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Tomb of Annihilation – Session 19


I’m not going to do a room by room breakdown of the exploration, but there will still be spoilers for the Tomb of Nine Gods section of Tomb of Annihilation.

The group debated the meaning of the slots in the bases of the platforms upon which the four-armed statues stood and decided they were intended for coins. Since they had not returned to town in quite some time, they didn’t have a variety, so they put gold coins in all the slots. As this caused no change in the statues, Herrick utilized his slippers of spider climbing to descend the central shaft between the statues. The statue with the platinum base came to life and leapt upon Herrick, slashing with with all four arms and biting at him. The surprise attack mutilated Herrick’s body.

Herrick was dead.

The rest of the group avenged their deceased friend and once the gargoyle lay defeated in rubble, they retrieved their friends body. They noticed cocoon-like pods hanging underneath a nearby ledge, two of which trip. Taking no chances, Baersora summoned a lightning bolt, frying the pods and spilling their contents to the floor*. Several of them contained shapeless masses of flesh, but two seemed to contain people. The first was an armored warrior, the other a tortle. After a brief standoff with both sides accusing the other of being doppelgängers, they determined that no one was a identity-stealing shapechanger. The warrior introduced herself as Satina Kari and the tortle introduced himself as Kalvok.

Leaving the gargoyle room behind, the explorers decided to check out the corridors, rather than the central shaft. They made their way to a hallway that split off to a set of stairs leading down, but passed that to examine a large stone door blocking the end of the hall. After failing to open the door via brute force, Kalvok transmuted the entire slab into mud, revealing the room beyond.

A ledge surrounded a large sunken area in which three blinded zombie wandered around, painting crude images, one of which the group recognized as their wayward friend Rayla being sucked into a sort of dark hole. They assumed this meant she was, in fact, dead and not run away. They attacked one of the zombies and a rotting t-rex burst up from the floor. They smacked it down and it burst open, spewing more zombies into the room, which they dealt with in short order.

Through all the commotion, the painter zombies continued their art, ignoring the explorers, so the group took the opportunity to examine the statues around the room and found a secret door leading to a hidden crypt. In their eagerness to examine the sarcophagus and its treasures, they set off a successful of traps. Baersora nearly joined her brother when she put on a beaded necklace which immediately exploded, engulfing the room in flames.

Since Baersora joined her brother as a hairless dwarf (though she’s still alive), the group took a while to treat their wounds. They moved on, backtracking a bit until they found another stone slab at the end of a long hallway. They decided to try the other direction first and found themselves in a chamber dominated by a huge mirror. Careful to avoid looking into it, Baersora through a piece of rubble at it, shattering the glass and causing a multitude of scared, angry, and hostile creatures into the room…

* A truly cruel DM would have had the brand new characters take damage from that lightning bolt, but they didn’t know I was using those cocoons as a mechanism to introduce new characters into the Tomb of the Nine Gods, so I just had the lightning bolt split open the cocoons.

This night’s adventure was just trap after trap after trap, it felt like. I even forgot one in the hidden crypt (Sobek would’ve been hit with three in a row). I was sort of disappointed in the zombie t-rex fight; they beat it down in one round. Part of that is Sobek’s ranger abilities; he’s built to do massive damage in a first round attack against undead.

The new characters are a paladin (Satina) and a druid (Kalvok). Next session, I’ll build the mirror room in Dwarven Forge and fill it with everything that spilled out of the mirror of life trapping. I suspect they’ll barely fit in the room, especially with the characters crammed in there. That should be a fun fight. 😀

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Tomb of Annihilation – Session 18


I’m not going to do a room by room breakdown of the exploration, but there will still be spoilers for the Tomb of Nine Gods section of Tomb of Annihilation.

After a short respite, the explorers proceeded down the corridor, stopping when they noticed a length of spiked chain connecting two golems stretched across the hall. Attempting to pass under the chain aggravated the golems, but the group put them down in short order. They found a window of sorts, into which they could view the room with the barge and the locust-spewing statues in which Herrick almost died, but after seeing what could only be a scene from the past, determine there was another way in.

They headed into an unexplored section of the level and wandered into a flooded corridor. A sheet of falling water separated the corridor into two halves and crossing it caused a deluge to blast them down the hall. They did discovered small alcoves behind illusory walls, however, and found a couple of crystal eyes that appeared to be non-magical curiosities. After forcing their way past the water curtain, they found the way into the ravenous scarab room and Nali was possessed by the spirit of I’jin. They then explored nearby crawlspaces.

