Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Vol 2 Issue 8: 30 May 2009

Guest Editor: David Simmons, The Rolemaster Dude

The party had been lucky again, not only stumbling on the pass through the mountains but also catching one of the supply mule trains returning from their delivery to the fort. It was a quick and bloody fight since only two of the enemy had stayed to fight while the rest ran. The party had until nightfall at the most before those that escaped the ambush reached the fort and with them the news of the attack on the supply group. It seemed everyone was in agreement, the best way get the information the party had gathered, to the Margrave, was not a direct route back to the lake and the signal beacon but a round about way that would throw off any pursuing force sent out by the fort.

So the party headed west along the mountains following them until they could cut north along the eastern edge of the swamp to get back to the Lake and the signal beacon. That first night the party decided to make a cold camp high enough on the mountainside to watch for any sign of a pursuit. As the darkness of night came those on watch could clearly see in the distance torch lights at least three different groups presumably searching for the party or at least their lost mules, which continued through the night but never getting any closer to the party’s campsite.

The next day lead to another westerly trek along the foothills of the mountains base and another cold camp set on the mountainside, overlooking the valley below. That night a the camp was disturbed not by the distance torches of the enemy but by a hungry mountain lion who had pounced down on an unsuspecting Demeyo trying to wake the rest of the party to alert them of some noise he had heard coming from higher on the mountainside. Alas, the poor mountain lion had no chance against the swift sword of Lenore who had been one of the first to be woken up by Demeyo, and had sensed the danger and reacted before anyone else knew what was happening followed quickly by Sigrin Ironfist who basically finished the mountain lion off as his swing knocked it over the side of the little area where the party had set up camp. A little while latter the party settled back down for the rest of the night without further disturbance.

The next several days passed without any further encounters or hardships and the party made it to the lakeshore along it southeast corner, one of the spots furthest from any of the lakes islands, and decided to try and set-up and start a beacon to attract enough attention to draw a friendly ship to come pick them up. Although it was a good idea nothing came of it except the loss of half a day or a little more before the party decided to go to the beacon instead of the longer trip around the lake to the only fort and safe harbor along the lake shore.

It was a moonless night, and the going was rough for most of the party who had no real light to travel by and after a few twisted ankles and stumbles, the party decided to split into two groups, (Reuben, Mal, Winterlion, Sigrin Ironfist, and Lenore) and (Demeyo, Elise, and Amwise) although the split made little sense for traveling in the dark without light since both groups were made up of basically night blind individuals and the purpose was to travel ahead and scout out and light the beacon. Although, the Demeyo group did make a little better time then the following Reuben group but mostly because the second group decided to wait behind before following.

It was well after midnight by the time Demeyo, Elise, and Amwise made it to the river with the beacon on the other side. Since they needed to cross Demeyo decide to cast a handy little spell which would allow him to cross with ease while Elise and Amwise swam across. Why this was just too easy, there was no one at the beacon, they just walked right up and lit it. Of course once their eyes adjusted to the light they did notice about nine individuals about 100 feet away on a little rise up the beach aiming bows at them, oh well it was only three to one odds “why run when we can stay and fight”, after all it was the battle cry of our little group of adventures.

So the battle was on, of course back to our second group not knowing there was a fight about to erupt and after noticing the light from the beacon, and deciding it was rather a good idea Reuben cast a little flashlight spell and away they went. Back at the beacon Demeyo, Elise, and Amwise decided the best way to fight when your out numbered is to split up and everyone go a separate direction, so that way the enemy can choose which guy to gang up on, although it seemed like they were more interested in putting out the beacon then they were of trying to follow anyone, luckily Amwise had decided to stay as close to the beacon as possible so they could gang up on him after they put out the beacon and lit up a few smaller light sources.

It was not long before Amwise was bleeding profusely and trying to swim away for his life, while Elise after dropping one of the enemies was fleeing for her life, and Demeyo doing the same after exchanging a few sword blows and some long range arrow fire between him and a group of enemy archers. Demeyo and Amwise make it away and fearing the capture of Elise meet up with Reuben’s group and decide to try and catch the enemy by surprise by heading up river and then heading back down to the lake although they do find evidence of a camp abandoned by the enemy they are no where to be seen, so the group decides to have the brave Amwise swim across and light the beacon and then draw the enemy back to the river were they either have to try and cross while under fire or fight at range where the better range and accuracy of the party can over come the enemies numbers.

It was an ok plan but really only Demeyo and Winterlion have any real skill at the bow, and of course the plan goes awry when Amwise is chosen to be the one to sneak across and light the beacon, since he is the least likely to stick to any plan, and of course goes charging in to throw his daggers at the enemy as they once again appear over the little rise up the beach from the beacon. Although his throw is deadly and he drops another enemy Amwise receives several answering bow shots and two find there mark and once again Amwise is bleeding and and fleeing for his life trying to make it back across the river.

Luckily once again the enemy’s priority seems to be putting out the beacon (Man these guys are dumb, I mean if you did not want the beacon lit why leave all the stuff to light it in the tower?) Anyway, as they rush to put out the beacon Reuben closes his eyes and pulls back the arrow and as it reaches his ear releases and when he opens his eyes low and behold he hit someone and not only did he hit someone it was one of the enemies and it dropped him (Reuben is now thinking of joining the marines you know one shot one kill).

After a minute or two of exchanging arrow fire the party has collected Amwise from the river, and backed up to a range were only Demeyo and his longbow have any real chance to hit anything but the ground, and Elise having re-appeared from somewhere up the beach a long boat has been spotted and after a short exchange of who are you and why should we care the crew from the boat decide to bring the group aboard leaving the enemy on the beach and the Margrave’s army to deal with them.

After a couple of days travel back to Maethelburg and reporting their findings to the Margrave, the party decides to rest in the city before once again traveling out to the south to try and find out what kind of numbers this Dread Lord and his followers actual have and how real is the threat to the March and its Islands.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pondering a mini for Lenore

As I'm also a LOTR fan, it doesn't bother me that this fig is more expensive than anything from Reaper and also only available with a horse as I'd be able to use her for Rolemaster as well as LOTR gaming. This is where I'm leaning. I really think this is an awesome fig and would love to paint it.

Reaper Minis is the standard mini supplier for most of my RPG interests for the simple fact that they have a huge catalog of good quality figs that are joyful to paint and easy on the pocketbook. Here are some ideas:

Vol 2 Issue 7: 18 Apr 2009

There was one particular girl that stood out from the rest..
Hearkening back to Vol 2 Issue 4 we were introduced, briefly, during the ballet in the Margrave's throne room, to a young and particularly skilled warrior-ess - a shield-maiden or guard in the Margrave's service - who was particular handy with the blade and adept at dispatching daemons back to the black abyss that they were spawned from. She was a welcome ally in that battle and was asked about by several of our number after the fight in discussions with Lord Howe and the Margrave.

Thus we welcome Ruth as Lenore, formerly of the City Guard of Maethylburg (aka "Laketown") and presently on assignment from the Margrave to assist the Stewards of the March. Thats us.

My pocket sketch of Lenore is Eowyn: medium-length dirty-blond hair, broadsword-and-shield bashy warrior in full chain armor. She is murderously lethal with her sword, a skilled and tough weaponmaster, but she is slow to provoke and tends to hold back in a fight until or unless she has been strongly provoked. Then, watch out!

Off to see the Wizard
Over the next week or two I spent almost all of my time in the archives and libraries of the Margrave, Lord Howe, and the unnamed Court Magician trying to learn all that I could of these Dread Lords and their history. I didn't pick up much, but such as I did I considered valuable snippets. Several of us had recently leveled, and my improvements went almost entirely to academic and scholarly pursuits. I've tried to work on this, but apparently my Old Common is spoken with a bit of an accent. The analogy that comes to mind is one of a French-native Professor of Literature who is extremely fluent in English attempting to speak with a Boston accent. Its all the same language and he's really fluent at it, but he just doesn't sound Bostonian.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it:
Lucky us! How could we be so fortunate? We were tapped to go out on another mission! This time, back downriver to the east to the coast and to explore along the way. Somewhere out there waiting, somewhere, were very servants of the Dread Lords that we had tangled with in the past. And based on that entanglement, they presumably had more servants and soldiers in more forts that could be teleported in on short notice as reinforcements for anywhere we might show up. So we decided to make this the slow and scenic trip passage to the coast, having still never actually made it that far.

Trekking this time down the north side of the river, laying somewhat low and living off the land along the way, we charted it to be about a week's march through territory roughly comparable to Nebraska before we reached the vicinity of the trail leading south to the Keep-On-The-Lake. We bypassed this and pushed on, still on the north of the river, all the way to the coast. Another week to get that far. Along the way we had few couple encounters on about an every other day basis with some giant flying bird. We later identified this to be a giant falcon and its pet human rider, or perhaps the relationship went the other way.

It took some doing, some wandering, some almost-but-not-quite getting lost, and a lot of everyone but me getting well and soaking wet, and we found ourselves to the south side of the river near its mouth, and we hit upon some tremendous dip-net surf fishing that had me landing a awesome specimen of some rockfish right about the time that falcon-boy made his dawn patrol. That was a good pucker-factor event, but for some reason we didn't turn out to be very important (or obviously edible) because the rider turned his mount to exit the area without stopping to talk to us.

Reuben was particularly upset over the gall of this rider to snoop and check up on us, make low passes without talking to us, and for just flying off without so much as a how-do-you-do. So he pumped out a lvl-11 Summoning-XV and targetted "Giant Falcon" before the bird could get more than 100yd away. I've seen him do his "Summon Fish" and "Summon Bigger Fish" act before, but this new "Summon Giant Falcon" act trumps them all. We didn't know if it would work. Nobody knew. Are Giant Falcons intelligent, like Tolkien's Giant Eagles? Or are they just big falcons? Maybe they're magical, or maybe they're just bred magically, or maybe they're just fantastic but not particularly intelligent. Turns out they're more of the last category, as his Summoning-XV was enough to do the trick.

