Get yerselves to OwlCon XXX!

We’ll be there at Rice University in Houston in person, gaming, talking dungeon-making, and even running a few games this year: High Water Marks andKeepsakes (see below).

We had a great time last year, playing a bunch of 4e DnD, Advanced Civ, Rail Baron, and immersive BattleTech in the pods, and vowed to return.  And so we will.  Look for us at these locations.  We’ll also likely tweet our locations @clawclawbite (also at

Register here and attend as well, and you too will have fun the weekend of Jan 28-30, 2011.

High Water Marks 4 – 6 players
Sun1000 (6) Intermediate
Your 5th-level party starts off in a downtrodden village where it has rained a full fortnight. Among the muck, the fistfights and verbal ill-will broken out between the denizens hints at problems that run deeper than the water. With all the enemies afoot, you will soon learn that a more sinister plot faces the village from higher ground.GM – Stephen Hilderbrand
Keepsakes 4 – 6 players
Sun1500 (5) Intermediate
You and your 5th-level party are traveling on a road along the southern route in a expansive moor, a journey not without considerable challenges. While paying a toll under the shadow of a keep among rocky crags, it is recommended that you seek accommodations within, as a chilly rain has begun to fall, and the eerie glow of the overcast night is about to follow suit.GM – Stephen Hilderbrand


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Vargyr Feywolves

These savage beast-men hail from the dark woods of the Feywild, descended from both wolves and wild elves.  Feral, they live in tribes and hunt the untrammeled moon-lit forests of the deepest depths of that enchanted land.  In appearence they are much like wild elves, small of stature but strong and fast, with light beards that grow into wild sideburns, long, furry ears, and pronounced cannine teeth.

Occasionally a great warrior will arise from the Vargyr and lead their tribes in forays into the lands of the seelie fey, raiding, killing, and tearing down the strongholds of the Eladrin nobles.

This adventure is the tale of one Eladrin’s war to revenge himself upon the horde of Vargyr who descended upon his family’s lands, killed every member of his family and household, and left him for dead upon the battlefield.  Now he quests for a group of heroes who will return with him to his family stronghold, drive the Vargyr warriors out, and slay the mighty warrior who leads them.  This is the war of the last Silma-Eltha.

Vargyr Feywolf Level 16 Skirmishers
Size origin type XP 1,400

Initiative +15 Senses Perception +8
HP 148; Bloodied 74
AC 30; Fortitude 28, Reflex 28, Will 28
Speed 8


Claw ✦At-Will, Standard Action, Melee 1
melee basic
The wolf-elf lunges at you with tearing claws.
Attack: +21 vs. AC
Hit: 2d8 + 7 damage.

Short Bow ✦At-Will, Standard Action, Ranged 10/20
ranged basic
Attack: +19 vs. AC
Hit: 1d8 + 5 damage.

Longtooth Shifting ✦ Encounter, Minor Action, Personal

The wolf-elf unleashes the primal beast within and takes on a more savage countenance.
Special: The Vargyr Feywolf must be bloodied to use this power.
Effect: Until the end of the encounter or until rendered unconscious,
the Vargyr Feywolf gains a +2 bonus to damage rolls. In addition, for as long as the Vargyr Feywolf is bloodied, it gains regeneration 4.

Alignment neutral Languages Common
Skills Athletics +20, Nature +13
Str 24 (+15) Dex 21 (+13) Wis 11 (+8)
Con 12 (+9) Int 10 (+8) Cha 21 (+13)

Equipment:small hand weapon, leather armor, short bow

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Gamma World

Frank organized a Gamma World adventure this weekend, and we had a blast. We got to choose whether we were city dwellers with greater Alpha Tech hell-bent on ensuring order or whether we’d rely on more mutations as members of an outcast tribe on the edge of the world with the goal of reclaiming our mother elder from a band of kidnappers. We chose the latter, falling back on the classic underdog hero’s role.  This seems fitting for an introduction to a new system…

I ended up a radioactive swarm comprised of rodents that once were lab rats.  The shared sentience assumed the name of “Doctor Radkowski”, one of the doctors killed in the blast from the Great Mistake.  Over the course of the session, they devoiced the “d” in “rad” to a “t”, as only a punning rat swarm could do.  They sang arias, tossed grenades, and swarmed over all the guard bots and mutated plant beasts that they could.  Other characters in the party included a radioactive punk rock timecop, an electrified giant spotter with a dual nature and delusions of grandeur, and a shadowy, largely amorphous being that called itself “The Hamburgler”, named for a term it found on a discarded fast food wrapper.

