Posts Tagged With: D&D

#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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#RPGaDAY – Which RPG have you played the most since August 2016?

This question can be answered by going back through this blog, but if you don’t want to do that: D&D, 5th edition. I’ve been running a Spelljammer campaign that’s coming up on it’s 26th fortnightly session. It’s taken longer than a year to get to 26 sessions, due to canceled games and hiatuses to play test convention-bound one-shots. I started the Spelljammer game in January of 2016, but it’s really a continuation of the 5th edition Hoard of the Dragon Queen campaign I ran from November 2014 to June 2015. I think it’s fair to say now that 5th edition is my favorite edition of D&D. I wasn’t able to say that about 4th edition or Pathfinder (the shine had worn off d20/3.X by the time the 3.5 revision of D&D was released).

I anticipate the Spelljammer game coming to a conclusion by the 30th session at the latest. No one knows what comes after that; we haven’t decided. Probably a smattering of other games to cleanse our palates before I launch another D&D campaign.


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#RPGaDAY 2017 – What published RPG do you wish you were playing right now?

Do CRPGs count? Since I’m sitting at work as this is published, almost any tabletop RPG would do, but it all likelihood, if I wasn’t at work, I’d be playing Elder Scrolls Online. I have five characters there, though I tend to concentrate on one at a time.

Altmer Sorceress


Khajiit Nightblade


Argonian Dragonknight


Argonian Warden (Vampire)


Nord Warden (Werewolf)

Grizzled Adam is a play on Grizzly Adams, ’cause Wardens get a bear companion. Grizzled Adam also has a bear mount and a bear cub pet. I’m no longer enthused about playing him because he’s really a joke character and I tend to lose interest in them after a while.

Some of them don’t have titles because ESO Database hasn’t been updated to accept titles (or locations) from the Morrowind expansion yet.

“But CRPGs aren’t REAL RPGs! Don’t cop out!” — You might say.

*Exasperated Gasp* “Fine.” — My response.

If I could play ANY tabletop RPG right now instead of being at work, I think I’d like to play Rifts® for Savage Worlds. Rifts was one of those RPGs I always heard about growing up, but never actually saw in the wild, as it were. When it was submitted for an ENnie Award this year, I had a chance to look through the books and I really like what I saw. I’m fairly certain the Palladium version’s rules would not be to my liking, but I already know and like Savage Worlds and this looks right up my alley. Who doesn’t want to play a Dragon Glitter Boy?


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Gary Gygax Day

Today is Gary Gygax Day.

dd basic-boxThe influence he had on my life is difficult to quantify. I can pretty much attribute my interest in fantasy to a little game he created, Dungeons & Dragons. From that, sprang a love of writing. Through the games I played, I acquired the vast majority of my friends. From D&D, I cultivated a greater interest in science-fiction than I already had.

It’s not inaccurate to say with D&D and the influences and opportunities it brought, my life would be unrecognizable.

I had the great fortune of meeting him in 2008 (I think) at the last Gen Con he was able to attend. I don’t remember if I told him what a far-reaching influence his game had on my life, but I was sure to tell his son, Luke, whom I’ve gotten to know over the last several years. One of his other sons, Ernie, sold me my very first issue of Knights of the Dinner Table magazine (issue 10) in the ’90s in a game shop owned by Margaret Weis (co-author of many Dragonlance novels). Through that, I was introduced to the Blackburns, both very fine people in their own right.

And on it goes.

Thanks, Gary.

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5th Ed. Spelljammer – The Wand of Orcus, session 25

After determining that they were, in fact, on in a pocket dimension, the crew resigned themselves to having to climb back down through the tower to return to the Rock of Bral with the shaft. They took a moment to prepare themselves, then re-entered the storage room at the top of the tower were Seravos laired. They found several valuable items to take with them, and then cast several invisibility spells before descending into the combat zone.


Undead continued to battle with Seravos’s golems, so the crew was able to pass most of the fighting unseen. When they reached the bottom floor, the dead apprentice at the desk in the foyer had become ghoul food, so they quietly evolved a plan to deal with them. Unfortunately, they were not mere carrion-eating ghouls as one might encounter in a cemetery and Rune’s attempt to turn them failed.


They beat down the tough ghoul and exited the tower, Arcane Locking the door on their way out. On the city streets, no one seemed aware of what transpired in Seravos’s tower. The crew returned to the Laughing Beholder for an evening of drinks and carousing before boarding Sea of Stars.


