Adventure Co. Is Hiring!

Our D&D 5E group has encountered some perpetual bad luck concerning the fifth member of the party. Our cleric got tired of the adventuring life and set up shop at the tavern (not a tavern owner; he just refuses to leave). His replacement, a druid, approved got permanently stuck in animal form, no rx and was never heard from again (popular opinion was that he morphed into a rabbit, and is now in the possession of a little girl who refers to him as “Mr. Fluffybutt”).

That means that the Adventure Co. Brand Adventure Company has been down by an adventurer for a few weeks now, and is interested in getting back up to full strength.

Do you have what it takes to stick it out for two, maybe three, Thursday night (9PM – 11PM EDT) online D&D 5E sessions via Roll20.net? How about for longer than just a few sessions? We seem to go through fifth members like Spinal Tap goes through drummers, and we’d really like to find a proper fit to fill the empty position.

If interested, you can leave a comment here, or ping @Scopique, @Tipadaknife, @Girl_Grey, @Bluekae, or @grilledcheese28 on Twitter.

About Adventure Co. Brand Adventure Company

This is kind of a casual D&D group, if by “kind of” I mean “really, really”. We enjoy having fun with the process as much as we enjoy having fun playing the game, and that means that sometimes we can get a bit off track, or distracted by how much fun we’re having. We’re like our own laser pointers to our own spirit-cats. We’re not rules lawyers, preferring to put the enjoyment of the game ahead of coloring inside the lines as “The Man” taught us to do in kindergarten. Sometimes it feels like kindergarten, but that’s all part of the fun. We’re also don’t make hardcore demands: RP in first person, third person, lizard-person, potted plant, or watercolor painting, if that’s your thing. Or not at all!

Currently, we’re plowing through the Hoard of the Dragon Queen module, and all players are level 4. We currently have a monk, a ranger, a fighter, and a bard. There are no restrictions to what class you could bring to the party, although we’re only prep’d via the Player Handbook.

 

A River Cruise

It’s been a while since we’ve checked in on the Adventure Co. Brand Adventure Company, more about so let’s see what they’ve been up to, sale shall we?

/slowdisolve

Frume, story the Torm Paladin, has tasked the party with intercepting the dragon cult’s caravan ‘o riches before it leaves Baldur’s Gate. The quickest way to get to the city from Elturel is by river transport, and Frume has thoughtfully booked the party on a vessel that’s headed in that direction.

The Serpent’s Tail is a large, river-going “luxury entertainment yacht” which carries well-to-do citizens between Scornubel and Baldur’s Gate, and was the only passage available that would get the players down-river ahead of the cultists. Frume advised the party to get themselves some fancy duds, because the patrons of The Serpent’s Tail aren’t the kind to rub elbows with rough and tumble adventurers.

The boat/barge/testament to excess sported an open-air atrium (complete with four piece musical ensemble to greet the passengers as they embark), a lavishly appointed ballroom, a sumptuous dining room able to accommodate up to 60 guests, and a casino featuring the hottest gambling action this side of Luskan. The players, dolled up in their finest frippery, slipped on board with nary a sidelong glance that wasn’t judging their level of wealth and refinement. The bard, ever the performer, decided that she would take on the role of a Princess of Stripscrew Caverns, and pushed her way to the front of the gangplank to announce her presence to the halfling captain and her human first mate. She attempted to rope the monk into playing the role of her valet, but he constantly played the part of “I have no idea who this woman is” instead.

Once the cruise got underway, the party split up. The ranger kept himself out in the open, preferring the sky to the lavish canopies afforded by the yacht as he eavesdropped on passenger conversation for cultist plots. The monk took a nap. The bard visited the ballroom and warmed up with the orchestra who were preparing for the night’s festivities. The dwarf, however, ran into a bit of a situation at the casino (the dining room wasn’t yet serving lunch, so the casino was her second choice).

The casino was guarded by two bouncers who were asking all patrons “are you currently carrying any weapons?” as they entered the room. The dwarf was, of course, armed, having stashed her throwing axes in her beard. Unfortunately when it came time for her to answer the question, she couldn’t. Her throat seized up, and she was unable to assure the men that no, she was not armed. Realizing that the doorways were guarded by wards of truth, she had no choice but to return to her cabin, stow her weapons, and return once again.

At lunch time, the bard and the monk were first in line for a table. Eager to sample the delicacies that Frume’s passage had bought them, they plowed through the food in relative silence, only tossing their leftovers onto the floor three times as the horrified gentry looked on. Feeling a bit famished himself, the ranger came inside just in time for the main course.

The dwarf, having suffered through a curiously unlucky streak at the “D&D-equivalent-of-Craps” table, was feeling down on her luck and contemplating lunch when she glanced up and across the room. There was someone that she thought she recognized. It couldn’t be, could it? What would be the odds?

Stealthily, she wound her way through the crowd until she was absolutely sure: here was her longtime love, a dwarven prince, Ruret Ironstone, heir to the Ironstone Clan — a family that was engaged in a blood feud with her own. She couldn’t just walk up and introduce herself; his parents were also present, and the last time she had run across Ruret’s father, Delg Ironstone, he had threatened to throw her into a chasm, straight down to the Underdark. He had done it before to dwarves who had displeased him less than those who bear the name Battlehammer. She needed a plan.

Running to the dining room, she roped the monk into crafting a note: “Meet me on the aft deck tonight”, and then signed her name. She was adamant that Ruret know it was her, and not some random dwarven floozy who shaves her beard. The monk returned to the casino with the dwarf, where he not-so-suavely walked up and handed the note to Ruret.

Delg, surprised by the appearance of a gnome in what looked to be a formal bathrobe, snatched the note from his son’s hand and read it. Delg instantly comprehended the message, and his face grew red and twisted in rage. Both the dwarf and the monk beat a hasty retreat: the dwarf for fear of her life, the monk for fear of missing dessert.

