Dramatis Personae

  • The Commander (Doug) – telekinetic super-soldier with a really angry dog (Yukio). The dog is a powerful ally (250-300 points) and very intelligent and very, very aggressive.
  • The Rat Queen (Emily) – brick with super-perception; made of actual rats
  • Zephyr (Merlin) – Real name Murui; Shaolin Kung Fu expert and super-speedster.
  • Eamon Finnegan (Kyle) – smooth talking gravity-master; Ultimate Fighting Lawyer, to borrow a phrase.
  • Ezekiel (Christian) – Techno Master, Genius, Esper, Super Archer
  • Katana (NPC) – Will be The Commander’s wife one day. She knows it to be true.
  • Four Navy SEALS
  • Galatea – our newly-made Ultron; first name Natalie.
Secret Abandoned Base?
What could go wrong?
We split up into pairs. We notice that they may have been shot after they’d been immobilized. My character was dosed with some sort of sleeping gas, and then shot.
Zombies. Why did it have to be zombies.

Sometimes there were 7-8 people per room, looking too rag-tag. We wonder if this was a version of the zombie plague?These guys have been dead for about 40 years. We clear the top floor in a non-eventful way. About 40 dead folks, lots of random stuff, some 50-year-old twinkies. Most of the folks on this floor are not military. They’re wearing old, ragged clothing.

We start speculating that this military base may have been taken over or repurposed for hiding out from an Extinction Level Event. We table the discussion as we move Katana to a bed and try and heal her up. Zephyr burns karma and fatigue like it’s going out of style (or really, like it went out of style about 40 years ago). He burns character points too. Katana wakes up. She’s fully able and fit.

She stands up rapidly . . . and sits back down again. She asks what happened. We tell her. She immediately gets up to look for Yukio.

Katana and the Commander head downstairs to clear some rooms. The door has been welded shut from the other side, with crap pushed up against the door.

The Commander climbs down the elevator cables, to the elevator, opens the hatch, and jump down. The elevator itself has a bit of an airlock to it, as well. I see two fresh corpses, fairly fresh, dressed very differently. Couple of white guys, boots look cobbled togther, buckskin outfits. Couple of AKs, but with recently-machined and replaced parts. One has been shot in the head, dead-center in the forehead. The other was crushed by an unseen force. The third one has been mauled by some sort of animal – death by 1,000 cuts?

Every corpse (3 in total), have dog-tags the shape of a heart. The Commander takes the tags. Katana comes into the elevator; she rips through the pockets. The shot-to-the-head guy was with a .45, death by 1,000 cat scratches, and crushed with powers, says Diagnosis.

I force the door open, and move down the hall. More dead bodies. They’re dressed more like the buckskin guys. The walls are messed up in here. Like a rhino got loose.

We look around, and there’s flickering power. We find some containment units. One of which looks like something burst out of it, as AG-107. The most recent entry is Aug 14, 2025 on a clipboard. Some of the tanks have people in them. Some are looking like nasty science projects.

Katana and the Commander continue to clear rooms, with Zephyr, and we find a tunnel leading out from the far north corner of the room. It looks like it was hand-dug by the same critter that clawed them up.

Continue reading “Aeon S3E13 – The Katana Paradox”

Dramatis Personae

  • The Commander (Doug) – telekinetic super-soldier with a really angry dog (Yukio). The dog is a powerful ally (250-300 points) and very intelligent and very, very aggressive.
  • The Rat Queen (Emily) – brick with super-perception; made of actual rats
  • Zephyr (Merlin) – Real name Murui; Shaolin Kung Fu expert and super-speedster.
  • Eamon Finnegan (Kyle) – smooth talking gravity-master; Ultimate Fighting Lawyer, to borrow a phrase.
  • Ezekiel (Christian) – Techno Master, Genius, Esper, Super Archer
  • Katana (NPC) – Will be The Commander’s wife one day. She knows it to be true.
  • Four Navy SEALS
  • Galatea – our newly-made Ultron; first name Natalie.
Waking up is hard to do
When last we left our heroes, we’d blacked out and crash landed somewhere. Or vice versa.
We roll for HT to see who wakes up first, and start the crits. The Commander wakes up first. He’s in free fall. The front of the plane – all of it – is missing. He wakes up Eamon lickety split, so we can try a telekinetic parachute.
Eamon does gravity sense to try and figure out where we are relative to the ground. We’re at 5,990 feet above ground level. He kicks on Control Gravity, and can affect 10yds.
The Commander tries to stunt by projecting his Catfall ability on the plane. This makes it easier for Eamon to do his thing. In fact, he’s not needed at all, and Eamon pulls Katana, who was dangling by a strap, back into the plane. He notes that her arm and leg looks terrible, a bruises mess.
He TK’s her into the seat and buckles it. 
About 4,000 feet later, we start falling. Very fast. My effect is still there, but it seems to be being negated. Eamon can’t summon his powers either. The Commander moves around and is jumpmaster – he crits the roll to use the 4,000 feet of fall time to stuff people into parachutes, rigs a static line, and has folks jumps out of a (really no longer) perfectly good airplane. Actually, more like a back half of a broken fuselage, but that’s not nearly as funny.
We are basically parachuting (and we have parafoils) into a power-free zone, though. We strap the KO’d people onto ourselves (The Commander reluctantly straps Katana to himself) and land in a cold, mountainous valley with an Alpine forest close by. 

Yukio is nowhere to be seen.

We’re in the middle of a basin. Zephyr hits the plane wreckage for survival gear, food, potential weapons, signaling devices. We do a bit of recall, and no one remembers seeing any huts, fires, or any sign of civilization. It’s cold, and getting colder, but we have our super environmental suits on, so we’re protected for now. They’re battery operated so we’re still good.
We find a survival kit, a flare gun, some food, and about $1,000 worth of gear. We check GPS (no signal) and we’re definitely out of area. Zephyr checks to see if he can Detect Life (a magic ability) to find the rest of us. Chi sense works, but it being interfered with.
Eamon crits (again already) on Katana to see the extent and type of her injuries. She’s looking pretty feral when she wakes up, grabs Eamon by the throat. She has a severe concussion, possibly a subdural brain bleed, and (to borrow a Harry Potter-ism), she’s been Splinched.
Zephyr tries to help with the bleed, and pulls a Gilderoy Lockhart until he spends karma to control the bleed. 
Looking around, we pretty clearly are in the Arctic, and very likely were forcibly teleported elsewhere. We think we might be in Canada . . . but the stars are not where we’re supposed to be. They’re not chronologically where they should be either. 
Zephyr, though, has Chronolocation . . . so he knows exactly WHEN we are. Or can figure it out. We’re exactly 46 years into the future. Powers are reduced. GPS constellation is no longer functioning. 
Ooo. We’re post-apoc, likely.
We check back on Katana. We decide no one attacked her, she sorta did it to herself. 
We are in an area with either messed up Kyberian energy, or something.
Oh, and we finally realize Galatea and my SEALs were in the front half of the plane. We send Zephyr out at super-speed for firewood, and establish that our first goal is to set up a survival situation. We start a fire. We melt and boil snow. We turn the broken fuselage of the aircraft into an igloo. Our food situation is basically 12 MREs at 1,250 kcal per MRE. Five of us. Maybe 2.5 days worth.
We hit survival mode pretty hard. The Commander’s natural non-super ST is 15 (half his usual value). He’s tired – very tired – but we have a good three days worth of firewood.
The wind picks up at night, and it gets very, very cold at night. When we wake up at night, we’re down 1FP and take one point of Long Term Fatigue. We’re sitting at just under -60F. Cold cold cold. Only about -20F during the day.
We keep watch, but we’ve got a huge storm coming in. We’ve got may be 14 hours until major snowpocalypse. Like even Minnesotans might think “wow, that’s a bunch of snow.”
Ezekiel makes snowshoes, and does it well enough that they don’t count as improvised equipment. 
And Katana starts having a seizure. Between the Commander’s physician and spending Karma on a magic spell, we heal her up. She’s still unconscious, but it’s a natural unconsciousness, rather than coma or seizure. So progress.
Zephyr and The Commander go on recon to see if we can find the best direction to find a shelter that won’t kill us when the giant storm hits. Ezekiel is making us a kite with one of the parachutes. Eamon keeps watch over Katana, and also digs deep to see if he can use his powers at all. He can’t.
There’s a ton of electromagnetic interference, though – but Ezekiel gets radios to work. And as we go on recon, The Commander finds an old bomb shelter. And Zephyr finds a skeleton, clothed in buckskins. The bones have been gnawed on, and the head is missing. There’s a necklace on the guy, a flint and steel, and a few knives. The necklace is in the shape of a stylized heart, with a name, birthdate, and a few other numbers. The knife is a good knife, but clearly made from improv material. 
We shift our base camp, making a trio of slings and logs and pine needles as skis. One for Katana, one for the firewood, one for the stuff we took from the wreckage. The Commander manages to pick the lock of the bunker, then we all beat feet to get the stuff to the bomb shelter.
Zephyr and The Commander search the shelter. We have night vision, so the -9 penalty is mitigated a bit. We climb down into a 10×10 staging area, and pause to sense Chi. Naturally Zephyr crit fails. He tries something again, and fails again. 
We see something move, fast, that doesn’t register on thermals. The Commander orders everyone into the hole. Naturally we can’t just act, we have to talk about it for ever.
We finally get inside, and close the hatch. We hear something that sounds like talons scraping across the metal.
We hear a woman from outside say “There’s something out here! Please! Help!”
Yeah, right. Chiquita didn’t show up on thermals, but is now calling for help? 
We hear the sound of someone being eviscerated above us. The Commander isn’t buyin’ it.
Ezekiel tries to re-lock the door. He burns karma like it’s survival fuel to ensure it happens. 
Something pulls on the hatch; we see the hinges strain, but hold. 
We sick ‘Zeke on the lower door. We need to get down through the second hatch, but we’re also concerned about what’s down “in the dungeon.”
We “check for traps,” between Zeke and Zephyr. We bypass a keycard lock, and in a few minutes, we finally open up the door. The air inside is stale, but not rank. Excellent. 
There’s a staircase going down. We ask if the hallway is exactly 10′ wide. It’s not. We’re disappointed.
And at the bottom of the doorway, there’s another door. There’s a cleanroom-style, or decontamination style, room. The same bypass works for this room too. 
We’re in a hallway. There are no more hatches, but this is a military-style bunker. Some debris in the hallway. This is clearly some sort of military installation. We find a body wearing a lab coat over a US military uniform, with a gun in one hand and a note in the other. It looks like the guy committed suicide. There’s a patch on his shoulder that says “Project Crucible.”
The note says “I’m sorry.”
We find two more bodies as we search, and we deduce that the suicide guy killed the two bodies, by surprise, and leaned them gently against the wall. We also find a keycard, and deduce that there’s some sort of power, because the door locks still work. We suspect an RTG or solar power.
We end there.

