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Here be monsters

Here be monsters

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

Thin, thick, thicker, THICKEST

Thin, thick, thicker, THICKEST

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

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

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

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

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

Never to be spoken of again

Never to be spoken of again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advanced Dm of Doom has spoken

Advanced Dm of Doom has spoken

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The Temple of Elemental Evil Game Night

The Temple of Elemental Evil Game Night

Two years ago this January, we began playing the adventure Village of Hommlett. It was an epic occasion, but fell apart in the village of Nulb before ever venturing into the Temple of Elemental Evil itself. That game included some of the best roleplaying in the history of our game group: featuring one of my all time favorite characters the gunslinger Calamity Jane and her twin sister Calamity Joan; using the Pathfinder Beginner Box rules was a huge change from our earlier style of gaming; Rufus and Burne the gaylords; … there is too much to recount, read about it here: Welcome to the Welcome Wench, Wench!

toee

Starting this year we changed all that, with a deus machina shift in the gears of our current campaignto place our heroes rght about where the last game ended, at the gates of the Temple of Elemental Evil. It happened like this…

For what seemed an eternity the part of advenurers had been wandering aimlessly through and endless dungeon with no sign of escape. Eventually they found themselves traversing a wide open area with grotesque columns holding up an arched vaulted ceiling. The chittering skittering sounds that were following them wherever they went surrounded them and resolved into giant insects of all shapes and sizes. The one thing they all had in common was that the bodies of the insects were covered in strange tufts of fuzz. The fuzzy mold covering the insects was of a different color for each one, ranging from bright purple to yellow ochre. The insects were easily defeated but the wizard and paladin were each bitten and contrated a constitution-sapping disease. Which the paladin promptly healed.

With much flapping of wings, the Raven Queen appeared, and offered to help them escape from the endless dungeon if they would do her a small favor – and slay the Demon Godess of Cosmic Fungus, Zuggtmoy, who was imprisoned beneath a temple dedicated to evil. They agreed and on a side note the paladin swore fealty to the Raen Queen and was granted additional healing.

They walked through a portal which sent them to a path. In one direction lay a hill in a clearing, upon which the blackened blight of the temple slouched. The other way led to a village of good helpful folk led by gay lords. The Raven warned them not to let the townsfolk know the temple was growing in power, for if they found out, the king’s evil advisor would soon learn and send armies of humanoids.

The Temple of Elemental Evil using Dwarven Forge Game Tiles (plus extras)

The Temple of Elemental Evil using Dwarven Forge Game Tiles (plus extras)

While investigating the temple grounds, they unleashed a horde of 70 giant rats. This caused them to seek quick entry into the temple, so they held the ats off while they broke through the stout side door. Once inside, they began a methodical search of the interior, finding robes in four colors, and finding four means of gaining access to the lower levels: a great pit in the center of the temple had a narrow ledge spiraling down; a grand central stair led downwards; and two sets of spiral stairs also led down, hidden in chambers to the left and right.

While investigating the grotesque throne at the end of the temple, through luck and tenacity, they managed to figure out the puzzle. The chair immediately descended many hundreds of feet downward and opened into a strange fungus filled chamber with many doors ad stairways leading from it. While searching the room, they found two secret doors. The first door led to a sitting room filled with loveseats, divans, nd ottomans of all different colors. The fightress sat down on a green velvet divan and put her feet up on a black leather ottoman only to find they were actually made of green slime and black pudding!

They fled through the other secret door and came to a room that had a conference table and a great map of the region on the wall with the temple marked at its center. A shelf contained many silver weapons. There was also a black ottoman that attacked them and chased them out of the room and all the way back onto the throne, which they took back to ground level, after deciding that they still lacked the power to take on the Demon Goddess of Cosmic Slime in her own boudoir.

They ultimately decided to take a side stair down to the first level of the dungeon and begin exploring there. They passed through two intersections before coming to a hexoganal shaped room with debris on the floor. Just as the kender assassin found a magic ring on the floor, 16 stirges attacked, four per charater.It was a tough battle, but they defeated the stirges and found a ring of incredible worth.

