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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Dungeons & Dragons - A Guide to Flame

Today I'm going to write about a D&D villain who has been the focus of four published adventures and yet has a fairly low profile in the D&D world: Flame, the red dragon.

Flame was the subject of the iconic image that is the cover of the very first issue of Dungeon Magazine. Over the years, Flame kept being brought back in weirder ways. By 4th edition, he was actually the subject of a time travel adventure!

Here's some quick general notes:
  • Flame does things on a big scale. He likes to steal sailing ships and buildings. 
  • Tiamat becomes fond of Flame as these adventures progress.
  • Flame has a number of awesome lairs, including one inside a giant floating diamond.
  • We learn how mortal Vecna died! Seriously. I don't know if this is still canon.
  • Flame made babies with kobolds, giants and crocodiles.
  • There's a Flame clone, a Skeletal flame, and a demilich Flame!
Dungeon Magazine #1: "Into the Fire"

Written by Grant and David Boucher, this adventure is a classic assault on a dragon's lair. The group will have to deal with a number of random encounters o the approach and, once inside, the group must overcome the dragon's clever trap. If they survive, Flame has an absolutely massive dragon hoard ripe for the pillaging!

Backstory: 15 years ago, a prince vanished. Nobody knows it, but the prince's ship.. the entire ship!.. was pulled out of the sea by the red dragon known as Flame. Everyone on board died. That ship is now in Flame's treasure hoard.

The prince's necklace was recently found in some snowy mountains. The heroes are asked to head there and find out what happened to the prince.

Random Encounters: Along the way the heroes might have the misfortune of running into:
  • 20 ogres led by an ogre mage
  • A lone grey elf looking for shelter and "some companionship" (well!). 
  • Fire giants
  • An avalanche
  • A volcanic eruption
  • A wolfwere that tries to join the party to steal their magic items.
The Fallen Tower: The dragon lives in a crater at the top of a long-dormant volcano. The crater contains a lake filled with magma-heated water rising from old lava vents. Long ago, a wizard had built a tower in the crater, with the lake acting as a moat. Flame actually tipped the tower over and killed the wizard.

Flame's Trap: This is pretty rough. As the adventurers wander down a hallucinatory corridor:
  1.  A portcullis drops and possibly impales a character. The portcullis likely splits the party.
  2.  A pit opens up under the feet of the rear of the party, which drops them about 20 feet.
  3.  Flame breathes down the corridor. The fire fills the corridor and hits everyone in it, though the people who fell in the pit take half damage.
The idea here is that only the PCs in the front of the portcullis can fight the dragon. Flame hovers over a huge open cavern. The PCs will have to either walk out onto a side ledge or jump down 30 feet to engage Flame.

Flame Has Magic: Flame can see invisible, polymorph other, wears a necklace of frost resistance and has an ioun stone that frees him from the need to breathe.

Flame's Escape Plan: Flame will flee if he has to. There's a note that he'll probably fly right through the party to get out, giving each PC a free attack on him.

Once Flame is dead, the heroes get to search his lair for his mighty horde

Flame's Sleeping Chamber: Great flavor for his sleeping chamber: "You enter the chamber to see what was obviously the sleeping chamber for the great dragon. Tons of assorted clothes, furs, and cloth lie heaped on the ground, fully 20 feet thick at its deepest point. You can't help but think about all the beings that have been slain just to make this beast's bed. A large headboard, that appears to be made from the outer wall of a house, has the word "Flame" crudely burned into it."

The Treasure Hoard: This is the perfect flavor text for a dragon hoard:

"At last, you see the treasure of treasures, the dragon's hoard. The ransom of a king pales in comparison. The incredible might and ancient age of the dragon becomes apparent as you try to drink in the hundreds of contrasting period pieces. An imperial coach rests atop a massive pile of coins, its strong box precariously balanced on the roof. Even from this distance, you can see a pile of jewelry within.

Now your eye catches a silver-tipped beam of wood jutting away from you. You follow it back to its source and see the entire hull of a merchants' ship on one side of the cave. Scarred and battered, it lies tilted toward you with its masts broken off. Out of the ruptured hull spill the jewels of a thousand royal houses. Hundreds of similarly interesting artifacts duel for your attention. For a few moments, the sheer immensity of wealth holds you in a trance."

There's some awesome loot:
  • A pot of gold with a pile of little bones (yes, Flame killed a leprechaun and stole his pot of gold).
  • A large platinum chess set. The pieces are shaped in the forms of various creatures of good and evil.
  • A royal carriage made of oak with a tiara in it (maybe he killed Cinderella?!).
  • The boat! A "slightly crushed" merchant ship.
  • Chunks of adamantite stolen from a dwarven mine.

To me, this is a perfect "classic" dragon lair. It's unique, the dragon has a plan, the dragon is dangerous, and the treasure hoard is awesome.

Dungeon Magazine #17 - Out of the Ashes

The sequel! This one is for characters 8th to 12th level.

Backstory: The city of Justiminium is home to merchants, adventurers, and thieves guilds. Near it is the forest of Nograheim, a monster refuge. The law states: "Do not eliminate any cultures, clear section of the forest, or set up permanent fortifications." Awesome idea!

This adventure assumes that Flame was slain. We learn that, before he died, Flame had used a wish spell that would allow him to return to life were he to be slain. Tiamat granted the wish!

Tiamat: It is said that a dragon who dies of old age takes their treasure with them to Tiamat's lair, where the size of their "donation" determines their place in Tiamat's court. That might not work out so well with the looting that took place in the first adventure.

When slain, Flame returned to the material plane stripped of all spellcasting powers and treasures.

The Valley of Diamonds: Flame took refuge in a forest ruled by kobolds. The kobolds led Flame through the Valley of Diamonds to the Ring of Flame, a circle of volcanic mountains. At the center was a collapsed volcanic crater full of uncut diamonds. Flame touched the diamonds, and somehow regained his spells and some of his treasure.

In the center of the crater is a massive crystalline palace shaped like a huge diamond made of frozen fire magically suspended over a pool of lava. This is some crazy crap, right?
This was the home of Opikus the Dark, an evil mage. Flame killed him and claimed the place as his new lair. There's a vault inside that flame can't open. Supposedly there is a giant diamond in the vault worth 1 million gold!

Disguising himself as Opikus, Flame decided to hire adventurers to break the vault open.

Opikus: An old man with long graying red hair, a full beard and a bushy mustache. His black silk robes are embroidered in gold and silver. In life, Opikus was obsessed with obtaining the hand and eye of Vecna. He has a library dedicated to books and scrolls on the subject.

Vecna: As a reward, Opikus offers the group the hand and eye of Vecna!!

