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What’s VFF Publishing, you ask? Why, it’s my publishing imprint! Yes, I write and publish novels. This blog is about gaming, but I see no reason not to redirect you to the Visions of Fantasy & the Future site (or Facebook, if you prefer) if you’re curious about what I write. I write fantasy and sci-fi. You can buy my novels at Amazon and other fine sellers of literature.

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5th Edition Spelljammer – The Wand of Orcus, session 21

 

After sleeping on it, the crew decided to follow the path into the narrow, twisty tunnels. For days they followed this path, dealing with sheer drops, treacherous under hangs, and ropers. Eventually, they arrived in a vast cavern filled with bones.

The bones covered the ground in all directions, for as far as their eyes could see. Animal bones, from creatures both familiar and unknown, human bones, and many, many dwarf bones. They crunched through the cavern for hours, taking care to avoid areas where they saw undulating motion in the bones. Eventually, they came to a carved, stone doorway. Beyond, lay what appeared to be an ancient library.

Most of the tomes were crumbling or unreadable, written in an ancient dwarven dialect no one could translate. Exploring deeper into the library, they came across an automaton browsing the stacks. It greeted them, despite their suspicious bearing. The automaton introduced itself as Rune; a construct of the dwarves, perhaps the last survivor of their civilization.

From their conversation with Rune, they learned it knew of the Shadowlords’ lair, but nothing of Queen Garria. It asked to accompany them, and after a brief discussion, they agreed. They set out, back into the cavern of bones and Rune led them to passages which took them deeper into the Underworld.

Rune’s guidance took them out of the cavern and down into caverns full of giant fungi. They had entered the Demesne of the Mushroom King….

Rune will be taking the place of Sumner in the coming sessions. Sumner’s player felt the minotaur warlock/paladin was overlapping in abilities with too many other party members and the lack of a dedicated cleric was hampering them somewhat. He’s going to play both characters until the party returns to the surface, then Sumner will retire to the ship. This has the added bonus of keeping the ship in the hands of someone more trustworthy than Ra-Jareez (“Ra-Jareez has done nothing! This one is innocent of these crimes!”).

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5th Ed. Spelljammer – The Wand of Orcus, session 20

Before venturing into the cave system, Kagark presented Straxius with a box and letter given to him by Valen the Ponce while the rest of the crew were acquiring provisions. The letter summarized research The Ponce had done prior to their departure. He also gifted them with the two prizes they failed to win in the tournament: elemental gems and an instant fortress. He said since all the prizes were from the Order of the Sacred Flower’s vaults, he considered the gifts an investment in the success of their quest.

The crew wandered the dark tunnels beneath the catacombs for hours. They navigated using marks left by Grigori. After a while, it became clear they were being followed by some creature. They stopped to confront a trio of carrion crawlers intent on making a meal of them, then continued on their way.

At some point during their wanderings, they found a partially collapsed tunnel and the remains of a hapless explorer. They found some old coins and a couple of notes in the explorer’s possessions that indicated they were not the first to go into the Underworld seeking the Shadowlords. They kept the notes and the money and pressed onwards.

Sometime the next day, they found a sinkhole at the end of Grigori’s trail marks: the entrance to the Underworld. They descended into the depths.

The passageways of the Underworld led them along twisting paths. Zinni and Sumner scouted ahead, narrowly avoiding a cloaker ambush. Once the abominations were dealt with, they continued until the trail split. One direction seemed to lead to an area of vast caverns. The other continued in narrow, twisting passageways. They paused to heal their wounds from their most recent battle before deciding which route to take…

The Underworld is not the Underworld of Greek Mythology, but merely the name by which the world of Brintannia refers to their version of the Underdark. This was a weirdly unfocused session. Those happen from time-to-time. Next time will be better.

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5th Ed. Spelljammer – The Wand of Orcus, session 19

We hadn’t intended to take an extra week off, but I ended up with con crud from Gary Con, so there you have it.

The crew spent much of the next day preparing for their journey. After making sure they had the gear necessary for an extended underground excursion, they sought out the one man their investigations revealed might know where to find an entrance to the Underworld: Grigori the Dark.

