Friday, January 27, 2012

Carrion Crown: Trial of the Beast pt. 3

Searching the Chymic Works
Silence had settled over the field of battle, mainly constituted by the sour and chemically smelling basement of the Vogstag and Grime chymic works. Besides from the bubbling from the huge tanks filled to the brim with bleach or acid, only the faint sound of dripping blood could be heard from the various scattered corpses.
The heroes were silently resting against the walls, catching their breaths through the chemic air. It had been a bloody and merciless battle, one which they barely walked away from with their lives intact. At this time, they heard the door open upstairs, and immediately sprang to their feet. Luckily, they realized, it was Grendel the halfling, who’d made his way through their tracks. After a brief update, he noticed the mutilated body of Vorgstag (still impaled by Mutt’s halberd) and the splattered mongrelmen. The problem, as the heroes saw it, was that so far they’d only acted in self-defense. If they wished for any kind of evidence, they had to case the joint, seeing as they had not left any witnesses alive. A very interesting point, however, was how they noticed scars on Vorgstag’s shoulders. Aldarion recognized these as a bite from a very strong Caiman.
Beginning from the top floor, they rummaged through some old depots, in which they only found minor alchemical items, such as a few thunderstones and some poison. In Grine’s chamber they discovered a small strongbox and a key concealed in a jar with transparent fluid. Noticing that the strongbox was trapped, the heroes assumed something of value was within, and decided to pour out the content of the jar before retrieving the key (as I once said, my players have enough experience in this field to never stick their hands into something unidentified). Opening the strongbox they found some gold and a few nice diamonds.
In Grine’s room they also located a ladder leading upwards into the small tower, but a soundburst trap on the lock sent Edward back to the floor and unleashed a swarm of Snapjaw Humunculi. Devious little fiends who are able to administer sleeping-poison. (These likely won’t be a huge challenge for any party, really, unless the trap stunned a lot beforehand. The poison DC is a mere 13 which most PC’s should be able to muster at this time) But besides from some additional loot, the heroes found nothing in the attic.
It was in Vorgstag’s chambers things got interesting, though. Besides from an impressive collection of books and vials on the shelves, a door led them to another department in which a very solid cabinet rested against the wall. Upon opening it, they were shocked to find several grim coats of skin hanging in a row, some of them still dripping with blood. Mutt even recognized some of them as people who recently disappeared from the area. Of particular notice was a huge, grotesque skin of the biggest mongrelmen they had ever seen. It carried warts, seeping wounds and several deformities.
Through a thorough search, the heroes also uncovered an old ledger, mentioning several names the alchemist brothers had shady dealings with. Two of the recent ones were Dr. Brada of Sanctuary and a Mr. Vrood. The heroes decided to bring it all along. They needed to make haste, as the last call for the trial was only 1½ hour away.
Despite the fact that just about everyone in the party was dry on resources, they decided to take a closer look at the basement door. Besides from an old corridor there didn’t seem to be much of interest. However, they quickly made a gruesome discovery when they found a room with an old coffin and a corpse touched by the gentle repose-spell. Another ledger described how most of them were shipped to various names in the city of Caliphas. A small exit apparently lead into the sewers of Lepidstadt.
Quickly backtracking, the heroes discovered another grim room, its entire floor flooded. It was impossible to gauge how deep, however, as more than 30 corpses were floating around on the surface. The heroes were shocked, and decided to call in the authorities, sending Mutt to fetch a band of city guards.
The guards arrived on the scene shortly after, the sergeant obviously horrified with what he saw. He ordered three of his men to stay and guard the heroes, while he and a rookie searched the first floor and two others took the basement. Things went smooth till the heroes heard two loud screams from the lower corridor and then…silence.
Teeming with anxiety, the sergeant grabbed their arms.
“What in the hells was that?” he almost screamed. “What just happened to my men?”
“I’m not sure,” Edward said hesitantly “we thought there was nothing down there”
“It certainly seems so, doesn’t it? Get down there and find out! We’ll stay behind and cover your backs!”
Reluctantly the heroes climbed down into the fray once more and found two new traces of blood. They both led to the flooded room, in which they now saw the two dead guards float around on the top. Gently leaning forward, Mutt tried to fish them out with his halberd.
And that’s when the Zombie Ninjas made their move.
Two fists exploded through the surface of the water, planting a solid punch in Mutt’s crotch (yes, that’s how Stunning Fist works). The barbarian didn’t succumb to the effect, but when combat started in the following round, both undead monks emerged and unleashed a flurry of blows, beating him half to death.
Edgar immediately came to his rescue and casted one of his final healing spells, but it wasn’t enough, as Mutt was down to 3 HP in the following round. Grendel and Aldarion attempted various spells, but due to the monks’ high touch-AC and immunity to Magic Missile it quickly became evident that they had to rely on an old faithful strategy:

Sprinting through the corridors and on to the ladder, the heroes screamed at the sergeant to get the hell out of there with his men. Seeing the zombie ninjas made the poor commoner lose his senses as he howled like a stuck pig and ran into the streets followed by his men. The heroes could barely hear him shout “Monsters! Monsters! Summon the militia!”
The heroes managed to dismantle the ladder up before the zombies climbed it and not waiting to see their solution, they aborted the mission and followed the city guards.
Around 10 minutes later a heavy group of militia arrived at the scene, demanding some answers. Getting pretty much the same story as the Watch, they went in with the heroes, only to deduct that everyone had left the building. The zombie ninjas had escaped, and apparently had stolen some kind of alchemical vials from Vorgstag’s shelves, and in the turmoil, whatever creature had been linked in the courtyard had broken loose from its small house, and likely now roamed free.
Assuring the treat to the city had subsided, the militia left the heroes to gather their evidence, with slight word of warning not to cause any additional trouble.
(They aren’t exactly ninjas, but ‘variant human juju-zombie monks’. There is some decent fluff behind them, but other than that they can be a bit nasty if your party confronts them low on resources. And without magical weapons, which just makes matters much, much worse. In a sense they do seem oddly out of place, but as they’re actually sentient beings, I found it reasonable they’d find their freedom and get the hell out of there while they could. The zombies hate Vorkstag and Grine and for the same reason stopped their attacks and pursuit once they saw their bodies.
Do notice that these guys have DR 5/magic slashing, immunity to cold, lightning, magic missiles and boast a fire resistance of 10. Oh, and +4 channel resistance and evasion. They don’t go down easily.)
They're not ninjas. They're 'variant human juju zombie monks'. (Picture from 'The Gamers 2')
The First Trial – Morast
The heroes met up with Gustav Kaple not long after, who eagerly wanted to know what this morning’s ruckus was all about. With no time to explain, they quickly updated him on the situation and the defendant suddenly became eager. He wanted to know whether any of the heroes would take up the mantle as speaker on the Beast’s behalf once the trial began?

