Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Posting Schedule

As the college semester is about to begin, I've come to the realization that I am unable to continue posting almost everyday. I have decided to commence a routine posting schedule of Tuesdays and Saturdays. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Merry Christmas; Happy Holidays

Unfortunately, I will be away on vacation until the 29th of December and unable to continue my normal posting schedule. If I have the opportunity to make a random post here or there, I will, but apologies in the case I am not. Thank you to all readers. Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Erallian Campaign; Session 4

All agreed that the morning had come too soon, and the early preparation only further soured their moods. Dressed and fed, they proceeded into the breaking dawn. All immediately drew their weapons as the sight of a ferocious wolf filled their vision. Arlina began spewing incantations before a leather clad female figure rushed into the fray, shouted at the party to cease their aggression, and whispered softly to the growling beast. It quieted down before licking its master’s face.

“What in the name of all…” Arlina began to speak, but the ranger cut her short.

“I am Lilly, of Perod Heights. I arrived yesterday and, upon speaking to the mayor, have been informed of your task. Surely you could use the talents of a skilled master of the wilds, yes?” Azreck couldn’t hold back a smile and Lunara nodded immediately. Arlina, clearly, was not thrilled, but understood the advantages involved. It was Zyrallus, though, who spoke.

“Of course. I assume that this is your companion?” He gestured toward the panting wolf and received a gentle nod. “Very well… your name?”


Azreck spoke up then, “An Orthrasix, eh? I did not know your kind still left Perod.” Lilly looked up at the towering paladin and the briefest glint of hatred sparkled behind her eyes. She quickly hid the glare before responding.

“We leave when we desire to, Gallahulk. I was unaware your kind knew anything but torment. Worshipping that despicable Tiamat as your queen… you disgust me.”

Azreck only laughed. “Learn your facts before you accuse, child. I worship her simply for the power it bestows. It was not my choice to be created in this vile form, but I have lived a tiresome life attempting to atone for that mistake. Have you ever seen a Gallahulk who willingly strays from Tiamat’s teachings? They lose their knowledge of the divine… I will not risk that.” Lilly looked at first to continue the argument, but brushed the topic away.

“Let us move out. The forest is filled with vile creatures, and I hear that we must first find a portal to enter the Venathan Tower. This mayor seems odd, but at the very least somewhat trustworthy.” At that, they gathered together and headed into the nearby forest.

The ground was damp from a shower which must have occurred sometime during the night. The trees swayed in the gentle breeze, and all was peaceful in a way that none of the party was used to. Breaking the silence was a lone voice, muffled by the walls of a slowly approaching house. Through the window, Zyrallus noticed two shadowy silhouettes. It was daylight now, but there were no candles lit within the abode. The rogue crept up to the window and waited for the sounds to move away. Just at the moment he detected their distraction, Zyrallus peered inside and took count of the interior. He crept back as silently as he had arrived. “Five of them. Two ranged. And there is indeed a small altar of some kind inside. But how could they know of our arrival, or even use the portal… unless…”

Lunara understood immediately, “Unless their leader is a Fallen. It is the only way. Very well, we know of their numbers. How do we use that to our advantage?” The party discussed quietly and decided that Zyrallus would spy until the enemies were distracted and then alert the party to break through the front door. The rogue checked for locks, found none, and moved to his position. All was quiet… and then he gave the word.

Clearly, the human guards were not expecting an ambush. Before they even had a chance to react, Lilly’s ferocious wolf took one of the crossbowman out and Zyrallus stealthily backstabbed a warrior into oblivion. As the enemies looked to regain composure, though, the party executed perfectly and got in another flurry of attacks. All that remained after the second assault were two lowly warriors, one already bleeding profusely. They charged valiantly and ganged up on Arlina. Amazingly, both of them delivered vital blows and knocked the bard out cold. She lay, writhing and bleeding on the wooden floor. Azreck rushed to her aid as Lunara finished off the weaker enemy. Zyrallus dealt with the other.

“You’re going to be fine, Arlina. Just hold on.” The grizzled Gallahulk prayed for mercy as his patient slipped one step closer to demise. Again, he attempted to save her, and finally she moved back to the conscious world. The enormous paladin sighed in relief as a gentle hand fell on his shoulder. He looked up to see Lilly smiling. He returned it and asked for her help in lifting the bruised bard to her feet.

“Thank you, Azreck. Truly.” He nodded as Lunara made her way to the altar. With a kind of melancholy dance she activated the ancient device, grinning widely as the brilliant light shone forth from the portal. It seemed to yawn, as if awakened from the deepest slumber. Lunara turned.

“Are you fit to leave, Arlina?” The bard nodded, and before any of them could argue in her stead, she jumped onto the shining tiles and vanished. Shrugging, the rest of them followed. The journey was afoot, indeed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Top 10 Video Game Villains; # 6 Sephiroth

True evil knows no bounds. Betrayed, misguided and filled with merciless rage, Sephiroth remains one of the most terrifying villains in all of gaming history. Some will assuredly disagree with his placement on the list, but the grading process contains more variables than popularity alone. Either way, none can dispute his awesome reign as one of the most twisted characters ever created. The fear is so palpable not because of its magnitude, but because it emanates from a human being so believable in his wrath that not even the bravest dare to stand before him. A true devil, indeed.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Martial Power; A D&D Review

I love rogues. I don’t have a particularly good explanation for my infatuation with the role playing class, but if forced to state something I would probably mention a little about style. In my book, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as clandestinely sneaking through the shadows before delivering a devastating blow to your enemy. It’s tricky, backhanded, and a little dirty… and a great deal of fun. Therefore, upon seeing a copy of Martial Power just beckoning to be purchased, I sucked up my reservations and hoped for some new and innovative additions to the martial 4th edition source. Again, how could I not buy it? A coupling of rogue love and the brilliance of the Divine Power supplement simply begged for the purchase. Was it worth it? Let’s see.