Within a few seconds, what should our wondering eyes should appear but an irate rider and his pt giant falcon. We tried to be friendly, but in the interest of future diplomatic relations we let him go. Although I'm sure Gene regrets not holding back some points to spend on Animal Husbandry: Giant Falcon and Riding: Giant Falcon should we have chosen the alternative and captured the bird.

We represent the Lollipop Guild
After waving goodbye to our new-met acquaintance we set off again on foot to the south following the coast. We were no longer really making any serious attempt to hide, as I think we would have enjoyed having birdman come back for a friendly visit on his terms. As long as it turned out to be friendly. Instead, what met us was a delegation of people from the birdman village. After some introductions and discussion, it was agreed that we would travel with the Village People back to their town and meet with their Village Council.

Reuben played me up as some high and mighty noble, presumably as bait for a trap or as a crude practical joke. Lenore picked up on the idea that the Village People were being less than totally honest when they claimed they didn't know anything about the Keep-On-The-Lake or the people therein. But in the spirit of pursuing diplomatic relations and perhaps some day Free Trade we travelled with them for about a day and a half before coming to their little burg.

This far south along the coast the land was getting a bit more rugged, and inland were rising hills and mountainous terrain. The Village People had their town terraced into the side of one hill like a series of hobbit holes, and on the next hill over was the aeyrie for the giant falcon riders. Our escorts took us to their meeting place and told us it would be fun to stay at the YMCA. We avoided the obvious song, because at this point it was really starting to smell a bit like a trap.

On one hand, I didn't like us getting shut inside a dusty old mead hall, empty of everyone but ourselves, to cool our heels waiting for the Village Council. Neither did Reuben, who kept guard at the door. But on the other hand, if they wanted us dead we'd be dead and be starting a new campaign. So I didn't think they wanted us dead, they could be friendly, but didn't seem exactly to be enemies. So I played it honest. Reuben had set me up as some high and mighty noble, so it was up to me and my eloquent diplomacy to do something.

I laid out honest: how we're from thousands of miles to the north, how we currently serve the Margave of Meth-something, where (on a map) we came from, what we've seen, and how we came to be there at that time. Apparantly the Elder wasn't prepared for such a bombshell to be laid at his feet, as he promptly kicked us out of town and told us never to come back. Ever. Turns out that this village is some loosely aligned thrall of the Dread Lords and owes them some fealty although they're not particularly good supporters of the despotic regime. We didn't have time to get into the economic details, but it seems that the Dread Lords have many such little enclaves and have been passing off a bundle of lies about how the Laketown people are Public Enemy Numero Uno. Seeing us in person, and knowing how friendly we were to his birdman patrol, he was willing to give us the benefit of the doubt but we really needed to get the heck out. And so we did. Promptly.

The Battle Of The Wilderness
These Dread Lords are really starting to become an irritating rash on the countryside. We're about 2 weeks on foot from home, but we decided to once again take the scenic route. This time, staying to the south side of the river. It really needs a name. Since the land near it reminds me of Nebraska, I think we should call it the Platte River. Still living off the land, trying to hunt along the way, low use of magic, trying to stay undetected in enemy territory. Funny thing is that this territory is not interlaced with roads and trails connecting different places. Its more like virgin wilderness. We eventually made it far enough south to reach the mountains, and it seems like the mountains might actually be passable back to the east so maybe the lack of roads/trails is a fluke. But still, nothing seems to connect the Keep-On-The-Lake with anything else. Trudging west, paralleling the ridges, we eventually found a pass approximately due south o the Keep. A true AHAH!

map of the ho chi mihn trail that the vietnamese rebels used during the warFluke, bad timing, torment from the GM, payback for avoiding all of the other combat encounters for the last 8 hours of RPGing, we stumbled randomly into a mule train and had a bit of a meeting engagement. More of a chasing engagement. We could have caught them, but we had to let them escape. The mules were empty. But now we know where their Ho Chi Minh Trail is.

Wookiepiedia is fun

I like the storytelling and interaction parts, but its a tough juggle when everyone has a slightly different interest or approach or maturity level. But you get that sort of mix with a bunch of adults, so its all part of being the GM. I need to make sure to include more time with miniatures and boards/maps instead of being purely verbal, and a little bit of action or suspense each game helps keep everyone's interest level high. Not familiar with Universalis, Spence, but maybe I should be.

We play once or twice a week in the evenings for one or two hours at a time. We played a little last night, pure verbal, primarily filling in background information and interacting with each other and with some NPCs.

They met a young security officer (Panaka) who is one of the Senator's guards, and some other canon characters like Senator Kim's young son Rohnar (my kids don't browse the wookieepedia often, but they're thrilled when I name-drop movie characters into the game). They discovered some backstory regarding Senator Kim and Prefect Palpatine. The girls wanted some scoop on Palpatine, their host, so they did some detective work (Use Computer, Gather Information, and some Knowledge rolls) and made some phenominal rolls. Not enough to get any DC30 scoop, but enough to get a few DC25 nuggets. Turns out Palpatine rose to prominence on Kim's staff, rising from "bureaucrat" to "political aide-de-camp", when the nobody Kim championed some high-profile legislation regulating the corporate banking industry and directly affecting the InterGalactic Banking Clan (Muuns). Senator Kim made his mark as a Reformer over the objections of the Banking Clan, and Palpatine has since directed two re-election campaigns to landslide victories. Alas, their detective work was not done in secret, so we'll see how that plays out. So far they haven't scooped anything sensitive or illegal, and Palpatine is a master at covering his tracks.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away

The PCs started as lvl2 heroes, with 2 of them deciding to be multi-class: Jedi/Scoundrel (Zabrak) and Jedi/Noble (Twi'lek). The other two are single-class Jedi (Human and Twi'lek). My kids rolled enviable, but imperfect, stats: the two girls rolled some preposterous numbers balanced by some pathetic numbers, while my wife and son rolled solidly decent and nothing below average. Everyone did better than a 28pt-buy RPGA start, although the girls have very unbalanced distributions.

Opening Moves:
The PCs are in the right place at the right time to save the lives of a bunch of civilians at a space station, and simultaneously attract some praise from other Jedi. They're supposed to be part of a peaceful delegation from the Jedi Temple sent as visitors and observers at the Galactic Games. Basically, the "kids" get a free pass as visitors to the Games since they're supposed to be "escorted". They're seperated from their escorts while in a space station over Alderaan and witness a "freak accident" that destroys the ship they're supposed to board, cripples the space station, and nearly wipes out the entire Board of Directors of the Trade Federation. All at once. Canon event for this year: all non-Neimodian members of the Trade Federation BoD are killed/assassinated in a takeover which results in a pure Neimodian BoD and Nute Gunray becoming Viceroy. The PCs witness this and are stuck in a docking concourse of the space station during the accident. They commandeer a bulk transport and shepherd all the civilians to safety before the docking concourse collapses, thus saving a bunch of lives. Pure heroism. The stuff of Jedi holovids. They're instant heroes to the galaxy, all with preposterously high CHA stats so they're natural photogenic kids in front of the cameras. Their mothers would be proud.

Jedi Gambit:
There has been what is obviously a huge nefarious well-orchestrated plot against the Trade Federation, which could easily result in a huge hue-and-cry "Galactic Incident[tm]" if the TF plays it that way. The mandate of the Senate is for the Jedi to investigate this and solve the problem. The ideal investigators are "johnny on the spot", except that this is a job not suited to non-attached Padawans. I've conveniently machinated an excuse to send the Padawans unescorted to Naboo to the Games, while their "escorts" take on the "mission". Except they've lost their transport (kaboom!). Enter the deux ex machina. A Consular transport vessel conveniently en-route from Corsucant to Naboo already on Senatorial business is rerouted to make a stop at Alderaan to pick up the PCs. That vessel is on assignment to the Chommell Sector Senate District, Vidar Kim Senator, and is bearing Palpatine (his personal aide and chief of staff) back to Naboo. Yes, I am that evil to dangle Palpatine, Sith Apprentice, in disguise right under the noses of the PCs and they can't do a darn thing about it because they don't have any proof of anything. If my wife or kids knew that according to Expanded Universe canon, Darth Plagueis is a Muun I'd even go so far as to allow Palpatine to be observed taking a secretive holo-call from some Banking Clan representative or a hooded/robes Muun. Before they board, their "goodbye kiss" meeting with their former escorts, the PCs are presented with loaner lightsabers and the promise "we'll see you on Naboo in a couple weeks".

In the background:
Their mothers ARE proud. The ones who aren't already dead. The Zabrak was born to Spacers, a distant cousin of Mace Windu's own Master, from a family who owner-operate a pathetic run-down bulk transport plying the Outer Rim in competition to the budding Xizor Transport Systems. Their biggest anti-piracy safety factor is that they're too low-budget to maintain their own artificial gravity plates, everyone knows it, and thus they're not worth the hassle of attacking. Seeing his family's ship is like watching a homeless guy pushing a shopping cart full of beer cans to the recycling center: you kinda feel sorry for him, but he's taking care of himself and if you're of criminal intent he'd be too much trouble to rob. One of the Twi'leks is slave-born from Nar Shaddaa and her mother is dead; her father unknown. Does he recognise the face in the holonews? Unlikely. The other Twi'lek? Born to a lower tier family on the reconstructed Taris, which in my campaign turned out just as bad as it was the first time around (see KOTOR and the Star Wars: KOTOR comic books). Yes, her parents will recognise their little girl on the holovids, be proud, brag, and then get stomped by a local swoop gang. Somewhere down the road, if she continues to keep her CHA=19 face in the public eye, the older Twi'lek is going to have some "bad dreams" about her family on Taris coming under some "undue influence". A hook to lure a charismatic Jedi to the Dark Side is exactly what a Dark Jedi or Sith will be looking for.

