Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love Story Vs. Benny & Joon

* = It's true Ron Swanson LOVES RIDDLES!

Saturday had all the makings of a disaster. We were double booked due to some poor planning on other people’s part. A surprise 30th Birthday Party had us in a spot where time was critical since we were one of the main cogs in the surprise wheel. Then D&D was set for 4pm in the afternoon. It’s one thing to have your prep work done to run, it’s another to be prepped. I had the prep work done, but didn’t feel as prepped as I usually prefer. It was sort of a good news bad news type of situation. The good news is we were being an enormous help to a couple who really are incredible people, and ensuring that Cassandra’s best friend had the best 30th Birthday Celebration possible. The bad news is I had put an enormous amount of pressure on the game. It was the return of the ‘Old School’ group after the holidays, WITH the addition of two of the on hiatus ‘Regular’ group’s members in Bob & Zack.

The Party went off without a hitch; in fact I’d have to say it was a HUGE success. It was sort of nice to be reminded that when you do something for someone else the real reward is watching him or her enjoy it. The problem was Friday at about 2pm I started to feel ‘icky’. Saturday it just got progressively worse. That time enjoying good food, friends, and fun I could have been enjoying good sleep, cold medicine, and more sleep. If I had to be honest I’d never trade what I missed for what I got.

So suffice to say I was a tad stressed, nervous, and really rundown by the time we got to the 4pm start time. Crazily enough a bunch of the guys showed up early, shocking I know. Then there was the obligatory bullshit session, and finally the realization that only my ‘new’ players where at the correct level. So the other three had to quickly get leveled so we could start. Really this bought me the time I needed to get some cold medicine and alcohol into my system, get things where I wanted them mentally, and prepare to kick off the night. The only problem I did have was Mighty Mike had to close up shop for one of his sick employees at Hot Comics. So I was left with a new and challenging monkey wrench in my sinister plans…

I had given the group PLENTY of warning that this wouldn’t be a ‘Hack N’ Slash’ fest, that I was putting them in a dire situation with all intentions that if they die, then they die. I have to say first off that I was running a riff on the Pathfinder adventure The Hook Mountain Massacre, which is in itself a riff on The Hills Have Eyes. All I really did was crib the idea of inbred, cannibal Ogres in a secluded mountain area, the rest I ran with. So the group ran across an Ogre at the edge of clearing getting ready to rape what appeared to be a badly beaten Elf woman. David, Cassandra, & Joe K. of course rallied to the call for help and started to brawl with the Ogre, no small feet as it was a challenge for three players. At about that time I introduced Zack & Bob’s psionic brothers to the mix. The battle started to turn for the PC’s so I had the Ogre’s Dire Wolf harass the group a bit, but once they killed the Ogre the Dire Wolf ran for it.

So they went through the whole getting to know you rigmarole, which was surprisingly painful to listen to as Dave seemed a bit quiet, Joe & Cassandra are not big Role Players, & Bob was letting Zack do all the talking for the duo. However once Zack & Dave had a small point of contention, either to go help the now suicidal Elven woman go possibly save the remainder of her captured kin or to just move on to find their shared objective things got interesting. The players began chiming in, began getting invested. That’s the point I knew I had hooked them. Now I don’t do a female voice, however I always try to Roleplay the intent, the emotion, and the fundamentals of that character. So with the Elf woman I tried to go from borderline catatonic to full of suicidal rage. The PC’s finally agreed to ‘do the right thing’ and help the woman, and in my head I cackled with maniacal glee.

See the Elven woman was a Hag and the Ogre was one of her ‘lovers’. She was playing the PC’s, and even though they are the cynical PC’s and look at EVERY NPC as a potential enemy I worked my way through this and they relented to help. If I had failed here the adventure would have failed. So first things first I have to thank David for playing the noble angle to the hilt. It was a genuinely awesome moment to have the Vampire in the group aspiring to some sense of justice and nobility to his cohorts.

So they made their way through the winter storm to the Ogre’s ‘farm’. The group then did what I was dreading they split up. This was going to be a problem since I had planned to do something that I absolutely loathe doing I was going ‘Railroad’ the HELL out of them. ‘Railroading’ is when you take the PC’s down a path where they have no real options, the story becomes less a shared narrative and instead becomes me dictating to them what it going to and is happening. The Hag in disguise sprung her Sleep blood ritual, the PC’s around her, everyone besides Dave & Cassandra went ‘nighty night’.

