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Friday, May 17, 2019

The Descent: Day One

Details are out on the new adventure, which is called Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus

The Descent

This is the yearly event where they announce the new D&D products. This year's show is bigger than last year's event, resembling a small con, complete with a D&D epic event and everything.

Relics and Rarities

DM: Deborah Ann Woll    
(Jasmine Bhullar) Barrel - Half-orc Barbarian                
(Julia Dennis) Annabella - Bard                
(Janina Gavankar) Mumee - Half-elf Rogue                
(Xander Jeanneret) Ricky Huckster - Gnome Druid               
(Matthew Lillard) Alaster Goldfang - Dragonborn Sorcerer                
(Tommy Walker) Veros - Human Warrior

This pics up from episode 6 of the Relics show on geek and sundry. The group has returned from Livingstone, having defeated two sisters. The group is asked to retrieve a draught from King Sena’s tomb. They’ve been there once before.

Before leaving, the heroes get to pick a trinket from the magic shop that they work for.
  • Picture Frame - Disguise self.
  • Knit Blanket - You can place images on it.
  • Pocket Watch - Slows down time just for the wielder.
  • Sheet Music - When you sing to the tune on the shet, get +5 to CHA checks.
  • Dark Glasses - Grants darkvision
  • Compass with a Missing Crystal - The compass always points to the crystal, which is buried at the entrance of the tomb.
The adventurers arrive at the tomb and see that the doors have been torn open. The last time the group was here, the doors were intact. The heroes look around a bit and the place is trashed, including a false tomb.

As the group begins to check out the interior, Alaster is hit with a scythe trap for 14 damage.
They find a long passage that they follow for 20 minutes. They come to a door with a message in the kektesh language. “Brave the tests of our throne to prove your worth.”

There is a lotus flower attached to the note. The lotus represents healing and rejuvenation, royalty, and the care of royalty.  In the room beyond, there are gold, jewels and all kinds of treasures. Also, on 8 pedestals, are oil lamps. Two have fallen over on their sides.

The creature says it offers no boon, and the group must bow before it. Many members of the group immediately bow. It wants to destroy the one who spoke its name.

Examining the lamps, the group sees different words. They speak a few aloud, and one summons a creature with magma skin. The group fights it, and it turns to smoke and re-enters the lamp, defeated.

They enter another room and come upon the tomb of a queen. There is a vase with a living lotus flower in it, preserved by magic. There is a mural with a branching diagram.

The group finds a cylindrical puzzle with hieroglyphic symbols on it. Deborah actually made it in real life. She says it took 9 hours to make.

After a bit of thinking, the group solves the puzzle. The prop actually unlocks and has a vial inside!

The heroes head outside and their lotus begins to melt. They dig up the buried crystal. They realize that they've failed to secure the draught.

They return to the curio shop and find the place is trashed. That's where we stop!

The Descent: Opening Ceremonies

MC: Anna Prosser                
Jeremy Crawford                
Shelly Mazzanoble                
Chris Perkins                
Nathan Stewart                
Kate Welch                
Jim Zub

The team gives details on the new products coming out. I tried to organize them categorically.

Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus

This adventure is about “D&D goes to Hell.” A combination of Mad Max and Dante’s Inferno.
It involves the Blood War, the battle between the lawful devils and the chaotic demons.

Baldur’s Gate
  • The adventure begins in Baldur’s Gate, the “Gotham City” of D&D. The city is detailed in the book.
  • One chapter a gazetteer of Baldur’s Gate. There are options for creating a native of Baldur’s Gate. The entire group can have dark secrets.
  • You can become an ally of the Flaming Fist, and go on murder sprees to help them out.
  • There is an infernal infiltration in the city. A tease of the hell storyline. The group will have to choose whether or not to go to Avernus.
  • There are mysteries and crimes to solve in Baldur’s Gate.
  • Avernus is the top layer of hell, the place where demons and devils battle. It is a plane of wreckage, a vast desert where destroyed cities partially pulled in from other d&d settings.
  • Swarms of insects from other infernal regions.
  • There are rules for resting in Avernus (it’s hard).
  • Death saves work differently. We might see these rules in some of the games this weekend.
  • The lakes have ichor which are damaging, but can also be useful.
  • It is home to more creatures than demons and devils.
  • Avernus is a humongous playground. A large section of the book details Avernus itself. There is a huge map full of cool locations.
The Warlords of Avernus
  • Creatures who eke out a living outside of the eye of the demons and devils. They have gangs of marauders looking for scrap metal. They command fleets of infernal war machines. You can boost them by pouring ichor in them.
  • Ghosts of Saltmarsh has ship rules. In Avernus, there are mechanics similar to use for the war machines.
  • You can become a Warlord of Avernus.
  • Because there is so much wreckage. You can go scrape the parts you need to assemble and customize your vehicles (there are rules for this). There is a bit of a catch to this. You might wrestle with moral quandaries - the machines are powered by souls. They are powered by furnaces.
  • There is a section in the book involving the devils trying to use your dark secrets to make bargains with you. What the devils want the most: Your soul.
  • Avernus is the “front porch” of hell. There’s refugees from other planes trying to escape. There are other adventuring groups. Because hell corrupts, many of them have been morally compromised. The longer your character is there, the better the chance you can become corrupted.
  • It is harder to get out of hell than to get in.
  • Your character could be warped beyond recognition. Some characters will be more resplendent than ever. Paladins and cleric will have their cosmic enemies are right in front of them.
  • The ruler of Avernus is Zariel. She is a fallen angel, once a being of pure good. She was able to see that the demons and the devils were a problem. She decided to try to deal with them, even though her fellow angels refused to go with her.
  • Zariel is on the front lines. The closer you get to the River Styx, the more intense the conflict.
  • There is a chance you might be able to redeem Zariel and save her. Though then there will be a power vacuum.
  • You can become one of her vassals.
  • When you encounter Zariel, your previous choices will affect what happens next.
  • This is the devils’ home turf. If you kill a devil in the Nine Hells, the devil is dead forever. This is the place they are most vulnerable, so they are more likely to cut deals.
Other Notes
  • This adventure is written for new DMs. It is user friendly so that new DMs can get their feet wet in the Baldur’s Gate section. Then it gracefully slides into Avernus, and gives tips on how to bring it to life.
  • You can make the Hell section can be as long or as short as the DM likes.
  • There are a bunch of new monster stat blocks and new magic items.
  • They developed a new infernal font for this adventure.
  • Abyssal chickens can be familiars.
  • The art is different from the other books. If you are in Avernus, and you see a giant wound creeping out of the earth, go check it out.
  • The Infernal Tide: A massive entity made of bone and blood that washes over you.
  • Jim Zub has a physical item - a soul coin. If a good character has more than one, it weighs them down.
  • Abyssal chickens are disgusting, horrifying and powerful.
  • D&D Infernal Tide: A comic where heroes including Minsc & Boo go to the Nine Hells. There is a combat in Candlekeep, in the grand library.
D&D Essentials Kit

