Princes of the Apocalypse and Living Parnast

Item: Princes of the Apocalypse recap; 22 Jan 16

The party, even with the preaching paladin of Lathander, managed to rescue the Wizard that was researching the Stone to Flesh spell from being sacrificed to the Prince of Evil Earth, for daring to unleash this particular spell to Faerun:

Stone to Flesh

4th Level Transmutation

Casting Time: 1 (Standard) Action
Range: Touch
Components: V, S, M (a drop of blood)
Duration: Instantaneous

You cast this spell on a person who has been petrified. You remove the petrified condition.

The formerly petrified being will have no recollection of the time he or she was petrified; it would be the first living moments immediately after petrification. Any damage done to the creature while petrified becomes physical deformities to his or her original state.

The party returns back to Red Larch with the wizard safe, where the party decided to test my staying power. The paladin wants a shrine to Lathander, a rogue wants a basilisk tooth (Yes, there were a basilisk involved.) and turn it into an injectable dagger. Of course, he wanted it to be a poison dagger. This is where I tell them that Drow Sleeping Poison is readily available in some cities, where some law enforcement uses it as a non-lethal ordinance (much like a Tazer, only you get to have a good nap instead) and yet a third wanted to help someone set up a Herbology store. All three paths lead out of the Dessarin Valley. And on a roadtrip to Waterdeep.

I definitely have my work cut out for me this week, and there’s also one more item to work with:

Item: Living Parnast

dms guild logoAfter some good night’s sleep, I decided on a title that I can publish in the DM’s Guild. I didn’t have to change too much: Wizards of the Coast owns the Forgotten Realms, but the Steam Engine is public domain. But I thought up a project that meshes better with the cannon Realms, where I put in the characters that I’m comfortable putting it under the DM’s Guild’s guidelines.

I give you Living Parnast. A series of campaigns that work like Expeditions, but it takes place in a familiar and out-of-the-way location that is introduced in Princes of the Apocalypse with a more casual gameplay. It takes the party under a new Lord, Justin Mercrial, as he liberates the village of Parnast from the Cult of the Dragon, and then rebuilds the village through the seasons in order (Tyranny of Dragons, Elemental Evil, Rage of Demons, Curse of Strahd, and so on.) Along the way, the village builds and expands, the party members become part of the village lifestyle and changes it to their liking, and events in both the Sword Coast and Moonsea have their effects in this Wild Wild West like environment.

With Living Parnast, I have the working path to Æthercoil that I wanted to have with the DM’s Guild. Living Parnast is where I set up the initial parts—and get the right book design—to the beta version of Æthercoil (The Forgotten Realms version). Like I said earlier, Æthercoil Forgotten Realms will not be put in either DM’s Guild or DriveThruRPG, but will be in a fanwork format. After I have the four documents made, I can then convert them into the official Æthercoil campaign guide, which will be published in DriveThruRPG.

At least that’s the plan for now. I’ll keep you posted on the progress here on my blog, and this will be where I’ll be working on my artwork in the near future.

Dreams of the Red Wizards, 21 Jan 16

Trigger Warnings: Spoilers, furry rabbit PC, blue-balled dwarves acting like German rapeugees, dice that wanted a TPK more than the DM does.

Especially that last part. I don’t know who might be reading this blog, but I need to tell the coders over at Roll20: I can understand your exuberance in wanting a TPK, but there’s something to be said for timing. I’d like things to go in their own time. There is a place where I want this TPK to go.

Not in a random encounter where a bunch of dwarves who have recreated New Years at Colonge, where one of the dwarves rolled four Nat 20s in a row, against our newly transformed rabbit girl cleric. A Nat 20 against Spiritual Guardians, a Nat 20 against Sanctuary and two Nat 20s on attacks with Advantage.

That’s a probability of 1 in Forty Fucking Thousand. (Correct me on the math here.)

On a robotic bunny dressed Playboy style with a reactor that generates healing magic.

I had to wave it off with the one who built her sending her a healing ray a la Team Fortress 2. Crazy Dice requires Crazy Responses.

And the Craziness continues well into their charge into the randomly generated Thunder Hammer’s Headquarters. (I let Pancheska have her way with the bunny while I did some frantic use of donjon.bin.sh . Have I reminded you all how much I love that site?)

