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Monday, February 27, 2017

Dungeons & Dragons - The Chained Coffin


We played through the first half of The Chained Coffin on Saturday and it was really good. The guy who wrote this, Michael Curtis, is my favorite current adventure writer.

If you picture an adventure set in a mountainous region like the Adirondacks that contains farmers, it seems like it would be boring. But here's what he gets out of it:
  • The group has to drag a magic coffin around, searching for a holy site.
  • The terrain is alternately magically beautiful and darkly threatening for unknown reasons.
  • The group comes upon a grave where a spirit prods them to dig up the dead body.
  • The group meets a big, smelly hag who lives in an elevated hut protected by hanging skulls that seem to whisper to her,.
  • The heroes need to steal a fingernail from an ogre who has magic glasses.
  • The group comes to a crossroad where an infernal entity appears.
Every encounter is short and inspired. This adventure is part of a boxed set, yet really you only need to read 24 pages to run it.

As a bonus, we added in a new player. She is Annalise, a fellow Dice, Camera, Action fan. She fit in perfectly and will be a part of the game going forward.

Her character is Val, a tiefling sorcerer with a backstory that has not yet been revealed. My first challenge was to get her character to meet the group.

We ended last time with the group about to look for a beast of burden who could pull their cart that contained the Chained Coffin. My plan at the time was to dig up a few cool monsters and let them pick.

When I sat down to prepare this, I thought it would be a good idea to use Volo's Guide to Monsters as much as possible. Since early in the 4e era, I've found that it is best to use the material in sourcebooks as soon as you buy them, otherwise they tend to never get utilized.

So I flipped through Volo’s and didn't find many suitable creatures.. until I landed on the Froghemoth. The search was over! These creatures are very powerful, so I whipped up a smaller, albino version of a froghemoth that was more sympathetic and much less deadly.

The Party

Kyrin - Human Cleric of the Raven Queen
Mistletoe - Human Druid
Ramrod - Goliath Barbarian
Valiant "Val" Westwinter - Tiefling Sorcerer
Val was traveling through the Thunderdelve Mountain region alone, passing through a swamp. She spotted a band of bullywugs (frog-people) picking on an albino froghemoth. They had it in a cage suspended over the swamp water. They were poking it with spears and throwing garbage at it.

Val immediately emerged from the brush and called out, "Why don't you pick on someone your own size?"

As fate would have it, the heroes happened to be within earshot. They'd heard that the swamp might be a good place to find a large creature.

They saw the bullywugs preparing to rush the lone tiefling. Mistletoe conjured up a spike growth spell beneath the feet of the bullywugs as Ramrod charged.

Val used mage hand to open the door of the cage, freeing the froghemoth Confused, it plopped into the water. It kept its three eyes above water, watching everyone.

One Bullywug made a mighty leap (they can jump 20 feet from a standing position) across the water to where Val was standing. The bullywug stabbed her.

Kyrin killed one bullywug with the Hammer of Vitroin and his allies pummeled more. Ramrod jumped into the water and swam over to help Val. The froghemoth watched him intently. Ramrod isn't so great at swimming and he struggled to keep afloat in the viny, murky water.

Val hit the bullywug with a ray of frost, then Ramrod popped up and destroyed it with his maul. The bullywugs were dead.

The froghemoth crept up and offered Ramrod and Val some delicious lilypads. Val declined, Ramrod ate some.

Introductions were made and basically we got a long form version of the old "You look trustworthy" trope and boom, new member added.

The heroes were able to lure the froghemoth along using delicious vegetation as bait. Both Val and Ramrod quickly befriended the creature.

The group affixed a harness to the frohemoth. They named him... Hoppy. They began the search from the Luhsaal Wheel, pulling the cart containing the chained coffin.


After a day of traveling in the forest, they made camp. Val used Hoppy's slimy bulk as a pillow. As the night wore on, they spotted some kind of creature flying overhead. It was humanoid, had moth wings and fiery red eyes. It looked right at Kyrin, but flew off into the night.

The next day, the heroes came upon a hut on stilts. There were skulls on pikes around it, and more skulls hung from trees at the edge of the clearing.

Ramrod boldly walked out there, messing with the fluffy dandelions. The door to the hut opened, and out stepped Granny Huldah. She was ten feet tall, had furry arms and legs, and her long hair mostly covered her face. She had a pet dire boar at her side.

Mistletoe immediately recognized that she was a hag of some sort. She questioned the heroes, and offered to make them a deal. She would direct them to the Luhsaal Wheel if they would get her the fingernail of an ogre. She needed it for a potion brew.

The group agreed and followed her directions to the Bigginty Farm, home to the Bigginty ogre clan.

The Biggintys lived in a cabin made of massive logs.  Mistletoe cast Pass without trace and Val made herself invisible.

Somewhere in here, Hoppy saw a rabbit and reached a tentacle toward it. Nobody did anything. It grabbed the rabbit. Nobody did anything. It put the rabbit up to is mouth. Nobody did anything. It ate the rabbit. I was shocked nobody tried to stop him.

Hoppy spit the rabbit out after a few chews. Mistletoe theorized that Hoppy was a vegetarian. Later, Hoppy tried to chew on a squirrel but that time, the group stopped him.

Val peered in the windows. She saw a male ogre bossing around two females. He had glasses hooked on his overalls. There was another room in the cabin that she didn't peer into. They'd soon learn that it contained Ma and Pa Bigginty.

Ramrod threw his voice and pretended to be an ogre, another sister who had done something stupid. The male bought it and stepped outside.

The group paused. They hadn't really thought this through. They didn't know what to do next!

Ramrod ran up, jumped in the air and headbutted the ogre. The ogre's glasses went flying.

The group charged forward and had a chaotic battle. Mistletoe ended up hanging on the ogre's arm. The sisters came outside and one hit the druid with a broom, doing 13 damage and knocking him to the ground.

The other sister quietly snatched the glasses. The group never did find out why the glasses were so important to the ogres.

Val and Mistletoe quickly made up a story that they were doctors and needed to do a procedure on the male ogre. Val used the spell friends to get the one female off track.

Kyrin had a hilarious idea. He cast the spell command. The one-word command: Fingernail. The ogre made an intelligence check and rolled abysmally low. He reached down and tried to pull off one of Mistletoe's fingers. Thankfully, Mistletoe resisted.

The group knocked out the ogre and Mistletoe cut off the fingernail on his right index finger.

One of the sisters called out for Ma and Pa. Ma came out with a massive rolling pin. Pa hobbled out. Pa has "the gout" so he couldn't walk too good. The group ran away as the Biggintys shook their fists at them.

The group gave the fingernail to Granny Huldah and got their directions.

After a few days of travel, they spotted a lone grave. Val and Mistetoe approached it. They felt a breeze and heard a quiet voice whisper: "Go on and take it. I ain't got no use for it."

They heard a fiddle playing in the distance. The inscription on the grave:

"Here lies Japthon of the Fiddle, who died helping the mountain people he loved. Never one to back down from a fight against evil, we Thunderfolk owe him more than we can ever repay.”

The heroes decided to dig up the grave. In the coffin, lo and behold, was a magic item! It was a medallion of clear thought, an item that lets the wearer cast detect thoughts three times per day.

The group agreed that Val should have it. The heroes buried the coffin and continued on.

At some point in here, the group had an amusing conversation about how inanimate objects are always talking to them. The hammer of Vitroin, the Chained Coffin, and this dead fiddle guy. The Coffin was getting on their nerves, constantly asking "Are we at the Luhsaal Wheel now?" and "Did you get the fingernail yet?"

The adventurers came to a weird crossroad in the middle of nowhere. Each road branched out from the cent in four directions, then petered out after about 100 feet.

Suddenly, standing in the center of the crossroad was an individual clad in black. He had a pointy goatee, one hoof and one regular foot, and he was wearing a cloak made of cat fur. As in, housecat fur.

He whipped his cape around with a flourish and smiled at the heroes.

That's where we stopped!

Good session, everything went smooth. Both of these groups have come together real nicely. This group will be heading to Sigil to go through some Planescape adventures in about a month.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Dice Camera Action: Episode 36 - Storm King's Thunder

Episode 36: Small Packages
This is one of those episodes where I can’t avoid spoiling the jokes. You might want to watch this session first before you read any more.

