Nephilim – Chapter 5: Acquistion

(Disclaimer: This is a synopsis / battle report of a session within our Nephilim RPG campaign. It serves to give some context to the fiction I post, as well as simply practicing writing.)

Chapter 5: Acquistion

Synopsis

Last time we saw our heroes, they have secured an Earth Plexus in a cave/sewer network beneath Berlin. Having secured the Earth Plexus, our protagonists are presented with an unexpected situation by Skaro.

She has obtained information about two manuscripts that might contain more modern writings about Golems (not the clay prototyp developed in 17th century Prague), but they are part of a private collection that is being auctioned off.

Two sets of two invitations are granted to the group, and they will have to get creative in order to get the fifth person into the venue.

Skaro has also provided funds, 400.000€, and an additional 25.000€ in cash.

Arrival at the venue

The auction is held at a private mansion, and the group arrives fairly early.
Finistur summons her kabbalistic sword and armor and deposits them in the group´s jeep, “just in case”. With a bit of magical assistance from Gealach, Sil’Faron, in his identity of Bernd Schiffer, manages to dupe the doormen that the 17 year old Kek is actually his son. The bouncers are quite dazzled by the charismatic display, and let them all in.

Sha Naqba Imuru and Sil’Faron have received bidder numbers for the auction, while the others are only present as their aquaintances.

Once inside, our protagonists survey the list of items that will be auctioned off.

  • The two manuscripts by R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz they came for
  • Three paintings of archangels (Jophiel, Raphael and Gabriel)
  • Three french books
  • A horrendous looking sculpture of a melting person
Photo of the auction programme and list of items
Photo of the auction programme and list of items

Lounging & Socialising

Before the auctions are starting, the group socialisies with the other attendees, finding four other Nephilim among them. This makes for a total of nine Nephilim present, a staggering number, considering how far apart they are usually. An illustrious gathering indeed.
They approach all of them, to find out where they stand regarding the acquisition of the manuscripts.

Surprisingly, Joris, who is known to the group as Tanja, is present. She wants to spy out the humans, to find out which ones belong to secret societies. She´s also here under a fake identity, Anna Michalska.

Finistur meets the englishwoman Caitlin Sanders, a Fire Nephilim incarnated into an elderly woman. She is interested int he sculpture and the painting of the Archangel Raphael, and also wants the other items to go into Nephilim hands, as opposed to the grubby fingers of mundane humans. She claims to be willing to destroy the merchandise otherwise.

Gealach has a brief chat with a dark-haired woman named Francesca, a Moon Nephilim.
She appears to be a direct competitor for the two Schwaller manuscripts.

Kek, and later Gealach, engage in a Poker game in the mansion´s Gentleman´s Club, with a young man called Eduard Miller. He savagely cheats at the game, using concealed magic to embarass a player to leave the game during a large pot. Afterwards, Kek approaches him to find out about the auction. Mr. Miller first claims to only be here “for the people”, but later admits that his patrons are interested in one of the french books, Der Kampf ums Dasein am Himmel, which contains only “beginner level” arcane knowledge.

There are also a number of notable “regular” humans among the crowd of about 50 people present, some of them obviously not interested in the occult. Sil’Faron manages to talk a pompous man named Marco Probst, who obviously has no appreciation for literature, into believing that the Schwaller manuscripts are not originals.

A few guests seem to have suddenly become quite sick, requiring an ambulance. A coincidence? Too much sparkling wine? Spoiled hors d’oeuvre? Unlikely.

Auction round one

The first round of auctions starts, and the group silently observes the proceedings, without any interest for the french books. Two of these go to Eduard Miller and his associates, the third to an unremarkable collector.

They make a bid for one of the Angel paintings, but it goes to Mrs. Sanders, as does the disgusting sculpture. She seems pleased, and so does Mr. Probst, who buys the two remaining paintings.

Kek notices a man and a woman who appear to be more interested in the guests than the auction themselves, taking pictures of the high bidders. He shadows them for the remainder of the evening.

Sil’Faron is approached by the woman named Francesca, who offers a bounteous 100.000€ simply for him not bidding on the manuscripts, but he declines, knowing how important these books are for the group.

Before the manuscripts are auctioned off, there is a dinner break, and Gealach manages to confuse Mr. Probst with her alchemical arts. He is now more interested in indulging in the sumptuous buffet than the auction.

blog_auction_map
A map of the auction venue, the mansion of Katrin Frueh

Auction round two

This is the main event, the Schwaller manuscripts are up. Quite a number of bidders is missing from the room, due to mysterious illness and sudden hunger flashes.

As soon as the first manuscript, The Temple Of Man, is presented, Gealach creates a visual illusion of water damage upon the book, which scares several more bidders off.

