Friday, March 24, 2017

Delving into the Tomb of Horrors: Instant Death

Back in my day, we just rolled up a new character and didn't complain!
Welcome back to Delving into the Tomb of Horrors. Today I'll be analyzing chapter 6, "Tomb of Acererak Level", and covering areas 20-24.

Tomb of Horrors: Tomb of Acererak Level

Well, boys and girls, this is the proverbial "it". On the entrance level Gary taught the players how to explore the Tomb with little danger. In the False Crypt level we tested those ideas and expanded the threat level a bit.

But now we are at the bottom level, the Tomb of Acererak himself, where any slip-up can result in lethal levels of damage, instant death, or worse. In fact, four of the first five areas are just that: incredibly deadly traps with little to no way to avoid them.
Won't happen in this dungeon

But is that really true?

Again, I still think there are lessons to be learned here. These traps require careful thought, thorough investigation, and utmost caution. But they aren't unbeatable.

20. Deadly Spikes

Here we see yet another example of Gary turning dungeon crawling conventions (which existed even in 1975!) on their head. Moving across the bottom of the pit seems to be the best method of travel, but even those poking ahead with a 10 ft pole will be affected by the spikes triggered at the end of the pit.
Use vertical stripes to make your dungeon appear slimmer!

Fortunately, this trap isn't terribly deadly, despite the name. Characters will take about 17 damage on average, even with a THAC0 of 10. I think this trap is another indicator of the change in difficulty, much like the door leading out of the laboratory.

The players are essentially getting a second warning that the traditional method of using their first idea on a trap won't work. This idea is a new one in the dungeon so far, but suffice to say it will affect every single trap in the rest of the dungeon.

21. Agitation

Here's where we get our first encounter with an instant death trap. If the players rip or burn these tapestries, they could be subjected to massive damage, or even death in three rounds. Let's go back to the trap breakdown from a couple weeks ago to see exactly how a trap of this difficulty is set up.

The Setup: We get two clues the tapestries are trapped. First, the read-aloud text says that while the room appears looted, the tapestries are untouched. Second, those who open the trunks and release the asps could observe that the snakes don't flee anywhere near the tapestries.

"Looted" in a dungeon that resets itself...
This isn't much to go on, and many groups could be told these facts and still be surprised by the tapestries. However, as Gary said, this is a "thinking person's" Dungeon. The rule from before remains that deadlier traps need more setup to be effective.

The Betrayal: This deadlier trap has a more complex betrayal. First, the PCs need to figure out the agitation mechanism. With the treasure to be found, the combat with the snakes, and searching the room, it is entirely reasonable that the PCs will be in motion most of the time they are here. But with a room-wide effect, it usually will cause the PCs to stop and wait, which will clue them into how the agitator works.

Alternatively, the PCs could be paranoid and burn the tapestries, setting up the second betrayal with the brown mold.

The Chance: Since this is a deadly trap, there's less of a chance to avoid the effect here. The brown mold in particular is nasty, not allowing any save for the damage it causes. The green slime is slightly better, because though a person caught in it only has three rounds to escape, most groups could easily deal 50 damage to the slime within that time.

Overall, this trap is difficult and could cause death, but it is still fairly easy compared to later traps.

22. Siren's Cavern

This area starts with little setup, but instead hampers the players and offers them the potential for a reprieve from that setback.
Hellooooooooooo hearse!

The PCs are likely to trigger the siren's song from outside the room, and at least one PC will fail both saves required to cause them to "become idiots". This could be considered comparable to a feeblemind spell in later editions.

Fortunately, the Siren herself can easily be obtained as an ally and undo this effect. But Gary is once again playing with the tropes of dungeon exploration.

There are two sacks of treasure here, and touching either one causes the siren (and the other sack) to disappear. It would be all too common for a group's rogue to tell the others to talk to the siren while they inspected the treasure.

This is a highly complex setup and betrayal. The sack that radiates magic is perfectly safe, except that it makes the siren disappear. The nonmagical sack could very well contain wool and be worthless, and also causes the Siren to disappear.

