Thursday, November 30, 2017

Storm King's Thunder: Prepare to Die Edition [Part 3]

Storm King's Thunder: Prepare to Die Edition
*Updated 11/30/2017*

Warning:  SPOILERS ahead for Storm King's Thunder.

View Campaign Page.

3.1 Road to Yartar

In the wake of the attack on Triboar, the party becomes quite popular in town.  Not knowing what to do with the giant piece of metal the giants unearthed, but knowing it's valuable, the adventurers are at a loss as to what to do about it until Alaestra Ulgar and Urlam Stockspool offer to buy it and engage in a bidding war.  The party sells it to Alaestra for five thousand gold coins.

In addition, the other residents of Triboar approach the party for various reasons.  Darathra Shendrel, the Lord Protector of Triboar, gives the party a platinum badge bearing the insignia of the town.  She bids them to travel to Everlund and visit Danivarr's House.  There, they should talk to Dral Thelev.  No explicit reason was given.

Darz Helgar let's the players know that a dwarf cleaning stables in Xantharl's Keep might well be the wanted brigand known as the Weevil.  The bounty is rumored to be five thousand gold coins.  It might be worth checking out if the adventurers head that way.

Narth Tezrin, after figuring out the party's destination, asks them to deliver a crate of harnesses to Noanar's Hold, on the way to Silverymoon.  For a hundred gold, a horse and a cart the party agrees to make the delivery.  They are to pick up the cart on the morn they leave.

Urgala Meltimer tells the party that an old associate of hers owns a giant-slayer.  He lives in Zymorven Hall, and would probably part with it if they party told him they are fighting giants along the coast.  The party makes a note of this if they happen to move in that direction.

Othovir had a close call during the attack.  To show his gratitude, he tells the party about the Margaster family's hidden cache of magic in their estate in Silverymoon.  He gives details, and the party considers it.  Breaking the law in Silverymoon is not something anyone wants to get caught up in.

Ghelryn Foehammer almost died during the attack.  He was grateful, though taciturn.  He returned later having written a Letter of Recommendation for the party.  He bids them thanks, and tells the party to present the letter to King Morinn or Queen Tithmel should they find themselves in Citadel Felbarr.

The party finally sets out from Triboar to reach Silverymoon.  The first stop along the Evermoor trail is Yartar, a few days away.  Outside Triboar, the party encounters a group of travelers fleeing giants in the countryside.

The next day, the party comes upon a group of stone giants disassembling a stone tower, stone by stone.  The party decides to confront the giants, who hold fast, tossing stones from their tower, until Niv's ice storm spell finally spooks them and they run into the fields.  The party does not pursue.

When they get to Yartar, they are surprised.  A wretched hive of scum and villainy, corpses on the streets seem to go unattended.  The party passes through the river town as quickly as possible.

3.2 Yartar to Calling Horns

A days' ride from Yartar, they party encounters Lady Harriana Hawkwinter and her squire.  She had rescued two children, Elisa and Tomas, from a giant attack that their parents did not survive.  She asks the adventurers to take the children to the nearest town, as she wishes to pursue the giants.  The party takes custody of the two children.

They forage over the next three days, also running into some hunters along the road, before arriving in Calling Horns.  Tamalin Zoar warms to the party fairly quickly, and arranges to have the children seen to.  The party eats and rests well at the Calling Horns Inn, until later that night.

The party is awoken to strange sounds outside.  Starman investigated and found something trying to get into the horse stables.  Softhands, Briar and Berry all run outside and find themselves face to face with two trolls from the moors who want to get to that yummy horsemeat.

A short battle erupted that involved maniacal laughter and torches as choking hazards.  Tamalin offered the party a job rooting out the source of the trolls, but they declined as they were more interested in reaching Everlund.  The party set out at first light.

Shortly after leaving Calling Horns, they are ambushed by crag cats.  They are swiftly seen off, but the party proceeds more warily.  A few days later they arrive at Noanar's Hold at dusk.

3.3 Noannar's Hold to Everlund

Noanar's Hold is unsettling to the party.  The caretaker of the keep and the recipient of Narth's harnesses from the Lionshield Coster is named Amrath Mulnobar, and he makes it fairly clear that he doesn't want them hanging around.  As much is said by most of the folk in town.  It is suggested that they go to the White Hart Inn, and stay indoors at night.

