Category Archives: Worldbuilding

D&D Recap: Week of 6-11 May 2016

As I mentioned previously, I will not be publishing the Encounters season of Curse of Strahd until the Friday party is at the same point of time.  Because spoilers.  I also had the unfortunate circumstance of being ill over the weekend, so the recap here has been a bit slow.  I also have an update on my Living Parnast and my SRD as well.  I would’ve done this sooner but I also got ill over the weekend.  Nothing that bed rest didn’t cure, but it did slow me down a couple days.

Item:  Curse of Strahd, Friday the 6th

URL: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSdRcjIHCSxfJSJXBWhLkx-iBXg6_o70Y (Episode 1 in two parts.  Both Saved now that I know how Playlists work)

Here’s the reason why I’m not releasing the updates on Encounters:  My Friday group is starting the Curst of Strahd the way I did with the Encounters season, by setting the Death House in Baldur’s Gate.  Thanks to extensions from the DM’s Guild, however, it won’t end the same way.  Heh heh heh.

They did manage to give Rose and Thorn a proper burial, and gotten the Silvering Gun and Silvered Rapier.  Denzil thinks that they’re going to face a werewolf somewhere in this house, and I can’t tell him here what he’s facing.  (Hint:  He will be facing a werewolf.)

Yeah, I know, I have my favorite Munchkin in this table.  We all know that one power gamer in their group that he always thinks of playing the game system instead of the campaign.  And if you don’t know a person much like I’m talking about, you’re the one I’m talking about.  IMHO, it wasn’t his main attack being a grapple-dependent attack, but it was him being a vampire that causes some others to talk.  Again.  In fact, I had to wave that he can’t turn others into vampires.  Especially when we have Claire back in the team.

Fortunately, I have some very nasty surprises for Denzil.  I just hope the campaign doesn’t fall the way of last time.  I’d rather have Strahd deal with Denzil than the Lady of flipping Pain.

Item:  Lost Mine of Phandelver, 7 May

URL:  https://youtu.be/wBXxIvrlYHE

Unlike last session when things were pretty much ape-shit…well, it was my birthday weekend, what do ya expect?  We managed to get into uncharted waters for me.  I never made it to Cragmaw Castle before in Lost Mine.  I honestly expected that TPK when someone bellowed out an “HELLLLOOOOO!” In Thundertree and woke up that Green Dragon and brought all of his friends with them.

I mean, if you have to do that, you might as well do what Linka does:  Charge up to the first tango she sees, leap up spread eagle in the air with a “LOVE ME!!!!” and proceed to do her (by now) four attacks in an action.  Ah, sweet Linka.

Of course, that I did also managed to draw in all of the creatures in the abandoned castle, but at this time I didn’t mind because Linka’s AC is now in Munchkin levels at thirty fucking seven!  With a +3 Dagger and a Dagger that delivers chill touch to boot.  Folks, if you’re going to be a bit of a Power Gamer, this is how you do it.  You do it with a lot of flavor and an infective chuckle.  Oh, and a fluffy body that is guaranteed Beach Body Ready.  With the right attitude, confidence, and a friendly smile, any body type can be beach ready.  If you don’t have the former three, then yes, you’re going to need Protein World.

Of course, now she has a gnome who wants to use her as a mount.  And even gave her one of those baby vests that allows her to carry him!  Sheesh!

Item:  Homesteading Mechanic and the Foxfire SRD

Over the latter parts of the weekend, that’s when I got sick.  It’s nothing I don’t concern myself over too much unless it keeps me awake at night (you can guess what happened; I had to call off Sunday because I was too sleep deprived.) since I still have a pretty healthy immune system.  More often than not, just give me something over the counter and let me sleep it off; I’ll get better.

During this time, I managed to finish up a hurdle in my campaign design for my homemade campaign worlds:  The Homesteading Mechanic.  I wanted to have something similar to what Pathfinder’s Kingmaker series has converted into 5th Edition rules, especially for Living Parnast who uses it.  As of this post, I got it through the first proofread and will make the second draft with Parnast as a sample homestead and make that my first offering to the Dungeon Master’s Guild.  I’m releasing it for people to playtest the mechanic and give me feedback for what to add for a second version, which will include other sample homesteads (such as Phandalin, Red Larch, and Greenrest.)

As I planned and called earlier, this mechanic will be part of the Foxfire SRD once I compiled everything.  It’ll be used for all of my campaigns including Æthercoil.  Since it’s a mechanic and not anything to deal with flavor, It shouldn’t clash with the DM’s Guild’s Terms of Service.  (But there are alternatives if problems does show up.)

Item:  Out of the Abyss, Encounters, 11 May

Also while I was recovering, I managed to plan the rest of the Out of the Abyss campaign, playing things straight—and skipping over the random stuff—to get it out of the way so I can focus on their Curse of Strahd playthrough, which they flat out enjoy.  (Again, I can’t spoil things for Denzil.) I had Viseran get a vision to take the ritual to Aramycos, not just to stop the actions of two demon lords (Juiblex and Zuggtmoy) but to keep Menzoberanzan from turning from Syria to Hiroshima.  It was straight out encounters back to back, with some rests in-between (and an improntu level-up at the middle of the session) but when the dust settled over the Royal Rumble of Demon Lords, Demogorgon was raising his arms up in victory over what would be the fight of his life.

Just like John Cena when he won the title at the Elimination Chamber.  Remember the look on his face when Vince McMahon walked up and announced that Edge has cashed in his Money in the Bank contract, scheduling his Championship match at that instant?

That’s what both of Demogorgon faces had when he looked down and saw the party looking up at him.

Yes, the end was pretty much the same.

There’s still some other Demon Lords running about, and some will return sooner than you’d think, but Demogorgon left an Underdark battred, broken, and in need of some psychiatric help, but still more or less intact, and the surface world doesn’t have any more to fear than necessary.

Lessions learned in Out of the Abyss

  • Work on the Louis Carroll material some more.

The execution of the Alice in Wonderland scenes, especially with the Court, left people a bit off, but I think I can salvage that part for Æthercoil, where Alice in Wonderland-themed scenarios would be more at home in.

I think that’s why I don’t think that Out of the Abyss has much replayability, although parts of them can be reused as springboard material.  Chris Perkins mentioned a Wonderland theme and it threw my Autistic brain off.  Demon Lords and Disney-ish realms don’t mix very well.

  • Gromph Baenre will return in Living Parnast

In even the cannon Out of the Abyss the Drow wizard who unleashed all this madness blew his home town like a Syrian Migrant heading toward Germany before anyone even through of gunning after him.  If there’s any loose end I’m going to address in the Rage of Demons season in Living Parnast, it’s the party finding Gromph—in a very brain-addled state—in the Parnast region

  • Focus more on NPC interaction than Combat.

This one’s more from Curse of Strahd than Out of the Abyss, but there was an opportunity for some interaction at first that I missed.  Especially at the start where everyone was in the Drow Slave den.  However, I wasn’t as aware of a story at that time as I have with Curse of Strahd, so I didn’t do much with the NPCs at the time.  That’s something I’ll work on in future campaigns.

 

Recap Updates and Foxfire D&D SRD

Item:  Curse of Strahd Updates.