It's interesting to note that the text says the siren and the sack disappear forever. I believe this means that Gary intended this to be a one-time challenge. Additionally, if the players cause the Siren to vanish, they will have to get their idiot friends up to "breathe clean air under the warm sun", which means many of the traps would be reset. However, this trap wouldn't be, if Gary's instructions are followed exactly.

Again, this area is meant to challenge the group's ability to comprehend situations, not just their dungeon-barrelling prowess.

23. Secrets and Swords

This area is fairly simple. It just reinforces the idea of not giving up after your first attempt to inspect something.
Keep your eyes peeled!
I think it's important to have small areas like this that reinforce the theme of the dungeon. It doesn't have to be anything wild or crazy, just a single door or a room that says to your players: "Don't forget where you are."

And even though this area doesn't have any danger, if the players don't follow the lessons taught in this dungeon, they will have to face...

23. Sleeping Juggernaut

Possibly the most directly unfair area of the entire dungeon. Let's break it down.

Is... are you crying...?

The Setup: Hardly any. We get this clue: "The double doors in this area are unusual in that they swing open in either direction. When they open, they fit into depressions made for them in the corridor walls."

So, the players get a mild hint that likely won't make sense until it's too late. Then they get hit with the betrayal.

The Betrayal: There's little chance that all the PCs will be far enough away to avoid the sleep gas, which has no save. "Elves and those who hold their breath are not affected" which would be few and far between in any given party.

Then the juggernaut comes and crushes sleeping PCs, no save.

The Chance: There's only one way to avoid this trap: at least one elf in your party, who can wake the others up, then pure luck that the juggernaut doesn't crush you before then.

This trap seems to break the rule we established before, where deadly traps have more extensive setups. But I don't really see this as a trap.

Instead, I think it is a punishment for ignoring the lessons of the dungeon while the PCs passed through area 23. This might be a little harsh for modern groups, but the idea of an area that punishes those who don't follow the themes of the dungeon is completely usable.

In a modern game, though, I would recommend not making the punishment so deadly.
Sure, my friend's an idiot and the Siren who could fix him disappeared, but hey, free spell scrolls!
Next week, we'll travel into the largest area in the dungeon, and one that is chock-full of traps of extreme deadliness.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Powering Up: Greater Feats

Get your Greek on
This post is going to be a lot less rambling philosophy that most of my others. A few weeks ago I posted an article about creating Demigods, and I wanted to follow up with an idea I had there: empowered feats as the sign of a demigod.

I think I might hit on this topic one more time, perhaps to talk about class-specific feature enhancements that could reflect a godly level of power within the confines of each standard class. This would be a wizard getting a bonus directly from the god of magic, or a fighter getting a blessing directly from the god of war. I think there could be a neat feature that could reflect that.

Anyway, really, this article isn't going to be me rambling. I promise. In fact, since we already know the premise, let's just get on with it.

Greater Feats

Aegis (based on Shield Master): Attacks rarely strike you, you move a shield in the way with supernatural speed.
  • If you take the Attack action on your turn, you can use a bonus action to try to attack or shove a creature within 5 feet of you with your shield. The attack deals 1d6 bludgeoning damage.
  • If you aren’t incapacitated, you can add your shield’s AC bonus to any Dexterity saving throw you make against a spell or other harmful effect that targets only you.
  • If you are subjected to an effect that allows you to make a Dexterity saving throw to take only half damage, you can use your reaction to take no damage if you succeed on the saving throw, interposing your shield between yourself and the source of the effect.
  • You may take a reaction on every turn of combat to use the above ability.
Bladelord (based on Weapon Master): You have mastered every weapon in the world, and can best those with years of training.
  • Increase your Strength or Dexterity score by 2, to a maximum of 22.
  • You gain proficiency with all simple and martial weapons.
  • While wielding a weapon, you deal +2 damage of that weapon's type.
Bloodthirsty (based on Savage Attacker): You can barely contain yourself when you enter combat, craving the blood of your foes with unnatural hunger.
  • Once per turn, you may deal maximum damage instead of rolling damage dice.
Bonded Mount (based on Mounted Combatant): You connect immediately with your riding mounts, acting as one.
  • You have advantage on melee attack rolls against any unmounted creature that is smaller than your mount.
  • You can force an attack targeted at your mount to target you instead.
  • If your mount is subjected to an effect that allows it to make a Dexterity saving throw to take only half damage, it instead takes no damage if it succeeds on the saving throw, and only half damage if it fails.
  • While mounted, you gain all the senses of your mount and can communicate simple ideas telepathically with your mount.
  • If your mount has a swimming speed, you gain the ability to breathe underwater while mounted.
  • If your mount has a burrowing or climbing speed, you can remain mounted while it moves in this way without making a check.
Deadeye (based on Sharpshooter): You have gained supernatural accuracy with ranged weapons.
  • Attacking at long range doesn't impose disadvantage on your ranged weapon attack rolls.
  • Your ranged weapon attacks ignore half cover and three-quarters cover.
  • You ignore the loading property of weapons you are proficient in.
  • Being within 5 feet of a hostile creature doesn't impose disadvantage on your ranged attack rolls.
  • Before you make an attack with a ranged weapon that you are proficient with, you can choose to take a - 5 penalty to the attack roll. If the attack hits, you add +15 to the attack’s damage.

