Friday, January 24, 2020

Forgotten Realms Campaign - They Chose Down...

[GM commentary is in square brackets. Refer to the Forgotten Realms Page for more detailed information about the characters and setting.]

After an uneventful night spent in the tunnel entrance [No one seems to care when they're camping next to corpses. Go figure.] they want to use their new magic item to try to figure out what the brass eyeball does but the loot they found doesn't have the right kind of gemstone.

Finy offers up one of his and they are pleasantly surprised to find out that the eyeball will allow the person who activates it to see things as they really are - including things hidden by magic - for a short period of time, taking two days to recharge from being used. They consider it to be a handy item even with those limitations. [It works the same as True Seeing for one minute, once per day, every two days.]

They also see that as the spell works the web takes on the color of the gemstone it's consuming. This is a pretty nifty effect and a credit to whoever made it. [Cough, cough. It was me.]

Given how useful that brass eyeball is is they want to keep it handy. Finy immediately offers to hold it but for some odd reason the rest of the party prefers to let Izzy be the keeper. Finy takes this in stride, as he takes so many things.

Leaving their horses secured in the tunnel entrance they make their way down the mountain to try to find that trail that L'oric pointed out. They find a lesser trail breaking off the main one and it leads to the side of the mountain. It's been used and it leads to steps and handholds hacked into the mountain side, going up. Careful checking turns up a local copper coin dropped in the dust as well. The spacing on the steps seems to be meant for human-sized creatures rather than giants or dwarves.

Before they start the climb Nihilus checks the weather and forecasts a bright sunny day. The entire party gives each other the side eye at that, given his terrible record at forecasting the weather. They can already see the clouds on the horizon that he somehow missed.

Carefully climbing up the mountain takes about an hour with no missteps or problems. They're well carved enough to provide a good route up to a hole that's been crudely cut into the mountainside. The walls are about a foot deep and the opening is just large enough to admit one person at a time - about 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide. There's a small ledge outside the hole so two people (or two people and a halfling) can stand outside of it.

They decide this isn't ancient work or part of the original construction. The sun is at the wrong angle to light up much of what's inside the hole and Izzy thinks she sees someone watching them from the top. L'oric looks carefully and doesn't see anything or anyone. He tries pointing that out to Izzy but she's adamant that there is someone up there even if she can't see anyone now. She shoots an arrow that doesn't hit anything, even rock, but keeps a wary eye out because of her certainty that someone is there. L'oric lets her do and think what she wants at this point.

Finy nominates himself to go into the hole and no one seems to have a problem with that. He finds himself in a chamber that's cut out of the mountain and is sized for giants. The cavern is empty as far as he can tell and there's a thick layer of dust on the floor. He finds that there's layers of footprints in the dust going into the chamber and out of sight of where he went.

Returning he relates what he saw to the group and Nihilus goes to have his own look. He determines it was three sets of tracks and they were spaced out over time. They also only go in one direction - into the chamber. Finy and Daylor have a bit of a conversation with body language and eyebrows relating their opinion of his skills.

Since there's really only one direction to go they parallel the footprints into the chamber. At the far end is an open giant-sized doorway with the remains of metal hinges still visible. On the walls are some metal torch holders in various states of disrepair where they still exist at all. There's a very old campfire by the doors that seems to have been made of suspiciously door shaped planks of wood. Poking around finds more hinges in the ashes.

The metalwork isn't bad but it isn't great. It's about what they expect from giants. Everyone is of that opinion that "good, not great" is the default state of giant work.

Finy takes the lead out of the chamber and follows the curving hallway that slopes down and then back up. During this he's checking for traps and seeing places in the dust where previous visitors have done the same thing. Daylor is also checking as he goes, which does not escape Finy's notice. They split up the search. Finy obviously moves his belt pouch to the side where Daylor isn't.

As they go L'oric believes he heard stone moving behind them in the chamber that they left. They all listen and there's nothing. They decide to continue going away from the chamber, following the trail. While they're doing this L'oric is speculating about what's in the room he's decided is at the top of the mountain based on the cuts he believes are windows. He wants to find it so he can look.

At the end of the hallway is a stone spiral staircase. The steps are sized for giants, which means they're about four feet tall per stair. Finy, who is three feet tall, hauls himself up to look at the next step. He finds he's not the only one who's done this and that it seems everyone went up and then back down.

Given L'oric's desire to see what's up there and their general loot-happiness they choose to go up the stairs rather than down. After a decent amount of very tall steps the footprints change and they find two very large feathers on the stair. And a few old human bones. At this point they can see the footprints change and one set of them is deeper in the dust before the next stair.

No one suggests going back at this point. They go up and find only one party has continued past this point, and they also came back. Two stairs later they find more, fresher bones. This is where the footprints turn around and go back. They find a word scrawled on the stair wall - Peryton.

Nihilus sees that and runs past everyone up the stairs. They're racking their memories to see if the word makes any sense. Izzy and L'oric put the pieces together to realize that a peryton is a large, nasty, magical animal that does things like eats people. Right around then they hear a screech and Nihilus shouting. Before they can decide if he needs help both sounds get fainter and further away.

[The players recognized that this was me giving the character an ambiguous 'out' to the game. They accepted it and appreciated the way it was done rather than a stupid/heroic death. This way Nihilus is still available for NPC use if I choose. The player was also pleased at this and had more questions than he should have had when I told him what happened.]

The group decides that discretion is the better part of not being eaten by a large, nasty, magical animal and go back down. They make it as far as the chamber where they started before they need to rest for the night.

Rearranging the watch order since they're down a person they set themselves for the night. During the second watch period L'oric sees writing on the wall glowing very faintly, about twenty feet up from the ground. It takes him a bit to read it - it's in common - to find that it says "Oxos sucks dwarf d....". He relays this to each subsequent watch and then to Daylor in the morning, who had first watch.

Daylor recognized the name as stone giant lineage. He doesn't know much more than that but they all get a good laugh out of the graffiti. They start to ponder how it could be done before they realize they really, really, really don't want to know.

As they move to the staircase Izzy makes the very grave and wise pronouncement that going down the stairs is going to be easy but getting back up them will be difficult. There's a moment of silence at this completely obvious bit of wisdom then they start down the stairs. There's concern that the murder bird (as they refer to the peryton) is going to come down and eat them. L'oric is particularly concerned for some reason but they're all nervous about it to a certain extent.

Half a day's travel brings them to the fate of one of the previous groups. A large block of stone has some skeletal legs sticking out from under it and the edges of crushed armor. He finds the pressure plate they triggered and notes that's a kind of trap they may find again. The bodies have been thoroughly looted so they find nothing.

There's still two sets of footprints going down the stairs.

Further down Daylor nearly falls into an already triggered spiked pit trap he didn't notice but is able to catch himself before he falls in. There's a narrow ledge around the sides and front of the trap that can be walked with care.

Looking into it they find five bodies with surprised looks on what's left of their faces. Looking more carefully they find footprints in the muck below the bodies and Finy offers to have a rummage around. He finds very little and what he does find is either tucked into corners or not worth taking. He leaves the copper pieces and regular thief's tools (after checking with Daylor on that second one). He does palm a ring he finds. There's also a ruined scroll that they decide to keep.

Given the narrowness of the ledge around the trap and the spikeyness of the trap itself they take the time to rig a rope handrail to make sure everyone can safely move down this stair. Their caution pays off and everyone gets to the next stair without a mishap. Even Izzy.

There's only one set of footprints going down the stairs now.

