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Monday, February 12, 2018

Dice, Camera, Action Episode 80 - Tomb of Annihilation

Episode 80: Kaboom it May Concern

Rachel has returned and will be playing Miranda again tonight! This was a heck of an episode.

 The Party

(Rachel Seeley) Miranda- Elf Druid
(Anna) Evelyn - Human Paladin of Lathander
(ProJared) Diath - Human Rogue
(Holly) Strix - Tiefling Sorcerer
(Nathan) Paultin - Human Bard

Last time, a magic egg-bomb had activated. This thing is counting down and the explosion will have the  power of 10,000 magic missiles. That's like 10,000d4 + 10,000 force damage, at least!

The group rolls initiative. The heroes are in the fane of the night serpent. Lying nearby is the corpse of someone Miranda knew.

Evelyn says she's going to use the bomb to destroy the Soulmonger. Paultin goes invisible.

Diath realizes that this thing is going to explode in less than one minute.

Diath has a great idea. He wants Paultin to freeze it!

Chris has a real life stopwatch going. The players freak out.

Paultin thinks the waffle hut could survive the nuke. The group determines that there is no time to cast leomund's tiny hut. It takes one minute to cast.

Evelyn wants to defuse the egg bomb. Insight check.. 9. No luck.

Strix wants to take it and dimension door outside. No.. she casts dimension door and throws it through. Now it's outside.

Paultin casts suggestion on Paultin and tells him to call Shemeshka. Diath and Strix are really angry about this. Paultin forces Diath to use the key on Gutter to summon Shemeshka.

Diath asks Shemeshka for help. She says, "I have to protect my one percent." She casts banishment on him! He is shunted to his home plane!? Sigil?

Diath appears at an elegant costume party. There are humans, a tiefling, and gnome servants holding platters with flutes of wine on them. They're talking in small groups.

There's a band in one corner performing live. The ceiling is arched and has glass panels. Through the glass panels Diath can see .. a city above. He's in Sigil. Sigil is built on the inside of a hollow donut with weird gravity, so when you look up you see building tops.

Shemeshka puts a paw on his shoulder. Diath says he wants to go back, but she says that would be suicide.

Paultin declares that he thought this would work out a little better.


Estavan is here? Cameo! He's a semi-major NPC from the 2e Planescape products.

Diath tries to put the key in the blade of his sword, but nothing happens.

He puts the blade on himself and says, "If you want your investment, put me back..."

Back in Omu, Evelyn's flying down below in the caves with her boots of flying. She comes upon a boat floating on the underground river.

Strix starts crying. Paultin actually yells at her and tells her to try something. Miranda tells Paultin to step back. Paultin goes invisible and he takes a step forward and becomes visible, being somewhat menacing.

Paultin argues with Miranda, then uses his mandolin to fly after Evelyn. Yo...

Back in Sigil, Diath asks again... "How do I disable the Halruaan bomb?"

"You can't. It's too late." Shemeshka says two of the group will survive because of their bonus souls.

Diath looks up and sees a huge, weird clock. The hands are moving in weird ways.

He creeps up to Shemeshka and puts the tip of his blade in her back. Yiikkeesss. "Return me or save them all."

"What if you go back and you can't save them? What will you have gained?"

I'll save them. If I don't... their fate is the same as mine."

"I suppose I won't lose anything in the long run. But you owe me. Agreed?"

Diath hands over a key and appears back in Omu, right next to the Halruaan bomb. It's lying in the garden of a crumbled down palace.

Evelyn is outside in the Lost City of Omu. Sunlight reflects off her blade and shines toward a cliff far away. She sees Dragonbait leading the sidekicks and pets into the jungle, trying to get them to a safe place in case the egg explodes..

Evelyn sees the bomb.. she wants to grab it and fly up. Diath stops her.

Strix is in gaseous form. She shuts it off and casts gaseous form on Miranda. Wait.. no. Miranda points out she doesn't need that spell, as she can turn into a bird. They agree to fly out of there as fast as possible.

Outside, Diath notices that there's a keyhole on the bomb. Diath busts out his thieves' tools.. no, first he'll try a Shemeshka key. He sticks the key in. It turns. it clicks. The bomb stops. His key disintegrates.

The group is safe! Bomb is shut off.

Diath is not happy with Paultin and chastises him. Strix isn't happy with him either.

Paultin says it all worked out and he doesn't appreciate the wrist slap. Paultin casts dimension door and ditches the party. He takes Simon with him.

Uh oh.... little yuan-ti Typho comes out of nowhere and stabs Miranda in the back... 32 points of damage from the sneak attack and 5 from the poison! Miranda survives! The group attacks him. She drops an insect plague on him and Typho is done for.

Diath calls out for Paultin. That's where we stop.


I have a lot of theories! Very good show. I agree with Paultin... they were all about to die. He saved them. Go ahead and be mad, at least you're alive!

We did a lot of waffle talking about this episode right here:

Sunday, February 11, 2018

More Thoughts on Running the Tomb of Annihilation

I ran some more Tomb of Annihilation last night and I have a lot of thoughts running through my head.

You can watch it on twitch here. It will be on youtube in a few weeks.

I got art of the epic aboleth fight from last week. Check it out:

Pretty cool, right? It is by Vaughn Distrito.

