Wednesday, May 30, 2018

5-Room Hexcrawl

Welcome to the Dungeon, we've got gobs and games
In preparing for a game where I run a different adventure site every week, I've been looking into the idea of the 5-Room Dungeon.

The basic idea is that you can build a simple, compelling dungeon (and therefore, story) in 5 stages. It's actually six, but let's go over the basic five first.

  • Room 1: A Dungeon Guardian. This asks the question, "Why hasn't this dungeon already been explored?"
  • Room 2: A puzzle or social encounter. This constitutes rising action, and due to the role-playing nature of these challenges, asks the question, "What was the purpose of the dungeon?"
  • Room 3: A twist, setback, or challenge. This asks the question, "Can the characters overcome this situation without spending too many resources?"
  • Room 4: The Dungeon Boss. This should always be a combat, and asks the question, "Can the characters reach their goal?"
  • Room 5: The Twist, revelation, or hook. This asks the question, "Now what?"

Of course, this format can be modified and expanded. In the end, it's just taking the most common elements of dungeon exploration and arranging them into a nice rising action plot curve. 

But it's also a convenient way to make sure your players are satisfied. The Bards and Rogues get their puzzle or social encounter, and there's at least one combat for the fighters. Those who are interested in exploration and discovery can learn about the dungeon, those who are drawn in by narrative and fantasy will enjoy the plot hook at the end of the dungeon, and those who simply want to beat up some goblins will have the opportunity.

However, the original article doesn't say much about why the characters are present. If you read carefully, you might have noticed there is actually a need for a "Room 0". We need the players to have a reason for coming to the dungeon before Room 1, and a goal in mind before Room 4. So there's actually a bit of setup you'll need to do before you stick your PCs outside the dungeon entrance.

The article also skips over using these dungeons in a hexcrawl, except to say "you can do that." I think there are some points to using these dungeons in an exploration-based game (like I plan to run) that I want to touch on.

5-Room Hexcrawls

One of the challenges of running an exploration-based game is the lack of direct motivation for the PCs to go anywhere. There's no time pressure, no set goals, and no impetus for finding a dungeon other than "the players stumble upon it."

Of course, you can draw goals from the world and from the characters. If the players have been attacked by tons of goblins, they might become interested in finding the goblin base and destroying it. Or if a character's backstory says they are searching for a lost heirloom, you can include rumors and hints of the heirloom for them to follow.

But for 90% of your adventure sites, you'll need a hook built into the only part of the dungeon your players will see before they explore it: the description.

If you tell your players they found a cave, they likely won't care. But if you say it's a cave surrounded by human bones, feathers, and pawprints, or their guide tells them this is an Owlbear's Cave, then they will probably return as soon as they feel like fighting an Owlbear.

In my case, the fact that there's a certain type of monster in the cave will tip them off to a type of loot they could find in the cave. But even if you don't make a particular monster the prominent feature of a site, you could find other ways to hint at what's inside. The Paladin could pick up a fiend's presence, the smell of cooking could emanate from within, or strange sounds might be heard from outside the area.

Once you have a defining feature of your adventure site, you can give it a name. Make the name evocative and memorable. It's not just "Owlbear Cave", it's "The Fane of Fur and Feathers" or something. If the adventure site is unusual, like a dungeon in the boughs of a tree, make sure the name reflects that. If the area is an ancient ruin, you could even have the name of the site already on an old map or chiseled into the architecture.

Once the players actually start exploring the dungeon, they might get another goal, but we'll cover that later.

Room 1: The Thing that tries to kill you before you start
Room 1

In a hexcrawl, many of the locations the players explore will be natural locations located in dangerous wilderness. And that in itself can be a reason why nobody has explored this area: it's dangerous!

Perhaps this site, though interesting to the players, isn't something a normal hunter/scout would risk their neck to explore. Maybe it's smack dab in the middle of Goblin territory, and the little cretins are too stupid to realize it's there. It might even be concealed, meaning your players will only get a description like "area of suspicious landfall/rubble" and they'll have to fend off random encounters while searching for the entrance.

In these cases, your "Guardian" can be a random encounter. I planned for this in the system I want to use, so that whenever the players choose to explore a site they have to roll on the random encounter table.

For more traditional (but still very natural) guardians, you could have a stronger monster have taken over the entrance to the area, like a bear living in the shallow part of a cave. In these cases, your "Dungeon Boss" should live much further down the cave, and not really use the entrance all that much. Otherwise, the "guardian" wouldn't have picked this location.

For higher-level adventure sites, you might actually have a designated guardian. If it's a ruins, an immortal creature such as a Stone Golem or Sphinx is best. You could also have a stronghold or watchtower where the guardians are actual guards, such as goblins or orcs.

This doesn't mean you can't use a random encounter and a guardian. But if you do, it might be better to make the guardian into a puzzle of some kind. The Sphinx's riddle is a classic, but many other puzzles/problems could be applied. Perhaps the cave is on a cliff face, used by a creature with flight. The only way up is a perilous climb!

For adventure sites that involve settlements or mysteries, the guardian can be one of several things. It could be an actual guard that tells the PCs the village has been locked down until the mystery is solved. It could be the fact that nobody in town really knows what to do, and they need someone with a particular set of skills to solve their problem.

Finally, I wouldn't recommend making the dungeon hidden as a way to complete room 1. The players already have little reason to explore this place, and if they can't find it, it will never get used. Also, if you're using my exploration system, you can simply place difficult-to-find locations higher on the discovery table.

Instead of hiding the locations, try concealing them. For example, the PCs come across a ruin that smells like cooking meat, but until they dispel a magical ward over the area, they won't find the witch's hut that the spell is coming from.

Room 2: Something for the Bard to do
Room 2

Room 2 is a puzzle or social encounter. In a constructed area or village, this is pretty straightforward. The designer of the building put a magical lock on the door. The players need to interrogate a witness or investigate a crime scene to solve the murder. Usually this flows directly from the history of the location or the current events happening there.

But in a natural location, it's a lot trickier to implement such a challenge. That's why you should look for problems, not puzzles, for this type of site.

A problem is just what it sounds like. There's an obstacle in the way, and the normal way the PCs would deal with it doesn't work. Want to jump over that pit? Well, the ceiling is too low to make the leap. Problem.

The idea is that every problem forces the players to come up with a neat solution using their skills and role-playing ability. Fill a room with toxic fumes, set up a lingering wild magic effect, place a trap in the room - anything to make it cost them resources if they just barrel forward. By limiting these to natural causes, you can allow the brains of the party to do their thing without needing an elaborate puzzle.

When you put together these problems, you should have a vague idea of what abilities your party has. If you have a character who has Boots of Flying, your pit trap won't be much hindrance for them. Think about the way your PCs would deal with a situation. Read up on their class abilities and try to keep a list of the magic items they have.

However, don't entirely discount social encounters just because you are in a natural location. Friendly monsters, ghosts, monster babies, or trapped explorers can all provide a dose of social/skill-based challenge while giving the players a reason to slow down and talk through a problem. Perhaps an Animal Handling check is required to get the Owlbear babies to like you.

For these adventure sites, this room is also where you can start introducing lore and goals to the area. Once they are in the entrance, they start noticing ancient carvings in the walls. The cleric recognizes them - could this be the location of the fabled +1 mace of zombie bashing?

Essentially, you're adding another hook here. The players already had their own reasons for exploring the site, and might be drawn in by the name/description of the location. But what's on the other side of this trap that is worth continuing to delve for?

If they have been looking for monster loot, add signs of the monster. If they were drawn in by some sensory effect, give another hint as to what it might be. If they are here just to explore, you can add lore about the site and hint that something valuable might be deeper within.

Remember, your players often won't have a reason to explore a location other than "it sounds cool." And that's not a great reason to risk injury or death.

Room 3: You didn't expect this, did you!?
Room 3

This room is kind of flexible, meaning you can add more combat or puzzles if you want. But the hallmark of this room is that the players can choose to avoid it. If they do, they can save time and resources (like HP). If they choose to engage, they might get a cool prize for doing so.

The easiest way to do this is with an optional combat. A combat costs resources, but can grant loot. If the creature is symbiotic to the dungeon boss, all the better. You can make the monster waste a specific resource, like making the party use up their torches and oil fighting a troll when the final encounter is a mummy that is weak to fire. You can also have the monster flee if it is alive after the dungeon boss is killed, so the players can't simply return and make up for the choice they missed.

