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Chimmon
2015-06-24, 10:24 AM
Campaign Journal - Sword Art Online Plus

Setting

The campaign is taking place in Sword Art Online (SAO). Basically, the players will be trapped inside a Full-Dive MMO where their gaming-gear is set to kill them if it's tampered with, or if their characters die. The "physical" setting is a gigantic castle that floats in the sky. Several miles across, and consisting of 100 floors, each of which is a separate setting unto themselves. This world is from a light novel/anime series. I'm also adding in a 2nd series that's not as obvious as the first. The clues are very blatant if you've seen it, but none of the players have - so I can lay the fluff on thick. I'm not sure if I should flat-out state what it is or not. The combination of these two universes came from a fan-fic I read, so I guess this is a kinda cousin-meta-fic.

Mechanics

Note: A lot of this information was reveled in game to the party during play as itís part of the magic system subplot. It's included here, but expect the PCs to be surprised and/or upset with it during the session. There are a lot of these, so feel free to skip this section if you want to just get to the campaign itself.

* The PCs can choose from Fighter, Barbarian, and Rogue. Stalker, Warder, and Warlord from Path of War are also available from nearly the very start. The beta had Monk, Paladin, and Ranger as additional classes, but they aren't available in the release.

* Characters get a 14, 12, and 10 to assign to their physical stats, while their mental stats are done with a 10 point buy. Each level (as opposed to every 4 levels) they'll get to increase a physical stat of their choice.

* Hit points are maximized. Both for ease of retraining and to increase player survivability. Many monsters also have far greater hit point totals than they would in other settings.

* Retraining is available for a modest fee, so everything except stat-allocation can be changed by talking to an NPC and paying some gold. Magic feats/levels cannot be retrained.

* Insulting/roughing other players prompts an anti-harassment pop-up, which can send the offender to jail for 24 hours. The PCs discover that intent can play a role in what constitutes "harassment", and that menu buttons can be "selected" by concentration.

* Monsters give a <Last Attack> bonus to whomever deals the killing blow. This can be changed in the options, but most people use the default system. Boss monsters have the chance to drop very nice things for this bonus.

* Quests come in 3 varieties. Unlimited, Repeatable, and One Time Only. Unlimited are stuff like class-quests where the number of players doing the quest has no effect. There's no wait, and no limit. Repeatable quests can only be done by one player at a time, and when they're finished they become available again in a set amount of time, ranging from 1 hour to 1 year for seasonal offering. One Time Only quests are just that. A unique quest that can only be done once. They tend to give the best rewards, but the competition for them is fierce.

* Every player also has a perk that'll give them an advantage in the game itself.

* Magic is using the dreamscarred press Psionic system for pathfinder.

* Circuit damage is taken whenever a character damages his circuits, it heals at a rate of 1 hp per hour (that you don't use magic) and canít be mitigated or healed through in game mechanics

* All players get Overchannel for free, but it does <Circuit Damage> which can't be prevented, and can only heal naturally.

* Abilities can only be learned at trainers, to find specific feats (especially psionic ones) you have to find the right trainer.

* Many quests, specifically class quests are only available if your character has the right combination of feats, abilities, classes or skills to activate the quest. So an NPC might not offer anything to one player, but might be a trainer for another.

* No Flight or Borrowing abilities allowed in game (ground is an immortal object and canít take damage, the same with most buildings and landscapes). Teleportation is heavily limited, and usually has some sort of restrictions in place.

* No bonus skills for INT, just the base class skills (2, 4, 6 or 8), Only humans no other races (donít gain human racial bonus to skills, but do gain bonus feat at first lvl). Willpower saves use your highest mental modifier.

* Skills are a flat rank that caps out at your lvl, they have to be used (practiced) to gain ranks in them (so crafting skills have to be ground out, perception is always on so it reaches max lvl very quickly and Intimidate automatically caps on lvl increase)

* Skills are not modified by ability scores, they are computer aided actions and assumed to Ďalwaysí function unless there is a specific condition that negates them (if you have acrobatics you always pass your acrobatics check unless there is an ability in place to prevent it, for example most bosses are immune to acrobatics checks to avoid attacks of opportunity)

* Skills can be enhanced by abilities or feats, this causes them to function as if the character were higher level (a +2 bonus in stealth from a feat or special ability will make it correspondingly more difficult for an equal level character to Ďspotí you).

* Intimidate creates a static increase in Aggro (note that some mobs follow non-standard aggro trees). Aggro is generated by each attack, each point of damage, spell casting lvl and status effects. Aggro is reduced by range and damage dealt to you by mob (if a mob hits you itís aggro will reduce corresponding to the damage it deals)

* Mobs auto fail (magical) saves unless they have open circuits. Characters auto fail (magical) saves if they donít keep their psionic focus a.k.a. Ďcircuits opení. Thus feats and abilities that expend psionic foci have a much higher potential cost in this world.

* PPís are refilled by Gathering Mana from the surrounding environment 1 PP per 2 rounds, or Generating Od internally. Gathering mana is virtually limitless because the Earth has much, much more mana than you do, but it takes longer and might be an issue with lots of magic users around, low mana environments, ect.. Generate OD is much faster as it comes from your internal circuits, but there's a limit on how much, and how quick it can be. You can go beyond that limit, but you start taking circuit damage, and practice is the only way to know what your limit is.

* Nearly Gestalt campaign (described in story when they unlock the ability). There are sub-classes that grant their abilities, but HP, BAB, Saves, and skills all come from the main class - not the greater of the two. Sub-classes also have reduced effect depending on the class. For example - a full caster (like Psion) as a subclass progresses manifesting as a Psychic Warrior. Or a Psychic Warrior as a subclass grants it's special effects (paths, feats) or it's manifesting, not both. Players didn't get to choose their subclasses (but I either gave them what I knew they'd like, or talked to them out of character about it before hand).

* Perks are generated at character creation and relate to a userís real life skill. Exceptional real world users might have truly spectacular character creation perks (for example a world famous fencer would have a significant advantage in the game, he would have a large perk) In practice the perks should be equivalent to a rare feat or +2 bonus which stacks. Named NPCís often have their own unique special abilities.

* The game rewards real world skill. The maneuvers, feats and spells are computer aided but the best abilities have to be practiced and really learned in muscle memory in order to get the best use out of them.

* ĎRealí skills such as magic, special abilities (duelist defense), ect. Have to be practiced to learn them, typically a 10-15% chance of learning the ability per 4 hours of practice. Once learned the skill is permanently learned and doesnít have a chance to fail in the middle of combat.

* Failure to learn magic spells or abilities has a chance of causing 1d8 circuit damage per 4 hours of practice.

* Duels in SAO are either to 1st hit, 1/2 health, or to the death. Given the ease at which they could implement a non-fatal dueling system, but chose not to makes this is an interesting tidbit.



The Party
Arlo Ortega - Plans on becoming a Dervish Defender. Main tank, agility based. Used his character's name as his handle. His perk is that he's a MMO fighter, which gives him +2 to hit.
Vincient "Vinney" - The party healer. His handle is "Subjigator". He comes from an Italian family, and his father is an enforcer. He may or may not be involved with various criminal activities. It was from his resources that the party managed to get into the release. His perk is that he gets a special starting class.
Jeff Watts - Party DPS. His handle is "Noir". He wanted to play either a ranged class or a pet class, but those haven't been implemented. So he's going with a Dex based Stalker - kinda roguish. His perk was that he was in the Beta, which gives him +1 to hit and +1 to AC.
Blake Smith - Backup tank. His handle is "Miles Longest". Doesn't really have a character plan. Is a backup tank by virtue of having a high INT, and therefore being a Warder. His perk is that he's studied and developed software for the Nervegear (the hardware for Full-Dives), this gives him +2 AC for being able to predict enemy movement.

First Session
All the characters know each other in real life, and have played MMOs as a group. When Vinny was able to get Nervegears and copies of SAO for the launch, they all agreed to play together. They meet up at Miles house on the launch day, and all connect as soon as the servers go up - 8 AM. Noir gets to import his beta character, so he's one of the first in the game. The others have to make some rolls to see how long they take. Miles is done first, Vinny second, and Arlo botched (the roll in real-life, which was rule-of-funny'd into him botching it in-game) and spent several hours tweeking his avatar's face, and build, and muscles, and starting outfit to be juuuuust right.

Noir gets a head start on unlocking the Stalker, Warder, and Warlord classes for him and his friends. He heads off to the guard compound, and gets the quest to find a perfectly round stone. It's a standard fetch quest that takes him outside the Starting City. Before heading out he uses his 20gp starting funds to buy some padded armor and a short sword - to replace the <Crappy Longsword> all players begin with. The fields outside the city have <Weak Boars>, which don't give very good XP or drops and are mainly there for people to practice on. He runs around ignoring the boars until he finds a <Perfectly Round Stone>, then he returns to the trainer and changes classes to a Stalker.

Meanwhile, Miles has managed to find the town square and is patiently waiting for everyone else to show up. Occasionally going up to ask strangers if they're his friends, since names are not displayed by default. He spends most of his time messing around with the menu, and quickly finds the most important thing: the logout button is gone, and the "Report to GM" button is grey and disabled. He also makes some headway into finding more obscure option menus. Vinney spawns as a <Vitalist> instead of a Fighter like everyone else. He goes searching for an armor/weapon shop. The random NPCs he asks aren't that helpful - they just say things like: "There's an armor shop 500 meters that way", and point at a wall. This is good enough, as he finds the place even if he can't make a straight line. The shop in question is a larger one right off of the town square. He buys some padded armor and a staff - keeping the majority of his starting funds. He then exits to the town square and meets up with Miles. Arlo is still busy getting his nose to look good from both sides.

Noir asks if he can pick up the class-quest items without being on the quest and the answer is "yes", so he hooves it out of town to find two <Red Sunflowers> and a <Perfectly Round Stone> for his friends. It takes a while - more players are coming the grounds outside, but he finds all three. Just as he's picking up the final item, another PC comes up to him. Noir says hi, but the other player's icon suddenly turns orange. A pop-up appears saying: "CHAZ failed to pick your pocket". Both of them are holding their swords already, and assume a combat-ready stance. Noir issues a duel to half-health, but CHAZ refuses. Noir then attacks. He won initiative and used Flurry Strike which lets him attack twice. His Body of the Night stance gives him +4 to hit and +1d6 damage against characters who are denied their DEX to AC. He hits twice and does enough damage to kill CHAZ, who disintegrates into pixels. All of his loot is dropped which consists of <Starting Clothes> and a <Crappy Longsword>. After two sessions it's discovered that Flurry Strike can't be used with a short sword. This makes me feel relieved as everyone was using it to rather over-powered effect. It probably wouldn't have changed anything, but it's good to know.

Arlo finally spawns his character, and after some wandering finds the central square. Some brief yelling later, and 3/4ths of the party are together. They talk about what's happened to them so far, and Arlo tries some commands. He starts a very short-lived and disorganized flash-mob by dancing and yelling that there's a "dance" command. They then wait patiently for their final member to show up. Soon enough Noir does appear and the party is united. Vinney reveals that he doesn't need an advanced class item, so Noir yells out that he'll give away the <Perfectly Round Stone>. A passing PC says he'll take it, and asks what it does. Noir says that if he doesn't know what it does then he's not giving it to him. Thus, a <Perfectly Round Stone> now sits in the party's inventory never to be mentioned or used again. With that the party heads out to the Weapon/Armor shop. Inside Miles get a shortsword and padded armor, while Arlo picks up a shortsword and leather armor with a loan from Vinny. Now he now owes the mob virtual money. Good times.

At the trainer, Arlo and Miles change to Warders while Vinney goes over his character's stats. Noir wanders around the Warder's compound and picks up a few quests. The main one is from the kennel master, who is known for having a good supply of quests for interested PCs. His current offering is that one of his dogs was injured in the woods to the east of town, and that he'd like them to go and rescue it. They take up the request and head out. It takes about an hour of walking to get beyond the fields surrounding Starting City to the woods that lay between them and the lakes area of the map. In the woods, everyone's Perception skill activates. They see some highlighted <Wounded Dog Tracks> and follow them. They lead to a clearing, the center of which holds a <Wounded Dog>. They all agree that it's a trap, and Arlo steps into the clearing while the rest of the party waits in the forest. Arlo approaches the dog, and when he touches it a howl sounds. Two wolves spawn to the north and sound edges, and everyone rolls initiative. Vinney, Miles, and Noir roll high, Arlo does not. The three non-tanks all hold their actions since they want the tank to have aggro before engaging. The wolves move next. They both go over and attack the <Wounded Dog>. One crits. The dog is killed, and they all get a pop-up telling them that they failed the quest. A brief skirmish later and the wolves are dead, and the party has two <Wolf Pelts> for their trouble if nothing else.

Dejected, the quartet make their way back to the Starting City. En-route there's a teleport effect and they all appear in the town square. Kayaba (the creator of SAO) shows up and gives his speech, announcing that this is now a <Death Game>. Various news feeds are shown displaying the fact that of the 10,000 players trapped in the game, 213 have died from people removing their equipment. At the end of his speech (which is where the first major change from SAO happens), he announces the implementation of a magic system that is accurate to his best ability as a simulator. He urges everyone to become a fine <Magic User>, and warns them "To be a Mage is to walk with death." A special <Magic Mirror> item is spawned in each player's inventory, and automatically activates. Everyone's avatar now matches what their character looks like outside of the game. With that, he disappears and panic sets in. The town is a <Safe Zone> so no matter how much someone gets roughed up or trampled by the mob, their HP won't decrease. Which is good news for most everyone. Several anti-harassment popups appear for the party as they get shoved by the newly formed mob. Arlo clicks "yes" on all of his, figuring that 24 hours spent in jail is better than that person doing something stupid while they're frightened. The group withdraws to the side of the square, and consult with each other - especially with their resident Beta-Tester.

