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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Tomb of Annihilation 11 - Whirling Fury

You can watch this session on Youtube here.


Annalisse couldn't make it to this session, so I reached out and was able to get Lysa Chen to jump in as a guest star. Lysa is one of the Guild Adepts. She's the one who made the bath house encounter (from Tomb Episode 5) that I like so much, and she also is the co-author of Ruins of Hisari.

Lysa also played in a special dinosaur race show that will be on youtube soon. That one was epic!

I declared that Val and Hoppy the froghemoth vanished in a cloud of shadow. She and I had worked out a fun idea that I hope to link to her character's storyline.

The Party

(Ryan) Mistletoe - Human Druid
(Garrett) Ramrod - Goliath Barbarian
(Lysa) Humility - Yuan-ti Bard
(Joe) Zavagor - Half-orc Warlock

Humility

The jungle section of Tomb is hard to pace. It's so easy to let it drag. If it feels like progress isn't being made, or if the group gets bogged down doing something less than thrilling, your campaign can die.

I've been tip-toeing around the jungle with this group, trying to give them the coolest stuff I can find. I also want to use the jungle journey to set up my idea that each hero has a major entity that wants to help them, giving them boons similar to what the trickster gods give.

I started this one off with the group coming upon some pterafolk attacking an aarakocra. In the adventure, this aarakocra is a prisoner of the pterafolk. His name is Nephyr. I want to use him to direct the group to Kir Sabal.

I love the NPCs in Kir Sabal, and that flight ritual will make it easy for the group to make great progress toward Omu.

Right now, my Mezro group is in Omu and they have 3 of the puzzle boxes! It's fun having all of these groups in the jungle at the same time. I am wondering if one group will get partway through the tomb and die, and then the next group will go in and make more progress.

The sound of battle attracted the heroes as well as Lysa's character, Humility. She's a yuan-ti!


The fight started off a bit too much of a bland roll-fest, but I was able to turn it around a bit when a pterafolk got its beak stuck in a tree.

The group met Humility. They were unnerved by her, but decided to let her come along for a bit.

The heroes rested in a cave I made up. This cave is linked to Gwynharwyf, a fey entity from the 3e Savage Tide adventure path.

I mean for Gwynharwyf to be Mistletoe's patron. She offered him a boon, which he immediately accepted. He now has a floating magic sword.

I'm hoping to link each member of the group to a different entity. Zavagor will be interesting. He hates his patron! He will reject her. I'm still mulling over things  can do with that.

This was a decent session. I keep forgetting to make sure that each battle should be something of a set piece. I want it to feel like an action scene rather than final fantasy tactics. Sometimes it's hard, though. If you'/re fighting in an open field, what exactly are you going to do?

I probably should have had the pterafolk flee and then conduct hit and run attacks throughout the day. I get so antsy about getting stuff done that I neglect to think from the point of view of the bad guys.

Planescape - Blood War XXVIII. Theran's Soul

You can check out the podcast version of this session right here.




Recordings: I have recordings of hundreds of D&D sessions stretching back to 2008. I have recordings of many of these Planescape sessions. I can't really post them as they are full of real life conversations and it would be a huge hassle. I am thinking of cutting out good parts and putting them into collections, though.

Unity of Rings: Theran had actually died in the last session. I had to think for a while about what happens when the living embodiment of a law of the multiverse dies. Unity of Rings is the law that states: "Everything comes full circle." If Theran dies, is the circle broken? Or is his death part of the cycle somehow?

I decided to go with the death meaning the end of the multiverse as we know it. There's fun consequences to that one. Most bad guys won't want to kill him, but the Doomguard will! The Doomguard is looking forward to the end of everything. Killing Theran ushers that in!

Once the Blood War is over, I can have a field day with that story. I want to do a bunch of Sigil and faction stuff once we wrap up the Blood War.

I mapped out the final sessions of the Blood War. I am hoping to get this finished in the next three sessions, complete with a final battle against Lamashtu. I have plenty of ideas and I think it will wrap up quite nicely.

The Party

(Jessie) Bidam - Black-Scaled Dragonborn Fighter
(George) Thrul Ravenscroft - Albino Dwarf Fighter

Lamashtu

George had made his new character for the next campaign, which will be a Spelljammer/Rod of Seven Parts thing. I thought it would be fun to introduce the character (named Thrul Ravenscroft) now and use him here and there.

We used Xanathar's to roll up his backstory, which was hilariously horrible:
  • Thrul was a dumpster baby
  • His mom was tortured to death
  • His siblings were killed by monsters (spyder fiends searching for the Rod of Seven Parts).
  • He was forced to be a pirate.
  • He ended up a slave.

Bidam bought slave Thrul and boom, he's in the campaign.

Bidam found out that Ygorl, one of the Slaad Lords, had Theran's soul. This is because Theran was technically a golden slaad when he died.

The heroes visited the ruler of the earth genies to get some info, and then made their way to Limbo. They brought their new friend, Goldforge the golden dragon, to use as a mount.

While flying through Limbo, the group came upon a chaos pinwheel. If you mess with it, it deals out random effects. Thrul touched it, and gained a sinister ally that only he could see. The entity told Theran that he'd been trapped in Limbo for ages, and now he was free, but bound to Theran.


Ygorl, Lord of Entropy
The group got to one of Ygorl's repositories. It was guarded by a death slaad riding a dragon. Bidam fought the bad guys while Thrul busted in to the repository. I rolled out a bunch of Xanathar's traps to overcome, which he did.

Bidam used the mutability aspect of Limbo to make a big water phallus and beat the bad guys with it.

The group got the soul, returned to the ruler of the earth genies, and he offered to grant them a wish. Bidam carefully worded his wish, which was for Theran to be brought back to life. We stopped there.

Character Death: On the one hand, it feels a bit cheap to bring Theran back so easily. What meaning does death have in D&D when there's no truly major hurdles to resurrecting someone?

In this case, I let it be easy because Theran's death means the death of everything. The entire multiverse would be scrambling to bring him back, right?

The True Danger: I guess the real threat of this campaign isn't the death of the heroes, it's the death of their NPC friends. On top of that, the threat of simply failing to achieve their goals would have disastrous effects. If Iggwilv can, she will ruin the group utterly.

I think that the big threat that they are avoiding is that they could end up trapped in the Wells of Darkness for all eternity! They have about 64 days to capture a major entity in their iron flask. If they fail, they really are doomed.

It could actually be interesting for that to happen. In future campaigns, other heroes could visit them and get advice. Bidam and Theran know a lot. Also, if they're in the Wells of Darkness, they won't die and thus the multiverse will be stable.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Planescape - Blood War XXVII. Baphomet's Revenge


I finally posted a session as a podcast. I've been recording these since the beginning.


The Party

(Jessie) Bidam - Black-Scaled Dragonborn Fighter
(George) Theran - Golden Slaad Wizard

Last time, the group helped out the lobster-woman-goddess Blibdoolpoolp in exchange for aid in changing Nocticula's truename.

Nocticula is a demon lord who was under the control of Iggwilv. Changing the truename means that Nocticula is free.

Xanathar's Experiment: I had just gotten Xanathar's Guide to Everything.. I had the group go to a charity auction and play 3-dragon ante with other Sigil "celebrities" (NPCs from Faces of Sigil).

Basically, I wanted to mess with the gambling rules in Xanathar's. For gambling, there's a series of checks to bluff, play your hand, that kind of thing. It worked fine! Better than anything I'd ever come up with.

It turns out the money went to the orphanage that Eo Kaplan the Michael Jackson NPC was building in the mansion that the group owns.


Harpies: Then the group met with their friend, Uralinda, who is right on the precipice of becoming a demon lord. She was able to break up with her demon lord boyfriend, Pazuzu, by not bathing or brushing her teeth for weeks.

The heroes had obtained a big pile of soul larvae. Once Uralinda devoured them, she had the power to become a full-fledged demon lord.

I had been trying to figure out how to differentiate her from Ardat, the official demon lord of harpies. I love the tropical harpies from Jungle Treks, so I decided to make her Queen of the tropical harpies!

Making the Same Mistake Over and Over: The group went on a little side quest to free some tropical harpies from the control of a giant. It took too long and in the end felt like I probably wasted time with it.

Sometimes when preparing, I get a hair up my butt to include an idea like this.It's almost always a mistake.