Dramatis Personae

  • The Commander (Doug) – telekinetic super-soldier with a really angry dog (Yukio). The dog is a powerful ally (250-300 points) and very intelligent and very, very aggressive.
  • The Rat Queen (Emily) – brick with super-perception; made of actual rats
  • Zephyr (Merlin) – Real name Murui; Shaolin Kung Fu expert and super-speedster.
  • Eamon Finnegan (Kyle) – smooth talking gravity-master; Ultimate Fighting Lawyer, to borrow a phrase.
  • Ezekiel (Christian) – Techno Master, Genius, Esper, Super Archer
  • Katana (NPC) – Will be The Commander’s wife one day. She knows it to be true.
  • Four Navy SEALS
  • Galatea – our newly-made Ultron; first name Natalie.
Saddle Up
We gather our team.
We’ve got  Max “Romeo” Smith, John Malcolm Thorpe “Mad Jack” Churchill (yes, a descendent of that one), Thomas “Spectre” Harper, Samuel “Crash” Burns.
Samuel isn’t allowed to drive anything, hence his name. 
It’s a six-hour trip by C130 to the Northern part of Greenland. We use Eamon as a parachute to bring all of us down (plus the equipment). Romeo is hitting on Katana. Grrr. He draws the “point man” role thanks to that.
Ezekiel decides that going down by wingsuit is the thing to do; Zephyr takes a movie of our entire descent. It’s still better than the English Patient. We note that it’s snowing all around us, except where we’re going to land. It’s like -40 degrees outside, but we have e-Suits.
Zephyr readies a 2-shot limpet mine dispenser (6d(3) each) with super-stick. 
Those of us with Detect Magic try and detect it – since it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that something is being used on the site. We ask Galatea, and she tells us that the weather is being manipulated by kyberian energy . . . but not from here. Not from anywhere near here.
We work it out – the interference is coming from New York. Of course. And we’re not going to break radio silence to call it in, so . . . 
We come in about 20 miles from the base. All of a sudden, an area underneath us suddenly sprouts in a burst of vegetation. We speculate. Early warning system? Planty trap? 
As we get on our snowmobiles, the path re-forms in front of us. We spend a bit of time being really paranoid, and then deduce (um, the GM tells us) that another team is helping us. Woo!
So, we gadget ourselves a Stealthmobile, because why not? Engine baffling, IR protection, noise modulation. Oh, yes. The Snow Prius.
Yukio rides with Katana. That dawg. 
We use our model to come up with three most probable locations for the files. They’re all within two miles of one another. Eamon crits his gravity sense roll AGAIN and makes it by 16, plus crit factor. He just pushes the Crit button on Roll20, we think. We not only locate the best locale, we get the records room three levels below. 
We’re going to go for the tunneling plan direct to the records room. We set up the giant freakin’ laser to tunnel in . . . but Christopher uses doom on us. The thing fires straight down, and melts its way fairly uncontrollably into the ice. Oops. 
Kyle crits AGAIN rolling for a gravity check to float us down perfectly into the chasm. Murui decides he’s going to Goonies-slide down the glacier – and rolls a 17. Crippled leg. OK. Excellent.
Eamon tries for physician – crit FAIL. Crippled further. 
Zephyr decides he’s going to do the entire mission walking on his hands. He spends some karma to buy “unusual posture” perk, and while he has to move at half speed.
The floor we wind up on “smells like failure, sweat, and stale beer – a frozen Wonderland snapshot of the ’80s.”
We see a tape deck on one of the . . . OK. The gadgeteer picks it up and starts talking to it. He’s at a penalty due to TL differences. It starts playing Metallica “Trapped Under Ice.”
Time for recon. The Commander makes his stealth roll by 16. He subvocalizes to Yukio, whistling, and he brings the team down. We sneaky-Mc-Sneakypants to the room labelled RECORDS. The door is rather locked.
Zephyr decides he’s going to pick the lock, with his toes. Penalties are assessed. Eamon steps up. We pick the lock, open the door, and see piles of frozen records. Literally paper sheathed in ice. Kyle picks up that the room is smaller than it should be; hidden compartment behind the filing cabinets.
We check for evidence of disturbances – and Eamon crits again – so we pop the door. 
Things are going a bit too smoothly. Zephyr does Detect Life to see if there’s life out there – I’m not saying it’s Aliens (or a tumor, or . . . ), but . . . 
The Commander has a quick skull session with his buddy the Crystal Skull, to see if the skull can shed any light on the issue. The images conveyed show that the skull isn’t sure what’s in there. We walk in. There’s something inside a capsule.
It’s vaguely chiropteran – bat-like. (He’s batman.) It, um . . . looks like an actual vampire. The capsule starts speaking to Ezekiel (machines do that) in Russian. He repeats it phonetically (he crits. sigh.) and Murui fails to crit.
He’s a good containment unit. It’s his purpose. It’s been moved from place to place and has been alone for a very long time. 
Zephyr translates . . . and tells it that we’re here to rescue it. Eamon crits AGAIN (he’s the only GM NPC actually played by a player). We find all the files we’re looking for. 
And the vampire. Hmm.
Katana teleports in with the four SEALs – she immediately starts getting a bloody nose. She’s suffering. The only thing a “success by one” physician roll can do for her is pinch her nose and say “there there.”
She’s oddly consoled by this.
We spend a lot of time talking plans. The Commander is convinced in his heart that this entire mission, crits and all, has been too easy (other than Murui’s broken leg). He suggests we pack everything up physically and head to Thule AFB, 200mi away. We do, and trek a few hours.
The Crystal Skull is not a fan of the vampire. I am still paranoid. I attune my Aether awareness with the crystal skull. 
I detect every metahuman and their abilities, and the lines of force around the base. They’re still working on them trying to find the location. I also get a taste of the energy coming off the container – it’s . . . soured, fetid. It feels wrong in my head. 
Worried that something terrible will happen if we teleport back, we take a plane back to NYC. Naturally, as we wind down, there’s an explosion in the front, in or near cockpit. We’re all unconscious. We end there.

Dramatis Personae

  • The Commander (Doug) – telekinetic super-soldier with a really angry dog (Yukio). The dog is a powerful ally (250-300 points) and very intelligent and very, very aggressive.
  • The Rat Queen (Emily) – brick with super-perception; made of actual rats
  • Zephyr (Merlin) – Real name Murui; Shaolin Kung Fu expert and super-speedster.
  • Eamon Finnegan (Kyle) – smooth talking gravity-master; Ultimate Fighting Lawyer, to borrow a phrase.
  • Ezekiel (Christian) – Techno Master, Genius, Esper, Super Archer

The Rise of the Machines

So, we just made Ultron. Eamon is unconscious from using some sort of ultra-power.

Can we turn it to scrap metal? Retroactive termination? Prosecute for illegal immigration (technically, it’s somewhere between a natural-born and unnatural-born citizen).

She stands up, and looks around. She crawls out of the crater like evil robot spider Gwen or something. We decide to call her Natalie. Because Ms Portman was in Black Swan, and this robot chick is going to almost certainly kill us all.

We interact with her a bit . . . badly. Eamon is reacting more or less like, well, Kermit the Frog as we talk to her. We go from “What am I?” “you’re a person.” to Zephyr telling her that as a Buddhist, her responsibility is to the whole world. We cover ethics and morality in one sentence, courtesy of The Commander (“Ethics is what is proper; Morality is what is right.”).

We download some database stuff, and spend about 7 hours talking about a person’s place in the world, etc. We manage to install Code of Honor (Heroes), Cannot Harm Innocents, and Sense of Duty (Humanity). And five points left unspent.

Eamon “feels her up” with gravity sense – she’s about 65 liters in volume, and probably weighs about 350-400lbs.

Anyway, Ezekiel has a convenient “I will know your power” skill, as well as what can she do with it, thanks to his gadgeteer and other abilities. She seems to have some sort of ability to manipulate kyberian energy. Continue reading “Aeon Campaign S3E10 – Operation Viking (planning)”

Dramatis Personae

  • The Commander (Doug) – telekinetic super-soldier with a really angry dog (Yukio). The dog is a powerful ally (250-300 points) and very intelligent and very, very aggressive.
  • The Rat Queen (Emily) – brick with super-perception; made of actual rats
  • Zephyr (Merlin) – Real name Murui; Shaolin Kung Fu expert and super-speedster.
  • Eamon Finnegan (Kyle) – smooth talking gravity-master; Ultimate Fighting Lawyer, to borrow a phrase.
  • Ezekiel (Christian) – Techno Master, Genius, Esper, Super Archer.
  • Marionette (Ani) – Abilities run to boosting of others, and manipulation of animated objects. The Commander’s third cousin.
Waking Up is Hard to Do
We ended unconscious, in true heroic cliffhanger fashion. We wake with massive headaches and terrible pain. Like the worst hangover ever and waking up to a rock concert. Plus: fusion-powered chainsaw? Problematic.
The building and the rest seem structurally sound, but the closer in you get to the center of the blast, even the dirt started to look unhealthy. I mean, endangered dirt. The grass is literally greener on the other side of the fence.
The folks that were KO’d but close to the explosion of weirdiation are dead. Our civilians we extracted to the third base dugout are also sick but alive.
One of the zombies that has been squished but not killed keeps wheezing out Eamon’s name. He quickly destroys evidence . . . I mean, puts the thing out of its misery.

Zephyr is pondering running for some super-fast Pepto Bismol, but even thinking about running hurts him. The Rat Queen tries to un-Ogre. And can’t. 
Yukio brings over a severed arm from the pile, as if he wants to play fetch. Apparently, after 
And Eamon crits his Hidden Lore (Metahumans) roll. Again.
Marionette hears Yukio in her mind. He’s got a vaguely British accent, apparently. He loves tea. He says, “No, no . . . I do not have the zombie plague,” very stiffly. Very. Stiffly. The tea thing is new to me. “What? You drink tea now? You chase, catch, and kill 53-foot trucks and now you like tea?”
With Eamon’s roll, we realize that the flows of kyberian energy have been disrupted. We’re having a hard time channeling our powers. Eamon postulates that our issues are tied to this space, so we want to see if we feel better as we take a walk outside of the stadium.
So unless we do something about it, Yankee stadium is going to be filled with weird (even more than normal) for a while.
As we leave, things start to feel better, but we notice a sharp line about 30′ outside the stadium. The Commander wonders if the ground underneath the stadium has been weakened, since we definitely can’t foot that bill. 
All bacteria and plant life have been killed. We decide we want samples of everything. 
Oh, and Eamon starts the exposition. Apparently he did time, and there was a breakout of this plague in the prison – that’s where he got his medical training. Cyrus Lund is a bad guy with a bad tendency to create viruses – he’s a metahuman. He has not been on the radar for some time, so no file exists.
Century put Sirus in jail back in 2005. At that point, he could spread disease by touch. Either his powers have mutated, gotten stronger, or gotten stranger. Perhaps he has MAD (the metahuman psychosis)?
We start to wonder what’s going on. Electricity from his electrocution in 2007? He’d killed over 700 people. We wonder if he’s become some sort of plague pokemon. Or if Blue Skies managed to transfer or replicate his powers from his charcoal-briquette form post electrocution.

