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Sunday, 23 April 2017

Salute 2017

So another Salute show has come & gone - what did this one bring?

Well, for starters this was Oscar & my first Salute show in 4 years that we'd not been at the SG stand helping out, so it gave us a lot more time to look around, and that was a great thing - how much we'd missed out on in prior years! To start with, this year the bag had the Salute exclusive mini;

Also in the bag was another model, this time an injection moulded plastic figure for Wild West Exodus, which is another good thing! They actually had a stand at the show too, together with somone actually dressed as Captain Nimue - and no, I didn't take a picture!

Now having a look around Salute all day is (as many of you will know from any show) an exhausting experience. Gamers are a mixed bunch, and the amount of pretty rude and backpack-wearing blunderers in the show seems abnormally high! Still, that aside, most folks are pretty cool, and we got to meet face-to-face a fair few folks we'd had on the Hub Systems podcast, which was great.

Anyway, let's not get ahead of ourselves - what did we see at Salute? Well, let's run down our highlights;
  1. Runewars
  2. D&D Figures
  3. Hawk Wargames
  4. Dark Souls
  5. Shattered Void
  6. The Drowned Earth
  7. Mierce Miniatures
I'll also talk a little bit about the Spartan Games stand, and some other random thoughts that come to me...

1. Runewars

So let's kick off with Runewars. This is Fantasy Flight's entry into the fantasy wargaming genre, and I've been thinking about it for a while, especially so after watching Sorastro's YouTube guides to painting ( After watching a small part of a demo game, I decided to take the punge and buy the absolutely enormous box, at a discounted show price (though I later found it for slightly less elsewhere in the show....well, you can't win 'em all, can you?). I'm going to do a proper unboxing on this one in another post, so will leave those thoughts for then.

2. D&D Figures

Salute is a dream if you're looking for figures for D&D - there are so many manufacturers and traders selling appropriate items, from generic adventurers through very specific classes (Halfling Barbarian, anyone?) to monsters of all sizes and shapes (giant rats and beetles to enormous dragons). I picked up a couple of Wizard/Mage figures as they looked ideal for Red Wizards of Thay for the Rise of Tiamat campaign. Here they are:

3. Hawk Wargames

Hawk are easily identifiable at major events like salute because of the 10mm scale frigate that Dave and his team constructed and cart about as a central icon for their stand. This was as impressive as ever, and around it were demo tables with both Dropzone and Dropfleet. Behind it is the trade booth with product and display cases. I wanted to get an Athens for Oscar's UCM, and also another for a friend over in the US. Unfortunately we got to their booth after the first 30mins of the show in which all 150 they brought sold out. They did have Corvettes, launch assets, resin objectives and other pieces, which I was sorely tempted to buy, but also found them at a lower price through other traders (unsurprisingly!).

On display were the new casts for the Scourge and UCM Battlecruisers, which looked great - the Scourge one looking especially good. 

There were also the advanced sector tokens for display as well:

There were full display cases with fleets for all four races, looking as sexy as ever, this time with the Corvettes added to them. There were plenty of staff around, including Hawk Dave himself, and the stand felt like it was buzzing every time we went to it or past. In short, Hawk seemed to be having a really good day, and their games seem to be doing very well.

4. Dark Souls

We backed the Dark Souls Kickstarter, and this was the first time we got to see physical models and play first hand. The models are beautiful, and the gameplay is as brutal as in the video game. Oscar and I played the warrior and the herald against the Dancer, and actually did ok - getting it down to 6HP (from 34!) before I finally succumbed to a nasty attack (and when one of you dies, you all die!). The AI system is very good, and the models are incredibly detailed for board game items - something we all tend to expect nowadays. The chap who demoed the game was very good, and showed us all the models first hand. We had such a good time we forgot to take any pictures, so here's one borrowed from Beasts of War to show the Dancer in action

Really looking forward to getting this when it hits UK distribution!

