Monday, April 30, 2018

Monday Recap: Elemental Abode

Things are going to get froggy! (Art by Shannon!)
Hello everyone! It’s Makayla again, bringing you another recap of Jandar’s Lions. I'm not super great at intro stuff, so I'll just hop right into it.

This article is part 2 of a series. The campaign is ongoing.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 |

Jandar's Lions: Elemental Abode

Jandar's Lions Crew:
Makayla: Dungeon Master
Jon: Captain Jandar Monroe, Human Paladin, Explorer of the Horizon (As of 1 week ago), tries not to kill things.
Wes: Barry the Basher, Mountain Dwarf Barbarian, has many memories of his mother, superb angler, can't write.
Tom: "Barth" Perth, Human Rogue, likes to challenge Jandar with moral quandaries, can't take a hit or drink alcohol.
Shannon: Otaroinae “A’ro’wan” Kalepeach, Water Genasi-Halfling Coast Druid, thoroughly enjoys being in and around water, likes to 'kelp' people.
NPCs: Lin and Dekkard: High Elf Blade Bard and Mountain Dwarf Eldritch Knight, First-Mate and Purser, respectively. Jandar's Friends.

When last we left Jandar’s Lions, they had recently found an island, and Jandar had turned the wheel towards adventure. After a brief sail over to the island, the adventuring crew set off in one of the ship’s rowboats towards a rocky jut. Lin and Dekkard stayed behind to care for and defend the ship.

They approached the shore and took a quick look at the swampy terrain before deciding to find a way further inland. After taking a quick look at the surroundings, they decided to row into an inlet area that had fewer mangroves. Rowing for about an hour in, they arrived at a rocky area and pulled themselves ashore.

A quick knot tying lesson for Barry later, and the boat was secured to a mangrove tree. The crew decided to have a look around for any signs of life. Barry, channeling the hunter in himself, found some tracks and used knowledge his brother had drunkenly shared with him to identify them as Bullywug tracks. While Jandar, Barry, and Barth were discussing why its inappropriate to slay an entire species just because they live in a swamp, Otaroinae was trying to chirp at some frogs. While doing so, the frog stood up, and revealed that it was in fact one of the Bullywugs that call this island home.

After attempted peace talks (which went nowhere due to language barriers) that concluded with a shout in under-common by Barth, the Bullywugs attacked. Further attempts at a peaceful resolution failed, so knocking the Bullywugs out was viewed as the best course of action. Jandar and Barry knocked out the Bullywug that ended up getting two good hits on Barth. Barth played dead before getting a surprise attack on a Bullywug that had become lethargic due to Otaroinae’s freezing of the water and mud around the Bullywug’s feet. The final Bullywug grabbed his unconscious friend and fled, leaving Jandar to save the life of the one that Barth nearly killed.

After once more having a discussion about the fact that they themselves were the ones in the wrong, Jandar helped heal up Barth. The group decided it was best to get further inland as it began to drizzle, and they set up camp at the top of a hill. While Otaroinae sat in the rain, and Barth had a not-so-through think over his past actions, Jandar and Barry had a nice heart to heart discussion about growing up. Barry talked vividly about the rich history with his mother, as well as with the rest of his clan, while Jandar talked about his family. Barry talked about how the swamp water tasted, raising questions about the drinking habits of the crew. Jandar chooses to not drink due to working in the bar and seeing so many people lose themselves to alcohol.

The island in question
After the rain stopped, Otaroinae looked around and spotted some ruins on a nearby hill. After Otaroinae convinced Barry to not destroy the tree the rowboat was tied to and instead undo the knot, they pulled the boat inland at Jandar’s order. The group then set off towards the ruins, seeing bullywugs duck away at their presence. Arriving at the temple, Barry used his knowledge of stonework to determine that this was likely a small group of people in days of old that came here to worship a god. Barth took a good look around and found a pendent that wasn’t tarnished in any way. A quick Detect Magic later, and it was found to be imbued with transmutation magic. When Barth suggests having Barry try it in, Barry regales the group with a tale of how his brother’s dressed him up as a goat at one point. He didn’t like that very much, so he declined to try on the pendant.

Barth eventually put on the pendant, but nothing seemed to happen. After deciding to attune to it on the ship, Jandar took some of the ancient coins that Barth found as well, to see if Dekkard knew anything about them. Otaroinae chose to take three pebbles. Afterwards, Jandar and co. returned to the Golden Duchess without event. A quick discussion with Dekkard revealed nothing about the coins, however it was discovered that the pendant is a Pendant of Water Breathing. Ironically, it was decided that the water lover, Otaroinae, would get the pendant (though Water Genasi can naturally breathe water, Otaroinae hasn't realized her heritage yet).

They set sail as dusk fell, and sailed peacefully through the night. The next few days included discussions between Jandar and Barth about not looting merchant ships, not killing a sperm whale, and ethical capitalism. Barry managed to catch some salmon while Otaroinae thought about diving into the water to see what she could see in the sea.

After a few days voyage, Otaroinae spotted three odd islands, that looked to be black circles barely at the water’s surface. Jandar decided to take time to investigate, sending Otaroinae diving with her new water breathing pendant. She reported back, saying that there were three conical-cylinder obsidian structures reaching down into the ocean floor, with a fourth conical structure in the middle, deeper underwater. The three that breached the surface also appeared to have holes on the tops of them.

Jandar thought hard before deciding to send Barry, Lin, and Dekkard to attempt to see what is in the hole of the structures. The trio carefully climbed onto the island, crawling up to the hole. Barry noticed that it was a short drop with a passageway leading down, where water was flowing into a trench on one side of the corridor. Lin reported back that there appeared to be light coming from that direction, but it was extremely faint.

Never go anywhere without a trusty spyglass!
After checking the other two, with warmth coming out of one and a faint blue light in the other, Jandar recalled them to formulate a plan. Barth made some additional comments and moral dilemmas that perturbed Jandar, however the comments continued to be ignored overall. After carefully tying ropes to the rowboat, the adventuring crew of Jandar, Otaroinae, Barry, and Barth headed into the faint red pillar.

Jandar realized as he was looking at the inside of the structure that the tops appeared to have been sheered clean off, though by what was unknown. After following the reflected light for a time, Jandar heard sounds of popping and cracking periodically, making the realization that there may be mephits down below. Otaroinae heard what sounded like children playing. She explained to Jandar that she understood them, though she was completely baffled as to why. He asked her to call out to them, telling them that they were there investigating and exploring, and were not a threat.

After a short discussion between the two magma mephits, they poked their heads around the corner and stared at the group cautiously. After being asked if ‘Water’ would hurt, Otaroinae explained to them that the group was exploring and wouldn’t hurt them, confused if ‘water’ was referring to the stream of water or her. The mephits explained that it would be up to ‘Orb’ if they could explore or not, and began leading them down the path. They explained that this is their home, and that it started flooding after a shattering sound. Otaroinae offered to help, much to the mephits' delight.

They arrived in a room with other magma mephits that fled from the presence of unknown beings, and at the center of the room stood a pillar with a glowing red orb on it. Otaroinae explained to the orb that they were there to explore, and would help if they could. Some of the mephits that fled cautiously looked on from other corridors, talking about ‘Water’ among themselves. The orb sent off a few sparks, paused for a moment, and then made a popping sound and sent off more sparks. The mephits seemed happy and explained that the orb said to “trust help”.

Jandar asked (via translation through Otaroinae) how they could help, and the mephits responded ‘stop water, water hurt, flood half home’. Barry realized that there were fractures that appeared to have been caused by an earthquake. Jandar asked if it looks natural, and Barry explained that this place was not on a fault line, which would make an earthquake unusual, but not quite unnatural. He suggested following the fractures to see if there was something that caused it nearby. While discussing this plan with Jandar, Otaroinae made small talk with a few of the mephits. While this was going on, a small tremor occurred, causing the group to pause for thought while the mephits panicked slightly before calming down after no water flowed down into the chamber.

