Thursday, February 26, 2015

Character Pools

So when I started the game with my kids, each played one character.  They chose a wizard, cleric, and rogue.  Realizing they needed some muscle I played the dreaded DM PC.  A dwarf barbarian.  To keep things on the up and up, and not to take center stage, I used Charisma and Intelligence as dump stats.  He was basically a lump of dumb muscle.  He made no decisions other than what to hit with his axe (hint: whatever was in front of him).  He talked to no one.  He's become a loved and valued member of the party.

As they became better players, I introduced some henchmen, which they each took over, a druid, ranger and a fighter.  Last session, another NPC accompanied the group, giving me two characters to run, and swelling our party ranks to 8.  Too much for me to do, and hard to challenge a group that size.

So I told the kids that I wasn't running a character any more.  He would be available for one of them to run, and each could continue to run two characters at a time.  Both Rurik and Filch are available for them to play, and any character they place in the pool for someone else to use.  As time goes on, other characters can be introduced to the pool, and used as needed.  Kind of like the Avengers.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Three Faces of Evil, part 5

We wrapped up the Three Faces of Evil from the Age of Worms adventure path this weekend.

First, I feel like I'm letting some of you down.  I started blogging with the idea of bringing some old AD&D crunch into 5e, and I haven't really been doing much of that lately.  I've been posting mostly play reports.  Well, if I'm letting you down, screw you.  I'm actually playing.  I took over a decade off of playing, so now I'm reveling in it.  I think I'm ahead of myself on game prep right now, so I hope to get some things rolling.  Best laid plans and all.

Part 4
Part 3
Part 2
Part 1

Our intrepid adventurers:
Daughter has,
Lylas, drow elf rogue thief, level 4
Third, human fighter sentinel, level 3

Son 1,
Narcisso, half elf life cleric level 4
Dravin, human moon druid level 3

Son 2,
Jackson, human earth wizard, level 4
Kargash, half orc ranger hunter, level 3

Also, 2 NPC's are tagging along
Rurik, mountain dwarf totem barbarian, level 4
Filch, human necromancer, level 3.  This is Filge from the observatory in the Whispering Cairn.  He surrendered to the party and is tagging along.  The kids, being Harry Potter fans, renamed him.

It was finally time to assault the Citadel of Hextor.  They had already defeated the two tiefling guards that stood guard outside when the first came down the elevator. One of the guards had pounded on the door, so the Hextor cultists were already aware of the party and on alert.

The first room had armored skeletons line up along the wall, a dozen of them. I boosted the numbers based on the size of the party, but the skeletons were quickly defeated.

They checked out a few rooms, but all were empty of inhabitants, and eerily quiet. They finally approached the large set of bronze plated double doors and entered the Temple of Hextor, which was at up as a battle arena. I large statue of Hextor dominated the middle of the sand covered floor, and a balcony overlooked 3 sides of the temple.

The doors slammed shut behind them, and a dire boar rushed them as a score of cultists rose up from the balconies on either side, and launched a volley of javelins.  They were reinforced with six tieflings with crossbows.   The main balcony at the end had the high priest and his two acolytes, all of them launching spiritual weapons at the group. Two troglodyte zombies shuffled out from behind the statue.

Everyone took some hits in the first couple rounds, but my dice went cold after round 3, with only an occasional hit after that. No one fell to 0 hit points, which is odd for a "big fight".

Lylas, Third and Rurik made short work of the boar and zombies.   Dravin launched thunderstrikes at each of the balconies, doing a good job of clearing the cultists, but more importantly, causing the priest and one of his acolytes to lose concentration on their spiritual weapons. Narcisso got the priest with a hold person spell, and my dice stayed cold. He never made a save to break it.   Jackson cleared thunderwave survivors with magic missiles, while Filch missed his hit rolls with his chromatic orbs.  Kargash, using his bow, picked off other foes until the statue fell, giving an uneven ramp to the balcony.

Everyone started up, Narcisso slitting the throat of the still held priest,, and they cleared out the last of the resistance.