Always look forward to greatness!
Elemental Master (based on Elemental Adept): You are as an avatar of the elements, destroying those who would stand against your might.
  • When you gain this feat, choose one of the following damage types: acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder
  • Spells you cast ignore resistance to damage of the chosen type, and treat immunity to the chosen type as resistance.
  • When you roll damage for a spell you cast that deals damage of that type, you may treat any 1 or 2 on a damage die as a 3.
  • You may select this feat multiple times, but you must chose a different damage type each time.
Farspell Lord (based on Spell Sniper): Nothing escapes your magical grasp, no matter where they hide.
  • When you cast a spell that requires you to make an attack roll, the spell’s range is doubled.
  • Your ranged spell attacks ignore half cover and three-quarters cover.
  • When you cast a spell that requires an enemy to make a saving throw, the spell’s area of effect is doubled by it's largest dimension.
  • Creatures don't gain the benefits of half cover and three-quarters cover when making Dexterity saving throws against your spells.
Fortune (based on Lucky): Everything seems to go your way, no matter how bad the situation might be.
  • When you roll a 1 on an attack, ability check, or saving throw, you may reroll the die. You must keep the new result.
  • If an attack roll made against you scores a critical hit, you may use your reaction to force your opponent to reroll the die.
  • Whenever you find treasure or loot a group of defeated enemies, you find an additional amount of gold pieces equal to your level.
Flawless (based on Resilient): You have the mind and body of a god, and you rarely make a mistake.
  • Choose three ability scores. Each one is increased by 1, to a maximum of 22.
  • You gain proficiency in all saving throws.
Great Weapon Lord (based on Great Weapon Master): Monstrous blades are toys in your hands, flying between foes with ease.
  • While wielding a heavy or two-handed weapon, you may use a bonus action on your turn to make one melee weapon attack.
  • Before you make a melee attack with a heavy or two-handed weapon that you are proficient with, you can choose to take a -5 penalty to the attack roll. If the attack hits, you add +15 to the attack’s damage.

