Friday, August 31, 2018

Creature Loot: Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes E - F

This guy's on the cover of the book! He's D&D "famous"!
This week, we're covering two letters: E and F! Fortunately, there's a lot of similar loot here, with a lot of elementals. Due to a busy weekend, it's fortunate that this article came when it did!

As usual, don't forget to check out the index, get the PDFs of the previous creature loot articles, and let me know if you see any items that have typos or could be improved!

Eidolon (12) - undead (religion)
  • 4 Vials of Ectoplasm: No immediate use. Can be crafted (alchemist’s supplies) into a Potion of Invisibility or an Oil of Etherealness.
  • 2d4 Pinches of Spirit Dust: Acts as Dust of Disappearance.
  • 2 Eidolon Eyes: A creature holding the eye can activate it by spending a Cleric or Paladin spell slot. Each creature within 60 feet of the eye that can see it must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or be frightened of it for one minute. The DC for the saving throw is equal to 10 + the level of the spell slot expended. While frightened in this way, a creature must take the Dash action and move away from the eye by the safest available route at the start of each of its turns, unless there is nowhere for it to move, in which case the creature also becomes stunned until it can move again. A frightened target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success. Once used in this manner, the eye becomes nonmagical.

Sacred Statue (-) - construct (arcana)
  • 4d6 Hallowed Stones: Any number of stones can be carried by a single creature, but a creature can only be attuned to a single stone at a time. If a creature attuned to the stone is affected by a curse or possessed by a creature, the curse/possession targets the stone instead of the creature. The attunement immediately ends, and the stone loses the ability to attune to a new creature. If the stone becomes possessed by a creature, the creature can end its possession of the stone normally. Can be mastercrafted by a spellcaster (abjuration) into a pair of Dimensional Shackles.

Eladrin

Autumn Eladrin (10) - humanoid (survival)
  • 1 Autumn Longsword: Acts as a magical longsword that deals 2d8 psychic damage on a hit instead of its normal damage. If this damage would reduce a creature to 0 hit points, that creature is unconscious and stable.
  • 1 Autumn Longbow: Acts as a magical longbow that deals 2d8 psychic damage on a hit instead of its normal damage. If this damage would reduce a creature to 0 hit points, that creature is unconscious and stable.
  • 4d4 Strands of Hair from an Autumn Eladrin: A creature can wrap a wound with a strand to cast Cure Wounds on a creature. This breaks the strand. 10 unbroken strands can be mastercrafted (weaver's tools) into a bowstring. A creature struck by an arrow shot from a bow strung with this bowstring takes no damage and is subject to a Lesser Restoration spell.
  • 1 Set of Eladrin Armor: Acts as magical breastplate armor that requires attunement. An attuned creature can cast Misty Step as a bonus action. Once they have used this ability three times, it can't be used again until the next dawn.
  • 3d4 Autumn Eladrin Leaves: No immediate use. Can be mastercrafted (alchemist's supplies) into a Potion of Autumn Eladrin Essence. For 1 minute, any non-eladrin creature that starts its turn within 60 feet of the user must make a DC 16 Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the creature becomes charmed by the user for the duration of the potion's effect. On a successful save, the creature becomes immune to this effect for 24 hours. Whenever the user deals damage to the charmed creature, the creature can repeat the saving throw, ending the effect on itself on a success.

Spring Eladrin (10) - humanoid (survival)
  • 1 Spring Longsword: Acts as a magical longsword that deals 1d8 psychic damage on a hit instead of its normal damage. A creature struck by this weapon must succeed on a DC 16 Wisdom saving throw or be charmed by the wielder of the sword for 1 minute. The creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of their turn or whenever they take damage to end the effect.
  • 1 Spring Longbow: Acts as a magical longbow that deals 1d8 psychic damage on a hit instead of its normal damage. A creature struck by this weapon must succeed on a DC 16 Wisdom saving throw or be charmed by the wielder of the bow for 1 minute. The creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of their turn or whenever they take damage to end the effect.
  • 4d4 Strands of Hair from an Spring Eladrin: A creature can tie the string around the finger of a charmed, willing, or incapacitated creature while speaking to them to cast Suggestion (save DC 16) on the creature. The spell's duration is now as long as the hair remains tied around the creature' finger. Removing the strand breaks it. 10 unbroken strands can be mastercrafted (weaver's tools) into a bowstring. A creature struck by an arrow shot from a bow strung with this bowstring takes no damage and is subject to a Confusion (save DC 16) spell.
  • 1 Set of Eladrin Armor: Acts as magical breastplate armor that requires attunement. An attuned creature can cast Misty Step as a bonus action. Once they have used this ability three times, it can't be used again until the next dawn.
  • 3d4 Spring Eladrin Flowers: No immediate use. Can be mastercrafted (alchemist's supplies) into a Potion of Spring Eladrin Essence. For 1 minute, any non-eladrin creature that starts its turn within 60 feet of the user must make a DC 16 Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the creature becomes charmed by the user for the duration of the potion's effect. On a successful save, the creature becomes immune to this effect for 24 hours. Whenever the user deals damage to the charmed creature, it can repeat the saving throw, ending the effect on itself on a success.

Moods: Buying hot pockets, eating hot pockets, feeling bad about eating hot pockets.
Summer Eladrin (10) - humanoid (survival)
  • 1 Summer Longsword: Acts as a magical longsword that deals 2d8 fire damage on a hit instead of its normal damage. If this damage would reduce a creature to 0 hit points, that creature is instantly burnt to ashes.
  • 1 Summer Longbow: Acts as a magical longbow that deals 2d8 fire damage on a hit instead of its normal damage. If this damage would reduce a creature to 0 hit points, that creature is instantly burnt to ashes.
  • 4d4 Strands of Hair from an Summer Eladrin: A creature can wrap a strand around the hilt of a weapon. The next time the weapon would damage a creature, the attack automatically becomes a critical hit, and the strand breaks. 10 unbroken strands can be mastercrafted (weaver's tools) into a bowstring. A creature struck by an arrow shot from a bow strung with this bowstring takes no damage and has disadvantage on its next attack roll.
  • 1 Set of Eladrin Armor: Acts as magical breastplate armor that requires attunement. An attuned creature can cast Misty Step as a bonus action. Once they have used this ability three times, it can't be used again until the next dawn.
  • 3d4 Summer Eladrin Thistles: No immediate use. Can be mastercrafted (alchemist's supplies) into a Potion of Summer Eladrin Essence. For 1 minute, any non-eladrin creature that starts its turn within 60 feet of the user must make a DC 16 Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the creature becomes frightened of the user for the duration of the potion's effect. A creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success. If a creature's saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the creature is immune to this effect for the next 24 hours.

Winter Eladrin (10) - humanoid (survival)
  • 1 Winter Longsword: Acts as a magical longsword that deals no damage on a hit instead of its normal damage. Instead, when swung, the sword casts Gust of Wind in the direction of the attack. The spell lasts only for the duration of the wielder's turn.
  • 1 Winter Longbow: Acts as a magical longbow that deals no damage on a hit instead of its normal damage. Instead, when fired, the bow casts Gust of Wind in the direction of the attack. The spell lasts only for the duration of the wielder's turn.
  • 4d4 Strands of Hair from an Winter Eladrin: A creature can break a strand to cast Fog Cloud centered on themselves. 10 unbroken strands can be mastercrafted (weaver's tools) into a bowstring. A creature struck by an arrow shot from a bow strung with this bowstring takes no damage, but must succeed on a DC 16 Constitution saving throw or take 11 (2d10) cold damage.
  • 1 Set of Eladrin Armor: Acts as magical breastplate armor that requires attunement. An attuned creature can cast Misty Step as a bonus action. Once they have used this ability three times, it can't be used again until the next dawn.
  • 3d4 Winter Eladrin Pine Needles: No immediate use. Can be mastercrafted (alchemist's supplies) into a Potion of Winter Eladrin Essence. For 1 minute, any non-eladrin creature that starts its turn within 60 feet of the user must make a DC 13 Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the creature becomes charmed by the user for the duration of the potion's effect. While charmed in this way, the creature has disadvantage on ability checks and saving throws. The charmed creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success. If a creature's saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the creature is immune to this effect for the next 24 hours. Whenever the user deals damage to the charmed creature, it can repeat the saving throw, ending the effect on itself on a success.

