Thursday, 26 June 2014

Circus Skills

I know mostly I use this for talking about the most overtly geeky hobbies of mine (roleplay and Blood Bowl), but being a geek is something that pervades your whole being so I can be pretty geeky about things that don’t seem to be traditionally part of geek culture.

I was seeking some form of new and interesting form of exercise: the gym does not appeal to me at all, and I’m poorly motivated so need something social. One of my friends mentioned a ‘circus skills’ class and suggested I tag along. I’m really pleased I agreed!

The class takes place in the Project Climbing Centre (which is a fantastic facility I’m very pleased to have found). It’s run by a group called ‘Secret Circus’ (check out their gallery!). The people who run the class are very welcoming and encouraging, the other people who attend are friendly and the atmosphere overall is relaxed and supportive. I’ve not gone very often as yet (time and financial constraints) but I feel very proud of the progress I’ve made so far.

We mostly work on aerial hoop and silks: I think I’m better on the hoop because the silk requires a lot more strength than I currently have – but I am getting there. The hoop does need some strength, but balance and flexibility also help. Of course, tidy technique will hugely improve my ability in both media.

I've been trying (and failing) to upload a video; it’s the first half of a routine on aerial hoop that I’ve so far only learnt the first half of. The end move I mess up I’d only just learnt and was a bit cross not to be able to do when we were filming, but I achieved it in practice and there’s always next time!

Until I can figure out how to get the video up, here's a photo:




Sunday, 22 June 2014

Pathfinder: The Crusade part 2

Part 1 here.
Part 3 here.

Clerics walked out of the Star Keep to pour oil into the newly created moat, which they then lit. It burns with a bluish flame and smells slightly minty: detect magic reveals a very, very powerful ‘protection from evil’ aura from it. We have helped create an artefact!

Knight Commander Meinhoff welcomed us to the fort and found billets for at least most of the army, allowing us to rest up for a couple of days. The Star Keep only has about 100 remaining inhabitants who have been under siege for significant period of time: they have no food or water and were being sustained simply through the power of the goddess Iomedae. We resupply the fort and ensure the supply lines for our army are coming this way in future to help protect the Star Keep.

Then onwards to Kenabres, a city actually just outside the Worldwound. They are not especially welcoming – Aaron, as a tiefling, is not even allowed into the city and must stay outside. We find their brusqueness (not born of actual rudeness so much as absolute focus on fighting the Worldwound) difficult and use the 2 weeks we were planning to wait here (to allow the other parts of the Crusade that will be meeting us at the destination of Drezen to catch up) to pop home with the help of Mr Tiddles’s teleportation skills – a chance for Alexei to play with his forge, Kieran to oversee his corner of the Dawnlands and arrange for reinforcements, Aaron to do whatever it is he needs to do (assassins!) and I to spend a bit of time with my husband.

Back, and we continue the march onwards, crossing back into the Worldwound. When acting as vanguard for our army, we spot a small village with 6 bearded demons and a large minotaur in steel armour with a bronze mask. We’ve faced similar looking demons before so figure this isn’t anything we can’t handle. Kieran, Aaron and I fire off a few shots at the minotaur and then, with Evander, brace for the inevitable charge.

The bearded demons come at us, but the minotaur steps behind the buildings. Alexei turns into a bird and flies up to find him whilst the rest of us fight the demons – who summon more of themselves and generally cause trouble. Alexei, unable to spot the minotaur, starts burning the buildings down (what the rest of us don’t spot is that he burns people in the process…). Kieran and Evander are handling the demons on them fairly well, but Aaron and I are struggling slightly more. Alexei finally spots the minotaur as it circles back around to us, which means he and he alone is in position to watch as a demon rips me to shreds – his bird form flies over to breathe life back into me and that’s me out of the fight. Kieran is badly hurt by the minotaur but manages to take it down – Aaron is similarly badly hurt but manages to hold on long enough for the others to take out the remaining demons.

