Lacking Natural Simplicity

Random musings on books, code, and tabletop games.

Recent Reading: Barrington J. Bayley

  • The Soul of the Robot, by Barrington J. Baley, copyright 1974; Condor, March 1978; published by arrangment with Doubleday & Company, Inc; ISBN 0-895160161-1.

    I ran across this book as a child, in a local library. It was shelved in the children's section, which, considering some of the content, was probably a mistake. In any case, it was one of the formative science fiction novels of my childhood.

    Recently I found out that there was a sequel to this, published many years afterward, and bought a copy.

Recent Reading: Stross, Morgan, Niven, Strout

  • The Merchants' War, subtitle:Book Four of the Merchant Princes, copyright 2007 by Charles Stross; Tor/Tom Doherty Associates, LLC; 1st mass market edition October 2008; ISBN-10: 0-7653-5589-2, ISBN-13: 978-0-7653-5589-2.

    Another enjoyable entry in Stross's alternate universes series.

  • The Steel Remains, copyright 2009 by Richard Morgan; Ballantine Books/Del Rey/Random House Publishing Group/Random House Inc; ISBN 978-0-345-49303-3.

    An interesting non-{extruded fantasy product} fantasy.

  • The Draco Tavern, copyright 2006 by Larry Niven; Tor/Tom Doherty Associates, LLc; 1st edition January 2006; ISBN 0-765-30863.

    Somehow I completely missed all of the series:Draco Tavern stories until reading this compilation. Niven is still one of my favorite science fiction authors, and I enjoyed these tremendously.

  • Deader Still, copyright 2009 by Anton Strout; Ace Books/The Berkley Publishing Group/Penguin Group (USA) Inc/Penguin Books Ltd; Ace mass-market edition March 2009; ISBN 978-0-441-01691-4.

    I found the main character of this supernatural adventure interesting, but also annoying at times.

Rushing Valley D&D, Session #6

Rushing Valley D&D, Session #6

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

version

2010-02-08 00:16:13

This is an actual play report from the “Rushing Valley” Dungeons and Dragons campaign. These actual play reports are available in html from T.K.B.'s blog and from P.D.F.'s RPG forum's Rushing Valley Campaign History forum.

Attending

Clockwise round the table, starting with the DM at 9 o'clock:

  • P.D.F. as DM

  • B.MC. playing Polonius, Onchu's rowdy young cousin from Riverton

  • T.K.B. playing Droston a'Seamus

  • M.A.F. playing Bartha

  • C.A.H. playing Onchu

J.H. was unable to attend, alas.

Introduction

This adventure started on the 29th. [#july?]_

Some things we wanted to investigate:

  • Witch

  • Hermit near Masonburg

  • Fairies (Well, Bartha mostly.)

  • Missing Patrol

  • Meteor

Actual Play

Where things where

Bartha asked Gertie about a witches. She had heard of a practicing witch in the marshes around Riverton, but reports say that the witch is evil!

The mayor has been directing defenses. We asked about a hermit south of Masonburg and he guessed that was Old Hermit Goldsmith — he was the finest gold smith in Riverton, moved to Masonburg, then moved south. It has been a decade or so since the Mayor has seen him.

Hammer & Block will man bridge bridge defenses while Brock supervises new defenses for the bridge.

Axe & Bow will ride with Sheriff Artair, they will be south of the bridge (3 miles, about halfway).

Afternoon: Droston is not surprised by a mountain lion. He & Polonius kill it.

[From the fellow who escaped the goblin attack?]: They discovered tracks in and around the new mine, followed them into an ambush. Rain of missiles, then 2 huge hobgoblins with huge axe & huge hammer. He observed that they could see in the dark, and they targeted torch bearers.

The village is mostly stone buildings with slate roofs.

Oh, What do we do?

30th: We checked with Sheriff Artair, and got a briefing on the defenses. He wanted us to patrol.

On Day 3 there is an attack by 3–5 goblins at the bridge.

It takes Onchu 5 days. [for what?]

Be back in 2 days.

