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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Rise of Tiamat - Chuth, the Green Dragon


Our 4th grade buddy Dark couldn't make it this week. Something happened with a book report involving Erik the Red, apparently.

The Party  
  •     (Zhentarim) Elf Rogue: In real life, played by Dark's dad.
  •     (Zhentarim) Gnome Rogue: Middle Schooler. We joke that his character lives in a garbage can.
  •     (Zhentarim) Elf Rogue: Middle Schooler. Often does "combo moves" with the gnome, throwing him at stuff to get Inspiration.
  •     (Order of the Gauntlet) Half-Elf Paladin: Middle Schooler. Oath of the Ancients.
  •     (Order of the Gauntlet) Half-Elf Fighter: The player is about 25 years old, knows the rules pretty well.
The Second Council of Waterdeep

The heroes looted Arauthator's lair. I threw in some magic items they'd missed from Hoard of the Dragon Queen, including the wand of winter and a bag of holding (everybody loves bags of holding).

Laeral Silverhand
They returned to Waterdeep and took part in the second council of Waterdeep. I had the factions react to what the PCs had done (some of them were mad that the heroes killed Varra the White). Ontharr Frume was not happy to see Maccath the Crimson, as he does not want to associate with the Arcane Brotherhood.

The adventurers received their next mission: Go to the Misty Forest and investigate a green dragon attacking elf settlements.

The heroes also met Elia, the woman with silver hair (they learned her secret way back in Hoard). She wanted to take the heroes to meet with the leaders of the metallic dragons soon.

Lady Silverhand, the new ruler of Waterdeep and a powerful wizard, teleported the heroes to Daggerford. From there, it was a relatively short trip to the Misty Forest.

Along the way I had the heroes stumble on a destroyed caravan, just to impress upon them the fact that the cult of the dragon is starting to run roughshod all over the Sword Coast.

The Misty Forest

The heroes came to a Misty Forest village called Altand. One of the players wanted this to be where his elf came from, which was cool. The heroes met his mother and cousin (who he came up with names for). The hero decided to leave the dog he'd adopted in Boaresky Bridge with his mom, which is a cool idea.

The deal in the village is that the leader cut a deal with the dragon and the wyrmspeaker - if they spared his village, he'd help them pick out other settlements to raid and destroy.
 
Our heroes figured this out very quickly. The guy has a pet raven. The gnome can talk to birds and small animals. The raven told him what was going on and the leader was exposed.

The leader, Galin, told the heroes where the dragon and wyrmspeaker were based out of. The adventurers headed out.

Along the way, there's this druid. She wants to see if the heroes are worthy of her aid against the dragon. So she has an "awakened tree" (like a treant, I guess) lie on her leg. As the heroes approach, she called out for aid. If the heroes helped her, she'd give them these magic garlands.

Well, our heroes came upon this scene and smartly scoped out the scene with perception, insight, you name it. They saw that the lady was a druid, and that there were some awakened trees about, including the one that was "pinning" her leg. It was very suspicious.

They left her there!

This was quite a development. If they had saved her, she'd give them the garlands, which would protect them from the dragon' spies. Without the garlands, the dragon will know they're coming and will attack them at the entrance of the lair!

The heroes got close to the lair and ended up in a battle with ettercaps and giant spiders. It is hard to hit the paladin, and he has some cool gimmicks to prevent bad guys from hitting his allies. He is a very good player.

The Dragon's Lair

The adventurers came to the lair. There was a waterfall that disguised a tunnel that led inside. Because the heroes didn't have the garlands, the animals of the forest had warned Chuth, the green dragon that they were coming.

Again, the heroes smartly surveyed the scene. It was quiet. They noticed a lot of small animals and birds watching them, nervously. Suddenly, the green dragon exploded out from behind the waterfall and took flight!

It used it's frightening presence, which hit only a single PC thanks to a new power the paladin has. It clawed and bit a rogue, dropping him unconscious. Chuth, the dragon, hovered in the air, breathing poison as the heroes fired arrows at it.

The paladin healed the rogue. Many of the PCs fled to the tunnel on the other side of the waterfall. The tunnel was steep and wet from the mist, so the heroes had to be careful not to fall.

What ended up happening was that the paladin stayed outside... alone... while the heroes popped their heads out of the waterfall and made ranged attacks.

The paladin then used misty step to teleport onto the dragon! He held onto it with his shield hand and legs, and stabbed at it with his sword (making dex checks to stay on it). This allowed the rogues to get their sneak attack damage!

The paladin wanted to cast a spell, but I noted it had somatic components, which meant he'd have to make hand gestures. He could try it, but he'd have to make a dex check or lose his grip on the dragon and fall. He decided not to cast.

