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RPGs – The Final Sessions

Final in the sense that they’re the last games I will play in my current home. When next I play, I’ll be in my new house in my new game room.

2018-05-06 10.09.31For the last three sessions I’ve been a player, rather than GM. My GeekChic table is a sad remnant of it’s former self. Disassembly proved surprisingly easy; about 10 minutes of work with a helper (technically, I was the helper while someone more proficient than I figured out which screws to remove). I’ll be able to reassemble most of it by myself, needing help only to put the top back on the table (it’s there hiding under the blanket).

So, what did we play?
bladesinthedark

We had a crew of Bravos. I played a Tycherosi hound, Uxorious Gethsemane-Prince, aka Crimson Crow. His particular vice was pleasure, so I decided not only did he frequent brothels, he was also an employee of his favored one. I don’t remember all of the rest of the crew, because my notes are packed, but we had a Whisper (I think) whose vice was being possessed by ghosts.

Basically, we planned a heist of a jewelry store, summoning a few ghosts in the processes (which I gunned down in the guise of being a Good Citizen™ while the rest of my crew escaped with the goods). It got one of my prostitute friends and myself arrested and beaten (how else are they going to get answers from a demon-looking guy, right?), but no charges were pressed and we scored some coin, increased our rep, and made a rival gang look bad. The Barbican Bastards were on their way to becoming real players.

After that, we played:starfinder_1000x200

Ysoki_envoy_scoundrelThe adventure was Live Exploration Extreme!, kind of a “Naked & Afraid”-style reality show hosted by a ghoul that reminded one of our players of Xcrawl. I played an ace pilot Ysoki I named Zitch Twitchwhisker. Since it’s a published adventure, I won’t give away any plot (plus I was EXHAUSTED, so there are some elements, I realized last night when my wife was talking about it, that I don’t remember at all).

While, I have reservations about the system (low-level play is fine, but I suspect high-level play will still bog down like Pathfinder does), the adventure was a lot of fun. I resisted the urge to play an android because I know a lot of Benderisms would come out (I’ve been binging Futurama lately), and I didn’t want to disrupt the game with a hearty “Bite my shiny, metal ass!” I may have thrown in a “We’re boned!” or two, though.

Zitch was fun to play. He had ALL the skills: computers, engineering, piloting… everything I needed to be awesome. I may have been a little racist towards the ghouls, though and I definitely remember bullshitting a few of the NPCs at one point.

In summary, Blades in the Dark is awesome: would play again. Starfinder has a great setting, but I’ll be once you get into the mid-high levels, problems I had with Pathfinder will rear their heads again, though since there aren’t as many supplements (yet), I’m sure rules bloat isn’t as big of a problem. I’d play low-level Starfinder again. I’d play or run D&D 5E in Starfinder’s setting in a heartbeat, though.

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Tomb of Annihilation – Session 5

Having reached the summit of the M’bala plateau, our heroes searched the village in which they found themselves. Two huts remained fairly intact; the rest lay in ruins. From the nearest intact hut, they heard a voice calling to them. A fair-haired, bedraggled young woman welcomed them to the village, such as it was, and wondered why they would climb to the top of M’bala. They explained they were looking for Nanny Pu’pu.

The young woman claimed to be her granddaughter and that Nanny Pu’pu was ill; stricken with the same plague that ravaged the rest of the village. She was on the mend, but it was safest for all that she remain isolated in the other hut at the far end of the village. She told our heroes that if they wanted to help, they could deal with the tribe of pterafolk nesting in a cliff on the other side of the plateau. The pterafolk killed the weakened villagers and were the primary reason she was alone with her grandmother now.

Our heroes weren’t entirely convinced the young woman was telling the truth, and in fact, suspected that she was Nanny Pu’pu. Despite their misgivings, they decided to investigate the pterafolk, asking the young woman to show them exactly where the cliffside nest was located. She led them to it, though it was not visible from on top of the plateau. She left them to their task and returned to the ruins of the village.