In around 2012, I decided to run the Temple of Elemental Evil. The group should be about 5-6th level before they go in.

I could have had the group just make 6th level characters, an start them off right at the entrance. I didn't. I spent a lot of time pulling out old classic dungeons and had the group go through them so they could start at level 1 and earn their way up.

That was a huge mistake. Those sessions dragged the whole thing down. I'm running the temple of elemental evil, but the first 7 sessions was weird BS that was barely linked to the main story.

I still have trouble side-stepping these kind of things, mostly because I think either it will go real quick and make things feel more "earned", or I think it will lead to funny stuff, but it doesn't.

I say that, when in doubt, just keep it simple.


Baphomet Again: Then the group decided to fulfill an old agreement with Baphomet, demon lord of Minotaurs. Baphomet wanted to be allies with her.

Nocticula agreed to go meet him. The group forgot that Nocticula's whole gimmick is that she assassinates other demon lords.

They go to Baphomet's maze. Their buddy Bovina leads them through the maze. Nocticula meets with Baphomet and immediately attacks! Baphomet is badly wounded. The battle causes the tower they're fighting in to crumble.

The heroes had to fight a nightmare/minotaur. Bidam ultimately shot lasers through the poor guy's scrotum.

Whoops, Theran's Dead: I had set up the ending of this where the entire tower collapses. The group will need to jump out a window to escape.

You can't teleport out of the maze due to magical restrictions. I figured that since the group is 14th level, they'd have a million ways to handle this.

Nope! Theran failed his DEX check. The tower collapsed on him. No way he could survive! Theran legit died.

I didn't expect that! I stopped the session there to give myself time to figure out what to do next.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Dice, Camera, Action: Episode 72 - Tomb of Annihilation

Episode 72: The Star Goddess

Last episode was really good, and so was this one. I'll have some spoilers at the bottom, so beware!

The Party

(Anna) Evelyn - Human Paladin of Lathander
(ProJared) Diath - Human Rogue
(Holly) Strix - Tiefling Sorcerer
(Nathan) Paultin - Human Bard

The waffles have spent 3 days in the wilderness. one night, Diath notices that Strix is gone.

He heads into the jungle and spots greenish witchfire in the bushes. It's Strix. Her staff is spinning in the air. She's trying to turn it into other things. Diath watches, remaining hidden.

Each form the staff takes matches one of the runes on her staff. The forms include:
  • Frying Pan 
  • Fishing pole
  • Lantern
  • Cauldron
  • Feather quill that writes in the air
  • Cuddly owlbear doll
Diath creeps back into the waffle hut.

We learn that Paultin sleeps with Simon and the hand. Chris speculates that maybe the hand does other things for Paultin. The players are aghast.

They travel for 6 more days. The group (except for Evelyn) loses more hit points due to the death curse.

The group enters a frozen section of forest. There's an icy ship in the treetops above them. It apparently fell from the sky. They see some letters on the ship: "AR GO."

The group makes their way up with flying powers and a dimension door spell for poor earthbound Diath. On board, they see a wizard who was killed/frozen by the ice and snow.

Uh oh. The waffle crew is attacked by a sabretooth tiger made of ice! Does somebody else have the ring of winter? The heroes are hit with a blast of cold energy. Diath and Evelyn take 35 points of cold damage, the others take half.

Artus Cimber

Diath chucks a dagger at the tiger... natural 20! Then he has to make a Dex check and rolls a 1. Due to the icy deck, he falls off the side of the ship. Wait.. he grabs onto some vines at the last second.

While dangling, he sees more of the ship's name. "Star Go..."

Strix fireballs the ice tiger. It's vulnerable to fire and takes quite a bit o' damage.

A giant hand of ice hovers over Evelyn and begins crushing her. She takes 13 damage.

Strix looks around to find the person with the ring of winter. Rolls a 20! She spots Artus Cimber in the distance. His eyes are glowing blue. The group correctly guesses that he has succumbed to the evil of the ring.

Artus goes: "ICE to see you, Strix." The group can't handle this premium-quality dad joke at all.

Evelyn tries to escape the hand by igniting the fiery heart of Spinelli. Evelyn acts out the moment because she is into it and thus, it is awesome.

Anna sticks her neck out and pushes the boundary just enough to create space for the other players to feel more comfortable in their roleplaying. This is one of the reasons I think she is the most unselfish and pure D&D player out there.

Paultin is encased in ice. He's frozen with middle fingers up.

Diath maneuvers as the tiger makes a mighty leap. It misses and shatters into pieces.

Strix dispels the ice hand.

Artus casts dimension door and escapes.

The group takes a breath and checks out the wreckage of the ship. One dead person on the ship is holding a frozen key. There's also a chest below decks. Strix sees that the chest has a glyph of warding on it.

Paultin casts locate creature to try to track Artus Cimber. Man! Well done! That's a spell I don't see taken, let alone used very much. Artus is on a tree branch nearby. He's about to snipe them with a longbow.

Diath grabs the key and opens the chest. In it is a black egg with a window in it. There's another key hole. There is some kind of clock in it.

Evelyn flies up and beats up Artus. Strix devastates him with a fireball. Strix yells for Evelyn to cut his hand off. Do it!

Paultin throws the severed hand at Artus. That is such an awesome idea. It latches on to the face of Artus. Artus falls out of the tree and into the ship. He crashes through the deck and he lands near Diath, who is still ogling the chest.

Artus is not moving. Paultin's undead severed hand is trying to pry the ring of winter free. Umm.. do not let that hand put on the ring!

Evelyn lands next to Artus. He mutters something about Alisanda, and dies. Evelyn tries to cast revivify.. nope! His soul is now in the Soulmonger. Yikes.

The hand puts the ring on... ohhh no. Ah.. the hand gives Paultin the ring. Paultin is trying to decide if he should put it on.

Strix examines the "bomb" in the chest. The energy inside it is similar to that of a magic missile. A force bomb?

Paultin puts on the ring of winter!

Next week.. Chris won't be there but there will still be a show..? Waffle crew backstory episode! That sounds great. It will be fun to see the players running around unchecked by the DM.

Overall

I think that the last episode AND this one are two of the best episodes of the whole show so far. I love it when Nate busts out a problem-solver out of nowhere.

SPOILER SIREN

OK. The Wreck of the Star Goddess is on page 85 of Tomb of Annihilation. In the book, the crew is alive and there's an encounter with ghouls. There's no treasure, either.


This egg might be the Navel of the Moon. Check out page 168. There's an egg-shaped egg in a certain container (trying to avoid too many spoilers, here). On page 128, it says that it's a polished, egg-shaped stone  that the wielder can use to "always find the way home to his or her loved ones."

On page 189 it says: "Whether the stone has its purported power to reunite families is up to you."

The thing is that Chris said it is imbued with force energy, which is what magic missiles and walls of force (obviously) are made of. That doesn't really fit, right? I'm probably missing something obvious.

It is possible that Chris has modified the Navel so that it can be used as a device for Diath and Strix to learn more about their past. Maybe the group was meant to interact with the NPCs more in Sigil ? Is there information that the NPCs didn't get to impart that will influence adventures down the line?

The ring of winter is on page 297.  It's insanely powerful! Paultin will probably struggle with this thing, but if he can keep it together, he'll be able to do awesome stuff, such as:
  • Turn people to ice.
  • Create ice creatures.
  • Lower the temperature of a large area.
  • Also.. he won't age!

Pretty cool, right? ...cool? Is this thing on? I think that Paultin's really going to ring in the new year. Anyone?

Great show!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Dungeons & Dragons - A Guide to Gnolls


Today we're going to take a look at a classic D&D monster that all of us have run into at least once. This is a guide to the rampaging hyena-humanoids known as gnolls. I tried to avoid overlapping info with my guide to Yeenoghu, who is a gnoll demon lord.

I've always liked gnolls. They're a bit scary, they look cool, and they're a neat alternative to orcs and goblins. I haven't really seen them used in interesting ways, though. I decided to do some digging and see what ideas were out there.

Once I went through all the official D&D books I could find, I learned that the early edition gnolls are pretty flat, but that there was an explosion of ideas from 3rd edition all the way to 5e's Volo's Guide to Monsters.

