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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Hell's Belles Episode 2

You can watch this episode right here.

They are playing through a classic Planescape adventure, The Great Modron March, converted to 5th edition.

The Party

DM Mazz

(Shauna) Levity - Tiefling Monk linked to Glasya
(Chloe Christine) Lyra - Tiefling Paladin
(Hadeel) Miga - Tiefling Rogue an urchin who lives by the sea
(Holly Conrad) Durge - Tiefling Bard college of whispers, member of the Dustmen
(Lysa Chen) Mercy - Tiefling Shadow sorcerer from Ravenloft
(TK Johnson) Gille - Tiefling Paladin
(KaylaPentar - Tiefling linked to Zuggtmoy

A month has passed since the last episode. The group is living in the office building in the Clerk's Ward. S3-4N is folding laundry... packets..!

Gille is writing letters to his father. Durge is outside handing out True Death pamphlets to people on the streets of Sigil.

Lira has a dream - a message from her god. She's being directed to go to Arcadia.

The group makes their way through a portal to Arcadai. They bring S3-4N along. Miga wants him to dig in the sand. He does so, with his fork hand. They put mushrooms on him. Because she likes to clean things, Mercy polishes it off. This kind of thing happens every day, we are told.

Gille is sort of wondering why Miga, who is a little kid, is even with the group. She's an orphan, so the group has taken pity on her.

They dig up a treasure - a piece of cheese. Miga takes a bite. She makes her Con save. Pentar, a fungus enthusiast,  eats the whole thing.

Lyra leads the group toward a mountain. It is Mount Clangeddin - where the dwarven gods of battle live. Lyra pushes open a set of doors.

The group explores a bit and are attacked by two metallic snakes.  One snake bites Mercy and does 9 damage to her. Gille is bit - he's poisoned and confused.

S3-4N does a cool 5 damage with the fork. S34N actually kills one, which is awesome. Durge kills the other one, stabbing it through the head, Australian Outback style.

The group explores a bit and comes to a square room with levers on the walls. Levity pulls two levers, and a door slides open. Beyond it, there's a figure lying on the floor. It's a black dragonborn. He ate a mushroom and he got here... this is Pentar's doing.

Down a corridor is a marble arch. There's a pedestal with a crystal sphere on it.

They find a bunch of bones, and up ahead they see a shimmering mithral tankard. There are joyous dwarven faces carved on it. Levity approaches it - she can sense a magic aura around it.

After some study, Levity realizes that speaking a command word fills it with dwarven ale. It's basically an endless mug of ale. Perfect for Levity, who is a drunken master monk.

Lyra feels drawn to a nearby bowl. She senses that her god wants to talk to her through it.

S3-4N is walking around, on snake patrol. He looks up and starts poking at the bones. "What is dead?", he asks Durge. Durge enthusiastically explains that dead means "deactivated."

He asks Miga if she will deactivate. "No, probably not." He perks up and nods.

Lyra has a vision - she sees eyes in darkness. Her god tells her that it is impossible to divine the future. Soon, she will see nothing and will be nothing. This has something to do with Mercy.

Gille pulls Lyra aside and tells her that they are in a temple of Selune. Lyra thinks it was Savras who contacted her. Savras is a god of divination who sees all and knows all. He's often worshiped by spellcasters, and his symbol is a circle full of eyes.

Lyra is confused - she doesn't want to be linked to Savras. Lyra says she was an urchin as a child. Gille is a bit put off, coming from a noble family and everything.

Miga made a drawing with crayons. Hadeel did this in real life with real crayons. Her hands are dirty. She asks Mercy to clean them. Mercy enthusiastically does so, with prestidigitation.

That's where we stop! 

TK requests fan art of S3-4N fighting a burning snake.

Heyy! They gave me a shout out at the end! Sheesh, how lucky am I?

Overall

Fun show! Looking forward to seeing the group deal with a horde of modrons in the coming weeks. Levity with a mug of endless ale should be quite amusing.

Rivals of Waterdeep Episode 3


Rivals of Waterdeep - Episode 3: “Hide and Seek”

This episode is available on Youtube and as a podcast.

