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Friday, March 16, 2018

Dice, Camera, Action Episode 85 - Tomb of Annihilation

Episode 85: Two and Two Together
Very good show! A lot of the players went to conventions this weekend and got sick. They're all here though.

 The Party

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

The group is in the Shadowfell. Last time, the ring of winter ditched them. The heroes don't know what happened to it, or where Miranda went to. Lord Nihil was slain. There's fallen ice sculptures all around him.

Meathook, the undead ogre zombie, is still here. Strix puts a blanket on his head and declares that his new name is Hooky the 3rd. Chris says that Meathook's full name is, I think, Meathook Enderavente.

The heroes are cold. There's nothing to salvage in the inn. Nate is really sick in real life, but he's here. What a trooper.

The group gets into the carriage. Meathook can pull it, but they need to motivate him to do so. They get Meathook to walk by dangling food in front of him with a stick.

Izek, Strix's brother, is still with the group. Izek is upset because his dolls are gone. Strix begins to argue with him. He takes one of Strix's dolls and chucks it out of the cart. Diath goes to get it. Strix explains to Izek that he needs friends.

Izek points out that Diath is a Lorcatha, "The family that tried to destroy us". Izek tells Strix, "You can't be friends with him". Izek yells at her.

At this point, the carriage is stopped. Evelyn pins Izek to the ground. She casts zone of truth. It affects Izek.. also, Diath. Paultin is in the zone and says, truthfully: "I don't feel good."

The group grills Izek about the Lorcathas. Are the Lorcatha angel-people?

Izek: "The Lorcatha are a human family."

Izek mentions something called the Ashton Concordance: No Skizzix or Lorcatha can ever be together. No friendship or alliance.

Izek urges Strix to kill him. "If you stay with him, you'll destroy everything. You two can't be together!"

Evelyn: "What do you mean they can't. They are!"

Diath throws Gutter to the ground and points at the sword. "Apparently that's his. Ashton. He's no father of mine."

Izek wants Strix to go to Vallaki and look at Lady Wachter's books. The group could learn more about the Skizzixes. Diath points out that they have more pressing issues. They need to stop the Soulmonger.

Paultin makes a snow angel and goes, "Look, it's Diath."

Strix polymorphs Izek into a chicken. Strix tells him she's not leaving the group. She changes him into a spider and the group leaves him behind.

15 days pass. Each character (except for Evelyn) loses 5 from their max hit points due to the death curse. I think Diath is down to 18 hit points!

Each day, Evelyn becomes more distant from the group. She spends quite a bit of time away from them.

One morning, when Evelyn goes off to pray alone, Paultin follows her. He sees her praying out loud.

Evelyn says that she thought she was special... she thought Lathander would bless her with a life mate. And she thought Paultin was hers. She has been tempted by darkness. She's been weak and selfish. She loves Paultin more than she should and it's turned her... it's more than she can handle on her own. She asks Lathander to wash it away and pledges her loyalty to the Morninglord.

Then it starts to rain.

Paultin goes, "Did you really mean all that?"  He casually sits next to her. "You put a lot of faith in that god of yours. You should be working for yourself rather than hoping that Santa Claus is going to help."

Paultin asks if she remembers when he tried to kill everyone. Paultin apologizes He said he wanted the ring of winter.. he lip in a comment about how everyone in the subreddit deserves an explanation haha!

Paultin says he never felt like a contributing member. He was always dragged along. The others have so much they're good at. Strix is magic, Diath looks he's 18 forever, and Evelyn is the strongest person... really strong. Paultin is just the drunk, the silent player.

Wow. Tremendous!

When Paultin saw the ring, he thought he'd finally found a way that he could contribute. He realizes now that the ring led him down a dark path.

The rain makes it look like Evelyn is crying. Evelyn says that she should do her job better and that she's sorry, too.
Paultin says they should never talk about it again.

Meanwhile... Diath tells Strix he's a bit worried to tell her stuff.. because he's afraid. The ogre zombie farts.

Paultin and Evelyn hug. Paultin looks at you, the viewer and says, "Chat, you can't rush this stuff."

The heroes travel on for a few more days. The air changes quite a bit. They can hear the sound of the ocean.

Uh oh. They realize that Meathook is about to walk them off a cliff!

Holly tries to remember the command word to make him stop. "Spaghetti!" Yikes. That's the one to make Meathook go faster.

Saving throws. They rolled bad, except Jared, who got a 34.

Diath gets out, and grabs Simon and pulls him to safety. Paultin holds onto the cliff. Diath pulls him up.

Evelyn plummets over the side. 100 feet! Strix saved herself via flight. She looks for Evelyn through the fog. Evelyn survived. She pulls herself free. Meathook is in four pieces... impaled through a rock.

The group checks out the beach. All along the coast are wrecks of hundreds of ships. They create a jagged mass impaled on tooth-like shards of stone. The walls of the cliff are white. The beach is black, dark pebbles.

Snow on the beach? Nope. bones. Millions of bones!

Strix casts remove curse on Evelyn. It gets rid of the Shadowfell despair. She does the same on Diath. Ha! That spell does everything.

There's a cave in the stone of the cliffs. The group hopes there's a portal home in there.

Evelyn senses undead from the ships.

Paultin and Diath see.. swooping down from high above.. a gigantic, roc-sized bird. Its black. A gargantuan raven!

It transforms into thousands of ravens. They coalesce into a figure. The Raven Queen! A 6 foot tall human-shaped mound of twigs. A walking nest.

She is speaking in Celestial. Evelyn translates in a very polite manner. "I have come for the chalice and hand".

Evelyn asks, "Which hand, my friend?"

The Hand of Ch'ga'kare.

"Your fate has been stolen from you. You no longer need those treasures."

"For what purpose did he need the treasures?"

"Return them to me and I shall reward you. A consolation prize."

Strix is on the ground covering her head. She's a little panicky.

Paultin hands the items over. Ravens swoop down and snatch the items away.

Suddenly, the Raven Queen goes from 40 feet away to 5 feet away. She's right in Paultin's face.

"Is there something I can give you? I know what you want."

What's this? Simon, the evil little golem, suddenly ha a human mouth. Has he become real?

That's where we stop!


Great show! If you are looking for action, then you might not like this one. But if you're into the characters, you'll love it.

We discussed all the gory details on Waffle Talk:

Monday, March 12, 2018

Dungeons & Dragons - High Level Threats and Low Level Heroes

Today I want to ramble a little bit about something that I probably do too much of - throwing high level enemies at low level heroes.

Yesterday, I ran a session of Dungeon Academy, a campaign I'm running for people who are brand new to D&D. In this session, four level 3 heroes fought a lich. They, uh... killed it.

Not really something that should happen! I definitely feel like I made some mistakes and I'd like to take you through my thought process.

Scaling: In D&D, I think it is important to have the players understand that not everything in the world is scaled to their level. Some creatures are really powerful. My thinking is that by having a group interact with something much more powerful than they are, then that will build anticipation for when they're finally strong enough to face that creature.

I think it makes leveling feel more important. It builds anticipation and gives the players a sense of accomplishment.

Making the Encounter: My idea here was to give the group an item that could hold back the bad guy - beads of force. When you throw a bead, it does 5d4 damage and traps the target in a sphere of force.

That's good, right? The group can trap the lich and run for their lives!

The heroes needed to obtain some elemental gems. So, in theory, they can grab the gems, run, and then keep the lich at bay with the beads of force.

Troubleshooting: I think you should always plan for the possibility that the bad guy defeats the group. In this instance, I decided that the lich would take them - alive - to the Temple of Elemental Evil for questioning (This campaign involves the original 1e Temple of Elemental Evil).

These players are very, very new to D&D. To expect them to figure this out on their own is probably a bit much. I knew I'd have to drop hints, but I didn't want to hint too strongly. Unfortunately, I didn't really have an NPC who I could speak through, so it was not easy.

