D&D Encounters Web of the Spider Queen – Week 10

Previous sessionWeek 7-8 / Next session: Week 11

I was out of town last week for work and for my brother’s wedding (I actually spent Wednesday evening going to the circus in a small town in Ohio), so I don’t have a week 9 recap for you. However, I was told that the party took the direct approach of beating down some ogres and some drow. We don’t need no stinking negotiation!

After finding someplace to rest, the party began this session fully rested and ready to delve deeper into the drow city of Zadzifeirryn. They found themselves in a twisting set of tunnels with spiders on the ceiling, known as the Flycatcher Tangle. An obvious trail of blood led them to the badly beaten, but not dead, elf ranger Tharinel. They had last seen Tharinel back in week 5, just before he and Khara Sulwood were abruptly teleported away by Elminster.

Someone handed Tharinel a Cure Light Wounds potion, which got the elf back on his feet, and he asked the party if they could help him avoid drow patrols long enough to escape. After some debate, the party agreed to do this, which led to a fairly easy fight against some drow scouts.

Flycatcher Tangle map – Gridded

Flycatcher Tangle map – No grid

Meanwhile, as the group had been navigating the Flycatcher Tangle, they ran into two problems every five minutes. First, the swarms of spiders on the ceilings would attack everyone, potentially dealing 10 poison damage. Second, they had a chance of running into drow patrols, which wouldn’t lead to actual combat but could lead to some lost healing surges.

I played this as written for the journey to find Tharinel, but I soon got sick of having to attack all seven PCs with spiders, so I skipped that part. They still had to roll for drow patrols and distracting the drow, but I had a hard time making it interesting.

This skill challenge didn’t really “pop” for me, but it did wear down some healing surges, I suppose, so that’s something. The combat was fun for the party – they got to feel powerful. Still, I think this was one of the weaker sessions of the season.

-Michael the OnlineDM

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

Review: DM Minion

A few weeks ago, around the same time that I was approached by BannersOnTheCheap with the offer of free stuff in exchange for a review, I was also approached by Goathead Software with an offer of free stuff in exchange for a review. In this case, the free stuff consisted of their tools for D&D 4th Edition: DM Minion and Player Minion. Yes, I’ve hit the big time now, folks; free stuff is coming my way thanks to my influence (note: tongue firmly in cheek here).

The timing of the offer was good. I had recently received an iPad as a gift from my awesome wife, so I was in a position to be able to try out these kind of apps in a format that makes sense. I spend most of my time on the DM side of the screen, so I would be focusing on DM Minion.

The basic idea of the app is that it lets you run combat efficiently. It’s intended to help you keep track of initiative, hit points, conditions and monster power usage. Several other free tools are out there for this purpose already (MasterPlan and D&D 4e Combat Manager are two that I’m familiar with, and I know there are others), but DM Minion is a paid app (I believe its list price was $4.99, though as I said I was given a free review copy). One of its killer functions is that you can import characters and monsters from the D&D Insider tools… more on that in a minute.

Downloading the app was easy enough. It comes with a 17 page Quick Guide PDF to help you navigate the program. Using it takes a little learning, but the Quick Guide helps.

The highly non-intuitive thing that you have to learn with DM Minion is that it’s not really a stand-alone app; you use it in conjunction with a free account on the Goathead Software web site. From the web site, you can import your .dnd4e files and your .monster files. Once you’ve imported them to your Goathead account, you can access them in DM Minion.

So to recap, the steps are:

  • Create characters/monsters in the DDI tools (Character Builder and Adventure Tools – Monster Builder)
  • Export the .dnd4e / .monster files from the DDI tools to your computer
  • Log in to your Goathead account
  • Upload your .dnd4e / .monster files to your Goathead account
  • Within the DM Minion app, import the PCs / monsters from your Goathead account

I compare this to the fantastic (and free) Power2ool site (which is not built for running combat, to be clear), which integrates directly with the DDI Compendium to allow direct monster import; Power2ool does it right. With Power2ool you can directly import monsters into the program rather than going through the export to PC – import to web site steps (let alone the import to web site – then use in app step). I’m guessing that there are some technological limitations on the iPad that make this impossible or something like that, but the extra steps involved with getting monsters into DM Minion are a major pain.

