Saturday, December 31, 2022

Blog Productivity - Average Posts Per Month Comparison

This calendar year, the 11th for the blog, has been incredibly productive. Per calendar year it exceeds all previous years by a good margin. It is the highest number of articles beating even the first year. Average posts per month for 2011 is exactly 16 (6 months), and the average posts per month for 2022 is exactly 16 (9 months). Had I not fallen ill, and had instead scheduled the two articles planned for this week, the average would squeak to the top by .22

Recently the rate of posts slowed slightly for a number of reasons. Foremost is the downturn of active game play. 

My Saturday face-to-face game has been on another extended hiatus since the beginning of June and remains so till at least into the new year. We had previously lost over two years of play due to Covid, so this period ads insult to injury. 

I have stopped playing in the Thursday Knights campaign for a couple of reasons, one of which is that my character, Ennark, completed his overall goal of recovering major holy artifacts of his faith., and the other reason is personal. 

The Friday Ptolus campaign has seen over two months of postponements from a combination of player health issues and personal responsibilities, and taking a break until the new year.

Add to all of this the decline of motivation to write, thankfully not a complete shutdown like the three year total absence from early 2019 till early 2022. New posts are still being written, but nowhere near that early manic pace.

Because of the manic period of writing running from early March through early June, I still have nearly 60 completed articles sitting in the drafts folder awaiting scheduling, and have plans for a couple more subject matter series to work on for 2023.

It appears that 2023 will be productive, but it remains to be seen if it can come close to 2022. The aim is to manage 10 posts per month or better. If I get my other article projects moving then that will be manageable. 

The graph below is not relevant to the information above, but at least it is D&D related.

Monday, December 26, 2022

Dwarven Forge Kickstarter: Cities Untold - Low Town (Delayed Launch)

The launch date was pushed back to February 12th to give time for more sculpts to be completed.

Some pics of interior pieces.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Dungeon On A Shelf - SPOILERS

Here are some pictures of the dungeon awaiting my Friday Ptolus  (Wayward Sons) players. Images include both complete rooms and a partially assembled wide-view. These will reappear as the adventure write-ups are posted.

Below is a shot of the partially disassembled dungeon.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

The Artist's Loving Touch - Dungeon Magazine 68

 Here's an opportunity to engage the player characters with the wealthy fans of high art in Ptolus.

An aging sculptor suffering from the typical ailments that come with advancing age, arthritis, dimming sight, and the like, was losing his place among the elite of the art world. He was no longer being hired to produce works and feared being forgotten. Then he found magic gloves left behind by his mentor.

His ego and diminishing ethics led him to use the power of the gloves to "create" new and incredible works. To make it happen he needs people or animals to be kidnapped. He's gotten involved with some nasty folks and some monsters for that purpose.

In this scenario the characters get hired to act as security at a very high-end art auction in the home of a wealthy merchant. For the auction location I suggest The Soaring Idyll in the Nobles Quarter. This apartment building hovers above the ground and slowly rotates. It also has a sculpture garden below the building. Only very rich people can afford the rent.

During the auction a drunk rival artist makes a scene insulting the older man's new works, and ends up knocking over and destroying another creator's statue and a brawl breaks out. After things are back under control the auction finishes up.

The next day the PCs encounter a cartwright's wife nailing up notices about him being missing. He has been gone for a week. Details lead to an abandoned brewery which is might be placed in South Market, not too far from Emperor's Road.

During investigation the party can pick up some rumors and will learn that the old artist's studio is a couple blocks away from the location the cartwright was supposed to do a job. The studio would be placed along Emperor's Road.

One of the places to go for rumors is a tavern on a dead-end street, near an entrance to the sewers.

There's plenty more that could be revealed about the scenario, but locations are covered here and it takes care of itself when read through.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

A Steaming Cup of Adventure

Time for more shameless self promotion. The blog's Zazzle store has these mugs and some other things for sale. Follow this link to see what's available. If you like something order it. Thanks!*     <----- Link

Below are the designs on three other mugs. Pardon the duplication of images. The banner design mug image copied fine, but the rest came out, well, not as mugs.

There are cards with these images, you can send to folks for whatever reason or to invite them to a special game session. 

Also there are a banner pin and a banner magnet available.

Friday, December 16, 2022

The Petrifying Priestess - Dungeon Magazine 66

If you need a small dungeon under Ptolus that can springboard into other adventures or just be a one-off adventure, The Petrifying Priestess makes for an interesting option. Here's some ideas for fitting it into Ptolus.

An elven holy artifact has been stolen from Iridithil's Home, specifically their shrine The Sky's Lord, right under the protective watch of Doraedian Mythlord. He's embarrassed and pissed off. The stolen artifact is the mace belonging to a long dead elven high priest of Celestan. The theft is revenge for the death of a medusa's mother by a band of elves twenty-two years ago. 

Serpena the medusa has contacts on the surface that bring her news of anything to do with the more prominent elves in the city. That's how she learned about the presence of the mace. She likely used her contacts to cut a deal that gained her the tools she needed to get in, steal the artifact, and get out unseen.

Maybe she hired members of the Longfingers guild to perform the actual break-in so she could move in and take her prize, leaving behind only a petrified cat as a calling card. You can work on the details of this so that it fits your campaign.

Then there's the question of why the party gets hired. In my case, the party currently has a high number of elves so it is possible that helps with the hiring decision. Doraedian Mythlord would likely want to go himself, but he would be advised against it in the event it was a trap being set for him.

Serpena is not just a medusa, she is also a priestess. In the original module she's a cleric of Gruumsh. You could keep that or try to change up the deity the medusa worships to Ghul? There has to be some of Ghul's essence still hanging around to power lower level cleric spells. The orcs she is accompanied by could be both Toruk-Rul and Sorn-Ulth.

The scenario itself is pretty straightforward. Go to where the thieves are and get the item back.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

New Monster - Animated Object: Scauldron (OSR and 5E)

Trinta tried her best to avoid contact with the large animated cauldron to no avail. It rammed into her tossing Trinta up and into its red-hot interior.

While Trinta screamed in agony the cast iron construct galloped off, clanging and banging down the long hall and disappeared around the next corner with its victim engulfed and burning.