By day the village is normal, but near dusk everyone went indoors immediately and it turned strangely quiet.  The party resolves to investigate.  Soon they hear the rumors surrounding the village...apparently, a hundred and fifty years ago there may have been some mass murder and serial killings going on under the guise of "hunts" organized by the nobles.  Ever since, the Hold has been in a steady decline.

The party begins investigating the "Hunt Lords" of Noanar's Hold.  They spend the next day going around the town, eventually spending several gold coins on the artisan socks made by a village wife.  They arrange to meet with the wife's husband, a hunter named Bryce.  When they meet him, he expresses his gratitude - that's a lot of money to drop on socks.  He tells the party about the Hunt Lords, but not much.  He says they shouldn't go poking around.

They hang around and manage to finally get a glimpse of one of the Hunt Lords.  He and his horse were obviously undead.  Their investigation concludes with the assumption that the arrangement is copacetic - the Hunt Lords actually serve to protect the tiny village of Noanar's Hold.

The party leaves for Everlund the following day.  They pass through Olostin's Hold, noting little about the village.  When they get to Everlund, they go directly to Danivarr's House and talk with the one-eyed half-orc Dral Thelev.  The half-orc is cordial, even foppish, and takes the party into an adjoining parlor and offers wine.  Briar takes the first sip and instantly disappears!

Dral explains that the wine instantly teleports the one who drinks it to the Moongleam Tower, the bastion of the Harpers in Everlund.  There, they find themselves in another parlor, filled with winged cats called tressym.  Krowen Valharrow, the caretaker, welcomes the party and shows them to a hidden teleportation circle within the tower.  There he explains the party can use any of the Harper's circles that connect cities along the Sword Coast:  Mirabar, Everlund, Neverwinter, Yartar, Loudwater and Waterdeep.

The party decides to continue overland to Silverymoon, but thank the Harpers' for their aid.  Just outside Everlund, the party encounters a frost giant simply standing by the road.  He is Harshnag, and he isn't hostile.

In fact, the giant explains he's on his way to a place called the Eye of the All-Father, and he's killing giants along the way.  The party agrees to accompany him, and Harshnag joins the party.  First stop is Silverymoon, and Harshnag will be waiting outside the city when the party is finished there.

Return to Storm King's Thunder: Prepare to Die Edition?

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Top 8 Reasons the Witch is Best

A little over halfway there.  The Witch is the sixth of the wizard schools we've covered so far, and it might not be the Hedge Wizard that refugees from the Old World might recognize.  No, the Witch of Frostgrave is a different beast entirely.  It can fit the niche of the druid, and for the longest time that's how I meant to model this warband.

Animals never go on strike.
No matter what wizard school you practice,
Inspirobot has memes made just for you.
Then I got the Bones "Wild West Oz" versions of the classic "Wizard of Oz" characters.  Glinda the Good seemed a lot scarier than the other model, which was more druidic in style.  Yes, Glinda's ditched the pinks.  And the Wicked Witch will be her apprentice.  However, this is the first school I officially assembled two warbands for.  One of which, sadly, will have to go to Ghost Archepelago for any love...

The aligned schools for the Witch are Enchanter, Necromancer and Summoner.  The opposed school is Soothsayer.  If you want a swarm of summoned creatures, the Witch is a great place to start.

