Friday, July 29, 2022

Going Once, Going Twice . . . - Dungeon Magazine 13

If you need or want to have an auction in your Ptolus game to pry a little cash from the characters or to introduce something into the game, some of that work has already been handled for you as far back as Dungeon Magazine issue 13.

A retiring wizard has offered up a bunch of stuff to be auctioned off, raising funds for charity. All his really good stuff was taken care of separately. The money raised from the items in this auction is to be divided between orphanages maybe in North Market, soup kitchens like Saint Dayra's near the Warrens, etc.

The auction is taking place in a large warehouse which could be on the edge of the Katterwood neighborhood of Midtown, and is run by a halfling and his adopted half-orc daughter. Stereotype? Maybe? She likes the finer things, dresses well, wears make-up well, etc. Sure she's her father's body guard, but she could easily become a PCs love interest.

The adopted daughter was picked on and bullied a lot as a kid (it says so in the adventure). She's been taught how to handle it. Her close friends and co-workers will pipe up if someone tries it now, but how would she act if a PC was presumptuous enough to come to her defense? Could she see it as an insult implying she can't take care of herself? 

There's really not a connected adventure here, just an auction with possible jumping off ideas. Maybe someone wants to steal the funds. Perhaps someone of importance is in attendance and an attempt is made on their life. Will there be other arcane spellcasters there? Most likely, and who steps in to break up a bunch of rowdy wizards? Plenty of potential for hooks.

A possibility that presents itself would be introducing an item of your own, with its own hooks, especially if it doesn't belong in the auction and doesn't belong to the wizard. How'd it get there? Who introduced it and why?

Of the items in the auction that caught my eye as having potential to make a DM work a little harder, but not be game breaking are the Location Tags. Attach them to something and if you need to find it call out the name of the item (example used was slippers). The 1" square tag then chirps like a cricket until found and the word Ah-Ha! is exclaimed. They can serve as a less effective version of Locate Object.

Each item in the auction has a listed starting bid price and there's a percentile roll mechanic that can be used to see how bidding proceeds. You can of course make up your own method.

There's one very expensive 5,000 gold piece painting that has something to do with a Noble House, perhaps Abbercombe, which is a defunct house. Lord Zavere of Castle Shard might be very interested in this particular item.

In some campaigns having too much loot in PC hands can act as a demotivator. Here's another way to drain a little gold without it feeling like unfair DM fiat. Players often enjoy the shopping aspect in the game, especially when it deals with magic, and auctions are a competitive way to shop. Competition drives action.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Thursday Knights

More Eberron.

When last we left off the party had made its way through the mountains to the high desert and had multiple monstrous encounters. 

We found a destroyed camp with bones scattered haphazardly about, having been picked over and dragged around by scavengers. Arrows littered the area (we would understand why later) and equipment was everywhere.

This time we worked our way through the desert sleeping till about noon and walking longer after dark, setting camp around 2 in the morning. It wasn't long, approaching dawn, that we were strafed by a brass dragon using its line of fire breath. 

The dragon made repeated flyby breath attacks doing heavy damage to party members with little in return from us. When the sun broke the horizon the dragon flew off and did not return that day. We could only assume it preferred the advantage of fighting in the darkness.

The dragon's color was identified when Ennark used a charge from his Gem of Brightness to try and blind it (failing of course). 

The next day we found the ruin the previous party of explorers were headed to. There was a large pyramidal structure likely built for or by giants, and three out-buildings. Each outbuilding had three circles on the floor, and different artwork on the walls. 

In the larger structure we found writing between two non-descript statues, The writing, despite being likely in giantish, was readable in each characters primary language. It told us that the keys to the tomb could be acquired by going into the three tombs of the servants, performing tasks and then returning with the keys.

There were three large gold amulets, sized more for giants than us, which we took with us into one of the out-buildings. Three of us with these disks stood in the three circles and the entire party was teleported into another location.

Statues lined the walls each looking at the ceiling with a look of terror on their faces while a larger 7th one sat at the far end of the room. There were puzzles or riddles written at the base of each of the 6 fearful statues that we needed to solve. When we got one wrong the angry cloud of energy at the peak of the ceiling increased in intensity.

