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the stage was set for a night of uncommon adventure

the stage was set for a night of uncommon adventure


This week’s game night was special because we welcomed back for one night only, founding member Shannon who has been in South America for the past year. Over the years, she has been the force behind such memorable characters as Felipe the furry, and Polly the purple gnome. Tonight she reprised the role of Felipe as a fourth level human-ish druid. She spent the majority of the night as an octopus. Shannon also brought along a friend, LZ, who played a first level warlock, which was her first time playing since high school. She also took all the photos in this blog entry. Thanks LZ, you are welcome back any time. The total number of players around the table, including yours truly the dungeon master, numbered nine. A big group and a lot of fun.

The night was highlighted by two other exciting events. Our chef extraordinaire Will brought a home made apple-wood smoked pork roast which was as delicious as it sounds. We are lucky to have so many skilled cooks amongst our group. The roast was spread over a layer of ice and steamed peppers, with a ubiquitous loaf of garlic bread on the side. Yum. I had seconds, and the pot was empty by the end of dinertime, the finest compliment of all.

The other good news was my long awaited Dwarven Forge Cavern Tiles arrived, allowing me to set up the biggest dungeon yet. Over the past year my dungeon terrain has exploded from battlemats and cardboard tiles into 3d territory, and tonight we attained new heights. All of the terrain laid out into this dungeon, almost thirty square feet of twisting underworld, was funded through kickstarter. The majority of tiles are from Dwarven Forges Dungeon and Cavern Kickkstarters, with some of the hallways filled in with the excellent and under-appreciated Itar’s workshop

Below is a recreation of the entirety of Wave Echo Cave from the starter set adventure.

Wave Echo Cave

Wave Echo Cave

One thing I have found is that no dungeon map survives its encounter with actual dungeon tiles. IT is simply too complex to exactly reproduce any but the simplest map due to the unique details inherent to most maps combined with the limitations of having sets of defined building blocks. This leads to tons of improvisations, including leaving out boring or unnecessary rooms, sometimes combining areas, and often a section of the dungeon will stand in “symbolically” for what it is representing. Overall I like the affect. Actually, Overall I freaking LOVE the affect, because it recreates inside me the warm fuzzy glow of my first EVER experience with dnd – the opening scene of the early Eighties movie E.T the Extraterrestrial.

ET Phone Home - and bring me a Tab please

ET Phone Home – and bring me a Tab please

So, the situation was as follows. The caravan had camped for the night in a region which was known to have a legendary cave of lost treasures. It wqs said that hundreds of years ago it housed a Dwarven clan who had a magical weapon crafting smithy. The caravan moved out in the morning, so they only had six hours to expore the complex they had found. In other words, one night only, as I was not going to leave this monstrosity sitting around all week, nor was I going to rebuild it.

It started with a wandering monster encounter with eight stirges, as the wizard cast a ritual version of the spell Tenser’s Floating Disk, in order to have plenty of capacity for the loot they were sure to haul out of here/ The wizard was able to cast sleep on the stirges before they could swarm the party, and all of them were quickly dispatched while napping.

The entered a maze of passaged, and eventually came to a room with a deep pool The druid turned into an octopus (and remained in octopus form the rest of the night) and dove to the bottom of the pool to find a skeleton with two platinum rings and a wand of magic missiles.

Panther, badger, octopus - ATTACK!

Panther, badger, octopus – ATTACK!

The final encounter was with a group of five bugbears hammering away at a section of rubble while a dark form supervised from above, hidden. The party attacked the only way they knew how – by sending a herd of animals at thir foes. The wizard sent his hedghog to adminsister shocking grasp, while the elf ranger sent in her black panther to pounce. The octopus slithered forward along a ledge above to drop restraining tentacles down around the bugbear’s necks. It was a strqange fight, made stranger when the bard spotted the hiding figure and engaged the doppleganger. The two struggled arm in arm as the doppleganger changed form to be indistinguishable to the bard. The waizard decided to put them both to sleep and srt them out later, however only the bard was affected by the spell. The doppleganger feigned sleep, so the ranger sent her panther to investigate, which it did, and uncovered the true enemy. Then came the octopus and it was all over.