In the tunnel, the gnome spotted a guilty-looking squirrel. The gnome can talk to small animals. The squirrel said, "Sorry. I had to tell Chuth you were coming!"

The squirrel explained that Chuth makes the animals spy for him on threat of death.

When Dark's dad found out about this, he impaled the squirrel on his arrow and fired it into the dragon! And he hit! It was awful and utterly hilarious.

The dragon was hurt bad ("bloodied" in 4e terms). The adventure says Chuth runs away when reduced to half of his hit points. It was time for it to flee... with the paladin on it's back!

I had a hard time deciding if the dragon could use it's legendary actions, like the tail attack, to try to knock the paladin off. I decided not to partly due to the torrent of complaints I was enduring at this point (I'll explain below).

Instead, the dragon flew up in the air... 170 feet... then 250. It was so far away from the rest of the party that the archers had disadvantage to hit it. Their shots all missed.

Then, on the dragon's next turn, I had it try to shake off the paladin. I made it an opposed strength check. I rolled a total of 20. The paladin had a +3 to his roll. He failed.

The paladin fell 250 feet, taking 96 points of damage! Amazingly, he did not immediately die. He landed in a tree and rolled death saves... he was unconscious.

The dragon flew away and the heroes tracked down their friend and rested, healing him.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Dungeons & Dragons - A Guide to Modrons

Modrons are little magic clockwork people from the plane of law known as Mechanus. They've been around in D&D for a long time.

Not For Everyone

Modrons are definitely a creature that some game groups like and other game groups hate. Are they too cutesy? Too weird? Too steampunk?

Somethingawful spent a number of pages gawking at the AD&D modrons. The comment that sticks out the most to me is this: "Nobody knew what the heck to do with modrons."

Creative Origins

I was wondering where they even came from in the first place. Apparently, they are inspired by a novel by Edwin Abbott called "Flatland". I found this article, wherein Jeff Grubb talks about how they came about.

Artist Tony DiTerlizzi has talked about how Zeb Cook reached out to him in the 2e days, to try to make the modrons more appealing. He said that he was on a tight deadline, and that he took inspiration from Tik-Tok of the Wizard of Oz books.

"The re-thinking of how a hackneyed or contrived character looks was a very big lesson for me."

AD&D 1st Edition


Monster Manual 2
 
There are 5 types of base modrons and 10 types of Hierarch Modrons. There is a precise number of modrons, all ruled by an entity known as Primus.

Nirvana: A plane of balance and absolute order. It's laid out like a great wheel with the Tower of Primus at the hub. Obedience to the laws is immediate and unquestioned. We are told a lot about modrons:
  • They are unaffected by illusions or mind-affecting magic
  • Upper tier modrons determine the initiative order in a combat due to their precision in order. That is hilarious. The DM tells the player not to roll, the modron has decided that the thief goes first because he is fast, then the fighter, then the modron will go.
  • If slain in the prime material plane, the modron is reformed in Nirvana.
  • Rogue Units: Rogues are defective modrons, "...either through natural decay or exposure to outside, chaotic forces". They are usually hunted down by a pentadrone police force.
  • Decaton: They heal modrons. They have an ability to heal all modrons within 144 feet of 1 hp of damage.
  • Nonaton: These are kind of like modron police. They have powers like ESP, detect lie, and power word stun.
  • Septons are really weird-looking, even for modrons. They have constant ESP and detect magic going, as if they were natural senses like sight and smell.
  • Secundus: These are humanoids who fight like Bruce Lee. They pretty much stun you if they hit you, and they "have special abilities as 13th-level monks, including the dreaded 'quivering palm'...". Quivering palm, you say?
Primus:
  • He sets the order and writes the laws.
  • Primus rises from the energy pool in the center of the plane (which spawns modrons)
  • The right hand of Primus is swathed in rainbow-colored lights. If he punches you with this hand, you are teleported to Arcadia (land of lawful neutral good).
  • The left is clouded in inky darkness. If he hits you with this hand, you are sent to Acheron (plane of lawful neutral evil).
  • The damage on that one attack per round is... 20-160. That's 8d20..!
  • Primus has 100% magic resistance and can only be hit by +5 or better weapons.
AD&D 2nd Edition

Planescape Boxed Set

My favorite piece of modron art

Mechanus: It is explained that Nirvana is also known as Mechanus, "The Clockwork Universe". It is a realm of giant cogs that hover in space at all angles. The modrons live in a realm in Mechanus known as Regulus.

The modrons polish cog teeth and fuss over the great wheels.

