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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Tomb of Annihilation 4 - The Boon of Nangnag

The response to this show and my recent tomb articles has been really tremendous. Shawn Merwin actually spent a few minutes talking about my stuff on his podcast right here!

I've gotten a lot of words of encouragement, and I have a hard time responding in a way that doesn't sound trite. I just want you to know that I read every one and it really means a lot to me. Thank you!

Episode 4 is out! It's right here:

Running online games is weird. I get to watch myself DM?! I really cringed at the idea of it, but once I actually saw the results, it wasn't so bad.

I noticed a million little things I needed to fix up, and still am. On this episode, I saw myself repeatedly cutting off the players as they were about to say something. I get so intense about getting stuff done that sometimes I almost don't let them play D&D, which, obviously, is not good.

Solo Scenes: One reason I got antsy is because in my Planescape game, my players are more of the "sit back and enjoy the ride" types. These players aren't like that. They do more interacting and roleplaying.

On top of that, I tried to do a stylistic thing that I use often: I give each of character a lightning-fast solo scene. I wanted to have Zavagor do a thing with Kwayothe, Val have a flashback, and Mistletoe and Ramrod learn things about their stories.

But what happened was that when I rolled out the Zavagor solo thing, the whole group wanted to go and spy on him.

They had obtained the boon of Nangnang, which lets them walk on walls and ceilings, and rightly thought that the boon would help them in this scenario immensely.

What I envisioned as a 3-minute vignette turned into a 25-minute excursion.

Going forward, I have adjusted my planning. Instead of breaking up their stories into separate scenes, I'm going to try to do one scene that develops multiple stories at once.

Forgetting Stuff: Another thing that I'm noticing is that I need to be sharper. In my home games, if I forget something, who cares? But now if I make a mistake, I might confuse the people watching.

I forgot that the group gave Pock-Marked Po the oracle's eye. In this session, I ran it where the group still had it. I can just ret-con it and say that Po gave it back to the group after one of his daughters convinced him to do so, but that makes for a less than ideal show.

I need to make sure that I have the main story points lodged in my head. I'm always going to make mistakes, but I want to try and make sure I get the most important things right.

The Party

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

The group was in the shrine of Nangnang. They figured out the altars and made their way into the central room.

My map guy was on fire for this dungeon.

He is in Puerto Rico and he says it is utter chaos there due to the hurricane. I haven't heard from him in a while and I hope he is OK.

Gem-Encrusted Undead: In the central room, gems animated adventurer corpses and they attacked. Zavagor targeted a gem embedded in the forehead of one of the creatures.

Disarming: Targeting a body part or thing in D&D has always been impossible to run in a consistent manner. In 2e, it was a -8 to hit. In 3e, I think disarming was a feat. In 4e, you pretty much just couldn't do it and if you did, it didn't really matter.

5e has some disarming stuff. I think a character in my Hoard of the Dragon Queen campaign had it and used it often.

It's something to account for when making your encounters. If you have a bad guy using a powerful item, the group will probably try to snatch it away. You don't want to block them on this every time, but you also don't want to let it ruin encounters, so it's a real delicate thing.

Generally I think that if you have a character who disarms, make some encounters where they can disarm like crazy, so that way on the rare times where the disarming will be blocked somehow (examples: item is chained to their wrist, item flies back to their hand, item is evil and damages anyone who touches it, etc) it won't feel so bad.

When the character almost never gets to disarm, and then has a major encounter when their disarm makes a huge difference, it really comes off bad when they can't do it.

If possible, work the disarming into the encounter. As in... this bad guy better be disarmed or the group is screwed. The bad guy is already a threat, but the item makes the encounter impossible!

So in my head, I thought "Well... let's see what he rolls. A critical or a power score means it definitely happens."

What is a Power Score? What's a power score? It's the name of my blog, but it's also a long-running joke in my old campaigns. It was a 2nd edition psionics rule. If you rolled exactly the number you needed, that's a power score, and it has special effects like a critical hit.

So in 4e, whenever somebody rolled exactly what they needed, I'd dramatically announce that they just got a power score, which meant absolutely nothing.

I named this blog "Power Score" as a joke, as in, "This blog is EXACTLY WHAT YOU NEED." Nobody knows that outside of about 12 people on the planet, though, so it's either a supreme in-joke or just a bad idea.

Anyway. Zavagor rolled a power score and BOOM, the gem shattered.

I'm trying to think of an actual effect for a power score in 5e. I'm going to try saying that when a hero rolls a power score, they get to do their "signature move." What is that? Whatever they want, but once they pick it, that's it.

Nangnang: Then I did this thing where the skulls in the walls "read" the souls of each character and transmitted it to Nangnang, whose spirit is trapped in the Tomb of the Nine Gods.

Basically I'm foreshadowing the fact that each hero is tied to a powerful, god-like entity and that those entities might block the trickster gods from inhabiting their bodies.

To tempt them, Nangnang granted them her boon (which is listed on the last page of the ToA book). The characters all gained the power to walk on walls and ceilings! They also felt a bit more selfish than normal. This will wear off in a day or two.

Ramrod loved it and started parkouring through the trees, rolling a natural 20 to do so.

The heroes returned to Port Nyanzaru and met with Pock-marked Po. They learned that he was the "beggar king", basically the head of a thieves guild/hobo support group. Things got a little tense. His daughters drew some poison daggers, but cooler heads prevailed.

Zavagor and Kwayothe

Zavagor's Girlfriend: Then the group went on the excursion to Kwayothe. Val snuck around on the ceiling. Ramrod and Mistletoe harassed a guard outside, and Zavagor met with Kwayothe. The group is now teasing Zavagor, telling him he has a girlfriend.

Kwayothe hates the Omuan royal line. She wants to run Port Nyanzaru and a rebuilt Omu, and because Zavagor is also connected to Eman, she thinks he's the only one she can trust.

Zavagor hates Eman and desperately wants to break the bond to her.

We stopped right when the group was about to go to the bath house, which I LOVE. That happens on episode 5, and it was utterly ridiculous.

One other thing I noticed. We're taking too long to get to the jungle. I want to be in the actual tomb by December. We won't get into the jungle until November, as the next 3 episodes will wrap up Port Nyanzaru (I want to do another dinosaur race).

I think I'm going to try to schedule a few bonus sessions, as I don't want to skip cool material just to make sure we're done by March.

Hopefully we can get that done. I'm cutting Omu down big time, because I don't like much of it, so basically we'll do the jungle and then jump into the tomb, which will be absolutely terrifying!


Anonymous said...

Enjoying listening to the adventure at work.

Why the big hurry to finish? ToA could dozens of sessions of regular play.

BTW, meaning to ask surprised I haven't seen thoughts / review of D&D Beyond?

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