Friday, April 17, 2020

Nightwatch Dossier: Patricia "Trick" Tillinghast

Patricia "Trick" Tillinghast is one of the two main characters who I played in "Grey Angels," a Buffy/Angel RPG campaign that ran from 2005 to 2009, and that later resumed as a play-by-post game from 2012 to 2014. That game resumed in late 2019 for a "10 years later" reunion arc.

I talked about Trick in a very piecemeal fashion in several past Studded Plate columns prior to the current revival:
Now that the game has resumed, I've started talking a great deal more about her here, so decided to create this "Nightwatch Dossier*" index page to collect all those links in one place. (You can also follow the "Tillinghast" tag, but this page will curate that list a little more, as I did with the older links above.)
* A note on Nightwatch, since I didn't mention it in "The Adventures of..." post above: This multinational corporation investigates occult phenomena, hunts rogue demons, researches new magic and occult tech, and sends covert teams on missions to parallel Earths and other dimensions. It is headed by Joey and Rae Maddock-Trent. (As the twin sister of Taryn Maddock, General of the Thyrian Nation, Rae is also part of the senior leadership of that organization as well.) Trick has had dealings with Nightwatch's Shadowgard office since the very early days of her involvement with the supernatural, but has never sought employment with the organization.

30-Day Song Challenge: Tillinghast Edition

My wife has been posting answers to a 30-Day Song Challenge on her Facebook this month. It's been interesting seeing her answers, but it's not normally the kind of meme I join in on. However, after posting my "Trick's Picks" playlist earlier I this month, I thought it might be fun to try answering this challenge in character as Trick. To make it more interesting, I did not repeat any songs, and only repeated artists twice. With only a couple exceptions, these are all songs that would appear in regular rotation in Trick's own playlists. In fact, many appear on my "Trick's Picks," or have been added to it since that post.

[See Trick's Nightwatch Dossier for a complete list of past posts about her.]

30-Day Song Challenge

As answered by Patricia "Trick" Tillinghast

Day 1: A song you like with a color in the title: "Mr. Blue Sky," Electric Light Orchestra. Nobody's ever going to be able to hear this song again without seeing Baby Groot dancing to it, are they? The best part of Vol. 2!

Day 2: A song you like with a number in the title: "Seven Nation Army," The White Stripes. It's got a really fun drum line.

Day 3: A song that reminds you of summertime: "Love Shack," The B-52's. The video is sunny and bright, and the song is kind of all about about how hot it is around here...

Day 4: A song that reminds you of someone you'd rather forget: "Shut Up and Dance," Walk the Moon. The line "This woman is my destiny" always reminds me of one of my ex-girlfriends, who I was more crazy in love with than anyone else before or since. (And who I'm not going to name, in case she ever sees this.) We're still friendly, but we just couldn't make it work, and if I'm completely honest with myself, I've never really gotten over her. But I love this song too much to not listen to it.

Day 5: A song that needs to be played loud: "Thunderstruck," AC/DC. Because metal demands volume!

Day 6: A song that makes you want to dance: "Uptown Funk," Mark Ronson (ft. Bruno Mars). I can't hear this song without moving!

Day 7: A song to drive to: "Life is a Highway," Rascal Flatts. This has been on every driving mix I've made since Cars.

Day 8: A song about drugs or alcohol: "Tubthumping," Chumbawamba. I love the "you are never going to keep me down" chorus, but there's an awful lot of drinking in these lyrics.

Day 9: A song that makes you happy: "Happy," Pharrell Williams. OK, kind of an obvious answer, but I'm a naturally joyful person, and it's catchy. And the video is full of people who are dancing because it's just plain fun.

Day 10: A song that makes you sad: "She Used to be Mine," Sara Bareilles. This song is about a woman who is mourning how she lost touch with the person who she used to be.

Day 11: A song you never get tired of: "Shake It Off," Taylor Swift. It's fun, and catchy, and empowering all at the same time.

Day 12: A song from your preteen years: "A Thousand Miles," Vanessa Carlton. A new hit love ballad when I was in middle school? And by a woman? Yes, please.

Day 13: A song you like from the 70s: "Dancing Queen," ABBA. This is a lovely mellow classic to groove to in between the more energetic tracks that let me really show off my dancing chops.

Day 14: A song you'd love to be played at your wedding: "Eternal Flame," The Bangles. It's a sappy, romantic song...and I love it. Plus, between my visions and becoming a Thyrian, I've kind of acquired a thing about fire imagery.

Day 15: A song you like that's a cover by another artist: "Lady Marmalade," Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya, Pink. I almost used it for Day 6 because I recently competed in a dance battle to this track. But I put it here because the Moulin Rouge cover took a good song and turned it into one of my all-time faves.

Day 16: A song that's a classic favorite"Imagine," John Lennon. My parents grew up listening to the Beatles and other classic bands of the 60's and '70s, so I was exposed to many of them as a kid as well. This is one of Mom's favorites, because it challenges us to imagine a better, more loving world.

Day 17: A song you'd sing a duet with on karaoke: "I Got You," Sonny & Cher. It's corny as hell, but I want to sing this with someone who will look at me in the same worshipful, sappy way that Sonny and Cher looked at each other whenever they performed this song back in the '60s.

Day 18: A song from the year you were born: "Simply Irresistible," Robert Palmer (1988). It's too bad that the video is so cheesy, and objectifying AF. It was the '80s, so I can't tell if that was meant ironically or not...but I doubt it.

Day 19: A song that makes you think about life: "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)," Kelly Clarkson. You'll have to pardon me for getting philosophic for a moment. Pain is the great teacher. If we forget the painful events in our life, then we forget the lessons they taught us. Those things don't have to define us, but they do inform who we become. To put it another way, I am the sum of all my choices and my experiences, both the good ones and the bad ones. Who I am today is a precious gift, and I must acknowledge the path I took to get here.