Chris Perkins designed it.
  • The Starter Set has the Lost Mine of Phandelver. This Essentials Set has another adventure set in the same place.
  • There’s a 64 page booklet that helps people make new characters. There are sidekick rules in the back.
  • Dragon of Icespire Peak: You can run it with one player and one DM, or a full group. In the solo mode, you can use the sidekicks to round out the group.
  • It is very new-DM friendly. There are 14 quests.
  • There is a poster map that has Phandelin on one side, and the adventure locale on the other.
  • There is a box that contains 81 cards that have all of the magic items, quests, combat cheat sheet cards, and sidekick cards.
  • Sidekicks come in three types: Expert (who has “all the skills”), Spellcaster (arcane or divine), and Warrior.
  • A DM screen with all new art.
  • A set of red dice. They are cherry lozenge red. There are two d20’s and four d6’s.
  • It will be in target on June 24th.
  • The product is a step between the starter set and the Player’s Handbook.
  • There are some “delightfully evil” druids running around in the adventure.
  • You can mix this with Phandelver in a number of different ways.
Baldur’s Gate Dice Set with Miscellany
  • It comes with a map of Avernus.
  • A cipher for the infernal language.
  • Two d20’s, four d6’s. The dice are “brimstone” colored
  • The box is lined with velvet, making it two dice trays.
  • It will be available in August 2019.
The Descent: Game Session 1

DM: Jeremy Crawford
(Kelly D'Angelo) Tuesday - Forest Gnome Druid               
(Talisein Jaffe) Quintifel - Aasimar Warlock               
(Taran Killam) Halwyn Badanathis - High Elf Bard               
(Alex Lee) Filge - Half-Orc Barbarian               
(Joe Manganiello) Halfmat Arson - Dragonborn Sorcerer              
(Surena Marie) Yuri - 15-year old sad kid

Each hero wakes up. They feel damp and warm. The smell of brimstone is all around them. There are explosions going off. Each of them is lying on a riverbank next to greenish water, with whispers rising up from it.

Two massive armies are fighting under an amber sky, demons vs. devils.To their left is a crashed gondola, There’s a dead dwarf. Another dwarf is running toward a strange contraption - a motorcycle. Looming over the dead, red-capped dwarf, is a vrock. It pulls its beak out of the dwarf, looks at the group, and squawks in hunger.

The adventurers attack it. The vrock lets out a call, and more vrocks start flying toward them. The one dwarf who is still alive tells them they are going to die.

Tuesday hirs the dwarf with call lightning. It falls but is still alive. The dwarf says he was trying to help.

The dwarf says the group should pray that Mad Maggie comes to help them. Halwyn is dropped to 1 hit point.

A machine approaches, a horn plays (a car horn). It feels like an earthquake is coming. The vehicle has a crane on it dragging demons. Red-capped dwarves are on it firing ranged weapons on the demons. Mad Maggie has a raven on each shoulder. Her skin is very wrinkly and leather-y. She is a night hag.

She says, “Hey suckas!” and tells the group to get on board. The group gets on. A hoard of demons rush them. Mad Maggie drops a coin in a slot in the steering wheel. Fire erupts out of the back, and the caravan takes off.

She wants more speed. She opens a bottle of demon ichor. She opens a circular hole right next to the key slot and pours it in. The entire war machine shakes and green fire shoots out of the back of the bus. The redcaps pour them into their motorcycles and they all start speeding up.

