Archive for the ‘Games we Play’ Category

Fortress of the Evil Overlord level 2

Fortress of the Evil Overlord level 2

Playing d&d has never looked better, thanks to the recent acquisition of Dwarven Forge Game Tiles, Reaper Kickstarter miniatures, Wizards of the Coast and Paizo miniatures, and a great group, I am living my life long dream of near perfect dnd. Now if only the dungeon master were better than the ill-prepared, unkempt fool behind the wheel.

Here is the stack we have to work with.

Here is the stack we have to work with.

We started off with a small ret-con to provide a clean slate. They tumbled down a chute and out the doors of a large antique wardrobe and into a dungeon chamber. Behind them was the solid back of the wardrobe with a keyhole in the center, but they had no key. Before them on the ground lay a corpse and next to it a small pile of charred bones.

messing 'round with dwarven forge game tiles.

messing ’round with dwarven forge game tiles.

The corpse was home to four rot grubs which caused much near-death hilarity as they jumped about tying to bore into flesh and reach the hearts of victims. First one gnome then another was victim to rot grub attacks, but in each case the halfling rogue was able to pluck the grub from its victim before it was too late. Eventually a blast of lightning fromthe dragonborn quelled the rot grub threat so that the wizard could get to the magic scroll he detected.

This didn't happen

This didn’t happen

The scroll was completely blank. What a find! It was a secret wizard recipe for the creation of a magic device. As the correct items were collected they wold appear on the list until all items were gathered at which it could be cast and create the item. Being blank, the wizard Jambunathon had no idea what item it wold create.

They went through a few chambers, fled through a storage chamber full of stirges, and eventually opened up a door and surprised a napping ogre and its pet boar. They fought, and the dragon was knocked out by the ogre and its club. when a healing attempt was made, the gnome druid was pounded flat as a pancake, scooped up and eaten in one bite by the ogre and his massive club. Finally the ogre was slain by the fightress Jillian, and the bore soon followed. While looting the ogre corpse, Jillian found a ring of protection +1.

I couldnt stop laughing after the gnome druid was killed in a single blow by massive damage. I rolled max damage, 2d8+4, for 20 points, and the poor gnome only had 10. It filled me with a warm glow to have killed the gnome, like I still had it. I’m sure the player must not have felt so good, but it is not his first fatality and he handles it well. Good times.

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Laying out my stack of tiles for some serious construction.

Laying out my stack of tiles for some serious construction.

For the past two Fridays, we have been using the Dwarven Forge Game Tiles with our miniatures to play d&d. We happened to be going through an urban murder mystery at the time (Murder in Baldur’s Gate) so this took a little modification, but the past two weeks have shown how much awesomeness the Game Tiles can add. I am lucky to have acces to such wonderful paraphernalia for our game, including the Dwarven Forge Game Tiles, Reaper miniatures, and other good stuff picked up over the years. The last two items though, both coming out in the past year, has definitely taken our game to a new level of cool.

It was thanks to the exemplary player, friend, and all around great dude Dave, who made this possible. I was on sabbatical at the time and he stepped up to take part in the Kickstarter for the tiles when I was unable due to a chronically deflated bank account. My players are all great, and constantly work to make up for my own inadequacies. Isn’t that what a good life is all about?

Player built the dungeon, I added appropriate encounters.

Player built the dungeon, I added appropriate encounters.

It looks like this will be quite a challenging dungeon! Fortunately reason prevailed and we went on to play the adventure at hand: Murder in Baldur’s Gate. In this episode the heroes have just defeated the demon who slew the town’s protector, and are beset upon all sides by those whowant to fill the power vacuum left in the good duke’s wake. They get offers from the Silver Spoons, the Flaming Fists, and an attractive lady known as Rihanna. Each group requested a midnight meeting in a tavern known as the Dragoneye. When they arrived, they realized it was a set-up, and were attacked by the Silver Tea Spoon Thugs on one side, and the Pirates of the Flaming Fists on the other. It was their alliance with the owner of the tavern Rihanna herself which allowed them to prevail.

Throw down at Rihanna's

Throw down at Rihanna’s

That was last week. This week for Halloween I wanted to spookify it up, so I took some inspiration from the classic adventure Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh and rebuilt the mansion’s first floor. Their goal, was to help out Rihanna, who was a champion of the poor outer district. The fisherman’s wharf area was having many of their children kidnaped – 30 in the past 3 weeks. She feared that even more will be at risk during the next day’s children’s festival, and asked the heroes to find out what was happening. All signs pointed to the crumbling house overlooking the sea at the top of Saltmarsh Lane.

Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh

Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh

We didn’t get to finish the adventure but it was a ton of fun.There were traps on practically everything, and a few good treasures were found. They also had a run in with a Frankensteinian Flesh Golem. After spoiling for a fight all night, they quickly ran away from the monster. They did save 5 kids before we had to call it a night. Maybe next year!

