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Monster Party Book 4 Commentary. 
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Evil Genius
Evil Genius

Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2014 11:30 am
Posts: 637
Post Monster Party Book 4 Commentary.
AN: To start with something very simple, in Nova Vassa "green" is a color that is associated with death and morning the way that black is in America and many other many western cultures, or white is in some eastern ones like China. So Florence's skin tone stands out even more than it would in most places.

Next up I know what you're thinking "Oh come on you're just being silly James (author) why should James (character) speak Vassi with a lower class accent? If he learned it from Mirri he should have picked up her upper class accent!"

Well I'm glad you asked!

See believe it or not according to Gazetteer III (3) Richemulot is one of the few domains out there to have a noticeable portion of Vassi immigrants (3% of nation's total population). So, the reason that James speaks Vassi with a lower class accent is most likely because he actually picked up the language before he met Mirri from hanging out with the children of other immigrants. At least that's the semi-reasonable reason, and I'm sticking to it!

Onto more complicated matters, Nicolai has very good reasons to feel awkward talking about Bubahkaa/Bastet, Nova Vassa is not quite a theocracy, but like many real life autocracies of one form or another the church is definitely joined at the hip (or at least at the shoulder) with the state. The Iron Faith of the Lawgiver is the only acceptable religion to practice, and while it's not on the books illegal to be an atheist, you are going to get publicly ostracized (expect the same thing to happen if you don't show up at worship services often enough also) at the very least.

You obviously can't worship another god if you don't know their name so acting as if you don't know the names of any other gods is typically a good safe bet. You especially don't want to act like you know the names of gods who aren't from foreign parts but instead were once worshiped by quite a lot of people in Nova Vassa's past, you know those religions that the Iron Faith of the Lawgiver had to stamp out to become the sole practiced faith in Nova Vassa.

Granted, things only get worse once you bring up the subject of Bastet's sister.

There was a group in Nova Vassa roughly either sixty or twenty (it is complicated but unimportant which, I'll explain in summation for story as a whole) years before this story takes place who called themselves the Claws of Sehkmaa. They somehow managed to avoid getting crushed by the mortal followers of the Lawgiver, most likely through dint of paying some hilariously large bribes to the head of the church, who if you haven't already guessed also happens to be the Prince (acting ruler) of Nova Vassa.

They did the same things most religions talk about it being important to do, they fed the hungry, took in orphans, spread the word of their god to make converts, tried to make Nova Vassa a better place to live.

They were also a front for one of the most ambitious organized crime rings in Nova Vassan history (which is saying something given Nova Vassan history) lead by some guy you may have heard of already, his name was Malken.

So everything Nicolai "doesn't say" about Sehkmaa, that's the equivalent of "I've never heard of an organization called 'The Mafia' and if it existed, I wouldn't know any of its members, what they do, where they meet, or what their goal is, anyone who is listening please don't kill me!"

The various branches of Bastet worship that James mentions are in no way... (sound of muffled laughter) yeah even I couldn't bring myself to honestly type that. Yes I'm making fun of just how many different branches of Christianity there are, which is okay because I myself was raised Presbyterian.

The differences that James points out between that group and Methodists are accurate differences as far as I can tell, the less obvious one about mouse catching is pointing out that the the Methodist church has a "deeds not creeds" approach while the Presbyterians have something closer to the Calvinist (which is the church they (Presbyterians) broke off from) belief in a "selected elect" who are going to heaven though we're (Presbyterians, or at least the branch of the faith I grew up in) quick to point out that the "selected elect" in question in EVERYBODY, but still we were selected and are going to heaven because god loves all of us, not because any of us were able to do such good things in our lives that we actually deserved to go to heaven.

If that confuses you, just think of it as the flip of another old saw I am fond of, "no finite life of sin is just cause for infinite punishment" (which is why I (warning this is me stating my own religious beliefs at this point) don't believe in a permanent hell that people get sent to but never get to leave in a million billion google etc years ) in this case the Presbyterian belief could be stated as "no life of finite good deeds is just cause for infinite rewards". IE: You simply can't do enough good work here on Earth to deserve to get into Heaven, but you will anyway because God loves you.

I'm sorry that this has gotten so complicated religion wise, but short of G'Henna which is an actual theocracy, I don't think there's a domain in Ravenloft where the church interacts with the state as much as it does in Nova Vassa, so you can't really write something that takes place there and be true to the setting without getting into this kind of stuff.

On a funnier note the line that of James' mother passed down to him is the church hierarchy equivalent of that saying about how in Napoleon's army, every soldier carried a marshal's baton in his knapsack.

Sat May 30, 2015 8:16 pm
Evil Genius
Evil Genius

Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2014 11:30 am
Posts: 637
Post Re: Monster Party Book 4 Commentary.
AN: James Firecat's understanding of the civic purpose of taxation leaves a lot to be desired. For one I honestly think that taxes probably DON'T get collected to help keep Falkovnia from invading in Richemulot (not that they aren't collected for other things), because last time I checked they don't have a standing army, just a bunch of citizens who have all promised to practice with a weapon and be ready defend their land in case of invasion.

It most assuredly does not help that anyone who has been reading along knows that James was living out in the portions of Richemulot that some snobs might not even consider “the real Richemulot” (IE the countryside rather than one of the three big cities).

Also, you would be surprised how little of this I'm having to make up, to an astounding degree this “book” writes itself, all be it not quite as quickly as the last one.

Sadly don't expect to get to see our heroes meet with the Prince for a while, I'm going on a semi-week long vacation starting on Tuesday (which means I will not be back until Sunday night) and I don't plan to try and power through the next chapter in two days.

Tue Jun 02, 2015 10:22 am
Evil Genius
Evil Genius

Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2014 11:30 am
Posts: 637
Post Re: Monster Party Book 4 Commentary.
AN: In this chapter we see Alex actually state something that's only been implicit up to this point. Remember how I've reiterated over and over that he's chaotic good, so he'll lie to people (even other good people) if he feels the situation calls for it?

That's not just him taking advantage of the flexibility that his chosen alignment offers him, that's part of Alexander's way of life and philosophy. He simply does not place that much value on words as opposed to actions. Thus, he is completely willing to say whatever words he may need to manipulate who he's dealing with.

Since he's the group's leader, Alex and Mirri are probably tied for highest charisma score, Mirri has it in general attractiveness but Alexander has it in force of personality. Also despite what Mirri says about Alex's "unorthodox" approach to diplomacy he probably has ranks in the regular thing for dealing with people the way he dealt with Othmar.

I knew as soon as I started writing this book (and a fair bit before it) that I wanted to have Mirri know Nova Vassa, but not be up to date on current events that had been taking place there. A general dislike combined with a long enough lifespan was more than enough of an excuse/explanation.

Mirri still knows far more than any other member of the group, and plenty more than enough to be a good guide, but at the same time I didn't want to miss out on the fun of having her react to how in some ways the place has gotten even worse since she left it. Not to mention the fun that will occur as she meets some of her nations other notable figures.

Also let us talk about politics for a moment. It is worth pointing out that at the moment across the entire Core of Ravenloft, the closest anyone would come to recognizing the idea of "one man one vote" is to say "yes, Strahd Von Zarovich is the one man, he has the one vote" or similar. Rule by right of birth, and absolute power are pretty much the order of the day and taken as a given.

