Tuesday Game: A Player’s Perspective: New Ally and Manor Search

We last left our stranded band of companions huddled in the desecrated temple of Falinora going over the message from the recently animated statue, but soon the party realized that their former jailor, Halfkris, had escaped his bonds and was missing. At this realization, the group followed an audible scream from outside the temple, and they discovered that Halfkris peppered by several arrows from an unknown assailant. Seeking little worth in keeping Halfkris around, the party silenced him forever, but they also approached the new individual making mocking comments to the now dead Halfkris. They all gazed upon an exhausted and shivering female tiefling going by the name of Dacyria, and she further revealed she was a duchess who would be willing to pay for her expediate return home while also fighting alongside the companions. She was welcomed into their ranks for it would be only easier to escape with more capable members helping out.

Before dawn, the party made their way down to the former pirate lord’s manor in the hopes of gaining access to the underground catacombs and a possible ship to escape the doomed island. The old man, Keestake, explained the group would need to find a wooden wand in the former queen’s chambers, and bring it to the catacomb entrance to gain access. However, Keestake also warned that both the orcs and goblins were using the manor as a base for their search for the pirate lord’s treasure, so the group would have to deal with them during their search. Wanting to avoid unnecessary attention, the group voted to try the stealth approach as they were led by the half-elf, Idris, through a doorway in the southwest part of the manor. Hugo the loxodon opted to stay behind with Keestake and Melisana until the group cleared the way.

Our party members creeped through the doorway and made their way north along a hallway until they came to a T-intersection. Idris narrowly escaped alerting two orc raiders to the party’s presence, but seeking to silence them know as opposed to later, the party lured the orcs out and finished them in quick order. Following a hand drawn map from Keestake’s memory, the members peered into what they believed was the queen’s chambers, and they found several goblins camping in their with one in particular shoving a wooden wand in the air. The sight of this display ignited a mighty rage in Gye who proceeded to rush in and crushed the goblin holding the wand, so naturally, the rest of the party rushed into to clear the rest of the goblins in quick order. After some time examining the wand, it was determined to be a wand of detect magic, and the group guessed this would be necessary in finding the entrance given the orcs and goblins had not found it already.

The group found themselves becoming more adept at dealing with these threats, so they felt a sense of confidence in their abilities which prompted them to check out the nearby king’s chambers. Their confidence was rewarded as the group quickly searched the chamber room, and the newly added tiefling proved her worth as she was able to find several objects under the king’s bed that appeared to be possess magical properties. After taking a quick rest and planning their next steps, the group began their search for the catacomb entrance…

Will our group find the entrance while battling the orcs and goblins? Will the catacombs contain secrets or traps that might hinder the party? Can the party escape to the island before Falinora brings devastation? Find out next week!

New Miniature Project

So I wanted to give you an update on Acererak, but I was offered a commission on a friend’s miniature that I couldn’t turn down.

She’s a female human monk, named Gye (pronounced “gee” like geek).

I’ve started her out with washing and priming her:

She’s going to have black hair (likely that Wraith Black I used on Acererak to give it that bluish tint), with a white robe and red and black waist.

Then, she’ll have a pink orchid in her hair, and, if I can manage it (I have been doing some research and I think I can pull it off), I’ll be painting some cherry blossoms on her robe.

As of now there are snowflakes, but I plan on filling those in and painting the cherry blossoms by hand.

Sorry, the pictures keep coming up sideways.

Once it dries out, I’ll reprime it and continue with the paint job.

Until next time, Dear Readers…

P.S. – I am still gathering my notes and sorting them to give you a good recap of our last Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden session. It’s coming, I promise!

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Time of the Frostmaiden: The Lost City of Ythryn

When last we left our heroes, they were heading out at the direction of the Ranger who had found a way to the lost city.

Climbing down the large hole, they came to several pools holding Remorhaz. It wasn’t long before they attacked the party. Using his paladin ability, abjure enemies, the paladin / barbarian put the biggest one out of commission leaving the party to fight the smaller ones, making short order of them.

Continuing onwards, down yet another hole, the party found a curious site: a frozen, yet living, grove of what appeared to be enchanted purple pears. It was not long before a dryad, bound to the grove, came out to engage the party and discussion. After telling what she knew, and several attempts at charming members of the party, the party decided that her want for company could only be stated by somebody staying behind or freeing her. Because freeing her would possibly kill her in this glacier as she was magically bound to The Grove, the party cleric did the best he could by banishing her back to the Feywild.

Additionally, eating several pieces of the fruit or strange get beneficial abilities that the party could use.