After a quick conference, they decide to ditch Starting City which has quickly fallen to anarchy and make their way to Tolbana - the other major city on the first floor which is to the north. The idea to do nothing was quickly dismissed. These are experienced MMO players and they know to stay ahead of the curve. Kayaba's presentation also convinced them that he was deadly serious. The head out the North gate, and after an hour's walk make it to the forest. The way to Tolbana has a road, so they don't have to trek though the trees which Noir tells them holds higher level monsters. Another hour North and they see a group of 6 kolbolds standing around on the road. Two of the kolbolds have red names, indicating they're a higher level than the party. To get to Tolbana, they'll have to either go through this blockade, or make their way though the woods. It's getting dark, and neither option sounds appealing to the group of 1st level characters, so they head back to Starting City. They've been walking a few minutes in the boar fields when the system clock strikes midnight. All the <Weak Boars> dis-spawn, and <Frenzied Boars> take their place. One shows up in the middle of the group, two more are within aggro range and will arrived after 2 and 3 rounds have passed. <Frenzied Boars> are red-level mobs, and group has a really close fight. They do 1d6+6 damage once raging, and have an impressive amount of HP. Vinney the Vintalist's Vigor shields were very vital in keeping the party alive. Vinney took talented as a feat which allowed for a very timely 10 point shield when Arlo was brought to 3 HP.

In any case, the group manages to defeat the 3 <Frenzied Boars> and look around. There were several people out killing <Weak Boars> that they saw before the fight. Now all they see are several <Frenzied Boars> grouped together around piles of gear. The party had initially wanted to try and save them, but their fight was brutal and took a long time. Even if any other groups were still alive, no body was in any shape to help out. Vinney starts Gathering Mana to refill his power points. Now the party has a problem. They're stuck in the middle of the field with several groups of <Frenzied Boars> around them. The boars don't seem to care about the "no monsters on the road" rule, and with them grouped up a fight could be a TPK. One good crit from a boar is enough to easily take out a first level character. Heck, one weak crit from a boar could probably do so.

As they're deciding what to do, a man comes walking down the road. He has the Blue icon of a non-hostile NPC, but his name is in gold rather than matching his icon color. He's called "The Dervish Assassin", and has the title of <Assassin>. When he approaches a group of boars, they charge him and he quickly wipes them out with an obscenely high level sword skill. The party says 'Thank God! a guard NPC' and approach him. He has on nice looking clothing, and is wearing a large and wide oriental hat. At his sides are two scimitars. He raises his head when the party approaches, and they can see under his hat that his eyes are closed and have scars across them like a wild animal had clawed him. He's polite, but continues his slow walk. Arlo speaks up since this is probably they guy to see to become a Dervish Defender.

"Can you teach me anything?"

"Hmmm.... I suppose I could. If you'd do something for me."

"What is it?"

"I seem to be bound to this road, and I cannot leave it. I think that what binds me is a monster in the western forrest: Grendel. If you bring me his head, I'll instruct you."

"Ok."

The party then gets the quest <Grendel's Head>, and the session ends.

JerichoPenumbra
2015-06-25, 08:21 PM
And subscribed. Looks like an interesting take on the SAO games I've seen. So how much of the Beowulf references have you're players gotten?

Chimmon
2015-06-26, 09:08 AM
They got it as soon as I mentioned "Grendel". At lot of tabletalk in the next session is about the epic of Beowulf, and how Grendel was killed - which made me happy. The Beowulf aspect is important, so if they'd just ignored it I'd be a sad panda. :)

JadedDM
2015-06-26, 02:16 PM
So did Noir put two and two together and realize that he basically murdered CHAZ in real life yet? How did he react to that?

Chimmon
2015-06-26, 03:49 PM
I brought it up, since that was kinda the point of that encounter. The rest of the party said "yeah, but he had no idea at the time" and shrugged it off. So much for moral ambiguity. I don't think they'll care about PC deaths unless I give them some character development beforehand. Poor CHAZ...

I had planned on having one of CHAZ's friends (whom was 30' away and stealthed) confront the party/Noir about it later. It still might happen, but I suspect it won't result in much of anything happening.

Chimmon
2015-06-29, 10:38 AM
Second Session

When we last left our intrepid group of video game players, they had survived a <Frenzied Boar> ambush, and encountered an NPC who's name was in golden letters. Arlo asked <The Dervish Assassin> if he could train him, and got the quest <Grendel's Head> in response. Their only info was that it was in the forest to the west. The group follows <The Dervish Assassin> in his patrol to the north, he stops at the tree-line and heads back to <Starting City>. When he gets to the gate, he turns around again. The PCs leave him (and his <Frenzied Boar> protection) behind and enter the city. By this time they've gotten a <Fatigue> debuff, and they're hungry. Since hunger doesn't provide a mechanical penalty, they ignore it. Some time is spent trying to find an inn. The town is a <Safe Zone>, but they are understandably worried about sleeping out in the open if for no other reason than they're afraid someone might come along and pick-pocket them clean.

All the inns near the northern exit are full, they make their way further into the city, but it's the same everywhere. Rather than search for a room where they are, they elect to head to the southern section of town. Since that area extends past the gigantic floating castle's walls, there are no exits (but a nice view). The correctly reason that fewer people will be hanging out in that area. They find a cheap inn that will rent them a large multi-person room. Noir tells them that it takes a minimum of 6 hours sleep to avoid the debuff, but 8 hours is better so they don't actually feel tired. They set their system alarms to go off at 10, and call it a day. In the morning they wake up and have breakfast. The place is deserted. What few other PCs that stayed the night, have all left already. The food that's offered is a simple affair. Stew and gruel. The flavors are ok, nice even, if a little odd. The <Cardinal System> can reproduce nearly any conceivable flavor, and the developers seemed to decided using it to just remake standard fare was boring. The main problem is with the texture, or lack of it. Everything has the same tofu like consistency (except for the soup). There's some grumbling, but for the most part they don't care about the food.

Arlo goes to the town square. He wants to put up a poster or something warning people about the death trap that are the <Frenzied Boars>. I ask him how exactly he's going to do that. He has no paper, nor does he has a writing utensil. Furthermore the walls are <Immortal Objects>. You can't damage them, and they are immune to environmental effects such as graffiti (if he could find paint). It's almost like the developers had some kind of problem with people writing things on walls in the beta... Arlo is dejected, but he still wants to warn some people, so he starts yelling that the boars in the fields at night are super dangerous. A passing PC says "Yeah, we've read Argo's guide too."

"What's Argo's guide?"

The PC pulls out a small black book. "The shops are selling them. It has a map of the area and lists quests and stuff."

"Oh."

Arlo goes to one of the NPC merchants around the town square and browses his inventory. Sure enough, in the reselling area, next to various boar body parts, plants, rocks, and other vendor trash, there's a stack of "Argo's Guides" for sale at 1 copper a piece. He buys one. It has a map of the area, including some towns to the west in the forest. It also lists a lot of quests available in the <Starting City>, and it has an advertisement to contact Argo if you want to buy or sell information. The group huddles and thinks about their next move. <Grendel's Head> sounds promising, but they're a bit wary of it. The quest is gold in color. Normally quests and mobs are grey if below the party level, green if equal, red if above, and dark red if more than 2 levels above. So they have no idea how tough Grendel would be. They could probably get some people to help them with the quest. That would mean sharing the quest, and potentially giving up the <Last Attack> bonus. Add onto this they don't know if they can trust anyone - not really in a "They might kill us" sense, but more like "They might be noobs and wind up getting all of us killed". The idea to do some of the quests from Argo's guide comes up, but with about 10,000 other competitors - that's a slim chance. After I tell them about quests, and how one time only monsters are a thing, they're even less inclined to wait on Grendel lest someone else takes him out first. The party decides to head towards the first village in the forest.

Side Note: In hindsight I should've told Arlo's player to choose a different name at character creation. I knew that the SAO characters would be in the world, and that they might run into the party at one point. I also knew of them all, Argo <The Rat> would be the most useful. Alas, it wasn't until I introduced her that I realized having the same name as a player character except for 1 letter would make for some confusion.

On the way to the forest they see the fields outside of town overrun with PCs boar hunting. The Party doesn't care because <Weak Boars> aren't good mobs to kill anyways, but the shear number of PCs is worrisome. There are much fewer players in the forest. Argo's guide lists the monsters that exist in each area, along with their level. During the daytime, the forest maxes out with Leafkin at level 2. It also has Honey Hornets and Wolves at level 1. The party proves that they can take out one Leafkin with little effort. Noir warns them about <Flowering Leafkin>, and that they have a massive range lure effect that activates if they're attacked. Forewarned the party declares they'll be running if they encounter one. They make it to the first town without incident. The weapon/armor selection is the same as in <Starting City>, and no NPCs have any quests available. When they ask about Grendel, they always get the same reply: "Grendel used to terrorize the town at night, but we haven't seen him in a while." When asked where Grendel came from, they say: "Grendel came during the night from the north-west."

The party then heads to the next town, which is to the north-east. Inside it they find roughly the same situation as before. The NPCs say the same thing, except that Grendel came from the south-west. The second town also has a mead-hall, and several drunk barbarian NPC guards. Miles picks up a quest from the leader to fight 5 <Frenzied Boars> and have them die due to their rage ending. The party reviews what they know of Grendel. That he was a giant, and that he came during the night because the village was making too much noise. They think about somehow triggering him with the mead-hall, but the NPCs say they drink the night away every night. Perhaps PCs joining them would make a difference? In any case, they have a rough triangularization of where Grendel came from. It's after noon, so they can buy some inn rooms. Checkout time is at noon, so that's the earliest checkin time as well. There are enough PCs in town that they're worried about not getting a room, thus it's better safe than sorry and the get one in case they're still in the area come nightfall.

Trekking through the forest is once again uneventful. They have a few encounters that we don't play out. 4 PCs working as a team with a tank, off-tank, and an excellent healer make for simple encounters of 1-2 wolves or such a non-issue. When the approach where the two village's indications of where Grendel comes from, they find a large hill. The climb looks a little daunting, and none of the PCs have selected that skill. Circling the structure, they find some stairs on the southern face. They advance, and at the top is a Torii (a traditional Japanese gate). The top of the hill is a flat square, the center of which holds a small (25'x25') oriental house. They approach. The door opens to reveal a single room. As the enter, they receive a pop-up that this is a <Safe Zone>. Inside is a blue-icon NPC, with golden text, and the title <Assassin>. His name is Ebitsu, and he looks like the old monk from Kill Bill: bald head, absurdly long, white, and flowing beard and eyebrows. He's sitting in a full-lotus position in the center of the room. To the side there's a fancy-looking weapon rack, A small fire with a pot or rice hanging above, and 4 futons.

"Hello."

"Welcome travelers. It is good to have visitors."

"Can we do anything for you?"

"I do not need any assistance at the moment."

"I don't suppose you know anything about Grendel do you?"

"Grendel used to terrorize the countryside at night, but he hasn't been seen for a long time. I myself have never laid eyes on the creature."

The monk looks up, and his eyes are closed. He has two scars, one across each eye. They are a single line, as if made by a blade.

"Do you know what happened to him?"

"I've heard tell that he's sealed in this very temple, but I cannot confirm the truth of that statement."

"Why do you have 4 futons?"

"If you wish to spend the night, you may do so for a modest fee. I currently have 7 spaces open."

"Do you have anything for sale?"

"Please peruse my goods."

A trade window opens. Lodgings are cheap, as is the rice. He also has a large supply of masterwork monk weapons. The party is keen on getting a kama or such so they can use Broken Blade maneuvers, but 300+ gold is well outside their price range. This seems like a pretty nice, out of the way spot for base camp, so they get rooms (futons), have a meal, and get to grinding. Experience has been drastically reduced, based on the expectation that a large chunk of MMO time is spent just repeatedly killing monsters. I made a table of possible consequences, and each hour they grind there's a chance something "interesting" will happen. The odds go up the tougher the fights are for them. They have a few fights with adds, and both Noir and Arlo have some critical misses that leave their weapons on the verge of shattering. They also run from a <Flowering Leafkin> once.

They head back to the second forest town for some gear repair. Their new found wealth is also spent to procure some backup weapons. They have just enough time to make it back to the temple before nightfall, so that's what they do. There's no sign of whomever stayed in the temple last night (as indicated by the extra futons that were out when they arrived). The party is a bit relived by that, since they still fear what random PCs may do to them. >.< My, are they paranoid. Probably for good reason, but still...

They've just gone to sleep, when the sound of the door opening wakes Miles up. He looks around, and the NPC's futon is empty. He wakes the rest of the party up, and they hear something big prowling around outside. Whatever it is seems to be circling the building repeatedly. They say they want to open the door. I have them all stand at the back of the room, and Arlo opens the door when the sounds are on the far side of the building. He then books it back to the rest of the party. I do this because I know the grief I'll get if I just have them open the door and get pulled outside by something. Since their characters are beginning to display signs of classic paranoia already, I feel it's justified, but I digress. The sounds continue, and as they pass the front door they see Grendel. He's 7 feet tall, has a red icon, gold text, and the title <Assassin>. His body is covered with fur, and he has long arms that nearly touch the ground. He has a long maw, and wolf-like ears. In other words, he looks like a classic werewolf. He pauses at the open door and looks inside. They can see that his eyes are glowing red, but have a single scar over each one. Grendel growls, but resumes his pathing in few seconds. When he's out of sight, the shut the door. They then think that a screenshot might be helpful in the future, so they re-open the door and take one. Sleep doesn't come easy for them as the sounds of the Boss monster prowling outside continue all night long. There's objections when I roll low for Arlo and he gets a fatigue debuff, but dems da breaks.

The morning comes, and with it Ebitsu returns. The NPC isn't fooling anyone, of course he's not really trying to either. He's just a program. Grilling him returns the same canned responses. The party thinks they know what happened to the last PCs to stay here. They were either killed by Grendel, or decided this wasn't that good of a grinding spot after all. The group comes up with a plan. They want to go back and talk to <The Dervish Assassin> again, but he doesn't appear until midnight. So they spend some more time grinding in their relatively secluded spot, and they all level. At the very least their characters go to level 2, and they stop getting experience from <Honey Hornets> and <Wolves>. This kills one of their ideas to hold off on leveling so they could keep fighting weaker monsters. I didn't know of this plan, but feel vindicated none the less. What kind of MMO would allow you to get to max level by killing boars in the woods? They still have time to spare, but they make the three hour trip back to <Starting City>. Vinny doesn't need a trainer to level, he automatically went to level 2 in Vitalist. Everyone else goes and finds their respective trainers and levels up. This drastically increases their staying power. It's late, so they go and get a room, and then wait for midnight.

