Encounters Recap, 13 Aug 15

Trigger Warnings: Spoilers, Boss Battle, Time Limit.

I really tried to do a TPK in this session, I really tried. Only the time limit kept me from doing so.

If you’ve got the book and have read along, you’ll know that the traditional win scenario in Princes of the Apocalypse is defeating all four Prophets and defeat one Major Elemental Prince. If I didn’t have a time limit—I have to start Out of the Abyss in September—I could stay around the Red Larch area and take more than a year to make this goal. Keep in mind that, much like with my campaign, that there’s a Nemesis System similar to Middle-Earth: Shadow of Modor, where there is a hierarchy of the leadership in each of the four cults. Defeat a Prophet and someone else will take up his or her place. This happened twice in my game, and will come into play when—yes, when—I start the next run of Princes of the Apocalypse in an online forum.

But then I move on to the big boss battle in the campaign. This should’ve happened sometime in September, but like I said last week, they took the short cut from the Howling Hatred floor, skipping past the Fane of the Eye, and end up sludging through the Howling Cave floor. By now my win condition is to defeat a Prince.

In this session, they met that Prince. The Air Prophet Aerisi was waiting for them in the final room in the Howling Caves. And her first action (I took a Legendary Action for this purpose) and summon Yan-C-Bin, the Prince of Elemental Air, and just to spice things up, he brought 3 Air Elementals with him.

Commence the battle where I swung for the fences. The attacks were fast and furious where I use Yan-C’s attacks, and a Cloudkill from Aerisi, to devastate the party. I managed to take down two players, and the Wyvren that accompanied them, and used Yan-C’s innate Fire resistance to his best advantage.

It would’ve been the biggest battle in the campaign.

It would’ve been a very hard fought victory if they actually managed to do so.

But then the clock rang 7:45p.

Hero’s Hideout closes at 8:00p.

Most people would’ve just paused the game at this point, but I was in mid-battle, and had to work fast. I tried removing all resistance from Yan-C as the portal to his plane of Elemental Air closes around itself.

In the end, at 8:01p, I just had to have Yan-C get sucked back into his dimension. A cop-out ending if there ever was, but what could you do with time constraints?

So I basically called it a victory for the party, and they have achieved the win condition for Princes of the Apocalypse, but the story is far from over. There was a chapter in the campaign that I had to skip over earlier because the party had already leveled up to a decent level to start the dungeon proper. I’ll go back to that chapter with some homemade construction as I start filling up some time between now and Out of the Abyss.

I’ll also provide a bit of a recap as to how the power structure is currently shuffled in the Cults of Elemental Evil, and set the campaign up for another party.

ÆTHERCOIL Worldbuilding Blog Entry 4

“It began with the Cubs winning the World Series, and it went downhill from there. The world we knew collapsed under its own weight in the manner of years, vanishing into memory, and then not even that. A dark time befell this world, with warlords and tyrants ruling over the people, until a bright light appeared in the East, heralded by the Princesses driven them all away.

It is 300 years since the old world fell, and the world stands upon the beginning of a new renaissance. A coalition of bright kingdoms now explore the world around them, searching lost civilizations and rediscovering inventions to progress civilization. But evil and chaos are still present, and they lie in wait for an opportunity to reclaim their power. Heroes are called, and adventurers present themselves, as they begin the Age of Rediscovery.”

Now that I got what I hope is the most sensitive part about creating this world out of the way, I can move on to the better parts. I have some parts to work in now, but there’s going to be I need a sequential order in how to do it.

The next part of course is setting up a pantheon, but it’s currently incomplete. I’d like it to have an combination of several historical belief systems, classical fantasy settings with more traditional deities, some of my own unique spins on a couple belief systems, some deity-less religions, and any other cool stuff I can toss in. You’ve seen what I did with Jesus Christ—yes, he is Yeshu in the setting—and there may need to have Correlon, Moradin, and the many Dragon deities. (Note: There will be no demons or devils, but there will be beacoup dragons running amuck, some good, some bad.) Buddhism and Shintoism will be in play, with some Hindu, Norse, Aztec, Mayan, and North American beliefs tossed in for good measure. And then we deal with the Furry Race deities. That outta be fun.

Oh, and before you ask, there will be Cthulhu.

That presents the still-to-be-set thought in my head, and the best way for me to sort them out is to go through a global overview, where I break down each area on the planet and describe what happened to the region, some of the countries, and how they changed when the world turned from the modern world to Æthercoil.

But, before I can do that, I need to address something that definitely needs changing in my setting: Alignment.

