Saturday, February 15, 2020

D&D 5e [Princes of the Apocalypse] Session 13: Making money in Red Larch

Characters:
Tempest, Blue Dragonborn Cleric Trickery-Domain (played by Jojo, 14yo)
Folax Huntreouss, Human Gunslinger (played by Evan, 12yo)
Serenity, Aasimar Wizard Divination-School (played by Mummy)


Warning: This adventure contains a lot of references and spoilers to the ‘Princes of the Apocalypse’ campaign. If you have yet to play through the campaign, be warned that you’re likely to come across the same stuff we did.


Adventure Notes:
Yeah, I’m behind on my session reports. Jojo keeps pestering me to keep these up to date; I think we’re about 5-6 sessions ahead now. A new year’s resolution, perhaps?


Tempest and Serenity bid goodbye to Keehar and their aarakockra friends, and head off to find Folax. Meanwhile, the intrepid gunslinger decides to find out more about his Knights of Samular rescuers. Or, more specifically, the precious ‘saddle-bags’ that the knights were so keen to recover when they rescued Folax.

Evan says, “So I ask lady whats-her-name? That knight lady who spoke to me earlier?”

“Lady Ushien Stormbanner,” I inform him primly.

“Yeah yeah, her. I ask her what’s in those saddle-bags? Treasure? Some sort of magic items?”

Lady Ushien replies, “We are transporting scrolls of Samular scripture to Red Larch. We have a contact in Red Larch who is going to bring them to our chapterhouse in Waterdeep. In exchange, he is going to give us some other items of interest.”

Folax blanches, “Just normal scrolls? Not even magic ones? They went to retrieve these from a griffin’s nest?”

“Pretty much,” I say gravely.

“Gah, these guys are nuts,” the gunslinger mutters as he rolls back in his bunk in the wagon.

Eventually, the wagon caravan stops to make camp for the night. Folax clambers gingerly out of his wagon to stretch his legs and observe the group of knights he is with. I tell Evan that he counts about half a dozen knights, along with several attendants and squires. “There are two covered wagons, one of which is where you were put in. Everyone is busy setting up camp.”

I tell Evan, “You suddenly get the feeling like you’re being watched.” The gunslinger cautiously peers around, and then finally sees something perched on top of the wagon he just clambered out of. “It’s a very large snowy owl, about the size of a large dog like a mastiff!” The owl stares unblinkingly at Folax, its gaze tracking the gunslinger no matter where he moves.

From gallery of TaleSpinner

I’m watching you!

Of course, the kids try to experiment with this. Jojo suggests that Folax should try running circles around the wagon, to see if the owl twists its own head off. As the gunslinger rounds the wagon, he runs into Lady Ushien. “I see you’ve met my owl animal companion,” she says. “Whitefeather is just being wary and curious about anyone new she meets.”

“Oooo, an owl companion!” says Jojo. “I definitely like Lady Ushien!”

I turn to Mummy and Jojo. “Meanwhile, you guys have finally caught up with the Locate Object directions to Folax’s spork. You come to a camp which has a couple of wagons, and several people in armour milling about.”

After some discussion (and a prudent request for visual confirmation that this is the same camp that Folax is currently in) Jojo decides that Tempest will approach the camp in a non-hostile way. About fifty paces away, she is challenged with a ‘Halt! Who goes there!?’ from one of the knights. Tempest introduces herself as a “friend looking for a friend. Ugly human guy with a gun? Seen him around?”.

Eventually, the three adventurers are re-united. Lady Ushien introduces herself and her knights of Samular to the newcomers.

I tell Jojo, “Suddenly, you feel something rattling or vibrating on your belt! You look down, and see S'il-vous-plaît rattling in his sheath!”

Evan quips, “I think you left him on silent mode!”

Jojo hesitates, “I tell Lady Ushien not to be alarmed that I’m taking out a sword; he’s harmless, really! I take S'il-vous-plaît out.” The sword practically leaps out of his sheath, and S'il-vous-plaît’s excited face appears on the blade.

“THE Knights of SAMULAR!?” blurts S'il-vous-plaît. “Really!? I’m a HUGE FAN!”

My kids can detect an exposition from a narrative mile away, so they settle back as I ramble on (as S'il-vous-plaît) about how amazing the knights of Samular are, and their historical role in beating back the invading hordes of orcs and trolls from the region. The knights are named after their founder, Samular Caradoon, a knight of great re-known. “In fact,” says S'il-vous-plaît. “When I was a kid, I used to dream about becoming a knight of Samular! All the kids in my village had a Samular Caradoon action-figure!” He looks a bit crest-fallen. “Unfortunately, all I had was a Renwick Caradoon action-figure. Renwick was Samular’s wizard brother. Skinnier, and more pasty-faced.” We agree that the Samular Caradoon action-figure must look like a He-Man action-figure.

From gallery of TaleSpinner

“I have the Power!”

Jojo chortles, “You? A Knight of Samular!?” She takes a moment to compose herself. “I mean, yes, that’s great! Hang on, did you say this was back when you were a kid? How long ago was this?”

“Good question,” I reply. “S'il-vous-plaît’s village doesn’t even exist anymore. And he’s been guarding that tomb for over a hundred years. The Troll Wars were about two hundred years ago. These days, the knights of Samular are still respected, but their order has greatly diminished. In fact, Summit Hall is the last keep that the knights still have.”

“Oh, Summit Hall!” gushes S'il-vous-plaît. “The happiest place in the world!” I tell them that S'il-vous-plaît starts singing some sort of Samular theme-song, and of course the kids help come up with some verses, “Sa-mu-LAR! Sa-mu-LAR! We are awe-some for-e-VAR!”

Surprisingly, Lady Ushien is the one who stops S'il-vous-plaît mid-song. “Sorry,” she says firmly. “That song tends to... get stuck in one’s head. Well, Folax, I am glad that you have found your friends. They are welcome to travel with us to Red Larch.” With that, the adventurers join the knights of Samular and the whole party continues the next day towards Red Larch.

Adventure Notes:
I originally tossed up the idea of keeping Folax separate from the party, and then having some dramatic event that brings them all together. But I eventually decided that it’ll be a lot easier DMing-wise if I kept everyone together.


