Princes of the Apocalypse: 19 Feb 16

Item: Corrections in the previous post.

I had to make some corrections to the previous recap of Dreams of the Red Wizards, thanks to Zikuan, the player on the table that is playing Axel. (Yes the bunnygirl bot cleric)

Item: Death House update

I managed to write all of the twists I wanted to make in the Curse of Strahd launch events, and even took in some suggestions from Lex Starwalker to ensure that I do not have a surprise TPK during the event. Starting this week, you’ll be seeing some of my tweaks to this coming season, which will have their effects, not just in my customized Realms, but in the more canonized Living Parnast as well.

Item: Princes of the Apocalypse

Trigger Warning: Voice Chat Harassment

URL of Youtube Export: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSdRcjIHCSxcpR116VraLAM2BYaoRz8rU (Please let me know if I need to improve the audio more. I’ll be too busy preparing the next week’s sessions and sprucing up LP01-01, thank you in advance.)

Just when I thought that the adventure has been slowed down somewhat.

I did a slight retcon and said that the party managed to get to Beliard to get the greater restoration to poor Nightblade’s catnip addition. Once that chore was over, they party then returned to the water dungeon, otherwise known as ‘The Scene of the Crime,’ to get that water weapon.

I had it so that the weapon is protected by a pair of locks, each needing a key that’s on opposite ends of the dungeon. The got the first one that was guarded by a sleeping, then turned, beholder zombie with little to no problem.

Then they tried to cross the map to the opposite end.

In the middle of the map they encountered some Green Hags that attempted to use their baleful glare to kill some frightened player (they almost succeeded)

Then the druid thought he’d wild shape into a Giant Elk.

That was when someone who I’ll keep nameless decided to play this video. Over and over and over again.

Cue the second derailment in a row. We were all falling out of our chairs laughing. Some even called this session even better than the last one, where drugs were involved.

(Personal Note: In between belly juggling laughs, I was thinking to myself that this is what I was needed and missing in my previous attempts to get a presence in the tubes. If you’ve seen me for a long time, you’ll know how poorly I fared when making web comics. I wanted to get a response that will get me laughing like what I’m doing, and keep encouraging me to continue. I didn’t get that from deviantART, to say the least. I’m getting that in Roll20, Twitch, and hopefully feedback from Google+ on my D&D projects. This is why I made the switch in my plans for my life.)

I closed the session on a cliffhanger. The second guardian of the key was a Red Dragon. Young Red Dragon, because I didn’t want a TPK right away. At first he didn’t want to parlay, especially with that preaching Paladin of Lathander. But a successful CHA check later, and the Dragon agreed to a game of chance for the key.

Isn’t that a good cliffhanger or what? I really need to think about what to throw at the shlebs. Especially the one who was blowing Elk Calls for about an hour during this session.

Dreams of the Red Wizards Recap; 18 Feb 16

Before I get to the recap, some update notes:

Item: The Curse of Strahd Launch Event.

Thanks to Dragon+, I was able to download the Launch Event PDF, Death House, which I’ll be running in Hero’s Hideout, and possibly later on in Roll20. I’m happy to report that I’ve already added my embellishment to the module. Granted, I haven’t changed the main part of the module itself, but I did change the location of the Death House, using my concept I mentioned earlier about bringing Ravenloft to you, and not you to Ravenloft. I’ll show some of my changes for the Curse of Strahd season later on in my blog, but I can tell you right now that there’s a haunted house in Baldur’s Gate (Mandorcai’s Mansion, by name) that’s really going to get a solid trashing. Both by the Mists of Ravenloft and by moi.

Item: Video Export Kaizen

It’s come to my attention that the player’s voices are a bit too quiet for the videos, which is what one of those players have told me. While I couldn’t do anything for this post’s stream, I did make a bit of a correction, by adjusting the chat volume on Teamspeak. Hopefully this fixes the problem for tomorrow’s post. Special thanks to Spacehampzter for pointing this out to me, and I hope that he will continue to find things that needs fixing, because even though I keep an eye out everywhere myself…I’m just one man.

Item: Dreams of the Red Wizards

Video URL: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSdRcjIHCSxfzpMohAba3htiQlZB69GGk

How do you get a bunch of adventurers who don’t claim to be heroes to go do something heroic?

That’s the question I had to ask myself in the middle of this session.

By now the area between Daggerford and Waterdeep is going to hell. This will especially be apparent when they come to the end of the session. By now, the Thayans have opened a link from Thay’s Doomvault—an installation of great necromantic power in the Magocracial country—to the Firehammer Hold in the Sword Coast, and the Red Wizards are beginning to spread their undead to bring Faerun down to chaos, using their necromantic magic that uses the worst parts of both the classic magical source and stupid zombies and the virus-type spread and fast zombies.

I want to have the campaign transition to Dead in Thay where the party heads over to defeat the Red Wizards, hopefully once and for all. I gave them multiple examples of how the zombies will spread all over the world if they don’t do something about it. I even had Syranna show up in this session and told them that they need to head to the Doomvault, take out a lich, and have a big reward of being a part of a land of great leaning and power…

…and all they say is “What’s in it for us?” Some of them even say that they’ll just move away when the zombies come, and you know how far south that turns out.

