Choose Your Language

Thursday, 28 February 2019

The Adventure Continues .... 30. A Realm of Chaos! (v2.54)

The last session got off to a slow start as we tried to address a minor quest issue, but after some script searching I could not determine the error and so we continued the session with me as the DM fixing the situation as we played. Today, after doing some more leisurely testing, I now have to conclude that the error we encountered was mainly due to a "glitch", because I was unable to duplicate it. A second minor error relating to treasure items also appears to be a "glitch", as once again I was unable to duplicate the issue with testing. The bottom line, I suspect most issues in the last session were more to do with using an older module rather than anything else. Bear in mind that the module we are using is quite a few versions behind the latest. Anyway, here is the list of information for you ...

The List of Fixes

1) JOURNAL ENTRY (SCAR SCAM): On the back of a new journal entry added a few weeks back, there was a broken sequence that quickly needed mending on the night. Our group took a path where the players cracked Grist's Chameleon puzzle on their own. The journal entry for this did not update. A quick save and reload after a minor fix sorted this, and it is now properly fixed for all. On the back of this journal entry fault though, came this second one, which I will refer to next within its own "Glitch" title ...

2) JOURNAL ENTRY (GLITCH): After cracking Grist's chameleon puzzle, the players receive a map, which when examined is supposed to unlock access to the treasure caches it leads to. Furthermore, as the PCs find the caches, the journal is supposed to update with a count. However, on the night, all the treasure caches failed to become properly useable, and the gold they contained ended up sitting on top of the cache instead of inside it. Therefore, the journal update did not fire because the caches could not be interacted with. When I tested the same code following day (using the same PCs, albeit with a DM present), the caches updated correctly and interaction was normal .... apart from something weird .... they were useable, even before I had used the map that is supposed to make them useable! Again, I have no idea why this happened, although I can say that everything worked as it should from a fresh start. Therefore, this goes very much under the title of glitch! On the night, as DM, I simply gave the players the item they needed on discovering the sixth cache.

3) TREASURE ITEMS (GLITCH): While on the subject of "glitches", here relates the second of the night: Upon returning to Kathy's chest where a player had stored some treasure items, upon opening the chest, all the treasure items had become unidentified. This at first appeared to be related to where I had disabled some code to help resolve the "more than one money pouch" being left within a chest. At first I re-enabled the code and "fixed" the money pouch a different way. However, after checking my code, I could not see any reason why this had occurred and so I tried to repeat the error within a fresh game ... and could not. Again, I have no clear reason why this glitch occurred, by can confirm that the problem did not exist in a fresh new game.

4) LIFE ESSENCES (GLITCH): I believe there was one other "glitch" on the night related to acquiring Life essences. Upon killing a monster, a PC can acquire Life Essences from the fallen creature. Life Essences start off as "Bound" Life Essences on a dead creature, but become "Unbound" upon a PC acquiring them either by Channeling or Harvesting them. Somehow, a player had two of the Bound versions on their PC, suggesting the OnAcquire code did not fire for them. Hopefully, this was a one off glitch too.

5) CHAMELEON PUZZLE EXPLOIT: On the back of testing the journal update for the "Scar Skim Scam" quest, I recognised a minor exploit where a player could gain a slight clue/advantage using Life Essences with this puzzle and then reloading. This has now been squashed in the latest fix.

6) PRECISION WEIGHTS (TYPO): Too many "S"s in a couple of places with these items. The typo has been fixed for all of them. Some may require a module update to be noticed.

7) ROD OF LOCATING (MP ONLY): If a player tried to start a new game with a PC that already carried a Rod of Locating, then the PC would fail to load any saved game thereafter. This was due to a timing issue when checking if a Rod was present or not. The timing has now been fixed, and the PC no longer reports having a missing item. (Discovered during testing.)

8) NPC CONVERSATION: A function to have a NPC start a conversation was not always finding a valid PC to start a conversation. E.g. Grist in the cellar. This has now been fixed.

9) GAME BALANCING: Some creatures were too weak, while others marginally too strong. I have done some minor tweaking again. Some alterations require a module update.

Astend Found Unconscious!
Helden Discovers A Secret Door!
Karasten Examines A Broken Guardian
A Strange New World!
Ghostly Figures Attack!
At the Top of the Well!
A Monstrous Slug-Like Creature
The Caravan and The Melody
Hope Rekindled!

The Adventure Continues ... 30. A Realm of Chaos!

Where Nothing Makes Sense!

NB: Contains spoilers for ALL backgrounds.

The heroes returned to the wizard's tower, having just bathed and rested after returning from the sewers one last time. They had used a map that Myara had managed to recover from a Chameleon Stone that once belonged to Grist. From its directions, the heroes had followed the maze of sewer tunnels and recovered a large sum of gold from a number of hidden caches that the map revealed. To top it off, they also recovered a platinum statue, well worth its weight in gold and more! Hopefully that would be the last time they ventured into the sewers, they all thought.

Now Myara was needed to put her code cracking skill to the test once more, as she stepped up to the wizard tower door and requested to work on its mechanism. Thankfully, she was well used to working these mechanisms now, and it was not long before the halfling was leading the group into the wizard's abode. The heroes had barely entered, however, when they stopped short, noticing the body of Astend on the floor before them.

Wasting no time, the heroes stepped forward and carefully examined the wizard, for he was caught in some kind of spherical vortex. The clerics quickly ascertained that the wizard was unconscious. Curious, Myara also checked the wizard closer and took a couple of small precision weights that she found on him, leaving his gold, gems, and more importantly, his spell book, well alone. As she did so, however, she felt strange and was overcome with what sounded like voices in her head. She continued to listen for a short while, but just when she thought they would draw her into the vortex, she stepped away.

Helden saw what had happened, and suggested that they take care while searching the rest of the tower, in case there were more potential hazards. During their search of the immediate area, Helden found a secret door with a statue behind. On approaching it, the group were asked a strange question, to which none knew the answer and so without saying a word, Helden backed the group away, deciding to take the search elsewhere for now.

A door led out of the entry room and into a corridor. Myara led the way, and before she had time to spot it, she stepped onto a hidden trigger and a fireball was cast towards her from a dragon head at the end of the corridor. Jumping to one side, the halfling managed to avoid the worst of the blaze; more damage to pride than skin. A short while later, the halfling found the switch to disarm the trap and the group were then able to continue in safety.

Apart from a kitchen (with more precision weights that the halfling pocketed for some reason), there was also a small work shop and a bedroom. The bedroom appeared to hold some useful books, but were kept behind a force-field preventing access to them. Karatsen considered that a nearby gong may be a means to disarm the forcefield, but added it is also just as a likely to summon a monster, and so the group decided to leave that for now. Within the small workshop, the heroes discovered a broken White Guardian.

Earlier the heroes had found a book within the front room explaining that this White Guardian, who Astend had named Sebastion, had been one of the wizard's recent projects. According to the same book, the wizard had broken its mechanisms while experimenting with it. After reading the book the heroes had already taken steps to ensure they had everything they needed to restore Sebastion to a working state should they come across him. Now they had, and it took Karasten little time to restore the broken parts, and thereafter leave Myara to restore the coded mechanism. Within only a few minutes, Sebastion, the White Guardian was an active member of the party; ready to carry out orders of Myara, until it learned anything to counter such from its memory banks,which it determined to fix in time.