A few steps later Finy stops everyone as he investigates a trap trigger he found. When he can't figure out what it does he blames it on the shadows in the stairs but is cautious moving forward. Daylor has a look as he goes by and sees that Finy was very carefully examining a bit of rock sticking out of the wall. He doesn't bring this up to anyone.

As Daylor stands up he feels a very slight breeze from below and what feels like a spiderweb on the wall. L'oric takes an interest in the web and looks at it more closely. His considered answer is that it's spiderweb, it's useful for some spells, and it comes out of a spider's butt. [I love low rolls.]

Daylor notices a blocked up doorway as they're paused. It's not expert work, it's lesser work that what carved out the chamber and staircase, but it's solid. The wind from below is just a bit stronger and it's carrying some webs as well. No one wonders if they missed other blocked up doorways on the way down because they were so focused on traps and not falling down the really big stairs.

L'oric decides to try to pull out one of the rocks from the doorway. He gets a grip, pulls, his grip slips, and he ends up on his elegant sun elf butt. A pebble does fall down and hit him on the head, as convention says it must. He isn't going to let this go unchallenged. He tries again, pushing and pulling. The rocks don't move but no more pebbles fall so for him it's a win.

He's the only one who tries to get through the door. The rest had a look and realized that they didn't have the equipment or skill to break it down.

The breeze and webs from below keep getting stronger as they descend. There's web strands on the walls now. Finy and Daylor get some paper from Izzy to make tiny torches to burn away the webbing from where they want to check for traps.

Daylor finds a broken web strand that had spanned the width of the stairs. Not much further he finds an intact strand and the footprints seem to have stepped over this one. Finy is seeing that the webbing on the walls is getting thicker. Daylor looks but doesn't see anything different in the webs that he hasn't been seeing all along.

As they're looking at the webbing a number of hand-sized hairy spiders attack from all directions. This is not a good day for the spiders as they're turned into spider kabobs in very short order. They don't even get a nibble before they're slaughtered. [Damn those useless spiders.]

They continue down two more stairs until Finy finds a leg but not its owner. Being much more cautious he promptly falls into a web pit trap on the landing below. He's a twisty little halfling so is able to grab one of the hardened web spikes around the edge and pull himself out.

As they try to figure out what happened to Finy a trio of javelins come sailing into their midst. Izzy catches one with her shoulder but her armor gives her some protection from major damage. It takes a bit for everyone to catch their bearings and see the wall of webbing across the landing about thirty feet back. They also see the remains of what was most likely the last set of visitors in the center and sides of the floor.

Finy pulls out the lantern and Daylor throws it at the webs, igniting the center of them. More javelins are thrown, this time with Finy and L'oric getting nicked. They can't see what's attacking them but as the web burns they see three figures of some kind behind it.

Izzy casts a spell to cover the area with mist to prevent more targeted strikes and centers her spell on where Finy is standing. The figures run out of the burning web and at the group. They're four armed, half human-ish, half spider. And they're not pleased. They're brandishing swords now as they move forward.

Even though they have no idea what they're fighting the group makes an excellent account of themselves. It takes about the same amount of time to dispatch these creatures as it did the spiders above, although they don't make creature kabobs this time.

The final attack goes to Finy with an admirable tumble and stab to the last standing/wavering creature. Who then promptly falls down. Finy avoids being squished, kind of forgetting that could happen.

The creatures don't have anything on them but the previous visitors not only have their own equipment but what they took off the previous two parties. Being a more experienced adventuring party Izzy casts a spell to detect any magic items they may be holding. There's a decent amount of coins, a number of gemstones, spell scrolls, and several magical items as well as mundane weapons.

Using gemstones from the loot L'oric is able to use the web to identify the three magic items. Finy had put the ring from earlier into his pocket rather than his backpack so it showed up when the spell was cast. He lets them identify it as well. There's just enough gemstones to identify all four items unless they want to start using much more valuable ones.

There's both divine and arcane spell scrolls so those are quickly and easily sorted out. As they settle in for the evening in a place they feel is relatively safe they discuss the treasures they found and what is best suited for who.

The items they found are:

  • A set of gloves that let the wearer climb up walls and ceilings as if they were a spider but they work for a random amount of time when they're used and can be used once a day.
  • A pair of bracers that will deal out extra damage if the person wearing them makes an excellent strike and can do this twice per day.
  • An anklet that will let the wearer teleport to a spot they can see up to ten feet away from their current location and do so without error, twice per day.
  • A ring that makes it easier for the wearer to hide and disguise themselves which requires two days to recharge each of the abilities.

GM Notes

I really didn't want to have that player's character leave on a cheesy or insignificant note. Rushing up to a deadly creature seemed in keeping with his actions and would carry him away. After I told the player what was done he really did thank me for removing him without making it permanent. Then he wanted to keep the peryton as his animal companion. I had to remind him he wasn't at a level to get one. I also had to remind him that his options were limited to the list in the druid class and that the peryton is a magical animal and can't be a companion anyway. That doesn't mean they can't be tamed so he's happy with that.

I thought I had them go too deep into the mountain but math says they only went about 160 feet. So that's not the blunder I thought I made. That makes me happy.

I picked out the magic items to suit the characters and give them more advantages at times. By limiting how often things can be used it makes them less powerful as magic items but darn useful in the right situations. It makes them think about using them rather than something that's activated all the time. Things will get more interesting the more they have since they're limited on how many of each kind of item they can wear.

The gloves are obviously of spider climb. The person using them has to roll for how long the effect lasts - 4d6 minutes. That adds to the tension since they won't know until they activate them. So sometimes they may have to rush things or they fall down, go boom.

The gauntlets deal out an extra 2d6 of damage one handed, 3d6 damage two handed when the wearer makes a critical hit. Since the chances of that tend to be 10% more or less having them work twice per day isn't overpowering. They also choose when to activate them after they know they've done the critical hit so they can decide to save the effect or use it, depending on what they're doing. Again it puts the player in the driver's seat.

The anklet is a teleport without error with a distance of ten feet. I may have to reduce the number of times it can be used per day but the value isn't that great so maybe not. When I made these I was going for the lower end items. I also don't think anklets can be worn with magic boots since they're in the same body area. I'll double check that one. That would make it another limiting factor.

The ring gives a +10 to hide for 2d6 minutes and works as the Disguise Self spell for 4d6 minutes. They can be used independent of each other. But both of them take two days to recharge when used.

I'm getting into the random amount of time that a magic item effect works. I'll see how it plays out in game. My goal was to add extra tension to the situation since they can't be completely certain of how their plan is going to work if they expected the item to work for longer than it will. Or what happens when it stops working since they're not in control of it. I'll also ask them players what they think of it and adjust as needed.

Finy's player talked to me after the game to discuss how to keep magic items he wanted to hide from being seen. I didn't realize he put the ring in his bag of holding, which would have shielded it from the Detect Magic spell. I apologized and said I would think of a way. Tonight I texted him one of my famous obscure questions - "Odd or even?" - and he chose odd. The d10 also came up odd. So there's going to be an extra outside pocket on the bag of holding, on his dominant hand side, where he can put things quickly. If there's people around he needs to make a slight of hand check but that's going to be a low DC given how natural the movement is in general. Problem solved and it only works for small items.

I'm tracking combat in my Rocketbook now which is why I could be more detailed in the combat descriptions. Prior to this I was using my old method of tracking on scrap paper and then tossing it away since I only had to track initiative and turns. I still track those but now I can make more notes on what happened so there's a record. And I can make these entries slightly more interesting.