All signs pointed to the kidnappers hailing from the city, including the paths dragged into the sand.  The trail grew warmer, and we had to find a pass into the city.  We posed as arms dealers and learned of a widow who held a position in town.  Soon we were fighting off robotic sentinels and animated plants.  In all, we had a blast.

The system is interesting in that it is very similar to 4e DnD, only the character skills are limited, and the bonuses stack on a per-level basis, rather than every-other-level.  The generic gamma world is very tongue-in-cheek, necessary for such an otherwise gritty setting.  The system leaves a lot to the storyteller to fill in, which leaves lots of room for role playing.  Don’t let the tongue-in-cheekness fool you; it’s plenty deadly out there with 20-something hit points and 3d6 and 4d6 damage in the air.

The box set comes with a printed battlemap geared toward the near future setting.  Frank used it well, creating some nice verbal terrain out of the cryogenic capsules in the center of the room.

Another thing I liked about the system is that the character sheet isn’t even geared for leveling very far; the post-apocalyptic setting is perfect for one-off and short, multi-session story arcs.  This is about the attention span of most of us these days, especially if a gamer has to miss a session every now and again.

Finally, the randomness of the character generation is something to aspire to as a game designer.  How does it work that not making choices at the beginning is more fun than choosing my own starting gear?  Because it’s challenging.  It’s what makes the post-apocalyptic world pop.

Back to another GM thing that Frank did well — the building of Alpha and Omega Tech decks based on which side we chose to play.  This made this kind of decision important to the story, a welcome element in any role playing game.  Even in a one-off, it’s nice to see the effects of your choices as a player.

In this last image, I was the brown wafer of a disc under the red d6 (I was bloodied at the time).  When you play, here are a few final thoughts: don’t forget to use Second Wind once you’re bloodied, always use your Alpha Tech powers (they go away after encounters — trade or gift them if necessary), and don’t get too stuck to the notion of “classes” (ranger, etc.) or “roles” (striker, etc.); if you play it right, everyone has a chance to defend, strike, control, and lead over the course of a single Gamma World session.

Have fun with Gamma World; I highly recommend it from the bottom of my six-valved, mutant heart.

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MilleniumCon 13 & Pathfinder

We rolled up to Round Rock last weekend to play some D&D, and ended up playing Pathfinder all weekend.

For those who don’t know, MilleniumCon is a yearly convention put on by Lone Star Historical Miniatures and is primarily focused on, as their name implies, historical miniature wargames. It’s pretty much the closest convention to us here in Austin, so we usually make it. They generously provide space for the RPGA folks, and this year they also had Pathfinder Organized Play set up in one of the four-table conference rooms.

Originally Dan and I had intended to get in some XP for our 4e RPGA characters. I was looking forward to honing my tactics with my elven barbarian Sithadel, specifically figuring out how to play him without getting him killed. He tends to die once per convention – that’s what I get for making a dex-based barbarian I guess. I like to play unconventional characters.

That all got derailed when I took the Pathfinder core book to work. Dan picked them up when they came out however long ago but I had only read the alpha version they put out online when Pathfinder was first announced. At any rate, I decided to roll up a character just for grins. I came up with Kes, a 1st level wizard specialized in abjuration and prohibited from casting evocation and necromancy. At the end of the process I was really curious to see how this character played, and how Pathfinder played.

So when we got to MilleniumCon we went ahead and jumped in on a Pathfinder game and played. It reminded me a bit of the old RPGA, with the adventure record sheets given out at the end of each session. I liked how some of the organized play elements were structured. For example, at the end of each adventure you get a list of magic items you can buy with the gold you’ve accumulated. By the end of four adventures we had a decently broad list to pick from. Overall it seems nicely structured to keep the characters balanced and play fun.

So, we played two slots of Pathfinder on Friday night, and two more slots on Saturday. At the end of it all I have to say that I enjoyed playing Pathfinder quite a bit. Of course I think the changes to skills in PF are great moves: I’ve hated Hide vs Spot and Move Silently vs Listen since the first time I had to roll them both when 3e first came out. The changes to the classes are great, too. My 1st level wizard was able to contribute to the combat on every round because now 0th level spells aren’t used up when you cast them, so I could throw an acid splash or cast daze every round. The changes to concentration and spell casting times also pleased me – I’ve always thought that spellcasters had it too easy in melee. Now you really have to think twice about where you put your wizard. The changes to how poison work also impressed me.

