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The Pen is Mightier

This encounter is intended for three characters of 4th Level

     I’m mining my old 4th Edition Neverwinter Campaign Setting game yet again for this week’s encounter. I was really proud of the concept behind this one, and thought it might place some interesting choices in the hands of your PC’s, as well as provide them with a nuanced little set-piece combat. Like the other encounters in this series, I’m referencing plot and organizations from the Neverwinter (and thus, Forgotten Realms) campaign setting, but adjust whatever you need to suit your own campaign world and circumstances.

Setup

     Devil’s in the D&D world are the more conniving and long-sighted of the two breeds of infernal outsider. Thus, one of the Ashmadai’s plots in Neverwinter aims to conquer the city through the “long-game” should their other efforts fail. Because in recent years the city has been beset by very immediate disasters and the practical necessity for rebuilding; much of the city’s records, legal files, and historical texts have been abandoned. Most were destroyed during the catastrophe and the destruction it wrought on Neverwinter castle, but the House of Knowledge stored many such documents. A wealth of scrolls and books dedicated to municipal bureaucracy still survives down in its underground archival stacks. 

     It’s hard to say just which Ashmadai mastermind got the idea, but the cultist have been hard at work digging through these documents. They have set aside a chamber where some of the more learned and treacherous Ashmadai are hard at work forging, editing, splicing, and re-writing all day long. The goal is to manipulate the city’s records and history, so that when order is finally restored and judicial disputes over lands, inheritance, and succession commence, many such battles will end in favor of the cultists and their allies. Because few in Neverwinter have had the time to think of securing these documents the cultists have free reign to literally re-write the city’s storied history.

     The chamber in which the cultists are forging documents is part of the lower levels of the House of Knowledge. Hard at work, these cultists are unlikely to hear the PCs approach unless they have been tipped off to the presence of intruders (in which case one of the thugs will stand guard outside).

Flammable Objects

     There are some singular drawbacks in being innately talented with destructive pyromancy while working in a library. That’s a limitation that your players might be able to capitalize upon. The cultists will NOT make any attacks that deal fire damage/will forgo additional fire damage while near flammable documents (these areas are labelled with red “X”s on the map).

     That said, accidents (and clever players) do happen. If documents catch fire, one of the cultists will cease their attack in order to save the crisping parchment in question. Their next action will be spent dousing the flames even if this means risking an attack of opportunity. After completing this task they will rejoin the battle. If the damage is extensive (catching fir to an entire bookshelf) then they will attempt to salvage whatever they can from the ruin (this will require their next three actions). If the cultist is attacked while attempting to preserve these artifacts, it will be made clear to him/her what the greater threat is.

     While attempting to save damaged documents, attacks against cultists have Advantage and their saving throws are made with Disadvantage.

Tempting Literature

     Following combat, your players will have an interesting choice on their hands. Among the projects on the table is a near exact copy of a will and accompanying deed to one of the mansions in the Blakelake District. The cultist working on this forgery didn’t have time to fill in the name of the beneficiary – leaving the mansion’s fate up to the players. The document is legal and binding (for all intents and purposes) and could easily be used to allow the PCs to obtain the property with little effort.

     It’s up to you whether or not the PCs get away with this morally unsound acquisition. The more interesting choice is to allow them to enjoy their new hideout for a time – before an heir to the manse arrives in Neverwinter seeking to reclaim their family estate. What stake this newcomer has in the city, and what allies they might have at their disposal, could make this a difficult situation to navigate.

     You have a number of option to resolve this contested ownership. A hearing before the city’s ruler Lord Neverember could become a tense legal battle (with the forged will being the key to victory), or a bloody clash in trial by combat. Devious parties might attempt to remove their rival through treachery or assassination. Good aligned PCs might cede the land without dispute and find a grateful heir happy to reward them for preserving the mansion from falling into Ashmadai hands. Perhaps the returned inheritor is among the cultists, and despite their efforts, the estate still serves as a cult headquarters. 

     You might instead tempt the party with any number of other rewards acquirable through manipulation of legal documents that the Ashmadai were busy forging – from glory in the annals of Neverwinter’s history to rights to titles or lands outside the city.