You’d think that would be it for the Nat 20s for this session, and you’re right: What came next is a string of Nat 1s that guaranteed a session that both players and Dungeon Master would need a lot of Mad Dog 20-20 to kill the memory. Especially in one random encounter that resulted in a lot of broken strings, lost weapons, and characters just hiding in the corner in total embarrassment. The encounter ended up finished because the bad guys just left out of total mercy. Ever had an encounter that ended up so fucked over by Mr. Murphy that the best thing for everyone concerned to do is to just walk away and forget it happened? We had that here.

I wouldn’t even have mentioned it here outside of their progress inside the Thunder Hammer’s Headquarters and not say another word, but I do have a business progress report to tell here.

Thanks to the Thunder Hammer group, the farm is a total loss. Only about a dozen or so Super Healing Potions (Heal up to Max HP plus 1 THP when consumed) were made, but Marcion, the alchemist, was rescued safely.

The other two locations fared slightly better but still had some difficulty. The Mangus Scroll had an infestation of Stirges that needed to be exterminated, and the Fountain now has a rival guildhouse—headed by the Thunder Hammer Group no less—just down the street who used some nefarious underhanded bad press for your guildhouse. (At least they didn’t attack that place directly.)

Even with the profits, it’s clear that the reprisal against the group’s anti-dwarven racism proved bad for business: It suffered a 500 gp loss for this week to recover all the damage done.

The current account balance is 8150 gp

Pancheska could’ve done better in mitigating the damage, but she had to do double duty this week. Not only did she had to conduct business and do some PR damage control, but you also asked her to take inventory of the treasure you acquired to date, and have them appraised.

Truth be told, she really needed that quality time with Alexis, the cleric rabbit girl, and she made a request that, after all this is done, she keeps Alexis as her personal maid and secretary as payment for the strife you dwarf-hating maniacs put her through. She’s even designing a very sexy and elaborate (don’t worry, non mindbending) maid dress for her to be in. Besides, she likes Alexis, and promises to take very good care of the rabbit.

The treasure is catalogued as thus, and will be inserted into its own note for next week:

(Note: The following is what is easily sellable. Pancheska has taken some of the treasure to decorate the businesses and for her own personal affects. What can I say, she has her needs.)

5790 cp, 7472 sp, 93 ep, 8994 gp, 130 pp

7 gems of 10 gp each
44 gems of 40 GP each
1 gem of 50 gp each
3 urns of 150 each

Mundane Items: (Sellable for half selling price)

Chain Shirt x2
Chainmail Armor x2
Greatswords x3
Half plate Armor x3
Javelins x5
Leather Armor
Leather Shirt
Longbows x4
Longswords x3
Morning stars x17
Scimitars x2
Studded Leather

Trinkets:

50 gp each:
Ebony Rod
Ivory Symbol

Magical Items: GP value listed doesn’t necessary mean selling price.

+1 Longsword, 650 gp
Bracers of Defense, 2500 GP
Driftglobe, 250 gp
Firgurine of Wonderous Power — Sabertooth Cat (Becomes a Sabertooth Cat when activated) 25,000 GP
Halberd of Vengance, cursed, 0 gp
Ioun Stone of Awareness, 750 gp
Wand of Fireballs, 600 gp
Warlock Battle Axe, can be used as an implement, worth 250 gp

Spell Scrolls:

1 Blade Ward
1 Goodberry
1 Hellish Rebuke
1 Message
1 Produce Flame
1 Spare the Dying

Potions:

1 Potion of Climbing
4 Potions of Healing
1 Potion of Greater Healing
12 Potions of Super Healing (Max HP + 1 THP)

Cyphers: (One time use magic items)

A jagged platinum shard engraved with geometric patterns. When held and activated, the cypher conjures a bolt of lightning (range 100 feet, 2d6 lightning damage, Dex save half).

A jagged platinum shard smeared with crimson blood. When held and activated, the cypher grants you advantage on your next attack roll

Clairvoyant’s Stone: A polished shard of translucent black crystal. When held and activated, the cypher allows you to project your sight until the end of the session. You can project your point of view up to five feet in any direction, and through small openings such as a keyhole.

A jagged shard of emerald smeared with crimson blood. When held and activated, the cypher conjures an inn.

Card of Balance: A bloodstained ivory card, marked with a symbol of justice. When used, you must change to a different alignment. The card may also be used against another creature with a successful attack.