They got to watch in horror as a mob of Ogres came strolling gleefully out of the central building on the ‘Farm’ and proceeded to viciously club the unconscious PC’s to an inch of their lives. Cassandra and Dave went to the roofs as soon as the Hag sent the Ogres out to track them down. Being that both are pretty stealthy they were able to outwit and hide while their compatriots were dragged into the sinister stone building.

This is where the first and maybe the only real problem I had with the game began. The split party made for poor game play for Dave & Cassandra until Mike arrived a few hours later. It’s hard for them to go pick a fight with an Ogre whom was a difficult fight for five PC’s when it’s the two stealthiest members of the group. So instead they did what they do best, they skulked, did recon, and started to plan. I have to applaud both Dave & Cassandra here on multiple fronts. First they looked for ‘clues’ or ‘intel’ on the Farm while hiding. They got a lay of the land and tried to figure out just who and how many of them they were dealing with. Secondly, they could have bitched and moaned that they were spending a great deal of the night not really doing a whole lot. They didn’t. Instead they, well at least acted like, they were completely invested in what was going on in the game, actually to the point that I had to remind them that they weren’t there and couldn’t offer advice on what to do.

The PC’s in the building found themselves in an abattoir where they were stripped down and chained hanging from some ceiling beams. They also found that they were not alone. There were quiet a few ‘guests’ in various states of declining health. Bob and Zack formulated an escape plan relatively quickly. Joe had a nice character moment with a half eaten Priest Of Erathis that only set to strengthen a continuing plot thread not only for his own character, but also now for the group as a whole. This also reunited the group with some of ‘The Black Keys’ who had ‘deserted’ them last session to battle the Slave Caravan. This was nice to have to female foils for three male players who now have been around for three sessions as NPC’s. It also allowed me to play up a potential ‘relationship’ between one of them and Zack’s character. It could quiet possibly be one of the oddest pairings possible, but once things get going it could serve to actually make the most sense in hindsight.

The group easily outsmarted a few of the Ogre brothers, but found that a restrained Zombie Ogre made escape virtually impossible. This is where inventive thinking came into play. The PC’s had put the Priest Of Erathis out of his misery, but not before he made an incredibly cryptic comment to Joe’s character regarding his ‘lost love’. Again this is simply laying the groundwork for future sessions. They used the dead Priest as a distraction for the conditioned Ogre Zombie. Upon feeding it they easily passed. From there they found that they were underground, actually beneath the stone structure in some sort of sub-basement. This led them to some sort of refuse room, with a large grate of filth in the center, looking up, they realized they were directly below the Dining Hall as they could hear the revelry going on above them. By listening, as where their cohorts on the roof they discovered they were the prisoners of some inbred Ogres who were led by a Hag named Moma Kel. The Hag that had tricked them was Kel’s sister.

After it becoming abundantly clear just how much trouble they were actually in things began to pick up considerably. The PC’s found that their weapons where in what appeared to be old sarcophagi that were filled with decomposed bodies and rot grubs. Bob used his psionics to lift the weapons out and then put any clinging grubs back in. They then figured out that an Otyugh laid in one of the corner refuse piles in the grate room. It hadn’t attacked them as long as they had remained far away from it. They could tell it was well fed, and actually seemed almost domesticated. Eventually two Ogres came down of a ‘late night snack’ and the PC’s had to get inventive. They used a floating coin to get the Ogres to not notice them. As they tried to formulate a plan that wouldn’t end with them all dead Mike finally arrived.

It was easier than I thought to work Mike in. Last adventure the PC’s had come across three slaves in the caravan. One a warrior from the Jade Islands had expressed his gratitude and then headed ‘home’. One was a mysterious woman, and the final was an obnoxious Tiefling who immediately butted heads with Dave’s Vampire. However the Tiefling was able to secure the ‘loyalty’ of Mike’s Drow Assassin, who oh by the way has a vow of silence. I just had Mike’s character take them back down the mountain pass to the nearest settlement. He then tracked the PC’s back to their current position. There he found the Elven skin the Hag had discarded after her betrayal. He then made contact with and joined Dave & Cassandra on the roof. There they began to figure out just how they were going to spring their allies.

Meanwhile the group in the basement had been found out. Earlier in the game I had explicitly stated that the Ogres all wore cowbells around their neck. The PC’s figure out that this was how they were able to deal with the Ogre Zombie and to a lesser extent the Otyugh. So again Bob used his psionic ability to remove one of the cowbells sparking a donnybrook between the Zombie Ogre and one of the Ogres. This gave the PC’s a chance to kill the other Ogre, and with their two ‘Black Keys’ allies they were able to assist the chained Zombie Ogre in it’s killing of it’s Ogrebrother’.

