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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 www.twitch.tv

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 www.twitch.tv

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 www.twitch.tv

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 www.twitch.tv

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 www.twitch.tv

Monday, December 3, 2018

PAX Unplugged 2018


PAX Unplugged is a large convention that took place in Philadelphia just a few days ago. These are the shows that the big Acquisitions, Inc. events are held.

This year's PAX was a bit special, as Chris Perkins has stepped down from the role of DM for Acq Inc. and Jeremy Crawford, the man in charge of D&D rules, took over.

Worth It?

I don't go out much and I like it that way. A lot of people I've met online were going, though, and something told me that I needed to go to PAX Unplugged, even if it made me uncomfortable.

I went, and I'm glad I did! It was exhausting for sure, but worthwhile. For me, the key to enjoying the con was to not sign up for anything. D&D games at a con with people you don't know are hit and miss. One annoying person will ruin a 4 hour session for me.

Fellow Traveler: I had to take two trains to get from New York to Philly. While waiting at Penn Station, some guy started telling me about how he was going to meet a woman who had just gotten divorced. Is it a date? No, he said. Just a friendly visit.

I tried to peel back the layers some more, but my train arrived and there was a mad dash to get in line.

It Begins

I got to Philly and met the first of many people: Garrett (he runs the Rappan Athuk campaign that I play in), met me at the Marriot that directly connects to the convention center where PAX was held.

We were staying in a large suite with a pair of huge beds, a massive TV, and plenty of furniture. It was so weird to meet him in person, in a "is this real?" kind of way.

Meeting the Waffle Crew

He told me he'd met the waffle crew, the heroes of Dice, Camera, Action, and he urged me to go and say hello. I was already feeling like I was in an out of body experience. Once I saw them, I felt like a ghost or something.

The entire group was right there at their table. I'd caught them right as they were wrapping up their merch table stuff, so there was no line at all. There was only one other person there. Know who it was? Kikka! She plays in my Secrets of Castle Greyhawk campaign.

The whole thing was so surreal that I felt like I was running on auto-pilot. I talked briefly with each member of the waffle crew. I made sure to tell Nate that him counterspelling Manshoon's power word: kill was epic and I talked with Jared about how the group seemed to be able to fill a 2 hour session even if Chris said nothing. Jared told me, "That's what we're going to try to do tonight."

Then I turned to Kikka and whispered these immortal words: "Sword of the Magus". Her character, Lytria, wields the mighty Sword of the Magus in Secrets of Castle Greyhawk. It's an item from the choose your own adventure book that got me into D&D in the first place - Mountain of Mirrors by Rose Estes.

As I walked away, I told Garrett that the con was already worth it. The crew was so nice to me. Anna told me that they had gone over my blog many times in the early days of DCA. I also got to thank Holly and Anna for appearing on Waffle Talk, my show that discusses Dice, Camera, Action.

Meeting Friends

So then, we're walking around, and we peer in a large room with tables. Who's in there playing a game? Grant Ellis, Kelli Butler, and WebDM Pruitt! I said hello to each. Grant gave me a firm handshake, Kelli (we both play in Mordenkainen's Path of the Planes) and I shared an E.T. finger touch, and Pruitt gave me a mighty hug.

We leave that room and I'm sort of reeling from the whole thing. I was in a place full of people who were happy to see me. It was far beyond what I expected. This was nothing like the cons I went to years ago, which were hot, sweaty, intense affairs full of dudes arguing about rules. Cons have completely changed, apparently.

Then I ran into Travis Boles, who is sort of like the man behind the curtain for WebDM. He gave me the most powerful hug I'd ever received in my life.

Character-Making Panel

We decided to go to a panel. People had warned me that PAX was all about waiting in lines. I was sort of dreading that aspect of it. There was a line, but it was well-managed and there was plenty of seating when we got in.

This particular panel was run by Ruty Rutenberg and Satine Phoenix. It was mostly about making interesting characters. I was most struck by how nice everyone was. From the crowd to the panelists, there was nothing but positivity in this hall.

The Legend of Ed

After that, we decided to go to 13, which is the Marriot restaurant. This was a pretty swanky little place.