Her companions hurried behind their kidnapped friend, cursing as they went. This was not how they expected their exploration of the ruins to begin.


Animated by fiendish witchery, this oversized, four-legged iron cauldron's purpose is to engulf a target and run about while cooking them. By bouncing the victim around inside, it continues to trap them, doing searing heat damage. Once a victim has died the Scauldron dumps the body and goes hunting a new meal to cook.

Quick OSR version notes:

Hit Dice 5 dice plus 3 points

AC: 2 descending scale, or 18 ascending scale

Movement: 30'

Attack: as Fighter 5

Saves: as Fighter 5

Damage: 1d6 +2 and target must save vs paralyzation or be engulfed if man sized or smaller. Each round spent within the Scauldron causes an additional 2d6 damage from heat.

If the cauldron is unable to make away with the target it will continue to ram others causing 1d6+2 damage, but may only engulf one victim at a time.

Engulfed targets may attempt to escape by rolling at or below their strength on a d20 with no modifiers.

5E version:

Large construct, unaligned

Armor Class 18 (natural armor)

Hit Points 84 (8d10 +40)

Speed 30'

Ability Scores:  STR 16 (+3) DEX 10 (0) CON 14 (+2) INT 1 (-5) WIS 3 (-4) CHR 1 (-5)

Damage Resistance: slashing, piercing from non-magical weapons

Damage Immunities: fire, poison, psychic

Condition Immunities: blinded, charmed, deafened, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, petrified, poison, prone

Senses: blindsight 60' (blind beyond 60'. Passive perception 6

Languages: none

Challenge Rating: 2 (450 xp)

Anti-magic Susceptibility. The Scauldron is incapacitated while in the area of an anti-magic field. If targeted by Dispel Magic, the Scauldron must succeed on a Constitution saving throw against the caster's spell save DC or fall unconscious for 1 minute.

False Appearance. While the Scauldron remains motionless it is indistinguishable from a large iron cauldron. 

Ram. Melee weapon attack +5 to hit, reach 5', one creature. Hit: 2d6 +3 bludgeoning damage plus 1d6 fire damage.

Engulf. The Scauldron moves up to its speed and conducts a Ram melee attack. If successful, any medium or smaller creature must succeed on a DC12 Dexterity saving throw. On a success the creature may choose to be pushed 5' back or to the side of the Scauldron. On a failure the Scauldron enters the creature's space and the creature takes 3d6 fire damage and is engulfed. The engulfed creature is restrained and takes 6d6 fire damage at the start of each of the Scauldron's turns. When the Scauldron moves, the engulfed creature moves with it. An engulfed creature can try to escape by taking an action to make a DC13 Strength check. On a success, the creature escapes and enters a space of its choice within 5' of the Scauldron. The Scauldron may only engulf 1 creature at a time regardless of size. While engulfing a creature, the Scauldron will attempt to move away using the Dash action, along a path that seems to lead the farthest from other creatures. When a creature dies within the Scauldron the body is dumped out and the Scauldron chooses a new target.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Grotto of the Queen - Dungeon Magazine 64

If the characters need to escape the city for a vacation of sorts, here's an adventure that can take them across the Bay of Ptolus.

Written for the Forgotten Realms setting and using the evil goddess Umberlee, it involves a missing magically imbued ship, and a planned ambush of the party by the evil clerics. Maybe they're not evil, they could be clerics of Juranis, chaotic neutral. (The high priestess is definitely evil and uses undead as guards.)

Do your delvers have a nemesis that's been looking for an opportunity to have them killed? The scenario opens up that possibility with someone spying on them and letting the priests know the party is on the way to recover the stolen ship.

Maybe the ship isn't magical, but transporting magical cargo that belongs to the Balacazar Crime Family. Those responsible for capturing the ship are some unwise pirates backed up by the church. 

Menon Balacazar deals in black magics, drugs, slaves, and especially enslaving powerful other-worldly beings. Maybe the cargo on the ship is a being he trapped, one that is associated with the church.

Under normal circumstances Balacazar could enlist the aid of his Sahuagin allies to help in the matter, but this time the church is one dealing with the sea, so the sahuagin are kept out of things. That's when the nemesis of the party recommends hiring them for the recovery job, and will alert the church of their plans if they agree to take it. You probably want to hide the identity of their real employer from them at the start.

Meanwhile, having been pressured about this latest act of piracy, the City Council hires another team of adventurers to go after the culprits. These folks walk into the ambush planned for the player characters.

In the small town near the temple, are some Ennin slavers with a small enclosure holding 25 captives. This might be an additional task the PCs might take it upon themselves to tackle.

The tavern of the town is full of na'er'do'wells and there's plenty of chances for a bar fight to happen. A fair number of patrons here are humanoids, orcs, gnolls, ogres, etc.

Once the party reaches town they are on the clock. There is an included table detailing what happens if they delay taking on the temple by various amounts of time. The longer they wait, the worse things get, while acting quickly will reduce the amount of fight the temple can mount against them.

There are survivors from the other group of delvers that are in need of rescue.

The temple and defenses can be run as they are without much if any modification aside from updating them to your preferred system. 

As for what's in the hold of the ship, maybe it's a second Tribute Gatherer. It could be any kind of powerful creature, or artifact.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Magic Item - Black Fire (5e)

The Longbow Black Fire is a +1 weapon.

Additionally, once per long rest, when the command word Blackfire is spoken, an arrow may be fired that delivers a 20' radius damaging effect surrounding the resting place of the arrow. If the arrow is moved during the duration of the effect, so does the area of the effect.

Black Fire: Black flames leap and cavort out to a distance of 20' from the central point. Any creature entering the area or starting their turn within the area must make a DC13 Constitution saving throw, taking 2d4 fire damage and 1d4 necrotic damage on a failed save or half of the fire damage and none of the necrotic damage on a success.

The effect lasts up to one minute or until concentration ends.

The arrow can be fired at a creature and do damage as a normal arrow as well as the Black Fire effect.

The bow is made of bone, etched with patterns appearing to be black flames.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Temporarily Demonetized During My highest Period of Traffic in Years - Part 2

Getting this resolved has proven to be a pain in the ass. Basically the lost time is effectively Google picking my pocket of what would probably have been a pointless few pennies, but it's the principle of the thing.