Star Wars Saga Edition campaign

My kids, especially the older two (girls) do a lot of "lets pretend" roleplaying inspired by favorite books and movies. They wanted a different sort of game. I was thinking something Harry Potter-ish or something Star Wars. Star Wars won, by popular acclaim and my preference. Besides, I've been looking for an excuse to try the rules and I've been positively dying for an excuse to get my wife to drop coin on RPG material (she actually did the legwork and made the purchase for me, to my amazement). Rules in hand, source material only a google away, lets have some fun with the kids.

First, the rules. Being familier with other iterations of d20 and Star Wars and having read some lukewarm reviews online, I was honestly expecting Saga Edition to be kiddie-fied: beneath my highbrow RPG standards, but perfect for my kids. I cut my RPG teeth on D&D when it came in a little box and Greyhawk was still cool. I was 11 or 12; girls mature differently so surely 10-11yo girls should be fine for Star Wars SE. I still think of "SE" as "Streamlined Edition" not "Saga Edition" and its not a bad way of looking at it. It fits, but isn't really derogatory. Having fewer details to keep track of is good for everyone and nice for me as a GM since I can do more "on the fly" roleplay encounters.

If you're familiar with d20 anything (including many Star Wars computer games), you're at home with Star Wars SE. You get your core 6 stats, bonuses and penalties come at the same levels you're familiar with. The d20 is king. You roll a d20, add modifiers, and compare to a target number which may be fixed based on difficulty of a task or may be something rolled in opposition to your number (high roller plus modifiers "wins"). My kids have all played Star Wars Miniatures and Star Wars Starship Battles so they all grasp the d20 concept readily. Now d20 is rolled for more than just initiative and attacking. It is also rolled for skills.

Previous versions of Star Wars RPG had characters earning "points" towards skills with each level, distributing their improvements in various ways. Now life is much simpler. Like D&D4, you're either Trained or you're NOT. Anyone can use any skill (few exceptions), being Trained gives a bonus and having Skill Focus in the skill gives a bigger bonus. Not Trained? Skill is probably still usable, but without the bonus(es) you'll rarely roll well enough to do anything complicated. I honestly think that this is totally appropriate for a "heroic" sort of Space Opera genre such as Star Wars where the PCs are supposed to be Heroes and Better Than Normal. So sure, everyone can pilot a starfighter, ride a bantha, fly a speeder bike, juggle lightsabers, and do zippy things with computers; those with TRAINED SKILL simply do all of the above better, faster, more reliably, and can do so under combat conditions. Now instead of being able to pile on all of your skill improvement and focus your character in a specific way, all of your skills generically and simultaneously improve with every level. Thus, higher level characters will always be able to do everything better than a lower level character AND have more opportunities to earn Skill Focus and get even better. At moderate character levels there is little need for "specialist NPCs" who help with some specific task because 1) there are only ~20 skills to worry about in the first place, and 2) the higher level character is better at everything.

The skill formula: level/2 + STAT modifier + 5 (trained) + 5 (focus). A lvl10 character has had +4pt for STAT advances (+2pt every 4 levels), so an UNtrained lvl10 Hero will be at least as good at any skill as a TRAINED lvl1 Non-Hero.

The end product of this is that if you allow your PCs to interact with and "use" higher-level NPCs for help (a Jedi Master, for example), that higher level character will be able to do things he's good at like a Demi-God and things he's not good at better than the PCs who are "experts" and can easily dominate a game.

This lack of attention to detail would be anathema to a campaign-hardened Rolemaster/Spacemaster player but "just works" in the context of Star Wars.

The previous edition of Star Wars RPG (Revised Edition), had this concept of Vitality Points. I loved it. If you took a big enough hit, it might kill you outright regardless of how many HP (Hit Points, you n00b) you had. But the statistical math of this worked out such that if you primarily gain XP by combat encounters, AND the difficulty of your encounters scales with your character level such that you have the requisite 13.4 encounters-per-level, you have a ~13% chance of spontaneous death every level. So now there is this Damage Threshold, same as Vitality Points, and if a hit exceeds your DT your "condition track" deteriorates. You take negatives on all your rolls the worse it gets, until you're KO'd or killed. Lots of things can deteriorate your "condition track" (mental attacks, electricity, poison, torture, etc) so it is possible to get KO'd before you lose all your HP. Like D&D4, you get healing surges in the middle of a fight. SW-SE calls it "second wind", and you spontaneously rest and heal in the middle of a fight. Or pop a Red Bull, get slapped with some Jedi Healing (aka "Vitality Transfer"), regenerate, or just be so darned tough that you can spontaneously heal multiple times. None of this (usually) improves the condition track, so you'll still be fatigued even if you have lots of HP.

I still prefer Vitality Points. I think the concept does a better job of movie visuals like Leia being dropped by a single shot from a blaster, but not dying. Or any of the various people who get arms/legs/both chopped off and walk/crawl/climb away.

Overall, I do like SW-SE. I like how starting character classes are streamlined into 5: Jedi, Noble, Scoundrel, Soldier, and Scout. Everything else is a Prestige Class. The differentiation between Consular and Guardian Jedi is made in Talents, which are available equally to any Jedi (plus many more). I didn't like how D&D4 simplified Magic Users into "guys with a special ability to cast X spell", but the concept works well for Star Wars. It fits the genre: you pause, meditate, recharge, and back use of the powers you just expended. Just like Qui-Gonn pausing in the middle of his fight with Darth Maul. But you never hear about Jedi having to sleep to recharge their connection with the Force or memorize "spells".

So we started a bit of a campaign with the game rules.

Saga Edition is supposed to be written to be suitable for any era of the Star Wars Saga. The three main eras that the game rules refer to are: Rise to Empire (everything before the culmination of Episode III), Empire (Episode III through culmination of Episode VI), and New Republic (post-movies). I further subdivide this timeline into Old Republic (anything further back than ~100 years before the Clone Wars), Fall of the Republic (the last ~50 years of the Republic), Clone War (the timeline between Episode II & III), Empire (until about Episode IV), Rebellion (IV-VI), and New Republic. I have mixed personal reviews of a lot of the post-Empire novelizations, so I don't care to go beyond that even though it is all "canon". What the kids wanted was to be "Jedi". What we wanted was an age when Jedi aren't refugees, outcasts, or criminals. I wanted a campaign that didn't focus entirely on combat, war, and battles. That left me working with either Fall of Republic, or New Republic (esp New Jedi Order). Either could work; my joy of political machinations tipped the scales to Fall of Republic.

I set the campaign we have now in 945 ARR (55 BBY), or 23 years prior to the Battle of Naboo (Episode I) and 33 years prior to the Battle of Geonosis (Episode II). Anakin Skywalker has not yet been born. Obi-Wan is a toddler. Qui-Gonn is a Master, but has a different Padawan (Obi-Wan becomes his 3rd). Darth Plagueis is still alive, Sidious is his Apprentice, and Maul has not even been born yet; Palpatine has not been elected Senator yet. Mace Windu just completed his Trials. Many of the "supporting characters" of Episode II and III are young or have not been born yet. Jango Fett has not become Mandalore yet. Thats the era.

What I did was to "cast" the PCs (my 3 kids old enough to play plus my wife) as Younglings or Padawans, but without Masters (and thus no lightsabers, ain't I a stinker). They've all been, for whatever reason, passed over and are almost old enough to get kicked out and sent to the Agri Corps with other "failed" wanna-be Padawans. But not quite. They have one last hope, that of being noticed by a Jedi Knight or Master.

It is 945, the year of the 5th Galactic Games. A lot of other big events happen in the Expanded Universe timeline this year, so I've conveniently woven a bunch of them together into a single storyline. The Trade Federation is at this moment vying in the Senate for a Free Trade Franchise. They're a huge sponsor of the Galactic Games. They're vying for contract to build a new spaceport at Theed on Naboo. Instead of putting the Galactic Games ("Olympics") on a single planet, I've decided to distribute different event types to different planets so all the games can be simultaneous and simulcast on HoloNet to the viewers back home on Coruscant. The aquatics events are on Naboo, hosted by the local government and sponsored by your friends the Trade Federation. Much of this arranged behind the scenes by an up-and-coming able bureaucrat and administrator, a Senate Prefect (senior aide to Senator Vidar Kim of Naboo) named ... Palpatine.

Amwise needs a T-shirt

Somehow I think this would be incredibly appropriate for Matt:

Welcome to the Campaign

As we are at this point welcoming a new player and new character to the group, I thought it prudent to summarize the party with some character bios of my own.

Mal: Malasion Attukha. Tall, thin, wiry, dark haired human academic. Youngest son of the house of a Merchant Prince in his homeland. His smooth, uncallused, inksmudged hands and the way that his thin rapier ride on his hip suggest that he has little practical experience in swordplay and much better educated than is probably prudent. He is "not subtle" like a three-bean-nacho fart in church.

Demeyo: Tall, lanky, woodsy half-elf archer-ranger (technically, he's called a "dabbler"). He's the Legolas of the group. If Legolas was a Ninja, he would be Demeyo. He is a defensive blur with his broadsword in a duel. Skilled tracker.

Winterloin: Tall, beefy, woodsy, half-elf warrior-ranger. He's the Aragorn of the group. I think he has a bow, but he is more lethal with his big "fat bastard" sword. Bears a title of lesser nobility. Skilled tracker.