Exit: Traditional D&D
Enter: Magic: The Gathering

I want to steer away from the traditional D&D alignment array for two reasons: One is because I wanted to focus more on the Lawful-Chaotic axis rather than Good-Evil. The other is that as a social construct goes, Good and Evil are suggestive. More often than not, in a severe pitched battle, both sides think they’re on the side of Good. It is when the leaders go into “Ends Justify the Means” is when one side is perceived to be Evil, even though they have the best of intentions.

Hence I needed a replacement of the two-axis alignment area for something that is more detailed and nuanced, and I found it in Wizards of the Coast’s other flagship product.

350px-Color_WheelMagic the Gathering’s Color Wheel can easily be plugged in place of traditional alignment, and I’ll be using it in Æthercoil. It addresses a character’s personality and drives before assessing the Goodness or Evilness of a character, and it allows for more nuanced morality scenarios.

Mark Rosewater has made, and revisited a series of five articles that describe each of these colors, which can easily translate into using the Color Wheel as Alignment.  I’ll include them in the below table, with descriptions I gathered elsewhere in Wikipedia and magic.wizards.com (References: [1]; [2]; [3]; [4]. Don’t expect me to go create AMA-legal reference listings for every source I use just yet. I’ll wait until I make the initial manuscript for this setting for that, thank you very much)

As you would see, you are not focused on a particular color, you can have a combination of different colors which combine into a new alignment all its own. You can even take one alignment and ‘splash’ a bit of an outside color to further customize, or maybe even corrupt if need be, an alignment to suit your character.

But for right now, I’ll start with the basic five colors, the two-color guilds, and the three-color shards and wedges. That will result in 25 basic alignments, as opposed to the traditional 9, which I will work with as I continue worldbuilding.

 

Æthercoil Alignment Array

Color Magic Source Description
Basic Colors
W   The Great White Way Revisited by Mark Rosewater
U (U for Blue) True Blue Revisited by Mark Rosewater
B (B for Black) In the Black Revisited by Mark Rosewater
R   Seeing Red Revisited by Mark Rosewater
G   It’s Not Easy Being Green Revisited by Mark Rosewater
Two Color Combinations, aka ‘Guilds’
WR Boros The concept of Might equals Right, and that order and peace must be kept with the use of strength. Such belief can be channeled into a strong defense, but it can also be used as an overbearing and oppressive force.
GB Golgari Believing that Death is an important part of life, and that death should occur naturally in order for the life cycle to continue. Some GB-aligned beings might use plagues, poisons, and even necromancy to achieve this goal.
GW Selesnya Life should be in balance with the natural order of things. This is a traditional hippie and environmental mindset, but some take it to the point that individuality must be squelched in favor of the greater whole, sometimes to the point of hive minds.
UB Dmir Stay in shadows, keep your secrets close, and control the world from the background.   This might be needed for secure information networks, or the use of assassins and blackmail.
WB Orzhov The official alignment of Objectivism if there ever was one. WB people are true Randian heroes, focusing on their business and their own personal development for their own, and hopefully other’s betterment. Care must be taken to avoid the dreaded “Bioshock” scenario.
RG Gruul Be one with their savage nature, shun civilization, and be one with the wilderness.   Most Wild Elves will be RG as well as most native groups. RG groups can also strive to undo civilization’s efforts.
WU Azorius Always by the book, no matter the circumstances. Most government-related people have this alignment, either to maintain order or to ensure that their idea of order is uphealed by making everything else a crime against the state. Most people in the SJW movement are WU
BR Rakdos This is what Chaotic Neutral becomes. Enough Said.
GU Simic The alignment of Science. To experiment, explore, figure out how things work and how they can make it work for a better world. How to do it, however, depends on your own moral center.
Three Colors — Shards
RGW Naya Life, passion, community, and the wild—life is celebrated and instinct triumphs over machination. Here titanic predators are shown respect, while the intelligent peoples seek to revere and respect nature.
GWU Bant The alignment of benevolence and grace, where the dream of of an angelic utopia.   Conflicts are resolved through ritualized combat, and duty and honor are the bedrock of their kingdoms of light.   Most Paladins will be of this alignment
WUB Esper The alignment of magic and logic, where the brightest minds forever shine. Everything here is observed and controlled. The forces of high magic rule supreme.
UBR Grixis Necromancy rules supreme in this Alignment. The Undead and Dread Lords run the show, and what gets dead doesn’t stay dead around them. It is every ghoul, demon, and necromancer for themselves.
BRG Jund The law of the jungle, survival of the fittest.
Three Colors — Wedges
WBG Abzan We must all stand together as one in order to survive. Duty and Family are mainstays, as well as a strong defense—including an overpowering offence—against all who would wish to destroy them. Ancestral traditions and maintaining a connection with those before them are hallmarks as well.
URW Jeskai The alignment of martial artists, mystics, and wandering warriors. The ultimate goal is discovery and enlightenment, constantly striving to ascend to every greater levels. Cunning and Strategy are hallmarks, and age is something to be revered.
BGU Sultai Ruthless and Exploitive, this alignment is the Lawful Evil alignment. No action is beneath those who want to get ahead at all costs. Even to the point of using people as mere tools and discarded when they’re outlived their usefulness. Most of the rulers of this world until the Ascent of the Princesses were of this Alignment.
RWB Mardu Strike Hard, Strike Fast, and overwhelm everybody in the way. Live for the moment, You Only Live Once, and all that jazz. These people just flit between one awesome thing to the next, without any care of the past or plan for the present. He who dies with an empty bucket list wins.
GWR Temur Be strong, be fierce and be sufficient. Bow but not break, bloodied but not fallen. Pain is temporary but Glory is forever. When everyone tells you to move, your job is to plant yourself by your own convictions and morals and say “No, you move.”

