Table of Contents - A handy way to check out my articles by topic
My most recent Guides:
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
You can reach me at:

Monday, May 29, 2017

Dice, Camera, Action: Episode 50 - Storm King's Thunder

Episode 50 - Mountain of Ashes

I'd like to point out that Chris Perkins did an AMA on the Dice, Camera, Action subreddit right here.

I can't believe I forgot about it!

I don't want to spoil everything, but here are the things that I found most interesting from this AMA:

Crossover: The Waffle Crew might run into members of Force Grey and Acquisitions, Inc. in the not-too-distant future.

Favorite Moments: His favorite events of the show so far:
  • Evelyn thinking she ate a baby. 
  • Diath's nasty encounter with the gallows. 
  • Strix falling in the snow or polymorphing Duke Zalto into a chicken. 
  • Paultin befriending Simon.
Murderbot: Murderbot/Simon/Pidlwick 2 is one of his favorite NPCs that he has ever run.

Svardborg: Chris says we'll be seeing frost giants before the end of the season. That frost giant lair in the book is very wide open,  I can't imagine what the heroes will do.

Ravenloft NPC: One NPC from Barovia will pop up soon. He says that it is also possible that the group will go back to Barovia. That would be pretty crazy, right?

The Party

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

We pick up where we left off. Diath just freed the fire primordial, Maegara. She is a giant thing made of fire. Her flames are so hot that her very presence kills all of the prisoners that Diath was trying to save.

Diath takes 35 points of fire damage from Maegara and he backs down the hallway. Diath orders Maegara to attack the adamantine heart, but she doesn't speak common. He technically can tell her what to do for one hour, but she doesn’t understand him so he’s screwed! Maegara is so hot that she is actually melting the interior of Ironslag.

Diath retreats to where the group is, outside. He sees the dao (earth genie) fighting a fire giant and Evelyn’s horse Mourning Glory is being chased by hellhounds. Evelyn lying is in a pile of hellhounds. They all just got hit with a thunderwave.

Duke Zalto has been turned into a chicken. There is just one fire giant still standing - Paultin had sent two giants running with a fear spell. Strix polymorphs a second giant into a chicken.

All that's left is hellhounds. Evelyn has her armor of invulnerability on, so the dogs can't hurt her. She keeps calling them puppies. She uses a command spell to send the hellhounds chasing after the fleeing giants.

Strix decides to try to banish the dao because she doesn't want him to get that iron golem. The dao is working for a sinister dwarf clan.

The group runs away. Here comes Maegara! She emerges from Ironslag and starts immersing creatures in her raging inferno.

The heroes run through the snow for a minute. The dao's banishment is over, and he is flying after the group. He's wielding Harshnag's axe. He attacks!

The group tries to trap him in the flask. Fails. Tries to use a vistani curse. Fails. Paultin stumbles over something in the snow. It's the corpse of Harshnag's giant bird! Well, this going poorly!

Evelyn tries to parlay with the dao. She rolls a 2. Yargh. The dao snaps his fingers... her armor vanishes! The dao hacks into her and does 23 points of... wait... Anna realizes she has inspiration. She wants to roll again. Chris says OK. he gets to add a d8 to the roll... 4. Not enough.

Evelyn’s getting chopped up. He hits her again.. 41 damage! That's 64 points, good gawd.

Paultin busts out the eyes of charming. He tries to persuade the dao to back off. Rolls bad. Man! Diath tries to use the flask again. The dao makes his save and then he cuts down Diath.

Strix teleports, grabs the iron flask, holds it up and.. traps the dao in it! Wow. Dao failed his save! Good thing, that genie is really powerful.

The crew looks back at the mountain. Lava is pouring out and there’s smoke everywhere. The group makes their way back to Citadel Adbar, home of the dwarves who sent the group here in the first place.

Jasper is at the citadel and he has the baby owlbear, Waffles. She grew a lot, Chris says the owlbear is 25% bigger. Both Strix and Evelyn call Waffles to come to them. Chris wants persuasion checks. Evelyn with a 21. Strix with a 23! She wins.

The group does some shopping. Evelyn brings Murderbot's parts to a dwarf toymaker, who has a rally funny mumbly voice. This voice is right up there with Barmy the lich, in my opinion. He can make reassemble Murderbot in 7-10 days and he'll do it for 1,000 gp. Evelyn haggles him down to 500 gp. She doesn't have it.

She rejoins the group and Diath offers to pay. He's got 5 gems worth 100 gold each. Paultin puts his hand on Diath's shoulder and says, "He has two dads now." Diath is not amused. Thus ends the Waffle Crew Civil War, which was, in retrospect, a cold war.

The group goes to meet with the king of the dwarves. Paultin spots an attractive bard and he veers off in her direction.

Strix spots followers of the Morninglord! Hmm... their symbols aren't right. The group realizes that these symbols are in the Barovian style. These people are from Strahd's demiplane!

What the... one of them is Van Richten! That’s where we stop!

The group hits 9th level.

Chris talk about the Stream of Annihilation. The waffle crew is going to kick it off with a live game. 10:20 PST and 1:20 PST Eastern time. It will be 90 minutes long. The group will be in costume. There will be a special guest who will play with the group.

Episode 50

We are 50 shows in and I'd say it's been very good. I learned a lot about DMing from Chris Perkins. I've probably said it before, and I've never expressed it in a way that I'm happy with, but here it is:

There are no good DMs. I don't mean that literally. Chris is great! What I mean is that it is actually impossible to multitask well enough to handle everything a dungeon master needs to do to run a game correctly. Here's some of the things that Chris and all of us have to do during a session:
  • Have an adventure ready.
  • Know your material!
  • Be prepared for the group to go off on some wacky tangent.
  • Give accurate descriptions, which is harder than it sounds.
  • Know what your monsters can do, and what certain spells do.
  • Monitor the mood at the table.
  • Know when to move on and when to zoom in on scenes.
  • Make sure nobody's being ignored.
  • Avoid being too harsh or too lenient.
  • Helping shy players play their way while keeping rambunctious players from stepping on other people's toes.
  • And of course, run a game people want to show up for!
For me, the main struggle as a DM is between rules accuracy and pacing. I can't remember every rule. When I see Chris Perkins look a rule up in the Player's Handbook - the book that he helped write - that tells me that it is literally impossible to remember everything you need to run an "accurate" game. You would have to stop and look rules up. That hurts the pacing.

Judging from these online shows, people are choosing to focus on pacing, keeping the game moving. I can tell you that prior to 2012 or so, it was rules accuracy, big time. Most groups that I saw were rules-first, and by gawd you would sit at that table while people flipped through books and quibbled over finer points for a good portion of your evening.

Dungeon Masters: So I think what we have on this show is a great model for DMs, a sort of reality check on how a game can flow. You can learn from Chris's ideas and choices. It's also nice to see a group that plays a lot. It seems like most groups in real life don't really get together that much to play the same game, the same story over months and years.

Players: Players who watch this show can observe how you should behave at the table. To me, this waffle crew is a very good assortment of players because they are, by and large, unselfish. Usually it is the selfish player that ruins the entire campaign and kills groups.

Whats the New Adventure? There is a fair amount of speculation on what the new storyline is. There's a person named Prakriti in this thread who laid it out really nicely.

I'm going to try to watch and write about as much of that stream as possible. I think I'm going live-tweet my thoughts, so feel free to check out my twitter right here.

Planescape – Blood War XII. Golmin Thur, the City of Liches

I always have to remind myself to run D&D combats like a movie scene rather than as a dice-rolling exhibition. I wanted to start this one off with a massive battle that would unfold in stages. We're in the Blood War, so I want to make sure we have plenty of mass combats.

The group is with the devil army, who have arrived at Thanatos, the layer of the Abyss that is full of undeath. I decided that a roaming horde of the undead would attack the devils.

Undead Monsters: I busted out Open Grave, a 4e book that is overloaded with great ideas that I have never been able to squeeze into a campaign. I picked out some monsters:
  • Putrescent Zombie: These zombie seep necrotic energy and explode in a burst of necrotic energy when slain.
  • Zombie Throng: This is a swarm of zombies that pulls you down and does what zombies do.
  • Void Lich: I wanted a lich variant. I'll talk about this more in a second.
  • Tombstone Golem: A golem made of tombstones! Come on, how awesome is that?
4e Stat Blocks: I wanted to use liches, but I hate looking up all those spells. In 4e, the monsters just had a few spell-like powers, and that's it. It's much easier to prepare! I don't think 5e should stop giving monsters spells that you have to look up, but I love 4e stat blocks. They save so much time.

Monsters I Couldn't Fit: I really wanted to use a brain in a jar, but it just didn't fit. I'll save it for a future session!

Next Campaign: The group is 13th level and we're nearing the end of the campaign. The heroes are now on Thanatos, home of the big villain, Lamashtu. Once she's slain (or whatever happens), we'll jump into my version of the Codex of Infinite Planes adventure and then wrap it up with Faction War.

My plan for the next campaign is to run a Spelljammer campaign where the group will quest for the Rod of Seven Parts. I'll try to run most of the official Spelljammer adventures, although some of them are pretty goofy/craptastic.

I'll work in the bad guys and material from the Rod of Seven Parts boxed set. Throughout the campaign, the group will be plagued by the Queen of Chaos and her spyder-fiends.

Jessie said her new character would probably be a spellcaster. George wasn't sure what he'd make, yet.

I'm going to work their Spelljammer characters into this campaign to get them up and running, and bump them up to 3rd level. I think I'm going to have the group pick one Planescape NPC to be a member of their crew in Spelljammer, to provide a little continuity.

The Party

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

The heroes had led the devils through the Abyssal Undersump and they had arrived in Thanatos. In my campaign, Orcus is dead. Lamashtu, the Pathfinder demon lord "mother of monsters" has taken it over.

The army emerged right by Golmin Thur, City of Liches. A lich approached them, spoke with them, and then took the pit fiend general of the devils to meet with the "Lich King".