I’m happy to announce that I will be getting a streamed season back up, this time Curse of Strahd.  I’m getting a couple of my former players back together, hopefully after settling their differences, along with new players which I hope will become regulars.  I hope to get started next week with a Session 1 (or if need be, a session .5) where I start like what I did with my Encounters table:  With Death House in Baldur’s Gate and a crossing from the Realms to Ravenloft.

Because of this, and the desire not to show any spoilers in this blog, you’ll find me holding off on any recaps of the Encounters party, and instead showing some special lore that the two parties would’ve experienced by now.  This will keep either party from Metagaming which some of my players are prone to do.

This is why I’ll go off and say this to those who will be playing on my Friday table.  If you think you’re going to see I6 Ravenloft 2016 when you start off on Curse of Strahd, keep on thinking. You’ll see some wild twists on my variation of the campaign.  You’re talking to someone who has a list of D&D deities I have pissed off.  That storm last weekend, one of them done it, I know it.  I fully expect Tracy and Laura Hickman to kick down my door to my less than ostentatious apartment with a bunch of men with white coats and nets to drag me into the Kettler Behavioral Health Center.  That’s a fancy name for my hometown’s wacko basket, wouldn’t you think?

Item:  Foxfire D&D SRD

As some of you know, I’m working on a couple settings for D&D, one in the Forgotten Relams for the DM’s Guild, the other being Æthercoil.  Both of them will incorporate additional mechanics, options, monsters, and other nice juicy tidbits that might or might not be acceptable for DM’s Guild’s guidelines, since I am going to be using them for both settings.  (I mean, they have IP rights to the Terrasque and Baldur’s Gate, not the Light Bulb and using a Meeple on a path made of playing cards.)

I have the need to compile all of this material that I’m adding into the game into its own System Reference Document.  This document is meant to be an add-on to the official 5E SRD from Wizards, and will be used on both of my settings.  When it’s fully compiled, I’ll be posting it here as its main site.  (I’ll finally be changing that top menu on my page to allow people to download it.) It’ll be available free of charge, and will replace the old Wiki that I used earlier on my DM career.  (It’ll still be up since people are still using it.)

As you may suspect from a document that has just been compiled, it’ll still need some playtesting.  I’ll have a form for you to send whatever feedback you have. (On the SRD Material, I must remind you.  I never post anything just for someone to question me about my social life!  I’m looking at you, DeviantART!  Man, this is worse than Will Wheaton’s beef against Acquisitions Incorporated.)

D&D recap, Week of 20-24 Apr 16

Item:  Curse of Strahd, Encounters, Apr 20

This week in the staggered seasons saw the begin of Curse of Strahd proper.  I picked up the party from Baldur’s Gate—after the Death House chapter relieved the city from a particular eyesore in the Lower City—and took them due east on the Chionthar River, to the village of Iriaebor, which is nearest to the area in the Realms that Ravenloft took over.  I have a map of it here.  The area in the Sunset Mountains I’ve circled is the area where the Mists have overtaken.

Iriaebor

People were obviously concerned about this mysterious and dark mist that is threatening to envelop their surrounding areas, and some weren’t disappointed when werewolves beyond the usual strife came running amuck in there.  (I use the “Werewolves in the Mist” adventure hook to get the players in the game.)  Those bitten found out that the normal magic to break this curse didn’t work as well—meaning without complications in the form of Attribute Loss—as it should.  It’s obvious that Ravenloft Werewolves are of a higher caliber, so to speak.  The party found that out the hard way when one of their party members—John’s character—got the disease.  Even a Paladin’s Lay on Hands only managed to make the initial save with Advantage, which John failed.  Normal cure spells will only cure at a cost of Attribute loss.  In order to have a cure that isn’t worse than the disease, you need one of two items:  A lot of belladonna plants, or the blood of the werewolf that did the biting.  Both of which is in the Misted regions where Ravenloft has overtaken the area, which fortunately they are now stuck in.

The remainder of the session uses the Event Deck-Travel Track combination as the party proceeded to Barovia Village.  They managed to get to the corpse with a letter which I modified to denote what I’m changing in the adventure:

Hail to thee of might and valor!

I, the Burgomaster of Brovia, send honor to thee.  I have heard that you are coming, and I call to you to ask for assistance.

My beloved, Jeremy Arlying, has been afflicted by an evil to deadly that even the good people of our village, can protect him!  He languishes from the wound, and I would like him saved from this malady.

There is much wealth in this community.  I offer all that might be had to thee and thy fellows if thou shalt but answer my desperate plea.

Come to us in our time of need.  All that I have shall be thine!

….er, within reason, that is.  I do have standards after all.

Ireena Kolyana, Burgomaster

Yes.  Ireena is the Burgomaster.  And that’s the first of the changes.  You might get the chance to see more in the coming months.

Item:  Princes of the Apocalypse, Friday, 22 Apr

This is my first instance of “Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies,” where I just plain had enough of the player’s crap on the table.  It happens, I assure you on this.  At least I have a more creative way to create a RFED scenario.  Most people would just sic Tiamat on the party.  At first, I have the Dark Powers mechanic that deals with the offending character, and prompts the offending player to roll up a new players.

Claire, the resident Trans player in my group, had a better scenario:  The Lady of Pain.

25-Lady_of_PainThe Lady of Pain runs an extraplanar realm known as Sigil. While she can clock in as a deity, she doesn’t play the games of the other deities.  She just sits by herself in her little world, and only drop in front of someone to fuck him or her up.  At the very least, she’d just plop the offender in some pocket universes consisting of wall to wall maze for the rest of your life.  If you’re unlucky, however, and you’ve really pissed her off…my brain couldn’t register what she could do. All I can say is that Pinhead would witness what she’d do to someone and go, “Damn, that’s fucked up.”

When the Lady of Pain appeared in my table, she transported everyone in a flash of light (and the words, “And this is when they knew…they fucked up.”  Yes, she does talk in my world) into a one on two battle to the death.  It took me a lot of doing for me to make this a fair fight.  I took out Denzil’s scythe and gave Claire a bonus 10 levels (and had to take away Power Word Kill) and even had to manipulate the field to deal with the two players who just aren’t getting along.

In the end, after the battle, where Denzil’s character got killed.  The players decided that the campaign as it stands can’t be finished, especially with the way the players are now at each other’s throats, so I called the campaign a loss. My first RFED.

