Monday, June 17, 2013

Random Encounters in Canada

At work I am doing some important software R&D on a new type of machine. A couple of weeks ago I went to the factory to test out the final version. Now this week I head to Quebec and spend a day to make sure that the installation goes OK.

The weird flights makes flying there versus driving there a wash in terms of my hours spend travelling.  But the flights put my time at the customer's site on a very tight schedule. Since this is a first of it kind machine I elected to drive there.

And along the way I rolled some good ones on the random encounter chart.

The US side of the trip was OK although the drive around Lake Ontario felt it took forever despite beating the Google time estimate. I would have done better but I blew a perception roll at the I-90/I-81 interchange at Syracuse. Going around the eastern side of Syracuse to get back on I-81 North didn't take too long.

After driving through the Thousand Islands it has been placed on my to do list of places to visit more thoroughly. They are not kidding when they say there are a thousand islands.

At the Canadian Border I run into a huge Traffic Snarl.

Looking around me I realized that 9 out of 10 cars are from Ontario and then it hit me that I run into all the Canadians returning home after a weekend in the US.

Yeah it was raining the whole damn trip. Although the rain shrouded Thousand Island is an image that will remain in my memory for a long while. Although thing of note was all the rocky outcropping. While PA and other regions has rocky outcropping these were Granite with a capital G. Red, and a bunch of other colors. Dwarves would love it here despite all the water.

So I get through customs and thankfully the paperwork to show Canada that I didn't arrive to steal a job from one of their own. Remember you go there to SETUP your company's machine not to INSTALL your company's machine. And always bring the original purchase order. I wasn't expecting any trouble and despite being nervous at having to pull over and present paperwork everything went smooth and they were very polite and helpful.

So I get on 401 and head east to get to Quebec City. I stop at a ONroute plaza to refuel, get lunch, and to get some Canadian Money. I was advised to use a ATM as all you get socked with is the bank fee. I pull out  my money and stared at whats in my hand.

Now Canada is a good friend the United State and if you going to have a really long border with anybody I would pick them. In the past remember people joking about Canada's money looking like play money but their new $20 is like wow. I have to admit that this is something not going to be easily counterfeited

Speaking of the ONroute plaza I had to double check my IPad to make sure something didn't escape.

Teasing aside it was really well setup and despite the rainy day it was very bright and didn't feel cramped despite all the people.

Then I found out that my company credit didn't work at the gas pump. Yes it work inside at the register  but not at the gas pump. Later I found it didn't work with any of them.

The drive to my first major waypoint Montreal was very scenic. Definitely an area of Ontario worth visiting later. Then when I got into Quebec all the signs became french only. No problem I will just follow the number. Yup 20 to 540 to 40 that will do the trick.

Then just before the general area where 540 is supposed to be I get signs that says

540->30 with some french underneath it. Oh crap! What the hell I am supposed to do? I elect to stay on 20 despite it changing from a interstate a two lane highway for a couple of miles. I just followed the numbers and got back on 20. No problem I will just drive through Montreal and come out the other side and be on my way to Quebec City.

Then I run into the Turcot Interchange.

The above picture doesn't begin to describe how terrifying and messy thing is. And the picture is in bright sunshine and I was driving through it in pouring rain!. To boot my connection to 20 East was BLOCKED! The detour lead me through the interchange, had me turn around and I had to go back through it a second time!

The section on crumbling concrete in wikipedia article doesn't begin how freaking bad it looks when you are actually attempting to drive through the thing. I will move heaven and earth to avoid this coming back to PA.

So finally I am beyond Montreal and on my way to Quebec City. About halfway there I need fuel. See a really nice rest stop and pull in. It is jammed with cars getting refueled. We are talking four to five cars deep at each pump. I look at the gas prices. It is 1.27 per liters. Mmmm that what I paid for back at the Apple looking plaza. I figure it was a some weird rush hour thing. So I go in and eat.

I come out and it is still four to five car deep and more are coming in. And this is a rural place like in the middle of PA, western New York, Farmbelt Midwest.  Later I asked my hotel desk clerk and apparently gas is normally $1.37 and that even a 10 cent difference can ignite people flocking to the pump for "cheap" gas.

Getting to Quebec City was a bit of anti-climax after all that couldn't be smoother getting into the city, finding the hotel, and checking in.

Finally I know it sounds like I making out Canada to be this weird off the wall place. I feel it just the dice rolls on this particular trip. I been here multiple times in Ontario and Quebec. Both for gaming and for business and always wind up meeting some really nice folks.

In other news I will be putting up posts later this week about my family's visit to the Origins Game Fair and the final post on the status of the Nomar Campaign.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Sandbox Campaign, the Nomar Campaign Part 2

Part 1

The campaign takes place in Nomar, a Ghinorian Realm with many elements similar to the mythos of King Arthur. It is ruled by Prince Artos of Dorn who tries to unite his facetious nobles in the faces of the Skandian Vikings to the east and the threat of City-State's Lord Divolic to the south.

The cast of Characters (created with GURPS)
Delvin - a dwarven fighter from Thunderhold wandering human lands to seek his fortune.
Durgo - a forester from southern Nomar who left his home and village under bad circum
Sir Cei Kerac - a hedge knight hiring on as a mercenary to regain the fortune he lost gambling
Aeron - a ordinary common man with special skills
Kermit - a half Viridian (demon), half Karian (Japanese) magic using puppeteer.
Sir Henry Kiefer - a young knight seeking to regain the manor that is rightfully his.
Brom - A Warrior seeking his fortune.

The campaign takes a left turn when Sir Cei convinces the rest of the party to buy out their contracts with the Red Hawks and head north to Vestin to join the Brotherhood of the Wyrm and their pending war against the Skandians.

E) Forest of Haleth (10/22/12) (Portly Pomp 13th, 4460 BCCC)
The party decides not to return to Abberset and heads across the wilderness to Gatmere. Durgo finds orc tracks heading east into the Forest of Haleth and the party decides to follow what is obviously a raiding party. Near one of the fords across Star Jewell stream the party stumbles onto a raiding party of Skandian Vikings! After winning the ensuing fight Durgo rechecks the tracks and finds out that he was mistaken about who made them. They were following the Skandians the whole time. (Tim made his tracking rolls but crit fails the identification of what made them).

The party finds out from their Skandians prisoners that Duke Divolic is building a road from Ichmenan to Skandian territories as well as a bridge across the River Lobregather.

F) Gatmere (10/22/12) (Portly Pomp 14th, 4460 BCCC)
Party arrives in Gatemere the night of the 13th and sees Sir Edmund the Bailiff of Gatmere in the morning. They reported what they found. Sir Edmund give them a report to give to the Duke Melan of Sykmet as the party is travelling in the direction.
G) Sykmet (10/29/12) (Portly Pomp 15th, 4460 BCCC)
 The party arrives in Sykmet and delivers the report to the Duke and his staff. Aemon was on the verge of leaving for Abberset when Sir Cei asks him to stay stating that his intelligence work has been invaluable. Touched Aeron decides to continue with party northward. Before they leave the party arranges to send their contract buyout back to Captain Hawkwood at Abberset.

H) Cumbria Highland (11/12/12) (Portly Pomp 16th,  17th, 18th, and 19th 4460 BCCC)
 On the road north to Vestin, just north of Ilyestead, the party meets an old knight, Sir Horleric and his teen-aged son Squire Armon. They are on the trail of a group of bandits and request Sir Henry, Sir Cei and the party aid in bringing them to justice. The party was successful and continued north.

I) Vestin (11/19/12) (Portly Pomp 19th 4460 BCCC)
Along the way to Vestin the party meets a group of monks who protectors abandoned them. The party safely sees them to crossroad between Fireside and Asbury.

The party arrives in Vestin and signs up with the Brotherhood. They get their quarters and disperse exploring the small town around the keep. They meet Sir Kaylum Granby the leader of the Brotherhood. Along with Sir Mordran Thorne which Sir Cei meet with in Shodan several days ago. Sir Kaylum explains the plan is to attack Heatherbush Castle first and keep the Skandian off balance with raids to the north and south around Tunworth and Gaithwell.

J) Forest Outpost (11/19/12) (Portly Pomp 20th 4460 BCCC)
They are assign as a raiding party based out of small forest output between Vestin and Tunworth. Their job is to hit the various Skandian villages around Tunworth and liberating their Ghinorian Thalls. This will hopefully provide much needed farmers for the ruined manors around Vestin, cut Skandian food production, and distract them from the impending attack on Heatherbrush.

cThey arrive there and meet the other raiding party led by the rotund Sir Wulfmund. After some looking at maps and scouting they decide to hit an outlying manor.

K) Tunworth Region (11/19/12) (Portly Pomp 21st 4460 BCCC)
The raid was a success, Lord Brik was kills along with his brother Thortig, and his son Thornar. The villagers were led across the wilderness and sent back to Vestin with a tenth share of the loot the party found. 

J) Forest Outpost (11/26/12) (Portly Pomp 22nd 4460 BCCC) 
The next the party decides to go further west and hit the outlying manor and work their way to the River Twiling. 

K) Tunworth Region (11/26/12) (Portly Pomp 22nd 4460 BCCC) 
They liberated another manor, killing Lord Tosnus. Rain starts bogging down movement. 

K) Tunworth Region (12/03/12, 12/10/12) (Portly Pomp 22nd 4460 BCCC) 
A manor is liberated along the shore of the River Twiling investigating the party finds a much higher population of Skandians than the inland manors. The party was lucky that they hit in the middle of the day when most were out fishing. 

J) Forest Outpost (12/10/12) (Portly Pomp 22nd, 23rd 4460 BCCC) 
The party leads two village worth of refugees back to the Forest Outpost and prepares to send them back to Tunworth. The party scouts the fringes of Tunworth and finds out the King of Ossary is due to arrive in a few days. They decide head back with the refugees to refit and figure out a plan to ambush the king.

I) Vestin (1/7/13, 1/13/13) (Portly Pomp 24th 4460 BCCC)
The party gets back to Vestin, sells their loot, and settles the refugees in. In the morning of the 24th one of the men-at-arms Sir Cei recruited was found missing. He was last seen going into the woods with a women. Durgo examines the woods and find giant insect tracks going to deeper into the woods. The party finds a giant sinkhole infested with Giant Spiders. They dispatched the spiders and rescue the man-at-arms and his lady friend. Within they find an ancient cache of the Dwarven Explorer Master Vanel. They find Halfling Joy Powder, A Tiger Figurine of Power, and most interesting a Spike of the Soulforger and the Hammer that goes along with it.

J) Forest Outpost (1/13/13) (Portly Pomp 25th 4460 BCCC) 
The party returns to the outpost prepare to ambush the King of Ossary.

L) Tunworth Region (1/13/12) (Portly Pomp 26th 4460 BCCC) 
The Party stage a raid on a manor just to the west of Tunworth. It successful in drawing out the King and a party of Skandian warriors. The party springs the ambush halfway to the manor and successfully surprises the King's warparty. The battle is close but the magical plate armor that increases Sir Cei's slam damage wins the day as the knight pummels the king into the mud. The party escapes with the King before the main Skandian force arrives.

When the King's helm is taken off when the party is shocked when they see Sir Kaylum the leader of the Brotherhood of the Wyrm!

Continued in Part 3

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Sandbox Campaign, the Nomar Campaign Part 1

Since the Summer of 2010 I been using NBOS's The Keep to keep track of notes for the various campaigns I been involved with. At a minimum I record the date and whose campaign it was. I generally not that great at keeping detailed notes but  between what I put in the Keep and my prep notes I am finding I can track the course of a campaign much easier than the past.

I figure that writing up a post about it would help to give a look into how my sandbox campaigns go and give a sense of it's ebb and flow. You will have to click on the below image to see the keep and route marker. I give the real world dates and in-game dates for each Entry.

The campaign takes place in Nomar, a Ghinorian Realm with many elements similar to the mythos of King Arthur. It is ruled by Prince Artos of Dorn who tries to unite his facetious nobles in the faces of the Skandian Vikings to the east and the threat of City-State's Lord Divolic to the south.

The cast of Characters (created with GURPS)
Delvin - a dwarven fighter from Thunderhold wandering human lands to seek his fortune.
Durgo - a forester from southern Nomar who left his home and village under bad circum
Sir Cei Kerac - a hedge knight hiring on as a mercenary to regain the fortune he lost gambling
Aeron - a ordinary common man with special skills
Kermit - a half Viridian (demon), half Karian (Japanese) magic using puppeteer.
Sir Henry Kiefer - a young knight seeking to regain the manor that is rightfully his.
Brom - A Warrior seeking his fortune.

The campaign starts with Delvin, Durgo, Sir Cei, Aeron, and Kermit.

A) Abberset (7/23/12) (Portly Pomp 3, 4460 BCCC)
The party joins the Red Hawk mercenary band under the command of Sir Jonas Hawkwood in the service of the Count of Shodan. The Count is paranoid about the intention of Duke Divolic of City-State to the south and has hire mercenaries to patrol out of Abberset Keep.

The party spends the day learning about Abberset Keep and its inhabitants.

Sir Henry joins the group.

B) Estoil Hills (7/30/12) (Portly Pomp 4 to 5, 4460 BCCC)
Sir Henry arrives and signs up with Red Hawks. The group heads out on their first patrol.

A) Abberset (8/6/12) (Portly Pomp 5, 4460 BCCC)
Party ambushes one of Divolic's Patrols. Much debate whether they are over the border or not. Returns to Abberset and finds out Captain Hawkwood and the Count's Baliff don't really care. They get their first payday when they get their share of the looted armor and weapons.

Heads back out on Patrol

C) Estoil Hills (8/6/12, 8/13/12) (Portly Pomp 5th to 7th, 4460 BCCC)
Finds a camp of Halkmenan refugees (fleeing from Duke Divolic) destroy, find one of Divolic's patrols destoryed, and almost get killed themselves by the Hounds of Hamakhis. Finally figures out that the Hounds are spirits of vengance released when one of Divolic's patrols slaughtered an entire refugee camp. Were able dispel the hounds by burying the desecrated remains of the refugees.

A) Abberset (8/20/12, 9/10/12) (Portly Pomp 7th to 8th, 4460 BCCC)
Group returns to Abberset. Aeron finds a Skandian spy learns that Divolic is doing something to the east that involves something that will badly effect the Skandians. The spy is taken out by the party at the Mud Frog Inn. Sir Henry and Durgo joins a hunt with Captain Hawkwood and the Count's Baliff. An owlbear is killed. Sir Cei rides north to see Sir Mordran of the Brotherhood of the Wyrm and pledges his service. Kermit entertains the keep with a popular puppet show. Delvin finds a map of the wandering of  Master Vanal a famed Dwarven explorer and possible treasure in the eastern Estoil Hills.

D) Estoil Hills (9/17/12, 10/8/12, 10/15/12) (Portly Pomp 8th to 12th, 4460 BCCC)
The party follows the map in the Estoil Hills and find a entrance way into a dungeon. Exploring it they find it is a ancient demon stronghold left over from the Uttermost War. Partially functioning they were able to find treasure, and defeat the creatures inside. Among one of the stranger things was a room that used different configurations of crystals to create potions in its pools.

D) Estoil Hills (10/22/12) (Portly Pomp 13th, 4460 BCCC)
Sir Cei convinces the party that with the treasure they found in the dungeon that they can buy off their contract. That they would have better luck with the Brotherhood of the Wyrm and fighting Skandian Vikings. After some debate the party agree and heads north.

Next Part 2.

One thing you will notice that only 10 days passes in-game in 11 game sessions. Something about the way I handle things causes my players to want to play out nearly every day. They are all busy doing interesting stuff so it isn't a result of micro-management mechanics.

Another thing is that the various session set in Abberset had a lot of split party stuff as they scatter around time. What I do to handle this is use a round robin technique. I go to each player and roleplay with them until a natural break comes up and move onto the next player. For example leaving a shop or finishing a conversation would be a natural break. So each player or smaller group gets a 5 to 10 minute chunk of roleplaying.