Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Have Fun Storming The Beach and Abbey!

The adventure went very well. Only 4 players managed to make it to the game, however that may have been for the better since it upped the tension, and allowed the party to level at the end of the session.

Here is a round-up of the adventure so far:

The party landed on the beach during some unpleasant weather. Shortly after gearing up they fought a battle against three overlapping waves of skeletons, eleven total, that emerged from some very large dunes and one from off shore that took a crewman.

During the battle Morokian the paladin was dropped to zero hit points and stabilized by Captain Eliza the ranger (played by a newcomer to role-playing and Dungeons and Dragons who as it turns out proved to be a natural and seemed like a long-time veteran very quickly). She had the difficult choice of trying to rescue a member of her ship's crew or saving the paladin. It was a no-win scenario, kind of a Kobayoshi-Maru test. Her decision cost the life of her crewman, but saved the party from a possible TPK. (Total Party Kill).

The party wizard, Travarian, was having some very bizarre luck with his spells, hitting easily, and doing very little damage, of the one and two point variety. Meanwhile the halfling barbarian Endzque was getting clawed, cut, and beaten pretty badly while having trouble hitting until things looked pretty dire and then things started going his way.

The party camped on the beach to heal up overnight and only had one minor disturbance. In the early dawn hours during Travarian's watch some goats were cavorting back in the treeline. He observed them for a few minutes and then went back to meditating.

The party then began exploring the island, making note that the bodies of the two crewmen that had been ambushed and slain in the trees while tying up the dingies, were nowhere to be seen.

Getting their bearings the party heads toward the spot of the old town and discovers the sight of an old mass grave that had been dug up sometime in the recent past. A short distance away they heard voices.

They investigated and discovered two odd individuals that turned out to be crew members of the pirate ship Magnar. Scram, the ship's cook and his pet chicken Lucy, and Filthy, a tall thin man with a monkey familiar named Sniffles. The conversation was full of obfuscation and dodging of questions by both groups. Eventually they parted company, each side distrustful of the other.

The party chose to follow Scram and Filthy at a distance and eventually were ambushed by three other Magnar crew, which allowed Scram and Filthy to escape in the short term. The party quickly dispatched two ambushers and captured the third.

A very convincing bit of intimidation by the wizard quickly convinced the captive to spill what she knew about the happenings on the island. The pirates arrived to "convince" the cultists to give them a greater cut of money for the goods the pirates had "recovered" being fenced through the cult. A disagreement broke out with both sides taking casualties. The pirates burned down the abbey to try and finish off the cultists, but did not get them all. Captain Sarg Hellfist left a small party behind to search the ruins of the town for something, a map of the abbey perhaps.

Party follows her to old town area where pirates have been digging near remnants of building foundations. While searching the town ruins the captive answers questions explaining that the new graves they spotted near the pirate campsite were the bodies of some of the previous expedition. She doesn't know what happened to the rest.

Nothing turns up during a two hour search, however a familiar looking monkey comes out of the woods holding a piece of paper. They read the note from Filthy and Scram asking for safe passage off the island and to safer shores. Requests for safe escape from the island become a recurring theme during the session as their captive makes the same request and later so does another individual encountered.

The captive pirate agrees to show them another way up to the abbey so they don't have to take the main road. The off-road way involves climbing about 150' of cliff giving Morokian pause when he considers his lack of dexterity and his chain mail armor. He eventually overcomes his objections after the others make it up and as a team, pull him up tied into a rope harness. The captive then parts company and climbs back down the rope.

Watching a few people gathering food among the large garden crops beside the abbey, the team plans to assault these few hoping to stifle any alarm so they can enter the abbey unnoticed. The plan consists of Endzque sneaking closer to the workers in the field and seeing if they are alone. Then he would fire at one of them and get the attention of the others, hoping to draw all of them out to confront him while his companions wait in ambush. The plan starts to go wrong and then another amazing critical hit bow shot by Eliza prevents the alarm from being raised.

The newcomer's sharp-shooter ranger was rolling critical hits often during the session.

The party then snuck into the abbey down a long, steep flight of stairs. They followed the sound of voices and managed to catch two unarmored cult acolytes and a well armored guard unprepared. That fight was over quickly, but before they could do much more, two other groups came to the area.

Ogmund, the chief of the cult guards, two more of his guardsmen, another acolyte, and another mysterious person had come for a meeting, only to discover the bloody corpses. (Yes, even chaotic cults sometimes have their bureaucratic moments). The party was soon discovered and combat began while the acolyte ran for help.

Things had the potential to go badly, however Morokian held position against Ogmund while Travarian and Eliza blasted away with spells and arrows. Endzque, who had already wounded Ogmund, remained back in the room fighting guards and cultists, and trying to encourage the mysterious pale countenanced individual to enter the room.

The mysterious figure would not come into the room, preferring to remain in the shadowy hallway and ask for help escaping the island. For some reason, even creepy looking types seem to want to get away from the island.

As Ogmund's allies began to drop, including the two acolytes who arrived as re-enforcements, he tried to retreat to the stairs. Travarian had the last word, firing off a Magic Missile spell, slaying Ogmund, sending him tumbling noisily down a flight of stairs.

The Mysterious individual had vanished back into the darkness and this is where we stopped the session.

The characters earned more than enough XP to achieve second level (381.5 each). Once we determine a good date and time to continue, we will get on with plundering the abbey.

Everyone had a good time and we look forward to continuing the adventure.

Originally the adventure was to be run in two parts. The first was to include the exploration of the island, discovery of the fate of the first expedition, a number of encounters to both generate XP and give a solid sense of the strangeness and danger of the island. The second would be the approach and assault on the abbey. Real Life(TM) stepped in and scuttled that plan so it came down to a greatly abbreviated single session which we almost completed.

Morokian's player realized he would be having more fun running a rogue than a Paladin so he is creating the replacement character between sessions. We will figure out how to make the switch when the time comes. (I already have some ideas.)

For the next session which will be more location based and less sandbox, I plan to build the entire abbey location using my Dwarven Forge collection. If this opportunity does present itself, there will be pictures to include in the blog post.

Something else you may find of interest: go to YouTube and search for Retro Roleplaying or Captcorajus to check out the content my friend has on his channel. He is working on a review of the 5th edition Monster Manual which may be posted soon.

Friday, September 26, 2014

On The Eve Of Battle

Tomorrow is the day of battle.

Tonight and early tomorrow I will gather my implements of mayhem and set forth to the site of play. I will perform setup and await arrival of the 6 players whose characters face certain death, er, I mean nasty business, on the island.

The adventure is based loosely on the plot from the adventure Island of the Abbey from Dungeon Magazine issue 34.
The cover says it all, well for the red-shirts among them.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Counting Down to Go Time

In six days I will again be behind the screen.

I have an adventure cooked up to throw at some players, two of which have never played D&D on the table-top before. The adventure is based on the general premise of an old Dungeon Magazine adventure involving an island, some ruins, some pirates, cultists of an evil entity or god, and of course the search for treasure.

Here is how it is being presented to the players:

You have been hired by the Mariner's Guild along with some ship captains and wealthy merchants to go to Gull Cliff Island. They plan to build a new lighthouse atop the highest point of the island, and hired you to clear the island of hazards and find out why the old abbey on the island caught fire three weeks ago. They also asked that you try to locate the first expedition that should have returned a week ago.

The religious figures among you were also asked by an elderly priest of Phaulkon (a lesser sea god) to recover from the abbey an ancient tome, a holy book titled 'Integumentary of Spirit'. You have been given a key with markings he indicates will help you locate the correct location of the text, though he warns it likely is guarded or trapped. He promises to reward you with what he can and that the church will also reward you for recovering this important tome.

Among your party is a sea captain with her own goal on the island. She possesses part of an old captains log with a partial map, and journal entry alluding to treasure and a scrimshaw whale tooth of above average size that is the means to find a greater treasure on another island.

 - - - It is morning as you make landfall on the southern tip of the island, but you wouldn't know it due to the heavy storm clouds overhead, the driving rain, and the choppy sea. Two ships crewmen drag lines beyond the tall sand dunes to tie up the three dingies your party arrived in, while a third unloads your supplies at the shoreline. As you don your armor and weapons you hear screams from beyond the dunes . . .

. . . Roll For Initiative! - - -

Being most likely a one-shot or at best a mini-campaign, I want to throw them right into the action so that the newcomers get some immediate excitement and they all get a sense of danger and wonder about the island. The story will progress from there.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Thief Lord's reputation is Intact.

In the C&C campaign that has now converted to a D&D 5e campaign, the party were in the Thief Lord's Vault to recover the Eye of Set and anything valuable they could manage to carry.

In the party's lust for loot, they ignored the obvious indication of a trap and went right to the looting stage. Hundreds of thousands of coins, thousands of gems, magic items scattered about, it was a cornucopia of treasure and a slush fund with the potential to hire or bribe almost everyone in the city and have plenty left over. So the party waded in, feet sinking into and sliding among the coins and baubles.

At the far end of the chamber was a mirror looking object that held no reflections. That was to be both the party's downfall and salvation.

The dwarf cleric was using detect magic and his gem of true seeing (which he had mounted into an eye patch) to locate the magic items. Pilfering of the goods had begun in earnest when the trap finally sprung.

A loud KA-THUNK sound accompanied by shaking and rumbling signaled the sealing of the entrance door and the start of the entire vault tilting toward the end where the weird mirror sat. Footing quickly became an issue with everyone slipping, sliding, some falling down, and all being moved along by the landslide of treasure. The dwarf (player made some excellent rolls) managed to stay atop the treasure and rode it like a surfer while gathering magic items along the way. The rest of the party tried to keep from being buried and crushed by the coins and other valuables. It rapidly became obvious, risk jumping into the mirror portal (treasure had begun pouring through it) or being crushed beneath tons of treasure.

Everyone chose to make the leap of faith that the portal was not a death sentence.

Moments later, bruised, battered, and piled up with a mound of treasure that came through the portal with them (we estimated about a third of the Thief Lord's ill gotten gains came through with our characters) the party felt noticeably different. (out with the C&C, in with the D&D)

- we swapped out the character sheets from C&C for the D&D character sheets we had prepared ahead of the session.

The room the characters occupied was damp, vines and roots protruded from the walls and ceiling, the air was thick with humidity and hot. The place also had a swampy, fishy odor. Well, this much was certain, the party was not anywhere near Karameikos anymore, but if they could bag up the best stuff from this pile of loot and find civilization, they would be set!

Oh, right, Set . . . the party still possessed the Eye of Set which was still obviously evil. That loose end is still hanging out there to be tied up eventually.

Where were they? That question was on every one's mind, but not for long as they were rudely interrupted in their bagging of wealth by a number of Kua-Toa warriors and some of their lesser priests. Good for the party they controlled a choke point and the pace of the fight that followed.

The three Monitors (lightning casting lesser priests) and more than half of the warriors were killed and the remainder ran away. The characters went back to looting and then began trying to find a way out of the structure they were within.

After some skulking about and convincing the dwarf they could always come back for the treasure they couldn't currently haul out with them, they encountered three more priests hauling a big soggy mud ball of branches, vines leaves, and other unidentifiable organic matter. Setting upon these Kua-Toa, the party slew two immediately, but not before they blasted the ball of doom with lightning activating the hibernating Shambling Mound.

Now the fight got interesting.

It lasted 3, maybe 4 rounds during which the two fighters, the crossbow sneak attacking rogue, and the elf wizard took the shambling mound to task and the dwarf cleric focused his ranged wrath on the remaining priest. The 136 hit point shambler failed to harm anyone and was destroyed by what can only be described as a hail of utter destruction from the 5th level D&D 5e characters. The Monitor surrendered and despite lacking any clearly comprehensible means of communication was convinced the best option was to show us the exit.

- 5e characters, even from 1st level are brutally capable combatants, getting to 5th level it is amazing the damage they can dish out. The rogue was doing the most damage thanks to being able to use sneak attack at range every round. When the rogue critical hits with a sneak attack the damage is incredible. The wizard only had cantrips available otherwise my guess would be that the combat would not have gotten much beyond the first round or barely into the second round instead of 3 or 4 rounds.

All said and done, the party was shown out without further problems and the Kua-Toa even brought up 6 more bags of loot to coax them to go away.

The party located a structure to use for shelter and prepared to get a long rest. That is where things left off.

The DM is a huge fan of Mystara and associated D&D worlds and after the session we determined the party had been ported into the Hollow World.

And that is why the Thief Lord always maintains his reputation for enemies disappearing permanently. It might take a while, but our group wants to change that equation when possible.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Transitioning from Castles & Crusades to D&D 5E

The Sunday C&C game in which I participate is about to convert over to D&D 5E. I noticed some interesting differences in the character between the two systems.

Torul is a half-orc fighter decked out in plate armor and shield, wielding a longsword (+2 flame-tongue). 

He is pretty bad-ass in C&C, and that translated to being pretty bad-ass in D&D, as well it should.

His AC managed to remain high (higher than many adult dragons based on the info from Hoard of the Dragon Queen). His attack roll lost a single point with the longsword, but more with the dagger (formerly a dirk), and the light crossbow.

He now has 2 and sometimes 3 attacks if he uses his available action surge. His damage potential with a single sword hit is slightly better (Feat: Savage Attacker). His damage lost a point on the switch from dirk to dagger (1d4+1 to 1d4), but can benefit from the same thing his sword does with occasional extra damage. His crossbow now does more damage. He also crits on 19 or 20.

He used to be 1 AC better out of armor, now he has that 1 extra AC in armor. He went from a 23 AC (25 vs evil) in C&C to 24 AC (26 vs evil) in D&D. This could easily change once we see how magic items work. 

Torul has a Ring of Protection +2, an Ioun Stone of Protection +1, and an Amulet of Protection from Evil. My suspicion is that stacking will somehow be discouraged and that the amulet will likely function as giving disadvantage to evil attackers, which frankly would make Torul even more bad-ass against evil. No idea how the ring and stone will be affected.

What does all of this mean? Mostly that the conversion was easy and relatively painless.

Where does that leave the party tomorrow? Trying to escape from the Thief Lord's Vault with what they believe is the Eye of Set, and expecting a whole crap-ton of enemies to be waiting including some top notch assassins, since the party have a high price on their heads.

The DM loves his set of original Tact-Tiles and was a backer of the recent Kickstarter so he will have more of them sometime soon.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Red Pen Has A Re-Think

After having the chance to play a session of 5th edition, I am beginning to think that some of what I viewed as negative or optional might just be fine in the context of game play.

While I still think the healing to full hit-points after a full rest is too much, I can definitely see how the other healing methods work well to aid the flow of the game. In fact, the hit-dice mechanic makes for a good representation of fatigue, and other issues, when after a few days of hard adventuring a character could easily find healing up getting more and more difficult when fewer hit dice are returning after long rests.

The ability score increases still urk me, and until the Monster Manual and maybe the DM's Guide are in hand, I won't know if those can be removed or even need to be excised. In the Basic game, ability score bumps are all there are while in the PHB you can choose either a boost in abilities or a feat.

The magic system in 5e is a thing of beauty. Sure, I think the unlimited ammo combat cantrips are somewhat over-powered, and that meant boosting first level spells to a crazy level of damage production (Magic Missile does 3d4+3 damage, split into three 1d4+1 missiles), the flexible use of spells in higher spell slots is awesome. A wizard or other spell caster can take a low level spell and use a higher level slot to cast it making what would have been a minor spell into a more capable/powerful tool.

For example: The Command spell in the hands of a higher level caster is capable of affecting an entire adventuring party because in higher slots it affects more people instead of just a single target. Think of the party bursting into the lair of the evil high priest who simply Commands them to surrender. No longer does one person obey while the rest of the party eviscerates EHP, now they all might fall under the spell and be captured. No more interrupting a well prepared soliloquy, you pesky adventurers are going to have to listen to the grand standing of the big bad boss monster.

The Sleep spell likewise has become more useful. Sure, at lower level it can only do so much, but cast from higher level slots, and based on target hit points, it can be used against the big bad once the monster has been beat down a bit. Got a Paladin or other uber-goody in the party that wants to bring the villain to justice instead of just executing the miscreant on sight? Sleep is now your means of keeping intra-party politics calm.

There is one disappointment I have about the re-writing of spells. As someone that likes to use Enlarge-Reduce spells to break lintels so they crash down on enemies, the re-write rules that out by limiting the enlarge portion of the spell to only fit the area, not expand beyond. At least I can still use the Reduce portion to shrink a door out of its frame.

I've been a fan of the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic since it was introduced in the first play-test packet. No more having to remember a host of fiddly modifiers. Simple and elegant, and it keeps things moving.

My next campaign is going to use 5e so that it gets a proper vetting from the DM side of the screen.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

5E Starter Set - Play session

Recently five of us sat down to try out the 5th edition starter set using the pregenerated characters. There were four players and we ended up not having the rogue along with us. We would have benefited greatly from that fifth party member.

The characters were:
Cleric - Thundren Rockseeker, cousin to the plot hook Gundren Rockseeker.
Archer Fighter - (COUGH) whose name was both unpronounceable and unspellable.
Wizard - Therondai.
Fighter - Ozren van Corlinn

We started on the road at the first ambush point where 4 rather stupid goblins (the DM declared them to be morons mainly to get the slaughter on quickly) fired crossbows at the party wounding Ozren and Thundren. Mop-up was very fast. Spells from Therondai the wizard and Thundren the cleric combined one after another to explode the closest goblin with incredible damage (a spell crit happened). The second goblin's head became the world's first golf ball when Ozren's axe sent it flying. (13 damage). The third suffered minor spell damage and tried to flee only to get skewered by an arrow from COUGH. The fourth and final goblin became the firing range for more massive spell damage as 3 Magic Missiles from the wizard rained on his tiny noggin blowin' him up real good.

At this point everyone is thinking, wow, 1st level characters are powerful!

The party located a trail to follow in hopes of recovering the kidnapped hostages. Along the trail COUGH stepped into a snare trap and swung upside down for a bit. Further along the trail Ozren, while lecturing COUGH about being wary and more careful, triggered the pit trap and barely avoided falling in.

We eventually came to a cave entrance from which issued a steady stream of water. Two morons nearby compleately failed to notice the clanking menace approaching so we prepared our ranged attacks to be followed by spells if we failed to kill them on first shots. Fortunately we slew with javelin and arrow.

Entering the cave with the dwarf and elf alternating scouting duties (they were the only ones with dark vision) we were rudely shouted at by some wolves chained in a side cave. Throwing them a dead goblin to eat, quieted them down and we went past them along the stream.

Further into the cave we discovered a rope and plank bridge crossing above the stream. COUGH with the help of a rope managed to climb up onto the bridge and get attacked immediately by goblins we failed to notice. Meanwhile deeper in, another goblin released water from the dam causing it to rush down toward the party.

Thundren and Therondai retreated to the wolf room to get above the rushing flow and Ozren braced himself hoping to maintain footing so he could follow COUGH onto the bridge.

Back in the wolf room a goblin arrived to release the wolves from their chains only to become moron bar-b-que when a quick thinking Therondai unleashed Burning Hands. You think wet dogs stink? Try severely singed wolf fur! Another round or two and the wolves were all dead, right along with the goblin that set them loose.

Meanwhile at the bridge COUGH was handed his backside and dropped by some goblins in the side passage. Ozren managed to pull himself onto the bridge and began separating goblins into smaller pieces. Eventually the party regrouped and COUGH was stabilized and healed.

With all members of the party now on the bridge, the group moved into a tunnel opposite the one the goblins that mugged COUGH had come from.

That's when the party got careless and walked into what could easily have been a TPK had it not been for a not so moronic goblin having need of someone to go kill a bugbear that was making itself worthy of a good killin'.

Three party members were down, chained to the cave wall leaving the cleric to negotiate for the entire partys' lives. He agree that if he could rest for a day and say his prayers that he would take on the bugbear by himself. And so it was.

Clerics apparently have some serious combat spells now because not only did Thundren manage to take out the bugbear, he also slew the pet wolf he had not been expecting to be there.

The party was freed, given back their property, minus their money (call it the hotel bill) and sent on their way.

That is where we left off.

I'm happy to report that despite making some minor goofs with using the new rules, the game plays very quick, and feels very much the way I like D&D to feel. Everyone agreed we want to play more when schedules permit and to continue with the pre-gen characters until we complete the adventure from the Starter Set.