The Tomb of the Dwarven Hero is not far from the bridge, just a mile or so.

Back in Trouble Again

After 3 hours, not even to new mine, we heard goblins up ahead, making no effort to hide.

Looks like they have had a little camp here for couple of days, moldy bread. We attacked them, unfortunately without coordinating our attack effectively. One of the goblins was dressed in strange black armor with spikes all over it. During the melee the strange goblin spit acid at both Bartha and Onchu, wounding Bartha's face and Onchu's neck.

Eventually we killed the rest of the goblins and the strange goblin sped off faster than anyone could follow.

Friends in High Places

Whaler Appleby came bringing a message: the Lady of the Valley asked he speak with Bartha & her friends.

We noticed that Whaler's quiver was stocked more than usual.

Whaler told us that Nigel (the brownie) was recovering. Whaler gave us (specifically Bartha) a necklace with a gem that glows. He lead us south and up the valley wall, in places we've never been before, though we've lived in the valley all our lives. Large stream cascading down, 1 mile west & much higher, underbrush forms a tunnel stream flows through. We crawled a long way through the beautiful stream/tunnel, necklace brightening up in the shade, until it opens up into a small level glade by grove of beautiful trees (300 yards by 300 yards or so). The glade is surrounded by steep cliffs.

The Lady of the Valley told us that goblins are pouring forth from an ancient fissure to the south, thousands of them. They will kill and eat everything in their path, and they are heading to Masonburg.

She told us we might have a chance if we can make allies with the woodland elves. She said that she knows Bartha has a good heart, but the others must prove themselves by doing a task for her.

  • To Droston: you must find a Sprig of the Blue Orchid, which can only be found on the grave of the most heroic heroes of legend, and bring it to her. K(Nature): Blue Orchid — cannot grow in sunlight, gets its energy from heroism.

  • To Onchu: you must learn to dance with the fairyfolk. F.F. are known to have dances in glades.

  • To Polonius: you who have been cruel & callous … must make amends for your crimes & take all that you have and give back to everyone you have wronged. [Didn't have to give up clothes, weapons, or tools, but did have to sell his armor and give away all his money.]

The enchanted necklace with the gem turns on if you touch it, and off if you touch it again.

We waited for dawn, then Polonius and Droston started down to begin their tasks.

During the day Whaler made up love poems and brought Bartha honey.

Droston's Task

Droston headed to the Tomb of the Dwaven Hero, and down into the tunnel. Eventually it came to a flight of stone stairs that lead down 10 feet or so into cold black water. He removed his armor, put his candles and fire-starter in a waterproof sack, left his lantern hanging on the wall, and swam through the passage, to find another flight of stairs that lead up to a tunnel that lead into a room with Dwarven runes carved on each flagstone of the floor, and an inscription on the left hand side of the tunnel, just before the room that read: “Those who know me know that I was. Those who need me know what to use.”

In the center of the room was a sarcophagus.

The room was circular, with mostly square flagstones. The following is the layout of the runes on the flagstones, roughly transliterated from the Drawvish, with the entrance tunnel from the bottom, at the G & H runes.

N

U

I

D

N

T

S

G

A

T

I

O

I

I

.

.

S

R

D

L

I

N

A

E

B

B

Y

E

M

M

Z

O

G

H

A

R

[–25 XP to Bartha for M.A.H. apparently blurting out the solution; T.K.B. was too flustered by the puzzle to even notice.]

Droston was flustered by the puzzle (and T.K.B. was over-thinking things way too much), and as he stood looking at the room he heard a whoosh, and the air turned bad. Evenually he started out along the runes H—A—M—M—E—R—S. he worked his way along the flagstones, if he hesitated there was another whoosh and more poison gas was released. Once he finally got to the last letter there were no more poison gas releases.

On top of the sarcophagus were growing the Blue Orchids.

Droston respectfully told the Hero's spirit of his task, and took a Blue Orchid and carefully put it in a watertight sack with some of the mossy stuff that it was growing in. Then headed back to the Lady of the Valley.