Sil’Faron gets the high bid, with 105.000€, which leaves the group with 325.000€, and the hope that they can pay in cash or leverage some Sil’Faron´s private savings.

Having conserved so much cash, they win the bid war for the second manuscript, The Temple In Man, as well, with Francesca being the only serious contender.

She stomps off angrily, and the two frenchmen seems to follow her to the parking lot. Kek notices this, and he and Finistur decide to take a shortcut over the terrace, while Sil’Faron and Sha Naqba Imuru retrieve their acquisitions.

Trouble at the parking lot

Francesca speeds off in her sports car, completely oblivious of the fact that she is being followed by the two strangers.

Kek holds them up at their automobile, demanding to know why they took so many photographs, but the situation rapidly devolves into violence, as one of them draws a gun.
Kek drags the driver from the car, throws him against the next vehicle, and goes to cover.

The second stranger seizes the opportunity and tries to escape with the car, but she did not take into account the presence of Finistur, who has retrieved her kabbalistic blade from her Jeep. The entire left backside of the Peugot is sliced apart, including the axle. This car will not drive anywhere anytime soon.

The suspects are quickly knocked out and stuffed into the jeep´s trunk. Tanja arrives, and after a quick surveying of the situation, returns to the house to get the rest of group.

Four things are in possession of our heroes now. The two manuscripts, which hopefully contain enough knowledge to construct a working Golem, as well as two unconscious people, whom Kek suspects to be Templar operatives…

Gamemaster´s Perspective

This was an interesting session to prepare. I had four goals in mind when I did this:

  • Advance the main plot, by bringing more of the Golem related knowledge in reach of the players
  • Have only one event in a session, not multiple
  • Provide a setting where the non-violent characters can show their strenghts
  • Introduce some actual human NPCs, instead of too many Nephilim

Preparation was interesting insofar as I wanted an interesting set of bidders present, as well as the opportunity for the players to screw themselves up by being greedy. I intentionally did not make up a bidding strategy or similar things, only a list of “high-profile” bidders that would compete for the four important items of the auction.

The players showed remarkable restraint in their bidding, which allowed them to have enough money left for both manuscripts. For me personally, this meant that there was a foregone conclusion: I knew that none of the NPCs could beat the player´s on the final auction, which took out a bit of tension for me, but the players assured me that they didn´t notice. 🙂

On the flip-side, some NPCs have powerful artifacts in their hands now as well, which might become relevant at a later time. The disgusting statue is actually a focus for a very powerful Fire spell.

What I did not like was the fact that I had to juggle too many NPCs, and thus could not flesh out their characters too much. I´ll have to work on that.

Between this session and the one before, I also had solo sessions with two of the players, which advanced several side-plots that were opened up during the beginning of the campaign. I will not discuss them here, as there is too much character knowledge in these, that I want to separate from player knowledge 🙂

Party.San 2017 impressions

Party.San 2017 is over and except for the weather it was great, my personal muscial highlights were these:

Humiliation

Humiliation from Malaysia were not a surprise to me, I knew of them beforehand, but what did surprise me was their exceptional live performance. They were headlining the tent/underground stage and absolutely deserved it.

Bolt Thrower (RIP) has left a tank-shaped hole in the Death Metal scene, and here is an aspirant for the throne, at least in the live department.

If you like groovy, mid-tempo Death Metal that is very reminscent of mid-to-late era Bolt Thrower, check them out:

Nile

The Sultans of Swing? Nope, the Pharaos of Death Metal. Nile played a short, but very sweet setlist, with a surprising focus on old material. “Sacrifice Unto Sebek” has become a classic by now.

The highlight of this one was “Unas, Slayer Of The Gods”. Due to the length of this song the band very seldomly plays this live, so I was very pleased to hear this. The blaring war horns in the middle of the song are so powerful live.

Check the song and album out here:

This would have been the best gig of the festival, but it was simply too short. I would have liked an encore with a faster song, like “Lashed To The Slavestick” or “Winds Of Horus”. On the other hand, I am glad that they have finally decided to leave “Black Seeds Of Vengeance” off the setlist. The chorus is good, but the rest of the song lags behind other offerings from the gods of egyptian Death Metal.

Demilich

Sadly, I could not convince my friends to watch Demilich with me. This is a fairly unknown band from Finland, who released exactly one album, “Nesphite”, about twenty years ago.

They played a mix of songs from that album and it was great. I feared that the sound would be muddy, due to the complexity of the material, but they pulled it off rather well.

Look here for dangly riffs and vocals in the lowest guttural register, to my knowledge, this release contains their entire back catalog, said album and the demos:

Cryptopsy

Aaaand another Death Metal quartett. I went into this concert with very low expectations, because I do not like their newer material very much. So I was positively suprised when they simply played my preferred album, “None So Vile” (1996) almos t from end to end.