A broken copper rod engraved with strange glyphs. When thrown at a target, the cypher causes a small earthquake (knocked prone, Dex save negates).

A jagged shard of red glass smeared with black ichor. When held and activated, the cypher allows you to teleport a small object you can see to your hand.

A hazelwood shard smeared with crimson blood. When held and activated, the cypher allows you to jump up to 120 feet.

A slender shard of amethyst smeared with iridescent ichor. When impaled into flesh, the cypher dissolves and increases your speed by 10 feet until you take a short rest.

Clone Cypher: A jagged shard of diamond, inlaid with broken patterns of silver. When implanted into flesh, the cypher dissolves and emits a cloud of luminous smoke, which after a minute coalesces into a clone of you. Roll 1d10: 1-6 exact duplicate; 7 opposite gender, 8 four-year lifespan, 9 opposite alignment, 10 deformed monstrosity. The clone has no clothing or equipment.

A jagged platinum shard engraved with endless spirals. When held and activated, the cypher grants your weapon an additional 2d6 points of damage against giants until you take a short rest.

A mangled silver plate engraved with geometric patterns. When worn and activated, the cypher allows you to ignore difficult terrain until you take a long rest.

Cypher of the Aegis: A fragment of a heavy steel shield, inscribed with twisting snakes. When held and activated, the cypher petrifies a nearby creature as per the spell flesh to stone.

Miscellaneous Items:

Drake tooth
Necromantic Spell Books from the Black Dragon assassin.
Iron Gauntlets treated with an heat-retardant treatment.

Out of the Abyss Update, 20 Jan 16

Trigger Warnings: Spoilers, even more Disney cultural appropriation, concerns over the fate of my favorite local game store, and a furry.

Hero’s Hideout is in some very rough times. It’s about 2/3rds the way past January, and all of the kids that usually hang out there haven’t returned from the holiday break. At first I thought that they’ve had some big studies, but I’d expect them to return by now. I’m worried that the store would go out of business and I would need another place to go.

But then again, it did snow the day before so that would be the problem as well.

At least I did have my six players to continue the game.

The party finished their business in Mantol-Derith, making sure to visit the rest of the four enclaves in there. The Duergar enclave was first, and while they made short work of the Duergar that found out about what they did to that black gem (The Lok-Nar from last week), what they found inside the Druegar Warehouse made them pause. Instead of having Yantha Coaxrock tied up in a gem-encrusted robe to be fed by a Xorn, I used said robe to turn Yantha into a Deep Gnome Queen of Hearts. A rather psychotic mini-Harley Quinn who slain her two duergar captives and wished for the party to come play with her.

They closed the door before she could charge, Post Haste.

She wasn’t the only one who went Alice on the party. After a moment in the Drow Enclave, and a passing visit by Zilchyn Q’Leptin (I didn’t get the opportunity to deal with him. Yet.) they went to the south coast (1D on your maps) where they found a lot of ships waiting for them to travel across the Darklake, only to find the path to board them trapped (with hunting traps, easy to dispatch) and a Rystia Zav who has lost her mind to the Underdark. So much so that when she heard someone in Mantol-Derith call out “Come along, White Rabbit, you’re late for an important date.” She ran into town without a passing thought.

Dressed in a White Rabbit fursuit.

Now how can you get a fursuit in the Underdark?

My thought after that, looks like I’m going to have my Mad Court after all.

The ring they got will take them eventually to Gravenhollow. However, it’ll take them through Gracklstugh first. I need to have that city visited from the first half anyway. The party managed to rescue Werz after they arrived at the docs. Did the Duergars notice them when they disembarked? Perhaps, perhaps.

I have the game paused for the week in the Blade Bazaar, thankfully with one of the saner merchants, but not before the party saw Dorki for some time.   Bill took notice of the description of the derro and claimed that he would be another Mad Hatter, complete with murcury poisoning. That would have possibilities.

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Updates for the week of 18-22 JAN 16

Item: Æthercoil Forgotten Realms

I initially thought I would be able to publish a Forgotten Realms version of the Æthercoil setting in the DMg’s guide, and then use the documents to rewrite that into an original version of Æthercoil, but the agreement I had to sign up on wouldn’t permit it:

“4 (b) Except for short promotional excerpts used to promote your Work, you may not display, recreate, publish, distribute or sell your Work (or derivatives thereof) outside of the Program administered on OBS websites or through other platforms or channels authorized or offered by Owner.”