The heroes had now hit a dead end. They really only had two options open to them: Try to work out the answer to the statues question, which seemed impossible without access to the wizard's library behind the forcefield, or alternatively, risk trying to communicate with the vortex that surrounded Astend again. As Astend was their prime target to help resolve the barrier issue, Helden made the group decision that they should try interacting with the vortex once more. This time, Helden took the initiative, and after only the briefest of interaction, the entire group was sucked into the pulsating sphere ... and transported to some strange chaotic realm!

The events that occurred next are almost too strange to relate and one would have to experience it themselves to fully comprehend what transpired. In brief, the heroes found themselves fighting strange outsider type beings, climbing ropes to exit wells into a land where spells could not be cast. They encountered a tree and some stone that could talk, but never in any sentences that truly explained where they were now. They would then go on to climb staircases that led to more bizarre creatures, and battles, and conversations with unknown beings about music and a chaotic repetitive tune.  The only thing that appeared to remain consistent was the chaos of the place, and it was somehow connected to Astend and his very nature, being ... or thoughts!

After a number of such strange encounters, the heroes eventually found themselves talking to a door that now refused them entrance due to the heroes apparent "lack of perseverance". And having already prevented "a tree from falling into despair", and prevented "an invisible being from going insane" and being rewarded with a flute of perseverance, it was now not coming as such a surprise that this strange chaotic place would become such an accuser.

GAME TIME SINCE START: 66 Hours 54 Minutes.

Saturday, 23 February 2019

The Adventure Continues .... 29. The Restless Dead! (v2.53)

The last session went well, and I believe a fun and relaxing time was had by all. There were a couple of minor issues, including a new take on a gold problem (but nothing serious) and some minor visual errors. All in all though, the main fixes needed this week were a couple I discovered while testing outside of play. Here's the rundown ...

The List of Fixes

1) GRIST CHAMELEON PUZZLE: The main issue for gameplay on the night was due to a variable not being set on Grist's Chameleon Puzzle, which meant the answer expected had not been properly set. This occurred due to the flow my players took through the game, which other players may also come across if they do not pay Scar for the answer. To fix the issue, the variable is now set at the beginning of a game. (I have fixed the variable for our own game for next session.) Thankfully, this issue came to light as we were finishing the session, which meant I had time to rectify the problem before the next session. For those that may already be playing, the safe path is to pay Scar for the answer, or sell him the stone. If you do not do either of these, then you could always use Life Essences to crack the code, but it would use a fair number and the answer would reveal an obvious error by producing a TAG. (NB: Do not forget that you cannot use Life Essences and reload to use the answer as the game checks for this kind of exploit. Life Essences would still be taken on a reload.) If you know about scripting, you can also open the toolset and edit alb_althea_patchscript and uncomment our game patch there.

2) SCARS DESK: This produced an empty GUI when clicked. Easy enough to close, but an error all the same. I updated the placeable in the area, which should prevent it from doing so. This fix requires the MODULE update and a fresh start.

3) JOURNAL ENTRIES: There were a couple more minor alterations to fix logical flow in journal updates to do with The Barrier and Ravel's Request entries. Because these two quests are closely linked and other events are affected by their quest states, it requires careful management. However, I believe I have ironed out all the points now, especially when related to acquiring rods.

4) WORLD MAP: I have two instances when a land map drawn by myself in another program is presented to the players. The first is if they click on the nexus, which offers Teleportation Travel (when the barrier is lifted) and the second source is via the Party Maps (from the hotbar) if and when the players manage to find the "world" maps. However, one of my players said they had received the wrong version when clicking on the Party Maps. I checked the code, and while I could not see any major problem, I did end up changing one function for a more basic way of showing the world map compared to another that added some variables. (I also ensured a Teleportation variable cleared down.) As this code is not used to any extent in this module, I will take a closer look at the variables in module 2. However, on testing after the changes, both map systems appeared to display correctly in all my testing.

5) XP EXPLOIT: During testing I noticed there was a small chance (subject to how a second player joined a session compared to the host) that their joining could cause PCs to not be set to the correct level / XP. A variable has now been set to distinguish between PCs joining at the start of the game (when XP should be set at zero) or when "rallying" new PCs at the Bloated Buckle, when they can be added with XP averaged to the party current.

6) "SOMEBODY WORKING": There was an instance of Myara (the rogue) not being able to interact with a combination puzzle on a door due to the code thinking somebody was already working on the door. I believe this was just a throw back to an old problem because the rogue had already interacted with the door once before (many sessions ago) and was during a time when the problematic variable had not been fixed. Checking the same door from a new module did not repeat the problem.

7) OBI STEN CONVERSATION: A small square block was removed from the conversation. I have no idea how these strange anomalies have crept into the odd conversation. They appear to have replaced the odd apostrophe, which I fix as I come across any.

8) SPLIT EXPLOIT: A player pointed out that while splitting a stack, if they selected zero, then it was possible for a single item to be split from the stack, without affecting the total amount remaining! I added an extra check to ensure no action is taken if the selection returned is zero.

9) MONEY POUCH STACK: I want to make it clear that we had NO problems with the gold management on the night, and all pouches and gold carried among players' PCs calculated correctly. However, my players' PCs had reached the point where they needed to offload some gold and chose to leave it inside Kathy's chest. This all worked fine until a player then went to add another single pouch to the same chest that already contained a stack of pouches, and the stack was removed leaving only the single pouch. This was easily fixed by myself as a DM as the host, but I point it out as a warning to other games. The workaround is to ensure a PC grabs all the money pouches from a placeable object and combine pouches before placing the combined stack into said chest or other placeable. I have NOT fixed this issue to date, as it may not be required for many players, and the workaround works fine. however, I will take a closer look as time permits.

Always Rats!

But Also Skeletons ...
... And Zombies!
Statues Animate and Attack!
The Heroes Inform Obi About Merkes
The heroes Confront Merkes!
And Make An Enemy of The Thieves Guild!
It All Points To The Wizard's Tower!
The Adventure Continues ... 29. The Restless Dead!

The Lesser of Three Evils!

NB: Contains spoilers for ALL backgrounds.

"I've decided that we'll deal with the crypts first." said Helden, who had no great love for either of immediate tasks that faced them: Either search the crypts for the sword of Ragnor Oran, which likely meant facing undead ... or consider stealing a gem from Obi for a rogue called Merkes, which went very much against the grain for the moral conscious fighter.

And so as the heroes were already in the Sanctuary, first Karasten prepared a few more items for the group to enable their quest, and then they opened the trap door to the crypts below and descended. It was dark, dank and musty, and even after taking only a few paces into the tunnels that made up the crypts, a strange otherworldly cry echoed throughout the chambers. Something other than rats "inhabited" these tunnels alright.

Continuing along, the heroes did encounter a number of large rats, with which they dealt with easily enough, but always they were conscious of whatever lay deeper within. And shortly after descending a small tunnel, they soon came face to face with their fears: undead in the form of both skeletons and zombies!