Sigrin Ironfist: He's a dwarf. Seen Gimli? Seen 'em all. He is an accomplished blacksmith and weaponsmith who is nearly as well skilled with wielding his hammer in melee as he is at bleeding profusely without complaint. I think its fair to say he's stoic. He doesn't swim; not that he can't swim, but he bleeds so much that he attracts sharks.

Elise: female halfling scout. Cute little fireplug. Totally mute. No tongue. Don't ask. Seamstress, mapmaker, artist, tracker, and deadeye sniper with a sling. Do not cross her at less than 30 feet, and if you close to melee range expect to be bludgeoned to death with her martial arts expertise.

Amwise: male halfling scout. Annoying little cuss. Prone to leap into dangerous situations well beyond his ability level and require full scale rescue. But he's a good stealthy scouty thiefy type who really only gets in trouble due to his own impulsiveness. Ambidextrous dagger flinger and knee stabber.

Reuben: Farmer John in a cassock. He's a priest of the God of the Harvest, the Vicar of Nutrisystem, the Potentate of Protein Powder, the great provider of the vast majority of our meals in the wilderness whether we like it or not. And we're grateful, no doubt, because starvation sucks. When he isn't busy healing or feeding us, or summoning a lesser daemon to do his bidding, sometimes he swings his big axe halberd. Also a skilled tracker.

The Dungeon Master #4: The Blind Date

Never bring your Dungeon Master with you on a blind date.

The Wizard of Bling

A possible new archetype for me:

1025 Things Not To Do in a RPG

I'm in violation of:
367. No using excessive firepower to force the plot along.
396. I will refrain from using wildly inaccurate high explosive weapons in close quarters.
416. I will not substitute accuracy with enthusiasm.
608. The answer to 'who's got point?' is not the fireball.
718. Warnings given retroactively in battle aren't appreciated.
794. Pregen characters do not have cutesy nicknames, even if their real names are pretty lame.
902. Can't set the bad guy on fire until after I've blown the persuasion roll.
907. Can't use my attack bonus as a substitute for the skill: Hibachi Chef.

Multiple violations for Reuben:
602. Find Familiar scrolls are not a substitute for the hunting skill.

Something for us to keep in mind for the future:
709. Any plan is vetoed if it was obviously inspired by Boromir.
1143. Torching the forest doesn’t get me any XP for anything inside the forest.
1151. Our mission is to rescue the princess. Not to bring Sexy back.
1215. If I’m just a few XP from 16th level, I can’t just cast fireballs at random forests until I hit something.

Dagobert might consider:
788. "You take the scary one" is not our default battle strategy.
985. Even if it isn't in the rules, I have to use the same scale miniature as everybody else.
986. I cannot switch miniatures between each combat.

I should consider violating this:
821. My sorcerer will not take a level in druid just to make it easier to get to the flammable stuff.

I did not know this:
885. Halflings do not store food in their cheeks for winter.
1138. Fireballs don’t have a non-lethal option. I will ponder this after I’ve cast one at that guy we needed alive.

My personal favorite:
1281. The two primary types of Halfling are not flathead and Phillips.

And another thing not to do in a RPG:

Vol 2 Issue 6: 28 Mar 2009

So much for storming the castle.

These guys are really quite annoying, and perhaps even a bit out of our league. Which is fine, as long as we don't insist on tangling with them directly on their own terms.

Here we are camped some distance outside of the castle, minding our own business, making plans for some over-the-wall direct raid complete with misdirection and obfuscation geared towards maximizing the dismemberment and punishment that could be inflicted BY us ON them when the inhabitants have the gall to call for reinforcements. Which wouldn't be nearly so troubling if it weren't for the fact that they were able to get their reinforcements via teleportation.

Decent high-level magic teleportation. Something akin to the 30th level Essence spell from Lofty Bridges called Mass Teleport. Not necessarily that one, could have been something else.

So here we're getting ready to attack when WOOP WOOP WOOP WOOP magic alert, can't miss this one, someone whipping up a huge pile of Essence power and some 30 minutes later the gates start opening and out pour 3 boatloads of bad guys.

So we could have tried to meet them at the beaches. Except that we know that the beaches are still within spell and bow range of the walls, so unless we're willing to let them drop off a boat load and then send the boat back for more while we ambush some folks in the woods we're out of luck. And we're too cautious for that.

So we run like heck.

Actually its more of a case of Reuben pointing in a direction and saying "you go that way, don't stop, I'll find you later" and me taking off on foot with Elise and Master Dwarf for company. He has a name. Does anyone know the Dwarf's name?

Eventually he catches up with me, us, whatever, and I can fill in some backstory and make some approximations. Big spell cast, and then a bunch of guys come flooding out of the castle. They must have called for reinforcements, it smells like teleportation. Headcount is 24 guys chasing after us in two groups, but still full ranks of defenders at the castle (8 before, still 8 now), so presumably around 24 people summoned/teleported in. The 3 wizardly types are part of the chase party, but they were never really part of the castle wall defenders anyways, so a low end of 20-21 helpers summoned/teleported. They're broken into two packs, the big one goes east and the small one goes west. Pursuing the westerly group also has us heading closer to home, so we pursue and chase down the westerly group.

After a brief skirmish, Demeyo managed to drop the small group's wizardly-type with arrows after keeping him occupied for a while. Good job. Perfect timing. Just when the poor boy dropped, I was right there to light a little Shock Bolt through his central nervous system and ensure that he'd be down for the count for a while.

It felt just like playing Pikachu in Super Smash Brothers: just when Link gets finished plinking someone at range, I show up with Pikachu and unleash THUNDERBOLT! Pika-Pika-Pika-CHU!

Enough about that. Just as the main body of our group managed to engage this little knot of baddies, they broke and fled. Pansies. Left for dead their wizzzard and one of their archers. Who turned out to really be dead. Or at least unsalvagable. Unlike the wizzzard, who was salvagable by Reuben's standards and therefore we (meaning "everyone but me") had to help drag this comatose body through the woods for what seemed like a few hundred leagues of day-and-night forced marching to get back to the lake and the signal tower.

At which point it became obvious that we'd been pursued.

That left us with a brief skirmish on the beach as we waited for our pickup to get close enough to shore that I could shuttle everyone to safety with Flight spells. Meanwhile Demeyo discovered that the wizzzard had regained consciousness, could still cast Ice Bolt, was still a threat, and needed desperately to be bludgeoned back into a coma. Which he obliged.

So, back to Laketown and a report to the Margrave and his officers. We're now confirmed to be dealing with the Dread Lords, who are apparantly somewhat scarier than the Dread Pirate Roberts.

Vol 2 Issue 5: 21 Feb 2009

Shipwrecked... up the river without a paddle... burned out on boating... that pretty much described the situation. Our boat was a total loss, as well as everything we'd left with it. No sense dragging everything we have up the hill to camp, right? So most of it was left behind with the boat. To burn. Nice barbeque.

But we did have some decent tracks heading downriver a ways: a trail to follow.

But it quickly disappeared. We followed our tormenters downriver for maybe a mile or three and then the trail just abruptly went poof. It was as if they just disappeared directly into the river. No clue where they actually went. Flying? Sailing? Swimming? Shapechanging? Its anyone's guess. So we continued in the same direction, downriver, on the logic that either we run into something or we hit the coast and continue with our primary mission. Either one would be good.

Several days trudging downriver. Along the way we find an awesome stretch of shallows that would make a good ford. But no tracks or trails. Until we're at least half a week downriver, and then Demeyo spots it: a weedy little trail heading due south away from the river and into the underbrush. A real "what the frack" moment for us. Naturally, we followed it.

Due south into the rolling hills and woods, mile after mile, the trail gets wider and more recognisable until it is clear we're on an obvious well-travelled path. When did that happen? Dunno, but lets get off it. We decided to dogleg out a few hundred yards to the southeast and then try to parallel the direction the trail seemed to head in before doglegging back to the southwest to maybe intersect it. Seemed like a bright idea, and nobody was keen on marching along blisfully unaware on a blazed trail that could be well travelled by individuals we'd prefer to encounter on our own terms.

But our new path offered us a new vantage into the woods, and up ahead in the distance we saw a shimmering light. No, wrong song. It was a thin wispy trail of smoke up into the sky, miles off, that just happened to catch the light or the shadow or something because almost all of us saw it. Now we had something to walk towards! Trudging through the underbrush, trying to close on this wisp of smoke in the distance, we ended up crossing a trail (perhaps the same one as before) obliquely. Lack of compass, GPS, and satnav really makes it tough to guesstimate this stuff.

Suddenly! The woods... DISAPPEARED! We entered... a clearing. We entered a dimension of sight and sound. A clearing, around a lake, with an island, and a castle filling 99.99% of the island right down to the water, and SMOKE coming from somewhere inside of the castle.

One wispy trail of smoke. For a decent sized castle.

I'm really not sure how we got talked into this, but for some odd reason our first reaction was to assume that the inhabitants would be friendly, receptive, habla ingles, and have hot food. So Reuben stood on the shore and waved his arms to get their attention. Demeyo disappeared around this time to do some swimming with a water-breathing spell.

For his efforts, they shot arrows at him and tried to turn him into a shish-kebob. I don't think he was amused. Then we heard drums, drums, drums from deep in the castle. Or maybe it was a horn. Yeah, I'm sure it was a horn not drums. The gate, a portcullis right down on the waterline, opened and a barge started heading out. Meanwhile we're hiding in the woods like rabbits.

Maybe this is all a big misunderstanding. Surely diplomacy and reason can rule!

We waited. The barge-people used magic to create a huge thick rolling fog. The barge got closer. The mist expanded. We retreated out of the mist, stood around, Reuben and I both buffed some defensive spells on me, and I tried to diplomatically explain that we came in peace.

LUUUCY! Youse gots some esplainin' to do!