Let's make some big things happen.
Divine Eminence (based on Inspiring Leader): Your words embolden the hearts of men, allowing them to fight for your cause with greater prowess.
  • You may spend 10 minutes speaking to your companions, shoring up their resolve to fight. When you do so, choose up to 100 creatures (which can include yourself) within 120 feet of you who can see or hear you and who can understand you. They gain the following benefits:
  • Temporary hit points equal to twice your level + twice your Charisma modifier
  • Advantage on a type of creature or race of humanoid of your choosing for one hour.
  • A creature can't benefit from this effect again until it has finished a short or long rest.
Doctor (based on Healer): Your understanding of medicine seems to supernaturally surpass common knowledge.
  • You gain proficiency in the medicine skill. When you make a medicine check to diagnose or stabilize a creature, you may double your proficiency bonus for the check.
  • When you use a healer's kit to stabilize a dying creature, that creature also regains 1d6 + 4 hit points, plus additional hit points equal to the creature's level.
  • As an action, you can spend one use of a healer's kit to tend to a creature and restore 4d6 + 10 hit points to it, plus additional hit points equal to twice its level. The creature can't regain hit points from this feat again until it finishes a short or long rest.
Immovable (based on Sentinel): Your ability to hold a single point on ground in combat is unparalled.
  • When you hit a creature with an opportunity attack, the creature's speed becomes 0 for the rest of the turn.
  • Creatures within 5 feet of you provoke opportunity attacks from you even if they take the Disengage action before leaving your reach.
  • When a creature within 5 feet of you makes an attack against a target other than you, you can use your reaction to make a melee weapon attack against the attacking creature.
  • If an effect would force you to move, you can use your reaction to reduce the distance by 15 feet.
  • You may take a reaction on every turn of combat to use the above abilities.
Impervious (based on Tough): You take blows without thought, with no effect on your body or skill.
  • Your hit point maximum doubles when you take this feat.
  • Whenever you gain a level after, your hit point maximum increases by twice as much as it normally would have.
Iron Fist (based on Tavern Brawler): You are unmatched with your bare hands, punching through any opponent.
  • Increase your Strength or Constitution score by 2, to a maximum of 22.
  • You are proficient with unarmed strikes.
  • Your unarmed strike uses a 1d8 for damage.
  • You deal double damage to objects.
Iron Grip (based on Grappler): You are an unparalled grappler, immovable once you have control of your opponent.
  • You have advantage on attack rolls and grapple checks against a creature you are grappling.
  • You can use your action to perform a perfect pin on your opponent. To do so, make another grapple check. If you succeed, the creature is restrained until the grapple ends.
  • While you have a creature in a perfect pin, you may use a bonus action to tighten your grip on the creature. To do so, make another grapple check. If you succeed, the creature takes bludgeoning damage equal to 1d6 + your Strength modifier.
Iron Wall (based on Heavy Armor Master): Your skill with armor is uncanny, you seem to move with grace unheard of for someone so encumbered.
  • Increase your Strength score by 2, to a maximum of 22.
  • You gain proficiency with heavy armor.
  • While you are wearing heavy armor, you gain resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from non-magical weapons.
Lightning (based on Mobile): You move with unnatural speed and agility.
  • Your speed increases by 20 feet.
  • You ignore difficult terrain.
  • When you use the Dash action, you don't provoke opportunity attacks from creatures.
  • When you are subjected to an effect that allows you to make a Dexterity saving throw to take only half damage, you instead take no damage if you succeed on the saving throw, and only half damage if you fail.
Mage Bane (based on Mage Slayer): You have an innate sense for magic used against you, reacting reflexively against those who wield it.
  • When a creature casts a spell targeting you, you may use your reaction to make an attack against that creature before the spell's effects take place.
  • When you damage a creature that is concentrating on a spell, that creature's saving throw to maintain is equal to the full amount of damage you dealt, or 10, whichever is greater.
  • You have advantage on saving throw against spells.