*   *   *

The HotDQ module only mentions the river trip in passing, saying that it’s the quickest way down-river to Baldur’s Gate, but since it was presented as a throw-away scenario, I figured that this might be a better time to inject some custom content. Last time I had tried, the group was still getting used to getting back into the swing of tabletop gaming, and had pretty much torpedoed my side-adventure. This time, I figured we were all a bit wiser, more relaxed, and prepared for some relatively light-hearted content.

A simple boat ride down the river on a ferry (as the module suggests) could have been “ok”, but at some point I got it stuck in my mind that this should be a riverboat casino, like the stereotype of the steam paddle boats that plied the Mississippi River in the 1800’s. Putting the party amid a different class of character (socially and financially, not adventure-wise) might lend itself to some interesting hijinks as they attempt to fit in, but everyone seemed to take the concept naturally enough to fit in undetected.

I had a few “happenings” planned out that could be used during the three day trip. I had built the dwarf’s scenario from her chosen Background which stated that she was in love with someone whose family hated her family, and thought that this would be an interesting situation: trapped on a boat, the dwarf would be trying to hook up with her love while also trying to avoid the wrath of his family. Unfortunately for her, her compatriot was more interested in the dessert than in helping her out.

The Big Deal of this session was that it was all RP. There was no combat. The truth-wards on the doorways are there to ensure that everyone has a safe and pleasant trip. All of the rooms are fitted with Antimagic Field crystals which prevent the use of magic (especially in the casino). Since the next several sections of the module will require the party to do more talking than fighting, having a relatively low-consequence “RP re-education” session for all of us was probably a good idea.

I should have been doing this on previous posts, but after the session I thought I should include a footnote for the “joke of the night“, since we seem to have a new one every time we play. This week was the “single use monocle“, which can be used specifically to pop out incredulously, and then disposed off and replaced from a spare kept in one’s wallet.

A Little Less Conversation

Our intrepid Adventure Company Brand Adventurers(tm) were left trying to figure out what to do about the two dragon eggs that they had located in the cavern situated at the back of the bandit camp. The group appeared to be worried that the eggs were far enough along that breaking the shell would unleash a deadly scourge of wyrm that would finish off what the two guard drakes and the camouflaged roper had started, pilule or run the risk that the Cult had the eggs monitored. Truth be told, the party was in no condition to get a hang-nail, let alone engage in another scuffle without a good eight hours of downtime.

They elected to leave the caverns without doing anything to the eggs, which turned out to be a relatively minor affair of back-tracking out to the abandoned bandit camp. Once outside, they agreed to take a short rest to recover some stamina before setting out for Greenest.

In town, the party thoughtfully turned over several thousand gp worth of valuables to Governor Nighthill, who was beside himself with gratitude. He had a message for the party from the monk Leosin: meet him and his ally Onthar Frume in the city of Elturel. Leosin had left the party fresh horses and enough traveling supplies to make the six day journey. The party rested, and then set out (hopefully for the last damn time) from Greenest.

Elturel is a trading hub along the River Chionthar, and it’s brochure highlight is the mystical “second sun” that hangs above it. This eternal light never dims, meaning that anyone living in the city needs to invest in some serious light-blocking curtains if they want to get any sleep. The party entered through the northwest gate to a bustling marketplace. The party asked about the Order of the Gauntlet, the group to which Frume belonged, and were directed to the tavern named “A Pair of Black Antlers”, which was named because it would be difficult for drunks to say, and that would be hilarious.

Frume turned out to be a frat-dwarf, who spent the next 24 hours dragging the party around Eturel so they could drink, race horses, spar, and misbehave in general until the following night when Frume, Leosin, and representatives of other interested parties laid it down for the party.

The Cult of the Dragon had, until recently, been active in the East where they were primarily concerned with creating dracoliches (which wasn’t given the terrifying weight in the module that I think dracoliches deserves, but I only work here), but were pressing West into the Sword Coast for some unknown reason. They seem to be very focused on dragon hatchlings, and in increasing their devotion to Tiamat. Their activities are known — raiding remote villages for valuables — but the “why” and the knowledge of “where” these treasures are ending up is what the group is looking to discover.

It was revealed that Leosin is a member of the Harpers, a secretive do-gooder society. Both he and Frume make recruitment offers to the party in exchange for access to their extensive regional resources. This is a carrot, and the stick is that they want the party to infiltrate the cult’s caravan that carries the bulk of the treasure in order to find out where they’re going, and why they need to be there.

They know that the caravan has a head start, but they also know that they can intercept the cult in Baldur’s Gate. Frume has chartered a boat that can take the party down the River Chionthar in two to three days, where they can find work as a caravan guard either in or near the cult’s wagons in order to keep an eye on the proceedings.

They were advised to sleep on it.

*   *   *

To be frank, this session sucked, as I figured it would.

Up to this point, the chapters had been what you could call a stereotypical D&D game. A little bit of expository glue to get the players to where they need to be, and then the lure of treasure to get them to move from room to room, killing things as they go.

Last night, and in the near future, there’s a lot of “worldbuilding” in effect. The module doesn’t do it, except in providing some basic information to build off of, like what Elturel is like, what Frume is like, and so on. Filling the “flavor” is the job of the GM, of course, which means that this where the difficulty comes into play.

The party wanted to leave the cave, so they left the cave. They wanted to get to Greenest, so they went to Greenest. They wanted to travel to Elturel, so they…you get the picture. At any point they could have had random encounters, but…why? They had just come off several weeks of fighting stuff, so a random bandit encounter would be banal filler for filler’s sake, and would have slowed down the game to “at least one combat encounter per session” pattern which is predictable and tiring.

That would be OK if I didn’t know that the next several sessions are going to be about “players playing”, not “players fighting”. The sleuthing that the players are going to have to do in following this caravan is going to require a level of play from all of us that I think none of us seem to be equipped for. I’m going to fall back on the excuse that we’ve become so addled by years of CRPGs that we’re no longer able to conceive of the freedom that tabletop RPGs offer.

What I need to do is to spend more time with the upcoming sequences and put together more of a framework than the module provides. Yes, this is kind of a “no duh” statement; it’s the GM’s job, after all. I’ve read a lot of things On Line(tm) that tells GMs that they don’t need to put a lot of prep into their sessions because they’re meant to be organic, but until we break through this wall that’s keeping us from that organic play, I’m going to need to have more materials on hand. Some situational tables for random happenstance. Some well-conceived NPCs to interact with. Some random encounters. Anything to get past the “You want to travel to X? OK, you arrive at X” that we experienced last night.

What I think the players need to do is to take more responsibility for moving the story along, and more importantly, to make it their own. I felt that last night there was a lot of stumbling over half-assed situations in order to fill a vacuum that should have been owned by the players. For example, the module suggested that the players should cozy up to Frume by playing out the carousing that he wanted to engage in, but the players were so taken aback by the idea that they were wasting time that I just flat-lined that part and skipped to the progression of the story. There’s going to be a lot more situations like these in the coming sessions, where the players are going to need to be the primary drivers, and I am the one to react, not the other way around. I don’t want to feel put into the position where I need to drop hints or nudge anyone in the direction laid down by the module because I don’t think that’s fun for anyone: it’s more work for me, and it’s way too “by the numbers” for what tabletop RPGs are all about.

Hanging with Mr. Roper

mr-roperIt had been two weeks since our last D&D session, site which ended with the party backed into the empty kobold barracks after an unfortunate encounter with Langdedrosa Cyanwrath the half-dragon and his minions.

The group started out this week by moving back into the chapel of Tiamat where they had faced Cyanwrath, abortion in order to search the bodies of the berserkers. They had left the room in such haste last session that they forgot there was an ornate chest at the foot of the intricate statue of Tiamat in the corner. While the ranger seemed oblivious during a trap search, the fighter was able to notice that the chest was sitting on top of a pressure plate, and taking a cue from Raiders of the Lost Ark, the players swapped the chest for a dead body and discovered some of the treasure from the cult’s many raids.

A trip through the east passage brought them into a double-decker room. The ranger “gracefully” — in quotes — descended the stairs face first, but didn’t seem to alert any enemies initially. The lower half of the room contained two guard drakes who seemed to be engaged in their namesake activity around two large, smooth objects that looked very much like stones.

Once the ranger moved about the room to do some recon, he was surprised by two projectiles from the far end of the cave: a glue bomb, and a fire bomb, both of which he was able to dodge. The party discovered another depression at the far end of the cavern which contained four kobolds. The dwarf leaped into the pit and cleaved two of the creatures with a single stroke. The monk took out another, and the fourth kobold was so intimidated by the display of raw fury that he dropped his weapons and cowered in the corner. Being the only one who spoke Draconic, the dwarf learned that the strangely shaped stones that the drakes were guarding were actually dragon eggs. Beyond that, he had no useful information, so the bard put a crossbow bolt through his forehead.

Feeling confident that the drakes couldn’t climb the 15 foot wall of the pit they were in, the party stood around on the edge like state workers on a highway project as they debated their options. They chose to use some of the grenades that the kobolds had, sticking one drake with the glue bomb, and igniting another with the fire bomb.

Then, out of the dark end of the cavern came a tentacle that wrapped itself around the ranger (it was really not his day) and dragged him from the edge into the depression.

It was revealed that the creature at the end of this tentacle was a roper, a stone-like creature that had been overlooked in the dark recesses. Most of the party jumped into the pit to help the ranger, which allowed the drakes to get revenge for the glue and fire attacks.

The combination of the drakes and the roper proved to be quite the match, with two party members falling below zero HP. The druid was on perpetual stand-by, however, ready to fire off Healing Word should anyone drop dead. First the drakes were taken out, and then a concerted effort focusing on the roper managed to steadily reduce it’s life. The bard cast Cloud of Daggers on top of the roper, who surprised the party by scaling the rock wall with it’s myriad of tentacles, removing itself from the deadly cloud. The party was eventually victorious, though, managing to take down the deadly creature and leaving them with a decision to make about the dragon eggs.

*   *   *

This session ran an hour overtime, mainly because we spent the better part of the first hour learning that you could buy inflatable My Little Pony sex-dolls from China for as little as $99 (in bulk). If you arrived here because of the My Little Pony keyword search, I’m sorry that you head to learn about that from a random blog on the Internet, but forewarned is forearmed.

The session was dedicated to the dwarf, who seemed to be succeeding in most every attempt she undertook, being invaluable in retrieving the chest of treasure and in the questioning the kobold to learn about the dragon eggs. We have opted to use the cleave rule from the DM’s guide, mainly because the dwarf has been consistently doing some massive damage when she hits. The cleave rule states that if the attacker does more damage to a healthy target than the target has in total HP, any additional damage is transferred to an adjacent target. This came in handy last night when she landed a critical hit to a healthy kobold, doing six points of damage to a five HP creature. The extra damage point rolled to the adjacent kobold, but since it was a critical hit, the dwarf was able to roll a 1d10 for another four damage, with the end result being that she took out two kobolds with a single swing.

The roper was quite the challenge. The module actually says that it’s potentially deadly for third level characters, but it pulled no punches, grabbing party members and drawing them to within biting range. The beak of the roper does a whopping 22 damage, which is normally more than enough to fell your average third level player, but most of the party was still damaged from their fight with Cyanwrath and his berserker minions. Keeping at range wasn’t the best option, as the roper could reach the entire cavern from it’s corner. Personally, I would have liked to have seen the party try and make a break for it, conjuring images of tentacles whipping through the air and the party members parkouring off the cavern walls in an attempt to get out of the chamber without being pulled back in. But judging by the night the ranger was having, it might have turned into a “sacrifice the elf” kind of situation had they tried that.

Return of Dragonman; Weird Dreams

Return of Dragonman

Normally I’d recount the whole D&D session from last night, this site except that it was relatively uneventful.

The party moved into the next cavern, buy more about where they found three berserkers (“…beserkers…”) and the dwarf’s old friend Langdedrosa Cyanwrath. The half-dragon was pleased to see Gina and wanted a re-match, so he instructed the berserkers to leave her to him.

Over the course of the battle, the dwarf and the monk were downed, but got back due to some long-distance healing efforts by the bard and and druid. The beserkers were tough customers, but ended up falling to the party’s strength. Cyanwrath, however, was too amused by the dwarf’s resilience, and opted to extend their rivalry through to another day, and he walked out of the cavern while the party dealt with is henchmen.

Weird Dreams

This is really just a place to record this for posterity, because I had a really unusual dream last night that I found amusing.

As far back as I can remember, I was at my aunt’s old apartment where she lived when I was a kid, and there were a bunch of people there — including a small dog that was really a demon who wanted to “bite a chunk of flesh out of [my] ass so I would bleed to death”. The dog was actually about the size of a cat.

At some point, I was outside in a neighborhood with…someone else…and the dog, who took to following me around and reminding me that he was out to kill me in the most ineffective ways possible. It wasn’t a priority, apparently, because he just followed me around.

The neighborhood was old, and reminded me of the old city of Quebec, with it’s narrow streets and tall stone buildings. I saw my father driving in the opposite direction one street over, and figured I’d best get home, but I didn’t know the way, so I…

…at some point I ended up in a kind of underground tunnel system. I had a map, but it was a gold cylinder about the size of a standard TV remote control. I had to find where I was, and then I had to rotate the cylinder around to follow the lines which represented the corridors. At a “T” intersection, taking the left path would lead to a dead end, so I took the right path…

…which lead to a horse ranch. Not like out west, but like the ones we have here in New England. It was sunny, and the ranch was a bunch of fields ringed by wooden post fences. I ended up at one end of a crude stable which was little more than bays for horses with a roof over it. I had to traverse the stable lengthwise, moving through these bays that were filled with farm equipment and — of course — horse crap. Lots of horse crap.

At the end, the stable opened up to a kind of drive through-sized opening beneath the roof. On the right was a wide open field. On the left was a woman who was working with a horse in another field. For some reason, I knew I should sneak around and not be seen, but in that open area under the roof was a pony, and the pony saw me.

This was less of a pony and more like a dog (the demon dog had since moved on to something else, and was no longer with me). He wanted to jump up and play, but I was concerned he’d give away my presence. I ducked down behind some barrels near the right side of the stable just as the woman in the field noticed the pony acting strangely.

Sure enough, she came over to investigate, and there was really nowhere for me to go. I told her I was trying to get to Nashua, that my map had led me through the horse farm, and that I had gotten lost. She didn’t seem concerned or angry, just…

…and that’s when I woke up. I have no idea what the hell I ate last night to cause this kind of a dream.

Five Flew Over The Ambush Drake’s Nest

After having dusted off the spores that were launched from the dead violet fungi, order Adventure Co. struck deeper into the cavern complex in the bandit camp.

The next cavern was larger than the previous ones, and much darker as well. In a really convenient twist, the entire party enjoyed darkvision, which helped them to not stub their toes, but wasn’t really good enough to see details on the other side of the cave.

The druid opted to stealth his way though the darkness, and in doing so discovered bat. Lots of bats.Not only bats sleeping above, but piles of dead bats on the ground below.Not only dead bats, but dessicated bats. The team quietly joined him (except the monk, who picked the wrong time to pass gas) and examined the carcasses of the winged rodents. The bard, exhibiting her hitherto unknown naturalist side, noticed a single puncture wound in the furry corpses, and pronounced that this could only be the work of a stirge.

In a curious turn of events, the party stood right there in the cavern and debated what to do next. There was a drop off to the north east, and two exits to the south east and the north west. The party decided that the exit down a set of natural stairs (worked well the first time!) to the south east was the more appealing, probably because of the lone, pitted spear that was casually resting against the wall in that direction. Who doesn’t like tribal decor?

The dwarf went ahead first, and was surprised to find a heavy leather curtain stretching across the cave hallway at the bottom of the stairs. Unsure of how to proceed, she opted to carefully part the heavy strips of leather to see what was on the other side.

Good choice of sending the dwarf in! She immediately pulled her hands back as she felt small stings from touching the curtain. It was poisoned with tiny barbs! But as the party reminded everyone as if they had some kind of manual, dwarves have poison resistance. The rest of the party, significantly less poison resistant, handed the dwarf the spear to sweep the curtain aside.

The cavern beyond was a meat locker. Literally. It was naturally freezing, and someone had strung up animal carcasses between the stone pillars in the room. That was all. Sorry.

Back into the bat-cave, the party briefly looked down the embankment to the north east and decided that it looked like a trash dumping ground and no one wanted to play in garbage, so once more the dwarf was sent ahead, this time to the north west passage.

Sadly, the dwarf wasn’t paying attention and put both feet through a thinly concealed false floor, impaling her hairy feet on sharp spikes. But once again — poison resistance!. The rest of the party thanked the dwarf for taking another one for the team and jumped across the small chasm to the cavern beyond.

This cavern was slightly lit, with dancing flames casting moving shadows on the natural walls. A stairwell bordered by rough iron bars and a gate descended into a dark pit, but the players didn’t have time to investigate before they were noticed by four kobolds and their winged cousin.

The monk managed to bleed one kobold with a dart, and then proceeded to dazzle those assembled by catching the fucking rock that the kobold flung at him, throw it back, and kill that mofo dead. The druid wasn’t going to let himself be upstaged, though. With a monstrous shout, his Thunderwave obliterated four of the five enemies, knocking some of them into the pit.  In the ensuing silence, however, the party heard the sound of tearing flesh from the pit, and a brief investigation revealed three juvenile drakes fighting over the dead kobolds. Nasty.

Not wanting to be left without source material for a future epic, the bard took point and headed off towards an exit to the south west, but was surprised to find that the druid’s Thunderwave had apparently alerted a shitload (the official designation of a group) of kobolds from an adjoining cavern who were filing up the stairs and into the party’s cavern.

Combat ensued, as expected, where the highlights included the bard putting two kobolds to sleep, the dwarf cleaving two kobolds with one swing, and a dead body of one of the creatures triggering a stairwell trap as it tumbled backwards down the stairs.

The cavern at the bottom of the stairs was wretched, more wretched than a frat house, but not by much. The kobold warren only yielded an unusual treasure of 88 stacks of eight copper pieces. One of the kobolds had OCD, apparently. There were also four interesting carvings of dragon totems which the party seemed to pay not mind to, because apparently they’re more the Saturday morning cartoon crowd, and less the Antiques Roadshow crowd.

*   *   *

The party did really well this week. I can’t really go into too much “behind the scenes” recap on account of the fact that the party is still in the caverns and might double back  to some areas for additional hilarity.

We learned a lot this week, like how dwarves are resistant to poison, how badass the monk class can be, and that triggering a Thunderwave in a cavern is better then knocking to announce your presence. But despite the traps and the 15 or so kobolds that they engaged, the party came away mostly unscathed (the bard got pretty banged up).

I was happy to see the use of the skills this time around. The Stealth skills were wildly successful, Perception was working well for the party, and the dwarf’s failed saving throw versus poison was happily negated.

For a fine performance, each member gained an Inspiration…also because I figure that next week, they’re going to need it.

Into the Cavern

Back in the days of Levelcapped, about it I’d provide a recap of our Thursday night Dungeons & Dragons 5E game. It was one of the few regular post series I enjoyed, cure so I’m picking up here where we left off*.

Trust me, that’s the most benign title I could have given this post

The party had returned to Greenest and had rested and gained a level, making their asses badder than before. In addition, they lost a cleric to AA, but gained a druid in the process.

In what can only be described as deus ex machina, the wayward half-elf monk Leosin stumbled into Greenest about a day or so after the players had returned themselves. Worse for wear, he proclaimed that he had learned what he could from the dragon cult, with one exception: he didn’t learn what was going on in that cave.

Being heavily armed, Leosin offered to pay the players more gold to go and investigate. The party was apprehensive: they had just escaped from there, and weren’t eager to return. However, this time they had the lay of the land and decided that they’d get all stealthy, checking out the camp from the canyon ridge before heading in.

Silence. Darkness. The smell of something foul smoldering. The camp was abandoned. The druid proved his worth by changing himself into a snake and slithering through the camp, verifying that yes, everyone had packed up and left. Just to make sure, the party hung out until dawn.

At daybreak, four hunters strolled casually into the camp, laden with a dead buck. While they were carving up their prize, the party took a chance and boldly strode into the canyon. The hunters couldn’t have cared any less, and even chatted briefly with the party. The raiders had moved out an hour after Leosin was discovered missing, except for a few holdouts who were staying in the cave. They were paying the hunters to provide them with food, but other than that, the hunters had no particular love for the raiders.

A discussion was had about potential methods for getting into the cave, but in the end, the old SWAT method was used: flank the entrance, kick down the door. Round two for the druid who cast Moonfire (?) on one of two dragonclaw cultists loitering in the cave, setting him ablaze, while his companion panicked in the face of this sudden immolation. Unfortunately, the ranger wasn’t able to hit either one with an arrow, leaving the task up to the monk and the warrior. When all was said and done, the party seemed to have escaped detection.

A quick search of the cavern entrance revealed nothing of note, so the party headed towards a set of stairs carved into the rock that lead down into a field of luminescent fungi. As fate would have it, no one thought to check for traps, and the ranger tripped the mechanism that collapsed the stairs and sent him sliding face first into a copse of violet fungi, semi-sentient and deadly mushrooms that managed to deal necrotic damage to the prone wood elf. The bard lit one of the fungi on fire, and subsequent attacks by other party members resulted in a cavern full of spores, but no further damage.

*   *   *

We didn’t spend a lot of time with the “getting to know you” phase that might have been expected in taking on a new party member. We didn’t convene last week, so folks were itching to get moving.

The cave was one part of the camp that the party hadn’t actually gotten to last time, and when I was preparing for the session, the further I read the more I cringed. This was the first “dungeon” in the module, and it’s really “old school”, complete with all that “old school dungeon” implies.

I am hoping that the players will step up the game aspect. We’re playing pretty fast and loose with the system, bouncing between tactical and non-tactical gameplay mostly by accident, but the use of the out-of-combat game mechanics has been pretty sparse. Skills and checks aren’t being used without prompting, and prompting is being done at the insistence of the module itself. Ideally, the players will be on point, using PERCEPTION and STEALTH and other relevant skills at appropriate times.

I’ve been reading up on the Fate game system, and one of the core concepts is that players can do whatever they want — if they can explain a plausible in-game justification for it. I really like that idea, because it fosters player ingenuity and makes a more collaborative game. I’m hoping that this cave experience can help kick-start the “tabletop mentality” after years of “MMO mentality” that I think we’re all still holding on to.

* I’ll be importing the other posts as soon as I have time.

Escape From Camp Crazytown

When we last left our heroes, this site they had been captured by the vile Dragon Cult and were chained alongside other prisoners such as Leosin the half-elf, Unnamed Character Who Will Factor In Later, Doug, Trisha, Larry and Biff the Unfortunately Slow Gnome.

The cleric had been able to free himself from his shackles and was left wondering how he, a cleric with no personal security skills what-so-ever, could hope to free his comrades. Also, should he just make a run for it. Much to his companion’s relief, he managed to assist the monk to freedom, and those two friends helped two more friends, and those friends helped more friends, and soon the Important People In This Story had been freed.

This was not without incident, however. The first attempt at freedom was to Charm Person one of the two guards that were holding occasional and distracted vigil nearby. The bard “faked” a panic about how the bloodthirsty elves were out to get her, and that she needed to be taken somewhere safe. Three times the cleric attempted his Charm Person, but he had a piece of parsley stuck in his teeth, which rendered him anything but charming. The guard merely went away with a headache and a rational hatred for gnome bards.

Once the monk was freed, however, his well-maintained dental work was able to Charm Person a guard who identified where their gear was being held. The party was able to convince their new friend that he and his other guard friend should go get their gear for them. Problem: the tent that held their stuff was guarded by Olaf The Humorless, supposedly a mountain of a man who hadn’t laughed since the year 823 (he’s also very good at ice dancing, but Olaf the Ice Dancer was already registered, oddly enough). Ned, the charmed guard, convinced Kors, the charmless guard, to distract Olaf while he rummaged through the tent. Kors apparently had a beef to settle with Olaf, and agreed without actually wondering or possibly caring about why Ned wanted the prisoner’s gear after having talked with the prisoners for a good fifteen minutes. That’s why he’s know as Kors The Isn’t Really All That Bright.

While Olaf and Kors engaged in noisy fisticuffs, the party packed up to leave, taking Unnamed Character Who Will Factor In Later, but leaving Leosin who refused to budge. He claimed that he had more to learn from the dragon cult, and asked the party to take a message to his paladin friend should he not meet up with them later in Greenest. Rather than waste time arguing (against the judgement of the bard), the party slapped Leosin on the back, bid him good luck, and made that “he’s crazy” gesture with the whirling finger at the temple when he wasn’t looking. They stealthed out, leaving Doug, Trisha, Larry and Biff the Unfortunately Slow Gnome utterly confused that their chain-mates had suddenly vanished into thin air.

On their way back to Greenest, the players stopped off in the canyon to check on the poor raider they had tied up and promised they’d return for. However, they found not trace of the guy. Good deed done for the year, the party felt liberated and ready to wreak havoc with a clean conscious from here on in.

The Governor and Escobert were eager to hear what the party had to say about the raider camp, and the young monk who asked them to find Leosin was sad that his friend hadn’t returned, but figured that he might have pulled some crap like that.

It was at this point that the party settled down for a Long Rest(tm), and enjoyed the benefit of reaching the end of the chapter which was a milestone granting them all another level.

*   *   *

Having looked ahead in the module, I had determined that this session would be short for a few reasons. The first was that it was the end of the chapter. The second was that because we’re using the “milestone method” for advancement (not tracking individual XP, but leveling at “checkpoints” in the story), the players needed time to examine their leveling options and discuss what would be best for them and for the party.

More importantly, however, is a lineup change. Our cleric-driver has bowed out of the game, leaving a gap in the five-person party. We were lucky to pick up @Sh4x0rZ as the party’s fifth person, Unnamed Character Who Will Factor In Later. He didn’t have a character ready, and needed to be brought up to speed on what’s transpired so far. A full party presence will be needed for the next chapter.

This was a kind of “crisis-lite” because as a DM, I’m not interested in killing the party, or in letting them get themselves killed unless it makes sense. I’m not a fan “dumb bad luck”, where an army just happened to be wandering by where the party is hiding, or necessarily that the players will become overwhelmed simply because they’re outnumbered on paper. That’s not to say that I’m interested in letting the party coast along in the interest of keeping the story going; there have already been several close calls, but they’ve been rational situations where the odds hadn’t come up in the party’s favor.

Next session, though, will be a test. Without giving away spoilers to those who don’t know the module, the players will return to the roots of D&D. This is going to require a more structured adherence to the character sheet than everyone’s been dealing with now. The players will need to be conscious of using their skills and abilities to navigate the chapter, or else they’ll end up suffering for it. The module is very specific in this regard, with DC checks in almost every other paragraph. It’ll be a bit jarring, as up to this point we’ve played this less as a “game” and more as a loosely bound RP experiment, but I’m looking forward to the next chapter to see if the players have really hit their stride and become comfortable with the 5E rules and the use thereof.

Into The Dragon’s Den #AdventureCo #DND5E

Not the literal dragon’s den; we haven’t gotten quite that far, ailment although you know in a module entitled “Hoard of the Dragon Queen” that there’ll be a showdown with dragons at some point.

We’d been on hiatus from our campaign for quite some time due to the holiday schedule and erratic results of adulthood, buy more about so it was quite a chore to remember where the party had left off last time. They had picked themselves up after what bards are already calling the “Siege of Greenest” and didn’t skip a beat when Governor Nighthill and his sidekick Escobert the Red asked them to track the departing raiders and find out what their ultimate plans were about. As a side-quest, more about a frantic monk asked them to keep an eye out for his teacher who went missing during the siege. Supposedly this guy was obsessed with studying the dragon cult, and may have gotten swept up in his zeal as his body had not been found within the town the morning after.

The raiders weren’t difficult to track, as scores of mercenaries and kobolds carrying sacks full of loot are bound to make an impression on the landscape they travel through. This brought the party to a rocky ravine where they encountered some laggards who thought it was a good idea to take their breakfast in the seclusion of some boulders. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t even get to taste the bacon before the party dispatched all but two: one died of his wounds very shortly, but the other lived long enough to spill  his guts (!) about the rear guard the raiders had left further along the ravine.

Despite knowing this, the party wasn’t able to use the knowledge to their advantage. From their perch above the ravine floor, the rear guard was able to get the jump on the players, harassing them from both sides of the canyon. Careful use of the blocking power of boulders allowed the players to drive the cultists and mercenaries into advantageous positions, and soon they had whittled the enemy down to a lone mercenary. Seeing as how mercenaries are a self-absorbed lot, this one traded his (relative) safety for some information on the raiders camp, and how the players could gain access, although it wasn’t at all glamorous. He suggested they could just…walk in.

Last night, walk in they did. Amidst the confusion of returning raiders from other avenues, the players were able to simply merge with the throng of cultist, mercenaries, and kobolds and found no one was any wiser as to their presence. The mercenaries were enjoying their adrenaline high with some drinking, gambling, and brawling, while the cultists limited themselves to their enclaves and gave thanks to Tiamat for being allowed to do her work.

Recon was in order. The players integrated themselves into several crowds, listening in on several conversations and being careful not to ask questions that might out them as new additions to the camp. In a rather brazen moment of debauchery, the bard of the party set up her hurdy-gurdy case close to the largest — and most heavily guarded — tent in the camp and played her own account of the Siege of Greenest, earning 17 silver for her performance.

The tent was an enigma: surrounded by four guards and four guard drakes, it exuded an aura of fear and command. There was something — or someone — important in there. Adding to the mystery was a cave beyond the tent where raiders could be seen dragging heavy sacks that the party assumed contained the spoils from Greenest.

One of their tasks was to locate the missing monk. Using subterfuge, they found nine prisoners chained to posts along the south wall of the canyon, but were warned to steer clear of the elf. Mondath’s orders were that he not receive any food or water. The ranger of the party managed to slither his way through nearby shrubs to get close to said elf, and managed to identify him as the monk they had been asked to find.

As the sun began to set, the camp began to wind down. Guard patrols formed once the influx of raiders slowed considerably. Cultists and mercenaries settled down beside their campfire and talked in low tones. The players set up a tent of their own, blending in and giving themselves shelter where they could discuss their next move.

As luck would have it, however, their tent was invaded by a patrolman who claimed to have received a tip from another raider that the party’s own monk had been recognized as having been in Greenest — on the opposing side. Quickly, the bard Charmed the guard, and though him learned that Rezmir, Mondath, and the half-dragon Cyanwrath occupied the large tent, and that the prisoners were sent into the cave to do some kind of work that he wasn’t privy to. The information extracted, the ranger delivered a swift blow to the back of the man’s head, which turned out to be a liability as his compatriot entered the tent in search of his wayward friend. When opportunity presented itself, this second guard was knocked unconscious.

With two raiders lying unconscious in the tent, the players were on the clock. They quickly moved to secure these two bodies when — wouldn’t you know it? — a third guard poked his head into the tent to see what was keeping the other two.

Seeing the party in the process of binding the guards, the third mercenary raised the alarm. Dozens of cultists, mercenaries, and, yes, even kobolds, emerged from their tents, torches held high, and ringed the player’s tent. The party attempted to slip out through the back, but their back was literally against the wall, and the raiders were able to close in on them, disarm them, and bind them.

In the worst case of wish fulfillment ever, they were brought to the clearing outside of the camp’s largest tent. Two figured emerged: a short-haired woman dressed in purple, and the half-dragon Cyanwrath. The woman was identified as Frulam Mondath, the one the mercenary from the rear guard had identified as the camp’s leader. Cyanwrath needed no introduction; indeed, he immediately recognized the party’s dwarf who had faced off against him in Greenest. He and the dwarf continued to stare one another down as Mondath interrogated the party about their identity and the reason for their presence, but none of them provided information that satisfied the cult leader. She ordered them to be chained with the other prisoners until morning.

Circumstances notwithstanding, the players now found themselves alongside the elven monk they were looking for. Try as they might, none of the party members could escape their chains — except for the cleric, who never told the rest of the party he was double jointed. Slipping from his manacles, he…

*   *   *

I knew this was going to be a difficult chapter, but it didn’t turn out bad at all. In fact, I think it’s been my favorite.

The raider camp is a kind of free-form scene. There’s some points of interest, like the division between kobold, mercenary, and cultist enclaves, the large command tent, and the mysterious cave, and of course the prisoners, but aside from that there’s no real gameplay guidance in the actual module for what’s going on here.

I think one of the reasons this session worked better than I’d anticipated was because the group is rather laid back, and without swords at anyone’s throat, and without a ticking clock, and without me feeling like checkboxes needed to be checked, the players were really in the driver’s seat. I had a whole table of conversation snippets that I used for overheard conversations, and the Charmed guard turned out to be the party’s new best friend. The bard’s impromptu performance wasn’t even out of the ordinary; with the camp operating in party mode, it made sense that no one would think it out of the ordinary.

The two problems were that the monk was recognized via an early roll when the player’s entered the camp. The module asked for all players to roll CHA to “blend in”, and unfortunately the monk failed, but it was a delayed roll, not to be used until the “worst possible time” according to the module. The second (IMO) was the overzealous beatdown that the players administered to the guards who appeared in response to the monk’s failed CHA roll. The first guard had been charmed and knocked unconscious, and the second guard was 75% of the way towards believing that his friend had just drank too much to complete his rounds. Had the players let the second guard take the first away, I was prepared to let the blow to the head give him amnesia about the whole Charm Person thing so he wouldn’t have remembered having been Charmed. Sorry guys!

But overall I think the pacing and flow went really well. It was a combat-less session, which I expected to be harder to run because most of it would have been “on the fly”, but a lot of the results were due to letting the players drive the scene and responding, and pre-loading some bystander stuff into Realm Works “for flavor”. My goal was to let the players mingle for as long as they wanted, assuming they weren’t making it obvious that they didn’t belong.

The hard part, though, is for the only free player — the cleric — to figure out how to get the other players out of prison.

Wrath of the Dragon Guy #AdventureCo #DND5E

When we last left the Adventure Co Brand Adventure Company, information pills they had silently dispatched a group of cultists and kobolds who had been trying to smoke out the refugees holed up in the temple of Chauntea. They had to move quickly as a massive force of cultists and kobolds and their attack drakes were encircling the building on a short timer, sickness and another force was attempting to break down the temple doors.

Inside, the players were met by the provincial priest (lower-case ‘p’) Gibberishfirstname Falconmoon, who was ecstatic to see them. The temple itself was holding firm, but was under obvious assault. Rocks had smashed the windows, torches had been thrown in hoping to set the place alight, and the refugees were on the verge of giving up hope as the cultists repeatedly smashed the reinforced doors with a massive battering ram.

The players first plan offered was to wait until the ram was approaching, open the door in surprise and once the momentum carried the cultists into the vestibule, slam the doors shut behind them, and attack. This would allow the party to deal with the most immediate threat to the temple and buy them time to figure out how to get the 32 people to safety.

Unfortunately, the battering ram was insistent, and it wasn’t long before the doors began to crack, and then to sag on their hinges. The Cleric attempted to Mend the doors as best he could, and while not fully repaired, he did manage to buy the team some time.

When they were sure that the drunken kobold procession had made a complete circuit around the temple, the team began launching refugees out the back door, through the smouldering fires, and into the forest behind the temple. One townsperson fell and cried out in pain and fear, but was quickly masked by the Bard’s Prestidigitation which muffled the shout as just another kobold bark.

The villagers made it out in time, but the procession was nearly back around to the rear of the temple at this point. The Ranger kept the villagers hidden in the forest, and the rest of the party took advantage of the lingering smoke and the cover of the temple itself to exit to the East, just as the procession was rounding the corner.

Since nothing is ever easy, their trip to the keep was interrupted by some last minute looters who intercepted the party, but who were dispatched with relative ease.

The villagers were relieved to be united with their families once inside the keep, but there was a new predicament. Something was happening outside the walls that was drawing everyone’s attention. Escobert and Nighthill and the players took the ramp to the parapets to find the invaders had assembled from around the village and were arrayed in front of the keep. Behind them sat the massive blue dragon who occasionally let out an ear splitting roar.

But it was the half-dragon champion that drew the attention. Backed by a retinue of 10 kobold guards, the champion called out for the keep to send out a champion of their own to meet him in one-on-one combat. To ensure compliance, he presented a woman and her three children as prisoners.

One of the guards on the wall recognized the woman has his sister, and rushed forth to face the half–dragon, but was restrained by the militia. Nighthill reluctantly asked the players if they would consider taking on this challenge, but understood if they were unwilling. Rather than send the Sergeant to his death, the Dwarven Fighter accepted the challenge and left the keep to face the half-dragon.

The enemy agreed to release the children immediately, but kept the woman hostage, vowing that any interference would result in her immediate death. With that, the battle began.

The Fighter charged the half-dragon, lobbing a throwing axe which only missed by a few inches. The half-dragon charged as well, replying with his spear that also missed. The two traded blows when they met, with the Fighter drawing first blood, but the half-dragon drew the last as the Dwarf fell beneath the half-dragon’s greatsword assault.

With the battle concluded, the half-dragon released the woman, the dragon took flight, and the invading forces dispersed, leaving the town of Greenest silent but ruined. The party and Escobert and his militia left the keep and were able to stabilize and resuscitate the Fighter, who earned a hero’s welcome within the fortification. The refugees relaxed; the invaders were leaving, and it was only a few hours until sunrise. The party was finally able to take their much needed rest, with further discussions to be had in the morning.

*   *   *

The “Sanctuary” mini-mission is supposedly the more difficult mission in the first episode of the module. The forces that the players have to deal with amount to a small army, and include a more advanced cultist overseeing the battering ram, and two attack drakes that are with the procession. While the module says that the players could take out the groups at both the front and back of the temple, this is really a situation that calls for patience and finesse.

The party debated a course of action for quite some time. The idea of opening the doors on an in-motion battering ram apparently came from The Seven Samurai, we were told, but the motion was shot down on the grounds that while the missing group at the rear of the temple was obscured by smoke, the procession would notice if the battering ram crew was absent, which might lead them to sober up and assault the temple.

The priest mentioned that there were catacombs beneath the temple, but that there was no other way out, and no way to secure the door from the crypt side (who would want to lock themselves in a crypt?). The only decision, the party decided, was to usher the people out the back and into the forest as quickly as possible (which is technically not the only option, but was by far the best option)

According to the module, the battering ram was supposed to hit anywhere between 15 and 30 seconds in order to keep pressure on the players to find a solution. Unfortunately, this group hasn’t quite reached the point of snap-decision making, so their leeway was lengthened to a whole three minutes per bang. They still “yelped” when the ram hit the door, though, several times exclaiming “we need to move!” The door has 30 HP, and each hit did 1d6 of damage; technically, the door could come down in that three minutes if the interval was 30 seconds. It could have increased the pressure, but it could also have caused a bloodbath that would have certainly gone bad for the players.

Once they decided to move the refugees out the back, I technically sent them out in groups of five, despite the fact that the players wanted them to move out in a continuous stream. The procession was moving at a speed of two minutes per side of the building, so game-wise, the refugees did stream out continuously, but moving 32 people anywhere, especially if they’re terrified, men, women, children, babies, and elderly, there’s a good chance someone might screw things up. Each group of 5 got a d20 roll, and on 10 or less, the group made it to the tree line without issue. 11 or greater and something happened. Thankfully, only one villager stumbled and cried out, but quick thinking masked the shout as just another crazed kobold yelp among many.

The half-dragon champion is the last mini mission in the episode, and is specifically designed to kill someone. If the players are reluctant to face the champion, then the Sergeant will go, as it’s his sister who is being held captive. If he were to go, he’d be dead-dead. If a player goes, the module actually expects that player to get stomped as well. Surprisingly, the Fighter managed to bring the champion down to exactly half his HP before he dealt the down-to-0-HP blow.

Nighthill offered the players 100gp each, a safe place to rest, and access to the town’s remaining resources for repair and replenishment. The cleric took it upon himself to haggle with Nighthill for more money, and despite initial protest that their town had just been ransacked for it’s valuables, agreed to take up a collection from the town to supplement their payment. The Cleric suggested they be granted some property in town, but I’m not sure whether he was serious or not.

We’re using the “level by episode” method rather than the individual XP tracking method because it’s cleaner; we don’t need to constantly update the character sheets (which gets messy when people aren’t paying attention that they’ve just earned the points) and because XP needed to level depends on XP granted which depends on the number of encounters and such, it’s possible that a lower number of encounters could put the players in a position where they’re not level appropriate for the content when they encounter it. Leveling by episode seems the better option for a published module where the design favors certain progression.