Continuing on, the party came to the Lost City. The object of their search. Seeing a large building straight ahead, the party headed in, coming to what appear to be a tower based on a specific school of magic: abjuration. Seeing a glyph protecting the tower, the party mage sent it familiar in to be struck with the tower’s defenses, enabling the party to enter in. Going upstairs, the party found a huge angel chiseled with blue runes with a hammer adorned with matching runes laying upon it. It was guarded by six demos magen, ancient magical constructs, and so the party did not approach it. That said, looking at the ceiling, they found an inscription in draconic that read “first, shield thy heart with a wand from the Nether Oak.”

Consulting with Professor Skant, their professor orb, the party realized that the Grove of trees they saw previously would likely contain this exact tree.

Heading westward around the city, the party came to what looked to be an elevator, guarded by sigils from each of the schools of magic. Consulting with Professor Skant, the party believed that each of the towers of each School of magic would hold a clue as to how they were to enter into the main tower via the elevator.

Passing an ancient prison, the party proceeded to the Grove where at the center they found an enormous oak tree, some variant of a treant, that would likely attack them if they dared take from its branches. Sneaking towards the tree, the party wizard used mage hand to grab several stray branches to ensure that a wand could be fashioned.

Seeing another tower of magic, the party headed that way, stopping at a library where they came across an arcanaloth that assumed they were the librarians and asked their help in looking for a specific set of tomes, ones that contained the true names of each yugoloth ever created; a dangerous find for any of the lower planes. The party “helped” while looking onwards at a poor blind albino awakened giant penguin named Kingsport.

The poor beast reached out for help from the party, claiming the yugoloth was abusive and cruel, a fact that they watched. Deciding that this yugoloth was likely to turn on them, the party attacked it at its own surprise! The battle didn’t last long and the yugoloth fell, sending it back to its own plane of existence.

It was here the party rested, seeking to enter the tower the next day…

What will the party find there? What other secrets will they find buried in this ancient city? Will they find something to stop the Endless Winter of Icewind Dale?

Subscribe and come back next week to find out!

Until next time, Dear Readers…

Tuesday Game: A Player’s Perspective: Shipwrecked and Scared

The tale of the Hopeful Dopes has taken a momentary pause as another adventure needs to be told featuring some new characters, new encounters, and new twists!

Our new story starts with several different strangers going about their regular day when they are each ambushed and taken prisoner by slavers seeking to turn a profit by selling to the highest bidder. The characters are brought onto a ship chained and caged in the hull as they began their long journey to a land and fate unknown, and the newly made slaves prayed to whatever god or powerful being to save them from this terrible situation. It seems someone’s prayer was answered, for after several days of travel, the ship was chaotically tossed around by an icy storm system for several days on end. However, in the midst of an especially bad cyclone, the ship was hurled onto a landmass, and many of the individuals found themselves knocked out by the shipwreck.

After being unconcious for an unknown amount of time, one group of cell mates appeared to come back from the dark at the same time, and one strikingly strong female half-elf, Avery, broke her chains and proceeded to free the others: Gye a female human, Arkon a male goliath, Idris a male half-elf, Judah a male aasimar, Winter a female Tabaxi, and Hugo a male Loxodon. The group immediately found itself fighting the biting cold, and they sought to go above deck to find out more about what happened to them. They were all greeted with a tropical forest along the edge of the beach with their crashed slaver ship, and there was little to no sunlight going through the clouds which added to the piercing cold taking a hold of the party. Though soon after taking in their surroundings, the group noticed an individual drunkenly stumbling around the beach, and they soon recognized this individual as their jailor Halfkris. The male half-elf and goliath immediately grabbed a few improvised weapons and took revenge on their jailor with several strikes, and Idris was able to knock Halfkris with a club blow to the head. The party turned the tides on their ex-jailor by quickly tying him up, and they also found several pieces of armament and information to better survive.

As the group searched the ship, a female barely holding onto life pleaded that the group take her, Melisana, to her merchant guild master father in Velikros. The group to took her in, and Hugo offered to care for her as they decided to set out to find a way off the island. The party set their course into the hills hugging the forest along the southwest side of the island. The icy chill of the weather never let up as the companions made their way through the hills, but a monstrous piercing shout caught the group’s attention. Several members snuck up an adjacent hill side to peer over to find a fierce fight happening between a handful of orcs and several groups of goblins. The more perceptive members of the party also noticed an old man tied up and gagged at the top of an adjacent hill top. The adventurers executed a hastily devised plan to rescue the old man while avoiding the attention of the combatants below. The rescue went off flawlessly, and seeking to avoid these creatures later, the party pushed several boulders down the hill and crushed a majority of the goblins and orcs. The surprise attack caught the remaining creatures off guard, and the party was able to dispatch them with haste.

