Friday, June 27, 2014

Eyes Without A Face Vs. The Red Queen Kills Seven Times


Last night 3rd Group met in what was an unusual lesson for me as a person who runs games.  I was massively struggling last night.  Let me digress into an explanation first.   I have been overtired lately as I haven’t been sleeping very well.  Somewhere, somehow in the last 5 weeks or so I did something to my left shoulder.  I have always had issues with my right shoulder.  It along with my knees, ankles, and my right elbow/bicep are sources of chronic pain.  Every day they ache, the pop, they burn, and they attempt to make me miserable.

Over time I have developed a tolerance for it.  They were me out, they make me uncomfortable, but it has become the status quo so I don’t really think about it.  I hadn’t realized just how much I was at my threshold until my left shoulder started bothering me.  With it just sort of hanging in the socket causing me a constant, throbbing burn from the back of my neck to the tips of my fingers it has been hard to do much effectively or to even find respite from pain.  I just haven’t developed a new tolerance to this new level of discomfort.

I already have problems sleeping, and now I am reduced to taking handfuls of Ibuprofen to just knock myself out.  I awake with a ‘hangover’, don’t really feel rested, and that throbbing ache is waiting with renewed vigor.  I’m slowly getting used to it, but it is taking time.  Last night was sort of a culmination of overdoing both yard work and the moving of some things alone, not using any heat to try and loosen up the muscles in that area, and not getting solid sleep.  I was a confused zombie sitting behind the screen last night.

Generally, I’m pretty harsh when I post-game grade out what I got accomplished behind the screen.  Sure the goal number one is fun, and because of the people that I’m fortunate to have at the gaming table that is always there in abundance.  For me as a GM/DM I am constantly looking for new ways to improve my style of managing the game, facilitating that fun, role playing, and building evocative, challenging, and entertaining encounters. 

I think by and large I do a decent to good job managing, I’m very good at facilitating, and I think I’m above average at the Role Playing portion.  When it comes to building encounters I am a bit shaky.  I have good ideas, but I don’t balance them as well as I should.  I will try new things, but I have a tendency to not think through all the minutia as well as I could or should.  And I think my biggest problem in encounter building is my inability to build true jeopardy into them without having to manufacture them behind the screen.

Last night was a complete flip flop of that paradigm.  I was sluggish behind the screen.  I felt like I was thinking through cheese cloth, and my focus was pretty poor.  My shoulder was just draining my ability to really get anything done.  I could feel the game going off the rails, not because of the players, but because I couldn’t keep up.  It was a tad humiliating to have the players have to hand-hold me through things, but they are GREAT players so they just rolled with.  Pun intended.

So I ran them right into combat, and the thing was it worked.  I used some Shadar-Kai chain fighters who were zealots to Orcus.    They have this nasty ‘Dance Of Death’ power where they can move their full movement and attack each enemy they pass by once.  With four of them on the long room they caused a significant problem.  They were backed up by ten Zombie Minions.  I gave the Zombies relatively high Armor Classes so they could hold up to the PC’s for at least two rounds.  It really caught the group off guard to have enemies that were HYPER mobile, did significant damage, and had enough hit points to stick around for a while.  In fact for a moment I worried that I had really screwed them over to a degree we were going to see a death.

However, that group is resilient and VERY tactically smart.  Once I ‘challenged’ them that way they responded.  Even with Startlin’ Spence’s brute power missing they figured out how protect themselves with Cassandra’s cloud of darkness, how to attack the Shadar-Kai by Master Kedrin 4.0 dropping massive area of effects on them, and all the while nuking the Zombies effectively thanks to some really swanky rolling by Electric Elyssa, the Queen Of Cat Memes.  For an Evil group, with constantly shifting internal alliances, intrigue, and potential betrayal constantly on the cusp of occurring it is AMAZING to watch them work in conjunction in combat.  1st Group has them in sheer brute power, 2nd Group is maybe a bit more inventive, and 4th Group has them in sheer craziness, BUT none of my other three groups touches 3rd Group in terms of tactical brilliance.

