and I recognise it has merit for some people.  But for me, restricting someone to an arbitrary maximum number of classes is too inflexible.  Yes, even if you give various options for customising classes.  I just don’t like the idea of constraining characters to a particular archetype or role throughout their career.

A ‘Ranger/Barbarian/Rogue/Savage Bard/Beastmaster’ doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, and this makes it seem silly

Not a rational argument really.  Classes are abstract ways of describing bundled progressions of abilities on a character record; but they are not how the characters would describe themselves or think of themselves within the game world.  So our Ranger/Barbarian/Rogue/Savage Bard/Beastmaster would never introduce themselves as such, any more than you would start immediately rattling off a list of positions you have held and educational facilities you have attended when introduced to someone (which would, in a similar fashion, seem silly).  The class description gives us a convenient handle in the real world on what sort of abilities the character is likely to have, but it doesn’t matter a damn whether it is brief or lengthy, aside from an irrational knee-jerk reaction that some people have against lengthy descriptors.  This argument harks back to the earlier ‘feels wrong’ point I made.

It makes the game too complicated; working out NPCs takes forever…

Well just because you can do something doesn’t mean you have to do it.  But its nice to be able to on those occasions when you do want to.

It’s a munchkin’s charter – have you seen those excessive ‘builds’ on Wizards’ character optimisation forums?

Yes I have, and most of them hinge on a rules exploit or wording ambiguity that any halfway decent DM will plug in a trice.

Of more concern is the practise of hunting for ‘dip’ classes, whereby taking just one or maybe two levels in a class gives you all the most desirable benefits of the class.  Depending on what these benefits are, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there are some cases where it can be taken too far – where the benefit of taking just one level in a class are disproportionate.  For example, I have no objection to someone taking one level of Rogue so they can get 1d6 Sneak Attack.  Where I draw the line is someone taking one level of Assassin so they can get Death Attack.  For this reason I’ve houseruled some added restrictions on becoming an assassin, and reduced the effectiveness of the Death Attack so that there’s a level-dependant ceiling on the hit dice of target that’s susceptible.

These issues need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.  Again no real problem for any DM worth their salt.  (And a learning experience for the rest… ;) )

Too much choice in class structures shifts the players’ focus away from roleplay and on to mechanics

Quite possibly, this argument carries more weight than any of the others.  Confronted with many possible choices within the rules, players can become so obsessed with ‘building’ the perfect character that they lose sight of the things that really matter, the things that keep the spirit of the game alive.  Spend too long poring over rules mechanics and you may find yourself starting to take a mechanical approach towards the game.

I liken the 3rd edition multiclassing rules to a strong horse that can only be tamed by a forceful rider.  You can all too easily find the rules and mechanics taking control of the game if you let them.  And it takes a while to learn the knack of making the rules work for you rather than the other way around.

So, there the case for the defense rests.  I have to say that most of the objections I encounter against prolific multiclassing tend to be based on fairly irrational premises, like ‘It’s silly’, or ‘It doesn’t feel right’.  Or else there’s the ‘If you’re going to be that flexible, why bother with a class-based system at all, why not play GURPS?’  which I have addressed above in my response to the ‘archetypes’ argument.

This post may have come across as a defence of 3rd edition, but really I’m defending the general concept of unrestricted multiclassing here, which has detractors even among people who play 3.X.

So, gentle reader, next time a player waves a character sheet under your nose for approval with half a dozen classes and a template or two, don’t dismiss it out of hand simply because it’s a ‘multiclassing nightmare’.  Every good character sheet should have a summarised list of the character’s abilities, and it’s this you should be looking at – i.e. the output – rather than the character’s class structure.  Does it all hang together well, in a believable fashion?  Are the characters abilities in-keeping with the campaign flavour?  Are there any munchkin exploits that need fixing?  If the answer to the first two question is yes, and the answer to the third question is no, then you have nothing to fear.

September 20th, 2009 by Lurkinggherkin

Forgetting the golden rules of dungeon exploration can be a liberating experience

Our party is too big, asymmetrically levelled, and has an unbalanced mix of skills.  OK, so what else can we do that everyone says is crazy?  I know – let’s all split up and go in different directions! And why not go down into the dark cellar without a torch while we’re at it?

So – the adventure is ‘Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil’.  We have 12 player characters and 5 NPCs.  Levels range from 1st to 6th.  There’s one full-time cleric, one full-time mage, one full-time rogue.  The rest of us, apart from a couple of folks who can do a bit of part-time magic or trapfinding, are warrior types,  including several plate-armoured tanks (pass the can opener).  And yes, we did split the party.  And all the tanks went one way and the folks who think a g-string is too much armour went the other way.  Guess who ran into the ambush ;) ?

