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Archive for September, 2012

Last week our conquistadors finally arrived in the New World, ready to begin the arduous process of building a new life with a ship full of enthusiastic but travel-weary colonists. The land of Numenoria, long cut off from the rest of the world of D Erte is a long peninsula jutting north out of the frigid wastes of the southern ocean, a land of jagged mountains and winding fjords. Along one such fjord penetrating deep into the center of the land, the brave adventurers planned to carve out an exciting existence.

Unfortunately, the ten woodsmen and the forest of chopped lumber were not waiting for them as planned. Instead of a prepared stronghold, the ship full of colonists found a half-built dock and signs of a struggle. Much of the forest had been cleared, but the wood was missing, and a trail pointed to great amounts of lumber being dragged off to the north. After securing the colonists, the adventurers set out on the trail of the missing wood. Their lives and the lives of every colonists depended on finding and recovering the construction materials. Without the wood, they would not be able to build shelter or defend themselves from the wilds of Numenoria.

Wooden Necromancer Tower

It is a morbid truth in the world of D Erte that a terrible curse exists among all the good folk, the curse of necromancy. Very rarely a dark streak manifests itself in some poor soul and a knowledge and knack for manipulating the boundaries between life and death arises. Like sorcery, these skills are rarely taught, and it is only through the extreme anti-social behavior and unwillingness to cooperate with the living that has kept necromancers from utterly destroying all civilization many times over. In any case, necromancer towers spring up across D Erte with horrifying regularity, each one a singular blight on the surrounding lands, ever expanding with neromantic power. Such a terror had found its way to Numenoria used their lumber to build a freakish looming tower.

The trail led through deep primeval forest and came out at a spar reaching out from the nearby mountains, upon which the tower was built. Its base was triangular, matching the shape of the pointed prow of stone and clay on which it was built. A trench filled with the bones and offal of forest creatures moated the long walled courtyard, and the conquistadors of the New World had just been chased across that moat by the rising corpses of wolves, and barred the gate behind them. They stood in the courtyard of the necromancer’s tower.

They caught a glimpse of an ugly gnomish face pinched under a tall red hat watching them from high it the tower, but the creature quickly disappeared after taunting them. They stood in a walled courtyard, with large plain double doors leading into the tower before them, and a crude barn with closed door to their right. A smaller door entered the tower in the far left corner of the courtyard. After insuring they were safe from the skeletal wolves, the party started searching the yard. The elven thief moved toward the barn door, and saw that the door was shaking and a rattling sound was coming from behind it. She continued closer.

Suddenly the doors burst asunder and and a whirlwind of bones, claws, furs and feathers descended upon the elf. She rolled aside and barely escaped being trampled by the horrific creatures that came from the barn. The stench of decay was strong. Two enormous owlbears, one with its hide stripped completely off and its skelton held loosely together by atrophied muscle, while the other one was covered in dripping, oozing wounds, were chained to a fabulous looking wagon, crafted primarily of bone and wood. The evil gnome strode the top of the chariot, brandishing a wand and cackling madly.

A mad battle ensued, with blood flying and at least two of the heroes knocked unconscious and nursed back to health by the clerics. Then the gnome Gnar stood up to the evil gnome and demanded that he cease his attack. He was so surprised he paused in his havoc making, and was rewarded with a radiant lance to the chest by said Gnar. After creating a pool of mud under the Gnar’s feet, he disappearedin a puff of smoke. The undead owlbears were soon dealt with and the wagon burned, while the rogue searched the barn. It was empty except for a door in the back wall leading into the tower proper. The door was flimsy, and the elf could hear shuffling behind it and a moan “…brains…”

Quickly the group built a barricade in front of the door, not wanting to deal with zombies, and avoiding the main doors, entered the small door in the far corner. It led into a small storage room, that was empty except for 5 greatswords hanging on pegs. The sorcerer recognized these swords, having fought strange gallic warriors weilding similar blades the night before her departure from Shalazar. Each blade was hand crafted from a uniquely shaped piece of fine steel, and often had strange whorls, hooks, and spikes in addition to a long straight cutting edge.

Two doors led from the chamber. One way led into the main entry hall. When the rogue peeked into this chamber, she saw that the door across the room was ajar, and the shuffling of zombies could be glimpsed behind it. That cinched the deal, and they chose the other door, which opened upon cellar stairs, carved directly into the stone and clay foundation of the mountain. The dwarf inspected, and declared it to be of the worst possible craftsmanship. Each stair was a different height and unlevel, for example. They could hear the distant echo of picks sounding from below.