Aram Vartian - Dungeon Master

(Surena Marie) Ashborne - Half-Elf Ranger
(Carlos Luna) Nocnoc - Half-Orc Fighter
(Cicero Holmes) Perrin - Halfling Bard
(Tanya DePass) Selise - Human Paladin of Tyr
(Shareef Jackson) Shaka - Tiefling Warlock
(Brandon Stennis) Rinn - High Elf Sorcerer

The party are on the High Road, one day out from Waterdeep. Last time, they learned about a treasure that could buy Nightstone’s freedom from the curse left by Graz'zt. In the intro, the brass cube that Graz’zt’s cambion children both want used the art for a cubic gate. Curiouser and curiouser!

The Waterdhavian scout that is escorting the party is named Roland Holbrook. He is in love with a noblewoman, but doesn’t think he has much of a chance. Ashbourne says she could Cyrano de Bergerac it for him, but he politely declines.

Shaka checks in on Melody, the mayor of Nightstone, who is making note of her contacts in Waterdeep. She has a cousin who owns a hotel known as The Jade Rose, and she can probably set up a suite for them there.

As they continue traveling, Perrin spots a group of sixteen wood elves flanking the road ahead. Nocnoc recognizes them as his graduating class. Liatha, Nocnoc’s instructor at the academy, steps forward and says that the elders foresaw that he would not return from his last mission, but would find another calling in the process. She is here to deliver him a Dragonbane Arrow and a magical dart that can return to his hand after being thrown. These are the first presents Nocnoc has ever been given, and he feels like he’s experiencing every uncelebrated birthday all at once.

A bright red flare streaks across the sky, and Roland takes off towards it. Nocnoc recognizes this as a signal that something wrong is happening. Suddenly, a scream emanates out of Selise’s bag--it came from the Burn Book. A bookmark appeared on a page indicating a cabin just off the highway. They go to check it out.

Rinn and Selise knock on the door, and are let in by a guy who looks like an older version of the image in the Burn Book. He introduces himself as Naral, and welcomes them in. There’s a creepy boy drawing gaping mouths over and over again on a piece of paper. Rinn says “There’s something not right about that boy,” the father shoots him a look, “He seems really nice.” As they’re sneaking around the outside of the cabin, Nocnoc and Ashbourne see that there are two decapitated cats under the house.

Naral says that his son, Jeremy, witnessed his mother being murdered years ago when their caravan was attacked. Selise asks if she can try and help the boy. As she attempts to lay on hands him, Jeremy glares and grabs her hand. Selise sees an older Jeremy with his hands wrapped around her throat. Jeremy’s father scolds him, while Selise warns Naral that the things his son experienced affected him deeply. Selise and Rinn (amazingly!) give the father six gold--a huge amount--to help and support the boy! Naral asks if Selise can put in a word with the church in Waterdeep, as he’s been trying to petition them for aid for years with no reply.

Nocnoc leaves a mark near the house for his elven brothers, asking that they watch over this place. Aram gives him inspiration!

Roland returns and says that it was evidently a false alarm.

The party reach a large bridge over the Dessarin River. A scout on a griffin soars overhead and Roland salutes him. Ashbourne asks Roland if they have classes for that kind of thing, and the scout tells them that security at this checkpoint has been bumped up since they received word of what happened at Nightstone.

Two paladins of Lathander approach and make sure the party is on the up-and-up. They stop at Shaka and draw their swords, telling him to remove his hat. He does, revealing his horns, and the guards point out that “the touch of the demonic” is upon him. A woman with a black staff asks if she can search Shaka’s thoughts and make sure he is not in league with Graz’zt. Shaka notes that this is a violation of his rights, while Selise points out how unjust this is. Perrin offers to “take care of” the guards, but they give him a “Don’t even think about it” look. The wizard apologizes and starts probing Shaka’s thoughts. He realizes that she is going to find out about his patron and brings to the forefront of his mind the moment when he got his white robes--a very emotional point in his life, as he had worn nothing but tattered clothing up to that point. Suddenly... Shaka is standing alone on the road.

He turns to see a goldfish in a bowl sitting on a pedestal. Shaka realizes that the goldfish is his patron! Shaka can see the woman sifting through his thoughts, but this part of his mind has been cordoned off by a bubble. The goldfish leaps, and a large wave overcomes Shaka, burning his eyes. He sees in a puddle that his eyes fade to a smoky gray--he is now able to see in complete darkness! It would be absolutely hilarious if the Xanathar's goldfish, Sylgar, turned out to be Shaka's "Great Old One" patron.

