Posts Tagged With: D&D

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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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 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 – 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 – Which RPG have you played the most in your life?

I started with Dungeons & Dragons and I always come back to Dungeons & Dragons. Since my first experience with the Moldvay (and Mentzer; we mixed and matched freely ’cause we didn’t know the difference) boxed sets back in 1982, I have played every edition released: D&D, AD&D, AD&D 2nd Edition, D&D 3rd edition, D&D 3.5, D&D 4th edition, and D&D 5th edition.

There have been other games, to be sure. We played a LOT of Paranoia when I was in school in Germany because it was quick and easy and we could play it during our lunch period. In the ’90s I played a LOT of West End Game’s Star Wars RPG because the friends I played with weren’t allowed to play D&D (the whole Satanic Panic thing). But through it all, there was always Dungeons & Dragons.

No matter how I feel about a particular edition, there’s a part of me that still wants to play D&D. I expect that won’t change, even if the edition I play and the current edition don’t always match up.

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#RPGaDAY 2017 – Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?

When I think of an RPG with inspiring interior art, I have to go back to the ’80s and AD&D 2nd Edition. It wasn’t as picture packed as a modern RPG and color was use sparingly, but to my young, teenaged imagination, just starting to explore worlds of imagination, nothing inspired me more than those full-page color plates by Larry Elmore, Jeff Easley, Keith Parkinson, and all the other talented artists TSR employed. More than the writing, it was the art in those books that inspired me.

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#RPGaDAY 2017 – What was your most impactful RPG session?

That’s a tough one. I’ve never had a profoundly emotional, gut-wrenching or eye-opening experience while playing an RPG. Still, I can think of two sessions where I either thought afterwards “That was awesome.” or remember that it must’ve been awesome.

It Must Have Been Awesome
My very first D&D game. Moldvay Basic Set and Keep on the Borderlands. After that first game, I had to have a copy for myself. I ended up only being able to find the Mentzer Expert Set, but my library had the Moldvay Basic Set (we didn’t understand the Moldvay/Mentzer revision difference at the time, and we didn’t care). Between me and my friends, we probably had that Basic Set checked out for the greater part of a year. I ended up with a Mentzer Basic Set and still didn’t care that it wasn’t the same “edition” as the Moldvay I’d fallen in love with. It was all the same game to me. We were all a little confused why there seemed to be two different versions and throwing AD&D into the mix added to that confusion. So, we just mix and matched to our hearts content and no game was broken, no RPG police came to confiscate our stuff (parents and Church leaders were another matter, however).

It was awesome
Ever played a Call of Cthulhu game run by a professional performer? I have. It. Was. Awesome.

What made it even more awesome is the game was an adaptation of a reality TV show called Mountain Monsters (airing on Destination America) about a group of Appalachian hunters and trappers intent on discovering the truth about cryptid sightings in Appalachia. It also happened to be the first time I’d ever played Call of Cthulhu. The following two years the same GM has run a follow-up game to that first session building on the events and it was an awesome trilogy of hillbilly horror.

Now that’s a phrase I never thought I’d say.


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