Thursday, November 8, 2012

POTUS schmotus: My Thoughts on the Election

In case you haven't heard, there was a presidential election.

Now when I make that statement, obviously I do so with a fair deal of implied sarcasm -- considering the news coverage and public domain chatter that revolved around the battle between the Democratic incumbent and Republican challenger, obviously you must have not only heard about it, but be able to list some key divisive issues. The real tragedy is that this next statement isn't sarcastic:

In case you haven't heard, Massachusetts and Colorado became the first states to legalize recreational use of marijuana, gay marriage became legal by a popular vote for the first time -- previously it has failed popular votes, and Puerto Rico will soon become the 51st state. New flag time! These issues all deserve their own thought and consideration, which unfortunately it would seem the majority of Americans were not giving them until they were voted on. (Not throwing stones here, I didn't know either.)

Possibly of greater importance even than these major movements is how things went with your local representatives. Being significantly less bound by party politics than the President, having a vague idea of where the party platforms draw the line will not necessarily help you know which Senator or Congressman will support your views, unless you did specific research on those individuals. These representatives often march to the beat of a much less national drum, which is why republican senators can be elected in inarguably blue states. But we didn't hear much about them.


It must be because the President of the United States (POTUS) has such exceptionally great power that his alignment will be the single determining factor in the resolution of issues that really matter. Right? It seems that that would be the only logical reason for the extreme focus placed on one person come election time. Let's see what the President can do about those issues:

Economy: Possibly the most heatedly debated topic, and ironically the least well understood. An economy as large as ours is as complex as a living organism, and is dependent on billions of them. What power does the President have over the economy? Very little. Unless there's a magic economy wand hidden somewhere I don't know of, he can mainly do one thing: Inspire confidence in buyers, encouraging people to invest. Other than that, everything must be passed through the senate and/or congress, including stimulus packages etc. Any actual decisions he makes are way too complicated for even a very intelligent man like Mitt Romney or Barack Obama to understand, so they are usually just doing what the most intelligent financial minds of our times suggest they do.

Healthcare: One of the most shocking moments of the campaign for me was when I heard Senator Romney declare that he would get rid of 'Obamacare.' I turned to Krista, who spent more formative years in the US than I did. 'He can't do that, right?' I said. No, he can't. POTUS has less power over healthcare than he does over the economy. Really, pretty much no power.

Education: Nope. The funniest is listening to candidates talking about what department's they'll cut. Two that Republican candidates like to consider putting on the chopping block are the department of education and the environmental protection agency. Well, guess who has no power to just throw out departments? POTUS, that's who.

Abortion: Nope.

Gay Marriage: Nope.

Medicare: Nope.

Gun Control: Nope.

Environment: Nope. (See Education)

Government Size: Nope.

Terrorism: Getting closer.

War: Yes and no. The President may send in troops with essentially a free hand, but he cannot declare war against any other country. Congress must do this.

In fact, the vast majority of POTUS' actual power is summarized nicely in the constitution. Now, there are some other 'powers' that he has, which may be why we believe he has any power over the above mentioned items. They are:

1. Influencing public opinion. When the President says something, typically people listen. We did pick him after all, so he should represent us. But considering that most elections are not landslide, we should remember that we still only kind of liked him more than the other guy, both of whom a ton of people thought would do a good job.

2. Presenting legislature. The President has an entourage, his cabinet, which writes legislature that could be loosely shaped by his suggestion, or simply receive his stamp of approval after being written. This legislature is typically more powerful because some senators/congressmen feel a need to show loyalty to the party by supporting the president, but this is a double-edged sword, as representatives on the other side of the aisle may vote against it for those same reasons. It can also be more powerful because more of the public will know about it, since it usually gets more media attention. But still, he can't make it law.

