Session #15 – But wait, there’s more!

This was actually a pretty fun game, though as noted, we had some significant rules questions that came up that were only really resolved after the session ended. It was also interesting, though not surprising to see how the switch in KR’s character swung the game balance around. Instead of a combat-heavy Sorcerer with a Paladin henchman the group now has a multi-classed Druid/Wizard with a much more “support” focus. This wasn’t a bad thing, just an obvious swing in how the group operated – the group is still large enough that it romps-n-stomps through the module encounters for the most part.

Though it does start to point out the major problem with large groups and tight passageways – most of the party can’t see the target or reach them if they can. This is the real “trick up the DM’s sleeve” that I think gets ignored much of the time. In most of the combats this session there were only two, maybe three, physical combatants and half the time most of the rest of the party, even the spellcasters, couldn’t really do anything. As a result both Rhys and Daghri were pretty chewed up by the end of the session, as was Devin.

So, the party made their way down the magical elevator revealed by the “Puzzle of the Eye Tyrant” – and found themselves in a narrow, spiraling passage that took them even deeper underground. A small landing was guarded by a pair of wolf skeletons that were dispatched quickly, but reanimated corpse of an ogre that attacked them on a slightly lower landing was more of a challenge but still quickly dispatched.

Through a small door, the party found a 20-30′ bridge made of aged but sturdy wood spanning a shallow, water-filled chasm. When Rhys offered for the gnomes to go first, it was Ilda who leapt to challenge – only to find that the bridge had been sabotaged. Falling into the water, Ilda was terrified to discover that it was four feet deep – on her four foot and two inch frame (in chainmail and other gear). Devin jumped in to help keep her head above water, but they were both attacked by some unseen creature in the water. After much flailing about, the creature was either run off or dispatched, they managed to get Ilda up and out of the water and the party to the other side – though not before Rhys managed to fall in the water as well…

Following tracks in the dust and detritus left by the ages, the party passed through a door into a larger, octagonal room filled with murals and panels. Here they were attacked by a pair of Hobgoblins and the zombie of strangely feral goblin, larger and more bestial than a normal hobgoblin but not as large as a Black Goblin. The fight was over quickly, but the party was slowly becoming more and more wounded as they pursued the looters deeper into the complex. There was a short debate around taking a short rest, but the fact that the looters were already so deep into the complex suggested that the party needed to keep moving.

Looting the bodies quickly, the party moved on and discovered the next room in the complex was the largest thus far. Bisected by what could be described as a canal for lack of a better word, the party was equally puzzled by the pair of recently dead (drowned) goblins present, lying on the stone floor beside the canal. The water detected as magical, and the party spread out a bit in an effort to figure out what might be going on – and when Devin tried to jump across the canal (instead of trusting the bridge…) he was snatched out of the air by a huge column of water rising up which the proceeded to envelop him. Reacting quickly when they saw Devin start to convulse and drown, they unloaded upon the water with a flurry of spells, released him from it’s grip.

With one more member of the party on the verge of death, the party decided that they needed to take a short rest and allow everyone to regain hit points as well as some spells. Some quick meditation and some music later and the party was in prime shape once again – if starting to dig into resources that they would prefer not to with at least one big fight that they can count upon ahead.

And that’s where pick things up tomorrow!

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Drowning Tunnel Rats…

…and there are no rules for “drowning” in 5e?

Ok, after the game I found “Suffocation” which makes a certain amount of sense, but really? Indexing FAIL! The rules seem pretty reasonable, but I think a houserule will be that strenuous activity (combat, running, etc.) means that “breath-holding” time is cut in half (otherwise the length of time is utterly ridiculous, especially when measured in combat rounds – I married a former competitive swimmer and they considered this a quite reasonable stipulation). Additionally, falling in (rather than intentionally diving in) requires a Constitution Save, +5 Dif per 10′ fallen.

In other thoughts, “dungeons” really do give my cold, leathery, blackened DM heart a quick pulse of warmth. Big parties, and only a couple of characters can even attack at a time because of the natural chokepoints found in narrow five-foot corridors.

On that note, something also seems off with being able to use two-handed weapons (or weapons with Reach) in such close quarters – at least for human-sized creatures. After gaming, some quick tape-measuring, plus dragging out some weapons really showed the ridiculousness of the situation when it comes to tunnel-fighting. So after some quick reflection when fighting in physically constrained spaces, e.g. a Medium-sized creature in a 5′ wide and 5-8′ passageway, the following rules would be in effect:

  1. Weapons with Reach may not be used.
  2. No Two-Handed Weapons may not be used (Garrotes, Short Bows, Dragon Cannons, Crossbows, Firearms, and Darters are the exempted from this, though Shortbows, Dragon Cannons, Crossbows, Rifles, and Muskets all have Disadvantage).
  3. Regular, One-Handed Weapons are used at Disadvantage.
  4. Light Weapons have no penalty.
  5. When squeezed into a “tight space” (see PH p192) only Light weapons may be used, as well as Tunnel Guns, Manticores, and Wyverns.

This also neatly suggests an additional Fighting Style, “Tunnel Fighter” – When Tunnel-Fighting, the Warrior (or Ranger, or Paladin) get a +1 to Hit an +1 to Armor Class.

TTFN!

D.

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Session #14 – So, an adventuring party walks into a mausoleum and…

(My apologies, I thought I had posted this awhile ago and I missed it – plus I had to cancel gaming last weekend because I was at a professional conference…)

So, the first thing to say is that adapting earlier modules to 5E is easy, but doing it on the fly is probably a more work than I would generally prefer unless it is really simple. The best part of the last session is that I had completely forgotten about the adventure seed re. the Kingsholm Graveyard until we sat down to play and people mentioned it! LOL!

So… the session started when Rhys returned from his families holdings with a surprise. Gwynneth had gone off to discuss things with her people and seemed to have, in typical Elven fashion, lost track of time. So rather than spending time tracking her down Rhys asked his cousin Ta’sara, a Druid and Wizard, to join him and help the party. After spending some time in introductions, as well as a quick review of the what the party had learned in the last two months, the party decided to take up the offer of work from the Sentinels (the mostly honorary guards of the graveyard) and investigate the mystery of a missing family and the two Sentinels that also disappeared after being sent to investigate.

Insert obligatory comments about nonsensical fantasy town structures and sizes…

Escorted to the entrance of the graveyard, the party quickly made their way to the mausoleum when bodies were prepared, quickly discovering the sentinels laying in pools of their own blood – and being attacked by a pair of wolves that were quickly slain. A warg was killed trying to flee the scene, and the party quickly investigated the mausoleum – determining that the sentinels were slain inside and then dragged outside. Opening the door to a sublevel, the party found the bodies of most of the missing family but upon moving to investigate were attacked by a pair of zombies and even though they were quickly dispatched a trio of skeletons further back proved to slightly more problematic (though also quickly dealt with).

After dealing with these, they discovered Tyra, the traumatized daughter of the family, who had barricaded herself in a side chamber and decided to quickly accompany her out before returning to explore further. Through her somewhat incoherent ramblings the party was able to discern that consisted of goblins and khazan, led by a human mage of some sort, and that they were definitively searching for a way into the deeper tombs.

Exploring further once they had gotten Tyra to safety, the party continued into an even deeper mausoleum discovering an magically sealed door with a bizarre puzzle-lock of verses and diagram on the door. After working through it, the party (those that were able to even see it – as some of the party couldn’t for some reason) opened the door, in order to find a series of steps going down – but in a much older, and much more finely made stonework style.

This puzzle was based on Beholders (which I don’t have as a “thing” in my campaign, though some one-off abomination is certainly possible) and was also, originally, some incredibly overwrought puzzle room that I can’t imagine anyone actually building if they had the magic to create the door locking mechanism in the first place. It was a classic example of “cool, but over-engineered DM idea” that can be found in so many modules.

Not to say that I haven’t been guilty of doing it myself when I write my own…

Overall though, I’m pleased with the module so far. I think the explanation of “no town cleric” makes more sense if the local priest or Lightbringer is away on a pilgrimage or travelling for some short bit and the priests left behind are way out of their league. Plus, some of the already mentioned issues with Kingsholm are a bit too caught up in fantasy-game conventions to fit perfectly into my game world. That’s fine, I’m used to tweaking modules as I go along, though I think that due to the newness of 5e I’m going to have to do a bit of prepwork instead.

Next game is next Saturday, it will be interesting to see how the party handles the next phase of the adventure. It’s been awhile since I’ve done a dungeon-crawl because I tend to run more urban or wilderness adventures, and this module certainly qualifies!

TTFN!

D.

 

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What is on the bedstand..?

Ok, there is lots of things on my bedstand, but I was thinking of the books. I tend to have a very eclectic collection that I’m reading at any one time, and the current set is somewhat emblematic or representative even if we ignore any professional texts that I might be reading – those can be a bit dry for many people.

The Roman Guide to Slave Management written by Jerry Toner (2014) is semi-ostensibly a management guide, written as 1st-person discussion of slave-owning written by a Roman citizen for his family and friends. Written by a scholar of Roman culture and history, it’s alternately insightful and amusing and worth picking up  if the topic of some interest to you. I picked this book up for a variety of reasons, and it would be a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to replicate a slave-owning society in an RPG – especially one that isn’t obviously “evil.”

Counterinsurgency in Modern Warfare edited by Daniel Marston & Carter Malkasian (2010) is a collection of excellent chapters discussing the history and evolution of modern counterinsurgency. I enjoy it because it is written by both civilians and prior- (and current) service military. It is also written by individuals from across Europe as well as the United States. It would have been interesting to get the insight of Asian or Middle-Eastern or African scholars as well, though there are individuals who have served in those theatres. I picked this up on a lark from a used bookstore because I thought it would be a good review for my Traveller game.

Throwing the Bones: How to Foretell the Future with Bones, Shells, and Nuts written by Catherine Yronwrode (2012) is really, really well done. It’s an excellent overview of random and semi-random cast methods divination as opposed to highly structured methods (like the Tarot) or omen (observable natural phenomena like bird flight, weather patterns). It focuses on bones (and shells) and even covers interpretive methods based on personal gnosis and for anyone interested in the topic for any reason this is an excellent text to pick up.

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5E Adventures So Far…

So, given the announcement of the coming Out of the Abyss adventure from the Rage of Demons storyline I thought it was time to look back at the first handful of adventures for 5E. To be clear, I have only played one of the adventures at this point – Lost Mine of Phandelver, and that is where I’m going to start, looking at them in order of release.

Lost Mine of Phandelver was great, to my old 1E senses it actually felt pretty much like a old module. I loved the box set, I love the semi-sandbox feel to the mini-campaign, and all of my players have enjoyed it as well also. Given how the adventure has run we may actually skip the final dungeon and move onto the next adventure instead. Overall I think it was well balanced, and my biggest complaint is not with the module but with two pieces of 5E design philosophy, namely low magic/treasure and creature blocks for characters and NPCs instead of character class stats. Neither of these ruins the module for me as the first is easy enough to fix and the second isn’t that hard to correct ether for these level characters. Four Very Solid Dragons.

Hoard of the Dragon Queen is, well, a mess. As many other have pointed out the very first encounter is almost a triumph of poor design. The rest of the module is a similarly poorly design quagmire of assumptions about what groups know about the Forgotten Realms – and DM’s with a “beginners knowledge” would be at a real disadvantage trying to run this adventure. Even DM’s who know a fair amount are stuck with having to reference old material, use wikipages, and just generally depend on far more than they should for a supposedly self-contained adventure. One Wannabe Dragon.

The Rise of Tiamat is better than it’s predecessor, but not by much. The flaws of the previous adventure actually revealed a methodology for handling a “hidden pillar’ of the 5E gaming experience – Factions. The thing I liked about this adventure was the treatment and tracking of various Faction goals and strength. The problem with the adventure is that ultimately it is bland and unexciting and reads like “roll-playing” rather than role-playing. Sad really, because it is clearly the exact opposite of what WOTC was attempting. Two Sad Dragons.

Ultimately I can’t see running either of these adventures, not do I even see stealing much in the way of ideas. I’ve handed these out on permanent loan to a friend of mine merely in return for a PDF of the pages that have the magic items (unfortunately rather lackluster) and Tiamat’s stats – and I’m really not that impressed.

Princes of the Apocalypse was much better than the previous pair of adventures. I really like how WOTC handled the “Players Guide” supplement, and unlike Queen/Tiamat I didn’t feel like I was hosed for money. The set-up of discrete adventure areas reminded me of older modules, rather than the “hardcover campaign.”  While I can’t exactly see running this adventure series, I can see liberally stealing bits and bobs for ideas – I loved the concept art for the elemental temples and immediately incorporated them as iconic concepts for the Kirks of the En Khoda Theos Kirk. The magical items were also interesting, and the stats for the Elemental Princes of Evil were lower powered than I expected, but fun to read and worthwhile. Ultimately I found the NPC’s and monsters much more interesting and worthwhile in Princes – certainly as compared to the other Rise/Queen. I give this a Four Worthy Dragons and a Noble Pseudodragon for the Player’s Handout.

Ultimately I’d really love a return of the old module-style adventures, far more limited in scope but easy to use as drop-in adventures in a larger, DM-generated campaign. Failing that I’d rather see boxed sets with good map sets than hardcovers – and failing that the folios from 4E seem to be ok. I picked one or two up at a used bookstore for dirt cheap and was not unpleased.

Personally I think this could be done in a eZine, PDF format pretty easily and with good quality – basically a return of Dungeon. We’ll see how the Dragon app works and hope for the best.

 

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Waystones, Leygates, and Mageports

There are the three somewhat ubiquitous forms of instantaneous magical travel available, Waystones, Leygates, and Mageports. Each of these have their unique and limitations and advantages, and they can be found scattered throughout the Mortal Realms. Wizards and Priest certainly have individual spells that allow for magical transport such as Teleport and Word of Recall but these were

 

Waystones

Waystones are large rune-inscribed monoliths situated along the various Dragon Paths and other sites of magical power. The runes that adorn the Waystones glow with the eldritch energies that power them in hues of brilliant sapphire blue. Several different networks have been created over the ages by various empires, kingdoms, and organizations, most notably the time of the Serpent Kings, the Fae, the Great Cities, the White Empire, Albion and the Wars of Binding, etc. All of these groups and time periods have seen the rise of Waystone networks that have allowed fast and stable travel by those with a either certain basic level of skill and who own a Waykey, or both. Their creation involves a huge investment of skill, time and Essence which has insured their rarity. With a few very notable exceptions, Waystones are limited to transport within the same Realm.

At the most basic, any individual may own and use a Waykey to travel by Waystone. Touching the Waykey to the Waystone, they and whomever they are physically touching are instantly transported to whatever destination Waystone is encoded into the Waykey assuming the following three conditions are met:

  • Both Waystones belong to the same network.
  • Each person so transported must use Arcane energy equivalent to a single first-level spell, plus another first-level spell per total number people transported. E.g. two people equals three spell levels each, three people means four spell levels each, and so on. This Arcane energy can come from any combination of different level spell slots as long as the correct number of spell levels is supplied. Distance or size is not a factor in any way, and this can be supplied via Heartstone or other extrinsic source.
  • For every 50 lbs of non-living matter that a person is carrying it costs 1 spell level of Arcane energy, and this cost is born by each individual being transported equally. E.g. Two people have a total of 100 lbs of gear, it will cost each of them 2 additional spell levels to transport (a total of 5 spell levels apiece when including the cost for a two person jump). The material to be moved must be carried.

Waykeys may have multiple Waystones encoded into them (and they may be added at later dates), and networks may have “Masterkeys” which allow access to any Waystone in the network. Finally there are various and sundry smaller networks of Waystones that make up the larger networks. Rumors also exist of Waykeys that allow the use of any Waystone, irrespective of its network, and the Navigator Guild is reputed to have built “Multi-Keys” that have access to multiple networks. It should also be noted that there are various spells which allow for the locking and trapping of Waystones. Most kingdoms require maintenance of the local Waystone networks to be part of the duties of the Mage’s Guild or the Navigator Guild.

Cost for a Waykey is generally in the neighborhood of 100 Gold (2000sp), and they can be purchased in most cities and large towns with a mage’s guildhouse. The cost for adding another destination to a Waykey is roughly 10 Gold (200sp) and requires that the mage have a thorough understanding of the runic inscriptions on the destination Waystone something which usually requires travel to that location if an exemplar is not already in their possession.

 

Leygates

Easier to create than a Waystone, though considered slightly more dangerous, Leygates are also connected to the web of Dragon Paths as well as the Aethyrs. Leygates can be of any size, though the greater the “door size” the more expensive they are to create in terms of Essence and time. The size is defined by a frame of two pillars, stones, or some such, with stone or other item defining a lintel and sill (the essential piece is to define four points. Permanent Leygates are among the most memorable of sights, often created of pillars of rune-inscribed stone and metal, or even such sights as the Gates of Horn and Ivory that link the city of Harrow to the Shadowlands, created from the bones of dragons, gods, and angels. Temporary Leygates can even be created by mages through spells and ritual though it usually requires the sacrifice of both of their kris and their wand in the process.

Travel by Leygate is similar to that of Waystones. Leygates have a single destination, though some rare spells allow for a mage to step in a Leygate and arrive at a some different destination than normal. Some Leygates are timed to specific circumstances that allow travel, or may have different destinations depending upon the circumstances in which travel is attempted (this is actually the creation of multiple Leygates with specific limitations using the same frame rather than a single Leygate with multiple possibilities). Unlike Waystones, Leygates can “easily” be linked to the other Realms – assuming the creator has the skill and knowledge.

There is minimal in Arcane energy to the use of a Leygate, and it merely requires a Very Easy Arcana and Wisdom checks and a flicker of Arcane energy equivalent to a Cantrip in order to activate it (incidentally restricting their use for the most part to mages, though there are Leykeys which will open a Leygate). The problem is that the Leygate only remains open for a one round, though in that time period anything that can pass through the gate is allowed. It takes three rounds for a Leygate to open, and this is accompanied by displays of crackling energy and the tang of ozone – it is anything but stealthy. Anyone may also “hold the gate open” for additional rounds, but each additional rounds requires another roll on each skill, each increasing in difficulty by one factor. After opening, for any amount of time, a Leygate remains shut (save through the exertion of significant magic) for at least 10 minutes of time for every round that it was open.

 

Mageport

The term “mageport” describes a set teleportation device, usually in the form of a flagstone or other flat service that is inscribed with visible or invisible runes. Permanent mageports require a fair amount of skill and Essence to create, and require nothing more than the expenditure of five spell levels of Arcane energy (in any combination of spell slots) and an Easy Arcana check in order to operate (they are, for all intents and purposes, a matrixed Teleportation Circle spell). Mageports can have as simple or as elaborate of restrictions on their use beyond the basics needed to operate them – but operate in an instantaneous manner, rather than over two rounds. At the moment of activation all things within the boundary of the Mageport, up to a ten foot diameter, but more commonly sized for a single person, travel instantaneously. The travel is always safe with no chance of a mis-teleport – the permanent nature of the enchantment and location providing the safety.

Mageports are generally utilized only by mages or those with an appropriate magical item and unless somehow limited, a mage can use any mageport to travel to any other mageport. The cost in Arcane energy is the same, no matter what the distance, as long as the mage knows the destination. An Arcane spellcaster merely needs an Very Easy Perception check to discern a mageport after searching an area. A Mageport is Nearly Impossible to notice in passing.

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Session #13 – Kingsholm – R&R&R!

“R&R&R” aka “R-Cubed” = Rest, recuperation, & Replenishment.

The game session yesterday as mainly a paperwork session in many respects, though it had a couple if very surprising results that promise some nice future sessions and fun roleplaying.

The party arrived in Kingsholm, a small city of 1800 urban, and 3600 suburban inhabitants – with another 1800 in surrounding small villages. The seat of Duke Blackadder, it is known mostly for it’s large and ancient graveyard of mausoleums, catacombs, and columbariums.

Knowing that they needed to get their guild memberships in order as well as probably establishing an adventuring company the party was less than interested in these details. Additionally, most everyone wanted the opportunity to do things like finally buy horses and a selection of other equipment, so being in the local seat of power was less interesting compared to being someplace with an alchemist.

I will say, as a DM, that this is where I relatively intentionally dropped the ball. I could role-played the heck out of this but instead merely let people “buy stuff” – even from the places like the local Magic Shoppe (which keeps minor consumables on hand). Yeah, yeah, “theatre of the mind” but I wanted to get a lot done and this was faster – besides, everyone had a fun day anyways.

So, while a couple of characters could avoid guild memberships (Devin Tresendar as a noble, Jarvic as a cleric, and Aneirin as a paladin) everyone else pretty much joined some form of guild. Dhagri got his papers in order with the Mercenaries Guild, and Fonkin made sure that Ren was a member in good standing. Fonkin and Ilda both made the appropriate gifts and paid for the right drinks to get into good standing with La Fortuna (the relatively informal Entertainers Guild), and Gwynneth even joined the Collegium (the Mages Guild) despite being a noble and essentially a foreigner and not exactly needing to.

Rhys, it must be said, spent a lot of money making all of the right people happy – the Mercenaries Guild, the Collegium, and the Syndicate.

The party also spent some time deciding upon a name for their adventuring band, finally deciding upon “The Company of the Spell and Blade” which they then registered with the Adventurers Guild (and thus avoiding the need for individual memberships, or at least pushing that decision off until another day). Lastly, the various party members all ended up getting bank accounts so that they could do something with all the cash they had been accumulating.

After this, Gwynneth (and Aneirin) went off to Silverveil via Navigator to see what she might discover talking with her people there, while Rhys went off to visit his family due to some obligations there (which will allow me to sync up that timeline with this one finally). It remains to be seen if they return in time for the next session’s adventure.

Jarvic arrived at the city’s Kirk, to find out that Dorje and others had been trickling in for the last couple of weeks, summoned by Great Dragons Themselves, and we waiting for his arrival and the coming Revelation. There were a great many councils (many of which had him feeling rather like Frodo and Elrond’s gathering) but in the end it was decided that while he would have the support of the Kirk, that this mission had been given to him for a reason and as such he would be the one to carry it out. While not exactly thrilled with this, Jarvic understood the responsibility and spent some time researching both the Age of Worms and the Maiden of Storms – learning mainly that the Maiden had been a prophet during the days of the Black Empire and her title was better translated as “Maiden of the Oncoming Storm”.

The rest of the party spent the next two months in the city doing research, catching up on personal business, and just generally carousing. This provided the opportunity to roll on the Carousing Table in the DMG, which was pretty amusing as we tried to make sense of it all. Fonkin managed to blackout and spend more money than he intended and Dhagri, valiantly outnumbered, lost a fight with two or three gazebos (he was drunk, so he’s not quite sure how many there were, it was very dark and they kept moving around). Ilda learned that while Dwimmervolk Skald-Gild didn’t have any specific legends of an “Age of Worms” at least a couple of them would make inquiries elsewhere to see if they uncover anything else.

Devin on the other hand…

First, he went to go speak with his brother in order to fill him in on what Devin had discovered about the state of the family lands. He didn’t intend to tell his brother about the prophecy, but it all came spilling out anyways. This wasn’t a disaster, but his brother did bring in Lord Bimmerle, a member of the Quiet Council, to listen and offer advice – thus spreading the news of the Prophecy even further. His brother also suggested that what would be helpful would be for Devin to rebuild the Hunting Lodge/Manor in Phandalin as the start to establishing a Tresendar presence again. While an expensive proposition, Devin agreed that this would be an excellent idea.

After all of that, Devin decided that he was going to spend some time carousing with his circle of friend (aka “the young noblemen”) and after close to two solid months of doing so woke up one morning to find himself enwrapped with marital bliss with a beautiful Tiernaese courtesan by the name of Sabriye. Now, being a courtesan is perfectly respectable profession, but they aren’t generally considered marriage material for gentlepersons of Devin’s station (unless possibly some form of morganatic marriage – which this wasn’t much to the displeasure of Devin’s brother). After some very tense discussions, Devin decided that it would be best to set Sabriye up in her own household (and doing so, incident, at a higher standard than his brother lives). Devin swears that it is a true love-match, and Sabriye certainly seems to be affectionate and to care about him, so there is perhaps some hope that her social skills and charisma can offset Devin’s sometimes flawed social graces.

Lastly, Dhagri managed to avoid a duel after some amazingly crude statements regarding Sabriye upon meeting her, and spent his time hanging out at the Mercenaries Guild. He also was approached with the party’s next possible adventure – someone is messing with the graveyard, would the party care to investigate..?

TTFN!

D.

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Jeff’s “Twenty Questions”

I can’t believe that I never posted a link to this.

Twenty Quick Questions For Your Campaign Setting

TTFN!

D.

Categories: Campaign Development, FYI | Tags: | Leave a comment

Tools and Instruments of the Wizard (5e)

Humans wizards and those trained by them or in their traditions, have developed a selection of tools and instruments that even beginning wizards start their careers with. This includes Sorcerers and Warlocks, as well as Eldritch Knights and Arcane Tricksters – though only Wizards use Grimoires and Codices or gain any benefit from the spells contained within. Their training represents quite an investment of time and energy on the part of their Master, and the world at large is often even more hostile to wizards than it is to other adventurers. As a result, part of the training of a Wizard involves the creation or attunement to their Foci. This investment has the unfortunate effect that any opponent who holds a Wizard’s Wand, Kris, or Staff (or Orb or Wizard Blade) gains Advantage against that Wizard’s spells and other magical effects. Any Wizard who has their Wand, Kris, or Staff broken or destroyed suffers 1d4 Psychic damage per level – these items have an AC of the appropriate material, Hit Points equal to 2x the Wizard’s level, a Damage Threshold equal to the Wizard’s level, and Resistance to non-magical weapons.

The Wizard’s Grimoire – All Wizards maintain a Grimoire in which they record their spells and other arcane formula. In appearance it can vary immensely, from a collection of loose papers and scrolls to the most impressive of tomes, bound in dragonskin and with black adamant bindings. Learning a new spell and transcribing it into a Grimoire takes two hours and 50sp per level of the spell, copying a spell you already know into a new Grimoire only takes 1 hour and 10sp per level of the spell. A standard Grimoire has roughly 100 pages, and each spell take up one page per level of the spell.

The Wizard’s Codex – These are the basic instructional manuals of magic, with a selection of easy to understand and basic spells of varying levels depending upon the Codex itself. The spells and other arcane secrets contained within them reveal the beliefs and attitudes of the creator about the proper development or practices of a wizard at the various levels. There are numerous examples of a Codex, from the ponderous and ubiquitous, ten-volume Codex Magic, to the Sefer Ratziel of the Church of the Lords of Light, or even the classic Book of Seven penned by the great mage Dulain. A wizard always begins play with a basic Codex as determined by the DM.

The Wizard’s Wand – The Wizard’s Wand is their primary arcane focus (Components are a backup). It can have a variety of appearances, from a simple wooden implement to an ornate creation of adamant and diamond to a solidified creation of elemental fire. In any case, a Wand as an Arcane Focus replaces the need for Components and the possession of one invariably marks the bearer as a Wizard.

The Wizard’s Kris – A wizard’s kris are two double-edged daggers, they could be bodice knives, they could be fighting knives, the style depends upon the wizard in question. There is a white-handled kris and a black-handled kris, the white is for physical and mundane threats, the black is for spiritual and magical threats. They can be used for offense and defense, in combat or otherwise. Each are specifically enchanted against those threats (the white is treated as Coldsilver Enchanted Blade, the black grants the wizard the effects of a Protection vs Good & Evil spell while drawn and held). A Kris is also an Arcane Focus, and can substitute for a Wand if need be. It is quite common for wizards to layer enchantments upon their Kris, increasing them in potency as they advance in level – it also common for a wizard to replace them over the years with more substantial creations.

The Wizard’s Staff – The Wizard’s Staff is, in some ways, their most puissant instrument aside from their spells themselves. It combines the abilities of the Wand to aid in the casting of spells and those of the Kris to protect the mage and act as a weapon. This potency and utility comes with a price however, a wizard who has created a Wizard’s Staff but does not hold it or another Arcane Focus (other than Components) has Disadvantage when casting spells and saving against magic. The benefits:

  • Allows use of the Light Cantrip.
  • Treated as a+1 weapon per five full levels of the Wizard class.
  • Provides an AC bonus equal to half the Proficiency Bonus of the Wizard.
  • Can hold Concentration for one spell cast by the Wizard.
  • The Wizard gains one additional Spell Slot for each Spell Level.
  • The Staff may be summoned to the Wizard’s hand if the Wizard is 9th Level or greater.
  • The Wizard always knows where their staff is located.

The Wizard’s Orb – Similar to the Staff, the Wizard’s Orb is a puissant magical instrument in its own right. It functions quite similarly to a Staff, and has the same potential problem. A wizard who has created a Wizard’s Orb but does not hold it or another Arcane Focus (other than Components) has Disadvantage when casting spells and saving against magic. The benefits are as follows:

  • Allows use of the Light Cantrip.
  • Act’s as a Crystal Ball.
  • Can hold Concentration for one spell cast by the Wizard.
  • The Wizard gains one additional Spell Slot for each Spell Level.
  • The Orb may be summoned to the Wizard’s hand if the Wizard is 9th Level or greater.
  • The Wizard always knows where their Orb is located.
  • Is always controlled as if under the effects of a Mage Hand cantrip.

A Wizard Blade – A rarer instrument, a Wizard Blade is a combination of a Wand, Kris, and Staff, usually in the form of a Shortsword or Longsword. Much like a Staff or Orb a wizard who has created a Wizard Blade but does not hold it or another Arcane Focus (other than Components) has Disadvantage when casting spells and saving against magic. The benefits of using a Wizard Blade are the following:

  • Allows use of the True Strike Cantrip.
  • Always treated, at a minimum, as a Coldsilver, Enchanted Weapon.
  • Treated as a+1 weapon per five full levels of the Wizard class.
  • Does additional Force Damage equal to the Proficiency Bonus of the Wizard
  • Can hold Concentration for one spell cast by the Wizard.
  • The Wizard gains one additional Spell Slot for each Spell Level.
  • The Wizard Blade may be summoned to the Wizard’s hand if the Wizard is 9th Level or greater.
  • The Wizard always knows where their Wizard Blade is located.

A Wizard’s Aegis – A term for a somewhat ubiquitous magical item that has protective and occasionally offensive properties. The most basic forms consist of a broad gorget, commonly made of precious metals in a serpent- or dragon-scale pattern or motiff with a stylized representation of some fearsome, supernatural beast on the front. More advanced forms of the Aegis also include a cuirass of shining, metallic scales that cover the chest and upper arms of the wearer (AC11). Occasionally an Aegis includes a matching ephaptis (fighting cloak) made of a similar leathery and metallic scales (AC12) that can be used by Wizard.

  • The Wizard is under the Effects of Blade Ward Cantrip at all times.
  • The Wizard has Resistance to Force damage.
  • Provides a bonus to AC equal to +1 per five full levels of the Wizard class.
  • The Wizard has Advantage on saves versus Spells and Magical Effects.
  • The Wizard may use a Hellish Rebuke, but the damage is Psychic and the Save is Wisdom.
  • The Wizard may cast Fear once, with 15’ radius Area, usable again after a Short Rest.

A Wizard’s Wand, both Kris, and Staff must be Attuned items. The same is true for Orbs, Wizard Blades, and Wizard Aegis or any other similar or related item.

Elves do not use or create Wands, either not needing them or preferring to use a piece of jewelry as an Arcane Focus. Their Wizards have Longknives that operate as both Kris combined, and while some use Staves, others (especially their Eldritch Knights) have a sword or occasionally a spear that functions as a Wizard Blade. Instead of Grimoires they use Crystals that record the formula.

Sh’dai do use and create Wands but invariably create and use Wizard Blades rather Staves early in their career. Their most powerful Wizards often craft a full complement of instruments and tools, unlike human wizards which often omit a Wizard Blade. Rather than Kris, they create a dark weapon known as a Fellblade that functions as both Kris combined.

Dragonborn have a long history of Arcane study, and live and breath Arcane energies as part of their essential nature. As a result of this, both Sorcerer and Monk levels count for purposes of determining the power of their Staff (and these are commonly used). They use a peculiar tri-bladed form of Kris that are otherwise identical in function (though they are also known to make them in a Shortsword format), and as noted in their description they have no need for an Arcane Focus so they rarely if ever make or use Wands. The Dragonborn record their spells in a variety of idiosyncratic methods (scrolls and tomes, flame sculptures, wind chimes and mobiles, etc), making it difficult to make any statement about Grimoires in specific.

Categories: Campaign Development, Game Design, House Rules, Magic Item | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Mage Armor and Shield simply isn’t enough… (5e)

These are two of the more ubiquitous spells for Wizards, found in many codices and grimoires across the Mortal Realm. Even if not found within a wizard’s current codex, they are often among the first researched, begged, borrowed, or stolen as they advance in level.


Journeyman’s Hauberk

3rd-Level Abjuration (Ritual)

  • Casting Time: 5 Minutes
  • Range: Self
  • Components: VSM (100sp of Diamond Dust))
  • Duration: 7 Days

Perhaps one of the most ubiquitous of spells for the adventuring mage, Journeyman’s Hauberk sits firmly between spells like Mage Armor and Shield, and Mantle or Master’s Lorica as a standby of personal protection and utility. The spell has the following properties:

  • Grants a benefit of +4 to Armor Class
  • Provides a phantom 15 Hit Points, that absorbs or ablates damage.
    • If these Phantom Hit Points run out, the spell is dispelled.
  • The bearer of the spell benefits from a Protection from Evil enchantment
  • Absorbs Force damage
    • This damage “recharges” the phantom hit points granted by the armour at a 2:1 ratio.
  • The bearer of the spell has Advantage to all Saving Throws
  • Allows the bearer of the spell to Detect Magic by touch
  • Allows the bearer of the spell to Detect Illusion by touch

This spell is notable in that it requires a rather unique and unalterable material component that is perhaps its sole restriction on use by many mages, and that is 100sp worth of Diamond Dust is needed for each casting. The spell itself produces no visible effect (unlike, say, Phantom Armour) but it’s effects can clearly be seen or perceived by others when they come into play.  No other spells of a similar nature (Mage Armor, Protection from Energy, etc) can be used while this spell is in effect. The spell cannot be Dispelled, nor is it removed by Globes of Invulnerability, and is generally only able to be removed by actual anti-magical effects.

At Higher Levels: When the spell is cast using a spell slot of 4th level of higher it last for an additional day and has an additional 5 phantom hit points, for each spell slot above 3rd that is used.


Master’s Lorica

6th-Level Abjuration (Ritual)

  • Casting Time: 5 Minutes
  • Range: Self
  • Components: VSM (100sp worth each of Diamond, Sapphire, Emerald, and Amethyst Dust)
  • Duration: 7 Days

An advancement and a refinement of the Journeyman’s Hauberk spell, Master’s Lorica as a standby of personal protection and utility, for Master-class mages. It is often considered a far more useful spell than Mantle given it’s simplicity and blanket protections. The spell has the following properties:

  • Grants a benefit of +7 to Armor Class
    • The bearer is also Immune to non-Enchanted weapons.
    • The bearer has Resistance to Slashing, Piercing, & Bludgeoning Damage
  • Provides a phantom 30 Hit Points, that absorbs or ablates damage.
    • If these Phantom Hit Points run out, the spell is dispelled.
    • The bearer may spend 1d4 of these phantom Hit Points to Dispel Magic on single enchantment by touch
  • The bearer of the spell benefits from a Protection from Evil enchantment
  • Absorbs Force damage.
    • This damage “recharges” the phantom hit points granted by the armour at a 2:1 ratio.
  • The bearer of the spell has Resistance to Fire, Cold, Thunder, and Lightning.
  • The bearer of the spell has Advantage to all Saving Throws
  • Allows the bearer of the spell to Detect Magic by touch
  • Allows the bearer of the spell to Detect Illusion by touch

Much like Journeyman’s Hauberk, the Master’s Lorica requires unalterable material components that is perhaps the sole restriction on use by many mages, and that is 100sp worth each of Diamond, Sapphire, Emerald, and Amethyst Dust is needed for each casting. The spell itself produces no visible effect (unlike, say, Phantom Armour) but it’s effects can clearly be seen or perceived by others when they come into play. No other spells of a similar nature (Mage Armor, Protection from Energy, etc) can be used while this spell is in effect. The spell cannot be Dispelled, nor is it removed by Globes of Invulnerability, and is generally only able to be removed by actual anti-magical effects.

At Higher Levels: When the spell is cast using a spell slot of 7th level of higher it last for an additional week and has an additional 10 phantom hit points, for each spell slot above 6th that is used.

Categories: Campaign Development, House Rules, Magic Spell | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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