On a bike, Halfmat wants to put some ichor into his bike. He feels a weird tempting urge of some kind, but he fights it off with a successful CON save.

Mad Maggie asks the heroes to go obtain for her the Tear of Zariel. Uri and Tuesday start talking about where they were before they woke up in Hell. Maggie slaps them, to “make sure they’re not ghosts.”

Maggie leads the caravan into a sandstorm in the hopes of losing the demon horde chasing them.

They ride into the sandstorm. The group needs to make CON saves. Uri and Halwyn fail. There’s something burning inside the sand. It dissolves into their skin and they take 8 acid damage. The face of one of the red caps melts and Mad Maggie cackles.

Maggie’s vehicles starts going over numerous bumps. It turns out that the bumps are actually lemures, low-level devils. Uri says that this is still better than the orphanage.

They come out the other side. Only one red cap survives the trip through. It looks like they shook off the demon horde.

Mad Maggie loves Zariel merchandise and exquisite despair. Zariel is a fallen angel. She cried a long time ago. A single tear fell off her cheek and when it hit the dark sand and blessed a whole area.

If the group gets her the tear, she’ll give them a war machine, some food, and maybe a way out of Hell.

They come to a lake of salt and a crater. Creatures clad like noble knights, each a ghostly figure, weeping. Each ghost’s tears turns to salt and tumbles into the rater. A light glimmers inside a canopy of salt crystals.

Mad Maggie explains those creatures came to Hell with Zariel. In that salt, there’s something moving. All that sorrow, all the grief over holiness lost gave something life.

The group gets out. Halwyn touches the salt and begins crying like a baby. Two sentries who were looking out to the horizon look at Halwyn. They ask whose tears join theirs.  They tell him to join them, and he can’t resist.

Halwyn kneels into the form of one of the spectral knights. He rolls a saving throw and gets a natural 20. Halwyn leans over and weeps. Halfmat uses a mage hand and catches the tears. It looks like the thing in the salt was going to come over, but it doesn’t.

Halfmat uses his cloak to absorb the tears. He throws it into the crater. As the tears on it touches the salt, there is movement. The salt ripples, and a large, crystalline mouth raises up from the salt, eats the cloak, and begins to descend.

Quintifel puts some tears on a paper airplane and throws it. He sees the mouth moving. Then he calls forth his wings and flies toward the creature. Quintifel flies into the chamber of salt crystals and sees a diamond in the shape of a tear. 7 ghostly figures are near.

Hallwyn sheds tears onto the diamond. One of the ghosts says, “Unworthy.” All 7 take a step toward him. One says in Celestial, “All your tears. Every tear you have cried, whether of sorrow or of joy, you must leave here.”

Halfmat pulls a coin that he stole from a red cap. The ghosts are offended and say, “We have no use for the souls of the damned.”

Quintifel, an aasimar, cries tears over the diamond. He feels his deepest sorrows and his deepest joys leave him. They say “It is done.” They all vanish. The light of the diamond continues to pulse. Outside, the others see the spectral knights vanish.

Mad Maggie yells out, “What happened?!”

Quintifel gets out with the tear. The group distracts the mouth with some conjured dogs. They meet with Maggie and offers the group 2 war machines.

Maggie demands the tear. Halfmat wants to find Arkhan’s tower (Arkhan is Joe’s character from Critical Role and other shows - he has a tower in hell near Tiamat’s lair).

The Descent: Game Session 2

DM: Kate Welch                

(Malik Forte) General Hovito - Genasi Fighter                
(Jerry Holkins) Omin Dran - Half-Elf Warpriest                
(Matthew Lillard) Gark - Tiefling Wizard, descendant of Asmodeus               
(Joe Manganiello) Halfmat Arson - Human Sorceror                
(Clint McElroy) Merle - Beach Dwarf           
(Travis McElroy) Magnus Burnsides - Human Fighter

Halfmat barely remembers what happened last session, but finds himself waking up again on the shores of the Styx with a new group of people. Kate explains that time and space are wobbly here.

They are being squirted in the face by a creature that is humanoid tiger. He has an infernal spray bottle. He sees that the group is waking up, and he begins to run.

Nearby, they see a war machine in the form of a giant metal boar. A creature steps out - a boar-headed humanoid (a wereboar). It is wearing a crown made of jagged pieces of metal.

The group explains that they don’t know how they got here. It turns out that the weretiger, named MacGuyver, sprayed them with Styx mist.

The wereboar wants them to bow. Omin and Halfmat refuse. The wereboar condemns them to death. Halfmat casts invisibility, and twins it so that Omin is invisible too. The rest of the group is now a part of the wereboar’s crew.

The wereboar, Ragadraga, wants a queen. He has an evening planned with a special lady - a night hag. Mad Maggie!

Ragadraga explains that he doesn’t know anything about night hags. He promises he won’t kill them if they help him.

He explains that Mad Maggie has a heartstone. Hers has gone missing. Halfmat suddenly remembers Mad Maggie driving an enormous war machine. He thinks he could craft something she might like.

Omin and Halfmat become visible. Halfmat explains that he knows Mad Maggie, and he can help. He thinks she would really like good food. Ragamaga knows of a unicorn near hear. Merle suggests using angels for stuffing.

Omin wants to teach Ragamaga to dance. He does so successfully.