With this list and the related sources stashed in my One Note, I think I have the needed tools to go on with the world-building. Entry #5 will have more big-picture information as I go around the planet and break things down region by region. Another mind-map will be in order.

Oh, and by the way, will I be picking any other inspirations from M:TG? I think I already have: Jeshu’s past is pretty much set in religious records, certia -2XXX WR. I just outed him as Jesus Christ at the top of this blog entry after all. Most of you have already know his story, especially if you’ve seen Passion Play movies. Now keep in mind that a Planeswalker Spark usually ignites in moments of extreme stress or a pivotal moment.

Getting Crucified seems stressful enough to ignite a Planeswalker’s Spark, wouldn’t you say?

And he did get up some time afterward. Later on he even walked up a mountain, continued walking to air, and then vanished. That’s looks like a Planeswalker to me.

What we have here is an example of spiritual exegesis that doesn’t suck.

Dreams of the Red Wizards Recap 6 Aug 15

Trigger Warnings: Spoilers, Inter-campaign villain, Mount Mayhem

Or should I say, Mount Mayhem Continues!

In this session, I sped past the getting the scrolls of Greater Restoration so I can have everyone who showed up on board. I didn’t even bother with the Hall of Heroes, since it would complicate matters and they’d told me in advance how they’re going to deal with each one. (I just said that it takes you a half hour to meticulously deal with each of the statues, finding out which ones are trapped, and dealing with the trapped statues, but eventually you crossed the hallway.) The session focused more on getting the Dragonshards they needed for the Dwarven Smithy. The smithy even placed an X on the map given to them.

2015-08-09 01_34_36-Undermountain Map 1

Note that this is not identical to the map given in the Halls of Undermountain module. As the rule of thumb given by Wizards of the Coast, it doesn’t have to be. Especially when you’re making a custom campaign which is an agglomeration of several campaigns into a stew of an adventure.

I basically went along with the module replacing the creatures with reasonable replacement from 5E’s Monster Manual, and even adjusting with the bone throne turning people into different kinds of undead.

It proved run of the mill until the party reached Room 10: The Kennels. Wizards had set this up with a bunch of Drake handled by Goblinoids. The party took care of the Goblinoids, but in a move that would make me applaud and a certain player who is also in my Encounters table cry, adopted two of the mounts. Bram Ravenrood, Human Ranger, took up a large Guard Drake as a mount and Axel, a Tiefling Warlock, took up a smaller drake as his Familiar.

And all I thought was, OMG! Kyle’s Mount Madness is spreading!

The next thought was, OMG! What are the patrons in the Yawning Portal gonna think when a large frigging lizard climbs up the shaft and into the main room?!

Needless to say that this will make for an crazy opening scene, will the Portal allow the party to bring that drake back in?

Also, they’re also got the Black Dragon in their sights. They found a wanted poster for his butt, 4000 PP, dead or alive! Can you say “This has the Cult of the Dragon written all over it?” Of course, if you follow along to these recaps, you know that this assassin and necromancer is aligned with the Red Wizards. That might, I hope and pray, steer them back onto the storyline I set up.

Of course, that depends on how I prepare the next delve. Stay Tuned.

Encounters recap 5 Aug 15

Trigger Warnings: Spoilers, Secret pathways, going to dungeons I have NOT prepared in advance, DM flying on the seat of his ass, and “Is that a Node?”