We search hard, and find just about all of the shattered pieces of machine to nearly rebuild it completely, allowing Ezekiel to work his magic.

The bikers are also sick like we are. Right. Metas.

We put the pieces close together into a cradle, as well as the pieces of the well-shielded device that are still functioning. We call Aegis, who bring in Top Men and once they get a look at what they quickly decide is a Kyberian emitter. They decide there’s no way in hell they’re moving this thing. They bring the Mjolnir chamber. 

We all get sprayed down with some sort of wax thing. Yukio looks at me like “get to work,” but I’m all like “there’s no way I’m pulling that out of your hair.” He paw-bumps me in the chest like “it’s on, now.” We wrestle. A lot. By the end, the wax is removed.

The device seems to be able to shut down powers and technology, and also destroys plants and bacteria.

Well, at least when we accidentally set off a kyberian energy release with super-bullets. And Zephyr looks again to see how far the dead zone goes below us. It’s a sphere. The ground didn’t provide any kind of insulation or armor against the effect.

The Aegis director motions for us to come over. We do. “You guys always bring me the most interesting finds.”

We report, and get he following:

Rothgar is 400 or so years old. He thinks he’s a viking; so he could be older. He can enhance normals temporarily. Stronger, tougher, etc. He took over the berserkers, killed their leader, and that’s what he’s been doing. That sort of gifting power is very, very rare. 30 or so in 90 years, and maybe 20 of those in the last few years.

But the chemical compound they found has been seen before. It’s been a while, though. DRNK97, last seen in 2012 in South America, when one of our teams disappeared and blew an Aztec temple sky high during the mission.

So when I say it’s weird, I mean it very, very sincerely. My techs are telling me that in the past 5 hours alone, differences in air temp. gravity, and material density have all been fluctuating wildly.

On the other hand, we’ve cleaned up about 90% of the berserkers.  So yay.

On the third hand, the extensive damage to Yankee Stadium was mostly chainsaw and gunshot related. Ouch. That’s a $1.6 BILLION dollar stadium we damaged. Yeeks. The government blames the berzerkers.

We do a search of the equipment again. Every piece is bespoke. We decide to check out tooling marks and other signatures, see if we can trace back what machine was used to make it, and thus trace back the type. That works actually – as does Ezekiel when he actually Speaks to the machine. Revelet Deus Absconsa Tua!

Excellent. He’s talking to the ghost in the machine. 

It was made to pull in energy and expel it in one burst. 

Ezekiel gets all touch feely with the machine – and he wants to heal the bad guy’s machine. So we throw all kinds of fatigue at this plan, despite the fact that this has to be teh worst idea ever. The Double-Decker Couch was a better plan.

This is so going to bring about the apocalypse. 

We spend SIX HOURS rebuilding the damn thing. As far as it know, it’s supposed to directly effect the environment by drawing in low levels of energy and then expel it suddenly.

Ezekiel decides to make the machine sentient. This plan gets better and better.

The south american scientists that we rearranged the geometry, we have the catalyst for the Steynr experiment – the pulse of energy this machine emits would do what Blue Skies wants.

We have a fairly long discussion, led by Eamon/Kyle, about if the ability to create metahumans at will is something we want anyone to have. Kyle, and Doug vote NO FUCKING WAY. Em votes mildly no. Christian thinks basically no.

We refine the problem: This is a TAP (trans-atlantic pulse) on demand. The Black Swan event was avoidable by retroactively making that event not happen, says our AI buddy VAST.

The Engineer requires at least a week of study to make this happen. Ezekiel and Blue Skies is the only one that knows how to build this equipment. But what if the equipment itself gets to decide?

Yeah. No disassemble!

Chris uses his power to create sentient life. Eamon tries to hyper-stunt his power to disintegrate the equipment. 

We all take 20d6 double knockback damage as the two powers collide. 

We all catch ourselves in the air and stuff. 

When we wake up. Tokugawa is standing over us all. He blames me for everything. He does give me the sword, though.

We see something move in the crater we created. It’s a robot. It’s a girl robot. 

It stands up and looks around, wild-looking in the eyes. 

Great. We just created Ultronette. It looks a little bit like Eamon and Ezekiel. It makes a sound, and looks at Eamon and Ezekiel and says “what am I?”

We end there.

Dramatis Personae

  • The Commander (Doug) – telekinetic super-soldier with a really angry dog (Yukio). The dog is a powerful ally (250-300 points) and very intelligent and very, very aggressive.
  • The Rat Queen (Emily) – brick with super-perception; made of actual rats
  • Zephyr (Merlin) – Real name Murui; Shaolin Kung Fu expert and super-speedster.
  • Eamon Finnegan (Kyle) – smooth talking gravity-master; Ultimate Fighting Lawyer, to borrow a phrase.
  • Ezekiel (Christian) – Techno Master, Genius, Esper, Super Archer.
  • Marionette (Ani) – Abilities run to boosting of others, and manipulation of animated objects. The Commander’s third cousin.
Rush the Field

The Rat Queen and Zephyr were out at a train station in The Bronx, dealing with a bunch of bikers running around shootin’ folks, just like we were. 
We are zipping towards Yankee Stadium at 280mph, which is likely faster than the bad guys thought we could be there. Marionette is right outside the stadium, fully kitted out. Most unusually, there are no security guards stationed where they should be.
We also hear gunfire going on inside the stadium. It’s almost like the GM was trying to get us inside without planning.
Nonetheless, The Commander has Foresight, so he lays out the conditions to invoke any attempts to use knowledge of our powers against us.
In the middle of the baseball diamond, we see a 2.5-ton truck and a trailer with a heavy-duty machinegun and some sort of high-tech device on it. The bikers look like they know what they’re doing – they’ve drilled and trained with their AK-47s, and are wearing expensive tactical gear.
There’s no magic on the field – but there are some shambling critters in the middle of the baseball diamond. 

The diversionary fire was caused by well-cared-for AKs with APDS ammo. The air smells weird, like ozone or an electrical charge, too.
First priority (set by The Commander after no small amount of chaos) is to evac the prisoners (tokens labeled P). Of the 11 prisoners, four get TK lifted to the dugout and hopefully relative safety.
Some of the bikers immediately and with no hesitation start returning fire – Marionette’s stuffed bear (don’t ask) gets blasted in the head by an APDS round.
The tactical situation changes rapidly, as the bikers all go from zero to prepared almost instantly. The Commander drills the guy behind the machinegun in the throat, with a single, well-aimed shot, but the guy goes berserk, and seems unaffected. Hrm. Looks like we need to kill these guys outright. 
Ezekiel, who’s a bow-master, shoots three zombies with his bow. One to the torso, one to the head, one to the leg, just to get some rec0n-by-fire done. The shot to the torso irritates the first zombie, who starts frothing at the mouth. The head shot is a crit (good time to crit) with a solid damage roll, and the last to the leg is not quite as good. The head shot goes down hard; the other two just froth.
OK – the zombies seem like zombified bikers, but while robust, they don’t seem to explode or anything. That brings Zephyr and The Rat Queen into the fray. Zephyr goes after the guy that looks like a leader, trying to take him out of the battle with a skull blow. 
The Rat Queen crits her summon rats roll, and becomes a maximum-size Rat Ogre in one turn. Rat Queen Smash.
The chief bad guy (Rothgar) was Waiting, and hacks at Zephyr with a -8 deceptive attack (!). The Commander spends a karma point to ensure he doesn’t get cut in half. And yet there are six more attacks coming at him. He blows four karma to change hits to misses, and makes two rolls on his own merit. 
Zephyr continues on, hitting two bikers in the back of the head as he goes by. He hits them hard and fast enough they don’t get a chance to berserk. Down and out, then.
That guy in the center was able to absorb -16 in deceptive attack. This guy’s bad-ass. Area effect for him, I think. 
Eamon stunts his TK for range, spends FP for area effect and range, and spends 4 FP total to remove three more prisoners from the combat zone.
Marionette reaches for the last of the prisoners, and gets them to safety. That clears the field for pretty much unrestricted warfare. The Commander gives the word: take your best shots.
Zephyr goes to stick his staff into the wheels of some of the bikers, spoking them. Go go gadget Deadpool. He crits. The bike goes flying, and naturally explodes. The guy on the bike takes 44 points of damage to the neck. Ouchie. 
Rothgar – the big bad – runs after Zephyr, attempting to slam into him. Zephyr sidesteps and goes for the Acrobatic Dodge. Which he crits. He overruns, rotates in place, and skids to a stop.
One of the zombies gets turned into a puddle of goo by a blast from the teddy bear. 
Someone from the truck is shooting at Zephyr; he dodges and drops. Another tries to run him over with his motorcycle; he dodges. And another. Dodges again.
A couple bikers try and run over The Rat Queen. Given she has damage reduction and damage resistance, and pops some Fatigue to get the ST for the slam contest. She’s become a wall to them. Isaac Newton says frak you.
Her 45 HP x the foe’s speed gives 14d collision damage on THEM. Ouch. That was a terrible, terrible plan. She does 3x his damage, so they get splattered pretty hard. But she’s got DR 20 plus the super suit, and then damage reduction. She just takes it. 
The machinegun shooter trains fire on The Rat Queen and Zephyr with a minigun, and hits them 10 and 14 times, respectively, and the die roll was a critical success too. That’s 252 points of damage to Zephyr. He spends character points to turn a crit into a hit, which allows him to roll defense; I throw in a second reroll, and he dodged all but two, but he burned through karma and character points to not die.
The Rat Queen gets shot 10 times; she’s got very high DR and damage reduction, and dodges a bit but takes no damage because of it. 
AK guys open up on the people in the open, to no effect.
Yukio’s turn comes around. He does bad things to Zombies. The Commander switches to his super-explosive rounds, and fires off three rounds on the minigun. There’s a force field over the mad science . . . but I slagged the gun completely, even through the field. Worth spending my foresight to take out the gun rather.
Ezekiel shoots at three zombies; one dodges, and two bite it. The Zombies call out “Ea-monn . . . ” in a grunty voice. “Huh, so THAT was the outbreak endgame.”
Now what does that mean?
The Rat Queen is up to ST 70 or so, and so she chucks two flaming motorcycles at Mr Cuisinart after grabbing the only nearby mook. 
The second motorcycle crits. Rothgar easily dodges the first, but that crit. 8d+18 crushing motorcycle damage, for 48 points. He power stunts his damage reduction, but even with that he gets knocked back and takes some damage. And another flaming motorcycle explosion.
Eamon shouts out – “these are extremely viral and don’t let them bite you!” He gravity-sledged all but Yukio.
Oh, crap. Yukio’s in deep trouble, since he’s facing down six zombies . . . well, four now.
Zephyr jumps up (Acro Stand) and steps over away from flaming Cuisinart dude.
A stuffed bear gets buffed and kills a lot of zombies.
The Commander fires three “special” bullet at Mr Cuisinart. He spends doom to dodge and drop. Three shots go off into the force field, turn the guy inside to gazpacho, and maybe do something to the inside of the equipment.

