D&D – WBtWL – Session 1

Well the party has set off into the Witchlight. This is an adventure designed for level 1, and I’ve got 6 level 12s. We’ll see what happens.

Firstly, their hook into the carnival is that they all snuck into the carnival as children, and losing items. Not together, just each when they were younger. I had prerolled all of these and let each player know at the start. This kind of started the game off on the right footing as our seductive tabaxi rogue it turns out, has no fashion sense… This got a few laughs. Our paladin discovered they had no sense of direction (actually might explain stuff from earlier campaigns!)

The carnival has arrived at Leilon where the party are resting up following their work saving the town. A carnival seems a pleasant way to wind down as well as an opportunity to perhaps regain those lost things.

The party started off quite excited. So far they’ve ridden the Mystery Mine, played hide and seek with pixies, ridden in a bubble and on a dragonfly. They’ve chatted to some of the friendly workers and generally had a good time. They’ve won a cupcake eating custard, though the cleric took significant custard damage doing so. From the custard filled cupcakes of course!

They are however starting to get hints that not all is well. They spoke to a rather unhappy person who’d made a poor deal with a hag. They’ve saved a dwarf from falling from a startled dragonfly and witnessed someone heckle a singer (a mermaid) until she fled her stage in frustration. So perhaps, all is not well in the Carnival.

Overall the players are really enjoying it. The games and rides are handled really well with good use of skill checks and saving throws (though they didn’t save the cleric from his custard damage). What the players don’t know is that some of these “skills” may come in handy later in the adventure.

I’m enjoying running it. At this stage, only tiny modifications for the group level have been needed (I doubled the cupcake damage). There are little Easter eggs to other things. The entrance to the Mystery Mine is the same as the roller coaster in the old Dungeons & Dragons cartoon. A bard in the Feasting Orchard is (apparently) the same as a character just introduced into Magic the Gathering. There may be others, but I don’t have the background to see them.

A really fun start.

D&D – The Wild Beyond the Witchlight

D&D’s newest module release is The Wild Beyond the Witchlight. It’s designed for a party to run from Level 1 to about 6 or 8. I started to look at this with a mind to send a party of 6 level 12 characters, played by experienced players into the module. I didn’t want it to be a walk in the park, or it would be no fun.

The first part is set in the Witchlight Carnival. Looking at this first part it was clear that party level wasn’t going to matter too much. It also looked very entertaining. A whole chapter of mini-games using skill checks and ability saves. Some of these “skills” will carry forward into the rest of the adventure.

I moved on to the next location, the first of the fey areas. Clearly any monster they would face would require boosting, changing or additional supporting mobs. Or more likely all of those.

But what was also clear is that just launching into battle wasn’t the only way (is it ever) but that alternatives through roleplaying were strong as well. Of course, I just have to get them to choose that option, perhaps easier said than done. And this is something that the developers have talked about for the whole adventure, apparently you can RP your way all the way through.

However, I’d seen enough to decide two things – it wasn’t going to be too hard to set this up for my party of level 12s and it was going to very different from the hack and slash and dungeon crawls I had run them through before. I cut Tomb of Horrors short and set up Roll 20 for the Witchlight.

I do still have to read through the next 3 parts of the adventure and have some creatures set up for them in the off chance they actually fight…. lol, off chance.

I have discovered recently that even though I am running these all digitally and remote that I really like to have the book. I am running Ghost of Saltmarsh as well as I was running Tomb of Horrors that way (I have both GoS and TftYP in hardcover). I still use the creature stats in Roll 20, but I like to have the book here in my hand as I read room descriptions and the like. Tagging and bookmarks to help me out. Just feels more involved and opens a little more screen space.

So, I’ve ordered the alternate cover for this one. Hopefully will be here in time for an upcoming trip and I can take it as reading material…

D&D – Divine Contention Ends

I have some catching up to do.