In the end, they explored about a third of the maze, but they made it to final chamber and it was a good climactic battle. The heroes were supposed to discover that behind the rocky boulders was a dead dwarf with gauntlet of ogre-kind, but since I had alreqdy given out that magic item (it is hard playing a campaignwith only 5 or 6 magic items defined in the rules. The Dungeon Master’s Guide cannot come soon enough) Instead I made the boulder cover an alcove where a brazier of burning green flame was concealed. If they dipped their weapon into the flames, it gained the magical quality of being +1.

Yes the wizard dipped his badger into it, and yes, after seeing that, the dragonborn monk dipped each of his claws into the green flame. I forgot to tell them that they all gain a level (to fourth.)

It was a great night.

lets take a short cut through this ancient burial ground

lets take a short cut through this ancient burial ground

A humongous frozen lasagna and multitudinous loaves of garlic bread filled our bellies this past Friday night, the last before Halloween. The turnout was huge with pratically every current card-carrying member of the group showing up to play – a total of seven players plus dm. Typically our game nights of late have been numbering four to six, because herding cats is HARD, so it was great fun to have everyone together. It also meant I needed to do a recap of events so far…

The characters all grew up in, or found their way to the town of Greenest, the further outpost of western (fantasy) civilizations into a vast tract of D Erte known simply as the Beast Lands, for obvious reasons. (beasts and monsters) Greenest was on the far eastern edge of the beastlands, founded during the crusading period of the past score of years. Further east is a vast desert known as the Desert of Despair to northerners and the Desolate Desert to southerners. Across the desert is a myseterious and virtually unknown civilization known as “the Lorient.” Only recently contacted after thousands of years of forced separation due to geological as well as monstrous reasons, the two civilizations are opening up to one another and the characters as leading the charge into the Lorient.

The heroes of this tale also each have a unique reason to despise and want to destroy a nefarious cult known as the Cult of the Dragon. After raiding Greenest, the cult loaded up its wagon of booty and set off across the desert. The characters tracked the cult to the city of Leucrotta, a merchant hub from whence the cult plas to travel further into the Lorient with their ever-growing hoard. In order to follow the cult, the characters must sign on to the caravan about to make a forty day journey to the regional capital Catoblepia. The cult is signed onto “The Iron Bull” caravan and the party has befriended a traveling circus who is signed on to the caravan, in hopes of hiring on as guards. Whew, there is more, like a whole side trek to save Alligator Boy, but that is the gist.

The Lorient - the mysterious far east of D Erte

The Lorient – the mysterious far east of D Erte

Now then, at this point the players were like, are we going to play or just listen to you all night, whilst others were like KILL KILL KILL! Ok ok, so you are walking back to the circus tent with the minsrel Rodrigo and the alligator man Skryllix, when a dark cloud forms over the nearby tent in the shape of a beholder with lightning flashing from the roiling smoky eyestalks. A severe storm erupted, the minstrel shouts “oh no not him!” then is struck by lightning. Skryllix roars and snaps his jaws and says “your hired go report to the Lady Octavia immediately!” He points to a nearby side entrance to the sprawling tent compound that is the circus.

They are standing at an iron gate, and a winding path leads through an old burial ground, on the other side of which beckons the safety of the tent flaps of the Floating Palace of Phantasmagoria. The floating beholder head has turned into a massive black storm cloud. Lightning strikes the ground every turn, targetting one character randomly. Eight skeletons pull themselves out of the ground at the far end of the cemetery wielding long bows. Divided into two squads each turn they target a character with four arrows. Pretty devastating. Along either side of the path a total of eight zombies rise from the earth while the opening notes of Michael Jackson’s Thriller play (in my mind.) Also, anywhere on the cemetery that is not the path has ghostly shadowy arms reaching up trying to grab ankles and immobilizing if successful.

It was a tough encounter which I call “Short cut through the cemetery.” And it only got tougher. The players all immediately whined and complained that I was trying to kill them and I was like yes, and…? Then they were like its too hard, an I retorted that it was not too hard, they were just pathetic. Find out at the end who was right.

