Sunday Game: Rime of the Frost Maiden; Finding Sephek

The ranger, realizing that the creature in the water was a plesiosaurus, quaffed one of his potions of animal friendship and began speaking with it. It responded with a polite “Hello!”

After a short discussion, the party found that this talking plesiosaur was ensorcelled to become sentient by a druid who’s instructions were to terrorize the people of Bremen or else become a dumb creature once again. After some cajoling and convincing, the party managed to convince him that the effect of the spell was permanent and that he did not have to prey on the people of Bremen.

Finding that he did not have a name, the party decided to name him Bob, which he decided was a great name, not having had one before.

Bob towed them back towards Bremen and was asked to wait so they could introduce him to a new friend. Getting Tali, the half-elf whom the journal was for, the party introduced them, much to Tali’s pleasure.

Heading back to the inn, the party found that Sephek asked about them and checked out with the rest of the merchants he travelled with. The ranger attempted to track him, but lost the tracks on the edge of town.

Deciding to rest, the party stayed overnight, and left the next day, heading to Targos and hoping to find evidence of Sephek’s whereabouts.

Arriving in Targos, the party quickly located Torga and her retinue. They found that she and her crew were leaving in the morning.

To kill time, the party decided to partake in a local festival called Liar’s Night. The contest was one of a pumpkin carving contest, of which the monk won with a traditional jack-o’-lantern design. The ensuing chaos over the loss of a ring garnered everyone with a ring that, when worn, imbues the weather with a translucent mask in the design of their pumpkins.

The festivities concluded, the party decided to check out Torga and found that she was a most unsavory character, who engaged in extortion, blackmail, protect rackets, and even murder for hire. The party decided that she, too, should meet her end, and therefore would eliminate all of her retinue.

Setting up an ambush at the fork in the road, a blizzard fell upon the area. The dogsled teams of Torga came into view, led by Sephek himself! The party let loose with a heavy barrage of attacks.

The battle was hard fought, with the balance of advantage teetering one way then the next. After the fall of Torga, Sephek too was soon killed. The remaining four guards followed soon after.

After looting the bodies and disposing of the same, the party took the sleds and dogs, and headed towards Brynn Shander, selling them and splitting the loot.

Deciding not to stay long, the party set their sights onto Caer Dineval, the town on the way to Caer Konig, where they had a search for a missing husband.

Will they find him? What will happen along the way?

Join us next Monday, dear readers, to find out!

Tuesday Game: The Haunt (Part 1)

So, this week, to celebrate “Spooktober,” I decided to run one of my favorite horror-themed adventures, and set this adventure on their path back to Waterdeep.

October is a spook-tacular month in which to run spooky adventures. The brave and dedicated adventurers that investigate the strange and messed up stories are members of a rag-tag group of a B-List group known as “Those Guys.” This is their story.

DUHN DUHN!!!

The heroes began by approaching the house, seeing through the darkened windows a pair of crystal blue eyes. No matter what they tried, the doors to the house would not so much as budge. Deciding to go around back, the door opened, seemingly of its own accord.

Entering the large mansion, party found in the entryway two statues, like that of grotesque demons. Looking around and seeing no sign of what would cause those blue eyes, the party artificer advanced further into the mansion. Once he passed the two statues, they animated and attacked!

The battle did not last long, and the party triumphed easily over the two gargoyles.

Advancing upwards to a landing, the party managed to find a stairwell going up and down, but contained a portcullis blocking the stairs. Tries they might, the parties unable to open it. The party did, however, find a couch with a strange doll laying on it. The party warlock / cleric picked up the doll and tied it to her sentient glass jar of flying mothballs. The artificer found a small statuette with a raised arm of a Griffin.

Pulling down the arm, the party heard a sound as if two doors were opening or shutting. Hearing that it came from the large tea room off of the entryway where they were, the party went down the short stairs onward, seeing an open part of the wall to their right, and another room up a short set of steps to their left.

Deciding to go into the room to the door that was opening and shutting, the party decided to go left towards the door, leaving the bloodhunter by the statue. The artificer crossed to the door when…

CRASH!!!!

…the chandellier above crashed into the middle of the room!