3. Veto. This is probably what most people would mention when they think of the power that the president has over making laws. As a refresher if it's been a while since social studies: A law must pass through congress and the senate with a majority. It then goes to the desk of the president, where he must sign it. He may choose to veto instead, in which case the law is sent back to congress and senate. At this point it is voted on again, and if it passes with 2/3 majority, then it is made law regardless of POTUS. That is a good deal of power, but how often are laws vetoed? Well, here is the complete list, and some presidents have used it liberally, but generally the more vetoes that are used, the more get overridden. President Obama has only vetoed twice while in office, which is less than anyone since James Garfield.

4. Choose new supreme court justices. This is obviously an important power, but it's generally dispersed over time, as judges serve for life, while presidents are elected every four years. And still, the judges can only stop congress from passing laws that are unconstitutional, they cannot make new laws. Also, justices certainly don't mind defying expectations, and on the whole are trying to listen to the constitution.

What am I trying to say here?

The founding fathers did indeed make a government of diffused power, where one person becoming a tyrant was logically impossible. We do indeed live in that country and support that government. The problem is that we are living in a grand republic, but we are treating it like a monarchy. And from this comes corruption.

By focusing on the President, we centralize our focus, and give him power over public opinion. This is dangerous, but I don't think it's dangerous for the reason so many claim. I am much less concerned at the amount of attention we are giving the President. Generally, I feel like our candidates are good people trying to do good things by their conscience. What I am concerned about, is that with all our attention on the President, we are not paying attention to our congressmen and senators.

I don't think the President is involved in major conspiracies or fraud and deceit, because he is too closely watched and criticized by the nation.
I think that many local representatives are, because they are not closely watched or criticized by the nation.

I don't want to demonize, I don't think that most politicians are as bad as people suggest, but I think they can get away with a lot of broken promises and irresponsible politics because we do not learn about, remember, and respond to their words and actions.

And that's the concerning thing. I fear we are not worthy of our Republic. I don't worry the system is broken, but that the system is too beautiful for us to work with. We were given a President so we wouldn't have a King, but we react to him as if he were a King, and so in our minds give him the powers of a King, which are completely fictional.

I hope you're not upset if your preferred presidential candidate didn't win. He is not a King. He will not dictate the laws, or your life. I hope the identity of the President does not color your opinion of this country. He will not change the economy, education, environment, or any other social issue. He cannot do the things we believe he can. Our ancestors made it that way.

But I hope we're happy with our congressmen and senators. I hope we know their names. I hope we know their policies. I hope that it is them, and not the president, who must listen to our united voice and serve us as we support them. I hope we pray for them. I hope we remember them. I hope we hail the honorable ones, and expose those who would profit from our ignorance. Because they are the ones writing and voting on the laws in this country, and they are getting far too little of our attention.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Dungeons & Dragons: The Raven Queen's Gift




"Lord Bahamut asked Ioun to speak
but Moradin spoke instead
His words filled the void from heaven to hell
and placed all of us in its stead
The words of his singing, continue on ringing
In the halls of the elves of Pelor

Asmodeus sent Tiamat to learn
what Moradin's words had done
The people of hell were astonished to learn
That we had bloomed under the sun
Not fond of these others, he sent out his brothers
Gruum'sh and Bane to devour

The war that began need never have ended
For in those days no man could perish
But over the eons Bahamut grew tired
And sought out an end to the garish
So in desperation, he sought revelation
From a woman he understood not

And thusly the dragon cut short all our breath
By calling the Raven who introduced death"

As the schoolteacher finished his class and closed his tome, the children rose from the ground to head off to their homes. No children had been allowed on the streets of Fallcrest after the falling of the sun for a century and half now, when the magistrate of the town decreed it.
Settlements and protectorates have long fallen to the then sudden influx of beasts and evil creatures; this final bastion now constitutes the only town worthy of the title within the great expanse of the Nentir vale that stretches from the Dawnforge Mountains to the Stonemarch in the west. To the north lay the Nen and Wintermist lakes, and beyond that the Winterbole Forest, through which strangers came to Nentir. The people seldom speak of the southern stretches, for the Ogrefest Hills and Witchlight fens are as treacherous as their names imply, while the Harken Forest beside them remains the most concerning by far, if more innocuous by name. The city's foundations had been layed by dwarves, who welcomed the humans and halflings as life on the downs grew dangerous. Even elves and half-elves find shelter here in small number. The most influential citizens are represented by the two Tiefling families, who, though onle a few dozen among hundreds, hold great influence with the people. Even dragonborn, having travelled from distant lands, are sometimes seen searching for work as some extra muscle.