5. Shattered Void

Meeting podcast guests in person is always a pleasure, and that was very true of the chaps at White Dragon which we covered in Episode 23. Oscar and I both backed their Kickstarter, and the ships shown at Salute this year still look great and the plastic games components and cards also look really nice - the stats slider is particularly good, and has a really nice feel to it when using the sliders - something like this for Firestorm would work really well, I think. Alan & Mark were pretty hoarse from talking most of the day by the time we met them, which is a good sign for the game, and we look forward to getting all of our goodies when they arrive soon!

6. The Drowned Earth

We covered The Drowned Earth in Episode 29, and met James to put a face to the name. We also got to play a demo game, where Oscar tried to crush my lizard dude with his hulking simian, jumping down a platform at him after taking three arrows from my leader...only to have his cold-blooded nerves of steel win for him, as he shot him squarely between the eyes as he sailed through the air at him, stepping aside as the lifeless body tumbled down the stairs behind him. He then bravely raced toward the objective to transmit the coordinates, only to be reduced to a flaming corpse by a dual hand-flamer wielding woman guarding the stairs. Oscars strange cross-dressing chap then successfully reached the transmitter, as my monkey-man couldn't shoot for crap.

Their Kickstarter is live, and I'd throughly recommend both listening to The Hub Systems episode where we talk to James and backing the game (we have!), as it's a very cinematic and fun game, with some really nice unique elements, such as the mixed factions (not "Apes vs Humans" or "Lizards vs Women" etc). I'm not sure how long we played (maybe 20 minutes?), but it felt like five minutes of complete fun - our thanks to Chris for that, he did a great job. The minis are very good, and seeing them cast when we were talking about initial concepts, art and renders back in December was a real treat. Also, although James was pointing out the unfinished bits of his boards for the game (you always see the flaws in your own work!), they actually looked great and really added to the experience.

7. Mierce Miniatures & Darklands

The Mierce Miniatures stand has drawn our attention over the past few Salute shows due to its incredibly detailed resin monsters, and this was no exception. This time they were also giving out free rules for their game Darklands. Their miniatures are absolutely A1+ grade, but they are pricey (though compared to GW, this makes more sense, and compared to Forgeworld there's no contest). Giving the rules and lore booklets out for free is a nice move, and I'll have cast a critical eye over them in the near future. For the time being, however, they remain as eye candy. If the prices were 20% or so less, they would be very desirable purchases, at the moment I think they're just too high-end to appeal to many beyond the exceptional display-piece painters out there.

Unfortunately Mierce's website is horrible, and really doesn't make it easy to showcase their beautiful sculpts, so the best place to see them is at shows. They organise models by factions, which unless you're already a Darklands player (unlikely) you've no idea where to look. This might make sense for the creators, but it doesn't help at all for new players to get into the game.

As an example, you have to go through about 4 screens before you get to see the mini above, which is a really nice sculpt and very nicely painted - yet hiding in the recesses of the site. Really the first thing you should see when you get onto their site are models like their Chimera, which is simply staggeringly beautiful. Unfortunately, even knowing what to look for, all they have on their website is this:

Now you can tell this is nice, but they have a painted mini, which shows the detail off beautifully and there's also absolutely nothing to show scale here - the actual model is massive, so why not have another stunning 28mm model paladin or something fighting it to show this? I mean, at the RRP of about £120, you need to see what you're getting! I think this is really limiting Mierce at the moment - they haven't really understood that their website is their shop window, and at the moment it looks like the outside of a German adult store.

Final Thoughts

Salute 2017 was a good show - it was great to see gameplay in person of games we've backed through Kickstarter, and good to meet the people we've chatted to over the ether for the Podcast, and see their labours come to fruition. It got me excited about mini games and painting, which is always a good sign. My main regret was not buying more Hawk stuff, but then I need to get more built and painted first, so that's probably a good thing!

Now of course I haven't mentioned Spartan Games here - something many of you may be glad about! Well, they were present, but with quite an underwhelming stand, with Halo being (perhaps predictably) the most predominant game. One could argue that there are good reasons for this, they're doing a lot behind the scenes etc, but let's face it - at a show, who cares about that? No one, that's who. Spartan need to improve their game dramatically or they're going to find it impossible to claw back any market share for their games beyond their status as a niche with a dedicated following. 