The best that you can possibly hope for is that you wind up with the right person getting absolute power and not being absolutely corrupted by it. This is why James who is idealistic to a fault does not object to the way that Jacqueline Renier runs Richemulot (or at least what he knows about it) because ideas like democracy, republics, and not letting any one person have the power to make, enforce, and preside in judgment over laws have not yet occurred in Ravenloft.

Granted, given that the population of many domains are assailed by some kind of internal or external foe (in Richemulot's case wererats internally Falkovnians externally) that tends to make the idea of a streamlined system of government without a lot of checks and balances seem appealing.

In theory Nova Vassa's system should actually be one of the more liberal on the Core, because no prince should be willing to go too far out on a limb for fear of what will happen someone else comes into power. This being Ravenloft, and Nova Vassa being Nova Vassa, in practice it just seems to breed a lot of princes who become determined to do unto others before they get a chance to do unto them.

Also despite how terse Mirri's summation of it is, she does actually rather perfectly nail Othmar's approach to why he's still in power. As far as I can find/discover he's never given an official reason why he didn't step down when his five years were up.

Well in some versions of the story (despite what Mirri claims the "official" sport of Nova Vassa is actually the retcon, see how just about every version of Malken's back-story we get disagrees with the one that came before it) he was still so young that Tristan Hiregaard acted as his regent for much of the time period, and so he said that those years shouldn't count against him and he wanted more time on the throne, but at the end of those extra years.... well "f**k you, what you gonna do about it?" Pretty much sums up what he told the other four families.

The Hiregaard family supports him because they're the "status quo is good" family regardless of how actually good or not the status quo is. The Chekiv family supports him because they are the furthest away from the Bolshnik family's land holdings and so Othmar mostly leaves them alone so long they back his power play.

The Rivtoff and Vistin families both hate his guts, but neither of them can agree over which one of them should get to have their patriarch be Prince first if they toppled Othmar, so... well see above.

Finally some of you who are familiar with this adventure may have noticed that this chapter marked a rather noticeable deviation from the adventure book as written, don't worry I know what I'm doing, or at least I think I do.

Mon Feb 15, 2016 1:10 pm
Evil Genius
Evil Genius

Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2014 11:30 am
Posts: 637
Post Re: Monster Party Book 4 Commentary.
AN: Mirri's points on the color of Mummy Rot are correct as far as I can tell based on what The Awakening (the adventure book this story is based on) has to say about it.

Also the first spell Florence is using to help the group move through the forest is Freedom of Movement, a fourth level spell that we've seen her cast before. Granted since she has a spontaneous casting set up for her druidic magic, it is to be expected that she'll use the same spells over and over again.

The other spell she uses is a sixth level Transport via Plants, which is a bit more limited in its application than the traditional arcane magical spell Teleport, but on the other hand, if you know where the tree you want to go to is, then there's no chance of it going wrong so for the limitation of needing plants to work with you get the benefits of the 7th level spell teleport without error as a sixth level spell.

Sadly Transport via Plants is really loosely defined in how it works in the fluff since in theory the group should all emerge at once, but instead I decided to have the "combat time" be the same (the foe's too surprised to react as the group pulls themselves one by one out of the tree) while making it a little more clear what was going on.

Also, that spell works on yourself, and a number of medium creatures equal to your level divided by three, round down. If Florence is level 15 there's no way she can move the entire group, except that the rules also say that one large creature can count as two mediums, or two smalls count as one medium. So James goes to cat form and Mirri to bat, which makes the group made up of four medium creatures and two small instead of six medium. Shapeshifting, you'd be surprised just how many uses it has!

Chezna can feel the group coming because she's a darkling, or an exiled Vistani. They get psychic warnings that make them the next best thing to impossible to take by surprise, even if you're about to leap out of the tree they're leaning against.

Granted all it really lets her know is that she's about to be in a great deal of trouble, because if you decide to use a forest as your base of operations, and you don't have a druid in your group (and by the Adventure Book they don't) then you're just asking for a load of trouble when some people with one shows up.

Also as far as I can tell, systems of measurement are still sort of willy nilly in Ravenloft, I doubt that the Core actually has a standard length measurement system, but what the hell there's always time for a metric system (and how some nations (well one nation in particular) may refuse to accept it) joke!

Tue Apr 05, 2016 8:43 pm
Evil Genius
Evil Genius

Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2014 11:30 am
Posts: 637
Post Re: Monster Party Book 4 Commentary.

Well I'm not completely changing it, the MacGuffin is supposedly to lead to one of the PCs getting possessed by something/something, but the who and why of the possessing are not at all what they're supposed to be in the book. Also in the Adventure Book, we're supposed to be seeing full on possession, one personality supplanting the other, whereas here we're seeing something more like an amalgamation between who James used to be and the spirit of the staff.

Also mark down Florence as having the second level spell animal messenger and the sixth level spell Greater Dispell, at some point I am going to compose an actual list of what she spells she knows and which ones she doesn't.

Oh, just to clear up what I was saying on one particular point, because you can only loose what you already have, Mirri's eyes will feel "bloody" in the same way that a normal humans would feel "watery" because when vampire's cry (which isn't very often as you might suspect) the tears will be made of the predominant (only?) liquid in their body.
Finally please note Mirri's slapping James is supposed to be more "Third Rock from the Sun" (my sister, my daughter, my sister, my daughter, my sister and my daughter?) then "Roots" and if you don't know the scene I'm thinking about I'll spare you the mental drama by not elaborating.

Sun Apr 24, 2016 3:54 pm
Evil Genius
Evil Genius

Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2014 11:30 am
Posts: 637
Post Re: Monster Party Book 4 Commentary.
AN: To start with, I'm sorry about the chapter song title, I know it's not perfect, but I really, really couldn't resist using it in this case, will explain why in author commentary for the story.

Anyway, this chapter is an odd duck.

I'm doing something here that I don't normally do, I'm explicitly casting a light on the fact that Nova Vassa (and Ravenloft itself) is bigger than any single party of adventures.

Islands of Terror like Vorostokov have so few people/are small enough that one group of people actually can come in and clean up most of their problems (since most of their problems for that nation are one simple obvious dictator and the fact that nobody has seen spring in years because of the curse said dictator is under) inside a month.

Nova Vassa on the other hand, is comparatively huge and it's problems are not clear cut. Despite Mirri's convictions, Prince Othmar is only a symptom of the nation's problems and not the actual cause. There is simply more going wrong with the nation than any single group of adventures who don't plan to live there and probably take over the entire place so it can be reformed from the top down could possibly solve.

Our heroes are good, but they aren't that good.

So what I'm saying, is that I'm including stuff that has no dramatic purpose to the story, but none the less SHOULD be a part of this story, because it helps paint an accurate depiction of the land (or at least MY VIEW of the land) in question.

I'm throwing this out there now so at least you know I'm “screwing up” on purpose and if you “see unresolved threads” when this entire story is told, you can know in advance I never intended to follow up on them in the first place.

Onto more conventional matters, much of Ravenloft comes without a direct pronunciation guide, but there are audio books and I’ve picked up most of them. In this case/this book you may be interested to know that Tristen's last name is pronounced roughly as “Hire Guard” or at least that's the best way I can describe it based on my audio book version of Enemy Within.

Also if you didn't get the expression at the start it's been said that a horse is the ship upon which one sails the “seas” of Nova Vassa. Since the group prefers to walk, they're “swimming” by comparison and moving slower than those who ride/”sail” instead.