The enemies defeated they did a quick search and realized this section was now cleared out, so they took a short rest, spending all their hit dice and the two wizards taking advantage of arcane recovery.

After thoroughly looting the citadel, it was time to leave.   Heading towards the elevator, the saw the dark pool was still no longer. It was swirling and bubbling.   It was decided that Jackson would cast identify on it, as a ritual.

With the priests of Hextor, Vecna and Erythnul slain, their souls were captured and used to power the awakening of the Ebon Aspect.   A horrifying monstrosity that had features of all three evil gods.  With a bite and three claw attacks, a pile of hit points and resistance to a bunch of damage types, this was going to be a good one.

The party backed up, and surrounded it after it stepped out of the pool. They decided on a battle royal melee to decide this fight.  Kargash got hit early, and knocked down to 2 hit points. With both the cleric and druid
 outof spells, he disengaged and used his bow the rest of the fight.   It was a slog. Over half an hour of real time before it dropped.   Dravin had wild shaped into a giant spider and dropped from that. Rurik raged and used reckless attack. With his wolf totem power, that gave himself, Third and Lylas advantage during the fight.  His great axe and Lylas' sneak attack did most of the damage, but Rurik was dropped in the last round of the fight, even with his raging damage resistance.   Jackson and Filch used up their remaining spell slots, and were left with just cantrips for the last several rounds. It was an acid bolt from Jackson that finished the Ebon Aspect off finally.

Battered and completely out of spells, our heroes cautiously went up the elevator. Before heading in, they had sewn thoughts of rebellion into the heads of the under paid mistreated miners. Getting back into the mines they see their efforts have born fruit. The guards lay dead, while the miners pillage and destroy all that they see. The party quietly slips out and heads back to town.

The next day they drop in on Alustran the wizard, who had been helping them. They discuss what happened and shared some journals and bits of prophesy about the Age of Worms that they discovered under the mines.  Alustran was very concerned, and wanted some time to study what they had found.

Wrapping up, enough XP were gained that everyone gained a level.  Lylas, Jackson, Narcisso and Rurik hit 5th level, while Dravin, Third, Kargash and Filch hit 4th, and are so close to 5th.  We spent the rest of the season leveling up.

With a crushing blow delt to the Ebon Triad,  I felt that things will be quiet for awhile, and declared a year of downtime activities. We discussed it briefly, just enough to get the players thinking. We'll handle the activities one on one between sessions.

Conversion Notes
I used the Cultist NPC for the cultists, and thugs for the tiefling guards.   The adept for the 2 assistant priests, and for the high priest I just eyeballed his stats from the adventure over.

The Ebon Aspect I used a frost giant stats, but with the attacks and abilities from the adventure.

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, part

Read more about our adventures in Saltmarsh here.

This wasn't really a true session.  This was more just a wrap up of our previous session.  Never even got out dice or character sheets, just sat around the living room discussing things.

Our group gathered up all the loot and smuggled goods into the small boat they found in the smuggler's cave and sailed back to Saltmarsh.  The Dockmaster seemed surprised to see them sail into town again, as he helped them sell the last boat they had.  When informed of the goods on board, the Dockmaster told the party of the taxes that would need to be paid on the goods they were bringing to town.  Realizing the hassle of taxes and then selling of the high end silks and brandy in such a backwater town, Garret told the story of the house and the smugglers, and how they were turning in the goods as evidence to the town council, as well as whatever clues and other information they had gathered.  The Dockmaster let them take personal goods from the boat, and had his men secure the boat.

That evening they were summoned to an emergency meeting of the council.  They waited patiently in the outer chamber as they heard the heated discussion of how to handle the situation.  After a bit they were brought in before the seven members of the council.  The council first thanked the party and awarded them with half of the value of the goods that they had turned in.  Then came the offer...