After the battle had subsided, the party unbound the old man who introduced himself as Keestake, the last remaining member of the dreaded Viladel pirates, and the old man also revealed he was protecting valuable treasure from orc and goblin raiding parties on the island. As thanks for saving him, Keestake offered the party shelter in the temple of the Goddess of healing and light, Falinora, northeast of the hill country. The group traveled into the night time when they finally found a decrepit looking temple at the top of the hill over looking a manor estate. The temple offered a warm respite from the increasingly painful cold, and the shipwrecked survivors and Keestake made camp for the night.

However, in the middle of the night, an undead creature tried to strike the party while their guard was down, but the scavenger-like creature was not a match for our heroes. As the peace of the night returned, another disturbance called out to the Hugo and Avery. The pair found themselves facing an animated statue of the goddess calling to them, and the goddess relayed her intentions to the two. Falinora revealed that the goblins and orcs had desecrated her temple, so she plans to cleanse the island of all living presence with her ice storm after the end of the next day. She further stated that Hugo and Avery had expressed interest in the goddess, so she would lend some of her power in their attempt to escape the island. However, Falinora warned that if they are still on the island at the end of tomorrow, she will stay her wrath no more. The rest of the party awoke to see this animated statue talking to their members, and the statue soon became still once again. Avery and Hugo relayed the message from the goddess, and the party prepared for their expedition down into the pirate estate to hopefully escape the island. Though the group soon realized that Halfkris had snuck away at some point in the night, and who knows if he had heard the goddess’s message.

Will the group be able to find Halfkris before he warns the raiding parties, will the group be able to battle or avoid the raiding parties, and will the party escape to return to their old lives?! Find out more in our next post!

The Hallmarks of the “Perfect” Game Store

Dear Readers, I often talk about my game store like it’s a second home. That’s because, well…it is, sort of. This, my Dear Readers, is why I believe that my store has all of the hallmarks of being the “perfect” game store. I say “perfect” because, like anywhere, it has its flaws, but overall, this place is awesome.

First, let’s examine the name: The Lucky Dice Cafe. As you may remember, we are partnering with them to promote The Blog, as well as we strive to talk them up to drive business to their store. And for good reason! In any case, the store name says much about what it’s all about.

The main store is called affectionately “The Cafe” where they have the counter with the food and beverages as well as the product they have for sale.

I didn’t think to get a picture of him, but when you walk into the door, there’s a huge red dragon on display!

Looking at the pictures, though, you can see that they have a great menu, and it includes beverages for everyone, even beer, coffee, shakes, etc…The service is great and the food is amazing. They even have offerings for vegetarians!

The tables in the back are where the card players mostly congregate, playing Magic the Gathering, Vangard, Pokemon, Yugioh, etc…

Then we get to the rest of the cafe, where the table top gamers and board gamers begin to congregate…

Lots of table space and plenty of snacks to choose from by the counter.

Next, we go to what will be the “Inn.” The owners are transforming the center section of the store into a medieval inn!

The guy on the left is Matt, one of our new Adventurers League DMs!

It’s shaping up to be a great place to game.

Next we have (behind where I am taking the above picture), the private game room. This is where you can pay to have a private and quiet place to play your games, complete with a gaming table with electrical outlets, USB ports, and will eventually have an LCD display hung!

That is actually my DM screen. Neat, huh?

Lastly, we come to the last room, dubbed the War Room. This is where folks come to play Warhammer 40K, Warhammer Age of Sigmar, Battletech, and other tactical war games.

Two guys fighting it out in Warhammer 40K!

Notice that the store has plenty of terrain and tablespace for lots of players!

So this is my game store. Why is it “perfect?”

  1. Food and Beverages
  2. Lots of tablespace for the games you love
  3. A private game room
  4. Separated gaming space for the various games
  5. Well-stocked on products (which, if they don’t have, they actually will order for you and get it pretty soon). They have everything you could want for everything that’s played at the store. You want Collectable Card Games, they have it. You want to paint miniatures? They have the brushes, the paint, and the minis! You want it, they have it!
  6. Free Wi-Fi
  7. Free table space (except the private game room, which has a relatively small nominal fee to use for a few hours)
  8. Exceptional customer service
  9. Great atmosphere

These traits, to me, mark the best of the best when it comes to a game store.

For your reference, if you’d like to check out their website, here it is.

What’s your game store like? Let me know in the comment section below, and don’t forget to hit that like button, and subscribe so you don’t miss a post!

Until next time, Dear Readers…

Disclaimer: All people in photos gave explicit permission to have their pictures taken and posted up on The Blog.

So Sorry

Dear Readers,

So sorry for the lack of posts. Between a miscommunication and my inability to access WordPress until today, I’ve been unable to get a post up!