The group then goes to find the heartstone. It is in the possession of a rakshasa. Omin tries to talk it into handing over the heartstone and rolls a natural 20. They further ask about obtaining “unicorn bait”. The rakshasa hands over the heartstone.

It says it will be telling Asmodeus about this transaction.

The heroes head to a store run by a tentacled creature. Grak tries to pay for stuff with Hovito’s soul. It comes for his soul. Magnus attacks. After a few attacks, Omin is able to intimidate the entity and the group gets what they need.

Once the group leaves, Hovito punches Gark. Omin gives the creature a card good for one free quest from Acquisitions, Inc.

They head to the infernal gate powered by the unicorn. They’re not sure where the gate opens to. The gate has infernal script: It says, “The one who enters here, shall be the only one who leaves Avernus.”

Magnus is able to pull the unicorn free. It thanks them, and says that all that it wants is to return home. It will take a very long time to get home. They ask the unicorn if it is good. It says it likes to help children and animals. Merle asks if that includes boars.

Merle and Omin try to sell the unicorn on the idea to let the group cut out some flanks. Omin says, “You’ll have two handsome men healing you from both sides.”

Halfmat says, “They call it the Avernus tower.”

The heroes cut a chunk of meat off of the unicorn and quickly heal it. Hovito says he can’t wait to lose his memory again.

The adventurers return to Ragamaga and his gang. Jeremy Crawford comes out. Apparently he’s going to play Mad Maggie. The group dresses up Ragamaga. Merle calls it “Dwarf Eye for the Boar Guy.”

The group drops a zone of truth and Ragamaga confesses his feelings. Mad Maggie is into it and asks about Zariel collectibles. Gark decides he likes Mad Maggie and wants to run away with her. Gark creates a minor illusion to make it look like Ragamaga is in an iron maiden.

Maggie entertains his ideas and sends him out of the room to wait for him. Then Maggie tells Ragamaga she's going to eat him later.

The heroes leave the building as Maggie and Ragamaga are seemingly getting along.

As they leave, Halfmat watches as his companions slowly vanish.

After the game, Joe mentions that he contributed to Descent Into Avernus. Joe's character, Arkhan the Cruel, appears in the book. He says that characters may or may not need Tiamat's help at some point and the group might need to go through him and his minions: Krull the death domain tortle ("we're making tortles badass"), and Toragar the minotaur.

That's it for day one!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Laughing Dragon Inn: Strike Force Beta 7

On every other Wednesday, I play in a game on the Laughing Dragon Inn channel. It is run by Andy Hatton, who has helped me write a few of my DMs Guild products, including some that will be out soon. I'm wayyyy behind on my DMs Guild stuff. Sorry about that, everybody.

The Party
Right now, we are in the Forgotten Realms. We ended up in an ice dungeon, and we're on our way out. There was another adventuring group in here. On of those adventurers was the ex of Autumn's character, which peaked the interest of many members of the party.

The Tension: From almost the start, we noticed quite a bit of romantic tension between Chidara and Autumn. The rest of us have been watching their interactions with great interest. Almost every time we play, they end up talking and we sneak around, eavesdropping and reporting to each other what was said.

Jarlaxle: So we're trying to find our way out of this ice dungeon and back up to the surface. We fail our checks and get lost. Who do we run into? Jarlaxle and a bunch of drow. Jarlaxle knows we have a box full of gold on us (part of another quest) and wants us to hand it over.

Chidara is our leader. Our group is something of a military-style strike team. Chidara decides that we can't take on Jarlaxle (true) and hands it over. Chidara is bummed about this, and once the drow move on, Autumn has a quiet conversation with Chidara about this which, of course, I excitedly eavesdrop on. They didn't touch each other, but they came pretty close.

The Unsinkable: My character was the only survivor of a horrible shipwreck. Every time we play, I try to tell another tragic tale of someone on the ship that died. The shipwreck haunts my character, and at this point, nobody's really sure if any of these stories are actually true, because they are so ridiculous. The crew of the Unsinkable:
  • Captain Tide: I keep getting Chidara mixed up with Captain Tide, to the point that I call Chidara "Captain" most of the time.
  • Opie: The cabin boy. He drowned.
  • Happiness: There was a dog on the ship named Happiness. He sunk under the sea and I never saw Happiness again.
  • "Mo" Tivation: I lost motivation.
  • Inner Peese: I am endlessly seeking signs of Inner Piece.
  • Hope: We lost Hope, a halfling sailor, long ago.
  • Bai Curious: Bai Curious was a handsome man that I was fascinated with. Rumor had it that he had killed a cat.
  • Old Man Moistfinger: He kept himself dry, save for one wet finger. I tried to save him as he was drowning, but a shark pulled him away. All I held onto was his moist finger, which I carry to this day (It's actually a baby carrot).
The DM threw me a heck of a curveball. Guess what we stumbled on in this icy lair?! A shipwreck! My character failed a save and was sure that this was the unsinkable. The zombies on board looked to me like my fallen shipmates!

Someone dropped a fireball on them. Two burning zombies looked, to me, like Opie and captain Tide. I put the fire out on Opie and yelled the Captain Tide had to live! "What you and autumn have is special! You can't let it go!"

