Sunday, July 24, 2016

Frostgrave: Hot Water

It is said that the Jinn are wild elemental beings... And that to summon them is to invite death. Yet into Frostgrave we went, looking for lamps in a section of town littered with boiling geysers. But my wizard was prepared. He and his apprentice had learned Planar Tear!

We changed the player deployment rules to put the high level players at one end of the table, and the lower level players at the other. This put me right in the middle of the table. Not a happy place to be... except for the fact that there were a number of treasures within relatively easy reach. Unfortunately the position was rather exposed.

Making the best of it, I directed my forces out, crossbowmen to the right to defend my flank from the evil druid, the again reanimated Princess to keep an eye on things in the middle of the board, while a treasure hunter and thug went after the ruined building just ahead of the deployment area. Starting the game off, my wizard tried to Telekinesis a treasure, failed, and injured himself. His apprentice did a better job. The rest of the forces spread out heading toward their respective goals.

Turn 2
The apprentice was felled by a powerful elemental bolt! Unfortunately the cowardly wizard who cast it moved out of sight before my wizard could return the favor. Instead he used Leap on the zombie and sent him skyward to fetch a treasure perched precariously on an overhead walkway. The crossbowmen took pot shots, but failed to do more than keep the druid's band under cover.

Turn 3
A war dog came around the corner and gnawed on my treasure hunter who went and retrieved the treasure that had been drawn toward him via the wizard's spell. My wizard tried to Push the dog away, but failed again. The zombie picked up the treasure, and then jumped down. While the treasure survived, the zombie didn't. The dog mauling the treasure hunter brought him down. Knuckles the thug made it into the ruin and ran up to a treasure within. From the other end of the ruin rushed in another warbands treasure hunter. Liss, the treasure hunter following Knuckles joined him in the ruin.

Turn 4
With the treasure hunter dead, my wizard blasted the dog with Bone Dart, only succeeding (I rolled a 5!!) in the casting because he's so good at it. Knuckles jumped at the enemy and spied another couple of figures just outside! Liss grabbed the treasure. Knuckles dropped, and Liss got jumped. Princess charged in at the fountain, trying to keep a treasure from being claimed, killing the dog that was guarding the thief.

Turn 5
Liss killed the treasure hunter who attacked her, then ran for her life with the treasure! Princess was killed. The crossbowmen continued to fail to do anything useful. Rathgar grabbed a treasure from the upper floor of a ruin and started to climb down. The wizard failed to reanimate the zombie, while Sir Hellsbane, who basically spent the game running in a big circle picked up the treasure that was dropped in the dog attack.

Turn 6
Mostly cleanup action, running back to the wizard's lair. The wizard successfully raised the zombie, who grabbed the treasure and shambled along. Then, like a bolt from the dark, the evil druid launched a bone dart at my wizard, who dropped like a stone, already weakened from his failed spells.

Turn 7

In the end my team claimed 5 treasures, none of them the Genies (there were 3). The loot was impressive, including 3 grimoires, 3 potions, and a Robe of Arrow Turning!

Then it was time to check on the wounded. Amazingly Princess Survived, but was badly wounded. The treasure hunter was dead.
Then I rolled to check on the apprentice... and got a 1. Dead. He was going to be expensive to replace... ah well.

Rolling for the wizard... and I got a 2. Also dead...

That could have gone better... It was decided a new wizard (level 0) would arrive and take over the old wizards inn, keeping the treasury and vault, but having to hire a new apprentice.

It was a little disappointing that I didn't get anywhere close to the Genies, especially since I had prepared for them.

What am I going to play next time? Something other than a necromancer I think. Beyond that? We'll see...

Sunday Inspirational Image: The Dead King

I don't actually know the title of this piece, or where it came from... but I like it!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Review: Steel Magic

If you follow me on goodreads, you know that my ratings of books is fairly arbitrary. I don't have a set of hard rules governing what book gets what rating. It's a totally subjective process based entirely on what I liked and didn't like. And sometimes, if a book sticks with me, I go back and change my rating, usually to bump it up.

I haven't changed my review or rating of Steel Victory, but I did reread it before getting into Steel Magic, and while my review stands, I did enjoy it even more the second time though. But rereading it, and then reading Steel Magic directly after did make me think about how I assign ratings, and it caused me to come up with a rule: If it keeps me up all night reading it (or I take the audiobook out of the car to finish it), the book gets 5 stars. Now... on to the review.

Steel Magic 5/5 Stars
tldr: Fast paced sequel to Steel Victory kept me up reading way too late, and now I want book 3.