Elder Elementals

Leviathan (20) - elemental (arcana)
  • 10d2 Motes of Elemental Water: Appears as a small shard of ice that glows with blue light. If covered in water or dropped in water, casts Create Water, centered on the mote. Can be used as the material component of a Commune spell to contact a deity in the Elemental Plane of Water. Using either of these abilities destroys the mote.
  • 4 Hearts of Waves: Identical to a Mote of Elemental Water, and can be used for the same purposes. In addition to its other properties, it can be mastercrafted (conjuration) by a spellcaster into a portal to the Elemental Plane of Water. The portal is stationary in the location it is crafted.
  • 2d6 Vial of Sea Foam: Appears to be normal foam, can be detected by magic or if a search is performed to look for sea foam. Can be used as the material component of a Conjure Elemental spell, which has its casting time reduced to 1 action but can only summon Water Elementals.
  • 1 Elder Heart of Water: Appears as a large hunk of glowing ice. If placed in a body of water, it re-forms into the Leviathan in 1d4 hours. The ice is incredibly cold , dealing 21 (6d6) ice damage to any creature that touches it, though no more than once per round. A creature touching the heart can use an action to create a Gate, as per the spell. The gate can lead to anywhere in the elemental plane of water. It cannot draw creatures into it, but it is able to appear in areas within the plane that would normally be denied by a ruler of a deity or planar ruler. Once this power is used, it can't be used again for 7 days. The heart can only be destroyed by bringing it to the elemental plane of fire and allowing it to melt.
  • 2d6 Leviathan Scales: Acts as a shield that requires attunement. An attuned creature gains resistance to acid and poison damage. An attuned creature can use their action while submerged in water to cast Tidal Wave (XGtE pg. 168, save DC 15). Once the spell is cast, it can't be cast again until the next dawn.
  • 1d10 Leviathan Fangs: Acts as a magical longsword that deals double damage to objects and structures. On a hit, both the target and the wielder take 1d10 acid damage (in addition to any other damage the target would take). 

Talk about coming back to bite you!
Phoenix (16) - elemental (arcana)
  • 10d2 Motes of Elemental Fire: Appears as a rock that glows dimly. If dropped into an open flame, casts Faerie Fire centered on the mote. Can be used as the material component of a Commune spell to contact a deity in the Elemental Plane of Fire. Using either of these abilities destroys the mote.
  • 2 Hearts of Flame: Identical to a Mote of Elemental Fire, and can be used for the same purposes. In addition to its other properties, it can be mastercrafted (conjuration) by a spellcaster into a portal to the Elemental Plane of Fire. The portal is stationary in the location it is crafted.
  • 2d6 Puffs of Smoke: Appears to be normal smoke, can be detected by magic or if a search is performed to look for a wisp of smoke that does not dissipate. Can be used as the material component of a Conjure Elemental spell, which has its casting time reduced to 1 action but can only summon Fire Elementals.
  • 1 Elder Heart of Fire: Appears as an egg-shaped cinder. If placed in a bonfire, it re-forms into the Phoenix in 1d4 hours. Otherwise, it re-forms into the Phoenix in 1d6 days. The cinder is blazing hot, dealing 21 (6d6) fire damage to any creature that touches it, though no more than once per round. A creature touching the heart can use an action to create a Gate, as per the spell. The gate can lead to anywhere in the elemental plane of fire. It cannot draw creatures into it, but it is able to appear in areas within the plane that would normally be denied by a ruler of a deity or planar ruler. Once this power is used, it can't be used again for 7 days. The heart can only be destroyed by bringing it to the elemental plane of water and allowing it to fizzle out.
  • 1d10 Phoenix Feathers: No immediate use. Can be mastercrafted by a spellcaster (transmutation) into Phoenix Leather Armor, which requires attunement. An attuned creature gains resistance to fire and poison damage. An attuned creature can use its action to cast Gaseous Form, but the form is fiery rather than gaseous. Any creature that touches or enters the space of the fiery form takes 1d10 fire damage, though no more than once per round. While in this form, a creature gains immunity to fire damage. Once the spell is cast in this way, it can't be cast again until the next dawn.
  • 1d8 Phoenix Claws: Acts as a magical shortsword that deals double damage to objects and structures. On a hit, both the target and the wielder take 1d10 fire damage (in addition to any other damage the target would take). 

Elder Tempest (23) - elemental (arcana)
  • 10d2 Motes of Elemental Air: Appears as a tiny puff of cloud. If held in the hand and blown upon, casts Fog Cloud centered on the mote. Can be used as the material component of a Commune spell to contact a deity in the Elemental Plane of Air. Using either of these abilities destroys the mote.
  • 4 Hearts of Wind: Identical to a Mote of Elemental Air, and can be used for the same purposes. In addition to its other properties, it can be mastercrafted (conjuration) by a spellcaster into a portal to the Elemental Plane of Air. The portal is stationary in the location it is crafted.
  • 2d6 Gusts of Warm Breeze: Invisible to the eye, can be detected by magic or if a search is performed to look for a small area where wind seems to blow from nowhere. Can be used as the material component of a Conjure Elemental spell, which has its casting time reduced to 1 action but can only summon Air Elementals.
  • 1 Elder Heart of Air: Appears as a large ball of pulsing electricity. If placed in the area of a cloud, it re-forms into the Elder Tempest in 1d4 hours. The ball is made of pure energy, dealing 21 (6d6) lightning damage to any creature that touches it, though no more than once per round. A creature touching the heart can use an action to create a Gate, as per the spell. The gate can lead to anywhere in the elemental plane of air. It cannot draw creatures into it, but it is able to appear in areas within the plane that would normally be denied by a ruler of a deity or planar ruler. Once this power is used, it can't be used again for 7 days. The heart can only be destroyed by bringing it to the elemental plane of earth and letting the energy dissipate into the ground.
  • 3d4 Elder Tempest Feathers: No immediate use. Can be mastercrafted by a spellcaster (transmutation) into Tempest Leather Armor, which requires attunement. An attuned creature gains resistance to lightning and poison damage. An attuned creature can use their action while outdoors to cast Call Lightning (save DC 15). Once the spell is cast, it can't be cast again until the next dawn.
  • 3d6 Elder Tempest Fangs: Acts as a magical longsword that deals double damage to objects and structures. On a hit, both the target and the wielder take 1d10 lightning damage (in addition to any other damage the target would take). 

Zaratan (22) - elemental (arcana)
  • 10d2 Motes of Elemental Earth: Appears as a rock that glows dimly. If dropped or thrown to the ground as an improvised weapon, the ground becomes mud as if it had cast Grease centered on the mote. Can be used as the material component of a Commune spell to contact a deity in the Elemental Plane of Earth. Using either of these abilities destroys the mote.
  • 4 Hearts of Stone: Identical to a Mote of Elemental Earth, and can be used for the same purposes. In addition to its other properties, it can be mastercrafted (conjuration) by a spellcaster into a portal to the Elemental Plane of Earth. The portal is stationary in the location it is crafted.
  • 2d6 Vials of Crystalline Powder: Appears to be normal gems, can be detected by magic or if a search is performed to look for gems that shift like liquid. Can be used as the material component of a Conjure Elemental spell, which has its casting time reduced to 1 action but can only summon Earth Elementals.
  • 1 Elder Heart of Stone: Appears as a large glowing gemstone. If placed underground, it re-forms into the Zaratan in 1d4 hours. A creature touching the heart can use an action to create a Gate, as per the spell. The gate can lead to anywhere in the elemental plane of earth. It cannot draw creatures into it, but it is able to appear in areas within the plane that would normally be denied by a ruler of a deity or planar ruler. Once this power is used, it can't be used again for 7 days. The heart can only be destroyed by bringing it to the elemental plane of air and dropping it into the endless expanse.
  • 3d8 Zaratan Scales: Acts as a shield that requires attunement. An attuned creature gains resistance to thunder and poison damage. An attuned creature can use their action while in contact with the ground to cast Erupting Earth (XGtE pg. 155, save DC 15). Once the spell is cast, it can't be cast again until the next dawn.
  • 2d4 Zaratan Claws: Acts as a magical shortsword that deals double damage to objects and structures. On a hit, both the target and the wielder take 1d10 thunder damage (in addition to any other damage the target would take). 
Just tell them it's a Torterra

