Table of Contents - A handy way to check out my articles by topic
Follow me on Twitter
Check out the Power Score RPG Youtube Channel here.
You can reach me at
: powerscorerpg@gmail.com

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Dungeons & Dragonites - Episodes 1 & 2

 
OK people, I'm checking out another D&D stream. Dungeons & Dragonites is a D&D campaign that incorporates concepts from Pokemon. Episode 1 is mostly a character-making show. I skimmed through it. You don't need to watch it! You can start with episode 2 and you'll not miss anything.

Watch episode 1 here.
Watch episode 2 here.

Pokemon and D&D Together at Last: I don't know anything about Pokemon, so this should be interesting. I have no idea what to do about art. Do you want to see a picture of a Zigzagoon? It's a squirrel or something:

I am thinking I will find fun ideas here to use for my game. I have absolutely no idea what to expect from this campaign. I can say that most of my players know a lot about Pokemon so I can see this show having a lot of appeal to the majority of D&D players.

Before we start, I just want to say that I think this might be my favorite D&D stream so far. It is the only one that kept my attention pretty much the whole way through. I'll elaborate more once the recap is done.

Interesting Notes:
  • The DM actually has the players roll their stats using 2d6+6.
  • In this world, farmers make less than two gold in a year.
The Party

(Logan) Standt Willow - Human Druid
(Steve) SBJ - Human Fighter
(Travis) Wendy Colecarver - Hill Dwarf Cleric
(Jeff) Emojis - Human Wizard 

The DM is Greg. He has a real low key style and gives the group lots of room to explore and develop their characters.

Character Notes:
  • Standt has a Zigzagoon pet and wears a linoone pelt. A linoone looks sort of like a ferret.
  • SBJ is a former wrestler. He has a sidekick named D. Pepper, which I think is a farfetch'd (a bird). 
  • Wendy is a haughty noble. 
  • Emojis (pronounced "Emojus") is one of quadruplets. His parents are married but his mom is seeing a woman on the side.
Episode One

The Tattoo
Each hero has the same dream..

You are standing on a hill. There are other people around but you can't make them out. Beyond the hill is decaying grass and dust. Off in the distance is a giant crystal flower. It pulses with a strange energy. There is a creature flying in the air. A massive beam of energy comes out of the flower, hits the creature and washes over you.

When the characters wake up, they have a mysterious tattoo.

Each hero spends months researching their tattoo and they all come to the same conclusion: They need to talk to Ephraim Oakheart in Cerulean City.

From there we cut to the city. The group meets each other in a tavern. The DM is sitting back and letting them talk. Some of the players are brand new to D&D, so they need a little more guidance.

We learn that a week ago, there was a big festival in the city. Every year in spring, the goblins bring an apple that can cure any disease or injury. The apple is sold to the highest bidder.

SBJ notes that he wrestled at an Apple Festival. Throughout the first two episodes, he makes a lot of references to his wrestling injuries and "running the ropes" and because it makes him laugh, it makes me laugh.

This feels more relaxed and like a "real" D&D game. The players actually want to be there and enjoy each other's company.

The players are all extremely likeable and are all "characters" themselves.

Episode 2

The group has decided to go find Ephraim. As they leave the tavern, a girl runs up to SBJ. She is an SBJ fan. See, SBJ is a wrestler who had to retire due to multiple concussions and neck injuries. She gives SBJ two berry juices that act as potions of healing. So was D. Pepper his tag team partner?

The group walks all day. It gets dark. Should they make camp? They know it's a terrible idea to keep walking though the night, but they decide to make a bad decision on purpose just to see what happens. These guys are awesome.

So they keep walking and the ground gets rocky. The DM asks for survival checks. Their rolls: 11, 2, 2, 4. Those who failed fall on jagged rocks and take 2 damage. They thought they were going to fall off a cliff, which would have been hilarious.

SBJ's wrestling injuries kick in and he thinks the group needs to camp for the night.

The next morning, the group wakes up. They spot three tumbleweeds heading their way. They're some kind of corrupted pokemon monsters. Combat time. Wendy is hit and heals herself for tons - she gets bonuses to her healing spells.

SBJ has a pokemon guy - D. Pepper. I think they said Pepper is a Farfetch'd, which I googled.

I think this is a Farfetch'd
The DM has created special rules to handle pokemon stuff. He says that on his turn, SBJ gets to choose if he attacks or if D. Pepper attacks on his turn. D.Pepper can only be used like this once per day. I think that means he can summon D. Pepper once per day, as Pepper sticks around for the rest of the session.

D. Pep pummels some tumbleweeds and Wendy kills the last one. Standt sketches them. He does this for every pokemon he comes across, I guess he is cataloguing them or something. The heroes aren't sure what the deal is with these creatures.

The group travels for half a day and comes to the ravine. There's a rock with a rope tied around it. The rope drops into the ravine. They see claw marks in the rock, too. The group assumes that Ephraim Oakheart went down there.

The group climbs down. Wendy can tell this place was carved out by dwarves. There's stairs heading down into darkness. Three rat creatures creep up. They're called rattata. D. Pepper scares them off.

The group climbs down the stairs. There's a dwarven fortress down there. In the fortress, the group spots a pit trap in front of a door. Emojis creates an ice bridge with shape water - a cantrip I have never seen anybody use before (it's from the Elemental Evil Player's Companion).

The room beyond has dead goblins. One goblin is actually impaled and pinned to the wall by a spear. There's a word inscribed in the wall: "Dragonite."

Meepo!
The group investigates a few rooms. They find a magic barrel that can fill with drinkable water. They come upon a scared kobold. It's Meepo! Yes, Meepo from the Sunless Citadel, one of the more popular NPCs from 3rd edition.

Meepo says that goblins busted in here and stole his dragon. Meepo joins the party and that is where we stop. I wonder if Ephraim is the dragon? Is the dragon actually a dragonite?

Timestamps
  • (1:12:51) The complicated family tree of Emojis 
  • (14:04) Nice meeting you
  • (22:50) The group purposely makes a bad decision
Overall

Awesome Group: This is a great group of players. They are just fun, nice people. Out of all the streams I've watched so far, this is the only one that kept my attention the whole way through. I have to say that I bet once they've got a bunch of sessions under their belt and understand the game, they are going to be a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

This Feels Like Pure D&D: On a lot of these streams, the group doesn't seem too comfortable. There is usually at least one player who seems like they don't really want to be there. I particularly get that vibe from Nate on Dice, Camera, Action. Do the players get paid for doing that show? Because with Nate, it sometimes feels like he's there 'collecting a paycheck,' so to speak.

On this show, everyone wants to be there and they are enjoying learning the game. They are there to have fun and it makes the show ten times better. They get pretty excited whenever a Pokemon concept enters the game. It only takes me a second to google the creature they are interacting with and I can follow along just fine.

Fortress Needed Some Punching Up: I'd say the dwarven fortress needed something more in it. It felt really empty. It's cool to have basic encounters like pit traps, but I think that it needed some more development. The group was clearly itching for another combat.

Unique Style: This campaign has a lot of charming light fantasy elements: The crystal flower (which I love), the cryptic tattoos, and the bright feel of the game really make it stand out. Most campaigns shoot for "Dark & Gritty," so it is really refreshing to see the opposite.

Available as Audio: This show is also available as an audio podcast! I think all of these D&D shows should be offered in an audio format, as it's easier to keep up when you can listen to them in the car or wherever.

This is a nice breezy show. They all seem like great people that I'd want to know in real life. Honestly, if I were running one of these D&D stream channels, I'd be keeping my eye on some of these players and snatching them up for my shows.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Misscliks D&D: Seaborn

That's a pretty sweet logo, right? Here's the deal. Keep in mind that I like a lot about this show and if I were running or playing a game online, I wouldn't want some random schmuck picking my game apart. That said, I had an issue with a few things and I am going to try and be as fair-minded as I can.

This three hour episode is broken into three parts. I watched the first two. Check them out on youtube here:
AD&D 2nd Edition: The DM is a guy named Neal. He is running this campaign using AD&D 2e rules. This should be fun. There's a lot of weird, optional rules in 2e and the DM knows the system really well, from what I can see.

The DM is tracking ammo. He's on top of the weird "2 attacks this round, 1 attack the next round" combat system of this edition. He even does the "projectile recovery" rule. I think it goes like this: For each arrow you fire, there's a 50% (?) chance that it's broken and you can't use it again.

Technical Problems: The audio is out of sync. There's about a two second lag between video and audio. Also, Gen's volume is too low. They try to put a map on the screen but there's all sorts of problems with it that occur over the first two parts.

I am wondering if this is their first time using Roll20? The problems smooth out to a degree as the show progresses.

The Party

(Anna) Maribel - Half-Minotaur Fighter
(Jess) Algrund - Dwarf Cleric
(Trump) Bruno - Human Bard
(Gen) "Dark" Albert - Elf Mage

The Island: The heroes live on the island of Embershore. There are two mountains: Mount Goal and Phallusuvius. A few days ago, the volcano erupted and killed most of the island, including most of the people in the town.