Polonius's Humble Pie

Polonius talked to Sheriff Artair about the eggs on chair, manure in saddle bags, itch powder in bed (which Artair allowed had upset his wife considerably), … how many nasty tricks did Polonius play on Sherriff Artair, anyway?

Polonius sold his armor and repaid the dozens, if not hundreds, of folks he's stolen from or beaten up or wronged.

Onchu, Bartha, & Whaler go to the dance!

Whaler said the wine the centaur gives is Elven blossom wine, which is very rare, very potent, & brings out your true nature.

Drink & Dance, Drink & Dance, Drink & Dance. Satyr said one last pull, Drince & Dance, everybody started dancing along with Onchu — most harmonious dance, Onchu felt at one with everything. Then he collapsed and slept the rest of the day. Bartha and Whaler partied the night away and end up very good friends.

Next day Onchu had no hangover, but noticed that his hands are longer & more slender, and now his skin had a slight greenish brown forest hue and his scar was almost covered. Bartha was asleep with Whaler tucked up close. Onchu looked in the pool and found that he looked like an elf (he's now essentially a half elf-elf: +4 to sneaking in woodlands, low light vision).

Onchu still looks like Onchu, but a more handsome, elvish Onchu.

Back to the Lady
  • Droston was given a pair of goggles with darkvision (taken from goblins?)

  • Onchu was told “glad you are one of us”!

  • Bartha was told she was “one with the fairies, too” and was told to keep the necklace.

  • Polonius was given a stunning shirt of chain, made by elves!

Aftermath

We each got +800 XP.

Keep on the Borderlands, Play Session #4: Success at last!

Spoilers!

We're playing B2 — Keep on the Borderland, so if you haven't played that you might want to skip this entry.

I got to run another Labyrinth Lord session for the kids.

Attending

Clockwise round the table, starting with the Labyrinth Lord:

  • T.K.B., the Labyrinth Lord.

  • M.A., playing James the Cleric and Jeffrey the Monk.

  • T.A., playing Glen the Strategist (a wizard) and Dooley the sly (a thief).

  • E.A., playing Curufin the Elf and Drusilla the Ranger.

  • L.B., playing Taffy the Halfling and Alice the Cleric.

Healing and Hunting

After their narrow escape from the valley last time, they decided to find a safe place away from the valley and rest and heal. James and Alice spent their days healing the wounded, while Drusilla spent her days finding food for everybody. After five days they were ready to try again.

This time they made a plan: they'd lure out the orc guards into an ambush, some staying outside out of immediate sight of the tunnel entrance, while a couple went in and apparently got scared and ran out. Luckily the orc guards fell for the deception and headed outside. The P.C.s slaughtered the guards, then moved in and systematically cleaned the orcs' tunnel complex out, ending with the orc chieftain. They even found the secret door. Then it was back to town with their loot.

Reflections

It was nice to see them have a solidly successful session, after having two sessions in a row of spectacular failure. They were so excited that they were finally taking the monsters down.

We had more time to play this time, which helped a lot. And having the fourth player (and thus two more characters) made things move along more smoothly, too. These old-school modules really do need a larger party of adventurers.

Recent Reading: Paul O. Williams

  • The Breaking of Northwall, by Paul O. Williams, copyright 1981; Del Rey/Ballantine Books, First Edition February 1981, Fifth Printing October 1984; ISBN 0-345-32434-X. Cover art by Darrel K. Sweet, Map by Chris Barbieri. Book One of The Pelbar Cycle.

    Back in the eighties, when these were first published, I read the second book of The Pelbar Cycle before I read this, the first book, and I remember it was a little bit hearing legends in the second book, and then getting to meet some of the legends in the first book.

    I like books these for the interesting post apocalypse societies.

Keep on the Borderlands Play Session #3: Manual Labor, Shopping, and Oops, Take 2

Jesse's Run flooded over the road in three places, so I wasn't able to get to work, and the kids weren't able to go to school, so in the afternoon the kids came over and we played Labyrinth Lord.

Spoilers!

We're playing B2 — Keep on the Borderland, so if you haven't played that you might want to skip this entry.