Elemental Myrmidons

Air Elemental Myrmidon (7) - elemental (arcana)
  • 1 Set of Air Elemental Plate Armor: Requires attunement. Acts as Plate Armor of Lightning Resistance, but an attuned creature can also speak, read, and write Auran.
  • 1 Flail of Elemental Air: Acts as a magical flail. On a hit, the wielder of the flail can choose to make a Lightning Strike. The target takes 4d8 additional lightning damage, and must succeed on a DC 12 Constitution saving throw or be stunned until the end of the wielder's next turn. Once used, the Lightning Strike cannot be used again until the next dawn.
  • 3d2 Motes of Elemental Air: Appears as a tiny puff of cloud. If held in the hand and blown upon, casts Fog Cloud centered on the mote. Can be used as the material component of a Commune spell to contact a deity in the Elemental Plane of Air. Using either of these abilities destroys the mote.
  • 1 Heart of Wind: Identical to a Mote of Elemental Air, and can be used for the same purposes. In addition to its other properties, it can be mastercrafted (conjuration) by a spellcaster into a portal to the Elemental Plane of Air. The portal is stationary in the location it is crafted.
  • 1 Gust of Warm Breeze: Invisible to the eye, can be detected by magic or if a search is performed to look for a small area where wind seems to blow from nowhere. Can be used as the material component of a Conjure Elemental spell, which has its casting time reduced to 1 action but can only summon Air Elementals.

Earth Elemental Myrmidon (7) - elemental (arcana)
  • 1 Set of Earth Elemental Plate Armor: Requires attunement. Acts as Plate Armor of Poison Resistance, but an attuned creature can also speak, read, and write Terran.
  • 1 Maul of Elemental Earth: Acts as a magical maul. On a hit, the wielder of the maul can choose to make a Thunderous Strike. The target takes 3d10 additional thunder damage, and must succeed on a DC 14 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone. Once used, the Lightning Strike cannot be used again until the next dawn.
  • 3d2 Motes of Elemental Earth: Appears as a rock that glows dimly. If dropped or thrown to the ground as an improvised weapon, the ground becomes mud as if it had cast Grease centered on the mote. Can be used as the material component of a Commune spell to contact a deity in the Elemental Plane of Earth. Using either of these abilities destroys the mote.
  • 1 Heart of Stone: Identical to a Mote of Elemental Earth, and can be used for the same purposes. In addition to its other properties, it can be mastercrafted (conjuration) by a spellcaster into a portal to the Elemental Plane of Earth. The portal is stationary in the location it is crafted.
  • 1 Vial of Crystalline Powder: Appears to be normal gems, can be detected by magic or if a search is performed to look for gems that shift like liquid. Can be used as the material component of a Conjure Elemental spell, which has its casting time reduced to 1 action but can only summon Earth Elementals.

Fire Elemental Myrmidon (7) - elemental (arcana)
  • 1 Set of Fire Elemental Plate Armor: Requires attunement. Acts as Plate Armor of Fire Resistance, but an attuned creature can also speak, read, and write Ignan.
  • 2 Scimitars of Elemental Fire: Acts as a magical scimitar. On a hit, the wielder of the scimitar can choose to make a Fiery Strike. The target takes 1d10 additional fire damage. Once used, the Fiery Strike cannot be used again until the next dawn.
  • 3d2 Motes of Elemental Fire: Appears as a rock that glows dimly. If dropped into an open flame, casts Faerie Fire centered on the mote. Can be used as the material component of a Commune spell to contact a deity in the Elemental Plane of Fire. Using either of these abilities destroys the mote.
  • 1 Heart of Flame: Identical to a Mote of Elemental Fire, and can be used for the same purposes. In addition to its other properties, it can be mastercrafted (conjuration) by a spellcaster into a portal to the Elemental Plane of Fire. The portal is stationary in the location it is crafted.
  • 1 Puff of Smoke: Appears to be normal smoke, can be detected by magic or if a search is performed to look for a wisp of smoke that does not dissipate. Can be used as the material component of a Conjure Elemental spell, which has its casting time reduced to 1 action but can only summon Fire Elementals.

Water Elemental Myrmidon (7) - elemental (arcana)
  • 1 Set of Water Elemental Plate Armor: Requires attunement. Acts as Plate Armor of Acid Resistance, but an attuned creature can also speak, read, and write Aquan.
  • 1 Trident of Elemental Water: Acts as a magical trident. On a hit, the wielder of the trident can choose to make a Freezing Strike. The target takes 1d10 additional cold damage, and must has its speed reduced by 10 feet until the end of the wielder's next turn. Once used, the Freezing Strike cannot be used again until the next dawn.
  • 3d2 Motes of Elemental Water: Appears as a small shard of ice that glows with blue light. If covered in water or dropped in water, casts Create Water, centered on the mote. Can be used as the material component of a Commune spell to contact a deity in the Elemental Plane of Water. Using either of these abilities destroys the mote.
  • 1 Heart of Water: Identical to a Mote of Elemental Water, and can be used for the same purposes. In addition to its other properties, it can be mastercrafted (conjuration) by a spellcaster into a portal to the Elemental Plane of Water. The portal is stationary in the location it is crafted.
  • 1 Vial of Sea Foam: Appears to be normal foam, can be detected by magic or if a search is performed to look for sea foam. Can be used as the material component of a Conjure Elemental spell, which has its casting time reduced to 1 action but can only summon Water Elementals.

And that's all! Next time, we'll dig through quite a few letters. Look forward to it!

Lots of cool monsters, and also.... this thing...
Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Innate Magic People Part 9

This week's artist is Astri Lohne from Norway. She's absolutely fantastic, as you'll see.
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.

These NPCs form an ongoing set of articlesThis is the ninth in this series, and the continuation of the sixth level spells. At this point, the power of these NPCs can shape the cities and countries around them. One of these people might be the reason for an entire campaign's worth of intrigue, combat, or exploration.

Seraina Kyhm
Spell: Guards and Wards (PHB pg. 246)
The name Seraina was unknown by most of the world, until one foggy night in the city of Trakura. That night, the fog was so thick that people couldn’t find their way anywhere, and they heard a strange message whispered on the wind: “This is the will of Seraina”. The fog remained the next day and the day after, and more people became hopelessly lost within it. They stayed home as long as they could, but hunger and loneliness drove them out into the foggy streets, and to their doom, wandering the hollow city, screaming for help. The cacophony drowned out all other noise, and people cursed Seraina, the only name they knew to curse.

Eventually, even the queen’s stores ran dry, and the royal throne was taken by Seraina Kyhm, a mysterious woman of ambiguous race who claimed to be the creator of the fog. She lifted the curse, and warned the citizens that it would return if they disobeyed her. Happy to eat and see the sky, the people submitted to Seraina’s rule, despite cursing her name days before. They drove the queen into hiding, effectively enforcing one of the shortest and least violent coups in the history of the world. Now, the citizens comply with their new queen’s rule, in fear she will bring back the dark days of fog and madness.

Outbreak
Spell: Harm (PHB pg. 249)
Wandering from city to city, the masked plague-bearer Outbreak has been the subject of unbridled fear and hatred. Those who approach him are wracked with terrible pain, making him untouchable by the guards of every city. But even worse are the hacking coughs, the festering boils, and the incurable fevers that infect every person in the city. After those who remain untainted flee their homes, the city dies an anemic death.

Those who escape from the plague tells the stories of the strange figure, calling him a monster, demigod, or something not of this world. People in other cities have begun to lay out altars, make sacrifices, and leave offerings in hopes that the strange figure would not visit their city. No one yet knows the masked figure's identity or goals, and the leadership of the country is desperately trying to find out.

Serek Azolov
Spell: Heal (PHB pg. 250)
Wizards have said that with a long enough lever, one stone can topple the world. Well, General Serek Azolov is that lever, and his Platinum Battalion is the stone. As long as they are with their leader, they cannot be harmed, and continue to fight until the entirety of their foes have fallen. They cannot be starved, and fight through the walls of the castles that oppose them. They cannot die, and they are slowly slaying all those who dare to stand against them.

This is worrying news for the king of Flabronn, Saul Sanz. His nation has stood at the pinnacle of power for centuries on the continent, and his rule was widely respected. But now General Azolov is approaching, and King Saul must find a way to stop him. The people support their king, but rumors fly about the unstoppable general and what he is like. Some say he deserves to take control, since he was blessed by the Gods. Others, the king included, simply can't trust a man who slaughters anyone in his way.