Giving this some consideration, the group decided to nominate Edgar the cleric for this. With some reluctance he agreed.
The courtroom was full as they entered. People from all over Lepidstadt had shown up and were already booing and shouting profane words at the huge beast sitting in its cage in the middle of the room. Present were the three high-judgeds of Lepidstadt, including their patron Embreth Daramid. The herald of the court presented them each in turn, including the Holy Sister of Justice whose entire purpose was to make sure no magic made its way into the room.
Entering from the other side of the room was Otto Heiger. A man in his best age, blond swirly hair and a smile that would launch an armada of ships. As he appeared, the booing immediately turned into cheering and celebration, people shouting his name over and over, till the judges called for order.
The Beast on trial
The procedure in Lepidstadt was in itself simple. At first the prosecutor would make his speech and interrogate whatever witnesses he wished. Then the defendant would do the same.
Then a short finishing round from the prosecutor in which he had the opportunity to address the remaining issues, and then the closing statement of the defending side.
(The adventure path provides you with a certain program you can follow, if you want to run the trial RP-heavy. If not, you can simply skip it right away. I tend to love just a little bit of drama and allowed my players to pledge their case before the court, and this method seems to be short as well as providing enough space for a good scene. Remember that usually only one person will make the stand, so people might easily get bored watching one guy having fun.)
 Otto Heiger didn’t need to make any deep statement, he was greeted as a true hero upon arrival. People were overwhelmed with joyful vengeance as he loudly and clearly called his witness, Elder Lazna of Morast. The Elder repeated his story about the Beast abducting 10 people in Morast just a year ago, and how they managed to set it up and chase it into the swamp, in which it was eaten by a Caiman. It was evident from there, Heiger said, that the beast was a murderer and should be put down for good.
Heiger also called in the young scout from Morast, who escorted the heroes to the restlands and saw them dig up the graves. Happily testifying against them, Heiger made sure to give the people of Lepidstadt an impression that the people defending the Beast could very well be just a gruesome and beastly in nature.
Edgar got up and sternly presented the judges with the fact that even though the claims were true; they had disturbed the open graves, they did nothing that had not already been done. Being heroes of action and not mere words, they’d been through several challenges and conflicts to find the evidence needed to clear out the Beast’s name. There was no doubt that the creature was innocent in this matter, due to the following:
- The graves had obviously been tampered with in Morast, which linked the corpse-merchants to the scene.
- The surgical tools at the scene used to belong to Vorkstag, meaning the skin-stealer had more than likely been at the scene.
- Vorkstag also had obvious Craiman-bites on his shoulder.
- Vorkstag’s disguise obviously resembled the one described by Elder Lazne. The old man even seemed to recognize it in court.
- Vorkstag collected skins and dealt in shady body-snatching business. This entire thing was a setup!
- Even further, the removed face of the poacher Nan Klebem was found at the scene in Morast, hinting further to his presence there.
Once done, Heiger pointed out the cunning stunt of this. While the alchemist could indeed have been guilty in such notorious business, the heroes couldn’t manage to provide even a single witness to back up their claim. Sure, the strings could fit, but in Heiger’s optic this could just as well be speculation and coincidence. The citizens of Lepidstadt would do well to remember their common sense.
Edgar finished the trial by pointing out that they had concrete results and not just mere words and talk from people, and hoped that the judges would see reason.
There was silence in the room for quite some time, before someone in the back broke it by starting to hurl rotten vegetables at the Beast. The big creature immediately curled up in his cage and was escorted out. Edgar, quickly placing himself between the Beast and the mob, didn’t get to say much before the hammer of Chief-Judge Ambrose Khard thundered through the room. The case was closed for today. Tomorrow the trial of the lost children of Hergstag would commence.
Gustav ran to the heroes, arms flailing and excitement shining from his eyes. This was amazing! He’d never seen anything like it. The heroes had managed to mute the angry crowd of Lepidstadt. He would congratulate them even further, but they had to be quick now. In less than 24 hours, the trial of Hergstag would begin, and the Beast was accused for slaying six children there, just seven months ago. Gustav recommended the heroes to either go directly to Hergstag tonight, or visit the three crown witnesses, the sisters Garrow, Starle and Flicht, who owned an old windmill outside of town.
The heroes decided to take a rest first, and set out with the darkness that night.
It was 21 before they got up, and rode out of Lepidstadt.
(Mechanic-wise the trial isn’t that hard to keep track of.  In a nutshell, the heroes have to make continual Diplomacy checks whenever they wish to present a piece of evidence. Should they succeed in enough, determined by their actions in the area, the trial will go in their favor. Getting powerful evidence usually provides a solid bonus to the roll.
I made their rolls in secrecy, as I find this adds a lot more excitement to the process.
My players did well on the first case. They found some of the really solid evidence and had some good rolls. The real question is whether they can keep it up the following days. Besides from not raising the issue in court, that there was an empty potion of darkvision at the Morast Camp, I’m pretty sure they got around them all. This also nets the party a healthy sum of XP.)
Heading for Hergstag
The heroes started by visiting Garrow, Starle and Flicht. The three sisters, correctly, owned a small windmill outside town and were surprised to see them, but nonetheless invited them in. Starle, the oldest sister, told them that seven months ago, children started disappearing from the town and nobody knew why. As the fear and horror grew among the citizens, it quickly turned into pure anger the day the Beast marched into town, carrying the dead child Ellsa in his arms. And he was laughing.
The villagers turned upon him, he dropped the corpse and fled. Once the sixth child died, the entire town decided to abandon the area for good.
Aldarion attempted to explain that while the Beast could appear to be laughing he was in fact crying, but this evoked very hostile feelings in Starle, who demanded to know whether he called her a liar?
Diplomatically asking for more information, Edgar attempted to plant doubt or analysis in the mind of the sister, as he had a strong feeling that she was keeping something from them. Eventually he addressed the more silent sister, Garrow, directly, and firmly told her to tell what she knew.
Almost breaking down, she burst halfway into tears.
“You shouldn’t go there!” she cried “that place is now land of evil. The spirits haunt it!”
“Be silent,  Garrow! That’s nothing but fancy tales, we all know the Beast did it!” Starle snapped.
“Maybe. Or maybe not. Did you not find it odd that little Karin died two days after we drove away the Beast? In her bed, even. With no signs of breaking in!”
“The Beast is a demonic force not to be reckoned with, Sister! Who knows what kind of infernal powers he possesses?”
“You say you saw spirits?” Aldarion asked. “What kind of spirits?”
“The spirits of the dead children. They began walking the town at night. We all saw them, but only a few of us dared speak about it. You know this as well as I do,  Starle!”
Starle eyed them all solemnly before lowly uttering “I think you should all leave now…”
It was only a wee bit over midnight when the heroes arrived at the desolace town of Hergstag. Beyond the cold night wind that swept through the tall grass, there was no sound or movement to register. Approaching from the south, they followed the river north, till they reached an old temple of Chauntea. It had been forsaken for quite some time and nothing of value remained. From what the heroes could see, an old overgrown trail led further north into the town-ruins. Following it, it became clear that nobody had trespassed on these lands for months. The Ustalavanian rain and harsh weather had brought hard times upon them, and without the repairs and attendance from the former inhabitants the town quickly degenerated into an overgrown rubble. Not all was lost, however, and in its midst stood six significantly preserved buildings, peaking towards the starry sky like giants in the gloom.
Approaching the first building, the heroes carefully took a look inside the dark hole of a half collapsed wall. Grendel suddenly noticed a grey shape of a child. It stared at him and beckoned him to follow. He noticed it pointing at an old pile of bricks laying nearby.
Full of halfling trust, he immediately approached it, and before his comrades could stop him, a bear-trap closed itself around him with a loud snap. In the next second, the eerie child-shade set upon them with a howl.
Its ghostly form nimbly scaled the difficult terrain below them, as it struck Mutt with a chilly touch, draining life from his very soul. Negative energy cackled through him, and the warmth of life slowly began fading. Caught in the trap, Grendel was unable to move but managed to hurl a barrage of magic missiles towards the wraithling. Soon afterwards, it was destroyed, uttering a sharp whisper: “…He will get to you…”
Consulting their knowledge of the subject, Aldarion realized that these children were indeed wraith-spawns, likely created by a nearby master wraith. And destroying it would likely grace them all with a will of their own. They agreed to push on to the next house, in which they encountered a similar child, this time the one of Ellsa herself. Again they felt the cold touch of death upon them, and she whispered about the master being here, waiting.
At the third house their resources were pretty thin, but they nonetheless managed to destroy a third wraithling, a boy, who uttered “…on the hill…” as he slowly faded into nothingness. Determined to find the master behind it all, the heroes went to the top of the nearby hill, at which they found an old forsaken Scarecrow. A faint growling was barely audible. It sounded like an old man sneering “…leave…now!”.
At this point, Mutt drew an Alchemist Fire and mumbled “I’ve had it with these Wraiths…” before he lobbed it unto the scarecrow. Catching flames, a dark shape immediately flew into existence with a howl of anger. The wraith manifestation of now deceased Brother Swarm rose up to meet his foes.
It was a fierce battle, in which the heroes met the challenge by distributing the constitution drains as best as possible. Mutt managed to bolster his weapon through oils and alchemical ingredients, so he was able to inflict some wounds on the wraith. Eventually, Brother Swarm ceased to be and faded into nothingness with a final shriek. Upon searching his remains and the nearby hill, the heroes found what looked like an old hole down.
What horrors awaited them down there had to wait till next Wednesday.
(So yeah, I fucked up. I really did. Gaming after a long workday has some serious pitfalls, such as reading monster entries way wrong. In this case I basically gave the wraiths energy drain against a level 5 party. Which is quite frankly a bit over the top. Luckily, it never had any significant impact on the final fight, as nobody died and they pulled through quite well. So yeah, joke was on me, and I deserved the dummy hat this time around. Well done! Apart from that, there is still much investigation work to be done in Hergstag, albeit far from as much as the previous case. The heroes can confront all of the wraithlings, but it will tax their resources.
All in all, I really like the element of urgency in this adventure path. It’s been received with mixed feelings from my players so far, but the fact that they are on such a tight schedule really forces them to prioritize their time and resources in combat. With eight hours of rest plus time spent preparing spells, there isn’t much room for ‘resting it out’ between encounters. All in all, very well done. Stay tuned for next week, in which we’ll see what the heroes find in Hergstag, and the second chapter in the trial against the Beast).

