Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Expect the unexpected

Second session of my improvised D&D campaign went rather well.  As I stated previously, I had written an entire encounter last week, based on a simple premise and some vague ideas.  It came together nicely.

The party started out on the road after outwitting a magic (cursed?) item, and avoiding having to wade through a hundred skeletons last session.  It was later in the day, so they found a good camp spot and set their watch.  I decided that this was too easy, so I had a crafty ogre invade their camp.  They fought it off and killed it, but not without taking some lumps and shitting their pants.  An added benefit was that afterwards they were REALLY looking forward to reaching the town of Slovane several miles up the road.

They entered the town on horseback, and it was very stereotypical.  As they rode in, they got suspicious and fearful looks, and almost no conversation from the locals.  Pretty soon they were immersed in a mystery involving disappearing persons, a shadowy figure only briefly glimpsed by one of them, and a midnight sneak-thief who circumvented all of their paranoia-inspired preparations.

Interestingly, I hadn’t counted on the preparations, so I had to come up with something on the fly in order to do what I wanted to do.  And this actually turned out to be a really cool bit of world-building as I improvised the NPC reactions.  In the end, I managed to get the party to WANT to follow my railroad, which is really the goal of every DM.  I mean, let’s face it, every adventure is a “railroad” to a certain extent.  Otherwise, why would we write anything past the initial setup?

Anyways, they went to my abandoned temple and did all of the things I was hoping they would do.  And even though I had written a few elements in that I completely forgot about at the table, it all worked out well.  The next session will start with the battered party ambushing a wagon that travels a long tunnel to get to the cave complex.  Not sure how I’m going to work with what they plan to do after that, but I’m sure I will come up with something.  I already have a couple of ideas.

As a funny side-note, my 7-year old son exhibited the sense of humor that he has inherited from both his mom and me.  The party had just killed a carrion crawler, with only two of the party falling victim to the paralyzing poison.  After it was dead, I described that the mound of rotting carcasses and trash was actually its nest, and in it were several eggs.

Without missing a beat, my son’s barbarian licks his lips dramatically and says “Mmmm…scrambled eggs…”

I about fell out of my chair.

Anyways, I think I have some surprises for the party in store.  I know what they are expecting, so this should be fun!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Well, that was easy

Thanks to a SNAFU with a co-worker who isn't very reliable, I ended up doing backup for phones again yesterday (I was primary on Monday, and backup for two days in a row). Meaning that, when the primary is on break for any reason, I'm sitting there, waiting for the phone to ring. Well, it was a slow day, so the net result was that I had some time on my hands.

During those periods, and while on my own breaks, I managed to get some game prep done. Because, as it turns out, we will be playing my D&D game again this Saturday. I wasn't expecting this to happen, as it was meant to just be a placeholder for when the other couple couldn't show. Turns out, they have plans all weekend, so here we are.

My original intent was to run them through an old AD&D module that I have. But, I didn't really feel like reading through it. So, I took the basic premise, and modified it to fit my slowly developing world.

I wrote out some notes about what happens at the beginning, and the details of the location. Then I downloaded a map (which turned out to be one from Dyson's Dodecahedron ...love his stuff!), printed it out, made a map key on it, and then proceeded to detail all of the areas. It's relatively small, so I was able to detail the whole thing in a very short time.

And just like that, I am ready to go. I need to fill in a couple of details about the enemies they will (most likely) face, but other than that, it's all done.

I have to say, I may not be as bad at this DM thing as I thought I was.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Drow Flying Ships

So, I recently ran a session of 5E, and had a great time. I’m using the “campaign” as a testing ground for some ideas that have been percolating for various periods of time in my overstuffed brain. Among these are a couple of new races (one of which actually got used), flying ships, and an alternate way of viewing Drow culture. These last two elements are tied together, and provided some really cool elements in my session.

One of my players was curious as to how the ships achieved flight (these are standard water ships that levitate, and are propelled by wind currents). I gave him a vague answer along the lines of “I don’t have the details worked out, but it has something to do with a Drow’s innate ability to levitate.” Well, I finally sat down and wrote my thoughts out. I present them below for your praise, criticism, or indifference.

The Drow and their Flying Ships

When the Drow lived almost exclusively in the underdark, they mined a metal known as adamantite. This metal was as strong as forged steel, but half the weight. It also had the peculiar property of being highly susceptible to magic, and adamantite items could retain minor magical properties without the lengthy and expensive process of enchantment. The downside was that adamantite breaks down rather quickly under direct sunlight. Even moonlight has a deteriorating effect on the metal. As such, items often disintegrated after a few weeks of exposure to the sun. This was not normally a problem for the Drow, many of whom would live for centuries without ever seeing the surface. However, that all changed when the Elemental War destroyed much of their home realm.

The Drow of today are splintered into three factions. The Skybourne are those who have embraced the destruction of their dark homelands as a sign of change, and have moved into the light of the surface, and are attempting to integrate themselves with the races there. They are most known for their flying ships, which is an extension of their desire to embrace the long-forgotten sun in all ways. However, in order to achieve this they are, ironically, dependent to an extent on the second faction of Drow, the Deep Elves.

Although they no longer bare surface-dwellers the pure black hatred fomented by Lloth for generations (though they are slow to trust surface elves in many cases), these Drow refuse to adapt to the sun, and have instead moved deeper into the underdark, away from the regions of elemental destruction. There they live much as they had in centuries past, though struggling to find purpose in the absence of their deceased matron deity. However, they have begun openly trading with small sectors of the surface world, and many have found a lucrative income in supplying the Skybourne with shipments of adamantite to fuel their flying ships.

The third faction is much more elusive, and really only exists in second-hand accounts and rumors. Deemed the “Lost Elves,” these Drow have retreated even further into the underdark, and the speculation among the Deep Elves is that they have fallen into barbarism after the collapse of their societies with the passing of Lloth. Some among the Skybourne worry that the Lost will one day rise up and bring war to the underdark in an attempt to reassert their dominance. The Deep Elves are vigilant against this, but their numbers are relatively few.

The Adamantite Engine
Skybourne ships are propelled by mechanisms infused with magic, and keyed to the Drow’s innate levitation ability. Essentially, the Engine becomes an extension of the Drow pilot’s levitate ability, allowing him or her to control the vertical axis of the ship through a combination of willpower and a steering mechanism. To protect it from deterioration, the Engine is housed in an air-tight casing that is filled with a gaseous mist, also mined from the underdark. In this manner, an Adamantite Engine can last for decades without the need for replacement. The magical properties do cause some deterioration on the metal, but only at a minute fraction of the rate to which they would be subject under the sun.

The biggest danger to an Adamantite Engine is if the casing is damaged. Release of the surrounding gases can cause the magic to go awry, and if the control of the ship’s levitation is not closely monitored, the ship can either rise at a rapid rate, or plummet towards the ground. Should the casing become damaged enough that the engine is exposed to sunlight, the engine will begin to deteriorate rapidly. If the casing can be repaired in time, the damage can be minimized, only shaving a few years off of the life of the mechanisms.