Day 20: A song that has many meanings to you: "We Are the Champions," Queen. At first, this song reads as a victory anthem by a weary hero. (And, in fact, my cousin Baz claims to have led a chorus of it at a victory party after the Ragnarok.) But sometimes the borderline-plaintive tone of the song leads me to wonder if it's merely the daydreaming wish of someone who feels like an underappreciated loser. I wouldn't put it past Freddie & co. to have intended both messages.

Day 21: A song you like with a person's name in the title: "Elvis is Everywhere," Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper. This song is ridiculous, and I only listen to it very occasionally, but still amuses me after all this time.

Day 22: A song that moves you forward: "Fight Song," Rachel Platten. This song was pretty much my personal anthem when I moved back to Shadowgard to teach in my hometown and reconcile with the Maddocks, and again a few years later when I applied to become a Thyrian initiate. Too many people in this town remembered me as the angry, self-absorbed brat that I had been in high school, so I had a lot to prove to them, and to myself.

Day 23: A song you think everyone should listen to"Brave," Sara Bareilles. Be brave enough to speak up, and to show people who the authentic, amazing you really is! 

Day 24: A song by a band that you wish were still together: "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)," The Eurythmics. I think Annie Lennox is a big part of the reason why I think tall chicks in suits are classy--and sexy. I've been known to rock the look myself from time to time.

Day 25: A song you like by an artist no longer living: "Ballroom Blitz," The Sweet. Two of the four original band members are dead, that's close enough.

Day 26: A song that makes you want to fall in love: "Somebody to Love," Queen. This song has been a prayer of mine far too many times...

Day 27: A song that breaks your heart: "Try," P!nk. I've had my heart broken more times than I can count, but I keep trying again.

Day 28: A song by an artist whose voice you love"Bubbly," Colbie Caillat. I'm pretty sure this song is really just all about sex, and I could listen to that gentle, caressing voice sing about that all day long.

Day 29: A song you remember from your childhood: "The Little Drummer Boy." This is the one song on this list that I actively don't like. Mostly because I remember being horribly offended that the Rankin-Bass movie didn't use drums for the title song!

Day 30: A song that reminds you of yourself: "Bitch," Meredith Brooks. I'm a passionate woman with a complicated history, who boldly wears her heart on her sleeve. I'm very aware that that can make me a right handful to deal with at times, even to--especially to?--my best friends. But those messy parts are part of who I am, too, for better or worse.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Trick's Picks

I have recreated my old "Trick's Picks" playlist on YouTube, and updated it for the 2020 reunion arc. This is a list of the favorite songs of Patricia "Trick" Tillinghast, my drummer/dancer/fencer/champion character from "Grey Angels," a Buffy/Angel RPG campaign. It's still very much a work in progress. (For additional context, see my past blog posts about Trick--particularly here and here.)

As of the time of this posting, the playlist includes (in no particular order):

Meredith Brooks - Bitch
P!nk - F**king Perfect
P!nk - Try
P!nk - Just Like Fire
P!nk - Raise Your Glass
Queen - Somebody to Love
Queen - We Are the Champions
The Bangles - Eternal Flame
Kelly Clarkson - Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)
Sara Bareilles - Brave
Colbie Caillat - Bubbly
Colbie Caillat - Fallin’ For You
Taylor Swift- Shake It Off
Taylor Swift - Delicate
Rachel Platten - Fight Song
The Sweet - Ballroom Blitz
Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya, Pink - Lady Marmalade
Mark Ronson (ft. Bruno Mars) - Uptown Funk
The White Stripes - Seven Nation Army
Des’ree - You Gotta Be
Adele - Rolling in the Deep
Natasha Bedingfield - Unwritten
Walk the Moon - Shut Up and Dance
Lady Gaga - Edge of Glory
Rush [Neil Peart solo] - Der Trommler

And yes, that's a lot of P!nk tracks! Patricia's romantic history has been a soap opera roller coaster, so P!nk's repertoire strikes a very deep chord with her, but I've strictly limited myself to a few of her more positive songs for this list. Trick is a hopeless romantic, but she's becoming more careful and deliberate about her relationships. What worked during her high school and college years is no longer cutting it now that she's hit her 30's and has a much better sense of who she is and what she actually wants out of life. Of course, her list of favorites still heavily features tracks chosen simply because they're fun.


UPDATE 4/30/2020: The following tracks have been added to the playlist since the original list above was created:

Fatboy Slim - Weapon of Choice
The B-52’s - Love Shack
Portugal. The Man - Feel It Still
Sia - Cheap Thrills
Sia - Unstoppable
David Guetta, ft. Sia - Titanium
Pharrell Williams - Happy
The Black Eyed Peas - I Gotta Feeling
Lenny Kravitz - Fly Away
Vanessa Carlton - A Thousand Miles
Shania Twain - Man! I Feel Like a Woman
WAR*HALL - All This Power [theme song for Grey Angels Season 4]
Rachel Platten - Stand By You
HAIM - Little of Your Love
Smash Mouth - All Star

Monday, April 6, 2020

Strongholds & Followers and Freeport

Last summer, I reviewed Matt Colville's Stronghold & Followers sourcebook for D&D 5E. This time, I'll be looking at how to use this new material in a Freeport campaign.

First of all, Freeport is a very highly detailed city that already contains many competing organizations with established strongholds. Any attempt to create a new stronghold in the Serpent's Teeth, much less within Freeport's own city walls, will be sure to experience resistance from the current powers that be. Players and DMs should not let that discourage them from using the stronghold rules--intrigue and political scheming are hallmarks of the City of Adventure, after all! And some bold adventurer is behind the founding of most of the city's iconic organizations, from the Syndicate to the Wizard's Guild to the office of Sea Lord itself. The PCs are just the latest in a long history of ambitious new arrivals, who lack the advantages jealously guarded by the members of the status quo.

