Thursday, 31 May 2012

Eberron Character Background

I think that this character is near ready.  I’ve spoken with the DM and now he approves of the character concept, a half elf ranger with racial substitution levels (in Races of Destiny).  He now desires more work be done on the character’s backstory, and indeed that time has come to address this point.

Benefits of the Character

As any ranger, he still has the ability to fight (I need to decide his preference, melee or ranged), cast divine spells (level 1 spells until 8th level as ranger), and a handful of arcane spells (as per half-elf ranger).  He has the potential to serve as the party healer in a pinch, but it will be 8th level when he can cast Cure Light Wounds; he can at least cast it from a scroll, suggesting at the on-going battles he may soon find common with the rest of the group.

His main focus was always to be an investigator, chasing the cause of the Day of Mourning in Cyre.  I’ve considered pursuing this as an outlander, but decided that it would be substantially more meaningful as a Cyran, and a built in reason for him to be out of the country as a part of the war.

Service in the Army

I’ve decided a while ago that this Ranger was going to be a witchhunter, that this would be a part of his employ, a Ranger in the army entrusted to sneak around enemy lines and take out company mages from battle formations.  This suggested the Arcane hunter, which required Knowledge (Arcane) 1 rank at 1st, and granted Favored Enemy (Arcanist).  The DM has ruled against this, however, as it would cause friction within the party, indeed possibly too much friction, so arcane hunter is left off of the build lists.  Knowledge (arcane) and spellcraft seem logical skills to build regardless.

To obtain knowledge (Arcane), the character needs the feat (Education).  This role also requires stealth, survival, and tracking, core abilities of the Ranger.  Why is he fighting?  I have in my mind a hint that he is tired of Kings and crowns, and has no further interest in the conflict.  I suggested before that he had a life before serving in the war and that life was lost to conflict.  Maybe he never fought for the right to Thronehold, only to avenge his losses.  And now all of Cyre is gone.  His losses are now so much worse.

What is he fighting for?

Vengeance.  To bring consequence to murderers. 

As a half-elf, he could have lived a whole human life time.  He could have had a family.  Whatever he lost, he doesn’t want to talk about it.  With Cyre in ruins, and now the Mournland, he has no home to defend.  But the character was not just about simple vengeance.  He was built to focus on the recovery of the Mournland, to survive its challenges and find its causes. 

What is the childhood like?

Does it matter?  Cyre is gone.  Perhaps he lost a childhood friend, maybe a parent.  Youth also means weakness, though, and so rather than focus on vengeance, perhaps he wishes to overcome a shameful memory, a time when he ran and left someone to die.  Maybe he has made a promise to never stop hunting the one responsible for something; the focus on arcanists would tend to suggest it was a mage that caused such pain.

I have to nail this down, so let’s come to this understanding.  He was born into a tiny one-horse village that exists no more.  Such villages would have been routinely uprooted by the conflict; credit to resettle the village would have been scarce while the war was ongoing.  As a youth, he knew refugee camps and poor labour conditions in the highly productive slums of Cyre from a young age.  He would have hated it, but it would have taught him a thing or two how to survive in urban settings. 

He may have made a promise to a dear friend, or his dying family members, that he would live to resettle that little village.  And then he went off to join the war to earn the money he needed to support this family.  He wouldn’t have left full human siblings, but he might have left nieces and nephews. 

Then there’s the Mage.

This was his day job, but it makes sense that he would have volunteered for a job he had an inclination towards anyway.  Others moan and cry about the hardships of hunting mages, of Mage Duty as it could be; he threw himself into it.  Why?  Of all of the schools of magic, Enchantment is the most odious.  Picture it – You are hiding in a field full of dead bodies, and in walks the Necromancer – that is scary!  The abjurer or the diviner looks at a distance near identical to clerics, you can always pick out the Alteration mage because his specialty looks like so much fun.  Illusion mages seem the most cheap – we won the battle, dispel illusion, no you didn’t!  But the consequences of Enchantment, of permanent confusion, allies fighting each other, of people reacting to emotions not their own, and using that as an excuse to say it didn’t happen.  Enchantment is more than scary; it is odious, and more than powerful enough to lead to a lost village or two.  With a ring side view of a battle where an enemy Enchanter kills the soldiers defending his village, this character may have developed an awareness for the harm Enchanters can wrought, and interest in what other mages can do, and a desire to learn to unmake their efforts.

Who are his parents?

He has some anger against the Valenar Elves, who turned on and butchered Cyran refugees after the day of Mourning.  It would be a terrible twist if his father was Valenar, an errant Elf who had a romantic tryst with his human mother one night many years ago.  The father would outlive him, so he might exist to meet, or fight, again.  

