Friday, April 24, 2015

Encounter at Blackwall Keep/Tomb of the Lizard King mashup. Part 2

Once again, a shorter session.  Busy weekends mixed with nicer spring weather make it hard to sit around the table for hours on end.

Last time, I used the opening from Encounter at Blackwell Keep, with Alustran asking them to escort him to Blackwell Keep to meet with his friend Marzena, the battle mage of the Keep.  The journey took us through the beginning of Tomb of the Lizard King.

Our previous Age of Worms sessions are here.

With only three players, each is playing two characters.

My daughter has:
Lylas, drow elf rogue thief, level 5
Third, human fighter sentinel, level 4

One of my boys has:
Narcisso, half elf life cleric, level 5
Dravin, human moon druid, level 4

My other son is playing:
Jackson, human earth wizard, level 5
Kargash, half orc hunter ranger, level 4

They left the ruins of Waycome, with the rescued soldier Barto
tagging along, to check out the mad hermit who lived near the swamp.  I ran this adventure years ago, and this part was always one of my favorite encounters.  Stephen DeManis is fun to play.

As they approached his hut, they hear a weird sing song coming from inside.

“They all thinks I’m crazy, so crazy I am;
But I’ll still be here when they ain’t what they am!
They’ll all be taken to Sakatha’s lair,

But me I’ll be free as a bird in the air!”

They entered the hut, introducing themselves.  They questioned him about Sakatha, learning that the ancient lizard king lives!  "I wonder why the snakes in my hair will never comb it?".  Sakatha wants to reclaim his kingdom.  "Where have all the pretty buggies gone?"  Sakatha lives in a temple in the heart of the swamp.  "There are only ugly buggies now."

They continued on their journey, as they got closer to the keep, the
smell of fire and blood, and swarms of flies fill the air.  As they peer over the last hillside, they see that the lizardfolk have laid siege to Blackwell Keep.

The front gate lies broken, and a hasty barricade has been thrown up.  Scattered groups of lizardfolk surround the Keep.  Alustran tells the party that he has a teleportation scroll that he will use to head back to Fort Kyntosh and bring reinforcements.  The party must help the Keep in any way they can, but it will be days to mobilize and march troops to Blackwell.  After Alustran leaves, they decide to make a break for the Keep, but realize in doing so they will have to fight at least one group.  They charge forward, and quickly cut their way through one group, the troops from the Keep cheering them on and hurriedly opening and closing the barricade.  

Once inside, they find the ranking sergeant and find out how grim things are.  Only fourteen guards are still alive, and three more still live, but are severely wounded.  Their captain has been killed, and Marzena (the sorceress) and several other guards have been captured and drug into the swamp.  They have about a weeks worth of food, but are running low on arrows.  

Dravin heads to the infirmary and casts cure wounds on the soldiers there, adding them back to the ranks.  With Barto, the last survivor of the patrol, that brings them to eighteen soldiers.  Dravin then wild shapes into a blue jay, and flies around the battlefield doing a recon.  There are about forty lizardfolk, as well as a large leader and what appears to be a spellcaster of some sort.  Those two are having a meeting with a group of other lizardfolk.  It's a few hours until nightfall, and they seem to be preparing to attack at dusk.  

Returning with his report, Dravin turns back into his human form, while Third (who has the soldier background), takes charge and starts barking out orders and formulating a plan.  

First, Lylass is sent on a special mission.  Using her cloak of the elvenkind, she manages to sneak up on the high level lizardfolk meeting, right behind the spellcaster.  Getting a surprise round, she lands a sneak attack with her dagger, and finishes him off with an attack from a second dagger in her left hand.  Winning initiative, she uses her bracer of bees on the leader, and then uses her cunning action to disengage, then runs.  The next round she dashes as her action, and dashes again with her cunning action, making it back and eluding pursuit.  Once in the Keep, she recalls the bees.  

With the spellcaster out of the way, and the leader wounded by the stinging insects, the troops morale is boosted.  Third lays the groundwork for the defence from the coming assault.  When the lizardfolk come, they seem to split into two main attacks.  One on the main gate, the others attempting to climb the walls, with some boosting the others up.  The leader holds another squad out of bowshot in reserve.  The party takes up the defence of the gate, leaving the soldiers to man the walls, dropping rocks and firing arrows on the lizardfolk below.  