Jandar decided following the fractures seems to be the best option at this point for the group. A few of the fractures appeared to be leaking water in places, where no mephits roamed. Otaroinae and Barry worked together to stop some of the worst leaks, with Barry finding the correct fragments to use and Otaroinae casting Mending in attempts to slow the water’s entry into the structure. They found a small section where there were magma mephits that had been completely cooled, and were not moving anymore.

They finally arrived in a large open chamber that was too large to fully see across, with a fog covering the area. Otaroinae realized that they were likely below the ocean floor, as the area was larger than the base of the pillars. After a brief investigation of the area, the group realized that this was likely a gathering place for the mephits. Barry, able to see in the dark, lead the group down a path in the chamber to where the water appeared to be flowing. Eventually they reached the edge of where the water level had risen to, the air heavy with thick fog. Otaroinae checked if the water was hot enough to be generating the fog in the form of steam, however it appeared to be as warm as the room itself.

They're quite nice if you actually don't try to kill them
Jandar used his Divine Sense to check for anything out of the ordinary, and at the very bottom of the room, deep in the water, was an object that appeared to be a source of desecration. While discussing possible plans, Otaroinae heard a voice call out asking who the group is. After explaining that the group was here to help, a steam mephit flew over to them. It began asking for help and pointing towards the object in the water, claiming it was bad.

Jandar formulated a plan to tie a rope to Otaroinae and send her into the water, telling her to be extraordinarily careful. He cast Bless on her, explained what the object looked like (a sphere with cylindrical struts through it), where it was (Central pillar), and that if it hurt her to wrap the rope around it. She carefully made her way to where the object was after some time, worrying Jandar thoroughly. After finding the pillar holding the object, Otaroinae carefully reached out and felt for it, feeling it over. Touching it and being near it made her feel uncomfortable, so she decided to tie the rope to it and follow the rope back to the surface.

She explained to the group that the object didn’t hurt her, however it gave her a sense of dread inside to touch it. Jandar helped her calm down before giving the order to pull the object out of the water. There were a few steam mephits and smoke mephits that had gathered while Otaroinae was underwater that fled as the group began pulling the object out. Otaroinae noted that  the mephits fleeing probably wasn’t a good sign.

As the object broke the surface of the water, two of the struts began spewing out fog. Shortly after it was pulled all the way out, it appeared to stop pouring out fog. The fog was now extremely thick, making it hard for the group to see more than a few feet in front of them. Jandar, sensing that the air was extremely heavy, decided to take the path back up to try to get out of the fog. Before leaving however, they noticed the water level had begun to drop inside the main chamber.

The fog however, never dissipated no matter how high into the magma mephit tower they climbed. Jandar decided to cast Detect Magic to see what school of magic it is from. While the object was mostly conjuration and evocation, it appeared to also have some abjuration as well. Jandar decided to bring it all the way to the surface. Barry laments that he said ‘smash’ but no one else went with it, while Otaroinae noticed that water had stopped flowing down from the surface, noting that the tide was likely receding.

All the mephits in the Orb’s area had gone into hiding by the time the group reached it. After finally reaching the surface, the group began investigating the object further, noting that there are runes engraved underneath a black glass surface, and one pair of rods was engraved with cracks while the other was engraved with what Otaroinae interpreted as mist or fog. Barry, unable to tell what kind of stone this object is made from, once again suggested smashing it.

Pea soup would be too kind of a metaphor
Jandar ordered Barth to go down the tunnel to find where the fog starts to dissipate, if at all. He made his way down to the Orb’s room before noticing that it was starting to have less density. Finally, it was decided to allow Barry to attempt to break it. After a long 10 minutes of hammering away at this object, the center core was exposed, with runes glowing bright. Another few minutes of destroying runes ensued, and the object ceased to function.

Deciding to check on the mephits, Jandar and co. delved back down to find the mephits in the Orb’s room playing again. A few of them turned and put their hands together, creating small amounts of light, thanking the group for the help. Proceeding to the main chamber, the group found that the central pillar that the object was on was a crystal that has since begun glowing.

Figuring out that there must be another type of mephit that lived below the main chamber, the group decided to investigate, finding some dust and mud mephits that had likely been dormant attempting to dry themselves off. After returning to the main chamber and finding multiple different types of mephits gathered around the crystal, Otaroinae decided to ask if they knew where the object had come from.

An older ice mephit approached her and explained in a relatively broken way that it came from something similar to a human, possibly being a human, harboring great darkness and power. They also explained that the crystal was light and life, and that the darkness wanted the crystal.

After a long conversation, the group gained an understanding that the mephits believed that the person couldn’t come back without the fog. The only description that the group was able to get of whoever did this was a hat or half of a mask of some kind. Finally, some of the mephits brought the group some gold as a final way of saying thanks to the group.

After leaving and explaining what occurred to a very confused Lin and Dekkard, the group set sail, bringing the broken spherical object with them. They threw pieces overboard periodically to make sure nothing more could be done with it.

That night, Jandar prayed to Fharlanghn, thanking him for the safety of his crew, and asked to be able to meet the perpetrator of the crime against mephit-kind. After finishing his prayer, Barry asked Jandar to pray for one more thing: finding a good woman for himself. Jandar brushed it off, saying that he has dated people, but he’s 36, and he didn’t have to pray for it. Meanwhile Lin, Dekkard, and Otaroinae were laughing hysterically, and Barth stifled some chuckles.

Otaroinae, still confused as to how she was speaking with the mephits, also decided to speak with Jandar. Jandar said that he was also surprised that she could speak with them, and that maybe she has some aspect about her that she doesn’t know about yet. He also explains that adventuring is more than just about exploring the world. It’s also about exploring yourself and who you are. After Otaroinae said that she never felt like she has fit in, Jandar replied that she fits in with the crew.

After a celebratory drink or two, with Jandar drinking water and Barth passing out after his second drink, the night passed without event. Otaroinae decided to check the weather using druid craft, and it manifested as an orb with clouds coming out. After a brief moment of worry, she remembered that it meant that it would be partly cloudy tomorrow.

The following day, Barth resumed making off-color comments, while Barry decided to continue his fishing venture. While doing so, one of the rods broke and the other strained as something began pulling on it. Shortly afterwards, a shark fin breached the water, and Barry slowly pulled it close to the ship while Jandar rallied the crew.

Jandar managed to get a good hit in with his crossbow. The shark flailed violently, damaging the ship slightly to Jandar’s dismay. Otaroinae and Barth attempted to help Barry with reeling in the shark, and the shark was pulled hard against the ship. Jandar, throwing caution to the wind, drew his rapier and infused it with divine energy. He then leapt down, burying his blade in the side of the shark. The shark flinched under his blade, struggling for a moment before ceasing to move.

After hauling it up on board, Otaroinae inspected the shark for a while before determining that it was a young Hunter Shark. They managed to gather 6 shark teeth and 5 days of food from the shark.

The following morning, Jandar came out of his cabin to see an island on the starboard side of the ship, and another ship off to the port side. The island looked odd, with large curved rocks jutting out from the surface, however the ship caught his eye as his blood ran hot. Jandar recognized the ship as that of Hyon DeDonta, his former captain and all around bad guy.

Jandar gathered his crew and said, “I know that I always say ‘we have to give people chances’ and ‘we can’t just barge in and upset the balance’.

“But some people have already proven themselves to be evil. And we’re going to get them.”

To battle!
We'll pick up from there next time. Everyone seemed to have a really great time and enjoyed solving the problem of the mephits. I handed them a puzzling situation and they handled it in an efficient manner, while having fun the whole time. This is what I want, because I like puzzles, and I want to make them fun for everyone. I just hope that I don't make my puzzles too long, as I'm still learning. Normally I solve puzzles, not make them.