Occasionally one can still find an Eladrin soul. Elvish in form and descended from the Fey, in olden days they stood as Lords of Protectorates, their soldiers prospering under their wise rule, holding beasts and worshippers of evil at bay. However, as the people grew slothful and dependent on them, the Eladrin lost either the strength or the will to lead. Fallen one by one, their mansions now sparsely dot the countryside as a reminder of their once-empire.

The people fear to walk far from the village, for travel between settlements is no longer always safe. The eyes that see in the dark and the teeth that tire of beast's blood watch for those that wander. This once vibrant land now yearns for a chance to believe that life can be rich again -- and that they might be shown the path to that future.

Our adventure begins with grim tidings -- Aramil of the Southborn Eladrin, Protector of Fallcrest and Ruler of the Vale, has died at the surprisingly young age of 258. With no son to replace him, and no male next of kin, the city has fallen into disarray over who will take charge. Hope, son of Akmenos, and Reverence, son of Damakos, represent the two prominent Tiefling families likely to assume the role, unchallenged by all but one another. In the midst of this tension, a funeral is held for the late Ruler Aramil. In attendance are most of the prominent townfolk, envoys from settlements across the vale, and what little family remained to him: a single stepdaughter, Aria.

Also in attendance were four individuals who, though they did not know it yet, would drastically change the town, the Vale, and especially young Aria.


There sat Vincennes, perhaps the least notable person in that or any given crowd. Not particularly smart or charismatic, he is mostly just solid. His unassuming childhood took place in a mostly human settlement on the very edge of the Vale and its civilization. The settlers there cut their farms and lives out of the surrounding forests. In their simple way, this life accomodated their needs, if barely. His father was a hard man who spent most of his time hunting to provide for the family. His mother was sweet-natured but slow-witted and so had few skills, but her exceptional beautiful kept her husband from complaint. Instructed by his father's brothers, a taxidermist and a butcher, Vincennes quickly became adept with a variety of blades and meat preparation.

Vincennes' great fall from his small beginnings would begin when Clovis and Marteau, his uncles, included him in the local pastime -- a club of pugilistic battle, bred of boredom. Men would beat the living tar out of one another as the local cleric provided emergency healing and occasional resurrections. Unfortunate for Vincennes, who had never payed close attention until his first time in the ring, noone had clearly explained to him the no-weapons rule. His rite of manhood was thus marred by the two 8-inch blades which Vincennes used to eviscerate his opponent. While the other was healed, Vincenne's vicious acts, perceived as cowardly by all around, could not be charmed away. In face of a tide of derision and scorn, Vincennes struck out, never understanding what he had done to earn  him such antipathy.

His wanderings had eventually led him to the town of Fallcrest, where he had taken to sleeping in the cemetery for lack of funds. When the preparations for the funeral began to take place, he saw the caterers arrive, and suddenly it seemed like quite the good place to be. Having left instructions to give all who desired to attend free admittance, the late Aramil assured that Vincennes had no problem getting a seat early.

Seated nearby was another journeyman, his name was Tycho.

The Elven town of Kyndale was nestled deep in the Winterbole forest, an old wood guarded and curated by her inhabitants. Viewing their ancestral land as sacred, they preferred to venture out for trade and adventure, rather than have it come to them. One such party happened upon a troll, who had previously discovered a human family ill prepared to deal with it. This resulted in one less troll, and an orphaned human child, Kaymon.

But we’re not telling his story, we’re telling the story of his son.

