If you don't know it already, I am a big admirer of Rob Donoghue, a game designer, game master, and person of extraordinaty quality.
He has a blog over at The Walking Mind. He recently started to write about his new D&D 5e campaign, The Thaw. If you want to observe a process of capaign creation and blending that with character creation to make some very rich storytelling material, reading Rob's write ups so far are really worth a read.
There has never been a game that Rob would not tinker with, just like every great game master, so he offers some especially interesting twists on D&D 5e character creation which could be easily ported to other games like 13th Age. He also creates some terrific visual and tactile artifacts for his game to help himself and his players as the story developes.
It is much better to go see for yourself.
I also wanted to shout out to Lex Starwalker, of Starwalker Studios. I have recently started to listen to his Game Master's Journey podcast, and I find it to be very interesting a thought provoking.
In an ideal world, Lex and Rob should get together and have a conversation, like on a podcast (right?).
In any case, both these gentlemen have lots of information, ideas and advice worth taking or appropriating or stealing for your games.
Check them out!
Saturday, March 14, 2015
On Sunday, March 1, we played the next installment of our game. We continued the adventure of Liriandel, begun here.
The characters continued to be:
Cerise, the Spirit-Touched ClericIndigo the Gnome Cleric
Zyna (as always, the name changes), the Half-Elf Rogue
Froodo, the Halfling Monk
Hey Watchit, the Half-Orc Fighter
Lief, the Human Bard
Delthen Eversoar, the Human Paladin, and
Rolen Stillwind, the Wood Elf Sorcerer
Having battled animated swords which came from the next room, the party advanced carefully into the next large chamber. Zyna took point, checking for traps and stepping carefully. The room had once been the crude mead hall of the Sya-Negan (ancient barbarian demon worshippers), built during their campaign of conquest and extermination against the Lorai (the peaceful former inhabitants of what are now known as the Brown Grounds).
The wooden walled and roofed hall, was long ago reinforced with stone and repurposed as a central chamber for the burial mound. Along with benches and tables, there was a great stone throne, once used by the Chieftain Tamaich. Around the room were twelve terra cotta sentinels, each standing on a grave capstone, each without their swords (as those had already attacked and been defeated) and each, instead of a carved head, bearing a warrior’s skull on top of the statue. Also, below the tables, rather huge capstones seemed to have been laid, and the party decided it best not to disturb those. On the ceiling, was a ghastly sight. More than a dozen of the Lorai warriors had been nailed, faces to the ceiling, and their bodies had become crudely mummified in their agonized poses along the ceiling.
The place ached of death and pain and evil.
The party passed to the next room. There they found a “trophy” chamber. Decaying weapons and armor, once the panoply of the flower of the Lorai lay in heaps. Also, collected together, were the twelve tattered blue banners of the Lorai, and nailed to each one was a severed, gauntleted hand (all that remained of the banner-men of the Lorai war bands).
Led by a sense of dark destiny, Delthen the Inquisitor brushed aside some of the pile of armor, and found a fine suit of dark platemail, bound together in what seemed like barbed wire, with small curse charms twisted in. He sense from his connection to the Crusader that this armor had belonged to someone the demon-worshippers feared deeply. He excitedly began to free the armor.
That is when he was surprised by twelve creepy crawlies. But what at first seemed like a dozen tarantulas, turned out to be the twelve severed and reanimated left hands (mooks) of the Lorai banner-men. Each scratched and squeezed, and sought Delthen’s throat. During the surprise round (a five is good for you and good for me), three of the twelve managed to connect, one critically, latching onto Delthen’s throat. Another fumbled and fell to the floor twitching and trying to right itself.
Then everyone sprang into action.
