Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Party: The Two Dwarves, Voden and Ragnar

Dwarves in Alia are... a little different.

They hate giants because the giants invaded their mountain kingdom, Krondhiem, in YK1339. The war decimated the dwarven population and led to the dwarven Eugenics program. Dwarves now send all their young men off to a life of adventure and battle against the giants. The ones who live and have proven themselves as great heroes and giant slayers (only a few do) go on to be named Thane, which gives them the right to settle down, marry as many Dwarf women as will have them and an have lots of super-dwarf offspring. dwarven females, live a sequestered life managing and defending their home and raising the many children they bear of the Thanes. A typical Thanehold has a single, Thane more than a dozen women and several dozen children.

Voden and Ragnar (Ghesh's old character is the player of Ragner) are two brothers from the same family, from the same mother. They are very close to each other but do not fit in well with the rest of their family.

Voden is a History and Arcana focused Warlock, who has made a pact with an Infernal being called Halictes. He's very interested in dwarven history, and is motivated to discover old giant-conquered dwarven ruins and discover as much about Dwarf history, tradition and lost knowledge. Ragnar is a hammer and axe using, two-weapon-fighting, dwarven ranger. He mostly follows his brother Voden's lead, and the pair of them make a good team in killing their enemies.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I just read Power Up Your Campaign With A Wiki and was intrigued by the campaign centric wiki that was mentioned Obsidian Portal. It looks pretty cool and maybe it'll get my maps to display.

I started using RPGNet's wiki for Alia because I wanted a publicly accessible common resource for my campaign. I wanted to allow other DMs that I played with to be able to work in a common campaign framework with a shared history. I wanted the players that were interested to be able to look up the history and geography of my setting to help flesh out the experience.

As I've said before, it's had middling success, mostly as a player resource. The content has been largely written by just me, and I don't always keep it up to date. But I'm fine with that, because it's always there ready for me to update when I have time and internet access.

I really should be adding NPC and location information after each game session to flesh out the game world as the game develops.

Anyway, I think that Obsidian Portal deserves a closer look. If if looks feasible, I shall consider moving my files from RPGNet wiki to Obsidian Portal. We shall see.

The Raid (Chapter 1)

Here's the two word summary of play of Chapter 1. It rocked!

We were all keen on 4th edition. It was everybody's first real game. I was comfortable with the rules, conversed with the players by e-mail leading up to our first game. Everybody was finished with character creation and basic background before we started. I'll go into more detail in my next post about the party members.

I think I outdid myself on Krodar's speech in the tavern. Everyone was cheering at my stirring words. Half the players had been played in a Prolia campaign before and were very happy to be involved with the rising new Prolia.

Some politics happened in town, with a fairly spirited discussion of which Jarl they'd like to support. Voden in particular, wouldn't support any Jarl but Yutsen, Jarl of Shinar. Eventually the whole party followed his lead and decided to back him. Yutsen is a pretty logical choice. From an objective point of view he's the most trade-oriented of the Jarls and is on very good terms with everyone.

The party was more than happy to sign up for Krodar's raid on Tidemarch. Which made things easy. I don't like railroading the story too much. I present the party with interesting hooks and try to prepare for where I believe they will go. If they weren't interested in the raid, they might have decided to head straight for Jarlsberg and I would have had to wing it a bit, but it would have worked out okay anyway.

The boat trip to Tidemarch, was a good closed environment for party and NPC interaction. Krodar asked everybody to organize themselves into groups. The four PC's (Radgar, Aeldric, Vodan and Ghesh) decided to bring the Eladrin, Lindrin along with them after they discovered he was an accomplished Wizard. I also described some of the other heroes along on the raid.

My idea was that since this is the first game there may be some dissatisfaction with the characters they've built. I've basically given everybody carte-blanche to change their characters as they see it. The beginning of the story is the best time to make these big changes either by leaving someone behind and swapping to a whole new character (one of the other raiders), or by ret-conning (I'm actually a cleric, you just mis-remember me sneak attacking everything in sight.) Small changes, of course, like swapping powers or adjusting ability score are easy. They have almost zero affect on anything and I want to make sure that the players are comfortable and happy with their character's in the game.