Friday, December 2, 2022

To Cure A Kingdom - Dungeon Magazine 57

A Mind Flayer, exiled from its kind for attempting to take over control, has concocted a plan to get back in with its kind and finish the coup it previously started.

In the original adventure, the Illithid used psychic surgery to remove this one Mind Flayer's ability to Plane Shift, and then set it loose to wander among lesser beings. During its travels it kept seeking a cure for the punishment enacted upon it by the others, and eventually captured an alchemist. The alchemist, while in forced servitude, eventually discovered the cure, but the final ingredient was something difficult to get. 

As written, the final ingredient are some leaves off of two magic trees. This sparked a thought that in Ptolus, there might be a rare tree or something else of value, that can be found at Iridithil's Home. Maybe a few drops of Moonsilver.

The plan to get its hands on the rare item involves finding a hidden temple to a god of disease, taking over by masquerading as an avatar of the diety, crafting and unleashing a disease on the city, then offering the cure in exchange for that rare item.

A religion dedicated to the spread of disease would find itself quickly outlawed in Ptolus, so this place would likely be in the dungeons or caverns below. Once located, the City will want to send forces there to destroy the place and put the adherents to the sword.

The Commissar and City Council would be quick to put up a reward for a solution. Churches would be doing their best to stem the spread of this ailment. It wouldn't take long before Doraedian Mythlord would be called upon to help, and that is where the player characters can be brought into the equation.

An emissary of the evil temple has arrived claiming the disease as their doing. The emissary brought along a list of ingredients for producing a cure, but is withholding the one rare ingredient it can provide in exchange for the one rare thing the Mind Flayer seeks. 

The mission is to take the Moonsilver to the temple to trade for the rare ingredient of the cure, and come back. Simple, right? Nah, never that easy.

You'll want to replace the over-land travel with underdark travel encounters and locations. The temple is a pretty straightforward conversion. 

Temple defenders will work mostly as described, but beefing up the lizard folk might help a bit. Undead in the lower temple level are difficult to turn (impossible in the scenario) and will be a threat even to higher level parties. The big bad evil guy needs to be buffed up to be a real challenge. Since he is fighting alone, Legendary abilities and Lair actions will work great for those running 5th edition D&D.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Temporarily Demonetized During My highest Period of Traffic in Years

Of course Ad-Sense would pull the plug on ads run on my site when my traffic quintuples for a month. I had a chance to earn a buck or two more (I know, nothing really), but nope. Hopefully they'll allow ads back on the blog within a few days.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Magic Item: Shoes of Swagger (OSR and 5E friendly)

Belknapp strode confidently, almost arrogantly into the courtroom. "Honorable Magistrate Hornbrow, Polliver Binbottom is innocent of the charges against him." Belknapp had polished his magic shoes to a mirror shine before entering the room and now he had the judge's undivided attention. He rolled off a litany of alibis and reasons that his client could not have been the one that stole the missing heirloom, each one more absurd and profoundly preposterous than the last. "It is prudent that you declare him not guilty and release him forthwith." Over the loud objections from the flummoxed prosecutor, Judge Hornbrow set Polliver free. "Nice shoes!" the magistrate remarked with a broad smile as he gaveled the trial to a close.

Later, in private the two split the take from fencing the valuable brooch. "Best investment we ever made," said Polliver, buffing a blemish from the toe of one shoe.

Magic Item: Shoes of Swagger

OSR version:

After polishing the shoes they can be used once a day to influence a reaction roll. The result will be two places further in the wearer's favor.

Once a week the shoes can cast Charm Person giving the target creature -5 to their saving throw.


5e version:

The shoes have 3 charges. The shoes regain 1 charge each day at midnight. If all charges are used, roll a d20. On a 1 the shoes crumble into tattered leather and lose all magical power.

Persuasion rolls gain advantage. 1 charge required.

Charm Person, target saves at disadvantage. 2 charges required. Useable once per week.

Rarity: Rare. Character Level: 5 and above. Cost: 501 - 5,000 gold pieces.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Nbod's Room - Dungeon Magazine 51

I normally don't give much thought to adventures written for a single character, but something drew me to read this one through, and I'm glad I did. Adapting this for a full group is a simple task should you choose, or you could use it almost as-is for one PC. The scenario is short, and can be plugged into anywhere with a port.

Captain Nbod always stayed in the same inn room in the Docks District when in Ptolus. Over time he added some magical furnishings. A wardrobe, a sea chest, and a copper bathtub. They are all portals to different locations.

The captain has been missing for some time, but his room is believed to be haunted. The innkeeper has trouble renting the room, but if someone is interested and brave enough he'll be happy to oblige.

There are a couple of important NPC plots in progress in this adventure. Here are locations these portals open to:

An evil priest of the sea god Juranis (chaotic neutral) has a hidden temple in what used to be a bathhouse below a tavern in Midtown, probably near the Guildsman District. The tavern is full of lowlife types. This priest has been after a magic dagger the captain owned.

A sea hag on a tropical island also covets the magic dagger she considers a threat to her life. One portal is in her cave and another is across the atoll.

Getting the story of the haunted room into the ear of characters is not a problem, and it becomes more tempting if hidden treasure is mentioned.

Friday, November 18, 2022

The Hand of Al-Djamal - Dungeon Magazine 44

Here's another museum for your Ptolus campaign, not a side-show type with bizarre displays, but what we expect when we think museum. This one would work fine in Oldtown. (Maybe at the T intersection of Becker Street and Dalenguard Road.)

Valkner Museum has a deadly problem and the curator needs it resolved secretly. A messenger sent by Curator Valkner approaches the player characters and asks their urgent aid in a secretive matter at the museum.

They are asked to swear to secrecy before being brought in on the details of the matter. Assuming they agree, Valkner tells them  that two guards were killed last night and he knows it was the mummies he was preparing for display. When he acquired them the mummies were just bandage wrapped corpses and not undead. He reveals what he wants kept secret, that he stole them from a tomb in Uraq (sounthern continent) along with several other grave goods which are already on display.

Smarter than to hire just anyone, he'll ask if they've ever taken anything from a tomb or grave, and then continue with details of the task. Valkner wants the mummies dealt with, carefully, so they cannot harm anyone else. "Please don't use fire or other spells that would endanger the museum."