I have some time before the next game so I can plan it out. There's two ways I very much don't want them to go out of this area because they're death. Since the players don't want to go to the Underdark and both ways would lead there eventually I should be able to let them make the decision. If not then they didn't heed the clear warnings. I will make them very clear warnings.

I'm also going to have them finish the details on their backup characters so I can level them up to match the game. They're going to be the nemesis party and it started back in the last town they were at. Of course no one knows what's going on since not many GMs will put in this kind of effort or situation. Using their own backup characters is just mean but so fun.

I would have added a bard to the nemesis party so that they could have sarcastic songs following them around but The Witcher series lessens my enthusiasm for that. I did it well before the series in another game but that doesn't matter. For a while bards are going to be difficult to bring into the game without the comparisons being made. I don't want to have to add those quotes to the punishment list, especially since I haven't watched the series yet.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

I Finally Designed 3D Stuff!

It's not very exciting and it's not really my first design. I had already done a simple change to a piece (a remix) to make it more durable. And one of my new designs is also a remix. But one is entirely my own design. Based off another but that's not important right now.

I'm a huge fan of Gamelyn Games Tiny Epic series. I also backed their Kickstarter for the Ultra Tiny Epic games. The one thing about these games is they pack a LOT of little pieces into the box. I like to 3D print organizers for them so things are tidy and they just look cooler. Hey. I've got two 3D printers so I'm gonna use them.

I printed the insert for Ultra Tiny Epic Kingdoms without any changes. I will have to paint three of the little tracking cubes because what was supposed to be red is actually 'barely darker shade of orange'. No biggie to pull out the Testors and a throwaway brush but still.

UTEK with an organizer that holds the cards below and slots for cubes above
The cards fit below the organizer and the little castle meeple fits in front of the blue row when the insert is in the box. This insert is not meant to come out again once it's in place. Or if it is then it's a really tight fit. I had to put clear tape around the end of the flap to keep it from catching on the tops of the slots.

But now that it's done you can see how much easier it is to use. Slide out the rows you want by putting your finger over the ones you don't. Slide the cubes back in. So much nicer than a little plastic bag you have to dig through every time.

For those who can make one the file is here and I recommend printing it upright on the backing piece with a brim, parallel to the Y axis movement. It's a flimsy thing until supported by the card box.

Onward!

I also have Ultra Tiny Epic Galaxies. That's what the Kickstarter was for. UTEK was something I could add on since it's been out for a while. There's a very nice storage system already out there but I didn't like how the dice cubes rattled around in the tray. There's fewer of them than the player tokens. So I designed a tray with the right size opening for just the dice cubes. It's at the bottom of the first photo and the upper left of the second. My design is just that tray so you still need the original for the other stuff.


As you can see I also like printing the trays in the same color as the tokens. It's a thing of mine. I'm a little worried because the blue that matches so well is discontinued and I'm almost out of it. I may have found another one that's going to have to be close enough. Yes. I'll buy filament just to make sure my game organizers match the pieces. Sue me.

Finally we get to my original design!

There's already options out there for Tiny Epic Kingdoms but they don't work if you put the cards in plastic sleeves. There's just not enough room for everything. I refused to accept this and after far too many test prints (anyone need little plastic boxes?) I made one that fits nicely in the box and allows the sleeved cards to sit on top.


You can see the organizers around the edges of the cards in the first photo. I need to trim the card sleeves because they're too long but that's a project for when I'm bored and have a fresh blade in the craft knife. They work as-is.

The player token trays mean setting up is easier - just hand the tray to the player. When the game is over they dump it all back into the tray. Done! I know there's a lot of extra room in the box with the tokens but I needed to fill that top space to hold the last tray in place. Extra room isn't bad.

And an observant eye will notice I took a black Sharpie to the edges of the cardboard tokens so they look better. It's a habit I got into doing cardstock terrain. Otherwise it's that kind of brownish-grey of the cardboard and it's not attractive to me. Smooth off the nubs from where they attached to the backing board, color them in, and sit back with a smile. The cards are also edged in black, as if I would forget that.

These aren't very exciting designs. They're very useful designs. Board game organizers are very popular all around and people make them out of foamcore and other materials. Go look at BoardGameGeek if you don't believe me. I may have to see if people have made organizers for another (not Tiny Epic) game I have that has more parts than the molded plastic will hold due to Kickstarter stretch goals.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Forgotten Realms Campaign - Real Life Changes

Sadly we had to lose a player for the game.

Nihilus's player will no longer be able to join the group. We're all sad to see him go. There's a chance that he'll gather up another group and I'll run a game for them (which means TWO different campaigns to read!) but for now he'll be written out of the story.

I'm debating between a heroic death or an unknown fate for Nihilus. I honestly don't think that the player will be joining us again but I also don't think anyone in the game wants to see the character die. The way I have things planned for the next session will allow for either.

We all know these things happen. As the GM I'm the one who polled the group with the changed situation and then told the player what the result was. It sucks but it's part of my job to mediate between players and this falls under that umbrella.

To be fair the player with the real life conflict was willing to make the call but eventually understood that it was something I should do. I'm the impartial third party. We both agreed that having fired people in the past it's no fun but sometimes it has to be done.

The player was fully understanding of the circumstances - since many of them were his - so I don't think there's hard feelings to be had. He knew the special situation of one of the players when it comes to real life so he made his choices.

This is a reminder to me and will be to the rest of the group that no matter how much fun gaming is our real lives come first. We see this when we have to cancel or reschedule games but it hits home hard when someone has to leave the game because of it.

As a group we'll talk about whether or not we want to try to find another player. We're at four and we only play when everyone is there anyway. If there's someone who's itching to get into the game I'll gladly interview them. Otherwise we'll see what happens.

Now I'm off to finish prepping for tomorrow. I'm very, very lucky that the plans weren't heavily focused on his character so that I'd have to make big last minute changes. I do have to adjust the encounters because we're down a player but that's not going to be difficult. It just means fewer opponents or I lower their stats a little.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Forgotten Realms Campaign - A Promise to Keep

[GM commentary is in square brackets. Refer to the Forgotten Realms Page for more detailed information about the characters and setting.]

A sun elf traveling to Cormyr hears about a group of sun elves (like himself) traveling in the area and decides to see what they're like. He follows their trail west and then south down the road by the mountains. He doesn't stay in the town they did the night before.

Catching up to them he greets them heartily. He's riding a horse and has a rather tattered and torn appearance. At the sound of a horse approaching the group does what the group does. Izzy stands in the middle of the road after sending the goblins into hiding. Nihilus hides on the opposite side of the road. L'oric hides by the side of the road. Finy goes back into his tent.

When Izzy sees a half sun elf she drops her mace and shield and yells out "Dad!". This naturally confuses the stranger on the horse who says that while he may have sired children she's far too old to be one. She also notices that he's not a full blood elf and knows he can't be her father. At her yell everyone else groans and comes out of hiding. Except the goblins.

Introductions are made all around and Daylor takes off the rags to show he's nicely dressed underneath. They all have a short discussion on the benefits of the disguise of being poor while traveling. Without much fuss he convinces them that he should join up since he's also looking for some adventure and excitement. [I asked them to be experienced role players about having him join the group. Once again they agreed. No one wanted to spend the session trying to add the new player to the party.]

Izzy retrieves the goblins who are all tied on a lead. At that they continue to head south, looking for trails into the mountains. It's much easier in the daylight and Nihilus finds a trail. It does help that the goblins know the general area and have said as much to Izzy. Nihilus refuses to admit they helped.