Oh well. It's for science: The more puzzles you make, the better data you get in the end...

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 27, 2018

Failed Magic Items: Dungeon Master's Guide Part 1 (A)

Gadgets and gizmos aplenty! These whozits might be your doom!

Greetings one and all! Guest Dungeon Master Will here again with a non-Monday Recap article and the next-step in my nefarious plan to eventually overthrow Jon for control of this blog...

...I mean, a new game mechanic. Stupid auto-correct.

If you are reading this, it's very possible that you are familiar with Jon's exhaustive journey into creating loot tables for literally every creature and monster in D&D canon (at time of writing, "Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes" has not yet been released). In conjunction with this loot system will eventually come a crafting system for use in future games, where players can create and craft their own gear and magic items from the vile (or not) creatures they slay!

But...let's face it, not all would-be artificers are cut from the same cloth. Some don't read instructions. Some forget to "carry the one". And still others decide to undertake the arduous task of creating wondrous items while under the influence of one-too-many flagons of Dwarven hooch. As such, the machinations of these misguided melders of magic might not exactly measure up to their magnificent counterparts (alliteration!).

Enter Failed Magic Items. As with many crafting systems in other games, there always exists a possibility that it won't exactly go according to plan. So it will be my task over twenty-one weeks to comb through the DMG, and in alphabetical order come up with the "failed" version of each magic item. Some of these are just straight up terrible with no redeeming qualities, others could be possibly be put to some beneficial use with the proper amount of creativity. But that's for the player to decide!

Note: I will be leaving out items in the DMG that already have the "cursed" property (i.e. the Armor of Vulnerability) as it's kind of unnecessary to make a worse version of an already bad item.

Future articles will be linked here!
I - L
N - O
Q - R
T - V

Without further adieu, let's begin with the letter "A".


Adamantine Armor (Brittle)
Armor (medium or heavy, but not hide), uncommon

This suit of armor is reinforced with adamantine, one of the hardest substances in existence. Unfortunately, it was not tempered properly (or at all) and has become incredibly brittle. While you’re wearing it, any critical hit against you becomes a normal hit. However, the armor then begins to crack and it suffers a -1 penalty to its AC. Each successive hit after that further reduces the armor's AC by -1 until it reaches AC 10, it then shatters and falls off.

Ammunition -1, -2, -3
Weapon (any ammunition), uncommon (-1), rare (-2), or very rare (-3)

You have a penalty to attack and damage rolls made with this poorly made piece of somehow-still-magic ammunition. The penalty is determined by the rarity of the ammunition. Once it hits a target, the ammunition is no longer magical but still retains its penalty.

Amulet of Enfeeblement
"Wondrous" item, rare (requires attunement)

Your Constitution Score is 9 while you wear this amulet. It has no effect on you if your Constitution is already 9 or lower.

Amulet of Immediate Detection and Regret
"Wondrous" item, uncommon

While wearing this amulet, your thoughts, motivations, and secret desires are loudly and telepathically broadcast to everyone in a 20 foot radius centered on you. You cannot be targeted by Divination magic because honestly there is no longer a need for it.

Amulet of the Plains
"Wondrous" item, very rare (requires attunement)

While wearing this amulet, you can use an action teleport to the nearest terrain that is classified as a "plain" or grassland. You reappear in your exact location if you are currently occupying a plain.

Annoying Shield
Armor (shield), very rare (requires attunement)

While holding this shield, you can speak its command word as a bonus action to cause it to animate. The shield reluctantly leaps into the air and hovers in your space to protect you as if you were wielding it, leaving your hands free. The shield remains animated for 1 minute, but it also spends that time incessantly complaining about being attacked and admonishes you for putting it in that position. After the minute has passed, the shield throws itself to the ground and continues its loud lamentations. You must pass a DC 12 Persuasion check to calm the shield or it continues to complain for an additional 10 minutes. You can then attempt the check again at the end of this time.

Apparatus of Crabastrophic Failure
"Wondrous" item, very rare

This item first appears to be a Large iron barrel weighing 500 pounds. The barrel has a poorly hidden catch, which can be found with a successful DC 10 Intelligence (Investigation) check. Releasing the catch unlocks a hatch at one end of the barrel, allowing two Medium or smaller creatures to crawl inside. A single lever in a neutral position is located inside, able to move either up or down. When the lever is used, the apparatus transforms to resemble a rickety giant crab.

The Apparatus of Crabastrophic Failure is a Large object with the following statistics:
Armor Class: 12
Hit Points: 75
Speed: 15 ft., swim 5 ft.
Damage Immunities: Poison, Psychic

To be used as a vehicle, the apparatus requires one pilot. The apparatus’s compartment is neither airtight nor watertight as there are several structural defects and breaches in its hull.

The apparatus initially floats on water, but immediately starts sinking. It sinks at a rate of 5 feet per minute. A creature in the compartment can spend each minute bailing water out of the apparatus to prevent it from sinking. Upon sinking a total of 20 feet, it begins to sink at 10 feet per minute and bailing water out will no longer have any effect.

A creature in the compartment can use an action to move the lever up or down. After each use, the lever goes back to its neutral position. Due to poor construction and faulty energy transference, the lever produces a random effect on the Crabastrophic Failure table regardless of which direction it was moved.

Crabastrophic Failure (1d20)
  1. The apparatus takes the Dash action in a random direction, any creature in the way must make a DC 12 Dexterity saving throw or take 2d8 Bludgeoning damage.
  2. The side window shutters open and close wildly and randomly.
  3. Loud music of indeterminate origin begins to play. If the loud music is already playing, it stops.
  4. The apparatus walks forward 5 feet, and then backwards 10 feet. If it is in liquid, it swims forward 5 feet.
  5. The apparatus turns 90 degrees right.
  6. Two claws extend from the front sides of the apparatus, the left one falls off.
  7. The apparatus's legs retract, reducing its speed to 0. If the legs are already retracted, they extend and restore movement.
  8. The apparatus walks or swims backward.
  9. Eye-like fixtures emit bright light in a 30 foot radius and dim light for an additional 30 feet, then begin turning on and off at regular intervals. If the eye-like fixtures are already activated, they deactivate.
  10. A small spark of lightning arcs through the interior compartment dealing 1d8 Lightning damage to any creature inside.
  11. Nothing happens
  12. The apparatus walks or swims forward.
  13. The apparatus leaps 10 feet in air and then lands, dealing 1d6 Bludgeoning damage to itself.
  14. The rear hatch opens. If it is already open, it closes instead.
  15. The apparatus turns 90 degrees left.
  16. A cloud of fog emits from the apparatus. This acts as a Fog Cloud spell for the purposes of obscuring a creature's vision but is not magical in nature.
  17. Any extended claw propels itself out of its socket, rocketing forward in a 30 foot line. Any creature in this line must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or take 2d6 Bludgeoning damage. If no claws are extended, nothing happens.
  18. Any creature in the apparatus's interior compartment is jettisoned out of the rear hatch, taking 1d8 Bludgeoning damage in the process.
  19. The apparatus spins 360 degrees in place.
  20. The apparatus explodes, destroying itself and dealing 4d6 fire damage to all creatures and objects in a 5 foot radius.
Armor -1, -2, -3
Armor (light, medium, or heavy), rare (-1), very rare (-2), or legendary (-3)

This shoddy armor gives you a penalty to AC while wearing it. The penalty is determined by its rarity.

Armor of Intangibility
Armor (plate), legendary (requires attunement)

You can use an action to gain immunity to all damage for 10 minutes. This is accomplished by making you and the armor dissociate from the Plane of Existence you are currently occupying. While in this state, you cannot be damaged in any way. However, you also cannot inflict damage of any kind on anything else. Additionally, you appear transparent and cannot verbally communicate with anyone around you. Once this special action is used, it cannot be used again until the next dawn.

