Posts by alex

PrinceCon 38 Recap – Overview

Individual GM scenario recaps to follow.

This year, there were a number of interlocking themes:

The Murder Mystery.  The primary “hook” for players was the murder of Julius Augustus Arathorn, the First Citizen.  A successful conclusion to this storyline, which would restore the honor of the Hall of Heroes, involved:

  1. Discovering who murdered Julius.  Was it Scipio?  Lucius?  Arujah (this was a popular name bandied about)?  Arujah in collusion with Sextus?  The culprit was discovered to be Sextus conspiring with his lover Aimale.
  2. How the murder was accomplished.  It was through an ancient ritual that killed an entire bloodline; but first, Sextus and Aimale wanted to destroy Julius’s reputation.  They did this by driving him mad by poisoning the Laurel tree that contributed the leaves to the First Citizen’s crown.
  3. Why Julius was murdered.  It was love!  It says right in the player pack that Sextus would do anything for his Lady.  And you thought he meant Ronkel!
  4. Appointing a new First Citizen.  One by one, candidates were considered and found wanting, with the exception of Scipio.  With a new First Citizen and our greatest general at the head of the military once again, the Republic was ready to stop the Gwhi invasion.

The Gwhi Invasion.  The secondary hook was the destruction of Walpole at the eastern edge of the Republic and the impending threat of the Gwhi.

  1. Why are they attacking?  The Gwhi are attacking because of the destruction of their tutelary spirits (see Thoki followers below).  They have communed with their ancestors and determined Clio to be the source of the problem.

Old City of Troll.  The third hook, hidden from the players at the beginning of the Con, was the Old City of Troll (located below the city of Clio) and its inhabitants.

  1. Ronkel followers.  More than a thousand years ago, at the height of the empire of Troll, the followers of Ronkel despaired at the corruption of the OrcTuskan people of Troll and called upon their goddess to swallow the City whole.  A generations-long war ensued, which the Servants of Death have recently won.  (And would have won more than a century ago, but for all the dead bodies the citizens of Clio provided the followers of Thoki.)
  2. Thoki followers.  Beaten in the war for the UnderCity, the OrcTuskan followers of Thoki, god of Undeath and enemy of Ronkel and Aru, tried to have their revenge, using Eidolinger as their dupe to use the virtual Colosseum and the Slates to entrap and destroy spirits.

    Destruction of tutelary spirits.  Destroying the ancestral spirits of both the Republic and the Gwhi would precipitate a war between Gwhi and the Republic, filling the lichyards with corpses beyond count for animating.

    Samedhi.  The energy of the destroyed spirits both powered the virtual Colosseum and fed a new “master spirit”, the Baron Samedhi.  If his growth was left unchecked, Samedhi would one day challenge Ronkel for mastery of Death.  Even in his weaker state at the end of the con, Samedhi could possess almost any living being and would be a threat to the leadership of the Republic, but was destroyed in a battle in the Nymphidae ghetto.

 

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Save the date for PrinceCon 37, March 16-18, 2012

There was peace in Ockham.

There was peace in Ockham, until the invaders came.  No one knows precisely where they came from, or precisely what they want, but several countries have already been subjugated.  Strangely, there appear to be several sets of invaders, and each has conquered a separate territory.  In one, the invaders possess magic weapons beyond our ken that discharge deadly beams of light; in another, tentacled horrors roam the land and drive the populace mad; in yet another, savagery rules the day.  

Worse, the invaders’ views of the how the world works seems to be contagious.  Priests entering one of the conquered areas renounce their gods; in another, mighty heroes put aside their swords; yet another, even the most refined nobility dresses in rags and is reduced to cannibalism. 

But there is hope: the few who can resist the thrall of the invading Realities are now gathering at Hireling Hall.  Join them on March 16, 2012 at McCosh 50 on Princeton University’s campus to repel this threat!

PrinceCon 37 will be held March 16-18, 2012 on the Princeton University Campus.  Registration begins at 3pm; first runs go out at 5pm.  The Simulation Games Union’s annual convention consists of tabletop roleplaying in a shared world, centered around a common goal. Rules are a variation of the Open-Gaming version (3.5SRD) of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, incorporating many ideas developed over the years by the SGU. Admission is $20, free to Princeton University undergraduates. Certificates are awarded for Strategic, Tactical and Role Playing excellence.

Regular updates on the theme will be posted at the Google group (http://groups.google.com/group/princecon). Also see the website for directions (http://princecon.org/pcon37/).