Somehow, I knew that hurdle will need to be addressed.

I’ll still make the Æthercoil Forgotten Realms, though, since it’s the setting I DM in Number One. Also, I use the Forgotten Realms to Beta Test the concepts of inventions in an OSR setting. So, slight change of plans.

The Beta version of Æthercoil will be placed on this blog, for others to read, playtest, and send me feedback on. Once I get all four documents put out there and had some time to playtest, I’ll then work on the OSR setting that will become Æthercoil’s world and compile the book to publish on DrivethruRPG. An unauthorized Beta would be the next best thing for me to do and then, if Wizards likes the project enough, we can do some business.

And speaking of Wizards:

Item: Curse of Strahd

We now know what the next season of Encounters is going to be: A 5th Edition retelling of Ravenloft! The Curse of Strahd will be the next published module available in March, which will cause me to plan starting this campaign in April. Plenty of time for me to go through Out of the Abyss, although I have no set deadlines. Seventh Rule of my table: Campaigns go on as long as they have to.

But that begs me to start thinking of some tweaks already. The biggest one is where to put Barovia and Castle Ravenloft in my Realms? I’m certainly not going to go along with “You’re just a bunch of adventurers walking along the road one day when suddenly a thick misty fog envelops you.” That’s my Dark Powers mechanic. I need to have them start in the sword coast and then set a destination. It’ll be something I’ll be working on in the coming weeks. By the time Out of the Abyss is through, not only will I have a lot of tasty Underdark themed loose ends to put a quest in, but I’ll also have a definite location for The Curst of Strahd.

I have to stop people from buying that book and following along, right?

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.

Algaren Recap, Day 1

I wanted to have recaps of my play by post campaigns, but I didn’t have the chance to until now. Masks & Mythos has been spotty at times, and I really want to get it to move. But then again, you would expect some Play by Post campaigns to get sluggish. Also, I have a problem with having Roleplay Online forums be shown to the general public, probably by design.

The open world campaign of Algaren, is another story. Here’s the first recap of the first game day in this campaign, and this campaign allows the recaps to be a bit easier to make.

In Algaren, the Sundering has resulted in a kingdom filling in some spaces left by the separation of Toril and Abeir. This hasn’t been part of the Forgotten Realms before, and so parties are called to go to Parnast to explore the region.

The party consists of some DeviantART alumni, especially Timothius, and it is also the return of Johnny Briz.

Recap 001

As DA fans know by seeing the fan comic “The Brave Little Tailor II,” Johnny Briz has become a professional Jester in the story, and is often living in his motley outfit. In BLTII, he became a Jester because Minnie Mouse caught him trying to snatch lunch from the royal kitchen and thought of having him work for his dinner. In the Forgotten Realms version, it was then Open Lord Dagult Neverwinter who found him and, liking him for his cuteness and spunk, made Johnny his “Professional Fool.”

Johnny would be well known in Neverwinter at a time, when he’s known for pulling off wild stunts and pranks in public, and is popular enough for him to be part of the Lord’s Alliance.

It’s his affiliation with the Lord’s Alliance that he got stationed in Parnast. The backwoods village proved a bit too quiet for JB’s tastes, but the appearance of the strange area north of the village proved a lot more interesting.

He is joined by Tark, a Half Orc fighter; Tam Selhana, a half-elf Druid, and her ‘son’ Nathan, whom Johnny taken in as a kid brother. (Probably like to have someone do some song and dance along with his busking. For those who don’t know, ‘to busk’ means, ‘to perform for money.’) They left Parnast with the sun for some decent hex crawling.

My Hexcrawling system is still in its infancy when I created this campaign. I basically have the party do 3 Hexes per day, followed by a mandatory and successful Extended Rest. With each hex, there are a set of 52 possible scenarios, each represented by a standard playing card.

The day began peaceful enough, with a party of fleeing former cult members just passing through. Then a new member jumped in, as Meiou fell into the scene from the sky, much like a certain wizard from Morrowind. Apparently Johnny isn’t the only one who went afoul of wizards who like to get back at pranksters. So the party gets one player more.

nathan

Just in time for the first official encounter of the campaign. It was a port of the “Bears and Bandits” scenario from Princes of the Apocalypse, where the formerly child-like Nathan shifted into another grear, showing a fierce holy warrior side to him that surprised everyone except Tam. It was enough for the surviving bandit to flee screaming out of the encounter…

…only to scream all the more when he ran into Parnast’s own bouncer. The toddler frost giant Igatho.