I don't think my efforts were well recieved. I think we stumbled into the same back of idiots that torched the boat and tried to cripple Freddy. Come to think of it, did we ever head Freddy from last time? I think we just put him in my pack with some food and asked him to heal naturally. Just concussion damage, right?

It ended up a crazy fight in the woods. Piecing it together from after action reports we were on a north-south trail facing northwards, roughly, give or take a few points of of the compass, towards the lake. Our assailants disembarked from their barge and circled to attack us from the east out of the woods. There were 4 of them, described in hindsight as 2 mages and 2 warriors. Well, 2 who fought primarily with spells and 2 who fought primarily with melee. I never saw more than 1 warrior and 1 mage, maybe 2. Hard to tell.

It was a rough fight, but not too bad. Winterlion was really carving up one of the warriors with his eversharp ginsu bastard sword. I got started on a bit of a wizards' duel with one of the mages, but then abruptly they broke off the fight and ran like scared little children. Thats a tactic I wish we'd have used more often in the past.

While Reuben was busy chasing them down through the woods, I spent about a minute repetetively casting 'Dispe Essence" with no effect. Until finally, I dispelled the fog. Woot! But just as I dispelled the fog, Reuben had bluffed his way onto the boat as everyone was escaping and had fooled them, at least temporarily, as accepting him as a crewman. He was busy infiltrating like a spy when my dispel ruined his cover. Sorry, Reuben. Didn't know. That looked to get ugly. I tried to fireball the boat, but couldn't heft the range and the spell fizzled. I tried to cover his escape with a firewall, but again I couldn't heft the range and had to cancel the spell mid-cast. It was a bad day to be a fire elementalist. Demeyo was able to rescue Reuben because his waterbreathing spell was still in effect. Pretty cool stuff.

Night, we camped. Elise & Demeyo went back to scout a bit. Matt the Knife had swam to the castle earlier and was holed up outside of the wall. The three of them had a little side adventure with some scouting, and returned with some bleeding. Matt apparantly almost died, but this all happened while I was supposedly on watch back at camp and I didn't even catch a whiff of them leaving.

So I'm thinking now as we ponder attacking these people...

We're linking the attack back at the hillfort and this attack on the basis of:
1. the signal flare spell
2. the icebolts

Is there a link between these fellows and the necromancer(s) who made the zombies we fought? Is there a link between these fellows and the demonologists who formed that ritual and sent 21 disguised demons into the Margrave's court? Are all three incidents from the same source? They don't have to be.

Obviously this crowd is attracted to spellcasting. We attracted their attention at the hillfort by our magic, we attracted their attention outside their castle with our magic, the demon summoning or the zombifying could also have attracted their attention. That seems pretty obvious. So we could be dealing with 2-3 seperate groups. Or this might be all the same group.

As we broke off last time we were starting to formulate an awesome master plan for an assault on this keep. But I can't help but think that maybe, just maybe, this is all one group. They can do some direct damage elemental spells, we've seen zombies, and we've seen demon summoning. Could we be walking into a viper-pit of all three inside the castle? We have a rough count of 11-12 defenders. Living defenders. Thats all we've seen, and the one wispy smoke trail from a cookfire or kitchen seems consistent with that. A dozen defenders. But what about defenders that don't eat, like undead or demons? What else could we be getting ourselves in for.

Maybe instead what we need is a plan to lure them out in the open, away from the keep, and then go back into the keep to find the demons and zombies.

Vol 2 Issue 4: 10 Jan 2009

Last session ended with another mid-adventure cliff-hanger. That seems like a good pattern for us.

We had located the longship we were sent to find (sunk/beached/scuttled), and located the captain (dead/drained). We had accounted for 30 of the original 30 crew: 9 zombies at the wreck, and 21 lovingly arrayed corpses drained of their blood lined up in a field. We'd determine that, yes indeed, the crop circle was a magic ritual and that "three individuals" were responsible for this tragedy.

But since then Reuben and Mal had both levelled, so with better skills we went back the next day to re-examine.

Back up at the clearing Reuben made another attempt at divination to try to figure out what had happened, and this time had an amazing vision of the past. He saw the "three individuals" create a powerful magic circle and use a powerful magic ritual to summon demons from beyond this world and then pact with them, powering the spell or the pact with blood from the victims, and using the blood of the 21 victims to True Change the demons into the exact forms of the dead crew. The vision ended, but not after leaving Reuben with the distinct impression that all of this took time. A lot of time. We had a pretty good idea where to go next. Hopefully we would be "in the nick of time".

Back to our boat, rowing upriver like mad, back to the lake, locate the signal tower, light the fire, signal the nearest island, wait for pickup. Then we learn that, amazingly, the "missing crew" had been picked up just days before and were on their way back to Laketown to see the Margrave. We had to intercept them! We had to stop them! We got the captain of the longship picking us up to give us the direct flight home instead of dropping us off to wait for the next transfer. His crew rowed through the night to get us there, but as we arrived at the docks we learned that we were close behind the "missing crew" and that they had left to walk up to the castle to report to the Margrave. We ran.

We didn't detour to report anywhere else. Direct to the throne room. As we entered, the Margrave was holding a court reception for the "missing crew". Reuben unveiled the plot, screaming about spies and assassins. I tried to make a better explanation for the crowd, using my puissant linguistic and public speaking skills, just as Matt the Knife spotted one of the "missing crew" and let loose with one of his flying poisoned daggers. Which almost missed. But the effect was just the same: a battle royale.

Three lead demons were almost to the Margrave as this began, but their surprise attack had been superceded by Reuben crashing the party. Now we were in for a fight with 21 demons of various types. But on our side at least were some helpers: Guards, civilians, other nobles, and the Margrave.

Reuben rushed to the Margrave to summon a demon of his own to protect him. I sprinted to the Margrave to help protect him as best as I could. Matt and Elise became a firebase in the middle of the room laying down a hail of lethal shooting and thinning the demon herd. Winterlion was initially a little distracted, perhaps titillated, by a guard, but made good use of his sword against demons. Demilo rushed up to attack the demons attacking the Margrave's guards, and I lost sight of what effect he was having on the combat.

The three demons attacking the Margrave and his guards were exceedingly tough. In the aftermath, we determined that there must have been at least 3 varieties of demons and the lead 3 were either a more advanced type or a very tough "named" type of demon. They fought like Trolls, in my estimation.

I buffed the Margrave with a Blur, helping him in his single combat with the chief demon, and then flashed out with a forked firebolt which only lightly scorched the demons. The spell was great, the bolts were awesome, but the demons have especially tough defenses. Perhaps Fire Law was the wrong tool to use against them. I held back, preparing to influence the melee by magically blocking or deflecting attacks from my allies, when suddenly one of the guards had been eviscerated into a fine mist of blood and organ tissue. Steeling myself for another round of bloodletting like what I suffered at the hands of the Fellbeast, I was ready when the same demon charged at me to defend myself with a Bladeturn and knocked his attack harmlessly aside. That gave me the moment of opportunity to sieze the Margrave by the armpits and fly away from the melee.

After flying the Margrave to safety outside of the throne room, I returned to discover that at least one of the demons had chased me up the hall to try to catch me and had been intercepted in the middle of the room. Reuben, or his demon, or perhaps the guards fighting alongside Reuben, had dispatched another demon and several of the local nobles were fighting a third. This last demon was battling Elise, Matt, Winterlion, and the guard which had so seductively distracted Winterlion earlier.

I observed the melee while preparing a spell, and then consumed the demon in a pillar of fire which left it as a pile of ash on the floor and everyone else unscathed. I believe that I had previously weakened this demon with an earlier forked firebolt.

In an intermission after the battle, we regrouped and re-armed at the Margrave's expense. Superior quality weapons were at our access should we need them and several of our number exchanged pieces of gear for High Steel equivilants. Though they had none for me in their armory, I was able to use my existing rapier as a model for the Margrave's smiths to fashion me a replacement out of High Steel. After about two weeks we left and returned promptly to the shipwreck and clearing where we left off our search and exploration.

Back at the clearing, not much else was available to be learned. The bodies of the crew had been burned to ash, or had vanished to ash. Something like that. We're not sure. Hypothesis: the True Change on the demons was linked to the bodies. When the demons died the bodies were consumed. Guessing: we could have burned or destroyed the bodies when we were here earlier and either unmasked the demons (likely) or banished them (unlikely).

We went to the fort hill. Not much of a fort. Just a hill, flat on top with a rim ringed with a dirt-and-rock hill. Magicking the rocks discovered that some of the stone on the hill had been worked thousands of years ago, suggesting that this hill has been used as a watch/guard hill for a very long time. Or that there was once in ancient history a watchtower here which was completely rubbled and that we're looking at fragments of the original rubble.

That night: Demilo saw a light out in the distance over by the wreck about a mile away.

Next day: Search over by the wreck, nothing learned. Searching the longship again, we determined that the hull was holed from the outside by a strike at about the waterline. The bow was pointed downstream, the hull was holed from the port, and the longship subsequently beached aground on the port forequarter in several feet of water near the bank of the river listing dangerously to port and filling with water nearly to the deck. We could divine no further clues, although Mal's divination of the future suggested that we were safe here for another 12 hours. That turned out to be extremely accurate.

That night: Reuben saw a flare shoot up into the air, fired near the foot of the cliff. We awoke and rallied. Freddy went off under my control to investigate, and was promptly Ice Bolted. Rectum, damn near killed um! Turns out this was just a distraction for someone else to use to set fire to our boat.

So here we sit, a couple days downriver without a boat. Burned up with most of our supplies and all of the heavier gear that we wouldn't want to carry with us on foot anyways.

New plan: find those rat bastards and make a canoe out of their skins.

Vol 2 Issue 3: 20 Dec 2008

Wrapping up the cliffhanger from the previous session ...