You have to excuse me this weekend if things get a bit slow; I’ve got a bit of a chest cold. Shouldn’t keep me from typing that much, should it?

The Scematic Map of the Temple of the Elements.
The Scematic Map of the Temple of the Elements.

Something I should have counted on occurred in this session: As you see in this map, there’s a passage that takes the party from the Howling Hatred floor (Map A if you’re following along with the book) to the Fane of the Eye (Map F) and eventually to the Howling Caves (Map N). However, there is a room in the Howling Hatred Floor in the Step Pyramid, Room A18, that contains a pit that will take you all the way down past the Fane of the Eye and into the Howling Caves.

Guess which path the party took.

Guess which floor I didn’t plan in advance.

God Damn You, Mr. Murphy!

This took out most of what I’ve written down thus far and proceeded to do Plan Z of any GM’s book. Dungeon Master out of the crack of my ass, and I let everybody know that I’m officially winging it. Fortunately for everyone involved, I managed to get it together until they were just one room away from the Elemental Node room in the Howling Caves.

Now I’m going to have to go for the TP fucking K, because no DM likes it when the players start going off the script. I’ll even have it start with a very hard decision with the people they’ve rescued. Dare I push them into a multiple boss fight without a safety net?

This is going to be worse than my PvP mode, believe me.

Æthercoil Worldbuilding Blog #3.1

Trigger Warnings:  Nuclear War.  Middle East Eradication.  The downfall of three whole religions who supposedly worshiped the same God.  Faerunian Deities thinking that they got off easy.  And Sexy Jesus.

I thought about going ahead and posting the current scenario right now, and decided to go ahead, knowing that I can always change it later as I get feedback. It’s an important part of the fall of the present day world that began the transformation into Æthercoil’s world. With the sheer variety of cataclysms that befell this world, it should be a small favor that the Nuclear War was so short and so small scoped. But it’s location and manner of this war affected the world more than anyone would guess.

Because it not only destroyed most of the Middle East, but caused three religions to fall because of it.

2015-08-03 20_29_27-Middle East
This is the Middle East Region, 300 WR. 298 years after World War III. Nobody won.

Whoever threw the first stone is lost to history, and it’s still in debate to this day, but everyone agreed on when all hell officially broke loose. Whoever threw that first stone, it was aimed at Israel. And Israel threw the second. And the third. And the fourth, and the next fifty, and then fifty after that, and then the remaining available nukes. Available in the world.

They call it the Samson Option, a nightmare level version of Mutual Assured Destruction. Named after the biblical judge who, chained and blinded as a spectacle for his enemies, destroyed the entire temple he was chained in, taking every enemy inside with him to the hereafter.

As a nation that has been faced with its own extinction long before they were recognized as a country, the Israelites knew the value of making sure that such a demise will prove the most pyrrhic victory known to man. What would serve the Judean-hating world, and all those tut-tutting European statesmen and peace activists, better in response for thousands of years of massacres but a Nuclear Winter? That is the Samson Option. That is Israel in ‘Bolivian Ending’ mode. For the first and I pray to God the only time in history, a people facing extermination while the world either cackles or looks away has the power to destroy the world.

Some call it the Ultimate Justice. Others call it the Ultimate Deterrent. Most people call it “The Shit Hitting the Fan”

And the shit did hit the fan, just hours after the Cubs winning the World Series (0-1 WR) A radicalized nation in the Middle East finally launched a Nuclear Weapon and struck Israel. In the final moments before the bomb struck, Israel not only launched its own nukes, but also hacked into every Nuclear Power on the planet, including both the United States and Russia, and launched every ICBM they can commandeer and sent them into the Middle Eastern region. All of the Nukes. Every one. Set to land in Carpet Bomb fashion.

By the time the fallout took its course (2 WR), three quarters of the Middle Eastern Region, including Israel, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, half of Iran, half of Saudi Arabia, and parts of Turkey and Egypt have vanished from the map. They were nuked out of existence, reclaimed by the sea.

Everybody else just stood there in shock, not wishing to even budge, not wanting to flinch, not willing to do anything outside of finding a shelter to hide, not wanting to do anything to provoke Round Two of World War III. The resulting electromagnetic pulse disrupted the networks and power grids of over 70% of the Old World, and created glitches in the New World as well, and everyone feared the coming nuclear winter that accompanied the many other upheavals that visited their own countries. Scientists feared that the sheer amount of nukes in a concentrated space would push the earth out of its orbit around the sun.