Top 8 Reasons the VVitch is best!!
  1. Animal Companion
    • This is probably the most useful spell a Witch can grab, being an easy way to add a combatant to your party.  Two things to remember:  you can still Control Animal (the companion doesn't count) and you can have two - one with each spellcaster.  Early on this will be an important method of keeping up the warband.
  2. Brew Potion
    • Another great "out-of-game" spell for the Witch to use.  Just remember that under Dark Alchemy rules, the Apprentice can only create Lesser Potions - only a Wizard can create a Greater Potion.  Remember you can also store potions created with this spell in your Vault, amassing a supply.
  3. Control Animal
    • Useful defensive spell for disruption of other Animal Companions or some of the wildlife in Frostgrave.  Situational, but disruptive.
  4. Curse
    • While the -1 penalty stacks with successive Curses, this is probably something your Apprentice should be doing.  Use it to weigh down your opponent's best fighters, or the enemy wizard themselves if they put themselves in a good position to use it.  The Witch in particular lacks a good combat spell, but Curse steps into that role and actually proves quite nasty in the right circumstances.  Even a -2 can spell doom for enemy soldiers.
  5. Familiar
    • Who doesn't like extra HP?  Pretty much a permanent bonus to Health, so once you CAN cast it, do so and then just make sure you've always got the familiar going.
  6. Fog
    • Fog spells tend to stick around after they are cast, so successive castings can really disrupt spells and missile fire.  A staple defensive spell.
  7. Mud
    • Difficult ground on a 3" blast template.  Successive castings can really mire an opponent down, since the difficult ground penalty in Frostgrave is half movement!
  8. Poison Dart
    • Permanently rob a model of 1 action per turn.  It can be healed with magic, sure - but good luck with that, buddy.  Quite a remarkable offensive weapon, but ultimately like all the Witch spells you'll need some finesse, and adroit control over your soldiers.
The game with the Witch is one of gradually debilitating the enemy to the point he is vulnerable to whatever you want to throw at him - like thugs or animal companions.  The amount of grief a well-placed Witch can cause can seriously damage your opponent's battle plan simply because they stick around longer than spells cast from other schools, which in many cases give saves every turn.  The warband of the Witch is going to need to contain some heavy-hitters, because much of the fighting will be down to them whether the wizard is involved or not.  Combined arms is the way to go.

If it were me (and it usually is) I'd choose Animal Companion, Brew Potion and Poison Dart.  Animal Companion can count for up to 20% of your warband, if you like.  Brew Potion will set you up with a lot of tricks, which you'll need - but it's also a lot better if you're using Dark Alchemy, as the choice of potions is tweaked a bit.  As for Poison Dart - well it's a tough sell between that and Fog.  Too bad we don't have Poison Fog.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Pre-Painted D&D Miniatures

D&D Attack Wing
You can't fool Iron Seer by switching the bases around.
Some time ago (2003, to be exact), Wizards of the Coast started introducing their pre-painted miniatures lines for what was then the third edition of the Dungeons and Dragons game.  At the time, I was unhappy with WotC after their triumphant success with the D&D property.  You see, they had also just introduced the "3.5" edition.  I was seriously into some D&D, but my books that I already had worked just fine, you see.  I was in my early twenties, and finally got a taste of capitalism right in my hobby.

Around then I really decided to double down on miniatures games.  However, I had a real distaste for these prepaints.  They just were generally ... poor compared to my own work, or that of my homies.  In certain places where I lurked online, the sentiment was echoed - prepaints were an alien menace to be eradicated, with NO conversation.

I was so entrenched in the conventions of wargaming at the time, it was hard for me to see any 'use' for these miniatures, but now I see it as the hubris of youth.  You see, without any money or a real space to store lots of miniatures, as a young man I strived to obtain precisely what I thought I 'needed' to play 40k at any one time.

D&D Attack Wing - Frost Giant
Jarl Horn will be taking those Huggies...
and any cash you've got in the register.
Today, it's very different.  Of late, I've found myself more and more attracted to prepaints.  This is partially due to the fact that the re-launch of the line in 2014 had a vastly improved quality of production over the older generation...but that really started with Pathfinder Miniatures launch in 2012.   When those miniatures came out, our club was gifted a complete set with multiples as we started down an adventure path.  Honestly, that changed my mind entirely about what pre-paints could be, and even how they could be used.

I've started to be more open minded in my old age.  I devote a 'yooj' portion of my gaming budget to prepainted miniatures as far as X-Wing goes, but the plastic RP prepaints were more of a diversionary thing, a sort of 'supplement' to my normal miniature addiction.  However, as they began to stack up and I took up collecting Star Wars miniatures in general I began to see a much greater value for the humble prepaint.

I'm not so straitjacketed in my gaming these days.  Storage has always been an issue, and right now I'm about to pull everything out and rearrange terrain storage and plan what set of tables I'm actually going to keep and develop.  To tell the truth, my backlog is so great that if I hadn't changed my mind about prepaints I'd not have nearly the amount of cool dungeon monsters to menace adventurers with.