The woman finishes and they are allowed through the checkpoint. The sun sets by the time the party reach Waterdeep.

Roland escorts them to the office of Laeral Silverhand, the Open Lord of Waterdeep. They fill her in on what happened. Laeral says that she believes there is a reason that they are involved in this matter, and gives them maps of Waterdeep and the chambers beneath it (including Skullport) before dismissing them. They are let out into the South Ward--a melting pot and hub for travelers. Mayor Melody takes them to The Jade Rose before everyone splits up and goes to one of the three nearby taverns.

At Gildrof’s Tavern, Selise and Nocnoc meet Gildrof, a female cloud giant behind the bar! Wow! Nocnoc feels like he’s in the giant’s dollhouse, and can tell that she’s absolutely thrilled to be socializing with these tiny little people. Gildrof is a follower of Lliira! She is amazed when Selise tells her about meeting an avatar of Our Lady of Joy. Nocnoc gets a t-shirt with Gildrof’s face on it, as well as a souvenir mug.

Shaka and Perrin head to the Rusty Nail, a known meeting place for the unsavory. The bouncer is intimidated by Perrin to let them in--he has a phobia of short people! Shaka buys Perrin a drink as thanks for getting them in. They learn that there’s a gang war brewing between the Zhentarim and the Xanathar’s Guild over the dragon hoard. The hoard once belonged to a lord who put all memories of the treasure’s location into a magical stone. The word ‘Golorr’ stands out to them as the only clue.

Ashbourne and Rinn go to a gambling hall called The Lucky Duck. There are three games: one with dice called Tymora’s Luck; one with cards called Abbathor’s Gambit; and one called the Run of Mersif (or Run of Luck when translated from Dwarvish) that involves lizards racing each other through a maze (tonight’s lizards are Pitterpatter, Fleetfeet, Flyswatter, Zoobers, and Tiny Dragon). They decide to check out Abbathor’s Gambit, which has a high-rollers table where people bet magic items instead of gold. Winner takes all. Rinn bets his staff. Rinn gets a 10 on his roll... his opponent gets a 13. OOF! The winner, an elf named Zor, says that he’ll return the staff if Ashbourne and Rinn tell him why they’re here. Ashbourne says they’re investigating crimes. Zor gives Rinn appraising eyes as he hands the sorcerer back his staff.

The party reunite. A kid throws a rock at them and runs off--Nocnoc, Ashbourne, and Rinn chase after him. They turn a corner and a half-orc archer on a rooftop fires an arrow into each of them. Rinn hits the half-orc with his crossbow, but the guy doesn’t even register the bolt through his leg as he starts to line up another shot. Nocnoc starts climbing the building and tosses his magic dart, piercing their assailant through the forearm. The rest of the party arrives. The half-orc sees this and sprints away over the rooftops. They try to give chase, but he’s gone!

Wondering who the heck the guy who ambushed them was, the party return to The Jade Rose, and Melody tells them that she was able to set up the meeting with Mirt the Moneylender for tomorrow morning.  If you want to watch Episode 4 where that happens, it’s already out!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Riddle of the Raven Queen


A few new DMs Guild adventures came out in the past month and I'll be running all of them on my Twitch channel. Last night, I finished running the first of these - The Riddle of the Raven Queen.

The Raven Queen has always been mega-popular, so I think it was a good idea to make this. Fun fact: The Guide to the Raven Queen I wrote years ago still gets read all the time. I think it's because of Critical Role.

So, what's this adventure about? Is it good?

The Story: An elven settlement has been getting attacked by bands of drow. An important member of the community, the Starsinger, has been abducted. The heroes need to get the Starsinger back.

The heroes look for clues and track the drow back to their lair in the forest. But they don't find the Starsinger - they find a shadar kai.

The shadar kai explains that his people abducted the Starsinger because the Raven Queen wants to bask in her sorrow (the Starsinger's family was recently killed). The shadar kai helps the group get to the Shadowfell.

There, the group must navigate the village of Broken Dreams, pass some tests, and then go deal with some agents of Vecna. Once the agents of Vecna are dealt with, the raven Queen will hand over the Starsinger.