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Alex’s scenario writeup

Backstory

Part of Malchion’s plan to steal the power of the gods involved magical researches into the nature of the fabric of the multiverse. One of his “labs”, located safely in the Sumerilon hinterlands, maintained his “tether” to the gods during the final stages of his rule. A party from the Champions of the Light arrived on the scene (a Sunday morning run led by Gladys Lamplight and Zerlana) and, during the fight, a dimensional rift opened, through which a hero from another world came to this one. This hero, Muirhead Blattaria, helped to destroy the tether while elsewhere Malchion was being killed (a different Sunday run). Before returning home through the rift, Muirhead came into possession of one of the shards. Ever since the shard began to work its corruption upon him, he has been trying to find his way back to this world, and on my Friday evening run, he finally succeeds.

Run 1 – A Long-Expected Party

The PCs:

  • Jared Lockeson, Human Hero
  • Phage, Fey Mage
  • Pericles, Dwarf Hero
  • Otto Streamswimmer, Perrin Hero
  • Bolan Bloodshadow, Dwarf Cleric
  • Abber Lour, Halfling Mage

In the words of Abber:

“We were sent to Blennam by General Ironhewer to escort Broderick Bracegirdle back to Hireling Hall.  As we were leaving, a young human female archer, claiming to be named Leander, asked to join us.  Interviewing her former party indicated that she was competent, but possibly much older than she appeared. [GM note: this began Phage's run-long obsession with her ears.  It was a little creepy.  :-)]

The first day out, we got to Blennam by stones are started the walk to Blennam Manor.  During the night, we were attacked by a pack of Sumerilon wolves.  They have the ability to cast “Hallucinations”, so precautions should be taken.  We were able to scare them away, but we found a group down the road that was not as lucky.  [GM note: the characters with high will saves were on watch during the shift the Sumerilon wolves decided to attack.  Sigh.  The party also noticed that Leander seemed to see very well in the dark for a human.]

At [Stately] Blennam Manor, Abber talked to Broderick and Allison Searock [a bonus Champion to bring in!].  They were both unwilling to return to Hireling Hall.  The rest of the group was in a waiting room when a mechanical canary played a hologram message of William the Brown-Haired: 

Greetings. I may be — have been — the grandmaster of dirty tricks, but I like to give my own side a sporting chance, and chances are if you’re seeing this, you’re on my side. So, one key to getting past my wards is to take note of the ones who are missing. Don’t accept any wooden nickels. Look for help where it’s unexpected. <to Bolan Bloodshadow> Trust your instincts. The dark is rising, my fellow Champions, and ultimately <points to Leander> we must look to the light to defeat it.

At this point, Leander’s equipment started to glow, which she says has never happened before.  Analyze magic shows that she has several artifacts of the gods.  Further questioning reveals she is one of the Champions of the Light, Asha Half-Elven, and a friend of Broderick’s.

We are going to confront Broderick about his plans for a vacation.  We get to the ballroom and find a human with a sock puppet, leading group of cat warriors.  Two have Sumerilon crossbows, which target the whole room in a cone shaped blast radius.  The fight goes badly with half the party unconscious.  At the point when it looks really bad, a sausage shaped air ship arrives.  Two Sumerilon War Golems crash in, and a man with an iron gauntlet who appears to control them.  He kills the human with the sock puppet and pulls something out of the sock puppet.  He grabs Asha and returns to the flying ship.  Asha yells that Zerlana was right, except that Malchion hasn’t returned.  Muirhead Blattaria has.  Muirhead says he will see us again at Hireling Hall.

We catch up to Broderick after Muirhead left.  He said he had a better chance by running on his own.  He said telling everyone he was dead was a good idea.  We were in no shape to argue.”

GM notes: Phage, the Fey Mage, got my vote for the “With Fey Like These, Who Needs Malchion?” award during this run.  After the party discovered the effectiveness of Sumerilon crossbows the hard way, Phage fled the room to go look for Broderick.  Eventually Phage returned to the battle to find 3 of the other 5 party members bleeding and unconscious on the floor.  He seriously considered turning them invisible, presumably so that he didn’t have to watch them bleed to death.  

Phage was also a candidate for Creative Play: while looking for Broderick, Phage cast a Locate and discovered Broderick was under the manor, but he couldn’t figure out how Broderick *got* there.  From Broderick’s movements, he could see that the 111-year old hobbit was in combat, and Phage cast invisibility *through* the floor to try to help Broderick.