When I first started using this artist, I really wasn't too sure about the comic book style, but now I'm very happy with it. It's a fun idea to have a different art style for each group. It's sort of like in 2e how they had one main artist for Dark Sun, another for Al Qadim, and another for Planescape.

Missing Players: Two players couldn't make it this week, so it was just Ramrod, Mistletoe, and Asana. We've had a death in each of the last three sessions, so I was definitely worried.

"Writing out" characters is something I don't worry about any more. Way back when, I'd spend time trying to think of a logical way to explain why they're gone or inactive.

Over time, I have found that the best way to handle it is to just move on. Otherwise, you'll end up jumping through hoops that can affect the session in weird ways. I never want to be in a position where an absent player's character dies. That does not go well at all, ever!

Handling the Tomb: There are a bunch of groups in the tomb at the same time. They've been leaving each other notes. I've been doing a lousy job of remembering what notes are where.

Basically, I've been missing a million little things, and it's driving me nuts. On the second level of the central stairwell, there is a plaque that I have repeatedly forgotten to mention or describe. It's got clues that would have been helpful to the heroes.

Using Roaming Monsters: Before the game, I had a tough choice to make. Withers and the tomb dwarves are supposed to come up and reset traps. Poor Lemuel died in the wine room, so that needs to be reset. From page 141: "At dawn the next day, Withers sends tomb dwarves to clean up the room and tunnel, after which the wine cisterns magically refill and the trap resets."

That means I probably should have started this session with a battle against more tomb dwarves, assuming the heroes go to check out the wine room. During their long rest, the adventurers heard the wine spill out of the room and cascade down the central stairwell.

A fight against tomb dwarves felt like a drag to me - a time-waster. There's enough to do in this place, right? I don't want to bog it down with a fight I've run a few times already.

I can and probably should be having Withers attacking the groups while they rest, but that would mean sessions full of battles with the same creatures, and I really want to get on with it.

Also... I was looking through the book to see where Withers might be lurking once his office was trashed. For a moment I thought I remembered that he was way down with the hags. It turns out I got mixed up. There's a guy named Mister Threadneedle down there. In my head, Mister Threadneedle is quite similar to Withers - a thin flunky that serves the main bad guys.

Mr. Threadneedle is described on page 183. He doesn't talk at all.

The group awoke and made their way to the wine room. Were they going to trigger the trap? They found poor Lemuel's dead body and grabbed the two skeleton keys. After a lot of careful searching, they drained one tunnel of wine and found a crawlspace within.

This crawlspace led to Nangnang's tomb on page 143. The deal here is that there's a magic circle holding an invisible monster (a grey slaad). There's a sarcophagus in here, too.

I couldn't remember how everything worked in this room, and scrambled to re-read it as I ran it. I had the slaad attack the group as soon as they stepped foot in the circle. Two notes about this place:
  • The slaad is free if someone enters the boundary area of the circle.
  • You should probably not have the slaad attack until someone opens the urn and gets hit with the trap. Deadly!
The slaad attacked the group, did piles of damage, but then the tide turned against it. It turned invisible so it could move without provoking a billion opportunity attacks.

Dispel Magic vs. Invisibility: That's when a tough question came up. Does dispel magic work on invisibility? The dispel magic entry does not say "....on a target you can see". Does that mean you can just cast dispel magic blindly to shut off invisibility?

At the time, I ruled that the caster could do it, because I had went out of my way to tell the group that they could hear the slaad moving around. I figured that the caster had a general idea of where the slaad was.

Looking it up now, here's an official answer.

It looks like I made a good call. If the caster has a good idea of where the invisible creature is (probably by listening for it), then they can dispel the invisibility. If the caster has no idea where the invisible creature might be, they cannot dispel it.

Looking at the invisible condition on PH page 291, it says: "For the purposes of hiding, the creature is heavily obscured."

Heavily obscured is one of those really annoying hard-to-find things in the PH. It's on page 183.  "A creature effectively suffers from the blinded condition when trying to see something in that area."

Room 57: The slaad ended up trying to plane shift away but it went wrong (he got sucked into room 57). Later, they freed the genie (immediately) from page 142. She also tried to plane shift and ended up in room 57! It might be fun to roll out the battle going on in there - otyugh vs slaad, winner fights the genie?

Later, the heroes encountered the giant stone head in room 18. The group was very cautious, which is a good thing. The hole in the mouth leads down to room 35b, one of the rooms I've had a really hard time getting a handle on.

The one thing I'm really happy with is that I remembered to use the purple mold (see "alien growth" on page 146). Mistletoe used a flaming sphere to destroy one patch at a time, causing others to sprout eyestalks and shoot rays at him.

He got very lucky! I rolled randomly, and kept getting the "slow" ray.

Flaming Sphere: One question that came up - can he control the flaming sphere without looking at it? He was in another room. I decided that he did need to see it. He's trying to run over patches of mold, it seems like there's a good chance he'd struggle trying to do it blindly.

The heroes ended up smartly going all the way around and finding the exterior of room 35b. I think I understand this area now, but just barely. It's something I will definitely need to re-read right before I run it.

I'm really enjoying the tomb so far!

I'll be running a special Spelljammer game tonight on Twitch! I'd better get preparing for that, now.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Hosting Waffle Talk: The Dice, Camera, Reaction Show

Most of you are probably aware that I've been recapping Dice, Camera, Action since the show began. I am a big Chris Perkins fan, so when I heard about the show I wanted to watch him run a game and see what I could learn.

