5e Grognard

5e Grognard

Old school ideas, new edition rules.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Deathcrypt of Khaldun, play report and review

So work is getting into a somewhat manageable level, for now. With Christmas around the corner, things at UPS tend to get a bit hectic, so I'll try to get some updates in while I can. I'm still behind in posting some play reports. We had a flurry of playing going on a few months ago. Game prep took some time away from the blog as well, as it should be! This blog pretty much is a Downtime Activity for me as a DM.

This session we return to using Basic Fantasy Role Playing's Adventure Anthology One. You can download AAO and a bunch of other free adventures on Basic Fantasy's download page. While they use BFRP rules, they are very easily converted to 5e, and have a nice old-school feel that I like. This time I used the Deathcrypt of Khaldun, by Scott A. Murray. Again we played this awhile ago, so many of the details are fuzzy, but I do remember this as a great session and a nice little adventure.

After the near-TPK of our group during the capture of Iong, they decided to head back to Cahill Abbey to rest and recuperate before exploring the ruins under the old temple. First off they talked to Yerris Lyedenbur, the paladin leader of the hobgoblin troop that has recently been assigned to Cahill Abbey to protect and investigate strange goings on. They arranged for her troop to hold onto Iong while they went to investigate. Guarding prisoners not being a part of their mission, the party agreed to pay the wages of the soldiers that would be guarding Iong until their return.

Speaking of our group, they are all 5th level and consist of:

Ash. She's a fire genasi valor bard with the entertainer background.

Tulgasora. Originally a half orc bull totem barbarian with the bounty hunter background. Since there are no orcs on Eska, but my son liked the half orc mechanics, we reskinned him as a "savage hobgoblin", and not from one of the organized troops.

Pyric. Aasimar celestial sorcerer with the tinkerer background.

Long before the Kinslayer War, Khaldun was a sorcerer that tormented the region with disease and hordes of undead using the mystic powers of a magical tome. He was eventually defeated, and driven into the wilderness where he instructed his followers to build him a crypt and to seal themselves inside as his guardians. This was long enough ago that few elven sages are even familiar with the name Khaldun.

Descending under the old abbey's ruins, the smell of death and decay met them. Cobwebs filled the passages, leading to what turned out to be a false crypt. A leering demonic statue regurgitating fetid water from it's mouth into a fountain, and beyond was a sarcophagus. Tulgasora approached the sarcophagus while Ash and Pyric hung back. When he tried to open it, a small horde of zombies and skeletons rose from the corners and the fountain and attacked the party! They made quick work of them, though.

From there they had their choice of two directions to go, and luckily for them, chose the way that lead directly to the true crypt! Using cunning, guile, and some lucky dice rolls, they managed to circumvent some locked doors and avoid some nasty traps. They passed through a few chambers and halls covered with murals depicting Khaldun at the height of his power and glory, giving them some clue to what they may face beyond.

They emerged into a vast crypt, cloaked in black marble. A large square stone block dominted the middle of the chamber, carved with the image of a leering skull. Flickering green torches gave off an eerie light, showing them root covered walls. Alcoves on either side seemed to shake with anticipation. From the sarcophagus on the far side of the room a frail-looking mummy arose, it's red eyes shining in the darkness. In a low gurgle, it said: "Long have I awaited to take my revenge upon the living. I am pleased that the mortal kingdoms have already sent unto me an offering..."

Image result for hyperborean mummy

The adventure called for an mummy cleric, but I used an hyperborean mummy. Instead of skeletons, I put in dry bones. The bleak touch ability of the mummy made things tough for Tulgasora, who charged forward, leaving Ash and Pyric to deal with the skeletons.

The combine ability of the skeletons was troubling as well. They assumed that the green torches had something to do with it, and started trying to put them out. I liked that idea. Wasn't something I had originally planned for, but I let it work.

As skeletons started to fall and Tulgasora started landing blows on the mummy, Khaldun's red eyes glowed with rage, and raised his hands. Wisps of purple energy trailed from his fingertips as he spoke words of blasphemy. The sounds of rattling bones and metal sounded from an alcove, and a minotaur skeleton rose up. This pressed the party, but with the dry bones falling, they were able to focus fire on the two bigger opponents. As the killing blow was landed on Khaldun, he fell to his knees and let out a terrible curse as black flames rose from his outstretched arms. The large square in the middle of the room lowered, revealing a black dragon skeleton. A hoarse cackle escapes from Khaldun as he crumbles to ash.