You can hear me groaning over the playlist.

In the end, I had Syranna give them anti-undead weapons and 1000 Plat to give them enough incentive.

That was enough for them to at the very least drag them into the latter parts of this campaign.

The party returned to Firehammer Hold and made it to the trap in Room 18 (Deep Duerra Cave). I had the trap replaced with something that looks innocuous, but is a whole lot sinister. Our bunny girl cleric, Axel, PTSD running through her circuitry, decided to touch it, with the intention of using it for some purpose or another.

The crystal teleports her to Room 25, alone, where she saw this:

This room has a corner fireplace that has a mantle adorned with a carving of a sword surrounded by two spiraling flames, actual flames that twist and bend in an unknowable pattern, over which a broken crossbow bolt that has been painted in blood that is still dripping down into the reddish fire. In the southeastern part of the room sit a large bed and a chest. A tall cabinet and an orante desk with a high-backed chair stand near the north wall. All of the furniture looks warped and transformed to resemble an abomination of flesh and bone. Many metal instruments and glass containers are thrown everywhere, including a burner, spoons, bottles, flasks, and alembics. In the northeastern corner, still bound by shackles, is Jekk.

Or rather, half of Jekk, from the waist up. His guts are hanging off of his cavity where he was sliced in two.

That’s what you would’ve seen, of course, if it weren’t for the Pit Fiend standing in front of you, with a shit-eating grin, saying, “I just knew you’d come.”

What happened next would be the most awesome play that I had to wave off:

With the use of Lucky and an Action Point, she was able to throw the Card of Balance (one of the Cyphers that I gave them) at the Pit Fiend.

The fiend would’ve turned into an Angel, a polar flip on their alignment: Just like the card said.

Then Axel did the similar attack…with a clone cypher, making two such angels.

That would’ve been the most awesome maneuver I have ever seen, something that would really make me stop the session so I can think up something to work from this…..

….then someone else claimed that they had the Cyphers in question, not Axel.

There was an argument, and I made my own DM’s call in the best way I know how: A coin flip.

….which fell against Axel.

Ever seen a big game-changing touchdown play get called back because someone Held? It was like that.

Needless to say, the Pit Fiend wasn’t happy with the retcon, and proceeded to pummel the poor little bunny into oblivion. She was sent flying into a hallway while the other party touched the teleportation stone to join in what will probably be their eventual ass-whooping.

But I’ve seen parties take out Kaiju in little more than one round, so I’m not counting the TPK until I succeed.

But man, if that coin would’ve fell the other way….talk about your ‘what could have been.’ It’s those times that I really appreciate being a DM. (It certainly not trying to poke at my players to get a move on, is it?)

Encounters Recap: 17 Feb 16

Before I started the session, I got a talk with the people running the Heroes Hideout store, and they told me about the Launch Campaign for Curse of Strahd, Death House, which will be launched in March. I intend to pause ‘Out of the Abyss’ for the ‘Death House’ campaign, since it’s a much shorter adventure, and then go back to ‘Out of the Abyss’ until I reach the end of that campaign, and then move on to ‘Curse of Strahd.’

After I told everyone about that, I moved on to today’s session.

The party breezed through the Purple Worm Hatchery and got their needed Egg. They found a way out a bit quicker than I thought, so I had the Formorian Guardian show up before they get outside. During the encounter, I had the Formorian summon the Purple Worm, although in hindsight, I should’ve summoned two of them, because the party nearly one-rounded that kaiju (In D&D, a Kaiju is any creature that is bigger than what a 4-inch token can fill.) In the heat of the moment, I just threw in the giant spiders to make the encounter last.

Note to self: Get a bigger grid to play in. I think I got one donated to me from the players. A folded playmat originally made for Pathfinder

Note #2: Get a new plexiglass cover for that folded playmat.

When the smoke is cleared I found a place for Hanne Hallen to be all big and blustery, but the party quickly found her as the frightened little waif who suddenly found herself all alone in the Underdark, weighing her options between returning to Menzoberanzan by herself or fleeing to the surface (to a drow, both options suck balls.) But the party had a drow in them, who was all but willing to care for the waif for the time being.

This will prove promising for the future campaigns, but at the end of the session, I was able to address one of my annoying gaps missing in 5th Edition.

dms guild logoFifth Edition does have Magic Items, but it doesn’t have a good market ability for them, nor do they have any instructions in how to make them outside of the general instructions listed in the Downtime Section of the rules. Not unlike Pathfinder, where they have recipes on how to build them, such as supplies, what kind of spells, asking prices for the magic items, and so on.

Something that people writing for the DM’s Guild should consider, no?

I’ve already found a good source for someone that was needed at this time: A Traveling Vendor, in this case, a half-orc named Andinas who happened to be crossing the party’s path with goods for sell and trade. The DM’s Guild has a recent document named “Spoils and Rewards Volume 1” by Chas Williams, which has some instructions on how to make an Item Shop, or in this case, a Merchant Cart. I still had to do some Random Number Generations and still have to guestimate asking prices (and make a little spreadsheet for some quick napkin math) but I was able to get a good merchant going. Had to. Someone was asking for one to show up somewhere, and there wasn’t much of a town around.