The wizard nominated his snake staff familiar to slither ahead down the stairs, while he looked through its eyes, and tasted the air with its flickering tongue. At the bottom two corridors met in a Y intersection with the stairs. The walls were damp and cut from raw clay and were about ten foot square. Each corridor led off into darkness. The snake scouted both directions, then they chose the right. The snake turned a corner, with the rest of the party about fifty feet behind, and then suddenly, the wizard’s connection was abruptly cut off. The last thing it saw was the corner of what looked like a passage opening in one wall. The wizard knew the snake was not destroyed but had no other knowledge .

The thief crept ahead and didnt see anything. The snake staff sat in the middle of the hall, rocking gently back and forth. Then as she moved forward, she noticed a ring hovering before her in the air, just out of reach. A gleaming gold ring. She was tempted, and raised her hand to take the ring. But behind her, the sorcerer also saw the ring, and charged forward to stick it on the end of one of her new fancy greatswords. She saw the ring catch on the tip of the blade and then the air in front of her rippled, and a transparent fist of gelatinous goo materialized in the air before her It slammed into the side of her head and then with a sickening squelching sound, enveloped the sorcerer, who floated in the gelatinous cube holding a sword in one hand, a golden ring in the other, and racked by pain as the clear acid began digesting her.

The gelatinous cube was perfectly placed and caused great pain and suffering to the adventurers, almost completely destroying the sorcerer as the others worked to save her. At one point a well hurled axe caused the cube to nearly split in two, and its wild jiggling forced it to miss an attack. It was discovered that fire caused extra damage to the cube (houseruled) and so they eventually burned it to a crisp. The session ended with the sorcerer scraping all the sickening goo off her and wondering what her shiny new magic ring might do.

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During the design and development stage of the Next Edition of Dungeons and Dragons, the designers have gone to great lengths to capture the iconic characteristics of the game’s classic monsters. The developers write a weekly article about it (Wandering Monsters) and the guy in charge of Art even has a column (Dragon’s Eye View), complete with voting on sketches. Clearly, the team is devoted to getting it right, and they are seeking the wisdom of the wider fan base to help craft the final product.

While fan input is important, maybe even the most important to getting this version right, the monsters that make up the game are iconic for the simple fact that they are an unbroken thread running through every encounter, every campaign world, every EDITION of the game for nigh on forty years now. It would not be iconic to ignore the lore of the past, or the present, when deciding on the future of these creatures. Oftentimes being “innovative” can turn into grabbing for the next new fad. True innovation should help define the edition it is created for, as well as to inform any future editions. In this case the innovative monster design of fourth edition, including minions, multiple roles, a beautiful and legible stat block, and cool special attack powers, among other things, should help light the way forward for the Next Edition. I do not want previous innovations to be retired to the back room as “Fads of the times” but instead want a greater game specifically because it does incorporate all the greatness that has come before.

Since public playtesting began in May of 2012, two “bestiaries” have been released. The first contained small stat blocks and paragraphs of history, ecology, and other facts about each entry. The second dispensed with narrative entirely (for purposes of not bogging down the playtest while it is still being written) and instead presents each monster in a uniform stat block. Ultimately one assumes the final monster manual will contain a synthesis of these two styles, with an easy to read — and play — stat block, followed by ecologies, descriptions, and details.

What follows is a list of the 35 or so monsters contained in the bestiary, and how iconic they really are, or should be…

Fire Beetle – The days-long glowing sacs of the fire beetle has always been this low level dungeon dweller’s spotlight of fame. At 1d6 days apiece, a certain dwarven defender from my first playtest, Dr House was festooned with the red-glowing beetle butts. He eventually coerced a high level wizard to cast permanence on the glow-sacs, and a legend was born…

If I could change one thing – and this is something I would change with MANY of the monsters of Next Edition – is that it needs an “encounter power” like the close burst of fire with a recharge rate of 1 in 6 from fourth edition’s fire beetle. Monsters should each have a “schtick” in combat, something to make them unique. Monsters were one of the best designed aspect of fourth edition, and the unique powers were one of the best features of them. Everyone loves to discover a monster’s “special attack.” Otherwise, a fine iconic glowing beetle of unusual size.

