The Onyx Wolf: What is the God Machine?

Sep 24

Hello and welcome to a new post of the now regenerated Onyx Wolf!

God-Machine Chronicle cover. Copyright @ White Wolf Publishing Inc.

Couple weeks ago we checked the changes in the mechanics that the God Machine Chronicle brought to World of Darkness. This week we will speak more of the changes in the setting and the atmosphere.

First of all the significance of changing Morality to Integrity cannot be overstated. The original WoD campaign implied a personal journey through a mysterious world that had the chance to change you for the worse. The journey and the change was quite personal and entirely under your control. You lost morality only if you committed a  bad action. Furthermore, you could regain it by being a good boy for a while.

Integrity, however, reflects a world in which things are outside your control and you could lose it just for witnessing an horrendous act.. even if you are doing your best to stop it from happening. Circumstances can mitigate the loss, but it will still happen. In shorts, Integrity is more like the SAN stat in Call of Cthulhu games and the world built around it reflects that.

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Wednesday Night D&D Recap: Murder in Baldur’s Gate Session III

Sep 21

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This week’s Recap is going to be fairly short, compared to the last two sessions, as the session itself was abruptly cut short: about half way through the game, we found out a five alarm fire broke out at the plastic container company that is on the next street over from my home. While they weren’t having too much trouble containing it, we have pets and valuables we didn’t want to lose if something did happen, but everyone was understanding of the situation, and a few people from my table ended up coming over to hang out, just in case we did have to GTFO.

Since everyone levelled up at the end of last session, and several people wanted to purchase items with their coin, I decided that there was an entire day of nothing happening between the events of the prior session and the start of this session. However, the party was awakened bright and early by an overly eager Fist (the Flaming Fist rank that is equivalent to Private in our military) that came flailing through Wyrm’s Crossing, waking everyone up.

When they realised the party was going to go investigate, the Fist assigned a Human Psion named Arum to assist; we have a new player playing, and he needed introducing, so…convenient assignment was convenient.

It turns out that five of the major statues in the city had been vandalised during the night, their hands removed. While all of them were within the city proper, the Fist was rallying to assist the Watch in tracking down the thieves. After learning what was going on, the party decided to investigate for themselves, and made some interesting discoveries.

The party quickly determined that the hands were not removed through magical or psionic means. With a bit more investigation and close inspection, they figured out that the hands were removed using professional tools and great skill, likely by someone who was a decent sculptor, or under the instruction of one. While William and Yhoma headed to the Watch, the rest of the party began asking questions of the residents around the areas that the statues were in.

William and Yhoma found that the Watch had been waiting for a Fist representative to show up, to help coordinate the search as it expanded into the Outer City, and so William took advantage of the situation. Primarily, the pair tried to get as much information about the situation from the Watch as possible, while giving them as little information as possible. They did learn that the Watch was already questioning artisans in the city proper, so they were of the same mind as the party – someone who knew what they were doing was involved.

The questioning of the local residents didn’t go quite as well for the rest of the group. Most people near the docks and Seatower are used to odd noises during the evening, due to the fact that the docks tend to have a lot of grunt work done around the clock, as well as local repairs that require blocking the roads and traffic along them. Even in the more pretentious Upper City, people just assumed their neighbours were having repairs of such nature done, and thought nothing of the noise beyond being a bit irritated that they weren’t given warning; when the group headed up to the Upper City, Arum stayed behind to being questioning the beggars and other such individuals.

After speaking with people in the Lower City and Upper City, the group stopped by the Port Authority to see if any weird shipments had been made over the evening, only to discover everything that was brought in or shipped out was on their dockets. However, on their way out of the building, they overheard a group of rowdy dockhands congratulating one another on a job well done whilst making jokes about having their hands in everything. Disturbed, the party decided to begin their typical aggressive negotiations.

Three of the smaller dockhands died in the battle, while the two tougher workers survived. Before waking them for questioning, the party tied them up with heavy objects tethered to the ropes, and hung their heads over the side of the dock. It didn’t take long for the party to learn that the group had been joking around, and none of them were involved with the thefts.

Having drawn a crowd, the group left the dockhands tied up on the pier for the Watch before heading to meet up with everyone.

Meanwhile, Arum managed to find a couple of leads, although it took him some time to find the beggars; within the city proper, most of them took on a low key attitude, sitting quietly at the front of alleyways with tin cups beside them. One near the Counting House informed Arum that he didn’t see anyone take the hands from the statues there – they were already missing when he came to try and catch a nap behind the wind-stopping walls of the Counting House – but he had seen a group of people that were a bit odd. He said they were dressed a bit different, in darker shades rather than the dusty and muddy shades that quickly became the norm after the sumptery laws were put back into affect, and he didn’t get a good feeling about them. They all had traveller’s packs, so he wasn’t sure if they had the hands from the statues or not, since traveller’s packs are a bit common for people to carry, even if they live somewhere in Balder’s Gate.

