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Monday, May 20, 2019

The Descent: Day Three

There is a big announcement at the very, very end of the stream. There will indeed be a fourth book, but I don't think it is what anyone was expecting.

Death Race

DM: Adam Lee

(Clint McElroy) Merle - Beach Dwarf Cleric
(Travis McElroy) Magnus Burnsides - Human Fighter
(James Haeck) Orellius Wreck - Tiefling of Mammon
(Dael Kingsmill) Carapace Tomahawk - Halfling Fighter
(Ari Levich) The Madcaps of the Scavenger

This game is a PVP situation. The players are divided into groups situated in competing war machines. 
  • The Tormenter: In this war machine are Merle & Magnus, who serve a warlord named Bitterbreath, who was once a very powerful devil and hopes to regain lost status.
    Demon Grinder: Orellius and Carapace serve Faeonor. She wants them to recover as many soul coins as they can.
  • The Scavenger: The Madcaps serve Mad Maggie. They have stolen a pile of soul coins from Mammon. The other two vehicles are trying to get the soul coins.
Mad Maggie has stolen a cache of soul coins from Mammon, and she has them in her machine, the Scavenger.  Maggie’s war machine heads into a chasm.

A madcap is a new monster - Mad Maggie’s brand of redcap. These creatures were once redcaps who have rolled around in demon ichor. Their hats melted into their face and they are crazy. 

The heroes pursue and their vehicles begin to collide. The players roll initiative.

Merle is driving Demon Grinder. He has demon ichor that can make the vehicle go faster. This stresses out the machine. If he uses the ichor, he will need to roll a d20 every round. Rolling a 1 means that a mishap will occur.

Orellius mans the wrecking ball, and hits the Tormenter with it. He does 39 points. The war machine has a mishap threshold of 20 - since the wrecking ball exceeded this, they roll a mishap. The tormenter’s axle is hit. The vehicle has disadvantage on Dexterity checks.

It can be repaired with a Dex save. The Tormenter has “juke”, which gives Magnus advantage on Dex saves. He is successful and fixes the issue.

The Tormenter has raking scythes. The madcap driver of the Scavenger makes a check and avoids the scythes. Carapace climbs up onto the harpoon station. She only does 6 points, which is below the Tormenter’s damage threshold of 10, and so it does no damage.

The madcaps on the Scavenger look back at the two other vehicles fighting and do nothing.

The Tormenter uses the scythes again and do enough damage to hit the mishap threshold. The tires shred and the vehicle flips over, falls prone, and comes to a dead stop. Any creature on the outside must make a DC 20 DEX save or be thrown from the vehicle. Creatures inside the vehicle must make a DC 15 STR save or take 13 points of bludgeoning. Scurve, the driver, falls unconscious.

Carapace jumps on to the Demon Grinder, Magnus spots her. Magnus punches her with his magic gauntlet, phantom fist. Phantom fist has a special power that knocks you back. She makes her safe.

The Scavenger turns around and drives toward the Demon Grinder. The redcaps on board fire a harpoon, but miss.

Orellius tries to jump onto the Demon Grinder, but James rolls a 2. He misses the vehicle.

Merle casts fireball at Carapace. She fails her save and takes a total of 22 fire damage. Hell warps the fireball, and places devil faces in the flames.

Carapace is on the side of the Tormenter. She moves down the side and is struck by Magnus again.

Orellius casts command on Merle, and tells him to “reverse”. Merle makes his save. Then he dumps some demon ichor into the fuel tube. Then he yells out, “Ramming speed!” and guns it toward the Scavenger. Merle casts shield of faith.

Are there airbags? No. But Adam says if there were, it would be a Hell airbag, possibly full of the screams of the damned.

Carapace shoots a banishing arrow at a madcap. She hits the driver, who is shunted to the feywild for a round.

The Tormenter and the Scavenger are about to collide. Magnus jumps off the Tormenter for safety. He goes flying over the Scavenger, and hits the ground, taking 17 damage. He succeeds on a DEX check to roll to his feet.

The madcaps in the Scavenger shoot harpoons (they do 2d8+1 dmg each) at the Tormenter.

The Tormenter and the Scavenger collide. The Scavenger takes 55 points of damage. The Tormenter is totaled. Merle’s shield of faith protects him somewhat. He take 50 points of damage. Merle is dying!

Carapace is on the roof as the vehicles collide. She makes an Athletics check to hold on, and rolls an 8. She goes flying through the air and takes 35 points of damage. She crashes to the ground and is dying.

Each madcap takes 50 points of damage and they all die.

The Tormenter flips through the air, burning. The soul coins are everywhere.

