I3 Pharaoh – Please Loot My Tomb

I’m not really doing a review of this classic egyptian-themed D&D module (by Tracy and Laura Hickman), there’s plenty of them out there , I’ll just highlight a few things that stood out for me as I read it.

The first thing I did mentionned in the title of this post, the premise is an unusual one, the dungeon’s « owner » actually wants you to succeed! For his sins in life and foremost his vanity, the Pharaoh has brought a curse upon himself: he cannot enter the afterlife unless someone steal his most prized possessions. The irony is that of course, before he was cursed, he did took the utmost care to make his pyramid theft-proof!

Another major selling point for this module is the actual design of the lair. It’s archeologically sound. Well, that’s a bit of a stretch… Of course, there’s D&d nonsensical magic afoot but… It’s as near a realistic lair/tomb as a D&D adventure can achieve, I think. For example, there’s a « Plundered Tomb » level to fool would-be defilers into thinking they’re too late. There’s also some few nice instances of verticality in the navigation of the lair that is often neglected with most dungeons. All in all, it’s very well done.

There’s 2 non-hostile factions. The Thunes Dervishes want to protect the sanctity of the Pyramid and won’t allow defiling (looting) around them. At the same time, their leader is missing and is somewhere in the tomb. They could help the PCs, if those talk smoothly, but they’ll turned against them fast if they act as PCs are wont to do… And then there’s the bandits, who’ve had enough of the pyramid and just wish to get out. They’ll take the PCs help if offered, but they could well succumb to greed if they see any wealth brashly displayed. Interesting.

Mummy: the Return of the Tendinitis

Some more random things:

  • There’s a kind of magic healing water supply at the Temple (the entrance of the pyramid). In typical rpg fashion it is specified that the healing water loses its beneficial properties outside of the pyramid’s perimeter. Obviously to foil some players’ idiotic money scheme, I mean, I can clearly see something like: « let’s haul gallons and gallons of this water outta here, set a shop in town and we’ll be rich, nevermind the treasures! » A few years ago I had a player who loved these kind of gimmicks even if it meant, y’know, ditching the actual adventure part.
  • I’m not a fan of silliness (unless it’s my own brand) in purchased adventures. In Pharaoh, you can find a chest (trapped) full of old used orc socks. First, orcs have socks? Second, really? Orc socks in a chest? And there’s also exploding pineapples and oh! Prit the Gnome who digs tunnels with only his spoon! Sigh
  • I like the weak, but unkillable Chabang (mud) Men. The PCs can’t hack & slash away this sort of trouble and have to be clever about it.
  • The BBE (Big Bad Evil), Munafiq the power-hungry High-Priest – of course he’s now undead- is unnecessary. If I ran this adventure, I would refurbish him so he’d be a more subtle encounter.

Merchants of Anuire Session 2: A Bundle of Swords

The boys had to clean-up their playroom as a condition to play in a rpg session with me. They did a thorough job, talk about a great incentive!

Character Cast

  • Fancey Fleetfooted, Wanderer, Anuirean Male lvl 1>>2 (Edmond)
  • Ciavey the Peddler, Treasure Hunter, Halfling Male, lvl 1>>2 (Isaac)
  • Lucian the Quiet, Scholar, Anuirean Male, lvl 1>>2 (NPC)
  • Dragon the Pony
  • Death-from-Above, Trained Falcon

SHORT JOURNEY- Moderate Terrain – from Bellam Castle (Barony of Roesone) to Spiritsend Swamp (Duchy of Osoerde)

  • Embarkation roll: 10 (Hidden from Shadows)
  • Event roll (1): 4 (In need of Help)
  • Event roll (2): 4 (In need of help)
  • Arrival roll: 8 (Inspired and filled with Hope)

WEATHER – Cold, Clear

Hunting a Troll

The Count of Bellam invited the PCs to a more substantial hunt after they had captured poachers. A TROLL was roaming in the contryside, terrorizing everybody. Several patrols were sent after the monster and the PCs joined one. Fancey soon found tracks and not much later they stumbled upon the remains of a slain bear. It so happened that their own patrol found the troll (10% chance)! Peppering it with arrows with another handful of archers, they managed to wound it enough so that soldiers with spears could close-in, immobilize it before dousing it with oil and killing it with fire… 4 soldiers were grievously wounded by the troll. It went well.

The Rebels of Osoerde

An agent of the Spider River Traders convinced the PCs to bring weapons across the border, in the duchy of Osoerde. William Moergen, the true heir of Osoerde, is leading a desperate guerilla war against his late father’s ex-lieutenant, the usurper Jaison Raenech. He’s presently hidden in the Spiritsend Swamp. The Rendez-vous is just outside the swamp at its most western part.

Tumultuous Border

Leaving Bellam county, the PCs walked on a sinuous road through a hilly region before reaching the farmlands of Osoerde. A few hours in and they can see a dwarven caravan being assaulted by miners-turned-bandits. Well positioned on the slope above the ambush, Fancey and Ciavey quickly kill 3 bandits with arrows and then manage to kill the bandit leader with 2 more arrows. The surviving bandits surrender and are free to leave. Mazzik, on behalf of the grateful Dwarves, gives a nice helm to Ciavey.

A few hours later, horseriders want to know the PCs’ business in Osoerde but silver-tongued Ciavey convince the patrolmen of their legitimacy.

Swampfever

The PCs arrive at a small, isolated village that suffers from a plague of swampfever. Lucian knows what kind of healing herbs could help them, if they ever find any.

Payment Interrupted

They finally arrived at the rendez-vous point and were proceeding to the exchange when shouts alarmed them of an incoming enemy patrol. The PCs and rebels fled in the Spiritsend Swamp and evaded the duke’s men.

DM notes

  • The Troll killed the bear gratuitously, meaning its truly a monster and deserving of death.
  • The PCs are almost out of arrows from all that shooting
  • 2 hours is about the max I can do if we’re to play with Edmond, not bad at all

Merchants of Anuire – Session 1 – Wine & Venison

Happy New year!

I’m starting what may be a whole new campaign with my kids. I’ve kept this first session really basic. I hope to get things more imaginative in the next sessions, if we keep at it.

Campaign frame

  • We’re playing in the Birthright (TSR 1995) setting, with the continent of Cerilia. I was fascinated by this setting when I was a teenager and I can make use of the impressive level of details it got for the style of campaign I have in mind
  • Oddly, I’m using Cubicle 7’s Adventures in Middle Earth (5e OGL adaptation), even if it’s not Tolkien’s world we’re playing in, for the implied low magic setting and also, from this book there’s the Journey Mechanics that suits perfectly my purpose for a mercantile campaign of sort
  • In this homebrewed version of Birthright, there’s no blooded scions à la highlander. Maybe there’ll be a simplified domain/regency play but that would be much further in the campaign
  • Azrai is Cerilia’s version of Sauron and is responsible for most that is evil in the world. If someone do evil he’s in fact succumbing to Azrai’s « Shadow ». Too much of this and you turn into a literal monster.

Background

The kingdom of Anuire is at peace but, with the Iron Throne still vacant, war may not be far.

In Eastern Anuire, in the Barony of Roesone…

Mattheus, Ciavey’s Uncle, has been ambushed by thugs, most certainly from Orthien Tane’s gang. Many of his long-time employees have been slain and Mattheus himself is in a critical state. Fighting for his life and facing bankruptcy, Mattheus relies on his nephew (and his friends) to save the family business.

Character Cast

  • Fancey Fleetfooted, Wanderer, Anuirean Male lvl 1 (Edmond)
  • Ciavey the Peddler, Treasure Hunter, Halfling Male, lvl 1 (Isaac)
  • Lucian the Quiet, Scholar, Anuirean Male, lvl 1 (NPC)
  • Dragon the Pony (NPC)

Roads well-traveled

SHORT JOURNEY- Easy Terrain – from Fairfield to Bellam Castle (Barony of Roesone)

  • Embarkation roll: 11 (with hopeful hearts and clear purpose)
  • Journey events roll (x1): 1 (a chance encounter)
  • Arrival roll: 7 (tall tales and great deeds)

WEATHER – Cloudy

  • Talked to farmers around Fairfield, bought sheep wool, bought an old broadsword
  • Reached Abbey of the Lady, sold sheep wool, bought high-end wine. A woodcutter, a servant of the abbey, is missing. PCs chose not to take part in a rescue sortie.
  • Encountered Spider River Traders merchants going the other way, one Hughes said they could make some well-paid work if they go at their outpost in the west
  • Paid the ferry toll to cross Black river
  • Reached Bellam Castle, sold Abbey of the Lady wine for good profit
  • Just in time for an archery contest! Fancey took part with 3 other competitors and won with the best shot after 3 arrows! The prize is a wonderful Trained Falcon which is promptly named Death-from-Above.
  • The Count of Bellam praises Fancey for his win and offers him to become a game warden. Fancey don’t want to settle down and says so. The Count asks if he would do a one-time job then of hunting down poachers for him?
  • Fancey and Ciavey accept the job. Fancey uses his impressive tracking skills and they find the poachers, 2 Halflings, in the forest near a spring. They kill one with 2 arrows, the other flees but quickly surrender when Death-From-Above is launched at him.
  • Gained valuable Red Deer venison and antlers

DM notes

  • The 3 « Journey » rolls were almost optimal, which means less danger on the road and more profitable deals
  • I had a little talk with the boys about killing a poacher after the session. I should have done it beforehand. I don’t want them killing non-monsters left and right just because they can. Something about raising kids properly and all!
  • Mom roleplayed Count of Bellam to great effect!

Choose a Sponsor for your Dungeon Delve

A neat idea from the gamebook Battlepits of Krarth (Dave Morris, Oliver Johnson) is to make you start the adventure while choosing a sponsor as the first obligatory step before entering said battlepits. In pure gamebook fashion you can choose blindly and then of course you risk getting a bad one (one sponsor is actually a vampire who, guess what, is more interested in getting your blood than having champions to compete), or, you know, you could try to get some information first and make a better choice…

Those are « Sponsors » too but they’re a bit, huh, different?

Of course, a Choose Your Own Adventure has a limited scope and so there’s only three sponsors to choose from (others are mentionned but aren’t availaible). One good, one bad and one really bad (the aforementionned vampire). An interesting twist is that the good one, Magus Balthazar, is harder to get, he’s actually picky as to whom he chooses. It’s not like he wants the first boneheads to cross his door to represent him in this prestigious, yearly competion. No, no, no. You will be tested, and if your intelligence is found lacking, well… You’ll have to find another sponsor.

This asshole doesn’t care one bit if you die horribly…

With a Tabletop RPG, of course, you could have a lot more options to choose from, leading to interesting roleplaying opportunities.

But what’s the point of having a sponsor? Well, suppose you get one that’s interested in your prolonged well-being, a sponsor could ensure that your chances of success are a bit better, providing you with starting funds, equipment, henchmen and so on… And, depending on the style of play, maybe a kind of insurance against setbacks (healing services, or even resurrection).

In any case, there would have to be something to gain for the sponsor too. A share of the profits, first bid on precious stuff, etc. In a TTRPG, a sponsor wouldn’t be a simple employer, there’s a long-term relationship (or debt serving) to consider.

If I ever do something like a megadungeon campaign, you can be sure there’ll be sponsors around!