The beggar at the Counting House did suggest speaking with another beggar that was stuck in the city proper, and Arum tipped him for his help; the man was rather content with the silver piece, as it was the last of what he needed to pay the toll to get back out of the city. Arum made his way towards the Seatower’s area while the begger headed back to the Outer City, and eventually managed to find the other man that first had spoken of.

Changing his tactics, Arum bought a plate of food from a tavern on the way, and presented it to the Seatower beggar. After letting the man eat ravenously, they began discussing the events of the evening, and this beggar talked about seeing men dressed in the manner the first one had, however it seemed they were two different groups, given the directions the beggars said they left in. This beggar had theories, however.

He used to live near Little Calimshan, prior to finding himself without the coin for the toll, and he’d noticed some people who dressed as these ones did quite frequently. He pointed out they were all over the Outer City, but he’d often seen them heading over the walls of Little Calimshan near the same place, and he suspected they belonged to the Guild. He did point out that he had no proof the people he saw during the night were one and the same, and he didn’t actually see them take the hands from the statues, but he had a feeling that’s what was going on.

Arum thanked the man, and as he left the alleyway, he put his Flaming Fist tabard back on, much to the beggar’s distress. He then headed over to the Watch to meet up with the rest of the group.

The party exchanged information, and due to the fact the search was continuing, the group stayed overnight in the Watch’s headquarters. Sometime just after dawn, a breathless Shield (the equivalent of a Fist) came rushing into the building, crying out that the Beloved had been violated; he eventually managed to explain that now the Beloved Ranger was missing its hands – which included Boo!

While Baldur’s Gate did not take well to the other statues being vandalised, they really did not take the statue of Minsc being vandalised well. By the time the group managed to get to the Wide, people were already out – some even still in their night clothes – questioning the situation, and demanding the criminals be publicly hanged; suddenly, the city was on the verge of rioting.

It was quickly determined that this theft was also not done through magical or psionic means, however the party also figured out that it was likely not done by the same group, as it appeared that makeshift tools were used and the people who took the hands were not skilled artisans, nor under the instructions of such. Eventually, in a side alleyway, the party found a brooch baring the crest of House Ravenshade and a dagger bearing the mark of House Oberon on it; William allowed the Vigiliar of the Watch to see the items before taking them, and the party, up into the Upper City to question the families.

Unfortunately, we had just barely begun the questioning of House Oberon when we had to end the session. We will be picking up from the beginning of that scene this coming week, since we weren’t all that far into it. Again, not as much as I would have liked to get done in the session, but there really wasn’t much to be done once we found out about the fire.

Stay tuned next week for a continuation of the investigation!

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The Onyx Wolf: A sick, sad wolf speaks of PoD

Sep 16

Hello and welcome to the Onyx Wolf!

This week, I got infected by some horrible slime plague, so I will be brief (yeah! you wish!).

I’ll talk about the Print on Demand business model that Onyx Path has established and the consequences of such a model. First off, as we discussed previously, this model was adopted as more or less a necessity to avoid the closure of one of the biggest role playing publishers of all times, White Wolf. Then again, the market is full of small or semi-small houses that manage to keep a printed presence somehow and are taking the market by storm with a retro-games comeback. Then you have the phenomenon of the “not-so-indie” FATE system that may have started small, but nowadays you cannot look around a corner without stumbling on some FATE… that and Savage Worlds.

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Wednesday Night D&D Recap: Murder in Baldur’s Gate Session II

Sep 15

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Last Wednesday we ran the second session of Murder in Baldur’s Gate. It was a bit rocky, due to having two different people running the module; my fiancé didn’t know about half the things going on in the background, as he shouldn’t since normally he’s playing the game and not running it. It got smoothed out, and things got underway.

This week there were again three scenarios that were occurring, however they were not as avoidable and disjointed as they were the prior week. Some of these events were completely unstoppable, while others allowed the players to interact with them in more impacting ways. The first event triggered when the characters went out into the city, as they found the following public notice decorating the city.

By decree of the Council and with concurrence of Parliament:

To preserve the decency of citizens and promote the general weal, all citizens of Baldur’s Gate must attire themselves in a manner befitting their station. Furs, silks, damask, velvet, samite, and satin are forbidden to all but those numbered among the patriars, as is jewellery incorporating inlaid gems or magical properties. Those who violate these terms are subject to fines and imprisonment.

Naturally, at least one member of the group chose to spit on this by acquiring a silk shirt, and wearing it as they wandered about the city proper. William, and the rest of the group, was stopped by a patrol of Watch guards, and ordered to remove the silk shirt or face arrest – or worse if he resisted. Rather than completely acquiesce to their demands, the Pixie did take off the shirt…the proceeded to piss on it as it fell toward the Watch guard.