The main combat tracking screen

As for functionality, DM Minion seems to do what it promises. It’s pretty easy to track initiative (including delayed actions and readied actions), track monster HP, track conditions (including the variety of times that they can end), add new combatants to the fight, track which monster powers have been used, etc. It’s not so user-friendly that it blows me away with its simplicity, but it does what it needs to do.

My verdict: If you really want to use an iPad or another tablet to track your combat, DM Minion can do the job if you’re willing to jump through the hoops to get it all set up. I personally use MapTool to do all of this, of course (plus building and editing monsters), and if I weren’t using MapTool I’d probably go back to the free DnD4eCM rather than pay for DM Minion, but if I really wanted to use the iPad I might go for DM Minion.

-Michael the OnlineDM

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

P.S. Amusingly, I believe the creator of DM Minion and Player Minion ended up using some of the MapTool token art that I created for my web site as their icons. Small world! To be clear, I don’t own those images or anything like that, and I thought it was amusing to see someone else using what I created.

D&D Encounters Web of the Spider Queen – Weeks 7 and 8

Previous session: Week 6 / Next session: Week 10

Since our Friendly Local Game Store closed early on Wednesday, July 4, for Independence Day, we did not have D&D Encounters that night. Instead, we ran two sessions back to back on Wednesday, July 11. Yeah, this was a little bit nuts. In retrospect, it would have been great to run sessions 6 and 7 on the same night, since session 6 wasn’t an actual combat and didn’t take very long.

But a DM’s gotta do what a DM’s gotta do.

Week 7 – Jaelre Elite

After the Tests of Lolth, the party found itself in a cavern full of elite drow from the house of Valan Jaelre (the apparent big bad of the adventure). Not a lot of story here; the drow demanded surrender, and when they didn’t get it, combat began. The only real story element was that the drow priestess leading the group mentioned that the human girl and her elf pet hadn’t put up much of a fight; a reference to Khara and Tharinel that the party pretty much ignored.

The fight itself was a pretty cool one. We had the priestess, who liked to shoot venom from long range, a two-blade ranger with a sewn-shut mouth and a spider companion, a burly drow male with a maul and a sneaky female assassin who climbed the walls and threw daggers tied to spidersilk rope.

Jaelre Elite cave map – gridded

Jaelre Elite cave map – no grid

With seven PCs at the table and a limited time for the fight, I didn’t scale anything up. Aside from our dwarf fighter getting totally beat on and knocked unconscious in the first round (he got better), the fight wasn’t too much trouble for the gang. It did take more than half of our two-hour time period, though, so I moved on quickly.

Week 8 – The Demonspur

The party found a secret passage out of the Jaelre Elite’s chamber, which ultimately led them to a huge cavern. They were entering via a tunnel high on one wall of this chamber, which had a massive stalactite hanging down from the ceiling with rope bridges connecting it to various side tunnels (including the one the PCs were coming from). The stalactite was basically an inverted tower of several floors, and red lights could be seen glowing inside of it.

Walking along one of the other rope bridges going into the stalactite (known as the Demonspur) were several drow leading a bunch of goblin captives.

The party did an excellent job of sneaking along the rope bridge to the top floor of the Demonspur and surprising the drow within. Since we had three goblins PCs and there were goblin captives in the Demonspur, the party agreed not to attack any goblins that didn’t attack first.

This fight was pretty quick, and confined to the top floor (we were short on time, so I didn’t do anything fancy). The goblin PCs worked hard to persuade the goblin captives to fight the drow, with pretty good success. The bugbear captive (“Big Eddie,” the goblins called him) didn’t get the memo, though, and had to be fought along with the drow. Not a problem for our intrepid band of heroes, however, especially with goblin help.

Demonspur map with spiderweb – gridded

Demonspur map with spiderweb – no grid

Unfortunately, I’m going to be out of town for Week 9, so I’ll resume my recaps with Week 10 in two weeks’ time.

D&D Encounters Web of the Spider Queen – Week 6

Previous WeekWeek Four / Next Week: Week 7-8

I was out of town last week, so a substitute DM had the pleasure of running my table through an exciting encounter with Valan Jaelre and friends. The party was given the chance to take an extended rest after that fight (and somehow allowed to go shopping in an empty cave in the Underdark), ready for whatever I was going to throw at them this week.