Lessons Learned in this campaign:

  • Power Words Kill and Stun are banned! Power Word Heal is still permitted.
  • Any weapon that deals on average more than 50 Hit Points will NOT BE PERMITTED! I’m not saying that a weapon or spell can deal more than 100 damage on a Crit or even on good dice rolls.  But no weapon, even one that’s ‘by the book’ should one-round anybody with a Challenge Rating higher than 5.
    • That’s right, Denzil. Leave some action for the other players please, and let the poor clerics work for a living, plzthx.
  • Power Players can be an annoyance to some. Not to me, because I’d like to give them a challenge and find a way to fight back against them.  I can feel my brain fold thinking of ways to outsmart Denzil, I loved the challenge that much.  Only thing is, Denzil’s playing style just doesn’t mesh well with some players, which is the case here.  Also, I don’t think that Living Parnast or Æthercoil would work well with Power Players, because they’re mot story and character driven.  Denzil works best with a classic dungeon grind, something that is similar to a “Easy Setting” for my creative abilities.  I can still make them.  I just don’t see them as my best work.
  • I went a bit too far with the world-building here, with the additional dungeons and what not. When I reset Princes of the Apocalypse, since it’s becoming my favorite module so far, I’ll be removing the elemental weapons and leaving most of the main regions as they are.
    • I might just add in a stray dungeon or two in the case it’s needed
    • The Black Dragon remains as I written her; having her in her own mansion tended to by the stray humanoids she rescued is a good idea.
    • I’ll keep Meriele in charge of Red Larch and the petrified ‘Believers’ that fell out of her favor. There are some other smaller changes I’ll keep in town.
  • That means replacing the Hall of the Moving Stones dungeon with something else. I’ll put in the threat of the Cult of Black Earth to turn Meriele into a statue, and the quest to get Stone to Flesh back in the spellbooks.

Item:  Lost Mine of Phandelver, Saturday, 23 Apr

Video Link:  https://youtu.be/g0tJCXyX_IE

I expected Denzil to get back at me because of what I did the previous night, and Denzil didn’t disappoint.

Granted, he wanted to get to Claire, but Clair decided to bail this campaign too and decided to DM a Pokemon-themed campaign which I’ll link you to ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdCJCitnfCI ).  So he needed an alternate victim to vent his spleen and, thanks to the roll of the dice, it fell on…me.

Or rather poor Linka, my pandaren.  She got one rounded by the first encounter where Denzil just kept added creature by creature by even more hordes of creatures.  You really have to see the video to believe what happens.

Fortunately, I was spared further pain when Linka returned from her visit from the hereafter, having her gut filled on enough divine brew to get her ideas on her own local batch.  One belch from her and everyone around her got blitzed! One of the drunks ended up irritating a local druid, and he ended up transgendered into a cuddle partner for the panda, and then as he returned, he found himself permanently stuck in a pink frilly dress!  I’d tell you what happened next but I have a limit on when things get ‘Aristrocratic’ (I refer to the joke, folks) so if you aren’t so easily triggered go watch the video, folks.

What I can say here is that Denzil ran into a familiar problem with me when it comes to DMing.  You can never prepare enough.  Even if you think you have enough material to take you through a good three hour session, expect to see everything you planned to use be expended in two.  Or less.  Take it from me, the one who thought that Hoard of the Dragon Queen’s hatchery stage would last more than one session.  (Sure, some of the players were following along with the publication on the fucking table but I digress.) You’re probably going to be ad libbing for the final hour or so, maybe more if you’re unlucky.  That’s why I said that worldbuilding is as good as preparing what’s in the module should be planned in equal parts, that having some extra businesses, shops, NPCs, baddies, and the occasional dungeon would be a good idea.

If all goes well, you might be seeing me stream some of this planning this week

Item:  Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Sunday, 24 Apr

By this time, I’ve decided on the next Kaizen improvement for my streaming:  The use of Playlists on Youtube to export the videos in now that I can upload entire sessions in one video; provided that Infiniscene isn’t being Beta, of course.  I’ll be doing that for my next two campaigns listed below, and so on forth in all of my adventures.  This will really be a help when Infiniscene does act Beta and the session’s recording ends up broken into separate files.

It’ll also help with listing the videos in these recaps.

In this session, the party has arrived to the Raider’s Camp.  While sneaking into the place and setting into their own campfire was relatively easy when the party has available cloaks, it was all but impossible for the party to do anything else, including rescuing Leosin Erlanthar from the Cult before he’s executed at dawn.  Any thought up plan would result in the whole camp being alerted and every Tom Dick and Harriet, all 500 of them at least, dogpiling over the whole party.  Eventually at the end, the Dwarf—in typical Dwarven fashion—just said, “<Fuck it, I be rescuin’ this monk, and probably sacrificin’ meself in the process!>”

The rest of the party, including Boo who’s been trolling me with pictures of Anita Sarkesian’s misshapen pie hole all throughout the session, (Maybe it’s her ugly face that never smiles that caused Infiniscene to break, the cow) decided on a relatively saner route: By now the table has approved of Justin’s trained Mimic to have the similar abilities as Diskworld’s Luggage.  Right down to the wooden teeth and tongue.  It also included a pocket dimension for those devoured by the Luggage can reside in with relative safety and discretion.  It has breathable air that is circulated thanks to the Luggage opening its mouth regularly. Justin prompted the Luggage to go under a wagon with other treasure while everything goes south around it.

Something tells me I should fear the worst with Justin’s companion.

Item:  New Adventures

With the RFED incident, I no longer have any running campaigns at the moment.  Which means that I’m planning on replacing the campaigns for my Thursday and Friday tables.  On Thursday, I’m planning the beta play of “Living Parnast,” my homemade campaign set in the aftermath of Hoard of the Dragon Queen and progresses through the following publications.  Along the way, the party will rebuild the village, adding buildings and running the administration with the hope of making a home base into a major city in the future of the Foxfire Forgotten Realms.  These will include mechanics that I’ve designed that will go into Æthercoil.

With the Beta Launch of Æthercoil, I’ll also be including a supplemental System Resource Document that will cover my homeruled campaigns, which will cover some of the backgrounds of both Living Parnast and Æthercoil, the various mechanics I designed, and character options which I customized, created, and in some cases flat out built like Frankenstein’s Monster. (I’m referring to the Engineer class) I’ll have it available in this site once I have everything together, and you are invited to provide me feedback on what option, feature, or mechanic might need a further tweak.

My plans for this week will include streaming planning sessions where I build the tables, and work on the SRD.  I hope to include streaming some sessions on Photoshop as well as I work on some art.  Finally.

DM Player Gameplay recap, weekend of 9-10 Apr

Item:  Lost Mine of Phandelver; Playing as Linka; Sat 9 Apr 16

Sometimes I wish that Mr. Murphy was a real person so I can kill him.  I could just see my overweight ass sneak up behind him and pull a Richard Marcinko.  Shanky shanky Mcstabstab.

I knew this day will go to shit when the lawn mower broke just as I was about to mow my parent’s lawn.  But imagine my consternation when the time came for that night’s session and my main computer won’t connect to the Internet.  It’s Wireless connector (I needed to use Wireless over at my parents) had a Code 101 (My way of saying that something’s not working because of something I have no clue over, which eventually fixes itself for no good reason. It’s taken from Disney Castmember lingo for something that’s out of order) and it took most of that night, and the session, to decide to be working again.

So I didn’t have a recording of Saturday’s session, which is sad, because DM Denzil, the rules lawyer, found out something I learned long ago in my DMing career:  The most epic of TPKs you’ll ever have will end up being thwarted.

At least the thwart wasn’t in record time.

But was by thwarted by the resident pervert in the group.

Clair Valentine, as you’ve seen in the previous week, is the bard who has befriended countless animals using Animal Handling in the forests toward Thundertree.  By the time the party arrived, she has amasses a small menagerie of a pack of wolves and an owlbear.

