Monday, August 29, 2016

Confrontation

When last we left off, the party had just defeated the wight guardians in their magical chamber, and had moved into the short hallway beyond. Here they took a short rest, while the rogue investigated the double bronze doors. They were locked, with a large keyhole on this side. Beyond he periodically heard guttural voices and movement.

Having not found a key, the rogue picked the lock, and was rewarded with the a satisfying click. Preparing for whatever lay beyond, the barbarian and cleric positioned themselves at the door, ready to charge in, while the rest lined up behind them

As they shoved the doors open, the party entered a large room carved from obsidian. The floor was lined with six, large pillars, and there was an altar at the far end. Standing on the altar was the obsidian and marble likeness of an ancient god with one large eye and six splayed arms. However, none could ponder the identity of the god, as there were five bugbears and a half-ogre waiting for the party.

The barbarian got the drop and charged in, swinging wildly at the first bugbear. Then all hell broke loose as spells were casts, arrows were fired, and weapons were swung. The battle was brutal, and loud, as Shatter spells did much damage to the bugbears, as well as the statue, which lost two arms, and nearly half of its head.

With most of the bugbears down, the barbarian had the half-ogre cornered. The wizard slammed her flaming sphere into the being, causing him to finally fall to the floor. But, just as she was about finish him off with a well-placed spell, a voice boomed in their heads…

(This was read aloud to the players at this point)

"STAY THY WEAPONS!"

Suddenly you all feel yourselves compelled to stand still, your weapons dropping to your sides, the words to spells being cast dying on your lips. In front of the cyclopean idol appears a man. He is of medium height and build, with dark, angular features, and flowing black hair. He is dressed in simple black clothing of indeterminate design. He gazes at you appraisingly, as a smirk creeps across his face. He begins to casually walk among you, hands clasped behind his back, as he speaks in a casual manner.

"So, you are the current pebbles in my boot." He stops and gazes at Graz and Colette’s holy symbols. "Impressive. I see that the All-Seeing One is doing well. And though I do not know her personally, the Wise Warrioress also seems to be well-established. Good, good." He paces about a bit more.

"When we were first brought to this world, I had thought to maybe re-invent myself. After eons of my old ways, I thought perhaps I would ‘turn over a new leaf,’ as you say. Start fresh. Entice followers, and gain divine glory. Become a force the others might respect." He pauses to chuckle to himself. "But, I suppose old habits die hard. Besides," his grin widens, "this is so much more fun!"

He grows a bit more serious. "Be that as it may, you have successfully thwarted my plans for this region. Well-played, adventurers. Well-played. Let it not be said, however, that The Sly One does not have a sense of fairness. I shall concede to you your victory here. You shall no doubt receive accolades for averting a costly little war, and saving hundreds of lives." He pauses and furrows his brow in thought for a moment. "I foresee a great future for you all…." He pauses for a moment, then smiles. "Well, most of you, at any rate. The future is always so unclear, even to us."

He stops pacing in front of the half-ogre's body. He looks down on the half-ogre, and his face grows a bit more stern.

"This one, however, is mine. You shall not harm him further." He looks at you all, and his visage softens just a bit. "He is a dumb brute, but he is useful." He pauses and smiles, as if recalling a pleasant memory. "In fact, he reminds me a bit of my dear brother." He waves his hand and the half-ogre disappears in a flash of light.

He gazes at you all again, and his amused expression slowly turns to one of annoyance.

"You know, if word gets out that I simply let you walk away without exacting some kind of ‘punishment’ on you…well, let’s just say I have a reputation to uphold. So, on that note, enjoy your walk home!"

He waves good-bye, and the world disappears in a brilliant flash of light.

The light fades to black, and your senses slowly begin to return to you. You first realize that you are laying on warm stone. Then you sense that the air is much more warm and humid than you last recall, and smells strongly of vegetation. You hear the sounds of abundant wildlife, and a breeze rustles through trees. As you slowly peel your eyes open and groggily sit up, you see that you are in an empty, square room, approximately 30 feet on each side. The walls, floor and ceiling are all made from rough cut bricks of dark, somewhat greenish stone. There are crevices between several of the stones in the walls, and from one side beams of sunlight pierce the darkness. On the side opposite the sunlight is an arch leading into a hallway. You have all of the equipment you were carrying.

