Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Economics of a Basic Pathfinder NPC - Just How Poor (or Rich) Are They?


This has been a point of contention within my RPG group, just how much is an average Joe suppose to make in the game? I've never given it much thought; I just go with peasants making about 1 GP a year. But after so many sessions, I think it's time for me to tackle the question of, just how does the financials look like of the many nameless NPC that dots our games.


Let's start with some stated parameters. According to Ultimate Campaign (Gaining Capital), unskilled labor is 1sp a day for NPCs. This is also noted under their respective description in the Core Rulebook. This is compared to the 5sp that PC characters are suppose to make under the same unskilled circumstances. Furthermore, daily income for skilled PCs can be done by taking the appropriate skill check and then dividing it by 10, gaining that much in GP (rounding down to the nearest silver). I will proceed from this point forth assuming the following:
1. We will be dealing with Basic NPCs (not heroic ones)
2. Basic NPC earns 1/5 compared to their Heroic counterparts (and PCs)
3. A workweek is 5 days
4. Unskilled labor is 1sp for basic NPC
5. All skilled labor checks will Take 10 for the average gains
6. Base stats of all basic NPC will be 10
7. A skilled NPC will have the skill used for money making as a class skill
8. Nothing aside from the skill rank and base attribute score will be used (no traits or feats)
9. We will use the Paizo's Monthly Cost of Living table from the Core Rulebook:
Destitute (0 gp/month): The PC is homeless and lives in the wilderness or on the streets. 
Poor (3 gp/month): The PC lives in common rooms of taverns, with his parents, or in some other communal situation.
Average (10 gp/month): The PC lives in his own apartment, small house, or similar location—this is the lifestyle of most trained or skilled experts or warriors. 
Wealthy (100 gp/month): The PC has a sizable home or a nice suite of rooms in a fine inn. 
Extravagant (1,000 gp/month): The PC lives in a mansion, castle, or other extravagant home—he might even own the building in question. 

Unskilled Basic NPC Personal Finance

Let's start with the basic laborer, your burger flipper or your mover. These guys earn 1sp per day for their unskilled work. Thus, in a month, they will earn 2gp:
(1sp /day) * (5 days /week) * (4 weeks /month) = 20sp or 2gp

Given that they make 2gp every month, this puts them square in the Destitute category as they will not be able to afford the 3gp/ month of the poor tier. Of course, if they work 30 days a month, then that will just cover the expenses and breaks even.

Unskilled @20 days /month = 2gp /month
Unskilled @20 days /month = 3gp /month

Skilled Basic NPC Personal Finance

Now this is where things starts to change. A skilled NPC is basically is any NPC that has at least 1 rank in some kind of skill that might allow them to work, such as Sleight of Hands for pick pocketing or just a normal Craft/Profession skill. The equation is as follows:
(Skill Check/10 sp /day) * (20 workdays /month) = gp/ month

Now let's assume a level 1 NPC with one point in any of the professions would result in a Take 10 result of 14:
10 (Take 10) + 0 (Attribute Bonus) + 1 (Skill rank) + 3 (Class Skill Bonus)

Plugging 14 into the monthly equation will result in 2.8gp a month, just barely under the poor rating. Only once an NPC has hit level 2 can they start generating enough cash to break even. However, if a level 1 NPC can work 2 more extra days, they will be break even with .8cp to spare every month! Here's a chart of some basic NPC earnings:

Lv1 Skilled @20 days /month = 2.8gp /month
Lv1 Skilled @22 days /month = 3.08gp /month
Lv2 Skilled @20 days /month = 3gp /month
Lv5 Skilled @20 days /month = 3.6gp /month
Lv10 Skilled @20 days /month = 4.8gp /month
Lv20 Skilled @20 days /month = 6.8gp /month

What does this mean for your average NPC?

Sadness, that's what. No matter how hard your NPC tries, they will be forever stuck living at the poor level. Now granted, poor doesn't mean beggar level. If you can afford 2gp /month, you're simply living with other people, maybe with like 3 generations in a household rather than just 2 or something of that like. But it's still sad that even the most experienced of the basic doctors can never expect to own their own house.

Hold on just a moment though.

Let's be more realistic here. It is still possible for an NPC to reach the average level if we apply some factors we left out originally. Before we were assuming average stats all round without factoring any assistance, your basic Joe. Now, we are going to add some skills into the mix and try to create a more educated commoner. 

In order for a person to be able to afford the average tier, they will need a Take 10 result of 50. A basic NPC starts off with a 13 in his highest ability score. Let's also assume you are human or picked a race with a bonus to the moneymaking skill. That pushes it to 15, or a +2. We will also be taking Skill Focus to pump up the chosen skill by +3, or +6 by level 10. So at level one, they will have a Take 10 check of 19, resulting in 3.8gp /month (not bad eh?). 

By level 10, you can expect a Take 10 check of 35. By that level, the level 10 bonus of Skill Focus will kick in. You will also have taken 2 more attribute points at level 4 and 8, bringing the attribute bonus to +3. In addition, you can grab the Prodigy feat, adding another +2 to your check.

And once you are level 20, you will have taken another 3 more points to your attribute of choice to 20, or a +5. This brings your Take 10 check to 47, including your skills ranks. We're also going to apply age bonus, which can increase your mental ability score as you get older. We only need to advance your age twice to 22, so you'll be at 48. Finally to round everything off, you will need a Masterwork toolset, which will add +2 to your skill of choice, bringing you just to the 10gp /month needed for an average lifestyle. 

Of course, there are other methods of adding even more to your check, but they are usually restricted in some fashion by race. With this, by old age, it is very possible to have an NPC finally have a place to call home. Earlier of course, if you want to give up your weekends and toy with racial features.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Of Blood and Demons and... Bricks?! (Part 6 - Into the Woods)

The party spent a brief moment in the white room when suddenly the floor gave way under them. They fell what felt like minutes before their surroundings suddenly changed. The skies were dark with no sun in sight and a barren wasteland stretched out in all directions as far as the eye can see. A large, timeworn castle graced the landscape. But their immediate concern was the rapidly approaching ground as they hurtled straight towards it. Many managed to land safely, but a few unlikely souls slammed into dead trees on their way down. Luckily, none were too badly injured.

Before they could get their bearings set, they heard a shrill scream. Scanning the horizon, they found the source of it, a gnome frantically running away from from strange rotting plant looking creatures. They lurched and stumbled after her with surprising speed. The gnome suddenly took a tumble! She rolled once, twice, and skidded to a stop at the base of a small rise. She looked on in terror and started to scream incoherent words as her pursuers advanced upon her.

Wendy made a decision then to intervene. She took from her pouch some seeds and threw it between the pursuers and the gnome. The seeds landed in the dead earth and green erupted from them. Vines flew out in all directions and within seconds there was a large patch of vines between the pursuers and the fallen gnome, who has clammed up. Charging from their cover in the hills, the party charged forward to engage the enemies. The fight was fierce, but luckily it was ended prematurely by a gift from the black skies, a muscular man wrapped only in a loincloth came hurtling down, smashing the remaining creatures.

In the wake of the battle, the party settled down to find out what exactly has happened in the last few bizarre minutes, with running rot plants chasing a gnome and a man from the skies. The man named himself as Fetus, a warrior from a far off tribe. He was sleeping and woke up to find himself speeding towards the ground.

With little information to answer their questions, the party now turns towards the gnome. Her name? Enya. And her importance? She is one of the people trapped here to maintain the seal. Confirming Chvatil's worries, she tells them that this is the second seal. Chvatil's first seal already has been destroyed and the second seal, though stronger, is rapidly weakening. She, along with two other comrades are in charge of the second seal. She tells them, however, over the time they were here, they've become corrupt. As a result, they started to drain the energy from the lands around, resulting the vast, barren wastelands. She implores them to help her free the energies they have taken back to the lands and to reseal the locks. The energy are being used to create corrupt vegetation and forest dwellers, similar to the ones chasing her.

