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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Dice, Camera, Action: Episode 55 - Storm King's Thunder

Episode 55: Flesh and Blood
This was a pretty unpredictable one. I have no idea what's going to happen next week!

There is a discussion on the Dice, Camera, Action subreddit about whether or not they should include NSFW content. I have to say, that cracks me up. What exactly are people going to post? Stories? Art?

There is also a really great piece of art depicting Paultin and Escher right here.

The Party

(Anna) Evelyn - Human Paladin of Lathander
(ProJared) Diath - Human Rogue
(Nathan) Paultin - Human Bard
(Holly) Strix - Tiefling Sorcerer
(Sam Witwer) Mordenkainen, the Mad Mage

Chris starts off by reminding us about the story of Mordenkainen, aka "the Mad Mage," and his battle with Strahd in the backstory of Curse of Strahd (fell of a cliff, didn't die). Mordenkainen helped the Waffle Crew defeat Strahd by shattering the giant crystal heart that gave Strahd magic protection.
Paultin's shadow has pulled the group back into Barovia so that Paultin can link up with the dark powers and his shadow can link up with him. The dark powers want Paultin to be the new ruler of Barovia. To do this, Paultin will have to marry the flesh golem lady.

We left off last time with the Abbot being none too happy with Paultin. They're in a chapel where the wedding is about to take place. The rest of the group is on the roof of the chapel.

A wereraven kid lands on the roof and tells the group to wait for the wizard to arrive. The wereravens are good guys. The heroes met them a few times, most notably at the wine-making place where Evelyn almost ate a baby.

Paultin talks to Escher. Escher was just messing with a corpse. As Paultin is smelling the corpse-stink on Escher's hand, the bride comes in. Escher asks where her bridesmaids are. Who are the bridesmaids? Mongrelfolk? The witches? It is not yet revealed.

The golem bride talks. She makes a corpse-y croaking noise. So she doesn't talk... I thought she talked when they met her last time. They should get Ireena's corpse and animate that.

Up on the roof, the bells ring. The belfry is right above the group. The doors to the chapel open and a line of ghosts enter. That's the ghosts from one of the very first sessions. The ghosts do this every day, I think. It was a very cool part of Curse of Strahd that you could do a lot of fun stuff with.

The vampire altar boy that the group almost killed in one of the first sessions spots the group. Evelyn approaches him, friendly. She tries to grab him. Rolls a 20! He turns into a bat.

Down below, Escher says that it's time. He's all keyed up. We learn that the witches are the bridesmaids. They've gone missing.

Escher brings Paultin to see a corpse... it's Falkon! Escher says he blames Strahd for his death. Escher's plan is for the wedding to happen, and then once it is complete, they'll kill Paultin's shadow. There's only one thing that can hurt the shadow. The sunsword! Paultin has it, but he doesn't use it much.

Up above, Strix uses magic to look like Strahd. I love it when he does the Strahd voice.

The wedding starts. The group is about to spring into action. The wereraven kid tells them to wait - it's not time.


The ceremony starts. Paultin's shadow looms near the altar, watching intently as the Abbot performs it. It's not so much a wedding as an incantation. Evelyn gets the sense that once Paultin says "I do", the spell is completed.

The vampire altar boy tells Evelyn that she's a construct - she could marry Paultin and embrace the darkness. Evelyn is deeply offended at the idea of embracing evil and starts going off on him about Lathander.

Here come the good guys. They burst through the doors of the chapel. A mob of villagers led by Ireena's brother, Ismark. He beheaded 3 of the witches and he's holding their heads! We can only wonder if he sundered their brooms.

Wereravens are with him, as is and Mordenkainen. Murty Gurty has returned, and he is drinking buttermilk!

Evelyn tackles Paultin and demands to know if he was actually going to marry the golem. Paultin doesn't answer.

The Abbot strikes her with his mace for 25 points. Escher grabs Paultin and pulls him to his feet.

The villagers all have polearms - each a different type! If you're new to D&D, you might not get that.  Mordenkainen was Gary Gygax's (the co-creator of D&D) real life D&D character that he put into the actual published game in the form of names of spells and in Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure. Gary Gygax was obsessed with polearms. He always wrote about and statted up tons of polearms. I think Zeb Cook said that part of his job application actually had a quiz on polearms.

