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.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

New Monster - Parchment Guardian (Updated to 5E)

The original OSR version was published on April 23rd, 2012.  Yes, I'm digging deep for some of these updates.

Parchment Guardians were created to ward document archives and libraries from unwanted intrusion. Formed of loosely gathered scrolls, the spindles acting as the skeleton, they tumble off shelves and lunge unsteadily after intruders.

Parchment Guardian

Medium construct, unaligned

Armor Class 12

Hit Points  11 2d8+2

Speed 30'

Ability Scores:  STR 10 (0)  DEX 14 (+2)  CON 12 (+1)  INT 3 (-4)  WIS 10 (0)  CHR 3 (-4)

Damage Vulnerabilities: fire

Damage Resistances: bludgeoning, slashing and piercing attacks from non-magical weapons that aren't adamantine.

Damage Immunities: poison, psychic

Condition Immunities: charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned

Senses: blindsight 30', passive perception 10

Challenge Rating 1/4

False Appearance while the Parchment Guardian remains unmoving it is indistinguishable from a pile of ordinary scrolls.

Immutable Form the Parchment Guardian is not affected by any spell or magic that would alter its form

Magic Weapons the Parchment Guardian's attacks are magical

Multiattack. The Parchment Guardian makes 2 claw attacks.

Claw. Melee weapon attack +4 to hit, reach 5', one target. Hit: 1d6+2 slashing damage.

Envelope. Reaction. If set on fire the Parchment Guardian immediately attempts to wrap itself around the nearest creature, moving up to 30' to accomplish this task. The target must make a DC12 Dexterity saving throw. On a failed roll the target creature becomes enveloped sharing its space with the Parchment Guardian and having the restrained condition. All fire damage done to the Parchment Guardian is also done to the enveloped creature.

Lightning Glyph. Reaction. Parchment Guardians are inscribed with a glyph granting the ability to use the Shocking Grasp spell as a reaction when struck with a melee weapon (Recharge 4-6).

Monday, October 10, 2022

Blog Monetization Update (2) - Brother Can You Spare A Click?

Since the last update earlier this year, things have happened. Two people each clicked on an advertisement and the blog earned a whopping .27 cents! Woohoo! Um, yeah.

So at the time of the previous update the blog had earned $8.88 from the start of monetization in 2015. The accumulated earnings are now $9.15. This is still far from the $100 dollars needed for an automatic payout. (I could claim it, but why not wait to see how long it takes.)

What this means is not really anything of significance, however, if everyone that reads a post would click an ad (and then presumably clear their cookies to get the bad taste out of their browser), the blog might make enough money through the rest of this year to allow me to buy TWO cups of big chain coffee.

Of course I would love to bring in enough from the blog to help defray the costs of my Dwarven Forge addiction, but that would likely require courting controversy which I am loath to consider.

So PLEASE everyone, click an add when you read an article and hopefully soon I can get the earnings into the double digit dollar range.

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Dwarven Forge Cities Untold Kickstarter - Launch Date

 It looks like the plan is to launch the Kickstarter on January 15th, 2023. Of course plans can change with this much time to go.

Friday, October 7, 2022

Thunder Under Needlespire - Dungeon Magazine 24

Ok, Ptolus DMs, do you want an apocalyptic battle against a very powerful Galchut deep below the Spire?


Thunder Under Needlespire just might be that adventure. The name is coincidental, but maybe it's an omen that this needs to be reworked to match your preferred game edition and run as a possible campaign turning point. In the original write-up the AD&D levels are for 8 to 12 with the main villain being 20HD and you'll be ambushed by a Drow wizard and a summoned demon at the same time you encounter the thing.

Screaming to be adapted into a higher level fracus, the module takes place deep in the caverns where Svirfneblin (deep gnomes) approach the characters for help with what the gnomes believe is a few Illithid causing earthquakes. It turns out the Illithid want help with the real cause of the problem, a Galchut about to break free of a cyst and in the process destroying vast areas and civilizations beneath Ptolus. Oh, it would also wreck the city and maybe topple the spire.

Characters begin thinking it's a few mind flayers and a handful of their servants to take care of and end up discovering an Illithid outpost with 3 dozen of them, plus dozens of servants, a Drow advisor, and a Beholder ally. The potential for an "oh, shit" moment exists when finding yourself surrounded by a bunch of brain eaters and a beholder.

Fortunately the tentacle-faced creeps don't want a fight, they want someone to accomplish what they are unable to do which is to destroy the thing causing the earthquakes. They know what is at stake. The Galchut is immune or extremely resistant to their mental powers, reflecting their attacks back at the Illithid. They need muscle of the type the party can bring to bear.

On the way to fight the big bad monster the party gets followed by a Drow out to make a name for herself. She too knows what's at stake and thinks by making sure it happens she'll earn a place at Gorgoth-Lol's (Lolth) side. When the party enters the lair of the Galchut, she summons a demon and attacks the party. (In the Ptolus setting Gorgoth-Lol is one of the Vested of the Galchut)

After the party defeats her, the demon, and then the big bad monster (assuming they manage to do so), their guide sent by the Illithid, surprise attacks them per her master's orders. She's a wererat wizard supplementing her own magic with some powerful scrolls she's saving to unleash on the party.

You could certainly expand this into a longer, more involved mini-campaign. Other under-dark, under-deep, whatever you call it, races could play a part along the way.

There's a lot of conversion work to make it ready to play, but Thunder Under Needlespire might be worth the effort.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Thursday Knights

Nothic librarians, thank you gifts, astral observations, githyanki

This will be a brief set of notes.

The party returned to the library where thy were met by 8 nothics dressed in yellow robes (the librarians the giantess told us about. They thanked the part for ridding the library, lab,  and observatories of demons. Then they gave us choices of magic items as gifts.

One nothic went with us when we went into the Astral Observatory and aided us when we messed with things in an ill-advised manner, nearly getting possessed or trapped on other planes.

Then a Githyanki spelljammer ship arrived and the nothic bolted. All of us followed suit (if it ran, then maybe we should too). A'lan stayed behind to try communicating with them, but they attacked, so he eventually followed the rest of the party.

Sorry for not giving this the detailed treatment it deserves. Been busy, and also lacked motivation to put in proper effort.

Handling Random Encounters - Limiting the Randomness

Some Dungeon Masters dislike using random encounters and that is understandable for a number of reasons. 

They take time away from exploration and slow the party's approach to the planned set-piece encounters the DM wants to run (i.e. the cool stuff). 

This one is a preference and shouldn't be ignored. If you don't want to allow random encounters, don't. If you're not running an old school style of game where exploration matters then random encounters won't fit most occasions, but don't rule them out completely.

They require opening books to get the stats for the monsters, and digging out minis (for those who use them). 

When preparing for the game, make sure to decide what creatures might be wandering around in your location or dungeon. Write down the stats for those creatures and have them and the minis for them on hand during play so getting them onto the table is quickly accomplished, Have hit points predetermined and briefly note a two or three round plan of action for those creatures. Limit the number of possible creature types that can be encountered.

They take focus away in a game run more for story. 

Give thought ahead of time about how a random encounter might fit the situation in the scenario. Not all random encounters have to actually be random. Maybe the bad guys are looking for the PCs or expecting trouble. If the leader of the enemy is actively out to get the characters, then this is part of the story. You can key a "random" encounter into the map effectively making it a set piece encounter and then use a random roll to see which of your limited types of monsters show up. You can even pre-roll the critters in advance.

They might not make sense in the location's ecology.

The party has just run into a group of Hobgoblins in the dungeon where nothing else has indicated their presence. Nothing has been disturbed, no traps triggered, no signs of looted rooms, no other dead creatures, etc. They could be exploring the dungeon just like the player characters, but you need to know where they came in and adjust the areas they passed through accordingly. Or maybe they're an illusion. Maybe they are hired mercenaries tasked with patrolling the dungeon. You can of course change the random table included in an adventure to make more sense.

Optionally the random encounter might not be monsters. Maybe it's a sound, smell, taste, touch, or sight event. This helps make things interesting without dragging out a time consuming battle.

Whatever the case may be for not liking random encounters, at least give a little thought to including encounters that seem random or are at least slightly random.

Plan your so-called random encounters ahead of time. Decide when and where they can happen in the event the PCs are making too much noise or taking too much time. Roll dice behind the screen if you use one, ignore the roll, and just plop down your "random" encounter and play.

A random encounter doesn't necessarily mean combat. Sometimes characters or the monsters might want to talk. This is an opportunity to provide info about the dungeon or even mislead the adventurers into heading for one of your cool set-piece encounter areas.

The point here is that you can build encounters into your scenarios and make them seem random, or even include a little bit of randomness, all without slowing yourself down too much. By determining what situations call for a possible encounter and ignoring the time keeping aspect, you eliminate most of the problems random encounters can cause.

Of course if you're running Undermountain then all random encounters make sense.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Dwarven Forge Cities Untold Kickstarter - Yuck

Recently the folks at Dwarven Forge showed off more prototypes which are of course subject to change.

Here's a picture they provided and my thoughts on what it shows.

The building on the right is their Ashlar Stone design. The design itself is nice. The paint scheme however, is terrible. This is supposed to represent the higher class section of the city, but it looks like a much filthier version of the Tudor building colors.(Below)

Recommendation: Change the colors to not blend in with the Tudor buildings. Maybe go with an off-white, pale gray, light gray combo. It'll make it seem to be a higher quality stone and set it apart from mid and low town buildings.

The wooden building to the left would look better if the corner posts and floor matched much more closely to the walls, while still giving a slight difference.

The sea walls look terrible. I know these are prototypes, and they're probably trying to portray salt covered areas and wet areas, but presently, yuck. It looks more like a decaying sea wall. If it's meant to do so then they need to make some ruined sections crumbling into the sea.

The cobblestone design needs a re-do. I grew up by a port city with old sections having cobblestone streets. Cobblestones were used as ballast in ships to help maintain balance and reduce the chance of a cargo shift capsizing the ship. They would be loaded into the depths of the hold and during travel would rub and wear against one another. Cobblestones should not have sharp points or sharp edges. I'm biased by the ones I grew up around so maybe somewhere there could be sharp pointy stuff, but I dislike this look.

The miniatures shown do not appeal to me. I'll reserve my thoughts on these until I see more detailed images and what else they have in store.

The sea water terrain tray images look like stormy weather. Will the opposite sides be calmer?

And now a good thing. The window inserts look great. Stained glass and other designs will be available and they are talking about providing templates to help in making your own designs. There's also likely to be a magnetic picture frame you can put stuff in and hang on your building inside walls.

While I want to support the Kickstarter when it launches, the negatives so far have me hesitating. At least a lot of other people are asking for a clocktower like I am.