We learn more. According to this adventure, Vecna died in a mage-war that took place near the Ring of Flame. His corpse was flung into the great pool of lava in the crater, which triggered a huge eruption that destroyed all of the other wizards who took part in the mage war. The eruption brought forth a fountain of diamonds that rained down on the valley.

One of Vecna's minions survived and escaped with the eye and hand of Vecna.

Elemental Evil: When Vecna was thrown into the central volcano, the immortal forces of evil took revenge by sending the entire region into flame. Ogremoch caused a huge eruption that left a massive crater.

The god of good stepped in and made it so that the only way Ogremoch could get the diamonds back was to have someone summon the elemental prince of evil there, or to sacrifice the diamonds to him.

Opikus had been taking advantage of this. He'd been sending diamonds to Ogremoch in exchange for favors.

Tiamat wants to use the huge diamond to make a gem-topped staff to rival the powerful scepter of Asmodeus.

The Living Pass: This pass has animated frescoes that depict the mage-war. There are two frescoes:
  • One begins with the forces of good heading toward the ring of flame, and it ends with the death of Vecna. 
  • The other depicts the forces of evil triumphing over the slayers of Vecna. This scene ends depicting one of Vecna's minions fleeing with hand and eye.

There are a number of encounters in the valley:
  • A geyser that is a portal to the Elemental Plane of Water.
  • A band of frost giants led by Shegor the Strong and his pet dragon, Gerk (gerk means 'stupid' in giant). They were partying heavily when Flame showed up.
  • There's a monolith that, if touched, causes a djinn named Aradullah to appear. She wears flowing green silk and holds a silver goblet full of ruby red wine. She has been commanded to help good travelers only. Drinking from her goblet imparts knowledge.
  • There's a second monolith. This one is linked to Flame. Once you get within 50 feet of it, a magic mouth yells, "You're getting hotter!" and a fairly nasty trap goes off.

Inside the lair is all sorts of wackiness:
  • A gallery of cages holding a vampire, a medusa, and a beholder!!!
  • A maze of crystal-clear walls.
  • A frozen library that preserves books from decay.
  • Zagyg's flowing flagon: A magic item that will get you really, really drunk.
  • Giant golden balls that chase specific characters.
  • Guarding the vault is Geldoran, a type VI demon (I think that's a balor).
Dungeon Magazine #100 - Old Embers Never Die

Now we enter 3rd edition! Flame has been killed twice, now. We learn that, as an adult red dragon, Flame entrusted a githyanki wizard with a small chunk of his flesh, to be used to clone him should he meet an untimely end.

In addition to that, Flame's skeleton has become animated! A bunch of kobolds worship it in a swamp. So this adventure features two Flames.

Here is the description of skeletal flame: "A truly gigantic skeletal creature, the red pinpoint gleams in its eyesockets betray its animate nature... Bony wings creak and flap uselessly as it moves to attack."

The githyanki-raised Flame traveled to the western mountains, and found that fire giants had taken up residence in his lair from Into the Fire. He took control of the fire giant clan and "...fathered a half-dragon child with a comely fire giant maiden."

Underlings: Here are some of Flame's minions and offspring:
  • Skreebo, a half-red dragon/kobold who wields a red dragonfang greatsword. He's got two dire weasels.
  • Vermilona, a "dracolyte", which is a cultist who worships the dragon.
  • Dragonthralls: Creatures who pledge their life to the service of chromatic dragons.
  • 2 Ettins and a pack of hellhounds.
  • Pyrathax, half-red dragon, half fire giant.
  • A half-red dragon/giant crocodile. 

In case you're wondering where the draconic crocodiles came from, the adventure has you covered:
"One night about thirty years ago, after consuming an entire wagon of strong dwarven ale, the dragon polymorphed into a giant crocodile and frolicked with the crocodile denizens of the lake. By morning, Flame had forgotten all about the night before - but one particular female giant crocodile hadn't."

Battling the raised Flame actually involves returning to the original lair! It has been altered quite a bit. Pretty awesome.

Dungeon #200 - Flame's Last Flicker


Flame's been slain at least three times! Now what?

Well, Tiamat took Flame's soul and transformed him into one of her exalted - a trusted servant with designs on becoming an exarch. Technically, she turned him into a dragon demilich.

Flame has concocted a scheme to siphon off Bahamut's power and transfer it to Tiamat. She can use that power to drive Zehir from Tytherion (in 4e, Tiamat shares a plane with a snake god. They're at war).

Flame uses a stolen relic of Bahamut to divert souls to an area in the astral sea.

The heroes must find and destroy Flame's phylactery. Flame has multiple phylacteries, and hid them in the past.

Flame created a crystal island in the astral plane to divert the souls of Bahamut's faithful from their final rest.

From there, the heroes use an artifact sword called Justice's Edge to travel back in time. They're got to find and destroy three different phylacteries. Maybe I'm blind, but I don't see the first one anywhere in this adventure. I hit ctrl + f and everything.

The final battle is against Flame in his demilich form. Yes, he really is a giant, floating dragon skull!

What Comes After Demilich?

Could you make a 5th adventure? A ghost Flame? A planar dragon Flame?

Maybe the son or daughter of Flame?

Why not, right? Flame's whole gimmick is that he keeps coming back in different ways.

Pretty awesome! There's tons and tons of ideas to mine from these adventures, so definitely check them out!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Trapped in the Birdcage Episode 1


Trapped in the Birdcage is a new D&D show set in Sigil (!) run by Holly, who plays Strix on Dice, Camera, Action. Let's take a gander at what happened and how it went.

You can watch this show on Twitch right here.

The group is starting off at 3rd level.

The Party

(Anna) Wilhelmina - Human Rogue
(Jimmy Whetzel) Saturn - Human Bard
(Chad Quandt) Reader - Warforged Rogue
(Hadeel) Nejma - Elf Wizard

The show starts off with an intro involving a real-life set piece that Holly made, depicting the spire in the Outlands and 4 hanging cages. It's pretty awesome.

Each hero receives a magic scroll that sucks them into a dark, small room. Maybe a closet. Each scroll has a short phrase on it. I caught one: "I have passed to the innermost portal..."

Wilhelmina gasps, grabs Saturn's arm and tries to pick his pocket. It's the triangle. Saturn is a bard who plays the triangle. Jimmy actually has a triangle and it is tremendously amusing. He admits that it will be an uphill battle to convince the public to buy in to triangle-based music, but he is truly passionate about his craft.

Nejma, being an elf, has darkvision. She apparently just set fire to a circus tent prior to appearing here.. well, someone else did. Not her. We eventually learn that this is, in fact, a 3-alarm fire.

They find a door that opens into some kind of storage area that smells like old books. Yellow and green light. Behind a curtain, they hear clattering - they might be in a restaurant.

