Play Report: Temple of K’thu’uk

Ta Prohm is a temple in the Angkor complex built in the late 12th century by King Jayavarman VII. Large tree roots now cover much of this amazing jungle temple..I don’t know why I keep forgetting how dangerous D&D Fifth Edition can be to level 1 characters. Last night I ran a small one-off adventure based on the Temple of K’thu’uk from Robin V. Stacey (of Microlite20 fame). You can find my conversion notes, including a new 5e monster, at the end of the post.

Session

Out of the folks who signed up, four players came. “Kogrosh” the half-orc barbarian, “Tegid” the dwarven bard, “Leon” the tiefling rogue, and “Alston” the gnomish wizard.

I explained that the forested area around the village of Alston had originally belonged to a tribe of kobolds. As time went on, the humans logged the forest and turned the area into farmland, driving the kobolds further and further back into what remained of the forest. When the adventure begins, only a relatively small thicket remains. Humans who enter the forest to hunt (whether game or kobolds) sometimes don’t come back. The local sheriff has therefore offered a bounty on the kobolds to get rid of them once and for all. He noted that they have a primitive temple built into the side of a hill and that the adventurers should focus on clearing it out.

For the initial approach, I didn’t really use a battle map. I showed a top-down view of a forest and we just roleplayed their tracking, including several times when the barbarian thought he found a trap. At least once he didn’t find it, but he did manage to grab on the lip of a pit before falling in. For some reason, the use of traps by kobolds surprised them even OOC. Adventurers should never underestimate the opposition.

Once they arrived at the dungeon, the four kobolds in first room nearly managed in a TPK. In part, the dice just did not work in their favor and in part their tactics lacked a little finesse. Also, because the bard (and wizard) went down hard, they lacked any healing. After some difficulty, the remaining party members managed to stabilize them and they waited there in the entry hall for the unconscious folks to wake up.

While they waited, though, that gave me lots of opportunities to roll for wandering monsters. A couple of giant rats snuck in just as the bard awoke (while the wizard still lay on the floor). This fight ended up harder than I expected again, but I’d modified almost all the creature abilities to roll in the open. Everyone could see how the dice conspired against them. Then their greed took over and they tried to break off an arm from the jade statue of a kobold warrior. They all failed – the half-orc even fumbled. This resulted in another pair of rats coming to investigate and another fight that didn’t go the adventurers’ way.

They decided they’d had enough and, since the bounty had a 3-day completion, returned to town for the night to rest and buy some healing potions. Those cost a decent chunk of change for fledgling adventurers, so we roleplayed out some “aggressive negotiations”. Town guards wandered in before things got too rough, but they managed to get a significant discount. The wizard ended up using mage hand and minor illusion to shoplift one more as they left.

After reaching the temple again, they tried a more tactical approach. To avoid attacks from the rear, they barricaded some doors they didn’t use. The wizard then used disguise self to look like a kobold and they tried to lure out a couple who squabbled in the next room. But speaking in Common made the kobolds a bit suspicious, so one went to check and the other hung back a bit. When the barbarian cleaved right through the lead kobold, the other one fled around the corner and through a door to wake up a group of sleeping friends. These kobolds knew something bad had happened yesterday when they’d found the decapitated bodies of their comrades in the front room. Now the monsters had come back and invaded the large storage room! They lay in wait while the adventurers kept trying to lure them out. Eventually the dwarven bard kicked in the rotting door, stepped inside, and belched a thunderwave that crushed their little reptilian bodies. One by one, the group started to clear the rooms. In fact, at one point, they opened a door to find a scared little kobold quivering in a corner. The dwarf thrust his rapier right through it (“shish kobold”, I called it).

At one point rocks fell on them. But unlike what one player thought, the rocks came from winged kobolds Rather than a case of “rocks fall, everyone dies”, it simply consisted of another small ambush that wore the party down even further. In another room, alligators lurked in relatively deep standing water. Nearby lay a half-submerged dwarven skeleton. Of course, dwarves being dwarves, the bard rushed toward it, heedless of the fact that they’d just seen the alligators slip into the water when they opened the door. This resulted in the dwarf and half-orc getting chomped and pulled under. It took a bit, but the party made it through and recovered a +1 war hammer and a magic circlet from the dwarf.

In the next room, the rogue – and only the rogue – saw three kobolds hiding under the tables, but everyone saw more gardening implements. They’d already found wheelbarrows and similar equipment in other rooms. So one of them made a History check to see what they might know about this tribe. I explained again that the kobolds hadn’t really troubled anyone. They only defended themselves when the humans started trying to kill them and cut down the forest where they lived. The party finally got the idea that the humans had just hired them to eliminate the tribe because they viewed the little reptilians as vermin, not “people”. How odd that the tiefling rogue should have a crisis of conscience and decide not to tell the others about the scared little creatures…

When they reached a food storage room, they found more giant rats infesting the food supplies. As the rats had plenty of food, they made no aggressive moves towards the party. But when the party started to move on, the barbarian did what barbarians do and jumped in the middle of a pack of rats to hit them with his sword. For this, he nearly died and the party decided that the best course of action was to head back with the kobold heads they’d already acquired. Some discussion about possibly killing the sheriff ensued. I made it clear that a frontal assault on law enforcement in town would probably not have the desired result. Anyway, by this point the session had run for four hours and I wanted to go to bed.