Thus ends the first chapter of this arc. Where are they? How will they get home? And what perils will challenge them for their very lives? It should also be noted that the barbarian and ranger appear to be missing.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

5e Freebie: Kensai

About a week or so ago I had this idea for non-traditional monk traditions for 5e.  Basically, the idea was to have characters who fought bare-handed like monks, but had slightly less regimented backgrounds, and consequently, less "Far Eastern" abilities.

I initially came up with three traditions: the Brawler, the Wrestler, and the Kensai.  I have since expanded the idea into a whole new class, based mainly on the Monk from the PHB, but with some distinct differences.  And in the process, I decided that the Kensai was actually more like a very focused traditional Monk.

So, here is the Kensai Tradition.  It isn't playtested, so you may want to tweak it a bit here and there.  But the idea is that this is a fourth Tradition your Monk character could choose from at 3rd level.  I've also included a few magic items that are geared specifically for traditional Monk characters.

Also, as usually happens when I get a bug like this up my ass, someone else has already done the Kensai as a full class.  Have a look here.  It looks pretty good, honestly.

As always, comments and criticisms are welcome.



Kensai
    There are warriors who gain total mastery of a specific type of weapon, and then there are the kensai.  A kensai is a monk who has dedicated practically his entire existence to perfecting his ability with a specific type of weapon, to the point of it being a supernatural connection.  Although a kensai can use other, simple weapons, if there is a weapon of his chosen type available, even if it is inferior to other available weapons, he will always choose that one.  At 1st level, the kensai declares his chosen weapon, and he will use this weapon (or another one just like it) until the end of his days.  This weapon can be simple or martial, but cannot be a ranged weapon.  Eventually the kensai will focus his efforts with a specific weapon of this type, often specially commissioned, and always of masterwork quality.  However, a kensai will never use a magic version of his chosen weapon.

Special note:  Any instance where a monk would gain an additional unarmed strike, the kensai can be assumed to make that additional attack with his chosen weapon.

Perfect Form
When taking the kensai tradition at 3rd level, you improve the die-type of your chosen weapon by one step.  From then on, any weapon of this type you use rolls this new die for damage.  For instance, if you choose the longsword, any longsword attacks you hit with will deal 1d10 damage, instead of 1d8.  If you choose a greatsword, any attack will deal 2d8 damage, instead of 2d6.

Ki Weapon
At 6th level you can channel your Ki into your weapon, per the monk’s Ki Empowered Strikes feature.  However, when using your chosen weapon, you also add one half of your Proficiency bonus (rounded up) as a magical bonus to attack and damage.

Soul Weapon
At 11th level, you must choose a specific weapon to focus on.  This weapon becomes soul bound to you; you can never be disarmed, and you will never fumble with this specific weapon.  Additionally, you score a critical hit on a natural roll of 19 or 20 with this weapon.

My Weapon Is My Life
At 17th level your Soul Weapon can be summoned from a distance, and will magically appear in your hand instantly, so long as it is on the same plane of existence.  Additionally, you can spend a Ki point once per round to make a single ranged attack with the weapon, attacking any target within 50 feet of you.

Magic Items for Monks
Monks are not above the use of magic items, though their normal restrictions on weapons and armor apply.  Items such as Rings of Protection, Bracers of Defense, and Girdles of Strength are fairly common for monk characters to use when available. 

Below are four magic items that are specifically intended for monks.

Gauntlets of the Iron Fists
These hand coverings are usually in the form of wraps of sturdy cloth or leather, and radiate moderate magic.  Wrapping one’s hands with these gives the monk a magical bonus of +1 to +3 to hit and damage when making an unarmed strike, depending on the power of the enchantment.

Intercepting Staff
This +1 staff is made from dark cherry wood, and radiates mild magic.  While wielding the staff, a monk may expend a Ki point to activate the staff’s Interception ability for that round.  When this is used, the monk makes an attack roll, the result of which becomes his AC for a single opponent’s next attack.  If the opponent misses, and the monk’s AC roll was higher than the opponent’s AC, the monk strikes with the staff as a free action, automatically dealing 1d8+1 (plus Strength modifier) in damage.

Ki Medallion
This medallion is a small disk or amulet on a golden chain worn around the monk’s neck, and radiates faint magic.  By meditating with the medallion in hand for one hour, the monk can suffuse the medallion with Ki points equal to half of his current maximum rounded up.  These Ki points can be spent just like the monk’s own Ki points.