As they made preparations to leave, another Nkosi approached the ship, looking for Captain Ra-Jareez. Suli-ban, Ra-Jareez’s cousin, was greatly amused to hear of the Nkosi’s misfortune in losing his ship and informed Ra-Jaeerz he was there to bring him home. After a brief discussion with the crew of Sea of Stars, Ra-Jareez made his choice: he would stay with his friends on the Sea of Stars until their task was done.


Boccob’s Barge

They set off to sail to Patria sphere and Eorôe to fulfill their obligation to the giants there. As they pass by the Tears of Selune, they discovered they would not have to seek long for the skull to complete the Wand of Orcus. A familiar hammership approached, Boccob’s Barge, it’s crew of undead drawn to the nearly completed artifact.


They readied themselves for battle…

Since I know what’s coming next and the hour was growing late, I ended the session a little early. It was either that, or stop in the middle of a combat (which suuuucks). In two weeks, we’re going to play a Middle Earth adventure to help one of my players play test the adventure he’s running for Cubicle 7 at Gen Con. Two weeks after that is Gen Con. Then, on September 1st, “The Wand of Orcus” will continue. It’s all climax from here on out; the campaign is nearing its close. Will the crew of Sea of Stars be able to reclaim Boccob’s Barge from the Ghoul King and his minions? Will they be able to resist the temptations of a reassembled Wand of Orcus? Will they be able to destroy it before the Demon Prince of Undead comes to claim it?

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5th Ed. Spelljammer – The Wand of Orcus, session 24

A few weeks later, upon returning to the Rock of Bral, Straxius sent Ra-Jareez, Sumner, and Ragnar out to hire a proper crew for Sea of Stars. Meanwhile, he and the rest of the officers decided to go to the Laughing Beholder to see if they could catch up to Seravos the Golden.

As they disembarked from their ship a messenger ran up to Straxius with a letter:

You pledged to aid us.
Dark forces conspire to break the shackles holding the World Serpent at bay.
We call upon you to fulfil your oath.
(It looks better in the stoney, runic-looking font I used on the actual note)

After a brief moment, they remembered the giants with whom they traded to acquire the crystal of ice for the Arcane, so long ago. Since they were already on the Rock of Bral where the man believed to be in possession of a piece of the Wand of Orcus was, they chose to retrieve it from him first, and then swing by Eorôe in Patria Sphere on the way to their next destination.

They hung around the Laughing Beholder for a bit as Rune tried to tell Luigi the Beholder a joke. After the joke Luigi declared he was changing the name of his bar to the Sad Beholder and all that was good in life was now gone. About then, a lithe, golden-haired elf walked in, ordered a drink and sat at a table, alone. Luigi confirmed it was Seravos the Golden.

One failed negotiation later (Seravos was not willing to part with any piece of his collection) and they began to develop a plan to acquire the piece of the wand through extra-legal means. Luigi counseled Straxius, telling him that they should not feel guilty if they needed to remove the evil object from Seravos’s possession; the elf was not troublemaker, per se, but neither was he a good person. They decided on a plan that would have Zinni scope out his home and potentially pilfer the wand’s shaft given the opportunity.

Seravos’s house was in a middle-class part of town, and appeared to be an unremarkable building on a street of row houses.  Through the windows, the interior looked dark and cluttered and Zinni was unable to find a back entrance. There was enough pedestrian traffic on the street that she didn’t feel comfortable picking the lock in broad starlight, so she returned to Straxius and the other officers.

They waited until night, then returned to Seravos’s house as a group. Before taking the step of breaking in, they decided to knock on the door. It swung open as they rapped upon it. Inside, the house was unlike its streetside appearance. It was much larger and round, more like a tower, than a humble single-story house.

From inside, the crew heard the sounds of battle. An apprentice lay slumped over a desk in the vestibule, a pool of blood spreading from his body and dripping onto the floor. They climbed the tower, dealing with both Seravos’s clockwork minions and the invading undead until they reached the top floor. A coffin and a corpse drained of blood gave away Seravos’s true nature, yet he was nowhere to be found. They did spy a hatch in the ceiling above a fallen ladder. They smashed the coffin and climbed.

On the roof, they found Seravos the Golden. Frothing with rage, he declare no one, not the crew of Sea of Stars, not the Ghoul King, NO ONE would have his prize. After a brief battle, the crew put the rampaging vampire down. Seravos tried to flee in his gaseous form, and Straxius summoned an air elemental to take the wispy vampire on a ride.

The shaft of the Wand of Orcus lay on the roof. They picked up the penultimate piece and pondered their next move…

This is really late because not only did I have a mad rush to get two books to the printer (Scars of the Sundering, book 3: Salvation and “Burble’s Big Day,” both of which will be available at Gen Con), but two author events back-to-back right after this game. I’m sure I left out details. Oh well, I think I got the gist of it and I’m sure if there is anything crucial missing, one of my players will chime in in the comments.

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5th Ed. Spelljammer – The Wand of Orcus, session 23

After an attempt at evasion, it was clear the Man-O-War intended to confront Sea of Stars. Captain Straxius ordered everyone to battle stations, but did not order an attack, preferring to let the elves, if that’s who they really were, make the first move.

A projection of the Elven captain appeared on their deck. He introduced himself as High Captain Larethon and informed the crew of Sea of Stars that they were in restricted space and demanded to know their purpose.

Captain Straxius explained who they were and that they were ignorant of the restriction on the space above Brintannia. Captain Larethon had heard of a Straxius Farseer, Captain of Boccob’s Barge, a ship currently implicated in a rash of pirate attacks. Straxius explained that ship had been stolen by a lich and his undead minions, then Queen Garria blurted out that they were on a sacred quest to defeat Orcus, much to the chagrin of the superstitious among the crew who believes saying the Demon Prince’s name invited ruin.

Upon hearing this, Captain Larethon invited the officers to convene aboard his ship. Captain Straxius accepted the invitation, but cautioned his crew to be wary of any attempt by the elves to deceive them. The elves served wine, then they got down to business. Straxius explained their quest in detail and the elf explained piracy enacted by ships crewed by the undead were increasing and there were signs that Orcus’s minions were involved. Captain Larethon told them he was authorized to help anyone working against the Demon Prince of Undead and would send word to their armada in The Grinder that they were to share whatever intelligence they had on these attacks, and the whereabouts of the pieces of the Wand of Orcus.

He wished them luck. Captain Straxius bartered a case of wine from him and Sea of Stars parted ways with the Man-O-War with a new destination: Greyspace.

The journey to Greyspace was uneventful and they navigated their way to The Grinder, the vast sphere of asteroids and planetoids surrounding the inner planets of Greyspace. They navigated their way through the tumbling rocks toward the Elven Armada. Passing between two particularly close planetoids, they were attacked by a void worm, a wild space-dwelling cousin of the dreaded purple worm. Fortunately, Captain Straxius had a polymorph spell handy with which he reduced it to a snail, allowing them to pass with minimum damage to the ship*.

After receiving permission to dock, the crew exited Sea of Stars and met with the commander of the Elven Armada, Lord Corellon. Having been forewarned of their arrival, the Elvish Lord had all the information pertaining to various divinations they’d performed regarding the Wand of Orcus as well as information from the Elvish navy’s vast network of spies. They had narrowed the shaft of the wand down to four possible locations. He dismissed the possibility that it was in the hands of the Kingpriest of Istar immediately; both the location and the man were destroyed ages ago. They determined it could be in the possession of a Dwarven collector of rare oddities, Belgar Blisterstone, a resident of the nearby Ironfist Citadel. Another possibly location was in the possession of Keraptis, in his mountain of power. Unfortunately, the mountain moved at seemingly random intervals. It was last known to be on Reorx, in Krynnspace, but Lord Corellon warned it could very well move before they could get there. Lastly, another collector might have it: Seravos the Golden, last known to reside on the Rock of Bral.

When their business with the elves was complete, they set off for the first of their possibilities: Ironfist Citadel. They found the Dwarven citadel in the Grinder, less than a day away. The dwarves allow them to dock and they were directed to Belgar’s shop. Unfortunately, he was no in possession of the shaft to the Wand of Orcus, though he was more than happy to show them his other wares and trade with them.

Rune cast a divination, attempting to learn from his god what the best investigative option was. Based on those answers, rather than seek out Keraptis’s mountain, they chose instead to plot a course back to the Rock of Bral to next seek out Seravos the Golden…

*Don’t you hate it when players completely bypass a detailed encounter that had a bunch of cool details that were going to be TOTALLY AWESOME? Of course, I still gave them full XP (except for the follow-up encounter that never happened as a result of short-circuiting the void worm encounter). I’m just glad I didn’t bust my butt painting the miniature that didn’t really get used in this encounter. 😀

I must remember their predilection for polymorph when designing future encounters.

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5th Ed. Spelljammer – The Wand of Orcus, session 22

The fungus folk, myconids, though aloof, proved helpful to the crew of Sea of Stars. They described the route to the fortress of the Shadowlords, but warned the crew they’d have to pass through a realm occupied by creatures not of this world who swam through stone as easily as a fish through water. The myconids also warned the crew of the Shadowlords’ servants of metal and stone.

During their discussion, the crew decided they would stick to their goal of rescuing Queen Garria without confronting the Shadowlords, if possible. (The PCs learned at some point that the Shadowlords were not, in fact, in their fortress at the moment, though I no longer remember where they learned that information and it’s not really important.)

After resting, they set off toward the Shadowlords’ fortress once again. Not long after leaving the mushroom kingdom, they encountered an odd, three-armed, three-legged creature emerging from stone. Straxius, with his breadth of knowledge was able to communicate with the creature and they exchanged metals and gemstones for safe passage and a guide. The creatures, xorn, were eager to help those who offered them such refined food.

The Xorn guided the crew to a massive stone bridge over a river of lava. On the far side was a stone monolith: the fortress of the Shadowlords. Creatures of fire swum in the lava, and across the bridge, the entrance was guarded by two massive winged statues. The crew assumed the statues were, in fact, gargoyles, and decided they would defy all the guardians by striding boldly onto the bridge.

Elementals and lava guardians in the river of fire turned their attention to the bridge, but did not approach. The gargoyles, however, had no such compunctions and challenged the crew. Straxius informed them if they wanted to live, they would let them pass. The gargoyles declined but accepted an alternate challenge: single combat versus Veya.

Veya easily beat the gargoyle who challenged her and the other stepped aside, its desire to live outweighing its loyalty to its masters. They descend into the fortress, making their way through ancient crypts defaced depictions of Brintannia’s deities of Truth, Love, and Courage, and tombs unremembered; mysteries for others to discover.

They found their way to a ritual chamber and were able to eavesdrop on an exchange between the image of a goat-headed demon and one of the Shadowlords’ servants. Orcus congratulated them on capturing his old nemesis and ordered them to kill her and bring her skull to him for his throne. The servant responded they would do so and they would continue to hunt Hrothgar the Penitent no matter where or who he was reincarnated as, until the end of time, if need be. Orcus then ordered them to also bring the heads of the ones behind the servant, those would who “save” Hrothgar.

A pitched battle was fought, but the crew of Sea of Stars was victorious and freed Queen Garria. Straxius made use of the contingency escape he prepared before they entered the Underworld and teleported them back to the Cathedral of Truth. Queen Garria confirmed their suspicions: “It’s true. I am Hrothgar the Penitent. I was reincarnated into this form you see before you. It’s not the first time, and until Orcus is vanquished forever, it won’t be the last. Destroying his wand will sever his connection with this plane for a time and will give me a long enough reprieve to enjoy a lifetime, perhaps even two or three. If only I could find the thing…

“For two-and-half-thousand years I’ve been hounded by his agents. Cut down and killed, whenever I was unable to withstand their assault. I know not how many of my skulls decorate his throne by now.”

She agreed to accompany them to find the rest of the wand and destroy it, but first, she needed to spend a day or two to set her affairs in Brintannia in order. Once she gave her allies the information they needed to vanquish the Shadowlords, she left with the crew and the Sea of Stars once more took to the sky.

When they reached space, an elven Man-O-War awaited them….

I had not intended for Queen Garria to be a damsel in distress in need of rescue, in fact, I was going to have her escape on her own and meet up with the PCs in the Underworld and then they all defeat the Shadowlords togethers. The best laid plans of mice and men…

My players weren’t really biting the hook of defeating the Shadowlords, and honestly, the PCs didn’t have a good reason to stick their noses THAT deep into Brintannia’s problem. Finding the Queen was paramount, and most because they suspected she had ties to their main quest (at least I dropped those hints well enough). 

I wasn’t feeling the whole Underworld diversion anyway (and neither were they), so wrapping it up quickly and getting everyone back on the ship was for the best I think. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I failed somewhere in the execution. Frankly, I should just stopped at the tournament and figured out some other way to clue them into the fact that Queen Garria was the reincarnation of Hrothgar the Penitent and they’d need her to actually destroy the Wand of Orcus.

Part of GMing is learning from one’s mistakes. So, these were still valuable sessions for me, but I guess I can’t put off painting those catapult miniatures I bought for the ship any longer.

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5th Ed. 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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