Encounter 1

The initial fight on the docks with the large numbers of minions went really fast. Lindrin (being played by Radgar's/Minos's player) made short work of the minions.

Encounter 2

Minos joined the party afterward and we skipped the second fight. I thought it was little too much like the first, so instead of another fight, a small crowd of Human Rabble ran away after seeing the party mow down their friends on the dock. Radgar said goodbye and went back to support Krodar on the docks to make sure no trouble arose there.

Encounter 3

The fight in front of the armory went rather poorly for the party. The Human Guards' Powerful Strike power took both Minos and Ghesh off their feet the first round. It's a pretty nasty attack, which recharged at least twice during the fight. The PC's a had a fair amount of bad luck, missing a lot and taking a pounding in what should have been an easy fight. but they all lived and broke into the Armory/Church. They stole the loot and took a short rest.

Encounter 4

I switched up the Sir Rodney fight after seeing what two Human Guards could do to the party. I was afraid they'd be completely hosed in a fight with three guards plus an elite, so a swapped the three guards for some Human Rabble, a Human Bandit and a Human Mage.

Lindrin started the combat out with an Icy Terrain which landed Sir Rodney, his Warhorse and the Bandit on the ground. The fight went quickly in the PC's favor, and Rodney's plan of leaving his men to fight the PC's was thwarted. By the time he was on his feet, he was marked by Minos and didn't have much of a retreat path. Potential recurring villain... dead. Oh well, there may be others.

Cut off from Docks Event

The party almost decided to try to fight their way through the dozen guardsman that had appeared between them and the docks. A quick discussion of the situation amongst themselves and they changed their mind. I didn't even have to point out how much trouble they had with two Human Guards.

Encounter 5

I used 2 minions instead of Guards at the gates, they were taken out in passing as they exited the city. This was mostly due to real time constraints.

The PC's escaped from Tidemarch into the wilderness around the outpost. They found a secluded glen to rest in and took an extended rest, thus ending Chapter 1.

The total elapsed time for the session was about 3.5 hours.

We had a little discussion about what they liked and didn't like and what they planned on doing next, so that I could focus my preparation. The consensus was that they liked fighting the minions, thought that Human Guards were too powerful (statistical anomaly that), and wanted to go back to Prolia through Yuri's Doom, since they wanted to investigate Jarlsburg anyway and it was on they way home.

Isn't it funny how these things seem to work out? (There might be a bit of a railroad here, but it's invisible!)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Adventure Begins!

I have a lot to say about:
  • my philosophy on game mastering
  • the development of Alia
  • the organization that led up to the first gaming session
  • 4th edition D&D
..but I have a bit of a backlog right now and since I've started this late and I want to try to catch up, I shall cover some of those other topics in future posts.

Adventure Background

Our heroes have converged in the town of Shinar in Prolia. Prolia is in the process of transformation from a broken collection of fairly independent towns, back towards being the great nation that it once was.

Over the winter, the six Jarls that lead the Prolian towns have met in Shinar, to discuss the naming of a king from among them. All have legitimate claims to the fallen throne. Also the legendary Iron Crown of Prolia has been lost for a hundred years.

The Jarls have decided to solve both problems by issuing a call to heroes to quest for the Iron Crown. Each Jarl will sponsor (and outfit) aspirants to quest for the crown and if one such hero brings back the crown that Jarl will be named King of Prolia. The word has been sent out and would-be heroes have been gathering in Shinar all spring.

Tidemarch is an Empire town/outpost whose main purpose of existence is to look out for the Empire's interests along the Prolian border. (It's the unnamed black dot south east of Belrane - I'll fix the map someday.) The swamp, "Yuri's Doom" and the Giant-backed gnomish forces of Greenhill are an effective overland barrier between the Empire and Prolia and so far the Republic's control over the northern seas has also restricted Empire activity towards Prolia.