God as my witness, I couldn’t make this up.  I was afraid that she would charm Linka, and what she’ll do with the panda.  This is the same player who plays a lesbian bard who wants to get it on with every tiefling she sees—including Vanifer!!—and thought that attuning to an orb of dragonkind that beefs up performance but will turn you into an evil elder dragon if you every perform is a good idea.

That would be the Bonehead PC move of the week if it weren’t for what happened last session:  Thundertree is a sticking point in my attempts in Lost Mine of Phandelver because of that Green Dragon.  It created a TPK last time I was in it.  Imagine my facepalm when one of the party members walked up to Thundertree and yelled out, at top lung, “Is there anybody in here!?”

Cue every creature in the abandoned village.  Twig Blight, [My style of] Zombie, and Green Fucking Elder Dragon.  All making a beeline toward the party, and making me wish that I could invoke PVP mode but Linka would never think of that.  At least there was a tavern with a forgotten stash of brew for her to drink and, as I normally do, ride through the storm.

Of course that won’t work when the dragon comes crashing from above.

That’s when Denzil found out about something that Wolves have called ‘Pack Tactics,’ where the wolves can charge over and attack with advantage, and their collective bites can bring down even a dragon the size of a large house!  With the dragon prone, the party makes short work of the dragon.  In spite of poison breath taking down a couple PCs including Linka.  Putting Denzil into a familiar emotion for me; that you make an encounter that is sure to TPK only to have the party surprise you in actually succeeding.

Don’t feel bad, Denzil.  I’ve been at this game or three years, and my TPK count is at 1.

The party is then able to play Hot Gates with the riff raff—did you forget about the three dozen twig blights and zombies while all this is going on—and funnel them through the staircase from outside the tavern basement and pick them off King Leonidas style.  Sparta would be proud.

And an all-too-human chill flowed over DM Denzil’s soul.  The sheer amount of XP earned brought everyone up to Level 5 (Only because I invoked my DM’s award where—as decided on in this table—everyone gets the bonus XP when I cash one in.) Also, Linka got ahold of an Apparatus of Kawalish which she’ll use for traveling, on top of a metric boatload of gold for any magic items she might need.  (I definitely need to get her a +1 Quarterstaff or Silvered Brass Knuckles.

I’ll decide over the week.

Warning:  Political Content Ahead

I had to console Spacehamzter over the weekend.  As you know, I rarely get political here, instead taking it to Google Plus for my bitching.  However, this spilled onto sacred grounds.

I’m glad to say that I’ve got Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition I off of a Steam Sale.  Especially after what they did to a DLC I will never buy, Siege of Dragonspear.  I want to put this out there on the record and state what most of us who are up in arms about this dungheap add-on are all about:

We are not bitching because of a Trans character.  We who play and DM Dungeons and Dragons have met at least one Trans NPC during our combined campaigns.  We don’t give a fuck about Trans NPCs, most of us wouldn’t care whatever or not a NPC is trans, a fellow player can make a Trans PC and we won’t give a rat king’s collective ass about said PC as long as he’s* good in a fight.  (Note: I default to Cis Male Pronouns as a writing convention.  Look at the warning on the left if this triggers you, and get out more.)

What we are bitching about is the gross disregard of what is known in some parts as “Character Integrity.”  In the Siege of Dragonspear, they changed three important characters to fit their feminist agenda and to rip at Gamergate.

One of the characters changed was Minsc.  The Beloved Ranger.

That, to many D&D players, is the equivalent of high blasphemy. You can draw a picture of Mohammad while shitting on a Koran, wrapped in bacon and wearing a carved out Pig’s head, and you will be more redeemable than making a much-adored character talking smack about “Ethics in [games] Journalism,” something that ­does not fucking exist in Faerun!!

This is the same problem Marvel got when they made Jane Foster into Thorina. A female Thor we didn’t mind. We complained about a female replacement for Thor. There were perfectly vacated Superheroes they can do a Rule 63 on without anyone raising a stink. But they pushed Thorina up against everyone’s faces and said “You’re a misogynist pig if you don’t like it.”

Minsc is intended to be too addled-minded to be interested in politics by design. (That’s a topic best left for Boo, IMHO) Safana is intended to be a tease by design. The whole Forgotten Realms does not have the same environment that our world has or–thank God–the world that Beamdog lives in, by design. Changing that is what got Beamdog in as much hot water, and none other. We don’t care if there’s a trans NPC in Siege of Dragonspear. We do care about Minsc being co-opted by SJW prissants! If that is too much for you to wrap your head around, then I can’t believe that you actually coded that game, because you do not understand the words that are coming out of my mouth.  That, and I have no intention of spending my money for your so-called ‘Game,’ in fact, I wouldn’t even torrent Siege of Dragonspear because it’s not even worth the electrons used in the illegal act.

You are not worth my money, Beamdog.  If this means we’ll never have a Baldur’s Gate III, so bet it.  I have RPG Maker MV, I can get by.

Now then, back to our original programming.

Item:  Hoard of the Dragon Queen; Playing as Justin; 10 Apr 16

Video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqnA–9Rgwk

Ever heard of the saying, “When opening a door where you know someone’s waiting on the other side, lob in a grenade first to ensure friendly reception?”

That is essentially the first part of this session.  When the party came up to the mill house in Greenrest, they discovered that there is a small group of raiders waiting for them inside.  After a lengthy discussion that took up way too much time, they decided to do a rather modern ‘Breach and Clear’ technique.  I had Justin make up a potion version of the Flash Bang; something I had to add to my character material on the fly.  Justin would toss it in where, when it breaks, creates a blinding light for 30’ and produces a deafening bang, everyone in the room must make a CON Spell Save DC or be stunned for one minute.

Justin would throw in that flash bang potion a la Gauntlet 2 into that mill and have the others take the feebs down.

Fine time to roll a Nat 1, if you ask me.

Fuck You, Murphy.

Fortunately, the other players can pick up the slack, and I got Justin moved to another vantage point so he can snipe.  All in all, I’m developing the Æthercoil Engineer class with Justin here.

The other half of the session, where we dealt with rescuing the clerics of Chantea from a siege-in-progress chapel, moved faster.  That’s where Justin found something that will provide some well-needed character development.  He got a good chunk of magical ore that, when forged into a weapon, will provide an additional offense against Evil-aligned beings—including Dragon Cultists.  Whatever this weapon becomes is up in the air.

I would have it be a gun, but I don’t know if the DM would permit it.

D&D Recap: Death House; Encounters; 6 Apr 16

After a week off thanks to an electrical storm, my completion of Death House (just another tick off my  DM’s Reward Card) adventure went off as expected.  While some in the party did consider sacrificing one of their own, they decided to flick the specters off, deal with Lorghoth the Decayer, and deal with forcing their way through the house now in its true form; that of a nightmarish lair meant to chop the party into bits with its scythes and rat swarms.  To be honest, I thought that this session would last longer; they managed to escape in about an hour.  Someone found out that brittle walls also means brittle floors, so they went from the 4th to the 3rd floor by falling through a hole made by the Dragonborn.

Of course, I make them take falling damage, until someone grabbed a rope.