Vestige: Bidam has a pact with the vestige of Orcus. He can see wispy agents of Orcus called visages. Orcus is expecting Bidam to die and be reborn as a devourer, a powerful undead abomination. Bidam saw a vestige go into the city.

Moments later, a hooded figure emerged from the city of liches. He was big and strode boldly in the direction of the devils.

The group was extremely paranoid! I kept asking them how close they let him get. The answer: "35 feet."

This was Eravamont Glask, a member of the Dustman faction. The Dustmen bring dead bodies to the Mortuary in Sigil and they look forward to "True Death".

Dusshhhhtmen: This guy was an excuse for me to do my terrible Sean Connery impression. Eravamont is gregarious and friendly, a jolly fellow who slaps you on the back. The group liked him.

He's a guide. In the books, it says that the Dustmen guides of Thanatos charge 4,000 gp per person to guide people through Thanatos. He started counting the devils, realizing he'd be rich!

He realized that he was in the presence of Bidam and Theran, the heroes of Sigil who had destroyed the Wand of Orcus and killed the demon lord for good. He warned them to keep that under their hat.

4e Void Lich Statblock
For the Horde: Then the zombie horde showed up. Hundreds of zombies were accompanied by hovering black blots of darkness (flying void liches with darkness auras).

Dozens of tombstones toward the devils flew in a cluster. The tombstones slowly, harmlessly flew into the midst of the devils and hovered at varying heights.

The group had no idea what to make of this.

The void liches fired off void tendril spells, basically Evard's black tentacles. Many of the devils were ensnared. The group was able to avoid them.

Because of the darkness auras, Theran couldn't target the void liches with a lot of his spells. He started dropping fireballs on them.

Bidam ran forward. A void lich flew down and enveloped him in darkness. For a few rounds, the lich would "life tap" Bidam (10 necrotic damage) and then teleport 10 feet back (bonus action), so that Bidam was still in the darkness but could not figure out where it was.

Bidam was really stymied by this. Eventually, he started swinging blindly and chopped it to pieces.

Phylactery: When slain, the darkness aura vanishes and the lich falls into a heap of bones. Then, the bones become shadowy wisps and fade away. The void lich is reborn by its phylactery d10 days later.

Eravamont Glask tried to impress Theran. He used a turn undead ability to force all zombies within 60 feet to "take a breather" for a minute. Then he tried to turn more. The group was very impressed.

Zombie Throng: While Theran kept backing further and further into the ranks of the devils as he fired off spells, a zombie throng came for Bidam. They grabbed him and pulled him down, but he sliced through them with the sword of sharpness. After a few rounds, they exploded (putrescent zombies).

Theran watched as the hovering tombstones started swirling. They coalesced and formed a 20-foot-tall Tombstone golem! The group crapped their pants. The golem launched three tombstones a ranged attacks, one of which struck Theran.
Tombstone Golem
Theran cast disintegrate, vaporizing a number of tombstones in its abdomen. It held out an arm and launched over a dozen tombstones at him. They crashed into the ground around him, trapping Theran in a cube of tombstones.

Bidam charged, braving a number of pathetic zombie opportunity attacks (+3 to hit, 4 damage - halved due to the armor of invulnerability) and climbed up the body of the golem.

Bidam stood on its shoulders. The "head" of this thing was a stone sphere crackling with necrotic energy. Tombstones orbited it swiftly, making for a sort of protective aura.

Weak Spot: I knew Jessie would look for a weak spot on this thing - that's the head. I put the weak spot in partly so that if the battle was dragging, the group could just hit the head and we could move on.

It wasn't dragging, though. Bidam destroyed some of the orbiting tombstones and tried to move closer to the head, but he was struck by a swirling tombstone and fell all the way to the ground. He rolled a one on his dexterity save! He landed right in the middle of a zombie throng.

Back in the cube, Theran used a spell to blow a hole in the cube so that he could target the golem. A putrescent zombie climbed in and fell. Eravamont Glask appeared in the window and fired off an ice bolt that destroyed it, but also made it explode (putrescent zombie), damaging Theran. Theran was less than thrilled.

Eravamont stayed in the window, blocking Theran's view, and talked to him about spells in a bad Sean Connery voice. He said things like, "Have you ever heard of the shpell, shpirtchual weaponsh?"

Theran politely asked him to get out of the way and hit the golem with a barrage of magic missiles.

Bidam was lying on the ground. Looking up, he could see a ring of zombies looking down at him, and past them he saw the massive tombstone golem towering above all.

Lasers: Because my campaign is stupid, Bidam can shoot laser beams of positive energy out of his weiner twice per session. So, lying there, he whipped it out and opened fire. He rolled a natural 19.

The head exploded! The tombstone golem fell apart and tombstones came falling all around Bidam. He made his Dex save and side-rolled his way to safety while the zombies were crushed and exploded in bursts of necrotic energy.

At that point, the battle was halted. The pit fiend and the Lich king had emerged from the city. The lich ordered the remaining horde to leave. They did.

The Lich King: This lich king is a floating skull with gem eyes and diamond teeth. He is Acererak, the demilich from the Tomb of Horrors adventures!

Acererak is also a servant of Orcus. Like Bidam, he made a pact with the vestige of Orcus/Tenebrous in the Amber Temple of Barovia. Acererak can also see the vestiges.

Acererak spoke telepathically to Bidam, and asked him if he had brought the Orcusword. The group went: "Uh Oh."

The heroes went into the city with the pit fiend, Eravamont and their buddy, Bovina the cow lady (who spent the battle on her nightmare in a sphere of darkness fighting a void lich).

The city is seemingly abandoned. There are tall towers with minarets. This is where the liches live and keep their phylacteries.

The Tomb: I have a goofball campaign. Acererak is famous for his deathtrap dungeon known as the Tomb of Horrors. He may have more tombs like this spread throughout the planes.

His lair in the city of liches is known as.. The Tomb of Minor Inconveniences. Acererak delighted in watching the group deal with his diabolical traps:
  • Green Devil Face: Eravamont stuck his hand in a green devil face mounted on a door. It was full of sticky, tar-like goo! It was a pain to clean off and even when he did, you could sort of smell it.
  • Misty Archway: Bidam entered an archway full of mist. He failed his Con save. The mist made him sneeze one time!
  • Pit Traps: Theran had to traverse a hallway. He flew through it (he has a flying throne now, taken from their traitorous heresy devil minion).
Acererak was most impressed! This hallway was pull of one-inch-deep pit traps in which you could very possibly stub your toe! Truly a minor inconvenience!

The heroes met with Acererak and looked at a map of Thanatos. They learned a lot:

These liches were once mortals who failed Orcus. He turned them into liches, collectively known as "The Disgraced". They hated him and are glad to team up with the devils.

Mother of Monsters: Lamashtu rules this layer, but she's having trouble taking over all of the cities of Thanatos. This is a realm of death, and her whole thing is that she brings monsters to life. The entire layer is resisting her. Apparently, she doesn't even have complete control of Everlost, the palace of Orcus with all of these insane mazes.

Baphomet: Lamashtu and Baphomet, demon lord of minotaurs, have an intimate relationship. This is right out of a pathfinder book.

There is a portal to Baphomet's realm in the Valley of the Crypt Things. This is right out of a D&D book! It all fits together, it's awesome.

The group will need to find a way to shut down that portal. If they don't, once Baphomet finds out the devils are here, he'll send his horde of minotaurs through and the army will likely be overwhelmed.

That is how I am going to work Wrath of the Righteous Book 5: The Ivory Labyrinth, into this campaign. The group will actually adventure through Baphomet's realm.

The closest city to Golmin Thur, city of liches, is an abandoned city called Vadrain. It's perfect for the devils to base themselves out of.

To get there, the army will have to march across the Plains of Hunger, a vast area full of massive hordes of zombies and undead like the one they fought.

The next step is to get as many more devil soldiers through the Abyssal Undersump as they can, and then march to Vadrian. Gathering these troops would take days, maybe weeks.

That means the group can go home! Eravamont Glask said, "Sho... can I come, too?" Sure!

Theran busted out his jar of Lord Stillborn, and the heroes, Bovine and the Dustman appeared in Skyshrine, Theran's flying castle.

Then we did a bunch of downtime stuff:

Theran's Castle: Theran found out that a few bloodseep demons had gotten up to the castle and attacked. The residents alu-fiends, a succubus nurse and an old giant who sits in a sauna) have repelled them so far.

Ultimately, Theran decided to move the castle. He'd found a control orb a few sessions ago. He moved the castle to another section of Barogund.

Allagash: The demons had made ten more NEPHROPICS! Demon crustaceans! My favorite.


I have this idea for Blibdoolpoolp to try to take the nephropics as her servants, but I don't have it all worked out. Blibdoolpoolp amuses me because she's literally a naked lady with a lobster head (here's her NSFW wiki).

Burningwater, 9th layer of the Abyss: The heroes dropped the Nephropics in the ocean and talked a bit with Korb, the three-headed spider demon who served Cabiri long ago. He again mentioned he wanted to break Cabiri out of the Wells of Darkness.

Deadbook Square: Theran went to Sigil and Selinza, his apprentice, pointed out that his sphere of annihilation could be easily stolen. The heroes still don't have magical protection on their buildings, despite the fact that they have been attacked by a fire demon and a simulacrum of Iggwilv. Theran decided to move the sphere to Skyshrine. You have to make a roll to bring a sphere through a portal - he succeeded.

Now it's in Skyshrine, which actually makes it easier for Iggwilv to obtain it.

Miss Sigil: The next day, it was time for the Miss Sigil contest! Each owner of a Festhall could enter one of their most beautiful and talented workers in a competition. It was mostly an excuse for jokes and fun names like "Areola Muffington" and "Gentle Fae Softhands".

This thing was put together by a corruption devil named Vordiklot Krapple, who is new in town. He owns a festhall and he clearly has it out for the group.

