Beholder Lair

Beholder Lair

As our game group rollicks towards the ending of the Tiamat campaign, the characters are rising to levels rarely attained. Currently at level 12, the heroes are in the middle of traversing a magical maze that surrounds a wizard’s tower. The maze is constructed (with magic!) so that bypassing encounters or going over or around the maze was impossible. They kept coming to a clearing with a sundial pointing to one or more of the myriad pathways leading out of the clearing. 5 times the came to the clearing, and had to choose the right path. If they chose the wrong path, they wound up with an encounter.

Previously, they had made great choices and made it to the final clearing, before choosing the wrong path.

The maze gently curved around for a few moments, then they came to a place where the shrubbery was overgrown, making a narrow gap to squeeze through. On the other side, there was no way back, and the hedge had been replaced by tall, narrow stone walls. Everything was covered in slime, and a greenish haze made the area indistinct. They had unwittingly entered the Beholder’s Maze.

beholder lair2

Anatomy of a Beholder’s Lair

One of the great innovations of the fifth edition of the world’s most awesome role playing game is the inclusion of “lairs” for the deadliest, most iconic monsters. So far the party has fought a white and green dragon in their respective lairs, and it was challenging. The beholder also has rules included for its lair, which I adapted and used to great effect.

The lair of the beholder, as written, has some pretty intense affects. Once per round an eyeball can spawn anywhere within the lair and fire a random eye ray. Also, once per round, tentacles can appear and restrain a character, forcing them to have to break free or be immobilized. There is a third thing that can happen too but I forget what it was, blinding fog maybe?

Anyhow, I wanted my beholder to be unique, and so I gave it an extra power: a ninth eyestalk. This eyestalk held a blue gem instead of an eyeball (the gem is required to exit the encounter area) and the eye could fire a teleportation ray once per round in addition to its regular attacks. The character had to make a dex save or be teleported to a random quadrant of the lair. Great Fun!

The other unique aspect of this lair which was shaped like a maze, was the inclusion of a gelatinous cube. The combination of randomly teleporting, a gelatinous cube, and a maze full of tentacles and eyestalks made the encounter incredibly fun and challenging. In some ways it was reminiscent of some of the better 4th edition “set-piece” battles we have fought. So much importance was placed on movement and positioning.

Even under normal circumstances, the beholder is a dangerous foe. It projects a consant anti-magical field in a cone directly in front of it, (which I ruled projected out at 45 degree angles, so if the beholder placed himself just right in one of the corners of the lair, it could project anti-magic thoughout its entire lair.)

The wizard was reduced to a weeping wreck for most of the battle, as his magic was useless. The rest of the party used melee attacks to slowly whittle away at the beholder. For some odd reason I kept rolling 1’s to see which random eye stalk ray it fired each round, and the Charm Ray was far and away the most popular choice. Numerous characters were charmed during the battle, which was hilarious because I described the hideous beholder, and then told how the character started to look more than just skin deep to see the true beauty in the eye of the beholder. Put a blond wig and some lipstick on that beholder, and you’ve got a date!

At one hilarious point in the game, two characters were stuck in the gelatinous cube while the ranger plucked away at it with his bow, not caring that the characters inside the cube were taking half damage from every arrow.

At another point the gnome rogue was using her invisibility cloak when she got hit by a paralyzation ray, then sucked up by the cube. So she was invisible, paralyzed, and slowly melting into the cube and none of the other characters even knew where she was!

Incredibly the barbarian scored a critical hit with a thrown spear and somehow managed to score 52 hit points in damage. I was incredulous and made her add the total back up, and I was justified, it was only 51 hit points! This made a big difference in the last two rounds of the battle, in which the beholder charmed and disintegrated with great abandon.

The wizard finally girded his loins enough to make an attack, and positioned himself so he could throw a fireball at the beholder from behind. He hit and did, oh I don’t know how much damage, because the beholder only had one hit point left! (which is why that 52 points was so important earlier in the battle.  It gave the beholder two extra rounds of life.) It was incinerated and the blue gem fell to the ground and began blinking like it was going out of existence. The ranger picked up the gem and a door opened up in the far wll of the maze, an escape.

They somehow extricated themselves from the gelatinous cube mess, and rushed through the exit just before the gem winked out of existence, which would have reset the whole encounter. Close escape! This battle took up the majority of our 2 hour gaming session, and ranks in the top five battles of all time for me. What a blast!

That is one freaky looking dude!

That is one freaky looking dude!

