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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Tiger Tim’s scenario writeup

To start with let’s get some general information about the runs.  First, given the con goals (to get artifacts and shards), there was no need to have a combined plot for my runs and because of that, they did not.  Each run was unique.  Alex had given a guideline of what each run should have (based upon how far we were into the con) and I used that as a high level start.  From there I just tried to come up with an interesting combat or role-play situation and add an exciting setting and colorful NPCs.  I had an outline and run notes, but all of my runs were left intentionally open ended to allow the players plenty of opportunity to be creative.  From this frame of perspective, let’s take a look at each of the individual runs.

 

Run #1 Return to the Village of Hommlet.

 

Theme Goals that were addressed in this run:

  • discover existence of mini-Mals and defeat some (though not that they are connected to Malchion). Each has some special item (rod/staff/ring/necklace etc) that is clearly evil and clearly is the source of their power.
  • get first hints that there is an active god aside from Aru, Daglir, Gaia, and Mavors (i.e., cleric casts unknown prayers; unknown holy symbol; etc)

Run high level summary:

The characters have a chance to save a small village from a mini-Mal who has taken it over.  I used the village of Hommlett (from the temple of elemental evil) as my backdrop for this run. Years ago two sisters from the small town of Hommlet, one a sorcerer (Emeralis – The mini-Mal), the other a seer (Kandella), find one of the fragments.  The wizard is corrupted, the other one (knowing its danger) hides the fragment.  Years later the sorcerer finds another fragment.  She now realizes that the first stone, the stone her sister kept from her is another fragment and she wants it.  She chases her sister back home (where the sorcerer is known as a murderer), and tries to get the stone back from her.

 

Players:

Blazing Star (Suzanne Bergeron) 5th level Epon Mavors Cleric
Lefty Darkpaw (Spencer Kipe) 5th level Perrin Hero (Ratri)
Witch of the Wood (Steven Wolfson) 5th level Human Mage (Gaia)
Fishmen (Monty Rubin) 5th level Perrin Aru Cleric
Alain G. Leandre Sylvain (John Kliminski) 5th level Cat Hero (Leo)
Duff (Michael Brokes) 5th level Dwarf Hero (Mavors)

 

How it unfolded:

Players meet Prince Conrad Ashland, get mission details (go to Hommlet and ‘rescue’ his lover).  The Prince is Charmed (note this is not a standard pcon spell, it came from a scroll of Ratri).  The players did figure out that the prince was charmed and more importantly, that an item (the first shard) had been stolen by his lover. 


Before they reach Hommlet, they encounter a local farmhand wounded and running on the road ahead.  An Orc band has attacked the village! Ready for action, the players get to the outskirts of the town. 1st encounters are with typical orcs, who are no match (unless in great numbers) for the PCs.  The only real danger is that the orcs may alert the rest of the horde that the players have a counter attack in progress (this would be done by the orcs blowing a bone horn).  Note that the horn, in addition to calling reinforcements could also sound retreat (getting the orcs to flee the village).  The players smash a number of Orcs before they find their target (the prince’s lover) is down the road at the local inn.

 

On the way there Lefty sees a black cat trying to catch his attention.  Lefty – not taking any chances – fires an arrow at the cat and it disappears in a magical flash.  Had the cat been followed it would have lead him to a dying healer (the cat was a familiar to the healer).  This would have opened up other options for the party. At the inn a battle develops with the key moment being the mini-Mal attempting to summon a large fire elemental (had this happened, there was the potential that the whole battle – at that point the PCs had the upper hand – to reverse). Alain (using a successful disarm) managed to prevent the summoning.  Alain flicked the charm (which was used to summon the creature) across the room and almost into the hands of Witch of the Wood.  Witch of the Wood (using knowledge Arcana) was unable to identify the item.  In spite of this, the Witch of the Wood activated the item – an uncontrolled and angry large fire elemental). It immediately attacked its summoner (the witch) and knocked her unconscious.  On the plus side, as it was not commanded by the mini-Mal, it returned to the plane of fire and was not a problem for the other PCs.


Without the firepower of the fire elemental, the battle was quickly (ok, using pcon combat rules – not so quickly) won by the players. They captured the mini-Mal and the shard.  They discovered why the mini-Mal had returned to Hommlet (she pursued her sister – who had another shard hidden there).  Discovering the existence of the other shard the players tried to get the seer to give it to them but she refused telling them that they could not keep it safe.  Note this was intended to be a hint to the players that – all good intentions aside – they did not yet have a way to destroy the shards.  The mini-Mal had several scrolls and items that were intended to hint to players that they needed to keep an eye out for clerics of other religions.  And so ended my first run.

 

Run #2 Into the Orcs’ Lair
Theme Goals that were addressed in this run:

  • discover that the other active god is Ronkel
  • get first hints at the specifics of the ceremony
  • Recover artifacts that can be used to destroy shards.

Run high level summery:

This run was to recover an (Aru) artifact from an orc tribe.  The players need to penetrate an orc stronghold, recover the artifact and get out.  The idea here is a stealth mission as the orc tribe is far too powerful for the players to be able to handle.  In addition to the artifact a human Ronkel cleric was working with the tribe.  This cleric gave the players a chance to get more hints about Ronkel’s involvement with the plot.

Players:

Ozymandias (Greg Arzoomanian) 7th level Fay Mage (Mavors)
Aris Blackthorn (Janet Anderson) 6th level Elf Gaia Cleric
Kenworthy Lord (Paul Anderson) 7th level Human Hero (Pantheist)
Phage  (Joe Appel) 6th level Fey Mage (Pantheist)
Jared Lockeson (Tyler Vogt) 6th level Human Hero (Ratri)
Malank (Rob Greer) 5th level Dwarf Cleric (Gaia)

How it unfolded:

Players meet a hobbit Aru cleric and her agent (a hobbit thief) and uncover that an orc tribe has ambushed a caravan that was transporting both a friend of hers and an aru artifact back from frontier lands. This was a straight role-play segment (giving players a chance to learn of the goal and ham up their characters – which all players did very well).  No real hidden information (except for the fact that the Aru’s agent was a thief with guild ties).  It was also a chance for the players to have the agent come along, but none of the players attempted to push this issue (we will see later, this was a good thing) so the NPC thief stayed behind.

The players go to the ambush site and find everything you would expect.  In addition, they found the following clues:

Some of the Orc shields left at the battle site had a sickle painted in blood by a small (human female) finger.  This was a clue that a human cleric was with the party.  The sickle is a symbol for Ronkel. In story, this symbol marked Orc followers of Ronkel that had received his blessing prior to the attack on the caravan.

Some of the items taken were luxury goods.  This was intended to be another clue to tell the players that non orc forces (specifically the female Ronkel cleric) were working with the tribe.

The players follow the orc raiders into the woods and to the edge of centaur lands.  The no trespassing sign is the decaying bodies of several humanoids (orcs, gnolls, goblins), demi-humans, and grafts. Players (if they were inclined would have noted that there were no elves among the demi-human bodies.

The players decided to follow the orc raiders through centaur lands. This led them to an encounter that was intended to be the toughest of the run.  The centaurs in their domain are unbeatable by the players (they will be supported by mage and gaia spells and have numbers and home field advantage).  This encounter did not turn out as hard as I expected for a few reasons.  The 2 key reasons were first; there were no grafts in the party.  The centaurs treat the grafts like orcs and would not give a warning shot or use non-lethal attacks.  Second the players did not have the NPC thief with them (the thief would have panicked and not held fire – even if ordered to do so by the players).  As it turned out the encounter was equivalent to a two groups pointing guns at each other and talking but with no shots being fired.  I had expected this encounter to start with a few shots being traded before any attempt to parley.

The group of players managed to get accepted by the centaurs, which gave them a number of advantages.  For example, they found out about a ceremony that the Orcs were having in a few days.  While this sounded like simply an opportunity to sneak in, it also was a chance to get information (the ceremony was to Ronkel and being run by the new cleric).  In addition the centaur knew of a tunnel system that players could use as a back door to sneak into the orc camp.

At this point (as tends to happen) Players knew the keys to the mission (Greg said that the key was finding where the artifact was, Janet later said that because it just looked like a stick the artifact was very probably with the slaves).  But with the information about the Ronkel cleric, the party sensed that she was important to the run, but did not understand exactly how.  As a result, they decided to go in before the ceremony and take out the cleric (in the hope that she had the artifact).  While this was a brutal combat, there was never much of a chance the Ronkel cleric and her lover would win.  As a dying action the Ronkel cleric cursed one of the players (Jared Lockeson).  This was (as a curse at the con can be) used by other GM’s to make the follow-up runs a lot more interesting for Jared.  After killing the cleric and her lover, the players (wisely) decided to end the run.

Some what if notes to the players: had they observed the ceremony they would have gotten more insight into the Ronkel cult.  In addition, had they run their attack after the ceremony, they would have found the artifact with the cleric (because she would have sacrificed the NPC carrying it at the ceremony).  However, the fight would have been much tougher because at the ceremony she would have been grated an aspect of Ronkel as a minion.  This minion would have been in the fight against her and made it much more dangerous.  And so ended my 2nd run.

 

Run #3 That Lying mage
Theme Goals that were addressed in this run:

  • Provide more information that Ronkel is the active god.
  • Recover artifacts that can be used to destroy shards.

Run High level summary:
The manipulative mage Mordenkinen has found where an artifact of his patron Magus is kept in some lost tombs.  Unfortunately a rival (a Beholder) has stolen his key to the tomb and is on his way to recover the artifact before Mordenkinen can get his own forces there.  Knowing that the players are looking for artifacts, he decides to see if he can trick them into recovering the artifact for him.  He gives them all the information they need to hunt down his rival (and the artifact) and provides the party with a 2 magic items that he thinks will allow him to steal the artifact from the players once they have it.

Players:

Blazing Star (Suzanne Bergeron) 8th level Epon Mavors Cleric
Lefty Darkpaw (Spencer Kipe) 8th level Perrin Hero (Ratri)
Witch of the Wood (Steven Wolfson) 9th level Human Mage (Gaia)
Brolaf Truth Ecclesiastes (Joshua Gabai) 9th level Human Hero (Janda)
Alain G. Leandre Sylvain (John Kliminski) 9th level Cat Hero (Leo)
Kors Damiszoon (Kermit Cuinn) 8th level Perrin Hero (Gaia)

How it unfolded:
The players met with Mordenkinen and were informed of his rather unsavory reputation.  In spite of this, the meeting went smoothly with the players getting all the mission details and accepting Mordenkinen’s trapped magic items with such calm that I started to think that I would be able to trigger them during the run (one item was a teleport scroll, the other was a powerful magic item that was intelligent).

The players first encounters were with scouts from the gnoll tribe in the area.  My intention was to turn this into a nasty fight, but the players bypassed it.  First, they did not wait for the strength of the gnoll tribe to be gathered, second (and more importantly), they realized they did not need to deal with the gnolls.  The gnolls knew the location of the tomb that held the artifact that the players were after, but Mordenkinen’s rival (the beholder and his party) was already there.  So instead of negotiating with the gnolls for the location of the tomb, they started a search for the beholder.

Eventually the players were able to find the tomb where the beholder and his party were extracting the artifact.  A rather nasty fight broke out, but even with the high powers I had given the beholder the players were able to win an impressive victory.  They recovered the artifact, but were smart enough not to use the scroll that Mordenkinen had given them (which he told them would take them back to the city of Delft, instead it would have sent them to a magical prison where they would have been relieved of the artifact and all the other ‘annoying’ magic items they had collected).  With the successful recovery of the artifact this ended my 3rd run.

In looking back on this run, I regret the opportunities that I missed.  The first was not one that I planned, but that developed. The players all met with Mordenkinen except Brolaf who stayed on the street alone holding all the party’s magic items!  I should have at least tried to pick pocket a minor magic item, or better yet, run a good old fashioned mugging.

The next missed opportunity is that 2 party members had shards and were in some stage of corruption by them.  Had the combat with the beholder been more intense, I might have gotten them to use their shard items and there would have been a very good chance that one (or both) would have lost control of their characters for several rounds – this would have made the combat something to remember!

The final opportunity I missed is to trigger Mordenkinen’s final trap.  I had given the characters a very powerful intelligent weapon. My intention was that it would go to a hero (who tend to have the worst will saves).  The weapon was loyal to Mordenkinen and would have tried to take control of the character wielding it (Blazing Star), if it got control, it would have forced the player to seize the artifact and use the scroll to return to Mordenkinen.  As it was, I never triggered this item.  York, the GM of this player’s next run noted the item, but I had not included just what artifact it was after (and that artifact I think was on another run anyway).  So this trap never got used.  Triggered at the right moment this could have lead to a very interesting encounter.