They see a black beak - it's a humanoid bird-woman. It's a wereraven! She tells the group to wait right there.

I just want to note that this show has 1,469 live viewers watching right now. Dice, Camera, Action has been getting about 2,300 lately. Holly is tremendously popular!

Bariaur

It turns out that we are in a tea shop. Customers: A bariaur (a goatman/centaur). A white-haired, blue-skinned woman with an owl on her shoulder, writing something. Two burly men with curled horns having a quiet conversation.

The wereraven's name is Crone. Wilhelmina wants to pick Crone's pocket. Sleight of Hand.. 22! She nabs a small plush dog.. kind of ratty, loved like a child. Holly says she has made a list of 100 trinkets to pull from. Tremendous.

Crone wants everyone to share their secrets with each other. Nejma is all ears. Reader, being a very literal sort of warforged, starts his tale with the day he emerged from the forge. He is on a quest to find out who killed his creator.

Crone leads the group to a room down below the tea shop, where there is a massive rotating planar thing known as the pentacosm. This is a magical planar device that has drawn the heroes here. The group has been "chosen" to help with an important task.

The adventurers agree to help. Crone wants to test the group. She says has a bit of a rat problem under the tea shop. She notes that there are also steam mephits down there that steam water for her tea.
Mephits
Reader sticks a candle and puts it on his head and down we go. Reader thinks that if he makes rat sounds, he can draw the rats out. "Squeak. Squeak."

The mephits are alarmed by the group's presence and attack!  A mephit lets out a blast of steam. Saturn takes 11 points of damage. He's got 27 hit points.

Nejma calls out that she's a bad bitch... she is hilarious. Saturn stabs a mephit through the heart and slays it.

The remaining mephit lets out a burst of steam. Everyone makes their save except Saturn again. Only 5 damage this time.

They cast sleep on the other mephit. It fails its save. Reader thinks that the mephit is a child and he cradles it in his arms.

The group realizes that they don't have a healer and groaning ensues. The heroes are annoyed at Crone. They start heckling her, shouting up the stairs.

Saturn hears something calling his name. Thousands of voices. Now they're calling for Wilhelimina. There's something beyond a door.

There's a rat on Nejma's shoulder... no, there's nothing there.

Reader tucks his baby in to some blankets and puts him somewhere safe. He approaches the door. Burned on the door is the word: "Rats". Beyond the door is a long dark hallway.. a shard of light, black water around some stones.

The heroes try to create a light source, but the light is gobbled up by the darkness in the hallway. Some entities speak all of their names at once.

Reader boldly walks down the hallway. He finds a large mirror that is fastened to a large, iron rat claw.

He sees a vision in the mirror. Rats rampaging through the streets of a city ripping everything apart. They feel a need to consume and destroy. As the image fades, a voice in their mind says, "We are the Us. We know you now. And we will find you."

I don't know if this is a spoiler or not, o skip this paragraph if you don't want to know the deal with the rats. The Us is a cranium rat hive-mind. Cranium rats have psychic powers, and when they get together, they combine into a swarm that has incredible psychic power. They're in Volo's Guide to Monsters and in most 2nd edition Planescape products. 

Wilhelmina tries to remove the mirror from the big claw, but the mirror is fastened tightly. After the group messes with it a bit, it shatters. Wilhelmina feels a rush of cold air. She pockets a shard of the mirror.
The group figures out that this was a scrying mirror attuned to a killer rat-thing.

The group leaves the hallway. The mephit is snoozing. Saturn wants to kick it. Saturn is injured badly and is not happy about it at all. He curbstomps it for 1 point!

The mephit wakes up. It's about to attack. Wilhelmina wiggles the doll she stole at it. The idea of them treating the mephit like a baby cracks me up.

Saturn wants to kick it again. The group isn't having it.

Reader asks, "Are we the bad guys?"

Saturn kicks the mephit and knocks it out. Then he snatches the doll.

The adventurers hear Crone call out "No!" They go upstairs. Crone asks them if they broke the mirror. Nejma immediately sells out Wil.

Crone, dismayed, explains that she used the mirror to spy on the rats, her enemy. Nejma goes, "Maybe we can just tape it back together" and I die laughing.

Crone wants the shard of the mirror that Wil stole. She says she can protect the group from the Us, but that they will need to work with her.

There's a frantic knocking on the tea shop door. It's the bariaur who was in the shop earlier. He's begging to come back in. Crone opens it. The bariaur falls to the ground, a bloody mess.

That's where we stop!

Overall

Maybe I am biased because I am a Holly fan, but I honestly feel like she is a natural when it comes to DMing. The whole thing flowed really well, smooth from beginning to end. Holly seemed extremely comfortable and totally at home in the DM's chair.

Any time she needed to look something up, she did it in mere seconds. Clearly she was well-prepared.

I really like all of the players, especially Hadeel. I think she's hilarious and I love her character. 

There are a lot of D&D shows out there, so I get that you might not have time to watch more, but this one was really good. It didn't drag like a lot of them do. I floated through the whole 2 hours without watching the clock at all.

You won't be overburdened with Planescape lore, either. Holly kept it simple, which I think is smart. The factions, the Lady, the layout of the city, the Outlands, and all of that stuff is a bit complicated. Easing the players and the viewers in to the Planescape experience seems like a good decision.

Check it out! It's good stuff and a nice way to learn about, or get re-acquainted with, Planescape.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Dice, Camera, Action Episode 80 - Tomb of Annihilation

Episode 80: Kaboom it May Concern

Rachel has returned and will be playing Miranda again tonight! This was a heck of an episode.

 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

Last time, a magic egg-bomb had activated. This thing is counting down and the explosion will have the  power of 10,000 magic missiles. That's like 10,000d4 + 10,000 force damage, at least!

The group rolls initiative. The heroes are in the fane of the night serpent. Lying nearby is the corpse of someone Miranda knew.

Evelyn says she's going to use the bomb to destroy the Soulmonger. Paultin goes invisible.

Diath realizes that this thing is going to explode in less than one minute.

Diath has a great idea. He wants Paultin to freeze it!

Chris has a real life stopwatch going. The players freak out.

Paultin thinks the waffle hut could survive the nuke. The group determines that there is no time to cast leomund's tiny hut. It takes one minute to cast.

Evelyn wants to defuse the egg bomb. Insight check.. 9. No luck.

Strix wants to take it and dimension door outside. No.. she casts dimension door and throws it through. Now it's outside.

Paultin casts suggestion on Paultin and tells him to call Shemeshka. Diath and Strix are really angry about this. Paultin forces Diath to use the key on Gutter to summon Shemeshka.

Diath asks Shemeshka for help. She says, "I have to protect my one percent." She casts banishment on him! He is shunted to his home plane!? Sigil?

Diath appears at an elegant costume party. There are humans, a tiefling, and gnome servants holding platters with flutes of wine on them. They're talking in small groups.

There's a band in one corner performing live. The ceiling is arched and has glass panels. Through the glass panels Diath can see .. a city above. He's in Sigil. Sigil is built on the inside of a hollow donut with weird gravity, so when you look up you see building tops.

Shemeshka puts a paw on his shoulder. Diath says he wants to go back, but she says that would be suicide.

Paultin declares that he thought this would work out a little better.

Estavan

Estavan is here? Cameo! He's a semi-major NPC from the 2e Planescape products.

Diath tries to put the key in the blade of his sword, but nothing happens.

He puts the blade on himself and says, "If you want your investment, put me back..."

Back in Omu, Evelyn's flying down below in the caves with her boots of flying. She comes upon a boat floating on the underground river.

Strix starts crying. Paultin actually yells at her and tells her to try something. Miranda tells Paultin to step back. Paultin goes invisible and he takes a step forward and becomes visible, being somewhat menacing.

Paultin argues with Miranda, then uses his mandolin to fly after Evelyn. Yo...

Back in Sigil, Diath asks again... "How do I disable the Halruaan bomb?"

"You can't. It's too late." Shemeshka says two of the group will survive because of their bonus souls.

Diath looks up and sees a huge, weird clock. The hands are moving in weird ways.

He creeps up to Shemeshka and puts the tip of his blade in her back. Yiikkeesss. "Return me or save them all."

"What if you go back and you can't save them? What will you have gained?"

I'll save them. If I don't... their fate is the same as mine."

"I suppose I won't lose anything in the long run. But you owe me. Agreed?"

Diath hands over a key and appears back in Omu, right next to the Halruaan bomb. It's lying in the garden of a crumbled down palace.

Evelyn is outside in the Lost City of Omu. Sunlight reflects off her blade and shines toward a cliff far away. She sees Dragonbait leading the sidekicks and pets into the jungle, trying to get them to a safe place in case the egg explodes..

Evelyn sees the bomb.. she wants to grab it and fly up. Diath stops her.

Strix is in gaseous form. She shuts it off and casts gaseous form on Miranda. Wait.. no. Miranda points out she doesn't need that spell, as she can turn into a bird. They agree to fly out of there as fast as possible.

Outside, Diath notices that there's a keyhole on the bomb. Diath busts out his thieves' tools.. no, first he'll try a Shemeshka key. He sticks the key in. It turns. it clicks. The bomb stops. His key disintegrates.

The group is safe! Bomb is shut off.

Diath is not happy with Paultin and chastises him. Strix isn't happy with him either.

Paultin says it all worked out and he doesn't appreciate the wrist slap. Paultin casts dimension door and ditches the party. He takes Simon with him.

Uh oh.... little yuan-ti Typho comes out of nowhere and stabs Miranda in the back... 32 points of damage from the sneak attack and 5 from the poison! Miranda survives! The group attacks him. She drops an insect plague on him and Typho is done for.

Diath calls out for Paultin. That's where we stop.

Overall


I have a lot of theories! Very good show. I agree with Paultin... they were all about to die. He saved them. Go ahead and be mad, at least you're alive!


We did a lot of waffle talking about this episode right here:


Sunday, February 11, 2018

More Thoughts on Running the Tomb of Annihilation


I ran some more Tomb of Annihilation last night and I have a lot of thoughts running through my head.

You can watch it on twitch here. It will be on youtube in a few weeks.

I got art of the epic aboleth fight from last week. Check it out:

Pretty cool, right? It is by Vaughn Distrito.

When I first started using this artist, I really wasn't too sure about the comic book style, but now I'm very happy with it. It's a fun idea to have a different art style for each group. It's sort of like in 2e how they had one main artist for Dark Sun, another for Al Qadim, and another for Planescape.

Missing Players: Two players couldn't make it this week, so it was just Ramrod, Mistletoe, and Asana. We've had a death in each of the last three sessions, so I was definitely worried.

"Writing out" characters is something I don't worry about any more. Way back when, I'd spend time trying to think of a logical way to explain why they're gone or inactive.

Over time, I have found that the best way to handle it is to just move on. Otherwise, you'll end up jumping through hoops that can affect the session in weird ways. I never want to be in a position where an absent player's character dies. That does not go well at all, ever!

Handling the Tomb: There are a bunch of groups in the tomb at the same time. They've been leaving each other notes. I've been doing a lousy job of remembering what notes are where.

Basically, I've been missing a million little things, and it's driving me nuts. On the second level of the central stairwell, there is a plaque that I have repeatedly forgotten to mention or describe. It's got clues that would have been helpful to the heroes.

Using Roaming Monsters: Before the game, I had a tough choice to make. Withers and the tomb dwarves are supposed to come up and reset traps. Poor Lemuel died in the wine room, so that needs to be reset. From page 141: "At dawn the next day, Withers sends tomb dwarves to clean up the room and tunnel, after which the wine cisterns magically refill and the trap resets."

That means I probably should have started this session with a battle against more tomb dwarves, assuming the heroes go to check out the wine room. During their long rest, the adventurers heard the wine spill out of the room and cascade down the central stairwell.

A fight against tomb dwarves felt like a drag to me - a time-waster. There's enough to do in this place, right? I don't want to bog it down with a fight I've run a few times already.

I can and probably should be having Withers attacking the groups while they rest, but that would mean sessions full of battles with the same creatures, and I really want to get on with it.

Also... I was looking through the book to see where Withers might be lurking once his office was trashed. For a moment I thought I remembered that he was way down with the hags. It turns out I got mixed up. There's a guy named Mister Threadneedle down there. In my head, Mister Threadneedle is quite similar to Withers - a thin flunky that serves the main bad guys.

Mr. Threadneedle is described on page 183. He doesn't talk at all.

The group awoke and made their way to the wine room. Were they going to trigger the trap? They found poor Lemuel's dead body and grabbed the two skeleton keys. After a lot of careful searching, they drained one tunnel of wine and found a crawlspace within.

This crawlspace led to Nangnang's tomb on page 143. The deal here is that there's a magic circle holding an invisible monster (a grey slaad). There's a sarcophagus in here, too.

I couldn't remember how everything worked in this room, and scrambled to re-read it as I ran it. I had the slaad attack the group as soon as they stepped foot in the circle. Two notes about this place:
  • The slaad is free if someone enters the boundary area of the circle.
  • You should probably not have the slaad attack until someone opens the urn and gets hit with the trap. Deadly!
The slaad attacked the group, did piles of damage, but then the tide turned against it. It turned invisible so it could move without provoking a billion opportunity attacks.

Dispel Magic vs. Invisibility: That's when a tough question came up. Does dispel magic work on invisibility? The dispel magic entry does not say "....on a target you can see". Does that mean you can just cast dispel magic blindly to shut off invisibility?

At the time, I ruled that the caster could do it, because I had went out of my way to tell the group that they could hear the slaad moving around. I figured that the caster had a general idea of where the slaad was.

Looking it up now, here's an official answer.

It looks like I made a good call. If the caster has a good idea of where the invisible creature is (probably by listening for it), then they can dispel the invisibility. If the caster has no idea where the invisible creature might be, they cannot dispel it.

Looking at the invisible condition on PH page 291, it says: "For the purposes of hiding, the creature is heavily obscured."

Heavily obscured is one of those really annoying hard-to-find things in the PH. It's on page 183.  "A creature effectively suffers from the blinded condition when trying to see something in that area."

Room 57: The slaad ended up trying to plane shift away but it went wrong (he got sucked into room 57). Later, they freed the genie (immediately) from page 142. She also tried to plane shift and ended up in room 57! It might be fun to roll out the battle going on in there - otyugh vs slaad, winner fights the genie?

Later, the heroes encountered the giant stone head in room 18. The group was very cautious, which is a good thing. The hole in the mouth leads down to room 35b, one of the rooms I've had a really hard time getting a handle on.

The one thing I'm really happy with is that I remembered to use the purple mold (see "alien growth" on page 146). Mistletoe used a flaming sphere to destroy one patch at a time, causing others to sprout eyestalks and shoot rays at him.

He got very lucky! I rolled randomly, and kept getting the "slow" ray.

Flaming Sphere: One question that came up - can he control the flaming sphere without looking at it? He was in another room. I decided that he did need to see it. He's trying to run over patches of mold, it seems like there's a good chance he'd struggle trying to do it blindly.

The heroes ended up smartly going all the way around and finding the exterior of room 35b. I think I understand this area now, but just barely. It's something I will definitely need to re-read right before I run it.

I'm really enjoying the tomb so far!

I'll be running a special Spelljammer game tonight on Twitch! I'd better get preparing for that, now.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Hosting Waffle Talk: The Dice, Camera, Reaction Show


Most of you are probably aware that I've been recapping Dice, Camera, Action since the show began. I am a big Chris Perkins fan, and I really wanted to watch him run a game and see what I could learn.

Chris Perkins: I first became aware of this D&D author/entity called Chris Perkins when I was a kid. He worked on Dungeon Magazine, which I would get in the mail once every 2 months or so. He wrote two adventures in Dungeon Magazine that I was dying to run: Umbra and Bzallin's Blacksphere.

I ran a wobbly version of Umbra for my friends right after that issue came out. I sat on Bzallin's Blacksphere for two decades before finally running it for my 5e Planescape group a few months ago. Bzallin's is a very high-level adventure, so I found it very hard to fit it in to a campaign.

During the 4th edition era, Chris wrote a column called the "DM Experience", where he wrote about running D&D. I love those articles, though they're hard to find now. It was at that time that his stuff really resonated with me.

I was running tons of 4e, and I didn't know many other people doing the same. Chris would write about stuff I experienced, and his articles helped me figure out the best way to run 4th edition.

So I've been writing these Dice, Camera, Action recaps every week for a few years now. Every once in a while on twitter, one of the members of the show would interact with me. Each time, I'd get all cold and sweaty. I'd type out a response, then erase it and run outside while screaming.

Once I started running live D&D shows on Twitch, I knew I wanted to do a DCA post-show with some of my friends, who are also DCA super-fans. That's Scarlet Moth and Shauna Nakasone.

Scarlet Moth is a cosplayer and artist from Australia. She plays in my Tomb of Annihilation games. She's a very good player and I really admire her social media skills.

Shauna Nakasone is a cosplayer and artist. She plays in my Mezro/Omu/Tomb group. She's one of those exemplary D&D players that is always focused, is funny/fun to play with, and comes up with cool character concepts.

Both of them are big DCA fans like myself, so what the heck! Sounds like fun, right?


Doing the Show: What I did not expect was for the cast to go out of their way to mention it and promote it on the actual Dice, Camera, Action show! Our first episode of Waffle Talk got a heck of a lot more viewers than I expected.

The following week, some members of the cast expressed interest in actually being on the show! From that point on, I've been in a sort of dream-like trance. How lucky am I?

I'm not a show host. I'm just a dude who likes D&D. But..! Being a dungeon master gives you life skills! Running a game of D&D is like running a meeting at work, or planning a party, or hosting an event. You've got to wrangle people, keep an eye on everyone, and get through the event in a smooth manner while helping everyone enjoy themselves.

So, hosting the show is not a big deal for me. This is one of those occasions where I'm "DMing life". When I was a manager at a toy store and we had to move shelving around, I'd DM the plan-o-gram and give each worker a "quest". I mean, not literally, but that's what was going on in my head. 

Not that I'm the best host or anything like that, but I am saying I can do it and get through it.

The technical side can be a bit of a pain. On one episode, my computer just froze. I have absolutely no idea what happened. I had to reboot. It sucked.

Then on another show, I had a minute where my overlay (the thing you see on the screen) messed up. It's a bit hard to explain. When using Skype to connect with everyone, I pull video from Skype and place it under the overlay. If that Skype page gets shifted for some reason, everything gets screwed up. My giant head will be half in one box and half in another.

So I'm a bit wobbly, but overall the show is going great. I got to talk with two of my favorite D&D stream people!

Guest Stars: Holly was awesome. I really want to pick her brain about Planescape and old versions of Strix, but I'm not sure how much most DCA fans want to hear about that. There's more pressing issues to deal with!

Anna was great, too. I was worried that I was wasting too much of her time, so I tried to end the show after about half an hour, but she actually wanted to stay longer! She talked a bit about a version of Evelyn that she used in a prior campaign (on Misscliks Outbreak, I believe). I had absolutely no idea about any of that!

Once those guest star episodes aired, I got a big pile of new subscribers to both my Youtube channel and my Twitch channel.

The best thing of all is that madi monimoliburb actually made us a logo out of the blue! How awesome is that?  I immediately stuck it on everything.

Overall: I'm not religious, but I feel very "blessed". Thank you to everyone who has supported me! I never thought I'd get to actually talk to Holly or Anna. It was surreal. It was sort of like watching Iron Man 2, and then Robert Downey, jr, looks at me through the movie screen and starts talking to me.

Fun fact: I once ran a game where a player insisted that she have NPC Robert Downey, jr. as a sidekick for her D&D character. Not an NPC who looked like Robert Downey, jr. It was literally Robert Downey, jr. He got killed by two selkies.

You can watch us waffle talk every Tuesday on my Twitch channel or on the Youtube machine.

If you have fan art that you want me to use on the show, send it to me, bah gawd!

Also, if you have questions about Dice, Camera, Action, ask them in the live chat or email them to me. Check out the DCA subreddit, too.

Thanks to everyone for reading this, buying my DMs Guild products and watching my goofy games. Because of your support, I am getting to do a lot of fun things and I greatly appreciate it.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

What is Known About Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes

You can order Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes here.

The new D&D book is coming out in May! It's called Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes, and it going to be somewhat similar to Volo's Guide to Monsters. It has new monsters, new character race options and tons of lore.

What exactly is in this book has been discussed on a number of D&D shows so far. I watched them all and present them to you in text form via the series of tubes known as the internet.

Quite a bit of cool stuff was put out in playtest form months ago. A final version of these races will appear in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes:
  • Elf Subraces: Avariel, grugach, sea elves, and shadar-kai.
  • Variant Tieflings (tieflings bound to archdevils such as Dispater, Glasya, Mephistopheles, and others). Also, demonic boons, details on different cults of demons and devils.

General Notes


The overall idea is that this book focuses on grand cosmic conflicts. Mordenkainen, a legendary wizard, keeps an eye on everything and does his bet to maintain a balance. He believes that if one side wins in one of these conflicts (such as the demon wiping out the devils completely) then the entire multiverse might be in danger.

Mordenkainen leaves little notes in the book like Volo did in Volo's. Apparently, Shemeshka (a Planescape NPC) is somehow featured too. It was said on one broadcast that Shemeshka tole Mordenkainen's notes and cobbled them together to form this book.

As far as the tone of he notes, this was said: :Mordenkainen is very sassy."

Player Stuff

Tons of new race options:
  • Elf Subraces: Avariel, grugach, sea elves and shadar-kai. Also, a new, expanded version of the eladrin.
  • Tieflings with special abilities linked to the different archdevils.
  • Githzerai and githyanki as player races.
  • Duergar as a playable race.

Lore

This book gives tons of detail on certain races, factions, and conflicts.

Dwarves and Duergar: The origin of the dwarves and their war with the duergar.

Elves and Drow: We got quite a bit of information on elf-related content:
  • Elves have fey ancestry. The book delves into the creation story of the elves. Sounds like they're changing/adding some stuff. Up until now it is believed that the first elves formed from the tears of Corellon.
  • Details on the schism between the drow and the other elves.
  • Details on actual elves high elves, wood elves, eladrin, and shadar kai.
  • Dicussion on the elven gods.- gods of the elves
  • The eladrin and their relationship with their elven kin. Unlike other elves, the eladrin have connected deeply to the Feywild. Other eladrin are so transformed by the Feywild that they become fey.. or even archfey.
  • Some archfey have gone to Arvandor to dwell with the elf gods.
  • "This book has elfy elves."
  • Corellon, the parent of elves, playful inattentive parent. Lolth provided direction and definition. Lolth long ago convinced almost all of the elves to go with her. Toward the end, many of the elves had regrets about siding with Lolth and they flinched before going over the edge.
  • Why are there so many kinds of elves? There is a strong story reason. In their original fey form, elves could assume all sorts of different forms.
The Blood War (demons vs. devils): We get information on the blood war. Everywhere in the cosmos is a potential battleground. The book will include ways that the blood war can be intertwined with lower level adventurers.

Githyanki and Githzerai: There was a weird comment about gith art. "We can't use any old art from Dragon or previous adventures or OP event art..." Why? Their "..costuming is very different."

The book includes a painting of Vlaakith, the lich queen. She still leads the githyanki.

Halflings and Gnomes: The book also details Two unusual cultures that have no major conflicts - halflings and gnomes.

The gnome section includes lots of clockwork creatures like "A little robot guy with two shields" and "a little mechanical frog." There's a table for creating crazy gnome inventions, which sounds great.
Do you think they include giant space hamsters?

Monsters

Half of Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes is devoted to new monsters. About half of the monsters in the book are Challenge 10 or higher.

Archdevils: There are stats for all of the archdevils (Asmodeus, Mephistopheles, and the others).
Moloch is also statted out.

Moloch?!

The Idolin: The idol on the 1e player's handbook is iconic. What was it supposed to be? It is a monster first mae in 4e known as an "idolin", a giant animated statue. Supposedly, Dave Trampier (the artist of the 1e cover)  nicknamed it Molly, short for "Moloch". It does look quite similar to early depictions of Moloch.

Moloch: The deposed archdevil Moloch is statted out in this book.

Eladrin: There are eladrin in the monstrous section

Elder Elementals:  There are a number of "elder elementals" in the book. One is apparently known as "The Leviathan". These are city-destroying type creatures with power on the level of the Tarrasque.

I imagine this might include the elemental lords of good (Ben Hadar, Sunni, and the others) and probably a bunch of 4e primordials..?

Yugoloths: The neutral evil mercenary fiends.

Shadowfell-Themed Creatures: On one show it was noted that Volo's had a lot of feywild material. This book focuses on the Shadowfell. Some of the Shadowfell monsters are brand new.

Cambions: There are cambion variants - abilities you can apply to the cambion stat block

Cultists: Lots of info on creating infernal and abyssal cults. This book has add-on powers that can be applied to the base cultist stat blocks in the Monster Manual. 
I'll be updating this with previews and information as I learn more!

You can order Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes on amazon right here.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Dice, Camera, Action Episode 79 - Tomb of Annihilation

Episode 79: The Nightmare Scenario
Ross and Rachel are both guest stars this week. Last week's show was awesome, looking forward to what will happen tonight!

 The Party

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


Nate got in on the show a bit late, but it didn't affect anything. Looks like Chris is running this from home. He's sick, but he's still running the game. Dedication!

Last time, Evelyn ended up in the tomb, Diath is in some weird version of Waterdeep where the yuan-ti are trying to recruit him. and Strix is in a maze with Ubtao. Miranda is in the yuan-ti temple with Paultin, Dragonbait, the animals, and vegepygmies.

Miranda creates a gloaming court, a safe place to rest. She asks Paultin about the ring of winter. She explains that the elves sent the ring away for a reason. Miranda doesn't think it's safe in his hands.

Strix is in the mazes with Ubtao. She's really angry about her situation. The Evelyn doll consoles her.


Strix hears something big coming toward her from the mazes. The trees that make up the maze split open. Here comes a hut walking on chicken feet. It's Baba Yaga's dancing hut!

Ubtao wants her to run, but she refuses. The Diath puppet is on her hat.


Meanwhile in the tomb, Evelyn comes to a room with a panel. She has the egg bomb that, if set off, will create a massive explosion of force damage.