Map

       

Features of the Area

     Lighting: Candles on the table and torch sconces on the walls provide a greasy brightness to the room.

     Table: The large table in this room is covered in parchments, ink wells, quill pens, thin knives, and other implements of forgery. The table itself extremely heavy (and was likely constructed inside this room. It would take at least three PCs accomplishing Easy Strength checks in the same initiative turn to overturn it.

     Bookshelves: Five of these 6.5 foot tall wooden shelves line the walls. They are buckled and warped, and are beginning to show their age. Each is crammed full with scrolls, folios, vellum sheets, books and bundles of loose paper, all carefully organized. Their contents are highly flammable. Overturning the shelves themselves requires a Moderate Strength roll. Should a shelf fall on one of the combatants, they are considered Restrained until they can make a Moderate Strength or Dexterity roll as an action to shimmy out from under the obstacle.

Monsters

x1 Cultist of Azmodeus (Storm Over Neverwinter pg. 7)

x2 Branded Zealot (Storm Over Neverwinter pg. 6)

x1 Ashmadai Thug (Storm Over Neverwinter pg. 4)

To accomodate four players, add an additional Branded Zealot


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Posted by on March 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Hacksilver

THIS POST IS A REBLOG!

There’s always a give and take when incorporating “real world” information about the days of yore into your D&D game. Our colloquial picture of history doesn’t often match up with the actual Facts and as such, our fantasy worlds see a lot of disconnect too.

But the notion of “Hacksilver”, aside from being a great name for an all-girl heavy metal band, is infinitely applicable to coloring your gameworld.

Swords & Dorkery

I stumbled across the term “hacksilver” on the History Blog the other day and decided to look into it, as I often do when I encounter unfamiliar words.  It refers to silver items cut or bent into convenient sizes for use as currency, and it was apparently a common practice, especially among the Vikings, to use looted items of gold or silver this way.

File:Hack silver.jpg Image from wikipedia.com

I will absolutely have to remember to implement this in D&D.  For one  it makes more sense that vast piles of valuable metals are not minted coins at all.

I can see a tribe of goblins or kobolds accumulating a pile of coins a few at a time by stealing them from travelers and trading stolen livestock to orcs or whatever, and humanoids and humans would probably be very likely to make hacksilver out of their loot.  Demihumans, who appreciate the aesthetics of…

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Posted by on February 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

The Defiled Infirmary

This encounter is intended for four characters of 4th level

This week’s encounter is also pulled from my scrapped plans to have PCs explore Neverwinter’s “House of Knowledge,” one of the places of note mentioned in the wonderful Neverwinter Campaign Setting, released for 4th Edition. The plan was to have the party investigate an undercover cult headquarters and bust up some of their various schemes. Some of the overtones can be adapted to match many nefarious organizations, but I’ll allude to Neverwinter personalities, groups, and locations, for clarity’s sake.

NEVERWINTER SPOILER ALERT: 

The former sanctuary of learning and literature turned refugee camp has been infiltrated by nefarious Ashmadai cultists. These minions of the evil Azmodeus are facilitating the possession of persons of high and low countenance all over Neverwinter. With their efforts, it might be impossible to know who is thinking for themselves, and who is a sleeper agent for the cult.

     A major theme behind all of my House of Knowledge encounters was to explore how a dark cult could operate within a headquarters that was seemingly out in the open (though more aptly, “hidden in plain sight.”) Thus, it was often the case that what the players first saw was merely a banal veneer covering up dark deeds.

     This encounter finds your party wandering into the impromptu infirmary within the House of Knowledge (Or any similar adventure site in which the enemy is operating under cover). Cultists, posing as members of a good-aligned priesthood, are offering aid to the sick, injured, and dying, among the multitudes of refugees and squatters. In truth, they are undergoing rituals of possession to allow their infernal allies to take up residence in the bodies of weakened mortals, before actually healing these hosts with the aid of the new spiritual parasite. 

     The action begins with the party finding the infirmary in working order – a seemingly worthy endeavor by well-meaning men of faith. But investigation will reveal the cracks in the façade, and if the cultists discover the PCs snooping too much, they may have a fight on their hands.