Armor of Weakness
Armor (light, medium, or heavy), rare

You have vulnerability to one type of damage while you wear this armor. The DM chooses the type or determines it randomly from the options below.

Damage Type (1d10)
  1. Acid
  2. Cold
  3. Fire
  4. Force
  5. Lightning
  6. Necrotic
  7. Poison
  8. Psychic
  9. Radiant
  10. Thunder
Arrow-Attracting Shield
Armor (shield), rare (requires attunement)

While holding this shield, a 15 foot sphere of magical energy surrounds you. This magical energy pulls all ranged attacks that enter it toward you, making you the target instead of the creature it was originally intended for.

Arrow of Staying
Weapon (arrow), rare

Upon firing this arrow, it travels 5 feet and then stops in place. It then acts as an Immovable Rod that deactivates itself after 24 hours.


Thanks for reading, see you next time with all of the "B" items!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The New Exploration

In a land far, far away...
I've been thinking about my next campaign for a little while now, and I think I want to run a shared campaign.

I've noticed that people in my circle of players are often willing to play D&D, but finding a time when a specific group of players can meet regularly has been challenging. As you know, I run monthly games for multiple groups, with the effect of usually having a game or two each weekend. If I try for something more consistent week-to-week, the players either get burnt out, or have things start coming up that force us to schedule less frequent games.

So, my current idea for a solution is a shared campaign, a bit like the West Marches campaigns. It would allow for me to utilize my large pool of players, and the players could "lead expeditions" based on their interests. Because I wouldn't have to worry about getting the same players every week, I could actually run the games on a weekly basis. And once I get a decent head start on building out the map they are exploring, I might even be able to run more traditional narrative campaigns simultaneously.

But this means there have to be rules for exploration. And as I've discussed before, D&D isn't really the best at non-combat things. However, I think the travel rules I've used in the past ended up being a bit too heavy-handed for my players. So, it's time for a new system!

Exploration Rules

Imma climb that thing
The exploration system is based on a hex grid. Each hex is 6 miles, according to the "Kingdom Scale" of the DMG (pg. 14). The players should begin by clearing out a single hex and establishing it as a base of operations. This can be handled before the campaign if preferred.

The base counts as Settled Territory. Settled Territory is easy to travel through and contains NPCs and services, but requires resources to create and can be attacked by monsters.

At the beginning of the exploration, the map should be mostly blank, or occupied by Unknown hexes. The following geographical features could be visible at a distance, and should be added to the map at the beginning of the exploration. They count as Discovered hexes. If these features are obscured by a larger feature, they should not be added.
  1. Towns and Cities within 1 hex of the Base. Adding these is discouraged, to allow players freedom to explore the wilderness.
  2. Large Ruins or Castles within 1 hex of the Base (which should correspond to adventuring sites on the Discovery Tables, see below)
  3. Rivers and Lakes within 1 hex of the Base.
  4. Oceans within 2 hexes of the Base.
  5. Hills and Forests within 2 hexes of the Base.
  6. Mountains and Volcanoes within 5 Hexes of the Base.

Every Hex has the following properties, which become known to the players as soon as the hex is discovered:
  1. Status: A hex can be Unknown, Discovered, Conquered, Settled, or Pillaged.
    • Any hex that has not been entered or does not have a visible feature in it is Unknown.
    • Any hex that has been seen or entered is Discovered.
    • When a hex has its random encounter and discovery tables completely revealed, it is considered Conquered. A Conquered hex can provide resources.
    • A Conquered hex can be Settled by providing the right amount of Resources.
    • A Settled hex can be Pillaged by an enemy force, requiring further Resources to restore.
  2. Discovery Time: The amount of time it takes to discover or explore the hex. For open areas such as grasslands, hills, or coasts, this is one day. For more complex areas such as mountains, forests, or the Underdark, this is two days. More than two days is extremely rare.
  3. Danger Ranking: The amount of HP required to pass through the hex. If a character cannot pay the HP to pass the hex and remain above 0 hit points, they must wait until the next day or return to the base. If multiple hexes are traveled through on a single day, the character must be able to pay the HP cost for all hexes and remain above 0 hit points to complete the journey. HP guidelines are given below:
    • Settled/Conquered Territory, Completely Barren lands: 0 HP
    • Open Frontier, Basic Wilderness: 5 HP
    • Dangerous Frontier: 10 HP
    • Enemy Territory: 15 HP
    • Forbidden Wilderness, Hostile Environments: 20 HP
    • Actively Patrolled Enemy Territory: 25 HP
    • Hostile Environments with Enemies (such as the Abyss or the Hells): 50HP
  4. Supply Cost: The amount of gold required to pass through the hex. If a character cannot pay the gold to pass the hex, they begin to starve. Use the starvation rules on PHB pg. 185. If multiple hexes are traveled through on a single day, the character only has to pay for the hex with the highest gold requirement. Gold guidelines are given below
    • Settled/Conquered Territory: 1 GP
    • Forests, Coasts, and other resource-rich regions: 2 GP
    • Grasslands, Swamps, Oceans, and other places where food is harder to come by: 3 GP
    • Tundras, Mountains, the Underdark, and other regions with few resources: 5 GP
    • Deserts and other barren regions: 7 GP
  5. Resources: Once a hex has been Conquered, it can begin providing resources for the players. There are three types of resources: Food, Construction, and Defense. These are outlined in greater detail below.

Your objective: spoil this unspoiled land!
Additionally, each hex has two tables associated with it: a random encounter table and a discovery table.

The Random Encounter Table should have a number of entries based on how complex the terrain of the hex is. This is similar to the Discovery Time property. If the terrain is more difficult to explore and easier to get lost in, there should be more entries on the table. Grasslands and Coasts should have the fewest entries, usually 4 or 6. Complex areas such as mountains and forests can have 10, 12, or more. I like to keep them linked to a particular type of die.

The table begins with only one type of entry: "Become Lost." Whenever the HP cost is paid for the table (that is, whenever the hex is traveled through), one of the "Become Lost" entries should be revealed to the players, as they encounter or see signs of that creature. Entries should be revealed in order, so harder-to-find encounters will show up last.
When the players wish to start an adventure in an adventure site, they must roll on the Random Encounter Table. Note that this is the only time the table is rolled on - when the players are travelling or discovering new areas, they simply pay the HP cost and learn a new entry on the table.

If the "Become Lost" entry is rolled, that means the players can't find the adventure location they wish to explore, and must spend another day's worth of GP to camp out in the hex. The random encounter table can then be re-rolled, or the players can move on to a different site.

The Discovery Table is a list of potential locations that could be explored as an adventure, such as ruins, towers, villages, dungeons, etc. This list will always have 12 entries on it, but not every entry will actually be an adventuring site.

A group can choose to spend a day in a hex exploring it. The first day they explore a hex may be a partial day if they travel through other hexes to reach the hex they wish to explore. However, they must end they travel in a hex to count it as explored.

At the end of a day of exploration, the group rolls a Discovery Die. All entries on the Discovery Table that are less than or equal to the value of the Discovery Die are then revealed to the players. The die starts as a d4 and increases in size (to d6, d8, d10, d12, then d20) each subsequent day spent exploring the hex. Each day, the gold and HP costs must be paid for the hex.

Most of the entries on the Discovery Table should be "Nothing." The DM is encouraged to add a few flavorful encounters in place of these, such as finding the grave of a fallen warrior or a particularly shady apple tree. However, each Discovery Table should have 2-4 adventuring sites.