Hey! The Abbot tinkered with the golem. The bride now has has Ireena's head! The head is frozen with the same scream on her face that she had when Strix accidentally knocked her off the nightmare and she fell to her death. That is funny.

Diath is freaking out. He is afraid to fight. Ohhh... here come the witch brooms! Of course, they're coming right at Diath. Someday he's going to have to fight a colossal undead spell-casting broom. Or maybe a broom golem! Has there ever been an artifact broom in D&D? Someone should make one.

Strix wants a broom to keep. She grabs one and she's pulled off her feet. Diath leads the brooms on a chase. Look like he's got some sweet maneuver planned.

Ismark is going after the bride. Escher tries to stop him, but Ismark pushes him into a fire.

The villagers drag down the Abbot. Mordenkainen uses Bigby's crushing hand to do a massive pile of damage to the bride. In real life, Bigby was one of Mordenkainen's NPC sidekicks (along with Rigby, Zigby and others).

Paultin spots his shadow creeping up on Evelyn. He runs over and attacks it. Natural 20! Wow. The shadow is obliterated! It scatters like a bunch of bats. He hears Strahd's voice howl. It looks like he destroyed what was left of Strahd.

Lightning hits the chapel. The dark powers are not happy. The roof crumbles. Strix, luckily, is flying on the broom.

The only creature still on the roof when this happens is Waffles the baby owlbear! The owlbear falls. Diath catches it! Phew. A roof chunk falls on Escher. Methinks we have not seen the last of him.

In the sky, the clouds take the form of a giant face. It looks like Strahd. He's angry! Lightning flashes and tears cloud-Strahd apart. The chapel flickers between night and day.

Wow... Barovia's about to go back to wherever it came from! That's cool, I don't think it has ever been officially stated where Barovia came from. Do you think Chris will place it in the Forgotten Realms? Or... Greyhawk?

Mordenkainen realizes this flickering indicates that there's a fracture in time. If the group stays here, they're either going to go to the past or the future.

Izek, Strix's brother with the big demon arm, hucks a ball of flame at him and calls out, "Lorcana scum!" I think that's what he said.

Diath is getting beat on by brooms. Strix casts dispel magic and all of them clatter to the floor! The one remaining broom lands next to Strix and pats her. It doesn't want to be dispelled. I am very glad Chris let her have the broom, that should be fun.

The Waffle Crew is fading away. Wow... they're going back in time. Mordenkainen thinks they're going back to AD&D 1st edition and hands them a 10 foot pole, an iron spike, a flask of oil and buttermilk. I hope they have flint and steel.

That's where we stop. Very good show!


There is a 2e Ravenloft adventure called From the Shadows where the group goes back in time to when Strahd had his freakout and killed his brother, Sergei. The heroes possessed wedding guests  and get the thrill of being slaughtered with the rest of the people.

We are given this advice: "The rest of this encounter is a merry chase in which Strahd kills all the characters one by one. The DM should be cruel; none of the players are losing their real characters."

Even as a kid, I knew my players would hate this, I don't think I used that section at all. That adventure has cool stuff in it, but it requires a lot of tweaking.

Another interesting thing is that Chris said recently on twitter that time travel ruins campaigns, or something to that effect. Maybe this is an isolated jaunt that won't negate any campaign stuff. Who knows? Maybe we'll see the the origin of the amber temple, or what Barmy the lich was like as a regular dude.


Unknown said...

Chris actually explains a lot about time travel in DMXP #21 "It's All About Time." As I am running his Iomandra campaign, I've come to follow his ideas on it and think he will keep to them in any setting.

Here's part of what that article says on it:

"Lessons Learned
Time travel is a great storytelling tool, but like a chainsaw it comes with a warning label. Used unwisely, it can mutilate your campaign, as it demands a great deal of forethought and caution. I once subjected the Monday night group to the effects of an arcane contraption that teleported them into the future—the specifics of which are discussed in my blog. It was shocking and fun, but it took weeks of preparation since I needed to figure out all the ways in which Future Iomandra was different from Current Iomandra. (In general, the farther into the future you travel, the more gaps need to be filled.) Also, there are many complex factors to consider, such as determining which characters are still alive in the future, and what tragic fates befell the ones that aren’t.
My dalliance with time travel in the Iomandra campaign has taught me a few things:

If you use time travel, be ready for the unexpected.