In a Freeport campaign, the stronghold rules can also be useful for detailing NPC organizations, from competing guilds to military schools to pirate fleets. Even if the PCs never establish a formal base of operations, NPCs with sufficient political clout will reap the benefits of maintaining their own strongholds: followers to pit against the PCs, easier access to low-level magic items, and improved class features. (On the other hand, when faced with such resourceful enemies, the PCs may eventually seek how to gain those rewards for themselves!)

Most of the rules in S&F can be used as-is in most campaigns, but a few options deserve specific call-outs for Freeport.

The Keep: The barbarian camp option is not appropriate within the Serpent's Teeth, except when they are invading one of the settlements here (as in the northern barbarian invasion during Black Sails Over Freeport). However, this stronghold type is the norm in the more savage parts of the Continent, such as Druzhdin and the Bone Lands.

In contrast, the pirate ship variant is perfectly suited to Freeport. The Mass Combat rules can be adapted for use for sea battles between enemy ships.

The Tower: The Wizard's Guild is the epitome of this type of stronghold, while Gitch's rickety tower in Bloodsalt represents the most humble possible version.

The Temple: Freeport is littered with this type of stronghold, but not every shrine in the Temple District qualifies. (The Fool's Market as a whole might--or it might count as an establishment?--but the individual spaces within it would not.) Naturally, any new temple established within Freeport will face intense scrutiny from other faiths, who may simply be jealous of competition or who might be on the watch for legitimate threats to crusade against.

The druid's grove alternate would be appropriate to establish outside the city, in the jungles of A'Val or elsewhere in the Serpent's Teeth.

The Establishment: This type of stronghold might be the easiest to establish within the city, because Freeport is a city that thrives on commerce and trade. The covert side of the organization will need to be wary of established criminal gangs, who have well-defined territories within the city's districts.

Followers: The stat blocks for retainers are highly abbreviated, since they have a reduced role in combat. However, they can be useful starting points for creating NPC allies and enemies for Freeport adventures, apart from the stronghold rules. Likewise, the sample artisan profiles can be used as-is or as inspiration for new background characters.

The Siege of Castle Rend: This adventure is clearly not appropriate for the Serpent's Teeth. However, it could be used more or less as written in many places on the Continent. The adventure also presents many new stat blocks for orcs, which could add some variety to the inhabitants of Bloodsalt.

New Monsters: This chapter is a rich resource for any 5E game. See below for further discussion.

New Items: The codices are thematically appropriate for Freeport, given the setting's strong Lovecraftian element. However, they require attunement within a stronghold, so should be ignored if the stronghold rules are not being used.

New Monsters

This chapter can be used with any 5E campaign, whether or not the GM includes the stronghold and concordance rules. These creatures are grouped into various extraplanar factions based on the beings' origins and agenda.

Demons and devils are well represented in the Monster Manual, so only a few new fiends are needed to round out the servitors chart in the temple rules.

The remaining factions include:
  • The Celestial Court: Angelic beings who (in Freeport's default D&D cosmology, at least) hail from the outer planes of good. These beings are the natural allies of pure-hearted crusaders against demons, devils, and other evils.
  • The Court of All Flesh: Chaotic aberrations. "Primordius" is roughly cognate to Limbo, but the Changing Ones are not affiliated with the slaadi or other denizens of that plane. (Slaadi have never been Open Game Content, so Colville had to invent new servitors for this niche.) In a Freeport campaign, this court might have ties to realms corrupted by the Unspeakable One, but are not inherently evil themselves.
  • The Court of Arcadia: Chaotic fey (and one dragon), appropriate to the fairy realms (and some elven woods). These are likely to be popular among clerics from Rolland on the Continent, but apart from the oleander dragon, the Court of Arcadia are unlikely to have anything in common with the more reptilian fey native to the Serpent's Teeth.
  • The Court of Elements: Neutral elementals, ruled by the Lady of Brass. In a Freeport campaign, may be the noble efreeti ruler of the City of Brass, or the sovereign over all of the ruling class of genies from all four elemental planes.
  • Gemstone Dragons: These neutral dragons are the one group of new monsters that were not designed for use as extraplanar servitors. Instead, they form a third category of dragons between the more extreme alignments of the metallic and chromatic species. Gemstone dragons have psionic abilities rather than the usual magical powers of dragons. A limited, self-contained psionics system is presented to support these creatures. This section also includes a gemstone variant for dragonborn (who comprise the only method presented in this book for accessing those psionic powers as a PC). In a Freeport campaign, gemstone dragons might have connections to, or secret forgotten knowledge of, the ancient civilization of Valossa, or its serpent god Yig.
  • The Inexorables: Lawful constructs that embody the plane of pure law (called "Axiom" here, which could be considered the same as Mechanus in the default D&D cosmology). They presumably operate independently from the modrons.

For my past columns about using D&D Fifth Edition sourcebooks with Freeport: The City of Adventure, see the Freeport 5E Index.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Unearthed Arcana and Freeport, Part 14: Another Slew of Subclasses

Welcome back to my ongoing series of capsule reviews of "Unearthed Arcana" with an eye for how to use them with the Freeport setting. This column covers UA articles from late November 2019 to March 2020.

For my past columns about using D&D Fifth Edition sourcebooks with Freeport: The City of Adventure, see the Freeport 5E Index.

Fighter, Rogue, and Wizard (11/25/2019): This installment presents the Psychic Warrior archetype for fighters, the Soulknife for rogues, and the Psionics arcane tradition for wizards. Despite Mike Mearls not being listed among the authors, these subclasses are heavily indebted to ideas that were first presented in the Mike Mearls Happy Fun Hour. Essentially, the Mystic class remained unwieldy after multiple iterations, because it was designed to cover too many character concepts under the single huge umbrella of "psionics." The most problematic "edge cases" actually work better as psionic-themed subclasses of other classes. With those elements moved elsewhere, the Mystic (or psion) gets closer to having its own clear, distinct role and feel.