Triage

The Cultists: Two priests of Illmater; a human and half-elf named Robett and Taylon respectively, attend to the six (actually seven) severally injured refugees who are in this room. If pressed, they explain that they use a combination of clerical magic (they will not cast any spells in the presence of the PCs) and conventional healing to treat the wounded and the sick. Though they are cordial with the party, it is clear that they are quite busy attending to their patients – their faces are laced with sweat, their eyes marred by the dark circles that sleeplessness brings.

Religion DC 5: Illmater is a deity of compassion, healing, selflessness, and forgiveness

Religion DC 15: The symbol of Illmater that these priests wear is outdated – they use the rack rather than the more contemporary hands bound in red cord.

Religion DC 20: Some of the embellishments on the holy symbols they wear are out of place. Gilding on the design would be forbidden by mendicants of Illmater.

     In truth, these two are Cultists of Azmodeus – and thus members of the Ashmadai cult. While it is true that they are tending to the wounds of their piteous charges, they do so at a measured rate, leaving the patient’s bodies in a weakened state. This makes them more susceptible to a magical ritual of possession which the “priests” have worked on them. When completed, a creature from the Abyss will take up residence in the victim’s mortal form. While the cultists will calmly endure the PCs presence for a time, if they get too nosey they will be asked to leave. If they become belligerent, the disguised priests call for help in the form of x4 Ashmadai Thugs from the rabble outside.

     Obviously all this snooping could easily tip off the Ashmadai cultists. When the party first enters they will be quietly and politely questioned by one of the “priests” as to why they are there. He’ll believe any reasonable excuse. With a smile, both mengraciously decline offers to help the wounded, insisting that while busy, they have everything under control.

     The priest/cultists are indeed busy tending to the wounded, and thus won’t be keeping their full attention on the PCs. Whenever a character attempts an action surreptitiously, make a WISDOM roll for one of the cultists with disadvantage, against a DEX (Stealth) roll for the PC. If the cultist succeeds, he looks up from his work long enough to spot the the snoop.


In Sheep’s Clothing

Once in control of a victim, the devil can call on the attacks, spells, and abilities listed in its stat block, even in the host’s physical form. In doing so, they shed some semblance of humanity, taking on glowing eyes, a flaming corona, and sharpened claws and fangs for a time. Because this is so obvious, most of the possessed will be very unlikely to join battle and risk revealing their true nature.

Patient 1: A halfling man, badly beaten with clearly discernible bootprints on his face. This poor beggar ran afoul of some drunken ruffians who went to far in their casual abuse. He has been completely possessed by the creature assaulting his mind.

Heal DC 15: The wounds on this halfling show a strange rate of healing that neither magic nor medicine can account for. 

Heal DC 20: Even stranger, his scar tissue is of a reddish hue and smells faintly like a campfire.

Patient 2: Half chewed by rats and other vermin, this human street pauper spent any copper he could beg, borrow, or steal on an escape into a bottle. Exposure and the insistent hunger of vermin nearly cost him his life before he was found unconscious, not far from the House of Knowledge. The cultists have yet to begin possessing this man.

Heal DC 10: Perhaps the priests have not prioritized this man correctly…despite a few bandages he has some serious wounds still open and vulnerable to festering that have not yet been treated.

Patient 3: This lady of the evening stood up for her friend when the Mintarn Mercenaries charged with “protecting” the city attempted to drag the girl into lock-up on an imagined charge. The beating she received for her loyalty wasn’t as bad as the hypothermia she endured after being pitched into the river. She has been partially possessed.

Heal DC 15: That this woman has been submerged in frigid water for too long is plain. She does not, however, respond properly to your prodding and medical tests – her eyes lolling and incoherent moans coming from deep in her throat. Hypothermia wouldn’t account for the stupor she seems to be in.

Arcana/Religion/Nature DC 15: Not all of the poultices sitting on this bedside cabinet are medicinal, though you cannot place their use.

Arcana DC 20: One of the jars here contains embers from a funeral pyre – and a finger bone from a fresh corpse. This is a common reagent in dark rituals.