Both the clerics, Threska and Elana immediately tried their turning ability, only to quickly learn that they were coming up against a resistance greater than their current foe should have been able to provide. At once they realised these undead were the work of the necromancer and enhanced in some way by his evil incantations. Nevertheless, even though more difficult, the clerics were still able to rebuke the dead that had begun to make their way towards the group ... and Scraps along with the summoned creatures of the group were sent in to finish the undead off.

As the heroes pushed forward, more waves of undead would spawn a short way ahead, and the clerics turning and summoned creature tactics would be put to work again. Thankfully, the clerics were able to sustain the summons and Scraps with healing, allowing them to act as a barrier and front line, keeping the heroes relatively clear of harm's way. Being a hero is also living long enough to be one thought Elana, as she took her own defensive stance behind the summoned creatures, the undead just beyond.

Deeper and deeper into the crypts the heroes ventured, turning many undead and silencing their deathly cries once and for all, until eventually they came to the source of the necromantic energy and destroyed that too. Their venture had not gone unrewarded either, as Orechin had given the heroes permission to take any items that they may find useful as payment to their efforts in ridding the crypts of the evil source that disturbed the rest of the dead. The reward mostly consisted of gems and hundreds of gold coins, but in one chamber, (which had been guarded by both a poison trap and animated statues, which Myara and then the fighters had to deal with), they found a lone sarcophagus that contained various magik items too, including a living weapon!

Everything was going well, until they finally managed to descend into the chamber that they believe held the sword they sought, only to discover that the barrier had blocked further progression that way too. It turned out that the heroes would have to deal with the barrier problem before they could retrieve the ancient relic for the holy man.

The heroes returned to the Sanctuary and brought Orechin up to date with events. Then, the heroes decided it was probably their duty to report what Merkes had asked them to do with respect to the village leader's gem. Not long after, the heroes were talking to Obi in hushed tones, as the leader expressed a kind of thanks for warning him about the threat, and then in quieter tones how he would not look too deeply into matters where those of Merke's abode may meet an untimely end.

And so the heroes were once again having to choose between either steeling from a potential corrupt bureaucrat or killing a known thief. Neither appealed to the heroes, but if they wanted to resolve the barrier issue then retrieving the two rods that Merke's still held meant making a deal with at least one of the parties, because it would have been impossible to try to find the rods whereabouts without Merke's knowing about it.

With a sigh of resignation, Helden led the heroes back to the Thieves Guild, and after Myara gave the password that gave them entrance, they made their way to the upper room where Merke's awaited their news regarding the gem. At first, the heroes appealed to the master thief to help with respect to the barrier, but his price for helping them remained the same: the rods for Obi's gem. That demand was to be Merke's last. As soon as Helden knew they would get nowhere further, he stepped up to the door to guard it and gave the briefest nod to Myara to begin the attack.

Merke's was no slouch, although he was clearly outnumbered. He called for guards, but they were too few in number and had to get past Helden before they could aid the guild's leader. Not before too long, the battle was over, and the entire top floor of the guild had been cleared. Thankfully, no more resistance came up the stairs, and so the heroes grabbed the opportunity to search the room for the rods ... after some crafty searching and some careful disarming, Myara soon held in her hands the last two rods they needed of the three for Orechin.

Returning to the holy man was not easy, however, for as soon as the heroes returned downstairs, Travis and other members of the guild met them in combat. The heroes had been expecting this, however, and Flint and Helden had gone down first, and were more than capable of dealing with the rogues here. Furthermore, continuing with the surprise advnantage, Helden took the fight to the basement where the heroes also dealt with Scar, the half-orc Targ, and some last remaining thugs. Merke's Place was no longer a thieves guild.

"Maybe we could make something of this place?" said Myara. Helden just gave her a long gaze, that said something along the lines of 'as long as it was not another thieves Guild'.

Orechin finished praying for the divination that the rods returned by the heroes enabled him to do, and everybody in the Sanctuary were blessed with an answer from Boran. Not everybody had the wisdom to understand it, but Elana made out some of it, and Orechin confirmed what had actually been said: The rods were to be placed at the base of the three towers that surrounded the village. Then the source of the barrier problem would be pointed to.

After thanking Orechin for his help in the matter, the heroes took the rods back and went out and placed them where told to. As Helden placed the last rod, immediately three beams shone out from the rods and triangulated right to the front door of the wizard's tower. The problem was there! The heroes marched straight over to the tower, and knocked on the door again. Last time they had been unable to gain entrance because the door had argued against them. This time, however, with the evidence of the beams the heroes were able to persuade the door that they should see the wizard ... and the door had agreed. The problem was, the door discovered it was unable to communicate with its master ... something was wrong.

Unable to open without authority to do so, all the door could do to help overcome the impasse was allow the heroes to examine its locking mechanism. Myara stepped up to the door. If they were going to gain entrance to the wizard's tower now, then they were going to have to rely on her skills ... once again!

GAME TIME SINCE START: 62 Hours 13 Minutes.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

The Adventure Continues .... 28. Not So Small Ants! (v2.52)

We were hit by a number of small issues in the last session. Nothing game-breaking, but annoying enough to require another module update as well as a campaign one. Alongside being unable to pick up some dropped items, we experienced some missing journal entries, and gold duplication again. Even the crafted item naming still haunted us with another variation of the fault. Anyway, here are the details ...

The List of Fixes

1) GOLD DUPLICATION (AGAIN): Let's get this one out of the way first. First and foremost, the code itself was fairly well fixed, apart from one small detail. The code was fixed for SP games, but broken for MP ones, in that the new gold initialisation function, which corrected the amount of gold carried to pouches owned was not firing for anyone but the host. Therefore, when (as in our case) the DM started the session, the DMs gold would have been initialised (not that I carried any), but players entering after no longer had the module variable set to ensure they had their gold corrected. The bottom line, the gold carried by any companions was added on top of the gold of the main PC when they rejoined. The variable check has now been added to ensure every player has the gold initialisation function fired as they enter the session.

2) PLACEABLE ITEMS: The second issue we experienced was when a player temporarily dropped a scroll and went to pick it up again. Unfortunately, the "placeable" item object representing the dropped item was created "static", which meant the player could not retrieve the dropped item. There were four or five placeable objects, including books and scrolls that needed correcting in the toolset to fix the broken item drops. Therefore, this fix requires a MODULE update. WORKAROUND: Do NOT drop scrolls or books unless you know you no longer need them. NB: The game will not allow you to drop plot items anyway.

3) SCALED CREATURES: On the back of an earlier fix when I discovered some "scaled" creatures appeared too small for an encounter, we now discovered some were too big. In our session, the ants the heroes encountered, while supposed to be "giant", were, perhaps, a little too big. I have now adjusted the algorithm that calculates the maximum size of scaled creatures .. and they appeared to be better proportioned.