Also that shield, that stupid stupid shield. It's called The Shield of Life Restoration, and I mean, I like the idea, it's interesting, but it has effectively NO BEARING UPON THE STORY, it's not even a maguffin, it is just a widget, or whatever you call a cool thing that shows up but isn't needed to save the heroes/drive the plot.

It has two basic magical powers, if you lay it on a dead person and say the word “Bast” then the person instantly comes back to life with full hit points no “resurrection sickness” of any kind and one of the cats currently depicted as being awake is now depicted as being asleep, if you couldn't guess this ability stops working once all nine cats are shown as being asleep and there's no way to “recharge it” listed in the adventure book.

The other ability is that to cats, the shield smells like catnip. It also directly says that ”larger felines can save vs. spell with a +2 bonus to avoid this affect” (“this affect” being a desire to rub themselves up against it and purr their hearts out) now I'm not sure if the shield should affect werecats in human form, but given that Maahes is also riding around in James' head, yeah he didn't really have a chance of not being effected by the shield. Luckily Tristen's such a kind host that he's not going to make an issue out of it.

Next up, I'm going to break one of those rules of writing and do some “telling” at the moment. The reason that I'm doing the telling though is because this is something that honestly I'm not sure can be/I'm not sure I'm a good enough writer to be able to “show” convincing thoroughly in story text alone.

As you doubtlessly know there are a great many different possible styles of persuasion. Mirri, both because of her personality and her vampire powers tends to take the most direct approach. She'll walk into the room, look you right in the eyes, convince you that she is the most beautiful woman in the world, and that you should feel honored to have her attention for any length of time, so why shouldn't you repay that honor by telling her a few of your secrets?

On the other hand, Alexander takes a much more subtle approach.

Lets talk about ciphers. Not as in terminology related to code breaking, or mathematics, but as in the term sometimes applies to characters.

A “cipher” is something of no importance, no substance, no value. Alex with his stand that words are ultimately meaningless compared to actions, is very good at using his high charisma score (and skill points in diplomacy) to be a cipher.

Despite how flamboyant his overall appearance (eye patch, long odd colored haired) when Alex wants to, he can project whatever sort of a personality he expects who he is talking to will want to see. This has to do with body language, accent, and other minor things that are very hard to display in text alone.

In most situations, the very best person/personality to reflect back at the person you're talking to, is the person you're talking to. Because the more of themselves they see in you, the more doing anything bad to you would feel like doing something bad to themselves and the more trusting you simply feels like trusting themselves.

Honestly, this was not something I was conscious of before I wrote this chapter, but it is present in the previous chapters/books if you know what to look for. In book one when he's talking to Doctor Fran Alex makes a comparison between his sword and a surgeon’s scalpel.

In the second book when he first meets Mikhail he points out how they evidently both grew up hearing the exact same monster stories.

He doesn’t get a chance to do it in book three, but that's because it's Cal's time to shine and trying to use Alexander's charm to get the exact information that Cal wants would turn into a game of Telephone (purple monkey dishwasher) so best to just let Cal go right at it.

He didn't do it with Othmar, but that's because Alexander could tell that Othmar is not the kind of person who would like to run into another version of himself, he'd want to make sure that any other conniving bastards who are intent on backstabbing their way to the top get promptly murdered because he's at the top and wants to stay there.

Which is why instead Alex projects himself as a semi-foppish sell sword with no major desires beyond figuring out where his next meal is going to come from, certainly not the kind of person who would concoct a scheme of the magnitude needed to challenge the Prince of Nova Vassa.

In this chapter with Tristen he's right back to doing it again though, he's projecting himself as an old soldier who knows what it is like to spend your entire life fighting a war that can never truly be won, but refusing to take the easy way out and simply surrender.

Now, how much (if any) of this is true, that's completely open to interpretation since I'm going to continue to slowly but surely reveal portions and tidbits of Alex's back-story.

Moving on from that, contrary to Mirri's opinion the true natural sport of Nova Vassa is the retcon, because just about every single source book or similar we get on Nova Vassa typically contains several retcons to the information that came before it.

At this point, I've decided that there's no point in trying to fight fate, and the version of Nova Vassa being presented here is indeed a cobbled together hodge podge of various sources.

In theory ALL of “Enemy Within” got overwritten by the stuff in Gazetteer V (5) which established facts like the Importance of the Iron Faith in Nova Vassa, Tristen and Malken's latest back story, and also in Enemy Within Nova Vassa was a straight up monarchy while in The Awakening (which came out the same year so I'm not going to bother to do the exact dumpster diving research to figure out which of those came first, though Enemy Within was in February so probably it) the nation has the five year cycle thing which Othmar is breaking.

So what come from where you might be asking?

Well from Enemy Within I liked the idea of Tristen being an arcane magic user, it is hard to say with perfect certainty if he's a wizard or a sorcerer from the text, but given that we never see him preparing spells each morning I'm going to say sorcerer. Honestly, that just makes the most sense given his “build” anyway because Tristen's highest stat (through all his various write ups) has always been Charisma.

Also his power level is more or less portrayed correctly based on that book, in the novel he knows how to teleport (but judging from context not without error) so he's probably got fifth level spells. Against the weird creature the group runs into he uses the fifth level spell “Cone of Cold” to defeat it.

Likewise, him having a wife who he loved and loved him back, and a son they had together, comes from Enemy Within. In the novel that son gets killed, so I'm going to say that after that incident happened, Tristen ended up getting into what was for him a loveless marriage (the other woman loves him but he doesn't love her/his mind is elsewhere) so that he could sire some new heirs for his family to keep the line of succession clear.

I liked Tristen being a mage, but I'm sure some of you (much like Mirri did) will point out, using arcane magic in Nova Vassa is looked on only slightly better than it is in Tepest (where it will probably get you burned at the stake as a Fey) so isn't that problematic?

Well no.

Because it is important to remember, The Iron Faith of Nova Vassa is no match for the Golden Rule of Nova Vassa, those with the gold makes the rules.

The Prince of the Nova Vassa is always the head of the Church, and while the Iron Faith itself is Lawful Evil, it tends to be headed by a fair number of Neutral Evil Princes (like Othmar) who are always ready to hand out exceptions to “Holy Writ” if it benefits them in the end.

Originally Kethmaar did spare Tristen's life out of friendship between them, but since then he's been kept alive because every Prince knew that they could count on Tristen to be utterly reliable because if he wasn't, one simple order from them would have the Lawgiver's followers beating down the doors of Castle Faerhaaven to arrest him for the blasphemy of being an arcane magic user.

This in turn feeds back into why Tristen is so super loyal to Othmar even though he's smart enough to see that Othmar is clearly doing what's best for Othmar rather than Nova Vassa (and to a degree few previous Princes ever had) because Othmar can make the remainder of Tristen's life very short and painful (or long and painful) on a whim.

That's the wonderful thing about Nova Vassa, sometimes if you take two facts that shouldn't make any sense and mash them together they end up fitting together all but perfectly!

So Tristen, as I'm depicting him here he's a Lawful Neutral who would like to be Lawful Good, but being bound up in a Lawful Evil system, he can't obey the system while being Lawful Good.

He's also “just a bit off” all things considered.

Keeping a fair number of cats around your home is an odd habit these days in Nova Vassa (see first chapter and remember nobody wants to be accused of cat worship) but Enemy Within directly mentions that in one of the paintings Tristen has of his first wife she's sitting down with a cat in her lap, so I assume she liked them and they probably grew on Tristen.

Castle Faerhaaven also looks rather dilapidated, especially compared to the castle's of any of the other four families.