When the group's employee/contestant went on stage, an assassin devil tried to kill her. The heroes were very quick to act and able to stop it.

At that point, the event ended (a drow named Arakna Dis'charj won) in chaos and the group was going to tail Vordiklot, but there was a ruckus. A harmonium guard told the group something had happened at Deadbook Square.

It turns out that while the heroes were at this Miss Sigil thing, three assassin devils had invisibly entered the group's main festhall and killed everyone inside.

The group vowed revenge on Vordiklot! We'll tackle that next week.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Dungeons & Dragons - A Guide to Chaos Ships

I have put together a collection of information on chaos ships, magic vessels that have appeared in many editions of D&D. Chaos ships are used by the demons use to battle the devils in the Blood War.

I feel like I’ve missed some stuff, but I can’t think of where else to look. Google isn’t too helpful on this topic and I would bet that there is cool info in old issues of Dungeon and Dragon. I will keep my eyes peeled.

Essential Information
  • Chaos Ships are built in the Abyssal Layer of Twelvetrees.
  • They are incredibly hard to make. 
  • Chaos ships fly through the Abyss and are usually fitted with extremely powerful weapons.
  • Some are powered by soul larvae, others are powered by anarch spheres (which contain the roiling essence of the Elemental Chaos).
  • Each chaos ship is unique. Some ships have merged with a demon and are actually alive.
  • Select chaos ships have an aura of entropy that causes magical chaos, coercing opponents to turn on themselves.
  • Many chaos ships are fitted with are 8 ballistae that fire lightning-charged bolts, and 8 magic cannons that fire off cones of force that actually disintegrate low level targets.
Known Chaos Ships

From what I can tell, there are at least thirteen Chaos Ships out there:
  • 7 chaos ships are mentioned in the adventure called In the Abyss. One nameless chaos ship is described extensively. It is alive and has a giant face on each end of it.
  • Orcus is said to own three chaos ships. One of them was turned into a platform around the Heart of the Abyss, but that may have been destroyed. Another of them is Shevaithan, the ship powered by anarch spheres that play a huge part in Prince of Undeath.
  • Graz’zt is said to have at least two chaos ships in his Bay of Choking Bile. His flagship is called Waukeen’s Tears.
  • There is one chaos ship that was trapped in a vortex in the Lake of Shadows in the Underdark.
  • I read a mention online of a chaos ship that was destroyed in a battle on the plane of Gehenna (the bridge of Khalas), but I can’t confirm that.
Name Change: One other thing. Up until 3rd edition, they’re called “ships of chaos.” In 4th and up, they are called “chaos ships.”

In the Abyss

I feel like this Planescape adventure is very overlooked. I know I bought it at the game store and it just sat on my shelf after I flipped through it real quick. I think it has something of a bad reputation, but if you read it, it’s not bad at all! It’s pretty awesome, actually.

General Notes:
  • In the abyssal layer of Twelvetrees, the demons and the faction known as the Doomguard have made 7 ships of chaos.
  • The chaos ships are described as "entropy weapons" intended for the blood war.
  • The ship is a sentient entity (a transformed vrock), beholden only to the demon lords.
  • 300 feet long, 100 feet wide, 100 feet tall.
  • The ship leaves a trail of dead larvae in its wake! It drops the withered shell of a larva about every mile or every hour. They are blackened husks 4 feet long, crumble when touched.
  • It has no special plane-traveling capabilities, but it can use any portal that is at least 5-feet square. It actually squeezes through via a process that can strip your magic items of their power.
  • The ship is riddled with wormholes that you can climb through to get to other parts of the ship. Gravity pulls you to the walls making climbing easy. Large creatures can't fit.
  • Taking control of the ship requires a rod of beguiling, a charm monster spell or similar magic. 
  • It has two heads, one facing forward and one facing the rear. Each face has glassy eyes, a protruding nose and a gaping mouth full of teeth the size of tavern doors.
  • There is a third skeletal face that looks over the deck, eyeholes sealed with milky lenses and jaws filled with curved fangs the size of small trees.
  • The ship is made of thick, ropelike fibers and is an organic mass of pale white. The ingredients are  bone, crushed spirits and thousands of larvae. The ship's flanks are lined with translucent blisters tinted blue. These are portholes.
  • No minimum speed, can hover.
  • The ship can see, but has no sense of touch or smell. It doesn't feel pain. It cannot see its own interior. 
  • It is telepathic and can sense the location and emotional state of every creature on board.
  • The ship's 'brain' is contained in two nodes set high in the bow and stern.They can loose a cloud of spores that covers the victim vines. Once per hour, the brains can emit a screech that deafens and stuns you for one round.  
  • If the two brains are destroyed, the ship stops and begins to crumble. In 2d6 rounds it falls apart and plummets.
Weapons and Defenses:
  • When in motion, it is surrounded by an entropy field that defeats most teleportation effects. 
  • The field affects creatures differently depending on how powerful they are. 
  • If you try to teleport on to the ship, you appear in the brig.
  • Trying to damage the ship is near-impossible. It takes 8,000 points of damage to crack it.
  • There are 8 ballistae in each mouth. They are magic weapons that do 2d6 piercing and 8 lightning.
The Entropy Field: The ship ha an aura - an entropy field with a 480-yard radius. It does not affect creatures on the ship. It has different effects on creatures of varied levels/challenge ratings:
  • Low Level Creatures: Confused as per the spell with no saving throw while in the aura and for 3d4+1 rounds thereafter.
  • Middle Levels: Chaos effect hits, but you do get a saving throw.
  • High Levels: Save vs. spells or be repulsed each round that they remain in the effect.
Force Projectors: Each head has force projectors that throw cones of force 200 feet long. Effects:
  • Low Level: Save or be disintegrated!
  • Medium Level: Save or take 3d8 and be knocked prone. If man-sized or smaller, pushed to the end of the beam + 2d20 feet.
  • High Levels: Save or take 3d8 and knocked 2d20 prone. If already prone, you can be pinned.
Twelvetrees: This weird plane is where ships of chaos are made. Tortured cries ring out over the plane so loud that you can't hear other people talk.

When you get to this plane, you see huge scaffolds that loom over the land like skeletal giants. Six more ships hover near them. The area is crawling with thousands of demons.

Doomguard Fortress: This is an iron keep 20 feet square and 30 feet high that bears the symbol of a horned skull - the Doomguard. It is a Daern's instant fortress! The doomguard are human/tiefling/dwarf weapon-makers that heroes could hang out with.

Possible Exit: It notes that if you were going to steal a chaos ship, you could leave through the River Styx.

Planes of Chaos

In the Abyss hypes this boxed set up like you’ll learn so much more, but you learn almost nothing new. Ready?
  • Making the frame of a chaos ship require necromantic magic and hundreds of larvae.
  • Magically disrupts close formation of devils.

We get a few tidbits:
  • The ships have powers drawn from the “shifting stuff of chaos.”
  • They have yet to be put to use.
  • Demons fight over who gets to control them.
Dragon Magazine #360

It is mentioned that Graz'zt keeps planar vessels and "multiple chaos ships" in the Bay of Choking Bile. His flagship is known as Waukeen's Tears.

Extinction and Annihilation

There are a pair of D&D novels that came out in around 2005 that dealt with chaos ships. These stories are set in the Forgotten Realms and involve drow. Here's what we learn:
  • One ship of chaos is found in the Lake of Shadows
  • It is bone white, has three mats and tattered sails.
  • There is a maw in the hold of the ship that you can throw manes (low level demons) into to power the ship. The sails of the ship are made of human skin.
  • This chaos ship is driven through mental control. If the ship doesn't accept the pilot, it kills them.
Extinction: In case you are curious, here's a quick summary of the story (spoilers):
  • A group of heroes is trying to figure out something about Lolth. They need to get to the Demonweb Pits in the Abyss.
  • They learn that they need a ship of chaos to get there.
  • They find one stuck in a permanent whirlpool in the Lake of Shadows, a lake in the underdark.
  • The group is able to take control of it and its captain, an "uridezu" demon.
I've never heard of those demons before. Kind of goofy.

Annihilation: Not much more information. The heroes take the chaos ship to the Demonweb Pits and they learn that Lolth has actually moved her realm to its own planar space. The group parks the chaos ship and adventures into Lolth's new domain. Sounds pretty cool.

Fiendish Codex I

This book describes them as “titanic vessels” capable of bringing huge numbers of passengers across the planes in an instant. “6 are thought to exist.” Lots of tweaks and details:
  • Each ship has unique magical characteristics
  • All are composed of stitched flesh, powdered bone, crushed spirits and larvae.
  • The engines feed on mortal souls
  • They were designed as entropic weapons, but have been used a floating citadels in domestic wars between demon lords and for invasions of the Material Plane.
  • A bound demon controls the ship with dull sentience, but a captain is required for complex maneuvers.
  • Some captains sell passage on their ship for 500 gp per person, per plane.
  • Traveling the Planes: The ship literally erases itself and everything on board, rebuilding itself on the destination plane. If you're on the ship when this happens, you must make a save or go insane.
  • The captains of the ships are well-connected in the Abyss.
  • Later in the Twelvetrees section, it says that the seventh ship is half-finished. Its deck contains a torrent of flying demons.
The Plane Below

Map of Shevaithan, chaos ship owned by Orcus
We get stats for 4e chaos ships. A chaos ship functions only in the Abyss and the 'elemental chaos', which is a 4e thing that combines the elemental planes, pandemonium and limbo into one uber-plane.

Be a Passenger: There is a sidebar claiming that this is the most dependable way to travel in the lower planes. Only a few chaos ships exist, but you can book passage on one. 

Anarch Spheres: These chaos ships are powered by anarch spheres. There must be someone operating each of the three anarch spheres for the ship to run. The anarch spheres sit in cradles and each of them contains the bottled essence of chaos. 