They tracked him to The Screeching Owl, where they found Grigori preparing to leave Bryttan to return to his home in the south. After a brief conversation, they persuaded him to give them directions to the location where he found an Underworld entrance. He admitted he couldn’t tell them what to expect there, exactly, as he turned back when he found the entrance; he was not equipped for a journey of that complexity. The entrance he found was in a cave system accessed from the Cathedral of Truth’s catacombs. The cathedral itself was far to the north, beyond the Great Forest.

They took Sea of Stars and flew north, cutting weeks off their journey. They found the Cathedral of Truth just where Grigori indicated it would be and climbed down to the astonishment of the two acolytes who saw their ship arrive. The bewildered clerics directed the crew to speak to Keepers Brand or Rosalin.

Inside the cathedral, they inquired of Keeper Rosalin regarding catacomb access. She informed them they were not open to just anyone, and there was currently an undead problem they were dealing with; it wasn’t safe. Straxius offered that he and the crew be permitted to look for the cave entrance in the catacombs in exchange for clearing out the undead. The Keepers accepted the terms and allowed the crew entry into the catacombs.

There was nothing particularly unusual about the catacombs, except for the ghost, specters, and wraiths who attacked them. Despite giving Veya new grey hair, the undead were vanquished and the crew retreated back upstairs to seek healing and restoration. Once rested, they returned to the catacombs with Keeper Brand to seek the cause of the hauntings and try to find the entrance to the cave system of which Grigori the Dark spoke. They found it behind one of the tapestries, a dark crack in the wall leading into the depths of the earth…

Unbeknownst to the crew, but beknownst to those of you reading this, a courier gave Kagark a package just before they departed Bryttan. The half-orc held on to the package, because the strange little red-robed man in the sky made some errors in judgement and execution and needed to set things right.

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5th Ed. Spelljammer – The Wand of Orcus, session 18

This post is a wall-of-text because in my excitement over how much work I put in the tournament I failed to take ANY pictures of the table. I had a field with tents, horses, a tavern and everything set out. Nuts.

The Tournament of Flowers kicked off with a speech by Queen Garria:

“Once again, we come together thanks to the generous contributions of the Order of the Sacred Flower.” She pauses for a moment as the crowd cheers for a group of assembled knights with lotus flowers on their tabards.

“May we all compete over the next several days with fairness and grace, that we might earn glory for our peers and ourselves. As in previous years, each individual’s triumphs will contribute to their team’s quest for victory. May the great Wyrm, Morokei Krongrah watch over us as we celebrate victory in his name!”

With that, the tournament began and the crew of the Sea of Stars were approached by Maxim, the tournament scorekeeper and registrar. He introduced the other teams competing: the Order of Truth, Storm Company, the Knights of the Sacred Flower—the tournament sponsors, Companions of the Crucible, and the Free Citizens of Bryttan. The first event was the Grand Melee, a tournament of chivalric, single combat (no magic). Veya and Sumner signed up for that. Zinianna signed up for the Archery Contest. Straxius signed up for Arcane Archery. Straxius signed up for the Joust, and they would all participate as a team in the Urn of Wits challenge and the final Hedge Maze Challenge.

After easily defeating Grinder the Uncouth of the Free Citizens of Bryttan and Jaana the Hammer of the Order of Truth, Veya faced her 3rd Tier opponent, Dupre the Pure, also from the Order of Truth. Meanwhile, Sumner faced off against Shamino the Swift of the Order of Truth, then Grond of the Companions of the Crucible before facing his 3rd Tier opponent, Talos the Elder of Storm Company. Both Veya and Sumner defeated their 3rd Tier opponents, leaving them to face each other in the Champion Round.

That would have to wait a few days, however, to give the tournament participants a chance to rest. Meanwhile, Straxius faced off against Pelgor Quickfingers of the Companions of the Crucible in Arcane Archery and defeated him. Due to a lack of opponents, Straxius merely needed to be Grigori the Dark’s score to advance to the Champion Ship round. Grigori the Dark, of the Companions of the Crucible lost his 3rd Tier challenge to Valen the Ponce of the Knights of the Sacred Flower. Straxius beat his score, then faced Valen the Ponce for the Championship, convincing the boisterous knight that competing drunk and blind-folded would prove their worth. Valen agreed and competed, not knowing Straxius used his connection with his familiar to see through its eyes. Still, Valen’s skill was formidable and he only narrowly lost to Straxius. The Captain of the Sea of Stars was crowned Arcane Archery champion and granted the Earthtender Circlet as a prize (a circlet of blasting).