Short cut through the cemetery

Short cut through the cemetery

The undead won initiative so I lined them up into battle formation in preparation of the characters actions. Then they were off and Dave who plays the chicken cast a feather bolt which damaged a zombie. Then the gnome rogue got into the action by hiding and stabbing like she does, but rolled a natural one on her dexterity check to avoid the grasping claws, so she was immobilized and prone, held down by ghostly arms reaching up out of the soil that has been soaked so many times with the blood of the victors and vanquished alike, but that is a different story all together.

The monk dashed into punch and kick zombies. He was the only one to actually kill a zombie that might, after curb-stomping one that had been riddled with wounds. The pirate dashed in after literally hurling the dwarf as far as she could into the thick of things – 24 feet. The dwarf turned three or four of the zombies, taking them out of the fight as they cowered in the corners of the fenced area. The elf ranger fired a few arrows then spent the rest of the time running for safety.

On round two a skeleton warhorse appeared, charging around the corner of one of the larger mausoleums and as it ran a shadow climbed up onto it and the pair waded into battle. The warhorse had shiny iron hooves which caused great destruction, while the shadow attempted to strangle its foes, doing necrotic damage. All the zombies attacked with strangling type moves tonight as well. It was sort of the theme (again, in my mind.)

On round three, another pair of zombies clawed up out of the ground and the characters realized this was not a time to stand and fight, but to run for it, and after three or more rounds, they made it though the loving flaps of the waiting circus tent. But not before the chicken and the cleric were knocked out and nearly killed. The chicken in particular was cooked and sizzling to perfection, like a giant chicken leg ready to be devoured. Some one grabbed him as they ran through the tent flaps, but was it to save him, or to have him for dinner?

In the end, the encounter was neither too hard, nor were the players too pathetic to survive victoriously. Which actually makes me even more right wink wink

Pathfinder-Osirion

The store-made oven-ready pizzas were so good last week (and cheap!) that we decided to have them again this week. No, not the same ones, new ones, but they were the same three toppings: pep, saus, chee. This time I made sure to get all regular crust (would have got thick or pan if they had it) because who wants thin or cracker crust, eh?

It was another small group of four adventurers for tonight’s game: cleric, rogue, bard, and monk. Good mix. I was in the mood for some urban adventuring, and the adventure at this point is vague to the point of absent on any detail about adventuring in the towns. They meet a paladin of the fist, and are offered the chance to join a couple of brotherhoods with similar goals of defeating the Cult of the Dragon. The ultimate goal of the adventure is to follow the hoard and find out where it is going, and to what end. And then to foil the cults plans of course. So the first thing I did was to come up with a list of “quests” for the characters to pursue while in town:

1. Find the location of the Hoard. The monk Leosian trailed the cult of the dragon as they made their way across the desert with their wagons of stolen booty. But when they arrived in the city, the three wagons each went different ways. The one he followed was off-loaded with the chests and trunks, each being carried off in a different direction. So he lost sight of the hoard.

2. Find out which caravan it will be leaving with. The town of Leucrotta is an important trading hub in a very dangerous region. Very little stays in the city but much wealth passes through it. Heavily defended Caravans leave from each of the four cardinal gates and, the cult will likely sign onto a caravan to make the journey deeper into the region towards its ultimate destination.

3. Sign up for the caravan and follow the cult of the dragon. There are other wagons full of treasure being hauled in all across D Erte, and even if the heroes could defeat the gaurds and take the loot, it would not be enough to halt the cults nefarious desires. The treasure must be followed back to the cult of the dragon’s lair.

4. Save home town of Greenest from dying out. A religious icon was stolen from the church of St Cuthbert in Greenest during the raid by the Cult of the Dragon. The icon is tied magically to the spring that flows through Greenest, giving the town its life-blood and its name as the greenest place between the desert and broken lands. Now the spring is just a weakening trickle.

None of that is written into the adventure itself as far as I can tell. It is just some city research type shite I came up with that sounded fun. I also ripped this adventure from its roots in the Forgotten Realms and supplanted it onto the edge of the known world of my long-runnong campaign world of D Erte. (There is nothing much special about the world of D Erte other than it is a blank slate acrost which I can splatter-paint my grandiose designs for adventure.)

The goal of this campaign is to be a journey through a strange land. The world of D Erte has had many earth-shatering events over the years, from undead invasions and sparring demon-lords, to wars with giant armies of giants, and maybe even some aliens from outer space/other dimensions. The edge of the known world of D Erte is the eastern steppes called the Beast Lands. Across them are the broken lands. During a lull in the wars and doom of D Erte, the great civilizations of the west pushed into the beast lands in a series of crusades to bring order and wrest new lands from the savage evil around them. During this time the humble town of Greenest came to exist, the furthest eastern outpost wrested during the wars of the beast lands. It stood on the border between the broken lands to the west and a vast desert to the east.

For the first time the great western civilizations of elf, dwarf and man could cross that vast distance made up of the steppes, then the rocky broken lands, and finally the tall duned desert of the east and learn of the flourishing civilization known as the Lorient. The great cities of the Lorient were situated along the rivers that flowed south from the mountain known as the Ziggurat, far to the north. The merchant cities of Leucrotta, Ki-rin, and Oni; the dark and mysterious city of Su, and the gleaming capital Catoblepia, were each named for an extinct creature (missing from the 5e monster manual.)

The land of Lorient is also known as the land of werewolves. This is because each sentient being bears the resemblance in greater or lesser extent to one of a myriad of natural animals. Whether it be the whiskers of a seal (like Othar was exhibiting) or the black wet nose of a fox, every person living in the Lorient will eventually take on the traits of what some call their spirit animal, or daemon from some popular work of young adult fantasy.

There are two systems of law, each dependent upon the percentage of spirit animal infusing oneself at the time a crime is committed. For example, if an accused thief is determined to be 51 percent or greater raccoon or badger for instance, during the theft of a pie, then the sentence would be lighter than if they were deemed 49 per cent badger. It is all very complicated. Most people only exhibit a few traits of any animal, but periods of intense stress can cause a person to suddenly ‘pop’ into its animal form. It can take months or years ,or sometimes never, to revert back to human from a complete animal transformation. This is magical in nature, not genetic.

The people of the Lorient also wear really tall shoes and clothing made of bark. These are the defining characteristics that make the Lorient a unique place.

So I better wrap this up. The characters went to the east gate, from where they surmised the hoard would leave the city. They spoke to Gorgo, who wore a huge iron bull’s helm and no one ever saw his face. His motto was, Once you sign onto Gorgo’s caravan, no questions asked. That is a very dumb motto, and for some reason during my prep for this game, I left his motto blank, assuming I would just come up with something snappy in the moment. Didnt happen. What happens in Gorgo’s caravan stays in Gorgo’s caravan? No way.

He was meeting with “Lady Octavia” to book passage, and a bard with her called Rodrgio, invited the players to visit them to possibly hire on as guards. On the way to visit Octavia, they went through the poor part of town who were being terrorized by kidnappers. There was a mob. They had seen an alligator-man coming and going through the sewers.

The characters immediately jumped into the sewers except for the gnome who got sick of the “floating solids” and had to leave the nose-deep sewer. The dwarf on the other hand, relished the experience and developed (through the rolling of a natural 20) a natural immunity for all fecal matter. He eats it for breakfast in other words. (We got a lot grosser than that at the table. Well…I did.)

The sewer led to a portcullis beyond which was a small stone dock in a cellar under the city. There was a pile of large empty sacks next to a door. Beyond the door they found stairs leading up and a room with two yuanti. One had the head of a snake and the other had the body of a snake. They stood beside a pile of squirming gunny sacks. Battle ensued.

Up above, the gnome rogue learned that one of the children kidnapped was also known as “alligator boy” due to his features. This led her to an abandoned mansion where she fought an animated sword and dodged out of the way just as an animated carpet started to roll up at the corners. She heard the sound of battle down below (after about 15 perception checks) and because of all the cursing and mis-haps, she knew it was her crew fighting.