Tristen makes every effort he can to be nice, but he also has all these little odd eccentricities that leave him just slightly out of step with Nova Vassa (like the entire trying to be nice thing for one) which if you look closely enough kind of makes you wonder.

Mirri who is going to be like a dog with a bone when it comes to her theory about Othmar being the darklord because of the ways in which he is disrespecting Nova Vassa's history (because its history is the only part of the nation that she cares about) gets on her nerves. On the other hand one can also make a reasonable argument that she's also quite heavily focused on the issues relating to James and Maahes at the moment so she isn't bothering to check if every person she meets might possibly be a darklord.

Which is why she doesn't even suspect that all those little eccentricities of Tristen's, all those little ways he isn't quite at home at Nova Vassa, might eventually reach a boiling point, and then you get Malken.

Oh Malken.

First of all Malken's interest in Mirri not just part of some sort of bizarre running gag where darklords keep showing a romantic interest in her. It's because A: she has the highest charisma of all the female members of the party, and even more importantly B: if you take a good look at Mirri and Malken's personalities/philosophies, oh yeah there's more than a little overlap.

Malken's an interesting character if only because while he lacks some of their signature powers (he can't close the domain borders, and if you go by the Gazetteer he has practically no powers at all, I prefer the Enemy Within version who the ability to control cats (I don't like his ability/he does not have it in my continuity the ability to control certain kinds of mindless undead, it doesn't fit his theme) and also has access to Tristen's magic) he's much more self aware than most Darklords are, if only because of the fact that's he knows he's evil, and he makes no bones about it.

He knows that he's what wrong with Nova Vassa.

He doesn’t try to hide behind “I did/am doing what I had/have to do” (hey Azalin and Elena) or “I was betrayed by all who I trusted and was justified taking revenge” (hey Soth) or “I'm the Lord of the realm, if I do it's not illegal/wrong” (hey Strahd) or “I'm just a servant of my god” (hey Yagno, also technically to a certain degree hey Alfred), or even “I just want to be human is that so wrong” (hey Adam and Maligno), Malken chose to be evil because to him its more fun/more rewarding than being good.

If he wasn't tied up in the body of someone determined to undo all his evils, there's no way that Malken could ever be a darklord because on his own he's not a complex enough character to be one.

The flatness of his motivation is actually the perfect reason WHY he works in this case though, he needs to lack having his own body, needs to have Tristen around just as much as on some awkward subconscious level Tristen needs Malken to act as his Id made flesh in order to not be driven crazy by the knowledge that he is the only honest well meaning person in a position of power to be found in all of Nova Vassa. After all, the issue of how evil everyone else is pales in comparison to the problem of what your own inner demon does every time he gets a chance to come out in play.

In fact, honestly I think Malken probably actively knows that he needs/wants Tristen to be around, for the same reason that the Joker tends to loose his s**t (more so than normal) whenever a rumor comes up that somebody else might have killed Batman.

Malken is all malice and hatred and evil, yet how can he properly define himself as evil if there is no good to oppose him?

That's probably part of Malken's curse also, a sort of reverse of the one that Inza suffers from in Sithicus, Inza wants everyone to be as evil as she is and wants there to be no good in the world so she's cursed by a domain with the White Rose a living embodiment of purity and goodness (also possibly some some of reincarnation/figment of an idealized Soth but lets not get into that right now).

Malken on the other hands wants to start from a position of him being the only evil person in the world, so that he can have the fun of properly “winning” by corrupting and killing off all who oppose him. Malken's problem is that he's cursed with a domain where everyone is already evil and in some ways he's barely making things any way worse than they already were. Next to a horribly repressive system of entrenched power among the nobles which operate hand in hand with an equally repressive religion overseeing everyone, how much worse can one single criminal really make things?

Becoming the head crime-lord of Nova Vassa was honestly probably “just too easy” for Malken, because the crime was already there he just had to organize it/insert himself at the topmost rung of the criminal ladder in the places where it had already been organized.

As much as Malken loves being both chaotic and being evil, I think he loves being chaotic more, to the point that if some how Malken got full control of the body he and Tristen currently have a timeshare arrangement for, and Tristen Hiregaard ceased to exist... Malken would find himself in the darker Ravenloft equivalent of the second act of Megamind, what's the point of being a villain with no hero to oppose him?

If he couldn't find a new hero, Malken might decide that the only thing to do is burn his entire criminal empire to the ground (possibly literally) and become one of those dashing highwayman types who steals from the rich and gives to the poor (Dennis Moore, Dennis Moore galloping through the sward, Dennis Moore, Dennis Moore, and his horse Concorde!) (keeping enough for himself to finance more wide spread revolutionary activity), just so that he could piss off Othmar (and the rest of the ruling Nova Vassa power structure) and make him hate Malken the way that Tristen currently does.

Life is a game to Malken, but it most certainly isn't solitaire, it is only fun if he has someone to play against.

There can be wonderful complexity in Malken's simpleness as strange as that may sound.

Also when Mirri speaks about Tristen being “All horse and no cat” she's referring to the Rider's Dilemma, a parable that's rather popular in Nova Vassa.

The short hand version of it is “horses are a symbol for doing what's right and honorable, cats are a symbol for doing whatever the f**k you want and damn the consequences.”

In theory it should only be a “fairly recent” saying that actually should have only come about after Mirri read her last history book on Nova Vassa, but in my version of Nova Vassa's history it has been around long enough that it got taught to Mirri growing up.

That sort of makes sense after all, in my view of how Nova Vassa should be, that saying is part of the reason why Malken calls himself “Malken” (because it's another word for “cat”) and not just because it is a reference to the tavern his first victim had been working at shortly beforehand, otherwise I suppose we should all be very grateful that he decide to strike first at “The Clever Gray Malken” and not “The Merry Mermaid”, “The Nag's Head” or the “The Prancing Unicorn”.

Tue May 10, 2016 8:59 pm
Evil Genius
Evil Genius

Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2014 11:30 am
Posts: 637
Post Re: Monster Party Book 4 Commentary.
AN Chapter 7: I'm very proud of the way that the fight in this chapter ended, I managed to give Devi her first proper in story real crowning moment of awesome, it plays to her nature as the group's quartermaster, and it ties that stupid shield into the story making it good for something!

Also some of you may feel the need to point out that zapping someone with lightning while you have a metal chain (or flail) wrapped around their neck is not a good idea. To counter this, pick whichever answer you like best...

A: It's magic lightning, it doesn't obey standard rules about how electricity acts.

B: Cal as a Lamordian alchemist knows a lot about lightning. He's helped Devi alter her footwear so that it “grounds” her either through conventional or magical means, so that even if the lightning did arc back into her body it wouldn't actually hurt her.

Anyone familiar with this adventure in general and possibly some obscure Ravenloft lore in particular should know that some things are getting switched up here. The original name of the mummy/ancient dead is not Tiyet. I am not going to use the original name because it's part of a “joke”/”reference” that doesn't really work for me, or work in this version of the Ravenloft universe.

Instead we're going with a different “joke”/”reference” Tiyet is actually the name of a female mummy Darklord from the Darklord books who rules over an Island of Terror (in the sense of a realm that you can only get to if the Mists want to send you there) named Sebua that has no adventures that I know of connected to it, so in short nobody cares about her, she doesn't matter. She matters so little that I can use her name as shorthand for “important Ravenloft female Mummy” and decided to do so.