Disclaimer: I read an advanced reviewer copy of this book from the author, who is both a friend and one of the players in my Friday night D&D game. Didn't stop me from buying a copy for me and one to give away.

Funerals are usually the end of the story, not the beginning.

Newly graduated warrior-mages Toria Connor and Kane Nalamas find themselves the last remaining mages in the city when a mage school teacher mysteriously falls ill and dies. But taking over the school themselves isn't in the cards. They're set to become professional mercenaries-if they make it through the next 18 months as journeymen first.

The debate over whether to hunt mutated monsters in the Wasteland or take posh bodyguard jobs is put on hold when a city elder hires them to solve the mystery of the disappearing mages. Toria and Kane's quest brings them to the British colonial city of New Angouleme, where their initial investigation reveals that the problem is even greater than they feared.

But when a friend is kidnapped, they'll have to travel to the other side of the globe to save her, save themselves, and save magic itself.

Steel Magic begins and ends with death. It's a fast paced too short book that leaves you wanting more. More time with the characters, more pages spent on exploring this world ravaged by war, and more on the twisted and failing magics. The story told here in a mere 184 pages contains enough elements that a lesser novelist would have spent a trilogy of 500 pages bricks to fully entice you in and then bore you with by the end. Here, the author clearly has other plans, and the break neck pace will leave you gasping by the end... for multiple reasons.

Getting to see more of the world outside of the city-state of Limani was a treat, especially as I'd been intrigued by the political makeup of this alternate reality where the Roman Empire never fell and it and the British Empire are the dominant players (at least around the setting of the first book) is an interesting setup. (note to the author: GIVE ME A MAP!! Please!!!) I also really enjoy finding out about more of the magic and magical creatures of the world, and seeing what twists the author has put on old ideas.

What really makes the book though is the strong personalities of the characters. You really know who these people are, you get the voice that they speak with, and their reactions ring true. I can't wait to see where Kane and Toria and their friends and family (not necessarily overlapping circles) go from here.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Steel Magic Giveaway!

Want a signed copy of the newest release from J.L. Gribble's alternate history urban fantasy series Steel Empire's series Steel Magic?

Leave a comment, and one lucky winner will be picked next Wednesday!

Missed out on the first book in the series? Pick it up here!

Also, I'm still waiting to hear from Elrics about the last contest... If he doesn't respond, someone else may end up with what would have been his prize!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Stonehell: (un)Quiet Halls

Session 13 was played on 6/10

Wilhelm, drunk Dwarf 2 (Julia)
-Hammond, war dog
Tobias, Cat, Cleric 1 of Persephone (Mollie)
Shelly, a vegetarian recovering alcoholic halfling Thief 3 (Nadia)

Stayed in town
Tink, a pretentious Elf (but I repeat myself) and former barkeep (Hanna)
Frank, halfling 1 (Emily)

Narf, Wilhelm, Shelly, and Tobias make their way from town toward the dungeon, skip around the gatehouse, and head directly down into the dungeon, and make for Rocky. Once in the room, and the pleasantries were taken care of, they got down to the day’s 3 questions.
“What is the best question?” Shelly asked.
Rocky replied “Where will we find the best closest treasure?”
The rest of the party groaned. Shelly asked “Where will we find the best closest treasure?”
“Down in the Kobold Corners”
Shelly asked absently “Don’t we have a thing in the Kobold Corners?”
Rocky answered “I don’t know.”
“Wait! That wasn’t a question!!” Shelly yelled… but it was.

Pressing on, they reach the double doors adorned with the danse macabre. Everyone shoves hard against one, trying to open it. Struggling together the door shifts, and with a metallic groan, falls open, dropping everyone to the ground in a heap. The pillared hall is silent, and the bodies of the beetles had been mostly cleaned away. Picking a hall, they find a section of the wall pushed out, revealing a small closet like space that is otherwise empty.

The first room explored had bunk beds lining the walls, each with a faded nametag and equipped with multiple restraint points. Moving on they came to a room with old plaster death masks lining the walls. Shelly found a trap door which opened into a small chamber with a single torch sconce on the far wall, and nothing else.

With nothing left to explore in this direction they headed back to the pillared chamber, and picked a different direction. This hall was lined with doors on either side. Each door was metal with an open window screened by a thick lattice, with no locking mechanism. As they reach the first door, it was pushed open from the inside, and zombies stumbled out!