Angular, razor-sharp riffs, mixed with mosh-parts and bass slapping, go here:

Misc

Other than these, I greatly enjoyed Candlemass (gotta get those first albums at some point Oo) and Mantar (two guys were enought to fill out the big stage), and for some reason the weather was so bad that I am starting to get a cold right now… blargh.

Hearthstone Arena 3: A priestly taste of frozen thrones

Knights of the Frozen Throne is out, and I tried my hand at Arena for my first two runs.

Both of them were Priest, and I went 3-3 and 1-3, so not a good start. Here´s my first impressions

New cards I played

Necrotic Geist

I played with and against this in 5 games, and in 4 of them it produced major value and board presence. If played into a double trade situation you can basically force your opponent into killing it or face an army of replicating 2/2s. Not bad, but a little clunky.

Devour Mind

A bit weaker version of Cabalist´s Tome. I think it´s weaker because the variance is greater. On the other hand, you learn about 10% of your opponent´s total cards, which is valuable. Write them down, always.

Embrace Darkness

Horrible Card, as expected. The 4 mana discount off of Mind Control is not worth the pile of disadvantages this brings: It does nothing the turn you play it, it can be silenced before it goes off, your opponent can trade the minions away, and when you finally get it, it has summoning sickness. This last one kills the card, and I think you should avoid drafting it.

Tomb Lurker

You will find yourself in a situation where you topdeck this and think “Hmm, which deathrattle guys died this game?”. This is basically a late game card, because on-curve it loses to 2-drops and there is little chance for deathrattlers to die beforehand. Value-wise this should be okay if it triggers, even if you only get a Mistress of Mixtures or something.

Grim Necromancer

Filler card, Pick it if you must, but it´s nothing special. See Dragonling Mechanic

New neutral cards I played against

Bone Mare

A nightmare! This is one of the cards I expected to shake up arena play, and so far I´m not disappointed. 9/9 worth of stats, half of which has Charge and Taunt? Sign me up.

This is very similar to Firelands Portal in terms of value and tempo gained. You can go from one weak minion on the board to two threatening ones with only 7 mana.

Right now, Heartharena is not yet updated, but I suspect this will be above 90 points, which is really high for a neutral common.

Cobalt Dragonscale

5/5 for 5 is always playable, and if this triggers it´s a big pile of stats. And the opponent is forced to trade into the buffed minion. Good card.

Bone Drake

6/5 for 6 and drawing a card seems strong. With this and Cobalt Dragonscale, I am wondering if the dragon density is high enough for the Dragon Gamble  in Priest draft :take a medium strength dragon such as Midnight Drake or Faerie Dragon early in the draft, to try and get Drakonid Operative / Netherspite Historian going.
Just an idea at the moment, probably a bad idea.

By itself, this card is obviously good value.

Mindbreaker

This seems decent and reminds me of Saboteur, 7 worth of stats for 3 mana and locking out the next hero power use of your opponent. Just make sure you can trade it away or work without your own hero power on the next turn.

Corpse Raiser

Also a strong card. This is somewhat similar to giving a minion divine shield before trading it. I think playing this on curve and simply trading 4-mana guys is actually really strong.

Class cards encountered

The class cards I encountered so far were nothing special.

Doomerang seems okay until you realize that you have to play weapon cards, most of which are bad.

Druid Of The Swarm might be good, 1/5 aggro stopper or soft removal in the late game.

Runeforge Haunter seems pointless. Again, do we really want to draft Weapon Rogue? 🙂

Breath of Sindragosa might be strong, it kills many 2- and most 1-drops. Need more data.

First thoughts on the Meta

My first impression of the meta is that again, long term value play is rewarded. Between the Taunts and the new lifesteal mechanic going for an aggressive strategy seems risky.

 

Hearthstone Arena 2: Arcane Intellect is a bad card!

Pyroblast is a real card nowadays.

Last time, I said that I am having more fun and success in Arena since Standard Arena was established, here´s why:

Philosophy: The long game

My favourite win condition is actually Fatigue, it means that I have managed to beat all of the 30 cards in your deck with all of mine.

Assuming that both players survive the early to mid game, let´s say to turn 7. Now it becomes a matter of

  • a) bringing your opponent to 0 with a swift push (this usually means they have run out of answers / have mismatching answers to your threats). It often means that you have to take a risk (but the reward is the game)
  • b) grinding away the card in their hand so that you can leverage inefficient value spending to gain complete board control. At this point, the risk becomes minimized, since you only have to fear their next topdeck card, which often is just a river crocolisk.
  • c) Play the value game to the bitter end. Lure out their answers with your threats. Portion out your threats in a manner that prevents the opponent from gaining too much value, but also try not to get tempo-ed out.

The last one is my favourite style, but it requires careful planning and is not possible with every deck.

For example, if you look at all of your remaining cards, there should be sufficient answers left to deal with multiple big threats (Bog Creeper and similar road blocks.). If you only have one *hard* removal and your opponent has 15 cards left in their deck, chances are that you will have to deal with more than one big threat.

In this case it´s often not wise to enforce the long game.

This is especially true against Priest and Paladin, they have many cards that provide value in addition to being large threats, not so much against Rogue or Mage (Warrior and Druid have lots of fat ones as well, but are currently severely underrepresented).
Against Rogue, going for the option b) is usually the best way, as they often grind down their own life total, and you can find a window of opportunity to just kill them.
Conversely, depending on your own class, Mage can sometimes burn you out over two turns, from life totals as high as 18.
Pyroblast is a real card nowadays.

With the classes I am comfortable with (Paladin, Priest, Mage, Rogue), I will usually try to keep an answer in hand that catches the worst-case card my opponent could have.
For example, keeping a silence effect against Spikeridged Steed, or a hard removal for Mind Control.

Drafting Mage

So what does all of this mean for our draft? Let´s take Mage as an example.

Mage has the most (and sometimes best) removal/answers of all the classes, but it does not have many really good threats in it´s class cards. Water Elemental at common and Steam Surger at rare are the only “win condition” type minions for the class. The rest is removal, decent minions and card generation.

“Win condition”? I consider any minion of 4/5 and above to be a win condition. Smaller minions are usually just ground up in the trenches and seldomly do more than trade 1:1 or chip away 3 HP and then get caught in mass removal.

For our Mage draft, this means that we will have a plethora of removal and we need to get our win conditions from the neutral cards. Sturdy minions like Nesting Roc, Frost Elemental and Sated Threshadon are some of the things that we need.

Any card that doubles as removal and win condition is gold, if we can make it work (in the rare slot, Spiked Hogrider, Servant of Kalimos and Steam Surger are good examples.)

If you can make the Elemental deck work, do it, it´s a good option.

Card draw is bad, card generation is good

And here´s the big one: Card draw is bad. Arcane Intellect is not a good card. I will often pick a supposedly “weaker” card, and am happy with that.

The card does actually nothing. It is negative tempo. It reduces your deck size (fatigue is real), it means that you only have 29 real cards to beat your opponents 30.
So the only effect that it has is providing us with more options.

When playing Mage, I will often have six or more cards in hand. In which situation do we want to play Arcane Intellect (or Acolyte of Pain, or Gnomish Inventor)?

In the early game, when we need the tempo? Can´t afford 3 mana to spin the wheel for random cards.

In the very late game? When we are starting to hover the mouse over both decks to see who will fatigue first?

I would often rather have a vanilla minion than this.

Of course, not all card draw is bad. Excessive, repeatable card draw sometimes provides so many options that we can intentionally bleed value in bad trades because we know that it drains our opponent faster. Cult Master is an example

Card generation on the other hand, is king. Stonehill Defender, even if it only fetches you a mediocre card like Stegodon, provides additional value beyond your 30 cards. (A 1/4 Taunt is the additional value, not the discovered card, because we would not play Silverback Patriarch by itself.). You can also hit the jackpot (Soggoth).

Two more specific exceptions:

Arcanologist

Arcanologist is actually a good card (if we have a secret in the deck), despite what I said above.
On-curve, it provides us a 3-drop (not optimal, but sometimes Mirror Entity is enough). We also know which card we will draw, which is often important when planning mid-game turns. It thins the deck out of secrets so that we have a marginally increased chance to draw answers or threats later.

Bright-Eyed Scout

This is a wonderfully designed card, in what allows you to do:

On turn 4, it is a below-average minion, but it draws you a card that you can play on-curve in turn 5.

On 9&10 mana it guarantees that you draw a card that you are guaranteed to play.

Sometimes it produces a sick tempo advantage for turn 5. The times where you draw a 4 or less cost card are not too bad either. Just imagine that you drew the next card instead, at some point you can just chuck out the bad 5.

Knights of the Frozen Throne

Looking at the currently spoiled cards, Coldwraith seems to be the onlyMage common card yet, its a Spider Tank with upside, so we auto-pick it if no top tier cards are present.

Ice Walker seems like a good rare, it can protect itself and might get out of control.

Cobalt Scalebane (5/5 for 5, at end of turn give a random friendly +3 attack) might be the new best friend of all the good 3- and 4-mana taunts.

Bone Mare (5/5, Battlecry give another minion +4/+4 and Taunt, for 7 mana) seems like a really sick card, and it´s a neutral common. This card will wreck you so many times.