That's another key to making this choice matter: the players really should only attempt it once, or it should cost them resources for each attempt. Since in an exploration game, you don't really have time pressure, you'll have to get creative. Perhaps there's a tunnel that leads to a valuable type of plant, but the tunnel is filled with biting insects. Maybe there's an ancient treasure in plain sight, but it's secretly cursed.

Of course, this can also be a social challenge. Maybe a lone goblin captures the talking badger you found in Room 2, and is now demanding valuables or the beast gets killed. Perhaps the ghost betrays you. If your players are into social challenges, this is the room to give them more.

Speaking of which, if this site is a mystery in a village, Room 3 should be a tricky deal, side job, or red herring. Again, anything to make the players choose between giving up resources and getting something good.

Room 4: Professional Big Bad Evil Guy for hire
Room 4

This is where the goal of the adventure site should be. I'm planning on granting the players experience based on if they meet this goal, so whatever I set up in Room 2 should be wrapped up here.

This is usually the room where the main monster of the site is waiting for them. D&D is a combat engine, so this should be a good combat. Set up terrain, give some nice combat effects, and tailor the combat to make it challenging and interesting! This combat is in between them and the goal!

Generally, you shouldn't ever deviate from the combat climax. If you're running a mystery game, give the PCs a chance to fight the killer (or the townsfolk if they failed their investigation). Otherwise, you'll disappoint those characters that are built for combat scenarios. And it's D&D, so that'd be all of them.

Of course, the monster itself can be the prize, and the monster can be unrelated to the prize. Sometimes a wild beast simply doesn't realize it made a nest at the foot of an ancient alter. So, much like the guardian at the front of the dungeon, you don't have to specifically make this fight about defeating the creature to get past them. Make it fit the theme of the dungeon!

Room 5: Where to next?
Room 5

This room is generally not strictly considered a standalone room, but rather the lead-in to the next adventure. The players have achieved their goal, but a new perspective is added that might change the way they feel about it.

Normally, this would lead the players to a "twist" or "gotcha" moment. But in an exploration game, we don't really have many narrative threads to twist, so we can use this room to add information and give the world a new light.

The first way to do this is to use the adventure site to add to the world. Perhaps the cave they are exploring appears natural, but they find ancient mining tools at the end of their path. Who was mining here? Why? Where did they live?

By adding to your world, you are beginning to create an overarching story, the story of those who came before the PCs. This isn't a deep plot hook, but it is a reason for the characters to keep exploring and find out more. If one of the characters is an archaeologist type, this could become their driving motivation.

You can also use worldbuilding to foreshadow future plots. Maybe those mining tools belonged to goblins, and the players are just about to enter goblin territory. Perhaps there is a treasure map carved into the stone alter, and the prize is not too far from here. Or maybe the item the players were looking for is missing, and signs of previous explorers are all over.

However you write it, you can build more hooks into your exploration world by adding hooks or lore at the end of the dungeons.

The second option is to use Room 5 to re-contextualize the dungeon. The players have killed an Owlbear for its meat and fur, but they didn't expect to find a nest of owlbear babies! The Owlbear was just defending her young, and they will die if the players don't do something. Perhaps the gemstone they were looking for is holding up a pillar at the end of the ruins, to remove it would mean destroying the site.

These sort of re-contextualizations hinge on the idea that they won't affect anything but this particular adventure site. The players should be given a problem they can solve immediately, and don't have to worry about after they leave the site.

Of course, you can make a combat out of this. The surprising second phase of a combat, the revelation of the real monster who rules the cave, the dungeon boss coming back to life... these are all twists that would work well in Room 5. Of course, these are more narrative in nature, but they are playing with narrative elements that are limited to this single dungeon site.

And a bunch of other stuff!
Tunnels and Descriptions

At this point, you might be thinking that 5 rooms isn't enough for a single session of D&D. Well, even though the format is limited, I often find that combats take up quite a bit of time, and 2-3 of them plus a couple puzzles/social encounters can fill up about 2 hours, making for a good exploration chunk. We might do multiple chunks per session, but being able to choose how long a game is (2, 4, or 6 hours) while the players are in that game is fantastic.

I think the real thing that's missing from this format is a sense of space. These rooms are functional, but they should almost never be rooms in the literal sense. In fact, these challenges should happen in tunnels, on rooftops, on separate floors, miles apart, etc. And the way to create that space is by describing how the players move from "room" to "room".

If the players are invading a goblin stronghold, they might have the following rooms.

  • Room 0: Let's kill the goblin overlord!
  • Room 1: Kill the goblins guards outside
  • Room 2: Get past the goblin traps
  • Room 3: There's hostages that will be killed within the hour. Should we fight to save them?
  • Room 4: Goblin Boss and his minions!
  • Room 5: The goblins were being controlled by a lich?!

But to give a sense of space, you'll need to put a lot of things in between those encounters to make the players feel like there are more than just 7 goblins and their boss here.

So, in addition to setting up those 5 rooms, I would also prepare the following descriptions.

  • Room 0: The area around the goblin stronghold. Are there traps? Patrols?
  • Room 1: The exterior of the stronghold. Perhaps an old, abandoned castle that has arrow slits the goblins keep watch out of.
  • Room 2: An entrance hall with plenty of lore that contains the traps, and a few empty rooms that look like goblins have used them.
  • Room 3: More goblin living quarters, a torture chamber, maybe even a single goblin encounter that the PCs can easily win or use to gain information.
  • Room 4: The minions are outside the bosses room, and there are more minions inside with the boss! Not to mention that this is the throne room, Room 5 is somewhere else!
  • Room 5: Goblin Boss's quarters, more lore, maybe some treasure in addition to the revelation

When you guide the players through these descriptions, your goal is to make the space sound real, big, and dangerous. Make rooms seem lived in. Describe several twists and turns in the path, or note that they walk for a good amount of time before finding the next room. Describe scenery along the way. And make them nervous. If this is a patrolled area, any shadow could be a monster. If it's an ancient magical ruin, describe how something hums, clicks, and then nothing happens. If they burn spell slots or arrows on this, perfect. It means they feel the threat.

Of course, because you already have your challenges prepared, the things they encounter shouldn't be anything close to combat. Here's some ideas for mechanical things to add between major challenges.

  • Add a small, one-time use trap
  • Make the players do a skill check
  • Have a combat with one weak monster
  • Create an obstacle that requires a spell, rope, an arrow, or another resource to pass. Let the obvious answer work - don't make it a problem

The best part about these descriptions is you can add more lore to an area, or foreshadow certain challenges. If your players have crossed several pits by tying rope to the other side, they will need to get creative when they get to Room 2 and find a pit with no place to tie a rope to. You can set up expectations before hitting them with the real challenge.

So although you can add more rooms to this format, it's important to remember the arc of the dungeon and the time constraints placed on the players. 4-5 challenges is a great amount for a couple hours of role-playing, and with rich descriptions in between, you won't need to expand the formula very often.

On the opposite side, I could easily see all 5 rooms taking place in the same physical space, if the encounter was with an intelligent monster and its minions. Fight a minion, talk to the monster, make a bargain with the beast, fight the monster, find out the truth behind the monster's motives. All nice and neat in a single space! It could even happen at the end of a regular 5-room dungeon as the twist. Which begs the question...

If you want to make a bigger dungeon, couldn't you just link multiple 5-room dungeons together?

Well? Couldn't ya, punk?
The answer is yes. Just make each Room 5 lead to the next guardian, with the twists escalating higher and higher. This is actually really good dungeon design. If you look in many published adventures, the dungeons are broken down into "areas" that feature their own combat, puzzle, and social challenges.

This is also a great way to allow your characters an option of faster leveling. If a Goblin stronghold is a single 5-Room dungeon, it would be worth 2 exp and take 2 hours. An Orc stronghold could be a 10-room dungeon, take 4 hours, and grant 4 exp, and a Giant's Castle could be 15 rooms, 6 exp, and 6 hours. Those characters who wanted to gain nearly a level in a single day could take on the Giant's castle!

Personally, I wouldn't go much further than that, but if you were building a Megadungeon, you could break down each set of rooms into "Days of Adventuring" and have the players make delves to find more and more treasure.

Perhaps someday I'll do that... or at least run the one I linked to! For now, I'm happy with an exploration game and plenty of small sites to explore.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Monday Recap: Dwarf Sorcerers

This week's theme is dwarves using magic, obviously
Well, we were going to have a Chaos quest this weekend, but wouldn't you know it, chaos struck. With only three players still able to make the game, I decided to postpone rather than have nearly half the players miss out on the action. Gosh, I can't wait until all my games are optional! It will be so nice.