The Party

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


The heroes are in the Silver Marches. They just survived a hill giant attack and they are quite wounded. Evelyn had gotten separated from the group last session because.. she got carried away catching snowflakes on her tongue.

Evelyn finds the group and drops some healing on Diath and Paultin. She checks on Zog, the dwarf NPC. He's not breathing. Hmmm.. will Diath use the gem? Zog has a diamond that Diath can use to bring him back to life. I think this is a one shot deal. Once Diath use the power, it’s gone.

Evelyn prays to Lathander to apologize on behalf of her allies. Her friends let Zog die and she wants Lathander help them be the party he wants them to be. Anna is in rare form today.

The group looks through Zog’s stuff. Here’s a list:
  • Diamond!
  • Abacus
  • Ball bearings
  • Cow bell
  • Empty bottles
  • Caltrops
  • Climbers kit
  • Crowbar
  • Hammer
  • Pitons
  • Copper jug
  • Lantern with no oil
  • Lock with no key
  • Manacles
  • Mess kit
  • Whetstone
It’s basically a list of what every level one character has on their sheet and never uses throughout their entire adventuring career.

They also find a map with dwarven scrawling on it. Nobody in the group can read dwarven.

Evelyn say that she wants to give the diamond to an heir of Zog, or maybe donate it to the poor. The group is appalled.

Strix puts the cowbell on Hootie the owlbear. Hootie begins to chow down on a giant’s corpse. Hootie is still wounded. Evelyn lays on hands and heals Hootie, who is female, for 10 points. I’m not sure if it was ever declared that Hootie was a lady before today.

Raising Zog: Wow. Diath is going to use the diamond to resurrect Zog. He makes this decision very quickly. I’m shocked that there’s not more debate. I mean… it sort of feels like a waste. I guess maybe that’s meta-game thinking, but still...

Diath is thrown into a trance. His eyes turn black, his skin turns pale. Energy flow through him, and after an hour, Zog is back among the living. Diath’s power is now gone.

Apparently, Zog’s spirit was traveling into the ethereal plane. Spirits of the recently deceased wandering the ethereal plane, you can do all sort of cool stuff with that. Don’t ghosts live in the ethereal?

The group rests. We learn that even Hootie and Mourning Glory can fit in the waffle hut. Next morning, time to go to Citadel Adbar. Will Hootie come along? Yep.


More Giants: The group travels for a bit and come upon a wounded hill giant. It’s Fo, one of the giants the group fought last session. He has a rock, ready to heave it at the group. The female is nearby.

Fo calls out: “Fo unhappy!”

The female shouts, "Bring me food!"

The battle begins and the female flops onto Zog. Oh no, imagine if he's dead.

The male giant is slain. Paultin thunderwaves the female off of Zog using a 3rd level slot, rolling her off of him 10 feet. Zog is alive! Wait.. she does a flying butt drop on Zog. Horrible scrunching sound.

It seems like the DM wants Zog dead for some reason. Maybe he didn’t expect the heroes to resurrect Zog and it messes with his plans?

At this point in the session, we experience what the people in the chat refer to as The Paultercation.

The Paultercation: Strix and Paultin are next to each other, casting spells. Paultin casts suggestion on the female hill giant, and points out that if she's hungry she can eat snow. She loves this idea and starts to do so.

Strix sees that she is buying it, but Strix tells Paultin that she really wants to destroy her with a fireball. Murderbot takes exception to this and immediately fires a dart into Strix's neck, doing two points of damage and knocking her unconscious! As she drops, Strix calls out to her owlbear: "Avenge me!"

Hootie the owlbear is confused and ambles over. Hootie looks at Murderbot. Murderbot tries to shift the blame to Paultin. Hootie nudges Strix with her beak.

Evelyn runs over and tries to lay on hands to heal Strix. It does heal damage, but it doesn't make Strix conscious.

Paultin chastises his "son" Murderbot, who Paultin has re-named Simon. Paultin encourages him to channel that energy against the giants. Murderbot shoots a dart into the female giant, which breaks the suggestion spell.

Evelyn immediately starts referring to Simon as if he is her son and Paultin is the father. She flies over and does a massive pile of damage to the female giant. Paultin casts dissonant whispers, which does psychic damage and kills the giant.

Evelyn says, "That's what I call a brain freeze." My god, the dad jokes are just exquisite this session.

With the battle over, Evelyn says that they might need to put their son into some kind of after school program
Hootie: Diath is not happy at all with Murderbot. He questions the evil little thing and makes an insight check. He rolls a natural 20, so he knows that Murderbot went out of his way to use a sleep dart rather than a more deadly dart. Diath also sees that Murderbot is hiding something.

Diath picks up the still-unconscious Strix and puts her on Hootie. The way he describes what he's doing definitely sets off some emotional alarm bells. He doesn’t “pick her up,” he “takes her in his arms.”

Murderbot tries to settle thing with a handshake, but Diath refuses.

They check on Zog. He's dead! Once again, Diath went to great lengths to help a dead ally and it didn't work out at all. The group is dying of laughter and somebody asks Jared, "How much do you think Chris Perkins hates you?"

What else is there to do but loot Zog? Strix comes to and digs out the heart of the female giant. Strix is covered in blood now. The heart is the size of a soccer ball. Then she decides to cut out some fat to use for candles. The sight of this make Evelyn vomit violently.

This is a really good episode. Fun and funny right from the start.

Strix threatens Murderbot. Somebody points out that Diath is basically the dad of the entire party. Very true!

The group buries Zog. He's flat so it doesn't take long to dig a hole. Zog's mission was to deliver a message to Citadel Adbar. The group doesn't know what the message is! They decide to head there anyway, at least to let the dwarves know what happened to Zog.

The Waffle Crew travel for 3 days and they are running low on food. They make camp in the magical waffle hut (Leomund's tiny hut). They estimate they are still one week away from the mountains.

Last session, Strix was given the power to change into animal forms. She could turn into a bird and fly around, looking for animals that could be hunted, right?

The group comes up with an awesome idea. Strix can turn into a mammoth and they can cut a hunk of meat out of her and cook it up! That's D&D right there. The group is up for it, but we don't really get clarification from the DM as to whether that would work or not.

That's because something happens. Paultin wants to eat Hootie. The group notices Hootie is not doing well. Dying from hunger? No! Hootie is pregnant and about to give birth!

Evelyn tries to deliver the baby. Animal handling check: total of 3. Oh wow that is... yikes. Strix assists, giving Evelyn advantage. Evelyn rolls again and gets a total of 10.

Can't Paultin add dice to skill checks? Or is that just ability checks? I am pretty sure he can use bardic inspiration to add +d8 to people's rolls 3 or 4 times per day.

Welp.. Hootie dies giving birth! The baby lives. Chris points out that for all they know, owlbears always die when giving birth. The baby is gooey and squeaky.

The group proceeds to eat and make jerky out of Hootie while they think of a name for her daughter. That cracks me up. Strix calls it Baboo, bu that's not the name. The baby owlbear's name: Waffles. Perfect!

That's where we stop. The heroes hit 8th level.

Overall

I loved this episode. It's probably one of my favorites out of the entire campaign. It was funny the whole way through.

I really need to look through Storm King and see what the deal is with Citadel Adbar, I don't remember anything about it.

Great show, definitely check it out!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Dungeons & Dragons - The Dice, Camera, Action Storm King's Thunder Index

This is a hub and episode guide for season 2 of the show Dice, Camera, Action. Legendary dungeon master Chris Perkins is running a group of delightful youtube personalities through Storm King's Thunder, an official 5th edition adventure.

Links

What Did I Miss?


If you missed season one, the heroes had been sucked into an evil realm called Barovia. They escaped by trapping the lord of Barovia, Strahd, in an evil puppet.

Now they have returned to the Forgotten Realms only to find that giants are rampaging all over the place.

The Waffle Crew

These heroes were on a quest for waffles when they got sucked into Barovia in season one. They fear vampires and love owlbears.