Patient 4: Maimed during fighting in one of the city’s countless skirmishes, this dwarf could find no work with both her hands damaged beyond use. Unable to earn a wage, she became destitute and without money, could not pay healers to treat her injuries. Thus she has come to the only place left her. This patient has been completely possessed by a fiend.

Heal DC 15: Maybe she’s asleep….her wounds aren’t so bad that she should be comatose.

Heal DC 20: There is a strange film on the stumps where her hands once were. Perhaps an infection after the priests amputated her rotting flesh?

Heal DC 25: Um…there are fingers growing back out of her stumps. That is not a thing that Cure spells can do.

Patient 5: With so many bones broken it’s a wonder this half-orc managed to drag himself all the way here. He was a scavenger; digging for loot amid the ash-choked ruins in the Blacklake District. Something must have gone wrong, likely a building collapse, and he barely escaped with his life. Whatever valuables he found were bartered for safe passage back here. The cultists have recently begun possessing this victim.

Heal DC 15: With such extensive injuries, so many bones shattered;  and the apparent lack of emergency care he has received, it is surprising this half-orc survived so long

Heal DC 20: His eyes are strangely discolored and you cannot quite tell why that would be.

Arcana DC 20: Amid his occasional meaningless mumbles you catch a few snatches of a language that makes your skin crawl – He’s speaking Infernal.

Patient 6:  This man bears the glowing azure marks of the Spellscarred. Whether he died of complications from that supernatural affliction or natural causes is hard to say. He’s still warm, and must have only expired a short time ago, probably going unnoticed by the overworked priests. They had not yet gotten around to trying to possess this victim, though he was to be an experiment in what happens when a devil’s spirit gains control of a spellscarred creature.

Heal DC 5: He’s dead.

Heal DC 10: These still glowing marks indicate that he is a victim of the strange supernatural storm known as the “Spellplague.”

Guest Patient

     To the Ashmadai’s benefit, they managed to acquire a gravely injured Red Wizard (Marked “R” on the map) who was at work spying on the city. Though ostensibly in service to Thay, the Ashmadai are secretly plotting against their masters, and possessing this agent would give them a leg up in their goals. The wizard is kept hidden behind a thick red curtain, and if pressed, the fake priests explain that he has a contagious disease, and that the PCs must stand back for their own safety.

     The Red Wizard is bound to his cot and gagged, his wounds being tended to intermittently while the cultists work their vile magic. He is still conscious and if someone barges into his room, will thrash about, calling feebly for help through his bindings. Like all those of his order, this mage wears a robe of scarlet and black, has a shaved head, and is adorned in wicked looking tattoos (in his case, covering the neck and below his ears).

     While evil, and certainly in league with some likely foes of the party, the necromancer, If rescued, will be genuinely grateful for the heroes intervention. Injured and out of spells, he is unable to put up a fight either in defense of himself or against the PCs. He will quickly bribe them with the 50 gp he had on his person (kept in a drawer near his bedside) if they allow him to go free.

Map

     

Monsters

x2 Cultist of Azmodeus (Storm Over Neverwinter pgs. 6-7)
x1 Ashmadai Thug (Storm Over Neverwinter pg. 5) – enters the battle from the hall outside
x1 Scorch Devil (Storm Over Neverwinter pg. 9) – One of the possessed patients. Enters the battle when he/she raises from the bed and begins to attack

To increase the difficulty of this encounter, consider add one additional Scorch or Fimbrul devil to the encounter per additional PC. In this case, the partially patients possessed patients finish their awful transformation as the conflict begins. To accommodate 3 players, remove one of the priests.

 
 

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Conquest and Conclusions for 2013

     With 2013 finally wrapped up I cannot help but take the typical measures and review the conclusions that coincided with the end of the calendar year. I am, by my nature, a person prone to flights of nostalgia, and so I never need my arm twisted to write a retrospective. I had a very solid year as far as my life at the tabletop went, and wanted to discuss some of the milestone moments (both in general and personally). It’s an editorial, which I prefer to keep to a minimum on this blog – so I won’t shed a tear if you’re happier navigating right past this.