The poor feeb became the first in Toril to discover that the planet is indeed round. Whatever or not he survives being in low planet orbit remains to be seen.

I also have another twist by having a party of NPCs exploring the area as well. They discovered a shed on the outskirts of Parnast where a potion maker sells his trade, often supplying Parnast’s general store with needed potions. There is also a berry patch some hexes away, if the party gathers some barriers to the potion maker, they’d get a campaign wide discount for potions from that area. Of course, that’s just one goal in an objective rich environment.

Princes of the Apocalypse recap: 15 Jan 16

Ever had one of those sessions that you didn’t do much preparation, didn’t have much time, had everything go south, but had an enjoyable session nonetheless? This session is much like that.

I had a need to replace the filter in my fish tank as well as replace my Microsoft Natural Keyboard. Add a coupon for a free jump drive, and I ended up taking the light rail across Saint Louis to Brentwood, where a pet store was within walking distance of my favorite computer store, Micro Center. It takes me two and a half hours each way, but it’s worth the trip with Micro Center having a wide selection with affordable prices. One of these days, I’ll make my own build with stuff from this store. The replacement Keyboard had the wrist riser that I so missed in the older version. Having the board tilted away from me really helps my occasionally aching wrists.

However, this creates a problem of me robbing Peter to bail out Paul. All this time spent in the morning took away prep time for tonight’s session, a preparation time that got a bit more complicated with problems with Infiniscene. The online streaming service is still in beta, and so it’ll have their problems. Afterward I found out that a couple refreshes of the web page takes care of much of the connection to my computer.

On to the session proper. There was the usual entertainment form Spazehamster Boo and his Proselytizing Paladin, there was also a bit of a choice for the party: They can go for the second of the four weapons, assist a party south and retrieve an Orb of Dragonkind or go north near Beliard to rescue a wizard who was rediscovering a cheaper form of restoring people who’ve been turned to stone (the 3rd Level Stone to Flesh). They chose the last option, and so the party moves on to rescue mode.

It didn’t get much else because we had someone that would drive some DM’s nuts: A walk-on that was completely new. And by new I mean that this guy has never played D&D before. He had some experience with Warhammer, but not in any Tabletop Roleplaying Game. While I have as little experience in Roll20 Character Sheets as he has in TRPGs, I prove myself, as usual, more than happy to help out, walking him through some of the features in D&D and after the session I showed him the basic rules and set him up with a character of his own.

All in all, not a perfect session, but such episodes happen in any career. (How many of these did Chris Perkins had in his life?) It all depends on your ability to bounce back from these days. Bouncing back is something I learned to do for decades.

One more recap to come, this time on one of my Play by Post campaigns, and then I talk aobut my Æthercoil session and how the GM’s Guild affects it.

Dreams of the Red Wizards: 14 Jan 16

Trigger Warning:  Original Content, Two groups hating on each other, Cultural Appropiation of Sonic the Hedgehog’s Saturday Morning Cartoon, and an honest to god official Furry charcter.

I have just begun to fuck with this team. And I made it clear that they know it. I did it in three directions:

Item: The DM’s Guild

dms guild logoAs I listed in the previous post, the new Dungeon Master’s Guild is already a valuable resource for Dungeon Masters who are using the Forgotten Realms, even if it’s my hacked version. They have stat blocks for creatures that fill in the missing spaces of the Monster Manual, and when you start making your own customized encounters using your party’s levels to calculate the difficulty of the encounters.

There’s especially a document that has different kinds of dwarves I can use, which has…possibilities

Item: The Thunder Hammer Group

Yes, I know it’s an cheezy name, and yes, they did call me on it. It doesn’t change the fact that I intentionally made this group to be a pain in their asses.

As in the real world, where people who act like dicks should expect reprisals from opposing group, this party now has an equal and opposite response to their anti-dwarven bigotry. However, this isn’t a group of Twitter Crybullies: The Thunder Hammer Group consists of Dwarves who are very capable, willing, and even anxious to counter violence against their race in kind, out of little more than racial survival. (Think of Israel; they have nukes, and the intention to take out the rest of the Middle East with them. Say what you will about what they think of Palestinians, do you really want to provoke these psychos?) And they have their sights locked on the Fountain Head group.