Tycho’s father was always the village outlier, the human among elves. The headstrong adventurer whose luck defied all odds. His human face and Elven tongue always causing a stir in the trading caravans, and whose greatly different perspective was always admired by the town elders.

But really, we’re not telling his story.

The boy Tycho, growing up in his father’s shadow, had taken quite a liking to that shadow. Literally. The expectations hoisted upon him were more than he could handle at times, and he would take up hiding just to avoid the seemingly endless comparisons to his father.

It was there in the shadows he discovered a hidden power, and began his tutelage as a Warlock.
One of those trading caravans, an ordinary venture that would have taken them through a port city or other trading hub, never returned. The weeks stretched on, the seasons changed. The elves were patient, their perspectives much greater than the young Tycho, but their optimism began to wane. Despite their clever words, he could see it in their eyes. No word of thieves nor stories of ambushes made their way to Kyndale. The lack of news was the most disturbing of all. No trace of them were found. The seemingly endless luck of Kaymon had appeared to run out. As the elders began to prepare a memorial, Tycho prepared for his journey.

Because the one thing he knew for sure; was that his father didn’t believe in luck.

Also in attendance was a mysterious Eladrin from the far-off and sparsely known House of Sy, Dorian.

He carried a weight with him. A burden that is far greater than the weight of the evil that surrounded the lands. As a child his family escaped an Orc and Ogre massacre - where he witnessed dozens of his cousins and friends die from wounds received at the hands of Orcs. He was haunted by the cries and screams of so many friends and family and this led him on the path of the clerics. As a brilliant student that was expected to not only be the Lord of his House but as a possible candidate for the Chancelor of the Mountain Quarter. He wouldn't be distracted from his new found mission, he wanted to heal and bring light to the world.

Dorian was admitted to the highly prestigious Wren Academy where the High Cleric of the Dorian People takes only 3 students every 100 years. Dorian completed his training just in time for the second major tragedy of his life. After almost a century away, he was expecting to return as a prodigal son to a great feast in his honor, at least that had been the plan. Until something went terribly wrong. Dorian's brother Asrenu (pronounced "Az Wren Knew") had taken a different path to deal with his troubled childhood. Instead he had looked to the dark powers of Torog, the evil God of the undead.  Asrenu was also a brilliant magician and in a devils bargain he had traded his soul for the ability to send a scourge to the Orc people of Gruumsh that would convert them to undead. He didn't care that it might create a greater evil, he was blinded by his search for vengeance.

The details are fuzzy as to what occurred next, but what is known is that a package meant for the Orcs was accidentally dropped in the middle of the central plaza on the busiest market day of the year. Even worse, the city was filled to capacity to await the return of Dorian that evening. One of the few surviving priests reported that individuals started arriving at the synagogue complaining of a deep depression, and then suddenly there were screams, and everything turned to madness.

There had never been an event like it before- an entire city turned almost instantly to a mass of undead. This new variety of zombies wasn't interested in new blood, they attacked each other until the there was nothing left. Before the sun had reached the top of the sky, the city was burning and lay wasted. Only the Lord's Castle was left untouched, protected by a spell cast by Asrenu just has he realized what he had done.

The sun was setting as Dorian arrived to hell on earth. He spurred his horse along, wading through deep blood and rotten flesh until he picked his way up to the castle. When he arrived to the gate, the doors opened easily allowing him to walk up the stairs to his parent's chamber. He sensed a darkness as he approached and he walked through to see Torog himself dragging a shackled Asrenu into a dark Abyss and before Dorian could react Asrenu threw a dark look his way and disappeared forever.

He looked to the bed where his parents had a terrified look on their face. The darkness had taken them. Asrenu hadn't touched a weapon in 100 years, but he lifted the ancient long sword from the coat of arms behind him and killed his own parents before they had fully turned. After that he blacked out. It took Dorian over a month before he could speak again, but when he did recover- his abilities were gone. He could only complete the most simple of spells. He felt like he was starting over.

