5th Edition

I wasn’t going to bother with 5th edition D&D. I glanced through the playtest materials and wasn’t really grabbed by them. Then the Internet started talking about it and praise was heaped high. When my FLGS announced it was going to start running Adventurers’ League, I was sold.

Last night was character creation and Dark Sphere managed to fill three tables (pretty impressive since the store focuses on wargaming with a strong sideline in M:tG). My table rolled up:

  • A Warlock
  • A Bard
  • A Wizard
  • Another Wizard
  • A Paladin

We are Team Glass Cannon and shall all hide behind the Paladin (which is going to be tricky since he is a Dwarf).

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Dwarf King’s Quest

(tl;dr, if you have some disposable income, consider directing it at this.)

A few years ago I picked up the original Dwarf King’s Hold which is a nice light weight 2-player dungeon crawl grid based skirmish wargame.

The miniatures are great (I picked up some more skeletons since they are sold separately too and they look lovely) although the rest of the components were only adequate.

The Skeleton Horde

Roll forward a few years, and the 4th set in the series is being kickstarted … and it has a lot of changes.

It has a new title. It has higher quality map tiles. It features named heroes against the nameless hordes (rather than two nameless hordes of different races). It supports more than two players (the heroes can be split among players). In short, it looks a lot more like HeroQuest. I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on a copy.

It took about a minute for the 550 early bird deals (save $5!) to be picked up, and then the standard package started rolling off the shelf. In less than 12 hours it has tripled its goal.

The price feels a little too high for me, but since this is a Mantic kickstarter, the stretch goals over the rest of August are bound to make it worthwhile.

Take a look and see if you want to join in.

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Planning Season 2 (DramaSystem: Heroes of the City)

At the end of the fifth session, everyone agreed that they liked the game and wanted to continue it. Hopefully we’ll be able to pick it up next year! There will, however, be a couple of changes.

With Elron out of the picture, at least as a star character, Tom has agreed to pick up the GM reins and let me pick up a PC to play with. I been pondering promoting an NPC or introducing a new character with their own set of links to the other PCs. Sometime between writing my first draft of these session reports and now, I’ve made a decision but I’ll keep it under my hat for the sake of spoilers.

In the meantime, we can have a summary of where all the characters stand and the status of the world they exist in.

The city

Season 1 focused on Elron’s attempts to grasp power and the damage he was willing to do to achieve it. With his departure, a power vacuum has formed. The city needs a leader and a lot of season 2 is likely to be about determining who that will be.

We also have the portal to deal with, the beings on the other side appear to be honourable but quick to judge and often violent in their responses. Diplomacy could be interesting.

The main cast

Alec Alejandro Victor von Rose will have to come to terms with whatever changes have happened to his body, along with the change in his relationship with Xathra. As a son of the Archmage, he is a potential candidate for the rulership of the city.

Xathra, Warrior Princess will have to figure out how to relate to Stefan now she has accepted her blood relationship to him, and determine what will happen next with Alec.

Stefan, Mercenary Captain is widely respected and, given that word of his possible rise to Dukedom will have spread, may be a candidate for rulership.

The Nightstalker, Master Assassin was last seen entering the realm on the other side of the portal. There is potential for almost anything to happen there. If he comes back, then someone might think his bloodline would make it possible ruler.

The NPCs

Oriene, The Dwarf King is dead. Hopefully he won’t come back, zombie dwarfs are creepy.

Balor, The Dwarf Prince left, but is still Dwarven nobility. He may return, perhaps as King, perhaps as Ambassador, perhaps seeking revenge.

Sarissa, one time Apprentice of the Archmage and lover to practically anything with a pulse and a little power, will, no doubt, continue to try to curry favour… at least until it becomes advantageous to betray someone.  

Odson, von Rose’s Goblin assistant finds that the man he betrayed has risen in power and his new master has left in disgrace.

Ataria, despite being listed in the opening credits, did not appear in season 1. Her influence was felt only through her past actions and how other characters felt about her. If she ever arrives in the city, it will complicate matters for everybody. Ataria’s betrayal of the principles by which she raised her daughter has shaken Xathra greatly. Her one time lover, Stefan, is the object of Sarissa’s attention. Andrus killed for her in the past, but doing so has caused him strife. Finally, Alec loves her daughter.

Pira is the elf who has had the most significant impact on the story without leaving the city. She wants to heal but might be drawn into politics with Elron leaving a power vacuum among the elves as well as in the city overall.

Dirk made a deal with Stefan in season 1, but appeared little after that since there wasn’t much drama in a scene that would have gone “My people are dying… and so are you… so I guess you are looking for a cure then… OK… bye”. With the plague resolved, its likely that in season 2 he will likely become the voice of the people and be involved in the question of leadership.