Prince of Undeath

Agent of Orcus guarding an anarch sphere
In this ridiculously epic adventure, the group has to steal the chaos ship owned by Orcus! It is called Shevaithan. We learn a ton of stuff and this adventure even comes with a poster map of the chaos ship!

Chaos ships are designed to travel through the Elemental Chaos, no two are exactly the same. All require "bottled chaos" to drive them. Containing the essence of the Elemental Chaos into crystal globes is a monumentally difficult secret task.

Teleportation Circles: There are four magic circles on Shevaithan's deck:
  1. This is the end point for other rituals. This circle is where you appear when  you magically travel to the ship.
  2. This circle connects to the Forge of Four Worlds, a dungeon at the bottom of the Abyss.
  3. This circle is a portal that connects to another chaos ship (!).
  4. Connects to Everlost, the home of Orcus himself.
In the adventure, stuff happens:
  • The captain of Shevaithan is an abyssal rotfiend named Xur.
  • In order to steal the chaos ship, the group must remove its mystic moorings that keep it in place.
  • These moorings don’t physically connect to the ship. They are glowing tendrils located in Orcus’s palace. You need to go there and destroy them. 
  • One of the chaos ships has been rebuilt into something resembling a dwarven mining platform. This thing was built around the Heart of the Abyss at the very bottom of the multiverse!
  • Once the group has disengaged the mystic moorings, they can try to take command of the ship. The ship will flare and create weird protections, like clouds and bolts of energy, but the group can overcome them in a.. SKILL CHALLENGE! Roll an arcana check. You made it! You did something to it!
Anarch Sphere: A ten-foot diameter globe that boils and churns. It contains the essence of the elemental chaos.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Dungeons & Dragons - A Guide to Thanatos, the 113th layer of the Abyss

My Planescape group is going to be exploring this place, so I figured I should read up on it. This is a guide to Thanatos, the 113th layer of the Abyss that is ruled by Orcus, demon prince of undeath.
I’m going to go through each old product and pull out the essential information so that we can use it as a starting point whenever we need to use Thanatos in a campaign.

The Essential Information
  • This place is home to hordes of undead.
  • Mortals find that this place drains their essence and will kill them if they stay too long.
  • If you die here, you rise up as either a zombie or a bodak.
  • There are many cities here, full of demons and undead.
  • Kostchtchie, demon lord of giants once sent giants to attack Thanatos and were repelled.
  • A cult of Ahazu the Seier attacked Thanatos and were also repelled.
  • Kiaranselee, a drow goddess of undeath, actually killed/drove Orcus out for a time.
  • A section of this realm is known as The White Kingdom, home to Doresain, King of the Ghouls.
1st Edition Manual of the Planes

We learn a few things:
  • Orcus lives in a great palace made of bones.
  • His guards and servants are undead.
  • From his many halls, Orcus rules many layers of the Abyss and some "Prime Material planes."
Throne of Bloodstone

This adventure has piles and pile of information on the realm of Thanatos. In this module, Thanatos is referred to as layer number 333, but in later editions it is said to be layer 113. The Abyss is chaos so it’s pretty easy to explain – the abyss shifts around.

The Sky Changes: The sky is bright red, then dull crimson, then sickly green. It changes often, and the sky is something of a multicolored light show with roiling clouds.

Flying in Thanatos: Hordes of chasmes attack. There is a 10% chance that the demon lord Pazuzu shows up! He's being paid by Orcus to defend his skies

Creatures in Thanatos: Nabassu, Demiliches, sons of kyuss, spectres, ghouls, babaus, chasmes, shadow demons, dretches, rutterkins, vrocks, wights, mummies, ghosts, vampires, skeletons, and death knights.

Dying in Thanatos: If you die here, you rise up as a bodak. Only a wish spell brings you back to your former state, but a wish in the abyss must be granted by the nearest power.

Valley of the Crypt Things: This place is lined with ornate thrones. On each throne its a pale, solitary skeletal being wearing a brown, hooded robe. There are 24 of them in total. They rise and point fingers at PCs.

Skeletal Mountain: A mountain 4,000 feet high made of bone. It is alive! It forms into strange, skeletal shapes. It forms skeletal creatures that attack intruders every three rounds. The creatures include a giant skeletal fist, skeletal ettins, skeletal t. rexes, skeletal hands, skeletal dragons (!), and skeletal storm giants. I really like that, you could make a really cool adventure out of this mountain.

City of the Zombies: A city of 10,000 zombies, victims of the evil of Orcus who seek a true death. They are ruled by a zombie king - ordinary zombie on a throne. The zombies here would team up with the heroes to take down Orcus.

The Bridge: Two skulls stand guard at the edge of a bridge that spans a moat of fiery lava. The skulls declare: "Let the strongest among you best the champion, ere you may cross." They form a duplicate of the group's strongest fighter and stuff happens! Crazy.

City of the Liches: A great stone wall with a gate of iron. A silent, dead city. Magnificent, but cold. Ruled by “the Lich King.”

The City of Orcusgate: A chaotic metropolis ruled by Glyphimhor, demon lord of orcus gate. Glyphimhor wants the Wand of Orcus for himself. The city is full of dark houses, no sign of life. No light, sounds or smells. Being in the city drains levels! Every d4 hours you lose one.

NPCs in Thanatos:
  • Ter-soth, the Brigade commander, a balor.
  • The group is spied on by fire mephit named Dimwold in a plaid suit and a derby? Yes, a plaid suit.
  • The Trapped Solar: Tied to a burning stake is a solar with skin of molten copper. Ten demons have captured him. The flames can't kill him, but are painful. His magic bonds can only be cut by a magic item. Cutting the bond instantly destroys the sword. The solar’s name is Gabriel and he serves Bahamut. If the group rescues him, he summons a ki-rin to aid the heroes for the rest of the adventure.
  • Fyrillicus, the Abyssian Dragon: He is 100 feet long and can cast spells like dimension door. Fyrillicus is not smart.
The Castle of Orcus:
  • Bone Guns: The castle is guarded by magic bone cannons/guns operated by demons. They can fire an assortment of spells once per round: Dispel magic, lightning bolt, or magic missile.
  • Climbing the Walls: Don’t climb the walls. The walls can form claws or dragon heads that breathe red dragon fire.
  • The Moat: If you fall into this moat of lava, it means “instant and irrevocable death for anyone from the Material plane.” It is 5,000 feet deep and it exudes poison gas.
  • The Mazes: Inside the castle, you’ll need to navigate really, really complicated mazes. This adventure has diagrams and everything.
  • The Prison of Baphomet: This is an open platform. Orcus teamed up with Yeenoghu to capture Baphomet, demon lord of minotaurs. him. Once Baphomet slays a human, he can go home.
  • Library: Shelves of scrolls and tomes. All of them deal with Orcus - his conquests, his slaves, all doctored to make him look good.
  • Teleportation Room: Anyone exiting through a certain door teleports everyone outside to the bridge.
  • Battle Arena: Orcus will fight the heroes in this arena. There are special effects: Dispel magic and a chessboard floor that you fall through… 1000 feet to your doom. This arena is detailed again in 3rd edition, but it doesn’t have these fun details.
Planes of Chaos


This is a Planescape boxed set that is totally overloaded with ideas. There’s a section on layer 113: Thanatos, the Belly of Death.

Effects of the Realm: Undead regenerate 1 hp every hour in Thanatos. More powerful undead regenerate at faster rates (each round!). The thin air causes you to get exhausted quickly.

Orcus is Gone: In 2nd edition, due to the satanic panic, all demons and devils were downplayed. Orcus had “gone missing.” The story here is that he was slain by a drow goddess named Kiaranselee.

New Ruler: Kiaransalee, drow goddess of vengeance and the undead. She wears a cloak of rattling bones and rules Thanatos from Naratyr, city of the dead.

Naratyr: Cold realm on the surface of a frozen ocean. There are a lot of carpets of hair from former occupants. This city has vampire councilors and spectre generals. Her legions include babau, driders and armanites.

Lachrymosa, the Cauldron of Tears: This is a town around a citadel where rust-red geyser spew steam and water. It is home to undead zombies and ghouls. If you die here, you immediately become an undead servant or a mane/dretch/rutterkin. You can only be reverted back via raise dead/wish/resurrection polymorph.

Kiaranselee, drow goddess of undeath

Servants of Kiaranselee:

Rotting Jack: A babau who perpetually sheds his rotting skin which crawls with maggots. He loses an eye periodically and he wants Thanatos for himself.

Anista of the Eight Eyes: A drider who rules the summer palace. She wears a crown of eyes that gives her 360 degree vision and he can't be surprised. He is high strung and very jumpy.

Sleepless: A molydeus who marshals forces for the Blood War. He seems to be in many places at once (Sleepless is actually twins who pretend to be one person).

There are Dustman guides and visitors. Most undead ignore travelers accompanied by a Dustman.

Naratyr, City of the Dead: Hanged people and ghouls on lines the sides of the streets. This place is home to warring bands of vampires, banshees and spectres. Lots of factoids:
  • Ruler: Rauva Cormrael, drow priestess of Kiaranselee
  • Surrounded by a moat of River Styx
  • The city is silent, and cold. There are few taverns/shops/food.
  • The central castle of bone has interior walls of flesh and carpets of hair. This book has a thing for carpets of hair.
  • Militia: They are known as the Ivory Mace, a rag-tag gang of ghouls led by ghasts and wraiths. The captains are babaus wielding thighbone clubs who can sing a banshee-like death song once per day.
  • The Bottomless Well: An inn/tavern run by Crimson Mol, a constantly muttering wight. He clean mugs obsessively.
  • The Last Meal: The city's elite comes here. One frequent patron is Ladislas the Cruel, a bard framed for his spiked flute and sharpened lyre.
  • Ally of Kiaranselee: Qaletra, a priestess of Lolth (possibly a lich)who betrayed her goddess for Kiaranselee.
The Book of Lies: In the adventure book of this boxed set, there’s a short scenario about going to Thanatos and stealing a magic book. The Book of Lies is in a Dustman stronghold on Thanatos.