Chris Perkins: I first became aware of this D&D author/entity called Chris Perkins when I was a kid. He worked on Dungeon Magazine, which I would get in the mail once every 2 months or so. He wrote two adventures in Dungeon Magazine that I was dying to run: Umbra and Bzallin's Blacksphere.

I ran a wobbly version of Umbra for my friends right after that issue came out. I sat on Bzallin's Blacksphere for two decades before finally running it for my 5e Planescape group a few months ago. Bzallin's is a very high-level adventure, so I found it very hard to fit it in to a campaign.

During the 4th edition era, Chris wrote a column called the "DM Experience", where he wrote about running D&D. I love those articles, though they're hard to find now. It was at that time when hi stuff really resonated with me.

I was running tons of 4e, and I didn't know many other people doing the same. Chris would write about stuff I experienced, and hi article helped me figure out the bet way to run 4th edition.

So I've been writing these Dice, Camera, Action recap every week for a few years now. Every once in a while on twitter, one of the members of the show would interact with me. Each time, I'd get all cold and sweaty. I'd type out a response, then erase it and run outside while screaming.

Once I started running live D&D shows on Twitch, I knew I wanted to do a DCA post-show with some of my friends, who are also DCA super-fans. That's Scarlet Moth and Shaun Nakasone.

Scarlet Moth is a cosplayer and artist from Australia. She plays in my Tomb of Annihilation games. She's a very good player and I really admire her social media skills.

Shaun Nakasone is a cosplayer and artist. He plays in my Mezro/Omu/Tomb group. He's one of those exemplary D&D players that is always focused, is funny/fun to play with, and comes up with cool character concepts.

Both of them are big DCA fans like myself, so what the heck! Sounds like fun, right?

Doing the Show: What I did not expect is for the cast to go out of their way to mention it and promote it on the actual Dice, Camera, Action show! Our first episode of Waffle Talk got a heck of a lot more viewers than I expected.

The following week, some members of the cast expressed interest in actually being on the show! From that point on, I've been in a sort of dream-like trance. How lucky am I?

I'm not a show host. I'm just a dude who likes D&D. But..! Being a dungeon master gives you life skills! Running a game of D&D is like running a meeting at work, or planning a party, or hosting an event. You've got to wrangle people, keep an eye on everyone, and get through the event in a smooth manner while helping everyone enjoy themselves.

So hosting the show is not a big deal for me. This is one of those occasions where I'm "DMing life". When I was a manager at a toy store and we had to move shelving around, I'd DM the plan-o-gram and give each worker a "quest". I mean, not literally, but that's what was going on in my head. 

Not that I'm the best host or anything like that, but I am saying I can do it and get through it.

The technical side can be a bit of a pain. On one episode, my computer just froze. I have absolutely no idea what happened. I had to reboot. It sucked.

Then on another show, I had a minute where my overlay (the thing you see on the screen) messed up. It's a bit hard to explain. When using Skype to connect with everyone, I pull video from Skype and place it under the overlay. If that Skype page gets shifted for some reason, everything gets screwed up. My giant head will be half in one box and half in another.

So I'm a bit wobbly, but overall the show is going great. I got to talk with two of my favorite D&D stream people!

Guest Stars: Holly was awesome. I really want to pick her brain about Planescape and old versions of Strix, but I'm not sure how much most DCA fans want to hear about that. There's more pressing issues to deal with!

Anna was great, too. I was worried that I was wasting too much of her time, so I tried to end the show after about half an hour, but she actually wanted to stay longer! She talked a bit about a version of Evelyn that she used in a prior campaign (on Misscliks Outbreak, I believe). had absolutely no idea about any of that!

Once those guest star episodes aired, I got a big pile of new subscribers to both my youtube channel and my Twitch channel.

The best thing of all is that madi monimoliburb actually made us a logo out of the blue! How awesome is that?  I immediately stuck it on everything.

Overall: I'm not religious, but I feel very "blessed". Thank you to everyone who has supported me! I never thought I'd get to actually talk to Holly or Anna. It was surreal. It was sort of like watching Iron Man 2, and then Robert Downey, jr, looks at me through the movie screen and starts talking to me.

Fun fact: I once ran a game where a player insisted that she have NPC Robert Downey, jr. as a sidekick for her D&D character. Not an NPC who looked like Robert Downey, jr. It was literally Robert Downey, jr. He got killed by two selkies.

You can watch us waffle talk every Tuesday on my Twitch channel or on the Youtube machine.

If you have fan art that you want me to use on the show, send it to me, bah gawd!

Also, if you have questions about Dice, Camera, Action, ask them in the live chat or email them to me. Check out the DCA subreddit, too.

Thanks to everyone for reading this, buying my DMs Guild products and watching my goofy games. Because of your support, I am getting to do a lot of fun things and I greatly appreciate it.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

What is Known About Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes

You can order Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes here.

The new D&D book is coming out in May! It's called Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes, and it going to be somewhat similar to Volo's Guide to Monsters. It has new monsters, new character race options and tons of lore.

What exactly is in this book has been discussed on a number of D&D shows so far. I watched them all and present them to you in text form via the series of tubes known as the internet.