She tries to calm down and prays: "Lathander, it's me. Evelyn your servant. I don't know what to do. I don't know why you blessed me with these people. Their souls are in danger, I don't know how to stop it.  I'm nothing without you."

She asks for help in deciphering the symbols on the wall.

Oh no. Guess who's here? Wumba..! Wumba tries to answer her prayer,  pretending to be Lathander but she sees right through it.

He sees the console and the black egg bomb. There are a few creatures heading this way - gargoyles with four arms. Wumba spits in Evelyn's face. I hate this dude.

Wumba starts messing with the dials. The nearby rooms shake and rotate. The gargoyles are no longer able to get at Evelyn.

Meanwhile, Diath has three yuan-ti ladies writhing around him. He asks them, "What makes you think I have an ancient soul?" He gets to his feet.

Fenthaza strokes his face and says he'd be so much prettier with scales.

She points him to a door that opens on its own. Fenthaza says, "We can't help you, you must face him alone." In the room is a rectangular room with a slab of stone with a bleeding dead body on it.  Looks like a tiefling.


Ras Nsi is in here! Diath draws Gutter and he charges Ras Nsi.

Elsewhere, Paultin is hanging out. He can detect Waffles' sense of failure. Paultin tells her he's looking for a new group. Miranda points out that she lost  her group, too.

In the mazes, Strix spots Ubtao's talisman hooked on a tree and takes it. She looks at the maze inscribed on it and notes that there is no exit.

Strix remembers that Ubtai will grant favor to the one who can find their path through his maze. She traces her finger through the maze and gets a number of splinters. She tries to use her tongue to find her way through the maze.I can't imagine how painful that must be!

The air in front of her rips open... it's a gash in the fabric of the realm. She sticks her head in. She sees Diath. He runs right past her (Jared rolled a one on his perception check to notice her).Jared attacks Ras Nsi.

In the tomb, Wumba slips out of Evelyn's grasp. He tries to reason with her. Evelyn makes him flinch and he poops his pants a little bit.

He tells her, "I'm the only people you got.." and he dabs.

There are pipes in here. Something is crawling through them. It's another Wumba..?! Ross controls both of them. A hashtag is born: #Dab4Dendar.

Evelyn tries to stop Wumba from hitting a button. She hits him for 14 damage. He presses a button.

Evelyn hits the blue button. Everyone in the party suddenly hears a sound like a PA system coming on. A third Wumba pops out.

Paultin agrees to sneak back into the yuan-ti lair using pass without a trace. Paultin and Miranda go down by the water, near the door that enters the yuan-ti lair. There's a giant serpentine creature in the water. Paultin heard it but can't see it. Here's a second head.. third.. fourth.. it's a hydra!

Paultin aggressively turns on the sun sword like Kylo Ren. a five-headed! He's going to fight it!

Chris loses his connection and Jared quickly takes over as DM, dispensing 80 potions of healing. Chris is back.

It's Ras Nsi's turn. Ras slices into Diath and drops him, but Diath is death-warded. He has one hit point. Ras Nsi slices into him again! He's dying. Ras constricts Strix.

The Wumbas form a battlestack. OK, that's pretty good. The stack is one foot taller than Evelyn. The Wumbas offer to help with the buttons and levers. All three Wumbas spit on Evelyn. Guh.

Wumba throws anpther wounded Wumba at her.

Miranda goes in to the dungeon and she can hear Strix screaming.

Strix misty steps away from the grasp of Ras Nsi and she drops a fireball on him. She kills him! His sword clatters to the ground.

Chris almost skipped her turn, but the chat set things straight. That was pretty big right there.

Evelyn converts one of the Wumbas to Lathander?!!? Hilarious. Evelyn tells Lathander that "Even the lowest of us are blessed by your holy light." Wumba is offended.

Chris's dog Milo appears on camera! Rare.

Evelyn pulls the lever.. the floor opens up. She and the Wumbas fall into the room where Strix and Diath are. No more Wumbas. And here comes Miranda and Paultin.

Paultin's down. Miranda heals her. She quickly picks up Ras Nsi's sword.

Miranda is sad.. her firends are dead. Evelyn walks over to Strix.

Evelyn initiates a group hug and includes Miranda.

Strix asks Diath if he's an angel.

Make perception checks... Miranda rolls a 27.

They hear ticking! The egg bomb!!!

That's where we stop.

Overall

Great episode! It was a surreal half-dream episode, but very cool. Chris actually split the entire party and made it work! Pretty awesome.

We talked about this episode on Waffle Talk with Anna Prosser Robinson! Was epic:

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Thoughts on Running the Tomb of Annihilation

Poor WebDM Jim!

I've been running a ton of D&D on youtube and twitch! Here's my rough schedule:

Tuesdays 9 - 11 PM EST: Waffle Talk! Discussing the newest episode of Dice, Camera, Action.

Thursdays 7 - 9 PM EST D&D, usually the Mezro group.

Saturdays: 6:30 - 8:30 PM EST Either the main tomb of annihilation group or the lizard king group.

Some Sundays 6:30 - 8:30 PM EST: The adventurers league group. That's DMs Guild Adept Lysa Chen, the WebDM fellers, and RPG author Craig Campbell.

Running a D&D "Shared Universe"

It is really great to get to run games that you, the reader, can check out. Back in 2008-2015, I was running 2-3 games per week at a game store. Sometimes I'd have characters from the different groups "cross over", but since I was the only 'audience', nobody cared but me!

I actually had seven level 30 heroes from three different 4e campaigns team up and go through a conversion of the Expedition to the Demonweb Pits. For me, it was like seeing Batman meet Spiderman. For them, it was just D&D with new people.

I hope that, now, someone out there can feel the same thrill that I do when this kind of thing happens.

Running the First Half of ToA


For me, running the Tomb of Annihilation has been filled with a "let's hurry up and get to the actual tomb" feeling. That jungle section will KILL your campaign if you don't keep it light and snappy. I think any sandbox/long journey section in these 5e adventures has that particular pitfall.

Exploring the city of Omu was better. The trickster god shrines didn't come off as well as I'd have liked. I didn't feel like I was able to wrap my head around most of them, except for the Unkh shrine.

The King of Feathers
 
I am very picky when it comes to using monsters. I'm not a fan of most of the creatures in the city - kobolds, yuan-ti, grung and vegepygmies. I tried not to use them unless it was necessary.

Instead, I focused on the unique t. rex known as the King of Feathers.

I feel like I kind of blew it with that monster. I set it up so that the King of Feathers ate a dude who had a puzzle cube. The group would have to steal the cube from the King's ruined amphitheater while the dinosaur slept!

Pretty interesting, right?