Herrick used his shoes of spider climbing and his natural charm to lure the pterafolk out of their cave nests and chase him to the top of the plateau where the rest of the group waited. While the pterafolk proved tougher than they expected, after a short battle, they eliminated their foes. Herrick returned to the cave to search for valuables and found a few trickets, as well as a kenku calling himself Ri-tikki Stargazer. The kenku was bound, waiting to become a meal for the pterafolk.

Ri-tikki told Herrick he was captured while trying to talk to the pterafolk. He showed the dwarf the rock chimney in the back of the cave that led back to the surface; an easier route than scaling the cliff. The kenku knew little of Nanny Pu’pu, so they returned to the village while keeping an eye on the former captive. When they returned to the village, they found a gnarled, bent old woman stirring a cauldron. She greeted them and it was evident to our heroes that this was the true form of Nanny Pu’pu. She was disappointed that they only killed the pterafolk in the lair; the ones out hunting would continue to be a problem for her.

She was all too happy to tell them she had nothing to do with the increase in undead activity, but she knew a place more likely to hold clues: Omu. She strongly suggested one or more of them stay for dinner. In reply, Herrick stabbed her in the face and in a brutal smackdown, they killed the hag*.

After scouring her hut for a few valuable baubles, they contemplated their next move: an expedition to Omu.

And that’s it for Tomb of Annihilation until after I move and get settled into my new home. There are still two game sessions left, but I can’t GM for a game I can no longer prep for (I had to pack up the game room and all my RPGs), so someone else is taking over the GMing with Blades in the Dark. I expect we’ll get at least two to three sessions of that before I’m settled into the new house well enough that I can resume Tomb of Annihilation.

The new gaming area will be more spacious. In the first photo, you can see the 20′ long room, looking into it from the doorway to the attic storage (also I’ll be GMing from this end of the room). At the far end of the room will be the drink/snack station (plumbing is roughed-in, but I don’t expect to be able to put in a bar sink just yet; that’s for future expansion). The table will sit centered under the two ceiling fans (you can see the boxes they’ll be mounted to). To the left is the library nook, pictured in the second photo. I’m currently designing a wrap-around book case to fit in that space which will hopefully fit all my RPG books. The right side of the room will have Ikea Trofast** storage units in which I can keep all my Dwarven Forge and small shelves on top for my miniatures (pre-painted cheap plastic minis will go in bins, and stuff I’ve painted will be on the shelves). The left side of the room will be board game storage, hopefully with BoxThrone units, once they become available.

I had thought about hanging art on the slanted walls, and while I know that’s possible, it looks complicated for someone who is not particularly handy. I may just leave them bare until I can do something else with them, like maybe murals. How cool would it be to attach molding to those slanted walls to look like windows looking out over a sylvan glade? I don’t want the room to be too dark (I like to game in the light), but I dream of it evoking a sense of fantasy wonder (without it looking like a dungeon, thought that was my very first idea).

* Took me by surprise, lemme tell ya. Thus far, she’d been a little creepy and talked of eating people, but had not actually done anything aggressive or even threatened them. They beat her down in two rounds; too little time for her to activate the flesh golem buried in a shallow ditch right next to them (good thing for them).

** My wife should be proud that I remembered the name on the first try this time; I’ve been calling them Trocar, Tropan, Trostar, etc…. everything except Trofast.

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Tomb of Annihilation – Session 4

After a too-long hiatus intended to prepare me for Gary Con culminating in my NOT going, we resumed our adventures in Greyhawk, playing WotC’s Tomb of Annihilation.

After spending a night in Camp Vengeance, our heroes embarked on a short trip (relatively) to Mbala, where Nanny Pu’pu was reported to live. They suspected she was behind the increase in undead roaming the jungles, and to aid in that investigation, the commander of Camp Vengeance sent two of his soldiers with them.

The jungle’s oppressive heat beat down on them, and with not even a cool breeze to provide scant relief, the journey proved exhausting. Mid-day, they came across a hut along the trail. Poking around, they determined it was not abandoned per se, but merely unoccupied at the moment. They found evidence that a druid lived in the hut and leafed through her journal. She spoke of a friendship with an aarakocra who gifted her with a feather, and that she left to rescue friends from yuan-ti, but nothing leaving a clue to her whereabouts or that of the snake-people she sought.