Jambunathon pummeled

Jambunathon pummeled

Punched up, knocked down, and dragged out of the room by the monk, Jambunathon faced the mighty flesh golem alone. While everyone else wondered what the heck was he thinking?!?! It was fun.

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This is Twinkie Pie.  He is a double alpha male cat that wont let ANYONE touch his paws - except a certain Ginger who can do whatever she wants and he is ok with it.

This is Twinkie Pie. He is a double alpha male cat that wont let ANYONE touch his paws – except a certain Ginger who can do whatever she wants and he is ok with it.

This week we played dnd and it was fun. We are playing the newly released “Murder in Baldurs Gate” as an into into a Heroes of the Lance Dragonlance campaign.

We were walking through town, Baldurs Gate, on a day of celebration when the God of Assassins was finally killed by the Duke who is also the city’s patron and most famous resident. It was a festival day and the heroes (we are calling them that though its accuracy is dubious at best) took pat in games of skill and chance. The bard perfomred an excellent rendition of Arry Pooter.

Much archery was loosed, some excellent jousting was perfromed, with the final round between the dragonborn paladin on her giant sugar-bear mount versus the elf ranger on her Acherai – a four legged flamingo mount. I cant even remember who won, but it was epic. Oh yes, each of them did excellently and won a pair of the duke’s daughter’s scarves. It was due to a wardrobe malfunction that the paladin was thrown by the ranger in the last round.

Finally, the group engaged a group of 7 thugs in a mock battle. This meant attacking to subdue only, which meant some spells and weapons were unavailable, like crossbows and magic missiles for example. The party won, and then the free beer was released to the crowds in giant barrels around the town square. City nobles came up on stage including Fancy Filosi, Jambunathon Boehner, Bitch Baconnel (short for Bitchell), and world famous Duke Bo Robama.

They tried to give some speeches that were topical and cross referenced our own current ongoing struggles with government in a way that inspires dialogue, but the players wanted one of that, they wanted to bust more heads, so I obliged. Crossbowmen opened up on the crowd from second story windows while the thugs from earlier started kill9ing an wounding panicked civilians in a wanton slaughter. Meanwhile Duke Bo Robama was fighting for his life against a crazed old man with a short sword who called himself Darth Yoda.

The battle is crazy and when the old man is killed, the duke explodes and turns into some disgusting monster all tooth and claws. It ends up swallowing the gnome cleric, then the evil wizard who went in after her, before being killed by a combination of attacks from Jillian the highly skilled weapon mistress and the paleolithic tribal duo Male Human Bard and Female Elf Ranger. The kender spent the entirety of all three battles looting corpses as they fell. She also “found” a divan at one point, which aided the heroes in their fight against the thugs.

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dragonlance clanA new campaign kicks off as soon as the latest, greatest, and last public playtest hits the servers. While we have been playing (if you can call it that) a mega-dungeon crawling campaign of my own design, I want to try something new. A dragonlance dalliance.

The Dragonlance saga begins around level 4, so there will need to be an introductory adventure. In this case I have chosen, because it is new and shiny, the newly released adventure Murder in Baldur’s Gate. This adventure is the first new product released by D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast in a long time, and it is playable in any edition of D&D, with specific rules covering editions III, IV, and V. Great concept and I hope they stick with it. The adventure is also the same one being played at Encounters, the weekly public play event semi-sponsored by the publisher. I say semi-sponsored, because dm’s now have to purchase the adventure themselves, rather than receiving it as a reward for their time and effort to provide new and returning players a great fun time week after week.


Furthermore, the adventure is co-written by Ed Greenwood, legendary creator of the Forgotten Realms, and is set in one of the Realms iconic cities. Baldur’s Gate is one of the three major cities in that most popular of Game Worlds, and countless, books, games, and other tie-ins have been based in Baldur’s Gate, including a wildly popular computer game series from the very late 90′s, fittingly titled Baldur’s Gate.

The adventure is a complete mini-campaign setting, and includes a book detailing the city itself. There is a fold-out screen with a beautiful map on one side and pertinent information about the city on the other. This product is truly a sight to behold, and I have high hopes for the adventure, which is a non-linear mystery focusing on exploration, interaction, and problem solving, as well as the usual busting of heads and the emptying of pockets of the recently deceased. The campaign setting also details a Forgotten Realms “re-boot” for the new edition of D&D. I have not completely read up on what exactly the “Sundering” entails, but I hope to find a way to mesh the “Sundering” with the “Cataclysm” of Dragonlance 300 years prior to the start of the campaign which led to the abandonment of the world by the gods. Somehow I will also have to transport the party from the pre-cataclysm normal times of Baldur’s Gate into the post-cataclysm of the Dragonlance saga.