That said, I’ll be back in force tomorrow with two posts! The Sunday post which was about “Halmarks of the Perfect Game Store” and the post that was supposed to be for today about Rime of the Frostmaiden.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday Game: A Player’s Perspective: Light At The End of The Tunnel

When last we saw our adventurers, they were in a perilous place between an ooze and several meenlocks collapsing a cavern with unconcious companions. The die had been cast when the aasimar cleric was knocked unconscious by the ooze, and the artificer and ranger were knocked down by the rubble. The darkness slowly creeped in around our heroes, but another die was cast. This time artificer and ranger were able to free themselves from the rubble, and they quickly dispatched the ooze bearing down on their companions. Spell after spell was flung at the monstrosity until the party was finally able to vanquish it, resuscitate their aasimar cleric, and escaped the cave to seek safety from the meenlocks.

Battered and shaken mentally and physically, the companions devised a strategy on how to best clear the meenlocks from the mine, and then regained their strength and confidence with a well deserved rest. Rejuvenated by their almost magical rest, the party awoke to tackle the cave at daybreak armed with the knowledge they acquired on their foes and some ingenious trinkets provided by their artificer to defend themselves. Thus, the fellowship delved back into the familiar dark and dangerous platinum mine that presented either great material opportunity or their ultimate downfall!

The group activated their new light sources the artificer had created in the hopes of blinding/distracting the meenlocks from tearing into the party’s defenses, and the trinkets provided a source of light the party could track if they were to become separated. Soon after traversing through the maze of tunnels in the mine, the party found themselves, led by the dwarf artificer, once again at the place of the first ambush, and seeking to repeat their success, the meenlocks surrounded the artificer. However, the sly dwarf had prepared something special for this exact encounter, for as the meenlocks appeared, he unleashed a ground shaking tremor that ironically caught the meenlocks by surprise and turned their momentum. The dwarf’s friends capitalized on this strike with a flurry of magic and metal, and the creatures were made to flee from this realm!

The adventurers seized the moment of victory for themselves, and they subsequently made their way back to Dope’s Hope to chart their new course of action for the future…

The Yawning Portal Tavern Brawl | Dungeons and dragons books, Dungeons and  dragons, Dungeons and dragons handbook

Miniature update: Acererak

I apologize today is a short post, but it’s been really busy and I am returning to in-store play at my local game store. I was trying to prepare for today’s session to make sure that our first session of our new campaign will go off without a hitch. I expect the articles from A Player’s Perspective will be enjoyable and a fun read.

Now on to the subject of the post: Acererak.

As you all may remember, I got a new paint set from the Dungeons & Dragons branded Army Painter set that has exclusive paints for undead. I plan to use those to paint our boy.

The only problem is that the majority of the miniature is painted with the new color Wraith Black, which, on top of the black primer, doesn’t really show up too well. In person, the color looks amazing. It’s a black with a bluish hue to it. There will be other colors on the robes, I promise. But if you remember correctly from the picture of our boy, his robes were black in color. I’ll show you what I mean:

See what I’m talking about? It doesn’t show up very well, if at all, but all of his robes except for the scarf like thing are all The Wraith Black. I’m hoping to use a better resolution digital camera combined with some led white light to see if I can get a better picture. I’m not holding my breath though.

Well, that’s all I got for you today. I hope you guys have a wonderful Wednesday!

Until next time, Dear Readers…

Rime of the Frostmaiden: Reghed Tribes and the Caves of Hunger

When last we left our heroes, they had just rested after a grueling fight with some flame skulls.

After their rest outside of the glacier, the party was approached by a group of the Elk Tribe of the Reghed tribes. Their chieftain, had a vision a party, wish to help them end the everlasting of Icewind Dale. They weren’t party that the tiger tribe was on their way to stop them as the tiger tribe worships Auril. The party realized that this was the same group they had helped during the Trial of Endurance back in Auril’s abode!

The party accepted their help, and decided to stay and help the Elk Tribe fend off the Tiger Tribe.

The Tiger Tribe arrived soon afterwards, their chieftain accompanied by a large sabertooth tiger! This was the same tribe that they dealt with during the trial of cruelty, and that made the battle that much easier to fight. The battle was fierce, but the party was able to cut down a large portion of the force before they closed for hand to hand combat, the party, mostly with the help of their paladin/barbarian companion, cutting down their chieftain with withering blows. It helped that the party’s cleric had cut off the sabertooth tiger from the initial fight with an Otiluke’s resilient sphere spell, allowing them to deal with it after the rest of the battle had been won.

Parting ways with the surviving Elk Tribe members, the party entered back into the glacier.

Wandering further in, they came across a cavern with ice mephits along the ceiling and battle ensued.

After that fight, the party found a part of a Netherese tower that had become detached from the main city of Ythryn. Talking to their professor orb Professor Skant, the party found that they would be able to recover spell slots after spending even a short rest in that room! After said rest, they continued on, further into the caves…

The next chamber they came across brought a curious sight. A giant iron golem head! Detached from its body when the city of Ythryn fell, the powerful magics that created it kept it functional even after these many years.