They left the hut behind and continued for the rest of the day, making camp near a river they would have to cross in the morning. Shortly after dark, they heard noises from the jungle. A baboon approached the camp, then another. Then another and another and another until they were surrounded by dozens of the primates. A rock flew and the baboons attacked!

During the fight, a towering four-armed ape emerged and joined the fray. Though its attacks were brutal, Nali began to wear the gorillon down. Herrick noticed the beast wore and earring, and in a spectacular feat of agility, he climbed up its back and yanked it from its’ ear in the hopes that it would sever its control over the baboons.

That didn’t work, but within a few more rounds, it fell and the rest of the baboons fled into the jungle. Upon examination, they saw the token resembled that described in the druid’s journal, yet they still had no clue as to her whereabouts.

The next morning, the continued to Mbala, reaching the plateau around mid-day, then spent the rest of the day following the winding trail to the top. When they reached the summit, they were greeted with a wooden gate, surrounded by piles of human skulls….

I spoke of this on Twitter and Facebook, but this is the first edition in which I’ve found it more work to run pre-published material than to just make it up on my own. The difficult lies in the lack of guidance in the adventure books themselves. It would be helpful if Wizards of the Coast would include an outline of the plot points character should hit, or an adventure flowchart of some sort. Blogs and Third Party Publishers (3PP) have stepped in to fill gaps, but still, I shouldn’t have to pay a third party for something that the adventure ought to include.

I’m sure I’m not alone in the expectation that if I buy a $50 adventure book (or however much you spend on it), I should be able to spend less time prepping a session, but it seems like they expect me to study a 256-page tome thoroughly before even starting the first session. I think it would be more reasonable to have a section at the beginning outlining (i.e. NOT pages of dense paragraphs will superfluous information) how the adventure is intended to go, followed by information on getting started on session one. Time is at a premium for many GMs and if they think buying an official hardcover adventure is going to save them time (as I have foolishly done on more than one occasion), they’re sorely mistaken.

It’s one thing to say “Read through this adventure before running” when you’re selling a 16, 24, or 32 page adventure. But, when it’s 256 pages, that’s like insisting someone read the novel before going to see the movie; you’re going to lose a lot of people. Still, I’m going to keep at it once I get moved. Maybe I’ll switch tactics and use the book as more of a guide rather than even pretending it’s an adventure module I can run straight out of, because clearly, most of these hardcovers WotC are producing are unsuited for that purpose, despite what they claim.*

*This is all my opinion. If you disagree, great, but you’re not going to change my experience by telling me I’m wrong.

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Gary Con X

Since I mentioned prepping for Gary Con X in my last blog post, I thought I should at least do my customary post-con write-up.

I didn’t go.

A water main broke under our driveway and we discovered the leak two days before we were due to depart. 3 days without water and nearly $4,000 later, it was fixed. As a result, we made the decision to cancel our trip to Gary Con. Since we’re currently building a new house, this couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Instead, I worked from home for three days while workers came and went. I also got a lot of packing done for our upcoming move. Significant progress has been made on that front which wouldn’t have been done until after I returned from Gary Con, so I guess that’s good.

This Friday, we’ll return to our D&D game for session 4 of Tomb of Annihilation. After session 5, I may have to take another hiatus to finish packing and actually move. If that is the case, games will resume around Memorial Day from my new home and new game room.

 

 

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Tomb of Annihilation – Session 3


We join our heroes in Camp Righteous. There will be spoilers for Tomb of Annihilation, if that isn’t clear by the post title and subject.

Batari goblins awaited our heroes as they fled the collapsing shrine. While the battlestacks intimidated them at first, they soon cut the gobbos down to size and defeated the snarling, smelly humanoids. After determining the goblins hadn’t injured their triceratops, now named Stampy, they searched the camp again. Sobek surmised the goblins were not the perpetrators of the attack on the camp, nor were they guardians of the shrine; they were simply a wandering band seeing an opportunity for looting.