So far, nothing super-fast is spoiled, so for now, the long game might be safe.

Winter is coming in mid-August, brace yourselves. 🙂
– Rane2k out.

Nephilim – Chapter 4: Sinister Machinations

(Disclaimer: This is a synopsis / battle report of a session within ourNephilim RPG campaign. It serves to give some context to the fiction I post, as well as simply practicing writing.)

Chapter 4: Sinister Machinations

Synopsis

When last we left our heroes, they had successfully liberated Sil’Faron´s stasis, an icon of fertility from his first life, in ancient Egypt. All five of them are in possession of their stases now.

Investigations

In the following weeks, not too much happens. The ruckus around the Pergamon Museum has died down a bit, and Sha Naqba Imuru, in his role as Markus Vogt, the police investigator, is monitoring the situation. He wants to see if any evidence turns up which might incriminate him and his friends, or if he can find any information regarding the possible appearance of a sixth Nephilim.

At home, he makesa few attempts to open or activate the enigmatic bronze cube he Harvey had given him.
It briefly reacts to a spell he casts, and one night he discovers part of a technical drawing etched into the surface of his kitchen table… Has he interrupted something?

The huntmaster arrives

Theseus has come to Berlin, and a meeting has been arranged in the court of Justice.
They can not meet atop Skaro´s tower, because Theseus refuses to take the same oath that the group has sworn.

Sil’Faron and Skaro have worked out a deception tough; Sil’Faron appears in the form of Skaro, with the aid of a spell that allows her to speak and act through him. He also takes on her metamorphosis; Golden eyes and fully grown Angel wings.

Theseus arrives and falls for the ruse.
He has returned from a hunt for gryphons in south america, together with a young Nephilim called Vashiko in tow. No pleasantries are exchanged, he announces his business in Berlin to the gathering:
They tracked a transgressor of the Devil Arcanum and want to bring him down.

Theseus demands warriors to stand ready for the time that he has cornered his prey, and he also orders Kek to find and secure an Earth plexus.

Before he and his friend can depart he is challenged by Eresh Szat, who had been watching the proceedings, to “open” his two-handed hammer.

An orichalkum short spear is revealed, hidden with the hammer´s shaft, and the judge makes it very clear that whoever uses this forbidden weapon to destroy another Nephilim would have to stand trial before the court of Justice.
Even the Devil transgressor should receive a fair trial.

Meeting Theseus in the Court of Justice
Meeting Theseus in the Court of Justice

After the greek warrior has left, Vashiko joins the group in the Dojo above the court, and with Theseus gone, she seems liven up a bit. Gealach and Finistur arrive as well, and the find out that Vashiko, going under the human name Ashley is actually a Nephilim in her first incarnation, born a mere two years ago.

Going underground

The group decides to venture out for an Earth Plexus, without Ashley, as they do not fully trust her. They seek the plexus for themselves and postpone the decision wether to tell Theseus about it or not.

Finistur has a spell ready, with which she triangulates the position of the nearest Earth Plexus, which seems to be underground, but at least within the city of Berlin.

They venture into the sewers, prepared with spells, lamps and a summoned troglodyte, where they find a breach in the wall, leading to a cavern system… and are ambushed by two horrifying alligator-like creatures, sewn together from human body parts and bones. Their smell is overpowering, and sinewy tentacles sprout from their sides.

After a brief skirmish, they follow the tunnels leading away from the canals, deeper into the bowels of the earth, where a large grotto opens up before them,.
Again the rancid stink of rotting human flesh is in the air, and another battle ensues.

This time the flesh puppets are shaped like huge scorpions, with vicious stinger tails, and a layer of armor made of human bone fragments.
Finistur manages to sneak up on one of them and cut off the tail before it can react, but as the battle starts, more enemies enter the fray.
Emaciated human shapes dash out of the shadows and attack Kek with their claws.
One of them lets itself onto his back with a nasty kick.
Isolated from the group, who is busy hacking and shooting the bone scorpions apart, he takes several wounds before the troglodyte arrives and finishes off the last of these sordid beings.

session4blog2
Earth Plexus cavern

Rest

As the adrenaline from the battle subsides, the group has time to take a look around. They are within an Earth plexus, Ka energy flows freely here, and some of them begin to recharge their stases.

Kek´s wounds are tended to, by magical and mundane means, and the group ponders wether they can venture deeper into these caverns, or if they should stay until their stases are refreshed and then leave…

Gamemaster´s Perspective

Again, the session took too long (in excess of 5 hours), as we started too late with the actual playing. I´m hard at work on moving the solo play and character development to actual solo sessions, which would have saved about one hour in this sitting. This hour could have been used to actually finish the journey into the caverns. (The caverns continue at 15b in the picture above, while 16a is an exit (the players could have arrived from here).

Combat also took longer than expected, especially the first encounter. 

Two notes I have for myself and the players here: Make more quick decisions, some minor decisions took very long (which is okay for important tactical decisions), which takes a bit of excitement out of the action. The second one is: Don´t argue about mechanics too long (“Can I parry the scorpion´s claw attack with my boots.”).
I made a snap decision (follow the rules as printed, which denies it) to keep the game flowing.#

On the plus side, I think everyone had fun, I learned that Finistur, the character of which I assumed it is the weakest (unfortunate rolls during character generation), is actually, if properlay prepared, an indestructible death machine with her summoned sword,armor and the troglodyte. 

Fun fact: The troglodyte summoning spell is named differently in each version of the source book I found. “Those who hit the scorpions”, “Those who hit like scorpions”. The first one was apt in this battle.. 🙂

Looking forward to the next session!

Nephilim – Chapter 1: Turbulent Awakening

It is the beginning of April, in the year 2017.
A small group of Nephilim awakens in Berlin, and find themselves drawn towards a shared fate.

This is their story.

Sha Naqba Imuru

Sha Naqba Imuru, a Djinn, awakens in a private apartment, he is now the human Markus Vogt, a police investigator working in the narcotics investigation section, aged 35.
He is also a firearms enthusiast in possession of several pistols, rifles and even a machine gun (tough within safety regulations of the German law.)

A few minutes after he incarnates, the printer in his apartment starts, without his input, to produce a print-out.

It is a cryptic message from someone named Harvey, addressed not at Markus Vogt, but rather at him directly, which is highly unusual.

The message contains a time and a contact person, and some information about a white tower.

Finistur

The Elf Finistur is abruptly pulled into a human woman named Mara Hartberger, an anti-whaling activist, and immediately learns the dangers of public traffic in the 21st century, as she is almost run over by a car while passing the street.

She learns that her simulacrum is married and has two children.

A short message to her mobile phone tells her to meet a man named Stephan Ross on Saturday evening.

She should ask for a cure for her falcon, and has no idea what this is supposed to mean.

Yearning to be with other Nephilim again, she decides to go there.

Kek

The Djinn Kek is incarnated into the pupil Matthias “Mayhem” Markward, a rebellious teenager.
His new life starts in a strange mockery of the end of his last, where he was burnt at the stake, choking, while surrounded by peasants screaming for his death.

He is surrounded by his hooting band-mates, and a burning sensation is in his throat…
but it is only the Vodka bottle that is being drained into him.

After a long night full of drink an music, he is on his way home, and he also receives a message on his cellphone, enticing him to meet Stephan Ross, whom he should ask  for a cure for his lion.

Sil’Faron

The Sylph Sil’Faron finds himself looking out of a second-story window, and a voice keeps droning on about beverages, service rosters, planned events and other assorted gastronomic topics.

He has become Bernd Schiffer, the owner of a techno club in central Berlin, and he is not even remotely pleased with this turn of events.

The voice turns out to belong to Sandra, his assistant. He dismisses her, as he desired to be left alone.

Once she is gone, he immediately scours Mr. Schiffer´s small personal library for books of a mystical or occult nature, but finds nothing of interest, when a message arrives on his phone.

It is a strange text, apparently written in Italian, but with the help of an online translator and a bit of common sense he figures out that the message summons him to an address not too far from him, also in Berlin.

The message also bore secret signs of the Hermit Arcanum, with which Sil’Faron associates himself. He quickly discerns that these secret signs are a forgery, not the real deal.

He decides to investigate this.

Gealach

The Wyvern Gealach also emerges from stasis in central Berlin and finds herself looking into a mirror.
She sees the face of Silke “Monday” Nagel, a young woman with colorful hair.

As she peruses her surroundings, a small, cheaply furnished appartement, she receives a message as well.

It contains an image that she has seen before, about two centuries ago, but it appears to be incomplete, and the author of the message implies that they know this.

Her curiousity is piqued, and she decides to follow the instructions to meet Stephan Ross

Meeting Dr. Ross
 

After a bit of confusion, the flashing of Markus Vogts police badge, an exasperated receptionist and a few mentions of non-domesticated animals, the five of them meet each other, and Dr. Stephan Ross, a veterinaran, in a private waiting room in his clinic.

He reveals himself to be Yxdri, an Elf Nephilim of the Arcanum of Temperance.

Introductions are cut short however, as he notices a message on his phone.

He shares this information with the group, it says that the stasis objects – which he was supposed to help retrieve – have been stolen by a group of Templars.

Tanja, the sender of the message, tracked them to an empty warehouse in the outskirts of Berlin.

Ambushing the Templars

The group decides to venture there, as their Stases are very important to them.

Upon their arrival, it starts to rain, and they observe the scene for a while.
A lone figure clad in black seems to be loading some crates from a small warehouse into a cargo van.

They employ a pincer movement, Kek and Finistur climbing onto the roof of the warehouse, while the other three take the long way around and approach from the main gate of the courtyard, which can´t be seen from the van.

Sha Naqba Imuru prepares a powerful Ka-Shout, in an attempt to stun the, as of yet unknown number, of Templars.

The stealthy approach is thwarted, as there appears to be a guard dog inside the building, which heard Kek´s movement on the roof and starts barking.

Orville, the man loading carrying the crates, quickly hides within the the van and shouts the name Jirard.

Gealach decides to sneak to the other side of the van, and slashes a front tire open with her knife. Meanwhile strange animal noises emanate from the building.

As Kek climbs down the roof, events escalcate rapidly:

Gealach is shot into the stomach by Orville, who had trained his pistol onto the van´s back doors: Thankfully, the magical cload she summoned earlier takes a lot of force out of the bullet impact and she charges the man, hurt, but vigorous.

At the same time, a monstrously mutated dog with twin heads emerges from the double doors of the warehouse and attacks Kek.

Finistur attempts to steal the van, but cannot find the keys.

In the distance, the sound of a motorcycle is heard.

On the other side of the house, Sha Naqba Imuru´s spell fails, and he instead crushes the shed´s back window.
While he does that, he sees a man emerging from the window next to him. He aborts his attempt to enter the building, and draws his pistol.

Sil´Faron sees this and changes course, running full speed towards the man, to prevent him from fleeing.

Kek, inhumanly strong, quickly dispatches the cerberus-like dog creature with two strikes to it´s heads.

Beside him, the van rocks back and forth, as a sword/knife fight has broken out between Gealach and the Templar Orville.

A third and final Templar, Coralie, charges Kek with a combat knife, but he simply swats her against the wall, knocking her unconscious.

On the backside of the building, Sha Naqba Imuru and Sil’Faron stop the fleeing Jirard, with a shot to the chest and a spirited double legged kick, and he collapses, knocked out and barely breathing.
The fight draws to a close, as Finistur grabs Orville through the window between cockpit and cargo area, which gives Gealach the split second she needs to run him through with the sword.

Aftermath

As they loot the unconscious and dead bodies, a leather-clad woman rides into the courtyard on a motorcycle.

She shows no aggression and identifies herself as Tanja, the one who alerted Yxdri to the situation.

She executes Jirard, the Templar officer that is still alive, while the others load the body of the second and the unconscious third into the van.

The Templars didn´t seem to be carrying identification papers, but Sil’Faron takes an engraved dagger, a mobile phone, and what appears to be chemical vials from the leader, and an assortment of weapons is taken from the others.

The crates contain the stases of Kek – a golden necklace with inlaid rubies – , Sha Naqba Imuru – an engraved spearhead – and Finistur -the iron bastard sword they used to slay Orville.

No trace is found of Gealachs or Sil’Farons Stases.

Sha Naqba Imuru immediately uses his stasis to ensure that his next spell succeeds, and that is Pyromancy. The entire warehouse goes up in flames, and most evidence of the events that transpired here with it.

The group departs, with the sabotaged van, and attempts to interrogate the Templar woman, but only finds spite and hate. They execute her as well, and dump the van into a lake.

Return

A few hours later, they meet at Yxdris house, where they also find Tanja.
She is also a Nephilim, an Undine, of the Tower Aracanum, named Joris.
 
Yxdri was supposed to help the group recover their stases from the Pergamon museum, on the order of Skaro, who the group is urged to visit.
Joris/Tanja offers a different viewpoint on Skaro, calling her a traitor. She is quite agitated, and leaves in a hurry.
Yxdri tries to lessen this accusation, telling the group that this is an old grudge, which he does not agree with.

He tells them to contact the brothers, at a place called The Dojo.

They also learn that his house is a sanctum of Temperance, and that they are free to return here at any time they desire, as long as they leave aggression and inter-arcana politics at the doorstep.

Gamemaster´s perspective

So, this was our first session after character creation (which took a really long time). If I had to do this exact scenario again, I would do three things very differently.

Firstly, I would do character creation with each player personally, and alone, and then include the “Awakening” portion of the game within that. Right up to the point were the player shows up at the veterinarians house.
Doing this with the whole group was far too time consuming, and it also stole opportunity for character exploration.

The other two things are variations on the same theme: I had two Deus Ex Machina prepared.
The motorcycle noise was of course Tanja, who might have provided a heroic rescue if the fight went badly for the group. I think this is okay for the first play session, but I should have pulled her out when I saw the group was winning. This way I had this NPC in the way and I felt that I had to have her do something. That something was to be pushy and commanding, which is fine for the character, she is an energetic Water Nephilim, but might feel a bit too railroady.

