Thursday, June 30, 2022

Thursday Knights

 Eberron continues.

The party had freed the grey dwarves from their Drow slavers and were making way toward the shoreline where the ship was waiting. Not far behind and gaining on the group were two ettins and three hell hounds.

The dwarves were sent rushing ahead where they discovered a bat fluttering around in the daylight stalking their movements. We never did discover who's familiar it was. The adventurers acted as a screen to the rear.

Eventually those pursuing caught up and battle commenced. After some initial difficulty the party vanquished the foes.

After getting everyone back to Stormreach, the dwarves were quartered in the Silver Flame temple compound where the high priest excitedly asked questions about their history on Xendrik. 

The question of finding the missing wizard is still an unresolved matter, but there are no good leads and no inclination by the party members to whom it matters to seek divinatory methods to locate the spell caster.

It was then decided among the party that the ship's crew would be sent on another beer delivery/sales run to Three Barrel Cove while the party ventures deep into the continent searching for the prison of the demon lords. The high priest has asked Ennark to look for a way to cleanse the Silver Flame of the demonic influence.

That is where things left off.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Prop Dusting - Dungeons & Dragons Dice Tower Demon Idol

Gamestop has the exclusive rights to sell the Dungeons & Dragons Dice Tower. This wonderful object is an interpretation of the Dave Trampier cover art from the 1st edition Player's Handbook. While not exact, it gets the message across in fine style. 

The flames in the bowl held by the demon are a translucent acrylic and can be illuminated by the internal LED lights. The top of the head is removable so you can drop dice into it that will then roll out below. 

Personally I don't make use of dice towers since they take up valuable table space. Why then did I buy this? This will be dungeon terrain for a set-piece battle. Will there be lizard men present for the PCs to fight? Yes. I expect they will put up a valiant resistance before succumbing to the mighty adventurers. I want to do the 1e PHB cover justice in play if at all possible. The Idol will then be relegated to decoration on my desk, overlooking my keyboard and the ever growing pile of rulebooks and supplements beside it. Oh, and it was on sale the day I ordered it.

The dice tower is the right size to sit on top of a circular Dwarven Forge room, just over 8" across. The opening at the bottom of the tower where dice would spill out will serve as an inviting portal to some mysterious space beneath the looming idol. It is my plan to use it just that way, lifting it off of the terrain below when the characters descend the stairs beyond the opening.

Here then for comparison are the dice tower and the book cover that inspired it.

Friday, June 24, 2022

The Matchmakers - Dungeon Magazine 7

Here we have a twisted plot by a rich merchant to gain even more wealth and to ruin two other merchant families by setting them at each other's throats in open conflict. With some work, it definitely fits into a Ptolus campaign.

The party would encounter the scoundrel in the story being vastly outnumbered by gang members (it doesn't say, but he likely hired them himself), and in a fight for his life down a side ally, probably near or on Tavern Row. The well-off young man is injured (he has to make it look convincing) and needs help. Assuming the player characters come to his aid, the gang will quickly find themselves outmatched and run off. 

The beneficiary of their rescue effort offers to reward them with drinks and dinner at a fine restaurant where after a little time he mentions an offer to hire their help with a friend's problem. His friend is also a merchant and is in love with the daughter of another well heeled merchant. The daughter loves him back and wishes for them to be together, but her family won't hear of it, instead planning to marry her off to someone she despises. The wedding is due in a couple of days.

The job then is to kidnap the girl before she can be married off and bring her to a specific park to wed his friend. You can figure out which park in the city to use or even make one up. He makes a generous offer of money, bolstered with the offer to get them whatever supplies, documents, uniforms, or other items they may need for their plan. If asked, you can have him explain he'll more than make his money back from a lifetime of business deals with his friend.

If accepted, he provides the PCs with the target's physical description and her typical schedule at home (he has inside contacts), and that she frequently goes shopping in South Market at upscale shops in the afternoons.

She is not aware of the plan and if asked who sent them, tell her the boyfriend's name so that she'll remain calm. The party is to bring her to the park an hour before midnight of the day she was to be wed.