These adventuring sites are where the players will recoup their gold, clear out monster lairs, and gain experience. They should be ranked on the Discovery Table according to how well-concealed they are. A large Ruin or abandoned castle might be ranked at 1 or 2, while a Wizard's Secret Tower or a Deep Underground Portal might be 11 or 12.

Additionally, it is wise to place signs around the adventure site that indicate what level of difficulty a player exploring the area can expect to face. I would divide these up by level, since at low levels the group will have a lot of trouble with a challenge even 1 level above their current party level. This could even be related to intelligence.

  • A character can accurately determine the danger level of wizards, magical monsters, magical locations, and spells if their Intelligence (Arcana) bonus is equal to or greater than the player level the threat is built to challenge.
  • A character can accurately determine the danger level of humanoids, significant ruins, legendary objects, and weapons if their Intelligence (History) bonus is equal to or greater than the player level the threat is built to challenge.
  • A character can accurately determine the danger level of mystery-solving locations if their Intelligence (Investigation) bonus is equal to or greater than the player level the threat is built to challenge.
  • A character can accurately determine the danger level of beasts, plants, caves, hunters/druids, and poisons if their Intelligence (Nature) bonus is equal to or greater than the player level the threat is built to challenge.
  • A character can accurately determine the danger level of undead, desecrated areas, fiends, elementals, fey, and unholy creatures if their Intelligence (Religion) bonus is equal to or greater than the player level the threat is built to challenge.

So if you design a natural cavern built for characters of level 4, a character would need a +4 on their Nature check to know how dangerous it was. Otherwise, you would simply tell the players that this site is dangerous, but they have no idea how dangerous.

This does mean the players might find adventuring sites that are far too high or low for them. Encourage your players to seek challenges equal to their skill level, and leave those adventures for other groups of explorers.

Let us not go to the mountain of dragons. 'Tis a silly place.
Once the Random Encounter Table and the Discovery Table have been completely revealed in an area, the area is Conquered can begin producing Resources. There are three types of resources: Food, Construction, and Defense.

Each hex produces 1 type of resource. A forest might be good for logging, hunting, or might contain some primordial magic that wards the area from attack. A mountain could be home to flocks of birds, have good stone for building homes, or have a mine which produces iron for swords and armor. The DM determines which of the three categories the hex produces.

At the DM's discretion, a hex may produce 2 of a particular resource. Perhaps the fish of a particular lake are enchanted and never seem to run out. This should be an extremely rare situation, however.

The players can use these resources to expand their settlement or create new settlements. Every Conquered hex is assumed to have at least one small village or homestead in it. To create larger settlements, the players must Conquer adjacent hexes in certain amounts.
  • A town requires 2 Food, 2 Construction, and 2 Defense resources
  • A city requires 5 Food, 3 Construction, and 3 Defense resources
  • A metropolis requires 10 Food, 5 Construction, and 5 Defense resources

Thus, if the players were able to Conquer six hexes, all in an adjacent group, they could build a town on one of those hexes, preferably the most centralized one. The settlement only occupies 1 hex, but its influence can be felt in the villages and homesteads that occupy the other hexes. A hex with a settlement in it is considered Settled Territory.

Of course, the player's home base can be expanded in the same manner.

A Settled hex can be attacked by monsters. Unless the players are present in the settlement's influence area, they will generally hear about the attack on the second day of the battle. A messenger will likely come to the group by horseback, requesting aid. Each PC that participates in the battle counts as 1 resource for the settlement.

Monsters that attack settlements have one stat: Siege Points (SP). If the PCs wish to engage the monster directly, they can use its stats in the Monster Manual. Otherwise, play out the battle using the following stat guidelines. All final values should be rounded down to whole numbers.
  • Gargantuan creatures have 1 SP per 25 HP in the MM
  • Huge creatures have 1 SP per 50 HP in the MM
  • Large creatures have 1 SP per 100 HP in the MM
  • Medium creatures have 1 SP per 200 HP in the MM
  • Small creatures have 1 SP per 500 HP in the MM
Thus, a single Ancient Red Dragon has 21 SP. Meanwhile, a goblin hoard of 1000 Goblins (at 7 HP each) would  have 14 SP. Each day, a monster deals damage to a settlement equal to its Siege Points.

A Settlement defends itself with its resources. Each point in Construction reduces the damage taken by a settlement by one. Each day, the monster takes damage equal to the remaining defense points of the settlement. The settlement and the monsters deal damage at the same time, then the SP and resources are deducted afterwards. 

PCs can count as any of the resources by healing/feeding the wounded, reinforcing the walls, or striking back at the enemy. If a Settlement reaches 0 Food resources, they begin to starve, and can no longer deal damage. with their Defense resources.

Any resources lost in a battle by a settlement can be reclaimed at a rate of 1 resource per week, as long as the settlement survives the attack. If the settlement was reduced to 0 resources (not including those provided by the PCs), it becomes Pillaged.

A Pillaged Settlement loses all of its resources. The Random Encounter Table for every hex influenced by the settlement becomes unknown again, and should be repopulated by the DM to include the monsters that destroyed the city or their servants. The random encounter tables will have to be re-explored to reclaim the resources they provide. Additionally, each resource Hex becomes "Enemy Territory", with a Danger Ranking HP requirement of 15. The Pillaged Hex becomes "Actively Patrolled Enemy Territory" with an HP requirement of 25.

Logistical Rules

Dangit Brent, we got lost in the Plane of Eternal Torment again.
On a given day, a group can travel through up to four hexes if they have been discovered. Discovering a hex ends the day of travel, and counts as the first day of exploration.

When they characters finish adventuring in an adventure site, they all gain 1 Encumbrance point. A character can carry Encumbrance Points equal to their Strength score divided by 3. Of course, a particularly weak character can give their point to a stronger character if necessary.

If a character's encumbrance point limit is exceeded, their speed is reduced by 10 feet, and they can only travel through 3 hexes each day. If a character's encumbrance points exceed twice their encumbrance point limit, their speed is reduced by 20 feet, they have disadvantage on attacks, ability checks, and saving throws using Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution, and they can only travel through 1 hex each day.

The following items can increase a group's encumbrance load:
  • Carriage: Can hold 3 Encumbrance points. Requires 2 animals. 100 GP.
  • Cart: Can hold 1 Encumbrance point. Requires 1 animal. 15 GP.
  • Sled: Can hold 2 Encumbrance points. Only viable in snow or sand. Requires 2 animals. 20 GP.
  • Wagon: Can hold 2 Encumbrance points. Requires 2 animals. 35 GP.
  • Heward's Handy Haversack: Can hold 2 Encumbrance points.
  • Bag of Holding: Can hold 3 Encumbrance points.
  • Portable Hole: Can hold 4 Encumbrance points.
The following animals are available to pull these vehicles. Animals must pay the HP requirements of the hexes they pass through, and cost gold each day to feed:
  • Camel: 15 HP. 2 GP/day in hot climates, 4 GP/day in other climates. 50 GP to buy
  • Donkey/Mule: 11 HP. 2 GP/day. 8 GP to buy.
  • Elephant: counts as two animals. 76 HP. 10 GP/day. 200 GP to buy.
  • Draft Horse: 19 HP. 2 GP/day. 50 GP to buy.
  • Riding Horse: 13 HP. 1 GP/day. 75 GP to buy.
  • Mastiff: 5 HP. 1 GP/day. 25 GP to buy.
  • Pony: 11 HP. 1 GP/day. 30 GP to buy.
  • Warhorse: trained as a combatant. 19 HP. 4 GP/day. 400 GP to train and buy.

If the players are able to travel by flight, they pay only half the HP cost of each hex they travel over. The speed of travel can be greatly increased in this manner, depending on the speed of their flight.

If the group has a ranger in favored terrain or a character with the Outlander background, and they roll "Become Lost" on the random encounter table, they may re-roll the random encounter. They must keep the new roll.