Baldur’s Gate is a big, important fantasy city. So I am going to rip it, whole cloth, out of the Forgotten Realms and plunk it down somewhere in my own campaign world D’Erte. I do this because I have never been a fan of published game worlds, mostly because I do not like worry about breaking ‘canon.’ My games get crazy and I do not like to have to rein them in to keep them within the bounds of a normal published setting.This is also why I generally do not run store-bought adventures. I have no hesitation about building my game out of the components of published works. This campaign will be a testament to that. Really, my own world D’Erte, is purposefully pretty vague so that it is easier to graft build into it whatever I need. There is a fine place for Baldur’s Gate along one of the coasts of D’Erte and it looks like a 300 year cataclysm is about to sweep my game world as well.


After Baldur’s Gate, the real campaign will begin. There are 16 adventures in the original saga, though I think we will somewhere between 9 and 11, the climax of the epic tale. The later adventures contain wargames, campaign guides, alternate time-lines and other weird stuff. Who knows! Dragonlance originally released in the mid 1980′s as a line of adventures with a tie in trilogy of novels. The novels are great reads, I highly recommend them, and they are written by the creators of the Dragonlance game world and adventure saga. Tracy and Laura Hickman and Margaret Weiss have become legends of world and game design themselves, and this is the vehicle which launched their fame.


When I first started playing dungeons and dragons, this is one of the first “campaigns” we played. I was not the DM when I played this series, my good friend Roge was the DM, and he did a bang up job. The memories of those games are faded into the mists of time, but I am excited to replay them, this time from the other side of the screen, not least because it will give me a chance to relive some of those halcyon days of yore.


This campaign will feature characters that the players create. This will cause a bit of trouble during the Saga, due to the intricate, intertwining personalities and backgrounds of the original heroes of the saga. (The game is meant to be played with pre-generated characters, with a very doubtful guideline for creating one’s own,if they feel they must.) In order to combat this I plan on giving the players some background and personality cues that map to specific characters from original storyline. This should help with continuity as well as role playing opportunities.

Considering of role playing opportunities, this campaign is designed to be more “immersive” than past games. Our best gaming experiences have been with campaigns that have lasted for over a year, yet the past couple years have seen nothing but short games. It has been fun, trying out everything from modern zombie apocalypse, to Temple of Elemental Evil with Pathfinder Beginner Box. But at some point I wanted to get back into an epic campaign. Epic stories are one of the reasons I play this game.


So all this epicness and immersion, and role playing will come at a price. My goal is to have as many people in our group as possible commit to renewing our efforts to be here week after week, on time and ready to play. The recent Friday Game Nights have become erratic with wildly varying levels of interest and participation, and this includes me.

Friday Game Nights, however, are too important to see them slide into decline like this. For many of us (me at least) it is the only time to socialize in an otherwise busy, work-filled week. It is a chance to be creative, to flex our imaginations; to interact and try to solve problems in unique ways; to make each other laugh, to entertain and be entertained; and finally we have really great food and drink. Some people go to clubs, some people have dinner parties, some people just crash in front of the monitor. We make up stories and roll dice and have fun in the comfort of my home, and I hope it continues like that forever


That is the course plotted for the next year or so of gaming around my table, starting next Friday night. Starting with character creation using the final playtest packet for 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons, we will play the newest published adventure as an introduction to the epic saga of Dragonlance, using the original adventure modules published back in the glorious hey-day of dungeons and dragons, when church pastors were foaming at the mouth over the demon worshipping role players, and Tom Hanks was telling us that make-belive leads to madness.

Dragonlance 6 is my favorite of the set, not least because of the incredibly cool artwork and because of my love of white dragons. (Oops, did I give away too much?) It is also the one I remember most as a 7th grader, when my duelist Alec LeFont met his end on the deck of an ice-runner. Damn you Roge! I had a grappling hook!


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fortress-viewThe group was slightly smaller than usual, which meant it was normal sized, with me,and six participants gathered round table: Doc the barb, Reya the wiz, Gnome the dwarf cler, The fightress Zubizu and the Monk Evil Sheva. Oh and lets not forget the ferret small business owner, Jambunathon ranger-wizard. On the menu was fan favorite and last minute substitutin: three full bags of dollar menu items from nearest fast food restaurant. Game set, play.

The party was back in town, reaping the rewards of their scesful delve. They had hundreds of gold, an went on a spending spree. Their first encounter was an obsequious fellow who introduced himself as the aid to Al Swaggerty, proprietor of the infaous Gemstone Dance Hall. The hall offered special “welcome back heroes” parties for the cost of 50 gold. For 100 gold, they offered drinks on the house for everyone. The party was not interested in a party, but were eventually convinced to pay 9 gold for a round on the house, which included a cheer in their honor. It was at this point Al Sawggerty asked what he should call them, suggesting “The Special Bunch.”



No one in the band of adventurers liked this name, and instead came up with “The Flaming Ferrets” to which Al Swaggerty responded “The flamings WHATS?” and they were like yes thats it.

Other town hijinx ensued, including a visit to the town wizard Llywellyn, who offered them a reward of 500 gold and two scrolls of their choice, if they would return a spellbook of his. It was stolen by a runaway apprentice believed to have gone into the Frotress of the Evil Overlord with the book on a quest for adventure and plunder. He was not expected to have made it very far.