 Most obvious is the termination of the public arm of the D&D Next Playtest. Much of my trepidation about the state of the game was alleviated in this latest iteration. I think Wizards is hitting all the marks, and I’ve been evangelizing for this edition much more doggedly than even I had anticipated. And I’ve been earning converts in the process. I’m looking forward to the final release, but am happy to have, until then, a more than workable game in my hot little hands to continue enjoying in the meantime.

     The year also saw the start, conclusion, and delivery on a lot of titanically important gaming Kickstarters. Dwarven Forge rolled out their new line of much more affordable game tiles, Reaper Miniatures fired off a second wave of their (again, very affordable) Bones line, and countless other contenders  dove into the crowd-funding arena in an attempt to support your game (by first earning your support). There’s a lot more in terms of exciting projects popping up this year, so you’ll have no end of reasons to fling money at your computer screen.

     I finally took the time to start investing in a little fancy scenery as well. Being a lover of miniatures, I always want to enhance the table experience in 3D, and getting into the hobby of terrain crafting was a nice jumping off point. It granted me the confidence to try my hand at painting minis as well, and that has been a rewarding, (and time consuming) addition to my retinue of gaming interests.

       

     Most importantly, 2013 marked the end of the longest running D&D campaign I have ever participated in. It spanned eight years (on and off) and three separate editions of the game before it finally reached a climax just a few days before the termination of this past December. The game in question was the (admittedly) blandly named: “Orc Campaign” – a story in which each of the players portrayed a ranking warlord in a bloodthirsty raiding party sent by the Bleeding Blade orc clan.

     The impetus for this game began way back during the early days of our time with 3rd Edition (back before it was 3.Anything) in which I was asked one evening to run an impromptu one-shot. To break up the regularity of the game, the players wanted to try something different – monstrous PCs. Seeing as how we were all avid fans of Warcraft III (this was prior to there being any World of Warcraft!) we settled on orcs. They played their ruthless savages to the gory hilt, even developing a codified trophy system by which to measure who earned the most esteem in battle (based on how many spikes, horns, and skulls adorned your armor. Totally Metal. Totally Brutal). I capped that session off by pulling out character sheets from their regular game, and facing them off against the clerics and paladins they had played but a week prior (a nice switcheroo that I’ve made mention of on this blog before).

     That session was firmly in mind a few years later when The Orc Campaign began. The game was oriented toward realm and squad management; with each player having a handful of orc lackeys who were acquiring EXP and leveling up right along with him (albeit from a lower starting level). I drew up a map of the proposed kingdom for invasion, replete with locations that sounded interesting but were entirely undefined at the time.

     Despite the premise (Orcs, at war! How could this be anything but attack rolls!), the campaign was characterized by a great deal of roleplaying, secret keeping, wheeling and dealing. What I assumed would become a sort of strategy/invasion simulation quickly became “The Sopranos” + A Holy War + Dragons. The principle  thesis of the campaign was thus: How does a leader help a society predicated on “Might Makes Right” as the most important rule of law to flourish? 

       

      The players all had ambitions as to what orc society as a whole, and the horde under their command should be, but had to temper their progressive and often counter-culture agenda against the single-mindedness and violence of their subjects. Underlings challenged their leadership, and players challenged each other (ultimate decision making was kept in the hands of the “Warchief” who held his title through dueling). The worship of the orc God Gruumsh, was opposed by the deep roots of shamanistic tradition among their society, which clashed with the absolute control of the warrior caste. Then add to that one upstart player whose Warlock character had plans to use magical boons from bound demons to polymorph, and thereby “Orcify” the “lesser” races. Conflict abounded within and without. 

     So after years of twists, turns, tense standoffs, secret betrayals, desperate foes, tactics, cruelty, and triumph, we finally laid the game to rest. In the end, prophecy and mutual respect (or ambivalence) led each of the players to cast away their rivalries. They took up swords against their supreme leader; the High Warchief of the clan, and slew him. It was their wish to rebuild orcish society not as a dictatorship, but under the iron fist of a ruling council, where each faction had a check/balance over the other.