The group found survivors’ tracks leading further along the river, and followed them. After another day of rainy travel, they encountered a group of adventurers from Sasserine clustered around a tortle showing off his shell. After their anti-social counterparts departed, the tortle greeted the heroes. He introduced himself as Baka, a jungle guide. A map of the jungle was carved in his shell, and he traded information with the heroes. He told them of a location nearby he called The Stairs to Nowhere, and told them about the hag at the Mbala ruins, Nanny Pu’pu. They decided to stay the course and continue following the trail. Baka thought it was possible the tracks lead to Camp Vengeance, a few more hours up the river, and they surmised that the hag was a possible candidate for the cause of the undead troubles.

They arrived at Camp Vengeance and were permitted entry. The Commander, a human native of the area and staunch worshiper of St. Cuthbert immediately attempted to conscript them into his service. As far as he was concerned, nothing they were doing was as important as going on patrol in the jungle to combat the undead. He knew nothing of the curse they’d been told about in Sasserine and didn’t care; people who died should stay dead and he was going to make sure as many as possible would do so. Fortunately, he was not entirely unreasonable, and Baer was able to convince him that their next destination, Mbala, might prove to put a stop to the undead scourge once and for all. He agreed to send two soldiers with them, and they settled in for the evening.

Camp Vengeance is encounter about which I have mixed feelings. As it is written, it seems like the writers think the PCs will have no problem whatsoever being conscripted by a commander who has piles of smoldering corpses just outside his compound. Yeah, you can assume the bodies are of undead, but once they’re in a burning pile, how can you really tell if they were undead or if they’re just the bodies of people who pissed him off. Plus, the fact that he just assumes the PCs are his to command, regardless of the circumstances and it’s written so that he will just outright arrest anyone who says “Screw you, man, we don’t work for you!”, well, that has the makings of a very ugly situation. The camp could easily turn into a TPK for an independent-minded group. I’ve never gamed with a group of players who, when confronted with an belligerant NPC who insists they now work for him, go along with it right away. “Yeah, OK! Cool, we’re now conscripts. Awesome!”

On the other hand, it could have been really interesting to see what happened if they set Stampy on a rampage inside the compound; Camp Vengeance’s stockade is strong enough to stop a rampaging triceratops from the outside, but is full of tents and squishy people inside.

So, that’s two major locations in two consecutive sessions in this adventure so far that I’ve come away thinking “How the F— is this supposed to be fun for the players?”

Also, I want batari battlestack minis. I had ZERO luck stacking my existing goblin minis, and if I had, that would have been AWESOME.

We will now be on a multi-week hiatus as I prepare for Gary Con X. Next session will be a playtest of one of my D&D adventures, “Fairy, Faerie, Quite Contrary” and the session after that will be a Cyborg Commando playtest so I’m familiar with the rules for the game I’ll be helping run a tournament of.

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Tomb of Annihilation – Session 2


We join our heroes in the Amedio Jungle (or the Jungles of Chult if you think this should be in the Forgotten Realms), after having a dinner and breakfast of roasted (or raw, in Sobek’s case) allosaur. There will be spoilers for Tomb of Annihilation, if that isn’t clear by the post title and subject.

The next day, they pushed south, following the river deeper into the jungle. Camp Righteous, their ultimate destination lay several days away through difficult terrain. Fortunately, Sobek’s expert guidance allowed them to make better time than perhaps they would have.

While most of the journey proved uneventful, they did have a brief, though harrowing encounter with a swarm of stirges before being approached by some druids who warned them away from the jungle interior. The druids explained the increasing numbers of undead taking over the deepest parts of the jungle, though they knew nothing of the curse Syndra described. They parted ways amicable and the next day, arrived at Camp Righteous.

Rather than a camp full of pious knights, as they expected, they instead found the remains of an abandoned camp. Some force or creature clearly attacked the occupants of Camp Righteous, though it appeared as though some of the defenders escaped into the jungle. After searching the camp for clues, they turned their attention to the large statue of a man carrying a crocodile. A tunnel extended into the hillside upon which the statue was built.