Note to self #3: Always have an item shop NPC on hand, just for situations like this.

Meanwhile, in Living Parnast, I managed to get the first draft of the module LP01-01 (Liberation from the Dragon Queen) written down. There’s a needed pause for me to find the funds to print out the document so I can proofread it. (That Paypal Tip Jar’s there for a reason folks) I’m already thinking up the follow-up module (LP01-02 Rebuilding Parnast) where I include a Kingmaker-style village building system on top of the “Honobono D&D 5E” mechanics that will eventually become part of Æthercoil.

Yes, it’s a Japanese word: ‘Honobono’ means ‘Heartwarming’ and there’s a new genre of RPG with a Honobono theme. Think of an RPG made by Studio Ghibli, and you pretty much have games like Ryuutama, Mitchtim, The Whispering Road, and many other RPGs that are more suitable for children to play. I’ll be gearing both Living Parnast and Æthercoil to, although having D&D 5E as the basic system, to include an “Honobono Mode” that will be more family and children friendly. Of course, it’s optional, so parties who just want more standard fare with more encounters can have that, although I have to make clear that Living Parnast won’t be focusing on purely dungeon crawling and combat. You’re working with a NPC who just became a Lord and is tasked with a small kingdom to build into a strong ally, a Lord who would’ve been Tony Stark if he wasn’t a chronic stutterer. During the campaign, the team and their patron will be assisting each other, and keeping this synergy is important for the campaign’s progression; it’ll be the main hook of this whole series.

I’ll keep you posted on the progress, as well as a campaign guide for the series (It’s going to be needed.)

Week of 7-13 Feb 16, part 3

Item: Princes of the Apocalypse, 12 Feb 16

Video Export: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSdRcjIHCSxeR6pKmTJvFEUMmFR9lWYSG

Trigger Warning: For some people, this is the best D&D session ever!

I say this because some people think it’s because of some prime action, or a major plot point, or a beginning or conclusion of an epic storyline. Apparently, there’s a part of me who thinks that a D&D session isn’t good unless I’m hiding behind the dungeon master’s screen laughing and crying at the same time, feeling the insanity of my players like Steve Harvey’s Family Feud. This has got to rank up here with the infamous ‘-cupine’ incident.

It started innocent enough, though. The party progressed toward the third elemental weapon.

I should’ve seen that I’m going to have quite a time when the RNG gave me a dragon encounter, and not just any dragon encounter.

Remember that young green dragon who got blown into the Dessarin Valley? From Dreams of the Red Wizards?

Guess what the Princes of the Apocalypse party met.

Fortunately, the dragon was in no mood to attack. He was too woozy and disoriented to fight. The party decided to make friends with the wyrm, offering it a small allotment of coin and even sending a healing spell that way.

At this point, I have to put up one of my hidden rules in campaign design: No Two Dragons are alike.   Just because they’re a chromatic doesn’t mean that they are cookie cutter identical in temperament and personality. Some Chromatics are good, and some Metallics will end up evil. With this dragon, he just wanted to set up a simple hoard and live somewhat unmolested by adventurers. He’d might go as far as to say, “Listen, if I hand you a weapon from my horde, would you’d just leave?”

I don’t know if he’d do that, but he will remember the party’s good deed, and will return the favor in a future session. Oh, and by the way, and there’s always an ‘oh by the way,’ that qualified as a non-violent resolution: The XP for that encounter got doubled. I reward those who think outside of the “Open Door, Kill Feeb, Take Treasure, Lather, Rinse, Repeat,” mentality.

It’s part of how I design the Living Parnast series.

The campaign went on toward Beliard and a nearby marina where I had some boats ready for the party; the wizard who made the Stone to Flesh spell offered the party the boats and a Stone to Flesh scroll for their troubles.

I didn’t see the danger sign when they arrived into the dungeon where the water weapon is located. I did see the sign that said that the weapon is behind two locks, and the party has to find two keys to unlock it.

Then the party walked into an Earth Elemental, just minding its own business.

The new lady in the game (and yes, there are women on the internet and they play games that I DM in—Fuck You, Anita!) cast Plant Growth on it.

Producing Catnip. And Marijuana. And Poppies. And Mushrooms. And I think someone was making LSD in the corner just for kicks.

Note that one of the members of the party is a catfolk during this.

Also, I haven’t even touched the part about the two druid characters wanting to get it on every five minutes!

The video speaks for itself. I couldn’t Dungeon Master for thirty whole minutes because I was too busy laughing. I was on the floor laughing. I was laughing like someone who has completely lost all sense of reason, the kind of laugh that makes people want to call ‘those nice men in those clean white coats’ to take me away, but I was having the best laugh I had in months.

It was hilarious, and offensive, and funny, and irrelevant, and a riot, and righteous, and good. That is what this game means to me, that I don’t have to even stay on any track and still claim to have a good time.

I might never be admitted into any D&D Hall of Fame as a Dungeon Master, I might not even make a living off of it. I might be content to just break even with Living Parnast, but it’s a thing I enjoy doing, which makes it—and scenes like this—all worthwhile.