The other Deus Ex Machina was the opposite. I had an elaborate escape plan for Jirard. He was supposed to leave the building and, if chased, use a gravity-cancelling spell to get out of dodge.
I thought this would feel cinematic and set him up as a (minor) villain that would pester the group.
He died because I underestimated the players. The good thing is that this gave me opportunity to improvise.
There is no replacement for Jirard, and that is okay, events are shaping up to be quite different from what I had planned, which is exciting. 🙂

Also, wow, I severely overestimated the Cerberus. I feared it might either kill or incapacitate a player outright, instead, it fell in two combat turns.
Bad dog!

Hearthstone Arena Master – Part 1

So, let´s talk about Hearthstone Arena for a bit.
The title is of course a bit tongue-in-cheek, I am not an arena master, but Slightly Above Average does not sound so exciting.
So, “Master” it is. 🙂

In March, Arena was switched from Wild to Standard, and the distribution of draft cards was adjusted (more rares and epics, less neutral basics).

At first, I was skeptical about this change, as I have grown quite fond of some of the older cards, and I do not have the card pool to play Wild in Constructed.
But it turned out to be rather fun, more so than before.
In April, Journey To Un’Goro was released, which rotated out The Grand Tournament, Goblins vs. Gnomes, The League Of Explorers and Blackrock Mountain.

Since then, I have experienced a remarkable rise in success in Arena. Which means I have gained more gold from my Arena runs, which allows me to play more Arena, which gives me opportunity to get better at Arena.

Power is its own reward.

During Mean Streets Of Gadgetzan (Early December to early April), I have managed to get to 12 wins exactly one time (with Warrior). In contrast I managed to crack the 12 wins since the beginning of April seven times by now.

I am sitting on an average of 5 wins per run, which is decent, it allows me to be pseudo-infinite (I can play about X arenas per week, as long as I also complete the quests.)

My personal pick order is this:

  1. Paladin (Easy to play, very strong)
  2. Mage (Medium difficulty, very strong)
  3. Rogue (Hard to play, very strong)
  4. Priest (Easy and fun to play, not as strong)
  5. Shaman/Hunter (Depends on my mood)
  6. Warrior/Druid/Warlock (I have personally given up on these. Maybe next expansion.)
So let met share some of my thoughts on this format, before the next one starts. starting with:

Aggro is dead.

The reason for this is twofold.

For one, many of the good two-drops, as well as some good one-drops (Zombie Chow, Clockwork Gnome) have left the format.

This hit decent neutral minions (Gilbin Stalker, Annoy-O-Tron, Boneguard Lieutenant, Flame Juggler, Haunted Creeper, Huge Toad etc.) as well as several class-minions.

None of these cards is required to make an aggro archetype work, but the sum of available 2-drops has been reduced by a lot.
It is often not possible to fill out a good aggro curve, a critical mass is missing.

This means that it is often hard to make an aggro curve work, where you go 1-drop, 2-drop, 3-drop, Yeti and have almost won.

Some classes are hit harder than others by this. Hunter for example has many good 2-drops left.
But here, we enter the second major change, which might stop you even if you managed to make a nice curve deck:

Taunts

I think this is the most significant change. Many good Taunt cards have been released in the last two sets.

They can be separated into two tiers:
Decent neutral Taunt cards that are available to everyone:

Nesting Roc, Stegodon, Giant Mastodon, Ancient Of Blossoms, Tar Creeper, Stubborn Gastropod, as well as the ones that were available before, Senjin, Bog Creeper, etc.

Then there are the  really good neutral ones:
Stonehill Defender (Especially in Paladin and Shaman decks), and Primordial Drake
And the crazy class cards, Spikeridged Steed, Grimestreet Protector, Tortollan Shellraiser
This means several things. As mentioned above, board centric aggro decks have a hard time.
A turn three Tar Creeper can stop the classic 1-2-3 tempo push within a single card.
Similarly, breaking through a Spikeridged Steed is not impossible, but it´s basically as if your opponent has gained at least 12 HP and dealt a bunch of damage to your guys.

 

Fun and interaction

This creates an interesting interplay between these components: High-HP Taunts, Silences, Poison minions (two relevant ones are new, plus the Adapt cards), Hard removal and mass-trades.

I think this is far more exciting than turn 6 wins via tempo and win-more cards.

I have split this up into multiple parts, as I have a hard time sorting these thoughts into a consistent narrative.
In part two, I will talk a bit about my personal strategy and maybe some of the classes.

 

Sometimes you just have to get lucky ^^
– Rane2k out.