Favorite quote: upon the mini-Mal casting Cause Wounds for 18 damage on Pericles, Abber asked: “Knowledge (arcana) check.  Does the sock puppet..?” and then couldn’t figure out how to finish the question.

Runner-up.  Out of character, while Phage flew up to the airship and tried to figure out whether he could poke a hole in the bag, Pericles’ player declared: “I’m going to make a celebratory trip to the bathroom while he experiments with his sausage.”

Run 2 – If at first you don’t succeed…

The PCs:

  • Otto Streamswimmer, Perrin Hero
  • Amyrin, Dwarven Hero
  • Theo Watson, Perrin Cleric of Mavors
  • Ozymandias, Fey Mage
  • Kenworthy, Lord Strabolgi, Human Hero

Ironhewer was most displeased that the party failed to bring Broderick in, and sent another party for Theodoric of York.  Unfortunately, he had already been killed by the time the party arrived, and a murder investigation ensued in which the party discovered a key witness who had yet to come forward to the police.  The party reported:

“Theodoric was murdered by Jonas Blake, who visited Theo posing as a scholar interested in skill-enhancing spells.  When Jonas verified that Theo owned artifacts of Daglir and Magus, Jonas killed Theo with a crystal-tipped wand of unrecognizable design and stole the artifacts.  We found a letter at the murder scene, hidden (we think by Jonas), and in Jonas’s handwriting [confirmed by Theodoric's secretary].  The symbol on the envelope is from Theodoric’s secret mission with Gladys Lamplight.  It is the mark of an elite hostile unit working for Malchion.”

GM notes: this was a short, interesting run with very little dice rolling that took place in the wee hours in HH.  ”Jonas Blake” is an alias used by John Bly, the head of the elite hostile unit Black Mesa.  My regret on this run is not putting in some information among Theodoric’s effects hinting at Gladys’s tomb, to the effect that some Daglir craftsmen were sent to visit Gladys Lamplight some decades ago and never returned.

Run 3 – This Is a Triumph

The PCs:

  • Bolan Bloodshadow, Dwarf Cleric of Daglir
  • Abber Lour, Halfling Mage
  • Kors, Perrin Hero
  • Broseph Veritas Ecclesiastes, Human Hero
  • The Witch of the Wood, Human Mage
  • Duff, Dwarf Hero
  • Alain Gerard Leandre-Sylvain, Catfolk Hero

The party reports:

“Muirhead, who has kidnapped Asha Half-Elven, sent his daughter Lydia to say that he will ransom Asha for the crystal shard in Gladys Lamplight’s tomb.  He has 2 shards and desires more.  We entered the “tomb”, passed numerous tests and reached the center.  We discovered that Gladys had been in danger of succumbing to the evil of the shard so she built the tomb as an automaton (programmed with her knowledge) in order to guard the crystal, since the automaton was not vulnerable to its influence.  During the tests, the program revealed many pieces of info (see below, with our deductions following).  We also found Escher Coli alive.  Escher does not know what the heroes did to help defeat Malchion at the Black Mesa, but knows they did not destroy Malchion’s statues of Gaia, Hione, Leo, Magus, and Ratri.  Zerlana would know the full details.

Clues from the automaton

Test Chamber 01

(after obtaining the Rod of Portals)

“Very good. You are now in possession of the Aperture Magics Handheld Portal Device. With it, you can create your own portals. These inter-dimensional gates have proven to be completely safe unless misused. If misused, dimensional research can provide access to forbidden stores of magic and even threaten the gods themselves. Do not touch the operational end of the device. Do not look directly at the operational end of the device. Do not submerge the device in liquid, even partially. Most importantly, under no circumstances should you– <static>”

Test Chamber 02

“Your rings protect you from the most immediately dangerous effects of falling, but not against the overstimulation of a weak heart. The frailty of the demihuman heart is well documented by medical scholars. There are those, typically powerful mages with delusions of immortality, who have sought to improve weak hearts of flesh with other, magically patterned, materials.”

Test Chamber 03

“Fantastic. In an atmosphere of extreme pessimism, you remained resolute and resourceful, like a magically reinforced crystalline heart, which should withstand forces up to, but not including, blows from an enchanted sword blessed by the gods. In that case, it would shatter.

Test Chamber 04

“Very impressive, Champion. Please note that any appearance of danger is merely a device to enhance your testing experience. The device has been modified so that it can now manufacture two linked portals at once. As part of an optional test protocol, we are pleased to present an amusing fact. The device is now powered by the essence of the owner of a broken heart.

