Table of Contents - A handy way to check out my articles by topic
Follow me on Twitter
Check out the Power Score RPG Youtube Channel here.
You can reach me at
: powerscorerpg@gmail.com

Friday, June 23, 2017

Dungeons & Dragons - Running City Adventures

City of Neverwinter (Forgotten Realms)
I have been getting a lot of emails from people asking questions about how I run adventures in the city of Sigil. Today I'll try to explain the pitfalls of running city adventures/campaigns and how to avoid them.

I know that running an adventure in a city is very disorienting, especially to a new DM. There’s all of these weird factors that you don’t have to worry about when the group is in a dungeon or traveling through a forest.

Cities are big! There are hundreds or thousands of businesses, and tens of thousands of people. How can you possibly be ready for everything when the players have so many options? How can you detail everything? That would take months of hard work!

Focus on the Obvious: You don’t have to detail everything. You just need to know what to prepare. You should prepare the places that the group is likely to go to and the people they are likely going to interact with. There are a few things you’ll always need to detail when making a city:

Taverns: 3 or more, preferably at least one for each district/section of the city.

Inns: 3 or more, same as above.

Shops: Stores to buy weapons and gear. Definitely make sure to have places that will fill the needs of the characters. If you use spell components, you’ll need a shop for that. If the group uses a wagon, you should make up a goofy wagon maker. That kind of thing.

Sage: A sage or wizard. Think in advance about what this person knows. The group is likely to ask questions of them that you didn’t expect, so it pay to know what topics the sage is an expert in.

Temples: A temple for healing, and temples associated to the gods that the group worships. You can do a lot of fun stuff with the church hierarchy. The party cleric can rise up in the ranks and maybe one day run the whole thing.

Come up with what spells the priests of the church can cast, and how much they request in a donation to cast it. You should probably just pick out 5 cleric spells and have those be the ones available (lesser restoration and raise dead being most important).

City of Brass (Al Qadim, Manual of the Planes, etc)
Library: A library or similar venue for research. I like to come up with a few books in the library related to details of the campaign world you want the group to know about, fun books relating to old adventures in-jokes, etc. Maybe a book with a few spells in it? Under lock and key? You need to schmooze the librarian to get at it.

Bank: Some DMs have banks in their games, some don’t. If you put one in, definitely think about the vault and how well it is protected. Also, be careful with the idea of criminals robbing the bank and taking the group’s stuff. If you do this kind of thing a lot, then your group is just not going to bother with it ever again.

You might end up going down the road where the group thinks that you’re introducing things like this just to screw with them. They’ll end up not interacting with anything.

Moneychangers: Adventurers get gems! They want to turn those gems into money! Make up some of these people who can do so. Also.. sometimes adventurers find exotic jewelry. Rich people would love to buy that stuff. Selling stuff to the wealthy is a good way for heroes to cultivate a relationship with some NPCs and it can lead to all sort of cool things.

“Home Base”: It’s tempting to pick out a location that you think would be cool for the group to live in. You might end up putting a lot of work into it. A lot of times, the players are into another location that you did not expect. They want to live there, not in your place. All that work you did might go to waste.

I think that if you get excited about an idea for a home base, just ask the players between sessions - “Is this where you’d want to live?” If they say yes, get to work! Make sure they understand that they shouldn’t go back on this, because you are going to spend some time creating it and if they ignore it, that’s time you could have spent making the adventure better.

Palace: The place the rulers live in. It’s hard to come up with something original. Usually it’s a palace with a throne room and a big hall where they eat. Definitely think about how the ruler is protected. What kind of guards? Spells? Is a court wizard nearby? The rulers of D&D settlements usually end up threatened, evil or dead. Half of the time, the heroes are the ones responsible for the death of the ruler.

Prison: A prison or jail. Sending characters to jail is a really tricky thing. Once the group becomes wanted by the man, the whole campaign is in question. If the group has to flee the city (or if they blow it up) your city campaign is over. But… there have to be consequences to their actions.

City of Gloomwrought (Shadowfell boxed set)

Guard Outpost: Maybe make a guard outpost? There is no question that the group will meet the guards of the city. If you can, try to give your guards something cool so that they stand out. In Waterdeep, the guard all wear magic helmets that alter their voices so that they all sound the same.

Thieves Guild: Some people use them, some don't. If you have a rogue in the group, the guild might want them to join or they might end up in opposition to them. Wealthy adventurers are going to be targeted by thieves, right? At least, in theory they would.

City NPCs

You will also need NPCs. You don’t need to go nuts with this. Just give each one 1-3 characteristics, and if possible, a secret. The secret doesn’t have to be something big. Whatever it is, when the group stumbles on it, the players light up. They realize there’s a lot more going under the surface in the campaign and they start digging deeper into everything.

I recommend making an NPC for each location. You don’t need to make stat blocks, all you need is the commoner stats in the DMG. Just write down their name, race, appearance, and a few qualities that make them stand out.

Backup NPCs: You’ll also want a bunch of NPCs that are not tied to a location. The group will interact with people on the street and all sorts of stuff you might not have anticipated. If they do go into a business that you didn’t have prepared, you can pull NPCs off of that sheet and run it seamlessly.

Just make sure to write down on that sheet where you placed them. It’s very easy to forget their name, where they were, etc. But the players will remember and it will stick out if you draw a blank.

The Big Trap: I say this a lot, but I think it always bears repeating. Do not fall into the trap of having the vast majority of NPCs be negative toward the PCs. Have most NPCs be nice and helpful to them.

The group will like the city and want to save it when the time comes. If everyone in the city is a dick, they’re not going to care and they’ll want to leave or give the people what they deserve.

Prices and Lifestyles 
City of Cauldron (Shackled City adventure path)
This page has everything you need to handle lifestyles and purchasing items.

Sometimes this gets overlooked. How much does everything cost? What’s available?

Detail the Lifestyle Choices: You should know the lifestyle costs, and if possible, come up with some stuff specific to characters in that lifestyle. Players who decide to live in the “wretched” lifestyle because it’s free should see the consequences (which could be fun, not necessarily horrible).

Make up some bums. Make up a filthy alley for them to sleep in. Make up weird animals that bother them in the middle of the night, or people dumping trash out of a window into the alley, unaware that our hero is sleeping there.

The Wretched Adventurer could end up witnessing a murder or rescuing a prostitute from a violent pimp, all sorts of stuff.

Those who take the aristocratic lifestyle should have their own deal. They paid the money, let’s let them reap the benefits. They could go to a swanky gala, join an exclusive club allowing them to rub elbows with the city elite, maybe that money plus a down payment allows them to lease a large home or mansion. Maybe they have a butler! I would love to have a butler go on adventures with me.
They’re so loyal and polite.

Culture
City of Korvosa (Pathfinder: Curse of the Crimson Throne)

It can be fun to make up swears, sayings and drugs for your city. Magic drugs! Let’s sniff some goblin paste!

Local Profanity: Making up swears and sayings is tricky. You might end up making a lot of them, but the group isn’t going to be able to absorb or remember them all. It’s hard to make a swear that sounds like a swear, and not something that sounds stupid coming out of your mouth. You might want to look up swears in an obscure language in the real world, then alter it for your game. I would guess that those words in the real world became popular swears because they were effective.

Clothing: As far as clothing style, it can help your game stick out (good or bad). When I was a kid, I loved the American revolutionary war. I declared that everyone in my campaign dressed like they did in the 1770’s. Big coats, powdered wigs, etc. My group always made a face when I'd describe a long blue jacket. They couldn’t imagine it, and it did not enhance the game in any way. It was a little too outside of their vision of fantasy, especially in a world where I don’t allow gunpowder (I don’t like muskets/arquebuses in D&D).

Later, I made the fashion of the city resemble Boris Vallejo paintings. But in my city, most people are not bodybuilders or models. They’re regular schlubs with hairy chests, warts and pot bellies. Yet they wear tiny loincloths and golden armbands.

This worked better, because it was fantasy and my goofy style. The group “got” what I was going for.

Laws
City of Tu'Narath (Scales of War adventure path)

This is the part that is really tricky. What are the laws of the city? What are the punishments? How are they doled out? Are there lawyers? If you’re not sure, just make it as simple as possible.

Maybe come up with three categories of crime, each with its own sentence. It’s up to the judge to decide what category the crime fits into, and that’s it.

Magic and the Law: Is all magic illegal? Are certain spells illegal? One fireball could cost a lot of lives in a city.

Wizards and spellcasters working with guards could lead to a lot of fun things. Cleric spells are very valuable for guards. I could see cities tied to a particular faith having one cleric accompany each guard patrol.

If you decide to use magic in the court system/guard patrol/whatever, make sure you know what their spells do. Write down a shorthand version in advance and the page number it is on so that you don’t have to stop the game, look it up, and then figure out the DCs, etc.

Here’s the spells I think are most useful for city guards:
  • Message (PH page 259) A great way for guards to coordinate as they approach your PCs, or for an informant to alert guards outside.
  • Animal Friendship (PH pg 212) Great for handling stray dogs and weird animals that wander in from the forest like bears or wolves.
  • Charm Person (PH pg 221) This is a fantastic spell to de-escalate situations.
  • Command (PH pg 223) "Halt" and "drop" are absolutely perfect commands for guards to use.
  • Detect Evil and Good (PH pg 231) What's better for scoping out shady-looking people who just entered the city?
  • Illusory Script (PH pg 252) For sending messages you don't want other people to read. Lasts 10 days! Seems like this would be used quite a bit in a city.
  • Purify Food and Drink (PH pg 270) I would imagine this would be cast on every meal a ruler was about to eat.
  • Sleep (PH pg 276) A great nonviolent way for a guard to apprehend people.
  • Speak with Animals (PH pg 277) How awesome would it be to a run a scenario where the group is investigating a crime, and the only witness is a stray cat? Maybe the cat doesn't want to talk! Maybe the cat knows too much and a hit is put out on it. If you run a goofy campaign like I do, this is gold.
  • Unseen Servant (PH pg 284) Rich people would probably have people cast this spell to tidy up their place.
  • Arcane Lock (PH pg 215) This is permanent! Any business that makes a fair amount of money might have this, right? Especially if it's a bank vault.
  • Calm Emotions (PH pg 221) All creatures in a 20 foot radius! This is a good way to shut down a riot.
  • Detect Thoughts (PH pg 231) This is extremely valuable to guards and the law. Reading somebody's mind solves a heck of a lot of problems. Because it will be the word of the caster against the word of the suspect, you should probably have it where the caster has sworn an oath and gone through loyalty tests - their integrity is obviously very important and if you don't establish this, your group will question the whole system.
  • Hold Person (PH pg 251) Last up to a minute, plenty of time to slap some shackles on the perp.
  • Magic Mouth (PH pg 257) I personally find these to be hilarious, and I love the idea of a magic mouth spouting the daily news/proclamations of the ruler, or propaganda and law changes.
  • Zone of Truth (PH pg 289) It's getting pretty hot under these lights, isn't it, Driz'zt?
City Adventures
City of Sharn (Eberron)

The first question to answer when making a city scenario is: “Why aren’t the guards handling this?” Two main options:
  • The guards tried, couldn’t do it, and need the heroes to help.
  • If the group is hired by someone to do something, It might be because that person is wanted or involved in something that is technically illegal.
Factions: I think you’ll find that a lot of the adventures in a city start off as things the guards would have no need to deal with. In my experience, city adventures are often about conflicts between people or organizations.

Villains who Skirt the Law: In Sigil, there’s an arcanaloth slaver/mastermind named Shemeshka the Marauder. She runs a casino and on paper, she’s a model citizen. But she does bad stuff! Proving that she broke the law is very difficult because she’s careful about how to handle things.

She might use agents to hire some goons to do something illegal. Then, if the situation comes under scrutiny, she could have the agent killed and the body completely destroyed to prevent speak with dead, etc.

FetchQuest 2: The Questering: A lot of city adventures are about obtaining something. Some bad person wants possession of an item that would allow them to further an evil scheme. Someone running an underground slave operation would definitely want an item that increases the productivity of their slaves, especially if it magically eliminates their need to sleep. They can work 24 hours a day!

Murder Mysteries: These are really hard to do. My biggest problem with them is that it’s difficult to gauge whether it will fill a session! If you’re being fair, the group could stumble on or guess the culprit right away.

If that happens, you might have an urge to block the group, so you don’t have to scramble for material.

I think the best bet is to have another scenario ready, so that if the murder is solved quickly, you can just move on with other stuff you have prepared.

Thieves Guilds: I feel like people don’t use these enough. I know I don’t. They’d make great villains or edgy, anti-hero allies.

City of Sigil (Planescape)

Parties: I have always found this to be true. Players love in-game parties. The heroes go to a mansion, rub elbows with NPCs, drink punch, dance, and then D&D stuff happens. Zombies come in, one of the guests is a polymorphed dragon, thieves try to rob everybody, the mansion gets sucked into another plane, you name it.

I think players like this scenario because it’s so different from normal, and because they have an opportunity to really show everyone what their character is like. We’re not charging from encounter to encounter, we’re investigating, roleplaying, and trying to figure out what D&D thing is going to happen at this gala event. Is the food poisoned?! They’ll always check. Almost always, anyway.

Preparing a Party: It can be hard to make a scenario like this, because it is not linear. How do you prepare it? You could make a map of the mansion as if it was a dungeon to explore, but a mansion is a poor substitute for a dungeon.

What works for me is to make a list of the guests, then make a timeline of what happens when. It’s very simple and it feels loose and fun when you play it out.

When you make the NPC guests, give them some personality and think about how they’d react to the group. If the heroes have been involved in notable adventures, some of the guests might have heard about them and will heap praise upon them.

Investigation: Aside from murder mysteries, the group might go through other investigations. Find out who is sending death threats, figure out who or what this mysterious entity is that keeps appearing on a certain street at night, find the source of a lycanthropy outbreak, etc.

I’ve found that the best way to handle preparing these is one step at a time. They go to the first site to investigate. They find a few clues that point to different directions. Write down where each of them leads and detail what happens when they follow them.

The group might need to go to all three locations to piece together a clue that takes them to the next step. Or, maybe the group can learn enough at any of the three sites to move to the next step. It’s up to you. Just make sure not to have it feel like filler, like you’re padding it out to fill time. Each place should be consequential and worth visiting.

Investigations involve questioning NPCs, so definitely focus on making interesting, fun NPCs and think abut their motivation.

If you can, make an NPC who is hiding something. The group might pick up on it, they might not.
Just drop a clue. If they pick up on it, they could learn something valuable or gain an item.

Rewarding them for digging is important, otherwise it can feel like they just go to a location and automatically find something, then move on to the next step. If possible, litter each locale with one or two easter eggs that aren’t necessarily connected to the story.

Stay on Target: Don't let cities freak you out! Almost all of the best sessions I've had were in cities. If you can get comfortable with it, a lot of fun can be had.

Links

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dice, Camera, Action: Episode 53 - Storm King's Thunder

Episode 53: The Double-Edged Sword
The audio on this episode was very low for me. I couldn't make out some names and other stuff. Still, a very good show!

There are a few things on this episode that are part of D&D lore. I'm going to explain them below. If you want to experience it fresh, maybe skip this review.

 The Party

(Anna) Evelyn - Human Paladin of Lathander
(ProJared) Diath - Human Rogue
(Nathan) Paultin - Human Bard
(Holly) Strix - Tiefling Sorcerer 

Last time, Evelyn died and was reborn as a life-sized puppet/construct. Additionally, Paultin was given a severed hand by a nest-person.


The group is separated in this episode. Strix and Diath are in the room of Citadel Adbar where the ritual took place, while Evelyn and Paultin are in the toymaker's shop.

