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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Dice, Camera, Action: Episode 90 - Tomb of Annihilation



Episode 90 - Vicious Mockeries
Final episode of the season! Special Guest: Jerry from Acquisitions, Inc.!

Chris is using his phone, He's in Burbank, California.

 The Party

(Anna) Evelyn - Human Paladin of Lathander
(ProJared) Diath - Human Rogue
(Holly) Strix - Tiefling Sorcerer
(Nathan) Paultin - Human Bard
(Jerry) Omin Dran - Half-Elf Cleric


Chris recaps the last episode, which includes the whole "womb for the box" thing.Jerry wonders aloud what they're doing on this show. The group points out that Jerry's group gets treated nicely by Chris. The waffle crew are the "whipping boys".

The group is in Port Nyanzaru, where their evil clones are wandering around.

Evelyn is in heaven.

A little girl had purloined the magical spectacles and took off, running. Diath chases after her. He catches up and grabs her.

She starts making a scene in the street, and a crowd is forming. He tries to grab the glasses: Sleight of Hand check: 32. A big tortle tells Diath that what he's doing isn't very nice.

The girl is demanding payment. The group catches up to them, and Paultin casts suggestion on her. It works. The group has the spectacles again.

Now that the group once again has all of the things they need, Diath asks Strix to read X the Mystic's Arcane Grimoire. Once she has, then they'll hand it over to Shemeshka.

It begins to rain. People dart for awnings. Raincatchers start collecting water. The group ducks into "Sebata's Snake Pies", a little establishment that sells meat pits.

Strix finds a paper with the Acquisitions Inc. letterhead on it. It appeared in her hat. It's correspondence from Omin Dran. She wants Omin to come and raise Evelyn and Simon from the dead.

She receives a magical sending from Omin: "Strix, where are you? I don't want to teleport into a hole."

Her response: "I'm at Sebata's Snake Pies."

Omin appears in neatly polished armor. He sees Strix, standing in the rain.

He is with a 30ish something woman named Vajra. She is black, slight and has a noble bearing. In her hand is an obsidian black staff.

Diath drops his pie and steps between Omin and Strix, fuming with rage. Omin has used the infernal contract to summon Strix away from the group before, and he doesn't like it.

Paultin draws his sword, confused. Vajra uses her staff to magically make the sword rusty and useless.

Diath goes off on him. Omin says, "You're acting like this is your girlfriend or something. What?" The other heroes stifle laughter.

Omin: "Listen, Dorth. I owe her. Let me do my work."

Omin says the price has already been paid.

The group rolls out the remains of Evelyn and Simon right on the street .Omin kneels down and examines them.

Port Nyanzaru guards are approaching the group. Paultin casts invisibility on himself.

An armored guard calls out, "Stop! Put your weapons down on the ground."

The guards think the group are the evil doubles. Citizens begin to gather. Some of them recognize the group.

The guards try to forcibly arrest everyone, including Omin. They hold Waffles at spear point. Strix casts gaseous form on her.

Paultin tells a guard he slept with his wife last night. Paultin rolls a 24, but it doesn't work out. The guard is gay. "I don't have a wife. Stop lying."

Omin demands to be allowed to collect the bodies before being taken away. The guards agree to it. The guards then march the group through the city.

They pass under a bridge. The heroes spot the evil clones looking down at them from atop the bridge.

Diath curses when he spots them and points them out to the guards.

Time to roll initiative!


The players actually play both their regular characters and their evil counterparts.

Anna is playing Evil Evelyn (her name is pronounced "Eh-velyn"). Evil Evelyn spots Omin's symbol of Tymora and dry heaves.

Evil Diath touches evil Evelyn on the small of her back and says, "This one's for you." He kisses her and swings on a rope down toward the group.

Paultin is thrilled with this new Diath. He says aloud, "One's my friend but one's... hotter."

Omin casts hold person on Evil Strix. She is held.

Evil Paultin casts crown of madness on Strix. Holly rolls her saving throw.. 15. She made it. That would have been bad!

The underside of the bridge has stone carvings of monkeys hanging from it. Strix casts animate object on a pair of them. Two stone monkeys break away and claw their way up to the top.

Paultin attacks evil Diath and drops him with the sunsword. This enrages Evil Evelyn, who shouts "Cower before Evelyn of Shar!"

Evil casts phantasmal force.. everyone but Omin fails. They drop their weapons and run! It appears that Evil Evelyn is higher level than the clones, who are 3rd level.

Phantasmal force manifests their deepest fears. What's their fear?
  • Strix: Everyone's dead.
  • Diath: His mirrored self. He hates the idea that everyone sees him as that guy. Also, Strix collared, shackled, enslaved and near death.
  • Paultin:Wearing the ring of winter and being alone in a frozen realm.
Strix casts magic weapon on her hands. She has claws. She kills Evil Strix.

Omin wants to casts stone shape on the bridge. Evil Evelyn fails her save. The ground under her feet softens and she falls through the bridge and lands on the ground below. Evil Paultin remains on the bridge, battling a stone monkey.

Evil Evelyn lays on hands with evil Diath by making out with him. He regains 20 hit points. Gutter is right near him. Evil Evelyn grabs the sunsword. Evil Diath grabs Gutter. This is bad!

Diath finally snaps out of it. He sprints back and throws a dagger at Evil Diath. He hits and is most pleased.

Evil Paultin thunderwaves the other monkey and destroys it.

Strix doesn't like Evil Evelyn and drops a 5th level fireball on both her and Evil Diath. 40 damage. Evil Diath is burned to a crisp.

Evil Evelyn lets out a shriek of rage.

Paultin casts dissonant whispers on Evil Evelyn, which causes her to malfunction and collapse. She's dropped to exactly 0 hit points.

Evil Paultin sees his whole team is fallen and flees.

The total live viewer count hits 2,432 at 8:58.

Omin says, "This was way harder than I expected. What if I need more than you, next time?"

Strix offers that the waffle crew could help the AI group if they need it. The group is brought to a guard quarter.

Evil Paultin makes a stealth check. He evades and escapes the guards. End of session.

It sounds like Jerry will be back in two weeks on the season premiere. Chris shows us a dicebag Anna made for Chris out of DCA costume pieces.

Overall

I love the idea of the evil clones, and I liked this. I expected some kind of twist, cliffhanger, or clue as to what season 4 will hold, but nothing stuck out to me.

While I was mortified at the idea of Evil Diath wielding Gutter, I really like Evil Diath and Evil Evelyn and I hope we see them again somehow.

I am enjoying the show, and I'm hoping they go all the way to 20th level.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Dungeons & Dragons - What is a Good Dungeon Master in 2018?

I have been busy working on a couple projects, one of which is a secret thing that I am very excited about.

This blog has opened up many opportunities for me in the D&D realm. Thank you for reading my stuff and buying my DMs Guild products!

Running the Tomb: I've been running games online and it has been going tremendously well. We have played through almost all of the Tomb of Annihilation. I'm starting to look at the final encounter and really study the bad guys. I want make sure I don't mess anything up!

So far, the tomb has not been as deadly as I thought it would be. I think part of that is due to me being a bit of a softie.

My other group, the Dungeon Academy, has started playing through the Chris Perkins/Jon Leiheusser Temple of Elemental Evil prequel, the Battle of Emridy Meadows. That group is fantastic! The last episode was really awesome, total chaos.

The Greyhawk Channel: I am playing in a campaign on the Greyhawk Channel. It's called Mordenkainen's Path of the Planes.

I made a githzerai, basically so I could use all the lore I dug up in my guide to the githzerai.

Being a part of this game has taught me quite a bit about where D&D is at in 2018, and it made me think about whether or not I need to adjust my style.

I run my games in a goofy sort of manner. I keep it moving, I joke around, there's not many in-depth scenes. I keep dialogue short.

As I played this session, it dawned on me that many players on this show and on others are expecting something different. Players are watching Critical Role and Dice, Camera, Action, and it seems like a lot of them are expecting and looking forward to the emotional, dramatic side of the game.

People want to invest in the game in ways that, frankly, I have never been comfortable with. I'm not saying that I can't or won't do it, I'm just saying I've never fully committed to it and that it's new territory for me.

The session we just did in Mordenkainen's Path of the Planes was really awesome. The production on this show is great. Shane, the DM, has background music, he uses roll20, he's got maps and tokens for everything, and we use zoom and discord.

On top of that, he's got all of these twitch gadget things running that keeps the chat engaged. It's amazing to watch the channel grow so quickly and it is very clear to me that the greyhawk channel is going to be huge very soon. All three of the other players he got for this game are awesome.

So as I'm playing, I'm sitting there thinking about which of these things that he's doing might fit into my online games. I'm not a technical guy, but I understand that production values matter. What should I use? What can my computer handle? How simple is too simple when it comes to running an online game?

As the session cam to an end, we had a scene where we'd survived a cataclysmic occurrence and were in the ruins of Mordenkainen's tower. My character is a drunken master monk, and so he went looking for booze.

Since I'm a githzerai, I hate slavers. One of the characters was a reformed slaver, or something to that effect. My character hated her. The other heroes encouraged me to let it go. She made an impassioned plea. So, my character paused for a moment, and then slid her a drink. My character hasn't accepted this person, but he's open enough to see what she does next.

When the session was over, I turned the whole thing over in my head. Should I be making space for these kinds of scenes in my games? We only have two hours per session. They eat up a lot of time.

I'm coming to the conclusion that many.. most.. of my players are looking for this kind of thing, and I probably have not been accommodating them.


Spotlighting Backstory: I've never been good at blending backstories with published adventures. Going over the Dice, Camera, Action summaries, I noticed how the show pretty much revolves around the group's backstories.
  • Strix: The Izek, Lady Wachter, and Skizzies.
  • Diath: The hanging, Gutter and Lorcatha.
  • Evelyn: The Lathander stuff with the constructs and the saints.
  • Paultin: The Strahd/Dark lord run and the ring of winter.
Chris jumps around, focusing on one or two characters each session. It seems to be working both for the players and the viewers. People like it.

One thing I don't like on DCA is how Chris splits the group up a lot. There are plenty of times where a player will sit there for 30 minutes, doing nothing while two other characters are off adventuring.

I don't like that, I don't want players to come to the table and just sit there and watch. If I was going to split them up, I'd try to cut between them every 5 minutes or so.

But, again, nobody seems to mind.


Going Forward: I think what I am going to do is just take little baby steps and see what happens. I'll make some space here and there - probably during rests - and throw in story-type stuff that feeds the feels, so to speak.

I think the point of all entertainment is to make you feel something, right? I've probably not put enough effort into that in my games. In think that gives my games a somewhat shallow quality, sort of like rocks skipping on the surface of a lake.

We'll see. I'll mess around with it and let you know how it goes.

I should be able to talk about my secret project soon. Maybe a few weeks? I hope people like it, I'm really breaking my back over this thing.

I'll be running:
Tomb of Annihilation tomorrow at 6:30 PM EST
Dungeons Academy 7 on Sunday at 6:30 PM EST

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Dice, Camera, Action Episode 89 - Tomb of Annihilation


Episode 89: Double, Double, Toil and Trouble
I really liked this one! A little awful crew, Sewn Sisters, crazy deals....

 The Party

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

Last time, the awful crew (evil clones of the waffle crew) got into a fight with dinosaur trainers. Strix rode an allosaurus and started lighting things on fire. She got knocked out and is bleeding to death. Two successes, one failure.

Like last week, Anna is the DM!

We get descriptions of the evil characters. My favorites:
  • Evil Paultin: Strahd poseur.
  • Evil Strix: Feral trash pile.
Strix rolls a death save. She rolls an 11. She's stable. Umpox is invisible, flying near Paultin.

Someone claps and steps out of the shadows. She's made of wood and metal, colored black and gold.

She looks the group up and down. She touches Diath's face and goes, "Aren't you just a tall drink of something strong?"

She likes their style. She asks them if they're going to finish the waitress off. Diath stabs Martha

She tells the group they can be her followers. Evelyn wants to be the leader. A fight breaks out.

In the chat, glados comes up with a great name for her axe: Nightfall.

Evil Paultin's name might be Nit Luap.

Umpox disengages, flies 80 feet into the air. Diath throws some daggers at him, and he dies. He was holding an eye (a hag eye), which gets squashed.

Evelyn tells Paultin to swear fealty to Shar. He does, obviously lying. So does Paultin.

Evelyn heals Strix. She says, "Let's douse the flame of hope and rule with an iron fist." The awful crew has been assembled.

That's where the Awful Crew stops.

The Sewn Sisters

Chris takes over in the DM seat.

The group had made a deal with the hags.The heroes will give them hair (so they can make more clones). In exchange, the hags will give them:
  • Fox's spectacles
  • Resurrection scroll
  • X the Mystic book that was allegedly stolen from Shemeshka
The hags are about to speak, when something appears in the cauldron. It's the evil little girl that the awful crew put in the bag last session.

The hags want to eat her. The group stops them. The hags put the little girl to sleep a place her in a cage.

There's discussion of further trades.

Strix tries to polymorph Baggy Nana into a chicken. She makes her save.

The adventurers are quietly talking amongst themselves. The hags overhear the group mention Shemeshka. Later, they hear Strix mention Gutter. The hags are very interested. Two of the hags leave to obtain the items. This will take 1 day. The group will have to wait here. The hags split up their tasks:
  • Peggy: Goes to get the spectacles and the book.
  • Baggy Nana: Goes to fetch the scroll.
  • Widow Groat: Stays with the group to keep an eye on them.
She asks Strix asks what her coven is called. Stix blurts out that it is the chicken foot coven from the Feywild.

Groat says, "We are the Sewn Sisters." She pulls out some red thread. "Snip snip." "Stitch stitch."

Something else appears in the cauldron. It's John Cena! The dinosaur trainer from last session. His corpse, anyway.

Widow Groat says to the group, "You've stepped into an arcanaloth rivalry. Mr. Fox vs. Shemeshka. All arcanaloths want is magic and knowledge."

She tells them about the plane of Gehennea. Then she tells them about the Books of Keeping, tomes that contain the truename of every yugoloth in existence. The group has an awesome idea. They want to find the book that has Shemeshka's truename! With it, they can have power over her.

