D&D or Rifts: New Campaign(s) Brewing?

With one less player, our weekly game night may be in for a reshuffling.  We have been playing Rifts almost weekly since mid September, but we are losing one third of the party at least semi-permanently.  Though I'm not completely sure that the Rifts game will lose momentum, it does seem like an ideal time for the group to change directions... especially considering that my brother's girlfriend has expressed some interest in playing D&D.  It seems such a waste not to play D&D with an eager recruit ready to go.

In any case, I'd like to see the Rifts campaign at least come to a decent stopping point, perhaps with the return of the rune sword to Ghost and safe passage to Phase World.  Of course, I was planning to throw a few more wrenches into those plans, but we shall see.

This week's game night will no doubt be the gauge of how we will continue, and how we continue will play a major role in what content ends up on this site... so stay tuned.

Rifts Session Twelve: Contest of Champions Part II

It didn't take long to fudge the rules during this session.  My brother had what might possibly have been the worst gaming brain fart in our group's history.  We all knew that tonight would be the next fight in the Arena of Champions, and the players were eager to mix it up.  I asked the players twice if their characters had any preparations to make before the battle began.  Will even made a comment that went something like, "We don't prepare, we just roll for initiative."

So I described how the characters were introduced in the arena (TRIFECTA EEEEEEEEERECTA!), described their opponents entering the arena, and called for an initiative roll.  I don't remember the particular order except that Eric went after the demons across the arena.  Most of these particular opponents had very weak ranged attacks, so I declared that they were charging while shooting wild (which, in Rifts, basically just means you don't get any combat bonuses at all).  One of the demons scored a hit on Isaac Black, Eric's Colossus clone character.  I roll for damage and come up with something like 9 MD.  He looks  at me with a dumbfounded expression.

Eric: "Ummm... I'm dead, bro."

Me: "What?"

Eric: "I didn't get a chance to change forms."

Me: "So it hits your body armor."

Eric: "I don't have any."

Me: "Force fields?"
Eric: "Nope."

For those not "in the know", one of the biggest complaints about Rifts in general is the extreme difference between regular damage and MD (mega damage).  One point of mega damage equals 100 normal points, so my brother had actually just taken 900 points of damage just because he hadn't had the forethought to change into metal form (in which he had 600 MDC).  TOASTY!

Of course, we went through the usual methods of defense in Rifts.  He gets a chance to dodge the attack.  That failed.  Then I gave him the opportunity to "dodge" by changing forms as a reaction to the attack.  That failed too.  Finally, I just gave him the benefit of the doubt and said that the character would be smart enough to have changed forms ahead of time even if the player didn't.

Normally, I'd have let the character die.  I'm actually not sure what got into me.  Pity?  Amazement?  A soft heart?  I still don't know.

The fight raged for the entire evening... a real slugfest between super-powered beings (because that's what Rifts is all about, right?).

In the end, this session turned out to be a huge disappointment, though not because the game wasn't fun.  Unfortunately, we simply ran out of time and had to stop play in the middle of a pitched battle.  And while stopping mid-fight is never fun, it was even more painful than usual because it was Will's last game night with us for the foreseeable future.

Next time... will we even be playing Rifts?

A Fond Farewell

Unfortunately, this year's Christmas season brings to our gaming group the loss of one of our regular players.   Although I'm sure the army will be better off with him, we will certainly be... less well off, I guess... without him.

Will is probably best known around here for establishing that "Cornwell" (my last name as well as my brother Eric's) is synonymous with a**hole.  Of course, he is also our resident rogue and the most reliable of all of us (even if it is just because he has less responsibilities... it is appreciated nonetheless).

Will, we wish you the best of luck wherever Uncle Sam takes you.  You will always have a seat in the man cave awaiting your return.

Rifts Session Eleven: Contest of Champions

Because the players played "stump the GM" at the end of the last session, I was determined to come prepared this time.  The question, which called for specific items from a junk pile, threw me off, but I returned with a Rifts life saver: lists of random items straight from the Palladium Books forums.  Unfortunately, since these are fan created, they don't strictly adhere to the Rifts megaverse (a G.E.C.K. is on one of the tables, for example).  However, there are nearly a thousand items to choose from or roll for on the list, most of which truly belong in a junk pile... PERFECT!

After a few rolls, the players got bored with the random junk and moved on (I was so excited about the table full of random junk, but it was a dud at the table).  Almost immediately, they get the break that they've been looking for: a rune sword advertised in public.  There is but one catch: it is not for sale... it is the prize for next week's Contest of Champions.  The party would need to win a few fights in the gladiatorial arena in order to get an official invitation.

