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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Tomb of Annihilation Episode 1 - City on the Edge

You can watch this session on youtube here.
The 10-minute highlight version is here.

For a long time, I ran games in a game store. This blog started off mostly so I could write about what that's like.

Things I liked about it:
  • You meet tons of players to put in your home games.
  • Running unique "official" stuff.
  • Getting special free products: Dice, adventures, poster maps, etc.
Things I didn't like:
  • Playing in a public space.
  • Getting stuck with unpleasant players.
  • Game store "politics".
It's been a year or two since I stopped and almost as soon as I did, I missed running for my group of kids. They were really awesome. I wrote a lot about Dark the Dragon Sorceress, played by a 9 year old girl. I still say that out of the hundreds of players that I have run for, she was one of the best. I can only think of one player better.

I don't want to go back to running D&D adventures in a game store, so I figure I'll try to replace that with online games. My "kids" are now my online players.

Earlier this year, I ran a bunch of online test games to get the hang of it and learn how the whole thing works.

I am using xSplit to set up the overlay and we are using Skype to connect with each other. So far, it has worked great. I had to get a new computer to handle all of this.

I don't think I'll be doing live Twitch shows. For now, I'll stick with posting recordings on youtube. That allows me time to order art, to edit, and to make graphics.

The first episode is 90 minutes long. The rest will be 45 minutes to an hour and shows will be posted every Wednesday. I'll also include a super-short version so you can keep up without sinking hours of your life into it.

As of this writing, episodes 1-3 are recorded and episode 1 is posted.

The Party

(Ryan) Mistletoe - Human Druid
(Garrett) Ramrod - Goliath Barbarian
(Annalise) Val - Tiefling Sorcerer
(Joe) Zavagor - Half-orc Warlock

When I started this session, the tomb book wasn't out yet! The first three episodes use material from City on the Edge and Over the Edge. I set this on the world that I ran the Savage Tide campaign (from 2010) and my Skull and Shackles campaign (from 2013) on.


I love pirates, so I worked those in. There is an AWESOME NPC from Skull & Shackles that I decided to use. She is Isabella "Inkskin" Locke, a pirate captain who has a treasure map tattoo and wields a magic cutlass known as Brine's Sting. I used her in Skull & Shackles, but there was so much going on that she didn't get to do much. Now I can dangle her in front of a new group of heroes.

In order to have something of a clean slate, I used events from my Planescape campaign to combine some realities that caused little changes that will help make this campaign more accessible to new viewers.

At the start, the heroes are 1st level. Thanks in part to the reality "revision", the heroes are in the Hall of Final Fate in the Shadowfell - lost souls collected by Vorkhesis, son of the Raven Queen.

Tomb of Annihilation is all about the death curse. Souls are being destroyed. This does not sit well with the Raven Queen, so Vorkhesis sends our lost souls to go take care of it.

The heroes have their albino froghemoth with them. He is a "runt" and is supremely uncoordinated. I use him for comedy and as a tool to help the group along if they get stuck. He's also there to help them form an emotional connection with the world.

This is the overlay I made

Technical Stuff: I was very worried that I was going to mess up the recording, but thanks to all of my preparation, it went quite well! I recorded at lower settings just to make sure my computer could handle it. I'll be using higher settings next time, so the video quality will be sharper.

On this first episode, I used a snowball microphone. I love this thing, but it picked up my air conditioner a little bit. I bought and used a headset for episodes 2 and 3.

Using Port Nyanzaru: One of my strengths as a DM is running city adventures. Like in so many other paths, Tomb of Annihilation starts off in an awesome city, and then the group leaves it behind for good. After a lot of thought, I think I figured out a way to get the group back to the city periodically throughout the campaign.

Recurring Jokes: Because my games are stupid, one of the first things I did in this was to have an NPC look at the group and their froghemoth, pause, and say.. "That's a big frog you got there!"

My goal is to have people say this to them over and over, in many different voices, and then have it said in unexpected situations. I want to see how many ways I can work it in. I've hit them with it three times so far and they haven't noticed.

The heroes riding in the cart
Exploring the City: The group hitched a ride on a cart pulled by a stegosaurus and helped a guy deliver laundry to some pirates. Along the way, I had a jerk kid harass the group. Ramrod got out and actually threw the kid. The kid was very well-received, so I have some plans for this little feller.

The heroes couldn't help but notice that super-fast Tomb of Annihilation zombies were eating a sleeping pirate, so they jumped in to help. The heroes were victorious and befriended the pirates, including mighty Captain Inkskin.

As I had hoped, the heroes asked how the heck the zombies got on there. I set up this really stupid story and got to pull the trigger on it. The zombies were stowaways! The pirates had gone to Zombie Island and wouldn't you know it, there were zombie on the island! They snuck on board while the pirates were drunk.

The fact that I got to roll this dumbass story out and see the reactions of the players just killed me. It's my way of saying: Yes, this is what you signed up for. It will only get stupider from here
Mistletoe on his dinosaur

Then we jumped into one of my favorite scenarios from City on the Edge - Dinosaur racing! Weirdly, the racing rules in it are completely different than the ones in the Tomb of Annihilation book. Honestly, I like the City on the Edge version better.

In this scenario, the heroes race against another group of adventurers known as... the Green Vipers, who I fleshed out. I always love the "other adventuring party" trope. They are:
  • Nara, the smart lady.
  • Ladarius, the handsome dude.
  • JIM CRANK, an angry dwarf who doesn't take any crap.
  • Deidre the Slinker, a stealthy tabaxi.
Each racer rode an allosaurus, and a number of memorable moments were had. Mistletoe cast shilleleigh on his staff so that it left a trail of light. Val just took off right from the start and didn't look back. Poor Jim Crank, my badass NPC, couldn't roll above a 10.

We stopped halfway through the race and I was very, very pleased with how it went.

In Tomb of Annihilation, there are 9 trickster gods. Towards the end of the adventure, a trickster god enters the body of each of the heroes and gives them a special boon (such as the ability to turn invisible at will, or a 23 Strength!!) and also a flaw (such as selfishness or paranoia).

I was sitting here thinking about how to tie in the backstories of the heroes to all of this. I realized that each hero has a major entity tied to them:
  • Mistletoe: The Queen of Air and Darkness (from the Feywild)
  • Ramrod: A phoenix (!)
  • Val: (A miysterious entity yet to be revealed)
  • Zavagor: Eman, the home-brewed demon queen.
So here's what I'm thinking. The GREEN VIPERS will be possessed by the tricksters. The heroes will be possessed by their backstory entities!

I think that will work out really well.

This could all change as we see what works and what doesn't, but I've got a nice little roadmap to work with.

Next week, I'll write about episode 2, where Val absolutely KILLS IT with her quick wit. I was floored. She did it again on episode 3, as well.

The group also meets Kwayothe, a merchant prince who I think might become a major part of this campaign.

4 comments:

Terry Herc said...

Great write up. I like how you've been able to repurpose items from previous campaigns so they are consistent for both you and the players. Looking forward to reading more of these!

Jason R said...

I also like how you don't just run this out of the box, but keep with the continuity of your previous campaigns. I've said that before I know, but it's one of the more extraordinary things about your gaming career.

I've been waiting for these live sessions to be posted as one gets to see visually a lot of the gaming philosophy you've discussed on your blog. Thanks for your efforts.

Necrolai said...

Can`t wait to watch it when I`m done with work, your Planescape campaign nights always crack me up. Great artwork be the way.

Sean said...

Terry Herc: Thanks! I knew from the first day I ran a game that I wanted one long continuity. Everything "counts".

Jason R: Welp now you're going to see it's mostly an excuse for jokes. I think those years of running 3 games a week really sharpened my ability to get a lot done in a little bit of time and how to cut out all the boring stuff.

Necrolai: Thanks! I actually have audio recordings of every session of Planescape but they are way too vulgar to put on the internet. I'm always digging for good artists! This one guy from Venezuela is on fire right now.