It was a dark and dreary night as we trudged back into the courtyard of the ruined castle, laden with our gear and burdens of the day. Reuben and myself, Malasion Attukha, we both still under the ill effects of the earlier black mold spore exposure. Master Dwarf and Winterlion were bringing up the rear of the line with the last of the gear.

Suddenly the night was pierced by a eardrum-splitting shriek as a fell winged beast swooped down at us!

This is why Wizards wear brown pants. Demilo took the brunt of the first attack but dove or rolled out of the way and then struck off to safety in the central keep. Lucky him. The rest of us were left in the Courtyard by Marriot dealing with the foul valet. Reuben and quickly Master Dwarf found themselves alone in the middle of the courtyard. I think it it may have been Matt the Knife who came up with this bit of genius: hide along the walls. I would have much prefered this alternative bit of genius: hide in the tower with Demilo. But alas, I was still pondering the fleetness of my own mortality. Reuben managed a quick blast of projected light that temporarily blinded or stunned the beast and gave us a moment to seek shelter.

Quickly we were all, myself included, along the inside of the wall waiting for another swooping attack. The next attack caught us all off guard again and nearly skewered me outright. I barely had time to summon some elemental fire and incinerate the beast before it was on me again, head ablaze and thickened hide blistering. I'm told that thanks for driving off the beast go largely to our Master Dwarf, while thanks for my resuscitation go to Reuben.

Afterward resting and recovering we took some time to explore the vacant and uninteresting upper levels of the keep. At the top we found the beast's lair and droppings. Elise set a masterful snare trap for the beast and we monitored the trap for two days before giving up on it. I took the liberty of this time to personally and mystically examine the crown we had recovered, satisfying myself that it is either mundane and nonmagical, or if magical then latent and not usable except by someone so much more powerful than myself that adding a "crown" to his/her arsenal doesn't increase the threat to us. We marched back to the beach so that we would be sure to catch our scheduled ride.

At the dawn of the day we'd arranged for pick up, we were surprised to see rowing out of the mist a longship bearing the Margrave's flag instead of a couple of dingys with fisherman crews. Reuben took off to hide in the bushes, but much to our weary eyes who should appear but Don Jose himself, the Sicilian Mafioso who hired us for this job in the first place. Odd of him to come all the way out here for us, but it turns out that this whole "crown" escapade was merely some pre-planned test preparatory to a more permenant hire offer.

We're now commissioned as "Wardens of the March", or in honor of our last escapade I prefer "Wardens of the Marsh".

Our first mission:

The Margrave sends annually an armed longship out all the way to the coast to check that the way is still clear and to see if the mists at the coast have receeded. That ship was sent out about a month ago on what should have been a one week (maybe 10 days tops) roundtrip and has not returned. The captain had the leeway that if the mists had receeded he could explore a little further, perhaps to see where the mists had receeded to, but still should have returned long ago.

Seek. Find. Rescue. Return. Report.

Did I mention that as Wardens we get no salary or stipend? No income? I didn't mention that? Well it is true. We can, on the other hand, draw upon the Margrave and his nobles for supplies as needed. For this trip we didn't ask for much more than food and a 8-man longboat. I don't think we're taking sufficient advantage of this situation. Next time I'm going to get some new clothes tailored for me and see if we can get some better kit for some folks. A high steel rapier would be nice if I ever got myself in a situation where I needed to defend myself physically on the basis of my own skill and defensive magics.

It was about a day by longship from the Margrave's island to the outlet river, and from there it should be maybe 3-4 days to the coast. Perhaps longer since we'll be more drifting with current than rowing steadily.

After a couple days we found a nice hilltop keep on the south side of the river. We left it unexplored. A couple hours later we found the wreck of the ship we were looking for. We rowed back upriver, crossed to the north bank, disembarked, and walked up on the wreck to examine it.

Zombies. The crew had been zombified.

So after the zombies (score 2 for Reuben's magic and 2 for my magic, 2 ran away, and 3 were bludgeoned to death) we crossed back to the south and rested the night before exploring further. Took about half a day, but we found where the rest of the crew had been taken. We knew of 30 crew on the longship. We fought 9 as zombies. The other 21, including the captain? All executed, throats slit, lined up execution style, and bled out with nary a drop spilling to the ground. Reuben's magic divined this to be the work of three individuals working as a team. My magic determined that the nearby crop circle was indeed a magic circle powered for ritual purposes. We're picking up a trail that is almost a month old at this point, so clues were sparse and magic dispersed over time. Further examination may be possible, and the Weathertop on the other side of the river may yield more clues.

Vol 2 Issue 2: 29 Nov 2008

Yeah, what DID we get ourselves into? Well at the start it seemed like it was a good idea at the time.

Who am I kidding? Everyone had misgivings about the job from the start but we let Reuben get us all hired. It seemed kinda easy.

Back it up a bit.

Matt the Knife, short little troubleseeker that he is, sniffed out some local that told him that he needs to visit the "southern marshes" to find some special plant. Supposed to be some cash in recovering this plant. So he spent most of his waking hours down by the docks interviewing sailors and trolling for seamen.

Then Reuben decided that he wanted to hang up a shingle in town. Not like AD&D days where you had to hit "name level" to be able to open your own church. But I don't think that I'd be so generous as to call Reuben's first attempt a "church". More like he rented an arctic entryway from someone who didn't need the side entrance to their shop, giving him a space about the size of your average confessional booth to work his priestcraft. Price was cheap. Since we'd already dropped coin on a month's lodging at the inn we did the same (5 weeks) for Reuben's venture as an "investment". Maybe it'll pay off some day.

Maybe we should have drawn up a contract.

An investment much more likely to pay off: a new better bow for Demilo.

Everything was going smooth until Reuben got a "social call" from the "representative" of the local variant of the Sicilian Mafia. The Don had an offer for us, an offer we couldn't refuse. An offer to take a large cash settlement in exchange for services not yet rendered. Services that would be rendered by sailing to the "southern marsh", seeking out an ancient castle, poking around past some unspoken danger, and recovering a crown.

Well, we didn't get all of that up front. We didn't get most of the information until we said we'd take the job. Then by the time we found out that we're out to recover the Crown of Mastery it was too late to say no. Not without incuring the Wrath of Don.

We figured at this point that we knew just enough about the job to be worth killing, but not enough to be worth sending someone who would do a good job of killing us. Thus earning ourselves a bounty of being hunted "to the pain". We couldn't even reasonably return the cash advance without incuring the Wrath of Don.

So we took the job.

I had a scheme to find some local mercantile house or trader with access to a ship and get in with them. Eventually, of course, I'd like to establish trade between the north and this benighted little deep south suburb. But it turns out that the government style down here is totally fascist and dictatorial. We figured out, through some combination of sociology and scatology, that the local population must have been whittled down to next to maybe a handful of families with only the strongest (not necessarily the largest) and most tightly organized group surviving. So they probably have the genetic diversity of the cheetah, having incurred a sharp bottleneck some 50 generations ago and slowly built up population from there.

Oh, my scheme didn't work.

Reuben did his best impersonation of an ignorant foreigner who wanted to go hunting. He does a good impersonation of a big ignorant foreigner. It bought us a boat ride to the bayou of the deep south. A little Creedence was playing in the background. Or was that banjo music?

At this point were were well stocked up with stuff that I/we (mostly me) thought that we'd need to brave the wilderness again. I bought new clothes, two sets and boots, for everyone. Plus: hard tack rations for a couple weeks each, hammocks to serve double as ponchos and tarps, new packs as needed, a set of 10' poles, rope, climbing gear, a grappling hook, pitons, iron spikes, and a looong list of sundry items. We had our bargeboys drop us off in the deep south, wave goodbye, and we started trekking inland.

The majority of the gear was strung up on a travois and lugged around like a body on a litter. I can only guess that Winterloin must have been helping Reuben do the heavy lifting while Demilo probed ahead on the path as we made our way through the swamp. I'm certain that everyone was wet, cold, buggy, muddy, and had blisters from brand new boots by the time we found a spot of high-and-dry to camp for the night. The next day we set off again and found a decrepit ruined rundown broken castle. Did I mention that it was old? It was so old that the moat had filled with sediment. It was so old that it looked like a big green ivy infestation.

Did I mention that we'd heard some big screaming thing in the night? Yeah, we forgot about it too.

Fast forward, to the "castle". I use the term loosely. Upstairs or downstairs? Downstairs. Hall or down again? Hall. Door? Open it, choke us all on some toxic mold, and thus started a venture into Dave's Tomb of Horrors (Lite). After the toxic mold deathtrap, we discovered the "darkness spell" trigger on a door leading to a 20' spiked pittrap. Swag. Fortunately nobody fell in. All the way. Then there was the room of poisoned dart traps leading to a fake door and a dead end. There was the stairs leading down that turned into a slick ramp leading to another 20' spiked pittrap. No swag. No casualties. Did I miss something along the way? Eventually we came to a room with writing carefully engraved into the wall and then furiously chiselled out. A big puzzle. We worked the puzzle for a while, and then eventually checked gamespot for some clues before solving it. We had the wordsmith part of the puzzle almost solved and I was just about to drag out my laptop and whip up a grep dictionary attack to solve the puzzle when Joe coughed up a solution that fit. We ran with it, and everything else pretty much fell into place after that. With no further casualty or danger, we recovered the Crown of Mastery.

Okay, whats a Crown of Mastery?

I'd love to tell you. Reuben stuffed it in a bag and crammed it in his backpack before I could try to attune it and figure it out.

But if I had to guess, the Crown has something to do with us getting out if this place alive. Thats what would happen in a Robert Jordan novel. We'd have to use the crown to get past the dragon to escape. But if this was in a Lovecraft novel, we'd use the crown and summon a Deep One and we'd all go crazy and die. But then it wouldn't matter what we'd do, because in a Lovecraft novel everyone goes crazy and a Deep One gets summoned and everyone dies. So if we have a hope of survival, it is that Dave reads more Jordan than Lovecraft.