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Day 04 – Your best WoW memory

And so on the fourth day we approach one of the ever classic topics, your favorite memory.
This is, truth to be told, not an entirely easy task for a game you’ve played for more than six years. For the very same reason, I'm going to list a few minor ones.

”Oh yeah, let's stomp some Murlocs, that sounds like fun!”
Murlocs are always fun, but a lot of people have painful memories of their first encounter with these fiendish denizens of Azeroth's depths. Including me. Meaning I'm still haunted by the mrruuglglglglgf-sound in my very dreams.

To the outsiders, however, my initial experience with the gits might seem pretty ”likely should've been there”. It mostly involved how I played with four real life friends back in vanilla, and often level together as a group. To be honest, this is truly the force of MMO's.
We were out taking a stroll in Westfall, only in our mere sweet 16's and our current quest was the treasure map of Captain Sanders (Thank you, Blizz, I really love this quest, even now that you've shattered one of my favorite zones). As we padded along the beach, I suddenly remarked to my warrior-friend ”Oh, we should totally tackle that bunch of murlocs!” (hinting at the massive encampment of around nine of them next to us). Before any of us had a chance to intervene, the warrior basically went ”RIGHT! MURLOC STEW COMING UP!!!1111” and charged right into them.

It was a basic wipe, which in itself is not particularly funny to non-masochists. What really made it worthwhile, though, was how everyone was screaming and smashing their keyboards to get away from the horde of murlocs ascending from the beach. With people yelling at the top of their lungs, screaming ”YOU FOOL!” ”MORONS!!” and the like, the warrior angrily hurled insults back ”YOU SAID WE COULD TAKE THEM U FAGGS!!”
So, yeah, I'm still laughing at the scene. All it needed was Benny Hill-music.

”At least the dog still loves me”
Let's have another one like this.
Back in Burning Crusade I was part of a really good and ambitious raid guild for some time, easily clearing our way to Sunwell before falling apart. Our combined raid-guild-dkp-officer-main-tank-warrior (who surprisingly burned out later on) was on the top of his game, but once things went bad he'd often take the blame solely upon himself. Initially everyone would try to calm him down or assure him that we were all noobish amateurs, etc. But in the end people likely had enough and just started rolling with it, often joining in and blaming him for some of the largest disasters in the history of mankind, now that we'd started it anyway.