They signed up and entered their first match not knowing what to expect, and were introduced as the "Tifecta Erecta!" (They decided to be like the Fantastic Four but with only three members, and this is the best they could come up with...)

Across the gigantic arena, a murvola metzla floated out to do battle.  This monstrous tentacled being put up quite a fight, but surrendered after losing all nine of its eyes to called shots from our new plasma-based superhuman party member (details later... played by Will but I don't have the character sheet and can't remember the name).

The prize for this fight?  Bio-wizard implants to be detailed further at a later date.  Hopefully our minotaur vagabond will take advantage of this opportunity to catch up to the superhumans in power level.

Previous Rifts sessions can be found here.

Rifts Session Ten: Decisions, Decisions

The majority of last week's session consisted mainly of heated discussion over how to continue.  When Pyro the fire dragon hatchling perished in session nine, he took the party's plan for crossing the Atlantic with him to the grave.  All of the following options were discussed, among others that I've probably forgotten:
  • Getting captured intentionally by a Splugorth slaver
  • Do mercenary work to raise funds for transportation
  • Call in the Naruni for assistance
Finally someone said, "Why don't we just buy grav-packs?"  And thus, a fairly inexpensive (and safe) alternative was born.

The trip across the Atlantic was fairly uneventful.  The party avoided an encounter with some Horune pirates and navigated to Splynn with no other inconveniences.

In Splynn, the party endured some verbal attacks but didn't enter any physical confrontations.  The businessmen and Splugorth minions the party came into contact with just assumed they were slaves on an errand.  Their first attempt to purchase a rune sword led them to The Antique Weapons Dealer, a shop owned by Old West, a three eyed humanoid monster (whose fast talking rivals the Micro Machine guy).

After finding out that Old West didn't have a rune sword in stock, the party left and stumbled into Shack of Antiquities, in which they bargained with a trio of floopers (imagine a humanoid flumph... the comparison isn't exact... but the goofiness matches perfectly).

"The Shack" is essentially a giant indoor junk pile in which someone patient enough might find a bit of treasure. Unfortunately, the GM (me) didn't come prepared to describe all this junk in detail, so a simple question like "So what kind of stuff can we find in here?" could have been deflected easily but anything more specific left
 me stumped.  And stumped is where we left off, with the party digging through mounds of junk in Shack of Antiquities, waiting patiently for the GM to come up with some odd items to find in a junk pile.

Previous Rifts sessions can be found here.

Argona Valdis

I really don't like the way I have approached the last few NPC Spotlight posts. In writing both, I felt restricted because I feared giving away too much information to my players (a few of whom actually read this from time to time). This time I'm focusing on an NPC that they may or may not even meet... and I'll post stats for the character at first level. This way, my players will still know more than I usually give them but they still won't know what tricks she might have up her sleeve that were unavailable to her at first level... and any readers who might find this useful can actually use it without having to do a bunch of work for the stats.

Argona Valdis is a second generation D-Bee on Rifts Earth. Her parents were druids from the Western Empire who were swept up in a freak rift and dumped in the alien swampland known as Dinosaur Swamp. They befriended the barbarian people that they first encountered and as the generations of humans came and went, the two elves rose to become the most respected members of the tribe.

A few years ago, a wandering shifter offered them the opportunity to return to their homeland, but Argona, daughter of the tribal leaders, decided to stay in the only home she had ever known: Rifts Earth. Despite her youthful appearance, Argona has stepped into her parents' role as a respected elder of the tribe since their departure. She is very protective of her people, defending them with a savage fury, the intensity of which is matched only by her compassion when tending to the wounded.