The Psychic Warrior no longer casts psychic spells, but gains augmented attack and defenses that improve with level. A Soulknife can create a blade of pure psychic energy that eventually frightens its victims, and at very high level, can target an enemy's mind directly. A wizard of the Psionics tradition focuses on psychic-themed spells, and as they advance in level, gain the ability to assume a form composed of pure psychic energy.

Finally, this installment introduces some new psionic spells for sorcerers, warlocks, and wizards that essentially translate older editions' "psionic attack/defense modes" into spells. There are also two new feats, Telekinetic and Telepathic, which increase Intelligence and give some cantrip-level psionic abilities.

(My mini-review of the last iteration of the Mystic class provided some context for the World of Freeport. This article merely changes the mechanical options for converting a couple of classes to 5E.)

Subclasses, Part 1 (1/14/2020): The Path of the Beast barbarian is a partial shapechanger who can grow natural weapons in combat. As they advance, they can adapt to new movement modes, and spread their rage to allies and enemies. This archetype is suitable for characters with a connection to lycanthropes, druids, or fey or animal spirits--of which there are many examples in Rolland and in the more exotic lands of the World of Freeport.

Monks who follow the Way of Mercy tradition are both skilled healers as well as bringers of swift death to the evil and the ailing. Many wear masks to shroud their identities in mystery. These monks would be appropriate for followers of a god of medicine, or one who holds power over life and death.

Paladins who swear the Oath of the Watchers are guardians against extraplanar threats. This manifests as heightened vigilance and methods to punish unworldly foes. This archetype is very well suited to servants of the Inquisition and other champions who hunt the devils and demons who plague Freeport from time to time. (Note that while most Sacred Oaths suggest one or more alignments common to their members, this one does not. In Freeport, that might mean this oath is equally valid for both idealistic crusaders and their more jaded, corrupt associates.)

The Noble Genie is a warlock patron who grants powers reminiscent of geniekind: creating a mystical tether between you and a willing ally, gaining elemental resistance, and even creating a conduit to your patron's realm. Genies play a prominent role in the World of Freeport, from the azhar's efreet ancestors to the powerful conjurors who used bound genies to build wonders such as the Wizard's Guild in Freeport.

Subclasses, Part 2 (2/6/2020): Bards who join the College of Creation learn to use the esoteric power of music to manipulate the world around them, from summoning lingering notes that bolster inspiration, to animating a dancing item, to literally creating nonmagical objects out of nothing. The theme of this archetype reminds me of the Finnish creation myth in which the world itself emerges from a bard's song; DMs may wish to take that a step further and tie this tradition to the doomed world from which Lowyatar is the sole survivor (see Cults of Freeport).

The Unity Domain for clerics emphasizes teamwork and emotional bonds. This domain would be an excellent way to translate the Community domain from Third Edition. (That is one gap that Green Ronin's The Book of the Righteous did not fill.)

The Clockwork Soul is a sorcerous origin tied to Mechanus, the plane of ultimate order. The archetype's powers focus on warding magic and reducing the extremes of random chance (usually by denying advantage or disadvantage). The World of Freeport includes enough constructs (particularly in adventures such as Hell in Freeport and The Ironjack Legacy) that this subclass has a solid place there.

Subclasses, Part 3 (2/24/2020): The Armorer artificer specialist creates a powerful bond with their armor, turning it into fully enclosed power armor. This installment also provides some new artificer infusions, most of them involving armor or helms. The Armorer seems especially appropriate for experimenters who blur the lines between man and machine, such as the Manikins (Hell in Freeport) or Ironjack.

The Circle of Stars for druids involves studying the night sky and channeling the power of starlight. Some of the features gained are tied to astrological foretelling, while others alter wild shape to take on a starry form tied to a constellation's power. (At higher levels, this starry form becomes incorporeal. The article includes a useful sidebar about applying damage resistance.) The powers of this subclass are thematically appropriate for both the Order of Starry Wisdom and the Wanderer, though druids are not obvious candidates for either cult.

The Fey Wanderer ranger archetype is a guardian of the borders between the Feywild and the material plane. They are imbued with fey magic that allows them to better negotiate with beings from both worlds, to resist some of the snares of the fey, and to bend the minds of others. This subclass is probably most common in the elven kingdom of Rolland, but might also be appropriate for rangers (human and otherwise) who have learned something about the strange, rare fey peculiar to the Serpent's Teeth.

Spells and Magic Tattoos (3/26/2020): This installment introduces several new summoning spells that come with a special stat block to use with that spell. The spell's level determines the summoned spirit's AC, hit points, and number of attacks. The caster chooses one of two or three options that determine some of its other stats; for example, a bestial spirit can be an air, land, or sea creature, with appropriate movement types. These spells provide an interesting alternative to the handful of summoning spells in the PH, where the player needs to be familiar with the relevant Monster Manual entries. Summoning spells are frighteningly commonplace in Freeport, so using these spells could save the GM some effort when running summoner NPCs.

This article also includes rules for magical tattoos, which take up an amount of space on the body determined by its rarity (from a few inches for common tattoos, or half your body for legendary ones). The sample tattoos presented include a variety of effects, from enhancing attacks to storing a spell to changing your appearance. Magical tattoos are highly appropriate for Freeport, where mundane tattoos are common among sailors, exotic martial artists, and other groups.