It went like this. The lich left his carriage, which was drawn by skeletal horses (cool, right?), to go get his gems.

The group stole his carriage and looted it - they got one of the lich's spellbooks and his beads of force.

Can Liches be Blinded? Another character was able to snag the gems when the lich was unexpectedly blinded by the death of a darkling. I had to look real quick - are liches immune to blindness? No.

He has truesight. Does that mean he has blindsense? I had no idea so, in the heat of the moment, I just said that yes, he could be blinded.

Truesight is on page 9 of the Monster Manual. Looks like I was right - he was blinded.

I should note that I had actually used two of the lich's legendary resistances, so it's plausible that he'd save the third one an accept the short-term blindness.

This was all part of a sprawling chase where the lich dimension door-ed onto the roof of the carriage and fought the heroes. I pulled my punches in the first round, using only a paralyzing touch and no legendary actions. But in round 2, things got real. I had him casting rays of frost with his legendary actions.

During this battle, the ranger rolled TWO critical hits, launching arrows into the lich's skull.

Cantrips and Monsters: I had another quick quandary. Do cantrips scale up for monsters? In the heat of the moment, I couldn't remember. I knew that ray of frost does 3d8 for spellcasters of 11th level and 4d8 for 17th level casters.

Looking now, I see that the lich is a CR 21! In his stat block on page 202 of the Monster Manual, it says he's an 18th level spellcaster. So that mean his rays of frost do 4d8. I got that right, then.

This whole thing boiled down to the lich flying and chasing the group, who were fleeing in the carriage.

I kind of awkwardly let them make an arcana check when the beads were mentioned. One of them rolled high on the check, and realized what the beads did. Two heroes tied beads around their arrows with gauze from their healer' kits (which is an awesome idea, IMO). Seraphine, the cleric, fired.. and rolled a critical hit!

The damage ended up being something like 10d4+2d6 +another 2d6 from some beneficial effect from another party member that I can't recall.

The lich was already injured pretty bad. The bead of force critical actually blew him up!

The group cheered. I made sure to depict the lich's wispy spirit blinking out of existence. He's not dead, he's reforming near his phylactery.
Mr. Softee: I feel like this was a real borderline case (at best). I was definitely going too soft and I should have put more "failsafes" in place. I should have come up with a reason why the lich doesn't want to hurt the group (maybe he doesn't want harm to come to his carriage?) or I could have had some other powerful entity show up and hold him off.

The group enjoyed it, so I didn't feel too bad about it. I've done worse! Want to hear about it?

The Shackled City

I'll give you an example of a time I royally screwed up. Back in 2008, I ran a Shackled City campaign converted to 4th edition rules.

Dysfunction: I ran this for my old high school group. We seem to be that rare bunch that actually sort of grew apart in adulthood. I see all of these other groups out there who've played together for 30 years. We just can't do that any more, and this campaign showed why.

For a long time, I had a tendency to go too harsh when DMing - specifically, my monsters did too much damage. I was very concerned about challenging the group, as I knew what it felt like when the game was too easy - it sucks. What's the point?

But the 4e rules were brand new and I made a lot of math mistakes when creating monsters converted from 3e.

The first three sessions of this campaign were brutal. I royally screwed up the damage conversions. Once I figured it out, I apologized to the group and we continued on. Good, right?

No. I still would get complaints about things being too hard, or weird, or whatever.

The Baby: There was one scene in particular that stood out. There's an encounter where a bad guy is holding a baby out of a window above a city street, threatening to drop it. The adventure is very clear... one wrong move and the bad guy lets the baby go.

The group is meant to negotiate with the bad guy in a tense roleplaying scene.

Nope. Two of the heroes charged, using a fly spell to soar to the tower at top speed. The group was something like 50 feet away.

I gave them a chance to take it back, but they were convinced that what they were attempting should work. I had the one character who got close make some kind of check to catch the baby in time. The DC should be hard, right? The adventure says it's virtually impossible. DC 20, right?

The character rolled a 17, and was really upset that he failed. He felt that the DC was too high. We had a whole thing about it.

I Gave Up: From that point on, I erred on the side of caution. When in doubt, lower the DC and the damage. This is what they want, right? I was definitely being a bit passive-aggressive about it.

The next session, the group had to navigate a lava flow. In theory, they'd jump from rock to rock. There were some frightened citizens on a rock in the lava that needed rescuing.

Lava damage in 4e was different in every product, probably due to the whole concept of scaling threats to match the level of the group.

After looking through some products and scoping out lava damage, I erred on the side of too low - 15 damage per round.

The party's tiefling... Etheria von Kalypse - a legendary character played by a really fun player - realized that she could swim through the lava because, as a tiefling, she had fire resistance 10, which means she subtracts 10 from any fire damage she takes!

So yeah, she swam through molten lava.

Lukewarm Lava: Some of the players moaned about this, and I was outraged. They complained when it was too hard. They complained when it was too easy. I made some sarcastic comment telling them not to worry, I had made sure to give them some low damage "marshmallow lava" because I didn't want to hear them cry about it.

Fun game, right? Not my finest moments, that's for sure.

We got to the end of the campaign. Shackled City is really cool. It doesn't quite gel as a story, but there are a heck of a lot of cool ideas and scenarios in there.

The Final Battle: The final battle is against an angel/demon lord named Adimarchus who is trapped in an asylum in the plane of Carceri.

Again, I erred on the side of too low. When the battle commenced and I dealt out some of my measly damage, even Etheria said "Oooohh" sarcastically.

So.. yeah. Scaling damage in D&D. Not easy! It can get ugly!

Intermingling with Powerful Creatures: What I learned is that if you're going to use monsters that are much more powerful than the heroes, give the players a heads-up: "Just so you know, there are some creatures in here that are much higher level than you, and you probably won't be able to kill them outright."

To me, that's fair. Everyone has different meta-game expectations. Players who play a lot of video games normally expect that anything they encounter is created to be an appropriate challenge for them.

If you do make an encounter where there's a higher level villain, make sure you have at least one way for the heroes to survive unscathed. Things like:
  • A big ballista that fires lightning bolt (8d6!).
  • A scroll with a powerful spell on it that can banish, ward off, or subdue the bad guy.
  • A reason that the villain doesn't want the heroes dead - the villain wants to corrupt them, the villain wants to mess with their heads, or the villain wants to manipulate them
  • Summoning a powerful creature to hold off the bad guy.
  • A timed event that kicks in right when the villain is about to kill the group - an earthquake, avalanche or explosion of some kind.
Tomorrow I'll be hosting Waffle Talk on my Twitch Channel.

Also, I've been adding notes to my Guide to Tomb of Annihilation as I play through it. I made a number of mistakes that I think I can help you avoid. It's so hard to remember every little detail of that massive dungeon!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Dungeons & Dragons - Genies Great & Small: 21 New Genies of Zakhara

You can buy this right here.

Al Qadim is a D&D campaign setting that was released in the early 90's. Based on Arabian folk lore and mythology, it hit right at the same time that Disney released Aladdin, which was mega-popular around where I lived.

Arabian Adventures: I ran a ton of Al Qadim stuff and I loved it. I think that, in general, people liked the idea of Arabian adventures, but it was usually their 3rd or 4th choice as far as D&D settings go. I think a lot of people would say, "I'll run some Al Qadim after I run campaigns in Ravenloft and Planescape." Most people never get that far!

So Al Qadim has always been this untouched jewel of a setting, a product line loaded with fantastic adventures and concepts that a lot of people are unaware of.

This is partly why I was so pleased to see Genies Great and Small released on the DM's Guild from Kobold Press. Kobold Press is run by Wolfgang Baur, the guy who wrote one of my absolute favorite Al Qadim products: Secrets of the Lamp.

