Friday, September 23, 2022

The Dark Forest - Dungeon Magazine 22

This one can be easily adjusted to fit into the caverns below the city of Ptolus.

Change out the wagons and large amount of goods in the caravan for some smaller pack animals and lighter, more limited, but interesting loads. Instead of Flinds or Gnolls consider just about any other deep living humanoid monsters. 

Definitely keep everything about the Myconids in place, even the potential TPK inducing comas characters can end up in. This is Ptolus, rescue is a reasonable thing to have happen, and owing a favor leads to more adventure hooks.

In short, the PCs are with a small caravan crossing through part of the caverns when they come under attack. Tracking the attackers to their lair puts the party into contact with the Myconid colony that have a problem with the same humanoids the party is after.

The party is also after a specific red fungus one member of the caravan has offered to pay them for that he knows is near the humanoid lair.

Encountering the Myconids in their lair and exploring the Dark Forest (a vast mushroom and mold infested cavern) will expose the characters to possible mold infections of various types. Getting on the good side of the Myconids will make the task of recovering the red fungus virtually trouble free and leave them with strange allies and a supply of other molds/fungus they might need later in the campaign.

If the player characters join the fungus people for the melding ritual there's a risk of them ending up in comas. In that event the adventure has them being rescued, but having none of their clothing or possessions remaining because the humanoids attacked and slew all the Myconids, then took their stuff. The party will likely owe their rescuers a big favor and they may want to gear up and come back down for some revenge.

A success that doesn't leave the party comatose will leave them with a bunch of spores they can sell for a good bit of gold to the right alchemists, herbalists, and other interested parties.

I really like the variety of things that can happen in this adventure, despite it being a brief one.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Thursday Knights


The party had returned to the library to discuss the next step in the investigation and search for artifacts. The allure of the observatories proved too much to withstand and this time it was Anton that led the group down into the Spacial Observatory. 

The place showed some signs of damage to the southern end where stairs and a portal stood. To the east and west were viewing stations with a much larger one to the north. Curious about what could be learned from the viewing windows, Anton, Cotton, and A'lan each chose one to look through. 

Anton went first and chose to seek the whereabouts of the missing wizard Tovin who had eluded the party. He was able to focus his mind with the aid of the window and was shown an image of Tovin sitting in the tavern in Three Barrel Cove on the island where we had failed to locate him previously. "All that time he was right there and we missed him."

Tovin became aware he was being watched and started to look around. Anton immediately began trying to pull his mind free of the portal wiondows hold, but became wracked with pain. It was Ennark that realized the danger and aided Anton in breaking free of the giant's technology.

The scene repeated, this time with Cotton trying a few different searches which all failed until he focused on the party's ship. He found it to be waiting as instructed for the return of the group. Cotton was able to free himself from the hold of the window on his mind.

Again a view was sought, this time by A'lan, looking to locate his House contact who could mysteriously appear as different people, from a small girl to different adults. The scene was one of gratuitous debauchery. His contact sat at a table viewing nude dancers on a stage while all around him people engaged in an orgy. Most participants were elves and it seemed that this might be within the House itself. A'lan tried to free his mind from the depraved scene, but it refused to let him go and he too suffered intense pain. Ennark came to his rescue as he had done for Anton. 

The hold of the windows broken, the party joined Eldrid who had been trying to decipher writing by the badly damaged southern portal. Eventually Ennark, the least gifted in arcane knowledge got lucky. Advenced Research Laboratory was inscribed upon the stone arch above the pathway. Already in likely trouble from the giants above, the party decided to venture into the lab. 

Within, it was illuminated in green by myriad luminescent fungi and other plants. At first the party stood staring, trying to take in the environment. Eventually A'lan noticed a portal at the far end of the room, exhibiting a reddish glow. He approached and looked out onto a bleak reddish landscape. In the distance he noticed what might be people upon a hill above the broken stony terrain. A'lan drew forth his spy glass to get a clear view of this curiosity and quickly discovered the crucified forms of Angels. 

He had no time to mention this to the others as he came under attack by a mental assault from a fungus creature. The creature caused pain and confusion with a psychic assault, followed up with lashing of it's acidic tentacles. A'lan ran, maddened, as far from the thing as he could. Meanwhile the party began to respond to the threat.