The modrons are detailed in a gigantic section of the 'Monstrous Supplement' in the box. The text explains that "to understand modron society, one must abandon all understanding of the self".

Each rank of modron can only comprehend the existence of the ranks directly above and below it. It can't even see the others! This means that almost no modrons even know Primus exists. His edicts are passed down from modron to modron.

This means that modrons regard the caste higher than them as the "fountainhead of supreme logic". Other notes:
  • The modrons refer to themselves as "we".
  • Promotion: When a modron is promoted, it is seemingly at random. All modrons of a caste are considered equal. It adapts to it's new form instantly.
  • They speak a precise mathematical language. Duodrones and higher can speak common.
  • They abhor chaos, and spend their time wiping out slight imperfections in their home plane. When in a prime material plane, they try to bring order to chaos.
This makes me really want to give my PCs a modron sidekick, who insists on organizing and cleaning their stuff and reorganizing their backpacks in a symmetrical manner. If a PC has 21 arrows, the modron will have to destroy one so they have an even 20.

When slain, a modron disintegrates. Their energies merge with Mechanus, and a new modron is spawned out of the energy pool. It is speculated that the only way to wipe out modrons is to destroy their energy pool.

Primus, The One and the Prime

Only Primus understands the whole structure of the modron race. Primus sometimes appears as a normal, androgynous human. If Primus is killed, one of the secundi are promoted to become the new Primus.

Planewalkers Handbook

This book has rules for playing a rogue modron as a PC!

A modron can go rogue due to conflicting orders by a superior, or if confronted with proof that all is not orderly. They have "..the forbidden and reprehensible glimmerings of self-awareness..."

Modrons have organic and mechanical parts inside, so magic healing works on them.

The Great Modron March

This is a gigantic adventure by Monte Cook. I came so close to running this on two occasions, as part of my traditional pre-campaign hemming and hawing.


Once every "Grand Cycle" (289 years), the time it takes for the largest gear in Mechanus to turn once, modrons march through the planes. Nobody knows why.
 
Primus in humanoid form
During these marches, the modrons trample anything in their way. People in the planes are used to this, and are prepared for the marches in advance. This adventure is about the modron march happening 189 years early. The modrons have a crazed look in their eyes. The heroes end up involved in the whole thing, trying to figure out what is going on.
 
What Happened (Spoiler Alert): This adventure is all about Orcus. He killed Primus and has usurped his position. He has sent the modrons on the march to find the Wand of Orcus.

Technically, in this adventure Orcus is known as "Tenebrous," an undead version of himself. He was slain by the drow goddess Kiaransalee, and he needs the wand to be brought back to his former living state. This scenario leads into the next adventure, Monte Cook's highly acclaimed "Dead Gods."

D&D 3rd Edition

Manual of the Planes

Mechanus
Mechanus is discussed in this book. It is called "The Clockwork Nirvana of Mechanus." The centers of many cogs in Mechanus have portals to other planes. They appear as green coglike circles, slowly turning.

The modrons seemed to have been elbowed to the side somewhat in 3e. Interestingly, the book says that most prevalent creatures on Mechanus are the Inevitables:
  • Kolyaruts - Fugitive hunters.
  • Maruts - Foes of those who cheat death.
  • Zelekhuts - Enforcers of contracts.
The other major inhabitants of Mechanus are formians - ant-people. They actually reside at the center of the entire plane, where the Scion Queen Mother resides.

It is mentioned that the modrons live in a section called Regulus and that they control 64 cogs.

Web Enhancement

Wizards unleashed an internet-only web supplement to this book that spends 18 pages discussing modrons. This is a fantastic article that covers everything that has gone before in great detail. I'd go so far as to say this is the one thing you should read before using modrons. And it's free!


 There is some new material here, too. Two creatures that function in modron society:
  • Moignos: Tiny, two-dimensional constructs obsessed with finding the exact value of pi. The modrons use them as calculators.
  • Coggles: These are massive, living, floating cogs. Sometimes they are nearly a mile across. The modrons use them to transport battalions. Coggles can speak the language of modrons.
There is also a place in Regulus:

The Modron Cathedral: In this place building is a device that the modrons have been working on - an orrery made of constantly moving gears. You can try to use it to scry on a specific plane, but if you roll bad you will go insane. Primus uses is to teleport modrons to different planes. This device has a reputation for causing people to go insane, so few people try to break in and use it.

Dragon Magazine #354 - Return of the Modrons

This giant article is utterly fantastic. Author Ken Marable takes what has gone before and moves things ahead a step in a logical manner. Many bases are covered:

The Rogue March: The events in "The Great Modron March" are now known as "The Rogue March." Many modrons on that march got stranded in different planes.