They then made their way up the stairwell that was the refuse pit, realizing that they were adjacent to the room containing more gorging Ogres. Luckily above them their allies were beginning to lower a rope. This was the most cinematic moment, very Conan-esque, as Mike’s Drow had to go down and help his former enemies in the Elven woman and the female Necromancer, whose hands the Ogres had broken to keep her from casting, make it up the rope. They then had to get the rest of the party up as well, ALL without being seen or heard. The group rolled well, they Role Played better, and in the end they were all on the roof. They decided to make a break for the tree line and just head north to the Monastery Of Erathis where they hoped the Book Of Black Flame resides. Well this time they didn’t roll so well. They were attacked by two Ogres on patrol, whom they dispatched in a really brilliant show of teamwork before hauling ass into the woods. The thing was they were in the middle of a nasty snowstorm, which was slowing them physically and inhibiting their ability to find their way. They were so loud and lost that the Ogres at the Farm realized they had escaped and the chase was on.

The PC’s eventually found themselves at a cliff with three options. They could go back down the mountain, hoping to avoid their former captors. They could stand their ground and fight, which they actually thought about doing, but quickly, realized that it wasn’t the best option. Instead they went with option three and went up the mountain pass, using the abilities of the more dexterous members to climb up and create rope lines for the rest to follow. Once up high enough they caused a mini-avalanche to both hide their tracks and stop their enemies from making further headway in their pursuit.

From there they went into a cave they found and that’s were we ended.

I’m really unsure about how they all felt about it. I mean I know what they said, but it’s sometimes hard to get a real read on people. I tend to go more towards the negative when I try to figure out what they are thinking. However they were very engaged, and while it was fun, it was an intense night of play as well. They didn’t complain that I ‘Railroaded’ the HELL out them to get the story going. Dave & Cassandra were a little let down that they were ‘on the sidelines’ for a good chunk of the game. Mike seemed a tad let down that it wasn’t more built around combat. Cassandra also vocalized just how irritated she was when we were done. “That’s it?” Yes, my gorgeous wife that is it.

The fact is the Players surprised me. Now I don’t want them to feel insulted by this, but they did. They were incredibly creative, took some risks, Roleplayed, and I thought played the adventure almost perfectly, something I didn’t anticipate at all. Actually this made it SO much fun for me, to have them try and outthink me and for there to be this constant ‘game within the game’ of mental ‘one-upsmanship’. I loved it. I just hope they did to.

Wow, that was a long write up, how about I wrap this up with some…


- Another week another Pathfinder Rise Of The Runelords mini preview! First up is the Stone Giant Spearman. I have to say I love Stone Giants; I already have two DDM takes on it. These new one’s though are far superior while not being so different that they couldn’t work together effectively. I like the way he’s in sort of a squat like he’s getting ready to smash you with the butt end of that spear. The paint looks good, the sculpt is dynamic, and best of all it’s a common so it’ll be cheap.
Next up is the Stone Giant Boulder Thrower. Again it’s just a great looking minis, and again a common. It’ll add some variety to a Stone Giant group to have the old DDM Stone Giant with a club, the Stone Giant Rune Carver from DDM, add in a few of the Spearmen, and a few of these guys and you really have something cool!
Next in keeping not only with the theme of the Adventure Path the set is based on, but also with Stone Giants, is the Paizo/Wizkids take on the Dire Bear. I have a DDM Dire Bear that I really like. It’s big, burly, and looks nasty. However, this bear has some classic prehistoric bear traits going for it. I especially like the top maw tusk like teeth. It’s as good as the first DDM Dire Bear and light years better than the last one we got.