The dice fell well for the party against the dragon skeleton, and they took it down in no time. Battered and bruised they took a short rest. They gathered up some loot, including the undecipherable Book of Khaldun.

Going back to the false crypt, the find the other side thick with webs, and a pair of giant spiders. The only thing I have from my notes from this entire adventure came from this fight. Battling at range, Tulgasora was using thrown hand axes. After a solid hit, Ash cast dissonant whispers, causing the spider to flee. "THAT SPIDER HAS MY AXE!"

They had some luck finding a few secret doors, one which led to some treasure and the other that let them bypass some traps. The second led them to the Sepulcher of Vetula. Vetula was Khaldun's lieutenant in life, and in undeath as well. Now a wight, Vetula wields a serrated axe and a heavy black shield painted with a red skull. "You shall pay for your intrusion with your souls" he says, as he rings a gong with the half of his axe. Two ghostly hellhounds appear. I honestly don't remember this fight at all, except that Tulgasora was about to take a nasty critical from Vetula, but he invoked Shields Shall be Splintered! He now carries Vetula's shield.


I really liked this installment from Adventure Anthology One. In the past, I've run a lot of big dungeons. Back in high I ran a group through Temple of Elemental Evil, slogging all the way to the end. Recently, when I ran our group through Tomb of the Lizard King, I learned to dislike the longer adventures, and that was one of my all time favorites. I've really taken a liking to shorter adventures. At only seven numbered encounter areas, this was a perfect size to finish in a single session.

It uses boxed "read aloud" text. I know that is an area of debate for some people. Here it's used well. It's short and has some evocative writing, some of which I paraphrased above.

I liked how the main battle with Khadun was meant to be built upon. Starting off with Khaldun and the skeletons, then when Khaldun is at half hit points, he raises the minotaur skeleton. As he dies, he releases the dragon.  The read aloud text for this section is great.

Some nice traps and puzzles as well, though my players managed to bypass most of those with hot dice and good choices.

It also leaves things open ended with the description of the Book of Khaldun. "The Book might serve merely as a token of success, a hook for future adventure, or even an artifact around which an entire campaign is based". I like that. I fully believe as a DM you have to put out lots of hooks. The ones that the players bite at are the ones you run with.

Please check out my DMs Guild titles!
Airs of Ages Past, Nine magical harps from the Forgotten Realms
By Magic Masked, Nine magical masks from the Forgotten Realms
Grognard’s Grimoire: Sorcerers, Player’s options for the sorcerer class.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Product Review: Nerzugal's Dungeon Master Toolkit

Reviews are something new to me here at the blog. Those that follow me on Google+ know that I often share posts from other blogs that I read. I try to help turn up the volume, so to speak, on things that I find useful. Not that this item needs much help, as a Platinum Best Seller on the DM's Guild, many of you are already aware of it.

I haven't had the chance to use Nerzugal's Dungeon Master Toolkit yet, but I have a feeling that it is something that will see a lot of use at my table, though some parts more than others.

The first section, of random tables, I will probably use the most.

The random encounter table is brilliant. A d100 table with some evocative results, like "Find the lost crown of a local bullywug king. Made from a large seashell". Mixed in with several customizable results such as "Medium Difficulty Monster Encounter".

I'm also a big fan of the Random Item Enchantments tables. Eight d100 tables of magical effects for magic items, broken down into Beneficial and Detrimental Effects, of Lesser, Medium, Major and Legendary power. Overall I really like alternate magic items, stuff not found in the DMG. These tables let you make new items, or to liven up any "standard" magic items.

Section B is Puzzles. A dozen puzzles, each of a different style. Some are numerical and logic puzzles, of the sort you can easily find on the internet. Some of these are themed more towards D&D, though. As my players are fans of puzzles, I'm sure a couple of these will make there way into my games.

Section C has six "One Shots". Short, low level adventures. A pair of each the ranges of 1st-2nd, 3rd-4th and 4th-5th. Overall a nice selection that I'm sure to work in a couple at some point. A few new magic items mixed in as well.