Alexei walks over to me – breath of life may have brought me back from dead, but I’m still badly hurt. He heals the rest of my wounds but I remain where I am. Realising something more is wrong, he arranges for the others to build a fire and put on some tea whilst he collects the deceased villagers and gives them a proper funeral pyre and then uses spells to dig a pit and fill it with salt to bury the demon bodies. Finally doing something good and I’m not noticing! (even if he did cause the death of the villagers…)

Mr Tiddles lays in small cat form on my chest and after a while I roll over and curl into a ball with him so the other won’t see I am crying – so far, their attempts to find out what’s up have consisted of various healing and status removal spells, shaking my shoulder and offering tea. The rest of the army arrives and they bundle me into a palanquin, asking clerics to check on me: “it looks like severe trauma” they explain. What to do? They talk about sending me back to my husband* but ultimately decide to leave me to it for now – I’m probably safer at the centre of my army than I would be being transported out of the Worldwound to anywhere where I could be teleported home – and we continue to the outskirts of Drezen.

Yes, I will explain at some point where the trauma has occurred – no spoilers for the other players yet, though. Suffice to say, we were warned from the start that the GM did not want resurrections – even ‘gentle’ resurrections like breath of life – to cheapen death. I, at least, have been dreading a player death for this reason, and this has been the first one!





*Husbit tweeted quote of the evening as “Monks are naturally arseholes” but I was more entertained by “Send us another Queen, this one’s broken”

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Pathfinder: The Crusade part 1

For Noleski and Svetlana, there was only the briefest time for a honeymoon before we were undertaking the final prep to leave for the Crusade. The Dawnlands army consists of the Dawn Riders (an elite cavalry unit trained by our pet paladin, Akaros) and 200-300 orcs (from our efforts in integrating the former warband that had terrorised our southern border). As Queen, Svetlana’s also figurehead for the Brevic army proper (which includes clerics, wizards and engineers as well as fighters); although in truth this is led by General Howlan Garess, Lord of one of the noble Houses believed to be loyal to Noleski and House Surtova – my House too, now. We depart in style – goodbyes said in private beforehand, Svetlana leads the army on the back of a beautiful white horse (I’ve had some practice on her and she’s a well-trained mount, but ride is one of about 4 skills I have no ranks in). With her shiny new crown and a cape in white with the Brevic heraldry emblazoned across the back (and, at Svetlana’s request, lined in dark grey so she can still use it when she needs to be a little more covert), the queen makes an impressive sight.

As we march towards the Worldwound, we pick up the unit of Golems from Pitax – those creepy guards that bothered particularly Alexei so much before. We are keeping an eye on them because we don’t trust Irovetti at all. Also joined by armies from Numeria and other places on route before arriving in Nerosyan, the capital of Mendev. We were introduced to Allisandra Galfrey, Queen of Mendev, who would be leading the Crusade. Tall and beautiful, as elves often are, her manner and bearing suggest she is used to being obeyed in everything and quickly – to the point she probably doesn’t even notice; this is just how it has always been in her life.

Crusade Day arrived, with a big ceremony in the temple of Iomedae. After this, we departed to begin the battles. The landscape beyond the walls of Nerosyan is hideously barren and we’ve been told not to eat or drink anything we find there so it’s important to keep the supply lines safe: we may have rings of sustenance but our troops don’t.

Our first challenge is offered when scouts report that a nearby town still has humanoid inhabitants, being kept as slaves by the demons inhabiting the area. We step up and volunteer the Brevic army (with attachments) to rescue these unfortunate individuals. Surrounding the town, I lead from the dry river bed on the east with the more nimble foot troops (including Aaron), whilst Alexei and Evander come in from the south, Akaros leads the Dawnriders from the plains on the west, other troops come in from the north and Kieran on Brutus from the sky. Massively outnumbering the demons, the fight is pretty one-sided. Alexei uses Stone Shape to build a flimsy stone cage around a large group of demonic troops, before throwing in alchemists’ fire. Aaron and I were working together (with other troops including some clerics Svetlana thinks Noleski has specially asked to keep an eye on her – the ‘weakest’ (in terms of HP) of the party, she tends to try to suck it up when she gets hurt, but these clerics are healing her up without her needing to ask), when a roll of a 1 meant I accidentally triggered my magic rod of ‘I’m a Queen’; summoning my pavilion to add to the confusion.

Above the town-turned-battlefield, Kieran spotted a large demon who seemed to be in charge. Brutus catapulted in to it, and an epic aerial battle ensued.

Alexei set up a gravity trap: Evander, standing one side of it, taunted demons into running towards him into the trap, where gravity was reversed. He laughed as the demons fell to the sky – when the battle was over and the spell ended, there were several thumps as the demons finally landed.