Let me begin as I did before, with a general overview of the classes and their added features, powers, and paragon paths. One thing that will be immediately noticed is the addition of new keywords which offer interesting bonus affects to certain powers. For example, rogues acquire fair use of the “rattling” keyword, which makes it more difficult for enemies to succeed in attack rolls for a short time. There are many others spread across the four martial classes (fighter, ranger, rogue, warlord), and some of which seem to be rather helpful. What really shines through, at least for me, is the new “pet” system for rangers. By relinquishing a certain core class feature, rangers are now able to train and fight alongside a beast companion. The options are varied and opportunities for customization, at least of physical appearance, are rather high. In addition, fighters gain a two weapon fighting style which, I assume, many had been hoping for prior to Martial Power’s release. Unfortunately, rogues and warlords definitely acquire the blunt end of the supplement stick. Still, their paragon paths, in addition to the other two classes, are for the most part powerful and desirable. What of extra options, though?

Martial Power’s extras begin with an extensive list of new feats. Most of them are based upon class and race combinations and offer benefits accordingly. What seems to be missing, though, is the groundbreaking bonus section that I so fondly recall from Divine Power. I cannot possibly express the usefulness of the Divine Power deity domain section which allows for custom and evil gods to possess divine channeling powers. Brilliant. Martial Power, alas, holds no such wonderment within its walls. After feats are epic destinies, and after epic destinies lies the index. A shame, certainly, but all is not lost. Two of the epic destinies, at the very least, appear to be so useful they nudge closely to the core Demigod destiny.

And there you have it. Although Martial Power doesn’t necessarily reach the value of Divine Power, it does manage to accomplish three goals reasonably well. First, it has expanded the ranger into a completely fresh and exciting aspect of beast mastery. Second, the paragon and epic destinies are useful and desirable. Third, and perhaps most importantly, every single class can find something useful here. Whether fighter, ranger, rogue or warlord, this supplement offers something of merit. Here, WotC has succeeded once again. If you have a martial character, especially a fighter or ranger, go out and buy this book right away. Even rogues, like myself, or warlords will benefit greatly from the added destinies and feats. A great buy.

Top 10 Video Game Villains; # 7 Bowser

Don’t mess with an overweight turtle possessing the capability to shoot fire. It’s standard advice, as far as any true Nintendo player is concerned. Bowser can hide his intentions under the guise of world domination or dictatorial rule, but none can deny that his truest goal is the capture of a certain princess. Look at his domain! He’s got a giant castle in almost every world, and a plethora of minions to do his bidding. Easily a shoe-in for number seven.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Rolling for Heroics; D&D Ability Score Rolling

I cannot recall a single Dungeons and Dragons session or campaign that took place with point-buy ability scores during my five years of play. Why is that? There certainly stands no power benefit to rolling scores, as most of the time they end up decidedly lower compared to similar point-buy characters. In spite of the mathematical evidence, there’s something naturally ‘right’ about randomly generated characters.

For one, they feel like real people. Not everyone is as talented as the next, and even heroes possess different degrees of epic quality. I recall a campaign a while back where the group’s rogue had no modifiers higher than plus one, and somehow, through teamwork and the desire for success, we managed to reach level eighteen before finally calling quits on the escapade. The reason we lasted so long wasn’t because the story was particularly enthralling (in point of fact, I remember it to have been terrible aside from the character driven elements), nor because we succeeded so brilliantly at every arc of the campaign (we failed quite a bit), but because every single character in that adventuring party felt ‘right’.

I understand that it’s a tricky notion, this naturally pleasing feeling of rightness, but unless you’ve experienced it I find it rather difficult to explain. That rogue, though marginally useless, was vital to the game. He’d concocted a rather inspiring back story explaining his shortcomings and innate failings, but supplemented that with a lifelong goal urging him to drive forth in spite of his weaknesses. The rest of us, ranging from one lucky fool who rolled a cumulative plus thirteen modifier to your average cumulative plus seven, enjoyed the added challenge of aiding the rogue in achieving his life’s meaning.

Finally, at level eighteen, we met up with the man who’d belittled the rogue through his childhood, had gone so far as to murder his entire family simply out of blind hatred. Defeating him was one of my greatest role playing moments; watching our rogue companion offer mercy and letting the man go free was perhaps the greatest. Few things compare to the image of that disheveled, beaten villain shambling off into the distance with nothing left to live for.

Now, I’m not saying this enjoyable role playing would have been impossible without rolling for ability scores. What I ‘am’ saying, though, is that random ability scores allow for a more natural, human element for a role playing experience. If you’ve never used this method, it’s outlined below (in a generic form). If you have, what’s your take on the rolling vs. point-buy ability score debate?

Rolling for ability scores: Take 4d6 and roll them. Drop the lowest result and add the remaining three. Mark this score down on a piece of paper. Do this until six results are acquired. Then, place your final results into your ability table as desired. (Another method, which an old DM simply lived for, was rolling 3d6 for each stat. Then the player would roll another 2d6. The highest result of the 2d6 was subtracted from the character’s worst stat, and the lowest result was added to a stat of the character’s choice. I remember we had one character with a strength of twenty two from this method, but an intelligence of three… good times role playing with that one, I assure you.)

(Image used via stock.xchng under license found here.)