Monthly Archives: April 2015

Fantasy Maps

I know a lot of gamers are into fantasy maps, regardless of whether or not they use the material in their own games. With that in mind, I’d like to direct you to a recent post over at the VFF Publishing blog. The author side of me is commissioning an update to the map I use in my World of Calliome novels. It’s pretty exciting (for me, anyway)!

Categories: Random Thoughts | Tags:

Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Session 10

This adventure log will contain spoilers for the D&D 5th edition Tyranny of Dragons adventure, Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Ye’ve been warned!

After gearing up to follow the cultists out of Waterdeep and discover where they were taking the purloined treasure, our heroes were approached by their old friend, Tom Haverford. He informed them that his employer requested a meeting with them at her home in the Sea Ward: Eagleshield Villa. Once there, they were treated to luncheon with Dahlia Eagleshield and introduced to the other members of the Radiant Shield: Ontharr Frume of the Order of the Gauntlet, Master Leosin of the Harpers, and Aurea Moonshadow of the Emerald Enclave. Lady Eagleshield represented the Lord’s Alliance and explained that they formed the Radiant Shield to do what the leaders of their organizations and homes would not: investigate the activities of the Cult of the Dragon. They were also joined by an eavesdropper, Jamna Gleamsilver who insisted the Zhentarim be included since they also had a vested interest in preventing the destruction of the world by a vengeful dragon god (and she was going to find a way to involve herself even if they refused to let her listen in, anyway).

The Radiant Shield had been piecing together evidence gathered from the Sword Coast raids, and other reconnaissance, and thanks to Tom Haverford’s report on the heroes’ behavior during the long trip from Waterdeep, as well as endorsements from Ontharr Frume and Master Leosin, decided to reveals themselves to our heroes. What they learned was that the Cult of the Dragon’s goal appeared to be to open a portal through which Tiamat could enter Faerun from Avernus. Five Wyrmspeakers of the cult are the primary culprits in this plot. The Radiant Shield believes the half-dragon our heroes saw meeting with the cultists was one of these Wyrmspeakers: Rezmir. Each Wyrmspeaker possesses a Dragonmask which is used in the ceremony to open the portal.

Armed with this information, the Radiant Shield was able to put together a plan for moving forward: capture or destroy the Dragonmasks and take the Wyrmspeakers out of the equation. Master Leosin tracked a few previous shipments of cultist goods out of Waterdeep north to a roadhouse near the Mere of Dead Men, but was unable to investigate further because of a patrolling dragon. He showed them the location of Karnath Roadhouse on a map.

Upon their request, Lady Eagleshield arranged for water transportation for our heroes to head up to Leilon. Their plan was simple: get to the roadhouse ahead of the next shipment. They believed trailing them would be too dangerous since the Cultists were already suspicious of them. Kagark, of course, asked to accompany them and Lady Eagleshield also sent Tom Haverford along with them. In the meantime, the rest of the Radiant Shield would work on their own leaders and try to fortify their alliances.

A few days later, they arrived in Leilon and followed the road south to Karnath Roadhouse. There, they found a working roadhouse that served as a staging area for workers repairing the road between Waterdeep and Neverwinter. It seemed an unusual place for Cult of the Dragon activity, so Broken Sky and Zinianna investigated covertly, discovering that most of the residents were, indeed, just regular folk going about their lives. They did find a trap door in a treasure-filled strongroom and returned in the dead of night to investigate with the rest of the heroes. The chef reported being awakened regularly by noise from within the strongroom, and our heroes discovered the trapdoor appeared to be used as a way for the cultists to move their treasure out of the roadhouse.

They followed the dark, dank tunnel. It led away from the roadhouse, directly in to the Mere of Dead Men…

Another RP-heavy session, and one in which I took a page from the various blogs writing about Hoard of the Dragon Queen and took the opportunity to introduce some elements that will take the forefront in Rise of Tiamat. As written, Hoard of the Dragon Queen has the group pass through Waterdeep and continue on their merry way, squandering the opportunity to begin setting pieces in place that will come together in the next adventure. It seemed to make sense to begin laying the groundwork to tie the two adventures together  more closely.

Of course, since the PCs masqueraded as a brewing company during the caravan, it didn’t make much sense for them to suddenly want to be guards on a caravan taking road-repair supplies from Waterdeep to Karnath Roadhouse. Having Master Leosin do some pre-game scouting helped alleviate the need to hand-wave a few complications that arose from the caravan trip in a way that made it look like the NPCs were actually doing something. The PCs’ plan to take a boat north, then back-track to the Roadhouse put them there at least a few days before the cultists, so they were able to pretty much bypass most of those encounters, making it a trivial matter for them to locate the tunnel the cultists use to transport their ill-gotten booty. 