Come on, it's just a little bit of fire...
Utsumi Soma
Spell: Heroes' Feast (PHB pg. 250)
The generals of the country of Swe Shax are known for their incredible fighting ability, mighty stature, and forceful personalities. But behind them stands the true source of their power: years of the magical “Heavenly Cuisine” created by the King’s Military Chef Utsumi Soma. The meals provide those who eat them with incredible power, and years of eating them has caused some of the mightiest fighters in the world to emerge from Swe Shax. Soraya the Brutal, Tai the Destroyer, Romuli the Just, and Mountain Man Miroko, to name a few. Each of them stands as a powerful guardian to their king, and the true source of their power is a secret they keep well-guarded.

However, recently the identify of Chef Soma was obtained by a spy from the country of Tilayra. Tilayra and Swe Shax were notorious rivals, with the large lake between them being the only thing that kept them from exploding into outright war. With this information about the secret of Swe Shax’s legendary generals, a group of spies from Tilayra managed to kidnap the Chef while the king and generals were participating in a local parade. War is brewing, and the queen of Tilayra is trying to force Chef Soma to produce the Heavenly Cuisine for her own warriors.

Maazin bin Awadi
Spell: Investiture of Flame (XGtE pg. 159)
Those who travel through the Sanki sea know not to get to close to Calcona island. Situated in the center of the massive body of water, boats have been known to mysteriously catch fire there, sinking them and leaving the crew stranded. Some say there is a natural explanation for this phenomenon, others believe the God's have something they are protecting on that island. Either way, it's common practice to take a longer route, rather than risk losing cargo and lives to the fickle spirits.

The truth of Calcona island is just as fantastic as the rumors, but perhaps if sailors knew it they might do something about it. Monk master Maazin bin Awadi, the Phoenix-touched, uses the island for his meditation and training. He has notified several monasteries that any student who is able to swim from the mainland can study with him, hence his dislike of ships. His fiery power is said to come from the legendary bird of flames, the undying Phoenix. And much like the bird, Maazin refuses to die. His challenge has stood for decades, and only a chosen few have actually survived the journey.

Hijau binti Muda
Spell: Investiture of Ice (XGtE pg. 159)
Those who wander the Chabalt mountains know to never attempt to climb Parsang peak. Located at the highest point on the mountain range, the thin air and freezing temperatures would be bad enough, but the wolves that prowl its slopes make the climb simply suicide. Oddly, the wolves only attack those wearing protective gear or carrying food, making those who survive their attacks claim that the Gods do not wish for the civilized world to see whatever lies atop that mountain.

The truth of Parsang peak is much simpler. Monk master Hijau binti Muda, the Winter Wolf-touched, uses the peak as a home to practice meditation and training. She has notified several monasteries that any student who can make it to the top of the mountain without gear or food can study with her, hence why she orders her beasts to set upon those who carry provisions. Her icy power is said to come from the God of Winter Wolves, Otsoa. And much like Otsoa, Hijau controls the winds that whip around her mountain home, meaning only a chosen few have survived the journey.

Kamis bin Naazim
Spell: Investiture of Stone (XGtE pg. 159)
Those who pass through the Byahuba jungle might have caught a glimpse of the Marnau pitfall, the largest waterfall in the area. It plummets down a pit into inky darkness, coating the smooth stone walls with slick algae and water. The sides of the pit are unnaturally smooth, causing explorers to guess that they were formed by some godly or magical phenomenon. Actually venturing into the pit is nearly impossible, and those who attempt it more often than not end up falling to their deaths deep below.

The truth of Marnau pitfall has to do with the man who sits at the bottom of it. Monk master Kamis bin Naazim, the Stone Giant-touched, uses the waterfall to meditate, sitting under the torrential falls and clearing his mind of all distractions. He has notified several monasteries that any student who can scale the walls of the pit can study with him, walls which he has personally shaped to be smooth and without footholds. His ability to manipulate stone mimics that of the Stone Giants, with whom he also shares a love of art and an unnaturally long life. The algae on the walls was an unintended challenge, but Kamis has not cleared the algae, meaning only a chosen few can survive the descent.

Sayang binti Bestari
Spell: Investiture of Wind (XGtE pg. 160)
Those who come across the Savane desert may have experienced its terrible heat and howling winds, which stretch on as far as the eye can see. They carry on so far, in fact, that nobody has reached the other side of it and returned. Stories of endless dunes, howling winds, and monstrous creatures prevent anyone from getting too far. That is, if they don’t get lost among the sands in the first place. The wind causes the dunes to shift and evade any magical or mundane attempt to navigate the vast expanse.

The truth of the shifting sands of the Savane desert is that they are controlled by a single woman. Monk master Sayang binti Bestari, the Roc-touched, meditates in the center of the desert, using heat and starvation to accentuate her powers. She has notified monasteries that any student who is able to find her in the bewildering desert can study with her. Her power of the winds is said to be as powerful as the beating of a Roc’s wings, and she is rumored to even have the power of flight. And the wind of her “wings” causes the sands to ever shift, meaning only a chosen few have actually found her and learned her secrets.

Gregor Haspel
Spell: Magic Jar (PHB pg. 257)
High atop mount Acyra in the abandoned castle Cardell, a mysterious figure has been said to lurk. They called him a lich, a soul-stealer, a reaper. Those who stumbled across his lair might have learned his real name, Gregor Haspel, before they disappeared. But they all disappeared. Over the years, the castle became the source of terrible stories, and only the brave and foolish dared enter. However, none ever returned. Every one had their soul taken from them and sealed within a large gemstone suspended from the ceiling of the manor’s entry hall.

After many years, the bodies of Gregor’s victims rotted away to nothing, leaving only their spirits. These souls, ripped violently from the natural cycle, became wraiths and specters in the service of their reaper king. Thus, an undead army of epic proportions was born, and Gregor swept down into the unsuspecting city of Volsini. The guards had no way to react to the wave of undeath that overtook their gates, and within a day the city had fallen. Now, his identity revealed, the reaper Gregor plans to continue his wave of conquest across the land.

You can always tell the evil ones by the giant glowing scythes
Queen Saanvi Riyong
Spell: Mass Suggestion (PHB pg. 258)
The city of Kroisis is a perfectly happy, friendly city. Everyone works perfectly together, and nobody fights or grumbles. There are no beggars, no orphans, and there is warm food and a place to sleep for everyone. The city might well be a paradise, but those who visit always feel something is slightly off. The long-term residents seem bothered by something, always hiding their emotions or remaining silent on actions taken against them. And when outsiders try to take advantage of the city’s kindness or make off with their valuables, the citizens of the city cheerfully murder them and sing working songs as they wash the blood from the streets. Their singing is always perfectly in time.

Though it’s not the strangest part of the city, it’s also odd that nobody is allowed to see Queen Saanvi the Fair. She remains up in her tower, whispering the strange magic that keeps every citizen in perfect lock-step. Her control is exceedingly fine, and she has exact power over every commoner. But many silently resent their slavish servitude. Despite being fed and cared for, they silently rebel in their heads, unable to express themselves or fight back against the tyrant in the tower.

Palmira Agron
Spell: Move Earth (PHB pg. 263)
The Eternal Oasis is said to be the world’s best-kept secret. Home of the travelling Vulture Rider Tribe, it is a massive cornucopia of water, trees, fruit, and animals in the center of the massive Safran Desert. The Vulture Rider Tribe is careful to protect its location, as it is the source of their valuable trading stores. Without it, they would lose their livelihood and their homes. Fortunately, the chieftain of the tribe is chosen from a person born with a special gift: the power to manipulate the sands around the oasis and form a dune barrier that stops anyone from finding their location. Each generation, the high walls of the oasis are maintained by the new chieftain, and the lives of the Vulture Rider Tribe are preserved.

However, recently the barbarians of the Cregio Empire captured members of the Vulture Rider Tribe and forced them to reveal the location of the oasis. The steep dunes are impassable by the Empire’s horses, and so far they have been unable to breach the barrier in any meaningful numbers. But reinforcements are on the way, and the people of the Vulture Rider Tribe need help. More help than the young and newly-crowned Chieftainess Palmira Agron can provide.

