Monday, November 9, 2009

January Game

The plan is to start my campaign up in January. However, we still need a few more players. It's level 6, twice a month, at my house in Richmond.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Story of the Madu

As told by the Madu trader, Vati to the adventurers helping to get him home:

Once we were a great people. Devote worshippers of Oghma, the Binder of What is Known, we collected knowledge from all points of the world and brought it to benefit us. We built dams to direct the water and protect our crops. We build many libraries and universities for study. Our cities gleamed with tall buildings of white marble. The people suffered little from disease and illness and those who died before their time were often brought back to life.

All was not perfect, of course. Those capable of study were admired and given all the opportunities of our society. Those who lacked the faculties or the discipline were treated well, but they were still our servants. Villages and cities tended to spring up around the illustrious halls of learning, while other settlements held little interest for us. Those who opposed us were dealt with harshly by our clerics and holy warriors, perhaps too harshly at times, but the fall of our civilization would have meant a descent into the war and madness of the past.

Not all knowledge was permitted for study, which is the origin of how our civilization eventually fell. A secret sect emerged within our tradition called The Black Water. They studied fell magic, such as kidnapping and ransoming souls, contact with the Far Realm, illusion and trickery, and necromancy and planar manipulation. We stomped out Black Water adherents without mercy when they were found, but the knowledge was intoxicating and many young people fell under the sway of the Black Water, drowning in its depths.

One of these young people was The Whispered One, then known as Vecna. Vecna was a brilliant cleric of Oghma and gifted healer. His desire for knowledge of the human body was complete in our tradition, but he wanted more. He was recruited by The Black Water and was secretly allowed to carry out gruesome experiments on those in our prisons. Vecna did not stop there and his thirst for forbidden knowledge knew no bounds.

Eventually Vecna was discovered. Rather than go quietly, Vecna used his friends in the prison guard to stage an uprising, including the warden, an upright knight named Kas who had also been seduced by the secret knowledge and its resulting power. It is true, also, that we were guilty of much hypocrisy, as you might imagine when one has absolute power. The forbidden knowledge they sought at first was simply truth, held from them by our order, but the line between hidden knowledge and dangerous knowledge is a hard one to define.

Vecna and Kas started a war that lasted two hundred years, proving by their unnatural longevity that they were dabbling with dark powers. Our dams were destroyed, our lands flooded and most of our cities leveled. We were clearly losing this war and we were forced to take shelter in the marshes, the wreckage of our society. With the Oghmaites essentially defeated, Vecna and his people ruled for hundreds of years until in-fighting destroyed them. Kas betrayed Vecna, as their kind was wont to do. Vecna was said to have ascended to godhood, while Kas was eventually defeated by other Black Water Vecnites. Petty rulers have watched over this land and hunted us down for many hundreds of years since then.

Our prophecies say that an ancient artifact lies in the Grand Temple of The Whispered One, one of the many ziggurats that dot our land that were once great libraries and places of learning. If this artifact can be brought to bear against our enemies, our prophesies say that Oghmaites may restore our lost kingdom, and with proper humility, rule for thousands of years.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Last Chance Inn

Using sail and oar, the party made their way up the Erath River until they came to a fork. The Erath continued northward, but the waters were treacherous and unnavigable. A Western fork was more navigable, proven by the various river boats that could be seen going up and down the river. At the fork was a riverfront inn, called The Last Chance.

At the inn's dock, various traders from the West sold their wares, and the party bought and sold goods for their journey. Once inside the inn, the party met the proprietor, a beautiful drow named Lenova. Also in the inn were two tattooed Madu traders, the older Vati and the younger Dika. Nearby at Korem Rell, a jeweler, and his two female bodyguards. Two other men sat near the front door but would only grunt when spoken to.

As the weather outside worsened, the inn shook with the wind and rain. Strange howls could be heard outside and the two silent patrons went over and opened the front door. The party confronted them and things turned violent. The silent ones attacked the party, slipping out of their skin and reveailing themselves as vile aberrations. As they struck party members, they took on their appearances, and when struck or healed, the stolen party member took equal amounts of damage and healing. Worse, a giant brute of an aberration appeared in the doorway and stalked inside, attacking the patrons.

The foulspawn were eventually defeated, but it took the help of the two bodyguards and the innkeeper to drive them away. The innkeeper changed shape herself during the fight, but she wished to downplay her abilities. In the end, it was clear who could be trusted to pull their weight, who would likely run at the first sign of danger, and who would help if only given the opportunity.

The party left the inn after receiving payment from Korem Rell, including the help of his bodyguards. The two Madu traders promised hospitality when the party reached Cullen, their northern village up river. Lenova declined to go, but promised to be of assitance in the future, if she was needed.

The party proceeded into the river valley, the river and road framed by tall cliffs. Eventually they came to a bridge and a small dwarven stone building. The sign on the bridge said it was closed and the small dwarven building offered a riddle in dwarvish. The party easily answered the riddle and proceeded into the building, which held nothing but a staircase going down. The staircase led to a large chamber with a door across from it and another on the left. The floor was covered in river sand. As they proceeded into the room, they were attacked by a sand golem. It completely ignored the party's dwarf, but it endeavored to slay all others. Eventually it was defeated and party continued to investigate. The side door revealed a trap room that contained a thunderblast cyclone contained in a cylinder of water. It was a trap against those who crossed the bridge above. A simple lever disabled it.