Toralas was probably killed when Balthazar stalked the corridors.

Balthazar’s soul has departed but some fragment of him may remain in Alec.

Raphael has become a being of light, apparently the natural form for his people, and one that cannot survive in his home realm. As Ambassador he will be the voice of the other side, and his questions about the nature of flesh life may drive the main characters to question themselves.

Hellfire the dragon didn’t get involved in season 1. It is about time he showed up and started having opinions.

Elron is a possible NPC for Season 2, but general consensus is that he should go away for a season and maybe reappear in a theoretical Season 3.

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Episode 4: Justice (DramaSystem: Heroes of the City)

Sarissa wakes up in a backstreet alchemists’ with Xathra watching over her. Xathra makes threats, discovers that Sarissa needs the blood of a von Rose and that the twins are the Archmage’s sons and tells Sarissa not to leave. The sorceress agrees and points out that she is in no condition to go anywhere.

Stefan and Alec meet in the watchhouse and Stefan tells him about Sarissa’s promised cure for the curse. Alec offers his blood in exchange for training with the sword, something he hopes will help him earn the respect of both Stefan and Xathra. Stefan agrees.

Xathra traverses the catacombs looking for Andros, but finds Alec instead. He conjures a ball of light to guide her way.

Elron goes through the, now stable, portal and meets Raphael, a shadow creature looking for his clanmate (Balthazar). Elron takes the opportunity to feed Raphael lies about heroes who murdered Balthazar and who now want to destroy his people. Elron seeks power, and Raphael agrees to give it to him. His knowledge of the other realm being limited, Elron is expecting Raphael to provide power in the form of magic, but the creature is no sorcerer and offers a division of warriors who Raphael will lead personally. The handshake that Elron receives brands him like Alec and causes him to comment that gloves will have to become fashionable this season.

Andros captures Odson and drags him to the watchhouse where he confesses to spreading the plague, blames Prince Elron and comments that leaving Alec hasn’t improved his lot as he desired. Stefan now has a witness against Elron.

Pira returns to the watchhouse and presents Stefan with the cure to the plague. It seems to work on him, but will take a couple of days before success is confirmed and it still leaves Stefan with the Archmage’s curse to deal with.

On the ramparts of the tower, Xathra lies to Andros, telling him that among her tribe, a victim may forgive a dishonour in exchange for a blood sacrifice. Having dishonoured herself in this way, she tells Andros that she will forgive him for assassinating her mother if he makes such a sacrifice. With the cup of his blood in hand, she leaves to take it to Sarissa.

In the throneroom, Andros accuses Elron of spreading the plague. The elf denies it and the assassin adds “liar” to the list of the Prince’s shortcomings.

In the training grounds, trying to prove himself to the father of the woman he loves, Alec trains with the sword under Stefan. He manages to defeat the older man and earn his respect. The blood he lost in the fight had been gathering a little way off the ground and, gathering it up, he presents a ball of it to Stefan knowing that it could be used to construct a cure.

Xathra and Sarissa find Stefan in his rooms in the watchhouse and Sarissa completes the cure to the curse in front of them by adding a drop of his blood to the potion. She then announces that whomever drinks it will take on the curse and free Stefan from it. The news is not taken kindly and Xathra is ready to force her to drink it at swordpoint. She is persuaded that that would not be honourable and they are left wondering if they can find a volunteer or if they can bring themselves to force someone else to drink.

Elron leads Raphael and his division through the portal into Alec’s lab where the twins are. Raphael is shocked to sense Balthazar’s soul inside Alec and accuses the mage of imprisoning it. He has no patience for Alec’s explanations and demands that they free Balthazar immediately. With the threat of the division of creatures from the other side ready to march into the heart of the tower, Andros looks into his brother’s eyes and asks for forgiveness. He pulls out the sword, caked in the blood of a sorceress, taken by a lover, for a brother and plunges it into his twin, dealing him a mortal blow.

The glowing arcane runes burst forth from Alec’s skin and Raphael recognises the language, at least partially. He can only translate odd words but seems awestruck by what he reads. Xathra arrives and tries to save Alec by returning his ball of light to him. The light is absorbed but only seems to make him glow brighter, perhaps even accelerating whatever is happening to him.

Caught in the glow, the shadow that is Raphael’s form seems to burn away and he pulls away. Alec collapses to the floor, not breathing, the light fades and Balthazar’s soul flies free. Raphael’s shadow is gone, revealed beneath is a glowing being of light.

Balthazar accuses Elron of lying to him but Elron points out that they still have an agreement, one sealed with a brand. Balthazar looks unhappily at the the palm of his own hand. He reminds Elron that the terms of the agreement were that he would provide the elf with the power to deal with the “heroes” and says that he will provide that opportunity now. He asks the three surviving heroes if they have honour. Stefan and Xathra claim to have honour, and Xathra declares that Andros has it also. Alec is in no position to make any such claim.

Balthazar says that he would be willing to sit in judgement, as a neutral outsider, over the two sides. If Elron’s arguments are found to be the stronger then the others will leave the city, but if not then the elf must submit to their justice. They all agree, Elron more reluctantly.

Elron’s arguments for the sake of his people are good, but tainted by the evidence of his deeds. Xathra speaks eloquently for the other side and Elron submits to their justice.

They consider making Elron drink the potion and take on the curse, and seek Raphael’s approval for the idea. He tells them that he can see justice in one who spread a plague taking on a disease to free another of it, but insists that it is their decision. They make him drink.

Alec’s body begins to glow once more and he wakes up, transformed into a being of light, much like Raphael.

Raphael says that his people came from this realm many centuries ago and that they had to cloak themselves in shadow to survive in their new home. With his shadow burned away he can never go home. He asks if he might stay and perhaps build understanding between the two peoples, since the portal is now permanently open and stable and ambassador could be valuable to the city.

Suffering under the effects of the curse, Elron is banished from the city. Escorted by one of the elves, he entreats them to take care of his people now that he cannot.

Andrus returns to the lab under cover of night and slips through the portal.

Xathra offers Alec a kiss.

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Episode 3: Devil’s pact (DramaSystem: Heroes of the City)

With Pira watching over them in the infirmary, the twins — Alec the mage and Andros the Nightstalker — reconcile.

Elron challenges Stefan about him working with Dirk instead of executing him. Stefan informs him that he will end the trouble in the slums using whatever methods he sees fit and that violent suppression isn’t necessary.

Stefan goes to see Pira in the infirmary to ask for her help dealing with the plague that is spreading amongst his men. She expresses surprise that the Prince’s goblin-made cure didn’t work and then sees that Stefan knew nothing of such a cure. As they discuss it they realise that the plague didn’t start until after the Elron has asked Pira to distribute the “cure”. A horrible conclusion is drawn.

Andros discusses the portal with Toralas, the elf Captain. He learns that the portal is unstable, growing and that creatures are coming through it.

Balthazar, a literal creature of shadow, finds Andros (the metaphorical creature of shadow) in the corridors (how he got past Toralas isn’t discussed) and recognises him (incorrectly) as the one who opened the portal. He tells the assassin that the portal threatens both their realms and demands that he stabilises it. Andros agrees, although he has no idea how he could do that.

Elron seeks out Xathra in the forest and tells her that Sarissa had been seen in the city and that she was accompanied by Andros. He continues to fuel her anger towards the assasin by telling her that they were in the Dwarf King’s bed chambers shortly before he died… days before he was expected to.

Alec and Andros enter the portal in the spire and meet Balthazar in a lab much like Alec’s own but made mostly of white marble. Balthazar is confused by the concept of twins, failing to understand that two individuals could share so much (as far as his strange senses could detect). Alec transfers his power to the shadow creature so that he can seal the portal himself, this costs him dearly and the bargain leaves him with arcane symbols burnt into his hand.

With Alec returned from the other side, Elron once again asks him to for training in magic, and gets agreement, but the Prince also learns of the sacrifice of power and the reasons for it.

Stefan persuades Alec and Pira to work on a cure for the plague.

Andros goes to see Sarissa in the catacombs. While her back is turned, Andros pulls out a sword, stolen from his brother’s chambers, and stabs her with it. She lies dying on the floor as he leaves.

Balthazar attempts to close the portal but fails, his skill being insufficient even with Alec’s power. The portal becomes even more unstable and the effects can be felt in Alec’s lab. In a last ditch attempt to save his world, Balthazar reverses the spell that Alec used earlier and returns the gifted power along with as much of his own that he can. Witnessed by Stefan, glowing runes cover Alec’s flesh as he completes the spell and stabilizes the portal.

Xathra finds Sarissa’s hidden lab in the catacombs and follows a trail of blood heading towards the slums. Before long she comes across Sarissa, clinging on to life and slowly dragging herself towards an exit up to the slums. Xathra interrogates her and learns her version of what the sorceress and Andros were up to, and what happened on the night Oriene died . She is also told that Sarissa was trying to find a cure for Stefan’s curse, a fact that convinces Xathra to, reluctantly, save the sorceress’ life.

Episode 3 was a relatively short one. I had to leave early to visit a supermarket so I could orchestrate roast dinner for 28 people. This was also a success.

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