She leads them back to her fortress where she has created countless mechanical golems to help her fight against the never ending tide of corrupt forest dwellers. Here, the party decides it might be, to the very least, useful to check out the forest. While Enya's story sounds spot on, some voiced their suspicion, especially at her labs under the fortress which she refuses to allow anyone down there for fear of danger. And so, the next they, the party ventures forth to the mystical forest.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Travel Eating - Food in North Carolina

So... we haven't posted in a while. Whoops! Between life, work, and volunteering, I've been pretty busy. (I like using Google stickers...)
Because of my work, I get to travel a few times in the year to various places in the U.S. and this totally allows me to try out different restaurants. Here are some places that I've tried during my stay in North Carolina (downtown Winston-Salem mostly). Onward!
Totally being a big piggy...
(Also, I will try to link the restaurant/bakery/food place to their websites if they have one. Most of what I review will either be about the bar, or the food only because I don't like eating in a restaurant by myself too often :c ).

Sweet Potatoes 

So this place has great music and an awesome bartender. The bartender was very nice and told me his favorite dishes (not the dishes that had the higher price range). My coworkers called this a pricey Southern meal, but it was one of those places that I really wanted to go to because I had a hankering for Southern food. 

Carolina Salmon Florentine!

So this dish was really tasty. It's 2 pieces of blackened salmon fillets, with some spinach on the bottom and a shrimp remoulade. The salmon was cooked well and the remoulade went well with the salmon. The best part of this dish, was what was at the bottom. It was a sweet potato cornbread. Yes, this cornbread had a good sweetness that made the dish excellent. I made sure I ate a bit of everything in every bite (except for the capers because I don't really like them :c). 

The next time I come to North Carolina, I will come back here to try another dish and also try their pie (but I was stuffed that day).

Hutch & Harris

I sat at the bar and since I didn't drink, they didn't really care much about me. :c They were having a big reservation that day too so I guess it was fine. The place was pretty dark and they people around me were really cheerful and nice. 

Rajun Cajun = Love!
I totally didn't notice the mat underneath it said Naked. Haha!
The Rajun Cajun had shrimp, crawfish, smoked sausage, and chicken cooked in a great Cajun sauce over rice. I've never had any crawfish before but now that I've tasted it, I will definitely look forward to trying more crawfish! This dish had a good amount of spices in it and it was a bit spicy but definitely a delicious dish. It all tasted good and it was well cooked. There was no dried chicken or overcooked seafood. I would definitely come back to try something new or eat this again.

King's Crab Shack and Oyster Bar

This place was voted as the best seafood in the Triad (a part of North Carolina). I didn't eat in the place and did take out. When I got there, there were plenty of people inside enjoying buckets of seafood and drinking beer (felt a bit like a sports bar). The waiters were very friendly and I got my order pretty quickly.
Oyster & Shrimp Po Boy and Cornmeal Calamari
Fried Tastiness and the packaging looks cute!
These two dishes (yes I wanted my fried seafood) were delish. I liked the po boy more than the calamari. The po boy had excellently fried oysters and shrimps (about 4-5 of each). The bread was toasted and the tomatoes and lettuce that went in the sandwich made it great. That tartar sauce was great on the po boy too! Fries were mostly great and well seasoned. I didn't really like the cole slaw that came with the po boy but overall it was definitely good. The caramari was ok and their marinara sauce was standard. I think I might come back here if I had a hankering of fried seafood, or a bucket of steamed seafood, but I think I'll try a few other places first before I come back.

The Old Fourth Street Filling Station

Now, this here is one of my boss' favorite places to dine. She recommended this place to me so I went here instead of Bib's Downtown (I'll definitely be going to try that place out sometime for some BBQ). This restaurant is a little further from the usual downtown Winston-Salem eats but an easy walk to get to it if it's a beautiful day. Because I was a table of one, there were no spaces to eat outside but there was a few tables on the inside. The waiter was great. He was courteous and cracked a joke or two and made the meal enjoyable. 

Filet Napoleon and Side Salad
Yummy, yummy in my tummy. This here was decadence. The side salad was standard and I got it with a Sesame Ginger dressing. The entree was great. The sides were mashed potatoes and some seasonal vegetables like zucchini, peppers, and green beans. I had the 4oz beef tenderloin which was a bit salty but cooked well to a medium rare. What took the cake was that lump of crab meat that hides my tiny tenderloin. That crab meat lump was buttery and so so so good. Not so much a crab cake as stated on the menu, but definitely it was a tasty lump of crab meat. I would definitely come back here sometime to eat other things or get a larger tenderloin. :)

Camino Bakery

This place was my to go to dessert place after eating at those restaurants. They had so many different desserts that looked great but I've always liked to try different cheesecake flavors. 
Coffee and Red Velvet Cheesecake
I did takeout on these two slices of cake and I did find them a bit on the sweet side. The coffee cheesecake had a great taste of coffee and the red velvet had a bit of a cocoa taste but I preferred the coffee cheesecake over the red velvet cheesecake. They were both smooth and lighter than a New York Cheesecake. I will come back to Camino Bakery to try some of their other goodies.

Yeah, sorry if this post made you hungry but the food in Winston-Salem is great! There are still tons of restaurants that I haven't been too in the downtown area and I aim to try a few more the next time I travel over there!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Of Blood and Demons and... Bricks?! (Part 5 - Oh Bloody Hell)

With everything in the cup, they went upstairs into the little tower to ring the bell. Once, twice, thrice, they struck. The ear wrenching sound game way to an creepy silence. The party splashed their blood into the cup and watched it magically drain.

A loud crack was heard. The red orb floating quietly has split right down the middle. More cracks appeared, and a humanoid figure erupted out of the orb followed with red fluids that smelled suspiciously like blood. The figure floated for a bit in the air, opened his eyes. He only mouthed one word, "Run", before he started to convulse in pain. Black lines branched across his skin and then poured out of every orifice, surrounding him. The blood on the floor were drawn to the heap of dark liquid, mixing to finally form a large golem-like figure, completely made of blood and chunks of flesh that blobs around.

Wendy threw down two traps she had prepared prior, one made of aboleth slime she had harvested during the encounter before, the other, a sanctuary trap rigged to deploy a holy field when stepped on. Not a moment too late, as the blob charged with surprising agility, and sends John flying backwards, deploying the holy field. The slime trap also exploded, but the aberration didn't appear to be phased. The party engaged the blood construct. Rin ran in to attack, and discovered that the liquid was acidic as her slash caused it to splash over her. Adam summoned a group of eagles to take flight inside the chapel, circling the target. John recovered from his knockdown and quickly ran up the sides of the huge construct. He tried to pound it, but only burned his first for his trouble.

Meanwhile, Bonbon throws her pet hedgehog Squish up into the air for one of the eagles to catch. Channeling her magic, she used Squish to get a better angle at creature and unleashed a torrent of flame from Squished. The flame tore a gash in the flesh and they saw the original humanoid unconscious in there. The blood construct contracts, and John takes out his double barrel shotgun and aims where they last saw the figure and fires both shots right into the thing. It stops moving, and with a wet plop, the figure was dumped onto the floor from under the construct as the whole thing came crashing apart, flooding the place with blood.

They wake up the person and they find out his name was Chvatil. He informs them that they are currently inside the world of a complex seal that is holding the demon down. Centuries ago, he came with his fellow teammates to stop the demon from rampaging. The fight was fierce and they could not completely kill off the demon. Instead, they sacrificed their souls to hold it in place. However, the seal is weakening, and in recent times, that deterioration is growing at an exponential rate. This resulted in him being corrupted by the demonic influence within the seal. They seek someone to help, though he's not sure how the party managed to get in. His leader was the one who was tried to find people. Regardless, he asks if the party would help them out in defeating the demon. He opened two paths, one that leads deeper into the world to meet the other members of the team, who will try to assist them in their progress. He suspects something might have happened to them too with the seal weakening. The other door, however, would return them back to the outside world. Though he hopes not to have them leave, he will not force them.