If played right this will all sound to be on the up and up. There are other possible hitches in this story. Her cousin happens to be in town at the right time and place to be kidnaped in her stead. The details in the adventure explain how this occurrence throws a monkey-wrench into the plan, possibly exposing some deception afoot.

Of course the scoundrel has planned to murder the young lady and frame his "friend" for the deed. 

The districts most likely used here include the Guildsman District, South Market, and Midtown. The thought was to use The Mane as the park, but it is the home of most of the city's Litorian population leaving a bunch of witnesses.  Something closer to the Guildsman District would serve better. 

As this is a heist operation, listening to the players plan how their characters will do it should be enjoyable for the DM.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Modifying and Re-skinning a Monster in 5th Edition D&D (Bone Devil to Xenomorph)

Let's play around a bit with making a monster using the framework of one that already exists in the Monster Manual. For this one we'll go from a devil to a sci-fi horror.

We'll use the CR9 Bone Devil as our base for the creature. You can find it on page 71 of the 5e Monster Manual if you want to reference the critter while reading the conversion.

Our goal is to transform the base creature into a Xenomorph from the Alien/Aliens movie franchise. It's a surprisingly easy conversion.

Working our way down the stat block:

Alien Xenomorph

Large monstrosity (xenomorph), neutral (scary, but they seem to just be doing their natural thing)

Armor Class and Hit Points can remain the same.

Speed is good at 40' on the ground. Remove the flight speed. Our alien doesn't fly. Add a Climbing speed of 20' since these beasties can climb well, but not too fast.

Ability Scores can be left alone unless you want to fiddle with them. We know the xenomorph isn't just a dumb brute, just an overconfident one, with some cunning and a very intimidating presence and not prone to fear.

Saving Throws need to swap from a mental set to physical set. Since the Bone Devil has a +4 Proficiency Bonus that makes the saves STR +8, DEX +7, and CON +8.

Skills change to Stealth +7 and Acrobatics +7.

Damage Resistances remain the same with one exception, silvered weapons should be taken away.

Damage Immunities is a quick swap. Remove fire and replace it with acid.

Condition Immunities add fear.

Senses remain the same.

Languages can be whatever you want, perhaps sticking with Infernal. Drop telepathy.

Challenge Rating should be reduced to 8 (3,900 xp) since our scary xenomorph is actually less dangerous than the Bone Devil. You might decide to keep it CR9 if you believe adding Acid Blood and Degrade Weapon makes up the difference.

Remove Devil's Sight and Magic Resistance.

Acid Blood: When struck by slashing or piercing weapons in melee combat, the Xenomorph's blood does 2d4 acid splash damage to the attacking creature. The creature makes a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw taking half damage on a success.

Degrade Weapon: Any non-magical weapon that causes slashing or piercing damage to the Xenomorph corrodes. After dealing damage, the weapon takes a permanent and cumulative -1 penalty to damage rolls. If its penalty drops to -5, the weapon is destroyed. Non-magical ammunition is destroyed after dealing damage.


Multiattack. The alien makes three attacks, one with claw, one with bite, and one with tail spike.

Claw. Melee weapon attack +8 to hit, one target. Hit: 1d8+4 slashing damage. Remove the 10' reach.

Bite. (Add this one in to represent the iconic bite of the alien). Melee weapon attack +7 to hit (using dex), one target. Hit: 1d4+3 piercing damage and the target must succeed on a DC14 Constitution saving throw or become paralyzed for 1 minute. The target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.

Tail Spike. Melee weapon attack +8 to hit, one target. Hit: 2d8+4 piercing damage and the target must succeed on a DC 14 Dexterity  saving throw or be knocked prone. (Take away the poison and replace with knocking the target prone to better fit the creature).

And there you have it, one very nasty sci-fi monster ready to terrorize your PCs and their players.

I bought a box of Xenomorph miniatures just to use this modified/re-skinned creature in my campaign. That encounter is still a long way off, but will undoubtedly have the players on edge since they're much more familiar with the alien than the bone devil. (Ptolus, Banewarrens, Osyluth Pods, for those that know).

Monday, June 20, 2022

Happy 11th Birthday to the blog.

I'm amazed this blog even exists after giving up on it for the last three years. Returning to my campaign after Covid had derailed it, was the motivation to dive back in and start writing posts again. Here's hoping the blog continues to thrive, and here's wishing everyone good gaming in the years ahead.

Happy 11th Birthday The Dice Are A Lie

Friday, June 17, 2022

Nightshade - Dungeon Magazine 7

Nightshade is a brief adventure in issue 7 of Dungeon Magazine. The scenario is so brief that it could be completed in a session or less, and will fit neatly alongside other activities a party might get up to in a Ptolus campaign.

It begins as what seems like a simple fetch quest when a well dressed individual asks the PCs to run an errand for him. He should likely approach someone that appears trustworthy such as a cleric, or if the party has made a name for themselves, anyone in the group might work. He indicates that he needs medicine picked up from a wizard/alchemist to aid a friend of his, and that he has an important meeting to attend that is keeping him from the errand. He offers to pay for their time.

This fellow has a secret that his enemies know and are going to try to interfere with the delivery of the "medicine". They've hired some muscle to handle that for them.

If the party agrees to the simple task they'll find the wizard's abode in the North Market down a side alley. Wizards can be anywhere in the city, though the well known places for them include Vock Row and Dweomer Street. I like how the location is described in the adventure so North Market it will be.

This particular wizard has a problem he can't control. He is cursed with massive mood swings. Negotiating with the wizard should be entertaining and at no time will he actually resort to violence except for self defense.

On the return trip the assassin, his competent fighter companion, and their 5 low powered goons (maybe some gang members, Pale Dogs perhaps) will attempt to get the party to turn over the potion.

It's pretty simple, but what makes it interesting is what the wider implications are in a setting like Ptolus.

This well dressed, somewhat foppish fellow is a ladies man of the love-them leave-them type and he has seduced the innocent daughter of a Noble House that would likely do horrible things to him if the secret got out. She of course is anxious to go public with their affair because she is smitten and believes they'll marry. He wants to prevent that without harming her so he commissioned a potion of amnesia.

As you can see, this scenario opens up plenty of opportunities to expand the story and involve the party in all sorts of intrigue where the nobility are concerned.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

It's Getting Muggy in Here.

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.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

The Monsters Are Smarter Than You

There is a blog written by Keith Ammann, author of The Monsters Know What They're Doing, MOAR! Monsters Know What They're Doing, and Live to Tell the Tale that can be found at this address:  <----- Link

I have the first two books by Keith and recommend them to any DM. The information within is written based on 5th edition D&D, but the ideas can easily be applied to any edition when thinking about how to use adversaries in combat. 

The Monsters Know What They're Doing is focused on creatures and NPCs from the 5e Monster Manual. MOAR! Monsters Know What They're Doing deals more with creatures and NPCs from supplements like Volo's Guide to Monsters and Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes.

I do not yet own a copy of Live to Tell the Tail. That book is geared toward helping the players handle their characters more efficiently in combat and I expect it could prove useful when playing with a DM informed by the previous two tomes.

The books are not printed on fancy paper or heavily illustrated. They are thick works with large type (thank you Keith from all of us grognards with declining vision) and sturdy hard covers. The information within both Monsters books sticks mostly to conveying the thought provoking tactics and techniques a creature likely will apply in a fight against adventurers.

Monsters and NPCs should not cleave to the ideas offered slavishly, but should instead modify their tactics based on terrain and the situation. It can't hurt your story if foes are not at their optimal state for every circumstance, sometimes the environment and/or the timing is terrible for them. However, having the player characters face foes in their element will turn what players might expect to be a cake-walk into a memorable battle and might even force an occasional retreat!

Without a doubt these guides will give a DM the tools to make combat more interesting and exciting, and most of us would agree, that is a good thing.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Starting Another Campaign Group

After discussion with a couple of friends in other states, I have decided to run a remote campaign. 

On the rare occasion all groups play in a given week I will be busy with running two groups and playing in a third. That kind of conjunction will be fairly rare for all sorts of reasons. 