The Original Primus is a Vestige: Primus was killed by Orcus, but lives on as an entity who can be contacted by practitioners of pact magic.

The Tainted Modron: A secundus had been corrupted by the link with Orcus. It has taken a million modrons to Acheron and is planning to return, attack Regulus, and take the mantle of Primus by force.

The Inevitables: The inevitables have been allowed to live within Regulus, and even have some monodrones serving them.

The Failed Formian Invasion: The ant people tried to wipe out the modrons, but failed.

Exiled Modrons: Their bond to the energy pool is broken. They have a few memories of their past lives.

Sample Encounters:
  • The Messenger: Your heroes might run into a messenger modron, en exile who now serves a wizard.
  • The Serial Killer: ...a serial killer modron!? Tainted by Orcus, this maniac has accepted the chaotic taint killing the poor and helpless. This tridrone is known as Maniel, the silent death.
  • Rogue Hunters: A pack of modrons are hunting down a rogue modron called Cubelian the Bright. Cubelian has turned to goodness and worships Pelor.
The article even has some information about using summon monster to call on a modron, and a note on using a modron as a familiar (which I would love).

D&D 4th Edition

I am very interested in seeing what happened with modrons in 4e.

Dungeon Magazine #186 - Creature Incarnations: Modrons

This starts off with a note that Greg Bilsland, Mike Mearls and Bruce Cordell held a seminar at Gen Con about making monsters. They let the attendees vote on which monster to create, and the overwhelming choice was modrons.

4e modrons battle chaos, specifically slaads and aberrations. They also don't like portals (modrons see them as planar tears or weak points).

They can... assemble with other modrons into a more powerful modron! What a crazy idea.

The Origin of Primus: Nobody is sure. He might have been a primordial.

There's a few different types, all around 8th level:
  • Monodrone Brickguard: A minion (what creature is more fit to be a 1 HP minion than a monodrone?)
  • Duodrone Marcher: Wow. When it is slain, 4 monodrones appear in its place.
  • Quadrone Enforcer: It can slide monodrone minions around and blow them up, like pit fiends do. Four monodrones appear when it dies, too.
  • Modron Hierarch: It drops area burst attacks that do force damage. When it dies, two duodrones appear in its place.
Pretty cool stuff. I don't get why they're all 8th and 9th level. I'd have loved stats for a combined modron.. a mecha-modron. What a great idea. If you accept that kind of thing in your D&D, that is.

Dragon Magazine #414 - Ecology of the Modron


Way back when the primordials were creating things in the Elemental Chaos, a creature from the Far Realm called the Nine-Tongued Worm tried to destroy and corrupt everything. A primordial called the Prime Achitect defeated the worm, but was mortally wounded.

It retreated to a plane of order, and became Primus and the modrons. The modrons took to traveling the planes and sealing off breaches to the Far Realm. Stuff we learn:

Abyssal Plague tie-in: Wow, I just wrote about the abyssal plague the other day. The plague has caused all these tears in reality, and Primus may need to declare an emergency march so the modrons can destroy these dimensional cysts.

The Accordant Expanse: Mechanus is in an "extraplanar realm" known as the Accordant Expanse. It's a cube-shaped void 10,000 miles on a side, filled with interlocking gears.

Primus: Primus is humanoid in shape, with a head and upper torso made of solid gold. The lower half of Primus is energy that fades into the energy pool that Primus dwells in.

The Nexus Cube: The modrons may have an artifact that grants the bearer immunity to aberrant creatures.

The Tower of Primus: A complex floating clockwork fortress, 41 stories high. It forms a spiral, and it shifts from black to bright and shiny at the whim of Primus. Primus lives in the center. One of the seven pieces of the rod of seven parts is supposedly here.

The Infinity Web: This is mentioned a bit in the Great Modron March adventure. Primus uses it to deliver orders.

There's stats for a few monsters, a tridrone, a pentadrone and a nonaton. Nothing too special.

D&D 5th Edition

Modrons are in the 5e monster manual. They re-used the art from the Paizo Dragon article. That doesn't bother me, because I never noticed. One of the best pieces of art in the DMG depicts a band of heroes hiding from an endless sea of modrons on Regulus.

The 5e monster entry has all of the basic modron stuff from previous editions. No major changes or deviations. Only 5 types of modrons are listed, monodrones through pentadrones. I guess that means we will see more modrons in a future book?

That's where we're at right now with modrons. They're weird, but I can see an awesome session or two where your heroes have to go to Mechanus to either meet with Primus, steal something, or stop a plot by that evil tainted modron. The whole concept that modrons can't all perceive each other opens up a lot of cool possibilities.