There was a silver lining though. The nuclear fallout counteracted with the carbon in the atmosphere, reversing the damage to the environment that causes Global Climate Change. Also, the water displacement created by the oceans reclaiming the lost land mass the Samson Option caused counteracted the melting icecaps, reversing the trend for the longer term. However, instead of a global nuclear winter, the combination of fallout and carbon created rifts between this world and both the Feywild and the Shadowfell, bringing with it the reverting of this world to a Middle Earth-style Fantasy Setting.

All that happened in the first 100 years of the Wrigley Reckoning.

By this time, all three related religions that had an origin in the now-erased region, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, were devastated. Most if not all of their scriptures are now referring to cities that no longer exists. It would be impossible for prophesies to come true in a Jerusalem that has vanished. And you can’t pray toward a Mecca that isn’t there anymore. The majority fell from their faith, and backlash against their religions grew intolerable in some parts of the world after the event. By 25 WR, with the exception of some variations of their religions (The most prevalent being Mormonism, sequestered in Utah) all three religions became all but extinct. By 300 WR, these religions are little more than cautionary tales on the horrors of war, where more often than not nobody wins. No part of these three religions would have any influence in all in Æthercoil.

Yeshu
I haven’t even thought of Æthercoil until this month, but already, He warned Faerun’s whole pantheon about me. Probably knew I’d be a dick.

All discarded on the ash heap of history, except for one.

With surprising regularity, reports of a strange man in a cloak and middle eastern garb appears to people who are in dire need, someone who was listening when someone cried out in the night. A moral body with pierced wrists and an immortal spark inside him, who appears when he’s needed the most. In his wake, the lame walk, the blind see, the dead rise, and people who were once despairing and powerless are now fill of hope and power, wishing to bring light and life into the world around them. He wished no followers, takes in no disciples, and requests no worship, but everyone knows of this Israeli. His name comes from an ancient forgotten language. It’s a name of Anonymity, but all know him: Yeshu.

I’ll expand on Yeshu’s presence and impact in the Æthercoil world as I go.

 

ÆTHERCOIL Worldbuilding Blog #3

“It began with the Cubs winning the World Series, and it went downhill from there. The world we knew collapsed under its own weight in the manner of years, vanishing into memory, and then not even that. A dark time befell this world, with warlords and tyrants ruling over the people, until a bright light appeared in the East, heralded by the Princesses driven them all away.

It is 300 years since the old world fell, and the world stands upon the beginning of a new renaissance. A coalition of bright kingdoms now explore the world around them, searching lost civilizations and rediscovering inventions to progress civilization. But evil and chaos are still present, and they lie in wait for an opportunity to reclaim their power. Heroes are called, and adventurers present themselves, as they begin the Age of Rediscovery.”

I was, at first, hesitant on what would’ve been this entry on Æthercoil. It concerns Pantheons and Religions (Source: Part 1 and Part 2 ), and since this campaign world is set on an post-apocalyptic real world, it’s would be dicey. Especially with one particular religion, which I’ll elaborate a bit before I get to what I’m really want to put in here.

If anyone is going to set an RPG style campaign in a Real World setting, you are going to have to eventually deal with the real world religions here. And that means dealing with religions that can be more butthurt than a feminist SJW who’s menstruating. Granted, you can talk about Scientology, or any telepreacher, but in my mind the religion I find myself slowing down out of concern is Islam.

Yes, I’m talking about the “No Artwork of Mohammad” rule that causes people to go apeshit every time it’s broken.

And I’m the kind who’d love to put Mr. Peace Be Upon Him in the campaign setting. (Personal Note: I know that the phrase “Peace be upon him” is used by Muslims to pay respects to someone who died. But the phrase is spoken so many times their prophet’s name is mentioned, my brain assigned the phrase as Mohammad’s last name. It’s how the organ works, after all.) In fact, I have already put Jesus Christ, a deity and religious figure that never has this hang-up in the modern time, as a Deity in Æthercoil. I’ll mention Him in Entry #4, where I’ll talk about the drastic measure in dealing with the “No Artwork of Mohammad” rule: In Æthercoil, the Middle East is an ocean, and Christianity, Judaism, and Islam fell are left on the ash heap of history because of it. Keep tabs on this blog for how that happened.

Oh, and I’d like to ask some Muslim who won’t go into full-on beheading mode at a pin drop to assist me in how to properly depict Islam in an RPG setting, so I won’t have to throw out three entire religions and several whole countries along with it, because I would like to walk the streets without worrying about one of you sneaking up behind me with a knife, thank you so much.