My Saturday group runs into reasons to cancel quite often. The latest hiatus has been brought on by COVID spreading among the players, more than half of which live under the same roof.

Our Thursday remote play Eberron group has a variable schedule adjusted for real life issues, but tends to be fairly regular.

The new group is still hashing out when to play, and deciding if we should start with just three of us or go ahead and extend invitations to others right away. Determining our play day and time will directly influence that decision.

There's also the consideration of using the Ptolus setting for the third group or just doing an ongoing dungeon crawl. I would like to do Ptolus and I have plenty of resources for it or Dungeon crawling.

Here's a picture of some old Master Maze from Dwarven Forge along with some of their newer LED pieces.

Friday, June 10, 2022

A Sickness is Upon Us - game session cancelled due to illness. UPDATE: It's COVID

My brother came down with a nasty sinus infection and since we play at his place the session had to be cancelled. We'll be back to playing eventually, but in the meantime I'll be posting other Ptolus related subjects which Ptolus DM's might find useful.

UPDATE: It's Covid. It's spreading among my play group. We won't be gaming for a while.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Thursday Knights

Another Eberron session in the books.

Picking up from last session, the party had walked out of a portal right into a fight with a bunch of Drow. One was a spell caster, two were heavily armored with nasty longswords, the other half-dozen were not as powerful, but no less threatening.

We managed to catch the closest one off guard and between a couple of us, took him down immediately. The remainder were almost the death of the party. 

The fight went pretty badly with a fireball cooking most of the party. The two armored goons with the special longswords were making hash of everyone they attacked and continued attacks from the spell caster nearly took down the entire party. At one point at least two, maybe three members were out of the fight, including the healers. 

It's a good thing we had healing potions.

Eventually we managed to eliminate the last of them and collected some treasure.

We got a magic flametongue longsword, gauntlets of ogre power that Ennark now wears, three suits of flametouched armor (one scale, two plate), a nice flametouch, non-magic longsword, a fancy whip, and a metal circlet inset with bloodstones. We also came away with a few sacks of some special, rare basalt typically only found on the elemental plane of fire, where we were.

We accomplished the mission of rescuing the grey dwarves and now we're rested and on our way back to our ship.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Prop Dusting - Wizards of the Coast Monster Cards

Another recent purchase for the game was all of the Monster Cards produced by Wizards of the Coast for D&D 5e.

These have already come in very handy. If you plan out the majority of your encounters in advance you can have the cards ready at the table and avoid having to flip through the large Monster Manual in front of you when trying to manage the game. For my own use, I have a Vault X 4 pocket binder to take the selected cards for the session to the table. I can have everything I need behind the DM screen and still have extra space which did not happen with the Monster Manual in the way.

For storage I went with the Forged Dice Co Curiosities Cache Monster Card & Spell Card Organizer Binder with Pages (Mimic Edition). At the time I bought them the Mimic Edition was on sale for $10 less than the plain unadorned cover version. I bought four of them. I'm still sorting and alphabetizing the cards into the binders, but this makes locating what you want easier without spilling a pile of cards. The binders come with two types of pockets, normal for the regular sized cards and a two pocket version for the larger cards.

The one drawback is the Epic Monster cards. These things are huge, which is necessary to hold all the relevant information, but it does make it a requirement to use a single page of the two pocket type to hold a single card. Did I mention the Epic cards are huge?

The cards and the Forged Dice Binders are costly, but not prohibitively so. For the ease and convenience they provide I feel the investment is worth it.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Campaign Diary - The Moon Cave

Location - The Moon Cave, 10 miles northeast of the town. Little Plains, a town halfway between Ptolus, Slune, and almost equidistant from Dorhinthas in the south of the empire.

Party in Play

Rae - Elf. Fighter 1/ Wizard 4.  One of the original members of the party that originated in the town of Little Plains. She is somewhat of a strategist and creative tactician always looking for an edge when the situation gets dicey.

Wulfe - Elf. Fighter 1/ Wizard 4. Originally from a small town north of Ptolus near the Moonsilver Forest, he wandered westward to satisfy his curiosity about the frontier areas of the empire. Joining the group early in their adventuring career he has been a steadfast companion and effective in any dangerous situation. He wields Cheval, a Faery forged longsword known for occasional bursts of radiant energy.

Korved - Human. Cleric 4. An itinerant priest, he arrived in Little Plains hoping to come to grips with his recent experiences. He had joined the Gaen faith at a young age and over time found his thinking more in line with her masculine aspect Hannan. The non-violent and amicable split in the church was his signal to explore the world.

Sparky - Human. Fighter 4. She's a force to be reckoned with in a toe to toe fight. Recent life as a sword for hire had led to some less than respectable jobs and little in the way of pay. Joining an adventuring group seemed a wise choice.

Celestia - Elf. Fighter 1/ Wizard 2. A bold and confident adventurer, she puts forward an unfearful countenance. A recent addition to the group Celestia is making herself at home as if she were there all along despite lacking the experience of the other members.

Jill - Human. Fighter 3. A sell sword by trade, she has recently been down on her luck and in need of work. Hired to deliver a bag of coins to this group she ended up joining as a means of escaping from the butt end of the empire. Capable with sword and bow Jill is a good fit for the team.

Jackalope - Human. Fighter 3. A stranger in Little Plains that arrived about the time the wolf attacks began. Staying at the Brown Dog, Jackalope approached the party after overhearing their intent to go north. Volunteering additional information about the wolf problem, the party agreed that an extra sword arm might be in order.

Having had the curse of lycanthropy lifted from both Elena and her son Deek, the party began discussing what to do about Klayn the werewolf and his remaining pack of wolves. The party considered splitting up with some going northeast and some remaining behind to stand guard, but that was quickly ruled out. The decision was made to go in force and to take Deek and Widow Penik along.

Two notes were left behind so that anyone coming out to check on them would know of their plans and to come rescue them should something go wrong.

The first note read "Headed NE to Moon Cave to eliminate the rest of the wolf pack. If we do not return by Earthday please take this envelope to Tabish at the Temple of Aldinach. Deek is with us."

Within the envelope was a bracelet worth 150 gold pieces and this additional note "Our party of 9 headed NE to the Moon Cave. If you are reading this, we may need your help. Please instruct the Silver Blades to 'capture, not kill'. Enclosed is a payment for your help."

Everything settled, they set out with their small army of skeletons in tow. Their five hour journey was calm and uninterrupted. 

Finding themselves outside the Moon Cave, by a fast flowing stream they made their way carefully along the bank and over a large fallen log across the water. It was now that they could see through the trees and vegetation the grand elven ruins and a tall glowing crystal monolith. The elves in the party realized they were entering a scared site.

Crashing to the ground, no longer animate, nine of the undead ceased to be anything other than disconnected bone fragments. Wulfe quickly returned across the log bridge and ordered the remainder to back away from the glade and await orders. He then cast Levitation on one and waded through the stream pulling it with him like a child might do with a balloon. It wouldn't be long before he re-entered the protected area and the tenth skeleton crashed to the ground.

Making their way through dense foliage and fallen columns, the party edged nearer the cave mouth from which the stream flowed. Korved took up a position that allowed him to see a short distance into the cave thanks to light emanating from a source within. 

Korved spoke up. "Klayn! We know you're in there. We've come to talk."

At first some growling of the wolves within the cave could be heard, and eventually Klayn himself replied. "Well, what are you here to talk about?"

"We can remove your curse", Korved explained, "We can give you your old life back."

Klayn paused. "What if I don't want my old life back? What then?"

The party were taking up vantage points closer to the entrance as the exchange continued.

"Come out and we'll talk about it peacefully."

"I'm not coming out there. You put your weapons down and come in here. Then we can talk peacefully."

"We're not putting down our weapons."

"Fine, then you put down that damned sword of yours."

Korved realized that not having spoken to Klayn the previous night it was not his voice that got him recognized as bearing the magic sword, so the werewolf must have line of sight to him. Korved changed the subject. "Alena Penik and her son Deek are here."

"Where's the rest of her family that we came for?"

This confused and worried Korved who had no knowledge of Widow Penik's other children. He wondered if there might be more werewolves to worry about. Turning to Alana, "Other family? Are they werewolves?"

Aggravated by what she saw as a stupid conclusion, Alena snapped at the cleric, "My daughters, Sroka and Clelia, and no, numbnuts."

While discussion continued Celestia grew bored with the inaction of her companions. Putting down her weapons she waded into the rushing water and entered the Moon Cave. "I'm coming in, unarmed." Secreted behind her back was a silver tipped arrow, and she was confident that she could use her magic to defend herself if confronted.

Flabbergasted, the group hesitated, fearing for their obviously deranged young elf friend. She continued inward, allowing herself to become aware of her surroundings. Two wolves were not far away, one behind the other tall crystal monolith inside, and another about 40 feet to her right.

"Who are you?" Klayn asked.

"I'm Celestia, I came to talk. My friends are a bunch of chickens. They are outside armed for a fight. I want to settle things without violence." The elf moved sideways to her left along a shelf of rocks, keeping her back to the cave wall. 

"That's an elf name. I've never met a crazy elf. Until today." Klayn moved to where he had a good view of the intruder. Taking up a longbow, he knocked a magic arrow and took aim, muttering "Pincushion."

The remainder of the team waded into the cave mouth intent on protecting their companion and taking the fight to the werewolf and his pack. The pack began growling loudly.

Klayn smiled as he loosed the enspelled arrow. Shattering on the stone beside Celestia's head, the arrow delivered its spell cargo. Hundreds of dimly glowing red needles covered Celestia, head to toe.

Terrain is a combination of Dwarven Forge, Paizo Flipmats, and a water tile made by a source in France whose name I have forgotten. Oh, and a big rock provided by my niece,

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Thursday Knights

Eberron continues.

After defeating the fire elemental the party regrouped and agreed to track down where it came from to try and prevent any more from coming out. We kind of ended up creating a situation where many more fire creatures could come through.

Following foot tracks deeper into the ruins we found a wall that had been dug through and beyond that a cavern room with an arch. Approaching the arch we determined it to be a portal. We found that fire activated the portal.

As a group we ventured through to the other side and found ourselves in a Drow controlled outpost in the elemental plane of fire. With some exploration and the quick slaying of some guards it was discovered that there were prisoners being held and forced to work in a mine beyond another portal.

We freed all of the prisoners that we were aware of and are heading back out. This is when we encountered a bunch of Drow waiting for us. They are between us and where we need to go, which is going to be very bad, for them.

Roll initiative - till next time.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Prop Dusting - Wizards of the Coast Spell Cards

I recently acquired a bunch of the arcane and cleric spell cards produced by Wizards of the Coast for D&D 5e. Along with those I picked up a number of smaller 4 pocket page, side loading binders from Vault X, to use as spell books/prayer books for the players in my campaign.

It is very early into use, but it appears to be a handy resource to have at the table. Instead of leafing through the Players Handbook to find their spell information, their individual known spells are conveniently at their fingertips. 

Also bought was the deck containing spells from Xanathar's Guide to Everything. Those spells will be trickled into play when discovered as scrolls or when sought from other spellcasters.

Some reviews on Amazon have noted that there may be some spells missing from the deck. I have not taken the time to sit down and go through to verify this for myself, but from a quick flip through the cards I believe that is a misunderstanding. I suspect that the "missing spells" are in other decks like the Ranger, and Warlock specific decks for example.

Though the cards are expensive when you need to buy multiples to have a deck for each spellcaster in your group (when you have a large group like I do), they could very well prove worthwhile. The binders are surprisingly affordable for as nice as they are and have plenty of space.

If the players were to buy their own decks it would relieve the DM of the cost, but this was my idea and we do have casualties resulting in changes to the classes of characters in play meaning it is more efficient for me to buy the decks and keep them available for the group. Fortunately I have a filing cabinet to store a bunch of gaming stuff like these cards.