Test Chamber 06

“Well, you found me, Champion. Congratulations. Was it worth it? Because despite your violent behavior, the only thing you’ve managed to break so far is his heart, and if the owner of a broken heart were *very* powerful, the shards would try to get back together, and I can’t allow that to happen.”

<after knocking loose one of GLaDYS’s Eye Spheres>

“If nine gods opposed him in all possible pairs, how many pieces would they tear him into?”

<after knocking loose the Recipe Sphere>

Malchion’s Cake Mix. 

Ingredients: 1 likeness each of Aru, Daglir, Gaia, Hione, Janda, Leo, Magus, Mavors, Ratri; 1 sacred relic each of Aru, Daglir, Gaia, Hione, Janda, Leo, Magus, Mavors, Ratri; 1 interdimensional rift

Directions: Consecrate likenesses to respective gods and Place relics in the hands of the respective likenesses; Convert the relics to Machion; Serve and enjoy!

Our deductions

Malchion attempted to replace his heart with a crystal one to gain immortality.  9 gods, 2 at a time pulled apart Malchion’s crystal heart (so that’s 36 pieces?).  Reuniting the pieces will restore Malchion.

Malchion attempted to become a god by a “cake mix” recipe involving consecrated sacred relics, the likenesses of the gods, and an interdimensional portal.  The “cake” was completed and became the Black Mesa.

Run 4 – That Old Black Mesa

The PCs:

  • Kaeritha Warstrider, Epon Hero
  • Cassia, Fey Guardian
  • Tabarra, Catfolk Hero
  • Purraku, Catfolk Guardian
  • Lamm, Hobbit Cleric

The party reports:

“Our goal was to talk to Zerlana — we went to Almere with a False Asha.  It was Lydia, Muirhead’s daughter in disguise.  Zerlana exposed her, and we escaped before Muirhead’s zeppelin found us.  (We think he might have destroyed the Stepping Stone waystation near Almere while chasing us)

Lydia acknowledged that here father had been corrupted by the shards of Malchion and wanted our help.  We lured him out to the plains northeast of Wooking, crashed his airship (w/Zerlana’s help) and incapacitated Muirhead [GM note: Purraku got him with a Power Word Lance as he was trying to Power Word Teleport away].   He’s not evil!  Just corrupted!  We don’t have to kill our corrupted party members, friends, Champions.  They can be released from the shards’ influence.  

We have the two shards from his glove and are looking for the relics to destroy them.  May Aru heal the numerous victims of the tragic aeroship mishap.  Aru temples in Wooking are accepting donations.  PS – come find me if you want more history on Muirhead / the War.  Lamm”

GM Notes: 

My original intention was for the battle with Muirhead to take place at the Black Mesa, where there would be a further tie-in with GLaDYS and John Bly, but I didn’t give the party good enough reasons to go there.

There was another vote for Creative Play: Faced with the daunting task of storming Castle Blattaria, the party considered how they might break through the grand patterned shell of the balloon, and Cassia and Tabarra hit upon the idea of opening a dimension door with one end *inside* the balloon, allowing the special gases to flow out, and causing the balloon to crash.

Favorite quote: The crashed airship was about 1/2 a mile away from the battle with Muirhead; as the party approached, they could see Zerlana and Asha helping people out of the wreckage.  Lamm was at first confused.  “Asha.  Asha?  The real Asha, whom we’ve never technically met.”

Lamm put up a visual depiction of the run, and I must say that it is spot-on.

Run 5 – Famous Blue Oilskin

The PCs:

  • Malank, Dwarven Cleric of Gaia
  • Phage, Fey Mage
  • Vel Rille, Fey Cleric of Aru
  • Otto Streamswimmer, Perrin Hero
  • Jared Lockeson, Human Hero
  • Lamm, Hobbit Cleric of Aru
  • Brolaf Truth Ecclesiastes, Human Hero

This run began shortly before 5am Sunday morning and finished up at 11, just in time to get the characters off to a final run.  I had managed to not get the previous run to Black Mesa, and Broseph (brother of Brolaf) had become an NPC in possession of a shard of Malchion, so instead of hunting down John Bly (as I’d originally planned) they were hunting down Broseph.  If I’d been thinking faster at this point, they would have managed to hunt down Broseph, who was in turn hunting down Bly (for his shard).  D’oh.  That would have been truly epic.