They must be GREATER!
Magic Prodigy (based on Magic Initiate): You have been blessed with arcane knowledge, instantly gaining the skills of those with years of training.
  • Choose a class: Bard, cleric, druid, sorcerer, warlock, or wizard. You learn two cantrips of your choice from that class's spell list.
  • Choose two 1st-level spells and one 2nd-level spell from the same list. You learn those spells and cast them at their lowest level. Once you cast each spell, you must finish a long rest before you can cast that spell again.
  • Your spellcasting ability can be Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma.
Martial Lord (based on Martial Adept): You have gained knowledge of martial techniques, which you can perform with uncanny ability.
  • You learn four maneuvers of your choice from among those available to the Battle Master archetype in the fighter class. If a maneuver you use requires your target to make a saving throw to resist the maneuver’s effects, the saving throw DC equals 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Strength or Dexterity modifier (your choice).
  • If you already have superiority dice, you gain two more; otherwise, you have two superiority die, which is a d8. This die is used to fuel your maneuvers. A superiority die is expended when you use it. You regain your expended superiority dice when you finish a short or long rest.
Master Duelist (based on Defensive Dualist): Your reflexes have surpassed normal human ability, even when surrounded by foes.
  • You may take a reaction on every turn of combat.
  • When you are wielding a finesse weapon with which you are proficient and another creature hits you with a melee attack, you can use your reaction to add your proficiency bonus to your AC for that attack, potentially causing the attack to miss you.
Master of Rites (based on ritual caster): You have learned the secrets of controlling ritual magic from the very fabric of the mutliverse.
  • You learn two 1st-level spells and one 2nd-level spell of your choice. The spells may be from any class, but the spells you choose must have the ritual tag.
  • Your spellcasting ability for these spells can be Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma.
  • If you come across a ritual spell in written form, you may learn it. The spell’s level can be no higher than your level.
  • You may cast a ritual spell in one minute instead of ten minutes. You cannot use this feature again until you finish a long rest.
Mimic (based on Actor): You can uncannily assume the mannerisms of those around you, absorbing them instantly.
  • Increase your Charisma score by 2, to a maximum of 22.
  • When you roll a Charisma (Deception) or Charisma (Performance) check to pass yourself off as another person, you may treat a roll of 9 or lower as a 10.
  • You can mimic the speech of another person or the sounds made by other creatures. You must have heard the person speaking, or heard the creature make the sound, for at least 1 round. A successful Wisdom (Insight) check contested by your Charisma (Deception) check allows a listener to determine that the effect is faked.
Perfect Armor (based on Medium Armor Master): You use the armor of mortals with ease, only the heaviest of armors could hamper you.
  • Increase your Strength or Dexterity score by 2, to a maximum of 22.
  • You gain proficiency with medium armor and shields.
  • Wearing medium armor doesn't impose disadvantage on your Dexterity (Stealth) checks.
  • When you wear medium armor, you may add the full value of your Dexterity modifier to your AC.
Perfect Memory (based on Keen Mind): You never forget a thing, and can track details with supernatural precision.
  • Increase your Intelligence score by 2, to a maximum of 22.
  • You can't get lost.
  • You always know the number of hours left before the next sunrise or sunset.
  • If you are a wizard, you do not need to use a spellbook. You may prepare a number of extra spells each day equal to half your level, rounded down.
  • You can accurately recall anything you have seen or heard within the past year.
Polearm Lord (based on Polearm Master): You control long weapons as if they were a part of your own body.
  • When you take the Attack action and attack with only a glaive, halberd, or quarterstaff, you can use a bonus action to make a melee attack with the opposite end of the weapon. The weapon’s damage die for this attack is equal to the damage die of the weapon, and the attack deals bludgeoning damage.
  • While you are wielding a glaive, halberd, pike, or quarterstaff, other creatures provoke an opportunity attack from you when they enter your reach.
  • You may take a reaction on every turn of combat to use the above ability.
Precognition (based on Alert): You have a knack for sensing danger that borders on supernatural.
  • You gain a +10 bonus to initiative.
  • You can't be surprised, even if you are unconscious when a combat begins.
  • When a creature attempts to attack you while hiding from you, it is instead surprised and you learn of its position.

But, like... a SUPER Grappler
Shade (based on Skulker): You can disappear at will, seemingly vanishing in front of the eyes of enemies.
  • When you take a hide action, you may become invisible until the end of your turn, automatically succeeding on your Dexterity (Stealth) check until you reappear.
  • When you are hidden from a creature and miss it with a weapon attack, making the attack doesn't reveal your position.
  • If you are hidden and make a melee attack against a target within 5 feet of you, a hit automatically becomes a critical hit.
  • Dim light doesn't impose disadvantage on your Wisdom (Perception) checks relying on sight.
Third Eye (based on Observant): You are hyper-aware of your surroundings, no detail escapes your notice.
  • Increase your Intelligence or Wisdom score by 2, to a maximum of 22.
  • If you can see a creature, you may make a Wisdom (Insight) check with a DC equal to the creature's Charisma score. If you succeed, you learn that creatures' surface thoughts as if you had cast the spell Detect Thoughts.
  • You have a +10 bonus to your passive Wisdom (Perception) and passive Intelligence (Investigation) scores.
Thunder (based on Charger): You move through a battlefield without pause, tides of foes falling before you.
  • You may use a bonus action to take the Dash action.
  • If you use your bonus action to dash, then make an attack action, you may shove any number of creatures within 5ft of you up to 10ft away from you in a straight line.
Titan (based on Athlete): Your physical and athletic prowess exceeds that of mere mortals.
  • Increase your Strength or Dexterity score by 2, to a maximum of 22.
  • You may stand up from prone as a free action on your turn.
  • Climbing doesn't halve your speed.
  • Your standing long jump and high jump cover the full distance of a running leap.
Twin Strength (based on Dual Wielder): Your great strength allows you to wield any weapon with ease in each hand.
  • You gain a +1 bonus to AC while you are wielding a separate melee weapon in each hand.
  • You can use two-weapon fighting with any weapon, even those that have the Two-Handed property.
  • You can draw or stow any two weapons when you would normally be able to draw or stow only one.
Unbreakable (based on Durable): Even when you fall, you will rise again to fight your enemies.
  • Increase your constitution score by 2, to a maximum of 22.
  • When you roll a hit die to regain hit points, you automatically gain the maximum amount of hit points you could gain from that die.
  • When you are reduced to 0 hit points but no killed outright, you can drop to 1 hit point instead. You can't use this feature again until you finish a long rest.
Virtuoso (based on Skilled): You have unnatural skill with any task you attempt, any situation you find yourself in.
  • You gain proficiency in all skills and any tools you use.
Wordsmith (based on Linguist): You have uncanny knowledge of codes, languages, and secret communications.
  • Increase your Intelligence score by 2, to a maximum of 22.
  • You understand all languages, including Thieves' Cant and Druidic.
  • You can cast the Message cantrip at will.
  • You can ably create written ciphers. Others can’t decipher a code you create unless you teach them, or they succeed on an Intelligence check (DC equal to your Intelligence score + your proficiency bonus), even if they use magic to decipher it.
    Later, mortals!
Not all the feats are represented here, since some of them are already really good, or can't really be improved to epic proportions.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday Recap: Stabbed in the Back

It ain't easy being blue
We finally got together and started my campaign for Maze of the Blue Medusa. I was originally going to do a mini-session in the home-brewed city of Dagos, where the characters could meet each other and explore for a bit, but I was pretty eager to get started on the module itself.

In retrospect, it might've been a good idea to let the players get into their characters more before I dropped them into the dungeon, but I went ahead with it anyway. Besides, there will be plenty of room for character growth within the dungeon! There's quite a few awesome role-playing and non-violent quest things in the Maze, so I'm not worried about it too much.

We met and started off by building our characters together. In true D&D fashion, one of my players wanted to do a weird multi-classing thing that I had no experience with, one had no idea what her character would be, one had never made a character before, and one rolled in with his character nearly completely conceptualized and just about built.

So we spent four hours discussing back story, looking up obscure rules, reviewing the basics, and snacking. Some DM's don't like to be involved in this process, but I find it's good for me to think about the characters as they are being made. It helps me adjust to the type of party I'll be running.

Also, it lets me sprinkle some input on the group to help them in the story.

In the end, we came up with the following characters:

"All I wanted was a family"
Aniria Lightningblood, born to a Firbolg tribe, had always been more magical than the rest of her family and friends. The tribe's elders tried to nurture her powers, but they seemed to come from an unfamiliar source than the druids and sorcerers that occasionally popped up within the tribe. Fortunately, the tribe lived a peaceful life, very in-tune with the forest and the fey, and they hoped that the young girl would never have a need to use her strange powers.

One day, the God of Storms, Tlaloc, reached out to her. He told her that she had been chosen by him for his divine purposes, and that she would need to leave her family and seek greater purpose. She refused, and he responded by unleashing a horrible tempest upon her home. Devastated, she conceded, but not before many Firbolg had been lost. The tribe exiled her, and she began to wander the land, learning the ways of a Tempest Cleric of Tlaloc. She eventually found her way to the city of Dagos, joining up with the Harmony Mercenary Company. She chose her name because she saw herself as a child of the world (The world in my setting is called Ahneria), and her surname was in tribute to her new, if somewhat troubling, source of strength.

Alan: a little fire, a lot of angst
Alan Xanthudides was unwelcome from the day he was born. The human noble family had a bad reputation from their distant ancestor Saint Xanthudides. Everyone knew the story of the priest who would murder holy people and make them Saints, who managed to get away with it for years and become Sainted himself, dying long before anyone found out what had happened. Some claimed that the entire family’s souls are already damned to the deepest pits of Hell. When Alan was born from an affair between Viktor Xanthudides and his Gnomish maid, it was just another blemish on the family name.