When entering an adventuring site, the following spells can affect the random encounter roll. The character must then enter the adventuring site having spent those spell slots.

  • Augury, Divination, or Commune: re-roll the random encounter. You must keep the new roll.
  • Find the Path: ignore the random encounter roll and find the adventuring site
  • Pass Without Trace: If the random encounter was a creature, you may re-roll the random encounter. If the new roll is "Become Lost", you instead find the adventure site. Otherwise, you must keep the new roll.

A ranger in favored terrain or character with the Outlander background has the Supply Cost of traveling reduced by 1 GP, to a minimum of 1.

Characters that can cast the following spells can lower their Supply Cost, to a minimum of 1. The amount lowered per casting is listed below. On the day the group enters an adventure site, the character must pay the full Supply Cost for the day or enter the adventure site without those spell slots.

  • Goodberry: reduced 1 GP, limited to 1 per day (Yes, I'm nerfing it. Yes, I have to.)
  • Locate Animals or Plants: reduced 1 GP
  • Locate Creature: reduced 1 GP
  • Create or Destroy Water: reduced 5 GP, can be distributed
  • Create Food and Water: reduced 10 GP, can be distributed

When a character is exploring an area, they can use the following spells to automatically reveal certain items on the Discovery Table. If the character chooses to enter an adventure site that day, they must do so having expended those spell slots.

  • Arcane Eye: by sending the eye upwards, you reveal all sites ranked 4 or lower on the table, provided it is visible from the sky
  • Divination: pick a single number on the table. It is revealed to you.
  • Commune, Commune with Nature: pick three numbers on the table. They are revealed to you.
  • Contact Other Plane: pick five numbers on the table. They are revealed to you.
  • Legend Lore: If there are any adventuring sites in this hex suitable for characters level 7 or higher, they are revealed to you.
  • Find the Path: When you cast this spell, name a specific adventuring site. No matter which hex it is in, the site is revealed, and you know which hex it is in. The hex still has the Unknown status.

Other Rules

Do not attempt
This is mostly for my own reference, so I can plot out the proper trajectory of these campaigns.

Characters should start at level 1. They level up based on the number of adventuring sites they explore.

  • An adventuring site should have at least 2 experience points in it.
  • 1 is generally for fully exploring the site.
  • 1 is for finishing the quest associated with the site. This could be solving a mystery, finding an item, uncovering history, or slaying a nasty monster.
  • If a character completes an adventuring site that is of a much higher level than they are, they earn 1 extra experience point. This generally means at least 3 levels higher.
  • If an adventuring site is particularly extensive, or requires 2 or more major goals, an additional experience point may be available for completing it.

A character needs 4 experience points to level up from level 2-4. A character needs 8 experience points to level up to level 5 or higher. I don't plan on playing past level 11, because any character will basically be unstoppable at that point.

Characters should have an exploration guild, adventuring guild, or some sort of organization they can join. Characters should at the very least want to explore and join this organization. Each character level should correspond to a rank within the organization.

Monsters should drop loot. This loot can be crafted into magic items. If a player is looking for a particular item, try to include a monster lair that can translate to that item. Encourage players to look for particular items. Use the item lists in Xanathar's Guide to show the player's what is available.

Also, the players can find craftspeople in the wilderness, as travelers, hostages of monsters, or hermits. These craftspeople can occupy settlements and provide services to turn monster loot into magic items. Remember, master-crafting an item with magic requires a powerful wizard, so the wizard needs a good reason to not want to explore.

Settlements should also be a place where downtime activities can occur. players that aren't playing will have free time as characters, and they should be encouraged to do downtime and gain skills. Proficiency in Smith's tool could save the group a lot of money. Also, remember that downtime costs 1 GP per day unless the character is working a job for an NPC.

A settlement should have the following goods available for purchase:

  • Village/Basic Base of Operations: Anything in the PHB worth 25 GP or less
  • Town: Anything in the PHB worth 100 GP or less, magic items worth 50 GP or less
  • City: Anything in the PHB, magic items worth 100 GP or less
  • Metropolis: Anything in the PHB, magic items worth 200 GP or less

Gold, gems, and valuable art objects should be found at adventuring locations. In particular, an NPC at the Base of Operations should be interested in buying old relics to give the players a source of income.

An adventuring site should have the following properties:

  • Takes approximately two hours to explore and clear.
  • Begins with a random encounter outside the site.
  • Features 2-3 other combat encounters, or 1 simple and 1 complex combat encounter
  • Can replace any of the combat encounters with social encounters.
  • Should reward each player with approximately 25 GP per level of the site

Hostile monsters should have territories, where they are present on the random encounter table and the HP requirements are higher. These territories can be cleared away by the players, but upsetting the power balance will likely lead to other monsters pillaging settlements.

Recurring enemies and larger mysteries around the area can provide an overarching plot for the group. Additionally, new items can appear on discovery tables as the group faces new enemies or discovers new methods of exploration (such as a castle entirely in the ethereal plane). Old adventuring sites can occasionally be reclaimed by monsters, but for the most part a cleared site should stay clear.

I want to use a Slack Channel to encourage role-playing and character development. Characters that get played infrequently, or are played once and abandoned, can remain in the channel as "townsfolk." I'm still trying to work out how to offer group rewards for interacting with NPCs and each other on the channel.

Well, that's about all my thoughts, dumped out onto a page. I'm going to run it by my players and get some feedback, then update this article with any changes or suggestions. I might reformat it as well, since I don't know if the layout is as intuitive as I think.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Monday Recap: The Fall of Salothzar

Zovira is ready to finish this!
Another week, another campaign ending! One of my players pointed out that it's been almost exactly a year since Dragonborn Quest began. Maybe there's something about spring that makes me want to wrap up my stuff and start something new?

Hopefully not, since I still have Campaign of Chaos to complete...

This story is part 10 of a series. The campaign was completed.
Previous Campaign | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 |

Dragonborn Quest: The Fall of Salothzar

Cast of Characters
Jon: Dungeon Master
Will: Daardendrian Kreev, Red Dragonborn Bard, former prince, back to set things right
Megan: Daardendrian Zovira, Red Dragonborn Fighter, Kreev's aunt, champion of the clan
Bria: Druuga Faelynn, Silver Dragonborn Bard, avenged her sister, now to fix the isle...
Michelle: Nerithya Finzerwin, Half-Drow Rogue, ex-cultist looking for a new purpose to her life
Matt: Myastan Faerbor, White Dragonborn Fighter, Kreev's friend and owner of the legendary Axe of the Elders, planning to destroy it
NPC: Oddmund, Nerithya's Shield Guardian, has a smiling face painted on his head

When we last left our heroes, they were halfway through storming the castle of their sworn enemies, clan Z'ildroth. They had fought through several elites and remained fairly stealthy all the while, though it seemed some sort of alarm had been sounded and the castle was now engaged in some sort of defensive measures. Fortunately, the group avoided them, and found a mirror leading to the Nine Hells. They killed a devil which had made contracts with some of clan Z'ildroth's members, hoping that would be enough to put an end to the Death Knight Favnir that had been plaguing them.

After knocking out the traitorous clan leader Turnuroth Zofrixis, the group cautiously explored the room below his, the War Room. A large map hung on the wall, an extremely complete map of the island that Kreev remembered his father had told him never to touch. He went to touch it, and was immediately blasted back by a magical ward placed on the map.

The rest of the group explored the room, finding maps and blueprints of the castle, old military campaigns, and the island itself. Kreev realized that the large map might have something behind it that the trap was protecting, and had Nerithya remove the map with her Mage Hand. As she did, the bar holding the map up fell to the ground with a clatter, drawing a pair of Blackwing guards into the room.