The players explain their characters:
  • Bruno aka "Bongo": Human Bard who plays the bongos. Has a dark beard.
  • Algrund Strongaxe: Middle-aged Dwarf Cleric. He grew up to be a lumberjack, but he had a work injury - a tree fell on his leg. He dresses and grooms himself in the style of a human. The beard is closely trimmed.
  • Albert aka "Dark Albert": Elf, a bit of an outcast. He's a self-hating elf. His fellow elves had imprisoned him for many years. Black hair, black eyes. Looks like a 40 year-old human. Eyepatch.
  • Maribel: Half-minotaur/half-human. Her mom was a minotaur, her dad was a human. That's definitely different. She was a bodyguard for an abusive noble, but she ended up chopping off the noble's head. She fled to Embershore and here she is. She's 7'1" and she has a human body and face, horns and a cow-ish looking nose. She has fur in patches on her arms and hooved feet. Maribel is extremely literal and nna plays her that way through the whole adventure.
The Mayor is Donabella Trumpet (what an epic name). Apparently the group had a hand in making names for this campaign. The players protest, as it turns out "Donabella" is not the name they picked. The DM agrees to go with the original name they chose: Donalda Trumpet.

The group is tasked to go stop kobolds who are stealing goats. The adventurers will be accompanied by an elderly fellow named Mo Shepard. The goats are his. The town is going to need at least 30 of the 50 goats recovered for the town to persist.

2e kobold
We get into a big, amusing discussion about whether the half-minotaur is hot and whether there should be a roll to find out.

Albert starts trolling the old shepherd, trying to get him to bark like a dog and questioning if they really need that many goats.

They head off into the woods, following the trail. They come upon some kobolds that are about to cook and eat a goat.

Initiative. Wow.. 2e initiative. Roll a d10, lowest wins! And it's group initiative, so just one person rolls and the entire group takes their turn at once. 

If I remember right, a 2e round is one minute long and each round is an abstract series of feints, strikes and maneuvers.

Bruno attacks a kobold and rolls a natural one. He needs to roll a saving throw vs. death or, I assume, he gets some kind of critical miss effect. He succeeds.

Anna rolls a critical and does 20 points of damage to a 4-hit point kobold. The DM lets her tear through it and strike another kobold.

Algrund is surrounded. There's a really weird exchange with her and the DM. Basically, she tells the DM her character is lazy and didn't pray for spells that morning.

The kobolds end up running away after Maribel kicks the crap out of them.

Part Two

The heroes continue on their quest for 30+ goats. They spot four kobolds up in a tree, whispering and pointing at the heroes. The group kills one. The other three run toward a cave and shout a warning.

Maribel goes into the cave. It's pitch black in there. Maribel sees many pairs of eyes glinting in the darkness. She warns the kobolds that she will "lethal spank" them if they don't hand over the goats.

So it looks like we're going to have another combat here. Algrund never memorized spells. Jess, Algrund's player, wants to pray for them while the group fights..? She says that she only has two hit points and she doesn't want to be involved.

I know that 2e is really lethal. Is she really going to sit out of combat like that? I do not understand why she decided not to pray for spells that morning. I think she'd only have one or two spell slots for the day, anyway.

In this battle, she could hang back and fire off rocks from a sling, if nothing else. I think that 2e clerics are proficient with certain ranged weapons, depending on what god they worship. I'm guessing she has decent armor and a good melee weapon.

Two players take their turns. Jess has her head down, she's working on something. Then she says, "How long has it been?"

A round is one minute. That's the ultra-basics of 2e. The DM told you it would take ten minutes. Not even one round has passed!

I just stopped watching this stream and checked future episodes. I am kind of wondering if she gets kicked out after this one. Nope. She's still on the show and they have some nicer maps. Judging from the player reactions to her, they are not bothered by this behavior. I think I might be misreading her tone.

OK, back to the show. A few more players go. Not even 2 rounds have passed. Then Jess asks again how long it has been. She's not paying attention. It looks like she's actually doing other things while the group plays. I think she might be doing the technical stuff - maybe she is the one handling this Roll20 screen?

It is Bruno the bard's turn. He's wielding a spear. He calls out, "Where is that dwarf?!"

Algrund: "Me? I'm back here learning my spells."

Bruno: "We're fighting, you know."

Algrund: "I know no fighting! Fuck off! I'm trying to learn my spells!"

Almost any group I've ever been in would have a problem with this behavior. Again, maybe I am misreading this entire thing.

The kobolds flee. The goats are in the cave.

There's a ladder in the back of the cave that goes down. Algrund has finished praying for her spell - entangle. The group starts to descend the ladder and Bruno pipes up and says: "We found the goats. Why are we going down the ladder?"

Good point! Plus, if they go down there, the kobolds could come back, drop old man Mo and take the goats back.

Down below is an altar, broken tools and a pickaxe. There's also a painting of some hideous beast.

That's the end of part 2. I skipped through Part 3 and I actually landed on a moment where Algrund tries to cast entangle and the DM realizes that Algrund can't cast that spell - it's not on the list of spells available that he had sent to Jess for her to refer to when she made her character.

Now I'm skimming future episodes to see if the technical issues get resolved. I also want to get a sense of how the campaign progresses. I thought this show was going to be about heroes on a ship, but as far as I can tell that's not how it is on these early episodes, at least.

Episode 2: Sound is still out of sync. I swear I land on 21:10, where it turns out that Jess still hasn't looked at her spell list and the DM says he'll send the list to her again.

Episode 3: I click on 10:49. Gen's volume is fixed and we have background music!

Episode 4: 15:02. Pirate-y background music!  Sound still out of sync. Maribel breaks a wooden counter and glares at a general store owner. The owner tries to kick her out. Poor Bruno is so poor that he has to borrow copper pieces, wow.

Episode 5: 16:28. Sound is in sync! DM Neal shaved his beard, too.

It looks like the technical problems get fixed as we go.

Timestamps
  • (11:36) Is the half-minotaur hot?
  • (40:17) Anna demonstrates her real life halberd-swinging technique, with sound effects.
  • (30:43) Bruno asks, "Where is that dwarf?"
Overall

The technical problems did the group a disservice. The battle was hard to watch because the map kept getting moved around and covering the screen. It is also very jarring to watch a video where the sound is so out of sync.

This bothers me because there are a lot of cool players in this group and the DM knows his stuff. I love the idea of watching a 2e game.

Also, Gen seems really cool and funny. But her audio is low, so it's hard to make out what she's saying.

I really admire how Anna consciously injects energy into the game. She is so good on these D&D streams. Not only does she play with enthusiasm, she tries to keep the atmosphere light and she even helps the pacing when need be.

I would say that this is an episode that is best listened to, not watched. There's too many distractions and if you're like me, you might have a hard time with it.

Planescape - Enemies of my Enemy

Grazz't & Iggwilv
We just had a big session of D&D. Tonight was the night where one of the heroes was going to die! I asked the player a few weeks ago if he was OK with having a lot of really crazy stuff happen to his character and he gave me the thumbs up. That means that in this session, there was a good chance that Theran was getting whacked unless the group figured out what was going on or made some good rolls.

I normally would never do stuff like this, but I saw what Chris Perkins did with Diath on Dice, Camera, Action and I thought I'd give it a try.

A lot of the Iggwilv section of this session is from material in Dungeon Magazine #149.

Preparation: I'm about to run For Duty & Deity, an adventure where the heroes have to rescue a goddess from the clutches of the demon lord, Grazz't. That adventure book is kind of a mess. There's a lot of pages, but not a whole lot of adventure contained in those pages.

So I dug up a 4e Grazz't adventure (Court of the Dark Prince, Dungeon Magazine #212) and I decided to add in Iggwilv to this thing. I love the whole Iggwilv/Grazz't story and I relish the opportunity to use these iconic NPCs in my campaign.

Raja Khan
The Rakshasa: Really, tonight was about Raja Khan's scheme for revenge. Back in Nemesis, the group attacked his home, stole his stuff, rescued his concubines and killed his boss, a marilith.

Raja fled and ended up working for another marilith who is part of the Blood War (the eternal battle between demons and devils). When Bidam and Fall From Grace were in The Gray Waste last session, they passed right by Raja's new boss and didn't know it. Raja saw Bidam and shape-shifted into a halfling named Karagesh. He pretended to be mute so his voice wouldn't give him away.

The group liked him and "kept" him. They brought him to Sigil, where Raja is now free to get his revenge.

The Party

(Jessie) Bidam - Platinum-Scaled Dragonborn Fighter
(George) Theran - Drow Wizard
* NPCs - Fall From Grace (Succubus Paladin), Selinza ("Litorian" Wizard, level 6)

Downtime in Sigil

Karagesh's Deal: The promoter Harys Hatchis hired Karagesh to spy on those "fat cats" in the Clerk's Ward. He agreed to pay Karagesh in magic potions. Harys knows a guy. Karagesh went out each night, but he wasn't spying. He proceeds to kill Warrin Spellbinder, the clerk who failed him in Nemesis. He kills Thoebe, the other former concubine who now works in a gaming hall. He wants to steal back Midnight (one of the magic swords from Nemesis) from the Doomguard but can't figure out how to do it.

Whispering Motes: Theran made magic healing powder in his wizardly lab building throughout this adventure. It went like this:
  1. Selinza would buff him with spells.
  2. Karagesh would give him a potion of resistance to fire. This was key. He needed the group to get accustomed to drinking things he handed them. That way, when he handed them a vial of deadly poison, they'd drink it!
  3. Theran would try to mix some ingredients and make an arcana check.
  4. If he failed, there was an explosion, but Selinza's spell and arcane ward could protect him.
  5. It takes three days to make a vial of whispering motes, so that's one check per day.
Then there was a knock on the door. Somebody left delicious elven food for Theran. This was the work of Conviva Kettle, one of his employees who has a thing for him.

Ravel Puzzlewell
Hags: The heroes wanted to find a powerful wizard who could explain what was going on with their strange powers. The hags Virinis and Zeraga reluctantly took them to meet the third member of the Sigil coven - Ravel Puzzlewell.

Ravel is a major NPC in Planescape: Torment. The hags have a "portable portal" that they activate with drops of blood from a vial. This portal takes them to Ravel's Maze.

Long ago, Ravel tried to kill everyone in Sigil by bringing in an army of devils. Ravel's plan failed and she was mazed by the Lady of Pain. Ravel knows the location of the portal that leads out of her maze, but she never leaves.

There's a whole bunch of conversation and much is learned:
  • Bidam's Chosen: Bidam and the people he infects with iron hearts are going to help the Lady of Pain manage the void inside her. The Lady is the source of all pain in the multiverse. Bidam's chosen ones will help. Each of them has the power to cut people just by looking at them.
  • Theran's Quest: Theran's job is to take out the Iron Shadow, who is a broken-off piece of the Lady of Pain. The Iron Shadow wants to end suffering, and thus she is pretty much draining existence away. Ravel warns Theran that the devils will oppose him every step of the way. She also tells Theran that he is destined to rule Sigil in the Lady of Pain's name.
  • The Hag Doll: Bidam's little hag doll has three baby dolls. The doll is giving the babies to hags. If fed a live animal, the hag doll can allow the group to converse with one of the hags and they might even be able to cast a spell through the doll.
  • The Strahd Doll: If you let the doll suck your blood, he gives you the ability to assume gaseous form or turn into a bat or wolf for a while.
Day Two

More Motes: Theran got buffed by Selinza. Karagesh handed him a potion of fire resistance. Arcana Roll. After, Convivia Kettle left him another delicious elven meal. I wondered if Theran would tell her to stop, but he didn't.

Aza Dowling: The heroes saw that Aza Dowling, the 'depression councilor' in the festhall, was now seeing Ignus to help him with PTSD. If you remember, Ignus was the guy who was on fire for seven years. Theran gave him an amulet that suppresses the flames.

The heroes don't know it, but Aza is a spy for Shemeska the marauder. Shemeska is in hiding because Ignus has incriminating evidence on her. Now Aza is in a position to find out where the evidence is.

Reave Masseuse: This four-armed lady is one of Bidam's Chosen. The heroes got her off of a murder rap, but she can't find someone who will hire her. The heroes gave her a job as a bartender in the Smoldering Corpse bar.

Adventurers Guild: I am using an 'alternate universe' version of the characters in Dice, Camera, Action. Just like in the show, the heroes think Diath is dead, but he's really inhabiting Paultin's body.

Long ago (in The Fortress of the Fallen Stair) Theran and Bidam stole some trophies of demon lords. The painting of Lamashtu ended up in the possession of Gonard Flumph who lives in the extravagant, golden Flumph Tower in Tradegate. Demons of Lamashtu have been attacking, trying to get it back.

These adventurers questioned Theran and Bidam. Evelyn scolded them. The players really get a kick out of Evelyn's southern accent so I hammed it up. Evelyn's group decided to return the painting to the fortress in the Abyss where it belonged.

The group learned that Gonard Flumph's son has hooked up with his father's wife, Melania. They were grossed out.

This week I had an idea. TRUMP: THE DUNGEON. It's happening! It's going to be huge and you're going to love it. It will be the best dungeon you've ever seen in your life.

Sensory Stone: Bidam's sensory stones are very popular down at the Civic Festhall. Now there's someone else making popular sensory stones: Jiutou (the tiefling from High Rollers). She made one of her riding a gold dragon over Celestia that makes grown men cry.

I just want to make sure that the PCs feel like they're in a living world. Also, I like Jiutou.

Big Choice: Vaimish Crasad (first met in session 3 of the campaign), a paladin lord who owns a fortress in the Outlands, met with the heroes. Two of his knaves had been killed by a mystery creature. The group had an important choice to make:
  • If the group went to the Outlands, they'd battle an Eye of Shadow (a beholder infused with energy from the Shadowfell).
  • If the group didn't, the Eye of Shadow would attack the paladins and blind Vaimish. There's only one person who can stop the beholder - the prisoner of the paladins, the greatest thief in Sigil, Ash Vodiran!
I gave the players a ton of chances to go with Vaimish. They did research on the monster but didn't go. They found out the next day that Vaimish was blind and that Ash Vodiran, the guy they love to hate, is free! The players groaned.

Day 3

I couldn't find a pic of a unicorn man that wasn't completely inappropriate.
Mote Central: Selinza buff, Karagesh potion, Arcana check. This time, Convivia Kettle left Theran a single Aelfengrape - a magic berry that gives you a day's worth of nutrition. Theran tracked her down and thanked her. We also learn that Convivia has a magic dagger to ward off creepy clients.

The Unicorn Guy: In around 2010-2012 (the halcyon days of 4th edition), one of my groups ended up doing a whole series of hilarious things with this race I made up - the unicorn people. They are elf/unicorn hybrids. They live in the magical valley of the unicorns in the Feywild.

Way back then, a unicorn lady named Gelda had a thing for a dark and brooding character in the party. A number of funny and disturbing events unfolded. The sweaty, sublime unicorn lady left such an impact on the group that when they stole the chaos ship of Orcus (in the E1-E3 path) they named it "Gelda's Fancy."

A year or so later, I had a player ask me if she could make a unicorn lady as a character. I said yes, and more hilarity ensued. Her character was named Aurora Brightbolt and she lived by The Unicorn Code:
  1. Unicorns never cheat.
  2. Unicorns always lend a helping hand.
  3. Unicorns don't talk to strangers.
  4. Unicorns respect the Earth.
  5. Unicorns are never late.
  6. Unicorns aren't conceited.
  7. Unicorns don't judge people.
  8. Unicorns always give 100%.
  9. Unicorns graze on peace and love.
  10. Unicorns don't do drugs.
She had an alternate universe counterpart - a nightmare person (black horse with flaming hair and nostrils). This villain's name was Shade FireStrife.

I decided I want a unicorn dude in this campaign. His name is Prince ButtonGleam and he is hunting for an evil nightmare guy named "BloodQuake." Apparently this fiend is in Sigil, up to no good. The unicorn people make me laugh, so I plopped this in and we'll see if we can do something with it. Right now he's living with the clerics in Deadbook Square.

The NPC Paladin Story: There's a paladin destined to have a special baby with an asuras, but he is in a relationship with someone else. The paladin was going to go on an adventure in an unexplored world, but both women stopped him. They're afraid he will die. Then the two women got into it.

Bidam broke it up and told them that Malweis is a grown man and if he wants to go, he can go.

An Audience with Iggwilv

Finally.. we got to Iggwilv.

Landerbold the dandy, an arcanoloth apprentice of Iggwilv, came to visit with the heroes. He told them Iggwilv wanted to meet with them. The group agreed and chatted with Landerbold a bit. Landerbold gave them the basic story of Iggwilv and Grazz't, and I made sure to have Landerbold drop a quote from a great article from Dragon Magazine #414:

"They loved nothing more than hating each other, and hated nothing more than loving each other."

One trip down the River Styx later, the group found themselves in The Gray Waste. As they got off the skip onto Iggwilv's dock, one of her pet linnorms (a linnorm is a norse dragon) attacked the heroes. I used a rain linnorm. It breathes boiling water. It did a ton of damage and the players got real nervous.

Then, suddenly, Bidam's power kicked in. He glared at the linnorm, and it was cut to shreds. Boy, does Jessie love that.

Landerbold the dandy showed the heroes around. The group saw a demon bound in a pentagram. The demon is Hochwier, an undead glabrezu who formerly served Orcus. I decided to put him here because he was a throwaway NPC in an old 4e Ashen Covenant article and he looks really cool:

The group met with Iggwilv and they went to her demiplane (from the 4e adventure). They had dinner with her.

She looked at all of the heroes magic items. She opened Theran's spellbook. She saw a pattern - a maze - forming on a page. The room started to shift. She shut the book and handed it back to Theran. She wouldn't tell them what she saw, but the book was about to send her to a maze!

Iggwilv's Quest: The goddess of love walks the worlds as a mortal! This was done by other gods to teach her a lesson. Grazz't has kindly offered to let her stay with him, you know, for safety's sake. Iggwilv has decided to have the heroes try to steal her away, just to mess with Grazz't.

I consider this their way of flirting. Grazz't was hoping she'd do this.

The group has a cubic gate that was damaged by an abyssal storm. Iggwilv said she could fix it, but it would take a few days. She is going to reconfigure it for their mission.

Iggwilv showed the group piles of her magic items (right out of Dungeon #149). She also mentioned Fiend's Embrace, a cloak that is the subject of an entire adventure in Dungeon Magazine #121.

Fiend's embrace is an incredibly bad-ass item. It is made from the skin of a pit fiend! But.. it's very evil.

Jessie really wanted this thing. I think I am going to modify it so it is usable. I think to start with, I'll have the spirit of the pit fiend speak into Bidam's mind. I can think of a lot of funny things to say.

Iggwilv's New Apprentice: Selinza, Theran's apprentice, was in awe of Iggwilv. Iggwilv offered to let Selinza stay with her for a few days. I thought the heroes wouldn't want this to happen, but they were fine with it.

Iggwilv is going to teach her some spells. Selinza had hit 6th level prior to this session, and I decided to give her Leomund's Tiny Hut. She's using all the spells I never take as a player. It's been fun, so far.

The group goes home. They rest for a bit, and go about their day.

Raja Khan

Theran goes to make some motes. Bidam does Bidam things. There was a commotion in a building. If you remember, drow had moved in to Deadbook Square a few sessions ago. These NPCs were lead by a drow possessed by the evil sword Craggis (who the group fought at the end of The Great Modron March).

These drow had gone through the portal to Crux and kidnapped/enslaved some ratatosks (squirrel people). As soon as the dark elves paraded their slaves through the square, the other citizens went nuts. Bidam rolled initiative.

Theran couldn't hear this, as he was way over in the wizard lab building. It was mote-making time! Selinza was away, studying with Iggwilv, but luckily good old Karagesh was here with a "potion of fire resistance." He handed it to Theran. Theran drank it.

This wasn't a magic potion. It was poison! Torpor, to be exact. It has a DC 15 Con save. Theran failed.

Theran couldn't take actions and was poisoned for eleven hours! He was no match for Raja Khan. The rakshasa tied Theran to a chair and gave a villainous monologue. He told Theran that he'd killed Thoebe and Warrin Spellbinder. Now he was going to get revenge on all of the heroes, one by one.

As he spoke, Convivia Kettle crept up behind him. She had come to bring Theran some food and to tell him about the drow. She quietly held up her magic dagger. All Theran could do was watch.

She had advantage on her attack roll. Raja has an AC of 15. She rolled a natural 18 on one of her attack rolls! Raja spun around and she plunged the knife right into his eye! Raja is vulnerable to piercing from magic weapons wielded by good creatures so he took a nice little chunk of damage.

The rakshasa screamed, swiped her with a claw and sent her hurtling down the stairs. He placed a container full of elemental fire in the room with Theran, lit a fuse, and staggered out of the building.

The wizard lab exploded! Theran was dead! Or was he? We'll find out next week.

It was an awesome session. I kept wondering if the heroes were going to get suspicious of the halfling but he was able to soothe them with a steady stream of potions.

Next week we get to the crazy stuff!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

High Rollers D&D - Episode 1

Over the next week or two, I will be checking out different D&D streams/podcasts and reviewing them. Today I am doing High Rollers.

You can watch this episode on youtube here.

This show is very well done. They have a sweet technical setup and they even superimpose backgrounds behind the players. The sound and video quality are perfect and there are no technical hiccups at all.

The DM: The DM is a guy named Mark Hulmes and you can tell that he runs a lot of games. He's really on the ball, he's enthusiastic and he is more than ready to run this thing. 

New Players: Many of the players are new to D&D, but they have no problems picking the game up. Kim is a complete natural and she immediately shines. Chris Trott is a guy we've seen as "Falkon" on Dice, Camera, Action.

On that show, he was very serious. On this one, he is the straw that stirs the drink. Right from the start, he jumps in and says and does stuff in character that I think helped the other players have space to get comfortable. He broke the ice for them and he was pretty funny.

House Rule: No darkvision, just low light vision.

The Setting: The DM kicks off the campaign by explaining the setting.

Arrak was once a land of peace and prosperity. Arrak was blessed by a magic comet called Pelor's Light that passed through the material plane once every 100 years. The comet kept monsters in a magical sleep and helped crops grow, that kind of thing.

Then, in the 1300th year, something happened. The comet appeared as usual. Suddenly, crimson energy hit the comet and there was a massive explosion. The comet was shattered.

Shards of the comet fell on Arrak and destroyed cities and towns. Monsters woke up, and the world was plunged into chaos. This event is known as "The Lightfall."

The Party


(Kim) Jiutou Zhiji Jing - Tiefling Monk
(Chris) Cam Buckland - Human Rogue or cleric
(Katie) Elora Galanodel - High Elf Druid
(Matt) Trellimar Aleath - Drow

46 years after the Lightfall...

The group is traveling in a caravan. They don't know each other. We learn a bit about each hero.

Cam Buckland: Human "Trickster Cleric." He was found in the forest as a baby by a gypsy troupe.  He was raised by them and he traveled as one of them for many years. He left the gypsies for mysterious reasons. He's supposedly a cleric of Avandra (goddess of luck)

Trellimar Aleath: In this world, drow were driven up to the surface. They have an uneasy alliance with dwarves. He hears voices and his temple was attacked by creatures known as the Dalkyr.

Elora Galanodel: She's an elf druid that is friendly and naive. The elves retreated from the world after the Lightfall. They live in these scattered spires that slipped into the Feywild once the Lightfall happened. She is among the first of the elves to return and she wants to bring the other spires back to the world of Arrak. Her father leads her spire, so she has a noble lineage.

Jiutou Zhiji Jing: She's a tiefling monk. In this world, most tieflings are slaves of the dragonborn. They cut off the tiefling's horns when they enslave them. Jiutou lived in a village of free tieflings. It was discovered by the dragonborn, and they attacked. During the onslaught, Jiutou's parents were killed. Jiutou was enslaved. She escaped after a few years and hid in a monastery. She trained there and became a monk. Years later, she emerged and is now devoted to freeing all of her enslaved people.

We start out with the group imprisoned. The last thing they remember, they were on the caravan. A hooded figure knocked them unconscious.

They wake up. Their weapons are gone. Their hands are bound behind their backs with razorvine! Awesome.

Elora is able to free the group using her druidic powers to make the vines loosen and release. Trellimar uses darkfire to blow a small hole in the vine wall. The group's weapons are on the other side.

Jiutou uses her prehensile tail to grab her blade staff. The group cuts their way out and creeps down a hall to a room partly overgrown with vines. Cam starts schmoozing and bullshitting the group. Jiutou takes an instant dislike to him.

There's a creature in the room beyond their prison. It's a plant-thing with glowing eyes. We roll initiative. This is much snappier than the Critical Role episode I watched. The DM is keeping things moving perfectly.

Jiutou goes first. She's in the hallway behind two heroes. She runs up the side of the wall past her allies and hacks into the creature. That was a really cool idea.

Two more creatures grow up out of the floor. Elora casts entangle to immobilize two of them.

Cam kills one with a thrown dagger. Jiutou kills the others. The group took some damage here, especially Jiutou.

The symbol of Corellon is in the floor, slightly altered. It's a tree with stars, and some of them are gold. Elora can tell this place is ancient.

Jiutou very smartly checks out to see if the stars are part of some secret door or pressure plate. They're not, but she spots torch sconces that are some sort of secret lever. The group pulls each, then pulls them at the same time. They hear grinding noises but nothing happens.

The next room has a statue and a lot of fresh dead bodies. Cam heals Jiutou with a spell. Huh.. he's a dagger throwing cleric, supposedly. Weird. He has a ring that glows. Ahh... the ring might be giving Cam these spells somehow. Jiutou picks up on it immediately.

Cam creeps in there and sees the bodies are moving. They're other members of the caravan that the group was in. Trellimar goes in and checks out the guy who is moving. There's vines winding through his body and coming out of his eyes!

Combat number 2. Cam takes some damage but the group kills the vine zombie thing.

Then we take a break and there's all of these animated clips which are pretty cool.

The group finds some potions of healing and they take a short rest. The group wonders why they were separated from the other people in the caravan.

After the rest, the group checks out another room. There are more bodies, leaning against the walls bleeding. One is alive - Thomas the caravan master. He's got a number of gory wounds.

Cam bandages his wounds and re-sets his broken arm. He can't walk. Thomas explains that the caravan was attacked by these vine creatures. He had been held with the heroes, but they creatures came and dragged him out.

Thomas mentions that a ranger named Renwin was part of the attack, and that he was participating reluctantly. Renwin might be able to control the creatures.

The next two rooms involve a lot of talking. They meet a dryad who explains that the angry spirit of an elven queen is behind this. Then they meet the ranger, who has been forced to help the spirit.

Moving on, Cam steps on a pressure plate thanks in part to a low perception roll. Darts fire up at him and poison him. He's woozy and has vertigo.

Trellimar has hoarded the potions of healing and doesn't want to give one to Cam. Cam ends up trading his purple handkerchief to the drow for a potion.

The heroes creep into a cold chamber with a sarcophagus. Jiutou has had enough of Cam's antics and shoves him on a sarcophagus. Suddenly, a green ghostly entity - the elven queen - rises up from the sarcophagus and roars in rage.

That's where we stop.

Timestamps
Overall

Good DM: Mark, the DM, is extremely well-prepared. He pre-drew a map and covered it with black paper, revealing map sections as the group explored. He does a real nice job of allowing banter but reminding the group that they can only say so much in a round.

He has clearly run a lot of games. He's got a lot of stuff worked out like immediately calling out the "floor dice" rule (His version: A die must be rolled on the table to count).

Some of the players are new to D&D, but Mark is able to explain things without slowing down the game at all.

Cool Setting: The whole Lightfall thing is really cool. It's a great idea and the DM really developed it well. He gave each race their own story within the framework of the Lightfall event.

Too Long: Three hours is just too long for me. Dice, Camera Action is usually a bit under two hours and I can barely get through it, even when it is a really good session. In this, the third hour really dragged for me. The section where the group talked with the dryad and the ranger was hard for me to get through. To me, that is the biggest problem with the whole idea of a D&D stream. Three hours is a major weekly time investment.

I think the time investment might be OK if you don't play in a game. Watching this could be a way for those who don't have a group to experience D&D. You could vicariously play through them.

Production Quality: The character art is phenomenal. The graphics are great. To me, this is how a D&D steam should be. It is a very professional set-up and it is much appreciated.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Critical Role: Episode 1 - Arrival at Kraghammer

I decided to check out Critical Role, a streaming D&D game played by voice actors. It's on Geek and Sundry. Just like with Dice, Camera, Action, I'm going to recap the show, give timestamps to my favorite moments and then weigh in on my overall thoughts.

You can watch this here on Geek & Sundry or here on Youtube.

We start off with a quick intro by the DM, Matt. He tells us that we are jumping in on a campaign in progress. From what the group said during the show, this campaign has been going on for two years.

They originally used Pathfinder rules but they switched to 5e. Matt warns us that there's a lot of house rules and that they aren't a "rules-y" kind of group. Fine with me!

The audio goes haywire in two instances on this episode, but it only lasts for about a minute each. You can still hear what's going on. It sounds like you're hearing robots.

We get some intro videos on each character:
  • Grog: A Goliath who likes combat, women and ale. He used to travel with a violent barbarian clan, but that ended when he stopped them from killing a gnome. The clan turned on him, beat him and left him for dead. Grog was healed by a relative of the gnome, a fellow named Pike. Pike is part of the group, but Pike's player couldn't make the game this week.
  • Keyleth: A druid loves nature and elemental magic. She is on a quest to discover herself.
  • Percy: Nobles overtook his family's castle Percy and his sister fled, but his sister was apparently killed by archers. He wandered for two years. He had a vision and got to work creating.. a gun. Perscy is a Pathfinder gunslinger.
  • Scanlan: A gnome bard who is searching for a true gnome to fall in love with. He's an entertainer who makes the females swoon.
  • Tiberius Stormwind: A red dragonborn. He spent a lot of time in a library and made a list of artifacts. He told his people he was going on a mission of peace and diplomacy. but really he's hunting for the artifacts. He's a little scatterbrained.
  • Vax'Ildan: A half-elf thief with a twin sister, Vex'ahlia. They left their father's elven settlement and wandered for a few years. When they came back, the place had been destroyed by a dragon.
  • Vex'ahlia: A half-elf ranger. The sister of Vax. Neither twin was accepted by the elf community that they lived in with their father. She has a bear companion named Trinket.
The Party 

(Travis) Grog - Goliath Barbarian
(Laura) Vex'ahlia - Half-elf Ranger
(Liam) Vax'ildan - Half-Elf Thief
(Taliesin) Percy - Human Gunslinger
(Marisha) Keyleth - Half-Elf Druid
(Orion) Tiberius - Dragonborn Sorcerer
(Sam) Scanlan - Gnome Bard

Last Time: The group had saved the capital city of a human kingdom by thwarting a demonic insurrection. The group is asked to go find Lady Kima, a paladin who has run into some trouble at the dwarven city of Kraghammer.

OK, here we go. The players are really excited to do this and it is very charming.

The group are in the underground dwarven city of Kraghammer. They go to a bar and Vax buys everyone a round. The heroes ask around and learn that there are goblins causing problems in the Greyspine Quarry. The adventurers apparently will need to meet with Nostoc Greyspine.

The group talks with a tough dwarf named Balgus (aka Bulbous, aka Ballsack). He wants to sell the heroes ale to use as a gift for Nostoc Greyspine. The group offers him the blood of a dragon as trade. Apparently the group killed a dragon in a past adventure and they took as many pieces of its body as possible. The trade is made.

The players go off on a tangent and reminisce about past shenanigans. Apparently the heroes once put an ox in their bag of holding. They also cut off and kept a troll's dick.

Grog checks out the whorehouse, which mostly is staffed by dwarves. He hires an elf lady. Scanlan gets himself a "whoredwarf" and she mops the floor with him, metaphorically speaking.

As the half-elves explore the city, some guards get freaked out by Vex'ahlia's bear. She talks her way out of it by having her bear, Trinket, do tricks.

Tiberius tries to check out House Thunderbrand, home of a family that wields great magic. It's protected by runes. He is foiled by the runes and then guards come to apprehend him. Tiberius intimidates them, doing a great bellowing voice in real life. The guards back off.

The heroes regroup at their room in the tavern. The dwarves are trying to get Vexalia's bear to fight Balgus. Vex'ahlia runs into the ring and it ends up where Vex'ahlia and the bear are going to fight Balgus.

Keyleth casts a fog spell, runs up and polymorphs Trinket into a squirrel. Then she turns herself into a bear. She's swapping places with Trinket. What a fantastic idea!

Vax uses the fog to creep up and backstab Balgus. I wish he would have let them fight. That would have been fun to watch.

Balgus takes 26 damage and it doesn't even faze him somehow. Vax runs.

Keyleth, in bear form, decides to do a dance to calm the dwarves down. Scanlan plays some music. Keyleth rolls... a natural 20! The whole tavern bursts into laughter and they forget about fighting the bear.

The game pauses - the group takes about a 10 minute break.  

The next day, the heroes head to Greyspine Manor. Tiberius is magically disguised as a dwarf. The dwarven guards of the city of Kraghammer ask the mysterious dwarf his name. He introduces himself as "Tiberius Kraghammer" which sends the entire group into hysterics. These people really enjoy the game and it is very fun to watch.

Vax'ahlia show the guards the wine they traded the dragon's blood for. She's going to give it to Nostoc Greyspine. It turns out Nostoc isn't home. He's at the mines. 

We hear robots again at about the 2 hour mark, but it's fixed in a minute or so.

Scanlan creeps around the manor. One player suggests that he takes a poop somewhere. He doesn't find anything, so he rejoins the group and tells them people were farting in there.

The group goes to the mine and there's piles of talking and room descriptions. Basically, Nostoc says that Lady Kima went into the mines. The heroes get permission to go get her.

A bell rings and Nostoc tells the group to "shove off." The heroes try to con Nostroc out of some of the expensive wine but Nostroc is having none of it.

The bell is some kind of alarm. There are creatures 'coming through' down in the mines. The guards are happy to have the adventurers go with them.

Ten goblins emerge from the darkness. A dwarf guard is swarmed by goblins.

Tiberius drops a fireball and kills two dwarf guards with it as well.

Two ogres lumber out from some vine-choked area. It's time to roll initiative. The group freaks out in excitement. They are very fun people.

Heyy we get an overhead map. Awesome.

Percy shoots an ogre in the shoulder for 27 points. Vax'ahlia kills one ogre with a lightning arrow.

Grog notices more goblins, and they're running away. Not from the heroes, but from something bigger.

Here it comes.. a massive naga. It has five other heads (of different nagas) stitched to its' body! The group starts pummeling it.

Then the naga goes and it rolls multiple critical hits! Keyleth is bit by the naga, is poisoned and takes 31 poison damage. Looks like that head is a spirit naga.

Vax does a huge pile of damage with thrown daggers, injuring the naga greatly. Scanlan finishes it off with a lightning bolt and the group freaks out in excitement. Matt lets the player narrate its death throes. Scanlan carves an "S" into it's hide with his lightning. What a fun group.

Timestamps
  • (26:29) Vax buys dwarves some alcohol
  • (42:44) The heroes flirt with Balgus
  • (1:15:55) Trinket the Bear's brief pit-fighting career
  • (1:46:06) Tiberius tries to pass himself off as a citizen of the city of Kraghammer
  • (2:24:55) The group is a little excited to roll initiative
Overall

The World: The campaign setting is really deep and it is extremely impressive. Matt is a very creative guy. Every character has a rich backstory and from what I can tell, the backstories all tie into the events of the campaign.

Roleplayers: It's kind of mind-boggling to watch voice actors play D&D. I've never seen such a theatrical group. It's fun to watch. Most groups I see out in the wild are of the number-crunching variety. The Critical Role people are pure roleplayers. In most roleplaying groups you hear really bad accents and overall you have a sort of clumsy back-and-forth with the players who don't want to roleplay. This is a really nice example for people to base their playing style on, and I bet it will improve people's overall D&D experience immensely.

Gateway Drug: I can just imagine people watching this and deciding to go play D&D. Particularly people who have never played before. I get worried that people will fall into one of the many traps of assembling a group but, hey, at least they are jumping in.

Pacing: This is probably just me, but I think this session ran too slow. The group spends over an hour sort of goofing around in the dwarven city. The show is three hours long and we got precious little done here. That said, it was this allowance to let the group wander that led to the whole bear fight thing, which was one of the highlights of the whole session. Also, nobody stopped to look up a rule one single time, which I greatly appreciate.

Big Group: Seven players is normally too many, but they are able to make it work. They let each other talk and they all pay attention.

Enthusiasm: The group is super-into the game. They pay attention, they have fun ideas and when combat rolls around, they freak out. I really believe that thousands of people watched this and decided they wanted to play D&D. What can be better than that?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Dice, Camera, Action: Episode 9 - Curse of Strahd

 
Episode 9: Nine-Tenths of the Law

You can watch this episode on youtube here.

Nate is on a plane, so we are Paultin-less. Well, not really. You'll see..

No game next week. I guess I'll either review this D&D Meltdown thing or maybe I'll try an episode of Critical Role and write a summary.

I am so amazed at this D&D era we're in. These streaming D&D games fit right alongside gaming streams. Gaming streams are popular and just having a D&D stream on the same channel or whatever is enough to get people to try it. I think another reason people would want to check out a D&D stream is because most people in the "real world" have no idea how D&D works.

The number one question I get asked by people when I tell them I play D&D is, "How do you play that game?"

I think once people try out a D&D stream they see how much fun the game can be. Given a choice, I'd much rather watch a D&D stream because video games are static. D&D is frequently hilarious and the players are having a good time. In D&D, anything can happen.

In my experience, most of the time when real life people actually try D&D, they love it. Of course that depends entirely on the ability of the DM, and then you have to make sure your group of players are well-behaved.

Last Time: Diath died! The group brought his body to Krezk in the hopes of getting the Abbot to bring him back to life. Ireena and two NPC wolf hunters are with them.

The Party

The Waffle Crew

(Anna) Evelyn - Human Paladin of Lathander
(Holly) Strix - Tiefling Sorcerer 
(ProJared) Diath - Human Rogue

We start by going back in time to last session, experienced from Diath's point of view. Diath is a disembodied consciousness. He sees himself hanging on the gallows. Hundreds of ravens descend on the town square. They attack and chase off everyone - guards, townsfolk, etc.

Diath watches his allies pull his body off the gallows. He senses that the mists want to bind him to this location forever. Diath blames all of this on the kid that was chucking rocks at him.

Diath is able to connect to Paultin's spirit. In fact, Diath realizes he can control Paultin's body and perhaps the bodies of other people! Wow, this is going to be fun. What a cool idea.

It takes Diath a long time to get acclimated to Paultin's body and we skip to the group riding to Krezk, which is where last session ended. The group has Diath's corpse with them and they want to have him resurrected.

Diath is now in control of Paultin. He says hello to the group. How weird is this: Evelyn has a thing for Paultin, but Paultin is Diath.

Diath tries to prove to his allies that it is him by doing kewl dagger moves. But it turns out that he has Paultin's stats! He rolls an 8. His dagger flops into a bush.

Diath goes to retrieve his dagger. As he does so, he spots a corpse of a peasant from Krezk who has been torn to pieces by wolves.

He spots tracks. From what he could tell, someone ran into the woods and the wolves didn't chase them. I think these are the werewolves from the cave to the north.

The group gets to Krezk. There are guards on the wall. The group wants "Paultin" to do the talking and it doesn't go well. Paultin/Diath ends up asking what the business hours are for the monastery.

The guards think Evelyn is St. Markovia and let the group in. We learn that the son of the "Burgermaster" of Krezk died. The Abbot brought him back to life, and then the son slashed his dad's throat. The Burgomaster is alive, but his vocal cords are cut and he can't speak. His wife speaks for him.

Then the son fled into the woods with a peasant lady. The peasant lady is the corpse the group found earlier!

This is a departure from the published Curse of Strahd adventure, which is very interesting. In the book, the Burgomaster is not hurt and he tells the group they can't come in to Krezk until they get the wine from the winery.

So apparently the kid is one of the children captured by the werewolves to the north.

The Burgomaster's wife tells the group that the Abbot is nuts, and that when he resurrected their child, the child was different and evil. Diath really doesn't want the Abbot resurrecting him.

Diath tries to access Paultin's memories. Opposed charisma checks. Jared rolls a three and thus loses, so no memory access for him.

The group thinks about exploring the abbey. It's night, so they decide to rest and check out the abbey in the morning. They stay with the Burgermaster.

At night, it's cold. The group sleeps on a wood floor. They can hear the Burgomaster's wife taking care of her husband downstairs.

The Abbey of St. Markovia
Next morning, the group heads to the abbey.  Out of character, Chris asks Jared if he is comfortable in Paultin's body or if he wants to find another vessel. Jared says he's fine.

I wonder if Chris was going to give him the chance to posses a mongrelfolk? Or maybe the abbot was going to have a male flesh golem for Diath to inhabit?

The abbey has a confusing layout with buildings all over the place, so a fair amount of time is taken up with Chris describing the place.

As the group talks outside the abbey gate, a mongrelfolk woman with patches of fur and lizard scales on her body comes around a corner and offers to bury Diath's body for them. Chris does a heck of a monster voice.

Another mongrelfolk comes out, too. Strix gives them food she looted from the Burgomaster. I think this is Otto and Zygrek Belview.

The mongrelfolk let the group into the abbey. Evelyn is carrying Diath's corpse. Strix chucks a rock at a scarecrow. The group heads to the main building and knocks loudly. The only response is the sound of wings flapping.

Evelyn uses her boots to fly up and look over the wall. She sees fog swirling down there and she spots a creature chained to a post. It's a mongrelfolk with bat wings. It's trying to fly off but it can't (this is Marzena Belview).

Evelyn calls to the chained mongrelfolk. She asks it if it is OK. It asks to be freed before its enemies come and kill it. It warns that its enemies are watching.

Strix approaches the mongrel and tries to give it food, but it lunges and tries to attack her.
Suddenly, bells begin to ring, followed by monstrous cries of "food!"

The group hides. Strix turns over a horse trough and climbs underneath. Evelyn grabs Diath's corpse and hides in a shed. Diath/Paultin hides in the well, holding onto the wall.

The well is 80 feet deep... and he's not alone.

That's where we stop.

Timestamps
  • (28:37) Diath tries to do a trick while in Paultin's body. 
  • (37:57) The group still doesn't believe Diath is in Paultin's body.
  • (1:00:47) Diath tries to act like Paultin
  • (1:34:25) "Paultin" is a bit worried about Diath's corpse.
Overall

Chris Is Changing His Own Adventure: I really like how Chris makes changes to the adventure, although it's weird because he wrote it! I figured he was going to have Diath rise up as a revenant this week, but Chris came up with a different, fun idea. He also had the Burgomaster of Krezk get injured, and I'm not sure why he did that yet.

Maybe he is making changes partly so that the viewers of the show who have read Curse of Strahd still get surprised and don't get bored. I think the changes might also be due to ideas Chris has had about specific story ideas for each character. I wouldn't be bored if he ran Curse of Strahd "by the book," but I really enjoy seeing him make changes.

Mongrelfolk: I hate mongrelfolk. I always have. They just don't appeal to me. It was very interesting to see Chris run them. Each one is a unique character with their own traits and powers, and Chris was able to show that off. I see now that the appeal of mongrelfolk comes from the idea that you can create unique, monstrous NPCs that stand out. You could make them as a comical flunky or as a weirdly aggressive, creepy menace. I still don't want to use them but now I can see why Chris put them in the adventure.

NPCs Fading From Existence: The wolf hunters and Ireena are barely mentioned. Where are they in Krezk? It doesn't really matter. Forgetting the presence of NPCs is such a common thing in D&D. There's so much for the DM to juggle that animals and companions drop real low on the DM's priority list.

For me, the best way to avoid the NPC fade is to give the NPC a personality you enjoy and look forward to running. Remember to run them as "support" - the heroes are the stars. I guess in Star Wars terms, an NPC ally would be C3PO or Wedge Antilles. Maybe Chewbacca.

Using the Maps: If you read Curse of Strahd, you look at the maps and your natural instinct might be to run them like a dungeon exploration. This is why I was turned off by Argynvostholt - it looked like a boring "dungeon." But watching Chris run these sprawling locales I see that he doesn't use all of the areas in a location (unless the group goes to check them out). The group just navigates them in a logical manner.

In most cases, you go through the front door and meet the NPCs there. Like in the Wachterhaus. Strix was led around by Lady Wachter. Strix didn't creep alone from door to door, listening at each one and killing whatever was inside.

I didn't realize that Chris' Curse of Strahd campaign would unfold the way it has. This show really helps so much. When you see the adventure on paper, it can feel overwhelming. The buildings have so many rooms. But if you keep the mindset that this isn't a dungeon crawl, these are real people in real homes and towns, you can avoid the trap of turning the adventure into a slog.

Good Session: The group was in a good mood and they had a lot of fun with the Diath possession story. This was an easy session to watch.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Tales From the Infinite Staircase - The Dream Well

This past week I had a lot of real life work stuff to take care of. Usually I like to prepare a day or two in advance, and then put some final touches on my plans a few hours before game time. But for this game, I had to wait until game day to assemble everything into a cohesive adventure plan.

The night before we played, I actually had a nightmare about being unprepared. In the dream, I was trying to run a game at a game store and I realized I had nothing prepared. The session starts and I was trying to make stuff up off the top of my head and it was terrible. I could tell the players thought it was terrible, too.

Modifications: I completely altered this adventure. Tales from the Infinite Staircase is purposely vague. The Iron Shadow is barely described, the adventures can be run out of order, and there's really no final showdown with the bad guy. In fact, half of the adventures have little or nothing to do with the Iron Shadow.