        

     Maybe that’s what happens when a bunch of American Humans play a horde of orcs? Or maybe there’s something inherently functional about democratic ideas? Especially when you can enforce that democracy at the tip of a sword (and do away with the whole “civil representation in government” business).

     I’ve kicked around the idea of scribing an “Orc Campaign Setting Guide” for use with D&D Next – most likely as serial supplements posted here at Save Vs. Weekend. I’m not sure if there would be much interest in that or not (since it would be less flexible than the usual material I’m interested in) so let me know what you think.

     Though I’m much busier these days than I was when this blog started 2 years ago (really?!?!) I still intend to keep up with it when time and content permit – especially with the next edition looming over the horizon. You can expect to see more encounters in the coming year, though more than likely they will arrive once, or at best twice a month. I like to be accessible, but thorough in my encounters, and that means taking a little more time on the writing end to save you time on the DMing end.

      Ideas? Comments? Gripes? Please, feel free to share them. As a narcissist I love talking about things I have written and am always happy to hear from you. Another year begins! Gird those loins. Gird them well….

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2014 in Editorial

 

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Mobbed in the House of Knowledge

This adventure is intended for 3-5 player characters of 3rd level and applies to the final release of the D&D Next Playtest

     So last year my fledgling 4th Edition Neverwinter Campaign Setting game fell apart thanks to my busy schedule. Though I lament its loss, I think the last encounter I ran can have some future life – potentially in your own game. The PCs were investigating some Ashmadai (read: evil devil-man) cult activity in the decrepit ruins (NEVERWINTER CAMPAIGN SETTING SPOILER AHEAD) of Neverwinter’s once beautiful House of Knowledge. They were questioning some of the squatters and homeless holed up in the old Oghman shrine, when their inquiries got the attention of cultists concealed amongst the rabble. A desperate melee ensued wherein the party had to limit their area attacks – lest they harm innocent bystanders. But with the cultists disguised in the crowd and the doors to the room shut, the party was in a dangerous (and near TPK!) situation.

     This encounter seeks to capture the tension of being locked in a room with an overwhelming number of foes, and many innocents caught in the cross-fire. I’ll also explore some home-brew rules for dealing with grappling mobs in a fast, easy way that affords you some realistic options in regards to being pinned by multiple attackers. 

     And you don’t need to be playing a Neverwinter campaign to benefit! Bear in mind, this encounter is tuned between moderate and tough for the level the players are at. Still, multiple opponents tends to make encounters much more difficult. You may wish to spring this encounter on a party that is fresh and has all of its resources to bear.

Setup and Tactics

     The PCs must track down a lead related to their current plotline. A possible informant lives amongst the squatters in a rundown library (In Neverwinter, the House of Knowledge) in a desiccated part of the city. Unbeknownst to them, less than savory elements (The insidious Ashmadai Cultists of the Forgotten Realms, for example) move in and amongst the destitute persons living in the ruins. Some of the rabble are evil agents taking advantage of the fact that few wish to be bothered with the City’s poor and downtrodden. 

      The vipers amongst the peasants are carefully concealed – and would like to remain that way. The main chamber of the library is a tall, dome roofed rotunda crammed with the unwashed poor. Let the PCs ask some questions of the unwashed masses and do some investigating before the action starts.

     The PCs may opt to flee, rather than fight –  a perfectly sensible response! However with the mob latching hold and supernatural cultists barring the main means of egress, that will be easier said than done. The cultist rabble will attempt to grapple PCs (two or three at once) to keep them in the room and allow the tougher cultists to more easily slay them. None of the cultists is above using an innocent bystander as a human shield.

Plot Text

      The conditions in this once shinning bastion of knowledge couldn’t be worse. The destitute are crammed into every nook and cranny of the dilapidated ruins. Clotheslines now hang haphazardly from rotting bookshelves, old folios feed pathetic cookfires, and all around you is the smell of mold, decay, and human waste.

     But you can detect the shifting air as someone closes the worn double doors to the library’s central rotunda. Standing in front of the only entrance to this lobby is a tall man in a black cloak. He sneers at you and hisses, “We don’t accept outsiders prying into our business. You know too much for your own good.” A warm, eerie light emits from the man’s open palms and with a snap, magical chains of molten hot metal slide out of his hands and clink on the floor. 