We had a short Role Playing moment, but again I just fell down flat in it.  Kedrin did everything but drag me kicking and screaming into that moment and I just couldn’t keep up.  Luckily THE Karl, Magic Mike, & Elyssa sort of pushed the scene forward and saved me from being more of a bumbling, stumbling mess than I already was.  I just couldn’t think, and in turn couldn’t keep up at all.  The only part that did work was Cassandra’s Drow Vampire FINALLY drank from Kedrin’s Shard carrying Deva, a former exarch of Torog.  I can’t say what occurred, but let’s just say it involved a critical hit, a change in social dynamics, and a direction change that has so many potential story threads that my head is swimming.

We moved to the next combat Encounter which was where I really felt I found an inventive and fun way to make the environment a pain, give a mini-boss a feeling of being a HUGE threat, and used moderately powerful brutes to harry the PC’s into tough decisions.  I think it didn’t hurt the tension at all that crits where flying fast and furious from myself and Magic Mike.  I think it also helped that THE Karl and Perfect Peter laid on a healthy helping of ‘Buffs’ on the party early and often.  I used an Immolith who spawned Fire Minions that caused an ever increasing burst cascade of fire.  Every time the burst caught a PC the Immolith healed.  I used a Zack trick with the Hit Points and just gave the Immolith 6 ‘Hits’, this excluded on-going damage effects and damage taken on a miss.  Then I added some Carnage Demons to the mix as my brutes. 
The cascading burst really pushed the PC’s to split their actions to keep those off their backs.  Once the Carnage Demons hit the PC’s saw the threat and had to deal with that as well.  All the while they had to deal with the Immolith in the center of the room dropping burst 3 waves of Necrotic Flame all the while having an aura that caused an automatic 5 damage to those that were adjacent.  There were just a lot of effects going on.  And then the crits started dropping.

Magic Mike eliminated a Carnage Demon I had used to base him and keep him from nuking me.  It was a one shot critical hit, and perfectly timed.   I responded by Double Criting Peter, which in my games is max damage times four, almost killing him.  Then in the very next turn with the Immolith critted him again for max double damage dropping him.  Luckily THE Karl was right there to bring him right back up.  In the process Peter received a new mental health hindrance of Erotomania, which is a romantic delusional fixation on someone in a socio-economic stratosphere above you.  Since he’s a Hobgoblin the group decided they were ALL above him, so we randomly rolled for it.  He ended up with Kedrin’s insane Eladrin, Valia.  THIS has the potential to be an utter and complete disaster of the most entertaining kind.

The crits calmed down a bit, Magic Mike & Elyssa began the whittling down of the Flame Minions, THE Karl continued to be the bastion of strategy, healing, and ‘Buff’ Supremes, and Peter, Cassandra, & Kedrin laid the smackdown.  The key was they had to work for it.  They had to work for it with good rolling, great team work, smart tactical thinking, and a united sense of purpose.  Although on the negative end while my role playing with the Immolith was better than anything else I did that night it still left SO much to be desired.

I learned that while I can rely a lot on ‘me being me’ and spinning an entertaining yarn if you can build an interesting and challenging Encounter(s) then you can bring a different kind of fun to the table.  Now I just need to find a way to combine them both.  Overall it was an uneven night saved by a group of players that really are something special.  That might be the actual lesson; the players make the game and Great players make for a Great game. 
That was a lot more writing than I meant for it to be.  Let’s wrap up with some…


- Richard Matheson died.  He was an amazing writer whose works were something I cherished in high school all the way to today.  Thank you sir for preying on our fears and sparking our imaginations.  You will be missed.

- Thank you for the Invite ‘YO Randy’ and ‘Sweet D’!

- In a week I’ll be at CONvergence.  I am slightly terrified as I don’t do well with crowds, but I’m excited to be going with Cassandra, ‘Casual’ Doug, La Randita, THE Karl, & Kedrin.  It doesn’t hurt that in the last few years I’ve met a lot of folks who are actually excited that I’m going and can’t wait to ‘show me around’.  This is my first foray back into going to large gatherings I truly hope that I cannot disappoint my Friends or myself.

- I get my L.E.W.G.I. T-shirt on Sunday!  Thank you to the artist supreme Joel!  L.E.W.G.I. has ALL THE TALENT(s)!