Section D is "Dungeon Maps", a collection of 10 maps, one being a repeat from one of the One Shot adventures above. Decent maps, but nothing special.

The final section is "Complete Dungeons". Four adventures, two each of levels 4th-5th, and 6th-7th. I'm not really sure what makes these more complete than the One Shots in section C. On average they are only about a page longer. Still, some nice little adventures that I may use at some point.

I do like how the beginnings of both of the adventure sections gives a nice one-paragraph summary of each one. One thing I wasn't sold on was in a few spots in a couple of the adventures it would have a puzzle and instead of getting another puzzle, it would say "See the puzzle in section B".

Full disclosure, I don't read adventures in depth my first time thru, and I haven't with any of these. I read enough to get a feel for the theme and see what key elements are included. Actual execution I can't give a review on, but I do like what I see.

Nerzugal definitely packed a lot into these 100 pages. As a "Pay What You Want", you can't go wrong.

Friday, September 2, 2016

En5ider Monstrous Managerie: Fearsome Critters

I am quite pleased to share with you En5ider Monstrous Managerie: Fearsome Critters. This is my first freelance gaming credit and I'm very excited about it!

For those of you that don't support En5ider, I highly recommend it. Great gaming content every month for only a few dollars.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Shepherds of Pineford - Play Report and Mini-Review

Wow, over two months since my last blog post. Work has seriously taken a turn for the worse, with overtime taking over my free time.

I'll pick back up with another play report. I've gone through some Dragon Magazines recently, but there has been few things to convert for several issues. This is from an older session, so I'll be lacking on some of the details.

In our previous game, the party had tracked down the goblin Iong to Cahill Abbey. Iong had incurred some hefty gambling debts and the group was there to collect the bounty.

Speaking of our group, they are all 5th level and consist of:

Ash. She's a fire genasi valor bard with the entertainer background.

Tulgasora. Originally a half orc bull totem barbarian with the bounty hunter background. Since there are no orcs on Eska, but my son liked the half orc mechanics, we reskinned him as a "savage hobgoblin", and not from one of the organized troops.

Pyric. Aasimar celestial sorcerer with the tinkerer background.

Iong spotted our group coming and made a run for it, scrambling out to the ruins outside of town.

For this session I put together two parts from Basic Fantasy Role Playing's Adventure Anthology One. You can download AAO and a bunch of other free adventures on Basic Fantasy's download page.

For the temple ruins, I used ruins from the Shepherds of Pineford. The party had to hack their way through overgrown forest to follow the goblin's trail. Eventually the worked their way through, and found themselves in a clearing, bordered by pillars and crumbling walls. In the center is an altar topped with an obelisk. Around the edged of the clearing were twelve skulls with bloodstones in their mouth.
Iong the goblin had stopped running and already picked up a few of the gems, hoping to bribe his way out of capture. Instead of regular skeletons, I thought this was a prime opportunity to use some sapphire skeletons, except with bloodstones.
I quickly learned of my mistake. A dozen CR 2 creatures against three 5th level characters is already hard enough. But when those creatures are immune to fire and all of the sorcerer's combat spells are fire-based? A slaughter was in the works. I don't normally change things mid-stream, but this was a fight that the party couldn't avoid. It was sprung on them by Iong picking up the stones. Any chance of fleeing was through difficult terrain. After a couple of rounds I got rid of the regeneration and nudged the fire immunity down to resistance. Still made for a tough fight. By the end, the trio each could count their remaining hit points on one hand.

Like I said, I don't change things once they are in place, but I felt like I was being unfair. If I placed the sapphire skeletons and the party started picking up gems, animating the skeletons, that's something else. That was their choice, but I took player choice out of the equation. That's why I "softened" things a bit.

After the skeletons were destroyed, the ground rumbled. The altar and obelisk cracked and splintered, before falling in a cloud of dust and stone fragments. A dark opening appeared, with stairs leading down.

In the confusion, Tulgasora jumped Iong and captured him. The group, being beaten up pretty badly, decided that discretion was the better part of valor and headed back to Cahill Abbey. They negotiated with Yerris, the leader of the hobgoblin garrison, to hold Iong for several days. They wanted to rest up and return to explore the ruins...