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High Noon on Ant Hill

High Noon on Ant Hill

One of the first adventures I wrote for 4th edition, while still testing out the game, and before taking the plunge with a new campaign, was the “delve” High Noon on Ant Hill. It is a 3-5 encounter mini adventure with a very straight-forward premise. Enter the ant hill of the giant ants and kill the queen. It was played twice, once with a group of middle schoolers, who only made it through the first encounter, and once with the permanent members of the game group, who were slaughtered during the final encounter. It was a great little adventure, known and reviled for its difficulty, and I decided to dust it off for our Thanksgiving game bash. It was a ton of fun.

The adventure was updated to 5th edition rules on the fly, and other changes were made to help the game “flow” and also because I wanted to build the whole dungeon before-hand using my collection of Dwarven forge game tiles. The delve was incorporated into the dungeon the party has been exploring, and for simplicity sake, there was no resting and no turning back while we played. I let the players know that if they made it through the whole adventure, they would gain a level at the end. This seemed to keep them moving forward without too much complaining. Sadly no photo was taken of the delve during play, but it consisted of four encounter areas.

The first encounter is the hill. Originally, it was a large conical hill with a dead tree at its top. The tree was hollow and acted as a doorway into the anthill. In this rendition, I mixed it up. They entered a large chamber. The ants had dug up a twenty foot trench and used the dirt to create a hill against the back wall of the chamber. They stood the trunk of dead tree at the top of the pile, and the hollow led through a passageway to the door in the back wall of the room. Hidden in the branches of the dead tree were a pair of giant flying ant drones. They were tough.

The ants had a high armor class and high hit points, and they had a fly by attack that let them make an attack in the middle of a move without provoking an attack. This worked until the party forced them to attack at the limit of their 8 squares, so they ended their round next to a party member. When the ants became bloodied, they could shatter their crystalline wings in a burst attack of crystal shards.

The ants were killed, and in the process the wizard’s ferret familiar was reduced to one hit point. Rather than having a wounded ferret on his hands, the wizard snapped its spine so it would reform fully healed in thirty minutes. The little ferret let out an agonizing squeal as it perished at its owners hands. The squeal echoed down the hallways and nearly a mile away, a giant lizard heard the sound of breakfast being served. Before exiting the chamber through the bole of the tree, they found a dead elf concealed by his cloak of elvenkind. The rogue snapped it up.

They came to a hallway, and heard a scratching sound ahead. They were not surprised by the carrion crawler ambush, and everyone was waiting for it when it sprang out of the wall. But they were not expecting the giant lizard coming at them from the direction they just came. The lizard attacked the wizard and while the rest of the prty fought the carrion crawler, the wizard fought the lizard. He scared the lizard so bad with his imitation of a female lizard in mating season, that the monster leaped up into the wizards arms, yet still tried to swallow his head. The paladin finally slew the carrion crawler and turned to stab the lizard. The wizard wept at the lizard’s passing, having become very close to it in such a short emotion filled encounter. From the lair of the carrion crawler, they found a pair of potions. One was a potion of invisibility, the other was unknown.

The third encounter area was a long chamber with the center dug up for farming. Various fungi were being tended by ten giant worker ants, and guarded by 2 warrior ants. Additionally, one new worker ant appeared from the far door each round until the characters moved into the final room. This battle was quick and decisive, as the worker ants only had one hit point apiece (yay minions!) In the fungi field they found an abandoned battle axe +1, which was made of weightless iron, and had a quirk that it was the only magic weapon carryable at ta time. The paladin took up the axe, but traded it with the fightress at the end of the adventure.

The party entered the final chamber where they had to fight the queen ant and her pair of drone cows, each of which was covered in corrosive slime and could pump out a worker ant or make a pincer attack. Meanwhile the queen flitted about making pincer attacks. The wizard was struck by a critical hit and knocked unconscious. The fightress attacked a cow and her weapons were corroded by the acidic slime. She went down the next round, and it was up to the kinder assassin and the dragonborn paladin to bring it to a conclusion, which they did. Beside the magical component they were looking for, they were rewarded with 500 gold pieces, a magic suit of banded +1 and a wand of magic missiles with 10 charges.