Diath: He is a tomb-raiding rogue. Here is his character sheet.
  • He was given a key ring from a mysterious person long ago. He eventually learned that one of the keys unlocks the Tome of Strahd.
  • In Barovia, Diath became a disembodied spirit and inhabited Paultin's body for a time.
  • Diath was once accidentally fed a potion of youth. Diath de-aged and is currently 18 years old.
  • Diath has the power to cast resurrection one time. He needs a diamond worth 1,000 gp to cast the spell.
  • He killed a little girl named Arabelle. She cursed him as she died.
  • Diath drank the ashes of Saint Markovia to cure himself of an undead curse. 
  • Everyone likes "Murderbot" aka Simon except for Diath.
Evelyn: She is a paladin of Lathander, who is also known as The Morninglord. Her character sheet is here.
  • Her pet mouse is named Juniper.
  • Her axe, Lightfall, is double-bladed, has the symbol of Lathander on it and it is gold-colored. It has the powers of a mace of disruption.
  • In Barovia, her horse named Mourning Glory was undead, but in the Realms it is a gleaming bastion of goodness.
  • Sometimes Evelyn didn't pay attention in paladin school because she was drawing horses. She had a teacher who wore the Icon of Ravenkind
  • She once hugged Strix into consciousness.
  • She has a second special axe called "Treebane."
  • Evelyn has been a werewolf in the past and she loved it, although she almost ate a baby one time. 
  • Evelyn has somewhat convinced herself that she, Paultin and Murderbot are a family unit.

Paultin: He is a bard who is working on a drinking problem. His character sheet is here.
  • He plays the lute and the bagpipes.
  • Paultin has a magic item: Eyes of charming. He can charm people with them.
  • Paultin's shadow is a living creature that has separated from him on at least one occasion.
  • Paultin can summon a Waffle dome (Leomund's Tiny Hut) that the group can rest in.
  • He has the sunsword, a powerful item taken from Castle Ravenloft.
  • Paultin has an 'adopted son' named Simon. He's Murderbot, the evil golem from Barovia. 
  • He once used crown of whispers to force a chimera to kill itself.
Strix: A tiefling spellcaster from the planar city of Sigil. Her character sheet is here.
  • Her pet cranium rat is named Stinky.
  • She is or was a member of The Dustmen faction.
  • She has an aunt, a brother and three cousins.
  • Her brother is Izek Strazni, an evildoer with a demon arm.
  • Strix actually died in Barovia. Her spirit wandered the mists of Ravenloft with a boy named Jesper until Van Richten brought her back to life.
  • She used the Strahd puppet to trap Strahd.
  • Strix has a pet baby owlbear named Waffles.
Season Two Episodes

I put an asterisk next to the episode that I think are the best.


Episode 32 - No Place Like Home: The heroes befriend Zog the dwarf, fight some orcs and realize that at least one terrifying entity has followed them from Barovia.

Episode 33 - Were and Tear: The Waffle Crew completes their epic quest to eat waffles. Then, they make friends with an owlbear and battle werewolves who are intent on freeing Strahd.

Episode 34 - Thine Own Elf: The group fights alongside the legendary hero Drizzt Do'Urden. They give him the Strahd doll for safekeeping. Drizzt decides to take it to Gauntlgrym, the legendary home of the dwarves.

Episode 35 - Fee, Fi, Fo and Fum: The Crew rests at the grove of a dryad and ends up in a deadly battle with a band of hungry hill giants.

* Episode 36 - Small Packages: Things go very wrong as the heroes try to get to their destination.

Episode 37 - Royal Rumble: The group gets in the middle of a massive battle between the dwarves of Citadel Adbar.

Episode 38 - Icebreaker: The heroes set out for Ironslag and meet a frost giant.

Episode 39 - Fortune Favors the Cold: The group has an epic battle with a chimera and they infiltrate a yakfolk village.

Episode 40 - Big Yak Attack: An epic battle against the yakfolk.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Dungeons & Dragons - The Teleporting Toilet

We played some more of the Key Ring campaign this past Saturday and, as always, it was hilarious. We went through a 2nd edition Lankhmar adventure converted to 5e.

In a month or so, I will start putting sessions of this campaign on youtube. They will take these characters through an old adventure that I’ve always wanted to run.

I am thinking that during weeks where a few players can't play that I'll run some other thing for some other group. I was thinking maybe Shadowrun. I love Shadowrun, even though I will never understand the rules. I think it would be really cool to record playthroughs of classic adventures like Mercurial, Dreamchipper, and maybe Harlequin. Harlequin has a reputation as being an epic adventure, but honestly what I've seen of it doesn't look so great.

Mostly, I just love running games with motorcycle chases, gun fights, and tough-talking people who smoke all the time.

The Key Ring

(Andrew) Finy Teetoe - Halfling Rogue
(Ashley) Lemuel - Human Rogue
(Joe) Zavagor - Half-orc Warlock

Last time, the adventurers had planned to infiltrate a costume party to steal a magic gem called the Star of the East. The star apparently has properties that can foil the plans of the devils who have infiltrated the city.

Pat, who plays Gurn, couldn't make it. His gnome was standing on the shoulders of Finy, sharing an owl costume. I declared that he was sick and had to go home. Dornella, the halfling NPC, took his place. She used these severed satyr arms as part of the costume.

Handling Absent Players: Long ago, I used to worry about 'writing out' characters of players who couldn't make it to the session. I'd do backflips and spend a lot of time thinking of a plausible way to write them out.

Over time, I learned that it really doesn't matter. Nobody remembers that they were gone! This kind of thing has never hurt my campaigns at all.

There are a number of pitfalls when figuring out how to deal with an absentee. If you say that the character is present but "doing stuff in the background", that can become a problem. The entire group might be on the verge of a TPK and then the players will remember that the vacant character is technically there.

At that point, you're in a weird bind. They need that character or they are doomed! But it feels kind of cheesy. The character was scenery for the entire session, and now we're going to activate him?

There's also the possibility that the character whose player is absent dies. That really, really doesn't go over well when the player returns in the following session.

The Party: The heroes were in the noble's mansion. They'd arrived at the party at 7 PM, an hour before it was supposed to start. Zavagor used the bathroom upstairs and had discovered the magic toilet that teleported waste to some unknown place.

The heroes ate some canapes and slipped into a hallway. They split up (!) and explored. Zavagor and Lemuel wandered about and found a door to the backyard. They went out there and looked at the windows. They wanted to get into the master bedroom. On the second floor, there was just one massive window, clearly for the bedroom. This adventure has a handy map of the mansion that shows exactly where the windows are.

Finy and Dornella, on stilts and using corpse arms, wobbled around. They were astonished at the number of doors and rooms there were in this place.

The group ended up in the backyard and took off their fancy owl costumes. They decided to try to climb up to the second floor. Finy drank a potion of climbing, scaled the wall and slipped into the window of the master bedroom. The group had established a warning sign if something went wrong: "Hoot hoot." They're owls.

The Master Bedroom: Finy slipped in, rolled an epic stealth check. The master bedroom had a canopy bed and valuable statuettes. He stole one of Mari, goddess of luck in my campaign. It's funny he did that, as Lemuel is connected to her, unbeknownst to Finy.

There were two walk-in closets in this bedroom. Dornick and Varena, the hosts of this party, were each in one getting ready for the party. They were carrying on a conversation. Finy hid behind a curtain and eavesdropped. They were worrying about whether this guy Lord Lethos would show up, as he has a drinking problem.

Finy was able to pretend to be a guard and threw his voice a bit. He made up a story about Lord Lethos causing problems downstairs. Dornick bought it and left.

Zavagor and Lemuel climbed up and joined Finy in the room. They looked around the room and found that there was a safe behind a painting of Dornick. The safe had no lock or dial.

Finy grabbed the handle and was hit with a glyph of warding. They'd eventually learn that this safe was protected not only by the glyph, but also by a unique spell called timed stasis. The safe could only be opened at a time of day specified by the caster. In this case, it would open at 9:25 PM. There was also a password that could open it.
Zavagor took the opportunity to steal a diamond piercing.

Finy got electrocuted for about 10 points of damage. Varuna came out of the wardrobe and was aghast. Intruders! Zavagor cast friends on her and the group gave her this BS story about being members of the cult of Vecna (in this city, there is a huge cult of Vecna that gives out pamphlets).

The heroes fled. They put their costumes on and tried to rejoin the party, which hadn't even started yet. The one thing they had going for them was the fact that the nobles would be looking for two halflings.