The party temporarily abandoned the prospect of treasure behind the map and engaged the Blackwings in combat. Even after fighting through several Blackwings and a Devil, the group was easily able to overpower the intruders and return to their investigation.

Behind the map was a small safe, which Nerithya easily opened. Inside was a collection of things left by Kreev's father, Rhoyax. There were some highly classified scrolls, a spell scroll of Mind Blank, and a Manual of Gainful Exercise. There was also a map of a military campaign, one that Zovira had participated in. It was the campaign of genocide against the Gold Dragonborn clans. Faelynn, who had found the map, tucked it away.

Faerbor doesn't have time for this crap
The group returned to the castle's Western Hall, and decided to head down to the basement. Not only was it likely that Kreev's captive mother Shreeva would be down there, but there was a horde of Kobolds attacking the castle from below, thanks to Kreev's Half-Sister Dalyassa. They made their way downstairs, finding that several of the clan's quarters had been converted into dungeons, slaves' quarters, and and overseer's office.

They went to the dungeon first. Most of the prisoners were unruly Kobolds, but they noticed three Daardendrians in chains. One of them, Kreev recognized as his half-brother Kraxos, though the prisoner was missing a forearm and both his feet. Kraxos had always been a brooding rebel, and Kreev guessed he had opposed Z'ildroth. Nerithya picked the lock and they entered the room.

The Kobolds immediately began to pull at their chains and try to attack Kreev, but Faelynn gave them a look that immediately shut them down. Nerithya, using her new boots of Spider Climbing, just walked across the ceiling and unlocked the captive red dragonborn's chains. Kraxos seemed relieved to be free, and Zovira helped him out of the room.

They decided to free the unruly Kobolds and have them cause a little chaos until they found a better place to keep their injured friends. Kreev suggested they check the Overseer's Office, since it would probably have a lock and be nicer than a dungeon. The group moved quietly across the hall while the newly-freed Kobolds went on a rampage in the Z'ildroth clan quarters.

They burst into the Overseer's office, surprising him and leaping forward to attack. The black Dragonborn barely had time to react before they had pinned him to the ground. The office was indeed nice, though he had a rather tacky portrait of himself hanging behind his desk. While Zovira and Faerbor held their captive, Kreev used Detect Thoughts to get more information on where Shreeva might be.

The overseer revealed that Shreeva was currently working in the mines, the same place the Kobold attack was happening. But as Kreev dug deeper, he found something more disturbing. The Overseer had been approached by the Blackwing Ravager Zraghull, who had offered him a deal with Tor'Galluth the Pit Fiend. The group was still uncertain if the infernal contract had ended, but they now knew that Zraghull had also taken it up. They also learned that the Dragon Queen Tiamat was behind this deal, and she was trying to use her undead Knights to dethrone Salothzar.

Kreev finished off the overseer, but not before commenting on his bad choice in interior decoration. The group quickly moved Kraxos and the two young Daardendrians to the Overseer's Office, then headed towards the mine entrance connected to the basement. They could hear the sounds of Kobolds battling Blackwings as they descended down, passing Red Dragonborn miners who had retreated from the conflict.

Murdering Dragonborn, with your host Nerithya
They reached the back lines of the Blackwings, who were completely engrossed in the battle with the Kobolds. Not a group to let such a chance slide, they attacked the Z'ildroth soldiers from behind, finishing them off in their own unique ways. Nerithya and Kreev went one by one, stabbing them through with their swords. Zovira went down the line cutting off heads, and Oddmund just punched all of the ones he could see. Faerbor, no longer able to use the magic of his axe, switched to a magical glaive to attack, and Faelynn provided bagpipe accompaniment.

They broke through the line of Blackwings, and the Kobolds regarded them cautiously. The party decided to simply allow the Kobolds to carry on with their attack, and a horde of red-scaled raiders swept past them. Meanwhile, Kreev lead the group towards where he had seen Shreeva was being kept.

They arrived not a moment too late. Dalyassa was holding a crumpled Shreeva in her arms, and turned to Kreev as he approached. Shreeva was barely hanging on to life, and Kreev reached out and touched her with his bardic magic. A low hum filled the air, and his mother relaxed from the pain. She looked up and smiled at her son, before falling gently asleep. She would be safe, for now.

Dalyassa was injured herself, but the waves of Kobolds had prevented the Blackwings from harming her too badly. The heroes decided to bring Shreeva and Dalyassa to the Overseer's Office, where her brother Kraxos was already staying.

After dropping off those who couldn't fight, the group went back up into the halls of the castle, intent of confronting Salothzar and ending this mess. They found the halls oddly deserted, aside from a chef and some Kobold servants. Even the throne room was emptied. Faerbor took a moment to magical seal the other exit to the castle.

They made their way to Salothzar's chambers, but came across an extremely unusual sight: the grand, opulent chamber had been looted, with only furniture and wall hangings in tatters remaining. Kreev also noticed the room had a feature he didn't remember: a large hole in the wall, large enough for a giant-sized creature to pass through. The group feared Salothzar had tried to make his escape, however, a monstrous roar from the tunnel complicated that theory.

Standing guard outside the tunnel were four Blackwings, one of them the Ravager Zraghull. He started to approach the party to talk, but Faelynn simply responded with a Fireball. Nerithya cast a Hypnotic Pattern to confound the enemies, and a combat broke out.

Punching things and absorbing damage, all day every day
Fortunately, thanks to Nerithya's spell, the group was able to pick off their foes one by one. She even added a rubber duck balloon Crown of Madness to Zraghull so he would attack his own allies. The Blackwings quickly fell, and soon only Zraghull remained.

Zovira made a move to run him through, and with his last breath he smiled and asked Tor'Galluth to bring him back from death. The group remembered what had happened when they killed Favnir: a massive explosion, which transformed him into his Death Knight form. Sure enough, the room was rocked with a huge Hellfire explosion, knocking the group back. But when the fire cleared, all that remained was a burnt, skeletal corpse. The deal with the devil had ended.

The group took a moment to recover the damage they had taken from the blast. The tunnel in the wall looked to be of recent construction, and the blueprints they found in the War Room seemed to confirm this was a new addition to the castle. The group finished up their healing and pressed forward towards whatever awaited them in the cavern.

They rounded a set of stairs and found themselves looking upon an awesome and terrible sight. Atop a gigantic mountain of gold and precious objects lay the corpse of a Black Dragon, slain through the heart with a Vorpal Sword. Standing atop that was Salothzar himself, wings unfurled, holding the Sun Amulet up in the air and praying, apparently in praise of himself. Around him, a half-dozen Blackwing Elites were frozen in place, seemingly stopped in their efforts to reach him.

As they approached, they entered a wave of energy surrounding Salothzar, and found themselves frozen in place as well - at least, those Dragonborn among them. Nerithya and Oddmund were able to move still, and proceeded to immediately pocket the Vorpal Sword. Faerbor, through great effort, was also able to shake off the stunning effect. While their companions struggled to break free, they decided to move forward and attack Salothzar to try and end the spell he was casting.

Salothzar kept praying, ignoring their accusations. He even shot a ray of acid from his mouth at Faerbor in between verses of his prayer. It seemed that only a direct assault would break him from speaking. However, at that moment, an unexpected ally appeared.

Cheskapen, the Couatl that had stolen their ward Torrin from them, appeared, unaffected by the power of Salothzar's stun spell. He reached out and touched Faelynn, ending the spell on her, and asked her to use her Bardic magic to help her allies. He then strode towards Salothzar, transforming back into his true winged-snake form.

Back off, buddy!
Faelynn got to work, while Faerbor and Nerithya began lobbing projectiles at Salothzar to break his hold on their allies. Finally, he relented, and Zovira and Kreev were released from the effect. The Blackwings were also released, and began to rush forward to attack their leader, likely due to his recent slaying of a Black Dragon.