Attending

Clockwise round the table, starting with the Labyrinth Lord:

  • T.K.B., the Labyrinth Lord.

  • M.A., playing James the Cleric and Jeffrey the Monk.

  • T.A., playing Glen the Strategist (a wizard) and Dooley the sly (a thief).

  • E.A., playing Curufin the Elf and Drusilla the Ranger.

Manual Labor & Shopping

Last session they'd been captured by goblins who stripped them of all their equipment and most of their clothing, but did accept a ransom offer.

Following up T.A.'s suggestion last session that they look for work, I decided they would stay around the keep for a while and try and find work, so they could get enough money to buy some new equipment. They found some work as guards, some work digging sewers for the keep, and some random odd jobs around the keep.

T.A. suggested that they'd have probably cached the hides from the three deer Drusilla killed the week they were camping, so that they could pick them up on the way back. I allowed that it was a likely thing for them to have done. Then T.A suggested they'd probably have cached the 6 shortswords from orcs they killed, and I allowed that it was a reasonable thing for them to have done. Then T.A. suggested that they'd cached the money they were carrying, and I said no way, no how.

Anyway, after a month of work, they pooled their money and figured out that each person had about 25 gp to buy equipment. James sold the shortsword and 2 javelins he got as loot. Jeffrey sold the javelins, but kept the shortsword. Glen sold the shortsword and javelins as well. The others kept them, so they didn't have to buy a weapon. After this the players worked at reequipping themselves. At first they didn't think they'd be able to afford any armor better than padded, but by cutting down their lists and the non-armor-wearing characters loaning the other characters a little bit of money, they ended up being able to afford leather armor, and slings and sling bullets for ranged weapons. 1 Eventually 2 they were all outfitted, and ready to go.

Oops, Take 2!

So, they set out east and then north along the road leading into the borderlands. When they got to the area of the road nearest the valley where they'd found the goblins, they again left the road and pushed their way through the thick undergrowth of the forest until they reached the semi-clear valley. This time they decided to explore the other side of the valley, climbing up the hill above the first thicket in the valley. There they found another cave entrance. Having learned from their mistake last time, they decided to try stealth. The three that had Move Silently, Jeffry the Monk, Dooley the Sly, and Drusilla the Ranger, would try to sneak in, while the other three would wait at the cave mouth for a yell.

Unfortunately, Dooley and Drusilla made a lot of noise as they went in, so they motioned for the others to follow them in. The first thing they saw, in the light of their torches, was a section of wall covered with niches, which all contained severed heads in various stages of decomposition. Fearing for their lives, they immediately ran out of the cave and Dooley, looking for somewhere to hide, lead them further into the valley, downhill slightly, to another large thicket.

As they rushed into the thicket, through the heavy bushes at the outside into the lighter undergrowth of the inside, they noticed it concealed, at its lowest point, just above where it edged onto the flat valley floor, another cave entrance. Then they noticed the kobolds in the tree throwing javelins down at them. Before they got out of the thicket they had two men down, Dooley and Jeffry. Once out of the thicket they ran full speed for the road, only to see that orcs had come out of the first cave mouth, and were throwing javelins, as well as the kobolds on the edge of the thicket throwing another round of javelins. Luckily, nobody else was downed, and they saw the orcs and kobolds laughing at them as they vanished into the brush.

They made it to the road, and not hearing any immediate pursuit, stopped to let James cast Cure Light Wounds on Jeffry, the worst hurt, and luckily M.A. rolled pretty well, healing enough of Jeffry's wounds so that he was conscious and able to get up. At the same time Drusilla attempted to bind Dooley's wounds to keep him from bleeding to death. Drusilla succeeded, so Dooley stabilized. And that's were we left them.

1

I've always thought that D&D nerfed slings, so I ruled that if they used stones they gathered the slings did the stated d4 damage, but that if they bought lead sling bullets the slings would do d6 damage.

2

They're good kids, but even good kids, at their ages, tend to get distracted and bicker, and so things took longer than I'd hoped.