After some heated words, the Watch attempted to arrest William, and the group jumped in to stop them. The fight was a fairly intense one, with both sides taking some pretty heavy damage, before the party managed to subdue all the Watch. Once the fight concluded, the group stripped the guard down, and left them wrapped up in silk clothing before managing to sneak away; or at least, as far as they know, sneak away.

The party witnessed events like this throughout the day. If people did not comply with the guards, the clothing in question was cut until it was either unusable or fell off. The effects of the enactment of the old sumptuary laws were quite noticeable as the day wore on; the patriars of the Upper City stood out once more in their colourful clothing and vibrant jewellery, while those of the Lower City became background characters in the scene, and the unfortunate souls in the Outer City were forced to leave their heavy fur cloaks at home, revealing drab clothing and leaving them shivering.

As the party moved from the city proper to the Outer City, they noticed other incidents as well. Here in the slums, angry citizens were ripping down the decrees and decorating fences, buildings, and the walls that enclosed the city proper with slogans voicing their displeasure. The group pressed ahead quickly, making their way to Wyrm’s Rock to find out how the Flaming Fist was dealing with things.

Upon arriving at Wyrm’s Rock, the party was informed that Ravengard was unavailable. One of the clerks filled them in on the situations the Fist was currently dealing with: A tax collector was robbed during the evening, while others were robbed this morning, and Ravengard suspects the foreign dock workers who live in the Outer City to be behind this as well as the current vandalism taking place. Fist patrols had been dispatched to Brampton and Eastway docks where these foreigners work to investigate, while others were attempting to stop the vandalisms.

Rather than investigating what was being done in Brampton or Eastway, the characters made their way back to Little Calimshan, however it was a long time getting there due to the sudden escalation in violence. Where before the angry thugs were just scrawling their slogans along any surface they could, they were now smashing windows, breaking streetlights, setting trash afire, and more.

Before encountering any violence, the party was stopped by a group of sailors who were soliciting donations for the Water Queen’s House. While William distracted them with a very moving song in dedication, Lily went around and picked their pockets…to discover they carried scant bits of silver and copper themselves. Lily decided to donate the copper pieces, and the party discovered all the silver and gold was within the coffer; try as she might, Lily could not find a decent opening to try and take the coffer’s contents, and the party moved on.

As the party passed an alleyway, they noticed a pack of thugs up to no good. The thugs were scrawling their angry messages on the wall, for the more part, but one was gathering up everything in the alley. William attempted to talk the pack of thugs down, and managed to succeed for the more part, when one of the thugs turned violent and attacked the Pixie; upon seeing one of their own attack, the rest of the thugs shook themselves out of the placid place Will’s diplomacy had lured them into. It was another rather intense fight, however the thugs took the majority of the damage right away, and soon all but the one that had lashed out at Will were dead; he left that one trussed up for the Fist or the Watch to find.

The party continued making their long trek through the Outer City to Little Calimshan. Given how compact our time is, how much space they had to cover to get from where they were to Little Calimshan, and how likely it was that they would run into other groups of thugs, I rolled a die and announced that another several sets of fights would take place between there and their destination. They were agreeable to this, as it resulted in reaching level two, which would be very helpful to them, given how hard the fights had been lately.

Upon reaching Little Calimshan, Fie broke of from the group and disguised herself. She then made her way to Rael’s shop, trying to make contact with the Guild leadership once more. Unfortunately, all she could find were some thieves that worked for the Guild, but she learned that Rael was unavailable because she was coordinating the chaos within the Outer City.

Fie took this information back to her companions, after another quick change of appearance, and the group decided to head back to Wyrm’s Rock for the night. They would be confronting Ravengard in the morning, to inform him that he was following the wrong trail when it came to the vandalism taking place in the Outer City. Even though it was a bit earlier than normal, we ended there, as it was a good stopping place.

With that, we’re caught up!

As mentioned in the beginning, there’s a lot going on in the background, directly affected by the characters’ actions and decisions, however imparting these things at this time would spoil the game. It will be interesting to see how Wizards collates all of this data, and what ultimately makes it into canon and what gets tossed by the wayside.

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Wednesday Night D&D Recap: Murder in Baldur’s Gate Session 1

Sep 14

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With the changes to the way Wednesday Night D&D story arcs are played now, each section no longer has a catchy name; even though the players can get as far as they like in the module every week, these little titles will be something I miss.

Aside from having to change the title scheme I was using, I am also adjusting the way the article itself is writing. When there was just one combat per week, writing out a fairly detailed synopsis of combat worked well, however now that we can have multiple sets of combat, such synopsis sections have to be trimmed down or we’d have nothing but combat to read about.

On September 4th, my table started into the actual Murder in Baldur’s Gate module, however as mentioned before, I was really sick so my fiancé ran the game. Since we had gone through the bulk of the background stuff via the Game Day preview materials, the group went right to the introductory stages and the meetings with Imralym Skoond, Ulder Ravengard, and Rilsa Rael. The party decided to split up and attend all three meetings, then gather together once more to discuss what they had learned.

