Thursday, March 22, 2007

Radio Active #46: Notebooks vs. Desktops, Out of Darkness, Horror Betrayals

Cover: Midnight Syndicate: Out of Darkness Things take a horror-tinged turn in this week's podcast with reviews of Midnight Syndicate's retrospective horror music album Out of Darkness and the horror-movie inspired board game Betrayal at House on the Hill by Avalon Hill.

Elsewhere in the podcast as for feedback from geek parents about the merits of getting a notebook computer vs. a desktop computer and start looking for some craft/mommy podcasts for my wife to listen to on her spiffy new 30 GB white iPod. Finally, Net News has the welcome return of the Harping Monkey's Round Table podcast, which ends its hiatus just in time for me to start doing home improvements again. Get the episode.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Radio Active #45: Crawling Babies, Podcasts Galore, A Deepness in the Sky

Cover: A Deepness in the Sky Baby Luke learns to crawl and joins me as a guest host of the latest edition of Radio Active. In addition to news about our littlest geek, I've got news about a new "Game Day" column that's running on Nuketown and a review of Gears of War, as well as audio feedback from Doug of the Geek Acres podcast.

In Net News, I catch up everyone on podcasts that I'm listening to nowadays including old favorites like Random Signal and Roll 2d6 as well as new ones like the audio novelization of Cory Doctorow's Eastern Standard Tribe, the musical stylings at Mainstage at the Monkey and the covert happenings at the Stealth Geek podcast. Finally, I have a review of Vernor Vinge's science fiction novel A Deepness in the Sky. Get the podcast.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Ravenloft: To the Cursed Temple

  • Real World Date: 3/2/07
  • Greyhawk Date: ??

Cast of Characters

  • Pierce Haligarth, acquirer of unique treasures
  • Naru, monk
  • Lysander, a bard with a knack for throwing anything
  • Obergon, competent fighter
  • Donegal, cleric of Daern
  • Rapostâz the Misbegotten, city-hating druid

Quote of the Game

"Ok, we failed our intelligence checks. Can we leave now?" -- Donegal / Bob

"Here is the church, here is its steeple, look inside and ... who ate all the freaking people!?!"

The Saga

The party catches up, with Pierce revealing to Dongegal the revelations of the Burgomeister's son. During the night dire wolves circle the encampment, but do not attack.

Morning Doom

The next morning the party awakens half-surprised to be alive. They head over to Bill Drath's Merchantile, which is presently locked. Darth is anything but cooperative, but Pierce tries to talk his way in, jingling a purse of coins. He's turned away.

Donegal goes seeking Ashlynn, to confer and prepare to leave. Before doing so, Donegal casts consecrate on the barricade, and then on his shield as well. Pierce and Lysander grab makeshift clubs, then join the party as they head out.

Undead Attack!

Halfway to the church they encounter some zombies tearing at a dead and bloated horse in the middle of the street. The zombies look up, scream brains, and prepare to attack. As they do so, three creatures break from a building and start tearing apart a zombie. Donegal quickly identifies as the creatures as ghouls, and seeing that the battle is about to be joined, Lysander beings singing and inspirational song.

The creatures, seeing fresh meat, charge the party, slashing at Neru and Obergon. A terrible stench overwhelms both of them, sickening them. The touch of one of the monsters also paralyzes Neru. The zombies slowly advance, one of them tearing terribly at Neru, staggering him momentarily. Seeing his companion suddenly stricken, Donegal steps up and channels the will of Daern to release his paralysis.

And then the rats, huge, bloated and gross, suddenly appear.

Pierce, seeing the horrors that nearly killed him, lines up a crossbow shot but in his nervousness misses the ghoul he'd aimed at. Lysander causes a cacaphony of sound to explode among the ranks of zombies, ghouls and rats, damaging the ghouls and stunning one of the rats. Rapostâz steps up, is sickened but fights past his disgust of the unlife to slaughter a ghoul. Then the worshipper of Daerned calls upon his god to drive off the creatures, and succeeds in turning one of the ghouls. Rapostâz slashes at a zombie with his scimitar, but fails to kill it.

A zombie bites at Neru, hurting him and overwhelming his natural defenses ... to unknown effect.

The fight continues, with the adventurers trying desperately to kill the monsters before them to little effect until Rapostâz finally cuts down a zombie, and his compatriots are able to kill the remaining zombie.

The combat over, the adventurers realize that Naru and Ashlynn are looking noticeably worse. Donegal steps up and casts remove disease on the paladin, healing her of growing sickness. He can not heal the monk, who continues to look as though he is coming down the flu or some more terrible disease.

The Fallen Church of Pelor

Find the Church of Pelor fallen and in terrible repair. The impetous fighter Obergon steps up and throws open the doors to the church before Pierce can even raise a protest. Instead they see a darkened room, with strange, nonsense chanting from the direction of the altar. As Neru enters the room, the speaker finishes his chant and a circle of black death erupts amidst the party, killing the monk instantly as his heart explodes and causing the rest of the party to clutch at their chests in momentary pain.

The party responds by moving into the church, getting ready to attack, with Donegal and Rapostâz taking the lead and Lysander and Pierce in the rear. Zombies suddenly emerge, tearing apart Naru's body while another shriveled corpse stepped from the shadows and started casting, causing a burst of sound to explode over Lysander and Pierce. Both ignore its effects and Pierce deftly runs forward, skirting around a gaping hole in the middle of the floor to move around the back of the chanting, barking mad cultist. He sets himself up to land a well aimed strike on the cultist, but discovers his would-be partner, Obergan, has been magically held by the self-same cultist.

Donegal attempts to burn the cult cleric with searing light but scorches the wall instead. Near the rear of the church, Rapostâz calls down the lightning of Obad-hai to blast the cultist, then slashes at one of the zombies with his scimitar.

The taunt-skinned undead creature moves into the hall between Rapostâz and Lysander, then unleashes magic missiles on the bard. The priest suddenly runs from the altar, drawing attacks from his enemies but not carrying, and then jumps down the hole in the center of the room. Pierce follows him to the edge, draws a sunrod and throws it into the hole. It illuminates a 20' drop.

Obergan, ever chaotic, shakes off the effects of the spell that holds him, and jumps down the hole after the crazed cleric. Donegal once again calls on the will of Daern, turning two of the zombies and the strange "deathlock" creature that had cast spells at Lysander. The bard ignores the remaining zombie and jumps into the hole, casting feather fall to slow himself. The paladin also joins him, jumping to the bottom and ignoring the bracing pain that shoots through her body as she lands.

They find a nasty, dusty basement surrounding them. In one corner they see crazy alchemical-looking equipment, while two zombies loom in one corner, while something awful groans to the south and shambles forward.

The crazed cleric then screams "you can't take your son from me!" and tries to cast a spell at Obergan. Pierce, who'd rather take his chances against the living than the dead, deftly drops to the basement beside the mad cleric. Lysander lashes out at the cleric, finally killing him.

And then they hear something horrible coming from the south again, and see a horrific creature with oversized limbs and a gaping maw ready to devour anyone who comes closer. The paladin Ashlynn is visibly shaken, utters "... by Pelor ... " and then attempts to turn the monster. The light of Pelor falters however, and the creature and its fellow horrors are unaffected. Above, Rapostâz and Donegal continues to fight the zombies as one of the deathlock flees.

Obergan steps up to face the unspeakable horror, confronting it and attacking with his sword, slashing it badly. Lyander casts a spell which has no immediate effect. Then the paladin tries to strike the creature and fails. Meanwhile the monster assaults Obergan, savaging him with an overwhelmingly strong bite. Pierce carefully puts away his rapier, draws his dagger, curses the undead, utters a half-hearted prayer to Daern ... and then steps up to attack a zombie, slashing off a hunk of flesh as he does so.

Upstairs, Rapostâz and Donegal continue to struggle with a remaining zombie. Hearing the cries of the party for help, the druid transforms into a vulture and flies down into the basement. Downstairs, the bard tries to hit the creature a touch of his hand, which he had successfully charged with positive energy but misses. He then backs off, ready to attack again next round. Donegal tries to fend of the zombie, but fails and is sickened by the creature's shambling blows.

Below, the paladin Ashlynn falls to the surprisingly fast and deft skeleton as the creature slashes at her, cutting the life from her. Obergan continues slashing at large-mawed creature, but finds that the creature is terribly tough. The vulture-formed druid flies across the basement, landing opposite Obergan and with the monster in front of him. The bard, sensing his friend is in trouble, decides to heal Obergan than strike the horror.

Pierce, desperate to control his fear, continues to slash at the zombie before him, cutting off ever greater slabs of undead meat.

"Get away from us you foul monstrocities!" Donegal proclaims after falling through the hole, staggering to his feet over the paladin. He successfully turns the two zombies and the skilled skeleton, who flee.

Pierce looks on in disbelief. "Thanks for that ... but I was doing all right with the zombie. That other thing..." Donegal replies "You should stay away from it -- perhaps help the paladin?" He tries to, but fails. Fortunately, the cleric is able to cast a minor healing spell closes the least of the paladin's wounds ... and saves her life.

Lysander steps up again, hoping to blast the creature with divine energy, but fails. Pierce sees the monster, realizes it would easily kill him, and then turns to look over the cleric's body. He finds a well-worked morning star, full plate and a shield but nothing immediately useful to the creature behind him.

Donegal measures up the creature, and decides to step up and channel divine energy into it. He sidesteps it, casts a spell, and hurts it badly as positive energy floods through it. Lysander does the same, then tumbles away. The creature strikes back, dazing Donegal and wounding him.

Pierce turns his attention to the fallen paladin, hoping to find some item in her possessions that might get her back in the fight. He finds nothing that fits that bill, but does discover a few gold-tipped crossbow bolts. He digs those out and prepares to fire one at the creature. He shoots, misses and when it slams into the far wall it explodes in a burst of alchemical light and heat.

"Excellent," he whispers.

Rapostâz finally kills the creature with a blow from his scimitar. Relieved, Donegal turned to the paladin and healed some of her wounds, awakening her while the others dispatch the remaining zombies and undead. Pierce looks through the alchemical set in the corner hoping to find something useful. While he realizes it's an exceedingly expensive set of equipment, there is nothing immediately useful here. He realizes that the it was probably used to build the horrible creature they just vanquished. The others find the bodies and equipment of Ashlynn's fallen companions, and give the items to her.

They gather up the well-wrought full plate armor, morning star and shield. They find two scrolls, one of which is revealed to be cure moderate wounds while the other was ancient, blank and clearly recently used. Rapostâz casts detect magic, determining that the full plate armor and shield are magical.

Among Ashlynn's companion's equipment they find half-plate, magic chainmail, magic great sword, two cure light wounds spells and lesser restoration.

The adventurers then withdraw to the upstairs via stairs that they finally found. Examining the altar, they find the a journal which references the Tome of Straud, an item that may be found in Castle Ravenloft. They also find that the Burgermeser found his daughter as a young girl and raised her as his own.

Looking around the altar, they discover a book called the Liber Blaspheme, which included instructions for building a "blaspheme" undead from the corpse of a recently dead close relative. Also find a gold chalice worth 700 gp and two silver bells worth 50 gp.