Bugbear – The base creature is adequate, but common humanoid races should have multiple entries. In much the same way that an unusual monster should have a special attack, a common humanoid monster should come in occaisional varieties. I would like to see a strangler and big dumb brute version. Also, please stop screwing around with the definition of hit dice and let HD = level = number of dice rolled for hit points. This is true of most monsters in the bestiary, and an easy work-around is using different dice for the HD, and breaking it down into elite, or solo creatures even. I like how “large” weapons seem to be 2x the damage dice. The same mechanic could be used for hit dice when needed. Having half a die worth of hit points per level is just not always feasible, or a competitive match against player characters of equal level. Give the monsters full HP at least.

Centipede, Giant
– These 3 hit point minions are great, especially with their mob tactics trait, and the fact that the mild poison bites are cumulative. Being so low in hit points is a good thing for creatures like this,which practically make them practical 1 hit minions except for the puniest dagger or magic missile. As it should be.

Dark Acolyte, Adept, Priest
– We have our evil priest line up complete. The spells are equal to the player spells, which is a sticking point with me. Evil Classes are essential to good NPC creation, which means spells need to be able to work for or against a character or party. I think the Dark Family represents a mostly complete core cleric spell list, allowing them to develop these evil cleric-NPC-monsters. This type of multiple entry NPC-as-monster is just the kind of innovation that needs to continue to bind our editions together. Now some evil wizards plz.

Drow – Level 3 elite, yet 6d8 hit dice, yet only 27 hp? Just like first edition – give all monsters max HP! Or at least more than the chintzy 50 percent shown here. Rant over, the drow are superb, including racial powers and keen sword/crossbow dual wield. Having magic resistance represented as advantage on all magical saving throws is brilliant. While playtesting a brother/sister drow team, they were overmatched, but due to darkness, were able to escape. For awhile… Needs more variations. Drow wizard, yet another cleric, an assassin, etc. Drow poison is similar to giant centipede poison, in that they have cumulative affects on multiple failed saves. Heh heh heh, evil laugh.

Gelatinous Cube – This level 2 solo ooze is epic in every way possible, from its massive amount of hit points (7d10+35=73) to its passive slam, whence it gets a free attack against anyone next to it, or reaching into it. They appear out of nowhere, engulf and destroy. Notably missing from the entry is any description noting they are nearly invisible, or that players might be attracted to shiny things floating in the air in the hallway ahead. I plan on using one soon and will report my findings.

Gnoll, Gnoll leader – The gnoll is pretty iconic, and these savage brethren are good at what they do: tearing an unwary party apart with savage longbow and battle-axe ambushes while cackling madly. The leader is a good start, but the entry needs more variety: Shaman, sorceror, soldier, demonic possessed. The gnoll is one of the most iconic of the evil humanoid races after the goblinoids. These beast-men, often depicted as hyena-like, should have a solid core of 4-7 entries in the level 2-5 hit dice range in the final monster manual. Epic gnoll demonic warmaster solo would be pretty cool.

Goblin, Goblin leader
– There are few creatures in D&D more iconic than the goblin. These critters get a bonus to stealth and to damage when fighting in a mob, and the leader boosts them. I like them and the goblins pathetic 1d6-1 damage is hilarious. I would like to see tons more varieties of these little buggers, and maybe a high climb skill.

Gray Ooze – “Impervious to all spells, heat, and cold” should be added to the description, but otherwise a fine ooze. Also, doing no damage to wood or stone should be mentioned. Oozes are trick monsters and finding their weakness before they kill you is half the fun. We can leave out the latent psionic ability bit – or not!

Hobgoblin, leader – Another of the goblinoids, these fellows have some serious soldiery buffs they can lay on each other to work in concert and lay the smack-down. I Like that they use spears with reach. I think I will equip them with 3 spears, 2 for throwing, and the 3rd for closing to melee, instead of the oh-so-common short bow all humanoids seem to have. Having both melee and ranged attacks both is important though.

Human Berserker – These 9 hp gallic warriors are awesome, though I cant imagine any DM ever accepting disadvantage on a roll to get the extra 5 damage. Maybe if there were enough of them… Ya ok I would do it.

Human commonaer – As pathetic as the berserker is awesome. Is mob tactics stackable? If so, then day-um.

Kobolds of many types – Here is a monster with the proper amount of speciation. The pathetic standard kobold has nothing going for it except mob tactics (like the human commoner) but there are craftier kobolds too. Taking cues form the history of kobolds in the game, the trap-lord is the most powerful, hurling alochemical bombs, while the stout dragonshield, with shield of an actual dragon scale, is a worthy if puny foe.

The winged kobold is a surprising addition. Though not “new” as it was in a fairly early adventure (“In search of Unknown…” maybe?) they were never very popular. Nonetheless they look fun. I would like to see a “fly-by” style attack.

