Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Golden Dragon

In the depths of the Black Pyramid of the Grinning Pharaoh, secreted far underground by the long dead kingdom of Uldru, in a black chamber where a black statue of a screaming pharaoh reclines gargantuanly, the players fought their once allies, the duplicitous priest Claptrous Orng and duplicitous snake-man Lithrezeck. Even with his last breath the priest lied, and the snake-man shrieked his right to the Screaming Serpent Staff, and bit at his foes. They died, but managed to barely open one door into an innermost chamber of the pyramid, whose ancient mechanisms worked only well enough to crack it.

"Phew, let's take a rest. Should we rest here?"
"Maybe we should make sure the next room is safe first"
"I'll take a quick look"

Dirtface crawls on his belly into the crack, in one hand thrusting forth a gleaming skull, whose shining eyes light upon more wealth than he has ever seen: an ocean of gold, weaponry, armaments, and jewels, gold, glittering from all corners of the massive room, and the golden pantheon of the Psychodesert presiding, jackalmen, scarabmen, falconmen, sphinxes, skeleton headed pharaohs, all grinning -- (at this point Dirtface's player, Nick, to my delight, says "Oh no") -- and atop the bed of gold a dragon, all of gold, but fairly small (maybe the size of two lions) lifts its head, adjusts its wings, uncoils its tail, and looks at Dirtface. Its claws and horns and hide glitter. Dirtface loses initiative. The dragon breathes fire.

"Okay, make a Dexterity saving throw, difficulty 22. Failure? Okay, you take 96 damage"
We wait a beat
Nick: "9d6 damage, right? How much damage was that?"
Me, delighted again: "Oh no, 96"

At this point, sirens start from somewhere out of sight. The eyes of the gold statues light up. The ceiling begin to strobe a flashing white. A low beat is drumming from another room. The sirens get louder. The dragon is screaming and standing up. The 50 foot tall jackal-head statues in a previous room, their eyes are lighting up and they're starting to move, creakily.

"We need to get out of here"

So they do, quickly, via teleport, but not before Sad Ed the Bard casts a spell to close the door to the dragon's room.

Next session: "Alright, Sad Ed, you're walking down the hallway, Dirtface is sneaking 20 feet in front of you. You feel yourself gripped by a pair of claws, you're lifted into the air. Hanging from the ceiling above you is the golden dragon. Its tail and wings are unfolding from the darkness where it was hiding. An unbearable heat is coming off its hide. You take 19 damage . . ."
Thomson, Sad Ed's player: "Wait, I closed the door. Even though I closed the dragon's door?"
"Yeah, sorry. It was a good idea. Go ahead and roll for initiative."

A solid hour of panic ensues, but they manage to escape again.

Thomson: "I'm afraid it's hunting our gold."
Me: "Apropos of nothing, where do you keep your gold?"
Thomson: "There's like a blank space right between my shoulders where I reach back for my stuff..."
"Ah, inventory null space. Alright good to know."

So now they're being hunted by a dragon.

Monday, November 25, 2019

DM tips

Here's my DM tips

Tell the players when NPC is lying, unless NPC is really good at lying
Show off enemy powers
Try to meditate morning of d&d game
Set obstacles and problems and let players solve them however they want
Don't use dragons until they're really high level
Never re-use a monster, they get boring really really quickly
For persuasion type conversations, only let players roll after when the NPC isn't sure how to respond, or when there's an appropriate break in the conversation where you don't know how the NPC would respond
If something doesn't make sense to the players and "show not tell" isn't working, just tell them what's going on
Try to keep the game in a zone of pleasant challenge, "high level" doesn't have to mean "hard"
For stealth, always roll stealth vs perception
Give one-enemy boss fights ability to re-save against powers affecting them by sacrificing their extra actions, these guys can get locked down really really quickly and it's not as fun
For the hardest encounters, think about the tactics your players rely on, and design encounters to bust those tactics
When you aren't sure how a monster will respond to parley, think about its temperament and desires
It's okay for some monsters to be intractable, that's why they're monsters
Always leave room for mystery, things that can't be easily discovered, or secrets that refer to deeper secrets, things hidden inside other things, that way curiosity will be consistently rewarded and also the world will seem (and actually be) both dense and larger than the players
It's okay for some NPCs to be purely good-hearted and helpful, but use these guys sparingly. They can then be treated as an emotional resource to fuck with and threaten. But also they're nice to have around to introduce levity and comfort
When the players panic, slow down combat
As much as possible, re-narrate exactly what's happening in combat during each player's turn
Close off all escape routes only sparingly, and when you're prepared for a possible TPK
Tumblr is still a good resource for ideas
D&d is most fun when there are vivid and strange characters to talk to, so put opportunities for that in every session