Thomas Cellier
Spell: Mental Prison (XGtE pg. 161)
What does a king do when he has a civilian who threatens to bind those who oppose him with his mind, and nobody can stop the maniac? Well, the first thing King Garnot did was to order a Ring of Mind Shielding made. The next was to hire Thomas Cellier as his personal torturer and jailer. It's always better to turn those destructive urges towards productive measures. Before long, Thomas became the King's most feared servant. Tales of terrible prison cells made of blades and teeth made their way through the ranks of the underworld, and many criminal bosses packed up and left town. For a time, crime was down and people were ready to accept Thomas as a necessary deterrent in their society.

But the loyalty of a maniac is only as good as his reward. Soon, a large criminal syndicate reached out to Thomas, offering him great power and wealth for his services. Since crime had gone down, he had become bored in his current position, anyway. Thomas is considering the offer, but the final obstacle is King Garnot's ring. If that could be stolen, there would be nothing stopping the Blackflame syndicate from ruling as they pleased.

"Loves long walks on the beach and healing dragons"
Asuryn Lahmasath
Spell: Otiluke's Freezing Sphere (PHB pg. 263)
Things are not quiet in the far reaches of the North Marring Sea. The Triton clan of Novuos has recently ostracized the “Ice Witch”, a girl named Asuryn Lahmasath born with the ability to freeze water with a touch. Living underwater, the girl was a constant threat to those around her, and the clan council decided she had to go. The Tritons made sure she had supplies and shelter, but there was nothing that could stop the hate of abandonment that grew in her heart. She left her home and family, resentful of the clan that would so easily discard her.

Since then, a few years passed before the Novuos clan began to be plagued by disappearances. Those who ventured too close to the Arctic shore would vanish, and the edges of the ice seemed to be creeping closer every day. Rumors quickly rose again of the Ice Witch, and the clan is torn between fighting her and moving south. But how dangerous could a single little girl be…?

Carson Keroux
Spell: Otto's Irresistible Dance (PHB pg. 264)
Carson Keroux has always enjoyed the finer things in life. More than enough money, fine men and ladies, and perfect performances from the talented dance troupe that he owns and runs. Ever since he was young, Carson had the ability to make things dance, and dance well. The perfect execution of a pirouette was one of his favorite things to master, and then master it through someone else.

The Keroux Dance Extraordinaire has been travelling throughout the continent of Escar, going everywhere from Escario to Uplain. The journey has been over many hundreds of miles without rest for the dancers, and morale keeps dropping, much to Carson’s chagrin. Three nights ago, his leading couple, Jibram Bhasso and Anastasia Yurinova disappeared without so much as a trace. Carson needs to track them down and get back on the schedule, as the next city is the famous City of Enchantment, Khoma.

Jira Kholisi
Spell: Planar Ally (PHB pg. 265)
Only Jira Kholisi knows how many hours it has been since the looping time started. Her day began normally, she made breakfast for herself, washed up, and left for work at the shop. She planned on surprising her fiancĂ© for lunch with some tasty homemade food, but that’s when everything went askew. Zamik Komani was leaving his mining shift for lunch with his betrothed as a nearby mages’ tower exploded, triggering the mine elevator to shudder and drop, killing him instantly.

Jira was horrified at the sight of her husband-to-be dying in front of her eyes. Though she had never sued magic before, she instinctively summoned Saeclum, a time elemental, to repeat this hour until she was able to save Zamik from this terrible fate. No matter what decisions she makes, she still hasn’t figured out how to save her love. At this point, she is willing to trade her life for his, if anyone can help her save her beloved.

Huran Borsh
Spell: Primordial Ward (XGtE pg. 163)
Dragons are not scared of many things, usually being the largest and most terrifying of creatures around. Those dragons who have heard of Huran Borsh do generally have a tickle of unease, especially if he is rumored to be in the area. The infamous half-orc dragon hunter has been collecting different colored dragon hides for years now, and as he has grown, so has his skill and the size of his prey.

Shivei the Calm, an ancient gold dragon that has monitored Huran’s progress, is starting to worry that Huran will be looking for ancient dragon hides and skulls for his collection. For some reason, Huran seems to not be harmed as much as normal humanoids when the dragons attacked with their breath weapons. Shivei thinks that calling a dragon council to discuss her findings on this threat is relevant, and needs to find the members of the Council of Dragons before Huran does.

For when you have to slay in every sense of the word
Bianca Rosethorn
Spell: Programmed Illusion (PHB pg. 269)
Bianca Rosethorn has a conqueror’s heart. She desires to conquer the entire continent of Rabalos, and everyone in it. This desire has fueled her passion to travel to every country, using her illusions to worm her way into the hearts and minds of everyone she encounters, recruiting them as followers. She also utilizes this ability to hide the army that she has amassed, and deceive her new targets wherever she travels.

Because of this miraculous ability, rumors of an illusory demon have been passing from town to town, but they are not necessarily inaccurate. The treatment that her troops receive under her rule is less than grand, and resources are starting to be stretched too thin. The soldiers are beginning to resemble demons in their desperation, and perhaps their appearances as well. Bianca needs her next conquest to deliver wealth, resources, and maybe even a relaxing place to rest for a while.

Davin “Nice Guy” Porteus
Spell: Scatter (XGtE pg. 164)
The Silent Tiger Gang has gotten very good at disappearing after a heist, all thanks to the new guy. Davin is really good at getting friends out of sticky situations and tight corners. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time, and can get transport fellow gang members in a flash. Davin knows he has to pay his dues, but he’s looking to move up ranks. As his ability is becoming more well known, he’s beginning to be scouted by rival gangs with better offers on the table.

The best offer yet has been made by the Demonriders, the top Silent Tiger rival in the city of Swoah Grary. The Demonriders’ really know how to hurt, but are extremely impressed with the Nice Guy and his teleportation skills. The Head of the Demonriders’, Elena “The Butcher” Cimino wants to offer Davin a seat at the grownup table, with some coin to sweeten the deal. Davin needs to figure out where his loyalties lie, and quickly. 

Bisatra Vawarin
Spell: Soul Cage (XGtE pg. 165)
Many elves pursue knowledge throughout their lifetimes, and Bisatra Vawarin is no exception. She collects souls in an attempt to create the most accurate historical accounts of the past that she can. Many of the souls she has collected are very knowledgeable, and some even have outlier experiences that provide insight she could not imagine before she began her studies.

But recently, a childhood rival, Luran Zumyarus, is in awe of Bisatra’s power and knowledgeable soul collection, and wants to stop her, or at least slow her down. They are trying to interfere with her soul gathering and prevent her from receiving accolades that Bisatra would like to achieve. Though inadvertently, Bisatra is setting back the pursuit of knowledge by centuries or more, and must be stopped.

Ciro Mentari
Spell: Sunbeam (PHB pg. 279)
The sun is worshiped in Oskaeca, and when Queen Ize Mentari gave birth to a son that glowed, the country rejoiced. Young prince Ciro Mentari was said to be touched by the gods, and since his birth the country has prospered greatly. There have been some neighboring countries that are jealous of Oskaeca’s wealth of good crops and fortune, and have been trying to steal The Sunlight Prince from Oskaeca.

However, every time these unknown assailants try to kidnap the prince, their burnt remains are found by the crib, with large holes through the walls. Queen Ize knows that even though her son has been blessed with great power, these would-be kidnappers must be eradicated to ensure the Prince’s safety.

The eyebrow game is strong with this one
Zoraya Twain
Spell: Tenser's Transformation (XGtE pg. 168)
Spotty memory has been a problem in Zoraya’s life for many years. When she has lost consciousness, she has woken up in places she has never been before, while sometimes things are completely destroyed around her. The most recent incident was when she was visiting marketplace to pick up some fresh produce and was rudely interrupted by a group of Twisted Spiders, a gang that runs the streets of Fastor. Zoraya doesn’t remember what happened but when she came around the thugs were on the ground dead or bleeding badly.

Zoraya is starting to think that she may be splitting while a demon takes over her body, and she wants to find someone to help control the demon. She can only imagine what would happen if the demon comes out the next time if she is with someone she cares about. 

Ross Moran
Spell: Transport via Plants (PHB pg. 283)
The city of Cobril has never been so full of nature, with animals of all stripes arriving in droves ever since Ross Moran moved there. Birds of various colors and rarity flock to rooftops, and fly through the marketplaces. Herds of deer scavenge for food in the parks and green spaces, while raccoons find treasure from trash. Ross has the unexpected ability to bring animals to the city that usually don’t live there, but it gets scarier when large beasts like elephants or tigers move through normal city streets and terrorize the town square.