Medusa
– The medusa is fairly deadly if she surprises the party, but the “avert eyes to negate” only resulting in disadvantage means she will get few second chances to petrify. Save or die is brutal though. Her poisonous snake hair attack is pretty cool too, but there should be mention of using her blood to un-petrify recent victims. Like stoned characters.

Minotaur
– This guy is just plain big and deadly with axe or goring horns. Meeting one of these guys in the Caves of Chaos almost resulted in a TPK and did result in a quick retreat. Working as intended.

Ogre – Big, dumb, brute. Disadvantage on intelligence saves, now that is rich. Otherwise he can throw boulders and pound things with his club. Perfect. Now then, where is the ogre magi?

Orc, leader
– These are pretty tough cookies, as they ought to be. The leader has what looks to be a daily power (battle cry) otherwise they are fairly generic, having a disadvantage-inducing rage that grants bonus damage. Ho hum. Still, with 11 hp and doing 1d12+2 damage, they are a worthy foe for low level adventurers.

Orog – Another odd choice for “iconic” monster, but these are basically elite orcs, or Uruk-hai from Lord of the Rings. They are stronger, better equipped, and tougher. And nearly indistinguishable. They have 3 more hit points than an orc and their axes do 1d12+3 instead of 1d12+2. Hmmm, not too compelling.

Owlbear – AS iconic as a creature can get, this rendition of the owlbear reduces its myriad abilities down to rending and tearing, or claw-claw-bite in other words. I personally liked the stunning shriek, and other abilities it has gained over the years, but it is deadly enough in its essential form.

Rat, cave and dire – A pair of rats, one small, the one medium, with really no other differences between them except a hit point or two. Does one have spikes?

I love skeletons.

Skeleton – I like these fearless, mindless, undead. The rules for resistance to slashing and piercing, vulnerable to bludgeoning is just right, at half damage or double damage, respectively.

Stirge – One of my favorite monsters, I still remember a certain high ceiling chapel in the temple of elemental evil, where I first unleashed these deadly mosquito-bats on an unsuspecting party. Or more recently, giant undead bloated stirges who attacked a party boating down the river of blood. Next week, my friends will get a taste of the new and improved stirge. Oops I said too much.

Troll – Fire and acid? Check. Claw-claw-bite? Check. Bad-ass? Check and complete. Get rid of the excess language and just say “a troll can only be killed when it takes fire or acid damage while at or below zero hit points.”

Wight – These undead creatures have classically been the weakest of the “eneergy draining” undead, but here their energy drain power has lost all its teeth, merely doing hit point damage. Boo. Make necrotic damage unhealable by normal means and you might have a good idea. Energy drain, in some form if not level-drain, needs to exist.

Zombie – Yep they are slow, with a movement of twenty feet, and an armor class of 8. I didn’t even know you could go below 10, my brain starts doing flip flops, and just like 1985, AC of 8 seems better than 10, so I unconsciously start making players require a 12 to hit. Whoa. With 9 hit points they aren’t that implacable, and there is no mention of head shots or plague, so these are the most neutered zombies imaginable, rather than the most innovative or iconic. I like how they are mindless with an intelligence of 10, and understand common? All that just so they could utter the word “brains?”

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Two abrupt sounds from opposite ends of the hallway alerted the foremost and rearmost adventurer in the party. In front, a click and rattling chain sound revealed a swiftly dropping portcullis, while behind, a boom and the sound of rolling. Yes, a boulder was wending its way down the hall towards them, picking up speed as it came. Those with fast enough reflexes tried to avoid the trap, but only Jambunathon and Gnar, who were in front, made it under the portcullis, and dropped the twenty feet down to the sandy floor. The thief managed to stop the portcullis from closing all the way before the boulder smashed through the party. Agnes the dwarf stood firm and was trundled over. The elf wizard Ginger was smashed into a corner of the hallway, unconcsious, as was the elven thief. Only the sorcerer remained unscathed, having held to the ceiling at the portcullis. The boulder lodged itself in the doorway inches beneath her.

Another Friday night saw us gathered about ye olde round table. This week on the menu were my wife’s famous cold italian sandwiches, made using pounds and pounds of ham, salami, pepperoni and provolone on the longest baguettes we can find. It was another full night, with 8 playing this time. The nobleman wasnt feeling well and the bounty hunter was out marching in a band somewhere. THE kittens Jinx and TWinkie were definitely in attendance, and their momma, the normally shy Boo, even joined in the festivities, pictured.