Once it was clear the Brevic army was winning (with no loss of life and few major injuries: weight of numbers is a wonderful thing, when it’s on your side), Svetlana focused her attentions on finding the survivors whose presence had sparked this side quest. Huddled within a building she found a group of humans, elves, halflings and other assorted humanoids looking pretty terrified. With her cheery attitude a little more forced than normal in the shock of her surroundings, she greeted them.

“Hi, my name’s Svetlana. I’m from Brevoy.”

“Brevoy? You… you mean there’s something out there? Something outside?”

“Of course!” The middle-aged elf’s comments surprised her.

“Then why did no one come before?”

“We came as soon as we knew you were here. How long have you been here?” Expecting years; hoping for months. But they had been born here: even the eldest elves. These people had been trapped in hell for hundreds of years. For Svetlana, this revelation was terrifying and opened her eyes to some of the less pleasant aspects of Golarion she had been sheltered from: a moment of destroyed naivety. She quickly arranged for the refugees to be taken back to Nerosyan and the Brevic army headed on for its next target: the besieged Star Keep.

The fortress, a beacon of hope rising from the barren landscape, was surrounded by an immense army of demons. For a while, we lay on the crest of the hills behind which our army hid, just watching the force below us trying to work out how we could break through. Driving a wedge to the front door would probably work, but with significant loss of life. Building a bridge to walls was discussed but deemed impractical (no, really? I hear you cry. Well, we were feeling pretty desperate).

Going over discarded, what about going under? Tunnelling into the fortress was again dismissed: demons may later find our tunnel and use it to their advantage. Instead, engineers and stone-shaping wizards took a few days to carefully, carefully tunnel from our hidden location (whilst the rest of us made efforts to distract and destroy demonic scouts and otherwise keep the work from being discovered). Once the tunnel came near the walls, its course turned to encircle the walls. The ceilings were carefully laced with explosives and all the workers came back out. Explosives triggered, and we took advantage of the ensuing chaos to reach the gates and enter. Once the dust and shards of rock settled, it was clear that a good third of the demon army had been caught up in the explosions and destroyed and the rest had taken flight or been killed by our army on the way in. The clerics in the Star Keep filled the newly created moat with holy water and we were welcomed by a relieved populace!

...

Moving on to Part 2.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Cakebowl 2014


I attended the skill-tastic Cake Bowl for the first time last year, taking Slann because I like leap. Turns out, frogs don’t leap very well. The previous year, Husbit had taken a Wood Elf line-up that I named Strictly Come Wardancing – 8 line elves (with dodge), a thrower (with leader), 2 wardancers (guard/strip ball), no re-rolls… and Jordell Freshbreeze. He was pleased to walk away with most touchdowns* and most of his opponents walked away cursing Jordell.

The set up looked a lot of fun, so I took them to last year’s Exiles Open (5 - Werewolf Strikes Back). With fewer skills, only 3 of the line elves could have dodge in order for the positionals to remain skilled. Jordell spent most of his time face-planting into the Dead & Injured box: he needs 2’s for basically every action but did nothing. Fortunately, the rest of my team behaved and I had great fun until I came up against Merrick’s Skaven in I think game 4, at which point everything started to go wrong and the good luck that had sustained me deserted me. Bloody rats.

I then had a few more tournaments with dark elves and other teams and the usual threatening to rage-quit Blood Bowl because nothing would go well, before taking halflings to NAFC. I liked the “Re-Rolls are for Pussies!” play style, so I wanted to try Strictly out at Cake – especially with all those yummy extra skills.


So it was that we arrived in Swindon in time for a full English breakfast at the Great Western Hotel before games (and cake) commenced.

DAY ONE

Game One – vs Cantaloupe and Dib Dib Dib

Wood Elf vs Wood Elf suggested a high scoring game. Cantaloupe fielded two wardancers, one catcher, a tree, line elves, thrower and some re-rolls (pussy!).

When my second block resulted in one of my line elves on the floor, I was expecting a bad game; but then his team repeatedly rolled 1’s to pass the ball and 2 blitzes on kick-off fell in my favour meant he didn’t have much of a chance. His tree was too slow to be of much assistance to him and he ended up tearing through his re-rolls to give me the win.

Final score: 5-2 TD and 2-3 CAS.