The party agrees to help. Before they leave, Chvatil asks them to kill him. By doing so, they fulfill two things, first they will obtain something from him that will help them in their journey to defeat them. Second, he will no longer be vulnerable to the corruption of the demon. Hawk made a move to slay him, but before he could strike, with deft hands, he struck him with a rapier and proclaims, "I'll have you kill me, but I'm not going down without a fight!"

The party was reeling in surprise, not expecting that. Chvatil engaged multiple members of the party in a dazzling display of swordplay. When the group started to pile around him, he slide through the planes and jumped to the back, engaging the weaker wizard. The wizard, Bonbon, was in a bad position; she was alone in the back and pretty far away from her allies. Hawk was already caught in the middle and he charged to intercept him. He dealt a powerful blow, but Chvatil was unfazed, even as he was severely wounded. He revealed his trump card.

Suddenly, everyone was hit by a wave of nausea. The world was spinning and it felt like their blood was boiling and threatening to violently exit their bodies. Their blood, did in fact, violently leave their body, as they zoomed over to Chvatil and he absorbed it all, recovering to peak condition. He began form a blood armor around himself. John and Hawk would not let him and started to unleash a barrage of fists and metal to stop it from completing. Blows and blows they rained upon him until he gave in and exploded into a fantastic bloody mist. All that way left was the brooch he wore and a doorway off to the side into the room. Realizing the brooch was a magic focus, the party took it and entered the white gateway.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Reviews (Food) - Otafuku x Medetai

I don't get the combination either.

Name: Otafuku x Medetai
Address220 East 9th Street New York, NY 10003
Cuisine: Japanese Snacks
Cost: Low Range ($7/6 Takoyaki, $3 Medetai)
Recommendation: It's a cute and unique place. Definitely give it a try if you are in the area.

OxM is located just around the corner of Saint Marks and it's a nice little place I usually like to stop by after dinner on St. Marks for dessert. I discovered this maybe about a year or two back. Their menu is pretty small and I've honestly not tried anything there yet but the Takoyakis and Medetais,but even just for those two, it's still worth a check.

After dinner snack? Yeah, I'm a glutton.
Takoyakis are done in sets of 6 for $7 a dish. They're made fresh and even during low traffic times when they premake them, they're rarely in the warmer for more than a few minutes. These takoyakis are the standard fair. They have a small chunk of squid in each one with a mixture of vegetables and topped with takoyaki sauce, fish flakes, and mayo. These are pretty filling and you could potentially make a lunch of these. Just make sure you stab a few holes inside them to let the hot air out before tossing the whole thing in your mouth. A pleasure to eat.

"Good day sir/madam. My name is Very Berry. How would you like to eat me today?"
I'm always after a Medetai. These comes for $3 a piece. Effectively they are Japanese pastries with something stuffed in the middle. That something is either red bean paste or banana/Nutella. Occasionally they have a special flavor out (I've seen pictures of green tea and this baby up there is the Very Berry one) and those usually costs a little more ($4.50). Now I really like the red bean (nice and sweet) and the Very Berry (tangy as a counterpoint to the chocolate flavor), but I need to warn you about the banana/Nutella. The few times I've tried it, they put way too much banana and not enough Nutella, causing the every bite to be a banana chomp with the one single bite at the center tasting all Nutella. If you like bananas, go for it, but the way they make it doesn't spread the Nutella evenly enough.

So these aren't 5 star quality, but I'd still recommend it for a try. I know there are other places nearby where you can get the takoyakis, but they're good, they're cheap, and the experience of watching your food being prepared just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. So next time, if you're in the area, just drop by for a small snack. It'll be worth it for the experience.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Review (Food) - Sujo

Stolen off Yelp because obviously I forgot to snap a shot.
Name: Sujo
Address: 177 Bedford Avenue, Brookly, NY 11211
Cuisine: Korean Gastropub
Cost: Higher Mid-Range (~$20 per person)
Recommendation: It's not too bad, but the cost seems just a tad too high for the food here. And it's dark...

Mel: I'm gonna add comments to Sujo as well!

**WARNING - Now I'm going to preface this by apologizing for all the terrible photos, but the darn place was really dark and dim. And yes, before you ask, I decided not to use flash and I regret it.

Now this is my first time at a gastropub to my knowledge, so I was very curious to see what food would be here. For some odd reason, I was very curious about this "army soup" I keep hearing about (Budae Jigae), so I picked that one. And Mel was kind enough to share a bit of her Bibimbap with me, so we'll go a little into that. And we ordered their equivalent of loaded fries. Let's go in order.
If the caption was not apparent enough, GET THIS. We had 2 of this to split between 5 people and we all were wishing for more after it. It's fries, but topped with salsa, pulled pork, and mozzarella. It's served with sour cream and ketchup. The fries were seasoned extremely well. I don't know what they did with it, but it's not just fried potato and garnished with salt. The whole fry was bursting with flavor. The cheese gave it a very creamy texture, while the salsa keeps the mouth hydrated while consuming. The pork though, felt a little out of place. It meshed the least of all the ingredients, but it is still a welcome addition. A MUST ORDER.

Mel: It was definitely very tasty. The pulled pork was actually short rib and it's  called Sujo Fries! We also ordered a Sujo Salad which was just ok. The chicken in it was nice but thats only all I remembered from it.

Now I know why it's called army glop.
Color me disappointed. The budae jigae was effectively a mixing pot of lots of rice cake and salty preserved meats like sausages and Spam. It was definitely too salty for my taste and I cannot recommend this dish at all. And Spam does not cost that much.

Mel: While it was ok, there were other ingedients and it was a typical budae jigae. I do sort of wished it came with rice (like some other Ktown restaurants) because I certainly did not want to dish out 3 dollarsfor a side of white rice...

Why hello there...
Bibimbap is a classic order. Any new place, gotta try one of these. I was actually quite pleasantly surprised by this one. Usually the ones I've tried are very salty, but this bibimbap had a touch of sweetness to it. If you know me, I'm a sucker for sweet/salty food. Definitely a recommended plate from me.

Mel: It was a dol-sot bimbimbap which means it was served in a hot stone bowl. I found it to be very pretty and tasted great jist a bit too sweet. I wished I didn't stir the bottom so I could have gotten some crunchy rice but thats totally my own fault! The portion was also very large. I know I definitely scooped out quite a few mini plates worth for Ricky while eating.

This place is a mixed bag for me. There were good and bads for food and the location is really out of the way for me at least. The lighting was also really bad, so people with terrible night vision, bring a flashlight. The food was up and down, though I was mostly pleased, but not pleased enough to justify the high price point. Overall, I'd stay away from here, unless you really want some KILLER fries.

Mel: I enjoyed the place overall. While I did find the place a bit dark, just ask the waitress to turn the light on higher. We found out that they could around the end of the meal. You should definitely give it a try. I should also mention that if you check in on Yelp you do get 3 dollars off a draft!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Review (Games) - Machi Koro

Yeah, it's simple. Yeah, it's cute. Yeah, it's great.
Name: Machi Koro
Publisher: IDW Games
Publishing Year: 2012
Designer: Masao Suganuma
Play Time: ~30 minutes
Recommended Age: 9+
Cost: $29.99

-Really light rules.
-Short playtime.
-High luck factor with a dash of strategy.
-Really cute artwork.

-Base game has extremely low replayability and variability.
-Box is really hard to open up. Grrrr...

Verdict (Highly Recommended for All) - Machi Koro is a very simple gateway game accessible to all. I like to think this similar to Settlers of Catan that's been compressed and stripped of that awful trading component. It's length can be compared to microgames, but it packs a bit more punch than most microgames. This definitely has a home on my shelves, as a gateway game and filler.