Strix asks Groat if she knows any truenames. The hag offers some for another trade. What can the group offer? They go through their stuff. Some of their ideas:
  • Lightfall's parts
  • Strix's arm
  • Paultin's 4 candles
Groat comes up with a crazy idea. She wants Strix to carry a child for her. Diath hates this idea. Strix seems open to it. Diath begs Strix not to do it.

Strix asks Groat if she could stop Shemeshka. Groat says that she could.

Widow Groat shares a secret. Widow Groat whispers to Diath that when Shemeshkia mediated the deal between the Skizzixes and the Lorcathas, Shemeshka kept a piece of his valuable, ancient soul. It's locked in a box in her house.

"Would you like me to bring you the box?", she asks.."The Box for your womb."

Strix thinks about it for and says yes.

Widow Groat gives them time to discuss it.

Paultin goes over and watches Groat chop up the corpse of John Cena.

Suddenly, the hag reels. When Umpox was slain, the hag eye was destroyed. It is linked to her, and thus she is temporarily blinded. 

Evelyn's Dad

Meanwhile, in "heaven"...

Evelyn's in the domain of Lathander. She asks around, hoping that Simon's soul is here.  His soul must have went somewhere else.

Evelyn says all she ever wanted was to be wanted. She thinks Simon felt the same way, so she's hoping Simon to give Simon that feeling.

Evelyn realizes she can talk to her dad, who passed a way long ago.Evelyn flies to a glittering temple on top of a hill.

There's people cradling spectral babies. A 12 foot tall green angel. A planetar.

The babies transform into young adults. One of them is Evelyn's dad. Evelyn can cry now. She hugs him. She learns that her mother is in one of the great temples of the Morninglord.

Her father tells her, "It doesn't look like you may be here very long. ...you're just here for a short visit."

She flies around with her dad. She asked him why he never came back. She never knew what happened.

He explains that he went into Undermountain, the giant dungeon underneath Waterdeep.There's a family that has fallen into the dark service of Shar. They infiltrated cities.

While in Undermountain trying to bring light to the darkness, Evelyn's father was killed by a vampire named Karesta Delvingstone. It sounds like his body is still down there.

Evelyn's dad wants to go tobogganing (sledding). Evelyn is up for it.

The Deal


Back in the Material Plane, Groat's eyesight is returning.

The group notices a strange, giant door. I'm pretty sure they're in the bottom of the Tomb of Annihilation.

After day, Baggy walks through the wall. She has a blackened scroll tube. "One resurrection scroll, she says.

While the group is in the Waffle Hut, they hear the two hags having an argument about the destruction of the soul bag. They are angry at the awful crew.

The group overhears the hags scheming. They get the sense that all three hags are plotting against one another.

The third hag returns. Widow Groat starts talking about the baby again. Diath takes Strix's hand and tells her not to do this. He says they'll make it through this, like they always do.

Paultin, Diath and Strix hand over their hair. In return, the hags give the group the items. Each hero takes one:
  • Diath: Spectacles. 
  • Paultin: Resurrection scroll. It is very warm. It was stolen from a cleric in the bowels of the Nine Hells.
  • X the Mystic's Spellbook: Strix.
Diath slyly starts talking and pointing out that the hags have been talking about ousting each other. They start fighting.

Taking advantage of the chaos, Diath frees the kid and looks for a secret door. Strength check to open it. Paultin: 17. He makes it.

They appear in the outskirts of Port Nyanzaru, emerging from a ruined ziggurat in the old city section of Port Nyanzaru.

Strix wants to use the bomb to collapse the tunnel and block the exit. She realizes that the blast radius is too big, and backs off the idea.

Strix unpolymorphs Waffles from her hat.

The little girl that they freed thinks the group is the awful crew. She steals the spectacles from Diath and runs into the city!

Overall

I really liked this episode! Tons of stuff happening.

Evil Evelyn: I was hoping to see an evil Evelyn and we got it! She's awesome. I figured she would be a paladin of Dendar, but Shar makes more sense in the big picture.

Diath's Soul: Shemeshka has a piece of Diath's ancient soul in a box?! In her house? That is really crazy. What exactly would happen if Diath's soul became whole again?

The Deal: I was surprised that Strix was up for having a hag baby. How would that work, exactly? What a crazy idea.

Undermountain: I was a little thrown by the mention of Undermountain. Is the group going there? Evelyn's dad mentioned families infiltrating cities. This sort of keys up with what Mike Mearls said on a show a while back - a storyline about the devils infiltrating cities and causing the blood war to spill into Faerun.

Nate has a new D&D show!


It's fun to see the players develop more stuff.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Dice, Camera, Action Episode 88 - Tomb of Annihilation


Episode 88 - The Awful Crew
Chris actually becomes a player for this episode!

 The Party

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

Last time, the group tricked death and learned how to use a shadow crossing

Strix has polymorphed her friends into mice. They're hiding in her hat as three hags confront her. The hags:

  • One hag has two coins over her eyes and ants crawling over her skin.
  • One wears a string of children's teeth around her neck. Has a peg leg.
  • The third one has a sack on her head. Peeking out of a hole in the bag is a dog and a viper.

The hags want some hair from the heroes. The group decides to do it. Yhey think that maybe the hags can bring Evelyn back.


Meanwhile.. in Port Nyanzaru.. there's another Strix, Paultin an Diath walking around. They're third level.

Chris gives the DM chair over to Anna!

The group describes the Awful Crew:
  • Diath: Less scars, looks 29 years old, wears clothes from Port Nyzanzru. He lets a hair dangle in his face.
  • Strix: Shorter horns, hair is matted, disgusting, and slicked-back. Her tail is out, long black claws, parts of her are rotten.
  • Paultin: Looks like Strahd.
  • Umpox: Chris is playing the hag's assistant imp. He's thin, has bat wings, and a scorpion tail. He holds an eyeball.

Diath has a bodybag - a sack of evil. When you put bodies in it, the bodies are transported to the hags. It only works on evil people.

Umpox is usually invisible. When not, he assumes the form of a rat, a raven, or a spider.

Strix snatches a rat off the street and bites its head off as she scans the area for evil creatures.

They don't spot any evil creatures. Paultin decides to cast crown of madness on a fishmonger and have him start beating people with fish.

They spots a young girl creep up, steal a fish, and flee.

They grab her. Diath asks her, "Hasn't anyone ever told you that stealing is wrong?" He sticks her in the bag. He makes a performance check to make it like a magic trick to throw off bystanders. Rolls a 19!

They're good for the day. They want to go get a drink. Strix wants to burn something.

Three dinosaur riders take offense to this and chase the group.

Diath tries to jump onto a rooftop and do some assassin's creed maneuvers. Doesn't go well.

Paultin checks his pocketwatch and sits down in an alleyway that has a hipster alley bar. He grabs a table.

One of the dinosaur riders is a huge, muscled dude. His name is Shmon Shmeena. He's wearing jorts. He punches the imp.

Evil Strix cuts off Sh'Mina's hand.

Paultin abandons the group and heads over to a back alley bar. Paultin's snapping his fingers, trying to get service.

A remaining bad guy on a dinosaur. Diath gives him an intense eyebrow raise. A dinosaur bites Diath for quite a bit of damage. Not good! Allosaurus is still trying to kill Diath.

Paultin's being a rude customer. Here comes the chef.. It's Shmulk Shmogan! He's holding a plate of spaghetti. "Whatcha gonna do when Shmulkamania runs wild on you?"

A waitress spits in Paultin's glass. Evil? Might have a candidate for a bag.

Umpox  lands on the shoulder of Marsha, the waitress. He tries to pluck her eye out. He does! Then he drops the eye in Paultin's moonshine. Paultin drinks it anyway.

Strix is on a dinosaur. She's hit with three arrows. She's down, making death saves.

Diath chases off the enemies and drags Strix to safety.

Shmulk Shmogan is giving Paultin the dreaded airplane spin. Paultin barfs spaghetti and moonshine.

Paultin unleashes a thunderwave that causes Shmogan to back off. Wait.. no... Shmogan is HULKING UP.

The restaurant's name is Pastamania.

Diath is going to jump off a table and bodybag this dude.

Paultin tries to hit the Shmulkster with moonshine, but rolls bad.

Umpox tries to revive Strix. Rolls a 1.

Overall

I have no idea what that was all about! Amusing. I love the idea of evil duplicates of the adventurers.

We talked all about this show on Waffle Talk:

Dice, Camera, Action Episode 87 - Tomb of Annihilation

Episode 87: Necessary Evelyn
We start off with a song by Anna. Awesome! This group really goes the extra mile.

 The Party

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


Last time, a balhannoth destroyed Evelyn's construct body. Her spirit was shunted into the soulmonger. Simon was killed, too.

Evelyn's spirit flew up and into the atropal and, through the power of her faith, she unleashed rays of sunshine into the heart of the creature and, apparently, destroyed it.

Back in the Shaowfell, Diath, Strix and Paultin sensed that the death curse was gone.

In the dark tunnel, smoke lingers from the fireball. They can hear the crashing of the waves from outside.

There's a bright amber light out in the Shadowfell that illuminates the beach.

Diath notes that this is twice now that Evelyn has saved them. The heroes take a short rest. Diath now has up to 45 HP.

Strix prays for the Morninglord. Holly wrote up a prayer and everything. Waffles makes sad noises.

There's a creature in these tunnels. It's... death.

Meanwhile... Evelyn is being tossed into the air. It is a bright, sunny morning. She begins to fall. Someone catches her. She looks into the eyes of her father. This is a memory.

Now, her dad is gone. Evelyn looks around and realizes that she's in her human form. Evelyn sees Zaress, the priestess she met in the Soulmonger. She's 40 years younger than she appeared to be in the soulmonger.

Zaress is watching a boy, who is on a swingset. The kid's name is Dortimer Ankathra. Is this an anagram or something?

Evelyn sees that they weren't annihilated. Lathander saved them?

Zaress says that is was Evelyn who saved thousands of souls. She's heard murmurings of sainthood in association with Evelyn's name..

Zaress tell Evelyn that since she did not die a natural death, there's a path back to the natural world.

Evelyn wants to say hello to Lathander.

Zaress and Evelyn talk some more. Zaress points out that the greatest gift is not a soul.. it's love.

"What is a soul without a soul mate?"

Zaress urges Evelyn not to rely entirely on Lathander. "Don't lean too far into your belief in him, as it is more important to believe in yourself."


Back in the Shadowfell, the group starts following "Death". He seems to be leading them in a square path.

Paultin casts Mislead, which allows him to become invisible.

Death says "I'm free" It starts to cast a spell. Paultin casts counterspell and shuts it down.

"Are you Acererak?", the group asks.

"No."

"Are you death?"

"I am Death."

Death was a prisoner of the balhannoth. It explains that this Death is one of many Deaths.

The group wants him to bring back Evelyn. He says he can't do that.

Death has a couple of scrolls. It's his naughty and nice list.

Death tells them how to get out of the tunnels. They've got two choices: Go through the wall or walk around the whole path.

After some searching, Strix falls into a pit full of corpses. From the ceiling, a fresh corpse falls and lands with a splat.

Diath uses the horn of blasting to blow a hole through the wall.

Morning Glory has wings! She's now a pegasus.

Overall

I like the Lathander stuff. I don't get the Death stuff. Death couldn't just kill the balhannoth?

We talked about all this stuff on Waffle Talk:



Dice, Camera, Action Episode 86 - Tomb of Annihilation

Episode 86: Simon Says
 

Strix wlll be in Idle Champions: Heroes of the Forgotten Realms. Holly says that she cries, throws things, and is overall a suboptimal champion

 The Party

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

Chris kicks this session off with a rundown of things the characters can do.

Paultin
  • Has the canaith mandolin. He can use it to cast levitate, fly, cure wounds, dispel magic, and protection against lightning
  • Eyes of charming
  • Disguise kit with two costumes: Pterodactyl and perkins
Evelyn
  • Broken axe - lightfall
  • Treebane, the magical axe.
  • The Heart of Spinelli, a flaming sword.
  • Holy symbol of ravenkind.
  • She is a construct, has many immunities.
  • She received a boon from Lathander. She has holy oil in her veins, extra constitution.
  • Evelyn's book of etiquette
  • Flying boots
  • Magical steed
Diath
  • Gutter, the short sword of backstabbing.
  • Mysterious key ring - the keys can summon Shemeshka.
  • Gloves of thievery
  • Horn of blasting
  • Padlock from Barovia
  • ring of protection +1
  • Luckstone
Previously, the ring of winter disappeared and Paultin came to his senses. Simon is still a puppet, but now he has an animated mouth. He says: "Oh my stars.. i can tell jokes!"

What kind of jokes, you ask? Here they are, right here:

Why was Strix late for the Waffle Crew reunion?
Her broom overswept.

What does a clock do when it's hungry?
It goes back for seconds.

How do you make a clown cry?
You kill his family.

What did the shoe say to the pants?
"Sup, britches?"

Why did the scarecrow win a prize?
Because it was outstanding in its field. 9this one killed me).

Where does Papa Paultin keep his gold?
In snowbanks.

The group is on a beach in the Shadowfell. There's a hole in the cliff wall. Looks like a tunnel.

They sense the presence of the ring of winter.

Paultin's invisible. He uses one of his candles for light and he creeps around in the tunnel. Inside are colored floor tiles that form paths down the corridor like snakes.

Gold tiles.. red.. purple. This is from the Tomb of Annihilation adventure, but altered. There is a gash in the roof of the tunnel.

Why was the zombie upset with his job?
He wanted a raise.

The heroes decide to walk the golden path. Tentacles drop down through the crack and attack.

Diath stabs it and rolls a critical. He does 56 points of damage.

The tentacle thing has legendary actions?! It does piles of damage, but the group is able to wound it.

It has Evelyn! It teleports away into a rough-hewn rocky chimney.It's not far.. Strix flies on her broom up the chimney and hits it with a fireball for 52.

The fire fills the tunnel! It drops Strix. Simon goes down.

This monster is a balhannoth... a magic-eating tentacle monster. It will apparently be in the upcoming Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes.

Pieces of Evelyn come falling out of the crevasse.. there's her head. The head rolls over to Paultin's feet.

Paultin hits the balhannoth with a thunderwave and destroys it.

Evelyn is dead!
Her spirit arrives in a strange realm. There are many towers... and twisters that connect to an amorphous moon with limbs attached to it. It's impossibly huge!

She's not alone. There are other beings. Like her, they are spectral.

The other creatures gathered here:
  • A scrawny tiefling
  • A gnome in a vest
  • An elven woman
  • The ghosts of the acq inc battle balloon crew.
  • An old woman wearing the symbol of Lathander who is comforting a young boy...
The gnome looks at Evelyn and says "I know you! from Omu!"

The old woman introduces herself to Evelyn. Her name is Zaress. She is a champion of the church, and she took the faith to some of the darkest corners of Faerun

The spirit of an orc appears and joins the congregation. There's little for them to do except to wait to be devoured by the massive entity.

The entity extends long tentacles. The tentacles wrap abound the tiefling and pull him into the sky. he yells "I hope you choke on me!"

Zaress looks at Evelyn and says, "I sense something strange about you.. something different than all the other ghosts."

They talk for a bit. Evelyn's the worm in the apple. Zaress thinks that if the atropal tries to devour her, she will destroy it.

Zaress says, "Everything will be alright. You are loved."

Evelyn flies up and tells the atropal to take her instead. Persuasion.. natural 20!

She's drawn up into the vortex. Perception check: natural 20. Seriously.

The towers are shuddering.. one collapses...

Back in the Shdowfell, Paultin calls out, "Lathander you punk bitch, give her back! Hallowed be thy name, gg."

He checks on Simon. Simon is dead - a burnt hunk of metal. Face is burnt off.

The ghost of Simon appears on the tower with the other spirits.

Evelyn is drawn into the vile gullet of the atropal. It is an unborn god...

Evelyn transforms into sunbeams that tear into everything.

Throughout the multiverse, all hit point maximums are restored. The death curse is over!

Overall

Crazy! I was trying to figure out what the city was. Is it Khin Oin? Probably not..

Very good show! We talked about this extensively on Waffle Talk:

Friday, March 16, 2018

Dice, Camera, Action Episode 85 - Tomb of Annihilation


Episode 85: Two and Two Together
Very good show! A lot of the players went to conventions this weekend and got sick. They're all here though.

 The Party

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

The group is in the Shadowfell. Last time, the ring of winter ditched them. The heroes don't know what happened to it, or where Miranda went to. Lord Nihil was slain. There's fallen ice sculptures all around him.

Meathook, the undead ogre zombie, is still here. Strix puts a blanket on his head and declares that his new name is Hooky the 3rd. Chris says that Meathook's full name is, I think, Meathook Enderavente.

The heroes are cold. There's nothing to salvage in the inn. Nate is really sick in real life, but he's here. What a trooper.

The group gets into the carriage. Meathook can pull it, but they need to motivate him to do so. They get Meathook to walk by dangling food in front of him with a stick.

Izek, Strix's brother, is still with the group. Izek is upset because his dolls are gone. Strix begins to argue with him. He takes one of Strix's dolls and chucks it out of the cart. Diath goes to get it. Strix explains to Izek that he needs friends.

Izek points out that Diath is a Lorcatha, "The family that tried to destroy us". Izek tells Strix, "You can't be friends with him". Izek yells at her.

At this point, the carriage is stopped. Evelyn pins Izek to the ground. She casts zone of truth. It affects Izek.. also, Diath. Paultin is in the zone and says, truthfully: "I don't feel good."

The group grills Izek about the Lorcathas. Are the Lorcatha angel-people?

Izek: "The Lorcatha are a human family."

Izek mentions something called the Ashton Concordance: No Skizzix or Lorcatha can ever be together. No friendship or alliance.

Izek urges Strix to kill him. "If you stay with him, you'll destroy everything. You two can't be together!"

Evelyn: "What do you mean they can't. They are!"

Diath throws Gutter to the ground and points at the sword. "Apparently that's his. Ashton. He's no father of mine."

Izek wants Strix to go to Vallaki and look at Lady Wachter's books. The group could learn more about the Skizzixes. Diath points out that they have more pressing issues. They need to stop the Soulmonger.


Paultin makes a snow angel and goes, "Look, it's Diath."

Strix polymorphs Izek into a chicken. Strix tells him she's not leaving the group. She changes him into a spider and the group leaves him behind.

15 days pass. Each character (except for Evelyn) loses 5 from their max hit points due to the death curse. I think Diath is down to 18 hit points!

Each day, Evelyn becomes more distant from the group. She spends quite a bit of time away from them.

One morning, when Evelyn goes off to pray alone, Paultin follows her. He sees her praying out loud.

Evelyn says that she thought she was special... she thought Lathander would bless her with a life mate. And she thought Paultin was hers. She has been tempted by darkness. She's been weak and selfish. She loves Paultin more than she should and it's turned her... it's more than she can handle on her own. She asks Lathander to wash it away and pledges her loyalty to the Morninglord.

Then it starts to rain.

Paultin goes, "Did you really mean all that?"  He casually sits next to her. "You put a lot of faith in that god of yours. You should be working for yourself rather than hoping that Santa Claus is going to help."

Paultin asks if she remembers when he tried to kill everyone. Paultin apologizes He said he wanted the ring of winter.. he lip in a comment about how everyone in the subreddit deserves an explanation haha!

Paultin says he never felt like a contributing member. He was always dragged along. The others have so much they're good at. Strix is magic, Diath looks he's 18 forever, and Evelyn is the strongest person... really strong. Paultin is just the drunk, the silent player.

Wow. Tremendous!

When Paultin saw the ring, he thought he'd finally found a way that he could contribute. He realizes now that the ring led him down a dark path.

The rain makes it look like Evelyn is crying. Evelyn says that she should do her job better and that she's sorry, too.
Paultin says they should never talk about it again.

Meanwhile... Diath tells Strix he's a bit worried to tell her stuff.. because he's afraid. The ogre zombie farts.

Paultin and Evelyn hug. Paultin looks at you, the viewer and says, "Chat, you can't rush this stuff."

The heroes travel on for a few more days. The air changes quite a bit. They can hear the sound of the ocean.

Uh oh. They realize that Meathook is about to walk them off a cliff!

Holly tries to remember the command word to make him stop. "Spaghetti!" Yikes. That's the one to make Meathook go faster.

Saving throws. They rolled bad, except Jared, who got a 34.

Diath gets out, and grabs Simon and pulls him to safety. Paultin holds onto the cliff. Diath pulls him up.

Evelyn plummets over the side. 100 feet! Strix saved herself via flight. She looks for Evelyn through the fog. Evelyn survived. She pulls herself free. Meathook is in four pieces... impaled through a rock.

The group checks out the beach. All along the coast are wrecks of hundreds of ships. They create a jagged mass impaled on tooth-like shards of stone. The walls of the cliff are white. The beach is black, dark pebbles.

Snow on the beach? Nope. bones. Millions of bones!

Strix casts remove curse on Evelyn. It gets rid of the Shadowfell despair. She does the same on Diath. Ha! That spell does everything.

There's a cave in the stone of the cliffs. The group hopes there's a portal home in there.

Evelyn senses undead from the ships.

Paultin and Diath see.. swooping down from high above.. a gigantic, roc-sized bird. Its black. A gargantuan raven!

It transforms into thousands of ravens. They coalesce into a figure. The Raven Queen! A 6 foot tall human-shaped mound of twigs. A walking nest.


She is speaking in Celestial. Evelyn translates in a very polite manner. "I have come for the chalice and hand".