The party obviously has the skills and expertise to take on a criminal organization, something the town itself cannot do on its own.  Our heroes had tuned in the signal codes that they had recovered from the smugglers.  It was deduced that an incoming ship would signal the house, and the house would respond and the goods would then be dropped off.  The council would station a half dozen men at the house to take shifts on watch, looking for the signal.  When the ship approached, they needed the party to take the smuggler's boat (as well as a couple of men to sail the boat), and kill or capture these smugglers.  As the town does not have the money to reward them, they would be able to keep the smuggler's ship as well as half of the value of any goods found on board.  The council would also be able to furnish them with any mundane goods that they may need.

Garret, Henk, Faen, and Ander accepted the offer, for with a ship of their own, they could make their way to Monmurg on their own.

The next day, while at the Fishbone Inn planning, they were approached by Olan Colast, a respected merchant who owned the warehouse that the council was storing the goods in.  He congratulated them on their success against the smugglers, practically fawning over them.  Then he inferred that the party could make a good amount of cash taking over for the smugglers that they defeated, as opposed to plotting the downfall of the others.  They politely refused, wanting to stay on the good side of the law...

With that, we ended our mini-session.  Overall about 15-20 minutes.  Told the boys that they could now make their plans and make a list of supplies they will need.

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Bracer of Bees

I'm in the process of making up spell, magic item and ability cards for my kids to use in our game.  I've noticed that there are a lot of things getting forgotten about because they are just a line on a character sheet.  During this process, I found a new item that I got out of the Fantasy Hero game version of Keep on the Borderlands that one of the characters have that I don't have a 5e write up for.  Lylas the elven rouge in my Age of Worms group has.

Bracer of Bees
Uncommon wondrous item, requires attunement
This single gold and obsidian honeycomb bracer is in decorated with bees, that seem to subtly move about in and out of the honeycomb .  Using a standard action, you remove and throw the bracer with a range of 15/30.  While in the air the bracer transforms into a swarm of insects (MM pg. 338).  If the insect swarm is killed, the bracer is destroyed.  

If you are attuned with the bracer, you can recall the swarm as a bonus action.  

You can only summon the insect swarm once per full moon.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, part 1, The Haunted House

Yes, I know, I haven't posted in awhile, but real life got a bit busier.  More importantly, though, I was prepping and getting ready to start a second group.  My "main" group is my three children.  14 year old daughter, and 9 year old twin boys.  My daughter lives with my ex, and is over every other weekend.  Other activities often coincide with her visits, so we don't always play as often as we like.  My boys have been wanting to do a group with just them for our other weekends.

I had started checking out adventure paths, and narrowed it down to a handful.  Left it up to the boys to decide on our theme, and Skull and Shackles won.  In my readings of the AP and some reviews I decided I really didn't like the start of it, and instead decided to go classic and start with the Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh.

Our party consists of 4 members.  Each boy is playing two characters, starting at 3rd level.  We've used some backgrounds and subclasses from around the blogosphere, and I'll be linking them...

Henk.  Half orc raider barbarian with the duelist background.

Garret Tealeaf.  Lightfoot halfling con artist rouge with the criminal background.

Faen Firegem.  Half elf pyromancer alchemist with the tinkerer background.

Ander Highhill.  Stout halfling water domain cleric with the pilgrim background.

I told them that they were on a ship, the Drake, they were leaving Monmurg and sailing to Gradsul, in the Kingdom of Keoland.  I asked them how they got together and why were they going to Gradsul.  They all met in Monmurg and heard there were riches to be found in Gradsul, so they all were stowaways on the Drake.  Two days after leaving port, rough seas are felt as a storm hits the ship.  They hear a loud CRASH from above.  After night falls, Garret sneaks up on deck and discovers that the main mast has been broken, and the ship is now limping along.  They make a plan and under the cover of darkness steal the lifeboat and sail away.  A couple days later they see a town, and set course and land in Saltmarsh.

The dockworkers are friendly, and help them tie up their boat and direct them to the Dockmaster.  He tells them there will be docking fees of 3sp per day, so Faen tells him that they are interested in selling the boat.  After some haggling, the Dockmaster agrees to help find a buyer for 30% to the final price.  A merchant ship should by by sometime this month that the group can book passage on.  The coastal road towards Seaton has been partially washed out by the storm, and the other alternative would be to hire a guide to raft them through the surrounding swamps.  They decide to wait for a ship.  He directs them to the Fishbone Inn, the only place in this small town for travelers to stay, where they rent a 4 person room.

