Product Review: Empire of Imagination Gary Gygax and the Birth if D&D

Empire of Imagination

Hi everyone! I have recently just finished reading Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the birth of Dungeons and Dragons, by Michael Witwer, and I wanted to share my thoughts.

I really enjoyed this book. It was written in a engaging style, really attempting to depict Gygax’s personality, as well as his actions. Each section is broken up by D&D styled descriptions, with a character that clearly represents Gary Gygax in each scene. At first these short narrations were jarring; however, once I grew used to them, they provided a nice start to new chapters of Gygax’s life.

Like many D&D players (or even modern gamers) I have always been aware Gygax helped create my modern gaming lifestyle; however, I knew very little about Gygax himself, where D&D came from, or how it evolved. This book was the answer to my ignorance.

The first half of the book discusses Gygax’s childhood, his gaming life, and the threads which eventually led to the creation of Dungeons and Dragons. A great deal of detail is given to specifically the processes and concepts that created original D&D, and how that evolved into Dungeons and Dragons Advanced. This was completely fascinating, and even gave me some nice reflection on the original concepts of DMing and D&D.

Later details of Gygax’s life are given in a whirlwind, almost like snippets into specific moments in his life, rather then the indepth coverage given to the early years of gaming and creation of D&D. While I would have loved to hear more about Gygax’s later life and career, the title of the book really makes it clear where the focus is going to be. Be prepared to only gain glimpses into what Gygax’s life was like during the glory days of D&D, and his later downfall.

Rather then go further into the details Witwer does an excellent job covering, I will say that this book is an excellent read, and anyone interested in the birth of roleplaying games, and arguably modern gaming, should give this a read. Gygax’s life had controversies, betrayals, hardship, but also great friendships and creativity, the perfect formula for a riveting biography. Rather then getting bored and skipping over parts I found myself looking up additional information after finishing the book, always a sign of great writing!

I would love to hear thoughts on this book. If you have read it did you like it? Are you considering reading it?

Sunless Citadel: Session 3

Wolf

Greetings! Last Friday I had my 3rd session of the Sunless Citadel. I was much happier with my performance as a DM, to see how session 2 went check out my article here https://theroomfillswithwater.wordpress.com/2015/11/04/the-sunless-citadel-session-2/ , there are several other articles detailing my adventures under the category Adventure Log.

The session began with the party ready to recuperate, after having just fended off a swarm of Twig Blights and escaping from a gang of Belak’s followers.  Rather then rest in the area where they were nearly sacrificed, the party decided to take the wagon they had been brought in, and travel to the entrance of the Sunless Citadel, there they would rest.

Of course, that meant they had several hours of travel, through tight roads, winding their way through the forest (cue evil laughter).

Forested Trail

About an hour into their trip, the party began to hear the howling of wolves. After another 30 minutes, 2 large wolves came bounding out of the night, attacking Noble, who was trailing behind the wagon. In the mean time, 3 other wolves went dashing for the horses pulling the carriages.

Some highlights of the combat include Starfall attempting to use Talk with Animals to Intimidate the wolves away, a nice attempt, which almost worked. Aman, who was on foot trying to guard the horses, was knocked down by the wagon, as the horses bolted. Finally, poor Noble was knocked out and dragged off into the woods. Luckily for the hapless Cleric his party members caught up to the wolves, killing them before he could be eaten.

This combat was a great way to start the session. I highly recommend having some sort of encounter at the start of every session, it gets the party focused, and is a nice way to get excitement levels up. This was a nice encounter, as it fleshed out the world with a random encounter. The wolves weren’t part of the Sunless Citadel script, just denizens of the forest the party traveled through.

The party, luckily, ran into no other random encounters and managed to to get a full rest in, while guarded by Meepoo and other Kobolds, who met the party at the entrance.