The past is easier to navigate than the future.

Keep the “rules” for time travel as simple as possible.

Don’t introduce time travel if you’re worried about players altering your campaign’s history or acquiring items or information normally beyond their reach. Just as I view time travel as a fun way to mess with my players, they see time travel as a fun way to mess with my campaign. As for the “rules” of time travel, you need to determine how to handle temporal paradoxes and the extent to which the heroes can affect change. When I decided to give the Monday players the hourglass talisman, I did so with the full understanding that the heroes could go back in time, meet themselves, and change the course of history. But imagine if a character travels back in time and kills his parents before he’s born. What happens next? Does the character suddenly disappear, having effectively erased himself, or is he a separate entity from his unborn self and therefore unaffected? Probably best not to overthink it, but there needs to be an underlying logic that the players can follow; otherwise, you’re playing a game without rules, and that will cause your campaign to crack and fall apart.
My own rules for time travel are simple:

A character traveling through time is removed from play in the present timeline.

A character traveling to the past or future is not affected by the changing states of creatures around him, including older and younger versions of himself. He can be wounded and killed as normal, but nothing adverse happens to him if his younger or older self is injured or dies.

Time travel effects have durations. No matter how far into the past or present a character travels, he only gets to stay there for a finite amount of time before the time travel effect ends and he returns to the time and place whence he came. In this way, time travel is like an elastic band; eventually, the time traveler gets pulled back to the exact time and place he left, minus any gear he left behind or resources he expended. This is true even if the character dies in the past or present.

If a character acquires an item in the past or future, he still has the item when he returns to his normal time. So, if the character travels to the future, kills an evil wizard and takes the wizard’s staff back to the present, the character now has the staff and the wizard (who is technically still alive) does not.

These rules don’t address every corner case that comes up during play, and thoughtful players might discover (and exploit) a few loopholes. If they do, you’ll have to improvise. If improvisation isn’t one of your strengths, it’s probably best to forego time travel for the time being rather than let it disrupt or destroy your otherwise spectacular campaign."

glados131 said...

Wow, this was a fantastic episode. Practically every still living character from Barovia converged for a massive showdown.

The golem bride only spoke last time because Diath's ghost was possessing her. Also, I'm not so sure Escher survived that roof-- Chris said they saw a puff of ash under it. (Speaking of which, you neglected to mention Paultin's absolute funniest moment of the episode: "Oh no. My bride."

glados131 said...

Oh, also I think you got the wrong episode name (that was the name of a clip a fan posted to the subreddit). The episode is titled "Flesh and Blood".

Sean said...

Nykademos: You are running Iomandra?! That is really awesome. I think Osterneth, who is Vecna's bride or agent or something, is in the 4e open grave book. That rule about taking the wizard's staff is weird! You take it from the future wizard, and it vanishes from the "current day" wizard? I get it, you don't want copies of artifacts running around. I get really lost when thinking about time travel.

glados131: I assumed that because we didn't see Escher die, he's still out there. I think Chris really likes running Escher and probably wouldn't want him to have a death like that, but hey who knows. I fixed the title. Thanks!

Unknown said...

And then that very wizard is going to be really peeved and hunt down where his staff went!
I think time travel confuses most people. My players still have trouble deciding whether events happened in the current timeline or the previous one after they altered it in order to save the last couatl.
Yes, thankfully Vecna's ex is well documented in Open Grave. Less stuff I have to make up when it comes to the parts of Iomandra I don't have any notes for. I've been running Iomandra for 2 years now. We're currently at 69 sessions in, on a slow xp track (which is why they are only level 6, just shy of 7), and still in Act One (or the heroic tier adventures for the 4e savvy). Mostly I've been using all of the DMXP articles and everything Chris posted on the forums back when they were up to run the thing, with a little theft from Pathfinder and plenty of my own imaginings. I've recorded nearly every session, and one of my players is transcribing those recordings while editing out all of the out of game talk. Once he's done with that, I plan on taking them and making a blog posting "novelized" versions of each "episode" along with some DM notes.