At the same time, two remorhazes popped up and attacked! The group dropped them pretty quick, though a few heroes took a lot of damage.

There was a ballista on the burning ship and I was able to fire on a remorhaz with it.

We survived and My character came to his senses. Next time, we should emerge near the Sea of Moving Ice! Hopefully we'll run into another ship.

You can check this episode out right here:

Mordenkainen's Path of the Planes 24 - Clashes & Questions

The character art in the above image is by my dude turtlestance.

On Wednesday, we played some more of our plane-hopping campaign! Currently, we are in Barovia, stuck in the middle of a struggle between Strahd and Vecna!

The Party
  • (Kelli) Bruilinde - A sassy bard who has a thing for Strahd. In real life, Kelli is an opera singer, so she actually sings her bardic powers on the stream! 
  • (Zippy) Shallot - A gnome wizard who is obsessed with defeating a planar threat named Morandagana. Shallot is a bit of a wild card. 
  • (Me) Odos - A githzerai monk. Basically, this character was an excuse for me to use all the cool lore from my guide to the githzerai. Odos walks the planes and tries to understand the teachings of Zerthimon.
Say Hello to the Bad Guys: Last time, we had ended with each of us playing different characters. I actually got to play Strahd! I wrote a big guide to Strahd a few years ago, so before we started playing, I read through it again to help me get a handle on this dude I was playing.

Elly couldn't make it this week. She was slated to play a drow aligned with Vecna - Vocara, "the heart of Vecna". I'm not sure if Vocara is from a published product - I suspect she is. All I know is that in 4e, a woman named Osterneth has the heart of Vecna, and that she is an NPC from Chris Perkins's real-life Iomandra campaign (which is a setting I'd like to see wizards of the coast actually publish).

Zippy played Kas the Betrayer (!), and Kelly played Madame Eva!

I couldn't tell what was "meant" to happen here. Vocara wanted us to go and meet with Vecna. We didn't like her tone, so we attacked her and her pet dracolich!

Kas kept rolling criticals and did massive piles of damage with the legendary Sword of Kas.

I bit Vocara's neck, drank her blood and did a bunch of "mu-hu-hahahaaaa" kind of things. Basically, we killed Elly's character. Sorry Elly!

I think the dracolich flew away in fear.

I was surprised that, throughout the session, we kept jumping back to our normal characters. I figured that Shane (the DM) would run the whole session with us playing the evil people, but we ended up switching back and forth, which I've never seen done before. I liked it.

Meanwhile: Our normal characters got on a flying carpet. Kasimir, an NPC from Curse of Strahd, wanted to take us to Mordenkainen. This whole campaign is about how Mordenkainen shattered into "pieces" - different versions of himself - that are scattered throughout the planes. Our job is to find all of them and smoosh them back together.

Shallot, Zippy's character, is trying to snatch away this magic knife we found in the Amber Temple. We kept it away from him. I definitely feel like we're walking a thin line here as far as whether or not PVP is going to take place. I'd really like to avoid it if possible, but it's a distinct possibility. Zippy is aware that his character is selfish, but I still would feel bad if we got into a battle and somebody's character died.

Shallot killed Kasimir when we got to our destination over a dispute that happened a number of sessions back. It was another instance of the dude going rogue. Not good!

We met Mordenkainen and got to talk to him a bit before flashing back to our villains.

As Strahd, I decided it was time to summon all of the "creatures of the night": Bats, wolves, Strahd zombies, even the ghostly procession that rises every midnight in the village of Barovia's graveyard.

I forgot to specifically mention my favorite 5e monster of all from the Curse of Strahd book: The Barovian Witches! Hopefully Shane will let them come, too.

So we're leading an army to Citadel Cavitius, Vecna's lair in Barovia. The next episode should be epic!

You can watch this episode here:

Watch Mordenkainen's Path of the Planes - Ep 24: Clashes & Questions from thegreyhawkchannel on

Orchard Episode 11: What We Think Is Best

Last Monday we played some more Orchard on the Greyhawk channel.

Here's the group:
  • (Tommy) Ciaran: He's a barbarian, a pretty dark character. So far in the campaign, he turned into a wendigo and lost an eye.
  • (Bree) Caeli: A rogue who is linked to the Suel empire. She grew up as a slave and is also a pretty dark character.
  • (Heavenleigh) Seraphina: A cleric who is sort of the "mom" of the group.
  • (Me) Neil Zarkanen: A paladin who is super-nice. 
High Level: Not sure if I mentioned this last time, but we are 16th level! I've run a fair amount of high level 5e stuff, but as a player I don't think I've run a character this high.

What's weird about it is that I don't feel that powerful. The paladin spell list is very weird. It's a lot of utility stuff. I can do a bit of damage with melee, but it doesn't feel that big.