If they keep being clever, we might get to Rise of Tiamat before Gen Con!

Categories: D&D | Tags: , , , , ,

Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Session 9

This adventure log will contain spoilers for the D&D 5th edition Tyranny of Dragons adventure, Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Ye’ve been warned!

When we last left the Rockbottom Brewing Company, they had just stopped at an inn on the road somewhere between Baldur’s Gate and Waterdeep (actually between Baldur’s Gate and Daggerford). There, they found three belligerent men who were more than they seemed and fought for their lives against a trio of bored, antagonistic assassins.

Fortunately, that would be the last bit of trouble they encountered for some time and when the caravan rolled into Daggerford, everyone was more than ready for hot food, warm bed, and something interesting… which they would not find in Daggerford. While most of the caravan elected to take advantage of the town’s inns, the cultists chose to stay with their wagons. The members of Rockbottom decided it was in their best interests to spend the evening watching them. Tobin did become involved in a Bard Battle with a pair of half-elven minstrels, and many sick riffs were laid down in the pursuit of a victory. Meanwhile, Broken Sky noticed a robed man with poorly-hidden tattoos speaking to the cultists. He concluded it was a Red Wizard of Thay and reported back with some concern when the man apparently hooked up with the cultists. The monk and Zinniana also discovered a gnome casing the caravan, showing particular interest in the cult’s wagons.

They confronted this gnome, Jamna Gleamsilver, about her suspicious interest in the caravan. She claimed to want one thing: a ride out of Daggerford. After discussing it amongst themselves and finding no evidence of malfeasance on the gnome’s part, the Rockbottoms agreed to let her ride along with them. This was mostly so they could keep an eye on her; if they turned her down, there were plenty of other merchants who might not.

The evening passed uneventfully. Several days later, when they were less than a ten day from Waterdeep, Jamna approached them as they were breaking their fast in the morning. She showed them a coiled bone concealed within their oatmeal, suggesting that someone wanted them dead. The bone would soften and unfurl within their stomachs, piercing their guts from within. She promised to talk with them in depth when the caravan camped for the evening.

Once the caravan stopped for the night, and everyone was settled down for the evening, Jamna approached our intrepid heroes. She revealed that she was no mere traveler, rather she, too was working against the Cult of the Dragon. While she would not say for whom she worked, she assured the Rockbottoms that they shared a common purpose in this matter. The organization for whom she worked was committed to stopping their plans to summon Tiamat into this world. That news was a revelation to the Rockbottoms, and they knew summoning the Queen of Dragons was bad news for all.

A few days later, the caravan awoke to find one of the cultists dead. Naturally, they blamed the Rockbottoms, Tobin in particular, since several of them believed they remembered someone matching his description snooping around one of their camps east of Greenest. Azbara Jos, the suspected Red Wizard, played the voice of reason and tried to get everyone to calm down. In the end, no murder weapon was found, and there were no witnesses, so the caravan elected to let the cultists deal with their dead and move on: Waterdeep was only two days away!

When they arrived in Waterdeep, the caravan split up. The merchants went their way and the cultists continued to a warehouse in the northern part of the city. Broken Sky and the two gnomes went to keep an eye on the cult while Flint, Tobin, and Veya sold off the beer and ale they had fermenting during the trip. Kagark, naturally, followed Veya around, and Tom Haverford went with the merchants with whom he’d hired on. The warehouse the cultists were at was one used to stage materials and equipment used to repair the road leading north out of Waterdeep leading toward Neverwinter. They caught wind of rumors of the half-dragon they saw in Baldur’s Gate having passed through the area less than a ten day ago. They returned to the Yawning Portal to plan their next move….

After a solid 6-8 weeks of no D&D, it took a bit to get back into the game. Several of us claimed we’d forgotten how to play. It didn’t help that the last six games in a row I GMed were Fate Accelerated, not D&D. Still, it didn’t take too long, and though I sort of fast-forwarded through a lot of Episode 4, they still hit all the important plot points (which they’d done before our break). They’re about halfway through Hoard of the Dragon Queen now: Episodes 5-8 are all that remain (then on to The Rise of Tiamat). I think the pace is really going to pick up now. Looking ahead, it looks like the rest of the adventure is fairly consistently busy. The caravan to Waterdeep was a sort of calm-before-the-storm, or the big rest between the action-packed beginning and the action-packed end. In other words: shit’s about to get real.