The Essential Information

By the end of the process, I saw how gnolls could be used a a cool, worthy adversary for low to mid-level heroes. Check it out:
  • They travel in packs, destroying settlements.
  • Through a ritual, hyenas who eat slain humanoids can become gnolls. That means that the gnoll pack can grow with each successful siege.
  • The demon Yeenoghu is very hands-on, guiding his packs with omens and symbols.
  • Yeenoghu will sometimes send a demon to aid or guide them.
  • In early editions, gnolls took slaves. In later editions, not so much.
  • There are a TON of really cool variant gnolls. My favorite are the Abyssal Slaughter-Lords. They have really long legs and arms and make a pack look very intimidating.


Tribe: You could use the info in here to make your own gnoll tribe. Here's the tribe I would make:
  • Hordes of Witherlings: Undead gnolls who act as the first wave in an assault.
  • Disease: The witherlings carry a disease known as the slavering canker.
  • Gorgers: The tribe has a number of gnoll gorgers, who the other gnolls are terrified of. The gorgers eat other gnolls to gain incredible strength. The devoured gnolls become witherlings. 
  • Far Fangs: The tribe's archers are known as "Far Fangs". Their "hungry arrows" cause bleeding wounds.
  • Leapers: Many of the gnolls are Havoc Gnoll Far-Leapers, gnolls with the ability to jump great distances.
  • Maw Demon: The tribe has a few maw demons as pets. These maw demons are treated with reverence, as anything they eat goes straight into Yeenoghu's gullet.
  • Refnara-Worshipers: I think it would be cool to have a small contingent of gnolls who worship the gnoll goddess Refnara and are put off by the actions of the Yeenoghu fanatics.
  • Chosen: The assistant to the tribe's leader is a Chosen of Yeenoghu clad in a rotting hooded robe, who has the ability to summon hyena spirits.
  • Cudgel: The tribe is led by a Fang of Yeenoghu, who wields a magic cudgel of bloody teeth. I'd probably mix in traits from the 4e Demon-Eye Gnoll, too.
AD&D 1st Edition Monster Manual

Here we get the baseline for gnolls. The details:
  • Gnolls have greenish-gray skin and brown fur. Their eyes are dull black and their long nails are amber-colored. They were piecemeal armor made from horn, metal and leather. Their garments are often shabby, moth-eaten and dingy. 
  • They are Lawful Evil.
  • Gnolls are over 7 feet tall.
  • They ravel in rapacious bands, the largest gnolls dominating the rest.
  • They have a so-called king who is powerful, but his authority extends only as far as his reach. In later editions, it is said that the females rule.
  • Chieftains runs bands of 100.
  • 85% of the time, gnolls are subterranean. In other cases, they live in abandoned villages.
  • They sometime have 1-3 trolls guarding their homes place. Trolls and gnolls get along fairly well (their names rhyme, after all).
  • Gnoll packs have 4-16 hyenas or 2-12 hyenadons as pets and guards. 
  • They always have captives for food or slave labor (1 per 10 gnolls, minimum).
  • Life expectancy is about 35 years, on average.
Keep on the Borderlands

In this classic adventure, the heroes can explore many different caves. Each cave is home to a different type of D&D monster.
  • There is a gnoll cave, and we learn a little bit:
  • Gnolls like to surprise and bewilder their enemies. They are bloodthirsty creatures and, once alerted to intruders, are likely to track down anyone who retreats from their cave.
  • The gnoll pack lord in this adventure has 4 mates.
AD&D 2nd Edition Monstrous Manual

Check out that DiTerlizzi gnoll! Pretty awesome. For me, that's the definitive gnoll art. We learn some new things about gnolls in 2e:
  • They try to defeat opponents by sheer numbers.
  • They rule by strength, fear and intimidation.
  • They dislike goblins, kobold, giants, humans, demi-humans and manual labor.
  • Gnolls eat warm-blooded creatures, they like the ones that scream.
  • Packs hunt until an area is ruined, and then move on.
Flind: Flinds are special, more powerful gnolls:
  • Flinds are a little shorter, broader, and more muscular than a gnoll.
  • Dirty brown and red fur. Their ears are ronded.
  • Weapon: Flind-bar: A pair of chain-linked iron bars spun at great peed. Can use it to disarm opponents. NUN CHUCKS
  • Gnolls regard flinds with reverence. They have at least a 13 intelligence and an 18 charisma.
Dungeon Magazine 48 - To Bite the Moon


Now we get into the good stuff. This adventure is full of fun ideas. It needs a bit of reworking, but you could do a lot of fun things with it.

The heroes go on a quest retrieve a ring of three wishes and a luck blade (which also grants wishes!). Gnolls stole them, but don't know what they are.

The adventurers are meant to creep through the gnoll lair while 71 gnolls sleep. The gnoll wearing the ring of wishes spots them and is disappointed that they're not enemy gnolls. She actually says aloud, "I wish they were gnolls from another tribe." The wish is granted and the heroes promptly become gnolls!

Useable Gnoll Ideas:
  • Kurgahr: A flind gnoll who leads the tribe. He is a cleric of Refnara, a gnoll goddess of fear.
  • Argor: Kurgahr's mate. She's wearing the ring of three wishes.
  • Gnoll tradition insists on an exchange of gifts whenever members from different tribes meet. You are supposed to say, "I welcome you, tooth brother (or sister)."
  • A spirit naga is impersonating the gnoll deity Refnara, and is using the tribe for her own selfish purposes.
Refnara, Gnoll Goddess: Refnara is apparently a real gnoll goddess!
  • She regularly tests her subjects by exposing them to frightening situations. 
  • During the full moon, Refnara expects a sacrifice or offering, so that she will bite pieces out of the moon and return darkness to the night sky. 
  • Gnolls are terrified of the full moon.
Gnoll Game: Blindfold a gnoll, slap and kick the gnoll while barking furiously. Whoever the blindfolded gnoll can wrestle to the ground is the next victim.

Tribal Dancing: Some gnolls bang on the floor with bones, others dance via hopping.

Complete Book of Humanoids

This book lets you make gnoll characters. Not too much new stuff. Gnolls who become adventurers often exhibit evil tendencies. It is hard for them to break their taste for intelligent creatures. Seems like a hard character to fit into a party without problems.

They have the ability to train hyenadons to use a mount.

D&D 3rd Edition

Here;s where the gnolls start to come together. It seems like that Dungeon Magazine adventure flew under the radar. I don't know if Refnara is mentioned in any other product. 3e gnolls:
  • Gnolls are nocturnal carnivores.
  • They think with their stomachs.
  • Gnoll alliances often fall apart when they get hungry.
  • 7 1/2 feet tall, weigh 300 pounds.
  • Gnolls revere the phases of the moon, but most tribes have no true clerics.
  • Their special patron is the demon lord Yeenoghu, who looks like a gaunt gnoll. Most gnolls serve and revere Yeenoghu rather than worship him as a deity.
Monster Manual 3
 

Gnoll, Flind: Flinds are clever tacticians who serve as leaders or elite hunters. Flinds have no great love for their lesser cousins.

Monster Manual 4

Tons and tons of information in this one.
  • Gnolls like to burn civilized settlements. Yeenoghu approves of their atrocities.
  • Female gnolls give birth to two to four pups about six months after conception.
  • Gnolls reach adolescence in about two years.
  • Matriarchal society. Gnoll females are larger and stronger than males. 
  • The dominant female takes the roomiest, most desirable quarters.
  • The alpha female marks her territory with a clan sigil drawn in blood. This blood comes from a slain underling.
  • Slaves endure constant malnourishment and regular beatings.
  • Worship of Yeenoghu is tied closely to the moon.
  • Yeenoghu represents the "ultimate mate".
  • Sacrifices are performed on the new moon. They kill captives and howl for Yeenoghu's favor.
  • Yeenoghu will sometimes send a demon to a tribe who will often take command and produce half-fiends.
  • The Great Geode: A gnoll lair described as an enormous bubble within a range of ancient hills. Completely encrusted with amethysts of little value.
  • Gashtooth: Tribe's leader.
There are new types of gnolls described in this book.

Gnoll Slave-Taker: These low-ranking gnolls travel in groups accompanied by hyenas. They use nets to capture slaves. They think of slaves as a living larder and replenish the supply at every opportunity.