However, Salothzar's abandonment of his prayer only meant he could devote his full attention to fighting. With a wave of his claw, he released a black spot which expanded into a huge field, draining the energy from those within it and blinding the group.

Now struggling in the dark, Zovira pulled out a pair of potions to restore her own sight and Faerbor's. The Blackwings kept attacking, though they had little success. Between their blindness and Salothzar's supernaturally thick hide, their blades did little damage. Kreev and Faelynn did their best to heal and inspire their allies, while Nerithya used her acute elven senses to move and attack despite her blindness.

Though they were fighting well against the blinding blackness, Salothzar had barely been scratched, and was still blasting them with rays of acid and Vitriolic Spheres. Cheskapen had bitten Salothzar, but to little effect. Salothzar simply brushed hum off with a huge maul, causing him to fly against the cavern wall and begin to discorporate.

Things were looking grim, and Faelynn decided to pull out her final trump card. Long ago, she had devoted a massive amount of gold and time to creating a bag of beans marked with Explosive Runes. Throughout her adventure, she had used them to get out of sticky situations, and though each of them individually had little power, she still had 5 dozen remaining.

Salothzar shouted at the group that they weren't enemies, that there was more at play here than they knew. The Gods were conspiring against them. But the group wasn't going to take any chances on his words, and Nerithya ignited Faelynn's beans in Salothzar's chest with her Mage Hand, while Faelynn used a Wall of Force to protect the party.

Lots of small magic, applied all at once, courtesy of Faelynn
The bag of beans, ignited all at once, bathed the chamber in light and fire. Directed by the ring of invisible force around Salothzar, the fire seared upwards and scorched the ceiling of the cavern, creating a concentrated point of flame that burned into the eyes of those who dared look upon it. When the smoke cleared, Salothzar remained, charred but still on his feet.

He looked down at his attackers, lifted the Sun Amulet above his head, and... threw it at Kreev's feet. "If you believe you can do better than I, then it is in your hands now." With that, he teleported away in a flash of magical energy. The group stood in confusion and frustration for a moment, but quickly realized their work was far from finished.

With Salothzar gone, the Blackwings turned to the nearest threat they perceived, that being Faerbor. They attacked him, but Kreev quickly stepped in and calmed the situation. The Blackwings revealed that Salothzar had indeed slain the Black Dragon, which they hadn't even known was below the castle. They were attacking him, but the stunning effect had kept them from doing so while he was praying. They had no idea what he had been planning or why he was praying.

Narithya began inspecting the hoard of gold and items laid out before her while the others bandaged up their wounds. Kreev brokered a temporary truce with the Blackwings, hoping to figure out what was actually going on and put an end to this before they had to fight again.

As they spoke, another figure burst into the room: Tofras the Smiter, a cleric of Bahamut who had assisted Cheskapen in his quest. Zovira was quite angry with him, and demanded to know where Torrin was. Tofras was quite compliant, telling her that Torrin was safe at the Church of Bahamut in Dovuaka. He had followed Cheskapen because the Couatl was a literal messenger from his deity, but now that the plan had failed, Tofras was more than willing to reconsider his involvement with Bahamut.

Kreev asked further about that, remembering that Salothzar had said the Gods were conspiring against them. Tofras confirmed that Cheskapen was trying to "cleanse" the Dragonborn using the Sun Amulet and Torrin. However, it became clear during their travels that Cheskapen meant to eliminate the Dragonborn. The group was appalled, but Tofras said that the Dragonborn were considered abominations among the true Dragons. Bahamut was acting in the interests of his followers.

The group left the treasure in place for now (aside from the gold Nerithya stuffed in her Bag of Holding) and went back up to the Throne Room. At this point, Kobolds had spread over the entire castle, unable to leave since Faerbor had magically sealed the main exits. The group retrieved Dalyassa, and she harnessed the Kobolds and told them to head back into the mines. With a shout of "Guks!", they retreated.

As the Kobolds dispersed, a roar was heard outside the castle, and a massive form burst in through the large stained-glass windows of the chamber: the Silver Dragon Chevnyl, here to join the fight! Unfortunately, the fight had already ended. Chevnyl reverted to her Silver Dragonborn monk form, and explained her appearance.

So majestic
She had been told by Cheskapen about the plan to eliminate the Dragonborn, as a kind of courtesy since the history of the Dragonborn was her most valued treasure. She had thought about leaving and giving up on the island, but in the end she simply couldn't. She had flown down to the castle to kill Cheskapen or die trying. She had expected this to be her final stand.

The group reassured her, and after some tears she agreed that Kreev holding on to the Sun Amulet was for the best. Kreev vowed to try to destroy it, hoping that such a fate would never befall the Dragonborn clans.

With that, Kreev gathered his allies and went to unseal the front gates of the castle. Faerbor released his spell on the door, and it burst open as Blackwing soldiers rushed inwards. Kreev stopped them by holding up Salothzar's Sun Amulet, and gave an impassioned plea: the fighting was over. Salothzar, Favnir, and Zraghull were gone. There was no longer any need to kill or enslave other clans.

As he spoke, another Blackwing Ravager, Z'ildroth Otiroth, stepped forward. He was young, and interested in what Kreev had to say. They took an uneasy peace there upon the front steps of the castle, both sides promising to step back and re-evaluate the situation with the information Kreev would provide.

The next few days involved Kreev and the party conveying everything that had happened on their journey, from fighting a devil-powered Favnir in Dovuaka to discovering a plot by Bahamut to undo the entire race of the Dragonborn. Otiroth listened intently. He was younger than the other Ravagers, and seemed to be more open to making reparations.

Shreeva joined her son at the negotiations, more to lend credence as the clan matriarch than anything. However, she seemed very proud of her son and his skill in diplomacy. A plan was quickly laid out to unite the Dragonborn, in order to stave off the potentially disastrous fate they would face by turning away from the Dragon Gods.

Nerithya was put in charge of counting the treasure hoard Salothzar had amassed, and even after she skimmed some off the top it came out to nearly ten million gold. Many of the powerful magic items in the collection were actually clan artifacts, meaning they would need to be returned to their respective owners. However, the massive amount of gold gave clan Daardendrian and Z'ildroth a pool of resources for their plan to unite the clans.

A diplomatic tour of the island was put in place, and the group began to assign roles. Kreev, Otiroth, and Faelynn would be in charge of the main negotiations, travelling to major cities around the island with a core of diplomats to handle the smaller burgs and villages. Zovira would be in charge of reforming the Blackwings and providing military guidance for a new, multi-clan fighting force.

Nerithya debated for a while on if she would stay with the clans, but eventually realized that she had finally found a group of people that she could trust. She decided to stay, though she did demand a warship and personal crew to play with.

Faerbor hung around for a few days after negotiations were complete, but soon disappeared. He was intent of finding a way to destroy the Axe of the Elders, which had cursed his family for generations.

Chevnyl also disappeared, going back to her mountaintop to continue recording the history of the Dragonborn. Faelynn occasionally went up the mountain to visit her, getting to know the ancient dragon better than anyone else on the island.

And Torrin, the young Gold Dragonborn, came back to the castle, where he was formally adopted by Zovira and granted his clan's name, Ziadoa.

Though they had lots of work ahead of them, the heroes of the Dragonborn had completed their task, and saved their island. Kreev was crowned the new King of the Dragonborn, and began his work of uniting the clans. As to how that turns out, we'll have to wait and see.

You're a king, Kreev! "A what?"
And that's the game! It took 10 session and about a year of playing to finish the story, and that feels about right. I feel that each session was memorable and we had a lot of epic and hilarious moments as a group.

Eventually, these heroes might have to come out of retirement to fight the forces of Chaos, but for now, I'm happy to say their adventure is complete.

Thanks for reading!