But now I want to get at this month’s Unearthed Arcana from Wizards, the one that deals with Magic in a Modern Setting. I’ve looked them over and thought that, while it might not be permitted in my Forgotten Realms setting, it would be perfect for Æthercoil. Especially when the campaigns gets going and technology becomes rediscovered. This article and related PDF expands on this Behind the Screens article as well as pages 267-8 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. (Note: Flintlock pistols, Revolvers, and long range rifles including a couple sniper rifles are a part of my Forgotten Realms.)

In Æthercoil, technology in the modern world is the goal of several campaigns, including electronic devices. At the start, most of the electronic items would be rare and small, probably a solar-powered calculator or a battery-powered flashlight. The kinds of trinkets that you can incorporate Numenera’s Cypher mechanic into the system. (Of course, you need to deal with developing batteries for them. Definitely the cause for a whole campaign that can take a character from levels 1 to 20 and beyond.) But even at the start, the three Magic archetypes can come into play, such as using the on/off cantrip to control some devices. As the search for tech progresses, and computer networks come into play, these archetypes will come more into play: Once an electrical grid is set up, and cities becomes networked, they will really come into play. Or they might encounter a location that already has the network set up, including the power grid, and they can use these archetypes at earlier levels. That possibility will be available for that as well.

I’m thinking on the fly, but that would be the basis for my first Æthercoil campaign, which is a conversion of Lost Mine of Phandelver. Instead of a Magic Font, the Lost Mine would instead be a still-functioning and still powered computer network—maybe the server where Wikileaks or Piratebay is located—and the mere discovery of this computer and the data it holds (maybe information on how computers and power grids are made?) would be the major rediscovery of Modern Technology that is what Æthercoil is all about.

One I get through some of the major world-building articles, going along with the Gamemaster’s Journey Blog in the process, (The pantheon-slash-religion article and the list of various races in the campaign world) I’ll go along with setting up a Sword Coast region (Hint: It’s Europe) and work on the first campaign.

And like I said, if it is entirely possible for me to properly portray Islam in this campaign setting without having fatwas issued against me, please any Muslim who knows how to do it better than I do, let me know. That input will be a big help in actually putting your religion into this world.

Dreams of the Red Wizards Roll20 Recap, 30 Jul 15

Trigger Warnings: Spoilers, recycled characters, recycled Undermountain, Mount Mayhem!

This is the second of the series I called “I tried this floor to be easy, but…”

It is the halftime program for this particular campaign, and I have a good amount of new players to show up. Just in time for a decent jump-in point in the campaign, which I made with a port of some parts of Undermountain. I have the party do a side trip to Waterdeep to meet with a magic metalsmith that can forge a set of protective gloves with some [traditionally] heat-resistant metal. The metalsmith in question, Dwarf Tharkham Flintfist, has stored some Dragonshards in a safe space in Undermountain (since the otherworldly magical rocks aren’t accepted much in the banks on the surface), and had to be rescued by the party in his latest voyage into the infamous death trap of the Sword Coast. A bone throne that turns living people into zombies is one such example, as well as something that Kyle, much to the other party member’s chagrin, tried to woo into his mount.

He was in Room 5 of the Undermountain campaign. Those who have the Campaign Book will know what’s in that room. It makes things no less bat shit insane when I converted the creatures and traps to 5th Edition. In that edition, the Basilisk’s Petrifying Gaze is automatic!

Before the Bastilisk is dead, and the cleric Kyle was playing wept over his corpse, two PCs got turned into stone; one by a Critical Fail on his save. Good thing I didn’t have my web cam on, because I was favoring my head.

Now the party has to get out of the dungeon, find a cleric to make some Greater Restoration scrolls, come back down with Tharkham because they need him to guide the party to the Dragonshard stash, and bring their petrified party members back to normal.

And all this and they haven’t heard of what I added to the dungeon, which is a former NPC I customed into a life on his own:

Dralmorrer Borngray, the Black Dragon

Introduced during Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Dralmorrer was originally a member of the Eldreth Valuuthra , a group of elf supremacists dedicated to removing humanity from Faerun. He joined the Cult of the Dragon because he believes that his homeland of Evermeet will be sheltered from the dragons’ reign. (p. 46) When the party cleared Castle Naerythar, turning it into a succubus-controlled abby, The Cult of the Dragon left Dralmorror in the lurch. This angered Dralmorror enough to vow revenge against the Cult. He took what he learned from the Cult of the Dragon, with some assistance from the Red Wizards, to become a necromancer bent on destroying the Cult of the Dragon first—hopefully before they free Tiamat from her prison—and then take care of humanity second. He took up a cloak designed to resemble a Black Dragon and took up the moniker of “The Black Dragon.”