I managed to tag members of the party a couple times with the scythes, but they managed to spill out the front door…

…and back into Baldur’s Gate.

As some of you would read from earlier posts, I moved the Death House and repositioned it over Mandorcai’s Mansion in Baldur’s Gate, replacing it on the plane.  Having this be this haunted mansion is an excellent way to implement Death House into a Baldur’s Gate setting; using it as Mandorcai’s Mansion.

In the Curse of Strahd campaign, however, I have this be the ending:

The moment they leave the front porch, they arrive at the cobbled streets of the Bloombridge district, and they find that the mists have receded.  When they turn around to see that the mansion they came out of has vanished.  The area is just a vacant lot now, with green grass and chirping birds.

In the midst of the crowd who saw what was once Mandorcai’s Mansion vanish from existence, as sudden as it appeared so long ago, Madam Eva hobbled into view, joined by a couple watchmen with your 1000 gold coins each.  “Congratulations,” she said.  “It looks like you might be the ones we of Barovia are looking for. Perhaps I could invite you to talk to an old woman about what just happened?”

This will lead up to the Curse of Strahd campaign proper, and a bit of a quandary:  My campaign party now has two campaigns to work on:  Out of the Abyss and Curse of Strahd.  At first I thought I’d duck back into Out of the Abyss and then get back into I6 Ravenloft 2016…ahem…Curse of Strahd. However, the party liked the part about interacting with the NPCs, which is a) something I’d like to work on, and b) more prevalent in Curse of Strahd.  So the party decided to alternate between campaigns.  Out of the Abyss in the next week, then Curse of Strahd after that, then back to Out of the Abyss until this campaign is completed.

Item:  Scourge of the Sword Coast recap

By now I have my Thursday session on hiatus since the remaining party decided that it would be best to start a new campaign instead of just plopping in new players that don’t know what happened in the several months prior.  So I shelved Dead in Thay until later.  I still might need to better emulate virtual parties, after all.

Looking back at the campaign that officially ended in the near TPK with that Pit Fiend turned Archangel, there are some items that I’d like to discuss.  These are lessions I learned on the way to DMing greatness.

First off before anything else, I learned a very important thing:  Friend DMs don’t let Friend DMs work with Cyphers in a 5E setting.  Especially Cyphers that emulate the Deck of Many Things.  In fact, don’t even think of using that god-damned artifact. At. All.

Second point is more applicable to other campaigns, and eventually Æthercoil.  During the Scourge of the Sword Coast campaign, they actually started a business.  (It’s now run by Pancheska, a CN-aligned succubus.  Or at least that’s what the general public things:  Who would expect something so complex be run by a Robotic Bunny Girl?) In Living Parnast and Æthercoil there is going to be some planning of homesteads, cities, and businesses.

There’s going to need a mechanic for these scenarios.  I believe that I can make a uniform mechanic inspired by Pathfinder’s Kingmaker series that come into play inbetween chapters in modules, during downtime.  The basis behind this mechanic is styled similar to a turn of Magic: The Gathering:

  1. Untap Phase: This is where most of the stats [Stability, Economy, Loyalty, Unrest, and Build Points] are set up for the turn.  Also, any assets that were used in the previous turn and sessions beforehand are (usually) returned to standby, ready to be used again.
  2. Upkeep Phase: This is where most of the main checks needed to be made for the turn.  The Checks for Stability, changes of population, income and consumption are taken care of, and so on.
  3. Main Phase: This is where most of the building takes place in.  The map involved is a series of 2×2 blocks with a road or ally surrounding them.  Each map starts off with some pre-made blocks and you can expand some blocks as well as build on the blocks you already claimed.  You can also set up businesses and services and grant related roles to various NPCs.  You can only a limited number of teams that you can devote to building.  (Note that it Build Teams might need more than one turn to finish building)
  4. Event Phase: This is a random event that pops up during the daily operation of the location, be it a home base, town, farm, business, and what not.  This can be either a wheal or a woe so it’s best to prepare for the unexpected.
  5. Main Phase 2: You can split up the needs for the main phase before and after the Event.
  6. End Phase: After you finish with your planning, set your NPCs to their jobs, and have your Build Teams up and running, you can now prepare for the next session or chapter in your campaign.  You might receive some reports on the road ahead, and you can buy any needed items and restock your supplies.  (Of course, you might need a certain installation, store, business, or whatever built for you to do so)

I’ll be working on this for all of my projects, and I might even make a document for this mechanic in a RPG Document site.  If you have any suggestions or wishing to brainstorm with me, feel free to chat with me over at Google Plus.

The third item is something I’m working on already: Improving the XP system.  I’ve been working more on the Excel sheet to spread the XP among all three pillars in an RPG, [Combat, Interaction, Exploration] this is something I’ll be implementing starting with Curse of Strahd, although Living Parnast and Æthercoil will have a more finalized version of this.

Last but certainly not least is something I learned very quick when running Campaigns on Twitch:  Worldbuilding is just as important as Preparing the actual module.  Not only do I have to make sure that I have encounters, maps, and scenarios set up because the Hardcover modules do not give you every detail of the campaign, but you might need to make up random events, roll up some random NPCs, make sure you have a Tavern, inn, traveling merchant, or Item shop ready to offer the party when they need it.  And having a randomly generated dungeon that you can modify on the fly is a good idea.

In other words, even though you should steer clear of the Cypher generator, Donjon and the alternates will be the DM’s best friend.  Not to mention a One Note book to keep track of all the things you create in advance, and you will need to make them.

Death House, Encounters, 23 Mar 16

The second part of the Death House adventure kept going without much of a hitch, until we got to the part where the parents of the house was discovered as Ghasts (Room 34 in your documents.)  The dragonborn found out the hard way that the Ghast’s innate stench is made out of methane.

In other words, the DM wanted a Big Boom!  In an enclosed space.  The party was grateful that the treasure wasn’t burnt by the way.

At least during the now expected raiding of the place, they done so while getting the mortal remains of Rose and Thorn to a proper burial in the crypt below the house.  In my campaign, I give out Action Points instead of Inspiration on the table, so I made a different reward for them:  I let Rose give them a gun that shoots bullets that come out silvered (will use any normal bullets that they can buy in Barovia and Baldur’s Gate) and Thorn hands out a silvered rapier, both with an elegant floral theme.

Item:  Fixing the Experience Points problem

With Death House, I start with an experiment to deal with a problem with 5th Edition right now.  As some podcasts will attest, Wizards didn’t work much on this area.  This will present a problem, especially for those who like to keep a running score on Experience, like myself.  So I’m working on something to improve on this:

As some of you know, there are three important pillars in a Tabletop Roleplaying Game:  Combat, Interactions, and Exploration.  At its current virgin setting, 5th Edition only awards XP for Combat; which is used to create a difficulty setting for the encounter.  Wizards didn’t account for the other two pillars.  In fact, most of those in Wizards use the Milestone system or even flat out Hand Wave stuff.

xp matrix

For some of us who uses the Score system, we needed to include a way to award XP for the other two pillars, and I’m starting with a spreadsheet where I use a) the amount of XP needed to progress to the next level and b) the combination of the character level and the proficiency bonus to compute a benchmark level for reaching an important location, successfully finding a certain object or talking to a NPC, or achieving various side quests.  (Look at playthroughs of Tom Clancy’s The Division to find out what I’m talking about) The spreadsheet is by no means perfect, but it’s something for me to start with.