Lily Flower and Fie went to Little Calimshan to meet with the strange woman who had been helping set a stall back up; Fie disguised herself for the meeting in Little Calimshan, but only for that meeting and the travel to it. Meanwhile, Torment, William and Yhoma went to meet at Wyrm’s Rock.

On their way to Little Calimshan, Lily and Fie began to make their way through the Basilisk Gate, however they were stopped by a blond-bearded Dwarf named Maraek. He told them that “a city shield or something” had disappeared from the Harbourmaster’s Office, and that he’s having to oversee an impromptu search for it; the Dwarf is not happy about the situation, and hints that maybe the group can help get things taken care of, so that the gate isn’t held up any longer.

When they did finally reach the gate, Lily and Fie were stopped by Nant Thangol, albeit very briefly; while he busily taxes those heading home to the Outer City, the contemptuous Dwarf waves the “heroes of the Wide” right through without search, belittling those that follow with the same breath. Although this was their first real encounter with the class injustice, the pair did nothing to stop it on their way through the gates.

Upon reaching Little Calimshan’s gate, the pair noticed the same hooded figure as before; again, she was making subtle signals before heading up a set of stairs that lead up to the walkway that made up the top of the walls that enclose Little Calimshan. Eventually, she dropped into a darkened, enclosed yard before entering into a building. She waited for Lily and Fie to reach the door, motioning for them to enter before following and closing the door herself.

Thee flickering oil lamps hang on copper chains. A central fire pit embraces a heap of coals. Multicoloured rugs and cushions blanket the floor, surrounding the fire in the Calishite style. Heavy drapes obscure the walls and ceiling, creating the impression of being inside a tent.

A seamed face peers at you from beneath a turban. The man, wrapped in an ornate, brocaded robe, sits beside a low table alongside the fire pit. He motions for you to sit and begins pouring tea.

When the door clicks shut, your guide steps forward, pulls away a false beard, and throws back a deep hood, revealing a woman’s face.

“Thank you for coming,” she says as she sits cross-legged on a pillow next to the old man. “I wasn’t sure you would, but we had great hope.”

At this point, the woman introduced herself as Rilsa Rael, the owner and operator of Calim Jewel Emporium, which is the front of the building they are now in. The man is Musayed, however he says little during the exchange; he does, however, keep the tea flowing.

Rael makes it known that she works for the Guild, which has been declared a criminal organisation because it takes money from the wealthy to help the poor. The Guild protects only those who live within the Outer City, as that is where the poor are forced to live even if they work within the city proper.

She also explains that Baldur’s Gate is a merchants’ town, and that its wheels are greased by gold; you have to pay to get in, you have to pay to get out. Toll and tax agents frequently demand bribes or confiscate alleged contraband, specifically targeting those from the Outer City because no one in power will listen to their complaints.

Although the whole system is unjust, currently the Guild is watching one toll collector who has grown particularly rich from stealing from the Outer City residents: Nant Thangol. He seems to always be at the highly trafficked Basilisk Gate, earning him the nickname of “the Basilisk”.

She never directly asks, but it’s soon clear that Rael wants the group to start out by robbing Thangol, so that she can use her shop to redistribute his gold back into the Outer City. She states that she seeks to continue the work of Duke Abdel Adrian, however she lacks his position within the city proper he had, therefore she must use different methodologies.

Fie and Lily let Rael know that they had to discuss things with their group at large, and that they would be contacting her later to give their answer.

While Fie and Lily spoke with Rael in Little Calimshan, Torment, William, and Yhoma made their way to Wyrm’s Rock, the fortress of the Flaming Fist. They too had to travel through the Basilisk Gate, and they too chose not to interfere with Thangol’s racket. They then had a long journey through the majority of the Outer City to Wyrm’s Crossing.

The group was escorted through a granite tunnel by white-clad mercenaries, and into the fortress itself. They are lead up to Wyrm’s Mouth, which is the highest chamber in the entire tower.

“Look at Baldur’s Gate,” he says. “See how it grows unchecked beyond the walls? Those slums and ghettos are breeding grounds for a criminal cabal called the Guild. The Flaming Fist is charged with defending the Gate. Right now, the Guild, not some foreign enemy, is the city’s greatest threat. It owns the Outer City.”

“The Guild has us encircled like a besieging army. Its agents and rot are worming into every nook of Baldur’s Gate. These monsters find victims wherever the Fist is not. They grow bolder daily. They infest our politics and businesses.”

Ravengard makes it clear that he believes the assassins that attacked Abdel Adrian were sent by the Guild, and has sworn vengeance for the fallen hero. He blames the Guild for a number of other problems within Baldur’s Gate, and wants the party to help him take care of the threat once and for all.