The Book of Lies lists every lie that was ever uttered in all of creation. It is four feet tall and three feet wide, with an infinite number of pages. You need a strength of 14 to carry it. To use it: Call out someone's name, and the book opens to a list of that person's lies in chronological order. It doesn't explain the circumstances, just the statements.

Portal: There is a portal to Thanatos in the graveyard of Sigil. It is in the inner doorframe of a mausoleum.

Dead Gods
This adventure is all about Orcus. It says that once, Orcus ruled multiple layers of the Abyss, all filled with teeming cities of undead and demons. He created a secret lair known as Tcian Sumere in case things went bad. It is in the negative material plane. The balor Glyphimhor is here! He’s dead! He’s some kind of shaft of light. Somehow he comes back to life in 3rd edition.

Faction War

We learn that when news broke that Orcus had somehow come back to life, Kiaranselee went "barmy" and closed off Thanatos, barring all traffic.

3e Manual of the Planes

Tombstones of every imaginable type dots the landscape

We are told that the drow deity has disappeared. Rumor has it that Orcus has returned! In Dead Gods, Orcus is a thing known a Tenebrous and at the end, his servant Quah Nomag doe a ritual on hi giant dead body. I guess this brought him back to life!

In later books, it is explained that Tenebrous and Orcus became two separate entities. Tenebrous is now a vestige in the Amber Temple of Curse of Strahd. Orcus was most recently seen in Out of the Abyss, sort of. I guess he was supposed to be in a novel but it never got released. The art from it shows that he was mingling with mind flayers, which is an odd combination.

Planar Handbook

There is a very cool section in this book detailing all sort of fun locales in the planes. One of them is:

The Mausoleum of Icy Fear: In Naratyr, there is a cemetery whose graves are carved into the surface of a frozen ocean. The heroes exploring this place may have to battle. It is home to vrocks, vampires, bodaks and spectres.

Fiendish Codex I

When Orcus was a nalfeshnee, he sat in the Court of Woe (layer 400 of the Abyss). During this era, the gith revolted against the mind flayers

Thanatos Details: We get tons of general information.
  • Ash-gray clouds fill the cold, black sky.
  • The immense, melancholic moon changes phases at random.
  • There are roving hordes of thousands of undead.
  • Living mortals take d6 damage per round!
  • If you die here, you rise up as a zombie in one hour.
  • Thin Air: Save every hour or become fatigued. Those who become exhausted immediately begin to suffocate.
  • The dustmen have an outpost in every city.
  • Leaders in the order of Orcus call themselves skull lords. Skull lords are tested. Those who fail become liches and are sent to Golmin Thur forever.
  • When a Skull King dies, it is reborn as a demon - either a vrock or a nalfeshnee.
  • Orcus can manifest himself from place to place throughout the layer at will.
  • Chief Diplomat of Orcus: Harthoon: Lich and an embalmer.
Eldanoth: When Kiaranselee took over Thanatos, a demon named Eldanoth fled and took over its own layer, known as the Arc of Eternity. It is a kingdom of snakes and manes with a copper fortress on a rocky plain. Eldanoth wants to be a god of crime and hatred, and he has many adherents on Thanatos. Eldanoth looks like a smiling male tiefling with snakes growing from his fingertips.

Glyphimhor: This powerful balor died shortly after the invasion of Kiaranselee. He was a column of light in Tcian Sumere. When Orcus returned, he brought him back to life. Glyphimhor rules the city of Lachrymosa, the capital. He is willing to betray Orcus.

City of Straight Curves: A frozen-over port city whose streets bend in extra-dimensional ways. It is ruled by a nabassu named Slursidyal, who loves using illusions to mess with visitors.

Everlost: A massive fortress of bones in a sprawling desert of bone meal called Oblivion's End.

The Valley of the Crypt Things: A bewildering maze of natural defiles and canyons that eventually dip below the surface of Thanatos and connect to the Endless maze of Baphomet.

Frozen Sea: Ancient citadels and shipwrecks frozen in ice. One vessel, the Shadow, is home to Kiaranselee-worshiping drow who want to humble Orcus.

Lachrymosa, the Cauldron of Tears: Rust red geysers that spew steam and water into the River Styx. It contains the Forbidden Citadel, once the seat of Kiaranselee's power. It looks like a bust of the goddess herself. Some believe Orcus doesn't have the power to destroy it. It may contain treasures tied to Kiaranselee's ultimate plan for the layer. Later in the book, it is revealed that an armageddon device is in the Forbidden Citadel - a vortex connected to the heart of the Plane of Positive Energy!! In order to use it, you must make a trip to the world of Guldor for an audience with the Banshee Queen's avatar before making a daring raid against the fortified capital.

Golmin Thur: I think this is the City of Liches from past products. A weeping city of narrow avenues and towering minarets. The liches here are known as the Disgraced. The sorcery of their creation prevents them from harming the skull lords, but they want to rebel.

Lash Embrar, the Flickering City: An enormous spinning helix of borealis-like magical energy dominates the sky about 350 feet above this crumbling metropolis. It may have been here that Orcus enslaved the layer of Thanatos to his will thousands of years ago. All skull lords must make a pilgrimage here. The ruler is skull king Quah Nomag, the cultist who appeared at the end of Dead Gods.

Naratyr: Carved into the Frozen Sea, protected by a frozen moat of the Styx, this is a city of dead vampires, banshees and spectres, as well as reanimated corpses of drow and driders formerly loyal to the Vengeful Banshee. There are also a lot of Quth-maren, skin-stripped corpses who were loyal to Kiaranselee.

Orcusgate: This is the dwelling of demons of Orcus. There is a gate of fire that connects Thanatos to the Pits of Pazunia. The demons here demons thwart visiting skull lords, delighting in the cruelty. Bulky white-skinned winged demons known as zovvuts pass for law-enforcement here. The rulers are the Council of the Riven Ram, a six-member cabal that dictates demonic policy. The council is comprised of balors and mariliths.

The Plains of Hunger: This area is home to countless hordes of undead seeking flesh to consume. Skeletons, zombies, ghouls, mohrgs, hullathoins and wights. Skull Lords come here and try to take control of a horde. Sometimes the Disgraced liches take control of a horde.

Crawling Heads: Long ago, Kostchtchie sent giants here. Orcus fed them to the hordes of the planes of hunger. These giants later reanimated as crawling heads. There is at least one in most hordes. They are brilliant undead behemoths that fall into a deep concentration that allows them to conduct strategic planning for Orcus.

Vadrian: This ruined city was once the stronghold of a balor who betrayed Orcus. The Dustman home is known as the Galendure citadel. Sherenve the Shrewd, half-elf wizard, commands the Thanatos sect of the fallen faction. She studies undead to learn about the multiverse. There is a burning metal tower here that is home to Buldinol, a palrethee who serves as Glyphimhor's eyes and ears.

NPCs: There is a Dustman named Eravamont Glask, a wizard and guide. The Ashen Triune is a trio of mute deathbringers who wander the planes looking for enemies of Orcus to kill.

Dungeon Magazine #147

The heroes are in the Abyss and come across a ship that is a clot of blood and meat made from the remains of 1,000 slaves stretched over a bony frame. A cage of dark iron containing an angel prisoner is in the center. This skiff is operated by two blood fiend agents of Orcus, who are transporting a prisoner who is pretending to be an angel. He is Azael, a spy who was supposed to monitor Demogorgon but got found out.

Dungeon Magazine #148

At one time, the cult of Ahazu the Seizer tried to attack Thanatos. They were repelled. Orcus sent his demons to the Wells of Darkness. They killed the entire cult and destroyed the fortress they lived in.

Dungeon Magazine #149

We learn that the city of Vadrian is all but abandoned aside from the Dustmen. Hiring a Dustman guide costs 4,000 gp per person.

Everlost: Most inhabitants are intelligent undead along with demons and bodaks. Two balors guard the entrance to the throne room, a place where mortals normally aren't allowed in. The balors wear black adamantine armbands that grants them immunity to negative energy.
  • The Halls of the Risen Grave: A short tunnel that leads to the center of the palace. The dome inside is the interior of a truly gargantuan skill. At the center is a pile of skulls with a throne of black stone inlaid with mithral. This is the throne of Orcus. Strange black tendrils writhe from the black stone.
  • The Throne of Orcus: Approaching the throne is difficult. It is a negative energy conduit that drains strength. The closer you come to it, the more you feel pressed down by an unseen weight. Once within 60 feet you must save each round or be forced to your knees.
  • The Arena: The champions include fiendish death giants Lestra and Orbenet and a crawling head named Lertyck Trumbel.
Dragon Magazine #358

Those who sail the Styx through Thanatos must navigate carefully. Bergs of ice and frozen bodies make navigating the Styx slow and treacherous.

Lachrymosa: The portmaster is a bloated zovvut named Sensiner. He has a huge goat eye in the center of his forehead. He must be bribed or their ship will be crippled.

4e Manual of the Planes

Skull lord and Doresain

Those that die in Thanatos rise up as undead abominations in moments.

The Plains of Hunger: Frost-rimed flatlands teeming with undead. Hundreds of skeletons, zombies and ghouls.

Lachrymosa: A balor named Glyphimhor governs the town. Glyph makes it through every edition!

Valley of the Crypts: Bewildering maze of defiles and canyons. This place connects to the endless maze of Baphomet.

E1 Death's Reach

Ghovran Akti: A lich dedicated to Orcus. He hopes to help an exarch of Orcus named Mauglurien to slay the Raven Queen. Ghovran wants to become an exarch of bitterest winter.

Shonvurru: An undead marilith, member of a cult of Orcus known as the Ashen Covenant. There may be a gate from Thanatos to death's reach, a weird realm right on the edge of the Material Plane.

