A little “meh” on D&D for the moment

I haven’t been blogging much recently, which is in part because I’ve been spending a lot of my time on Chaos & Alchemy (currently working on setting up a Kickstarter to run in the next month or so). My audience here on Online Dungeon Master is interested in D&D, not necessarily my new game company, so I try not to inundate you all with content about the game. However, I will note that I’ve opened a call for artists to do color illustrations for the cards – let me know if you’re interested!

Another reason that I haven’t been blogging much is that I’m not as passionate about D&D right now. Again, that’s in part because my gaming passion is elsewhere, and for a while I thought that was all there was to it.

Drow again?

As I reflect more, though, I realize that there are two other things that are keeping my D&D passion in check. The first is that I’m really not digging D&D Encounters this season. I’m still running the game every week, but it’s not grabbing me. I’m kind of sick of the drow, frankly, and knowing that there’s still MORE drow to come in the next season has me feeling a little depressed. Drow are evil and all, I get it. Can we move on now?

I’ve still been creating maps of the encounters, so I’ve included the Week 5 and Week 7 maps below (I was out of town for week 4 and 6, and week 6 didn’t use a map anyway). Enjoy!

Drow Library Map – Gridded

Drow Library Map – No grid

Underdark Antechamber Map – Gridded

Underdark Antechamber Map – No Grid

The impact of D&D Next

The other thing that has me feeling down is D&D Next. It’s not that I don’t like the system – I’m sure it’s going to end up being really cool. But I currently play 4e, and with all of the community’s attention being on Next, I find it hard to get psyched up about 4e.

The obvious solution to this problem is “Play D&D Next!” And I will, eventually. But I ran the first open playtest, and I think that might have been a mistake for me. I appreciated the quickness of combat, but I was really bored with the Caves of Chaos. Also, the limited pre-generated characters didn’t seem exciting.

Now, had I waited for the second batch of stuff that came out just before GenCon before jumping into the playtest, I think I would have been much happier. The new fighter looks like a lot more fun, and having character creation rules is a very big deal. But by the time that packet came out, I was already getting to the point of ignoring D&D Next. I read the second packet, but I didn’t feel inspired to play it. Again, that’s partly because my time was on Chaos & Alchemy, but it’s also partly because my groups didn’t have that much fun with the first playtest packet, and I didn’t feel passionate about getting them to try the second.

What’s next?

So where do I go from here? Well, for the immediate future I’m going to be busy with Chaos & Alchemy. But I’d like to get back to running a regular D&D game. My online family campaign for Madness at Gardmore Abbey has been on hold for many months, but I’ve got it all prepped and ready to go in MapTool; that’s the most likely place to resume. I’d also like to get back to trying D&D Next; I haven’t even looked at the latest playtest packet yet, and that’s a shame.

But I’m not in any hurry to do that stuff. I have other hobbies occupying my free time right now, and I’m okay with that. D&D will wax in my interest again, but it’s in a waning phase right now. And that’s okay.

-Michael the OnlineDM

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

Drow on drow violence: D&D Encounters Council of Spiders week 3

Isn’t it sad when the party members turn on one another? Not when they’re a bunch of backstabbing drow!

You may remember last week, when some svirfneblin basically wiped out the party (two of them escaped with their lives, barely). Well, this week, through the magic of “That’s the way the plot works,” the party was able to move past the chamber where the svirfneblin had been and advanced to a new place, where a drow priestess and her hobgoblin associates were trying to figure out the secrets of a mysterious obsidian wall.

My party of five drow (worst teen drama ever) was not interested in talking to this mysterious priestess… roll initiative!

Drow Outpost Map – Gridded

Drow Outpost Map – No grid

The battle itself was pretty easy for the party (especially compared to last week’s slaughter). The monsters weren’t rolling especially well, and none of their powers were all that scary. The PCs also felt free to drop daily powers and action points like there was no tomorrow (which, in-game, there basically wasn’t).

The highlight of the night came when the drow mage, who had been created to replace the dead drow hexblade, walked up toward the bad guys and cast Sleep on all of them… but intentionally including three PCs that he completely could have left out of the Sleep spell area without missing any bad guys. It was a total backstabbing drow move, and it was awesome. Only one of the PCs ended up actually falling asleep, but boy, was it in-character!

As the tide of battle turned firmly in the party’s favor, they started fighting over who would get to loot the enemy priestess’s body. There was still one hobgoblin fighting, but three of the PCs ignored him to spend their turns searching the dead priestess. The poor hobgoblin felt so disrespected in these short remaining moments of life.

Once the battle was over, the priestess in the party listened at the obsidian wall and heard two voices, one of which was repeating a well-known prayer to Lolth. The other voice was made out by the paladin to be nonsense syllables often used by drow wizards. They called the mage over to the wall, but he didn’t want to come.

So, the priestess attacked the mage without warning, then used her action point and followed up with a big daily power. This left the mage unconscious, and none of the rest of the party wanted to do anything about it, so the priestess followed up with a coup de grace.

Bam. Dead mage.

They looted the mage’s corpse and eventually worked their way through the obsidian wall, where they found an altar with a magic spear. They decided to use the mage’s body as a blood sacrifice and performed a ritual to claim the chamber’s power for Lolth.

Of course, after this session they all get an extended rest, so the dead mage can come back with no penalty (I awarded him full XP, since he died after the fight was over). My players have really embraced the evil, backstabbing ways of the drow, and they seem to be having fun with it, so good for them!

-Michael the OnlineDM

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

P.S. If you like these maps, I have a whole bunch more available to download for free in my Map Library.

My first (near) TPK – D&D Encounters Council of Spiders Week 2

I’m not normally a killer DM, nor do I pull a lot of punches on my players. But in this week’s session of D&D Encounters: Council of Spiders, I essentially wiped out my party. The reason: The dice wanted them dead.

This week’s session was pretty straightforward. The party (all drow, and pretty much evil across the board) found themselves stuck in an ambush by svirfneblin defending their caves. A rockslide behind them made retreat tricky.

Svirfneblin Ambush Map – Gridded

Svirfneblin Ambush Map – No grid

There were two armored svirfneblin who were marking PCs, five minions with picks, one sneaky one with a garrote, and then two with slings. Oh, those slings.

The sneaky garrote-wielder had the potential to make life miserable for a PC, and she did get her wire around the neck of the hexblade in the party, but the hexblade promptly turned and critically hit her. She didn’t last long after that.

The defender svirfneblins (svirfnebli?) did a good job of marking PCs, but weren’t too scary. The minions weren’t much of a threat, either, having a hard time getting combat advantage to deal extra damage.

But those slingers… sheesh. The rest of the dark gnomes kept the party off the slingers, and those slingers just couldn’t miss. They each had a recharge power that basically let them make two sling attacks if the first one hit (bouncing the rock off the head of the first target and onto the second).

  • Round one: Both slingers hit with both of their ricochet shots, dealing an average of 11 damage per attack for a total of 44 damage.
  • Round two: Same as round one. The ricochet shots recharged for both slingers (ouch), and two PCs dropped. I believe the second shot for one slinger missed, but we’re still talking about something like 33 damage dealt by these two.
  • Round three: One ricochet shot recharged and hit once; the other didn’t, but the regular sling shot still hit.
  • Beyond that: I stopped checking for recharge rolls and just had the slingers make single attacks.

Our slayer was the first to die, falling unconscious in round two and then failing three death saves. The one warpriestess in the party did what she could to bring people back, spending most rounds doing nothing but heal checks and Healing Word (which she reflavored to Word of Ichor since she’s an evil drow), but it wasn’t enough. The ranged thief in the party was dishing out tons of damage, killing one of the svirfneblin defenders in the third round, at which point the other defender decided to risk the opportunity attacks to come after the thief in the back of the group and the slingers started targeting him as well. With the damage machine out of action, the party had little hope.

The PCs kept missing with their attacks while the dark gnomes kept hitting. Once our slayer was dead, I let his player roll the attacks for the svirfneblin, but his dice suddenly turned hot and the gnomes KEPT HITTING!

Eventually, the warpriestess used her Speak with Stone power, which I ruled let her find a small gap in the rock slide that could be wriggled through. Two of the drow made it through that hole before dying, but it was too late for the other four.

Four PCs died. Two escaped. The svirfneblin slingers took zero damage the entire fight. Wow.

So, let this be a lesson to you: Don’t mess with dark gnomes wielding rocks!

Hey, at least the good guys won.

-Michael the OnlineDM

D&D Encounters Web of the Spider Queen – Week 12

Previous session: Week 11

This would be my last week running D&D Encounters this summer, since I’ll be at GenCon next week during the grand finale. I went out in style, though, with EIGHT players at my table (I had six, and then two showed up during the first round of combat).

Tonight’s session was pretty straightforward. The party had defeated the drow torturers last week and was now moving toward the slave pens. They found them easily enough and saw Khara Sulwood kicking a spider, trying to protect some svirfneblin slaves. Blocking the way into the room was a big creature made entirely of webs.

We rolled initiative and the fight was on.

Slave Pits map – Gridded

Slave Pits map – No Grid

Our dwarf fighter walked on up to the web golem, not caring too much about the slowing aura (which I just treated as difficult terrain for the sake of simplicity), and started to beat on the thing. The rest of the party hung back with ranged attacks while Khara and the svirfneblin slaves were left to their own devices.

I didn’t want the ranged characters to get too comfortable back there, so I sent the deathjump spiders into their midst with Death from Above! That kept that wing of the party occupied while our fighter kept the big web golem busy.

The golem succeeded in grabbing the fighter repeatedly, but the fighter kept escaping his grasp. Our goblin hunter also dazed the monster a few times, making it hard for it to drag the fighter away until round 4.

A fourth deathjump spider joined the fray in round 3 (I scaled things up slightly with the eight-PC group), and the party found itself with an unconscious fighter and hunter pretty soon. Khara stabilized the fighter, and the hunter hit the ground during the last round of combat. The poor web golem died without once being able to use one PC as a weapon with which to hit another; such a shame.

Once the golem and spiders were destroyed, Khara was thrilled to see the PCs again, especially after they told her that Tharinel had escaped alive (or at least he was alive the last time they saw him). She was also excited to reclaim her gear from the remains of the golem, plus the other half of the Pendant of Ashaba.

The next step of the mission was clear: Get back to Shadowdale and the Tower of Ashaba to restore the pendant and the protective wards on the town. One of the PCs was diplomatic enough to convince the surviving svirfneblin to lead them through some secret tunnels out of the drow territory, and the party made it back into the Tower…

Only to be confronted by Valan Jaelre and two massive driders. And that’s where they’ll pick things up next week for the grand finale!

This was a fun season of Encounters, largely thanks to the group of players I had at my table. It was really cool to have the same folks come back almost every week; they really got to know one another’s characters well, as did I. I wish them luck in the big final battle!

-Michael the OnlineDM

OnlineDM1 on Twitter


D&D Encounters Web of the Spider Queen – Week 11

Previous sessionWeek 10 / Next session: Week 12

As is usual these days, I had seven PCs at my table for D&D Encounters. The party was moving through the drow city of Zadziferryn in search of their friend Khara Sulwood and the broken Pendant of Ashaba. They found themselves in the drow torture theater, where two torturers with scourges were beating and killing prisoners while being cheered on by drow in the stands. Combat began pretty much right away.

Torture theater map – gridded

Torture theater map – no grid

Most of the party hung back in the first round, which let one of the clerics cast a spell to increase everyone’s defenses by 2 points; this would be extremely useful later.

The drow torturers each used a pit of blood to summon a demon made up of a gigantic toothed maw and little else. Meanwhile, the drow in the stands grabbed weapons and rushed into the arena to fight the intruders. The spectators turned out to be minions, and our spellcaster finally achieved the toasting of three minions on a single attack.

The demons were easy to hit, but they had a lot of hit points. They also had a nasty habit of chasing after bloodied PCs and trying to eat them.

The real threat, though, was the pair of drow torturers. These creatures used spiked scourges to attack PCs from two squares away, dealing a bunch of damage on a hit plus a grab that dealt ongoing 10 damage (only ending when the PC escapes the grab). The torturers couldn’t make other attacks while grabbing a PC, but that’s okay – they were nasty enough. They also had the highest AC the party has faced so far in the adventure.

Once the minions were wiped out, the party started focusing on the demons. They killed both demons in the same round, whereupon the torturers used minor actions to summon new demons! Ouch.

By this point, the torturers had already killed our drow ranger Drizzt (no relation), using the ongoing damage from the scourge to rip off of the ranger’s head and cast it into one of the fonts of blood (hey, if a PC is dead-dead, let’s at least make it entertaining). Our spellcaster was busily failing death saves, and our goblin scout was barely staying above zero hit points. Finally, at long last, the party managed to finish off one of the torturers, which caused both it and the demon it had summoned to be dragged into the Abyss in a cloud of black smoke. With only one torturer left to deal with, the party was able to gang up and finish it off.

This encounter is written for a group of five PCs. We had seven at our table, and I didn’t scale it upward at all. The party had also done well on last week’s skill challenge, which meant that no minion reinforcements joined the battle. And with all of those advantages, it was still a hard, hard fight, and the players did well to escape with just the one dead adventurer.

I realized belatedly that I forgot to tell my party that they found half of the pendant of Ashaba on the belt of one of the torturers; I’ll say that it dropped to the ground when the drow was dragged into the Abyss.

-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