I'm using it chiefly because I couldn't find what I really wanted to call her, which was an ancient Egyptian female name that started with an “M” and sounded impressive. If you know any let me know and I'll alter the story.

Also worth pointing out that Tiyet the Darklord was a “pristine” mummy, the kind who are so perfectly preserved that they look better dead than most people do while they're alive, the Tiyet that the group is running into in this story, is decidedly not.

On a broader note, something that is going to be a bit of a running theme through this story/these books is that even though their systems are pretty much directly at odds with one another when it comes to morality (“You taught a nine year old girl to use a your helicopter's minigun and then had her mow down two dozen people?” “They were two dozen mooks of the bad guy who murdered her father, and he was our fixer for one whole mission… he also brought synth-Chinese take out to the mission briefing for us. Ohh and don’t forget she's a big fan of our favorite show, My Little Technopony, Friendship is Emergence. We stand by our decision.” “Enjoy your point of notoriety.” “Ehh I had too much street cred anyway...”) heroes in Ravenloft, can be lot like Shadowrunners in some ways.

Heroes in Ravenloft are the exception and not the rule, and sometimes those with power object very violently to those who don't obey them. Survival at times is less about fighting, and more about knowing about the interplay between the world’s various different factions, how to play them off against one another, and how to slip between the cracks. On the other hand, sometimes they're going to get treated in a surprisingly nice way by people who they have noticeable moral quibbles with.

In Nova Vaasa our group is certainly getting the Shadowrunner treatment, at least in the sense of “we need some people who are highly skilled and willing to work for just about anyone with money to solve this very difficult problem. If we can find those people, we will not care where they fit in the existing power structure, we will make room for them.”

In a realm as corrupt as Nova Vaasa, little things like how humans aren't supposed to hang around with elves take a back seat to “The guy in charge said do X so we'll do X” and so with that letter Tristen gave the group they're basically legally untouchable even though they're pretty much openly flouting every rule written and unwritten about how you're supposed to behave in Nova Vaasa, at least so long as they’re still sticking to the one about following orders.

Finally the mask/headdress that Tiyet wears works more or less like it says it does, in the adventure book it provides her with 10% magical resistance, in this story that percentage/got increased dramatically because our heroes are more powerful than standard Ravenloft protagonists.

Thu May 26, 2016 8:27 pm
Evil Genius
Evil Genius

Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2014 11:30 am
Posts: 637
Post Re: Monster Party Book 4 Commentary.
AN Chapter 8: Well it’s finally done. Sorry folks had a vacation, well a vacation and a lot of other BS excuses for taking so long to get this chapter up.

Now lets talk magic.

The spell on the “trick door” at the start of this chapter is “Holy Word” a cleric spell that causes everyone of a non-good alignment to need to make a will save or bad stuff happens to them. Improbably convenient as it, is I'm saying that Cal (TN) and Mirri (CE) were both one level below the original caster of the spell, which is why they become blind and deaf but not paralyzed, because I am a horrible person who can ring comedy from someone suddenly being blind and deaf but not if they can't talk/act at the time.

Devi (TN) is subject to the spell also, but she made her will save unlike the other two while Florence (NG) along with James and Alex (both CG) were immune to the spell. Once again its one of those weird things in that ends up triggering off of alignment/pointing out people's alignment to a degree that probably should not be possible in Ravenloft (since detect alignment spells don't work/only detect along the “lawful/chaos” axis), but I'm not aware of any errata involving it.

Also the hidden trap door opens upon the PC's “placing fresh meat inside its (the statue's) mouth” and since the adventure book doesn't mention any fresh meat laying around for the PC's to use I had the group improvise as they felt best.

Tiyet used “heat metal” against Cal which causes the metal parts of Phoenix get magically hot to the point that he can't use it/put his hand near those part. She then uses the same spell against Alexander and Wolf Claw, which as you can see doesn't work. As for why it doesn't work, well that will be explained eventually.

She uses Hold Person against Mirri, and that doesn't work because paralysis related magic just doesn't work on the undead.

At the moment based on the adventure book Tiyet is only able to use up second level and lower spells, so she's making the most of what she has/isn't as well versed in undead/may not have realized Mirri is a vampire right off the bat.

Florence uses Wall of Thorns (which I talked at length about in the last book (oh and see last book for Cal's choice of “curse words” also)) to trap the undead Crypt Cat, and then uses something roughly equivalent to Quill Blast (another 5th level spell).

It still works on Tiyet because in this case the magic was centered around making the staff explode “properly”, and then just letting fast flying chips of magically reinforced wood do their thing. Magic nullifying items in my interpretation of the setting tricksy/complicated if you are immune to magic that does not mean a magically propelled object will suddenly stop (well not suddenly stop softly) upon striking you for example.

Also yes, you heard Tiyet right... the fur is really going to fly in the next few chapters.

Sun Jun 26, 2016 7:32 am
Evil Genius
Evil Genius

Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2014 11:30 am
Posts: 637
Post Re: Monster Party Book 4 Commentary.
AN Chapter Nine: Florence hits Mirri with a “Freedom of Movement” spell which I've talked about previously in this book. It is a “touch” range spell, (hence why she isn't able to cast it on James after he goes into the water) and, well let me quote the relevant passage from the D&D rules via the D&D wiki.

“The spell also allows the subject to move and attack normally while underwater, even with slashing weapons such as axes and swords or with bludgeoning weapons such as flails, hammers, and maces, provided that the weapon is wielded in the hand rather than hurled. The freedom of movement spell does not, however, allow water breathing.”

Luckily being able to breath underwater is not a high priority for Mirri, since as she points out in the story, she flat out doesn’t need to breath. What matters is it effectively creates some kind of magical force-field/water repelling effect that keeps her from being slowed down by the water around her.

Also, lets talk about vampires and “drowning” or the vampiric equivalent of drowning is. For a vampire to suffer penalties from being fully immersed in water require one of two conditions to be met. The most obvious one is if the liquid in question has been blessed/is holy water, which this most doubtlessly isn't.

The other is if they are in “running water” or according to the Van Richten Guide to Vampires (page 48) “First the water in question must be rapidly flowing; oceans, creeks, streams and the like will not suffice.” While more water is being poured into the room from up above, once it is poured in, it is not going anywhere, that's sort of the point of a drowning trap like this after all, you put a lot of water in a room with nowhere for it to go and people inside drown. So, while the trap works perfectly against humans, it can't harm vampires, even though at first it might look like it can.

Also I'm sorry for my mistakes previous in this “book” on Egyptian mythology concerning the various aspects of the soul.

The adventure book describes the “Ba” as a portion of the soul that represents your physical vitality (and thus so does James a few chapters back), which is really a much better description of the “Ka” all things considered.

The “Ba” is who you are, the “Ka” is what makes you alive. So a mindless zombie would be said to have a “Ka” but not a “Ba” because it has no sense of self or individuality. Okay that's a bad example since even objects can have a “Ba” at times (if you know a musical/mechanical instrument that has certain unique behaviors/character compared to other ones of the same make you know what I'm talking about) but you get the idea.

They (the adventure book) are correct that the “Ba” is frequently depicted as a bird with a human head though. So yeah, I'm sorry for trusting this adventure to get its Egyptian Mythology right, I really should have known better or at least double checked to be sure.