Al Swaggerty tried to sell them property, mentionind that only property owneres were considered citizens (and therefore above the law) but all others were considered outsiders and potential law-breakers.

The dwarf cleric performed a message of prayer in the streets, with aid from both the ranger-wizard and the very succesful wiz. Together they raked in 20 gold and also twenty devout followers. The cleric then sold these to the local “Church of All Folk” who offered ten gold a head for “new converts.” They were quickly chained up by a burly guard with a whip and four bugbear helpers.

The fightress was outraged and bought the converts freedom, habing to spend 300 gold to set them free. The slaver made 100 gold and the people, including a few orphan children who spent their lives “hiding from priest of the all-folk” all scattered back into the muddy streets of Deadrock without even a thanks to Zubizu. Later when the wiz found out about the slavery attempt, she tried to boot the dwarf from the party. Both the monk and dwarf cleric aqre both lawful evil, and were able to remain in the party.

The next day they started on an uneventful three-day journey to the fortress. Upon arrival at the fortresss, they took a moment to inspect. A mile long stair led up to a large central plaza, with halls to left and right, and a small black pyramid in the center. Behind the pyramid was a mountain of rubble from the ancient ruins, and the actual mountains beyond. The right side was mostly explored, and above it towered the ruins of the Fell Tower, which they had also partially explored after being captured by the blue kobolds. The left side was so far unexplored and was below the also mysterious Dwarf Tower, a squat, square construction with a half-destroyed tower, exposed and leaning overhead.

First they approached the black pyramid. Legend spoke of the tomb of the original evil overlord, known only as War Duke, haunted still by his ghost. The journey into his tomb could lead to riches or death. The ferret went into the narrow door, down the confined stairds and into the constrictive hallway, which led to an arched opening, beyond which was misty and unclear. The monk was first to enter, and found herself in a sandy chamber filled with large gold disks half buried in the sand.


Suddenly the ghostly image of Warduke materialized, provoking a roll for surprise, then initiative, both of which the monk won. She struck just as the orc was preparing to swing his migthy great axe, and connected, the orc instantly vanished and she was able to take a single disk fromt he chamber. It was worth 1,000 gold. Everyone in turn fought and defeated the warduke until Zubizu, who lost initiaive and was struck for one hit point of PERMANENT damage, and knocked out of the chamber after being laughed at by the orc ghost boss. Luckily she was able to return and defeat the orc and won a thousand gold piece disk, The dwarf cleric was not so luckily and lost a total of four hit points before giving up without a disk. She was very angry.

Next they went to the left side of the first level. Right off the main hallway was a set of double doors which led to a huge chamber with pillars and a vaulted ceiling. The northern section was colapsed. They searched the pillars, sheped like womens bodies with animal heads, to no avail, but found a door hidden by the rubble. This led to a hallway, which the ferret explored. The hallway turned sharpely, with a small square window, and three doors around a corner. When the ferret leapt into the window,a goblin shouted “Breeyark!” and the party hastily retreated back into the pillared hall. They fought the six goblins as they emereged from the door, with the monk taking out the first wave, and the wizard frying most of the rest with a flaming hand.

The Flaming Whats made short work of the goblins and then searched the room with the window, finding it to be a now abandoned guard room, empty except for a table and six stools. The table held some gaming dice and 54 gold, or 9 apiece, and we ended there. (Were the gaming dice for a fantasy goblin version of dungeons and dragons? Perhaps…)

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Any chance a dungeon master has to strip his party of their belongings and throw them into a dank cell should not be overlooked. Being defeated in battle is a perfect opportunity for an otherwise slain group of characters to instead get a second chance. Since the campaign began with the characters playing zero level slave-captives to a band of orcs, it was only fitting that the kobolds should offer them up as a live meal to their beloved deity, god of storms. They awoke in cells with barred cell doors and barred windows looking out over the mountain valley five hundred feet below.

With them in an adjacent cell was a femal elf named Sheva, a monk who chose to be there, using the cell as a place to rest. Being a replacement for character for a slain rogue, Sheva began with her normal allotment of starting gear. Starting her at zero level was a possibility, but she appreciated having gear, since none of the rest of the party had anything left.

As the ranger sent his ferret familiar into the hallway, they noticed a large blue dragon slowly circling in the air towards them. They then noticed the blackened and damaged stones of the chamber, and the large size of the windows, and decided they needed to be on the other side of the door. They made it just before the dragon swooped close by the cells, checking for breakfast.

To the south they heard the sounds of kobolds, and saw a descending stair, which they remembered being marched or dragged up, along with their gear. It meant their gear was on this floor. They took the door across the hall after carefully listening and checking for traps, and found a hallway with doors along the north wall and a morning glow coming from an archway further down the hall. The ferret went ahead and saw kobold tracks leading to the first door. IT could smell their gear beyond.