Friday, March 20, 2020

The Adventures of Patricia "Trick" Tillinghast

Patricia "Trick" Tillinghast is one of the two main characters who I played in "Grey Angels," a Buffy/Angel RPG campaign that ran from 2005 to 2009, and that later resumed as a play-by-post game from 2012 to 2014. I have talked about Trick in a very piecemeal fashion in several past Studded Plate columns:

Just before this past Christmas, GA's co-GMs announced their wish to run a reunion story arc to finally wrap up some of the major plot lines that were still unresolved when we last shelved the campaign. We did some discussion online about what had happened to our characters since we last saw them (in 2010, in game), bringing them up to the current day (2019-2020), then did some plot-light PBP roleplaying to get reacquainted with our old friends and the changes they underwent in the jump forward. We're hoping to start some real-time RPing this spring, though that will also need to be done online since we no longer all live in the same state. (The others still live in the Greater Boston area, but I moved to Kentucky during our last PBP-only period.)

I never expected to be able to play Trick again, and the jump ahead means that many of the changes we were planning for her have taken effect, so I am very excited about this reunion game!

A Brief History of the World

To explain some of the changes Trick has gone through, I first need to summarize a few of the basic premises of the campaign:

  • The "Greyverse" is inherently connected to the "Buffyverse": Slayers, Watchers, vampires, and demons all exist, and all are more or less as portrayed in the Buffy and Angel TV shows. Several characters from those shows have made appearances in GA, but the GMs are deliberately not making any of them the focus of our campaign. It's the same world, but we're interested in different characters, locations, and adventures. 
  • Most of the campaign takes place in the fictional city of Shadowgard, located in northeastern Massachusetts, a few years after the mass activation of Slayers during Buffy's last season. This part of New England is the heart of Lovecraft country, so versions of Arkham and Innsmouth exist here. In game, Lovecraft's works were based on some germ of truth, though he regularly changed the details to pass them off as fiction.
  • One of the main plots of "Grey Angels" is the resurgence of the Thyrian nation: a lost ancient civilization of Amazon-like warrior women who predated the Slayers (and served as inspiration for the Shadowmen's creation of the First Slayer). Many of the PCs are reincarnated Thyrians, and they and their friends spent much of the original campaign delving into prophecies about the return of Thyria, and learning how to unlock that power for themselves.
  • The three senior Thyrians (all sisters, and initially Slayers) can join their powers with that of certain ancient relics in order to grant supernatural powers to new Thyrians. This can either unlock the full potential of a reincarnated Thyrian, or empower a trusted ally with no previous mystical ties to that group. At the time that the game last ended, this process had recently been formalized into a probationary period for training new candidates in the history and combat skills needed by all Thyrians. 
  • Over a dozen Thyrian "castes" or "legacies" exist, each with different powers, but all include enhanced physical traits and rapid healing similar to a Slayer's. Most, but far from all, Thyrians are women, and the organization as a whole is very outspoken about the rights of women and minorities of all kinds.
  • The Thyrians also established a school for superpowered teens, the Phoenix Academy, in order to give those children a safer place to learn how to use and control their powers. 
  • The existence of the supernatural was forcibly revealed to the world in 2008 during the Ragnarok, a war in which a new pantheon of evil gods attempted to seize power. Battles took place in Shadowgard, New York City, London, and elsewhere. An alliance of Thyrians, Watchers, Slayers, and other heroes defeated the Dark Pantheon, and then shouldered the responsibility of educating the world about the true nature of reality.

Trick Tillinghast,
by Tim Emrick (2006)

The Old Adventures of Trick Tillinghast

During the original campaign, Trick started as a normal human with no supernatural gifts whatsoever. She was, however, a highly trained fencer who had become familiar with many other weapons through her obsession with the martial arts, medieval reenactment, and similar activities. Around the start of her junior year of high school, she had her first encounter with the supernatural, and joined her friends--a Slayer, a Totem Warrior, a witch, and a Watcher's daughter--in fighting the forces of darkness. 

Partway through that year, she attracted the attention of the Greek god Dionysus, who gifted her with the powers of a Maenad to become his champion. At first, she was ecstatic about these gifts, because enhanced her skill and durability, making it far less likely that she would become a liability in a fight. However, her relationship with her patron soon soured, and she began to use her status as a Maenad as an excuse for increasingly wild behavior. By the end of a year as the wine god's champion, she wanted out--and mostly through sheer, bloody-minded stubbornness, she was released. She was fully human again, and now suffered from painful visions, but had her freedom again.

By then, however, Trick's bad behavior had alienated most of her friends, and as the time to apply for colleges approached, she felt an urgent need to get away and start over elsewhere. She matriculated at Columbia College in New York City, where she also worked with the local Watchers, Slayers, witches, and other champions. Though lacking any powers, she was easily the most experienced of the new class of student heroes, and found her niche in helping to train the others.

Trick's visions became an increasingly urgent problem for her, as her merely mortal body wasn't built to withstand them. (Think Cordelia after receiving Doyle's "gift.") She eventually found a solution when she was given the opportunity to become a Slayer--and after a horrifying vision of a monstrous attack on NYC, and her sorry fate if she refused this chance, she paid the price to become one. This gift was a godsend to her--she finally had the power she had always envied in her Slayer best friend, and could safely return to actively fighting against the forces of darkness.

A few months later, Trick's vision came true as the Ragnarok erupted in New York. That battle was the most harrowing of her life--she lost her girlfriend, ex-girlfriend, and ex-patron in one night, was forced to kill a human being for the first time, and dueled with fire giants as Central Park burned around them. The forces of good triumphed, but at a painful price.