- Mantic is getting ready to do another Kickstarter this time for an ‘Ultimate’ version of their Dwarf King’s Hold game.  Now this time it appears that they are taking the skirmish battle and moving it to more of a Dungeon Crawl model, which I for one am in love with.  If Dreadball and Deadzone are ANY indicator of where Mantic is moving in regards to its rule sets, Kickstarter products, and ability to expand their two gaming universes then they can TAKE ALL MY MONEY(s) NOW!  Seriously, I will be dropping some serious cash on this when it comes up on Kickstarter as should you!

- Ice Tea and Peach Schnapps is delicious.

- I have nothing going on tomorrow.  I’m going to relax, sleep in, catch up on NXT, spend as much time with Cassandra as she can stand, and maybe paint 3 to 10 more miniatures.  That would be a good way to recharge my waning brain.

- Thank you to Joe K., ‘The Koala’, for keeping me ‘grounded’ with horrible play by play of surgeries.  It sucks that ‘Real Life’ prevents us from hanging out more.

- I’ve picked up some the newest Pathfinder miniatures, the Reign Of Winter set, and I have to say the paint jobs are atrocious.  So many cool looking miniatures that look like they were shaded, dry brushed, and dipped by a five year old.  Seriously it is as bad as what the DDM stuff was at its worst.  I’m very disappointed to get these in hand after what came out in Wrath Of The Righteous.  At least I just buy in singles now.  Things like this though are why I wish I could paint faster, as even my ‘meh’ skills exceed some of these pieces.

- Laying down right now with a heating pad would be heaven.

- I sold my two huge boxes of miniatures on Craigslist and should be making the swap next week.  That money is going to get me the 5th Edition D&D books, and most likely the next Pathfinder Card Game big box, ‘Skull & Shackles’.  If 5th Edition is as modular and easy to adapt old Modules to as I’ve heard I’m going to go back to my local ½ Priced books and buy one of the three copies they had on the shelf of the COMPLETE hardback Rise Of The Runelords adventure path.  The book is simply gorgeous and I’m sort of kicking myself for not buying it when I had the chance.  That would be a book I’d love to have, and I think this weekend I might go get it.  Zack, do you think that would be an easy conversion?

- La La and Lee gave us the recipe for Apple Pie Moonshine and I can’t wait to make it.

- Speaking of Zack and Life F*&#ery we MIGHT be doing an Antagonist Relations Podcast next week.  SO if you have gaming inquiries, questions, comments, or death threats e-mail them to me at, or at the Antagonist Relations blog here on blogger, or leave them here with me because I’m an attention whore.  I’ve been trying to brainstorm some different Podcast subjects of late so we have a backup list of subjects, and I realized there is SO much stuff I want to talk about on all three Podcasts that we are in no danger of getting stale.

- I can’t wait to bust out my Geneious approved hedge clippers and attack all the crap my neighbors have let creep over my fence.  Thank you Gene & Sassie Cassie.

- Speaking of Podcasts last night the first mutterings of actually scheduling the Master Kedrin 4.0 & Electric Elyssa epic Cat Memes & Anima Podcast began to gestate.  I for one am excited to just run the board and watch those two, and most likely Cassandra, break down Cat Memes and all the crazy Anima they watch.  It has the potential for mass hilarity.

- I need a haircut; maybe I’ll go Mohawk for a while again.

- I don’t know if we are doing a Heel Turn Radio before ‘Money In The Bank’ on Sunday, thus far it doesn’t sound like it.  I’d like to do another double shot of Heel Turn soon though, as I think there is a LOT to discuss.  Especially, with us all going to Ring Of Honor in a few weeks.

- July is crazy busy, but in the best way possible!

- Mighty Mike and I have been in discussions of setting up some time to get Deadzone on the table and play it.  I have beyond high hopes that it’ll occur soon.  The game just seems to be a perfect Sc-Fi skirmish game for fun, relaxed play.  With having all six armies we have plenty to bring in some other folks for multi-player mayhem, and ideally I’d like to do a monthly campaign/league.  We’ll have to figure it out at some point since with the new D&D skirmish game, 5th Edition, and Monsterhearts on the horizon I KNOW that those things are going to eat some time.  Too many amazing games and people, too little time.

- I’ve read a TON of books lately, and all it makes me want to do is read more.

You know that is all I got today…

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