What is his name?

Easiest and hardest question.  Using the random name generator, for a long period of time, I come up with: Gairn Faelan

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Something different, II

Okay, so here is what I am thinking about this foolishness.  I don’t think it was my fault that the party healer died, but I believe that we could have done more sooner.  

Realized much too late, the sorcerer could resume living in the church because the smoke from the fires couldn’t have completely asphyxiated it; all that we needed to do was block the windows to smoke her out.
My Warblade was running like the wind once he got poisoned.  We’d seen that poison before, he knew what was coming and genuinely feared an ignominious death, and worse, being at the mercy of his companions to guard him overnight. I knew what was coming, and he knew and feared losing control.  I defend the decision to run on the second day as the only one that was reasonable.

In truth, we didn’t need to kill the sorcerer, just scout the church and stop the Spellwarp Spider production if possible.  Who likes to make excuses?  No one, but there was a fifth level sorcerer in that building and we were all second level: running is sometimes the better choice, and we didn’t have to claim failure at all once we confirmed the methods to create the spiders involved necromancy and one building.

In the final estimate, though, the witch charged the front door out of impatience.  She broke with caution, indeed, threw it to the winds, to try and push through the front door.  Through multiple caster level 3 necromantic glyphs!  Who does that?  Party healer, I guess…

See, my character is a warblade.  He is not afraid to die, but wants to die in battle.  I don’t think I’m role playing him badly when I have him run like a scared little girl with impending strength draining saving throws just 6 rounds away in a hostile church taken over by spiders.  It’s an ignominious death; a life spent wrestling to remove your armor so you can move slightly while an unknown number of spiders come to eat you.  What does the bard say about that death?  I wasn’t going to charge that door glyph knowing that it could have ended just the same, paralyzed and waiting for just anything to come along and eat me.

But the witch was something else.  And she wanted us to immediately break the game after it happened, or the DM to change the fatal hit so that she was not instantly killed.  “Only the warblade could have taken that hit and not died instantly.” Well, actually, that hit might have killed me, 29 hit points and all, because it was shocking grasp and I have a metal breast plate on.  But notwithstanding, I’m not going to allow myself to be suckered by that hit if I can help it.

I’m sorry witch, but that was just foolish what you did, and the consequences should be felt.  She’ll learn.  The Player is at least nothing if not persistant, and kudos for that.  She’ll be back.  Not sure if there’s much a group of level 2s can do for her character though.  The druid needs five levels to be able to cast Reincarnation.  You have to be careful dying before that happens. 

 Or at least die for something meaningful.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Something Different – Ruminations on Character Death

Hi folks.  As you may have noticed, I missed yesterdays’ post.  While inexcusable, I am still looking for a commitment to writing that I can live with, and yesterday was … uh … an experiment.  It has nothing what so ever with me falling off the wagon and playing Xenoblade all day.  Road to recovery, man, road to recovery.  Anyway, I’m coming up short for blogging ideas again, so I thought I would ruminate on the events of today’s 3.5 game.

First the background.  The DM is running a custom 3.5 world, one that draws heavily from internet sources like Giant In the Playground Forums among others.  For the most part it has worked, but today a terrible and tragic event happened.  One of the PCs died.  I will tell you all what happened, but remember: it was tragic, so try hard not to laugh (*snicker*).

We’d taken on a mission to help an apprentice Druid get into his circle.  He has to scout, and potentially stop, a Sorcerer who is creating Spellwarped Spiders.  They are not intensely dangerous, but the strength draining poison is a bitch.  Needless to say, we approached the old abandoned church with extreme, perhaps overmuch, caution. 

We approached the windows on the side, finding them much too narrow even for the gnome wizard in the group to squeeze through, but we couldn’t see into them easily.  They were high off the ground and we spent way too long working out how to look inside, pyramid the weight, and so on.  Then we remembered that the Druid we were helping, who was here with us, was an elf, or more accurately half-elf.  Devil is in the details.  I’m the burly 17 strength warblade; sure I’ll boost him up, as he weighs next to nothing.  He looks inside. 
“Dur!  I can’t see much.  Cast Light!”
Everything within is now aware of us being there.  Did I mention that the DM was NPC playing the Druid?  We’re rethinking helping him now.

The sorcerer (she) had stakes with dead Kobold bodies breeding the spiders, and as we approached the stakes they burst out into swarms of baby spellwarp spiders.  Ew!  Excessive use of fire cleared the stakes for us, and we advanced on the front door, knowing full well that many more dangerous things could be waiting for us within.