Looking up the mountains they can make out a switchback road that leads to what is probably a tunnel entrance. There's a few fresh avalanches as well. L'oric sees another road to the north of the larger one and points it out. They decide to take the more traveled road.

A hand drawn map of a mountain range, showing one obvious road to a tunnel entrance, a lesser road to the right, fresh avalanche scars, and dark openings at the tops of some peaks
A 10 minute drawing of what they see when they look at the mountains. Not to scale, not a map. But darn good for 10 minutes I think.
The trail is large enough for their horses, which was a concern for them going into the mountain. Nihilus finds the cart tracks that seem to match the odd cart from the inn. But he doesn't find any hoofprints. L'oric has a look as well and sees prints that belong to lizards. Nihilus, after looking at the tracks being pointed out, determines they're wyvern tracks. L'oric disagrees and when pressed says they belong to "a big ass lizard".

Izzy asks the goblins about the tunnel and about what made the tracks (since she assumes they know about the situation). They don't have much information about the tunnel but try to run when asked about the lizard. While she's doing that Daylor has a look and thinks that the tunnel is mostly natural but has been worked to be taller. [I was going to have evidence that the grey dwarves fed the lizards with goblins but that didn't work into the story. Still they would be afraid of the big ass lizards.]

It takes most of the morning to get up the road and they find an avalanche has covered half of the road. The other half is clear and Nihilus thinks the avalanche has stabilized. Looking at the road L'oric & Izzy see that it's a maintained road. Nihilus sees that it's a very well maintained road with stonework repairs. [Duh. Dwarves. But no one said anything about a connection at the table.]

The tunnel entrance is coming into view when they pass the avalanche when Nihilus sees a boot sticking out from the rubble. He dismounts and starts digging without telling anyone. When they go back to investigate what the heck he's doing they see the lower leg he's uncovered. Izzy every so gracefully stumbles on the path and knocks some rocks down the mountain, causing some of the avalanche below them to move as well.

Finy takes off the boot and knitted sock (both grey) and swears he can feel something in the seam of the sock as he carefully searches them. When questioned about what he's doing by L'oric he talks about things being hidden in boots which gives L'oric the idea of hiding a knife there. Finy puts the sock away for later investigation. The rest of the group is asking him why he wants that smelly thing.

When Izzy asks what he found Nihilus pulls out his blade to cut off the leg to show her. She chastises him for what he was going to do and has a look at what has been uncovered. After having a look she thinks he's been dead about 2 tendays, which matches the timeline Nihilus put on when it happened. [I had to break in hard and fast when the player said "I cut off his leg". Not only would he not have done that in one cut with the weapon he has his character would know about being in civilization that it would be improper to do it. This is going to lead to a talk with the player about his apparent need to want to be 'wild' but still be in settled lands. He can't have both.]

They are able to get the body out of the rubble and by guessing at what it looked like before a bunch of a mountain rolled over it that it matches the descriptions they've been given of grey dwarves. Finy searches the body and drops the warhammer on his foot. He tosses it off the side of the road, into the avalanche, and everyone yells at him both for the noise and for throwing away loot. He defends himself by saying it hurt his foot.

During his search he doesn't turn up anything else of interest. The belt pouch had a few coppers in it which he left there. Nihilus digs through the backpack and the only thing not destroyed were 4 dried mushrooms he'd never seen before so he takes them. Izzy performs rites over it as a good cleric should. She had to explain that to Nihilus as to why should would bother. Everyone else understood without asking.

While Izzy is doing her cleric thing Finy is intent on finding whatever is in that sock. He ends up shredding it down to nothing without finding whatever it was. He thinks that he just missed it somehow and gets annoyed.

Since the sun is behind the mountains they decide to camp where they are. There was discussion about continuing to the tunnel but wiser minds pointed out that going up a mountain road into an unknown tunnel at night - a tunnel that may lead to the Underdark - was probably not a great idea.

While they were doing all this the goblins built themselves a little campsite and have a tiny fire burning. No one from the group can find any firewood to cook dinner. It's all thin scrub and not dry enough. When Izzy asks the goblins what they're burning they all hold up sticks they'd carried up from the road. Goblins 1 - Party 0.

During the night L'oric hears something moving around near the top of the avalanche area. He casts Light and tries to see what's up there. Nihilus - who never seems to be in Reverie when things happen - also sees nothing and blames the Light spell. L'oric is certain he saw motion up there and is confident it's either a grey dwarf or a wyvern. He did that to poke at Nihilus and it worked quite well. The light wakes up the goblins and they now call L'oric "Stupid Elf Bright Light".  [At this point L'oric's player remembered he has a raven familiar. I tend not to remind players of things like familiars because they should be doing that for themselves. He's experienced enough not to try to retcon it into the search.]

The day breaks nice and sunny to the east. Nihilus forecasts that it's going to be a bright sunny day. After more trail rations they head up the rest of the trail to the tunnel. The way it's angled the late morning sun doesn't penetrate very far for them to see at a distance. While they're still a reasonable distance away Finy goes off to scout.

He hears two different sets of voices - one set is high pitched and the other is low pitched. He can't make out how many of each there are or what they're saying. When he comes back he startles Izzy who squeals like a goblin. After he relates what he saw and heard Izzy tells the goblins they need to come with the group and they strongly disagree. No one wants to leave them near the horses so they secure the horses to one section of the mountain and the goblins to a different one. [I play down these parts in game because I don't want them getting paranoid about leaving things that have to be left. It's reasonable that they could secure the horses and goblins for the short period of time they expect to be gone.]

Finy asks if there's some word or phrase they can use with the captive goblins to show their good intentions. The one that approached Izzy is offended that they would be expected to share secrets but finds another way. He has them cut off one of the dreadlocks from another goblin as proof they're the same tribe. [I guess in my world goblins use different kinds of hair decoration for the tribes. I'll have to make sure this is in my general notes and use it later as needed. Not bad for something thought up on the fly, in my opinion.]

From the fuss the goblins raised Finy recognizes that the high pitched voices in the tunnel are goblins. The ones in there are more panicked than the angry goblins they have in front of them but he's sure it's the same kind of creature.

While Izzy works with the goblins to get the token and to try to make sure they're safe along with the group's horses and supplies Nihilus is trying to persuade the others that they should kill the goblins which leads them into the start of a philosophical discussion on the nature of keeping promises, evil creatures, and what to do about them. Before it gets too far it's time to move up.

As they approach the tunnel entrance rain starts to fall. They were so busy with what they were all doing they didn't notice the clouds moving in. They all look at Nihilus, who said it would be a sunny day. Finy remarks to Izzy and L'oric that he thinks their ranger is broken. Nihilus either didn't hear it or pretends not to hear it. Neither Izzy or L'orid disagree with Finy.

As they get closer to the cave they can hear the voices. L'oric and Daylor recognize the deeper voices as speaking a dialect of Dwarvish. Izzy can hear the goblins. At this point they still can't determine how many of each are in the tunnel.

Nihilus decides to go to the opposite side of the tunnel entrance from where they're approaching. So he runs across the tunnel entrance. backlit by the late morning sun. Finy is making rude gestures at the loss of surprise now. Finy grumbles as he slides into the tunnel, clinging to the wall. As he enters a mist appears that blocks most of the tunnel entrance, leaving the sides clear.

This mist causes a bit of concern since they don't know who cast it or why but they're taking advantage of the cover it provides. The rest of the party works into the cavern along the sides. They see groups of goblins, just as thin and worn as the ones they captured, on both sides of the tunnel. They're chained together in groups of four.