Quite a bit of cool stuff was put out in playtest form months ago. A final version of these races will appear in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes:
  • Elf Subraces: Avariel, grugach, sea elves, and shadar-kai.
  • Variant Tieflings (tieflings bound to archdevils such as Dispater, Glasya, Mephistopheles, and others). Also, demonic boons, details on different cults of demons and devils.

General Notes

The overall idea is that this book focuses on grand cosmic conflicts. Mordenkainen, a legendary wizard, keeps an eye on everything and does his bet to maintain a balance. He believes that if one side wins in one of these conflicts (such as the demon wiping out the devils completely) then the entire multiverse might be in danger.

Mordenkainen leaves little notes in the book like Volo did in Volo's. Apparently, Shemeshka (a Planescape NPC) is somehow featured too. It was said on one broadcast that Shemeshka tole Mordenkainen's notes and cobbled them together to form this book.

As far as the tone of he notes, this was said: :Mordenkainen is very sassy."

Player Stuff

Tons of new race options:
  • Elf Subraces: Avariel, grugach, sea elves and shadar-kai. Also, a new, expanded version of the eladrin.
  • Tieflings with special abilities linked to the different archdevils.
  • Githzerai and githyanki as player races.
  • Duergar as a playable race.


This book gives tons of detail on certain races, factions, and conflicts.

Dwarves and Duergar: The origin of the dwarves and their war with the duergar.

Elves and Drow: We got quite a bit of information on elf-related content:
  • Elves have fey ancestry. The book delves into the creation story of the elves. Sounds like they're changing/adding some stuff. Up until now it is believed that the first elves formed from the tears of Corellon.
  • Details on the schism between the drow and the other elves.
  • Details on actual elves high elves, wood elves, eladrin, and shadar kai.
  • Dicussion on the elven gods.- gods of the elves
  • The eladrin and their relationship with their elven kin. Unlike other elves, the eladrin have connected deeply to the Feywild. Other eladrin are so transformed by the Feywild that they become fey.. or even archfey.
  • Some archfey have gone to Arvandor to dwell with the elf gods.
  • "This book has elfy elves."
  • Corellon, the parent of elves, playful inattentive parent. Lolth provided direction and definition. Lolth long ago convinced almost all of the elves to go with her. Toward the end, many of the elves had regrets about siding with Lolth and they flinched before going over the edge.
  • Why are there so many kinds of elves? There is a strong story reason. In their original fey form, elves could assume all sorts of different forms.
The Blood War (demons vs. devils): We get information on the blood war. Everywhere in the cosmos is a potential battleground. The book will include ways that the blood war can be intertwined with lower level adventurers.

Githyanki and Githzerai: There was a weird comment about gith art. "We can't use any old art from Dragon or previous adventures or OP event art..." Why? Their "..costuming is very different."

The book includes a painting of Vlaakith, the lich queen. She still leads the githyanki.

Halflings and Gnomes: The book also details Two unusual cultures that have no major conflicts - halflings and gnomes.

The gnome section includes lots of clockwork creatures like "A little robot guy with two shields" and "a little mechanical frog." There's a table for creating crazy gnome inventions, which sounds great.
Do you think they include giant space hamsters?


Half of Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes is devoted to new monsters. About half of the monsters in the book are Challenge 10 or higher.

Archdevils: There are stats for all of the archdevils (Asmodeus, Mephistopheles, and the others).
Moloch is also statted out.


The Idolin: The idol on the 1e player's handbook is iconic. What was it supposed to be? It is a monster first mae in 4e known as an "idolin", a giant animated statue. Supposedly, Dave Trampier (the artist of the 1e cover)  nicknamed it Molly, short for "Moloch". It does look quite similar to early depictions of Moloch.

Moloch: The deposed archdevil Moloch is statted out in this book.

Eladrin: There are eladrin in the monstrous section

Elder Elementals:  There are a number of "elder elementals" in the book. One is apparently known as "The Leviathan". These are city-destroying type creatures with power on the level of the Tarrasque.

I imagine this might include the elemental lords of good (Ben Hadar, Sunni, and the others) and probably a bunch of 4e primordials..?

Yugoloths: The neutral evil mercenary fiends.

Shadowfell-Themed Creatures: On one show it was noted that Volo's had a lot of feywild material. This book focuses on the Shadowfell. Some of the Shadowfell monsters are brand new.

Cambions: There are cambion variants - abilities you can apply to the cambion stat block

Cultists: Lots of info on creating infernal and abyssal cults. This book has add-on powers that can be applied to the base cultist stat blocks in the Monster Manual. 
I'll be updating this with previews and information as I learn more!

You can order Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes on amazon right here.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Dice, Camera, Action Episode 79 - Tomb of Annihilation

Episode 79: The Nightmare Scenario
Ross and Rachel are both guest stars this week. Last week's show was awesome, looking forward to what will happen tonight!

 The Party

(Rachel Seeley) Miranda- Elf Druid
(Ross) Wumba - Batiri Goblin
(Anna) Evelyn - Human Paladin of Lathander
(ProJared) Diath - Human Rogue
(Holly) Strix - Tiefling Sorcerer
(Nathan) Paultin - Human Bard

Nate got in on the show a bit late, but it didn't affect anything. Looks like Chris is running this from home. He's sick, but he's still running the game. Dedication!