I can see how some people might have a hard time juggling all the weird powers you accrue, but I've found that the best way to keep track of it all is just to list it on a piece of paper. Here's the stuff that I like the most:
  • (Reaction) Protection: When a creature attacks an adjacent ally, I can use my shield to pose disadvantage. 
  • Aura of Protection: When an ally within 10 feet of me makes a saving throw, they get +4 to the roll.
  • (4/day) Cleansing Touch: I can end one spell on myself or on a willing creature that I touch. I actually haven't successfully used this once, but I really like it.
  • (Reaction) Rebuke the Violent: When an attacked within 30 feet deals damage with an attack against a creature other than me, They must make a Charisma save. Fail: They take radiant damage equal to the damage they dealt. Success: They take half damage. This one is the most effective. The monsters hit hard at this level, and them having to take it makes a big difference.
  • Protective Spirit: Once I drop below half my hit points, a spirit appears and heals me for d6+7 HP every round until I am above half my hit point max!
Having them all right there in front of me, with reactions and bonus actions clearly noted and easily spotted, makes it much easier to run the character without missing things.

Sharing a Bed

My character, Caeli and Seraphina shared a room to rest in. I figured that I'd be sleeping on the floor, but it was decided that all three of us slept in the bed together. My character is a weird, innocent man-thing, so he was wearing his newly purchased Lolth pajamas adorned with cartoon spiders.

Seraphina was wearing "the clothes you wear when you're about to start making your character in an MMO", which amused me greatly. I picture this scene like in the movie Three Amigos.

This got me thinking about that movie. I used to watch it all the time when I was little. We used to sing the "My Little Buttercup" song when I worked at the movie theater. I sang some of it for Kelli (@TheOperaGeek) and she was quite surprised/alarmed to hear my warbling.

Drow Intrigue: From there, we learned a number of things. Ciaran has this secret backstory involving his mom. Apparently, his mom somehow made her way down into the drow city, and she brought along Ciaran's sort-of ex-girlfriend!

We were given a mission, more or less. House Eilservs is supposedly planning a coup. They've aligned themselves with the evil deity Tharizdun, and are looking to overthrow the Lolth-worshiping houses. Our job was to prevent this.

We mulled over two options:
  1. Go meet with Eclavdra (a pretty famous D&D NPC) at a gallery.
  2. Meet Niverma at a playhouse.
We discussed our options for a good bit. Somewhere in here, Seraphina's new sword started messing with her. It forced her to toss her ring of mind-shielding and she ended up alone in the city fighting a slaver.

Slaves: Toward the end of the session, Seraphina and I were in the city rescuing a kid who was a slave. We were bringing him back to our place, when he spotted his family in a cage. He begged us to free them.

Seraphina pointed out that there was no way to do this in public without being noticed. My character insisted on trying to figure something out. We're good guys, right? It was made clear to us that they were sick and dying. Their "owner" had been killed and they were rotting away in a cage.

Seraphina surprisingly insisted that we leave them, and I got into a spot where I realized we were about to fight about it. As in, character vs. character.

I started looking over my sheet for spells to use. I really didn't want to go into a big thing where we rolled initiative, as it felt like a waste of time and I didn't think anything good would come out of it. It was quickly decided we'd resolve it with one contested grappling check, which seemed like a great idea to me. I lost!

So we left the kid's family to die! My character angrily told Seraphina that she's not who I thought she was, and she sadly agreed.

It was good stuff, but I'm a bit worried about how I should handle it next week. I really don't like running my character as angry, but I feel like there should be some kind of lingering tension.

I guess I'll focus on trying to keep the slave kid alive!

You can watch this episode right here:

Watch Orchard episode 12 What we think is best from thegreyhawkchannel on

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Secrets of Castle Greyhawk 15 - The Mirror Realm

A few years ago, I wrote a few articles about the original Castle Greyhawk. That's one of the first D&D dungeons, the place where Gary Gygax playtested the D&D rules. It is in the dungeons underneath Castle Greyhawk that heroes like Tenser, Otiluke, and Robilar ran around and became legends.

I'd wanted to run a Castle Greyhawk campaign for many years, loosely basing it on Gary's dungeon.

Recently, I was able to get this campaign going on the greyhawk channel. We play every Thursday at 1 PM EST.

The heroes
  • (Doug) Gusamon - a fungus-obsessed dwarf.
  • (Kikka) Lytria - A wood elf ranger who is trying to find her real parents.
  • (Dylan) Gundar - An evil dwarf covered in tattoos.
  • (Chloe) Aurora - A paladin with an angelic lineage.
Together, they've been making their way through the dungeons. There are 13 levels in all. I based the first three very loosely on the real ones. I really don't have a lot of time to prepare, so I've been relying on published products.

Level 4 is the undead level, using material from the Barrowmaze, a fantastic undead-themed dungeon made by Greg Gillespie. The dungeon has this pit in it that is spewing forth undead. The heroes need to bring a magic orb called the Fount of Law and toss it into the pit to destroy it.

The Mirror: Looking at what was left, I thought we might get to the final area of the Barrowmaze today. We didn't, primarily because of the mirror.

The room goes like this. If you look in this magic mirror, you are teleported to a quasi-realm where you have to fight an undead version of yourself. If you destroy it, you return to the dungeon.

The group were cautious and ultimately decided to all look at the mirror at the same time. It was literally explained to me that they wanted to "engage with the dungeon", which amused me greatly.

So, all 4 heroes appeared in the quasi-realm and had to fight their undead counterparts. Aurora turned two, using her gauntlet of palantis (a very cool item she'd found in the previous session). Gusamon got hit a few times, but the heroes weren't having too much trouble with the remaining zombies.

