Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pool of Radiance - Kovel Mansion, Nomads, and Kobolds!

Sorry about the length of time between posts.  Work has been really bad this last week.  Even though hurricane Irene did skirt north and end up missing the Florida coast for the most part, when it first formed over Puerto Rico it was projected to be a direct hit.  This of course sent us at work into panic mode to get everything secured before it did reach us.  We have erected the spacecraft on top of the rocket now, and were going through some testing when this happened.  The schedules were moved around and putting the rocket fairing on became the highest priority. 

Everything is safe now.  The hurricane just made for some interesting surf and a little bit of rain here.  Now since the work has been done a little ahead of schedule the rest of our time before launch should be pretty easy. 

Anyway, this last week or so I've played a little Pool of Radiance.  My next stop in this adventure was to clear the thieves out of Kovel Mansion in the wealthy area of Phlan.  I wasn't harassed on my trip at all, even when walking around the outside of the mansion itself.  I entered and started searching around. 

As I wandered around the entry, a thief jumped out and tried to ambush me, but we were able to spot and stop him before he could do any damage.  He didn't escape us and we put him down quickly.

We wandered into a room filled with racks of weapons.  Most looked like fine quality weapons and we decided to search them to see if any were worth taking.  As we did, gas started to fill the room.  This gas wasn't deadly or meant to do any damage it seemed.  It just masked the entry of a large group of the thieves hanging out here.  The whole band of thieves was quickly dispatched though, not too much of a challenge. 

After the ambush, we checked the weapons again, but nothing was of any real value.  We continued our search through the building.  When we passed into a hallway, two thieves jumped out to ambush us, but failed miserably.  They looked at us and then each other before they both bolted for the nearest door.  We took chase through few more rooms.  When they passed through a door, they split up.  One heading east, another headed south.  We decided to follow the one to the south.  As we continued the chase we barged through the door he just passed through to meet up with a large group of the thieves.

This group was waiting for us.  We had fallen into their trap.  The group consisted of about 20 thieves and their leaders.  Still, with a few well placed sleep spells, we made short work of the group.  We searched around in the room we ended up in, and found a couple files.  These files are a collection of rumors and facts about certain people around the area.  These two were about Werner von Urslingen and Bishop Braccio.  I don't recognise the first name, but apparently he worked for 'The Boss' early in the campaign.  I'll have to keep an eye out.  The file about the bishop was nothing new.  Having dealt with the man a little earlier I confident that he is on my side.  These were recorded in journals 38 and 51.
A trap I didn't see coming.
At this point I had cleared most of the thieves from the building.  The random attacks had stopped completely.  I took this time to search through the rest of the building.  I was hoping I could find more information and maybe some of the treasure that thieves should invariably collect.

I found a partial map of what looked like a maze.  This was labeled as a map of the northwest castle grounds.  I'll keep this handy, as it should eventually become useful.  Its recorded under journal entry 41.  Also I found some magic scrolls in a locked cabinet.  Naemissa, our own thief, helped immensely in detecting traps and unlocking all the containers we found. 

We found some more of the files in another locked cabinet.  These two were on the council of Phlan.  Ulrich Eberhard and Porphyrys Cadorna.  The info about Cadorna is a little disturbing.  He definitely is not what he seems to be.  He should be one to keep watch on if any of these rumors written here about him are true.  It sounds as though he wants to find this pool badly, and has been hiring people to find out any info they can about it.  The entries are under 14 and 23.

When I entered another room here, I ran across a couple of thugs beating on an old man.  They saw me and took off.  I went to help the old man but I couldn't save him from his end.  He pointed me to some papers he had with him before he died though.  This was the last of the files I found here in the mansion.  This one was on 'The Boss' himself.  Very interesting to see.  The Boss is rumored to be a dragon, and a metallic one at that!  Metallic dragons are typically creatures of good though.  I'll have to see this for myself.  This is recorded in journal 48.

After scouring every inch of the mansion, I returned to the civilized section of town to collect my reward.  I took some time to rest up and heal.  I also took some time to train those in my party who needed to.  Now that the city is cleared, I'll start working on some of the tasks given me outside in the wilderness.  My next stop will be to find the nomad camp and see what I can do about keeping them from joining the enemy.

hippogriffs, lizardmen, kobolds, and even phase spiders so far.  The wilds beats are much tougher than anything I've come across so far in town. 

After wandering around a bit in the north I managed to come across the nomad's camp.  I entered the camp and was immediately confronted by guards and taken to the tribes chief.  I was welcomed into the camp and asked to stay for the night.  The chief went into details about the dangers of the are and about the kobolds attacking the camp and that they would like my help in stopping them.  his speech is under journal entry 55.  They told me to stay and think about it overnight.  In the evening there was a feast and dancing held in my honor.  That went pretty far in convincing me to stay. 