This foe proved difficult to defeat, confusing almost all of them. It destroyed Anton's metal hound construct utterly and chased Anton toward where A'lan had hidden. As this chaotic battle raged, two more opponents leapt through the portal from the hellscape. A pair of great, orange, ape-like demons, enraged, preparing to tear apart their targets.

It was Eldrid who overcame the confusion long enough to deal death to the mind wracking fungoid. With it's domination of the party undone, they began a fighting retreat, intent on withdrawing back to the observatory, away from the new threat. They needn't have worried. The demons were quickly dispatched though more injuries were suffered by members of the party. 

Escaping through the portal to the Spacial Observatory they began discussing what to do. Leave altogether, rest here, rest in the library? The library won out as a resting place to recover from wounds before making any other decisions. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Dungeon Vignette - The Cathedral of Knives

Dungeon Vignette articles will describe a room or small area within a dungeon that can be easily dropped into another dungeon or used to spark adventure ideas.

The Cathedral of Knives is the nickname for a moderately wide cavernous passage with jutting spines of very sharp stone. Movement through the passage is treated as difficult terrain with the added problem of taking damage each round from the numerous unavoidable cuts and scrapes.

The passage is 40' across at its widest point and 90' long from entrance to exit. The ceiling is 30' high at the central peak. There is a cleared section through the center of the passage that is 15' wide by 30' long, but this is also quite dangerous because some Ropers have laid eggs on the ceiling. 

The Roper eggs have hatched into Piercers that wait for slow moving targets to enter this section where they will drop on their intended prey. Then the Piercers will climb back up safely via a large stalagmite column to await the next meal.

Damage amounts should be adjusted for the level of your party. 

Mitigation efforts should be welcomed, such as Flight, Dimension Door, Teleport, and other transport methods that can get them above the man high level of the cutting surfaces.

Abilities that allow movement free of difficult terrain are also helpful for reducing the time spent exposed to the harsh environment.

Creative approaches can have drawbacks. Parties attempting to place boards, tables or doors across the tips of the stone will be disappointed when the weight snaps the tips causing a collapse into the jagged cutting edges. Taking the hours, perhaps days required to smash away the worst of it so that a trick like the boards can work should be allowed, and even preparing the surface to make use of Wall of Stone.

This particular vignette should not be the only way to an objective, but should be used as a short-cut while the other, easier path is a long way to get to the objective.

Depending on how much you want to challenge the party, consider having one of the Roper parents be encountered a few rooms later. "My offspring left some food for me! Yum."

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Dwarven Forge's Upcoming Cities Untold Kickstarter - I Want A Clock Tower

Dear Dwarven Forge,

I have a specific wish for you to include in your upcoming Kickstarter - A modular clock tower that I can make look goody two shoes, common place, or sinister.

For inspiration here's a picture of a non-modular Hirst Arts clock tower. One the other three sides it has stained glass and inside LEDs. As you can see it has statues all around on the second level (a great opportunity for post accessories).

So if you're launching the Cities Untold Kickstarter in December, consider granting my Christmas Wish.

Thank you, Sincerely,


Friday, September 16, 2022

Vorpal Board - Covering More Square Footage With The Camera

When deciding to get a Virtual Tabletop to play remotely with my friends from other states, the choice was narrowed almost by default to Vorpal Board. As I use many sets of Dwarven Forge terrain and really love to show them off, a live visual stream was a no-brainer.

There are some great reviews and tutorials for using VB with terrain, but most of them seem to have the same thing in common, the small display area coverage of the camera on the arm. Reviews and how-tos seemed to indicate that the most likely display area was about 2 feet by 2 feet or 4 square feet. After playing around with the space I had available for use, a solution occurred that has led to an increased display area, well within the reach of the 49 inch camera boom VB offers.

My computer desk happens to be the only reasonable option to run sessions from since others would require negotiating for dining room table use for a few hours, and constantly tearing down and resetting the terrain. The lower deck of the desk is 46 inches wide by 23 inches deep, with half of that taken up by my computer gear. The upper shelf is 46 inches wide by 11 inches deep. So far it sounds like there's not much display space, but stick with me.

The available half of the lower deck allows me to comfortably use about 20 inches by 16 inches, and room to build two or three levels high (maybe more with limitations). The upper shelf narrowness is solved by using Gator foam core boards in thicknesses from 1/4 inch to 2 inches depending on build plan. The foam core boards are 12 inches by 8 inches, or 6 inches by 4 inches. The boards make it possible to increase the shelf width to a supported 16 inches. 

