Let’s Play Hoard of the Dragon Queen: Construction Ahead

Played August 27th, 2016
Arvensis: 4477

Cyanwrath: 6723
Robyn: 4265
Ront: 6072
Thaemin: 4078

The cult caravans halt for only a day in Waterdeep, and during that day the party spends their gains, ill-gotten and otherwise, hands off the black dragon hatchlings to a woman named Elia, who Arvensis’ academic contacts put the party in touch with. She spends most of her time in the wild speaking with metallic dragons, who have accepted her as sort of an honorary hatchling dragon due to her friendship with Otaarylliakkarnos, whom Cyanwrath immediately shortens to “Otie.” Most of the party soon follows suit, because seriously that is way too long a name. Elia promises to get the hatchlings to Otie, and assures Cyanwrath that Otie will raise these as though they were her own brood and do all in her power to make them good and true creatures. Cyanwrath is mostly just glad that they’re going to live, at least until young adulthood, which is several decades away and in any case a dragon’s life to young adulthood is about as long as Cyanwrath’s entire life will be, so even if they go evil and Otie ends up killing them, they can hardly complain. And hey, there’s three of them, maybe they’ll end up killing Otie and carve out a few fiefdoms for dragonkind, or better still, maybe they turn Otie to the dark side. Tall order for hatchlings, but hey, he can dream. After a very definitely not tearful shut up Thaemin farewell to the hatchlings, Cyanwrath rejoins the party as part of the caravan heading out to Neverwinter.

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Let’s Play Hoard of the Dragon Queen: To Waterdeep

Played August 26th, 2016
Thaemin: 4,078
Ront: 6,072
Arvensis: 4,477
Robyn: 4,265

Cyanwrath: 6,723

Not long after setting out from the shadow of Dragonspear Castle, a glorious golden stag with horns of platinum is sighted. Arvensis recalls a legend about this creature, and it’s said that if you catch it, it will grant you a wish, but no one has ever been able to catch it. What’s not explained by the legend is how anyone ever knew about the wish granting powers if it’s never been caught. In any case, Lai Agnesstun, the dwarf merchant, Oyn Evermoor, one of the cult wagon leaders, and Samardag the Hoper decide to chase after it. Evermoor plans to wish for the dawning of a new age (he’s vague on the details), Samardag isn’t sure what he’s wishing for but by golly wouldn’t it be spectacular, and Agnesstun doesn’t believe in any of this wishing nonsense, but that pelt sure would fetch a good price in Waterdeep. Ront and Thaemin join their employer Samardag. The stag, not keen on being hunted, bolts into the Misty Forest.

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Darkest Dungeon

Darkest Dungeon was released over half a year ago and I’ve been playing it off-and-on ever since I got it in the Steam summer sale several months ago, but I don’t have any D&D sessions to write about until this afternoon (and the rest of the weekend), so I’m going to give my thoughts on the game now.

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The Best of Chamomile: The Importance of Fluff

My brother is now in school. As of the day this post goes live, I will also be in school. This makes D&D much harder to arrange, and the fatigue of frequent D&D games, trivial during summer, threatens to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back when we’re more busy. Once we figure out schedules, we should be back to regular gaming (and I may start posting smaller posts to get one session’s worth of material to cover 2 or 3 blog posts), but for today I’m just going to reproduce a forum post I wrote once that people liked. Copy/pasta begins after the break.

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Let’s Play Hoard of the Dragon Queen: Road Trip

Played August 18th, 2016
Thaemin: 3,199
Ront: 5,194
Arvensis: 3,757
Robyn: 3,600

Cyanwrath: 6,004

After Robyn Hood and Cyanwrath finish drinking their woes away, they take the barge down to Baldur’s Gate. By the time they’ve arrived, all three of their eggs have hatched, and it’ll be a long journey to Waterdeep to find Arvensis’ contact, a draconic scholar who can deliver the hatchlings into the care of a metallic dragon willing to at least attempt to raise them properly (and kill them as young adults, after they’ve had a fair shake but before they’ve reached their full destructive potential, if raising them Good fails). They ship to Baldur’s Gate where Robyn Hood’s criminal associate Wyll Scarlet keeps an eye on everyone coming to and from Baldur’s Gate. Baldur’s Gate has worked hard to make it impossible to ship goods up the Sword Coast without passing through the city, refusing the construction of any major roads through their hinterlands that might prevent the city’s porters from being paid lucrative amounts to take goods from wagons at the south gate to wagons at the north, so there’s no way the Dragon Cult will get their hoard through the city without Wyll’s friends in the porters’ guilds from noticing.

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Let’s Play Hoard of the Dragon Queen: Worst Festival Ever

Played August 14th, 2016

The following day, Thaemin meets Frume at the gate as instructed, where Frume and his most nimble squire are preparing a horse race. Frume invites Thaemin to join, and Thaemin agrees. Ront and Cyanwrath join the race as well, each hoping to beat the other, and Robyn decides hey, why not. The flag is waved and each of the riders urges their mount on.