I for one am enjoying it immensely.  Maybe it’s because I’m playing for a change.  Last time I sat on the outside of the DM’s screen I ran a sneaky, backstabbing lothario sea-elf called Sunaeco.  For the first time in a few years, though, I’m giving my ‘tank’ character an airing – Reynald.

Reynald is the kind of guy who just assumes he is party leader (which can rub some people up the wrong way, of course!).  Disgustingly handsome and dashing, people tend to assume (incorrectly) that he’s a Paladin, and are surprised when he occasionally demonstrates that actually, though generally on the side of good, he’s no angel.  Think one part Kenneth Brannagh, one part (young) Oliver Reed, and one part Heath Ledger (as in ‘Knight’s Tale’ not ‘The Dark Knight’).  He is rarely seen without his cravat which hides some scarring around his neck, an acid burn sustained fighting a tentacled abomination beneath the lost city of the Hutakaans.

He’s not actually the heaviest hitter in the party, despite being the highest level character and an obvious warrior type, as his talents are diversified into leadership and support skills.  OK, if you’re one of these people obsessed by knowing people’s ‘builds’, he’s a 2/2/2 Knight/Ranger/Marshal.  His Ranger class is the non-spellcasting ‘Champion of the Wild’ variant from Complete Champion – I wanted to keep him earthy and gritty and non-magical.  One area he does excel is mounted combat, and he’s lethal with a lance.  Shame he seems to spend so much of his time grubbing around in holes in the ground, really…

September 17th, 2009 by Lurkinggherkin

House Rules – Multiple Attacks in 3.5e

For some time now I’ve been bothered by an annoying rules inconsistency in the way ‘natural’ attacks in 3.5e are handled differently from ‘non-natural’ attacks. Specifically, I don’t like the way that you only get a single attack per round with a natural weapon irrespective of your BAB (unless you are a Monk), but suddenly when you pick a weapon up you are getting multiple attacks.

Here’s an example that illustrates the ridiculousness of this in a very clear way. Suppose I’m a weretiger fighting in hybrid form. The rules say I get one attack with each of my claws. Now suppose I pick up a set of ‘Tiger Claws’ (palm-grip weapons with claws that protrude between your fingers). Now, if my BAB is +6 or more I get an extra attack with one of those tiger claws.

It is true that if I want to use both tiger claws in this way, and I don’t have the two-weapon fighting feat, then I suffer penalties to hit – -4 and -8 respectively.   But if I do have the feat (thereby reducing the penalties to -2/-2), why can’t I use it with my natural claws to have 3 attacks when my BAB is +6 – i.e. 2 attacks at -2/-7 with my first claw and 1 attack at -2 with my second claw?  It seems worth doing, and why should I be able to do it with artificial claws but not my own?

And if I have ‘Improved two-weapon fighting’, then I should be able to get two extra attacks, one with each claw, so now my attacks look like this: Primary -2/-7, Offhand -2/-7 instead of just two unmodified attacks.

Well, we could say – OK then, let’s allow this, as an interpretation of the rules. It clears up the apparent inconsistency.  In passing, we should also say that a human can have two unmodified fist attacks as well (if it doesn’t say this in the rules already) or else, if you want to fight ‘weapon style’ to gain extra attacks then you use the same penalties as a creature with claws, as discussed above. (Unless you are a Monk, in which case stick with the rules for Monks).

But…it doesn’t end there. There are quite a few creatures in the Monster Manual(s) that would gain a disproportionate benefit from using this interpretation. The Purple Worm has a BAB of +16, so it should get 4 attacks with one of its natural weapons. It could use this to bite 4 times in a round. There are numerous other similar examples.

This creates a dilemma. It seems non-intuitive that a weretiger can’t use its BAB to have multiple claw attacks unless it picks up a set of metal claws and uses them in essentially the same way as it does it natural claws, but if you say ‘OK, then, it can’ then it leads to the logical necessity of allowing huge monsters like purple worms to have multiple bites in a round which seems unbalanced and non-intuitive (at least, to me it does).

My suggested solution is to allow creatures with BAB of +6 or more the option of waiving their right to additional attacks in exchange for some other sort of benefit. I’ll confess it’s tempting to say ‘a feat’ for every additional attack you waive so that my own combat-shy sorceress character can get an extra feat out of it ;). But after some mulling I think that this would be too wide-ranging a benefit and would lead to too much head-scratching over what bonus feats you are going to award your dinosaurs or whatever in exchange for their dropping their notional extra attacks.