This is a handy little ne’er-do-well I came up with the other day to thwart my players. It worked wonderfully well and turned a hum-drum encounter into one that was surprising and dangerously fun.

Take a regular kobold with typical statistics. Add two heads, one on either side of the central head. They breathe fire and the kobold is immune to fire. It can do everything a normal kobold can do AS WELL AS breathe fire once per round from each head in a fifteen foot line.

They are incredibly weak due to being a kobold, but they can really pack a wallop! In the encounter in which I used them, the party wizard scoffed at a room full of twenty kobolds. With a flick of bat guano into the chamber he ignited a fireball that left all of the kobolds incinerated, except for the seven 3-headed kobolds, who in turn got to retort, and show said wizard just what that felt like. Evil grin.

The hunting lodge

The hunting lodge

This weekend we finished off the Hoard of the Dragon Queen with a great gaming session. But as in all good things in life. let us begin with the menu – mega salad. It was a delightful salad made of 4 different heads of fancy lettuce, salami, mini pepperonis, cheddar and feta cheese, hard-boiled egg, olives, and other healthy vegetables; with a choice of Italian, Ranch, or Blue Cheese dressing. It was good and good for us, and a break from our usual weekly diet of fat, grease, and carbs. (Nothing wrong with a good fat burger, slavered in grease between two thick slabs of carbohydrate.) Once fed, we got down to the gaming, and as this was an epic adventure ending session, we prepared for a long night.

The night started with the Crew barging in on the major domo of the Hunting Lodge. Surprising the players, she welcomed the erstwhile pillagers as guests and potential business partners. They made a deal. During the deal making, after much cajoling, pleading, whining, and asking for more more more like baby birds when mama bird comes back to the nest, the cultist gave in and gave them each a greater healing potion. (I think that is where they got those from…)

Then we took a short break while the characters leveled up. It is uncommon to level up in the middle of a session and it really added to the excitement of reaching the epic conclusion, even though it did add to a later night than usual. Afterwards, the party made their way to the cultist village where the fortress was docked, shrouded in mist. They met a friend in the village of otherwise nefarious cultists and got a little more info about the flying fortress. They decided they would sneak in amongst the last wagon-loads of treasure and make their way to the cloud giant in order to turn him to their side.

Once on board, they correctly guessed the location of the giant’s chambers, and met and befriended him. He told them of the main villain on board- Rezmir in his chambers on the lower level, and across the hall a pair of Red Wizards of Ki-Rin. The party then commenced to slaughter first Rezmir and then the wizards in a quick series of intense battles.

With Rezmir dead, the party wizard took the Black Dragon Mask, while the barbarian took the hilariously sentient and evil two handed sword, which did and will result in epic hilarity. Next up, the party made their way down into the belly of the ice castle, and came upon the lair of the white dragon.

Apollo the White Dragon

Apollo the White Dragon

The dragon began the battle hanging from the ceiling where he unleashed his cone of cold to great affect. Every character was knocked down in hit points.

Then furious battle ensued. The dragon leapt to the floor of the lair in order to pound the party with tail slaps and wing buffetings. It was incredibly affective and every member of the party had to use their greater healing potions to remain standing. The dragon leapt back to the ceiling, accepting a few opportunity attacks along the way, in order to blast them once again with his icy breath. This time it knocked out every character accept the wizard who (as usual) was trying to remain as far from possible from the threat of danger and successfully made his save, negating damage instead of halving it due to being hidden in the passageway.

This led to the last round of combat, with everyone knocked out except wizard and dragon. The dragon was dripping large globules of blood onto the icy floor and the wizard knew he had a chance. He brought to mind the biggest most powerful spell he knew and unleashed it on the dragon in hopes of pulling victory from the jaws of defeat. Three silvery magic missiles launched from his finger tips hit the dragon in its icy heart, killing it instantly.

Great adventure, great finale, and a great kill by the wizard. White dragons have always been my favorite type of dragon. White is my favorite color, I love the cold and snow, and I love underdogs, which in the dragon world, white dragons most assuredly are. When I was a kid still learning to be the great DM that I am today, I had a white dragon epic finale, and in it, the white dragon )from 1s edition) was flying back and forth strafing the party with its breath weapon until only the ranger-thief was left. It dove, planning on flattening Chris Stevens character into the cavern floor, but Chris’ character had a long spear and managed to “set it against a charge” before the dragon struck, impaling it for triple damage and killing it.