This quiet man is struggling to contain the power that has people nervous about their next creature encounter. Unfortunately, if one more group of Owlbears enters the formerly peaceful city, he believes someone will finally notice who is accidentally bringing the wildlife into Colbril, and he doesn’t want any more trouble on his hands.

Kioni Messier
Spell: True Seeing (PHB pg. 284)
Kioni Messier has been seeing too much for someone her age. That’s why Kioni has commissioned a very special castle to retire to, so she can remain there in peace and quiet without any snoopers or, ethereal forbid, nosy people. The castle that is almost finished and has seemingly has no doors and no windows, but Kioni knows she will be able to get around through the many secret doors just fine.

The head guard in the country of Xustad, Sasha Alvarez, is very concerned about the state of affairs Kioni is leaving them in. Kioni is the head Demon finder in the service, and the influx of demons has been on the rise of Xustad. Sasha desperately needs Kioni to help find the demons, and to stop them from entering their usually peaceful country.

When it comes to guns, size matters
Aglakti Higalik
Spell: Wall of Ice (PHB pg. 285)
Most people would be forgiven for not recognizing the name Higalik. Most people aren’t, after all a silver dragon. The Higalik family are the foremost caretakers of silver dragon eggs, a job with plenty of dangers and fantastic pay. Using their familial ice entombment, they keeps the eggs nice and cold while the silver dragons go about their merry way. Many silver dragons love exploring the world, and the thought of settling down for even a moment is unbearable to them. Thus, Aglakti’s services have become somewhat famous among the scaled beasts.

However, word of Aglakti’s existence has slipped through the teeth of a silver dragon, and now a red dragon is aware of the location of hundreds of silver dragon eggs. His name is Szidrisan, and he dares not attack directly due to threat of retaliation from the silver dragons. But he certainly isn’t above threats and intimidation, and is plotting to try to find a black sheep among the Higalik family that will turn against them. So far, his quest has been unsuccessful, but death threats have a way of making people pliable and willing to cooperate. The family is holding out, but they’re not sure how much longer it will be until someone breaks and gives in to Szidrisan’s demands.

Lukian Ralojor
Spell: Wall of Thorns (PHB pg. 287)
Lukian Ralojor has loved the forest city of Borra Lalt for many a human lifetime. He is the main defender of the city from the impossible, like the invasion of the Dull Teeth, the orc clans of the south, or the slight misunderstanding from the brontosaurus’ from the plains in the northeast. Lukian just adjusts the thorn walls around the city and defends his home with all his power.

Most recently, an ancient green dragon has been making passes at Borra Lalt effectively terrorizing the calm people living there in peace, but Lukian knows can only raise the walls so high. He knows that if help does not come soon, he will start losing friends in the city to the dragon to become snacks.

That's all for now! Next week, we'll do the last couple sixth-level spells and do all of the the seventh-level spells. We're getting awfully close to the big stuff!

As usual, also go support this awesome artist!
Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Monday Recap: Guest DM in the Valley of the Lords

I can show you the world...
Well, it's the last week of my Valley of the Lords reference articles. Next week, I will be taking Monday off due to my wife and I moving into a new apartment over the weekend. That and Labor Day make this a long but hectic weekend, so no article.

Fortunately, after that we should be back in the groove for some good, old-fashioned recap articles! Exciting! I'm looking forward to both running and playing in some story-driven games.

Not that Valley isn't a blast. I brought out my old Muscle Wizard and had a grand time. But it certainly is a different play style from my normal monthly games. I think that might have had an effect on the guest DM, too. Let's dig in.

Guest DM in the Valley of the Lords


So, the first thing I needed to do was to give the guest DM everything she needed to run the game in the world. Fortunately, she already had a good grasp on NPCs, factions, and commerce from being a player in the campaign so far.

I broke down the stuff she needed in a google document:
  • Time and weather information
  • The data for the hexes the PCs would pass through
  • Some details on a single adventuring site she could use
  • My process for running adventuring sites

Most of this stuff was just cut-and-paste from my notes, so I don't think I'll need to post it here. The interesting part is the third and fourth points. I'm going to go into how I plan and run an individual adventure site. I currently have 83 sites written in case a group stumbles upon them.

Each site starts with an encounter level and the skill necessary to investigate the site. For this game, the DM used the "Southern Boar Cave" site, so this was a "Level 1 (Nature)" site. That means it's suitable for level 1 characters, and any character with a Nature bonus of +1 or higher would be able to assess that.

Next, I need a description of the area. I like to include features of the exterior and interior separately, so if the PCs run into the area but don't explore it, I can still give them a basic description. The boar cave had plenty of trampled grass, leading to a shallow cavern with hole-riddled walls.

Finally, every site needs an encounter (in this case, boars) and some loot (some bronze farming implements from long ago). The monsters should be appropriate to the site's encounter level, and the loot should be enough to leave each player with 20-25 gp times the encounter level of the site. Thus, the boar cave should leave us about 20 gold richer. If it were a level 2 site, it would be 40-50 gold.

That's all I write when it comes to preparation. A basic outline is enough to get me through the session, because I tend to write out the rest of the game at the table. As I mentioned before, I use the combat dashboard to determine encounter size and loot type on the fly. I can use the exploration dashboard to reference my short descriptions. Once they get into the site, it's up to my imagination to get through the game. And I keep some rules in mind to help it out.

The first one is fairly obvious: build hooks around your players. I don't write hooks for a dungeon until I know who is playing in a particular game. If I write about a cave where an ogre has stolen the blacksmith's daughter, that won't appeal to the players who just want to go out and fight orcs or get some gold. The story should always center around the PCs. I press my players to make PCs that desire to adventure and have strong goals, so I always have something I can sink my hooks into. 

Next, I divide the site up into spaces. There should be an outside, an inside, a deeper inside, etc. The site should have somewhat of a hierarchy, where one monster or type of monster is the dominant owner of the area. Then, the spaces should reflect that hierarchy. Influential creatures have better protection, creatures that need protection might be further back in the site. This also fits into the D&D combat model, where combats are clearly delineated.

Finally, I add some mystery to the site. Usually this is something that I add on the fly based on the backstories of the PCs, NPCs, or the world. It's not a random "you don't know what this magic item does", because that gets old and they can pay to have it identified. It's more like "this ring has an ornery old spirit in it and he snarks about the history of the valley" type things. Mysteries are a good way to expand the feeling of the world, but it's important to keep track of the expansion and point it in the right direction.

And direction is very important in exploration
Then, when it comes to running the site, I use passive and active skills, as well as combat, to let the players explore the spaces, find the mysteries, and pursue the hooks. This is all fairly straightforward, but experience as a DM can help you find the best ways to set up games for yourself. I like to prepare the broad strokes, and work out the details later.

Our guest DM did a great job at this. She appealed to the player's need for gold for her hook, by offering the enticing promise of valuable truffle mushrooms within the boar cave. She added some mystery by making the cave simply a front for an abandoned orcish mine, but the back was collapsed. What were they mining here? This also divided the space up into good combat segments.

I did notice that something was off compared to the other games she had run, however. I spoke to her after the game, and it turns out she had felt uneasy about running the site within the larger system I had set up. The fact that there was already so much history and worldbuilding attached to the valley made it difficult for her to add in her own material.

Perhaps next time I should simply let the Guest DM create their own site and add it into the mix. That would give more freedom with monsters and hooks, and allow them to do some of the set up in their own way. After all, if the lore gets too incredibly off-target, I can always retcon it.

So, that's all the prep articles I've done for now! I might add some more later if necessary, but right now the game is running smoothly with my current setup. I might also use some stuff from past or future Wednesday articles, too, but that's lore that isn't revealed yet!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 24, 2018

Failed Magic Items: Dungeon Master's Guide Part 11 (N-O)

Greed cometh before the fall...
What's that? Oh yes, it's me Jon again, with more failed magic items. Will is taking a much-deserved vacation (from work, not just from this series), so I'm stepping in to write an article. Here we go!

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Necklace of Maladaption
"Wondrous" item, uncommon

While wearing this necklace, you can't breathe. You automatically succeed on saving throws made against harmful gases and vapors, and are suffocating.