Sobek found himself trapped in the center of a weight-activated rotating crawlspace intersection, but was freed when Rayla entered an adjoining crawlspace. She tried to dimension door out, and found herself in a chamber filled with corpses and an otyugh instead of her intended destination. Finding two levers inside the nostrils of a giant green devil face, she pulled the leftmost lever as the otyugh waded through the corpses, eager to dine on fresh meat. Everything in the room was sucked into the devil’s mouth, including the otyugh and her*.

After waiting for Rayla, they determined the tabaxi warlock either fled the tomb or died, so the group proceeded onward. They elected to avoid the other crawlspaces and proceeded downward to the next level. They paused to consider the four gargoyle statues in the chamber at the bottom of the stairs, each with what looked like a different colored coin slot in its base.

*And so, the tomb claims its first victim. RIP Rayla, we knew you too short a time… and I always feel bad when the newest player loses a character first (though the player is NOT the least experience player, just the newest to join our group).

We actually skipped one of the rooms they spent half a session in a few games ago (the Herrick-eating locusts–I just narrated them solving it). I was having trouble figuring out how to accurately describe a puzzle that was spread over three room descriptions and I think they were getting a little frustrated with the byzantine and arbitrary nature of some of the puzzles and it seems like several of them just want to be done with Tomb of Annihilation. I can sympathize. If I had written the campaign, I’d throw in maybe one puzzle every once in a while if I found something really good. This adventure has puzzle after puzzle written by someone who isn’t running for my group. I’ve written at-length how puzzles suck if the group isn’t on the same wavelength as the author, and while I think some of these haven’t been that bad, I do have access to information they don’t, so I can see how it can be frustrating.

The group must be sensing that the traps are getting deadlier, as they started out the session asking what we were going to play in the event that there was a TPK or otherwise reaching the end of the adventure. I’ve been contemplating that a bit, but since I figured we’d be playing Tomb of Annihilation until the end of the year, I don’t have anything ready, per se. I kind of want to play test all the adventures I’m going to run at cons in the spring, or maybe run a Numenera game for a bit… or something sci-fi. I have Ghosts of Saltmarsh and they’re mostly on board with that, but I would like some variety. Maybe a rotation of one-three session games using less-played systems? My idea for a Genesys-based Fallout game was met with mixed enthusiasm… maybe just the two adventures I’m prepping for Gary Con will scratch that itch (or might sell them on the idea). We’ll see.

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RPG-a-Day 2019 – Last

Finally, the last one. This was a tough month to do this RPG-a-Day thing. Not only am I busy trying to learn a new job, but I’m trying to finish revisions to my chronically-delayed next novel, Summer of Crows. I’ve found these single word prompts to be extremely difficult to deal with compared to previous years’ questions. Of course, I’ve always been bad at single word writing prompts, or writing prompts in general.

But, we are at the end of this year’s RPG-a-Day and no doubt, my blog will return to a post every-other-week. I always tell myself I’ll post more regularly. Maybe this will be the year that finally happens. Of course, most of this kind of content has moved to Twitter, though it is easily lost in the ever-moving content streams. We’ll see what the future holds as the year winds down. I do plan on making some changes, though I can’t say for certain what, exactly, that will look like.

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RPG-a-Day 2019 – Connection

I’ve already written about, perhaps even this month, how almost every social connection I have came about through gaming. Certainly, almost every person in my life who I consider a friend I met through gaming. Despite what bullies say, tabletop gaming is a social activity. Gamers make connections every day. Every convention, every public game is an opportunity to forge new friendships. While technology has made it possible to engage with the hobby in solitary ways (watching livestreams), it is almost impossible to actually play the games alone. Sure, you can spend hours creating characters, writing adventures, going through the motions of solo play, but the vast majority of gamers find that unsatisfying if they don’t also get to play the game with other people. Technology has made that easier, too. If you can’t find a group locally, there are several online tools to either help you find local gamers or game with people over the internet using virtual tabletops. Technophiles like to complain that technology is driving us apart, making people spend their time with their heads down, staring at their phones. They speak from a place of fear and ignorance, for many of those people are actually more engaged with their friends and family than they could have ever been 30 years ago.

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RPG-a-Day 2019 – Evolve

Over the vast number of years I’ve been gaming (35+), my games have evolved from simplistic read-the-adventures-aloud-to-each-other-and-kill-everything-there to more character-driven narratives with actual plots. I used to play only D&D (and its derivatives)… of course, when I started, there wasn’t much else available. I’ve seen the industry grow and change. I’ve seen Gen Con triple in size over the last ten years alone (from 22,000ish attendees to nearly 70,000). Change is constant. We have to evolve with the change or we risk being left behind, grumbling that people who play different games aren’t REALLY playing games and aren’t really gamers. I hope I live to see that manure-laden point-of-view confined to the compost heap of history.

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RPG-a-Day 2019 – Love

My love for RPGs is like a truck, Berzerker. Would you like some making… oh, that’s definitely NSFW and inappropriate for this post.

Love and romance is not something I’ve ever approached in my games. There have been some jokey interactions in that vein, but never a serious attempt at role-playing anything romantic, sexual, or otherwise. I understand some group incorporate these themes quite successfully in their games, and more power to them. It just doesn’t appeal to me to do so.

I do love me some RPGs, though. I have so many, I can’t even list them all from memory, though I did make an attempt to list them all here. I probably need to update that list, though.

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RPG-a-Day 2019 – Suspense

Suspense is not something I’m good at deliberately generating in my games. I’m sure there are instances where suspense has occurred in one of my games, but we keep things light-hearted enough that being deliberately suspenseful in a sustained way would be really jarring.

Of course, there’s always the suspense when success or failure comes down to one critical die roll. The kind of roll where everyone cheers when the player is successful or they collectively groan (or swear) when the player’s dice fail. Those moments make gaming memories.

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RPG-a-Day 2019 – Idea

I had an idea once. Several actually. I’ll randomly get ideas for adventures or campaign. Sometimes they come and go, but most of the time, I’ll add them to a file of campaign ideas and stash them in a folder for the game I was thinking about at the time. Sometimes they’ll sit there for years before I actually do anything with them. Often, if I implement the idea, it won’t even be for the original system which generated the idea in the first place.

Maybe I shouldn’t segregate them into folders based on game system?

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RPG-a-Day 2019 – Calamity

I’ve had a couple of calamities as a GM. One was a game where I planned on having the villain break his Staff of the Magi in a retributive strike, but I miscalculated the average damage when I was designing the encounter and I ended killing not only him, but about 75% of the PCs in one, fell swoop. Oops. I didn’t intend to end the game on a TPK like that. Another was when I let two players (PLAYERS, not PCs) get into an argument over what they should do with a monster they captured and it devolved into a PvP situation that ended with one character dead and basically killed the campaign because they were pissed at each other after that. I should note that while they would have been justified in executing the unconscious medusa (as one PC preferred) taking her out of the “dungeon” to be rehabilitated was a perfectly cromulent option (and the other PC’s preference) made explicit in the setting. I should have stepped in sooner.

The only calamity I can think of right now as a player occurred in a tournament game at Gen Con, which also happened to be my first experience playing D&D 4E. We got into a combat with a gorgon almost immediately and my character (along with several others) rolled poorly and was petrified. Within 15 minutes of the game starting, my character was taken out. It would have been fine if someone could have unpetrified me, but the rest of the group took almost 3-1/2 hours to deal with the threat (and in 4E, Stone to Flesh was a ritual, meaning it could not be cast in combat). I got to sit there, watching other people play for almost the entire time slot. When I was finally able to play again, there was no time to make further progress. Thanks to that GM actually LETTING us sit there doing nothing for the majority of the game’s time, 4E did not make a good impression on me. I should have walked when it became clear that I wasn’t going to get to do anything again for the rest of the time slot and gone and went to do something more entertaining than nothing. Alas.

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RPG-a-Day 2019 – Triumph

Despite what my tease on Twitter indicated, I don’t really have anything cool to put here. I mostly GM games, so I don’t have a whole lot of stories from when I was a player. I’m just happy if a player enjoys a game I run. Though I missed the last two years, I run games regularly at Gary Con and they always fill up within minutes of event registration opening (except for that one game I put down on a Sunday). We’ll see if that holds true this next year when I return for the first time since 2016. I’ve already submitted 16 hours of events, but that might change if I can’t finish up the two big adventures I’m working on (I always have back-up plans). I still have a few months to make that decision though.

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