Hello Winter

So, the clocks went back last night (or this morning, depending on your sleep patterns). As a result, anyone listing their activities in terms of GMT is now accurate for the next six months. So there’s that. I definitely needed that extra hour as our Pirates D&D game went on a bit later than planned – with a Halloween Beetlejuice-inspired caper.

Spooky is as spooky does

Oh, how we laughed. Well, more like screamed imprecations at the players who summoned him before finishing the containment bindings, but it did make for a fun and chaotic battle through a dollhouse.

The players learned that there was a reason I’d been grabbing and scrimshawing so many bones (healing potions reskinned as bones to break to activate). They also learned that my cleric’s version of turning undead was to shake bones and tell the zombies to f*** off back to their graves in fluent Draconic. And that said zombies tended to then explode when he did so. So that was colourful.

All of which was a good contrast to the week or so of prepping and undertaking interviewing of prospective saturday staff for the library I’ve just had. A night of mayhem was a good antidote.

Oh, and I did have time during the day to go see myr s for a few hours as well, which was also much needed by us both.

Housebuilding and Tabletop Shenanigans

The D&D session on Sunday was a quiet one with two main goals – to allow the group to finish outfitting the house their adventures have now bought outright, and to ensure that everyone had transferred their character sheets to http://www.dndbeyond.com and installed the Beyond20 extension in their browsers.

Why? Well the character sheets and their management is more user friendly than Roll20 in our opinion. They’re especially more useful for newer players in terms of managing items, actions, and spells. I’d found them so much more intuitive while playing with my other group that I suggested a sidestep.

The browser extension makes for a seamless transfer of rolls to the virtual tabletop in Roll20 during the game, and has some nice configuration options that allow some tweaking along the way. I’ve had to shell out a bit of money to rebuy some source books and upgrade my monthly subscription, but in support of a regular group I really don’t mind that.

All the tests seem to be working, so now I’m fleshing out some encounters using the tools available on the site, and we’ll see where the group wanders next.

Fairhaven Moments

Sunday’s game was quiet, but some important foundation-laying happened, and a lot of laughter. There are some interesting mechanics in 5th Edition to support the GM in arbitrating Downtime activities, and with the adventurers finding their feet it was a good excuse to play along and add some colour

Caeluma spent a lot of time knitting a chunky “Jumper of Friendliness” for the warforged urchin the group adopted. He in turn has been hanging around with a bemused air to see what happens next. A beanie hat is apparently the next project.

Valenia and Thorin spent the week carousing and, between sessions in the pub, teaching Thorin to read. They’re not sure how, but after one particularly black-out night they seem to have earned the nickname of “benchslayers”. Nobody will tell them why.

Kerne stuck to studying the texts retrieved from their last adventure, as well as doing some ancillary research suggested by their contents.

All well, so far, and then the group decided that a good use of their haul would be to rent out a house together, rather than continue living in an Inn. After some searching, they settled on a tall house about half an hour from the university in one of the nicer suburbs.

I got them to suggest some street names on a grid map that I’d made earlier, and will this week be fleshing out some of the local landmarks for them to explore. There is one house on the map that is absolutely not a brothel. A house of negotiable affection providing reasonably priced love, perhaps, but not a brothel. Honest.

Sunday’s Game

It was a quiet session, mostly spent trying to identify and get good prices for the items the adventures had brought back with them.

They’re still a little hazy about what happened, and I laid some potential plot hooks out that can be picked up on as we go.

Caeluma is trying to put at ease the newly adopted warforged Coal, and to get used to having a baby dragon around; especially one that has a habit of turning invisible, scaring the inn’s cat, and then quietly sniggering from the rafters…

Next week, they intend to go shopping, and possibly purchase some private lodgings.

Oh? Sunshine? Again?

I thought we’d had all the good weather we were going to have now that people have been out and about more. I am pleasantly surprised therefore to have clear blue skies and sunshine all around as I go to pick up my prescription renewals.

Last night’s DDC game was fun for me, if no one else, in that it allowed me no small amount of GM sadism. The group is still investigating the buried remains of an old goblin temple, and had discovered several very old sets of remains from what looked like a pitched battle.

Beyond an open archway was a large room with benches along the walls and an enormous carpet that smelled awful. Rather than just take this in as a bit of scene dressing, there then followed real fear as they tried to investigate for traps, or some nefarious purpose to the carpet. At one point they thought the carpet might leap into life and try to eat them.

It was only when someone tried to flip the carpet, and the corner tore off wetly in their hand, that they accepted that their GM had been telling the truth the whole time – that it was just a carpet and there were no traps.

Okay, I may have used the “are you sure?” and “which corner are you reaching for?” approach, but I think I have done my job well in instilling caution in my players. I’m sure the next carpet will be just as innocent.

Would I lie to you?

DDC Traps and Tribulations

I was just going back over my notes from the last couple of sessions and admiring how the group has both started to cohere and to realise that they are still learning the ropes, so to speak.

Delving down into damp lower levels was at least a break from the winter snows that had begun to fall in the morning.  The first chamber was marked by a series of statues of ancient deities of sky, earth, and stone and Wall paintings of both Dhakaani (ancient goblin) pastoral scenes and of the passage of their souls to the afterlife of Dolhurr.

There were also four human skeletons in the chamber, each missing their hands in what looked like executions. The heavy doors leading further were sealed with chains and a massive lock. Runes in Abyssal were written on the seal praising the Dragon Below. With little else to go on, a mixture of lock picking and brute force soon saw the way open.