With Death House, I knew that the party needed to get to 3rd Level at the end, so I took 900 XP and divided it among the various goals the party have to go through to get to that point.  This is added on top of the XP the party gains by combat.

This deals with the main problem the standard way to progress has, especially in Expeditions:  As Lex Starwalker said, Houit would take two modules to get to 2nd Level.  Me?  You’d needn’t have to go through more than one session to get to 300 points, and sometimes you get there in the middle of the module.

I’ll let you know about the progress of my experience system.

Item: My development of Barovia

As you know, I’m remixing Barovia to give my more experienced players a new twist on I6 Ravenloft 2016…ahem…Curse of Strahd. I have a lot of inspiration on how I imagine the module, which is markedly different from what Tracy and Laura Hichman’s imagined.  When I thought about Vampires, I don’t think of Bram Stoker, or—thank GOD—Stephanie Meyer, whom Strahd would want to personally show what a vampire would really be like.  (I see him reducing that author into a mind-numbed maid that he orders around like a living puppet, only existing for him to feed on.) I think of Anne Rice, Angel, and Forever Knight.  These three series are the inspiration on where I’m going to be taking Strahd, someone who has come to terms with his Vampirism and finds a noble use for it.  I’ll tell you more in blog posts as the Encounters party goes through my take on Curse of Strahd.

There is another source of inspiration behind my take on Ravenloft, and it might not surprise some about Wizard’s involvement with this particular world in their other flagship brand.

Shadows-over-Innistrad
Avacyn’s resolve is tested…FUCK!

Shadows over Innistrad returns Magic: The Gathering to their own version of Ravenloft, which has become my top Inspiration to Barovia as a whole.  I see my version of Ravenloft occur 20 something years after the timeframe after I6 Ravenloft, and such the mist-bordered world there has developed from a scared and oppressed Dread Plane that imprisons Strahd as much as the denizens there alike.

My version of Ravenloft is a world close to Innistrad than an actual Dread Plane, a gothic world where the humans are faced with wave after wave of Werewolves, Zombies, Vampires, Ghosts, and even the occasional Frankenstein Monster.  (Note to self:  Throw a Frankie or two in my Barovia.) There are two deities that still in force there, The Morninglord (Lathander) and Mother Night (Selune), to provide a bulwark for the humans to strive against the evils of this land.  Some people, however, still manage to lose their hope and become soulless shell of their former selves, fading to black and white and being no more alive than the zombies and ghosts they succumb to.  But the majority of the NPCs the party will encounter are sturdier souls.  They adapted to their environment so that they not just exist in this dark world but actually thrive in the world.  In fact, the linked story is as much a part of Barovian life, as the Cloud and the Sun is for Justin Mercurial.  (More on that later.)

Most Barovians believe, much like those in Innistrad, in “The Eternal Sleep,” where their ultimate reward for a virtuous and vigilant life is not to have an afterlife, but to have a restful “sleep” after death—tranquil oblivion, or perhaps oneness with everything; rather than becoming a tormented spirit, mutilated corpse, undead abomination, or vampire drone.

There are even worse fates in my table.  I had a “Dark Powers” mechanic long before Curse of Strahd.

In fact, like in Innistrad, Barovians use, “May you spend an eternity in the ground” as a common blessing.  The beliefs are that similar.

Because of this, some businesses have reappeared in Barovia.  There’s already a printing house that produces books, tarokka decks, and newsletters.  An inn, general store, and smith is already added to the standard map, and you’ll find a lot of additional NPC from many other realms.  (Since the official take on Ravenloft is that this realm can connect to any other realm, expect to see some Living Parnast and Æthercoil references in here.

In closing, I’d like to add one more thing:  There is a very popular book in the village:  Interview with the Count by Ireena Kolyana.  She wrote this book while she was with Strahd, and found more about who he is behind “The Devil” and learns all she could about Vampires.  The story between all the info dumps on Vampires makes this book an improvement over Rudolph van Richten’s Guide to Vampires.  This makes Ireena very well known in town, so much that she became [REDACTED].  Although some folk are still wary of her; after all, she is still one of Strahd’s favorites.

And this ain’t even the biggest twist!

Æthercoil update: DM’s Guild

My new year’s resolution is to get back into artwork, and especially artwork that’s good enough to be presentable in any project. As I said earlier, I had a bad case of burnout throughout most of 2015 and I’m just coming out of the other end of that. I have some projects that I can work on getting the rust off my drawing arm, including an RPG project, a possible Sword Coast Legends module that is played with a scene book alongside, (The module will have scenes where you need to read parts of the book, when the storyline moves to a cut scene that the module creator can’t implement quite yet) and Æthercoil, my own campaign setting for 5th edition. The main question would be which of the three I should focus on first, because I certainly don’t have the time to do all three at once.

dms guild logoEnter the Dungeon Master’s Guild. I’ve mentioned its launch earlier this weekend. The DM’s Guild is an extension of Drive Thru RPG, but where the Forgotten Realms IP is open to people who want to have their own campaigns, modules, character options, and—this has come into play this week—additional monsters that didn’t get included in the Monster Manual.

That got me to come to my decision on where to get back into my art: The origins for Æthercoil started when I put the telegraph and the train into the Sword Coast. I later started to dabble with other inventions (such as radio, electricity, airships, and other creations in the early age of invention) in a setting that still have an Old School Renaissance feel to it. I intend to have this be put into an original setting, but with the DM’s guild and the expressed permission for me to make ‘an alternate timeline’ to the Forgotten Realms, that made me decide to open up Æthercoil in a beta setting, using the Forgotten Realms as a base.

I’ll be creating a series of documents for the DM’s Guild, which I’ll call “Æthercoil Forgotten Realms.” Consider this to be a beta form of Æthercoil. The first document will be an extensive depiction of many inventions and what they’d look like in the Forgotten Realms. The second one will be chock full of additional player races, classes, backgrounds, and other twists. People who like to play anthro animal characters will like this document. A Third will have additional monsters, I’m especially adding dinosaurs and Kaiju. This might be considered optional for the Realms, but it’ll be a vital part of the finalized version of Æthercoil with an original setting. The fourth and last document will be a couple conversions of a couple modules to give them an Æthercoil feel, along with various other campaign hooks and scenarios that might be of interest.

Once I get all four documents out and people playtest them and send me some needed feedback about it, I’ll do the Compile. That’s when I take these four documents, with all the feedback, and transplant them from the Forgotten Realms to its own campaign world. A world I talked about earlier in this campaign. This will be the official Æthercoil 1.0 which I’ll publish to the general public.

I’m working on the first document right now, which will be where most of my artwork will focus on. Expect to see updates both here and on DeviantART, where I’ll put some artwork as a preview.

Faerun Telegraph System Update

As you know, my version of Faerun has some technological advancements, especially in the earlier inventions that would be archaic compared to us today.  One of the most used ‘cutting edge for the Realms’ tech is the telegraph, which is promoted by the Lord’s Alliance (although the Zhentarim has piggy backed on it.)