The group has a bunch of hirelings and sidekicks. Most of the names of the hirelings have names that are anagrams derived from the names of my players from years past:
  • Tumtut Brazen - A tall, athletic woman.
  • Ratty Lens - A pretty resourceful dude with a hunchback.
  • Jackie Moonshoe - A glamorous dame who lost her nerve a few rooms into the dungeon, and now spends her time shivering and smoking.
  • A dwarf the group rescued from a pit.
  • 3 mummy cats - new monsters from the adventure, called Nebanekhets.
Some of the hirelings looked into the mirror and were sucked into this quasi-realm as well. The dwarf was killed by his double, and the mummy cat did battle with a regular cat.

The heroes survived and returned to the room whence they came. Then, they did what heroes do. They tried to take the mirror and bring it with them.

That was another split-second decision for me. I knew that it would "ruin" some encounters, and my best bet is to say yes, but then spend a week thinking through the limitations so that they could get good use out of it without flattening the adventure completely.

They were excited about it and I figured, "ah, what the heck" and went along for the ride.

They soon came to an area where there were 8 cockatrices nearby (chickens that can turn you to stone). The heroes used their bat familiars to get the cockatrices to turn the corner and run right toward the mirror.

Poof. The cockatrices went into the mirror realm. I quickly made some rolls to see how many cockatrices defeated their undead selves. A round or two later, 4 emerged victorious. The group took down the rest.

So now I have a week to mull this over. What can I do with this thing?
  1. I could have it break. I don't want to go out of my way to break it. If it happens, it happens.
  2. There could be some kind of overlord int he realm who doesn't like all of the activity.
  3. Maybe entities on the other side start popping out at an inopportune time.
  4. If the group traps some undead in here, maybe their living selves can be reborn?
Not sure yet, but there are a lot of fun possibilities.

One thing that I am wary of is that the final room is teeming with monsters - skeletons, zombies, etc. I don't want the mirror to nullify it. I'll need to figure out a way for the mirror to add to it rather than detract from it in a way that is satisfactory for everyone involved.

Magic Items: This dungeon is old school, and part of old school means tons of magic items. I embraced it to a degree, and the players seem to enjoy getting all these cool, weird items.

Aurora, the paladin, has a 20 AC. I don't see many campaigns where magic armor comes into play. Imagine a paladin with +3 plate and a +2 shield? That's a 25 AC! That seems like it might cause problems.

So we got to a point where the heroes found the remains of a paladin, and there's a helm +1. It's got wings on it. I had to make a split-second decision. Do I want the paladin to have a 21 AC? Am I giving out helms that boost armor class?

I decided to go with it, mostly because a winged helmet is very old school and fun. I am worried about her AC, but there are other ways to affect a hero - saving throws, spells, status effects, etc.

You can check this episode out right here:

Watch Secrets of Castle Greyhawk Ep. 15 - The Mirror Realm from thegreyhawkchannel on

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Mordenkainen's Path of the Planes 23 - Allies or Enemies

A fairly long-running show at this point, Mordenkainen's Path of the Planes is a higher-level D&D campaign that I've been playing in on the greyhawk channel. The first section of the campaign placed us in Hell, and now we're in Barovia.

(Kelli) Bruilinde - A sassy bard who has a thing for Strahd. In real life, Kelli is an opera singer, so she actually sings her bardic powers on the stream!

(Elly) Lux - An intense, brooding rogue once linked to the evil Scarlet Brotherhood.

(Zippy) Shallot - A gnome wizard who is obsessed with defeating a planar threat named Morandagana. Shallot is a bit of a wild card.

(Me) Odos - A githzerai monk. Basically, this character was an excuse for me to use all the cool lore from my guide to the githzerai. Odos walks the planes and tries to understand the teachings of Zerthimon.

My D&D Character's Girlfriend: For me, the biggest thing on this show is the relationship between my character and Lux. We started off the campaign absolutely hating each other, but things changed when we kept trying to one-up each other in mid-combat.

I'm not sure if I've ever done a romance in a D&D campaign as lengthy as this one. It is a lot of fun, though I never quite know where the line is and I get worried about handling it properly.

There were two incidents in particular that signaled turning points in the relationship.
  • The Flower: I had found this frozen flower in a castle. Every time we rested in Hell, I'd check it to see if it had melted. It never did. When we got out of hell, I gave Lux a little speech about how the flower endured, just like my feelings for her.
  • The Camp: We actually camped right outside that wall in Barovia that I wrote about quite a bit in my review of Curse of Strahd. It was very cold, and so Lux and Odos were bundled up. She took me completely by surprise with an "I love you", which left me pretty much speechless.
At this point, our characters are very in synch and we have plans to move to an island together.

Battle Flirting: So far, it has been a lot of fun and added quite a bit. In combat, we've begun fighting in tandem. Between my stunning strike and her sneak attack damage, single foes don't last long against us. We continue to do acrobatic moves in battle, mostly just to impress one another.

Where does the whole thing go? Who knows? I've cooked up some backstory complications that may or may not come into play, but for the most part we just play it by ear.

In this session, we were in the Amber Temple, looking for a magic dagger. Barovia has been invaded by Vecna, and apparently this dagger is something both of them want.

First, we fought a demon and rolled a ridiculous series of critical hits. We kept hitting this fiend in the groin and frankly I felt sorry for it.