Necklace of Flyers to a Ball
"Wondrous" item, uncommon

This necklace has 1d6 + 3 beads hanging from it. You can use an action to detach a bead and throw it up to 60 feet away. When it reaches the end of its trajectory, it bursts into a shower of informational pamphlets, lightly obscuring a 20-foot radius sphere. The pamphlets advertise a fancy ball and dinner party happening within the nearest city.

You can hurl multiple beads, or even the whole necklace, as a single action. When you do so, the radius of the sphere increases by 5 feet for each bead beyond the first.

Necklace of Scare Beads
"Wondrous" item, rare (requires attunement by a bard, warlock, or wizard)

This necklace has 1d4 + 2 magic beads made from aquamarine, black pearl, or topaz. It also has many nonmagical beads made from stones such as amber, bloodstone, citrine, coral, jade, pearl, or quartz. If a magic bead is removed from the necklace, that bead loses its magic.

Six types of magic beads exist. The DM decides the type of each bead on the necklace or determines it randomly. A necklace can have more than one bead of the same type. To use one, you must be wearing the necklace. Each bead contains a spell that you can cast from it as a bonus action (using your spell save DC if a save is necessary). Once a magic bead's spell is cast, that bead can't be used again until the next dawn.

Roll a d20 to determine the type of bead, or select them.
  • 1-6: Bead of Awe (Thaumaturgy)
  • 7-12: Bead of Ugliness (Disguise Self that always turns the user hideous)
  • 13-16: Bead of Fear (Cause Fear (XGtE pg. 151))
  • 17-18: Bead of Creepiness (Silent Image that only creates creepy, shadowy figures)
  • 19: Bead of Frightening (Invisibility)
  • 20: Bead of Terror (Fear)

Nolan's Marvelous Pig Mints
"Wondrous" item, very rare

Usually found inside a small wooden or metal box (DM's choice), these small tablets instantly freshen the breath of any porcine creature for 1d4 days. Inversely, it makes the breath of any non-porcine creature reek of moldy potatoes, imparting a -2 penalty to Charisma ability checks for 1d4 days.

One Life Stealer
Weapon (any sword), very rare (requires attunement)

You gain a +2 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon.

If the sword ever causes a creature to reach 0 hit points, that creature is immediately slain. The sword then loses all ability to deal damage or harm another creature. If used to attack a living creature, the blade will pass harmlessly through the creature.

Oafbow
Weapon (longbow), very rare (requires attunement)

When you knock an arrow on this bow, it whispers in Elvish, "To be fair, you have to have a very high IQ to use this bow." When you use this weapon to make a ranged attack, the arrow will always fly towards the creature with the lowest Intelligence score within 120 feet. If two or more creatures are tied for the lowest score, the bow selects one of them at random. This includes animals, allies, and the wielder of the bow themselves. The bow will not target creatures that it has no chance of hitting, such as a worm deep underground.

The arrow can curve and spin to reach its target, but an effect that stops its momentum or blocks its immediate flight path (such as a monk's Deflect Missiles or a fighter's Protection fighting style) can still affect the arrow. The ranged attack roll is made normally, but ignores the effects of cover on the target.

Soil of Earthworm-iness
Potion, common

This vial of soil contains a living earthworm. If the soil is spread over a medium or smaller creature, they will appear disheveled. A Prestidigitation spell can undo this effect.

Oil of Softness
Potion, rare

This clear, gelatinous oil smells vaguely of lavender. The oil can coat one slashing or piercing weapon, or up to 5 pieces of slashing or piercing ammunition. Applying the oil takes 1 minute. For 1 hour, the coated item deals bludgeoning damage instead of its normal type.

If applied to the skin, it causes a creature's epidermis to become lush and moisturized for 1d4 hours.

Oil of Stickiness
Potion, uncommon

This sticky black unguent moves like water in the container, but sticks to the skin when handled. The oil can cover a Medium or smaller creature, along with the equipment it's wearing and carrying (one additional vial is required for each size category above Medium). Applying the oil takes 10 minutes, and can only be done to a willing or incapacitated creature. The affected creature is then subject to the effects of a Hold Person spell for 1 hour, except the spell requires a Strength saving throw instead of a Wisdom saving throw.

Alternatively, the oil can be poured on the ground as an action, where it covers a 10-foot square, duplicating the effect of the Entangle spell for 8 hours.

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That's all for now, in a couple weeks we'll do the P's.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

You Don't Need a Healer: The Case Against Party Balance in 5e

Cool guys don't look at foggy backgrounds
I've heard two outcries from my players since we started playing D&D 5e:
  1. Healing is so weak! Cure Wounds is a whole spell slot and healing potions do next to nothing!
  2. Every party needs a healer! How are we going to survive without healing?

The end result is that somebody in the group ends up "biting the bullet" and taking the cleric class, or the Druid/Bard/Paladin ends up devoting several spell slots a game to healing spells. Despite the Cleric class being one of the richer role-playing classes with tons of amazing control, support, and offensive spells, most players hear "cleric" and think "heal-bot."

Well, I'm here to tell you: You don't need a healer. And I can back it up with math.

You Don't Need a Healer


Yeah, I repeated it again for good measure.

Healing in 5th edition is kind of weak. 5-10 hit points is nothing, usually only negating a single attack and making the difference between life and death every so often. And it seems like every healing option is equally restrictive. Lay on Hands? Not a very large pool, there. Cleric spells? Spending a spell slot on Cure Wounds almost seems like a waste, especially at 1st and 2nd level.

But I think this was a deliberate choice by the designers. That's because of two things: Action Economy, and the focus on hit points and damage in 5th edition.

Let's start with the latter. You've probably heard that 5th edition has something called "Bound Accuracy". That means the d20 rolls are extremely limited, so you never see Armor Classes or Difficulty Classes get too high or low. Part of this is to make the players hit more often at all levels (a very satisfying feeling), but it also allows low-level monsters to be a threat at all PC levels. Even with 22 AC, an average kobold still has a 15% chance to hit a PC wearing magic armor.

But a side effect of bound accuracy is a huge focus on hit points and damage. The designers needed to make higher level PCs feel safer, and higher level monsters feel more dangerous. Thus, hit points are quickly scaled up on monsters and damage shoots up so quickly they needed to add Multiattack to nearly every monster in order to accommodate the increase. Meanwhile, PCs gain extra attacks and more powerful spells at levels 5, 11, and 17. These correspond to the four tiers of combat the game uses.

You might not realize it, but these guys can get stung by 100x as many bees as a normal commoner.
Before we talk about how this affects healing, let's talk about action economy. On each character's turn (PCs, Monsters, and NPCs alike), you get an Action, a move, a Bonus Action, and a Reaction. Action Economy is about using these actions to their best effect. And since 5th edition is all about damage and hit points, that means dealing as much damage as possible while taking as little damage as possible.

A fighter at level 1 can expect to deal 1d8+3 damage on their turn with a longsword. If they are lucky, they can use their reaction to deal another 1d8+3 damage on an Opportunity Attack, but those are fairly rare once the heroes have clashed with the enemy in combat. This amount of damage per round should look familiar: it's the same amount of healing a 1st-level Cure Wounds costs.

By focusing on damage and action economy, it's easy to see that D&D combat boils down to a race to 0 hit points. Bound accuracy means everyone is going to hit about 65% of the time, on both sides of the battle (if the DM has properly balanced the encounter). Damage will be taken. But healing spells only ever really heal one hit's worth of damage. And that's the key.

If a Cleric can heal one hit's worth of damage, they will keep another damage-dealing character active for one more round. That character will get one extra round, and another attack, in because they were healed. So what's the difference between a Cleric healing and a non-Cleric making the extra attack on their own turn?

The answer gets back to action economy. Cure Wounds is guaranteed to hit. It's a great use of an action, but it loses out on the chance to deal damage. An extra attack might not hit, but it reduces the potential for future damage. It's furthering the race to 0 hit points.

This is why healing can't be too powerful. It has to numerically resemble the equivalent action of making an attack. And if the options of fighting or healing are similar, it means an extra fighter doing damage is just as effective, and the need for a healer goes away.

For a practical example, if you pit a party of adventurers against a group of 4 Kobolds, they'll probably take 10 damage per round. If the party has 4 fighters, they can probably take the Kobolds down in 2 rounds, thus only taking 20 damage as a party. But if they have 3 fighters and a cleric who heals them, it would take 3 rounds due to the lowered offensive power, and they'd absorb 30 damage. But the cleric's healing would likely reduce the damage back down to 20, causing the party composition to make little difference.