The mummies are currently inanimate in their closed sarcophagi. The sarcophagi are decorated with gold and jewels. If opened, the mummies are unmoving unless disturbed and then a fight breaks out.

When the PCs have defeated the mummies, the curator pays the reward and things appear to be just fine. Until the next morning.

There's more than a mummy curse at work here. An Uraqi who visited the museum a week prior had seen the other displayed grave goods and raised a loud fuss, demanding they not be displayed. He protested the robbing of graves and defiling of tombs. Al-Djamal was thrown out by the guards and thought nothing further of until the next night he was caught stealing the artifacts and subsequently thrown in jail by the City Watch.

In the original scenario Al-Djamal's hand was severed as punishment and he died by bleeding to death. This seems odd because it's likely a cleric would have been on standby since he wasn't sentenced to death. Here's my take instead.

Being a successful businessman, Al-Djamal could afford the fine so he paid it and was released. This of course was not the end of his efforts to set things right regarding the grave robbing. He sought help from a cleric of Rajek the Wanderer, but was actually dealing with a disguised priest of Maleskari, a god of undeath.

Convinced by this crooked cleric that he needed to sacrifice something of himself to gain the power to accomplish his task, Al-Djamal agreed to have his hand severed. The ritual took place in secret and the priest allowed Al-Djamal to bleed to death, imprisoning his spirit into his severed hand. Al-Djamal got his wish, he was now powerful enough to do something about the grave robbing.

The priest then snuck the hand into the museum setting it loose behind an exhibit and left the scene.

It is this powerful, angry spirit that is animating the mummies. It can also fight if need be, but by remaining hidden and casting spells, the situation will be confusing for the characters trying to deal with it.

On the next night after the party combats the mummies another museum employee is slain and Valnek comes to them for more help. If questioned he admits he had the mummies reconstructed to prepare for display, (if they could be) and they struck again.

The hand of Al-Djamal can animate corpses into undead, including previously defeated undead that are in some sense whole. 

This curator hires the characters to spend the night in the museum and of course a fight ensues.

Once the party identifies their real foe it becomes possible to put an end to the problem, but until then the hand will continue attacking and killing if able to do so.

You'll have to design the hand to work within your preferred game system.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Thursday Knights

More Eberron.

The next morning Ennark again performed a Divination, this time asking a direct question "Where is Tira Miron?" Again the answer was cryptic, but seemed contrary to the first:

Tira Miron is long dead. Her body consumed as the flame fed. Her soul was merged with the blinding light. Her rage endures from her final fight.

Ennark is almost certain these two divinations are at a\odds with one another. Perhaps the nature of the Silver Flame explains this incongruity.

Further travel led to multiple encounters with gnolls. The first was an ambush by small pack of them on foot, led by one larger one with a glaive. They proved to be only a minor threat and were all slain.

The second encounter was to the party's advantage when our owl scout detected a group approaching from the rear, slowly gaining ground. We were in a mountainous region and were able to set an ambush of our own from concealment on higher ground at a narrowing of the road. Once the pack was within easy range, Cotton fired on the leading member. Ennark got to employ his divine fireball, burning almost the entire pack to cinders. A'lan then charged and slew another while the rest of the party put an end to their tall leader.

We camped for the night on that hidden ridgeline and set out the next morning, wary of additional gnolls since we had not yet encountered any on mounts.

Later on our travels as we neared the highest point of the mountain pass the party approached a bridge crossing a high ravine with steep rocky sides. Again our scout alerted us to the rapid approach of mounted gnolls. Sending the animals and our collected relics across to the other side of the bridge, the party prepared to defend ourselves by creating a blockade at a narrow part of the road.

Ennark had a plan in mind for how to handle this pack of powerful enemies. A'lan took the forward position as he is best qualified to handle the physical combat. Ennark was directly behind him to make use of his divine powers in close formation. Cotton, Eldrid, and Anton held further back to make use of ranged capabilities.

Ennark called upon a Guardian of Faith placing the glowing Angelic avatar 10 feet ahead of A'lan. He then cast Spirit Guardian to occupy the space 15' all around him. These small angelic beings armed with spears, swords and bows would ravage any and all enemies within the radius. 

The first of the riding gnolls burst into the range of the Guardian Angel avatar and it struck them each with its great sword injuring them before it vanished. The ones closest to A'lan suffered harm from the swarming Spirit Guardians and the efforts of the party from range asand in direct combat. Half of them quickly fell with some tumbling into the ravine, 80' below the cliffside road.

The leaders and remaining common mounted gnolls then approached, cutting down any of their own that attempted to flee the battle. The leaders were very odd. One gnoll wore a human face and bore a triple headed flail. Another was human, clad head to toe in metal armor, the face shaped to imitate a gnoll. She was mounted on a strange beats, a giant wolf with the tail of a scorpian.

Ennark loosed his holy fireball at them doing great damage. More of the more common gnolls and their mounts were killed. The human masked gnoll managed to leap past A'lan to engage Ennark toe to toe, suffering the attacks of the Spirit Guardians. Before Ennark could call upon Radiance of the Dawn, the triple headed flail dropped him to the ground, dying.

Cotton's quick thinking saved him due to the application of a healing potion and Ennark rose. The Spirit Guardians had vanished when Ennark had lost consciousness, but he could focus to blast the powerful gnoll with three rays of holy fire. Only one struck true dealing minor burns. Then again he was felled by the triple headed flail. 

More gnolls were slain by A'lan and the others before only the two powerful leaders remained. The ranged party members and Cotton, face to face fought the gnoll while A'lan took the fight to the metal clad human and her weird mount. Eventually they too were slain and Cotton again poured a potion into Ennark, bringing him back to awareness and saving his life.

After the fight they gathered what they could from their enemies, the armor, and weapons chief among the loot. Ennark too special care with the flail. He was certain it was an artifact, the very weapon weilded by the demon lord Yeenoghu, as he could sense the evil pulsing within it. Carefully he wrapped it telling his companions that this could not be left to fall into anyone's hands and needed to be destroyed.

They continued their journey, returning to Storm Reach, unmolested, one month later.