Fiendish Cleric of Yeenoghu: These gnolls are half-demons who act as advisors to tribal leaders. They have darker fur, and their eyes smolder like red coals. They have the ability to cast up to 2nd level priest spells such as spiritual weapon, cure wounds, and cause fear.

Half-Fiend Gnoll Warlock: These are horned, hyena-like humanoid has huge membranous wings and cloven hooves.Yeenoghu is their patron. They produce fiendish offspring to buttress their positions of power.

D&D 4th Edition Monster Manual

4th Edition has tons and tons of new types of gnolls. They came up with a lot of cool ideas that you might want to check out.

4e Gnolls:
  • Decorate their armor and encampments with the bones of their victims.
  • They don't bargain and can't be bribed.
  • Slaves who show strength and savagery might be indoctrinated into the gnoll vanguard.
  • Are mortal instruments of Yeenoghu. They scour the land in his name, and fight among themselves. They participate in rituals that involve acts of depravity and self-mutilation.
Gnoll Huntmaster: Gnoll archers, longbow experts.

Gnoll Claw Fighter: Frenzied gnolls that run around the battlefield, slashing at all enemies.

Gnoll Marauder: Fight tactically with spears alongside allies.

Gnoll Demonic Scourge: Commands other gnolls.

Monster Manual 2

More new types of gnolls!

Deathpledged Gnoll: Vow to die destroying the enemies of Yeenoghu. They fight with bone claws and when they are dropped to 0 hit points, they can keep fighting for another round.

Fang of Yeenoghu: They wield cudgels of bloody teeth. They earn their place in the ranks by capturing slaves and sending them to serve Yeenoghu in the Abyss. The cudgel of bloody teeth continually oozes fresh blood and spittle. When the fang dies, the cudgel quickly rots away. The teeth are from gnolls who died fighting for Yeenoghu. When in death, they can taste the blood of their enemies.

Gnoll Gorger: Gain strength in battle by feasting on their own kind (they heal when they harm an ally). They draw strength from the blood of their own kin.

Allies: Gnolls are known to work with corruption corpses and beholder gauths.

Monster Manual 3

"Accounts from the hollow-eyed survivors of gnoll raids paint a similar picture of death and destruction."

We learn that packs of gnolls war against each other constantly. Victors sometimes enslave the losers.
The Chosen of Yeenoghu are seers and mystics of a pack.

Gnoll Skulker: Runts of the gnoll bloodline. Lurk at the edge of the fray. Very skilled at hiding and ambushing. Like to snipe from a distance and swiftly move to another location.

Gnoll War Fang: Clad in heavy armor scarred with demonic sigils, champions of Yeenoghu who issue challenges.

Chosen of Yeenoghu: Wretched figures bent with age and cloaked in moldering humanoid skins. Can summon undead hyenas!
  • Call Beyond the Grave: Summons 4 hyena spirits. Chosen takes damage when a spirit is slain.
  • Hyena spirits are bound to a tribe by dark magic, continuing to fight alongside them after death. Spectral jaws slow enemies.
  • Shoots bolts of ruination that can teleport hyena spirits around.  
Monster Vault

We get some gnoll factoids:
  • Gnolls attack communities along the borderlands without warning and slaughter without mercy.
  • Gnolls follow Yeenoghu's edicts without question.
  • They are nomadic, wandering and laying waste when they can.
  • Slaves follow behind their raiders to haul their tents and goods. Their only hope to live is to show strength and obey.
Disease: Slavering Canker:-1 to hit, you gain less from healing, you become weakened and must rest twice as long as normal.

Deathpledged Gnoll: Keeps fighting after dropping to 1 hp until the next round.

Gnoll Blood Caller: Blood Call is a psychic attack that sends creatures hurtling backward.

Fang of Yeenoghu: Wields the Cudgel of Bloody Teeth, can unleash the howl of the demon (which lets allies make an attack).

Demon-Eye Gnoll: It has an aura that can cause enemies to attack each other. Fights with a glaive.

Gnoll Far Fang: Have fanged bows that fire hungry arrows that cause ongoing damage.

Gnoll Pack Lord: Demonic Frenzy: Makes many attacks that dazes enemies. Pack cackle allows allies to shift.

Gnoll Demon Spawn: Massive brutes that do a lot of damage with their claws.

Gnoll Huntmaster: Archers

Dragon #369 - Gnolls: The Get of Yeenoghu

This article has a few new categories of gnolls. They are split between two sub-types: Beast-Born Gnolls, Havoc Gnolls, and Ruin-Touched Gnolls.

Beast-Born Gnolls: These gnolls were transformed by Yeenoghu into bestial variants.

Cackling Marauders: Their jaws hang open and crooked. With every breath, a high-pitched cackle emerges from the wretched beast's maw. They are psychotic killers driven by a burning madness. Yeenoghu expects the gnolls to drive marauders out of their ranks without slaying them, so that they may terrorize others. Their cackle causes fear. Their bite is poisonous

Abyssal Slaughter-Lord: As tall as an ogre, these gnolls have arms and legs that are repulsively long. Their whole deal is that they have reach.

Hound of Yeenoghu: These creatures look like hyenas and are used as hunting hounds. The appearance of a beast-born within a tribe is considered both a gift and a test.

Havoc Gnolls: Havoc gnolls are shorter and broader than others of their kind because they are descended from great gnoll champions. They consider themselves better than common gnolls.

Havoc Gnoll Prey-Taker: They can leap extremely far. They have nets that they use to immobilize enemies.

Havoc Gnoll Tribal Champion: They specialize in tripping foes. They like to fight the most dangerous enemies in a battle.

Ruin-Touched Gnolls: Fanatacs who subject themselves to potent rituals that grant them demonic supernatural gifts. The souls of the ruin-touched who die in battle instantly join Yeenoghu in the Abyss.

Beastcallers: These fork-tongued gnolls can summon flocks of ravens who blind enemies or vermin from beneath the earth.

Bloodwalker: They wield sickles and can teleport to areas where there is spilled blood. Bloodwalker  emit red tears, saliva and sweat. 

Slaughterfang Hyena: These creatures are the size of a small horse. Bred by gnolls to serve as mounts, they have piercings and ceremonial scars.

Dungeon Magazine #160 - Den of the Destroyer

The adventurers must go take out some gnoll mercenaries known as the "Wicked Fang" who live in an Fortress Graytone, and abandoned githzerai shrine.

In the final battle, a "Claw of Yeenoghu" reaches through the portal and attacks the group. The claw is described as a "...massive clawed hand of primordial elemental energy..." If it hits, it grabs you and does fire and necrotic damage until you escape.

Fangren: The gnoll leader. He became convinced that he was a Chosen of Yeenoghu and gathered components for a ritual that would infuse him with power. This involves opening an energy conduit to the Abyss.


Lots of new gnoll-related monsters:

Stonewalker Spirit: Yeenoghu sent this thing to help the Wicked Fang. It is a wispy entity that can turn you into a statue and then possess you! In the adventure, it possesses a statue, animates, and attacks.

Abyssal Wretch: Fangren used energy from the planar breach to transform captive humans and elves into horrific reflections of their original forms, tainted by the evil of Yeenoghu. These wretches could "inspire revulsion", hitting all around them with a psychic attack.

Disciple of Yeenoghu: Gnoll sages who collect the most dark and vile lore pertaining to Yeenoghu. They fight with sacrificial daggers and they can fire "rays of destruction" which do necrotic damage.

There's also a magic item:

Wicked Fang: A shadar kai bad guy made the gnolls a magic longsword called Wicked Fang, a jagged blade permanently stained with the blood of those it has slain. It has the power to cause bloody wounds, which acts as ongoing damage.

Dungeon Magazine #212 - Never Say Die

This adventure actually details a location from the famous White Plume Mountain Map. Dead Gnoll's Eyesocket has a hill that looks like a gnoll's head that has water trickling from its eye socket.

Gnolls have laid claim to a network of caves beneath the hill. They capture humanoids and hunt them for sport in a nearby briar maze called the Twisted Thickets.

Good gnoll flavor text: "A mangy gnoll with matted fur and milky white eyes rises to his full 7 feet of height and snarls."

There's a cool location known as "Yeenoghu's Gullet." It has a stone idol that bears an uncanny resemblance to an emaciated gnoll sitting cross-legged.