After the fight with the yuanti malisons, which both turned into giant snakes but couldnt hit for shit, a giant alligator man reared up behind them out of the sewers. But they did not attack first, ask questions never. Instead they learned that he the the strong man Skryllix from the carnival known as the Traveling House of the Macabre and Phantasmagorical. He was hunting for his son Alligator boy, who was recently kidnapped by these snake people. (The players pointed out that I made a huge deal out of the animal traits being magical, not genetic, and called me on it. I guess the boy just really relates to his dad and alligators. Could be social rather than genetic. But his dad is a carnie who he probably only sees once a year at most, or possibly never, so who knows.

So now the characters have met three principal NPC’s of the carnival: Rodrigo the bard, Skryllix the alligator strongman, and Lady Octavia the mysterious woman in black lace burka.

There you have it, a night of random urban adventuring, with a healthy dose of what the internet tells me is called furry fandom. Yiff.

dwarf-fortress

After reading an update on the ongoing development of the explored universe’s most difficult computer game, Dwarf Fortress, I realize it must immediately be added to lore of all dwarves, everywhere. He spaketh thusly:

I decided to go with a stepladder tool. Dwarves can build them, carry them around and climb up on them to access an extra 3x3x2 block of potential fruit above their heads (not including whatever is sitting around in the 3×3 on the ground). When a dwarf is standing on the ladder, they appear one z-level above it, and they have a hold on it in a way which’ll hopefully translate to things like climbing statues or standing on tables in the future. I allowed reach from the ladder to go up 2 levels since many trees don’t end up with fruit-bearing branches 1 level above the ground (and the higher fruit will still be inaccessible even with this system, though you could build a platform or something). I still have a bit more to do to keep the system moving quickly and allowing dwarves to retain the ladder between jobs if they aren’t returning with their fruit haul.

Yes, and so it was envisioned, so it shall be. All dwarves build and carry their own custom step-ladder, allowing them access to areas otherwise unreachable to them. The ladder can be foldable, integrated into the dwarf’s clothing, or simply slung over a shoulder, each in preference and skill of the owner. Some ladders might even be built of, or inlaid with the bones of their ancestors. The step-ladders are made according to the wealth and prestige of the dwarf, being invariably built of the finest materials attainable, and the higher a dwarf can step, the higher in dwarven society he will climb.

Needless to say, there is little indignity worse than stepping on another dwarf’s ladder. Ain’t it always so?

Hmm…

I suppose there could be a counter-culture of dwarves, say dwarf druids perhaps, who forgo the cultural norm of step-ladder envy, but instead they are measured on their ability to construct quickly and efficiently as possible, a step-ladder right there on the spot, whenever one is needed. Interesting how so many of these “rebels” always seem to have a bundle of twigs tightly wound with twine nearby.

For dinner this week we had very inexpensive pizzas from our local grocery store that were oven ready. They came out pretty good and there is much to be said for three enormous pizzas for fifteen dollars. The key to pizza, or baking in general, is the timing. Pizza is most delicious when it is cooked just the right amount so that the crust is neither burnt and too crispy, or underdone and too soggy. The toppings as well must have the golden brown crisped edges that a good baking gives them. To cook three large pies takes patience, but it can be done quickly, by giving each pizza a few minutes alone in the center of the oven for the first half of the cook time, then moving it to the lowest rack while putting pizza no. two in the middle. Continue rotating every 10 minutes and voila 3 large pizzas in 30 minutes or so. Also the oven should be preheated to more than it says on the box. I like to cook everything at 450 deg.

hile playing the adventure Hoard of the Dragon Queen, it has been worth it to excise the adventure from the default Forgotten Realms setting, and place it into our group’s “home brew” setting, D Erte, which we have been adventuring in for several years now. It’s not that I have anything against the Forgotten Realms (which I do) but it is more like I love the spontaneity of things we come up with as we play, and the well-detailed published campaigns feel very constraining in that aspect, much like store-bought adventures. My brain just does not work that way, and the amount of joy I derive from playing dungeons and dragons is directly proportionate to the amount of random absurd bullshit that happens while playing. That is really the entire secret. It is why I love critical hits and misses; it is why I describe every action in battle in loving detail; it is why I design traps without solutions; it is why I love dice rolling in general. The scientific name for this game style is Emergent Gameplay, and it is the foundation and objective for every game I play.

