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…

Wartorn Updates Have Started

Rather than doing a week by week recreation, I’ve been breaking the narrative up into bite-size chunks for the new stage of the D&D campaign. They’re all under the Wartorn section of Games and Gaming, with the new material starting to appear under Chapter Five.

The rest will appear across the course of this week. In other news, I’m still healing up from hurting my back, but I seem to be getting better at a steady rate – so that’s good news too.

Dungeons and Dragons Updates

I’ve not updated the Roll20 session logs for a while, largely through having what’s felt like way too much going on. My plan is to do a catchup post and some more material this weekend in between focusing on the novel a bit (might as well make use of the enforced rest).

So good news for those interested, and apologies to those who are less interested.

Now, there appears to be sunshine out there today. I’m off to explore this strange phenomenon…

Proud Adventuring Father

wp-1456791764867.jpgPretty much the first words the Charleesi said to me this evening were: we had our first D&D session at college and I nearly died already – the elf stuck me in a bag of holding and legged it! The rueful grin on her face and the way she rolled her eyes betrayed the joy in having gaming memories of her own to share at last.

It’s not her first ever game – she’s played in the group I ran on Sundays for a while – but this is the first proper game set up by her peers at college that she’s dived into, and as an inveterate games player and D&D geek I couldn’t be prouder. It’s not just that she’s enjoying a pastime that has brought me so much joy and support over the years but also that it feels like a real pass-the-baton moment.

The GM of her group is her cousin, so she’s inherited as many stories and tricks from her father as the Charleesi has – and so our daughters have picked up the game that we played so ardently at their age (and have by and large continued to ever since). I think this is brilliant, and I look forward to even more wild stories to bounce back and forth between us from here on out.

I have, of course, made all my books and pdfs available to the Charleesi so that she can cause as much trouble as possible – I mean, so that she can explore new options in the game as much as possible.

The Gamers Return

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Maybe, when I retire, I’ll buy a pub and dedicate it to good food, good cask ale, and games. Pretty much every roleplay game has pubs or bars as a staple recurring part of their scenery, and I’d like to reflect that – though dressing bouncers as Orc barbarians may be pushing it a bit.

I’m minded of this because we restarted the ongoing D&D game this evening, and the group (who already own a pub in the game) have just picked up a group of mercenaries that I suspect may become an ongoing feature if they don’t get slaughtered first.

Case in point: this evening was mostly inspired by an off-the-cuff remark by one of my players about how Sir Richard Attenborough’s character in Jurassic Park was probably really a necromancer summoning and reanimating the dinosaurs from their blood in the amber. With that in mind they encountered large reanimated fossil dinosaurs and the majority of the game revolved around beating these hardy specimens into submission.

They really should know better than to go putting ideas into my head…

Freeform Monday

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Today’s been one of those days that has at times felt like neither one thing or another, and at the same time has been productive. There’s even been a few insights along the way. We’ve just finished the Summer Reading Challenge at the library, following a two month frenzy of acting as traffic control for children and families with varying degrees of enthusiasm (both for them and us). With a full house of staff for once, I was able to concentrate on taking down all the promotional material, as well as the charts and interactive displays used to track the readers’ progress. I don’t think I’d quite appreciated how much I’d put up around the place until I saw how bare the walls, doors and windows suddenly looked.

It’s amazing how quickly such things blend into the background, and aren’t readily acknowledged until suddenly they’re gone. Now the challenge will be to see what the next displays to fill all that space will be. Or rather, it will be someone else’s challenge: Lady P is returning to work after an extended illness, and will be given the job of setting up displays as part of her phased return to work. I’m kind of looking forward to stepping back into the background for a while on that front.

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Keep Calm and Use the Konami Code

We’ve not seen much of her in her illness, and I think she’s the first to admit she’s still on the road to recovery. One of the insights it has given me has been a reminder of how frustrating I must be when I retreat into myself when I’m on a low ebb or actually unwell. It’s almost certainly a significant factor behind how much I try and make up for it with the people in my life – and in accordance with the “if you spot it, you got it” principle, it is much more noticeable to me when people around me go quiet. So my challenge to myself is to adopt the F**k It approach and not let myself obsess and catastrophise while still keeping channels open.

Sounds easy doesn’t it? It’s up there with trust falls and letting someone order for you at the bar.

Still, it is a trust that my Monday gamers extend to me every week when they enter the arena and try to double guess what direction the narrative is going. This week was a good example of one of our more freeform sessions. It almost qualified as downtime after the horrendous traumas of their recent exploits, and introduced a new area of operations. So new, in fact, that I had to draw a map on the fly in our virtual space. It worked reasonably well, so that was reassuring to know that as and when they go totally off piste to areas I haven’t expected, I’ll be able to fudge it.

What’s the worst that could happen?