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

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

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

D&D Encounters – Neverwinter week 13

I loved DMing D&D Encounters over the summer, but once the fall came and my Wednesday night bowling league started up again, I had to bow out. However, I still agreed to be the backup DM when needed. I ran a table in week 8 with several weeks’ notice, and tonight I ran another table with about 24 hours’ notice.

Being out of the loop and then jumping in to run a session of Encounters in a hurry is a little bit tricky. I had read the synopsis of the whole adventure when it first came out, but I certainly hadn’t read every session. I did my best to glance over what had happened in weeks 11 and 12, and then dug into prep for week 13.


Since I run my games using MapTool on my laptop and a projector to put the map on the table, my first order of business was to create the map for this session. It would be lovely if WotC would make the D&D Encounters maps available to DMs in high-resolution JPG format rather than just as physical posters in the Encounter packet, but I’m up for the challenge of creating the maps on my own as needed. Here is my version of the Week 13 map:

The session begins with the party having chased the Lost Heir of Neverwinter through the streets of town, following the blue flames the Heir has left behind. They discovered last session that the Heir is evidently female, and in this session came the big reveal:

The Lost Heir is actually Seldra.

And moreover, Seldra was causing trouble. She had put up a magical dome of blue fire in the middle of the town square, surrounding herself and the dragon-turned-statue. She seemed to be doing something to mess with that dragon, and the PCs couldn’t do anything about it until they got the dome of flames out of the way.

I had one brand-new D&D player at the table tonight, along with one person in his second-ever session, plus four regulars. The new guy was playing a Binder Warlock, and he jumped right in by using his arcane knowledge to start disrupting the dome of fire. The rest of the party joined the effort as well, some of them physically hacking at the dome, one warpriest praying to his god for assistance, and so on.

Ultimately, the dome was brought down, and the party attacked right away. Seldra summoned some fire elementals and the fight began.

The fire elementals were a little bit strange in that their attacks simply gave the PCs ongoing damage. Being hit by three elementals was no different than being hit by one (since multiple instances of the same ongoing damage don’t stack). The one exception I made was for a critical hit, which I ruled would deal 5 damage right away and ongoing 5 damage (save ends).

Pretty soon, most of the party was on fire. The new guy playing the Binder asked if jumping into the fountain in the square would put out the flames – you betcha! Great idea; I love it when players think creatively.

The Bladesinger in the party was surrounded by elementals and Seldra, and soon found himself in deep trouble. Fortunately, the party has two healers, who kept the Bladesinger up. Unfortunately, the Bladesinger ended the battle without any healing surges left.

Seldra made for a fun foe. I waited until round 3, when she was bloodied, for her to both use her action point and to start sucking the life force out of the elementals – a truly fun mechanic. The dwarf warpriest in the party prevented a ton of damage in one round by using a power that gave everyone Resist 5 All, nicely negating both the ongoing damage from the elementals and Seldra’s fiery aura.

After six rounds of fighting the Bladesinger dropped Seldra with a Magic Missile, and the PCs decided to spare her, since it was clear she wasn’t in her right mind.

Best of all, the session wrapped up in about an hour and a half, which let me get to my bowling league on time. I had no time to warm up, but I guess that’s good for me since I bowled a 227, a 218 and a 200. For a guy whose average was 182 coming into this week, that’s a heck of a series!

So, victory for the party and victory (at bowling) for the DM. Huzzah for everyone!

-Michael, the OnlineDM (OnlineDM1 on Twitter)

D&D Encounters – Lost Crown of Neverwinter – Week 8

Edit 10/1/2011: Apparently WotC is NOT changing their policy of requiring that D&D Encounters be run on Wednesday nights, as I had originally mentioned in this post. My mistake.

I ran D&D Encounters at my friendly local game store, Enchanted Grounds, all summer long, and I loved it. I love the mini-sessions for prep purposes, I enjoyed the story, and most of all I enjoyed helping new players learn the game. One of the people I met via encounters is now good friends with my wife and I, along with his wife.

Thus, I was sad to have to give up DMing Encounters this fall when my Wednesday night bowling league started up. I agreed to serve as a backup DM in case any of the regular folks were out of town, though, and this week I got the call. Put me in, coach – I’m running a game!

My party consisted of four PCs – two warpriests, a bladesinger and a thief. They began the session by taking a short rest in a boat house in a swamp, where they had come in search of the Dead Rats gang. The boat house held only a table and a rug, and a sharp-eyed PC noticed the rug sagging in the middle. Pulling it aside revealed a stone pipe with metal rungs forming a ladder down into darkness.

The adventurers successfully negotiated crumbling ceilings, narrow ledges, tough climbs and tricky tracking with no problem and eventually emerged into the sewers proper. They noticed some movement in the water – two pairs of eyes staring at them from just above the water’s surface. As the dwarf warpriest pushed forward, the eyes revealed themselves to be attached to a pair of crocodiles, and a swarm of hundreds of rats poured out of some pipes in the walls to join the fun. The PCs could also hear noises inside a larger pipe, as if something else was making its way toward them.

The party thief decided to try to jump across the sewer channel but failed, landing in the water next to the large pipe – which was revealed to contain a dire rat. The rat bit the thief (one exposure to Dire Rat Filth Fever) and was soon joined on the other side by a crocodile who clamped its jaws around the poor thief’s leg. Ouch!

The rest of the party was dealing with the swarm and the other crocodile, but the drow warpriest did wade into the muck and drop a cloud of darkness to help the thief get away. No luck, though – the crocodile’s next turn of grinding its jaws down on the delicious thief left the sneaky bugger unconscious (and getting more exposure to disease from the dirty water).

Eventually the thief was healed and got himself out of harm’s way and the rest of the party started taking care of the bad guys one by one – first the dire rat, then the swarm, then finally the crocodiles. And there was much rejoicing!

At the end of the encounter, since the thief had been exposed three times to Dire Rat Filth Fever (twice from rat bites and once from bleeding in the dirty water) I invoked my house rule: He only had to make one saving throw to avoid infection, but because of the two extra exposures, the saving throw was at a -2 penalty. It was a moot point, as he rolled a 7 on the die and found himself infected.

In prepping for the game, I realized that it would be a pain in the butt for a typical Encounters player to have to deal with a disease. “Wait, what do I have to roll to get better? And what happens if I get worse?” So, I used the awesome Power2ool to create disease cards to hand out to any players who get infected:

While it was only a one-week return to the Encounters DM table, I had a lot of fun. It was also nice to have more people compliment me on my projector setup + MapTool for my in-person games. The encounter itself wrapped up within an hour, so I was even able to make it to bowling on time.

Best of all, the coordinator at the store is thinking about moving Encounters to Tuesday nights in the future, since WotC has given store owners more flexibility about when they run the program. That would be awesome, since I’d be able to get involved again!

Edit: However, it looks like this is not a new WotC policy after all, and Encounters is still required to be run on Wednesday. Well, poop.

200 Posts: My favorites of the second century

This is post number 201 on my blog, so I thought I’d continue the tradition I started with number 100 of looking back at my previous 100 posts and picking out a few of my favorites. The OnlineDM Greatest Hits, Volume Two:

1. My players are smarter than I am. This post talks about my experience of using player ideas during a session. In this particular example, one of my players mused that he thought the bad guys would try to push a wall over on the PCs. I’d never envisioned that possibility, but it sounded like a great idea, so I ran with it. If your players give you ideas about what might happen and they’re good ideas, use them!

2. Creating D&D converts. Lots of us have friends or family members who we think would enjoy gaming, but it’s tricky to get them into it. This post describes my experience of introducing my brother-in-law and his wife to D&D via Castle Ravenloft and then some Living Forgotten Realms adventures when they visited over Christmas. It obviously worked, since I’m getting ready to run yet another session for them this evening over MapTool even though they’re in Texas. Their characters are at sixth level now, by the way!

3. Bonus points. Lots of DMs have used similar ideas; this is my own take on it. Basically, when one of my players does something creative or cool or especially in-character rather than just focusing on the numbers of combat and tactics, I hand them a bonus point that they can use in the future to add 1 to a die roll they make or subtract 1 from a die roll made against them. They’re great incentives to encourage the kind of play I enjoy.

4. Out of the gaming closet. In my first 100 posts, I had talked about the fact that I’m in the closet at work about gaming; I didn’t mention it to my colleagues out of fear of… I don’t know, ridicule? Well, I’m over that now, and happier for it.

5. Running an online game for new players. I’m really excited about how this particular game went, because I’m such a sucker for introducing people to gaming. In this particular instance, I had some people coming to me online, saying that they wanted to learn D&D but weren’t sure how to go about it. So, I recruited a group and ran a game for them. It was a lot of fun, and something I’d like to do regularly (maybe every few months or so).

6. Tallinn’s Tower. I’m including this post as a representative of my free adventures posts. I’ve posted two so far; Tallinn’s Tower was the second. The third is almost ready, and I’ve just finished a major revision of the first. I’m personally excited about this, although I haven’t gotten much feedback yet. I love free adventures, and I love to share them with the D&D community.

7. My first Pathfinder game. Yes, I’m branching out beyond D&D4e! I love learning new games, and since Pathfinder is so popular I really wanted to learn it. I think that so far I prefer D&D4e, but I do get the appeal of Pathfinder, too.

8. MapTool flexible monster creation. This continues to evolve for me, but I was quite happy with my take on flexible monster creation. I’ve been using this method exclusively since I wrote it, and it’s made monster building much faster. Also, I love the goofy damage dice I can use (2d13+16 for instance).

9. D&D Encounters. I DMed for the Encounters this summer and loved doing it, mainly because of the opportunity to introduce new players to the game. This particular session was great because it was my grand finale (I missed the final week since I was at GenCon), my wife played, and I met a new friend. Encounters was a lot of fun, and I hope to run it again next summer when my Wednesday night bowling league is over.

10. GenCon – D&D New Products Seminar. I have to include this one, even though it has no original material. This is my minute-by-minute note taking from the seminar at GenCon where WotC talked about their plans for the next year. To say that it was a popular post would be an understatement! I typically get around 300 hits per day on my blog; I topped out near 1,500 during the weekend of GenCon when this post was live. You guys love GenCon news!

Thank you all for reading Online Dungeon Master. I’ve really enjoyed having this way of talking to the D&D community and hearing from you, too. Remember that you can also follow me on Twitter as OnlineDM1.

Missing D&D Encounters already

Tonight begins the new season of D&D Encounters… and I’m not running a game. The story behind this is twofold.

First, my wife and I are in a bowling league on Wednesday nights. The league starts up on August 31, so I won’t be able to run Encounters after that. Thus, I can’t be a regular DM this season (though I will occasionally be a backup, running a 5:00 PM table if the regular DM is not available).

Second, my friendly local game store wasn’t planning to run this season of Encounters until recently, much to my surprise. They’ve been running Encounters every season so far, and I thought things had been going well, but with Lair Assault starting soon the store owner was planning to just run that and skip Encounters. He changed his mind when the Encounters players last week got upset that there wouldn’t be a game.

So, he belatedly ordered materials for this season of Encounters, but they haven’t arrived yet. We’ll probably be running the first two encounters in a single session next week.

Has anyone else seen a store that was dropping Encounters in favor of Lair Assault? I was shocked when I heard this suggestion, since they’re aimed at completely different groups (casual and new players versus hard-core optimizers).

D&D Encounters – Dark Legacy of Evard Week 12

A bittersweet night, as this was the last session of Dark Legacy of Evard that I’ll be running. Of course, that’s because I’ll be in Indianapolis next week for Gen Con, so I guess I’ll survive!

At our 5:00 table we had a bit of a problem; only three players showed up. We’ve had as many as 14 in the past, and the last two weeks had 8 and 7. I waited until 5:10, and when no more players showed up I decided to run with just the three players. We had a defender and two strikers.

Scaling is a little tricky when you have so few characters and their levels are a bit uneven (one at level 1, one at 2 and one at 3). The encounter originally called for an evil wizard, a shadow bolter and four dusk beasts. I decided to take it down to 2 dusk beasts and go from there.

The encounter began with the party trying to figure out how to get into the spooky library where the wizard Nathaire (possessed by the spirit of the evil wizard Vontarin) was apparently holed up. They decided to try to sneak close to the front door and then quietly pick the lock. They failed. They made noise. And eventually they got the door open, whereupon I granted a surprise round to the two-headed shadowy dusk beast that had been sent to the door to investigate. Chomp.

Evard Session 12 Library Map - Gridded

Evard Session 12 Library Map - No Grid

The knight charged bravely into the library and started handling the dusk beast. The vampire and the assassin tiptoed in as well. Nathaire taunted them from upstairs, telling them that he had no desire to destroy them, but when they kept fighting his minions the evil wizard started blasting them with shadowy tendrils.

Eventually the shadow bolter made his presence known. The vampire and assassin stayed downstairs to deal with him while the knight climbed the stairs to go after the wizard… only to find that the wizard had another dusk beast standing guard upstairs.

The vampire was knocked unconscious by the bolter, but luckily got a 20 on his second death save. The knight, meanwhile, was in deep trouble with the wizard after taking out the second dusk beast. He started dying, taking ongoing enervation damage.

At this point it seemed quite likely that I would kill off the party, so I took the knight’s player up on his earlier suggestion of letting him run a second PC – a healer. The reinforcements arrived, and the party got back on its feet and finished off the dark mage, trapping his soul in a purple orb.

At 7:00 I had a table of four. Two were regulars from the 7:00 group from the past couple of weeks (including a fellow player in my Pathfinder group). One was my lovely wife (yay!). And the fourth was a brand-new D&D player who I’d met via EN World when he reached out to ask some general questions about the game and mentioned in his post that he lived near a store called Enchanted Grounds. I exchanged some messages with him, and he showed up to play!

This group had two defenders and two controllers – once again, no healer. They were a pair of 3rd level characters and a pair of 1st level characters. I decided to use the same scaling as I had for the earlier game (two dusk beasts instead of four).

The encounter began when the vryloka paladin walked up to the library and knocked on the door. When the voice on the other side (a shadow bolter) asked who was there, the paladin lied and said he was one of the people Vontarin had commanded to create undead in the crypts and he needed to talk to the wizard. With a great Bluff check, the shadow bolter opened the door and I allowed the paladin a free surprise round attack.

My wife’s binder opened the combat by dropping a zone of difficult terrain right inside the door – a mixed blessing that worked out okay. The paladins led the way into the library, and the new player’s paladin was knocked to the ground by a readied bite from a dusk beast. Nathaire/Vontarin exchanged taunts with the binder and the mage, which was a ton of fun; I loved role-playing the evil wizard.

The party took care of the dusk beast and shadow bolter downstairs without getting beat up too badly, and the binder and mage started zapping Vontarin from afar. The paladins started fighting through the upstairs dusk beast on the way to the dark mage. When the party’s eladrin mage teleported into the balcony behind Vontarin, the evil wizard closed to melee with the paladins.

The new player’s paladin was low on hit points when the bloodied dark wizard reached out to touch him with despair. He hit. The attack brought the paladin to dangerously negative hit points… and the slide effect took him off the balcony, whereupon the falling damage finished him off. In the very next round, the surviving PCs killed off the evil mage.

The new player’s character died heroically and rather cinematically (tossed off a balcony by a big bad guy), and he had an absolute blast with the experience. I stayed afterward to talk to him about D&D4e and how to get into the game. He ended up buying a copy of Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms (he loved the idea of the dual-weapon wielding Scout ranger) and I suggested D&D Insider if he decides he’s going to stick with the game. He’s a really great guy, and I hope to see him again at future games.

Thus ends my experience with Dark Legacy of Evard. I’m bummed that I won’t get to run the final session, but that’s okay. I’ll be jumping into the next season of Encounters for a few weeks before my Wednesday night bowling league begins at the end of August, and I’m looking forward to it. I love the way Encounters lets me bring new players into the game. It’s been a lot of fun.

D&D Encounters – Dark Legacy of Evard Week 11

As with last week, I ran both a 5:00 and a 7:00 table for D&D Encounters this week.

The 5:00 table had seven players. Two of them were third level, one was second level, and four were first level. The first level players included the father and son pair who first showed up two weeks ago and who’ve been coming ever since (yay!) and the other two were brand new players (one of whom had played 1st Edition long ago and nothing since). Ah, I love teaching new players about the game!

The 7:00 table had five players – my quartet of third-level folks from last week, and a first-level binder played by my lovely wife!


The party had emptied the crypts beneath Saint Avarthil Abbey last week, destroying some skeletons and some shadowy hoofed humanoids. Now they came out into the late afternoon sun and headed up the hill to the monastery grounds.

A skill challenge ensued, with the adventurers trying to find traces of Nathaire and his foul denizens. The 5:00 table didn’t have much luck and stumbled into an ambush; the 7:00 table aced the challenge with no difficulty and got the jump on the bad guys.

Evard Session 11 Map - Gridded

Evard Session 11 Map - No Grid

The battle

I’ll admit that I wasn’t crazy about the presentation of this encounter. The monsters were fine – a pair of nasty tar devils, a pair of shadow bolters (dark ones) and a pair of leeching shadow minions. For both groups (seven lower-level PCs at 5:00 and five upper-level PCs at 7:00) I used a total of four minions but otherwise left the monsters as written.

The problem was the terrain. There’s a 20-foot wall that can be walked on, and there are windows in the wall, but it was unclear how that was supposed to work. The wall is 10 feet thick; can characters on the inside see all the way through? It sounded like characters were supposed to be IN the wall, but that didn’t make sense. Ultimately I think they meant for the windows to be arrow slits in the battlements along the top of the wall, but none of the bad guys were stationed up there. It was all quite confusing.

The 5:00 table got in trouble quickly as the tar devils started burning people up in the surprise round and the bolters added to the pain. The lone healer in the group kept folks patched up, though, and they ultimately prevailed.

The 7:00 group had no trouble. They got the surprise round instead of the bad guys, and three of the five PCs had necrotic resistance, which made the bolters’ combat advantage power almost irrelevant.

Only one PC had any trouble at 7:00, and I felt really bad about it… because it was my wife! She had played once all the way back in week 1 and hadn’t been back since. I was so happy that she came to play, and then felt like a jerk when a tar devil immobilized her with flaming pitch in the first full round and she never got to move again. She was still effective, intentionally provoking some opportunity attacks from monsters in the paladin’s aura (and getting them zapped by divine vengeance), but it was a little frustrating for her. Her saving throw dice just hated her.


My favorite part of the encounter was the aftermath. As the party is resting after the battle, the land shifts into the Shadowfell. A nearby building, in ruins during the daytime, is now fully intact in the Shadowfell… and a light is burning in an upper window.

Ooh! Can’t wait for next week. I think I’ll just be running the 7:00 table, but it’s going to be a fun one.

Previous weeks

No week 6 – I was out of town