Run #4 Enter the Dragon
Theme Goals that were addressed in this run:

  • Recover artifacts that can be used to destroy shards.

Run high level summery:

This run was to recover an (Mavros) artifact from a dragon’s horde.  An old and powerful dragon is kept calm by a dragon song lyrist who servers as his emissary.  But this calm has been threatened recently when a thief has attempted to steal the Mavor’s artifact.  The players are sent to get the artifact (the method of ‘get’ was left up to them, they could kill the dragon and recover the artifact or negotiate for it).  At all costs the players needed to avoid angering the dragon or this would cause tremendous collateral damage to the surrounding towns.

Players:
Vel Rille (Ayse Gursoy) 9th level Fey Aru Cleric
Malank (Rob Greer) 9th level Dwarf Gaia Cleric
Otto Streamswimmer (Tim Sullivan) 10th level Perrin Hero (Gaia)
Brolaf Truth Ecclesiastes (Joshua Gabai) 10th level Human Hero (Janda)
Zhindyra (Tom Carman) 9th level Elf Mage (Pantheist)

How it unfolded:
The players met with their patron who wanted the Mavor’s artifact found and returned.  The item was currently believed to be part of a dragon’s hoard.  She told the players that she had hired a thief who specialized in stealing from dragons but had lost contact.

It was at this point that problems started to develop.  I designed this run so that there were 2 ways to recover the artifact: fight and kill the dragon or negotiate with the dragon.  While the party decided at this point that they wanted to negotiate with the dragon, I did not get the feeling that everyone was really committed to that.  While the group may not have been on the same page as far as the plan, what this group did a good job of was playing their characters to the max!

The party tracked down the hoard stealer’s front man (or woman in this case) and after convincing her that they were not a danger (the hoard thief feared that the dragon my still seek revenge) brought them to the hoard stealer.  The key information that the hoard stealer had for the players was that the dragon’s real liar was not the tower (which everyone else assumed it to be).  He also told them about the dragon’s emissary (but not her role in keeping the dragon calm).

With this information the party headed out to dragon’s domain.  They joined a caravan on its way to offer tribute to the dragon and met the dragon’s hobgoblin servants.  They told the hobgoblins that they wished to negotiate with the dragon where the hobgoblin told them they would summon the dragon’s Emissary and she would meet with them in the morning.

The party discussed what they wanted with the emissary and she warned them that the item they wanted was dear to the dragon and any trade would not be a bargain.  The players were unconcerned however.  Lastly the emissary told the players that her word (as a representative for the dragon) was only good for things the dragon received (negotiation of tribute for example).  For a trade they would need to deal face to face with the dragon.  At this point, I attempted to placate the players that were disappointed that no battle was planned by offering a chance for the players to demonstrate their power, but it fell flat (players who wanted to fight, wanted to fight a dragon!).

The negotiations with the greedy dragon the next morning almost became a disaster.  One player made the mistake of upping the players’ current offer (for the Mavor’s artifact) with another artifact! Brolaf realized that this was a loss as far as the run was concerned (this is where it is critical to understand the con and it’s plot – the goal was to recover artifacts to destroy shards, trading 1 artifact and several powerful magic items for another artifact would have been a loss).  He attempted to convince the dragon to trade for something else, but once the artifact was on the table, the dragon wanted it.  The dragon finally in anger decided to end the barter and fly away (basically: no deal).   It was at this point that Brolaf decided to attack the dragon!

I am not sure how many players I have killed in my time as a con GM but the number is small (I unlike many other GM’s at the con have never had a TPK and this is the closest to that I think I have ever come).  While I admit that it was intended to allow players to use combat as an option to achieve this run, the idea was they would find the dragon’s lair, get surprise, and get a good solid round of damage before the dragon could counter attack.  Attacking the dragon on a lark, with it ready (it had all it’s magic items on, and a number of spells cast before it went to the negotiation) and it’s large hobgoblin army surrounding the players was not what was intended!