Real Name
: Argona Valdis
Aliases: none
Alignment: Unprincipled
Attributes: IQ 16, ME 14, MA 15, PS 11, PP 12, PE 9, PB 16, Spd 12
Hit Points: 14
SDC: 21
Weight: 130 lbs
Height: 5'5"
Age: 90
PPE: 72 ISP: 15
Disposition: Argona is distrustful of outsiders, but is a shrewd diplomat and is always looking for opportunities to improve the lives of her friends. Thus, while she may be tight-lipped and cautious, she is sociable and can be a valuable ally to those who have shown evidence of good intentions.
Race: Elf
Experience Level: 1st level Barbarian Eco-Wizard
Enemies: anyone or anything that threatens her tribe
Allies: the Ram tribe, which claims territory northeast of Char
Magic Knowledge: Knows Blinding Flash (1), Electric Arc (8), Globe of Daylight (2), Ignite Fire (6), Fuel Flame (5), Fire Bolt (7), Magic Shield (6), Manipulate Objects (2+), Energy Bolt (5), Create Wood (10+), Life Source (2+), and Power Weapon (35); can create eco-wizard devices (similar to techno-wizard devices but with natural materials instead of technology), spells are only half as effective as normal when not cast through an eco-wizard device
Psionic Powers: minor psionic: Commune with Spirits (6), Deaden Pain (4)
Attacks per Melee: 5 (Hand to Hand: Basic plus Elf bonus)
Abilities: Nightvision 90 ft, affinity with nature (sense weather changes, sense supernatural beings, sense direction of ley lines, half damage from lightning, and other bonuses)
Bonuses: +1 Dodge, +2 vs Horror Factor and possession, +1 Parry, +2 Pull Punch, +2 Roll with Punch/Impact, +1 Strike
Skills of Note: Fashion Weapons and Tools 40%, Holistic Medicine 40%, Wilderness Survival 47%
Weapon Proficiencies: Archery, Energy Pistol, Knife
Weapons and Armor: Argona carries a finely crafted longbow with a quiver full of SteelTree tipped arrows (2 MD), a survival knife (1d6 SDC), and a battered Wilk's Laser Pistol that she found on an explorer's half-eaten corpse (1d6 MD). She wears armor made of tanned dinosaur hide (28 MDC, cloak of darkness ability)
Money: carries no money in the traditional sense, but keeps several small but valuable trinkets on hand for bartering opportunities
Physical Description: Argona appears to be in her mid twenties. She is beautiful by human standards, with a slight frame and soft features.
Sources: Rifts Ultimate Edition, Rifts Conversion Book 1, Rifts World Book 26: Dinosaur Swamp

Rifts Session Nine: Pterodactyls, Naruni Agents, and Another Casualty

PterodactylImage via WikipediaThis week's session started with a simple objective: get away from Char and closer to Atlantis.

The first event to slow down the trip was a visit by a pair of Naruni Repo-Bots. These intimidating enforcers showed up for payment, but instead of demanding a cash sum they surprised the party by offering a somewhat mercenary payment. The Naruni agreed to forgive their payment if the party agreed to cause an equal amount of damage while in Splynn and bring back proof of their actions. The group readily agreed.

The second event to slow down the trip was much more violent and threw a much larger kink in the group's plans. When the group reached the coast, they were attacked by a group of leatherwings (pterodactyl-like dinosaurs), their first encounter with the deadly creatures from which Dinosaur Swamp got its name. During the battle, Pyro the fire dragon hatchling was overcome by his injuries and perished despite a valiant attempt by the other characters to keep hungry leatherwings from devouring his unconscious form.

By the end of the night, Isaac and Minos found themselves on the coast ready to fly across the ocean on dragonback, but with their dragon in a broken heap on the beach. Alas, they would need to return to Char in order to procure some new method of traveling across the Atlantic.

Previous Rifts sessions can be found here.
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My, how my tastes have changed... (a Drizzt rant)

Before I begin, let me make myself clear. I have been a fan of Drizzt, but this is by no means a defense of the drow renegade who has ruined the enjoyment of D&D for seemingly every writer on the internet. There are two camps on the issue: those who love their dear drow to death and the "Gah! If I ever hear you speak his name again I'll murder your gerbil!" crowd. Personally, I used to really like the fella. He was a sharp break from an old stereotype and it was refreshing. Unfortunately, so many people liked him that he formed his own anti-stereotype stereotype (if that makes sense). Now, after all the reading and ranting reading and raving, I still find myself going through a roller coaster of "like him" and "tired of the idea." Back and forth, back and forth.

But I'll say this for Drizzt. Even though he has shifted from a personal favorite to a tired archetype in my mind, his popularity has opened the doors for several other drow characters that I absolutely love... and likely would never have had the pleasure of knowing if not for Drizzt's popularity. Of these, my two favorites are Jarlaxle and Phaeraun... both drow who, despite their quirks, have attitudes much more typical of their race.

I particularly like Jarlaxle, who has totally eclipsed Drizzt as my favorite R.A. Salvatore creation of all time. What's not to like about this guy? Sarcastic and witty? Check. Dazzling display of swordsmanship? Check. Drow sense of opportunism? Check. Plays all sides to his own benefit? Check. Impersonates Drizzt to take advantage of ignorant surface dwellers? Check plus... my hero...

I am hereby casting my vote for Jarlaxle to ascend to godhood to replace Vhaeraun.

Are the drow worn out? My answer is an emphatic NO. Is the idea of a dual-wielding drow ranger worn out? Yes, but one drow shouldn't ruin the "drow experience" regardless of his notoriety.

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