Links

5e stats for Nodrom the modron from Planescape:Torment and Gear Spirits
Check out this old site for some weird stuff about Mechanus.

This artist has created some modrons out of metal. Awesome stuff.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Dungeons & Dragons - The History of Elemental Evil

You can buy Princes of the Apocalypse on amazon here:

Princes of the Apocalypse (D&D Accessory)

Wizards of the Coast has announced some details about the new Dungeons & Dragons storyline that will carry us through the summer. Tyranny of Dragons ends in March, and Elemental Evil begins.
  • The adventure is called Princes of the Apocalypse and it takes characters from levels 1-15.
  • The book also includes new elemental spells and a new PC race: Genasi.
  • There will be a free download that includes the player content in the book as well as new races.
  • The adventure is in one book.
  • It will be set in the Forgotten Realms city of Mulmaster.
  • The storyline runs from March to mid-summer. This is a detail I didn't notice until just now. Mid-summer would be July. That means that this runs for only 4 months, and then we will have a new storyline (Chris Perkins has hinted that the next storyline is related to Alice in Wonderland. Gary Gygax had published a pair of "Dungeonland" adventures that were demiplanes connected to... Castle Greyhawk). 
  • There is a list of Elemental Evil Expeditions adventures.
Elemental Evil and Tharizdun


Traditionally, "Elemental Evil" has to do with the evil deity Tharizdun, sometimes known as "The Elder Elemental God". It's all been made famous by the legendary Gary Gygax adventure "The Temple of Elemental Evil".

I'm going to try and cover a lot of bases here, to hopefully create a nice foundation of knowledge that will be an aid when running the 5th edition Princes of the Apocalypse adventure.

A good portion of this article is framed by the content in a great Skip Williams overview article in Dragon Magazine #425. I have organized the information by relevance rather than chronology.

The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun

This is a classic adventure by Gary Gygax known for it's deadly beginning where all of the monster in the dungeon might come at your heroes at once.

There's a nice background in the beginning. It says:
  • Tharizdun, "He of Eternal Darkness", was imprisoned by the gods.
  • His servants discovered a "Black Cyst" beneath his temple.  A huge form could be seen in the Cyst.
  • Every day they tried to awaken him, but nothing happened.
  • The cultists eventually died or left. Now the place is over-run with monsters.
When the heroes get to the Cyst, they see it, sort of: "The shape is so black that it is absolutely lightless...". An occasional ripple seems to pass through the lightless, haze-swathed form.

Just before this room is an insanely nasty tree trap.

Dragon Magazine #425 - History Check: The Temple of Elemental Evil
 
The Gods banished Tharizdun to an extradimensional realm. He reaches his followers through dreams. He can only give them spells if they use a relic or ritual.

His followers infected other religions and then tried to convert the clerics. Two organizations were infiltrated:
  • Some drow worship him as "The Elder Elemental Eye", not knowing it was Tharizdun they truly worshiped.
  • A cult dedicated to slimes, fungi, and the demon lord Zuggtmoy was similarly infected. It split into four branches, one for each element: fire, water, earth and air.
Zuggtmoy got directly involved in building the temple. As Zuggtmoy's army grew, the forces of good raised an army to destroy them. The army of good marched to the temple and the Battle of Emridy Meadows commenced. The army assaulted the temple and destroyed the upper works. They sealed it off, imprisoning Zuggtmoy.

Iuz, an evil Greyhawk deity, helped Zuggtmoy out. Together they made little elemental nodes, small demi-universes 5 miles across. In the nodes, the deities could magically summon evil elemental creatures. Lolth also got involved.

Zuggtmoy and Iuz created the Orb of Golden Death, which was a magic item that made it easy to access the nodes.

The Temple of Elemental Evil

This classic adventure contains "The Village of Hommlet" adventure as well as the temple. The Hommlet adventure details the town, and a moathouse run by agents of the temple. The moathouse is known for it's giant frogs, and the leader - Lareth the Beautiful. People really like this adventure.

The temple itself is known for the four factions that squabble inside, the temples of earth, air, fire and water. I ran this a few years ago, and there was some fun stuff in it:
  • The telepathic pool that needs your help.
  • The temple of fire and it's many weird little dangers.
  • The wand of "a" wonder - a variant wand of wonder.
  • Zuggtmoy's room with some really insane, deadly stuff.
The Elemental Nodes are not detailed much in the adventure. It is suggested in the adventure that the DM create them

The official version of what happened, suggested by Skip Williams: Adventurers busted in, accidentally freed Zuggtmoy, and then destroyed the Orb of Golden Death. Doing so caused the lower levels of the dungeon to collapse, cutting off access to the Elemental Nodes. Zuggtmoy was wrenched from the world into the Abyss.