So, bereft of a story, I did what I always do when people want to play D&D and I don't have anything prepared: I have the players pick a single class, pick a race or two, and let them all build characters using that combination while I throw together an adventure from a random generator. Never fails.

Monday Recap: Dwarf Sorcerers

Cast of Characters
Jon: Dungeon Master
Cody: Olthgar Ungardt, Divine Soul Sorcerer of Ulaa, hairy dwarf who sweats constantly and tries to stay positive
Shannon: Nobroserd "Nobro" Fireysunder, Wild Magic Sorcerer, moody dwarf who is surrounded by darkness and foresaw her powers will be used for evil someday
Wes: Ruric Shemash, Green Dragon Sorcerer, scary dwarf who casts magic via flatulence and has an odd obsession with his mother

The adventure began in the halls of Silverhame, deep in the bowels of Strofeuwin. King Hognar Silverstone had summoned these three motley sorcerers together to complete a task of great significance: they were to travel to "the surface" and retrieve a legendary artifact known as the Seal of the Titans for Silverhame. They would also find three staves of great power in the temple housing the Seal, which they were free to take and use as their own.

The sorcerers, Olthgar, Nobro, and Ruric, had never been to the surface before, but of course they had heard rumors. Supposedly it was a magical cavern without walls or a ceiling. The group agreed, and were given an escort of soldiers to take them up to the location of the Seal, the lost Temple of Aemis.

They were also given an annoying and rather inquisitive Chronicler to record their historic journey to the surface. His name was Farnus Inkstone, and he immediately began asking a lot of personal questions to get a feel for the "characters" in his story. Olthgar didn't mind talking about his past, Nobro tried to be evasive but basically told Farnus everything about herself, and Ruric completely deflected the conversation by asking Farnus about his mother.

It took them a few weeks of travel, but with the escort of soldiers, they remained safe from the terrors of the Underdark. They finally emerged from the tunnels only a few minutes walk from the Temple, and were greeted by the sight of the surface.

Olthgar looked up at the sun and thought it was a huge torch someone had hung up on the cavern walls, but looking closer only hurt his eyes. Nobro was overwhelmed by the lack of walls and expanse of open space, and cast some gloomy magic to help herself feel better. Ruric was fully convinced that they would someday find the walls and ceiling, somewhere. They had to exist, after all.

Farnus pulled out a map, and the group made their way across the floor of the surface towards the Temple of Aemis. Fortunately, the trip was brief, since the tunnel they had exited from was nearby. They arrived at the temple, or at least the roof of it. Over time, the temple had sunk into the earth, leaving only its stone roof above the ground.

Olthgar: on a mission from God, maybe
Nobro and Ruric began to search around the building for an upper window or chimney they could use to enter, but Olthgar simply began shooting the ground with magic to try to dig downwards. Surprisingly and unfortunately, this turned out to be the faster endeavor, as Olthgar broke through the ceiling of a cave below them and fell through the hole he had created.

He didn't fall far, but he did land directly onto a massive swarm of poisonous snakes, and was bitten several times by the creatures. The others quickly tied off a rope and lowered themselves down to help fend off the creatures.

Olthgar fired off his divine fire magic, Ruric unleashed sprays of acid, and Nobro shot gouts of fire at the creatures. Farnus, not a combatant, stayed on the surface. Olthgar had been exposed to extra bites and poison, and despite his dwarven resilience, was the frailest of the group. He was nearly ready to succumb to the snakes' attacks when they finally dispersed.

After some much-needed magical healing, they turned to see the true entrance of the temple, surrounded by the natural walls of the cavern they now stood in. Dwarven-built stone pillars flanked a massive archway, leading deeper into the darkened temple. Along the walls were relief carvings of dwarves carrying strange spheres towards the inner part of temple. Farnus was busy writing all of this down, while the sorcerers simply made note of it and strode inward.

The first chamber of the temple was a large room for holding congregations, with continued relief carvings leading towards an altar at the far end of the room. The altar was bare, but a large red glass gem in the shape of a circle was set into the front of it. The floor was littered with scraps of armor from the dwarven denizens long ago.

Nobro began to inspect the walls around the altar, and found a carving featuring a huge pair of hands reaching out of the earth to take once of the circles from a small dwarf. She brought it up to the group, and they realized it was likely the Seal of the Titans that was being offered.

We don't really want to know what Nobro is doing under that armor
As they walked through the room, Olthgar noticed a small vial on the floor containing some preserved red liquid. Knowing that only magic items would keep for so long, he inspected it and discovered it was a health potion. Still a bit injured from the previous encounter, he quickly drank it, feeling the warmth of the healing magic spread through his body.

As he did so, the group began to hear a scraping noise filling the room. The scraps of armor were drawing together, forming ancient guardians of the temple! The group prepared their magic and began to fight!

Unfortunately, the armor was thick and had few defenses, meaning even though they continued to slam the guardians with magic, nothing seemed to work. Meanwhile, the armor kept attacking them, wearing the group down. Olthgar and Nobro started circling the room to try to separate their opponents, Ruric used his magic to climb a pillar and try to remain out of reach of the armor, and Olthgar summoned a flying fish-weapon to distract one of the guardians.

The battle kept dragging on, and the group was really hurting for stamina. They also kept finding more potions on the ground, and they tried appeasing the armor by putting potions on the altar, but nothing worked. Olthgar and Nobro both dropped to their knees in pain at different points in the fight, but they managed to use the potions and Olthgar's magic to regain their composure.

Finally, the last armor was defeated, damaged by so much magical energy that it was unable to maintain its form. The group caught their breath and took stock of the situation. They had used a lot of magic, and were quite exhausted. Fortunately, there were plenty of potions left on the floor, which they gathered and distributed. Farnus creeped out from his hiding place and they moved through another set of archways deeper into the temple.

They cautiously entered a large, round room, set with more red glass gems around the walls. In the center, a inverted dome sat above a dais, where a circular stone etched with runes lay. Olthgar inspected this stone, realizing it was the Seal of the Titans they had sought.

Fire is always a good option
Farnus was quite excited to witness the success of the heroes, and began writing down everything he could see to record the historic moment. Olthgar, however, had a better idea: Farnus should be the one to take the seal. He convinced the hapless chronicler that they were all heroes, and now he could do his part in the epic tale of the retrieval of the Seal.

Farnus was convinced, and reached out to take the seal. As soon as he did, however, he vanished into dust, falling into a small pile on the floor. The sorcerers were unsurprised, since this was supposed to be an artifact used by the Gods, but Ruric was a bit sad about losing Farnus before he got all the details of their trip down.

They had little time to mourn, however, as the inverted down on the ceiling detached itself, revealing it to be a huge mechanical crab guardian! It clambered down from the ceiling, electricity sparking from its mouth and claws, its armor just as thick as the guardians in the previous room.

The dwarves scattered as it blasted them with electricity. Nobro and Olthgar launched spells at it with little effect, but Ruric came up with a better plan. He still had the most stamina remaining of the group, and rushed right up next to the dais holding the Seal. He acted scared to draw the monstrous crab to him, and it ran up and grabbed him with one of its crackling electric claws.

The crab swung down at him with the other claw, attempting to tear Ruric in half. But at the last moment, he ducked, causing the crab's claw to strike the Seal instead of him. In an instant, the crab guardian was vaporized into dust, and the threat was over.

The group cautiously approached the Seal. Knowing it was only meant to be handled by the Gods, Olthgar reached out, hoping his Divine Soul would be enough to save his life.

Fortunately, he was able to pick up the seal. It was a heavy circle of stone, etched with runes around the edge. He decided to try to learn more about it as the group rested, and found that it actually did hold ancient Titans. The Seal held 15 of the creatures, with room for 6 more. Unleashing them would undoubtedly cause widespread destruction. The group thought a bit, and decided that King Hognar Silverstone, or any king, shouldn't have this power. Instead, they decided to take the Three Staves of Power and leave the Temple, traveling through the surface and finding a way to destroy the Seal.

Ruric keeps deadly poisons on hand at all times
Rested up but still exhausted of most of their magic, they entered into the final chamber. It was a rectory filled with stone furniture and decorated with more relief carvings. In the center of the room stood another suit of armor, this one much larger and smoking with some strange black energy. It looked up and told the sorcerers that since they had touched the Seal, they would be eliminated. It attacked!