Looking at other adjacent caverns, the party found a stone slab covered in ice and frost. Getting the frost off, the party found a strange device that allowed them to cast the spell arcane eye, which took the ranger (for this was the person that activated it) to the city of Ythryn!

Deciding to help themselves, the ranger used the eye to backtrack and help find a way through the maze of caverns towards the city.

It was when the majority of the party moved on that it attacked: a vampire gnoll attacked the party’s tabaxi rogue from behind!

Gnoll Vampire

This fearsome beast feasted on the rogue and others of the party as they fought it. The battle was tense, but again the paladin/barbarian’s raging smites won the fight, driving the foul beast away as a mist, likely towards its resting place in its lair.

Moving onward after resting, the party followed the ranger’s lead to a large cavern with another felled tower, finding two potions of superior healing! Seeing a large gaping hole in the floor, the ranger indicated that they must climb down, warning the party that something had melted its way through to make such a hole….

Will the party make it to Ythryn? What awaits them in the rest of the Caves of Hunger? Was that the last they will see of the gnoll vampire?

Join us next week to find out!

Don’t forget to hit that like and subscribe button, and as always…

Until next time, Dear Readers…

Miniature Painting Spotlight: Acererak Update

When last we left off, our Acererak mini looked like this:

We were quietly drying on a dry cloth.

Now let’s assemble this mini like the Avengers!

I decided to use the Citadel Plastic Glue, a reliable miniature glue, but you could have used just about any miniature glue. It’s what I have on hand, not having purchased any of the Army Painter brand.

It seemed to do the trick, as we’ll see next.

I started with sanding. This is an important step, so we can get off all of those pesky bits that didn’t quite come off with the snippers.

I am using a super fine grain modeling sandpaper that I got in a modeling kit a few years ago when I got back into doing miniatures.

Laying the sandpaper flat, I rubbed the area across the sandpaper, trying to ensure that the spot became flat, or I bent a corner to rub the specific part to a smooth edge.

Here are the results:

Also notice the marks I sanded on the bottom. It didn’t have to be too neat, as it’s going to seat into the base and be invisible.

Each of the pieces turned out well, so there was no need to use Green Stuff or any such materials to fix anything. If you do need to fix anything, Army Painter has a wonderful Green Stuff set that will fix you right up.

I’ve used it before and it works very well. For crack filling, thought, you want something a little more fluid, and I found that Vallejo has a wonderful acrylic resin plastic putty that is for that job.

In any case, I decided to start with the smallest pieces to assemble, the head and crown and then the body:

The back of Acererak’s crown
Look at that ugly mug!!

I then added the face, as you can see above. Not lying, it was a beast to do, as I have large hands and these pieces are tiny as all get out.

Next I worked on the body. Notice that I am not putting it on the base at this time. I intend to do the base for Acererak much like I did for Xanathar, and paint it separately.

Lastly, I used the Citadel Chaos Black spray primer to prime him.

As he’s going to be a bit darker in shade, I wanted to use a darker primer to get him going:

And that’s as far as I’ve gone, folks. Next time, we’ll begin the painting process.

Oh, and before I forget, a bonus for all of you wondering about the giveaway miniature I did when we met our 25 subscriber milestone!

Let me know what you think in the comment section below! And, as always, hit that like and subscribe buttons! We still have our subscriber goal giveaway going on and once we hit the 100 subscriber milestone, we’ll be giving away a Daily DM T-shirt to one lucky subscriber.

Until next time, Dear Readers…


It was the early 90’s, and my group had moved away from heroic fantasy and charged headlong into the new hotness – Vampire the Masquerade. We absolutely loved this game and played it exclusively for several years. It was edgy. It was different. And it made your characters seem powerful, even when you were just starting out. At least until you started figuring out how much more powerful everyone else was…

So it was my first campaign as a Vampire Storyteller, so I picked up the only city sourcebook available in the beginning, Chicago By Night. It was glorious. My group all started out with newly Embraced vampires who literally knew next to nothing about what the hell was going on in the World of Darkness – which is just how we liked it. So, as can be expected, these first characters were pretty much wish-fulfillment-type vamps that pretty much brought out the crazy in every single one of my friends – often to hilarious results.

One of my players was a guy named Matt. Now Matt in real life definitely has the gift of the gab. In another life, he had to have been an Arab horse trader. He’s got more than a little wannabe-gangster in him, so Chicago was right up his ally. By the second session, he went full-on criminal, and, as usual, dragged the rest of the group along with him. He also has a different attitude towards role-playing games and survival. “I don’t care if I die, as long as I die smooth” pretty much sums it up.

