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.

Gaming Night

After various reschedules for health and work we managed to get our pirate-themed D&D session going this evening. This is the one I play in as opposed to the one I GM.

I was a bit nervous about my tech being up to it given hiccups last time but I managed to balance the various loads across a couple of laptops and my phone and all was well.

To recap: my lizardfolk cleric of the grave had searched out civilization after his tribe was killed by undead creatures. Haunted by the sights he’d seen and the spirits that surround him, he adopted a motley crew of adventurers during an ambush in a bar. He sees them as like hatchlings that need protecting due to their lack of scales and teeth, but also as potential warriors to stem the rise of undead on the islands.

His method of ensuring that the dead do not rise again is typically lizardfolk in its pragmatism: the dead do not rise from the cooking pot. A reputation for butchering the corpses for the fallen has already begun to spread, although not necessarily in understanding of why. At the same time his soups, stews, and calamari dishes are admired for their exquisite tastes. Just be wary of the cold cuts platter.

The group were sent by one of the leaders of the port community to investigate the disappearance of one of the tribal leaders. It was an investigation that found signs of struggle leading to a bolthole and tunnels beneath the town guarded by clockwork soldiers. The group avoided these and closed in on a group of thugs led by a Knight who had trapped the mouse-folk leader. This was where the session began.

As is ever the case, combat takes a lot longer to process through than other activities in the game, but the group was successful in joining the mechanical guards present in saving the council member. Richly rewarded, they were also treated to food and drink, and advised that they would be called on to track down the remaining “Pieces of Eight” to match the one already in their possession from a previous adventure.

The Pieces were the remains of a seal that had contained a dark evil making the dead rise and darkness spread across the islands. The reason that the group had been unable to get any work was partly down to the superstitious nature of the pirates around them and partly because the Council had forbade anyone to give them work while they could be assessed for the job before them.

A day of relaxation by the docks while they waited for the Council to meet was cut short by an ambush by compatriots of the thugs they had defeated earlier. Heslik spent most of the battle either healing his companions or trading crossbow shots with an inept thug whose bolts bounced off Heslik’s tough scales. Heslik felt obliged to show him how to shoot properly in his return fire. There may have been some sarcastic comments across the battlefield: “No fleshling! Not like that! Like this! There! See? Try again, you can do it!”

The battle was won, treasure was looted, a warning left on the bodies. Time for the group to rest up.

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?

Additional Gaming Resources for RPGS

I’m doing a lot of setup and preparation for the new D&D group, and part of that has been going back and updating the resource, reference, and inspiration websites to help me when I need to come up with stuff quickly. Sometimes its needing to look the bare bones of something up, and sometimes its needing something to spark when I need an off-the-cuff name or location description.

As the DDC in its current form is not overly combat-orientated, and has a distinct preference for strategy and talking their way into and out of situations, I’m fully expecting to have all sorts of curveballs thrown my way.

Some of the resources are additional image packs that I’ve bought through the Roll20 market – some of them have been creature and character tokens, but the majority have been modular mapping packs – as each average about $4.99 or so I’ve been finding them very good value for money for then designing and customising location maps.

I’ve also been playing around with the following sites:

  • Iron Arachne – https://ironarachne.com/ – which has a wide selection of what it calls procedural generation tools for tabletop games, and also a list of other sites providing similar tools. Generating cultures, weather, names, heraldry is as simple as clicking a button, or just looking at the results posted on the site as recently generated results.
  • Donjon – https://donjon.bin.sh/ – has a huge number of random generators – be they names, adventures, dungeons, or worlds for a wide range of backgrounds and game systems.
  • Eberron Unlimited – http://eberronunlimited.wikidot.com/ – is a developing wiki of rules and information, generators and tables specifically focused on the game world we’re using.
  • D&D Wiki – https://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/Main_Page – another treasure trove of information for quick reference for a number of D&D editions as well as Pathfinder, largely using the SRD kits for those systems.
  • Deepnight.net – https://deepnight.net/tools/rpg-map/ – browser-based map maker that also has a downloadable desktop app. I’ve used this to map out simple locations and then export them as png or jpg files to upload to Roll20.
  • Dave’s Mapper – https://davesmapper.com/ – need a quick village or cave system or dungeon mapping out in old-school D&D treasure map style? Give this a look. I’ve used this to quickly throw together at least one location.

Hope the gamers among you – whether players or GMs – find these useful, and I’m always interested to hear of others that people have found easy to use or a little hidden gem…

Have fun!

Getting Creative

In between a couple of odds and ends, plus doing a week’s groceries or so, I’ve spent time fleshing out the adventure the DDC is most likely to have over the next few weeks – mostly in terms of flavour text and items – on an old imported map I made a few years ago.

The thing is, perfectionist that I am, I’m not entirely happy with how the grids align with the layout. The grids are what each counter or token are set into on the Roll20 maps. At present they’re slightly off so items and characters could end up halfway into walls. In addition, its a simply styled drawing generated by a webpage, so it looks somewhat plain compared to some of the full colour ones I’m generally using.

