Monday, November 28, 2011

Prologue One - Elven Odyssey: The War Prayer

"Did you find what you expected?"

Ashadah passed through the outer door to his apartments, and before answering his question, she turned and spoke an arcane Word to seal the portal behind her. Her Ar-Tel'Quessir eyes slowly began to adjust to the dimness he kept. One small lamp burned across the room from where she supposed he sat, and it did nothing to illuminate the darkness, as it glowed from within a haze of pipeweed smoke.

Now, she turned and approached his table, where he liked to sit in the great, throne-like leather chair, and lay out maps, charts, scrolls, tomes, and sometimes a gridded map of two-colored squares upon which he set out small figurines of ivory and onyx, which resembled nobles, armed knights, and towers.

This evening, it was different. Instead of the ordered grid, there was something a sunburst? It was difficult to see in the dark, with the windows behind his chair closed, shuttered, and the draperies drawn shut.

"Igni!"  With a burst of flame, like a corona of fire surrounding his head, the Word he'd spoken brought forth fire...and...lit his pipe. If she had not been used to it, she might have jumped, like most did when they first met him. "At least that spell still works, Weave or no Weave...", he grumbled between his teeth, which were clenched on the pipe.

The fire shed light upon the shape before him on the table, revealing it to be a flat board inscribed with a thick-threaded spider web? It had the semblance of a game board, but something about it seemed a bit more sinister than his preferred grid.

As if sensing her question, he offered, "It's called saava. It's a dhaerow game."

"The Drow have games?" she asked, using the more common racial name for the elves of the Underdark, instead of the old name which he'd used--the old name which meant simply, "betrayer".

"Yes, they do. It's always good to understand the strategy games of your enemy. It can teach you to think like they think, and illustrates patterns in their otherwise mysterious maneuvers. However, I don't think I should be the one explaining...dangerous games."

She gestured with one slender hand towards the magically sealed portal. "I brought someone with me to meet you, a half-elven sorceror with inclinations towards storm magic...and a fear of the same. I have the hope that you might focus his abilities towards control, and teach him to be one, to tune into the power of those elements. His name is Turrath."

"Turrath... he can wait. I have a long, stern lecture to give him anyway, to make sure he doesn't go down the path of another storm-controlling druid we knew..."

Ashadah breathed deeply, then shook her head, as if to clear a memory. Her long, golden cascade of hair swayed back and forth as she did. "That...was a long time ago. He is not like Thunderstaff."

He narrowed his dangerous eyes, still clear and sharp, even after many years. They were green, as green as the verdant forests around Evereska, and they shone with an inner light of much experience, much wisdom. Those eyes had seen many things, many wars, and still measured everyone they fell upon. Ashadah was probably overall the greater mage, but his power of destructive magic would trump her spells. "You didn't come here to reflect on the past, nor to learn saava, nor to bring that boy. Did you summon it?"

"Yes, I used the boy. He carried one of the tel'kiira gems, and I used it, through his gift, to pool a storm upon which I could draw. It seemed like a strong element in a pattern to call forth a primal, natural spirit."

"Ha!", he snorted. "That is perhaps the first time a Vyshaan mage admits to 'using' people. And, those are not tel'kiira gems...they were not crafted immersed in the Weave. Neither do they belong to the Vyshaan."

"I longer...." she began, in gentle, urgent protest.

"Bullshit" he countered, before she could finish, using the word in the Common human tongue. "Isn't your son...?"

Now, it was her turn to cut him off. "This is not about my son. This is about the Spirit of the Gathering. The ancient traditions are upheld."

"It's also an 'ancient tradition' to tell the Coronal and the Armanthors that you are doing such a thing, but I guess that line of the old scrolls slipped past you." His voice held a soft sarcasm, but his eyes never wavered. "So, where did you ask it to abide? In a shadowtop tree? In a fresh, clear spring, guarded by dryads and nymphs?"

She squared her shoulders, met his eyes, and told him.

"What?!" he shouted, and bolted upright with a speed that revealed how well he kept in practice of his skills, even after all the years. "Galad'evaele!" he commanded by Art, and the room became bright as a open glade at Midsummer, shining with gold- and silver-hued radiance. All the lamps, candlesticks, and even the fireplace ignited. She could feel the power he drew upon, as intense as his emotions.

If Turrath had been within the chamber, he might have become more fearful of the sun at noon, or the fullest moon, and seen the storm incarnate within them.

"Tell it to depart. Send it on to something...natural. Bury that thing back in the heart of a mountain, but whatever you do, get rid of it! I thought we agreed this would never come to pass! Not even the Olin Gisiae know where to find such things, but you--you!--had to go and dig it up!"