Last time, Evelyn ended up in the tomb, Diath is in some weird version of Waterdeep where the yuan-ti are trying to recruit him. and Strix is in a maze with Ubtao. Miranda is in the yuan-ti temple with Paultin, Dragonbait, the animals, and vegepygmies.

Miranda creates a gloaming court, a safe place to rest. She asks Paultin about the ring of winter. She explains that the elves sent the ring away for a reason. Miranda doesn't think it's safe in his hands.

Strix is in the mazes with Ubtao. She's really angry about her situation. The Evelyn doll consoles her.

Strix hears something big coming toward her from the mazes. The trees that make up the maze split open. Here comes a hut walking on chicken feet. It's Baba Yaga's dancing hut!

Ubtao wants her to run, but she refuses. The Diath puppet is on her hat.

Meanwhile in the tomb, Evelyn comes to a room with a panel. She has the egg bomb that, if set off, will create a massive explosion of force damage.

She tries to calm down and prays: "Lathander, it's me. Evelyn your servant. I don't know what to do. I don't know why you blessed me with these people. Their souls are in danger, I don't know how to stop it.  I'm nothing without you."

She asks for help in deciphering the symbols on the wall.

Oh no. Guess who's here? Wumba..! Wumba tries to answer her prayer,  pretending to be Lathander but she sees right through it.

He sees the console and the black egg bomb. There are a few creatures heading this way - gargoyles with four arms. Wumba spits in Evelyn's face. I hate this dude.

Wumba starts messing with the dials. The nearby rooms shake and rotate. The gargoyles are no longer able to get at Evelyn.

Meanwhile, Diath has three yuan-ti ladies writhing around him. He asks them, "What makes you think I have an ancient soul?" He gets to his feet.

Fenthaza strokes his face and says he'd be so much prettier with scales.

She points him to a door that opens on its own. Fenthaza says, "We can't help you, you must face him alone." In the room is a rectangular room with a slab of stone with a bleeding dead body on it.  Looks like a tiefling.

Ras Nsi is in here! Diath draws Gutter and he charges Ras Nsi.

Elsewhere, Paultin is hanging out. He can detect Waffles' sense of failure. Paultin tells her he's looking for a new group. Miranda points out that she lost  her group, too.

In the mazes, Strix spots Ubtao's talisman hooked on a tree and takes it. She looks at the maze inscribed on it and notes that there is no exit.

Strix remembers that Ubtai will grant favor to the one who can find their path through his maze. She traces her finger through the maze and gets a number of splinters. She tries to use her tongue to find her way through the maze.I can't imagine how painful that must be!

The air in front of her rips open... it's a gash in the fabric of the realm. She sticks her head in. She sees Diath. He runs right past her (Jared rolled a one on his perception check to notice her).Jared attacks Ras Nsi.

In the tomb, Wumba slips out of Evelyn's grasp. He tries to reason with her. Evelyn makes him flinch and he poops his pants a little bit.

He tells her, "I'm the only people you got.." and he dabs.

There are pipes in here. Something is crawling through them. It's another Wumba..?! Ross controls both of them. A hashtag is born: #Dab4Dendar.

Evelyn tries to stop Wumba from hitting a button. She hits him for 14 damage. He presses a button.

Evelyn hits the blue button. Everyone in the party suddenly hears a sound like a PA system coming on. A third Wumba pops out.

Paultin agrees to sneak back into the yuan-ti lair using pass without a trace. Paultin and Miranda go down by the water, near the door that enters the yuan-ti lair. There's a giant serpentine creature in the water. Paultin heard it but can't see it. Here's a second head.. third.. fourth.. it's a hydra!

Paultin aggressively turns on the sun sword like Kylo Ren. a five-headed! He's going to fight it!

Chris loses his connection and Jared quickly takes over as DM, dispensing 80 potions of healing. Chris is back.

It's Ras Nsi's turn. Ras slices into Diath and drops him, but Diath is death-warded. He has one hit point. Ras Nsi slices into him again! He's dying. Ras constricts Strix.

The Wumbas form a battlestack. OK, that's pretty good. The stack is one foot taller than Evelyn. The Wumbas offer to help with the buttons and levers. All three Wumbas spit on Evelyn. Guh.

Wumba throws anpther wounded Wumba at her.

Miranda goes in to the dungeon and she can hear Strix screaming.

Strix misty steps away from the grasp of Ras Nsi and she drops a fireball on him. She kills him! His sword clatters to the ground.

Chris almost skipped her turn, but the chat set things straight. That was pretty big right there.

Evelyn converts one of the Wumbas to Lathander?!!? Hilarious. Evelyn tells Lathander that "Even the lowest of us are blessed by your holy light." Wumba is offended.

Chris's dog Milo appears on camera! Rare.

Evelyn pulls the lever.. the floor opens up. She and the Wumbas fall into the room where Strix and Diath are. No more Wumbas. And here comes Miranda and Paultin.

Paultin's down. Miranda heals her. She quickly picks up Ras Nsi's sword.

Miranda is sad.. her firends are dead. Evelyn walks over to Strix.

Evelyn initiates a group hug and includes Miranda.

Strix asks Diath if he's an angel.

Make perception checks... Miranda rolls a 27.

They hear ticking! The egg bomb!!!

That's where we stop.


Great episode! It was a surreal half-dream episode, but very cool. Chris actually split the entire party and made it work! Pretty awesome.