Adventure Anthology One overall is a good product, especially considering the price of free. Eight short adventures, with a couple different authors. Easy enough to convert to 5e on the fly. The overall quality is up and down, but worth checking out. A good resource to pick and choose bits and pieces from, like I did. The Shepherds of Pineford has two locations, the town of Pineford, and the simple ruins. I may use the town at some other time. Pretty straightforward, but with a few hooks, and a few suggestions on why the party might be there. Perfect for a sandbox game. I was able to to a quick read thru shortly before our session and felt comfortable running it.

Please check out my DMs Guild titles!
Airs of Ages Past, Nine magical harps from the Forgotten Realms
By Magic Masked, Nine magical masks from the Forgotten Realms
Grognard’s Grimoire: Sorcerers, Player’s options for the sorcerer class.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Running a game on Eska!

For a variety of reasons, we haven't had a chance to sit down and play D&D at all until recently. Looking back, I see my last play report was in February. I'm sure we played once or twice shortly after that, but I didn't get a report posted. Scheduling provided the biggest setback. Our weekends have been busy.

The next biggest competitor for our time has been Magic: The Gathering. My one son was looking around online and "discovered" Magic. Wanted to spend some of his allowance on getting some cards. His brother and sister had been into Pokemon, but it never really interested him. Much to his surprise, I pulled a box of Magic cards out of the closet that I had nearly forgotten about. It has been over 12 years since I last played. I have over 20 decks built and ready to go, as well as a bunch of extra cards and several "idea" decks that are nothing more than a general theme put into a pile. Magic swept through our household, with 1 on 1, 3 player and two headed giant games taking up our gaming time.

The boys and I did sit down to play our Saltmarsh game, being about halfway thru The Final Enemy. Looking back, I hadn't been having fun running this one, partially because the boys were bickering the last time we played, and partially because this module didn't really fit our party. We loved The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh and Danger at Dunwater. The Final Enemy being a scouting mission wasn't a good match for a couple of boys that just wanted to fight things. So we decided to "fast forward" thru it. I declared "Mission Accomplished"! They collected the reward from Saltmarsh and collected some XP, but got no further treasure from the sahuagin. So next time we sit down they want to make use of the map and logbook they had found that will lead them to the Isle of Dread.

I have also been in a bit of a creative rut recently, and wanted to do something to shake things up. With my daughter over a couple weekends past, I wanted to go back to my "roots" a bit and play in sandbox mode. We have all been enjoying the Age of Worms a great deal. I'm looking forward to continuing it, since there is a bunch of fun stuff coming up that I've never run or played against.

So we made up a new group of characters. We decided to start off at 5th level. We didn't want to do the careful slog of the early levels. While 3rd level is a fun starting point as well, with everyone having subclasses in place, we went to the next major jump in power. 5th level brings 3rd level spells, extra attacks, as well as having the 4th level ability score adjustments or feats in place.

I dropped the bomb on them in the morning. Make a 5th level character, whatever you really want to play. Don't talk to each other, because I don't want anyone playing their 2nd choice to "fill a role". We'd run with whatever they came up with. The rest of the morning was a flurry of consulting books and my Google Drive files. (I have my Drive set up as my own personal "SRD" of sorts. Whatever rules I find from blogs and message boards I copy and paste into my folders that I've organized into the same chapters as the core three rulebooks.) I have tons of wonderful options there, and I said "anything goes".

This report was played in several sessions over a couple weekends and a week off I had after school let out for the summer. After the first, I really liked the vibe we were getting, and felt that this fit well into my imagining of Eska. So we did a few minor changes to make things fit.

We ended up with the following characters:

Ash. She's a fire genasi valor bard with the entertainer background.

Tulgasora. Originally a half orc bull totem barbarian with the bounty hunter background. Since there are no orcs on Eska, but my son liked the half orc mechanics, we reskinned him as a "savage hobgoblin", and not from one of the organized troops.

Pyric. Aasimar celestial sorcerer with the tinkerer background.