So what I am looking for here is a single universal benefit, not to have a wide range of choices that can lead to an agony of indecision at the gaming table particularly if DM’ing monsters. It has to be easily applicable on the fly.

My idea at the moment is as follows – for every additional attack you waive the right to, you gain the benefit of a +2 dodge bonus to AC when fighting or casting defensively or taking the total defense action. So a purple worm will, if it elects to fight defensively, take a -4 penalty to hit and instead of gaining only +2 to AC it will gain a rather more impressive +8 to AC (as it waives the right to 3 extra attacks).

This isn’t something you can switch off and on. When your BAB reaches +6 you elect to drop your right to an extra attack and gain this benefit instead. As well as benefitting the big monsters this is also a good option for the purely wizardly types who would probably prefer some more defensive capability rather than extra attacks. Maybe ‘pure’ healers too.

It is suggested that monsters relying on natural attacks will have this option by default. It is an easy one to remember and apply, I think – if your monster goes defensive, check its BAB – if it’s +6, give it an extra +2 AC, if it’s +11 give it +4 and if it’s +16 or more it gets +6 (on top of the normal AC bonus for being defensive – +0 for defensive casting, +2 for defensive fighting, +4 for total defense).  I’d also say that it’s a genuinely worthwhile benefit to take as an alternative to having extra attacks, and one that will really make defensive fighting worthwhile.

(NB the bonus for casting defensively also applies to use of spell-like abilities defensively.)

September 15th, 2009 by Lurkinggherkin

My experience of the Edition Wars – through the eyes of Scott Adams

OK, the context is a bit removed from the gaming world and the D&D edition wars, but I have been on the ‘Dilbert’ side of exchanges like this all too often.

Two recent dialogues I’ve been involved in were very much like this.  In the first, I was defending the old-style rust monster and those DMs who sometimes chose to use them, and (despite me not even mentioning 4e) it was interpreted as an attack on the entire 4e D&D system.  I found myself on the receiving end of a very, er, robust and vigorous defence of something I’d never set out to attack, from someone who seemed to take my comments very personally.  (Even more bizarrely, this person started waving bits of artwork of their 4e character’s loot at me, and proclaimed they couldn’t imagine anyone being inspired by previous editions to create depictions of their character’s stuff.  I was, frankly, incredulous).

The other one was a comment I made about my preference for a play style that didn’t assume the players would win every encounter – saying that if (note the use of the word *if* there, because it’s a very important word despite being only two letters long) ‘modern’ gaming was about the players never having to run away then I wanted nothing to do with it.  I was really talking about player attitudes here.  I was accused of ‘fuelling the edition wars’ with my ‘ignorant’ comment and that ‘modern’ gaming had no such requirements for the players always winning built in – a claim I had never made in the first place.  And I never said anything about any edition.

I don’t intend to embarass anyone by linking to these exchanges.  But like Dilbert, I really find this behaviour baffling.  People, if you really want the edition wars to stop – then don’t be the Sales Guy in that cartoon.

September 15th, 2009 by Lurkinggherkin

Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Part 10

Two Weeks Later

The ritual to open the way to the Hanging Glacier may only be performed on a night of the new moon. Thus a fortnight’s wait is incurred.

Lendela and her people have now arrived, bolstering the ranks of the ice elves. The party have re-located their camp once more to one of the Rakeskia’s ice-cave hideouts, this time a fair distance from the western peak of Ymir’s Fang where the fortress lies. A close watch is kept on the shamaness Lyrina at all times.

Her closest bodyguard, in every sense, is Albrigon, with whom she is now entirely enamoured. The other ice elves are somewhat disquieted by her sudden surrender to the attentions of this human, although they recognise that he has played an important part in the rescue of their people. But she will hear none of their advice that no good will come of this union. He has even managed to persuade her that it will be necessary, for the good of her people, to gather the forbidden metallic shards, though the prospect fills her with dread.

Alpine birds have arrived carrying messages from the other tribes that they are sending delegates with armed escorts to the council of war that Lendela has requested.

The party have described to Lendela the region where Valaina’s stronghold is located. Some female scouts are sent to investigate (as they are immune to the enthralling power of the foxwoman). They return a week later, reporting that they found the caves described by the party but that they were empty, though with signs of recent habitation. No tracks could be found. Even Valaina’s menagerie of ice toads had been evacuated.