He’s already been busy, in my Masks & Mythos Play by Post campaign, he has already killed a pizzeria owner, Freddy Oreioth, turning him into a lich that made an appearance in my Princes of the Apocalypse Encounters table. (How’s that for inter-campaign synergy? This is part of what I’m going for in my customized Forgotten Realms. Campaigns will interact with each other, sometimes in real time.) He is currently in Undermountain where he’s touching back with his Red Wizard contacts.

I was hoping that the Roll20 crowd will hear from him this week, but they were too busy mucking about with a lizard that turned two of them into stone. Mr. Murphy did more than just make me trip on words and gave the party Mount Madness! Oh well, he’ll be talked about next week if things go well; whatever or not the party actually encounters him is still up in the air. I might need to make some more tweaks.

Sword Coast Legends Pre-Ordered for Streaming

With the new month, I was able to get enough money for me to get Sword Coast Legends ordered for September.  This is part of my plans for my streaming.  Right now I’m just streaming the Thursday Roll20 Campaign, and if I remember to do it, some planning.  I need some more regular streaming sessions, and I can have it with Sword Coast Legends.  I tried out streaming with Heroes of the Storm, and while I’m satisfied with the Streaming, HotS is plagued with net lagging.  That’s a common complaint.  I’m wagering, after checking out this computer on the “Can You Run it?” site, I’ll fare better with Sword Coast Legends.

I’ll start off with an extended session as I get to know the game and go through the single player campaign, but once I settle into a regular scedule, I’ll mostly stream in Dungeon Master Mode, both doing Delves and Campaign creation.  What I’d like to do is recreate some of my previous campaigns so that current players can play my content and be brought up to speed on the unique spin on my campaigns.

But those are just plans, and I’d think more about it once I get the game downloaded and run from Steam.

Encounters recap 29 Jul 15

Trigger Warnings: Spoilers, low-level dungeons, Mount Mayhem, Winged Elves, Les Yay

The Schematic Map of the Temple of the Elements.

The party returns to the Temple of the Elements Dungeon, this time entering through the Temple of Howling Hatred, Point A in the abstract map. This is the first half of a two-part series I call “I wanted this floor to be easy, but….”

Instead of scaling this floor to fit the party, I used the standard bad guy layout, hoping that the players will breeze through this floor and move on deeper into Fane of the Eye, which is where they were the deepest.

However, I didn’t count on the shenanigans brought on by the players, in what I’d like to call Mount Mayhem. I’ll use that to describe the tendency of all the players to put mounts or their characters, no matter how off the wall they can be. We went form pigs, which someone of the party reduced to bacon, to a giant frog that wasn’t originally in the set-up—don’t ask; it involves speak with animals with the tiny frogs in the game—to the wyvern one of the Skyweavers had, which they flew right into the step pyramid where Aerisi was sitting in.

I know I should never underestimate the inguinity of the players on the table, but they keep surprising me. During the ensuing battle, where I dropped the character—Kyle’s second Wild Mage no less—who had the wyvern mount, another PC tried to wrest it from him. Now I have to deal with a duel in the pyramid for the wyvern…and Chase will return next week with his own Bulette.

And I’ll have some very interesting developments at the start of the next session.

By this time, I see more developments of the Custom Realms while I’m working. I’ve already turned some previous NPCs into their own unique lives, such as Coran in Baldur’s Gate, and Dralmorrer Borngray from Hoard of the Dragon Queen. I’m doing the same to the Cults of Elemental Evil.

I’ve been looking around the net in my spare time for developments in other games. Since I didn’t touch the Believers cult in Red Larch, so I didn’t even have them in my version of Red Larch. The town is still pretty stock with the sole addition of my replacement witch in The Helm in Highsun, who has become the hero—and sweetheart—of the city. Compare that with some campaigns where Harburk turned into Vlad Dracul levels of extremism.

Most of my developments occur with the cultists the party has encountered so far:

Marlos Urnrayle

He’s stuck deeper in the Temple, either in the Fane of the Eye level or further below in the Black Geode. He lost Ironfang, so he’s looking for an alternate weapon for the rematch, something that can equal in his attacks and unlock the node to release the Prince Elemental, or find a way to get Ironfang back.

Aerisi Kalinoth

Four Words: Illusionary Wings My Ass. I gave Aerisi real wings that really lift her off the ground. Because that’s what Aerisi would’ve wanted. Maybe the Air Prince Elemental granted her those wings for her service to said elemental. Or maybe she magically grafted the wings on her own body, fueled by her narcissism and her desire to become a winged elf herself. Anyway, she doesn’t need to convince people that she is an avariel, like in the published module. She really is an avariel.