The Nomad's Camp.
The chief of the tribe.
In the morning, I agreed to stay and fight the kobolds with them.  They thanked me and gave me a hut to stay in.  I went back to the hut and sat down to enjoy a little down time and memorize spells.  A couple days went by without incident.  On the morning of the third day though, I awoke to the sounds of battle outside the hut.  I gathered my party and charged outside to see what was happening. 

I was set upon by hordes of kobolds.  The short creatures seemed to be everywhere.  We fought one large group right outside the hut.  After its eventual defeat, we moved to the western side of the camp and was attacked by another group, this one larger than the first.  There seemed to be no end to the kobolds swarming the camp. 

After fighting through this second wave, we moved further west towards the edge of the camp.  We saw another group of kobolds.  This group however was very wary and afraid.  if not for their leaders behind pushing them forward, they would have scattered.  The chief walked up behind us, and asked that we finish this together.  I agreed and charged the remaining kobolds with the chief and his men. 
This last group fell quickly before the combined might of my party and the chief.

After the battle, the chief thanked me for my help.  He also gave his word that he would not be joining forces with the evil in the city.  I took my reward and started back to town. 

I reported to the council what had happened with the nomads.  They were pleased to hear about the nomads and I was rewarded again for my hand in keeping the nomads from joining the forces against us.  I went about my routine, healing, training, selling my goods.  Next stop was to find these kobolds that the council hinted at and the nomads seemed to be having so much trouble with. 

The kobolds came from the east, out of the swamps according to the nomad chief, so I started search east of their camp.  I came across 2 caves in the side of a hill.  One was fairly large, the other much smaller, only about 4 feet.  I entered the smaller of the two, even though it was a tight fit for most of us. 

I entered and almost immediately Keygan fell into a pit filled with water.  There was not much room to maneuver in these cramped caves, and in the process of fishing him out, we lost a couple items.  I didn't immediately see which, though I suspect it was some of my cash.  We continued on, shortly thereafter finding a drawing left in the muck.  This drawing detailed a little bit of the kobolds plan.  It is under journal 42.  The drawing shows the smaller cave, which I am in now, and a larger cave close by.  The plan to dig through to the larger cave where a large beast lairs and steal its treasure. 

I left the small cavern and went into the larger one.  I knew that I would most likely meet this beast that the kobold were trying to steal from, but I figured I'd have to see it eventually.  As I entered the large cave, I was confronted by a wyvern.  Dragonlike, but not quite as powerful.  I killed the creature and looked around the cave.  I found the wyverns treasure horde and picked out what I wanted to keep for myself. 

I searched around a little more and found a kobold that had wedged itself into a small crack in the cavern wall.  It asked me for water, and seeing that this kobold was little threat, I gave it to him.  He pulled himself from the crack and described to me how he ended up in his predicament.  He was sent down here by his king to steal the treasure since he had injured his leg.  Apparently not too much the fool, he decided to hide.  He told me that he'd like to see the king get what he deserves and left.  His story is under journal entry 20.

I found the small breakthrough in the cavern wall, and climbed inside.  I was met by a drunken kobold, whom I had almost stumbled over.  This must be the kobold the old kobold had described, the king's son.  He woke and mistook me for some envoys, spokespeople for 'The Boss' no doubt.  He disabled a couple traps along the passage and led me into the king's throne room.

I approached the king in his throne.  There were two men standing beside him, probably the real envoys.  My cover blown, the attacked.  How these kobolds managed to keep trolls in their employ was beyond me, but they were among the attackers.  A few stinking clouds to try and keep the trolls at bay and a few fireballs cast from scrolls I had broke this first group quickly.

As the last kobold fell, the king shouted and ran deeper into the caverns.  From all sides of the room, ballista fired on my group.  There were a couple injuries, but nothing severe.  In the confusion another group of kobolds, this time with wild boars in their ranks, attacked.  This time a few sleeps spells helped cull the group of kobolds, along with their boar allies.  My groups spells were starting to run thin, and already had suffered a couple casualties.

The next group attacked immediately.  This one with the envoys, and a mix of trolls and boars.  Thankfully I had a few stinking cloud spells left.  The clerics cast hold person on the envoys when they could, and managed to hold one immediately.  The other envoy though cast magic missiles and ended up knocking my cleric/mage Minelrie unconscious.  With the kobolds, trolls, and boars attacking, a few front line fighters had fallen, including the hero we had hired so long ago for Sokal Keep. 