Gnar the gnomling sailor (and cleric) and Jambunathon the high elf wizard were alone in a narrow yet very tall natural chamber with a sandy floor. The room was lit by rays of sunlight far above and droplets of water also fell from the earthy ceiling, forming a mist that caught the sunlight and formed rainbows before falling onto the statue of a beautiful bathing nymph. A staff carved into the shape of a snake leaned against a small stone bench in front of the pool in which the statue stood.

The wizard had a destiny to own the fabled Snake Staff and knew instinctively his moment had come. As he watched (and heard the sounds of his smashed party above) the staff melted away into a snake slithering into the sand. HE noticed just then that snakes were sidewinding under the sand towards him and the gnome. Gnar screamed and jumped onto the bench, then tried to whack at them to keep them off, while the wizard cast sleep on as many as he could.

Eventually the snakes, sand vipers, were driven off and the wizard gained his magic staff. The rest of the party was able to climb over the boulder wedged into the doorway, and using hempen rope, thy escaped above, but not before Poppy the Elven thief strode forward, dipped her cupped palm into the pool and took a drink of the refreshing, sparkling water. I asked her to roll a d20. She rolled a 9. She felt herself swell with good health and after a moment (and the proper tension waiting to see if any new appendages grew or old ones fell off) her constitution was permanently increased by 1 point. Suddenly there was a stampede towards the fountain and many permanent boons were bestowed. Most were ability scores bumps, but Litha the elf received a seahorse mount (underwater only) and a few people received 1/day spell like powers.

Back in Chibitown, they managed to convince 5 of the chibi fanaton to come with them to the new world, and it is a good thing they did, too. THey also discovered one of the seamen, an old one-eyed rope climber with tattoos all over his arms was the son and apprentice of a famous tattoo artist. HE recognizes the gold knife as a magic tattoo knife, and says he caqn work great magic with it. He works out a deal with the sorceror/thug to set up a tattoo parlor in the new colony.

After many long days and nights sailing due south, the land of Numenora appeared on the horizon. The land of many fjords, the land rises like shaggy forest-covered bluffs out of the dark sea. They skirt the main landmass, passing a few island, including a small atoll which they have a treasure map directing them towards, and finally enter a long fjord and sail for another day before coming to a wide spit of flat land with a narrow splashing river along one stony side.

Here they expected to see a long pier and a stout wooden stockade wall waiting for them to settle within. TEn woodsmen had been dispathed the year before to cut down the woods surrounding their site and prepare for occupation. Only a section of the dock was complete, and one lone buiding at the edge of shore. The woods were still encroaching onto the colony site, having been only half cleared. OF the stockade, only three corner posts had been driven into the ground, and none of the wood from so many felled trees remained.

IT was a disaster. Luckily they had five of the fanaton, who were renowned for their carpentry skills, so all was not lost, if only they could find the missing stacks of lumber. Further inspection revealed fire damage to the large storage building, and found the torn up remains of the woodsmen property, but no sign of them. A few pieces of wood remained where a large stack once stood, and a wide, obvious path led north towards the mountains. It looked like the lumber had been dragged off. That night everyone stayed aboard the ship, and they heard strange animal shrieks coming from the forest. The wizard surmised they were the call of the owlbear, a fearsome creature, but they never saw one.

The next day after the colonists were instructed to start preparing their new home, first by fixing the main building, then by starting on the stockade wall, the heroes of our trail set off to follow the trail of splinters. They passed a couple of crossing paths that looked like game trails, but stayed unerringly on the path to get their wood back, which was essential to building the colony. By late afternoon they came to a place where the forest abruptly ended. A spur of the mountains jutted out and atop it a gargantuan wooden tower had been hastily erected. It sat ponderously and leaning, and covered in a dark grey goo.

The tower had a triangular outer wall and was on the edge of the precipice so it was inaccessible from all directions but the front. A natural stone stairway led up to the front of the stone plateau on which the necromancer ‘s tower perched. In front of the main outer wall a trench had been dug and it was filled with the rotting corpses of animals, giving off a pungent stench. A narrow wooden drawbridge led across this pit and to the main doors. At each corner of the tower a skeleton was attached to the wall and it held a glowing wand in its bony hand. They decided to wait until nightfall.

One of the boons from the fountain was invisibility for 1 minute per day, received by Ginger the elf wizard. She used her power now to move forward to the bridge. The skeletons seemed agitated but did not focus on her,so she crept further still. Her time was almost up so she gave a great shove, and managed to swing one of the doors open a few inches, before turning and rushing back towards her allies. Two of the skeletons detected her presence and fired rays of frost, but they struck the bridge beneath her flying heels and she escaped unharmed.

A shoot-out followed and the skeletons were soon destroyed. The sound of a gnome’s laugh cut through the suddenly still night and they looked up to see a tiny smiling face many hundreds of feet above in the tower top, where a rickety catwalk surrounded the steeply pitched roof. The gnome shouted something like “Feel the wrath of my minions!” and suddenly amongst the carnage in the pits, 12 undead forms of corruption rose and shook of the offal of their brethren to howl and growl menacingly. Skeletal wolves clawed their way toward the party. Everyone made it across the drawbridge and into the tower, but for the wizard. The sorcerer stayed behind to hold off the undead while the wizard raced past.

They made it through the doors and into the courtyard of the Necromancer’s Tower.

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The Wild Isle of Wide Eyed Dread

Continuing on their journey of colonization to the land of Numenoria, the SS Zario was scheduled to stop for water and fresh food at the little known trading outpost Chibitown on the Isle of Dread. This was the last outpost of civilization before the long voyage south to Numenoria, or “land of Craggy fjords”.

Chibitown was on the site of a once notorious pirate hide-out, and was in a protected and hidden bay that required skill to navigate. Broken ships on the stony teeth lining the narrow channel leading into the cove were a testament to the dangers. Soon they saw the grey walls of Chibitown, like a medeival castle plunked down on the sandy shores of the tropical isle. As usual Captain Behab made sure everyone knew the ship had to leave on the next tide – or risk being stranded for days or weeks as the winds shifted.

The ship weighed anchor as the six (present) characters loaded into the dinghy and rowed ashore. Litha, Gnar, Zooby, Agnes, Jambunathon, and Marcel Proust (who suffered from ‘the vapors’ and was only available for one key moment) landed at the closed wooden gate and realized that the stone castle was actually made of hundreds of blocks of lead. Strange. A furry chibi-head poked its head over the top of the wall and shouted “No admittance! Chibi-chibi-fanaTON!”

Chibi chibi FAN-aton!

The chibi-fanaton (so named for their yodeling call) were a species of halfling-sized flying monkeys with dagger-weilding prehensile tails. Their natural intelligence and curiosity led a wizard to gather a group of them for research. When a chibi got its paws on the wizards artifact, the crown of sagacity, the poor creature underwent a horrid transformation as its mind and body overloaded with the horrible wisdom that comes with unfettered knowledge. Most of its fur fell out and its tail turned black and fell to the floor, shrivelled. And so was born the halfling race. A bloody civil war soon followed, the crown was lost, and now chibi and halfling lived side by side in peace.

It turns out the lagoon was cursed by the “Great Croc” and the gates of Chibi-town would not open until the fearsome creatures (forty chibi in length) was dealt with. The party was quick to agree to deal with the croc, and the chibi was so thankful he gave them the additional information that a pirate who claimed to have a treasure map recently claimed he would slay the creature and went off in search of it.

Soon the party followed the small snaky river into deep jungle, and the sky disappeared in the shadows of the overhanging foliage. The crocs lair was at its source: a large pool beneath a waterfall at the foot of sharp craggy mountains. The party landed the dinghy on a sandy shore just below the main pool except for the gnome who landed her canoe on the other side. All but the dwarf and the wizard climbed into the nearest palm tree. They saw a huge shape slink into the water ahead.

With a lunge the huge crocodile shot out of the water its entire length – over 30 feet, to grab the poor elf wizard in its jaws. The attack tore through the wizard and immediately reduced him to unconsciousness. The croc prepared to bite the near-dead elf in half. The wood elf could not stand to see her ally in pain and channeled her divine healing, bringing the wizard back to full hp in a miraculous way. The rest of the party attacked from range but most attacks bounded harmlessly off the horny hide of the Great Croc.

non-nom-nom

One of the wizards arms was pinned so he couldnt cast a spell, so he turned and reached down the crocs throat and Shocking Grasped its uvula. Nsturally, he rolled a 20. He was spit out and landed at the base of the nearest tree, and the entire croc lit up like a lightbulb. What’s more, the arcane magic sparked off a Shrink Ray (criticial affect!) which meant that the huge crocs head shrunk to a comparatively tiny size for the next 3 rounds. Its normally pea-sized brain was now o larger than a grain of sand. This meant reduced bite damage 1d6 down from 3d6, but the tail-swipe was as dangerous as ever. It reared its tinyhead and let out a great roar.