When Finy goes to pick the lock on the manacle holding who they assume to be a shaman he pulls away and points to the rest of the goblins around him. The manacles are of the same dwarven make as the lock on the warehouse with runes on the manacles and on the chains. Finy shrugs but leaves them locked up.

L'oric sens his raven in to scout out where the grey dwarves are. It comes back and tells him "Behind the food". He has no idea what that means and says he should have asked it to find out how many there were as well. He relays the information that the dwarves are probably further back in the tunnel.

As they progress into the tunnel they see the end of a wagon under a very large amount of rock. It seems that the tunnel roof has collapsed onto the wagon and blocked the way. There's no dwarves to be seen so they go further in, finding the other groups of goblins chained together as well.

As they get closer to the wagon they can see there's been work trying to dig it out and clear the tunnel. They guess that the goblins were doing it but still don't see the dwarves. They approach it with caution, seeing it's the same material and make as the one back at the inn. That's one mystery solved, in their mind.

A tunnel entrance 30 feet wide, opening to 50 feet, before narrowing down to 20 feet. The tunnel is blocked with a cart under rubble 70 feet from the entrance. 12 goblins in 3 groups of 4 are clustered along the walls
The tunnel entrance showing where it's blocked with rubble. The blue and yellow tokens are all groups of goblins.
As they get closer a crossbow bolt hits L'oric and a grey dwarf appears on top of what's left of the wagon. Izzy is able to dispatch it in quickly and as they're getting their breath the wagon upends and breaks apart. A VERY LARGE grey dwarf is standing in the wreckage and swings a warhammer at Finy. Nihilus slices at it but only cuts the bandages off its leg before Finy is able to do the necessary work of making it a deceased grey dwarf.

After they catch their breath they search the bodies and the wagon. The key for the manacles is easily found and Izzy takes the hair with her when she goes to free the goblins. She shows it to them and they aren't quite as terrified. She unlocks them and sees a severe, fresh burn mark on the one they picked out as the shaman. L'oric thinks that the manacles are enchanted to discourage magic use while they're worn.

Izzy goes back to heal the shaman after freeing the rest of them but he's done it himself and is healing the others. Finy takes the goblin hair from her as she goes to heal L'oric. The others find three well used lizard skin whips, four sets of the manacles, two light crossbows, and 2 warhammers. Searching the wagon shows broken wood that is probably from crates and barrels of trade goods from the town they were just in. L'oric is trying very hard to find wine but is disappointed.

Finy finds a number of small gems in the belt pouches along with 1 gold piece and 7 silver pieces that have the same look as the ones in the cash box at the warehouse. He shows the coins to the group. He doesn't show the gems.

Detecting magic finds a brass eyeball in one pouch and an ebony box wedged under one of the rocks in the wagon. They set the eyeball aside and open the box. Incautiously. Inside is a carved ivory web and instructions for use in the top of the box both in the spiky writing they can't read and in elven. They realize that they might be able to use the elven to translate the other language. The instructions tell them how to use the web to identify magic items. It needs a gemstone worth at least 100 gold pieces in the center for it to activate and the gemstone will be consumed.

They look to find that the goblins are long gone and took their kin with them from outside. They can see them running down one of the ravines. They shrug and go back inside to make camp for the night and look over their stuff.

GM Notes

First and foremost my goal here was to get them that magic item to identify other magic items. With one arcane caster who is multi-classing they were going to be very light on the ability to identify things. There's limits to how often it can be used but no more so than for a regular caster, really.

Now that they've found their passage to the Underdark and can't follow it they've got another path they can follow. There were two kinds of things they were looking to do here so now they can do the second one. Or they can leave. From the discussion they're going to see what that other road leads to so more than likely they're staying.

This game had a lot of metagaming happening and I kept having to pull them back. Part of it was adding a new player, part of it was the player writing the book and wanting to discuss parts of it while we were playing, and part of it is gaming in general. I asked them to keep it to a minimum and they would look ashamed but it didn't completely stop them.

I need to take better combat notes or keep my combat sheets until after I write up my notes. I'm not completely sure who did what during that last combat so I guessed. I can always correct it later if it matters. Since no one was seriously injured and no one seems to be counting coup it shouldn't be an issue for these. More a note for myself than for the group.

The tunnel setup is 3D printed Dungeonsticks (that I still need to finish painting) and they work very well to get up a fast layout. I kept adding on as they progressed and that helped immersion. They're also portable so they're easy for me to carry around. The tokens are pieces from a Stratego game with colored and numbered paper sleeves taped over them. I know I could 3D print other ones but I like these, I have these, and they work so I don't need to replace them. Even better they take up the correct amount of space even when they're prone (on their side) or down (flat).

The new player integrated well and that makes me happy. I'm hoping that integration stays well as we have more games. I think it will and there was plenty of role play going on as well as effective combat.

What I've been doing with the low level characters is building up the encounters so that they're excited about them and then giving them opponents who are enough to challenge them without being too much of a challenge. I learned from those damn thorn bushes. Extended combats are fun when they're more powerful, not now. Those grey dwarves were darn squishy and that's even with their level adjustment. I thought the combat would last a few more rounds but they were happy with the quick victory this time.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Forgotten Realms Campaign - Traveling to the Tunnels

[GM commentary is in square brackets. Refer to the Forgotten Realms Page for more detailed information about the characters and setting.]

[A new player was going to join the game but couldn't make it due to illness. That's too bad because his character would have been darn useful this game but none of us wanted a stomach bug.]

The party finds a small settlement on the branch of the road going south. [I didn't give it a name and described it as sort of a 'truck stop' setting. They promptly named it "Truck Stop Town". Sigh. Players.] The Jolly Smuggler is the local inn and that's where they stay since they're not going to camp when there's a perfectly good inn here.

L'oric orders his usual - elven wine. This time he gets a glass of it and doesn't see the bottle. The wine is a dark enough purple to be almost black. It's both sweet and savory at the same time.  He asks for the bottle and is refused.

The menu is decent and the meal comes with a dish of chopped red, white, and black mushrooms in sweet vinegar. Nihilus figures out that the mushrooms aren't from the surface and they all start wondering if they're going to be poisoned. Looking around the inn they see a decent amount of people given that they're on a trail leading to the Trader's Road but no one seems to be having an issue with the wine or the mushrooms.

Nihilus was looking in the right direction to catch a glimpse of the elven wine bottle and sees that the writing on it looks elvish but more .. spiky. He directs the others to look but no one knows what to make of it. He also overhears someone saying they wish they had some sporebread but it doesn't mean anything to him.

After dinner L'oric and Izzy decide to go for a stroll around the area, to see what they can see. Around the back of the inn they find an empty, seemingly abandoned cart. They poke around it and L'oric sees holes that probably were meant for manacles and/or shackles and sees some dark stains as well. There's scratches where possibly crates were dragged too.

Finy has found a group of halflings and they play dice with him. After he wins most of their money (a total of 13 gold and 25 silver) they won't play with him any more.

Finy and Nihilus then decide to go check out the warehouse they saw when they entered the town. The double doors have four very large bolts (locked) and one large, solid latch with a dwarven lock that Finy knows is dwarven but has never seen one similar. When Finy starts to walk around the building he sees that the only windows so far are thin, long, iron faced and barred under the eaves. As he goes around the first corner there's a very loud barking/growling/howling from inside the building. They both decide now is a good time to go back to the inn.

As they walk away a light starts to shine from behind them and Finy loudly talks about orcs being around. He's being sneaky and trying to deflect the attention of whoever is behind them with the lantern. No one bothers them as they go back towards the inn.

Izzy and L'oric are still looking at the wagon. The ornamentation has that same spiky look to it and also spiders and webs. Thinking back to when she was in her Comparative Religion class Izzy realizes that those are symbols of Lloth and quite probably the wagon is of drow make. Nihilus and Finy show up and they get filled in on the wagon.

The 'D' word sets everyone off.

Nihilus, in his normal oh-so-not-diplomatic way, asks the innkeeper about drow and after a bit of misunderstanding and posturing finds out that the trading is done by grey dwarves. The innkeeper describes them as small, bald, and grey.

Continuing in his way Nihilus asks who owns the warehouse (Jonas) and demands to know where he lives. The innkeeper is not impressed and gets surly now. He said he'll let Jonas know that Nihilus wants to talk to him in the morning. The innkeeper is lying through his teeth.

After a brief debate they decide to stay at the inn. Nihilus crawls into the hayloft where a couple of other people are also staying, the rest have actual rooms.

The next day dawns. Finy is up first and pays for everyone's room and food. There's a charge for Nihilus staying in the hayloft so he's not nearly as sneaky as he likes to think. Finy gets a bit deflated when no one notices that he's paid. Breakfast is had by all.

Nihilus goes and waits by the warehouse so he can talk to Jonas. Jonas is a large human and pays no attention to the wood elf lurking in front as he opens up and starts to barter with the caravans lining up outside. During a break in the action Nihilus slips him a gold piece and asks him about the cart behind the inn. He calls it 'the dwarf cart' and describes the dwarves as short, surly, grey, bald, thin, they come up from the south, and they live underground. Hence the underground goods they trade.

Finy figured out that Jonas doesn't deal in small goods and decides to try to sell some of his 'acquired' goods at one of the two stores. Obviously this store has a varied clientele as there's a convenient step so short folk can get to the counter. The first thing he pulls out is the praying mantis in glass and the shopkeeper goes pale, refusing to buy it. The crowd at the counter pulls away a little.

Finy then pulls out the bracelet and tries to sell that. The shopkeeper looks it over and offers 300 gold for it. When Finy points out the hidden compartment the shopkeep missed the offer doubles to 600 gold if he'll leave the store. Finy leaves without selling anything, mulling it over. The crowd gives him space and is whispering as he goes.

They all meet up at the inn for lunch and to go over anything they've learned. Finy puts together the pieces - the note, the preying mantis, and the bracelet - to figure out that he's being associated with the Night Wing thief and assassin guild in Westgate. Of which he is most certainly not a member. And that by showing the shopkeep that the bracelet has a hidden compartment he kind of threatened to poison him. He's very shaken up by this and not at all in a hurry to go back to Westgate now.

From his conversation with Jonas Nihilus knows the carts arrive from the south (he got a bit of snark from Jonas about that one) and decides that there's got to be at least one tunnel in the Giant's Run Mountains. Which is where they were going anyway since he'd heard about tunnels there. And ruins.

Some conversation with the woman running the inn for the morning gets them more information. She's sorry that the dwarves haven't been around since it means they're not getting the trade goods anymore, but that it's not as bad as it could be because they just double the prices. They're all suspicious about the abandoned wagon even though there's two other empty wagons in the courtyard. Nihilus and Finy leave the inn to have a look at the warehouse, L'oric and Izzy stay behind to keep talking.

Before they split up Izzy, with reluctance, offers Finy use of the brooch she got when she left the temple. It has the ability to make a person more graceful for a short period of time [Brooch of Cat's Grace] and she thinks it will help Finy in his work. She makes SURE he'll give it back when he's done. She also tells him that the ability only lasts ten minutes.

They find out that it's not uncommon for traders to leave a wagon behind for a while when they don't have enough to fill it. She says the same things about the dwarves and also that they come from the south. So it's established in everyone's mind that the answer is SOUTH. They have decided they must know more about these dwarves.

One running theme is that none of them want to go into the Underdark. It's stated many times that you only go there if you want to die. Or unless you're trading but even then you're probably going to die. They have a justly healthy respect/fear of the Underdark. [I didn't correct them on any of this since stories of the Underdark would be known.]

Finy is going to have a look around that warehouse. As the trading slows down the four helpers turn into two helpers. Finy literally steps on the foot of one of them and that helper promptly turns and punches the one next to him for stepping on him. Finy gets in without a problem. He's in a forty by forty foot building that's full of shelving and stacks of goods. There's a small walled off office-type area to the right of the doors and whatever was making all the noises are now chained up in the back.

Given how long the spell lasts he can search two areas of the warehouse [two five foot squares]. He starts to climb the closest set of shelves, falls, then does some searching to find nothing much except two crates and a barrel with that same spiky writing. The other area he searches is the office and there he finds a lot of paperwork. The lock on the desk drawer doesn't even require his lockpicks and holds a moneybox that also doesn't require them. There's an assortment of types of coin and some trade bars. Some of the coins have that same darn spiky writing. He takes a few coins 'to show the others' and a trade bar.

Even though evening is getting close they decide to head south. No waiting, no spending another night at the inn. Of course not. Traveling in the dark is the BEST way to find side trails. The drow cart isn't built the same as the others - longer and narrower. The wheel tracks will be different but the ground is pretty hard packed and rutted.

They travel down the road until almost full dark, keeping to the road and going slowly. They're both looking for side trails and not wanting to have their horses break their legs. [I had to remind them that riding by the side of the road as it gets dark is an excellent way to have horses break legs. Not that I would ever do that sort of thing...]

This road doesn't have conveniently placed cutouts for overnight stays but they find a decent place. There's trees to either side of the road, they're east of the mountains, and there's a narrow, shallow stream to the west. It will do for the night so they set up camp.

During the last watch Izzy hears something at the stream. She goes to look and it's a goblin filling a bucket. She casts Detect Evil and of course it glows - it's a goblin. She speaks goblin so she starts talking to it, trying to keep it from running away. Because she's just that way. She's doing fine until she brings up drow then it screams and runs.

This wakes up everyone (Nihilus said he woke up when Izzy started speaking but didn't leave his tent) and they all go running after Izzy who's running after the goblin. She tries casting Command on it so it will stop but it shakes off her spell. That break made her realize that goblins travel in packs and their camp is unguarded.

Back they run to find six goblins ransacking their camp. L'oric casts Sleep and four of them fall to the ground, next to the packs where they had been taking the rations and waterskins. The other two run off. Finy catches one and the other slips out of Nihilus's grip down an animal burrow.

Nihilus is pacing off to the side, caught in a bit of a moral dilemma. Goblinkind are his favored enemies. Here's five of them, four of which are easy targets. But Izzy and the others are intent on talking to them! He's being threatening at the outskirt of camp.

Izzy talks to the one goblin who is awake. After giving it some rations (she has no idea how to tell gender on a goblin and no desire to learn how to tell gender on a goblin) she asks questions. The story she gets is that their clan has been taken by the dark ones and they escaped. They're still here so that they can rescue their clan. There was a tunnel collapse that let them get free so they think that the dark ones and their kin are still here. This goblin isn't stupid and gets her to promise by her deity that they would rescue the clan, let them go free, and not let Nihilus hurt any of them. In return the goblin will lead them to the cave.

Izzy immediately agrees to all this, telling the rest what she did afterward since she's the only one who speaks goblin. Nihilus is extremely upset at the plan she made and said she should discuss plans with them before agreeing to them. She's excellently sarcastic when she asks if she should do it like he does. He thinks that's fair.

They're all pretty happy with the deal. They get a guide to the tunnels they were looking for anyway and to the dwarves. So it all worked out. Of course they have to free a goblin clan but that's a little detail.

It's morning so they prepare breakfast in preparation for going into the mountains.

GM Notes

I did get pictures of the cards and no one minded handing them over for that. They understood what I was doing. The player writing the book asked for a copy of the inn menu since those add so much extra detail to the story and I have no problem sending him a copy of that.

I'll be updating the Page with more information about the characters as it develops. It helps to get a feel for them if you're reading the story. I can also document the main magic items they have that they aren't going to be selling in the next town. It adds to knowing the characters.

We will have a new player joining us. It won't be quite as easy as it would have been this session since they're further along a less traveled road but I'll make it happen. I had his travels documented to the town they spent the night in so I'll work it further. The group couldn't travel far in that amount of time anyway. They're experienced enough that they'll make it work to bring him in. But I'm not telling anything about him until he shows up.

I did a bit of retconning in this game. The bracelet was actually loot from the plants they fought but the player had the card and it made sense he could have gotten it from the beltpouch as well. Honestly the whole thing about him and the Westgate guild fell together. I didn't plan it but when I looked at the pieces it came together as what it did. I did have to be more explicit with the player in private so he got the same answer as I did and he loved it. Well. The player loved it. The character is NOT happy at all. He's a thief, not an assassin!

I purposely put the goblin encounter at a time when Izzy could direct it. She likes to try to talk things out and this worked well. It would have worked better if they could stop asking questions about drow but they got there in the end. It seems a bit convenient to get a goblin guide to where they wanted to go but there's a lot of tunnels in the mountains. Once they're in the region then there's more options for giant ruins and such.

I love how they're adamant about not going to the Underdark. I was worried that I would have to find ways to dissuade them. Nope. They're doing just fine on their own. Even if I put up big lighted arrows pointing to the Underdark they wouldn't go. And this pleases me because they would die if they went there. I couldn't do much about it. So they'll stay at the tunnel entrance (that has been collapsed as extra insurance) and explore there.

The Rocketbook is turning into something interesting. By uploading to Google Drive it does OCR for me and it doesn't do a bad job at all. I can see most of the issues are my handwriting. Go figure. I have my first batch of letters to adjust and we'll see how it goes for the next upload. I also have to space things out more. I tend to crowd my writing. But it is difficult to take good notes while also running the game so I'll do my best. My handwriting needed work anyway.

So for now I'm going with Rocketbook being a plus. I need to transcribe my first notes into a Google Doc since they were written the old fashioned way and I'm trying to keep things more organized. But that's for another day.

I need to make more inn and tavern menus. This is fine since I had plans for those anyway. The generator I'm using is good but not great. My friend Aba is working on his first sets of list and a menu generator (with my help) so that one might be more what I need. I'll still adjust it as I see fit. I like having actual food items since it makes things more immersive. Like the trinkets I hand out. As the praying mantis showed sometimes that can lead to interesting things!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Game Prep Stuff

As any GM knows there's a lot that goes into game prep. Running in a sandbox world means a LOT of prep since there's never any certainty the players are going to go with what you hope. Unless you make it REALLY COOL but that's another post.

I had less time than normal to prep this time around. Because of life we had to switch the weekend schedule. One player's custody weekend got swapped to the game weekend. I put it to the group (without him in the email chain) with the three options. The player knew all the options going forward.

  1. Switch weekends
  2. Keep the weekends, play while he has his four kids at home
  3. Keep the weekends, player would leave the game.
I sent the email without stating a preference. I know I get one vote like everyone else but the GM's vote has the unfortunate tendency to carry more weight with some groups. I figured I would be a tie breaker if needed.

Unanimous vote to switch weekends. This was a pleasant thing to relay.

Next hurdle - more life. We couldn't play on Saturday but everyone could make Sunday. Ok. Fine. My weekend gets a bit screwed up but I can handle that.

I also met with a potential new player who was recommended by a current player. He seems to understand and accept the house rules and started coming up with a nice character.

And then to prepping. Lots of prepping. Things I would have had a week to do I had to complete in two days. Along with the extra burden of introducing a new PC to the game. No pressure, right?

I'm trying a Rocketbook after hearing good things about it from the Twitter GM community and it makes sense. You can click the link for more info but it's plastic pages you write on with special markers. When you're done you use the app to take pictures of the pages and they get uploaded to any one of half a dozen or so storage sites. The best thing is that several of them do OCR as you upload. That's what got me. The post office messed up my delivery so I had less time to play with it than I would have liked but so far it's been good. I took this game's notes in it so crossing my fingers I don't have to rewrite them all in my spiral bound notebook.

I made magic items for two of the original players based on their backstories. Turns out I did really well in picking the right one for them going forward. At least that's what they told me. I always offer to make or pick something else if it doesn't feel right and have yet to have someone take me up on it. I wonder if they really do like it or if they don't want to make me feel bad. GM insecurities.

Finally I needed to make taverns and inns. I have a wonderful deck of cards that has taverns with menus so I could use those. Except when the PCs are only going to be in the area for a day or three I don't want to 'use up' one of the good taverns. 

Enter Infinite Menus from Inkwell Ideas. I love their stuff. I have all the Infinite series products and adapt them as I see fit. In this case I decided on limiting the fare available in these taverns since they're all out in the wilds. Those taverns aren't going to have a selection of dishes. You eat what they serve. The instructions help you with determining random numbers of dishes and I did try that. Once. Now I'm doing one choice meals. I may get fancier later.

Add onto this reading material that I would probably/hopefully use in the game, making notes for what I need to ask each player, and all the other things that go into prepping for a game and it made for a long two days.

But I think it went well. I'll write up the game itself after I've had a chance to let my brain recover.

Note - DriveThruRPG links are affiliate links.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Forgotten Realms Campaign - The Group Forms

[GM commentary is in square brackets. Refer to the Forgotten Realms Page for more detailed information about the characters and setting.]

[At the beginning of the game I asked that the players please form themselves into a group, as they're all experienced role players and know how it should go. I did my part by getting them all in the same place at the same time with nothing to do.]

Nihilus and L'oric are staying at The Full Basket Inn. Well. L'oric is actually staying there and Nihilus doesn't really like the idea of "other people" so he's camping out in the inn's attic without bothering to tell the innkeeper.

Izzy and Finy are staying at The Smiling Pig. [I didn't have Finy's backstory but he's got a 10 strength so I gave him a lesser Backpack of Holding as his freebie. I offered the choice of taking that or having me make something from his backstory but he was more than pleased to take the backpack so he could carry a reasonable amount of stuff.]

[I used the 'high or low' method of determining who was staying at what inn. I asked the player to choose high or low, then rolled percentage. If they chose the matching dice roll, it was a Yes. If not it was a No. Luck had them evenly split.]

Finy is 'working' at The Full Basket Inn that evening, pickup up change left at the bar and snagging one belt pouch in the process. He gets a bit of coin, a praying mantis in a cube of black glass, and a bracelet (7 steel hearts connected on a platinum curb chain, with a tiny hidden closable cavity) (Appraisal check at 520gp].

Nihilus sees a full blooded elf in the tavern and decides to have a chat with him, even though wood elves and sun elves aren't best buds. He's on a quest to find his homeland so he's looking for information. L'oric is more than a bit of a dilettante (his own description) and has ordered elven wine like it was something special, forgetting that he's in a merchant city that sees pretty much everything pass through. So it isn't a big deal to anyone but him.