Did I mention a dragon?

Big, flying, screaming, not breathing fire on us. Yet. Nobody has taken the time to count limbs. Maybe its a big wyvern. Or a cockatrice. Or a manticore. Or Reuben's daemon that I "dispelled" when I cancelled that magical darkness.

Yeah, thats why its important for everyone to be there on the 20th.

Vol 2 Issue 1: 11 Oct 2008

I'm happy with city adventures. But I think we can step up the challenge level to be on par with what we're capable of. We're capable of a lot more than we accomplished last session. Perhaps some of the day-to-day life can be accomplished as admin time and summarized. We don't have to rush out to the wilderness right away.

We're not broke. I pooled the cash together that we've discovered and what people have given me for the "pool" and we have over 23 gold. We can live well for quite a while, and with a few of the group able to pull in some regular income to supplement this we can go even longer. So I think it would be fair to be able to admin past some of this. Assume we spend a month, and we don't need to detail every day. Instead, Dave can deal with generalities and feed us useful info.

Elise isn't the only one with a bunch of skills that can be best utilized in an urban environment. Mal also. Likely, everyone. But they might be dealt with online, adminned, or retconned.

Up until now we've been dealing with wilderness, orcs, and that tunnel complex. I don't think I was prepared to change gears suddenly to dealing with previously unknown civilization and their capital city that rivals the size and population of my home city.

I think it is fair to assume that we're going to stay in/around the city until at least late spring. It will likely be 2-3 months before we could even risk passage back north if we wanted to. It will likely be another month before snow melts enough in the lowlands that we'll want to do much outdoor travel. So I think the safest course is to just write off 1.5 silver per day for 30 days (4.5 gold) for living expenses, let Dave tell us how much income our efforts are worth, and go retcon some admin time. I'll be prepared for our next session with a shopping list of my own.

I know one way I've dealt with city interludes in games I've managed has been as above. Dock some cash, advance the calendar, and assume that everyone had adequate time to do X/Y/Z activities. Maybe roll a few dice, and then WHAMMO hey guys wake up THIS happens which is the hook into a new adventure path. Which sometimes gets ignored by the players despite the flashing neon signs, or sometimes running away from the flashing neon signs.

Another way I've handled things is to have people explain the things they want to accomplish during this city interlude: find a master, train a new skill, buy something, make something, whatever it may be. Some of those things may take a character "out of action" for a day/week/month. Conduct some RP of activities that happen while those players are temporarily out of action, and then bring everyone back together. Lumps of time along the way can still be accelerated for the sake of keeping the players engaged.

Certainly we can follow the day-by-day blow-by-blow as it pans out. Thats another option. There is a lot more detail that can be experienced in that fashion. Thats definitely a strength.

I guess a lot of it boils down to what Dave, as the gamemaster, expects of this. Our few previous city experiences have been interludes between wilderness campaigns. I got the impression that Dave didn't have a lot of fine detail fleshed out for this city (names, for example). But maybe that was just due to having the wrong map/notes in front of him.

I'm game for making the most of this city interlude. But I would like to "up" the challenge level a bit. Not necessarily through combat. Maybe in other ways. Perhaps we can develop some contacts and relationships within polite society here.

Recapping this episode of our adventures in the wide wide world of Rolemaster...

It has been easily 6 months since we've last seen civilization, that being the seedy little wannabe-Skagway of a port city on the north end of this the "South Continent". It needs a better name. Old Continent? Something to think about. But in that time we've managed to trek thousands of leagues overland, get lost in some caves, and eventually get a pretty good grip on mapping out an ancient underground Dwarf city complex. Not all of it, but a pretty darn good chunk of it.

Still the dead of winter, locked in the fart tunnels with our fart sacks. And each other. And a few thousand greenskinned rednecks. Nothing could be finer.

Well, maybe a few things.

Its time that Freddy speaks up.

Gather around, my little grandkits, and listen to this. There I was: it was pretty intense in the deep underground with the Twolegs and my Master. It had been months since I'd seen fresh food. Rats? Mice? None to be found. I had resigned to living off of scraps from the Twolegs, and my Master was pretty good about getting me fed. But it was like rat food: crowbait, cooked, and no freshkill to eat. They didn't know if it was day or night while we were sleeping in the tunnels, but my keen timesense told me that it was High Noon outside and time for all good little Stoats and Weaselkin to be fast asleep with the Bright Eye burning overhead. But we were so far underground that not even a hint of its fire could be felt unless my Master chanted it to be so.

I heard a distant noise, getting closer, but none would awaken from their sleep. We were in a narrow tunnel, damp walled and musty, near a place where my Master and his Twolegs companions had fought a great battle against the smelly Twolegs. I heard sounds of banging and clanging, and soon so did my Master's companions. I woke him from his meditations, I tell you I did, and this my grandkits you must be very careful about because Twolegs don't like to be awakened by Weaselkin or Stoats. Soon they were rushing about in the dark and my Master, the fire-handed one, put me on the back of the shortest of the Twolegs.

Well, that didn't last long. The little one was unstable on his feet, always falling and rolling, and trying to get himself killed. When he opened a portal to find out what had woken them from their rest, there was a great battle in the cavernroom beyond. Many of the rank and smelly Twolegs were fighting many other Twolegs that I'd never seen before, using sticks to cast other sticks through the air and smashing each other with wood and metal. No honorable tooth or claw. Did I tell you about the time that I fought off spiders the size of cougars from eating my Master? No? I'll tell you about that later. First, I'm thirsty.

When the Twolegs that were fighting tried to kill the short Twolegs I was riding on, I got off. Let them kill him, but not me. I had a duty to protect my Master and be his eyes in dark places where light might fail him.

We travelled instead up a staircase where we could watch the battle unfold below, but it was chaos. Finally my Master put me on his shoulder and leaped off a high balcony to stop the fighting. Instead of falling like a rock, like a Twolegs normally does when he falls, my Master floated to the ground like a feather and landed as lightly as any Stoat or Weaselkin. I was much impressed, and so were the other Twolegs because they stopped fighting to talk with him. Soon we had won ourselves many new friends, but none of them had any freshkill meat for me to eat.

In recognition of the great service that I had performed in keeping my Master safe, and of his stopping the battle before any other Twolegs were hurt, they took my Master and all his companions to their great stone Twolegs city where there was endless freshkill for me in the form of rats and mice.

And thats how we came to be lodged in Laketown, visiting with the councillors of Bard the Margrave, and plotting how we can make untold fortunes in trade and commerce by opening a route from the Triune Cities to Laketown.

Vol 1 Issue 12: 23 Aug 2008

We're getting a bit more sneaky and perhaps to the outside observer a bit tepid and fight-shy cowardly about encounters but this last weekend it all paid off with undeniable proof of WHY our sneaky ways have been correct. Cowardly? NO! We just don't like flushing fatepoints and blood (ours!) down the drain for no good reason.

We now have a rough outline of the entire underground complex, and I think I can roughly patch some directions to it. From the "village" complex we left last time we found a secret tunnel leading to a watchtower overlook on the SOUTH side of the mountain ridge, and from there a secret tunnel leading to what we've labeled the "Hall of the Mountain King" (aka "Throne Room"). Fancy words, but definately a throne room and definately designed from the get-go for formal audiences, not just retrofitted by Orc junk heaps. From the throne room, a relatively short path to Orc barracks-rooms with sub-100 Orcs each (half-dozen or more rooms, so LOTS of Orcs), and from there a direct shot to a 90-degree ramp and a main entrance/exit (complete with closed gate, guard rooms, and a dozen-plus guards. This exit is to the SOUTH side of the ridge, so I'm tentatively labelling this entire side of the underground complex as SOUTH.

Backtracking from the SOUTH we go through the village and up a mile-long hall to the "Roundabout", this being a circular central hub in the middle of a several-mile-long main thoroughfare hallway, and heading off in the opposite direction out of the Roundabout we find another village (this one thrashed) which I tentatively label NORTH. In the North Village we uncovered a building collapse, recovered a bunch of useful weapons, and reburied a bunch of Dwarf skeletons. Nice work; minimal haul. The North Village edges a little closer to the "chasm" end of the main thoroughfare, now tentatively labelled West End.

The West End, as you may recall, is the chasm end. Which makes it the end where all this underground busines started. The extreme of the West End is where we find the steam vent entrance, the food room, the original underground city complex, barracks rooms, the prison, the classic chasm-full-of-giant-spiders, and Reuben's Love Shack. All that jazz. My theory is that the north-facing front door that we found oh-so-long ago connects out of the West End complex.

Thus it isn't entirely accurate of me to be relating this in terms of cardinal directions. Or maybe it is, but the mountain range isn't purely east-west. The West End entrances are on the north side of the range. From the Roundabout to South Village to the South Lookout we actually seem to go SouthEast and edge closer to the East End of the complex.

The East End is where we found the barricade, and after leaving the Throne Room we fought through a room which appears to connect up to the backside of the Barricade, thus looping South Village all the way around through East End. We'll need to open a set of doors and confirm that this is indeed the link we theorize it to be, and we'll have a pretty solid map.

1. Center the map on the roundabout with the wide long hallway east-west and the narrow hallway north-south.
2. West End is the complex around the Chasm, including the underground city on the water side of the chasm. My theory is that the north-facing gate we discovered from the "outside" is West Gate, exiting into a north-facing canyon.
3. South Village (SouthEast) is the "more intact" one of the two, connecting to South Lookout and to the Throne Room. Throne Room appears to link to East End and the main gate is tentatively labelled East Gate.
4. East End is the barricade end, which we believe connects to the "guard room" and from there to the hallway full of barracks and then to the outside (East Gate). This gate opens to a south-facing canyon.
5. North Village (NorthWest) is the "more thrashed" of the two and is where we picked up vital (albiet "low grade") weaponry.