Sumner geared up for the joust, using his summoned steed after it was deemed that his Celestial Elephant, Stampy, from his figuring would provide him with an unfair and ultimately impractical advantage. (Why yes, I DID buy empty halves of coconut for this.) First, he jousted against an opponent from the Grand Melee, Talos the Elder. He unseated the old man then was challenged by Jaana the Hammer. After defeating her, his opponent was Dupre the Pure. Once again victorious, Sumner’s final opponent was Valen the Ponce. They made multiple passes and with Sumner’s unhorsing their scores were tied! Sumner demanded satisfaction from Valen the Ponce, but was unable to control his rage at the knight’s good natured boasting and the ignorant comments of other participants comparing the minotaur (whose race was unknown on Brintannia) to a bovine. He broke the rules of the contest and was disqualified for using magic to paralyze The Ponce. Valen was crowned Champion of the Joust and accepted the Gweardon Fortress (Daern’s Instant Fortress) as his prize.

Zinni was confident the Archery Contest would be little challenge to her and after defeating Pelgor Quickfingers, Loren Smythe of the Free Citizens of Bryttan, and Katrina Trueeye of the Knights of the Sacred Flower, she faced her final opponent, Garrett the Lame, also of the Knights of the Sacred Flower. Despite his slow, hobbled gait, he proved himself the better, or luckier, archer and limped away with the Champion title and the prize, the Quiver of the Blessed Huntress (a Quiver of Ehlonna).

During the period in which the melee participants rested, the Urn of Wits challenge was held. A pedestal was placed on a large rug in a pavilion. The rug was large enough no one could leap to the center to reach the pedestal. Upon the pedestal was an urn. The object was to retrieve the urn without using magic and without walking on the rug. Heated debates broke out amongst the teams. The crew took knives to the pavilion tent to create a long section of fabric which the placed on the rug to walk on. The challenge proctors called foul and while they were arguing over the wording of the rules, Valen the Ponce knelt down and rolled up the rug to walk on the grass until he reached the urn. The challenge proctors declared the Knights of the Sacred Flower the winners of the Urn of Wits Challenge. This announcement was met with much grumbling by the officers of Sea of Stars.

Nevertheless, the tournament proceeded and, it was time for the presumably rested and healed melee contestants to face off for the Championship. Sumner was reminded in no uncertain terms that magic was prohibited during the challenge and he faced off with Veya. While Sumner provided a bit more of a challenge than her previous opponents, the barbarian powerhouse from Faerun defeated the minotaur from Ansalon (Krynn). She accepted the title of Grand Melee Champion and the prize of an Adamantine Breastplate from the vaults of the Knights of the Sacred Flower.

After a final evening of rest, the last day of the tournament and the Hedge Maze challenge arrived. (I used the Blenheim Palace maze in Oxfordshire, UK as the model for this maze.) Maxim was careful to explain that divination, flying or levitation magic, or any other means to see an overview of the maze by participants would result in instant disqualification. Once the rules were clarified, the challenge began. Luck was with the crew and they entered the maze first. When they estimated they were about halfway through the maze, the skies darkened unnaturally fast and the skies roiled, filled with swirling clouds of unholy color.

Screams from the tournament grounds outside the maze alerted them that the magical storm was not part of the challenge and they called upon their magic to exit the maze quickly. The people in the tournament grounds were panicking while the knights not participating in the maze challenge tried to calm them. After questioning a few people, they learned that Queen Garria was abducted by three shadowy creatures.

The crew set off in pursuit, finding signs of a struggle in a nearby copse of trees and further signs that the three shadow-creatures took to the sky and flew off with the queen. Her majordomo, Lord Blackthorne was reluctant to accept the crew’s help, but finally relented. They returned to the palace and questioned some witnesses. After discussing the issue with others, they decided to go to the Knights of the Sacred Flower and the Order of Truth for assistance.