With a few lucky shots with spells, we managed to come out on top.  With the party beaten pretty badly, we left the throne room to memorize spells before giving the king pursuit.  It is lucky we did since when we did pick up the chase, we were attacked by more of the kings guards.  More trolls, kobolds, and boars.  After defeating the guards, we crept deeper into the cave. 

When we passed into the next cavern, we found the king.  He had been trying to escape us and in his haste had fallen into one of his own traps.  He fell into a spiked pit and killed himself.  I guess that will prevent him from making any deals with Tyranthraxus' hordes. 

Not fair!  I wanted to kill him.
In the cavern behind the king's trap turned grave, we found the kobolds treasure.  Most of it useless.  These creatures are like rodents.  Anything shiny is valuable.  Most of the pile was garbage, old boots, moldy rugs.  The only thing of use was a couple of scrolls which we kept.  Hidden in a crack in the wall was a bronze bottle.  When I reached in to grab it, an efreet poured out and challenged me!  He asked if we were vampires.  When we told him no, he told us not to disturb him again until we were in the presence of a vampire and disappeared back into his bottle.  This will come in handy for the graveyard I think if the rumors are true.
Glad I'm not a vampire.
I explored what was left of the caves and ran across a woman in the midst of killing a kobold.  When she saw us, she announced to us that she was Princess Fatima from the nomad camp to the west.  She described to us that she was set to marry someone she didn't want to, and decided to seek out the kobolds so she would have a little more bargaining power with which to get what she wanted.  She offered to join us, and we let her, though her task was already complete.  The king was dead and all we had to do was lead her out of the cave.  Her story is in journal entry 16.

Close by we discovered  makeshift barracks room.  Empty, most likely because all the bodies were piled in the throne room.  We found a crude map.  From what I could decipher, its a map to the current location of the nomad camp.  It is copied in journal number 28.

With nothing left to do here, we left the caves.  Princess Fatima bid us farewell and left to return to her camp.  We returned to the city to report on our success with the kobolds.  After the usual stay at the inn, visit to the shopkeepers to unload and identify equipment, and a quick check to see if anyone needed training we reported to the council clerk.  She rewarded us for dealing with the threat of the kobolds.

So now there are a few things to do.  I need to clear Valhingen Graveyard, I have to find the source of the river's pollution and see what I can do about it, find some lizardmen and keep them from joining against us, and an heir to the House of Bivant has been kidnapped and I need to find them and rescue them.  I'm starting to feel like we are the only six people in all the area that are actually doing anything.  For once I'd like to hear how someone else rescued the heir, or killed legions of kobolds...  Ah well, the life of adventure! 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Pool of Radiance - Podal Plaza and the Temple of Bane

After resting in town and selling my unused equipment, I headed back out into the city towards Podal Plaza.  As I entered the block, I was immediately given a few options.  One to just barge in, one to disguise the party as monsters, and another to sneak around.  As my mission here is to find out about this item being auctioned off, I chose to disguise us.
Apparently the disguise worked well enough as I was confronted by several roaming parties of orcs and goblins.  They made rude comments and laughed but otherwise left me alone.  I saw the crowd was in the middle of the plaza, but I explored around the outskirts of the block first.

I passed in front of a temple, once to Ilmater, now converted for use by followers of Bane.  The black hand of Bane has become a regular symbol in this part of town.  I entered and was immediately confronted by the temple staff.  Not to attack, but to recruit!  I was told that my services were needed at the main temple across the river and to come back to this temple in 2 hours to report to the head priest Mace.  I turned and left, having no intention of coming back.
I wandered around a bit more and headed towards the crowd gathering in the center of the block.  As I approached, a man started yelling about the item of great power that was to be auctioned off.  I couldn't tell from my vantage point what was in his hand, other than it was a small staff or wand.

I shoved my way forward a bit to get a closer look, upsetting some of the locals a bit, but my disguise still held.  I could see that this item wasn't the overly powerful item we had been sent to see about, but rather a wand of fear.  Just as I saw the item the podium in which the auctioneer was standing was enveloped in darkness.  A man and an ogre ran out of the darkness.  I chose to ignore the ogre and go after the man.  The auctioneer shouted after the man, calling him Garwin.  Garwin managed to slip away in the confusion.

With the item gone, the crowd dispersed and went back to their business.  I had completed the mission given to me.  I had enough info to make the council happy, but decided to stick around.  The council still were giving rewards for clearing sections of city out and I wasn't going to stop now.  I stayed in my disguise however and wandered into a bar.  The name escapes me at the moment.