One more major change had occurred; Dorian was filled with rage and had lost his way. For three years he wandered, searching for something, he just didn't know what. Helping where he could, but mostly just lost. And there he stood, leaning against a back wall at the funeral of another Eladrin.


Shortly after the funeral services ended, the attendees stood casually around the refreshment table. Dorian picked away casually at the traditional eladrin offerings, Tycho walked the shadows, observing, and asking an occasional question, and Vincennes tried fruitlessly to eat his soup with a fork instead of a spoon. One by one they were approached by the young step-daughter of the late magistrate, Aria, and a warrior already purchased to the cause, a silent dragonborn. She explains to them that as the last of her line, the affairs of the magistrate had fallen to her care at the time of his death, two weeks prior.

She has been living in his state-owned manor, acting as executor of his will, when strange occurrences began taking place. Servants sent to the basement for supplies or items from storage would not return, and at night scratching and distant howling could be heard, permeating through the walls of the home. Donning her longsword and crossbow, Aria had gone to the basement with the training of her childhood, determined to find the cause. There she discovered a trap door, once sealed tightly beneath her step-father's belongings which they had begun to clear out. Opening the trap door, she stealthily slid into the lower once-dungeons of the manner. Peering from the shadows, she discovered that kobolds had established a solid foot-hold in these forgotten layers of the family's estate.

Aria sealed the door firmly to prevent further 'accidents,' and searched through her family's oldest papers. There she found references to the old dungeon, the monsters that somehow found their way there through some unknown tunnel, and references to an old winged serpent that once stalked those stony paths. Knowing that the funeral would attract many warriors, magicians, and skilled assassins, she decided to pay her respects to the step-father she barely knew by seeking the help she would need in order to cleanse his house.

Each warrior won over mostly by the prospect of wealth and very barely at all by the intention to help a fellow soul in distress, the dragonborn, half-elf, human and two eladrin went to investigate the dangerous depths, not knowing how deep they would delve.

Never having done battle together before, the band of adventurers began their quest with growing pains. Stumbling first across a group of kobold slinger and skirmishers, they battled mightily, if clumsily. Eventually dispatching the weaker front line of kobolds, while Dorian gave thanks to his God for His aid in dispatching the violent beasts, Tycho teleported down into a pit of bodies to light them on fire, forgetting he could not teleport out, and lighting himself on fire while his companions attempted to pull him back out again. Eventually bypassing the portcullis blocking their path to the next room with a fey step, the group ventured onward to the next room.

Here, kobold skirmishers lured the party into a deadly trap of spring-activated paralyzing darts shot from suits of armor, and skeletal hands that sprung from scattered sarcophagi to bind the feet of adventurers where they stood. Our bold party, rather than trying to destroy the suits of armor or disarms the dart shooter, tried to push the 5000+ pound sarcophagi onto the skirmishers, which turned out to be impossible, while Dorian spent the majority of the battle paralyzed as he was peppered by dart after dart. One of the kobolds tried to have a conversation with the group, and when he had successfully gotten Vincennes to begin monologuing, launched a surprise attack. Eventually they reached the skirmishers and dispatched of them swiftly, proceeding to sacrilegiously deface the shrine which the kobolds had set up to worship Tiamat. Let's hope that doesn't come back to haunt them in the end...

In the next room our noble adventurers found a group of shameless kobolds using a dungeon of sarcophagi as a playground for sport where they slung a large ball on a rope tethered to the ceiling, trying to knock skulls off of pedestals. Our group marched boldly into the hall and became the new targets for the kobolds sport. Here, the dragonborn warrior quickly proved his worth displaying his mighty strength with wide swipes of his warhammer. Braving the swinging orb, the warriors made their way to the raised platform where they disposed of the Kobolds only to be confronted by two young drakes that stood guard beyond. Finally, the groups made their way into the lowest room of the dungeon.

"Here," Aria told them, "is the last room mentioned in our records."