Near the idol is a pit full of bones. If people take the two gem eyes from the idol, the bones assemble into gnoll forms and attack.

Blackfang Feaster: The bite of these gnolls has poison that can slow you. They can also knock you prone and begin to devour you.

Dungeon Magazine #221 - The Battle of Emridy Meadows

This adventure is written by Chris Perkins. It appears in the final issue of Dungeon and it details a battle discussed quite a bit in the classic 1st edition Temple of Elemental Evil adventure by Gary Gygax.

This module is broken up into missions. The first mission involves dealing with a gnoll called Gnaragg the Dog King and his lair.

Gnaragg actually rides a displacer beast! He is in charge of a band of gnolls and humans who aren't getting along.

Norghu: Gnaragg's mate. She is a pack lord who rule the lair when Gnaragg is not around.

Gnaragg has a magic item:

Bitbaern's Shield: You can ue this +1 shield to sense which way is east. Also, "...the shield can lead you to places of significant history," including the final resting place of Bitbaern, who was a hero of some renown.

D&D 5th Edition - Monster Manual


5th puts it all together quite nicely.

How Gnolls Came to Be: Yeenoghu entered the Material Plane. Packs of hyena flocked to him, scavenging his kills, which transformed them into gnolls.
  • They scavenge trophies from corpses like teeth or ears.
  • Gnolls have no goodness or compassion.
Gnoll Pack Lord: These gnolls rules by might and cunning. They have piercings and they dye demonic sigils into their fur.

Fang of Yeenoghu: This version of the fang are gnolls possessed by a demonic spirit. They perform rituals and make blood offerings to Yeenoghu. A hyena who feasts on a fang's slain foe becomes a full-grown adult gnoll.

Volo's Guide to Monsters

Volo's has a big section on gnoll lore. We learn:
  • Gnolls want to turn the world into a barren, empty ruin.
  • Yeenoghu ultimately wants endless war to be waged in the world until only one champion remains. Then Yeenoghu will come to the world, slay the champion, and reign over a wasteland of rotting corpses.
  • They are driven by a communal sense of infinite hunger and endless rage.
  • When raiding, they never leave survivors. It sounds like the whole slaving angle is gone.
  • Gnolls don't care about gold or gems.
  • They speak a broken form of Abyssal.
There's a bunch of lists, including one with some fun details to add to a gnoll. My favorites:
  • Infested with maggots
  • Vestigial twin embedded in back
Becoming a Gnoll: We learn a bit more on transforming into a gnoll. A fang of yeenoghu anoints the remains of foes during a ritual. When a hyena feeds on those remains, it becomes a gnoll.

Witherlings: This is awesome. When gnolls get hungry, they eat weaker gnolls. The bones of the devoured gnolls are kept. Pack lords and flind can perform a ritual to turn them into undead witherlings.

Flinds: Flinds are rare, and they are seen as Yeenoghu's special messengers. They are.. "gifted with a keen eye for omens and an ear for Yeenoghu's whispers."

If a gnoll kills a flind, it becomes a flind!

Yeenoghu sometimes sends them demon allies: Barlguras, Dretches, Hezrous, and Manes. Also:
  • Shoosuvas: As a reward for triumphs.
  • Maw Demon: Anything a maw demon devours is teleported into Yeenoghu's gullet.
There's a whole page of details on creating war bands. My favorite part is the shared physical traits:
  • Rune branded on forehead
  • Surrounded by clouds of flies
  • "Covered with strange mushroom growths".
Links:

3e Flind from Wizards Site

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Dice, Camera, Action: Episode 71 - Tomb of Annihilation


Episode 71: Flower Power
Chris is wearing a D&D winter hat with a pom pom on it. I can't stop looking at it.

The Party

(Anna) Evelyn - Human Paladin of Lathander
(ProJared) Diath - Human Rogue
(Holly) Strix - Tiefling Sorcerer
(Nathan) Paultin - Human Bard

The waffle crew has to cross a bridge that has a brontosaurus lurking underneath it. Its neck is long enough to almost reach the bridge.

Evelyn really wants to befriend it, but the group urges her to leave it alone. They cross without incident, and a few days later they come to Orolunga.

There's a ziggurat here. Inside it is an oracle who supposedly can help the heroes on their quest. This should be fun.

There are a lot of steps to climb to get up to the top of the ziggurat. These steps have magical obstacles that must be overcome.

As the heroes climb the first set of steps, the vines covering them get thicker and thicker, stopping them from ascending further. Evelyn is flying. She loses all ability to move further up.

Paultin spots a little black creature (it's a forest spirit known as a chwinga). It is holding a purple orchid and an orange orchid. It bounds up the stairs, unimpeded by the vines.

The group does what it did and are able to make their way up the stairs. Technically, Evelyn has no sense of smell, but she is able to get up there too.

They make a crown of flowers for their owlbear, Waffles.

They try to ascend the second flight of steps. Turns to gravel. Purple orchid in one hand, and a red orchid in the other. Done.

They get to the 3rd flight. It is covered in poisonous snakes! This time, the chwinga swallows a snake. It throws the flowers away.

Paultin's been killing it on this one. He's figuring out what to do every step of the way. Paultin wants Evelyn to swallow the snake. The snake uses its tongue to tickle her lips.

She lets it slither into her mouth and she swallows it. She feels it vanish. The rest of the group does the same. Now they can go inside! Waffles and Dragonbait will wait outside.

Inside the ziggurat, they find a naga coiled around a hookah, making puffs of smoke in the air. Each cloud puff looks like a different thing - a dragon, a ship, a carriage, etc.

The naga wants Diath to smoke the hookah. Paultin and Strix smoke it.

Diath says he's trying to find a spellbook and the glasses of Mr. Fox. The waffle crew seeks the Soulmonger and wants to know how to destroy it.
  • The naga proceeds to dump piles of information on the group:
  • The things they seek are in the lost city of Omu. 
  • The naga says that Dendar wants to swallow the sun. 
  • The naga points out that Ras Nsi is suffering from the death curse too.
  • She tells the group about the trickster gods.
  • She offers to heal the group. Evelyn has an ow-y. The naga licks her wounds until they're healed. Evelyn likes this.
The naga wants the group to "shed their skins" and receive enlightenment. Paultin is up for this. The naga licks him and peels the skin off his face. There's another Paultin underneath. The old skin is cracking.

Nate laughs hysterically. The group is in disbelief.

He is granted the blessing of wound closure. While he has the blessing, he stabilizes whenever he drops to 0. This lasts until the next new moon, which is about 30 days away.

The naga points out that "other forces" might have the cubes required to get into the tomb.

The naga tells the group that once they leave the ziggurat. they can't come back.

Strix asks about Skizzixes. The naga knows someone who looks like Strix... all will be made clear when you meet yourself.

Acererak's phylactery is not on this world. The group seems interested in finding his phylactery. That would be awesome.

Evelyn asks more questions and it comes out that there are doubles of everyone but Evelyn. The hags!

Paultin freaks out and asks, "What if we're the fake ones?!"

The naga urges the group to focus on killing Ras Nsi.

The chat starts speculating. What is the name of this bizarro Waffle Crew? The chat is split between "Pancake Crew" and "Falafel Crew." I like Falafel better. My theories on what this crew is like:
  • Evelyn - Evil paladin of Dendar
  • Diath - Kleptomaniac, hits things with his daggers.
  • Strix - Neat freak.
  • Paultin - Sober.
The heroes go outside. The stars look vast and wavy. One star winks at Evelyn. That's where we stop!

Overall

Really good episode! Chris is using stuff from page 180 of Tomb of Annihilation. I'm excited to see  what he does with it!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Dice, Camera, Action: Episode 70 - Tomb of Annihilation

Episode 70: The Serpent Eats the Sun Ross is back, playing the goblin Wumba. Wumba was not on good terms with the group when they parted ways, so this should be interesting.

The Party

(Anna) Evelyn - Human Paladin of Lathander
(ProJared) Diath - Human Rogue
(Holly) Strix - Tiefling Sorcerer
(Nathan) Paultin - Human Bard
(Ross) Wumba - Batiri Goblin Warlock

The heroes just left the city at the center of the multiverse known as Sigil. Diath immediately destroys the portal key, which is described as a christmas tree air freshener.

I wonder if the christmas tree opening doors to Planescape is some kind of hint about what's around the corner in D&D land.