My players immediately noticed that I had not brought my projector rig with me. “No battle this week?” Well, no map at least. I ran the game with my iPad for the adventure and a few honest-to-goodness physical dice.

After wandering deeper into the Underdark, the adventurers found themselves faced with a carved dragon/demon head on a wall, with a shimmering barrier inside its huge mouth. A message on the ground, magically changing to the language of whoever was reading it, said: “Enter and pass the tests in the name of the Queen of Spiders.”

Our intrepid (and now fully healing-surged) goblin slayer, Snarl, poked a finger into the shimmering barrier… and disappeared! He had been teleported away. Being bold adventurers, the rest of the party followed suit.

I ran the rest of the session by bouncing around the table, letting each PC tell me a bit of what they were going to do and then moving on to the next PC.

Test of Spiders

Snarl and our new drow ranger Drizzt (no relation) each found themselves in a chamber lined floor-to-ceiling with dusty ropes mounted in a spiderweb pattern. Three sharp spikes with dried blood on them stuck up from the ground, surrounded by bones of some tiny creatures. A channel ran along the tops of the walls near the ceiling with some movement visible within.

A message on one wall read, “Lure your prey onto the web, then impale them with your fangs. Three shall feed your ambition.” Snarl quickly decided to grab a spike, climb the ropes, and lure out a creature, which turned out to be a zombie rat. He speared the little thing, which made his spike start to glow. Wash, rinse and repeat, and the door opened, letting him out of the chamber.

Amusingly, Drizzt (no relation) decided to hack up some ropes with his sword, then climb up and hack some zombie rats with his sword. This had no particular effect, so he ultimately followed Snarl’s lead (even though they were in different, though identical, chambers) and speared some zombie rats.

Test of Shadow

The dice were kind to Zin, our drow wizard, who found himself in a room whose floor was covered with different colored tiles. The room was totally dark, but hey, drow have darkvision! Zin was easily able to walk the narrow path of dark colored tiles from one corner of the room to the other without slipping off, and the door opened for him.

Test of Deceit

Thoradin the dwarf fighter and Squintch the goblin scout each ended up in a room with a big statue of Lolth and an inscription on the wall that asked the adventurer to answer three questions about their motivation and talents. They both figured out that Lolth wanted to hear good lies rather than the truth, and they came up with some okay stories. The exception was Squintch saying that he didn’t know what his purpose was – Lolth found his lie to be sup-par and zapped him, and he then got on the right track.

Test of Demons

This one held the most challenge for my party. A statue of a horrific demonic creature stood on one wall with hands outstretched. The statue’s hands could clearly hold items, and there were six different weapons around the room. There were also four gems in the walls that seemed to have magic tied to different damage types (lightning, cold, poison and fire).

Helios the genasi sorcerer took a trial-and-error approach and was rewarded for his many errors with lots of damage. After getting zapped three times by incorrect weapon / damage type placement, he found himself teleported away, tumbling down a chute into a cage. Fortunately for him, this cage was suspended above the room where his more successful companions had found themselves, and they were able to get him out.

After getting zapped once, our goblin hunter Snipe decided to rack his brain for memory of what this statue represented. He recognized it as a balor, which usually wields a lightning sword and a fiery whip. He armed the statue appropriately, touched the appropriate gems, and walked out of the room when the door opened.

Balor Demon by Ben Wootten


After patching up a few wounds, the group walked down a passageway deeper into the Underdark and soon found themselves hearing a female voice telling them to surrender. Combat seems imminent… but it will have to wait for the next session. Since next Wednesday is July 4 and the store will be closed, we’ll get together in two weeks’ time and run a double session.

This was the first time I had run a no-map session for Encounters, and it was fun. This was our shortest session by far – we were done in about 45 minutes, even with seven PCs. Still, it moved along briskly and the players seemed to have a good time. It will be nice to get back to kicking monster butt next time, though!

– Michael the OnlineDM

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

D&D Encounters Web of the Spider Queen – Week 4

Previous Week: Week Three / Following Week: Week Six

The same gang as last week (minus one, whose regular spot at the other 5:00 PM table had opened back up) gathered Wednesday evening for some more drow-fighting fun. It’s nice to have regulars!