Our Heroes

There's been some turbulence in the composition of the party, but initially the group consisted of:
  • Aeldrick, a Human Tactical Warlord
  • Voden, a Dwarf Infernal Pact Warlock
  • Ghesh, a Dragonborn Paladin
  • Minos, a Minotaur, Fighter
Minos won't start in Shinar. Instead, Krodar's armsman Radgar will be played until Minos shows up. (Yeah Minos, the Minotaur... how does one come up with an original name like that?)

Events in Shinar
  1. A call for heroes to find the Iron Crown of the Prolian Kings. Many young would be heroes are forming bands to search for the crown.
  2. Rumour has it that the Iron Crown was lost in the ruined city of Jarlsberg, which was overtaken by Yuri's Doom in the last Empire attack.
  3. The son of Jarl Yutsen of Shinar, Krodar wishes to form a raiding party against the empire town of Tidemarch.
The game really begins in the tavern (surprise, surprise), where a rather large group of (would be) heroes are socializing, planning, forming parties, and discussing which Jarl they'd rather be backing.

Several NPC's are introduced here including Lindrin, a strange Eladrin from a newly discovered island out in the mists of the eastern ocean and Nafrim, a wood elf cleric/ranger that's has come north in search of aid in the Elves long conflict with the Empire of Rhode. The NPCs introduced in the tavern at this stage are candidates for future story tie ins, but I have no specific plans for them at the present. Although these are fully done PC's with sheets and if the players desire they'll join their party.

Krodar gives a stirring speech to the tavern about recapturing the long lost glory days of Prolia where Prolian raiders were feared all across the known seas. He proposes that since there are so many fine heroes in the town with a hatred of the Empire that they should organize a raid on Tidemarch. He's a charismatic leader, stirs up the passion of the crowd and convinces a large crowd of adventurers to accompany him on his foray. He's already arranged for a ship and supplies. (Hopefully, the PC's will join him.)

Broad Adventure Synopsis

Chapter 1: Raid on Tidemarch. Docked ships set afire. Fighting at the harbourfront during raid for supplies. Party sent to raid the armory. Along the way Minos* breaks out/is broken out of the slave barracks. Joins the raid. At the armory, Sir Rodney shows up. Large numbers of soldiers begin to muster. Party cut off from ship, which leaves before being overrun.

Chapter 2: Flight from Tidemarch. Two ways this could go, combat or narrative (depending on situation, whether Rodney still lives, and party desire).

Chapter 3: Possibilities: Yuri's Doom or Greenhill.

Chapter 1 Details

If anyone expresses concern about being left behind in the raid, Krodar arranges for a pickup location 1 day's ride west along the shore. In two days, the a ship will return to pick up any who are separated from the ship. Otherwise Krodar is too confident in his plans to have a backup plan. But (after this undoubtedly happens) will sail the coast to the west looking for survivors on the shore. Unfortunately the shore will be being heavily patrolled by Rodney's men looking for the escaped PC's.

Treasure parcels

In the "Armory"
  1. (non magical) gold Holy Symbol (Stair) worth 1000gp;
  2. Level 4 Suit of Armor +1 (Black Iron or Darkleaf),
  3. Level 3 Thunder Weapon +1,
  4. Level 2 Implement +1 (Pact Blade, Wand, Staff, Orb or Holy Symbol of something).
Encounter 1: Minionfest at the harbour.

When the ship lands there's an fairly quick response from the burlier citizens of Tidemarch. It's lot's of "Human Rabble".

PC's get to deal with their own section of them. Suggest 1 Human Bandit + 3 Rabble per PC beyond 1. Also PC's may help other knots of fighting if they choose to and/or if their combat is going poorly they may be aided by some of the other heroes.

After defeating the bulk of the rabble, Krodar congratulates the PC's on their bravery and asks them to try to find/destroy/raid the heavily fortified building up the main road that looks like an armory, while the bulk of the crew begin loading essential supplies from the dockside warehouses.

Encounter 2: More rabble on the streets.

A short way up the main street are a group of 3 Human Rabble/per party member beyond 1, One Human Berserker. This time the party is unsupported.