I do have the option to switch off the feature that snaps items to the grid, but at the moment I’m trying to simplify things for the less experienced players – and there is that whole graphics element as well…

So thats why I’m taking the modular stone building set i mentioned the other day, and have started recreating the map in a version two. There’s probably more productive things I could be doing, but the map making geek in me is happy as a clam.

Session Two – Or Ticket To Ride

So we had our second game night yesterday – and despite some tech issues on the voice side for a couple of people we had another successful go at it. My aim as GM this time round is to use this initial simple adventure to get everyone, including myself, used to the rules. I have two people (Lady M and myr s) who haven’t really played much D&D at all, while Mre B, Lady B, and Lord S have played but not in a group with any one else around our virtual table. There’s a lot of adjusting and settling in to do – not least of which is finding the right balance between roleplay and rollplay.

Rollplay is what I’ve started calling those parts of the game that rely more on dice results – things like combat for example – rather than the interaction between characters that allows people to inhabit the fantasy. My aim with this group is to allow it to have as much a say in the direction of the story as possible, with the aim of finding a happy middle ground that satisfies and still challenges each person around the table.

Last night saw the DDC using the tickets bought by the university to travel to Fort Light on the borders of Thrane. Even travelling in relative luxury it was still the best part of the week, and I would have been happy to have the whole session be just them talking nonsense and getting up to hijinx. Unfortunately we had enough voice disruptions due to network bandwidth somewhere that the flow didn’t really get started – so I moved the action along.

As they were travelling through civilised lands there wasn’t any form of banditry or disruption to the service on this occasion – indeed the biggest issues was that of characters who had never had gold before not being sure what the trade up values from copper and silver were for working out their change for bar drinks and meals. The journey across the border from Aundair did at least give me a chance to depict some of the lasting scars of magical conflict on the land, and set the stage for the cultural change as they moved into a theocratic nation.

Some quick bargaining by Alfonso got them a cheap ride to the village described by their patron, and they were soon able to locate one of the shepherds who had found the opening in the hill. With his fresh impressions and extra details in their minds, they had no difficulty finding the way in the morning – “past the blasted oak, through the gate, follow the path and sheep droppings to the top of the ridge and the opening will be below you on the other side where the landslip has left it bare.”

They were expecting a cave, but instead found an enormous hall, wet and cold with fungus and mould. A ramp led down to the floor below, and bodies could be seen between two enormous pillars. A forest of man-tall mushrooms was clustered near a hole in the ground below nearer the back but there was no sign of anything immediately dangerous.

The first body proved to be that of the missing shepherd, with his dog nearby, but as the DDC moved to investigate the second, they grew near enough the mushrooms to trigger a wailing shriek from them that roused skeletal human warriors in archaic armour to move to attack them. Nearer the back of the room, a fungal-covered orc zombie warrior in similarly outdated armour pulled itself out of the soil and began to advance as well.

The fight initially did not go well as the party was scattered, and Kerne the dragonborn sorceror and Caeluma the tiefling cleric were nearly pulled down straight away. It was only Briar’s quick thinking as a druid that turned the tide with a healing word and an entangle spell to buy them some time. Valenia and Alfonso managed to damage some of the skeletons, but Kerne was able to melt one and badly cripple another with an acidic dragonbreath exhalation.

At which point, as a cliffhanger, we paused the game.

So – we’re off to a start, and we’ll see where it takes us from here. I seem so far to be getting the balance right – in as much as there is terror and uncertainty but barring anything outrageous the DDC should be able to pull through without major harm.

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…

Nothing to See Hear…

I’m still a little restrained in my ability to get around, but it’s definitely less awkward¬† and I’m hoping to reappear to my desperate library fandom on Saturday. No doubt I will be met by paperwork and indifference and experience plenty of opportunities to wreck my recovery all over again. Still, it’s better than being confined to the flat, engaged in stretching exercises.

Okay, I’ll admit it’s been a little easier than that – I even managed to get out to #Tuesday under my own steam, which has been a good measure of recovery. Lord S was continuing his epic exploration of different things to have with his Guinness, and this formed a major set of talking points and attempts to steal his drink. So far he’s tried his pints of Guinness with blackcurrant, a shot of gin, a glass of port, and a shot of amaretto. I’ll keep you informed of his progress and any requests for a replacement liver. If you have any suggestions for me to pass on, then either leave a comment or suggest it in person…

Following a number of conversations, I may be extending the Things Lady M says to the rather cheekier Things the Ladies M say. I’m pretty sure that puts a honking great target on the back of my head, but I’m sure it’ll be worth it when I remember to make a note of the wonderful things they all say in the heat of the moment…

Oh, and we’re up to the third bit of the Chapter Five game write-ups now with The Ruined Port – so that’s there if you fancy a look.

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.