Out of the blue the human noble duelist walked up and pierced the croc through its heart with his rapier. It was slain and they all high-fived. The gnome was sliding down her tree across the river when she felt a snapping at her britches…

A\It was another, merely large, croc! This one attacked the gnome savagely but was soon slain without further damage. The bounty hunter was worried the great croc’s head would stay tiny but was happy to see it bounce back to size so she could begin butchering it. She saw the slowly digesting remains of a hand reaching up the crocs throat and with sickening plop, pulled the swallowed-hole body of a pirate from the carcass. SA map was tattooed on his back and it looked like a treasure map. The bounty hunter wore the map like a cape. It was pretty disgusting.

Meanwhile a passage was found behind the waterfall and it led to a dead end with an ancient mural done in the fresca style. It depicted a war between a race of fish-men versus mer-men and aquatic elfs. When the wizard studied it he also recognized it was an underwater map of the surrounding regions of ocean. Just then Zoobyzoo recognized a trap, and as more of the party went down the hall it tilted, causing many of them to fall as the exit was closed off. The hallway dropped forty-five degrees and they tumbled into a chamber with two exits and a fish statue with glittering diamond scales in the center. The wizard used mage hand to pry loose a diamond and watched as a razor blade flicked out and would hve lopped off the hand of a thief. He appraised the diamond at 25 gp. The next one turned out to be nothing more than a chip of glass. They heard breathing from one doorway, then the sound of retreating footsteps, so decided to go the other way.

The next chamber had another statue, of a fish buhdda with ruby eyes. When the rogue entered she was entranced by the eyes and stopped in her tracks trying to overcome the affects with her will. the gnome entered to help and tried to avoid the ruby eyes, but she noticed a single gold tooth, made of a dagger. Then the glow of the ruby eye glinted off the gold tooth and she was entranced. The fish-buhdda croaked a single word: FIGHT!

After a few rounds of a pathetic attempt not to fight, the trap was disabled, the rubies and dagger removed. They realized the rubies were the size of crystal balls and one could see what was happening through the other one by looking into it. THe gold tooth was actually a tattooist knife. It radiated ancient primordial magic, though very dimly.

They followed the only other hallway out of the chamber and it led to what can only be called a cavern cathederal. It was a small room but incredibly tall, with stalactites holding tight to the ceiling, through which a few shafts of sunlight speared. Water from springs trickled down out of the roof of the cavern and splashed in the center, about level with the party, where it formed a double rainbow with the lancing sunrays. This shower fell onto the statue of a dryad showering, standing in a pool before a small stone bench. Leaning on the bench was a staff with a snake curling around it. (The wizard’s destiny is to own the snake staff.)

The floor of the cavern was sandy and the chamber seemed quiet and peaceful…

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Twinx and Jinkies

Tonight’s game turned into the largest crowd in over a year, with all 10 currently active players attending. We didn’t even use the leaf for our enormous table, and a few chairs alternated as people drifted in and out of the game. This was by intent, but going forward I Will use the leaf, since I realized that I need more attention! Otherwise the lazy susan rotation of a few people retiring to the couch or the kitchen for awhile seems to be a workable solution to the problem of hosting large games.

On the menu was meat. The grill was open, so to speak, and the DM donned his chef hat to man the grill. (It was actually raining pretty hard so I donned a felt bowler hat, which kept my head and glasses surprisingly rain-free during the grilling. Those Brits!) Brought to the table were 36 drumsticks – slathered in bbq sauce and burnt to a crisp, 14 hamburgers like big juicy (but not pink) meatballs, a dozen hotdogs variously scorched and some plump turkey-sausage. It was divine. There were few leftovers. Unfortunately the bacchanalian feast meant that our normal start time was delayed so we only played 2 hours.

The cast of characters as follows:
Dr House the Human Charlatan warlock played by Dave
Ginger the Elf wizard pregen, played by Dave’s Ginger
Zoobezoo the charlatan elf rogue, played by the hostess with the mostess
Agnes the fighting dwarf, played by Dr Karen Khar
The human Thug and sorceror, played by Shannon
The human bounty hunter pre-gen, played by Beth
Jambunathon the high elf wizard played by Joel
Marcel Proust the homeless noble, played by Jackson
Litha the wood elf sun cleric played by Audrey
And finally the gnomling Gnar, sailor and cleric, played by Erica

Not included but ever present and at the center of action were the kittens Jinx and Twinkie Pie, which acted as unstoppable elemental forces of chaos, distracting and disrupting everyone’s plans.

The evening opened on board the SS Zario, at the conclusion of a battle with drow pirates attempting to take the ship. Rather than play out the battle, I ruled the two lower drow were killed, but the drow captain vanished in a puff of darkness. One of the four barbarian swordsmen was alive, so they bound him to question later. From the drow they found a pair of seal-skin suits and strange coral air-filters that together allowed them to swim underwater. The weapons were coated in a thin oil and when the sun rose, their items decayed quickly to trash.

The SS Zario was on a mission to found a colony on a newly discovered land far to the south called Numenoria. Their first stop on the voyage was to pick up the damsel Lady Butterbridge and her three daughters from the town of Freeport. From there, it was on to the Isle of Dread to refill water and hopefully trade for food, then the final long leg across the equator and to the southern continent of Numenoria.

The weather held for a fortnight and they reached the once piratical haven which now called itself Port Freedom. The city was a nominal democracy, controlled by 4 major and a multitude of minor merchant houses. The lady Butterbridge was the widow of a rich merchant lord who now wished to leave the city and its dirty politics behind. She and her three daughters, Helga 25, Olga 20, and Inga 15, would make a new start in the new world. The Lady Butterbridge had funded the mission in cooperation with her homeland of Shalazar, and the ship belonged to her.

Port Freedom was on a spit of land protected by a mountain and deep jungle. Long stony strands encompassed a deep harbor, and the majority of the city was built on three great docks in this secluded harbor. A wall enclosed it from the sea, and ships had to pass through a well defended tunnel to reach the inner harbor. The ship was waved quickly through when it arrived, without all the normal red tape and “fee taxes.” They found the Lady Butterbridge standing behind an enormous pile of furniture and luggage. She looked distressed, and when she recognized her ship, began waving her handkerchief until it docked.

In short, her three daughters were missing, as well as the key to her vault with the Port Freedom savings and loan. She suspected foul play. The daughters were supposed to follow the wagons and meet at the dock but never showed up. After questioning the lady revealed that Helga often volunteered with the House of Grey Veils, who believed in a form of commumysticism. Olga did not want to leave and was upset to leave her boyfriend the Earl of Tallyrand behind. And finally young Inga had a best friend named Copper, an orphan who lived at the orphanage of Nurse Hatchett.

Captain Behab announced that a storm was moving in that could last for weeks and they needed to set sail no later than high tide 3 hours after midnight, so the heroes of our story had about twelve hours to find the missing girls. The Lady Butterworth was too infirm to be much help, using the medieval version of a walker. (A cane I guess, or possibly a crutch or crook?)

The orphanage revealed that Copper was missing as well as all of her stuff. The bank revealed that both a key AND a signet ring of house Butterball are required to open the vault and no such opening had happened. They were suspicious but could not gain entry to check that nothing was missing. Going next to House Grey Veil they spoke with its leader, Lord Frost, who looked rather draconic under his veil. He said Helga often volunteered with growing rare herbs, and that morning she had filled a cart with young saplings. She said she was going to the market. They found Helga at the market, with her cart of rare medicinal herbs. The plants were for their voyage, and she was purchasing a wedding dress for her sister, and was supposed to meet her at the dock soon. They all went to the meeting place but Olga never showed up.

Soon they noticed a ship parked nearby, called the Blue Nixie, was owned by the Earl Tallyrand. However, it was manned by disreputable looking pirates. A mean half orc kept eying them suspiciously from the top of the gangplank. They heard a scream from aboard and the elf rogue Zooby-zoo wasted no time but dove into the water to investigate the suspicious ship. Meanwhile others stormed the gangplank. The captain came from below and he wore an enormous pirate hat that had tassels hanging down to cover his face.

FOur pirate were aloft in the rigging and the half orc at the gangplank was soon killed. Some one scored a critical hit, incredibly doing 30 points to the captain and he fell dead. His hat rolled away revealing him to have the head of a snake. As it was time to wrap up, the rest of the pirates dove into the sea and the party was victorious. They found OLga below with her love Earl Tallyrand. He had funded this second ship and filled it with provisions to elope with Olga together to the land of Numenoria. He chose a bad crew. Little Inga was waiting when they returned the elder daughters to their mother, and they set sail with time to spare, only realizing a few days later that they had a stowaway, the orphan Copper. They also never found the key to Butterwoorth’s bank vault. (Hint: it was a pirate-ninja.)

But the tide waits for no man, and the SS Zario must continue its mission to deliver settlers to Numenoria. Next stop, watering and provisioning at the Isle of Dread.

Napping between turns

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