Nobro used her magic to shrink the armor, making it properly dwarf-sized, and she then leapt on it. Olthgar used the Seal like a shield and barreled into the armor as well, knocking it onto the ground. With the armor prone and held in place, the sorcerers began to attack it as best they could. But with their stronger spells depleted, they could barely scratch the surface of the monster.

Ruric abandoned the assault and ran to the back of the room, where a large relief carving of three staves was set into the wall. He recognized the mechanism built into the wall, and popped the carvings open to reveal the three staves of power, one yellow, one red, and one blue.

Ruric grabbed the yellow staff; Olthgar grabbed the blue one and tossed the red one to Nobro. As soon as it hit her hand, a pulse of magical energy filled the room: in the hands of dwarves, the staves has activated, and their powers could be used.

Ruric used his staff to cause a thunderous blast that stunned the armor, and all three of the dwarves backed away from the armor. They unleashed the fire, ice, and lightning powers of the staves, pouring magical energy into the armor. It was battered and beaten, but still managed to pull itself to its feet.

They pulled back, still firing their magical powers. Olthgar created a dome of ice, Ruric smacked the armor with a lightning strike, and Nobro unleashed a wave of explosions at the creature. But the armor still advanced, striking with darkness-infused blows that were slowly winnowing down the vitality the dwarves had left.

The staves were now depleted of magic, and the armor wasn't dead. It lifted its arm to crush Ruric under its fist, but Nobro drew on the very last reserves on magical energy she had to fire a thunderous orb at the armor, exploding it into dozens of pieces. The temple reverberated with sound, but then fell quiet. Its treasures had been plundered.

The sorcerers made their way out of the temple and back up to the surface. They were surprised to see that someone had moved the torch on the wall, it was much lower and a different color. They shrugged, and began their long trek to find a way to destroy the Seal.

Dwarf Sorcerer just has a certain ring to it
For a session done on the fly, I think it went really well! The players really felt the pressure. I did a lot of mid-combat modifications to make sure they just barely made it out alive, and sure enough, they were nearly out of hit points and completely out of spells by the end of it.

D&D really does its best mechanical work when it's a battle of attrition with heavy combat focus. I'm thinking about starting to try different systems to see if they can accommodate non-combat scenarios better, or make things less of a battle of attrition.

We'll see!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Failed Magic Items: Dungeon Master's Guide Part 5 (E)

Pinecone made out of teeth? Sure...why not? Sounds right at home with the rest of these items.

Greetings! It's Will and it's been a busy week, thankfully there's not that many magic items in the DMG that start with "E".

Here we go!


A-Free-Tea Bottle
"Wondrous" item, uncommon

This painted brass bottle weighs 1 pound. When you use an action to remove the stopper, a type of refreshing tea flows out of the bottle. The amount of tea produced is 1 cup.

Each time the bottle is opened, the GM rolls on the Tea Table below to determine what kind of tea is produced. The bottle can be used to produce tea once per short or long rest.

Tea Table (1d10)
  1. Black
  2. Green
  3. Jasmine
  4. Herbal
  5. Oolong
  6. White
  7. Flavored
  8. Ginger
  9. Dessert
  10. Yerba Mate
Elemental Jim
"Wondrous" item, uncommon

This item begins as a gem that contains a mote of elemental energy. When you use an action to break the gem, an elemental is summoned as if you had cast the Conjure Elemental spell, and the gem’s magic is lost. Regardless of type, the elemental identifies itself as "Jim" and proceeds to complete your commands as slowly and ineffectively as possible, all while complaining about the task's difficulty (even, and especially, simple tasks). Upon the spell ending, Jim makes an obscene gesture at you and returns to its Elemental Plane of origin. The type of gem determines the type of Jim summoned by the spell.
  • Blue Sapphire = Air Jim
  • Yellow Diamond = Earth Jim
  • Red Corundrum = Fire Jim
  • Emerald = Water Jim

Eleven Chain
Armor (chain shirt), rare

The armor grants a +11 bonus to AC. You are considered proficient with this armor even if you lack proficiency with medium armor. It immediately disintegrates into a fine metallic powder upon being physically touched by mortal hands.

Everburning Bottle
"Wondrous" item, uncommon

This brass bottle, which weighs 1 pound, is perpetually on fire and glows white hot. This fire cannot be extinguished in any way except through the use of a Dispel Magic spell, although this spell also renders the bottle useless. Touching the bottle burns your hand(s) for 2d8 Fire damage and sears itself to your flesh/gloves. At the start of each of your turns you have the choice of either using an action to force the bottle loose, or make a DC 14 Constitution saving throw. Failing this saving throw causes you to take another 2d8 Fire damage.

Alternatively, you can use an action to remove the stopper, upon doing so a large swathe of flame shoots of out of the mouth of the bottle in a 60 by 5 foot line, setting any flammable object it touches of fire. Any creature in this line must make a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw for take 4d8 Fire damage on a failure or half on a pass. The swathe continues to burn as long as the stopper is removed and you can you use an action redirect the area of effect.

Eyes of Harming
"Wondrous item", uncommon (requires attunement)

These crystal lenses fit over the eyes. They have 3 charges. While wearing them, you can expend 1 charge as an action to cast the Scorching Ray spell. Unfortunately, your eyes are not immune to this spell and in addition to taking 2d6 fire damage you are blinded as the lenses sear your corneas. Only a Lesser Restoration spell will heal your eyes and restore your vision. The lenses regain all expended charges daily at dawn.


Eyes of Minute Seeing
"Wondrous" item, uncommon

These crystal lenses fit over the eyes. While wearing them, you can see much better than normal out to a range of 1 foot. You have advantage on Intelligence (Investigation) checks that rely on sight while searching an area or studying an object within that range. This effect lasts for up to 1 minute before these ill-fitted lenses adhere to your eyes and blind you for 2d4 hours. At the end of this duration the lenses fall out of your eyes and shatter, returning your vision to normal after 1 minute. A Lesser Restoration spell will remove the lenses and restore your vision instantly.

Eyes of the Mole
"Wondrous item", uncommon (requires attunement)

These crystal lenses fit over the eyes. While wearing them, your vision is reduced to 5 feet and you automatically fail on all Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight past this range. You do however gain Tremorsense up to 30 feet.


'Till next time!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Innate Magic People Part 2

Also, another moment to highlight one of my favorite character artists!
In Ahneria, nearly everyone can cast a little bit of magic, but some people can cast full-on spells. I decided it would be fun to detail out a set of NPCs based on the first level spells. As I said in the previous article, these are people who are somewhat common, but might have gained notoriety or fame based on their abilities.

This is the second in this series, and we're starting to hit the second-level spells. Even these low-level abilities can set a person apart if they use it well, so you'll see more notorious and important NPCs on this list!

Lenora Binx
Spell: Longstrider (PHB pg. 256)
Lenora Binx, a young woman with straw-colored hair, runs a small orphanage in the town of Thistleby. She is much beloved by the children there, and they always ask her to join in their games of tag. Anytime she is nearby the children, they almost magically speed up. The kids love it, but Lenora has trouble when it comes time to corral them for meals and bedtime. She could use an assistant, or someone to help catch the kids for the day.

Malaric Underhill
Spell: Mage Armor (PHB pg. 256)
In the city of Lovale, the latest gossip is all about Malaric Underhill, a well-muscled and handsome man who beat the king’s champion fighter, Vex Ozra, while completely naked. Using only his fists, Malaric has become the talk of the town. However, since then, he has been receiving mysterious threatening letters which he assumes are from Vex Ozra. He can defend himself within the regulated confines of the arena, but he is looking for guards to protect him while he sleeps, or someone to put a stop to these threats. He can certainly pay for such services, thanks to his fame.

Whisp Adams
Spell: Magic Missile (PHB pg. 257)
In the small mining town of Nowood, Whisp Adams is a local legend. They say he can’t miss when it comes to spitting tobacco, and he’s always got a cheekful ready to show off his talents. He used to compete in contests, but once he won every competition in the valley, he hung up his hat and retired in fame. But time wasn’t kind to Whisp, becoming more weathered and slight in his later years, and much of his earnings have gone to his children and cousins. And just a few days ago, in a heated argument with town butcher Killian Monroe, he got so angry that he spit right in Killian’s eye, partially blinding him. Now, Whisp needs money to pay for Killian’s healing, and will gladly share his knowledge of the valley to adventurers looking for dungeons to explore.