They even announced their intentions with a wanted poster rewarding anyone who brings down the party a peg or two. (You ask me, I doubt they have the million PP award for each head of the party.) That was followed by several encounters of DM’s Guild supplemented Dwarven Encounters, one of which included a scene where the group burned down the farm and salted over the earth! Only Marcion (the drow alchemist) survived with all the 15 or some Super Potions he could carry.

You can say that these two groups have their upmost attention.

But that’s not all:

Item: Axel, the Cleric Bunny!

Artwork by Shoze @ DA

Last session, Axel was knocked out of commission by one of my supped up traps. Most of this session dealt with repairing this Tiefling Warforged Warlock, which not only involved a temporary character for Axel, (I’ve invoked the rule that the XP the backup character received also applies to what Axel will become) but also the return of one of my earlier characters: Julian Rolkhun. For the uninitiated, he’s a former Red Wizard of Thay who rebelled against Necromancy and became a designer of Faerun’s Warforged, working in Luskan as part of the Arcane Brotherhood. Think of a, if not benevolent at least less maniacal, Doctor Robotnik. Julian got contacted with one of his interns there (the backup character for Axel), who instructed the team to pick up Axel’s soul gem (Normally the product of one of Julian’s few remaining Necromatic spells: Trap the Soul) so they can carry it to Luskan so that Julian can install it into a new body.

But when they did it, I delivered a triple whammy to poor Axel: One, his original body vanished in a mini version of Hunger of Hadar, and Cthulhu might not be too happy of losing his warlock. Two: His replacement body can only be in the form of the four classes as listed in the Basic Rules! He chose Cleric, and so Axel is now a warforged that can generate healing abilities, thanks to a reactor that can gather up stray Arcane energy and convert it to more divine frequencies. Don’t ask me how Julian does that, I don’t know and I’m the fucking Dungeon Master.

The third whammy happened when I had him installed: The Warforged body is female.

And for a moment, I had that body get a quirk that it gets aroused when it goes near a dwarf.

After about a moment of crying foul, I had Julian adjust her. Now she’s got the hots for dragonborn.

Also, the party went and delivered a fourth whammy: They used the rest of the Nolzur’s Marvelous Pigments to make that female warforged body a female warforged anthro rabbit body!

Oooooh, this really has possibilities.

I closed the session with a surged of zombies running amok in the City of Sales, with a couple Zombie Dwarves thrown in for good measure. Julian recognized the activity as Thayan, but what’s that Dwarf with a Thundering Hammer symbol with them?

In recap:

Axel is now a Level 5 Female Warforged Rabbitfolk Cleric (Life Domain). If you need help with the character design, I’ll help you out there, Axel.

You have ran out of Nolzur’s Marvelous Pigments, so remove them from the treasure or equipment list.

The Farm is destroyed, and will be factored in next week’s Business Recap.

You managed to rescue Marcion and gained 15 Super Potions of Healing (heal up to Max Health plus 1 Temp HP)

Out of the Abyss Recap: 13 Jan 16

Trigger Warnings: Spoilers, Heroic Fucking Beholders, A Faerunian version of the Loc-Nar

When we last left our heroes, they were in Gauntlgrym to receive news of the Underdark by none other than Bruenor Battlehammer. Things have not been as well as you expect. The Madness has been spreading, and it has already affected much of the surface world. He tells you that in the underdark location of Gravenhallow, there is an answer for the Demon Lords who are now running amuck below everyone in Faerun. To get to there without much drama, you are told to seek one Ghazrim Duloc at Mantol-Derith. To help assist you, as well as their own ends, the Zhentarium opened a path directly to the underdark village.

You hear a group of people draw their weapons when they hear footsteps approach from the secret entrance, but sheathe them when they heard the call from one of the Zhent guides who accompanied them. The guide takes you directly to an ambiable man in a sultan-like outfit similar to those from Amn. “Oh, you must be the people Darva told me about, welcome welcome, make yourself comfortable. I am Ghazrim and I think you have word for me.”

After some introductions he shows off his ring. “This will be what you seek, friends. This ring will take you through the shortest path to Gravenhollow. I’d be more than willing to give it to you for the greater good, but there are more immediate concerns. Nothing that would concern you, though; and it shouldn’t take too long.” He offers food and drink for the party. “Don’t worry, it’s not poisoned. Nobody gave me a reason to kill you, we Zhents do have some standards. Unlike a certain demon that has oppressed this city.”