--------------------

“Very few monsters are bold enough to attack a fully-armed contingent of knights, so the journey to Red Larch is pretty uneventful,” I tell Mummy and the kids. “It’s about mid-day by the time you guys all arrive back in Red Larch. There seems to have been some changes in town since you guys were here last. For one, the work to convert the underground tunnels under the street into underground streets is truly underway, with dwarves and humans digging out rubble and signs of construction everywhere. You guys notice that Ironhead’s second-hand weapons shop is closed. What do you guys want to do?”

Of course, throwing an obvious plot-hook about Ironhead’s closed shop isn’t incentive enough for the group to stick together. The group splits off, with Jojo heading off to see Kaylessa at the Swinging Sword Inn, Evan wandering to his make-shift lodgings at Landro’s tavern, while Mummy goes to check on her friend Meg.

So much for keeping them all together. Sighing, I start with Jojo. “I suppose you’re going to tell Kaylessa about what happened to her niece Savra and the Feathergale Knights?”

“Sav-who? Oh yeah, her! Oh shoot, I hate bringing bad news!”

However, when the dragonborn arrives at the Swinging Sword Inn, Kaylessa isn’t around. One of her staff tells Tempest that Kaylessa has gone on a trip to Waterdeep and will be back in a few days. Jojo says, “Whew! Oh well, I suppose I’ll go visit the tavern then.” And the dragonborn heads off to the Helm at Highsun tavern.

--------------------

Next, Evan. I tell him, “Folax gets to Landro’s tavern, and you’re surprised to see the place bustling with customers!”

“What the-!?” The gunslinger squeezes his way through the crowd of drinkers, and gets in the front room. He chases off a few people sitting on ‘his’ couch, and then hears a familiar voice calling from the back room. “HO! Folax! Is that you!?” The burly form of Ironhead emerges from the back. The old half-orc is wearing a dirty apron that might have passed as white in the long distant past.

“Ayyyee, Ironhead!” Evan and I mimic the gunslinger and the half-orc exchanging a couple of fist-bumps and low fives. “What are you doing here?”

Ironhead grunts. “Well, after Landro up-and-left this place, some of us were missing our old watering hole. So I decided it was time to shift from weapon-selling to bar-keeping and take over the tavern! You’re definitely still welcome back as the tavern bouncer; with all these customers, I need all the help I can get!”

As Folax thanks and congratulates Ironhead, the burly half-orc slaps his forehead. “Gah! Almost forgot! Hey, there’s someone in Landro’s back-back room. You know, the room with all that weird equipment? Says he’s looking for whoever uses the stuff. Since you’re here, maybe you can go talk to him because I know you and Landro had some special arrangement with all that stuff.”

Evan frowns. “Really?” The gunslinger cautiously enters the back room. I tell Evan, “You hear footsteps from the back-back room, and out emerges a dark-skinned, powerfully-built bald dude. He’s got a no-nonsense look, and what is most distinctive is a snake tattoo trailing down the top of his bald head.”

It seems that my character description intimidates Evan so much that he is somewhat speechless. The dark-skinned man stares at the gunslinger. He gestures with his thumb over his shoulder and speaks in a deep voice, “Is this equipment... yours?”

Adventure Notes:
You might recall from session 3 that Landro had made a ‘special arrangement’ with Folax that he could use the equipment in the back-back room to craft his musket balls. And if anyone comes around asking about the strange equipment, the gunslinger would claim that it belonged to him. I was gleefully building it all up to this point.


Evan squeaks, “Um, it’s Landro’s!”

So much for ‘honour among thieves’. The dark-skinned man narrows his eyes at the quaking gunslinger. “And where’s Landro?”

The gunslinger shakes his head. “Dunno!”

The dark-skinned man seems to consider this, and then says, “Do you know how to operate this equipment?”

Evan relaxes a bit and looks at me. “Do I?”

I shrug. “You’ve used some of it to make those musket balls of yours. As far as you know, the whole setup is like a mini-forge. Obviously, you don’t know what Landro uses it for.”

The gunslinger replies, “Um, yes?”

The man pulls out something from his belt and holds it up. “Can you make.. these?” I tell Evan that he sees a half-moon disc, about the size of one’s palm.

Evan astutely identifies it before I can even finish my description. “Waterdeep Harbour Moons!” I am pretty impressed as Evan proceeds to explain to Mummy and Jojo that this is the currency used in Waterdeep for trading. And of course, it all finally clicks in his head. “Landro makes fake Harbour Moons! He counterfeits coins!”

From gallery of TaleSpinner

Oooo! Pretty!

The man repeats his question, and Evan squares himself up. “Uh, yeah sure. Of course I know how to make these!” The dark-skinned man tells Folax that he will pay 500 gold for 100 Harbour moons. I tell Evan that in Waterdeep, a Harbour Moon is worth about 50 gold each. After some quick math, the gunslinger readily agrees and goes into the back-back room to fire up the mini-forge. “Time to make some money!”

I toss Evan a d20. “Time to make a roll, you mean. You can use either your Dexterity or Intelligence for this.”

Adventure Notes:
On hindsight, I should have given Evan an Inspiration for playing his Criminal background. And perhaps allow his Proficiency bonus for this roll given that he is somewhat proficient with Landro’s counterfeiting equipment. Ah well, hindsight is d20-d20, I suppose.


Evan blows on the die and rolls it. It comes up with a 10.

I tell Evan. “The dark-skinned man picks up one of your counterfeits. It.. sorta looks like a Waterdeep Harbour Moon? If you kinda squint at it with one eye shut. Or maybe even both eyes shut.” Unimpressed, the man places the coin down and growls at Evan. “I ask again - where is Landro!?”

When the gunslinger profusely denies any knowledge of where Landro is, the dark-skinned man calms down. “Very well,” he says. “If you do share with us any knowledge of Landro’s whereabouts, know that the Black Network will see that you are handsomely rewarded.” I tell Evan that all criminals know who the Black Network are; an evil criminal network belonging to the power-hungry nation of Zhentar.