There were a number of guards at this party. They questioned the heroes and took Zavagor up to meet Dornick. Dornick took Zavagor's stuff and threw it on the bed. He gave Zavagor a choice - he could be arrested (and be placed in a magic cube) or he could brave... the teleporting toilet. Where did the toilet teleport you to? Zavagor had no idea. I love the toilet.

Zavagor chose the toilet. They led him to the bathroom, but found that it was occupied. Lemuel was in there! He opened the door, grabbed a guard and shoved his head into the toilet, teleporting him to parts unknown!

Battle: This kicked off a sprawling battle by the bathroom and down in the ballroom. Dornella and Finy pulled the cord, which undid their stilt-owl costume. They fought the guards in the ballroom, trying to stop them from running upstairs to help Dornick.

Varuna ended up getting toilet-teleported. Dornick screamed. He shouted that his wife was in the sewers and in grave danger. The sewers in my homebrewed city are full of wererats, a giant waste-eating monster and that drill-machine from Labyrinth.

Dornick ran, calling for a necromancer. In this adventure, there is a necromancer named Jubal. He's the one who cast timed stasis on the safe to begin with.

Zavagor took this opportunity to get his gear and put it on. Lemuel flushed another guard. Dornella and Finy dropped the two guards down below and joined the group upstairs. The necromancer showed up in his party costume, which unsurprisingly was a grim reaper type of thing.

I was nervous about the necromancer. He's powerful! He's on page 217 of Volo's Guide to Monsters.

The heroes ambushed the necromancer. They rolled real high and pulled of an awesome maneuver where Zavagor hit him with a spell that sent him flying into the bathroom and Lemuel toileted him! It was epic.

Dornella was wrestling with Dornick and now the noble was in big trouble.

The group quickly brought him to the room and got him to open the safe with the password. Inside was the Star of the East, and two other very fancy pieces of jewelry.

I thought that they'd leave. But they didn't. They stole all of the valuables from the bedroom, including a massive pile of Varuna's expensive jewelry.

Then, they still didn't leave. They decided, to my surprise, to flush Dornick! In he went.

The group fled the scene. They had used my beloved teleporting toilet to full effect, just as I hoped they would.

Overall

I don't think I can convey the hilarity of this session through the typing. The whole thing unfolded and surprised me constantly.

This adventure is designed thinking that the group would be at the party and mingle with the many NPCs. There's a whole timeline and everything. But they were in and out before the party even started. Only one guest had arrived, a bard named Llewel. He walked in to see Dornella choking Dornick with the zombie arms.

The group committed some major thievery and now they'll try to fence this stuff, I guess. They will probably also study the Star of the East.

The Star leads into another Perkins adventure, which we'll start next time!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Dungeons & Dragons - Ritual of Whirling Fury


This past Saturday, we played some more online D&D. In this one I wanted to use the backstory of the characters, kind of bring it out and moosh it into the story.

Kyrin has a whole thing going with his deity, the Raven Queen. Mistletoe has all of these amusing NPCs that live in the city. Ramrod has a sort of classic past that lends itself to a good adventure or two.

I love NPCs, so I worked a bunch of the Mistletoe NPCs into this thing.

I decided to play through some downtime and start The Chained Coffin, an adventure I've waited a long time to fit into a campaign. It is made for the DCC RPG, but I am converting it to 5e.

I love the premise: There's a dude trapped in a coffin and the heroes need to bring it to a specific location before time runs out.

The Party

Kyrin - Human Cleric of the Raven Queen
Mistletoe - Human Druid
Ramrod - Goliath Barbarian
Gwynharwyf, Patron of Mistletoe
Last time, the heroes saved a crystal dragon and a dwarf clan from derros and a shapechanging monster. These dwarves decided to at last reunite with the dwarves of Underduin.

I wanted to start off with an encounter as that's fun and interesting. I think that every Indiana Jones movie starts with an action scene and I really like that, it's fun.

The group has agreed to stay with the dwarves of Underduin for 4 months. The dwarves want to make statues of them, to honor the heroes for reuniting Drull and Galvan Ironstar.

Mistletoe sent a dwarf to go to the city to get his druid friends. It would soon be time for an important ritual.

It ended up that the druids were ambushed by Chitines (pg 131 of Volo's Guide to Monsters). They were dragged into a cave.

The heroes found the cave and saw the druids in web cocoons. The main area of the cave had a pit with a thick web stretched over it horizontally.

Ramrod charged in and we had a rumble. Mistletoe used a gust of wind to send a chitine hurtling into the pit (which turned out to have a deep pool at the bottom).

Kyrin summoned a scythe and hacked a chitine's head off while Ramrod took a pile of damage and almost went down.

The druid and satyr NPCs:
  • Marigold: A pacifist lady with a crown of sunflowers
  • Vervain: A druid with a crown of thistle
  • Wormwood: A fuddy duddy druid with a crown of hemlock
  • Mister Naf Rangel: A satyr with a top hat and monocle, has sticky fingers
  • Zot: A road warrior satyr faun, she has spiked shoulder pads and a rock with an owl carved into it as a weapon.
Zot broke free of her cocoon and bashed a chitine's skull in. Mister Naf Rangel got free and started looting anything he could. Marigold begged the heroes not to kill them.

One the battle was done, Ramrod and Zot got into a bit of a scuffle. Both are barbarian types. He stood over her and patted her on the head. She grabbed his legs and took him down.

He monkey-flipped her into the pit! She couldn't swim because she was holding her owl rock in both hands, so someone had to go get her.

Once that cooled down a bit, the group returned to Underduin.

As the days passed, the dwarves found that their statues weren't coming out right. Some of the rocks chipped off floated of their own accord. Eventually they'd get a rough look at the statues, which appeared to be entities the group was unfamiliar with:
  • Ramrod: A hovering woman in robes
  • Kyrin: Hovering, empty robes
  • Misteltoe: Some kind of fox-headed humanoid
They had no idea what to make of this. The dwarves assumed Moradin was guiding their hand.

The Feast

The Dwarves had a big feast to celebrate the clans reuniting. Basically I tried to set up a thing. I gave the heroes a chance to reveal something about themselves. Then, later on, something would be revealed about them in an unexpected way. So basically, if they lied, their lie might be exposed later.

The feast consisted of "dwarven ham" (boar) and lots of alcohol. Mistletoe got drunk on dwarven grave ale.

The dwarves asked the heroes to tell a little bit about themselves for the Underduin historian to record. Mistletoe gave a rambling, drunken speech and passed out. Kyrin said he was a simple traveling priest. Ramrod said he liked to smash things, more or less.

Then the dwarves discussed hat to do with Thunderdelve, the dwarven complex the heroes had driven the derro from.

The mighty hammer known as Vitroin the Embeardener told Kyrin he had the power to repair Thunderdelve.

The hammer of Vitroin is a 2nd edition magic item. It doesn't normally like to leave Thunderdelve, ever. For this campaign, I declared that Vitroin wants to travel the world and the planes to learn more and better serve the dwarves upon his return.

The hammer had made Kyrin swear that, no matter, what, he would return Vitroin to Thunderdelve one day.

Basically, I wanted the players' input on what they thought should happen with Thunderdelve. They decided that it should be given to the crystal dragons, which is a pretty cool idea to me.

Kyrin spent a few days in Thunderdelve using Vitroin to repair the place.

The Ritual of Whirling Fury

Vorkhesis
The player of Mistletoe gave me some free reign with his background, so I tied his character to my Savage Tide campaign from 2010. It's a long story, but basically:
  1. A deva and a fey entity named Gwynharwyf got married secretly.
  2. Queen Morwel, ruler of the fey hates the deva because she thinks he set off a shadow pearl (a demogorgon monster-bomb) in the Court of Stars.
  3. He was framed! He's been in hiding ever since.
  4. They are Mistletoe's patron, and they have asked them to clear the deva's name.
The deva is a character from that campaign. I love to work in old campaign and characters, the old players really get a kick out of it.

There have been a few times at the game store when an old player of mine came in and I'd say to the group, "This is Thenrynnia" and they'd all go "holy crap!" like he was a celebrity, it's really awesome. I want the characters to count and become legends whenever possible.