Machi Koro is a light filler game with a surprise dash of strategy. You're the mayor of a small town and your job is to turn it into the largest, busiest city in the area. The goal of the game is to be the first person to construct 4 landmarks. Each player starts off with the same buildings and from there, you will collect money from your buildings to fuel additional purchases. On a player's turn, they will roll a dice to see what buildings will produce income (hey, doesn't that sound like Settlers?). Each building has a number on the top of them and if the dice matches that number, that building's effect triggers. Most of them only activate on your turn, but sometimes, they might trigger on an opponent's turn. Most of the time, you will collect income from the effects of the building. After that, you have an opportunity to purchase another building or to construct a landmark. Turn passes to the next player and it repeats until one person finishes all 4 landmarks.

Game Components
I have to say, before anything, the artwork REALLY appeals to me. It has this very cutesy look to it and it gives it a very cheerful feel (even as you steal other player's hard earned cash).
I'm a sucker for cute.

The cards your industry standard, slightly thicker than Dominion cards (which means it's slightly on the thinner side). However, with very little shuffling, the cards are not likely to wear out in this game. The dice are pretty standard, but they have a very solid coloring to them.
The box design is pretty roomy with plenty of space for future expansions.

The box is really sturdy, especially for a game as small as this. I would be impressed if it wasn't for the gosh darn tightness of the box. The top of the box has a perfect fit over the bottom half. The friction of the gloss between the bottom and the lid makes it very hard to pull off. The game components are really light too, so I can't bounce it around and let gravity help. And because of the perfect fit, I can't wedge my fingers in between them without bending the box out of shape. Small gripe, but arghhhh.

I have heard that the base game is slightly broken. Because all the cards are available at the start, there supposedly is an optimal build route that makes the game turn into a "who's dice is more lucky" game. I have not yet encountered this yet, but I still haven't really figured the game out. The expansions fixes this by mixing up the cards and constantly giving you a different set of cards to use each time around. And because the same cards are always out, there's no variability to the game.

Even then, I still recommend this game. It's a light filler game, but there's always that important decision, do I spread out my buildings so all the numbers are covered, or do I hedge it all together in 1 big roll. It's great for introducing people into the hobby world too, given how rules light it is. And for the price, if you get it online for $19.99 or so, it's a great value. Get this.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Review (Food) - Zen 6

Name: Zen 6
Address: 328 E 6th Street, New York, NY 10003
Cuisine: Japanese Ramen Shop
Cost: Mid-range (~$12 for a bowl of ramen)
Recommendation: The prices are competitive, but the big draw is location. It's close to Greenwich Village and NYU, but it's just off from the main traffic just enough that there is always space there. Good backup ramen shop choice.

So last week I was with a bunch of friends late out in the night and was looking for some ramen in the area. We should have known better, as many of the ramen shops were crowded and I was in a state of panic as I was the one that suggested ramen. Luckily, we found Zen 6 nearby and to our delight, there was plenty of room. At the same time, I was somewhat wary. We all know empty restaurant = bad food. I was happy to be proven wrong (mostly).

I am strangely amused by their shapes...
A personal custom I always follow when visiting a ramen shop for the first time is to order a plate of pork bun. I don't recall when or why I started doing this, but I do it. I was disappointed this time. Usually the buns have some small bits of greens in there. There was iceberg lettuce and they were soggy, and we know what soggy leaves do to buns. Their sauce mixture was also pretty bad. Usually the sauce is a dab of spicy mayo, which I do enjoy and was present. What was really annoying was the presence of a large glob of Hoi Sen Sauce (seafood sauce) that completely overwhelmed the taste of everything. And the final problem, the meat. I was expecting a soft piece of meat that melts in your mouth. Instead, I got a rough piece of pork. This made me very disappointed and nervous about my ramen.

JFC (Japnese Fried Chicken)
We picked up a small plate of Kar-age and it wasn't anything special. The chicken was tender and juicy with the batter done light and right. It was good, but nothing that stood out.

Hello main course...
So here we have it. Again, always on my first trip to a new ramen shop, I select a basic ramen with the tonkotsu broth as my standard to compare. The broth as definitely a little weird for me. It's thick and cream, but it seemed to lack of bit of flavor, like someone forgot to add salt in there. The noodles were springy, but nothing too out of the ordinary. Their pork though, color me impressed, but I think this is the best cut I've had in awhile. It had a great ratio of fat-to-meat and the meat just melts in your mouth. Definitely the opposite of the pork I had in the bun earlier. It's unfortunate there was only one piece, but with that kind of quality and price, I' not surprised.

Overall, I'm lukewarm with Zen 6. There's a lot of other great ramen shops in the area and those beats this place out in many areas. It's by no means a bad place, but for what it is, I would select one of the other shops nearby. But if all the other shops are filled up, you're almost guaranteed to have a spot here and the food here is good enough that you can go here. Just avoid the pork buns...

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Preview (Games) - Dragoon

Prepared to be as surprised as the poor humans when they see that dragon there.

DISCLAIMER: This is not a paid preview of this Kickstarter Game. However, I have won a contest earlier in the year and have received a 3 day pass to PAX East and am a KS backer. Take that as you will readers.

Name: Dragoon
Publisher: Lay Waste Games LLC.
Publishing Year: 2015 Q3 (Tentative)
Designer:Jake Give, Zach Given, Jonathan Ritter-Roderick
Play Time: 60 minutes
Recommended Age: 10+
Cost: $45 on Kickstarter RIGHT NOW!!

-Light Game
-Very Thematic
-Super Portable
-Some weather resistance
-Multiple equally viable paths to victory
-IT HAS METAL PIECES. THEY ARE HEAVY ENOUGH TO POKE AN EYE OUT (What Makes Us Happy condone the use of the games pieces for this or other violent activities. This statement was merely a reference for how pointy and hefty the pieces are)

-The village spawning phase is a bit time consuming.
-The price, though I think it's worth it, might not be for everyone.
-The game can take awhile to kick into high gear. The earlier parts of the game can feel slow.
-The game can definitely be swingy.
-Nerd rage in this game can result in property and/or bodily damage.

Verdict - This is a very fun family "take-that" game. The rules are simple enough for children to handle it but the card element adds a surprisingly good layer of complexity if one wants to take things up a notch. Bonus points for great components and portable design.

Game Summary
Dragoon is a game where players are playing as dragons in a land that is slowly being populated by humans. The goal of the game is to be the first dragon to horde 50 or more pieces of gold. There are many ways to gain gold, but the primary 2 ways are taking over human settlements and forcing them to pay tribute to you or razing those to the ground to prevent other dragons from stealing the settlements from you.

Here's a quick summary of the game flow:
1. Spawn human settlement (roll 2 dice for coordinates like Flash Point).
2. Turn order is determined (First turn via dice roll, every turn after by the person with lowest score).
3. Each player takes their turn in order. Players draws a card from the deck and take up to 3 points worth of action. The actions are as follows:

  • 0 - Play a card from your hand.
  • 1 - Move dragon into an adjacent square (no diagonals, and if you move into another dragon's zone you initiate combat,)
  • 1 - Claim a city if you are in the same square as a city. 
  • 1 - Destroy city for points.
  • 1 - Steal from dragon's den.
  • 1 - Take money from the thief.
  • 1 - Draw a card and then discard one from your hand/
  • 2 - Draw a card.

4. After each player has played their turn, in the same turn order, you roll for tribute. If you roll a 1, you lose a city. If you roll 2-3, nothing happens. 4-5 gives you the standard amount of gold (1 for village and 3 for city) and 6 gives you 2/4 coins. 

First person to have 50 or more coins at the end of a round wins!

Game Components
I give you, the on the scene, unedited by Photoshop.

"I insist that you hold this dragon." And I too, insist that you give it a try. This is what Jonathan, one of the members of Lay Waste LLC said every time he noticed the curious glance of people as they walked by the booth. Lay Waste has really focused on their components that really astounds me. As you can see from the image, their art style is beautiful and it works with their theme very well. But the pieces, the PIECES. You see, the dragon is made of metal and have a big heft to them. I was told the final product was going to be cast out of zinc, which Jonathan promised to be slightly heavier than the dragons I was holding in my hands earlier yesterday. They've also hit stretch goals that replaces the dragon's liar with a metal version and the thief has been replaced by a metal token in the shape of a treasure chest. These heft adds a delightful feel to the game and can be echo'd by many of the con go'ers that I saw there.