Yeap, it was about time some of the major factions of Faerun start making an appearance in our campaign.

--------------------

Meanwhile, Mummy heads off to ‘Tarnlar’s’ clothing shop, and is happily greeted with a warm hug by Meg. “Serenity! I’m so glad to see you safe! How did your business trip to Feathergale Spire go? Oh wait, before I forget, there’s a message for you from your Guild in Neverwinter!”

“A message? From my guild?” says Mummy nervously. The aasimar wizard is somewhat apprehensive when she opens the sealed scroll addressed to her. I tell Mummy, “Your guild sends greetings and are glad to hear that you’ve arrived safely in Red Larch. And they say that they feel that there are plenty of business opportunities in the area, so they are instructing you to start a guild shop right here in Red Larch!”

Mummy says, “They want me to start a shop here? Thank goodness, I thought they were going to fire me because I didn’t secure any business from the Feathergale Knights!”

Meg is enthusiastic about the news. “That’s wonderful! Your guild is right about Red Larch, this place is perfect for new business start-ups!” Mummy and Meg discuss enthusiastically about having a travel clothing shop right next to a decorative armour shop, and the possible synergies.

Mummy says, “Hmm.. wasn’t there another person who sells armour in Red Larch?”

Meg rolls her eyes. “You mean Ironhead’s? That half-orc scoundrel is a sad excuse for a business-person! His shop is more like an iron junk thrift shop! In fact, I think he’s looking for a buyer for his shop ever since he’s taken over that seedy tavern down the street.”

“Interesting,” murmurs Mummy. “What about that lady who sells leather armour? Chan-something?”

“Chansryl? She sells mainly leather goods. Which does include some leather armour.”

Mummy says, “Maybe she will consider going into some sort of business-collaboration with me? I mean, her leather armour with my guild’s armour designs? It might work!”

Meg winces. “Well, I’ve known Chansryl for a while, and I must say that she’s a very... intense young woman.” But Mummy decides it’s worth a shot anyway, so they both send a boy (Meg’s youngest son) with a message to Chansryl to tee-up a meeting.

Adventure Notes:
And no, I didn’t expect Mummy’s business instincts to kick in here. I was happy to go along with the ride to see where this goes. You know, “Give the players what they want” and all that jazz.


So later, Mummy, Meg and Chansryl meet up at Chansryl’s leather goods shop. I get Mummy to present her business proposal to Chansryl, and I hand her a d20. “Let’s roll a Persuasion check, and see how this goes!”

Mummy rolls a 4.

Chansryl draws herself up airily. “I’m sorry, but I cannot allow the ‘Chansryl’ brand to become... diluted like this! Do you have any idea how much sweat and toil, how long I’ve worked to keep the brand pure for my customers!?”

Meg snorts. “You started last month!”

“Exactly!” declares the young woman. “The ‘Chansryl’ brand is in its infancy! It’s a newborn baby that needs to be nurtured!”

Sighing, Mummy thanks Chansryl for her time and heads off with Meg. “At least we informed her about me starting a business in Red Larch,” says Mummy. “It’ll make it less seem like I’m popping out from nowhere and competing with her.”

Next, the two ladies head off to Landro’s tavern to speak to Ironhead about buying his used weapons shop. Meg is a bit concerned about them being ‘two respectable ladies’ in a seedy establishment, but eventually the two business-women manage to get the befuddled half-orc to agree to sell his shop to them.

As they head back to Meg’s store, Meg agrees to go 50-50 with Mummy on the purchase of Ironhead’s shop. Mummy says, “Oh, Meg. Thanks for investing your hard-earned gold on my new business!”

Meg smiles, “Oh, I don’t invest in business. I invest in people.”

And that, gentlemen, is how you DM your wife.

--------------------

I tell Jojo, “You arrive at the Helm at Highsun, and while the usual crowd is there, you see Garl the bar-tender running around like a madman serving drinks and taking orders himself.” The dragonborn manages to stop the flustered bar-tender mid-stride, and Garl complains, “That lousy good-for-nothing beer-maker of mine Justran went off and disappeared! How am I supposed to run this place with one man short!?”

The kids recall that Justran is the guy who makes the beer for Garl, and serves ‘off’ beer to Folax because of some remark the gunslinger made about the beer being too weak. Tempest says, “Hmm.. disappeared you say? Is it okay if I go check his room? Maybe he left a note or something.” Garl waves Tempest through down the stairs into his basement.

I tell Jojo, “The basement has a workbench and some wooden vats for brewing beer. In the corner, some makeshift drapes cordon off a section that must be where Justran sleeps.” The dragonborn searches the mattress and the workbench but finds nothing of interest. Eventually, she finds a set of spare clothes belonging to Justran, and I tell her, “You find a hidden seam along one of the sleeves. It’s a secret pocket!” The dragonborn carefully opens the seams and finds a leaflet in the sleeve.

I describe the leaflet. “It’s made of waxed paper, and it is basically a message from the Crushing Wave Water Cult! It mentions a place called Riverguard Keep, and there are some instructions on how to form the Water Cult symbol using your fingers in order to greet other members of the cult.”

Adventure Notes:
The campaign book goes into detail on different hand-signs for the different cults. Sort of like a ‘secret handshake’. How cultic!


From gallery of TaleSpinner

Thanks to DasUberGamer for the excellent demonstration!

Jojo is impressed by the hand-sign. “I’m going to use this with everyone I meet, to see if they’re part of the Water Cult!” She heads upstairs to tell Garl about what she’d found. “Um, Garl? Look, I found evidence that Justran might be part of the evil Water Cult. He might be at this place called Riverguard Keep.”

Garl shakes his head. “The evil Water-what? Never heard of them! But Riverguard Keep? That’s the place east from here, next to the river.” I show everyone where the place is on the Dessarin Valley map.

Jojo says, “Well, thanks for that. Just to let you know, if I see Justran again, I might have to smite him. For being evil and all.”

Sunday, September 15, 2019

D&D 5e [Princes of the Apocalypse] Session 12: Sigh, another side-quest? No wonder it's called the Sighing Valley!