Getting inside was no big challenge on the first day.  There are only two front doors and no other means of entrance, with a stone roof and no cellar of any sort.  We pushed on the doors, but found them webbed.  Use of torches lit from the still burning stakes cleared that obstacle.  We entered the church, with all but me looking at the ceiling for Webspinners attack.  I was the only one looking forward.  They attacked, but from the sides.  Curses!  Although we had a bit of fear here, we destroyed the spiders with just a minor application of my Warblade skills.  It pays to make your saves versus webs!

Then we were left with a challenge.  All prepared light spells were used, and we saw a shadow flit up into the rafters, but no means to put light up there.  We argued for a while, batting about ideas while the shadow watched.  No one had any great interest in walking forward into a very obvious trap.  After a great deal of debate, we left to rememorize spells.  With four casters and a warrior in the group, this was a highly desired response.

We returned the next day, finding that church doors were closed again, but the stakes were merely extinguished.  Breeding the baby spiders was going to take time.  Forcing the door was again no great feat, but no sooner did the Gnome wizard pass within than he triggered a glyph of necromantic paralysis.  It would have worn off in four rounds, but the sorcerer had called a large Spellwarped spider in to the guard the interior.  Knowing he was seconds from death, I charged, falling victim to the sickness aura that was now around him.  Though the allies crowded in to help, let’s be fair, I’m the only effective warrior in the group.  The battle only took so long because I kept missing, but I got him in the end.  But not before he poisoned me.

The poison, which we knew of going in but had yet to find a countermeasure for, forces two saving throws per bite, one immediately, and one a minute later.  Every failed saving throw risks 1d6 points of strength damage.  Needless to say, with no means to defeating the poison, I wasn’t staying around in a hostile church.  I ran, moving now at 4 times normal movement.  Two of the saving throws succeeded, but the other two cleared off 10 from my effective strength, causing me to near face plant.  Mending that strength damage required 5 days of bedrest/travel, as we didn’t know what would be safest with the warrior incapacitated. 

We didn’t have a cleric, but we had a witch, a part arcane divine character derived from a supplement that I think is optimised for d20 modern.  She brought her own guide to game called Complete Witch.  Anyway, in all of this she was doing healing and summoning odd monsters (level 1) that disappeared in a round.  Her healing skill was instrumental to restoring my effective strength.  When I had recovered, we discussed again our options of leaving this place.  We were only to scout, and stop if possible, the experiments.  We knew for certain of the caster now because of the glyph; we decided to try out luck for a third time, knowing that the sorcerer had had time to prepare.

Returning for one more look around, we again discussed outside the church the safest way forward.  The gnome, now kicking himself for not thinking of it before, cast detect magic.  He found glyphs all around him, some up to 3rd spell level and of what he could see arcane.  This was scary for 2nd level adventurers.  The warblade was unwilling to trigger those glyphs; I’m willing to die in combat, but not from a paralysis glyph!  The Essentia caster was debating how he could rearrange his essentia to keep him safe while triggering them.  The gnome despaired of his lack of dispel, which he couldn’t have dispelled faster than the sorcerer could cast glyphs anyway.

The witch said we need to simply charge in, and she argued that the DM wasn’t going to throw something deliberately lethal at us.  The DM admonished her, and said that is called metagaming.  We argued some more; I wanted the gnome to try again the window and see about finding a stealthy way in.  We debated again about the use of the local trees to form a battering ram and form a new way in.  The druid vacantly said “Dur!”

The witch has had enough, and was sick of us arguing.  We charged the door.  Feverish to avoid a stupid death from her determination, and remembering the paralysis glyph that got the gnome, I convinced her to tie her waist up and held the other end, waiting to pull her back before she got eaten.  She charged the first glyph – paralyze.  She waited the 4 combat rounds for it to wear off, then without missing a beat, charged the next glyph – paralyze again.  She charges forward again, taking a fire glyph full in the face. Undeterred, she gets to the door, shaking off an unseen magical effect (which turns out to have been Suggestion).

She gets to the door and gives it a good wrench.  It begins to move, haltingly.  She shakes off another unseen magical effect.  She takes another round at the door, and the door begins to move.  Another magical trap (we thought) went off in her face, blinding her with glitter dust.  Still walking, I didn’t want to simply wrench her back and shouted at her to follow the rope back to us.  The gnome and the Incarnate were just laughing. 

With the door now slightly ajar, an Insectoid Kobold charged out.  She was the sorcerer, and with a couple of rounds casting spells common and obscure, she attacked the witch with a solid 29 hit point punch.  Shocking grasp was involved, as was a strange spell that “merged arms;” apparently insectoids are a template that adds two extra arms and they can have a spell fusing them together for extra strength.  Before anyone could react, the sorcerer killed the witch in one shot.