Unlike Rael, Ravengard is very up front about what he wants from the party. Rather than offering just the chance to do good, he is also offering gold and open influence as well. Although they are not the Watch, enough people look to the Fist for protection for that influence to mean something.

The Flaming Fist are more towards the middle of the two extremes within Baldur’s Gate. Although their fortress is outside of the main city, they are not a part of the lower class that live in the Outer City, and yet they are not members of the high society that dominates the city proper.

Of course, the trio had to hold off on accepting Ravengard’s invitation, and arrange to meet with him once again after the party had time to discuss their options. Ravengard asks that they make their decision as swiftly as possible, and warns them against the false lies the Guild is spreading.

With that, the groups end their respective meetings, and together they make their way to the meeting at the Three Old Kegs; they are late, and barely make it to the tavern before their host takes his leave.

Imbralym Skoomd treats the entire party to several rounds of drinks, along with a very delicious meal. As they dine, Skoond speaks about the wonderful things the Parliament of Peers is planning, the Watch’s ongoing investigation of the incident in the Wide, and the general role of the Flaming Fist within the city. Towards the end of the meal, he gives a glowing assessment of Duke Torlin Silvershield, explaining the man’s vision for the city, and his excellent leadership of the city and the temple of Gond.

Finally, Skoond leads the heroes a short distance through the Upper City’s well-lit streets to the High Hall, a marble and glass structure where the movers and shakers of the city meet. With a nod to the guards, the group walks past unchallenged, right to one of the Hall’s meeting chambers.

A human noble wearing a wooden cog, the holy symbol of Gond, stands in greeting. His black hair has grayed at the temples, and he keeps a well-trimmed salt-and-pepper beard.

“Welcome!” he says. “I am sure Imbralym showed you a pleasant time thus far. Would you care for a beverage?”

Silvershield tells the party that the city is basically rotting at the core, and that the cause of this rot is the unholy beliefs and foul gods the foreign refugees have brought in; the majority of the people that Silvershield speaks of are the poor of the Outer City.

He too places the bulk of the blame on the Guild, claiming that not only are the corrupting the poor refugees, but they are also gaining allies in the courts and the Flaming Fist. While he is aware of their existence and many of their deeds, he is unsure of who exactly their contacts are, and who is in charge of the Guild itself. He wishes for the group to help him find out these things for him.

Again, the party brokered for extra time, and Skoond showed them out. With all of the pieces in place, the party retired to one of the many taverns of Baldur’s Gate to discuss their options. At this point, they actually took a smoke break to do the discussing, and eventually settled on working for the Flaming Fist.

Upon returning to Wyrm’s Rock, the party is tasked with closing down two gambling dens – the Oasis in Little Calimshan and the Low Lantern in Brampton. Ravengard states that the owners of the two dens are to be brought to the Seatower of Balduran for questioning, emphasising that they are to be taken alive, regardless of whether or not hostilities arise.

The group headed to the Oasis, a dingy bungalow-type building owned by Ibiz, a rather heavy man who slathers his face in heavy, pale make up that is not pleasing to the eye. He greeted the characters right away, and ushered them inside to a group of cushioned seats with small tables, taking the liberty of ordering them tea; he also began to probe their interest in gambling, illicit drugs, and whores.

It didn’t take long for Ibiz to realise that the characters weren’t patrons, and his attitude reflected in his nervous smile. He immediately apologises for forgetting about his “tenday fees”, producing a pouch filled with coins before asking the group to take it to their superiors. After taking the bribes, the party informed Ibiz that they were there to close down the establishment; Ibiz asked to collect his life before they threw him out onto the streets, and the party allowed it under careful eyes. At that point, they were able to close the establishment without a problem, and moved on to their next target.

From there, the party headed into Brampton, quickly finding the Low Lantern. Things did not go as smoothly as they had at the Oasis, as the Watch had arrived before the party, and they were already involved in a brawl with the patrons. One of the Watch soldiers called out to the party for help, and they began trying to clean up the mess that the Watch had caused; it was a very heated, long battle, but the group eventually managed to take down the bar brawlers and any Watch who got too lost in the fight.

Unfortunately, Thundreth, the owner, had left the establishment as soon as the party had arrived. The group was able to close down the establishment, but had to return partially empty-handed to Ravengard; while they took Ibiz to the Seatower, they weren’t able to take Thundreth as well.

At this point, the party retired to an inn to take an extended rest, and the table ended the session; although we do have the option to continue on to the next set of events, the store only stays open until nine, so we always have to keep that in mind when deciding to press on or stop – it’s much easier to stop at a lull in events than it is to stop in the middle of things!

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Wednesday Night D&D Recap: Murder in Balder’s Gate Game Day Preview

Sep 10

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We’ve got a bit of catching up to do, due to the fact that there was a busy holiday weekend and the evil common cold.