To their chagrin, Valen the Ponce turned out to be the leader of the Knights of the Sacred Flower. He was all too happy to assist them, however and confided that they had little faith in Lord Blackthorne’s ability to fairly and safely deal with the panicking populace. At the Order of Truth, the crew searched through their library to learn the shadowy creature were, in all likelihood, the Shadowlords. The Shadowlords, three powerful creatures with ties to Orcus, were thought to have been vanquished ages ago. Their lair was located in the Underworld; a dark place of deep caverns to which no one has traveled in decades.

The officers of Sea of Stars began their preparations for a long trek into Brintannia’s underdark….

The tournament went pretty well. I was surprised the PCs didn’t walk away with all the prizes, but at least I feel satisfied that I didn’t just hand them everything without a challenge. I will admit some of the wording for the Urn of Wits challenge could have been better, but I forgot that, when dealing with D&D players, they’re going to Rules Lawyer the absolutely living flesh off the bones of any challenge with in-game rules. I also got so caught up in tracking the challenge results in the brackets I created that I forgot to give out inspiration for some particularly good bits of role-playing. Maybe one of them will see this and remind me at the next session.

Also, I was surprised how quickly they leapt to offer to go after Queen Garria. Damn, that’s heroic!

If I remember when I return from Gary Con, I’ll summarize how I ran the tournament in a separate post. I wasn’t trying to simulate every little detail and I think it worked out pretty well.

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5th Ed. Spelljammer – The Wand of Orcus, session 17

The tunnel leading from the tomb meandered through the rocky underground until it opened into a flooded cavern. Gnolls filled the shores of the subterranean lake and quickly moved to attack. After dealing with them, the crew heard chanting from deeper within the cavern, so they circumnavigated the lake and proceeded deeper into the depths.

The natural tunnel gave way to a constructed area; a ritual room of sorts. Three druids were bound, up to their necks in a pool of blood while gnolls snarled and chanted around them, led in their dark worship by warlock bent on summoning some fell creature.

The crew of Sea of Stars leapt to the attack, intent on interrupting the foul ritual and saving the druids. After a pitched battle, the crew emerged victorious and pulled the druids out of their bloody prison. They led the druids out and found the fire fog was gone and the bleak pall hanging over the grove was lifted. The healing could begin.

Back in Bryttan Castle, Queen Garria expressed her thanks at their efforts and invited them to stay a while. The Tournament of Flowers was starting a few days and they were all invited to attend and participate if they so chose….

This may seem brief, and it probably is, but I got caught up in doing final edits and revisions to my next novel and really didn’t have a lot of time to do a detailed synopsis while trying to prep for the next session and finalize preparations for Gary Con, too. I could’ve summed it up in two sentences: The PCs killed all the gnolls and their leaders, and saved the druids. In gratitude, the Queen invited them to attend the Tournament of Flowers being held in a few days.

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A Short Hiatus

One of my regular players was out with a medical issue for the last two games, so rather than continue the D&D game (we left off in the middle of exploring a druidic grove), I took the opportunity to play test two adventures I’m running at Gary Con next month.

I won’t go into too much detail in case anyone reading this is signed up to play in those games.

timewatch-logoThe first was “Recruiting Call,” an adventure for Pelgrane Press’s Timewatch RPG. This was both the first time I’d ever played or GMed a Gumshoe-system game.

Basically, the premise of Timewatch is similar to the Van Damme move from the 90s, “Timecop.” If you haven’t seen it, I won’t tell you to run out right now and watch it, but it does have Bruce McGill, so that’s a plus in my book.

So, time-traveling secret agents on a time-and-location-hopping adventure. It worked out pretty well. I found the system pretty easy to run, one of the easiest to grok from scratch I’ve experienced, in fact. Fate took several play and GM sessions before I felt comfortable with it. I’m still not entire comfortable with Ubiquity (of Hollow Earth Expedition fame), despite having played it at least once and run it twice. My players discovered that violence-based solutions were a poor choice for their characters (it didn’t help that their rolls were crappy all night), so there’s a hint for you if you’re signed up to play in this at Gary Con.

starwars_logoThe second game was “Imperial Entanglements,” a Star Wars adventure I wrote and ran at Gary Con V four years ago for West End Games’s d6-based Star Wars RPG (long out-of-print, but never forgotten). I foolishly included a character four years ago that was able to break the adventure in the very beginning so I re-vamped all the pre-gens and fleshed out and expanded the adventure even more (to cop to my mistake, I was woefully unprepared to run it that year and decided then that ad-libbing my way through most of a con adventure was a BAD idea for me).