  • A goblin hunter named Snipe
  • A goblin scout named Squintch
  • A goblin slayer named Snarl (who is completely out of healing surges)
  • A svirfneblin warpriest named Ziti
  • A drow mage named Zin
  • A dwarf fighter named Thoradin

As the party rested after a tough fight with a drow priestess, her archer allies and several rooms full of skeletons, a sudden flash of light filled the room. When it faded, a human female and an elf male were standing there. The woman was familiar to the group – it was Khara Sulwood, whom the party had met during the first session back at the Old Skull Inn. Her elf companion was Tharinel, and they had been teleported here by Elminster.

After a few niceties and introductions, it soon became clear that Khara and Tharinel were eager to help recover the Pendant of Ashaba that the drow had stolen.

To the fight!

There was no puzzle or anything like that this week. The party followed the path toward the deep Underdark and eventually came upon a large room filled with bad guys. Two drow archers stood on a platform on one wing of the room with a purple goblin nearby, while two drow scouts stood on the other wing of the room in front of some big spider gates, along with two more purple goblins.

Spider Gates – Gridded

Spider Gates – No Grid

The three goblin members of the party recognized the purple-skinned goblin enemies as Lolthbound goblins, which they hated. The PC goblins had +2 to hit the purple monstrosities.

As I’ve done for the past three weeks, I left the encounter as written, even though I had six PCs and the encounter was written for five. And once again, I feel like this was still a good challenge for the party. Having two NPCs to help definitely made a difference. Snarl’s player controlled Khara the knight and Snipe’s player controlled Tharinel the scout. The players seemed to have a good time directing the NPCs around the board, even though I had forgotten to print out the stat blocks for them.

We ended up with two PCs dropping unconscious this time – Snipe and Thoradin – but fortunately they both had plenty of healing surges. Snarl, the surgeless wonder, managed to end the battle with more hit points than he’d had at the start thanks to some splash healing from Ziti the warpriest. Ziti has been a real MVP the past few weeks, keeping the healing coming as her allies dropped around her. Squintch got the moment of greatness award this week for a particularly memorable charge-crit-max damage on secondary attack move against one of the drow scouts.

At the end of the encounter, five of the six PCs leveled up to level 2. Woo hoo! This will make a big difference in the weeks ahead, I’m expecting.

Sadly, I will be out of town next week and unable to run Encounters, but I’m looking forward to being back in two weeks’ time for the start of Chapter Two!

-Michael the OnlineDM

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

Post Script

The card and dice game I mentioned last week is coming along nicely. I’ve contracted with a graphic designer for the card layout and other work, and I’ve started contracting with artists for sketch art for the initial version of the game. I’m planning on doing a small print run for GenCon, and if it succeeds I’ll do more from there (probably a Kickstarter for full color art and a larger print run). I’ve formed an LLC for publishing the game, hired a lawyer… it’s exciting! More to come as I get to the point where I can start sharing details.

D&D Encounters Web of the Spider Queen – Week 3

Previous Week: Week Two / Following Week: Week Four

Our intrepid heroes gathered again this week to chase the drow into the underdark, in search of the Pendant of Ashaba that the drow had stolen. The same six players as last week were once again at the table, although we did see one player switch characters and another change his character’s name. We also had a seventh player at the table this week. I’m never one to turn away a player!

  • A goblin hunter named Snipe (formerly known as Ferrin)
  • A goblin scout named Squintch
  • A goblin slayer named Snarl (who doesn’t speak but just, well, snarls)
  • A svirfneblin warpriest named Ziti
  • A drow mage named Zin
  • A dwarf fighter named Thoradin (replacing Lloyd the eladrin wizard from last week)
  • A dragonborn slayer named Draco (new to my table)

I’m pleased to note here that the nameless player who introduced himself to me last week and mentioned that he had read my blog did follow up with an email. He’s Justin. Hi Justin!

A puzzle!

Anyway, my gang headed down the stairs from the bottom floor of the Tower of Ashaba and found themselves following drow tracks through a dusty cellar. The tracks led to a large room full of tombs – clearly a crypt – but here the tracks stopped because the crypt was enchanted by a spell that kept it dust-free. The biggest tomb was labeled with the name Lord Ashaba, whom our drow historian recognized as the first lord of Shadowdale. Lord Ashaba was also known to be a water wizard.