A normal scissor kick involves leaping up into the air and raising one leg up over your head, it's something you see in soccer. When I talk about a “reverse scissor kick” it means that Mirri is leaping into the air, then having one of her legs trace a crescent moon like path into her target. If there's a more technical/proper name for it I'm not aware of it and will revise the chapter if I get advice/feedback

Sat Jul 16, 2016 8:08 pm
Evil Genius
Evil Genius

Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2014 11:30 am
Posts: 637
Post Re: Monster Party Book 4 Commentary.
AN Chapter 10: I really hope he title song I selected for this chapter didn't end up giving away what was going to happen at the end.

Phoenix is an amazing (masterwork) gun, but by D&D rules you can't actually make guns magical. I tell a lie you can't “EFFECTIVELY” make a gun magical, and even that is not super clear so let me explain in more detail. A magical gun will be better for bludgeoning people to death with, but the bullets it fires will be no more powerful.

So, much like James tends to carry a great many knives, Cal makes sure to have all kinds of bullets on hand, some on his person some in the bag of holding. Magical bullets are extra expensive, but in some cases, like when you're fighting a smoke elemental, ordinary lead just won't do.

Early on in the chapter Florence uses “Gust of Wind” which is a second level utility spell that's very useful for keeping smaller foes in check, or keeping smoke elementals from killing you by blowing them away, they tend to do damage both based on their fiery bodies and suffocating, which is why Mirri is still hurt by them, but not as much as James is.

As for the catnip, studies have proven that lions sometimes react to catnip just like housecats do, though not always, and obviously you would need a lion sized dosage of it. That said, in theory Mirri (even in her lioness form) still shouldn't have any sort of reaction to catnip because she's a vampire and undead, so mind effecting chemicals shouldn't work on her. On the other hand, a vampire taking on animal form doesn't look like an undead version of the animal even to the degree that they look like they're dead human beings normally, and.... in my version of Ravenloft catnip is magic, that's really all I've got people.

Also in real life trying to suck out snake venom out of a wound is a very bad idea, primarily because the person doing it is likely to end up getting exposed to the venom even if they do manage to extract it from the victim's body. Mirri only does it because as a vampire she's used to drinking blood and she's
immune to all conventional toxins.

I promise I’ll upload the next chapter is coming more quickly than this one did.

Thu Aug 11, 2016 7:53 pm
Evil Genius
Evil Genius

Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2014 11:30 am
Posts: 637
Post Re: Monster Party Book 4 Commentary.
AN: I'm gonna unleash a "monster nuke" on you guys and post one chapter of this story each night until it is finished and then post the author commentaries the day after that.

Don't laugh! I've already finished writing this story now I just need to proofread it, and I'm finally gritting my teeth, taking a break from Bloodbowl (my last Chaos versus High Elf I was Chaos) game was such a thing of beauty that I don't want to play another for a while (it involved him having an 11 player team, and three injuries by turn four) and am going to pass the benefits on to you people!

Anyway, you know how I was worried that the last chapter's song title would give away what the chapter was about? I'm not worried about the possibility of that happening this time... that's because I'm sure it does since this is pretty much the most “on the nose” chapter title I've had since... well since a few chapters back when I used a song lyric from Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for a chapter about Tristen Hiregaard.

When Alex refers to people by their “pack rank” rather than their name you know he's being serious. When FLORENCE does it, well the fact that she's busting out the “four magic words” should say all that needs to be said on the subject.

The cat statue is designed to paralyze the legs of anyone it rubs against, but does so on a delayed action effect, in game terms it would probably have gone off (2d4 rounds IE 12 to 72 seconds) before the group went into the room with the cat heartbeat trap (and yes that's taken directly from the adventure book in how it kills you by overstressing your heart) but this is hardly the first time I've cared more about what makes a good story than being perfectly accurate when it comes to reflecting the rules.

Mirri's pronunciation of her chosen deity’s name (or at least when it has a “-” symbol in it) is the equivalent of when a Christian says “Jeez-US!” as a cry of disbelief /horror.

Also whatever her other faults, she is correct in so far as the sacred symbol of Kali is a bunch of skulls strung together on a leather necklace, so she could certainly use Tiyet's as a starting point, assuming it doesn't end up turning to dust the next time she dies (as she has a tendency to).

The Spider Queen is the Ravenloft version of Lolth who as you may be aware is not a particularly nice or forgiving deity, though of course those aren't things Mirri's really interested in finding her own divine being of choice.

Kali won out over the Spider Queen however due to one story in particular (well that and she heard about Kali first and didn't want to go through the hassle of changing religions again), the story of her fighting the daemon Raktabija who had the ability to duplicate himself every time a drop of his blood hit the ground. Naturally this made him (them?) a near unbeatable foe against the other gods who did battle with him.

Then Kali showed up, and proceeded to start simply drinking up his blood before he could clone himself, and eventually devoured the demon itself whole. Mirri unsurprisingly was drawn to a deity whose great feat involves defeating foes via blood drinking, and Kali's philosophy of wreaking horrible destruction then creating new life in her wake appeals to Mirri as undead who was given new life (or at least new existence) from her death.

Granted Mirri also has a pretty blasphemous approach to Kali worship in that she's not super big on reincarnation, or at the very least would have a bone to pick with the conventional view of reincarnation as followers of Kali see it.

They preach that Ravenloft is a terrible prison and that after people have been dutiful enough, they will be reincarnated into a new life in some other demiplane where they don't have to worry about darklords and similar. Mirri on the other hand would argue that she achieved perfection within a single lifespan (well a single lifespan and the “deathspan” that followed it) and thus achieved a perfect state (becoming a vampire) which freed her from suffering and made a word which was hell for others a heaven for herself.

Those of who you who have taken the right classes/read the right books might notice that if you turn your head and squint the differences between those two approaches have some things in common with the differences between Hinduism and Buddhism, but that's entirely by accident since Mirri as previously mentioned doesn't have much interest in any religion which would argue for letting go of your desires/needs, she's much more into one that tells her to indulge in them as a form of self expression/reverence.

By the way, if you know the full length of the passage that Mirri quotes about Kali’s dance of victory (and why it might have occurred to her at this moment), it actually ends up saying a lot more than Mirri probably realizes.

Mon Aug 29, 2016 7:18 pm
Evil Genius
Evil Genius

Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2014 11:30 am
Posts: 637
Post Re: Monster Party Book 4 Commentary.
Author's Notes Chapter 12: Yo dawg, I heard you liked cat fights, so I put a catfight in your catfight! Of course I could have also had Mirri and Tiyet both use their abilities to transform into feline forms during the battle, at which point we'd reach Inception levels of cat fighting.

Anyway, yes the surplus of living cats in Tiyet's resurrection room is a detail added by me in part to help Mirri (granted Tiyet was never meant to be fought 1v1...). Though in truth having read the book Tiyet's list of spells is actually super unimpressive for the purposes of fighting Mirri (with the exception of “Heal” admittedly) since it is made up mostly of negative energy attacks (which as we know heal undead) and various mental manipulation spells which while not going to backfire would still achieve absolutely nothing if used on Mirri/any other vampire.

That said, while Mirri dispatching the Crypt Cats one by one by one to force her way to Tiyet would have been sort of awesome (cat tossing charge?), honestly given that the original module did include those two still living cats in the preservation jars... well once that particular seed got planted it was hard for me to keep it from growing into something much more.

Also it does say in the adventure that whoever is kind to the two cats (Count and Countess) would be granted a minor boon from Bastet (which raises a lot of questions given how divine intervention is supposed to work (or to be more exact, not work) in Ravenloft) and Mirri let both of them out.