I may have added too much material, but it certainly went better than the last time I ran it. In addition, the pre-gens I created are much more suited for the type of adventure it is and everyone had a chance to shine over the course of the evening. I didn’t even really need the miniatures I had (though I’ll probably still bring them, because not every group is as good at avoiding combat at my current home group can be).

So, that’s what I’ve been doing. Next weekend we return to our regularly-schedule, but twice-delayed Fifth Edition Spelljammer game.

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And now for something completely different… The Rapture! (Doctor Who)

Way back around Christmas (2016), we played another session of Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space. The PCs in this game consist of Jenny Smith (The Doctor’s Daughter), Doctor Cornelius Constance (a 19th century scientician), and Bart, a golden retriever from the planet Xylanthia.
The TARDIS crew was en route to fun Christmastime frivolity on some strange planet when all of a sudden, the Cloister bell started chiming. The sensors went off the charts with artron activity.  This threw them out of the time track and their TARDIS landed with a thud.

Scanners indicated it was the year 2020, Monday the 21st of December, Earth, Unites States, Indianapolis, IN.

You are on Monument Circle. You open the door and the circle is bathed in multi-colored lights as the monument above you is decorated as a large Christmas tree. You look back and notice that the chameleon circuit has disguised the TARDIS as one of the statues. Across the street from you is the Christ Church Cathedral Episcopal Church. There is a sign advertising the upcoming Christmas service. With the message “The Rapture is upon us! Rejoice!”

Jenny immediately felt there was something “off” about the church and the group decided to investigate. They entered the church just as the evening service let out. People filed into the fellowship hall for coffee, cookies, and gossip.

Cornelius noticed a bulletin board captioned “Those who have been Raptured” with the names and pictures of 43 people, including the former Bishop of the church, Marcus Froman. He filed this away in his photographic memory and moved on. Below the board there was a schedule of rapture times. Doctor Constance shrugs and quipped that he was not familiar with the concept of scheduling the rapture, must be some new future church mumbo-jumbo. (Though I did make sure the former Bishop was not related to the Sausage King of Chicago.)

They chatted up the rather gruff dean of the church, Dean David Stone for a little while. Since Jenny was rather charismatic and could get info out of almost anyone, they found out that there are multiple church services a day and each one ends with the new leader of the church, Vicar Judy Pertmore, announcing the next two people to be raptured. The names just come to her. The chosen are sent to the basement and into the catacombs beneath the church to the crypt of the founder. This was where the raptures happen. The group all found it rather odd that the rapture happens underground so they decided to take their leave of the Dean and go snoop around the church.

The group snuck their way around looking for the basement. First, they decided to check out the Vicar’s office. It was locked but nothing Doctor Constance’s sonic screwdriver couldn’t handle. They found nothing of any real value in there, though Bart found grains of sand all over the office. Weird, but meaningless at the weeping-angelmoment. Next, they hit the former Bishop’s office. No sand in there. It appeared as though it had not been touched. They did find a hidden compartment in the wall that contained a note from 1885 warning whoever finds the note to not trust the Vicar and to watch out for the statues. “They look like angels but they are the devil himself. If you encounter them do not look
away for that is when they strike!”
This is when those of us familiar with Doctor Who lore said: nopenopenope

Following Bart’s keen nose they eventually made their way into the basement and into the catacombs. There were random burial niches set into the walls each with a name plaque. Doctor Constance started matching up the names with the names he saw on the Rapture Board. With a quick scan they found out that the bodies were at least 100 years old and seemed to have died of natural causes. In one of the niches, they also found a journal detailing that the members of the church are being sent back in time somehow and that Judy Pertmore is working for the statues. They are put them to work digging tunnels underneath the city looking for something. In the last entry he thinks they found it. There was some sort of glowing chamber and they dragged desiccated statues into the catacombs.