They never really got to the kobold’s “god” in the center of the temple. They did, however, earn a bit of coin (much of which they spent on those potions of healing), some decent experience, and a couple of magic items. I invited all of them to join the Relic Hunters Guild with their characters, so hopefully that will provide a good lead-in and recruitment tool.

Conversion

Most of this module requires little to no conversion. Almost every creature in the entire dungeon has an existing analogue in 5e except the eponymous K’thu’uk.

  • “Verdant kobold” as a kobold (Monster Manual p. 195).
  • “Assassin vine” as a vine blight (MM 32).
  • “Slumberspore” as a myconid adult (MM 232).
  • “Dire rat” as a giant rat (MM 327).
  • “Small alligator” as a crocodile (MM 320).
  • “Klaldyk” as an acolyte (Hoard of the Dragon Queen supplement p. 4) For his spells, replace light with guidance and sanctuary with shield of faith.

However, for K’thu’uk, I rolled up an undead kobold magic-user based on the flameskull in Lost Mine of Phandelver. Feel free to grab the PDF and use as you will. As noted above, the group didn’t get this far in the dungeon. Therefore I have not yet had a chance to playtest it.

 

 

5e Monster: Cthurkey

Cthurkey by cobaltplasmaCᴛʜᴜʀᴋᴇʏ

Small aberration, chaotic evil

Armor class 13 (natural armor)
Hit Points 153 (34d6+34)
Speed 30 ft

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
10 (+0) 14 (+2) 12 (+1) 14 (+2) 14 (+2) 4 (-3)

Saving Throws Con +4
Damage Resistances poison
Condition Immunities blinded, charmed, deafened, frightened
Senses
blindsight 60 ft
Languages understands Common, Deep Speech, and Undercommon but doesn’t speak
Challenge 3 (700 XP)

Amphibious. The cthurkey can breathe air and water.

Sure-Footed. The chturkey has advantage on Strength and Dexterity saving throws made against effects that would knock it prone.

Stench. Any creature that starts its turn within 5 feet of the cthurkey must succeed on a DC 14 Constitution saving throw or be poisoned until the start of its next turn. On a successful saving throw, the creature is immune to the cthurkey’s Stench for 24 hours.

Aᴄᴛɪᴏɴs

Multiattack. The cthurkey attacks with its tentacles. If that attack succeeds, it can make one attack with its bite on the same turn. It can only bite Grappled targets.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, reach 5 ft, one target. Hit: 7 (2d6) piercing damage.

Tentacles. Melee Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, reach 5 ft, one target. Hit: 11 (2d8+2) bludgeoning damage, and the target is grappled (escape DC 12). Until this grapple ends, the creature is restrained, and the chturkey can’t constrict another target.


The cthurkey has the body of a large bird without feathers, the tentacles and mouth of an octupus, and the legs of a crab. Ancient legends teach that it once was offered as a burnt sacrifice to unknown gods of gluttony, then consumed by the supplicants.

 

Play Report: Relic Hunters Guild Session 2

NB: a continuation of Dyson’s Delves Level 1. I travelled on business this week, delaying the write-up.

This little one-shot has started to turn into a fun dungeon crawl campaign. I grabbed the Hurren map from Dyson and started to use it as a backdrop. Also, I used the new Dungeon Master’s Guide to create the Guild’s adventurer handler / liaison. Welgrace, a female halfling, has a distinctive bulbous nose with oozing warts. She relishes the thought of discovery but speaks in an arrogant whisper to the adventurers. This time, she informed them that they’d missed the Crypt of Saint Ulther, so they ventured back into the dungeon.

The party backtracked to the rooms they’d cleared to make sure they didn’t have any new friends. In fact they did, as a pack of Giant Fire Beetles skittered around a guard-room. Because my group has started crafting fire bombs in their down time, I gave the fire beetles resistance to fire damage. After this, they headed down to the second level, bypassing the locked doors with skulls painted on them. After destroying a goblin guard post, they interrogated the survivor to find out the crypt’s location.