This week I was in the mood for some desert action, and it just so happened that there was a desert nearby, needing to be crossed. The home town of Greenest was on one edge of the desert, and their destination, the foreign city of Leucrotta, was on the other. (Factoid: I am naming all the cities in this new region from monsters that were in the original Monster Manual but have been left out of the newest edition, like the leucrotta, a worg-like creature.) Beyond the outpost of Leucrotta, further to the east were the mysterious foreign metropolises of Catoblepia, Ki-Rin, and Su.

The night started out with crazy amounts od die rolling. The journey from Greenest to Leucrotta, was seven to fourteen days. For game purposes,each day a different character would be in charge of ‘blazing the trail’ that day, as well as overseeing the camp. Using the desert environment section of 4e’s Dark Sun Campaign Manual, I created a series of rolls for what type of desert they would encounter, then they would roll a d8 to see the weather affects (a 1result would be a haboob, an 8 is clear skies) Then the character would make an ability check to overcome whatever type of terrain it was. Failing that, they would be set back a day and have to roll for an encounter. They would also have to roll for an encounter if it was dangerous terrain. Everyone rolled extremely well and they made it across the desert in record time without a single encounter and near perfect weather.

I had to entice them to an encounter by mentioning on the third day out, while crossing some mud flats or something, they saw the glint of shiny in the distance. They were hesitant. I then enquired who among them had magical treasure. None. Had we missed out on all the loot in the adventure so far? Four chapters without a single magic item? Then pointedly mentioned again the glint of shiny in the distance. They could just make out a broken down wagon.

What followed was a fight with an ettin and his to wolves, in which the ettin hurled rocks for a few rounds before charging into the meat grinder that is the party. He only got a single swing from his weapons before becoming chop suey. The ettin was able to leap over and avoid all obstacles with the boots of striding he wore. He also had on bracers of ogre strength, wielded a morningstar +1 Lightbringer in one fist, and used a +1 breastplate as a punching glove in the other. Oh and he had a ring of protection +1 in his pocket. One magic item apiece for everyone present, all ripped directly from the last page of the Starter Adventure. I added the ring at the last second because it seemed unfair to give out four items when there were five players present.

The verisimilitudinous reason for the ettin to have all that loot was that he recently ambushed and killed a veteran of the nearby wars, who was on his way across the desert to make his fortune with his booty.

My favorite part of the night actually, was watching the players divide the magic items in the most equitable fashion possible. Only the gnome rogue, with her boots of striding, felt shorted (get it?) and is trying to sell off her item.

They arrived in Leucrotta and met their benefactor who paid them 150 gold apiece for the information about the cult. Then he got into an arm wrestling contest with the dwarf,who performed so poorly (he has an 8 strength) that he rolled an effective ZERO (a natural 1) and not only lost the match, but immediately passed out with exhaustion.

One other interesting aspect of this game night was that we all decided once and for all to use the Pathfinder Critical Hit and Miss deck with our 1’s and 20’s. In fact, when I finally reached up and pulled the two decks out for use, a cheer went up around the table.

Here be monsters

Here be monsters

The Monster Manual for the Fifth Edition of Dungeons and Dragons is rampaging out into the wild and pouncing on wallets everywhere. The publication of the newest edition of the oldest fantasy role playing game continues apace, and this book is the second in the sacrosanct triad that has formed the core of every edition of the game since the original Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: Players Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Masters Guide.

Thin, thick, thicker, THICKEST

Thin, thick, thicker, THICKEST

Comparing this tome to its progenitors, one immediately discovers that it is the thickest, heaviest, and bears the most pages of the lot. In fact, every edition of the Monster Manual has upped the page count since that first slender folio, and every edition has attempted to up the quality of it pages therein with bigger, better, more colorful art, fan(ta)cy page design, and eye-catching covers. This manual of monsters has exceeded expectations on every level of design. The art is fabulous, with many varying styles and artists represented. The cover is gorgeous to behold and has a unique tactile quality with a brushed back cover that is a joy to hold.