Note: that was supposed to be against the guy’s hex, not his head. So next turn mr Dodge-and-Drop is going to get it hard, I hope.

Ezekiel uses a fusion-powered chainsaw (with noise loud enough to be problematic to 400 feet) and turns a near-zombie into paste. 
Someone has dumped 254 points into Emily’s character as some sort of buff (things are very chaotic online, and the game is hard to follow at this point), which boosts her to Super ST 11. She tries to area-attack squash Mr Cuisinart, and she spends 2 karma – twice –  to make it a crit. ST 170+ and claws with armor divisor (2). Cuisinart spends lots of doom to increase his damage reduction. 
She rolls twice on the critical hit table. The last karma goes to rolling three times on the crit table, and any hit is a major wound. Rolls 18d+54 damage, armor divisor 2. Twice.
First roll is 110, second is 116. CUT. He’s still alive, though, between damage reduction and HT rolls.
Eamon gravity sledges the remaining zombies into pulp.
Zephyr burns fatigue and HP to do hundred-handed strikes against two of the bikers – he does not care for getting shot. He slags both of them. Then takes out the last two on the truck with the same method.
The GM calls for a ST roll from The Rat Queen. How often do you get to say this? She made it by 163.

The Commander goes full-auto on the gizmo, and I roll a critical hit. A giant wave of force – but no damage – emanates from the device. A wave of kyberian energy emanates from the device. I think it shorted the device, which then explodes.
Anyway, we all pass out, and naturally Ezekiel’s rocket-powered chainsaw goes haywire in Yankee Stadium. Of course.
We end there.

Dramatis Personae

  • The Commander (Doug) – telekinetic super-soldier with a really angry dog (Yukio). The dog is a powerful ally (250-300 points) and very intelligent and very, very aggressive.
  • The Rat Queen (Emily) – brick with super-perception; made of actual rats
  • Zephyr (Merlin) – Real name Murui; Shaolin Kung Fu expert and super-speedster.
  • Eamon Finnegan (Kyle) – smooth talking gravity-master; Ultimate Fighting Lawyer, to borrow a phrase.
  • Ezekiel (Christian) – Techno Master, Genius, Esper, Super Archer.

On the way home

Offline we take the time to plan and attend the funeral for Arc Light, who was buried not as his hero persona, but as his multimillionaire (billionaire, I think) security consultant. Even Brad Pitt is there. (He’s a scion in my head canon, but probably not in the game. Angelina, on the other hand . . . )

Angela, Arc Light’s wife, speaks to me briefly (very, very briefly) that Arc Light left some things for the team. A lawyer shows up, dressed in a $10,000 suit, knocks on the door. Our secretary is looking at him like “why am I even speaking to you?”

A truck comes in and some guys with a pallet jack bring in some goods that Arc Light left for us. Last Will and Testament stuff. Endowment, yadda yadda yadda.

Wait, wait, wait. Rewind. Endowment?

Kyle gets $20M to start his metahuman rights initiative.

The team itself gets a $30M endowment. We briefly talk about Independent Income, but decide on an X-Com style uber-headquarters.

The material in the crates are stuff he was working on. Including the new Mark IV wristlets. The Commander gets a special crate, which includes a costume and helmet. More on that later.

And also a restraining order. We’re not allowed near Angela or the Lighthouse again. Ever. Not unsurprising, as Angela was never really fully supportive of Arc Light’s hero work, or at least his Hero work with MAPS.

We’ve also decided to bring on Ezekiel onto the team permanently (a bit of fiat there to get Christian’s new character on board). Now that he’s danger room training with us, we get a bit of insight into his power set. He’s a “trion,” rare, but with three sets of powers. Usually related, not always. The Shaman is another – he controls weather, animals, and plants.

We look for ways to take the fight to Blue Skies, and dig into the aftereffects of some of our recent efforts. Sure, not the overt actions, but the local scuttlebutt is that Blue Skies has been pouring money into a project, but their facilities failed and the projects failed. Other facilities also seem to be under assault or otherwise having issues, but we didn’t have anything to do with that. Continue reading “Aeon Campaign S3E7 – Ante-mortem”

We had a limited group – just +Anne Hunter and +Wright Johnson. The rest were no-shows, but Anne suggested game on anyway, to see if two 7th level barbarians could tackle the remainder of the adventure.

It was not designed to be too difficult, because I started it before we had the playtest results in that showed that the challenge ratings worked pretty well even up through 20th level.

Anyway, no blow-by-blow this time. But highlights:

  • Dakar (played by Wright) took a risk climbing over a 50′ chasm, and biffed the Athletics roll. Ooo. 5d6 direct to wounds, and his wound maximum is 19. Anne, thinking quickly, rages and uses her reaction to cast a rune at him, which is a class ability for the Runic Barbarian, that halves damage from bludgeoning.[1] Dakar also made his Acrobatics roll by 10+, and removed 2d6 from the pool. Net/net, he took 6 wounds from the fall, but made his Constitution saving throw to resist gaining the Injured condition. So hurt but no Conditions. Gudrun (Anne) picked up two levels of exhaustion – one for raging and another for rune casting.
  • They fought a Wight (Challenge 3) and four skeletons (Challenge 1/4 each). They demolished them, but Gudrun got hit by the wight’s level drain ability, and also used her rune casting to hit the wight with radiant damage. So she finished the fight with something like 5 levels of exhaustion.
  • They locked themselves in that room to take a long rest after that. I was merciful, and didn’t throw wandering monsters at them. But I could have, since they’d just had a few loud fights. Dakar healed 2 wounds back, bringing him down to 4. Gudrun crits her recovery roll and recovers 2 levels of exhaustion, still leaving her with 3. She’s at disadvantage on all skills and ability checks and attack rolls.
  • They fought another wight and four skeletons in an upper level, and this time Gudrun did not rage (she was quite tired enough already) but Dakar did, and that ability to halve vigor and wound loss from normal weapons was great for him, as it gave him a lot of staying power even when flanked by skeletons.
  • The wight hit him with the Life Drain attack too – brought his wound max down to 11, from 19. Fortunately, his prior long rest had him with 4 wounds, so no risk of injury status change.
  • The wight tried passes at both of them on his skeleton warhorse. He therefore suffered some very nasty opportunity attacks as he retreated away each pass – this gives the advatnage to the footman, which I will need to think about. Maybe invoke the rule about reach or something. Hrm.

We ended there.

Falling is appropriately nasty in Dragon Heresy – the shift to a wound rather than a hit point basis is badass. It makes falling from a height quite risky.

It would have been trivial to keep the pressure on with attacks from other monsters in the castle as they were trying to rest. I didn’t, but I could have. Probably should have. SRD5-based games are resource management games, and denying the ability to replenish resources is an important part of the GM arsenal for posing challenges to players. Being trapped in a castle infested with undead and getting into noisy melees will definitely bring out curious monsters. Should have planned for that in advance.

Good session, had a few learning experiences. So useful!

[1] We talked about this after the game, and decided that this won’t work – the runes are used on oneself, not others. Still, it was a great idea.

Dramatis Personae

  • The Commander (Doug) – telekinetic super-soldier with a really angry dog (Yukio). The dog is a powerful ally (250-300 points) and very intelligent and very, very aggressive.
  • The Rat Queen (Emily) – brick with super-perception; made of actual rats
  • Zephyr (Merlin) – Real name Murui; Shaolin Kung Fu expert and super-speedster.
  • Eamon Finnegan (Kyle) – smooth talking gravity-master; Ultimate Fighting Lawyer, to borrow a phrase.
  • Ezekiel (Christian) – Techno Master, Genius, Esper, Super Archer.
Erecting a Statue

We had gathered up Arc Light’s dissolved remains into a container and transported it back with us. Someone suggests making a statue of him, and certainly we have enough dust. We put his remains in a standard urn, and The Commander goes to give the news to Angela, Arc Light’s widow. 

She is weeping over a post card. One of the ones that is from the 1900s, from The Postman. Hundreds of them delivered over the years. I hand over the urn, at her request, and she hands me a second postcard.

It’s for me. It has a bunch of letters, numbers, and code. She’ll be in touch about the funeral, etc. 

She has never wanted much to do with the super team, and always thought that we’d get him killed. Turns out she was sorta right (technically he got himself killed by grabbing the skull).

We reconvene at our quarters in the Bronx, and sit staring at the empty seat. The General is with us. He’s staring at the skull on the table, deep in thought. We break out the good scotch (The Commander, as befitting soldiers everywhere, looks guilty that the bottle isn’t quite as full as it probably should be.)

We need to find out more about crystal skulls. The General says that it explains a lot about the last 10 years. Blue Skies was always ahead of us . . . he clams up.

In 1918 the Thule Society formed right after the war; things were getting pretty bleak. We’d beat the Krauts back all the way back to . . . well, we beat their ass. We found one of these in Egypt, and things started getting weird. 

Fast forward 20 years, and Hitler has nine of them. Eventually, the quest for the skulls kicks of World War 2. Hitler collects 12 of the 13, and turns into Russia to find the last one. That didn’t end well, and the skulls were scattered.

But this skull. This particular skull . . . we found this . . . he pauses. You gotta understand this is so secret . . . I wouldn’t even have to order you killed. Someone will do it for me. They started a project back in the 60s to punch a hole into other dimensions to create a key to unlimited energy.