Savra Belabranta

The Fethergale Nights aren’t a cover for the Cult of Howling Hatred, but a legitimate patrol group created by the Lord’s Alliance. (Contrast with the Sacred Stone Monks) Again, this is to speed up the storyline. But Savra is irrevocably wooed by Aerisi to be her right hand prophet, so loyal to her that she has fallen in love with her. I have her use Windharrow’s stats with Aerisi’s spells, and used Chain Lightning to one round Kyle’s character.

Windharrow

To account for the time elapsed so far, I changed some positions of the Initiates in training, as well as getting those who are with Windharrow some actual skill in those bone flutes.

Unfortunately that skill didn’t save him from one of Bill’s favorite tactics. Open Door, lob in fireball like a Dragon Slave Grenade, Close Door, wait for results.

Windharrow survived this floor twice, first by saving against the fireball, taking half damage, and again as he accompanied Savra in the pyramid, where he used Dimension Door to get himself and Savra out of the action. They’re going to regroup and come back—probably at the Fane of the Eye level—for a big boss battle.

I hoped to see some more developments in my Virtual Table campaign, but I had similar problems with that party—even with the new players—and their desire for strange mounts. Stay Tuned for the Dreams of the Red Wizards recaps.

Dreams of the Red Wizards Recap, 23 JUL 15

Trigger Warnings: Spoilers, Red Dragon NPCs, disgruntled players, and DMs who just want to have fun.

By now the Scourge of the Red Wizards campaign has reached halftime. The first two dungeons were taken care of, and there’s some lighter role playing fare to deal with before the other two is dealt with. In the meantime, the party has discovered a basement with a Red Dragon Wyrmling inside. A dragon that the party succeeds to befriend, and a special Pandaren brew book, so much that Chou, the Pandaren Brewmaster, can go on to be the tavernmaster to the tavern the party has…

Just in time for the player of Chou to bail from the campaign.

I think I mentioned this before: Since this is my first Roll20 Virtual Table campaign, I would expect players to join in, find out more about me as a DM, and then just walk out. From what I heard from others, this is normal for fledgling DMs until you get a small group of steady players. This particular bail out comes out of two items I can talk about: A case of inconsistency, which is on me, and the tendency for someone used to 3.5E to play 5E like it was 3.5E, something which isn’t.

Inconsistency is something I’d admit to, since I’m still experimenting with my Dungeon Mastering style. In this case it’s my use of fudge dice (/r 4df) for some attack rolls. Especially when attacks with huge damage ties with the player’s AC, and I don’t want to just TPK a party while I have such good content further down the campaign. Maybe I use the fudge dice too much, and it’s something I’ll be working at in the future, but that’s not the most important thing in my DM style.

To me, the best thing about being a DM is that it’s flat out fun. It’s fun telling stories, and fun seeing the party tackle the challenges before them. I love it when the party argues with each other on an item in game, even to the point where things totally get out of hand. To me, Fun trumps the Gameplay, which trumps the Rules. Some people don’t apply to this concept; they want the game to adhere to the established rules, both published and home, and when they’re not consistent they leave the game.

This isn’t some professional series of Tabletop RPGs, this isn’t Fourthcore, this is a D&D game with stuttering, stammering, autistic me as the DM, and regardless of what happens on the table, or what spits out of my mouth, the biggest question is “Are you having fun.” If you are, then I’m doing my job well. If you want to see a professional do this job with voice acting and characterization, go watch Chris Perkins behind the screen. I’m nowhere near Mr. Perkin’s level and probably never reach that point in this life. I just don’t give a fuck over it.

This isn’t a new thing. #Gamergate came about mostly because some people claim that Video Games shouldn’t be fun. Of course, those in Gamergate would bitch about the depiction of females and the ridiculously named ‘People of Color,’ than any strict adherence to any rules. Either direction, to me, only makes me think that you’re taking things way too seriously. This is a game, doing well is one thing, but even if you’re talking, I’d like you to have fun doing it. That way, you can keep coming, and maybe even be one of my steady players.

Which, as I come back to what I want out of Roll20, is exactly what I’m looking for. I want steady players who like what I’m bringing. Once I get a good steady stream of players, I can move on to better things.

Such as whatever or not fudge dice belongs in my Virtual Table.

In the meantime, the campaign will sidetrack into a homemade adventure over at Waterdeep, so that something can be constructed before the party returns to Daggerford and continue on the story. It’s a perfect place for people who want to play at my Virtual Table to jump in, so if you want to, go ahead and send me a comment.

http://foxfirestudios.net