Not a wizard - just spooky adjacent
Edna Jacobs
Spell: Protection from Evil and Good (PHB pg. 270)
Although most would call her an amateur exorcist, Edna Jacobs, age 62 with flowing dark hair with a few sprigs of grey/white sprinkled through it, considers herself to be an Afterlife Therapist. Unable to be possessed by ghosts and spirits, she has built her career out of convincing the not-so-dearly departed to finish their business in the material plane and move on. However, an extremely stubborn spirit has been completely resistant to her wiles. She isn’t quite willing to admit that she doesn’t have any other powers, but she will certainly take help if she can find it.

Prince Fitzwilliam of Keles
Spell: Purify Food and Drink (PHB pg. 270)
The prince of the small kingdom of Keles, Prince Fitzwilliam has an ability that his family prefers was kept a secret. Any food that passes his lips is cleaned of poisons and diseases, and any cut or wound never becomes infected. He has become a beloved friend of the homeless and infirm, and the first choice of nobility when on tense diplomatic missions. His people think him quite handsome, with his dark hair and green eyes that look kindly towards them. However, someone must have learned the secret, because on a recent visit to a rival country, his food was poisoned with a magical toxin. Now, adventurers are needed to find a cure for the ailing prince, and cooperation in keeping his ability secret will be highly rewarded.

Hunter Lovett
Spell: Ray of Sickness (PHB pg. 271)
Hunter Lovett has always been a sickly young boy, ghastly pale under a mop of black hair, and his parents Logan and Harper have always taken great care to avoid becoming infected. But now the illness seems to be getting even more deadly to the doctors and nurses that attend to Hunter, though he isn’t feeling any worse. After the death of a beloved family doctor, Logan and Harper are looking for someone to cure their son, or at least explain why he seems to be recovering while becoming more contagious.

Sophia Wakefield
Spell: Sanctuary (PHB pg. 272)
Of all the students at Esoterra Arcane Institute, Sophia Wakefield is the least popular. Dirty blonde hair with brown eyes, ruffled clothing, and shoes that never fit quite right, it's no surprise she's left behind socially. But it’s not entirely her fault, since every time someone goes to make fun of her, their insults are magically redirected to someone else. She has a reputation for being divisive, starting fights, and being a loner. She doesn’t mind it entirely, but she does wish she could make at least one friend.

Cedric MacMillan
Spell: Searing Smite (PHB pg. 274)
Cedric MacMillan, with his light brown hair and strikingly grey eyes, is a well-known traveling salesman who offers a wondrous delicacy: instantly toasted bread! With his magically-heated bread knife, he can whip up a toasty treat in an instant. He’s a big hit in most places, but when he arrived in the town of Valeflower, he found his audience completely uninterested. The town’s Bakers’ Guild had convinced the locals to avoid this “charlatan”, leaving Cedric without enough money to gain passage to the next village over. He needs help getting out of town, before the Bakers’ Guild takes further action against him.

Nora Landon
Spell: Shield (PHB pg. 275)
Only a few moments after her birth, Nora, daughter of Bree and Hugo Landon had something unusual happen. The otherwise healthy child encased herself in a magical bubble, unable to be touched, to eat, or drink. The parents are extremely upset, and nurse Quinn has been running through the streets, looking for someone who can break the bubble before the silver-eyed baby Nora starves.

Gentle Devotion
Spell: Shield of Faith (PHB pg. 275)
When Gentle Devotion was a child, he was often teased and beaten, an unfortunate reality for those born as tieflings. But one day, he began to pray to Pelor, and found himself surrounded by a magical barrier that stopped the attack he was under. Now that he has grown up and devoted himself, he hopes to become a cleric of Pelor, but the church in his hometown of Cipri does not accept tieflings as members, especially those with pitch-black hair and eyes like Gentle. He needs money to get to another city, or someone to help him convince Father Fernleaf to give him a chance.

Georgie Farrafay
Spell: Silent Image (PHB pg. 276)
Growing up, Georgie Farrafay was always an artistic child. They covered their bedroom walls with illusory images of their favorite animals, fables, and landscapes, often in colors that matched their brown hair and green eyes. But now, Georgie is beginning to become an adult, and the images are becoming strange and explicit. Their mother, Imogen, is looking for someone that will help Georgie control their powers to keep the walls free of embarrassing and complicated subject matter.

Mayor Bishop Greaves
Spell: Sleep (PHB pg. 276)
In the little town of Skalfell, the mayor has a problem. Mayor Greaves, a short man with greyish-blonde hair and a crooked nose, can’t figure out why everyone in the village is slowly becoming afflicted with narcolepsy. It’s becoming more and more of a problem for the citizens, and they are sleepily demanding action. He needs help figuring out what sort of curse or spell is causing this!

Effie Holt
Spell: Snare (XGtE pg. 165)
Awkward conversations are a real chore, especially for the sly and shrewish Effie Holt. She hates people talking to her, but she has a special trick to help her get out of such situations. She can instantly fly 50 feet straight upwards, removing herself from conversations and forcing the other person to leave. She then uses a special umbrella enchanted with Feather Fall to get back down to the ground when the coast is clear. But recently, she misplaced her umbrella, and wants it back. She’ll gladly pay for its return, as long as the returner doesn’t try to thank her for the reward.

Sterling Danvers
Spell: Speak with Animals (PHB pg. 277)
In the western neighborhood of the city of Qia, silver-haired resident Sterling Danvers is well-known for having a large collection of cats and speaking to them in odd meows. His cats are very well-behaved, and he enjoys letting the local children play with them. But he recently got into an “argument” with one of his cats, Basil, and the feline has ran away from home. His neighbors tell him the cat will come back, but Sterling believes Basil might be in real danger. He’s looking for a young, spry person to help him find his beloved pet.

Baden Quince
Spell: Tasha's Hideous Laughter (PHB pg. 280)
Baden Quince, fair skin, dashing blonde hair, is a notorious con artist and comedian in the city of Redgate, and he has finally been captured. However, the trial has been repeatedly suspended, since Judge Marin Chesterman can’t help but break down laughing in court. He needs the assistance of someone without a sense of humor, or someone to help him deliver a verdict through his laughter.

Magic gives you a +1 bonus to mysteriousness
Aphra Kilgore
Spell: Tenser's Floating Disk (PHB pg. 282)
The city of Autumnwood is known for its beauty, and Aphra Kilgore is a tour guide who gives the most wonderful guided tours to any who wish to learn more about the history and architecture of the city. She has a floating platform that she decorates with rugs and food, to allow her guests to relax as they slowly follow her around the streets of Autumnwood. But recently, a guest of hers named Eliab Foster has become obsessed with her intelligence, charm and long, auburn hair, and started stalking her. She would handle it herself, but he always appears in the middle of her tours, and she can’t risk losing business. She needs someone to watch her back on her next tour.

Spell: Thunderous Smite (PHB pg. 282)
Kiramar is a female half-orc gladiator with green eyes and blonde hair in tight braids that is hoping to make it big in the arenas of Peltraglow. She delivers powerful punches that ring like a gong when she strikes her opponents, ensuring many victories in the smaller rings. But she’s been barred from competing in the Grand Arena, which uses gongs to signal the start and end of matches. She needs someone to help her suppress her ability, or to help her convince the Arena Master Fester Tunstead to give her a chance.

Maxie Evans
Spell: Thunderwave (PHB pg. 282)
Maxie Evans, a sprightly twenty-seven year old man, has a big problem. He keeps passing such explosive gas that his pants go flying off. He needs help as soon as possible, and his only idea is some sort of magical extra-strong pants. Something to muffle the sound would help as well.

Just a normal dude... with magic powers
Ally Ellis
Spell: Unseen Servant (PHB pg. 284)
In the Weaver’s School of Isarose, nobody disobeys Headmistress Dovie Sabilline. That is, until the red-haired Ally Ellis came along. She uses her magic to cause all sorts of mischief, upsetting Headmistress Sabilline and causing quite a lot of fun for herself and her classmates. But after yet another child was punished for her misdeeds, Ally decided that she needs to strike at the root of the problem: getting rid of Headmistress Sabilline. She needs some help setting it up, but once she finds some extra hands, it will be a prank worthy of the Trickster Gods themselves.

Gregory Velutus
Spell: Witch Bolt (PHB pg. 289)
Gregory Velutus is whip-thin and has an overbearing presence, and claims to be a doctor, but he turns away most of the patients that come to his practice. He uses a special brand of medicine that involves restarting a patient’s heart using his electrically-charged hands. This wild conjecture has lead him to be rejected by his fellow physicians. Dr. Velutus believes his theories are sound, but he needs someone to help him prove them. He is looking for a test patient, or someone to bring him a person suffering a heart condition.