The two of them are talking when Izzy walks in and sees L'oric. She immediately yells out "Dad!" and rushes over over to hug him. Nihilus reacts as a paranoid wood elf would react and pulls out one of his pair of falchions. He goes for her throat. Izzy stops cold when she sees that L'oric is not actually her father and that she is about to die.

Finy sees the action and wanders over to watch from a nearby table. He also picks up L'oric's wine and starts drinking it. Shamelessly.

Nihilus realizes this wasn't an attack and sits back down. Izzy goes into a stammering explanation that has double entendre written all over, completely by accident. All three of the men misinterpret her and she has to talk very fast to make them understand that she wasn't propositioning them. A patron behind her didn't pick up on that and tries to pick her up. Literally. She pulls out her mace as a warning and that little confrontation is over.

After she removes her foot from her mouth she joins them and their conversation about what to do next. [I had given each of them cards with at least two bits of information from nearby areas. By sheer luck the setting I'd put Izzy in is the same one she chose. I did not know this prior to the game.] L'oric and Finy are having a disagreement over the filched wine and finally give it up. Finy keeps the wine.

As Finy is ostentatiously displaying the mug and explaining that it belongs to the inn, not the elf, he finds a note stuck to the bottom (Midnight. Doorway in Malak's alley. Bring Relen and Donog). He has no idea about any of this but keeps the note. [It's a throwaway bit of mystery on my part.]

L'oric does a little prestidigitation to make the wine less savory - more of a vinegar taste. To him it would be undrinkable, as an elf and a connoisseur of fine things. Finy doesn't notice. Izzy does notice L'oric doing something with his hands but keeps it to herself at the moment.

Izzy proposes they go to the Farsea Marshes in Cormyr and collect orc ears since there's a bounty on them. The group agrees that it would be an interesting way to get some money and possibly explore the ruins she said were nearby. Except that Nihilus had left without them noticing so they feel he's not going to accompany them.

Nihilus went out the window to the inn roof to the rafters [This sort of thing is going to grow old if he doesn't settle down but he's trying to establish his character so I'm letting it play out for now.] He decides to send them a note that he is going with them. His method of choice is to write it on a piece of paper, tie it to an arrow, and shoot it into the table. He misses terribly. The arrow goes out the window and hits someone passing by. He tries again and it just goes out the window. He gives up on that method of telling them and goes back to his attic. [Ranged weapons are not his forte.]

The group decides to leave since someone is shooting arrows over their heads. The rest of the crowd doesn't even seem to notice. Except for the person who got hit but they don't come in looking for who did it.

Izzy leaves to go back to her inn. Nihilius decides to follow her to make sure she's safe. She picks up on someone following her and decides to duck into an alley to lose whoever it is or at least draw them out. She instead walks directly into a bricked up entryway. Nihilius decides to hide behind a barrel while she sorts herself out and falls into it instead.

Finy had been following both of them and saw the whole thing. Izzy once again picked up on someone following her but didn't see anyone. Nihilus never even checked to see if he was followed. Finy now has some wonderful material to tease them both.

The next morning they start talking about how far it is to the marshes and it turns out it's at least 2 tendays each way. L'oric is far less enthusiastic. Most of them are NOT enthusiastic about having to make part of the trip by ship. Nihilus instead proposes going to the Giant's Run Mountains off the Trader's Road where he's heard about ruins and tunnels. That trip is less than a tenday each way and completely overland. He'd just traveled that road with the caravan too.

The group does mundane shopping to get supplies. Izzy repeats several times that she can create water. She's very proud of this. [I need to remind the players to take the purchase costs off their money if they haven't already.]

They buy horses. Finy is not happy with the concept of riding even a pony. Izzy buys a nice dapple grey, Nihilus asks for and gets a bay quarterhorse, L'oric doesn't seem to care. Finy asks if he can buy an eighth horse (playing off the quarterhorse and his own discomfort with horses) to which the seller replies he could at the butcher. Finy buys a small dark brown pony. Everyone except Nihilius gets full tack - he doesn't buy a saddle or saddlebags.

Their first day out L'oric remembers that they had hired on to caravans in the past to guard them and they agree that it would be a good way to pick up some coin while going to the mountains. His manner is off-putting enough that the caravan leader thinks he's a spy or going to rob them and passes that along to every caravan going in that direction. [Diplomacy doesn't seem to be their strong suit.]

Nihilus has skill in cooking along with a spice jar that makes any spice he wants. [That's the item I gave him based on his back story and the player loves that I picked that for him. It's the Spice Jar from the Magic of Faerun book and I reduced the attributes since it was a bit more major than I wanted to have in the game. The spice gives some extra hit points and resistance to disease and poison for a short time.]

That night they're attacked by thorn bushes. Moving thorn bushes that can shoot their thorns. The people who get hit by them feel itching but nothing else [That spice jar from dinner. I didn't have them roll Fortitude checks since I didn't want them to be even weaker than they are now.]. L'oric cast a Light spell into the middle of the area Nihilus pointed out while they were trying to figure out what the heck they were fighting. He also casts a Sleep spell to seemingly no effect. Izzy cast both Detect Evil and Protection from Chaos. Nihilus finally figured out that it was bushes and not animals or people. Eventually they pound and burn the bushes down to kindling with Nihilus taking the most damage. Izzy heals everyone who needs it. L'oric is very proud that his Sleep spell took down one of the bushes. They find 2 gold and 16 silver coins, a pair of brass octahedron earrings covered in infinity symbols, [and one other item that may have been the bracelet but I've moved that to the pouch Finy lifted since the player had the card anyway].

Nihilus picks up six thorns to use in his alchemy.

The next day they see that they weren't the only one attacked. There's wounded people in the caravans and some thorns stuck in the wagons.

Four days of traveling got them to the trail to the mountains. Nihilus does hunt a small deer so they have fresh meat for a couple of days and he's tanning the hide. [One encounter on the road was plenty imo.] We left it there since we had reached the end of the session.

GM Notes

I have a lot of trinket and jewelry cards pre-made. Typically I hand them out and unless it's got some kind of magic effect or I want to use it as a plot device I don't write them down. The players tend to sell them anyway. But since I'm going to try to write this up I'll need to be more attentive. They're nifty things.

There were several critical failures during the game. They're not noted in the story as written but they're kind of obvious. Finy stealing the belt pouch (critical fail on the mark). The arrow that hit a passerby. The attempt to move silently into an alley. The attempt to hide behind the barrel. The attempt to hire onto the caravan. I don't want to put mechanics into the story itself and those are the actual events that transpired in the game when they rolled critical fails. If you want it noted put in the comments so I can add something like [Critical fail] after the event.

I also asked the players to make backup characters and only one has completed theirs so far. I'm going to use those to make a nemesis party (I got that idea from one of the people I follow on Twitter) so there hasn't been mention of them yet. As I get those I'll update the page with the cast of characters and start working them into the story.

I'm meeting with another person this week who's friends with L'oric's player and wants to join the game. Five is the most I'll have at the table and I can have more interesting encounters with more players. It's a challenge to keep them all involved and make sure everyone gets a chance in the spotlight but I've done it before. It also makes for more complicated interactions within the party which is always good.

We meet again in two weeks, just before Christmas. It doesn't matter in game since I started us in late spring (the equivalent of May) so that I didn't have to add weather problems in while they're still very low level. I may make my grandmother's recipe for the real version of Chex Mix and bring it along as a treat. It's a very good treat. Any recipe that starts with "1 pound butter" is going to be good.