Events of the two most recent modules, Princes of the Apocalypse and Out of the Abyss has caused an expansion to this Telegraph network, which I want to discuss here for a reference.

The Network Map, certia 1490 DR
The Network Map, certia 1490 DR

This map shows the three telegraph lines that exist in the North region, superimposed over the map included in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. I’ve added important cities as my campaigns permit.

The main spine of the Telegraph System is the Sword Coast Line, going from Luskan through Neverwinter, Waterdeep, Daggerford, and eventually toward Baldur’s Gate and Candlekeep.  This is the telegraph line that existed the longest, during the short-lived campaign of Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle.  (I’m considering making this into a fiction story.)  It has saved several lives during it’s existance from that module onward through the official launch of 5th Edition.

The two extentions began construction by the start of Hoard of the Dragon Queen, the first of which is the Secomber Line.  This line begins in Daggerford, goes past Secomber, and through the Graypeak mountains through southern Anauroch (formerly Netheril) and finally Arabel in Cormyr.  It has recently extended northward through Cormanthor and eventually into the Moonsea Region, where its first messages were of the catastrophies that evnetually make the Faerun Refugee Crisis (I refer to the cannonized results of the Expeditions series of modules.)

The second extension and third line was the line to Mithral Hall.  However, it managed to reach Red Larch first, which became vital in its preparation for the second appearance of the Elemental Cults (Princes of the Apocalypse: Second Strike). The Mithral Hall Line will end up reaching Silverymoon as well, but two cities along the line will have their own stations by the second half of Out of the Abyss:

Westchester has been around for some time, situated on top of a direct passage to Blingdenstone in the Underdark.  Mithral Hall dwarves and drow of House Neo’Durdren constructed a temple to cover the cavern opening, and eventually constructed a village there.  As of this coming session, People of several factions are constructing the first of several mental health institutions made to address the madness and insanities that is spilling out of the Underdark.  These installations will be more than just insane aslyums, they will also research more common mental illnesses, like Depression, “The Psychic Itch” (their answer to OCD) and “Mindcrush” (An easier way to say ‘schizophrenia’.)

But Shepstage comes into play in the next session.  Shepstage is a Watchtower village overlooking the Evermoors and a vital part of the Mithral Hall line.  However, remember what I said about the Zhentarium using the Lord Alliance’s telegraph for their own purposes?

This Watchtower sits on top of another passage to the underdark; a direct path to Mantol-Derith no less.  The Black Network agreed to allow the Lord’s Alliance–and the party–to use this passageway to get to the Underdark and set up telegraph lines there.  (And so that the Zhents can use it as well.)

The party will progress from Gauntlgrym over land to Shepstage and then use the passage to Mantol-Derith.  Their next session will begin when they reach the underground village.

Encounters Recap: Out of the Abyss; 6 Jan 16

Trigger Warnings: Spoilers, breaking in new players, Disney Culture Appropriation, salty language in Dwarven

At first, I thought that there wasn’t going to be a session because none of the kids showed up. But then at the last second, a father and son team of Dillion and Travis showed up wanting to play. Those two plus my three mainstays means I actually have a group and I can actually return to Out of the Abyss.

The second half kicked off in royal fashion: King Bruenor Battlehammer of Gauntlgrym invited them all to speak with the party with upmost importance. It seems like all of the first half was just the tip of an Underdark-sized iceberg, and it’s not because of the Fire Elementals that you have to help Bruenor beat (Actually, it was the reincarnated king’s idea of morning calisthenics. Dwarves, go fig.)

The Alice

Artwork by Brianna Cherry Garcia @ DA
Artwork by Brianna Cherry Garcia @ DA

At this point, I have to talk to you about a design form of madness that will take place in Æthercoil. I call it The Alice. There is a male version known as The Hatter. In my custom campaign setting, there will be an Underdark. But it will not be occupied by drow and their worship of Lolth. Oh, Drow do exist, but they will be more prevalent in the African region, from the Sahara on south. They’ll still have more traditional drow trappings with some African appropriation thrown in for flavor, and the spider goddess some of them worship is actually a Chaotic Good trickster goddess named Aransi.

Back to the Underdark though. Although there are no drow or demons in this setting, there will be Faerzress. Æthercoil’s Faerzress not only produces the dim light and twisting of magic spells (Any critical fail on the side of the party will trigger a roll on the Wild Magic Surge table) but it also creates a psychedelic effect on the equivalent of a hit of LSD. The character’s perceptions start twisting into a twisted combination of Lewis Carol and Walt Disney, after both of them were toking on a blunt. This effect is cumulative, the hallucination becoming more and more real as their sanity (represented by Stress Quotient in both Æthercoil and Out of the Abyss1) frays away. Eventually they become convinced that this psychedelic wonderland is not just real, but they are part of this.

Hence, the Alice and the Hatter. While they retain most of their race and traits, they are compelled to dress in accordance to the characters mentioned, or in some variation thereof. Oftentimes, they discard armor in order to conform their bodies to the mindset. All of their magical sources, be it Arcane or Devine, is instead powered by the Faerzress, thus retaining their madness-inspired roles. Their mentalities have regressed to a child-like mind, not remembering or caring who they were before, their twisted minds creating their own variation of an Alice in Wonderland character. (Player’s Choice.) Lastly, when more than one Alice/Hatter/whatever comes in, not only do they address each other in character, often wondering about why there are two of them for a bit, they end up teaming up because their Faerzress minds attune to each other. You can notice this by the way they talk; one will start speaking, then another one pick it up after a line or two, followed by any third, and so on. When enough characters join in, they form a Court where each member assumes a different character; this will turn an Alice into a Doormouse, for example. While it might be possible to cure an Alice by herself if she was dragged out of the Underdark and kept on the surface, their former selves are irrevocably lost when they form a Court, because this is where the Faerzress spreads.

By the time the Æthercoil setting begins, there will be about a dozen such Courts in the Eurpoean region alone. But that’s for another post.

The Alliance

The main part of the session is where the party decides on talking to three or the five representatives of the various factions2. I was disappointed that they didn’t pick Harpers, because I bought a glass chess set for the game shop just for the occasion and donated it into the game library. I don’t know if it’ll be used though, the kids don’t look like Chess Players.

They chose the Emerald Enclave, the Lord’s Alliance, and the Zhentarim, in that order:

Morista Malkin of the Emerald Enclave

A dwarf peeks out from her small tower of notebooks, with a pencil behind both of her ears and some in her hair. “Oh, hi there, I dinnae see ye come up. I be Morista Malkin, formerly of the Emerald Enclave, currently the one dwarf with the weight of rebuildin’ Gauntlgrym on her shoulders. And now we have Demon Lords running amuck down in the Underdark.”