The number one rule of being a DM is that, above all, make sure that the players are having a good time. It’s different in each group I’m in, and it will be more apparent now that I’m saving the streams on YouTube. If the party isn’t having fun and having a good time with their three hours and change they’re giving here, what’s the point?

It sure beats whipping each other into a political fevered frenzy over some candidate they’ve been told that their existence is intolerable to them personally, right?

Cthulhu 2016

 

Week of 7-13 Feb 16, part 2

Item: Youtube Stream Saves

It took me a long way to get to this point, longer than I care to think about, but I’m now going to save my streams—an important suggestion—to from twitch to YouTube. You’re now able to see previous streams, and I added YouTube to the main directory.

The reason why it took this long for me to do this are twofold. At first, I thought that twitch saves about two weeks’ worth of streams already. They do so, but not publicly. They must’ve known that I’d be screwing up on the streaming. The second part is that I’ve been screwing up on streaming. It took me a while for me to get the streaming set-up right. I had major problems with OBS because I lack the power in a single machine to do everything. However, I still have an older machine (a five-year-old dual core) and a notebook that doubles as my computer screen, which I inherited last year.

I now have all three machines sending to Infiniscene. My main machine (the AMD A8 with a dual screen) is sending the Roll20 table and my voice over a web cam. My tablet is doing the Teamspeak work, sending audio from the other players, and my dual core is doing the controls and monitoring the Twitch Chat. Using these three machines with the Charter internet, (I’m still jazzed about how fast I was able to download Japan’s Sasuke (The original Ninja Warrior) 2015 at a rate of 1 Meg a second; that video was 6 Gigs large!) I’m finally able to create a stream that’s good enough for me to actually save for the web. I’ll be doing so starting this week.

As you would expect, and I expected this as well, that my forway into live streaming my D&D is going to be sketchy at first. I just didn’t count on it being that sketchy. There was some days that I just didn’t have the capacity for it. However, I was able to kaizen (another word from Japan, it means ‘constant improvement,’) it out to this point. Some might dislike me using the word as a verb, but in my (autistic, remember?) mind, that’s what I’ve been doing. In artwork, in my DMing, in my stream; granted, some days are better than others, last Thursday being one of the better ones, but I’m happy that I’m actually progressing forward, and look forward to more.

Item: Dreams of the Red Wizards, dated 11 Feb 16

Video: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSdRcjIHCSxcqDx_kjfBUllhMiIwpOk3w

Two points of interest here up ahead. With an additional trigger warning for today and tomorrow: Drug use.

In my version of the Forgotten Realms. In fact, I’m calling it for every realm I use or make: Cannabis is legal! Legal and readably used. It’s used in making rope, weaving textiles, making paper, producing medicine, and a cornucopia of other uses, on top of people smoking it and getting stoned. Deal. With. It.

The second points of interest concerned an early encounter for my Thursday group. You can tell that either I’m getting serious or you’ve finally pissed off Random Number Jesus when I start tossing dragons your way. It started with a Young Green Dragon, who was told by the Cult of the Dragon—about time they start returning to the scene—that attacking the party would be a good idea to increase his own hoard. The party tried to reason to him, more like hiring him of course, but then I had this dragon bring his bigger Adult Green Dragon brother. Who wasn’t putting up with the party’s shit.

Before the party managed to kill their first dragon—I was still holding back—I had the bigger dragon poison breath the whole party. (Yes, I still wanted my TPK) The breath was so big that it sent the younger dragon flying toward the Dessarin Valley.

Insert a “To Be Continued at Princes of the Apocalypse” sign here.

On to the Firehammer Hold. Who is now taken over completely by the Thayans. Undead lie everywhere, led by some demonic forces in the lower levels, and a DM that is tossing encounter after encounter at the vic…ahem…the party. During one encounter, however, something cool happened, and you can see it in the video now: Bram (a ranger) took out one wright (at least I remember it being a wright, correct me if I’m wrong) and then rolled a Nat 20 for the next attack. I said that Bram bounced that first arrow off the intended wright as it was falling and struck the one behind it; a bank shot. The thing I allow when the rolls are just right.

But will I allow them to leave the dungeon at the end of the session and take an extended rest? Heh heh heh.

Meanwhile:

Merdoc’s [Virtual Team] has left Waterdeep on to Phylund Lodge to reestablish a farm which was destroyed. During this time, they just managed to make it halfway across, doing some random encounters that wouldn’t give them too much pause, and camped for the night, far enough from the corruption to have a safe night.

 

Week of 7-13 Feb 16, part 1

Trigger Warnings: Spoilers, use of a random generator, chainmail body suits with tabbards, materialistic girls.

Item: Out of the Abyss, 10 Feb 16

Most of the major interaction stuff is out of the way, back to dungeon crawling!

The party has made it to the Wormwrithings to get some ingredients needed for Vizeran’s ritual to, at the very least, weaken the Demon Lords enough for the party to defeat them. (Good luck, right?) The Wormrithings was a mish much of Purple Worm tunnels that works like a hub to several other dungeons. So I had one made.