Eva Amurri as Patricia Tillinghast,
by Tim Emrick (2018)

The New Adventures of Patricia Tillinghast

Just before "Grey Angels" was shelved last time, we had started discussion of jumping ahead a few years to a time when the brewing war with the Old Ones would come to a head. We had decided the following, as far as Trick was concerned: 
  • Following the Ragnarok, Trick was given a second chance with her girlfriend Diana, who had died during that conflict but was returned to life as a champion of Persephone. However, Diana had to spend each winter as a ghost in the underworld with her patron, which made it nearly impossible to maintain any relationship with a living lover, and the couple parted amicably after two bittersweet summers. 
  • Trick has a younger sister, Sheila, who was adopted after Trick rescued her from enslavement by the sidhe of Tir na n'Og. When Sheila turned 18, she finally spoke out publicly about her experiences in that world, which resulted in public pressure for the sidhe to change their society. 
  • After college, Trick vowed to reconcile with old friends, and sought a teaching position at the Phoenix Academy. She was determined to prove to herself and the Thyrian leadership that she was no longer the spoiled, angry, wild child that she had been in the past. She eventually applied to become a Thyrian herself, and impressed her trainers with her persistence and discipline.
  • She now defaults to using her given name, Patricia, because it sounds far more professional than "Trick" for the educator and public figure she has become--though family and other longtime acquaintances occasionally still use her old nickname in private.
The reunion arc picks up some six years or so after Patricia's empowerment as a Thyrian Sword (a legacy that seemed tailor-made for her mastery of weapons!). She has become one of that organization's most formidable warriors, a devoted teacher to her students, and a skilled musician who has achieved some minor renown despite the demands of her higher calling. 

The one part of her life that isn't on the track she hoped for is her love life. Patricia is an unapologetic hedonist who is disinclined to deny herself when she desires companionship. However, ever since losing Diana, she has yet to find another partner who she can fully connect with as a warrior, a teacher, and an artist. Almost all of her closest friends have ended up happily married over the past decade, so she's been feeling that lack in her own life more and more acutely.

As the campaign continues, I'll post some more updates on Patricia's continuing adventures--and introduce my other PC, Baz Olmstead. I've been playing Baz for a longer than I have Trick, but he achieved more closure last time around, and my larger-than-life lesbian knight-errant is by far the more fun to play of the two.

[UPDATE 4/17/2020: Trick's Nightwatch Dossier collects the links above as well as columns about her posted after this bio.]

Monday, March 16, 2020

Pathfinder Society LEGO minis

A little over a year ago, I posted artwork I had created for my Pathfinder Society player characters, with a brief description of each character's concept and history. I have added a handful more characters to that stable, though I have not yet drawn portraits of my new heroes. I do, however, have LEGO minifigures built for all 17 characters, so am sharing those here.

Ansari Zolta (human rogue/cleric of Cayden Cailean) recently completed the Seeker-tier (level 12+) series "Eyes of the Ten."

Ansari is Kelishite, so his mini mostly combines some Indiana Jones and Prince of Persia minifigure parts, with an old Pirates cutlass. [The round base is Kre-O, not LEGO. It's one of the few Kre-O parts that I'm actually very happy with.]

Raudabjorn "Bjorn" Kjallakson (dwarf stonelord paladin or Torag) continues to fight as a crusader, and recently helped defend the city of Nerosyan from a siege of demons. He recently upgrade to a holy waraxe, to help him punish even more foes.

Bjorn's armor and weapons are from a mix of Castle, Kingdoms, and related sets. The gray-green cape is a hobbit-length elven cloak (LOTR).

Bjorn has an earth elemental companion named Pyrite, who he doesn't call upon often because a Medium elemental is highly squishable at his tier. However, at next level, Pyrite will become Large and be much less of a liability. That future mini (shown here) uses one of the second-generation Hagrids with articulated hands (Harry Potter), with a werewolf head (from the Collectible Minifigures, or "CMF," theme) and silver gauntlets from a Gorilla Tribe character (Chima).

Mahesh's political maneuvering has now earned him the title of Lord Mahesh, Viscount A'Zun (nagaji serpentine sorcerer).

His mini combines a royal outfit from the Castle theme with Ninjago Serpentine head and hands, plus a Harry Potter wand. His familiar Zuku uses the Snake Charmer's cobra (CMF).

Mariko Snowtop (undine white-haired witch) recently reached Seeker tier , after competing in the Ruby Phoenix Tournament (earning yet another tattoo for her collection) and some high-level adventures involving the Hao Jin Tapestry. She and her familiar have died once, so she has a new king crab named Khaempferi.

Mariko has the alternate racial trait of Flesh Chameleon, so can change her coloring to look human. I have a second mini to use when she uses this disguise. Her natural undine form uses an Aayla Secura minifigure, with the lekku replaced by another Star Wars character's topknot. Her human disguise uses a Ninjago torso and legs. The wands are from Heroica games. The silver crab belongs to Zodiac Master (The LEGO Batman Movie Minifigures).

Neferanu (oread brawler/living monolith) recently became a member of the Jeweled Sages, and only needs one more level to reach Seeker status.

Neferanu's torso is from the Adventurers theme's mummy Pharaoh; the headpiece from a CMF Egyptian warrior; and the head from the original Darth Vader minifigure. [The spiked "knuckles" in the photo are a BrickWarriors part (not LEGO) which I don't use anymore.]

His "embiggened" monolith form uses the body of Jun-Chi (Adventurers), a Garmadon head (Ninjago), and an Egyptian queen's hair (CMF). The head is attached with a 2x2 round jumper plate, to center it on the shoulders. The base uses four 1x2 jumper plates to center the 2x3 "footprint" on the 6x6 round plate.

Jalon Greenbottle (half-elf inquisitor of Gorum) has started focusing on ranged combat, so uses his repeating crossbow more often than Gorum's favored weapon (greatsword). [I'm not as happy with Jalon's advancement as I am with most of my other characters, so he's not currently high on my priority list for play.]

Jalon wears a chrome conquistador breastplate over a redcoat's torso (both from Pirates/Armada). His head and hair are from a LOTR/Hobbit elf. His crossbow is one of the newer models that shoots 1x1 round tiles (though I never use that feature while gaming, for fear of losing the tiny parts).