     Around you the crowd cowers, and backs away. Most of the crowd, anyway. Some anonymous vagabond shouts “Kill the outsiders!” There is a flash of movement as the squatters run too and fro…some scrambling to get away from the melee…others pushing forward with rusty knives, clubs, and bare hands to strike at you!

The Rabble Attacks

Part of the challenge in this combat encounter is separating the innocent squatters from the concealed cultists. To create an environment of confusion and tension, only have part of the hostile human rabble attack at first. Each round, more of the incognito cultists will strike at the PCs. Use the below guidelines for how many Human Rabble to introduce per round:

If the players attack the crowd indiscriminately, assume that some of those killed were indeed cultists; other were not. Innocents who are attacked will opt to flee rather than strike back. The cultists won’t bother to attack the other squatters – nobody will believe their claims of Ashmadai cultists hiding iut in the old library anyway. However, if barring the PCs path means injuring or harming innocent civilians, so be it.

Innocent squatters use the same “Human Rabble” stats as the cultists.

Mobbed!

The grapple rules in D&D Next (found on page 17 of the How to Play document) are simple and efficient, but lack a bit of the nuances that apply to attacks from mobs. Consider applying some of the following optional rules below to make this encounter mor dangerous.

For context: restraining a target is like holding them tight bodily, while their arms and legs are still free to move (albeit in a much more limited fashion, hence the apllication of disadvantage). Pinning aLimb is like getting an opponent into an arm or leg lock; stopping their limb from functioning while not impeding overall bodily mobility. In either event the target is grappled, and thus bound in place, though not completely motionless.

     Multiple Grapplers – •A second (third, fourth, etc.) attacker may grab an already grappled target using the normal rules for initiating a grapple, and does so with advantage. 

•There should be a limit to the number of assailants in a grapple (4-5, DMs discretion). 

•Three or more grapplers may move a target without taking the normal 5 extra feet of movement penalty. Doing so requires that they all act on the initiative of the lowest attacker.

•Any assailant may attempt to restrain, or pin the limb a grappled creature.

•Escaping a grapple with multiple creatures requires you to make a Strength or Dexterity roll opposed by a Strength roll from each attacker. You need only beat the highest attacker’s result to escape the grasp of each assailant. 

     Pinning a Limb – While grappling a creature, as a separate action you may attempt to constrain a creature’s limbs by making an opposed Strength check opposed by the creature’s Strength or Dexterity (their choice). Doing so prevents the creature from using that limb (possibly denying them use of a weapon, or spellcasting ability if both hands are bound). The creature need only escape the grapple to cancel the effects of a pinned limb.

Features of the Area

     Lighting: Cracks in the walls and broken stained glass windows in the upper floor, along with the blaze of cookfires and candles make this room brightly illuminated.

     Statue: In the middle of the room is an enormous statue of Oghma – though this may not at first be apparent. Weather, vandalism, and seismic disaster have all contributed to this once beautiful piece of art’s decrepit appearance. Stained and pock marked with ware this 30 foot tall statue is barely recognizable, but its size is no less impressive.

     Stairs: Though damaged and now treacherous, these marble stairs wind around the wall of the rotunda and climb up seven stories. Each floor above the main chamber is lined with stacks of rotting books and crumbled shelves, niches where statues once stood, and the occasional row of scholar’s stalls. Anything of value has long since been looted.

     Floorspace: Though left open in the image, feel free to clutter the floorspace with tents, cookfires, clotheslines, cots, waste piles, barrels, crates, fallen sections of ceiling, and any other debris you might expect in a shanty-town.

Map

This map was made using the Dwarven Forge map visualizer 


Monsters

Branded Zealot – (Storm Over Neverwinter pg. 6) [3 Players: x2, 4 Players: x3, 5 Players: x4]

Human Commoner – (Bestiary pg. 57) [3 Players: x15, 4 Players: x19, 5 Players: x24]

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2014 in Combat Encounter, Playtested

 

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2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,700 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 28 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Mazed!!