This is finished. The last battle with the cultists was a bit of a fizzer. They made the dreadnaught quite easily and were well on the way to defeating the cultist when a pissed off God (The Storm Lord) arrived and did it for you.

Module over.

I think the highlight was the siege. The dragon might have been more fun had it been able to possess any of the party.

Level 12. Campaign complete. I had a few ideas.

First, I could reset them and start a new module. I could try modifying a module to run at their level (most modules run from level 1 to 8 to 12 or 15) which might be possible. Or I could develop something on my own?

I thought to mostly do the second option. Take an existing module and modify it. Probably need some heavier creatures but the story could hopefully happen. I was leaning towards the Out of the Abyss. I didn’t want to start Curse of Strahd as I was a player in the adventure and one of my players is the DM for that game. What to do…

Wild Beyond the Witchlight had been announced and it was due about 2 sessions after Divine finished. I told the group that I would run something short for a couple of sessions, then when Wild comes out, I’ll investigate that one for them. At that point I will decide what to do.

I decided to put them in the Tomb of Horrors (as written in Tales from the Yawning Portal).

Some challenging puzzles. I especially enjoyed the moment when the gnome wizard, seeing the hall start to slope away from where he was standing, towards a light at the end, well, he decided to slide down the slope and over the end.

Into the pit of lava. I let him cast fly to save his character.

Meanwhile Wild came out and I started looking at.

Lockdown Week umm 8?

Sydney is in the throws of its biggest lockdown since COVID started. I live in one of the most affected suburbs, with extra strict rules about where we can go and what we can do. So what have I been doing. And what has been keeping me sane?

Well work carries on. I’ve even had a few teaching days. But the main thing is that I’ve been getting as much two wheels as I can…

On my bike to work…

Commuting doesn’t have to be rubbish…

On my commuter bike (to the shops and around the way)…

Round the neighbourhood

I even broke out the mountain bike. I took it to work one day and tried the trails around there. It was epically terrible, I have not ridden MTB on any trails for probably 6 years and it showed…. I will have to go back again.

No one to see my failures….

D&D has also helped, with all my regular games running and a new crawl filling in for a face to face that one of the other DMs has started.

Family wise, we’ve tried to have a cheat meal once a week of ordering something in. Mostly its been nice, but unsurprisingly, the times we’ve gone to “fast food chains” they’ve been rubbish.

And we’ve built up our home gym some as well.

New Bench.

I also slept in my tent in the backyard one night. With the most recent extension, I don’t expect to get out for a trip this year, maybe just before Christmas? It will likely just be in NSW too.

More sloped than it looks made for an uncomfortable night

I hope you are all staying safe as well.

Dungeons & Dragons Catch up

I’ve gotten really far behind and I’m sorry about that. So here’s a catch up of both games I’m running.

Divine Contention – The Leilon gang

This game is still going strong. The party secured the Gnomegarden Grenade and support from Lord Neverember (they returned by teleport, so no naval episodes on the return) with little difficulty, and then I moved into the Siege stages. The party repulsed the first attackers, but of course the town was overwhelmed anyway. They fought a battle at the docks and turned to hunt the drummers. This went awry when the dragon appeared.

Once again, a dragon made little headway against this group and it was quickly pushed off. The party followed the dragon and fought it alongside the Swords of Leilon at the tower. Here again, the dragon was quickly in a critical way, the possessing Ebondeath fled empty handed and the dragon crashed into the town. (The mysterious shop that the village didn’t know what the players were on about was a cool touch).

Saviours of Leilon… rejoicing in the streets. But some loose ends. Ebondeath’s ghost was still there and it wasn’t long before the party headed off to resolve this issue.

The party found the entrance with help from their friendly Lizardfolk villagers (from an early foray into the Mere) and descended into the outhouse (the small building over the entrance really reminded us Australians of the old outhouse.

The moved through the crypt with little real difficulty. Even the ghost didn’t really faze them. Ebondeath was dropping quickly, with an AC of 15 he was reasonably able to hit – the ranger was doing 30-60 damage per round. Even his possession wasn’t working well, he tried it twice without success and even as I increased his hit points to push a couple more rounds it didn’t help. Ebondeath was down. And a pile of treasure secured.

They returned to town and have just set out to sink the Stormlord cultists galleon. Divine Contention is almost complete.

Saltmarsh crew.

Not so far behind on this game. The Mariners Guild has hired the party to clear cultists, pirates and undead from an island so they can safely build a lighthouse.

They managed to get onto the island with very little trouble, the random number generator got them almost all the way across the skeleton beach safely. Once on the island they quickly found, then descended into the undamaged basement.

Here they fought the surviving cultist in a large brawl across the main open room. This went on for several terms, but some crowd control by the party kept the enemy numbers manageable. And cleared the entire floor, except for a single prisoner, a mercenary who traded his way for a lift off the island.

He revealed the existence of a treasure hoard, though he wasn’t exactly sure what. He did know how to start looking.

The party headed off to find this treasure. At the same time it would satisfy the “clear the island” direction…. just doing their job.

Their first opponents included a Bodak, an undead that radiates necro damage. This had much of the party backing away for the fight. They hadn’t tried healing or resting since the first fight.

But they got through and began exploring the small passageways, uncovering trap after trap. A room with a Crystal Minotaur Statue had them in trouble. The backed the party down a passage, hoping to lure the Statue into one of the traps. It would have worked except they managed to kill it before it got to the trap. In other luck, a Turned undead ogre tripped a trap for them as well.

They uncovered the fake treasure and were quite disappointed by the note in the empty chest. The session ended with the party about to fight the guardians in the real treasure room………

D&D – Saltmarsh: The Emperor

While there have been a couple of missed sessions, I notice its now June and I haven’t updated since March. So…

The Saltmarsh crew were hired by a merchant to salvage a ship. A lost ship of his fleet had been recently spotted adrift. They were tasked with retrieving a strongbox from the ship, and would be paid handsomely. The crew turned down the offer of a ship as they preferred to take their own…

After a few days sail, they found the ship, looking weatherbeaten and with no sign of life on board. They had their crew take a boat over and tie up alongside while the adventurers headed onboard.

The deck was clear but damage, and spiders, were everywhere. Venturing inside, the party was immediately set upon by an ettercap and a couple of giant spiders. Some of the smaller spiders swarmed together to attack as well.

They were bested fairly easily and the crew ventured further in.

They came upon an ominous sight – an alter to Lloth, in her guise as Queen of Spiders. Not a positive sign, though it goes some way to explaining all the spiders.

Opening a cabin door they surprised a rather decrepit man inside. The man tossed aside the bone he had been chewing and attacked. The party overwhelmed him as well. This man was dressed in rags and looked like he’d been eating poorly. The ship just got stranger and stranger.

The hallway opened a little, but they were ambushed by more spiders, this time including a phase spider. It ghosted around as they fought, but again the party was victorious.

They found the opening to the hold, but decided to clear this deck of any threats before heading further in. This decision would prove its worth soon.

Here they found three, well, three cocoons? They were wriggling so the party suspected they might have people inside and started to slice one open.

They were met by a ferocious set of teeth. A maw demon raged out of the webs and two more quickly attacked. The party struggled a little, but put the demons down.

Returning to the hold, Hangs (our tabaxi) leapt down into the gloom.

He discovered, much to his dismay, that the hold was about waist deep in seawater. A rather wet and bedraggled tabaxi began to search the hold.

About halfway along he found their prize. A large crate marked with an A. Just as he was attempting to move the crate, 3 ghouls leapt out of the water.

Hangs took a couple of severe blows, and managed little in return. Some of the party jumped to help while others fired from a distance. During the fight, the ship trembled and shook a couple of times. A noise like splintering wood could also be heard.

Just as the ghouls sank beneath the dark water, mighty tentacles burst through the hull, sweeping across the room. It was only chance that saved anyone from damage.

The party attempted to move the crate, but found it much heavier than they had expected and it took two people. They found that with two, they could move it slowly across the deck.

And a race against time as the giant octopus started to take the ship apart. They heaved the crate up to the next floor. The ship settled into the water, the hold filling behind them. They continued to drag the crate along corridors and up to the main deck. Outside they could hear yells and screams.

Finally onto the main deck they discovered another ettercap had leapt onto the parties’ longboat in order to make an escape. Hangs, not being lumbered with the crate leapt over the side to land on the shoulders of the ettercap. Almost his only nice roll of the night saw a mighty blow and he managed to stay on the shoulders.

Back on deck, Reek had the crate ready to lower from the ship. Tentacles continued to lash across the deck and the boat listed over to port. The port side of the deck was now level with the water.

Reek had a great idea and let go of the rope. The heavy crate dropped down towards the longboat and a nicely lucky roll saw it crush the last of the life from the ettercap. Even better, Hang’s finest roll of the night saw him leap aside at the last minute, flip over and land with a flourish on the bow of the longboat.

With the ettercap gone and the crate loaded, the remaining members clambered into the longboat which pushed of with great haste.

Back at the ship, they hurriedly made sail, keen to vacate the area where the giant octopus was busily tearing the other ship apart.

As they sailed back they did investigate the crate and lockbox inside but quickly decided that they didn’t have the skills or magic to open it up.

Finally, the party returned to town, returned the goods and was handsomely paid their 10,000GP. Well, actually a promise note at a nearby bank.

As they settled into their beers and dinner, the party is approached by a member of the Mariner’s guild with a job….

D&D – Saltmarsh – Lizardfolk!

Their mission was clear. Deliver the lizard folk and their goods to the lizard folk base and determine if they were a threat to Saltmarsh. A successful mission would see them as the owners of The Sea Ghost.

It was only about 3 hours sail to the landing place shown to them by the lizards. Extremely close to town for a group that seems to be arming themselves. The sea elf accompanied them, so he could find out for his people.

Following their lizard escorts, the party went ashore and travelled across a headland to find the hidden entrance. The lizard escorts made this entry fairly amicable and they were handed over to a guard officer, who took them to see the Lizardfolk Queen.

The Queen and her advisors were a lot more fluent in common and the introductions went very smoothly.

It was quickly clear that the Lizardfolk were arming themselves to retake their home, further up the coast, that had been taken from them by a band of sahuagin. They also had emissaries visiting from the menfolk, the koalinth and the locathah. The sea elves had not been invited due to animosity between them and the koalinth. Humans had not been invited as the Queen couldn’t see the benefit of land dwellers in what would be a sea or undersea fight.

The party suggested that perhaps they could help with weapons, suggesting things like crossbows could also be added. More conversation ensued

At the end, the queen said that she would consider their proposals and respond soon. She would call them back when she was ready to discuss. In the meantime, they could roam freely within the Lizardfolk’s home.

Which the party did. They were asked not to enter a few sleeping chambers, and one area which the Lizardfolk used other creatures to guard the entranceway.

Wandering around they made a good impression on the lizards. Especially when they demonstrated the power and accuracy of the crossbows to the soldiers. This scored them a lot of points.

There was a tense moment when the koalinth emissaries spied the sea elf with the party. However, in the spirt of peace, and that the elf quickly moved away, nothing occurred.

Koalinth – basically sea orcs

In the end the queen agreed to send two emissaries to Saltmarsh, to begin negotiations. The party returned to the Sea Ghost, and sailed back to Saltmarsh.

This session was entirely RP’d. The session completed the entire Danger at Dunwater without any fighting. There were a few persuasion and insight checks. A couple of moments where there party did think about poking in where they had been asked not to but they did not.

Throughout their visit, the DM tracks what kind of an impression they are making on the Lizardfolk. Doing good things, establishing good relationships, being courteous would add numbers, with bad things, like releasing sahuagin prisoners or fighting with emissaries would reduce the number. At the end, if the number was high enough the queen would send them home with emissaries.

The party was probably meant to kill the lizards back on the ship, but that’s not what happened, so they entered this module in a very different place to the normal. I gave them a high positive number to start with because of that, and for returning the weapons. They treated courteously with the queen and friendly to their youngsters. They hit it off with the soldiers by showing them the additional weapons and (apart from the koalinth) were friendly to the other emissaries. They got a high number quite easily. (and were so close, and the session was about to end, so I didn’t feel like running the extra killer croc event)

Now they have some time off (they think) in Saltmarsh while the crown and the Lizardfolk negotiate….

D&D – Sleeping Dragon Wakes (Review)

With the next module in the series complete (aside from the tidy up) it’s a chance to review this one too.

Again, I think it is a pretty good module, with some interesting scenarios wound together into the story. I ran it without using the “Quest Board”, adding some story links to have the party get involved in things. Partly, so that I could control which parts I would need to prepare, but also, it fits with the story better. They were very much a part of the town by this stage, so having them look for jobs on a board made no sense. For a party that starts here, maybe it would fit?

A running battle with the sahuagin proved a challenge for the group. Later a similar, multi stage battle with some bandits could have really punished them, if the zombies and chimera waiting in the wings could have gotten involved. Some smart tactics helped them there. At the higher levels they are reaching, simply throwing a crowd of enemies isn’t really a challenge.

I gave them the full credit for getting in to meet the green dragon without having to fight almost anyone in the entire lair. They basically talked their way in, as they also did with the bronze dragon earlier. This made for some fun RP.

Overall a great part 2 of 3 adventure with a terrible “to be continued” ending. However, if you consider it all as one, then its not an ending.

For Roll20 users

Again, I added a bunch of maps, but nothing like the last module. I mostly reused a couple of maps with different creatures, to run random encounters, so not strictly required. The maps provided did a better job of covering the action. Might not be so for the next module.

And so it’s on to Divine Contention and the final showdown. The core of this is a long defence of the town itself as the two factions attack. It will really test the endurance of the group. It will also be interesting to see what they remember they have picked up (they have several healing scrolls that will come in handy – if they remember them!).

D&D – The Sleeping Dragon wakes!

The party left Old Gnawbones lair on a mission. They would find the necromancer responsible for sending the waves of undead against the lair and stop them. In repayment the dragon would…

Um, I will have to go back and see what was offered (Although it’s not actually important…. you’ll see why).

Oh, that’s right. If this gets resolved she has said she has no reason to attack Leilon (to try to get information). The party, as protectors of Leilon, are happy enough with this.

The party set out and started their search. Using the process from the module, they rolled to search.

And rolled 26. So supposed to be an instant success.

I decided that this was a little too easy, so had them successfully determine the direction and that it was a couple of days away. The first day passed uneventfully, but a group of wraith came across them overnight. The wraith, originally headed for the lair, attacked.

The fight went reasonably well for the party. A few hits were suffered, including several hit point drains. However, the party fought them to nothing, then spent a long morning recovering.

The search roll the next day was almost as high, so I let them find the necromancer.

The party came across the enemy in a small clearing, standing and casting something in the air. The party managed to get within a few hundred feet without being spotted.

The mage called a fire elemental, right in the face of the necromancer. As they did, her spell finished and a half dozen spectres appeared. The enemy took one hit from the elemental and dimension doored away from the fight.

The party charged in, not realising that all of their fire spells were only causing half damage (the same thing had happened against the wraiths, without being noticed). The casters attacking the wraiths from afar.

At this point the mage dropped control of the fire elemental, but by this time it had a spectre in its face so it was occupied.