Ring of Physical Perfection
This plain, onyx ring radiates moderate magic.  A monk wearing such a ring may expend up to five Ki points to heal himself as a full action.  For each Ki expended the monk regains 1d8 hit points up to his maximum.  Once all five Ki points have been used, the monk must meditate on the ring, regaining one Ki point of healing for every half hour of meditation, up to a maximum of five (2.5 hours).

Monday, August 8, 2016

Into the basement

After sorting out the details involving lost character sheets, and missing players, the party picked up outside the main hall of the abandoned monastery. They knew that at least some of the remaining bugbears had fled to that room, and had barricaded themselves in. The party, wishing to avoid being approached from behind while exploring the stairwell leading down they had earlier discovered, decided to turn the tables, as it were, and add to the barricaded doors, ensuring that the bugbears wouldn’t be able to get out if they suddenly wanted to.

Feeling secure in that decision, the party proceeded down the stairs for two levels, all the while enduring an overpowering stench of sewage and decay. They finally came to a large, square room filled with mushrooms of all sizes, shapes, and colors. Some managed to notice shambling forms coming from a cave in on the far wall, and after taking cover, they witnessed four spore-zombie bugbears enter, gather mushrooms and begin to leave.

One of the warlocks, whose patron is an entity connected to fungus and mushrooms, decided to pick a mushroom from a nearby cluster. This caused one of the spore zombies to confront him threateningly. Placing the mushroom back, the warlock reached out with his mind to the zombie, and made a connection with the "master" entity. After a brief discussion communicated through emotions, they came to an agreement that the party could pass as long as they left the room undisturbed. Seeing the wisdom of that choice, the party crossed the room, and exited through a door on the far wall.

The door had not been open in decades, and it lead to a darkened hallway, similarly disused. They noticed there was a faint glow coming from the far end, and the cleric’s light cantrip allowed them to see that the hallway lead to a set of stairs turning right and heading further down.

After some winding halls and stairs, the party came to an archway leading into a room. The room was H-shaped, and in the four points were sarcophaguses. The room itself was iced over and the ice glowed with a ghostly white light. They could feel that room was much colder beyond the archway, and when the paladin finally set foot in the room, the temperature was indeed many degrees colder. This action also caused all four sarcophaguses to open up, and four undead creatures clambered out. They were adorned with aged armor, and all brandished swords, glaring hungrily with glowing eyes.

The cleric and paladin agreed that they were wights, and the party engaged them cautiously. The cleric turned two, and the paladin caused another to cower in fear. The party then turned their sites on the fourth and laid into it. In this manner, they managed to take down all four wights one at a time, with only the barbarian suffering any notable damage, and the paladin having several hit points of life drained.

Looting the room proved very profitable, as the wights had been buried with what was obviously great treasures from their living lives. Now armed with some magical weapons, and a Bag of Tricks, the party prepared to enter the double doors that lay just beyond this chamber, expecting to find whatever power it was that had influenced the hobgoblin generals into starting an unwinnable war with the local communities.

However, real-life time was getting late, so the group parted ways for the night, eager for the next (and last) session of this arc of the campaign, and an answer to their burning questions about who, or what, was behind all of this.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Goblinoid Races and Language

As you may recall, I have been using hobgoblins as my go-to bad guys in this current campaign. One of the ways I made things a bit easier on my players was to state that if they spoke orc, goblin, or bugbear, they could understand what the hobgoblins are saying after listening for a bit. I don't know if this has ever been laid out officially, but below is a quick write-up I did to add some background for this in my world.

The "Goblinoid" language

We have determined that if one can speak orc or goblin, one can, with a bit of practice, understand hobgoblin. This is believed to be because all of them derive from a single root language.

According to scholars, in ancient times there was a single "goblinoid" race. None know what they called themselves, and each subrace that has developed has their own legend which depicts themselves as the root. However, through centuries of warfare, diasporas, and wandering, portions of this master race spread far and wide across the world, developing their own words and manners of speech, and even distinct cultures, based on what and who they encountered.

Today, there are four distinct branches; orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears. Each of these subraces are thought to be the result of goblinoids meeting and interbreeding with other races.

Orcs are the result of breeding with humans, and are believed to originate in the southern portion of Ameron, near the dense jungles of The Shades. Those who remained in the south have taken on a green cast to their skin, lending credence to the notion that goblinoids may have had some chameleon-like abilities, and changed colors to match the dominant hues of their surroundings. This is further supported by the orcs of the plains and foothills being brown, and those in the high mountains being gray.

Goblins are believed to be the result of breeding with either gnomes or halflings. However, it is also believed possible that they are simply the descendants of outcasts who were deemed too small and weak to survive.

Hobgoblins, it is believed, were created from interactions with fiends and other outsiders. Their blood-red skin tone, and the fact that there are higher numbers of sorcerers among them indicate they may share this heritage with tieflings.

Bugbears are conjectured by some to possibly be the result of breeding with ogres. However, others believe that bugbears may be the closest to the master race, and are simply those surviving members of this lost race who have fallen into savage barbarism.

The fact that the languages of each of these races is actually just a dialect of the same language lends further evidence to the belief that they all share a common ancestor race.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Christmas in July!

As they do every year at this time, RPGNow is hosting their "Christmas in July" sale, and once more all of my products are included.  So, if you have been thinking about getting any of them, now is your chance to get them at a discount!


Just click the RPGNow link on the sidebar to the right.  Thanks for looking!

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Monastery

After they had freed the young dragon, the party was tired but elated with their recent successes. So, after travelling a bit to get away from the destroyed hobgoblin encampment, they made their own camp in the woods some distance to the north.

Through happenstance, a group of hungry goblins saw what they thought would be easy pickings in a sleeping party, with no one but a lone Halfling on guard. It was a slaughter. Not a goblin left standing. But, at least they weren’t starving anymore.

The next morning the party packed up and headed north, certain that the ancient monastery was somewhere nearby. After the wizard sent her familiar (this time in the form of a hawk) out to scout from above, she confirmed that they were on the right track, and the party headed out with renewed haste.

Not long after, the ranger found the remnants of a road, marked by regular stone, most of which were overgrown with moss, each depicting a strange rune. After a few more hours, they came upon the strangest site they had ever seen.

Carved out of the very side of the mountain was a perfectly circular area, with sheer sides matching the slope of the mountain. The ground inside was perfectly flat and level, and there, in the center, surrounded by the remnants of orchards and gardens, was the fabled monastery.

The party approached with as much caution as they could, and it seemed to work. They discovered that one of the large double-doors was intact and closed, but the other had fallen off its hinges decades ago, but had been propped up where it once had been. Seeing no other entrance, the barbarian and the cleric, both extremely strong, lifted the old door and tossed it aside. For their troubles they each received a thrown javelin.

A melee ensued wherein the party contended with two tough bugbear guards. But, just as they were dispatching these, they discovered that one of the doors off of this main entryway lead to a dining area, where eight more bugbears were having their meal disturbed. A grander melee ensued involving a raging barbarian, a Ball of Flame, and a bugbear-phobic warlock. When all was said and done, the bugbears were overcome, and the room was cleared.

The party proceeded to investigate and found some old, disused “barracks” of sorts. No evidence of traffic indicated that the bugbears had avoided this area for some reason. They also found a long storage area, that lead to an ante-chamber for the main hall. Peaking in the hall, they saw that the bugbears had, oddly enough, set up huts like a real village inside the building.

The party, shaking their heads, explored more of the building, finding the remnants of a library. The books that remained were in varying states of disrepair, and nothing was readable. However, the Halfling warlock cast Mend on a random tome, and came away with a pristine copy of Osgood’s Guide to Flora and Fauna in The Shades. They also found evidence of a lower level that had seen much recent bugbear traffic.

After a tense period where the remaining bugbears discovered their slaughtered compatriots, and seemed to be investigating the rest of the building, the party ventured back to the dining hall to find three guards posted, all nervous. The party made quick work of them, and decided to further investigate the main hall. What they found was the doors shut and barred from within…

The party is nearing the end of this first arc. After some asking for opinions, it was decided that I would continue this campaign for the foreseeable future, so that we alternate between it and my wife’s Dragon Age game. I already have some ideas about where it is going, and what they will face in the future. This is going to be fun!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Map-Making

I decided that my "world" needed a map. So, I did what any self-respecting DM would do, and I pulled out a piece of copy paper and a pencil and went to work.  When I had the basic areas laid out, I added some ink for clarity and style.

The result was a section of the world that includes The Rift (where the final battle with the Elemental Lords took place, and where the Ferrusans hail from). This map includes all of the places my players have been, and some where they might like to go.

After a couple of hours working my Photoshop magic, voila! The Northeastern section of Ameron. Not sure about some of the place names, but I can always edit those later.