There were a few downsides, or course. Over and over again I had to hear from the other players how much more they liked Pathfinder then 4th edition D&D. I play 4e, 3.5e, and a little Pathfinder in one game, and I don’t like the “us vs them” these conversations usually take, so I always get turned off when the topic comes up. And of course the Pathfinder fans trotted out the same old saw about how confusing grapple was in 3e. I have always disagreed – 3e grapple wasn’t a blocker for us, and as far as I can tell it’s pretty similar in Pathfinder.

But the real downside for me was all the minmaxing. Just like in the bad old days of ultimate 3.5 cheese some of the players were rolling with some uber powerful summoner class that they couldn’t stop talking about. I was lucky enough to not actually have to play with the roll-players, but it reminded me of how much less 4e games seem to breed uber-powergamers. And I was reminded once again how much I disliked that.

But that was really minor for me and was totally overshadowed by how much fun I had and by how well-organized the mustering and gaming was. Kudos to the Pathfinder Organized Play folks. Next year I’ll definitely be back for more.

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Frost Maiden

Daughters of the frost giants, these ice-cold maidens stalk the frozen wastes, luring unwary warriors to their death on the chill bettlefields of the north.

Frost Maiden ✦ Level 16 Controller
Medium elemental humanoid ✦ XP 1,400

Initiative +13 Senses Perception +10
HP 154; Bloodied 77
AC 29; Fortitude 28, Reflex 30, Will 28
Speed 6, Icewalk

Frost Maidens move at normal speed on difficult or challenging terrain that is icy or snowy.

Standard Action Powers
Maddening Mock ✦ At-Will, Close Burst 10
Charm, Psychic

Target: one creature
Attack: +20 vs. Will
Hit: 3d8 + 11 psychic damage.

Minor Action Powers

Alluring Lure ✦ At-Will, Range 10
Charm, Psychic
Come, warrior, catch me if you can!
Target: One Creature
Attack: +20 vs. Will
Hit: The Target is pulled 4 squares and dazed until the end of the Frost Maiden’s next turn.

Alignment neutral Languages Giant, Common Skills Intimidate +20, Thievery +18
Str 13 (+9)     Dex 21 (+13)  Wis 15 (+10)
Con 18 (+12) Int 10 (+8)      Cha 24 (+15)

Equipment: Gossamer garment.

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The Ruins of Soguer – The Mages’s Guild Tower, Part 2

Once again we return to the adventure The Ruins of Old Soguer, being posted piece-by-piece here on Tailslap.  Today’s post details the first two floors of the Mage’s Guild Tower in the central portion of the ruins.  There, a figure from the past languishes under a mysterious curse.

Previous sections of the adventure can be found here:
The Ruins of Soguer – Introduction
The Ruins of Soguer – Start of the Adventure in Aguies Town & Castle
The Ruins of Soguer – River Journey to the Ruins
The Ruins of Soguer – The Western Ruins
The Ruins of Soguer – the Central Ruins
The Ruins of Soguer – The Mages’s Guild Tower, Part 1

Journeyman’s Hall

I – Haunted Mirror – here a cursed magic mirror shows the night of Soguer’s destruction and serves as a conduit to the Shadowfell.

Stepping into the thick fog at the top of the stairs you see the corpse of a long-dead man in worn leather armor. Patches of fog fill the room and partially conceal the tables and chairs scattered about. Corpses of men in ragged leather armor and light hand weapons surround a stand-up mirror near the center of the hall.

A DC 10 Arcana check reveals that the mirror is magic. DC 16 Arcana reveals that is is useful for scrying, DC 21 Arcana to know that it is somehow broken. A DC 25 Arcana check reveals that the barrier between the worlds is thin in the city, and that the mirror is stuck showing scenes from the land of the dead – the Shadowfell.

Looking at the mirror causes it to show scenes of the twilit city as it once was – bustling with people and commerce – with the regal king in gleaming mail astride a green dragon outside a magnificent palace. Then, the scene turns to night. Some type of calamity seems to grip the city. Some people shuffle down the street with blank looks, transfixed by some type of ominous droning, while others scream and flee in the opposite direction. Then shadowy figures are drawn to the scene, approach the mirror’s view, and come out of the mirror into the hall.