They entered to find a chamber bare except for a sundered stone sarcophagus under arched windows against the far wall. Their gear was thrown into a pile in the center of the room along with a few extra weapons and bags. As they were donning their arms and armor, a ghostly visage rose from the sarcophagus. It was a gaunt skeletal ghost wreathed in black robes forever disintegrating into moths. Its eyes flashed blue and it introduced itself as Erikonig the Oracle. It offered to read the fate of any who would gaze into its eyes.

The three out of four elves in the party conversed and knew this to be an elf lord of ancient times said to be able to foretell destiny. The first elf stepped forward and when she looked into his eyes, he gazed in anger and shouted “yours remains unknown as you shall outlast me!” The next elf had his fate read that he would be slain by betrayal. The elf ranger and human fightress were both foretold to die bloody deaths. Erikonig then stated that when the moment of their fate being sealed has come, if they should somehow avert that destiny, then they will be granted a great gift.

He then evaporates, but before doing so, he thanks them for releasing him from his fate and plucks a hair from his head which becomes substantial as the ghost disappears. It is a heartstone, a sliver of Erikonigs elf spirit.

Moving on they came to the archway and found a room with windows letting in the morning sun. There were laquered weapon racks on the wall. Most were damaged or empty except for four shelves, containing a glistening battle axe, a gently glowing katana, a silvery scimitar and a bright long sword. Below each weapon was a small shelf, with an inscribed poem in elvish script. It read that each of these was a legendary weapon to be weilded by the greatest elven heroes. That to be true, they must lay the heartstone of one who has given them their trust and that shall allow the retrieval of the weapon. It goes on to say that if the wielder is slain or the weapon is lost, it will return to this chamber. Zubizu the fightress lays the hair of Erikonig on the shelf before the katana and so doing claims it as her own.

The next door in this hallway led to another empty cell with a broken sarcophagus. Inside this one a hideous evil elf wraith sprang out to atack the party. He scored on hit on Zubizu, clutching her heart and squeezing it before being hacked apart by the incessant attacks. The wraith wore a circlet with a black diamond on its pale brow. The diamond was a heartstone, and they found another red ruby heart in a concealed compartment in the crypt. There was a secret door, which led to an old library, untouched for ages. They found a spell book and 1500 gold worth of decorative items. The desk was finely wrought and worth 1500 gold, but was too bulky to carry. In the back wall of the room they found a secret door whch led to a door in the outer wall and a narrow stair leading tothe valley floor. It was a secret exit!

They decided to explore one more chamber before leaving. They heard the sound of trickling water down a hallway to the south which led to a room empty but for a trickling pool in the center. As they approached a ten foot snake made of rippling, splashing water attacked them. It was a water weird from the elemental plane of water. No matter how much damaged they did, it reformed in two rounds to attempt to drag them into the pool and drown them. The pool was filled with gold coins, and they even found a rare diamond worth 1,000 gold before leaving while they were still ahead.

Using the secret exit they made their way back to Deadrock to cash in their plunder for around 900 gold apiece. Not too shabby, and they received a much warmer welcome this time around.

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tpk3There were friends, there was pizza, there was cherry vodka with sierra mist free (surprisingly good, perhaps even surpassing strawberry crush – and diet even!) and a good night of gaming. Lets see where did it start…

The party was standing in a hall somewhere, having just slain a procession of orcs. They entered the Flag chamber from the double doors at the end of the long hall. While discovering ancient and expensive flags and banners, they also disturbed a nest of two volts, flying creatures with big mouths at one end and a whip-like electrified tail at the other. Known as ‘electric eels of the air’ the creatures wreaked havoc before being slain. They found a magic banner which radiates a resistance to fear.

Needing to rest, the party camped out in the flag chamber, and spent a tense but quiet night. Moving out the next morning, they chose to return to the chamber with the lightning bolt trap. They miscalculated, believing the trap to be mechanical in nature, and once again the kobolds behind the door unleashed a lightning bolt. This time the entire party was in the room (I presumed) and all but two characters were dropped below zero. The kobolds burst into the room while the elf ranger and cleric tried to save as many fallen comrades as possible. (tpk: total party kill.)

Every tpk is different, and often some of the party survives. The most typical case is when a player is absent, or the character escapes, but in this case, saving for half damage allowed these two members, both of whom had healing spells, to survive. The ensuing battle however, with more lightning bolts, and six kobolds would have been unendurable, so I ruled the party captured. Only one character, the rogue, was permanently killed, and only because at the beginning of the night I vowed that the next character to die must play a monk, and she became interested.

Hours later the characters awoke in a cell room, two per cell. There were bars looking out into the mountain valley hundreds of feet below. Captured again, all their stuff taken, they were back to square one. Estimating the distance to the ground, they at least discovered they finally made it up to the next level. After a lot of work, they managed to escape their cells.

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Behold the power of the lava lamps

Behold the power of the lava lamps

Even though one person had to cancel for work, even though we didn’t get started until way late and had to scramble for an ultimateley awesome meal of appetizers, even though we are still working our way through understanding the rules this iteration it was still a great night of gaming. The party bulldozed though almost half of the first level of the dungeon.

The night started where we left off. The party had just slain a pack of kobolds and were questioning the lone survivor. Its face and arms were painted with blue lightning bolts, and it spoke of its god who dwelt in the top of the ruined tower. The kobold agreed to tell them where the stairs leading up were in exchange for letting it live. The party agreed and the kobold pointed to a door in the north wall and mumbled something about being through there. He then pushed the door open which revealed a room epty except for a few coins and a chunk of questionable meat in the center of the room. The paladin and barbarian each rushed in of course, eager to grab the booty.

A perternatural sense of danger cause Glory the paladin to stop in place, while the barbarian, sensing victory rushed forward and fell through a trap-door covered pit. It was dark down there, and he took some falling damage, but sprang to his feet just in time to hear two shambling forms moving towards him from the shadows. The fightress was the first to arrive on the scene, shining her torch down into the pit to allow the barbarian to duke it out with the pair of famished zombies. A few arrows were launched from above, but they were ineffectual, and it was the barbarian’s orcish battle ax that quickly slew the monstrosities.

During this time, the kobold prisoner took the opportunity to escape, sticking his tongue out at his captor the wizardess, as he ran off laughing.

Doc piled the bodies to aid his climb to the surface, and while doing so, he noticed the skeleton of an elf, concealed by a grey cloak. The cloak turned out to be a Cloak of Elvenkind, which he lovingly draped over his crush, the wizard Reya’s shoulders.

Old school dungeon crawling at its finest

Old school dungeon crawling at its finest

Moving on, they came to a long hallway with windows at the far eastern end, showing the afternoon sky. The drop was over five hundred feet to the valley floor below, and they could hear vultures screeching above. There were two passages and two sets of double doors out of this room, so they chose the nearest set of double doors and pushed through. The room was empty except for a pair of doors and an old tapestry on the wall. The ranger detected the tracks from many creatures in the chamber and bent down for closer inspection.

While searching the chamber, he oticed a large rack in the wall and heard the scurrying of a multitude of tiny clawed feet. A swarm of rats were about to charge from the hole. Thinking fast, he cast Expeditious retreat on himself, and ran towards the wall hanging, intending to stuff it in the crack. When he pulled down the hanging, it revealed a concealed door. In his hurry he did not notice the small hole drilled through the center of the room before a lightning bolt lanced out from it.

The bolt hit the far wall, and rebounded through the room, injuring the ranger, the fightress, and knocking out the wizardess Reya. Soon after, the party heard the “HAROOOO” of a horn blast from the other side of the door and beat a hasty retreat.

They paused to catch their breath in the long hall, while the cleric healed Reya, and once they were sure no one was coming after them from the recently vacated room, chose to explore in a different direction. The entered a chamber with a large black desk and some overturned cupboards. The ranger sent his ferret familiar into the chamber, which discovered a poisonous centipede just before it was bitten and died from he poison. The ferret, being magical, disappeared, and the centipede reared up, angry at being denied a meal. Its faceted eyes centered on the paladin Glory in the doorway, who glared back and charged. She was unlucky though, trying to charge through the obstacles, and when she brought down her orcish battle axe, it bit into her own foot instead of the vermin. It struck her, but the paladin shook off the affects of the poison and went on to slay the foul beast. The party spent the next ten minutes sacking the chamber but discovered nothing of interest.

A door led through the next chamber, and the paladin led the way, but was lucky for the second time, as she stopped in the middle of the chamber just before stepping onto another covered pit trap. This one opened to reveal a pool of green slime at its bottom.

They soon came to a door that seemed stuck, but the wizard showed a surprising amount of strength. The sleeves of her robe stretched as her muscled bulged, and she pushed open the door, pushing rubble aside to reveal a room whose north end was a collapsed heap of rubble, letting light of the early evening shine through cracks. They heard the rustling of bats in the ceiling, but quietly searched the chamber. The barbarian saw a severed skeletal wrist poking from the rubble, and uncovered an ancient human warrior. Most of his arms and armor were long rusted away except for a gold insignia ring and a ruby encrusted sword sheath which appeared to be magical. The fightress hung the empty sheath from her belt in hopes of soon filling it with something better than the looted orcish battle axes which she and most of the party were forced to wield. They managed to leave the room without waking the bats.

Soon they came to a bend in the hallway, which had a door on one side, and they discovered a secret door on the other. No amount of force they mustered could open the secret door, so they turned their attention to the other one which opened easily enough. It revealed an old cloak room with nothing of interest.

They were just deciding where to go next, and had re-entered the long hall, when a patrol of 7 orcs rounded a corner. Everyone was surprised, but the party recovered first, unleashing a hail of arrows and daggers and charging warriors at the orcs, before the wizardess strode forward with palms held outward. She unleashed a cone of fire that burnt 6 of the 7 orcs to a crisp. The last orc, turned tail and ran, but was unable to push open the door he sought to escape through. He was cut down from behind, and the session ended there.

Whew, we accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. The orc battle began when we were fifteen minutes over our regular end time, and was over less than five minutes later, thanks to the Burning Hands of Reya. Great game.

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There is a lot going on this week, what with trying to get my store front set up, and trying to finish up the next four installments of the Ruined Fortress of the Evil Overlord, so I am going to have to make this recap brief. Let me start by recounting the meal, which was made up of incredibly delicious grilled burgers and curly fries. I had two burgers, one with grilled onion, and the other california-style with guacamole. Oh yum it was good.

Last week saw the beginning of a new campaign, where the palyers were forced to play zero-level characters enslaved by orcs, forced to escape from a dungeon the night before their harvest. They survived, well some of them did, and made it to the nearest town, Deadrock, though half-starved wearing the bloody armor of their erstwhile captors. Along with this odiferous bunch were a pair of wood elves also on their way to infamous Deadrock, there to see their fortunes made. Greetings were held under the glare of the city guard preparing to open the town gates for another day of business in Deadrock.

A rough and tumble pioneer town, the party did not have much time to explore the sights. They rented rooms, bathed, and went out to by a set of clothes with the meager coin they had scavenged from the slave pens. The next day they were politely asked by representatives of the town concil to exit the town until such time as they could afford their own upkeep. This was mainly done because I wanted to get to the dungeon, and having a bunch of thugs wandering around without a copper to their name was bound to get ugly. Let’s fight monsters.

The party did not resist the nudge toward adventure and before you knew it they were walking the pillaged demesne of the evil overlord. Forgoing the ancient roads, the party struck a path straight across the valley towards the dark speck that was the ruined fortress. With incredible luck they managed to avoid any detection or random encounters along the way, ntil they arrived at the foot of the long stair that leads up the mountainside to the entrance of the ruins. Here they heard a loud buzzing, one might say a GIANT buzzing, and proceeded to build a ring of burning, smoking vegetation, into which they prepared to defend themselves against the rapidly approaching giant bees.

giantbeeNearly a dozen bees attacked, and even though the bees were disadvanteaged due to the smoke and fire, one of our new wood elves, a rogue, was struck with a deadly stinger and perished almost instantly from the poison. (I felt bad for the new player, being killed without having a chance, but I let him return the next round with the brother of the slain, who had been running after the party for two days and finally caught up just in time to witnsess his dead brother being carried away by giant bees.)

The party was able to kill or drive off the rest of the bees without further casualties, and made their way up the steps of the ruined fortress, with openings like eye sockets watching their approach. Scouting around the top, they opened a few doors, checked out the flag chamber, an empty office, then made their way to another chamber full of kobolds. Another battle broke out, and this time two characters went down, but were healed by the cleric. The other wood elf turned into a bear and mauled the kobolds savagely, while the human fightress waded through the chamber, and laid waste all around her.

They took one kobold catpive, searchd the room and found a lock box with 55 gold and two 50 gold piece pears, which one of the rogues tried to secretly pocket, but was discovered by the bear, who let out a warning growl. Don’t mess with the bear.

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This week’s game was important for a number of new experiences. We were starting a new campaign, we are using the newest D&D 5th edition playtest rules after mostly not playing D&D for many months, we were starting out at zero level for the first time ever with new house rules I created for use with a new Dungeon Crawl campaign, The Ruined Fortress of the Evil Overlord which I am self-publishing.

meatball cupcakes

meatball cupcakes

There were supposed to be a few more fortuitous concurrences, like breaking open my new metric tonne of miniatures from the Reaper Mini Kickstarter, but alas, they haven’t shipped yet, and so it wasn’t meant to be. It was also an incredible night thanks to Shannon, whose birthday we were celebrating, and who brought delicious steak(!) for dinner, and for Khar (I mean Harrison) who brought both a cake, and cupcakes made of meatloaf with frosting of bacon and cheese. I kid you not, they were the best thing I have ever tasted. I had to drink an extra tall glass of cherry vodka just to thin the meat packing my stomach. It was good.

Zero Level Adventuring

The rules of the game are very simple: roll the ability scores (4d6 drop the lowest) three times, do not bother putting them into the attributes — right now they are just nebulous numbers. The characters are literal blank slates, with no class, nor even race or sex (all virgins). Imagine them as grey cloaked figures of questionable lineage. Each character has 2 hit points and an armor class of 10. That’s it.

The fact that each player rolls up three sets of scores means they were not as worried about losing a character. In fact, if some of the characters might have terrible scores and be purposefully put into perilous positions.

Now, as they go through the adventure, which should be geared to be very deadly, they will want to do things, like break something for example. At that point the dungeon master asks them to put one of their numbers into the strength attribute, and make a strength check. If it was successful they would then make a note of their deeds done. Eventually most of characters end up with their scores filed in as the adventure progresses: strength for brute stuff, dexterity to be sneaky, wisdom to be perceptive, etc.