As the lizardfolk approach the main gate, Kargash and Third open it, as Jackson hurls and exploding boulder at the attackers.  (Being an Earth Mage, that is simply a reskinned fireball).  Dravin follows with a thunderwave.  Over half of the gate attackers are already down, as Kargash, Third, Dravin and Lylas charge out and lay waste with melee weapons and spells.  Kargash uses his ranger hordebreaker ability to good effect, while Lylas stays close to Third, making sure to attack engaged foes to bring her sneak attack damage to bear.  They slice through their foes, making good tactical decisions and the right spell choices (and getting good dice rolls as well).  

After cutting their way through, they move forwards towards the reserve group, getting close enough for Jackson to use his second 3rd-level spell slot to hurl another exploding boulder at the leader and his group, killing the already wounded leader and most of his group as well. 

With that, the remaining lizard men fled into the swamp, the group letting them go to secure the Keep again, the troops cheering on their victory!  The sergeant pleads with the party to head into the swamp to rescue their captured comrades, knowing they don't have long until they are eaten.  None of the soldiers know the swamp, only that their are several different tribes of lizardfolk, but unfortunately they can't tell them apart.  Plans are made to head out in the morning, and hopefully they can find their way through the swamp...

Nothing really to convert this time, their only foe being lizardfolk straight out of the Monster Manual.  The leader and the spellcaster I used NPCs from the back of the MM, the leader being a Thug, and I used the druid for the spellcaster.

Overall I was really impressed with how they handled this this session.  Their seemed to be a focus that has been lacking recently, and they planned out their actions instead of just stumbling their way through.  They did make better use of their full powers, which I helped by getting them organized and familiar with them all better, which I will detail in a future post.

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Danger at Dunwater

My boys and I continued our second campaign, following up their leads from the Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh.  Knowing that the bullywugs were buying weapons, and were closeby, the party was sent by the Saltmarsh town council to recon the bullywugs and to assess if they were a threat.  A reward of 5,000 gp was offered to undertake the mission.

Our party consists of 4 members.  Each of my sons is playing two characters, who are now 4th 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.

The party was once again joined by Tom and Will Stoudtly, a little extra muscle provided by the council.  Oceanus, an aquatic elf fighter that they rescued from the raid on the Sea Ghost has also joined them.

They took one of the small boats instead of the ship.  They don't have the crew to successfully sail the Sea Ghost at this time, and are waiting for the merchant season to hopefully be able to hire some sailors.

They spotted some cave entrances as they approached the shore, and decided to land on a small island in the mouth of the Dunwater River, just east of the lair.

While discussing (arguing) over a plan to scout, they were ambushed by a group of wandering lizardfolk who approached from under the murky water.  Attacking with surprise, they landed a few hits, but Ander quickly turned the tables with a command on the largest lizardfolk, "Flee".  It did, and disengaged and swam away.  The others, not sure what to do, followed suit.  

Finally settling on a plan, Garret and Ander approached first to what turned out to be the
main entrance to the bullywug lair.  A small cave lead to a door, which Garret quietly opened.  Once entering, a bullywug approached from a side guard room, croaking out a challenge.  "What are you doing here".

"We're lost. Trying to find the town of Saltmarsh."

"It's to the east.  Begone."

So they left.  They checked out another, larger cave going around the hillside.  Thick mud around the entrance made for difficult terrain, so they avoided that entrance and went back to the boat.  Henk and Faen went to the first cave.  When they entered, a group of bullywugs was there.

"Now what are you doing?"

"We're lost.  Trying to find the town of Saltmarsh."

"What, did you get separated from your fellows?  You landfolk are quite worthless around the water.  Har har!"

So Henk and Faen went back to the others to figure out a plan.  It was decided that Ander, Garret and Oceanus would swim around to the water cave that was further around the shore.  They entered, seeing it opened into a cavern, with a ledge above, and extending further in.  As they swam in, a group of bullywugs surrounded them, and a group of kaolinth  entered.  The bullywugs demanded their surrender.  Outnumbered at least 3 to 1, they had no choice.  They were tied up and marched to a holding area.