We talked about this episode on Waffle Talk with Anna Prosser Robinson! Was epic:

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Thoughts on Running the Tomb of Annihilation

Poor WebDM Jim!

I've been running a ton of D&D on youtube and twitch! Here's my rough schedule:

Tuesdays 9 - 11 PM EST: Waffle Talk! Discussing the newest episode of Dice, Camera, Action.

Thursdays 7 - 9 PM EST D&D, usually the Mezro group.

Saturdays: 6:30 - 8:30 PM EST Either the main tomb of annihilation group or the lizard king group.

Some Sundays 6:30 - 8:30 PM EST: The adventurers league group. That's DMs Guild Adept Lysa Chen, the WebDM fellers, and RPG author Craig Campbell.

Running a D&D "Shared Universe"

It is really great to get to run games that you, the reader, can check out. Back in 2008-2015, I was running 2-3 games per week at a game store. Sometimes I'd have characters from the different groups "cross over", but since I was the only 'audience', nobody cared but me!

I actually had seven level 30 heroes from three different 4e campaigns team up and go through a conversion of the Expedition to the Demonweb Pits. For me, it was like seeing Batman meet Spiderman. For them, it was just D&D with new people.

I hope that, now, someone out there can feel the same thrill that I do when this kind of thing happens.

Running the First Half of ToA

For me, running the Tomb of Annihilation has been filled with a "let's hurry up and get to the actual tomb" feeling. That jungle section will KILL your campaign if you don't keep it light and snappy. I think any sandbox/long journey section in these 5e adventures has that particular pitfall.

Exploring the city of Omu was better. The trickster god shrines didn't come off as well as I'd have liked. I didn't feel like I was able to wrap my head around most of them, except for the Unkh shrine.

The King of Feathers
I am very picky when it comes to using monsters. I'm not a fan of most of the creatures in the city - kobolds, yuan-ti, grung and vegepygmies. I tried not to use them unless it was necessary.

Instead, I focused on the unique t. rex known as the King of Feathers.

I feel like I kind of blew it with that monster. I set it up so that the King of Feathers ate a dude who had a puzzle cube. The group would have to steal the cube from the King's ruined amphitheater while the dinosaur slept!

Pretty interesting, right?

Well, I didn't put enough thought into it. This whole scenario boiled down to two stealth checks. The stealthy character rolled two successes. Puzzle cube stolen, King still asleep. Fart.

When planning an encounter, I think it's always a good idea for a DM to think, "what if they succeed on every roll?"

That's tough, because you don't want to punish the group for succeeding, but you also don't want an anticlimax. Something exciting should come out of it, right?

In this instance, I think I should have foreshadowed a bunch of annoying flying monkeys or an oncoming storm. So then, when the character puts their hands on the puzzle cube and begins to creep away, the monkeys do something loud or lightning strikes - either way, this wakes up the King. Run!

Using the Tomb Maps

I really love running the actual tomb. If you are running this online, you really should consider dropping the $25 to get the tomb maps by Mike Schley. They enhance my online games big time. Each dungeon level is $2 on its own.

You can get some of those maps for free from Dragon+! They might not be there forever, so you should nab them as soon as you can.

Actually Running the Tomb

I absolutely love running this dungeon. As a DM, it is so thrilling to watch the heroes go into a death trap. Will they die? Will they figure it out? Will they do something you never thought of (yes, they will)?

That said, it's so tough to keep everything in your mind at once. Here are things that feel very easy to forget.

The Ceilings are Low: Check out page 126. Ceilings are twelve feet high! The heroes won't be flying out of the reach of earthbound villains.

Know Room 57: You must remember that list of altered spells on page 129! Most of them transport you to room 57 (page 168). I had a single character get sucked into room 57 and the poor guy got murdered by the beast in there. Remember.. this room is full of corpses 6 feet deep and the ceiling is only 12 feet high total, so it's quite cramped in there! Also.. the corpses are difficult terrain. That might be important.

Don't Forget the Grate: In area 5 on level 1, there's an intersection with a lot of stuff in it. One thing that I feel like I didn't portray well enough is the grate in the floor that leads to the underground waterway. It's something the group would definitely be aware of - rushing water noise and the danger of stepping on it. Those who go through that grate can find one really cool room, and I feel like I robbed my players of that experience (though ultimately, I think they'd be happy to skip it).

BE DETACHED: Thank the sweet Lord that I've learned this over the years. When running a trappy dungeon like this, you might find yourself being too excited to have a trap go off. If a group circumvents that trap, you may feel the urge to force them into the trap anyway, just because you think the trap is cool and you really, really want to have it go off.

Don't do it! Follow this credo: "Let the dice fall where they may." My cautious players melted that statue in area 8. Hey, they were careful! They were smart. Let the dungeon be the dungeon, don't let your enjoyment of the game hinge on triggering the death traps.

Also, keep in mind that the aftermath of DM blood lust isn't pretty. On some level, the players can sense when you're going at them hard and resentment can build.

On the flip side, if you're fair and they overcome an obstacle through clever play, they are very happy and they enjoy the session immensely. Even though you might feel that it was a flop because there was no threat to them, they don't feel that way at all.

The Stairs: Those stairs in area 7.. they go down four levels! Each flight of stairs has a plaque or a tomb dwarf or something. It's a real pain in the nuts to run (for me, anyway).