They succeeded in ’81, and punched a hole to a hellish place, and the only thing they found was a little boy, and a little girl, and the girl had one of the skulls. Legend himself went in, and brought the kids and the skull back. 

The guy sleeping on the couch behind us (from the lab) was one of the twins. The other is “not available” right now. 

If Blue Skies is trying to gather these up again, that’s a real problem. 

Hitler actually had one of the skulls with him, which is perhaps, he muses idly, why Project Valkyrie didn’t succeed.

The Commander reaches out tentatively to the skull – it slides across the table to him. Yikes.

There’s a guy in an impeccable suit mowing through pizza. He is looking at each of us, and sizing us up. Eamon introduces himself, and the guy shakes his hand, looks down at the pizza and says “man I miss this stuff,” and says “Ah. Good. You do gravity.” 

“Um, how do you know that?”
“You have a certain gravitas.”

Really? You went there? He went there.

Oh. What does Ezekiel do? Oh, he makes stuff. Like if you wanted a walkman that never used batteries, he could do that. He could make it run off of some other power source. But not people, because then it would potentially drain someone dry. Thus would make it Vlad Tapes.

The Commander communes with the skull a bit; he eventually asks the skull if Zephyr can use the skull to find other skulls, and I get a memory shoved into my head of a teutonic looking guy in magical trappings trying to work rune magic on the skull. He bursts into flames.

But on the other hand the Engineer was capable of reconstructing a containment device. Krylov Aleksandrova. He’s more than happy to be helpful. They were rebuilding it from a piece of junk found in Siberia; clearly made by germans – “they always overengineer crap.” 

He starts muttering about wanting pizza in Russian; Zephyr understands. He also wants vokda. Because in Russia, they have three emotion. Depressed. Anger. Vodka.

Zephyr blazes to the store, and brings back vodka in a plastic bottle. Soon enough, The Engineer is munching on pizza and drinking vodka. We feed the other prisoner as well. Prisoners are a serious commitment. Like hamsters.

The other guy is Dr. Alvarez. 

Eamon keeps grillin’ The Engineer. When did they start working on the container? Four years ago. Did they have the skull then? Yes, he thinks so. They kidnapped him in Kiev and dragged him to South America. 

He’d started working on reverse engineering equipment to reconstruct a spheroid from the 30s or 40s, only pieces of it he had. The pieces had been transported to another place. What did the machine do? It was an interface to the skull, like a computer interface. Probably because they’re worthy.

They were about to fire up the test chamber when we broke in and blew up their project. So we ruined a four-year Blue Skies project. High fives all around.

Blue Skies was also kidnapping other people and tortured them. That seems worth following up.

We also find out a bit more about Ezekiel. Techno master, genius, ESPer, super archer. We start to grill him again to see if we can reconstruct the TacNet we used to do.

We also talk more about the orichalcum generator. Van Dorian and his crew had part of the original design that had steam engines and stuff in it – this tech probably existed since the mid 1800s. 

We start to chat with the doctor we took from the base, Dr. Alvarez. They were trying to build a neural interface for the skull, and also the artificial brain for the combat robot. They also had him working on MORNING TIDE.

They were artificially trying to create people with powers. As far as we understand, there’s the scion gene – about 10% of the population has it, and it’s either active, passive, or a carrier gene. Active genes have powers, carriers might develop powers, passive usually do not. Most programs have been trying to copy and paste other DNA on to their subjects. it tends to not work real well, but creates chimeras. They don’t last long. 

MORNING TIDE was trying to use macrophages to reprogram the DNA itself. The serum they created that actually worked was an odd color: Purple. Mostly people go mad, or gain temporary powers.

MORNING TIDE is also over. They got the serum, but they need a huge dose of kyberian energy, and create a lot of orichalcum to make the kyberian refractor.

So: skull will be kyberian power source.
The orichalcum we got was for the refractor. 
Combining the source, the refractor, and the right method creates supers

And he started in a cold, underground base with lots of ice. And a lot of files from Aegis. He offers to write it all down for us. We accept.

Alveras is released from the cell, and goes into the kitchen to make some empanadas. Eamon confers with Ezekiel, the new PC and arrival. The loss of Arc Light is hard for a lot of reasons – he brought ridiculous data-mining and financial resources to the team, and replacing him will be a bit of a challenge, and require a shift in how we approach problems.


Above board, Arc Light was Christopher trying out some things with the rules for battlesuits that I don’t think he was entirely happy with. So poof – no more Arc Light. The loss of a super in a permanent way is unusual for the genre, but that’s what makes it special. 

The capability switch in the team, as mentioned, will require a lot of changes in approach. We’ve been entering most situations with dramatic asymmetry in informational warfare. We joke in-game about “hacking the planet,” but it is, in a sense, exactly true. We can – or rather, we could – almost always find a way into the data systems of whatever target we’re dealing with, get access or information that allows us to make plans, and then use that to tip the scales drastically in our favor.

This is no longer fully operative. The loss of Adama, the AI that runs the Lighthouse, is a real blow. The Tactical Communications network that allowed us basically the level of situational awareness that you see by looking at a game map is gone. 

So we’ll have to adjust. We’ll also have to keep up the pressure on Blue Skies. We managed to take some major, major players off the board in the last few sessions. The orichalcum stash that was to be the refractor? Gone. The skull itself? Bonded to The Commander. The Engineer? He’s working for us now. The neural interface doctor? Likely to be working for Aegis or its replacement shortly. And we found one half of “the twins,” who were trapped/kept/living in an alternate dimension with the skull.

So they’re going to be pissed off, and want to take the fight back to . . . someone. The first expedition to retrieve the orichalcum went off so spectacularly well that Blue Skies will never know who did it to them, though they may guess.

The recent raid in Brazil was much lower in terms of stealth. We tried to get all of the communications and data from the site, but it’s possible we missed something, and it won’t necessarily take that much to figure that a gravity-wielding super imploded the entire base and pulled a mountain down on it. That does point things our way.

So we need to keep them reacting to us, not the other way around. A few international missions against their conventional operations might be just the ticket. 

This one’s unusual, because I didn’t do it. My Aesir-level playtester +Luke Campbell loves fae and sidhe and all things funky, and he ran a playtest on his desk, taking a notionally high-challenge sidhe – not the rulers, but still powerful – of the Fey and pitting them against four 8th level characters with a typical party makeup. I’ll just post his words and you can see how this turns out.

Pre-fight Commentary by Luke

I volunteered to help write up some of the monsters.  Oh whatever did I get myself into?  But it has been a real blast, even if a lot of work.

I’ve tried to get a set of antagonists and actors in the world that are evocative of real-world beliefs about mythical and legendary creatures with a Norse focus (although with influence from all around Europe).

Recently, I’ve been working on the upper level fae, what the Norse would have called alfar.  These were powerful beings, almost divine in some ways, hidden spirits of nature that were set apart from and (in some ways) above men.

One question during the design process is figuring out how much of a challenge an encounter with one of these beings would be.  So I took a typical alfar (or fairie, or sidhe, or whatever one might call it) and set it against the archetypal party of a fighter, cleric, thief, and wizard. Then I tweaked the fae’s design parameters, and ran it again.  And again.  And again.  Our poor party was caught in a Groundhog day-like cycle.  Sometimes it was a cakewalk.  Sometimes they got curb stomped.

I finally got dialed in on a design I liked, of about the desired challenge rating, which I could use as a base for ever more powerful variants as the fairie nobles and ladies acquired power and mystical connections to their archetype.  I reported back on some of my findings to the playtest group, and Douglas asked me to do another test with some minor rule tweaks.  So I did, and kept careful note of what happened.  In the process, my generic party acquired names, and perhaps a bit of personality, as did their wily foe.

Then I sent my notes to our playtest group – and here they are. A blow-by-blow breakdown of the fight, in all its gory detail.


Our setting: my computer desk … err, a windswept ledge crawling along the sheer cliff-sides of the Frostharrows.  The path has just passed under an overhang (that looks oddly like a computer monitor), widens out to a ledge of relatively flat ground with good footing about 40 feet across with a sheer cliff plunging down to the right and jumbled scree and boulders to the left (difficult terrain, odd that they are in the shape of keyboards)), before turning 90 degrees and continuing along the front of the desk, err, mountain for about 100 feet before turning again.  A clever person with sharp eyes might notice a narrow path between the keyboards – um, scree and boulders.  Just before the path turns, sits a large boulder (mouse), and beyond there are large rocky outcrops (books and piles of paper) around which the path winds, with broken ground and difficult footing.  The boulder is where Fairlane will be sitting when first encountered.  The characters will be represented by lego minifigs, and distances measured with a ruler, using 1 inch = 5 feet.

The wind blows chill, bringing with it a light dusting of snow and making eerie howling sounds in the canyons.  The sun has risen, with the crisp light of late morning that you get in the mountains.  Since our heroes are on the east face, they have had daylight for several hours, and got an early morning start.  Although chilly, once started the hiking has invigorated and warmed them although they are likely to stop soon for refreshments.

Fairlane has spied the party approaching – trespassing in his hold! But they might make fine tools with which to harass his neighbor-enemy.  As the party rounds the bend, they see an old man, possibly a goat herd (but we know him as Fairlane in disguise) sitting on the bounder, scratching designs in the dirt with a stick.

… and that’s enough for now, until I get down to actually gaming things out.  I may run several tests – previously some were very short when the entire party got charmed and were sent off on a wild goose chase.