Cyrus Whiting
Spell: Wrathful Smite (PHB pg. 289)
If you’ve lived in Kruva long enough, you’d know that Cyrus Whiting, with his scarred left cheek and grey eyes, is a stand-up person and a great addition to the city watch. However, he is extremely intimidating in combat, and most people who visit the city get an incredibly uneasy feeling around him. He does good work, though, and has just been handed a promotion - to guard a newborn duchess! He’s worried he will scare the child, and he needs help learning how to care for children.

Okamura Kioko
Spell: Zephyr Strike (XGtE pg. 171)
Okamura Kioko has white hair, dark eyes, a slim build, and is a ninja-in-training. But she has a particular problem, and his name is Uramoto Kaisashi. Uramoto is her master, and Kioko is frustrated that she can outspeed her teacher but still can’t gain his respect or validation. Uramoto says she needs to learn discipline and humility before he will ever respect her, and his stubbornness has put the two warriors at each other’s throats. They need some help finding peaceful resolution before they reach bloodshed.

Mo' ninjas, mo' problems
Ray Krim
Spell: Aganazzar's Scorcher (XGtE pg. 150)
People come from miles around to see the magical fire whip of Ray Krim, ringmaster of Krim’s Crazy Curiosities. He puts on quite the dazzling spectacle, taming creatures of all kinds before a live audience while wearing long red tails and a dashing top hat atop his dyed orange hair. However, at his last show, he accidentally burnt one of his prized lions. He’s looking for a Ranger or Druid to re-tame the beast, since it was already a difficult creature and now it doesn’t trust the handlers at all.

Jin Zhi
Spell: Aid (PHB pg. 211)
Jin Zhi has dark hair, a large build, and slim eyes, and is a no-nonsense commander in change of training new recruits in the Elven Army of Ciphia. She has an excellent track record of cadets completing her training, but once they get out into the field they invariably perform worse. She is looking for someone to follow her former trainees and investigate why, or help her come up with a better training plan.

Walte Dobezo
Spell: Alter Self (PHB pg. 211)
Judge Walte Dobezo is widely considered a wise and fair mediator, because he is easily able to conceal his emotions and practice impartiality. This is partly due to his eyes - at a young age, he noticed his eyes changed color with his emotions, which his beloved but now-deceased father helped him control. Though his hair is now streaked with grey, his eyes have remained passive and unchanging despite the most disturbing of cases. But, a new case has come across Walte’s desk, the case of a man who murdered his own family. Judge Dobezo is already having difficulty controlling his anger towards the man, and needs help suppressing the effect of his eyes, or he will lose his reputation of impartiality.

Hilani Dansa
Spell: Animal Messenger (PHB pg. 212)
In the city of Tarorn, everyone receives their mail by crow, and no, they don’t think it’s odd. The postmaster, Hilani Dansa, a lanky man with mussy black hair, has a large collection of crows, and he sends the intelligent birds unerringly to the citizenry with their mail in tow. But recently, someone has begun to attack the crows, and Hilani needs help investigating who would do such a thing, and why.

Oh come on, don't you trust me?
Senator Rosalin Archibald
Spell: Arcane Lock (PHB pg. 215)
Senator Rosalin Archibald has blonde hair, brown eyes, and a wide, smiling face, and is a very cautious person. Unfortunately she is often forgetful of the activation words to bypass her own locks. This time, she has locked away some scrolls necessary to a new law to regulate local merchants, and needs help remembering her password. That, or someone who can break past the magical lock she has cast on the cabinet.

Diomora of the Clear Eye
Spell: Augury (PHB pg. 215)
It’s well known that Diomora of the Clear Eye is not a charlatan or hack when it comes to telling fortunes. She has short white hair, gold eyes, and is always able to guide her customers to avoid misfortune and do the right thing. So it’s no surprise when King Egon’s third son, Gerolf, came to visit her. But he asked her such mundane questions, that she wasn’t able to really reveal anything to him! He didn’t understand and got upset, demanding Diomora be arrested and beheaded. Diomora is now looking for someone to plead her case, and not make jokes about how she should have seen this coming.

Gabriel Vérany
Spell: Barkskin (PHB pg. 217)
Gabriel Vérany has dark brown hair, a stubborn chin, grew up without a father, and has the ability to grow bark-like armor from his skin. He had heard the awful rumors that his mother had been seduced by a Dryad, but she assured him it wasn’t true. Now, Gabriel wants to travel and find his father, to set the record straight about his powers and chew him out for leaving them behind.

Sir Kaholo Kekoa
Spell: Beast Sense (PHB pg. 217)
The Lord of Sailoa, Sir Kaholo Kekoa, has a closely trimmed beard and warm brown eyes, and has been getting fitful sleep at best. Each night, he dreams of crawling in tunnels, darkness, slavishly obeying the whims of a massive queen. He needs help stopping these nightmares, as they have begun to affect his diplomatic work. He even fell asleep in his pudding during a royal dinner!

He might be magic, but he dies just like anyone else...
Solomé de Freitas
Spell: Blur (PHB pg. 219)
Though she is a fantastic sculptor, Solomé de Freitas has a reputation of being shy. She isn’t really, though! People simply have trouble hearing her when she speaks. She's a sight to behold ,with her small stature and bits of dried clay stuck to her skin and hair, but no matter how loudly she shouts, others always hear her only faintly. Now, because of her artistic talent and a meddling instructor, she’s been asked to give a presentation on her work. Solomé needs help dispelling the magical effect she has on people, or perhaps someone to speak on her behalf at the show.

Erato Muthoni
Spell: Blur (PHB pg. 219)
The people of Yatori are privy to a terrible rumor: that a mysterious beast stalks the woods surrounding their sleepy mountain town. Whenever someone sees it, the story changes slightly, but it’s always apparent that the beast is not-quite-in-focus. Something dark is obscuring the monster, making it more akin to a devil than to a human. But if they ever were to capture the creature, they’d discover that it was actually a druid with green robes and long brown hair named Erato Muthoni, and quite a friendly guy at that.

Rayne Alrama
Spell: Branding Smite (PHB pg. 219)
Demon Hunters tend to have different specialties. Rayne Alrama is a Demon Hunter adept at dealing with quastis and shadow demons, those that are difficult to see in darkness. He’s well-known for his skills and his white-blonde hair, but recently his actions have been receiving unwanted attention. He has caught the eye of Zilgrok, a minor demon lord in service to Graz'zt, who is interested in claiming him as her own. He isn’t equipped to handle such a challenge, and is looking for assistance.

Sajjra Mundi
Spell: Calm Emotions (PHB pg. 221)
Sajjra Mundi is the publicly elected leader of the town of Darsmith, a kind and quiet place with happy people. She has long black hair and a kind face, and is known for being stoic and reasonable, which allows her to act as a peaceful mediator in many small disputes. However, rumors of orc attacks in the neighboring villages have set the population on edge. They are looking to Sajjra for fury or sadness, but she seems unable to provide either. Sajjra is looking for mercenaries to deal with the orc problem quickly, as well as someone to help her regain her image among her people.

Just because you're magic doesn't mean you have ambition...
Enoch “Flying Dagger” Tremayne
Spell: Cloud of Daggers (PHB pg. 222)
In the slums of Sheya, Enoch “Flying Dagger” Tremayne is the baddest boss around. He has his blakc hair set into a mohawk, and runs the Wolverine gang. His brutal tendency to “interrogate” victims with his flying daggers has given him quite the reputation in Sheya. However, he recently interrogated a spy working for a rival gang, the Disciples, which has caused tensions to rise between the two groups. Not interested in risking an all-out gang war, he’s looking for a neutral negotiator to meet with him and Tasha “The Saint” Gregoria, the boss of the Disciples.

Cole Renatus
Spell: Continual Flame (PHB pg. 227)
Cole Renatus was born with a little tuft of flame on his head, and since then his “hair” has only grown larger and brighter. He grew up kind and gentle to ensure people he meant them no harm, and much of the town of Wayren loved him for it. But recently, a wild Efreeti appeared in Wayren, claiming that Cole was a fire genasi and should be returned to the Plane of Elemental Fire. Cole was whisked away, and the town is looking for someone strong to bring back their dear friend.