This encounter is intended for any number of PC’s of any level (With the D&D Next November Playtest in mind)

                           It's difficult to "just hug the right-hand wall" when you aren't certain which way is "right."

     There’s a high-end spell that I’ve always particularly loved: good old Maze. For me, it’s that rare combination of old-school weirdness and wonder that still manages game balance and functionality. It’s just a cool concept (trapping someone in a puzzling nether-realm), that doesn’t necessarily spell a grim and ignoble end for a PC. Sure, it can take a player out of the action same as any other SAVE vs. FUN spell, but at least you aren’t getting coup de graced by some fish-man! But out of the action means that player’s turn is less interesting, and that’s the problem I’d like to address with this week’s encounter.

     Another bee in my bonnet is the difficulty in establishing a good “boss fight” with D&D Next. The beauty of bounded accuracy is that any level of character can pose some measure of threat to higher level characters. But that’s a bit of a problem when it comes to boss fights. Numerous attack rolls from weaker opponents (the PCs) add up fast, and a few whiffs from a hard hitting Big Bad can really negate their significance. 

     There’s an easy fix (give the dragon more hit points) which need not even be codified into the rules – but I’m thinking of something a little more complicated. A little more interesting…

Setup

     The PCs are confronting a significant foe with some magical strength. It need not be your campaign’s BBEG (Big Bad Evil guy) even; merely a higher level foe. A lich, dragon, cultists, rival adventurer, horrific mindflayer sorceror, whatever works for you conceptually. To expand the length of this climactic showdown, and add a spark of the unexpected, the foe will use a special spell in the second round of combat (or the first, if you don’t trust his ability to survive) that will even the odds. The spell is a modified version of Maze. This variant is lower level, and thus less damning, but instead of being an endless stretch of generic walls…this maze is occupied by threats of its own: and doors to befuddle heroes attempting to escape. With some of the PCs vanished to a pocket plane and struggling to return, the tension is ramped up as the remaining heroes, ignorant of their allies plight, must fight on against the boss in a desperate attempt to hold out for help.

Naviagting Maze World

The key to escaping the maze, in this case, is to guess the right door that leads back to the real world. Looking through any given door appears to lead into a room lit too brightly to see (this shimmering mirage masks the fact that the door is a portal within the maze and a dirty trick). False doors will lead back to the start of the maze, confounding any prior progress.

Filling the maze with a few weak monsters is ideal – this slows the PCs down and makes what would otherwise be a boring guessing game into a threatening complication. They will be forced to choose between eliminating the guardians of the maze and finding the route home.

If players are clever, they may find some kind of hint as to which door is correct. A Wizard casting Detect Magic will discern illusion magic attached to the false doors but not to the actual door out of the maze.

Building the Maze

To keep things fun, I’d recommend a relatively small maze with between 4-7 doors. Remember, that between monster attacks, flase doors, and time spent moving through the extra-dimensional space, the PC will lose quite a few turns of combat. This maze, unlike others, isn’t meant to take a long time to navigate, but merely to limi the number of foes attacking the villain. You need not dig through grandma’s old Mazes and Sudoku puzzle books from the grocery store check-out line for inspiration.

I’ve constructed my Lesser Maze using some fancy, brand spanking new Dungeon Tiles from Dwarven Forge, but any 2D dungeon terrain pieces, or even some old school pen-and-graph paper will work. 

New Spell

Lesser Maze

4th-level conjuration

Casting Time: 1 action

Range: 25 feet

Duration: Concentration, up to 5 minutes

Choose up to 1d2+1 creatures within range that you can see.
You banish the targets into an extradimensional
labyrinth, a pocket plane of existence. The
targets remains there for the duration or until they escape the maze.

To escape, the target must make their way through the maze on their turn, escaping through a randomly selected “exit door.” False doors will lead back to the entrance of the maze. The true door, when opened, reveals the spot in which the creature left when the spell took effect. Moving through this door ends the spell for that target.

When the spell ends, the target reappears in
the space it left or, if that space is occupied, in
the unoccupied space nearest its former space. 

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

 
 
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