Be ready for the group to want to get a gander at that room all the way at the bottom of the stairs (room 45, with the pit and the gargoyles). You should definitely know that room. It's not too complicated, but if you aren't expecting the group to check it out, you might stumble a bit or bring the game to a screeching halt.

Withers: Running Withers is tricky. He's got that amulet that lets him teleport away like a true villain. But he's only got 45 hit points! My Withers almost died right away.

I find myself in a quandary: The heroes have trashed his office. Where does he go? What does he do now? And.. how many other tomb guardians are in the tomb?

The book leaves it open, noting that "one or two tomb guardians should appear whenever you feel the need for combat." Where do they come from? The group trashed room 27, where the guardians are made.

Don't forget that the tomb guardians are medium-sized. For some reason, I had it in my head that they are large. They're not. The hallways in the tomb are only five feet wide, which means that large creatures can't be marching through the tomb willy nilly.

The Magnet: Running room 8 is deceptively difficult. There's a magnetic suit of armor that affects people who step into the room. How do you get the group to tell you who walks into the room without meta-game tipping them off by asking, "DO YOU GO IN THE ROOM? ALL OF YOU?!" As soon as you ask that, the players will flinch and say, "Uh... no."

The cure to this requires planning. You need to ask that question in rooms where it doesn't matter if the group steps in or not. Make a habit of asking things like: "Do you touch the door with your bare hands?", "Who's first in line?" and, "Are the rest of you right behind him, or is there space between you?". Red herrings!

Another issue with this room is the question of how much metal is enough? What counts? Everyone has a belt buckle, right? Does that drag them in? What about the studs on studded leather?

Players will naturally be inclined to declare that their belt buckles are not metal. If possible, quietly clarify that prior to entry. Just a simple comment while exploring Omu such as, "It is so quiet in the city that you are aware of the clanking of every little metal piece of your gear" goes a long way.


Despite all of my preparing, I make so many mistakes. It drives me nuts. 

Tonight, the group caught me off guard. They went all the way down to the fifth level of the tomb! This stuff was not at all fresh in my head, and now, looking back, I see that I screwed it up really bad.

Lots of little things in this area.
  • Small Dock: There's a small dock here that's just 15 feet long and 5 feet wide. I ran it as if it was a lot bigger.
  • Hungry Door: The door they come out of demands food and won't open again until it is fed. If the group feeds it anything other than a crab, it devours one of the heroes (no roll to hit or anything). I had this thing swallow an adventurer even though nobody tried to feed it anything!
  • Shark Cage: There's a shark cage. If you go underwater in it, an aboleth swims over and tries to enthrall the group. I FORGOT THE SHARK CAGE. It's right there on the map! Yargh.
  • Aboleth Limits: If a fight breaks out, the aboleth does NOT get lair actions. I gave it lair actions!
  • Magic Boats: There's two rowboats. Each has a magic, beneficial effect if you get in it. I forgot this, too.
They Killed It?! The group fought the aboleth, and they actually killed it! It was a very lethal battle, but the group rolled really well. They repeatedly made their saves against the "enslave" power.

In this situation, I'd tend to think that I screwed up the aboleth fight. Four 7th level heroes killed an aboleth? Seems fishy (sorry, couldn't resist).

Looking back, I feel like I ran it fairly competently. I probably should have had it mess with the environment more, like coming up underwater and smashing through the dock from beneath.

The fact that I misrepresented the size of the dock was key. Only three heroes should have been able to stand on it! That changes the entire encounter.

But even then, two members of the group went in the water right away. This group is very water-friendly.

I just wanted to update you. The tomb is really fun! You should definitely check it out if you haven't already, even just to pull out some cool encounters.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Dice, Camera, Action Episode 78 - Tomb of Annihilation

Episode 78 Mortal Coils
This is a fantastic episode! You should watch it before you read this.

Someone sent Anna a doll that utters Evelyn quotes. Amazing!

 The Party

(Rachel Seeley) Miranda- Elf Druid
(Anna) Evelyn - Human Paladin of Lathander
(ProJared) Diath - Human Rogue
(Holly) Strix - Tiefling Sorcerer
(Nathan) Paultin - Human Bard

Last time, the heroes befriended Miranda, who commands an army of vegepygmies. A baby triceratops named "18" is following the group around. The heroes entered the yuan-ti dungeon. Ras Nsi appeared on a teleportation circle. There's a pool of coagulating blood.

Miranda is on the balcony facing Ras Nsi, the villainous yuan-ti leader. Miranda casts thunderwave! She knocks him back into the circle. Smart! Flash of light and he disappears.

Miranda sees that the blood in the pool is assuming a form. It's the face of a woman.Ummm....

Strix is hit by a ton of arrows and falls into the blood basin. The face in the blood opens its mouth. The face has... BLADES! What!? The Lady of Pain!? In real life, Holly goes and gets some alcohol.

The Lady of Pain

Paultin makes a mighty leap and thunderwaves a big pile of yuan-ti, sending them scattering in all directions.

Simon is right next to the gong. Will he gong it?! Nate wants to hit that gong very badly and Chris keeps dangling it in front of him.

The vegepygmies, Miranda's allies, rush into the room and throw themselves on the yuan-ti, stabbing them with spears.

