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5th Ed. Spelljammer – The Wand of Orcus, session 28

The voyage to Varlden Dod required Sea of Stars to pass through several sphere in the Illithid Dominion. Fortunately for them, the mind flayers were pre-occupied with a war against the witchlight marauders and they were able to complete much of the journey unmolested. One flight of nautiloids approached Sea of Stars, seeking parlay. The mind flayers demanded to know their business in the Dominion, and offered safe passage, as well as a guide them through the most dangerous battle zones. The price: slaves to power their lifejammers, though gold would work in a pinch.

Not willing to sacrifice any of their crew to known brain-eaters, Captain Straxius elected to give the mind flayers their price in gold. A nautiloid broke off from the flight and escorted them through the remaining two spheres until they reached Sunless Sphere.

A single planet orbited a black star. Varlden Dod was a dead world, covered in stagnant marshes with twisted, bare trees. Overhead, the “light” of the black star cast a pall and chill over the world. Preliminary scouting revealed the location of the ruined temple containing the well that once served as a fountain of good; the place where the portal to the positive material plane could be opened.

The wood tower shows the elevation of a flying PC

The crew brought the wand out from the various bags in which they stored it. Straxius summoned a floating disc to hold the pieces. When they were in proximity to each other, the fragments of the wand snapped together until they formed the whole. As soon as the wand was assembled, a visage of Orcus himself appeared above the well as Straxius and Garria approached it to begin the ritual to open the portal. “Bend your knee to me. I’ll give you a minion for each enemy you’ve slain. You will have any army.”

They refused and Orcus commanded his minions to arise and destroy them. Swarms of wolf spirits and ghouls charged out of the swamp. Straxius and Garria continued the ritual as the rest held the undead off. Once the initial wave was destroyed, more poured forth from the befouled waters, ghouls, ghasts, and wraiths attacked.

Straxius left Garria to continue the ritual alone while he lent his magic to defeat the second wave. Still, more undead clambered forth from the marsh. The ghoul king himself appeared, with more wraiths, and a giant skeleton. The battle was hard fought, and though several officers of Sea of Stars nearly fell, they were, at least, victorious. Orcus roared in anger and another form emerged from the swamp: the rotting corpse of a great dragon, its middle torn open, as if exploded from within. Two battered, ruined corpses dangled from the wound.

Garria completed the ritual as the dragon pulled itself from the muck. A geyser of positive energy filled the well. She snatched up the wand and dashed into the portal. As she did so, a flash of warmth washed over the

 

crew, destroying the dragon. Once their vision returned, they saw a bright, warm sun in the sky, birds and insects resumed their songs, and wind rustled the leaves of once-dead trees. The Wand of Orcus was destroyed and life returned to Varlden Dod.

And with that, another D&D campaign is concluded. For the first time in years, I managed an epic conclusion to a long-running campaign, befitting the destruction of a major artifact. We may return to these characters in the future (they’re only level 11, so they’re perfect for Against the Giants–they even have a Hammer of Thunderbolts and a Giant Slayer sword (but no Girdle of Giant Strength or Gauntlets of Ogre Power), but they’ll have to retire from Spelljamming first; I want to run something more grounded in the future. There’s been some talk about possible playing Tomb of Annihilation, but first, I’m taking a break from GMing for most of the rest of the year.

It’s a little bittersweet to bring a long-running campaign to an end (long being relative; this wasn’t a 20-year campaign, but it was certainly one of the longest-running campaigns I’ve ever run), but honestly, I’m just glad that when the session was over, no one said “Well, thank goodness THAT’S over. What a drag that campaign was.” Now, I’m sure there were highs and lows (certainly, I can identify some sessions where I feel like things could have been a lot better), but overall, I’m pleased with how it all turned out.

Straxius’s player is stepping up to run something for October and November, what exactly has yet to be revealed, and then Sumner/Rune’s player will run his annual Doctor Who Christmas special in December. After that, depending on where I am with the new house my wife and I are building, we’ll see if D&D continues, or we’ll keep doing short 2-3 session games until we get settled. Until then, thanks for reading and keep those dice rolling!

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5th Ed. Spelljammer – The Wand of Orcus, session 27

From the sky, it didn’t take long for the crew of Sea of Stars to locate the main battle. A group of fire giants worked to break the shackles binding the world serpent while frost giants attempted to prevent them from doing so.