Have a Hot Cup of Something

Time for more shameless self promotion. The blog's Zazzle store has these mugs and some other things for sale. Follow this link to see what's available. If you like something order it. Thanks!*     <----- Link

Below are the designs on three other mugs. Pardon the duplication of images. The banner design mug image copied fine, but the rest came out, well, not as mugs.

There are cards with these images, you can send to folks for whatever reason or to invite them to a special game session. 

Also there are a banner pin and a banner magnet available.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Thursday Knights


Before breaking camp and starting the return journey, Ennark performed a Divination asking "Where is the blood of Tira Miron?" The reply was cryptic: 

A famous woman nobody knows. The blood fills her veins, but does not flow. She lives today, but does not draw breath. Though she is no child of cold undeath.

This puzzled Ennark. This seemed to rule out having to find descendants of the paladin martyr. It also fit with some of the holy lore that she had returned as an immortal. What it did not do was give him any clue where to find her.

During the next several days journey we discovered we were being followed by gnolls, including some mounted on large hyena-like mounts. They often witnessed our combat capabilities.

One one occasion the party fought off an ambush by a pack of gricks led by an aloha of the species. Most of them were killed, while the employment of fire as a weapon drove off the alpha and one remaining younger grick.

On another day the party found a source of fresh water and decided to refill waterskins. Approaching the water hole triggered an ambush by two hungry bulettes. When these were dispatched, we spotted a gnoll on the ridgeline watching. As it retreated, Cotton had his owl familiar follow which is when we learned about the mounted gnolls.

The party then made camp inside a defensible cave by the spring.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Legerdemain - Dungeon Magazine 39

If you need an adventure focused on a theatre in Ptolus, this is a good one. 

There are three theatres described in the setting, but there's plenty of reason for having a fourth. That fourth can be Legerdemain. 

Complete with a colorful troupe of stand-out personalities the DM should feel encouraged to play up, the scenario holds potential for all sorts of shenanigans.

The theatre owner approaches the PCs because he thinks his director is planning to assassinate someone during the upcoming play. He wants them to work as stage hands while investigating the matter. This means they can't be armed, armored, or wearing anything that might give away that they are anything other than laborers. He's right, there is an assassination plot, but it's not the target he imagines.

In the course of the mystery, the characters will learn that the director is being extorted to set the play up for a deadly conclusion, but even he doesn't know the target, but he knows who the villain is and tells them. 

Unfortunately they've been overheard and the party becomes the target of an ambush by the villains hired goons. During the skirmish it is quite possible both sides capture members of the other, leading to a potential hostage swap.

The writer of the adventure has grand visions about back and forth combats that can take place during the play with everyone running about the theatre madly while the show goes on. We DMs know all about the best laid plans, but it is certainly worth the effort to see if you can make that happen.

If the party succeeds, one of them becomes the center of attention for a fickle actress.

And all of this takes place with the party mostly disarmed.

The biggest drawback for me is all of the ink used describing the layout of the theatre. The writer could have minimized the details to just a little more than what is expected to be used in the course of events. There's some conversion work to be done, but it doesn't have to be extensive.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

New Magic Item/Monster - Strangler's Belt (OSR and 5E friendly)

Embuk stared at the third consecutive murder victim in as many days. All had been strangled to death, all with the pattern of a belt, but a different one in each instance. They were each missing their belt. "Odd," he thought. "Why would the murderer take their belts?"

Magic Item/Monster: Strangler's Belt

The magic item is sentient. Its only desire is to strangle it's owner and move on to find a new one. It is detectable as evil. After every third killing the murdering belt goes dormant during which time it is likely to have traveled some distance before needing to slay again.

Immediately after strangling its owner in their sleep, the belt slithers away, finding another belt wearer, absorbing their belt and taking its appearance.

DM's can treat this as an animated magic item, a golem, or anything in between to determine its stats should characters discover and try to destroy it. The belt will always fight back.

Give it advantage or magic resistance on saves against magic to make it tougher for higher level characters.

Experienced earned should be appropriate to the CR or monster level chosen, along with a bonus for figuring out the mystery.


Saturday, November 5, 2022

Dwarven Forge Kickstarter: Cities Untold, splitting it in two

Word now is that the Cities Untold Kickstarter became too complex for its own good and is being split into two Kickstarters a year apart.

The upcoming part (Low Town - wood) is still scheduled for January 15th 2023. The other (High Town - ashlar) part will happen some time in 2024.

Apparently there are number of other projects in the works including a board game collaboration with a large company (not sure who). Other things mentioned include Catacombs, Sewers, etc.

We will have to wait and see just what effect this will have on pledges.

Friday, November 4, 2022

Asflag's Unintentional Emporium - Dungeon Magazine 36

Here's one where a careless wizard gets snatched away by something he summoned and now things from his abode are getting out and causing trouble.

In Ptolus, summoned extraplanar creatures like demons and devils, cannot return to their home plane since the world in which Ptolus is located happens to be a prison plane. The adventure wasn't written for Ptolus of course, so the DM needs to figure out where the wizard went and if he's still alive. Maybe he was taken to the Dark Reliquary to be tortured and killed.

Meanwhile, the authorities are looking to hire some delvers to go in and put a stop to the troubles that are coming out. A successful mission will earn the party 2,000 gold pieces.

There are other interested parties that want something from the place as well. Three different magic users each try to arrange secret meetings with the party (somehow they each learned that the party got the job) to discuss what they each want.

The first is interested in acquiring anything in the way of magic that will help see or hear over distances. He offers 1,000 gold just for searching and bringing these things out. Negotiation of the price is a separate discussion.

The second wants the wizards flying carpet and offers 2,000 gold for it. She can be negotiated upward, but not too much higher.

The third is a bit of a jerk. He wants to know when the place is safe to move into and wants everything on the property to remain. His offer begins at 5,000 gold and can go as high as 7,000 gold. If rebuffed he will attack and run off.

The wizard's estate is larger than just a tower, though it does have one. His garden and abode are well defended by all sorts of traps and creatures. That includes some zombie gardeners which the city would be quite upset about if they knew. 

Placement of the estate could be anywhere, but it feels like it would work best in Midtown, maybe along Vanish Row near the river.