And they made it to third level. Good game.

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thedm2Join me if you will good travelers as I recount a tale of how a group of random homicidal maniacs fell together one day into a large hole in the ground. Once down there, this group of murder-hoboes teamed up to embark on a voyage to escape, and to destroy the divine pantheon of their world’s creation along the way. Oops!

The wizard had in his possession a magic recipe for the creation of an unknown magic item. The scroll was blank, and only when a spell component was near would a line appear with the needed ingredient. As the party was arguing and picking each others pockets in some obscure hall in an unknown stretch of dungeon, Jambunathon felt a warming sensation in his breast. No it was not his heart growing three times larger, it was the first line of the recipe filling in on the scroll in his vest pocket.

a hall

a hall

Dwarven False Gold appeared, a type of ore mined by dwarves and renowned for its use in magic. Ahead they saw a set of iridescent glowing, multi-faceted eyes at the end of the hall. A carrion crawler and giant soldier ant were locked in mortal combat. The ants eyes were glowing with particles of dwarven false gold. The adventurers quickly slew both insects, and they discovered that the ant carried 1/150th of the amount of the stuff they needed.

Ant man vs cat fish - I mean giant warrior ant and carrion crawler locked in combat

Ant man vs cat fish – I mean giant warrior ant and carrion crawler locked in combat

It was decided that the drone mothers, who spawned countless ant warriors, must contain glands full of the dissolved gold, and that they could get the required 2 pounds by extracting it from the source, rather than 149 more sets of ant warriors eyes.

However, when the party decided which hallway to follow at the intersection with the insect incident, they chose the long, dark, narrow passage sloping downwards, rather than the wide hallway with clear ant tracks. Go figure.

This way be monsters... but that way be monsters too.

This way be monsters… but that way be monsters too.

They came to a stair and descended. At the bottom of the stair, the magic users detected and anti-magic field. They entered, and were in a region that was totally dead to magic. There was also no escape, they could not leave the anti-magic shell once in.

But first, there was a strange and unexplained rumbling in the walls...

But first, there was a strange and unexplained rumbling in the walls…

They could hear the sounds of women grunting in what sounded like athletic exertion, and soon discovered its source. A chamber held two naked women, holding hands and fighting desperately with their long nails, gashing and gouging in a mortal fight that upon closer examination had been going on for a long time.

They were the fleshly avatars of the Goddess of Betrayal and of Treachery. They had been imprisoned and could not leave until one was destroyed, but they were equal in power, and though stripped of magic by the anti-magic shell they were trapped within, they could not one overpower the other.

Interestingly, another item appeared on the wizard’s grocery list. One drop divine heart blood. Oh this was going to be good.

The godess of treachery drew the short straw, and she was soon killed. The fightress Jillian knew a moment of divine strength as she beheaded the goddess. She then felt a stabbing pain in her back, as the lights dimmed in her eyes. Betrayed by the Goddess of Betrayal!

This is a creatively re-imagined portrayal of what actually didnt happen.

This is a creatively re-imagined portrayal of what actually didnt happen.

When the goddess was slain, the anti-magic shell dissipated. The Goddess of Treachery regained her powers and grew another set of arms and daggers appeared in each delicate hand.

The wizard survived a slash of her blade as he gathered a drop of divine blood. The paladin saved the fightress by laying on hands, and the goddess recognized she was in danger. In return for letting her escape, she would tell them the location of a magic sword (up the stairs down the hall, turn left, cross the wide hall and continue along to the tee intersection, look for the secret door) and she also granted them a favor if they should ever call on her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Murder-In-Baldurs-Gate

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

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

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

DL1

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

DL2

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

DL3

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

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

DL4

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

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

DL5

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

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

DL6

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

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

Deadrock

Deadrock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

map1

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

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

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

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