The ranger spotted the necromancer and proceeded to inflict massive amounts of damage. It had no resistance to magical piercing damage. In two hits, 100hp after rolling two natural 20s. The highest damage I think I’ve seen from a player. As the rounds continued, she cast invisibility and tried to make her escape.

Hunter’s Mark meant the ranger could follow, and at disadvantage managed to hit her enough to put her down. The corpse became visible as the rest of the party was just starting to wonder why the ranger was suddenly shooting in a random direction.

The spectres were defeated and the fire elemental dismissed. The necromancer’s body was picked up and the party set off back to the lair.

After their success they were greeted cordially and escorted to the dragon.

However, in a set piece, she convulsed and lost control as a dark shadow could be seen entering her body. The spirit of the evil black dragon, The Ebondeath, now possessed her. The dragon rose up and fled the lair.

And there ended the Sleeping Dragon Wakes Module. Next session we will see if the party decides to loot the lair, though the druids may not be impressed with that approach. If they don’t, the druids are likely to offer some reward to track down and free their mistress. Equally, the party will want to pursue this clearly evil foe to protect the region.

From here the party will head into Divine Contention – when the two factions threatening Leilon are faced and their true intentions revealed.

And it was a great place to stop the session, as I haven’t read any of the next module and had NO IDEA what to do next. So I have some homework…

D&D – A new Dragon

After a rest in the castle they had cleared, the party headed out. They had found a trail of footprints. It lead in about the same direction as they were headed in their search for the green dragon.

After a while, they noticed a stange flickering light ahead. As they continued, they realised they were gaining on it. More details became clear, something bright and firey and some humonids along with it.

Closer again, and it was a flameskull, leading a group of ghouls.

The party opened up at range with a fireball, causing significant damage to their enemy. The ghouls turned and charged, but the party continued to fight from range, with the rangers arrows doing some serious damage. The ghouls went down before they even reached the group. The flameskull had just enough time to launch a fireball of its own before it was taken down. That fireball hurt the party, with the mage almost dying from the attack.

With the enemy down, the party dithered about for about 10 minutes before they remembered that flameskulls (which they have faced a long time ago in the Phandelver Mines) need to be destroyed before they return. They started the hour long process to create some Holy Water. Flameskulls take an hour to regenerate. Now think back to the start of the paragraph.

So up pops the flameskull. It got a couple of fairly ineffective shots off before it was brought down again. I let them have a percentage chance that the almost finished water was holy enough for them… success.

With that out of they way, the party continued into the forest. The trail kind of ended as they approached a cliff with a set of cave entrances. A strange green glow emanated from the openings.

They moved closer, wary, but with nothing to actually fight. The mage started to prepare a teleportation circle to get them up to the highest entrance. Part way through, the Wood Wodes attacked.

Ever since the party cleared the town of ThunderTree, way back in the Lost Mines, the paladin has been carrying around a magical axe called Hew. Hew has the property of doing maximum damage against wood creatures. The party had cleared all of the twig blights before it came across the axe and since then have not faced a wooden creature. Well apart from doors, which the large dragonborn paladin has failed at knocking down the entire adventure!

Wood woads are made of wood.

With Hew and a pyro mage the woads had little chance. A few in the party caught a club hit or two, but not enough to really threaten them.

The mage redid the teleportation circle, sending them up into the lair.

They passed the caged owl bears and found themselves in the camp of The Gnawbones. Druids who worshipped the resident dragon.

There were two druids in residence, but a conversation started and the druids softened their attitude when they discovered how many undead the party had slain. Undead that were a constant pressure on the lair here. The party was approved for an audience with Old Gnawbones.

The followed the druids into the lair proper, finding Old Gnawbones struggling to end the constant undead threat to her lair. She just couldn’t find the source, even with several magical scrying stones.

Some earnest discussion ensued, and the party agreed to search the forest for the necromancer who was sending their minions against Old Gnawbones. The margin struck, the party retired to the druid camp to set out in the morning.