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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Dice, Camera, Action: Episode 34 - Storm King's Thunder

Episode 34: Thine Own Elf
On Reddit, they made a really nice index of the episodes right here.

This episode is a little less than an hour long, I guess there were technical issues or something. Emil is back for a bit this week.

The Party

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


Last Time: The group fought werewolves. Famous hero Drizzt Do’Urden showed up to help.

The werewolves are done for. Drizzt nods at Diath and heads toward the lodge. Diath notices his piercing lavender eyes.

Evelyn is enchanted by Drizzt’s rugged good looks and she sidles on over. Strix is feeding the owlbear and she recognizes Drizzt.

Drizzt is looking for a dwarf named Jasper. He got lost on patrol.

The group introduces Murderbot to Drizzt. Murderbot does the detachable thumb trick and everyone is sort of weirded out.

The group has a very logical idea. They want to give the doll with Strahd trapped in it to Drizzt. He says he can take it to the dwarven city of Gauntlgrym.

I did not see that coming. Very interesting! I thought that Chris might shoot that down, but he went with it. There are a ton of cool things that can come from this. It’s funny, the group might end up dipping into a bit of Out of the Abyss at some point.

Drizzt rips on the Acquisitions Inc group for taking his panther.


The heroes learn that the citadel they need to get to is 20 days away. Food will be scarce. Paultin can summon the waffle hut for warmth. This adventure is full of long journeys. It’s nice to see the group in a new environment. It feels very fresh.

Drizzt say that activity on the glaciers has driven a white dragon south. That situation is fully described on Storm King's Thunder page 155.

Drizzt is leaving and the heroes prepare to begin the journey to the citadel. That’s where we stop.

Overall

Short but good! Nothing essential, but very enjoyable. You can feel this show becoming a thing now. You should definitely jump on board now if you haven’t checked it out.

I get the feeling the group will be going to one of my favorite places in Storm King and I have no idea how the waffle crew will handle it. I am looking forward to it.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Acquisitions Incorporated: Pax South 2017


You can watch this on Twitch here.

We had ourselves another Acquisitions Inc. game. The holiday special aired just a few weeks ago and was quite a bit of fun. This show is playing off of the upcoming Tales From the Yawning Portal, a book that converts a bunch of classic D&D adventures to 5th edition.

No More Binwin: I must have missed something, as there’s been a major shake-up. Scott Kurtz, who plays Binwin, apparently isn’t on the show any more. From what I understand, there’s no bad blood or anything. He actually did a game with Chris Perkins at PAX South called “Binwin’s Minions,” but apparently they didn’t tape it.

More info on Binwin's Minions here. It's a whole thing.

This is definitely a blow to the show, as Scott was my favorite player. I just think he’s hilarious. I was worried going into this that it just wasn’t going to be the same.

It was different, but it wasn’t bad at all. I really like Morgan Webb and the group was on fire from start to finish.

Good Part: I would say that if you want to show someone who knows nothing about D&D why people like this show and D&D in general, just have them watch the fight in the yawning portal which starts at about 35 minutes in. That's what D&D is all about, in my opinion.

I am definitely noticing that there are consistent mentions of Asmodeus and the devils in almost every storyline. Clearly they've got some kind of big devil event coming at some point.

The Party

(Jerry) Omin Dran - Half-Elf Cleric
(Mike) Jim Darkmagic - Human Wizard
(Patrick) Viari - Human Rogue   
(Morgan) Morgaen - Elf Ranger

The legendary artifact Whelm (DMG page 218) is being auctioned off in Waterdeep. We start off with Morgaen alone, sneaking around on rooftops. Morgaen knows where Whelm is being kept.

She's been spotted by a big dude with a bow. He shoots her. She falls off the roof. Morgaen ends up falling through a window into a noble party.

The players are really on fire right from the start. The crowd is very cold but the group is just firing off the jokes all willy nilly.

Morgaen slips into an attic and grabs a disguise. She shakes off her pursuers.

The Yawning Portal


Acquisitions Inc. has been operating out of the Yawning Portal, a famous tavern with a well that is an entrance in the legendary dungeon known as Undermountain.

Binwin resigned? They have his wand of wonder and are trying to figure out what to do with it. Morgaen arrives and sits down with them.

The group tries to have a private meeting. Morgaen is a bit overdressed, still in the fancy clothes that she stole from the attic. Jim uses magic to wear a nice suit, complete with living dove cufflinks.

As the meeting begins in a curtained-off area, Jim's job is to keep an eye out on those chasing Morgaen. As soon as he looks outside the curtain, he sees a big half-orc dude. He quietly closes it.

The crowd is dying of laughter at this point. Over the course of the last 5 minutes, the players took the crowd from dead to rolling. Amazing.

Bar Fight: Viari thinks this is a perfect time to use the wand of wonder. Morgaen wants to send the bad guy into the well, an idea that the crowd loves.

Viari tries to jump the dude. Viari literally jumps at him. The half-orc catches the bard and tosses him into the well! Viari makes his save, falls 10 feet down and grabs onto the side of the interior of the well.

Omin mauls the guy and sends him hurtling into the well. The guy grabs onto Viari's pants and hangs there. Patrick points out that Viari's pants come off very easily. Just a bit of velcro.

Jim comes over to the well. Pulls out the wand of wonder! This is really great. Viari is horrified. Here we go… he rolls a 46. Lightning bolt! Viari gets hit, too. The half-orc is still alive and he is still holding on!

Morgaen's turn. A woman in the crowd shouts out that Morgaen should shoot Viari's pants off. Morgan is way ahead of this lady. She uses mage hand to undo his pants! Crowd loves it. Chris gives her inspiration.

Viari points out that the carpet matches the drapes. He considers this free advertising. Viari is not bashful. He climbs up, weiner dangling and high-fiving everyone.

An elf and a half-orc bodyguard were watching this battle, but now they're gone.

The Auction Scheme


Morgaen tells the group about the auction for Whelm. They learn about its powers - it is intelligent, it’s +3!! If you read the entry, you’ll see that it has a negative trait that gives the wielder disadvantage when outdoors. Yikes.

Morgaen is wearing a holy symbol of Asmodeus, Lord of the Nine Hells. She says she stole it from the nobles. She wants to keep it, but they throw it in the well.

The group sits down and plans out how to steal Whelm. Omin is a masked lord, a secret ruler of Waterdeep. They decide that they will use his political power to raid the auction and seize the illegal items.

Morgan points out that the group needs a new headquarters and that they should seize the whole building. Wow. The crowd is really impressed.

Viari really wants to use his disguise kit. The group humors him. The disguises:
  • Jim: Jim becomes CLAUDE SPELLMANCER, a hunchback who smells like garlic.
  • Morgaen: She gets fake human ears, they shave her head! One guy in the crowd desperately wants her to have a mustache. Morgaen gets a mustache.
  • Omin: A guy with a hat, a beard and a southern accent.
  • Viari: A lady.
The group gets there the next day and... someone else already raided the place. They eventually learn that a knight from the Order of the Green Flame stormed the place. All of the Zhentarim are dead.

The heroes interact with cops named Blastwyn and Cromley.

Omin is hilarious doing the southern accent. At first, I wasn’t sure if he could do it. But with each line, the accent gets deeper and better. They should make names for all of these new identities.

There's a tiefling of the Order of the Green Flame that was captured. The tiefling guy takes an immediate shine to Claude Spellmancer and slides his tail up Jim's leg.

The tiefling, Sly,  explains that Whelm was taken by the Order of the Green Flame. The knight in charge didn't want the hammer to fall into the hands of demons.

Dagult Neverember was ousted during Tyranny of Dragons. Laeral Silverhand runs Waterdeep. The adventurers learn that this all might be a scheme of Dagult’s to somehow regain power in Waterdeep.

The group wants to find the paladin of the Order of the Green Flame, Amandar.

The heroes decide to search through the warehouse and they find a greenish sword.