Characters:
Tempest, Blue Dragonborn Cleric Trickery-Domain (played by Jojo, 14yo)
Folax Huntreouss, Human Gunslinger (played by Evan, 12yo)
Serenity, Aasimar Wizard Divination-School (played by Mummy)


Warning: This adventure contains a lot of references and spoilers to the ‘Princes of the Apocalypse’ campaign. If you have yet to play through the campaign, be warned that you’re likely to come across the same stuff we did.

After several soul-searching days, Mummy finally decides on a name for her character! From here on, Mummy’s aasimar wizard is called ‘Serenity’; she wanted a name associated with ‘peace’ and it was also a nice tribute to the Firefly series.


I also asked the kids for a good name for the aarakocra who they rescued from Feathergale Spire, and Evan suggested ‘Kehaar’, which I thought was brilliant. Kehaar is the name of the verbally-abusive black-headed gull from the book ‘Watership Down’. I read that book to the kids some years back; if you ever wanted a kids story about anthropomorphised rabbits undergoing a survival adventure with the same level of paranoia as any decent zombie-flick, look no further!


Kehaar leads the small group of adventurers southwards into the Sighing Valley. At one point, the group flies over a bunch of opportunistic gnolls armed with bows, but after Folax blasts one of them right in the eye as it was attempting to aim an arrow at them, the rest scatter yippingly into the gloomy valley floor.

Eventually, they make it to Kehaar’s hideout, which looks like a series of large camouflaged nests up in the trees. There are five other aarakocra here, and after Kehaar makes introductions, the adventurers are invited to stay with them. They even find places for the hippogriff and the giant vulture to roost up in the trees.

“Wait a minute, dad!” says Jojo. “How do we know that Lord Thurl can’t track us here!? Maybe he can magically track the hippogriff or the vulture - I mean, they used to belong to the Feathergale knights, right?”

I flash her a rakish smile. “A tracking device? Not on this ship, sister!”


Jojo rolls her eyes, and proceeds to braid a leather collar with a spork pendant for her hippogriff. She makes another one for the giant vulture, but the brutish creature screeches menacingly at her and gulps down the collar. We conclude that the next time she tries to track the vulture, she’s either going to find it, or a pile of bird poop.

“Over the next day or two, you guys hide out with the aarakocra, but there is no sign of any Feathergale knights searching for you guys. The aarakocra all speak in low, serious tones except during meal-times when they devolve into a squawking mess, bickering like seagulls over chips.” The aarakocra tell the adventurers that they are here to 'find and destroy the source of the Elemental Evil Air', and they've heard rumours of an evil Prophetess of Air leading the air cultists. Mummy reasons that this must be the person who wants her wings.

The aarakocra have already scouted some parts of the Sighing Valley. So far, all they’ve discovered is Feathergale Spire (although the knights worship Yan-C-Bin, the Prince of Evil Air, the aarakocra insist that it is not the source of the evil). There’s also a griffon nest on a cliff-face to the west, where they’ve spotted a pair of mated griffons, likely guarding their nest of eggs.

“Griffons are fiercely protective over their eggs,” I tell them off-handedly. “Apparently, one griffon egg can is worth almost 2000 gold!” I should have anticipated what would happen next.

Evan sits up. “2000 gold? That’s a fortune! Hey, Jojo, let’s get those eggs!”

Jojo says, “I’m not going to steal eggs from a griffon’s nest! If you want to go get yourself killed, go by yourself!’

And so, going against all conventional wisdom, the gunslinger decides to raid the griffon’s nest all by himself. He borrows the ‘wing-suit’ from Tempest, and early the next morning while everyone’s asleep, he sneaks off and rides his vulture west towards the griffon’s nest.

I tell Evan, “The craggy cave entrance to the griffon’s nest is located on the side of a cliff-face. It’s a hard climb up or down to get to it.”

After some thought, Evan says, “Okay, I’m going to fly high above the nest, and then jump off the vulture. I’ll activate the wing-suit and glide down towards the entrance!” I get him to make a couple of Dexterity and Stealth rolls, and the gunslinger succeeds in gliding unnoticed to the cliff-face above the cave entrance. He cautiously pokes his head down to check, but I tell him that he sees nothing but gloom, although there’s a definite animal smell coming out from the cave.

The gunslinger carefully climbs down into the cave entrance. “Some ways in, you can see a large pile of sticks and branches. You’ll have to get closer to have a look inside.” I get him to roll more Stealth rolls, and make a few mysterious rolls of my own. It always gets the kids on the edge when I do that.

Folax creeps deeper into the cave, and gets right up to the pile of sticks and branches. “You peek over and see a griffon! It is currently snoozing with its legs tucked under it.”

“You mean, like a cat in the loaf position?” asks Jojo. “I love it when cats do that!”


Cat Loaf position. And yes, the expression is spot on with the griffon!

I nod affirmatively. Evan thinks some more, and then says, “It’s probably sitting on the eggs. I’ll wait for it to move.” So the gunslinger waits for about ten minutes before I tell him, “You hear a flapping noise at the cave entrance!”

“Oh no! Its mate is coming back!” hoots Jojo in sisterly evil glee.

I roll a few more mysterious rolls and say, “Yes, another griffon has turned up at the entrance! It doesn’t seem to have noticed you inside the cave, mainly because it seems preoccupied with carrying something in its beak and claws. It looks like a dead horse, still with a saddle and bulging packs!”

I look at Evan who shrugs, “I’ll stay hidden. See if the first griffon moves.”

The griffon carrying the horse is having difficulty pulling the dead horse into the cave, mainly because of the bulging packs on the horse’s saddle. The griffon sitting in the loaf position slits its eyes open and gives the struggling griffon at the entrance the universal look females give to males trying to perform something the female finds utterly idiotic. Eventually, it gets up with a grunt and goes to help its mate pull the dead horse in by first removing the bulging saddle packs.

Evan says, “Okay, it moved! I’ll carefully grab a griffon egg!” The gunslinger peeks into the nest, and sees two beautiful shimmery toaster-sized griffon eggs. “Just two? Oh. I thought that there would be a lot more of them, and they wouldn’t miss one!” Committed now, the gunslinger reaches in and picks up one of the eggs.