Shannon Appelcline of RPG.net has a fantastic actual play thread of his group's run through the temple. Each session report is short and fun to read.

The Temple of Elemental Evil Novel


There was a Temple of Elemental Evil novel released years ago. I have it and tried to read it, but I couldn't get into it.

The reviews seem to agree the book is pretty dull with weak characters, but the descriptions of the temple are a lot of fun.

Dungeon Magazine #221 - The Battle of Emridy Meadows

I remember waiting and waiting for this 4th edition adventure, but by the time it came out, I was neck deep in some other campaign and didn't pay this any mind. I had become jaded, feeling that Dungeon didn't offer enough new content. Now, looking back, I appreciate these magazines much more.

This adventure is written by Chris Perkins and Jon Leitheusser, and it uses the D&D 5e playtest rules! This adventure depicts the battle that took place just prior to when Zuggtmoy was sealed in the temple of elemental evil. The struggle is underway, and our heroes fight alongside "The Righteous Host" and go on missions to help take down the enemy army. Their missions:
  • Assassinating the gnoll leader.
  • Ambushing a lich.
  • Tracking down an escaped spy who stole a ritual book.

That third scenario involves the scummy town of Nulb, which appears in the AD&D 1st edition Temple of Elemental Evil. We get a new map, details of the familiar locations and everything. I loved the depiction of Nulb in the computer game. You should check it out, it really brings the place to life. This scenario is very, very, good.

With those missions complete, it is now time for the actual battle. The adventurers now get to choose the role they will play in the conflict:
  • Help a team of dwarves deliver alchemist's fire
  • Defend a field hospital
  • Sneak behind enemy lines and topple a signal tower
All of this stuff is tracked with quest points. At the end, the DM makes a final d20 roll with quest point modifiers. This one roll determines if the battle is won or lost.

This adventure looks absolutely fantastic and I hope I am able to fit it in to some campaign, someday. It deserves to be run.

The Battle of Emridy Meadows is actually depicted in the intro to the computer game.

Dragon Magazine #423 - The Inn of the Welcome Wench

This is actually the hostel in Nulb, I just like the picture
Shawn Merwin wrote this handy article which details the Inn, which is a central location in the Village of Hommlet. This includes a depiction of the map of the inn which has been published in a number of poster map forms. He runs down the major NPCs, right out of the original Hommlet adventure:
  • Ostler Gundigoot: The owner. Militia man and trusted elder.
  • Goodwife Gundigoot: She runs the kitchen and is very insightful
  • Vesta Gundigoot: The eldest daughter. Attractive, single, hopes to run the inn one day.
  • Emadyne: The mischievous younger daughter. She likes to spy on the inn patrons (how amusing).
  • Zert the Fighter: Zert is a mysterious guy and an accomplished swordsman.
  • Spugnoir the Wizard: A fledgling, secretive wizard.
  • Turuko & Kobort: Dumb, evil fellows looking for a scam to run.
  • Furnok the Gambler: A guy who always seems to win his games of chance.
  • Elmo the Ranger: An enthusiastic, friendly fighter who is a bit of a drunken yokel.
There's a few adventure scenarios linked to the Inn. A delivery that never arrives, a fugitive who needs the PC's help, and bandits who want to get at "treasure" in the cellar.

Very good stuff. The Inn is a perfect place for new players to start playing D&D at.

Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil


This D&D 3rd edition adventure takes place 15 years after the original adventure. It is written by the great Monte Cook.

Followers of Tharizdun (sometimes known as The Doomdreamers) have set up a new base, the Temple of All-Consumption. Their goal was to regain access to the moathouse, which was a holy place that would give them a magic connection to Tharizdun. They also wanted to get into the Temple, to sift through the dungeon ruins and find the elemental nodes, which were not destroyed.
 
They had a new magic item - The Orb of Oblivion. Basically, using the orb, the moathouse and the nodes, the bad guys could free Tharizdun from his ancient prison.

Lareth the Beautiful is now the anointed champion of elemental evil and he might be able to summon the Princes of Elemental Evil to release Tharizdun. Our heroes must stop them.

The cultists can summon evil elementals: "A small, isolated number of the inhabitants of the Elemental Planes are indeed evil and ruled over by the Elemental Princes of Evil...".

The heroes end up going into the fire node and fighting Imix, one of the princes of elemental evil.