At some point I realized it didn't matter what quality they were, as long as there were recognizable, colorized(ish) and I didn't have to worry about them beyond making the purchase and remembering they were there.  Since both Star Wars and D&D have a rather distinct style, with lots of specific types of soldiers and monsters, it helps to have models that actually display the particular threat you wish to project on your players.

D&D Attack Wing - Red Dragon
Warning:  Trees may come into
focus quickly.
Let's talk about D&D Attack Wing.  First of all, it was cool.  Second of all, it's also easy to see how people were put off by it.  If the price point was 25-50% less than what it was (depending on the product) it would have been a much better sell...but that would have undercut Tyranny of Dragons prepaints, which were the exact same miniatures but on a different base.  So the Attack Wing models were sold as the premiums, mostly because you knew exactly what you were getting with each purchase. With the collectible aspect of the prepainted miniatures line, it wouldn't do to have miniatures (especially the larger ones, specifically dragons) that were the exact same floating around that were that easy to obtain.  The rarity would have been upset and so would collectors.

There just weren't that many Attack Wing collectors.

It's been discontinued since, but I'm still collecting it because we're still having fun with it.  If nothing else, it came with a lot of tokens and models that are going to be pulling exceptional duty around here.  I'm not as put off about 'mixing' models from one game or another anymore, and we've also got the D&D Miniatures Handbook to play with.

I didn't get to play Dungeon Command, but hopefully I'll remember to grab up a few of the sets before they get outrageously expensive.  I'm kinda in the process of doing that with Attack Wing, so we'll see how that turns out.  I should have grabbed those up when they were cheap.

As far as Chainmail goes, we've already been playing a D&D(ish) skirmish game.  The biggest issue is the grid, honestly.  Anyways, the Miniatures Handbook kinda solves all that for us.

I think if I had one thing I wanted, it would be a better points system that wasn't reliant on cards.  Yeah I know it's "impossible" to create a "balanced" system and that's why the Miniatures Handbook only gives us "guidelines"...but I think we'll be able to use whatever we like.  Attack wing is another story, but still - we've got plenty of dials and facing cards.  We could always create our own, and that's the best part.  After all, we've got a war to start in the Silver Marches...

Jake Reveals His Maneuver Dial
Remember:  Reveal your Maneuver Dial with the exact amount of panache that is appropriate to your opponent's misfortune.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Top 8 Reasons the Soothsayer is Best

People who can profit on instincts can manipulate the future.
Inspirobot will never manipulate your future. 
As I'm finishing up the first batch of Frostgrave models and terrain, I realize I want to talk about all the wizards in turn before I start cranking out the pics and we start the campaigning proper.  This warband will be more stylized, which is what I'm going for with most of them for this game.  I'm going to need to order some new basing materials for the terrain, as I've pretty well worked out how I'm going to base all the warbands but the terrain will take more than what I have on hand.

One of the best parts of gaming these days is being able to select which models you want to use from all the available sources.  The official Frostgrave models are great, but you can use whatever you want. That mentality needs to be more prevalent in our gaming, I feel.  How much more diversity would that add to the aesthetics of these things?  Keep diversity among your diversions, I say.

 I found some really cool models to use with a neat theme, and hopefully they'll look like they belong together when I finish in a few weeks.  I know I have found recently that although I don't mind which models are used, I am DONE with unpainted models in games.  I have also forbid myself to photograph unpainted models for this blog, with the exception being that the model is actually finished.  I may then present all pictures alongside each other as "in-progress" and "finished"...but other than that I can't bring myself to do it.  Must paint faster.

The aligned schools for Soothsayer are Thaumaturge, Chronomancer and Illusionist.  It is opposed to the Witch school.  The Soothsayer can be an irritating enemy to encounter, largely because their magic can confound even the most battle-hardened Elementalist.