At this point, one of my mysterious rolls comes up with a decent number. I tell Evan, “As you step back, there is the tiniest snap of a twig, and the griffons immediately look up and see you! Griffons have high Perception, but I’ve been rolling like crap for them all this while!” With a squawking roar, the male griffon charges at the gunslinger!

Evan says, “I fire my Wand of Magic Missiles!” The few magical bolts lance out and hit the charging creature, but it only infuriates it further! I roll for its claw and beak attacks, and when I announce the total damage, Evan looks aghast, “I’m DEAD!”

I tell him, “The last thing you see is the griffon’s beak slashing down at you, and then everything goes white!”

------------------

Meanwhile back in the aarakocra hideout, the others have woken up to find Folax and his vulture missing. The aarakocra have planned to do further scouting today, and Tempest and Serenity agree to help them. So Kehaar, the dragonborn and the aasimar form one scouting party and decide to head eastwards, while three other aarakocra head north-east. Two more stay behind to wait and see if the gunslinger turns up.

I tell Mummy and Jojo, “Kehaar leads you guys eastwards, and you can see that this part of the Sighing Valley is quite dangerous. At one point, you guys hide in the trees above while a pack of snarling hyenas and gnolls chase something through the forest below. Eventually, you guys reach the eastern-most end of the valley.”

I tell Jojo to roll a Perception check, and she rolls well. “There doesn’t seem to be anything here, but then you notice something half-hidden in the ground. You scrape a bit, and find a skull!”

“What type of skull is it? An animal skull, or a human?” Jojo makes an excellent Intelligence roll, and I tell her, “Of course, you know what creature’s skull this is! The lower protruding jaw,.. small forehead. It’s an orc skull!”

“Hmm… orcs.” As the dragonborn and the rest search, they find more bits of orc bones and skulls lying around. There is a trail of bone bits leading into the bushes which they follow. Eventually, the group comes to a cave entrance.

“Another griffon’s nest?” ponders Jojo. After a brief discussion, the group sends forward Mummy’s weasel familiar to check it out. The little creature scampers up to the cave and peers in. “Mummy sees through her weasel’s eyes, and she sees a gloomy cave littered with bones and bits of weapons and armour. Pacing around inside is a female manticore muttering to herself.

“Maybe the mate to the other manticore we killed the other night,” they consider. Eventually, they decide that they should leave it alone as fighting manticores wasn’t their primary objective.

“Mummy, you also see a stack of crates in the middle of the cave!” I elaborate. “It looks like cargo loot!” But Jojo and Mummy show considerably more restraint than their absent gunslinging companion, and decide to head back to the aarakocra hideout to report their findings.

“You guys arrive safely back at the aarakocra hideout. The two aarakocra who stayed behind reports that Folax’s vulture returned by itself without the gunslinger! And later, the other group which went north-east returns and reports that they found a narrow canyon entrance, where they spotted a few Feathergale knights going in. The aarakocra reason that this is likely where the source of Elemental Evil Air might be.”

Kehaar asks the adventurers if they will help them explore the canyon, but Tempest shakes her head. “I think we should go find what happened to Folax first,” Jojo says. “I cast Locate Object to see where Folax is.”

I ask, “Did you give him a spork? I don’t remember that!”

Evan says, “Of course she did! When we were back in Red Larch, she gave out sporks to everyone! In fact, I stuck mine on my helmet like a spork aerial!”

I shrug, and tell Jojo that she traces the magic rune for Locate Object in front of her (which looks like the ‘Find Friends’ app icon) detects that Evan’s spork is travelling southwards from where they are. This mystifies them, until Mummy says, “It’s probably inside the griffon after it ate Folax!”

-------------------

Over the next few days, Evan would bug me about whether Folax is dead. And I’d smirk and reply, “Maybe.” Evan starts considering if he needs to start a new character, and one night after dinner, I finally ask him in front of Mummy and Jojo, “So, do you want to know what happened to Folax?”

“Yes, please!”

“Well,” I drawl. “First, you need to tell me. How.. religious is Folax?”

Evan winces. “Uh, not very, I think.”

“Oh, I see,” I nod contemplatively. “Well, in Faerun, there are many gods of all sorts. There’s a god of nature, a god of murder, etc. In fact, whether you have a great afterlife all depends on what type of character were you, and where you find yourself when you wake up. Like, if you were an assassin who died and woke up in the halls of the Bhaal the god of murder, you’ll know that you’re going to have a great afterlife, compared to if you woke up in the halls of a god or goddess belonging to the Life Domain!”

Evan says, “Okay, so where do I wake up? In the hall of the god of thieves?”

I say, “Well, not exactly. The first thing you see when you regain consciousness is a symbol floating above you. You feel pain all over! And you recognise this symbol.” I lean closer. “It’s the symbol. Of a warhammer and a pair of scales above it. In fact, you know this symbol because you are usually in jail when you see it. This is the symbol of Tyr, the god of Justice!”


Tyr, God of Justice!

Jojo and Mummy burst out laughing while Evan covers his face. “Arrgh! I’m SO DEAD!”

After a while, I tell him, “You suddenly realise that you’re moving, like along a bumpy road. As you regain more wakefulness, you realise that you’re in a covered wagon, and the symbol of Tyr is painted on the canvas ceiling.” The gunslinger looks around but it hurts to move.

Just then, the canvas door leading to the driver’s seat of the wagon flaps open and a woman peers in. I tell Evan that the woman is wearing full plate armour, and has a stern but fair face. She sees Folax and says, “I thought I heard you stirring back there. I am Lady Ushien Stormbanner of the Knights of Samular. And you are very lucky to be alive.”

“The egg,” croaks Folax. “Do I still have the egg?”

Evan blanches when I tell him 'No'. Lady Ushien looks at him critically. “Why would anyone want to take a griffon’s egg? We were trying to retrieve the saddle bags of the horse that griffon carried off, and when we got to the nest, we found you facing off two griffons at once! And then, just as the griffon was going to skewer you with its beak, there was a blinding flash! We think it must have been this thing you were holding - the griffon must have broken it when it attacked. You’re lucky that the flash blinded the griffons long enough for us to drag you and the saddle bags out of there!” And she holds up the broken remains of the Wand of Magic Missiles.