Amandar

Nix and Nox
A harper directs the group to Amandar’s location. The group knocks on the door. She comes down, slams the hammer on the ground and messes up the party.

Omin immediately figures out that Amandar is being controlled by Whelm. Whelm says he is looking for a dwarf. The heroes spot one or more winged demonic creatures in the sky heading this way. It turns out that they are fire genies.

The adventurers convince Amander to throw Whelm down and they befriend her.

Poor Jim got stunned in the beginning and just can't make his save. That tiefling guy who likes Jim shows up and says, "Nice to see you like this." Yargh. Morgaen shoots the guy in the head and kills him in one shot. Jim still can't make his save.

Amandar wants to hold off the demons while the heroes escape with Whelm. Viari does not want to leave her.

Whelm points out that it is Nix and Nox! The fire genies from White Plume Mountain! Servants of Keraptis. Wow.

Viari is definitely refusing to leave Amandar here alone. I hope they stay. Clearly they are supposed to leave, but this is the kind of thing that happens in D&D.

Nope.. they leave. Viari does leave his owlbear to help Amandar fight the genies.

The group goes to the Yawning Portal and drinks. Omin is contacted via a sending spell. Someone tells him that both of his sisters are dead!

That’s where we stop.

Overall

Good show! I was a little worried that the crowd wasn’t into it, but they got going after a little bit.

There was an interesting moment where the people in the crowd started yelling suggestions and it was getting annoying. Patrick put them right in their place. It was awesome. The occasional suggestion, if it’s really good, is fine. The problem is that it seems like once the shouting gets going, it turns into an irritating mess.

Mike was really, really quick-witted tonight, Morgan fit right in. It felt like something was missing as far as the adventure goes. Maybe the planning took too long and Chris had to cut some stuff.

I think this is definitely worth watching. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Dice Camera Action: Episode 33 - Storm King's Thunder



Episode 33: "Were and Tear"
On Reddit, they made a really nice index of the episodes right here.

OK! It is nice to have DCA back. This episode is fun and laid back. I find that these online D&D shows are very good to listen to while you’re doing something else, like drawing or driving.

We have a guest star today. It’s Aram Vartiam, who is returning as Emil Toranescu. He was on the show last season as this character but he really didn’t get to do much, so it’s nice to see him back.

Emil is from Barovia. It seems like we’re really getting a lot of Curse of Strahd stuff poured into Storm King, which is really interesting. Chris wrote both of these adventures and now we get to watch him smoosh them together in weird and unpredictable ways.

The Party

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



Last time, the adventurers took refuge in a lodge with a dwarf named Zog. Murderbot, the evil mannequin/golem/toy of doom, came down the chimney and was freaking everyone out.

We resume with Paultin trying to make buddies with Murderbot. Paultin casts suggestion on Murderbot to make friends. Paultin is in his tiny hut and at one point there’s some thought put into how they could use it as a toilet, let it vanish and then summon a new one. A poop-filled magic dome, that’s what D&D is all about.

The group argues about whether it is safe to keep Murderbot. Strix is so creeped out that she insists that she is going to go sleep out in the blizzard. The group sort of calls her bluff and she goes outside.

Owlbear Hug: The Owlbear is out there! It’s right by the door. The group had left a waffle out for it last session. We couldn’t tell if the white dragon ate the owlbear last time. I guess it didn’t.

The owlbear tackles Strix, gets her in a bear hug and drags her into the snow.

Strix smells like waffles. Paultin comes outside and tries to cast sleep, which is more likely to put Strix to sleep than the owlbear. He rolls low. Nobody's asleep.

Strix has five waffles in her robe. She throws one. The owlbear runs after it.

Strix crawls back into the lodge.

Murderbot and the dancing mindflayer
Evelyn insists that the group try to befriend the owlbear. Murderbot goes outside drops the owlbear with a dart, but it is still alive.

Evelyn uses her incredible strength and the aid of her trusty steed Mourning Glory to bring it in to the stables. Strix helps with an enlarge/reduce spell.

Werewolves: The next day, the group is ready to go to the citadel that Zog needs to deliver a message to.

While the heroes are taking a whiz, werewolves show up. It is Emil, the werewolf who escaped Castle Ravenloft with Paultin. Emil is accompanied by his wife, another NPC from Curse of Strahd. I don’t think the group got to meet her in Barovia.

They have come to warn the group that other werewolves from Barovia have come here to take back the idol that the group used to trap Strahd in. I wonder who is directing them to do so? Baba Lysaga? Rahadin was slain. Escher?

The werewolves will be here soon. Emil says that the group's best bet to fend off the attackers is to become werewolves themselves! Evelyn is overjoyed because she gets to assume her were-pomeranian form again! That’s awesome.

Strix is going to cast a spell (remove curse?) when it is over to remove the lycanthropy.

Sprawling Battle: The bad guys show up and we are in combat. As the battle progress, it spills out of the lodge and everyone is scattered. Murderbot shoots a dart at them but they are immune to non-magic. Strix says, "Sorry, those darts only kill children."

A creature dominates Paultin and orders him to get the puppet,

Diath runs by him to help Strix. Paultin feels compelled to make an opportunity attack. Nate doesn't know what his plus to hit is or even what melee weapon he uses. This is like when I ran games in the game store for people who played every week for years but didn’t even own dice or bring a pencil.

Paultin hits Diath, who uses uncanny dodge to take half damage.

Paultin's shadow... is back? It separated from him in Barovia and as far as I know, Paultin has no shadow. People in chat bring it up, and Chris says that it is back but doesn’t elaborate. Interesting! It attacks Diath, too.

Strix is in gaseous form, which is protecting her from the would-be puppet snatchers. She becomes corporeal and races into the lodge to take cover near the owlbear.


Outside, someone has come to help. It's... DRIZZ'T! Wow. That's where we stop.

Overall

Fun show! I would like it if this show was on every week all year. I guess that’s not feasible, but I really enjoy it. So far this season, he group is hilarious and it’s just fun to watch them play no matter what is actually happening in the game.

I feel like there’s something of a “glut” when it comes to D&D shows. There’s a million of them out there now, but I’m not sure who has time to watch them. They are all so long that you really can’t devote your time to more than one or two. That seems like it will make it hard for most shows to get traction.

For example, Maze Arcana made a CGI intro of Eberron stuff. It’s amazing! It’s just hard to find the time to watch these other shows. I can sample them, but following them weekly is difficult.

I hope somebody watches them. We need some kind of way to know what’s out there, what’s going on in each of the shows and who the players/DMs to make note of are.

If I had the time, I’d watch and type up summaries of as many shows as I can, but that’s a full time job all on its own.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Adventures in Eberron - Shadow Castle


On Sunday, we played some more of the Eberron campaign that I am a player in. My DM is moving to the midwest soon, so this was probably our last live session.

We've been making our way through a castle dungeon that we had a hand in creating. We're looking for the captured soul of a warforged. It sounds like a rakshasa is behind this, which is alarming because they are immune to spells 6th level and lower! I should probably look at my spell list and figure out how to handle it.

Magic Items: My character sheet is a trainwreck. I have about 5 pages of notes and magic items scribbled all over the place. Here's the magic items that I am sure that I have:
  • Wand of Wonder
  • Well of Worlds
  • Periapt of Wound Closure
  • Circlet of Blasting
  • Heward's Handy Haversack
  • Bag of Beans with 3 beans left
  • Dagger of Venom
I really need to sit down and re-write this thing.

Picking Spells: Picking spells is really hard. Whenever I level (we are level 8), I always struggle with how many utility spells to take. For offense, I use magic missile, shatter and fireball.

I have invisibility, dimension door and fly as three of my other big spells.

Dispel magic is one that I probably should have taken. It's not the most exciting choice when looking over your options, but it really does come up a lot.

Last time, we'd defeated a cambion. I shot her with my wand of wonder and she turned to stone, crashed to the floor and exploded.