Top 8 Reasons the Soothsayer is Best!
  1. Awareness
    • This is an easy one for your Apprentice to cast early in the game.  If you have it, take it - it amounts to a 5% increase in your chance to win the initiative each round.  Not much, but solid and an easy cast.
  2. Combat Awareness
    • This is a staple for the warband that wants to engage in combat.  Not too hard to cast, and beneficial to every soldier who'll be on the front line, as +2 Fight is pretty hefty.
  3. Forget Spell
    • Use to strip your opponents of their spells, obviously - but target their best spells.  This spell is actually pretty easy to cast, but remember it only applies to the spellcaster that is targeted.
  4. Mind Control
    • This spell puts a model under your control, as if it were in your warband, until the target can shake the effects.  Even if it lasts only a round or two, it can be a game changer.  A staple.
  5. Reveal Invisible
    • A secondary spell with a very real use, especially vs. irritating Illusionists or those spellcasters with the spell leveled up.
  6. Reveal Secret
    • An extra treasure, really close to your board edge.  Showing up already knowing where the good stuff is...well that seems like the way to go about it.
  7. Will Power
    • Another secondary spell with situational benefit, it's very useful for helping shrug off effects that are continuous (such as Mind Control) or if you know your opponent will attempt spells that require Will rolls, such as Forget Spell.
  8. Wizard Eye
    • Countless fun can be had with this gem.  Setting it up can be tricky, but invisibly smacking your opponent with targeted spells (like Forget Spell or Mind Control) while completely safe is the payoff.  Try it with a few different spells and you'll get the idea.
Awareness, Forget Spell and Mind Control.  Those are immediately the three I want to start with, as they have lower casting numbers and are functionally attack spells.  Supplement that with some lower cost spells from the allied schools  such as Heal or Monstrous Form and you're in business as a Fortune Teller.

For this warband I'm going to make sure I've got some lower cost models to represent the mendicants of the oracle's temple.  Thugs and Javelineers fit the bill, but you still need some beefcake.  To that end we'll add a Man-At-Arms and a Templar.  A Marksman will round out the warband, and I'll immediately set up an advice booth downtown in Frostgrave.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Space Gaming Mats

 In the last few years, we've gotten really spoiled for choice as far as setting up the battlefields we fight over.  It might surprise some of you newcomers, but up until just recently we've never had the top quality mats we have now.  My group has made due with flocked plywood, white and green sheets, and a green carpet (it's still here somewhere) before being able to really set up a nice looking game easily.  Easily being the keyword.

Today, I want to talk about space mats.

A crazy idea if you played any space games long ago, but now we have cheap, durable and nice looking mats available from a variety of retailers.  For the Cloak of the Sith, I chose Gale Force 9 to provide the backdrop of the battle.  They have a selection of great stuff I'm sure I'm going to get more of, and I selected two mats of different sizes that seemed to depict the same type of 'space'.  The 3x3 "Space Mat" and the 6'x3' Gas Giant.  You can check them out at GF9's online store.

Gale Force 9 Space Mat 3'x3'
3'x3' fits great on a medium size dining table.
Recently I've been  looking around for new mats for a lot of different games and warzone types, and I'm impressed at the staggering array of mats from all kinds of different companies.  I've got a few already, but they are kind of old and you can't even get some of them anymore.  We'll talk about those at a later date.  The most important takeaway is that I need more 3'x3' mats, because the big ones have been kind of out of style except for larger battle games.  Not the trend at all these days, and you can only find 6'x4' if you look specifically for them.

When you realize Darth Vader has a Target Lock...
"Then the Emperor has already won..."

Recently I was able to get a big game with lots of ships on the board, and we had to break out the 6'x3' Gas Giant for the first time.  Spectacular.  I look forward to seeing all sorts of spaceships get vaporized on this thing.

Gale Force 9 Gas Giant
On my 6'x5' table setup, there's actually a lot of room left for accoutrements.
My only real complaint with these mats is it's harder to photograph them.  Light sources can really cast a glare on it, and although that's no real issue you will have to jockey a little for a good shot off the cuff.  However, they are durable and resistant to liquids...and that's important when you flip out and spray your beer all over your enemy's face.

Recently, I was asked about a certain moon-like space station.  Gale Force 9, luckily, makes some nice products to fit that bill.  I'm surprised there's not a 6'x3' version of that map, but like I said...full size tables are going out of style.  Good for us it looks like two of those moon station maps will fit together pretty smoothly...