Making their way to the Founder’s tomb they were greeted by two stone angel statues. The group decided it would be in their best interest to run as the lights in the catacombs, including the flashlights in their hands, started going out.  A chase ensued and the group made it up the stairs before anything happened.

The plan: hop in the TARDIS and go back to the date found in the journal. However, their TARDIS was fickle and they wound up in the Cretaceous period. A little percussive maintenance on the console set things right and they eventually arrived at their destination, December 21st 1885. A small altercation ensued with the burly men guarding the entrance to the church but they eventually made their way into the catacombs. There were more angel statues that time but there were too many eyes upon them; roughly three dozen people toiling away digging and lugging other statues around.

crack-in-timeThey made their way to the glowing room. It was a space/time rift. The statues seemed to be feeding off of the artron energy it is produced. Splitting up, they desperately searched for Bishop Froman and eventually found him. They dragged him back to the TARDIS ignoring his fascination at it being “bigger on the inside” and piloted the craft into the center of the rift causing an explosion of blue light as it slammed itself shut. The resulting paradox fixed everything the Angels worked so hard to accomplish and everything was right in the world.

The group unceremoniously dumped the Bishop back at his church and set off for destinations unknown.

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5th Ed. Spelljammer – The Wand of Orcus, session 16

spelljammer logo

The next morning, Queen Garria gave them a tour of her castle. They noticed an ancient axe above her throne, an heirloom from an ancestor. The same axe was depicted in a statue in her garden of an armored, bearded man battled a fat, goat-headed demonic creature. When asked, she explained he was the ancestor to whom the axe belonged, shown battling Orcus.

Just then, a page ran up to them. Apparently sent by Queen Garria to a nearby druid’s grove, he spun a tale of a mist that ignited flesh where it touched and a disturbing lack of druids. Not only were the druids nowhere to be found, but the trees in the groves were twisted and corrupted.

Queen Garria implored the crew to grant her a favor and investigate. In exchange, she would give them a letter authorizing a line of credit with the ship builder in nearby city of Bryttan. Eager to further customize Sea of Stars, the crew agreed.

They flew the ship north to the grove as indicated by the page’s instructions. A thick mist hung over the trees, obscuring visibility to the point that they could find a safe place to descend into the grove, so they descended the ladder to enter the grove via the road.

The twisted paths winding through the grove led them past gnarled, corrupted treants, one of whom took objection to the fleshlings in their midst. After defeating the angry tree, they found the center of the grove: a massive oak tree with red leaves.

After a quick search, they found a hollow beneath the tree and descended into a small crypt filled with gnolls performing a profane ritual. Several of the gnolls were so gaunt as to be nearly skeletal, and they turned to attack. After a pitched battle, the officers of Sea of Stars searched the crypt for clues as to the gnolls’ purpose. The fire mist was as thick as ever outside, but they found a secret door in the back of the tomb leading deeper underground….

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5th Ed. Spelljammer – The Wand of Orcus, session 15

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After loading up their treasure, the crew of Sea of Stars departed from Oerth. A few days into the journey, as they were passing through The Grinder (a vast sphere of asteroids separating Greyspace’s inner planets from the outer planets), the lookout noticed a distant light that seemed to be shadowing them.

mindspiderThey approached a large asteroid and hid behind it, intending to let the other ship pass and get behind it. When they emerged, a ship with a claw-like front was dead ahead, it’s finger-like claws enveloping the front of the ship. Straxius recognized the tell-tale shape of a neogi Mindspinder and ordered the Sea of Stars to reserve course and come about. However, the neogi ship collided with Sea of Stars and its umber hulks leapt aboard!

Riding the umber hulks were their snake/spider-like masters, the neogi. The sharp claws of the umber hulks proved a challenge, as did the insidious magic and poison of the neogi, but after a pitched, and desperate battle, the crew of Sea of Stars was victorious.

Exploring the mindspider, they discovered a vast amount of treasure along with half-a-dozen slaves the neogi had been using in their lifejammer helm. The slaves begged the crew to return them to their homes of Brintannia and assured them Queen Garria would reward them handsomely for their efforts.

Brintannia wasn’t exactly on the way, but wasn’t too far out of the way, so after a brief conference, Straxius agreed.

And here’s where I forgot to return to the ship that seemed to be shadowing them which was NOT the mindspider; i.e. it didn’t do an off-screen teleportation to magically get in front of them. Oh bother.