I want to note, in the past I have largely avoided using random encounters; however, an excellent D&D podcast, called theRPGAcademy, had a great discussion about random encounter on The RPG Academy Network GM Panel #1: Part 2. In the panel some GMs argued random encounters serve as a great way to flesh out the world, and make it feel populated. If you are looking for more DM tips and D&D content go and check out the podcast on itunes!

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After waking up, the party ventured into the Sunless Citadel, and investigated the chamber containing the skeletons that had nearly killed them.

Within the chamber were several open and empty sarcophagus which had inscriptions reading, “Death is only the Beginning.” They also found a obsidian altar, with a Potion of Greater Healing, a Potion of Hill Giant’s Strength, and a whistle named “Night Caller.”

After an natural 20 Knowledge Acana check, it was revealed that the whistle could be blown over a freshly dead corpse in the dark or at night, and the corpse would rise as a zombie to serve the party. The whistle could only be used once a week, and it could only allow the caller to control 2 zombies at a time.

Some of the party was excited, others were nervous about the whistle.

Advancing deeper into the dungeon, the party ignored a path which went away from the goblin’s territory, and instead entered goblin turf. The door was trapped with a bell, which alerted two goblin guards, who stood behind 25′ of caltropped hallway, and a 3 foot tall crenelated wall.

A ranged combat ensued, with one goblin quickly being killed, and the other fleeing to get help. One highlight was Milbee using an illusion to make it appear he was charging towards the wall, which confused both the goblin archers, and the party, whom he did not inform the shape was just an illusion!

After some hesitation, Noble peeked into the next room, which was set up as an archery range. Down the long chamber was yet another 3′ high wall, with 7 or so goblin bowmen behind it. Noble was shot 3 times for his trouble.

goblin-archer

Using a mirror, the party scoped out the situation better; however, Aman, who held the mirror was shot 3 times with some really lucky goblin bow fire.

After a great deal of discussion, the party concluded they would lay a Fog Cloud in the chamber, and attempt to enter a door which was within the archery range, but not next to the goblin archers.

Using some well thought out spells the goblin archers were confused and unable to pinpoint the party. However, the door they wanted to enter was locked!

Aldo rapidly picked the lock, after another volley of arrows was sent the party’s way, damaging a few members. Hurriedly, the party rushed into the chamber, slamming the door behind them.

The room was a dungeon, with no other exits. However, the party did find and free 4 captive kobolds and a gnome Cleric of Freya, named Erky Timbers. The gnome, who had been held for a year in the dungeon, was weak, but able to provide some basic healing the party. The party was also able to glean some information from the gnome, such as Belak the Outcast tended to the Twlight Grove, underneath the Sunless Citadel, which is where the Gulthias Tree rested, growing its magical fruit.

At this point, the party yet again faced what to do about the squad of goblins at the other end of the door. It had become clear that even more goblins had joined the band, putting their numbers to nearly a dozen.

Yet again, my party surprised me with some creative uses of spells and illusions; however, some excellent saves versus Sleep on my part meant that despite two sleep spells being cast, only 2 goblins fell asleep.

Growing frustrated after a bit more party discussion, Aldo quickly talked the kobolds into fleeing out the room, hoping they would draw the fire of the goblins, and then the party would follow. Unfortunately, he didn’t think the plan fully through, as all they did was serve as a visual cue that people would be coming out of the room.

Aman, in a bout of insane courage, charged right at the archer line, getting shot several times; however, his second wind ability, and shield, allowed him to get in contact with the wall, swinging at an archer, missing twice. With only 1 hitpoint left there was not much hope for Aman.

Dwarf(not a Mul, but oh well its a dwarf with a shield, close enough!)

The remaining party members looked at Aman, said sorry, and dashed across the room into the safety of the adjacent hall.

Starfall, intelligently cast Fog Cloud, allowing herself and Erky Timbers to lumber into safety.

Aldo, clearly feeling guilty, dashed back into the archery range using the fog as cover. Getting adjacent with the stone walls he used a mighty Thunder Wave spell, blasting all 11 goblins to smithereens, and thanks to Aman’s Relentless Endurance, did not knock out his party member.

The party, relived no one died or was caught, returned to kobold territory to rest, killing some giant rats along the way.

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The following day, the party once again ventured forth into the dungeon. After investigating some empty rooms they happened upon a trophy room, which was smashed and battered, thanks to the angry white dragon wyrmling it contained, the party had found Calcryx.

White_dragon_Wyrmling

Meepoo, excited to see his dragon, rushed into the room to return the creature to its home. However, the dragon, having more freedom in the trophy room, did not want to return, and Meepoo had to dodge a blast of icy breath. A combat ensued, with the party using subdual damage to try to capture the dragon.

The final blow, dealt by Milbee; however, was declared as not subdual, slaying the young dragon instantly. Enraged Meepoo whipped out a make shift dagger, thrusting it several times into the wizard, knocking him out. Chaos and a great deal of arguing ensued, as the party attempted to figure out what to do with this turn of events. Tying up both Meepoo and Milbee a lengthy discussion began.

By the end, the party had concluded they would continue deeper into the Sunless Citadel, something needed to be done about Belak. If they happened upon aggressive kobolds, they would slay them; however, for the time being they would attempt to avoid the tribe. Milbee was freed, and the difficult decision was made to slay Meepoo. Noble, declaring Tyr’s embrace take you, snapped the minuscule kobold’s neck.

Quite a bit of grumbling and glaring was directed towards Milbee’s player, and the session ended.

As I said at the beginning I was very happy how the session went. My party got a lot accomplished and had some challenging but fun encounters. I particularly enjoyed the unique challenge the wolves gave, forcing the party to manage not only normal combat, but the frightened wagon horses. The twist ending, with Calcryx being slain, was quite a surprise for everyone, and helped reinforced how much your players can do to create memorable stories and moments.

Adventure Log: A Bard’s Tale, Passage 2

Halfling_Bard

After all the fun of his first post, Aldo is back with his second entry in his grand epic. I hope you enjoy it as much as the first one! As always, please feel free to comment, more people reading/ enjoying this will get Aldo writing more!

As a DM aside: it’s nice to get a second perspective on my sessions, plus Aldo’s writing is much more successful at capturing the feeling of the moment, so enjoy The Bard’s Tale: The Adventure Begins

The Bard’s tale

By Aldo Hardbottle

The Adventure Begins

Down the road we went
Towards the Gunter’s farm. Where we’d been sent,
To find out how the sheep he kept
Were stolen in the night while he slept.

Starfall, the Tiefling girl
Began this mystery to unfurl,
She used her magics, so to seek
What the livestock had to speak.

We learned of fear and unnatural things
“You should not travel while the forest sings
It’s song of unnatural quiet,
For if you do you’ll face a wooded riot.”

We found not much, but a bloody trail,
Which we followed to no avail,
Until we noticed we were by the Old Road,
Maybe our culprit makes the ruins it’s abode.

At least that is the thought we all had,
We’d heard the stories, all were bad.
The new plan was to go where the beast would dwell,
So we started for the Sunless Citadel.
We reached the spot where the stronghold stood,
But had to climb down a cliff, at which Millbee was no good.
With a shove from Aman, the wizard fell down below
And hit the ground, much to his woe.

As the rest of the group began to descend,
Our noble Drow, Millbee’s wounds did mend.
Our way was blocked by giant rats,
But the true heroes had no issue dealing with that.

We entered the ruins with myself in the lead,
To disarm traps and open locks if there be a need.
We came across a room with a keg,
“We must take it for the booze,” someone began to beg.

No beer was within, but instead a surprise,
A water elemental of formidable size.
Most of our group took off at a sprint,
All but Aman whose eyes had a glint.

He took up his hammer, he went on the attack,
He gave the elemental a terrible whack!
The water beast could no longer hold form
And went back to the keg as fast as a storm.

After the excitement we found a room to sleep,
And the night passed away with naught but a peep.
The very next morning when we opened the door,
We saw a poor little Kobold weeping on the floor.

Starfall, our resident altruist, ran to its aid.
After consoling the creature, a deal was made,
She offered to help the kobold find the dragon he lost,
The Noble and others felt a bit crossed.

The Kobold happily told us his name.
“Meepo I am,” he would proclaim.
Then he led us down a hall.
Some of us trusted him, but not all.

He brought us to the kobold camp,
An old throne room which they needed to revamp.
There surrounded by the kobold guard,
All of our exits were hopelessly barred.

The only way out was to go with the plan.
The one created by our champion kobold fan,
Noble and I looked about the room,
This we thought might be our doom.

For Starfall did not even once consult,
The party she traveled with to horrible result.
Locked in to help with no real way to say no,
We were now helping the dragonkeeper Meepo.

The queen of the Kobold told us the goblin clan,
Had taken their dragon and ran
Back to their part of the stronghold,
Never had they dared an attack so bold.

“Surely we are not doing this task for free?” I piped up
The Kobold queen Yusdrayl spat out the contents of her cup.
“Are you not friends,” she asked, with great discontent.
“My dear lady you misunderstand what I meant.”

“As a good friend we understand your plight,
But know taking on the goblins will be no easy fight.
We’ll need to prepare so as not to die.
I ask for but a small token from the great queen on high.”

“You may take one thing from my royal vault,
But bring back our dragon or suffer the fault.”
With that we turned with our new member Meepo
Some of us remained unhappy though.

What consequence could this bring?
Shifting the balance of power is no easy thing.
Besides the kobolds could be the beast,
That were stealing the livestock so they could all feast.

It was clear that there was some dissension,
But we focused on our task to ease the tension.
Meepo lead us to the goblin territory.
It was time to steal back the dragon and win the glory.

While searching, we happened upon a curious door
And inside horrible skeletons, round five or more.
A mighty brawl began in haste,
For these undead, Noble had a great distaste.

These specters of undeath would not suffer the living
Their brutal attacks were unforgiving.
Many a vicious blow was struck,
And we survived the fight with nothing but luck.

These foes, of life nearly wiped us out,
But we stood together and survived the bout.
Afterwards I helped the unconscious stand
We stood a battered and beaten band.

Limping back to the entrance of the citadel
Neither Noble nor Starfall had any healing spell.
We decided to limp back to Oakhurst,
On our way back we must have been cursed.

The fog was thick and the night was dark,
No sound was made, not even a lark.
Followed were we, on the lonely Old Road,
Fearing our surroundings we never slowed.

Then finally the sun o’er the horizon came
We saw the town and laughed off our shame,
Making straight for the Ol’ Boar’s Inn,
A comfortable bed to sleep within.

After a rest we’d gather our strength
And head back to the citadel and search at length,
For a lost dragon, fame, and for glory,
But those adventures, well, that’s another story.

DMing Tips: Spending Party Loot

RC-Treasure

Greetings, today I bring a discussion which my fellow DMJon (who has commented on many of my posts) and I had on players’ loot in D&D. Both Jon and I agreed we liked that magical items were rarer in the current edition of D&D. No longer were players expecting enter a sizable settlement and buy magical items, or carry around dozens of +1 items to try to sell for gold, because this was no longer essential to their success. Instead, magical items are truly something rare and exciting, something to be, well, treasured. However, this does create a problem, with the lack of magical goods to buy, what should parties spend their hard earned loot on?

I have come up with a few solutions to this dilemma, but first I have to state my policy on treasure. In my games, I always attempt to give my party just enough to feel rewarded, but still feel the pinch when buying a lot of goods. If the party begins flashing too much cash in a large city they may be targeted by pickpockets and thieves. Often, merchants will not have the gold available to pay anywhere near full price for valuable art, gems, and jewelry, with the party lucky if they get 25% value. In my opinion, when it comes to treasure, less is more. I would rather my party feel poor and look forward to loot, then feel overly wealthy and not be impressed with rubies. This may not work with every party, but it works with mine.

Money-is-the-Greatest-Superpower

 

Right, so things for characters to spend their hard earned loot on:

-Over coasted goods. Often, if my party is in a small village, or the wilderness, the weapons and goods available will be much more expensive then listed in the Player’s Handbook. I explain that the Player’s Handbook is a cost guide for a city, so while a city may have several blacksmiths, a town will have one or none, and few if any swords or suits of armor. Because of this, a sword in a small village costs a LOT more then in a city. In comparison, food and other goods like that will be cheaper, same with inn rooms, ect.

This helps gives a sense of realism to your world, but it also separate low level characters from their treasure, as they will often be looking for small weapon changes, or more arrows, ect. You can pair this with equipment used by enemies often ending up damaged and unusable, maybe even party member’s gear breaks with critical misses, requiring more future purchases.

-One use magical items, such as healing potions and scrolls. These items should still be very rare, but in larger settlements a few could be available, for a large price. I like to make my healing potions at least 300 gold.

I have found that these one off items give the party some tools to deal with a variety of situations, healing potion if the healer gets knocked out for instance, but since they are one use they do not over power the party.

The party may not want to pay the exorbitant prices, in which case the seller could request a specific favor, sparking of a mini adventure.

-Information and hirelings. Both of these are resources that can be extremely valuable to a party. Imagine having a doctor who follows along with the party, for a fee, stabilizing party members after (or during for a higher fee) combat, but refusing to fight himself, or a Fletcher who keeps the party supplied with ranged implements.

If the party is trying to find information on something, rather then just giving information with a Investigation check, have the party find a source of information, but have them play the encounter out. Often these informants will require an exorbitant fee for their services. Some solid diplomacy can decrease the cost, but not eliminate it. Perhaps the gold spent on information reveals the location of a magical artifact, allowing players, in a fashion, to buy magical items, but they then have to delve into a dungeon for them.

-Encourage your players to invest in their characters’ goals. If you players mentions forming a thieves guild in passing, encourage them to do it, not only will this help invest them in the game, but it will be a great opportunity to use treasure. The same can be done if your player wants to make a mercenary company ect.

The key here is to make sure the investment feels worth it, the guild, business, ect needs to give something back, be it meat shields, reputation, more treasure, a combination.

Long term character improvement also goes along with this. Many of my players eventually ask how to get more skills, a new language, weapons training, ect. I will often allow the players to explore this potential; however, hiring a trainer takes time and a LOT of loot. A skill takes about 80 days to trains and 500 gold. This can be scaled to your campaign. It could also be tweaked for the goal, learning Infernal would be much more difficult then say Elven in an elf dominated kingdom.

player logic

How do you handle players wealth? Do you view them accumulating too much being a problem? What do you think of my strategies?

Dming Tips: Hosting a One Off

Hello everyone! Before starting my topic a big shout out to Jon for reading most of my posts, commenting on most, and continuing the conversations :). Comments and feedback is what makes blogging fun, so thanks man!

Right, so today I am going to discuss how to approach DMing a One off adventure, from the perspective of a new DM. Thanks to Mickey Panda for yet another excellent topic idea!

One important thing you have decided, which will make you DMing job much easier, is the time frame for your adventure, a one off. This means the adventure, and therefore story arc, should be completed within a single session.

Before going further you now need to decide what is your time frame for this one off? Is a weekend marathon, an 5 hour session, a lengthy 12 hour session in a single night?

You also need to think who will be playing in your group. Often when I DM one offs is have a group of mixed ages, with a trend towards inexperience with roleplaying. This then effects what I plan for my adventure.

Finally, you need to think what is your goal for this adventure. Is it to give you and your friends a taste of D&D? Is it to experiment with a specific genre?

One of my best friends, Logan, remembers his favorite time playing D&D as a one off I did in celebration of Halloween. The party explored a haunted plantation, with many of the party members dying in a gory manner by various horror tropes. The party entered into the game presuming that death loomed around the corner, and so they just had a great time with this. Even for experienced parties one offs can be a nice break to try something new, or even give someone a chance to try DMing without the commitment of a full campaign.

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Since I have talked to Mickey a bit I am going to make a presumption that she is considering dipping her toes into the D&D world, and has been drafted as a DM. First of all, good for you! DMing is the hardest, but also most rewarding job in D&D.

One thing I would consider is buying the starter box for what ever D&D edition you are considering. These boxes often have most of the rules, dice, some premade characters, and a simple yet fun beginning adventure created to be played in about a session.

The one in the third edition box looked something like this:

Adventure Begins

These starter boxes are a great way to start, as they are much cheaper then the Players Handbook and Monster Manual. If you decide D&D isn’t for you then you haven’t spent too much money.

The issue with this method is that these starter boxes often are not useful once you begin playing more. Players will want to make their own characters, and you will want to expand beyond the basic dungeon.

If you already have a strong suspicion that you will like D&D and want to continue with it then I would instead start with the Player’s Handbook and Monster Manual. From there you can begin planning your one off.

Keeping in mind your time frame I think on average most one offs will only have roughly 3-5 combat encounters, 1-2 social, and maybe 1 trap. This is enough content that gives you a feel for the game, but is still doable in a short time frame.

Using this formula, you can then begin to think about the story for your adventure. I can’t give many more specifics without knowing your exact time frame and style (horror, adventure, dungeons, wilderness, ect.). I will leave you with these last few tips.

-Have the story complete by the end of the session; however, feel free to leave some loose ends. This could entice your players to play more, or give you a future jumping off point.

-When planning encounters try to make each counter have a different thing that needs something special, such as an emphasis or ranged fighting, magic, weird terrain, ect. Feel free to plan less encounters, but really make each one fun.

-Leave your players wanting more. If you feel like your adventure is a bit short that is fine, its better at the end for everyone to wish there was more to do, then to wish it had ended an few hours ago.

-Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, especially if its your first time DMing.

Well I hope that helps! Please do tell me how your game goes :)!

 

Player Skills: New Players Learning

Hello everyone! Today I am going to answer a question from MickeyPanda. Mickey asks if I have any suggested ways for new players to become more comfortable playing with veterans. Great question and thank you for the request!

While there are a number of things that I think can help I will try to focus on a few things.

New, No Problem!

Dungeons and Dragons, unlike many other games, often is not harmed by having inexperienced players. I have found that fresh perspectives on the game actually helps stirs up creativity within a game. Veteran players, especially ones which have been gaming together for a while, get stuck in ruts. They view problems in similar ways, and react to threats in predictable ways over time. New players, lacking the years of expectations, can bring fresh insight to a group, a rebirth of the experience as a whole.

I also have found since D&D is a joint story telling venture, not understanding the rules isn’t always a problem. Other players  should be offering advice and tips to help walk a new player, which should help ease the burden of rules knowledge. The most important traits I try to encourage in my players are imagination and role playing, neither of which veteran players have a monopoly on :).

I also think many D&D groups are more then happy to assist with someone starting the hobby, I know my college group started only with myself and one other person having played; however, over the course of the last 7 years Fizzywinks and I have initiated almost a dozen people into the game, and we were not actively recruiting.

Read, Read, and Read!

To prepare for a D&D session, new players (and most players for that matter), should always review their character class. Read over the description of the class, read all the abilities, spells, and skills you have. You don’t necessarily need to know them by heart, it just helps if you are aware of everything your class is capable of. Most of the time, if you have a veteran player at the game and you say, “I want to do my sneak attack, but I don’t remember exactly how it works,” the veterans will jump in and explain it.

After each session, try to look up a rule or spell that you were a little unsure of. This can help reveal the mechanics which created the events during the game.

Do not try to read the whole Player’s Handbook, unless you are the type of person who likes to read a whole rulebook (I am, maybe that is why I am always the DM). Instead; focus on your class and then expand out to the other classes in your party. The combat section is also a good one to read. Reading in piecemeal makes everything a lot easier!

Ask Questions

As a new player everyone else in the group should expect a good amount of questions from you. Try not to bog the game down with too many questions during play, but before a session, afterwards, during down time, or during your turn feel free to pick other players’ and the DM’s brain. Veteran players are a resource there to help you, use them! After all the more comfortable you grow with the game, the better you will play, and the more you will enhance the game for everyone.

See if you can join alongside another Newbie

While it can be daunting to take the plunge into D&D, another new initiate can help alleviate some of your anxiety. If a group is made up of other veterans, and you are feeling a little nervous, see if you can arrange it to join at the same time as someone else. With a second person asking questions you should feel less awkward.

Play with an Experienced DM

If you are worried about playing alongside veterans, the best piece of advice I can give is to try to play with a veteran DM. Grizzled DM vets should know how to entice and pull out the best from every player, even the fresh recruited players. They also have most likely helped people learn in the past.

Start at Level One

Perhaps as important as an experienced DM, start at level 1! You will have less abilities, but this gives you time to learn the game and your characters, before getting into the more complicated aspects of play.

Well Mickey hopefully that helps! I would love to hear if you begin playing some D&D :). It can be a little overwhelming, but rarely does everyone know the full rules of the game, that is why we keep the books handy :).

As always I would love to hear peoples’ reactions and thoughts. If you have a request for a topic feel free to post it in the comments.

The Sunless Citadel: Session 2

kobolds

Hello everyone! I hope you enjoyed Aldo’s ballad as much as I did (if you did please tell me in the comments, I am sure more positive reinforcement will push him to write a second part). While I will not be writing in verse, it is time for me to discuss my second D&D session playing through The Sunless Citadel.

When we ended before, the party had just discovered an old keg, which had a small Water Elemental trapped inside. After scaring the creature away, the party was fairly battered. Seeing an empty room, complete with a door, the party barricaded themselves in the room and rested. Aman made some excellent use of his Dungeoneers Kit, spiking the door shut.

At the start of the next day, quite a lot of noise was made opening the door, which alerted a Kobold patrol. Swinging the door open, the party gained initiative on the poor creatures, and before any offer of parley could be discussed, the spindly foes were sliced down.

Ironically, in the following room the party was swayed by the crying form of Meepo the Kobold, who was sad that his dragon had been stolen.

meepo_the_kobold_better

Some highlights of this interaction included various party members playing off the pitiful voice and sniveling I gave this Kobold. Starfall the Persistent, keeping to his character’s personality, immediately felt sorry for the Kobold and wanted to help the creature. Persuading the rest of the group, Starfall decided to help Meepo and meet the Kobold chieftain.

Both Aldo and Milbee, while the rest of the party interacted with Meepo, stuffed the killed Kobold patrol into the keg the Water Elemental had retreated into. This required cutting and hacking the corpses into smaller more manageable pieces, but it was accomplished,  the Water Elemental is going to have quite the surprise when it returns from the pipes!

Traveling through some twisting and twining passageways, the party had a tense meeting with Yusdrayl, the Kobold sorcerer. I really tried to play up how badly this could end if the party did not interact respectfully and tactfully. During the negotiations I continually described to the party the horde or 20 some Kobolds crammed into the audience chamber behind them.

After some great roleplaying from all my players, the party found out that the Goblin tribe follows a being named Belak the Outcast, who arrived some time relatively recent. The mysterious magical fruit was also revealed to come from the Gulthias Tree (though they did not figure out what that means). The young Dragon, which was a vital element of the Kobolds’ arsenal, was recently stolen by the Goblins, swaying the power balance heavily in favor of the Goblins.

The party agreed, in return for some reward negotiated by Aldo, to return the dragon to the Kobolds’. Some of the players, Aldo specifically, grew concerned what would happened if the Kobold tribe became the ascendant power in the Citadel; however, his worries were largely brushed aside.

After venturing towards a rear entrance into Goblin territory, the party opened a sealed door, freeing 5 skeletons. I rolled a crazy number of critical hits knocking out 4/5 of the party members during various points of the combat. With a plethora of tense saves versus death, near misses by party members, and last minute heroics the animated bones were vanquished, which provided just enough experience points to hit level 2.

4e_skeletonsAt this point I informed the party that to advance in level they would have to return to the town to get a safe full nights rest.

Moving out of the Sunless Citadel, the party began the journey back to Oakhurst. Along the way we had a very excellent and creepy encounter on the road. Using scary music and vivid descriptions, I described to the party how they were hearing a strange whispering and rattling to the side of the road, in the underbrush. Thin trails of mist twisted across the road, shadowing a congealed dark pool of blood. The blood trail led into the underbrush, right towards the strange sound.

There were several tense moments as each player looked at each other, waiting for someone to declare an action. Noble, the past player of Legon, boldly declared, “I run past the pool of blood and down the road.” Relief etched itself across the rest of the players’ faces, as they all followed in suit. This was a really rewarding moment. Rather then charging into the underbrush, because there was a monster there, the party reacted to the mood and description fleeing down the road.

The party arrived at Oakhurst unmolested; however, this is where I think I began to make some DMing errors. The party stayed in the Ol’ Boar Inn, receiving some food and drinks as rewards for regaling the Innkeep with tales of their adventure.

Unbeknownst to the party, the Innkeep and Bar maid were followers of Belak the Outcast. The party’s drinks were poisoned paralyzing them in their sleep. The party then woke up, unable to move, in a wagon driving through the woods. After struggling to regain use of their limbs they arrived at a creepy stone sacrificial circle, where  their dark robed drivers met other robed cultists and began to place the characters on  stone slabs.

The party fought back, slaying the robed figures before any damage was done. After searching the cultists the party discovered the Innkeep and barmaid nefarious actions. Three cultists, town guards, were taken alive and questioned. The party discovered a few more prominent town members were also Belak’s followers, including a promiment member of the Town Guard.

The scent of blood, and the time the party spent questioning the guards, drew over a dozen Twig Blights, and for the first time in the campaign the party faced the creepy twig beings. Vanquishing them with some very nice use of fire spells (turns out over half the party has fire spells). Starfall, investigating the piles of twigs felt a great deal of revulsion, declaring them to be unnatural beings, and affront to Nature.

twig_blight

After some discussion the party determined it was too risky to head back into town just yet, so they would return to the Sunless Citadel.

This final part, with the cult, while very cool, felt more forced then I like to have happen. The rest of the adventure flowed very well, with character decisions clearly guiding how the adventure flowed. Though I think my party had fun during the final portion, I think they felt it was more of a jarring transition.

I have thought a bit on how this part could have been done better. I think allowing the party to level up with the dungeon, and only returning to town when they really wanted to, would have been a good step. I also think giving a few more cues of suspicious activity at the hands of the Innkeeper and Bar Maid would have made this part of the adventure more interactive, and just better.  This highlights a really important way to improve your DMing, constantly evaluate yourself after a session, think what worked, what didn’t, try to figure out how to avoid the bad things again, and how to build off the good. All DMs make mistakes, but good DMs recognize their mistakes, and try not to make them again :).

Other then the mistakes at the end, this session went really well. We had a great blend of roleplaying and combat, everyone participated in both types of encounters. I also think I role-played the Kobolds very effectively, using voices and body language to give each major Kobold character their own personality, which then amped up my own player’s roleplaying. Finally, I think my use of music and dramatic description, really helped improve the feel of the creepier encounters.

I would love to hear people’s reactions to the spin I have begun to put on the adventure, as well as your thoughts on my player poisoning incident.