E2 Kingdom of the Ghouls

Orcus has a sidekick – Doresain, king of the ghouls. Doresain rules a realm inside the realm of Thanatos. It is called The White Kingdom, home to thousands of ghouls. The main palace is situated in a lake of black blood.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Dice, Camera, Action: Episode 49 - Storm King's Thunder

Episode 49 - Distraction Force

On June 2nd and June 3rd, the Stream of Annihilation will be up and running. This is an official D&D event where a bunch of different groups will be playing through adventures linked to some mysterious story. It sounds like the waffle crew will be doing something at this thing!

I am going to try and cover it as best I can, and I think I’m going to be tweeting during the whole thing. I’ll do my best to let you know what happens and hit you with the highlights.

This event, I think, launches the new D&D storyline. I have my fingers crossed that it involves Planescape. I think this is the project that included the contributions of Pendleton Ward, the Adventure Time guy.

The Party

(Anna) Evelyn - Human Paladin of Lathander
(ProJared) Diath - Human Rogue
(Nathan) Paultin - Human Bard
(Holly) Strix - Tiefling Sorcerer
(Sam Sykes) Kozin Xorlarrin - Drow Fighter 

Last Time: The group beat up some drow and forced them to surrender. The heroes are getting ready to draw out the fire giants so that Diath and Kozin can sneak in to Ironslag and steal Maegara, the fiery primordial, so that the giants can't use her to create the rampaging colossus known as the vonindod.

Evelyn politely welcomes the drow to the light, and offers to take their things. The drow had the iron flask, but now it belongs to the Distraction Force.

Strix loots a staff with a spider on it. It is sticky. Strix is very into this thing.

The group learns that this delivery was a test for the drow leader. If she had failed to deliver Maegara, she would have been turned into a drider. But she succeeded, much to the disappointment of Kozin.

The dark elves call Kozin a traitor and inform him that Lolth sees all. He asks them, "Does Lolth see this?" and he kills one of the drow with his dagger.

The group asks the drow for some information about the items.

Then, the drow leader Vireth teleports onto a wall about thirty feet away from the group. She casts fly and starts to take off.

Evelyn hucks a few javelins at her and misses. Strix starts looking through the drow spell book and sees that it has a lot of new spells, including greater invisibility and cloudkill.

Diath flings daggers and rolls well for once! He does a pile of damage to her. The drow is still alive but she’s wounded badly.

Kozin tries to get the dao to help, but the drow gets away.

It is time to execute the plane. Strix casts fly on Diath and he flies down the shaft with Kozin. This dynamic duo creep around, looking for a place to hide until the Distraction Force forces a distraction.

Outside, the dao points out that while he was chasing the drow, he found Harshnagg's axe. Hmmm. The group sets up at the door. Strix creates an illusion of a short frost giant and launches a fireball at the front door. The sound reverberates throughout the complex.

It works. Duke Zalto, a bunch of fire giants and hell hounds emerge from the doors. Paultin gets mauled by the hounds. Strix casts polymorph on the duke. It works! Duke Zalto is now a chicken.

Down in the forge, Diath approaches the furnace. Through the grate, he notes that the fire is so bright that he can't look directly at it. He senses a pair of malevolent eyes in the fire.

Diath speaks the command word to activate the magic iron flask. Maegara gets a saving throw. Jared is freaked out... Maegara fails the save! Maegara is in the iron flask.

Evelyn summons Mourning Glory, her horse, in a dazzling display that includes a speech and a wink. Mourning Glory's job is to distract the hell hounds. It works. The hound are chasing the horse.

Diath realizes that there are a lot of slaves in Ironslag. Kozin doesn't want to bother with them. Diath decides that he needs to go and try to free them. Kozin takes chicken-Zalto and leaves Diath to his fate.

Evelyn activates her armor of invulnerability. The hell hounds breathe fire on her, but it does no damage. Evelyn sarcastically pretends to be hurt. Anna has been hilarious from the first second of this episode.

Kuharik, the dao, wants to go find the golem. The group hates this dude and kind of shrugs it off.

Paultin ends up thunderwaving Evelyn and the hell hounds. Evelyn takes no damage, but goes flying with the dogs.

Diath finds a bunch of prison cells, each affixed with a giant-sized lock. To pick the locks, he'll have to stick his arms in them. This will take a lot of time.

Is there a key around?

Ohh boy. Diath decides to free Maegara. I believe he can control her for one hour. She's gigantic. 50 feet tall! Diath burns and all of the dwarves die. The cells melt. Yeargh!

That’s where we stop.


Very fun episode! Lots of action, lots of humor, just as I like it.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Adventures in Eberron - Thelanis, the Faerie Court

Last week, we played some more of the Eberron campaign. I have a 9th level sorcerer who now has a staff of power.

We're on a quest to get three gems from three different Eberron planes. Eberron has its own cosmology and I know absolutely nothing about it. That makes it very fun for me as I have absolutely no idea what to expect.

I googled the Eberron planes just to figure out the name of the place we went to. The DM told us what it was, but I couldn't remember.

We had come to some kind of feywild realm.We were looking at a city with lots of giant birds flying over it. There was a huge tree on top of it with tendrils that shot beams of energy. The birds were trying to snatch these seeds of power from the roof but were getting slaughtered.

It turns out that our gem was there on the roof, too. I had twinned a fly spell. We approached a bird cautiously and befriended it. We ended up with giant bird mounts.

I flew close and used telekinesis to snatch the gem. The party fighter got a seed.

The tree shot me with a laser beam (a sunbeam spell). My bird died! I fell all the way to the ground below.

There were redcaps down there, a volo's monster. I have never, ever encountered redcaps in D&D before. They have steel boots and they started gleefully kicking the crap out of me. They dropped me to 0 hit points.

I have an amulet of life protection that automatically stabilizes me when I drop to 0, so I never have to worry about death saves.

The other heroes flew down, fought the redcaps, and revived me. I cast wall of force using my staff of power and created a protective dome that shielded us from the redcaps.

The others were hurt as well, so we took a few minutes to recover. The fighter's bird was in the dome with us. It wanted the magic seed.

It ate the seed and transformed into some kind of golden ultra-bird that was super-fast. We climbed on it, I dropped the dome and we flew away, free.

We went back through the portal. That was one gem acquired!

We took a long rest and then used my well of worlds to enter another plane. I think the DM is actually rolling on a chart to see which plane we appeared on. Did he cook up a scenario for every plane?

This time, the well brought us to some kind of ocean plane. There was a storm overhead. I think this is Kythri, the Churning Chaos, but I could be wrong.

We went into the city and bought some potions and scrolls of water breathing.

The wizard has this robe with magic patches that create different things. She has one patch that creates two rowboats! Handy!

We entered the realm. In the distance was a floating tower that actually flipped upside-down every so often. As in, the top of the tower swung so that it was underwater. The roof became the basement, and vice versa.

We rowed close. We climbed in through a window and made our way to the roof. The DM began rolling each round to see if the tower flipped. We got extremely lucky. The tower didn't flip once!

There were four slaads messing with the gem we needed. We started dropping magic bombs on them. A few raced forward and attacked.

I used telekinesis to snatch the gem out of their hands. My plan from here was for us to run down the stairs and I'd make a wall of force blocking them from following us.

It didn't quite work out, as the others couldn't get away and one slaad pursued me down the stairs. I used telekinesis to keep the slaad away from me and to clear a path.

The other slaads were killed and the group joined me in the stairs. We fled to the rowboats while I held the slaad back with telekinesis.

We rowed back to the portal and escaped!

We have two gems. We had to stop there.

I really like how the DM comes up with these scenarios that are so different from each other. I don't think I ever would have come up with that flipping tower, that was really cool.

We need one more gem and then something is going to happen. I think we're actually going to connect in some way to the world in our previous 4th edition campaign, which is Nerath/the Nentir Vale, the default 4e setting.

That world got altered in the course of the 4e campaign so that during the day, the world crossed with the feywild and at night, the world crossed with the shadowfell.

I love my staff of power. It's the greatest thing ever. Was a good one!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Dungeons & Dragons - Converting Old Adventures to 5th Edition

I know a lot of you are newer players or people returning to the game after many years, so I feel like this might be helpful for some of you.

For some of you newer people learning the rules, I think you might be interested in these action cards (cards with no crop marks here). On top of that, this company is giving away 5e Player Handbooks, one per week. This is all in preparation for their kickstarter for color-coded dice. I am very amused at the idea of having an orange set of 8d6 specifically for fireballs.

So! Today I’m going to take a stab at explaining how you can convert older adventures to 5th edition D&D rules.

Here’s the super-short version:
  • Scale the encounters when necessary.
  • Re-skin the monsters (Take the numbers from a 5e creature appropriate to your group’s level, and apply that to the old monster’s stats).
  • Use the DC and damage guidelines in the DMG on pages 238 and 249.
  • Remember that old adventures are way overloaded with treasure and might be a bit much for 5e.
Good Adventures: There are all of these old adventures out there that are really great. I made a list of my favorites a while back.

If you're newer to the game and you see a cool adventure that uses a different version of the D&D rules, you might back off, thinking that converting it is too much work.

It's not! It's worth it! There are a lot of cool old adventures that virtually nobody has played. Converting can take a while, but it doesn’t have to. If you’re a stickler and you want to get every little detail right, it will take forever. But that’s not necessary at all. You can slap stuff together and run it just fine.

Guidelines: There are two very important pages in the DMG:
  • DC guidelines on page 238.
  • Damage guidelines on page 249.
Online Tools: Nobody can remember every spell and item in existence. When you need to know 5e stuff, you can ctrl-f and search these lists real quick:
Monsters: A lot of times, when you are converting a monster from an older edition, that monster won’t exist in 5e. In those cases, here’s what I do:
  • Google the Monster: The stats for almost any monster from 1e-3e is online. Check out its powers and description.
  • 5e Stats: Find a similar 5e monster that is a suitable challenge for your group
  • Re-Skin: Apply the 5e monster's numbers (AC, plus to hit, damage expression, save DC) to your monster. Boom. 
Tons of Treasure: In older editions, magic items are handed out by the truckload in published adventures. In 4e, magic items are expected. You have to have them!