Encounter (level 12 +, xp 2400 / 3000 / 3600)- Wraiths from the Shadowfell come through the mirror and attack the players. A DC 28 Arcana check is required to control the mirror enough to stop the additional wraiths from coming through, or a DC 25 Strength check to break it will stop the tide of wraiths. Otherwise another wraith comes through the mirror every other round.
2 x oblivion wraiths (level 14 brute – xp 1000)
1, 2, or 4 vortex wraiths (level 9 soldier – xp 400 each) + one additional vortex wraith every other round.

Treasure – the dead adventurers carry shoddy armor and weapons, and 500 gold worth of scavenged jewelry, flatware, and other art objects.

J – Dead Journeyman’s Apartment – Here a dead journeyman, Malaki guards his chambers and his spellbook.

These chambers feature two small apartments, each with a disheveled bed, and a chair and small table broken and knocked to the ground. Debris litter the floor, including a large illuminated tome lying open on the floor, its pages open to reveal some type of arcane diagram. Standing above the book is a ghostly apparition of a young mage wearing robes and wielding a runed dagger and a wand of oak.

Encounter – xp 1200
1 x watchful ghost (with magic ritual dagger instead of sword and spectral wand instead of crossbow) – (Open Grave)

Treasure (parcel 8) – The ghost’s ritual book contains the following rituals: Water Walk, Phantom Steed, Silence, Shadow Walk, Wizard’s Sight, Water Breathing, Arcane Barrier, Detect Treasure and Shrink.

K – Crumbling Masonry – An open pit that falls through to area A.

Level 10 Warder – xp 500

The bottom ten feet of these stairs have collapsed, leaving a large hole that plunges down to the floor of the main hall twenty feet below.

Hazard – Careful climbing or a great leap are needed to ascend these stairs. Failure results in a painful fall.

DC 21 perception or dungeonering check to notice the cracked stonework at the edges of the pit.

Trigger – If anyone comes within 5′ of the edge of the pit.
Attack – immediate interrupt
Target – the first creature coming within 5′ of the stairs
+13 vs Reflex
Hit – 2d10 falling damage and secondary attack from falling stones
-Secondary Attack – +13 vs Fortitude, 1d10+5 damage
-Effect – the floor at the edge of the pit crumbles, widening the pit that looks down into the Main Hall (area A).

– DC 16 Acrobatics check to to gingerly stand at the edge of the pit without the masonry opening up further (player is attacked as above on failure).
– DC 21 Athletics or Acrobatics check to cross the pit (player falls for 2d10 damage on failure).

Master’s Chambers – these rooms contain only fine furniture in various states of decay, except one chamber.

R – Alidol’s chamber

This chamber’s walls and ruined furniture bear are cracked, scorched, and twisted. Above the door a curse still burns on the wall in letters of cold black magical flame – it reads “Alidol – you are cursed to languish here, un-helped within your tower until you have died here.”

Master’s Workshops – The landing at the top of the stairs leading up to this floor features doors carved with stars and constellations over tall mountain peaks.

L – Master’s Workshops – these chambers contain tables and a few pieces of discarded alchemical equipment but are otherwise empty.

M – Alidol’s Private Laboratory – The door is arcane locked and requires a DC 21 Strength or Thievery check to open it. The laboratory is currently occupied by a mute, mad naked old man who is an incomplete simulacrum that looks just like Alidol, and a shield guardian that guards the clone.

Overturned tables and broken alchemical equipment litter this chamber. A stone door leading to a side chamber on the north wall lies broken on the ground. A large humanoid made or stone, wood and metal stands still near the southwest corner for the room, and in the middle of the chamber stands a naked old man with a long beard that hangs to his knees and a mad gleam in his eyes. Catching sight of you, he screams wordlessly and lunges at your throat!

A DC 16 Arcana check identifies the old man as some type of magical copy of Alidol. DC 21 Arcana reveals that it is a simulacrum – a copy made of snow – that is incomplete and therefore not controlled by its creator.

Encounter – level 12 – xp 2800
Uncontrolled simulacrum (use flesh golem stats) – xp 1400
shield guardian – xp 1400

N – Warded Treasury – The secret door to this area is DC 21 Perception check to find, unless they specifically search that wall, in such chase it is a DC 16 Perception check. Within is a magic staff and a tome guarded by two deadly traps.