"You agreed. I did not. I never rejected the knowledge of my heritage, and I thought it better for it to be on our side, instead of..." She paused, as if unsure how to continue. Then, she shook her head again, and took a different approach. "It does not remember, and as for the summoned spirit, perhaps I should have asked the priests of Rillifane or the druids to assist. High Magic, worked alone..."

"High Magic?" It was less a question than an inflected comment. "High Magic, worked alone, always leads to catastrophe! By the very nature of it, that Art was meant to be woven in circles, with a Center, and...and..." He blew out a long, frustrated breath, and sat back down, this time remaining on the edge of the cushion, leaning forward over the polished wooden table. "Send the spirit back to the aether of nature, dismiss it, and haul the construct here, without many seeing it."

"You remind me of another Ar-Tel'Quessir I knew, always giving orders. I served him, but I was never bound to obey...not him, not you. It is bound to the artifice, and has already chosen a new name for itself."

He arched an eyebrow, and gasped. "A construct cannot name itself, and the spirit would not need a new name, because it holds an ancient one, already. What did it choose?" Some instinct, honed from years of dealing with threats mundane and mystical, made him steel himself for the answer.

"Kor," she replied, with heavy emphasis on the first consonant.

He raised his right hand, opening it, glancing back and forth from her, to the rune inscribed in metallic silver and gold upon it. Upon his palm, as Ashadah had seen before, was one of the foundation-runes of modern Elven language, and also ancient Seldruin. The rune, "Cor-", which was the centerpoint of "Corellon" the lord of the Seldarine, "Coronal" the kings of the Tel'Quessir, and the great forest empire of "Cormanthyr", among many other terms.

"Cor?" he whispered. "Ashadah... what have you done?"

Great tapestries begin with simple threads being woven together.

The meeting of Tahl'ranir, Goliad, and Turrath came from the invitation of the Gold Eladrin mage Ashadah. Helping the elven communities of the forest patrol for a group of unknown poachers, the three companions carried pale, smoothly polished blue stones, almost like semi-precious gems, given to them by the mage. Also, knowing the upcoming festival was approaching to celebrate a Gathering--an Elven Court--and then to come together with the humans of the Dalelands, to rededicate the Standing Stone, to celebrate the elven liberation of Myth Drannor, and then the elven alliance with humans to free Shadowdale... so many years ago was the Stone despoiled by the Daemonfey--demon blooded elves--and now it will be repaired, restored, healed... and with it, the Dales Compact between elves and men will be back in place, agreed upon by all. It has been over 100 years since it was broken...

Finding hobgoblin raiders, camped in the crook formed by the gargantuan roots of fallen shadowtop tree of immense size and age, the companions fought without Ashadah, yet found one of her blue gemstones capable of healing Tahl as he fell in battle...although the stone seemed to explode in a healing burst of arcane power, then blacken and crack. Also, awakening the weather-worn and moss-covered circle of plinths, they found healing and strengthening gifted to those of fey blood, including Tahl, who is a Shadar-Kai of elven stock.

Ashadah appears, and with a fragile sheet of antique parchment, calls down the power of a harnessed thundercloud, drives lightning into the earth, and raises a large mass of soil, which holds within it, a long-buried form, like a full suit of armor, inscribed with tracery suggesting elven craftsmanship. With one of the blue gems, touched to its head, and incanting words of Art like thunderclaps, Ashadah draws primal energy and an animate spirit into the construct... and it awakens.

Meanwhile, Tahl & Goliad find and free a magnificent silver-white wolf, with deep intelligent eyes, from an arcane locked and runed cage. The wolf wears a seamless collar of silver or mithral, and small ankle bracelets of the same metal on all four legs. Ashadah gives the now-awaken construct into the care of two of the companions, and suggests they take it, and the wolf, to a nearby forest wood elf community, while she and Turrath depart, so that she can continue preparations for the Gathering and festivals.

The construct, forged for war, proclaims itself a servant and protector of nature, and names itself "Kor", since it was drawn from the core of the roots of the tree and deep within the ground.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Controversial Trek

Okay, I know that Gene Rodenberry was a little on the liberal side. I know that Star Trek has always challenged the politically correct view of society on a number of issues. Heck, it featured inter-racial kissing that really made the networks tremble--back then. Now, Kirk & Uhura seem like they will be an item, from Abrams new Trek's previews. (Of course, it could also be because she is like, the only chick in the crew main cast... so Kirk would otherwise be in his undies with a no-namer.)

"Blood & Fire", the long-awaited David Gerrold two-parter for online classic Trek... not only features some nice starship combat, some bloody evil monsters, which would make D&D players tremble, but the damn things are resistant to phaser-fire and... oh wait...

This was about something else. It was about the lovey-dovey man on man couple... in little Starfleet German beerfest um... jumpsuits? When the heck did they get these cutesy jumpers? Or was that designed by the same guy who gave men wrap-around skirts in the first episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and then they disappeared?
Was it a good episode? (Part 1 only, so far?) Well, it was okay. Special effects and ships nicely done. Cool framed artwork of the Enterprise from Enterprise TV series on the wall. Was it meant to be cute? And... how the heck do Regulan Bloodworks = a gay AIDs episode???
I will have to wait until Part 2, with poor, not aging well, Denise Crosby, NOT playing Tasha Yar.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Playing without Books

No, I'm not talking about the Amber diceless RPG or a LARP... I'm talking about something I like for 4e that I feel like some critics ignore.

I've found that, aside from some condition and movement look-ups, we can set aside our PHB, DMG, and even MM most of the time in 4e. With power cards, or power sheets, or power-whatevers filled out by the players, and nice concise monster stat blocks included in published adventures, there is a lot of time saved [for me] to run back and look up rules.

The horizontal format DM Screen has a lot of condition and action info summarized there, and that helps a ton. Sure, the errata are not in my PHB because I don't have the super-deluxe version yet, but I don't miss them yet either.

All in all, this time saving helps me feel the game is easier to run, and once a player becomes familiar with their own specific character--what that character can do, as opposed to the whole darn game system--play is faster. I've run 4e sessions with 4 - 6 combat encounters plus roleplay, in one night, which I never ever did in previous editions... and they were not rushed, they were fun!

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Re-building" an established campaign

Okay, so here is a problem I have on my DM plate: I have a long-running, multi-year, deeply roleplay immersive campaign that was begun in 3.5 DnD.

Yeah, duh, it's "Elven Quest"!

So, the wonderful engine of the story and awesome, broad roleplay and character development has ground to a halt, because the group changed a little, we are down to at best 4 players, on a very good day, and we are exploring low-level 4e with an overlapping gaming group. (By overlap, I mean some players are in both groups).

I want the campaign to continue, but to do that, one of things I must consider is adding new players to a story which has a LOT of background, and possibly having them feel like someone is telling inside jokes all the time, and they are left out.

So, I'd love to hear any ideas from people as to how they might handle it... and "end the campaign" is not an option!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Blog Title?

Okay, while my bias leans more and more to 4e DnD, my Blog was named for a 3.5 campaign, which we called at the table, "Elven Quest". It began when WotC published the Lost Empires of Faerun hardback for Forgotten Realms campaign setting.

Basically, we said "Let's have a campaign begin with some common theme..." and I chose, Elven History...

Who would have known? Among several awesome DnD campaigns over the years, including great gameplay and roleplay by wonderful players, this one is the best to date!

4e has brought back an Old School feel for me, and I enjoy DMing again! So if I could get EQ campaign to level 12, slowly, over years (playing like, once every 8 - 10 weeks) even in 3.5, I wonder where it would go if I convert it to 4e, write some background to help the transition, and then move forward. Maybe it's selfish, but damn I would love to see 30th level with those characters and those players.

Two movies to share

Okay, I have two completely different movies to share with you, which both are--to quote Sean--"Brilliant!"

First of all, there is this unique movie I discovered in the Blockbuster Blu-Ray section called "The Fall". Let me just say, it's not only incredibly well acted, but filled with some of the most amazing "real" imagery from locations all around our world. This is the kind of movie I would sit everyone down in front of at least once, and it's one of the reasons I game, because of the way it looks at the world. Don't take my word for it, but if you don't find something to like in "The Fall", I'll buy you dinner.

Second, I needed to laugh, and not only did I laugh, but I nominate Robert Downey Jr. for ever frikkin movie award there is, followed by Ben Stiller. Yes, and a few other actors who you may or may not care too much about, or think deserving of Oscars... well... then you haven't seen "Tropic Thunder". This cast of actors must have gotten together and decided to show the world what they can do best....and they pull it off with style. I won't even say how fun Tom Cruise is, in this one. Watch it, Jack Black alone is worth it.... Forget anything these guys did which you don't like, and watch it!

Both of these movies make me think of the fun of gaming, when you get to create unique characters, who may or may not "go together in the party" when the campaigns begin...but... :)