Evelyn's soul is apparently in Master Flamebane's construct. She is not happy. She actually sort of threatens Flamebane.

Back in the ritual room, Van Richten is down. Is he dead? Nope. Van Richten is alive! They take off his goggles. He's got empty eye sockets! Smoke is billowing out of them. Jasper the dwarf picks him up and takes him to a temple. Strix and Diath are freaked out.

Diath and Strix head down a hallway, trying to figure out what to do. They realize that there are creatures lying in wait for them up ahead. Four bugbears step out of the shadows. They demand the iron flask (the magic flask currently has an earth genie trapped in it).

The heroes aren't giving up the flask so we are going to have ourselves a combat.

Jared has a new amethyst d20. He hopes it rolls well. Natural 20! Wow.

Waffles the baby owlbear has grown up a bit and wants to attack. Holly rolls for Waffles. Natural 20! This is very unwaffle-like.

Strix drops a fireball on the bugbears, using careful spell so that her allies aren't hit in the blast.

Meanwhile, Evelyn examines herself. Anna thinks she's a bit too much like a realdoll. I died laughing.

She demands answers from the toymaker. Evelyn wants Paultin to kill her so that the toymaker can reassemble Murderbot. Good gawd. Don't do that. Paultin actually leaves her and goes to get a drink. He just walks off.

Elsewhere, an invisible assailant comes at Diath and Strix. This person, a woman, is wearing some sort of gas mask. She hits Strix with a lightning bolt and Strix is down.

At one point, Diath makes a perception check. What did the amethyst die roll? Natural 20.

Then... Strix death save... natural 20! Their dice are a force of nature today.

The mysterious attacker turns invisible and flees. Strix busts out the iron flask and tells the genie to follow them. He does.

A dwarf (duergar?) approaches and asks if he's related to Ashton Woodrow. Diath says he doesn't know who that is. We eventually learn that this person is half-dwarf, half-orc.

The dwarf hands Diath a sword.. it has designs on it linked to.. Sigil! Wow. There's a word on it written in Abyssal: "Gutter." It has a keyhole in it. Hmmm.. So does one of Diath's keys work on it?

Diath takes it. The dwarf is disoriented... severed from a connection. He's upset. He wants the sword back.

The dwarf shakes it off. He says that he used to adventure with Ashton, and that the sword is meant for his descendants...

Meanwhile, Paultin goes to the bar. He's got the severed hand out. he plops it on the bar. It comes to life - it has attuned to him. It animates and moves around. It can't fly, but it can move around like a crawling claw.

Evelyn comes in and checks out the hand. It's not evil. She makes friends with it, gives it a fist bump.

Strix had told the dao to follow the bad guys. She realizes she never said for him to come back. Looks like he is free of the flask! Strix is quite perturbed about this. She seems to be rolling around on the ground, groaning.

Gutter, the magic sword, starts talking to Diath. It calls itself a "magic short sword of backstabbing." It wants Diath to use one of his keys in the sword's keyhole.

He does. A planar gate opens! What.. a creature steps through. An arcanaloth.. don't tell me this is Shemeshka.. IT IS! She's wearing the crown of razorvines!! This will be interesting.

Shemeshka the Marauder


Shemeshka is a pretty major NPC from the Planescape setting. She lives in the city of Sigil, she's a shadowy information broker/slave trader and she always has secret plans in motion. She operates out of a casino called Fortune's Wheel and has these "groom-guardians" that I always found amusing. She has a weird, adversarial relationship with another of her kind named A'kin the Friendly Fiend.

There's more about her in my Guide to Sigil.

Shemeshka recognizes Strix. They've met before?! Strix remembers.. Shemeshka tried to buy her.

Shemeshka says she will answer three questions, and then Diath must hand over a key. Each time Diath summons her to ask questions, same deal. Once the keys run out, that's it.

What's the deal with that?

Diath gets three questions.
  1. Who made this sword? "I did."
  2. Why did you make it? It's was a gift for a descendant.. Dareth...? I couldn't hear.
  3. He asks about the curse that is killing Strix and Diath. Shemeshka says that an evil god-thing might be doing this to rejuvenate itself. Learn everything you can about Acererak.
Diath gives her a key. She leaves through the portal.

There's a foppish dandy watching Paultin and Evelyn in the bar. Paultin comes over and demands to know what his problem is. This guy's name is Vorpus Krenner. I think.

Borgus says he's heard of the waffle crew. Their reputation precedes them.

The guy's food comes. Waffles! Evelyn realizes that she can't eat waffles. Anna says she sheds a single tear. Chris says: "No you don't." Everyone cry-laughs.

Paultin grabs a waffle and eats it. Con save! The waffles are poisoned?! Paultin makes his save.

It looks like this guy is a Harper, one of the secret band of do-gooders spread all throughout the Forgotten Realms.

Uhh... the bar is fading away. Evelyn had noticed Paultin's missing shadow - it stuck out to her more than normal for some reason. She was also sensing evil...

They're somewhere else. They're in a castle. Someone's coming. Paultin quickly turns Evelyn invisible.

Who walks through the door? It's Escher. WHAT. Did they just get sucked back into Barovia?!

With Strahd gone, did Escher take over Barovia? Does he now have the power to control the mists?

Overall

This episode is right up my alley. I really get a kick out of seeing Chris run "official" NPCs, and I love the mixing/combining of campaign settings. Right now, we're in a campaign that uses material from Curse of Strahd, Storm King's Thunder, Tomb of Annihilation, and the 2e Planescape boxed set.

Shemeshka will apparently be a recurring character, which I think is really cool. Any link to Planescape makes me happy. I guess Diath is from Sigil as well? I have absolutely no idea what the deal with his keys is.

Questions About the Keys: Sigil is called "The City of Doors" because it has portals to pretty much every plane of existence - The Abyss, Mount Celestia, Hell, Mechanus, etc. In Sigil, the key to opening these portals often isn't a physical key, it's a random item or gesture that is usually linked in some way to that realm. Activating a portal to Hell might require you to think an evil thought, and activating a portal to Mount Celestia might require a feather from an angel's wing.

So Diath has a ring of keys and Shemeshka, who lives in the city of doors, is taking them one by one. Is it possible she lied about making the sword and is after the keys? Were the keys planted on Diath to keep them away from her?

If she didn't make the sword, why is the portal linked to her?

Why is the sword called "Gutter"? Is it because it guts people, or is it a reference to a gutter in the Hive?

Could the group use the iron flask to trap Shemeshka? I think they can.

My favorite question: Could the group go through the portal that Shemeshka came out of? If the group gets trapped somewhere, like a cave-in or something, could they use it to escape to Sigil?

Good show!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Dungeons & Dragons - A Guide to Oozes, Slimes and Jellies

Today, I’m going to go over what is known about oozes, slimes and jellies in Dungeons & Dragons. This should be a decent resource for you if you want to use slimes in your game, or if you are thinking about whipping up a slime dungeon of some kind.

I will start off by covering published slime adventures/slime-related NPCs, and then I’m going to list and detail all of the slimes, oozes and jellies from the main D&D monster books from each edition. I also grabbed some cool ones from other products.

Massive List: If you want a list of many, many slimes and where they came from, check this ENWorld thread right here.

Exclusions: I already wrote about Juiblex, demon lord of slimes, so I’m leaving his stuff out of this.

I am not including fogs and living spells, but I do feel the need to talk about one:

In the 3rd edition Monster Manual 3 there is a monster called a chilling fog. If you do dad jokes, I heartily endorse plopping this entity into an encounter and telling the group that it is a chilling fog. Then you say: "Hey guys, you know what this ooze is doing?" Awkward pause. "Just chilling."

Put that one in your back pocket and save it for later.

Slime-Related NPCs

The Pudding King

There are a number of weird people linked to oozes in D&D.

(Dragon #124) Haptooth: A wizard who studies gelatinous cubes and was able to use gelatinous digestive fluid to create a concoction that can protect you from the cube's acid. Haptooth explored Undermountain and he knows a lot about gelatinous cubes. He has a gross wound where his ribs stick out.

(Dragon #127) Lord Xador: An evil noble who punished miscreants by pouring a slime on people that hardened and turned them into living statues for 5-8 days while the ooze consumes the victim's fluids.

(Dragon Annual 1999) Volhon: A slime wizard who invented a slew of really cool slime spells.

(Dragon Annual 1999) Shandrila (human rogue), Fedrico and Javorik (gnome illusionists): A band of adventurers who survived a harrowing encounter with a gray ooze.

(Inner Planes) The Warlock of Ooze: A wizard from Krynn who was accidentally infused with the essence of chaos. He watches over a town in the paraelemental plane of ooze.

(Dungeon #132) Morbion: An ooze master who worships Juiblex. He considers humanoids to be "Slaves of Shape". Morbion teams up with an olive slime and is based out of the “sickstone caves” in the Greyhawk setting.

Ghaunadaur: A Forgotten Realms god of slimes. He’s a drow who was once allied with Lolth but split off to do his own things. His followers are outcasts and rebels. He is an ancient entity, and apparently some people think Juiblex might be an aspect of Ghaunadaur. Tons of info here.

(Dungeonscape) Bol Darus: A drow wizard who worshiped Ghaunadaur. Bol was eventually killed by an ooze, and oozes took over his sanctum. Supposedly the sanctum has treasure stashed in secret rooms and warded areas that the slimes can’t get to.

(Dungeon 192) Kyrzin, Prince of Slime: This is an Eberron NPC. He is linked to the far realm and is something of a godlike entity. Creatures who worship him do so out of fear more than anything.

(Dead in Thay) Therzt, Champion of Ghaunadaur: He’s an evil, insane drow who punishes himself when he fails.

(Out of the Abyss) Glabbagool: An intelligent, somewhat friendly gelatinous cube.

(Out of the Abyss) The Pudding King: An unhinged, slime-covered deep gnome who amassed an army of hundreds of oozes. He actually tears away his human guise and transforms into an ooze.

Bwimb and Bwimb II: The Paraelemental Plane of Ooze was ruled by an “ooze baron” named Bwimb. Bwimb was slain by Tenebrous in the classic adventure, Dead Gods. Bwimb II took over rulership of the realm, and she is believed to be either the spawn or the congealed remains of Bwimb I.

Neither of these entities have ever been statted out. There’s all of these tiny nuggets of information in old products, just one scattered idea here and there. The biggest notes are that Bwimb II is a fairly minor entity and is quite aware of it. She has forged some sort of pact or alliance with Juiblex, and she pines for Ben-Hadar, the good-aligned elemental prince of water. Bwimb is linked to the classic adventure “The Mud Sorcerer’s Tomb”, where it is revealed that she is worshiped by mud sorcerers, who built special boats that can sail on and in mud.

I made this guide to research and prepare to write a DMs Guild ooze-based adventure. I'm definitely going to stat out and write up Bwimb II in it.

Where Do Slimes Come From?

The 5e Monster Manual tells us the deal. It says that it is written in the Demonomicon of Iggwilv (!) that oozes are scattered fragments or offspring of the demon lord Juiblex. Juiblex can control oozes and imbue them with intelligence.

In older editions, it is said over and over again that some are created by wizards, and some are the results of spells gone wrong.  From the 2e Monstrous Manual: "Warped wizards seek to create life or fashion efficient dungeon scavengers." The origin of the 3e summoning ooze: "The result of a bizarre summoning ritual gone awry".

Ooze Characters


You can be an ooze person! In 3rd edition, at least.

(Dragon #297) Ooze Para-Genasi: Ooze para-genasi are repulsive and slimy. They are most often neutral with a slight tendency toward evil. They are usually heavy-set, with flabby bodies and sallow skin. Most exhibit a mall number of traits that hint at their ancestry, such as greasy skin or unusually flexible limbs.  They have darkvision, a high constitution, resistant to acid and can cast grease once per day.

(Masters of the Wild) Oozemaster: Wizards who have mastered ooze! They have special ooze powers:
  • Minor Oozy Touch: Their hands secrete ooze, make things glow, do acid damage, etc
  • Oozy Glob: Throws oozy globs!
  • Slithery Face: A master of disguise!
  • Malleability: Squeezes through cracks with the greatest of ease.
  • Indiscernable Anatomy: Your innards are a mystery.
  • One with the Ooze: You have blindsight, ooze immunities, and you can't be polymorphed.
You can also learn a special spell:

(lvl 7) Slime Wave: 15 ft radius cone, covers the targets with green slime.

Forsooth! A 4th edition oozemaster!?

(Dragon #413) Oozemaster: These spellcasters live alone, save for Ghaunadaur's insane whispers that keep them company. They like scouring enemies with acid. They’ve got powers:
  • Sudden Slime: A sudden explosion of green slime covers your opponents in corrosive acid. Does acid damage and slows them.
  • Experts at foraging and surviving.
  • Blessed with protection from oozes and slimes, resistant to acid.
  • Scouring Palm: You can secrete acid from your hands. You can melt locks and metal bars, etc.
  • Celerity Jelly: You smear the nearby ground with a slick jelly. The zone is difficult terrain for enemies and aids the movement of your allies.
  • Pudding Sight! You gain the senses of a pudding!!! Tremorsense until the end of the encounter.
(Dragon #382) Ooze Familiar: I love this idea. In Dragon #382 we get a tiny gelatinous cube familiar. “This palm-sized ooze tickles you with its weak acid.” It moves really slow and grants you acid resistance. It consumes nonliving organic objects that it touches at a rate of 1 pound of material per round.

Ooze Adventures


I’m sure there’s many more out there, but here’s the official D&D ooze adventures that I found.

Out of the Abyss

Out of the Abyss has two ooze-related scenarios.

The Oozing Temple: There's a mini adventure in Out of the Abyss where the group ends up stuck in a temple. Their air supply is running out and water is starting to fill the whole place. This is basically a two page dungeon but it feels like a full adventure, it’s pretty amazing.

The group meets Glabbagool, a gelatinous cube that gained intelligence and the ability to communicate telepathically when Juiblex showed up in the Underdark.

The Battle for Blingdenstone: Later in the book, the heroes might have to deal with The Pudding King. He lives in the Pudding Court, a cave inhabited by hundreds of ooze creatures. The group needs to raise a force to come in and take care of the Pudding King.

(Dungeon Magazine #132) Caverns of the Ooze Lord

This is set in Greyhawk. There's a cleric named Morbion who worships Juiblex. He has been using an olive slime to infect villagers, turning them into slime zombies. According to this, olive slime and green slime neutralize each other.

(Dungeon Magazine #193) The Gauntlgrym Gambit

In this one, the group is looking for the fabled dwarven city of Gauntlgrym. They're checking out a dungeon in a sinkhole and get up to their neck in oozes.

There's one encounter called the Sea of Slime, where the group has to walk on a toppled statue to cross a chasm. "Viscous sludge fills the abyss beneath the statue, its quivering surface of mottled yellow, green and brown. Worse, there are ooze tendrils coming out of the cracks of the statue!

Dead in Thay

There’s an entire section of the Doomvault devoted to slimes. The wizards are experimenting on them. They’re trying to bind slimes to undead, they’re trying to make them intelligent, all sorts of stuff. There are two memorable ooze entities in this:
  • The White Maw: A tall white column that is intelligent, but insane. It can communicate telepathically.
  • The Ooze Master: A red pillar that flows like viscous fluid. It can pull you into it and turn you into an ooze puddle.
City of Oozes

In the Forgotten Realms, there’s an Underdark city named Llurth Dreir. This place is a wreck, home to Ghaunadaur worshipers who fight each other over food. People avoid this city mainly because the avatar of Ghaunadaur actually lurks near this place. More info here.

Slimy Doom

This is a special slime disease from the 4e DMG. "Abyssal parasites devour the internal organs of the victim, turning them into quivering slime." Once this disease gets into the final stages, you turn into infectious slime from the inside out, dying horribly.

Slime Spells

There is an awesome article in Dragon Magazine annual 199: The Slime Wizard by Lloyd Brown III.

Volhom the Slime Wizard apparently lives in Erelhei-Cinlu (a drow city in the Greyhawk setting) and he rides a giant slug. “At home, he crouches amid a court of slimes and jellies that would make Juiblex proud.”

Volhom made a million new spells. Here are some of the ones I liked best:
  • (lvl 3) Volhom's Minute Missiles: You fire off small balls of acid, one per round for at least 5 rounds. Does a lot of damage to inanimate objects.
  • (lvl 4) Slime Guardian: Your skin glistens with a chromatic sheen, like a soap bubble in the sun. You are covered by a symbiotic slime, bumping up your AC.
  • (lvl 4) Wall of Gel! It’s translucent. Creatures trying to pass through must make a save or be paralyzed!
  • (lvl 5) Gelatinous Form: The caster becomes a fluid gelatin. You can shift between your form and a shapeless blob.
List of Major Oozes, Slimes and Jellies

OK! This is not a complete list, but it should give you a look at the main oozes from each edition, plus some cool weird ones from other sources.

Some oozes appear in many editions, so I compiled the info into one thing. Judging from which entities get put in the first monster manual of each edition, it seems like the main oozes, slimes and jellies are: Gelatinous cubes, ochre jellies, black puddings and gray oozes.

(3e MM3) Arcane Ooze: "Glowing veins throb and pulse with eldritch light." Known to drain arcane magic from nearby spellcasters, an arcane ooze is 15 feet across and 3 feet thick. If you try to cast a spell within 30 feet of this thing, you make a save or lose a random spell of the highest spell level that you have available!

Assassin Jelly: An urban predator that lurks in sewers near intersections, using tremorsense to pick out lone city dwellers after dusk. They actually follow people to their home and kill them in their sleep. It looks like a street puddle and has an intelligence of 10.

(Dragon #367) Azure Jelly: Living creatures are food for this thing, which freezes prey and devours them. Azure jellies emerge spontaneously from icy places, infused with arcane energy. They have the power to let out a wave that freezes all nearby

(1e MM) Black Pudding: A compound 5 feet in diameter that is composed of groups of single cells. It can flow through narrow openings, under doors, travels on ceilings etc. It has “tiny mouths and silica” that do 3-24 dmg (a lot of damage for 1st edition!). It splits into two when chipped/struck.

In the 4e MM2, it says “this mercurial ooze slithers on the ground like a massive pool of tar, waiting to turn anything it encounters into sludge.' There are also stats for black pudding spawn, which are minions (1 hit point monsters). In a few older books, there’s an elder black pudding, which is a massive, more powerful version. 

(4e Open Grave) Blood Amniote: This ooze is composed of the blood of hundreds of creatures that died in close proximity to one another. It has tendrils that grab you and drain your blood. Legend has it that priests of Orcus once unleashed a storm that rained burning blood on two armies. They died and became blood amniotes.

(4e Underdark) Blood Ooze: Spawned from the blood of Torog (a massive, bleeding god-thing that crawls around in the Underdark), the touch of a blood ooze is toxic to living flesh. It can inhabit a living host and has great ability names like "fetid caress" and ”blood infiltration”.
(3e MM 4) Bloodfire Ooze: A lot of the 3rd edition oozes are fantastic. This 15-foot tall ooze reeks of brimstone and looks like a pool of blood with faces twisted in torment. They are made of burning blood and they can let out flame bursts.

These creatures are created in cauldrons through a ritual requiring the blood of at least 100 good or neutral humanoids, and all of the ichor from a powerful demon ("10 HD or more").

(4e Open Grave) Bloodrot: Undead jellies that form when humanoids are melted by acid. A vaguely humanoid-shaped mass that reeks of blood that squeezes you with 'blood tendrils'. They crave blood of the living.

(4e Open Grave) Bone Collector: These undead oozes kill and scavenge, collecting bones to increase their mass. Three massive bone collectors, said to be over 25 feet in diameter each, inhabit the Underdark.
(3e MM 2) Bone Ooze: This thing is extremely powerful! CR 21, 320 hit points. Also known as a "rolling graveyard". It's an undulating mass of goo the color of bleached bone that is roughly spherical, over 30 feet in diameter and weighs over 40,000 pounds! When it hits you, it absorbs some of your bone structure and heals itself at the same time. It can try to absorb the skeleton of an engulfed creature into its own mass.... good gawd. These things are awesome.


(3e MM3) Conflagration Ooze: Check that out! It contains a roaring inferno, flames and fluid swirling throughout it. Gouts of flame erupt from it skin. These creatures are intelligent, they can talk and they even hoard treasure. Anyone who comes in contact with a conflagration ooze must save or be infected with a fiery toxin and your blood begins turning into liquid flame.

(1e MM2) Crystal Ooze: This ooze is a variant of Grey ooze that is 75% invisible underwater.  Blows from weapons do only 1 point of damage per hit to it.

In the 2e MM, it says that crystal oozes can exist out of water for several hours. They spawn pods, which hatch in 7-10 days. They will eat their own offspring.

(1e MM2) "Deadly Pudding" This is a category that lists brown puddings, dun puddings and white puddings. All of these things do a lot of damage., anywhere from 5-20 (5d4), up to 7-28 (7d4).
  • Brown Pudding: Dwells in marshes. Tough skin, doesn't destroy metal, does destroy leather and wood.
  • Dun Pudding: Found in arid regions, dissolves leather, eats metal half as fast as black puddings.
  • White Pudding: Cold-dwellers, 50% chance they are mistaken for snow and ice. Do not affect metal, dissolve animal/vegetable in one round.
(3e MM 2) Flesh Jelly: This one is very powerful. CR 19, 237 hit points. That is a truly repulsive creature. It rolls over foes and absorbs them into its mass. You make a save. Fail: You die! "A successful save prevents absorption that round". It expels your belongings from its body after it absorbs you. You can't be raised from the dead! Only a wish spell can bring you back. I love this one.


(1e MM) Gelatinous Cube: These clear cubes of ooze clean carrion from underground passageways. They are transparent and difficult to see. They can't digest potions, daggers, such material remains in body for several weeks before being cast out. It can paralyze you. You are "anesthetized for 5-20 melee rounds" as digestive secretions digest you.

In the 2e MM2 it says that sometimes, they reabsorb their spawn. In this article on the wizards site, we get a few variants:
  • Half-Farspawn Gelatinous Cube: So… a being from the far realm mated with a cube. How about that? This cube can assume the form of a grotesque, tentacled mass.
  • Gelatinous Cube Monk: This cube trained in a monastery for years, honing its skills and achieving inner peace. Speed 45 feet! Flurry of blows! Maybe it learned this stuff by consuming a monk?
(Dragon #124) The Ecology of the Gelatinous Cube

This is written by Ed Greenwood and is framed inside a scene where a wizard named Haptooth is holding a lecture on gelatinous cube to other wizards and sages. Haptooth claims to have created an antidote to the gelatinous cube paralyzation effect. Stuff we learn:
  • Gelatinous cubes are also known as an “athcoid.”
  • The Zoo of Amn has or had a gelatinous cube for at least 12 years.
  • Gelatinous cubes have no thoughts, respond automatically
  • They are attracted to vibrations and warmth.
  • Merging: Two can merge into one greater cube. Double cubes are 10 x 10 x 20, more of a rectangle. Eventually it divides again. Contact with a third cube causes division, they can't combine more than two.
  • To Reproduce: A cube must grow to sufficient size, then split into two.
  • They anesthetize their prey via a gummy secretion which is absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin of the victim. 
  • They can't digest metal.
  • They can move about underwater with ease, but their poison is diluted.
  • Haptooth's Antidote: It removes the paralysis within 1-4 rounds. Has no effect on other forms of paralysis. Not magical! Derived from the digestive juices.
(Dragon Magazine Annual 1997) Ghaunadan: These are intelligent ooze creatures that serve Ghaunadaur, god of oozes, slimes and jellies. These creatures have full control over their semi-liquid bodies. can pass through cracks. They can assume a humanoid form for up to 15 hours at a time, taking the form of a human male or a female drow. They have a paralytic slime attack, they’re resistant to bludgeoning and they can actually form around a weapon trying to strike it, capturing the weapon. And trapping it like a fly in amber. Their humanoid form is pleasing! CHA 15 or grater. If they look into someone's eyes, their gaze is equal to a friends spell.

(3e MM 5) Graveyard Sludge: When this sludge kills a creature, that creature’s remains rise up as a slightly more powerful than normal zombie in d4 rounds. It can give bonuses to nearby undead. They form spontaneously in graveyards, and suck spiritual energy from cadavers.

Gray Ooze: This ooze resembles wet stone and corrodes metal. It is immune to spells! The largest ones are intelligent and develop psionic abilities.

(Dragon Annual 1999) The Ecology of the Gray Ooze


This one contains a story about two gnomes and a human trying to loot a chest in a cave, but a gray ooze kicks the crap out of them. Factoids:
  • No Surprise: You can't sneak up on a gray ooze because it "sees" everywhere at once.
  • Gray oozes reproduce asexually by budding. They eat a large meal, and release a pod the size of a small stone. In 2-3 days, the stone hatches a new gray ooze. The ooze absorbs the stone shell and wanders off in search of food.
  • Gray oozes are roughly oval in shape and they can climb stairs, but not walls. They move very slow and can go for weeks between meals.
  • Their surface is covered in pits and grooves. It is like a pit viper, detects heat at a range of 30 feet.
  • In combat, it strikes like a snake. It devours carcasses completely. Once at you’re -20 hp, you can't be raised or resurrected.
  • It cannot detect cold-blooded creatures such as reptiles, insects, and arachnids.
  • Psionics: Some grey oozes have psionic powers.
  • Their mucous coating is a valuable ingredient in making oil of acid resistance. It must be harvested within 5 rounds of its death.
In the 2nd edition Monstrous Manual, we learn that they are up to 12 feet long. Weapons striking them corrode and break. Metalworkers of great skill keep very small gray oozes in stone jars to etch and score their metal work.

In the 4th edition Monster Manual 2, it says that gray oozes are major nuisances in archaeological expeditions. In 4e, their main attack is called "bone melt". Each time a gray ooze hits you, your defenses go down by 2.

(MM) Green Slime: A strange plant growth found in subterranean places. Although they cannot move, they slowly grow. They can sense vibrations and attach to living flesh. In 1-4 rounds after attachment, the victim becomes green slime and can’t be resurrected. Green slime can be scraped off, frozen or burned. Cure disease spells kill them. Other forms of attack don't harm it. There are reports of huge slimes and colonies of dozens of them.

In the 2nd edition Monstrous Manual, we learn that sunlight dries green slimes out and eventually kills them. They are an infestation that all creatures avoid. Once a green slime has infected an area, it tends to grow back, even after being frozen or burned away.

(2e MM) Mustard Jelly: A young wizard tried to polymorph herself into an ochre jelly and her spell failed. She became the first mustard jelly. Mustard jelly is yellowish-brown, translucent and has a faint odor of mustard plants. They can secrete a vapor in a 10-foot radius that makes you lethargic – you move at half-speed. It can divide itself at will. Cannot move through tiny spaces or climb ceilings. Immune to normal weapons. Magic missiles cause a mustard jelly to grow and heals it. Cold does half damage, and it is harmed normally by other attacks.

(2e MM) Ochre Jelly: A giant amoeba that seeps through cracks, devouring flesh and cellulose. They travel on walls and ceilings. Lightning bolts divide them.

(MM2) Ooze Paraelemental: Also called a mud elemental, this is a liquid mass of dark, writhing tendrils. It uses its tendrils to constrict.

(MM2) Olive Slime: A strain of monstrous plant life akin to green slime. Olive Slimes feed on animals, vegetables and metal. It exudes a numbing poison and spreads over victim's body. sending tendrils into the body to feed on the host. It ultimately attaches to the spinal area and the host transforms into a slime creature in 1-2 weeks.

The 2nd edition Monstrous Manual says that the victim might not notice that the slime is on them. in 2d4 hours, the victim's main concern is how to feed, protect and sustain the olive slime. The victim keeps its bond with the slime secret from allies.

(Plane Below) Primeval Ooze: A weapon made by the primordial built to consume agents of the gods, primeval oozes roam the elemental chaos. A primeval ooze is ever-hungry and it envies advanced creatures. It uses pseudopods to pull you inside it. When you hit it, a cyst pops and sprays burning acid. It can eject a torrent of slime that immobilizes. They can't speak, but understand the primordial language.


(3e MM 2) Reason Stealer: This thing is brownish-yellow. It steals your intelligence and then it can roughly mimic your shape, in a vague and blobby way. It can't talk, but can randomly mumble words in that creature's language. That is awesome. All of that lasts one day. It can even cast your spells, use your ability score/skills/plus to hit! I think this one is my favorite.

(Planar Handbook) Shadow Jelly: A pool of undulating darkness, a non-sentient shadow that feeds on life and light. Made from concentrated shadow-stuff, shadow jellies drain all of the warmth and life from its target.

(Dragon 367) Shadow Slime: These slimes dwell in the Shadowfell and they can extinguish lights and drain your lifeforceA shadow slime attaches to a victim, and when it is struck, the victim takes half the damage. They are cunning and stealthy.

(MM2) Slime Creature: These are the metamorphosed hosts of olive slimes, vegetable creatures linked symbiotically with the olive slime. When they hit someone, there is a 10% chance that they infect their opponent with olive slime.

In the 2nd edition Monstrous Manual, they are also known as "slime zombies". The symbiotic bond to their host is secure within 200 miles. To return a slime zombie to normal, you need a limited wish spell! When dropped to 0 hp, they become a puddle of olive slime.

(2e MM) Slithering Tracker: Transparent plasma-draining jellies that move silently, seep through cracks, and prefer to attack sleeping or unconscious creatures. They secrete a substance that paralyzes you for 12 hours, during which it devours your plasma. Your corpse will look dehydrated. These things are actually created in a hideous process involving a living human being wherein dark wizards remove the bones of their enemies, turning them into hulking masses of jelly-like flesh.

(3e MM3) Snowflake Ooze: This does not need a safe space and it is not a "cuck". It's pretty much just a snowy ooze with a cold aura that does d6 cold damage to creatures who start their turn next to it.

(3e MM3) Spirit Ooze: Ravenous, incorporeal creatures created when wisps of matter from insubstantial undead congeal into a single amorphous entity. They have little sentience and are elusive.

Stunjelly: Relative of the gelatinous cube. These were originally designed by a forgotten mage to resemble a stone wall. Light passes through it and it smells like vinegar. They reproduce by fission, making a horrendous rending sound. It carries around undigested metals and can't slither under doors.

(Monstrous Compendium Annual 2) Stone Pudding: Solid and sluggish, a thick lump that hides on ceilings. It drops on you and absorbs your flesh over 1-10 rounds. They can't eat metal/wood/leather. Their remains are used as ingredient in oil of acid resistance.

(Monstrous Compendium Annual 2) Subterranean Pudding: A colony of hundreds of living organisms in a single pudding that has sensory organs on its underside. Sages believe that they are all altered black puddings. They don't divide, they split into two, each half just as powerful as the original.
  • Gray Pudding: More corrosive than black pudding, gray puddings dissolve their victims completely. They are susceptible to flesh to stone spells – it slows them.
  • Dense Pudding: These puddings are slow, dark blue, easy to spot, and ooze secretions that corrode  living flesh. Those hit by a dense pudding must make a save or succumb to a "debilitating disease" (which is not described).


(3e MM3) Summoning Ooze: An ooze with glowing arcane symbols. It can summon monsters. That is a really cool idea.

(3e MM3) Teratomorph: Another huge, powerful ooze. It lives deep underwater, but sometimes it washes up on the beach. Portions of it flickers with light. These things are infused with chaos, their very presence can tear holes in the fabric between the planes! When it hits you, you roll on a chart for a special effect, such as causing "tiny portions of the opponent' anatomy to vanish" or being polymorphed into a random new form.

Every round that you are close to a teratomorph, you make a save or be shifted to another plane! When it moves, it fires off random spells. There's a chart for that too. My first instinct was to ignore this thing because its name doesn't match the others (maybe they should have called this a Chaos Ooze or something) but I'm glad I didn't overlook it.

(Dragon Magazine #127) Xador's Fluid: If it hits, it combines with living skin, hardening to rock. The victim is solidified, as if coated with plastic. Make a save - success keeps it out of your nose and mouth. Fail: You pass out in one round, die d4 rounds later! While attached, it drains 1 hp per turn. After 5-8 days, it reliquifies and divides in two. Barkskin spells destroy Xador’s Fluid. A blow with a weapon shatters Xador’s fluid, but it also harms the victim.

Xador’s Fluid was named after Lord Xador, an evil noble who used this stuff to punish miscreants. Their hardened forms were displayed as statues until they died. You can use Xador’s Fluid as armor if carefully apply it to yourself for five rounds to apply. You can wear only normal clothing under it. It’s painfully tight and you can't sleep while wearing it.

Links

TONS of 5e ooze stats free right here.
DMs Guild New 5e Ooze Stats (pay what you want)
Dungeon Dozen Ooze Table
Awesome ideas for oozes - Alchemical oozes, Violet Ooze, etc.
5e Slime Creature Stats

Monday, June 19, 2017

Planescape - Blood War XV. The Endless Maze

I just put out the second adventure in my Litany of Arrows path, Warpath of Gruumsh. I put in a whole section of “downtime adventures” at the end that I think does a good job of simulating what I do in this campaign every week. For the adventure, I made a bunch of mini-charts for specific carousing scenarios. It’s very joke-y, but I figured it was bonus content, so DMs can just throw it in the garbage if it’s not their style.

DM Burnout: While I was preparing this one, I was thinking about writer’s block. I think most of us DMs have, at one time or another, hit a wall, creatively.

Back in middle school, I ran my first campaign, which was well-received. In high school, I ran my second. Also well-received! 10th grade hit, and I hit a wall. I had some ideas for the third campaign, but everything felt very stale and I just couldn’t come up with anything worth running.

I actually stopped running games for the group, and other players filled the void. I still ran a few long term side campaigns (Al Qadim and 2e Ravenloft), but I just couldn’t get my own homemade setting straight.

The First Campaign: I think everybody has that big storyline they want to run. Usually it’s a variation of the "big bad guy out to take over the kingdom, the world, the multiverse, etc" story. Once you run your first campaign to completion, some DMs can pull off a follow-up campaign that builds off of the events of the first one.

The Second Campaign: Usually, this second one pales in comparison and the DM starts to feel a bit of pressure. You can’t compete with the memories of the “golden time”, the first 7 or 8 sessions of D&D that people ever play.

As a DM, the pressure can build and you start to press yourself to match what you did before. It can become stressful, almost like a grind.

The Third Campaign: When that third campaign hits, you might find yourself in a weird spot. You’ve told the story you wanted to tell. Twice! All your life, you had these ideas. You used them. What now?

The Cure: That’s the spot I was in. It took me a long time, but by the end of high school I figured out the solution. For me, it was a combination of 3 things:
  1. Use published adventures and campaign settings.
  2. Use your players. Most players have a vision of their character and the cool things they want to do. Do those things!
  3. Build off of each previous session. The things the group did last time determine what happens this time. That story never ends, and it’s exciting because nobody knows where it’s going.
I haven't been burned out since that time. In fact, I have a backlog of stuff I want to run.

Pathfinder Trouble: Preparing for this one was not what I thought it would be. I was set to run a simplified version of Herald of the Ivory Labyrinth, an adventure in the maze of Baphomet, demon lord of minotaurs! This will be awesome!

But I read it, and it wasn’t what I expected. Most of the adventure takes place in a prison. There are very few encounters set in the actual maze. I dug up the 4e Baphomet article and read about the maze. Nothing too useful!

So I sat there and asked myself if I could make a maze in the time I had before the session. I tried to jot down some cool ideas, but I drew a blank. I turned to google. I found the one page dungeon site, which was a huge help. I looked at their encounters, which got the wheels turning.

What really helped the most was the 3e Book of Challenges. That is an absolutely fantastic book full of encounters for you to pull out and use.

I got rolling and ended up with too many ideas! I combined some and eliminated others, and I was excited.

Detour: Then, as I was polishing this up, I started having awesome ideas for stuff that could happen two sessions from now. It would take forever to explain. By the end of my preparation, I was dying to run that and was almost bummed I had to run this maze instead.

The Party

(Jessie) Bidam - Platinum-Scaled Dragonborn Fighter
(George) Theran - Elf Wizard

Baphomet, Demon Lord of Minotaurs

Last time, the group had obtained a divine shard that contained godly power inside of it. The heroes decided to go home and rest before heading into Baphomet’s maze to see about shutting down the portal that connected to Thanatos.

Employees: We did a bunch of joke-stuff with the group’s employees. Their talking cat is in love with a tabaxi and the group hired a new worker – she is an ooze para-elemental (a lady made of lime jell-o, basically) named Doot Fluidia. I couldn’t wait to say that name out loud.

The Greatest Thief in Sigil: The group ran into Ash Vodiran, a thief who stole a huge pile of money from them way back when. He was hitting on Theran’s baby mama! I just wanted to see if the group still hated him. They do!

Theran quietly handed Bidam his arrow of demon slaying. Bidam crept up on him and tried to stab him with it, but his stealth roll was not good. Ash immediately turned into a shadowy wisp and fled.

The group has ghost-grinding dust that can force Ash to remain substantial, but they keep forgetting that they have it. I’m in a weird spot here where I have this NPC that the group absolutely despises and I can’t figure out how to fit him in to all of these stories. He is one of the many children of
Graz’zt and Iggwilv, so I should definitely get on the ball.

Four Balls: I’m guessing you don’t want to hear to much about this, so I’ll keep it brief and vague. Bidam attached a demon scrotum to his undercarriage, so now he’s got four balls. The demon balls are BALOR BALLS that pulse with energy. He went to take a leak and his stream was so powerful that it shattered the thing he was peeing into.
Graz'zt, Demon Lord of Azzagrat

Skyshrine: At Theran’s floating castle, they walked in on Graz’zt threatening the group’s succubus nurse friend. Graz’zt was flipping out on her, because he was telling her to charm the group and she was refusing.

She got turned to stone last session, and the group paid to have her restored to normal. They saved her! She is loyal to the heroes, now.

Graz’zt drew his blade, wave of sorrow. Acid dripped from the blade to the floor.

The heroes sprung into action. Graz’zt glared at them and demanded that the group convince the devils help Graz'zt's army get into the layer that Verin (a demon who betrayed Graz’zt) is hiding in.

The group refused. Graz’zt made an ominous threat - “There will be consequences.”

This sets up what I want to do in two sessions. Graz’zt is going to do a bunch of crazy crap that will lead to a chain reaction of epic madness.

Demon-Breeding Farm: The group is in a moral quandary. They’ve been making demon crustaceans known as nephrotics. It turns out that the nephrotics are delicious, and there’s a lot of money to be made in selling them to restaurants as if they were lobsters. The group firmly decided against it. I honestly wasn’t sure what they’d do with this, that’s why I threw that out there.

The group found out that Graz’zt had been here, too. He actually stabbed Areelu, the NPC that runs this place. Graz’zt is in a bad mood because Iggwilv found out that he’s been messing around with Lamashtu (Iggwilv chanced upon the Graz’zt/Lamashtu baby in the nursery last session).

Divine Shard: The heroes studied the divine shard that fell out of the Charnel God last session. I based this off of the Nahyndrian crystals from Wrath of the Righteous. Basically, they can make it into an elixir and keep it in an iron flask. Once opened, it must be consumed within one minute or it EXPLODES for 15d6 in a 30 foot radius. When you drink it, you must make a Con save:
  • Fail: In Pathfinder terms, you take 4d6 points of Constitution damage – if you drop to 0 Con or less, you die. I haven’t exactly figured out how to handle this in 5e rules, I might just leave it like that.
  • Success: You gain MYTHIC POWER. That’s a pathfinder thing. For this game, I’m saying that it takes you on the road to becoming a god. The group’s friend, Bovina, wants to become the god of minotaurs. Now they have a thing to do it. The problem is that if she drinks it, she might die.
Soul Larvae, Pathfinder-style
Soul Larvae: The group went to the Gray Waste to rustle up a herd of soul larvae. They did so, having an encounter with a mega-popular NPC from previous campaigns: Burba Larga, the not-so-smart stepdaughter of Baba Yaga.

The group got a huge pile of larvae (keeping them in a herd by using chromatic orb spells and other magic). They split half with their hag friend, Virinis (who lives in the screaming tower from “Umbra”, which I ran way back when).

They had to decide who to give it to. Whichever demon lord got the larvae could use them to gain power. The choices:
  • Pazuzu: Demon Lord of the 1st layer of the Abyss. Nope.
  • Graz’zt: Get on his good side? Nope.
  • Xanthopsia, Queen of Obscenity: Was it finally her time to shine? Nope!
  • Uralinda, Queen of the Harpies: She’s the one who asked them to get the larvae in the first place. The group decided not to give it to her, because they were afraid she’d break up with Pazuzu and then Pazuzu would be angry at the heroes.
  • Bazuuma: Yes, they gave more soul larvae to Bazuuma, demon lord of positive energy. With her new power, she created a massive floating complex in the plane of positive energy that is safe for demons to inhabit. This is a sort of emergency lair to flee too in case things get dire.
The Endless Maze
Odeenka the Marilith
Finally! Let’s do the maze! The group went through the portal and met Odeenka, a really cool-looking marilith from the ivory labyrinth adventure. In that book, she pretty much attacks the group.

In my game, Odeenka was very, very open to being bribed. She netted herself a javelin of lightning and other fabulous prizes.

The group ended up wandering the maze for about 10 days. This adventure was an opportunity to build up Bovina, the female minotaur. She helped the group navigate the maze, getting advantage on survival checks (every day you have to make a DC 15 survival check to make progress in the maze). She rolled ridiculously well, so it worked out perfectly.

They actually ran out of rations and were getting worried about food. The maze has all sorts of different sections, some of which I used from Pathfinder and some I just made up.

NPCs: In the pathfinder adventure, Baphomet periodically releases prisoners in the maze so that he and his minotaurs can hunt them. I had found this list of characters from Whose Line is it, Anyway? and I modeled some of these prisoners after them. As the group traveled, they added these people to their group:
  • Old Man Glorm: Cowardly old bystander in a western.
  • Dakra: Middle-aged woman who is proud of her body.
  • Eo Kaplan: Michael Jackson turning into a werewolf (he’s a gnoll).
They met Eo Kaplan almost right away (“Captain Eo”) and I started doing the high-pitched Michael Jackson voice. This guy was an instant hit.

The Bone Maze
  • Wall Trap: A wall panel smeared Bidam and Theran, crushing them against the opposite wall. They took 4d10 damage per round! Bidam smashed through it and pulled it back enough for Theran to slip out.
  •  Ettin: A sleeping Ettin completely blocked their path. Stealth checks: everyone rolled extremely high!! Did not expect that!
  •  Michael "Hee Hee" Jackson: Hi I’m Eo Kaplan. I’m not like other guys.
The Endless Towers

Oostarix, Eater of Men

A maze of towers connected by elevated walkways over a misty void.
  • The Iron Door: This door had a mouth and bragged that nobody had ever solved its two riddles! You can’t go through the iron door until you do so. I googled two easy riddles and George was all over this thing! He nailed both in seconds.
  • The Minotaur: Old Man Glorm was being chased by a minotaur. The idea was for the group to run down this hallway, while portcullis traps dropped. The heroes might have ended up trapped between two portcullises while the minotaur tore the bars open and came at them. Instead… Theran disintegrated the minotaur in one sizzle. He was Oostarix, Eater of Men! He has cool art, he deserved better.
  • Rotating Bridge: Bovina and Eravamont Glask (Sean Connery) fell into the void. I had this whole thing where there’s gnomes and catapults down there. The NPCs catapulted back up, and the group barely caught Eravamont. He almost went over the bridge and back down.
The Silver Stairs

Stairs up and down, spiral stairs, etc. The walls were mirrors.
  • The Reflections: Their reflections tried to get the group to touch the mirrors, but the heroes refused.
  • Circular Room: Baphomet himself appeared in the mirrors. He questioned the group. He realized that they were working with the devils, and relished the idea of killing them. He told them that the device to shut down the portal was in his tower, the Lyktion! It, too, is a maze. Next session, the group will try to navigate that maze while Baphomet himself hunts them.
  • Trap: The central part of the floor dropped out beneath them. All of the new NPCs except for Eo failed their saves and fell to their death. Way down there was a hedge maze full of labyrinth minotaurs… but the group avoided it. They continued on.
  • Haagenti’s Bridge: They came upon a bridge outside lined with statues of minotaurs with glowing eyes. At the middle was an amber statue of Haagenti, other of minotaurs. Inside it was a black flame – the vestige of Haagenti. Like the vestiges in Curse of Strahd, you could make a pact with her and receive a boon.
Bovina decided to do so. Haagenti forced them to go through three tests to prove that Bovina was worthy of the honor! An ice maze formed around them.

Haagenti’s Ice Maze
  • The Slide: The group ended up on a slide with three giants froze in massive blocks of ice sliding after them. Eo got squashed by the cubes, totally dead. The group immediately began brainstorming ways to bring him back to life. He rose up as an undead gnoll (now he’s even more Thriller-like) and we continued.
  • The ice maze was melting and the un-frozen giants were chasing them! They came to a hallway with a series of sheets of ice blocking their path. The idea was that Bovina could try to minotaur-charge through them, but Theran immediately dropped a fireball. This melted the sheets, but also melted the dungeon!
The group freaked out and ran, making it to the final room.

The exit was a swirling portal on the other end of a frozen lake with thin ice. The group tried to daintily cross. Theran cast levitate on Eravamont and handed him a rope, pulling the floating dustman across as if he was a birthday balloon.

Theran failed his save and the ice gave way beneath his feet. He tried to hold onto the rope to dangle, but he was unable. He fell into the freezing water.

The three giants jumped into the pool and lunged at Theran. Bidam, Bovina, and Eo were at the portal, but didn’t want to leave without the other two. Theran ended up swimming over to the heroes, but Eravamont was still dangling by the ceiling.

The giants had passed by him and were adjacent to Theran. Bidam tried to pull him out but took three devastating opportunity attacks while doing so.

Theran tried a maneuver. He misty stepped to Eravamont. They both fell in the water. Then Theran cast thunderwave to create a sonic blast to propel them through the air and over the giants. Arcana check! His roll: A 20!

Boom, the group escaped and the test had been passed.

The portal too them right to the front doors of the Lyktion, Baphomet’s tower. They’ll go through that next time!