Dramatis Personae

Frode the Fighter, Human Fighter (champion) level 8
Str 20 (+5); Dex 13 (+1); Con 17 (+3); Int 9 (-1); Wis 12 (+1); Cha 11 (0)

Vigor 74 (8d10+24); Threat DC 16, Hit DC 27 (+4 from shield); DR 8 (plate armor)

Wounds 20; Control 21

Proficiency +3; Saves: Str +8, Con +5
Skills: Athletics +8, Intimidation +3, Insight +4, Perception +4
Defense fighting style
Second Wind (1/rest): As bonus action, +1d10+8 vigor
Action surge (1/rest): +1 action
Extra attack
Improved critical 1
Remarkable Athlete: +2 to Str, Dex, Con if proficiency doesn’t already apply

Longsword: +8 to hit, 5 ft. 1d8+5 damage (crit 19-20)
Handaxe x 4: +8 to hit, range 20/60, 1d6+5 damage (crit 19-20)

Welch the Wizard, Human Wizard (school of might) level 8

Str 13 (+1); Dex 16 (+3); Con 20 (+5); Int 20 (+5); Wis 14 (+2); Cha 13 (+1)

Vigor 74 (8d6+40); Threat DC 13, Hit DC 24 (+4 with shield spell)

Wounds 21; Control 16

Proficiency +3; Saves: Int +8, Wis +5; Skills: Arcana +8, Investigation +8, History +8, Insight +5

Spell Save 16, Spell Attack +8; Cantrips; Acid Splash (2d10), Mage Hand, Prestidigitation, Mending; 1st (4 slots): Magic Missile (2x2d4), Shield, Sleep (5d8 vigor), Mage Armor; 2nd (3 slots): Continual Flame, Invisibility, Web (2d8+8), Scorching Ray (3x3d6); 3rd (3 slots): Counterspell, Fireball (4d6), Lightning Bolt (4d6), Fly; 4th (2 slots): Black Tentacles (3d6/4d6), Polymorph

Sculpt Spells; Arcane Ward: absorbs 13 damage

Quarterstaff: +4 to hit, 5 ft., 1d8+1 damage; Dagger: +6 to hit, range 20/60, 1d4+3 damage

Ragnar the Rogue, Human Rogue (thief) level 8

Str 15 (+2); Dex 20 (+5); Con 12 (+1); Int 14 (+2); Wis 16 (+3); Cha 9 (-1)

Vigor 51 (8d8+8); Threat DC 15, Hit DC 26; DR 2 (studded leather armor)

Wounds 14; Control 20

Proficiency +3; Saves: Dex +8, Int +5; Skills: Acrobatics +8, Athletics +5, Investigation +5, Perception +6, Stealth +11, Insight +5, Sleight of Hand +8; Tool Proficiencies: Theive’s tools

Sneak Attack +2d6; Cunning Action: Hide, Dash, or Disengage as bonus action; Uncanny Dodge: Use reaction to halve damage from attack; Evasion: 0 damage if Dex save succeeds, half damage otherwise; Fast Hands: bonus action to disarm a trap, open a lock, sleight of hand, use object; Second Story Work: climb at full speed, +5 feet to running jump distance

Rapier: +8 to hit,5 ft., 1d8+5 damage; Dagger: +8 to hit, range 20/60, 1d4+5 damage; Shortbow: +8 to hit, range 80/320, 1d6 damage (crit 18-20)

Carr the Cleric, Human Cleric of Justice and War level 8

Str 20 (+5); Dex 11 (0); Con 18 (+4); Int 12 (+1); Wis 20 (+5); Cha 14 (+2)

Vigor 75 (8d8+24); Threat DC 14, Hit DC 25 (+4 from shield)

Wounds 21; Control 18

Proficiency +3; Saves: Wis +8, Cha +5; Skills: Insight +8, Religion +4, Medicine +8, Persuasion +5

Spell Save 16, Spell attack +8; Cantrips: Light, Guidance, Resistance, Mending; 1st (4 slots): Divine Favor, Heroism, Bless, Cure Wounds (1d12+8), Detect Evil, Guiding Bolt (4d6), Protection from Evil; 2nd (3 slots): Magic Weapon, Zone of Truth, Enhance Ability, Lesser Restoration, Prayer of Healing (6 x (1d8+8)), Protection from Poison; 3rd (3 slots): Righteous Fury, Remove Curse, Dispel Magic, Protection from Energy, Magic Circle; 4th (2 slots): Banishment, Locate Creature, Freedom of Movement

Channel Divinity (2/rest); Destroy Undead (challenge <= 1); Judge of Character: advantage to determine falsehood; Righteous Arms: Use channel divinity for maximum damage for 5 turns; Improved Heroism: add +11 to vigor when using heroism spell; Divine Strike: extra attack as bonus action

Mace: +8 to hit, 5 ft. 1d6+5 damage; Shield: 3 hits

Fairlane the Fairie Freeholder

Medium fey, chaotic neutral
Speed 30 ft.
Wound Thresholds
Threat DC
Hit DC
Control Thresholds
Vigor Dice
* DR +1 to +5 with mage armor.
Proficiency +3
Saving Throws. Con +5, Cha +8
Skills. Acrobatics +8, Deception +8, Insight +6, Perception +6, Persuasion +8
Damage Resistances. Bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from non-magical and non-ferrous weapons
Condition Immunities. Charmed, sleep
Languages. Sylvan, Common
Challenge 8 (3900 XP)
Innate Spellcasting. The fairie’s innate spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 16, spell attack modifier +8). The fairie can innately cast the following spells, requiring no material components, as a 10th level sorcerer:
  • cantrips: dancing lights, mage hand, mending, message, minor illusion, prestidigitation
  • 1st level (4 slots): detect magic, mage armor, sleep, shield
  • 2nd level (3 slots): hold person, suggestion
  • 3rd level (3 slots): counterspell, major image
  • 4th level (3 slots): arcane eye, polymorph
  • 5th level (2 slots): creation
The fairie has 10 sorcery points, and the Heightened Spell, Quickened Spell, and Extended Spell metamagic abilities.
Magic Resistance. The fairie has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects. This power does not work if the sidhe is in contact with iron or steel.
Trackless. A fairie leaves no tracks. Although it has a normal scent, it leaves no scent trail. Difficult terrain is treated as normal terrain.
Fleet Footed. The fairie can take a dash or disengage action as a bonus action. Climbing does not cost the fairie extra movement.
Elf-Stroke. Any physical attack by the fairie, unarmed, melee, or ranged, deals an extra 10 (3d6) necrotic damage as vigor. This can be delivered as a touch attack, if no weapon damage is to be caused. DR subtracts from weapon damage first, and then necrotic damage.
Multiattack. The fairie makes two attacks.
Fey Charm. The fairie targets one creature that it can see within 30 feet. If the target can see the fairie, it must succeed on a DC 16 Wisdom saving throw or be magically charmed. The charmed creature regards the sidhe as a trusted friend to be heeded and protected. Although the target isn’t under the fairie’s control, it takes the fairie’s requests or actions in the most favorable way it can.
Each time the fairie or its allies do anything harmful to the target, it can repeat the saving throw, ending the effect on itself on a success. Otherwise, the effect lasts 24 hours or until the fairie dies, is on a different plane of existence from the target, or ends the effect as a bonus action. If the target’s saving throw is successful, it is immune to the fairie’s Fey Charm for the next 24 hours.
Fey Veil. As long as it maintains concentration, or until it attacks or casts a spell, the fairie is hard to notice. It can make Dexterity (Stealth) rolls in plain sight, at a bonus of +8. There is no need to roll a Dexterity (Stealth) check for creatures with a passive perception score of 21 or less, they will not notice the fairie without actively looking.
Shortbow, Magical. Ranged Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, range 80/320 ft., one target. Hit: 3 (1d6) piercing damage plus Elf-Shot ability (critical on 18-20).
Shortsword, Magical. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d6 + 1) slashing damage plus Elf-Stroke ability.
Change Shape. The fairie magically polymorphs into Medium or smaller beast, humanoid, or fey of its challenge rating or less; or back into its true form. It retains its Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma, its Vigor, its traits and actions (except for armed melee attacks, if the form lacks hands for holding weapons). Otherwise, it takes on the physical (but not mental or magical) traits of the creature it changes into. The fairie’s equipment can polymorph with it, remain carried or worn, or fall to the ground, at the fae’s option. A fairiecannot polymorph if in contact with iron.

Fairlane is scheming against some of his neighbors, and plans to use guile to get at them.

Play of the Fight

The kids are in bed, the chores done, and the pythons fed.  Lets do this.

The fairie casts Mage Armor on himself well before the heroes reach him, expecting there may be trouble, and using a level 5 spell slot to gain DR 5.  The wizard has long ago cast mage armor on himself using a 4th level slot, and then took a short rest before setting out for the day to recover that slot.

Our heroes approach the old man sitting on the boulder, cleric and fighter in the front, rogue and wizard in the second row. The old man, actually the fairie, attempts to charm the fighter, figuring him to be the weakest-willed among the group (turns out he’s right).  The fighter rolls a 12+1=13 for his save, and fails to meet the DC of 16.  Frode the fighter doesn’t know why, but he feels he can trust this man.  The party reaches the fairie.

“Greetings, good sir,” says the cleric.

“And a good day to you, my lords,” replies the fairie.  “What brings you to these lands?”  The fairy now tries to charm Ragnar the rogue.  Ragnar rolls a 15+3 = 18, easily beating the DC.  He feels a cloud pass over his mind before he shakes it off.

“What trickery is this!” shouts Ragnar.  “He is not what he seems, he is trying to befuddle me!”

“Nae,” says Frode.  “You must be mistaken.  We can trust this man.”

“Fool!  He has already taken you.”  Ragnar retorts.

During this exchange, the fairie tries to charm the wizard.  Welch the wizard rolls 10+5 = 15, and succumbs to the fairies charms.  “Ragnar,” Welch calmly explains, “there is no need to get paranoid about this old, harmless man.  Likely, he needs our help.”

“Not you, too!’  cries Ragnar.

And now it is Carr the cleric’s turn. The save is 5+8 = 13, not good enough.  “Ragnar, be reasonable” says Carr.

Ragnar looks at his companions wildly.  There is only one thing to do – kill the vile sorcerer trying to enchant his friends.  Quick as an ermine, he slips around past the front of the line, draws his rapier, and tries to impale the fae.  His attack roll is 12+8 = 20, threatening the fairie.  Fairlaine ducks just in time as the blade whistles over his head, taking 3+5 = 8 vigor, with 104 remaining.

“Help!” pleads Fairlaine.  “He’s mad!  Won’t someone help a poor old man?”

Time to roll initiative.  In order of initiative Fairlaine (25), Carr (15), Ragnar (14), Welch (10), and Frode (9).

Fairlane waits, preferring to let the party fight each other rather than risking his charm by attacking.

Carr will not let that scoundrel Ragnar hurt this poor defenseless old man, but neither does he wish to hurt is friend.  Grappling it is!  Carr steps around behind Fairlaine and tries to tackle Ragnar.  He rolls 9+8 = 17, threatening him and causing 8+5 = 13 vigor as Ragnar avoids Carr’s lunge.

Ragnar disengages and slips into the rock fields, then uses his bonus action to hide.  He rolls 3+11 = 14.

Welch tries to spot Ragnar.  He rolls 13+2 = 15.  Good enough, but he just spent his action peering around.

Frode tries to spot Ragnar.  He rolls 1+4=5.  No good.  Frode steps out between Fairlaine and the scree jumble to try to protect his new friend from attacks coming from that direction, if needful.

Fairlaine rolls 2+6 = 8.  Not good enough to see Ragnar.