In this case, I'll probably email the player of the deva and he will laugh and give me some ideas on what his character would do in this scenario.

We did a big ritual where Mistletoe got in contact with his fey patrons. During this ritual, energy passed through the heroes and scenes from their life appeared in a big bonfire for all to see and hear. We learned:

Gazgar the Wereboulder: Galvan Ironstar had secretly ordered him to keep an eye on the Hammer of Vitroin and to kill Kyrin and bring it back to Underduin if necessary. The heroes let it slide.

Kyrin: The heroes saw a massive skeletal humanoid with no eyes, horns and a burning halo. Weird, small balls of energy swirled around him as he lurked in a vault.

Kyrin knew who this was. It's Vorkhesis, Master of Fate, son of the Raven Queen. He is a caretakes of special souls that the Raven Queen sends his way.

Kyrin has a huge tattoo of Vorkhesis on his chest. The heroes don't know that, and Kyrin didn't mention it.

I LOVE Vorkhesis and by gawd it is way past time for me to use him in a major way in a campaign.

Ramrod: They saw a scene where another goliath was pointing out to an entire clan that Ramrod "was no worthy." As Ramrod watched this scene unfold, he hung his head in shame.

When this whole ritual was done, the heroes did not ask each other about anything. They'd learned some secrets and decided to leave it be for now.

Days and weeks passed. Kyrin has a power called Eyes of the Grave, which allows him to sense undead. He sensed some behind a stone wall.

The dwarves needed to dig out a new section of Underduin to accomodate the many dwarves who had come here from Thunderdelve. They dug into the undead section. Kyrin couldn't wait to get in there.

The digging revealed a tunnel which opened up into a cavern.

Seven skeletons were in there and wow, did they get destroyed. Kyrin turned four of them. All of the heroes have bludgeoning weapons, which skeletons are vulnerable to. It was a massive explosion of bone shards.

I here, buried under heavy stones was a coffin. A voice spoke in their minds, asking for help.

They removed the stones. The coffin was made of orichalchum and was wrapped in adamantine chains secured with a magical lock.

The person in the coffin dumped a huge backstory on the group:
  • He's a follower of the Raven Queen, he's been trapped in here for decades or centuries.
  • He was put here by Boak, an ally who betray3ed him and joined "the forces of chaos."
  • Boak can telepathically communicate with and taunt the prisoner.
  • Soon, Boak is going to go through a ritual that will transform him into some kind of chaos entity.
  • The group needs to get the chained coffin to a place called the Lusaahl Wheel to free the prisoner and to stop Boak.
  • The Lusaahl Wheel is located in Deep Hollow, an area in the middle of the mountains where Underduin lies.
Kyrin wanted to help his fellow cleric of the Raven Queen. The heroes agreed to help.

The players then asked me, "We have to carry this thing there?" Yup! That's one of the things I like so much about this adventure.

The group got a cart. At first they wanted to get a whole bunch of dwarven ham (boars) to pull it, but we decided to have the group go into the woods to capture a creature to pull the cart. I'm going to dig up a list of fun monsters and basically let them pick and capture one.

That's what we'll do next time!

Good session! I felt like working in their stories was long overdue. Their characters deserve the full treatment!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Dungeons & Dragons - The Star of the East

Last Saturday, we played some more of the KEY RING campaign. This was session 4.

I had decided to bust out a heist adventure I tried to run when I was a kid. It is from a 2nd edition supplement called Thieves of Lankhmar.

The Days Before Online Shopping: When I was a little kid, there was a hobby store near my house. This place was my main source for D&D stuff. The guy running this store was nice, but he knew nothing about D&D. He ordered the least desirable products on the market. Maybe people just bought up the good stuff. All I know is, every time I went there my choices involved Dragonlance: Otherlands and lots of Lankhmar products.

I didn't know anything about Lankhmar but my options were extremely limited. I ended up buying Thieves of Lankhmar. In it, there is an adventure where the heroes can infiltrate a costume party and steal a magic gem.

As a kid, I could not wrap my head around all of the details and I ended up running a very loose version of it. In that session, I learned an extremely important lesson that has held true for my entire life: Players love in-game parties. Why? I don't know. But they do!

I decided that the key ring would go through this scenario, and this time I would run it the right way. I transplanted it from Lankhmar to my campaign world.

Lankhmar vs. Monty Haul: I actually put the city of Lankhmar in my campaign setting back then, as the sister city to my homebrewed city of Olwynn. The cities eventually went to war.

This war culminated in an epic battle where the characters of 12 year olds fought Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, the heroes of the Lankhmar books. The heroes completely slaughtered them. The party consisted of 12 characters absolutely overloaded with magic items. These heroes were so spoiled that nobody wanted Wave, the artifact from White Plume Mountain.

In my campaign, that war took place about 1,610 years ago. A new city was built in the ruins of Lankhmar - Dunwynn, city of scumbags. It's a sleazy dump and nobody likes it. I have been meaning to run a scenario there for a long time. Dungeon Crawl Classics has all of those Lankhmar adventures out, I should probably get one.

The Key Ring

(Andrew) Finy Teetoe - Halfling Rogue
(Pat) Gurn Sirensong - Gnome Bard
(Ashley) Lemuel - Human Rogue
(Joe) Zavagor - Half-orc Warlock

The heroes had just defeated a dog-sized dragon. They returned to Pollidemia's tower to rest. Pollidemia is a fallen, formerly evil goddess.

The heroes got her goblin sidekick, Slurp, some juice. Then Finy gave Slurp an epic belly rub and regretted it immediately. The adventurers went to sleep in the attic full of creepy, evil artifacts.

Infernal Contract: Gurn had a dream about Zotzpox. They have this weird connection, because Gurn worships him as if he is a god. Gurn has been instructed to sign an infernal contract, which means that when he dies, his soul belongs to Dispater.

Unleashing the Brainhole: They'd rescued a devil cultist named Sekelith last time. They stabbed him in the head, but he lived. He had this big hole in his skull that was really freaking him out. Pollidemia has been tooling with a magic crossbow that has a drow brain affixed to it. The Crossbrain was fired into the hole. Sekelith gained memories and powers of a drow elderboy. The 4e elderboy has powers that make me laugh called "shift blame", "endure torment" and others. The guy was confused, but overall it went pretty well. He’ll probably serve Pollidemia as if she was a drow matron.

Somewhere in here, the quote "Unleash the brainhole" was uttered, to my great amusement.


Dragon Items: They took the dog-sized dragon corpse to a guy who could make magic items out of it. This is based on an old dragon magazine article. The items received:
  • Lemuel got an elixir of blindsense and a dragonskin vest.
  • Gurn obtained a dragonsong music instrument made using the dragon's vocal chords.
  • Finy got a fundamentum flask, a one-use grenade-type item made from the dragon breath gland.
  • Someone got wyrmblood ink, ink made from dragon's blood. It helped with making scrolls and writing spells into your spellbook.
Their friend Loren the sage, who they had just rescued from the devils, has no place to live. To make money, he started cooking up some D&D drugs like the cerebrospinal fluid of the mind bat (from the dungeon dozen site).

Somehow Finy got involved. He went into the city to buy the ingredients for Loren.

The heroes heard about this gem called The Star of the East. The devils were afraid of it. The belief was that it is connected to angels in some way and could completely ruin their evil schemes.

A snooty noble had it. The group ended up deciding to steal it.

The Litterer: The heroes scouted out the guy's mansion in the rich part of town. In this city, there are weird god-like immortals that protect each district. This one is guarded by Malificia the Hag, who rides around on a carpet of ladybugs. Anybody who litters here is turned into a ladybug.

On their way to the mansion, the heroes were stopped by cultists of Vecna handing out pamphlets. In my campaign, Vecna was slain in my Scales of War campaign and he was a sentient cloud for about 500 years. This cult brought him back to god status.

Gurn handed them a pamphlet that extolled the virtues of Zotzpox the imp. The cultist rolled his eyes. When the group turned to leave, he chucked it on the ground.

The players started laughing. I forgot! He littered! Malificia the hag appeared. The cultist of Vecna shrieked and was transformed into a ladybug and added to her carpet.

She advised the heroes to keep the city nice and clean, and went on her way.

The group scoped out the mansion. They learned that there was a costume party in 4 days time.

Costume Fitting: The group went and had costumes made. For some reason, they decided to all wear owl costumes. That's when we learned that Ashley works with birds, and she began rattling off different bird types. That's one of the great things about D&D. Players can utilize their skills and real world knowledge to add a ton of great stuff to the campaign and everybody benefits.

Finy the halfling and Gurn the gnome decided that they were going to wear one costume together. Gurn was going to be on Finy's shoulder while Finy wore stilts. They ended up getting the freshly-severed arms of a satyr to use as well (long story). Gurn used the tendons to make the fingers move.

They needed gold invitations to get in. The group found out who made the invitations and decided to go steal the plates to make it. This plan went very poorly. Gurn chatted up the shopkeep while Finy and Dornella the NPC tried to break in the back door. Finy couldn't pick the lock.

Finy and Dornella got in, but the shopkeep ended up going back there to show Gurn the plates. He saw the rogues and freaked out.

From there, the group basically grabbed the plates and ran away as fast as they could.

Once they'd made their phony invitations, Finy and Lemuel actually broke back in to the shop to replace them. They almost got spotted by Malificia the Hag, who happened to be roaming by, but they successfully hid.

After a few days of stilt practice, the group took their fake invitations and headed to the party. The party started at 8. They decided to get there at 7.

They got in with no problem. There were servants setting up snack platters.

Party Pies: Andrew told us about 'party pies', which I'd never heard of. They're little pies with meat in them. They sound delicious. Did they have party pies at this nobleman's party? Hell yes, they did. All sorts of party pies, real fancy.

The group needed to find this gem. Zavagor asked a guard (there are quite a few guards at this place) where the bathroom was. To his dismay, the guard actually escorted him there.

The bathroom in this adventure is really cool. Anything placed in the toilet is teleported elsewhere! Zavagor was quite intrigued and I can just imagine all the zany things the group might do with that thing.

That's where we stopped!

Overall

Normally, I'd have run this adventure in a way where I would relentlessly force things along so that we can get to the party. I've been sitting back more and letting them do their thing. I want the characters to be center stage, so I am trying to let them do what they like. I crack the whip only when it feels like there is no momentum.

This was a hilarious session that would have made a great youtube episode. We'll be starting those in about 7 or 8 weeks, so it should be awesome.

Dungeons & Dragons - Brimstone Angels by Erin M. Evans

I just finished reading Brimstone Angels by Erin M. Evans, a D&D novel that involves the Nine Hells, Glasya, Asmodeus, the erinyes and Malbolge, the sixth layer of Hell. I recently wrote a bunch of guides to the Nine Hells and when I saw this book, I felt like I should check it out.

I have mined the book for material that you can use in your D&D campaign. Let’s go through that and then I’ll do some bloviating.

Glasya's Agents

Invadiah: Glasya’s favored erinyes, Invadiah runs the elite guard known as The Pradixikai. She has a mane of deepnight hair that cascades nearly to the floor. She is known to wear either char-black armor or a gown of chain adorned with carapace-like plates of smoldering gold. She answers directly to Glasya and she owns a number of magic items that her children steal from her now and then.

Invadiah is not nice at all. She is thoroughly evil and very violent.

The Pradixikai: 58 erinyes warriors, Glasya's personal guard. All of them are daughters of Invadiah.

Two members are Namaiah and Aornos, weak, vicious erinyes who like to bully lemures and Lorcan. They guard Invadiah’s treasury in Malbolge.

Saorche: I’m guessing on the spelling, here. It’s pronounced “Say-ur-CHAY”. She is a daughter of Invadiah, clever like Lorcan. I think she’s a cambion. She meddles in Lorcan's schemes and is a mischievous creeper.

Rohini: A succubus agent who goes on personal missions for Glasya. In this book, she infiltrates the city of Neverwinter and ends up getting involved with aboleths who try to control her. She has red hair, black wings, and pale skin.

It is revealed that some time ago, she killed one of the commanders of Levistus, lord of the fifth layer. When she returned from that mission, she was covered in blood and had his severed hands with her as proof.

The Ashmadai: This is the name of the cult of Asmodeus. Even Lorcan fears them. They have a saying: “What benefits us benefits Amodeus, and what benefits Asmodeus benefits us all.

A lot of the ashmadai are tiefling warlocks, they sacrifice people. They're in the book but I don't recall too many unique details. The Forgotten Realms wiki has a lot of info right here.

Warlock Pacts

Probably the most interesting thing in this book from a D&D perspective is the depiction of how a warlock pact works.

In D&D, most warlocks I've seen don't really mention their patron. In this book, the warlock's patron is a pivotal character who shows up constantly. He's not some distant godlike entity, he's a dude who hangs out at his mom's job.

The Pact: Farideh had to agree to the pact. When she did (he smooth-talked her while she drooled over him), he touched her and lines appeared on her skin, like a magic tattoo. The magic tattoo was connected to Lorcan, and through it she has a bit of an empathic bond with him. Sometimes when he's near, the tattoo pulses.

Monitoring the Warlock: Most of the time, Lorcan watches her through a magic mirror in Malbolge. He can use this device known as the Needle of the Crossroads which lets him travel to the Forgotten Realms and back. He uses a magic ring attuned to it to teleport to and from the Realms.

Changing Patrons: Farideh eventually learns she can switch patrons if she wants. She has to find another one, but it can be done. Lorcan knows this and tiptoes around the issue.

I think it's a great way to use a warlock. I've tried this kind of thing but I wasn't too good at it. This book gives a very clear and well-thought-out example of how it is done.

What Happens when a Devil Gets Demoted

The various D&D books give a lot of different gross ways for devils to be demoted. Many of them involve a devil being dragged off for torture over the course of weeks or years.

Glasya demotes a barbed devil into a spined devil in this book. Here's what happened:

She waved her hands and the devil’s muscles contorted. It screamed as if its intestines were being pulled out with a single hooked finger. There was an explosion of energy that burned hot and thick with soot and the devil tore apart with a sick wet ripping sound. All nearby felt a burning wind pass over them.

In the tattered bloody midst of its former body is a smaller form. It twitched and jerked, tearing muscles. The spined devil form broke free and stretched its delicate wings, flinging gore everywhere.

Succubi

In this 4e-era story, succubi can be promoted to an erinyes and an erinyes can be demoted into a succubus. The succubi were on the side of the demons, but they joined the devils when Asmodeus became a god. Erinyes and succubi hate each other.

In 5e, some succubi work with devils and others work with demons.

Malbolge, the Sixth Layer of Hell


It is specifically mentioned that Malbolge, which is the massive fleshy remains of the Hag Countess, is still alive. The suppurating ground actually devours any who die here. I wonder if the Hag eats enough people, can she transform back into the person she was?

Invadiah’s Tower

Invadiah has a treasury in one of the Ten Towers. Each of these bone spires were once fingers of the Hag Countess. Lorcan goes into the treasury to “borrow” magic items fairly often. Sometimes it is guarded by two erinyes, members of the Pradixikai.

Exterior: venomous flowers twined their way toward tall bone spires, fed by streams of shimmering effluvia that changes color by the hour. The ground is ruddy.

Special Door: The door to the treasury is very cool. The door is made of bone, crisscrossed with sinew strong as steel. In the center of the sinew is an infernal seal. Lorcan merely has to touch the seal to open it. I would guess that devils with the blood of Invadiah can activate it. Anyone else probably sets off some kind of alarm or is hit with a gory trap. 

Interior: The hallways throb and fleshy pink walls tremble with tortured ghosts of the previous ruler's thoughts. The walls are lined with bloody mucus and bone juts out from corners.

The Needle of the Crossroads: Lorcan spends quite a bit of time in a room containing an artifact. It is a small room with a green obelisk enclosed by fleshy walls that ooze sickly yellow fluid. A polyp lights the room, which is full of treasure.

The needle of the crossroads is an artifact that creates a temporary portal tied to anywhere in Toril.
Near it is a large iron mirror. Lorcan uses a magic pin that allows him to peer into the mirror and observe his other warlocks. He can hear through the mirror, though the sound is warbly.

Throne Room of Osseia

Glasya sits on a throne carved from the ivory of the teeth of the Hag Countess. Glasya has bat-like wings, coppery skin, and dark hair. She radiated like a star and she swallowed up the light around her. To look upon her is a special sort of madness.

She is served by hellwasps, who have stingers the size of swords and bladed legs. Glasya is flanked by two pit fiends with whips.

Exterior: On the exterior of Osseia, which is the massive skull of the Hag Countess, are two sharpened fangs on which Glasya frequently impales those who displease her. In this book, two cultists of a rival archdevil actually tried to sneak around Malbolge. Both were impaled and scream in pain for hours as their blood drips down on those who enter or exit.

The Brimstone Angel 


The book mentions her a few times. Farideh is a descendant of hers. There are some hints that Farideh might also be linked to the deity Selune somehow. I have no idea who the Brimstone Angel is, I am guessing it will be explained in future books. She sounds like a potentially really cool NPC.

Overview

I don't really read fantasy novels. I'm more of a non-fiction kind of guy. I obtained this book through a free audible trial, so I didn’t read this, I listened to it.

Overall the book is very good. Erin M . Evans writes extremely colorful descriptions, her plotting skills are fantastic and she is able to bring characters to life. She stopped me in my tracks by using the word “insouciant” in a sentence.

I assume many of you have tried to or have written a fantasy story of some kind. I once tried to write a novel, and I had to stop because I actually bored myself. What started out as a tale about time-traveling shenanigans with gatling guns and planar spiders ended up mired in relationship drama on a pirate ship. 

I don’t want to spoil the story too much. Basically, Farideh makes a pact with Lorcan, she ends up in Neverwinter and she ends up embroiled in a conflict involving aboleths, Glasya and Asmosdeus. The whole thing unfolds naturally. The characters drive the story and nothing feels contrived.

She has an adventuring party:
  • Havilar: Her twin sister, a fighter who is pretty funny.
  • Bryn: A guy with a lot of secrets, somewhat inept but a good dude.
  • Mehen: A gruff dragonborn who is a stepdad to Farideh and Havilar.
  • Lorcan: Lorcan, the cambion, is pretty much a party member, even though everyone hates him.
The Narrator: The audiobook is narrated by a woman named Dina Pearlman. She was pretty incredible when it came to depicting a scene and saying dialogue as it would be said when things are exploding. She could convey a sense of urgency, drama and nuance.

She's good, but there were a few things she did that would take me out of the story. Here we go.

Story Time: There were times when it felt like she was reading the story in a patronizing tone, as if she was reading to little kids.

Man Voice: The voice she did for the males, especially Lorcan, was just no good. It's not her fault, really. She doesn't have a man's voice. But she did this throaty "making fun of the way dad talks" voice that was very jarring.

"Brim-sta-NAY Angels": She pronounced everything differently. By the end of the book, I was convinced I've been saying everything wrong. Listening to this, she says "Wyvern" is "WEE-varn" and Erinyes is "erih-YEEZ".

When I see the name "Farideh" on a piece of paper, I hear "Fair-ih-DAY". It's not. It's "Fah-REE-da". When I see "Invadiah" I hear "INVADE-eeya". It's "In-va-DEE-yah." My pronunciation world got rocked from chapter one all the way through to the epilogue.

My pronunciation confidence is so shattered that I will never try to say "halberd" out loud in D&D again. I'm still not saying "Siggle", City of Doors, though.

My Favorite Part

The book won me over pretty quick with a stellar description of Farideh meeting Lorcan for the first time. We learn that he is red-skinned, cinder-haired and black-eyed. He has “shapely horns” and veiny wings SO BIG they almost scrape the ceiling! He’s slim, well-muscled and clothed in snug leather. 

I was already cackling at this sideways eroticism. Then I heard this part:

"To Farideh, he looked like sin. He looked like want. He looked like all the thoughts she couldn't let herself have bundled up in a skin and watching her drip snowmelt on the floor. Handsome was a paltry word for him. Tiefling, human or anything else, boys didn't look like this. Boys didn't make her feel as if someone was pulling seams loose inside her."

I died laughing. That’s five stars right there. There is no question I am going to work this quote into a D&D session ASAP.

The central theme of the book is the relationship between Farideh and Lorcan. Farideh thinks he’s hot. Lorcan has a thing for her. She’s important to him because she’s one of the descendants of the Brimstone Angel.

Lorcan

I really don't like how Farideh has a thing for Lorcan even though he's a complete prick and he manhandles her. Maybe it’s realistic, but it is very off-putting to me. The solution the book comes up with is not for her to ditch him, but to have her obtain a magic item which magically blocks Lorcan from hitting her.

That said, toward the end of the book I found myself desperately wanting this dude to help the group and was quite happy when he did.

Character Development: What was interesting was that Lorcan is evil, but he changed slightly. As the book progresses, you can see how tempting it must be for the author to have him completely change alignments and become a true ally, but she resisted it big time.

Lorcan changes for the better, but just a tiny, tiny bit. You get the feeling he might change more as the books progress, but right now he's still very evil.

The 4e Curse

These books should be more popular than they are. I think what happened here is that this series was launched alongside the most reviled edition of D&D (not reviled by me, I loved it). This was a time when a lot of players were immersed in Pathfinder and anything D&D was radioactive.

On top of that, from what I understand, Forgotten Realms fans really didn't like how 4e advanced the timeline of the realms and made massive changes to the setting. This book utilizes 4e concepts like the wingless monster-erinyes, the Elemental Chaos, the 4e Neverwinter, spellscars, and the spellplague.

She had 3 billion strikes against her right from the start.

The thing I got most out of this book is a reminder of what a good adventure feels like. As a DM, I slip into a rut sometimes where I run the game too much like a game. This is a nice way to reset your brain and keep your game running as a story rather than numbers on a piece of paper.

You can read a sample chapter here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Dice, Camera, Action: Episode 35 - Storm King's Thunder


Episode 35: Fee, Fi, Fo and Fum

On Reddit, they made a really nice index of the episodes right here.

No Anna this week! We do have a special guest star, Satine Phoenix from Maze Arcana, the show where they play through an Eberron campaign. For me, that’s about as good a guest star as you can get.

That said, it’s just not the same without Evelyn.

The Party

(ProJared) Diath - Human Rogue
(Nathan) Paultin - Human Bard 
(Holly) Strix - Tiefling Sorcerer
(Satine) Lafaria - Dryad
Hooty McHootface the owlbear is part of the party now. Strix actually rides around on him as if he was a mount. She has to sort of lie down on him, as he moves in a weird way and can’t be ridden like a horse. She feeds him lots of waffles.

The group are about to head out into the wilderness with Zog, the dwarf on stilts. They'll be helping Zog deliver a message to a citadel. The journey will take about 20 days.

As he packs for the trip, Zog drops some stuff. He has a giant diamond. It’s worth at least 1,000 gp. Hmmm…. Diath can use that for his resurrection power! The group gets all bug-eyed, but decides to play it cool for now.

The crew travels for a week without incident. During the nights, they let the owlbear sleep in the hut. Strix needs him for warmth. Murderbot is still a good buddy of Paultin's. I guess Murderbot stares at them while they sleep.

During the second week, a huge windstorm hits. Evelyn is separated from the group. She was riding on Mourning Glory and was enjoying the splendor of nature when… poof. Chris says this is his way of explaining her absence. I like that better than the old “she’s there but doesn’t do anything” gimmick, but it gets weird if players miss a lot of sessions.

In my games I ended up just not worrying about it, saying they didn’t “log in” for that session. When you keep a PC around as an NPC, all kinds of bad stuff can happen.

The Dryad

The heroes come upon a hill with a tree and a cave. The group messes with the tree and suddenly Lafaria, a dryad appears. This is Satine's character.

She asks them why they are damaging her tree. Strix and Diath are freaked out, and they run. Eventually the group befriends her, sort of. They’re still creeped out.

Zog is shocked when he finds out that Strix is a female.

Lafaria lets the group sleep in her cave. Giants are coming. The dryad wakes up the group and warns them. They can feel the earth trembling as the giants get close.

A giant bellows, "I smell the blood of a human!"

The group takes a look. One giant is twice as big as the others. She sends her three underlings toward the cave.

Paultin tells Murderbot to get ready to kill. Wow, murderbot vs a giant.

They are hill giants. The big one is female screaming for food. Her name is Fum. Hmmm I guess the others are Fee, Fi and Fo.

Paultin tries to convince the giants that the heroes aren't a filling meal. The giants decide to eat the tree instead. The tree is Lafaria’s home and she is not too happy about that idea. The group goes to battle with the giants.

Hill Giants

The dryad has the tree pick up Strix, who launches off a fireball. The owlbear attacks a giant.

They should have a race between the owlbear and Mourning Glory. How fast is an owlbear? Would the owlbear even understand it was in a race?

Hootie bloodies the giant. Hootie gets hit for 38 points! He's almost dead!

A giant tries to push over the tree. Paultin casts fear on Fum and she fails her save. She flees, but her husbands are still fighting. The group is quite amused that all of the males are her husbands. This is part of the hill giant storyline in Storm King.

A giant drops Diath, big time.  Poor Diath is about to start making death saving throws.

The chat alerts the group that Murderbot hasn't gone. Chris says that Murderbot is just hanging out next to Paultin. It never fails in D&D… everyone forgets the NPCs and animal sidekicks.

A giant bites Lafaria for 12 points. Murderbot fires a dart into a giant's butt and kills it.

Diath rolls a death save... natural one! That counts as two failures. One more and he's dead for good. Strix misty steps over to him and tries a heal check to stabilize him, but she rolls a 5. Uh oh. She stuffs snow in his mouth. Doesn't help.

As the battle rages on, Diath rolls another death save.. eep... he rolls a 14! Strix tries to stabilize him again. Fails. Wow. Zog actually comes over to help. Zog does it! I don’t know why, but I kind of felt like Diath should just die. That was the story the dice were telling.

I know they’d be stuck if he died. Could someone at the citadel raise dead? Probably. But Jared might have to sit out for a portion of the session, which is a bit lame I guess.

Wow... Lafaria goes down. Paultin goes down!! Both making death saves! It's just Strix and Zog versus two hill giants. No... Zog is down! It's just Strix!

She tries to scare off the giant with thaumaturgy, creating a shadow demon bigger than it. She rolls really bad.

She should run into the cave, the giant can't get in there...

Oh no. She is hit. 16 damage. she's still up! She lets out a hellish rebuke. The group is pining for Evelyn.

It staggers back. Murderbot fires a dart into it.. kills it! The other giant flees, trying to catch up with his wife.

Lafaria is about to die.. she doesn't go by PC rules. I think she rolled a natural 20 on a death save but she didn’t pop up.

Lafaria rubs sap on Strix's head. She utters a weird phrase: “Hellstroth dons his elven crown.” Strix has gained a boon - the power to polymorph. She can cast the polymorph spell on herself a few times. That should be fun. She could assume the form of an owlbear!

Overall

Fun show. It was fun to see the groups fight some giants. They were pretty much in over their heads.

I always like how Chris doesn’t always have his monster mindlessly attack. They have goals. The giants wanted something to eat, and when they decided to eat the tree, they shifted their focus to that.

No show next week!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Dungeons & Dragons - Dragon's Delve by Chris Perkins Part 2

We played this a little over a week ago. I like playing through the Perkinses because you can experience ideas he still uses today.

I am still making my way through Brimstone Angels. There’s a bit too much arguing in it right now for my liking, but there is a lot of stuff that I enjoy about it. I am looking forward to peeling it apart once I have gotten through the whole thing.

The Party

Kyrin - Human Cleric of the Raven Queen
Mistletoe - Human Druid
Ramrod - Goliath Barbarian

Last time, the heroes had come to find missing ambassadors and a crystal dragon. They had a weird encounter with a deep dragon who ran from them after breathing on Kyrin.


The heroes were partnered up with their new buddy Gazgar the wereboulder. They made their way to the cavern where the crystal dragon, Glittershard, was digging. Glittershard explained that he was told that if he stopped digging, the ambassadors would be killed.

That's a nice little way to avoid a pitfall. The map of this adventure provides a straight line to the bad guy and this dragon. The group can skip the entire complex. This adventure accounts for that possibility and the group has to backtrack to find the ambassadors.

The heroes checked out a clear pool of water. They saw big pipes in it. These pipes connect to a dwarven bathtub in an abandoned area of the fortress.

I was sitting there expecting the group to zip right to the ambassadors and, in my head, I was mapping out where the bad guys were and how this was going to work. Then Ramrod decided to swim into the pipes. He jerked the grate open and in he went.

Suddenly we were off on a complete detour. Ramrod emerged in the bathroom and hopped into the tub. There was translucent goo in it - a crystal ooze! It began to engulf him.

The heroes had tied a rope to him and swam through the pipe to help their goliath chum.

They killed the ooze and began to explore this crumbling section of Thunderdelve that the dwarves left alone.

They ended up opening the door to a room with a crumbling floor. Two dwarf heads with bat wings screeched and flapped toward them.  Vargouilles! They're pretty cool, they are from Volo's Guide to Monsters.

The group shut the door. They assumed that the vargouilles couldn't turn a door knob. From the other side, the heroes heard chomping noises and saliva glooping. They were right.

They then proceeded to explore right to the area where the secret bad guys were. I did not expect this at all. I kind of assumed that the adventurers would never even run into these creatures.

The bad guys are derro, crazy blue gnomes. They're behind this whole scheme. The group beat them down. One tried to flee, but Ramrod threw the wereboulder at him and he was down.

The derro had a book on them that contained a clue to a dwarven vault. The heroes eventually found the vault, which contained many dwarven treasures. One such treasure was the hammer of Vitroin! It was a dwarven artifact that could heal and telepathically communicate to the wielder in a mighty, heroic voice.
Ramrod was very freaked out by this. The hammer could sense what was going on in this place. Someone was using a diadem of thought draining to fog the minds of the dwarves, making them easy to manipulate and control.

The hammer declared that he could destroy the diadem in a single blow! All the group had to do was to find it.

The heroes showed the hammer to Drull, the ruler of Thunderdelve. Drull was still recovering from his wounds. His beard had been burned off, but the group had made a pretty snazzy fake beard for him last session.

The players asked me if the hammer could fix the beard. Can the hammer fix the beard?! Hell yes! That's why they call it.. Vitroin THE EMBEARDENER!

By burning one of the cure light wounds spells, the hammer could embearden someone. Thanks to the magic of Vitroin, the king had a full lustrous beard that left the other dwarves in awe.

By the end of the adventure, Kyrin was wielding the hammer and he had a thick black beard, which he says he is keeping.

Fully embeardened, the heroes strutted off to break the ambassadors out of the prison. When they got there, they found the deep dragon waiting for them!

It breathed flesh-eating mist which dropped Kyrin. Again, his flesh wasn't eaten. Weirdly, the dragon seemed scared.
A Baldandar

The heroes boldly charged in and pounded on the dragon. It turns out that this creature wasn't a dragon at all. It was an illusion-created creature known as a baldandar. It turned out that the derro had brought the baldandar here to wreak havoc and subjugate the dwarves.

They took it down and saw that it was wearing the diadem! Mighty Vitroin indeed shattered it in a single blow and the ambassadors were freed.

The dwarves slowly became less stupid and Glittershard no longer had to toil. The bad guys were having him dig a connecting tunnel to the underdark settlement of the derro. They had wanted to use Thunderdelve as a staging ground to raid the overworld from.

From outside came shouts and mighty roars. Glittershard's draconic parents had arrived!

The group brought Glittershard out there. I read this big box of flavor text that made the players groan. The parents hugged their little child and he learned a valuable lesson about life and the dangers of strangers.

The dragons gave the heroes two gifts:
  • An ioun stone that gave resistance to cold damage.
  • An orb that allowed the group to call on the dragons one time. As long as the dragons were within 100 miles, they hear it and fly to the group.
Drull agreed to finally go and meet with his brother in Underduin. The group went along.

In the adventure, it says that the group is invited to stay in Underduin for a while. The dwarves want to make statues of them, and the process takes four months.

The heroes agreed to stay.

Next session, we'll play through some of that time.

Good group, good session! I didn't prepare this adventure like I should have and I wasn't really happy with what I did with it. The players made it fun, though.

I am getting the hang of sitting back and letting the players chew scenery. It seems like all I have to do is be mindful of the pacing.