Well, I didn't put enough thought into it. This whole scenario boiled down to two stealth checks. The stealthy character rolled two successes. Puzzle cube stolen, King still asleep. Fart.

When planning an encounter, I think it's always a good idea for a DM to think, "what if they succeed on every roll?"

That's tough, because you don't want to punish the group for succeeding, but you also don't want an anticlimax. Something exciting should come out of it, right?

In this instance, I think I should have foreshadowed a bunch of annoying flying monkeys or an oncoming storm. So then, when the character puts their hands on the puzzle cube and begins to creep away, the monkeys do something loud or lightning strikes - either way, this wakes up the King. Run!

Using the Tomb Maps

I really love running the actual tomb. If you are running this online, you really should consider dropping the $25 to get the tomb maps by Mike Schley. They enhance my online games big time. Each dungeon level is $2 on its own.

You can get some of those maps for free from Dragon+! They might not be there forever, so you should nab them as soon as you can.

Actually Running the Tomb

I absolutely love running this dungeon. As a DM, it is so thrilling to watch the heroes go into a death trap. Will they die? Will they figure it out? Will they do something you never thought of (yes, they will)?

That said, it's so tough to keep everything in your mind at once. Here are things that feel very easy to forget.

The Ceilings are Low: Check out page 126. Ceilings are twelve feet high! The heroes won't be flying out of the reach of earthbound villains.

Know Room 57: You must remember that list of altered spells on page 129! Most of them transport you to room 57 (page 168). I had a single character get sucked into room 57 and the poor guy got murdered by the beast in there. Remember.. this room is full of corpses 6 feet deep and the ceiling is only 12 feet high total, so it's quite cramped in there! Also.. the corpses are difficult terrain. That might be important.

Don't Forget the Grate: In area 5 on level 1, there's an intersection with a lot of stuff in it. One thing that I feel like I didn't portray well enough is the grate in the floor that leads to the underground waterway. It's something the group would definitely be aware of - rushing water noise and the danger of stepping on it. Those who go through that grate can find one really cool room, and I feel like I robbed my players of that experience (though ultimately, I think they'd be happy to skip it).

BE DETACHED: Thank the sweet Lord that I've learned this over the years. When running a trappy dungeon like this, you might find yourself being too excited to have a trap go off. If a group circumvents that trap, you may feel the urge to force them into the trap anyway, just because you think the trap is cool and you really, really want to have it go off.

Don't do it! Follow this credo: "Let the dice fall where they may." My cautious players melted that statue in area 8. Hey, they were careful! They were smart. Let the dungeon be the dungeon, don't let your enjoyment of the game hinge on triggering the death traps.

Also, keep in mind that the aftermath of DM blood lust isn't pretty. On some level, the players can sense when you're going at them hard and resentment can build.

On the flip side, if you're fair and they overcome an obstacle through clever play, they are very happy and they enjoy the session immensely. Even though you might feel that it was a flop because there was no threat to them, they don't feel that way at all.

The Stairs: Those stairs in area 7.. they go down four levels! Each flight of stairs has a plaque or a tomb dwarf or something. It's a real pain in the nuts to run (for me, anyway).

Be ready for the group to want to get a gander at that room all the way at the bottom of the stairs (room 45, with the pit and the gargoyles). You should definitely know that room. It's not too complicated, but if you aren't expecting the group to check it out, you might stumble a bit or bring the game to a screeching halt.

Withers: Running Withers is tricky. He's got that amulet that lets him teleport away like a true villain. But he's only got 45 hit points! My Withers almost died right away.

I find myself in a quandary: The heroes have trashed his office. Where does he go? What does he do now? And.. how many other tomb guardians are in the tomb?

The book leaves it open, noting that "one or two tomb guardians should appear whenever you feel the need for combat." Where do they come from? The group trashed room 27, where the guardians are made.

Don't forget that the tomb guardians are medium-sized. For some reason, I had it in my head that they are large. They're not. The hallways in the tomb are only five feet wide, which means that large creatures can't be marching through the tomb willy nilly.

The Magnet: Running room 8 is deceptively difficult. There's a magnetic suit of armor that affects people who step into the room. How do you get the group to tell you who walks into the room without meta-game tipping them off by asking, "DO YOU GO IN THE ROOM? ALL OF YOU?!" As soon as you ask that, the players will flinch and say, "Uh... no."

The cure to this requires planning. You need to ask that question in rooms where it doesn't matter if the group steps in or not. Make a habit of asking things like: "Do you touch the door with your bare hands?", "Who's first in line?" and, "Are the rest of you right behind him, or is there space between you?". Red herrings!

Another issue with this room is the question of how much metal is enough? What counts? Everyone has a belt buckle, right? Does that drag them in? What about the studs on studded leather?

Players will naturally be inclined to declare that their belt buckles are not metal. If possible, quietly clarify that prior to entry. Just a simple comment while exploring Omu such as, "It is so quiet in the city that you are aware of the clanking of every little metal piece of your gear" goes a long way.

Mistakes


Despite all of my preparing, I make so many mistakes. It drives me nuts. 

Tonight, the group caught me off guard. They went all the way down to the fifth level of the tomb! This stuff was not at all fresh in my head, and now, looking back, I see that I screwed it up really bad.

Lots of little things in this area.
  • Small Dock: There's a small dock here that's just 15 feet long and 5 feet wide. I ran it as if it was a lot bigger.
  • Hungry Door: The door they come out of demands food and won't open again until it is fed. If the group feeds it anything other than a crab, it devours one of the heroes (no roll to hit or anything). I had this thing swallow an adventurer even though nobody tried to feed it anything!
  • Shark Cage: There's a shark cage. If you go underwater in it, an aboleth swims over and tries to enthrall the group. I FORGOT THE SHARK CAGE. It's right there on the map! Yargh.
  • Aboleth Limits: If a fight breaks out, the aboleth does NOT get lair actions. I gave it lair actions!
  • Magic Boats: There's two rowboats. Each has a magic, beneficial effect if you get in it. I forgot this, too.
They Killed It?! The group fought the aboleth, and they actually killed it! It was a very lethal battle, but the group rolled really well. They repeatedly made their saves against the "enslave" power.

In this situation, I'd tend to think that I screwed up the aboleth fight. Four 7th level heroes killed an aboleth? Seems fishy (sorry, couldn't resist).

Looking back, I feel like I ran it fairly competently. I probably should have had it mess with the environment more, like coming up underwater and smashing through the dock from beneath.

The fact that I misrepresented the size of the dock was key. Only three heroes should have been able to stand on it! That changes the entire encounter.

But even then, two members of the group went in the water right away. This group is very water-friendly.

I just wanted to update you. The tomb is really fun! You should definitely check it out if you haven't already, even just to pull out some cool encounters.