But it is what is inside that really matters. Can it inspire a sense of wonder and adventure? It was while leafing through the original Monster Manual one afternoon as a child that my imagination opened to the idea of how incredible Dungeons and Dragons could be. Finding that first Monster Manual was instrumental in piquing my curiosity to learn what this game is all about. In many ways, it is about the monsters: the danger they pose, he difficulty to overcome, and the treasure they hoard. Thus the Monster Manual is the essence of Dungeons and Dragons.

The iconic monsters of Dungeons and Dragons, have always been a mix of creatures of myth and legend, popular culture, and the wild imaginations of the game’s creators. The Monster Manual then, must maintain the status quo by containing all of the monsters from that first hoary tome (or at least all the good ones). It is also expected to contain all the best additions to the game since inception. In forty years and five editions, vast quantities of new monsters have spawned, from innumerable sources, both official and not. It would be impossible to contain every new species and critter created, so there must be a process of curation to maintain the best, most iconic monsters from the game’s long life.

While the task of being a fair curator alone seems insurmountable, there is also the daunting task of faithfully representing those icons of infamy with fun and exciting mechanics for the enjoyment of the players around the table. The designers of this edition worked very hard to create THE quintessential Monster Manual. During the public playtest many polls and articles sought to discover what thousands of players felt were the essence of each monster, in appearance, origins, and actions. When the first batch of monsters appaered in the playtest, oover two years ago, I wrote an article assessing their classic qualities.

Let us now turn our attention to our brand spanking new 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual, dear reader, and evaluate how Iconic are the Monsters of Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons?

Never to be spoken of again

Never to be spoken of again

Aarakockra – I have written extensively on the aarakocra previously, one of my faves:

Has there ever been a better avian race? I think every mountain pass and rocky tor the PCs ever passed were inhabited by some nest/tribe/civilization of aarakocra. Often times the savage battle that broke out when the aarakocra dive bombed the party from surprise would end in dialogue if the party were able to get them to listen to reason. After the party convinced the avians of their good intentions, they would get embroiled with the aarakocra against some evil avian race, which he aarakocra warred against for aerial territory in the mountain passes.

Their connection to eagles was another favorite element to use, including rocs. I always used them as a highly noble race, but also savagely predatory and territorial. They were animal-like in those areas, but had a strict code of honor. Once in a campaign they were used as enslaved warriors and the characters were forced to fight and kill them until they were finally able to save the few who were left, ha ha. Big favorite and definitely not very rare in my campaigns.

I once sent in an article idea to WotC describing a delve that involved a war between barbaric tribes of Aarakocra and Kenku over the rights to a certain ravine. The Aarakocra were above, and the kenku tribe lived on the ground, forever at war. I just love the aarakocra (and the kenku!)

The aarakocra made an appearance in the 4th Edition Dark Sun Creature Catalog, where they were turned into vulture-men,and lost a little bit of their noble luster along the way, but became pretty cool ferocious dive bombing raptors from the sky.

The Aarakocra have regained their egalitarian aspect, thank goodness, and maintian their dive bombing abilities, while also gaining an ability to call air elementals under certain circumstances. The creatures also get a full write up on their history of being guardians of the elemental planes of air, greatly expanding on the original themes laid out in the Fiend Folio.

Aboleths are bad-ass as ever. I just can’t go into it right now.

Tara swings from the beholder by the hilt of the Spirit Knife as Thokk looks on immobilized.

Tara swings from the beholder by the hilt of the Spirit Knife as Thokk looks on immobilized.

Beholder. One of d&d’s very own creations, infamous and deadly enough the cover to grace this very manual. The beholder is one of the toughest high level monsters in the game. Their deadly ray attacks kill indiscriminately: death ray… disintegration…

Being such high level foes means the are rarely encountered, and I can only recall one time I used a beholder in battle. The fight took place in the Inn of the Welcome Wench in the village of Hommlet, much of which burned down in the epic conflagration. The 5th edition Beholder maintains all of its power and grace, and is given a five page write-up with three different varieties. Besides their ecology, origins, disposition, the book also details the lairs of the legendary creatures, which are evocative and dangerous for players. Just for one example, walls may sprout eye stalks the shoot rays of death.

Reading this, I realize there have not been enough beholders in my player’s lives. This will need to be rectified STAT. I would say to the 5th edition Beholder: Mission Accomplished. Reading the entry has given me the seeds of ideas for battles, adventures and entire campaigns full of freaking insane beholders. The picture of the undead beholder depicts one scary dude.

Roper. We fought a roper in our game last week, and it was one vicious foe. In fact, the characters were victorious merely by escaping its tednrillous clutches alive. One thing that makes the roper so terrifying (beside the obvious killer tentacles and gaping frakking maw full of great white shark teeth) is the huge amount of hit points it contains. This is a feature of the monsters of fifth edition in general, that the hit points are higher on average all around, than the first three editions. For low level monsters like kobolds, 5 hp instead of 4 hp is a tiny difference, but that twenty percent increase gives you ropers with a hundred hit points that can reel you in and bite your head off over and over as you stab at them with you puny little arms.

The monsters of this edition are powerful, terrifying, engaging to run and fun to fight. The literature and art is beautiful and evocative. Eevery entry provides insight into how and where the creatures might be encountered, and what they are doing. There could be a part two of this article, where I ramble on about monster after monster in the book, but the major topic of this article has been covered: to show how thick the book is physically and with promise of adventure. Mission Accomplished.

Advanced Dm of Doom has spoken

Advanced Dm of Doom has spoken

What lurks in yonder caves

What lurks in yonder caves

The past two weeks have been spent exploring the hatchery. After making it through the first few chambers, the characters made it to the human leader’s chambers. They subdued her and tied her up but after discovering a secret trapdoor that lead down into a shrine to Tiamat, they attracted the notice of Cyanwrath the blue half-dragon who was down there with a pair of female berzerkers in business attire. Rather then allowing them up into the room they hurl the leader down the hole, not realizing that the enemy would be able to heal and rejoin the fight.

Approximately five rounds later, Mondath the human and Cyanwrath the half dragon attacked from behind with a horde of kobolds gathered along the way. The party kept the berzerkers from climbing out the trap door and eventually defeated the others.

They gained a level, to third, and hunkered down for a long rest. It passed uneventfully and afterwards, the party continued down the trapdoor and did battle with the berzerkers who were dutifully awaiting the return of their leaders. They found a treasure chest but it was trapped and released poison gas into the room. Everyone took damage, but it could have been worse if not for a fair amount of luck, and the combined affect of a wind spell combined with the chicken character’s wing-flapping .(Long story. We have a character that’s not a man, it’s a chicken.)

They moved on to another chamber with a ledge along a dark natural cavern, with a set of wooden steps leading down. Their were some kobolds hidden in an alcove and the rogue trickster put them to sleep with her shiny new spell, then slit their throats while they dreamed their lizard dreams. No one wanted anything to do with the long dark natural cavern below, so they tried the other route, which led them past a kobold guard room (which they stealthily made it past) and into a different room with a ledge and a long dark cavern below. They fought some more kobolds here.

The only choices left were the fungus garden room (which they were avoiding like the plague) or the first or second cavernous chamber. They went back to the first one and were looking around, when a roper struck. A long tentacle lashed out and grabbed the warlock and dropped him thirty feet to the ground. Knocked out. The next round, the roper pulled the rogue off the rickety staircase, and she took falling damage, and then the dwarven cleric dove off the staircase to inflict some falling damage on the roper. The monk is the only one who avoided falling.

The next round two guard drakes attacked and it looked like the battle was lost. With one down, and one grappled by tentacles, and everyone on their last few hit points it was time for drastic measures. Somehow, as improbable as it sounds, they survived.

They saw the glow of the dragon eggs in the back of the chamber. They had to get them and get out. They came up with a plan. The cleric had a spell that transformed the ground under the roper into mud or something, and it fell a few inches, forced movement causing the tentacles to release the warlock and rogue. The monk dashed across the room, grabbed the eggs, and avoided the guard drakes, while the rogue grabbed the unconscious chicken, and they ran uo the stairs and out the dungeon as fast as they could. It was a great game but it was getting late and ended with a miraculous victory against overwhelming odds.

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