One particular night on A'lar, things likely got a bit out of hands. People had a great time bashing the poor soul for his mistakes, which suddenly resulted in a very meek and sad raid leader who on vent said ”...At least my dog still loves me...”
Again, nothing in this statement is particularly funny, but once put into context, and half the raid typing ”................” in raid-chat, things really went up to speed. I'm not going to elaborate, but some of those suggestions as to what our raid leader actually did with that dog were varying from downright lame to sick. I have no idea how this stupid dog became the running joke for about a week on vent, but god damn, every time the love-relationship between it and our guild leader came up, laughter was ensured from everyone.

”The Burning Crusade”
It's impossible to be more specific. But I loved TBC so much that I'd marry it. Everything about this expansion was pure genius (well, just about everything...*looks at the attunement quests*). The zones were good, the raids and instances seemed imaginative and the whole concept of a fantastic world as Outland was handled so well.

I loathe Wrath for being nothing but emo and dead snow, and whereas Shadowmoon Valley was just as horrible, zones such as Zangmarash, Nagrand and Netherstorm are honestly the best in Blizzard History, if you ask me. The leveling process (which is sadly way too fast now, if you want to encounter all of Outland while leveling) was noticeable back then but who cared? They were often fun, the new factions made it all worth it and some of them even meant something in the long run as well.

I stopped right before Sunwell in TBC. Never saw it, didn't really mind. Everything up to that had been good, I truly enjoyed SSC and even though Mt. Hyjal could easily have been a bit more imaginative, it felt interesting.
There were issues, of course. Karazhan suffered, in my eyes, for the odd requirements to a 10-man raid. With some setups, it could be really, REALLY hard to beat some encounters. Heroics were great, but some of them came with a frustratingly steep learning curve. I don't want to sound like an entitled casual, because we did complete them all and worked hard to do so. But at times it wouldn't have hurt to have done it a tiny bit faster.

And finally, the grand memory to rule them all:

The downing of Kael'thas Sunstrider

Yes.
My feelings towards this guy are ambivalent at best. I absolutely thought he was the most bad ass character in the Warcraft 3 TFT-expansion. Kael just seemed likeable.
But in WoW he returns as a major douchebag, more specifically he's a boss in Tempest Keep, the old TBC-raid instance.

For those of you who haven't done this fight, you really owe it to yourself to try it out. Even at 85.
There is so much going on here (bear in mind I haven't really tried any raid in Cata, so I'm not out to compare) and with 25 people it's easily fucked majorly up. In a nutshell, you have to defeat his four advicers one by one, before he summons an army of (really hurtful) weapons that must be AOE'd down quickly. Everyone in the raid then immediately needs to pick one up, according to their class, and perform certain duties with it. In the meantime, however, he resurrects his four advisers all at once, and you have to deal with them quickly, before Kael himself engages in the fight.
Once he does, he has several mechanisms. Tanks need to use the special shield to safeguard against his insta-gibbing pyroblasts, dpsers need to lower his shield so they can interrupt his second cast, rogues need to stab mind controlled people with the legendary daggers, casters need to active the buff from the staff, otherwise he will disorient everyone, and so on.

In addition he also summons flamestrikes that will slay moronic mages not moving away from it. And phoenixes. They hurt for a lot of fire damage, and when they die, they spawn an egg that must be burned down as soon as possible, otherwise the phoenix resurrects. Of course, he keeps summoning so you're easily overwhelmed.

When brought sufficiently down, he'll tear apart Tempest Keep and launch everyone into the air, in which you have to swim around to avoid being zapped by others. Getting too close to the ground is bad as well.

So finally, the rest of the fight becomes a bit basic, alternating between gravity launches and blasting Kael.

We spent roughly a month on this fuck. It might sound like a really long time, but the problem was we usually had 1/3 of the raid replaced by new people (since we were a reasonably big guild) who had to be trained up. And it was so annoyingly frustrating.
BUT!
The night we got him, was the best in my entire life of WoW
I still have it on kill-video, I survived all to the end and we got him. I clearly remember our raid leader (with his dog,likely) crying on Vent and how we went to Ironforge to celebrate for half an hour. My entire body was full of adrenaline, I was god damn psyched! I'd been on the edge of my chair, oblivious about the outside world for so long and it finally happened. Everyone was tired then. And fed up with this encounter. And we deserved all the glory we could get.

I don't think I'll ever have such a feeling again.

Stay tuned for the next update!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

20 Days of WoW Blogging - Day 03 – Your first day playing WoW

My first day playing WoW has to, first and foremost, be seen in a context. Otherwise it’d make for a far less interesting story.
Ignoring the fact that I was in beta, of which there is preciously little to tell about besides from LAAAAAAAG, I began playing WoW around August, 2005. This was the time I’d returned from living in the UK for half a year. As I resided in a very Christian, ascetic (some would say ‘archaic’) community, computers were sparse and only allowed me to read about WoW, so needless to say, my excitement and expectations were massive.
I’d just started university a month before, which in hindsight might not have been the best timing on my part. Nonetheless, the interesting fact is I bought my World of Warcraft from a friend who’d bought it for himself but didn’t dare start on it (YOU KNOW BECAUSE U GET ADDICTED AND LEIK NO LEIF!!!1). So, no reason letting an unopened package laying around.
I remember having really great troubles actually setting up my account. I actually was so sure about this game that I bought a game card in advance. I also remember calling up my friend in the middle of the night because I wasn’t sure about how to install it. Which seems really, really odd in hindsight. But I suppose things weren’t as stable back then, or something.
Menethil Harbor in alpha
The first 24 hours in WoW for me could best be described as somehow psychedelic or trance-like. Once I finally booted it up, I remember eagerly logging in on Nordrassil  and rolling a warrior. I’d known for months I wanted a warrior called SirAshram (from ‘Record of Lodoss War’) and that’s what I got.
It’s dangerous to WoW alone, take these! (All the cool players are doing it!)
I can’t explain the thrill I had when Northshire Abbey appeared and the myriad of wolves and kobolds were swarming in front of me. I was home. I’d been so hyped on WoW for so long and now it was finally there! In that light, it might seem odd that I said ‘Right, just a couple of hours to see if it’s still fun and then go shopping’.
The next time I looked at the clock, the store had closed two hours ago.
I began on a Friday, and was supposed to go to a LARP-event the following week (yes, I actually used to LARP). Needless to go, I got very little time to prepare. In fact, I didn’t sleep the entire weekend. I collapsed around Sunday night at 1AM, woke up at eight and pushed through the event.  
I clearly remember a friend of mine who noticed my shit face and asked about it. When he heard I’d started playing WoW he nodded and later returned with a handful of energy extracts. “Take these,” he said “they should optimize your efficiency!”. They weren’t exactly drugs (or illegal for that matter, I think it was nature medicine somehow) but yeah, they really kicked in once I got back home. Thursday-Sunday on the following week pretty much followed the same pattern. 
Darkshire in alpha
REND!!! And my first green drop.
For those of you who played in vanilla, you’ll likely agree with me that things were quite different back then, at least compared to the difficulty and involvement in leveling. It could be pretty frigging brutal. Some classes had it easier than others when it came to leveling, whereas others sadly neglected when they didn’t have a group. Warrior was one as such. As vanilla was way more focused on group-leveling than Cataclysm, running around as either warrior or priest could be an extreme drag.
In addition, I was new, so I suffered from the usual syndrome of spamming whatever ability you thought sounded cool. In my case it was rend (because of awesome sound) and thunderclap (because of awesome element from Warcraft 3).  I managed to get my ass through the starting area through said abilities and happily began an eclectic approach throughout my talent trees, all the time carrying my faithful shield and a +stam +int sword.
Oh yeah, and if I got more than one mob on me at the time, I’d run away. Otherwise I’d die.
Luckily, Elwynn forest was and always will be kind of cozy and I enjoyed walking around for a bit. I killed some monsters from time to time and then it happened………
THIS DROPPED!
Malachite