On the road they find <The Dervish Assassin> patrolling as usual.

"Ah, so you've returned. Did you manage to get Grendel's head so soon?"

"No. We were wondering if you could give us any advice on fighting him."

"Well, he's immune to all physical damage, so you'll have to overcome that."

"How?"

"When I fought him, I just tore his arm off." He looks over the PCs. "That's probably not an option for you guys though."

"So, no advice?"

"Sorry. I'm more used to doing than telling. All I can say is a true hero would prevail no matter what. Hopefully that applies to you as well."

"Geez. Thanks."

They feel a bit dejected, and head back to the southern half of town to sleep - after taking a screenshot of <The Dervish Assassin>. Discussions are made of what to do. Silver weapons are brought up, but no one has seen any. Eventually the decision is made to consult Argo. Barring that, trying the fight (which is conveniently located next to a <Safe Zone>) is their next plan. They have no idea how tough Grendel might be, and a round or two would tell them loads, even if they run away. All the NPCs seem fairly flippant, and don't offer any obvious secondary paths, so this idea is agreed upon. In the morning Arlo contacts Argo. She doesn't know of any silver weapons for sale. The group considers selling info about Grendel, but decide against it. They also ask Argo if she knows anything about golden-text quests. She doesn't, but - as always - offers money for information about them; provided if it comes with proof or can be confirmed. As a side note, screenshots of inventory or quest status screens work just fine. Screenshots of the world, NPCs, or PCs are always empty. The two exceptions are Grendel and The Dervish Assassin, whom show up in the screenshot against a background of pure white. The PCs make nothing of what I thought would be an important clue.

Vinney doesn't need a trainer to level, but he needs one to get new feats from. He contacts Argo and asks if she knows any magic trainers. She says she knows of 3, and will tell him for 1 gold piece each. Vinney shells out one 1 gp, and is told to head to so and so coordinates and enter the Museum of Suspicious Furniture. The Museum is more like a maze. Suspicious furniture is piled up towards the ceiling, but thankfully there's only one curving route. There were lamps that were curved like human spines, a horrifying clown-bed hybrid, and a large chest with engraving that looked like teeth. It had dozens of wheels on it's bottom, and seemed to follow the party as they made their way around the spiral-like structure. In the center they found an old man pacing back and forth. He had a long grey beard, faded and tattered robes that had some vestages of sequins hanging off them, and a beat up old hat with "Maguss" written in slightly less faded and tattered sequins. Vinney went up and said "I'd like to learn magic", and a standard class trainer window opened. He picked up his new feats and that was that.

Miles asked the NPC how to become a mage.

"First you must open your circuits. Take this chalk, and draw the most perfect circle you can. Then stand in the circle and spin in a perfect spiral. When you understand the mystery of the cosmos, you'll be ready to walk with death."

Miles drew a circle. Well, it was a round shape. He got inside the ellipsis, and spun around. He could feel something shift inside of him, then he was electrocuted in the most painful way that was certain to kill him. (Which, aside from hunger, was the first actual pain taken in character.) In actuality he screamed and passed out. His character took 4 points of damage that Vinney couldn't heal. I passed him a note saying that is was circuit damage. After that, Vinney was just like "That's the way it is. I can't heal you." During this time, the chest had snuck up on them. They decided discretion was the better part of not taking un-healable damage, and took Miles unconscious form and left. There was still a good amount of time in the day, and despite Mile's lowered hit point total, they went back to the temple and got in several hours grinding before nightfall. Thankfully, Mile's unhealable damage goes away at a rate of 1 per hour. So by nightfall they were at 100% again.

Midnight comes, and Ebitsu walks outside. There's a sound of flesh tearing, and bones breaking. This is followed by the now familiar sounds of Grendel patrolling the top of the hill. The players wait for him to path away, and poor outside and get in position. Grendel hears them immediately, and during the surprise round easily covers the ground to the group. Unfortunately for them, he back-tracked (50% chance), and approached them from behind. Vinney rolled the highest initiative - with an angry Grendel werewolf in front of him. He didn't want to risk an attack of opportunity, so he decided his only action would be a 5ft step back. Unfortunately, Grendel has Step Up and Strike. So he made a following 5 ft step, and attacked once. Thus, Vinney got clawed for a good quarter of his health. (He has Psionic Body, and all of his feats are Psionic, so it's not like he's hurting for HP). Miles and Noir step up and attack. Both miss. Arlo circles behind Grendel, and lands a blow. A pop-up appears above Grendel announcing he's an <Immortal Object>. Grendel then gets his full attack. He attacks Miles (since Arlo's attack didn't do any damage, the two tanks with Intimidate and one attack each were tied for aggro). Gendel hits with a bite and a claw for a total of 15 damage. On their turn, everyone runs back into the <Safe Zone>. Grendel follows.

The next 30 minutes has the PCs being tossed around like rag dolls. Grendel will never get tired, or bored. He'll continue to attack them until they are dead... Or until he's leashed and goes back to his route. So after half an hour, the newly traumatized party is left alone. Miles closes the door behind Grendel, lest he restarts his assault. The PCs didn't lose any health, but their armor is long since shredded. Thankfully clothing isn't subject to sundering effects in SAO. Everyone manages to get some shut-eye, and avoid the dreaded fatigue debuff. The party then wakes up at 5, just to be safe. Miles notices Grendel stopping outside the front of the house, and decides to open the door. The worst that can happen is 5 more minutes of tender Grendel-love. Outside they see Grendel's body reshaping itself, until it turns into the old monk Ebitsu. His icon changes from red to blue with his name, and he falls prone. Miles takes the opportunity to coup-de-gras him. His head pops off, and his body disintegrates. Miles picks it up, and gets <Ebitsu's Head>. They aren't sure if this will count for the quest, but what's done is done. Perhaps it'll turn back at midnight, like a monstrous Cinderella. (Side note: There were 3 ways this quest could've been handled. The one that happened is what I considered the most likely. I feel it's especially important for "un-winnable" situations like this one to have multiple outs.)

It's morning, so they do some grinding. Unfortunately, with the NPC dead, there's no way to rent rooms, buy food, or access his cache of weapons. There are 5 futons laying out, but the party doesn't take them. After several hours of pretty simple grinding, they head back to Starting City. Midnight comes, and they pay a visit to <The Dervish Assassin>.

"Ah greetings young warriors. Back so soon? Have you brought me Grendel's Head to free me from this place?"

The head hasn't changed back, so Arlo hands over <Ebitsu's Head>. "The monster is no more. This is the head of the human it became."

"Hm... well, it's not <Grendel's Head>, but the important thing was it's death. Unfortunately, I'm still bound to this place. I shall honor my bargain though. I think I can provide you with a suitable reward." The Dervish swipes with his hands and seems to manipulate an invisible menu interface. It's not too odd since the lots of players choose to have their menus be visible only to them - including the party. A pop-up appears to Arlo. [Would you like to gain access to the Archtype <Dervish Defender>?] He clicks yes. He then has the option to immediately switch over now for free, or in the future for a price. He chooses to change now, and he goes from being a standard Warder to being a <Dervish Defender>. Looking at his abilities menu, he has all of them listed except for <Two-Weapon Defense>. Instead he has <Manual Override> - Level 0. While he's doing this <The Dervish Defender> has walked behind him, and is looking over his shoulder.

"Hmmm.... You have some training in fighting, yes?"

"That's right."

"But not with swords?"

"Not really."

"Then I have another proposal for you. Under a lake to the north east, there rests another creature who may be cause for my imprisonment. Grendel's Mother. Slay her, and I will train you. Unfortunately, like her son, she is immune to most attacks."

"How do we kill her?"

"Well, you've killed Grendel...kind of. So I think you're capable of this task. I'll lend you my sword." The Dervish unsheathes one of his blades and hands it over to Arlo. "To wound her, you must use the sword's true form. To unlock it's power, circulate prana into it, and call it's name: <Hrunting>."

"Ok."

"I'll await your return."

The party got a fat wad of XP for the quest. This would've had all of them topped out at the same XP value, but I forgot the sub-class XP table I made. It doesn't actually effect anything since they have yet to unlock subclasses. The status screen shows that Hruntring is a +5 scimitar. Even though weapon finesse, and deadly agility don't apply - it's an upgrade over Arlo's shortsword. He doesn't want to use it outside of the boss fight though. The cost to repair weapons is proportionate to the weapon's price. They don't have the money, or access to a blacksmith that could fix even one point of durability. While they were out at night, they decided to finish Mile's <Frenzied Boar> quest. The bores are now gray to them, and not much of a threat. We do the first combat of hurting the boar just enough, and then defending until it dies. Nothing serious. Vinney readies a vigor shield if Miles' current one is ever depleted. The second fight has the boar roll 3 20s in a row, and gets 2 crits in back-to-back rounds. Miles takes some damage, but refreshed 10 point Vigor shields maintain the status quo. The boars die, and Miles just needs to turn in the quest. In hindsight, I think I should've had <The Dervish Defender> come by and kill one of the boars... A little bit to be mean, a little bit to show he doesn't really care what the party is doing. His one joy is killing boars, and he's not going to stop doing so for them. Oh well.

Thus ends the Second Session, in much the same way as the first. Getting a quest from <The Dervish Defender>, and walking along the road at night back towards the <Starting City>.

Fri
2015-06-30, 05:26 AM
Interesting enough, and the homebrew seems quite different than vanilla. Also interesting that you actually also have system for grinding. Does your players have any problem and/or feedback about the homebrews?

I'll be following this.

Chimmon
2015-06-30, 12:32 PM
Some of the homebrew changes went over well, some not so much.

The static skills are working nicely so far. It simplifies things to ask "Who has Perception?" rather than to have everyone roll it. Same thing for Acrobatics. It's much quicker to have people just move without attacks of opportunity, and it works well with Path of War - allows people to reposition themselves and then use their standard action to do something cool. The downside is when something calls for an odd skill check (like Heal), and I have to come up with some numbers on the fly.

Quick and easy respecing has been appreciated.

Grinding is working well. The "Interesting Stuff" table is enough of a threat so that it doesn't feel boring (and can lead to some hard fights). My rule of "You have to fight it once before grinding" has gotten a little negative feedback, but not much.

Easy Power Point recovery is a God send for the healer - so he can actually heal. It may become harder to balance at higher levels though. That's one of the reasons I made "Gather Mana" unlimited, but slow, and "Generate Od" quick, but with limits.

Having to find a trainer for the feat you want is not making for happy players. I can understand their sentiment, and I plan on introducing NPCs that just happen to have what they want soon, but in the meantime it leaves them without having the abilities they planned on - which is never fun.

Rolls to learn magic didn't go over well. It really slowed things down for no real payout. Everyone agrees that the idea of having skills that your character spends time to learn is cool and different from what the game gives them, but I think I need to begin to gloss over that aspect in order to keep the plot moving.

Overall, I think the campaign has captured the "feel" of being in an MMO - but I may be biased. :)

JadedDM
2015-06-30, 02:25 PM
Unless you left it out, it seems that, at least so far, none of the players seem terribly concerned that they are now trapped in a death game. Has there been any discussion on how they might escape, or worries about what will happen to their real bodies, and so on?

Chimmon
2015-06-30, 04:12 PM
Nobody's really talked about the Death Game aspect much. They're experienced gamers, so having characters in life or death situations is the norm. Arlo's player and I talked about it before the campaign started. He brought up the idea of doing nothing, and how they could trust the guy who essentially kidnapped them. Kayaba could be bluffing after all. I told him they'd be presented with strong evidence, that everything was deadly serious. I think I'm also to blame some, as the DM it's kinda my job to bring up topics of conversation that I feel have been neglected.

I'll ask them at the next session what their characters think about what's going on. Right now it's been more than an month in game, so they may feel like they've gotten used to it. There's also been other shenanigans going on that have had them distracted - mainly a plot twist that is somehow bigger than being trapped in SAO.

Vaypah
2015-07-01, 01:04 AM
He had a long grey beard, faded and tattered robes that had some vestages of sequins hanging off them, and a beat up old hat with "Maguss" written in slightly less faded and tattered sequins.


Puahahah!
When are they going to meet the orangutan librarian that hates being called a monkey? :smallbiggrin:

Subscribed!

To those who didn't get the reference, google Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. You're missing out if you haven't read it.

Doctarro
2015-07-01, 05:18 PM
Did you intend for them all to use the psionics and PoW stuff, or did that just happen? I know there were other classes available, but did you balance the encounters and mechanics for having the relatively higher powered characters?

Chimmon
2015-07-02, 09:06 AM
Did you intend for them all to use the psionics and PoW stuff, or did that just happen? I know there were other classes available, but did you balance the encounters and mechanics for having the relatively higher powered characters?

It's the first time we're using PoW, but it seemed appropriate given the SAO setting. I decided on Psionics from the start, it's a lot easier to modulate as an overarching system.

The character's power level is tempered by their low starting physical stats and lack of equipment. However, they're all quite potent for their level, and they're just going to get stronger. I handle encounters by making custom monsters (since they're all in a video game, I don't have to concern myself with too much realism). Generally speaking, I determine what an "average" PC would have, and give the monsters the ability to hit them ~50%, same for their defense.

Mobs have higher HP than average, enough so that a good maneuver can one-shot them - but probably not. The fights that they actually have to play out deal with multiple opponents - which will probably always be a challenge given the HP and hate system. If they do ever get an AoE character - they'll have to be very aware of the Mobs' aggro levels. This is especially important given the ease at which power points can be recovered in this setting.

Finally, it's easy to challenge a group if you have opponents that attack their weaknesses. Combat maneuvers, reach, difficult terrain, DR, etc. As the game introduces more advanced monsters, they'll have to adjust. Generally speaking, the first time fighting something is the hardest because you don't know what "tricks" they have up their sleeves. My goal is to get to the point where they recognize mob archetypes and prioritize them and work as a team - to award good tactics, not force higher stats.

Chimmon
2015-07-06, 12:54 PM
Third Session:

We resume with the party having accepted the <Grendel's Mother> quest. Since Hruntring needs prana to be used, Arlo wants to open his circuits. Miles has a quest to finish for the Captain of the Guard in the second forest town. It's not long after midnight, so the group goes back to Starting City and gets a room. The next day they head out past the ever expanding swarm of PCs killing boars to go and turn in the quest. The trip is uneventful, and upon completion Miles receives 100 gold, and access to the <Savage Barbarian> archetype. Honestly, it's not that impressive of a reward. The money is nice, the most they've gotten for anything so far, but the Barbarian class isn't very appealing compared to the Warlord. Everyone's XP is now capped.

They make the return trip to Starting City, and as they're preparing to head to the Museum of Suspicious Furniture - Vinney says he'd like to talk to everyone in private. The other members of the party are curious, and they all go back to their out-of-the-way Inn and get a room. Vinney's about to tell the party the first major twist. He knew it from right before the first session, but was really good about keeping it under his hat.

Vinney - "Guys, I'm about to tell you something very dangerous, but I think it's worst for you to not know... I'm a mage. In real life. The magic system that Kayaba made, is exactly what I can do in person. I don't know what he's planning, but non-mages that find out about magic are...handled. My father is one of the people who maintains the secrecy. I don't know what will happen if we get out of this game, and all the survivors start talking about magic. Even if they think it's just a game system, the publicity will be too high. The mages will want to keep it quite, and they'll opt for speed over finesse. I'm telling you this because magic is dangerous. If you open your circuits, I don't know if it'll have an effect on your real bodies. The good news is that we're currently in St. Margo's, and our bodies are safe."

DM Note: He knew about the bodies because he had a dream where his brother tried to get in contact with him via magic. He couldn't respond, so his brother thought the spell was a failure. He went ahead and gave Vinney the low down on what was happening in the real world because he'd already cast the spell, and it was possible Vinney could hear him. Basically, Vinney's dad in an Enforcer: someone who is the strong-arm of the Mage Association, and is commonly called in to help them handle more...troublesome members. Vinney's family thinks this is some odd terrorist thing - mages don't tend to care/know about technology. His dad has done some investigating, but removing the helmet would quite possibly kill Vinney, and would raise the question of what happened if Vinney alone was saved, since this is a big story. Questions that couldn't be answered, so no cavalry there. At the end of the "conversation" he told Vinney their bodies were safe at St. Margo's, and he said something about Kayaba - but the spell was degrading at that point, and Vinney didn't hear it.

Miles - "Wait, so if we learn magic here, we can do it in real life?"

Vinney - "I have no idea."

Arlo - "Why is magic kept a secret?"

Vinney (with a note from the DM) - "The more people that know how to cast a spell, the weaker it becomes. Common magic is so diluted that it can be freely taught, but rare magic is hoarded by magical families. Mages are also very rare. Families are very selective with their breeding to try and encourage more magic in their children, but the family crest can only be passed to one person. That's why I was never that interested in being a mage. My brother is the one with the talent. He's the one that's going to continue the family. I'm just going to be married off - as breeding stock."

Arlo - "I think your father will have a higher opinion of you after we get out of here. What if I became a employee of your family? Like a bodyguard or something?"

Vinney - "My dad doesn't need a bodyguard."

Arlo - "What about a chauffeur? I'm willing to work. Better to have employees that know about magic right?"

Vinney - "I really couldn't say."

Miles - "So if we become mages in the game, we might be killed if we get out?"

Vinney - "Or you might just have your minds altered, but given the potential scope..."

Noir - "But we already know. Won't that change things? Will not learning magic do anything for us?"

Vinney - "Really, I don't know. I just didn't want you guys to activate your circuits without knowing what you were getting into. I might be killed for telling you."

Arlo - "Your dad wouldn't do that."

Vinney gives Arlo a deadpan stare.

Miles - "Anyways, I think it's a good idea to activate our circuits. Kayaba said that he 'wanted us to all become splendid magic users', so I think it's clear that it's part of the game. We need every advantage we can get."

Vinney - "Plus, you have to have your circuits open to resist magic. Without Prana flowing to erode magic that's been injected into you, you'd have no defense."

Personally, I thought everyone accepted that magic is real a bit easily, but hey they're stuck in a fantasy world and forced to play a video game at the behest of an apparent mad man. Throwing magic into the mix, isn't that much more world-jarring. They return to the Museum of Suspicious Furniture. Everyone tries to draw a perfect circle, and spin in a perfect spiral. They all fail. Miles feels like he's being electrocuted. Noir feels like freezing salt is being packed into his veins. Arlo feels like molten steel is flowing inside his body. They also take varying amounts of circuit damage. The NPC won't give them the quest again, and they deduce that it's on a daily timer. Alro decides to contact Argo.

"My friend said you'd sell us the locations of the 3 mage trainers for 1 gold each."

"Yes... I did say that."

"I want to buy them. Wait, I want to buy the two of them that aren't the Museum of Suspicious Furniture."

"...Ok."

Arlo spends 2 gold and is told to go to the Unicorn's Mane Tavern, and speak to the Ancient Harry NPC, and to go to the Black Cauldron shop and talk to the Green Witch NPC. The party goes to the Unicorn's Mane Tavern, and at the bar in the back is Ancient Harry. He has a long white beard, a faded red robe, glasses, and bright green eyes. I'm asked if he has a scar on his forehead - if they look hard, yes he does. They approach and say "I'd like to learn magic." This prompts a 20 minute speech from the NPC covering a wide number of magical topics. All attempts at interrupting him are futile. At the end, he says "You can't choose magic, magic must choose you. Go to the forest and find your wand." Arlo gets the <Find Your Wand> quest. 40 minutes later (which is spend mostly sampling drinks at the bar and chatting with each other), and Miles and Noir have the quest as well. Harry didn't say where to go, so with a lack of a better target, they head out towards the clearing where the <Wounded Dog was>.

All along the tree line are <Potential Wands>. Arlo goes up and grabs one, and it becomes a <Stick>. He grabs another one, it becomes a <Stick>. He grabs another one, it burns down, falls over, then becomes a stick, but the forth one stood up!!! I mean, became a <Wand>. After a few tries, the party is now in possession of 3 <Wands>. They return to Ancient Harry, and he tells them to wave their <Wands> in the air. (This resulted in some snickering.) Miles is electrocuted again; Noir's veins are packed full of freezing salt again; and Arlo feels like molten metal is being poured throughout his body again. They're expecting the pain this time, and endure it much better. They still fail the quest though.

At the Black Cauldron, the Green Witch tells them to go and fetch her some <Poppies> from the fields. They do so. She puts them in her pot, then scoops out a cup of sludge and tells them to drink. Same results as before - pain and a failure on the quest. Stacked with unhealable damage, and too high of level to get any XP from grinding on anything but <Bears> at night - the party relaxes in their room, and then goes to sleep. They start adjusting their sleep schedule. Their goal is to go to bed at noon, so they can be awake during the night. It'll take a few days to make the change, but that's it. What follows is about a week in-game of repeating those same 3 quests. I have them roll their own percentile dice. This turns out to be a mistake. It slowed everything down, and really dragged out what I should've just summed up with: "After seven days of attempts: you're successful." Lesson learned.

Vinney's advice was to keep trying. Opening your circuits wasn't a gradual thing. Once it "clicked" for you and that was it. Miles was the first to succeed. He realized that a circle was really made up of lines. Infinite, small lines that were like a factorial regression. When his circuits opened he gained the sub-class of <Psion>. I didn't want to rope him into playing something he didn't like, so his discipline is still up in the air. After some talking, he tentatively decides on Egoist. He gets Hidden Power as a bonus feat and takes Astral Construct as his additional power. (At my recommendation.) He clicks on his new sub-class and the option to promote it to his main class comes up, along with a warning that this action can't be un-done. He decides against it for now.

Vinney sees the sub-class, and does the Perfect Circle quest. He aces it without effort, and gets the subclass of Martial Kineticist. It grants him all the special abilities of the class, but not the manifesting.

Arlo unlocks his next via Ancient Harry. His sub-class is Aegis, and he took Force Screen with his Hidden Power feat. In game he knows two spells - "Reparo" (Astral Repair) and "Protego" (Force Screen). His <Wand> got upgraded to <Arlo's Wand>. Vinney thinks it's the stupidest thing ever - magic doesn't work that way. He knows that magic is basically self-hypnosis, and that "spells" are convincing yourself that you can do the impossible. Using a tool or an aria as an aid is common among magi. He just can't accept THIS combination of tools and arias. He contemplates breaking Arlo's wand daily. Arlo pretends to be indifferent, but in reality he's psyched about having a wand. His character is a Harry Potter fan.

Noir's breakthrough comes via the Green Witch. The idea that magic is done with potions and mixing makes sense to him, even if he doesn't ever plan on doing it himself. Since he was the last to open his circuits, he didn't get any time to practice. His character tab lists him as having a "Soul Blade", and the spells "Inevitable Strike" and "Defensive Precognition". Of the three PCs, only Arlo is capable of casting anything. This is because he's using both a tool and an aria, so his required rolls were lower. Arlo tries pouring prana into Hruntring, and the sword absorbs it like a sponge.

With the power to activate Hruntring, the party decides to head out again. Their first stop? Grendel's temple. I'm not sure why. I think they were hoping that Grendel respawned, or that they could get some information about his mother. Instead they found the temple exactly as they left it. On their way back, I rolled a "01" on a d100 for their random encounter. Even with them being higher level than the area they were in - this meant something happened. So, as they were trekking back through the woods, a Green colored PC came running towards them. When he saw them, he glanced over his shoulder, and went into stealth mode. Everyone in the party has Perception as a skill, so they all could see him turn transparent. The un-named player then moved to the side, and the group lost sight of him at 30 feet - about the range you can see someone of the same level you are. A few rounds later, a swarm of Honey Hornets came flying out of the woods in the same direction the PC had.

The party moved to engage. Honey Hornets are only level 1 mobs, and while they have a good AC and hit for their level - they only do 1d4 damage. So even with 8 hornets, the party thought they were in good shape. Arlo charged the main group, and hit one - taking it below half it's health. Vinney put a small Vigor shield on Arlo, so as to not pull aggro. Miles moved up and attacked the other group of Hornets, but missed. Noir moved to Arlo, and made a basic attack that missed. I point out that he made a basic attack because he has two strikes that make his opponent flat-footed. He also has a stance that gives him +4 to hit and +1d6 damage to opponents that are denied their Dex bonus to AC. Finally, the Hornet's AC comes solely from Size (1), and Dex (5). With his Dex (2), BAB (1), flanking (2), and stance bonus (4) - he'd need a 2 to hit. Plus he'd stand a good chance at taking one out from full life. Instead, he rolls a regular attack - and gets a 4.

The next round Arlo is stung a little. Vinney saves his mana. Miles and Arlo attack different hornets to gain more aggro. They both miss, but that's ok since attacking generates some Hate on it's own. Noir does another regular attack, and rolls a 5. At the end of the round 4 more Hornets show up. The third round is pretty much exactly the same - save for Miles taking one out. 3 Hornets show up at the end of the round this time. The fourth round sees Arlo and Miles both getting a kill, Vinney putting up another Vigor shield, and Noir rolling a 2. THIS time at the end of the round - The <Honey Hornet Queen> shows up.

Arlo moves past Miles to engage her, and 5 Hornets follow him. That's five Attacks of Opportunity - and Miles takes out 3, while the other 2 stick to him as their new favorite tank. After some table talk, Noir starts using his maneuvers on the Hornets. He rolls another 2, but it's enough. The Queen stabs Arlo, and he gets a poison debuff, that ticks for 1d4 damage at the start of his turn. Vinney has waited long enough, and starts throwing up 10 point vigor shields on everyone, starting with Arlo. Some Hornets that haven't been attacked yet break off and go after him.

Arlo charges the Hornets on Vinney, and kills one. Miles and Noir are still dealing with the rest of the horde. Vinney shields Miles. The Queen flies all over the battlefield and provokes from every player as she enters their square. Vinney notices that she got a 4 stacks of some buff. At the end of her movement - she spawns 4 more <Honey Hornets>, and the buff goes away. Arlo's poison debuff wears off and he attacks the Hornets on Vinney. Miles and Noir continue to whittle down the adds. Vinney refreshes Vigor shields. The Queen moves to Miles and poisons him.

Arlo trains his Hornets through Miles' threatened area again as he moves to attack the Queen. Miles and Noir have now finished off most of the adds, but used up all their Attacks of Opportunity this round. The queen does her weird dance again - and only gets a stack of 2 buffs. Vinney yells out not to try and hit her when she does that. With her mechanic figured out, the boss is reduced to attacking every other round. The party quickly wraps up the fight soon after. Noir gets the Last Attack bonus, which is <The Queen's Sting> - a masterwork dagger.

(I hope that was an interesting recap. I included the play-by-play to showcase the first "tricky" fight the players had to face. They'll be more fights like this one, but I'm not sure if I should include the details or not.)

Arlo says "I think that guy tried to kill us!!", and sends a message to Argo saying there's a PC killer in the west forest. Argo is polite, but basically says "So?". She's doesn't go around interrupting people with rumors - they have to come to her and pay for them. Vinney says they shouldn't jump to conclusions. The guy was being chanced by a swarm of Hornets, and it probably wasn't his idea. There isn't anything they can do aside from speculate since the PC was still green, and not like they would attack him even if he was orange...maybe. The idea WAS brought up, but quickly shot down.

The trip to the forest only took 4 hours total, even with a sudden boss monster appearing. They still feel that they have time in the day to make it to the lakes area to the East. Starting City is along the way, and the party considers selling <The Queen's Sting>. It'll fetch them a good amount of gold from an NPC, and possibly more from a PC with cash to spare. Ultimately Noir decides to use it for now. Arlo can repair it, so there's not much downside. +1 to hit is hard to come by at this point in the game.

The journey to the lakes area takes another 2 hours, and it's now nighttime. The mobs here come in two varieties <Giant Ants> and <Soldier Ants>, both of which stay the same at nightfall, and neither of which is any threat to the group. The first lake town is a bust. All the NPCs are asleep. For lack of anything better to do, they head out to the forest strip between the grasslands and the lakes areas. The only mobs left on the floor that can give them XP are the bears that show up in the woods at night. The first fight with a bear is a close thing. It's far above the level 2 mobs they've faced before. The 2nd fight has them scouting ahead with a stealthed Noir. This gives them advanced warning, so Arlo can buff with Protego. The fight goes much easier, enough that it qualifies for grinding. Some VERY lucky rolls later, and their bear-hunting night is over without incident. Daybreak has come, and they want to canvas the town, but it's their bed-time. They set their alarms for 2 PM, and turn in. The next day, asking about Grendel's Mother turns up: "I've never heard of that topic before." Asking about who might know triggers new dialog in "Old Maggy might know something about that subject." and "Old Maggy is in Misty to the North East."

Thus the party heads to the second town in the lakes area, and once there set about finding <Old Maggy>. It's not too hard. She lives in a dilapidated shack on the east side of town. After a confirmation that it is still a <Safe Zone> (I swear...), they enter the dwelling of the elderly NPC.

Arlo: "Do you know anything about Grendel's Mother?"

Old Maggy: "Grendel's Mother lives under the Lake to the East."

Arlo: "Which lake?"

Old Maggy: "Grendel's Mother lives under the Lake to the East."

Cue face palm by Arlo, and me pointing out their location on the map provided. There's only one lake to the East. It's directly to the East, and it goes to the edge of the floor.

Miles: "What can you tell us about Grendel's Mother's weaknesses?"

Old Maggy: "What's that deary? I'm sorry, but I don't hear as well as I used to."

Miles: "I said, What can you tell us about Grendel's Mother's weaknesses?"

Old Maggy: "What's that deary? I'm sorry, but I don't hear as well as I used to."

Arlo: "Does Grendel's Mother have any weaknesses?"

Old Maggy: "It's said Grendel's Mother cannot be harmed by any mortal blade."

Arlo: "How do we get under the lake?"

Old Maggy: "Grendel's Mother lives under the Lake to the East."

The party then leaves having learned that Grendel's Mother lives under the Lake to the East, and cannot be harmed by any mortal blade. They also learned that canned NPC responses are different based on who's asking them. They already knew that NPCs don't make the most interesting conversationalists. To the east they find the same giant ants that populate the rest of the area. They find the lake easily enough, and follow it to the edge of the floor. Nothing of interest is found - aside from more ants that don't give them any XP, and have mediocre drops. Doubling-back, they walk around the lake to it's other side. Still nothing.

It's getting late, but they've adapted their sleep schedule for nocturnal adventures, and the mob types in the lake area don't change. So they wander around the lake, hoping to stumble upon a cave or such. There is talk of going into the water, and even training the swim skill. No one really wants to do that. For some reason they're afraid that a shark or something will ambush them - despite the guide map mentioning no such thing, and Noir's Beta-knowledge that there are no water-based mobs on the first floor.

Midnight comes. The next Soldier Ant they kill leaves behind a <Tunnel>. They dutifully enter. The tunnel is nicely sized (10' x 10') so they don't have to crawl, and despite there being no light-sources - they can somehow see just fine. There are comments of how convenient being in a video game is at times. The tunnel stretches for a good ways, long enough that it's definitely under the lake. At it's end, there's a large, well lit room that contains <Grendel's Mom>. She looks like a werewolf, but rather than Grendel's beastly appearance, she's quite beautiful: lustrous silver fur, that seems to glow in the semi-darkness. Her icon is red, her name is in gold, and she has the title <Assassin>.

Initiative is rolled, and Arlo gets to go first. He cast Force Screen as they started down the tunnel, but it's down to a 2 round duration. He's holding two shortswords, and wants to sheath them, draw his wand, cast Protego, store his wand, and re-draw his sword. I tell him that's 3 rounds worth of actions. He settles for dropping a sword, drawing his wand, and casting Protego. The rest of the party forfeit their actions, since A) attacking before the tank has aggro is bad and B) they're pretty sure they can't actually hurt her. A blue mana bar appears under Grendel's Mother's health bar, and empties 25%. 4 <Ghostly Warriors> appear in the room, they are transparent humans wielding swords, but their movements are clumsy and awkward. I'm asked if they know anything about Incorporeal creatures, and that they need magic weapons. I reply, how would they, and to stop making assumptions.

Arlo's turn comes again, he drops his wand, draws Hruntring while moving to Grendel's Mother, and channels one power point into it. Miles and Noir move forward and engade the ghosts. Miles drops one of them to 30% health, and Noir kills another. Instead of shattering into pixels, the slain Ghostly Warrior's body remains. Everyone suspects they'll be reviving soon. Vinney puts a Vigor shield onto Arlo. On her turn, Grendel says to Arlo: "You don't want to hurt me." Her mana bar falls to 50%. He fails the save, and feels her words take root. The ghosts attack Miles and Noir. Their movements aren't skilled, but they just need to touch, and they have no regard for their own defense. Both get hit, but not for much damage.

On Arlo's turn, he doesn't want to hurt Grendel's Mother, but that's why he's here. He spends a full-round action and manages to flush her prana from his system with a successful save. Miles and Noir take out another ghost. Vinney puts a Vigor on Miles. Grendel's Mother looks at Vinney, says "Buff me.", and her mana falls to 25% left. Vinney makes his save, and quickly flushes her prana out of his circuits before it could even take hold. The ghosts continue to attack for minor damage.

Arlo finally gets an attack, and hits the boss. <Immortal Object> flashes above her head. The party cries WTF? I tell them they forgot something the Dervish Assassin told them. I gave their characters rolls to remember it, but they all failed. There's complaining, and statements that while the players might have forgotten everything he said last session, the characters were obsessively writing everything down since this was life and death for them. I relent, since I don't want to antagonize my players, even if they forgot the NPC's instructions, which I feel are quite vital. I remind them that Arlo has to say "Hruntring" when channeling prana into the sword. It's not fluff, but something that he quite literally has to vocalize. Somewhat placated, we continue the fight. Miles and Noir kill off all the remaining ghosts. Grendel's Mother says "Arise", her mana bar empties, but 4 more <Ghostly Warriors> appear. One of the slain ones also reanimates. Three of the new mobs move and merge with their fallen comrades. The two that are still up continue to attack.

Arlo channels his final power point into Hruntring, and says "Hruntring". The sword grows in his hands, and becomes a falchion. It also gets the wounding and keen properties. He has to drop his other sword to wield the new 2-handed weapon. He hits Grendel's Mother... and gets <Immortal Object> again. Miles and Noir take out an empowered ghost, and Vinney - lacking anything else to do - casts a cantrip at one of the ghosts that would give it -1 to hit. Instead the ghost is instantly slain. The ghosts attack, and Grendel's Mother opens her jaws, and a vortex sucks all the ghosts into her. This refills her mana bar. The next turn she empties all of it and makes a <Ghostly Bear> appear. Vinney casts collapse on it to knock it down, once again, it dies instead. Fed up, Grendel's Mother charges him and lands a nasty blow. Vinney retreats into the tunnel. The boss then absorbs the <Ghostly Bear>'s corpse, and uses the mana to make another appear right behind Vinney, who now has nowhere he can step and cast - so he just goes full-defense.

This entire time, Arlo has been attacking her. He managed to get one crit, which took away 1/4 of her life, but regular blows have no effect. Miles charges the new bear, and gets a critical hit that kills it in one blow. Grendel's Mother stops wasting turns casting things, and bears down on Arlo with her far superior natural attacks. What followed showed me that my "clever" idea of having a monster that can be hurt with only criticals was in fact - not. Arlo couldn't roll a 15 or more to save his life. Miles and Noir kept on using Aid Another, and Vinney kept the Vigor shield up on the tank. Eventually the crits came, and the tank and spank fight was finished. Arlo gets <Grendel's Mother's Head>, and the group leaves the cave.

They return to <The Dervish Assassin> and give him the monster's head, and his sword back.

"Ah good work, but I fear I'm still trapped here. Fear not, I will keep my word and train you."

"Is there anything else we can do?"

"There's one more monster that I suspect may be the key to my release, but it's far beyond your ability. Trying to fight it would be suicide. There's also nothing else I can do for you, I mean it's not like I have a 'feat' that I can just... oh wait, I do. Here you go."

A popup appears in front of Arlo saying: [Do you want to gain the extra feat <Dervish Dance>?] He clicks "yes", and gets the feat. It doesn't count against his limit, but all it does is allow him to wield scimitars as if they were light weapons. There's no cost to it, and scimitars have nice stats - if they can ever find any.

"I never use it myself, so I forgot I had the thing."

"Can we start the training now?"

"I don't see why not."

<The Dervish Assassin> proceeds to slaughter Arlo. Thankfully, he stops each of his strikes before they connect, so the damage is only to the PC's pride. At first the blows come in too fast for Arlo to see, much less react to. The NPC tones it down, and eventually arrives at the sweet spot of "I can see it, I just can't dodge it." Thus ends the session.

Fri
2015-07-07, 04:28 AM
What a tweeest.

By the way, I notice you have aggro mechanic and such in this game. How do you keep track of it? In real MMO the computer does all the calculating, but do you really calculate who hold the most aggro in this game? Is that any problem at all?

Chimmon
2015-07-07, 10:01 AM
By the way, I notice you have aggro mechanic and such in this game. How do you keep track of it? In real MMO the computer does all the calculating, but do you really calculate who hold the most aggro in this game? Is that any problem at all?

The rules for aggro are pretty simple... once you get used to them.

lvl = Character Level (in main class)
Intim = Character Level if they have the Intimidate Skill, 0 otherwise

Initial Aggro = lvl + Intim
Performing an attack = lvl + Intim
Casting a Spell = lvl + more depending on damage/debuffs the spell applies
Doing damage = the damage dealt
Generating a Debuff = lvl x ? (Depending on the debuff)
Receiving Damage = Reduces aggro by the damage delt

Keeping track of it can be an issue. Generally speaking it's not so bad since the people with Intimidate generate enough so that it takes something special to pull them off. Weak mobs aren't much of a problem as they tend to get teamed up on, and with their low HP they die pretty quickly. Boss mobs are another issue, I have to keep a tally for each character and update it w/ their action. It doesn't take much time, but I do run out of paper space frequently.

The trade-off is that it really makes it feel like an MMO. I don't have to worry about playing the monsters too smart/dumb, and it makes actual tanking in Pathfinder possible without resorting to feats or abilities that try and restrict attacks.

ZeroGear
2015-07-12, 08:12 AM
Say, do you have a PDF version of the rules for this? I have a feeling I woukd like to run a game like this at some point.

Chimmon
2015-07-13, 10:00 AM
Say, do you have a PDF version of the rules for this? I have a feeling I woukd like to run a game like this at some point.

Sorry I don't. The only place the rules are are in this thread and various notes on the campaign I have. Some of the rules are there to simulate an MMO, and some are plot-related. Stuff like circuit damage may not make sense in a campaign that's following a different plot. Same for the class restrictions.

The main limitation for having a class is it's stamina. If you want to do an MMO setting, then I suggest either using psionics - and give the PCs a slow refill option (and a fast, but limited one for boss fights) or modify the spell slot system. An idea I had for this was that casting a spell puts that spell and all lower level spells on cooldown for a number of rounds equal to the spell's level.

Thus, a 1st level spell puts 0th and 1st level spells on cooldown for 1 round. A 2nd level spell would put 0th, 1st, and 2nd spells on cooldown for 2 rounds. In such a system a PC could cast a 1st level spell every other round, or they could "chain up" spells and cast a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc sequentially, but then would have a long cooldown of doing nothing after they cast their highest level spell. I haven't tested this idea, but I think it'd fit the setting well.

Aside from that, the two most important aspects are having a game-like aggro system, and having a progression span that can fit the number of floors/levels with the PC's leveling up. This was why I made the world pseudo-gestalt - to have more levels that I can award to the players.

Chimmon
2015-07-15, 10:42 AM
Fourth Session:

Some out of character stuff happened at the start of the 4th session. Vinney wasn't feeling too good about his subclass. Arlo got a cool astral suit, Noir got a cool soul blade, Miles would become a full-caster, and he got...+1 AC and some bonus feats. Even getting Energy Ray as a bonus power was moot since he took it with his Hidden Power feat. I explained to him that it was an archetype of Psychic Warrior, so it also added those powers to his class list (with the caveat that he'd have to train to have access to them). I also offered to modify it from Martial Kineticist to Martial Shaper - basically changing all it's references to the Kineticist class powers to the Shaper's. He thinks about it for a while, and the argument that he could use Astral Constructs to do things while his character's actions were devoted to keeping his teammates from dying convinced him. I also talked to Miles's player about his Hidden Power bonus power. I had told him Astral Construct was a good power, and it is, just not at 1st level. By the time it would actually last long enough to make a difference - he'd be able to pick it up with Expanded Knowledge. He looks over the discipline specific power lists, and decides that Minor Metamorphosis is the best one. He's an Egoist, so taking it as an extra power seems like he's missing an opportunity, but I agree that it's the best choice. Later I would realize we forgot to look at the Psychic Warrior list - that has a wide variety of great first level powers... Oh well.

In game, the party had just defeated Grendel's Mother and turned in her head to <The Dervish Assassin>. This gave them enough XP to level up. Arlo spent the rest of the night training. Come morning, they returned to Starting City to level and start mastering their subclasses. What followed was unfortunately quite boring. I had them roll for each 4 hour chunk of time they spent training, instead of doing it myself. This resulted in a lot of repetitive actions which I could've just summed up - as I'm about to do.

Vinney learned some Psychic Warrior Powers and Astral Construct. As a Vitalist he can swap them out each morning, so even if he's not going to immediately use them it's good to have. One of the ones he picks is Dimension Swap. When he took it he didn't realize he'd be under the Psychic Warrior's restriction on it's use (or that Psychic Warriors had a restriction). It still might come in handy, but since casting defensively is tough in Pathfinder it may not. Astral Construct has him creating blood from his circuits and shaping it into some circuits for the construct. With the main part finished, the remainder of the body is constructed from the Prana he provided. They only last for 18 seconds - which isn't a whole lot of time. Future feats may change this, but for now they are rather short-term.

Noir finally realized his Soul Blade was there all along, he just had to reach out and take hold of it. Doing so gave him a shortsword made out of obsidian. Some jokes are made about how dark his soul must be, but he likes his new infinitely summonable sword. He sells the masterwork dagger to an NPC and shares the funds with the party. Could've made more with finding a PC buyer, and he finished earlier than most people so he had the time... Oh well.

Miles had one power to learn but it's a complex one. He unlocked each of Minor Metamorphosis's options a few at a time. Changing size didn't alter his gear, so he had to practice that naked in the Inn room. This prompted Harassment Alerts for the other party members, but no one wanted to send their giant naked friend to jail for 24 hours. In hindsight, the gear issue was from my confusion of polymorph effects from 3.5 to Pathfinder. This wasn't discovered for a while yet.

Arlo had the most to learn, and took the longest. He first learned to form his Astral Suit - which manifested itself as a shimmering field around him. The visual distortion effect was the same as if he was surrounded with a corona of intense heat. He also unlocked each of the augments he had available at level 1. Training with <The Dervish Assassin> took longer. He eventually got to Manual Override 2 (which let him add up to 2 points of his INT bonus to AC while duel-wielding), but botched (on a d100) his training roll. I though about what the worst possible outcome was... and <The Dervish Defender> said "Ok, that's enough. I'm finished." Arlo came back the next night, and the NPC just said: "I told you I was done sparring with you. Do you think I'd change my mind after one night?"

The party had some free time during the days since the item that was taking the longest was Arlo's NPC training, so they FINALLY talked to some other PCs. They'd been staying in an unoccupied part of town, they kept strange hours, and they never talked to or partied with anyone. They asked someone about Tolbana, and after some discussion he said he only knew what was in Argo's Guide. This revealed the important fact that Argo's Guide had been updated - several times. Miles complained that OF COURSE they'd talk to people and check the NPCs wears. I said nope. Unless you say you're talking to people, I'm not having you do it. Who knows? They may try and pickpocket you, or somehow kill you in a <Safe Zone>. As for the NPC's wares. Once again, unless you say you're looking through the reselling tab, and going through all the boar spleens, hornet honey, ant mandibles, and other assorted vendor trash - you wouldn't have seen it. The lesson: if you're antisocial you don't find out what the other PC characters are up to.

The 4th revision of Argo's Guide actually lists a great deal of NPC mage trainers in all the towns. It has more detailed mob zone maps, and is generally more polished. The list of NPC mages contains Old Maggy (no surprise), and the Captain of the Guard who gave Miles the Boar quest (that was a surprise). Nothing much else is mentioned in the guide. None of the players comment on the fact that they gave away a small amount of gold to Argo for information she'd already published for free. I don't think they realized it, or they might not care about 2 gold, or both.

Soon after Arlo's training is finished, or as finished as it's going to get for the time being, so they head North. Along the road they see a group of Kobolds. Argo's Guide gives them the mob's levels, since they're all grey to the PCs: 4 level 1 Scavengers, 1 level 1 Bully, 1 level 2 Berserker, and 2 level Beast Masters. A large group, but quite low in level and far enough on the open road that the party can buff before hand. They start a countdown, and Arlo buffs with Force Screen before the fight. Vinney declines to summon an Astral Construct, as it's duration is so short. He does buff the tanks with Vigor though. Miles wants to try out his powers, so he takes off his armor and grows to large size. He also gains a claw attack, and buffs his Con and Str. The net result is that he has reach, does a decent amount of damage... and loses 4 AC. I tell him that he's fighting naked, but he declares he has fur. Minor Metamorphosis can change your appearance, so I have him mimic Grendel.

The fight is pretty short and brutal on both sides. The Bully has very high initial aggro on "weaker" looking targets, and so attacks Noir once he's in melee. The Scavengers are pretty basic, and not a threat - except to Miles. He closed in first, but that let the mobs 5ft step to attack him. With his newly reduced AC, he was hit a lot. Not for much damage since they were level 1 mobs, but it was upsetting to him that being bigger wasn't better. The Berserker grew in power with how much hate he had, and was put down first. Finally the Beastmasters got some good hits in, since they got a bonus from flanking with their spring attacking wolf pets. All in all, not hard, but Miles didn't care for his only power performing so poorly.

The loot from the kobolds is low quality, but with some Reparios from Arlo it's resell value skyrockets. The only problem is they can't carry it all. Armor is heavy and everyone's sporting a 10 Str except Miles, who has a 14. Even with leaving some of the kobold's gear behind, they made a decent amount of gold. This is good because Tolbana has a much wider selection of gear available. Arlo, Vinney, and Noir upgrade to studded leather. Miles gets some splint mail. It's the heaviest armor they have, and comes with a 200 gp price tag. Arlo also wants some scimitars, and Miles is looking at getting a bastard sword - since Greatswords and Greataxes are sorely absent. Grinding around Tolbana is nice and easy. The kolbolds come in groups of 2 or 3, and there doesn't seem to be much competition for them. All in all, with plentiful mobs, Arlo's repairing of dropped weapons, Mile's newly reduced speed, and the need to return to town after every couple fights: they're making 50 gp an hour. It takes less than a day to get all the money they need to upgrade their gear.

With the newly revealed mage trainers, and the idea that some NPCs may still be trainers - just with specific requirements to reveal themselves - the group decides to go around the floor and scour every town. Miles and Vinney want to find some specific magical feats that none of the standard mage trainers have. Vinney first pays Argo some gold to see if she has the scoop on any such NPCs. His money is rejected, as the information broker hadn't heard of any such trainers. They also talk about what's required to clear the floor. There's a massive mile-diameter tower that connects this level to the next. It was clearly visible to the West of the road as they made their way past the kobold blockade. To open it, the <Field Boss> has to be found and defeated. In the Beta, Noir said he was positioned at the tower's west side, by the entrance. Some quick consultation of the map, and a plan is formed. They'll go to the Western forest lands, and pass by the tower on the way there. If the <Field Boss> is around they'll gage it's strength, and possibly take it out. If it's not, then they'll be sure to ask the NPCs about it while they're looking for specialized trainers. With this game plan in mind, they get a room and wake up at 6.

As they move out of town, they notice a large progression of about 20 PCs heading in the same way. Miles goes up to one of them and asks what everyone's doing.

???: "Oh, we're just exploring the tower - trying to find the Boss room. That things a maze! Are you guys going too? It'll be nice to have new people on the front lines!"

Miles: "No, we're trying to find some magic trainers, once we're done with that we're planning on entering the tower. Don't we have to kill the field boss first?"

???: "Cool! We need all the help we can get! We took out the boss about a week ago, been trying to make headway ever since. Diabel went looking for more people a few days ago, but he hasn't come back yet. Say, have you tried Argo's Guide? It lists a lot of magic trainers."

Miles: "We did, but none of them had feats suitable to our builds."

???: "That's too bad."

Miles: "Who's this Diabel?"

???: "Oh, he's a guy who's trying to spearhead the clearing of the floor. There aren't a lot of us, and he's been running around trying to find more people that are willing to risk their lives against Illfang. *chuckles* Not a lot of takers so far."

Miles: "Diabel eh? I'm Miles by the way."

???: "Ah, my handle's 'QV', but everyone calls me 'Curvy'. Nice to meet you."

Miles proceeded to add QV to his friends list. Later I would have a conversation with Arlo who hoped that not a lot of people would die against Illfang. He said Curvy sounded like a nice lady. I replied that I guess I really should've given a physical description of the PC. Curvy is indeed a nice, friendly person - he's also an out of shape, short, fat otaku. I guess he had a different mental image of 'Curvy'.

3 days later, and the party has visited every town on the floor and talked to every NPC. No trainers for Vinney and Miles are found. While they were traveling they asked Argo about getting some nicer clothes. They felt like noobs around the other front liners in their <Starting Rags>. Argo puts them in contact with the best tailor on the floor. Miles, Vinney, and Noir all get black dusters and stetsons - cowboy boots are currently beyond his skill. Arlo thinks a tank should stand out and wants to get a... loud shirt. He sent me a image of what he was planning on eventually wearing... if you want to understand his fashion sense: google 'heavily embroidered retro gunfighter western shirt'. Right now he tries to get a shirt with a star on it, but patterns come later. He settles for a bright yellow shirt, and a white stetson - with a black band on it in concession to the rest of the party. He plans on now introducing the group as "Arlo and the Black Hats."

The prices are exorbitant, 200 gp per item, but they can easily pay it with some kobold gold. In the Northeast section of the map, the find a large plateau with huge red dragon on it. The dragon's icon is red, it's text is gold, and it's title is <Assassin>. The group wisely gives it a wide berth. During their grinding sessions to pay for their new clothing, the come back to Tolbana frequently. It's during this time that one day they grab some brunch. Vinney feels someone practicing magic in the dining area, but something feels "off". The source is an albino woman that's sitting with a cloaked figure in the corner. She's doing something to her food, but Vinney doesn't know what. Her Prana is quite strong, but somehow feels strange. More rigid perhaps. He tells his friends, and they wonder if she's messed with other people's food. Everyone opens their circuits, and waits for other customers to eat a while. Nothing happens. Eventually the girl and her companion leave, and the party eats their poorly textured meal.

With their new clothes, they finally tackle the tower. It's a maze. I get told they're just going to follow the wall to their left. I ask how that works with a 3 dimensional maze that can have staircases in the middle of the room, secret doors, one way passages, monsters, and other assorted tricks. I don't get a reply. They ask if the other PCs will share their map data and they do so immediately. QV fills them in on how things go. Who goes where, what areas are mapped, that kind of thing. There's a lot of time wasted with dead ends in general, since that means the group has to backtrack. The tower also contains numerous <Safe Zones> that have different colored torches. I'm asked if the reason people aren't making progress is that they have to return to town every day. I tell them yes, no one is particularly interested in sleeping in a <Safe Zone>, no matter how "Safe" it's supposed to be. The party had it worst with Grendel stalking around at night, so they buy a lot of provisions the next day and set out for the long haul. Mapping begins to speed up. Other groups start staying the night, and the party is pleased that they seem to have had a very big impact. After another week and a half, everyone gets a message from Argo to meet in Tolbana. Diabel has something to say.

At this point we turned on SAO and watched Diabel's first floor speech, along with Kiabou being an jackass and Agil putting him in his place. The boss fight against Illfang <The Kobold Lord> will happen tomorrow at 10 in the morning. Diabel concludes with saying that everyone should form 6 man groups, since it's better to work with the people you have experience with. The party looks around for any pairs of people to round them out. Vinney asks if the albino girl and her friend are around. They are, so the party goes over and introduces themselves.

Vinney: "Hi, we're looking for 2 more to round out our group. Do you want to join up with us?"

Albino girl: "Sure we'd love to! Isn't that right Kiri?"

?Kiri?: Takes out a hand-rolled cigarette and lights it with a sure of fire from his hand. "Sure."

Vinney: "I'm Subjugator, but everyone calls me 'Vinney'. This is Miles, Noir, and Arlo."

Albino girl: "Pleased to meet you! I'm Irisviel, and this is Kiritsugu. I hope we can work together."

Arlo: "So if we're going to party together, should we set it up now?"

Kiritsugu: "That would make it easier to meet up tomorrow."

Arlo: "Ok, should we also go over our roles and tactics?"

Kiritsugu: "Sure."

Arlo: "Well I'm a tank. Miles here is an off tank, and Noir is DPS. Vinney is our healer. We'd be dead ten times over without him."

Kiritsugu: "I see. Ranged?"

Vinney: "Y, yeah."

Kiritsugu: "Good. Irisviel here can only do it with a touch."

Arlo: "She's a healer?"

Kiritsugu: "Yeah, I tend to hit and run against mobs. A speed type dagger user."

Arlo: "So a <Spring Attack> build?"

Kiritsugu: "I guess that's how the game would call it, yeah." There's a moment of awkward silence. "Anyways, Vinney is it? If you want to change your handle there a quest in Starting City. I had to do it. I couldn't stand people not using my real name."

Vinney pauses at hearing that's his real name. His father is an Executioner, and he's heard of a Kiritsugu before. There's a famous assassin that's called that. He's known as "The Mage Killer", and is considered one of the most dangerous people on the face of the Earth. He doesn't remember a lot, just what his dad has said. Apparently the two of them have been enemies and allies in the past - depending on who was paying the mercenary. He's not sure how rare of a name that is... but it can't be too common. Kayaba is obviously a mage. Who knows how many other magic users were among the 10,000?

Doctarro
2015-07-15, 10:57 PM
So, were any of your players familiar with SAO or the Fate series before this? And why did you pick a Spring Attack build for Kiritsugu instead of something like a hand crossbow?

Really interested in seeing how the boss fight goes, and seeing if they get the last hit.

Chimmon
2015-07-16, 09:44 AM
So, were any of your players familiar with SAO or the Fate series before this? And why did you pick a Spring Attack build for Kiritsugu instead of something like a hand crossbow?

Really interested in seeing how the boss fight goes, and seeing if they get the last hit.

I'd told them about both series before, but it was only once we started playing that Arlo and Vinney binged watched SAO. Vinney then went on to watch Fate Zero after Arlo suggested he watch Fate Stay Night, and I told him if he was going to watch something it should be the one with Kiritsugu in it.

Kiritsugu doesn't actually have Spring Attack - he just didn't care if Arlo got the wrong idea or not. He'd definitely prefer any kind of ranged weapon - but they haven't been implemented yet. So he's stuck with dinky melee stuff with the rest of world, and alas for the Mage Killer, he's just not that talented with a blade. (Not that I'd bet against him if he went full out on something, but you hold trump cards in reserve for a reason.)

ArendK
2015-07-17, 11:24 AM
Love this so far. Definitely interested in seeing how it progresses!

Chimmon
2015-07-24, 11:38 AM
Fifth Session:


In between sessions, Vinney's player watched some anime. He'd already seen SAO after starting the campaign, so Arlo's player recommended Fate/Stay Night - saying he's pretty sure that's where the magic system is from. He's never seen it himself, but I've told him enough about it before that he came to that conclusion. I pipe in and say if he's going to watch a Nasuverse show - choose Fate/Zero, since that's what has Kiritsugu and Irisviel. He enjoys it, but comments that it really doesn't explain any of the magic system. I also talk with Mile's player. He says he's fine with his character, but I have him not specify a Psion specialization in case he wants to become a non-melee caster in the future. Since he got his discipline-specific power via Hidden Talent, and the fast healing from being an Egoist wouldn't be missed much, this doesn't change anything.

Before we started playing, I asked everyone what they thought about being in a video game, and what they thought was going on. Miles and Noir said they felt trapped, and that they didn't really have a choice but to play along with Kayaba. Noir mentioned that he's specifically not thinking about killing CHAZ. Easier to avoid the thought that you've accidentally killed someone. Vinney thinks that someone on the outside will ultimately free them. It may be mages like his father, or the government's technical people. Either way, he doesn't believe that Kayaba will release them if they win - he just thinks if he's going to die, it's better to do so while doing something rather than cowering in Starting City. Arlo says that publicly he's like the rest of the party, but privately he's enjoying the death game. He's an adrenaline junkie (why he became a MMO fighter), and really has a hero complex (partly because of how short his character is). While it's horrible that's Kayaba's killing people, Arlo really feels good about saving them.

Arlo's player also shared his thoughts on the story. I promised that I won't change the plot if they guess what's going on, it always irks me when that happens. From Kayaba's first speech, he thought that during the development process for SAO psionic potential was released and that the "Death Game" was a way to unlock it. After Vinney's reveal, he now thinks Kayaba is trying to destroy magic. Mainly because of the rule that magic spells grow weaker the more people know them. So if Kayaba makes lot of people learn magic - it'll be weaker for everyone. He also thought that Kayaba was posing as <The Dervish Defender>. It would explain his more advanced personality. He also thinks it's possible that certain NPCs get more RAM than others, and that this can lead them to acting more "human". I'm not sure if he'd have though of this if he hadn't read these journals and seen me comment on that particular NPC. :)


We start the session, and I fill in the party on Illfang's tactics from the Beta. Noir already knew this in character, and had presumably told the rest of the PCs. They also had Argo's Guide which detailed the encounter with info from the Beta. (Note: Slight differences from canon!SAO Illfang.) Illfang <The Kobold Lord> starts the fight with a Greatsword that he wields one-handed. He's a large humanoid and has a 10' reach. He also ignores the <Acrobatics> skill, so he gets to make Attacks of Opportunity from people moving. He gets at least 5 a round, possibly more. The damage he does is pretty impressive, and his criticals are capable of one-shoting a 2nd level player. He has 4 health bars, and a substantial amount of health. 4 <Ruin Kolbolds> accompany him - each of which is roughly as powerful as a 2nd level mob, but with about ten times as much HP. When his final health bar goes red, he does an AOE knock-back effect and draws a Falchion. With the curved sword, his chances of landing a critical hit skyrocket and he also gains access to several AOE attacks. It took 3 months before he was finally defeated in the Beta, and the winning raid only had 3 survivors. Of course a lot of that had to do with in-party fighting and backstabbing in an attempt to land the <Last Attack>. The party is selected as one of the two groups that were to be on Illfang from the start. This is because they have a ranged healer (1 of only 2) and a good specc'd tank... in Miles. Arlo is actually the best tank, but he doesn't look it.

With this knowledge and an evening to prepare, Arlo swaps out some feats for Dodge and Mobility. He also alters his Astral Suit to have Fortification... which he does remember about once. Vinney wants to change his name, but I tell him he can't yet. He has to go back to <Starting City> and do the quest first and they don't have time. They head to bed early and wake up at 6. Plenty of time to get to the tower by 10. Since it's now fully mapped and lots of secret passage ways have been found - it's only a 2 hour walk to the top. Thus the fight will probably start around noon. In the inn's common room, they're waved over by Irisviel. She and Kiritsugu are sitting in their typical corner table with their backs to the wall. The party joins them, and Vinney once again feels the albino girl doing something to her food with her "odd" Prana.

Vinney: "Excuse me, I couldn't help but notice you're doing something to your food. May I ask what?"

Irisviel: "Oh, it's nothing. I'm just trying to improve it's texture. I mean Kayaba made this amazing world, but he couldn't get the food right! That's just lazy!! So I'm trying to reinforce it."

Vinney: "Does that work?"

Irisviel: "I haven't really gotten the hang of it yet, but it makes a.. difference?"

Miles: "Can I try?"

Irisviel offers her plate of scrambled eggs. "Sure" Miles takes a forkful, and eats it. The texture is "crunchy". So odd, but different, and at least it's something.

Miles: "If somebody could work out how to do this properly, they could make a killing with a restaurant." I agree. I know none of my friends have ever watched Log Horizon, but I could see the same thing playing out here.

Arlo: "So are the two of you ready for the boss fight?"

Kiritsugu: "Yeah."

Irisviel: "Don't you think it'll be exciting? I wonder what this Illfang looks like."

The player's food arrives, from the artificially added delay. An attempt at some realism that jarring in how arbitrary it is. Miles tries to put Prana in his eggs, and succeeds at making them very chewy. Once everyone's eaten, the 6 of them head out towards the tower. At it's base, there are 12 players standing around. Diabel, who looks rather striking in his blue-themed armor and hair, comes up to them.

Diabel: "Good! You're early! This gives us some time to go over tactics before we head up. Are all of you feeling up for the Boss Fight?"

Arlo: "We sure are."

Diabel: "Now you guys have one of the harder jobs. You and Curvey's group are in charge of tanking Illfang while the rest of the raid takes care of the adds. He hits like a truck, so don't worry about damaging him, just survive and keep him from running over to other groups. It's more important to maintain your health while keeping just enough aggro to keep him away from the healers. Subjugator right? You can heal at range if I remember correctly."

Vinney: "That's right."

Diabel: "Good. Staying away from him should keep your hate low. No need to go all out on him until the adds are gone." He looks over at Noir, specifically his sword. "In fact, it's better if you don't do that much damage. At least not until you have backup. Still, we wouldn't want to break up a skilled party right?" He flashes a smile and gives them a thumbs up.

QV's group comes next, and everyone has gathered by 9. Diabel has them wait until 10, in case there are any stragglers that they don't know about. During this time he approaches Noir about buying his sword for 1000 gold. Noir asks if he can sell it, and I tell him that it vanishes as soon as it leaves his hand and that it can't be put in a trade window. He feels a little let down that he can't swindle the leader of the raid right before the boss fight. I ask him if that would've been a good idea even if he could do so? I mean it's not like Diabel wouldn't notice his new sword suddenly vanishing. Noir agrees that it wouldn't have worked, even if he could've made the trade, but wow that's a lot of cash. With the raid assembled, everyone follows Diabel's group towards the boss room.


Buffs are done. Arlo casts "Protego", while Vinney puts a full 20 point shield on him. He also splits another Vigor between Miles and Noir. He notices that Kiritsugu's mana bar is full, but Irisviel's is almost completely empty. Only a single pixel of a sliver remains. Outside of Illfang's door the raid's groups line up. Groups 1 and 2 are first - they're going to handle the front 2 adds. Group 3, which is the party's group, and Group 4, which is QV's group, are next. Finally comes Groups 4 and 5, as well as the two people left over, they're on the back 2 adds. Illfang is a good 40 feet from the door, and is flanked by his 4 <Ruin Kobolds>. The Raid gets to go first, since Illfang doesn't engage until PCs are in the room. For simplicity, initiative has the Groups go in order, but characters in a group go by their initiative values. Groups 1 and 2 enter, and most of them go off to the left and right. 2 people charge Adds 1 and 2 to get aggro.. The party goes next. Kiritsugu gets the highest initiative, then Irisviel, Arlo, Noir, Miles, and Vinney. The two NPCs (well, PCs in SAO, NPCs in the session) move in. Arlo does a charging maneuver which hits Illfang (and lets him avoid AoOs). Noir moves to the flank to come in and attack next turn. Miles double moves up, but can't get into melee due to his armor reduced speed. Vinney moves up next to Irisviel. All of QV's group is in medium armor, so they double move. Groups 5 and 6 are too far away to get to their adds in the first turn, so they spread out, and two people come towards the boss.

Illfang and Co roll initiative, and they get to go first. Now that the party is in melee range, and the mob's icons aren't hidden due to distance, they see that Illfang's name is in golden text, and instead of being <The Kolbold Lord> he's an <Assassin> too. Earlier they'd talked about golden mobs, and that the color might mean they're <Immortal Objects>. Thankfully Arlo's successful hit disproved that theory. Group 1's tank is hit by his add, and loses aggro. Group 2's tank avoids his <Ruin Kolbold>'s attack. Illfang misses Arlo, but one of his unclaimed adds hits. Group 1's tank attacks his add, and misses, but regains aggro. Group 2's tank double moves away. Kiritsugu moves around behind Illfang. Irisviel starts a full-round spell. Arlo full-round attacks Illfang, but misses twice. Noir moves in, getting hammered with an AoO that takes out most of his Vigor shield, but lands a nasty strike that inflicts Str damage. Illfang focuses on the PC that landed such an aggro-pulling debuff on him. Miles moves within 10' of the large boss. Vinney refreshes Noir's damage shield. The Group 5 and 6 tanks move forward and attack their targets.

Illfang attacks Noir, and crits him. This plows through his newly applied Vigor shield, and takes a good chunk of his HP. Everyone now notices the boss's sword is a curved falchion, not a straight greatsword. The Group 1 add attacks his tank, and hits - thus dropping aggro again. The Group 2 add moves towards his tank and away from the cluster of people around Illfang. Arlo yells for no one to attack him - just in case a PC was stupid and wanted to pull aggro I guess. Now that he's done it, I kind of feel obligated to having a raid member do something stupid like that in the next fight if he doesn't yell out obvious things. The Group 5 and 6 adds attack their tanks, and miss. Group 2 is now safely out of focus, but the Group 1 tank misses his add again. Kiritsugu misses. Irisviel summon's a gigantic (read: medium sized) bird that is made up of glowing blue lines. It charges Illfang and misses, but gets hit along the way. Arlo attacks twice and hits once and applies an Armiger's Mark. Noir does a regular attack - not wanting anymore sweet Illfang lovin'. Miles 5 ft steps in and hits with a strike of his own. Vinney refreshes Noir's shield - again. QV's group splits in two. The one's on Group 2's side get within 10 ft of Illfang. The one's on Group 1's side stand back - giving the stubborn add some more room. Groups 5 and 6 disengage to pull their adds away.

Illfang misses Arlo, his Group 5 and 6 adds follow after their tanks. The Group 1 add misses his target. Diabel finally comes in and takes over for the Group 1 tank. He successfully hits the <Ruin Kolbold>. Kiritsugu and Irisviel's summon both miss. Arlo, Noir, and Miles all attack, as do 1/2 of QV's group. Vinney refreshes Arlo's Vigor, and is starting to run low on PP already. The next round, Group 1's add misses, and Diabel pulls him away from the boss. Things become more stable after that. The players manage to hit with a decent amount of frequency, Arlo has a ton of aggro, and Vinney has started Channeling OD to replenish his pool. Doing so is a swift action to roll any number of d10, and get that much PP back. There are two limits though: a per round limit that he knows from "real life" as being 40, and a per day limit that used to be 10, but has presumably increased along with his powers in the game. No one else in the group knows their limits, but no one else has that great of a need for surplus power points. After several rounds, Noir finishes off Illfang's first HP bar. The boss immediately vanishes in an explosion of rushing air. Everyone adjacent to him is pushed backwards. Miles doesn't have anything to do, and so recovers some maneuvers. Vinney starts making an Astral Construct.

Arlo's hopes and dreams of having a round or two to recover some maneuvers or refresh his Force Screen are dashed when Illfang appears while landing a solid blow on Kiritsugu. The boss is slowly surrounded again by people not wanting to provoke, while the Mage Killer runs back to Irisviel and gets healed. The boss's 2nd health bar is pretty much the same as the first - it's hard to say if he's stronger or just rolling better. During this phase Miles and Arlo try to keep up simultaneous Armiger's Marks on Illfang, in the misguided belief that it will grant everyone +4 to AC. I explain later that if they were allowed to debuff the boss's attack by -4, he'd have to have a static +4 to make up for it since in a raid setting there's no reason for him to not have 2 or more up every single round. Rather than punishing the party for not having one up, I chose to just have it apply a large amount of hate. My reasoning was universally accepted as no one wanted the former Kolbold Lord to hit 20% more often. The marks did help to hold aggro though, since his vanishing act seemed to reset it.

Two notes of interest during the 2nd phase. Arlo managed to provoke 2 attacks of opportunity in 1 round by swift leaping away, refreshing "Protego", and moving back in. With Mobility, neither attack connected so it was a much better trade off than trying to cast defensively. Secondly, Kiritsugu finally landed a hit - that took off nearly a quarter of Illfang's health. When the group saw how many d6's he got to roll, Noir said OOC: "Remind me to never be flanked by that guy." This time Arlo emptied his current health bar, and so Noir and Miles both got to recharge during Illfant's vanishing act.

In the 3rd phase, Illfang started Whirlwind attacking every other round - absolutely slaughtering the non-tanks. Vinney's Astral Construct (or rather his 3rd one), managed to not only survive Illfang's attack of opportunity, but to also land a hit of it's own. Since Arlo had missed with his attack, it looked like the summon would actually have aggro for one attack - then Noir had to go and land a hit of his own. QV's group pulled out to heal up, and Noir was reduced to single digit health. Vinney was busy keeping Arlo up, but Noir remembered they had another healer in the group. Two rounds of carefully moving to Irisviel, and she healed him to full. Actual healing, not just putting a Vigor shield up. Noir was very appreciative, while Vinney commented on how inefficient that was. Another massive hit from Kiritsugu, some nice crits from the party, and the addition of Groups 1 and 3 (and their rotation of Encouraging Roars), brought the phase to the end (along with another vanishing Illfang) before damage could mount up too high.

On his final health bar Illfang kept up the every other round whirlwind attacks. People were taking real damage as Vinney couldn't keep enough temporary hp on everyone. He was also running really close to his daily limit - but he had no idea how close, or how the game would penalize him. Fortunately, Groups 2 and 4 had joined in the fight. Even with injured members needing to be rotated out, there were more people than spaces available. The boss's health was slowly ticking down, when Kiritsugu landed a final big hit that brought Illfang to the red. The <Assassin> knocked everyone back again, but instead of vanishing - he drew a second sword. Diabel's readied action went off, and he charged. His attack missed, but Illfang's didn't. The Raid Leader's health took a vicious hit that left him at less than 20% health. Arlo charged in and got hit with a critical, and he finally remembered to roll his fortification - which failed. His follow up attack missed. Noir moved forward to attack. His movement provoked, but he merely got hit. Then he too missed the boss. Finally, Miles came in. He took a hit, but he used Insightful Strike and landed his own. He rolled one less than max damage... which was one more than what was needed to finish off Illfang. He got the Last Attack Bonus. Against canon - and his near suicidal attempt at getting the Last Attack Bonus - Diabel also survived.

Indeed, there were no fatalities in the fight at all! A definite win for the PCs. In a more loot focused sense, it was also a win for the party as they got 1000 gp each, and 2000 XP. Noir also got a drop: Grendelbane - a hilt without a blade. The party figures it'll be useful once crafting is more advanced, and it has a cool name. Miles on the other hand got Hrunting: Hound of the Red Plains. It's a +1(max +6) Falchion with Unfallible Strike (false). They have no idea what Unfallible Strike (false) means, that it IS fallible perhaps? A staircase had also descended from the ceiling when Illfang died along with an announcement containing patch notes:

* NPC Dialog Improvement
* Blood Effects Implemented
* Physical Pain Enabled
* Mob Pathing Fixed
* NPC Quest Markers Added
* Equipment Stat Requirements Implemented
* Mob Stat Balancing
* Zone Change Popups Removed
* NPC Training Selections Reduced
* Player Retraining Implemented

The group talked among themselves, looking at their new loot, talking about the patch, and debating if they should go up the stairs together, or perhaps Noir should stealth up them on his own to explore. I tell them that while they were busy talking, almost every other member of the raid had left. Diabel came over and slapped Miles on the back. "Good tanking there! Thanks for taking him down when you did." He flashes Miles a high charisma smile with a thumbs up. "We'll beat this game in no time!!" The blue-haired leader then heads up the stairs, and the PCs are quick to follow.

The stairs lead to the town square of Urbus - the largest city on the 2nd floor. The city looks similar to how it did in the Beta, causing Noir to suspect that the infamous "Cow Level" was back. Urbus's town square has a platform with a Stargate-esqe portal. It seems that the town portal system from the Beta was retained, much to everyone's convenience. We have a talk about what this means for the large majority of the trapped players. I tell them that generally speaking, access to higher level floor gear lets the less-skilled players farm the lower level floors in safety. Also, the fact that the lower floors have been mapped out, and that most mob placements and levels are know makes it much less dangerous. This is why Diabel is so insistent on clearing the first floors so quickly. The populace has started to stagnate, and if they don't have any forward momentum, people will give in to despair - and who knows what Kayaba will do to force his game to be played then?

In any case, Urbus's has a gentle slope up and away from the town center, and it's buildings are very tall with narrow streets with lots of turns between them. It seems like it was purposely built to annoy people. Most of the raid is long gone, either back to Starting City though the portal or spread out in the new location looking for quests. On one hand, it's much easier for the party to find quest-giving NPCs with the patch, on the other hand the raid group has a head start on them. They head out and find some weapon/armor shops that have the same selection as Tolbana. Turning down the road they hear a "Hey!" and turn to see a waving QV.

QV: "Man, what a fight eh? But we took him down!"

Miles: "Yep."

QV: "What do you think of those patch notes? Physical pain enabled? What's up with that?"

Miles had turned off his circuits and struck his chest a few times earlier. Before there'd just been the sensation of touch, now there was a realistic dull ache that went with it. It seemed lessened though, but that could be due to an increased pain threshold from using their circuits. "I don't know, but it's not too bad. Say, have you found any specialty mage trainers yet?"

QV: "Can't say I have. I found a few trainers, but all of them just had the basic stuff. Now it could be that I just can't see all their wares. NPC mages have all sorts of hidden flags."

Vinney: "Tell me about it."

Arlo: "Hey, have you tried out this 'Player Character Respecing' option?"

QV: "I don't even know where that is... perhaps under trading?" QV manipulates his menu and a trade dialog opens with arlo, after some clicking he shouts "Ah ha" and <Power Attack> appears in the window. Arlo dismisses it, and then opens up a trade and puts <Dervish Dance> in it. "What's this? Huh, never seen that feat before. I guess that's why you use scimitars eh? Looks interesting, but it's not for my build."

Arlo: "So what is your build? What did you get for your <Hidden Power>."

QV: "Something called 'Expansion', like I need to be a bigger target."

Miles coughs.

QV: "Don't know about some of these other changes. Stat requirements? No zone popups? Were they really that big of deal? The tower had different colored torches, so you can tell anyways I guess."

Vinney: "Perhaps the Cardinal System heard people swearing and dismissing them when they entered town."

QV: "I guess, at least the NPC quest icons are great."

Arlo: "We haven't seen any yet."

QV: "Trust me you can't miss 'em. It'll be so nice to not have to ask every NPC 'Can I help you with something?' Knowing Kayaba, I bet there are going to be some hidden quests that still require that. Like that Golden NPC, he doesn't have an icon, and didn't respond to my offer, but I bet he has to have a quest. Why else would he be a different color?"

Noir: "A gold NPC? Who is he?"

QV: "Uhm... Professor, or Mister, or something... ah, I can't remember his name! In any case he's back that-a-ways by the prison."

The party thanks QV and heads off in the direction he indicated. Sure enough there's a NPC with a blue icon, golden characters, and the title of <Berserker>. His name is Inspector Newcomen, and he seems to be slowly walking towards the prison while flipping though some papers.

Miles "Hello there."

Inspector Newcomen: "Hello."

Miles: "Do you need any help with something?"

Inspector Newcomen: "Hmmm... Not at this time."

Miles: "What are you doing?"

Inspector Newcomen: "I'm reviewing the Prisoner's arraignments."

Miles: "The Prisoner? Who's he?"

Inspector Newcomen: "Nobody knows his name."

Miles: "Why's he in jail?"

Inspector Newcomen: "The poor soul is a threat to himself and others. We can't release him out of fear of what he'd do to the town, but we also can't execute him because he's not truly responsible for his actions."

Miles: "Where is he?"

Inspector Newcomen: "The Prisoner's room is on the far side of the jail where the guards are."

Miles: "Can we do anything to help the Prisoner?"

Inspector Newcomen: "Hmmm... Not at this time."

Miles: "How will we recognize his cell?"

Inspector Newcomen: "The Prisoner's room is on the far side of the jail where the guards are."

Miles: "**** it, this guy's a regular NPC."

Noir: "Looks that way. Let's check out 'The Prisoner'."

The party walks around the jail house, and on the far side they come across a huge double-door with a wooden beam across it that is thicker than most trees. In front of it stand two NPC guards in Half-Plate with shields and halberds.

Noir: "We'd like to see the Prisoner."

The two guards nod, and then struggle to lift the wooden beam off the door. Once it's to the side, one guard pulls a lever on the side of the wall. There's an audible clunk, and the other guard pulls one of the doors open and then stands to the side. Beyond the door is a 10'x10' room with two more guards, and another gigantic wooden beam. Vinney checks his menu and confirms that they're still in a <Safe Zone>. Once they're all inside, they hear a metallic clunk again, and the doors behind them slam shut with alarming speed. Soon after the sound of the wooden blockade being repositioned is heard. The inner guards immediately go through the same procedure as their counterparts, only differing in pulling a chain from the ceiling rather than a lever. Beyond the doors they see a stereotypical Mad Scientist's Lab. Beakers with strangely colored fluids are boiling on different tables, and various glass tubes connect and combine them in a system that could take weeks to analyze. In one of the back corners there's a short man fussing over some test tubes. His icon is blue, his text is golden, his name is <The Rational Berserker> and his title is <Berserker>.

Miles(OOC): "Now it's Dr. Jekyll."

<The Rational Berserker>: "What do you want? Can't you see I'm busy?"

Arlo: "Is there anything we can help you with?"

<The Rational Berserker>: "Know anything about alchemy do you? No, don't bother to answer. It's obvious that you don't, and I don't have any time to train you. And even if I did, I have no inclination... But there is some manual labor you can do for me. I need some more <Deadly Nightshade> for my potion. Well, my potion in that I'm making it, not that I own it. Of course I did invent it, and I'm the only one that knows how to brew it, so I guess you could say it was mine after all." He nods in agreement with himself and proceeds to ignore the PCs.

Arlo: "Where can we find some <Deadly Nightshade>?"

<The Rational Berserker>: "It blooms on the field to the East of here under a Full Moon. Don't worry though, it stays flowering for a good long time so it's not like you have to go during the night or anything. Bring me some, and...I don't have any gold, and I'm not about to teach novices about alchemy... I suppose I may give you a potion or two or trade a 'feat'. No promises! It depends on the quality of the flower." A golden question mark appears above his head as a quest popup appears in front of Arlo. <The Rational Berserker> scowls at the question mark and mutters "That's annoying." under his breath. Arlo clicks <Accept> to the quest <Berserker's Herbs>, and the golden question mark turns grey.

Everyone turns and leaves after the guard's lengthy animations. An that's where we ended the session.

Capt. Infinity
2015-07-25, 12:29 PM
Considering how your PCs view this thread, am I allowed to point out the obvious reason as to what the Golden Text actually means? Because I'm pretty sure that I've got it figured out.

Needless to say, awesome story so far! Looking forward to seeing it progress! :smallsmile:

JerichoPenumbra
2015-07-26, 01:18 AM
I think I got the golden text thing too, though if Cap and I are on the same page it really is obvious. If they haven't figured it out based on the references they should probably reanalyze things.

Chimmon
2015-07-27, 10:05 AM
By all means speculate, but keep it in spoilers. :)

I know Arlo reads this thread - not sure about the others. He's promised not to look in spoilers, and I can rely on his (and everyone else's) restraint.

Capt. Infinity
2015-07-27, 11:02 AM
The gold text denotes a major questline within a layer of the game. Each questline is differentiated by the word in the <Chevrons> in the NPCs' names. When the quest is completed in it's entirety (likely by dealing with all golden text NPCs relating to the quest) the characters gain access to the class who's name is in the <Chevrons> (Assassin for level 1, Berserker for level 2 thus far).

Chimmon
2015-07-27, 03:15 PM
The gold text denotes a major questline within a layer of the game. Each questline is differentiated by the word in the <Chevrons> in the NPCs' names. When the quest is completed in it's entirety (likely by dealing with all golden text NPCs relating to the quest) the characters gain access to the class who's name is in the <Chevrons> (Assassin for level 1, Berserker for level 2 thus far).

That's a good theory. It may be a while until it could be tested, 'cause who wants to fight a dragon?

Capt. Infinity
2015-07-27, 03:22 PM
That's a good theory. It may be a while until it could be tested, 'cause who wants to fight a dragon?

Fair Enough. :P

JerichoPenumbra
2015-07-27, 03:22 PM
Partially building off Capt.'s theory the golden named/titled NPCs are also equivalent of Servants from Fate in scope of design and liberties (though I'm pretty sure you're not including the Grail War as a sub-plot to this). Once the quest for a given Golden NPC is completed not only the class/archetype be available but feats, class talent abilities, or whatever can be unlocked as well.

Each of said Golden NPCs will also have a weapon that's the rough equivalent of Noble Phantasms from Fate. Course from what you said some of the mythological weapons are equally likely as drops.

Chimmon
2015-07-28, 11:30 AM
Partially building off Capt.'s theory the golden named/titled NPCs are also equivalent of Servants from Fate in scope of design and liberties (though I'm pretty sure you're not including the Grail War as a sub-plot to this). Once the quest for a given Golden NPC is completed not only the class/archetype be available but feats, class talent abilities, or whatever can be unlocked as well.

Each of said Golden NPCs will also have a weapon that's the rough equivalent of Noble Phantasms from Fate. Course from what you said some of the mythological weapons are equally likely as drops.


I'd say that two people is enough of a consensus to at least have some of the non-party PCs hold to this theory of the titles. Of course very few people outside of the party know about <The Dervish Assassin>, fewer still know about Grendel, and no one else knows about Grendel's mother. So most of them have no reason to think something's up with the golden text either way.

One could even say the mythological weapons are a 100% drop rate due to the mechanics of bosses being one time events and the <Last Attack> bonus.

DireSickFish
2015-08-05, 08:34 AM
Loving the series thus far. Do you have the maps all planned out and filled with NPC's already or are some of them made up on the fly? It seems like an amazing sandbox game.

If I were to adapt this to 5e I think I'd use the variant spell point rule and give them a way to recharge spell points other than long rests. Class restricting would be more difficult I think because there isn't a very good "tier list" for 5e. So I couldn't start them off with a mediocre class and have cool ones open up.

Chimmon
2015-08-05, 04:21 PM
Loving the series thus far. Do you have the maps all planned out and filled with NPC's already or are some of them made up on the fly? It seems like an amazing sandbox game.

If I were to adapt this to 5e I think I'd use the variant spell point rule and give them a way to recharge spell points other than long rests. Class restricting would be more difficult I think because there isn't a very good "tier list" for 5e. So I couldn't start them off with a mediocre class and have cool ones open up.

The floor map is done ahead of time, I haven't bothered yet with a town or dungeon map. The "Central Plot" NPCs are already fleshed out for the most part, but most of the others are made up as needed. The party want more quests, so I've been trying to come up with some nice generic ones that are more interesting than "Go collect 5 boar livers."

You could alway start them off as an NPC class, such as Warrior or Adept - assuming those still exist in 5e. Barring that, everyone could start without a class, and just have a set HP, Saves, and BAB until they unlock a real class.