Still players can get a little heady with the power that a high level character and his magic items brings.  I tried hard to make it clear to Brolaf (the only player so far to attack) that this was not going to be a combat, but a massacre and to his credit he found a solution. He used his attack as a chance to demonstrate the power of his magic item and gestured for the dragon to take it.  The dragon found it clever and bold and agreed to take the magic item (in addition to several more) as a trade for the artifact.  So ended my final run.

 

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PrinceCon 36: wrapping up

Once again, we wanted to thank everyone who was able to come to PrinceCon 36 and once again having the stamina to participate in the world’s finest 46-hour roleplaying marathon that can be completed in only 45 hours.  This year you braved a complex overarching theme that featured dozens of moving pieces, PCs turning into NPCs, and combinatorics in  addition to the usual array of monsters, bandits, thinly veiled cultural references, and sleep deprived Game Masters.

Below is a brief explanation of the what happened to lead up to the events of the con.  GM-specific wrapups to come as they’re available.

Sixty-three years ago Malchion, the Mage-King of Sumerilon, sought to remake creation in his own image. In secret he strove against the gods themselves, and devised a spell that would subvert the faith of a deity’s followers and rechannel those energies to fuel his personal power.  But while his might was great, Malchion found himself seconds from death at the hands of Romulus Pendragon.  Desperately, he prepared to Teleport away, as Pendragon held his combat action to gain the final blessings from the High Priests, and as Malchion started to Teleport, Pendragon struck, shattering Malchion’s crystalline heart into 36 pieces.  While Malchion’s body died that day, his spirit lived on in the shards of his heart that teleported to random locations around the continent.  Over time, they were slowly found, and slowly corrupted their owners, until the last shard was found, and they willed their owners to seek each other out.

All in all, the Champions of the Light fared badly against their former enemy, and the list of corrupted champions is long, including General Ironhewer, King Romulus Pendragon, Gladys Lamplight, Foxley, Allison Searock, and others.  BUT there are also stories of redemption, from the clearing of Morrigan Pendragon’s name, to Broseph Veritas Ecclesiastes being saved from complete corruption and possession by the spirit of Malchion.

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Know Thy Gods

While only Aru, Daglir, Gaia, and Mavors remain active in mortal affairs, there are still many who remember the other five of the Nine.

  • Aru is the god of Life, Health, and Peace.
  • Daglir is the god of Craftsmanship.
  • Gaia is the goddess of Nature.
  • Mavors is the god of Justice.
  • Hermit was the god of Knowledge, symbolized by a lantern. The Order of the Sage was devoted to the acquisition and preservation of knowledge, to be shared with all who would learn from it.
  • Janda was the goddess of Truth, symbolized alternately by scales in balance and the white rose. The Knights of Justice were devoted to the cause of truth, and regarded law and order to be the greatest good.
  • Leo was the god of the Glory of Combat, symbolized alternately by a flaming sword and a crested helm. The Chosen Warriors believed that fair combat was the greatest test of a being’s worth, and consequently that the best fighter was the noblest and holiest.
  • Magus was the god of Magic, symbolized by the lemniscate (infinity sybmol). The Adepts of Magus were dedicated to the use of magic in the advancement of society.
  • Ratri was the god of Concealment, symbolized by a new moon or two-headed coin. The Shadows of Ratri believed in the safety of secrecy, and keeping dangerous objects and information out of the hands of the ignorant.

Other Gods

The Pantheon includes many other deities. Some have not had a significant following in modern times, their rites long absorbed into that of one of the Nine Gods. Thus Sol and Luna are mostly worshipped as companions of Gaia. The same fate is befalling the Five: Mavors has taken over the judicial role formerly played by Janda and has replaced Leo as the patron of warriors. Other deities are local or otherwise very specific in their influence: No one other than a fisherman would worship Iswal. The patron gods of the various races have been long neglected, except for Daglir, who is now recognized as supreme patron of all crafts. There are, however, two powerful Gods of Darkness whose priests elected not to join the War against Sumerilon, and whose cults have been little seen since.

  • Ronkel, the Grim Reaper. Pale and chill, his cultists danced for delight at funerals and were always shunned by decent folk.
  • Thoki, God of the Undead. Prohibited by ancient edict of the Hellenic Empire, Necromancers are hated and feared wherever they are found.
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