When I entered the bar, a drunken buccaneer challenged me to a duel.  I readily accepted his offer, and my main character, Thanalis, went to battle.  I cast sleep right off the bat, and it stuck.  A quick and easy fight.  Maybe not fair, but who cares?  It was me or him, and I put his magical weapons to good use.

I stayed in the bar to see if I could learn anything else, but just ended up getting into a fight with the rest of the bar patrons.  This fight was a little tougher, but some well placed sleep spells and a few minutes later, we had destroyed the tavern.

With my disguise blown, I went outside and went about slaughtering every group of monsters I came across.  As I was clearing out some buildings in the southwest section of the block, I came across a couple doors that I couldn't pick or bash down.  I had one of my mages cast knock.  On the other side of the door was a makeshift temple to Ilmater.  Probably the priests who had fled from the one across town.  They provided healing and a safe place to rest. 

I rested and re-memorized my spells and went back out into the block.  I fought groups of monsters until none came anymore, and in passing by, killed all the inhabitants of the small temple of Bane on the east side of the plaza.  Satisfied that I had cleared the block, I returned to the civilized section of town.
A priestess of Ilmater.
I stopped by the council chambers and was rewarded both for clearing the plaza and for finding out about the item that was auctioned/stolen.  After receiving my reward, the clerk went into my next assignment.  It seems the undead from Valhingen Graveyard are getting to be too much.  Upon accepting the mission to stop the undead, I was given a magical sword +3 vs. undead.  That will come in handy when I do go out to see whats causing all this disturbance in the graveyard.

A problem which just won't go away.
I headed to the dock and was taken across the river to the wealthy section of town.  Dirten had stuck with me long enough, it was time we take care of his personal mission to clear out the temple on this side of the river.  First things first though.  I want to clear out the wealthy section of town to establish a foothold.

The wealthy section of town is taken by a large mansion in the center of town.  As I explored the area around it, I noticed once again the prevalence of the black hands painted all over town.  I would imagine that many of the head priests underlings live in this area of town, and they aren't afraid to mark their territory.  Just makes it easier to find them.

Instead of taking the more subtle back door, I just barged right in the front door of the mansion.  I was immediately attacked by guards.  The guards were quickly dispatched though, and I was free to roam around the mansion as I pleased.  I searched the rooms carefully, finding something of value in almost every room. 

orcs, and 20 goblin slaves...  I haven't been keeping track of how many orcs I have killed, but I most definitely put a large dent in those numbers.

In the back room I found the goblin slaves the note listed.  They didn't attack and begged me to let them go.  Thinking its not worth killing even more goblins, I did so.  As they left, one told me that in order to get inside the Temple of Bane, I would need a holy symbol.  They disappeared, and hopefully I will never see them again.

I continued to search the area, running across a room with some dirty beds lining the walls.  As I searched them for anything that may be of use, the owners of these beds came back and attacked me.  After a quick battle, I finished up my search with no results. 

A few more encounters, and an encounter with a traveling band of priests of Bane, I had some holy symbols in my possession and headed off to the temple proper. 

The temple area was completely quiet.  Standing in front of the entrance to the temple was a blind orc.  Apparently this orcs is only useful enough to stand outside and take the first hit.  As I approached he put his hand out and felt around my neck, thankfully I had the holy symbols of Bane.  This seemed to satisfy him and he let me pass without incident.

Inside was just as empty as outside.  I wandered around and searched everywhere, high and low.  I ran across a few caches hidden in the floor, which I promptly liberated.  The priest back in town had given me permission to take everything I found. 

Just as I finished collecting everything I could find, the head priest and his whole following it seems poured through the doors of the temple.  There seemed to be no end to them.  I concentrated everything I could on Mace since he presented the greatest threat.  Being a priest he could hold person, and that would ruin our day real quick.  I did manage to kill him quickly, but not without him getting a hold person spell off.  Unfortunately, the only one who was effected was Dirten.  There were still too many at this point and I couldn't save him before some lucky orc killed him off. 

I finished the battle without any more casualties, but the damage was done.  Dirten, who I had brought out here to clear and sanitize the temple, was dead.  To make matters worse, I wasn't even given the opportunity to have him resurrected.  He was removed from my party immediately following the battle.  I'd like to think that his spirit will help to sanctify this place again.  I destroyed the altar to Bane and searched Mace's body.  On him I found a note detailing the problem again at Valhingen Graveyard.  Its under journal entry 25.  The Boss is worried about the graveyard too, and promises to promote Mace if he is successful in stopping the threat, or providing enough information to plan a full out attack.  He won't be taking that promotion anytime soon...
Uhh...  leave it?
I traveled back to the civilized section of town and stopped by the clerk for my rewards.  One for clearing out the wealthy area, and another for clearing out the temple.  The clerk was pleased that I had completed both. 