At last, New Luna has arrived. The party make the ascent of Ymir’s Fang once more, using Chillwind to ferry them to one of their earlier campsites closer to the fortress and then making their way upwards on foot, wanting to conserve their magical resources. A high-altitude cloud is depositing a light snowfall around them, the guttering, icy wind whipping the falling crystals into fantastic swirls and eddies which are revealed by the light of their lanterns. The moisture on their breath freezes and mingles with the snow as they climb the stair that winds up the ridge that lies to the east of the plateau. Albrigon and Lyrina go ahead on Chillwind, waiting for them at the top of the stair. The burly barbarian nods to the fur-clad gnome halberdiers that are waiting by the rope bridge to escort them across to the plateau, eyeing them warily. Lyrina who sits in front of him huddles back a little into the protective circle of his arms, tense with fear and anticipation. Chillwind scans the skies nervously for his skeletal cousin, but there is no visible sign of the undead dragon.

At last the rest of the party reach the top of the stair. They make their way across the bridge and into the ruined fortification…following their gnome escorts across the rubble-strewn, icy courtyard, towards the gatehouse that is carved into the rising mountainside that forms the north-west boundary of the fortress. The doors open to admit them.

Mia telepathically persuades Chillwind to accept another change of form into a serpent to ease his passage through this place. He consents to this, and she turns him into a constrictor snake, which she drapes around her shoulders and waist. From her smile she seems to positively delight in the sensation of him coiling about her petite form!

The interior of the gatehouse is lit by a small fireplace. The animal smell hits the party before they enter. Yetis. Several family groups’ worth have been given this place as a den. The mothers play with their children as the males wrestle or chew on pieces of deer carcass.

The rear exit of the gatehouse that leads into the mountainside beckons. Here the gnome who claims the name of Keraptis awaits with some guards. They lift the bar on the doors and open them. A chill draft wafts out of the yawning cave entrance beyond.

The party pass by some things that look like bits of broken statue. Thankfully they look like pieces of petrified animal, and not elf-child. There are some cattle-like stools that look very gritty and stony. It is evident that a gorgon was recently quartered here.

A portcullis is raised and the party continue further downwards into the heart of Ymir’s Fang, passing through a series of natural caves resplendent with many bizarre and convoluted rock formations. It is clear that Lyrina knows the way very well. She has travelled these subterranean halls hundreds of times before, when the ice-elves’ ownership of the Sacred Glacier was unchallenged by meddling wizards.

At last, the Cave of the Glacier is reached – a place where there are many stalagmites that rise from the floor, fed by dripping water from above. Strangely there are no corresponding stalactites above them. The stalagmites are broad at the base like great cones, with many rippling layers ascending to their upper heights. There is something about them that remind the viewer of a forest of fir trees. There is a well-worn path that winds through them, disappearing beyond sight after a hundred feet or so.

In the vestibule of the cave Lyrina readies herself to perform the sacred ritual, painting sigils onto her face and arms. So well-practised is she, that she needs no mirror to do this. She has to wipe one off and start again though when Albrigon playfully slaps her rump. “Hey, do you have to get naked for this ritual?”

She laughs. Strange, she thinks, I would not normally take amusement from such disrespect. But it’s just the way he says it…

“You should have more reverence, Albrigon. This is a holy place.”

She is prepared. She commences her ritual, raising her arms and invoking the spirits of the mountain. She begins to dance and chant. There is a tingling feeling in the air now, a mystical presence that can be felt by all.

A mist arises in the cavern, and the temperature falls even lower. After around twenty minutes of complex chants and movements, Lyrina sinks to the floor, kneeling to pay her respects to the mountain, pressing her forehead to the rock. She rises and turns to the party.

“The way is open.”

Ugrat growls at Keraptis. “Zhose children, zey bett’r be heer ven vee get bak…you make zem bett’r again, you understand?”

“Oh, just get on with it please. Spare me your bleeding-heart drivel. We made a bargain, I’ll keep my side if you keep yours. That’s all there is.”

The party advance into the mists, Lyrina walking ahead of them confidently, on a path familiar to her.

Soon the crunch of rocky gravel underfoot becomes the crunch of crisp snow. Someone brushing up against a stalagmite finds that it moves. It is a fir tree with white needles. As they progress yet further it becomes a little lighter overhead, not daylight for sure but brighter than two full moons.

The mists thin as they press on, finding themselves pushing through dense fir trees now. “Do not harm the trees.” Lyrina instructs. “The Spirit of the Glacier will be angered.”