The Princes of Elemental Evil

Imix
Sometimes known as Archomentals, these entities first appeared in the AD&D 1st edition Fiend Folio. They are sometimes thought of as the offspring of the Elder Elemental God, which is interesting. They are:
  • Imix: Prince of Evil Fire Creatures
  • Ogremoch: Lord of Evil Earth Creatures
  • Olhydra: Princess of Evil Water Creatures
  • Yan-C-Bin: Master of Evil Air Creatures
  • Cryonax: Prince of Evil Cold Creatures
Dungeon Magazine #192 - Creature Incarnations: Abyssal Plague Demons

Now we're getting into some more modern stuff. It will be interesting to see if any of this comes into play in 5e. This article was written by Mike Shea of Slyflourish.com.

These monsters are first described in Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale, but their origins are vague. They are demons that infect you with the abyssal plague. If you catch the disease, you grow red crystals on your body, you get mad and violent, and then you die and are reborn as an abyssal plague demon. 
 
This article explains the following:
  • Tharizdun is imprisoned in the bowels of the Abyss.
  • Tharizdun actually created the Abyss by piercing the Elemental Chaos with the Heart of the Abyss (a crystal of pure evil).
  • A cult was able to summon an essence of his will, in the form of a sentient red liquid laced with silver and flecked with gold - The Voidharrow.
  • The Voidharrow infects those who touch it, filling them with strength and the desire to destroy all creation.
  • The plague spread to many major D&D campaign worlds in a sort of "crossover" event. It hit Dark Sun, the Forgotten Realms, Eberron and 4e's own Nentir Vale.
Dungeon Magazine #197 - Creature Incarnations: Abyssal Plague Epic Threats
 
This article details high level abyssal plague demons. It also explains that the Voidharrow resides in the Plaguedeep, the core of a demiplane of its own creation.

There's actually stats for the Voidharrow in this. It's a "sentient disease that travels from world to world". It appears as a column of twisting red liquid crystal.

There are also details on high level exarchs. They are knights with red crystal blades jutting out of their limbs.

The Abyssal Plague was an early attempt at the 5e "storyline" approach. It played out through a series of novels, discussed here.

Dungeon Magazine #214 - The Elder Elemental Eye

This adventure was part of the D&D Encounters program, and was later published in Dungeon Magazine. This is one of the most recent treatments of Elemental Evil and might give us some clues as to how the new storyline will handle things.

This is set in the Forgotten Realms, at the crossroads village of Easting.

There's these three dwarf brothers meddling with dark forces:
  • Zarnak: The oldest, a seer whose mind was shattered when it came in contact with the Elder Elemental Eye.
  • Arzyg: Mastered the elements, devoted to the cause.
  • Jakairn: The youngest, fears his brothers.
Zarnak went into a temple of Ghaunadaur (god of oozes) and found a hidden intrusion of the abyssal plague. He brought his brothers and servants to the temple, planning to spread the plague and to create as many demons as he can.

In this adventure, if you catch the abyssal plague, it kills you and turns you into a chaos demon lasher. The problem mechanically with this was that the disease didn't kill you until the season was over, at best. Plus, everyone made their saves.

Abyssal plague demons
The adventurers figure out what to do with sick villagers, then head to the temple. They battle a giant ooze known as the Amorphous One. When it dies:

"The massive ooze turns solid, like dark ice, and then shatters. It leaves behind an immense blue jewel. The unnatural cold subsides, and the ice blocking the exits and covering a spiral staircase in the dais melts. The stairs lead down into a dark hole that has strange whispers emanating from it."

Now they can get to the secret Temple of the Eye. They battle Black Cyst elementals who are made up of all four elements. They bleed mud slicks and punch with fiery fists.

The adventurers eventually need to drain the Voidharrow basin, which will sever the link to the abyssal plague. They'll also need to defeat Zarnak, the crazy dwarf.

This was a good adventure, though it dragged at points when I ran it.

Lair Assault - Into the Pit of Madness


This was the final d&d 4th edition Lair Assault, and it had really, really awesome maps. This scenario is simple: Kill Tharizdun's priests and stop Tharizadun from coming into the world!

It's one ginormous encounter with a 20-round time limit. There's whispering madness, elemental nodes and a creature known as the Essence of Evil.

I never got to run this one, as it came out during my extended break from running store events. It looks incredibly awesome.

Derek Myers talks all about it here

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tyranny of Dragons - Hoard of the Dragon Queen Episode 1

I started a new group in Hoard of the Dragon. Yeah, I'm already writing one report but, hey, what the heck. I can write about what it's like to run the same public play deal with a different group.

For me, it's interesting. I know the material like the back of my hand so it should run more smoothly and I can foreshadow things much better. I can also work in other people's cool ideas. I sprinkled in some concepts from the Hack & Slash blog, namely:
  • The cultists are divided into the colors of the five dragons. So the raid on Greenest is being done by cultists in blue and black robes.
  • I added in the encounter where the dragon knocks over a stone building which collapses on the heroes.
  • I put in the idea that Escobar the Red has a drug problem, because Escobar is a pretty dry NPC.
Not Many Players

Seven people told me they wanted in on this game. Seven! And yet only three showed up. This actually worked out well for me, as I like smaller groups. I got some of them to use the PC backgrounds! The group:
  • Human Sorcerer: Played by Hack and Slash Guy. He took the "I dream about the world being destroyed by a creature with ten eyes" background.
  • Elf Wizard: Played by "the bad cleric" from way back when. He is a nice kid.
  • Dwarf Cleric: Took the "I was gravely injured by a dragon" background. He chose a black dragon. So, we decided his back had been burned by Voaraghamanthar.
Hella the Dwarf Cleric
 
The player of the cleric is new. He's about my age (30's) and he has a similar sense of humor to mine. His character's name is "Hella", and we proceeded to make terrible dad jokes about how "hella good" the cleric was.

I have a love for using dated slang as if it is cool, to get the younger people to groan. Air quotes really seal the deal.

The two younger players told him about some of my past terrible jokes, including one I'd forgotten about:

I had the heroes run into Lord Nizzle and the Knights of Shizzle. When it was time for them to charge into battle, they raised their blades and shouted, "For Shizzle!".

The new guy died laughing, I died laughing, and even the young players laughed. I was quite proud that this terrible joke scored big almost a year after it was first unleashed on my poor unsuspecting players.

Seek the Keep

Our heroes raced into Greenest. A wizard, a sorcerer and a cleric. I was very excited.. what an original party makeup. I scaled things down, worried they'd all die. They took out 4 kobolds quickly and rescued Linan Swift.

She fought alongside them, and was extremely effective. My dice were on fire tonight. They faced off against a lone ambush drake, who I was really worried about. I thought it might be too deadly. But they wounded it, and then the wizard dropped it with a sleep spell.

Governor Nighthill

The heroes raced to the keep just as the gate closed. They were healed by clerics of Chauntea. Escobert dropped crystals right in his eye, totally overwhelmed. He took them to the Governor, who dropped a quest in their eyes.

The Tunnel

The heroes used the secret tunnel. Their job was to go back into the city and rescue the villagers trapped in the cathedral.

The first time I ran this, the heroes did not disturb the rat nest, unlocked the grate and went outside.


This time, the group carefully examined the nest, saw rats in it, and scorched it with a firebolt. They took down the swarm (I only used one) with no problem.

They had a key to the lock on the grate. The deal here is that the lock is old and a PC has to make a DEX check to open it. If you roll low, the key breaks off. The dwarf proceeded to roll a one! Key is broken!

The party has no thief. I wondered what they'd do. Sorcerer proudly casts mending, which says right in its' description that it mends broken keys. How awesome is that?

So, he mended it, they unlocked the great, and moved on.

The Cathedral

There was a skirmish in the stream wherein Hella demolished the bad guys with her warhammer.

I had to reduce monsters here. Again, I was worried. The deal here is that the villagers are in a barricaded cathedral. The bad guys are outside, split into three groups:
  • Group 1 is using a battering ram to bash the doors in
  • Group 2 is walking around, throwing stuff and mocking the villagers
  • Group 3 is trying to burn the place but having no luck.
The heroes decided to try to get the jump on group one. This group had one dragonclaw (a cultist in blue draconic armor) and two cultists in blue robes.

This went poorly. My dice caught fire, and the casters couldn't hit. Hella tried to take on all three while the casters fired off range attacks, but the dragonclaw rolled a critical and dropped the cleric.

But, on Hella's next turn, she rolled a 20 on her death save! Hella healed herself and blocked a series of attacks as the casters frantically tried to take them down.

But then, a cultist rolled a critical and dropped Hella again! The sorcerer cast a spell that poisoned the Dragonclaw. Poisoned is a nasty condition. He has disadvantage to hit!

The casters dropped the two cultists, but the dragonclaw shook off the poison and cut down both of the casters.

We were looking at a total party kill.

TPK?

The group thought it was pretty awesome. I explained that in Encounters, PCs 4th level and lower can be raised by their faction for free.

So what happened was, two of the PCs stabilized on their own. The wizard bled to death. The villagers in the cathedral took the opportunity to burst out of the building, swarm and kill the injured dragonclaw. They scooped up the PCs and raced to the keep.

Overall

It was a lot of fun. We will need one or two more player to make this work in the long haul. Heck, who knows, maybe this will end up as the only session. Bt it was definitely worth doing.