 

The crew discussed options as they descended toward Eorôe. Their first thought was to help with fire support from their catapults. Straxius directed Sumner to barrel through a gap in the friendly lines, ramming the ship into several fire giants, sending them off the edge of the world. The world serpent managed to set Sea of Stars’s port side ablaze with its fiery breath. As they came around, the crew fought the fire with their decanter of endless water. Straxius reconsidered using the ship and they landed at the edge of the battlefield.

 

Wading into the fray, they worked their way through the salamander minions to reach the giants trying to break the shackles. While they weren’t entirely successful staying out of range of the world serpent’s breath, they did defeat enough giants to inspire the fire giant king to show himself.

 

He called the crew out, ordering them to cease their fighting and accusing the frost giants of being the true enemy. “It is THEY who upset the natural order of things. Too long have they dwelt in the light; it is time for the World Serpent to cleanse the land and renew the cycle of life. We have dwelt in darkness past our time and it is our turn now to dwell in light.”

 

The sole remaining frost giant had only one thing to say as she reaffirmed her willingness to fight to the death: “They seek to destroy all that we have built and nurtured. They seek to bring into darkness all that which dwells in light.”

 

Through a slip of the tongue, Rune challenged the fire giant king to single combat. The fire giant leader accepted, though made no promises his people would accept the outcome. Rune took to the sky and was nearly victorious, but was brought low by thrown boulders. Once the single combat was decided, Veya charged in and killed the fire giant king, rallying the frost giant reinforcements.

 

Though the force seeking to free the head of the world serpent from its shackles was defeated, there remained several other groups. Over the next several weeks, the crew of the Sea of Stars flew with their frost giant allies around the world, sending the fire giants back to the darkness and earning the Frost Giants and their vassals a century’s reprieve from the Change of Ages.

 

The crew feasted with the giants and recovered from their wounds before facing the final leg of their voyage, seeking out Sunless Sphere, no fewer than an additional two hundred days away. It was there, on the world of Varlden Dod orbiting the Black Star, that they could open the portal to the Positive Material Plane through which Garria, the reincarnation of Hrothgar the Penitent, would carry the Wand of Orcus to its ultimate destruction.

The whole story with Eorôe and Patria sphere: The outer lands of this disc world are populated by giants who stand vigilant against the threat from the other side. The interior is populated by two groups of avian-folk, White Ones and Black Ones (so named for the color of their feathers). The folk on the interior live and work together in peace, though technically, they are vassals of the giants (the frost and the fire, respectively). Every thousand years, the world serpent is awoken and the world flips. The frost giants, who have been in control of the light side for the last thousand years, bound the world serpent to prevent the Change of Ages, precipitating this conflict where the fire giants fight for their time in the light. As far as the White Ones and Black Ones are concerned, the Change of Ages is akin to a changing of the guard; it doesn’t overly affect their lives.

Eorôe’s Change of Ages is really a whole campaign… which was NOT the one the PCs were currently playing; they just came in at the end and acted as a wild card to change the outcome.

Now, onto the finale…

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5th Ed. Spelljammer – The Wand of Orcus, session 26

Boccob’s Barge

As the hammership approached, Straxius ordered his crew to bombard it with Sea of Stars’s catapults. While their aim was true, Boccob’s Barge continued to close and increased to ramming speed. With a crash, the two spelljammers collided. A mass of arms, legs, and torsos tumbled from Boccob’s Barge onto Sea of Star’s main deck. The Ghoul King contacted Straxius telepathically:  “Surrender the wand and I will call off my minions. You may live and return to your mundane life of hauling cargo. I will even transfer all this infernal beer in my hold.”

 

The mass rose up and began attacking the crew, even while the Ghoul King and his minions attacked from afar. Straxius and Rune concentrated on the Ghoul King and a familiar woman, Gwen Sallas, the woman they freed from slavers on the Rock of Bral, now a vampire in the service of the Ghoul King.

 

As the Corpse Mound disgorged zombies to further challenge the crew, Straxius countered spells thrown by the Ghoul King, until the undead leader dimensioned door to a safer haven within the ship.

 

Though they lost some crew, they were eventually triumphant over the undead crew of Boccob’s Barge. Unfortunately, the ship itself was a total loss, so they looted everything they could from Straxius’s old ship, then scuttled her. There was no sign of the Ghoul King, yet curiously, he left behind all of his accumulated treasure, including Hrothgar the Penitent’s skull; the last piece of the Wand of Orcus. Sumner discovered the skull by licking the Ghoul King’s collection until he tasted the distinct taint of the Demon Prince of Undead.

 

The crew quickly decided to keep the pieces of the wand separate in the hopes the minions of Orcus would have more difficultly tracking them as they determined how best to dispose of the vile artifact. Meanwhile, they resume their flight to Patria sphere.