The beginning was OK. When preparing this section, I had a bit of a hard time understanding why the Starsinger was so important to anyone. The elven village was pretty interesting.

The drow lair was fun enough. The entrance guardians were very cool, and I liked the room with the cells in it. My group actually walked into the drow barracks. Just opened the door! A dozen drow got ready to attack, but one hero quickly used magic to collapse the ceiling on them.

That worked out good for me, because when running a streaming game, I don't like too many fights/drawn out fights. A battle against 12 drow felt like a waste of time to me. We had two hours total, and I wanted to finish chapter two by the end of the session, so the collapse was perfect.

The idea for the collapse partially came about because the adventure does a great job of making each locale unique - much is made of the low earthen ceiling in the drow lair.

Once the shadar kai is rescued, he can get the group to the Shadowfell. I'd have liked a bit more detail on the ritual.

Then we get to chapter three - the Village of Broken Dreams. I LOVE this chapter. We are given about 5 small encounters in the streets, and three tests that the Raven Queen puts the group through.

The Curse of the Evergloom: Every hour, each hero must make a saving throw against the evergloom of the Shadowfell. If you fail, you lose one trait: A bond, flaw, or ideal!

I love that so much. Bonds and flaws are things that don't come into play much at all, but here, they're put to great use. The Shadowfell slowly steals away everything that makes your character who they are!

There is a way to block this: Touchstones. Characters can declare items as symbolic touchstones - things that represent who they are. For example, there's a character everyone calls "Mistletoe" in my group. He wears a crown of Mistletoe. He decided to make it a touchstone. As long as he has that touchstone, the Shadowfell cannot steal his bond from him. Each character can have four touchstones, with one representing a flaw, bond, trait, etc.

Touchstones have value because of this! People will try to steal them! The Raven Queen might even want them.

What was most amusing was that there's two heroes in my group - Ramrod and Asana. They have a budding relationship that the group likes to call: "AssRod." They declared each other as a touchstone. So then, if Ramrod was abducted somehow, Asana lost a touchstone and the Evergloom could potentially steal a trait away from him.

I love this whole idea so much. It worked great!

How to Win D&D: One mini encounter here involves an old lady's shop. I decided to use it to "win" D&D. How?

The group has been trolling me about shiftspice, a rare githzerai magic spice that I keep saying only comes in elaborate containers, but the players insist that it comes in "flavor packets".

I decided that in this store was a container of shadowspice - a spice that loses its magic properties if not in a glass container! It literally can not come in a flavor packet!

I gleefully rolled this idea out. At last! No more flavor packets! At least, not for shadowspice!

Then Lindy, who plays Asana says, "I have a glassblowing kit." No. No! It can't be!

She really did! The group was delighted. They could make glass flavor packets! How could this be?! Impossible, I say!

Anyway, the group went through the tests. Each test is meant to be tailored to the individual traits of the heroes, but I didn't do such a great job of it. Still, the encounters worked well enough.

The Raven Queen's speaker agreed to give the group the Starsinger if the group would retrieve a stolen mask.

The group was off to the lair of the Vecna cult. This is a tiny dungeon whose map was unlabeled for some reason. We were almost out of time so I removed some encounters. The final bad guy is a skull lord. The heroes were clever and able to cut a deal with him rather than have a big battle with him.

The heroes were successful and rescued the Starsinger! They were able to get back to the elven village. There, Ramrod surprised us all. He had written Asana a poem. I found it to be absolutely hilarious and now Asana and Ramrod are an official couple. They're a couple of classic characters, in my opinion, and I'm very much looking forward to running more stuff for this group in two weeks.

Overall: Chapter 3 is what makes this adventure good. It's definitely worth using if you're planning on having your group go to the Shadowfell for whatever reason.

This adventure most definitely needs an editing pass. I'm no stranger to typos and awkward phrasing, so I sympathize, but this book has a lot of little spots that need touching up.

I also think they should clarify the explanation as to how the group gets to the Vecna lair and the whole thing with the door to the fortress of sorrow. I didn't get it. Maybe that's just me.

So, it's not perfect, but the most important thing to me is good ideas, and this adventure definitely delivers in that department!

Here's the youtube videos of our playthrough. Part 1:

Part 2. In the final minute, Ramrod reads his poem. Best thing ever!