This book details and stats out a bunch of different types of genies, many of which are 5e conversions of genie variants found in 2e products.

Art: They actually got Karl Waller to do the art. He's the guy who did virtually all of the interior art for every single Al Qadim product. That makes this feel very "official".

The Cover: The one thing that sticks out to me as a negative has to do with the look of the book. The cover has black and white art, but also utilizes blue text and a blue border.

It feels odd to have a color cover with black and white art on it. I guess you could pull it off if you did it Sin City style, but that's not really Al Qadim at all.

The font is very, very 90's. It's the "Image comics Youngblood issue 3 is coming soon!" font. I would have preferred it if they went with a font more in keeping with the tone of an Arabian setting.

The blue border bugs me, too. Why is it there? The old Al Qadim books have these very intricate patterns for borders, I'd have preferred something like that.

The Genies: So, what's in the book? Here's a quick overview.

Gen: We start off with gens, who have always been mega-popular in my games.

A gen is a little servant that "fetches spells" for a spellcaster (called a sha'ir). In some products, gens are described as elemental animals, but in my campaigns they were always one-foot tall genie people. They were always mega-popular NPCs.

I am very happy to say that they are depicted in this book as little genie people. We get art, stats and everything. That's actually a fire gen on the cover.

Each of them has a description of how they die in their stat block. Earth gens disintegrate into crystalline powder, stuff like that.

Bottled Genie: We get a special description and template of bottled genies. These bottled genies are insane and have mind-affecting powers.

I would use this, but I definitely wouldn't declare that all genies that are trapped in a bottle go insane, as that cuts down on the fun things you can do with a bottled genie.

New Genies: We get some new genie types:
  • Alnnakhi: Lone genies who dwell in lonely, isolated places.
  • Khamsir: Genies made of shifting sand.
  • Nafurzi: Water genies who have been banished from their home plane. They are bound to a single body of water, such as a lake or river. I really like this one.

Tasked Genies: There are tons of these, all pulled from 2e. Some are a bit dull - an architect genie? A miner genie?

Others are really cool. Oathbinder genies create and enforce contracts between two parties. Guardian genie have two faces on their heads and.. guard stuff.

It's a short book. 20 pages! But nothing wrong with that. It's very well done and has a lot of very useful things in it.

Print Version: The print version of this book is great! It has a nice sturdy cover and smooth interior pages with gold color used generously.

Overall: I would say that any campaign can benefit from the inclusion of a gen sidekick, a genie in a bottle, or a harem guarded by a tasked genie. The pdf is only five bucks!

Good stuff!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Dungeons & Dragons - A Dozen and One Adventures

You can buy this in print or pdf form here.

A long time ago, I made a list of the 10 D&D adventures that I think are the best. One of them is A Dozen an One Adventures, a 2nd edition Al Qadim supplement.

I saw that it is available in print on the DMs Guild and immediately ordered it.

The original version comes in a thin box. It has two booklets, a bunch of card stock maps, and a poster map. I wondered, how would DrivethruRPG smoosh that all into one book?

It pains me to say that DrivethruRPG screwed this up really badly. What I got in the mail was a reprint of just one of the booklets. Nothing from the other booklet. Nothing from the card stock maps. Nothing from the poster map.

That means that you get the main adventures, but you don't have the maps that go to the adventures!

This is the second booklet that should have been part of the DrivethruRPG print book.

The booklet they did include contains the 13 adventures that the box is centered around. They're fun. But I was really disappointed. How can they do this? How can they sell you less than half of what you paid for?

Setting that aside, let's check out what we did get.

The book itself is really nice. The cover is sturdy. I don't know why they used the cover of the "Muluk, City of Kings" booklet. They should have used the cover of the boxed set!

On the inside, they actually went out of their way to keep the gold ink, which is a very pleasant surprise. It really does look almost as good as the original!

The new print is on the left.
Major disappointment! But, I figure I'll take this opportunity to tell you why I like a Dozen and One Adventures so much. Let's run down the 13 adventures that you do get in the Drivethru RPG print book. 

Flick of the Tail

Some jerk grabbed a guy's talking ruby-scaled fish and threw it in a well. The group's got to go down and get it.

There's more to it - the fish is actually a pahari, an Al Qadim mermaid variant. Where are her stats? On one of the sheets not included in this book.

The well connects to an abandoned bath house. The bath house is a bit of an "empty dungeon", but it's pretty interesting. Bath houses in D&D always make me laugh for some reason.

It turns out that this creepy old woman has the fish. She speaks backwards, and only understands people who speak to her backwards.

If the group attacks her, they're in big trouble, as she's actually a powerful monster. They might end up having to brush the old lady's hair.

This is a good example of an Al Qadim scenario - strange twists and an emphasis on non-combat solutions.

Nine Flawed Sapphires

This scenario completely changed my Al Qadim campaign that I ran as a kid. It's one of those landmark moments in my "D&D career".

The group is hired to steal some ledgers from a group operating in Sakina Falls. Sakina Falls is a secret cave complex hidden behind a waterfall. If you walk up to the waterfall and say, "Sakina, draw aside!" the waterfall shifts to the left and allows you to access the caves beyond.

The bad guy are making drugged, contraband wine. One of the leaders is Hanzala, a half-elf mage and member of the Brotherhood of True Flame. Hanzala became the most popular NPCs I ever ran. She stuck around for the rest of the campaign, which was 100+ sessions.

In my game, Hanzala was a villain who slowly became good thanks to the influence of the heroes.

The group needs to creep by these vats where hired goons are stomping on grapes. They'll need to find the ledger and get out of there alive.

Invitation to a Funeral

A bad guy needs a place to dump dead bodies, right? So he cuts a deal with ghouls - he brings them bodies, they keep their yaps shut. Al Qadim "ghuls" are a bit more intelligent and civilized than normal D&D ghouls.

Basically, the big bad guy tricks the group into being part of a funeral procession... but it's a hit! Once the group bring the coffin into a crypt, ghouls jump the heroes.

The crypt is a little dungeon complex with one room that smells so bad, you need to make a saving throw or temporarily lose 2-5 points of Strength and Con from retching.

Eleven Baneful Gates

I really love this one. There is a scroll that describes the Eleven Baneful Gates. Each "baneful gate" is an obstacle that prevents mortal from becoming immortal. A villain named Azaltin studied these scrolls, desperate to learn the secrets of immortality.

The heroes must travel to the ruins where the scroll is said to be located. The ruins are now the home of a sort of generic type of genie known as the jann. There's 27 of them! The group will have to befriend them.

Then the adventures will need to make heir way through 11 magic gates, each with its own deadly challenge.

Every single gate is an awesome encounter. In addition to outright death, you might end up falling asleep for d10 days or becoming transfixed by your own beauty and dying of starvation.

At the end there's a very Al Qadim twist. This adventure kicks ass.

The Hermit's Riddle

The heroes go to rescue a hermit who has been abducted by a genie who commands a pack of werehyenas. The group has to travel a few days across a desert to get to the lair. During that time, the werehyenas play psychological games with them.

The genie, a dao, is not so smart and he's very sensitive about it. The hermit has challenged the genie to solve a riddle. Each day, the genie gives an answer - always wrong. The hermit has been able to keep himself alive through this, and the group can exploit this flaw to defeat the dao and rescue the hermit.

Sibling Rivalry

This is an Al Qadim version of a dragon's lair. In Al Qadim, there are things called vishaps - wingless dragons. In this adventure, a disguised vishap recruits the group to kill her sister, Fakhira, of whom she is jealous.

In the lair, Fakhira has a few tricks up her sleeve. If the group has Fakhira hurt, the jealous sister reveals herself and goes in for the kill. The group might realize that they've been duped, and that maybe Fakhira isn't so bad after all.

The Djinni's Lover

A really attractive genie tries to convince the heroes to help her friend to escape its magical imprisonment in an astrolabe.

The group can haggle with her and agree to do it if the genie will serve them for 1,001 days, which is pretty awesome.

This is all linked to a plot where a sha'ir (a spellcaster with power over genies) is trying to get a genie to build a tower. The sha'ir has a desert giant and shapeshifters working for her.

The group will need to either break in and steal the astrolabe or attack. The astrolabe has a spell called "aversion" cast on it, causing it to flee from anyone who isn't the caster.That ill make for a really chaotic final encounter!

Salt Bond

This one is about the bond of salt. In Al Qadim, once you sit down with someone and share a meal that has salt in it, a special deal has been struck. The host is responsible for your welfare for three days. You, in turn, agree not to bring harm to the host.

The group enters this bond with a dude, and it turns out the guy is a magnet for trouble. Over the next three days, shapeshifters and pyromaniac wizards show up, and the group has to protect their host from them.

A Boasting Contest

This one is short, but I love it. A genie challenges the group to a boasting contest! It will wager one of its magic items against one that the group has. It's got a list of things the genie will brag about and everything.

Weave of the Carpet

A guy who makes magic carpet has been robbed. The group must do some detective work to track it down. This leads to a situation where the bad guy is making gallons and gallons of "liquid star" (elemental fire) so that he can blow up the main palace in the city!

Dead Bearing Witness

The body of a legendary vizier needs to be exhumed, but the body has been animated and now belongs to... the Head. A severed head/lich. Awesome bad guy, awesome adventure!

Zarastro's Three Daughters

This guy Zarastro tried to summon and bind a water genie, but he failed miserably. The genie killed him and did terrible things to his three daughters:
  • One was turned to stone, but only from the waist down.
  • Another was turned into a green hag.
  • The last one became a naga.
There's a portal to the plane of water - if shut, the genie is sucked in and gone.

The Leper King is in charge of all the beggars in the city. He's involved in a dispute between two other factions.

Basically, the group has to deal with all the bad guys and organization from the other adventures in this book at the same time.

That's it! Each adventure is short, easy to read, and full of fun ideas.

What's in the other book, you may ask. Check it out...

Muluk: A chapter detailing the city of Muluk, a "fiercely independent martial state". It is ruled by Caliph Aswiyah al-Muftahir, who is grooming her daughter, a powerful sha'ir, to take her place.

The city has a number of secret societies causing problems - fire mages, assassins, and beggar-thieves.

The Haunted Lands: A description of the "Haunted" Lands" near the city. This area includes a huge swath of land that is essentially a desert with salt instead of sand. The nearby Weeping Desert is full of undead giants (!).

There's a bunch of Haunted Lands encounters. My favorite one involves the group entering into a bond of salt with a sphinx, who hangs out with them for three days.

There's another one where the group comes upon a genie who is buried up to its neck in sand. It is cursed and is magically bound to stay where he is until he can convince someone to help him. Branded on his forehead is a word: "LIAR".

Krak al-Niraan: A description of the fortress that the Brotherhood of True Flame calls home. There's a genie named "Three-Seeing Eye" who guards the treasury. This is the part of the box that I like least. It's pretty dry, and kind of a waste of a poster map.

Then there's a list of items, some magic, some not. Here are my favorites...

Dreambliss: A drug/poison that can put you into a euphoric "sleep of bliss" for 24 hours.

Astrolabe of Entrapment: This is 12 genie prisons in one! Only one prison is active per month. The astrolabe is keyed to the constellations.

Roses of Forgetfulness: Sniff the rose, gain amnesia!

Wand of the Sun: A magic weapon often used by members of the Brotherhood of True Flame. This thing casts sunscorch spells. "The luminous beam strikes its target unerringly."

So, there you go. I used this boxed set constantly! I built my entire Al Qadim campaign around it.

I really do think it is one of the greatest D&D products of all time, and I hope you check it out.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Further Thoughts on Running the Actual Tomb of Annihilation

I've been running tomb of annihilation on my twitch channel. It's been going great! The Tomb of the Nine Gods is awesome.

I am making a lot of little mistakes in almost every room. I want to write this down so you can avoid the pitfalls that I waddled into.

The Elemental Cells

We played through the area I was most worried about in the entire dungeons - the elemental cells on page 158.

The group opened the secret door and took a gander at the fire cell. There' a lit candle in there. When you enter the cell, lave start pouring out of the ceiling, dealing out 22 fire damage.

The group was super-cautious. Two things came up:

A character tried to snuff out the flame with a ranged weapon. Does that work? It probably should. But if nobody is in the cell when it is snuffed out, nobody teleports to the next cell.

The group would have to light the candle and blow it out to move on, right?

I declared that the ranged attack didn't work.

A character ran in and blew out the candle. Should the lava have hit her? Probably. I decided it didn't. Lava's a bit slow, isn't it?

And then... does the lava keep flowing? Does it stop? I should have had it flow, but I didn't.

Two characters appeared in the air cell. They immediately started suffocating. I think I got that right. You suffocate your Con mod in rounds (minimum 1 round), and then you are dying.

I think I did a good job describing this cell. I gave subtle clues that astute players would pick up on. And they did.

Shagambi's Tomb

The group ended up being teleported to room 48. This is the one with the 48 terracotta warriors.

I immediately made a mistake. If you appear on the north rune - it malfunctions and does 18 damage. I forgot about that, but was able to work it in once I recognized the error.

The group made noise and got their one warning. The heroes crept up to the coffin. The music box set the warriors off.

The heroes had a good idea. If they smash the music box, maybe the warriors will stop attacking? In the "Coffin" section it says that the music box rouses "...the terracotta warriors if they can hear its haunting melody." So do they stop if the melody stops? I ruled no. It was a tough call to make in the heat of the moment.

The ceiling in most tomb rooms is 12 feet high. Can the heroes use fly to avoid the reach of the warriors? Can they squish against the ceiling so that they occupy the 2 feet, thus keeping a 5 foot space between them?

Characters used jump spells to maneuver about. I liked this idea, so I gave it a thumbs up, although - jumping over 4 terracotta warriors in a room with a 12-foot high ceiling seems like a bit of a stretch. The arc of the jump wouldn't work - you' either hit the ceiling and drop, or you'd soar low enough that you'd provoke attacks of opportunity.

I declared that jumping provoked one opportunity attack on the way up, and one on the way down. I just thought the jumping was cool. It's magic, so maybe the magic lets you jump in weird arcs and angles.

Maybe it's like Super Mario, where he's jumping through the air, and  you hit a button that causes him to shoot straight down, possibly squashing an enemy.

Or maybe you can double jump in mid air!

Maze of Death

The group went to the maze of death, area 49 (page 161). This room is simple, but I had a hard time understanding it. Anything with stone blocks that go up and down confuses me, for some reason.

It boils down to this:
  • You raise your left hand, palm out to get in.
  • You raise your severed right arm to get out.
When you take the crown, the bodaks come out and the blocks seal you in.

Modified Spells: The group tried to use dimension door to escape. If you look at the "modified spells" section on page 128, it says that dimension door deposits you in room 57... if you use it to enter or exit the tomb. Over in the side column, it says that spells that would normally allow you to enter or exit the tomb either fail or deposit their characters in area 57.

So, does dimension door work when you're traveling within the tomb?

In my game, if someone uses dimension door or a similar spell to try to go anywhere, they go to area 57. It feels too easy to allow teleportation within the tomb, though misty step is OK. Dimension door would let you bypass a number of obstacles in here - the cells, the water hallway, the terracotta room, the flooded room, etc.

Mirror of Life Trapping

Then there's the mirror. Something to remember... constructs don't trigger the mirror.

