Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Game of Thrones's Final Season Was Bad And Should Feel Bad

I've been disappointed with television shows before. I stuck with Heroes all the way through the revival a few years ago, and it never rose above mediocrity after the first season. I was there when Lost revealed that the island was built around a Hellmouth, and they never bothered calling in Buffy to deal with it. House of Cards, initially one of the best shows I had ever seen, was slowly degenerating even before Kevin Spacey tried to deflect from underage rape accusations by coming out as gay. I've been disappointed before. But, until Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 5, I'd never been outright angry.

Of course, there has been a ludicrous amount of analysis and thought devoted to Danaerys' sudden turn from self-righteous crusader to genocidal maniac, and much of it is far better than what I could offer. Honestly, though, it wasn't Dany's actions after the bell rang that infuriated me. I'd been watching with clenched fists and narrowed eyes since Drogon dove out of the sky and destroyed the entire Iron Fleet with dragonbreath inexplicably upgraded to deal massive concussive force. The sudden power-up would have been bad on its own, but combined with the entire structure of the season thus far... well, let me explain.

In both the books and the HBO show, the first thing we ever see is an attack by mysterious creatures from the far North, beyond the Wall. Throughout the entire story, while wars are waged and kings are made and then murdered, Jon Snow had been at the Wall, reminding us over and over that all of that Southron drama only mattered insofar as determining how much help the Night's Watch would have in protecting the Seven Kingdoms from the dead. The White Walkers were the looming threat, advancing ominously closer, and Westeros was not prepared to even recognize the threat, let alone resist it.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

From Sandpoint to Sakakabe: A Jade Regent Campaign, Part 9

STARDAY, 2 ROVA, 4711 A.R. (Continued)

Four costumed corbies drop their prop weapons and lunge at the party. One, dressed in a fine (if filthy) pink gown with a conicle, veiled hat is decapitated by Molido almost immediately. A horrified shriek emerges from the beak of a corby dressed like a young noble man: "My fiance! NO!"

Zaphkael quickly realizes that the odd man on the throne is using some sort of magic to project his voice through the oddly silent corbies. As they attack, shrieking, theatrical lines emerge from their throats. "I shall avenge the princess!" "How dare you filthy ruffians harm my daughter!" "I shall slay thee in my beloved's name!"

Before long, another of the corbies are dead, and two more--the princess' father and husband-to-be--are unconscious. The red-faced man shrieks in annoyance, and, as Hanzo looses an arrow at him, he casts a spell and disappears. The adventurers are left alone in the throne room.

Amidst the combat, their bound trogdolyte prisoner was murdered by one of the corbies, but the two unconscious "actors" are quickly bound, gagged, and dragged out to the courtyard to be locked in one of the empty guard towers. The heroes consider their options--pursuing the red-faced man or focusing on finding the "hidden vault" referred to in the letter to Ameiko's father--and decide to focus on the latter. Reasoning that vaults are most likely to be underground, they return to where they first encountered the trogdolytes and head down the stairs.

They encounter a group of trogdolytes at the far end of a long room, and the lizard-like creatures quickly retreat down a side hallway. The adventurers sense a trap, but pursue them regardless. Molido, leading the charge, walks right into the center of a pillared chamber and is immediately surrounded by trogdolyte attackers, including their apparent leader, an albino trogdolyte wielding a nasty-looking morningstar.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

From Sandpoint to Sakakabe: A Jade Regent Campaign: Part 8

STARDAY, 2 ROVA, 4711 A.R.

Not long after sunrise, the party begins searching along the coast for any sign of a secret entrance into the castle. After inspecting the sides of the lagoon and the east-facing wall of the harbor, Hanzo and Molido decide to swim out into the sea, hugging the shoreline. They're out in the cold sea water for around half an hour without success before deciding to scale the cliff up to the castle's entrance.

When they reach the top, Molido heads down the road to report to Brixton and Zaphkael about their lack of discovery, while Hanzo stays behind to watch the keep's front gate. A few minutes after they part, the old iron gate swings open, and a trio of dire corbies armed with crossbows and a longspear march out, leaving the gate wide open behind them.

Molido gathers the others, and they return to Brinewall Castle. To Hanzo's surprise, they didn't encounter the corbies on their trip. They investigate the road leading from the keep to the village and find tracks leading into the dense woodlands south of the castle. Wary of an ambush, but presented with a temptingly open door, the party decides to head into the castle's gatehouse and lock the gate behind them.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

From Sandpoint to Sakakabe: A Jade Regent Campaign: Part 7


Preparations for the expedition to Brinewall begin, as Sandru, Brixton, Zaphkael, Molindo, and Hanzo decide how best to spend the 2,000 gold pieces Ameiko has volunteered to get Sandru's caravan moving as soon as possible. In addition to the adventurers, Sandru, and Ameiko, the group will be joined by Koya (Sandru and Zaphkael's adopted mother), Shalelu the elven ranger (Molindo's adopted big sister), and two brothers named Bevelek and Vankor Brati, who will be helping to drive the wagons. With the decision to add a second supply wagon to the caravan, and the need for a cook, Brixton and Sandru end up hiring a middle-aged dwarven couple, Baradrum and Aggaela Korrick, a cook and wagon driver respectively.

Hanzo requisitions a special chest which keeps its contents frozen even in the warmest climates.

Molindo, preparing for the harsh climes of the north, and despite it currently being the middle of summer, buys a variety of cold-weather gear--just in case.

Zaphkael spends the three days brewing potions and scribing scrolls to prepare for the journey.

Finally, after much debate, the group settles on how many provisions and trade good they should bring with them, in the hopes of turning a profit at Roderic's Cove, the last village they will pass through before reaching Brinewall.

With everything arranged, the adventurers spend Sunday afternoon relaxing and enjoying themselves. The journey will take more than two weeks, by Sandru's estimates.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

From Sandpoint to Sakakabe: A Jade Regent Campaign: Part 6


The night passes without incident, and come morning, the adventurers break camp and decide to head southwest, to the nearer of the two remaining spots circled on the fan-map. With Molido growing more confident in his survivalist skills and familiarity with Brinestump Marsh, they have little difficulty navigating the swamp's waterways until they reach the spot.

They find another shipwreck, though unlike the flame-gutted remains of the first ship, this one seems to have been broken in half and stripped down to its skeleton. (The group suspects that the Licktoad goblins used wood salvaged from the wreck to build their village.) Submerged in the mud, they find a bronze nameplate naming the ship Kaijutsu's Blossom, and carved in a nearby tree--apparently by survivors of the vessel--is a rough map showing a path to a spot along the southern cliffs corresponding to the final "X" on the fan. Hanzo, recognizing the name "Kaijutsu," decides to dig the nameplate out of the mud and carries it to Proudstump's rowboat, intending to offer the piece to Ameiko as a gift. As he begins digging, however, three creatures rise from the sticky mud around the ruined ship: a trio a human skeletons, encrusted with filth, their jaws hanging loosely open in a silent shriek of challenge.

In a brief and bloodless battle, the adventurers easily dispatch their undead foes, then proceed southward to their final destination.

Monday, March 4, 2019

From Sandpoint to Sakakabe: A Jade Regent Campaign: Part 5


Despite their pockets being full of fresh coin, the group decides to forego spending it just yet and return to Brinestump Marsh to investigate the locations marked on the fan's map. They gather at the Rusty Dragon for a hearty breakfast before they set out, and soon receive news of the attack on the watchmen the prior evening. Brixton and Hanzo decide to speak to Sheriff Hemlock about the incident, while Zaphkael and Molido head to the scene of the crime to investigate.

They learn roughly the same set of facts: the guard had just crossed the bridge south of town and was walking along the Lost Coast Road. Two figures emerged from the forest. The guard called a challenge, but they kept approaching until they entered the ring of his lantern's light and were revealed to be animated human skeletons. The guard skirmished briefly with them, receiving a cut on his arm from one of the creatures' fleshless fingers, but found his simple short sword to be largely ineffective against enemies with no skin or blood. He retreated across the bridge, back into Sandpoint, and the skeletons did not pursue him.

Additionally, Zaphkael and Molido find the skeletons' tracks. After pacing up and down the river a few times, the undead turned and headed south along the Lost Coast Road, presumably back to Brinestump Marsh.

Sheriff Hemlock expresses no particular concern about the skeletons; he believes that they realized the two of them couldn't possibly take on an entire, prosperous town, and turned back to their home. To be safe, he's informed the priests of the local Temple of Desna of the incident, but he doesn't expect any further trouble.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

From Sandpoint to Sakakabe: A Jade Regent Campaign: Part 4


The party spends the day recuperating from their trouncing at Gutwad's hands. After expending their allotment of healing spells for the day, the party spends the afternoon hunting and fishing alongside Walthus Proudstump. At dinner, they tuck into a hearty meal, and begin planning their return to the Licktoad village come the morning.


Rested and ready for a rematch, the heroes prepare to face their foe. As they say their goodbyes to Proudstump and turn towards the marsh, they spot a traveler approaching down the New Fish Road. A human of Tian origin, he is clad in the simple garb of a peasant, with a wide-brimmed straw hat, and carries a bow across his back and a long, slightly curved sword at his side.

This newcomer introduces himself as Hanzo Hattori, using the Inner Sea's typical order of names. An old acquaintance of Ameiko's, he received word of the group's mission and was asked to check in on them. After introductions and a brief retelling of the story so far, Hanzo agrees to join the group in eliminating the goblins and splitting the bounty.

Cutting across the marshland, avoiding alligators and hidden sinkholes thanks to Molido's expert eye, it only takes an hour or so for the adventurers to arrive at the Licktoads' village. Though the palisade and gate are still splintered and broken, the goblins have begun work on a much more important project: a mass of mud, moss, vines, and branches assembled into what could, if one were to squint, cock their head, and consume a large quantity of alcohol, be charitably interpreted as a statue of Chief Gutwad, standing triumphantly over his victims. It seems that Gutwad's inspiring victory of the heroes has vastly increased his status among the surviving members of his tribe.