Session 18a – Plateau of the Aarakocra

 

Characters:

  • Shin (level 5), Tabaxi Fighter (Arcane Archer), Outlander; big-game hunter, has no patience for weakness, Shield Guardian Vorn in tow
  • Kalohan (level 4), High Elf Wizard (Evoker), Inheritor; noble Elf, ill-suited for adventuring life
  • Leon (level 3), Human Monk (Way of Shadow), Outlander; long dead hunter whose tribe worshipped Zotzilaha, has been reincarnated due to recent events
  • Anfi (level 2>>3), Locathah Fighter (Eldritch Knight), Outlander; medicinal herbs collector, wants to see how is life above water, Muck Dweller companion in tow

Pursued by the Pick & Axe Dwarves, harassed by batiri Goblins, the PCs had not much choice (1) in going northward, toward the Mistcliffs mountains.

Valley of Mist

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The valley ahead was covered in mist. Was it natural? Kalohan inspected it with a Detect Magic and could see small shapes slowly coalescing. She did not wait any further and cast Burning Hands, evaporating the mist-shapes (2) into oblivion.

Rocky Promontory

Later in the day, the PCs could see  from their vantage point  a rocky promontory with some activity on it. Most impressive was the huge Quetzacoaltus perched on top. Lower, on a ridge, small figures (hard to see what kind of folks they were from the distance)  had gathered together for some purpose.

Kalohan and Shin did not agree as to approach the promontory or not and had somewhat of a heated argument about it. (3) Finally, it was decided that Kalohan would go see what was over there, alone, while the rest of the group waited for her. An arduous trek led her up to the ridge and she could now see that the place apparently served for commerce. Aarakocra (bird-folks) owned the place and the Quetzacoaltlus, loaded with leather bags, was their pack animal.

The leader, an energetic female Aarakocra, was also the lead trader. Also present at the moment were two Albino Dwarves (father and son), a Batiri Goblin and three Grungs.

Kalohan spoke with the Aarakocra trader (who spoke common fluently) and asked if there was perhaps a way to get out of this valley? Turned out that maybe they could help each other as the Aarakocra’s trading partners, the Albino Dwarves, were in need of help. There was a recent increase of attacks from lizardish humanoids at night, the Albino Dwarves could not root out their foes as the place where those laired was taboo for them (4). If Kalohan and her friends were able to clean out the threat (5), the Aarakocra, in exchange, could provide airlift transportation near their destination, Port Nyanzaru. They agreed!

Rock-Cut Portico

The two aforementionned Albino Dwarves, Poï Pà and Poï Pok, would serve as guide up to the creatures’ lair.

The entrance looked like this (6):

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There was a lot of footsteps around but no trace of the humanoids yet. There was Giant Wasps though! The PCs killed 3 of the oversized insects and got closer to the portico. In one of the open room, they could see a dead Giant Spider on its back. It started to twitch… Then its bulgy abdomen bursted open and an Insect (wasp) Swarm flew out of it (7)! Horror-struck Kalohan annihilated a big chunk of the swarm with a cathartic Burning Hands

DM’s notes

  1. They could also have tried to forced their way through but that would have been a big risk as they could not easily take to the river without dumping Vorn, the object of their mission in the first place…
  2. Mist mephits
  3. I did not want to sway their decision but to myself I was like « Noooooo! All my prep for naught! »
  4. In my homebrew Chult, albino dwarves don’t want anything to do with underground places
  5. The PCs did guess (easy) that the Sting of Decay, a jungle spirit they had vouched to destroy, was the cause of the increase of attacks in the sector
  6. The remnant of an older civilization
  7. real-world braconid wasps lay their eggs in their preys, I mean, how cool is that!

Session 16 – Zotzilaha’s Chosen

Now that my sister is fully hooked to D&D, the next logical step was to introduce my nephew to it. As he’s 11 yo, I didn’t want to overwhelm him with everything and tried to keep it simple on a gameplay and roleplay level. The way I found was to let him pick a mini (he picked the more sinister of the lot) and then I proposed him a character that suited (more or less) how it looked. Anyway, he did enjoy discovering new powers for his character. Job done!

Characters:

  • Shin (level 5), Tabaxi Fighter (Arcane Archer), Outlander; big-game hunter, has no patience for weakness
  • Kalohan (level 4), High Elf Wizard (Evoker), Inheritor; noble Elf, ill-suited for adventuring life
  • Leon (level 2>>3), Human Monk (Way of Shadow), Outlander; long dead hunter whose tribe worshipped Zotzilaha, has been reincarnated due to recent events
  • Vorn, Shield Guardian, found masterless by the party, beside a gaping hole in the ground

The Way Back is Blocked

The PCs had learned previously that  the Dwarves from the Pick & Axe co were en route toward the Tamoachan site, probably to claim the riches that they had just unearthed.  They opted to evade them,  going North-East through the jungles, as the way to the river was now cut off (1).

Crazed Stegosaurus

Crashing through dense vegetation and charging the PCs, the herbivorous dinosaur was oddly aggressive. The mighty Vorn got himself in a titanic duel against the fearsome beast while Shin, Kalohan and Leon had to fend off sneaky Batiri archers (2).

A Feast of Maggots

A huge sauropod carcass blocked the way ahead. Monstrous maggots sprung forth from the cleaned bones, but not before Shin had sent an explosive arrow at the disgusting remains, sending grisly worm flesh everywhere.

Frilled Spitters

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The following night, Leon found a good spot to camp but still, two big frilled raptors (3) got too curious. Kalohan managed to put one asleep with a spell. The other attacked Vorn but its poison was useless against the construct and was thus overmatched.

Petrified Spider

Next day, the PCs could see an immobile, giant spider. Shin tried to speak with it (via his magic hat) but didn’t obtain any response. Upon closer inspection, they saw that the spider was turned into stone. Alerted to this fact, the PCs soon found the cause: cockatrices! Those were just eating berries in the vicinity, but the wary adventurers slew the deceptively dangerous chicken-like creatures.

Dwarves in the Night

Their sleep was again disturbed when vigilant Vorn woke them as the P & A Dwarves had somehow managed to catch up with them. Leon activated one of his shadow trick, a pass without trace, and the PCs left the Dwarves behind yet again.

Mounted Batiris

Shin and Leon were tired by the previous night’s ordeals but the group wanted to put some distance between them and the unrelenting Dwarves. Unfortunately, those weren’t the only ones to watch out for as patrolling batiris mounted on Axe beaks got upon them. Shin got to work with his bow while Kalohan shot deadly lightning bolts with her magic wand and only two mounted batiris got in close range. Those last ones were dispatched by Vorn and Leon in a quick but brutal scuffle.

(4)

DM’s Notes

  1. Travel through the jungle ought to be more dangerous
  2. and kill a goblin shaman that controlled the stegosaur
  3. dinosaur frilled raptors, in fact, didn’t look anything like the one in jurassic park but the venom-spitting beast depicted in the movie makes for a cool addition to an imaginary dinosaur roster nonetheless
  4. I had thought to do a few more encounters, with some non-combat, but well, 11 yo boys have short attention span! :p

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!

Isaac’s adventures V

For the last few weeks the main theme  (that my son came up with), has been Ninja & Robots. I mean… that’s pretty cool, right? So, recently, we’ve defeated the Evil Ninja Boss, in his lair, which was basically a skyscraper full of his minions and,  after beating him, we’ve discovered that he was only one of 6 Big Bad Evil Bosses… Of course!

The next in line (the second weakest, ’cause that’s how it goes) is hidden in a castle.

Isaac: His special power is invisiblity.

Me: Does he have minions?

Isaac: Yes, 800 of them!

Me: That’s a lot!

Isaac: And all of them can turn invisible. Except one…

Me: *sputters coffee* Except one?! How’s that?

Isaac: Because he’s the weakest of the 800. He wasn’t always the weakest but his whole team (of wimpy dudes) got killed  except him. Now, he stands guard for the rare treasures.

Me: He’s alone to guard the rare treasures?

Isaac: Yes. He would like to be the strongest but he’s the weakest…

Me: My son, that’s what we call the weakest link!

Of Stickers and Unlocking (for D&D)

 

My ongoing D&D campaign is set in the jungles of Chult. I have the Tomb of Annihilation adventure book and while I don’t use its main plot *shudders*, I love the setting. I mean, I could very well have done the same thing with the old Isle of Dread module, but I didn’t know of its existence when I bought ToA. Anyway, I feel like ToA grafted a sandbox to something that wasn’t exactly meant for it. The PCs must find a specific location (the tomb duh) and have no real incentives to explore the fantastic locations on their way (not that there’s much of it tbh). More so, the players have this bigass map with the blanks… well unless you have a really dedicated cartographer player, it doesn’t see much use in my experience. Which is a shame.

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In retrospect, what I would have liked is stickers. I’ve discovered the fun of it in my recent experience with legacy-type boardgames (gloomhaven, betrayal legacy).

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From Cephalofair’s Gloomhaven

You’ve found/unlocked a location! Put a sticker!

Nah, really, it’s a thing. I like it.

Session 14b – Vandalism & Tomb-Robbing

Disclaimer: This play report is my own take on The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan (the 5e version from TofYP). Lots of spoilers below but it’s not  a « standard » playthrough of this classic module by any margin.

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

Ziggurat’s Middle Tier

Map Room (1)

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The PCs got out of the shaft and landed inside a large room. The tiled floor was, in fact,  one big mosaic that showed a detailed map of the Chult Peninsula, divided in 5 distinct areas (West Valley of Mist, Central Bleak Marshes, South Peaks of Flame, East Black Jungles, South-East Great Plains) with dotted features that revealed many secrets. An incredible find for explorers but, unfortunately, dust hid most of it and taking a closer look proved a difficult task as the entire room had all kind of magic traps. Shin had the odd idea to use a Swarm of Spiders to remove the dust and it did part of the job until the spiders got in the « Great Plains » area and refused to leave the place (2).

Gibbering Mouther

A door in the map room opened on a small room with a few items lying on stone  tablets in the back (a dried heart amongst them). In the middle of the room was a big pile of dirt, or it looked like it  before eyes and mouths started popping open everywhere. The adventurers evaded disgusting spittle attacks and killed the aberration before looting the place.

Ooze the fairest?

Exiting the map room, the PCs weren’t fooled into taking a suspicious-looking pile of gold coins heaped at the far side of the corridor. They did found a secret door that led to a room with mirrors  and no other doors. Rufb looked into one mirror, his reflection kind of misty, and an Ochre Jelly detached itself  (revealing an opening behind) and attacked him! The Barbarian was even more surprised when his powerful axe stroke split the jelly monster into 2 perfectly functional smaller ones. The Tabaxi resolved the conundrum with a well-placed explosive arrow that sent jelly matter everywhere! Flyzus, wiping away jelly from his face, dared looked into another mirror and was disturbed by a vision of his own death as his reflection was assaulted by some horrific wasp-like monster that pierced his face with a large sting.

The PCs had enough of the room and cautiously entered the secret passage. This led to a smaller lozenge-shaped room with a strange statue of an octopus, with a large red stone on its forehead. Seeing the glyphs on the statue and its creepy appearance was enough to send the PCs back to another part of the dungeon.

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They found a stairway going deeper into the ziggurat but they activated a complex trap: a stone statue of a dragon let out a gust of steam on them but, fortunately, the 3 adventurers managed to evade most of it, were only lightly burned, and they dashed forward before the next gust.

Ziggurat’s Lower Tier

In a large room (6) full of rubbles, Shin found some valuables and a short sword, with a crocodile etched on the serrated blade, that he later gave to Flyzus.

Chop Chop

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The PCs got across a long corridor with only corroded metal bars to cross over a pit with spikes (3) at the bottom. Rufb’s axe was a lot more efficient against next room’s guardian, a magic statue made of wood (4). A powerful axe’s blow chopped it in two and that was it (5).

On the far wall, a huge stone visage suggested some kind of secret entrance. Careful inspection revealed a keyhole in the statue’s eye. The platinum key they had found earlier fitted perfectly and opened a door inside the mouth.

Vandalism & Tomb-robbing

Rufb opened a set of double doors, broking a seal made of gold in the process, this triggered a trap: 5 heavy crossbows shot at him but only one bolt actually hit the Half-Orc. Next room was the most impressive area to date, lavishly decorated, with all sort of unusual features, the most outstanding being probably the copper coffin put on a raft shaped like a dragon.

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Pyramid replicas, lots of urns, the coffin, terracotta warriors; the room was chock-full with things to meddle with. Of course, by now the PCs were a little wary of traps and other hazards. Flyzus, in particular, as since he was wounded by the Crocodile Mummy he couldn’t be healed by any means, not even with magic (7).

Rufb didn’t like the look of the terracotta warriors and decided to bring them, one by one, and thrash the whole lot at the bottom of the spiked pit they had crossed earlier (8).  This demanded considerable efforts and it also attracted a Swarm of Bats.

But afterward, Rufb felt more secureand inspected the pyramids. Those were in fact chests, the top could be removed. Some were trapped but, proceeding carefully (9), he managed to loot a substantial treasure all in all. And, the coffin…

None of the PCs could read the writings, was it dire warnings? All they could guess was that some kind of high priest, most likely from Zotzilaha’s cult, had been laid to eternal rest there. They removed the coffin’s lid and they could see a desiccated corpse, in full regalia, and many unusual items carefully placed around it.

Zotzilaha

The defilers weren’t that surprised when the priest’s corpse reacted to their avidity, sitting straight and regaining some semblance of life by the second. They also understood right away the urgency to slay the thing before it was fully in combat shape and gave their all. With the Ranger and Barbarian slashing and hacking and the Arcane Archer shooting powerful magic arrows, the Vampire Spawn barely had the time to take his frightful form before vanishing from the surface of the world, this time, forever…

Near dead himself, Flyzus, in desperation, resolved to drink a potion found with the priest. It turned out very well for him as he felt liberated from the atrocious mummy’s rotting curse/disease (10).

That monster on the cover of the MM?

In another part of the dungeon, the PCs opened a door and saw something spherical, with many appendices on top, floating 2′ from the floor. An arrow from Shin made the Gas Spore explode, freeing its spores in the room. The PCs waited for the spores to deposit on the floor before going through.

Rolling Stone

Even further in the complex, the air was more intensely acrid than before. The PCs had several set of stairs in front when they activated a trap: a huge rolling stone threatened to crush them! Fortunately, the 3 PCs are formidable athletes (if very bad at deciphering things!) and they all managed to evade the incoming rolling stone. Passing them, it finished its course at the far side of the corridor, breaking through double doors with incredible ruckus… This stirred up some local residents, fire beetles, easily dispatched by the adventurers.

DM’S notes

  1. I’m rather happy with the stuff I added as the original room, as designed, was entirely pointless…
  2. Nonetheless, this revealed many locations on the map, options for future expeditions!
  3. Shin got across and earned  an inspiration point by… not caring how fared his companions (his flaw)!
  4. Wood Woad. I didn’t care much for the petrified werejaguar that turns to flesh, for some reason, as soon as the PCs touched something
  5. With a critical hit from Rufb, nice!
  6. Removed the encounter there to soften the dungeon a little.
  7. That meant assured death in a few days if he couldn’t find a solution. Pressure!
  8. Funny, as it wasn’t a threat at all and just fluff!
  9. Or one time, by just throwing a big rock inside. That did the job but damaged the goods.
  10. He was lucky that it was an Elixir of Health!

Session 13 – Naumachia

Characters (1)

  • Flyzus, Wood Elf Ranger (hunter), Outlander; sole survivor of his tribe after an orc invasion
  • Rufb, Half-Orc Barbarian (berserker), Mercenary Veteran; captured by pterafolks, his fellow mercenaries killed, seeks riches and glory
  • Lucky, Half-Elf Cleric of Tymora (Trickery), Street Urchin; the lowly will be exalted

Massacre at the Tej House

With their mission with the grungs finished, Flyzus and Rufb were going back to Port Nyanzaru. At the river’s mouth they met scouts sent to survey the gnolls’ activity. They learned that the Tiriky’s Tej House  had been attacked by bloodthirsty gnoll reavers, with many casualties. With the scouts was Lucky, and whilst the others departed to report to Port Nyanzaru’s authorities, he decided to join his erstwhile companions to take a closer look at the site of the massacre.

Sure enough the members of the Tej House’ staff were all dead but, there was also 2 gnolls amongst the corpses, killed by fishermen customers by the look of it. The Ranger sensed that something was amiss, the awful odor of a Giant Hyena was terribly overwhelming and very much recent, like less than an hour-recent. They knew that they had to prepare for a fight…

Lucky hid in a damaged straw house and summoned his illusory double. Rufb and Flyzus prepared their weapons. A Giant Hyena emerged from the jungle, followed by a Gnoll Hunter. Another gnoll, a large and battle-scarred Pack Lord, howled a warcry and the 2 dead gnolls got up on their feet: Whiterlings!

The Barbarian filled his soul with rage and cursed the gods that he had lost his great axe in a chasm… He only had this ridiculous lameass trident (however well-balanced), not a true warrior’s weapon at all (2)! Nonetheless he charged the Gnolls with abandon. Flyzus’ skillful swordmanship did great damage while Lucky’s double provided opportune distraction and soon, the PCs had triumphed (for the third time) against the savage Gnolls.

Naumachia (3)

Finally back in town, the PCs  spent well-earned gold and learned that the next big gladiatorial event was near ready. The pirates of the Stirge were to meet justice in the arena, and the organizers were quick to publicize the participation of the « Lord Elf « (Flyzus), the very one that had helped capture them!

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At the Grand Coliseum:

The Pirates vs the Mercenaries!

1 swashbuckler, 2 thugs, 6 bandits

vs

Flyzus, Rufb, 4 bandits, 1 halfling acolyte, 1 halfling archer

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Water pumped in the arena wasn’t deep, 4 or 5 feet max, but it was sufficient so sharks could swim in, adding to the spectacle. The pirates couldn’t hope to surrender this time and thus were determined to fight ’til the end. The pirate captain, showing off his acrobatic skills, jumped behind his foes while his men crossed the planks. The Barbarian got in a duel against a tough pirate lieutenant while Flyzus got in a confused melee at the center. The pirate captain tried to take advantage of a busy Flyzus and wounded him with quick rapier stabs but the latter killed the outclassed men around him and focused his attention on the dishonorable scoundrel.

The so-called « mercenaries » had only  lost 2 men and another had fell in the water and had been helped out just before a shark could attack him. As for the pirates, they were decimated, with the Ranger and Barbarian responsible for most of it. The pirate captain fell last, but not before attempting some daring manoeuvers. With multiple wounds already from Flyzus’ swords, he couldn’t escape the enraged Rufb dead set on killing him.

Victory to the Mercenaries!

DM’s Notes

  1. The passage of time in my campaign got a little fuzzy so I could accommodate players to have their characters together…
  2. It was funny as hell as Chris seemed to botched rolls every 2 rounds and blamed the trident!
  3. It was many sessions ago that we had an arena fight. I figured that an aquatic set-up would be suitably memorable!