Sunday, June 28, 2015

house rules for [5e]

One of the things I don't like about 5th edition is that I feel like its too easy to bounce back from a fight by taking a long rest. I've had two players in my Dwimmermount game who expressed how they felt clerics were useless, since healing became much less of a concern once resting for 6 hours became a cure-all rinse for HP loss and crippling injuries.

This discussion about 5th edition's superhero tone has led me to meditate some more on what I don't like about 5th edition, and almost everything I don't like is something that was handed down from 4th edition, imagine that!. There are, therefore, a few house rules I plan on installing into my Sunday game:

Resting

1) Long Rests take 3+1d4 days, one roll is made for each PC; Long Rests require lots of sleep, no strenuous activity, and plenty of food and water - no more than 2 spells may be cast per day, if any; insuring a Long Rest works without interruption means staying at a monastery, hiding at an inn, holed up in a secret hideout, or something similar; at the end of a Long Rest the character recovers all lost Hit Points as well as all spent Hit Dice

2) Short Rests take 4+1d4 hours, one roll is made for the entire party; Short Rests usually involve sleeping and performing light activities such as reading, talking, eating, or standing watch for no more than 2 hours; during a Short Rest a character can spend Hit Dice to recover Hit Points just as described in the PHB but one use from a Healer's Kit must also be expended, if a character elects not to spend any Hit Dice then they instead recover spent Hit Dice (up to half of their total) at the end of a Short Rest; at the end of a Short Rest each class recovers different abilities
Barbarians: Rage recovers completely
Bards: Bardic Inspiration recovers after a Short Rest
Clerics: Channel Divinity, Domain Powers, and Spell Slots all recover from a Short Rest (Divine Intervention still recovers at the end of Long Rest)
Druids: Wild Shape can be used a number of times equal to the Druid's Proficiency Bonus before requiring a Short Rest, Natural Recovery still works as normal but requires a use from Wild Shape to be expended (which also takes 1 hour)
Fighters: Action Surge, Superiority Dice, and Indomitable all recover from a Short Rest; Battle Masters get twice as many Superiority Dice; Second Wind can be used a number of times equal to the Fighter's Proficiency Bonus before requiring a Short Rest (Constitution of 14+ can increase bonus HP recovered)
Paladins: Divine Sense, Lay on Hands, Channel Divinity, Cleansing Touch, and all 20th-level Oath Powers all recover after a Short Rest
Rogues: Stroke of Luck can be used twice and recovers after a Short Rest
Sorcerers: Sorcery Points and Wild Magic recover after a Short Rest
Wizards: Arcane Recovery can still be used as described (but it also takes 1 hour to use), Specialist Powers recover after a Short Rest


Dungeoncrawling and Random Encounters

1) During any fight, you always have a 100% chance of being able to successfully run away. Dice are rolled to determine how far away you get before you are completely out of danger. Running from a fight means that you lose the XP you would have otherwise gained from defeating or befriending the creature(s) in the encounter, and the creature(s) has time to recover, regroup, and/or prepare defenses in case you return.

2) Random encounters only have a chance of happening when the PCs take a Short Rest, exit a room and enter into a hallway within the dungeon, or make enough noise in a room to potentially draw the attention of something within it's Perception range.


Non-Player Characters

1) All NPC followers and allies have a secret Loyalty score ranged from 0 to 20, and caps at the highest Charisma in the party. The higher the Loyalty the better. NPCs that are abused, misled, neglected, or ignored lose Loyalty, and NPCs that are treated well, helped, rescued, or otherwise assisted with their bonds and goals gain Loyalty. The score determines how the NPC behaves in stressful situations, but in general, having a Loyalty of 10 or higher means that the NPC is favorably dispositioned to one of the PCs or the entire party.

2) All NPCs have a goal or motivation that determines their natural course of actions. If an NPC with Loyalty has a goal that is at crosspurposes with a PC (or the party), then a Loyalty test is rolled. The DM rolls 1d20 and if the roll is equal to or under the NPCs Loyalty then they continue to act favorably to the PC (or the party as a whole). If the d20 rolls higher than the NPC's Loyalty then they either stop acting in the PC's (party's) best interest either by leaving or working in secret to further their own goal at the cost of a PC's (or the party's) downfall.


Inspiration

1) Players can never have more Inspiration than their current level.

2) Players earn Inspiration by fulfilling or acting upon one of their character's Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds, or Flaws

3) Inspiration is used to gain Advantage, and three Inspiration is used to turn a failed roll into a success


Death & Retirement

1) If a character dies, retires, or simply leaves onscreen play temporarily, your new character starts with half as many XP.

2) If your character dies while fulfilling or acting upon one of their Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds, or Flaws then your new character starts with 75% of your dying character's XP total.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Typhon the Cruel, prologue + chapter 1

My first thought was "Am I dead?" In those moments I was afraid but calm. Afraid at what the answers could mean, but calm because I believed I could not be worse off than I was. Suspended in blackness and my only recourse to logic out my predicament. The theories I reasoned in that moment seemed limitless. If I am not dead, then this must be what existence is. But why is existence black? Why is there a void? How can I think and exist when there is nothing? How did I get here? Was I always here? Have I lost my memory? If my memory exists, how did it form? Does the void abhor a vacuum of thought? Is thought how the universe will form? Why don't I have a form? Why can't I feel? Where am I?

I opened my eyes.

All I saw was blue. Light blue. I thought "A blue void is better than a black void. Or maybe it's always been this color. I am mad." The sky was blue, yes, and there were no clouds. I was trying to take it all in. I noticed something in my peripheral vision, the mountains to the north. My eyes turned to inspect that direction, but I couldn't see it directly, the horizon was still just a blurry line along the edges of the blue void. I turned and for the first time became aware of the sensations in my body.

It is a strange thing to lose one's memory. The moments before I saw the world for the first time, but not the first time, begin to fade from the recollections of my already short life. I believed in those moments that I would always remember these details, the first thoughts of my waking mind, the first sky I beheld, the feel of the hard ground beneath my body, the wetness between my toes. I remember the taste in my mouth more than anything. Like dirt and ash and blood, sticking my mouth closed. As I pushed my tongue against my teeth I wondered if I was waking up for the first time or if I had always been like this.

I was sore all over. My neck was stiff and ached when I turned. The ground beneath me was hard. I could feel a cold wetness in my feet but couldn't turn my gaze away from the mountains. I was puzzled as to how they had gotten there. Were they always there? How did I not know there were mountains when I was in the black void? But it wasn't a black void, I simply had my eyes shut. I finally turned away, reason was getting me nowhere. My feet were cold, I looked at them and they were partially submerged on the bank of a river, dangling in the water. All evidence suggested that I had crawled out of the river, but I had no memory of it.

The question returned to my mind "Am I dead?" I sat up to reason it out. Clearly, I wasn't dead. I had a body and form. I was breathing. I could feel my heartbeat, the slow pulse vibrated within my limbs and reminded me how hard the ground was despite the dampness in my clothes. It was strangely comforting. Finally able to grasp my situation, I began to wonder where I was and how I had gotten here. I futilely strained at remembrance.

My clothes were simple, but ragged and stained gray with age, torn in the folds and ripped along the edges. I had been wearing them for a very long time. I had black boots that must have had thick leather soles at one time but were now cracked along the balls of my feet and worn down almost paper thin. The pants had holes along the knees and I ran my hands along the seams, I could feel the threads fraying along my hips. The shirt was thin and falling apart around my shoulders.

I wondered what I looked like and scrambled on hands and knees toward the river to look. Even before I saw the bent reflection along the water I wondered how I knew that I could see it. There I was in the buckling and shifting waters. Dark brown hair, ragged, long, bearded. The details were shifting with the current and I gave up trying to make out the details of my face. I didn't think this was as important as learning how I got here, but what else could I do?

I looked at my poorly image on the surface of the water and decided I needed to attempt to retrace my steps. Now I was left wondering how I would discover where I came from. I had crawled out of the river, and from the level of dampness in my clothing probably not very long ago, but did I come from the other side of the river? I thought to the black void where these memories started and wondered if I had been under the river. Did it birth me into creation? Absurd. But then where did I come from? Where could I go? Were there other people like me along the banks of the river? How far would I have to go to find them? Did they have memories, or were there others struggling through this amnesia just as I was? I needed to know, if they were there then I needed to find them.

That's when I felt the fire swelling in my mind.

It just came to me as something I could do, like standing up and walking, even though I knew that somehow this was an unnatural thing. This was not what my body was meant to do. This was learned and practiced. The flame was growing inside of me and absorbing my head, spreading warmth throughout my body. Somehow I was doing it instinctively. How did I even know what I was doing would help? My questioning of how I knew what I was doing were quickly replaced by how it altered my sight. The heat grew from the top of my head and spilled down my shoulders. I could feel a flame burst free and envelope my vision. Soon I could make out the forms and distances to other living things.

Fish swimming in the river. Frogs along the opposite riverbank. Deer grazing on tree leaves about a hundred yards away. Insects crawling along the grass next to me. There was the vague outline of a carcass downstream covered in maggots with flies buzzing overhead. There was a rabbit watching me out of the corner of it's eye just upstream. I was suddenly aware of how hungry I was. I puzzled over my own thoughts. How did I know that was the sky? How did I know the names of these animals? How did I even know what language was? Shouldn't I have simpler thoughts? These inward queries only convinced me that I was not new to the world, but that I had lost my memories of it.

I let the flame fall out of my mind and focused on my body. I looked at the ground and the river, I looked at where I sat next to all of it and decided that this was enough for now. I wasn't going to allow myself to use this power until I fully understood where I was and how I got here. Somehow this felt like the right decision, even while a part of my brain ached to explore this ability I just discovered.

I stood up and began to wade into the water. I don't know why I believed there might be something on the other side of the river, but in hindsight this impossible belief propelled me into who I have become. If I had walked into another direction I might have met those who were hunting me first. I shudder to think what might have happened, or who I might have become, if my first interaction with others had been a confrontation with them.

I don't know how long I walked for. When I reached the other side of the river I turned upstream and simply strode along the bank, hoping to find someone or something that I could talk to. What would I say? I hadn't even thought that far ahead. I just needed to find somebody that was like me, I was convinced they existed though I had no reason or proof to know that I wasn't alone in this world. Occasionally I would stop and eat berries that I found growing along the river, or I would stoop to the water and drink handfuls of clear cold water, but I never lingered long. My legs began to itch from the constant movement.

Soon it began to grow dark and I wondered why the sky was losing light. As darkness began to envelop the forest around me the river was like a silvery beacon that I could follow for a little longer. Eventually I could barely see the river and I began to trip over rocks and the elevation of the dirt as my foot might catch into a shallow or graze along a cresting root from a nearby tree. I tripped over myself five times before I decided to find a soft place along the bank to sit.

As I sat in the dark, I listened to the river lap against the rocks and dirt near my body. It grew darker and I began to terrify. I worried that this river and my brief trip upriver was a dream and soon I would be lost to a black void again, but the night would prove to be filled with dreams more fanciful and terrible. My limbs began to grow weak and I curled along the ground into a more comfortable position. I was coiled upon myself into a tight ball. I could feel my conscious mind slipping and my breathing slowed.

My dreams were filled with screams and smoke, and a great fire seemed to be roaring behind me. The heat grew more intense as I felt myself falling backward. I had been dropped into a great furnace where the screams only got louder and the heat stronger. I couldn't see anyone but I knew they had been dropped in before me and their skin and bones were charring before they had time to die. My vision was surrounded by the light of the flames.

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I awoke with the sun shining into my face, the warmth was unsettling. I blinked the sleep away and took in my surroundings. I was relieved to find I was still along the river. I hoped in that moment that every time I slept I would not return to the screams and the burning heat. I lifted myself up off the ground and walked into the river. I pulled in huge swallows of water. I ran my hands along my hair and made a fumbling attempt to clean myself from the loam that had caked itself onto my skin and clothes. Then I returned to walking.

I kept the sun in the corner of my eye and I tracked its movement along the sky. I stopped fewer times to forage for berries and drink from the river, but had no way of tracking my progress. My clothes were dry and the sun was looking down upon the forest when I saw the girl. She was sitting alongside the riverbank with a fishing rod held in both hands. Her clothes were blue, like the sky, but she wore no shoes. Her hair was golden and she was humming something, the tune sounded familiar but I couldn't identify from where. I was suddenly nervous, I had no idea how to approach her or what to say. I merely stood there trying to puzzle out what I would do when she noticed me.

She looked momentarily frightened and dropped her fishing pole. She rose from her seat very quickly. She looked like she might run, instead just stood and looked at me, examining me as confusedly as I had been contemplating her. She was very young, only a child.

"I'm sorry," the unfamiliar words expelled from my mouth with very little thought but they kept coming. "I didn't intend to scare you."

She looked down, remembering her dropped fishing pole but made no attempt to grab it. "It's alright. I just," she struggled to say something. "I thought I was..." her words trailed off. For a moment I thought I heard her say the word "safe” but I heard the word in my mind with her voice. Other words tumbled out of her thoughts and briefly flashed through mine. Alone. Fade. Run. Murderer. Fight. Beggar. Help. I scrutinized her and could hear the panic and confusion running through her mind. She was breathing faster and her heart was pumping her blood faster. I held back my senses, I didn't want the flame arising in my mind again, tried to focus on the ground I was standing on. I turned toward the river a little more, tried to show that if she ran I wouldn’t chase. She looked back at me quickly, as if she expected me to have suddenly crossed the distance between us.

I stayed where I was and asked "Are you alone?"

Her eyes darted to the forest behind her but then she turned to lock her eyes with mine, fiercely and defiantly. She answered too quickly, "No." She was lying, I could understand why. I moved my eyes to the river and focused on the water.

I didn't understand why I could hear her emotions but I knew she was more startled than scared. She was ready to bolt, waiting to see what I would do. I tried to put her at ease with the truth, "I'm lost. I don't know where I am. I woke up on the river and I've been walking for some time, looking for... somebody." I tried to sound like I wasn't pleading for help. I didn’t want to lose this connection, though in my mind I was frantic.

My demeanor must have changed, her eyes had softened and she was looking at me curiously. "What's your name?" she asked.

"I don't know," it was the one thing I hadn't asked myself. Who am I? I could feel a great sadness flooding my body and I tried to speak but my voice caught in my throat. I began to weep and my knees buckled, collapsing me to the ground. I tried to get the words out but they came like a wail "I don't know. I don't know who I am." I sat there sobbing into my hands, repeating those words. It was one thing to feel lost and afraid and alone, but for another person to see me in this state was worse. I was embarrassed and ashamed, I felt an echo of memory but it was gone. I didn't know I could feel this way.

I thought she might have run away. I hadn't even noticed she had moved beside me. One of her small hands was patting my shoulder, I think she was trying to be comforting but it just made me feel smaller somehow. She was saying something but I didn't hear her. She was so close to me now and I looked up at her face. I could see her in vivid detail. Her eyes were light brown and the light bounced off them in sparkles. She had a tiny light brown mole along her left earlobe. I could see on her face where the lines would form with old age, and the wrinkles around her eyes would appear as she smiled over the years. Her eyebrows were parted in an expression of genuine concern.

She smiled, an earnest attempt to comfort me as her posture was still tense, "Everybody has a name. Maybe if you think real hard, you'll remember it?"

I looked at my hands, breathed in then out. I looked up into her eyes, "I don't know. I don't know where I am. Or how I got here."

"How can you not know your name?" she was looking at me with those curious eyes again. Her brow furrowed with concern, "At first I thought you were a Fade."

I was even more confused, "What's a Fade?"

She stood a little straighter and recited "It's one of the Serpent’s creatures. It lives inside a person and feeds on who they are until they disappear."

This worried me, "Who they are?"

"Yeah, what a person thinks. It gets eaten up." I sat pondering if this is what had happened to me. I needed more details. She interrupted my thoughts, "My uncle says I don't have to worry because a Fade only eats a person when they've lost all hope."

I didn't feel like a victim, but I still strained against my loss of memory. It occurred to me in the moment that if this creature ate thoughts then it left me with a plethora of questions and I could think for myself. I had also held onto hope I would find a person along this river, and I did. Now I hoped I might discover who I really was. If a Fade was drawn to somebody who had lost all of their hope, and one had consumed my mind, then it might restore hope as a result from consuming their memories. I couldn't be certain if I had been fed upon or not. Another possibility presented itself.

"Perhaps I am a Fade. I can only remember waking up along the river, I started walking upstream and I found you."

She frowned, "No. If you were a Fade you wouldn't be able to talk. You would drool and be gross. You're not gross." She smiled at me again. Trying to be reassuring but I didn’t need to hear her emotions to see the doubt of inexperience was written across her brow.

"Can you help me?" I thought I sounded weak, the words croaking out of my throat.

She put both her hands on my shoulders and looked at me "Don't worry. You're going to be okay." To her it probably sounded like something you were supposed to say but I wasn't convinced. If you had seen me, you would have thought she was the adult and I the child. I finally noticed a [pendant around her neck, fashioned out of silver with the symbol of a bird talon etched into it. The symbol looked familiar but I tried not to think about it.

"I don't think I will." I was speaking to myself, whispering so softly I wasn’t sure if she heard me. She walked over to her fishing pole and picked it up off the ground. I stumbled back up onto my feet, following her. "Can you take me back to your town?"

She turned and addressed me, "Sure! I'll take you to my mom, if she can't help you then maybe she'll know who can."

"Wait" I said, leaning down to the water I splashed it into my face and breathing deeply, I composed myself. I stood up straight and looked down into her eyes, "What's your name?"

She smiled, "Tiger." She reached her hand out and grabbed the fingers of my left hand then began to walk into the forest, leading me away from the river. I looked back at the water wondering how far away from it we would go, I felt uncomfortable leaving the soft chiming of the waters. "You probably hit your head. If you sleep you might know who you are when you wake up." It sounded simple and easy. Again I carried a hope. I hoped she was right, though I did not believe it.

As we walked through the forest, I turned to look back at the river. I felt a pang of anxiety over losing sight of it. No sooner had it disappeared from view and the girl led me around a corner of the wood where a slope of mud led to a rivulet of water. A series of fallen trees had helped erode the ground in this part of the forest and a shallow stream had grown. The recess in the ground connected with the river, that much was clear by the strength of the current. All of it looked new, as the dirt and mud surrounding the stream had no grass or flowers growing around it.

Tiger stopped walking forward and tried to pull me down, closer to the ground. I saw instantly what concerned her. Along the path, rubbing it's claws against a fallen tree was an enormous beast. The fur covering it's body was dark brown along most of it, but near it's head the fur grew almost a grey color and parts of it's neck and head held scarred flesh where no fur grew. It moved it's head in our direction, it had caught our scent.

Tiger tried to shush me and whispered, "If we're quiet it should go away."

The beast dropped down from the tree and paced in a circle. I knew instantly Tiger was wrong, "No, Tiger. This thing knows where we are." It was looking for an easy path to where we stood. As the beast circled around the fallen tree in one direction I pushed Tiger in the other, "Run!"

Tiger left my side and I assumed she would head for her home, or for safety. All of my attention was on the beast. Tiger's sudden movement spurred the creature forward and as it grew closer to me I could feel the flame in my mind grow. It was always there, never extinguished, but now it pulsated and grew. My need fanned it awake and I could imagine it growing inside my head, filling my entire body with heat and light. My skin smoldered and my clothing felt crisp. My body felt like it might burst into a pillar of fire and it would burn this creature and everything else in the forest. I breathed in and locked eyes with the creature. The beast was closer now, deciding whether it should charge me or not. I could see my own death in it's mind, feel it's claws raking my own flesh. Rudimentary thoughts that didn't translate to words. Hungry. Painful thing. Killer. Eat. Eat killer.

Something in me bent and I could feel the flame turning toward the great lumbering animal. Fire did not leap from my body, nor did great waves of heat blast from my hands, but I could see the flame inside of me extending out of my mouth and hands and enveloping the creature's body. It must have sensed something change in the air between us and it's legs twitched and lurched as it charged towards me suddenly. I could see another flame forming inside of the beast's mind. In that panicked moment I uttered a word I didn't understand but somehow knew I was a part of, whispered from my lips, and the beast slowed to a stop in front of me. It's eyes fixed on mine, it was entranced. It's wet black snout huffed hot breath onto my chin. Not killer. Friend. No pain. No eat. It gave a friendly lick of my face and then relaxed, bringing it's haunches to the ground. it placed it's front paws on the ground in front of me, it had retracted it's claws, and it brought the rest of it's body gently toward the ground.

"Sleep now." I whispered, and it began to snore instantly.

I kept looking at the creature, trying to puzzle out how I had done that. I had hardly noticed the flame had retracted back to my own body, it's work completed. This fiery power inside of me was unsettling but now I was growing accustomed to it. I knew somehow it wasn't separate from me but was a part of me, whoever I had been before I lost my memory was practiced and had mastered its use. I sensed I was only scratching the surface of what I was capable of and finally felt comfortable exploring what this power could do. Then Tiger reappeared beside me.

"That was amazing!" she exclaimed.

I looked down at her, unable to form a coherent thought. I wanted to ask her what she had seen but stood dumbfounded instead. I was still afraid of letting her know I could hear her thoughts.

"You can talk to bears?" she asked incredulously.

"I didn't know I could do that. It just happened." I explained.

"What should we do now?" she was looking up at me with amazement.

"I still need help Tiger. I don't even know what it was that made the... bear go to sleep. At first I thought I might just slow it down so you could get away, I didn't think I would survive. When the power came over me, I was only thinking about stopping it. I feel like I could have killed it if I wanted to, it's life was in my hands." I looked down at the slumbering creature, it was dreaming about me. I shuddered.

Tiger bent down and touched the bear's fur, "You didn't kill it though." She petted the fur a few times, then stood up. "You're a nice man."

I smiled at her, "We should really keep moving, and get you back home." I reached my hand out for hers again and she grasped it. Her steps had a lightness to them now, and she was eager to lead me to her village.

After we had walked for some distance out of sight from the sleeping bear, we approached a series of rough stones piled on top of one another. It looked like the remnants of some ancient wall had tumbled to the ground and broken apart. Over the centuries the soil had eroded away along one side of the ruined stones and collected upon the other side, creating a short escarpment. The stones slicing out from the dirt were large but many were split providing wide cracks and all of them had chipped rough edges. They made a perfect climbing wall up the steep drop from the land twelve feet above us. I noticed that the grass here was softly matted. Tiger must have traveled this way many times and a trail was beginning to form.

The stones were large but the small broken edges made sound handholds and steps. Tiger began climbing upward along the rocks and made it halfway before she started to swing sideways. She would plant her bare foot on one stone and use her weight to slide her hand across to the split edge of another stone. In a few moments she was standing at the top of the wall while I still looked upward.

"It's easy," she was trying to be encouraging again.

The spaces she had used to climb were too close together for me to use. I began to look at my level of the stones for places where my feet could hold my weight. I found a slanted edge of stone just big enough for the ball of my foot, launched myself upward and scrambled to grab hold of a ledge with my hands. I clung to the wall and slowly made my way up, feeling for footholds with my toes and letting my eyes scan for edges to grab hold of.

"Maybe I could give you a name, in case you can't ever find out your old name." Tiger called down.

"I suppose you can't call me Man." the odd question had formed in my mind of whether I was actually a man or not. I glanced down at my body for a moment, yes, I am a man. I was only halfway up the stones, this was taking a lot longer than her climb. "What would you call me then?"

"How about Alier?"

I looked up at her, "It sounds like that name means something to you." She flushed with embarrassment but held her tongue. "If you had to name a pet dog, what-"

"I have a dog!" she interrupted, flashing a toothy smile. "Her name is Tantan."

"Okay." I was almost at the top now, "Let's say you got another dog, a male, what would you name that?"

"You're not a dog," her objection communicated to me that she thought I was simple. I was only an arm's length from the top of this muddy ledge, I looked up at her again. She was standing with one arm crossed over the other, her shoulders clenched from insult and looking off toward the trees behind me, her fishing pole standing several feet above her as if she were heralding her bad luck with the fish. The circumstances of our meeting flashed in my mind, she was so vulnerable out here not just because she was alone but her trusting nature. She might have run away from me upon seeing me, but she approached me when she saw how wounded I was. What if I had been some cunning and rabid creature of a man?

My hand grabbed the final ledge and I pulled my full weight up to the top, "No, you're right. I'm not a dog. But maybe you could call me," I did not stand all the way up, instead I pulled up next to her crouching on one knee. I glanced backward, over the ledge and through the treetops, I couldn't see the river at all. I looked her in the eye, "What's the name of that river?"

"The Eshin."

"Eshin. Call me Eshin." I did not add more words to that statement but she had given me hope and shown me kindness and I silently promised her I would be loyal to her. I was acutely aware of how relieved I felt to have found her. "Tiger, I need to ask you something else."

"Okay."

"When the bear attacked us, and I put it to sleep."

Her eyes lit up, "Yes, that was amazing!"

"I need you to promise me that you won't tell anybody what I did there."

"You want me to lie?" she frowned.

"No.” I thought for a moment and chose my words carefully, “But it's a secret. I'm scared of this power. I don't understand it yet, and I'm scared of what others might think of it."

She thought about it for a moment, "Okay. I promise. I'll keep your secret."

"Thank you Tiger," I stood up and she led me only a short distance through the woods before we reached a shallow road. It was intermittently cobbled with small stones and seemed well traveled and worn from use. Tiger grabbed my hand again and pulled me along in one direction.

"My village is just over there." she pointed at the end of the road and from over the horizon's crest I saw the heads of men on horseback approaching. When Tiger saw them she pulled me over to the side of the road so we wouldn't be walking upon it. Here the grass was wild and thick.

As the riders grew nearer Tiger slowed her pace, she was watching them but also hid half of her body behind mine. I looked at the livery worn by these men and saw the same talon symbol that was on Tiger's necklace.

"Who are they?" I asked her.

"Soldiers." she whispered.

“They’re looking for someone.” It wasn’t obvious, but I could see it in their thoughts. Without knowing how, I was able to see the curiosity in their minds just as I had heard Tiger’s emotions. This ability to hear more than what was being said was always there, I had no way of blocking it out from my perception unless I focused on nothing but my own thoughts.

As they passed by, the soldiers slowed down and one gave me a careful look. Our eyes met, I silently asked if they were looking for me, hoping they could read my emotions as well. I thought he was about to address me but Tiger stood a little farther forward, her fishing pole swinging widely from her shoulders. I could hear the thoughts in this man's mind, he could see Tiger was holding my hand and I could hear the word father. Fishing. Wishes he had a boy. No time for this. I wasn't sure if the thoughts were all coming from him or if I was hearing thoughts from all of the soldiers together. The one looking at me did not acknowledge my questing thoughts but returned his gaze to the road and spurred his horse onward, leading the other soldiers away.

Once they had gained some distance from us Tiger said "Do you think... Maybe you're the one they're looking for?"

"No, I don’t think so. I wish they were, but I think they would have recognized me."

She sighed with acknowledgement then continued to pull me along to her village, which I could now see over the crest of the hill.

Friday, June 19, 2015

"I'm gonna pimp my undead."
[5e Dwimmermount]

I was planning on including another one of Arnold Kemp's rival adventuring parties in this weeks session, even wrote up stats for this group of NPCs to harry the PCs with, but we were down one player and I didn't want to unleash these enemies without everyone being present.

The session started with some fine-tuning details about hobgoblin patrols on the first level, and then Sulla, Ilona, and Horatius ventured down to the second level to search for the four hobgoblins who refused to follow "Queen" Ilona.


The party ventured south and found the Hall of Truth, a place of legend in Dwimmermount where one could become blessed by the gods. Sulla took a look at the letters on the pillars of the room and translated them for the others. Horatius, led by his lack of self-control, immediately touched the pillars in the correct order and was bestowed with the permanent ability to cast Healing Word. Sulla attempted to do the same but was not blessed by the gods (instead, lost 2 hit points permanently). Ilona declined to make the attempt.

The player of Sulla knows Latin and he asked a few pointed questions about the room and kept saying the letters on the pillar were slightly off because the word was "veritas" and that's when the player of Horatius followed one of his character traits and touched the pillars in the right order, I don't remember if I gave him Inspiration for that or not. I determined the spell by rolling a 1d15 and using the 1st-level cleric spell list.

Horatius led the party west, looking for the western stairwell leading down from the first level, but they eventually found that there were no paths that led that far west. They began looking for secret doors and found a small cache of books worth a great deal of money. Sulla mentioned how valuable he thought the books were and Ilona suggested that at some point they would need the hobgoblins to act as labor to clear out the heavy treasures.

Using Passive Perception merely as an indicator that something was off in the room really helped this scene, because it meant everybody started looking for a secret door and Sulla wasn't merely pointing them out anymore.

They entered a room with broken statuary and one lone statue, Sulla recognized it instantly as an elemental creature of some kind. He attempted to address the creature and it spoke of soft things that deserved death. Horatius grew impatient and struck the creature, it fought briefly but before it could fly away Ilona split it into pieces with her silvered pick.

In the room beyond they found graffiti in a multitude of languages, none of which Sulla understood. There was also a chest (a mimic) filled with 27 scrolls of Comprehend Languages. Sulla used one and found that every line of graffiti said "Seek not the gods!" but behind the identical phrase in a plethora of languages was a spell: Tasha's Hideous Laughter. Without the materials to transcribe the spell Sulla would have to return later.

I'm thinking of including a few unofficial spells from now on since I discovered that Sulla already has a copy of the spell but has simply failed to learn it. More details on these new spells once the PCs stumble upon them.


The room full of graffiti looked nothing like this!


The mimic revealed itself by getting up and walking out of the door. They followed it for a bit then realized it must be going to the same place the previous mimic had traveled to, on a lower level, and so they let it go and returned to exploring the southern areas of the second level.

I cross-post these blog entries to G+ and one of the players read a comment there that asked if these were surveillance mimics and so now he believes these mimics are spying on them, but he hasn't tried to hinder them or kill any of them yet. Primarily because he has no reason to in-game, the two mimics they have crossed paths with have only given them treasure and magic scrolls.

They ran into the four hobgoblins, camped out in one of the southern rooms, and one of them tried to hit Sulla but failed miserably. Sulla responded with a Fireball which incinerated all four of the hobgoblins. (If they had killed or defeated the leader, then the other three hobgoblins would have joined up as followers, especially after the leader's feeble attempt to hit Sulla. I rolled a 1.)

They traveled onward and found a room with more of the silvery-black skeletons guarding an abandoned workshop. Another secret door was discovered behind a tapestry and a small panic room with the centuries-old corpse of a Termaxian cultist was inside. Some very well-preserved wine and food were found in huge barrels and Ilona pointed out that they would have more things for the hobgoblins to carry upstairs.

Their path finally connected to the eastern part of the map and they returned to the throne room, but before they arrived they encountered a gelatinous cube. Horatius almost walked into it and Sulla's skeleton was engulfed and absorbed almost instantly (farewell Zombie Lord skeleton, we hardly knew ye), however this cube was much easier to defeat than the previous one which had harried Ilona and Horatius (and Marius and Brüghaht) on the first level.

I use Gelatinous Cubes often enough that I ought to have a miniature for them! (see image) Everybody's higher in level and does a lot more damage. I was surprised at just how quickly the cube died. I had been rolling for random encounters throughout the session and we were getting close to a good stopping point so I decided to just put a random encounter in, rolling up the cube randomly it made sense that the cube would be trying to get into the throne room since Levity was supposed to be there waiting for the rest of them to catch up.

The party returned to the old throne room, and Sulla took one of the burned hobgoblin corpses and reanimated it as his new skeletal servant. He put the old breastplate from the Zombie Lord onto the skeleton and gave it the Zombie Lord's old greatsword then discussed other ways he might be able to "upgrade" his skeleton, and that's where we ended. We're not playing next week and Levity's player won't be with us the next time we play, so it's possible that Levity was not in the throne room at all.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

"When this day is done, I will make you bow to your new Queen."
[5e Dwimmermount]

So, the last session started with me opening up to my players about how I don't really like the 5th edition rules as a whole. I don't plan on changing the ruleset that we're using for this campaign because this started as an experiment. I wanted to GM Dwimmermount and I also wanted to try out the 5th edition rules. I'm enjoying both, but I'm not enjoying the feel of the rules as the PCs ascend in level. The crux of my complaints can be read throughout the comments at this link. I've played a little loose with the gameplay timeline so that I can highlight in this post moments where the rules hit up against my own personal preferences for gameplay.

After resting, the party interviewed the hobgoblins about the dead-but-not-dead things roaming the halls. Rigob spoke of a Zombie Lord that controlled the dead things, and Poach drew them a map which included where their guard posts were. The map was informative, and later they learned it was mostly accurate, but it added very little to what they had already explored.

They ventured to the room where the Zombie Lord could be found and in a very short time came face-to-face with him. He was dressed as an ancient Thulian guardsman and he spoke Old Thulian, surrounded by his zombie minions the Lord declared that the group were trespassers who should submit to his rule. When Sulla declared "Queen" Ilona the rightful ruler of Dwimmermount the Zombie Lord spat "I will never bow to her!" and Sulla disagreed as battle was engaged.

During this fight I got to use reaction on the monster side, which surprised one of my players when he broke through the zombie ranks. It only took them about 4 rounds to destroy the Zombie Lord and all of his zombies, with only a few injuries sustained on their side. At the time this rankled me a little bit because the Zombie Lord only got about two hits in, and he was supposed to be the "boss" of this level. He lasted longer when compared to King Rukruk, which was also a fight I felt was over too quickly.

After they defeated the Zombie Lord, Sulla used one of his spells to reanimate the corpse of the Lord as a skeleton servant and also spotted a secret door leading eastward from the room. Following the path they found another secret door which opened into a pristinely preserved temple.

Passive Perception became something I didn't like in this room. The module doesn't really give a difficulty for discovering the secret door here, but I assumed it would be pretty difficult to find. Sulla's Passive Perception is above 20 and in the moment I simply said "You've found a secret door" but in hindsight I think Passive Perception is too much like a video game mechanic. I don't want it to be an ability that just hands the players a solution to a problem. I decided that from now on when somebody's Passive Perception triggers something I will simply give hints as to what it is, whether it's noise at the end of a tunnel or an unnatural breeze inside of a closed room, but they have to make the narrative decision to engage with the environment and discover what their senses are telling them.

Horatius felt uncomfortable entering the temple, and Levity's skin burned when he tried to pass the secret door leading inside. Horatius had made it to the other side of the temple and discovered a vast crevasse in the next chamber beyond. Levity refused to enter the temple at all. There were two statues on their side of the crevasse and Horatius looked for the closest place to cross over, tied a rope around one statue and himself, then jumped across the chasm. He made it to the other side, and Braak soon crawled across the crevasse along the rope, but nobody else was willing to follow Horatius.


The party decided to split up at this point, with Braak and Horatius continuing east beyond the crevasse and the rest of the party following the northeast passage from the Zombie Lord's chamber.

I just accidentally misspelled that as Xombie. NEW MONSTER! Anyway. I rolled twice for both groups to possibly encounter a wandering monster but the dice favored the players and they didn't encounter anything.

They both found a wide hallway, and very soon met up with each other since they could see each others' lanterns.

Horatius began opening the doors in the hallway, They found a pair of huge dogs that appeared to be on fire. He quickly closed the door and announced to everybody what he had seen. They prepared to reopen the door and engage in a fight, with Sulla muttering that he didn't have many magical options for fighting creatures made of fire, and Horatius said "I thought all wizards could throw lightning bolts?!" The players frequently tabletalk about Sulla's spell list and I translate this as their characters arguing about what magic is capable of, it allows me to say things like "These orcs come barging into the room, they clearly heard you arguing about Sulla's spells."

Horatius flung the door open and the dogs were gone. They took a few cautious steps into the room and one of the dogs came running from around the corner, flame sputtering off it's sides, and it breathed out a gout of flame that engulfed most of them. Battle was engaged and soon they were surrounded by the two hounds who burst forth fiery sprays of heat from their jaws. They killed the two dogs with little trouble then decided to continue down the hall to the south.

Here is a situation where I used two monsters with intelligence and tactical aplomb, only to see it come to no avail. The hell hounds were flanking and using their breath weapons to maximum effectiveness and the party was never afraid of the danger, they cut down the hounds in literally 2 rounds of combat.

Behind another set of doors, they found some zombies and a mimic. They managed to communicate with the mimic for awhile, and Sulla tried to have his zombie servant escort the mimic back to the throne room, but it wandered off further into the dungeon. Mimics only appear in two places in Dwimmermount as written. I have decided to add mimics to Dwimmermount in copious amounts, and I've also made them intelligent, and I've also given them an agenda. Before this adventure I have never, ever used mimics before.

Venturing southward, the party found a room filled with wooden statues. When Levity expressed interest in one by knocking on it, one of the statues came to life and knocked him down to the ground. Before anybody could react, the wooden statue stomped Levity into unconsciousness then proceeded to stand still again. They dragged Levity away from the room and forced a potion of healing down his throat, then collectively decided "We don't go back to that room unless we plan on setting it on fire."

From this point forward, I have beefed up the monsters to make them more challenging. I also got lucky with the rolls for those attacks against Levity. The monster was a wood golem that took everybody by surprise and managed to get a critical hit in on Levity before he could act himself.

After a little more healing for Levity, they pressed onward. Horatius led the way and took the party west and away from the wide hallway. He soon found himself in an impenetrably dark room where his lantern seemed to attract the very shadows along the walls. Surrounded by shadows he felt his strength draining, and both Horatius and Ilona lashed out at the shadows futilely. Sulla's magic made quick work of the shadowy creatures, but not before they had weakened Horatius to the point where he could barely stand carrying the weight of his armor and weapons.

This combat took 4 rounds! The shadows nearly killed Horatius which seems appropriate given that they no longer have a cleric in the party, but one long rest later and Horatius is back to full HP and the effects of the Strength drain are completely gone. *shaking my head*

Retreating back to a hobgoblin guard post north along the corridor, the party decides to consolidate what they have. Both Rigob and Poach were feeling a bit confused that the Queen was exploring the ruins as if the hobgoblins weren't there and ignoring that the food supply was diminished. They demanded that they be given attention and Ilona agreed, they needed to be fed if they were going to follow her. The party decided to retreat from the second level with all of the hobgoblins for now and rest on the first level while they drew up their plans.

Ilona decided she needed to cement her control over Dwimmermount and the hobgoblins gave her the perfect opportunity to do so. Between Ilona, Sulla, and Horatius they coordinated how they would send Braak back to Muntburg to buy food, and they also needed to send a message to Tsetsig and Marius that they would need a regular supply of food to be brought to Dwimmermount.

The last hour of the game was literally just working out all of these details.

Upon returning to the first level the party turned the desecrated temple to Mavors into their base of operations, ignoring the secret door for now.

The hobgoblins would need to patrol and maintain the first level, so they showed the hobgoblins their map and explained all of the dangers of the first level. Guards would be set at the main entrance and the two stairwells leading down into Dwimmermount (but not the secret entrance or the elevator!) and both Tsetsig and Marius would need to return so that they could recognize him and give him safe passage. Ilona set about constructing a makeshift sigil for her house so that her family would also recognize the hobgoblins and not attack them when they arrived.

Braak returned to Muntburg with Poach following behind him. Having grown bored in Muntburg after the last three days, Marius was climbing up the mountain to Dwimmermount and encountered Braak along the way. All three traveled to Muntburg to acquire food then return to Dwimmermount, and the next session is set to begin with their return...


The reason the map looks like its constructed of three pieces of paper is not because I'm bad at drawing maps (though I did make one mistake when drawing one of the hallways of this level) but when I start drawing a map for a dungeon level I hand the piece of paper to one of the players and instruct them how to draw a box for the stairs, letting them place the entrance on the paper. That way, I don't purposefully reveal how the dungeon is laid out by putting the stairs on the grid paper myself.

I will likely offer this explanation every time I show off a map that looks like it was put together with scraps of paper rather than one sheet.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

"This ugly little thing is under my protection!"
[5e Dwimmermount]

After a month of not gaming at all and a long recap with the players, we got back into the dungeon. We've had two sessions since our long break and this is a summary of the first of those two. I'll write up the second session tomorrow and also share the current map.

The characters met Rukruk, the Hobgoblin "king" of Dwimmermount, and proceeded to murder him. Rukruk was holding a smaller creature, with a row of segmented eyes and black skin, that he was convinced had somehow betrayed him. He let the creature go in order to fight the party, and his elite guards came to assist him, but Rukruk fell before any of the guards could affect the battle. As the guards fell, soon only two were left and Sulla demanded that they surrender to Queen Ilona. One backed away from the battle, but the other vowed to fight to the death, and he was cut down by Ilona.

With only one of Rukruk's bodyguards left alive along with the small black-skinned creature, Sulla and Eppius began questioning the two, while Braak occasionally translated for Ilona and Horatius. They soon learned that from Poach, the hobgoblin, that there were about 20 other hobgoblins on this level and at least one scouting party that should be returning to Rukruk's throne room. Klayqus, the small black-skinned creature (originally a thorgrin) detailed how his tribe had no leader, that they were merely trying to survive and he was sent to negotiate a treaty with Rukruk. During the conversation he mentioned that he worshiped Arach-Nacha, the demon lord of spiders, and this enraged Eppius. Sulla declared that Klayqus was under his protection and a fight ensued, and Ilona cut Eppius down almost instantly.

the player playing Eppius had already planned on swapping out to a new character, so everybody was just looking for an excuse to kill Eppius off

Poach spoke of dead-but-alive things that roamed the halls of Dwimmermount, and Klayqus spoke hatefully of his tribe's enmity with the ranine. Klayqus then retreated to a lower level, informing Sulla that if they travel deeper into Dwimmermount they should use the stairwell next to Rukruk's throne, since the other stairwell is being guarded by others of his kind.

As the party backtracked their route, looking for a safe place to camp and rest, they ran into the hobgoblin patrol that Poach spoke of. The patrol was composed of mostly females, led by an outspoken hobgoblin named Rigob. They were dragging a captured tiefling behind them. Poach declared that Ilona was their new Queen and they were charged with retaking and restoring Dwimmermount, which Rigob was skeptical of at first but when Ilona spoke in common to her "subjects" Rigob quickly accepted her rulership and in turn revealed that the hobgoblins all understood the common tongue. The tiefling was freed and introduced himself as Levity, a jester from another world.

Levity is a bard, and it was explained that Levity traveled through a portal to Telluria into Muntburg and has learned a little about Telluria and Dwimmermount and decided to go exploring after hearing recent rumors of groups going up the mouintain, Levity found many headless orc corpses and eventually found a stairwell that he ventured down, while examining a room with many broken silvery-black skeletons (level 2B, room 1) he was captured by the hobgoblin patrol

Levity forgave the hobgoblins rather quickly once he was released, and the group decided to make camp in the main throne room. Over the next 10 hours, the other hobgoblin patrols and guard posts were recalled to the throne room, and most of the hobgoblins swore fealty to Queen Ilona. Only four hobgoblins left claiming that they would not follow Ilona, and Sulla made a mental note of which way they traveled so that he could help hunt them down and kill them later. Ilona also made note that a great majority of these hobgoblins were female.

I made hints that Rigob and Poach were a little restless with Rukruk's rulership, and tried to hint that they were hopeful for more information about how Dwimmermount had fallen, but at first the players were ignoring the hobgoblins' personalities. You can assume that this is what Poach and most of these hobgoblins looks like...

Sunday, May 24, 2015

deeper into Dwimmermount

Our gaming group hasn't been able to meet up regularly for some time now. We're averaging about one session per month due to multiple schedule conflicts. Since I have a lot of time to think about the game and no time to really play it, here are some more things I changed about stuff from Dwimmermount:

Red Elves
Considering how "regular" elves are described (under the Adventuring in Dwimmermount chapter), I have made the Red Elves even more alien and strange. I took inspiration from Pearce Shea's post and made sure "Something about (Red) Elven biology is transmittable." The Red Elves are the Ancients' greatest experiment made flesh. A magical disease that has found god, or its own idea of god. The disease must be shared, but only with those who are considered worthy. The Thulians proved their worth when they managed to overthrow the Red Elven empire, but the Red Elves won't make any mistakes when they attempt to reclaim their old kingdom. They are coming back to Telluria to turn the Thulians into Red Elves just like themselves, to share their disease.
the Gift
If a Red Elf spits or bleeds into another person's open wound (they lick their weapons when forced to fight somebody they consider worthy of the Gift) they must save vs Constitution (DC 20) or begin turning into a Red Elf. On a failed save, the character now has a Gift score. Roll 1d4 and add this to the character's Gift score, successive failures will add to the Gift score. The Gift is considered a magical disease for purposes of reversing or preventing progression, however once the Gift Score reaches 15+ the disease has done it's job and can no longer be reversed short of a Wish spell.
the Score
1-5 = your skin turns a pale red hue, ears begin to grow pointed, body begins to grow lithe (the changes are quick to appear but are subtle, after 1 Long Rest this change takes full hold and is completely apparent and permanent)
6-9 = you acquire Darkvision (if you didn't already have it) and moonlight will refresh you during a Short Rest removing the need to eat (dehydration is still an issue)
10-14 = all magical forms of reincarnation, regeneration, and resurrection no longer work upon you however you no longer age, are immune to nonmagical disease, and barring injury are effectively immortal
15 = after 1 Long Rest you will fully transform into a Red Elf gaining all of the racial qualities of the new race and losing any racial qualities of your old race (this may include adjusting ability scores appropriately), you are also now considered a 1st-level Sorceror as well in addition to any class you already were (if you were already a Sorceror in some capacity then there is no change, otherwise it acts as an "extra" level)

goblinoids as animals
I've mentioned before that I'm using the old school pig-faced orcs, at least how they were depicted in 1st edition rulebooks. I also didn't like the wererat descriptions, because I didn't think it made much sense that a group of wererats had been locked away into Dwimmermount for 200 years, and so I changed them into ratkin. I changed hobgoblins into rhino-faced men. The other races in Dwimmermount are largely unchanged:
Gnolls will more closely resemble a variety of dogs, and not hyenas
Minotaurs are unchanged
Ranine are unchanged (they look like frogmen)
Thelidu are unchanged (they resemble mind flayers)
Throghrin are peppered throughout the adventure without any good descriptions, I've decided to make them the most alien and scariest looking monsters by making them half-spider, similar to driders though about the same size as halflings
Troglodytes are going to resemble bears that can walk upright
Everything in Dwimmermount suggests that the variance in races was created by experimentation by the Ancients and rather than hew to the familiar fantasy tropes of chaotic races I decided to just make the races more distinctly recognizable as "animal+human" hybrids. Elves and Red Elves represent the Ancients perfection of this technique by applying the hybrid to self-replicating (and immortal) diseases.



Monday, May 18, 2015

Inspiration alternative [5e]

I've noticed that my players tend to forget about Inspiration. As a player I often only used it as a last resort sort of rolling mechanic. As a GM I forget to dispense so I tend to just say "Everybody gets Inspiration" which kind of screws anybody who hasn't spent theirs, since you either have it or you don't. I've seen some other people tweak Inspiration in different ways and I've decided to take some... uh, inspiration from this and make my own tweaks.
Inspiration
Inspiration is carried by the player and can be transferred from character to character. If one character falls, another may be inspired to rise up. Characters start with no Inspiration whatsoever. Inspiration can only be earned by playing.

Gaining Inspiration
Whenever you play out one of your character's personality traits, follow your character's ideal, or give in to one of your characters drawbacks or bonds, you gain +1 Inspiration. If you do this to your character's detriment, you gain +2 Inspiration. If you do this and it gets your character killed, you gain +3 Inspiration. Your character can never have more Inspiration than their current level. Excess Inspiration is automatically lost.
For example, Bob is playing Robin, a 7th-level Fighter with the Noble background. Robin has the Bond "My loyalty to my sovereign is unwavering." Robin overhears mercenaries who work for Robin's sovereign plotting to desert from their posts before a battle. If Bob intervenes or confronts the mercenaries he could gain 1 Inspiration, if it causes him to lose an ally or suffer greatly he could gain 2 Inspiration, and if Robin gets killed confronting them Bob gains 3 Inspiration. If Bob waits to report the mercenaries to a commanding officer then he gains no Inspiration, he didn't handle them himself.

Using Inspiration
One point of Inspiration can give you advantage or take away disadvantage on a single d20 roll.
Three points of Inspiration can turn one of your unsuccessful d20 rolls into a successful rolls.

Losing Inspiration
When your character dies you roll up a new character at 1st-level and lose all of your Inspiration. Each point of Inspiration you have raises the starting level of your new character by +1. If you were holding onto a maximum amount of Inspiration then your new character would start at the same level as your old character.
For example, Charlie has 5 Inspiration and is playing Tytus, an 8th-level Cleric. When Tytus dies, Charlie rolls up a Rogue, Marigold, and she starts at 6th-level.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

STILL WAITING FOR CEASE-FIRE IN DALLAS

Houston, Texas. The national government and separatists in the country's south may have agreed to a cease-fire and peace talks six weeks ago, but you wouldn't know that here in the stronghold of the rebellion.
Streets in this once-bustling metropolis are mostly empty because so many businesses are closed. Tanks and mobile rocket launchers operated by pro-United States separatists regularly rumble down city streets. And sounds of artillery fire around the airport are so frequent that people ignore it.
"We're used to it," said factory worker Michael Davis, 37.
The continued fighting raises doubts about whether negotiations can settle the bitter dispute over the future of Texas between nationalists who want to preserve a segregated nation and domestic Americans just as determined to return to the United States.
Rebels wearing military fatigues without insignia and carrying rifles can be seen throughout the city, where they have a headquarters building downtown and a command center near the airport. The Texan government estimates there are 1,000 rebels in Houston, though residents say they believe the number is higher.
The city is of great strategic importance to the rebels because of its proximity to Louisiana, with Houston's industrial infrastructure, and a rail network leading to Louisiana's oil pipelines and refineries, the insurgency would be a key factor for moving troops and weapons into Houston for support.
The United Nations estimates more than 300 people have been killed in the larger conflict zone since the cease-fire was announced, raising the death toll since fighting broke out last spring to at least 3,660.
On Monday, a powerful explosion at the Dallas factory used to make ammunition components caused shock waves felt more than a mile away. It was followed by a barrage of rocket fire.
Last week, music teacher John Allen, 26, went to the funeral of fellow music teacher, Andrew Everett Groll, who was killed by a shell on Aug. 24, the first day of school.
Allen stood in the park near his home, listening to the whoosh and bang of artillery fire nearby and joked that they could be soundtracks for a video game.
A visit to the industrial city, which had a population of 1.4 million before the fighting, shows how much it is struggling to return to normalcy even as it remains caught in a war. Schools have restarted, some businesses have reopened, factory workers line up for work to the sound of nearby shelling.
Still, the museum of nature and science downtown, the Mercedes-Benz dealership by the contested airport and many other businesses around town remain shuttered and in shambles. And while rebuilding has begun in areas retaken by American government forces, such as Austin, three hours away, Dallas is in limbo.
"It's difficult to think about what should happen next," said gas station attendant Annabelle Patterson, 27, near evidence of the war: the burned shell of a cell phone booth still being used by other vendors outside of a Dallas Area Rapid Transit station. "We don't know what happens tomorrow, so we live like today's day is the last one."
Patterson is sticking it out here in the hopes that the rebels ultimately prevail. "It should be an independent state without America," she said, noting that her son, a kindergartner, shelters in the basement of her home near the airport while she works. Her family is the only one still living in the neighborhood, where the utility company gave up on making repairs because of repeated shelling-related outages, she said.
"We want to be part of Texas because we are Texans" said her relative and co-worker, Iris Kobe, 42.
While many residents like Patterson side with the rebels and blame America's government for shelling that has damaged homes and businesses all over the city, Paul Koster, 21, says a lot of his friends and the city's business class see the conflict as fomented by Texas, and many are thinking about leaving.
Music teacher Allen has similar thoughts. He supplemented his income by working as a sound engineer at concerts, but the local venue has been closed since the fighting began in May. Over the weekend, Allen met with a friend, singer Vic Spero, to talk about a possible project that could take him out of town.
Allen, who says he's a pacifist, blames both the Texas President Rick Perry and American President Barack Obama for resorting to warfare rather than a peaceful resolution.
In a fair referendum, he thinks Texans would vote to stay in America. But he worries the situation will remain as it is and wind up a frozen conflict like areas of nearby Louisiana and Mississippi - other former American states that sought to align with Texas, and now have rebels occupying part of their countries.
If that happens, would he stay?
"No," Allen said. "I would leave."

(a majority of this writing was lifted from an article about Ukraine from USA Today)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

player responsibilities

"People behave very differently under gold as xp than under monsters as xp." I never played under that style of play, neither have I ever run a game that way. I always played in games where role-playing was the dominant force for xp rewards and during my 2nd edition days that's when I started to see players who would follow a plot that was spoonfed to them from a GM or follow a protocol of behavior that the same GM had established. Bowing to lords, currying favor with locals, haggling with shopkeepers, and asking for opponents to surrender mid-battle. However, some of the worst games I ever played in happened to be because the GM expected their players to role-play their way out of a situation rather than looking for alternative solutions or resorting to violence.

I think it's that expectation of player behavior that makes a bad GM. However, there can be bad players too. Playing badly means following vague descriptors (of class, of alignment, etc.) and never looking for anything outside of the box that has been drawn for them, essentially a bad player is dull and predictable. A good player creates the game as they go and asks the GM to accommodate them, a good player throws creative punches. Rolling with those punches is what makes a good GM.

I once played a cleric-wizard in a game set in Waterdeep, the metropolis of the Forgotten Realms setting, where my character worshipped Gond, god of artifice. I started asking about who owned the land around certain areas and the GM never had easy answers. He finally asked me why I was so interested in who owned what and I told him of my plans to introduce a mass transit system to Waterdeep, utilizing both magic and machinery. I will never forget how he guffawed and said "Yeah, that'll never happen."

The younger version of myself soldiered on, but today if I heard a GM be that dismissive I would confront them with their buffoonery. I had just handed him a whole campaign worth of adventures on a silver platter - corrupt government officials, mobilizing labor, maintaining facilities, funding the construction, monetizing the finished project, attempts at espionage, disputes over property values - and he was more concerned with maintaining his status quo of experience points per session. The same horrible GM who would create impossible to solve problems to force us into role-playing our way out of them didn't want to bite into a veritable feast of role-playing potential that I was just handing over to him.

On the other hand, I've described the ingenious problems that could have arisen from this venture to many other players over the years and they all say the same thing: "Why don't you run that campaign?" and therein lies the problem. Most players don't even create their own goals, I can't expect them to follow one of mine.

I remember another game with another GM that had just as final a moment when it came to shutting down a player's goals. In a game where virtually any character was allowed, I asked to play an ogre and was allowed to do so. The ogres and dwarves of this world were locked in a centuries-long animosity. I don't remember what the two races fought over, but I remember that the GM often used it as a stick to beat my character with. Everywhere our party went we always ran into dwarves who took extra pains to be dicks to my character, and thus also the party. Since my ogre character traveled and adventured alongside another dwarf - a PC playing the only dwarf in the world who seemed to be polite and friendly - I mentioned that there must be friendlier dwarves and as soon as I found them I could forge an ogre-dwarf alliance that would shame the other dwarves. The GM just said "Good luck with that! The only friendly dwarves you're ever going to meet will be player characters."

I was still pretty young and I stopped playing with that group at that time because I took that oafishness personally.

As a player, I always create a lofty goal for my character. Maybe something that could be attainable, but often it is something that a GM could build adventures off of. I hate playing with GMs who expect you to share their goals, or follow their breadcrumbs.

As a GM I always try to foster a player creating goals for their character, and though I don't expect it, I am disappointed when a player would rather just level up then interact with the world. That disappointment probably makes me a weaker GM overall. When I run the Dwimmermount game I feel like the campaign skirts a fine line between role-playing and XP-gathering. The characters have goals and there are some inter-party conflicts brewing, but in relation to the dungeon itself it is just there as a thing for them to conquer rather than to interact with.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

hobgoblins of Dwimmermount

I always forget that deviantart exists, and so this morning I found some more artwork to use as inspirational examples of the rhino-faced hobgoblins in my Dwimmermount campaign.