They proceeded into the hill. Herrick fell into a large pit just over the threshold. After helping him out, they proceeded with more cautions and successfully crossed a puzzle-tile floor section only to be stopped at a near-duplicate tile puzzle upon a huge stone door. After much trial-and-error and a few missteps which almost resulted in Herrick’s death by thunderwave and fire trap, they opened the door to the inner chamber. Spiral stairs surrounded a pillar atop which perched an ornate jug. Deducing that there was yet another puzzle in this room, Baer and Nali retrieved the jug with no mishaps until they slipped on the stairs on the way down, triggering the trap and causing the entire chamber to collapse.

The heroes fled the crumbling ruins, avoiding the falling stone blocks and rocks only to be stopped short by a 9′ tall stack of goblins barking at them in their guttural language…

And we come to the first puzzle in Tomb of Annihilation where the PCs can waste MASSIVE amounts of time if they’re not on the same wavelength as the adventure writer. Technically, all the clues are in the story of Man and Crocodile, but what is required is for two characters to team up in a way that really most groups don’t think of, in my experience. Needless to say, my group was not a fan of this puzzle (“It sucked!” is an exact quote). In retrospect, once it because clear to me they were spinning their wheels, I should have just had them roll Intelligence checks to see the solution to keep the game moving.

Live and learn.

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Tomb of Annihilation – Session 1


Dramatis Personae

Baersora “Baer” Stoneforge – dwarven sorceress (Divine Soul, anthropologist)
Herrick Stoneforge – dwarven rogue (Scout, archaeologist)
Nali Fim – dwarven fighter (Battlemaster, guild artisan)
Sobek – lizardfolk ranger (Gloom Walker, outlander)

The Stoneforge siblings, along with Nali arrived in Sasserine, aka Port Nyanzaru, on the heels of an expedition led by their mentor, with whom they’d lost communication. They disembarked from their ship in the mid-morning, a few hours before their scheduled meeting with their benefactor, Syndra Silvane. It was another fine day in Sasserine, hot and humid with the ever-present chance of rain.

Time was their to kill, plus they weren’t quite sure how to find Wakanga O’tamu’s shop, where they were to meet with Syndra.

After browsing the market and investigating one of the town’s two inns, they decided to go ahead and meet with Syndra. Wakanga welcomed them in and offered them refreshments before sending them to the back room, where a masked figure sat in front of the cold hearth. A lizardfolk warrior watched from the corner.

She explained that she was once an adventurer until an untimely death put an end to that. After her resurrection, she chose to outsource, hiring Herrik & Baer’s mentor, Geoffrey Mutcalf the Elder, to investigate the various ruins hidden in the jungle. Recently, however, she, and other like her, who’d been raised from the dead, were afflicted with a curse. According to her sources, this curse, a wasting disease, was instigated by a relic known as the Soulmonger. The effect remained localized at first, but spread now and within months would encompass the entire world. She immediately changed Geoffrey’s mandate to find the relic, however a few weeks ago, he and his time disappeared and Syndra’s had no further contact with him.

Syndra offered the group compensation to search the jungle for Geoffrey and continue his task of locating the Soulmonger and ending the curse. She introduced Sobek, an outcast from one of the lizardfolk villages who could serve a guide. They agreed and set out into the market to equip themselves for the trek ahead.

While gearing up, they decided a mount would help tremendously while trekking through the jungle and a large, beaked, three-horned reptilian creature caught their eye. Pooling their money resulted in too little money, despite their haggling, so the Baer returned to Syndra and asked for an advance on their funds in order to procure supplies. She bolstered their funds to the point they were able to afford the great beast. Sobek took the lead on handling the triceratops as they made their way out of the city.

The exited Sasserine through Old City and passed by Executioner’s Run, a rectangular pit where criminals fight for their exoneration and freedom by running from savage beasts. While they watched once such “execution,” Baer noticed her coin purse lighten. A scraggly man cut her purse and ran. The dwarves gave pursuit, trailing coins from Baer’s pouch until they lost the man in the crowd. Baer mended her pouch with a spell and they left Sasserine behind.