From time to time, Wizards of the Coast has a Game Day for Dungeons and Dragons. Typically, this is a stand alone adventure that consists of a few combat scenarios and a bit of role play, however this past Game Day was instead a preview for the current Wednesday Night Encounters story arc. The store we play at is not usually open on Saturdays or Sundays, so rather than playing the preview on August 17th, we elected to play it as the first part of the new story arc on our usual night.

The great thing about this Game Day scenario being a direct lead up to the Murder in Baldur’s Gate story arc is that the players can keep their characters, and start out with a little extra EXP and a better understand of things that happened prior to the main arc. My table was going to play a band of chaotic evil pixies with a serious Scottish bend to them, however after they found out it was going to be in Balder’s Gate, they elected to play more neutral characters…though half of them still made pixies, thus avoiding one of the major pitfalls of this scenario.

Our new band of merry adventurers consists of Yhoma the Pixie Swordmage/Runepriest Hybrid (whose name came about due to the player’s name constantly being entered correctly when ordering food at the near-by BK Lounge), Lily the Pixie Ranger, Torment the Tiefling Wizard, Fie, the Changeling Rogue, and William the Pixie bard. They are moderately lacking in a normal tank, however between the Hybrid and the Bard, they have most of a healer this time.

My table actually got pretty into the scenarios, and ended up playing through the first half on August 21 and the second half on August 28th; we had a lot of fumbled rolls on both sides, so it took a bit longer than intended. When we finally arrived at the combat, a six part chain of events began, with the first three parts occurring on the 21st and the final three parts being played through on the 28th.

The scenario starts out on Founder’s Day, a few miles outside of Baldur’s Gate itself. The characters had been hired to escorted a shipment of goods being moved overland, however they’ve arrived early and have time to enjoy the holiday. Founder’s Day celebrates the great hero Balduran, who founded the city; unlike any other day, the gate fees that separate the outer city from the city proper are waived, so a multitude of people are waiting to get in.

Due to the general population of Baldur’s Gate, animals larger than the size of a house cat are not allowed in the city, so the party had to stable their horses for an exorbitant price a few miles outside of the city; yes, the lines to get into the city extended that far. Everyone loves Founder’s Day, so the normally crowded city was even more crowded. The crowd actually counts as difficult terrain, and the players had to make Strength or Charisma checks to either muscle their way past, or part the crowd when they attempted to move in a way that did not go with the flow of traffic.

The party made their way into what is known as the Wide – the city’s only open market and centre of gathering. Here they were greeted by the first direct reference to the Baldur’s Gate video game series, where this story arc began fifteen years ago. If you have not played the Baldur’s Gate series, the first installment where a vast part of this story arc’s history occurred was re-released last year with some additional goodies that were not available in the first game (Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition). Amazon also has a four pack of the original game, Tales from the Sword Coast, the second installment, and the third installment.

Towering above the Wide is a fifteen foot statue of a powerful warrior in plate armour. Far from being the typical sort of grim guardian, this warrior grins enthusiastically and cradles a hamster in his hands. According to legend, the man is Minsc, a dull-witted but brave ranger of Rashemen who saved Orburt Lewel’s life from some forgotten danger, and the hamster is Boo, a pet that Minsc believed to be a “pygmy giant space hampster”.

Sadly, only a couple people at my table had played any of the Balder’s Gate games that were involved in this story, so most missed out on the wonderful nostalgia the statue created. Misc provided a great comic relief with his particular war cries, but turned out to be a great deal more than he first appeared.

Once they were in the Wide, I had the option of providing additional events prior to the main chain of events. I selected three different mini-scenarios from the list of eight options, and threw them at the party as they made their way from the great statue to the stage area.

The first situation involved a noble whose guards were stabbing anyone who got in his way, literally cutting his way through the crowd. With how crowded the Wide was at this point, it was difficult for anyone to get out of their way, and a few people ended up being knocked in front of the ruthless guards. The aerial part of the party caught sight of this as a guard made a particularly nasty wound in a bystander, causing the citizen to drop to the ground and begin to bleed out. The bard began alerting the crowd and the guard by loudly creating a musical scene, while Fie and Lily pushed through the crowd to save the downed man. The Watch, Baldur’s Gate security force, ended up seizing the guards and the nobleman while Fie was able to stabilise the wounded citizen.

The next situation our band of adventurers found themselves in involved an overwhelmed Dwarf. The Dwarf tripped and fell beside one of the stalls, and before he could push himself up, someone else used his back as a step so they could vault over the stall to a clear spot on the other side. As the aerial division of the party caught notice, a second individual repeated the trick, and it was clear that the Dwarf was likely going to be trampled if someone didn’t stop it. William fluttered over, and went to smack the next person to do it in the face with a blunt object, while Lily jokingly moved to “vault” over the Dwarf while flying; this resulted in Lily being knocked backward in the air, however the nearby crowd didn’t get the hint, and a second person took a discordant, shrill melody from Will’s mouse pipes before the party was able to help the Dwarf up.

The final situation was supposed to be the worst out of them all, however the party ended up circumventing it with Pixie tricks. A merchant’s stall that was filled with lit and unlit oil lamps and lanterns was knocked over by the pressing throng, catching fire while alighting the two closest bystanders. The aerial division noticed right away, and they used their Pixie magics to shrink the stall and most of it’s contents, while Torment used a spell to suppress the flames.

With these scenarios played out, the group finally made it into the section of the Wide that contains an open space before a large wooden stage.

The stage was decorated with a curtain of brilliant white cloth emblazoned with the city’s heraldry, a ship on calm seas. Several of the city’s dignitaries were upon the stage, while Vigilar Lenta Moore lead the Watch in guarding the stage. Among those on stage were Torlin Silvershield, one of the Dukes on the Council of Four, along with the Wizard Imbralym Skoond; while there were other various city officials, most people were drawn to the elderly yet surprisingly strong-looking gentleman.

This man is Abdel Adrian, the only lifetime Duke in Baldur’s Gate. Over a century ago, Abdel fled Candlekeep with the Wizard Gorion, swept up by the tide of events that plays out over most of the Baldur’s Gate video games; that’s right, Abdel is the canon protagonist of the series! He is a Bhaalspawn, and his father’s divine blood is reflected well – Abdel is nearly seven feet tall, his black hair may be greying, but his face is only slightly wizened, despite being over a century old.

Suddenly, a shout breaks the happy mood. A bearded merchant grabs Fie’s shoulder. “That’s the second time you’ve stepped on my cloak,” he yells. “You’re either doing it on purpose, or you’re the clumsiest oaf I’ve ever seen! This cloak is fine silk, and see how you’ve frayed it! I expect that you will compensate the costs!

Fie made a number of rather forceful threats at the merchant, in an attempt to get him to back off. However, the merchant continued to carry on loudly, causing the crowd to focus on him; meanwhile, as our aerial division noticed, a pair of thieves were working the crowds. While Lily took down the merchant, and then vanished into thin air, Torment disabled the two thieves for the Watch as William drew their attention to the situation.

Once the dust settled, it appeared that Duke Adrian was going to begin his speech. As the Hero of Baldur’s Gate stepped forward, someone in the crowd cried out “We love you, Abdel!”, to which the Duke responded by calling out, “I love you too, Baldur’s Gate!”; the crowd went wild. Duke Adrian is well loved by the majority of the city, as he looks out for everyone, not just the entitled nobility; the citizens of the Outer City in particular love the Duke, as he has advanced their situation quite favourably while still somehow keeping the nobility happy, by and large.

Duke Adrian began speaking, praising Balduran first, then speaking of the shared opportunities the city had before waxing on about the bright future of the city. However, his speech suddenly trailed off and he began searching through the crowd; he was not looking at people, but seemed to be looking through them. Then one of the bystander’s noted that there was something amiss in one of the windows of the houses that lined the back portion of this area of the Wide, and the party noticed that there were people with crossbows in them; those people opened fire, and the crowd panicked as six citizens fell to the quarrels.

As I mentioned before, our group encountered a lot of fumbles and missed rolls during this combat; the combat took six full rounds, as the party was not only trying to take down the murderers, but they were also trying to save the Watch members who were injured during the fight. Several citizens died before the party got the attention of all the crossbowmen, and we ended up having to end the session immediately after this combat, before it moved into the next phase.

The following week, we picked up where we left off…

Horrified screams pierce the frightened clamour of the crowd. Glancing around, you see small clear spaces open up as people struggle to distance themselves from scenes of slaughter. Armed warriors are grabbing people in the crowd, and stabbing them to death.

While the aerial division was able to immediately start attacking these four armed men, those on the ground had to make a Perception check before they could attack anyone. Before they had a chance to do anything, four more bystanders fell to the blades of these butchers; meanwhile, it seemed that Duke Adrian had found what he was searching for, and while the party confronted the armed men, Abdel seemed to be readying himself for something far more dangerous.

Another five citizens were downed while the group tried to focus fire the armed men, as the butchers would grab a citizen and slay them before moving each round until they were engaged by the party. Low damage rolls prolonged the lives of the enemies, though the party did manage to avoid most of the attacks these armed men aimed at them.

During this chaos, the scenario advanced to the next stage, and the party was forced to decide whether to continue their current course, or react to the new elements of battle.

A darkly cloaked figure suddenly leaps up onto the stage near Duke Abdel Adrian as two menacing-looking ruffians separate the crwod and take up stations at either side of the stage. You hear the cloaked figure say, “Now we finish this!”

Duke Adrian nods to him, and both draw their swords.

While the party was unaware of it, the newcomer was a man named Viekang, and he is the half brother of Abdel. Some time ago, the pair had a confrontation, however Duke Adrian was unaware that Viekang survived, and believed himself to be the last of the Bhaalspawn; as far as Abdel knew, Bhaal would truly die once he passed on from old age.