That's why Alan decided to move out, change his name to Resnik, and join up with the Harmony Mercenary Company. He was struggling to deal with his new powers of Phoenyx Sorcery, which he knew his father would take as a sign of further shame on the family name. Alan remained in the city of Dagos, avoiding the city districts where he knew his family normally travelled.

"I can cut a rug or your throat, your choice"
Derrik Evenwood was always known for his hot temper. Growing up as a human in Dagos, he was quick to fight and quicker to win, using his considerable size and strength to his advantage. However, he also had a softer side, especially when it came to music. He quickly learned that people feared him for his strength, but his lasting friendships came from fellow musicians and patrons. He began working double duty at various taverns and establishments: playing music for the patrons during the day, and throwing out the rabble at night. Unfortunately, he picked up quite a few bad habits this way, some of which involved expensive drugs and alcohol.

When his local haunt, Slim Jim's Tavern and Gallery, burned to the ground, Derrik was out on the streets with his lute and a lot of debt to be paid off. He had no trouble finding a place to eat or sleep, his music took care of that, but finding enough money to keep up with his vices was a different story. Using his skills as both a Bard and a Barbarian, he joined up with the Harmony Mercenary Company, hoping to evade some of his debts and get back on his feet.

She's a lady with a million faces. Most of them very cute.
Coria Kelvardil grew up loving animals. She was always surrounded by them in the glades of her Wood Elf home, and when her powers as a Circle of the Moon Druid awoke, she was overjoyed. As soon as she came of age, she made her way from the Elven Isles to the rest of the world, searching and cataloguing different animals on her massive voyage. She travelled by boat, going great distances and enjoying the solitude that came with the long sea voyages.

She also enjoyed reading and writing, and in addition to keeping an extensive archive of the animals she had seen, she picked up a habit of reading kitschy novels on her trips, especially books by a relatively unknown author named Caphtor Clowe. The poor writing style and scandalous content provided quite a bit of amusement on her trips.

One day, while getting supplies in the port of Dagos, her beloved vessel was stolen from the docks because of its rare elven craftsmanship. Distraught, she decided to use her magic to join the Harmony Mercenary Company and get the gold needed to buy a new boat.

So, a lot of this art is going to be from Zak Sabbath, the author of the module. It's very abstract and cool.
The group worked for Harmony for a while, going on adventures together and getting to know each other. (We are starting at level five) However, money wasn't really coming in. The group had a job lined up, but they weren't doing well in terms of food and supplies.

Additionally, their own problems in the city were surmounting. Aniria had met a strange pixie a few weeks ago, who had been eager to find a painting called the False Chanterelle. The encounter had left the Firbolg confused and uneasy. Alan had received a letter from his father, saying his elder brother (not the eldest though) was ill and Alan needed to return home so he could be trained as a backup heir.

Derrik had heard a rumor that he had started the fire at Slim Jim's, and rumors could be deadly serious in a hive of scum and villainy like Dagos. Coria had also heard a rumor, that an old sailor she wasn't exactly friendly with had come into town, along with a new crew. If their paths crossed, Coria was sure there'd be trouble.

As twilight fell, a knock came at the door of their barracks. It was "Boots", their contact in the Harmony Mercenary Company. He told them that the job they were waiting on had been called off, tough luck. The group was devastated.

However, Derrik revealed that he had a secret source of potential income: he had stolen a painting off the side of a merchant's wagon earlier that day. It was hung up on his wall, under a sheet. He revealed it to his companions: it was the False Chanterelle.

Plot Device in Red - by Zak S.
They briefly debated what they should do with it as the full moon rose. They were interrupted, however, by the woman in chains in the painting.

She asked them to free her, and offered them a kingdom's worth of gold for their assistance. Derrik suspiciously poked the painting and was suddenly transported into the image itself! The others hesitantly followed.

The woman introduced herself as Ashen Chanterelle. She told the group that she was a part of an ancient kingdom ruled by three sister-gods. The mercenaries recognized the description of the sister-gods from a modern institution, the Church of the Triad.