It is always fun to fight and kill dragons. After 7 levels of chasing them, the heroes finally got their chance, and they pulled it off in dramatic fashion. It was past 11 when we called it a night, which is quite late for us, but we kept the thrill going through the roller-coaster ride to the end. Next week we are taking a break before moving into the Rise of Tiamat, the conclusion to Hoard of the Dragon Queen. The reason for the delay is because we are having a painting party to coat some of the 300+ miniatures I received in the mail this week.

Reaper Bones Part 2

Reaper Bones Part 2

The hunting lodge in Hoard of the Dragon Queen

The hunting lodge in Hoard of the Dragon Queen

We explored the penultimate encounter area of Hoard of the Dragon Queen – the Hunting Lodge this Valentines Day. Here are pictures from that night, brought to you by the fabulous players in this campaign of chaos.

In the midst of the game

In the midst of the game

Gaming n the gaming corner.

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An unknown multitudes of corridors to explore.

Dragonborn monk

Dragonborn monk

The drgonborn monk prepares to embark upon the mission.

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Just exploring.

24 kobolds spill forth

24 kobolds spill forth

Twenty four kobolds staked 8 high spill forth from the chamber when the door is opened, raining down on the part with slashing daggers.

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We can contain them!

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OK then how about this!

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What is upstairs. Find out next time.



And that is how it happened.

Heironymous Bosch wil fit nicely here

Heironymous Bosch wil fit nicely here

This Friday after Thanksgiving was our penultimate game night of the year, and it was also one of the most fun so far this year. Originally we planned to have leftover turkey for dinner, but at the last minute we changed to pasta. It was good, and ironically we had pasta leftovers the rest of the weekend! The group was on the small side, with 5 players and dm.

Having not recapped in a few weeks, let me set the stage for the night. The heroes of Greenest have spent 40 days and 40 nights as part of a merchant convoy crossing the desert region of the Lorient, the mystical, mysterious far east of D Erte. They are pursuing the loot nabbed in raids upon their home town and others from a group calling itself the cult of the Dragon. They also had a more personal goal of retrieving the stolen religious icon that gives Greenest its fresh spring water. Without the icon, the heroes hometown was slowly dying of thirst.

Last week, the party managed to figure out which of the wagons in the convoy belonged to the cult, and while creating a diversion involving half-orcs and dwarf elephants, they were able to steal the icon back without being caught.

So this week, they needed to get the icon back to greenest, and to do it, they needed to buy a 1,200 gold return-teleportation scroll from the red wizard of Thay. Simply read the first half, teleport to destination, then tear off the second half for the trip home within 12 hours. The rogue made the trip and discovered that the town was abandoned. She made her way to the temple of St. Cuthbert and was nearly ambushed by the crazed old priest. The rogue talked some sense into the priest and left him with the icon. The priest let the rogue know that the whole town up and left, deciding to follow the “Heroes of Greenest” on their trek across the desert, looking for a new home. The rogue left and tried to figure out a way to get a message to the people of Greenest that their town was saved.

The wizard, who often dreamed of Greenest, but has never been there, had another dream that night. In it, an old priest put a religious icon into his backpack and trekked off into the unknown desert. What is up with the people of Greenest? Somewhere on the road behind them were hundreds of refugees looking for a new home.

The cultists knew from the diversion that ehy had an enemy, and the next morning the friendly gnome rogue found a curled up poison bone in one of the group’s cereal bowls. Then one of the cultists was found dead, and the dragonborn monk’s bloody short sword was implicated in the crime, but the rich merchants forced the caravan to move out before the truth could be discerned.

That day they made it to the bright capital of the Lorient, the town of Cato Blepia, where cows were treated like royalty, and let free to roam the city, and if they ever mooed in your direction, you could die. The heroes needed money to continue on their journey to the north, so they did various things to earn some bread. From juggling, to gigolo-ing, the heroes made quite a splash in the city, and capped it off by stealing 400 gold worth of fancy regalia from a holy cow. They were chased out of town by a mob with torches and pitch forks.

For many days they were part of a new caravan heading north until they came to a stopover beyond which the road was still being worked on. There was a few days layover, so they decided to explore the swamps for a red X on a treasure map they had found.

They come to an empty camp site with five large canoes. They see three canoes coming towards them, so they grab a canoe and head into the swamp. They meet up with 9 lizardmen in the canoes who act belligerent and battle ensues. It was a fun fight between canoes and lost of people got wet. In the end 5 lizardmen were killed and the rest swam off. It was a great night of gaming, and next week should be just as good.

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


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