Spelljammer – If I did it

My Ruins of Chult campaign has been sputtering for a while (curst ye thrice gloomhaven) and now is on hold with summer finally upon us (time for garden luv). I say there’s nothing more pathetic in life than a campaignless DM. Alone. Adrift. Aimless.

And so:

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Hey, that’s out of the blue, isn’t it?

Well, not totally (for me, at least) as I read Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun a few months ago and it struck a swordsspaceships chord I didn’t know I had.

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Anyway, loosely based on something mentioned on this book (it’s so packed with amazing ideas, it’s incredible!):

  • there’s only one spaceship, of unknown origin and it’s absolutely gigantic
  • it sometimes encounters other spaceships
  • they’re, in fact, alternate, and sometimes very weird, versions of the one spaceship
  • because the spaceship can go beyond the speed of light, as a result, SPACE AND TIME ARE BADLY FUCK*D UP AND WEIRD SHIT HAPPENS (I mean, who cares)

The main idea is that the PCs (humans, elves, dwarves and whatnot) awaken, pandorum-like, aboard the eternal spaceship and, you know, proceed to explore, or die trying. Once in a while, the spaceship temporarily halts its mysterious course, as it crosses the path of an alternate, different (subtly or not) version, and, well, things get interesting…

The best thing? All the weird monsters I never use (looking at you intellect devourer)? You bet they’d be there!

Papua New Guinea arrows (for D&D)

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Papuan traditionnal hunters use a variety of arrows, each specialized to hunt specific preys (birds, wild pigs, etc.). And then there are arrows for warfare, for humans…

Those are serrated, barbed, jagged, lined with porcupine quills, so that they do gruesome damage when they’re removed. And there’s more: orchid fiber is laced on the arrows, bits stay inside the wound leading to infection.

Papuans are badasses

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Jagged Arrows for D&D

  • typically used with a short bow
  • range 10′ less
  • 1d4 damage
  • 1 damage each round until removed (per arrow), unless victim is prone
  • to remove:  Wisdom (medicine)  DC 13 (as an action)
  • advantage on check with expanditure of 1 use of healer kit
  • success: 1d4 damage and arrow is removed
  • failure: 1d4 damage and arrow still stuck

 

  • orchid fiber causes 1 level of exhaustion next dawn unless medicine check was succeeded by +5 or more (note that another try could be attempted IF someone has any idea what’s going on)

 

Session 15b – Serpent-Skinned Monks

The PCs could not afford to take another long rest if they wished to be away from Tamaochan before the arrival of the Pick & Axe co. 

Characters:

  • Shin (level 4>>5), Tabaxi Fighter (Arcane Archer), Outlander; big-game hunter, has no patience for weakness
  • Flyzus (level 5>>6), Wood Elf Ranger (hunter), Outlander; sole survivor of his tribe after an orc invasion
  • Rufb (level 5>>6), Half-Orc Barbarian (berserker), Mercenary Veteran; captured by pterafolks, his fellow mercenaries killed, seeks riches and glory
  • Vorn, Shield Guardian, found masterless beside a gaping hole in the ground

Stay Still Forever

In a part of the dungeon yet unexplored – the PCs had successfully avoided a sand-filling trap – a few turns later they got almost in the middle of two rows of skeletons, a sort of honor guard by the look of it, standing on a ledge each side of a passage. The 15 skeletons jumped down and attacked (1)…

The adventurers kept their calm, even after seeing a skeleton still fighting after receiving a killing blow, what should have been a killing blow anyway. It helped that they could  now count on the powerful Vorn to back them up. An exploding magic arrow from Shin did a lot to soften the undead warriors. It took some time but they managed to prevail with only a few light wounds in return (2).

You don’t see any traps

At the end of another passage they could see a golden bat statuette. Rufb took it from its pedestal and got shot in the back by several crossbow bolts. Wounded and angry, Rufb smashed the statuette under his foot. This released a creature made of light, a will o’ wisp they knew from previous experience,  that quickly got away along another passage.

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Shed Skin

Now, for some reason, having a will o’ wisp on the loose didn’t sit well with the PCs (3) so they tried to find it, backtracking a little doing so. Flyzus ordered his pseudodragon pet to follow the evil light but the poor creature got zapped and… died (4). Next, the PCs got into an room they had opened but had chose to ignore earlier, a room with two slabs of stone with shed serpent skins… wait a minute… weren’t there bodies the first time around? Darn! More things roaming free…

Stuck in the Middle with You

To go further in this area, the PCs had to move a heavy block of stone on some rail mechanism up a ramp, the Shield Guardian was put to the task. They were halfway when things got complicated… First, there was sudden resistance against the block, something was pushing back… Second, bats. Lots of bats. Third, the will o’ wisp chose this moment to reappear…

Vorn proved more than strong enough to keep the block from crushing them. The Ranger got rid of the bats around him quickly and then attacked the will o’ wisp. He was joined soon after by Rufb (Shin was still swarmed by bats) and the two successfully avenged the pseudodragon.

No Escape

Finally out of this passage, the PCs saw two nimble figures sprint away from them. The Barbarian, the fastest runner, caught up with them in the central room of the ziggurat’s lower tier. Attempting to communicate  proved fruitless, as Rufb could not understand a word they said. Resigned, the two mysterious sleepers-no-longer assumed fighting stances (5).

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Rufb wasn’t in full combat shape at all, so facing these two adversaries with unknown abilities was daunting. He chose to use one charge of his gem of mud elemental summoning, a reward he had received from the Three Cascades’ frogmen. This proved a wise move as the mud elemental pummeled and mired in mud one serpent-skinned monk. Rufb then finished her with one massive blow of his greataxe. The surviving monk shrieked in anguish and attacked Rufb, sweeping his legs from under him.

Flyzus and Shin now got at the scene too. The outnumbered monk turned his back and fled once more. Shin shot an arrow at him but amazingly, he catched it middair without even looking!

Try to dodge that

He then started to cross the passage to the north, the one with spikes at the bottom, swinging from bar to bar. Rufb got back to his feet and jumped right beside his foe and started grappling him. He easily outmuscled the monk and sent him crashing through the spikes. Flyzus put an end to his life with precise sword thrusts (6).

The PCs finally felt comfortable enough to get down below, to the Hidden Shrine.

DM’s notes

  1. I had described them as skeletons but they were statted as zombies, with the undead fortitude that do a lot for their durability. But this fight was meh.
  2. Too easy! Would have been better if they had to be smart about it…
  3. Players paranoia!
  4. Félix kept forgetting that it existed, so… no big deal, I guess?
  5. The monks tried their best to escape, the PCs, the barbarian in particular, just wouldn’t let them.
  6. This proved to be a really good fight, with a lot of cool, cinematic manoeuvers.

 

 

 

Session 15a – No Stone Unturned

Third session inside the Hidden Shrine of Tamaochan. I had kept it relatively faithful to the module (70% maybe?). But now? Less so…

Characters:

  • Shin (level 4), Tabaxi Fighter (Arcane Archer), Outlander; big-game hunter, has no patience for weakness
  • Flyzus (level 5), Wood Elf Ranger (hunter), Outlander; sole survivor of his tribe after an orc invasion
  • Rufb (level 5), Half-Orc Barbarian (berserker), Mercenary Veteran; captured by pterafolks, his fellow mercenaries killed, seeks riches and glory
  • Vorn, Shield Guardian, found masterless beside a gaping hole in the ground

Psychic Cyclop. Psyclop? huh

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After a well-earned rest outside the PCs got right back to exploring the ancient ziggurat. They went  to a room they had passed the first time, in the second tier (1). The bronze door had a strange engraving on it, a couatl and a cyclop locked in a fierce struggle. Rufb pushed the heavy door and, to his surprise, found himself in the middle of the jungle in front of the very same cyclop warrior, now coming wildly at him with a greataxe! That was all in his head, of course, but the imaginary combat was taking a very real toll on him. Shin ignored his companion’s plight and went straight into the room and got into troubles of his own as a set of giant antique armor assaulted him. Meanwhile, Flyzus was at a loss as to what he could do to save Rufb, as smacking the Half-Orc behind the head did not look like it helped that much… Finally, with scrambled brains and bleeding nose, Rufb managed to overcome the psychic invasion by himself and the three defeated the helmed horror together. This activated some kind of magic from the (avenged) crystal couatl statue that was in the middle of the dais, as they were rewarded a Tray of the Ages (2).

Terror from Above

Nrak, the Firefinger’s ertswhile pterafolk leader, had apparently found a way to track down Flyzus in a vain attempt to avenge himself for the attack on his lair. One of his underling let drop something in the middle of the ruined temple where the PCs were  resting. The package, wrapped in leaves, exploded as it touched the floor, releasing some kind of poisonous pollen. Other pterafolks then dived and hurled javelins at the PCs, some blocked by the Shield Guardian. Mostly unfazed by the surprise attack,  the adventurers responded with projectiles of their own. The Tabaxi Arcane Archer, as always, was utterly deadly with his bow, but the decisive blow was delivered by Flyzus as he hurled back a javelin, powered with an ensnaring strike, that sent Nrak crashing to the ground to his death (3). The few surviving pterafolks had had enough and flew away.

A Sticky Situation (4)

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A few hours after the doomed pterafolk attack, the Ranger could see a giant spider coming their way. Using his hat of the spider the Tabaxi had a quick conversation with it, he learned that the giant spider was upset about being followed and, uh, aggressively courted… Said courter arrived a moment later, it was Mister Sticky the ettercap, who had lost his precious Darling at the hand of the party a while ago. Mister Sticky pleaded to give crucial information if only the PCs stopped besmirching him in front of this « magnificient specimen » of a spider. And so the party learned that members of the Pick & Axe co were on their way towards Tamaochan. The PCs accepted to pay the Ettercap to learn more:

  • P&A group is made up of  seasoned, armored and very sweaty dwarves
  • they have an ankylosaurus
  • the leader have a flying monkey (the PCs had spotted it flying around their camp earlier)
  • they are armed to the teeth, all have crossbows
  • they are half a day’s walk from Tamaochan

Another Way In

As the previous foray in the shrine had proved almost fatal for Rufb, the PCs sought a way to get the mighty (and large) Vorn in the lower tiers with them. They resolved the matter using a scroll of shape stone on a part of the cliff that connected to a room below the ziggurat. The magic scroll enlarged a small hole already there, but getting inside, the party disturbed a family of stone-skinned zorbos. The PCs dispatched the cute but ferocious beasts and had another go at exploring the ancient ruins.

DM’s notes:

  1. I’ve kept the couatl, phantasmal force and helmed horror but changed about everything else in this room
  2. The original treasure is a Balance of Harmony but an item to detect good and evil is rather useless in my game. The Tray of Ages (homebrewed) is me being generous, as the PCs can cast identify as a ritual with it, so they don’t have to wait to be in town (like in 3 sessions) to know what their items do.
  3. Being a large creature, Nrak had advantage on his str save to resist the ensnaring strike and still failed!
  4. That part was, hmm, maybe a little too much on the silly side…

 

Hat of the Spider

I think it’s good practice as a DM to let players gain the magic items used against them, as opposed, as we see often in published modules, to inventing contrived reasons to keep it away from them. The PCs killed a Goblin Boss spider-rider last session who wore this weird hat, so here it is.

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Hat of the Spider

Wondrous item, rare (requires attunement)

While wearing this hat, you gain the following benefits:

  • You ignore movement restrictions caused by webbing.
  • You have the ability to comprehend and verbally communicate with spiders.
  • You can use an action to conjure a Swarm of Spiders (Monster manual: Swarm of Insects statistics) within 90′ of you that will be under your control for 10 minutes and then disappears. Once used, this property of the hat can’t be used again until next dawn.

Magic Items for Halloween!

Handbag of the Crawling Hand

Wondrous Item, uncommon (requires attunement)

This bag can holdup 40 pounds, not exceeding a volume of 2 cubic feet. Inside is a (undead) crawling hand that helps you by retrieving any item in the bag without the need to use an action. If the bag is ever damaged beyond repair, the crawling hand exits the bag and attacks the nearest target.

Slimy Padded Vest of Ooze Summoning

Armor (Padded), very rare (requires attunement)

+2 leather armor.  In addition, you have advantage on Strength (athletics or acrobatics) checks to escape a grapple.

Each time you have lost 22 hit points (cumulative) while wearing this armor,  a gray ooze appears 5′ from you and is under your control until next dawn (and then liquefy). You can have up to 4 oozes under your control at the same time.

Hand Wraps of the Grave

Wondrous Item, very rare (requires attunement)

You gain + 1 to attack and damage rolls made with an unarmed melee attack. In addition, each time you hit the target takes another 1d4 cold damage.

This item has 5 charges. You can spend one charge to cast Chill Touch. To regain all expanded charges you must put the Wraps of the Grave on a dead body for one night.

Grave-cured Tobacco

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Expandable Item, uncommon

Air-dried in the long disused Best Forgotten massgrave, grave-cured tobacco is smoked mostly by the Vestige residents for its vaunted power of warding evil spirits, useful in this sad neighborhood. Outside of the Vestige few folks, except perhaps those with an intense superstitious inclination, feel the need to pay its steep cost.

Effects:

  • Undead have disadvantage on attack vs smoker for 10 minutes
  • Blowing smoke at an undead (5′), as a bonus action, triggers a frightened effect (wisdom, DC 13)

Average price: 5sp for 12 uses

Session 7b- Tiryki River – day 2 & 3

Characters

  • Flyzus, Wood Elf Ranger (hunter), Outlander; sole survivor of his tribe after an orc invasion
  • Varis, Drow Rogue (thief), Far traveller; exiled scion of a noble family on the losing side of a feud
  • Droidoc, Halfling Druid (circle of the moon), Outlander; was there when Camp Righteous fell, now he’s a cannibalistic loony

Day 2

Is it still waste?

Ambiance

After slaying (most of) the gnolls, the victorious PCs entered the river and a few hours later come upon a grisly scene: an entire herd of hadrosaurs had been decimated. It wasn’t hard to guess that the gnolls had killed the beasts, taking meat and leaving most  to rot.

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A dozen velociraptors were doing the best they could before something bigger got there. The PCs didn’t stay to see what it would be…

 

Friendly Frogs- Portage

Combat>>defused

The party had to get out of the water for a portage, unfortunately 2 giant frogs were in the way. Unfazed, the Halfling druid cast the animal friendship spell and the two dangerous beasts let them pass without harm.

Uneventful first night in the outside on a small island in the middle of the river that was indicated by a fisherman earlier

Day 3

In Shallow Territory

Social (1)

Eblis

Paddling for a few hours in the morning, the PCs were met by an eblis who advised to take a side affluent, saying that it would be impossible to go further on the main river. He asked for « shiny things » for his well-timed advice.

After a moment of hesitation, the PCs did choose to follow the eblis’ advice and got on shallow waters full of reeds. Not much further, another eblis proposed to sell them « beautiful and magical feathers » and Varis fell for it.

Deeper in what look more like a marsh, a third eblis whispered an offer to raid a nearby nest while he did a diversion and split the content between them. The PCs declined and forged ahead.

By then, Droidoc had had enough of the shady eblis and when yet another one approached, he threw a javelin at it! (2)

Combat: 1 eblis

The eblis cast a Hypnotic Pattern spell, it briefly affected Flyzus. It then attempted to fly away but was instead shot down. The PCs then cut through the dense vegetation to get back on the main river and away from those damn birds!

Octopus vs Plesiosaur!

Combat: 1 plesiosaur

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A river plesiosaur broke the surface of the water and savagely mauled the surprised Varis. Droidoc shapeshifted once more into a giant octopus and grappled the marine reptile while the elves slashed at it with swords. The severely wounded beast tried to get away but the octopus did not let go until it was dead.

Uneventful night on the pebble river bank

DM’s notes.

  1.  My eblis were more akin to peddlers. Neutral evil peddlers.
  2. Sometimes violence is indeed the solution!
  3. The fisherman’s tip and the animal friendship both removed a combat situation and that’s perfectly okay, the PCs got xp for it.