Frume bolts right out the gate and leaves everyone else in the dust as they race across the bridge and through the streets of the city. Frume quite easily maintains his lead as they begin to tear down the main road of the city towards the castle at its heart, while Thaemin and Ront battle for second place, and a dozen feet behind Cyanwrath and the squire are similarly neck and neck. Robyn’s bucked from her horse early on, and while she swiftly remounts, she is left far behind. The race turns from the castle into narrowest, most twisted streets of the city as the track loops around towards the gate. Ront pulls ahead of Thaemin, and the squire pulls ahead of Cyanwrath alongside Thaemin. Frume is over the finish line well ahead of everyone else, Ront pulls into second, and Thaemin slips behind to place fourth behind the squire. Cyanwrath thought he was angry when the squire managed to pull ahead, but dear gods he is furious when Robyn comes from behind to leave him in last place.

The racers each rolled Animal Handling, then Athletics, then Animal Handling, then Acrobatics, and then Animal Handling again. Each roll represented one leg of the race. After each leg, the rolls were totaled to determine who was in the lead. I’m still finangling with my chase rules, so rather than bust those out, I went with this straightforward system instead.

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Let’s Play Hoard of the Dragon Queen: To Elturel

Played on August 14th, 2016
Thaemin: 2,909
Ront: 3,326
Arvensis: 3,267
Robyn: 3,310
Cyanwrath: 5,264

The party recovers the eggs and returns to Greenest. Leosin has already left by the time they return, but he left a message behind with Escobert the Red, requesting the party meet up with him at Elturel, capital of Elturgard, which lies further down the trade route between Baldur’s Gate and Cormyr from the Greenfields (including Greenest). With the roundabout route the cultists are taking, and with their being weighed down by wagons and traveling on foot rather than by horse and by river, the party has a strong lead on them, so the party decides to oblige.

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Dragonlance: In The End, Evil Shall Always Triumph Over Good

Of the big three D&D settings (Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, and Dragonlance, ignoring meta-settings like Planescape), Dragonlance is the setting used to exemplify epic fantasy. A titanic struggle between good and evil rocks Ansalon down to its core whenever Wizards can find the money to pay Hickman and/or Weis to squeeze out another trilogy, bold heroes facing off against tyrannical overlords, whose triumph is inevitable. The tyrannical overlords, I mean. Good guys never win lasting victories in Dragonlance.

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Let’s Play Hoard of the Dragon Queen: There And Back Again

Played August 9th, 2016
Thaemin: 1,214
Ront: 1,686
Arvensis: 1,419
Robyn: 1,375

The party retreats to one of the hidden caves that surround the abandoned camp outside the hatchery, and there take a short rest, planning their approach. Cyanwrath will likely be interested in a rematch with Ront. If Ront wins, the rest of the team can hopefully overwhelm the remaining defenses on the hatchery. Even if he loses, he will hopefully do enough damage on the way down for the rest of the team to bring down Cyanwrath. Hopefully the rest of Cyanwrath’s team will break after that? Or at least be weak enough for Thaemin to hold the line while Robyn and Arvensis bring them down.

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Let’s Play Hoard of the Dragon Queen: Dragon Hatchery

Played August 8th, 2016
Thaemin: 888
Ront: 1,361
Arvensis: 1,094
Robyn: 1,051

After witnessing Cyanwrath’s humiliating defeat, the party absconds back to Baldur’s Gate to meet with Governor Nighthill as he prepares to move the Greenest refugees back into their town to begin rebuilding. He thanks them for their service, pays them their due (1250 GP), and sends a messenger to Elturel to warn them of the impending attack. The party stays the night in Baldur’s Gate and takes advantage of the city’s vast marketplaces to stock up on supplies. Robyn exchanges leather armor for a breastplate, Thaemin swaps his chainmail for splint, and Ront buys scale armor and a longbow. Those who don’t have bedrolls and mess kits buy some, in case of further wilderness adventures. In the morning, everyone returns to Greenest, where Leosin is waiting for them. He’d discovered a cave at the edge of the camp. The cultists had begun loading up a wagon full of loot and eggs from the cavern. Unable to safely get any closer, he retreated for reinforcements, and is hoping the party might help again. They agree to take a closer look. Continue reading

“Limited-Time Content” And “Living World” Are Not The Same

My younger brother is back from summer camp today, but that doesn’t mean we have enough time to play a session and then for me to write down its results, so I’m going to keep doing the “articles about whatever Monday and Friday, campaign log on Wednesday” thing I’ve been up to last week. I’ve also pretty much run myself out of filler content, though, so I’m just going to rant about something I don’t like and hope it ends up being entertaining.