If the party thinks this would make a good place to make into a home and headquarters they'll need to go through all sorts of official hurdles and spend some serious money to make that a legal reality. The jerk wizard would also challenge their efforts to gain the deed, assuming he's still alive.

Plenty of fun to be had with this scenario.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

New (Plot Device) Monster: The Graven Tongue (Updated for 5e)

"Three miles deep, by seventeen northeast, by two miles west. That's where Tharsella said we would find her alleged oracle." Fiddry remarked.

"This cavern alone could be a mile or more across, and a hundred feet floor to ceiling. It could be anywhere in here Fiddry." Loren remarked, peering as far into the darkness as her vision would permit.

Murnon moved ahead, trying to portray confidence while shuddering slightly beneath his heavy armor. "Hope we find this thing and get what we want soon. I feel mighty uncomfortable, like something is watching."

That's when Rejjet screamed and their gnome guide Underfoot fell unconscious.

A great, moist thing, dark and warty brushed among the group physically, and something worse. Their minds reeled as if assaulted by the unknowable intruding on each person's sense of being.

Fiddry couldn't move as if frozen in his tracks. "RUN!" his mind yelled, nearly drowned out by the babbling cascading within his head in eons of lost languages. Ideas, flashed in warped, unreal imagery, through Loren's eyes. She cried tears of blood and covered them with her hands as if pleading for the agony of sight to end. And end it did as her vision left her. Murnon, writhing about upon the floor of the cavern was screaming about the worms he felt sure were devouring him from within.

It seemed like hours before their nausea passed, and they could make even the slightest sense of what had transpired. All felt as if some part of their essence had been taken from them or violated horribly. None of them dared speak of the things lingering in their minds. It would be a week before they began to guess at what the oracle meant, and longer before they gained an inkling about their role in the prophesy.

New Monster: The Graven Tongue
The Graven Tongue is thought to be an ancient flesh construct left behind by foul beings beyond understanding, though it may in truth really be a tasting organ protruding into this reality from a being beyond the world.

The tongue is a flesh construct 135 feet long and varies in thickness from 1 foot at the tip to 90 feet at the base with tendrils like veins stretching further from the base and into the cavern ceiling.  It has a mottled coloration including tones of purple, black, ochre, blood red, and flesh, with indecipherable runes carved into the slimy surface. A spell that allows understanding some of the runes will cause those reading them to suffer 4d6 psychic damage (half with DC18 Charisma saving throw) and a level of exhaustion.

The Graven Tongue hangs down from ceiling, reaching out to "taste" creatures passing within its sensory range, detecting them by their life or mental essence. Anyone touched directly by the appendage suffers a level of exhaustion in addition to the other affects. In the process of tasting creatures, they are slammed with incredible volumes of information, most of which they cannot possibly comprehend initially, but gradually some information may become clear enough to be acted upon, rightly or wrongly.

Encountering the Graven Tongue causes a one time 8d6 psychic damage to all within 40 feet, DC18 Charisma save for half. Creatures are also afflicted with at least one condition determined randomly, no save. Conditions persist until magically cured by Lesser or Greater Restoration, or more powerful magic. Returning to the Graven Tongue on future occasions will result in experiencing the damage and conditions again.

Charisma saves instead of Wisdom saves because it is affecting the creatures sense of being or self.

Random Condition Table (roll a D20)

1 - Blinded
2 - Charmed (DM should determine the meaning of this for their plot)
3 - Deafened
4 - Frightened
5 - Grappled (the tongue spends a round enjoying some flavor, creature suffers an extra 2d4 psychic damage)
6 - Incapacitated
7 - Invisible - (creature is straddling the line between worlds for one round)
8 - Paralyzed
9 - Petrified (creature is merged with the nature of another plane, turned to an element or combination useful for the plot)
10 - Poisoned
11 - Prone
12 - Restrained (the Beyond holds fast to the creature, as if studying it, for one round)
13 - Stunned
14 - Unconscious
15 - Roll twice combining conditions if possible
16 - Roll twice combining conditions if possible
17 - Roll until determining a condition, creature takes extra 2d6 psychic damage
18 - Roll until determining a condition, creature takes extra 2d8 psychic damage
19 - Roll until determining two conditions, combining them if possible, and creature takes extra 2d4 psychic damage
20 - Roll three times for conditions, combine them if possible and creature takes an extra 4d4 psychic damage.

The Graven Tongue does not engage in actual combat. If damaged by attacks causing a total of 25 points, it withdraws from the world on the following round.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

And a Dozen Eggs - Dungeon Magazine 30

The more of these Dungeon Magazine adventures I read, the more I realize that unregulated wizards are a public menace. It's no wonder the trope for them is the lone wizard tower out in the wilderness. It makes sense when you consider some of the problems caused by their experimentation. This scenario is no exception.

Originally written for Waterdeep, it works just as well in Ptolus.

A wizard hired some adventurers to acquire some dinosaur (or other monster) eggs to be used for alchemical experimentation. Things went awry and they hatched while unattended, escaping into the sewers of course.

This would really be best suited to happen on Dweomer Street since it is known in the Ptolus setting that lots of magical and alchemical run-off ends up in the sewers there. Of course that would account for how unnaturally fast these critters grow in the course of the adventure.

The wizard whose problem this is offers rewards for recovery (more if they're alive).

It is important to keep track of time passing while these critters are running about causing problems in the sewer system. Aside from the other things already down there these would be considered invasive predators, and the bigger they get the more problems they cause.

At some point in the adventure the dinosaurs attack some workers, killing and injuring a number of them. That's when the System Monitors (the Ptolus group that clears clogs and repairs damage to the sewers) tack on an additional reward for their removal dead or alive.

A party pursuing the rewards may consider trying to get copies of the sewer layout, but these are not available to anyone that isn't involved with city management or a System Monitor. It might be possible to buy a suspect copy from someone, but it is almost a given that it is completely inaccurate.

The System Monitors will offer to provide a guide for the party for a price per day, a share of treasure, and the reward offered by the guild will not be available since a Monitor was present. Guides will stay in the largest passages and if abandoned by the party the guide will exit the sewer immediately and no further guides will be made available.

While there are 12 critters to start with, over time that number will be reduced by encounters with other sewer inhabitants, other bounty hunters catching or killing some of them, and System Monitors also downing one.