In 5e, magic items are rarer. Adventuring groups have less of them and, at least in my games, a +2 item is ridiculously rare. I don't think I've ever given one out! In older editions, +2,+3, no big deal. +5 is usually the big time in the olden days.

I'm going to go through each edition, list some adventures and show how to convert stuff from that edition.

AD&D 1st Edition – Temple of Elemental Evil

Certain 1st edition adventures such as Tomb of Horrors and White Plume Mountain are reprinted in almost every edition, just like in 5e's Tales From the Yawning Portal.

Low AC: A low armor class is good in 1st edition. Once you get in the negatives, it's very good. AC -2 is fantastic. That’s +4 plate mail you’re wearing, there.

No Balance: The big thing to know as a DM is that most of the time, there's no encounter balance in 1e and 2e adventures! There is no math, they just threw whatever they felt like at you.

So when you're converting 1e adventures, keep that in mind. If there's a room with 20 orcs and your group is 3rd level, you have a choice: Leave it as-is or balance it. I think that kind of depends on your style and the temperament of your players.

Maintaining the Balance: If you want to balance it, go to kobold fight club and enter in your stuff. A medium challenge for four 3rd level characters would be three orcs. So you just change that room to 3 orcs instead of 20.

I converted and ran the Temple of Elemental Evil a few years ago. You might want to check out the computer game. It is buggy, but you will probably end up really excited about running this adventure. I did, anyway.

Modify It: Do not feel weird about changing things or removing sections of the dungeon that seem boring to you. Every DM does it in every edition. In the case of this adventure, this dungeon is very uneven and some of it might be a drag to play through.

Chamber of Statues (page 78, Room 311)

I picked this room because I like it a lot, and it has a lot of examples of the choices you will have to make when converting. The above image doesn't include the whole room. There's all these statues in here, too.

Scaling the Wisps: The lights are four will-o'-wisps. The 5e version of them is on MM page 301. The wisps attack the group as they look at the statues. If the group consists of four heroes that are 5th level, then 4 will-o'-wisps is a hard encounter. You could drop it to 3 wisps to make it a medium encounter.

If two wisps are slain, the others flee, which makes the encounter a bit easier. But it's a tricky choice. I'd go with less wisps, because the fun of this room has nothing to do with them. This room is all about experimenting with the statues.

Beholder Statue: It is protected by a fire trap and it has a scroll of protection from magic.

So.. I don’t see a 5e fire trap. Let's google fire trap from an older edition. It's right here.

Basically, you touch the fire-trapped thing and there's a fiery explosion. For damage and DCs, you can use the guidelines on DMG pages 238 and 249. I usually stick with DCs that are between 10-15, because even high-level characters have a hard time making those rolls.

I'd go with a DC 13 Dexterity save and 2d10 fire damage. Success = half damage. If the group is 5th level here, we're right on the border of 'setback' and 'dangerous' on page 249. I might split the difference and go with 3d10 fire damage.

I think I would have it hit everyone within 5 feet of the object. That’s always tricky because you need to know who is close without tipping the players off that it matters where they’re standing.

I'd replace protection from magic (doesn't exist in 5e) with protection from energy, PH page 270.

Dragon Statue: The box that the dragon statue is admiring has invisible runes on it. They reveal four command words:
  1. Shrinks the box to 1/12th normal size.
  2. Causes it to function as a Leomund's secret chest spell.
  3. Causes the box to go back to full size.
  4. Makes the box four times as large! It weighs 1,200 pounds.
Invisible Runes: Invisible runes! How do we decide if they're detected? Who scans every item for invisible text on it?

I would do it like a 5e glyph of warding, where the words are nearly invisible and require a successful Intelligence (Investigation) check to find. So, if the group is smart and cautious, they'll check it for traps.

No DC: In cases like these, I just let the group find it if they say they are looking. I don't like it when the group has the foresight to search something and then don't find anything because of a die roll. If they were clever enough to check, I'd give it to them.

Leomund's secret chest is on PH page 254.

Weaponized Box: One pitfall here. Your players will definitely try to drop the box from a height onto a bad guy and speak the command word so that the 1,200 pound box comes crashing down on them.

That's fun and hilarious once, but it could march into cheesy territory real easily. You might want to say that it takes the box d6 rounds to fully expand and that it makes a stretching, creaking noise when it does so.

Or! The group drops it and expands it. It falls, hits the target and cracks. It doesn’t break, but it is clear if they do it again, the box will fall apart and be useless.

Fire Giant: Has a +2 spear, cursed backbiter.

This item is in Tales from the Yawning Portal, page 229. Let’s assume you don’t have that book. We google it.

Magic Curse: The deal here is that when you roll a natural 1, it damages the wielder. Usually with these kind of items, the wielder will be affected by it magically and won't want to get rid of it. Remove curse will need to be cast to separate the wielder from the item.

In this case, I think it would be funny to say that it is just a faulty spear. The character gets hit with it one time, and they can either throw it in the garbage or maybe use it in a clever way, convincing an enemy to wield it so that they end up killing themselves with it, which would be really funny.

Manticore: It has a crossbow of speed, but the crossbow's string is missing. It says that "enchant weapon" is needed to fix it. Furthermore, the bow's new string will break whenever the wielder rolls a natural 20 to hit.

There's no crossbow of speed in 5e, but there is a scimitar of speed (DMG page 199). It's +2 and it lets you make one more attack with it as a bonus action on each of your turns. That's easy to apply to this, right?

Fixing the String: Enchant weapon isn't in 5e. It seems like the cantrip "mending" (PH page 259) would fix this just fine.

Medusa: Oh boy. Cloak of poisonousness. When you put it on.. you die. No saving throw.

That's brutal! I don't like stuff like this. If you are going to use this item, I think you should warn your players when you start this adventure that there is save or die effects in it. They'll be more cautious and they deserve a heads up. Also, it might save you some headaches if/when they die from it.

If I was going to use this item, I would make the DC low. DC 10. I'd probably also describe it in an ominous tone, and say that it slithers anxiously like a snake, eager for you to wear it.

Changing It: I think I would change this completely. I'd probably alter it to an effect where the hero is cursed and very slowly turning to stone. Each day, they lose a bit of speed and maybe gain 1 point of AC. They'll be petrified within a week, giving them ample time to remove it if they want.

I'd also love the idea of the character becoming more medusa-like. They start to grow snake hair, and their gaze sometimes turns things to stone, but they can't control it. Eventually they'd start to lose control and they'd need a remove curse before they became an NPC monster.

Players love this kind of thing, and frequently they'll request to keep the effect in some way. They might just like the snake hair. I usually let them keep it, because it's fun. I did a thing in a Blackmoor campaign where some of the heroes turned into slaads in times of stress as if they were the Hulk. They loved it so much, I just let them keep it.

Don’t Worry About It: As long as it doesn't unbalance the game, stuff like this can help get the players more into their character. That character is now utterly unique, and they are rewarded for interacting with the world.

Mummy: The staff has a glyph of warding (blindness) on it. The bottle contains strong acid that can be thrown like a grenade.

Glyph of Warding is on PH page 245, blindness/deafness is on PH page 219. That's a Con save. The blindness spell only lasts a minute, which feels a bit useless. Then again, being blind in a dungeon for a long time sucks.

Timing: I think what I'd do is have the wisps play it cool and wait for someone to be blinded, and then attack. That way the blindness matters without it being too harsh.

Lords of Acid: The acid grenade. I googled a 5e vial of acid. It does 2d6 acid. Since this bottle has "strong acid" let's double the damage! 4d6 acid right in the face!

Ogre Mage: The necklace has a stone that can be thrown to create an Otiluke's freezing sphere.

Otiluke's freezing sphere is on PH page 263. 60 foot radius, 10d6 damage! That's a cool one-shot item for the group to use in times of peril.

Rakshasa: A ring of delusion which performs as a ring of x-ray vision for one turn before becoming false and useless. Ring of x-ray vision is on DMG page 193.

There is no 5e version of a ring of delusion that I know of. I googled it. The user believes the item is what it appears to be and can't be convinced otherwise without a remove curse.

Cursed Items are Weird: I don't like cursed items because it's too much of a middle finger to the group. Also, how exactly did the bad guy get these things without getting cursed? The bad guy collects them? Does the bad guy expect that many intruders??

Altering It: You can have fun with this, though. You could say that the x-ray vision works half the time, and the other half it shows something really weird. So then, if there is a room where there is actually something bizarre going on, the group will have no idea if the ring is messing with them or not.

Also, you could do it in a way where the ring likes the character and deceives them to keep them safe. That might lead to all sorts of fun things.

Wight: The urn is worth 20,000 gold!!! Inside it is dust of sneezing and choking, which "spills out of the vessel if examined." Each creature within 20 feet is disabled for 5-20 rounds and must save vs. poison... or DIE.

How Much Gold? Wow. First, if the group is 5th level, 20,000 gold is a mighty sum. If you google this topic, you get a great enworld post that helps a lot.

According to that, each hero should have around 560 gold each at 5th level. At 6th, they should have 4500 gold.

Dispensing Cash: Handing out gold partly depends on how you run things. If the group can buy magic items in your world, then the amount of gold they have matters a lot. If they are able to pay spellcasters to cast high level spells for them, that matters too.

Don't Sell Your Timeshare: In D&D, characters don't do a lot with gold. What is there to buy? If you look at the prices of buildings, they are incredibly expensive. A fortress is 150,000 gold. If your group is the type to want to buy a place like that, then handing them this gold is fine! They're saving it for their fortress.

Dust of Death: Dust of sneezing and choking is on DMG page 166. DC 15 Con save or become unable to breathe and begin suffocating. They can repeat the save at the end of each turn.

I would use the dust as it is written in the 5e DMG and remove the YOU DIE part from the 1e adventure. The characters might suffocate to death using the 5e rules, but it will be through the suffocation/exhaustion rules. I hate looking those rules up. I googled it, it's right here.