They spend a few boring days in the sleepy fishing village before they hear tales of an old haunted house a few miles out of town.  Once owned by a secretive alchemist, the house has been abandoned since the owner's mysterious disappearance decades ago.  Asking about town they come across an old poacher who once set foot in the house, before being scared off by maniacal shrieking.   Plying him with a few drinks, they coax the story out of him.   He draws them a sketch of the back door he entered, as well as the old kitchen and pantry that he managed to see.

They walk out to the old house.  They avoid the gate, instead climbing through a section of the wall that had fallen.  They head around back, and check out the well.  Henk lowers Ander and Faen down via rope, and they find nothing but a poisonous snake.  The snake lunges at Ander, but it's fangs don't penetrate his splint mail.  Faen roasts it with a firebolt.

They enter the house through the front door and creep around the tattered ruins.  Screams and warnings are heard, but Ander correctly guesses that they are magic mouths. They enter the basement early, and find it strange that it is set up like a barracks, loaded with food and beds.  One of the smugglers spotted them at this point, and slipped unnoticed through the secret door, alerting the others.  Sanbalet, their leader, orders the smugglers to stay quiet and set up an ambush in the caves, hoping our heroes leave without discovering what is going on.  They go through the barred door marked "Danger" and fight the six skeletons beyond, most of them wiped out by Faen's thunderwave.

Henk leads the group back upstairs, so they can search the upper floor.  Overall, not much is found.  They do kill a giant spider, and "rescue" Ned, who claims to be a traveler who was looking for shelter from the storm and then was jumped from behind and tied up and left here.  He joins the party as they head back to the basement and do a thorough search for secret doors.

After awhile, they do find the hidden laboratory and the remains of the alchemist that lived here through the skeleton room.  A nice haul was found, and it appears the alchemist had found the secret of the philosopher's stone.  A golden skull, apple, rose and discs were found, over 1,000 gp value in all.  Also his notes on turning items into gold are found, but they are written in code.  Faen hopes to be able to break the code someday...

More searching finally uncovered the secret door to the smuggler's caves.  A side passage led to Henk getting a green slime dropped on him.  Faen "helped" by burning it off with a firebolt.  Destroyed the slime, but Henk got slightly burnt as well.

They turned a corner and saw a well lit cave.  Inside they found a couple of gnolls, four smugglers and Sanbalet, a wizard and the leader.  Faen leads off with another thunderwave, wounding the gnolls and killing a couple of the smugglers.  Henk charged forward to the wizard, only to get blinded by a color spray.  Ned got a sneak attack in on Ander just as four more smugglers entered the room.  Faen fired off scorching rays, and the others darted around in melee.  Everyone got beaten down pretty well, but they were finally victorious.

They found a stock of silk and brandy, luxuries that the smugglers were avoiding taxes on.  They also found another small boat, that they loaded up with the contraband and other loot and set sail back to Saltmarsh.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Three Faces of Evil, part 4

Once again only one session this weekend, but it was a good one.
 They finished up the Labyrinth of Vecna this session.  After getting ambushed by the 1st group of kenku last session, they continued through the maze.

Part 3
Part 2
Part 1

Our intrepid adventurers:
Daughter has,
Lylas, drow elf rogue thief, level 4
Third, human fighter sentinel, level 3

Son 1,
Narcisso, half elf life cleric level 4
Dravin, human moon druid level 3

Son 2,
Jackson, human earth wizard, level 4
Kargash, half orc ranger hunter, level 3

Also, 2 NPC's are tagging along
Rurik, mountain dwarf totem barbarian, level 4
Filch, human necromancer, level 3.  This is Filge from the observatory in the Whispering Cairn.  He surrendered to the party and is tagging along.  The kids, being Harry Potter fans, renamed him.

After finding a couple secret doors that were in obvious areas, they were actively searching, and a few that they found kept them away from the one kenku patrol that was tracking them.  