Battle was joined in the confined hallway, and several corpses were returned to their eternal rest before Tobias, still a cat, turned the remaining zombies. They returned to their crypt, and huddled in the corner. While Tobias held the zombies back, Shelly and Narf made a quick sweep of the chamber, but didn’t find anything of value. They closed the door, and prayed the zombies would leave them alone.

The crypt opposite was quieter, but still not as silent as the grave. 2 skeletons sat up as the door was opened and were quickly put down, but this chamber was as devoid of valuables as the first.

Crypt 3 and 4 each had a ghoul that sprang through the doors, paralyzing Narf. Tobias and Shelly working together brought one then the other down as they were slightly distracted by the smell of blood oozing from Narf’s wounds. Unfortunately, their death didn’t release Narf, and he was repositioned off to the side. Checking the crypts, they found a stash of coins and a magical flaming dagger! Wilhelm claimed the dagger for himself. Returning to the hall (and Narf) a loud rattling could be heard further down in the darkness. Deciding they’d had enough for one day, they took their loot and the paralyzed Narf out of the dungeon.

Narf’s paralysis wore off just as they were arriving back to town.

Gains: 100gp, magical dagger,
Kills: 4 zombies, 2 ghouls, 2 skeletons
Losses: None

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Frostgrave: Dragon Strike!

For today's game, we decided to modify the Worm scenario we played last time, and used Wyrms this time! 5 dragons would appear, flying across the board, and if their flight path crossed over a mini, it would drop down and fight that mini to the death before flying off. We also replaced 1 treasure token per player with a dead body token. When searched there was a 50% chance of getting a treasure, 25% chance of waking a zombie, and 25% chance of finding nothing except a frozen former adventurer.

Once again, all 7 members of the campaign showed for game!

My forces set up in the bottom right hand corner of the table in this picture.

Here they are a little closer.

Across from me was Rob's wizard and his band.

And next to me Chris' force.

In the opening moves, my wizards fails to cast telekinesis on a treasure, while my apprentice leaps the thief onto the top of the ruins next to a body. Everyone else rushes for the ruins or the body next to the broken fountain.

My band immediately rushed forward toward a pair of bodies. The first was at the top of a flight of stairs in a ruin. Here my man at arms looks down at their friendly zombie, up the stairs toward the thief and the body, and across to Rob's band.

Rob's wizard gets Bone Darted by my wizard. In retaliation he tosses my thief 14" up into the air off the ruin. The thief promptly drops to the snow knocked out at least. My apprentice finishes off Rob's wizard with another Bone Dart.

My crossbowmen take out a thug running toward one of the bodies my guys were rushing toward.

Both bodies are found to have treasure.

While my treasure hunter finds another treasure at the far side of the ruins.

But then dragons start showing up...

This red one drops next to Chris' archer near my guys.

The blue drops behind the thug and thief who were about to jump my treasure hunter.

The clockwork dragon attacks The Doctor. Eventually the Doctor's companions came to the rescue and the dragon was killed.

The green dragon attacked a random bear that was just wandering past.

This other blue dropped into an open tower to munch on the guy cowering with a treasure. One of Don's guys, I think... It ate him, then flew off.

My wizard Leaps the treasure hunter away from the dragon, with the treasure, and she books it for the edge of the board.

Combined firepower takes out the red dragon. Sadly, not by me, so I missed out on that 100xp

My zombie charges in against Don's thug while the dragon chews on the thief.

Chris' man at arms using the cover of a ruin to try to stop my crossbowmen, wizard, and apprentice from getting my man at arms with treasure off the board...

He charged in, just as 2 skeletons wander by. My marksman clocks the warrior upside the head, causing him to stumble back before the crossbowman puts a bolt into his face. My wizard and apprentice each take out a skeleton with Bone Darts.

The 2 treasures reach the edge of the board. As they left, both my wizard and apprentice, backed up by the crossbows, went hunting, killing Rob's knight and archer, and making his thug run off the board without the treasure they'd been bringing back. Unfortunately there was no time to collect it, as the thug was the last of his figures on the board (alive), and that ended the game.

Final tally was 12 successfully cast spells (mostly Bone Dart with a couple of Leaps), 3 treasures (190gc, scrolls of Bone Dart, Leap, and Draining Word, and a Grimoire of Planer Tear, and Gloves of Strength). Once again Princess the now skeletal dog was killed, and the thief was badly wounded and will likely be out of a job next game.

Not shown was the EPIC battle between the dragon and the bear that lasted at least 3 turns. Eventually the dragon won, but it was a hard fought victory, and ended up resulting in the dragon's death at the hands of one of the other warbands.