The party emerge from the trees to see themselves surrounded by scenery that is fantastically beautiful, and yet somehow eerily familiar. The peaks of Ymir’s Fang still loom to the north, but they seem to be more angular and faceted as if they are some kind of huge crystalline formation rather than mere rock and stone. To the west lies the plateau, but in this place devoid of any fortification and heaped with untouched snow. The party see that they are in a glacial valley. The ice of the glacier here is amazingly clear and beautiful except where it is covered by fallen snows that have, rather improbably, formed patterns of astonishing intricacy. The sides of this valley are thick with fir trees that have white and silver needles, at an altitude that would be inhospitable to any normal vegetation on Oerth. Overhead the sky blazes with stars, countless more than are ever seen in the skies over the Flanaess. The stars seem to form a huge swirling spiral pattern that dominates the sky, with a great glowing centre. There is no moon visible. The only signs of animate life here are small flocks of things that look like birds at first; then closer inspection shows them to be more bat-like. But even this is incorrect, for they have no visible head or body, they seem to be simply disembodied pairs of flapping wings, that glitter and gleam as they flutter about in the starlight, racing each other in and out of the trees. The whole scene has a soft, dream-like quality of unreality.

“Welcome to the Sacred Glacier of Thelandira. Be careful to follow my instructions exactly – there are many spirits in this place. They sleep, now, but we must have a care not to awaken them. Do not do anything to harm the ice of the glacier. Cast no magicks upon it. The ice birds you see will not usually cause harm, but sometimes they gather in larger numbers to attack; if this happens, defend yourselves, and destroy them if you must, but do not harm them otherwise.”

The party proceed down the glaciated ravine until they reach a place where the glacial spur joins a larger glacial river several hundred feet wide. This river can be heard creaking and groaning as it slowly eases forwards in its bed. There are swathes of glittering silvery forest on either side of the broad, shallow valley that it occupies.

Ahead, it can be seen that the glacier’s advance carries it over a precipice. But far from falling, the ice breaks off in chunks….and then floats gently onwards. A glistening causeway of hanging icebergs can be seen trailing off into the far distance until it is lost in the surrounding mists that mark the visible extent of this strange place….

“The Hanging Glacier!” breathes Albrigon. “At Last!”

Previous Installments:

Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Part 1
Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Character Sketch: Snake
Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Part 2
Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Character Sketch: Albrigon
Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Part 3
Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Part 4
Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Character Sketch: Ugra’at
Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Part 5
Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Part 6
Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Part 7
Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Character Sketch: Sorrel
Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Part 8
Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Part 9
Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Character Sketch: Mia

September 14th, 2009 by Lurkinggherkin

I guess they don’t call it ‘Twit’-ter for nothing…

“Wondering why some game reviewers are idiots. Newspapers don’t review movies based on a script. Why review a module without playing it?” – Goodman Games.

Well, lawks-a-lordy.  A employee of Goodman Games has let slip with an ill-considered ‘tweet’ on something called ‘Twitter’, and the flames are already spreading.

My take on this, is that Goodman games have produced a lot of good products (and maybe some less good ones too).  I don’t think some staffer shooting their mouth off in an unguarded moment is cause to sick the dogs of war on them.

Just saying.  Not that I’m condoning what whoever-it-was said, either.  Nor am I denying anyone’s right to be upset.  Just offering another perspective.

Erm, peace.

September 14th, 2009 by Lurkinggherkin

Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Character Sketch: Mia

Miahuaxiuitl – She knows what you’re thinking

Miahuaxiuitl, or Mia to her friends, hails from the Amedio Jungle. Her Necklace of Warmth means that she is unfazed by the biting cold in these mountains. She has a pet lizard, also unfazed by the cold, that seems suspiciously intelligent and capable, and may not be what it seems. Indeed, Mia herself may not be what she seems…

Mia tends to be economical with her words.  She possesses a number of psionic talents, and wields an obsidian-tipped staff, though she tends to avoid combat if it can be helped. She has been known to indulge in the use of ‘recreational substances’ that she has brought with her from her jungle homeland, and encourages others to join her in these pursuits when the party are not in the thick of the action.  She sometimes evidences a somewhat macabre sense of humour.

Mia joined the Quest for the Hanging Glacier midway through after Snake departed for Keoland. Little is known about her, other than that she has been sent by Snake to bolster the party.

Previous Installments:

Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Part 1
Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Character Sketch: Snake
Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Part 2
Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Character Sketch: Albrigon
Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Part 3
Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Part 4
Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Character Sketch: Ugra’at
Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Part 5
Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Part 6
Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Part 7
Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Character Sketch: Sorrel
Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Part 8
Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Part 9

September 14th, 2009 by Lurkinggherkin

3.x Resurgent

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