The Magic Dagger: Once the dagger was in our possession, we had to figure out what to do with it. I realize now that we didn't even study it to see what it could do! Shallot, being a difficult little guy, wanted to have it, but we've been burned by this dude before.

I personally want Strahd to have it, mostly because Bruilinde has a thing for Strahd and I get a kick out of seeing them interact.

Giving it to Vecna might mean the end of Barovia altogether, which would be odd.

I, Strahd: Then something weird happened. Shane, the DM, switched scenes. I was suddenly playing Strahd. Kelli was Madame Eva, Zippy was Kas the Betrayer, and Elly was a minion of Vecna's.

I got to moan about Tatiana for a few minutes and then made an alliance with Kas. Apparently we're going to go try to kill Vecna!

Crazy stuff! It's a fun show. You can check it out right here:

Watch Mordenkainen's Path of the Planes - Ep 23: Allies or enemies from thegreyhawkchannel on

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Orchard Episode 10: Erelhei-Cinlu

I've been playing in a game on the Greyhawk Channel called Orchard. It is run by Prorestarter.

I've written before about how I hate being a player, but lately I've felt that it is important for me to play as I tend to lose perspective as a DM and come off as too harsh or callous.

Here's the group:
  • (Tommy) Ciaran: He's a barbarian, a pretty dark character. So far in the campaign, he turned into a wendigo and lost an eye.
  • (Bree) Caeli: A rogue who is linked to the Suel empire. She grew up as a slave and is also a pretty dark character.
  • (Heavenleigh) Seraphina: A cleric who is sort of the "mom" of the group.
We are all members of a mercenary company called the Gilded Glaive. Each member gets a special fanny pack to hold our stuff. You have to earn these fanny packs!

My character is Neil Zarkanen, a friendly paladin of Boccob (god of magic). Right after he was born, his mom left him in a garbage pile outside the city of greyhawk when he was a baby. Clerics of Boccob took him in and raised him.

Playing a Good Guy: My character is a nice guy. I like playing nice guys or good guys. He tries to keep the group together and gets bothered when the heroes do something evil.

Both Ciaran and Caeli thought that Bael, one of the roaming dukes of hell, was cool. Bael traveled with us for a short time. Bael is not cool - he's raw evil. He's scum.

We have this weird sort of tension where my dorky-but-kind character tries to keep the heroes on the path toward goodness. It is an avenue ripe with dad joke possibilities.

DM Style: I really enjoy the way that the DM runs the game. Usually, due to my abominable attention span, I get bored pretty quick. Usually in D&D, there's a lot of sitting and waiting your turn in D&D. I get lost in my own brain and lose track of where we are and what we're doing.

The DM is able to keep everything moving really well, to the point that the time flies by more often than not. I think part of it is his use of background music. There's something about it that really helps a lot.

He also does something that fascinates me. He legit runs it like a TV show, even describing a camera panning over a scene. He's locked in to that take - we're in a movie or a TV show. He even one time described a scene where time slowed down and reversed, detailing arrows stopping in mid-flight.

What's the downside to that? None, as far as I can see. It doesn't hurt at all. It's weird that more DMs don't do it, now that I think about it.

Erelhei-Cinlu: In this session, we arrived in the drow city of Erelhei-Cinlu. This was very cool for me, as I ran a few sessions in this city with my Planescape group. I did a ridiculous amount of preparation for that game. Basically, I made a guide with a pencil and paper. I wrote about pifwafwis, crawl chariots, you name it.

We're dealing with a few issues:
  1. The Feywild is being corrupted by twisted evil.
  2. We need to destroy a number of temples to Tharizdun.
We needed to meet a women in a brothel. I got quite amused at the idea of my character in a brothel.

The other heroes kept the employees of the brothel from sinking their hooks into me, while Ciaran started drinking heavily. The rest of us hit the town and picked up some potions and gear.

This was essentially a "shopping" episode, which is something I used to hate. In this campaign, it was good because the entire group is good. I think we could do just about anything and it would be fun.

I bought some noble clothes and lolth-themed pajamas.

Slaves: Guess what came up again? Slaves!! Jessie used to have a thing for buying slaves in D&D, and here we are once again in a city full of them.

I thought that my character should try to buy as many slaves as he could and free them. Wandering around with a horde of 5 hit point slaves is obviously a recipe for disaster, but hey, I have to try, right?

Interestingly, Seraphina, the other good character in the party, was against it. She said we should try to foment revolution.

Here?? Now? How? As far as I could tell, we were just making a pit stop. How the heck are we going to create a successful slave revolt down in this thoroughly evil realm?

the goal was noble, but I just didn't see how it was possible.

The group further pointed out to me that these slaves likely were all messed up psychologically, and that they might not be able to survive on their own.

Ultimately I thought the best solution was to buy one "test" slave. At the very least, I can save one person, right? I'll have to keep them safe until we get somewhere that they can build a new life. That will be very tricky, but a fun challenge, in my opinion.

Mom: We ended with Ciaran rolling over in bed to see that the lady in bed with him suddenly looked like his mother. His screams echoed throughout the building.

You can watch this episode here:

Watch Orchard episode 11 Erelhei-Cinlu from thegreyhawkchannel on