The dwarven village was their next stop. As they approached, they noticed corpses littering the streets. The bodies were partially disolved and kobold tracks could be seen in the dirt. They heard a bell tolling and headed to the towns cathedral. A strange sense of wrongness pervaded the down, and reality shifted in and out of focus. Something is in the cathedral....

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Riverboat


Gargantuan vehicle

HP 250 Space 2 squares by 8 squares Cost 2,200 gp

AC 2; Fortitude 20, Reflex 2

Speed swim 5


The pilot must stand at the stern of the riverboat and operate the rudder.


In addition to the pilot, a riverboat requires a crew of three, all of whom use a standard action each round to control the ship. Reduce the ship's speed by 2 squares for each missing crew member. At swim speed 0, the ship sails out of control.


Twenty Medium creatures; three tons of cargo.

Out of Control

Out-of-control riverboats moves forward at half speed. At the DM's discretion, it can move in the same direction as a strong wind at up to full speed.


At the DM's discretion, a riverboat can take a penalty or bonus to its speed of –4 to +4, depending on the strength and direction of the wind.

Riverfront Tomb

I'll be DMing again soon, and this week I ran a one-shot adventure since Allen was sick. It introduced some of the themes of my new campaign that takes place in Allen's (mostly undefined) world.


The party continued upriver along the Erath. As they proceeded the terrain became hilly and after a week of travel, they could see a long mountain range off in the distance. Traveling northward, signs of an ancient civilization became apparent. A weed choked ancient rode ran alongside the river and sophisticated retaining walls lined the banks every so often.

Traveling through a hilly region, they came across a bunch of tombs build into the hillside. The remnants of a stone dock was nearby and a black ship with black sails was docked at the ancient site. Investigating the ship, it contained rows of benches for the undead oarsmen, skeletons that acknowledged the parties presence, but cared little for their intrusion.

Investigating the tombs, the party discovered one with the heavy stone doors knocked in. The doors were carved like an open book, the pages telling the tale of Loremistress Nemeia, a powerful priestess of Oghma, the god of knowledge.

The party entered the tomb and fought a variety of undead minions left behind by a powerful necromancer. One magical symbol that regenerated undead monstrosities identified the necromancer as a follower of Vecna, the god of secrets and hidden knowledge. The party defeated his minions and eventually found him in the bural chamber of the Loremistress.

They defeated the Vecna necromancer after a prolonged battle in which he continually raised the bodies of the dead interred there. Eventually they defeated him and discovered the treasure he was after. He had just about finished removing the wrappings from Loremistress Nemeia's corpse when the party interrupted him. One her skin, from her neck to her feet were blue tattoos, inscriptions written in small text. Loremistress Nemeia was now a valuable text.

The text was called The Way to the Imperishable Vessel, a book of the dead describing the various energies involved in death and the afterlife. Embedded in this book, inscribed on the loremistresses skin, was a powerful ritual called Corpse Gate. This ritual creates a portal linked to the remains of a corpse. It's more an exercise in teaching the temporal-spatial positioning of life force in the multiverse, but it also had the potential for more sinister uses if it fell into the wrong hands. Luckily the party arrived just in time and liberated the body of the dead priestess.

In the end they also confiscated the necromancers powerful Orb of Sanguinary Repercusions and his fancy black boat, minus the undead oarsmen.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Guest DM

First blog post of 2009, yeah!

Allen is our new dungeon master, but I'm trying my hand at guest DM on occasion. I've found the pre-printed adventures to be less than inspiring. Part of this is the inclusion of mood breaking mechanics, like quests and other video gamish junk. So I'm trying my hand at writing my own material. I've been taking this in stages, and on reflection, this post might be helpful for new DM's.

The first stage was runnnig the pre-published adventures. The first two in the 4E series were written before the game was fully baked, so these can be forgiven somewhat. I found running them was helpful in learning the mechanics of the game and learning what about them I didn't like. The big problem for me is the reduction of D&D down to a skirmish miniatures game. I need more role-play. This is my only RPG, while I can see how multi-system players might expect some hack & slash out of their D&D, saving their RP for something more nuanced. As I've mentioned before, D&D is the only tool in my RPG toolbox, so I want it to do different things. In fact, I want it to do everything.

The pre-published stuff killed my enthusiasm, so I started over. There are many resources now for creating your own adventures using modular bits from various books. The DM books for 4E are specifically designed for this purpose. Each has information on its topic, followed by examples of application. Dungeon Delve has 30 levels of encounters for an evening. Draconomicon has dragon lairs and monsters with new applications. All of this stuff can be dropped in by just "filing off the serial numbers," as they say.

This filing off off the serial numbers is now starting to give way to more ambitious plans. I'm building my own traps, creating my own monsters, and just now starting to build NPC personalities. Ah yes, role-playing; I remember that. This process is the most time consuming, but it's also the most rewarding. My first trap was a disaster, for example, but I've been able to clean it up with some good advice from Michael. I'm still confused about monster creation. For example, some solo monsters have 500+ hit points while another of the same level has 150. I don't understand the process yet, and the Dungeon Master's Guide doesn't fully explain why this is the case. Are monsters created in a modular fashion or not?

The most fun part about creating my own adventures is developing the level of complexity I'm looking for. I'm used to urban adventures with many factions and half a dozen hooks at any given time. A clear cut dungeon delve seems a little boring. It's true that the party can only focus on one thing at a time, but the illusion of choice brings a richness to a world. Because I'm only guest DM, I need to stay somewhat linear, but when I eventually run my own campaign again, I hope to broaden the horizon.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Phoenician Buildings

An artists work-in-progress of Phoenician architecture based on various bits of information.