I'm guesstimating 500 Orcs in the East End barracks, and there was definately barracks space for about half that at the West End barracks. Trolls have only been encountered at the West End and then only on the water side of the chasm. Something to think about. The vast majority of the square footage of this underground complex is toured only by us and dust.

We're going to have to kick it up a notch, folks. We've advanced 4 levels in the last 12 sessions (hit 5th after the 10th session) and at this rate (2500/session) it'll take another 6-7 sessions before we advance another level. We're looking at an XP goldmine with all of these Orcs (500+/-) if we can only figure out a way to cash in (500 kills @ guesstimate 100XP/ea would be 50,000XP and a couple levels). Anyone have any creative ideas? WMD?

I think we need to find a way to lure out, isolate, and eliminate the Shaman Boss. That would be good.

I also think that we almost have the entire East, South, and North sections fully explored but back in the West section is the main city complex that we've totally ignored (except for a brief scouting foray while trying to stage a prison break-out).

The spider webs probably have some nifty treasure.
The spiders might be herded up magically and used against the Orcs.
The webs led to one tunnel. There might be more.
Where are the big spiders? Do they have loot? Are they good for XP?
Main complex: we found a kitchen and a bathhouse; where is the Royal Armory? Where is the Treasury?
Apartment complex: we left this almost totally un-looted.

Here's a thought, and its a crazy one, but we know of TWO ways across the chasm: the prison bridges, and a stone bridge up-chasm from them. Is there a third? Regardless, we're in a good position to permenantly cut the prison connection and clean out the complex on the steam-vent side of the house. This includes the entire main city complex, the underground tunnels, the mining, etc. There could be 100-200 Orcs in all of this if my count of the barracks rooms is any good. But that sets us up with a good base of operations. Somewhere in this region should be a main gate leading to a north-facing valley/canyon BUT BUT BUT we don't know which side of the chasm this gate is on. My guess: its on the steam-vent side of the house. So this might be a bigger mouthful than we can chew all at once.

Vol 1 Issue 11: 19 Jul 2008

Another session accomplished. A lot of little things were accomplished, most of them having to do with resting/healing up and prepping for further exploration in the underground dwarven city. We've explored or mapped a huge swath of territory in the complex, and every time I think we've come to an edge we find something new. This complex is huge. It truly is a city underground, not as first suspected a mining complex with some living spaces nearby. I think we're currently off in the city portion of it, where we find distinct market sections and clanhold neighborhoods. The territory with wild tunnels, at least that we've seen, is but a small fraction of the entire complex.

At this point I think that we can safely center our maps on the large courtyard in the center of the 2-mile by 60-foot corridor underground. In each section of this corridor, called "A Concourse" and "B Concourse" are mercantile districts, with more shops ringing the courtyard. Intersecting this is another corridor running off at perpendiculars, and a mile up one of those is a clanhold area. My expectation is that the corridor to the opposite direction from the courtyard leads to another clanhold. Our suspicion is that the end of the "B Concourse" is the front door entrance complex to the place. We're not ready to break in there yet; it is guarded. Back at the other end of "A Concourse" is the complex around the chasm and the prison cells. This is all on the "door" side of the prison complex (hanging cages) area. This is just the complex on one side of the chasm.

I am considering to label this "west city", giving the arbitrary distinction to the chasm as a dividing line between east and west. This distinction is pure guesswork.

On the other side of the chasm, "east city", is the portion of the complex explored last week, including the "apartments" and "barracks". This includes the underground river region where we wandered and the tunnels where we fought and nearly everyone was captured. I place all of that territory on the same side of the chasm for the simple fact that we never crossed the chasm during our wanderings AND when we finally discovered the "turkish bath" and its connection to the hot springs, we wound up on that side of the chasm. So deep beneath "east city" is the mines where Matt The Knife fought the Orc Miners, and also in that neighborhood is the Smithy that we carefully avoided (thanks to Matt The Knife being locked up safe in prison).

I think we're getting the hang of navigating around this complex. Every turn is still an adventure in itself. My guess is that from the clanholds there ought to be some connection back to the prison guard area (the "torture room", or for Reuben's sake the "love shack"). Ought to; maybe not necessarily is. Also, the clanhold areas are where I'd expect to find lots of family types and craftsmen and worker-bees for the dwarf city, so is there a connection from the dwarfholds to more mines? It seems that the Orc Shaman and his crew reside on this "east city" side of the chasm; I'm convinced we're going to run into them at every turn.

We ended early, preparing to head up a new hallway out of the dwarfholds. I have a bad feeling about this.

Vol 1 Issue 10: 28 Jun 2007

I think that the general consensus is that we got more accomplished in a single game session than ever before, despite the party being divided between several characters in prison and three of us still free and mobile. Kudos to DaveS for keeping it fun and lively while bouncing continually between action in and out of the prison area. There may have been some stretches of boredom for individuals as the action and focus bounced from one area to another, but I think everything went as well or better than could be expected AND I was also impressed with how well we players did (patting myself on the back along with everyone else) in keeping IC and OOC information sorted and straight.

Reuben found a cool way to play with spiders, using his little arachnid friends to surf the web and google up Winterlion's missing gear. Returned: his bastard sword and the magic shield. Shu-weet!

Matt the Knife found a way to scrimshaw up a lockpick set out of the bones in his cage, went walkabout, and thanks to his still severe muscle strain couldn't climb the walls of the prison room and fell to the webs. Unharmed, except for pride, but his fear of spiders is still just as strong as ever. But Reuben's spiders didn't bother him. Much. Often.

Aside from Reuben playing with spiders and meeting the Boss Orc Shaman Dude, the majority of the "action" centered around Elise (Forest), Demilo (Joe) and Malasion (me). We intially split up, after doing all we could to heal up Elise. Elise took off after the orcs who had our companions prisoner, trying to track them to whereever they were being taken. She wasn't very successful, being rather unable to sneak alone through well-lit and well-guarded inhabited areas. But she had the right idea. Turning back to hook up with Demilo and myself, she was overtaken by a Goblin Tracker leading several Orc Warriors after us. Bad scene. She cloaked up and stalked them as they stalked us. Spy-vs-Spy style.

Meanwhile, I'd burned a few of my rapidly diminishing powerpoints to allow Demilo to fly up the chain of the waterwheel. The chain: a big mechanical drive-chain with buckets. Turns out the purpose of the wheel is to drive this chain, which carries buckets of water up above and dumps said water into a pipe or culvert approx 100' above the waterwheel. The water then flows through a series of pipes or tubes or innertubes to a variety of locations. Including a big fountain. Except that the clutch of the waterwheel is broken or siezed, the wheel freewheels and the chain doesn't turn. Why? I'm a Wizard, not an Engineer, Jim. Lets sic Chief Engineer Gerry on the problem some other time. Not now. Anyways, Demilo came back to report that he'd found this dry fountain (remember, no water flowing through this system right now) in an area we later came to call the "apartment level", and it was a good safe rest area.

Long about that time, Elise's tracker group showed up and we gave them fight: three vs six. It was a close thing, near-fought, bloody, and would have been worse except that one-arm Elise is still a dead-eye in the dark with a sling: three shots, three broken necks or exploded skulls. One "Shock Cloud" to control how many Orcs could safely get to melee with Demilo and one of them blasted fatally into the water. Glub, glub, so-long bub. Demilo skewered one with an arrow and another with his sword. Snicker-snack, don't come back. Then up the chain with a little magic fairy dust and a few happy thoughts. I can fly! I can fly! I can fly!

At that point I was tapped with 1/49 powerpoints remaining, so we napped for 6 hrs and proceeded to explore. The apartment level has scores of dwarf-size apartments, all one-room efficiencies, in two different sizes. We didn't bother to search them. From the apartment complex, we came to the main hall. Off the main hall, the smelting room and smithy, actively worked and in use by Orcs. Off the main hall, we found barracks rooms with evidence of Orc use but no Orcs present. We didn't inventory, search, or loot them. We bypassed and pushed on to the REALLY main hall, the central boulevard, which Demilo named "the cafeteria" because it looked like it would be ideally furnished with heaps of big tables like a Great Lord's Hall. Off the "cafeteria", a great kitchen. Back door of the kitchen: caved in hallway. Our theory: this connects to our food storage room.

Continuing to explore off of the cafeteria hall we found indoor auditoriums, and stumbled across another residence area. Inhabited. With Trolls.

We backed off and left them alone.

Huge underground Dwarf city, 80% or more with absolutely ZERO evidence that Orcs have ever been into it. Plus we've already found some cash-like loot.

We eventually came across a hot-spring bathhouse, a turkish bath, with a water inlet tunnel that could be crawled. We crawled. It led us back to ... drumroll ... the great hotspring room that we first found when entering this underground nightmare.

From there it was a hop and a skip, with a pit stop for lunch, to get back to the prison and spring our pals from prison.

Not so fast!

We also had to rescue their junk and devise an airlift of everyone back upstairs, fight the Boss Orc Shaman, flee like little girls attack in a retrograde fashion from the Boss Orc Shaman, and recover as much of our gear as we could carry. Bippity, boppity, back to the food room for a little R&R.

The plan at this point is that we're going to hole up here until spring and then make a move back to civilization. But spring is months and months and months away. So in the meantime, the plan is to establish a cache in the turkish bath and explore the city. The Orcs clearly only make use of a fraction of it. Also on our list of places to go and things to do is back to the mines, again accessing them from the water side. We passed an intermediate room before stumbling into the room being actively mined, and saw less than 25% (my guesstimate) of each. What else to see and find? Lets find out.