Carr doesn’t have to roll, his passive perception is 15.  Fearing his friend is under the influence of some malign magic (ha!) he tries Protection from Evil, which would give Ragnar an extra save (at advantage, no less) if that were the case. “Ziu, protect this man!”  Of course, Ragnar is the only one not affected by fell magic, so nothing happens other than Carr expending a 1st level spell slot.

Ragnar pops up and looses an arrow at Fairlaine.  He rolls 7+8 = 15 and 2+8 = 10, and takes the 15.  This just barely threatens the fae, but it’s enough.  Damage roll 3+2+3 = 8.  Fairlaine dives aside at the last moment, losing 16 vigor and leaving him with 88.  Ragnar takes his bonus action to hide again: 13+11 = 24.  He vanishes like smoke in the wind (well, better than smoke in the wind.  Smoke tends to hang around and be visible for a while).

Welch drops a web spell on Ragnar’s last known location.  Since Ragnar didn’t move much, he may be caught.  The spell rolls its attack: 9+8=17, and Ragnar takes 5+6+8=19 vigor as he avoids the sticky strands.  Ragnar now has 19 vigor left.

Frode looks for Ragnar.  20+4 = 24.  Just barely, he sees Ragnar, crouching behind a rock, with webs all about him.  “I’m sorry, my friend, but this is for your own good.”  He strides forward, navigates the unstable talus, and tries to grab the rogue.  Welch sculpts his web spell so that Frode can pass through.  Frode rolls 19+8=27 for his attack.  That’s a solid hit.  The damage roll is 6+5=11 – Ragnar backpedals furiously, spending 18 of his remaining 19 vigor in vigorous defense to reduce the control to 2.  Frode has a tenuous grip on Ragnar’s boot.

Fairlaine feigns concern, but does nothing else other than laugh inwardly.

Carr turns to Fairlaine.  “Let me help you, good man.”  He uses a cure wounds spell to allow Fairlaine to recover 3+8=11 vigor.  Fairlaine is now at 99 vigor.

Ragnar starts his turn in the web, so he takes 4+5+8=17 control.  He is now well and truly restrained (19 control, control maximum 20).  Ragnar tries to escape.  His roll is at disadvantage for being restrained.  He rolls 5+8=13 and 3+8=11, so he gets the roll of 11.  Okay, what do you need to roll to threaten a web spell?  It doesn’t say?  I’ll say he needs to meet the spell save DC, which is 16.  Ragnar goes nowhere.

Welch concentrates on his spell.

Frode tries to get a better grip.  He has advantage because Ragnar is restrained.  6+8 and 20+8, for a critical hit with 28.  He causes 12 control.  Ragnar is now incapacitated.

Fairlaine says to Carr “Thank you lord.  But my nerves are still shaking.  Can you spare another?”

Of course, replies Carr, giving Fairlaine another cure wounds spell.  Fairlaine heals another 5+8=13 vigor.  He is now at 102 vigor.

Ragnar can’t do anything.  Technically, he takes more control from the web, but at this point, who’s counting?

Welch concentrates on his spell.  “Do you have him yet?” he asks Frode.

“Not yet” Frode replies, and tries to get Ragnar in a come-along.  Since Ragnar is restrained, I’ll just give Frode an auto-crit.  3+3+5=11 control, for a total of 25 control from Frode alone.  “Now I’ve got him!” exclaims Frode.

“I’m still not quite back to normal” says Fairlaine to Carr.

“Ziu heal you” prays Carr, and Fairlaine recovers 11+8=19 vigor.  He’s now back at his original 112 vigor, and Carr is out of 1st level spells.

“Many thanks,” replies Fairlaine, and then (since he was waiting) activates his fae veil.  He rolls a 13+8=21 on his hide check.

Ragnar does nothing.

Welch drops the web spell.  It is no longer needed.  But where did his new-found friend go?

Frode drags Ragnar out of the rocks and into plain sight.  Then looks around in confusion for the old man he was helping.

Fairlaine realizes he will get no good out of these fools any more.  Might as well dispose of them.  The wizard is most dangerous, so Fairlaine stabs Welch in the back.  17+8=25, 5+8=13.  Fairlaine takes the 25.  This is a solid hit.  Damage is 3+5=8 for the shortsword, and 4+1+4=9 for his elf stroke, for a total of 17.  Welch takes a frantic defense, and suffers a loss of 34 vigor.  He has 40 left.  Since Welch was attacked, he can make a new save against the charm – 13+5=18, and Welch is free!  “What?  Who?  YOU!  FIEND!”

Carr suddenly notices Fairlaine as he tries to stab Welch with his sword.  An attack on his ally, enough to allow another save against the charm.  17+8 = 25.  Carr’s mind unfogs.  Ragnar was right all along!  Carr casts protection from evil on Frode using a second-level slot.  Frode rolls 15+1=16 and 8+1=9, taking the 16.  Frode can see freely now!  He releases Ragnar.

Ragnar hides as a bonus action, rolls a 10+11=21, and disappears behind the boulder Fairlaine was first sitting on.

Welch turns on the fae that just attacked him.  “You worm!  Be a WORM!”  He casts polymorph on Fairlane.  Fairlaine’s Wis save is 16+3=19 and 18+3=21 (remember, he gets advantage on saves vs. all magic).  Both succeed, so he could take either one.  No matter, Fairlaine is not destined to spend the next hour eating dirt.

Frode turns on Fairlaine, his blade flashing.  His first attack is 7+8=15, his second 8+8=16.  Both threaten the fae.  Damage is 3+5 and 4+5, for a total of 17 vigor.  Fairlaine is now at 95 vigor.

Laughing, Fairlaine turns on his veil again.  12+8=20.  Where did he go?

Carr casts Detect Evil using a second level slot.  He now knows where Fairlaine is.  Then he uses his Divine Strike to attack with a bonus action.  14+8=22 to hit, 4+5=9 for damage.  Fairlaine is now at 86 vigor.

Ragnar tries to spot Fairlaine.  19+6=25, That’s more than enough.  Unfortunately, he just used his action trying to find the fae, so he has to wait until next turn to do something.

Welch doesn’t want to waste time trying to look around.  He drops a fireball on his own location (offset a bit to avoid anyone hiding behind the boulder, like Ragnar).  He uses Sculpt Spell to exclude Carr and Frode from the blast.  Fairlane was still right behind Welch, so he is caught in the detonation.  His dex saves are 1+5=6 and 15+5=20.  He takes the 20, and only loses 2+4+6+1=13 vigor.  Fairlaine is now at 73 vigor.

Frode tries to see Fairlaine.  1+1=2.  No dice.  Still, he moves to where he thinks Fairlaine might be.

Fairlaine stabs the wizard again.  14+8=22 and 4+8=12, taking the 22.  Damage is 4+5 and 6+6+4, for 25 total.  Welch has 15 vigor left.  Everyone can see Fairlaine now.

Carr uses a 3nd level slot to cast cure wounds on Welch.  9+10=19 points are cured, and vigor recovery is doubled.  Welch now has 53 vigor.

Fairlain’s back is to Ragnar.  Ragnar darts from behind the boulder and strikes with his rapier.  14+8=22 and 15+8=23 – good enough to hit, and the 23 is a crit.  Damage is 7+7+5 for the rapier, and 4+4+6+6 for sneak attack.  So 39 base damage.  Fairlaine spends 72 of his remaining 73 vigor in frantic defense to cut down the wounds to 3, which are soaked up by the mage armor.

Welch blasts Fairlaine with magic missile.  Does casting a spell within reach of an enemy give the enemy an attack of opportunity?  I’m not going to bother looking it up at this point, and say no.  Fairlaine uses his shield spell as reaction to negate the magic missile.

Frode steps around opposite of Ragnar, Fairlaine is now flanked.  Frode attacks twice, both times at advantage.  18+8=26 and 8+8=16 for the first attack, 2+8=10 and 3+8=11 for the second.  One solid hit, doing 5+5=10 damage.  Fairlaine loses his last vigor point, his mage armor absorbs 5, and he takes 4 wounds.  He rolls an 11+5=16 to avoid demoralization, and succeeds.

Fairlaine doesn’t like his position right now, and uses his bonus action to disengage, strikes at Welch as he leaves, and moves 30 feet away.  His attack roll is 12+8=20, a threat.  Damage is 5+5+6+4+5=25.  Welch has 28 vigor left.

Carr chases Fairlaine down and strikes him twice with his mace (once for his normal action, once for his bonus action).  First strike 4+8=12, second 7+8=15.  The second connects.  Damage is 6+5=11, minus 5 for the mage armor, for 6 wounds.  Fairlaine is critically wounded but rolls a 20+2 on his con save to avoid unconsciousness,  He succeeds, and is only injured.

Ragnar takes a bonus action to dash after Fairlaine, then shanks him in the back with his rapier.  Fairlaine is not flanked or surprised, so Ragnar doesn’t get a sneak attack.  He rolls 14+8=22, good enough.  Damage is 6+5=11, reduced by 5 for mage armor, for 6 wounds.  fairlaine is now at 16 wounds out of 17 wound maximum.  He rolls 18+2=20 to avoid unconsciousness, again succeeding.

Welch lets lose a lightning bolt.  It doesn’t matter whether Fairlaine succeeds or fails his dex save, he’s going to take wounds.  I’ll roll anyway … 16+5 and 4+5, for a save.  But with no vigor left … 4+4+5+2 = 15 wounds.  Reduced by 3 for the mage armor to 12.  Fairlaine is now at 28 wounds, and automatically falls unconscious.  He rolls a 6 to avoid death, and fails.

Post-fight Commentary by Luke

The fight is over.  Fairlaine lost, and lost his life.  But our heroes are pretty banged up.  Ragnar’s vigor is almost entirely depleted, and Welch is at about 1/3 of his normal vigor.  Both Welch and Carr have used up a lot of their spells.

Since it is getting late, I won’t tally up the damage inflicted by each individual right now, but we see that Ragnar’s one sneak attack was the decisive blow that changed the fight around.  The discussion of removing the critical threat range bonus would have meant that it would have been far less devastating.  It would still have been a good, solid blow that would have cost a lot of vigor, but it wouldn’t have been the one attack that mattered the most.

There are probably some rule errors here – misinterpretations, and math mistakes, and so forth.  A number of character choices were probably sub-optimal.  They would have been made in actual game play, too, so I’m not too worried.

D&D is a fun game.  I have many fond memories of playing AD&D in grade school, engaging in epic quests to save the world in Junior High, and sitting around the table with a handful of good friends from the university, laughing, eating pizza, and wrecking carefully imagined worlds with our character’s antics.