HOLY MOTHERF… SWEET!!
A GEM! OMG! I’M RICH! AND IT’S EVEN GREEN!
I’ve named him ‘Gemmy’ (yes, I know) ever since. Sadly, Gemmy doesn’t exist anymore, he was later deleted. In sadness.
Happily carrying Gemmy, I went to Westfall. Of course, getting my ass royally handed to me by Hogger first. In Westfall I had my first meet up  with masochism. Defias Pillagers. An interesting note for you; besides from Vaelastrasz , the old statistic page noted Defias Pillagers as the mob who that’d killed the second highest amount of players in the game. I remember how I’d charge them, scream in terror as they’d drop my health to 45% in one fireball, and then I’d repeatedly hit ‘Rend’ over and over. It was an instant attack, I needed more damage, fast!! And then I’d die.
‘Let me guess, this is your first time playing a warrior, right?’
I joined up with a rogue who also had trouble with the Defias. Together we cleared out some harvesters too, when finally ANOTHER GREEN DROPPED!! It was a caster cloak.
And then this really weird thing popped up on my screen. Something with need or greed? I wasn’t really sure what the hell this was about, so I thought that the cloak might as well sell for a decent price and I needed the money. Soooeh… involuntary ninja at your service.
The rogue first became angry with me, and I originally thought he was taking the piss with me or wanted it for himself. We had a short argument before he finally understood that I’d made a mistake and let me keep it. Instead we found a camp of bandits and he wrote me “Wait here, I’ll sap!”
So he stealthed in, sapped a bandit and I thought “right, that’s my mark!”. I charged in, thunderclapped and we got owned.
On our corpse run back, he discretely wrote me “Let me guess, this is your first time playing a warrior, right?” and I was extremely embarrassed.  Somehow, being a warrior wasn’t all I’d hoped for it to be.
This was pretty much Sentinel Hill in vanilla
I USED TO BE A TONK, THEN I FAILED TO TAKE AN ARROW IN THE KNEE!
Maybe it was cruelty, maybe it was an attempt to cheer me up. Eventually, the rogue encouraged me to go with him to Deadmines. In honesty, he maybe just wanted a tank from the start.
Getting a group together back then was a bitch. Before dungeon finder or even meeting stones AFAIK, all you could do was to enter trade-chat. Pretty much like in The Old Republic.
We made it, nonetheless, and went in.
I can’t remember enough to elaborate on this, but it was bad. The hunter-pet did most of the tanking, I usually ran in first, slapped the mobs a bit with my wooden sword and they’d head for the mage. Luckily we had a really good healer along, and we made it as far as to Van Cleef, and then the wipe fest began for real. I don’t think we ever finished the instance, as the healer did a rage-quit.
Eventually, I’d play my warrior for a few more levels. Then I abandoned him and started a rogue on Hellscream with my real life friends.
Looking back now…
It’s really interesting to notice how far we’ve come since then, when you think about it. The game has changed in so many ways, has become so much more friendly to new people and no matter how you turn and look at it, less hardcore. If only we stop at that statement and refrain from judging the rightness of it, my warrior experience might very well have been totally different today. I do have two warriors around mid level, but tend to prefer damage roles as usual. The damage warrior was a pretty much an unheard concept in vanilla WoW, especially at level 60. The threat generation has also been significantly improved ever since, which I felt during the (very limited) time I tanked in Wrath.
Be that as it may, I really hope that I one day will be able to reexperience the immense rush that fell over me, the first week in which I played WoW. Skyrim and Dragon Age Origins both came close, but not entirely there.
Yes, I’m looking at you, Diablo 3.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

20 Days of WoW Blogging - Day 1+2 - Introduce yourself and the blog

At times I decide to do strange things for no apparent reason. Starting a blog about WoW about a month after writing ANOTHER blog about it being time to leave the game seems to be one of them for sure.
But I have good reason.

I suppose the real stupid thing, once we get down to it, was actually renewing the account a month later, but I also have a very valid reason for that as well. You see; it's not (only) about TOR being somewhat a disappointment, I basically saw that coming some miles away.
The story behind the decision would be the fact that this Christmas, something magical happened. I got my official WoW-Cataclysm mouse. If you know what I'm talking about, you're aware that this is one sexy mouse and I've had my eyes on it for years. But despite it being high on my list for birthdays and Christmas, it never happened and I abandoned all hope. In a sense, I think a lot of people didn't understand why on earth someone would need so many buttons on such an expensive mouse.

BUT ONE DOES!

So it happened, my greedy little hands unwrapped the gift and there it was. Shining from its box, all metally and awesome. I originally tried it with TOR, but I had to be brutally honest with myself: I always wanted this mouse for WoW. Always.
My ex had it and used it a lot for healing and it seemed so much easier. I also heard that a lot of DPS classes benefited from it. All in all, there is no friggin point in having such an expensive mouse laying around and not play the game it was intended for. Period.

And so, being the writer that I am, I decided to start on a fresh. When I noticed this writing-challenge on DeviouslyDev’s blog, I thought I might as well give it a go. With my previous attempts at 'A Healer's Journey' and 'Orgrimmar - Gold never sleeps' I've actually been missing writing about WoW. Somehow I could never get into the spirit with TOR.

So /who am I?
I'm Maynard, psychologist and owner of the geeky site Negativethac0. Besides from my love of Warhammer, D&D and hedgehogs, I'm a WoW-addict.

Why? - Simple, it's my most used facial expression when gaming, really.
I began playing the game in its early beta in 2004, back in which I started as a night elf priest. The game was, to put it lightly, pretty unstable and didn't really feature that much back then. I lived in the UK for some time before heading home and rejoining Azeroth that had now been officially released.

As I've described more thoroughly in other posts, I was mainly active in Vanilla and The Burning Crusade, in which I raided as a rogue and a warlock respectively. I got to see the first encounters of the original Naxxramas and stopped at Sunwell in TBC. From thereon I've been somewhat on and off the game for various projects, going to see the new Naxx and experiencing the new ZG in Cata (which is nowhere near as fun as the raid-zone). I take pleasure in leveling characters, mostly due to the game's unrestrictive demands of you. Compared to earlier days, leveling can now be done rather fast and in a steady pace that doesn't demand as much strategizing as usual.

I've been in various guilds in my time, from the bleeding edge raiders to the pure social mental cases. During TBC I GM'ed our own guild consisting of pure real life friends, but I've put that responsibility behind me for now. I don't want WoW to be a restrain on my time, but something I can enjoy and relax to when I'm not with clients.

I've always been in love with the DPS-classes, mostly because they are the hardest group to excel in, as I see it. I did healing and very little tanking, which mostly seemed like you either got it or you didn't. With so many DPS'ers, of which several are morons, making yourself stand out and be preferred above the rest is the ultimate kick.

With the return to Cata as it is, I am currently running on my (second) mage 'Brunchofdoom' (Silvermoon, EU, Ally) simply because...well, mages are awesome. My rogue is retired after long and faithful duty, among which is the 'Insane in the Membrane' FOS. I used to be very fond of Warlocks, but in the end I figured that the way I wanted to play them was really made for mages. So there.
And fire all the way, of course.


My char-name originates from the CCG 'The Spoils'
If you aren't familiar with it, you should be.


You honestly expect to complete this?
No idea, I love writing, and as long as my work allows it, I prefer to sit down and write every day. Whereas the Healing-project went very well, it also ended before the real meat; the Cataclysm experience. Mostly because I didn't like the change of healing-style everything took. I've got no idea whether that has changed now, to be honest, but I really liked being able to keep the group up, almost carrying them trough. Cata certainly didn't intend for me to do so. I know a lot of people are happy about this, and I share their joy, truly.

Project Orgrimmar (basically, see how much gold I can make if I really bother) might actually go on and be rebooted as 'Stormwind - Gold never AFKs' if I like Silvermoon so much I'll move my money makers there (and faction change them, ugh...money). We'll see. For now, this is a blog meant to do some writing about WoW, once again.

Let's hope the best.
Oh yeah, if you think this is going to be updated on a day-to-day basis, I'll have to say no. I'll do my best to keep it up to date, of course. But no promises.

Carrion Crown: Trial of the Beast pt. 2

So, from the longest Carrion Crown post, to the perhaps shortest. I suppose we’re still safe within statistical borders.
But truth to be told, while our latest session was indeed neither longer nor particularly shorter than the ordinary, it didn’t involve an overwhelming amount of action as the investigation truly took over. I will do my best to relay the experience in this week’s blog, but be prepared for some of my personal GM-ramblings. Additionally, we had a small attendance, as two of our players were on holiday, leaving Aldarion the conjurer, Mutt the barbarian and Edgar the cleric behind. Yet, we thought it worth to play anyway.
The Manticore had crashed into the surface of the Morast-swamp like a meteor into an ocean. A lot of water had been sprayed all over the place, and Mutt emerged victorious with the intimidating head of the beast on his shoulder. Throwing it to the ground, he shrugged and said “So, we had business here, right?”
“I suggest we start searching this place thoroughly,” Edgar said “perhaps we will find some clues as to what happened exactly.”
They spread out and began making perception checks on the small isle. Close to the Manticore nest they found the aged corpse of a dead dwarf, wearing a brightly colorful cape and poor remains of a once red beard. His possessions still intact, the heroes took them and noticed his presence. The young scout they brought along from Morast didn’t recognize him.
Despite some initial difficulties, they quickly found an old abandoned camp along the southern shore. Apparently, whoever owned it before was now long gone.
Besides an old wineskin, still containing some decent Ustalavanian wine, the heroes uncovered an old box containing decomposed rations and an empty vial smelling oddly of carrots.
“This smell,” Aldarion said “I recognize it. It’s an alchemist’s darkvision extract?”
“What would that be doing out here?” Edgar asked.
“I have no idea…”
Moving on they soon found a small boat, well hidden in the dense growth as well. Along with that, an old rope had been attached to something heavy, apparently on the bottom of the swamp. As they dragged it out of water, they saw it was a sack. The heroes then did some gruesome discoveries. Obvious stains of blood decorated the boat as well as the old large sack. Some mere artisan’s clothes involved an apron, old boots and a shirt, and three knives turned up along with them. What really caught their attention was an old human face, nothing but a thin sheet of skin. It looked old.
Staring at the grisly item, the young scout from Morast quickly pointed at it.
“That’s Nan Klebem!” he uttered. “At least, what’s left of him. He was a poacher who occasionally visited Morast, but he disappeared some time ago.”
“How long?”
“…about a year, I’d think?”
Edgar fiddled a bit with the boat and suddenly found an interesting small leather sack (the DC of this item is really high, but luckily the player rolled a natural 20 on his check). It contained a masterfully crafted set of surgical silver tools and knives, decorated with tiny gemstones. At the bottom a tiny raven was depicted.
“This hardly seems coincidental,” the cleric mumbled. “Any of you know about this?”
“I do,” Mutt said “That’s the mark of ‘Zbraslav Hora and Sons’. They have a shop in Lepidstadt, down at Anatomist Alley! I suppose we might pay them a small visit.”
As they were discussing, they managed to make another interesting observation. It seemed as if six graves were unusually sunken, as if someone had recently disturbed them. Mutt immediately snatched a shovel from the old boat and started digging. The young scout interfered, arguing fiercely that this was the old sacred ground of Morast and that the heroes had no rights to disturb it like that. With a high intimidation roll, Mutt yelled the scout back to the boat, and down a few levels from ‘friendly’ attitude. (This is truly something that will bite the heroes in the ass later on. See later blogs.)
They discovered that the graves were indeed empty. After pondering for a while, they concluded that someone had indeed stolen six bodies and that the face belonged to the presumably dead poacher Nan Klebem. They then headed back to Morast in order to investigate the poacher and the dead dwarf some more.
(GM’s take notice; Some words about the investigation technique in Trial: There are really two different ways to run it. The easy and the hard mode. As written, I do think the adventure intends for the easy mode, but it hands a lot to the players, as all it does, is making them roll the relevant skill whenever they stumble on something that could be a clue. Afterwards they’re awarded the fact and the XP for it.
The hard way, which I used, involves the players actually verbalizing their thoughts and conclusions aloud. In this case it happened through dialogue, and if you’ve read or played this adventure, you’ll know they missed out a couple of things. That being said, it’s not too late for them to make connections later on, and the logic involved isn’t always a bright as the adventure intends it to be.

Additionally, it was kind of a surprise to see how much of a red herring the dead dwarf became. My players were obsessing about him, and he barely has an identity in the adventure at all).
Returning to Lepidstadt
The heroes arrived at around 3AM back in town, in which most of the festivities had died out. Initially they decided to do some gathering of information about the dwarf (again, sometimes it’s so hard to keep the straight GM-face) and the poacher. Sadly, all good rolls had been spent in the swamp and they didn’t come up with anything they didn’t already know.
With the clock approaching 4AM, they decided to push the matter and actually seek out Zbraslav Hora and Sons at the late hours. Easily finding Anatomist Alley, they shortly after knocked on the door, loudly. Initially there was silence, before an elderly voice told them to go away and come back tomorrow.
It took a certain amount of persuasion and insurance that they merely wanted some information, weren’t with The Watch and most importantly; could pay handsomely for it.
Old Zbraslav remembered the surgical tools, and recommended them to seek out a woman named Vladka Kostel. She bought them quite some time ago. The name immediately rang a bell in Mutt’s head, as he and Vladka had some of a past together (Again, natural 20’es bind people together in Knowledge: Local checks). Last he heard, she was involved with an auction house led by Ollo Klud. The heroes paid their hefty sum for the information and immediately headed out.
Arriving late at night, there was a lot of fuss with the stationed guards, who happily took a significant bribe if they were to let the heroes enter the house. And even then, they didn’t bother waking up Vladka. While Mutt made sure not to reveal himself, Edgar spoke diplomatically to the young and confused woman in her night gown, explaining how much was at stake if they didn’t track down the owner of the tools.
Vladka felt sympathy for the heroes and after a payment, she accessed some old ledgers and found out that the alchemist Radniche bought them more than a year ago. He had his shop further down on Anatomist Alley.
BAD BOYS! Whatcha gonna do?
According to Vladka’s description, Radniche was a man with an unusually tall hat and green tinted glasses. The heroes were absolutely sure he was their man, so they took the time to closely inspect his shop. It was in two floors with a main entrance and three windows on the top floor. Breaking in without their rogue wasn’t an option and neither did they want to wait till 6AM at which he opened.
Spending more than half an hour offgame, they decided to perform a cunning plan…
It's flawless!
Edgar knocked on the door to the shop, quickly ran away. Immediately Aldarion projected a silent image of Vladka, standing on the street carrying the surgical tools.
Radniche opened his windows on the first floor, groggily looking down at her.
“Vladka?” he exclaimed “What are you doing here at these hours?”
The image merely made of silent gesture for him to be quiet and come down, as she began walking up the street.
(I don’t think there are any official rules dealing with this, but I tend to let such plans go just to see what comes next in the sick minds of my players)
Radniche became curious and got sparsely dressed, ran out on the street, locked the door and went after Vladka. In the meantime, Aldarion followed closely in the shadows, concentrating on his image.
“Vladka, what are you doing? What’s happening? Why aren’t you saying something? Hello?”
In the meantime, Mutt climbed the front of the store, made his way more or less silently through a window and went down into the store. The general idea was to find the basement, in which every bad guy stores his vile experiments. Locating a door at ground level, Mutt immediately began bashing it down, resulting in him setting off an Alarm trap.
Edgar ran off immediately, Mutt made a burst through the store and out on the street, and Aldarion quickly cancelled his illusion and headed for far away. Behind him, the angry screams of Radniche were loud and clear…
The party rendezvoused at ‘The Golden Cat’ half an hour later. The time was steadily approaching 5AM, and with only five more hours before the trial, they decided to give it an hour before heading down to the shop during daylight.
They then realized that despite nightly occurrences, the alchemist had his shop open for business. The heroes concluded it was time for a more subtle approach. Entering the store, Aldarion cast his mind reading spell and Edgar made sure to question Radniche about recent events regarding the beast and Morast, including the poacher. The alchemist seemed genuinely angry at what happened this night, and when asked about the subjects, he’d sincerely admit he knew very little about them. His thoughts confirmed the same, even that he had never even seen the Beast. So as the spell wore off, they both decided to buy four vials of anti-toxin and leave.
The morale was getting pretty low at this point. The Mutt got an idea.

Heading into the store, he presented himself as a bounty hunter, showing Radniche the surgical tools. He told him that he recently killed a gang of bandits carrying this, and now wanted to return it for a proper reward. Whereas the alchemist doubted the story a bit, he was also a greedy soul. For a 100 gold, he would gladly tell him who he sold those tools to, about 1½ year ago.
Mutt obliged and as Radniche counted his money he said “I sold them to that Vorkstag-fellow. Creepy guy. Came in here and seemed very interesting, owns the chymic works down the street. That’s all I know. Now, beat it! You’re bad for business!”
I need not mention how quickly the heroes moved on, their eyes sprung red and bloodlust teeming from their bodies.
(That was indeed extremely unexpected, but they players truly decided that Radniche was the evil guy, when he, in facts, is nothing more than another link in the investigation. Notice that I did leave out a few minor elements to keep it short, such as contacting Ollo Klud. The adventure also states that the stores are closed in this period of time, but I think it’s fair to let them pay their way through it. It’s a good opportunity if you want to trim out in their resources a bit.)
Alchemist Brothers Crash and Burn
The address provided led the heroes to a two-floor-building at the edge of town, with a tower and smog risings from chimneys. It was quite discrete, and nothing but a small sign indicated that this was a business. It read “Vorkstag and Grine’s Chymic Works”. A small iron fenced barred of a little courtyard, in which an old wagon rested and a main door, and a double door dominated the gable. Up on the first floor, another double door could be seen.
As the heroes entered they could hear a faint growling from a crudely constructed dog house. They felt that they were being watched by something in there. Yet, the creature didn’t throw itself at them immediately, but they certainly felt they weren’t welcome here.
Sadly, a whole night of defeat drove them to ring the bell loudly.
After a while the upper door opened and a small gnomish creature stuck out his head. He carried a deep blue cloak.
“What is it you want?” he sneered. “We’ve got more than enough customers!”
“We’re here to see Mr. Vorkstag!” Edgar said. “We have something he’d likely be interested in…”
“As I said, we have all the business we need. We’re not taking anymore orders. Now, leave!”
“I am afraid not! We are pretty sure Mr. Vorkstag would truly like to see this. It has relevance for the recent events that have occurred…”
The gnome fell silent. Then he snapped “Show me what it is!”
“Can’t do, we’re afraid. Get us an audience with Vorkstag and we will talk!”
“No, show it to me!”
“Audience!”
The gnome sized them up with his eyes. Then nodded.
“Wait here!” he finally said and shut the door.
10 minutes passed.
He then opened the small door to the side and waved them in.
Upon entering, they noticed the harsh smell of bleach and acid in the air. The sound of a factory heavily weighted upon their ears, and got louder as the gnome told them to crawl down the ladder, into the basement level. The heroes realized that the entire staff consisted of acid-struck mongrelmen, eyeing them suspiciously.
As soon as they reached the middle of the floor, they noticed the gnome still standing at the top of the stair. “I’ve kept half my part of the deal. Now, show me what it is that’s so interesting! NOW!”
Hesitantly the heroes revealed the surgical tools.
“Just as I suspected,” the gnome said. “I’m afraid you know too much. GET THEM!”
While the mongrelmen threw themselves at the heroes, the gnome turned into his true form, a dark creeper. Grine, as his name was, immediately fell into position and landed a sneak attack on Mutt with this throwing axe. The poison took no effect.
The heroes were far from rested and had limited resources, so Mutt started chopping some mongrelman, while Edgar moved to heal. Suddenly, they noticed a sinister being leaping down to their floor, barely wearing any flesh. It grinned, shining with magical buffs, and said “You were looking for me?” while obtaining an alchemist-bomb from its belt. They had found Vorkstag.
The alchemist lobbed a grenade into the fray and detonated the entire group for a solid amount of damage. On the following turn, Grine leaped into the fray, but couldn’t evade a powerful attack of opportunity from Mutt. Cursing, the creeper cast ‘Darkness’ in the area, rendering everyone but himself and Vorkstag blind (Vorkstag drinks his extract of Darkvision in advance)
Grine
Mutt remained in the darkness to keep the mongrelmen and Grine busy, whereas Edgar hurled himself at Vorkstag. He didn’t manage to inflict any damage, but got some beating of his own. Aldarion ran to the far corner of the room, out of the darkness, and conjured a deep pit below Vorkstag. Even with his mighty +11 reflex save, he rolled a 4 on his dice, and thus fell screamingly to the bottom.
Grine, happy in his natural element, chopped another  huge wound into Mutt, who had to advance out of the darkness, slowly. Even though the barbarian had an impressive health pool, it was dropping rapidly. He attempted to place another hit on Grine, but missed due to the darkness.
Edgar moved away from the pit and unleashed a channeling of positive energy, making sure to catch Mutt in the blast. Aldarion slowly advanced towards the pit, preparing a spell to push Vorkstag back into the pit, should he come out.
Vorkstag drank his spider climb potion and in the next turn began ascending the 20 foot deep pit. He did make it out and Aldarion’s roll wasn’t high enough to push him back into the pit. At this time, Mutt managed to land a mighty blow on Grine, dropping him well below 0 hit points. Vorkstag sneered at the death of his companion and furiously began hurling bombs at the party, hoping the remaining mongrel would provide a shield.
Elegantly evading attacks of opportunity, Vorkstag acrobatic’ed his way out of Mutt’s reach and flung a bomb right in his face. The barbarian bled severely. He had managed to evade some of the monster’s attacks, but the situation was tight. In a roar he sliced Vorkstag across the chest, making the desperate alchemist slash out with both claws, sending Mutt to the floor. Edgar immediately ran from the threatening mongrelman, taking a hit along the way, and invoked the power of Gond through a wand. It was all they had left. The roll wasn’t good, but enough to get Mutt going. Aldarion hurled his final acid arrow at the monster, who fiercely attempted to bring down Mutt another time. He failed miserably on bad dice rolls, and on his turn, the barbarian impaled their final enemy with a decisive strike.
Vorkstag
Bathed in blood, the heroes collapsed from fatigue on the floor, their enemies scattered around them in pieces.

It was time for a little break.
(We ended the session here, as there is plenty do discover in the house. Somehow, this is one of those encounters which force you to chose between light or dark side, when your players act as stupid as they do ((Sorry players, you did)).  Heading right up without rest, knocking on the enemy’s door, following him right into his lair and getting jumped, while he has time to prepare. I couldn’t justify it in any other way than to let them take the full consequences.
The players were limited by only being three, but at least the combat took place below the tanks, not on the rafters above them. Mostly because the space was very tight and mostly designed to encountering either Grine or Vorkstag, one at the time. It quickly gets very crowded, and the mongrelmen were supposed to do just what they did. Get in the way and annoy.

Grine hurts immensely, and the whole Darkness setup is nothing less than insanely annoying to the players. As he can easily see everything, it’s free sneak attacks for him. Vorkstag’s bombs hurt for 2D6+4, hitting with around +9 I think, and he has eight of them. His claws are also capable of hurting a lot, and he has a whopping 72 hit points.
I won’t lie here, had it not been for the great crowd control from the pit and the fact that the evil alchemists had some bad rolls, they would’ve annihilated the party. This one was beyond doubt way more close than, say, the Splatter.
It’s a good idea to read up on this encounter beforehand. I did forget some minor details, but nothing that would’ve changed all that much. I didn’t include everything about the fight here, as it took around an hour of playtime to execute. But the gist of it; it was epic. And I look very much forward to see what the heroes will think about their discoveries in the house.)