The people at the camp have fended off the undead. The group reunites with Waffles, Dragonbait and Paultin. Anna does an epic super-fast recap of everything he missed.

The leader of this camp, Commander Breakbone, is on top of a table ordering his captain to kill the baby grungs that are on the floor all around them.

Diath jumps up on the table next to Breakbone, pretends he was cursed by a frog and convinces Breakbone to run for his life. Diath points out that Breakbone isn't fit for duty. The captains agree, but they are stuck with him.

Evelyn leaves a note for "Carrot." Hmmmm

Time for the group to go to Orolunga, where there is an oracle that can help them figure out this whole death curse thing.

The group travels for 3 days. Strix refuses to sleep, worried that more enemies from Sigil will track her down. She doesn't suffer exhaustion, but she is frazzled.

On day 4, they come upon a burnt section of ground. It is in a pattern. The symbol of Dendar.! Apparently this is Wumba's doing.

There's a dead dinosaur nearby. Strix approaches it and checks it out.


Creatures burst out of it.  Su-Monsters! Chris says they unleash a "mind shriek"! All 4 attack Strix. She fails one save. She takes 13 psychic damage and is stunned.

Nets drop down from the trees. Ross insists these nets aren't meant for anyone in particular. They're neutral nets. Net neutrality! OK, that was exquisite.

Strix shakes off the stun. Diath cuts his way out of the net.

Wumba's turn. Ross has been sitting off camera for about 10 minutes. Then he dab-slides on camera. Wumba is on on the back of a pterafolk.

Wumba lands and plays it cool. He walks up to Diath... and punches him in the groin!

Paultin casts levitate on Wumba. It works. He's hovering one foot above the ground.

Strix gives the su-monsters food and asks them to leave her alone. Wumba tries to air swim over to Strix, but it doesn't work out.

The pterafolk's names are Pterry and Pterrance.

Paultin reveals that Wumba killed his goblin brother, Wumba, while escaping the trapped shirne a few sessions back.

Strix gets tired of Wumba's rambling. Strix... fireballs him! Wow..

29 damage! Wumba is down and dying. He's still floating. Paultin is maintaining concentration. One pterafolk died as well.

Ross rolls a 20 on his death save. Wumba's up with one hit point! The group is outraged.

Someone in chat points out that wumba "got up again." Well done!

Strix drops another fireball and kills 3 su-monsters.

Wumba turns invisible. Apparently he has an invisible demon ally. Wumba orders it to attack. Evelyn casually decapitates the last su-monster.

The demon is a quasit, a very minor demon.

Wumba turns invisible. He's on the ground. Standing over him is... Waffles! The group loves this. Ross is dejected.

Waffles successfully perceives him even though he's invisible. She claws him for 10 points. She's eating him.

Diath walks over to Waffles and dabs as Wumba is devoured.

Evelyn annihilates the quasit with divine smite.

Suddenly, Strix falls to the ground. She's asleep.

A crack opens in the earth around the heroes. The earth peels back like a gigantic mouth.

A massive serpent with purple-black scales rises up. It looms over the group, 80 feet above them. It's Dendar!

Diath runs over and tries to awaken Strix. She has to make a Con save. She makes it!

The serpent roars and disappears into vapor.

Strix.. falls asleep again! Holly declared it! Oh man. Dendar's back.

Evelyn tells Diath to let her sleep. Then she casts compelled duel!! Good god. She is entering into a one-on-one battle with a deity.

Dendar seems to be endlessly long.

Paultin actually helps Evelyn, giving her bardic inspiration.

Strix wakes up again. The serpent becomes mist once more.

Th heroes figure out that this has something to do with wumba's relationship with Dendar. It might also have to do with the fact that the group is standing on dessicated ground.

It's not the real Dendar.. It's a facsimile of some kind, maybe an avatar or aspect.

Waffles poops out Wumba's whistle. That's where we stop!


Overall

Fun episode! I like Ross. He brings a lot of energy to the game. I can see the trolling getting old really fast, but I have no problem having him pop in every once in a while.

Anna was super-sharp tonight. The challenge was pretty epic, and the group's reactions were very cool and appropriate. Nate was definitely on the ball, tonight, too. Definitely a good show all around!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Dice, Camera, Action: Episode 69 - Tomb of Annihilation


Episode 69: PAX Sub Optimal
This is a live show at Pax Unplugged! The players have their gear on. Holly looks so good. Anna has robot face paint on, and Jared is decked out in Diath attire.

We have a special guest for this one. It is fantasy author and Acq, Inc. member, Patrick Rothfuss! He'll be playing a character who appeared on Critical Role: Kerrek.

The Party

(Anna) Evelyn - Human Paladin of Lathander
(ProJared) Diath - Human Rogue
(Holly) Strix - Tiefling Sorcerer
(Patrick Rothfuss) Kerrek - Human Paladin

The heroes are in the jungle of Chult. They're freed two prisoners and are making their way back to Camp Vengeance. They are hoping to broker peace between the grung and the Order of the Gauntlet.

Once they get there, they see the camp is under attack by a massive zombie horde!

Patrick's character, Kerrek, had arrived in the camp a few days prior. He was inside a crate. There's a joke in here that people think his name is "Carrot."

The group puts together a plan to deal with the zombies. We later learn that the players brought a pile of tiny rubber frogs that they were going to throw around. There were frog sounds cued up and everything. This plan never came to fruition.

Strix drops a fireball on them. Evelyn casts Moonbeam. It is chaos. Then, a portal opens. 3 figures step through. The people who step through:

Karas the Invincible: A mercykiller from Sigil (!) who wears rusty, blood red armor adorned with spikes. He's got a sword in one hand and shackles in the other.

2 Chronikers (?): They are wearing golden robes wearing tight-fitting helms. They have staffs
They are constructs from Mechanus - robotic, tall and svelte. Cut into their chests are ticking clocks. We are told that they "impose the will of the multiverse."

Karas throws magic shackles at Strix. The clamps tighten around her ankles. Strix falls. she had some frogs in her garb, who desperately hop toward the jungle. Chris ponders aloud if this will be the beginning of a "Green Frogs" catchphrase.

Here come some modrons, too. They are coming after Evelyn.

Karas says that "the Skizzix Kharym (?) is waiting for you." The mercykiller says he is taking Strix back to her family. Chris uses voice effects that echo through the building. Holly hides under  the table.

Evelyn charges the mercykiller and does a pile of damage to him with treebane. She does a total of 52 points.. good gawd.

Sigil, the City of Doors

Karas tells his chronikers to destroy everything. He tries to haul Strix through the portal, but Strix wins the opposed Strength check.

Kerrek does a pile of damage to Karas on an opportunity attack, as does Evelyn.

One of the chronikers has a clock on its chest. It's ticking down. It's going to blow in 5 rounds.

Diathn runs over and actually removes the shackles from Strix's ankles. He grabs Strix and runs.

Strix tries to polymorph him... she wants to turn him into a frog. He makes his save. Green frog?

The broom bloodies Karas and Evelyn tries to chuck the ticking guy through the portal. Nope.

Karas snaps the broom! No! The group is quite unhappy.

Diath stabs ticking bomb guy. He was keeping the portal open. He fails his concentration check, and the portal is off.

Karas grapples Diath and pulls him onto his spikes. Another portal flares open. Diath is pulled through.

The heroes follow and we get a description of 5e Sigil:

They emerge on a street lined with buildings covered inh razorvine. They see a train go by? A train? Like Eberron?

When they look out and up, they see that the city seems to curve up and there is more city high above them. They're near a flower shop with weird plants in it.

Karas says to Diath, "You're not what I wanted, but the Skizzix Kharym (?)will take you for half the price. They don't like your kind very much."

Now Diath has a new name. "Discount Diath."

When Strix, Evelyn and Kerrek come through the portal, Karas says: "My lucky day. Two for the price of one."

The fight continues as citizens of Sigil gawk at the group.

The players are drinking from an actual wineskin that apparently has wine it.

After some more fighting, Kerrek drops Karas the Invincible. The man inside turns into a cloud of mist, some kind of blood mist ghost thing.

Chris points out that some mercykillers have special abilities. If this blood mist spirit-thing returns to the Mercykillers HQ, Karas can reform.