4) CRAFTED ITEM NAME (AGAIN): Although I had fixed a variation of this problem last week, a new variation returned this week. On testing the fix last time, the problem appeared fixed (and would remain unspotted) if a player left-clicked on an item on the bench to gain an item description *before* picking it up. Thereafter, clicking on the item after then acquiring it would have kept the new name given after item creation. However, if a player simply looted the item directly from the workbench without first left-clicking/looking at it, then the name change would have been lost by the time it was looked at again within the PCs inventory. I could not find any way to "keep" the new name if a player directly looted it from the workbench, and so in the end I ended up transferring the item directly to the crafter after exiting the renaming GUI. i.e. The player no longer picks it up from the workbench, as it is now given directly after the crafting process. This ensures the new name stays in place by the time the player looks at it in their inventory.

5) JOURNAL ENTRIES: We encountered a couple of journal issues this session: (i) A journal update for Ravel's Request was missing if the heroes acquired the missing rod lost to Scraps. This has now been fixed. On the night the missing entry was not noticed by the players, as they shortly after encountered Ravel at the graveyard anyway, which moved the plot forward for this quest. However, this has now been fixed to aid as a reminder of the path to follow for players. (ii) A journal entry for The Barrier did not update after the death of Ravel, to put players back on the path of seeking the rods for Orechin. This is a rare entry update as it only occurs if the heroes have not yet entered the wizard's tower. It's not an essential update, but helps the players remain focused on their task in hand. (NOTE: I need to update our own session's journal entry for this journal update after killing Ravel.)

6) SCRAPS GONE: Scraps obviously preferred the easy life compared to adventuring after he decided to head back to the Bloated Buckle Inn during an area transition. Joking aside, this may have been caused by a variable that is added to henchmen left to wait, which the heroes have done in the past. This variable is now cleared after henchmen are invited back to the group again. (NOTE: To update this variable within our own session, players need to dismiss and invite Scraps back again.)

7) GOLD ON TRANSFER: I left this one almost to last because it appears to be a new version of a GOLD bug. However, I have had troubles duplicating it, and it may be a red-herring and simply a glitch. Basically, this is what happened: When transferring some arrows or bolts from a main PC to a companion, a number of Money Pouches appeared on the companion at the same time. No other items triggered it, and I was unable to duplicate the issue when transferring from the main PC to created PCs. Furthermore, when a second player left the session, the problem appeared to go. I was unable to duplicate the problem thereafter. For the time being, I have tidied some variables around the target of the item transfer code and will test again the next time we are all together, or before if I have the opportunity.

8) CORRUPT PC ON LEAVING: Sometimes the session may report a PC that left the game was "corrupted". This may be reported if an old variable has been left behind on a PC that may have once had an issue. I have since updated the code that handles this to work more efficiently, and it now also deletes the variable before it makes future checks, and so in theory, should be gone by the time the player leaves the next time ... unless there had been a genuine problem.

Stashing The Gold At Kathy's
Gigantic Soldier Ants!
Karasten Crafting Again
Spending Some Of The Treasure!
Ravel's Party!

The Adventure Continues ... 28. Not So Small Ants!

Maybe Just A Tad Bigger Than Expected!

NB: Contains spoilers for ALL backgrounds.

The heroes finished unloading the last of their gold stash at the property of Kathy, who had kindly said they could store some of their equipment with her. By the time the heroes had left, over 25 000 gp had been secreted around the apothecary's abode. For their remaining tasks, however, the heroes needed to be able to stash their loot and lighten their load somewhere, and Kathy's place seemed as secure as anywhere.

After finishing business with Kathy by purchasing diminution potions and the ingredients they needed to create the ant poison, the heroes headed straight over to Frank's mill, where they knew the old farmer had barricaded the entrance to his silo where the ants had surfaced. It was not long before Helden was smashing down the barricade and exposing the heroes to the first gigantic ants that they had been tasked to destroy.

Even though they had been expecting such large vermin, the sudden realisation of the ant's gigantic size even took the heroes by surprise. However, they quickly regained their composure and swiftly dealt with the two soldier ants that guarded the entrance. Once cleared, the heroes took their diminution potions, and quickly entered the ant entrance while the potion lasted. Thankfully, the entrance opened up as they went farther in, and by the time they entered the tunnels fully, they were able to stand even after the potion had worn off. Unfortunately, however, even their brief movement into the nest had caused the entrance to collapse behind them. Now they would have to find another way out after dealing with the issue they had come here to do.

It was not long before the heroes suddenly noticed some more ants coming their way. However, it soon became obvious that these ants were not going to attack them; they appeared to be "worker" types only, and uninterested in the heroes. They then understood that it would be the "soldier" types that they would need to defend against.

The ant tunnels twisted and turned in a number of directions, causing the heroes to become disoriented on a number of occasions. However, they carefully kept track of their passage, and as they continued to confront and defeat soldier ants, they slowly made progress deeper into the ant nest. After a short while, the heroes came across the barrier; it had even reached underground. The group of adventurers quickly realised that this would be a good place to use the poison, and so quickly emptied the vile to prevent any more ants coming this way. A short way farther, they discovered another path that carried beyond another section of the barrier, and did the same.

It was also during their time here that the heroes discovered unusual dirt mounds, and in one such mound found the divining rod that they had been seeking all along. Whether Scraps had brought it here himself, or it had been moved here by the ants, it was hard to tell. It was just good to find the first of the rods they needed. Now, the poison placed, and the rod found, they simply needed to escape the nest. Thankfully, during their underground walk, they had noticed a breeze in one of the tunnels, which, upon investigation, did lead to the surface. Upon exiting the tunnels, the heroes carefully closed the hole behind them and returned to Frank, who was relieved to see them alive, and pay the reward they had agreed.

Over the time that followed, the heroes decided to rest, buy new and repair old equipment, and even have Karasten enhance Myara's bow. At the end of the time, nearly a day, the heroes had fully repaired every piece of equipment and Helden felt ready to consider investigating the crypts for Orechin. Their journey to the graveyard entrance was cut short, however, when they encountered Ravel, who went on to accuse them of having something that belonged to him; referring to the divining rod.

The meeting was never going to go well, as the heroes had already suspected the unusual character of evil doings of necromancy, but what happened next appeared to confirm their fears. The hooded figure of Ravel quickly summoned a number of skeletons around the heroes and the party found themselves in combat. Ravel had underestimated the growth in the heroes abilities since he last met them, however, and it was not long before the evil man was paying the price for his treachery, with his life!

The battle over, Helden thought it best to return to Orechin to update him with the latest news of what had transpired. They now had one rod in their possession, and from a diary they found on the dead necromancer (for the diary confirmed the fact), they now knew the remaining two rods were in the keep of Merkes. As much as Helden did not want to step foot in the Thieves Guild again, it appeared fate had another plan for him as he was likely to have to speak with Merkes again.

GAME TIME SINCE START: 59 Hours 30 Minutes.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

The Adventure Continues .... 27. Restoring The Distance (v2.51)

Well v2.50 only fixed 80% of the GOLD issue that I reported on last time, as it soon became clear that normal "gold coins" were not being detected by my code. And surprisingly, when I did find the fix, I thought it would have replaced what I had already done, because it seemed more efficient by using the On(Un)Acquired code. However, in testing it showed that any gold "given" or taken" from PCs does not actually trigger the OnAcquire or OnUnaquire hooks, and so my home-brew functions from the last fix were still needed. I ended up concluding that the handling of gold via the code and official campaign is most unusual - and is probably why I had so many problems for so long.

The bottom line is, I needed two systems in place: (1) To handle gold given or removed from players via the functions, which must have simply altered a variable rather than hand over or take any actual item. (That was my updated home-brew functions.) (2) A system that "detected" the acquisition or removal of "gold coins" via the coin item. At first I thought this was going to be impossible, as the OnAcquired did not appear to register any tag for the gold coins movement. Then I realised that while this was indeed the case, any movement with gold coins did actually still fire these two hooks! A very strange setup. Thankfully, however, regardless of the fact that I could not "get" the gold coins via these acquisition scripts, I was still able to fire my own function check for any gold movement, even though it was effectively invisible.

Anyway, that probably sounded like a lot of waffle, but I hope it helps some coders. Meanwhile, here is what else was addressed:-

The List of Fixes

1) GOLD HANDLING: I am still listing this as a fix even though I explained some above. Basically, this part fixed the movement of gold coins from creatures or placeables onto the PC. On "detection", it simply runs the same PouchCheck function as the home brew "Give" and "Take" functions do. The bottom line: It really should be squashed by now. In our own group play, this caused an incorrect amount of gold being carried, and after searching through the saved games, I calculated that the gold for the party was out by 9000gp! This is mainly because I was fixing stuff between sessions, which meant when the player rejoined the session and had their PCs join the party, any gold pouches their PCs carried were being duplicated. The new gold check system is now robust enough to take this sort of thing into account. Furthermore, it is unlikely to have affected any SP games at all. (I also removed some DEBUG code that I had inadvertently left from previous testing.)

2) CRAFTED ITEM NAMING: The ability to rename a crafted item had been broken after a small change I had made a short while ago. This has been reverted and the renaming GUI works fine again. As a workaround, players could rename worn items via the Althéa Main Menu anyway.

3) DUNGEON STATUS: At one point during our session, Threska started to complain about the morality of opening a Talanthian chest. This was due to a variable not being correctly picked up / corrected by the code and so Threska did not register that they were in a dungeon. This has now been fixed.

4) TOO FAR AWAY: Some notice text related to examining placeable objects was being displayed at times when it was not required. I have fixed this.

5) AIRY WATER EFFECT: A check was missing to ensure animals did not receive the Airy Water VFX, and so Scraps (when later found) still had his showing. It looked like a glamerous dog collar! This has now been fixed and I will be adding a patch for our session to remove the VFX from Scraps.

6) INVENTORY COMPARE: Sometimes an object description when comparing to a shop item would not fully display. I believe this was related to the same error introduced in (2) above. It relates to whether the item needs to have its description updated or not. I had tried to increase the number of times an item could have this done to allow for any changes I may have missed. However, this appeared too zealous as the item lost all description (when needed)! The fix is now in place, but a player may need to either HOVER or LEFT CLICK on an inventory item to update the item description for their game, which I hope will now remain valid when required. If it still ever appears to go missing, then I may need to look for other additions of the variable clearance that needs removing.

7) LIGHT CRYSTALS: If a PC left an area carrying light orbs, then they would have their quantity dropped to one if they carried more than one. This is because I have to replace "light" objects to fix a broken VFX when they travel between areas. However, I was trying to replace a "stack" of light orbs, when they do not stack. Hence, in our session, three light orbs got replaced with a single one. The code has now been fixed (and made more efficient by doing so), as light orb fixes have been moved alongside torches and lanterns that require the same treatment.

8) OTHER ISSUES: Very minor .... If a DM looked at the Party Craft tab on a character sheet, the essences section was not displayed correctly (even though it has nothing to say really). However, I fixed it anyway.

Karasten Tries His Hand At Enchanting

Deciphering The Cypher!
The Strange Crystal
No Way Out!
The Great Kalim!
The Three Maidens!
Helden Studies The Portal Console
Escape Now Or Die!

The Adventure Continues ... 27. Restoring The Distance

And The Return of Scraps!

NB: Contains spoilers for ALL backgrounds.

"Blast it! It's an ammonite key! It won't work." cried Myara as she tried to use the key they found to open the only way that remained unexplored to them. The problem was the magikal lock required a magikal key. Thankfully, the heroes were in a library full of information, and Karasten was both intelligent enough and skilled enough to make a copy if the group were able to find the information they needed. Furthermore, the relative order of the Talanthians library allowed the heroes to find the information they required and after resting to recover the spell they needed, Karasten went on to create the copy of the key from the ammonite ore they carried.

Having rested outside the tower and returned earlier, it appeared most likely that the heroes had wiped out all opposition from within the tower as they noticed no repercussions from their combat the day before. Therefore, after creating the key they needed using a magicians workbench they discovered in the tower, Karasten decided to spend some more time going through his finds, distilling essences and gathering gems to be able to enchant some armour for some members of the party. It had made quite a break from all the combat, and after he had finished his work, the heroes were much better equipped.

Using the newly created ammonite key, the heroes opened the door and climbed to the next level, and found the sleeping quarters for the residents of the tower. All doors were locked and the rooms obviously empty. It was not long before they were unlocked by either Myara's skills or Helden's dedicated axe for the job. They found quite a stash of treasure and a strange flute.

Continuing upwards, the heroes entered into what appeared to be some kind of study room with three small side chambers. In one of the small rooms they found a code board, and a scroll that contained some kind of cipher. The heroes got to work deciphering the script and soon learned how they needed to operate the strange Vocaliser device. With the new knowledge and the knowledge they had gained from other scrolls they had found, the heroes used the Vocaliser to contact those who would inadvertently hand over some information regarding the portal destruction code. Within just a few heartbeats, the heroes had managed to acquire all the coded phrases they needed. The problem was, they had not, at this stage, any idea how to interpret them.

It took a while of going through old scrolls and notes before Karasten realised that the Chameleon Stone they had found on Matthais (and had not yet been able to decode) may contain a clue. Refocusing their sights on anything to do with Matthais, the heroes eventually found a scroll that was signed by him and read it again. After reading the text more closely, they were rewarded with the answer they needed to crack the magikal stone. As soon as Myara tried the password, she successfully retrieved a new scroll .... one that had another strange grid with images on it. At once, she realised this was the missing piece of information they needed to decipher the cryptic phrases that would reveal the portal destruction code.

After a few minutes of carefully going over the phrases, the heroes had a six digit code that they believed to be the one they needed. However, before they would return, Karasten had been fascinated by a strange drawing he noticed on a nearby blackboard and it appeared to make reference to the flute they found and the nearby crystal in the side room. Realising this may be the only opportunity to investigate the crystal, Helden agreed to try to learn more. As an experiment, he sounded the flute near the crystal, and within a single heartbeat, the entire party found themselves teleported to a hidden chamber, with some unusual decor. Most strikingly, was the fact that the room had no exits!

What happened in that room over the next hour or so will remain unspoken, as the heroes had agreed to make a pact with somebody called the Great Kalim to keep it secret. Suffice to say, the heroes came back a great deal wealthier than they had gone in, to the tune of around 12000 gp! It was the largest haul they had ever seen, and they had managed to escape the chamber! The fighters could barely walk under the weight, but Helden was grateful that they had pursued Karasten's desire for knowledge .... and Karasten was pleased that he had returned with more knowledge of the history of Althéa than he had entered. Myara was happy about the three magikal glowing orbs she also now carried.

There was one other chamber that appeared alight with fire, which Helden drew the line regarding curiosity. There was another kind of magikal pattern on the floor, and he feared it the mark of more demonic work, and he had had enough of demons lately! And so, weighed down with almost more gold than the group could carry, the heroes made their slow walk back to the caverns at the far side of the enclave. If they could make it back, they would be rich indeed .... although Helden did spare a thought towards his trusty hound as he slowly made his way ... Had Scraps made it?

The joyful mood actually made the return trip to the Talanthian caves appear quite speedy. And it was decided that Helden, as leader of the group, would be the one to enter the code. If it was wrong, then they may need smarter heads left with the problem if entering an incorrect code should prove fatal. Almost as slowly as he had been walking over the last hour, the fighter tapped in the six digit code ... then there was a flash and the whole cave system shuddered.

"Quick! Through the portal!" Helden did not really need to tell anyone, and his own slow movements under the weight of gold actually made his urgency quite comical if the situation had not been so serious. Thankfully, the sequence for destruction would take at least thirty seconds, and the heroes would never hear the final twenty seconds countdown as they entered the magik portal to take them home.

"Your back! And just in time by the looks of it." Aubrey, the Red Guard leader welcomed the heroes return as the portal flashed once and disappeared altogether behind them. It had been a close call, but it was quite obvious to everybody now, that the heroes had been successful and the distant enemy that had drawn quite close, was at a distance once again. Without further ado, the heroes made their final walk from the local caves back to the village, with each step promising either to bring good or bad news to the fighter who was missing his hound.

"Scraps! You old scoundrel!" Helden could not hide his joy, possibly more joyful than from all the gold he had brought back with him. Scraps had clearly put on weight, even in the short couple of days they had been separated. Thankfully, thought Helden, there were still a few tasks left that Scraps could help with, and help him to lose weight too. The most important of which was to still find a way to bring down the barrier that surrounded the village.

TOTAL SESSION TIME (UNPAUSED): 4 Hours 37 Minutes. (Roughly.)
GAME TIME SINCE START: 56 Hours 50 Minutes.

Friday, 15 February 2019

The Adventure Continues .... 26. Farewell Scraps! (v2.50)

I have a number of things to speak about in this post, for there has been a lot of fixes and updates; some minor, but a few "major". I also have one or two other "updates" in the idea stage, which I will also talk about. As there is a lot to say, I will get stuck straight in:-

The List of Fixes

1) MAP BLOCKS: On the back of a previous fix, I decided to improve the "door code" so that monsters do clear an associated map block when opening a door if the PCs are nearby.

2) LOAD GAME: There has been some loading improvements, which also required a fix to allow CURSED items to work on a reload properly.

3) MAP PINS: Some map pins were not updating due to other nearby potential targets being activated instead. The target system for such has been fixed.

4) JOURNAL UPDATE: The "Lady of the Lake" journal had a repeated updating due to an error in a conversation. This has been addressed.

5) TB COMBAT: Some creatures were slow to start TB COMBAT upon activation. This has now been fixed.

6) AUTO EXAMINE OBJECTS: Some placeable objects are designed to give a full examine feedback prior to further use. Some objects were having issues between showing the info and starting interaction within our MP session, causing difficulty in closing a GUI. This has now been fixed.

7) GOLD HANDLING: This was a bigger issue, and is related to the old Money Pouch issues of previous reports. This time I gave the system a complete overhaul, removing any reliance upon heartbeat calls and ensuring all "Give" and "Take" of gold functions are replaced with my own home-brew versions that immediately fire the weight check scripts upon gold transactions. Furthermore, additional checks at PC entry have been added to ensure gold pouches are not prematurely added when nearby companions with pouches still need to be joined.

8) CURSED ITEMS: There was a timing issue that prevented the cursed items working as expected on a reload of a game. This has now been fixed. Furthermore, the cursed item descriptions have been updated to reflect that such items can only be removed with "Oil of Unbinding" or a cleric can cast Remove Curse on any cursed items that they carry only. i.e. The Remove Curse spell cannot be used to free other PCs of their cursed items.

9) CODE IMPROVEMENTS: I have also reworked some old coding related to storing of items when companions either leave the party or die and leave a tombstone. This had to be done due to the overhaul of the gold related issue.

10) GAME BREAKING TRANSITION: Fixed a broken transition to Demons Bowl. (Was in emergency v2.49 release.)

The List of Updates

1) UNDERWATER: I added a "slowed" effect for being underwater.

2) LIGHT BLINDNESS: Credit to KevL who fixed a problem I noticed where Light Blindness was not penalising a PC when in daylight. This code has been slightly altered and added to my campaign to work now.

3) GAME BALANCING: A lot of effort was placed into re-calculating the challenge rating of monsters, both placed and encounters. Balancing was adjusted to cater for smaller or larger parties, and the difficulty setting the player had set among other factors. A battle we had on the night showed the balancing was much better and made for an epic battle, in my opinion.

Potential Updates

1) DEFAULT STATS: After some feedback, I am considering adding a section to the character sheet that shows the DEFAULT ability and skill values (without any alterations due to bonuses or penalties.) This allows players to more quickly ascertain by how much something has been positively or negatively influenced.

2) HENCHMEN WAIT: After leaving Scraps at the water side and finding him gone upon returning, I am considering possibly allowing such creatures to stay around a little longer "waiting" for the PCs to return than they currently do. Subject to how much time I get, I will look into this.

The Lady of the Lake
Arlen Awakes!
A Sea Hag Attacks!
The Talanthian Tower At Night
The Statues Awake!
And Attack The Heroes!
The Talanthians Are Not Amused
And Are A Formidable Force!
The Adventure Continues ... 26. Farewell Scraps!

To The Faithful Man's Best Friend.

NB: Contains spoilers for ALL backgrounds.

After hiding the gold in a chest back at the Talanthian caves, the heroes retraced their steps to Demon's Bowl where they investigated the lake and its statue. After wading into the water and diving underneath a few times, Helden was quickly able to ascertain that a large cave entrance was accessible below the lakes surface. And after checking the large statue at the back, he soon discovered a small plaque that suggested an answer would aid them in gaining access to the caverns beneath the lake.

Thankfully, the heroes had discovered the secret to the statue from an earlier quest at the goblin tower to the east and upon uttering the phrase that the statue sought, the heroes were suddenly enabled with an ability to breathe underwater; rare and wonderful magik! With their new found ability, the heroes made their way through the cavern system and to an underwater grotto on the far side. Conscious that the magik may not last for long, the heroes wasted no time in exploring the area as quickly as they could, even though the drag of the water slowed them down greatly.

It did not take the heroes long before they came across the sarcophagus remains of Arlen .. and within only a few heartbeats later, they also were confronting the remains of Arlen herself. This watery undead monster was in no mood to talk and came into instant combat with the heroes who had come to disturb her peaceful rest. More than once, the heroes felt her drag Life Essences from them in the way that undead do, but after a short while, Helden, Flint and Myara were able to bring her down with the aid of some magic missiles from a wand of Karasten's. (It had been obvious spells were likely to fail down here.) The turning attempts of the clerics had simply not been good enough.

After relieving the water undead of her treasures, the heroes continued to explore the small area. Indeed, there was little else to find, although they did also encounter a Sea Hag that gave them a frightful gaze. Again, however, the heroes still won the battle, and apart from some small treasure, they found little else and decided to leave the watery grave behind.

"Scraps! Here boy! No, he's nowhere to be found." said Helden hoping to be reunited with his faithful hound after the animal had refused to follow the heroes into the watery caves. Scraps, however, was nowhere to be found, and Helden silently hoped he had made his way back to the safety of the village .... somehow. After all, he was a smart dog, and intelligent enough even to enter a teleport if he had to.

After drying themselves off, the heroes continued their main quest. It was night time now, and the Talanthian tower looked ominous as its lights shone in the night. Carefully navigating  the suspension bridges, it did not take the heroes long to reach the entrance. It took just a little longer for Myara to bypass the magikal lock that protected the tower's entrance.

Once inside, the heroes could tell this tower was different to the last two. This one was nicely decorated and obviously still used. Helden made his way across the room of what appeared to be some sort of chapel. In an alcove he spied a golden statue and picked it up. Immediately two statues, previously lifeless, sprung to life and attacked the heroes. The leader's lust for gold had triggered the two huge pewter statues to life and they meant business.

Although surprised, the heroes were already quite rested and so were quite prepared for combat. As much as the huge statues pummelled into Myara, they could not deliver the final blow before the rest of the party had delivered a strong defensive attack of their own. It was not long before the two statues crumbled into nothingness, relieved of the magik that bound them. Furthermore, Helden was now quite prepared for a similar attack from two other nearby statues that he knew would animate after he picked up a second nearby treasure. No lumbering statues, no matter how big, were going to get between Helden and his gold!

After recovering from the battle with the pewter statues, the heroes readied themselves for the next chamber that was on the level above their current. It was obvious this place was inhabited, and more than likely by Talanthians ... and even more likely to be found on the next floor. Fully buffed with protection magic, and having shared the Life Essences between them, Helden felt they were prepared enough to meet anything, and so they climbed the steps to the next level.

Sure enough, as the heroes entered the next the next level, they were greeted by a smooth talking Talanthian who introduced himself as Herodias and simply asked why they had entered his tower. Helden's sarcastic answer did not help matters, and soon the inevitable happened: combat was started. This was never going to be an easy battle though. Immediately two Talanthian guards blocked the way to the three Talanthian clerics beyond, who in turn, immediately started to cast spells.

This was unlike any battle the heroes had encountered before. Normally they were the ones with the advantage of spell casters, but now they had met their equal. Even as the fighters approached the combat, they were dazed and left dumbfounded unable to return any sort of melee. This was not going well. Next, the heroes were engulfed in flames as the enemy spell casters took advantage of the situation. Meanwhile, all the heroes had done was summon creatures, but did so right in the flames of the enemies spells. As a result, the summons were dismissed by fire almost as quick as they had arrived.

Myara was doing her best with her bow, and Threska tried to aid the fighters as Karasten simply had to try and run from the Talanthian fighters who had started to focus on him. And as drastic as this tactic had sounded, placing the magic user in great danger, it was also the break that the heroes needed to allow time for the fighters to recover. So, even as the wizard was falling from the blows of the enemy, Elana too, the fighters were at last finding their feet.

Thankfully, even though the fighters were also being punished by the Talanthians again now, they were able to stay standing by the energy of the Life Essences. The careful deployment of these vital essences were paying dividends, by the very fact that the Talanthians were now unable to deliver enough final damage to drop the fighters. Their delay by concentrating on the wizard and cleric and not being prepared for such resilience in the fighters caused the tide of battle to change. For now, Flint and Helden were able to add their mighty blows to the still arrow firing halfling. Now, the battle was turning.

In fact, as soon as the heroes had managed to bring down Herodias, and a cleric, two of the enemies summons also dissipated, leaving the final cleric and fighters vulnerable to the heroes blades. Now, victory that had seemed so distant to the heroes at the start was now assured, and as the fighters delivered the final blows, it was not long after that they were tending the wounds of the fallen. A few minutes later, everyone in the party had received healing and were discussing how better they may have been able to manage the battle if they encountered another situation like that. In this way, they grew in confidence and experience.

The wounds healed by the clerics prayers, the heroes were now able to explore the library (for that is what the room was) in peace. Karasten was in his element as he went from bookcase to bookcase, grabbing as much information and recipe pages as he could find ... and he found a lot! Unfortunately, however, in his zeal to grab as much information as he could lay his hands on, he also grabbed a cursed book, which instantly affected him in his reasoning. Sadly, even the clerics were unable to remove this curse, and they all knew it would mean acquiring some Oil of Unbinding at the next available opportunity before the wizard would be able to relieve himself of its evil effects.

The books searched, and the bodies of the Talanthians looted, the heroes found a key that they guessed they would need to further explore the tower. If this was the owner of the tower, as the evil cleric had stated, then hopefully, it would mean any further encounters may be a little easier ... but things did not always work out like that.

GAME TIME SINCE START: 52 Hours 13 Minutes.
QUESTS ACTIVE: 10 QUESTS COMPLETE: 22 (Ignoring Rule Info)

Saturday, 9 February 2019

The Adventure Continues .... 25. The Weight of Success! (v2.48)

Another successful session! I, however, noticed some minor issues that took some digging into the code to find the fixes. Hopefully, however, I have got to the bottom of these nasties - and players from the latest updates will gain the benefits. To this end, not only has there been the regular Campaign folder update, but I have also needed to update the Module again. This was for game balancing purposes. NOTE: If you are playing MP, then all players will need to update their campaign folder as their is an update to some XML code that all clients need. So, here's the latest ...

The List of Fixes

1) DATABASE CHECKS: The database duplication check had been inadvertently switched off for the last few updates, but I have now fixed that and added the ability to DELETE any database associated with a PC should the player wish to start over using a PC of the same name as one which they have used before. I have added the warning that any previous save games with said PC to date would have some unexpected results if a player tried to load an "older" game after deleting the associated database.

2) CONTAINER FEEDBACK: The CONTAINER feedback had a couple of minor fixes (one of which requires the fixed XML file): (a) First the container limit was showing on container items, which it is not meant to. Hopefully this no longer shows on an item container. (b) Secondly, the object container info section (yellow text at the top) was not always giving/updating with the correct info subject to the object being used. Hopefully, the change to the XML should have fixed this.

3) WALKWAYPOINTS: I noticed an instance where a creature that I was expecting to be patrolling had not resumed their patrol, even though the time of day meant that they should have been. It appears to be a problem related to GetIsDay, and so I have now changed all checks to do with that based upon the HOUR instead. With an added variable reset, this now appears to work as expected on testing.

4) PARTY BAR TOGGLE: Toggling the size of the Party Bar during TB Combat caused the round to move forward unexpectedly. This has now been fixed.

5) MAP BLOCKS: I noticed that some monsters opened the door that are supposed to also update the map by removing visual blocks. However, this only happens when PCs open the doors. It was a quick workaround on the night, but now I have added backup map block removals via triggers as well - in the rare cases when this may be required. (MODULE FIX.)

6) SLEEPING MONSTERS: The TB Combat system was triggering auto-pause even for a sleeping monster (that were not a threat). Checks have now been put in place to prevent this.

7) GOLD WEIGHT: The gold "Money Pouches" returned with an new problem: Disappearing altogether! It turned out that the timing of the gold calculations to ensure the PCs had the right amount of pouches to the gold they carried was off, due to relying on a heartbeat call. This worked well most of the time, but failed when a player entered from a saved game and had left pouches on other PCs to spread the weight. I have now removed the function call from the heartbeat and given it a priority call as part of a home-brew function rework of LBGiveGoldToCreature, which now immediately updates the pouches upon receiving gold, as opposed to within the heartbeat. So far, testing to date shows it works fine.

8) GAME BALANCING: One of the biggest issues for me on the night was recognising that some of the encounters were not balanced for the "large" party my group had managed to gather. Therefore, the encounters were on the easier side for them. As a consequence, I carefully went over the code for the encounters and believe I have now addressed such issues. Time and feedback will tell. Again, variables needed to be added to the module. (MODULE FIX.)
The Ettin
The Ettin's Treasure!
Bugbear Tower Approach
The Bugbears Defend
The Heroes Gain Entrance
More Bugbears, Including Clerics!
The Bugbear Chieftain!
All That Gold!
The Water Elemental

The Adventure Continues ... 25. The Weight of Success!

The Burden of Gold.

NB: Contains spoilers for ALL backgrounds.

The decision was finally made: First they would deal with the ettin and try to retrieve its stash, and then they would face the Bugbear tower. The heroes did not have to travel far before they reached the valley where the ettin stood guarding the way. Helden surveyed the beast from afar off, realising it had not seen them yet, and so organised an attack by the summoned creatures first, in much the same way they had dealt with the giants. By the time the ettin was aware of what was happening, the summons and Scraps had made their mark, and even the giant boulders it threw could do nothing to stop its demise.

After relieving the ettin of its treasure, Helden led the group along the valley to the boulder at the end where they knew the beast had hidden more of its booty. After Helden smashed the suspected boulder (as it was too heavy to lift), the heroes were indeed rewarded with a stash hidden beneath it. For the first time in a long while the treasures were back in human hands.

Now it was the turn of the Bugbears - and Helden made sure the party were well rested before the attack would begin. After backtracking to the tower, the heroes decided that the summoned creatures approach was the safest and most likely chance of a quick victory, and so once again, the summons and Scraps were sent ahead. The battle was a bloody one, in which Scraps fell to a mighty blow of a large Bugbear. But the wave of summons kept strong by the spell casters quickly brought on the onslaught the Bugbears faced, driving them all the way back to the tower entrance. By the time Scraps was revived with healing, the summons had cleared a path and the heroes met only one other Bugbear as they climbed the hill path to the tower.

Gaining entrance to the tower itself turned out to be a bit tougher. However, the occupants were caught by surprise, and the heroes managed to make careful use of spell fire from the entrance foyer after quickly disposing of the guards. It turned out that the Talanthians also had a presence here and were the control behind the Bugbears. Although, while the evil brotherhood certainly added to the tower's defence, it did little to stop the heroes from eventually prevailing and gaining entrance. Once inside, the heroes searched the ground floor and found more evidence that the Talanthians were making use of the Bugbears strength.

Climbing to the second floor, the heroes met with more resistance from Bugbears, and even a clerical one who tried to keep the fighter Bugbears healed as they defended. The ratio of blows to heals was against them, however, and like their brethren on the ground floor, they too soon fell. The party still had the advantage of surprise and so they pushed on and headed for the next level. Here, apart from a lone guard protecting some cells (which they quickly dealt with), they found a male prisoner who mumbled a word before he died in Helden's arms. It turned out to be a password to a chameleon stone that Myara found nearby. With little knowledge of the man, the heroes were grateful for his final word, as it transformed the Changing Stone into a spell book, which Karasten graciously accepted.

Reaching the top floor, they came face to face with a huge Bugbear, who immediately summoned a creature to its aid. However, as big as it was, it had no-one else here to help it, and so the heroes all attacked it at once, bringing the chieftain to its knees quicker than any other combats in the tower. With the death of the chieftain, the heroes knew they had broken the Bugbear hold in the area, and that it was yet another potential threat removed.

On the large Bugbear, Myara found a key and noticing a door nearby, went across and unlocked it. Then, before her eyes, she spied thousands of gold coins! This was a find indeed! The only problem was, the more gold they carried, the more it weighed them down. What a cruel turn of events. Here they were, with a massive haul and yet even sharing the gold they had found to date among the whole group still gave them little room for manoeuvre. Helden, who carried the most for the group, could barely move under its weight - and yet move he did. Nothing, he said, was going to stop him removing this haul from the tower and finding a safe place for it.

Before the heroes were done with the Bugbear tower,  there was one last region, beneath the tower, accessible by a ladder, which they had not yet explored. Placing the gold they found to one side by the tower exit for the time being, the heroes lightened themselves so they could manage the ladder and carry their animals with them to the lower level. Once below, they viewed a cavern full of water ... and Karasten spied something glistening in the rocks ahead.

Carefully, Helden led the way and waded into the reasonably shallow water - although neck deep for Myara - and removed the object caught in the rocks. It turned out to be another Changing Stone, but even before they could do anything with it, a water elemental suddenly rose from the waters and started to attack the party. "Back up to the dry ground!" cried Helden, and the group obliged, leaving only the summons and Scraps to stay behind and fight the elemental.

This strange monster was surprisingly strong, however, and had soon taken out all summons and Scraps, and made its way towards the heroes. The fighters had taken position, however, and as soon as it hit dry ground, the fighters let rip, and water splashed everywhere as they took chunks off the strange creature. Whether it was because the creature was no longer in its home water or simply because the fighters were prepared, it was hard to tell. Suffice to say, the last of the water beast was dripping from their weapons after only a few more rounds.

That was the last battle within the bugbear tower, and apart from deciphering the Changing Stone riddle with a little help from a Life Essence and recovering a Fireball Lore scroll, the heroes found nothing else. Recovering the dropped gold by the exit, the heroes decided to leave this tower, grateful in the knowledge that the Bugbears were defeated and that their pockets were that much more laden with gold! 

"What shall we do with it all though?" said Myara to Helden as he staggered to move.

The gold they now carried was indeed turning into an issue, and so it was decided that they needed to find a safe place to stash it while they continued their mission within the enclave. To this end, they made their way very slowly, back to the caves where they first encountered the Talanthians this side of the portal. They would find a chest and place it in there ... and remember it when they came back!

GAME TIME SINCE START: 49 Hours 49 Minutes.
QUESTS ACTIVE: 11 QUESTS COMPLETE: 21 (Ignoring Rule Info)