The party quickly solved three riddles, but the first puzzle attempted was a failure. We're uncertain how to approach it and the remaining two beside that one.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Prop Dusting - Icons of the Realms The Tower

Another big purchase recently is the Wizkids Icons of the Realms The Tower. It's one of those colossal terrain sets that look impressive as a play space on your gaming table. At a size of 30 x 5.3 x 24 inches, it will take center stage.

The Tower has three levels, each 100mm tall leaving height for your miniatures to stand up and not look larger than the room. The levels are separate pieces needing assembly, and once together can be stacked up to construct the full tower. Floors are heavy cardstock and are removable. 

If you don't care for the fitted plastic trays the pieces are in when it arrives you can always ditch those trays and have a ton of area within the box for the tower (with levels assembled, but not stacked) and gobs of other things.

There is more interior floor space in this tower than in the larger of the Dwarven Forge Castle towers. While Dwarven Forge pieces to expand the tower can be purchased as separate levels, to make this one taller than three levels, you need to buy more complete sets since only the middle floor can be used to stack a higher tower.

This one also has the drawback of cost. It comes in at about $250 suggested retail unless you happen to catch it on sale in which case you can sometimes find it at just a buck or two below $200. 

Have fun storming the castle!

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Thursday Knights

 Eberron continues.

After pricing what it would take to hire a second ship for our expedition, it was decided to instead sell the beer contract to our acquaintance Captain Paul for 500 gold and use our own ship for the journey. It made sense from a cost benefit perspective.

Fully stocked and prepared we set sail and arrived uneventfully. Then our journey inland began.

Over the course of our travels so far we have fended off 2 hill giants,  Withstood an attempt at kidnapping by what we suspect to have been jackalweres, skirted past a hydra in a swamp, survived a dangerous cliffside charm attempt by harpies hidden in fog, and finally drove off a mass attack by 5 giant scorpions that nearly ended the journey.


Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Magic Item: Blindfold of Seeking (Updated for 5e)

 "I know the door is here somewhere", Rillek grumbled.

"Maybe this will help", offered Embuk, passing a blindfold to his companion. 

Rillek stared at the offering, "Very funny, Embuk, quite the joke."

Looking wounded Embuk coughed "Just try, the blindfold helps locate concealed things".

Taking the blindfold Rillek put it on and almost immediately gasped when he spotted the door behind the tall portrait of the Count. "Maybe he's hiding back here".

The Blindfold of Seeking provides advantage on perception rolls to spot concealed and secret doors for up to one minute. When worn nothing else can be seen.  The blindfold has 3 charges and regains 1 charge every day at dawn.  Using all charges in a 24 hour period requires the roll of a d20 and on a 1 the blindfold loses all magical properties. Rarity: uncommon, character level 1st or higher, value 101 to 500 gold pieces.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Vorpal Board

Just signed up for Vorpal Board virtual table top. The plan is to use this to run my new campaign group through adventures using the live streaming features and my Dwarven Forge terrain. 

Drawbacks to other VTTs include the amount of time it takes to artistically design maps and other materials to import, or to find some that are close enough to what you want, especially for homebrewed campaigns. That isn't as big a problem when dealing with published campaigns that make their maps compatible with whatever Virtual Table Top you are using, assuming you use one they make their stuff compatible with. 

Vorpal Board overcomes that issue by using your phone camera to display maps or terrain. Users of detailed terrain will be pleased that they can continue to use it and their miniatures even when the game is being played remotely. 

So far, during our testing it was discovered that players can upload things to the viewing area. This needs to be changed to let the host toggle that ability on or off to avoid having unrelated or unwelcome material tossed up on the screen. With limited screen real-estate, limiting crowding is important.

Also the host needs to be able to mute individual players. Someone like me with hearing loss might want to focus on an individual for a moment to make sure I don't miss something important. Also, if a player starts piping in distracting sounds it can be muted for however long is necessary. 

One feature that works great for playing board games is the ability for players to flip over face down cards on the screen. This is problematic for role-playing however since the DM may be keeping prepared elements concealed to prevent spoilers. A toggle off/on option is needed.

While those items might seem to indicate negative aspects, they really aren't a big issue when dealing with friendly and reasonable adults. Hopefully your game group fall into that category.

Something that is a big issue for me is the Mouse-Wheel Mayhem. Vorpal Board unfortunately allows anyone to use their mouse wheel to resize the screen. This would be fine if it only affect the individual user's screen, but no, it affects EVERYONE'S screen. This causes the images on the screen to also be displaced requiring you to arrange them again. Pain in the ass.

Don't let these issues dissuade you from giving Vorpal Board a try. The creators are working to address a lot of the things brought to their attention and I will absolutely be bringing these to their attention.

That said, I look forward to getting going with my new campaign using Vorpal Board.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Magic Item - Dauerzustand (5e)

Dauerzustand is a long sword of Law with a special purpose to slay shape changers/shifters. Forged long ago by unknown forces of Law it excels at its preferred task.

At its most basic Dauerzustand is +1 to attack and damage rolls. When wielded against creatures able to change shape, such as were-creatures, doppelgangers, vampires, mimics, etc, it performs beyond the bounds of any mortal conceived weapon, at +4 to attack and damage rolls.

In the hands of an attuned wielder of 5th level, the sword may use Thunderous Smite once per short rest.

When the bonded user attains 8th level the sword's intelligence awakens and it begins to influence the wielder. Dauerzustand has the following stats: Intelligence 12 (+1), Wisdom 14 (+2), Charisma 16 (+3). For a Charisma conflict challenge its DC is 15. The sword has normal senses out to 60 feet. It communicates to the user through telepathy.

Upon the user reaching 9th level Dauerzustand grants the casting of Dispel Magic as if cast from a 5th level spell slot once per long rest.

At 12th level Dauerzustand gains the ability to try to turn shape shifting/changing creatures to stone (as a Medusa) on a critical hit (Constitution save DC of 11 plus the proficiency bonus of the wielder). It also grants the user Advantage on saving throws to avoid being shape changed.

From level 17, the sword becomes able to cast Hold Monster as if cast from a 9th level spell slot with a Wisdom saving throw DC of 11 plus the wielder's proficiency bonus. Maximum of 5 creatures.

The sword views all shape change as a breach of the law of form. Even someone voluntarily using Alter Self or Polymorph will attract Dauerzustand's ire. It does not react this way to illusions, only to actual physical morphing.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Thursday Knights

 More of the Eberron campaign.

The party had reached the temple and Cotton was met there by one of the captains among the Bilge Rats gang. She invited him to come see a strange performance, during which they would talk some business. He accepted the invitation which would turn into a date and an overnight stay at her place.

That night the remainder of the party met with Jerion to have him perform a divination in order to determine if the Bilge Rats had wererats among them, notably the leader. The replies clarified that, no, they aren't wererats.

The next morning after Cotton had returned and everyone had finished breakfast, Jerion lead the group to a well appointed explorers club of sorts where there was an offer made to fund an expedition to the location we were planning to go. That lead to a new contract concurrent with our own goals.

The party still had business to attend to. We would be escorting Thad and the grey dwarves to a jumping off point where they would be lead south for a job. Along the way we made another beer run to Three Barrel Cove which lead to a very lucrative new contract for beer. Then we escorted the dwarves and ended up discovering Eldrid's missing brother Heinrick.

Since our ship will be tied up making weekly beer runs to the Cove, we are stuck with the task of sourcing a second ship to get us where we are heading.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Prop Dusting - Icons of the Realms Falling Star Ship

A recent obsession with water going craft of various sizes led to a big purchase. The Icons of the Realms Falling Star ship, unpainted version.

Unpainted version.

This thing is bigger than I expected and very well suited to miniature battles on the deck and in the provided lower decks cardstock tiles. The masts are removable for ease of access when moving minis around the deck where there is plenty of playable space. 

Cardstock tiles representing the lower decks can be placed on your table either alongside the ship or separately. 

The unpainted version can readily be given a nice paintjob in any design you like, but be prepared to have enough of your chosen colors on hand because this thing is big, was that already mentioned? Like all of the Nolzur's miniatures it comes pre-primed making it paintable directly out of the box, but you may want to dust it off anyway before starting.

Paints made for painting miniatures often come in half ounce bottles or those very spillable pots (we're looking at you Nuln Oil) and can get costly. A less costly alternative might be the inexpensive acrylic craft paints from certain big box stores, but be sure to thin them with water and/or some kind of flow improver so that you preserve the details.

Both the unpainted and painted versions are fine for play as-is if you don't wish to paint them.

The sails are actually cloth bundled up. It is not recommended to unfurl the sails because they may not be designed to function that way.

This beast is (per the online store) 17. 2" Tall, 33" Long, and 6. 4" Wide (12. 6" Wide at the masts!).

Falling Star (give it whatever name you want) will make for an impressive encounter site on your game table. 

A drawback is the price. Typically the unpainted version runs about $150 while the painted version is approximately $250. Why so expensive? While not privy to the costs involved, it seems the price could easily be half that much and profits would still be generous.

Painted version.

Friday, July 8, 2022

Campaign Diary - We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties, Please Stand By . . . AGAIN!

It seems inevitable that we find ourselves burdened with Real Life (TM) issues that cause a delay or extended stoppage in the campaign. Again we have hit another one of these annoyances.

 As always I'll try to post fill-in articles with at least a little relevance to Ptolus, on the Fridays where a game session write-up would normally be published.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Dungeon Vignette - Deep Purple

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

Deep Purple

The characters will find their way down into the caverns and discover a small underground lake. The entire cavern is obscured, not by fog, but by smoke above the water's surface. The water is dark and very still. It is silent in the area and any noises echo.

It is not obvious where the smoke originates. There are actually two sources. Close to the lake center is a tiny island on which rests an open chest. Within the chest is an Eversmoking Bottle with the top off. That accounts for the heavily obscured 120' radius. The second source originates further back in the cavern on the far side of the lake.

The 120' radius area around the bottle is heavily obscured causing the blindness condition. The DM is encouraged to randomly determine whether each 10' area beyond the bottle's 120' radius is lightly or heavily obscured.

A fumarole has opened in the cavern wall, spewing toxic smoke into the area of the lake. The fumes require a DC15 Constitution saving throw every 10 minutes. Failure results in those affected accruing a level of exhaustion. Cumulative exhaustion may lead to character death.

There are two small rowboats tied to rocks along the lake shore. player characters can use these to paddle out into the lake. 

The smoke makes it possible for the boats to get separated. The DM is encouraged to roll randomly for course changes (left 45 degrees, right 45 degrees, or directly ahead) when a boat is in a heavily obscured area. (perhaps use a d8 with 1-2 left, 3-6 ahead, 7-8 right) Lightly obscured areas allow for course correction.

There should also be an encounter once the characters reach the island. Some denizen of the lake with blindsight, aim for a medium challenging encounter, takes umbrage at trespassing. The encounter is made more difficult because of the obscuring smoke, the risk of possibly fighting in the water, and any levels of accumulated exhaustion.

Whatever McGuffin the party is seeking should also be on the island. Locate Object seems like a great spell to prepare for this situation. Make the trip worth the trouble.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Magic Item - Cheval (5e)

Cheval is a long sword created by elves working with the Seelie Court of the Fey. The purpose being to provide an agent of the Court the ability to stand against agents of the Unseelie Court in battle when necessary. 

Over time, in the hands of a a bonded (attuned) user it will reveal more capabilities.

At its most basic, Cheval is +2 to attack rolls and damage rolls. On a critical hit the weapon inflicts additional radiant energy damage to the target. (user levels 1 to 4 = +1d6; user levels 5 to 9 = +2d6; user levels 10 to 14 = +3d6; user levels 15 to 19 = +4d6; user level 20 = +5d6)

When a user reaches 5th level the sword will glow as the light cantrip at will and when on Elven sacred ground. It also gains the ability once per long rest to dispel magical darkness in a 30' radius.

Upon reaching 11th level the attuned user gains an additional use of Second Wind, or one use if the user does not already possess that ability.

A bonded user of 17th level may use Cheval to cast Sunburst once per long rest.