Saturday, July 15, 2017

Iron Gods - Palace of Fallen Stars 3

We continue with our Iron Gods AP - major spoilers ahead.

Among the belongings acquired from the Technic League captain killed in the ambush at the Night Market was a commset. The commander of the deceased captain, seeing that a dangerous new player had arrived on the scene, decided to use the commset to contact the party. She turned out to be Zernebeth, the recently-deposed leader of the League, someone desperately in need of allies at the moment. Seeing an opportunity to reclaim her position, she made a deal with the party, offering her assistance (or, at the very least, acquiescence) for whatever the party was intending, in exchange for removing Ozmyn Zaidow, the current leader of the League. Realizing how much easier it would be to take on Unity without interference from the Technic League, the party agreed. During the discussion, Zernebeth mentioned a secret entrance to the League compound from a tunnel under the palace. Since the Mockery had already explained how taking down the Black Sovereign would disrupt the Technic League as they struggled to regain control of Starfall, it became clear that their next step would be an attack on the palace.

The next day, they made their move. The main hall of the palace was open to the public and so they entered to do a bit of scouting. After wandering about aimlessly and unchallenged for a few minutes, they decided to initiate a confrontation (a fairly typical modus operandi for the company). They approached a pair of guards claiming to be on a diplomatic mission and seeking an audience with the Black Sovereign. When one of the guards left to inquire as to the availability of the Black Sovereign, Nils took it upon himself to go invisible and surreptitiously follow. Nils followed the guard upstairs, noting the presence of many guards including a squad of hill giant shock troops. The eventual destination of the guard was not an audience with the Sovereign, but rather, the office of the guard captain, a man named Ghartone. It was a name the party had heard before, a captain of the Technic League. Ghartone was consulting with a small group of robed clerics of some sort and told the guard to report back that the Black Sovereign was currently unavailable.

Meanwhile, another group of black-cloaked clerics attacked the rest of the party in the main hall. They made short work of them, and upon closer inspection, it was revealed that they were oracles of Zyphus and all were aged men. After a good laugh about a bunch of Zyphus-worshippers tripping on their hems and falling on Targus' sword (Zyphus being the god of accidental death), they reunited with Nils and headed off in search of Ghartone and the Black Sovereign.

There were many battles as they fought their way through the palace; palace guards and battle mages, hill giants and even a catoblepas. But eventually they found themselves in the main throne room. Arrayed against them were numerous guards, including elite gargoyle troops as well as Kevoth-Kul, the Black Sovereign, Tek Mekul, his cousin and second-in-command, Kul-Inkit, the Sovereign's Consort and Ghartone with a pair of gearsman battleguards. Smangtooth, sensing an opportunity for a grand gesture and knowing something of the ways of barbarian cultures, challenged the Black Sovereign to a duel. Kevoth-Kul could not refuse and the battle was on. It was a hard fought contest and both combatants suffered grievous injuries as sinew, flesh and bone gave way to great sword and chainsaw. When Kevoth-Kul fell, there was a moment of silence as the shocked onlookers stood in disbelief. Then Tek Mekul stepped forth and congratulated Smangtooth. He said Smangtooth would have the honour of selecting the successor from the qualified candidates, himself or the Sovereign's Consort. Smangtooth hesitated as she wanted to claim the crown for herself. The guards began to decide among themselves who they supported and in the absence of a clear successor, they sought to force the issue. The guards began to fight among themselves and during the chaos, Ghartone ordered his battleguards to fire upon Kul-Inkit.

One rocket struck the consort and knocked her down. Seeing this, the party knew that Ghartone (and by extension, the Technic League) wanted Tek Mekul to take the throne. Therefore, they decided to aid Kul-Inkit. They directed attacks at Ghartone and the gearsmen, while Kul-Inkit fought Tek Mekul. When the smoked cleared, Tek Mekul lay dead next to his cousin, the gearsmen were smashed and Ghartone had escaped in the confusion. No doubt, he would return to the League to report on the events that had occurred on this night.

The next day, the party took advantage of the chaos gripping the palace and the city itself to search out the dungeon and find the secret tunnel to the League compound. While down there, they uncovered the treasure room. Though somewhat depleted, it still held much wealth and Smangtooth (still grumbling about not ascending the throne the night before) cleaned it out completely. Moving on, they came upon a great inverted ziggurat which contained the remains of all the previous Black Sovereigns. They began searching this great chamber for a secret door when the restless spirit of the first Black Sovereign attacked. Given the power of the person in life, she returned as no mere spectre, but rather, a true undead horror, a dybbuk. The party fought hard, but the pain touch of the dybbuk was a fearsome attack and the incorporeal nature of the monster made it difficult to damage. Still, they were close to defeating it when it succeeded in casting dominate person upon Smangtooth and ordered her to kill Nils. Nils went invisible and fled the palace with Smangtooth in hot pursuit. For two days, the cat and mouse game continued through the streets of Starfall while riots raged around them. It was only after several attempts that Hala was finally able to successfully cast break enchantment and free Smangtooth from the domination. Time for a reckoning with that dybbuk.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Iron Gods - Palace of Fallen Stars 2

We continue with our Iron Gods adventure path - spoilers ahead.

Having already struck a blow against the Technic League, the party knew they would have to keep the pressure on. If the League had time to prepare, they would become too formidable to attack. The Mockery suggested striking at the Black Sovereign. The Technic League kept the king docile and easily manipulated by supplying him with intoxicants produced from various chemicals collected from Silver Mount. The rebels had learned that an alchemist named Doc Hellbroth had been hired by the League to concoct the drugs. Doc Hellbroth operated a drug den called the Red Reaver which posed a tempting target. If the party could take out Doc Hellbroth, it would disrupt the drug supply. The Black Sovereign would be become uncontrollable until the Technic League could secure a new supplier, a great distraction to be sure.

The party arrived at the Red Reaver the following day. A Tian women named Saoria greeted them and offered a variety of intoxicants for their pleasure. They requested a tour of the place which she willingly provided. She soon suspected they had not come for drugs, but cared little for her employer and allowed them to go about their business without raising an alarm. Eventually they made their way to the lab where Doc Hellbroth was hard at work. He had a clockwork golem standing at the ready to deal with intruders. Hellbroth satred lobbing bombs at the party while the golem slashed away. For a short while, the alchemist inflicted some damage on the party, but Augusto was able to gain control of the golem temporarily and the tide of battle turned. With the defeat of Doc Hellbroth, the party was able to interrupt the drug supply to the Black Sovereign and gain control of his alchemy and cybernetics labs as a bonus.

The next day, they got a call from the Technic League.


Monday, May 29, 2017

Iron Gods - Palace of Fallen Stars 1

We continue our Iron Gods campaign - as always, spoilers ahead.

The party now had Casandalee. The device they had recovered contained her consciousness and allowed her to communicate. She implored the company to make haste for the hateful AI called Unity grew stronger with each day. It intended to achieve godhood and bring about the end of all biological life on Golarion.  They decide to head back to Torch to plan their move.

After consulting with their old friend, Khonnir Baine and gleaning everything they could from Casandalee and Therace, they decided that they would need to take on the Technic League in order to get access to Silver Mount and bring the fight to Unity. It would not be easy and some preparation was in order. The last few adventures had netted them quite a horde and it was time to liquidate it. Most of the group headed south to Absalom, the one place outside of Numeria where they could sell high-tech items, thereby avoiding the eye of the League. Smangtooth, however, had other ideas. She had selected a number of cybernetic devices to be her share of the loot and desired to find someone willing and able to install them. That meant heading to Starfall alone.

Smangtooth sought to make contact with black marketeers as she was sure the Technic League would seize her cybernetics if they found out about them. Unfortunately, Smangtooth is not skilled such activities, preferring to pound on problems until they stop moving. A treacherous innkeeper and an encounter with a couple of gearsmen later and Smangtooth found herself on the run and forced to lay low.

Luckily, Smangtooth's confrontation with the Technic League came to the attention of the Mockery, a rebel movement working to oppose the League and restore the throne of the Black Sovereign to a suitable ruler. Smangooth spent some time with the rebels. They provided access to a cyberneticist who installed her components and provided time for the rest of the party to conclude their business and meet up in Starfall. With the party reunited, they were ready to start harassing the Technic League. The Mockery leader mentioned that a particularly powerful technology was going on auction at the next Night Market, an illegal black market that meets at random locations to avoid League spies. He had go information to suggest the League knew about and would make an attempt to recover the item. The League would probably send a pretty high-ranking agent on the mission, a tempting target for the party.

The party laid in wait when a man named Baron Drund arrived with a collection of items for sale, including something in a locked box. Within minutes, a hooded figure with a pair of bodyguards arrived. The figure approached Baron Drund and requested to look in the box. As the party members approached from the shadows, a negotiation proceeded between the hooded figure and the Baron. As they got closer, they could hear the exchange. The musical cadence of the hooded figure's voice indicated that she was a bard using her abilities to convince the Baron to surrender the item for free. The bodyguards noticed the party members and the battle was on. As the various merchants scattered, the party engaged the bodyguards. The hooded figure revealed herself. Her eyes glowed with a weird internal light as she moved about, using her inspire courage ability and swinging her monowhip. She and her bodyguards fought hard, but they were unprepared for such an onslaught. She was cut down before she could dimension door away. Inside the box was a Mk II cortex gun, a potent item indeed. The party returned it to the Baron as a show of good faith and the Technic League was deprived of a powerful lieutenant. The dogs of war have been unleashed.


Monday, May 22, 2017


An hour and a half east of Calgary is a town called Drumheller in the Alberta Badlands. It has a long history of coal mining, but today it is known mainly for dinosaur fossils and the absolutely awesome Royal Tyrrell Museum.

With the pleasant weather (rare for the May long weekend in Alberta), we joined the throngs taking in the museum today.

Although many of the visitors were probably out-of-town tourists seeing the museum for the first time, for locals like us, the real draw was a new exhibit.

Featured in an article in National Geographic, the museum has a new nodosaur with a remarkable degree of preservation.

As you can see, the surface scales and spikes have been preserved.

The detail is amazing.

Some fun facts; this guy lived about 110 million years ago, making him the oldest dinosaur fossil ever found in Alberta. He was over five metres in length and would have weighed about 1300 kg. This particular nodosaur represents a new, as yet unnamed, genus and species.


Sunday, May 07, 2017

Sabaton in Calgary

Sabaton is, without a doubt, one of my favourite bands. In fact, I would say it is probably my favourite to come on the scene in the post-NWBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal for the woefully uninformed). I and a couple of the lads had the opportunity to see them live last night and what a blast it was. But first, the preliminaries; there were two opening acts. The show started with the Norwegian-German Goth metal band Leaves' Eyes. Their set was solid, starting off with Halvdane the Black, probably my favourite of their hits. The band is known for their "Beauty and the Beast" vocals, contrasting the clean soprano of the new lead vocalist Elina Siirala with the deep growls of Alexander Krull. The highlight of their set was Krull in Viking armour, waving a longsword while belting out Blazing Waters.

Next up was the Finnish power metal group, Battle Beast. I didn't know much about this band before last night, but I am now a real fan. They turned up the energy to 11 and never let up. The mosh pit really came to life with Familiar Hell and Black Ninja, but the highlight for me was King for a Day. These songs will definitely be added to my personal playlist.

Finally, it was time for the headliners and they did not disappoint (like there was any chance of that). Starting off with Ghost Division, about the German 7th Panzer Division in WWII, they ripped through a 90 minute set that leaned heavily on their most recent album, The Last Stand, but included classics from all their previous albums. Many of my most favourite Sabaton songs were performed, including Carolus Rex, Attero Dominatus, Primo Victoria, The Art of War, Resist and Bite and Winged Hussars. There was even a brief, impromptu riff of Michael Jackson's Beat It in a rare display of Joakim Broden guitar playing. These guys were clearly having fun and the crowd was loving every minute of it. Awesome show!


Thursday, May 04, 2017

Iron Gods - Valley of the Brain Collectors 4

We continue our Iron Gods AP with the conclusion of Valley of the Brain Collectors - spoilers ahead.

The party prepared to assault the Dominion hive. After uncovering the entrance, they proceeded in and promptly found themselves facing the other annihilator robot. Though damaged by the blast that destroyed the other annihilator, it was still formidable. The combination of chain gun and plasma lance took a toll on the party, but by this point, they were well-versed in robot fighting. The annihilator was soon a mass of smoking ruin.

Moving on, they battled their way past a swarm of ugothokras and the corpses of Isuma's fellow Kasathans, who were occupied by intellect devourers. It was all Isuma could do to retain her composure as here former friends-turned-meat-puppets were cut down. She vowed to see them laid to rest in the proper way of her people when the battle against the Dominion was over.

Continuing on, they came upon the lair of Maukui, who by all outward appearances, was a young void dragon. Now admittedly, the party members were not experts on dragonkind. Nonetheless, there were learned fellows among their number and the behaviour displayed by Maukui seemed out of character with what they knew of void dragons. It seemed willing to parley and offered what information it could. It told them of a yah-thelgaad named Dweller-in Dark-Places who ruled the hive. It explained that a yah-thelgaad is a sort of advanced neh-thalggu and this particular one was a hated enemy. Maukui would be happy to see it destroyed. It also mentioned a kyton named Paajgat who it considered a friend. Maukui asked the party to spare her if possible.

The company agreed to Maukui's terms and continued on. Many more ugothokras and neh-thalggus were vanquished until they arrived at the chamber of horrors that was Paajgat's "lab". She did not attack, but offered the party exquisite sensations the likes of which they have never known before. The blood-soaked operating tables and various body parts strewn about gave ample reason for the group to reject her offer. Shrugging off the rejection, she allowed them to pass, indicating that she had grown bored anyway and was off to seek pleasures elsewhere.

Sensing that they were getting close to their final destination, the party pressed on. Eventually they came upon a chamber containing a circular platform which they correctly surmised to be a teleportation circle. As they inspected it, a party of neh-thalggus entered the room, led by a similar, but clearly distinct creature. Dweller-in-Dark-Places had found them. The battle was fierce. The potent strength-sapping poison of the yah-thelgaad's claws proved especially dangerous. Though none of the party was felled in the melee, Hala's healing arts were much appreciated when it was over.

Once renewed, the party still had a problem. They had been unable to activate the teleportation circle. They decided to enlist the aid of Maukui. The void dragon agreed to help, asking for only one thing in return, a small device which he claimed was stolen from him by the yah-thelgaad. The description seemed like it might refer to the device that contained Casandalee, but the party agreed anyway (of course, they had no intention of fulfilling their end of the bargain). Maukui removed a limb from the dead yah-thelgaad and touch it to the platform which activated the circle. Smangtooth and Nils passed through. At that point, Maukui, realizing the party's intent to betray him, attacked Hala and Targus, while Smangtooth and Nils found themselves in another chamber facing a fossil golem. Smangtooth's adamantine chainsaw and Nils' laser rifle proved an ideal combination for battling golemkind and the battle was short. However, Targus and Hala were in far greater peril. The stealthy dragon had positioned itself to make a quick and sudden attack, catching both by surprise. Maukui first tore into Targus and he was gravely wounded. It then turned its attention to Hala. With gnashing teeth and ripping claws, it shredded the cleric, bringing down the party's best healer in a whirlwind attack. Smangtooth and Nils, sensing something was wrong, went back through the portal. Targus, badly-wounded, stood over the prone body of Hala, fighting off the blood-stained dragon. Smangtooth charged forth to engage in melee, while Nils blasted away with his laser rifle. The battle was tough. The dragon proved immune to Nils' laser rifle and quite resistant to his arc rifle also. Nevertheless, it could not stand up to Smangtooth's chainsaw for long. As it died, a hideous, brain-like abomination squeezed out of the dragon's body, an intellect devourer. It fought briefly, but realizing it was outmatched, the beast escaped by casting dimension door. It was gone for now, but they feared they had not seen the last of it.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

A trip to the mountains

This year is the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Canadian confederation. To celebrate, all of Canada's national parks are open for free. Here in Calgary, we are fortunate to live less than an hour's drive from the crown jewel of the Canadian national park system, Banff. I usually take the family to the park a couple of times a year, but it is normally pretty expensive for a day trip, especially since the nearby provincial park, Kananaskis, is free all the time. So, this year, we are getting an early start to take advantage of the free access.

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep near Exshaw

Elk (aka Wapiti) wandering through the Tunnel Mtn. campground

Mount Rundle from Tunnel Mtn.

The Cave at Cave and Basin National Historic Site