“The demon’s name is Fraz-Urb’luu, and he has encased himself into a black jewel. Anyone who touches it is driven mad, and it has already driven the village into chaos. I’ve already given orders for all of my men to destroy that gem on sight, and one of us has an eyestalk ready for the occasion. Isn’t that right, Lorthuun?”

You hear a deep heavy sigh, and a single eyeball peeps in a window. The single central eye of a beholder who has seen better days. “Yes, I do have my disintegration ray ready for the occasion. At least I still have that with me.” You can see that three of his stalks were sliced off by someone.

“Poor guy lost a fight with a behir, but he still has some stalks left. The Druegar and Deep Gnomes are at each other’s throats over the thing, and I’m just about ready to talk to the Drow to form an alliance against a common foe. That thrice-damned gem.”

“In case you don’t know,” the beholder says, “They’re here.”

Lorthuun turns around and floats up to reveal a bunch of drow which are, thankfully for you, are dressed more typical for drow. Ghazrim stood up, gathers up some Zhents, and opens the door to greet the delegation.

“Puntual as usual, Sirak, I’m sure Lolth will–”

You hear an audible thunk, and a cry of anguish from the beholder. It is followed by absolute chaos in angry voices and drawn weapons. Before you can even react, Ghazrim stumbles back in with a quiver in his chest.

“The gem’s with her,” Ghazrim managed to say with the collapsed lung. “I know it!”

Ghazrim points to one of the drow, a female with a crossbow and wild staring eyes, eyeballing the beholder with sheer hatred from every pore of her being. She’s still in firing range, behind a quartet of Drow.

dms guild logoThat’s what I started with when I set up the big battle. At this moment, I’d like to introduce to you the Dungeon Master’s Guild. It’s my new best friend from Wizard of the Coast, who this week released not just the 5th Edition SRD and OGL, but also opened up the whole Forgotten Realms IP for public modification. It didn’t take me minutes for me to see this as a valuable supplement to the Monster Manual, which was sorely needed for these campaigns now that I need different stat blocks for certain bad guys. Such as Dwarves for tomorrow, Drow here, and upcoming even more demons.

Also, the DM’s Guild is an excellent place for me to start publishing a series of documents where I show my hacks of my own Campaign World, hacks that will ultimately become the official Æthercoil document. I’ll start with the Inventions book, and then have some additional anthro races, and move on to some unique monsters—such as dinosaurs, which will replace dinosaurs in the original campaign world for Æthercoil. But that’s further up ahead. Back to Out of the Abyss:

For those who’ve been following along this module, you’ll know that, in Mantol-Derith, Fraz-Urb’luu put some of his life force in a black gem so that he’ll have a safe connection to the Material Plane. This resulted in what some can call the Loc-Nar, or at least a working resemblance. Ivan and Leonard would be proud. By the time the party got to it, it’s in the possession of a drow who has, of course, gone nuts, and thought that killing off that beholder will get her back into the good graces of the Demon Queen of Spiders…or something like that.

At the end of this battle, a Zhent thug scores a hit on the crazed drow, the impact spins her around, and prompts her to flee, but not before losing that black gem.

You hear a groverly voice, “Wait for me, My Love!” As a statue perched above the Zhent headquarters comes to life, spread his wings, and soars after her.

But everyone was looking right at that evil black glowing gem.

With an unearthly scream, the beholder fired one red beam toward the jewel. It strikes true and shatters into a black mist.

The shatter produces a shockwave that knocks down everyone to the ground. There was a mental otherworldly, “Oh ThAnK GoD I’M FrEe!!” as you feel an immense evil presence fly over everyone and then disappear.

When you manage to find your bearings, you can see a blackened scar on the ground where that gem was. And a dead beholder.

I doubt that the party has ever seen a Fucking Beholder do a heroic sacrifice before. Only on my table, I guess.

The party gets the gem that will take them directly to the Library of Gravenhollow. I’ve looked at that chapter and, to my surprise, it doesn’t really need that much preparation. I can easily follow along with the document, create a little flowchart to help me out, and just ad lib. Maybe I should make a couple random encounters to fill up time. But then again, they’re going to stay in Mantol-Derith to get some more treasure. Maybe just a little bit of preparation.

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.