The group started looking for secret doors and soon discovered a slight crack where Lord Ashaba’s tomb met the ground. They tried moving the tomb out of the way with brute strength, but it wouldn’t budge. Searching for magic, they noticed some kind of magic sensor that seemed to be focused on a bowl-shaped indentation in the lid of the tomb. Eventually, remembering that Ashaba was a water wizard, they tried pouring water in the indentation… and lo and behold, the tomb swung aside! Stairs led down into darkess, covered with dust, cobwebs and drow footprints.

Arise, my dead kinsmen

At the bottom of the stairs, the group found themselves in another crypt – this one much older. They were on a small upper level with stairs leading down to a larger chamber lined with stone coffins. To the south, a longer stairway stretched into darkness, and on this stairway was an unfriendly-looking drow priestess of some sort. She tossed her pretty necklace to the ground and called for her dead kinsmen to rise up and fight the intruders.

White mist began billowing out of the necklace, and skeletons began moving about in the coffins. The fight was on!

Hall of the Dead - Gridded

Hall of the Dead - No Grid

The adventurers did a good job of rolling well on initiative, and the drow priestess, despite her retreat down the stairs, soon found herself being mauled by two slayers before she had even acted. Ouch ouch! She dropped a cloud of poisonous spiders on them, swung at one with her totem, then tried to retreat down the stairs. She was dying by the end of the first round.

She was not alone, however, as skeletons started clambering out of their coffins whenever the white mist reached them. These were soon found to be minons however, and even in large numbers (eight to start with, and three more each round) they weren’t too scary.

We also had a few drow archers in this encounter, who made life much more miserable for the party – especially Snarl the goblin, who came into the encounter with only two healing surges left. Poor Snarl got wrecked by a critical hit from an archer in the third round and found himself on the ground, dying. He was soon revived by his goblin brethren, and ended up spending both of his remaining surges. He will enter encounter 4 with no surges and 11 hit points. Eek!

That didn’t stop the little dude from wrecking foes left and right. He charged right after the archer who had dropped him, all by his lonesome. That was worthy of a Moment of Greatness for sure.

The rest of the party wasn’t waiting idly, either. Zin the mage became the first PC I’ve seen to earn the “kill three or more minions with a single attack” achievement for toasting some skeletons. Ziti got to smite some undead. Squintch and Snipe kept the pressure on the bad guys, and Thoradin and Draco did their best to soak up damage for their more fragile friends. It was a great team effort and a well-deserved victory.

-Michael the OnlineDM

Post script – a new game by the OnlineDM

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have seen me mention a new dice/card game that I’ve been working on. This game is the reason I haven’t been blogging much in the past week.

I came up with the idea and the first prototype last Thursday (May 31) and have tried it out with several different groups since then. In the last two days, I’ve had two different groups of strangers at the local game store play the game, and both times had people asking me when they can buy this thing.

So, I’m actually developing a game! It’s fun, too. I’m not ready to share a ton of details just yet, but I will say that it’s themed around alchemy, that it uses both cards and dice, and that it’s designed to be quick to play (15 minutes for two players and up to about 45 minutes for five players). I plan to do a small print run in the next couple of months, and if things go really well I plan to eventually run a Kickstarter to fund a bigger print run and some nice, professional artwork for the cards.

I’m in the process of looking for artists right now, so if you know anyone, send them my way!

Wish me luck!

D&D Encounters Web of the Spider Queen – Week 2

Previous Week: Week One / Following Week: Week Three

Week Two of the story picks up where Week One left off, in the Old Skull Inn in Shadowdale just after the heroes have fended off a drow invasion. We had five of the same players at the table as last week, and one player who has played D&D 3.5 but who was brand new to 4th Edition:

  • A goblin hunter named Ferrin
  • A goblin scout named Squintch
  • A goblin slayer named Snarl (who doesn’t speak but just, well, snarls)
  • A svirfneblin warpriest named Ziti
  • A drow mage named Zin
  • An eladrin wizard named Lloyd (the new player)

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I love introducing new players to the game. Sure, he already knew how to play D&D, but he’s new to 4th Edition, so I’ll take it! I’ll also mention that there was another person in the store who was going to be playing at the later table, and he mentioned that he had seen my Week One post and recognized me. Hi there, dude whose name I failed to catch!