I'm adding in For Duty & Deity, which is a sort of 'crossover' adventure in the Forgotten Realms. I've tried my best to meld this into a cohesive story. I decided to add some major recurring villains.

The Devils: I made up recurring villains. The heroes have been sort of given a mission from the Lady of Pain - stop the Iron Shadow. The shadow is a piece of the Lady of Pain that was expelled from her when Bidam gave her the Heart of the Lady of Pain. Theran has this magic book which is aiding him. The Devils have been given the exact opposite mission by the Iron Shadow. Quimath the Kyton has a book, too, also aiding him.

The best thing about devils is that when you kill them, they just reappear in hell. The only way to truly slay them is to kill them in Hell. That means my bad guys can keep coming back.

Splitting up the Party: The general rule of thumb in D&D is "don't split the party." Everyone dies, or everyone gets bored. But I saw Chris Perkins do it on Dice, Camera, Action and it was the best session of his campaign so far. I decided to experiment tonight and see if it could work with my group.

It did work just fine, and it actually added quite a bit to the game. I think there are some key things to remember:
  1. Make sure you jump between the players quickly. Keep your eye on the inactive players, and if they look like they are getting restless, jump back to them.
  2. Allow meta-gaming. Let the inactive players make suggestions and brainstorm ideas. This will keep them involved, and honestly it is probably going to happen anyway. What that means is that when you design a scenario for a split group, assume the other players will chime in and plan for it in advance!
Hag Planning: I think I mentioned last time that I am planning a big hag-based adventure that should take place in about 7 sessions from now. During this past week, I started working on a Guide to Hags for this blog. I dug up this gigantic article from a Dragon Magazine Annual called "Pox on the Planes." This article that has tons and tons of new information on hags, soul larvae, the Gray Waste and "Altraloths." I have never seen or heard of this before. Some of that material went right into this session.

Theran's Lament: I should mention that over the past few sessions, a weird thing began to brew. I originally ran Theran's apprentice as if she was interested in him romantically. Theran told her that he didn't want to sully the teacher/student relationship. So I had her take it to heart and she moved on, focusing on her quest for revenge against the rakshasa, Raja Khan.

But last week, George (Theran's player) piped up and asked me why Selinza wasn't interested in Theran any more. I was kind of taken aback. I told him that she had taken him at his word.

Since that moment, Theran has been messing around with all sorts of ladies in true Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser fashion.

What's interesting is that Theran's beliefs (which are very important in Planescape) are all about preferring learning and knowledge to making social connections.

I am thinking of trying to set up a situation where Theran has to make a choice between learning something of tremendous value, or of rescuing his apprentice from a very dangerous situation.

Maybe in each session I'll try to put in a subtle "test," to see what Theran really thinks of his apprentice and what he values more, learning or connecting with people.

Last Time: Bidam and Fall From Grace fell into some random plane, possibly never to be seen again! Theran and his apprentice, Selinza remained in the Infinite Staircase.

The Party

(Jessie) Bidam - Platinum-Scaled Dragonborn Fighter
(George) Theran - Drow Wizard
* NPCs - Fall From Grace (Succubus Paladin), Selinza ("Litorian" Wizard, level 5)

You know, it's funny. Selinza is a white tiger cat/human hybrid, right? I decided she was a Litorian from Monte Cook's Arcana Unearthed. She should be a Shifter, right? I can't believe I forgot about that race.

We start off with Theran and Selinza in the Infinite Staircase, looking down at the spot where Bidam and Theran vanished. George was still sure that there was some way to fix this. He thought about jumping in and following them, but the lillend nearby told him that he'd likely appear somewhere else entirely. He tried to figure out how to find them. Eventually, thanks to NPC nudging, he realized that maybe this Dream Well could help him find them.

He had dreamed about the Dream Well, and knew how to get to it. He and his apprentice ascended the stairs and made their way to a small landing made of gray-white stone. The door was made of burnished bronze covered in strange (githyanki) carvings.

Theran & the Githyanki City

The Githyanki City
They stepped through, and found themselves in a githyanki city in the astral plane. The city was on  floating moat designed to look like a person, sort of.

Because this was the Astral Plane, Theran and his apprentice were able to fly.

Looking down on the city from a tower, they saw that there were dead githyanki everywhere. They had been dead for days. Many extraplanar dogs (spectral hounds) roamed the streets, eating whatever they could scavenge.

The heroes began to wander, searching for the Dream Well. They spotted two strange winged creatures and avoided them.

Two spectral hounds sniffed out the heroes (Selinza is constantly fixing her hair, doing her nails and spraying perfume, thus she is easily scented) and attacked them. Each of them got bit once, but they were able to drop the hounds with magic missiles and a well-placed fireball.

The fireball explosion attracted the strange winged creatures. One of them said in a kind voice, "Greetings..."

Bidam & the Larva

Soul Larvae
Meanwhile.. Bidam and Fall From Grace had appeared in a strange realm with no sun. Everything here was gray and white. they were in a forest of dead trees.

A creature approached them from behind a tree. It was a five foot long worm with the face of a man. It was a soul larvae! Bidam used his breath weapon on it, and Fall From Grace finished it off with her sword.

Fall From Grace explained just what a soul larvae was:
  • When an evil person dies, they become a soul larvae. Hags collect them and sell them to demons, devils and liches. The demons and devils love soul larvae, because they can turn them into imps and quasits. To them, soul larvae are "premium" souls that can start off their fiendish career at a higher rank than most other demons and devils.
Fall From Grace flew up in the air to look around. She didn't know what plane they were on, but she spotted a dusty settlement in the distance. They decided to head for it...

Theran & the Shedu

Shedu
Back in the githyanki city, The group met creatures called "Shedu." They were winged lions with human heads. They despised evil, and sensed goodness in Theran and his apprentice. They gave the heroes a pile of backstory:
  • Four days ago, the city had been attacked by psurlons (worm-creatures). The psurlons killed all the githyanki here and moved on.
  • The spectral hounds were pets of the githyanki. Now they roamed the city in a feral state.
  • There were some githyanki still alive over in the building that contained the Dream Well.
  • Some devils had arrived not long ago and headed for the Dream Well. One of the devils had a big iron book. The players gasped when I said this. They picked up on my idea immediately.
Theran and Selinza thanked the Shedu, and flew over to the building with the Dream Well. They quietly flew over to the entrance and eavesdropped.

This is where I got to introduce my recurring villains! I gave them German accents. Why? Because every time I make a bad guy with a German accent in one of my campaigns, the players love it. Every time!

Here are our recurring villains:
  • Quimath: A kyton (chain devil). He has a book like Theran's, except his is iron. He runs a fortress in Hell called Panos Qytel. The bad guys job is to bring the Iron Shadow all throughout the planes, draining creativity and causing people and places to vanish.
  • Feurina the Hell Hound Whisperer: A warder devil from 4e. Warder devils are females with huge flaming swords and a teleport ability called "Hell's Step." If you remember in Curse of Strahd, there is a vestige known as "Seriach the Hell Hound Whisperer." I thought it sounded cool, so I have made Feurina a disciple of Seriach. She has the ability to speak to and command hell hounds.
She has one hell hound with her...

Hell Hound
In future adventures, they will also bring a gorechain devil with them, which is basically an ogre/chain devil from a 4e book. I'm saving him to use as a surprise.

Theran and Selinza whispered back and forth, and decided to just watch the devils and hoped that they would leave.

While babbling in Infernal/German, Quimath the kyton climbed into the Dream Well and had an experience. After a few minutes, he climbed out and the devils headed for the exit. Theran and Selinza flew to the back of the building, and Theran told Selinza to make herself invisible.

Unfortunately, I rolled a perception and the hell hound smelled Selinza's perfume! Feurina and her dog flew over and spotted Theran. She called "Herr Kyton" over and after a brief discussion, Quimath told her to kill Theran. Quimath left.

Theran cast an ice storm spell which killed the hell hound and enraged Feurina. I had decided hat Feurina's big flaw was that she loved her hell hounds so much that the heroes could use that fact to their advantage.

Selinza flew above Feurina, became visible and started firing off magic missiles cast at a higher level.

Feurina teleported out of the ice storm and appeared next to Theran. Her huge sword burst into flames and she sliced into him. Within a few rounds, she rolled a critical hit and dropped Theran into negatives.

On her very next round, she teleported up to Selinza and rolled another critical! Selinza was down, too!

Feurina was down to just 8 hit points! It was an epic battle that actually works out great as far as making the recurring villains a true menace. The dice told the story on this one.

Bidam & the Hag
Hag
Back in the other realm, Bidam and Fall From Grace were traveling through the forest of dead trees. They felt like they were making no progress despite walking for hours.

They came upon a battle. Demon and devil soldiers were clashing. This was a battle of the Blood War, the eternal war between the lawful evil devils and the chaotic evil demons.

Most of the participants were dead. The last two demon spawn adepts killed the last two devils. The devils vanished in a puff of smoke.

This was an opportunity for me to have Fall From Grace explain that when devils were "slain", they simply vanished and reappeared in Hell. The only way to truly kill them is to slay them in Hell.

Bidam and Fall From Grace rushed the demons and killed them. They picked around the battlefield looking for loot, and they realized someone was coming.

It was a hag, leading a herd of soul larva. The heroes hid. Bidam's hag doll sprung to life and made happy noises.