Estàtues jacents del sepulcre dels marquesos de Zenete, capella dels reis del convent de Sant Doménec, València

Of course, the crypt lay in the section they’d bypassed. So they headed back upstairs and found the sarcophagus of Saint Ulther right away. Since one of the more vocal players has a character with a nautical background, this turned into a lot of fun. I spun the tale of the human priest of the aquatic elf god Deep Sashelas who jumped into the water during a storm and personally towed a boat into port. They found their first magic items here, a gem of brightness and gloves of swimming and climbing. The warlock immediately recognized the gem, although no one knew right away what those gloves would do. They ran into some undead skeleton warriors next. Fire bombs ended up almost causing more trouble than they were worth. The melee types didn’t want to run through the fire to attack the monsters, leaving them vulnerable to the undead archers. After several rounds, they wore them down, though.

In the next room, though, they found another sarcophagus. This time I had rolled up a new monster for them: the armored zombie (PDF), the remains of Sir Dyson who rose from its grave to defend its resting place against the defilers. The fight dragged on for quite some time due to the zombie’s undead fortitude trait:

If damage reduces the zombie to 0 hit points, it must make a Constitution saving throw with a DC of 5 + the damage taken, unless the damage is radiant or from a critical hit. On a success, the zombie drops to 1 hit point instead.

I had it emit a piercing shriek every time it avoided death and restored itself to 1 hit point.

At one point, a paladin had grappled it around the throat and covered its mouth with his other hand. He bashed it into the wall while everyone else continued to hit it, and after quite a few attempts, it failed its saving throw and fell still. I couldn’t believe how long this took, largely because they didn’t know why it Just. Wouldn’t Die.. Drag it out of the sarcophagus? Choke it with the gloves from Saint Ulther? Et cetera.

Rolling up a new monster that the players have never seen created a fun dynamic that everyone enjoyed. Nobody could metagame and figure out its weakness. In reality, I just took the regular zombie, then gave it armor, a weapon, and more HP. I’ll add custom monsters more often for certain!

5e Monster: Swarm of Pygmy Cheessums

Pygymy CheesumSᴡᴀʀᴍ ᴏғ Pʏɢᴍʏ Cʜᴇᴇsᴜᴍs

Medium swarm of Tiny beasts, unaligned

Armor Class 13 (tough hide)
Hit Points 80
Speed 40 ft.

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
9 (-1) 11 (+0) 9 (-1) 2 (-4) 10 (+0) 16 (+3)

Saving Throws Dexterity +2, Charisma +5
Damage Resistances bludgeoning, piercing, slashing
Condition Immunities charmed, frightened, paralyzed, petrified, prone, restrained, stunned
Senses darkvision 30 ft, passive Perception 10
Languages —
Challenge 4 (1,1000 XP)

Grassland Camouflage. The swarm has advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks made to hide in grassland terrain.

Keen Smell. The swarm has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on smell.

Swarm. The swarm can occupy another creature’s space and vice versa, and the swarm can move through any opening large enough for a Tiny pygmy cheesum. The swarm can’t regain hit points or gain temporary hit points.

Aᴄᴛɪᴏɴs

Multiattack. The swarm makes two melee attacks, one with its bites and one with its claws.

Bites. Melee Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, reach 0 ft, one target in the swarm’s space. Hit: 9 (2d8) piercing damage, or 4 (1d8) piercing damage if the swam has half of its hit points or fewer.

Claws. Melee Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, reach 0 ft, one target in the swarm’s space. Hit: 10 (2d6) piercing damage, or 3 (1d6) piercing damage if the swam has half of its hit points or fewer.


 

The pygmy cheesum, despite its precious appearance, is a vicious predator that attacks in swarms. It feigns death (non-magically) when it believes itself in danger. When chasing prey or evading a predator, its natural speed often protects it.

Microlite20 monster: Ormyrr

OrmyrrThe Practical Guide to Monsters has a few monsters that don’t have Microlite20 versionsOrmyrrs stick out to me more than the others. For reference: Thri-kreen, Yuan-ti, werebear, wereboar, ghost, and lich do not have M20-style stat blocks that I have found. Some of those have enough substitutes you can reskin (lycanthropes and generic undead), while “lich” can be applied as a template. But I like these slug-looking characters that clearly have no relation whatsoever to Hutts. In fact, the D&D Fifth Edition doesn’t have them, either.

Orymyrrs have enormous grublike bodies that possess powerful arms, a mouthful of extremely sharp teeth, and a surprisingly intelligent brain. They aren’t particularly aggressive, tending to keep to themselves.

While (or perhaps because) these creatures have no talent for casting spells, they find magic absolutely irresistible. They will lie, cheat, and steal to obtain a scroll, spellbook, or other magical object, and can be mesmerized by a skillful display of magic powers.

The book also notes that they tend to live in a solitary state or in small tribes of no more than one dozen. I would use the following stat block. DMs may want to adjust the to-hit numbers (especially slam). They should also target magic users of whatever flavor first.

Ormyrr: HD 7d8+7 (43 hp), AC 15, Slam +6 (1d4+1), spear +8 (1d6+6), constrict (2d6)