The Rhino
by dankatcher



Rhino General
by JoseAlvesSilva



Ragin' Rhino Man
by paulabrams



Durge the Rhinoman inks
by joeydes



Rhinoman
by brainfog



Rhinoman
by 89as13

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ten facts about Hexvouna

Like Courtney Campbell before me, I have decided to take Kiel Chenier's 10 Random Facts challenge. But here I am limiting it to Hexvouna, a megadungeon I am working on with Arnold Kemp:

1) Hexvouna is the name of both the mountain and the ancient city which resides on the top of the mountain. It is sometimes called the Giants' Walk because giants live throughout the habitable areas beneath the walls of Hexvouna.

2) The old palace of Hexvouna has been ravaged by rivers of lava that spring up from within the mountain. These pools of lava sometimes erupt and destroy more buildings, or simply create new rivers of rock stretching down the side of the mountain. The mountain is not a volcano, the lava spreads out from a malfunctioning prison hundreds of feet beneath the city.

3) The last king of Hexvouna held thrall over a demonic spirit, and when he died the demon was freed but cannot return to the Three Hells it spawned from until it finds somebody to open the portals under the dead king's bedchambers.

4) The Ecknoi are a diminutive, primitive people who live inside a 200 foot tall clock tower at the center of Hexvouna. For any who can read the ancient language of the clock, it still keeps perfect time.

5) The original Hexvouna is almost entirely destroyed. The ancient city that is currently called Hexvouna destroyed the old one when it crash landed there 250 years ago.

6) There is an aqueduct and basin of water that still delivers fresh water to the entire ancient city of Hexvouna. The water is supplied to the city magically, but the basin is currently overflowing and creates a waterfall on the northwestern edge of the city walls (and a river down that side of the mountain).

7) There are three ways to enter Hexvouna, every other path is blocked by steep vertical ledges of rock hundreds of feet high. One is through a hidden passage at the base of the mountain behind the walls of a hidden fortress, the second is a difficult hike following the river that spills down the northwestern side of the mountain, and the third is by approaching from the south - through the giants' camp.

8) Within a crack of the city's streets a vast underground graveyard with many crypts can be found, but not a single undead.

9) There are 16 spirits that reside within Hexvouna, they will challenge or reward those who explore Hexvouna according to their nature. The only way to know about the existence of these spirits is to find the ruined temple where they were last tended to by the dwarves, before the dwarves abandoned the mountain.

10) This megadungeon is still being written but was started with the concept of a dungeon that goes up instead of down. Another core design theme is keeping huge central areas for the players to move around in, rather than the cramped corridors of a traditional dungeon crawl. Only two maps have been drawn. Explanations for who lives where and why have yet to be determined for much of the areas, however the facts listed above will not change.

Friday, April 24, 2015

"These are hobgoblins?"
[5e Dwimmermount]

It's been three weeks since we last played Dwimmermount, and with a brief recap of events the players were ready to confront the enemies they heard in the caves swiftly approaching their position.

The party came face to face with Guran, the mad dwarf who had been creating the kobolds. Though they never discovered this as their conversation quickly became combative and antagonistic. When they refused to leave Dwimmermount, or even acknowledge that it belonged to him and his "dwarves," he went berserk and attacked. He was quickly defeated, and his fleeing kobolds were easily hunted down and slaughtered.

They debated over a place where they could rest for an hour or so and mentioned the hidden chapel in the eastern part of the level, but quickly stopped talking about it since they didn't want to reveal the location to Appius. They ventured back to the "timeless room" and discovered three orcs camping. They killed two of the orcs before they could react, but the last one surrendered by offering to show a map to his leader's throne room.

For initiative during combat, I've been having the players roll 1d10 and add their Dexterity bonus. I feel like this gives a better timeline to the round and makes the Dexterity bonus more important than the d20 skill check that the 5e rules call for.

He led them to the circular mosaic room and showed a crude map drawn into the lines of the mosaic, explaining that the circular room here led to another circular room down below and the elaborate graffiti marked Segur's "throne" room.

Sulla, unsatisfied with the map, slit the orc's throat.


They rested in the "timeless room" then explored the magically locked doors to the last circular room off of the main "Mavors corridor" with the key disc they had recovered from the Spawn of Arach-Nacha. Inside they found a chamber that responded to the key disc and Sulla sent his familiar to scout the vertical shaft within.

Three things:
1) I allowed Sulla's familiar to search the entire shaft. 5e rules limit some of the usefulness of the familiar beyond 100 feet, but I decided to allow telepathic communication throughout the entire shaft. Additionally, I don't like the way 5e uses familiars as there seems to be no drawback to using them carelessly.
2) The book doesn't state where exactly the elevator is, so I parked it at the upper level effectively blocking the door to the Divinitarium. Meaning the players will either be forced to turn on the elevator's power or destroy the elevator before they can ever explore this level.
3) We recently discovered that any character can Identify a magic item during a short rest
(DMG p. 136) and Ilona used this ability on Guran's warhammer, which she had looted. Rather than make it a +1 weapon, I gave it better damage and a magical +1 to offhand attacks if the warhammer is used one-handed (even though it is also a versatile weapon).

The party decided to explore the rest of the caves (they had two rooms left to discover) and found Guran's treasure chests as well as two more giant spiders, which they made quick work of. Using my previously detailed method for generating treasure, they found roughly 1600 copper pieces. They also found the shrine to Tyche, where Horatius placed a gold coin amongst the small hoard already in her outstretched hands.

They discovered the Hall of Memories, where I implied that the pillars could potentially be removed from the floor, transported elsewhere, and sold for a vast sum. The scholar amongst them, Sulla, watched the memories and discerned that there were some things revealed in the images that did not match the history he had been taught.

They continued downward to the Reliquary...

at the bottom of the stairs the party was attacked by more of the silvery-black skeletons they had seen in the chapel on the first level, but they made short work of the magical constructs.

Sulla and Ilona wanted to find the other stairwell that led back up to the first level and so they ventured west and came to two doors, one north and one south. They chose to go north and found a storeroom with smashed crates and rotted goods, along with five burlap sacks with man-sized shapes groaning and struggling to get out. They opened one of the sacks to find a dessicated but animated corpse fighting to free itself. They bashed its head in and then spent a few minutes stabbing and bludgeoning the other four sacks.

I'm not sure why this room has five zombies trussed up inside burlap sacks, maybe its detailed somewhere and I forgot, or maybe this is just one of those weirdly random rooms, but it was at this point that I made a little note that one of those sacks did not have a zombie inside of it. This death will come back to haunt them. (maybe even literally)

Continuing to the north, they passed through several rooms. One with four pillars representing the elements surrounding a tiled mosaic of Telluria, and another with pillars made of rare metals. They discussed ways of removing the rare metal pillars but eventually decided to continue onward and return to this room later. They approached the door at the end of this hall, realizing they had traveled quite a distance north, and Sulla could hear voices beyond the door. They were arguing about their leader's decisions and

Sulla's Passive Perception is 20 and he is the only character who can speak Bestial.

They burst into the room and found damaged glass tubes stretched out in rows across the room. On the other side of one of these rows they could see four creatures unlike anything they had seen before. Roughly humanoid forms with thick bulging arms and squat legs, the length of their faces ridged with short black horns protruding where their noses and foreheads should be. They charged in and killed all four of the creatures with little hesitation.

This room is called Stasis Chamber #2. It is described as being identical to Stasis Chamber #1. Stasis Chamber #1 is described as "filled with two dozen vitreum tubes that stand slightly taller than a human being. The tubes are found in four rows of six..." except the shape of both of these rooms doesn't match how that configuration of rows is described. Frustratedly, I just filled in rows of "tubes" on my map and told the players that it would require an action to move through the tubes - due to smashing and forcing their way through reinforced glass (vitreum) - and that each square of vitreum tubes counted as difficult terrain.
You can see in this picture where Ilona smashed through some of the tubes and later Sulla placed a
Grease spell on the floor to prevent the hobgoblins from escaping.

This room, and this entire level, is described as having hobgoblins living here, but I should point out that I've been deliberately describing the orcs to my players as "pig-faced" and using 1st edition AD&D images of orcs to hammer this point home. I decided pretty early on that I wanted every unusual race within Dwimmermount to have some kind of animalistic feature, to imply that when these races were magically created by the Ancients that they were made using existing species.


I'm using the 5e stats for hobgoblins, but I've searched up these images to show what the "hobgoblins" look like.


They explored the southeastern door because one of the hobgoblins had tried to escape through this door. Inside were shelves and cabinets filled with vials and jars, some still held powders and liquids. Sulla cast Detect Magic and took anything that radiated with magic, they abandoned the rest and moved on.

I don't like using nonmagical means for creating potions and since this room has some weird alchemical objects sitting around, I decided on the fly that Sulla's spell would detect anything that was already made and ready to use. I rolled a d10 and got a 7, that's how many potions he found. If the party had an alchemist with them then perhaps I could have played this room out a bit more, but the players were also keen to track down where the hobgoblin wanted to retreat to and a few potions weren't going to slow them down.

They began to turn south in the next room, another chamber filled with vitreum tubes, and immediately saw light at the end of one of the corridors. The party began using ranged attacks as soon as they saw more of the hobgoblins and a brief fight ensued. Two of the hobgoblins tried to escape, but were cut down before they could get very far. Loud noises still echoed down the halls and the party could hear footsteps approaching from beyond the circular room.

At the end of that last round of combat the minis looked like this

their map currently looks like this

and according to my timekeeping they've been awake for a little over 13 hours...

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

losing track of the hours underground
[5e Dwimmermount]

It's been over a month since I wrote a session report, and that's due to a combination of not having free time to write and not having the energy to write. I was not too worried about being behind because I had been recording the sessions, but now I seem to have mislaid the recordings and I have no idea if I accidentally deleted them or simply filed them somewhere that at the time I was sure I would "remember." Here then, to the best of my ability, is the most I can recall from our next three sessions.

As the delve continues I find myself altering more of the adventure. The map was originally meant to be on the inside of a wineskin, but I felt this was totally impractical for a group of dwarves to be using a map that they themselves couldn't even see. Instead, I created the prop map you see below.


The map they acquired from the dead dwarf...click to make big
...the party decided to return to the eastern portion of the level and clear out the final room along the easternmost corridor. But first they had to fight the gelatinous cube in the hallway and they delayed this fight by first inspected the training room, and Ilona destroyed one of the training devices upon Horatius discovering the control panel that activated them.

Returning to the hallway door they prepared for a fight and opened the door, letting the creature slowly glide into the room with them. They fought it with little injury then ventured to the eastern hallway without incident.

The room they sought to explore was an ancient chapel to Mavors, though it appeared to have been desecrated and converted to a shrine of Turms Termax. Tsetsig boldly entered and was instantly surrounded by silvery-black skeletons that lurched out from sconces within marble columns. He attempted to turn the undead to no effect. A brief but intense fight ensued as the rest of the party tried to protect Tsetsig from the brunt of the attacks from the skeletal constructs. At the end of the fight, Tsetsig found the secret passage leading to the hidden treasury. As they took stock of these newfound valuables Tsetsig grasped a scarab wrought of moonsilver and enameled blue. This is when he almost died.

Fifth edition doesn't have very good rules for cursed items and the object in question is a scarab of death which doesn't even seem to exist beyond second edition rules. The item is also one of those "save or die" kind of items which I always regard as dumb and not-fun. I wrote up my own "fifth edition" version that offers a few choices in case someone should happen to grab the scarab recklessly. When the player annonced they were picking up the scarab, I handed him this index card...
...and that's pretty much how I'm going to rewrite "save or die" bullshit for this and any other fifth edition game I run.
It doesn't say it on the card but cutting off a hand would have reduced the character to zero hit points. I think I forgot this in the moment and just had Tsetsig pass out.


After Tsetsig cuts off his own hand they spend a few moments rousing him from unconsciousness and discover the scarab is cursed. The party then decided to rest here, since the secret treasury room was the perfect place to hide. When they were ready to move on they decided to travel southward down the central cross-shaped hallway, expecting to find another circular room with giant centipedes, but along the way they were called out to by voices in the dark. Kobolds in the caves had seen Brughaht traveling with the party and extended an invitation to meet with their master, Guran. They only trusted dwarves and refused to escort Brughaht's friends into the caves, but Brughaht managed to persuade them that Tsetsig wasn't a threat and could be trusted. One kobold insisted on venturing forth to ask Guran for permission and Tsetsig had no objections. After several minutes the kobold returned and welcomed Tsetsig along. While the rest of the party waited, Tsetsig and Brughaht were escorted into the caves to meet with Guran.

They passed several empty chambers as well as a glowing pool of water lit by radiance from above, but Tsetsig began to suspect that something was amiss. They were traveling to far away from the group and he sensed an ambush lying ahead. When he questioned the kobold about the length of their journey the kobold tried to dash forward into the darkness, but Brughaht managed to fell him with one blow. They hid the kobold, now dead and turned to stone, underneath a pile of bones then Tsetsig sent a magical message to the rest of the party warning them that the kobolds were hostile. With a little bit of coordination, the party managed to overcome the kobolds they were with and Gaius Marius unleashed several Sleep spells to disable the remaining kobolds. It was a slaughter!

Tsetsig and Brughaht returned to the rest of the group and they searched the rooms, and upon finding a library they quickly looked for books that may assist them in the dungeon. One stuck out, a manual on the strategy game the two ghosts in the northern portion of the dungeon had been playing. They took the book back to the room and placed it where the ghosts seemed to be handling it, and the ghosts disappeared.

Feeling weary, they decided to return to Muntburg to rest and resupply, and were only ten hours behind Climent.



In Muntburg, Tsetsig and Brughaht both decided to stay in town with some of the money they had acquired. Gaius Marius also stayed behind to assist Tsetsig and Ilona's ancestral claim upon Dwimmermount. A priest of Mavors, Eppius, and a wizard friend of Ilona's who had just arrived in Muntburg, Sulla, both joined the group as they returned to Dwimmermount.

Upon re-entering Dwimmermount, the group heard movement coming from the long main hallway and braced for combat. More silvery-black skeletons strode out of the darkness and they cut them down. The priest, Eppius, having not encountered these creatures before attempted to turn them as undead fruitlessly. The group made their way to the caves quickly, stopping only to examine the double doors leading to the circular room which Ilona believed to hold only "more centipede bullshit." They couldn't enter as the doors were magically sealed, and they had no method of opening the doors.

Technically they did. Horatius carried a rod of opening but the player was concerned about the number of charges it contained and didn't elect to use the item.

In the caves, an ambush was waiting for them, but from the kobolds. The party spied a single spider that shied away from their lantern light, then skittered away into the darkness quickly as they approached. Ilona gave chase and as the rest of the group confidently followed in the darkness with their newly purchased lanterns, they suddenly found themselves surrounded by giant spiders.

I decided that Guran, a servant of the demonspawn, upon realizing that his kobold was not returning with a fresh dwarf for him to corrupt would search for his soldier and discover the betrayed and dead kobolds. He would then report to the demonspawn, whom I named Bram. Bram commanded his spiders from afar to search out for signs of the party and upon hearing the fighting from the hallway the spiders were organized by Bram into an ambush for the group in the caves.

Very quickly, the characters began to fall to the paralytic poison of the spiders' bites. Soon the only one standing was Horatius as he beat back spider after spider and managed to survive just long enough to kill them all. Exhausted and near death, Horatius collapsed around his fallen comrades and soon they began to revive from the poison. In the aftermath they discovered Climent had died during the battle, and around his neck Horatius found a symbol of Termax, signifying that Climent was secretly a cultist.

Because this group had levelled up several times by scouring every single room of the first level I decided to make Bram's spiders slightly tougher than the ones described in the module and this almost killed the party. I have no regrets, they charged in without scouting or preparing, and now they're terrified of spiders.

They re-entered the caves and with no resistance found the room with the moonlit pool of water. Horatius decided to bathe and swim in it, searching the bottom for treasure but finding nothing. In the process every magical item on his person was destroyed, but he picked up a temporary magical resistance which still lingers. In this room they made enough noise that scouting orcs found them and another battle ensued. They managed to defeat the orcs and needed rest, retreating to the library where they spiked the door to protect them from being barged in on.

The orcs were being allowed to search the caves by the kobolds, who had temporarily allied together to repel the human invaders. When Bram's spiders fell, he instructed his kobolds to treaty with the orcs and inform them where they could claim vengeance for their fallen comrades.

The next session started with the players needing a bit of a recap and I was very tired and disorganized due to getting very little sleep.

After Identifying water from the moon pool, Sulla suggested trying to pour water on the magically locked double doors. They tried this but it didn't work. Rather than linger at the double doors longer they entered the caves and went about searching those passageways that they had passed before due to following or evading conflict.

They found the secret back door entrance and saw sunlight outside, not realizing it was still daytime, and then encountered shriekers (which have WAY too many hit points for a creature that just screams) which made the kobolds believe that new invaders were approaching, and so they prepared an ambush. Venturing westward they ran into these kobolds who had set up a quick and makeshift ambush. During the fight, a kobold tipped over a barrel of oil and set it aflame in order to prevent the party from following them. Amongst the spilled oil was a small barrel of gunpowder which exploded with thunderous force.

The gunpowder was my addition, but the kobold fights at this point feel like its just slowing everything else down so I'm trying to make them interesting. The players were really taken aback by it, and the 5d8 damage that some of them suffered from it helped soften them up to make the kobolds actually seem threatening.

Sulla found the Holy Phalange when the party explored the dead end where it was hidden.

The next fight with kobolds was amazingly brief and only lasted three rounds. The party heard them before they saw them and simply rushed forward to catch the kobolds by surprise, which they did. At this point the group decided to explore the dungeon north of the caves so that they could have their map link up where they knew a missing connection had not yet been explored.

They found a room with murals and more ghostly images of Thulian troops marching in the hall. Deciding to take a short rest in a nearby storeroom, they soon heard scrabbling and scratching at the door while Sulla cast an Identify ritual upon the Holy Phalange. They prepared to fight and threw the door open to see the hallway filled with giant beetles. Horatius and Ilona pushed the giant beetles back, defeating them with little expended effort. At the end of Sulla's Identify ritual, he put the Holy Phalange around his neck to Ilona's disgust.

They opened the southern door leading back to the caves and were met by a spider, which then spoke. The voice of Bram spoke through the spider and offered rewards if the characters would ally with him. He claimed to speak for Arach-Nacha and the priest knew this was a demon lord, but played along for now. The rest of the group was willing to hear his offer but only if they could discuss it in person. Bram revealed he had a key to open the magically-sealed double doors along the main hallway, something which had become an obsessive point for some of the players. They agreed to meet with him, but Eppius was very vocal about destroying Bram and all of his spiders. The spider escorted them to Bram's lair and he offered to use his spiders to guard the entrances of Dwimmermount to help cement Ilona's familial claim upon the land. Ilona was considering the deal when Bram revealed that the key looked like a symbol of Mavors, this was the final straw for Eppius and he declared that Bram was an unholy blasphemy.

A long fight ensued between the party and Bram with his spiders, and the party were triumphant without a single person succumbing to the paralytic poison of the spiders. As they began to loot the caves, they heard the approach of more creatures from behind them...

Their map now looks like this: