Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The Doomguard's Headquarters

And the adventure continues! Last week's session was kind of a bottle episode, although I think after
Dallas Kasaboski
a week of fighting a dragon, anything else would feel a little slow. After 7 weeks of traveling, getting to know each other, and bonding as characters, we made it back to Chalybs, the city-state which is also the home of the Doomguard.

Before I get too far into this writeup, I have to admit that I was not feeling the best. I was incredibly excited to play D&D but I guess the stress of everyday life caught up with me as I had a really hard time focusing. I blame that entirely for any blasé aspects of this session or its writeup.

Now, it was clear that Mike (playing Alvyn) had done some work with our DM (Dominic) over the details of the Doomguard as Alvyn knew his way around the place. After a few code-phrases here, a few secret doors there, we had made our way to the underbowels of the city, where the centre of secrecy took place.

As we were entering, a Tiefling known as Tribulus Griefblade gruffly welcomed us and said that Mercury (you remember her, right? Rides a wyvern, hired us to kill the dragon) was waiting for us. Making our way over to the practice ring, we saw Mercury sparring against a swordmage. Try as he might, he could not bring his sword down upon her. She was wearing plate armour and yet moved as if she wore silk. Barely dodging out of the way of the attacks, she threw a single blow knocking the swordmage out of the ring. Upon seeing us, she asked everyone to leave so she could talk with us.

Amazed by her prowess, we told her we had succeeded in killing the dragon, Tong (played by Alex) showed her a dragon scale as proof. She asked if the dragon had mentioned anything and we relayed the fact that it was the Albusian Emperor's son, making the Emperor a dragon! It also warned of Adamantia's imminent invasion and mentioned The Long Game.

Mercury was very surprised by this. She had no idea about the Emperor and as soon as she heard us mention the game she told us to not speak a word of this to anyone else, no matter what. She said that any mention of that would severely put us and anyone we knew or cared about at risk. Alvyn, a curious one, really wanted to know more but she wouldn't say. He promised to not mention it but if some information came his way, he couldn't promise to not pursue it. She then gave us each 1000 gold pieces for our work.

After relaying this information, we made our way to Leliana, the Doomguard's leader, and informed her of our adventures. Our primary mission, to investigate the ruins of the last emperor, was a success. We warned them of the un-damageable ogre. When asked about the dragon, we stated the events, leaving out any mention of the game, and they asked us what we did with the dragon's body. When told that we left it, they said that the villagers should be happy as dragon bone is very rare and a very useful crafting tool. Showing us an exquisite bow she had hung on the wall, she explained that dragon bone is extremely light but strong. I was glad we didn't have any kleptomaniacs amongst the party as losing all that valuable material might have been very regrettable. As it was, none of our characters cared too much for the loss, although more money would have been nice.

Leliana then said that there weren't a lot of pertinent missions going on with the Doomguard at the moment. She expressed that, other than resting, we could go back to Albus to learn more about the Emperor, or we could go to Aes (Kalgar's homeland) to see what trouble they were stirring up. Several agents had apparently not returned from there and the Doomguard thought this might be a cause for concern. We said we'd think on it.

As we were getting lunch, in a kitchen wherein the chef was using a longsword to cook and prepare his food, we tried to figure out our plans. Kalgar had been very quiet this whole time, while Tong had been vastly animated, as usual. Alvyn was professional with his superiors and a little embarrassed with us. Tong apparently had never seen a chair before so when asked to sit before the Doomguard superior, he tried many different things from crossed legs to an awkward lean, before getting it right. Kalgar knew what a chair was but weighs 300 lbs. of solid muscle and was a little worried that the tiny chair (Eladrin-made) would break. After a few awkward moments, we settled down.

Alvyn laughed it off, of course, and suggested that we should go to Aes. He said that the Doomguard couldn't afford to let Aes work unnoticed for too long and that we should find out what is going on. Tong was a little distracted by the chef. Because of Tong's history, which Alvyn is starting to suspect and to which Kalgar is completely oblivious, Tong is very adverse to weapons. He refuses to use them and even goes so far as to avoid touching them. On our trip, we noticed him shaving with a knife once and upon questioning him, he said that it was a tool, not a weapon. So, to see this chef cooking with a sword, it was a little confusing. Tong began to become visibly shaken and as he asked the chef more and more, he grew concerned. He asked the chef what his first usage of the sword was, to which the chef replied that he first used it to kill a boar...for dinner.

Caught off guard, Tong excused himself and went to pray. Unfortunately, his psychic link to his monastery was blocked as the Doomguard headquarters was, in fact a secret society, and thus blocked all communications. Calming down, Kalgar brought up his hesitations about going back to Aes. He was a fugitive, and had not learned nearly enough about the outside world. He would be returning to a land where desertion meant bad things and he was not only not very adept at hiding, he was somewhat against it. Alvyn countered with the notion that we should really keep tabs on what Aes was doing as they were the last ones we knew about who had super-weapons. Kalgar reluctantly agreed that maybe they should try to find out more, but said that at the first sign of trouble, they would have to leave. Not one to want to run from a fight, Kalgar is still learning more about the world and knows that he is not nearly strong enough to face the threat of Aes. He wants to return there someday, to take on the heretical ways of the Aesian military, but rushing in was obviously not the best way to go about things.

Now, I did not go into great detail about this earlier, but back in the labyrinth of the last emperor Tong, while searching a small library, had found a book related to demons and devils, something he is very interested in. Upon touching it, however, it fell apart as the paper was extremely old and worn. Little did Tong know that Alvyn collected the remains and upon learning the Make Whole ritual, was able to remake the book and give it to Tong.

Extremely excited, Tong profusely thanked Alvyn and began to furiously read through it. He seemed quite upset because, as he put it, "it's whole, but something's missing". What could it mean? Why was he so interested/agitated? Why was he so bothered by weapons? Well, Kalgar hasn't been too inquisitive yet, so he shrugged it off. But maybe we'll find out soon!

Thanking the chef for the food, Kalgar went to pick a fight in the practice ring. It had been way too long since a battle and Kalgar is not one to enjoy sitting around for too long. Alvyn, upon checking on him, found Kalgar ferociously fighting two combatants who he finished off by throwing one into the other. Alvyn challenged Kalgar to a fight, perplexing Kalgar. Here was a 6'4", 300 lb. Dragonborn, versus a 4' tall gnome. But, Alvyn, with a series of quick actions, was able to dodge out of the way of the opening attacks, and even deflected some with obvious martial practice. Flinging himself, invisibly, at Kalgar, the sparring match degraded to Alvyn poking Kalgar in the head and neck, trying to get at a pressure point. Rolling on the floor threw Alvyn off, and Kalgar helped his winded friend up off the floor.

Pooling our newly acquired gold, we decided to gear up thanks to some contacts the Doomguard had with some expert craftsmen. Of note, Tong bought a Stoneskin Robe and a Ki Focus, both should help him survive in combat and increase his prowess. Kalgar had his armour upgraded by a Dwarven smith. Upon talking with the smith, Kalgar realized the Dwarf was also religious, following the ways of Moradin. As the smith upgraded his sword, both he and Kalgar chanted words of strength held reverent by their gods and the weapon glowed blue with divine power. The armour, fully scaled, was re-fitted, tightened, and should provide some added protection in the fights to come. He left the scars as made by the dragon intact warning that should Kalgar receive another similar attack, the armour might not hold. Additionally, the gloves had special metal plates on the fingers. He explained that these plates, when struck against other metals, could help determine their composition and purity. Obviously, a design meant for Dwarven miners, he added it free of charge, saying they could be removed easily.

For anyone interested, the weapon and armour have properties which will help Kalgar not only have better defenses, but the armour, Verve Armour, allows Kalgar, once/day, to get a 20 on a death saving throw. This would mean that if he fell again, instead of dying, he could not only survive but heal himself, automatically. This will be very useful.

And so the players shopped and are going to make their way to Aes next week. As a player, I have a lot of work to do. I only really up with a focused backstory concerning Aes and Kalgar's experience there and I feel it would be improper to not know/make up more about his homeland. As I mentioned before, D&D is what you put into it and honestly, I didn't put a lot into it this week. Most of it was probably due to being distracted by real-world problems like assignments and midterms, but some of it is because I haven't really discovered Kalgar yet.

Usually I like to fall back on a character's history or his skills to determine and flavour what he's like outside of combat, but it was harder in this case. Kalgar is trained in History, Intimidate, Religion, Acrobatics (choosing that because I thought it would be handy to be able to reduce fall damage which you need to be trained to be any good at. But my Athletics is obviously naturally high as I have a high strength modifier). Even History, I have chosen to limit more to the history of nations and battles. Kalgar grew up in a highly focused part of a highly focused society. If it wasn't taught as part of serving in the navy, and if he didn't hear the news wash up on shore as travelers made their way from port to port, chances are, Kalgar didn't hear about it. Of course, he's curious about the rest of the world, but he's not very curious so it will take some time to bring this trait out.

Not only that, he spent the session in a secret society's headquarters. Not exactly the place to snoop around although if he really cared, I'm sure he could have found all the information he could ever want, but again, he's not too inquisitive yet. Intimidation only has so many uses, and in a place of possibly superior comrades, he's not foolish enough to pick a fight he couldn't possibly win. Religion has the same problems History has, but I'm going to work on this.

See, Kalgar is lost. Not only is he far from his homeland, and not only is he surrounded by people and customs totally alien to him, but he doesn't know what his purpose is. All his life, he never had to question anything. He moved with the confidence of someone who knew exactly what their purpose was, without question. But, since leaving Aes, Kalgar has had to question his actions, question those of his Aesian brothers and sisters, and learn more about his god. I think that I will use this to spur Kalgar into being a little more inquisitive, about the world and his god.

I also plan on working on more religious affectations for Kalgar. I've said that while serious, he tells jokes, some of them crude, and talks about Kord. But, all I've said is that he does that, I haven't done it myself. I think to get into character, to provide some more entertainment not only to myself but the rest of the table, I am going to write up a lot of things Kalgar can quote from later.

I plan on making up some adventures he might have had while sailing, and some he might have had while his ship was at port. ;) I also plan on making up some drinking songs and perhaps songs about Kord and sailing.

It takes time to really love a character. My favourite character of all time was all too easy to love, he was me, you know, if I could be a werewolf who knew how to fight with sword and shield. But, even that character took time and effort. As his adventures continued, his love for his companions, plus his own personal ups and downs, really gave depth to his character and to the game.

I need to work on this for Kalgar. Alex (Tong) is incredible at bringing his characters to life. Every single one of them is memorable, exciting, always constantly present. Thankfully, Alex is also amazing at stepping outside of character as you sometimes have to in order to get things done in D&D, but I yearn to make Kalgar as interesting and present as Alex makes Tong. And Alvyn (Mike's character) has come along and is a very consistently present and real part of the group. I'm hard on myself, but I know that I have so much more I want to get out of this character, but you get out what you put in, so we'll see what the next adventure brings.

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