Ok that's all I got for now

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

General Malagon of the Cruelest Eye

General Malagon of the Cruelest Eye, one of the four living generals of the slain wizard Illith Varn. He has one horn, his hands are bent like claws, he lives on the second level of the Shattered Labyrinths of Illith Varn in a well-protected sanctum. He has seven wives, all of them are part demon and one of them is half-demon. He's befriended the Deadboyz, the rival adventuring party in the dungeon. He's captured several of the party's attendant louts, as well as Bashro, the four-year-old son of their traveling knight, Vlawyn the Ket. And he guards the way down to level three, which they need to make progress. And on top of all that, he's a powerful wizard, apparently specialized particularly in the spell Disintegrate.

Here are Malagon's known defenses and allies:

An ENCHANTED ANTECHAMBER that traps you in an infinite repetition of mirrored antechambers unless you pass through them in the correct order
ENCHANTED SNAKE-HEAD DOOR-HANDLES, which guard his inner sanctum, and which bite your hand if you don't have the key
A number of THREE-LEGGED CRANE-MEN, all proficient in the fighting arts and able to come back to life
THIRTY HEADLESS FLOATING TORSOS wielding serrated weapons, whom the inhabitants of Malagon's headquarters refer to collectively as NERWO, and suggest may be partially omniscient
HOYVEN LARTH, an adventurer proficient in the rapier, who has abandoned his quest to find his mother's soul, and prefers to spend his day rereading the same crime novel
VARGA and NORN, twin goth sorceresses, wearing ankhs around their necks, and eating black cake. They are bored and wish they could kill something. Their bored cat Bat has told the party they are reluctant to be separated from their ankhs...
The lava elemental TANTRUM, a newt-man who lives in a giant walking metal brazier filled with lava. The brazier's named is CHARD. Tantrum is working for payment in rubies, he would rather live in the Plane of Fire but Malagon is paying him too well.
SIX LOVELY WIVES, each with a different demonic bodypart. Their powers are unknown, but they delight in the soft, perfumed, and lovely things. They have possession of the young boy Bashro.
FELRA, the head of Malagon's harem. Her left half is a bright red scaled demon. She seems to know magic, but powers are unknown.
A DISGUSTING INSECTILE MONSTER, which guards the party's louts. Its powers are unknown.
THE DEADBOYZ, a party of three powerful evil adventurers and their large number (30+) of monstrous Deadboys. Their exact relation to Malagon is unknown, their powers are unknown, and their location is unknown.

Notably, he has captive the SKY WITCH, QUEEN JUPITER VOLARIS, who surely hates him. At this point though, the party has calculated that the Sky Witch probably hates them too, and so they're reluctant to free her.

He sent the party to the Flying Fortress of the Sky Witch in order to recover the Sky Witch's diary, which he has offered in exchange for the boy Bashro. Malagon desires to kill a god, in order to use its blood to forge a Ring of Flight (my players: "so he can... fly around..?"), and in his psychic barrage of the captive Sky Witch's mind was able to determine that she held a useful secret in her fortress, but could not tell what. The party has discovered that the eye of the Sky Witch's adopted daughter, the maiden Xoanna Julius, leads directly into the Celestial Realm of the Witch Goddess Izorides, and so they are reluctant to give Malagon the diary unaltered. Not because they care about the god, but because they like Xoanna, who they have secreted away in a distant and well-guarded black-market auction house, along with her lover, the Prince Aldarys of the Kingdom of Loiveth.

I hope they all fight each other in a huge multi-session brawl but you can't always get what you want.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

dragon poem

Dragons are living
Underneath
In coils
Where the sun doesn't shine
Far below the water
Enshrined
Entwined
They laugh
They scoff at us

We are fast
They have been together
Pierced by daggers
Slain
Memorialized in quatrain
Declining
But alive
Their eyes are red
Their tongues, red
Sleek, shining
Finely adorned
Dragons
Who eat
Who cut
They come out at night
And fill
And return to their waiting nests
Where rivers pour

Fuck
I wish I could see them
Sunning
But, hidden, underground
They are safe
And can exist apart

Last week my players fought their first dragon: Corvenon, Son of Valathex, who guards the Flying Fortress of the Sky Witch, and finally decided after enough of their shenanigans that they deserved to die. They weren't expecting this, and he stripped their wizard and bard of 2/3 of their HP in his first round with his poison dream fog breath breath, and they put up a wall of force and ran. I'm very proud of Corvenon. I hope he never dies.

Monday, October 21, 2019

spell ideas

spell takes one power or spell from one character and gives it to another
spell makes an area assume the qualities of night time
spell allows seeing through walls
spell makes person exceedingly small, size of mouse
spell creates rays of golden light
spell causes object to swell
spell causes object to melt that wouldn't otherwise
spell causes object to float and bob buoyantly, either in air or in water
spell causes own skin to become poisonous
spell allows you to move so fast as to be instantaneous, but no additional movement speed
spell makes body stretchy and rubbery
spell guarantees a good night's sleep
spell pulls disease out of body as a slug, slug now causes disease
spell causes song or message to hang in the air, repeating
spell allows you to eavesdrop back in time
spell creates an exceedingly sharp and long lance
spell causes you to melt into fluid form, move quickly
spell shoots you straight up, then fall very slowly
spell makes only one part of your body poisonous
spell creates unnatural winter
spell summons an elf
spell makes person short-sighted, cannot see more than ten feet
spell allows you to see fine details at a distance of one mile or more
spell gives you extra arms
spell gives you claws for one attack, reaction?
spell creates multiple illusory doubles in sight, you teleport

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

the west

It is said that Deirregex, the Black Dragon, came out of the west, and drove out the frost giants of the Hatemountain, and made war upon the white elves of Velenheim, and made their civilization into ruin

To the west lies great Belmric, the city in snow, and the wastes around Belmric are covered in the bones of the wars brought to the city, and over the bones the many winters of snow have fallen, and more bones, and ice

West of Belmric, the Merelunds, where the seven cursed lakes lie in fog, and the seven city-states make slow wars in the deep fog, except for Dead Kizaad, which was laid waste by Vlaurung, the Red Dragon

West of the Merelunds it said lies the Kingdom of Lamdru, who was born of the Egg Moon, and keeps 700 wives

It is said that the worst spirits can be called from the West, that they are invincible, indestructible, and possessed of unbreakable strength, and unbreakable resolve, and a desire for murder, but can be tricked with simple tasks, which they devote all their attention and care to, until they are released, and called back to the West

Hagar Blath, Queen of the Witches, who rules in the Mountains of Hunger, came out of the west as well, and usurped the Sky Witch, who fled in her Flying Fortress and was not seen for years uncounted

The spirits of the North and the South are sometimes called good, for they are at worst benign, or trickster spirits, who at their own leisure do not make murder or wreak harm, only small mischiefs, or even aid

The spirits of the East are cruel, unapproachable, powerful, and capricious. Beware a dry east wind. But beware most the high, cold winds that blow strongly from the west, for it is a herald of death

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

the known planes of existence

These are the dimensions my players have had direct contact with. They're getting high level and this stuff is coming up more and more frequently, sometimes in worrying ways. They haven't traveled personally to any other dimensions yet (pretty sure), but have dealt with interlopers from or have had to deal with the effects of them.

Reality -- this of course is where everything happens

Plane of Fire -- they've met a handful of conjured fire elementals, and found a puzzlebox that seems connected to the plane of fire somehow. Most recently they've met the elemental Salliflax, who keeps the Flying Fortress of the Sky Witch afloat. He's basically Calcifer.

Hell -- they helped a young noblewoman at a black market auction buy a magical diving bell which can transport those inside directly to Hell. What is Hell? Common knowledge says devils come from Hell, and bad people go to Hell when they die, but the slain Demon Lords were on Earth from the start. Players have not yet made the journey to Hell. It's hard to find the time, but the noblewoman who took the trip reported that she had a direct view of Castle Satan.

Realm of Fenrath, God of Wolves -- in very first adventure, players found a magic glass that looked into a vast, darkened forest. The gods retreated to their separate realms after they defeated the demon lords, and do not venture out.

"Hot Car Dimension" -- players looted a ring from a trio of beast-headed demons that can conjure a scalding hot door, behind scalding hot door is a small, metal, scalding hot room. They put things in there they want to forget about, like frost demons. They aren't sure of its true nature but it's definitely another plane or demiplane. Hot Car Dimension is just what they call it.

Whatever's embedded in the Hyperplasmic Gap of the Silk Wall -- they found a path through the massive wall that separates the Blighted Lands from Orostranthy, but when they looked within, they found a great ocean of gold, a foreign sky, and an alien creature sunning itself on obsidian plinths. They declined to explore and flew over the wall instead.

Whatever's surrounding the Thrice Cursed Prison of Dendric Vast -- crawling over the ramparts from the inside of the prison leads to a darkened, blighted landscape covered in ruins and alien creatures. Three alien moons float in the sky, the stars are too close and bright. What is this place?

Other possible planes of existence?

Other Elemental Planes -- I'm not sure they've ever met or conjured other elementals than fire, but given the spell options they must exist, right?

Plane of Slime -- they found a triumvirate of slaad conjuring a river of slime from a tortured unicorn. Also issuing forth, a variety of horrible insect monsters. Killing the slaad closed the portal, so no chance to explore further.

Carcosa -- they've stumbled on a handful of references to this place. Might be an alien planet, might be another plane of existence, maybe it's somewhere in reality?

Other "stars" and "planets" -- these seem to be places one could travel to. They found a magic orrery that lets them project their mind to these places. They found hideous monsters of alien intelligence that blasted them with psychic assaults, among other mysteries.

The Other Celestial Realms -- where are they? how does one get there? How many exist? It's widely known Belm, Izorides, and Otin have retreated to their own realms, but are there others? The wizard Malagon of the Cruelest Eye desires to kill a god and steal their blood for his divine crucible, in order to forge a ring of flight, but cannot find a way in.

Astral Plane -- Astral plane, what's that? It's on the 9th level spell list so it must exist, but . . .

Wherever demons come from that's not reality and not Hell -- they've met many many demons that are summoned or at least seem to appear from somewhere else, and that place is not Hell, probably. So.. what is it?

Planes that do not exist

Heaven -- absolutely not

Ethereal Plane -- I disallowed the spell etherealness because I don't like how it lets you phase through objects so freely, and because I think the ethereal plane is lame and boring.

Any of the other standard D&D outer planes, like, I don't know, Limbo, and any alignment focused planes. They are so many of them I can't keep them straight and I don't like the monsters.

Shadowfell and Feywild -- just not my jam

The Abyss -- Cool high fantasy concept but I prefer demons to be a little more malleable and variable. The word "demon" seems to be a catch-all for a variety of horrible spirits and monsters, most of them connected to or allied with the slain Demon Lords, but many of them not. Anyway, the Abyss as imagined in second through fifth edition D&D does not exist.

I think that covers it for now.