Diath disengages his foes and backflips over to the blood pool. He is going to try to reach in and pull Strix out. Eep... he's getting pulled in. There he goes!

Miranda tries to follow, but the portal is gone.

Then.. the giant, stone Dendar statue comes to life! Uh oh. It is going after Evelyn.

Strix is in "effluvium". What a fantastic word. No.. it's not effluvium. It's quicksand! She's pulled out by a short, portly dark-skinned man with puffy cheeks and a wreath on his head. this sounds exactly like an old DiTerlizzi drawing of a Nightshade from the 2e Monstrous Compendium annual 1.
Strix is able to confirm that she's still in the jungle of Chult. There's three other creatures here. Toy Evelyn, toy Diath, toy Paultin. What the?!

This strange guy says that he's... Ubtao?! Ubtao is the deity that abandoned Chult. He's the Dinosaur Father! The trickster gods took over once he left. This guy says he used to own a shop in Sigil...?

The players hold up their creepy dolls that they have in real life. Those things are awesome.

Evelyn ends up inside the serpent statue! What's in there? A magical conduit! Evelyn tumbles through it and ends up sitting in a hall.

Three people are lying nearby - Strix, Diath and Paultin. Three little lights come up out of their bodies and are drawn away. They're all dead. What?!!?

Evelyn feels like she only has a little bit of time to save them. Wow. She's in the tomb of annihilation! Alone! Sounds like Area 7 (page 134 of ToA).

Evelyn has.. the EGG! The explosive egg! She flies down, looking for the Soulmonger. Ohh man, is she going to blow it up?!

Paultin is alone in the temple, among the battling yuan-ti and the vegepygmies. He shrugs. He uses bigby's ice hand rings the gong. That is hilarious. The group dies laughing.

A portcullis drops. Miranda and Paultin are trapped in there with all of the yuan ti.

Paultin hears a weird hissing noise calling to him. Paultin says it's a good day to die.

Waffles is trying to smash through the bars. The players are getting emotional now.

Diath falls somewhere cold and wet. He's lying in snow. There's torn off wings.. his wings! Diath's an Aasimar? That's been a fan theory that apparently has leg to it!

Snow is falling. He's in Waterdeep. Someone is in an alley. It's a man wearing a cloak. The man's eyes glow cold winter blue. It might be Strahd.. but Strahd's eyes glow red.

Diath approaches someone wearing Strix's cloak. It's... cranium rats wearing Strix's cloak. Their brains pulse. They say "We are many, you are one." This is Many as One, an entity described in the 2e Faces of Sigil supplement (Chris has said that this is his favorite Planescape product).

Diath starts demanding to know where Strix is. Jared is awesome in doing so.

Back in the temple, Miranda casts hidden pathways to send Paultin to the other side of the gate. No wait.. he won't go through. Simon's over by the gong.

Miranda spots Typho, a halfling ally of hers. He sneaks into the room. He's trying not to be seen. His eyes are serpentine. He's become a yuan ti!The yuan-ti can turn people into yuan-ti, it's a whole thing.

Typho is coming to kill Paultin.

In the maze, Ubtao tells Strix that all of her experiences are fake. She's been here the whole time. Strix remembers that the first time he saw the Ubtao statue was on the bridge.

Paultin's doll is drinking.

Strix asks Ubtao who the skizzixes are. Humans who made a pact with devils who transformed themselves into tiefling. Ummm. OK. We learn a lot. The Skizzixes are a clan linked to the devils. The Lorcatha clan is linked to angels. They were at war.

Some sort of deal kept the two families in some kind of cease fire/non-interference pact. One of the terms of this pact is that members of the two clans can't have anything to do with each other or the multiverse might be destroyed!

Also, the Lorcatha had to give up their souls... all except one. Strix is going to poop on the floor.

So..! You see where we're going here?! Diath is a.. maybe, THE... Lorcatha. Strix is a Skizzix. Their pairing could potentially destroy the entire multiverse.

In the tomb, Evelyn swoops down. She flies into the cogs (page 169 of ToA). Area 58.. Area 59.. Area 61. This room is complicated and she's all alone. There's a panel and some diagrams. Here's the handout image that portrays this room:

Miranda has a spell that can get Paultin to safety, but he refuses to leave without Simon. Paultin runs over to Simon on the gong ledge and casts dimension door.

Back in "Waterdeep", Diath starts to wander around. The blue-eyed guy calls out to him. "We're friends! Aren't we?"

Chris says that Paultin rules this Waterdeep?

A door in the building next to him opens. There's a woman there. She whispers, "come with me." She has dark skin. She says she can save his friends. Some snakes slither out of the building

She tells Diath that he and his friends are trapped in Dendar's nightmare. Aha! Dendar's prison. Dendar the Night Serpent is a serpent goddess who is trapped in some kind of prison. The yuan-ti are trying to figure out a way to break her out. If she does so, she's going to eat the sun.

This yuan-ti woman is wearing a golden bracelet. She has long, black fingernails. The lower half of her body is serpentine. It's Fenthaza! An NPC from chapter 4 of Tomb of Annihilation.

She tells Diath that he can replace Ras Nsi. "Command us." She tells Diath that he is special because of his "ancient soul."

That's where we stop.


Fantastic episode! Maybe the best one of all of them!

We were fortunate enough to get to talk with Holly on Waffle Talk right after this episode ended. It's right here: