Monthly Archives: May 2015

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!




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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.


Categories: FYI, Review | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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