Orellius trudges over toward the cockpit of the Scavenger and tries to start it with a soul coin. The vehicle is upside down. He needs to get out and try to push it back to the upright position. The DC is a 20, and he rolls a natural 20!

Merle fails his first death save.

Magnus grabs a sack of soul coins. Because he has made a bargain with Bitterbreath, a massive cloud splits above his head. A pit fiend flies down and tells Magnus that he has won. His name is Bel (!). Bel wants to make a deal with Bel to procure his services in the future.

Magnus makes a deal. Bel heals Merle. In exchange, Magnus and Merle will serve Bel for 6 months.

Bel offers to heal Carapace, too. She will have to serve him for one year. Carapace takes the deal.

That was awesome.

End of Stream Announcement

At the end of the convert, Nathan Stewart gets on stage with Anna Prosser and Kate Welch. He's a little buzzed.

Time to make the announcement, as teased on Spoilers and Swag. Kate points out that this product is not linked to Spelljammer. It is a hardcover Eberron book. There's a warforged on the cover. Nathan says Greg Tito doesn't want him to say anything further.

The Descent: Day Two

On this day, fans at the live event were able to play in an epic event centered around a massive war machine battle.

The power went out in the building for a short time during the Chris Perkins game.

The Descent: Game Session 3

DM: Marisha Ray    
(Krystina Arielle) Ariza - Aasimar Cleric/Bard                
(Matthew Lillard) Gark - Tiefling Wizard                
(Satine Phoenix) Vadia - Bard/Wizard Band manager of the sirens                
(Patrick Rothfuss) Viari - Rogue                 
(Kate Welch) Rosie Beestinger - Halfling Monk                
(Deborah Ann Woll) Twiggy - Gnome Arcane Trickster

Gark awakens, barely remembering what happened last session. All he knows is that he wants to get out of this place. He sees a hole in the sky and spots the remains of a city in the distance. It seems to have chains connected to it.

Nearby there is a small canoe half-buried in the sand. A river is nearby.

Gark finds the other heroes lying unconscious in the sand nearby. There’s also a corpse of a barbed devil. Introductions are made. Rosie spots a war machine in the distance and says that it could be a useful shelter.

The group approaches, carefully avoiding the many puddles of black ichor that dot the area.. Vadia spots a creature skittering about. It looks a bit like a rat.

Viari gets some gunk on him and his ear begins to mutate. He panics and runs toward Rosie. He trips and falls into a puddle of black ichor. His ear becomes deformed and he grows twisted wings.

Gark realizes that this stuff is demon ichor, the remains of rotting demon corpses that have liquified and congealed over time.

The group meets a creature called Rusty, who explains that the war machine needs to be powered. The vehicle is like a heavy metal dune buggy with blades welded on at random.There are 4 seats and a cabin.

Viari sneezes and realizes he suddenly has the ability to fly.

The group checks out one warmachine half-submerged in a pool. Twiggy picks open a lockbox and finds inside it is a shimmering coin. When she touches the coin, a voice whispers to her, asking for help. Twiggy immediately says she will, and offers to tell it a joke.

Also in the lockbox is a fingerbone.

Twiggy bites the coin and it screams.

Ariza examines Viari’s weird infection and sees that it could be healed with restorative magic. She casts lesser restoration on his ear. Viari is healed, the swelling on his face goes down, and his wings diminish.

Viari studies the coin, and has heard rumors of souls being bound to coins. He’s not sure if there is any way to free the soul.

The group gets in the vehicle with Rusty, and Twiggy puts the coin in the coin slot in the war machine. The vehicle begins to rumble. Black and green smoke shoots out of smokestacks. A high-pitched whistle screams in seemingly endless cycles.

Take an action to steer, full speed, stop/halt. If you don’t steer, it will go straight until you take another action.

Ariza tries to drive it, but rolls a one. The vehicle clips a pole. Viari is on the back of the vehicle and is able to avoid colliding with it.

The vehicle drives out of the ruins into salt flats - fields of glass and white salt. Heat rises up from the service.

They spot a floating island tethered to the ground by huge chains. They spot a flying war machine. Pointing to the big hole in the sky, Rusty points out that chunks of land spew out it every once in a while.

Up ahead, they spot a massive dust cloud. The vehicle rides into it, and the group feels cold and alone. They can’t see each other. They feel trapped and stuck in the white haze. Viari sings.

Other vehicles give chase. There is a dune buggy and a motorcycle, apparently driven by barbed devils. Gark mans the acid sprayer and his the motorcycle with it.