After waiting for a while, the bullywug chief came in and confronted them, asking what they were doing.  Garret told the truth, about capturing the smugglers and the council sending them here to see if the bullywugs were a threat.  The chief told them that the town was of no concern of theirs, that they had been driven from their home by sahuagin, the sea devils, and that they were buying weapons and seeking alliances with the kaolinth, merfolk and locathah to fight the sahuagin.  They did not consider the land dwellers at all, figuring that they could be of no help.

Oceanus offered the aid of the aquatic elves, the sea devils being one of their most hated enemies.  Garret and Ander pledged their support as well.  The chief, not sure if they could be of help, had a suggestion of how they could prove themselves.  North of here, upriver, they was a giant crocodile, the Daggermaw.  The Daggermaw had been attacking their patrols and thinning their ranks.  Normally their shamans have some empathatic control over crocodiles, but have no effect on Daggermaw.  Crocodiles are sacred to the bullywugs, and to attack it would be taboo.  With the threat of a sahuagin attack, they cannot leave that area unpatrolled.  If the party were to defeat Daggermaw, they would prove themselves worthy.

The Dunwater being a small, shallow river, their boat would not make it upriver, having too deep of a draft.  So they walked up, until finding another group of marshy islands, and there, Daggermaw.
They spread out, around the huge croc in a semicircle, and launched their attacks.  Henk going in with his magic greatsword he claimed from the captain of the Sea Ghost, hacking away.  Garret going in with a sneak attack, while Oceanus, Wil and Tom approached it from behind.  Faen firing off a scorching ray, missing with 2 of the 3 shots, but Ander using guiding bolt, hitting solidly, and the glow of the radiant damage giving the next attack Advantage.  Daggermaw snapped back, biting Garret, hard, and holding him in his jaws, taking him out of the rest of the fight.  With a sweep of his mighty tail, he knocked Tom down to 0 hit points, and a series of death saves followed.  As the battle dragged on, 2 successes and 2 failures alternated until Ander cast spare the dying, banking against another failure.

Henk rolled high for initiative, and thanks to the Advantage from the guiding bolt, hit critically.  The dice went cold for Daggermaw, his tail flailing wildly as the party continued to hack away.  Cold dice plagued Faen as well, missing once again with 2 of his 3 scorching rays.
Green Hag, by prodigyduck

Things were looking bad for Daggermaw, but the reason for the bullywug's lack of control showed itself, a green hag!  A vicious mockery targeting Faen failed to land (a nice roll for him on his save).  While Henk and Oceanus finished off the croc, Faen and Ander hit the hag hard with a combo of guiding bolt and thunderstrike.  Loosing half it's hit points and its croc in one round the hag turned invisible, and used its pass without trace ability to run, but not before using a minor illusion to show footprints in the mud leading away in the other direction.  Our heroes tried to follow, but the hag was not to be found.

The bullywugs were suitable impressed with the results of the battle, but are concerned about a hag loose in the swamps.  Still, they agree to an alliance with the people of Saltmarsh, and send an officer as well as a shaman back to town with the party to formalize the deal.

Conversion to 5e was pretty standard here.  All of their opponents coming straight from the Monster Manual.  I did swap the roles of bullywugs and lizardfolk in this adventure, just as a personal preference.

Overall, I was impressed with the way a pair of 9 year old boys handled the challenge.  I was half expecting them to enter the lair and start hacking and blasting away.  Instead, they proceeded with caution and understood the scouting nature of their mission, and instead made some allies.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Sword of Sundering

A topic was recently started on the forums about a magical weapon that would have the sundering ability.  I ran with Illithidbix's ideas of using a combination of the rust monster's ability combined with the Disarm rules from page 271 of the DMG.

Sword of Sundering
Very rare magical weapon, requires attunement
This +2 longsword glows with a sickly green light.  This sword was created to destroy it’s opponent’s defenses and ability to attack.

Any hit on an armored creature causes the the armor worn to take a permanent and cumulative -1 penalty to the AC it offers.  Armor reduced to an AC of 10 is destroyed.

You can instead choose to target your opponent’s weapon or shield.  You make an attack roll contested by the target's Strength (Athletics) check or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check. If you win the contest, the attack causes normal damage, and damages your opponent’s weapon or shield.  

Strikes against a shield cause a permanent and cumulative -1 penalty to the AC it offers.  A shield that drops to a +0 bonus is destroyed.  Weapons hit take a permanent and cumulative -1 penalty to damage rolls.  If its penalty drops to -5, the weapon is destroyed.