So now, I have a few options...  I can head out into the wilderness to find nomads or kobolds, or I can return to the wealthy area and clear out some thieves in Kovel Mansion.  I believe my next stop will be the mansion, as save for the castle gates and the castle itself, is the last section of the city I have yet to clear.  I'll head into that this week as I get some playing time in.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Second NASA New Frontiers Program - JUNO

On Friday, August 5th, NASA's second New Frontiers program JUNO launched on an Atlas V rocket.  This particular Atlas V is allegedly the most powerful Atlas V ever made.  Designed to propel JUNO to the largest planet of our solar system.
JUNO's Atlas V rocket at its launch site.
Though I have not personally spent much time working on JUNO, I did have some small parts over the course of the last couple years.  What matters to me is that I know many people who have dedicated their lives over the last few years to making sure this vehicle is assembled and performs its mission flawlessly.  Here is a link to JUNO's NASA website for more information on its mission.

JUNO being assembled in Denver.
Sense of scale, one of three solar array wings.
I had Friday off and was glad I was given the opportunity to spend the morning watching the launch.  The launch was scheduled for 11:34 AM on Friday, August 5, 2011.  We had concerns earlier in the week that Tropical Storm Emily would cause some problems with the launch, but it turned out to be a beautiful morning for a launch. 

As the countdown progressed, there were a few little problems along the way.  From my limited contact, I heard there was some problem with the launch vehicles fuel pressurization.  This problem turned out to be on the ground side of the equipment and the engineers and technicians sorted this problem in little time.  However, the launch did push past the scheduled start of the window.  During this time, there came a call that range control had given a no go.  To the best of my understanding, someone had wandered into the hazardous zone, most likely a boat.  Most likely someone fishing and completely oblivious to the days events. 

Once the ground technical problem was solved, we continued to wait on range control to sweep the hazardous zone once again.  The window for launch on Friday would close at 12:43 PM.  This time was approaching fast, but eventually launched with plenty of time left in the window.

Here are a few pictures from my vantage point on the NASA Causeway, a strip of land that connects Kennedy Space Center to Cape Canaveral AFS.

These images can be clicked on to see a larger version.  One thing is for certain though.  I will be investing a much better camera in the future if I ever get this opportunity again. 

While we waited for the countdown to resume, we got a little entertainment from the local wildlife.  There were a few dolphins right in front of us playing and jumping excitedly, no doubt to send JUNO off in their own little way.

I don't recall the exact time of launch, but it came a few seconds earlier than expected.  None of us out there had an official mission clock, so we just had to guess.  We were close enough to get some good sound from the launch.  It was similar to the shuttle launches, but somehow felt a little different.  Just as loud, and shook the ground.  This rocket isn't designed to take fragile humans into orbit.  Since a machine can withstand much more than we can, the rocket took off much faster than the shuttle. 

JUNO is on its way!
There were a few cheers from the people who had also gathered on the causeway to watch, and had lasted through the delays.  I kept watching, hoping I might get to see the boosters separate, but no such luck.  It was too far away by that time and was just not possible to see with the naked eye anymore.  Of course, watching it on NASA TV or something would be the way to watch the launch if you wanted to see everything, but watching through the TV lacks that personal attachment.  Being there is just indescribable. 

So Juno is on its way...  It will take 5 years for it to reach Jupiter.  It is going out and will eventually circle back and flyby Earth again in 2 years.  Its doing this to get a gravity assist in its speed.  It will need as much as it can get to maintain its orbit around Jupiter.  By the time it gets to Jupiter, it will traveling at 9,900 miles per hour, or about 3 miles per second.  The object that holds the record for fastest object is Voyager 1 currently leaving our solar system at 38,200 miles per hour.  Juno will never leave the solar system though and will end its life plunging into the clouds of Jupiter sometime in 2017. 

I have been reading news reports about LEGO figurines headed to Jupiter aboard JUNO.  I never heard anything about it while at work, but admittedly I have been busy with my own stuff to do.  I'll check into it when I go back tomorrow morning.  It would have been nice to see them in person.  I'll see if I can find some pictures we took of them though.  In the meantime, here is a link to a news article about it.

Only one month left now until GRAIL launches.  So much to do in the following weeks.  We just finished fueling both spacecraft with hydrazine.  Now we have to move them out to the rocket waiting for us and encapsulate them in its fairing for its journey to the moon!

Jupiter, Juno, and Galileo