One interesting factor was that the player had time to choose which score went where, and the dynamic of needing a good roll at the moment, countered by the scorer that they wanted for their future character concept, created a great spread of the numbers, not always optimized towards the future class.

This can also be used for deciding racial factors, by asking if anyone has the ability to detect sloping passages, for example, a dwarf might be revealed. Uncovering themes, backgrounds and other specialties, depending on the length of the zero level period are also possible. Even class abilities can be discovered through play,such as a character making a wisdom check to pray to her deity for divine aid, or a sagacious character making an intelligence check to detect the presence of magic.

Each character should be allowed one mundane non-weapon item worth no more than a single gold piece, such as a rock, nail, ice pick, or a flask of acid (what?), a loin cloth and a drab cloak. Whoever survives the adventure becomes a first level character. They can keep the two extra hit points as a reward.

Playtesting the Zero Level rules



Did I mention the extra tall glass of cherry vodka? Keep it in mind. We playtested an adventure called Under Ghost Town, from my upcoming second installment of the Ruined Fortress of the Evil Overlord –Level 0: Deadrock and the Pillaged Demesne of the Evil Overlord.

Six individuals set out on journeys for riches and reward, each wanting to accumulate (and spend) one million gold pieces. The town of Deadrock, a rough and tumble pioneer town on the edge of civilization was known far and wide as a place where heroes were forged. It seemed a perfect place to begin a life of tomb robbing and adventure. On their way they were captured by orcs.

The orcs herded them through a wasteland of conquered desolate territory. They eventually passed through a deserted town, on the edge of which was a corn field ready to be harvested. The bones of the farmers who planted the crops were piled at the edge of town. For weeks the characters toiled in the fields under the whips of the savage orcs, knowing that when the corn was harvested, so would they be.

Tonight was the last night before the harvest. They must escape. Every night bags were placed over their heads and they were marched down three flights of stairs and through two streams before being locked in cells in a dank dungeon.

I asked the players if anyone was sure their charater wanted to be non-human. Two people raised their hands, our local gnome and our elf ranger knew what they wanted. No one else was sure, so I said ok, the room is dark, only the elf and dwarf can see. Gotcha!

One character spotted a ring of keys on a hook next to the door. Another character wove her cloak into a lovely scarf. Another character had a nail and successfully picked the lock to her cell door, go thief! The ring of keys only opened the cells, they had to also pick the door, then they filed out into the hall.

A tripwire was tripped, causing four orc guards to open a nearby door. The party had already taken off down the hall, turning in random directions, until the met the orc captain coming the other way. They found themselves in a dead end, but a stream crossed the tunnels. It was blocked by iron bars, which were eventually bent apart, and the characters dove into the stream and were went downstream just before the orcs got to them.

Then the party were swept up agains another set of iron bars as it passed through another hallway and they began to drown as the ones in the front scrambled to bend or break the bars. One character drowned in that awful mess, but they managed to escape into a new hallway and wne tup some stairs and detected a fresh breeze which they followed up more stairs. This led to a locked door. They cold feel the fresh air blowing in from the rack under the door and frantically tried to pick the lock as the orcs cuaght up with them.

They broke out int the ruins of an old shrine and ran through town towards the cornfield. They found a pile of scythes, then went into the field to prepare an ambush for the orcs.

The orcs stumbled right into the ambush, being surprised, and these amateurs went to town on them with sickles. Heads were lopped of on both sides. The bottle of acid broke against the orc captains neck and its hidoues flesh melted and bubbled away, yet still the ferocious beastman fought on. One gnome went down, then the thief, then the new thief, and one player was on the last of her three characters.

They won the fight, and any humans were allowed to don the bloody studded leather and one suit of chainmail. They all took battle axes, short bows, and a pair of daggers, and divided the 25 gold, then set off for a line of dark along the southern horizon.

They saw a huge eagle shaped creature circling above them right as they came to a small river. One character proceeded to crawl into the river with a set of chainmail, confident it would keep her under water and afe from the terror flying above. It did though she also began to drown and had to be pulled to safety, right as the Hart Bird attacked!

The Fearsome Hart Bird

The Fearsome Hart Bird

With the body of a giant eagle and the head of a stag, with sharp jutting tusks, the hart bird was a dangerous predator. The two most intelligent characters put their heads together and figure dout this was a hart bird, or peryton, and they it had two distinctions. The first was that it used its tusks to pry open the chest of its prey and eat its still beating heart. The second thing was that it was immune to non-magical weapons. They were in trouble.

The wise dwarf prayed for Moradin to bless their weapons, but he was still miffed that she deigned to use a bladed weapon and answered not her prayer. Eventually a magically inclined high elf ranger wannabe managed to squeeze out the minutest of spells, and caused a weapon to glow as if magical. This caused the hart bird to hesitate, and they made a run for the woods.

They made into the woods and built a fire to keep the monsters away and await the dawn. The next day they made it to Deadrock, wielding bloody orcish arms and armor and with no more than a handful of coins apiece. I would say that adventure was worth gaining a level.

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