I also have available for occasional use for space a small folding snack tray that can sit beside me to the right, in line with the available desk space. The tray adds over another foot and a half square of horizontal space and some vertical levels.

Most of the reviews and how-to videos showed the placement of the camera boom to the side of the build area, but in this situation that was far too limiting. It is situated almost in the center front of the desk which allows it to span the entire length and height of the currently described display base with range for more.

So far this area has proven to be quite nice and allowed for multiple small vignettes to share it. I however have bigger plans that require new wall shelves above and to the side of the desk. 

In come two 36 inch by 12 inch wall mounted shelves with heavy duty brackets to feel safe loading up the terrain above everything else. This proved to be a bit of an investment, around $90, but will give at least another 6 square feet (more with foam core boards involved) to play with. 

Altogether the display area is approximately 15 square feet compared to the estimated 2 foot by 2 foot shown and discussed in videos. It will be a lot easier to have various scenes prepared for my Ptolus campaign with all of this space. If your situation permits, you could further surround yourself with shelves adding even more playable space.

It is now possible to have the city and sewers on the top level, dungeons on the desk shelf and below, plus still have room for some smaller special environments.

The key to giving yourself more terrain coverage is entirely down to where you situate the camera arm.

So how am I liking Vorpal Board? It's proving to be an excellent choice for my remote gaming purposes.

A quick note on lighting issues with multiple levels above lower ones. Before the new shelves I could turn on the overhead light, a lamp across the room, and pull aside the curtains to let in daylight (I play early where I live). Now there is the issue of some light being blocked from above. No problem, the powerful LED multi-colored lighting (tealight sized) pods I have can be Blu-tacked under the top shelf and set to whatever color mood lighting I want in the dungeon. The actual amount of blocked light turns out to be minimal once the shelves were in place.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Thursday Knights

More Eberron.

Small demons began emerging from the floor and coming at the party. A fight ensued with the stinking creatures being pretty easily dispatched while the party avoided the negative effects of the smell. Larger demons began to crawl through the substance of the floor to attack, accompanied by more of the lesser ones. While the party did incur some damage, the output from them onto their foes was vastly greater and after a brief time they foes stopped coming.

Searching the library revealed marking on the floor saying Astrological, Spacial, and Temporal Observatory. Not to be dissuaded by a death threat (they get plenty of them) and following Ennark's lead, the party entered the Temporal Observatory.

A'lan was the first to look through a temporal portal and witnessing the destruction of a great city by something falling from the sky or stars. He became wracked with incredible pain that drove him to his knees clutching his head.

Eldrid was next. Viewing another portal she witnessed a dwarf wearing weapons and armor made of living flesh. The being somehow saw her and charged, striking at Eldrid. She was tossed back from the portal suffering psychic damage and falling to the floor.

Third was Ennark. He came here seeking knowledge, artifacts relevant to his faith, and a way to finish sealing away the ancient demon lords. Through the portal he witnessed the event that was critical to the founding of the Church of the Silver Flame. The demon lord being struck down, thrown into a crevice, followed by his attacker, and streaks of light, both bright and dark blasting skyward as the crevice sealed. He too was taken with pain.

Anton and Cotton decided against using the portals, instead expressing their wish to depart. The others agreed and they returned to the ruined library.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Ptolus: Wayward Sons - The Darkness and Dankness (session 4)

Location: Ptolus. Dates: Airday, 3rd of Growth, and Waterday, 4th of Growth

Participating characters:

Alcott - Half-Elf Rogue, level 1

Crispin Ellindril - Elf Ranger, level 1

Quinn Farshore - Human Fighter (Magical Adept), level 1

It was closing in on midnight when the party got a start casing the neighborhood around Citation Street for possible access below Galen's Leather Shoppe or into the sewers. Decision time came after an hour had passed without discovering the location of an easy ingress to their target location. Avoiding a burglary they chose to have Alcott pick the lock on the closest sewer grate to the shop.

It had been 10 minutes since the City Watch patrol had cleared from the area and Alcott now set to work. The lock opened without difficulty and the party descended into the sewers below. Alcott then used a length of string coiled down into the lock to make it appear closed with engaging. 

Crispin stared into the distance, waiting while Quinn lit a torch, then the three headed east, slowly, watching for any sign of hidden doorway on the walls. Coming along to where they estimated the shop to be they found the sewer turned northward. At this intersection they were set upon by 4 hungry giant roaches. The ensuing battle was brief and the roaches died easily, but Crispin suffered injury. 

After cleaning up he led the group north where they found a ladder propped up the wall to a hole where the the wall met the high arched ceiling. Quinn climbed up, sticking his torch through giving him enough light to see the stone hallway beyond. There was no sign of danger so he climbed in and motioned the others to follow. The hallway was a mix of worked stone and field stone indicating that this area had been reworked at least three times.    

Having turned back along their path they had now come westward half as far as they had come through the sewer. The estimated depth below ground here was 20'. quite possibly under the left rear of the shop. Turning south they approached an old door where Quinn stopped to ask Alcott to check it. The door bore no traps and was already unlocked so Quinn opened it and peered inside.

Two pair of red eyes reflected back the light of his torch as the giant rats took greedy notice of a possible meal. Relaying the presence of enemies to his companions, Quinn stepped in to attack the closest of the vermin. Alcott followed, hugging the wall and drawing his bow. He fired at the furthest rat felling it instantly and both rats were down without a chance to fight back.

After the very brief skirmish Quinn took time to examine the large room. The floors and walls were in disrepair, but a sculpted exit bearing two enormous green snakes with ruby colored eyes led eastward into a dark passage. On the floor of the chamber was half of a corpse, now just bones wrapped in torn, dusty clothing, and a pair of weapons in a sheath design to hold them both. The specialized sheath looked new and the short sword and mace were in decent condition. Otherwise nothing else stood out.

In the quiet they decided to pass between the snakes and on into the passage. The dark tunnel arched upward, likely to go above the arched ceiling of the sewer. Crispin had crested the peak and began descending the other side when a spear flew out of the darkness, thrown by a previously hidden ratling that quickly ducked back behind a wall. The spear missed and Crispin readied for another threat. Quinn had come forward to join him at the entrance to another chamber when he heard a noise and lunged to Crispin's right. His weapon pierced a charging ratling, dropping the foe, dead, at their feet. 

Alcott hung back, bow in hand waiting for more hidden enemies to present themselves, but none came. Crispin pursued the spear throwing enemy around the corner dodging a vicious bite and quickly slaying the remaining ratling. The opposition dispatched the party conducted a thorough search which turned up no other exit from this area, however Crispin did examine a slowly trickling fountain and discovered a thumbnail sized ruby among the filthy water and debris.

The map and notes they had viewed in the Guild library indicated the presence of these chambers, but had not shown a way to anything further, only hinting at something far below. There were three doors drawn in a hallway with notes about being unable to access the area beyond. 

Going back into the sewers the three continued roughly eastward at a careful pace periodically looking out of sewer grates to get their bearings beneath South Market. Having somehow wandered further south they found themselves near Market Gate, Crispin discovered this when looking up he noticed a lantern light atop one of the city's wall towers. 

Working their way back to the northeast they eventually found a group of boot tracks at the base of some rungs leading up to another sewer grate, tracks headed back toward where they came from, mixing into a confusion with their own markings. That's when Crispin heard the sound of squeaks and movement coming from two directions. 

Rat creatures were on them, but not before the trio could arm themselves. Blows rained upon each side at a frenetic pace. Crispin was wounded and dropped to the slimy ledge of the sewer unconscious, narrowly avoiding slipping into the raw, flowing effluvia where he might surely have drowned. Just as quickly two of the ratlings were slain by Quinn and Alcott, sending the remaining creatures fleeing deeper into the twisting sewer system.

Carrying their companion, Alcott and Quinn backtracked to the nearest grate. Determining the coast to be clear, Alcott picked the lock and they climbed back up to the city at the corner of Spoiled and Other streets. They set off for Quinn's estate to clean up and rest, hoping Crispin would be ok by morning.

Morning arrived to find them healthy enough to handle personal business and the three split up. 

Alcott arrived at the Daykeeper's Chapel in Midtown, near the Necropolis to find Sister Arsagra Callinthan and her two acolytes deep cleaning the temple. He asked if there was something he could help with and was directed to some crates in the rectory basement that needed sorted and lifted onto the shelves.

After half an hour of work he again approached Sister Arsagra, this time to ask about getting a healing potion at a discount. The Sister had watched him grow up from a scrawny, sometimes troublesome child to the helpful young man he had become. "Healing potions are usually 50 gold pieces, to cover expenses, and they are very important. You must have an important need or you wouldn't be asking. If you have it I think 40 gold pieces will suffice." Alcott agreed, noting he would return soon, and heading out to visit Tenpin Children's Home not far away.

The ring of the tiny cowbell announced Crispin's return home from the night's adventuring. "I've been in the sewers again, but with good reason. My friends and I are trying to track down our missing delver." Tisha pinched her nose and looked at him for a moment. "With these acquaintances of yours dragging you into the sewers, I hope you have good news." Crispin smiled, "I have news, but first I have a surprise for you upstairs.

Returning quickly down to the office he handed over the wrapped gift of the sleeved cape. Tisha unwrapped it and broke into a grin. Holding it up and admiring it she gave it a hug, walked over and gave Crispin a quick kiss, "I love it. When we finish the case I want us to go out on the town so I can wear it." With that, he brought Tisha up to current about their findings and lack of findings.

Quinn had gone to the docks and rented a boat from Sard, then rowed out to the cavern that housed the prison. He stated his intended business and was escorted to speak with Warden Odsen Rom. It was explained to him that the Warden was suffering from light sensitivity and there would be very little light in his office. With that he was shown in to talk to Odsen. The office was nearly pitch black aside from a single candle perched on a shelf above and behind the Warden. "Please sit. My guard informs me you are here to see a prisoner. For what purpose and who?" 

TM and © 2022 Monte Cook Games, LLC

"Bulpo Greenstone. He's an old family friend." Quinn didn't have much more to share on the subject, he had never met the dwarf whose name only came up in tales about his great grandfather Quinn Ironoak. "He's to be executed soon and I have questions for him." Rom gestured with his hand, "Of course, on the 10th, It is customary for visitors to offer donations to the prison's maintenance." Without question Quinn placed 20 gold pieces on the desk between them. "You may visit with Greenstone now," rapping twice on the desk the Warden summoned the guard back to the room. "He will show you to the prisoner."

Soon it became apparent why the prison has the nickname The Pit. A vast circular hole, 150' across reached down into darkness. A walkway spirals downward along the walls eventually reaching a platform and winch operated by an ogre, for lowering people deeper below. Fortunately Quinn didn't have to go very far. As the walkway descended there were doors leading to the various cell blocks and the guard escorted Quinn into the 15th passage. Twenty empty cells lined the hallway until they reached Bulpo's confinement. The guard pointed a bright bullseye lantern into the cell. "Greenstone, you have a visitor."

"Can you turn that light away?" Bulpo asked, shielding his eyes. Sitting the lantern down and walking away, the guard murmured "Turn it yourself." Quinn turned the lantern more to the side and then approached the bars. The occupant was a dwarf, not yet near middle aged, with a full black beard and full head of black hair, both unkempt, and not braided." Rubbing his eyes and squinting he blinked twice, "Quinn, am I dead already?" 

"No, Mr. Greenstone. I'm Quinn Farshore, you knew my great grandfather Quinn Ironoak." There was a quiet pause. "You're a ringer for him. Even have the same violet eyes. You're great grandfather and I fought the rust worm together. That was 80 years ago." Quinn cut to the chase, "I want to know what happened and if there's something I can do for you." 

"Three weeks ago I came up from a ratting expedition about noon and was immediately arrested. Not for being in the sewers mind you, though that has happened sometimes, but for Rary's murder. I'm still in shock. Rary Silvershine is a good friend. He paused again, "I didn't kill him. We had been playing Dragon Scales at the Black Swan, He clobbered me as always, lost over 100 gold pieces to him. We argued about the games and then had a bit of a tussle, but nothing in anger, always a friendly bust up. You can ask Gersh, and Wendt, and of course Migos the owner, they were all there. Next day when they arrested me, I learned he was dead with my family dagger in his back. They said his money and custom Dragon Scales set were missing. Only thing is, I don't need for money, or a fancy set, yet that was part of the evidence against me. Didn't even know my dagger was missing."

Quinn took all of this in. Crispin plays Dragon Scales went through the back of his mind. "I'll look into this and see what I can do. Maybe after we get you out you can tell me more about my great grandfather." Bulpo nodded, "If you're anything like your great grandfather, you'll get me out."