Game Two – vs Shortarse and Warpstone Stars

A rat ogre, 4 gutter runners, a thrower, blitzers, line rats, Glart. Oh yeah, and re-rolls (pussy!).

A very enjoyable game that basically fell down to me absolutely outdicing him.

We started in a blizzard. Knowing my only re-roll was from the leader skill, Shortarse was very keen to destroy my thrower: it would appear, however, his thrower was the one listening – quickly leaving the pitch and staying there. He then decided he need to hurt my players to gain the numbers advantage – and again it would appear the wrong team was listening, as most of his players landed in the KO box and refused to come back. Towards the end of the game, he had to set up with a team of 3 gutter runners: unsurprisingly, I scored again quickly from that, leaving him one turn to get one last touchdown. A few players made it back onto the pitch from his KO box, which meant his only hope was a touch back and a quick snap. The ball obliged, flying off the pitch. I rolled kick off… a 9! Quick snap gives him a chance… the blocking goes as it should, the gutter runner races down the pitch… and the blizzard knocks him to his feet!

At the end of the game, even the crowd had done more casualties than the rats – one wardancer being killed by a rock early on, and the other torn to pieces after being pushed into the midst of the rats’ fans. A moral victory, but I imagine not much consolation.

Final score: 4-2 TD and 5-0 CAS (which briefly put me top of table, top of most TD’s and top most CAS – until Hawk’s score came in and pipped me on the CAS front)

Game Three – vs Sann0638 and What Does the Krox Say?

As I commented in my write-up of the NAF Championships, Lizards are not a team I face often, but they seemed a little less intimidating with Wood Elves. Choosing to receive, I wasn’t able to knock over the saurus targeted with my blitz so to protect Jordell (holding the ball) I stuck him on the sideline with wardancers on the two corners, figuring Sann wouldn’t want to dodge a saurus into that and a skink would be on (at best) 1/2die – if he got the lucky double-pow, there would still be 2 wardancers ready to pick the ball up and score. A skink did indeed come running in, thinking to shove Jordell into the crowd… but he side stepped away. Sann’s face was a picture! From there, of course, it was easy to get that first touchdown and somehow (with the annoyance of 3 leaping wardancers) I managed to keep him from equalling in the first half. By the second half, however, I was starting to run out of players (feeling a certain degree of sympathy with those brave gutter runners from my previous match) so was very pleased to defend as well as I did – a failed leap from a wardancer coming in to blitz the ball carrier secured his TD in the final moments of the game.

Final score: 1-1 TD and 1-5 CAS

The plan had been to stay at Mike’s, but his children had come down with some form of bird-related illness I’ve somehow managed to avoid thus far. Chicken pox is nastier to have as an adult, so we decided a better plan was to drive home and back up in the morning.


The Team - Timberline Elves from Impact Miniatures

DAY TWO

Game Four – vs Wightlord and Kemperbad Koffin Klassics

I was concerned about this game: I’ve never faced Wightlord before, but his name suggests he is used to using Undead and speaking to other people I gathered he is very good. However, he was clearly afraid of me (or possibly Jordell), quickly getting in his excuses (upset stomach from dodgy food the night before) as we settled down to play the match.

The team line-up wasn’t dissimilar to that taken by Husbit so I was at least vaguely familiar with the pros and cons of the various players – which to watch out for, which to target and which to run the hell away from. He won the kick off and elected to receive; a slow grind down the pitch left me relying on Jordell’s brilliance to get the one-turn TD and equalise. Chain-pushed into position (<3 sidestep), he dodged away and ran down the pitch – two GFI’s needed – and a 2 comes up… curse the second blizzard of my weekend! Jordell did again what he had done so well at Exiles, and died.

Second half, and without Jordell I was a little worried. The rest of my team decided to prove I didn’t need him, however – scoring neatly and working hard in a failed attempt to keep him from retaking the lead. Final set-up and he carefully positioned his team to prevent another attempt at a one-turn TD. “I just need a riot,” jokes I. Kick off rolled – a riot. And like that, my team managed to equalise. Jammiest draw ever! (although, I can’t help wondering whether I might have made a win if Jordell had succeeded that GFI…)

Final score: 2-2 TD and 1-0 CAS

Game Five – vs Heff and Lower Than Vermin

Part of me feels very sorry for the poor little rats, being named after coalition politicians. I have a lot of time for rats. On the other hand, it made me feel less guilty for beating them up (not that you’d know it from the CAS score in comparison with other rounds).

