Reign of Winter – Cold, but I’m still here…

So, once again I’m bloody sick. I’m seriously starting to wonder if my body is ever going to completely recover from the series of respiratory tract and chest infections I had during and after my visit to China. I’ve been coughing on and off since then, even after a third round of antibiotics to clear out the last of the infection. Thankfully this time it doesn’t seem to be too bad, though I am more than a little annoyed that I started getting ill the Saturday before a week off on leave. Again with the coughing, but it’s not as nasty as last time. No fever either, just a constant dull ache all over my body. Still, I’m not going to let that stop me from going to see Lindsey Stirling tomorrow night. I’ve been looking forward to this for a month now, and I’ll be damned if illness is going to keep me from it… I’ll just have to stand very quietly at the back and hope there’s some seating available.

Anyway, now that I’ve got my bitching out of the way, it looks like it’s time for another update. As I mentioned last time, this is going to be an introduction to the Reign of Winter campaign that Jimbles is running for me. I was quite excited to have a chance to play in a Pathfinder game, as normally I end up running them, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to actually be a player in a D&D 3.5 game, and I’ve never yet been on the player’s side of the GM screen in Pathfinder, apart from once with a group that fell apart within the first session.

That's one mean looking old lady...

That’s one mean looking old lady…

What is Reign of Winter? Well, it’s one of Paizo Publishing’s official Pathfinder Adventure Paths. Each Adventure Path focuses on a specific theme (for the most part, there are often sections that deviate from that theme to a greater or lesser extent). Shattered Star was the “dungeon crawl” adventure path, Skulls & Shackles was pirate based. The current one, Wrath of the Righteous, is focused on becoming mythological demon slayers, and is serving as an introduction to Paizo’s new Mythic Adventures rulebook. Reign of Winter on the other hand is all about Slavic folklore, and features plenty of winter witches, cruel and twisted fae, and the mysterious Baba Yaga and her Dancing Hut.  I’m a big fan of Slavic mythology, particularly anything involving Perun the Thunder God and Baba Yaga. One of my favourite stories of all time is actually the tale of Vasilisa the Beautiful, which heavily features Baba Yaga.

So, as you can imagine, I was pretty keen on this game, as I’ve been craving a chance to actually play some Pathfinder, and the theme of the campaign had me stoked as well. Well, we’ve had two sessions so far. I’m not going to talk about them here though, beyond saying that although I wasn’t sure about it at all after the first session, last night’s game has me feeling much better about it. Instead I’m going to be introducing the party, so that any following campaign journals make a bit more sense. The group is essentially the same a my Shattered Star group, except with me as a player and Jim as the GM, but Evan decided that he’d like a break from gaming for a while, so we’ve only got four players.

The players are Mike, Michael, Ben and myself. Having just had a look at the character sheets, it appears that everyone’s playing an Archetype rather than a standard class. For the non-Pathfinder players, Archetypes are variants on the standard classes, which work by swapping out standard class features for new ones appropriate to the archetype. Some of them give up large amounts of abilities in exchange for others, some only give up one or two and get correspondingly few in return. For example, Mike is playing a Monk of the Four Winds, which is an archetype for the, you guessed it, Monk. The main difference is that a Monk of the Four Winds gets Elemental Fist as a bonus feat at first level, which allows him to make a strike empowered with elemental damage a number of times per day. This damage also improves with level. In exchange for this, he loses access to the Stunning Fist class ability. The only other changes come in at a high level that we probably won’t reach in this campaign.

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Marty McFly, Human Monk of the Four Winds:

. Okay. I have no one to blame for this one but myself. Mike forgot to put a name for his character on his sheet, and as he’d made a Monk and described it as a guy running around fly kicking people, I wrote Marty McFly in as a name. It was a joke, and I fully expected it to be changed less than a minute after handing him the sheet back, after we’d all had a good chuckle about it. Nope. Instead, there’s now a monk named after an admittedly awesome character from the Back to the Future films running around, fly kicking everything even when it’s not the wisest or, for that matter, a sane course of action.

Still, it could be worse. Now that we’re a couple of sessions in, Marty does appear to be calming down a little and not just charging everything that moves and some things that don’t… I still haven’t figured out why the hell he decided to charge and kick a door that I was in the middle of picking the lock for, but there you have it. In terms of personality I haven’t really seen enough of the character yet to get a feel for what Mike is going for, but so far it appears that he has some sort of moral code deal going on, though he does also seem to get riotously drunk whenever possible for some reason. We’ll see where it’s headed over time I suppose.

Stat-wise, he’s a fairly standard Monk. Reasonable Strength, Dexterity and Wisdom. Constitution is okay. It helps that Jim allowed 20pt Buy for character creation, cause honestly, I don’t think Monks are easily playable on 15 points. They’re just too dependent on too many abilities (STR for damage and chance to hit, DEX for Armour Class, WIS for their Ki abilities and other bonuses, and CON for health, same as any other front line class). If anyone ready this has come across the term MAD class before and not been sure what it means, the Monk is the archetypal example. In this instance, MAD means Multiple Ability Dependant. The converse is a Single Ability Dependant, or SAD, class where you just focus on one score and everything else is secondary (Wizards are good examples, they focus heavily on INT)

Pytor Varmodsson, Human Invulnerable Rager:

Michael’s character, Pytor, is an Invulnerable Rager (an archetype of the Barbarian class). The main difference between Invulnerable Ragers and normal Barbarians is that they get Damage Reduction far earlier, in exchange for things like Uncanny Dodge, Trap Sense and other normal Barbarian stuff. They still keep all the really key barbarian abilities, like Rage and Rage Powers

According to what I’ve caught of the back story so far, Pytor hails from the Lands of the Linnorm Kings, homeland of the Ulfen people. The Ulfen are essentially the Golarion equivalent of Viking society, and inhabit the icy northern lands of the world. Personality wise he’s not without honour, but he does have a lust for battle and will cleave a path through any who refuse to surrender when he offers the opportunity. Once battle is done though, he will treat the fallen with respect and either burn or bury them, as appropriate… of course, this isn’t to say that he won’t loot their corpses before doing that , since he’s also of the firm belief that you can’t take it with you, so he may as well benefit from it.

The build Michael has gone for isn’t quite what I expected. High STR, which is standard, but he’s maxed it out and gone with lower CON that I’d have thought. Of course it shouldn’t make a huge difference, but it’s interesting. Tactics for an Invulnerable Ranger are much the same as tactics for any other Barbarian, which is to say that you get in close, start raging and hit everything in sight. So far it seems to be working out for him.

Brunhilda, Undine Gunslinger:

Technically Ben’s character is actually a Pistolero, but I hate the name of that archetype. So, I’m sticking with the name of the base class, Gunslinger. As the name Pistolero suggests though, it’s essentially a character who focuses on one-handed firearms instead of the other options, like muskets and blunderbusses. He’s also playing a Undine, one of the five elemental touched races. Undine are humanoids that have some touch of the elemental powers of water somewhere in their bloodline, and have developed certain abilities because of it. The other elemental humanoids are Ifrit (fire), Oread (earth), Sylph (air), with the final race being the Suli (a mix of all elements descended from Genies).

Again, I’ve not seen a huge amount of what personality Ben is intending to give Brunhilda, and I don’t really have any back story for her yet either. The major character trait I’m getting from the portrayal is “rampaging bitch who likes pretty jewellery” which, to be fair, has been pretty fun to watch so far.

Build-wise she’s a pretty standard mid-range combat specialist. Below average STR, because if she’s in melee then something has gone horribly wrong; maxed out DEX so that she can actually hit her targets; above average WIS to allow for use of her class abilities; and an okay CON to make her more likely to survive if she does take some hits. I’m curious to see how this character develops over time, as there’s been a couple of surprises so far… neither Jimbles or I were aware when the game started that Ben had swapped out one of his racial traits for the alternative ability to breath acid on people once a day. Man those were some surprised bandits.

Xargin Swift, Musetouched Sound Striker:

And so we come to my character, Xargin Swift. I wanted to do something a little different with him, so I built a Bard (my normal characters tend to be Rogues, Sorcerers or, back in the D&D 3.5 days, Warlocks/Dragonfire Adepts). I didn’t want to play a vanilla bard though, so I went and had a look some of the archetypes, and settled on the Sound Striker. It only replaces a couple of abilities, and for the first couple of levels is, for all intents and purposes, just a standard bard. They keep all the nice little abilities Bards get that make them so useful as skill monkeys, and keep most of their Bardic Performance abilities, only losing two that I didn’t particularly care about anyway. In exchange, they get the ability to create bursts of sound that can damage objects with ease, and later on the ability to utter words of such power that they will physically bludgeon, slash and stab their enemies. For race, I chose to play a variant Aasimar (celestial blooded humanoid), specifically a Musetouched, whose family history contains influence from an Azata somewhere. Azatas are the celestials most associated with music and performance, so it made sense.

I won’t go into too much detail on the characterisation here, as I plan on doing an Unusual Suspects update on Xargin at some point. Essentially though, I’m playing him as somewhat of a nutter. Something happened in his past which has unhinged him slightly, and he’s convinced that he’s sharing his thoughts with a horde of angels. They agree with him on most topics, but occasionally like to make their opinions known, which is why he often swaps between using I and We when referring to himself. He also tends to have unpredictable responses to situations, though there is normally a twisted logic behind his actions. I think my favourite example of this so far has been his dealings with the local bandits. Upon finding out there was a trio of bandits at a fire just ahead, he pulled out a lute and danced up singing and playing a merry tune while the rest of the party snuck around them and got into position. While the bandits were off-guard and discussing what to do, Xargin cast the spell Chord of Shards, which engulfed the bandits in the razor-sharp bursts of air that exploded from the lute (I imagine the act of casting that spell as looking like him playing a power chord). The fact that he wears black and white jester’s motley probably helped with the whole confusion thing.

I’ve built Xargin as a mid-range combatant, using a short bow as preference. STR is below average, as it’s not something he relies on. CHA is maxed, to allow for maximum use of Bard abilities and performance and social skills. INT has some points thrown into it to allow for extra skills to be trained, while DEX is also high to help with hitting targets at range. WIS and CON are baseline, which can be a little risky, but we’ll see how it plays out. I’ve also given him the Arcane Strike feat, to give him a bit of a boost with his ranged damage. Not a huge bonus, but enough to help out over time.

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So that’s the party for Reign of Winter. As I said above, we’re two sessions into the first book of the campaign, which is titled The Snows of Summer. I considered using that as a name for this update, but couldn’t resist making the Evans Blue reference instead.

I’ll start on the next update on Thursday night, after I get back from Sydney. Odds are that it will either be the start of the campaign journal, or a look at one or two indie RPGs that I’ve picked up recently.

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Written while listening to the Sick Puppies album Dressed Up As Life. I’m a long-time fan of theirs, I first saw them on my 15th birthday when they played at a music festival in my hometown. I’ve heard that they recently released a new album, so I’ll be grabbing that to give it a listen as soon as I can.

I’ve also been listening to the album and EP by The Blue Ruins, a blues & roots/rock band that my little brother drums for. They’re recording a new album starting on Friday, which should be pretty good. Check them out here on their official site, and if you like what you hear, please take a look at their pledge drive for their new album.

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