A few sessions back, I had let the group use the scrying pool in level 2 to see a tomb guardian walk into the mirror room. I described it in a way as to depict the tomb guardian purposely not looking at the mirror. By doing so, I was warning the group about the mirror.

But the tomb guardian probably should have looked into it. I guess I can say that the tomb guardian avoided looking at it out of habit, or because  it does give the tomb guardian a weird feeling even though the magical effect doesn't go off.

Two things I need to add to my guide:

1. A cheat sheet for handling the purple mold on level 4 that shoots rays. I want to list the rays and all the weird little rules. The mold is really cool and I think it's very easy to forget about it.

2. A cheat sheet that has stats of all the NPCs in the mirror. If they all come out a once, that's wayyy too much page-flipping for any singular DM.


Room 57. Two characters ended up in here. The otyugh attacked them, and they decided to pull some levers. They pulled the lever that causes the gullet to pull everything in the room into its maw.

There's a note that "everything in the room" is affected. That includes the otyugh and THE CORPSES, right?

Wouldn't these corpses be flying through the air, hitting the heroes? Probably, right?

Describing how the heroes resist the suction is difficult. There's nothing to grab onto except for the lip of the maw, but if you're holding the lip of the maw, corpse are crashing into you.. and the otyugh is flying into you, too!

I kept it simple. If they made their saves, the heroes held their ground somehow. The otyugh failed its save and got sucked in, which was nice for the group.

As this suction thing is happening, they wanted to pull the other lever. Can you pull the second lever while the first one is going? Do you have to wait for the full one minute to pass until the suction lever goes back to its position?

Does the character have to make a special check to pull the other lever? I mean, it's right by the mouth that's sucking everything in!

Again, I kept it simple.

The two heroes both rolled exactly the number they needed to succeed on their saves. It was very intense. They pulled the other level and survived.

I am thoroughly enjoying the tomb. It's classic stuff and honestly, it's not THAT deadly. I do think that the final battle is ridiculous, though. I see many a TPK coming up.

These are all the weird little things that I struggle with during the game. Hopefully this can help you run the tomb more smoothly!

Dice, Camera, Action Episode 84 - Tomb of Annihilation

Episode 84: Domain Event
This is it! The crew vs. Paultin. Chris himself said he had no idea what would happen.

 The Party

(Rachel Seeley) Miranda- Elf Druid
(Anna) Evelyn - Human Paladin of Lathander
(ProJared) Diath - Human Rogue
(Holly) Strix - Tiefling Sorcerer
(Nathan) Paultin - Human Bard

The group is in the Shadowfell. They're in the middle of a big battle against their friend Paultin, who has been turned evil by the ring of winter. Last session, Strix vanished (she went on an adventure with the Acquisitions Inc. C Team). Mr. Shambleface, the doll containing the spirit of Strahd, was taken off of Strix before she vanished.

So, here we go. Miranda is surrounded by ice Paultins. She ends up on the roof of the tavern. There's a hole in the roof. Peering through it, he can see the innkeeper's quarters.

Diath does a moonsault and throws down oil in Evelyn's path. Evelyn holds her burning sword above the oil. If she light it, the tavern will be ablaze.

She tries to enter the inn, but a soft unseen force keeps her out. We later learn that the weird twig glyphs on the tavern block non-evil creatures from entering.

Evelyn spots Paultin in the dark room. His eyes are glowing blue. Evelyn says to him, "If you care anything for us and me... take the ring off right now.

The ring tell Paultin, "Don't listen to her! They left you alone in Castle Ravenloft! Same with the fire giant citadel!"

Paultin casts freezing sphere, which has a 60 foot radius. It explodes fills the tavern, explodes through the walls, and rockets up every crack. Everybody (except Strix) must make a constitution save. Jared rolls a natural 20! Lots of 20's lately for the crew.

10d6 damage. 18 cold damage for those who made their save.

Evelyn says that Paultin is truly gone. She lights the oil and the tavern catches fire.

The two shadar kai are still lurking about. Mariciana tosses Mr. Shambleface to Lavardo.

Miranda wild shapes into a giant vulture. She perches herself on a weathervane.

Izek smashes through some of the ice Paultins. Lord Nihil is not doing so well.

Eventually we get to a point where Evelyn has Simon, and she's trying to get through to Paultin, who's still holed up in the tavern.

The ring keeps filling Paultin with fake news. "She's threatening us! She's going to hurt Simon!"

Paultin tells her to put Simon down. Evelyn shakes her head sadly and backs away. Chris finds this very funny.

Paultin casts crown of madness on Izek. He's not an ally, so he doesn't get the bonus to his save from Evelyn's aura. Izek turns his hateful gaze upon Evelyn.

Miranda casts call lightning on Izek. 28 damage. He's still up.

Diath looks at Paultin and says, "All I want is for you to see how lucky you are."

Paultin says he doesn't see what luck has to do with this.

The ground turns into a mouth. Strix crawls through! With her is a stone statue - a petrified dwarf.

Strix uses a stop watch that Omin gave her. It stops time! She pulls out her iron scissors. She must make an Arcana check.

Time stops... for everyone but Miranda. She sees the falling snow hang in the air. The wind is absent. The weathervane freezes in place. She sees Diath, Izek, Evelyn, Simon, Lord Nihil, and the Paultins all frozen.

Everything is perfectly still except for her. She drops into the tavern. She look at Strix and Paultin, both frozen.

Miranda slides the ring off of Paultin's finger.

Then she spots the two shadar kai.. they step through the doorway. They are unaffected by the time stop as well.

Miranda wants to make a deal with them. She ant to give them two magic items in exchange for them letting her leave with the ring of winter. 

They don't want items. They want her face. She thinks and goes "OK... you can have it."

Time kicks in. From Strix's perspective, the clock didn't work.

Paultin... the cold in his veins fades. He comes to his senses. All of the Paultin statues are immobile. Some fall over.

An invisible hand throws Holly out of the tavern into the snow.

The time stop ceases. Miranda and the shadar kai are nowhere to be found. They have the ring of winter and the Strahd doll.

Evelyn attacks Izek, who is still under the effect of the crown of madness. She wants to knock him out. Jared quietly points out that "Izek is my Boss fight."

Strix turns Izek into a long-tailed chicken.

Paultin is sitting in a frost-covered chair with a thousand-yard stare. He asks, "Why is it so cold?"

Only evil can enter the tavern.... Strix could go in because she had the Strahd puppet on her.

Paultin leaves the tavern. Evelyn looks closely at his eyes. She touches his hair (which is now long and black) and says it looks good. He blow right by her, drinks some wine and smashes it an ice Paultin.

Evelyn sighs. She is resigned and disappointed.

Strix tries to remove the wards from the tavern... looks like she can't affect them.

Strix fireballs the building. Four fireballs! That did it. The tavern is a steaming pile of burned timbers. The spell upon it is destroyed. She tears the glyphs apart.

She digs up the dwarf statue. Its arm is broken off. She thinks a mending spell could fix it.

Diath leads Simon over to Paultin. Simon hugs Paultin's kneecaps. Paultin looks at him, doesn't say anything.

They start looking for Miranda. Evelyn is wondering if Miranda was real at all.

Strix starts looking for portals.

Paultin takes off the death curse ring and throws it to Diath. He casts locate creature to see if Miranda is nearby. She is not.

Strix says, "I was going to cut your finger off, but I didn't because you are my friend." She explained that her stopwatch stopped time. Apparently it didn't affect elves.

Paultin says that the group needs to get the ring back and that it should be destroyed.

They spot three sets of foot prints. Looks like Miranda and the shadar kai got in the wagon and left.

Lord Nihil is down... backstabbed. He's dead. Izek's two guards are dead.