Mr. Fangs says hi. Keep in mind, this is not the final version of the game. The look is pretty much the same, but the paint job will be done much better. They just blasted on 2 coats of paint spray for the prototype.

The game is stored in a drawstring sack, which doubles as a score track. This makes the game extremely portable. It has the exact feel of the Carcassonne travel edition. If you wanted to, for those of you with cargo pants, I'm pretty sure you can wedge the whole thing into a pocket. It helps the "board" is made of cloth, so you can squash that into the bag too.
Packing a big punch into a small, portable package.

Tiles are nice, again, I'm going to draw some comparison with Carcassonne (the normal version now), with a similar feel.
The blues are villages and the red are the cities.

And here's a few card samples.

Overall, I am VERY impressed by the quality of the game. $45 is definitely worth the game simply for the metal components. It's wonderfully done and Lay Waste spared no expense at making this. I just wished they had metal, laser etched tiles...

I was very surprised with this game. For my first game, the first few turns were slow and extremely painful for me. The settlements spawned no where near me, and when they did, someone came down to trash it. Soon, I was left in the dust. Then I was told there were no hand limits. Couple that with playing cards are a free action, I started to draw extra cards every turn and manipulated my hand to ensure I had only powerful cards. Then on the very last turn, I shot straight up and was only short 1 point from winning versus a player who just started to capture settlements and protection them early game and I was extremely please I managed to rocket from last place so fast thanks to card combos. The card's combos added a pleasing layer of complexity to what could very much have been a Carcassonne-like game.

However, the game can be swingy, giving the "take-that" nature of the game. The power cards are very strong; they can confer game changing effects as such destroying properties simply by walking into the same square or taking control of all the cities around you. This also serves to hold back runaway leads, especially in higher player counts when more people can throw powers at the leading dragon.

My biggest complaint about this game is probably the spawning. The game board is made of 6x6 squares, each one assigned a coordinate via a six sided dice. In larger 4 player games, spawning 5 different locations can really eat up a lot of time. I wished there was an easier way, but I don't think there's any.

The pricing is also something I want to bring up. While I personally think that the game is worth the $45 price tag on the KS right now, I think a lot of people might be a little taken back, especially if you look at it from far away; it's a small game with a small footprint. However, the components are definitely worth the extra costs, as well as the flexibility of being so travel friendly. I like to compare their components to Stonemaier Game's products. And I've only seen the prototype components. The real ones are going to get a nice paintjob and made with even denser metals.

Final Thoughts
I thought the game was going to be too long for what it is, but I was sucked into it really fast. Player turns are pretty fast and you're always thinking because the flow of the board changes so fast. The game is light that children can play and the cards adds the extra complexity that veteran players would definitely enjoy. And the extra bonus is the portability. I recommend this game for people who likes to travel, or just looking for a light thematic game about dragons for the family.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Of Blood and Demons and... Bricks?! (Part 4 - Sink or Swim)

Next, the group went back to investigate a passageway that went downstairs that they had skipped before. One of the clues had pointed to something related to a sea creature. Prior, they passed the doorway and noticed the smell of sea water coming from it. Fearing a powerful monster, they decided to leave it for last.

Downstairs, they found a large room with a deep pool of water that occupies almost the whole floor. They looked down and only saw the bottom of the pool. Feeling suspicious, Wendy summons a water elemental to jump in to take a look. Suddenly, the bottom disappeared and a large fish summon takes the place of the bottom. It rapidly rises to the top of the pool, bringing itself into view of everyone. It's eyes glowed and Rin, John, and Adam seized up, freezing in place as their minds were invaded. Rin managed to shake off the effects, but John's and Adam's eyes glazed over as they became a puppet of the aboleth. John immediately engages David, his three strikes instantly destroys him and sends him hurling back into the other plane. Adam throws his readied Haste onto the aboleth, who engages the whole party with it's whipping feelers. It was a tense fight, with the crew trying to avoid the whips and the magic thrown at it while trying to suppress their teammates. Wendy managed to get an arrow right into John's knees and the pain of it snaps him right out of his trance, while Adam tried to use his weakened link with David to throw off the effect. In the end, a combination of the team's effort, the aboleth was turned into sushi. The ingredient was retrieved and placed into the cup.

The group checked off the clues off the list. They were almost done at this point. It seems the only thing left remaining was ringing the bell and giving their own blood. They ducked back into the room that once held 4 coffins to visit the training room. Rin opened the doors and guided the party over the trap that was rigged there. Inside the room, they found a few statues, each one depicting a different monster. There were clues on plaques for each one. By striking each one with their weaknesses, the party found that they would disintegrate and reveal a pile of gold. After a few errors, the party walked out a little richer, and a little more hurt.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Review (Games) - Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

How do you like your goblins, minced or roasted?
Name: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game - Rise of the Runelords
Publisher: Paizo Publishing LLC.
Publishing Year: 2014
Designer: Mike Selinker, Lone Shark Games
Play Time: 90 minutes (+10 minutes per player)
Recommended Age: 13+
Cost: $59.99 ($19.99 per expansion pack)

  • Captures the feel of progression that you would get in RPGs extremely well.
  • For veteran RPG players, great to get a bit of that RPG fix in an hour rather than a few hours.
  • For non-RPG players, it can give you a small hint at what an RPG is like.
  • Strong setting.
  • You're going to need some imagination. There are some portions that are very thematic (monk's ability to flurry), but the exploration needs a touch of imagination to lighten it up a bit.
  • You will not get the most out of the game unless you play multiple sessions. Progressions and upgrading your character deck is a big part of the game.
  • There are many, MANY erratas and FAQs. If you want to go deep, make sure you go onto Paizo's website and read through them.
  • Decently rules heavy. While it's not as bad as heavy Eurogames, it's definitely not Ticket to Ride or Catan easy. Doesn't help there are a staggering amount of card variety, increasing the different ways a card might interact.
  • Costs might be a little high for what you get...
Recommendation (Not For Everyone): This game is a great co-op, but if you do not commit to it long term for the character progression, you're better off finding another co-op game that has a lower entry barrier. The character progression is the essence of this game. However, of all the games I've played, this has come the closest to a full blown RPG.

Just a few of the 500+ cards you'll be dealing with. 
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is a co-operative game system loosely based off the Pathfinder RPG setting. Players co-operate to complete a scenario objective, usually by exploration locations. During these explorations, they will encounter boons (positive cards such as a piece of armor or a helpful ally) or banes (negative cards such as traps or monsters), where they will try to acquire or defeat. Your allies will be able to assist you, depending on their location and character class. Most of the time, you'll be trying to root out the boss of whatever is causing the disturbance in the scenario by running through the location decks via exploration. By doing so, you'll most likely find one of the boss's henchmen, where you will defeat and shut down the location to prevent the boss from escaping to it. Game ends in your victory when you defeat the boss and he has no where else to flee, or it can end in defeat if everyone dies or you run out of time (about 30 turns).

Here's the innards. Keep in mind I already have the 6 Adventure Path add-ons and the character deck, so the 7 boxes in the upper left do not come with the base game. 
The Components in the base game is just a few dice and a lot of cards. The box is really sturdy and there's a lot of room in the box to hold all of the expansions. I especially like the way they organized the box into sections for the different cards, making it extremely easy to just grab the deck that you need on the fly, which happens more often than you'd think.

The dice and cards are pretty standard. The cards are not poker card quality, but it's decent. It's still pretty thin for my tastes, though, and with the amount of shuffling and card handling, if you're like me, get some sleeves for them. Also, if you are squeamish about writing on your cards like I am, I suggest you grab like 10 or so clear sleeves of the thicker variety. You can use those to sleeve the character cards and use dry erase markers to record your progression.

I'm not sure the base game, or even the total cost of the game, justifies it's cost. The base game is $60 MSRP and you can usually get it for $40 online. You only get about ~500 cards for that price. To put it into perspective, Dominion has 500 cards and it costs about $27. The card thickness is about the same, but there's a lot more unique pieces of art in Pathfinder and they are standard size rather than Euro sized. And then each expansion costs an MSRP of $20, each one giving you about 100 more cards. That makes it even more difficult to swallow because without expansions, the game gets boring really fast. You can only do so much with 3 scenarios.

This game is definitely not for everyone for a lot of reasons, especially not for your casual board gamer. This is a game you want to go in deep and commit fully. The base game only provides you with 3 scenarios, extremely easy to knock out in 3 hours or less. The base cards are also pretty similar to each other. It's only when you start getting the expansions they start to add really interesting and great cards in there. But then that would mean to get the full experience, you're looking at nearly $200 MSRP. Let's not forget all the extra character expansion packs, which expands your options from the base classes. There's a lot of buy ins, and on the financial side, it's definitely not worth it for the causal dip.

Then there's the problem of rules. The rules are not too hard, but the sheer amount of interactions between the cards makes it a headache for casual gamers. Even the developers are having a hard time; check their FAQ section, it's enormous!

Time commitment is also a factor. When I first played a game, I was very "meh" about it. It took me a few games to start to see that the game wasn't so bad, as I was able to add more cards into my deck and replace basic cards with elite versions of themselves. That's when I really started to lay down the hurt.

Given all these problems, I still recommend this game, but only if you're an RPG player or if you're looking to commit long term to just 1 co-op game. RPG players will get a similar feel of progression, but at a much lighter and faster pace (compared to a RPG campaign). It gets you a bit of that fix when you're out of a GM or don't have as much time to commit. Also, this is the game to go for if you're looking for the co-op that ends all other co-ops. There are so many options and with all the expansions, you're going to have a tough time finishing them, especially if you die along the way. It's costly, but it has much more replayability than other co-ops. The more you invest in this game, the more it gives back.

Monday, February 16, 2015

One Shots - The Runaway Groom

Party Cast
Adam + David
Adam hails from the unknown lands, and together with his centaur eidolon David, they've struck out to see the world.
Bootlegolas (Pregenerated Stand In)
Damiel (Iconic Stand In)
A tiefling with a mysterious past. He holds himself strictly to his own personal code and his motives are unknown, but he proves to be an efficient solider. He is focus is unrivaled; once he sets his sights on a target, he will not relent until one of them is dead.
John Smith
Hailing from the far lands up north, John Smith moves now from town to town buying and selling just about anything he can get a good deal on. He joined the military in hopes that he can gain access to the military supply lines and, of course, more customers. He has a weird obsession with the mysterious black powder that recently appeared in the lands and is frequently seen using a few gadgets that is fueled by that powder, though his true power lies in his fist.
Kyra (Iconic Stand In)
Rin is blessed with a silver tongue, good looks, and a deep sense of wanderlust. She just appeared one day, with her good friend Lulu, to explore the world and to seek the riches it holds.
Sajan (Iconic Stand In)
Wendy + Luna
An inseparable pair, Wendy and Luna grew up together. They've faced many harsh trials (Luna almost dying once to save Wendy) and have forged a bond harder than steel. Their current motives are unknown, but what is known is their frightful effectiveness in battle as arrows and claw works together in perfect unison.

In an alternate timeline, our party emerged from their respective dimension gates to find themselves in front of a beautiful seaside town. The sea breeze was fresh on their faces and the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks by the waters were soothing to their ears. The party made straight into town to ask directions for the Tavern and they were lead to the Blind Boar's Tavern.

Blind Boar was medium sized tavern, constructed completely of wood. It's exterior is well worn, showing it's age. The party noted as they stepped inside however, that the place was very well kept. There wasn't that many people in there at this time of the day, so Wendy went over to start up some small talk with the barkeeper. She learned that this was the coastal town of Tilan, quite famous for their seafood. Wendy and John picked up some lobsters to snack on while continuing the talks while Hawk tried to engage the few people at the bar. They all turned up with the same thing though, the Mayor's son has disappeared 2 days ago and his marriage ceremony was in 5 days. The group split off, with Hawk, Damiel, and Bootlegolas staying behind at the tavern while the rest made for the mayor's house.

The group found the mayor's house, or more accurately, the mayor's keep, at the top of the hill a decent walk away from the tavern. Sajan went to circle the house, trying to find an alternate entrance while the rest made straight to the front door. Two guards stood there, denying their entrance, until they made mention that they wanted to see the mayor to help him with his son, and then they were ushered in. They found the mayor in his office, unresponsive. They shook him up a bit and he woke up, looking completely tired and drained. He explained that he had arranged a marriage with his son a two months ago and he wasn't opposed to it. Yet, he couldn't explain his disappearance 2 days ago. He told them they last saw him up in his room before he went to bed. The group asked to go upstairs to inspect the room.

Outside, Sajan realized it was impossible to scale the walls and went back to the tavern to find out that Bootlegolas was completely drunk and unconscious after consuming 5 pints of Fire Dragon's Ale. Damiel brought him back around with some of her concoctions, and then started to head down to the docks to find some work to make money. Bootlegolas and Sajan followed him while Hawk went to catch up with the rest at the mayor's place.

Back at the keep, the group scour the area for any trace of information about his son, Odwic. They found some sketches of many scenes by the beaches, as well as a lot of research papers about the local wildlife. It turns out he's a very respected researcher locally and has submitted many papers detailing the local area's wildlife. They also dug out a strange bronze disc from his desk, which had a strange polish to it. It certainly did not looked manufactured, but no one could tell of the origin. After finding nothing else of interest, they took off down to the beach to see if they could find some clues.

Back at the docks, Sajan decided to do some quick muscle work to get some cash while Bootlegolas and Damiel searched for some information. They were pointed to Begger Pete, who turned out to mostly be a big waste of time and silver. However, they left with a bit of information about the caves nearby, that they might be occupied by beautiful women. They made way for the beach and found the other group a little further down the shoreline, in front of a giant cave.

A river flowed out from the cave into the open ocean. It was dark inside, but a combination of Dark Vision and light guided the group inward. They stopped shortly inside, with 4 paths to take. They checked for wind flows and located 2 of the paths with it, while one of these had the river flowing from it. Ducking into one of the other pathways, they found a giant mother crab with her babies. Wendy spoke with them with Adam translating for the rest, learning that the cave was once a dangerous place, but something came here awhile ago and things died down. The mother crab was uncertain about what was deeper in the cave as it gave her a bad feeling, but they parted on amiable terms. A quick look in the other cave revealed another giant crab, but sleeping. The party chose not to disturb it and made headway into the path without the river.

The path wasn't terribly wide and the hike was slow and long. Along the way they noticed the wall was dimly lit by some strange colored crystals. Then they hear, first faintly, singing, then as it grew louder, they saw natural light up ahead. The pathway ended in a large cavern with a small opening in the roof, showing the skies. In the middle of the cave was a large pool of water, and in the center, atop of a small land, was a female elvish figure, bathing and singing. Sajan, tried to stealth in, while Wendy, Rin, and Luna peeked in, but they were given away Sajan. The girl looked up with a start to see the rest of the party filing in and grabbed her shawl nearby and wrapped herself in it, sinking back a bit into the water. John tried to get information out of her, but she didn't respond. He thought she might not understand him and was about to ask Adam to speak with Aquian when Wendy figured out that she was a Nereid and could perfectly understand Common. Some realized the rudeness of the intrusion and left, but Bootlegolas stay rooted. He was completely enchanted by the Nereid's perfect beauty and couldn't look away. Luna snorted and chomped on his legs and dragged him out of the cave until he got back his senses.

With the other 3 paths explored, the group hurried down the final route, and emerged in an even larger cavern, with the skies wide open above them. Vegetation covered the ground and a rushing waterfall of crystal clear water kept the pool in the middle fresh. Near the back was a young women, along with Odwic, clearly identifiable with his strange blue hair coloration. They immediately sprung up as they entered the cave and were cautious as the group introduced themselves. Odwic introduced the girl as Adina, but when asked questions about her, he was very silent about it and asked to not pry. When asked to return to his worrying father, he refused, stating that he never agreed to the marriage in the first place and he tried to talk his father out of it, but his father was also stubborn. This conflicting statement caused some level of concern in the party and Wendy, Luna, and Sajan ran back to the keep to see the mayor.

Luna ran fast, as fast as she could with Wendy on her. They shot down the streets until they reached the keep with Sajan far behind, left in the dust. Wendy told the guard that she found her son, and the maids took her to the office to wait for the mayor. He was down shortly afterward and demanded to know where he was. Wendy was very reluctant to tell him, asking him to answer some questions first. However, the mayor had already seen past her when she confronted him with the conflicting account of his son in regards to his willingness. He immediately suspected he was taken into the cavern networks by the beaches and went to his desk to take out a roll of parchment. He's pretty sure Odwic has been enchanted by a Nereid and handed Wendy 3 scrolls loaded with dispelling magic to remove the influence on him. He told her to try that on him, which should reveal the truth. "If the magic is too strong, bring him back by force," he said.

Wendy rushed back on Luna, picking up the struggling Sajan on the way back. She pondered a bit, because the young women with Odwic certainly didn't look like a Nereid. But nonetheless, she launched the dispelling on Odwic. Though she tried her best to conceal it, Odwic and Adina were suspicious and were inspecting Odwic when both Wendy and Adam launched the remaining dispells at both Odwic and Adina at the same time. On striking, Adina flared up, confronting the party, demanding to know why they were both on the receiving end of disspellment. When told the truth, she scoffed, telling the casters to look at Odwic and see if there were any trace of magical manipulation, which they realized to their horror, there was none. Odwic, was now resolved on leaving. Though he did not want to do so, he realized his father was extremely adamant about getting him to marry, so he thought to leave with Adina to another place, where the winds takes them. He requested the party to give him until dawn to write one last letter to his father before leaving.

As the sun rose, Odwic handed a letter, sealed to Wendy to deliver. He walked the party to the exit and made his way up to the cliff. There, both him and Adina dove off, but rather than crashing into the rocks below, Adina was covered and surrounded by a magical storm of glittering dust, and when it broke, she was revealed to be a dragon, covered from head to toe in bronze scale. With Odwic on her back, they quickly disappeared over the horizon, leaving the party speechless.

When the party returned to the news to the mayor, he couldn't believe the party. Adam scanned the mayor, and to his horror, he found out he was under some kind of spell. However, before he could do anything about it, the spell shattered, as the mayor, reading the letter, collapsed into a sobbing mess. They were quickly rushed out by the guards and maids and they found themselves back out in town.

With heavy hearts, our party turned to leave, but Wendy, along with other arcane casters felt a pulse from her bag. Riffling through it, Wendy realized it was the dragon scale that was pulsing. She notice the pulse quickens if it points to a certain direction. Nodding in agreement, everyone took off under the morning sun, following the pulses, arriving at a beach, but in front of a giant rock wall of another hill. A quick inspection reveals an imprint in the walls where the scale can fit. Slotting it in, energy poured out of it, filling into the cracks of the wall, tracing out a magic sigil. It flashed once, twice, and all the energy disappeared, followed by a rumble as a 10 foot hole opened up to reveal a hidden pocket in the wall with a small pile of gems and assorted trinkets. This was perhaps a parting gift left both by Adina and Odwic to them, perhaps a small token of thanks for letting them leave peacefully. And thus, our party left the town of Tilan, with their pouches a little heavier, but for some, their hearts even more heavy.

Of Blood and Demons and... Bricks?! (Part 3 - The Worker and the Artisan)

Dusting themselves off, the party continues to explore the chapel. They left the room and decided to save the Training Room for last and went next door and entered another small, sparsely decorated room. Painting hangs off the walls, depicting sailors, blacksmiths, and other working people. At the center of the room was a sarcophagus. Reading the description, the party inferred that in order to open up the sarcophagus, they had to sacrifice something to the person residing within, something that he liked. As the person residing within was the patron of the working people, they tried to donate items and tools, none of which worked. Everyone was stumped on what to do, when Rin noticed a white shadow in the corner of the room. The motion it made was similar to a smithy working at the forge, and then it clicked. The party had Wendy put together a bow made from the dead body of the twisted tree and immediately after sacrificing it, the lid open to reveal another item.

Moving to the other side of the chapel, they found a mirror image of the room they were just in, but rather than working men, the pictures were bards and minstrel. But before they could take anything in, they noticed a female human sleeping on top of the coffin. John walked over and punched her, which woke her with a start, and she returned the favor with a kick to his groin. Her name was Bonbon, and she has absolutely no recollection of what she was doing here, but she decides to join the group, perhaps regaining her memory in the process. The party at this point figured out they probably have to perform something to open this coffin up. However, after many fruitless attempts, including one where John was trying to market his wares to the coffin, they gave up and searched around the room for other clues. Instead, they found a secret passageway in the back of the room, and it lead to a mostly empty storage room. They managed to salvage along the way an enchanted crossbow, but they also found a ring sitting strangely in the far side of the room. Wendy ordered Luna to approach it to pick it up, but the minute she touched it, she was crushed and hurt terribly by an invisible force. Luna quickly dropped it, but rather than hitting the floor, it maintained it's location, hovering in midair. Clearly, this was the cursed ring they were looking for. Rather than tossing the ring to each other, Rin ran back to get the chalice and placed it right under the ring, letting the liquid in there consume it.

Still baffled by the second coffin, the party was getting desperate. None of them really knew any way to perform any art. Rin tried to copy some performances she saw at taverns on her travels while Wendy got fed up and spent hours reciting the Iliad to coffin. At the end of it, the magic seal dissipated and they claimed another key item, tossing it into the chalice.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Of Blood and Demons and... Bricks?! (Part 2 - Drunken Books, Hidden Revenant)

Confused by the disappearing person, the party heads back inside to continue exploration. With the outside searched, they turned to the deeper parts of the chapel.

Their search brings them into a large room with bookshelves covering every wall that extends to the ceilings. As they entered, they caught sight of an open book left at the center of the room, resting atop a lonely table. On closer inspection, it was not a book, but a hollowed out container shaped of a book. Inside, they found a note of an angry bishop scolding an acolyte for hiding alcohol in the books and threatens for each book he finds with them in there that he will give him a fit of lashings. Our party was not interested. They noticed in the note that the bishop mentioned that the alcohol was all in books of the same name, in different language. The thought of free booze was too much and the party raided the whole library in search of the elusive booze.

Meanwhile, Hawk had just fallen asleep after a long day's of hard work in the field. He quickly woke up to find himself in the chapel along with the rest of the party. He was quickly brought up to date and immediately joins in the booze hunt. While raiding the shelves, both Wendy and Rin noticed another note buried in the books. The librarian left a note to the acolyte, thanking him for his alcohol. In return, he left something special for him in the most expensive book in the library. This sent the whole entire party into a looting frenzy. The result of all of this was some magical scrolls and 12 bottles of very rare wine. 

Satisfied that there were nothing else valuable left, the party left the library and moved on into the next room. The room they entered was very small and unfurnished. Standing the side of the room were 4 sarcophagi. On the far side of the room was a door labeled "Training Room". They decided to save the Training Room for a later time as it sounded a little unsettling. Instead, they surrounded a plaque near the doorway. A small logic puzzle was there, indicating what might be in the coffins. Two of those coffins holds materials for the chalice. Within minutes, the party had the puzzle figured out and pried open two of the coffins, extracting the mummified bodies as ingredients for whatever terrible concoction would result in the chalice. 

Two coffins were left, and Hawk got curious, along with John. What else was in there? Perhaps treasure? Greedy and curiosity quickly overtook them and they decided to crack the last two open. The rest of the party weren't in agreement and waited nervously by the exit of the room. Before the first coffin door even hit the floor, an enormous blast of electricity erupted from the insides, flooring both John and Adam immediately into a spasing mess.Hawk shrugged off the blast and got ready to greet the emerging revenant, electricity crackling from its eye sockets and mouth.

The rest of the party hurried to help Hawk, but couldn't do much as they were all jammed around the doorway. Hawk and his companion, Sad, tried to keep the revenant occupied while John struggled to throw off the stunning effect of the shock. Hawk was not holding the revenant too well as it kept hurling blasts after blasts of electricity. One of the party members managed to hurl a bottle of Holy Water onto the revenant, terrifying it and causing it to lose control momentarily. That pause was more than enough for John. Shaking off the unwanted electric therapy, John let loose an enraged roar and proceeded to entangle the revenant in a bear hug. He maneuvered the undead being into Hawk's chopping sword stroke, taking out a set of the ribs. Wendy managed to get two clean shot off at the revenant, firing over Adam's twitching body, igniting it. With the body burning rapidly, John wrestled the revenant's hands out and proceeded to bludgeon it with it's own fist until it stopped moving.

Not content with just 1 coffin left, John opens up the last coffin, and earned an explosive surprise for his troubles.

Chvatil's Brooch

This brooch has a large ruby embed into it's center. It is very well decorated, but it gives off a very uncomfortable feeling when you look at it. You swear it's trying to rip something out of you.

Type: Minor Artifact
Aura: Faint (Strong) Transmutation and Moderate Conjuration
Caster Level: 17
Slot: Neck
Weight: 1 lb.

This brooch holds all of Chvatil's research on himself. Chvatil was born with a a strong affinity for magic, but it manifested itself in the strangest way, in the form of control of blood. He was, at first, able to influence his own blood, instantly clotting it up when he was cut. As he grew, his power grew exponentially and he started to understand his abilities further. Using a special ruby infused with his own blood, he created this brooch to serve as a controller and amplifier to his already scary control of the red liquid.

The brooch grants the following to non-spellcasters who wears it:
Blood Filtration - The brooch constantly maintains the user's blood, purging it of foreign bodies and repairing damaged cells. User is immune to all blood based toxins and is immune to bleed effects.

In addition, if the user has is at least a level 1 arcane spellcaster, they are granted the following:
Blood Pool - The brooch can store blood from other sources to be used to fuel it's power. These will be referred to blood points (BP). For every 4 (2) points of damage the user takes, 1 BP is added to the pool. Whenever you deal melee damage, for every 6 (3) of damage done, add 1 BP to the pool.

Blood Magic - The caster may cast a spell they have memorized/prepared for the day by using an amount of BP equal to 3x (1x) the spell's level. This does not use up the spell slots. Spells with metamagic feats uses their new combined level. Magic cast this way have their descriptor modified to blood. This is acts in all ways as if the spell was modified by a water descriptor.

Blood Sacrifice - The caster may purposely drain her own health to fuel the power of the brooch. As a standard action, the caster takes 1d6 per 4 caster levels (up to 6 damage per 4 caster level) [minimum 1] damage and transfers the damage amount to the blood pool as BP.

Crimson Lance - The user can use BP to summon a spear made of blood as a standard action and hurl it at it's foes. Summon up to 1 spear per 3 caster level (unlimited) at the cost of 2 (1) BP per spear. Each spear deals 1d4 damage with unerring accuracy to any foe within medium range. The user may instead focus and charge the spell up as a full action and continue to maintain the spell each turn after as a full action. For each turn after the first, increase the damage dice by 1 (2) stage and drain 2 (1) BP.

Soul of the Sanguine River - This has been cryptically referred to many times in Chvatil's research papers, but has never been fully explained. It's suppose to unleash the full potential of the brooch even if the user has lesser powers than Chvatil.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Of Blood and Demons and... Bricks?! (Part 1 - The Birds, the Bees, and the Trees)

After the frightful surprise attack, Rin, Wendy, Adam, and John all woke up to find themselves in a creepy chapel. The chapel was situated on top of a hill and nothing but plains and more hills could be seen for miles around. Dark clouds floated in the skies and the occasional lightning struck far away. They tried to leave, but some strange barrier prevented them leaving the chapel grounds.

Returning inside, they noticed at the center of the large chapel a large floating red orb. Beneath it they found a chalice and a cryptic message with a list of items. Seeing as they had no way out, they set out to find these items in hope that it might give them some clues as to where they are. 

The party decided to explore the western door of the chapel and they exited to what appears to be a small garden. The dirt here was dried up with dead weeds wherever. Some stone statues were in the back, littering the front of a rundown mausoleum. And at the center of the whole mess stood an enormous tree. At the foot of the tree stood a tombstone. As the party moved in to look, a loud and chilling caw startled them. A large and, oddly enough, evil looking crow landed on top of the tree and gave them the start. Before they could gather their courage again, the tree shook violently and a wave of spores were unleashed.

The tree turns out to be a Hangman Tree and the spores were a hallucinogens to make weak willed people think the tree is harmless while it works to take them out. Adam's, John's, and Wendy's were immediately hazed and the tree used the opportunity to entangle them in it's roots. Rin frantically tried to bring down the tree slashing at it and hurling insults in Sylvan. The tree mocks her as it continues to slowly strangle the rest of the party as they tried to break out of their stupor. Rin notices the crow still perched on top of the tree, and in the moment of desperation, shot and killed it. The tree suddenly freezes up and the remaining members quickly regains their senses and untangles themselves. Taking advantage of the situation, the party made short work of the tree and moments later, the tree can crashing down. Searching around the now down tree, they found a skeleton, but also a blackened, half rotted heart buried underneath it. It appeared to be one of the items they were searching for and was confirmed when they returned it to the chalice to see it dissolve into liquid. To ensure that the party would be protected from troubles in the area, Wendy took the skull off the skeleton and stuck it on a long branch torn from the hangman tree to warn future aggressors to be careful.

The party decided to take a look to the eastern exit and discovered a small courtyard. The floor was layered with beaten cobblestone and at the center of the courtyard was a chest. Suspicious, John approached cautiously. His caution was spot on, as the floor gave away to reveal that the chest was surrounded on all sides by a pit. He almost fell in and grabbed the ledge, but that wasn't the end of it. Ghouls has taken up residence in the pit and seeing a new prey, they immediately jumped and clawed at him. He manages to kick them off before rolling back onto the ground. At this point, Rin makes a leap across the pit and lands near the chest. She easily pops the lock open, scooping out a small pile of coins, She then secures one end of a rope into the ground and then throws it across to the other side with a hook and walks it back to mainland. John, not content with getting clawed, brings out his shotgun and wipes out all the ghouls as revenge. However, as he descends into the pit to check their bodies, a swarm of killer wasps erupts from each of their body. He climbs up as fast as he can, but they catch up to him easily and proceeds to sting him. Combined with the poison from the stings and the venom from the ghouls, John slams into the floor immobile. Wendy rushes to his rescue, summoning a small fire elemental to try and burn the wasp, though it met with little success. The swarms were too large and many, but it served it's purpose as a distracting, allowing everyone to rush back into the chapel and slam the door shut behind them.

While John was recovering, the rest of the party noticed the mausoleum they left unchecked in the back of the garden. Rin scouts ahead and notices a Basilisk sitting in there. Then it clicked, the statues were all former living beings frozen in stone by that beast. Rin rushes in with cover from Wendy and Adam and makes short work of the stone lizard. Using the blood, Rin tries to bring back one of the statues back to life. She luckily manages to get a captain, who was in charge of leading a group of vampire slayers to kill a vampire lord who was rumored to live here. Thanking them for freeing him, he gave them a choice of one of his weapon, with Wendy taking a flaming shortbow. He proceeds to leave the chapel, and as he approaches the barrier, he just vanishes, leaving the party even more mystified.