Play Report: Relic Hunters Guild Session 3

The Relic Hunters returned to Dyson’s Delve Sunday afternoon. As usual, they made a quick pass around the first level to ensure they wouldn’t have any nasty surprises running them. (That’s mostly due to one very vocal player.) When they returned to the second level, they had the idea of finding the goblin they’d taken prisoner on a previous run and making friends with him or recruiting him. So every time they found goblins, the duelist shouted the name he’d given them to see if he’d throw down his scimitar to run and hug them or something. That’s going to provide a really fun hook later.

Tactical goblins

Goya - CaprichosI’ve started playing the goblins a bit more thoughtfully. They watch for the adventurers to make mistakes. For example, the duelist carries a kerosene lantern, but because he has to fight with one hand free, he sets it down on the floor when a fight starts. So of course a hobgoblin reached out to kick it over, spilling the burning fuel everywhere. (I have suggested they hire torch bearers for the next session.) Later, when almost all of the goblins in an encounter fell to the bard’s sleep spell, the remaining hobgoblin focused on waking up its comrades rather than try to take on the adventurers by itself.

They also use their Nimble Escape feature more frequently, forcing the adventurers to consider how to block them. A monk went around a corner during a fight to get some range and ran into another goblin. They scuffled for a moment, then the goblin fled to another room. That put the inhabitants of that room on alert. Once the adventurers reached that room, they realized they didn’t have a thief to pick the lock. The dwarven bard used his racial knock spell (back up 15 feet, then charge and headbutt the door). At that point, he realized he had a problem, surrounded by two hobgoblins and three goblins. I almost got a TPK out of it, not due to any maliciousness on my part but just because the adventurers didn’t proceed with caution. However, in the end they all survived. Level 3 awaits, and level 4 has even more fun.

Roll20 problems

Last week, I upgraded my Roll20 account from Subscriber to Mentor. On Friday night I implemented power cards and macros, generally getting familiar with new aspects of the system. Unfortunately, on Sunday, most of that didn’t work.

For future reference (largely for myself): I fixed the turn counter problem by deleting all existing turns. And it turns out that they had some sort of system problem which logged an error in a console outside of the game (“Sandbox closed due to error.”) By hitting “save” on my API script, it seems to work again.

That process should probably generate an in-game error to let the user know something is wrong. A slightly more verbose error message would help, too.

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.

 

 

Campaign Reorganization

Curious Bronze Relic found near the Estuary of the River Findhorn engraving by William Miller after Sir Thos Dick LauderNB:I posted a version of the below to my campaign forum on Roll20.

My megadungeon campaign, the Relic Hunters Guild, has had some problems lately. Sessions don’t happen because folks who’ve said they want to play don’t show up. That means that those of us who do show up have wasted our time. If only one or two players come, the group just doesn’t have enough.

In an attempt to address this, I’ve started to reorganize things a bit.

1. If a player says they’re coming but doesn’t show up, they may get removed from the group. Of course emergencies may happen from time to time. But in general, it’s not fair to other people who set aside time from family or other games or whatever. No problems if they just don’t sign up for a given session or if they cancel with lots of notice

2. Showing up will always result in XP. If the session doesn’t happen for some reason, I will grant the characters some decent XP. This might just be a boon or we might RP out a small side quest in the city. (Hopefully more of the latter.)

3. Originally this was going to be a one shot adventure. However, it has turned out more fun than I had expected (above frustrations notwithstanding). So I will convert to a sort of open table campaign with sign up sheets for each session. It will also be a bit more sandbox oriented. I hope we can still focus to a great degree on the megadungeon. But I have created a region around the area and am happy to incorporate character backstory and players’ own bits of world building.

I hope this campaign can continue, because it has been tremendous fun for everyone when it’s happened. If any of my readers have an interest in playing, check out our LFG listing.

Play Report: Dyson’s Delves level 1

My Lost Mine of Phandelver group has been sporadic lately due to real life causing scheduling difficulty. So I ran a dungeon crawl in Roll20 on Sunday using the first level of Dyson’s Delve. After I picked it up in a recent Bundle of Holding, I knew I wanted to find a way to use more of the work from that site.

Real life scheduling caused problems again, and I almost had to cancel since only two players showed up. But one of them used his Phone-a-Friend special ability and saved the day. In old-school fashion, I didn’t spend much time on backstory. Instead, the characters belong to the Relic Hunters Guild and ventured out in search of treasure. This party consisted of a human noble fencer named “Alexander”, a paladin half-elf named “Halder”, and the warlock half-elf “Kraz”. The conflicting alignments & belief systems led to some fun interaction between the characters.

That approache worked well. RHG will evolve into a type of open table campaign. It won’t run every week, especially before LMoP completes. But when it does, we will look to fill open slots with new players. And the campaign has no penalty for not signing up for a given session other than the obvious opportunity cost. Repeatedly signing up and cancelling at the last minute might cause some issues, of course.

19th-century goblin illustrationIn this session, the party only ran into goblins, hobgoblins, and a giant badger (which I used in place of the giant ferret as originally written). Halder and hobgoblin had engaged in an epic sword-and-board duel. After four or five rounds, neither had landed a blow with any success. But goblins swarmed the fencer and finally stilled his rapier. The surviving goblin turned to attack the paladin. This distracted Halder enough for the hobgoblin to drop him, too. But Kraz strode forth into the room, charmed the remaining monsters, stabbed the goblin in the back, and felled the hobgoblin with poison spray. They searched the room with care and found the key to unlock the treasure.

During their rest, though, a hobgoblin patrol found them. They threw a flask of oil at the ground in front of them, then set a salvaged bow on fire and threw it into the puddle. This frightened off the hobgoblins and gave them time to complete their regrouping. Later, when a goblin patrol found them, they again improvised a molotov cocktail from scraps of clothing on dead goblins and an oil flask. They used that tactic one more time in their final fight, so I think the hobgoblins will have to consider how best to counteract it for next time.

Hobgoblin squads prepare to repel adventurers throwing flasks of oil

Hobgoblin squads prepare to repel adventurers throwing flasks of oil

By the end, they’d recovered a total of 36 electrum pieces, 5000 silver pieces, and a badger pelt for the noble to fashion into a cloak.

I loved how much roleplaying we did in a simple dungeon crawl. Most of the time, they played characters rather than character sheets. This earned them several Inspiration awards during the three hours of play (including an hour of character creation). When they came up with particularly creative solutions and got the dice to fall their way, everything really clicked. Certainly it provided more entertainment than the railroad adventure of Hoard of the Dragon Queen. In truth, I think I liked it even more than Lost Mine of Phandelver – which says a lot considering how much I love the Starter Set adventure. That stems at least as much from roleplaying cinematic moments as it does the adventure writing itself. The rules as written tend to encourage cautious tactical play that doesn’t get the blood flowing. Instead, how about mocking goblin mothers and stabbing burning creatures that bear an odd resemblance to Rodents Of Unusual Size?