Last but not least is Mokmurian, a Stone Giant ‘Big Bad’ from the Adventure Path. I love the sculpt, what can I say. I like the clear blue plastic energy in the hand, the ornate club, the gold armor, and the flow of his outfit’s cloth. If I can get him cheap he’s definitely on the list of ‘must haves’ out of this set. Actually this whole preview this week was outstanding and really renewed my interest in this set as a whole. - My back hurts so bad it is literally amazing.
- Jason Whitlock is usually a guy who I can at least tolerate as a sports writer, but his foray into bad racist comedy on Twitter about Knicks Asian American point guard Jeremy Lin have killed it for me. Whitlock has long made race, as an African American writer, the heart of a lot of his work. He’s been a borderline misogynist in some articles and has outright claimed the ‘establishment’ is racist. However he’s officially crossed the line for me as a reader when he was actively racist. You can’t preach at others and then be a national hypocrite. On a side note his partner in Jeremy LinHatin’, Floyd Merryweather is just a GIANT douchebag. It’s been shown again and again. When he’s not picking fights with 60 year old boxing analysts, hitting his baby momma, or ducking other legitimate fighters he’s proven that he’s just a piece of shit. So kudos to you two gentlemen for reminding the world that racist ass clowns know no color.
- I really want some chili, good, hearty, beefy chili.
- Last night I watched the Rifftrax of Twilight: New Moon (**** out of 5).
I’ve come to the conclusion that I can watch just about any movie as long as it’s being mocked. Whether it be an old school MST3K, a retro vibe stinker from Cinematic Titanic, old porn with Dave Attell, the machine gun mocking of the Incognito Cinema Warriors XP crew, or the unstoppable Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, & Kevin Murphy of Rifftrax they simply make everything better. Oh, and David the movie was bad, but the wolves did look pretty cool. I’m just dumbfounded that Christian Stewart can ever get work as she mumbles and pauses like a bad Shatner impersonator through every line. Without the Riffing that movie would basically be unwatchable.

- I started digesting Mastodon’s ‘Leviathan’. Thus far it’s not as good as ‘Crack The Skye’.
- Batman Year One (Infinite *’s out of 5), the latest DC Animated Flick was amazing.
I kept thinking that at some point they were going to deviate from Frank Miller’s seminal work, and they didn’t. It was perfect. Brian Cranston was spectacular as Captain James Gordon; he really was the center of the tale. I’m not sure who they had as Batman/Bruce Wayne, however at the beginning I was not really enthused about it. It came off very ‘serial killer’ like. It was cold, detached, and almost dead in delivery. By the time the flick was over I realized it was perfect. Bruce Wayne is severely fucked up. He’s spent like 18 years planning what to do to get vengeance on crime. Not on criminals, but on crime itself. He’s going to start this in his home city, a cesspool of corruption, and he’s going to do it virtually alone. I had forgotten how much of the initial part of the book is really Bruce Wayne in an almost Rorschach or Punisher like figure in the way he’s stalking through the East end looking to do some scouting of the local filth. By the end though we get sort of a softening, no less driven, but far less creepy. There’s something very hopeful when Batman, sans the mask, saves Gordon’s kid. Gordon could take him in, could maybe have even seen his face, but instead he doesn’t. Instead we get the beginning of the partnership. The third leg in that triangle. Batman, James Gordon, and D.A. Harvey Dent on a three-man crusade to clean up Gotham. As faithful adaptations of works go this is perfect. As for DC’s Animated Flicks this is definitely right up there with JLA: Crisis On Two Earths. Just fantastic stuff, everyone who loves this stuff should see.
- I hate being sick, it makes all the other normal aches and pains I have a 1,000 times worse.
- So it’s Valentine’s Day and the ruse is up. Of COURSE I got my wife flowers and candy. I’d literally pluck the moon and stars from the sky if I could. Now matter how much I tell her how much she means to me, it won’t be enough. No matter how much I give you, it’ll never be enough. There is no way for me to accurately display the love I have for you Cassandra. Happy Valentines Day gorgeous!

And with that I’m done, I only wish I was crawling into a warm bed right now…

“Love and happiness
Something that can, make you do wrong
Make you do right, love

Love and happiness
Wait a minute something's going wrong
Someone's on the phone
Three o'clock in the morning

Talkin' about, how she can make it right
Well, happiness is when
You really feel good, about somebody
Nothing wrong with being in love with someone

Oh baby, love and happiness
(Love and happiness)
Love and happiness
(Love and happiness)

Love and happiness
(Love and happiness)
Love and happiness

You be good to me
I'll be good to you
We'll be together
We'll see each other
Walk away with victory

Oh baby, love and happiness
(Love and happiness)
Love and happiness
(Love and happiness)

Make you do right, love'll make you do wrong
Make you come home early
Make you stay out all night long
The power of love

Wait a minute, let me tell you, about the power
The power of love, power, power
Make you do right, love'll make you do wrong

Love and happiness
Love and happiness
Love and happiness
Love and happiness

Make you want to dance, love and happiness
Love is, wait a minute
Love is, walkin' together, talkin' together
Say it again, say it together”

* = Why Robin? WHY?!

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