 By the time they reached Heart Sphere, the repairs were complete and they were well-rested from their encounter with the neogi. The former slaves directed the crew where to take them: a resplendent castle near a lake. Queen Garria greeted her peoples’ saviors and invited them to feast with her that night. She offered them lodging in her castle and their bellies grew full as the night grew dark….

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5th ed. Spelljammer – The Wand of Orcus, session 14

spelljammer logo

This is going to have some pretty major spoilers for the Tomb of the Scorpion Prince published in Kobold Press’s Book of Lairs, so be warned.

After a brief conference outside of the tomb and a quick healing by Flint, the crew decided to continue their explorations. Once back inside, they quickly scouted both side corridors. To the left, there was a series of sharply angled rooms adorned with sculptures of scorpions with ruby eyes. The floor contained a mosaic pattern of scorpions. To the right there was a large room with a pedestal surrounded by sand.

They opted to investigate the ruby-eyed scorpions, first. Upon closer inspection, they were certain the ruby eyes were a lure to a trap, so they passed by the statues, leaving them unmolested and came upon a room with burial niches and a statue of the Scorpion Prince himself. Among the treasure, they found a gem etched with a number.

Once they defeated the animated statue and its minions, they proceeded deeper into the tomb. An unfinished, rough-hewn corridor led them directly into a trap which flooded the passageway with toxic water and corpse oozes. They defeated the nasty creatures and after finding a set of sealed doors with geometric indentations, backtracked to the angled corridors with ruby-eyed scorpions.

To no great surprise, the ruby eyes were traps. When touched, they shot great gouts of flame, filling the hallway. In addition, the scorpion mosaic on the floor came to life and swarms of scorpions attacked the crew. When they finished dispatching the vermin, they continued their explorations, finding more cleverly hidden traps, and several more gems etched with numbers.

After some deep thought and a brief rest, they deciphered the clues of the gems. The number etched into each gem, 1, 3, 4, and 5, corresponded to a geometric shape in the door.  1 fit into a circular indentation, 3 into a triangular indentation, 4 into a square indentation, and 5 into a pentagonal indentation.  When the gems were in place, the sealed door opened.

Inside the chamber stood a sarcophagus atop a multi-faceted hollow crystal. Four small stone chambers were on opposite walls. After the crew looked around for a moment, the stone chambers opened and night scorpions spilled out. In addition, the sarcophagus opened to reveal a newly awakened Scorpion Prince determined to kill those who awakened him and begin his conquest of the land once more.

During the protracted battle, they noticed the chambers which disgorged the scorpions also contained indentations and Zinniana ran around to each of them, placing a gem inside. Sumner summoned his celestial elephant, Stampy and Straxius polymorphed himself into a thunder lizard (’cause Tyrannosaurus Rex sounds too 20th century, yo) to aid the fray. After a mighty battle, they defeated the Scorpion Prince and his minions, then shattered the hollow crystal to claim the treasure within.

2016-11-26-00-23-22Ra-Jareez’s tip paid off, and they retreated from Oerth once more to take stock of their newly acquired riches…

Funny enough, they figured out the gems in the final battle before it became a slog. The scorpions had to die before the Scorpion Prince could be harmed. The gems had to be placed before the scorpions could be killed. Each gem had a corrected location. They got that part right on the first try and got the first scorpion down at just about the same time, so the fiddly nature of the puzzle never became apparent to them (though once the session was over, I did tell them how lucky they were to pick all the right choices at the end on the first try and congratulated them on their cleverness). The fact that the wizard was tanking as a dinosaur and they had an elephant stomping bugs probably helped.

I used a lair from the Book of Lairs for this for two reasons: I spent a lot of my prep time learning how to play D&D again (the mind forgets after four months and three different systems) and having the NPC Ra-Jareez find a seedy treasure map and say “Look, I contributed!” was totally in-character for him. I just wish I’d had more angled wall pieces because someall of those bulbous-looking sections are supposed to be angled.

And now we’re off on another brief hiatus. December is a difficult gaming month due to holiday-related family activities. We’re playing one session of Doctor Who (a Christmas special!), but no D&D until January 6th.

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