Evelyn asks, "Which hand, my friend?"

The Hand of Ch'ga'kare.

"Your fate has been stolen from you. You no longer need those treasures."

"For what purpose did he need the treasures?"

"Return them to me and I shall reward you. A consolation prize."

Strix is on the ground covering her head. She's a little panicky.

Paultin hands the items over. Ravens swoop down and snatch the items away.

Suddenly, the Raven Queen goes from 40 feet away to 5 feet away. She's right in Paultin's face.

"Is there something I can give you? I know what you want."

What's this? Simon, the evil little golem, suddenly ha a human mouth. Has he become real?

That's where we stop!

Overall

Great show! If you are looking for action, then you might not like this one. But if you're into the characters, you'll love it.

We discussed all the gory details on Waffle Talk:


Monday, March 12, 2018

Dungeons & Dragons - High Level Threats and Low Level Heroes

Today I want to ramble a little bit about something that I probably do too much of - throwing high level enemies at low level heroes.

Yesterday, I ran a session of Dungeon Academy, a campaign I'm running for people who are brand new to D&D. In this session, four level 3 heroes fought a lich. They, uh... killed it.

Not really something that should happen! I definitely feel like I made some mistakes and I'd like to take you through my thought process.

Scaling: In D&D, I think it is important to have the players understand that not everything in the world is scaled to their level. Some creatures are really powerful. My thinking is that by having a group interact with something much more powerful than they are, then that will build anticipation for when they're finally strong enough to face that creature.

I think it makes leveling feel more important. It builds anticipation and gives the players a sense of accomplishment.

Making the Encounter: My idea here was to give the group an item that could hold back the bad guy - beads of force. When you throw a bead, it does 5d4 damage and traps the target in a sphere of force.

That's good, right? The group can trap the lich and run for their lives!

The heroes needed to obtain some elemental gems. So, in theory, they can grab the gems, run, and then keep the lich at bay with the beads of force.



Troubleshooting: I think you should always plan for the possibility that the bad guy defeats the group. In this instance, I decided that the lich would take them - alive - to the Temple of Elemental Evil for questioning (This campaign involves the original 1e Temple of Elemental Evil).

These players are very, very new to D&D. To expect them to figure this out on their own is probably a bit much. I knew I'd have to drop hints, but I didn't want to hint too strongly. Unfortunately, I didn't really have an NPC who I could speak through, so it was not easy.

It went like this. The lich left his carriage, which was drawn by skeletal horses (cool, right?), to go get his gems.

The group stole his carriage and looted it - they got one of the lich's spellbooks and his beads of force.

Can Liches be Blinded? Another character was able to snag the gems when the lich was unexpectedly blinded by the death of a darkling. I had to look real quick - are liches immune to blindness? No.

He has truesight. Does that mean he has blindsense? I had no idea so, in the heat of the moment, I just said that yes, he could be blinded.

Truesight is on page 9 of the Monster Manual. Looks like I was right - he was blinded.

I should note that I had actually used two of the lich's legendary resistances, so it's plausible that he'd save the third one an accept the short-term blindness.

This was all part of a sprawling chase where the lich dimension door-ed onto the roof of the carriage and fought the heroes. I pulled my punches in the first round, using only a paralyzing touch and no legendary actions. But in round 2, things got real. I had him casting rays of frost with his legendary actions.

During this battle, the ranger rolled TWO critical hits, launching arrows into the lich's skull.

Cantrips and Monsters: I had another quick quandary. Do cantrips scale up for monsters? In the heat of the moment, I couldn't remember. I knew that ray of frost does 3d8 for spellcasters of 11th level and 4d8 for 17th level casters.

Looking now, I see that the lich is a CR 21! In his stat block on page 202 of the Monster Manual, it says he's an 18th level spellcaster. So that mean his rays of frost do 4d8. I got that right, then.

This whole thing boiled down to the lich flying and chasing the group, who were fleeing in the carriage.

I kind of awkwardly let them make an arcana check when the beads were mentioned. One of them rolled high on the check, and realized what the beads did. Two heroes tied beads around their arrows with gauze from their healer' kits (which is an awesome idea, IMO). Seraphine, the cleric, fired.. and rolled a critical hit!

The damage ended up being something like 10d4+2d6 +another 2d6 from some beneficial effect from another party member that I can't recall.

The lich was already injured pretty bad. The bead of force critical actually blew him up!

The group cheered. I made sure to depict the lich's wispy spirit blinking out of existence. He's not dead, he's reforming near his phylactery.
Mr. Softee: I feel like this was a real borderline case (at best). I was definitely going too soft and I should have put more "failsafes" in place. I should have come up with a reason why the lich doesn't want to hurt the group (maybe he doesn't want harm to come to his carriage?) or I could have had some other powerful entity show up and hold him off.

The group enjoyed it, so I didn't feel too bad about it. I've done worse! Want to hear about it?

The Shackled City

I'll give you an example of a time I royally screwed up. Back in 2008, I ran a Shackled City campaign converted to 4th edition rules.

Dysfunction: I ran this for my old high school group. We seem to be that rare bunch that actually sort of grew apart in adulthood. I see all of these other groups out there who've played together for 30 years. We just can't do that any more, and this campaign showed why.

For a long time, I had a tendency to go too harsh when DMing - specifically, my monsters did too much damage. I was very concerned about challenging the group, as I knew what it felt like when the game was too easy - it sucks. What's the point?

But the 4e rules were brand new and I made a lot of math mistakes when creating monsters converted from 3e.

The first three sessions of this campaign were brutal. I royally screwed up the damage conversions. Once I figured it out, I apologized to the group and we continued on. Good, right?

No. I still would get complaints about things being too hard, or weird, or whatever.

The Baby: There was one scene in particular that stood out. There's an encounter where a bad guy is holding a baby out of a window above a city street, threatening to drop it. The adventure is very clear... one wrong move and the bad guy lets the baby go.

The group is meant to negotiate with the bad guy in a tense roleplaying scene.

Nope. Two of the heroes charged, using a fly spell to soar to the tower at top speed. The group was something like 50 feet away.

I gave them a chance to take it back, but they were convinced that what they were attempting should work. I had the one character who got close make some kind of check to catch the baby in time. The DC should be hard, right? The adventure says it's virtually impossible. DC 20, right?

The character rolled a 17, and was really upset that he failed. He felt that the DC was too high. We had a whole thing about it.

I Gave Up: From that point on, I erred on the side of caution. When in doubt, lower the DC and the damage. This is what they want, right? I was definitely being a bit passive-aggressive about it.

The next session, the group had to navigate a lava flow. In theory, they'd jump from rock to rock. There were some frightened citizens on a rock in the lava that needed rescuing.

Lava damage in 4e was different in every product, probably due to the whole concept of scaling threats to match the level of the group.

After looking through some products and scoping out lava damage, I erred on the side of too low - 15 damage per round.

The party's tiefling... Etheria von Kalypse - a legendary character played by a really fun player - realized that she could swim through the lava because, as a tiefling, she had fire resistance 10, which means she subtracts 10 from any fire damage she takes!

So yeah, she swam through molten lava.

Lukewarm Lava: Some of the players moaned about this, and I was outraged. They complained when it was too hard. They complained when it was too easy. I made some sarcastic comment telling them not to worry, I had made sure to give them some low damage "marshmallow lava" because I didn't want to hear them cry about it.

Fun game, right? Not my finest moments, that's for sure.


We got to the end of the campaign. Shackled City is really cool. It doesn't quite gel as a story, but there are a heck of a lot of cool ideas and scenarios in there.

The Final Battle: The final battle is against an angel/demon lord named Adimarchus who is trapped in an asylum in the plane of Carceri.

Again, I erred on the side of too low. When the battle commenced and I dealt out some of my measly damage, even Etheria said "Oooohh" sarcastically.

So.. yeah. Scaling damage in D&D. Not easy! It can get ugly!

Intermingling with Powerful Creatures: What I learned is that if you're going to use monsters that are much more powerful than the heroes, give the players a heads-up: "Just so you know, there are some creatures in here that are much higher level than you, and you probably won't be able to kill them outright."

To me, that's fair. Everyone has different meta-game expectations. Players who play a lot of video games normally expect that anything they encounter is created to be an appropriate challenge for them.

If you do make an encounter where there's a higher level villain, make sure you have at least one way for the heroes to survive unscathed. Things like:
  • A big ballista that fires lightning bolt (8d6!).
  • A scroll with a powerful spell on it that can banish, ward off, or subdue the bad guy.
  • A reason that the villain doesn't want the heroes dead - the villain wants to corrupt them, the villain wants to mess with their heads, or the villain wants to manipulate them
  • Summoning a powerful creature to hold off the bad guy.
  • A timed event that kicks in right when the villain is about to kill the group - an earthquake, avalanche or explosion of some kind.
Tomorrow I'll be hosting Waffle Talk on my Twitch Channel.

Also, I've been adding notes to my Guide to Tomb of Annihilation as I play through it. I made a number of mistakes that I think I can help you avoid. It's so hard to remember every little detail of that massive dungeon!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Dungeons & Dragons - Genies Great & Small: 21 New Genies of Zakhara


You can buy this right here.

Al Qadim is a D&D campaign setting that was released in the early 90's. Based on Arabian folk lore and mythology, it hit right at the same time that Disney released Aladdin, which was mega-popular around where I lived.

Arabian Adventures: I ran a ton of Al Qadim stuff and I loved it. I think that, in general, people liked the idea of Arabian adventures, but it was usually their 3rd or 4th choice as far as D&D settings go. I think a lot of people would say, "I'll run some Al Qadim after I run campaigns in Ravenloft and Planescape." Most people never get that far!

So Al Qadim has always been this untouched jewel of a setting, a product line loaded with fantastic adventures and concepts that a lot of people are unaware of.

This is partly why I was so pleased to see Genies Great and Small released on the DM's Guild from Kobold Press. Kobold Press is run by Wolfgang Baur, the guy who wrote one of my absolute favorite Al Qadim products: Secrets of the Lamp.


This book details and stats out a bunch of different types of genies, many of which are 5e conversions of genie variants found in 2e products.

Art: They actually got Karl Waller to do the art. He's the guy who did virtually all of the interior art for every single Al Qadim product. That makes this feel very "official".

The Cover: The one thing that sticks out to me as a negative has to do with the look of the book. The cover has black and white art, but also utilizes blue text and a blue border.

It feels odd to have a color cover with black and white art on it. I guess you could pull it off if you did it Sin City style, but that's not really Al Qadim at all.

The font is very, very 90's. It's the "Image comics Youngblood issue 3 is coming soon!" font. I would have preferred it if they went with a font more in keeping with the tone of an Arabian setting.

The blue border bugs me, too. Why is it there? The old Al Qadim books have these very intricate patterns for borders, I'd have preferred something like that.


The Genies: So, what's in the book? Here's a quick overview.

Gen: We start off with gens, who have always been mega-popular in my games.

A gen is a little servant that "fetches spells" for a spellcaster (called a sha'ir). In some products, gens are described as elemental animals, but in my campaigns they were always one-foot tall genie people. They were always mega-popular NPCs.

I am very happy to say that they are depicted in this book as little genie people. We get art, stats and everything. That's actually a fire gen on the cover.

Each of them has a description of how they die in their stat block. Earth gens disintegrate into crystalline powder, stuff like that.

Bottled Genie: We get a special description and template of bottled genies. These bottled genies are insane and have mind-affecting powers.

I would use this, but I definitely wouldn't declare that all genies that are trapped in a bottle go insane, as that cuts down on the fun things you can do with a bottled genie.

New Genies: We get some new genie types:
  • Alnnakhi: Lone genies who dwell in lonely, isolated places.
  • Khamsir: Genies made of shifting sand.
  • Nafurzi: Water genies who have been banished from their home plane. They are bound to a single body of water, such as a lake or river. I really like this one.

Tasked Genies: There are tons of these, all pulled from 2e. Some are a bit dull - an architect genie? A miner genie?

Others are really cool. Oathbinder genies create and enforce contracts between two parties. Guardian genie have two faces on their heads and.. guard stuff.

It's a short book. 20 pages! But nothing wrong with that. It's very well done and has a lot of very useful things in it.

Print Version: The print version of this book is great! It has a nice sturdy cover and smooth interior pages with gold color used generously.

Overall: I would say that any campaign can benefit from the inclusion of a gen sidekick, a genie in a bottle, or a harem guarded by a tasked genie. The pdf is only five bucks!

Good stuff!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Dungeons & Dragons - A Dozen and One Adventures

You can buy this in print or pdf form here.

A long time ago, I made a list of the 10 D&D adventures that I think are the best. One of them is A Dozen an One Adventures, a 2nd edition Al Qadim supplement.

I saw that it is available in print on the DMs Guild and immediately ordered it.

The original version comes in a thin box. It has two booklets, a bunch of card stock maps, and a poster map. I wondered, how would DrivethruRPG smoosh that all into one book?

It pains me to say that DrivethruRPG screwed this up really badly. What I got in the mail was a reprint of just one of the booklets. Nothing from the other booklet. Nothing from the card stock maps. Nothing from the poster map.

That means that you get the main adventures, but you don't have the maps that go to the adventures!

This is the second booklet that should have been part of the DrivethruRPG print book.

The booklet they did include contains the 13 adventures that the box is centered around. They're fun. But I was really disappointed. How can they do this? How can they sell you less than half of what you paid for?

Setting that aside, let's check out what we did get.

The book itself is really nice. The cover is sturdy. I don't know why they used the cover of the "Muluk, City of Kings" booklet. They should have used the cover of the boxed set!

On the inside, they actually went out of their way to keep the gold ink, which is a very pleasant surprise. It really does look almost as good as the original!

The new print is on the left.
Major disappointment! But, I figure I'll take this opportunity to tell you why I like a Dozen and One Adventures so much. Let's run down the 13 adventures that you do get in the Drivethru RPG print book. 

Flick of the Tail


Some jerk grabbed a guy's talking ruby-scaled fish and threw it in a well. The group's got to go down and get it.

There's more to it - the fish is actually a pahari, an Al Qadim mermaid variant. Where are her stats? On one of the sheets not included in this book.

The well connects to an abandoned bath house. The bath house is a bit of an "empty dungeon", but it's pretty interesting. Bath houses in D&D always make me laugh for some reason.

It turns out that this creepy old woman has the fish. She speaks backwards, and only understands people who speak to her backwards.

If the group attacks her, they're in big trouble, as she's actually a powerful monster. They might end up having to brush the old lady's hair.

This is a good example of an Al Qadim scenario - strange twists and an emphasis on non-combat solutions.

Nine Flawed Sapphires


This scenario completely changed my Al Qadim campaign that I ran as a kid. It's one of those landmark moments in my "D&D career".

The group is hired to steal some ledgers from a group operating in Sakina Falls. Sakina Falls is a secret cave complex hidden behind a waterfall. If you walk up to the waterfall and say, "Sakina, draw aside!" the waterfall shifts to the left and allows you to access the caves beyond.

The bad guy are making drugged, contraband wine. One of the leaders is Hanzala, a half-elf mage and member of the Brotherhood of True Flame. Hanzala became the most popular NPCs I ever ran. She stuck around for the rest of the campaign, which was 100+ sessions.

In my game, Hanzala was a villain who slowly became good thanks to the influence of the heroes.

The group needs to creep by these vats where hired goons are stomping on grapes. They'll need to find the ledger and get out of there alive.

Invitation to a Funeral

A bad guy needs a place to dump dead bodies, right? So he cuts a deal with ghouls - he brings them bodies, they keep their yaps shut. Al Qadim "ghuls" are a bit more intelligent and civilized than normal D&D ghouls.

Basically, the big bad guy tricks the group into being part of a funeral procession... but it's a hit! Once the group bring the coffin into a crypt, ghouls jump the heroes.

The crypt is a little dungeon complex with one room that smells so bad, you need to make a saving throw or temporarily lose 2-5 points of Strength and Con from retching.

Eleven Baneful Gates

I really love this one. There is a scroll that describes the Eleven Baneful Gates. Each "baneful gate" is an obstacle that prevents mortal from becoming immortal. A villain named Azaltin studied these scrolls, desperate to learn the secrets of immortality.

The heroes must travel to the ruins where the scroll is said to be located. The ruins are now the home of a sort of generic type of genie known as the jann. There's 27 of them! The group will have to befriend them.

Then the adventures will need to make heir way through 11 magic gates, each with its own deadly challenge.

Every single gate is an awesome encounter. In addition to outright death, you might end up falling asleep for d10 days or becoming transfixed by your own beauty and dying of starvation.

At the end there's a very Al Qadim twist. This adventure kicks ass.

The Hermit's Riddle

The heroes go to rescue a hermit who has been abducted by a genie who commands a pack of werehyenas. The group has to travel a few days across a desert to get to the lair. During that time, the werehyenas play psychological games with them.

The genie, a dao, is not so smart and he's very sensitive about it. The hermit has challenged the genie to solve a riddle. Each day, the genie gives an answer - always wrong. The hermit has been able to keep himself alive through this, and the group can exploit this flaw to defeat the dao and rescue the hermit.

Sibling Rivalry

This is an Al Qadim version of a dragon's lair. In Al Qadim, there are things called vishaps - wingless dragons. In this adventure, a disguised vishap recruits the group to kill her sister, Fakhira, of whom she is jealous.

In the lair, Fakhira has a few tricks up her sleeve. If the group has Fakhira hurt, the jealous sister reveals herself and goes in for the kill. The group might realize that they've been duped, and that maybe Fakhira isn't so bad after all.

The Djinni's Lover

A really attractive genie tries to convince the heroes to help her friend to escape its magical imprisonment in an astrolabe.

The group can haggle with her and agree to do it if the genie will serve them for 1,001 days, which is pretty awesome.

This is all linked to a plot where a sha'ir (a spellcaster with power over genies) is trying to get a genie to build a tower. The sha'ir has a desert giant and shapeshifters working for her.

The group will need to either break in and steal the astrolabe or attack. The astrolabe has a spell called "aversion" cast on it, causing it to flee from anyone who isn't the caster.That ill make for a really chaotic final encounter!

Salt Bond

This one is about the bond of salt. In Al Qadim, once you sit down with someone and share a meal that has salt in it, a special deal has been struck. The host is responsible for your welfare for three days. You, in turn, agree not to bring harm to the host.

The group enters this bond with a dude, and it turns out the guy is a magnet for trouble. Over the next three days, shapeshifters and pyromaniac wizards show up, and the group has to protect their host from them.

A Boasting Contest


This one is short, but I love it. A genie challenges the group to a boasting contest! It will wager one of its magic items against one that the group has. It's got a list of things the genie will brag about and everything.

Weave of the Carpet

A guy who makes magic carpet has been robbed. The group must do some detective work to track it down. This leads to a situation where the bad guy is making gallons and gallons of "liquid star" (elemental fire) so that he can blow up the main palace in the city!

Dead Bearing Witness

The body of a legendary vizier needs to be exhumed, but the body has been animated and now belongs to... the Head. A severed head/lich. Awesome bad guy, awesome adventure!

Zarastro's Three Daughters

This guy Zarastro tried to summon and bind a water genie, but he failed miserably. The genie killed him and did terrible things to his three daughters:
  • One was turned to stone, but only from the waist down.
  • Another was turned into a green hag.
  • The last one became a naga.
There's a portal to the plane of water - if shut, the genie is sucked in and gone.

Endgame
The Leper King is in charge of all the beggars in the city. He's involved in a dispute between two other factions.

Basically, the group has to deal with all the bad guys and organization from the other adventures in this book at the same time.

That's it! Each adventure is short, easy to read, and full of fun ideas.

What's in the other book, you may ask. Check it out...

Muluk: A chapter detailing the city of Muluk, a "fiercely independent martial state". It is ruled by Caliph Aswiyah al-Muftahir, who is grooming her daughter, a powerful sha'ir, to take her place.

The city has a number of secret societies causing problems - fire mages, assassins, and beggar-thieves.

The Haunted Lands: A description of the "Haunted" Lands" near the city. This area includes a huge swath of land that is essentially a desert with salt instead of sand. The nearby Weeping Desert is full of undead giants (!).

There's a bunch of Haunted Lands encounters. My favorite one involves the group entering into a bond of salt with a sphinx, who hangs out with them for three days.

There's another one where the group comes upon a genie who is buried up to its neck in sand. It is cursed and is magically bound to stay where he is until he can convince someone to help him. Branded on his forehead is a word: "LIAR".

Krak al-Niraan: A description of the fortress that the Brotherhood of True Flame calls home. There's a genie named "Three-Seeing Eye" who guards the treasury. This is the part of the box that I like least. It's pretty dry, and kind of a waste of a poster map.

Then there's a list of items, some magic, some not. Here are my favorites...

Dreambliss: A drug/poison that can put you into a euphoric "sleep of bliss" for 24 hours.

Astrolabe of Entrapment: This is 12 genie prisons in one! Only one prison is active per month. The astrolabe is keyed to the constellations.

Roses of Forgetfulness: Sniff the rose, gain amnesia!

Wand of the Sun: A magic weapon often used by members of the Brotherhood of True Flame. This thing casts sunscorch spells. "The luminous beam strikes its target unerringly."

So, there you go. I used this boxed set constantly! I built my entire Al Qadim campaign around it.

I really do think it is one of the greatest D&D products of all time, and I hope you check it out.