Seeing Skaven again, I was hoping for another high scoring game – Shortarse and I both chasing most TD’s and being very close. Elected to receive and stormed down the pitch for an early score. My dice weren’t as bad as at other tournaments, but during the rest of the first half they were the worst I suffered during this tournament and bad enough for Heff to comment. He changed his mind in the second half, though, when the luck switched sides.

The match was hard work, involving lots of thinking on both sides. One-all at turn 15, and my thrower (the only member of my team without dodge) is holding the ball on the white line – didn’t want to risk the GFI after my last game and knowing I still had a turn. With a couple of other players in support, I felt secure in the win.

A gutter runner came running in, dodging to position for the half die block. Double dodge-down! NOOOOOO! The ball bounced off the pitch as Zoe the thrower was stretchered off the pitch and into the Dead & Injured box. The throw-in left the ball in position for a gutter runner to grab it and throw to another gutter runner for an easy score. Busy working out in my head whether I can manage the one-turn required to equalise after this when the receiving gutter runner fumbles the catch! A wardancer races in, blocks the gutter runner away from the ball. A line elf is in range to scoop the ball up – a short pass to another line elf who can run it in and I’ve won! But that would have required successfully picking up the ball. Nuffle clearly wanted a draw.

Final score: 1-1 TD and 0-3 CAS

Game Six – vs Lunchmoney and I Like Big Blocks and I Cannot Lie

Going into this round, Cantaloupe, Shortarse and I were neck and neck for most TD’s, but I was comfortably ahead on TD difference. All I needed to do for the prize, then, was make sure I scored at least as many as they did. Knackered from the game before, I was actually pleased to draw against Husbit – it’s a while since he and I have faced each other at a tournament and I knew it should be an enjoyable game.

He chose to receive but I got a blitz, allowing me to score on turn 1. After that, rolling double skulls when I could have dodged – and then failing 2 dodges – meant at half time the score was ‘only’ 2-0.

In the second half, I scored quickly after a bit of a mess. Reset, and he can’t pick up the ball so my elves elf at him to score again. With only 2 turns and 2 ghouls left (one had died from a dodge, another from a failed dodge), he knew he could score but it wouldn’t be easy: crazy play was involved with a successful pass. The elves swarmed in, stripping the ball from the ghoul but leaving him on his feet. Figure I’ll jump Jordell over to pick the ball up and stop him scoring, but first a block… yeah… so no one marking the ball… The ghoul grabs it, dodges, runs and SCORES!

Final score: 4-1 TD and 1-1 CAS

And the results are in…

I knew I’d done well, but wasn’t sure how well: there were some good players there. I knew Cantaloupe was out of the running for Most TD’s but wasn’t sure how Shortarse had done – I knew it was close!

Only one stunty player, so no stunty cup

Wooden spoon went to newcomer TP (Blackwater Basilisks – Dwarf)

Hawk won Most CAS and Worst Sunday (Hawk’s Orcs – Orc)

Shortarse had pipped me to Most TD (by one! I did at least feel a little less bad about the blizzard defeating his gutter runner) (Warpstone Stars – Skaven)

Cantaloupe earned Best Comeback (dib dib dib – Wood Elves)

International Glowworm Award to thechosengobbo (Whiplash Warpskins – Lizards)

Third place besters (Damn & D’ratz – Skaven)

Second place Tempest (Strictly Come Wardancing – Wood Elves)

Winner was Sann0638 (What does the Krox say? – Lizards)

I came second! That’s practically winning! YAY!

And a lovely drive home to curl up with a purry pussycat and admire David Bowie in Labyrinth: the celebration of champions! (Husbit was happy with his 2-2-2; a little annoyed that our game meant he ended on negative TD, but also had a wonderful weekend.)


*Husbit tells me he did not get most TD's with Strictly Come Wardancing, but that's very much my memory. Apparently it was actually fellow Exile Irish Dave with Pro Elves and my memory of Husbit's excitement is probably that he finished on a 3-1-2, his best result to that date.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Aaron Weaver

I recently introduced you in a bit more detail to Alexei, the character my otherhalf plays in our Pathfinder game. I mostly did this as a way to explain why gods showed up at the royal wedding – whilst tiredness from players and GM may have contributed to this, Alexei’s major levels of wibble certainly played a part.

Today it’s the turn of Aaron Weaver, the tiefling ‘ranger’ Svetlana, Alexei and Chester acquired as a companion after reclaiming the Dawnlands and shortly before going to find out what had happened to the barons of Varnhold (the ones who’d been killed by the Cyclops Lich). (See here)

Aaron initially introduced himself as ‘Mollos’, a name that caused confusion to Svetlana as her fledgling spy network struggled to find anything out about him: it was as if he did not exist. It didn’t help that, apart from being a tiefling (a race that is not widely spread in the northern regions, but does have a presence there and is more common in the south from whence he came) there was not much to make him stand out: average height, average build, dark brown hair. His skin has a red tint to it, the whites of his red eyes are black and he has small fangs and a demonic-looking tail, but overall he is not remarkable.

The Dawnlands Barons accepted his help and, finding him to be helpful and capable, brought him closer into their circle. Svetlana continued to keep an eye on him but quickly grew to enjoy his company and having an extra pair of fighting arms was very useful!

‘Mollos’ was dragged along to Absalom by the party. He had barely met Oleg before and was unaware of his incredible aging son, Vlad, and knew nothing about the mysterious thanadaemon sighting that obliged Alexei, Svetlana and Chester to give evidence to the Grand Council gathering there, but gamely agreed to accompany them nonetheless.

What the party did not know, at this point, was that Aaron was not a ranger at all but rather a Red Mantis assassin – a member of the same order who had tried to kill Chester in Pitax. However, the assassin in Pitax was a rogue: Red Mantises have a strict code of conduct imposed by their god Achaekek and Chester was not an approved target. This was why Aaron had joined the Barons – to protect Chester, to discover the identity of the mysterious assassin and to bring them to justice.



Once in Absalom, whilst Svetlana’s main concerns were finding her friends’ son and seeing her beloved and Alexei’s were (apparently) gathering in power, wibble and followers, Aaron was concerned to discover that the Red Mantis assassin here causing trouble by killing off various members of the Council matched the description of an old friend of his – a female tiefling from the order. He admitted his true nature and some of his suspicions (although not yet his name) to the Barons shortly after Chester returned to the Dawnlands. Despite Chester’s departure, Aaron stayed in Absalom, suspecting that Chester would be safe and the rogue assassin would remain in Absalom; he was right (yes, this would be the point my brother dropped out of the game).

Aaron aided in the capture of the rogue Mantis who certainly seemed to be his friend Kit, although she did not recognise him or the name he called her by. He demonstrated an incredibly powerful loyalty to her nonetheless, doing everything in his power – even asking the assistance of Alexei – to try and get her freed. Aaron’s efforts were in vain: it became clear that, if this was the one who had been his friend Kit, she was no longer the same individual and was instead the cruel and ruthless assassin Absalom took her for. She was sentenced to death.

He may also have killed the Blood Mistress and become the herald of Achaekek, but the loyalty Aaron showed to his friend was what made the greatest impression on Svetlana (even if she wasn’t asked to help, being too busy trying to help Malliard free Vlad, making sure Oleg was ok and spending time with Noleski).

Aaron’s efforts in Absalom have seen him awarded with some farming lands in Brevoy and more impressively taking on the leadership of the Red Mantis; not bad work for someone who appears to be only about 18 or 19. He’s not the most experienced assassin and at present seems a little unsure of how to lead the assassins, but being chosen by their god is no doubt going to assist in this regard.



In terms of class, Aaron does actually have a few levels in ranger besides being a Red Mantis assassin (which I believe is a prestige class). Normally to be an assassin one should be lawful evil but our GM is a bit more relaxed on things like that (how else could we have an assassin and a paladin in the party?) so Aaron is actually lawful neutral (as is the paladin, in fact). Since defeating the Blood Mistress, he has arrived at his mythic path – that of Champion. Aaron’s mythic flaw is bludgeoning attacks. Such as would be done by a monk. This is because monks are very scary. Especially to Aaron – he’d come across two monks prior to becoming mythic. One nearly killed him; the other did kill him, but he had resurrection armour. So monks are scary.

Aaron, like Svetlana, is very observant. Stat-wise, Aaron’s wisdom bonus is higher and his ranger favoured enemy is humans, which often assists him further – but Svetlana has some rogue and arcane trickster abilities to balance the playing field. As an aside, Aaron’s player and I sit by the GM, whilst the other two sit at the other end of the table. This works really well: Aaron and Svetlana often notice things Alexei and Keiran don’t simply because their players aren’t paying attention.

Prior to Aaron’s arrival, the party was very much the charisma party. As an inquisitor, Chester was the closest thing we had to a fighter (hence the deus ex machina of Mr Tiddles) and he had to double as a tank as well, but even his main stat was charisma. The tiefling has opened up a few options for us: he may not be as durable as the half-orc, but he is tougher than Svetlana at least and is also more used to fighting than she or Alexei. The rogue and assassin can work well together – we both have the precise strike teamwork feat, for instance, that combines up with our sneak attack bonuses to mean we’re a pretty nasty combination when someone’s stuck between us. I like to think this is partly Aaron’s influence on her, helping develop her technique to keep her alive. Having a paladin along means Aaron is no longer the principal weapon at the party’s disposal, but his abilities in the battlefield are not to be ignored (for the avoidance of doubt, whilst he is not allowed to assassinate anyone his god has not authorised he can still kill in self-defence).

Beyond being sharp-sensed and sharp-bladed, Aaron can climb, sneak, track, steal and read other people fairly well. His Red Mantis equipment and training (in terms of how he walks, how he stands etc) means he can be pretty intimidating when needs be. He may not have the political clout of Alexei, Svetlana or even Keiran, but his leadership of the Red Mantis does give a pretty powerful (albeit morally dubious) status. He has kept quiet about this; however, killing the Blood Mistress in front of them means the party have correctly surmised his new position.

Aaron is quiet about his background; Svetlana has tried to get him drunk to get him to open up, but frustratingly he doesn’t drink. Hopefully, as their friendship grows she will be able to learn more about where he comes from.

Monday, 9 June 2014

The Royal Wedding

New Stetvon, capital of Brevoy. A busy city at the best of times, with preparations for the royal wedding underway the noise and crowds were almost unbearable to anyone not used to them.

Walking through the crowded streets was a young woman with a small, fluffy black cat on her shoulder, poking its nose from the hood of her cloak. This was perhaps not such a strange sight in this vital city: the woman, although tall, attractive and walking with confidence, did not draw many looks. Even those she stopped and spoke to were hard-pressed to remember much about her afterwards – a half-elf, most agreed, around 20; dark blonde and slender and dressed in some form of cloth armour beneath that billowing cloak, but otherwise not much. She, however, was satisfied with their conversations: it seemed most people with an opinion on the wedding were pleased about it.

The woman continued her way towards the palace, walking past the guards with the same calm confidence that marked her to us on the streets. Once inside, the cat leapt from her shoulder, growing in size until he was as large as a panther, though still fluffier than most Persians. The woman gently stroked the ruby-encrusted ring on her left hand, invoking its power: “I’m here, where are you?” She called telepathically. Within minutes, the King was striding down the corridor to greet her with an embrace.

And with that, the whirlwind of wedding preparation she had thus far been protected from descended on Svetlana.

***

It started with a trip to the dressmaker – the first of many, her friend Anya promised. She also had to learn to let other people play with her hair (a strange feeling for the half-elf, who had used minor cantrips to control her mane since the age of 6). Malliard, Gregor and Noleski spent time making sure she was at least loosely aware of who all her guests were – and which would be on her side and which to watch out for. Flower and catering questions threatened to overwhelm her, and she felt like she would never learn the steps to the formal dances she would be expected to lead. She knew the short notice of the wedding and her own subsequent week-long absence was partly responsible for the amount of pressure she felt under, but now that she’d agreed to it she was keen to get married as quickly as possible so did her best to thrive on the stress.

Aaron arrived a few days after Svetlana. Despite being average in height and build, he stood out more than the soon-to-be queen with the red tint to his skin and, of course, the tail. There were other tieflings in the city, but none enjoyed such a high rank. He took his self-imposed role as Svetlana’s bodyguard very seriously, only letting her out of his sight when it would be indecorous to remain. For her part, Svetlana had resigned herself to increased security and reduced freedom and only snuck away when she knew no one would miss her, so as not to hurt their feelings. It was hard to elude the sharp-sensed Aaron, in any event.