To round things out, I gave out additional starting money as "Wealth per Level" from the DMG, and I also rolled up a 5th level treasure hoard and split it amongst the group, giving out a ring of protection to Pyric, a ring of warmth to Tulgasora, and a wand of web to Ash.

As far as my DM prep, mostly with Age of Worms I had been reading each installment a week or two before we'd play, then review it again the day before or the morning of each game. At first I didn't really convert much, doing it on the fly and then making up full stat blocks after the fact and then posting them here. More recently I had been doing more prep before hand. Doing all the conversions, reviewing spell lists, ect. Overall putting more time in prep than I ever had before. I was experiencing some DM burnout as a result.

One thing that I've been bad at doing since starting with 5e is making use of Bonds, Flaws, Ideals, Personality Traits, Trinkets and background. I've vowed to change that with this party.

After checking out some of the Village Backdrops from Raging Swan Press, I simply asked the players "Where do you want to start? Cahill Abbey or Longbridge?" Based on name alone, Longbridge was the unanimous choice. I handed them the At a Glance printout, gave them a few minutes to read over it, and asked, "Why are you in Longbridge?". None of them knew each other before this.

Ash has been performing at The Merry Traveler, on the north side of the river. She has been critical of Baron Lorsh, the ruler of the southern bank of the river, and has has publicly insulted him. She was lingering outside of the inn when we started.

Tulgasora was waiting to pass through the northern gate of Longbridge. He was here to capture Iong, a goblin tailor who has been on the run because of some family debts.

Pyric was also waiting at the north gate. He had come to visit a friend, Bilner, a rock gnome tinkerer that has settled on Longbridge. Pyric has an idea for a crossbow that can transform into an axe when needed for melee, and hopes that he can use Bilner's shop to develop and then manufacture them.

The line to get into town had stopped. A farmer's cart had gotten stuck in the gate when the auroch pulling it got spooked. Ash watched on in amusement, while Tulgasora and Pyric came up with a plan. Tulgasora would lift and hold up the cart while Pyric removed a wheel and reassembled it once the cart was pushed free.

The three of them began talking after this and decided to have a drink together. After getting to know each other, they went about taking care of some business. Pyric went to meet his friend Bilner, and hammered out a deal to use his shop to develop his crossbow axe.

Some asking around found that Iong was running a shop on Longbridge, so the group went to pay him a visit. After a brief scuffle, Tulgasora had Iong grappled. Interrogating this goblin they group learned that it was actually Iong's brother, Striliax that had accumulated the gambling debts, and that he was hiding out in the small town of Cahill Abbey. Iong paid them 500 gold and a promise of the finest set of clothes for the bounty hunter Tulgasora. It seems that Tulgasora's trinket is an invitation to a formal ball in two years...

To group traveled to Cahill Abbey to bring in the bounty. On the way they were attacked by a smilodon. It pounced upon Ash and nearly killed her before Tulgasora wrestled it to the ground, eventually snapping it's neck. He kept the hide and now wears it as a cloak, Hercules style.

Once they made it to Cahill Abbey, they found Striliax in the Cahill Inn, gambling. Once they walked in, Striliax knew something was up and ran. He got away, but the trio tracked him to the ruins of the old church on the outskirts of town.

Since starting playing with my kids I've mostly ran linear adventures with them. This was the first time since my 2e days that I've run a game with the plot firmly in my player's hands. I've run this and some upcoming sessions using short, single locations or one page dungeons supplemented by random encounter tables. I'm a bit rusty with this technique, and play would slow at times, but overall we all have been having a great time.

Please check out my DMs Guild titles!
Airs of Ages Past, Nine magical harps from the Forgotten Realms
By Magic Masked, Nine magical masks from the Forgotten Realms
Bazaar of the Bizarre: Rings that Do Weird Things, Twenty-one magical rings
Grognard’s Grimoire: Sorcerers, Player’s options for the sorcerer class.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Review: Raging Swan Press: Village Backdrops

Reviews is something I haven't done at all that much here at 5eGrognard. Today I decided to change that. Part of the reason is because of the success I've had with the DM's Guild products I've released. Considering it's stuff that I would've put out for free here on the blog anyway, I'm so thankful for all of you that have decided to actually pay on these Pay What You Want products. From the beginning I've said I would never cash out this money. I will use it all as store credit over at the DM's Guild and at DriveThruRPG and support others doing the same as myself.