Weeks later, Sea of Stars arrived at her destination to find a world on fire… .

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#RPGaDAY 2017 – What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?

Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but for 2018 I’m anticipating the announcement of a proper Fallout RPG. I have ZERO knowledge that such a thing will be happening, but with Modiphius producing a mini-based skirmish game and Fantasy Flight Games producing a board game, it seems like it’s only a matter of time. If it happens using a system with which I’m already familiar (like FFG’s narrative dice system, aka Genesys), then so much the better.

I’m also looking forward to the release of the Sentinels Comics superhero RPG. I like superhero games in concept, but I’ve never really been able to get into one. Maybe this will be another game that I wish I could like, but just can’t figure out how to utilize in campaign play, or maybe it won’t. I want to see it, though.

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#RPGaDAY 2017 – What is an RPG genre mash-up you would most like to see?

Frankly, I can’t think of a genre mash-up I want that isn’t already available.

Take any genre and you can add Comedy just by the way you play; you don’t need rules for that. Horror can also be interjected in just about any genre by just setting the proper mood. I’m sure opinions will vary wildly on this, but I usually don’t try to emulate a specific genre and be a real stickler that it NEVER devolves or evolves into something else. If we’re all having fun, I really don’t care if a sneaky, steal-the-MacGuffin adventure becomes a comedy heist.

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#RPGaDAY 2017 – What has been the best-run RPG Kickstarter you have backed?

Do miniatures count as an RPG Kickstarter? If so, then I’m going to go with Ryan Wolfe’s map posters & miniature Kickstarters for space ship and space stations. I’ve backed at least half-a-dozen of these so far and for my pledge, I get a miniature-scale ship/station poster map (with PDFs) and a highly detailed resin miniature and base. Not only that, but in each and every case, the rewards have shipped no later than a week after the funding period completed. I’ve pre-ordered products from Amazon with longer turn-around time than that.

You may be thinking “Hey! Miniatures are RPG-related products and this question is about RPGs!” OK, fine. If I have to pick an RPG Kickstarter than I would say was the best run, it’s a toss-up between the various Cypher System Kickstarters run by Monte Cook Games and Goodman Games’s Kickstarters. I’ve backed several projects from both of these companies and neither have failed to impress me with their communication, quality, and timeliness. That’s not to say I haven’t received products late from either of them, but their communication was open enough that the delay wasn’t unexpected and I never felt taken advantage of. Plus, working in publishing myself, the delays were within what I would consider reasonable given the nature of publishing and printing. They are both companies I have absolute confidence will deliver a quality product in a timely manner and I don’t hesitate to back their Kickstarters if they’re offering a product in which I am interested.

 

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#RGPaDAY 2017 – What film/series is the biggest source of quotes in your group?

When we’re playing D&D, probably the film that gets quoted most is Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The Princess Bride gets some quote-love, but probably not to the same extent. It’s not a regular thing; what gets referenced is highly contextual in my group. Half the players are just as likely to bust out song lyrics for a given situation rather than a movie quote. Video games in the same genre are often referenced, as well.

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#RPGaDAY 2017 – What are your essential tools for good gaming?

For good gaming, my needs are simple: a notebook and something to write with. That’s all I NEED to come up with an evening’s entertainment. Now, depending on the game, I might have to consult rulebooks (especially for monsters), but I’m not sure that counts for the purpose of this question.

I don’t NEED minis, maps, sculpted terrain, a fancy table, form-fillable character sheets, etc. I like to have many of those, but they’re not essential tools. I suppose good friends and a comfortable gaming environment are very useful, but I wouldn’t call those essential tools.

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#RPGaDAY 2017 – Which RPG provides the most useful resources?

Of the games I regularly play, D&D has enough resources, both on- and off-line, that I can find pretty much whatever I’m looking for with a fairly quick Google search. It makes sense, though. D&D is one of the oldest RPGs and probably has the largest player base of any RPG in the world. Ever since I started using the Internet in the 1990s, I’ve been able to find online resources for D&D (and there certainly was no lack of printed resources back then).

I gotta give a shout-out to the fan efforts to support WEG’s D6 Star Wars RPG and the fan supporting Goodman Games’s Dungeon Crawl Classics. There’s a ton of high-quality resources online for both of those games

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#RPGaDAY 2017 – What is the best way to thank your GM?

Other GMs may be different, but I’m just happy if my players express some sort of happiness or satisfaction with the session. “Thanks, good game” is all I really need. That’s not to say I’ll turn down other forms of gratitude, I just don’t expect them.

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