Art by BillyJ
The party was about to enter the room the kenku leader and shaman were located when the patrol caught up.  A mimicked call got them to turn just as Lylas was about to open the door, also alerting the kenku on the other side.  Gaining the initiative, Kargash charged ahead through the twisting corridor, wounding the lead kenku.  A total of three kenku advanced around him, all three scoring hits, one critically.  The others advanced past, cutting him off while the other three advance past Kargash and strike at Jackson, Narcisso and Dravin.  Jackson hits one with a firebolt, while Dravin wildshapes into a giant spider.  

The group all turns to take on the kenku approaching behind them as the doors swings open and more kenku come pouring out, as well as a 3-charge blast from the sorcerer's wand of magic missiles that struck Rurik.  Fighting continued for several rounds, but they won in the nick of time.  5 of the 8 characters were in single digit hit points, and Rurak was unconscious after another 3 charge magic missile strike.

After using up all of their hit dice during a short rest after defeating the grimlocks, they had no choice but to take a long rest.  A thorough search of the chief's room revealed no secret doors, so they barricaded themselves in.  With all the kenku cleared out of the labyrinth, I figured they could get away with it.  The Vecna acolytes further on would know something was up, though, and be on the lookout.

After quickly dispatching the giant weasels, they found a secret passage leading into the Temple of Vecna beyond.  They saw the two acolytes by the altar, with patches of shadows in the room.  Lylas and Kargash ran ahead, pulling out rope.  They were able to quickly grapple and tie the cultists up.  Third and Dravin joined them.  That is when the Allip struck.  It's gibbering wail caused the group to roll saves.  Strangely enough, the four that ran ahead made their saves, while the four that rolled lower in initiative failed their saves, becoming charmed.  Lylas, Kargash, Third and Dravin attack, while Kargash is struck by the allip.  Their focused attacks were able to drop the allip after a couple rounds, just as The Faceless One and two more acolytes burst in.  

The Faceless One casts cone of cold, Kargash and Third failing their saves and dropping unconscious, while Lylas and Dravin succeed, but still take a beating.  The acolytes cast a couple of guiding bolts at Rurik and Narcisso.  Dravin casts a spike growth centered on where the Faceless One and his acolytes are, while the rest of the party fires with ranged weapons and spells.  The two tied up, but ungagged acolytes attempt command spells (verbal component only), but the targets succeed their saving throws.  

I roll initiative every round.  After the most of the party losing the last round, they all one in the second.  A Melf's Acid Arrow from Jackson with a great damage roll dropped the Faceless One, while a thunderwave from Dravin pushed back one of the acolytes.  A great synergy was discovered, as the thunderwave pushes back 10 feet, while creatures moving through a spike growth takes 2d4 damage for every 5 feet traveled, on top of the thunderwave.  A poisoned dagger thrown by Lylas finished off the last acolyte.

After some looting, we ended the session.  

5e conversion notes are fairly simple.  The kenku and giant weasel are in the Monster Manual.  I'll post my allip conversion soon.  Made use of the NPC section of the Monster Manual again.  Fast becoming one of the most useful sections.  For the acolytes I used crazed cultists, and the Faceless One was a mage.  

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Friday, February 6, 2015

Lingering Injuries, part 2

Got a great response from Chris Scaturo's post on Lingering Injuries last week, so here is part 2.

n. the opportunity or power of selecting

My daughter is seven, she likes plain pizza.  My boy, he’s five, firmly believes that sausage improves every meal, particularly ones with dough, cheese, and sauce.  My wife, she’s <this line has been redacted>, of course, is lactose intolerant and a vegetarian.  Choosing who’s going to like me on Friday nights is always fun.

Me: <Rolls a 20>The Ogre’s huge club crushes you, the protruding metal spike pierces your chain mail and drives deeply into your body.  Wanna you want to do?

When I run games I try to let the players have some say in the storytelling process.  Whenever something REALLY BAD (or sometimes just kinda bad) I allow them to invoke the shrug it off rule.