Our waiter was a man named Ed. Ed is one of the greatest people in the multiverse. Why, you ask?
  • He delivered our appetizers in about 90 seconds.
  • He made sure people checked on us every two seconds.
  • He told us about places near the hotel that have good food.
  • He told us when they were open.
  • He WROTE US A LIST of those places and what to get from them!
  • He handed me the best burger I had in all of 2018.
This guy was amazing. I quietly swore that I would return to this restaurant on the following day. How could I not? We even discussed buying Ed his favorite food - it was pumpkin cheesecake with cream on it or something. Little did I know that 13 had dark secrets...

Brownest of the Brown Liquors: I don't drink, but it's a special night, so I decided that I'd have one if Garrett had one. And so, he ordered bourbon.

I'm just not an alcohol guy. It was painful beyond belief. Worse, this one little cup cost $18! Why?

Dice, Camera, Action Live

After that was the big event for me at PAX - the Dice, Camera, Action live show. Chris Perkins wasn't at this con. Satine Phoenix stepped in to sort of fill his role.

I met up with another online friend: Andy Hatton, from the Laughing Dragon Inn. Andy is like... your best friend. Everyone's best friend. He's just a great dude and a very good DM!

This show was pure roleplaying. All four characters revealed some secrets and we learned some backstory. There were quite a few funny moments.

Meeting More Friends: After it ended, I was approached by a few people who had recognized me from Waffle Talk and Dungeon Academy! I was a bit bowled over. There was one guy that I wish I could have talked to more, but there was a lot going on and he disappeared before I could continue to pick his brain.

At the same time, I met two of my Dungeon Academy players in real life. Dungeon Academy is full of players who more or less learned D&D through Dice, Camera, Action, so this was a very fitting venue to meet in real life.

It amuses me endlessly to pretend that I am the teacher and they are the students, and that this is some kind of field trip. They were great, of course, and it was very surreal. In retrospect, I think we really should have gamed together at some point during the convention.

Slumber Party: After that we headed back to the suite and met with our other roomies, Lindy and her husband! We chatted into the wee hours of the morning. I hadn't slept in a very long time and I passed out somewhere in there.

Bacon Questions: The next morning, we ordered some room service, which was phenomenal. I eventually realized that Garrett only ate half of each slice of bacon. There were four slices, and he left four halves. Why wouldn't he just eat two full slices?

I started to suspect that he was harboring some sort of inner demon. I looked at him in a new light.

Sweet, Sweet Silence: Being an extreme introvert, I stayed in the hotel for a few hours while he ventured forth into PAX. I love hotel rooms and I love the QUIET. I gleefully had both to myself for a few hours.

Then I got word that Garrett had found Lysa Chen! Lysa has written some great Adventurers League scenarios and she is one of the authors of Dungeons of the Mad Mage! She'd also played in a few of my online games.

At the same time, Shauna arrived at the hotel. We headed over to an RPG free play room and boom, I got to play live D&D with Lysa, Garrett, and Shauna.

Beyond the Wall

We played a game called Beyond the Wall, which has this whole shared creation element to it. There are a lot of die rolls involved on random charts (I love random charts). Lysa and I kept rolling the same numbers, so we decided that our characters were identical twins.

The story we ended up with is that we were skunk people living in a village named Stinkton that had been attacked by badgers. Both Lysa and I were secretly and separately carrying on an affair with a badger named Dug Diggity.

Lysa had cards from her upcoming show on the D&D channel called Tales From the Mists. I got one and it is in my wallet right now.

Dice, Camera, Action Q & A


Then came the Dice, Camera, Action Q & A. In the crowd, I could see another of my Dungeon Academy players in costume. It was Aya, dressed as Lilia (she's wearing the red hat)!

The Q&A was fun. I don't remember too much from it, other than the fact that there were a lot of questions about "what if you all die". Both Scotty and Brianne asked questions, which was pretty great.

After that, I met Scotty and Dylan from my Dragon Heist game, and Aya from Dungeon Academy, along with two of Aya's friends.

The Betrayal

Here is where I made my mistake. We all went out to eat. Where? 13.

Was Ed at 13? Yes. Was he our waiter? No!

Our waiter was rude and stand-offish. I didn't like the way he talked to us at all. It wasn't until after we left that I learned that HE BAD-MOUTHED ED.

Apparently it went like this. Garrett said, "Ed says that the philly cheese steak here is the best in the city."

Waiter: "Ed only works, goes home, and comes back to work. Do you really believe what Ed has to say?"

Why on Earth would you ever do that? I worked in retail/customer service for a long time, and I am BAFFLED. Bash your co-worker in front of a customer?