He chose to play a Caitiff vampire – an outcast Kindred whose Sire abandoned him shortly after Embracing him and dumping him in an alleyway. Matt’s character knew absolutely nothing about being a vampire and certainly knew nothing about vampire society – especially the fact that his very existence was a crime. So armed with his new form and powers, he bravely (and immediately) sets off to become the vampire Al Capone.

He talks the group into doing street rips on drug dealers to get cash and weapons. Now Vampires vs. Humans wasn’t much of a competition in the game, and they all swiftly became drunk with power.

Unfortunately, they didn’t realize that everything in Chicago – every gang, every institution – that could provide a vampire with some power or influence was already controlled by vampire, and those vampires generally took a dim view of other vampires taking their stuff. So, after hitting some of the local Bloods one too many times, the vampire who controlled the Bloods decided to get involved.

It’s Saturday night in Chicago. The group’s out cruising for a new target and trying to find other vampires because they haven’t seen any others yet. It never occurred to them that everyone else was avoiding them like the time bomb the group obviously was. They attack a corner and quickly find themselves gunned down by AK-47 fire. When they wake up, they’re all staked out on the rooftop of Cabrini Green waiting for the sun to come up. Oh, and there’s a vampire whom they’ve never seen before interrogating them one by one about who they’re working for.

Of course they can really answer any of these questions because they have no idea whatsoever who any of these potential employers are.

So…four sessions in…in a game where their characters are effectively immortal…they are facing final death by suntan on a rooftop.

But wait! Matt comes to the rescue by agreeing to return all the money and drugs they stole and offers up himself (and everyone else) to work for this vampire in exchange for their lives. The vampire accepts as long as they all agree to become Blood-bonded to him which of course they agree to (because they have no idea what that means), and now they’re all slaves to this guy.

It could be hard in V:TM to come up with a reason why four, solitary, undead, predatory strangers would team up as a party. Umm…not so much this time thanks to Matt Capone.


Hello everyone! In this week’s installment of How To DM, I’d like to talk about railroading.

I’m sure everyone understands the term, but – just in case – let’s define the term. Railroading is a form of adventure design that essentially eliminates, or seriously limits, player choice. In reality, what we’re doing when we railroad players is playing the game for them. Our story has become more important than their participation.

Now to be fair, a certain level of railroading is inevitable because we are creating the bones of the story. This is unavoidable and not a bad thing. It is what is; so don’t stress too much about it. We’re never going to be able to design an adventure completely devoid of this level of railroading unless we’re prepared to run an entirely plot-less scenario (which can be done and can be super fun btw).

So today I’d like to talk about how to design a low-level adventuring area with the least amount of railroad tracks possible. Proper acknowledgement to D. Vincent and Meguey Baker’s Apocalypse World game whose philosophy on adventure design seriously changed the way I approach my games. I believe you can still buy pdf of the game on DriveThru, and I highly recommend them for the story design alone.

I’ll also include an example of a low-level area I designed for my new campaign as we go. You are certainly welcome to use all or part of this area as you see fit!

So, let’s talk about railroading in this week’s How To DM!

Designing the Antagonists: We talked a bit about this in previous posts, but, without forces of antagonism, your players have nothing to do. Sometimes this is where I begin because I have a clear idea of what I want to put the players up against. There’s a vampire in the countryside killing people, so go get him. However, sometimes a particular location is forefront in my mind, and you can certainly start there too. In fact, that’s what happened with this particular start to my new campaign.

Example: I sketched out a small town (mostly human), a nearby village (all Halfling) and an inn/caravan stop between the two run by a prosperous Halfling family. This was a frontier type area bordered on the north by forested hills leading into wild mountains with an extensive bog to the west. With just this amount of information, I could start thinking about what problems or dangers this area could face. I started a brain-storming list and picked a few that I thought looked interesting.

Don’t Overplan at the Start: Seriously, the more planning you do in the beginning, the more railroady your adventure is likely to be. I slapped some names on the above areas and left it at that for the start. Don’t plan out every innkeeper or every shopkeeper and their inventory. None of this is particularly important or interesting. I only include goods or services that are either necessary to the story or special in some way, and I’m not far enough along in the design to make those kinds of decisions yet. If some clear NPC’s come to mind that are interesting, jot their names down and a few words of description. It’s a waste of time to populate a whole village of Halflings if only four of them are really important.

This will drastically cut down on your prep time, as well as the number of things you have to remember and juggle as DM. Think of it like this – every time you have to stop the game to look through your notes to find the name and description of Bumbleberry Sparkle-nuts the Gnome shopkeeper who sells basic supplies and farming implements, you’re holding up the game and you’re pulling them out of the moment.

Take Lots of Notes: At least in my design efforts, I get lots of ideas sort of willy-nilly, so I take lots of notes on what hits my mind at the moment. Not all of them will be gold, but I write them down as they come and go back and edit later. Ultimately, only those items or people who add to the story – who help propel the story forward – will make it in, but, at this stage, you don’t really know enough about what’s going on to make those judgment calls.

That’s it for today. Come back next week where I’ll talk more about taking adventures off those rails!

What tips, tricks, and advice do you folks have? Put them in the comments below, so we can all share in the info. Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you next week for another installment on How To DM!

Premium Content: Episode 5 and the Completed Marilith

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Tuesday Game: A Player’s Perspective: What Goes Bump in The Mine

We find our traveling band of adventures beginning their perilous investigation into the platinum mine of Vermeillon after being ambushed and finding information on the creatures plaguing the town: Meenlocks. They searched several dead end shafts and paths, and they also found some very alive portions inhabited by swarms of bats. The party continued further and further into the mine, until at one point they found their situation even more dire than before!

The adventurers were going through a maze of shafts when in one instant they were surrounded on all sides by Meenlocks thirsting for their demise! At first the creatures were not able to grab the party members, but then the beloved changeling ranger was paralyzed and taken away by several meenlocks. The meenlocks also took away the aasimar cleric away before the dwarf artificer and grung warlock/monk were able to break up the ambushers and go searching for their friends.

The magical duo desperately searched for their companions, and were initially successful at finding their cleric who had freed himself from several meenlocks. The group decided to split up to cover more ground in their search of their ranger. Luckily, several seconds passed when the warlock discovers Ari upon an altar with several meenlocks looking to convert the ranger. However, soon the artificer and and cleric joined in on the rescue attempt, but the companions were beset by a large black ooze!

As the party battled the meenlocks, black ooze, and trying to save Ari, the meenlocks earned their name by going near several pillars holding up the room, and they subsequently ignited some magical contraption that caused the pillars to collapse as well as the room! To throw more fuel to the fire, the Talian the cleric was knocked down by the ooze, the artificer and ranger were trapped under rock debris, and the ooze split in two after being struck by lightning. Can our adventures survive this absolutely dire situation to stop the meenlock menace? Find out in next time!

Working on Acererak

Dear Readers, I bring you today my newest project, having finished almost all of my “minis of shame:” Acererak the dread lich of the Tomb of Horrors and Tomb of Annihilation. Acererak, one of the most feared creatures to haunt D&D.

You remember this, right?

Well, here he is on the back of the box:

Hideous, ain’t he? I love it!

So what’s the project? Well, he came out of the box looking like…well…this:

So…some assembly is required.

And that’s my new project for all of you! Let’s build and paint Acererak!

Setting Him Free

First things first, we have to get him out of the plastic mold.

This requires snippers of some kind. I used the Citadel brand because they were handy and the first ones I pulled from my box. They work very well and have a comfortable grip. I don’t currently own an Army Painter brand one, but if I ever get one, I’ll definitely do a product review of them!

That said, having seen the plastic cutters that Army Painter has, I wish I owned a pair as they apparently have additional safety features, which I love, having a toddler in my home.

If you end up with a set, let me know how they work for you in the comment section below!

Speaking of modeling…what do you do while you are snipping, gluing, assembling, and painting your miniatures?

Me? I listen to Audiobooks. They are great ways to pass the time. Right now, Amazon’s Audible is having a sale with their Audible Plus subscription, giving you access to thousands upon thousands of audio books you can listen to any time, while doing minis, in the car, or wherever! I love my subscription and have really enjoyed listening to the D&D books like the one about the Tomb of Horrors!

Try Audible Plus

Try it out and let me know how YOU like it!

Back to our model:

We need to snip these bits out. As a technique, I use the flat end towards the model to get the cleanest cut and enable me to have to do the least amount of sanding later!

After all of this, I lay out all the pieces and count them.

Next, I proceed to get a small container and fill it with lukewarm water and a small amount of a mild detergent.

I use a particularly mild dish soap.

Using a soft bristle toothbrush, I gently wash each piece, cleaning it of oils and other stuff. It should be noted that you should wash your hands before this process, but that’s just so I don’t re-dirty anything I’ve just washed.

Next, I lay out each piece on a clean surface and rinse the container out, putting in cool and clean water, putting the pieces back in to rinse them well.

Lastly, I lay them out on a towel, one by one (remember counting? this is why…make sure you have ALL the pieces!) on a clean towel to air dry. This is a super important step to ensure that everything is sufficiently dry to begin the gluing process later.

Well, seeing as I have to let them dry, and I generally do so for at least a day, we’ll leave things here! Next week, we’ll go about sanding and assembling Acererak, as well as hitting him with his primer coat!

It’s sure to be a treat, so if you want to see more, hit that subscribe and subscribe to The Blog! If you would like to get even more content, subscribe for our Premium Content to get access to the podcast, exclusive giveaways, and other projects! If you enjoyed this, hit the like button below, and let us know how we are doing in the comment section below!

Until next time, Dear Readers…

Clarshh’s Sepulchre

This summer adventure is from the convention game I ran on sunday. I ran the same adventure on friday, but didn’t take enough notes. Also, I have given a summary, partial and otherwise, for other groups that have run this adventure. It’s a favorite of mine. It’ll likely be the last time I blog about a group running it. I have other materials, I promise!

For those interested, this adventure can be found in Dungeon Magazine issue #53, beginning on page 20. The adventure was written by a Mr. Willie Walsh.

The party, newly formed and just getting to know one another, I just been betting down for the night when they were interrupted by the hooting of a large owl that began speaking to them!

It claimed that it’s employer was offering a lucrative contract with a flat fee plus a percentage of found treasure. The party acknowledged their interest and followed the owl to its employer.

What they found there boggled the mind. They found a 12 ft tall Giant in well tailored clothing with a deep baritone voice declaring its name to be Sereen. Sereen was an arcane, one of a mystical travelling race, who traversed the very planes of existence!

Sereen offered them a contract: 1000 gold pieces reward each plus 20% of all monetary treasure found and the loan of a magical weapon, in exchange for bringing out a cube of force from the sepulcher. He refused to disclose the location, to avoid the prospect of claim jumpers.

The party agreed and set out the following morning, traveling with Serene on his wagon to the town of Lammdon. It was here that the party was told there’s location was north of this town, about 50 miles and further up the trail where Sereen would give them the final clues to find the entrance to the sepulcher.

Gearing up for any last minute equipment, the party anxiously went to bed to wait their travel the next day.

Heading out, the party forded a river (A), and later came to a road marker (B), with a symbol of Nergal, an evil god of the dead.  This depiction was of a man wielding a shield in front of himself, his other arm stretched behind and above him.

The party continued onward eventually coming to the ruined town. It is here that Serene gave the clues that he found to find the location of the sepulcher entrance.

This doesn’t look familiar…

The party had many encounters during their search of the town and attempts at deciphering the clues. They fought stirges in the old inn (5), a giant toad in the old butcher shop (7), an illusionary troll in a hovel (17), shadows while looking up a chimney (16), and a rattlesnake outside of a tailor’s shop (2). They also cleaned out and purified a fountain (11), accidentally broke a spigot (14) to the cistern (10) and flooded the bathhouse (14). They upturned barrels to find a key in the cooper’s place (12), and found some long dead adventurers with a decorative belt buckle and a helm of comprehend languages (13).

The party gathered the necessary items and spread them in the correct gatehouse, opening the trapdoor that was magically hidden, leading to the sepulcher.

Going down, they had a brief combat with an ooze before finding, through a series of a trap puzzle involving a descending ceiling, a hallway mausoleum for esteemed members of the cult. Unfortunately, one of the members had been turned into a ghast!

Making short work of that, the party continued on through a series of secret doors until they finally came across the true entrance to the sarcophagus of Clarshh.

Guarding it was a strange creature known as a crypt thing that would not let them pass. After initiating combat, which caused the crypt thing to activate its ability to teleport mass numbers of people to away from the dungeon (in actuality at the beginning of the dungeon had an attempt to tell them to leave), the party fought valiantly, and survived, taking the loot and winning the module.

All in all, it was a wonderful game experience, made better by the ability to play in person with a good chunk of my normal Sunday group.

I hope you enjoyed this installment of a game summary! If you want to continue getting updates and keep up with other awesome things we do here, go ahead and follow us for more updates! While you’re at it, go ahead and hit that like button and comment below.

Until next time, Dear Readers…

The Convention

Hello, Dear Readers!

It’s been a long day, and the convention weekend is now over.

The game room!

I know it looks sparse, but that’s because they were only letting in the people with the VIP passes. As a GM for the game room, I was allowed Early Access into the game room only. That said, I was able to get some good pictures of the convention hall floor.

Here are some pictures of Sunday!

Good sized room with lots of stuff going down! Lots of games being played.

Then there was my table!

Before the game began!
Checking out the abandoned town fountain…notice the dice goblin above!
Facing off against a troll!

Good game, mission complete, treasure looted!

It was a great time and next time I’ll take more pictures of the Convention hall!

Tomorrow, I’ll have a summary of our game, as we didn’t have a normal Sunday game, although… everyone but the guy in the ‘BAMA shirt and the woman in the pink sweater are actually part of my Sunday table! From left to right (Skipping the woman and the guy in the ‘BAMA shirt), Horris the Cleric, Allrick the Ranger, Entir the Wizard, and Hendel the Paladin/Barbarian. Also, the woman in the top picture, on the top far right ina red shirt is Eldeth, the Sorceress (was volunteering and not playing).

Until next time, Dear Readers…