Nar-Lok (half-orc heavens shaman of Desna) has been adventuring with his new spirit animal, Daosvaria (a hatchling nightmare dragon) for some time now, and relies heavily on her for esoteric lore. (She is a sage familiar, so compensates for Nar-Lok's limited knowledge skills quite handily.) He has reached Seeker tier, and has played a single adventure at that level so far.

Nar-Lok's torso and legs are Zodiac Master's; the hat and cape are from a CMF wizard; and his face is a Stone Warrior's (Ninjago).  The breastplate is a Chima accessory, and the compass (his wayfinder) is from Pirates of the Caribbean. [I don't currently have a LEGO mini for Daosvaria, as I use a tiny Pokemon figurine instead. I did use a Norbert dragon mini (Harry Potter) briefly, but it wasn't freakish enough.]

K'Chaw (tengu cavalier) now has her axebeak mount, who she has named Good Girl. I have also worked out what K'Chaw's birth name is (Karasu Momoru) and why she goes by "K'Chaw" instead: it was a nickname given to her by a tribe of horse nomads that she lived with for a time; as her horsemanship improved, the name became a badge of honor.

K'Chaw is a Legend of Chima Raven Tribe character, with [IIRC] Ninjago samurai armor. Her shield (facing away in this shot) is an Amazon warrior's (CMF) with a bird design. The axebeak is an ostrich (Prince of Persia) with a much larger brick-built head. (A short bar fits into a hole where the original head attached.)

Volutus (sylph sky druid) still hasn't seen a lot of play, except when there is a low-level Concordance-related adventure.

Volutus uses a Jack Sparrow body (PotC) and a Viking shield (CMF). I don't recall at the moment where the head and hair come from. [The scimitar is a BrickWarriors part, not LEGO.]

Milo Nimblefingers (halfling cleric/rogue) has reached second level and multiclassed into rogue. We don't play our Core characters enough for me to be certain how long he'll stick with that class, but my best guess right now is that he'll remain about half cleric, half rogue throughout his career.

Milo uses a hobbit's head and hair on Gimli's body (LOTR), and an Indiana Jones bullwhip.

Atticus Nox (tiefling investigator) is a Chelaxian scribe and barrister, who grew up benefiting from the status his diabolic heritage gave him in that corrupt empire. His partner Nephrael, my wife's character, has recently converted to a good god following a visit to Heaven without him. Atticus may follow suit one day, but is more likely to embrace the ways of Axis (which they both visited briefly in one adventure).

Atticus's body is the Lone Ranger's uniform (because the star badge is the closest thing I had to Asmodeus's pentagram). The tail and hands are from the Little Imp (CMF); the head is from the Monster 4 LEGO Game. His hair is Valkyrie's, from Thor: Ragnarok (Marvel Superheroes).

Cassilda Tillinghast (human mindblade magus) has now reached the level at which her previous incarnation was created for The House on Hook Street. Now that Mariko has reached Seeker tier, Cassilda has become my new character with a hefty grudge against the Aspis Consortium. Much of her last couple of levels involved Aspis-related adventures in the Hao Jin Tapestry.

Cassilda's body and cape are from the Wicked Witch (LEGO Dimensions), with new head and hair (the latter is from a Friends minidoll). Her mindblade and shield spell are represented with some of the trans-blue accessories that come with sets featuring Iron Man or Thor (Marvel Superheroes).

[I have also very recently had the opportunity to start playing Trick Tillinghast--the Buffy/Angel RPG character on whom Cassilda is very loosely based--again, which pleases me immensely. I will be devoting one or more future columns to her very soon.]

Mumbly Peg (kitsune hunter) has upgraded to her owlbear companion, Growler, and only needs a couple more adventures before he grows to Medium size. She will be taking a level or three of unchained rogue in the near future in order to boost her damage output while flanking; she already has the Boon Companion feat to avoid losing advancement for Growler while she does that. Peg is my only PFS character with a negative Int modifier, which can be a challenge to roleplay properly at times, but ganging up on things with her buddy is great fun!

Peg's head, legs, and tail are from Furty, the single Fox Tribe Chima character. The armored torso is from a Castle/Kingdoms minifigure. The photo above shows her in human form as well. While Growler is Small, I'm using a baby bear (Friends). Once he is Medium, I'll be using a Raven Tribe character (Chima) on all fours, with some claws added (see photo at left).

The New Kids on the (LEGO) Block

The following five characters are all new in the past year, and all have at least 1 XP, but only one has reached 3rd level so far. Two of them (Raisa and Darla) are "GM babies," who only have XP from GM credit or playing pregens, but have not yet seen play. (Pierce was another until earlier this month.)

Raisa Lupescu is a Varisian human diviner and fortune-teller, who will be taking the Harrower prestige class once she qualifies for it. (I want to get full use out of my Harrow deck, and much of the in-game lore about these decks is fun). She is a cousin to one of my other characters, Cassilda Tillinghast (who is only half Varisian).

Raisa's body and cape are from the fortune-teller (CMF). Her hair and kerchief piece is Professor Trelawney's (Harry Potter). She holds a 1x1 tile printed with a spellbook from an old Castle set. (I originally wanted to have her hold the two 1x2 Tarot card tiles that came with the fortune-teller, to represent her Harrow deck, but I've decided that they would be too likely to get bumped out of her hands and lost.)

Sibyl Pierce prefers to go by just "Pierce," and wears simple, practical clothes that obscure her gender. She is an Ulfen woman who learned the basics of zen archery from a wandering Tien monk, whose example she now follows.

She is built with a Green Ninja body (Ninjago), a back quiver (Castle and elsewhere), and an elven longbow (LOTR/Hobbit). Her hair is Elsa's blond wig with braid, from the Disney CMF series. This version of Elsa's hair works better with this pose--turning her head to the left to look at her target--than the straight-down braid from the Frozen minidoll sets (which would run into her quiver and shoulder).