Round 1 Escalation 0
Lief the Bard unleashed a Soundburst doing 30 damage and killing five of the zombie hands outright. Delthen scrabbled to knock the hands off of him and crush them with his mace. He invoked his smiting, but missed his role and did half damage, killing another. Hey, the Half-Orc fighter, threw one of his rocks and finished off one that Delthen had grazed and outright killed another. Zyna threw one of her throwing glaives, but it but grazed one of the hands for miss damage. Indigo, mighty Gnome Cleric had trouble aiming his warhammer, but killed one with a graze of miss damage as well. Rolen unleashed his sorcerous Scorching Ray with a critical hit, killing two more. Cerise summoned the power of her faith to channel into a Javelin, but despite hitting, the damage did not finish off her targeted zombie hand. However, the ongoing fire damage initiated by Rolen’s critical hit finished the last hand on its turn.
End of Combat
Undeterred by the nasty surprised in Delthen’s armor (which he immediately began to don after the combat), others searched through the items of the fallen Lorai for items which the Icons might deem helpful to them. The Priestess led Froodo to a pair of Lucky Bracers. The power of the High Druid directed Lief to a different kind of enchanted bracers, one that would allow him easy passage through woodland areas and aid in his climbing. The Priestess similarly led Zyna to a pair of curiously preserved gloves which made her fingers sure and her grip strong.
From the chamber of grim trophies (and, as it turned out “free goodies”), the party proceeded further down another passage, into a large room with a bulky terracotta statute. The seven or eight foot tall statute portrayed a brutal warrior, possibly Tamaich himself. Lief immediately decided to try out the power of his new Bracers of Brachiation to climb up the statute and stand on its shoulders (he did work in a circus once upon a time). Worried some vile magic might harm Lief, Cerise cast Bless to help him. In trying to shape the spell, she rolled a 1.
This caused the statute to immediately explode, and this time ten seemingly freshly risen ghouls (mooks) bubbled out from the body and from underneath the pedestal of the shattered statue.
Round 1 Escalation 0
Lief found himself seemingly helpless on the ground. Nonetheless, he rolled the highest initiative, and from his prone position, he unleashed Viscious Mockery, a spell he had chosen with an incremental advancement. He blasted two out of existence.
Zyna took a moment to shadow walk.
Delthen once again summoned his power of smiting, and once again missed, but did significant miss damage, taking another one down.
Then the ghouls attacked, hitting Froodo once and Lief twice.
Froodo, the Halfling Monk, then launched into a whirlwind of action! Unfortunately, his attack completely missed the intended target as he rolled a 1 [at this point I asked Froodo’s player how his attack could go wrong. His brother, who plays Lief, said “don’t hit me!” With barely a pause, Froodo player said “as I lunge past the ghoul, I hit Lief.” I then said “roll.”) Froodo the rolled a normal attack against Lief, scoring a 20 and doing 26 damage on a critical hit, flooring Lief.
Cerise cast Turn Undead, dazing the mooks. She then stepped forward and cast heal on Lief.
Indigo, swinging his hammer, smashed through a ghoul, killing it, and then also cast heal on Lief.
Rolen shot forth his Scorching Ray but missed and did some minimal miss damage.
Hey then charged forward, swinging his tree and invoking Power Attack and killed four ghouls [n.b. I envisioned this, and described it as the point in a Nintendo Mario game where Mario gets the big mallet and the music starts to play as he flattens every opponent around him. That was pretty much what Hey did].
R 2 E1
There was one ghoul left.
End of Combat
After a quick review of the room and the hole out of which many of the ghouls had climbed, the party advanced further into the burial mound and found a oval chamber of smooth stone, containing four crudely sculpted reliefs, painted in a fresco style. Each of the reliefs depicted a four foot tall, vaguely humanoid shape.
Zyna scanned the room first, and she had the sense that there was a trap within. The party moved on.
They made their way back to the main passage, through the side passage they had before left unexplored (having come full circle). They then reversed course, passed the trapped entrance, and proceeded up a ramp in the opposite direction from which they had first explored.