The noise attracted the reanimated skeletons of the goblin guards, but this time the group was able to despatch them quickly with only one minor hiccup. This came when the Dragonborn Kerne chose to breath poison on the skeletons, only to find that they were immune.

The weapons of the guards were made of byeshk metal, a rare ore that made weapons capable of driving off creatures from Xoriat and so these were quickly distributed among the group, just in case. A quiver of magical arrows was also found, and the shafts of bone and obsidian were divided up among the archers in the group.

This just left a strange lever that didn’t seem to have any noticeable effect despite resistance when pulled and some doors that opened up into a wide hallway with more skeletons near the far end against one of the walls.

In their eagerness to investigate, two of the group set off a swinging spiked bar that swept across the hall before resetting. Being hit by it didn’t kill them, but did make them realise what had broken the bodies they found themselves scattered among.

Yikes

There then followed a period of searching for the trigger and how to circumvent setting the trap off again that led to a series of assisted acrobatic and athletic maneuvers to cross the hallway to relative safety, where the group huddled up against the opposite door to catch their breath and mend their wounds.

Things learned: poisoning undead rarely works, the effects of levers aren’t always obvious, and always check for traps in entry corridors.

Who knows what discoveries they’ll make this week?

New Player Ready

So we’re spending this evening mostly helping Lady W set up a character to join in the DDC adventures. We’re having a quiet evening as people are just feeling a bit wiped out, and it came up in conversation that she had felt unable to join the group as she hadn’t been around for the first session.

We immediately disabused her of this idea. As Lady W has never played D&D before, we’ve been making use of the Roll20 Charactermancer and a copy of the Player’s Handbook to help her create a new persona.

There is much jollity, silliness, discussion, and explanation going on – and therefore a good wind-down to the week. It may not be the D&D session I’d planned, but I think its the one we collectively need today

Generosity

Lady B has been secretly assembling a range of gifts to distribute among the DDC – literally, as she has a 3D printer. Today a care package arrived.

Our friends know us so well

Both Lady M and I received a prison for misbehaving dice, a pedestal for favoured dice, and a nameplate. The vox also contained a dice-rolling tray, an Eberron DM shield, a card game, and a glass bottle with four red dice in it, representing a potion of healing. Our geekery levels just jumped significantly.

We really are very lucky, and its been a lovely bonus as we head into the weekend.

Day 372 of Isolation

What is days? What is space? Oh wait – hang on, I can go outside – ah, nope. Okay, so instead, while in between sorting a few odds and ends out with emails and remote access to some things, I’ve been experimenting a bit with some of the map pack options in Roll20 to make some maps for “just in case” – because if I’ve learned anything over the years, its that players are distracted by the slightest thing faster than you can yell “Squirrel!”

With a roleplay-heavy group like the current DDC, this may not necessarily be a bad thing. I plopped them down in a generic inn map while assembling things and it turned into at least two sessions of them making breakfast for each other, singing, and trying to teach a tiefling to catch apples with their tail. All the derailments so far have been purely character-chat – aside from the sudden desire to go find a training ground to practice combat.

Fortunately there are a great number of free map graphics made up. They’re searchable through the assets menu, but these all take time and I couldn’t find anything generic enough.

In the end I used a semi-random map for that particular moment. It did prompt me though to have a look at the various map pack options available to purchase through the Roll20 marketplace – rather than so many of the pre-made pretty options.

I ended up with three that look fairly flexible in that they are modular graphics with connectors – I can use the layers to blend the rough edges and the intended size and proportions so far have been quite user-friendly. I

‘ve been practicing with the Stone Building set to make some sort of generic mansion layout. Its not for a particular planned encounter, but is the sort of thing I plan to archive and keep to hand the next time they try something felonious or otherwise random.

Longtime gamers won’t even blink at the option of felonious in the above paragraph – and as this group has designated the rogue as their financier, I feel entirely justified in making up places that may suffer security lapses in the weeks to come.

Now my only concern is going to be what effect having lots of small graphics for the map will be like as opposed to having a single graphic that I’ve made elsewhere and imported. I’m using .png format graphics, so they should be reasonably swift but I’ll report when I start using them in anger. The other difference is that the group is currently five players plus myself, as opposed to the eight or so that the previous Wartorn Campaign had – I’m hoping this imposes a much lower hit on bandwidth and loading times.

Updates, Updates

Another chunk of the Wartorn Chapter Five write-up has just gone live. Large bits of this section of the campaign are inspired by the old Temple of Elemental Evil supermodule and it’s follow-up Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil. I’ve been adapting material to the Eberron setting and adjusting the actual menaces to try and match the extremely large party of experienced adventurers currently assaulting it.

When you have seven players and their average level is higher than the original material was aimed at it leads to a number of challenges. Most published material assumes the groups will be smaller and so scale accordingly. Part of what I’ve been doing is adjusting the numbers and difficulties of encounters – or replacing them wholesale – to create a challenge that still keeps the players engaged.

To some degree the relatively easy level of some of the initial bits of this section has served to dull the paranoias of the group, so that when the rug is pulled, or encounters are tricker than expected, it grips their attention more. There’s also a deeper level of reworking going on that a couple of the players have started to notice – a recurring set of villains with unknown motivations that suit the otherworldly threats. Some have noticed the ongoing Lovecraftian nods and drawn their own conclusions. As ever, I shall enjoy listening to them panic and make up their own scenarios so that I can cherry-pick ideas…