Sister Darla is a nosferatu-born dhampir warpriest who was raised from infancy by the church of Pharasma as a living weapon against the kinds of monsters responsible for her existence. She is the beneficiary of last year's GM race boon, which allows a dhampir PC.

Darla's gray head is the Emperor's (Star Wars); her armor is from a Black Knight (CMF); her helm from an older Castle/Kingdoms set; and her dagger from Prince of Persia. (I have used this blade with multiple PCs presented in this column. They make great large daggers, small scimitars, or shortswords.) The tile on her shield is the Hypnobrai symbol from Ninjago; the spiral design makes it ideal for a holy symbol for Pharasma.

Falling Rock is a Shoanti human ranger who specializes in smashing things with his earthbreaker. He was created for a group who is playing through the Giantslayer and Shattered Star Adventure Paths (plus a little bit of Emerald Spire) in "PFS mode." He's my first serious attempt at a DPS-focused character, and he seems to be doing OK at it so far. I chose ranger over fighter so that he would have more skill points, and more useful class skills for this campaign. (He may multiclass into fighter later if I feel that I need additional combat feats more than skill points.) He is now the most experienced of my new characters, thanks to the sustained time spent with the Adventure Paths.

His body is from a Castle minifigure (Dragon Knights subtheme, IIRC?). The head is from an obscure Star Wars character whose name I've forgotten. An earthbreaker is essentially a big, spiked maul, easily represented by a couple clip-plates on a 1x1 SNOT brick, with a long bar handle.

Thibdab is my single Pathfinder Society Second Edition character to date. He is a goblin redeemer champion of Sarenrae. His back story is that he started his career as a squire to my 1E cavalier, K'Chaw, who later sponsored his eventual admission to training as a Pathfinder himself. He seeks to serve as an example to others of how goblins can constructively cooperate with the Society.

Thibdab is a complete melange of parts: head from the CMF goblin; helmet from an old trolls Castle set; torso and short legs from a Ninjago Stone Warrior; sword from Prince of Persia; shield from a Wonder Woman movie set.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

What I'm playing, and what I'm planning

It's been nearly three months since my last blog. I've been busy with many games, I just haven't had a lot to present here.

My "Time of the Tarrasque" Pathfinder home game remains on hold. The player who had a scheduling issue has been in his new job long enough to have our usual game day free again, so now we just have to contend with 1. wonky schedules from the holidays (mostly settled by now), 2. the last half year of inertia, and 3. me finding a way to move forward with less risk of burnout. I have a few ideas for how to deal with some of that in the short-term (such as a brief skip ahead to the next exciting bit, with a little bit of hand-waved XP and gear to go with it).

There is one project that I want to resolve before we resume that game. I've been running a Greek myth-based BESM game for my wife Erika for the past decade or more, on and off. We've reached the endgame stretch, and she and I both want to give it a proper conclusion rather then let it collect dust in limbo. That game is also a homebrew campaign, and while it is not nearly as crunch-intensive as "Time of the Tarrasque," we are at a point where I need more prep per session than I used to for most of its history. (These days, I'm juggling gods, mortal and demigod heroes, and the imminent threat of Typhon's return, all of which demands a bit more brainpower to pull off.) I'm hoping to wrap that up this winter and spring, and be able to devote my full attention to Tarrasque again sometime before summer.

Falling Rock, my Shoanti ranger
for Giantslayer/Shattered Star
Meanwhile, I am still gaming regularly, it just hasn't been as much of my own games:

  • I'm still very active in Pathfinder Society, as both player and GM. I'll be reaching ing my 3rd star as a PFS GM (60 games GMed) sometime in the next month or two.
  • Some of us regular PFS GMs have started a separate group in order to play through a couple of adventure paths in PFS mode. We've just finished Book 1 of Giantslayer, and are ready to start Book 1 of Shattered Star. We'll be alternating between those two AP's after each book (with one GM for each series), and playing occasional bits of Emerald Spire to fill in some advancement gaps.
  • I GMed my first Starfinder game at Fallicon (Lexington, KY) back in November, and have run and played a few more Starfinder Society scenarios since then. 
  • Our local group isn't nearly as keen on Pathfinder 2E as they are on PF1 and SF. However, Erika was recently (and finally!) made a Venture-Agent. In order to fulfill those duties, she needs to be willing and able to run 2E as well as 1E at the store and at cons, so we'll be trying to get that on the schedule a bit more often going forward. (Ideally, she also needs to become more familiar with SF, but there are a handful of us who can run that while she focuses on learning how to run one new system at a time.)
My children's high school has a D&D club, which they have both deep-dived into, and both are running games of their own. Now that they have a lot of school friends that they can play with regularly (both in person and online), Erika and I don't get to game with them as often as we did in the past. (They have both cut way back on PFS, though one of them still plays when it's not a school night and they don't have another game going on.) That will change somewhat when Tarrasque resumes, since our eldest child joined that game shortly before the latest hiatus, and is just as eager to get back to it as the other players are.

The same kid has recently started running a (very occasional) D&D 5E campaign for that adult home group to help fill time during the hiatus. All of the PCs are "mudborn," a small race of anthropomorphic axolotls. That's been great fun, and we'll all looking forward to doing more. (I greatly envy this kid's free time, when they can just do more prep/tinkering whenever the mood hits!)

Looking further ahead, all four of us will be attending Lexicon again (here in Lexington, KY) at the end of April. We're also looking into the possibility of attending GenCon, but that's more likely to happen next year due to some other travel plans this summer taking precedence. 

"Hammer of Hylax," Trox envoy
from a Starfinder Society scenario
Expect to see more posts here as we get closer to resuming "Time of the Tarrasque." I also intend to get back to producing more installments of my "Building the Bestiary" series. In addition, PFS and other games provide a constant demand for me to produce new brick-built RPG minis that fall outside the limited purview of that BtB column, so I may start a second series to showcase some of the more interesting models among those minis.