Settling Ghosts and into Xin-Shalast

The party was joined by a wandering monk, Roque Fort.  They returned Karivek’s corpse to cabin. Silas and Karivek’s ghosts immediately started straining against each other. The howling outside intensified and a wendigo burst in to attack the players who were disrupting its fun. After a few players were dropped, they defeated the wendigo and the dwarven ghosts were put to rest.

The party continued on to Xin-Shalast. They fought a few giants and finally came into view of the massive city on the mountaintop.

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The death of Theo

After being harassed by ghosts over the night, the party found one ghost that was not insane. Silas Vekker asked the party to go look for his brother’s corpse to settle his ghost.  They headed out into the blizzard to find him. In a small mining cave, they found the angry ghost of Karivek.  Just as they defeated Karivek and the frost worm he was controlling, the worm exploded and killed Theo.

She was laid to to rest with a necklace of peaceful repose and a large pile of gold as the group returned to the cabin.

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The Road to Xin-Shalast

Upon their return to Sandpoint the party asked Broderick Quint about Karzoug’s boasts of Xin-Shalast. Their former companion Brecca stopped by and passed on some knowledge she’d pick up from exploring the library beneath Jorgenfist. Broderick found references to dwarven brothers who claimed to have discovered Xin-Shalast before their disappearance.

The party headed into the mountains and after a couple days of travel were attacked by ravenous cannibalistic tundra giants. After dispatching the giants, they found the dwarves’ outpost. Going from room to room, they fitted together a story of the exploration party being driven to cannibalism. A storm blew in and they settled into the cabin for the night.

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Out of the Runeforge

The heroes made a quick trip into the mostly-destroyed Halls of Envy. They fought a jelly that kept splitting on them, but didn’t seriously challenge them. After retrieving the ethillon, they returned to the centre of the runforge to imbue their weapons.

As the first weapon plunged into the pool, Karzoug’s statue came to life. A familiar voice boomed out at them – “You. Again. I can’t help but be inspired by your optimism, but alas, your weapons will never reach Xin-Shalast. Your fate is death, here in Runeforge.”  The party attacked and destroyed the massive statue. As it crumbled into ruin, it had one final taunt “This… this is not the last…come then, heroes. Seek me atop Mhar Massif, if you value life so poorly. You should be honored to be the first fools executed under the banner of Shalast in ten thousand…”

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The Halls of Wrath

The party returned to the golem on the platform they’d been unable to assault before. This time Jusy sipped a potion of gaseous form and floated up behind the golem. He wrapped a rope around its leg. As it turned to smash him, Bumaro and Theo raced to the base of the platform and pulled the golem down. Despite its ferocity, the party made short work of the mighty construct.

They soon figured out the teleportation circles and popped up to face the sinspawn axemen and the warriors of wrath. The combination of axes and spells proved challenging for most of the party, but Bumaro pounced into the fray and dispatched many of the warriors. They decided not to poke around too much in the fleshwarping labs.

Highlady Athroxis’ hall of testing and her glabrezu demon gave them a mighty battle. They collected the ashes from the Halls of Wrath and are left with but one component lacking for the runeforged weapons they sought here.

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Navigating the Festering Maze

The party decided to tackle the Festering Maze next. They headed north but found their way blocked by a channel of slime. Jusy and Tinder lept across with panache, but when Theo tried the jump, she slipped and fell in. She was immediately pulled down by two large slimy creatures and a third huge one. They battled in the slime as she gasped for breath. Finally she made it out and they found a trio of levers. One summoned a water elemental that set about cleaning up the slime, one caused a walkway to rise up, and the third caused the slime to slowly drain away.

They headed deeper into the maze and found a room with a floating throne occupied by a massive man with a slime for a heart. Tinder flung fire at him, Theo slaughtered his oozy minions, and Jusy ran around the room disabling the pipes that fed the pool under his throne. The slime-hearted man teleported around and threw some vicious spells at them, but soon they were victorious and had another ingredient for the runeforged weapons they sought.

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Vaults of Greed and a Deal

The party decided to head to the Vaults of Greed next.  Jusy spotted the trapped door and the secret door next to it. Theo plunged through the greenish mists filling the hallway without harm, but when Jusy tried it he got transformed into a goldfish. It took the others a bit to find him in one of the ponds and restore him.  The statues in the goldfish fountains activated and attacked, seeming to come from every direction.

They found rooms full of raw goods they could transform into whatever they needed, but were disappointed to find that their items fell back into their components as soon as they left the rooms. Down the hall, they found a research laboratory occupied by a metallic mage. The mage seemed slightly unhinged, so after a little discussion they attacked and eliminated him. The next room had a trapped demon. After trying to free it, they ended up just killing it. From there they found a room with an arcane pool. Jusy poked at it and dipped a cloak into it. The cloak started glowing but that was about it.