Now, take a moment and ask yourself... can you really hope to find any other story where a vampire effectively deep strikes a feline army into being? When I realized I had a chance like that, I just couldn't let it slip past me...

F**k, lets make it a little more awesome.

Imperial Guard Cat: There are too many of them!

Chaos Crypt Cat: We are chaos, chaos is strong!

Chaos Crypt Plains Cat: We are legion!

Imperial Guard Commissar Cat: Stand fast! Do you want your first life to last forever?


(Cauldron of preservation lands)

Imperial Guard Cat: Is that?

Second Imperial Guard Cat: The empress' angles of death ride with us in battle today!

(Cauldron of preservation cracks open)

Space Marine Lioness: Follow me daughters of Bastet, this night our enemies shall feel the fangs of the holy cat!

Anyway, you may have noticed we're doing something a little different this time. This book is going to have two final chapters and an epilogue after them. Why do I go for two “final” chapters? Because there's still more of this story that needs to unfold, and this chapter is long enough.

I'll explain why this is later on when I do the entire book review.

Instead, what do I want to talk about?

Well, how about we talk about the mechanics of fighting in D&D?

Mirri has a lot of advantages going into this fight because Tiyet is apparently what we might call a “social mage” having a great many mind affecting spells and as we all should know by now, mind manipulating spells don't work on vampires.

Likewise, Tiyet's touch can spread an especially virulent version of mummy rot which aside from its normal horrible properties also allow her to cause whatever limb she infects to have spasms, further weakening her foes. That's great and all, but once again vampire, no con score means that Mirri is completely immune to diseases, even magical ones.

Tiyet by her seventh awakening (the one that Mirri is fighting) is completely immune to any weapon that is not magical. Well a vampire's natural weapons (Mirri's bare hands) count as magical weapons, not to mention since she's a single classed battle dancer, her class allows her manifest an aura which lets you treat your hands as magical weapons anyway.

Also if you couldn't figure out what was going on with that lion who Mirri temporarily killed, the crunch of it works out like this because I have too much free time and actually find it sort of fun to write this stuff out....

Tiyet casts a “Heal” spell on Mirri which functions as a “Harm” because she is undead. Mirri being a vampire takes half damage from all spells (Van Richten's guide to vampires page 52) (that or she makes her Will Save, either explanation gives the same result) and so she is left at 1d8 above half hit points instead of just 1d4 above dead (well 1d4 above zero since she's already “dead”) as Tiyet suspects, since she doesn't have a perfect knowledge of vampires.

Tiyet proceeds to whale on Mirri making use of her supernatural strength to try and pummel her the rest to the way to non-existence. Tiyet fails to grasp that neither mummies or priests get to automatically treat their natural weapons as magical.

Tiyet is inflicting superficial damage at most (in third edition Mirri is prone but not helpless or immobilized, and she has +2/20 point damage reduction, or 20 points of damage reduction versus anything that isn't magic/a +2 magical weapon. She also maintains all her dance battler AC bonuses (she's at -4 due to being prone but can still roll around to try and avoid kicks) along with her natural armor class. (Mirri's AC is probably around 23 against Tiyet, base is always 10, +6 natural armor,+3 for dodge bonus, (+1 for the feat +2 for her levels in dance battler) + 4 for dexterity 20, +4 charisma 20, -4 for being prone) and basing Tiyet's stats on the standard Mummy Lord (that's fair enough given that a Mummy Lord is CR 15 and Mirri being a level 12 Dance Battler “old” (Ravenloft 3rd edition term) vampire is CR 15 also) which has +11 to attack.

That means Tiyet is actually hitting Mirri a little less than once every other attack.

Those attacks deal 1d6+12 or say 15 damage on average. All of that gets eaten by Mirri's DR, and she also recovers 6 hit points a turn. So on average if Tiyet kept just trying to kill Mirri with her slam attack alone Mirri is probably actually getting healthier!

When Tiyet thinks she's left Mirri suitably humiliated, she moves away from her and then takes a round to gloat/cast a cause serious wounds spell on herself to regain the hit points she lost to Mirri.

The lioness comes to Mirri and being completely under her mental control is helpless before her.

Mirri then delivers a coupe de grace energy drain with her bare hands.

Because the coup de grace is an automatic critical success, Mirri drains twice as many levels as normal, bestowing four negative levels on the 5 HD lioness which was already hurt in the battle with the crypt cats, killing it.

Mirri has taken the Improved Energy Drain Feat which means that not only does each negative level she bestows give her a handful of temporary hit points, but also +1 on all skill checks, attack rolls, and saving throws for an hour. Also given that she has Life Drain feat and 20 charisma add another five hit points for each level. So she gains 60 temporary hit points and another +4 to her base attack bonus when she goes after Tiyet the second time.

When Mirri attacks, because when using your bare hands a high base attack bonus does not give multiple attacks the way it does with a weapon she's limited to three attacks a turn, two fists, and one with her vampire slam.

Her fists do deal 2D6 +4 (Mirri went from being strength 12 as a human to strength 18 as a vampire and has weapon specialization unarmed strike) (on average 10) damage per each fist she connects with, then a 1D6 + 4 (average 7) damage slam attack. A Mummy Lord has DR --/5 or just flat out damage reduction five against any sort of attack, but no fast healing so when Mirri lands a hit odds are she's doing at least some damage.

This is without taking into the account the advantages conferred on Mirri by the spells /items the rest of the group gave her, which were probably a ring of mighty wallop (maybe even the greater version of the spell) from Devi and a Great Magic Fang spell from Florence (that spell lasts for an hour per level so it would still be in effect)...

In short, there's a reason why it's possible to say that in a straight up fist fight Mirri is likely to win.

Some of you may be wondering, why didn't Tiyet just “Heal” Mirri again? Well remember she's not a spontaneous caster like Florence, she needs to set up her spells at the start of her day, and so she didn't decide “I think I'll take all anti-undead spells when only one sixth of the group that is invading my tomb is undead!” Which is a fairly reasonable approach, she gets 4 sixth level spells, and so didn’t take heal for all of them.

Finally, when Mirri talks about being made a “matriarch” she’s not talking about having children/offspring, she’s talking about how “patriarch” is the term used by Rudolph Van Richten to describe the oldest (and thus most powerful) category of vampires, who happen to been vampires for over a thousand years. They have amazing abilities like not being hurt by weapons less than +5 enchantment and being able to charm people just by thinking about it without needing eye contact or words! These vampires are so powerful that honestly I think they don’t think there’s an in universe example of them actually existing (as far as I know Jander Sunstar is the oldest vampire in Ravenloft and while he’s only been a vampire for somewhere between 700-800 years) though that doesn’t stop Mirri from wishing she had the powers of one.

Tue Aug 30, 2016 8:16 pm
Evil Genius
Evil Genius

Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2014 11:30 am
Posts: 637
Post Re: Monster Party Book 4 Commentary.
AN Epilogue: Contrary to what my gut tells me would be most dramatically appropriate, a vampire's veins are not red against their pale skin, they are blue, or at least “science” “suggests” they should be blue. In real life, the reason that blood in our veins/ our veins themselves may look blue is because they don’t have as much oxygen in them as it has when exposed to open air (IE when we're bleeding). Therefore, in the body of a vampire which needs blood but not oxygen to function, the veins should look even more blue than they normally do on a human.

“Haldor og Gudrun” is the name of possibly the most popular story in Nova Vaasa, and its longevity is proven by the fact that Mirri knows it, but it is still quite popular in modern times as well.

The important part of the story goes like this, Haldorg is a famous and important knight, who because of his great heroic deeds is put in charge of Nova Vaasa's armies. That's a great honor, but made somewhat problematic by the fact that he's in love with Gudrun, who happens to be the barbarian queen of a tribe that is making war against Nova Vaasa at the time.

The conclusion to the story is rather like a more bloody version of Romeo and Juliet, where Haldorg decides to launch an attack with his most trusted knights on the very core of Gundrun's army, because he figures that if he can kill himself and most of the Nova Vaasan leadership then Gudrun is sure to be victorious and she'll at least be happy.

He gets a bunch of his own men killed and himself mortally wounded, but eventually is carried back to his lines dying. When he is taken back to his camp he finds out that everyone is celebrating, because while he was off doing his suicidal attack, Gudrun lead a suicidal attack of her own, and she's been killed which means her undisciplined barbarian army is falling to pieces without her to lead it, leaving Haldorg to die in pain and misery.

Mirri's current take away from the story is that Haldorg (James) is never going to change, he's never going to turn his back on the things that he believes and stands for. That said, Gudrun (Mirri) isn't bound by the same sort of complex oaths of loyalty that a knight is. She's free to leave her old life behind and start a new one, a barbarian queen isn't bound by the same sort of complex rules as a knight is. She has the paradoxical freedom to choose not to be free, and instead be with the one she loves.

On a much less serious note,“ duty from without brings honor from within” is the motto of the Hiregaard family.

If you were curious, male Plains Cats have white tufts on their ears the same way male lions have manes. Never was a reason to point out this obvious fact in story, so there you go now you get what Mirri was talking about near the end.

Also, yes Mirri and Malken have the exact same quasi-feline verbal tic when they're pleased with how they look (Mirri even first showed it of back in Book One Chapter 8 after seeing a painting of herself that she liked) it is not even surprising if you're familiar with the symbolism of cats in Nova Vaasan culture.

Anyway, yes it does indeed seem that Checkov's gun has misfired. I'm ending this story without a showdown with Malken. It would extend the story unnecessary, and Malken is not a Darklord who can be easily disposed of. (If you kill him/Tristen it just means that Tristen's next oldest male child suddenly develops their own Malken, and so on and so forth down to his grandchildren and after that his illegitimate children, to the point that you need to use the Familicide spell from Order of the Stick if you wanted to be sure the matter was settled, and I'm pretty sure casting that spell is equivalent to about half a dozen Acts of Ultimate Darkness (go directly to darklordship do not pass go, do not even bother to roll those powers checks))

Malken and his interest in Mirri is a rich enough soil that I could write an entire book of Monster Party about it to be perfectly honest.

So instead, here's an at least semi-logical reason for why Malken doesn't try to do what he does best (oh look at the time it's Murder past Rape o’clock!) to James and Mirri when they get back to Tristen's castle.

Tiyet was the villain of this piece, I only included the Malken and Tristen pieces to help keep things realistic/reflect the world building that has gone into Ravenloft. Tristen would be attracted to Mirri (my 20 Cha brings all the boys to the yard), and Malken even more so and thus want to unleash his traditional leonine romancing style (if a girl has a boyfriend, kill him and then she's all yours!) the first chance he got.

Also as a side note it's really stupid/silly that in some material Malken has been depicted as only Cha (Charisma) 3. I get that he's ugly, but there's a 14/15 (Tristen is Cha 18 and Malken is Cha 3 in the setting rules, but Tristen is 17 and Malken is 3 in this Adventure Book, and specific adventure write ups tend to trump the general rules) point Cha difference between Tristen and Malken, espeically if you recall that Cha is your force of personality not just how pretty you look.

If Malken is a successful crime boss, he should have a higher Cha. Otherwise he'd probably come across as Lugi Vercotti (“paratroops Dino, it’d be a shame if somebody set fire to them”) when really he should be a lot more like Doug Piranha (people would chew their own heads off rather than meet Doug). Further side note, this is corrected in the section on Nova Vaasa In Ravenloft Gazetteer issue V (five) where both Malken and Tristen are Cha 18.

Now that I'm done with the Monty Python references, the other main reason for this is because it also makes it stupid easy to defeat Malken in combat through any attack that deals Cha damage, because if you go below 3 Cha, you no longer have enough force of personality to resist any orders you are given.

Anyway, taking a step away from the land of RPG crunch it is honestly sort of scary just how well being given a proper goal beyond being an evil criminal mastermind 'humanizes' Malken. Also it is interesting that yeah Malken going after Mirri (in my mind at least) feels completely different than Strahd going after Tatyana.

With Strahd he's seeking the yin to his yang, or possibly a woman who symbolizes the youth he now felt he might have misspent fighting in a war, and it's all very solemn and symbolic.

Malken on the other hand is looking for a double helping of yang (or of yin, the fact that yin is both dark and feminine makes this sort of hard to articulate perfectly using that metaphor), he looked at Mirri (through Tristen's eyes) and thought “Holy crap this bitch is almost as evil and depraved as I am, lets get together and have evil sexy times!” Which I will be the first to admit can quite easily degenerate into farce (hell just imaging Malken as the medieval equivalent of Doug and Dimsdale Piranha leaving people in his wake who would claim it was their own fault that he had to nail their heads to table gets us to farce already and then some).

On the other hand, farce isn't something completely unknown to Ravenloft (“Lets see how mindlessly brutal and militarily incompetent we can make Vlad Darkov with this edition!” “Good idea, I also thought up a bunch more funny puns for the tombstones in castle Ravenloft. What do you think of 'Mike Rotch' he's always up for a tug... of war.”) though obviously I'm willing to take it to the next level since my end goal with these stories is to amuse rather than horrify.

That said, Malken is more or less dead on the money on how Mirri's mind works, though if he think she'd be the Harley Quinn to his Joker... he's got another thing coming to say the least.

Still, to his credit (most likely because he has the right frame of reference) he does at least correctly realize the real truth behind Mirri's name. Part of me wants to see the entire thing turns into a henti dark comedy where Malken rapes and murders his way across Nova Vaasa only constantly burst in on James and Mirri who already busy doing it like he's some kind of bizarre fusion of Cosmo Kramer and Pyramid Head (Rape Rape Rape!).

Then he tries to sick Plains Cats on James but Mirri uses her vampire animal control abilities which trump Malken's because all of Malken's powers are all always “only half on” so to speak (for example he can't seal the domain, remember in the eyes of the mists/Dark Powers, Malken is cursed with Sir Tristen not the other way around) and he must exeunt stage left perused by plains cats.

That or the inevitable moment he when he discovers that Mirri is a vampire (I'd say that Malken possesses the strength of a madman as was once said about Renfield, but on the other hand, whose stronger Renfield or Dracula?) which seems pretty likely to give him exactly what he wants and make him really wish he hadn't got it just like a proper Darklord curse should... (“Oh Mirri will you respect me in the morning?” “I don't respect you now.” “Well fuck you very much.” “Don't mind if I do...”)

It is the coyote and the roadrunner situation, just about anyone can be cute and endearing when they fail frequently enough (Strahd fails every twenty to forty years, so he doesn't qualify Malken would be failing to get Mirri multiple times in the same week so he would) and in a humiliatingly enough fashion.

Anyway stay tuned for the entire novel commentary and then the choice of what comes next.

Fri Sep 02, 2016 7:01 pm
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