As events panned out, the party first delivered the letter to Tirion Elkone, who turned out to be in the possession of a shard.  He had been corrupted by it, but not overcome due to the power of his famous blue oilskin, which gave him an indomitable will.   

They then tracked down Broseph at an old Sumerilon war golem factory, at which he was trying to recreate a “cake mix”.  This picture of the final battle more than adequately sums up what happened.  The BRO on the left is Brolaf, fighting the war golems.  The BRO on the right is Broseph, having just been 1-shotted by Jared (JER), who is invisible and flying (and, up until the spell was dispelled, was 48 feet tall).  You see, while 48 feet tall, invisible, and flying, Jared grappled Broseph.  The war golem shaped to look like Ronkel ended up on Jared’s back, and the one shaped to look like Mavors struck him with a Sword of Equality, which attempted to dispel all the enchantments on Jared, as he attempted to fly backwards out of the window in the side of the building.  The only enchantment that was dispelled was the Size Change, so the Ronkel war golem ended up flying into the wall as Broseph and Jared went out the window.  Jared then struck Broseph from behind with enough Sneak Attack damage that it was a good thing two Aru clerics were on hand…

Otto is on the far right of the action, wondering WTF just happened.

Also, on this run, in the vein of “With Fey like these…”, Phage was considered *so* trustworthy that his fellow party members made him sign a contract that would make him a felon in the eyes of Mavors if he did not promptly return an item when it was needed to destroy a shard.  It read

I, Phage, will receive permission to use the ring of the Archmage until such time as the crystal or rod is recovered from Broseph, but only while within 1 mile of Brolaf.

P.S.  This contract is really legally binding

Phage *still* planned to teleport away with the ring of the Archmage until his fellow party members pointed out that his interpretation of the “loophole” he’d found in the contract was flawed.


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Hugh’s scenario writeup

My scenario ideas hinge around a Champion who was at the final battle, but did not “survive” in the conventional sense. They disappeared, and then when they later did turn up, it was believed that they were a fraud.

Synopsis:

Ironhewer understandably had vague feelings of distrust of the circus, due to some of its performers – - its Ronkel clerics, to be precise. As a premise for the Players to investigate them, Ironhewer sent the Players “In Search of Ice Cream”. Ironhewer’s suggestion that they be even willing to steal was a clue to his own dark designs.

What the Party found, was that as far as the Epon Mavors Paladin was concerned, the Circus was indeed a bunch of ‘evil’ liars and charlatans. But perhaps deception as entertainment can be an honest profession? Particularly in light of their willingness to perform at a loss in the poverty-stricken regions that economically never recovered from the Great War. After much roleplaying dancing, one of the oldest circus members, “Pappa Bob” did prove willing to divulge the Circus’s secret of (inexpensive) non-magical ice cream. Afterall, it was for the good cause of benefitting the Old Heroes, of which Old Pappa actually was one of himself [Brother Bob]]

The Party then sought the source of the “coldest water” (it has to warm up in order to freeze), and traveled to a region of unnatural cold in the middle of the Hellenic Plains. After defeating a pack of giant snow leopards, they traced upstream to a clearly unnatural large glacier in a pocket valley, for the next Run to continue from.

META:

End of Hugh’s runs; Margaret’s dislocated elbow of domestic summoning

A subsequent Party would have found their way into an ice laboratory inside the Glacier, to find a hunchbacked Hobbit named iGor, and his [mini-Mal]] master, a clearly evil Vivisectionist in the midst of cutting open a middle-aged woman to extract a shard from her gut.

The victim was none other than Shieldmaiden Vyma, who had gone on to the final battle yet disappeared, surviving only because of a 30 year teleport warp eddy in the great shattering of Malchion. Despite being removed, the Shard’s influence over her would have given the Players the breadcrumbs to lead back to the Circus and the proper shard destruction ritual, to fully release her from its influence (and to reunite her with “Pappa” Brother Bob).

Finally, the glacier also contained a great olde weapon which a greater mini-Mal had finally made operational: a huge cylinder of supercooled water & ice which was to be launched on Sunday to create a blitz of ice storms upon the island of Hadriania. Presumably, the final run Players would have been on the top of the ‘Ice Rocket’ to fight the min-Mal for its guidance controls. Of course, even if they were to have won, there’s still the question of if they would still be onboard when it came back down to Earth.

 

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PrinceCon 36 photos

Some good pics of the convention posted by a player at The Saturation Point.

Tim also put up some photos of his players here.

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