For their initial foray into the jungle, they chose to follow the river as depicted on the map Syndra provided. Sobek already knew the location of several ruins in the jungle, but they felt following the river would mitigated their chances of getting lost. As dusk approached, while inspecting a strange idol depicting three monkeys, an allosaur charged out of the brush, intending to make them a meal. Fortunately, they prevailed and instead made a meal (several!) out of the allosaur before making camp for the night.

And so we begin Tomb of Annihilation. The adventure comes with fairly detailed rules on exploring the jungle and how to determine if the PCs are lost. I won’t need those since the gloomwalker lizardfolk ranger has sufficient abilities to ensure they NEVER become lost (it’s certainly less bookkeeping for me that way).

The monkey idol encounter was their first potential TPK; I misread some details about that particular encounter and didn’t realize exactly how much damage it could dish out just because they happened to do X Random Thing within a certain distance or Y Random Thing even closer. I totally fudged that because I absolutely despise Session 1 TPKs during games where the players have spent so much time crafting their characters (I should wait until session 2 for that, right? :p).

Despite that mis-step, it was made abundantly clear that the level of challenge in Tomb of Annihilation would be substantially greater than they regularly faced before, so I suspect they’ll be very cautious. Appropriate for a part of (mostly) dwarven jungle explorers.

I set the adventure in Greyhawk instead of Forgotten Realms for several reasons:

  • I prefer Greyhawk.
  • Their Hoard of the Dragon Queen characters essentially failed and dragons are rampaging across the Sword Coast.
  • I think WotC should’ve been ballsy enough to explicitly set some of these adventures in other worlds (Hoard of the Dragon Queen/Rise of Tiamat in Dragonlance, Princes of the Apocalypse in Greyhawk, Out of the Abyss in Forgotten Realms, Storm King’s Thunder in Forgotten Realms, Curse of Strahd in Ravenloft (which they did, if I recall), and Tomb of Annihilation in Greyhawk).
  • I prefer Greyhawk to Forgotten Realms

It’ll be interesting to see what they do with their triceratops. On paper, it’s a powerhouse of a beast, capable of stampeding over lesser threats with impunity. Of course, they’re using it as a pack animal and it’s not really trained to support them in combat. (*mischief ensues*)

Oh wait, some of my players read this. Did I say that out loud?

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The Next Campaign

Tomb of Annihilation banner

After much deliberation, we have decided that starting January 5th, we will embark upon a new D&D campaign: Tomb of Annihilation.

Amedio JungleI’m changing the campaign setting to Greyhawk and expanding the list of player character races available. Newly arrived visitors to Sessarine (aka Port Nyanzaru to the natives) can be from any standard Player’s Handbook race. If a player chooses to create a character native to the Amedio Jungle, however, Kenku, Batiri, Tabaxi, Lizardfolk, Kobolds, or Tortles are also available.

No word yet whether or not my players will make a four Tortle band of martial artists named after Renaissance artists.

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End of Year Update

I don’t know if this will really be the last update this year, but since I mostly use this to log the games I run, and I’m between campaigns right now, it might be.

After the conclusion of my Wand of Orcus campaign, I’ve been taking a break from GMing to actually sit and play. The last three sessions have been Savage Worlds games. One sci-fi, one Deadlands Reloaded, and one supers game.

Due to the way holiday schedules work out, there won’t be another game until December 22, which is scheduled to be our annual Doctor Who Christmas Special game (using Cubicle 7’s excellent Adventures in Time and Space Doctor Who RPG).

On January 5th, with the holidays wrapped up, we’ll play… well, we’ll have to see. I need to play-test two games for Gary Con in March and there’s five sessions scheduled between the first of the year and Gary Con. I haven’t decided what my next long-term campaign will be. Maybe it’ll be a continuation of the Spelljammer Wand of Orcus game (i.e. high-level w/same characters, but not Spelljammer; something more grounded), maybe a new D&D campaign like Tomb of Annihilation, maybe Star Trek Adventures, maybe Star Wars. Whatever it is, it’ll be something that requires low prep for the first quarter of the year. Maybe I’ll just sit out as GM until things settle down.

Have a happy holiday season! There’s a lot of celebrating to do!

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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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