Unfortunately I have a bad habit of downloading more stuff than I will ever read or use. I've been trying to stem the tide a bit and focus a bit more. Also, a recent slump in actual gaming has cooled any actual use of products. All of this has changed recently with the start of a new campaign, this time set in my world of Eska.

Since taking such a long break in gaming that I did, when I started back with 5e, I took a bit of an easy path, and ran some old classics like Keep on the Borderlands, which I have run with so many different groups that I could probably DM it in my sleep. From that I explored some "new territory" (at least for this lapsed gamer) the Age of Worms adventure path.

Wanting to switch things up for this new group, and to minimize my prep, I went back to sandbox mode. The biggest help in our first couple sessions was Raging Swan Press' Village Backdrops. Anyone that follows me over at Google+ knows that I share stuff from other blogs and such that I like. Raging Swan makes frequent appearances on my feed with all of the stuff that gets added to their free resources section. Tons of great stuff there to use.

I was wanting a small town to start my party off in, and I looked through their Village Backdrops and narrowed it down to two I liked best. So I downloaded Longbridge and Cahill Abbey from DriveThruRPG.
Village Backdrop: Longbridge     Village Backdrop: Cahill Abbey
One of the things I really like about these Village Backdrops is that you can print out the free "At a Glance" pdf. At two pages, printed double sided it's the perfect handout to give to your players so they get an idea of what each town is like, and includes a map, Notable Folks and Notable Locations. Just the kind of info that adventurers would quickly find out. I do let them know that any info that they read in these sheets is not always true, or use a Sharpie on anything I'd like to keep unknown for now. For someone with more time, or is comfortable ad-libbing from a quick blurb, these At a Glance Village Backdrops gives a nice usable skeleton to build upon.

Cahill Abbey at a Glance
Longbridge at a Glance

On to the main documents. At thirteen pages for Longbridge, and ten for Cahill Abbey, these are decently sized PDFs for the $2.45 price. Once you get into the meat of it, though, you find that there is a front cover, back cover, table of contents, open game license, and the two pages you can get for free in the "At a Glance". So overall, it leaves you with less than half of the page count with actual new and usable information.

They do manage to pack a lot into those pages, though! Each of the Notable Locations and Notable Folks gets a more in depth write up, with plenty of hooks. You also get a d6 table of encounters, and Longbridge also has a d4 table of travelers. Each encounter and traveler provides hooks as well.

Longbridge an ancient dwarven constructions, crossing the river that borders two different nobles lands. The bridge is sizeable enough that a small community has built a town on the bridge itself. Each of the nobles has eyes on controlling Longbridge, but the Free Merchants living on the bridge have other ideas.

In the Cahill Abbey backdrop, a prophet spoke to the king about a savior coming from Cahill Abbey, and so the king has sent troops to this sleepy backwater, and they are currently fortifying the town. With the company of troops outnumbering the townsfolk, it has become a bit of a boomtown, with some villagers enjoying the wealth that the troops bring, and others resenting their lives being changes. Meanwhile, and ancient evil stirs in the ruins of the old abbey that overlooks the town.

Raging Swan publishes using Pathfinder rules, but I feel that those are easily converted to 5e.

Overall I really like them. Unfortunately my players didn't bite on any of the hooks in the sessions I used these, choosing instead to follow leads based on their backgrounds. I was able to use them as suitable locations that I'm sure my party will revisit, and they did provide characters for them to interact with. I give them each 5 Stars, and would download others from this series.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Bazaar of the Bizarre: Archer's Best Friend v2.0 Major Update!

I'm excited to announce a major update to Bazaar of the Bizarre: Archer's Best Friend! Expanded from 8 to 23 pages with over 20 new items and lots of new artwork. I scoured Deviant Art and found some great artists that I was able to work with that I feel really helps bring this to life. If you've already downloaded this, go back and get the update!
Please check out my DMs Guild titles!
Airs of Ages Past, Nine magical harps from the Forgotten Realms
By Magic Masked, Nine magical masks from the Forgotten Realms
Grognard’s Grimoire: Sorcerers, Player’s options for the sorcerer class.