Anyway, after fending off the drow invasion, the svirfneblin cleric in the party received a Sending message in her head from the great wizard Elminster. He explained that he was busy fighting off drow, and that he wanted the adventurers to go get the Pendant of Ashaba from the Twisted Tower.

They soon learned from the innkeeper that the Twister Tower is where the lady of the city, Addee Ulphor, lives. However, the goblins in the group were more interested in checking out the inn’s cellar, where these drow invaders had come from.

Sidebar: Svirfneblin became Smurf Zepplin at our table. I’m picturing one of those giant balloons from a parade now. Awesome!

Smurf Zepplin

Let’s go off the rails!

All right, sure. So, the cellar was a pretty typical storage cellar, except for the clear drow tracks coming from a broken, heavy-looking wooden door in one corner. On the other side of the door was a long ladder heading down into darkness (note that I was making all of this up on the fly, but I faked it well).

Elminster jumped in to the svirfneblin’s head again, complaining about how Lady Ulphor wouldn’t listen to him when he told her not to keep the Pendant in the tower. Ziti used the reply function of the Sending ritual to tell Elminster that the party was ignoring him and instead going into the Underdark beneath the Old Skull Inn.

Well, that got the old wizard’s attention! With the goblins at the bottom of the ladder and starting to explore the long tunnel down there and Ziti halfway down the ladder, Elminster whipped up a Mass Sending to yell at everybody and tell them how important it was that they help at the tower.

Heavy-handed of me? Maybe. I was actually expecting them to still ignore Elminster, in which case I would be making up D&D Encounters as I went along! Hey, I like improv. Fortunately, the party did decide to go check out the tower after all.

Note that they didn’t ask any questions about the tower – let’s roll!

The direct approach

Now, the adventure gives the party lots of options for approaching the tower carefully. A few PCs can scout ahead and enter the front door. The whole group can be stealthy. They can try a water approach, coming to the dock on the back of the tower.

Not my group! “Hey look – there’s the front door. I go knock on it.”

Okay then. The door was damaged and off its hinges, so the party walked right in.

Tower of Ashaba - Gridded

Tower of Ashaba - No Grid

In the middle of this large area, they saw Lady Addee Ulphor. She was backed against a sepulcher and looking nervous. She told the party to leave, “… or else they’ll kill me.” With this, she glanced nervously to the left and right.

A little back and forth with Lady Ulphor followed, until eventually Zin the drow decided to make an Insight check. Ferrin and Ziti did likewise. Ferrin got the feeling that something wasn’t quite right here, but it was Ziti who rolled a critical success on her Insight check and saw that Lady Addee was in fact not Lady Addee at all, but some kind of shapeshifter disguised to look like the Lady.


This combat was against the shapeshifter, three drow templars (soldiers) and two drow informants (sneaky guys who can become invisible). Since we had six PCs instead of the five that the adventure assumes, I was planning to throw in an extra informant.

The sneaky, invisible informants won initiative, and I just had them hang back and hide in round 1, maintaining their invisibility. Poor Snarl went next; as a slayer, he was the closest thing the party had to a defender tonight. He charged in and attacked the lady/shapeshifter.

Then came the templars. Snarl was soon in deep doo-doo.

The ranged characters hung back while the cleric and scout started mixing it up, but they soon discovered that the spear-wielding templars had defender auras and could beat the crap out of them if they shifted.

In round three, the shapeshifter was bloodied, so she started retreating. Meanwhile, the informants finally got close enough to start attacking. Squintch was soon unconscious, and Ziti had a moment of awesome by letting Squintch make a saving throw that ended up getting him a 20 and back in the action.

I had decided by the end of round two not to bring in the extra informant; the party already had their hands full. Lots of bloody PCs were limping around the battlefield by the time the drow were wiped out, and the shapeshifter had gotten away, swimming across the river.

I fear that if I had used the extra informant, I might have some dead PCs on my hands. As it stands, Snarl and Squintch are down to two or three healing surges each already. Eek!


So, it was a much tougher fight for the party this week. They explored the tower and saw that the real Lady Ulphor had apparently escaped, but that the Pendant of Ashaba was nowhere to be found. Furthermore, they found drow tracks not only coming UP from the cellar, but also going back DOWN. It seems that the party’s path lies below…

-Michael the OnlineDM

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

May of the Dead: Spooks Under Silverymoon

My contribution to the May of the Dead blog carnival is an adventure for low-level D&D 4th Edition adventurers: Spooks Under Silverymoon. You can download the PDF here, and maps for use in MapTool (scaled to 50 pixels per square) are below.

I originally created this adventure for my wife, my wife’s brother, and his wife. My brother in law and his family were visiting us for the week of Christmas 2010, and I introduced them to D&D. We first played the Castle Ravenloft board game, then created characters for a real D&D game.

The first adventure I ran for them was a Living Forgotten Realms adventure – LURU 2-3 Forgotten Crypts, Hidden Dangers (which you can download here). They enjoyed it very much, and they wanted to know what happens next. So, I spent most of the next day creating what happens next, and Spooks Under Silverymoon is the result.

The basic plot is that the Lady’s College of Silverymoon has started to become infested with ghosts, and the party is hired to go into the catacombs beneath the college to figure out why. It’s a fairly straightforward adventure, with the potential for clever players to bypass combat in a few places.

I’m considering this as a first draft for publication, since I have only run the adventure with a party of 3 PCs before but have written it here for five. Feedback is welcome!

Zombie Chamber - Gridded

Zombie Chamber - No Grid

Fetid Pool - Gridded

Fetid Pool - No Grid

Square Chamber - Gridded

Square Chamber - No Grid

Ghost Prince Chamber - Gridded

Ghost Prince Chamber - No Grid

-Michael the OnlineDM

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

D&D Encounters Web of the Spider Queen – Week 1

Previous week: Week zero / Following week: Week two

And so the adventure begins!

We had a total of twelve players for two tables of D&D Encounters at 5:00 PM at Enchanted Grounds today. I had four of the same five players from last week (father, son, daughter, another boy) plus two more players (adults). Our party consisted of:

  • Two goblin hunters (that is, hunters who happened to be of the goblin race, not people who hunt goblins) named Ferrin and Pointy
  • A goblin scout named Squintch
  • A goblin slayer named Snarl (who doesn’t speak but just, well, snarls)
  • A svirfneblin warpriest named Ziti
  • A drow mage named Zin

They decided that the four goblins were traveling together, and the drow and svirfneblin were another pair of travelers. The drow saw himself as a spy for the underdark. Hm. This could be interesting.

Six adventurers walk into a bar; specifically, the Old Skull Inn of Shadowdale. After some suspicious glances at the rather monstrous party before her, Ghessla Silvermane welcomed the group to her inn (extracting a promise that they weren’t in Shadowdale to cause trouble – especially the drow). She waved her burly employee Thrad over to start taking some meal orders. The Shadowdale Special was popular with the goblins (especially after the drow mage used Prestidigitation to make their meals wiggle).

The goblin hunters explored upstairs, finding that half of the second and third floors were under construction for some renovations. Downstairs, the goblin scout made friends with a smelly old man called Old Dogsbreath. He started raving about seeing drow in the woods, which Zin was quite curious about.

An attractive woman with long, dark hair told Zin that she was known as Khara Sulwood, and she had recently moved to Shadowdale. She mentioned that Doust Sulwood was her great-grandfather; Zin recognized the name as belonging to a lord of Shadowdale long ago.

A pair of dwarves welcomed Pointy into their merry drinking games.

After a while, folks started heading for bed. Ghessla pulled some of the party members aside and mentioned that allowing people into the Underdark was strictly forbidden under the laws of Shadowdale, laws that just aren’t worth breaking for less than, say, 100 gold pieces. She’s a fun one, that Ghessla.

When down in the inn there arose such a clatter…

Wouldn’t you know it, the quiet of the night was broken by a commotion downstairs. Everyone rushed down to find that the inn was under attack by drow! One invader attacked Ghessla, who crumpled to the ground, her light going out (I was using lighting features in MapTool for the first time, so this was cool). Old Dogsbreath was menacing a drow using his rusty dagger, and the two dwarves were in the process of surrendering when the heroes charged down the stairs.


Sounds and sights of more fighting were noticed outside the inn, so it was going to be up to this ragtag group to save the Old Skull Inn themselves.

Fortunately, they were up to the task! Noticing that I had used a female drow picture for the archer, Zin (our party’s drow) told the gang to try to get after her, since female drow tended to be nasty. Clouds of darkness started popping up left and right, especially once more drow came up from the cellar in round two, but a couple of PCs used their amulets from the character creation week to make the darkness go away.

Poor Snarl couldn’t land a hit on the drow he went after, even burning his action point. He soon found himself bloodied and poisoned, with Ziti having to heal him twice.

As the battle wore into the third and fourth rounds, the adventurers got the upper hand and turned the tide once the strikers started rolling well. The goblins and svirfneblin discovered that I would let them move freely under the tables of the inn, which was great fun. Before long, the inn was littered with the corpses of vanquished enemies, and Ghessla was popping up off the floor, having only played dead.

As the inn patrons were thanking the party and everyone was assessing the damage, Ziti the svirfneblin suddenly heard a voice begin speaking in her mind: “This is Elminster…”

And on that note, we wrapped up week one. Pretty cool stuff!

-Michael the OnlineDM

D&D Encounters Web of the Spider Queen – Week Zero

Following week: Week one

I’m so excited and happy to be running D&D Encounters again! I ran Encounters last summer for the Dark Legacy of Evard season (recaps of those sessions start here), and I had a blast. I especially love helping newer players get into D&D, and Encounters tends to attract a lot of new players.

This time, the season begins with a “week zero” session for character creation. I had been told that most players don’t bother showing up, since they’ll just make characters on their own in the Character Builder later. I’m happy to say that the players at the 5:00 PM tables decided that week zero was important. I believe we had nine players show up just for character creation.

Once again, I’ll be using my projector rig to run games, and my reputation preceded me at the store. Two of the players were the father and son I first introduced to D&D 4th Edition last summer at Encounters, and they’ve apparently been playing ever since! The father has also been bringing his younger daughter to play, and two more younger players were at my table as well (friends of the son, I believe). So, I’m running a table for four kids ranging from about 8 to 12 years old, plus one adult.

I don’t have kids myself, but I like kids well enough. When it comes to running games for kids, I’m enthusiastic about the opportunity! I really want to encourage the next generation of gamers, and this particular group is already pumped up. They’ve apparently been playing together at Encounters for a while, and when they saw that I was going to be running a game (knowing about my projector), they declared that they were all playing at my table. That’s a pretty good feeling!

As for character creation itself, we had a fun time last Wednesday. The boys all came to the table with ideas about what they wanted to play – two hunters and a paladin. They were excited about the new races from Into the Unknown, too; I believe we’ll have at least one goblin.

The young girl at my table wasn’t sure what she wanted to play, but since she already had experience with playing a controller, defender and striker, she decided to go with the warpriest – a leader – for a change of pace. She originally really wanted to be a kobold, but when we started flipping through the books and realized that the kobold didn’t get a bonus to Wisdom she nixed that idea. This really surprised me – I thought that she had her heart set on being a kobold (and it can totally work to have a kobold cleric), but she wanted that +2 to Wisdom. So, she build a svirfneblin instead.

I spent most of my time helping her through the character creation process, and she did really well. It was fun to build from the books instead of just using the Character Builder, and I really enjoyed the custom character sheets that were provided for this season of Encounters.

DMs were also given some treasure cards to represent a very cool neck slot item, one that can pierce a drow’s Cloud of Darkness ability. I believe these were intended to be given to players who participated in an event at PAX, but since we’re in Colorado we didn’t have any PAX-goers at our store. The DM for the other 5:00 PM table had decided that giving these cards out as a reward for showing up to character creation would be appropriate, so that’s what we did. If we have new players come later in the season, they might be able to earn the item through sheer awesomeness; we shall see.

I’ve already prepped the first week’s encounter in MapTool, and I can’t wait to get going. This is going to be fun! I’ll post weekly recaps, along with the maps that I’ve created for each session. Stay tuned!

Subsequent week: Week one

-Michael the OnlineDM

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