Bidam decided to try to make friends with the hag using the hag doll. It worked. The hag doll has three "children" in her belly. The doll gave one to the hag, who was delighted.

This hag was Jenny Greenteeth, the NPC hag from the Curse of Strahd Adventurer's Guide. The hag agreed to help the group get to the settlement, if they would do favors for her (Jenny Greenteeth has a random chart of favors that I find hilarious). The heroes reluctantly agreed.

Jenny explained that they were in the Gray Waste, an infinite realm that was the embodiment of apathy, hopelessness and despair.

Traveling worked differently here. The heroes would most likely never reach the settlement. In order to truly travel here, you have to not concentrate on your destination. Lack of desire lets you travel ten times faster. The heroes tried it, and began to zoom toward the settlement.

The place has a sign that read: "The Grand Larvae Emporium."
  
Theran & The Dream Well

Back in the Astral Plane, Theran and Selinza had been left for dead. They were making death saves. They rolled a few. Theran rolled a one! He accrued two failures in a single roll. One more, and he was dead-dead.

Next thing they knew, they were getting mouth-to-mouth by the Shedu. Selinza barfed. The Shedu had saved them.

The group thanked them and proceeded to the Dream Well. The Shedu came along to guard the wounded wizards.

The well was 3 feet high, 12 feet in diameter and made of mortar and stones. It was 7 feet deep and had no water.. instead, a shaft of light rose out of the well. Theran climbed in and connected to the Dream Well, which gave him visions and abilities:
  • Magic Book: Theran's book was enchanted. It could reverse the effects of the Iron Shadow, but doing so drained Theran's life force.
  • Traveler's Ring: Theran learned the magic recipe to create traveler's rings, a magic item that allowed you to cast True Strike on yourself once per day. The players were underwhelmed by this. Hey, I thought it was cool.
  • The Rakshasa: Theran saw Raja Khan's face, and a skull super-imposed over it. Theran thought that meant Raja Khan was dead. Not quite!
  • Dabus: He saw a vision from his own perspective, of him being inside the legendary forbidden Dabus city. This is foreshadowing major stuff that will happen in the next two sessions.
  • Memory Storage: Theran figured out how to give himself a power - the ability to store his memories in a ball of light. He was able to create a "pocket" in the side of his torso to store the sphere and other small things in. This ability was etched into his soul, so even if he died and was reborn as an angel in Celestia, it would still be there. I did not expect my players to point out that Theran had a vagina in his side. They hooted and hollered as I tried to explain that it was not a sex organ of any kind, it was merely an awesome little magic cavity for him to hide stuff.
  • Grazzt: Theran had a vision of the goddess of love, who currently was walking the worlds as a mortal (I established this sessions ago) being wooed by Grazzt, the demon lord. This foreshadows For Duty & Deity, which I will be running for the next few sessions.
  • City Vanishes: Theran saw the Iron Shadow causing a city in the Outlands vanish. This city is Sum of All, and the heroes will be going here in one of the final chapters of the Infinite Staircase.
  • Devil City: Theran saw a brief vision of a city in hell made entirely of Chains. This is Jangling Hiter, the kyton city that is likely to be the setting of the final showdown between the recurring villains and the heroes.
Suddenly, the githyanki city rumbled. Theran heard faint shouting. He snapped out of it and climbed out of the Dream Well. Selinza had been calling for him.

Selinza pointed outside the building. The Iron Shadow was here, and she was godzilla-sized! She loomed over the city and was using her power to make the entire place vanish.

Bidam & The Grand Larvae Emporium

Fall From Grace
Back in the Gray Waste, Bidam and Fall From Grace went to Jenny Greenteeth's home. The favors: Fall From Grace had to give the hag a long, lingering embrace, which was creepy. Bidam was told to fill a container with his saliva.

You can probably guess that Bidam did something really gross to spite the hag. Yes, while the hag was hugging Fall from Grace, Bidam ejaculated into the container. I think it would be funny for the hag to use it in a ritual and have the ritual go wrong somehow. I'll have to mull it over. In fact.. I just had an awesome idea that will probably pop up when I run the hag adventure.

Bidam and Fall From Grace explored the Grand Larvae Emporium, asking around about how to get out of this plane. Everyone they met had been drained by the plane, and were apathetic. They told the heroes that it was hopeless. "What's the point in leaving? Why bother?" The heroes bumped in to a number of minor encounters:
  • "Dead Poolers": Gamblers who bet on Blood War skirmishes. The main bookie had poles on his back that held up big banners.
  • Clue: A group of blood war soldiers walked by, led by a marilith. This is a very subtle clue to something that happens next session.
  • A Hag Grooming a Nightmare: I wanted to associate nightmares with this place, as they will play a big part in my hag adventure. Bidam wanted to steal the nightmare, but backed down from the idea after considering it for a moment.
  • The Halfling: They saw a halfling staring at them. He had color, unlike the other citizens, who were white and gray - drained by the Gray Waste. The group greeted him, and it turned out that he was a mute. He wrote on parchment to communicate. His name was Karagesh.
Risky Business: This halfling is crucially important to next session! I don't want to say more even though I know my players don't read this blog. I feel funny about spoiling it. So much hinged on this guy befriending the party. Thankfully it worked out perfectly.

Karagesh pointed out that the group was being followed!

Barbed Devil
It was true. A barbed devil named Tarnalak was following them. Long ago, Fall From Grace's mother Red Shroud sold her to the devils. For many years Fall From Grace lived in Jangling Hiter, city of the kytons. There, she was an agent of the ruler of the city, Pollus Windmane.

Tarnalak was one of many devils who met Fall from Grace during this time and wanted her as their consort.

Now, Tarnalak saw her in the Gray Waste of all places, and wanted to whisk her away to his home and make her his devil girlfriend or whatever.

Tarnalak greeted her and said some sleazy stuff. Fall From Grace flew into a rage and attacked! Throughout this battle, the halfling Karagesh did things to give the heroes advantage. He slapped a nightmare so that it kicked the barbed devil. He grabbed a banner from a "Dead Pooler" and covered the devil's eyes.

Bidam rolled a natural 20 with his sword of sharpness and the barbed devil got beat up really badly. In just a couple of rounds, he was slain and he vanished in a puff of brimstone.

Bidam loved the halfling and wanted to "keep" him. This is exactly what I had hoped for.

He led them to a portal. It was a giant, spinning translucent coin. To activate it, you needed to use a platinum piece as a portal key.

Bidam had plenty of platinum. The group used the portal to head to the Outlands and from there, they returned to Sigil.

Theran & the Iron Shadow

Back in the astral plane, the Iron Shadow was draining all of the creativity from the githyanki city, causing it to vanish entirely. Theran, Selinza and the Shedu flew for the door to the Infinite Staircase.

I had a series of events planned, but there was a wrinkle. First, the Shedu began to vanish. Theran's book glowed. He could reverse the effects on the Shedu, but he'd have to give up half his hit points. Problem: He had one hit point!

Theran had to make a split decision. He decided to use the book. The Shedu were saved! Theran was unconscious! It was up to his apprentice to get him to safety!

Theran began to vanish. Selinza made some rolls, grabbed him and flew him through the door to the Infinite Staircase. Theran was safe, but one of his magic items had vanished forever - his ioun stone. The truth is that he forgot about it the moment he got it. He has never used it, and I have pointed it out to him more than once. It bothered me so I decided to use this to get rid of it!

Return to Sigil

The adventurers reunited in Sigil and told each other what had happened. Then they took a much-needed rest.

Theran headed to his bedroom in the office building. He realized someone was hiding in his wardrobe. He pulled out his wand of lightning bolts, and it turns out that one of his employees that he messed around with last session was hiding in wait for him.

This was Convivia Kettle, the "Saucy Tart" from the Gary Gygax harlot table. I decided that she really likes Theran and I wanted to see what he'd do. Theran had massive flaming sword wounds, and staggered to his bed. He protested, but Convivia bandaged his wounds and did the Indiana Jones "Where does it hurt" thing and Theran fell asleep. She stayed there with him.

Downtime Carousing

We burned through a bunch of stuff:
  • Paladin Story: I gave the group an opportunity to do something with the 'paladin is destined to have a magic baby' story, but they didn't bite.
  • Fall From Grace Origin: Fall From Grace told the group about her life among the devils, and talked about Panos Qytel, the fortress that is the site of the final adventure in the Infinite Staircase book.
  • Plan is in Motion: Karagesh the halfling made himself useful, cleaning the festhall and doing errands. He went in and re-organized Theran's wizard lab, which I really had my fingers crossed for. Theran was wary but accepted the little fellow. And thus next session is set up and ready to go!
  • Noice, Noice: Chad Menses and Dorpin No-Beard convinced "B-Slice and T-Slice" to party with them in Sylvania. A 4e skill challenge ensued, where the group met some women in Greek togas, fended off a muscly fellow named Testosticles who challenged them to feats of strength (the group mage handed Dorpin's vomit into the poor guy's face) and hooked Chad up with a lady named Romanticania. All of them woke up with a hangover each next to a different lady. Bidam's power kicked in and he gave a metal heart to a woman named Urethragoria.
Next time, I am going to shoehorn an adventure featuring Iggwilv into the set-up for For Duty and Deity and I'm pulling the trigger on the Karagesh the halfling mega-scheme.

Click here for the next chapter.