Having seen the leaps and bounds Hawk have made, and the abundance of fun, slick-looking games made out of people's attics (as Shattered Void is), then if they want to survive they need to do better, MUCH better. They've made a whole bunch of promises lately, but then Spartan's promises aren't even as good as GWs loose rumours, so we'll wait and see - it's not like  haven't got a whole lot of other shineys to look forward to right now!

Salute is a very particular kind of show, a real showcase exhibition point in the UK gaming calendar. It's a great show for looking at what's hot and upcoming, and you can bag a few bargains along the way (Terminator game for £10 anyone?, we didn't think so either....!). It's still a firm date for any gamer, though you need to get in early to grab those desirable show exclusives. If you're not concerned about that, its big enough and lasts for enough of the day that you can take it at a nice pace, though its still exhausting, and I still hate paying double for anything food or drink related "just because it's London". That's not enough to dissuade me from going, however, so I'll be looking forward to next year!

Monday, 10 April 2017

Fanstorm Aramada - The Privateer Gunship

Hello people!

Well, Adepticon came and went and proved to be a bit of a damp squib as far as SG and Firestorm goes - they showed some stuff, but not everything that was planned or promised (nothing for you poor Planetfall gamers out there, for instance). The FA tournament had 17 players from a planned cap of 32, which also seems low, and one of our intrepid Brit gamers was pretty disappointed in the experience - which doesn't bode well after travelling thousands of miles for the event.

One of the highlights were the STL (which look great) but also the Corsairs, Pathogen and the first Leviathan. This should have been a bit of a coup for SG, but somehow it felt lacklustre and poorly executed. From all the ships that already have stats and no models, we also got a new ship - something SG often do - in this case a Gunship for the Corsairs. Now apart from the fact that the Corsairs don't really need a Gunship (the cruisers are flexible enough to take that kind of role if needed), myself and the TheoryMachine group (our independent name for members of the old FFG) thought it would be fun to stat this for v2.0 as we would have done previously.

So here's what we did;

Corsairs Privateer Gunship

Now this is the ship we would have created having been landed with the model shown - which is what happened with some ships, but in general we came up with ships factions needed, and then they'd be sculpted. So in the case of the Marauders, if we were looking for any gap to fill, it would probably have come in the form of a destroyer - something sneaky and able to infiltrate, allowing ambushes and traps to be set. We may well stat one up in the near future - who knows?

Anyway, the Privateer is limited in having a squadron size of 1-2. We generally tried to stay away from this, since the power fall-off and general vulnerability of such a squadron is higher than 3-4 ship squadrons. Needs must sometimes, however, and it was the case that production costs forced the hand or we were just presented with that as a non-negotiable. As such, we're used to working that way too.

So the Privateer is a beefed-up cruiser, trading some flexibility for greater weapon potency and longer-ranged strikes. Torpedoes take a hit but have the option for Torpedo Spook to make then more effective - either late game or against smalls (especially in reduced squadron sizes). You can build quite a bruiser of a ship - up to DR6/CR9 on the approach - but it gets slow and turns like a shopping cart. Still, seems appropriate for its designation and the other ships in the Corsairs arsenal - you can imagine this as the slow meat-shield bruiser at the back of the thug pack!

Anyway, enjoy the ship and we'll be in touch again soon :-)

Saturday, 1 April 2017

The Hub Systems Podcast Episode 32 - Companion page

This is a quick page to support the Podcast Episode so you can follow along with Hit or Miss and the participants products...

Age of Sigmar: Vanguard raptor Collection
Then we have the Kharadron Overlords

For 40k we have the Triumverate of the Primarch

Mantic Games - Operation heracles 2-player sets

Spartan Games Firestorm Armada Adepticon sneak peeks




Relthoza Leviathan

X-Wing Wave 11

For our main segment;

Forge of Ice:

Lasercut Architect

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

A short word on censorship

As people may have guessed, I'm not one to stand in the crowd and listen to things I don't agree with, and not say anything. I also work in an environment where we encourage and foster feedback - positive and negative....why? Because things only improve when you deal with those things that aren't right. I like to improve things, to get things done - better than they were before. It's what drew me to science (which in effect is asking difficult questions and finding the answers, including testing if the answers really hold up), and what appeals to me in Kaizen, Six-Sigma, the Toyota Way and all the other various process improvement, redesign and LEAN tools there are available today.

So let me talk about Spartan Games.

I've been a member of the community since - well, since before the current community even started - I was present in the old forums before they came crashing down in a a great a long time...about 7 years I guess. I've always been vocal, had some great discussion and got involved with SG because of that.

That seems to have changed now. My prior account was deleted after they gave me a warning point, which was fair enough - I was being provocative, but then they aren't answering the questions the community is asking. I had another account, so used this to wade back in - I watched from the sidelines for a good while before making some corrections to some BS that Spartan Linde was spouting about the former FFG and "bias" or some such. An hour or so later and I find the account is deleted - no warning, no interaction, just deleted.

Is this really the sort of community Spartan are trying to foster? One that cannot take any criticism, one that re-writes the past 1984 style to suit its current members and thinking? If that's really the direction Neil is taking the company, then things really are worse than I feared - he really has lost the plot.

You can't force people to be quiet - the world of social media, blogging, podcasting and more has been around for quite some time now, and is quite established. You might not like what people like me say, but the way to deal with it properly is to address the points sensibly, not just attempt to gag people - that's the sort of lunacy that North Korea attempts (and fails). All that happens is the rest of the world look at you like you're a nutter.

I guess at the end of the day you have to look at what you get out of this - for me, I love Firestorm Armada, it's a great game. I haven't played it for a while now, however, because of the association the game has for me with Spartan and their raft of broken promises and lug-handed "management" (if you can call it that). Looking at the activity (or lack of it) on the "community", I can see that others are equally as turned off as I am...threads go by for weeks or months without being updated, and most of the activity seems to be the batch of new moderators for which involvement of any sort with a games company is still shiny and exciting.

Now I get that I'm now an insurrectionist in the eyes of Mr Fawcett (who can't see over his own ego, or the books of mine he still has) but in business you need to get over yourself and get on with what is best for the game. Business is about application of good practice and process, not hot-headed reactionary emotion. I'm no longer involved in his business, so I get to call the emperors new clothes whenever I like now, which is remarkably liberating. At least talking to a wider audience, someone will realise Spartan's new promises are exactly the same as their old ones - and just as genuine.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

5e D&D - The Chronicles of the Backbiters: The long road North

Last post I left The Backbiters pulling into Baldur's Gate....somewhat singed and browbeaten. They followed the cult across the city and got themselves hired in various capacities by the caravan. Then it was off north, on a journey that covered several sessions. They fought a bunch of hobgoblins, which the trader who owned the ambushed wagon was grateful for.

At this point Lander noticed Darrien was not looking his old self, despite him never contracting the odd disease that still plagued them (despite their measures to prevent the spread of infection) and some discussion was had. No conclusion was reached, Darrien proclaiming himself fine, and his stout Halfling constitution the source of his good health. Interestingly no-one had picked up on the fact that Darrien was casting Chill Touch at every opportunity, despite it not being a Bard spell....

Still, Sirethnis was suspicious, and kept an eye on Darrien as the others slept and she pretended to. She watched as Darrien stealthily rose from his bedroll and went to some of the horses, and started spellcasting. Sirethnis sprang up, rousing the others and challengin Darrien. Darrien cast Phantasmal Force on Sirethnis, who saw a demon rise up next to her and fought the unseen spirit.

There then followed a hilarious Benny-Hill style chase which eventually ended with Darrien rerstrained, and the nature of the Pearl as the Eye of Death revealed as Uro read the journal (not bearing the Eye, he could decipher it easily). The artefact could not be separated from him, so he was trussed and gagged, and carried in one of the caravans. Further on, the party encountered and defeated a family of Perytons, and had a hard-earned rest at a wayside inn that night. 

The party took pity on Darrien and let him stay the night too, untying him for the night - he swore an oath to Thor he would be good. Othrod and Lander gained the attentions of two pretty sisters in the bar, and despite being warned that this was highly suspicious, they went ahead anyway and wined and dined the girls, before taking them to their rooms. Of course they were doppelgangers, and Othrod was caught unprepared and laid out, whereas Lander managed to at least make some noise with his laughing longsword and crying for help before becoming unconscious.

Thus members of the party arrived to find two Landers in the room - and the conscious one was persuaded to have them both bound. Othrod was fetched, saying his girl had left and then he was as startled by the noise as the others were. Darrien wasn't so sure, and went to check his room, finding an unconscious Othrod under the bed. At this point the doppelgangers attacked, and a fight broke out, with Thor transforming into a bear - which the two doppelgangers also did, making it very difficult for the party to tell who was who. 

Ranger Jon expertly shot his arrow into the melee, unfortunately piercing his friend Thor, but Uro blasted one of the doppelgangers, not only injuring it but thanks to his Eldrich Invocations, but also blasting it through the first-story window of the inn. The other doppelganger was killed and Lander (now healed and awake) leapt out of the window to give chase. Unfortunately the rain and darkness made it almost impossible, and so Lander came back through the main bar of the inn, naked and soaking as he made his way back to the upstairs room, to more than a few chuckles and sideways glances from the patrons.

The innkeeper was not pleased with the noise and damage, and Darrien ended up barred from the inn. The following morning a caravan horse was dead, and suspicion immediately fell on Darrien - Sirethnis told the party he should never have been released, and he was bound once again...even Thor was in agreement, for Darrien had broken his oath to him.

For me, this was a great set of sessions - there had been some really nice situations that I really hadn't anticipated when I prepared for these encounters. I figured the doppelgangers were too obvious and the party would end up skipping them, but the way it developed was brilliant, and provided some of the funniest, most cinematic and memorable moments in the campaign. Likewise the way Darrien had played his succumbing to the evil of the Eye was outstanding - I had suspected the party would work something out long before they finally did!

The next sessions included events like Lander's magical laughing longsword going missing, an ambush by Ettercaps and giant spiders, super-fast growing fungus, a magical stag and rescue of an Harper agent. interestingly, the party completely failed to rise to the bait of the "No room at the Inn" encounter, and despite some pretty harsh goading, they simply went and slept by their caravans in the rain - once again they confounded my expectations here.

The last part of the journey was dominated by the cult - with Ranger Jon being recognised by a cult member, Jamna Gleamsilver pointing out the stomach-shredding bone traps in their gruel, and finally a murder of one of the cult guards - the party were accused but their standing as protectors of the caravan by that stage soon quashed that - including the mysterious Azbara Jos sticking up for them. The next day, they arrived in Waterdeep, and a month and a half of game time travelling came to an end.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

The Hub Systems Episode 30 - 2017 Musings

Just posted up the 30th episode of The Hub Systems....we also broke the 8,000 visits per month stage on the blog - so a massive THANK-YOU to all of you out there for supporting us. As a bit of a teaser, there is a deliberate error in the Podcast tonight...can you spot it???

Sunday, 29 January 2017

5e D&D - The Chronicles of the Backbiters: The Eye of Death

Now as a preamble to this instalment I should talk about the party's first adventure - The Master's Vault. This concludes with them getting into the vault, having a showdown with a necromancer and some skeletons, and learning that there erstwhile teacher was actually a different character who had found an artefact called "The Eye of Death". They had a journal which described the Eye's location and how to destroy it, together with a Pearl of Power and a magical longsword.

Now thinking long-term, I knew the party would be doing The Hoard of the Dragon Queen next, and after that probably Rise of Tiamat. They would then be in a position to do an epic Lord of the Rings style quest to destroy this evil artefact. Also, rather than introducing another faction, I had the necromancer at the end of the adventure be part of the Cult of the Dragon, interested in the Eye to help create their undead Dracoliches.
So I created a powerful evil artefact, and rather than have it as another quest in the future, decided that it should replace the Pearl they had found with the journal - the Eye appearing to be such until activated (the artefact needed attunement to use as a Pearl of Power, at which point the character would lose weight at the rate of 1lb/day until they reached their racial minimum. They have bloodthirsty thoughts and enjoy watching things die, and their dreams are full of nightmares about death. It also confounds the bearer as to any clues about it and its method of destruction).

After the character had personally killed 50hp worth of creatures, the Eye enters its first level of activation, and the character can cast the Chill Touch cantrip, favouring it over other methods of attack - the Eye would grow to the size of a large rounded grape, and the character would be aware of this power and become secretive about the item - at this point the character cannot be released from the item by anything short of a Greater Restoration. They gain immunity from Necrotic damage, their touch kills normal plant life and those that stay within 100' of them for 24h or more risk contracting Sewer Plague....

In addition, the Eye requires death constantly, and the bearer is unable to benefit from hit dice, short or long rests unless they have killed (something with a CR, not just a spider or an insect - I know how player's minds work!) within the last 24h. They are obsessed with killing, so much so that their Charisma is lowered by 2 and their Wisdom by 1 whilst they possess the artefact. Their alignment also starts to slide towards Neutral Evil.

Let me now add that the character who picked up both the journal and the Pearl was Darrien - the halfling Bard...this meant he couldn't read the journal (as the Eye confounds its bearer as to its origins etc), so he reported it was written in some sort of code - I was imagining parallels to The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings at this point - one of the great joys of being a DM are these little secrets as they unfold!

ooo o o o OOO o o o ooo

So, preamble done, the last time the party had been beaten by the Cult after seriously depleting their human followers left in the cave system. Frulam had escaped off North to warn Rezmir of the threat, leaving Landregosa to watch over the eggs - a task he felt more than capable of doing having met the party before and hardly being troubled with their advances.

The party had a bit of internal reflection at this point, and talked about planning more and being less impulsive. This half worked on their re-entry to the caves, where the Dragonclaw guards had been replaced by slightly less capable kobolds, who were stealthily eliminated. The party explored to find the bodies of cultists gone, but little else changed, and so went through the mushroom forest - at which point their discipline started to break down, and they proved that wet surfaces and climbing were not their strong point (this was also historically true, with falls being more dangerous in their past than monsters!)

Now I had prepared for the next part with some more 3D printing...they were entering a cave full of bats and piercers (I had replaced the Stirges in the book for these as I felt they tied in with the Roper later on, plus I felt Stirges would attack cult members travelling through here). It turned out they were also easy to print...and here they are.

The party ended up with a few piercers in the back, but some curing later and they got through this, though they managed to lose the Wizard in the process. It was at this point when Darrien reached the 50hp threshold for pushing the Eye of Death into its first level of activation. Anyway, Kylantha the wizard had become disoriented in the swarms of bats flying around in the cave, and ended up going into the foul-smelling Troglodyte area. I could have used Lizardmen for these, but I wanted the Troglodytes to be different, so I ended up printing a bunch of these too. Kylantha cast Thunderwave at them, the noise disturbing the bats again and bringing Sirethnis, Alonna and Lander to go looking for her and bring her back.

Landregosa finally met his end after an epic battle which Landregosa himself ended up doing a lot of damage to kobolds and a guard drake, being the recipient of a Crown of Madness cast by the Warlock Uro. This meant that by the time he was really into fighting the party he was already somewhat down and didn't have the support he should have had. He was finally finished off with a Spiritual Weapon blow from Lander. The party then spent some time smashing his head with a maul and then cutting it off, just to be sure! They weren't out of the woods, however, since the remaining kobolds and beserkers did a substantial amount of damage - to the point where they needed a short rest in the reeking kobold barracks.

This rest gave them enough to go exploring again, and they found the kobolds guarding the eggs (after being glued and burnt by their grenades), followed by the guard drakes and finally the roper - which the party named "Mighty Mike". After some dialogue and some meat trading, the party avoided combat with this creature, which I had used a Reaper mini for that I already owned previously.

The dragon eggs were all extracted and smashed, and other than getting some acid damage from the chest trap in the dragon temple and some poison from the trapped meat chamber curtain, the party did little more before a lengthy debate on what to do next - chase after the cult immediately or go back to Greenest to report and restock. Eventually they decided on the latter course, and went back to see Leosin and Governor Nighthill. Of course Leosin had already gone, and Nighthill equipped them with horses to ride up to Elturel.

On the way to Elturel, the party was ambushed during the night by orcs, including an Orog and Eye of Grummsh from Othrod's old clan. The attack was not only rebuffed, but completely slaughtered. Still, I had no doubt the figures I had bought for the purpose would be used for other fights!

At this point various members of the party started falling ill - something the party traced back to their resting in the filthy kobold barracks back at the cave system. Lesser Restoration seemed to do the trick, however, and remove the effects. This set them up to meet Leosin and Onthar, and give them the opportunity to join the Harpers, or the Order of the Gauntlet. Some joined both organisations, some joined none, so the party had a real mix of outlooks - a good thing overall I felt.

Come the morning they were due to set off, some of the characters were again ill, and they found that Othrod's horse had been killed in the night - something he was very unhappy about and made something of a scene outside the stables about. Of course this was actually Darrien's doing, he killed the horse in the night to sate his bloodlust - driven by the Eye.

Nevertheless, the party set off to Baldur's Gate by boat, and in an attempt to insulate themselves from further disease they separated into infected and non-infected groups, taking the prow and stern. Mid journey they heard cries for help, and decamped in rowboats into the shallow waters of a swamp to investigate, only to find a fair maiden chained to a rock, prisoner of three ogres and their pet crocodile.The maiden was another purchase (at the same time as the orcs), whereas the monsters I had printed

The party dealt with this, but the highlight was Thor being pulled from his rowboat by the crocodile, and Uro casting Witch Bolt, which fried both crocodile and Thor over several rounds. During this time Thor had been unable to break the crocodile's grapple, and afterwards was unable to climb back into the boat, even with lander's help. Eventually Lander and Uro managed to pull his still-smoking, sodden form out of the water, but it did become something of the focal point for the fight!

The Ogres put up a fair fight, including one who was casting Vicious Mockery on various party members. in the end, however, brute force and ignorance couldn't delay their despatch, and the maiden managed to set herself free from the shackles during the fight. She then told the party how her party was ambushed and killed as she was on her way to Elturel, but she'd be grateful of carriage back to her father in Baldur's Gate to get more guards to pick up the two cases of exquisite jade figurines she was taking as a gift. The party offered to take the statues too, but she refused, saying there was no point taking them back just to haul them out here again.

That night, back on the boat during the first watch, Uro cast Vicious Mockery on Othrod. Despite denying it, he did it again, and Othrod was prepared to fight - this woke others, including Darrien, who also cast Vicious Mockery on the half-orc. Sensing something wasn't right, Sirethnis stepped in, saying this was very suspicious when they'd just picked up a passenger. The maiden was confronted and she tore into Sirethnis, revealing her true identity as a Green hag. she had been using her natural abilities to cast the cantrip, imitate others and cast her voice to cause the mayhem. A fight ensued, but she turned invisible and jumped off the boat.

Next day, as they approached Baldur's Gate, a one figure was spotted on some rocks ahead. She cried out and Fireballed the was Myrdinn, their former colleague and friend, who blamed them all for her brothers death. After a couple of long-range Fireballs she vanished, leaving the party shaken and bemused. They were also somewhat down in cleric and druid spells as the cycle of infection each morning was countered by Lander and Thor's Lesser Restorations, leaving their spell slots depleted.

Finally they arrived at Baldur's Gate, their boat somewhat burnt and slightly depressed - they had learned of an old friend that was a new enemy, couldn't seem to shake the cycle of infection they'd picked up and still had a long way to go to track the Cult. What would Baldur's Gate - the largest city in Faerun - bring them?