The group advanced stealthily into the room, trying to make no sound at all, but a sudden rumbling sounds echoed through the hall and while the Kobold mage raised his arms, unleashing a set of drakes and multiple kobold warriors on the adventurers, a large boulder careened from the darkness to begin magically rotating the hall. While the first drake was dispatched of all too easily, the remaining horde proved a formidable obstacle. As party members lay dying with Dorian hard pressed to heal them as well as himself, the boulder nearly crushing their lives, the dragonborn and Aria fought to their last breath to triumph in the end.

Recovering and pilfering the bodies of the fallen, the party acquired the kobold sage's 'staff of the warmage,' and in addition located a key and a map showing a hidden door. The adventurers steeled themselves for the next confrontation and opened the door. Down they traveled -- the path became less well worn, and more stony, like the interior of a cave. It wasn't long until they noticed they could see their own breath as the temperature began to rapidly drop. Eventually they arrived in a large cavern, mostly stone but with a large patch of ice covering the middle of the ground. As the party cautiously advanced, a young white dragon flew from around a rocky pillar to blast the companions with icy breath that chilled to the bone. A lengthy battle ensued and the party found unusual strength and success with their magic and muscle; Still, the dragon was mighty, and as the last blow was made to his grand figure, he reached out with a mighty talon and wrapped his claws around Aria. Falling backwards, the defeated dragon toppled to the icy ground which cracked and then broke beneath him. The last thing the party heard as they stared down into the ground was Aria's anguished scream disappearing into the inky blackness of the pit.

After casting a few rocks into the pit and throwing a torch down, the party decided nothing could be done, quickly abandoning their once ally to her fate. While their minds quickly erased Aria from their consciences, they looted the dragon's cavern. The party then ascended back the way they came to inform the residents of the mansion that the last living member of their master's family was dead. Callously, they also suggested that the now unemployed servants should pay them from their deceased master's coffers. They were given nothing, and left the doomed house, and the dragonborn washed his hands of them, going his own way.


Walking away from the mansion and frustrated with their dearth of treasure found, our tired party headed to the inn to rest for the evening. The next morning they began walking towards the market in order to sell their recently acquired loot, and on the way were approached by a small wiry gnome. He introduced himself, as Adokul Foechuckle.

If you have an extremely high perception modifier, you might just if you're lucky spy our friend Adokul Foechuckle slowly pacing through the forest.  I say "friend".  Truly, Adokul is "friend" of very few except his true friends, the beasts and plants of the forest.  And this is what he might say to your curious inquiries, in a high pitched shriek:

"Ayyyy ekeroo spligaliart killiwack toto!!!!"

He would pretend that this is his secret Druidic tongue, but it's not.  He just likes to speak in gibberish to scare people away. Adokul Foechuckle was born on the edge of civilization and the Wyld in the gnomen village of Gwynderock Goosenuzzle.  He was born to two bright, cheery parents.  He was neither bright nor cheery.  Unless he was lieing or causing mischief.  Of course, all gnomes are mischievious, but Adokul perhaps took it to another, some might say unhealthy, level.  As he grew throughout his 30 year youth (this is gnomen custom) he was often isolated and a loner, though he had a voracious somewhat insane sense of humor if convinced to take part in the fun.  yet he always felt more comfortable in the wild, in nature.  He went on long walks in the woods that got progressively longer.  He began to commune with the nature spirit of the rocks in these woods, Ergon Girsbuck, as the Dwarves know him.   During his college years, at age 32, he mysteriously dissapeared into the woods, never to be seen again. 

Adokul spent five years just wandering.  On the fifth year and fifth day, he began to see with another vision.  He was transforming into a druid.  The vague communications with Ergon became clear, and he developed the ability to speak to his earthly manifestations - rocks, soil, trees, and, as a gnome, all types of beasts.  At some point he studied for two years with a pack of druids, although he later struck out on his own.