Meanwhile, Miranda is sitting in the coach with the shadar kai. The ring is telling her of the great wonders it has seen. It is trying to win her over.

She still has her face. It turns out that the shadar kai were joking again about face-cutting. Lavardo is drinking dwarven ale.

Miranda uses a cord to tie the ring around her neck. The shadar kai tell her not to let the waffle crew get the ring.

She feels like the ring is safe in her hands. The shadar kai seem to agree.

They'll go north.

That's where we stop.

Chris says he has a funny feeling we'll see Miranda again. The group applauds Rachel for lasting so long.

Chris says he had no idea how this would play out.


Fun show! I really don't get why the group is so lenient with Paultin. They told him from the beginning that he shouldn't put on the ring of winter, but he did it anyway and look what happened. The dude doesn't even say he's sorry!

This is a campaign that is very character-driven. The players have become very into their characters, and things get pretty emotional. I think that's the unique appeal of this campaign. It has presented a style of play that a lot of people want to take part in.

Chris has been able to adapt to their "sub-optimal" (character-focused) style of play, and it's a beautiful thing. He's loose enough to go along for the ride when the characters take the game in unexpected directions.

I think that's a very valuable example to put out there, especially for newer DMs. They can see how you can handle the unpredictable thing players do, and that it can make the game much better if you go ahead and roll with it. It's scary at first, but it can be done.

As usual, I am very curious to see what happens next.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Misscliks: Lost Mine Episode 1

You can watch this episode right here.

Anna, who plays Evelyn on Dice, Camera, Action, is going to DM her first game! She's running the Lost Mine of Phandelver, which is the introductory adventure from the D&D Starter Set, which you can get right here.

I love it when people run official adventures because I can either learn what's in it or, if I own it, I can check the book and see what's next.

I ran the goblin caves portion of this adventure in a game store a few years ago and I really enjoyed it. I actually wrote about that session in this blog, which was the only time I ran a game for the "would you like to buy papercut insurance?" guy.

This is one of those basic, classic fantasy adventures done in a way that feels pretty fresh. The goblin caves have a really cool gimmick that makes sense and can lead to a lot of fun things.

The players are using the pregens. This group usually plays 2e (!) so they're going to be learning 5e as we go.

Anna is using Roll20, which is a site that lets you put maps and tokens on the screen. It has all sorts of cool features, but it is very complex. A reader was nice enough to give me a tutorial on it a while back, an I quickly decided that it was too complicated for me. I might take a stab at it again some time.

The Party

(Neal Koibu) Guy - Human Fighter
(Genevieve) Thoradin - Dwarf Cleric
(Trump) Lylow - Halfling Rogue
(Vie) Desdonia - Elf Wizard

Gundren Rockseeker has asked the group to bring supplies to Phandalin. Gundren and his brothers are onto something big. Gundred went out ahead of the heroes with Sildar Hallwinter to take care of business.

The group veered east on the Triboar trail, where bandits and outlaws are known to cause problems.
We learn a bit about the heroes:
  • Guy Claypool: A slender and malnourished fellow, Guy is trying to raise money for his family. He's a lover, not a fighter and he wears sandals that his cousin made for him.
  • Desdonia: She's out and about looking for new spells, and has some sort of secret mission involving an altar.
  • Lylow: He's all smiles and he's looking for easy money. A gang know as the Red Brands put a hit out on him.
  • Thoradin Frostbeard: A cleric of ...Moradin? The deity changes every time Thoradin speaks.Thoradin declares himself the "punisher" of the Red Brands. He's going to teach them a lesson. Thugs have been throwing their weight around in Phandalin, and this "sturdy little man" has had enough of it. Genevieve is cracking herself up, which cracks me up.
How did they meet, you may ask. Here's how:
  • Guy and Thoradin met due to a mutual interest in beards.
  • Desdonia and Lylow met playing a game of Three Dragon Ante. We learn that one time, Lylow was playing cards and the Red Brands tried to kill him, but he escaped. He won't say why they're after him. We also learn that Desdonia might know a wizard named Glasstaff. She's not saying anything more about that.
The adventurers travel down the high road. It's nice out. Thoradin feels like Moradin is giving him a warm hug. Guy is driving the wagon.

Thoradin uses his ability to speak with animals to make friends with the Oxen pulling the cart. The oxen is named Jeanette.

They come upon two horses slain by arrows with black feathers on them.

The group is alarmed and they get into a long conversation. Guy talks about the goddess Sune, who might be Thoradin's new god. It sounds like the deity Thoradin wants to worship is Mielikki.

Lylow wonders if it is an ambush. Something's in the bushes, giggling. Guy approaches.

There's a pair of goblins in there! They attack.

Desdonia nails them with a burning hands. Guy is hit with an arrow and takes 5 damage. A goblin gets a critical hit on Thoradin. The poor fellow is truck in the buttocks. The die roll for the damage is low, luckily for the dwarf.

Desdonia kills a goblin with her sword and quickly cleans the blood off her blade. Lylow kills the other one.

Thoradin is outraged that the goblins killed those poor defenseless horses. She wants to bury them, and she takes hold of her combat shovel! She wants to use this deadly implement of war to dig holes. Guy thinks this is a bad idea - there's no time for this. Thoradin agrees and says a short prayer over the dead beats.

Lylow is impressed that Desi uses a sword.

The group suddenly realizes that these horses belong to Gundrin and Sildar, the people who hired them!

The game is running pretty smoothly so far. The things that tripped them up are the usual suspects: Cover (which I can never remember or find) and knowing your spell DC and your spell attack bonuses.

Genevieve keeps switching the deity she worships. Now it's Sylvanus.

The group decides to look in the cart their oxen ha been pulling. In it is flour, pork, kegs of ale, shovels (not combat shovels), 5 lanterns, stuff like that. It's about 100 gp worth of goods.

After searching the area near the dead horses, the group finds a hidden trail. They heal up and follow it. Thoradin does not hack through the brush - he gently pushes it aside. Thoradin is a friend of nature, you see.

Thoradin wants to climb a tree and scope out the area. She observes that Lylow's tiny little halfling legs are practically useless.

Thoradin gets stuck halfway up. Lylow climbs right past him and high fives him on the way up and again on the way down. He's a pleasant little fellow.

He scopes out the trail ahead. No sign of goblins.

The adventurers follow the trail some more and they spot a snare trap. The heroes decide to try to trap the trappers by pretending to be caught in the very trap the trappers set!

No, maybe not. Guy climbs a tree.. rolls bad.. he falls and takes 5 damage. He's hurt bad. The group is very unsettled by this. Thoradin is a bit bummed to have to use his other heal spell.

When Thoradin heals people, he does it via comforting: "There, there..."

Continuing on, the group spots an odd pile of leaves. They chuck some sticks at it. Pit trap! The group avoids it.

The trail leads the adventurers to a cave.

Lylow is super-confident and he says that he wants to go scout it out. He walks up through a shallow stream.. suddenly, an arrow comes shooting out of a bush!

More arrows.. Desdonia is hit. Lylow is hit! He's down! Uh oh...

Thoradin wants to drag the halfling to cover. Guy kills one goblin and intimidates the other, who flees.

That's where we stop!


Very good show! It's a perfect stream to watch if you're new to D&D. Anna has played a lot, so that is probably what has helped her avoid a lot of the common little mistakes new DMs make.

The biggest thing I've seen new DMs struggle with is pacing. When do you end a scene? When do you hand-wave time and travel? Every DM handles it a bit differently, so it can be a big stumbling block in the beginning that can lead to boring sessions if you are not careful. Anna avoided this for the most part.

The players are pretty fun to watch. I think that Genevieve is hilarious and she has a very good attitude when it comes to D&D. She seems like she is fun to spend time with, which is really valuable in tabletop RPGs.

Trump is the most likeable dude on the planet. I don't know why, he just is.