Brya Delmont
Spell: Cordon of Arrows (PHB pg. 228)
Whenever Brya Delmont's feet touch the earth, small objects near her fly at the other people around her. It was quite the difficult problem to deal with, until Brya realized that it didn’t occur while she was on a ship. Thus began a life of sailing, hardly ever leaving the confines of her precious boat. She loves the freedom of being on the ocean, and the feeling of the wind whipping through her long brown hair streaked with tinges of blue. However, her reputation as a trader has become known enough that the King of Parinsi has summoned her for an audience. She can’t turn down such a request, and needs help holding small objects down as she approaches the throne.

Domnin Comeau
Spell: Crown of Madness (PHB pg. 229)
Domnin Comeau has dark eyes and many scars, and is well known and slightly feared in the city of Rahun, as he runs the local asylum for criminals and lunatics. He has the frightening ability to take command of the bodies of his inmates, corralling them into their cells if they get out of line. But while giving a tour of the asylum to visiting adventurers, a riot has broken out! Domnin can only control one inmate at a time, and needs immediate help keeping the riot contained.

The Shadow
Spell: Darkness (PHB pg. 230)
In the city of Pocazu, there have been multiple reports of a mugger attacking random civilians and stealing their gold. But this is no ordinary attack: the mugger casts a sphere of pitch-black darkness, then uses some sort of blindsight to relieve them from their valuables. Commissioner Félicie Lebasque needs assistance finding the mugger, known as The Shadow, despite the fact that nobody knows what this person looks like.

Vinzu Bumblefoot
Spell: Darkvision (PHB pg. 230)
Vinzu Bumblefoot has always been tall for a halfling, and possessed with a strange knack for seeing in the dark. He has recently been recruited by a dwarven king to go undercover and bust a coal-laundering ring within the mines of Omehr. Vinzu is eager to take the job, but needs help getting in with the smugglers. Also, he needs some help growing a beard of dwarven proportions: despite his round face and dwarven statue, he is painfully beardless.

"My magic just makes my hair flow around me really cool."
Algernone Lockleer
Spell: Detect Thoughts (PHB pg. 231)
For many, many years, Algernone Lockleer served as the adviser to King Conwyn. His perfectly polished shoes, trim clothing, and pointed visage was a regular sight in the court of the King. He used his ability to read thoughts in secret, but always gave the most insightful and pointed advice to his liege. The kingdom prospered, and King Conwyn grew prideful. Not realizing that it was Algernone who he depended on, the King fired his adviser and brought in a much younger, more attractive steward. Algernone was enraged, and decided to begin to sell the secrets he had learned to the highest bidder. He needs protection, however, and is looking for mercenaries to keep him safe from the royal eye.

Spell: Dragon's Breath (PHB pg. 154)
Kirugu is a half-orc with black hair and large tusks who is known throughout the undercity of Miranchu. Not only is she one of the most skilled poisoners around, she has the ability to breathe noxious fumes as well, meaning she is truly never without her work. However, a recent job she was assigned to went poorly, and she is on the run from the law. Kirugu is looking for a good hideout, since she fears her old one might be compromised.

Aurelia Barbaro
Spell: Dust Devil (PHB pg. 154)
Aurelia Barbaro, a skilled fighter in the Chimera Ring Fighting Pits of Zrozzu, was already known as “the Dervish” before she lost her legs in a tragic accident. Now, her powers of sand are the only thing she has going for her, aside from her long dark hair she keeps in a tight braid. She hopes to use the whirling winds to transport herself around, but she needs something to keep herself from spinning around wildly. She will pay for a magical or mechanical device to keep her upper body steady while she is being carried by the dust devil.

Akiya Mursilis
Spell: Earthbind (PHB pg. 154)
If you visit Vangue, you must see the Griffons of Mursilis’s Emporium. Akiya Mursilis has a slightly hooked nose below sharp blue eyes, and is a skilled trainer; even the most reticent of beasts will be brought down by his magic. He teaches them to be mounts, to do tricks, and to be tame around children and smaller animals. However, recently his Griffons have been coming down with a terrible illness, and he is looking for someone who knows a cure. He’s become quite desperate.

Howi of True Bones
Spell: Enhance Ability (PHB pg. 237)
In the True Bones tribe, Howi is an old and wise shaman with long dark braided hair and many wrinkles around her quick eyes. She has guided the warriors of the tribe her entire life, granting them the power of the animal spirits to ensure their victory. But now, a famine has come upon the valley of Moath, and Howi is unsure what to do. She believes that the tribe may have angered Rayth, the Great Wolf Spirit. Hototo, a young warrior, thinks they should kill the Spirit and live without its blessing, but Howi knows this is foolish. Howi needs help convincing the tribe that Hototo’s ideas will only bring further destruction to the ways of their people.

By the way - this is the artist. Really good stuff, check him out!
Bastin Brahmani
Spell: Enlarge/Reduce (PHB pg. 237)
Of all the physicians in Tel Kesul, Bastin Brahmani is considered the most skilled. He has quick eyes, long dark hair, and the ability to shrink and grow his hands at will, allowing him to perform the most delicate of operations. Many a soldier stricken by an arrow has been saved at the hands of this fine doctor. However, a recent surgery did not go as well. Duke Kaalim, a well-respected hunter, had been gored by an elephant on their latest hunt. Bastin had gone to work stitching him up, but the pressure of working on nobility was too much for him and his hands enlarged while still in the wound. Now, the Duke has lapsed into a coma, and Duchess Azeeza wants Bastin’s head. He needs help convincing her that he didn’t intend to hurt her husband.

Deirdre Drema
Spell: Enthrall (PHB pg. 238)
Deirdre and Dom are partners in crime, taking on the big city of Queenscove. Their favorite con involves Deirdre standing on the street corner, weaving a magical speech that absolutely enthralls those who hear it. Meanwhile, Dom slips through the crowds and picks their pockets. But recently, Dom has been getting a little greedy, and keeping a bit more of his pickings for himself. Deirdre found out about this, and the two split after much arguing and anger. Now, Deirdre, still a fresh-faced teenager, needs a new pickpocket to be her partner, hopefully one that isn’t dumb enough to try and cross her.

General Fiona Reichenbach
Spell: Find Steed (PHB pg. 240)
In the army of Xyja, General Fiona Reichenbach is known for her sharp wit, keen grey eyes, and magnificent steed. And she’ll be the first to tell you that only the last of those is magic! Recently, Xyja has been attacked by troops from the neighboring nation of Nolar, but General Reichenbach thinks something isn’t quite right. She needs help convincing her fellow generals, or the Queen herself, to call off any retaliation before it’s too late.

Bartolommeo Moran
Spell: Find Traps (PHB pg. 241)
Bartolommeo Moran, with his bright eyes and smiling bearded face, is a well-traveled and kindly guide through the jungles of Toira. He is adept at noticing the traps laid by local tribal hunters, and leads his patrons around such hazards. But as of late, the warriors of the Wet Stone tribe have noticed their traps are being evaded, and have begun to hunt Bartolommeo and his customers actively. He needs additional bodyguards to help defend him against the now-hostile forces of the Wet Stone tribe!

Queen Rosa of Anthia
Spell: Flame Blade (PHB pg. 242)
The Queen of Anthia has always inspired her troops with a flaming sword, which complimented her bright red hair and fierce personality. But it wasn’t commonly known that the sword itself was a part of her innate magical ability, not a magic item in and of itself. And now that she wishes to pass along the crown to her daughter, she needs something to take its place. A real Flametongue Longsword would be perfect. She will pay a good price for such a weapon, as well as for the discretion of those who find it.

Until next time, when we finish second level spells and start the third level spells!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Old News: The Commoner Class

What a dreamboat!
A while back, I wrote about which background you should choose as a player. Well, I also wrote about a Commoner Class that essentially allows you to make your own background. I figured it might be fun to let the players really get into the shoes of the peasantry.

I haven't had a chance to playtest this yet, but it's not too complicated. Here's the link! Let me know if you find typos or have suggestions.

The Commoner Class

More recaps coming soon, I promise! The games should pick again here in a few weeks.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 18, 2018

Failed Magic Items: Dungeon Master's Guide Part 4 (D)

+1 Poisoning-Sword-Morning Star-Spear of Meta-Humor...very effective against Dragons apparently.

Greetings! Will here, back in the saddle again for this week's Failed Magic Items.

Y'all know the drill, let's do this!

Note: Demon Armor has been omitted because of its already cursed status.