Adokul's spirit companion Ergon works in turn for Eratil, the only being the irreverent Adokul has any respect towards.  Eratil is the guardian of the Earth and is depressed by the rampant corruption, greed, and persecution raging across the world which are inevitably hurting the soil and air.  He also knows of a deeper threat that must be combated if life is to survive.  Although seemingly rash and irreverent, Adokul in fact feels a burning passion and determination to save life as we know it.  He has come to the party to warn them of the danger posed to Life, and comes bearing a prophecy of a group of mortals who could defeat this threat.

Adokul informs the group that Eratil has sent him to the town of Fallcrest to find a female rogue eladrin, a male eladrin cleric, a human ranger, a half-elf warlock, and a dwarven paladin. The party informs him of the loss of the female eladrin, and that they have never met a dwarven paladin. Adokul, wirey and shifty, informs them that he has come to take them to his master's master, who has summoned them. Our party, having nothing better to do, decides to accompany the sneaky little creature, who takes them to the center of town and wades directly into the water fountain there. Inviting everyone else in, Adokul waits for them all to be in the water (while the town's onlookers give them confused stares) before removing a peculiar looking key from his jacket pocket and inserts it into the fountain's centerpiece. The marbled floor swings open beneath them, and the party finds itself falling down, down deep into the earth, sliding until they fell all over themselves on a dark floor. Looking up, they saw a large stone door before them. They had arrived at the wizard Gal-gal's front door.

Moving to inspect the door, they found nothing out of the ordinary, but when Vincennes reached out to casually pull the handle open, an arrow shot out from the lock and severely wounded him. Quickly restored to health by his companions, the party began considering the best approach. They searched the small cave from top to bottom. Fearing more death, they searched for hidden buttons, tried magic and strength to burst the door, all to no avail. Once the party had considered every apparent options, and tried all they could think of, they went do open the door again. Apparently only one arrow had been loaded into Gal-gal's front door. The door opened easily on the second try.

Entering the door, our heroes found themselves in a nearly empty hall of majestic decor. Huge pillars lined either side while ever-burning torches shone high above the floor. directly infront of the party towards the end of the pristine marbled hall stood three statues, monkeys, one holding his hands over his eyes, the other over his ears, the last over his mouth. At the end of the hall was a doorway, where an opaque purple haze proved a substantial physical barrier.

Soon the noble warriors found that by extending their hand and touching the monkey statues, they would lose the sense the animal displayed. While Vincennes and Adokul lost the ability to hear, Tycho lost the ability to see and Dorian lost the ability to speak. The group found that, having abandoned their senses they were now able to pass through the purple haze, and holding hands for Tycho's sake, they travelled down further and further until they reached a room of precipitous rock platforms in molten lava, while only Dorian, who could not speak, could see where treasure was hidden throughout the room. Using a collection of staffs and ropes the group made their way slowly to the other side where they could see a door. Having reached it, they realized that Adokul's nimble step enabled him to cross many of the gaps with ease, despite many of them crumbling below their feet as they passed over. Adokul succeeded in collecting most of the treasure which featured valuable stones, a painting, 2 pounds of high quality weed, sniper's bracers and a non-descript ring of +1.

Making their way up the stairs, the party walked into a room dark with shadow. The sound of shuffling bodies could be heard beyond and, upon lighting a torch, they found themselves in a hall with large velvet drapes on either side, filled with zombies. Jumping into the fray our noble warriors began to hack their way through the flesh-eating abominations. The party began to falter when facing the undead horde lead by a sturdy zombified dwarf repeatedly hurling his own body parts at them and realizing that even those killed managed to , but managed to turn the tides when they realized that pulling down the drapes on either side of the hall flooded it with sunlight, lighting their quarry on fire and keeping them down, and when the rays of light reached the zombie dwarf, the mighty paladin Northic found himself cured of his long-time curse and aided the party in striking down the shambling corpses. In a brief moment of respite, the dark paladin introduced himself.

"Northic was once loved and enjoyed the kinship of his clan. Always following his own instinct and willing to question his own beliefs his ways often concerned the leaders of the clan.  Northic was a hard worker and aided the clan the best he could. This all came to a grinding halt when he took on the mantle of the queen of winter and death herself, the Raven Queen. Once the clan elders heard of his new faith Northic was exiled from his clan. He left only with a few mementos of his family and the basics to survive, which the elders reminded was a blessing -- that they let him have that much. Northic now seeks to learn why he was lead to the Raven Queen and prove himself as a worthy Knight."

Having made the introductions, the party sought to move forward through the wizard's house but found the door to be locked, with three empty marble-sized slots. Searching the rooms and desecrating the bodies, the group eventually found gold, amber, and lavender marbles, which they knew needed to be arranged somehow in the slots. Nervously, wondering what might happen if the puzzle were completed incorrectly, they put the marbles in... and miraculously got it right in the first try. On they went, up a seemingly endless flight of stairs, to a trap door. Peeking through the trap door, the 5 found they had entered a winter wonderland, despite it being midsummer. They also saw that here, on top of a tower open on all sides to the sweeping city landscape below, lay in wait a giant polar bear. Rushing from the trap door to face the snow-capped behemoth, they soon found the icy ground to be challenging to balance on, and the unguarded edges all too close together. The heroes charged in, and as the battle raged they put their wits to the test in an attempt to turn the battle to their favor by any means possible. Northic taunted the ursine monster while Adokul cast about fire seeds, melting the ice for easier footing, then ultimately burning the floor beneath them, collapsing a large section. While Dorian cleverly thought to tie ropes to the pillars holding the tower's suspended roof above them, then tie it to themselves in order to avoid falling to their death, Adokul transformed into a baby polar bear and attempted to convince the larger bear it was its father. Convinced, the larger bear allowed the bear-disguised-Adokul to climb on to its back, where he transformed back and took the opportunity for a mighty blow. Steel clashed and frigid wind blew, and after sweat and blood were spilt aplenty, the bear fell, the party survived.

From the suspended roof above them came down a rope, which, upon climbing, led them at last to the wizard Gal-Gal.

In the musty room with barely any furnishings except mountains of tomes and scrolls, an elderly man turned from the fireplace to look at the battle-worn adventurers. Having braved his ridiculous security systems, the group asked why they had been led to him, and so he explained...

However, the group was 'too tired' and found his wise and detailed explanation of the ancient lore surrounding their noble quest 'too long,' and so, while I would love to include his brilliantly detailed explanation of their quest here, I cannot, because none can remember it now, as those who were there did not listen well. Not that he's bitter.

In the end, the group learned that in order to defeat the architect of the evil sweeping their land, they would need to find weapons from other planes, portals to which could be found in the hometowns of the adventurers. To help them on their quest, he would provide the party with gifts. Vincennes received a sword with the ability to smite an ally completely and forever, Northic received a potion which could change the drinker's very nature and fundamental composition. Tycho was hit on the head. Not all gifts were good.


After another night's rest at the inn, our hardy group of warriors decide to set out on the adventure the wizard has laid out for them. Truly they are a united group, their battles fought together have strengthened their (platonic) bonds, and now nothing could cause them to turn against one another... or could it? After deciding to begin their efforts by heading to Dorian's hometown, the group is interrupted in their travels by a man in a purple top hat and a long, embroidered coat. He bows deep, greeting them with a thick accent and twirl of his handlebar moustache. "Hello, you lot mightn't be warriors, by any chance? You see, we're holding a carnival in town today," the men had indeed noticed the colorful stands and games around, "and we still have not found competitors worthy of the main event: Our Grand Tournament! There are many prizes to be had by all!" Never ones to be distracted from their main goals, the group signed on immediately.

Led to the middle of a stadium, the group were introduced to the crowd at large, as well as the carnival's champion, an albino goliath wizard, covered from head to toe in fearsome red markings, the symbols of his people.