The party waited only a minute before heading onward, before the cleric/warlock realized that the doll was no longer tied to her jar.

That…was not good.

The party called for the bloodhunter to pull the lever, and they observed that the door ahead closed, but they heard two doors move. Deciding that the monk would go in, the monk went inwards, whereas the party stayed outside and had them observe the goings on in the short hall beyond what was likely a secret room. The monk entered and the door behind him was shut as a passage in front of him opened!

The monk stepped through and after doing so, the party, sans the bloodhunter, entered the hallway beyond the secret door, so the party could make their way through. After trying ways to wedge the door and finding none, the party prepared to have the bloodhunter pull the lever, cutting him off from the party and joining them with the monk, who found himself in a large room with a set of double doors to the southeast, and a single door to the south.

The bloodhunter, alone with his thoughts, was attacked, the sound of small footsteps and a girlish giggle predicating it!

The doll, with a knife in hand and claws extended in the other, flew from the ceiling and stabbed and clawed at the bloodhunter, who reeled in pain. The battle lasted only a moment, before the evil doll had disappeared without a trace into the shadows, the sound of giggles and footsteps fading away, as he yelled for the party to come to his aid.

Leaving the cleric/warlock as a companion, the remaining party entered into the room with the monk, who led them to the single door, finding a small wizard’s study. The brittle and ancient remains left only a single scroll tube (containing a spell scroll of invisibility), and a page out of a journal, detailing the descent into madness of the General after a new advisor, Gertrude, had come into the picture.

After seeing that there was nothing left to find, the party decided on heading into the double doors…

What happens next? Join us later for part 2!

Short Announcement

So here’s the deal: I have Multiple Sclerosis. Today has been…challenging and I haven’t been able to finish my posts. Yeah, I know, but I’m symptomatic as all can be, and my pain levels are through the roof.

I am sorry that I couldn’t get content out. I should be good by Monday.

I appreciate your understanding in this time.

Until tomorrow dear readers.

DM How To: Campaign Building

Last week we talked about plot hooks. Remember that post. It becomes important.

Start with building a home base. Usually it’s best to make this a small to medium village where you can flush out a number of NPCs and build out an area from there. All the characters should have a reason for being here. Maybe they are from the area and are starting their adventuring career from here. Maybe they are new adventurers who happen to be passing through. No matter the case, the starting area should have some basic things: and in where they can stay or some other similar place, a general good store where they can purchase adventuring supplies (they don’t have to be able to get everything there necessarily, they just have to be able to get the basics at the least), and usually a blacksmith where they can purchase weapons and/or armor.Now, this is the most common way of doing this, but there’s no reason why you can’t start them in a large metropolis, or a larger town. Additionally, you could start them off as travelers on the road in the middle of a wilderness, or in some harsher environment, like a desert or tundra and their first goal is to find civilization and survive. Just remember, that their home base, wherever it may be, is going to be the basis for where the party will return in between adventures.

Next you want to focus on building your adventures while seating in campaign events. Maybe your campaign is focused on the return of an ancient and powerful dragon. Your first adventure may only have some kind of reference to said dragon or its return. Maybe it’s a kobold cult dedicated to this dragon. Maybe they simply find a shrine or inscription vaguely relating to the return of this dragon. Whatever the case may be, you start seeding in campaign events or minor plot points early, and continue to do so in greater and more blatant numbers as your campaign progresses.

As we talk about campaign progression, is worth noting that many campaigns tend to fizzle out around the tier 3 mark, between 11th and 16th level. Not many campaigns go into the higher levels. Plan your campaigns based on how far and what level you want your adventures to be when the campaign ends. Do you want your campaign to take them all the way to 20th level? This is a daunting task but is very doable. It just takes careful planning.It is always helpful, just like doing so for adventures, to do a rough flow chart or outline for the general direction you want the the campaign to go. Again, don’t forget to plant seeds for your plot as it is being revealed.Next, create a local region. After you have created the home base, you want a local region where, either them majority of the campaign, or the entire campaign, take place. Doing a bit of cartography helps in this. Maybe there is a large forest where the elf kingdom lay. Maybe there is a mountain range where, in our earlier example, the ancient dragon is supposed to be summoned from. Whatever You choose, make sure that you flush it out just enough to give it some structure. If you know exactly what adventures the party will encounter, as well as the level progression you expect, either by milestone leveling or by experience points (this is where doing a flowchart and/or an outline really helps), You can divide the areas out by level. Just remember, players make the decisions for the characters. This is where you’re amazing plot hooks come in, drawing them into the story and keeping them on track within the areas for their own levels. Of course, we don’t want to railroad our players. Maybe we want to give options to where certain adventures can take place. This is why we flesh out the region just enough to give it some structure, but leave us with some flexibility as to where certain events can take place.

