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halloween

For Halloween 2016 I wanted to do something special. After an eight year run of weekly gaming, we have recently been reduced to a series of monthly game nights, split between dnd and board games, due to some people moving away and others getting busy. It is getting harder and harder for me to get my dnd fix, so on these special occasions where we have a chance to play for 4 or 5 hours, I like to make the night unique and memorable.

Last month, we had a game night that corresponded to the Release of the Middle Earth Players Guide. I came up with a short adventure that involved a fellowship, travelling on a journey, and the exploration of a Wight’s Tomb. Not to spend too much time on that episode, it is worth noting that the game was fun and that middle earth roleplaying with official licensed Dnd products is now possible, entertaining, and worthwhile. The rules otions seem solid.

My favorite part of that episode, after half the night was spent making characters, was when they came across an ancient battlefield and stumbled into the tomb of an elf who was killed by an Orc’s cursed sword. I had been reading stories about some hideous idea to dip bullets into pig’s blood prior to shooting Islamic terrorists so as to keep them out of heaven or something. Anyway it gave me the idea of this cursed orc sword. Whenever it strikes an elf, a sliver of the metal is lodged in the elf’s body, so that when the elf dies, they do not go west, but their soul is trapped in the world as a ghost, or poltergeist (can’t remember which stats I used.) So After millennia of being trapped, the elf ghost has gone mad with interminable pain and attaks all who enter. The PC’s had to figure out what was wrong with him and save him while he tried to kill them! They were able to remove the sliver and end the elf’s suffering…. Which promptly caused the barrow to collapse, nearly crushing them all! Good times.

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But that was last game, what have we done lately? Well, this time I gave into one of the player’s most requested type of game – an evil campaign! This was going to be the game night for Murder Hobos to finally get a chance to shine. In the past, the character have done some pretty nefarious deeds, but always with the thinnest pretext of not being evil. Well, this time the gloves were off, and the characters had a requirement to choose one of the three evils for their alignment: chaotic, neutral, or lawful. On top of thet, we pre-made the characters before game time so as to minimize prep, and I broke another cardinal rule of my own and allowed the characters to start at fifth level rather than first. This may be the first time I have ever allowed that, and it seems to have worked out.

The premise was sweet and simple. Each character had a chosen demon lord patriarch, and they were being sent to the world to refill their master’s armies of darkness. Every kill that each PC made would go directly to that demon’s army. Kill stealing, backstabbing, and any other nefarious activity were allowed and expected.

To get up to the world from the underworld was not so easy, however, and for the opening scene, the character found themselves stuck in a force field around a pentagram, having been summoned by a snotty and inexperienced drow wizard to do his bidding and assassinate the scion of a rival house. The drow mage would only release them if they agreed to his quest, and would be unable to harm the wizard while on the quest – standard Geas fare. The perceptive character however, noticed a few flaws with the set up. They discovered that a stalactite had made the force field imperfect, and that 40 simultaneous points of damage would destroy it.

Destroy it they did, in a surprise assault on the force field. It broke under pressure of the combined attacks of all five characters. We then rolled initiative and the character focus fired on the wizard, taking him out before he even realized how doomed he was. Ironically, the five basic drow mercenaries who were with the wizard, passed a morale check and put up a really tough fight. They used a little bit of focus firing themselves, and reduced the bard to single digits.

Then the necromancer pulled 8 skeletons out of his bag of holding, and they began to whittle down the drow with arrows, but not before they got in a few licks against the wizard, who also went into single digits. He became alarmed for his skin, so he leapt into his own bag of holding to escape the punishment! The nearest drow scooped up the bag of holding and dropped it into a nearby cauldron of burning oil. (I am evil like that.)

The battle was won before the wizard burned up or suffocated (because I am not evil lie that) and the bard decided, grudgingly, to give back the bag of holding he just found and release the wizard.

The characters peeked out the door the were in to find themselves in a drow city. It is a suburb of the main drow capital, called Melanie Bonet (which is a shout out to Moorcock’s Elric and his corrupt city of Melnibone.)

The city is ancient, and it is formed by eons of stalactites dripping down to form narrow alleyways and streets between long tall walls of stalagmites. They immediately encounter a group of drow children playing the fun game of “Last One It is Dead,” and one of the drow kids makes a mistake of provoking the warlock, who blasts off a head-exploding spell. The drow children run off with their little knives, and cause no further problems.

They are walking through a poor section of the city and come across a diseased elf who begins coughing, releasing spores. The warlock is infected by Zugtmoy’s spores, but the rest make it safely through the quarantined area until they are stopped at the gates by four more drow warriors, with spears and riding giant lizards. The battle went well and they made it out of the quarantined district, and that is where we left off for the night.

We played a game called Secret Hitler afterwards, which I am incurably bad at. I just cant be sneaky I guess. It was a great game night, so much fun after a month of no gaming.

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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.

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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!

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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

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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.

meow.

meow.

And that is how it happened.

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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.

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the stage was set for a night of uncommon adventure

the stage was set for a night of uncommon adventure


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

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

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

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

Wave Echo Cave

Wave Echo Cave

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

ET Phone Home - and bring me a Tab please

ET Phone Home – and bring me a Tab please

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

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

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

Panther, badger, octopus - ATTACK!

Panther, badger, octopus – ATTACK!

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

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

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

It was a great night.

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