Shiftspice


There's been this running gag in my games about Shiftspice. Shiftspice is a magic item from the Planescape: Torment computer game. I was excited to put it in my game, and was dismayed when the group thought it came in little packets, like ketchup at McDonald's.

So at this convention, Scotty actually made and gave out shiftspice packets! And he gave me shiftspice in a corked bottle, as it was meant to be presented. It was amazing.

Transgender Representation in RPGs Panel 

Then we hit up another panel about Trans representation in games. Shauna and Kikka were on this panel. Grant Ellis was running it.

From what I understand, some of the panelists weren't expecting too many people to show up. The room was pretty packed. There were tons of people in attendance.

I wanted to go to this panel for a few reasons, one of which being that I don't know how to handle trans topics in my games. I'm always afraid I might accidentally do something offensive.

One thing that got mentioned a lot is the helpfulness of this document: The Trans Language Primer.

Esper Genesis


After that, fate stepped in. Somehow I got invited to play in a special game of Esper Genesis, a sci-fi D&D game. Who ran it? DMs Guild Adept Rich Lescouflair, who created the game! The players:
  • Lysa Chen
  • Nerdarchy Dave
  • WebDM Jim
  • Shauna
  • Garrett
  • Me
I think Lysa is the one who put this all together. I have been on Nerdarchy a few times and I was so pleased to get to sit next to him and roll some dice together in real life. WebDM Jim is just a great dude.

We had a bit of time to look at our pregens and check out the Esper Genesis hardcover. What I really like about Esper Genesis is that it is similar enough to 5e that it's very easy to learn. Many of the powers are just re-skinned spells.

Also, the art that I saw was really good. My character was a "dendus". Check it out:


Our Mission: In the game, we were mercenaries. We were hired to deliver some encrypted data to a woman in a night club. We were at a space port where a new, huge ship had arrived.

We took one look at the ship and wanted to steal it, but we stuck to our assigned mission. I was an engineer and Lysa was "A captain, not THE captain". She was a cat-person. I suggested that she was really a "Cat-pin", and the groans at the table were mighty indeed.

The Cat-pin and I did not get along. Our rivalry culminated in a dance-off at the night club. We both rolled really bad, so the real losers of the dance-off were everyone who had to witness it.

It turns out that we'd been tricked. The device holding the data did something else entirely. We ended up in a shoot-out with a gang of villains.

We chased them on hoverbikes. Dave sped up to the last bad guy and suplexed him off the bike. Dave rolled a natural 20!

There was more content to play through, but it was late, so we stopped there. It was a lot of fun!

Back in the suite, I told Shauna and Garrett about how I'd watched every Phantasm movie over the last week and how weird/good/bad they were. I passed out somewhere in there.

Going Home

The third day for me was all about getting home. I said farewell to my new friends and carefully made my way to the train station. The trip went fine until the final leg.

As we approached my stop, the conductor told me that only the last few car doors would open. I'd need to make my way through most of the train to exit.

I dutifully got my stuff together and awaited my announcement. It came. I got up. An elderly couple in front of me also got up. They blocked my path. They got their luggage off of the overhead rack. They slowly made their way to the back of the first of many cars. The door was closed. The lady didn't know how to slide it open. She had a lengthy discussion with a passenger about it.

We weren't even close to the back of the train. We missed our stop. I couldn't believe it. I was flabbergasted.

We got off at the next stop and were given a voucher. We had to take another train BACK to get home. We had to wait an hour.

So we sat there in this train station, me and the old couple. I told them about PAX. The guy told me he went to "trapper conventions". I didn't ask about different types of bear traps, but I wanted to.

We got on our train and, this time, we didn't miss our stop.

I got home!

Final Thoughts

I'm so glad I got to go to PAX. Next time, I think I'll try to plan some more games with friends, although I did really enjoy being free to do whatever I wanted (or nothing at all).

Not a Lot of Free Stuff: I expected to get more free stuff than I did. I got almost nothing and I bought almost nothing. A lot of the dealer's room was full of board and card games, which I really have no interest in.

Cost: It actually wasn't that expensive at all. A 3-day pass cost $60. The trains cost a bit more. The hotel would have been expensive if not for sharing a room with Garrett. Once you're in the Con, there's not much to pay for. You just play games!

If there's a PAX near you, you definitely might want to consider going. It was a lot of fun.