Just make sure you bring enough swords
And the final nail in the coffin is the Hit Dice. Most parties can easily take a short rest between encounters, or fight easy/medium encounters that don't require resting between every encounter and can make due with every other.

I've had plenty of groups that are quick to call for healing when they could easily find a safe location, take a rest and spend some hit dice, then get back into the fray. This usually means they never run low on Hit Dice, but the Cleric is always the first one out of spell slots.

All of this leads back to one idea: You don't need a Healer in 5th edition. If your party is efficient in their Kobold-murdering, you'll be just fine.

So Why Play a Healer Anyway?


Well, there are some situations where having a healer is still a good idea.

In general, healers get access to spells that reverse status conditions, making them incredibly valuable when facing monsters that inflict those conditions. Lesser Restoration is a fantastic answer to a lot of low-level threats, and you won't get far in the upper tiers without Greater Restoration and Raise Dead. There's a reason many temples offer spellcasting services.

It's also convenient to have a healer when somebody is at 0 hit points. Spare the Dying is a lot more reliable than a Medicine check, and doesn't run out like a Healer's Kit. However, if you don't have a healer, both of those options are available for use. Just make sure someone in your party has a good Wisdom modifier.

Finally, each "healer" class has it's own reasons to play it.

At least 3 of these guys could be a healer. And one might be the DM.
Clerics, aside from being the second-best roleplaying class (after Warlocks), are excellent fighters and support characters. They get divine weapon strikes, some of the best passive effects in the game (Spiritual Weapon, Spirit Guardians, Guardian of Faith), and most can wear heavy armor on top of that. In fact, they are the only class with a d8 Hit Die to wear Heavy Armor regularly. Not only that, but when there is a need for healing, they are the best. Healing Word is like a super-powered long-distance Healer's Kit, Revivify is great for in-combat saves from death, and Prayer of Healing is one of the best out-of-combat healing spells available.

Paladins are the heavy hitters of the healer classes, with Heavy Armor and a tanky d10 Hit Die. They can do massive damage on a single strike, and gain tons of combat-oriented spells. They can focus on Strength or Dexterity, with tons of weapon options and powerful support magic through the use of auras. They even get their own special brand of healing, which is best used as an auto-revival for allies at 0 hit points.

Bards and Druids have tons of non-healing benefits, but they both get Healing Word for good measure. Rangers only get Cure Wounds, but can be used as healers in an pinch. Druids and Rangers also get Healing Spirit, hands-down the best non-combat healing spell in the game.

The point is, even if you play a "healer" class, you don't need to solely focus on healing. If you do, you'll miss out on all sorts of good stuff your class can do!

So, What Do you Need?


If party composition can forego healers, what exactly do you need?

Well, as I mentioned above, you really need the ability to deal and absorb damage. Every class has the ability to do this, so you shouldn't have any trouble getting these into your party. But even some commonly-accepted necessities can be forgotten in this system.

Picking locks? Just make sure someone in the party is Strength-focused and you can probably kick down any door that you'd have to pick. Or just have the Wizard cast Knock.

Charismatic Face of the Party? Not needed, especially if you're willing to work with the DM to avoid political quests. Or just have the Wizard cast Charm Person.

Ranged Attacker? Not completely necessary. If you're a squishy wizard, then sure, fight at range. But it isn't necessary to ensure it's included in your party.

Healer? Didn't we just talk about this?

All you need is damage and damage absorption. Once upon a time, the party's thief was the only character that could pick locks or disable traps. Now, magic and system flexibility have altered that completely.

The one thing you don't need but will always get: weird and anachronistic party names.
For damage, the classic example is the Fighter or Barbarian. Sorcerers, Rogues, and Paladins are also good choices. Also, classes like Bards and Druids that can "lock down" an enemy can allow for an easy victory.

For damage absorption, any class with good Hit Points (Fighter, Paladin, Barbarian, Ranger) and good AC (Fighter, Cleric, Paladin) can tank damage. But don't forget the dodging abilities of Rogues or Monks, and the Temporary HP buffing abilities of Warlocks and Wizards.

Party balance used to be important, and the idea that it's necessary has carried forward into modern D&D. This is a PSA to help you feel better about not picking the Cleric class "because nobody else did".

One last time: You don't need a healer.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Old News: Valley of the Lords Combat Dashboard

Just the right place to find some monsters to slay...
And we're back, with the next installment of my Valley of the Lords setup! Honestly, most of the other stuff in my spreadsheet is just lists, so it's not too interesting to look at. Plus, if I show off too many lists, I might start to reveal spoiler-y details about my worldbuilding process.

I will be doing on last article on this, since this weekend we're having my first guest-star DM in the Valley. I'll go over the document I'm sending her, which includes the relevant information on the Valley for her particular quest. Since she won't have full access to the campaign notes, it won't be nearly as free-reigns as my usual sessions are.

Anyway, on to the content!

Valley of the Lords: Combat Dashboard


Last week I discussed the concept of a Dashboard - it's basically a DM screen but you can change parts of it and it references data in real time. It's replaced nearly all of the notes I would normally take, and it's made my session run much more smoothly.

One thing I've done in previous campaigns is include a monster stat reference table and an initiative tracker. The excel sheet could randomly generate initiative based on the PC's modifiers and abilities, do so for any enemies they were fighting, and give me a quick list with little hassle. I really like the system, especially for my story-based games where any time we spend on combat is time taken away from plot and character development.

As you can see, typing in a monster's name pulls up the stats and abilities for that monster. This set of monsters is from my 5th-edition conversion of Broodmother Skyfortress I used in Chaos Quest. I included the amount of monsters that would be present based on the die rolls in the module.

Over on the side, the "Copy/Paste from here" columns are the randomly generated values that represent the basic initiative. Unfortunately, any time the sheet updates (i.e. whenever I type in a value), those initiative scores are re-rolled. So I needed to copy them from the randomly-generated section into a usable space. Hence, I made a pre-built space where I could place the random values and track HP without worrying about the order changing constantly.

In Valley of the Lords, I decided not to use this system for a few reasons. First, since the Valley is focused on exploration and combat, having the players roll their own initiative gives the proper gravity to each encounter. Second, though it's not visible here, I do have to type in the stats and abilities for every monster I use for excel to reference it properly. The valley is so vast that I'd basically be making a database of every monster in the manual. And I definitely don't have time to do that.... or at least I don't have time to convert what I have done. Yet.

Instead, I've been tracking things on good old-fashioned pencil-and-paper. I do initiative, HP, and a few other notes that relate to the exploration stuff. It's pretty old-school, but the more I do it the quicker I get at it.

So, what is on the Valley's Combat Dashboard?

Not too much, it turns out.

Since I'm running the bulk of the combat out of a notebook, I use the combat dashboard to assist me in setting up and tearing down encounters on the fly. I have a list of basic stats for monsters you might find in the valley, including their information from my loot articles. That makes one less PDF I have to dig through.

I've also begun the process of applying gold prices to the items in the loot table, as you can see. I'm continually adjusting these, so don't expect a huge PDF of Creature Loot pricing any time soon. Since gold is a hugely valuable resource in my game, collecting and selling these monster parts has become something of a necessity for the explorers in the valley.

The last part of the Dashboard is my own personal version of Kobold Fight Club, a fantastic resource for quick encounter building. I've set up a simplified version using some reference tables here, so I can throw together multi-monster encounters on the fly. Generally, I can throw together a few encounters in about 30 seconds, while the players are gearing up for exploration.

The final part of the puzzle, of course, is the stats of the monsters. Like I said before, I don't have the time to convert the entire monster manual into excel stat blocks. Instead, I've been using stats straight out of the book, with a phone app to quickly reference spells that I'm not familiar with. Again, kind of old-school, but I've found it gets quicker with time. My players tend to strategize enough for me to have plenty of time to get things together at the table.

And that's really it! Not too complicated, but it provides me with everything I need to run encounters on the fly. If I had the ability to plan out individual encounters, I would definitely use the Dashboard with individual stats and character data. But since the characters in the Valley are constantly jumping in and out of games, deciding where they want to go on the fly, and exploring such a vast space, I'm sticking to a simpler interface for now.

Hopefully it translates well when someone else is using it! We'll find out this coming weekend.

Thanks for reading!