Still, when I sit down and think about old AD&D and the newer SRD that more modern versions are based on, there are a number of weird bits that bother me.  They don’t get in the way of a good game, but the model builder and simulationist in me makes me want to fix them, tweak the game until I get a beautiful, consistent framework of rules that is not only fun to play but scales well and does a fair job representing real world antics (albeit with a heroic bias).  What I’m looking for is probably impossible, but can be approached, even if at a distance, to get something less able to break suspension of disbelief.

Dragon Heresy goes some way toward this goal.  By conceptually separating vigor and wounds from hit points, you get rid of a number of bizarre results that come from the traditional conceit of the ever-increasing spiral of hit points at higher levels.  Now your 16th level barbarian doesn’t causally shrug off a sword through his guts, he nimbly sidesteps the blow … for a while, until he gets too tired out.

A neat idea, but does it work in practice?

Yes.  Playing the game is as easy as the traditional SRD, with more dramatic results.  The grappling system, in particular, is a work of genius.  Douglas has done an impressive job putting together this rule set, and his dedication to seeing it published and available to the table-top gaming community is simply inspiring.  It has been my privilege to help in this process, in my own small way.

It is enjoyable seeing the setting develop.  From a nebulous initial concept into a fully fleshed out world.  It is enjoyable to be involved with the creation, working toward a realized world with strong motifs and influences from Nordic culture.  It is enjoyable to be a part of getting the rules and descriptions to evoke a sense of northern pagan Europe in the early middle ages.

And I think we’re doing a pretty good job of it.  A world with fae spirits hidden in rocks and hollows, where great and terrible gods occasionally walk the world of men, where brave adventurers set forth in their longships to go raiding and pillaging and exploring in exotic lands.

Douglas did specifically ask me to mention what I don’t like about Dragon Heresy as well as what I do.  They’re minor points, and will not get in the way of having fun, but here are a few additional niggling details that scratch at the back of my brain when I spend too long thinking about things rather than just getting out the dice and gaming:

  • The way ranged combat versus melee combat works is a bit odd, in that an arrow is assumed to cause wounds unless you take a frantic defense, while a sword causes vigor.  I understand the rational behind it – you can’t parry an arrow very easily, but two sets of rules for different kinds of attacks breaks my desire for simplicity.  Is there a way around this?  Maybe, maybe not.  Having been through many rules revisions over the course of the game’s development had me starting out these playtests with a misconception that got fixed when I actually read the more recent set of rules – treat an arrow (or other ranged) attack like a normal vigor-causing attack, but don’t include your proficiency bonus to your hit DC.  This has the advantage of a more consistent conceptual way of handling things, and the disadvantages of requiring keeping track of two different hit DCs for your character depending on circumstances, and of needing to go back an re-write the rules again, and making sure you catch all the places in the text where things need to be changed.  
  • A wimpy goblin with Str 6 and Dex 20 will do massive damage with a shortword since he gets to add his Dex bonus to damage instead of strength.  Weird.  He should do wimpy damage as well, because even though he’s squirly and sneaky he’s still a wimpy goblin of wimpiness.  A gargantuan Str 30 lindorm gets +15 to hit with his massive venom-dripping jaws lined with rows of serrated steak-knife teeth, in addition to any proficieny bonus.  What ever happened to Sinbad gracefully evading the blows of an immense and powerful yet clumsy monster?  I understand there will be an optional rule somewhere about using Dex for all hit bonuses and Str for all damage bonuses, but I don’t know what shape it will take, how it will interact with finesse weapons, or any other details.  Still, it would get around issues I run into when finding a tiny orm gets to add lots of damage to its attack because it has a high Dex and similar confounding events I find as a monster designer.
  • Making monsters big and small leaves me wanting some basic guidance on how attributes and damage scale with size.  Unfortunately, the SRD is inconsistent on this.  Dragon Heresy has done some great things on getting critters to scale better across a vast size range, but its still not perfect.  Of course, getting a truly consistent set of rules would take you so far from the SRD that you probably wouldn’t be playing a D&D-like game any more.
  • I’m not sure armor or shields should impose penalties on Dex bonuses or as much disadvantage as they do on some skill checks.  This is a bit of a case of getting hoisted by my own petard – Douglas asked for ways to keep sheilds from being overwhelming, and I made a bunch of suggestions, and they actually got used.  Perhaps if you have proficiency you can ignore the Dex penalties and disadvantage on ability checks?  I don’t know.  But as it stands you can have a very high Dex character actually get easier to hit if he uses a shield.  You certainly do want to preserve character niches, allowing your viking warrior to have his mail byrnie and shield while the outlaw rogue puts on a more modest apparel and your wizard wise in the ways of seidr to merely be wearing a robe, cloak, and floppy-brimmed hat.

As I said, minor points.

Overall, it’s a good game, fun to play, fun to be involved in the design process.  I look forward to seeing it turned into an actual product, one I can hold in my hand and see displayed on the shelves of game stores, one where I can feel a sense of accomplishment at being involved, in however small a way, in giving back to the community of like-minded gamers that has given me such joy over the years.

Post-fight Commentary by Doug

First, I have to thank Luke for being a ridiculously awesome playtester. He’s written a ton of monsters, is tireless at stress-testing the game, and knows a lot about fey and Nordic mythology, which has been very valuable during the test.

Discussion, then!

Sneak Attack

The discussion over how much damage a sneak attack ought to do, and on what frequency, has been an active one. The relative ease by which a rogue can gain advantage means that they will frequently outdo fighters as damage-dealers. +Peter V. Dell’Orto and I have groused about that in the past in certain games – I want to say even Swords and Wizardry, but I might be wrong there – but the two of us have noted that it feels odd and aggravating when it’s way scarier to stand at the line of battle with a rogue than with a fighter. I have zero problem with a rogue on a sneak attack getting a very high burst or effectiveness capability – the ability to halve DR or go straight to wounds or something. He sneaks up on you and sticks a knife in your neck or armpit. 

But toe-to-toe, and on a sustained basis, one should be scared to stand next to a fighter, and not just because he’s got more hit points than you. The switch to vigor and wounds helps this a bit, but only from the defensive end. The fighter can whittle away your vigor and then deal wounds and he has more of his own to lose in the process. But that’s not terribly satisfying; the fighter should be dishing out some hard stuff.

Anyway, we toned it down a bit for Dragon Heresy, but doing some math revealed that some of the benefits I’d given really tipped the scale back to the rogue in a huge way. A few modifications later, and I’ve got an answer I’m satisfied with that does the least violence to the expectations of playing an SRD-based rogue when sliding over to DH, but still caps out the one-turn damage of a rogue to just under that of a fighter at mid-level. Early on, rogues are just better from the sneak; at high levels, fighters can dominate. I’m comfortable with this.

Playtest Artifact

This battle was over before it started, because the Alfar/Sidhe/Fey’s greatest ability is the charm ability, and that was quite successful. Only when Luke clearly and obviously decided to have Fairlane throw down and start a real fight at four-to-one odds did it turn against him. That was a playtest artifact, to be sure, but a deliberate one. A “real” GM and circumstance should have the faerie continue to plague the party, acting as friend while trying to set them up to get horribly killed. For fun.

Under the Hood

I hope this extensive example gives some insight into where Dragon Heresy is going. You can see the new monster stat-block, the interaction of wounds and vigor, and some of the other mechanical differences – shields, Threat DC and Hit DC, and other things.

Ranged vs Melee Combat

I think the latest rules resolve this. You roll hits the same way vs the same numbers – you have the same Threat DC for ranged and melee in nearly every case. You only get your increased Hit DC against arrows, though, if you have a shield or something else you can interpose (a Monk can do it with the right ability, for example). But you don’t get to parry them, and sidestepping and dexterity-based avoidance is rolled into your Threat DC. If you do have a shield, it enables your Hit DC, much like sword-on-sword, and with the same rules and targets.

The lower damage for arrows that you see on the weapon chart is a direct outgrowth of this – vs no-shield foes, the easier hits mean higher damage output, and I wanted to keep it balanced. You do get an expanded crit range for arrows over other attacks, though.

DEX and STR based damage

I’m with Luke on distinguishing between attack (DEX) and damage (STR). But that’s not the official SRD way to do things. I’ll write it last, because it’s an optional rule, I’ll offer up a way to just have DEX be the to-hit modifier, and STR be the damage one. That will also get into an optional rule for higher STR bows doing more damage – the draw weight effect. 

Optional! But it’s a nudge towards plausible verisimilitude for those that care.

Armor and Shields and DEX, Oh my

By now, if you haven’t seen the videos of people exercising and doing all sorts of things in full plate and other heavy armor then you might not care about this. But really, instead of armor being classed as having DEX penalties just for it’s type (light/medium/heavy), there should probably be a factor that says “this armor is heavy, and you take a DEX penalty for every N points of STR your Strength is below Y value.” You might split proficiency into armors that require extensive fitting and buckling to assemble (splint, plate, half-plate, and maybe scale) vs armor you just wear like clothing. But to be good as armor, it needs to move. Armors that don’t move well are a real drag, and would be a good point of differentiation.

I like this concept, even played with a bit (and every armor in DH has a Strength value now) to put the hooks in place to do something like this. Ultimately, I settled for minor tweaks to the SRD way. 

But I do like the concept that if you want a full DEX bonus for full plate, you need STR 18, and each 2 points below that removes -1 from a prospective DEX bonus (just making numbers up here). So your typical STR 16, DEX 14, CON 15 starting fighter type that found a suit of full plate would have a natural DEX bonus of +2, which would be cut down to +1 by his Strength. This would grow to +2 when he got stronger, but no higher unless he also improves his DEX.

A STR 12, DEX 20 archer that found the same armor would start with a natural DEX bonus of +5, but being 6 points under the STR rating would cut that down to +2 as well.

Make the STR requirement 5 + Weight/5, for example, for armor.

I do still like limiting DEX bonuses for shields, though. It’s a 7-8 square foot chunk of wood (more or less) strapped or gripped in one hand, both encumbering the hand and taking it out of play for fine work. It’s somewhat awkward and harder to move around object with it than without it, impacting Stealth.

But Luke and I are in agreement in principle on this – I do not like the extreme reduction in DEX and mobility caused by the type/class of armor being worn. I left it as-is, though, because of the reach of the concept. It impacts class balance, feat choices, and bounded accuracy for the classes. Giving full bonuses would make various armors insanely good – if you can get +5 DEX bonus with DR 8 plate, you’re nigh-unstoppable. 

Maybe that’s OK. It’s certainly hard to damage a guy in properly made full plate.

Parting Shot

Once again, thanks to Luke for such a huge playtest and full-detail report. 

I hope that this provides a good view into what Dragon Heresy will feel like to play, and hope it gives a reason to back my Kickstarter when it shows up.