This encounter will be tied in with escape of Minos and retreat of Radgar.

The battle will happen right near the slave-pen where Minos is being held. Minos is a recaptured minotaur slave of the empire. He was making a run for the borders of the Empire when he met with a patrol that recaptured him. He's being kept in a solid-looking cell off the main road in Tidemarch, until he can be sent back to his owner.

During the confusion of the battle taking place outside the door, Minos will get a chance to escape.

After the battle is resolved, Radgar will notice that another fight has started on the docks and will decide to return to help with it.

Encounter 3: Armory Guards.

Two guards are stationed at the armory as well as some Human Rabble.

If the PC's break into the Armory, they find it is in fact a Church of the Order of Man. It does however have a decorative armor stand displaying the magic items (treasure parcels 2,3,4) .

On the altar is the h0ly symbol (treasure parcel 1).

Encounter 4: Rodney rides in.

Sir Rodney mounted on his Warhorse, shows up with 3 guards to try to organize the defense of the town. He participates in one round of combat with his guards and then leaves them to deal with the PC's while he rides off towards the docks.

Sir Rodney is an Elite based off of "Human Guard" with the Warlord monster class template from the DMG.

Event: Warning of Trouble

A Prolian raider runs past, and tells the party that the Empire has mobilized. A large force of soldiers interposes itself between the docks and the PC's. After a few minutes of fighting retreat, the crew and the ship sails off. It's possible for the PC's to sneak or fight their way back to the ship but quite dangerous. It's fairly obvious that the defenders are overwhelmingly strong. Dozens of well equipped (non-minion) soldiers Human Guards have mobilized out of the barracks. If the PC's flee, a bunch (maybe 12) will attempt to follow them out of the city.

Encounter 5: Leaving by the gates.

Two Human Guards are stationed at the gates. No rabble. Two guards should be a fairly easy fight but the dozen reinforcements following behind are an incentive to finish it quickly. The guards don't have to be killed, engaging the guards, opening the gates and moving past is probably the quickest way to deal with them. Make sure the pursuers from event 1 aren't right on the party's heel, or TPK is likely. If they are closely pursued, the gates should probably be unguarded.


The opposition in these encounters is quite vanilla. Humans, Sir Rodney, Warhorse. This is intentional. This will be the first adventure that I'm running in 4e. I don't want to bite off more than I can deal with in the initial combats, but if I'm feeling up to it, I may mix in some other humans into the encounters. An additional Berserker or Human Mage in some of the plainer encounters could mix things up a bit. I also want to give the players time to get used to how their powers work and see how 4e D&D plays before I start making things more complicated.

There are ZERO 1st level monsters in the first chapter of this 1st level adventure. I'm being careful to stay within the experience guidelines for encounters, but I expect there will be a little bit more missing than I'd like. I may level-adjust all of the humans, except for Sir Rodney and his warhorse down to level 1, to make things easier for everybody. If I do, I will increase the number of enemies in the easier encounters.


This blog is a "Campaign Journal" of a game I've been running with my regular group.

The setting is Alia , a fantasy campaign setting developed initially by me and slapped up onto a wiki space in hopes of getting some collaboration on its development, which has been of middling success. As far as I know, only a handful of people even know/or care that it exists and its gotten just a little bit of contribution, from one of my players. Also the "image" functionality on the RPGNet wiki seem to have been nerfed over the years, so the geography pages that used to have embedded maps, now have links. Sigh.

What inspired me to start a new campaign in Alia was the recent release of D&D 4th Edition. Previously, we were playing mostly the current version of the World of Darkness games from White Wolf (an were enjoying ourselves). Once in a while people need a change and D&D 4e certainly is that.

What inspired me to cook up this blog was Musings of the Chatty DM's series So you wanna write a RPG Blog?.

I usually end up composing my thoughts about upcoming game sessions by writing them up as drafts in Google Mail. That way I have an easy reference that I can access (and maybe print) from any internet connection. It's not too much of a stretch to compose those thoughts in a blog. Hopefully I'll keep up with it.