As the came deeper into the mound, Zyna had a strange feeling that something was going wrong, but she was too late to stop it. Suddenly a huge boulder started to roll down the corridor, careening from side to side, so that even though it did not take up the whole corridor, it’s seemingly random movement made avoiding it seemingly impossible.
Hey attempted to dance around the rock, but fumbled and was smacked for a large hit of damage.
Delthen then decided to try to finish the trap and to employ his enormous (19) strength to stop the boulder. He came close, and avoided damage to himself, but he ended up merely deflecting the menacing rock.
Lief, counter-intuitively charged at the boulder, and leaped over it, in a half circus, half parkour move.
Froodo planned to use his staff and his agility to also fly over the boulder, but instead fell right in its path. Before it could roll over him, he fell into an immediate trance, which he somehow remember learning when he studied among the elves and became a follower of the Elf Queen. He then found himself teleported, like a High Elf out of the boulder’s path.
Zyna who had been backing away, finally gaged the movement of the stone, and leaped over it with style.
Rolen seemed paralyzed and surprised and the boulder just smacked him aside.
Cerise too had her serene concentration as she summoned strength from the gods of light shattered as the boulder slammed into her, and then careened downward.
Indigo, recalling his many hours studying and raising spiders, did “whatever a spider can” and went up over the oncoming rock, and landed safely on the other side.
The path of the boulder continued down the corridor, and the party discovered that it had smashed open the pit at the entrance, making crossing out of the mound a difficult proposition now.
Everyone decided to take a quick rest at this point.
After they had done some healing and gathered themselves, the party then marched resolutely back to the ladder down to the next level.
In the chamber below the ladder, they found mist up to (most people’s) waists. They waded forward through the mist to reach a circular chamber, in the middle of which was a carved pillar.
In this chamber on the pillar was another bas relief, again showing what appeared to be Tomaich, the barbarian warlord, nine feet tall. A voice spoke in the language of the Abyss, uttering threats such as “Those who break the seal of this tomb I shall burn with my fire . . .”
They of course, broke the seal, and entered the next room.
That room was heaped with decayed burial goods, but here and there glinted shiny things, which hinted that a diligent search could lead to treasure. However, the party was all business now, and decided they could come back after they finished business with whatever guardians remained and they obtained the Iriendel spear.
In the next room, they found the crypt chamber of Tamaich himself. On a stone bier lay the armored, blackened bones of the dead warlord. At his feet was a sheathed, but decayed sword, and piercing him, was a spear.
The stone platform was sculpted with demonic symbols. Behind it were four iron braziers. Two stone pillars held up the twenty foot high stone ceiling.
The party surged forward to grab the spear, with Hey and Zyna first. As Zyna’s hand passed through the out of phase spear shaft, a demonic like wraith arose from the bier. It was now transfixed with the spear, but the rage in its eyes and flashing claws looked ready to do harm.
Round 1 Escalation 0
The demonic creature surged away from them on its initiative, and it took two hits from opportunity attacks from Hey and Zyna. Then I rolled its random demonic power, and got fear aura. That snapped on, and it pervaded all of Tamaich’s tomb, causing every party member to act as if dazed (-4 to hit) and denying them the use of the escalation die.
Tamaich in the next room awakened the undead barrow wights that were all that were left of his three wives. They surged to attack. He then moved on to the central chamber of the tomb, to awaken other creatures to slay those who would defile his resting place.
The party was left to fight the wights in the first instance.
Lief sang his Battle Chant to no effect.
Froodo charged forward to strike with his Greeting Fist, but missed.
Delthen smashed a vial of holy water from First Triumph over Tomaich’s bones, which had the effect of making them wet. He then charged forward to smite, doing half damage with his miss.
Rolen summoned a Chaos Bolt, pulsing with thunder damage, but to little effect.
Hey attacked with his Power Attack, rolling a 20 and doing 44 points of damage to slay one of the wights. Hey looked over at Froodo (Hey being played by Froodo’s player’s dad) and said “see, this is how you attack things.”
The two wights attacked, damaging Hey and Delthen.
Zyna walked into the shadows.
Indigo launched a Javelin of Faith, but missed.
Cerise invoked her Halo and then missed with her Javelin of Faith. However, she also invoked her Leadership domain, and advanced the escalation die by one, with the hopes that they would eventually be able to benefit from it.
[as you can see, the fear aura causing -4 to hit was having a devastating effect on the ability of the players to hit, and it became even more aggravating as they saw the escalation die go up, and were not able to add it; it was terrific! I now love fear aura!]
R2 E2 (because of the Cleric’s doing!)
Tamaich was off screen, pulling in allies to fight the characters.
Lief missed again with Battle Chant.
Rolen succeeded in his Elven Grace roll. He empowered a spell with gathered energy, and promptly missed, though he benefited from some random energy.
Delthen invoked another smite, and missed for half damage on the wight in front of him.
Hey missed his next attack, but invoked Tough as Iron to rally and regain hit points.
The two wights again attacked, striking at Hey and Delthen.
Zyna appeared from the shadows, to attack for double damage and use surprise attack, and missed, doing minimal damage.
Indigo invoked his Trickery domain to generate a Trick die (a 13) and then launched a Javelin of Faith, which was a critical hit because of its holy damage (the wights being vulnerable to holy damage). The critical hit destroyed the wight, leaving one left.
Cerise cast Bless on herself and then attacked and hit the last wight with her Javelin of Faith.
Tamaich, having set into motion his forces, could not resist the fight, and he phased his way through walls, like a wraith, to return to his burial chamber and attack Cerise. He hit with his first attack doing 9 damage. However, Indigo substituted his Trick die for Tamaich’s next roll, which was a 20 critical hit, and so he missed with his second attack. His attack and damage increased due to that miss, but he would never get a chance to use that.
Delthen then stepped up and started to command others to organize their attacks and to concentrate on Tamaich, who was, after all, the source of the fear aura. [this provides a neat in game explanation for why Delthen is going to multiclass into a Paladin/Commander when he levels up next; something already decided, but here was the moment when he earned this).
Everyone but Hey, who was engaged with the last wight, held their initiative until Cerise’ turn (on initiative 5).
Hey attacked the last wight, missing, but using carve an opening to expand his critical hit range.
The wight returned his attack, hitting him.
On initiative 5, Indigo used his invocation of Strength to make everyone’s melee attacks do triple, instead of double, damage on a critical hit. He then cast Cure Wounds on Hey. He then missed with his Javelin of Faith against Tamaich.
Cerise attacked and missed with her short sword, but using her Leadership she gave a +1 to everyone else to hit Tamaich.
Delthen then stepped forward, girded in his Unyielding Plate Mail and wielding his Greater Mace of Striking and he smote Tamaich, hitting when it most counted, and doing 35 points of damage. This took the demonic hit points below the fear threshold for everyone, thus giving those who followed the ability to use the escalation die, and relieving them of the -4 penalty.
Lief then cast his Viscious Mockery spell, causing 22 points of psychic damage to Tamaich, causing the ancient warlord to crumble and vaporize. The spear fell to the floor.
Froodo, attempting to help Hey, attacked with his Dutiful Guardian opening strike, doing 4 points of damage.
Rolen failed to invoked his Elven Grace, but he unleashed his Breath of the White on the wight and he did half damage with a miss.
Zyna stepped forward and secured the spear.
End of Session
So, now the “big bad” is dead, all that is left is his vengeance. He summoned the creatures of his barrow, and besides the last wight, there are a couple of giant figures advancing on the heroes in the wive’s chamber. In another part of the mound, another demonic figure has stepped into this plane, and other menaces may still be awakening, now not to defend Tamaich, but instead to wreak terrible vengeance.
Stay tuned for what happens next!
Until then, game on!