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Gary Con VII Report

So, last weekend, I was at Gary Con in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Gary Con is an annual pilgrimage for me. Firstly, it’s the only convention I currently attend during which I can play games. Secondly, it’s a celebration of the life of Gary Gygax. Thirdly, it’s become like a family reunion. My wife and I always enjoy seeing familiar faces, catching up with old friends, and making new. I didn’t have time to write up day-by-day reports, so this will be more of a greatest hits.

The Bad

  • My wife got Con Crud.
  • It was awkward when people asked where we were from and we answered “Indiana.” Thanks Governor Pence.

The Good

  • I cosplayed! First time for me, really. Dressing up for Hallowe’en is one thing. Spending a good portion of the day is challenging, as I discovered.
  • I started the con off with an Atomic Robo Fate Accelerated game, Action Scientists of Tesladyne – Issue 1: The Madness of Dr. Frankenheimer. Much fun was had by all and several people indicated they would seek out the comic. Fortunately for me, the game was full of people familiar with Fate. It was tremendously helpful in gaining a better understanding of game flow (I had GMed it 4X up to that point, but was not at all confident). So, thanks to those players!
  • After Atomic Robo, I changed into my first costume of the con. Star Trek: TOS. Except for the boots, it was about as screen-accurate as one can get. Concessions are made to studio lighting: Kirk’s wraparound casual tunic was the same color as the standard uniform, but the material made the standard uniforms appear gold instead of avacado. Everyone thinks of them as gold now.
  • It was in the Star Trek uniform that I played in my next game: Airfield Follies, a Hollow Earth Expedition game run by James Carpio of Gygax Magazine. It was pulpy and inspired a bit by King Kong. I played a slovenly movie producer that more concerned with making my final film than everyone’s lives. Still, no one killed me and I got some great coverage of the t-rex chomping down on one of us. Fun fact: those TOS pants are tight enough that they rode up and down while I was sitting, so I was constantly fidgeting. The zipper also liked to open whenever I sat. They fit, but the material from which they’re made has NO give. It’s sparkly, though.
  • I planned to switch to a TNG costume for the evening, but I’ve lost so much weight it fit me like a mu-mu, so I had to ditch that plan.
  • Ever hear of the show “Mountain Monsters“? It was the basis for my first-ever Call of Cthulhu game. It’s like Duck Dynasty meets Supernatural. I played Trapper. I was proud of not making ANY M*A*S*H jokes. We did get an NPC stepped on by a building-sized eldritch horror, though. Kinda feel bad about that.
  • Friday was Fallout Friday! It doesn’t show up particularly well in the pictures, but the Pipboy has a working screen and the laser pistol is painted to look like Pew Pew from New Vegas. Fun fact: the tire pauldron was a real truck tire in a former life and isn’t particularly suited to wearing on a shoulder. I need to line it with foam or something. I had a tender spot there for the rest of the weekend.
  • I played AD&D with Luke Gygax. I created a dwarven cleric and named him Gristle McThornbody. He ran us through a new adventure written by him and a bunch of the other Old Guard (Tim Kask, Frank Mentzer, James M. Ward, etc.) called The Cave of Wisdom. I died two rooms in, crushed by a mama troll with a large frying pan. Good times! It was actually a good thing for me, because that game ran from 9am – 1pm and I was GMing my Fallout-based Fate game from 1pm – 4:30pm. That left NO time for walking to the next game or food.
  • The afternoon was my Fallout Fate Accelerated game, Fire from the Sky. A few younger players tried to meta-game based on their knowledge of the Fallout franchise, but overall the game went well. I had a bunch of Nuka Cola bottle caps I used for Fate Points. My idea of handing out cards with items to represent a more Fallout-y style of Stunt worked well, though I forgot to print out about 1/3rd of them. Some of them need to be reworded, as well.
  • I changed back into civvies for my Friday evening game: Savage Spaceballs! I played Barf, because I wanted to be my own best friend. Lonestar and Vespa were separated with two horrible little children, but reunited to search for the stolen Family Jewels of Druidia. Yes, jokes were made. My wife played Dot Matrix, nanny to the horrible children and her East Coast accent made it easy for her to slip into Joan Rivers mode.  Dark Helmet was relegated to working at Space FedEx and Colonel Sanders took a Batman-like turn in his self-appointed role of Dark Helmet’s guardian (except chicken-themed). It was rather hilarious… particularly since Barf had developed a leg-humping problem. Mogs gotta establish dominance!
  • Saturday I was foolish and scheduled my Saturday Morning Superheroes game (also Fate Accelerated) for 8AM… after a midnight end for Savage Spaceballs. I’m getting too old for that. Plus, I found out that breakfast wasn’t officially served until 8AM. Oops. Oh well, lesson learned. For this game, I was assigned a table in the “Porch” area; the room in which Gary Gygax’s memorial table sits. It’s the room in which most of the Old Guard run their games from cushy, high-backed padded chairs. Nearby, Merle Rassmussen was running his women-only Top Secret game (FYI: Merle Rassmussen designed the original Top Secret RPG for TSR in the late ’70s). I didn’t feel right sitting in the high-back chair, especially since we already received an “Old Guard” parking permit and reserved space due to my wife’s wheelchair. Anyway, the game went well with Casper the Friendly Ghost, Yogi Bear, Captain Caveman, Grape Ape, Hong Kong Phooey, and the Smurfs teaming up to defeat The Cloaked Figure (real identity… SPOILERS! Neener, neener, neener!) after the murder of Dynomutt. Yeah, it was a little dark. But fun and perfect for a Saturday morning with cries of “CAPTAIN CAAAAAAAAAVEMAAAAAN” and someone singing the Smurf song as they hijacked an RC car.
  • Saturday afternoon, my wife played in James M. Ward’s women-only game. Out of 12 or 13 players, only 4 characters died. I first thought perhaps he wasn’t feeling well (he has a reputation), but it turns out they just played really well. He was testing a new game system he’s developing and it earned high praise from all the players. James M. Ward is the man who got my wife into gaming several years ago, and we always make a point of saying “hi” to him at Gary Con.
  • The rest of my Saturday was open. Registration issues kept me from getting into anything else that day, though I did take my wife’s ticket for Cthulhu Invictus (a Call of Cthulhu game set in the Roman Empire). Both of my CoC games were intended for my wife and I to both play in, but she got in and I did not, so I just used her tickets (not to worry… wait until Sunday night). It was a lot of fun and featured many of the same players from Savage Spaceballs. Both events were run by folks from GameHole Con. A documentary crew was filming Stephen Pokorny (the guy who makes Dwarven Forge) throughout the con and they stopped by our table, so you might see my remarks at some point (I had to sign a release and everything).
  • The group photo of the collected mass of Hawaiian shirts worn in honor of Gary Gygax was taken Saturday night. I don’t have a copy of it, but you can see it on Facebook.
  • Sunday morning, I ran my final game of the con: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – 1980s Edition! (Fate Accelerated). This game featured B.A. Baracus (The A-Team), MacGyver, Doc Brown (Back to the Future), Jack Burton (Big Trouble in Little China), Melina Havelock (For Your Eyes Only), and Sarah Conner (The Terminator). I used Karl Keesler’s Savage Worlds adventure for the basis of this game, except I changed some of the characters so they all fit into the 1980s (his PC were all from ’80s films; mine were all from 80s films that took place IN the ’80s). I also added Sho-Nuff from The Last Dragon as one of David Lo Pan’s flunkies. It went really well, with Terminators, three Jason’s (from Friday the 13th), a plethora of Wing Kong, Jack Burton’s truck, and Lo Pan all showing up at the finale. It was a good way to end my run as a GM there this year.
  • The rest of Sunday was socializing and taking it easy. My wife was invited to an encore of the Mountain Monsters Call of Cthulhu game and I encouraged her to take advantage of the opportunity. I planned to play again as a different character, but while we were waiting by the fire, Merle Rasmussen stopped by to say “Hi” and we ended up chatting about Top Secret, TSR, and writing for nearly 3 hours! That’s one of the great things about Gary Con, it’s small enough that you never know who you’re going to run into and talk with into the late hours of the evening.

That’s about it. We left Monday afternoon and drove back. As always, it was a great convention. I’m already booked at The Lodge at Geneva Ridge for Gary Con VII and have begun planning my games*!

You can see a slideshow of all my Gary Con pictures at Photobucket, including my wife’s pirate and Victorian outfits. For once, I remembered I brought a camera, though the number of pictures I took averaged less than 10 a day.

*I’m planning on running four games for the Dead Games Society next year. Two of which will be S1: The Tomb of Horrors, one general admission and one for women only (there are a lot of people who have never experienced it in the original AD&D… they deserve that experience if they so desire). I’m also writing an original AD&D adventure titled “The Wailing Sore,” and will return to Paranoia with “Bugs in the System.”

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