You’ve probably seen me to this before. I go to donjon to randomly generate a dungeon, and then fire up DrawPlus to simplify the generated map into a series of nodes and pathways. In some maps I remake I add doors and traps, but in here, I just have open round tunnels between everything. In the middle of this map, I put in the Troglodyte Lair, but they managed to evade it, so far. They made it to a point where I placed an arrow that leads to the Worm Nursery, which they’ll progress to next week.

randommap

dms guild logoItem: Living Parnast

The first module is about halfway written, although I’ll be working on illustrations and other fluff to add to it before I release it in the DM’s Guild. (Even though I’ll set it to ‘pay what you want,’ I’ll have it look like I earned some money.) I think I’d like to introduce you another NPC.

Some of my D&D buddies IRL remember Darcy Amberguil. She was a cleric in a 1st Edition game that proved very useful in healing and had dreams of having her own abby. I wanted to transfer her to my 5th Edition world, and while she might be older in my ‘standard’ gameplay world, she’s changed in Living Parnast. And I’m talking about more than having a human for Justin’s significant other (No Pandaren in Wizard’s cannon Forgotten Realms, which is what I’m placing this in.)

Remember Mai Valentine from Yugioh Duelist Kingdom? (That would be Season 1 in America, Season 2 for Japan? Do NOT ask me why or I’ll fsking Mind Crush you!) When she was introduced she was a duelist who used perfume as a cheating tactic and duels because she wants to go shopping with the winnings she’ll get.

Enter Living Parnast’s Darcy Amberguil.

DarcyShe’ll admit that her goal as an adventurer is the finer things in live. A pretty dress, some good wine, an occasional bubble bath. Maybe she’ll find that perfect gold chain or ear-rings. While her faith in Lathander is keeping her from being too materialistic, it remains part of her desire.

In fact, she’ll be purely materialistic if she hadn’t met Justin when he was a child.

When they found Justin in the start of his Living Parnast story, he was a lost and frightened boy at around age 10. He never talked about what brought him to the banks of the Delimbiyr River, but judging by his not speaking at all for the next two tendays it was assumed that it was pretty rough. (In fact, it’s the source of his stutter which plagues him to this day.) Darcy found him huddling in a bed and decided to curl up beside him. A typical anime trope of a child showing another child (git your mind outta the gutter!!) that he’s not going to be alone in the world, but that’s what happened.

Darcy and Justin became childhood friends ever since; soulmates, in fact; and some would claim that they’d be married one day. While Darcy still has the like for stuff, and relishes the thought of being Lady Darcy Ambergail, her feelings for Justin keeps her from leeching off of him. (Read: There’s a bit of a NAWALT in her, fellas.) She prefers to adventure, and do priestly duties, for coin. As long as she can spend some ‘me’ time in a warm bubble bath with rose pedals and candles and a bottle of elven wine, all is perfect and right in her world.

Oh, and if she could show off Justin’s latest masterpiece in a booth babe like get-up, all the better.

Finally, there’s the obvious. To some people these days, a full body suit of chain mail with a knight’s tabard is as pornographic as the Heavy Metal magazine! Sure, it’s two years old, but read this article and feel your ability to give a fuck short circuit! I mean, you’d expect this kind of shit with Episode VI.

D&D Recap, part 3

Trigger Warnings: Spoilers, cussing, adding to the previous post, Bunny Girl Acolytes. Psychobreak reference. (Yeah, I know it’s called “The Evil Within” in the states, but after what localization is doing to games these days, I would rather go to play-asia.com and buy an ‘all regions’ uncensored version of the game. Cute ninjas in bikinis, motherfuckers!)

Item: Addendum for Dreams of the Red Wizards, 4 Feb

Meanwhile, while the party is about to sludge through unholy undead dwarven death, the players is going send some minor PCs to form a virtual team with former PCs. It’ll take 1000 Gold (taken from the business funds) to fund a team, lead by…Holy Fucking Shit…Merdoc, that glorious bastard. For those who are just following along, virtual teams are teams of NPCs (or in this case, former PCs, of which this particular table has a metric fuckton of.) that are having their own adventures alongside the players. This might come into play during Epics-style modules that are built for multiple tables at the same time.

In this case, Merdoc’s [Virtual] Team is heading back to Phylund Lodge to turn that into a replacement farm. They should meet with little resistance, emphasis on the word should. They will leave Waterdeep from the Fountain Inn at the start of the next session.

Item: Princes of the Apocalypse, 5 Feb

This session dealt with the Sky Castle, and of a random (read: Pulled out of my ass) elite mook I’d like to call “The Butcher”. You see, the random generator for the castle presented a room with a whole lot of skeletons hanging from the ceiling. Someone said that they wouldn’t want to see who might’ve been responsible for this.

Just as I have this running through my head.

And then they opened up the next door.

Guess what they discovered? J

I used the Gladiator NPC block to denote the Butcher, which they promptly dispatched. As they progressed through a corridor, they found a bunch of cages with future victims, which the party freed, a castle-bound stable for flying animals—how else is a homicidal psychopath going to get up here, how else did he find the place, and how else could he snatch unsuspecting people and bring them up here so he can…work…in privacy—and a landing strip on the castle.

The three ladies are grateful for their rescue, and they will remember the party in the future: Erimith, a female elf fighter who plays the lute. Atiel, a female elf druid who somehow couldn’t remember who she was before being found in the forest. And Gili, a female gnome fighter who was looking for her companion, a green fire drake known as Frinan, when she was captured.

On to the air weapon, which they found with relatively less resistance:

Skybolt

Weapon (Longbow), legendary (requires attunement by an Elf, ranger; or rogue)

A longbow created with yew wood and inscribed with a elvish script that glows when the string is pulled. The energies will create an arrow made of electricity if no arrow is notched.

You gain the following benefits while holding this magic weapon:

  • If you do not notch an arrow into the bow, it will create one. This has unlimited uses.
  • Any arrow notched into the bow will automatically add a +2 to attack and damage rolls with it.
  • When you roll a 20 on an attack roll with this weapon against a member of the Cult of the Howling Hatred, the creature hit must succeed on a DC 17 Constitution saving throw or have the dealt damage (after bonuses and maxed dice rolls) doubled. If this damage reduces the HP to 0, the target is chunkied.

Sentience. Skybolt is a sentient, chaotic good weapon with an Intelligence of 12, a Wisdom of 13, and a Charisma of 10. It can see and hear out to 120 feet and has darkvision. It communicates by transmitting emotions to its wielder, although on rare occasions it uses a limited form of telepathy to bring to the wielder’s mind a couplet or stanza of ancient Dwarvish verse.

Personality: Skybolt is a lighthearted weapon, with a somewhat sunny disposition and a fondness for adventure. The wearer could sense its delight for exploring, hunting, and taking out the bad guys. It also longs to join with its brothers for the grand quest it longs for.

It was after they acquiring the second of the four weapons when they are visited by the Priestess of the Elemental Air, Savra! Looks like someone on the bad guys subscribe to the “Let the fools do the dirty work so we can steal the prize when they get out,” strategy. Unfortunately for her, the players proved too powerful for her to take on outside of her home base.

Or the player’s ingenuity. Remember that Bunny Ears from earlier. One of them decided to try to put it on the one remaining Hurricaine. With a successful DEX check, it was slipped on.

The Hurricaine stopped, blinked, fell on her knees, and claimed to be hungry. After scarfing down a ration, she decided to tell the party what she knows, and agreed to join Ildar, the evangelizing Paladin of Lathander, in his new temple…provided that she can incorporate a Bunny Suit into her vestments of course. Her name was Joyce, and she was an orphan who fell into the Cult of Howling Hatred because she had no other place to go.

She knows that Savra was once a Feathergale knight who somehow was drawn into the cult in private by Aerisi Kalinoth, the previous Prophetess of Elemental Air. When she perished at the end the previous attempt to corrupt the world (last year, game time. By the Encounters team real time.) it triggered a contingency plan that turned Savra into her successor, complete with turning her into a winged elf. She is consumed with a hatred for humanity for killing her mistress and vows revenge on all of creation.

Joyce also remembered that there is a secret passage to the Temple of Earth (or the Temple of the Black Earth in the modules) from the new dungeon built in the Sacred Stone Monastery. (It’s the dungeon that housed the earth weapon.) While she doesn’t know the details—it’s somewhere in that dungeon—she knows that it exists.

She might tell more info in later sessions, as the storyline dictates.

Dreams of the Red Wizards recap, 4 Feb 16

Trigger Warnings: Spoilers, the published document going off the rails, attempts to regain a farm, reading of spellbooks.

In the session, using an addition of my laptop to improve on the data entering Infiniscene, the party took care of the rest of the Thunderhammer Group, which was revealed to be little more than a ruse for the Red Wizards of Thay (The dwarf running the group happened to be a Dwarven Red Wizard Archmage!!) The Thayan sacrifice bore fruit (and not because the dwarf might end return as a lich) and a portal opened up in Firehammer Hold. The dungeon is now a portal to Thay and undead are streaming out.

Typical Shit Hitting the Fan scenario.

Meanwhile, the group managed to catalog the many spellbooks that they collected. They wanted me to list them here, for their own use. All of them are written in Thayan so it will need some translation, but there is some idea on what they are.

Thegger’s book has the following spells listed, it also doubles as an organization notebook on what was going on earlier in the story, including the gnolls and necromantic progress on creating dread warriors. There was also mention of the devil Baazka who has been possessing many people, including Shalendra Floshin, the elf that Pancheska has claimed as her own. Baazka showed a bunch of other contingencies, and Firehammer Hold became the most viable one.

Cantrips: blade ward, light, poison spray, chill touch, true strike, prestigitation, ray of frost

Level 1:  comprehend languages, detect magic, false life, identify, mage armor, magic missile, sleep, witch bolt, cause fear

Level 2:  darkness, misty step, phantasmal force, invisibility, blindness/deafness, hold person, ray of enfeeblement, sound burst

Level 3:  animate dead, bestow curse, fear, feign death, vampiric touch

Level 4:  Evard’s black tentacles, fire shield, phantasmal killer, stone shape, blight

Level 5:  cloudkill, contact other plane, contagion, teleportation circle

The books by “The Black Dragon,” are more variable. One of them is an tome on how to create all kinds of undead. (It takes a total amount of Spell Slots/Points and hours of uninterrupted ritual to reanimate an undead equal to the number of hit dice for the monster. But it is automatically an Evil act. And next season’s Ravenloft.) Another one is a Manual of Flesh Golems (page 180 in the DMG) and the third is an expansive journal listing his knowledge from both the Red Wizards of Thay, and the Cult of the Dragon. The last several entries tell of his betrayal at Castle Naerytar, and a vow of revenge on both parties, with plans for both. (I would have him write about him getting a rifle of his own and taking out a certain chronic stutterer who got granted some land that used to be elven, but that’s in an alternate reality.)

In the next session, we get them back into Firehammer Hold, and into the bowels of Hades.

Out of the Abyss recap, 6 Feb 16, and Living Parnast Update

Trigger Warnings: Spoilers, lack of combat, going through two chapters back to back, and excessive stuttering.

I expected this particular session to be as important as it is combat free, and it didn’t disappoint. The party made their way to the Gravenhollow library of the underdark. I figured out that the group wasn’t the kind that would go through much roleplaying. (Some groups don’t mind the interacting, while others prefer to just have some action, and my Encounters group is the latter.) I took them through most fo the visions in Chapter 11 including a couple that refers to my other campaigns, Living Parnast, and the upcoming Curse of Strahd. The way I take it is different from the traditional mists transporting the party. I took advantage of the Sundering bringing realms from different locations into my Realms, and replace the Sunset Mountains (between Baldur’s Gate and Cormyr) with an in-realms Barovia and Ravenloft; in effect bringing the module to the party instead. Whatever or not Barovia remains in the Realms, however, is another tale. It depends on what kind of motivation Strahd has in mind.

And whatever or not he’s actually a bona fide villain. For all we know, he could be my answer to Dexter Morgan.

I still have some time left in my session, so I ad-libbed my way through the Araj chapter as well. The party met Vizeran and decided to join him in his efforts of driving back the Demon Lords and ruining Lolth’s day in the process. Yes, true believers, Lolth did it again. I had her shenanigans with Eberron cause the Sundering in the first place, and it’s obvious she is incapable of learning. Almost like a college student these days, more interested in narratives and feelings than a decent education. He gave the party his shopping list (page 165, column 1 in the module) and the party decided to work on them from the top down. Which means that Wormwrithings is next. I think I can get a good two months of material in the last five chapters, which is where things really are getting good.

dms guild logoOn to Living Parnast though.

My design on Liberation from the Dragon Queen is running along nicely, especially when I have several people willing to playtest it. Nothing like having expecting players to keep me motivated to finish this module.

But first, I have to tell you a bit more about the campaign world. This is not going to be part of my Forgotten Realms. It’ll have some results of how I played Hoard of the Dragon Queen, such as the involvement of two former Cultists, one being “The Black Dragon” and the other Talis the White. Also, they’ll be some techonological advancements as well—WotC can’t have IP copyrights to the steam engine—and the main NPCs are indeed futurists who make inventions meant to change the Realms into something like Æthercoil (an OSR version of a Steampunk setting, instead of the more traditional Victorian era). However, Living Parnast will take place in its own universe, an alternate Forgotten Realms, which can get plugged into any campaign world, or another DM’s own Forgotten Realms. I had to do this for the sake of the Dungeon Master’s Guild.

You can see the different version of the realms used by the different version of the NPCs involved. Most of them are more familiar NPCs in my campaigns, set in my personalized Realms. I just gave them some tweaks to make them different from the ‘cannon’ version.

Justin Protrait
Living Parnast’s Justin

Take Justin Mercurial, for example. He’s the patron NPC in Living Parnast. He’s the one who hires the party—and in the case of younger characters becomes the party’s mentor—and takes them to Parnast to rescue the village from the Cult of the Dragon. In Living Parnast, technology is not as prevalent as it is in my ‘cannon’ Realms; guns are pretty much in their infancy with only the half dozen flintlock rifles floating about and handguns more associated with pirates in the open seas than anywhere else. (They call them ‘hand cannons.’ Cute.) Instead of a wire-based telegraph, there is a Clack system a la Diskworld using a set of panels stationed every 30-40 miles, and there’s no railroad.

In this setting, Justin is quite a visionary and futurist in his inventions. He modified the Clack system, which sends characters in a set of shutters (think of Lord Murray’s model) to send more characters at once, accelerating the travel of the message. He also helped some gnome with gun technology to create the first bolt-action sniper rifle that uses cartridge-based rounds (That contain the flint, powder, and projectile in one item) with which he was able to take down a dragon. From a mile away. With a headshot. And in the early parts of the module, he had a steam engine built by Dwarven Labor from Gauntlgrym (Union Label and everything!) which will get the party over to the Graypeak Mountains in a little over two tendays.

However, there is the clear need for me to keep Justin from going into Mary Sue territory, not to mention keep him from becoming a medieval Tony Stark, and I thought of an excellent flaw for him: Justin Mercurial has a stutter. A very pronounced stutter. The kind of stutter who would make people go “All right, enough fun and games, where the fuck’s the real Lord of Graypeak?” He had this stutter since he was a child, found in the river overlooking Daggerford. And while he had a pretty decent upbringing by the followers of Lathander there, whatever unspoken Lemony Snicket style crap he got before there effected his self-esteem enough for that stutter to be pretty much permanent. Even a blessing from the God of the Morning, which lead to his connection to the Weave, was not enough to cure his speech impediment. In the end, his stutter is similar in nature to the bum leg of his mentor, Sir Isteval. It’s there to keep him from hubris.

It also keeps him from being taken seriously at times, especially with nobles from some southern cities. While he’s more than proven himself with the Lord’s Alliance, and will be very depended on as the Lord of Graypeak. There will be some that will just plain reject him outright, up to and including laughing at and talking down on him because of his lack of articulation. Even call the leaders of the Alliance out for claiming that “this unintelligent vagrant” has the distance record for a dragon kill, or allowing that emergency message to go from Baldur’s Gate to Neverwinter in just over four hours. Some would right out refuse to acknowledge Justin Mercurial’s accomplishments or even his existence.

Not just the village of Parnast, the party will have to assist their patron in his goals of pushing his technological advancements to the Realms, and facing those who put a stigma on those with such a handicap will become a regular source of an encounter or two.

I get the feeling that Living Parnast will end up resonating with some youth.

D&D Recap, Week of 16 Jan 25-29

Had a bout of depression over the weekend. Nothing like a good long nap and keeping up with my meds couldn’t fix.

I think there’s a cardinal rule when it comes to Dungeon Mastering that I need to constantly heed: You can never prepare enough or too much. You might have the best plans laid out by the start of the session only to find that you were woefully unprepared or at the most, underprepared at the end of that same session.

It pretty much sums up this week.

I only had two sessions this week; an emergency kept me from Dreams of the Red Wizards.

Item: Out of the Abyss, Wednesday

It happened to me again. Ever planned a dungeon that you’re sure will last for at least a couple sessions or at least a month, only to have the party go through it like a Keg of Beer in a College Dorm? Last time that happened was waaaay back in Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

This time, it was the Whorlstone Tunnels in Grackstugh. I worked all week gearing this particular dungeon up to the party’s level hoping that they would chase the litte derro shit, Droki, all around the place in a mad goose chase, running into several encounter rooms along the way.

They only managed to get about two-three rooms in before they managed to put an arrow to Droki’s knee (“You’re Mother Fucking Adventurin’ Days Are OVER!!”) knock the rest of him out, and have the party go, “We got what we wanted, let’s get out of here.”

I was hiding my disappointment. At least I still got a couple months’ worth of material to go through until Curse of Strahd. Or at least I hope so.

There’s still a little bit to do in town before they leave for the Gravenhollow library.

Item: Princes of the Apocalypse, Friday

This time, it was a case of running out of material to use.

I had a little traveling montage of encounters and NPC talking (and an improntu game of Blackjack on table for a Staff of Healing) as the party does a side trek to Waterdeep for supplies. When they came back, I even offered them a place to set up an apothecary and a temple to Lathander right on the map.

They were then told that the people who were going for that Orb of Dragonkind which I added to the campaign (among other things) were captured by the cultists and dragged into the main dungeon, the “Temple of the Elements,” the dungeon complex that’s actually cannon in this campaign. The party decided that getting the other 3 elemental weapons to venture into said dungeon is the order of the day. So they moved on to the Feathergale Spire, overlooking the Sighing Valley where the entrance of the Temple of Air is located (as you would know before). The spire is abandoned save for one animal handler, and a puzzle device on the top of the spire. A crystalline version of a Light’s Out puzzle where lights needed to be all in one color for the device to activate. When it did, it pulled in a cloud castle and a flight of Air cultists who saw it as well. One of them floated back to warn others of what’s going on while the party headed up to the castle…

…and I had to stop it there because I haven’t yet built that castle. Silly flipping me.

At least I have my work cut out for me today (Monday, 1 Feb) and tomorrow as I fill in what I hope would be enough content to fill in some more sessions. Encounters will have more RP than combat this time, because they will finally reach Gravenhollow. And I’ve already randomly generated a castle for me to tweak into its own map.

Meanwhile at Living Parnast…

I’ve just begun making the campaign guide and the first module, LP01-01 Liberation from the Dragon Queen, and already I have someone willing to playtest it. Sure sign that I’ve got something good here, or maybe people prefer the homemade stuff to the published material. Or maybe what they say about the online community is true, that there are a lot more players than Dungeon Masters.

My money’s on the third option, if you ask me, but I digress.

If I haven’t mentioned it here, I do intend to make a lot of artwork with this project. There hasn’t been much posted because I only have simpler sketches and I want things to be more presentable when I put them on, say Deviant ART.   Expect to see some remixed versions of characters I use in the other campaigns, like Justin Mercurial and Darcy Amberguil, which will be cannon for the DM’s guild. (They won’t be changed for the running campaigns, however.) I’ll give you more updates here as they come up.

http://foxfirestudios.net