Shrug it Off

Once per combat (or twice if you’re nuts) you may choose to take no damage from any one attack.  At the end of the combat, you make a CON save equal to the damage you should have taken.  Failure of this save indicates the player has “earned” a lingering injury.

Abby: Well, okay, the spike pierces me but it doesn’t stop me.  My faith in all that is holy in the world powers me to plug on.  Truzz seems to not even notice the gaping whole in his body.  He will prevail.  The village will be saved. Truzz SHRUGS IT OFF.
Shrug it off.

It is a fun mechanic we use to both spice up combat, enhance the combat narrative and sometime spare the party from some awful die rolling (or maybe a poorly designed encounter).

As a general rule, we try to limit the “shrug it off”s to:

  • Critical hits
  • Blows that would drop the character down to zero
  • Failed saving throws

It’s the players choice to make, one can use it at any time but it works best when the combat is tense and the stakes are high. Our lingering injuries are pretty brutal so it isn’t a choice that is easy to make.  Much like the addition of black olives on an otherwise awesome pizza.

Me: Truzz brings his mace down on the last of the minotaur skeletons and the battle is now over.  The villagers emerge from their homes and give you all, and Truzz especially, a round of applause.  It’s at this point the rest of you notice the 7” whole in Truzz’s left side.  Oh yeah, he then collapses from the pain.

What makes the choice so difficult is the effect and the duration of the injuries.  A brilliant piece on the duration and curing of lingering injuries can be  found here.  (Who wrote that? Right, me.) But the effects of the injury need to be severe as well, otherwise it’s an easy choice.  Easy choices are stupid. I mean,everyone likes plain.

Below is a sample list of injuries I use.  If something is organically created in the moment of combat, then run with it.  Once we used shrug it off to stop a disintegrate spell,  we then ruled that the bones in the characters left arm disintegrated.  I have found that my group usually comes up with  better injuries than  I can.

Lingering Injuries

Hand/Arm - Cannot use one hand or arm at all. Spells with a somatic component have disadvantage on attack rolls or the enemy has Advantage on their save.
Foot/Leg - Speed is halved, cannot take the Dash Action, and has Disadvantage on all dex checks and attack rolls.
Torso - A massive internal wound.  They move to level 4 on the Exhaustion chart (Page 291 in the PHB).
Jaw - The character cannot speak or cast spells with verbal components.
Eye - The character has lost vision in one eye. Disadvantage on all Perception, Investigation and ranged attack rolls.
Deep Wound - Physical stats (STR, DEX, CON) all drop to 10.
Concussion - Mental stats (WIS,INT, CHR) all drop to 10.
Damaged Soul - Your connection with divine beings is severed.  She cannot receive benefits of any divine spells that directly affect her.

These are all game changing but the choice is yours.

I should note, this rule isn’t for everyone.  I have one player who,er, doesn’t think fondly of this.  He chooses to never use it. Just like you should never choose pineapple and ham pizza!

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Monday, February 2, 2015


I jumped on Mythoard's second month a few weeks ago and my package arrived today.  Quite happy with the hoard!

Nothing beats the joy of fun mail.

Be sure to ask an adult for help.  Scissors are required to open.

Behold the wonders within!

  • Two Mythoard folders with some awesome art on the front.
  • Unpainted gnome wizard mini.
  • A button with the same gnome.
  • 2 blazing orange swirled dice, a d4 and a d8.
  • The Powers That Be, a Pits and Perils supplement.  A interesting pantheon of gods.
  • A creature deck.  54 monster cards with some awesome artwork and system neutral info on the backs.  I got the fey, constructs and wildlife deck.
  • 2 card sleeves.  Always useful.
  • A map of Tenkar's Tomb.
  • A cardstock sheet, "The Guns of Brimstone", a preview of old west era firearm rules for DCC RPG, Black Powder, Black Magic.
  • Another cardstock sheet, "The Brimstone Epitaph".  DCC RPG old west "newspaper".  Stories on the front, the flip side being "The Real Story", a DM eyes only explanation of the odd things happening on the front.

Overall a great batch of useful and fun stuff!  I can't wait to fully explore the contents!