A lithe elven figure on a motorcycle jumps the bike over a dune. The elf teleports onto the dune buggy, kills the driver with a blade. The group takes out the devils and come to a stop. The elf removes a bag from the dune buggy. The bag is full of soul coins.

Gark attacks the elf and rolls a critical, doing 48 points of damage with a witchbolt. The elf’s cheek tears open.  The elf says that teamwork is over-rated, more or less. He snaps his fingers, and all of Gark’s allies save for Twiggy vanish.

The elf reveals that this was all a ruse so that he could get his hands on the soul coins.

He grabs Gark and Twiggy tries to stop him...

The Descent: Game Session 4

 DM: Chris Perkins    
(Mica Burton) Remyria - Tiefling Sorcerer                
(Matthew Mercer) Boo - Miniature Giant Space Hamster                
(Anna Prosser) Evelyn - Human Paladin of Lathander               
(B. Dave Walters) Nosia - Human Bard                
(Deborah Ann Woll) Twiggy - Gnome                
(Jim Zub) Minsc - Human Ranger

Chris makes the group start by rolling a d20. The result is how many hit points they currently have. Here is what they rolled:
  • Evelyn 14
  • Nosia 1
  • Twiggy 11
  • Minsc 20
  • Boo 1
  • Ramyria 16
Chris hands each player a soul coin. The player can cash it in to get the DM to show them mercy.

Adventurers from all over the multiverse have been drawn to Avernus. They found a way to get home - a war machine with the power of flight. This group of heroes is trying to do just that. They’ve been jumping from war machine to war machine.

Twiggy lost track of her previous crew. She made friends with a guy named Manfrensengen. His head was chopped off. She felt the sting of regret for having even known him. As her vehicle crossed the expanse, she found herself in a dust storm. Her vehicle fell into a crack in the earth and burst into flames.

They find themselves hanging from the vehicle above a crevasse full of jagged obsidian teeth. The rest of the group is in the wreckage. They can see each other through the flames and smoke.

Evelyn has a beam impaled through her thigh. Minsc tries to pull himself out of the wreckage. He pulls himself out and sees a raging dust storm.

As the group struggles to get free, Evelyn and Twiggy become friends. Twiggy tries to introduce her squirrel to Evelyn, but Chris points out that the squirrel is not there. The live crowd is outraged!

Evelyn falls into the crevasse, taking 70 points of damage. She is about to start making death saves. Most of the group makes their way down to help her.

Up at the top, Nosia sees through the dust storm. He spots creatures tearing into each other. In the distance, he sees Twiggy’s squirrel. It is not moving, terrified that it might attract the attention of a fiend.

Twiggy is able to stabilize Evelyn.

Nosia uses minor illusion to imitate Twiggy’s voice to call the squirrel over. The squirrel happily begins to dart toward Nosia. The squirrel avoids the attention of a vrock and makes it to Nosia.

Minsc tries an incredible feat of strength, climbing up out while pulling the other heroes along with him. Chris gives him “double disadvantage”, and makes him roll twice, and he still succeeds!

The entire group exits the crevasse. Remyria is wearing Evelyn’s winged boots. She attunes to them (because time is strange here).

A vrock swoops down and snatches Twiggy.

Minsc throws Boo, who lands on the vrock’s beak. Boo bites one of the vrock’s eye, but it is supernaturally hard. Boo jumps off and activates a parachute. Remyria flies up and catches him.

Twiggy gives Evelyn mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and she wakes up. Evelyn “melts” into the kiss. Remyria comes over and puts Evelyn’s boots back on.

The group spots something in the distance. They approach it and see that is a batlike war machine that is damaged but mostly intact. They don’t see any creatures around.

The heroes realize that there is some kind of humanoid creature inside. A mace falls from the sky and hits Remyria, which allows her to remember her spells. The group calls it the “Mace of Spell Granting.”

The Power went out in the building so there is a long break.

Remyria made a bargain with the DM. Mercy and sunshine for the rest of the session.

The interior of the bat is full of crawling severed hands. Evelyn uses divine sense and determines that the hands are evil. The group starts destroying the hands.
There is a woman inside. She tears open her chest to reveal a skeletal snake. Evelyn cuts the snake in half. She tries to cast a spell, but Nosia counterspells it.

She begs for her life, but the group cuts her head off. She’s still alive.They question her and she reveals how to drive the war machine. It turns out that Boo can fly it.

Boo takes the seat, activates the ship, and they take off through space tunnels that only a miniature space hamster can navigate. Suddenly, they emerge from the tunnel and a planet is below them.

They rocket toward a city. Matt uses his soul coin to save the group, crashing the ship into Baldur’s Gate, destroying the statue of Minsc in the process. All of the heroes survive.

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