Some set-piece encounters are included in the module to help break up the monotony of hunting the same looking sewer section over and over, in addition to random encounters. 

One in particular set-piece stood out to me, it involves saving the lives of some amateur delvers that found a dinosaur and now regret it. The role-playing potential here makes things interesting.

Another event involves being approached by a man claiming to know where one of the beasts is located right then. Turns out he's a wererat looking to lure the PCs into a trap so he and his ratling associates can have some fresh meat for dinner.

The action in this module can be split up to run concurrent with other activities in the campaign.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Thursday knights

Eberron. Even more.

The party stowed the mules and treasures within the cave and ventured further into the ruins. Up a rise that overlooked the entirety of the ancient structures, they picked their way step by step toward the cubic building at the peak. 

It was there that they were stopped in their tracks by the appearance of a foe from the recent past. The dragon had been waiting here for their potential arrival. There was nothing to do, but try to find cover  though it would do them little good, but the dragon didn't attack.

A'lan had dragon blood in his veins and hints of scales on his skin. He stood forth and addressed the dragon in the draconic tongue. " We are not your enemies."

A conversation began with A'lan translating for the group. The dragon asked which of the party was the seeker. After a brief hesitation Ennark spoke up and it was translated back to the dragon.

The dragon explained that the seeker could enter the building and retrieve only one thing that they would know when they saw it. That there was a prophesy involving the seeker that foretold doom for everyone as the most likely outcome and that the dragon had guarded this place from those that would free the prisoner within.

Ennark was deeply concerned though determined to do his best to fulfill the mission given to him by the church, to seek out religious artifacts and relics that may aid in purifying the Silver Flame and lock away the demon lords forever. In he went.

Meanwhile the dragon ate his companions . . . just kidding.

There was a well in the center of the lower chamber within which flickered silver fire. to the left an image of a giant stood atop a plinth. Ahead was the king of dragons upon a similar plinth. To the right was a great stone book. He first approached the giant. It looked at him briefly then returned to ignoring him. The dragon king however conversed with him once asked a question. 

It was revealed that what would be needed to solve the problem presented in the prophecy is the blood of the paladin Tira Miron who had sacrificed herself to seal away the lead demon lord and end the war. What that would entail was left to be seen and Ennark temporarily put the thought aside. His next task was to examine the great tome.

The book opened at his approach and as he reached for the stone pages an image flickered to life above showing a vague map with a red marker and a word or phrase beneath it in another language. He surmised that the marker indicated where he was on the continent. He gestured as if to turn the page and the book did so, revealing a different location on an unknown continent, again with a red marker and another word beneath it. He was about to start copying the information to his journal when the tome closed and shrank to a carriable size. With heavy stone book in hand he returned to the outside, nervous, but accepting his fate at the will of the dragon. 

"Have I chosen correctly?" The dragon was uncertain and asked Ennark what he had seen in the well. Ennark described the changes in the light, first brightening, then darkening, and finally returning to its initial state. The dragon shuddered in fear. After recovering its composure the dragon stated it was now free to return home, and flew away leaving them all to decide the next course of action.

With the help of the party members skilled in the language of the giants, Ennark deduced that the names were those of the trapped demon lords and the book a map to their individual prisons. He dubbed the tome "The Book of Cages".

It was getting late in the day and the party decided the best thing was to return to the cave to rest before leaving for the journey back to Storm Reach the next morning. If only it had been so easy.

As they made their way out of the central ruins, spirits taking the form of flaming skulls arose and pursued them. The fight saw the bombardment of the party with blasts of fire, some against individuals, some covering areas where multiple party members were taking cover. Defeating the closest of these enemies, the party entered a full and rapid retreat eventually leaving the spirits to their business within the heart of the ancient city.

Once safely away, Ennark turned his mind to the riddle of the blood. Could it mean literal blood from her veins? Or maybe it refers to her descendants. How would he know? The morning would call for a Divination ritual to ask a question and hope the answer wouldn't be tainted by the dark element of the flame.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Ex Libris - Dungeon Magazine 29

Ex Libris is an adventure I did convert and use in my original Ptolus campaign. 

My second group had unwittingly been pursuing clues that were leading them to one of the many hidden lairs of Kagrisos the Ghost-Lich. I had hidden this one within the Mirror Maze and to pass through a portal in a mirror the party members had to be corrupted in some small fashion.

The party consisted of a Paladin of Lothian, a wizard, and a rogue. They had concurrently been helping the Order of Saint Dayra deal with some drug dealers in the Warrens that were turning poor children into drug mules. That's when it hit them that drugs would count as corruption.

Their bold plan was to go to the dealers whose operations they were disrupting to get their hands on some Shivvel. That's right, a wizard and a Paladin of Lothian bought some drugs and got themselves addicted, to get into an evil monster's secret lair. Surprisingly the rogue opted out of the drugs, but it was because his suspicion was correct that he had recently contracted lycanthropy from a cursed sword.

I placed the ruined building from the adventure within a pocket dimension on a lone island in a shallow sea and no indication of where the light was coming from, at least that's the way it was described to the players.

Within the ruins are a temple that are the abode of some undead, including some Huecuva (disgraced or fallen priests that are now cursed undead).The ground level also holds other things including a swarm of crawling claws. These Huecuva had a chance to kill a magically held paladin, but opted to try and shake his faith. (one of us! one of us!) The party got lucky.

Below ground is a multi-room library in which the rooms continually shift locations in relation to each other. See the starting configuration below. The campaign unfortunately ended before the party got to the shifting library.

As the party explores the library level they will have to find clues to get them out and in doing so will unleash monsters including different colored Abishai and trigger traps on some other books. 

In the center of the magazine is a two page pull-out (remove staples carefully) that you can then cut apart and use to display rooms as they move around.

The end goal of course is to escape from the place with some valuable books, and my campaign, a clue that Kagrisos might not have been permanently defeated.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Nine-Tenths of the Law - Dungeon Magazine 26

Twenty years ago the Ptolus City Watch backed up by some heavy hitters, assaulted a law breaking wizard in his lair outside the city. It was believed that he died, and to be certain the Watch burned his body. Flash forward to the present.

This miscreant used the spell Magic Jar to escape permanent death. A group of delvers hoping to find and loot whatever treasures were left behind, broke in and found the wizard's vault. It was guarded by a golem and while a battle raged, the wizard, hidden nearby in the gem used for the spell, jumped into a member of the party taking over.

The wizard, now in a fighter's body, wakes up without memory of what happened after swapping from the gem into the body. The fighter's companions left him outside the city with a note explaining that he is a werewolf.

Things progress with the wizard gathering more of his hidden treasure and trying to get cured of lycanthropy while also preparing for revenge on the city and the officials responsible for the raid on his lair.

In the course of things the party gets hired by the priest that was trying to cure the lycanthropy when the werewolf broke free, killed a couple temple slaves, and took off. The priest wants him captured so he can remove the curse. There's a reward of course. 

Note: The priest and his temple own slaves. In Ptolus owning slaves is legal. Buying and Selling them is illegal. Mistreatment of slaves is illegal. Kidnapping is illegal. This may be an issue for some characters. There are slavers in the city that PCs can take their anger out on.

Our evil wizard is also looking for his now missing gem which has the fighter's soul in it, and finds out it has been placed in a museum and is about to go on display. He fails his first attempt and the PCs get alerted that he's after something in the museum. The idea is that they'll confront him there, and who doesn't like a good fight in a museum.

Adding a museum to Ptolus is a great idea even if it's a strange one. This one comes complete with some very weird displays, which you can certainly add to, and the glowing gem the miscreant is trying to steal. It is unlikely for this side-show of a museum to be in Oldtown, so I suggest either Midtown or North Market.

Eventually it is possible that the wizard, either cured of lycanthropy or not, gets away and the party has to track him to his new lair beneath the Warrens. A lair complete with sewage, alligators, a rolling trap, and things the wizard conjured forth from a bag of magic beans. 

Being fond of combining interesting hazards with monsters, the Brown Mold combined with an Ice Lizard suits my tastes for something to challenge the player characters. (For those unfamiliar, Brown Mold sucks in heat and makes the surrounding area cold enough to cause damage to things that aren't resistant to extreme cold. Bringing stuff like torches that give off a lot of heat makes the mold grow, getting more dangerous.)

Oh, yeah, the adventure writer seems to think it's a good idea for the wizard to unleash a lightning bolt from a wand in a cramped, small lair. That'll end well for everyone!

There you have it. Nothing special, but interesting enough for a mention.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Thursday Knights


The party entered the ethereal stairway to ascend into the lobby of the library tower, accompanied by one of the nothic librarians. It was a good thing because the giantess curator was about to rain ruin upon our heads for violating the prohibition against entering the observatories without permission. The librarian explained that we had saved the library from a demon infestation, cleared the advanced research lab and closed the portal to the home world of the demons. This won her grudging acceptance.

Entering the next ethereal stair they returned to the entry chamber of the large pyramid and from there exited into the desert. They then prepaired to camp and Ennark gathered and fed the mules. We had spent a couple of days within the library and the animals were starving and parched.

The librarians had granted each of us information on a topic of our choosing before we departed. Visions had been displayed for all of us to see. Ennark's knowledge request showed him the nearby area which included the ruins atop hills half a day away that may hold the prison of one of the many defeated demon lords of ancient times. He very much wanted to seek relics from the site to bring back to the church. The next morning the party set out for the ruins.

On the night before setting out, some flickering lights were noticed amid the distant ruins. Ennark took this as indicating the location of the prison, protected by a silver flame, When daylight came they could no longer see the lights.

After half a day of travel into the hills they reached their objective. The ruins were comprised of low lying rubble that may be the foundations of buildings. Nearby was a huge cave mouth, 30' tall by 25' wide. Speculation about the cave being a dragons lair was quickly put aside. The mules were behaving normally and there were no indications of anything residing at the site.

Entering the cave they were greeted by the sight of 6 stone sarcophagi on large stone plinths, three to each side of a wide aisle leading to a pair of enormous doors. One of the graves had been slightly disturbed, having its lid ajar. After casting light into the sarcophagus they were able to see an accumulation of dust, likely the long decayed remains of the buried individual, accompanied by a spear, a bow, a helmet, and suit of scale mail armor of ancient design, all in excellent condition. They noticed also, a broken set of manacles, and scratches in the stone that seemed to indicate a live burial of an unwilling person.

Collecting the grave goods, the group moved to the next grave, forcing open the seal. Inside was a similar scene and items, except this one showed no signs of struggle to escape. It was then that the doors at the far end opened and two 20' tall undead giants bearing huge morning-stars emerged.

The battle was joined with each party member seeking the best position from which to fight. A'lan posted himself forward to engage the creatures as they came at the group. Cotton sought a hiding place from which he could attack by surprise. Anton fell back to a place of cover from which he would employ his hand crossbow with which he was deadly. Eldrid stood atop a plinth and drew her longbow, and Ennark placed himself in the middle from which he could employ most of his spells effectively.

Proving themselves to be very effective against foes when coordinating their capabilities. Ennark displayed his latest divinely granted power, unleashing a ball of silver fire that engulfed the giant abominations. The others assaulted first one and then the other giant. The fight went well, with only A'lan suffering injury before the undead were destroyed. 

Finishing the job of looting the 6 stone coffins presented them with 6 magic spears, 6 magic bows, and 6 sets of ancient non-magical armor which Anton collected into the bag of holding he carried. They then proceeded into the chamber beyond the doors. There they found an incredible sight. Centered in the cathedral-like chamber was a 30' long stone sepulcher.

All around the room were painted scenes of what they assumed to be the interred giant. A search revealed the giant's name, and a hidden compartment within which Cotton identified to be a magical trap. He was hesitant to attempt disarming it until with a prayer of divine guidance, he succeeded. 

The monumental task of moving the tomb's lid fell to their combined might and with a struggle it eventually moved aside enough for them to get inside. Within was a large pile of dust, several rings the size of bracelets, a crown large enough to encircle two people with room to spare, and a great mask the size of a dining room table which weighed 600lbs.

Recovering the items from the coffin proved difficult, but eventually it was achieved. The rings joined the previous items in the bag of holding and the spears were withdrawn to build a litter for the mules to pull, to move the crown and mask.