Good show! I am very interested to see how the group fares in the goblin caves!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Dragon+ Issue 18

New issue of Dragon+! The last one was a bit skimpy. This one is loaded with stuff.

You can check this issue out right here.

We start things off with an interview with Vance Kelly, the guy who did the alternate cover.

Preview: Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes

This article starts out listing basic info about the book. Then it gives us some art and previews!

Geryon: One of the major archdevils! In 4th, he had 3 heads. It was weird. Here he is in 5e:

Stuff we learn:
  • 10 feet tall, 30 feet long.
  • Carries a horn featuring minotaur imagery
  • Attacks with claws and a stinger
Marut: The marut is a weird, powerful monster that originally looked sort of like an elephant-person. They have completely changed what it looks like:

I think that looks really cool. In previous editions, I actually went out of my way not to use them because I didn't like the way they looked. This new marut looks awesome, if a bit modron-y. But then, there might be a reason for that.

We learn that they have a contract written in arcane light stamped on their chest. Awesome!

Astral Dreadnaught

Holy crap! The monster from the 1e and 4e Manual of the Planes covers. I think this is a monster that is almost never used, though maybe that will changed now. I used it once in 4e and the players crapped their pants.

It emits a cone of anti-magic that negates magical effects in its area.

D&D Classic

We get a reprint of one of those stories from old Dragon Magazines where famous wizards meet each other. This one involvesElminster and Mordenkainen. The author is hiding in a suit of armor watching this event.

Fun fact: I had my Al Qadim group find that guy (he was D&D author Roger Moore in my campaign) hiding in a suit of armor. He ended up becoming a zombie.

Then they reprint the 4e reprint of the classic Nine Hells article by Ed Greenwood!

We get a 5e conversion of the havoc orb from Dragon 363. This thing is really awesome.

Rancor: A short story about a character from Baldur's Gate named Dorn il-Khan. They even whipped up a 5th edition character sheet for him. They are sparing no expense in this issue.

Doing it for the Fans:  Details on Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition.

Check out the art for the Neverwinter MMO Omu expansio. It features Fenthaza and Acererak.

Neverwinter Goes TRPG: They turned one of their quests into a 5e module! Crypts of Kelemvor! It's 15 pages. Man, this issue is loaded with stuff.

The Gribbits Detective Agency: This is another 5e adventure linked to the Dragon Friends D&D show.

Dragonfire: Dragonfire is a deck-building game. You can download a free Dragonfire scenario.

DMs Guild Spotlight: You can get one of the guild adept adventures for free. The Risen Mists. It's gigantic! Hopefully I'll be able to run it soon.

Plane Shift: Ixalan: Magic: The Gathering mixed with D&D.

Port Nyanzaru: Jason Thompson makes a detailed map of Port Nyanzaru. This map kicks so much ass. Here's a piece:

Behind the Screen: Lessons from Live Play: An article about how livestreams are influencing players and creating new fans. Apparently half of all new D&D players got into it through livestreams.

Map of the Month: More free maps from Tomb of Annihilation and Out of the Abyss! 


This issue is overloaded with 5e content! Absolutely tremendous. Come for the Tome of Foes preview, stay for the havoc orb!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Dice, Camera, Action Episode 83 - Tomb of Annihilation

Episode 83: Ice in the Veins

Waffle Crew vs. Paultin? I guess we'll see. We get the Barovia intro again.

 The Party

(Rachel Seeley) Miranda- Elf Druid
(Anna) Evelyn - Human Paladin of Lathander
(ProJared) Diath - Human Rogue
(Holly) Strix - Tiefling Sorcerer
(Nathan) Paultin - Human Bard
Previously.. the crew was separated. Paultin has the ring of winter, which is turning him evil, and he ran off into the Shadowfell with it. He also took his severed hand and the skull chalice of Ch'g'kare.

The rest of the group went after him.
  • Paultin is in the Dead-Eyed Drunk, a tavern.
  • Simon is leading the heroes to Paultin.
  • Miranda is suffering from apathy.
  • Diath and Evelyn can't tell what is real and what is not.
  • Strix is full of dread. Moreso.
  • Waffles is suffering, too. Waffles attacked Miranda last episode.
Quite a bit of time has passed. Chris declares that the group has been traveling for a month! Diath and Strix are sharing the protective ring. Their max hp drop by 16! Well, that's not good.

Each week, the viewer count has been going higher and higher. Right now it is at 2,032 viewers. The highest I've seen is 2,300.

Paultin's hair has turned black and grown quite a bit. His skin has taken on a blueish tinge. He's not bothered by the cold. Outside, he hears laughter.

Nariciano and Levarda are out there having fun.It's snowing. The shadar kai want to make a plan to fight the waffle crew. They're concerned with the heroes who can fly.

200 people joined. There are 2,226 viewers at 7:14 PM EST.

The waffle crew is walking along in the Shadowfell. They come upon someone hanging from a tree via noose. Wait... just a shadow. Only Diath can see it. Jared says that Paultin has this sense that he is going to let his friends down. He is trying to fight it.

The group has blindfolded Waffles so she doesn't attack anyone else.

Lord Nihil is traveling with the group. He says that if he dies, he asks the group to avenge him. The shadar kai murdered his family and tore off his face.

The shadar kai start talking about the Raven Queen. The ring says it was her elves who made the ring of winter.

Paultin is checking out the chalice. The shadar kai want to buy the chalice from him.

A carriage arrives. It's a gypsy wagon.

2,313 viewers at 7:29 PM EST. That's the highest viewer count I can recall.

There's a wine delivery. Paultin casts locate creature. He wants to see if Diath is within a thousand feet. He thought it was a trap! Wow. It's not a trap.

Driving this carriage is... Izek! Strix's brother! He's got some guards. The alcohol he's delivering is from Gauntlgrym - dwarven ale. Eep. That's where Strahd's puppet is!

Izek says "hurry up, we've got to go. This is a rotten place." It looks like he lost his demon arm.

Paultin doesn't remember who he is. He strikes up a conversation with him.

One of the shadar kai asks Paultin who he's talking to. She suggests killing the guy. Paultin rolls to see if he can remember. Natural 1. The rest of the group knows it's Izek, but Nate doesn't. I think he missed the biggest Izek episode and Dee filled in for him.

The ring says, "You know what we need? A dragon." An ice dragon?! Or are they going to seek out a shadow dragon? The ring says, "An ice dragon that you can ride... into battle."

Meanwhile, the heroes see the wagon heading toward them. It is pulled by two horses. Evelyn rolls to see if she thinks it is real. Natural 20!

Strix sees Izek and screams for the group to run. Miranda shrugs and gets on Lord Nihil's horse.

Strix confronts Izek. He says he's a changed man. He says he lost his devil arm when he tried holding on to the wagon way back when.

Izek says that when the arm came off, something in him died. The part of him that could only see hate and fear went away.

Izek tells Strix, "We were both cast aside, left to the mercy of those in that terrible place called Barovia."

Diath despises Izek. Izek hung him way, wayyy back then. Diath is shaking. Strix holds his hand.

Evelyn walks up and goes, "This wagon is totally real."

Izek makes dolls. Like Blinsky? He tosses something to her. The Strahd puppet! Mr. Shambleface! Izek says "we got this in Gauntlgrym." Drizz't brought it there long ago.

The Strahd doll! Is the group happy? No. No they are not.

Evelyn really likes Drizz't. She says she misses him. Hey, Drizz't is a cool guy. How weird will it be if the group ends up higher level than Drizz't?

Izek says that Strahd might be the only one that can save them from Paultin and the ring of winter. Lady Wachter told Izek to bring Strix the doll. Wachter cares about Strix.

Viewer count: 2,418 at 7:56 PM EST. Sweet jaysus.