Doug's Instant Distress
"Wondrous" item, rare

You can use an action to place this 1-inch metal cube on the ground and speak its command word. The cube then rapidly grows into the object of your greatest fear. You must make a DC 13 Wisdom saving throw or become Frightened of the object. You can repeat the save at the end of your turn to end the effect. If you pass this save or the effect ends for you, you are not Frightened. The cube becomes inactive after 1d4 hours.

Dagger of Syrup
Weapon (dagger), uncommon

You can use an action to cause thick, brown syrup to coat the blade. The syrup remains for 1 minute or until an attack using this weapon hits a creature. The syrup tastes sweet and perhaps makes any wound it causes to sting a bit, but otherwise doesn't have any additional effects. The dagger can’t be used this way again until the next dawn.

Break-Dancing Sword
Weapon (any sword), very rare (requires attunement)

You can use a bonus action to toss this magic sword into the air and speak the command word. When you do so, the sword clatters to the floor and remains motionless until it is exposed to a jaunty and high-energy tune. The sword then begins to rhythmically spin and gyrate in place at blinding speed. Any creature that comes within 5 feet of the sword is subjected to four melee weapon attacks at +5 to hit. The sword deals damage based on the type of sword it is and has no modifiers to its damage rolls. The sword stops spinning once the music stops and it can then be picked up.

Decanter of Endless Mustard
"Wondrous" item, uncommon

This stoppered flask heavily sloughs around when shaken, as if it contains a viscous sauce. The decanter weighs 2 pounds.

You can use an action to remove the stopper and speak one of three command words, whereupon an amount of mustard pours out of the flask. The mustard stops pouring out at the start of your next turn.
Choose from the following options:

“Yellow” produces 1 cup of regular yellow mustard.
“Dijon” produces 1/2 cup of a spicy Dijon mustard.
“Stone Ground” produces 1/4 cup of gourmet stone-ground mustard

The mustard itself doesn't do anything special, but it could make a nice addition to a meal.

Deck of Delusions
"Wondrous" item, rare

This box contains a set of parchment cards. A full deck has 14 cards. A deck found as treasure is usually missing 1d8-1 cards.

The magic of the deck functions only if cards are drawn at random (you can use an altered deck of playing cards to simulate the deck). You can use an action to draw a card at random from the deck.

The creature that drew the card must make a DC 15 Intelligence saving throw or be afflicted with a corresponding delusion from the Delusions Table below. Whether it is true or not (probably not), the creature is utterly convinced it's real even, and especially, in the face of competing evidence.

The delusion lasts for 24 hours. When the delusion ends, the image on its card disappears, and that card can’t be used again.

Delusions Table
  • Jack of Hearts: "I'm fabulously wealthy"
  • Queen of Hearts: "Everyone loves me and enjoys my company"
  • King of Hearts: "I'm immensely popular, everyone recognizes me"
  • Ace of Hearts: "I can lift anything, even mountains"
  • Jack of Spades: "I can outrun anything, nothing can catch me."
  • Queen of Spades: "Everyone is a dullard compared to me"
  • King of Spades: "No disease can infect me"
  • Ace of Spades: "I can drink anyone under the table"
  • Jack of Clubs: "I can jump higher than anything else"
  • Queen of Clubs: "I'm tallest among everything here"
  • King of Clubs: "I have the face of a Solar, no one can resist my charms"
  • Ace of Clubs: "I'm the greatest warrior that has ever lived"
  • Jack of Diamonds: "My stomach might as well be a Bag of Holding"
  • Queen of Diamonds: "I'm the greatest chef alive"
  • King of Diamonds: "I'm impervious to any weapon made by mortal hands"
  • Ace of Diamonds: "I'm a Legendary Ancient Dragon in disguise"
  • Joker (2): "I died a while ago, my body is merely a spectral projection"

Deck of One Thing
"Wondrous" item, rare

Usually found by itself, not contained in any vessel, this is a card made of somewhat sturdy parchment with a poorly drawn picture of an obscene gesture on one side. When you "draw" this card a Human man in his early 30s appears in front of you. For the next hour the man ceaselessly spouts every reason that this item's counterpart, the Deck of Many Things, is unnecessarily obtuse in its design and admonishes the wizard that conceived it.

The man then disappears. The card can be "drawn" again after 24 hours.

Weapon (any sword), legendary (requires attunement)

You have the option to gain a +3 bonus to attack and damage rolls with this magic weapon.

However, if you use this bonus on any attack a voice resonates from the sword and brutally insults every creature (including yourself) within 60 feet of it. Every creature in the affected area must make a DC 14 Wisdom saving throw or take 2d4 Psychic damage and have disadvantage on the next attack roll it makes before the end of its next turn. The voice leaves its most cutting insult for you and you take 4d4 Psychic damage if you fail the save.

One-Dimensional Shackles
"Wondrous" item, rare

You can use an action to places these shackles on an Incapacitated creature. The shackles adjust to fit a creature of Small to Large size. In addition to serving as mundane manacles, the shackles reduce the creature to its primary Personality Trait. Any other semblance of depth to the creature's identity is suppressed so long as the shackles remain.

You and any creature you designate when you use the shackles can use an action to remove them. Once every 30 days, the bound creature can make a DC 30 Strength (Athletics) check. On a success, the creature breaks free and destroys the shackles, regaining the rest of their personality.

Fish Scale Mail
Armor (scale mail), very rare (requires attunement)

Fish scale mail is made of the scales of a fish. Sometimes a fish loses its scales by bumping into something while swimming. Other times, fishermen carefully skin and preserve the hide of a dead fish. In either case, fish scale mail is very odd and makes one wonder what madman went through the trouble of making it.

While wearing this armor, you gain a -2 penalty to AC but have advantage on weapon attacks against aquatic creatures.

Additionally, you can focus your senses as an action to magically discern the distance and direction to the closest fish within 30 miles of you. This special action can’t be used again until the next dawn.

Rodent Slayer
Weapon (any sword), rare

You gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls made against rodents with this magic weapon.

When you hit a rodent with this weapon, the rodent takes an extra 10d6 damage of the weapon’s type. For the purpose of this weapon, “rodent” refers creatures like rats, mice, gerbils, hamsters, rabbits, ferrets, beavers, voles, chinchillas, and capybaras...oh, and also Wererats.

Dust of Dull Appearance
"Wondrous" item, uncommon

Found in a small packet, this powder resembles very fine sand. There is enough of it for one use. When you use an action to throw the dust into the air, you and each creature and object within 10 feet of you become incredibly dull looking for 2d4 minutes. Any armor or clothing transforms into beige linen, weapons become wooden and useless, and the color in the effected area becomes desaturated. The duration is the same for all subjects, and the dust is consumed when its magic takes effect. If a creature affected by the dust attacks or casts a spell, it is done in an incredibly lackluster manner.

Dust of Shyness
"Wondrous" item, uncommon

This small packet contains 1d6+4 pinches of dust. You can use an action to sprinkle a pinch of it over a creature, however in doing so the dust also touches you and you are affected by it. Both you and the creature become debilitatingly shy of one another for 10 minutes. During this time, neither of you can speak, look at, interact, or target the other with an attack or spell of any kind. At most you can make sheepish giggling or whimpering noises at one another.

Dust of Itching and Scratching
"Wondrous" item, uncommon

Found in a small container, this powder resembles very fine sand. There is enough of it for one use.

When you use an action to throw a handful of the dust into the air, you and each creature that has skin within 30 feet of you must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or become horrifically itchy. A creature affected in this way is Incapacitated and spends its turns hopelessly scratching at its skin. As long as it is conscious, a creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on it on a success. After the first failed save, the creature's scratching begins to cause open wounds, dealing 1d4 Piercing damage on the second failed save. This damage increases by 1d4 for each subsequent failed save after the second. The Lesser Restoration spell can also end the effect on a creature.

Dwarven Plate
Object (plate), rare

This large, ornate, and nigh-indestructible plate can be used to eat off of or perhaps decorate part of a wall. It can be used a shield.

Dwarf Driver
Weapon (warhammer), very rare (requires attunement by any creature other than a dwarf)

This warhammer of exotic construction features a particularly long and thin haft with a bulbous head on one end. Against any creature that is not a dwarf, it behaves as if it were a normal warhammer. However, if you succeed in making a two-handed melee attack against a dwarf, the dwarf must then make a DC 12 Strength saving throw or be launched 30 feet backwards.

If you use a bonus action to speak the command word "Fore!" before making this attack, the distance increases to 60 feet.


All for now, 'til next time!