Ghost Chef Starring Kevin James: We headed in to a kitchen. Inside was.. a ghost chef. He was making us a meal. We decided to humor him and sample his delicious cuisine. I assumed it was poison, but I decided for once just to go with it and see what happened.

We ate some kind of blue pudding and catoblepas steak. We tried to convince him we liked it, but he wasn't buying it.

He ended up activating a trap door under the seat of our wizard. I got off a feather fall spell to slow her descent and we jumped in with her.

That's when we looked at the map. Right there on the paper were the words: "Kitchen with slide." It was right there! We'd placed this room! All we had to do is look down at the map that we created. I thought that was really funny.


Invisible Tentacles: So we went down a slide to the dungeon level under the castle. We fell into a pool with a tentacle creature that was invisible at least part of the time.

The thing grabbed our wizard and started dragging her under. I cast fly on myself, grabbed her hand and pulled her free. We fled through a door to the west.

Booze: It was a room full of wine bottles. My character is a big hairy guy who talks like Sean Connery and loves to drink. I jammed 10 wine bottles into my haversack.

I got the feeling that there was more to this room. I mean, would the DM really put a room in the dungeon with nothing in it except wine? Maybe he would. We searched it and did find a mundane knife, but that's it.

We went into the servant's quarters. The servants weren't hostile and they lived in fear of the shadow dragon. We checked out a laundry room which we would return to a bit later.

Potion Puzzle: In a lab, we ended up trying to figure out a puzzle. There were all of these vials of liquid that were purple, green and orange. We put them into a centrifuge and separated them into liquids. Orange became units of red and yellow liquid, green was blue and yellow, etc. Then we could make 4 units of a color to create a potion.

I know that potions of healing are red so I rightly guessed that the units of red combined into potions of healing (potions of extra healing or stronger, it turns out). I think we also made poison and vials of explosive liquids.

I thought that was a very cool room, I never could have come up with something like that.
The Chain Devil: We ended up opening the door to the prison. As you might know, I have no stomach for torture or misery in D&D so I really wanted to free the victims in here when I saw their situation. There were six prisoners pinned to the ceiling by writhing, animated chains.

The room was originally shrouded in magical darkness, but our wizard cast dispel magic to shut it down.

A chain devil was guarding the prison and he definitely gave us some trouble. I really like getting to fight different D&D monsters when the DM uses them to their full capacity. I've seen chain devils a million times, but I've never fought one as a player.

The chain devil wrapped his chains around the fighter and the wizard. He did a heck of a lot of damage to them.

I blew through my spells. Magic missile is such a key spell. Very few creatures are immune to force spells and it automatically hits!

I ended up using my wand of wonder a bunch of times. I got the faerie fire result twice and some other relatively benign effect. We defeated the chain devil and freed the prisoners. We were hurt badly and almost out of spells. The wizard was actually unconscious and stable. We refrained from using a potion on her, figuring she would be revived during the rest. Potions of Healing re now illegal in Sharn, so I figured we shouldn’t use them if we can avoid it.

I think I am going to look into multiclassing and taking a level of cleric. We need healing! Plus, I enjoy being a healer. In 4th edition, I played a warlord that granted attacks and healed and I think it was, mechanically, the most fun I ever had with a character.

Resting in the Dungeon: One prisoner was a changeling who I didn't trust. He was in here on a mission for one of the Eberron factions.

We decided to try to take a long rest in the laundry room. I wanted to leave this place entirely to rest, but the other players pointed out that it was too dangerous.

Pillow forts were built and laundry was done. Our rest was interrupted. A creature hissed at us through the door. It was a mohrg! An undead servant of Orcus with animated intestines.

The NPC changeling pretty much kicked its ass for us while hitting us with healing spells.

The mohrg went down, and that's where we stopped. There are a few rooms in the dungeon level left. We are not sure where the soul is. It could be on the top floor, which has about 6 rooms, many of which are bedrooms. There is a crypt and a torture room that we'll probably explore next time.

Overall

It was good, as always. I like it when DMs can bring places to life simply by taking things from the book and portraying them fully. He took a kyton and exploited all of its powers to make a full room and  encounter out of it.

It might seem like a common sense thing to do, but not many people actually do it. I think as a DM, sometimes you feel the pressure to overthink things and you end up with encounters that are muddled or too busy.

A lot of times, it seems like knowing what to focus on during prep is more important than what you are actually preparing.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Dungeons & Dragons - Lost Halls of Everforge by Shawn Merwin

On Saturday night we played our third online session of the Key Ring D&D campaign.

The heroes went through an adventure from the Kobold Press 5th Edition Book of Lairs: The Lost Halls of Emberforge by Shawn Merwin.

Shawn Merwin writes the first adventure of every D&D encounters season. I ran one a while back and I really liked it, so this seemed like a fun choice.

Dungeon Skipping: The thing that worried me about this adventure is that you can make a straight walk from the first room right to the final encounter. The temptation there is to try to force the group to go through a side door first. After all, if the group kills the bad guy right away, then how am I going to fill the rest of the session?

I resisted the urge. I told myself that if/when they went right to the end, they still will want to look for treasure. Second, I was determined to not rush the group so much. I wanted to let them explore and roleplay more. I have a tendency to grab players by the collar and scream "What are you doing now!?!?" This would be a good opportunity to slow down and allow the group to fully experience rooms 1 and 12 if that’s how things played out.

The Key Ring

(Andrew) Finy Teetoe - Halfling Rogue
(Pat) Gurn Sirensong - Gnome Bard
(Ashley) Lemuel - Human Rogue
(Joe) Zavagor - Half-orc Warlock

Last time, the heroes had a run-in with a devil cult who was trying to steal a magic cube that contained one of their allies. The heroes also wanted that cube, as the person trapped inside of it had stolen something one of the heroes wanted back.


Can You Kill A Dragon? We picked up right where we left off. Aryzon, the NPC who is actually a silver dragon in disguise, asked the group if they could kill a dragon. There was an awkward pause, followed by a "...no."

Aryzon explained that the devils had captured Loren the sage, an ally of the group. The bad guys were going to use Loren for nefarious purposes. The group agreed to mount a rescue once they'd rested for the night and healed their wounds.

Resting at an Evil Tower: I gave them a bunch of options as far as where to stay. They picked the one I was hoping for: The tower of Pollidemia the Wicked, an NPC who has been in my campaigns for over 20 years of real-life time.

Zavagor has been training under her for about a week. Mostly, he feeds and dresses her goblin sidekick, Slurp. The heroes met Pollidemia, who is no longer evil but doesn't really understand how to be a good guy.

Dornella and the Crossbrain: Pollidemia freed the prisoner from the magic cube. Dornella the halfling rogue appeared. It is considered polite for anyone freed from a prisoner cube to serve the person who freed them for one week.

The group wondered what to do with her. Pollidemia said she needed a test subject. Pollidemia had created a magic crossbow powered by a drow brain and wanted to see what it did.

The group dubbed this item a "crossbrain" and Dornella was quite alarmed. Dornella was much more agreeable from this point forward.

After some interrogation, the heroes learned that the pocket watch that Dornella stole from Finy was now part of the treasure hoard of Toxin, the green dragon. Toxin leads this whole devil cult.

The heroes also learned the tragic origin of Dornella: Her mother sold her soul to the devils for wealth. She ended up with thousands of gold coins that few merchants would take due to the blasphemies imprinted on each of them.

Dornella could not bear the thought of her mother suffering in hell for all eternity, so Dornella offered the devils her soul on the condition that he mother was freed from her contract.

Now, Dornella is damned and works alongside the devils in the hopes that perhaps she will be given a less painful eternal experience in hell.

Zavagor pointed out that he, too knew the suffrage caused by the YOKE OF IMPRISONMENT and the burden it can be on one's soul. The group cracked me up all night with lines like this.

Creepy Attic: The heroes rested for the night in Pollidemia's creepy attic, which was loaded with ancient artifacts most foul:
  • The Bracers of Purest Evil: The group was very uncomfortable being around these things.
  • The Sinister Mannequin: It seemed to stare at them from the darkness.
  • The Demon Statue Head: This one was an easter egg for me. This head is one of the K'ynn K'tall, a thing that Pollidemia used to implant demon hearts in the chest of the heroes of my Rogue Mistress campaign. The adventurers needed to find a magic item known as the planar knife so they could do surgery on themselves to remove the demon hearts. They kept having "demon heart attacks" that were slowly transforming them into demonic monstrosities.


Zotzpox: During the night, Gurn had a dream about Zotzpox the imp from the first adventure. Gurn saw Zotzpox talking to Scarra, the abishai villain from an upcoming Perkins adventure. Zotzpox turned and looked right into the camera! Could Zotzpox see Gurn?! Gurn woke up.

Gurn worships Zotzpox like a god and it seems to be creating weird magical effects.

The next day, the group headed to the Lost Halls of Everforge to rescue Loren.

I put the lost halls in a huge, hollow statue that dwarves lived in. The statue is of Kava Frosthowl, one of the heroes from my Scales of War campaign. She is now the goddess of ice and battle. This statue once animated and fought off godzilla-sized Lolth.

Key: The group went in and took a magic elevator to the 16th floor. This thing was powered by... A MAGIC KEY. Zavagor is on a quest for certain magic keys. He assumed it was one of the ones he needed (it wasn't) and cut a deal with the elevator lady to get it after the adventure was done.

The group entered the lost halls that, they eventually learned, was once a forge connected to the plane of elemental fire. Decades ago, fire genies came through and killed most of the dwarves. The portal was sealed and the whole floor was avoided from then on.

It is the perfect place for the cult to operate from. They want Loren the Sage to re-open the portal. The devils think that by bathing in elemental fire, the dog-sized dragon here will grow into something far more powerful.

The Hallway: The group were in the long hallway. There were 3 doors on each side and huge double doors at the end. As I expected, they zeroed in on the double doors. Why wouldn't they?

As is tradition in my campaigns, Dornella the NPC became trap bait. Her job was to open doors and be a guinea pig/living trap detector.

Eventually, Lemuel and Finy headed up to the double doors. As they approached, they stepped on some pressure plates. Darts came flying out of the walls at them!

I rolled ridiculously low. The darts launched toward them feathers-first and plooped harmlessly against the far wall.

The group identified the other pressure plates and avoided them. They opened the double doors.

The Final Room: We entered the final encounter! This room contains a "dog-sized" dragon, eight kobolds, and an acolyte who can buff the dragon if he's not too scared to do so.

No Kobolds For Me: I changed the kobolds to a race of planetouched devil-dwarves known as the maeluth. They're from one of the 3rd edition monster manuals. I made this change because I hate kobolds and avoid using them whenever possible.

For me, kobolds fall into the category of monsters that are too pathetic to be worthy of spending time on. It's almost insulting to throw kobolds at a group of heroes. I put twig blights in this category, too. We are not wasting time in my campaign fighting TWIGS.

Back in 2nd edition, there was this big movement to make kobolds a threat. The Dragon Mountain boxed set was basically a kobold dungeon full of kobold death traps. We played some if it and were massively disappointed. We kept wondering "How come there are no dragons in Dragon Mountain?" and we quit the whole thing.

The dragon in here is a flame dragon, which is a kobold press monster. I have no stats for this thing! That's kind of lame, right? I re-skinned a white dragon wyrmling and it worked perfectly.

Fight! The maeluth started firing crossbows. The heroes staggered back into the hallway and drew the bad guys to them.

They were able to chop down the dwarves as they came through.

The dragon flew toward the door and the group was very alarmed. Many of them took refuge in a side room that was full of broken mirror pieces. These mirror shards had a disorienting effect. At the start of your turn, you must make a save or you have kaleidoscope vision/disadvantage on attack rolls!

Zavagor was in the hallway alone, battling two maeluth. He cast a spell to summon a flaming scimitar and beheaded both of them with awesome rolls.

The dragon breathed fire on the group, utterly devastating them. Thankfully, they all made their saves and nobody dropped.

Lemuel ran and flipped over the dragon, flanking it. The dragon turned and bit him, dropping him unconscious.

Dornella did a baseball slide under the hovering dragon and performed a heal check on Lemuel to stabilize him. Dornella noticed a really nice necklace on Lemuel and touched it, but did not steal it. She did later ask to go through Lemuel's backpack, but he said no.

The group unloaded on the dragon and killed it. Gurn cast healing word on Lemuel. Gurn is absolutely crucial to the group in this regard.

Dagger To the Skull: The acolyte shrieked and made a run for it. The group chased him, flinging spears and daggers at him and rolling extremely low. Eventually, Finy chucked a dagger, hoping to hit him in the back of the leg and trip him up. He made a comment about hoping he wouldn't do too much damage to the guy and accidentally killing him...

He rolled a natural 20.

The dagger plunged into the back of the acolyte's skull. It did only 6 damage, meaning the acolyte was still alive.

The acolyte freaked out, feeling the dagger and asking if it was bad. He begged the group not to touch it.

Emergency Surgery: After a bit of negotiation, the acolyte agreed to let them take the dagger out. Finy put a foot on the guy's shoulder for leverage and yanked! He made a dex check for this impromptu service, and he rolled really high.

The dagger was out and the acolyte was relieved. The group ended up making friends with this guy. His name as Sekeleth and he was an infernal slave just like Dornella.

Sekeleth was very worried about the dagger hole in the back of his head. The group realized that there was a possible way to help him with is brain hole - The Crossbrain!

Looting: I looked at the clock, and we were almost out of time. How about that? The group did a quick search of the dungeon (I hate missed treasure).

They found a room with two magic dwarf thrones that swirled with arcane energy. They could hear dwarf whispers emanating from them.

After some hand-wringing, Zavagor and Finy decided to sit on them at the same time.

Dwarf spirits swirled in the air and then shot into their weapons! Zavagor and Finy now had enchanted weapons:
  • Finy's Dagger: +1, inhabited by Lethgar.
  • Zavagor's Scimitar: +1, inhabited by Balgrun. I declared that the magic scimitar that Zavagor had summoned was now a permanent item.
In another room, the group found an iron chest with a lock that was very hard to pick (DC 20!). The group opened it and poison gas filled the room.

They survived, and looted money, a potion of heroism and a potion of climbing.

Finy checked Dornella to see if she had picked the pockets of anyone in the group. She hadn’t! Finy was impressed, and split his money with her.

Also in the chest was... A KEY. Zavagor has this side quest where he needs 13 keys to hopefully save his soul. This is one.

Dragon Hide: Lemuel scooped up the corpse of the dragon and threw it over his shoulder. I will definitely bust out that old "harvesting a dragon" article from an old issue of Dragon Magazine.

Overall

It was a hilarious session. There were so many funny jokes that I can't remember them all. I should have recorded this one.

The adventure was very good. It is a simple dungeon, but not boring at all. The Book of Lairs is very handy.

It is nice to have quality 5e material available. I'm usually extremely wary of anything 5e not produced by wizards, but this was absolutely worthwhile.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Dice, Camera, Action: Episode 32 - Storm King's Thunder


Episode 32: "No Place Like Home"
All right! Season 2 of Dice Camera Action has begun.

In season 1, we saw the group battle Strahd von Zarovich in the Curse of Strahd adventure. Now the Waffle Crew returns to the Forgotten Realms, where there will be all sorts of shenanigans involving giants.

I think Chris likes stone giants, as he wrote that stone giant expansion to against the giants in 4th edition. I'll be very interested to see how he runs them.

I believe the group is 7th or 8th level. The adventure they're about to go through, Storm King's Thunder, starts at level 1. It will be interesting to see if Chris will use more than one giant dungeon. I kind of wonder if he will let the group roam and just roll with it.

Storm King's Thunder is sort of famous for the sprawling chapter 2, where there are descriptions of about 2 million settlements that the heroes can go to.