The Church of the Triad taught that these three sisters, Chronia, Zamia, and Charity, once walked the earth as immortals and were banished due to the folly of mankind. Chronia controlled time, Zamia controlled love, and Charity controlled peace. The Church was a pretty generous and kind organization with a strong penchant for historical record-keeping.

Ashen said the sisters were not only real, but they were here in the Maze of the Blue Medusa, being held captive. If they could be rescued, the Triarchy kingdom could be resurrected and the characters would be the greatest heroes of the land.

After some suspicious questioning, the group freed her from her chains, and the door to the north opened. Aniria gave her a cloak to cover herself. Ashen thanked them for their help, and wished them good luck.

The group turned around, confused, just in time to see Ashen touch the painting they had come through, teleport into their room in Dagos, and throw the cloak Aniria gave her over the painting, closing the portal.

The heroes were enraged and bitter about their trust being broken, but decided that even if Ashen was gone they could still go save the goddesses. They went to the next room, where a blue-skinned woman with wings and horns was pacing back and forth.

Dragon. Bounty Hunter. Art lover.
She was very friendly, and introduced herself as Lady Crucem Capilli. She was a dragon, and was here to destroy the Maze! She was trying to save the Medusa's father, who had also been captured. However, she told the group that there was a literal hoard of art and history stashed in the maze. She wasn't quite ready to let all that go, as she was a true lover of things artistic.

She asked the party to delve into the dungeon and bring her back any art, music, history, or curiosities they might find. She winked and mentioned they could probably find a few statues, too! She wouldn't tell them about any specific rooms but did mention that they were in the Entrance hall, and there were Gardens to the West and "lots of dead" to the East.

The group agreed, and went into the next room. They quickly realized that the light circling the room was turning their shadows into holes in the ground, and after pulling Derrik out of Aniria's shadow, checked out the doorway to the West and the passage leading to the North.

The door leading West seemed to open up into the Gardens area. Coria was keen to look inside and use her Speak to Plants spell, but Aniria pressed forward into the North passage, following the sound of movement.

"Hello. My name is Sanguifluus. Please kill me."
They entered a furnished room with an old man tottering around in it. He seemed sickly and on the verge of death, and he had three great bastard swords sticking through his back. The group was extremely suspicious of this old man, who told them multiple times that he was just trying to die. Unfortunately, he couldn't do so until someone removed the swords from his back and fought the gaseous remains of his former knights.

Alan was getting a bit exasperated at his fellow party members, as they kept asking petty questions to a man who was clearly a king, clearly in pain, and clearly needed help. Finally, he convinced Aniria to touch a sword, causing the vaporized thanes to float from the king's mouth.

The group fought the various clouds of former knights, doing their best to use magical attacks on their gaseous forms. Derrik, frustrated that his greataxe (literally) wasn't cutting it, decided to pull one of the swords from the old man's back. That turned out to work much better, and the heroes quickly dispatched their misty foes.

The king smiled, and told them the swords could be taken freely now, and that they were the key forward in the maze. The players took the swords, and the king turned into a pile of ashes.

There was writing on each sword - a riddle. The characters also found three thrones in a side room, each one with a picture on it. They quickly figured out which sword should go where (in part because I forgot to mix up the order of the clues) and the door leading North from the king's room swung open.

As they headed towards the door, a small bird flitted into the room. It appeared to be a hummingbird, but crafted of hundreds of slivers of jewels and gemstones. It hovered near the door, beckoning the characters to press forward.

Surely trustworthy!
We stopped there for the night. It was a short amount of actual play, but I was surprised at how much the group was able to get through. I'm not worried about running out of dungeon, though. Even if they can keep up the pace of about 5-6 rooms in two hours, there are about 300 rooms in this dungeon. We'll have stuff to explore for a very long time.

Overall, the group dynamic was still growing. Tom and Jackie are definitely more passive players who take a while to grow into their characters, and Megan's boldness was the complete antithesis of Makayla's caution. I think there's a lot of room to grow, it is the very first session after all. Most players can't get into their character's headspace for at least a few sessions unless they've been trained as actors or writers.

Overall, I had a lot of fun, and I'm really excited to meet up again next week and play!

Thanks for reading!