As the two Bhaalspawn engaged in personal combat, the party decided to finish off the butchers before turning all of their attention to Viekang. Both Bhaalspawn caused a good deal of harm to one another, so William healed up Abdel, drawing the attention of the two ruffians who had accompanied Viekang. The party managed to successfully fend off the two ruffians and help take down Viekang, however they noticed that Duke Adrian pulled his final attack, leaving Viekang unconscious rather than dead.

Without warning, Vigilar Lena and her Watch rushed the stage, and the woman drove her blade through the fallen Bhaalspawn before Duke Adrian could stop her.

And then…things took a turn for the strange.

A horrified hush comes over the crowd as the slain Bhaalspawn crumples to the ground. Abdel then unleashes an unearthly howl of anguish. Bones crack, flesh tears, even metal armour squeals and snaps as the Duke’s body warps into a grotesquely muscled mockery of a human body. What emerges is not man anymore, but monster. It opens blood-rimmed eyes, stares out at you with a look of maddness and bloodlust, and roars, spraying the ground with spittle from its fanged maw.

The actual death of the other Bhaalspawn has transformed Abdel Adrian into a fresh avatar of Bhaal that has not yet gained enough sentience to do more than slaughter those around it. As Bhaal has not yet awakened from his deathly slumber, this pseudo-avatar was still weak. I elected to use a Large Creature for the Bhaalspawn, mostly as an attempt to intimidate the party, and they weren’t too happy about it.

However, at that point, the party started critting left and right. Within three short rounds, wherein Yhoma tanked the twisted creature, the Bhaalspawn laid dead at their feet. Fun fact: during the combat, Yhoma took a total of one hundred and thirteen points of damage, however due to how many temporary hit points Yhoma had, the Pixie never got far past being bloodied.

In the aftermath, the party found themselves being thanked by countless citizens as the Watch attempted to cordon off the area and get the injured aid and the dead moved. It was during this time that the party was approached by three different factions of the city.

The first invitation was given by Imbralym Skoond, whom Torlin Silvershield spoke to before fleeing the area during the crossbow attack. The slick Wizard hinted that he knew who Abdel’s attacker was, and that he could provide them with more information about the situation. He also spoke of a corruption within the city, and advised the party to meet him at the Three Old Kegs if they wished to stop it from destroying Baldur’s Gate.

After Skoond departed, and more of the citizens thanked the party, a second figure whom they had noticed during the festivities and subsequent fight approached them. Ulder Ravengard, the now commander of the Flaming Fists, thanked the party for their part in trying to protect Duke Abdel, as the Watch clearly failed in their duty to do so. He asked the party to meet him at Wyrm’s Rock, as he believed they might be the heroes that Baldur’s Gate will need in the coming days. He then departed with his plain-clothes mercenaries, and began instructing the Watch.

Once the general chaos had quieted down, and the party was about to head out from the Wide, Fie noticed a cloaked figure that was helping to straighten up a fruit stall; the woman was using hand signals common amongst the thieves of the Sword Coast, and so the party made their way over to the stall. The woman gave no name, but instead warned the party that the two men who had approached them were not to be trusted; the party already didn’t trust Skoond due to his rather unique appearance. She bade them to meet her at the gates of Little Calimshan at dusk before vanishing into the crowd.

And so the party was faced with three different meetings, all of which happened at nearly the same time, and three different factions that wanted their attention. They got four hundred experience points for the preview, putting them ahead of the curve for the actual Murder in Baldur’s Gate story arc.

While this is far from over, it was interesting to see the new twists in the original story of the Bhaalspawn. There’s so much more that’s going on, and due to the way the new system works, the characters aren’t going to get to see all of it. Murder in Baldur’s Gate is incredibly non-linear, compared to the prior Wednesday Night Encounters modules, and the players have to pick and chose what they take care of rather than just follow each situation one at a time, in a direct line.

Unfortunately, I was ill for the first actual session of the new story arc, however my fiance, who ran the session, will be assisting me with the next article. Stay tuned to find out what happens next!

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The Onyx Wolf: God Machine Chronicles, what changed?

Sep 09

Hello and welcome to another article of the Onyx Wolf!

This week we talk of the changes in the God Machine Chronicle from the rules point of view, leaving the setting changes to next week’s article. There are some changes in every piece of the World of Darkness, so prepare for some good amount of stuff, though do be advised that the main mechanic remained the same. I will also offer my commentary on the changes now that I had the time to test them in action in several games.

The Character

A big chunk of the changes are about the character themselves and how advancement work. Character creation is largely unchanged, with the same number of dots going in the same places and meaning the same things. There is a big overhaul of the merit system, unifying many merits existing in different companion books in a single source and changing some. Overall, the new merit system has a nice flow and cover most areas of interest. A couple of observations to note are the Professional training merit and the combat styles.

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