We start off with the new animated introduction which is really great. It's nice to see what each of the heroes looks like.

The Party

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

The players introduce their characters for the benefit of new viewers. They're all being very funny. It's nice to have them back!

The heroes are in the woods and it's very cold. They travel for a bit and they roll really, really low. They start to freeze to death. Their speed is cut in half.

They meet a dwarf with a Swedish accent and... no feet? We eventually learn that he is on stilts. The group befriends him. Uh oh, 10 orcs are coming after him.

The orcs pull out javelins. Zog, the dwarf, points out that orcs suck at throwing javelins. Then he immediately gets hit with one.

Strix casts fireball and kills 6 orcs. Zog is extremely impressed. Strix became extremely powerful as last season progressed.

An orc gets a critical and Zog is down! The heroes are used to NPCs dying, even Evelyn is jaded. They finish off the orcs and heal Zog.

Zog is on stilts. How did he lose his legs? He says he slipped and fell. Lost them from frostbite! The players are really grossed out by this.

The heroes spot an owlbear. It's looking for food. Evelyn and Strix desperately want to catch it and tame it. Before they can do so, they see something else in the sky. It's a white dragon! The crew hustles in the direction of a lodge where rangers live.

The dragon circles back. Is it going for the owlbear? I will love it if Strix and Evelyn go try to save it.

They head into the lodge. Zog was tasked with delivering a message tot his place, but it looks like nobody’s home. There's only one thing to eat: WAFFLES! The group becomes alarmed, as they don't believe that after 32 sessions they're finally going to get their waffles.

Strix hears a noise outside. Did the dragon eat the owlbear? She looks outside but she can't see through the blizzard. Strix leaves a waffle outside for it.

Paultin summons the waffle dome and gets in.

The heroes actually eat the waffles! The group can't believe it!

Uh oh... perception checks. Diath hears a scratching noise up the fireplace chimney. Something is crawling down.

It's MURDERBOT!! The group screams in horror. He's on fire! Run!

Paultin wants to be friends with him. Murderbot looks through the dome and gives him a creepy wave. That's where we stop.

Overall

Really good show! Easy to watch, funny the whole way through. This is a perfect time to check the show out. This group is getting really awesome.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Pathfinder - Siege of the Diamond City

I bought a pile of Pathfinder pdfs from the humble bundle sale. I like to use Pathfinder products to plunder for my home campaign.

In my campaign world, a lot of big bad guys are out of the picture:
  • Orcus was killed for good in my Planescape campaign.
  • Tiamat and Bahamut merged to become Io, the god of dragons, in my Scales of War campaign.
  • Lolth is trapped in a gem owned by one of my players, a result of a campaign that used material from Expedition to the Demonweb Pits.
When newer published adventures come out featuring these entities, I replace them with a new threat taken from Pathfinder. I really like the Pathfinder demon lord Lamashtu, so she has taken the spot of Orcus.

I've got it in my head that Eclavdra has taken Lolth's spot, but that isn't official. I like to say that nothing is official until you say it out loud in a session.

I've been making up children of Tiamat to put in her place. I have considered using Takhisis from Dragonlance, but that feels sort of cheap. I want the players to feel like they really changed the world, and replacing Tiamat with a creature who is virtually the same doesn't feel right.

Demon Army: I'm running a blood war campaign, where the heroes get involved in the war between demons and devils. This bundle is full of adventures linked to Wrath of the Righteous, a path all about a demonic invasion. I assume there will be tons of stuff for me to plunder!

Pathfinder Society



This adventure here is a Pathfinder Society event. Pathfinder Society is their version of the D&D Encounters program and from what I can tell it really kicks ass.

This is a full pdf complete with art and graphics. The D&D encounters adventures have no art and are on blank paper. The Paizo store-game stuff looks 10 times more polished than the D&D events.

As a DM, when I am handed a glossy booklet with art and professional maps, I know that this is a serious thing. I need to dig in and really prepare this adventure! The art helps me to visualize the adventure and it helps raise my level of enthusiasm.

I think that the mood of the DM has a massive impact on the session. If you don't care or you don't want to be there, it's really going to show. I think most of us have been to a con or an event where the DM running it just picked up and started reading the adventure ten minutes prior to the start. They limply fill a four hour time slot and often they look for an excuse to end early.

So, when someone hands me an adventure that is a black and white stack of papers stabled in the upper left corner, it's hard to get too excited. If they don't care enough to shine it up a little bit, why should I care?

Spiffing It Up: I'd like it if each D&D Encounters adventure was made like an old module. Color cover, an interior with some kind of background and design, and a snappy, clever adventure.

They could make them print on demand, right? DrivethruRPG offers that for old D&D products now. That way, encounters DMs can grab a pdf for 3 bucks or buy a printed version for $10 or $12. If I like an adventure, I'm buying the printed version and I bet a lot of other DMs would do the same.

If you look through the Player's Handbook and the Dungeon Master's Guide, you will see a lot of art that is covered up or obscured. That art is essentially brand new to us. They can reuse that art for these encounters adventures, right? Here, check this out:

You know what that is? The plane of Celestia! Have you ever seen it before?

Check out page 59 of the DMG. It's right there. In that book, we have a close-up view of the mountain and the top of a waterfall. We can only see about 35% of the actual painting!

There are hundreds of pieces of 5e D&D art that we've only seen parts of. That means that when you place this art in an encounters adventure, it feels completely new and fresh. It feels like somebody cared enough to try to make it look good!

One more. Check this out:

Fresh art! They're sitting on it! It seems like such a waste to me.

Here's the cover to a recent D&D encounters adventure:

No art. It's a title page. Not enticing at all. OK, let's use the art:

That took 10 minutes to make! I know it's not perfect, but you get the idea, right? They could have someone make covers for an entire season of encounters in one single work day.

War With Demons

 Anyway, let's loot this thing! I'm going to go through and tear out the good stuff that I feel is worth using.

This adventure is about a horde of demons laying siege to a city. It is meant to be run at events where multiple tables of players all play in the same scenario.

The Worldwound is a big rift, a portal connected to the Abyss. The only thing that stops demons from pouring through are the wardstones, magic pillars that destroy any demons who try to cross over. They prevent any kind of teleportation or magic from crossing either side.

Begin: It starts off with a massive pile of adventurers mustering to go on some kind of expedition. Suddenly, there's an explosion. The city is under attack! The group teams up with an army of holy crusaders to fight off a demon army.

Threat Levels: The heroes get to choose which area of the city to defend. Each area has a threat level, with different effects For example, Threat level red means the bad guys get +2 to all their die rolls! Green means the heroes get a +1 to all die rolls.

Each player has aid tokens, which can be spent to get magical healing, effects of a lesser restoration, temporarily enchanting a weapon, etc. They can pass them to another table of players, too.

Missions: There are a ton of missions for the group to pick from. A lot of them feel a bit flat to me. Here are my favorites:
  • An NPC ally has summoned devil minions to help fight the demons. The crusaders get angry. The heroes must handle this situation before it gets out of hand.
  • Retrieve a cache of holy weapons before “unscrupulous looters” get to them. Unscrupulous looter should be an NPC type.
  • The heroes must screen refugees and root out any demons in magical disguises.
  • I really like this one. The group goes to a tower and are handed crossbows with enchanted ammunition. Their job is to snipe flying demons! I think many players would love that.
The Demon Siege Tower: I got quite excited when I saw that there is a demonic siege weapon in this. It is called a kakuen-taka, which is pictured on the cover of this adventure. I didn’t understand what this thing was, so I looked it up online.

It goes like this. A swarm of tiny demon-birds devour the organs of a massive creature and reconfigure it’s corpse into a hideous, multi-legged walking pillar. It is a mobile tower made from a massive corpse, a walking "flesh mansion" animated by tiny fiends.

The heroes end up on a wall firing ballistas loaded with cold iron weapons. Demons press ladders against the wall and try to climb up and destroy the ballistas.

War Scenes
: There's actually a section where the heroes are in the middle of a major battle, fighting alongside crusaders against demons. Any time a character heals or assists a crusader, they receive a magical boon with a variety of beneficial effects.

Taking Out Targets: The final section involves the heroes standing on a wall looking down on a massive battle. They see about twelve targets. They get to choose four and and go kill them.

Each target is an NPC with a unique story. Most of them are powerful demons like glabrezus and nalfeshnees.  My favorites:
  • Baroness Ajagnagarl: A glabrezu who wears a necklace of crusader helms, each representing a virtuous hero she corrupted.
  • Sunderheart: A creature known as a "woundwyrm," a dragon who has become corrupted by the Abyss.
  • The Whispering Valkyrie: A corpulent demon who races around, devouring souls of the feshly slain and drinking in the memories of their sins.
  • The Cavorting Court: Glabrezus who are bedecked in a dazzling array of fine jewelry. They mess with crusaders by animating the corpses of their freshly-slain companions.
They list the stats of the woundwyrm. It breathes entropic breath, which is an acid fog that also causes magical confusion. It has an awesome ability called Maw of the Abyss: It creates a 15 foot cone vortex that sucks enemies and unattended objects into its maw!

Overall: This adventure is good, but it feels like they could have gotten more out of a lot of the encounters. I expected more cool stuff like collapsing buildings, exploding magic things falling from the sky and running from barricade to barricade, advancing on enemies who are in a fortified position.

I did like the idea of defending a wall where the bad guys climb up huge ladders to try to get at you. That sounds like a lot of fun. Same with firing magic ballistas at enemy hordes.

Good stuff!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Dungeons & Dragons - Dragon's Delve by Chris Perkins


Now that the holidays are over, we're back to this online gaming thing. For the foreseeable future, I'm going to run one of these every Saturday. I'm going to switch between the two groups every other weekend.

The plan is to start sticking these on youtube in a few months once we've worked out all the kinks. Why? I don't really know why, it just seems like fun.

The other group, known as THE KEY RING, will be going through some classic adventures I've always wanted to run.

For this group, I asked them what they want to do once we get rolling. Options:
One player mentioned the Blood War stuff I've been writing about and it suddenly clicked in my head. I asked them if they wanted to do a Planescape campaign. They all were cool with it.

I had set aside a bunch of Planescape adventures for the future: The Eternal Boundary, Doors to the Unknown, Harbinger House, Fires of Dis, and In the Abyss.

I think it would be really cool to run a Planescape campaign that people could watch online. I think a lot of newer players have heard of Planescape, but they have never seen it in action. I feel very comfortable with the setting (which is very complicated), having spent quite a bit of time absorbing it and running it.

So the plan is for these characters to head to Sigil in a couple of months. The Eternal Boundary is the actual introductory adventure for Planescape, so it should be a perfect way to start!

This group is comprised of heroes from the Salvage Operation and Mold Man adventures I ran a while back.

More Perkins: This adventure is another old 2e Perkins jam. I'm sorry to say that I butchered this one, too.

I have been extremely busy with real-life work, so I had very little time to prepare. I changed the adventure quite a bit.

This is a vast, vast dungeon full of dwarves and I was afraid I'd bore the players. If I had tried to run this way back when, I would have run it like a dungeon crawl.

Now that I've watched Chris Perkins run games, I understand how this can be run. It's a place with people in it, not a dungeon full of monsters. You can have all sorts of interactions.

That makes it trickier for the DM, though. A dungeon full of monsters is easy. When it comes to social stuff, players tend to talk their way right to the final encounter, which makes me antsy because I spent all that time reading/preparing and they're skipping past it!

This dungeon in particular has a straight line right to the king/bad guy. I noticed it as I read and thankfully I prepared for that.

The Party


Kyrin - Human Cleric of the Raven Queen
Mistletoe - Human Druid
Ramrod - Goliath Barbarian


2e Dungeon Magazine adventures almost always had these wall of text backstories and no adventure summary. This adventure has a very complicated history. Let's see if I can boil it down:
  • Galvan Ironstar runs the dwarf city of Underduin.
  • His brother Drull Ironstar left due to a dispute 10 years ago and founded Thunderdelve, a shabby dwarf settlement.
  • Galvan recently sent some ambassadors to Thunderdelve, trying to convince Drull to come back.
  • The ambassadors never returned.
  • At the same time, a young crystal dragon named Glittershard went to Thunderdelve and hasn’t been heard from since.
The heroes are hired by Galvan and the parents of Glittershard to go to Thunderdelve and to find out what is going on. They should rescue the dragon and the ambassadors if necessary.

Short Version
: Go to a dwarven fortress to rescue dwarves and a crystal dragon.

Magic Item: Galvan gives the group a magic item to use on their adventure: A horn of blasting. Ramrod, the one man wrecking crew, excitedly took hold of it.

I really like each of these characters. Kyrin has a really cool backstory, and Mistletoe and Ramrod are a hilarious duo.

As DM, I like to be a "fan" of the heroes, but still do my best to be impartial. To a degree, I get to be the audience as well as the director.

I really wanted to listen more and I was able to do it pretty well in this session. I plan on dialing back even more so the players can really dig in so we can get that "reading a book and can't put it down" feeling.

Arrival at Thunderdelve

The group gets to Thunderdelve. Huge iron doors! Ramrod marches forth and bangs on the doors. No answer.

Only one thing to do, right? Blow the horn of blasting!

The doors explode inward. Shouts can be heard from inside.

The heroes enter. Two dwarven guards approach menacingly. Kyrin is able to talk them down. Basically, I dangled the combat option out there, but these heroes wanted to talk their way in. This makes sense. After all, Galvan wants to reconcile with his brother, not kill everyone.

Mistletoe sensed something was amiss. These dwarves were dumb. There was some kind of magic fogging their minds.

The dwarves agreed to bring them to Drull. To get there, you have to go through these magic doors that only dwarves can open.

Ramrod grabbed a dwarf and booped the doors open using the dwarf’s body, which cracked me up.

The group was also very sharp. Those dwarf doors were slowly shutting behind them, so they made sure to keep a dwarf guard with them so they could get out.

The Throne Room


Drull sat on an elevated throne and was not happy at all. The group tried to appeal to him. Mistletoe again sensed something was amiss. Clearly, some kind of magic was affecting him, too.

Suddenly, from behind the throne came a dragon! It was not a crystal dragon, but rather some kind of purple-scaled dragon.

It breathed a cloud of gas on the group. The heroes were spread out, so only Kyrin was affected. He dropped, taking massive damage.

Drull's throne has powers. He filled Ramrod with supernatural fear. The goliath grabbed the dwarf guard, ran at full speed, booped open the dwarf door and was gone.

Four brittle crystal statues animated and lurched toward the group. Mistletoe healed Kyrin to consciousness.

Kyrin was sure that he'd been hit with a flesh-eating gas, but when he awoke he was surprised to see that his flesh had the same lustrous quality it always had.

Ramrod shook off the supernatural fear and booped back in, dwarf in hand.

Drull grabbed his axe and jumped off the throne. The heroes dropped him.

He was scorched with a fire spell which completely disintegrated his beard!

The dragon actually flew toward an exit and disappeared from view. Mistletoe assumed it had turned invisible and cast a spell to try to block the exit but it didn't work out.

The heroes shattered the brittle crystal statues and healed Drull. Drull was unconscious. The heroes got nervous about the beard.

Ramrod took a patch of fur and slapped it on Drull's chin. Mistletoe created magic vines and growths to hold it in place. We rolled to see how the beard looked and bah gawd, the roll was high!

The dwarf guards ran in and everything was explained. The heroes asked where the ambassadors and the crystal dragon were. The dwarves pointed to a carved tunnel behind the throne.

The group also learned that Thunderdelve was once a glorious home to nine dwarf clans, but a firsnaka (fire snake that burrows through stone) tore through the place and drove the dwarves out. It was abandoned for decades. 10 years ago, Drull moved in.

The heroes healed up. The dwarves were now on their side.

The Geonids

The group went into the tunnel and came upon 2 imps sitting on shiny rocks. The imps attacked.

The rocks transformed into dwarves and shouted for the heroes not to hurt the imps.

Now, when I read this section a few hours before the game, I immediately thought of a wereboulder and laughed. I was really excited about the idea.

Then I looked geonids up. This is an AD&D 2nd edition geonid:

I didn't like the way they looked and their description didn't do anything for me. Rocks with arms?

I thought to myself, "F**k that, they're wereboulders."

So, in this session I informed the players that these dwarves are geonids, ELITE dwarves who turn into mighty boulders! When a full moon comes, it's wild times in boulder city. Touched by Moradin himself, they are!

Maybe I should say that their boulder forms have special moon rock properties during a full moon? Maybe they are the result of an unholy union between a dwarf and a galeb duhr? So many possibilities! The mind reels.

The group dropped an imp and the other fled. The geonids explained that there was a monster in this place who was transforming dwarves into vicious monsters.

In the adventure, the geonids are also dwarves transformed by the mysterious monster enemy. In my version, these three are guards that are quietly trying to keep their imp friends safe until they can be restored to their original forms.

The group immediately took to the geonids and asked them to come along. One agreed to do so. His name was Gazgar.

Following directions, the group decided to stop off in a room that had a pool with treasure in it. They were warned that some kind of water creature was in there.

They went in there and Ramrod stuck his foot in the water. A snake made of twisting water formed and clamped down on his leg and tried to pull him in. The heroes attacked it.

Gazgar assumed boulder form and Ramrod chucked him at the creature. Gazgar exploded through the entity and did some cool spinning rock manuevers in the water.

Ramrod got dragged into the water and was about to start drowning. The group was able to kill the water entity first.

The loot at the bottom of the pool:

Ring of Feather Falling
+1 Sword
+1 Chain Mail

Is it just me, or is +1 armor really rare in 5e? I actually kind of like it that way.

The heroes caught their breath, and they heard scratching sounds coming from deeper in the mines. Gazgar explained that it was Glittershard, the crystal dragon. He was digging.

That's where we stopped.

Overall

Great group, good Perkins-y adventure. I was not properly prepared at all but I think we rolled through this nicely.

There are definitely recurring themes in Perkins adventures. The guy likes dwarf fortresses. This fortress is pretty similar to the one he used in Acquisitions Inc, season one. The hovering treasure balls in A Wizard's Fate were in season one, as well.

Planescape - Blood War I. The Battle of Birthing Hills


I just want to point out real quick that Pathfinder has a humble bundle sale going where you can get a ton of pdfs for $15. There's a series of adventures in here called "Day of the Demon." I'm guessing that those will be extremely useful for me!

Blood War: We finally started the blood war tonight and it went very well. I have always wanted to run a D&D game where the heroes are soldiers in the war. Over the course of my “DM” career I've tried it and failed miserably about 4 times.

It's so easy to get lost trying to figure out how to handle mass combat when your group is actually right there inside the battle.

The Party

(Jessie) Bidam - Platinum-Scaled Dragonborn Fighter
(George) Theran - Elf Wizard 

The heroes own a cluster of buildings in Sigil called Deadbook Square.


Last session, we took care of a ton of downtime stuff. We started off tonight with a little more. I wanted to point out to Theran that one of the babies in Graz'zt's nursery has 3 eyes and a wolf's head. I buried it among other details so it didn't stick out.

Training in Hell: The heroes spent a week in Avernus, the 1st layer of the Nine Hells doing drills with the devil soldiers.

They were each given command of 8 legion devils, soldiers who share a pool of hit points.

Hurling Death: The job of the heroes is to drive a death hurler, a hellish siege engine from an old issue of Dragon Magazine. It is a steam roller with a pile of damned souls on it. On top of the pile is a platform which the group can stand on and control it.

My mood in D&D has shifted considerably. When I was younger, blood and gore flew like crazy. Now, I have no stomach for it. Torture and suffering aren't really something I want in my entertainment any more. It's weird, I'm OK with the heroes killing bad guys, but I don't want anybody being put in an iron maiden.

So what I'm trying to say is that I gave the Death Hurler a combination of a Canadian and a North Dakota accent. The damned souls are all tickled pink to be a death hurler and they really look forward to hurlin' some death with ya.


Hell Hound: I also gave the group a hell hound named Fireball. Bidam is a hell hound whisperer, so they can talk to each other. Fireball promised to bark at the demons and he indeed lived up to that promise when the time came.

Developing Hell: I put a lot of thought into Zariel, ruler of Avernus. She has never been fleshed out in D&D, so I made up a whole thing about her.

She approached the heroes and cut a deal with them. The heroes committed to getting her a VAT full of holy water within 30 days. If they did not, they'd be spending time in the Pit of Flame.

The group agreed to this because they realized that a church of a good goddess pays rent to them in Deadbook Square. The heroes are going to ask for payment in the form of holy water. Clever!

Zariel told the group that she wanted the holy water to use as a weapon against the demons, but she's actually using it for this whole other thing that the group may or may not find out about depending on how this campaign goes.

Demotion: The heroes have a bound devil servant named Nin, a heresy devil (from Pathfinder). He's a real schemer. Drokkarn warned Nin not to pull anything or he'd be demoted to an imp or worse. As a higher-ranking devil, Drokkarn has the power to transform lower devils from one type to another.

The group really loved that.

War Plans
Lamashtu

Where the War Happens: In the Blood War boxed set, it says that most Blood War battles take place on the middle planes like Gehenna and the Gray Waste. I don't like that. I want it to take place in the Nine Hells and the Abyss.

The Main Villain: I will be using Lamashtu, a Pathfinder demon lord, as the big villain of this whole blood war scenario. I am thinking that a battle against Lamashtu will be the climax of this whole thing.

She does have a bit of lore in D&D books, so I combined it with the Pathfinder lore. I declared that she runs 3 or 4 abyssal layers:
  • Kurnugia: A vast realm detailed in Books of the Damned.
  • Torremor: Supposedly she stole this realm from Pazuzu.
  • Thanatos: In my campaign, Orcus is dead. Many sessions ago, I established that Lamashtu had taken Thanatos as her own.
  • Onstrakkar's Nest: I could be wrong, but I think this is the name of Lamashtu's D&D realm. It has a huge spire that he was impaled on by Pazuzu. She was stuck on that spire for centuries.
In my game, I pointed out to the group that nobody knows who helped Lamashtu get off of the spire.

More Villains: Secretly, I've decided that it was Iggwilv, the witch queen. Lamashtu is one of the demon lords that Iggwilv controls. Graz'zt is trying to steal Lamashtu from Iggwilv. That baby in the nursery in Theran's town is the spawn of Graz'zt and Lamashtu.

Graz'zt and Lamashtu seem like a good match, right? Lamashtu is all about giving birth to deformed monsters, and Graz'zt is all about making babies!

Graz'zt and Iggwilv have become a sort of pervasive force in this campaign. I love both of them so what the heck, let's work them in where it makes sense.

Drokkarn's Plan: Drokkarn the pit fiend runs the devil army. For centuries, he was a sentient magic cloak. The group saved him from that fate. Now he wants to betray the devils and become a demon lord. To do that, he needs to steal and take control of an Abyssal layer.

His plan is to take an army to Onstrakkar's Nest, a mostly-ignored realm. Get Lamashtu to divert forces from Thanatos to Onstrakkar's Nest. Slip out and go try to take Thanatos while Lamashtu's army is in Onstrakkar's Nest.

Remember, Bidam is linked to Tenebrous, aka dead Orcus. Tenebrous want Bidam to take Thanatos for himself, so we've got all sorts of fun developments that can occur.

The Birthing Hills


Drokkarn knows a "magical shortcut" on the River Styx that can take travelers from hell right to the Abyss, so they don't need to sail through those middle planes.

50,000 devils piled into ships and sailed into Ontrakkar's Nest. They marched toward their objective - The Castle of the Third Witch. A spy had indicated there was a useful portal in this castle.

The devils marched to the Birthing Hills, knowing that the devil force here would surely detect and oppose them soon.

The Battle Plan: The devils set up into a formation described in the Blood War boxed set. I changed it a bit. It goes like this:
  • Have the devils stand in a formation shaped like the letter V.
  • Let the demons charge inside the V.
  • Summon the hellfire engine, a colossal hellfire-spewing entity, trapping the demons in the V.
  • Murder all of the demons.
The devils set up. The group's job was to hide behind a birthing hill, and to roll through the hellfire engine's legs and start steamrolling demons inside the V.

I took the birthing hills from Pathfinder's Lords of Chaos book. I was wondering if the group would figure out the gimmick of the birthing hills. I described them as weird hills that quivered and pulsed.

The Armies: The demons arrived. 250,000 demons! Usually the devils are outnumbered 10 to 1, so Drokkarn was pleased.

The demon army was run by Khorramzadeh, a balor from Wrath of the Righteous. He's gigantic and extremely cool-looking.

I tried to keep the armies simple so that the group wouldn't be too overwhelmed.

The devil army:
  • Legion Devils: Soldiers who share a pool of hit points.
  • Bearded Devils: They command the legion devils.
  • Shocktroop Devils: These things are gigantic and wade into the front lines.
  • Hell Knights: They fly around on their nightmares and kick ass.
The demon army:
  • Dretches: Pathetic little fellows.
  • Vrocks: Buzzard demons.
  • Lamias of Lamashtu: I used the pathfinder lamias, half-snake evil clerics.
  • Zovvuts: White angel-things. I just think they look cool.
The demons charged into the V. Nin successfully summoned the hellfire engine. The heroes rode their death hurler into the V, with Fireball barking at the demons and the Death Hurler saying stuff like: "Sorry demons, but we’re gonna hafta hurl some death atcha!"

Familiarity: I wanted this to be easy. I wanted the group to get to fight different demon types and get to know them. In D&D, it is really hard to remember all the different demon and devil types.

I want to focus on a handful and keep using them for a while until I get the sense that the group knows them like the back of their hands.
Dretch
The heroes steamrolled a bunch of dretches. Some climbed up onto the hurler, most of which were grabbed and killed by the damned. Theran blew away three climbers with a thunderwave spell.

Wave of Dretches: Three dretches got onto the platform at the top of the Death Hurler. One let off a fetid cloud. The heroes dropped the dretches, but this skirmish took longer than I expected. Theran is having real trouble with his spells. He relies on the same few spells over and over, and when more versatility is called for, he has a hard time with it.

One Vrock
: A lone vrock swooped down at the group as the death hurler steamrolled more dretches.

When demons die, there are these random effect charts. I forgot to bring one with me, so tonight there was nothing but explosions of blood, ichor and (Jessie's favorite) miasma.

Blood was spraying all around the death hurler. The group's contingent of legion devils were near the hurler killing dretches.

The vrock actually gave the group trouble. He flew 10 feet above them, out of reach of Bidam's sword of sharpness. Eventually, I had a hell knight fly over and knock the vrock onto the death hurler so that Bidam could melee the thing to death.

Birthing Time: Things were going well until, suddenly, the birthing hills gave birth. Slime-covered beasts of Lamashtu exploded out of hills behind the V and charged forward. The group turned and death hurled the crap out of them, steamrolling these gooey scorpion-things into oblivion.

Victory: Khorramzadeh had sent a portion of his army into the V, not all of it. The remainder withdrew from the battlefield.

The Siege of the Castle
Khorramzadeh

The devil army took an hour to heal and regroup. Then, they marched to the Castle of the Third Witch, where Khorramzadeh and his demons were waiting.

Attacking the Castle: The hellfire engine stomped forward and smashed through the courtyard wall. Drokkarn ordered the heroes to roll in and lead the charge into the courtyard!

They did so, steamrolling right into a cloud of blinding smoke caused by the wall collapse.

Something started firing gooey balls at them. Eggs! Ovum! The heroes had no way to expel the dust.

Wrinkle: Suddenly, Khorramzadeh teleported into the courtyard. This 50 foot tall dude can teleport! Khorramzadeh is actually bigger than the hellfire engine! He tackled the engine and they tumbled back into the devil army.

The group and their legion devils were in the cloudy courtyard, with hundreds of demons buried or crushed in rubble, dealing with a lone attacker.

The smoke cleared. This entity was a 15 feet tall feminine figure with tentacles coming out of an opening in her gut. It was firing monster eggs out of the opening each round!

The Mother: She is the Mother of All, an NPC from Assault on Maerimydra. She's perfect for Lamashtu, right? And the nice thing is that in D&D, the Mother is officially a spawn of Graz'zt. We can say that the mother is a spawn of Graz'zt and Lamashtu and it all fits.

The Mother was really tough. Even de-powered, the group barely hurt her at all. She launched eggs every round. One hit Theran in the chest, exploding in a fiery burst for 22 points. The Mother gets 7 attacks! 7! Six tentacles and one tongue.

She beat up Bidam and then grabbed him with her tongue. He was restrained and just could not get free. The escape DC is a 19.

Theran tried a disintegrate spell but she made her saving throw. She has magic resistance, so she has advantage on saves against spells.

The Mother killed Theran's legion devils.

Solution: Something clicked in my head at this point. I was falling into the trap of just running a combat like a numbers game: I roll, you roll, I roll, etc.

I remembered to think from the perspective of the bad guy. Does she want to kill the heroes? Does she know that the devils are coming in and that she is doomed?

Lamashtu is all about breeding monsters. The Mother had Bidam, who is a baby-making machine. She took him and headed inside the castle. She’s got a hostage, at least. There is a planar portal in there, she can make a run for it!

The group was very alarmed. They couldn't defeat the Mother. No chance! Theran was completely stymied.

Then.. leave it to Jessie. Bidam runs a demon sex farm that has been having trouble with production and staff.

Bidam looked at the Mother and asked, "Do you want a job?"

Fight over. We died laughing and Bidam's sex farm is now fully operational.

Clean Up: Khorramzedah damaged the hellfire engine, but he got wounded and had to flee. Without his commanding presence, the demons where a chaotic rabble that the devils ran off with ease.

The devils had taken control of a crucial location in Onstrakkar’s Nest.

The devil spies are these incubus twins that I made up. When one gets wounded, so does the other. They don't like each other but in order to keep safe, they work together.

They had charmed the Third Witch. The devils claimed a very valuable prisoner.

The portal in this place goes to the Infinite Staircase. The staircase has portals to everywhere! Drokkarn declared that the army was going to take over the staircase!

In this campaign, it was established that Vecna had taken the staircase from the Forgotten Realms goddess that is in For Duty or Deity.

So next time, we'll see what Vecna thinks about devils trying to claim his staircase.

The staircase is wide but it's easy to fall off. If you fall off, you plunge into a random plane!

I love the idea of having a mass combat on the staircase, with creatures falling off by the dozens each round.

It was a lot of fun. I am a bit alarmed at how weak the group is. They're 12th level! They were having trouble with a single vrock. This is despite the fact that they both made their saves against the stunning screech.

The tentative plan for the next few sessions goes like this:
  • War on the Infinite Staircase.
  • I want the heroes to sail the River Styx like in that F. Wesley Schneider article that I wrote about in my River Styx post. I haven't figured out how to work it in, yet.
  • I am thinking of having Graz'zt ask the devils for help. Verin, who betrayed Graz'zt about 10 sessions ago, has obtained asylum in another abyssal layer. Graz'zt wants his army to team up with the devil army for what would be a mutually beneficial operation.
  • Rub elbows with Fierna or another archdevil, meet an entire court of an archdevil.