How many charges will Paultin spend to make his ice dragon? The ring has 20. He uses 9 and his attempt fails.. Hmm. He might have to use all 20.

The ring is on page 207 of Tomb of Annihilation. Normally, making an ice creature costs 4 charges and the creature needs to have a CR 2 or less. This must be a special thing. Pretty awesome! 

Normally the ring has 12 charges, but in the Shadowfell it has 20.

Paultin goes to bed. The shadar kai climb in with him..?

Here we go. The Waffle Crew has arrived at the inn. The group sees Paultin. He has blue veins on his arms and neck.

Somewhere in here we learn the backstory of the Raven Queen. She and a few elves tried to cast a big spell, but it did not go off as intended. In despair, she sunk into the Shadowfell. She put a lot into the spell and became weakened.

Many of her elven servants followed her to the Shadowfell. They became shadar kai.

She became a deity bound to the Shadowfell, an emblem of death who uses ravens to make sure souls get where they need to go. Sometimes she locks away special souls to keep - people of destiny. Good and evil people. She helps them achieve their full destiny.

A raven approaches Miranda. Uhhh... Raven Queen? It wants a trinket or memento. She pulls out her yew wand. The raven accepts it.

Then... Paultin meets... the Raven Queen. Twigs and stuff. She gives Paultin a wand.
4e Raven Queen

Strix assumes the form of Strahd. She flies ahead of the group. Strahd on a flying broom.

She sees the tavern - it's 1,500 feet away. Snow is weighing down the roof. Battered coach with an ogre zombie strapped to it.

Paultin runs into the tavern and rearranges furniture. He spots a hunched crone made entirely of twigs. Paultin pulls out the chalice. She's making creepy noises and pulls back into the shadows. She's gone.

Strix is attacked by the shadar kai assassins. 34 damage from one. She's down. The other one stabs her again! She fails two death saves.

Lariciana loots Strix. She has the Strahd doll. Paultin wants that doll gone right now.

Marinda runs up to the tavern. There's all these snowmen outside the tavern. They start moving. She uses her ring of the ram on one. The snow comes off - it is an ice sculpture of Paultin. All of them are! 100 ice sculptures of Paultin.

Diath can't fly. He's running toward the tavern. He keeps saying: "This isn't real." He runs through the field of ice Paultins, dodging them. Evelyn flies through, smashing them when she can.

In the tavern. Strix disappears in a cloud of oily smoke! Just like when she was summoned by Acquisitions, Inc. Holly is going to be on C-Team tomorrow.

Miranda gets darted. Simon! She needs to make a save vs. the poison. 19!

Paultin decides to attack Miranda. He casts banishment on her. She need to make a saving throw, or she magically teleported back to her home plane. She rolls a 17! She makes her save. That's where we stop.


Very good show. Nate knows his stuff! I love it.

We talked with Rachel about this episode on Waffle Talk:

Dice, Camera, Action Episode 82 - Tomb of Annihilation

Episode 82: Drinking Man's Game

This episode actually starts with the old Curse of Strahd intro. The group is more than a little perturbed by this.

 The Party

(Rachel Seeley) Miranda- Elf Druid
(Anna) Evelyn - Human Paladin of Lathander
(ProJared) Diath - Human Rogue
(Holly) Strix - Tiefling Sorcerer
(Nathan) Paultin - Human Bard

PREVIOUSLY: Way back when, Paultin rescued Evelyn's spirit after she sacrificed herself to save Strix and Diath. Paultin and Evelyn were hurled into a dark plane. A stick creature (the Raven Queen!) gave him a severed hand of hell.

The Raven Queen told Paultin that the hand would help him find a chalice - the skull chalice of Chigakare. That's an item from Tomb of Annihilation on page 189.

Paultin has a geas, placed on him by Shemeshka. He is magically bound to go on a quest to find Mr Fox, get his spectacles and obtain the X the Mystic book.

Last week, a simulacrum of Paultin messed with the group and then melted itself with the actual sunsword.

Diath's geas prevented him from going after Paultin. Strix casts remove curse, ending the geas! Huh. I didn't realize you could do that. It's right there in the description, though.

They come upon some crypts. Evelyn senses that there is a horde of undead here. Balls of light..! Will o wisps!

So this is weird. They're sort of minotaur/will o wisps. Minotaur spirits. Evelyn attacks the undead with treebane. She rolls two natural 20's, which is most un-Wafflelike.

The group keeps rolling well. Diath with a natural 20! The wisps have been defeated.
The heroes spot Simon running into a crypt an they follow. In it is a rotten black mummy... deteriorated... The mummy is missing one of its hands. So..! This is where Handrew came from?

We cut from the group to wherever Paultin is. He's in a forest with twisted trees. He has found the skull chalice of chigakare, which the Raven Queen wanted him to obtain.

The ring of winter tells Paultin, "I feel like I know which way to go", The ring of winter believes that this realm is where it was made.

Paultin comes upon a carriage pulled by Meathook, an ogre zombie. It's waiting there. A dude is nearby, peeing on a tree. It's a dusk elf dressed in Victorian garb. His clothes haven't been mended in a long time.
A female voice in the carriage says "This is taking too long!" Her name is Marisiano.

The pee person is named Lavardo. Lavardo is drunk.

So I can't tell if these dusk elves are shadar kai. It's funny, I never really thought about it, but they're extremely similar to each other. Shadar kai have more tattoos and piercings.

Shadar Kai
Paultin makes friends with them. He rides in the carriage with them. They pass by "leering buffalo", which might be catoblepases. Lavardo explains that Paultin is in the Shadowfell.

Back in Omu, the group is checking out the body of Ch'g'kare. They notice something else in here - a portal! Diath goes through. Everyone goes through.Waffles comes through the portal, too.

In the carriage, the ring of winter tells Paultin that it believes they were meant to be together in this place.
The road splits. Perched atop a hill is a snow-covered, dilapidated tavern. There's a lot of twig glyphs, protective wards and old crow cages hanging from the building.

Oh.. we learn that Marisiana has a bag of carved-off faces. And knives...

She pulls out a silver teardrop earring. A real teardrop frozen on the end of a hook. A gift from a grandmother to a grand daughter.

Meanwhile, Simon leads the waffle crew through the Shadowfell, hopefully toward Paultin. They begin to feel despair. The characters gain flaws imposed on them by the dark realm.
  • Evelyn and Diath: "I can't tell what's real anymore."
  • Strix: "I am convinced that this place is going to kill me."
  • Miranda: "I don't believe I can make a difference to anyone or anything."
Up ahead is a dude with a sack on his head riding a horse. He has a longsword. His name is Lord Nihil. The waffle crew makes a new friend!

Lord Nihil asks the adventurers, "Have you seen a coach pulled by an undead ogre? They attacked my estate?" He pulls the sack off.. his face has been shorn off.

Waffles is suffering from despair. She can't tell what's real! She attacks Miranda. Chris is making his weekly Miranda assassination attempt but she just won't die. It would be funny for him to up the stakes every week, making it more ridiculous/obvious. Like... a house falls on her. Make a Dex save.

To curb the owlbear's aggression, Strix turns Waffles into a baby chick.

At the bar, Paultin asks about the faces. The shadar kai want Paultin's face. They have a drinking contest. If Paultin loses, they get to cut off his face. This is like.. lose-lose.

Paultin loses. He wakes up later in  room in the inn. He feels his face. It's still there. He checks the mirror... yep, he still has his face. He comes downstairs. The dusk elves are drunk. They stop cavorting and laugh. They were just kidding! He can keep his face.

Then they tell him they want to help kill Paultin's friends...


The Shadowfell! Pretty cool. These face-cutting villains are apparently from the upcoming Tome of Foes.

This party split/conflict is really weird, but it's fun to watch because I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen.

We talked with Holly about this episode right here: