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 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

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.

Review: Banners on the Cheap for vinyl banners – and battlemaps!

A few weeks ago I received a surprising offer: a person from a company called Banners on the Cheap (which also runs Signs on the Cheap and Magnets on the Cheap) wanted to give me a free banner in exchange for a review on my blog. This was surprising mainly because, let’s face it, Online Dungeon Master is pretty small potatoes as a blog! I’ve never had anyone offer me anything in exchange for exposure on my blog (aside from some obvious spammers).

Vinyl Banners

The creative twist here is that Banners on the Cheap thought I might be interested in ordering vinyl banners for use as RPG maps. See, many dungeon masters / game masters use a vinyl wet-erase mat with a grid on it for their basic mapping needs, drawing buildings and trees and chasms and so on for each map, then erasing. These folks thought that DMs might be interested in printing their own custom vinyl maps with whatever images they like.

It’s a creative idea, you have to admit. Unfortunately, I’m the Online Dungeon Master – I use MapTool for my online games and a projector for in-person maps, rather than a physical map on the table. So close but so far!

Except… as you may have heard, I’m in the process of developing a new card and dice game called Chaos & Alchemy. The game doesn’t use maps or anything like that, but I do plan to be at GenCon and having a cool vinyl banner to advertise the game sounded like an awesome idea. I get a free banner in exchange for this write-up on my site? Works for me!

I decided to keep things fairly straightforward in designing my first advertising sign. I wasn’t quite sure how big the banner should be, so I went with 6 feet wide by 3 feet tall (figuring that this might hang nicely over the front of a game table). The Banners on the Cheap folks seem to be able to do whatever size you want, which is cool.

From there, all I had to do was upload an image file, no bigger than 12 MB. I already had some beautiful cover art for my game, so I put that on one half of the banner. I also had a cool logo, so I put that on the top part of the other half of the banner. For the bottom right I put a slogan and the web site for my game. The image file I created looks like this:

Since I was given a $40 store credit and the 3′ by 6′ banner only cost $23.56 (excluding shipping), I decided to add hemming and grommets to make it easier to hang in case I end up hanging it somewhere. That added $6.99 to the cost. Shipping of around $8 brought my total to $38.58; still below my store credit. Excellent!

I let my BannersOnTheCheap contact know that I had placed my order, since she had offered to expedite it for me (ooh, the benefits of being a big-shot blogger!), and less than a week later I had this in my hands:

My apologies for looking kind of messy in the picture; I had just gotten home from playing tennis and was too excited to wait to open my banner. Cracking open the box revealed a bit of a “vinyly” odor, but nothing overpowering.

So how is it? I think it’s awesome! My art and logo look fantastic writ large, and the print quality is outstanding. The hemming and grommits feel very sturdy. The material itself is a bit reminiscent of the stuff duct tape is made of, but heavier – it has a web of some kind of reinforcing material running through the vinyl.

Since it’s a vinyl mat, just like a lot of the mats that most DMs use, it works great as a wet-erase mat (I tried this on the white reverse side of my banner). And just like those mats, this is not a dry-erase mat (dry-erase marker is permanent on it). The reverse side of the banner has more of the webbing texture, which may affect your ability to draw on it with wet-erase markers (you get a “bumpy” effect in your lines). The front side is plenty smooth, though.

So, what’s my verdict on Banners on the Cheap as an option for DMs/GMs? The quality is amazing, and the price is quite reasonable for what you get. I can see several situations where this kind of thing could make sense as a gaming map:

  • Putting together a few “evergreen” maps that you can use in lots of different situations (generic outdoor, generic cavern, generic castle, etc.)
  • Printing a simple grid on one of these maps to use as alternative to a Chessex mat (it looks to me like it would be a lot cheaper than Chessex, especially if you’re not using both sides of the Chessex mat)
  • Creating an awe-inspiring map to pull out for a campaign-milestone set piece battle
  • The GM is really rich and enjoys printing fancy new maps for each battle and then collecting them

I’ve got to say that this seems like a pretty intriguing option for DMs out there. A 2′ by 3′ custom-printed vinyl banner from Banners on the Cheap costs $12.81, plus shipping (which is admittedly pricey at $7.17, but that covers shipping for multiple maps). Still, that’s a big, durable, wet-erase-writeable vinyl map delivered to your door for less than twenty bucks.

To compare apples to apples with Chessex, I’ll go with 2′ by 2′. That banner from BannersOnTheCheap would cost $9.38 plus shipping. Chessex lists the equivalent size Battlemat on their web site for $22.98 before shipping (which is $7 for orders under $100). Now, that Chessex mat is reversible and the Banners on the Cheap mat only kind of is (again, the “bumpiness” on the reverse is not ideal), but I personally only ever use one side of my Chessex mat. You can get the Chessex mat from Amazon for $21.49 (and free shipping if you’re on Amazon Prime). If you’re a one-sided map user, BannersOnTheCheap is still cheaper for a plain gridded mat, shipping and all! And that’s even before you consider the fact that you can, you know, print a full color map on the BannersOnTheCheap option.

Ultimately, I’m surprised at how attractive this option is to me. If I weren’t a projector-toting DM, I think I’d spend a few bucks on some “evergreen” maps and one or two plain gridded maps from BannersOnTheCheap. They’re quite durable, they’re wet-erase, they look fantastic when you print designs on them, and they’re darn affordable.

Who knew? I’m actually really glad that these folks approached me, even though I don’t personally need physical maps. I think a lot of DMs might get some serious use out of this. If you do, please tell me about it here!

– 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!