So here’s this bizarre idea that crops up now and again, the idea that you can make an MMO, an RPG society of some kind, or some other shared-universe experience more “realistic” by offering most or all content on a very limited time basis, “as it’s occurring.” So if it’s the old 3rd edition Living Greyhawk, for example, whenever you show up to your friendly local gaming store on game night, there’s going to be some kind of adventure going on, but each week it’ll be a different one. If you miss the week, you miss the adventure forever because it already happened and is now over. Or, an MMO where every two or three months the game updates and old content gets removed in favor of whatever’s going on right now.

This can seem genuinely immersive at fist glance, but it falls down so quickly under scrutiny that it really isn’t worth the costs (which we’ll get into later), because these “living worlds” never have the dedication to be genuinely alive. Except EVE Online. EVE Online totally does have a truly living world, and it has that by putting things almost entirely in the hands of the players. A living world doesn’t just mean that all events are limited time, it means that how the populace of players reacts to an event is the determining factor in how it resolves and that players can start events on their own initiative just by starting large scale conflicts between factions, whether those factions are built by the players from the ground up or pre-determined by the devs and then turned over to player leadership.

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Elves Are Dicks

So I’m going to talk about some Forgotten Realms lore. Specifically I’m going to talk about how elves are total dicks. So, like most fantasy worlds riffing on Tolkien, Faerun used to be ruled by elves back in the era before humans were a big deal. Before that, though, was the era when dragons and giants battled one another for control of the world. How did we get from one to the other? How did elves take over from a world ruled by dragons? Numerical superiority? Aid from friendly metallic dragons? Alliance with the giants?

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Let’s Play Hoard of the Dragon Queen: Raider’s Camp

Played July 24th, 2016
Thaemin: 113
Ront: 503
Arvensis: 406
Robyn: 331

But Arvensis died, so how can he have gained any XP? When my older brother introduced 5e to his wife back in June (she played along with myself, my younger brother, and my sister, who were all introduced to the game before the Curse of Strahd season began and the DM rewards program was introduced), he gained 1,000 XP from the DM’s Guild. Technically he gained it retroactively when I roped him into this little bit of rules manipulation. So I texted him to transfer ownership of the character to him (which it never says you can’t do) and give Arvensis back the 406 XP he missed from having died partway through this adventure. Then he gave ownership back to my younger brother.

Similarly, the rules for death state that using faction charity forfeits XP and rewards for the session, not for the whole episode, so by waiting to depict the aftermath and hand out quest rewards until the next session, Arvensis (and Thaemin) can get quest rewards. Side note: I really feel like I shouldn’t have to twist League rules into pretzels like this to set my brother up with characters he can use at stores and conventions. There’s quite a few limitations that make sense for the Adventurer’s League, like fixing everyone to the same XP schedule, restrictions on magic items and non-core chargen options, banning most of the optional rules from the DMG to keep play experiences consistent, and so on. There’s also a bunch of limitations that seem to be wholly pointless barriers to entry. Are these some kind of ill-conceived attempt to prevent gaming a system that relies on individual self-reporting to begin with?

This here is one of the less baffling decisions and more of a grey area. I think it’s a good idea to give low-level characters, who haven’t had a chance to build wealth, a free raise dead, and I don’t think the danger of adventuring without a revivification contingency plan is any less clear without losing any XP over it beyond what you would’ve lost if you were high enough level to pay for it yourself. Particularly considering that Raise Dead comes with some serious penalties of its own (Thaemin certainly felt them in the next adventure, especially since he didn’t get as many rest opportunities as the rest of the group). Mainly, though, my issue is that smacking a brand new player with a setback as strong as this makes it seriously difficult to older cousin them into the hobby. Why are Adventurer’s League rules making it harder to older cousin people into the hobby?

Lore fanatics may have been nagged by the distance between Greenest and Baldur’s Gate. The refugees get here after just a day’s travel, but Greenest is much further out from Baldur’s Gate than that. The problem here is that the 5e map of the Sword Coast I was using didn’t have Greenest on it. I thought Greenest had no specific location on the Sword Coast (not yet, anyway), and was a trade town made for Hoard of the Dragon Queen, so there wouldn’t be any big issue sticking it near enough to Baldur’s Gate that I could feature the landmark city heavily early on and help get my brother acquainted with the geography of the Sword Coast. Turns out Greenest totally does have a specific location and it’s way further away than that. Oops.

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Older Cousining

From July 25th clear to August 8th, my little brother is at summer camp. This makes it rather difficult to keep up the posting rate I’ve managed lately, since I actually have to generate new content instead of just reporting what happened when I took other people’s work and then did some improv acting with it.

In an effort to fill the gap, let’s talk about older cousining, since that’s gonna come up in the one article I’ve still got coming. Much like the campaign itself, the bulk of the work of explaining has already been done by some other guy, but Angry DM’s writing style is an acquired taste like coffee is, bitterly unpleasant but comes part and parcel with a very valuable jolt of energy. So let’s add a bunch of cream and sugar and turn this into the kind of drink that people say they can’t stand but in practice drink nothing else but.

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