Campaign Events

The Dungeon Master guide, as it should, has a lot of good ideas for major campaign events. They refer to them as world – shaking events. It is a good idea to check out that section of chapter one. One of their major recommendations is to have three good campaign shaking events. I highly recommend that you read that section. It should be noted that the campaign does not have to be just about the story you have crafted. Character backgrounds, when provided, offer great opportunities for character development as well as campaign development. Maybe the party has decided they don’t have the strength or power to defeat the big bad evil guy (BBEG). Using the characters backgrounds you can craft adventures that help them gain the power, or maybe find legendary weapons or artifacts, that will help them in defeating the BBEG. Maybe The characters themselves just gain a bit of depth during these adventures. Having your players create a good structure for their backgrounds really helps out here. The podcast/show critical role does a very good job for this in their first season. As a result of the character development, each character also gets an ending/epilogue.

All Good Things Come To An End

It is my belief, that secretly, in the depths of every dungeon master (at least, the very good ones) wants each character to have their “happily ever after.” Of course, campaign events and bad rolls can lead to character death. That said, for the most part, with the exception of a total party wipe out, the individual characters, as well as the party as a whole, should have a nice wrap up with their characters epilogue. These do not have to be elaborate, although they can be, but should provide some sort of satisfying conclusion to the campaign and campaign events. This usually is done by each player, as well as with significant input and inclusion with, the dungeon master.

Well, that’s my counsel and advice on building a campaign. Do you think I missed something? Let me know in the comments below. Is there a topic you would like me to cover, again, let me know in the comments! 

Next week, we will discuss creating memorable villians!

Until tomorrow readers.

Grrr….

So, I meant to put up the post about yesterday’s game, but ended up getting caught up in doing errands literally all day. As a result, I have nothing but this to post. As a result, I’ll post Tuesday’s Game synopsis on Friday, and save the story I had planned for Friday for next Friday!

In the mean time, stay classy dear readers!

Mini Painting Spotlight: 13 October, 2020

Yeah…so if you are seeing this for the first time, you can see that I accidentally posted Thursday’s post today. Sorry to get your hopes up, but you’ll see it in a few days, if that is any consolation.

Onward to discussing miniatures!

This week, as you could tell, I’ve been working on basecoating some of my non-preprimed miniatures. These are the resin ones that, for the most part (like Jarlaxle and Xanathar) one has to assemble before painting.

Another project I’ve been working on is restoring some old miniatures.

That all said, I have one miniature I was finally able to paint:

He’s not too fancy, but I think he’s pretty cool.

I had him painted up last week, but was waiting on getting a specific Effects paint in order to finish him: “Glistening Blood.”

I wanted to do the blood that I wanted to be dripping down the sides of his mouth.

Let me say this: I absolutely love most of the effects paints.

For example, check out my skeletons again:

See the rust on the swords and shields (keeping in mind that I painted upwards of 5 of these!)? This particular effect was done with a paint that was made up, upon drying, to look like what appears to be dried rust.

Another one that I enjoy that I’ve been using is called “Wet Mud.” I’ve been using it a lot for bases along with my grey for stone and rocks.

That’s all I have for this week!

Next week I’ll have some more restorations and new miniatures to show!

Until next time, dear readers!

Sunday Game: Rime of the Frostmaiden; Onward to Bremen

Our heroes left off chasing after some goblins after finding the dead dwarf, killed by a yeti. The party saw the wagon hitched to two angry polar bears. The ranger, thinking he could, sneaked up to the polar bears and calmed them, as well as releasing them. He then fired an arrow into the Goblin boss.

The battle went quickly, the new companions, a gnome wizard, a wood-elf monk, and a half-orc cleric (war domain), joining the throng. Soon, especially after the angry and mistreated polar bears mauled a few of the goblins, the only one left was the goblin boss, who surrendered. Promising all of his treasure and the lost iron bars, the party let him flee with his life.

Heading back to Brynn Shander with the body of the dwarf and the iron ingots, the party was welcomed with great enthusiasm by the dwarves that hired them. They were additionally awarded a permanent 10% discount on any of the work the dwarves would do for them.

The party then decided that the serial killer needed to be dealt with. Knowing that he would be in the town of Bremen, the party mounted their trusty axe beak mounts and rode out to Targos, a stop along the way to Bremen. It was there they decided to rest and explore the town, checking out the general goods store.

Targos Coat of Arms

On the way, the party was accosted by a very friendly sled dog with a broken harness. They were led to a small home, where they met Keegan, who invited them inside for cider. Inside, Keegan told of his husband being possibly in danger, as Boy (the dog) is his favorite dog and would never be left. Pointing the party out towards Kelvin’s Cairn by way of Caer-Konig. Keegan claimed to be friendly with the owner of the local in (The Luskan Arms) to get free rooms as well as some of the trinkets he makes if they help. The party agreed to help after they finished their current task in Bremen. As the party all had mounts, their travel was greatly shortened so they could cover much ground in a short time.

Heading out to Bremen, the party found their way to one of the local inns there, Buried Treasures. The woman running the inn (Cora Mulphoon) was very grateful to have so many customers and fawned over them like royalty. The party began to tip generously, much to her surprise! The party asked around for Sephek, finding out that he was currently inside Black-Bearded Brother tavern. The party bard asked the bartender if he could perform. Rolling high, the bard began a lovely and jaunty performance getting the whole tavern to join in the merriment, with customers from nearby taverns (there were 5 in close proximity) coming to see the show. Buying Sephek a large number of drinks, the party began tracking him outside as he stumbled. As a blizzard began to hit, the party struck, fighting a running battle south along the alleys, late into the evening. The party nearly cornered him several times, but Sephek used misty step, or a form thereof, to get away, even disappearing up on a roof. Deciding to take a short rest, the party stopped and commiserated at being unable to corner Sephek.

Bremen’s Coat of Arms

Deciding to head down to the docks to check out the stories of the lake monster, the party was mistaken for fishermen by the gruff dwarf who apparently ran a fishing business. An androgynous half-elf chided the dwarf for not warning the party of the dangers of the lake monster. Tali, for that was their name, is a researcher and wanted to have someone take notes regarding the monster if they came across it, handing the party a leather-bound journal. Deciding that they may as well, as they were heading out that way anyways.

Deciding to try and make some kind of reward for themselves, the party set about fishing, with several catching more than a few of them, but at the latest, the half-orc cleric was pulled into the water! Helping him out of the frigid water, the party set about getting him dry clothes and a blanket to warm up in. Just as they decided to head back to shore, the waters rippled as a scaled back crested the waters….

Will the party survive what nobody else had survived? Will they catch Sephek?

Only time will tell…

How to Paint Minis: Base Coating

Last time we focused on the supplies one needs to paint miniatures. This time, we are going to discuss base coating.

Why basecoating? For two reasons: to get paint to better stick to your mini, and to prevent future issues with chipping and flaking paint.

Base coating is a multi-step process, and your process really depends on what materials your miniatures are made of.

First, you need a few things: a small towel, an old toothbrush (preferably soft or medium bristle), a mild detergent or soap, and, of course, the miniature or miniatures you are painting, particularly all of the parts if it comes in multiple parts.

It is very important, especially if you are working on a miniature with multiple components, to close your drain if you are working on a mini in your sink! Personally, I use a small plastic bin, so there isn’t a chance of losing any pieces.

Next, gently scrub each miniature and/or part, until it is either shinier or more dull. Thoroughly rinse the miniature and/or parts and let dry completely. This takes a bit of time. Patience is a virtue.

There are basically two schools of thought with basecoating. One either spray paints the minis with a basecoat color, or paints a mini with a basecoat paint. I’ll explain each one’s benefits and drawbacks.

For spray painting miniatures, this is generally used for large numbers or larger miniatures. For those of you into wargaming, like Warhammer or even Battletech, this makes life SO much easier. Consider the following two photos:

Can you imagine trying to paint each of these by hand? Sure, some folks may like assembling and then basecoating each one, but…why?

This is what it can look like once sprayed with the basecoat:

Painted back and front and let dry. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Now, for individual miniatures consider trying to spray paint each one. It would be a waste of paint unless you are basecoating multiple minis at one time. Most of the time, I’m not doing that.
THAT SAID: if it’s a larger mini, like my Balor, spray paint him. Trust me on this, okay? It’ll take long enough to paint him. Get the base coat on as easily as possible.

Ahem.

Here’s a resin mini before he’s base coated. Notice the slight shine to him. Not at ALL ready to be painted.

Jarlaxle

Now, here’s a couple that I’ve already begun basecoating:

Xanathar
Manshoon

Notice the small areas of a lighter grey? Those are spots I missed on my first pass. Most folks like to basecoat in grey or black, so it’s easier to see where you’ve missed a spot. I think the black seeps through too much and the grey works great. It works great for me. You do you.

Notice that I did NOT assemble Xanathar’s mouth. I haven’t painted inside of it, and based on the mouth…

No, I haven’t primed it yet. Sue me.

…I wouldn’t be able to do so. So I’ll prime each one and then paint the mouth before assembling the miniature. This is not usually the way it’s done, but many people do it this way so that the details can be painted without accidentally touching another part with the wrong color of paint. To each their own.

After the basecoating is completed, it’s time to paint!

Remember that vampire I was working on? I finished him. Here he is in all his glory.

A right properly terrifying vampire. Blood dripping down his chin and all.

Well, that’s all I have today. Join me next time for more painting and DMing tips!

Tuesday Adventurers: Catch Up

The party realized that they still owed a favor to the Red Wizards, and were obligated to eliminate a mutual enemy: a fortress cabal of Red Wizard Exiles, survivors of the Red Wizard civil war.

The party found the crumbling fortress easy enough and decided to attack at night.

It was a hard-fought battle, fighting four separate wizards and multiple guards and nights, as well as a small horde of ghouls. One character fell no less than 5 times in battle!

The party fought against an apprentice and an illusionist with the guards at the start. Later, the ghouls joined the fight with a necromancer and an evoker. Before his escape, the necromancer told the evoker that he would hold the invaders off and to warn Khumed that their cabal had been compromised and attacked.

The party had no clue who Khumed was.

After the fight and after looking for more clues as to whom their enemy wad, a shooting star streaked across the sky right over their heads, and landing on the edge of the nearby river. Investigating the crater, the party found a most curious sight: a sort of manhole cover, open, and a man poking his head out. Water beginning to flood the crater, the curious man was helped exit the crater.

After using a helm of comprehend languages to bypass their language barrier, the man explained that he was from, not a different plane of existence, but a different world altogether. In point of fact, the man was an artificer from the continent of Khorvair on the world of Eberron.

The party, still confused at his origins, welcomed the new member of their band, who simply wished to document this, to him, strange, backwards, new world.

Heading back to Waterdeep, the party presented the heads of the renegade Red Wizards to the Red Wizard enclave in Waterdeep, thereby gaining the ability to travel to the elemental plane of fire where Connor was set to be.

The party found out that the tuning fork, which was a material component for the spell, was required to be attuned to a creature who was either a native or itself attuned to the plane of fire. The red wizard suggested hunting down a known red dragon in the hills near the Wyrm Forest, some 500-600 miles away.

The party prepared for their journey and headed south, Southeast. It was an uneventful trip, passing through Daggerford, and giving a wide berth to Dragonspire Castle.

After some extensive tracking, the party found the lair of the Red Dragon known as Ember.

What the party hoped for
What they actually found…

The party fawned over the rather large red dragon, an adult. The dragon fell for the party’s flattery and agreed to attune the tuning fork in exchange for a future favor at his calling. Three members of the party submitted themselves to a geas spell where they bound themselves to the dragon’s later whim.

The party travelled back towards Waterdeep, with members very wary of their new commitment, and what it means for them.

What lay in store for our intrepid band of heroes? Will they ever find Connor and retrieve the Nether Scrolls at the Old Owl Well?

Join us next week to see the continuation of our story!

Just a note, as we are in “Spook-tober” next week’s adventure (and likely throughout October) will be horror-based. Join us for our horror spooktactular extravaganza!

DM How To: Creating Adventure Hooks

So you know how to DM. And you know how to build an adventure. And you know how to build an encounter.

The next question, then, is this: how do you get those @#&$+%! players to jump into your awesome adventure filled with equally awesome encounters?

You give ’em a hook, a PLOT HOOK!!

So let’s go fishing.

There are basically only a few kinds of plot hooks: agnostic/general, background-based, story-based, and Deus Ex Machina.

AGNOSTIC/GENERAL

These plot hooks are the ones you may be most familiar with. These are the plot hooks that involve helping a random stranger, for riches and glory, etc… These ones only work if your players are the kind to do things for riches and glory, or out of the kindness of their hearts with no true promise of reward. Examples of this one would be a mysterious stranger approaching the party about an ancient legend of a dungeon guarding an ancient treasure, or the party coming across a strange house in the middle of nowhere. The possibilities here are endless, but many of them have been overdone and not too many players are willing to bite on these poorly baited plot hooks.

BACKGROUND BASED

These plot hugs require quite a bit more work on both your and the player’s parts. The player, out of necessity, should have a background on how and why they became adventurers and what they were doing beforehand. I’m not just talking about that character trait on their character sheet that gives them a proficiency and languages and maybe some gold. I’m talking at least a paragraph of backstory on why that character is the way they are. Using this, you can craft plot hooks that reel in a single player, who can turn to his party and ask for help. Some examples of this are the family farm is going to be overrun by orcs, or the players uncle is leaving the player a keep on his deathbed, or bandits have captured a character’s mentor. With a decent background, there are lots of possibilities here.

DEUS EX MACHINA

This sort of plot hook should be avoided, unless absolutely necessary. These kind of plot hooks involve someone or something of great power pushing the characters into action. An example of this would be a commandment to a divine caster from their deity, or a powerful NPC threatening the characters with total destruction unless they undertake the quest. These sort of plot hooks make players feel as if their characters are being railroaded.

STORY-BASED

These are easily some of the best plot hooks you can find. These are the sort of plot hooks you find in continuing campaigns. The plot hook from Adventure to Adventure revolves around something left undone or some new information that the characters get from a previous adventure. In this way, the characters are prodded on by their own willingness to be part of the story. Examples of this can be found in so many places and in so many pre-published adventures that they are too numerous to list. Practically, one technique that I use is keeping a sort of “quest log” for the party. I list out all unresolved story points that the players haven’t addressed, that I can later exploit for writing an adventure. A recent example, if you’re reading this blog, is the fact that the party is looking for a magic item salesman / wizard named Connor. Why are they looking for Connor? Because Connor has something the party needs that they previously sold to him by mistake. Therefore, the party is willing to undergo a number of tasks in order to get the information and ability to travel to Connor’s location. The party spent the better part of a month and a half simply trying to find where Connor was and gaining the ability to travel to his location. This doesn’t even include the adventures had along the way while they were traveling. an example of this would be the trip from Waterdeep to Memnon, the trip from Memnon to Calimport, the events that occurred there, and their trip back to Waterdeep. These were all story-based adventure hooks. With the party have willingly escorted the princess to Calimport from Memnon? Maybe, maybe not. but the fact that the party needed to get to Calimport anyways made their willingness to accept the plot hook all the easier. Many agnostic / general plot hooks can be made into story plot hooks.

So there you have it. Now you know how to get your players invested into your adventures.

Next week we’re going to talk about campaign building. If there are any other topics you would like me to cover, comment below.

Until tomorrow dear readers.