Adventure Notes:

I follow the very inadvisable adage while DMing of ‘when in doubt, roll a random encounter’. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it just creates more work! This session, I did not expect Folax to run off griffon egg-stealing on his own, and while I wanted to grant him a very (very) small chance of success, I also wanted to ensure that there was some twist to get him out of that mess. So while he was waiting for the female griffon to move, I rolled on the Random Encounters chart in the campaign book, and it gave me ‘Knights of Samular’. I took that as a lead, and made the male griffon turn up carrying the dead horse belonging to a knight of Samular. All in all, I’m quite happy with the way things turned out, because it gave me the opportunity to introduce another faction of the Dessarin Valley to everyone.

I’d never even heard of the Knights of Samular, and I needed to do some research on them beforehand, hence why it took a couple of days before I could tell Evan what had happened to Folax. And yes, I felt it was fair to destroy the Wand of Magic Missiles as a sort of penalty instead of outright death. This time round. devil

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

How to run an Awesome KKCon 2019

Thanks everyone again for an awesome KKCon! I had a fantastic time, and it really gives me and Cynthia a buzz to see so many people playing games and having a great time! One might ask ‘how do you run an awesome KKCon?’. Well, I’m glad you asked, pseudo-person who sounds just like that voice in my head! Here are the fool-proof steps for doing just that!

1. Have keen friends who turn up early and leave late! 



I used to worry about starting KKCon too early, but I’ve figured out now that some people turn up early and leave early, and some people turn up late and leave late. And then there’s these guys who turn up early AND leave late. So kudos to Steve, Ben and Joe!

2. Have a trustworthy Raffle Guy! 



This year, I left the running of the raffle to a trustworthy Raffle Guy! Evan collected the funds, prepared tickets, ignored bribes and was generally the best Raffle Guy I’ve ever coerced into the job! Well done, boy!

3. Have a Looping Louie “Doubles” Tournament! 



This was the highlight of the day for me! Looping Louie “Doubles” was an idea which came up a couple of years ago, and I wasn’t sure how well it would work. Needless to say, it was AMAZING! I had such a buzz from seeing everyone really getting into the tournament. Congratulations to Evan and Jonathan who won the tournament this year! That “back-slash” move that they came up with is truly fearsome! And thanks to my beautiful Jojo who organised the matches! Great work, girl!

4. Have an awesome game-themed cake!



The cake this year was based off “Marrakech”, which is a board game about earning money by building carpets. It starts off docile enough, but by the last few turns, it becomes a pretty cut-throat affair as players lay down their carpets to cover up other carpets. I must say that this is the only game I know that uses bits of felt carpets as a game mechanic - and it works!

As mentioned during my speech, the game has some special significance to Cynthia and me. Early in the year, Cynthia had a rough start with her vision impairment, and for a couple of months, we didn’t feel like playing any games. But after her eyesight recovered well enough to recognise colours, I picked up this colourful game as this first game to play!

5. Have a Cheese & Bacon Cob. Made by Maureen!



This is essential. Apparently, a portion of attendees were there strictly for Maureen’s Party Cob, which was (as expected) made to perfection! Thanks Maureen for preparing not one, but two cobs for the con!

6. Have a good cause to donate Raffle money to! 



Contrary to popular belief, the money raised in the KKCon raffle does not go to the ‘KK Board Game Fund’! We’ve been supporting 'Restore India' for years, and this year, we were pleased to tell them that we raised $871.05! I believe this beats last year ($800), so many thanks to everyone’s generosity!

7. Have a cool Fridge Magnet Gift! 



This year’s door gift is based off Blokus, which seems to be a big hit amongst the board gamers at work. So much so that it apparently takes about 45 mins to play now because everyone is busy calculating and re-calculating their best moves. Fast to learn, slow to master - and there seems to be more masters of this game at work nowadays!

8. Invite lots and lots of awesome attendees! 


Surely it makes sense that if a gaming con is only as great as its attendees, then an AWESOME gaming con must have AWESOME attendees! Thank you all for being awesome attendees to KKCon this year!

See all photos of KKCon 2019 here.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

D&D 5e [Princes of the Apocalypse] Session 11: You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!

Characters:
Tempest, Blue Dragonborn Cleric Trickery-Domain (played by Jojo, 14yo)
Folax Huntreouss, Human Gunslinger (played by Evan, 12yo)
To-be-named, Aasimar Wizard Divination-School (played by Mummy)


Warning: This adventure contains a lot of references and spoilers to the ‘Princes of the Apocalypse’ campaign. If you have yet to play through the campaign, be warned that you’re likely to come across the same stuff we did.

We took a break from D&D for a couple of weeks, but it was interesting to see conversations about our campaign pop-up here and there during that time. Mummy mentioned that she was surprised how captivated she was by the story so far, and she’s made suggestions to the kids on how she might leverage off her “adoring Feathergale knight fans”. And Jojo drew up some sketches of her character:




After settling everyone down for our next session, I show the group the full map of Feathergale Spire as an encouragement to explore it.

I tell them, “Okay, it’s still the night when you guys killed that manticore for Lord Thurl. The Feathergale knights are enamoured by Mummy and her wings, and Lord Thurl allocates rooms for you all. Are you all sleeping in separate rooms?”

Evan declares, “I’m sleeping in my wagon! I’m not letting it out of my sight!” With that, Mummy and Jojo decide that they should share a single room.

I tell them, “Everyone in the spire settles down, with the knights in their chambers and the spire staff all sleeping communally in the feasting hall near the big fireplaces.” I turn tol Evan, “Roll a d20!” Evan rolls a 16. “In the early hours of the morning, you are suddenly awakened in your wagon by the sound of the drawbridge being lowered!”

Evan complains, “That was a Perception roll? Gah, I wish I failed it and continued sleeping!” Now that he was awake, the gunslinger peeks out from his wagon to see the drawbridge come fully down, and a group of Feathergale knights coming in. Two in front seem to be escorting a prisoner between them, while another two carry a large blocky chest sealed with iron clasps. “The prisoner is dressed in leathers and is quite rough-looking. And the chest that is being carried looks like it’s dripping wet.”

I describe how the knights quickly pass the parked wagon and bring their prisoner and chest up the spiral stairway. “Just as they start going up, the chest gives a sudden jolt! The knights carrying it swear a bit but they continue to carry it upstairs.”

I look at Evan who shrugs. “Meh, I’m going back to sleep.” And he does.

I get Mummy and Jojo to make Perception rolls as well, and when Jojo succeeds, she wakes Mummy up. “There’s a sound of a group of people heading up the stairs next to your bedroom. What do you want to do?”

Mummy says, “I’ll send my ferret to follow them.”

I frown, “Ferret? I thought it was a weasel?”

“Really? Wasn’t it a ferret?”

After several magical switches between ferret and weasel, a very mustelid-confused weasel follows the knights as they ascend all the way to the top of the Spire. “Mummy, you recognise this prisoner! He’s one of the guys you saw in that clearing when you guys were travelling to Feathergale Spire!”

Jojo nods, “Oh, the knights found the water cultists after all!”

It’s still several hours to dawn, and sky is still dark. However, the top of the spire has a group of knights gathered there, and torches flickering in the wind. Lord Thurl is there and he is presented with the prisoner. He tsks, “Well, what brings the Crushing Wave cult into our domain, hmm? Perhaps you have forgotten the penalty of violating our territory?”

The prisoner looks sullen, “I’m not saying anything. You’re going to kill me anyway!”

Lord Thurl smiles, “Yes, you are quite right.” He motions to a knight next to him, and it’s the same young teenage boy whom Mummy rescued. “It’s time for you to prove you are truly a knight of the air.” He hands the boy a ritual knife. I describe how the prisoner is pushed to the edge of the spire, and a symbol is carved into his chest before they throw him off. As the prisoner falls into the mist below, something large flies by and snaps him up.

A knight asks Lord Thurl, “So what do you want us to do with the Fathomer in the chest?” The chest gives another jolt, and a few drops of water jump off. Lord Thurl stifles a yawn, “It’s late. Put the Fathomer into a holding cell. I’ll see him tomorrow.” With that, the knights carry the dripping chest down one level, and Mummy’s weasel observes them bringing it into a chamber. A knight is posted outside the room as a guard. Mummy dismisses her familiar as the rest of the knights file down the stairway.

The next morning, the adventurers meet up at the wagon. Tempest says, “Okay, I was going to prepare my Detect Good and Evil spell, but after last night, I think these guys are definitely evil!”

Mummy says, “I still have to do my sales pitch to them. Besides, I don’t think we’re in any danger while they are still enchanted by my wings.” She gives them a slight flutter.

Folax says, “Well, I want to check on my vulture!” The adventurers go down to the stables, and the giant vulture screeches when it recognises Folax.

I tell them, “There seems to be several knights here minding their hippogriffs. One of the stables is empty, its side doors open to the sky. As you guys watch, you see a figure fly in through the open side doors! The figure is wearing some sort of wing-suit with flaps between the arms and legs. It does a neat somersault and lands next to you guys!”

The figure takes off its helmet, and the adventurers recognise Savra, Kaylessa’s niece. “What a glorious morning to fly!” the girl exclaims. “Have you tried our wingwear suits? You really must!” She beckons the adventurers to follow her up the stairs. Mummy and Tempest follow her, while Folax tries to feed the vulture and take it out for a morning flight.

Savra leads them right up to the top of Feathergale Spire. “You guys see a few knights up here putting on those suits that Savra is currently wearing. She gets a spare one and hands it to Tempest.”

Jojo says, “Aw geez. She wants to me put it on and try flying!” With some encouragement from Mummy, Tempest eventually puts on the wingwear suit and stands at the edge of the spire. “They probably sabotaged it to kill me!”

Mummy says, “I’ll fly with you, just in case.” With that, the aasimar wizard and wingwear-clad dragonborn launch themselves off the edge of the spire. I describe how exhilarating it was to fly over the morning mist of the nearby valley. Folax joins them as well, riding his giant vulture.


“Well, you guys can actually explore the valley a bit, if you want. Or do you want to head back into the spire?” After a cursory flight around the spire, they decide to head back in, much to my disappointment. Ah well, encounters in the Sighing Valley will have to wait.

They land in the stables level of the spire, and a knight greets Mummy. “Lord Thurl wishes to see what sort of decorative armour can your guild supply.” Mummy tells him that she can do her presentation right here in the stables. While Lord Thurl and the knights gather for Mummy’s sales pitch, Tempest and Folax decide that they are going to try to sneak into the ‘holding cell’ chamber to check out that chest containing the Fathomer.

I get Mummy to start off her presentation to Lord Thurl, and she does so with a flourish. Using her Minor Illusion spell, the aasimar wizard shows off examples of hippogriff armour on a real hippogriff. “And my guild can even change the colour, or design-patterns on the sides of the hippogriff. What colour or patterns would you prefer?” Lord Thurl seems overwhelmed by the options (“This is all so HARD!”) while his knights excitedly call out suggestions in the background.

Meanwhile, Tempest casts ‘Pass without Trace’ and she and Folax sneak up to the level where ‘holding cell’ chamber is. “There’s a single knight guarding the door, but he looks like he’s having a doze while leaning against the wall.” Tempest decides to cast “Deafness” on him, and when he doesn’t wake up from his doze, the two adventurers sneak past him into the chamber.

I tell them, “Still dripping wet, you see the latched chest on one side of the chamber. However, you also see that there’s someone else in this chamber!” I pull open the Monster Manual, and show them this:


“It’s an aarakocra, a humanoid being with a bird’s head and wings! And he’s chained to the wall on the other side of the chamber!” The aarakocra regards them curiously, his bird head cocked to one side.

Jojo says, “Um, Hi? Don’t mind us; we’re just here to see the chest. Can you understand me?”

I tell them, “The aarakocra speaks in a low, serious voice, ‘If you are not part of the air cult, free me.’”

The kids discuss this, and Jojo replies, “Yeah, well, do you know what’s inside this chest?”

The aarakocra answers, “I wouldn’t open it if I were you. It contains a Fathomer, a powerful water cultist with blue skin who can turn himself in a water serpent. Water cultists are as evil as air cultists who worship Yan-C-Bin, the air prince of elemental evil. If you truly are not part of the air cult, I strongly suggest you free me and we escape this spire. The air cultists are never going to let you leave unless you join them!”

Meanwhile, downstairs at the sales presentation, I tell Mummy that Lord Thurl is interrupted by one of his knights who whispers something into his ear. “Apologies, my lady,” says Lord Thurl. “But we will have to pause the presentation for now. I have an urgent summons. Let’s break for now.” With that, Lord Thurl goes up the stairs towards the level where Tempest and Folax are. There’s a moment of panic among them as Mummy scours her spell list to see if there’s anything she can use to delay Lord Thurl. Out of desperation, Mummy says, “I’ll send my weasel familiar to stop Lord Thurl!”

“How’s it going to do that!? Hug his ankles!?”

In the end, her weasel familiar scurries after Lord Thurl. Mummy sits at a table while listening through her familiar’s ears.

I tell them that Lord Thurl goes up to the same level where Tempest and Folax are, but instead of going to the holding cell chamber, he enters his own chambers which is next door. Mummy’s weasel scurries up to the chamber door and listens. “You can hear Lord Thurl speaking to someone else. There seems to be a thrum of magic. A woman’s voice asks, ‘So, I hear that you have some interesting visitors at the spire.’ Lord Thurl affirms this, and the woman’s voice continues, ‘And one of them has wings? Real wings? Are they as pretty as mine?’ Lord Thurl gives some response, and the woman replies, ‘I want you to bring her to me. Perhaps Yan-C-Bin will grant me her wings, for my own!’”

Mummy looks horrified. “That woman wants my wings!?”

Jojo says to me, “Dad, you took this plot straight from ‘Malificient’, didn’t you!?”


I shrug innocently. “While Mummy is sitting at her table looking unsettled, a knight sits next to her and enthusiastically starts giving her design suggestions. Mummy can’t hear a word he’s saying because she’s still listening through her weasel’s ears, and just nods politely.”

The group unanimously decides, “Okay, I think it’s time to get out of here!” They free the aarakocra who thanks them and says, “We need a diversion before we can flee from this spire.” After an intense discussion of various escape plans, the group decides that the key to their diversion will be to release the Fathomer. I’m not exactly sure of the logic of their plan, but in the end, it was decided that Tempest will carry the chest containing the Fathomer downstairs a few levels, and meet Mummy at the stables before releasing the Fathomer. During the diversion, Folax and the aarakocra will come out and head upstairs to the top of the spire where the aarakocra will fly Folax down to the stables level where Folax can collect his vulture.

So the dragonborn cleric heaves the chest by herself past the snoozing guard (who is still deaf). She grabs the weasel familiar outside Lord Thurl’s door and speaks into it like a microphone, “Hello? I’m coming down to get you. We’re getting out of here, roger that?” before dumping the poor creature.

I tell Jojo, “And then, you suddenly see it.”

Jojo narrows her eyes. “See what?”

I say, “Next to Lord Thurl’s chamber door, you see a breakfast tray. On the tray, is a golden spork!” Jojo actually anguishes for a full minute before deciding to ignore the spork and continue to lug the chest downstairs. Pity, I would have awarded her an Inspiration for trying to take it.

The dragonborn cleric meets another knight coming up, and a good story about ‘hippogriff food’ and a favourable Deception roll has the knight actually helping the dragonborn to carry the chest downstairs. Once they place the chest down and the helpful knight heads off, the dragonborn casts Invoke Duplicity to create a duplicate of herself standing next to the chest. Then she goes down to the stables and meets Mummy. “I cast Thaumaturgy from my duplicate to open the chest latch and then shout ‘Help! He’s out! Help!’!”

I roleplay a little scene where Tempest’s duplicate is shouting for help, and several puzzled-looking knights turn up to see what the matter is. After several embarrassing moments, the chest finally bursts open, and an angry blue-skinned Fathomer emerges from it. “Knights are now yelling and everyone seems distracted by the fight on the level with the Fathomer!” On cue, Folax and the aarakocra come out of their chamber (going past the snoozing knight who is still deaf) and head upstairs, swiping the golden spork as they pass. Then the aarakocra flies Folax down to the stables level of the spire to meet up with Tempest and Mummy. Finally, the adventurers leave the spire, with Tempest on a hippogriff, Folax on his vulture, Mummy and the aarakocra flying with their own wings.

“Wait a minute! What about my wagon!?” asks Evan.

“Ah right, the wagon,” I say. “Sometime during the chaos of the fight, someone trips a hidden switch which activates the large wooden eagle suspended above the main entrance hall where the wagon is parked. The wooden eagle is actually a battering ram trap, and it swings down and smashes the wagon right through the spire’s drawbridge, leaving a wagon-shaped hole! Thankfully, Mervus the horse isn’t still tethered to it!”

To the astonishment of the adventurers, they witness the wagon smash through the spire’s drawbridge and sail clumsily in the air before it falls to the canyon below. Folax and Tempest dive their mounts and manage to catch the wagon before it hits the ground. With the wagon clutched between them, the flying group follows the aarakocra who leads them southwards in the Sighing Valley.

Adventure Notes:
That group of water cultists from last session actually came in handy. Weaving random events into a coherent story is a special joy to me.

By showing them the map of Feathergale Spire, I was hoping that the group would take time to explore the spire’s rooms, but it seems like they were more focused on particular goals, like checking out that chest with the Fathomer. The 'holding cell' chamber doesn't actually exist in the actual map, but I needed a place to hold prisoners in the Spire, and for some reason, the Feathergale knights don't have one. Perhaps they prefer to throw their prisoners off the spire rather than keep them!

I’m just going to keep using Folax’s wagon for comedic effect. Let’s see how battered we can get this wagon to be!