Upon exiting, they found the succubus from the Shimmering Veils waiting for them. She proposed trading them information for one of the keys to get out of the Runeforge.  After some debate, they decided to make the trade. She told them the components they needed to make Runeforged weapons.

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Into the Runeforge

The party figured out that displaying the sihedron medallion would get them past the guardian statues. Ambushing the dragon on his lair proved to be much easier than fighting him when he was prepared for their attacks. A little bit of fiddling with the keys and the pillars and they were into the Runeforge, looking for weapons to take down a runelord.

Since they didn’t have flying spells, they decided against tackling the Golem of Wrath at this point. They made a foray into the Cages of Lust but fell back to regroup.

The Ravenous Crypts proved to be the right level of challenge and they tore through there quite smoothly. Azaven’s hit and run tactics were a pain but the party overcame him and tracked him back to where he was trying to regenerate. This time they finished him off for good and destroyed his phylactery for good measure.

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Statues, a Dragon, and Smashing Statues

The party climbed back up to Sandpoint with the one bit of coherent-ish writing they found in the Scribbler’s lair. After some research they determined that the second stanza referred to a lake in northern Varisia. They decided to stop in Urglin to reconnoiter.

They wandered into a bar in the frontier town of Urglin where they were pointed to Old Zeke. Zeke told them tales of the area and offered his grandson Marl as a guide. Marl slouchingly led them to Lake Stormunder and then wandered back.

Faced with seven large stone heads, they puzzled over how to pull the keys from them. With some study, the party figured out that casting a spell of the proper school on a head would cause the head to fade out and a key to appear. The party was a few schools short but thanks to judiciously applied potions and wands they got all seven keys.

An ice dragon burst out of the cave at the top of the mountain and attacked the party. As the fight wasn’t going well for them, they scattered and fled. The next morning, they gave the stairs a try and were near the top when the dragon jumped them again. This time the fight was going better when the dragon vanished. They headed into the cave, which lead to a tunnel with stonework and two large statues with sihedron runes on their hand. When Tinder tossed a potion at one, the statues attacked and the party fled.

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Return to Sandpoint and a Sinkhole

The citizens of Sandpoint called on their heroes again, this time to investigate a sinkhole that devoured a guard patrol. The party made their way in and found a passage blocked by a planar creature. They defeated it handily and entered into the main room.

In a large room covered with scribbles, a gaunt figure greeted them. From his position at a desk above a pool he asked them questions about Thassilon. When they got tired of answering, seven circles around the room lit up and they were attacked by summoned hounds boiling with magic. Fortunately they were well prepared and defeated the Scribbler and his beasts.

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Against Mokmurian

The party barricaded themselves into the room with the Sihedron rune for the night. Jusy trapped the door. In the night they heard a voice asking if the small ones were there.  Then someone opened the door and triggered the trap. A giantess identifying herself as Conna staggered into the room to tell them of Mokmurian’s location. She refused to join them in combat but was happy to give them details of the layout of his lair.

After resting, the party ventured further down. They found a golem guarding a giant cauldron out of which came runeslaves. A frigid room full of zombies was the next challenge. Finally they came to Mokmurian’s throne room. Mokmurian summoned up inter-dimensional hounds to assist him. Despite the hounds and the fireballs Mokmurian flung around, Jusy, Theo, and Tinder took him down.

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Information in IT

One of the biggest soft skills I’m trying to develop at work is distributing information in usable ways within the organization. I’m digging into DevOps to see if there are ideas there I can apply.

It turns out that a real world organization has more than two factions, and that greater gains can be perhaps realized by getting everyone on the same page as much as possible. But that doing that is potentially very hard.


That notwithstanding there are many practical ideals that befit such solutions:

  1. Information should be made widely available, understandable, and understood within an organization.
  2. Actions and decisions should be tied to the ultimate mission of an organization, and should not focus on short-term gains at the cost of long-term goals.
  3. Failures should never be hidden (at least internally). Any catastrophe is a critical opportunity to investigate short-comings and improve. Here particularly the practice of “blameless post-mortems” is highly valued.
  4. Old ideas and decisions should be recorded, explained, and not forgotten. They should also be revisited.
  5. People should be cultivated (as the word culture is derived) along with the organization. This may involve people learning new skillsets and working across multiple competencies.

In general, I think this can be summarized as enabling continuous improvement through continuous learning.

From What is DevOps?


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What are the best day-to-day time-saving hacks?

What are the best day-to-day time-saving hacks? – Quora.

I really liked this answer from Marius Ursache


It’s not about time. It’s about energy.

We try to squeeze as many hours in one work day, to be “productive”, but in the end everything depends less on time, and more on your focus, motivation and overall well-being (all of them linked directly with energy levels).
I’ve recently talked about my productivity techniques obsessions in an internal presentation at Grapefruit, and the resulting presentation is on Slideshare: Productivity porn
Some of the key findings:

  1. Decide what’s important because in 5 years, 80% of what you do today will not turn into anything. It’s just busywork, no useful outcome.
  2. Sleep, food and exercise can help you triple your outcome, because they increase focus, motivation and energy levels.
  3. The 2-minute rule: if you can do something (like replying to an email, or a house chore) in 2 minutes, do it now. Planning it for later, remembering it, doing it in the future will take 5 minutes or more.
  4. The 5-minute rule: the biggest cure against procrastination is to set your goal not to finish a scary big hairy task, but to just work 5 minutes on it. You’ll find out that most times it continues well beyond the 5 minutes, as you enter a flow state.
  5. Seinfeld’s productivity chain: if you want to be good at something, do it every day. Including on Christmas, Easter and Judgement Day. No exceptions.
  6. Tiny habits (Tiny Habits w/ Dr. BJ Fogg), highly linked with the 5-minute rule, helps you create good habits quickly. It works, I tested it.
  7. Your memory sucks. Get everything out of your head, even if you’re a genius. Write it down in a notebook, put it in your todo-list app, on your phone, talk to Siri, I don’t care.
  8. As few tools as possible. I’ve tested most of the todo managers and finally stayed with Cultured Code‘s Things app and Google Calendar (iCal is ok, but Google Calendar integrates well with Gmail, my default client). It doesn’t matter what you use (pen & paper are fine) if you understand the next rule.
  9. Routine beats tools. You need discipline, and this means for me two things: I plan my day first thing in the morning, and I write a short daily log every day. This helps me stay sane, prioritize well, scrap useless tasks, and do what matters. This saves me hours.
  10. Pomodoros. That’s timeboxing—for 30 minutes do only the task at hand. Nothing else: no phones, email, talking to people, Facebook, running out of the building in case of fire. Nothing else.
  11. Always wear your headphones. You don’t have to listen to music, but it will discourage people to approach you.
  12. Email scheduling and inbox zero. Don’t read your email first thing in the day, don’t read it in the evening (it ruined many evenings for me), and try to do it only 3 times a day: at 11am, 2pm and 5pm. And your email inbox is not a todo list. Clear it: every message should be an actionable task (link it from the todo app), a reference document (send to Evernote or archive), or should be deleted now.
  13. Same thing for phone calls. Don’t be always available. I always keep my phone on silent, and return calls in batches.
  14. Batch small tasks. Like mail, phones, Facebook etc.
  15. MI3. Most important three tasks (or the alternative 1 must – 3 should – 5 could). Start with the most important first thing in the morning.
  16. Willpower is limited. Don’t think that willpower will help you when you get in trouble. Make important decisions in the morning and automate everything possible (delegate, batch etc.). US presidents don’t have to choose their menu or suit color everyday—otherwise their willpower will be depleted at that late hour when they should push (or not push) the red button).
  17. The most powerful thing. Always ask yourself what is the most powerful thing you can do right now. Then apply rule #4.
  18. Ship often. Don’t polish it too much—as they say in the startup world, “if you’re not ashamed of your product, you’ve launched too late’!
  19. Pressure can do wonders. Use rewards or social commitment. We’ve recently done this with the new Grapefruit website. The previous one took 2.5 years to launch. The new one took 2.5 days and we did it over one hackathon weekend (+Monday).
  20. Scheduled procrastination. Your brain needs some rest, and sometimes that new episode from Arrow can do wonders that the smartest TED talk won’t.
  21. Delete. Say No. Ignore. Don’t commit to schedules. I love the last one, it’s from Marc Andreessen, because it allows him to meet whomever he wants on the spot. A lot of people will hate you for this, but you’ll have time to do relevant stuff. Do you think you’ll regret that in 20 years, or doing something for someone you don’t really care about, just to be superficially appreciated.
  22. Fake incompetence. It’s a diplomatic way to apply the previous rule.


Now of course the trick is to apply these.

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Past Lamashtu’s Lamias

The party moved into the cave with the chanting lamias. Despite the lamias casting clouds and blasts of darkness at them, Theo, Jusy, and Tinder took them down fairly easily. They found some scrolls depicting tortures in service of Lamashtu.

From there they followed the sound of the clanging and found a pair of giants working on weapons. The giants were dispatched with ease and the party decided to hole up in the sihedron room. 

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Beneath the Giants’ Fortress

After leaving the cramped tunnels, the party found themselves in another set of tunnels, these scaled for giants rather than kobolds. They chose to follow the north path towards the smell of cooking and scoped out the dining hall, hoping to poison the giants. The giant cook attacked with her ladle but wasn’t much of an obstacle. They dumped her into one of her pots, liberally spiced with poison.

They then went through a secret door and fought a giant. He barely had time to call for help before falling to their onslaught. Some bears came their way but they ducked back into the secret door. Moving north they found a shrine haunted by a horrific image of a giant being slaughtered.

The party then found a particularly well built room with filled with sihedron runes. As Jusy made his way across the room, a gigantic rune-covered hand reached out from the ground to grab him. Two of the biggest giants they’d seen so far, their bodies covered in runes, pulled themselves out of the ground and attacked. The first one got a shot or two in before being killed, and the second one retreated back into the ground after triggering an earthquake. Bob healed the party up using a wand and Theo taunted the giant back out of the ground. He got some good blows in before joining his friend in death.

Jusy rounded a corner and found himself face to face with a trio of red dragons. The first one hit him pretty hard. Bumaro charged in and chopped its head off. Then Tinder melted the second one with her acid bombs. Finally after some stabbing, Bumaro finished off the last dragon.

They peered around the corner and spotted lamias chanting.


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To the Valley of Giants

After checking around Sandpoint a bit, the party checked with local Thassalonian expert Brodert Quink to see why the giants might be interested in a rock from the Old Light. He offered his theory that the Old Light was an ancient weapon and defensive structure. Jusy wondered if the giants might want to build a similar structure for defense.

The party followed the giants’ trail back to a mountain pass with giant steps. The pass was guarded by a group of hill giants who were easily defeated. Theo’s day was brightened when she found the hill giant’s loot.

Looking into the valley beyond the pass, the party saw large numbers of giants camped around a fortress. Rather than going through the giants, they opted to sneak around the perimeter. They found a cave full of webs crawling with deathweb spiders. Tinder’s bombs dealt nicely with the crawling vermin.

As they moved down a tunnel beneath the fortress walls, a group of redcaps moved in to attack. Theo planted herself in the narrow tunnel to block the redcaps’ advance. Jusy heard a noise above them and managed to block a trapdoor, frustrating creatures that tried to ambush the middle of the party. An enraged kobold came running in halfway through and got a few blows in before being vanquished.

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Defending Sandpoint

Following the battle with Barl, Jusy and Theo returned to Sandpoint accompanied by an alchemist gnome, Tinder. One fine morning, they heard a series of crashing noises to the north of town. Rushing up there, they found Hemlock and a couple of guards facing a couple of stone giants tossing rocks at the gate. Tinder lobbed a few bombs at them, but then the party saw another group of giants heading in over the east bridge and decided to leave the giants to the guards.

Stone Giants Raid Sandpoint by yanimator on deviantART

Theo grabbed a cart and donkey that were blocking the bridge and pulled them to safety behind the city gates. Tinder stood atop the wall and lobbed bombs at the giants and their dire bears. Theo’s dwarven defenses stood her in good stead holding the bridge against the giants. Jusy slipped into position to flank and the three of them dispatched that group with skill.  As they were fighting a dragon flew overhead and another group of giants pulled themselves onto a dock to the south.

The group rushed south and intercepted the giants as they were striding up the street. These giants proved to be tougher opponents and drove the party off before continuing on their way to the northwest. The party hid in the shadows for a bit to recover as the dragon flew by and set the theater on fire.

Approaching the Old Light ruins, they saw the two minions digging through the rubble. One pulled out a round stone and the giants headed north. Tinder targeted the leader with a bomb from a rooftop and Theo taunted the minion with the stone. The minion bashed at the doorway and attacked Theo, but with Jusy’s aid she took him down. Jusy hid the stone in the remains of the house. The chief giant pulled out a horn and started blowing it. He started looking for the stone and Theo and Jusy took him down too as the dragon flew in. Tinder ducked into a nearby house. As the dragon chased Jusy and Theo, Tinder lobbed bombs at him. Theo was knocked unconscious by the dragon and it looked like Jusy was going to do the same when a couple well-placed acid bombs took the dragon down.

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Rob’s Guide to Writing Good Aspects

I don’t know if I’ll get around to running a FATE game any time soon, but I like this Guide to Writing Good Aspects.
Good aspects:
1) Grant permission
2) Make you awesome doing some things
3) Hinder you in some circumstances
4) Complicate your life
5) Create setting

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The very hungry rust monster

The very hungry rust monster is cute little comic.

Of course the one time I sent a rust monster after someone’s sword it turned out to be a crystalline sword. Dang sword. It is now a sword of legend in our group for how very broken it was.

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Bashing Barl

The party headed deeper into the cave and decided to follow the clanging sound first. They found a number of ogres making huge weapons. Despite their numbers the ogres weren’t much of a threat.

Next they spied three hideous creature working weather magic around a cauldron. After sneaking in, the party managed to surprise them and dispatch them quickly.

Finally the party moved into confront the ogres’s leader, a stone giant. He didn’t seem very interested in the fight, only joining in after his minions were slain.

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