Heimlich: The choking character can last at least a round before it hits 0 and starts making death saves. The only thing I'd plan for is another character trying to help their friend breathe. Medicine check? You could do an amusing heimlich maneuver or mouth-to-mouth scenario, depending on your group’s sense of humor.

AD&D 2nd Edition - The Rod of Seven Parts

Ok.. this adventure is awesome, but it's very high level. My favorite part of this whole boxed set is the third booklet that details the rod and has scenarios that might occur in the campaign, such as: "What if the group is caught by the bad guys?" That whole possibility is written out like an adventure. I love it.

In this campaign, the Queen of Chaos sends her flunkies after the heroes. She wants the pieces of the Rod of Seven Parts. The group is collecting them while avoiding her deadly spyder-fiends. Let’s convert the weakest type of spyder-fiend from 2e to 5e. Here's the 2e stat block:

We’ll go down the terms so you have an idea of what matters. Most of it doesn’t:
  • AC: Armor class.
  • MV: Their speed, which is weird in old editions (they use real-life inches on a real-life map).
  • Wb 15: I think this is the speed it has climbing webs.
  • Cl 9: I think this is the spider's climb speed (Thanks Nono).
  • HD 4: That's the challenge rating of the monster. "Hit dice" in older editions basically meant the "level" of the monster.
  • # AT 1: Number of attacks per round. It has one attack.
  • Dmg: Damage.
  • SA: Spell-like abilities.
  • SD: Special defenses.
  • SW: Vulnerabilities.
  • MR: Magic Resistance. A lot of monsters in 2e have some amount of magic resistance. When a spell is cast at them, they roll a d100. If they get that number or lower, they resist the spell. If the spell bypasses the resistance, the monster still gets to make a saving throw as normal.
  • SZ: Size.
  • ML: This is morale, a tool for the DM to figure out if a monster runs away. During a battle when things go bad, you'd make a roll. The lower the morale score, the more cowardly the monster.
THAC0: This is the stuff of legend, the core of the 2e experience. This is 2nd edition's weird way of helping you figure out what you need to roll to hit an armor class. Remember, a low armor class is good in 2e. THAC0 stands for "To Hit AC 0." The lower your THAC0 score, the better.

If you have a THAC0 of 5, that means you only have to roll a 5 on a d20 to hit a monster with an AC of 0. That’s really good!

So a THAC0 of 17 means you need to roll a 17 on a d20 to hit AC 0. Remember, a -1 AC is harder to hit. If you have a THAC0 of 17, you need to roll an 18 to hit a -1 AC.

If you want to hit a regular dude who has an AC of 10, you only need to roll a 7. It's weird, but once you get it in your head, you never lose it, ever.

Spyder Time: OK. To get these spider-y powers right, we should look at the 5e spiders to see how 5e rules use spiders. If you look, a phase spider (MM page 334) seems to be very close to what we want. It is one level lower than I'd like.

Honestly, I would probably just use these stats and add a few hit points and the bite power. But let’s try and do this thing. Basically, I’m taking the spider abilities and scaling them for a challenge 4 monster.

One thing I noticed is that giant spider poison does a pile of damage. I decided to use that. I also chose to limit the teleport power. Teleport at will seems a bit much for a low-level monster. I was torn on giving it the phase spider ethereal jaunt ability. I decided not to just to be faithful to the 2e version.

Kakkuu (Demon, Spyder-Fiend): AC 14 HP 65 Bite: +5 to hit, 6 piercing dmg piercing and the target must make a DC 11 Con save, taking 18 poison on a failed save, or half as much on a successful one. If the target drops to 0, it is stable but poisoned for one hour, even after regaining hit points, and is paralyzed while poisoned in this way.
  • Immune: Lightning, poison. Resistant: Cold, fire
  • Web (recharge 5-6): +5 to hit, range 30/60, the target is restrained by the webbing. DC 12 Strength to escape.
  • Spell-like Abilities: (At-will): Darkness, (3/Day) Teleport.
There's a description of how a kakkuu can dangle a web down and swing it so that the heroes get stuck to it. Then it can reel them in at 15 feet per round. I'd make that an encounter or two, not sure how to word it exactly.

One other thing. You should probably change the name of this monster. If you have a goofy group, once they start saying “Kakkuu” out loud, you’re in for many nights full of ribald humor.

D&D 3rd Edition Life's Bazaar (Dungeon Magazine #97)

Let's do a Perkins! Chris Perkins used this adventure to kick off the first big 3e adventure path - The Shackled City. This path is really awesome, but it is a bit disjointed. The adventures don't connect that well and they don't foreshadow the big final villains, so it comes off a little weird.

This adventure has an awesome level 1 dungeon (called Jzadirune) in it. I actually converted this to 4th edition years ago, and I screwed it up. So, it seems like a good choice to talk about here.

This dungeon has gear doors:
  • The doors in Jzadirune are gear-shaped.
  • They roll into a nearby wall cavity when properly opened.
  • Burned into the center of each door is a glyph representing a letter in the gnome language.
  • The doors are locked. Opening one requires a rectangular, rod-shaped key.
  • The key fits in a tiny, diamond-shaped slot, and each key bears a tiny glyph at one end.
  • The glyph on the key must match the door to open it.
  • Opening a gear door without a key (knock spell, lock-picking, etc) activates a trap.
  • The DC on this lock is a 30! At first level! Even in 3rd edition, that's really high.
Problem: What happened in my game was that I made the DC high - attainable, but really high. The thief kept failing his attempts to pick the lock. From the text: "The trap continues to function until the door is opened or destroyed."

The thief kept failing and getting hit with the trap effect over and over. It got unpleasant, to say the least.

Converting the Traps: Each of these doors has a different trap, many of which mirrors the effect of a cantrip. There's a shocking grasp, ray of frost, cloud of corrosive gas, fan of magical flames, etc. I'd use the actual 5e cantrips with a DC of 10 where applicable.

For the other traps, I'd use a DC 10 and damage of 1d10 or maybe even 1d6.

Deciding the DC of the Locks: This dungeon is designed in a way where I think you can get through it without opening one gear door. There's secret doors you can use to traverse the dungeon, and some of the gear doors are open. If I could do this again, I’d have lowered the DC by a lot. I think that DC 30 was some 3e thing that went over my head when converting.

1st Level Characters: This adventure is the beginning of a campaign, so if you have new players, you want to really lowball them on damage while they learn the game.

D&D 4th Edition - Siege of Bordrin's Watch (Dungeon #157)

I didn't like that Tales from the Yawning Portal didn't have a 4e adventure in it. I wracked my brain to think of one to replace Forge of Fury (we don't need two 3e adventures from the same path in Yawning Portal, right?). I realized that it should be Siege of Bordrin's Watch. I ran that and my group talked about it for years after. 

Converting 4th Edition: 4e is different. Very different! It's like D&D tactics. I loved it, but I understand why people wouldn't like it.

4e was all about game balance. In older editions, once characters hit 11th level or so, they were so powerful that they could plow through any adventure. Parties would have some characters who were weak and useless, and others who were godlike.

Players would exploit certain combinations which was fun for them, but not so much fun for the players sitting there twiddling their thumbs while their friend killed everything in one round.

4th edition completely removed that. It is extremely balanced, to the point that every class feels similar. Everyone has "powers" that are roughly equal in strength.

4e Monsters: In 4e, the monsters are streamlined. Each has a few powers that are completely explained right there in their stat block. You don't have to look up any spells. They don't have spells! They'll have a power that is like a spell, but it's described right there in the text.

4e Level Range: This adventure is for 3rd level characters. 4th edition goes from levels 1-30, so normally I'd remove a level or two for 5e. You might want to cut them by a 3rd.

For example, if you have a level 12 4th edition adventure, that would be a level 8 5th edition adventure. It doesn't matter that much, it's just something to keep in mind.

In this case, level 3 is fine.

Shrine to Moradin (page 43)

This room has 8 orcs and a cave troll. Most of the orcs are minions, a 4e type of monster that has one single hit point. I love minions, they're a lot of fun and players like slaughtering them.

Remove Orcs: For the conversion to 5e, I'd get rid of all the orcs. The troll is more than enough! After all, a troll is a deadly encounter for four level 3 characters. A troll is a hard encounter for four level 4 characters.

I like this encounter because the monster has a cool power. It's very memorable. "Improvised Weapon" lets the troll grab a creature and use them as a weapon. If the creature has heavy armor on, it does more damage!

We have some options here. We can re-skin the troll so that it's lower level, or we can use the technique from Yawning Portal/Dead in Thay. It's called "reduced threat monsters."

Reduced Threat Monsters: A reduced threat monster has half its normal hit points and -2 to attack rolls, ability checks, DCs and saving throws. That seems simple to put into effect and should shave down our troll from deadly to hard or medium.

We have to create the grabbing-and-hitting power for 5e. Regular trolls are on MM page 291.

Cave Troll AC 13 HP 42 +5/+5/+5 5dmg/5dmg/9dmg
  • Regeneration: Regains 10 HP at start of its turn unless it takes fire or acid.
  • (Action) Improvised Weapon: +5 to hit. Hit: Target is grabbed and restrained. The troll uses it as a weapon in a melee attack: +5 to hit, Hit: Both the target and the grabbed creature take 7 damage. If the grabbed creature is wearing heavy armor, the target takes 11 damage. Escaping the grab is an action: Athletics or Acrobatics check DC 11.
There we go. Good enough for a one-off encounter! I'm a little worried about the three attacks. That's a lot of damage. If I were to run this, I'd just spam the improvised weapon power.

You are now a Convert

It might seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be a big thing. Just slap some appropriate numbers on it and run it! Err on the side of caution and you’ll be fine.

Once you know the appropriate numbers that work for your group, it’s a piece of cake. Any creature you’re unsure of, you can model them after existing 5e monsters of the level you need.