Opening the secret door reveals a small vault, with a table at the west end. Upon the table are a steel staff tipped with a pointed mason’s plumb and a brass-bound tome.

Traps – spectral tendrils – level 13 trap – xp 800 – (DMG p.91) will attack any entering the treasury, and a kinetic wave (level 19 trap – xp 2400) which wards the staff’s display table and will also attack any who approach the table.

Treasure – PARCEL #1 – Architect’s Staff +3 (level 15, Arcane Power), Summoner’s Tome +1 (level 5, Arcane Power) – contains the Summon Fire Warrior (Arcane Power) and Summon Shadow Serpent (Arcane Power) powers.

O – Simulacrum Creation Chamber

The stone door to this chamber lies broken on the floor outside in the laboratory. Within a large metal coffin covered with runes lies empty, and various labeled vials and boxes of reagents stand on some shelves and a table.

A DC 16 Arcana check reveals that this coffin is the focus for a ritual used to make magical copies of oneself.

Treasure – PARCEL #9 – 1,000 gp worth of arcanum and 2 emeralds worth 500 gold each.

P – Master’s Hall

A large stone table is set in the middle of this solemn hall, surrounded by four stately chairs and flanked by stout pillars. Surrounding the table is an engraved magic circle.

A DC 10 Arcana check reveals that the circle is some type of runes of protection or privacy, and a DC 16 Arcana check determines that the circle is inactive.

Q – Roof

From the wide, flat platform that is the top of the mage’s guild tower there is a magnificent view of the ruins of the city – the river, the trees, the ruined buildings, the walls and gates, and towards the sea, another stone tower. Near the south edge of the roof there are faintly glowing arcane runes in several overlapping circles.

A DC 21 Arcana check reveals that these hastily summoned but very powerful runes ward the tower and permanently protect it from intrusion by demons.

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Character Race: Treant

Wise and long lived, these fey creatures are guardians of the forests and the wild places of the world. Sometimes, when they are very young, these tree-people will venture out into the world to explore it, or to defeat an evil that threatens their homes.

Average Height: 4´ 2˝– 7´ 2˝
Average Weight: 150–520 lb.
Ability Scores: +2 Constitution, +2 Wisdom
Size: Medium
Speed: 5 squares
Vision: Normal

Languages: Common, Elven
Skill Bonuses: +2 Nature, +2 Insight
Nature’s Health: You have one additional healing surge per day.

Firmly Rooted: You can use Firmly Rooted as an encounter power.

Firmly Rooted ✦ Treant Racial Power
Digging your root-toes in, you hunker down and stand your ground.Encounter ✦ Immediate Reaction when effected by a push, pull or slide
Target: Personal
Effect: You are not moved by the push, pull or slide that triggered the power.

Nature’s Stilness ✦ Treant Racial Power
Composing yourself and standing still, you become indistingushable from a normal tree to the untrained eye.
Encounter – Standard Action
Target: Personal
Effect: As long as you stay still, you are indistingushable from a normal tree. An opposed Nature Skill Check is required for a observer to notice your true nature.

Play a Treant if you want . . .
✦ to play a tough character who is connected to the natural world
✦ to play a wise champion of nature
✦ to be a member of a race that favors the cleric, fighter, shaman, and warden classes.

Physical Qualities
Treant resemble humanoid trees, with two thick legs ending in many root-like toes, two arm-like branches with twiggy fingers, and generally with leaves and foliage sprinkling their bodies and as hair and beards. Young treants can be anywhere from 4 feet to 7 feet tall, and quite heavy due to their woody bodies.

Playing a Treant
To a Treant the natural state of the wilderness is home. Not hunted by predators, they are not combatative in the way most other humanoids are. Generally the only threat to their lives comes from those other humanoids, either by the destruction of their natural habitats or directly. Not requiring food or shelter the way most races do, they are generally uninterested in wealth and posessions beyond the simple things they need to live. Ocassionally, a young treant will have a curiosity about the world and will go wandering, generally unnoticed by those they pass among.

Treant Characteristics: Most treants are slow, thoughtful, sedentary, in tune with nature and the wilderness, solitary, and traditional.

Male Names:  Treebeard, Quickbeam, Fangorn, Leaflock, Finglas, Skinbark, Fladrif, Beachbone, Bregalad,

Female Names: Fembrithil, Wandlimb

Treant Adventurers
Three sample Treant adventurers will appear in upcomming posts.

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