“From what I heard from ye talk with King Bruenor, you’ve heard about Zuggtomy and Jubilex, two of them, they’ve been several others as well. Dealing with them were bad enough if it weren’t for the madness they make. I’ve seen plenty of people I used to know turn into someone I wouldn’t recognise. Remember Eldith? She was my best friend. Now she doesn’t even recognize me. She’s become someone else, Alice, I call her. She’s wearing a blue dress with an apron all the time, and she’s talking to her smithing items as if they could talk back to her.” she sighs, “They probably do in her shattered mind. And she’s not the only one, there’s several others like her, and when two or more Alices are together, they act like they’ve got a single mind. It’s….” she sighs again. “I do hope we find a cure for this: I have a lover named Sladis Vadir. He’s lost in the Underdark and I fear for him. What if we find out he’s like…her?”

“The Enclave has some scouts that will go forward and give you some needed reconnaissance on what is ahead of you. We also have some Riding Lizards that will help with traveling. I’ll give the word to let you have them in your efforts. Oh, and if you do find Sladis, tell him I miss him, and to come back.”

The party will have access to these Riding Lizards and will have enough for each lizard to carry two characters each. They will also have Scouts going ahead for recognizance at a regular interval.

Eravien Haund of the Lord’s Alliance

A Half Elf who still has his youthfullness greets you. “Greetings heroes, I hate to have to call of you to return to a place you’ve been happy to leave, but it’s a very important matter. I am Lord Eravien Hound, and I’ve been working with the Alliance’s telegraph company to connect all of our settlements together. You’ve probably heard of Justin Mercrial’s telegraph, I’d call it a gift from the Gods, but the chap’ll punch me in the face for it. Ornery character, that Lord of Greypeak, but a good man to know when it comes to technology. I fear he can only do so much in this case.

By the time the Alliance received word of the Demon Lords, we lost all contact form our settlements and watchpoints in the Underdark. No call of raids, no flow of trade, not one bit of information. “Total Radio Silence,” we call it in the Alliance, and nobody likes it. We’ve just recently got back some communication from Blingdenstone, but that’s it. We’re going to need more. The Alliance has some guards and spies that will join you. While they’ll assist you if you need them, they’re really here to set up more relays to improve our network. With our lines installed, we can easily assist you further.

While you’re there, keep an eye out for my paramour, Khelessa Darga. She’s a Moon Elf from Silverymoon, but she’s been spying on the Drow for too long, I fear. I don’t know where she is, last time I heard, she was in Menzoberranzan, and that’s been two months ago. Please find her and get her back home, I fear for her safety. And Sanity.”

The Lord’s Alliance Guards will be more interested in regaining the communication links in the Underdark, and use Blingdenstone as a relay point. But they will assist when needed.

Darve Jassur of the Zhentarim

A human in a skin-tight black dragonhide catsuit–so form-fitting it looks painted on her–balances a razor sharp blade on a gloved finger. “You must be the ones Bruenor waned us about.” She says. “I’m Drava Jassur of the Black Network, I’d tell you more, but then I have to kill ya. Don’t worry, I won’t make it hurt.” She chuckles a bit.

“You don’t need to be Zhent to know that we value the resources down there in the Underdark, and those Demon Lords out there are, you can guess, very bad for business. We lost about half of our assets in the first month alone, and we definitely need these Demon Lords taken out before we can recover our losses.”

“We have a passages that will take you straight to Mantol-Derith, so that you don’t have to step on anyone’s toes. It’s a secret for Zhent members, of course, but in this case, I think you can be an exception, as long as you can keep it secret of course. There are also a couple of my own useful items that you might need, if you got the coin for it, that is.”

The next session will skip ahead and start right at Mantol-Derith, thanks to the Zhentarim’s secret passage. The party has also bought the Goggles of Night and Dust of Disappearance.

Remember Alice?

Art by Seagerdy @ DA
Art by Seagerdy @ DA

At this point, the wall of text about Alices and Hatters come into play, because appearing in a puff of smoke is Asha and Jorlan form all the way back to Chapter 1 in Velkynvelve. However, they are no longer Asha and Jorlan. They now look like a dark-skinned Alice and Hatter, costume and all, and even looking at each other in Mad Love. Accompanying them, on top of this, is a second Alice: Eldith!

“The time has come,” the Drow Alice said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

“But wait a bit,” the Drow Hatter added,
“Before we have our chat;
All we need is our lost oysters, (Points to the party members)
And we’re here to get them back!”

Then the Dwarven Alice pipes up, “No hurry, says I, but do be quick.
And we’ll thank ye and be on our way.
Or we’ll drop this little summon ball,
And we’ll have a glorious day!”

Cue Mexican Standoff.

Or at least what would be a Mexican Standoff if it weren’t for the party, and Bruenor, and about a dozen other Dwarves, didn’t just start attacking. After an attacking drow party—this one dressed up like playing cards—and later on the saltiest rendition of Dwarvish ever spoken. (We’re talking about salt that will make Drill Instructors go, “Hey Hey HEY! There are RECRUITS here! You wanna tone that down!?”) Once Bruenor finally gets it all out of his system (and casts Greater Restoration on everyone who got struck deaf by his Beast Mode) The party prepares for their second excursion in the Underdark. They will start with, as I said, the Mantol-Derith chapter next Wednesday.

Footnotes

1 Stress Quotient is how I measure a player character’s hold on his sanity. You add the scores of your Intelligent, Wisdom, and Charisma together and use that number like “mental hit points,” psychic damage, fear effects, horrible scenes, and the like will eat away at your SQ. During Sanity checks, you roll 1d20+your stress quotient, and compare that to a uniform DC, like 40 (adjusted depending on the situation). As expected, higher than that DC is a save, a fail however, see “The Safety of a Shattered Mind

2 I do not force player characters to choose a Faction. In fact, most players are quite content in being unaffiliated. No problem for me. Instead I treat the Factions as NPC characters, supporting the party in the background and providing enough plot points to keep the gameplay moving.

Baldur’s Gate Investigations announced.

Let me put this out on record at the start. If you’re looking for my best effort with this project, just keep on looking. I’m learning how to program a Role Playing Game, something I always wanted to make since I was a kid, with RPG Maker MV, the program I bought so I can start off from its launch. I’m learning how to code, especially with the Gordian Knot that is Object Oriented Computing. I’m even learning how to do Digital Inking on Draw Plus for some good amount of the graphics there, especially the bust picutres.

This is not going to be a AAA-level quality game here. I doubt it’ll even be worthy for Steam.

As they say, your first novel, artwork, RPG Maker project, or anything else, is going to suck. Suck. Major. Balls.

You can understand why I’m using my first Encounters campaign I D.M.ed for my first RPG Maker Project. I wanted to remake Murder in Baldur’s Gate into something I find more agreeable, and to start bringing you, the online followers, up to speed on what’s going on in my offline Forgotten Realms campaigns. I’ll also use this game as a sort of experiment lab for future games, where I add some parts (either here or in other D&D-themed projects) which will be used for any commercial projects, if I actually start with one.

And of course, it must be said that this project is a pure fan-work. I’m doing this for the learning experience and as a derivative work, and it will be free for all to play. That way, it’ll fall into Fair Use Laws of the United States of America. I’m just doing this for the learning, for the love of D&D, and for the shits and giggles.

You might not see a lot of progress here on this blog, but I have opened up a discussion over at a RPG Maker MV forum I’m a part of. You’ll see a lot of progress there.