A few days after Aaron came Keiran. At 6’4”, he was one of few people taller than her fiancĂ©, and with his bouncing blonde curls and shining armour he drew a lot of admiring looks even when not accompanied by Brutus, his griffin-mount. With him joining forces with Aaron, it was impossible for Svetlana to travel anywhere inconspicuously but she knew she was safe under their watch so could relax and enjoy the preparations more.

The current queen and king’s sister Natalya was delighted to see Alexei, the last arrival from the Dawnlands. He, too, seemed to throw himself into the wedding preparations. Svetlana narrowed her eyes at his good humour that seemed out of character, but she had too much to worry about to investigate further. She was relieved when he hid his lack of interest in Natalya by writing a sonnet to an unidentified bridesmaid; Natalya could believe it was a secret love poem to her with no repercussions and Svetlana had to admit it was beautiful.

That evening, Shelyn, goddess of beauty, arts and love, appeared to Alexei. She expressed her surprise and admiration at his talent both in the painting he had done of Natalya and in his new sonnet. Alexei spoke to the goddess about the wedding and asked for her blessing in it. She was more than happy to do so – telling the priest who should have officiated the day that she would take over the role. She spoke also to other deities and it wasn’t long before Cayden Cailean arrived, enjoying the free-flowing booze and party atmosphere. By the day of the wedding itself, several other gods were in attendance.

Svetlana, however, was too wrapped up in the wedding preparation to notice the weirdness and wibble. The morning arrived and with it the teams of serious-faced dressers, hairdressers, make up artists and their assistants to prepare Svetlana and her entourage. Looking in the mirror at the end of several gruelling hours, Svetlana had to admit the effort had not been wasted, and as she turned to her mother she saw her blink back unfamiliar tears.

Her dress was ivory-white silk to compliment her fair skin and was cut in a way that enhanced her naturally graceful frame. The skirt trailed behind her and the bodice was decorated with thick lace in the shape of vines and leaves that carried down her arms to form the sleeves. The veil was a more delicate lace, with an intricate design of flowers and butterflies. Shorter in the front to cover her face, it cascaded down her back and beneath it her hair fell in thick honey-coloured waves. The make-up applied accentuated her best features whilst leaving her face looking almost entirely natural. Her mother and the bridesmaids were dressed in Brevic yellow, and the bouquets were white, yellow and red to match the flag.

Natasha took her daughter’s arm as they prepared to enter the hall. The bridesmaids took their places behind and they stepped forwards as the music began to play. For half a moment, Svetlana felt unusually self-conscious as all eyes turned to her, but as her gaze travelled towards Noleski she saw the antlered stag head of her god, Erastil. His gentle eyes blinked softly at her and as he inclined his head slightly gratitude for his presence flowed over her, filling her with confidence for the moment. She hadn’t, until now, really appreciated the presence of the deities, being too wrapped up in preparations, but now she felt both honoured and humbled.

As she looked along to where Noleski stood, she knew it was only her mother’s touch and Erastil’s presence that was keeping her from running down the aisle to be by his side. He always looked smart; well-dressed and clean-shaven with his brown hair cut shorter than fashionable but in a style that suited him. Taller than most of those around him, with a healthy tan (an inheritance from his Varisian mother) and a natural fighter’s grace and poise, he would have stood out even if he weren’t the ruler. His height in particular was something Svetlana was appreciative of: half-elven, she was comfortably as tall as most Brevic men. As he stood there waiting for her, she felt overwhelmed with respect as well as love for the man she was to bind herself to.

Heart pounding so hard she was sure he would hear, Svetlana reached Noleski’s side. He lifted her veil so they stood, storm-grey eyes staring into vibrant green, and for a moment it was as if there was no one else there. And then Shelyn’s musical voice cut through their isolation and led them through their vows.

The chefs had outdone themselves at the wedding breakfast that followed. Alexei, with his beard and hair washed and brushed to its most gleaming appearance, was alone amongst the noble guests in not partaking of at least a nibble of the many dishes that were brought out, and Svetlana’s friends and family from her humble home ate with great gusto and pleasure. Toasts were made by men and gods and a celebratory atmosphere pervaded the entire city.

Once all had eaten and drunk their fill, Noleski led his wife back to the great hall in order to formally coronate her; introducing her as ‘Queen Svetlana Sertova’, they led the dancing.

The party continued into the early hours next day and if the couple at the centre of it had snuck off a little early no one could blame them.