The next round saw the Incarnate fire his cross bow, the Gnome wizard cast his long prepare Buzzing Bees spell to prevent her from casting spells (+10 to Concentration check DCs) while the Druid did little else, and the Warblade did what he did so often – charge!  The injuries that I sustained were a little scary, but again I killed the enemy.  Next session we find out what we will do about the fallen ally.

Okay, so that is all of the backstory.  Now to the question, which I suppose I have to visit tomorrow.  Was it my fault?  Was there more I could do?

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Physics in the Xenoblade Chronicles Universe

An odd concept, as most role playing games assume that the world is some kind of spherical form.  Some game designers pat themselves on the back for making their worlds cubes or other odd designs.  Xenoblade risks falling into that category, as the world is definitely unusual.  The concept retains it merits though, as the universe depends on a unique set of physics that play believably and predictably, but imbue truly alien beauty to the landscapes.

First the Bionis: this mammoth machine looks from the outside to be made of rock, and from the inside to be made of living breathing tissue.  How does all of this work as a giant robot?  The short answer is that it doesn’t – when it moves it moves by Zansa’s will, and for the last umpteen thousand years it has rested, leaning, against the Mechonis’ sword.  Forget that it ever moved, the scene is intended to be shocking anyway.

The Bionis stands ankle deep in the endless ocean, at least until the Age of the Fall when it begins “floating” face down.  The ocean is a mystery; in game we encounter no one with any clue as to its extent, or its depth, or even with any means to traversing it farther than the nearby Mechonis.  It is believed by some that there is something beyond the Bionis and the Mechonis way out there, but Arglas and Egil never explained how they came to that conclusion.

Standing on the Bionis, one experiences gravity pulling towards the ground, ground that ultimately is the Bionis.  The center of this gravity must be the bones of the Bionis, as it pulls down pretty universally around the Bionis, where ever one finds himself.  The Mechonis, by contrast, is very different.  Built in layers that are ascended by lifts and platforms, the Mechonis takes the form of a massive factory floor; gravity universally seems to pull “down” to the ocean, even outside and while clinging to the Mechonis’ external armor.  Almost all of the Bionis’ regions are outside, and there looking up always means looking away from the Bionis under your feet.

Each region of the Bionis is massive, from temperate Gaur Plain, to frosty Valak Mountain, to sweltering Makna Forest, each region offers a range of directions to travel in and lots of hidden locations to find.  It is possible to see past the illusion of nearness to the Bionis and Mechonis beyond, but only in certain places, such as at the top of the Bionis’ knee (Kneecap Rock, just beyond Tephra Cave), or the cliffs below Colony 6.  The Mechonis is visible on a clear day staring across the gap, lifelessly.  There are few such places on the Mechonis, but Distant Fingertip on the Fallen Arm and the Machina Refuge on the Mechonis Field do allow some ability to see across and all around.  If you can get high enough on Sword Valley, you can see the entirety of the world pretty clearly, weather permitting.

There isn’t much weather on the Mechonis, but on the Bionis the swirling currents of ether create any number of weather phenomena, from rain (it rains constantly near Colony 6), shooting starts across the Eryth Sea (on the Head of the Bionis), and the rainbow swamp gasses emerging from Satorl Marsh.  It can be hard to keep up with what it is doing and when, which becomes a pain when it is necessary to learn for a sidequest.  I’ll detail ether, and specifically ether magic, later, but for now, know that the ether on the Bionis is largely uncontrolled, permitting a wide variety of life forms, while on the Mechonis the ether is piped, tubed, and tightly controlled, leaving a sterile and lifeless feeling, even as it is overrun with Mechon.
Falling off the Bionis or the Mechonis isn’t easy, but certain places make it very easy to do.  It’s a rather large plot event that Shulk and company fall off the Mechonis’ Sword (Sword Valley) to wash up on the Fallen Arm.  Falling off of the Mechonis at any point would largely result in the same, assuming that you lived.  Taking a running jump off of the Bionis would cause you to arc back towards the Bionis’ nearest surface (note: it is very easy to fall off the Bionis in game, but some of those drops strain credibility, so I’m editing them here).  Falling onto the Bionis from any height inflicts injury like any fall into hard rock, and air pressure exerts terminal velocity normally.

It is possible to swim away from the Fallen Arm, but it’s only a short distance out before waves and storms and wild ether currents would make such a swim deadly.  No one is known able to swim from the Bionis’ ankle to Fallen Arm; no locations on the Bionis next to the ocean were detailed in Xenoblade, and most people have simply forgotten about the Fallen Arm, a perfect place then for the Machina to hide out.