The group gets into a dispute. Evelyn wants to hand herself over. Diath wants to get the other two back to Chult so he can investigate.

Kerrek kills the blood ghost. Evelyn looks at him with clockwork heart eyes.

Diath notices some creatures in the crowd. He sees two tieflings arguing. One is a  woman, short and old. The other is a male, tall and proud. They seem to be arguing. One wants to intervene in some way, the other thinks it is a bad idea.

A human steps out of the crowd. He takes his helmet off. Kerrek can see that half of his face is angelic, the other half is human. He's an aasimar.

Diath doesn't see that. To him, the guy just looks like a human. The stranger gives Diath a look. Diath realizes that this is the man who gave him the mysterious key ring so long ago.

Shockingly, the group tuens to go back to Chult. What are they, nuts? Diath turns to Kerrek and says, "We never got your name."

He pauses and then replies, "It's Carrot."

Then the group goes back through the portal.That's where we stop!

Overall

They actually went to Sigil, which is awesome. You definitely get the idea that one of the next D&D  products is planes-related. The newer unearthed arcanas deal with plane-touched races, there's the arcanaloth in Tomb, and other things here and there.

I really wonder what they're going to do about the faction war. Did it happen in canon? Did things revert back to what they were? I'd like it if they switched it back but maybe got rid of a few factions - there were too man. It got confusing.

Very good show! It was quite amazing to see the group actually go to Sigil, if only for a short while.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Dungeons & Dragons - A Guide to the Medusa

The medusa is a D&D monster ripped from real world mythology, a feared villain who can turn your character into stone with a glance.

Medusas don't get used too much, so I decided to dig around and see what cool ideas are out there waiting to be used. I went through all the D&D products I could and pulled out any interesting medusa-related material that I came upon.

AD&D 1st Edition Monster Manual


Here's what we learn:
  • Medusas dwell in dark caves.
  • They're lawful evil.
  • Their gaze turns creatures to stone unless the victim can succeed on a saving throw vs petrification.
  • "If an opponent averts his eyes, the medusa rushes up so that its asp-like head growth can bite at the victim."
  • Here's where it gets really brutal. If you are bit by one of the hair-snakes, you must save vs. poison or die!
  • If a medusa's gaze is reflected back at it, the creature will turn to stone.
  • They speak the medusa language as well as common.
  • They can see into the astral and ethereal planes. Their stone gaze is effective on those planes. Some cruel DM out there probably did some pretty messed up stuff with this.
  • The body of a medusa is "quite shapely and human."
  • The face of a medusa is horrid. Her snaky hair writhes and she has glaring, red-rimmed eyes.
AD&D 2nd Edition Monstrous Manual
The Monstrous Manual has two versions of a medusa: a medusa and a greater medusa.

Medusa: Lots more details:
  • Snakes are up to one foot long.
  • "It will use its attractive body to lure males nearer while staying in the shadows."
  • They kept it. It's still save or die if you are bitten by a snake.
  • "It retains its petrifying gaze after death." The heads decay within a month and lose the ability.
  • Their homes are full of flickering shadows.
  • They keep some statues, shatter others.
  • No mirrors in her lair.
  • Reflections in water or polished stone have no effect on a medusa.
  • Medusas are infrequently driven to mate with humanoid males. This results in the male's death.
  • After mating, it lays 2-6 eggs that hatch in 8 months.
  • Hatchlings are baby girls with stubby green tentacles. They are revolting to look at, but they cannot petrify with their gaze until adolescence. At age two, their serpent hair comes alive and gains the lethal poisonous bite.
Greater Medusa: Not too much detail on this one:
  • They have serpentine bodies in place of a lower torso and legs.
  • They are 10-20 feet long.
  • They are covered in fine scales.
  • They use bows and poisoned arrows.
  • Their blood is so poisonous that even after one has been killed, touching its body still requires a save vs poison.

 
Maedar: There have been a few tabs at making a male medusa. The maedar are the most prominent:
  • They do not have petrifying gaze.
  • Muscular, hairless humanoids.
  • Can turn to stone to flesh with their touch.
  • Can walk through stone.
  • Immune to petrify/poison/hold monster/slow spells.
  • Only 1% of medusa eggs are maedar. 25% are male medusae! All others are humans who die at the sight of their mother.
Glyptars: This is where it gets weird:
  • A glyptar is a rock crystal animated by the spirit of a maedar. When a maedar has foreknowledge of it death, it can transfer its life force into the rocks.
  • Their spirits are trapped within gemstones such as feldspar and amethyst.
  • If removed intact from the ground, its spirit can animate the crystal and anything inorganic attached to it. If it is set into the eye of a stone statue, its life force animates it as a golem!
  • If a glyptar is set into the pommel of a sword, it can be animated to strike as if it were wielded by the living maedar.
D&D 3rd Edition Monster Manual

They had a hard time letting go of the "well-proportioned body" thing: "Though at first glance this creature appears to be a well-proportioned human, a closer look reveals a hideous face crowned with a mass of writhing, hissing snakes instead of hair, eyes glowing a deep, feral red, and scaly, earth-colored skin."

So what's the deal with this well-proportioned menace?
  • Medusas prize art objects, fine jewelry, and wealth.
  • Medusas usually use a veil to hide their face.
  • They are found in every climate. Some live in cities and are active in the criminal underworld.
  • They speak common. No reference to the medusa language.
  • Their poison no longer insta-kills. It does a bit of poison damage now.
D&D 4th Edition Monster Manual
Are you ready for male medusas? Let's kick it:
  • Female medusas use their gaze to turn other creatures to stone.
  • "Male medusas use their gaze to poison the minds and bodies of their victims before hacking them to pieces, and their lairs are painted with the blood of fallen prey."
  • Male medusas do not have snake hair, but their blood is more poisonous. Their gaze "ravages the mind and body, leaving its victims dazed, weak and ripe for killing."
  • It is possible to close your eyes while fighting a medusa, but fighting it blindly is rarely a good choice.
  • They desire wealth, power and influence in humanoid societies.
  • A brood of medusas might rule over a terrified populace a a royal family, or one medusa might run an assassins guild.
  • "The blood of a medusa can reverse petrification." Apply a few drops of the blood of a medusa that was killed within the past 24 hours to the lips of a petrified creature and succeed on a DC 20 Heal check.
  • Medusas readily consort with creatures of greater might. They work with yuan-ti and hold them in high regard.
Medusa Archer (Female): A medusa specialist.
  • They have longbows and use poison arrows.
  • Their petrifying gaze affect all within 25 feet and progresses in stages. Slowed, then immobilized, then petrified.
Medusa Warrior (Male): Medusa dudes. Medududes.
  • Fights with 2 poisoned long swords at the same time.
  • Also uses a longbow with poisoned arrows.
  • Venomous gaze - their gaze dazes and weakens, but does not petrify.
Medusa Shroud of Zehir (Female): Some medusas work with the yuan-ti.
  • They can attack and move around without provoking.
  • Snake hair does acid and poison dmg.
  • They have a petrifying gaze like the medusa archer.
Allied Creatures:
  • Basilisks (venom-eye basilisks)
  • Snaketongue zealots
  • Grimlocks
  • Gargoyles
  • Yuan-ti malisons and abominations.
Monster Vault

These updated 4e medusas are "Lithe females with snakes for hair whose glance poison body and mind of powerful males."

Lots of Lore:
  • Medusas are now fey creatures. Some believe they are the cursed descendants of elves. Others think that they are betrayers who willingly bowed to Zehir and helped slaughter an entire city of eladrin. 
  • Some even think that they are the progeny of yuan-ti and basilisk blood, created to be a slave race to the yuan-ti.
  • Scholars theorize that Zehir remade dragonborn or humans into medusas after the Dawn War.
  • All medusas have scaled bodies, forked tongues and snakelike eyes.
  • Males are bald-headed. Females have dozens of poisonous snakes for hair.
  • No female can turn another female to stone, but only special males are immune to their mates petrifying glares.
  • The females rule. The males are hunters, guardians, scouts and mates. Only males immune to petrification can rise above females in medusa society. Such males get special treatment.
  • Medusas think they are destined to rule over other humanoids.
  • Some claim godhood and demand worship, others tout themselves as oracles.
Medusa Bodyguard: These guys have a mind-venom gaze. When someone attacks a medusa, the bodyguard can react and stun the attacker with a cone that harms all enemies in the blast.

Medusa Venom Arrow: Her serpent hair does poison damage and gives -2 to saving throws.
Her poisoned arrows slow you.

Medusa Spirit Charmer: Her spirit charm hits all enemies within 25 feet, and if they do not end their next turn within 10 feet of the medusa, they take 3d6 dmg. Awesome power alert: Swords to Snakes! The target's weapons and implements turn into snakes. This affects a 15 foot cube of people.

Cure for Petrification: "The willing kiss of the medusa that petrified the creature." The medusa might do this to interrogate the victim or just to mess with them.

D&D 5th Edition Monster Manual

Here is the current version of the medusa:
  • They suffer an immortal curse brought on by their vanity.
  • They lurk in the ruins of their former lives, surrounded by the petrified remains of past admirers and would-be heroes.
  • Mortals sometimes make sacrifices to and beg gods, dragons, archmages, demons and devils for beauty, youth, immortality and the adoration of all who behold them. After years of living like a demigod, they are transformed into medusas.
  • Their homes are ruins covered in thorns and creepers, riddled with obstructions and hiding place.
  • The curse: By looking vainly upon its own reflection, it turns to stone as would any living mortal.
  • There are no reflective surfaces in their lairs.
Petrifying Gaze: Con save. Fail by 5 or more, instantly petrified. Fail: Restrained and repeat save at end of next turn. Fail again, become petrified. The petrification lasts until greater restoration or similar magic.

A creature can avert its eyes. It can't see the medusa until the start of its next turn, when it can avert its eyes again. If the creature looks at the medusa in the meantime, it must immediately make the save.

OK! Now lets root around for old articles and NPCs.

Dragon Magazine #106 - "Ecology of the Maedar"


Ed Greenwood strikes again! That guy did so much of the heavy lifting when it comes to D&D lore. This article is from the 1st edition days of D&D.

Another name for a maedar is "the stealer through stone".

We get a tale about an illusionist who traveled to the lair of a medusa, tied a mirror across his eyes, and covered himself in his storm cloak. The medusa removed his cowl, looked into the mirror and turned to stone.

The maedar turned her back from stone to flesh. The medusa and the man embraced, and she spoke to him in loving tones.

Here's what we learn about the maedar and medusas:
  • Can turn stone to flesh once every three turns (30 minutes).
  • Maedar can pass through stone like xorns do at their normal movement rate.
  • Medusa treasure hordes contain "a selection of feminine garb that doubles as the medusa's wardrobe."
  • They speak and understand the language of lawful evil, common, and others
  • Medusas produce 1-3 live young every 10 years or so.
  • Medusa offspring become adults in 4-5 years of age.
  • Young are encouraged to strike out on their own.
  • Medusas cannot be truted by their own kind.
Dragon Magazine #296 "Worshipers of the Forbidden"

This is all about people who actually worship a medusa.
  • Snake servants are cultist who revere medusas. They walk a fine line, having to do the medusa's bidding without angering her. They are proxies and middlemen.
  • They set up churches dedicated to the worship of "Shekenster." They mean "Shekinester", who I looked up and will talk about after I finish this section.
  • They corrupt officials, nobles and religious leaders.
  • They are usually rogues.
The cultists accrue special powers as they gain levels:
  • Immunity to the gaze of a medusa.
  • Resistance to poison.
  • Stunning Gaze: They can stun people within 30 feet for 1 round.
  • Immunity to petrification,
  • Medusa Apotheosis: At 5th level, the cultist transforms into an entity more like a medusa. Their skin becomes scaly, eyes become more reptilian, eyelids wither away and are replaced by nictitating membrane. Their eyes never blink again.
  • Those who cease worshiping Shekenster won't lose their medusa apotheosis. They're permanently warped. 
Who is Shekinester? No idea! Google is my friend. It turns out Shekinester is detailed in On Hallowed Ground, an extremely thorough tome that describes every god in D&D and then some.

Shekinester, the Three-Faced Queen: She's god of the nagas. She takes on three different forms.
  • The Weaver: A crone-faced naga who destroys so that creation might come of it.
  • The Empowerer: Bestower of wisdom, asker of riddles.
  • The Preserver: The keeper of light and knowledge, recorder of dead spirits that pass her way.
She lives in the Court of Light, a strange place located in the Outlands.

Ghost Tower of Inverness

The group comes to a clearing, where a robed figure is tending to a garden of roses. "You hear a soft, liquid singing in an unknown tongue with lilting vowels..."

If someone engages her, she turns and lowers her hood. Everyone in the clearing must save or be petrified!

She's got a massive treasure horde in the garden. About 20,000 gold in gems and coins, keoghtom's ointment and bracers of defense.

The Complete Book of Villains


Lady Silith: She's a medusa disguised as an art dealer who creates incredibly lifelike stone statues. Silith always wears a turban and a veil of coins forged into a scaled drape. "She favors silk robes, which accentuate her curvaceous figure, and intricately embroidered cloaks."

She lures good-looking people to her lair so that she can turn them to stone. She has hundreds of petrified victims in her main hall, all of which look like they're at a ghastly festival.

Labyrinth of Madness

I will run this one day! I swear it! There's a room with two greater medusas that I really can't say much about without ruining it. Definitely a nasty trap in there.

Dungeon Magazine #25 - A Rose for Talakara

Another medusa in a garden! Her name is Natasha, a medusa who is vain and an expert musician. This one has hedges and roses of many different colors. The medusa grows black roses for the bad guy, Agrovale.

Ravenloft Monstrous Compendium II

Strahd is not the only Dark Lord trapped in a domain of dread. Another is a medusa named Althea who dwells on a small island called Demise. There is a portal on Demise that leads to a labyrinth of white stone (mostly an illusion). Althea lures adventurers in . She picks one adventurer to be her mate. The rest are killed.

Althea's eyes are like black beads. Her mouth a lipless slit that her forked tongue slips in and out of.
She is sensitive to bright light. Her snakes can spit venom up to 10 feet

Book of Vile Darkness

This book details a number of villains who are particularly grotesque. Siddal the medusa is a masochistic "cancer mage." Siddal lives with Gauderis, a half-orc vermin lord in a cave complex. They are working together to create new, deadly diseases. Gauderis is secretly in love with her, and he actually want her to turn him to stone. He thinks it will feel good.

Dungeon Magazine #93 - Statue Gallery

This is a short adventure involving a medusa named Korakaia who dwells in caverns that hold her collection of petrified victims. The idea here is that not all of the statues are actually statues. The medusa has some pretty clever tricks up her sleeve. There's a magic item:

Amulet of Statues: Once per day, you can use this to cast the statue spell on yourself.

Dragon Magazine #355 - Creature Catalogue IV


Maedar show a fierce devotion to their mates. They can "..take their pick among available medusas."

This article pretty much reiterates what is already known, plus this: "Most medusas have no choice but to mate with blinded or blindfolded human males."

Lady of Poison

This is a forgotten realms novel whose main character is actually a half-medusa paladin. Pretty cool!

Dungeon Magazine #194 - Daask

This article details medusas in Eberron. I'm playing in an Eberron campaign and don't want to spoil it for myself, so here's a link that I assume will give you the info you need.

Princes of the Apocalypse

I forgot about this guy! Earth Prophet Marlos Urnrayle is a.. male medusa. He was a vain, good-looking man who got a ring that held a fey spirit that kept him looking good as he aged. One day, it turned him into a medusa.

He runs the earth cult. Makes sense, since he turns people to stone! Marlos likes to keep the stone faces of his victims and destroy the rest.

Out of the Abyss

Neheedra Duskryn: She was a drow priestess of Lolth who planned to turn Blingdenstone into a drow enclave. This was never to be, as the magical pacts she had made to aid her turned her into a medusa. She turned her servants to stone and went mad. She still looks similar to a drow. Her hair-snakes are white.

Tomb of Annihilation

Zalkore: She was once royalty in the city of Omu, but she was forced to leave when she made a pact with an erinyes to become a medusa.

She ended up killing her husband, mistakenly thinking he had betrayed her. Now she sits in the ruins of Nangalore, hallucinating that he's still with her. Weirdly enough, his ghost just might show up depending on what adventurers do when they meet her.

Links

Medusa Island map
Half-Medusa 3e template