Tuesday, May 21, 2019

D&D 5e [Princes of the Apocalypse] Session 4: Awesome Random Treasure, Dodgy Wagon Dealers and Specter Swords, oh my!

Tempest, Blue Dragonborn Cleric Trickery-Domain (played by Jojo, 14yo)
Folax Huntreouss, Human Gunslinger (played by Evan, 12yo)

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:
In the previous session, after the fight with the half-ogre and goblin, the adventurers follow a trail to an untidy campsite where the two monsters were staying. I wasn’t too sure if the monsters had specific treasure that they had stolen from ambushing other explorers exiting the tomb, especially since the campaign book had specifically named them both 'Geeraugh' and 'Mougra'. So I told the kids that I’d double-check the campaign book and let them know this session.

“So guys, I couldn’t find any specific types of treasure that the half-ogre and goblin had, so you will have to roll up on this Random Treasure Hoard chart.” I show the kids the CR 0-4 Random Treasure Hoard Chart in the DM Guide, and hand them some dice. Jojo rolls up a decent stash of coins on the d6s, while Evan tries his luck on the percentile d10s for some treasure items. He rolls this:

Jojo is aghast. “EVAN! You rolled a ZERO!”

“No, he hasn’t,” I say. “That’s a hundred!”

“What!? What if he rolled a 00 and a 1?”

“Well, that’s a one. Look, just trust me on this, 00 and 0 is a hundred!”

Somewhat half-convinced, but still very excited, the kids wait as I flip the DM guide to the appropriate Treasure Table. Personally, I was expecting the treasure hoard to have a couple of potions or two, but now it looks like Geeraugh and Mougra had something pretty decent stashed away in their camp. Jojo rolls the dice, and I find the treasure reference. Hmmm, interesting.

“Aside from the coins, you find a carefully wrapped bundle. Obviously, these two monsters thought that this was something pretty valuable! You open the bundle, and find a belt with a very large buckle!”

“You mean like, something out from WWE?”

“You know, what? Exactly like something out from WWE!”

Any time, any place! I'm taking you down!

Evan immediately decides that he’s putting it on, despite protests from his sister that it might be cursed. I tell him, “You feel… stronger?”

Jojo declares. “I punch him!” The dragonborn cleric jabs the gunslinger in the kidneys. I tell them, “I said stronger, not more endurance!” as the gunslinger doubles over in pain.

After some threats to punch Jojo back, the kids finally decide that Evan should try punching a small nearby tree. I tell them that Folax knocks the tree out from the ground and it slides about 10 feet away!

Mouths agape in undisguised glee, I explain to the kids that they’ve found a Belt of Hill Giant Strength, which sets Folax’s Strength to a cool 21. With a +5 Strength modifier, it looks like the gunslinger has suddenly become melee-type brawler.

The kids decide to go back into the tomb to check on S'il-vous-plaît (“LEAVE THIS PL-Oh, it’s you guys.”) and after promising to come visit occasionally, the adventurers head back to town.

“A couple more days pass. Evan, your gunslinger uses his new-found strength to really impress the regulars at Landro’s tavern with his bouncer work. One night, Landro tells you, ‘Hey-a, I’m having some of the guys over for a card game tonight. Want to join in?’”

“Um, yeah sure. What game are you playing?”

“Maybe it’s D&D!” laughs Jojo. “Oooo.. paradox!”

“It’s a card game,” I tell them. “Anyway, there’s gambling involved, so how much do you want to spend?”

As Evan decides how much gold he’s spending, I tell him that the other players are Landro, Greenie the shepherd, an old half-orc named Ironhead, and a halfling named Stan. They seem like regular players, and Landro deals Folax in. “This card game is called ‘Three Dragon Ante’. It’s like D&D poker, but the funny thing is that dragons detest the game and think it’s insulting. In fact, it’s a joke that while you can find anything in a dragon’s hoard, you’ll never find a deck of Three Dragon Ante!” I tell him that he can try playing normally by rolling an Insight, Perception or Deception roll. I look at him slyly. “Or... you can try cheating by rolling a Sleight-of-Hand roll!”

Evan decides to play normally (this time!) and rolls a decent Insight roll. I roll some d20s and announce that Landro wins the game (“Of course Landro wins!”), with Folax coming in second. “During the game, Stan the halfling keeps drinking and complaining about his boss. The halfling works in a place that fixes and sells wagons. You’ve seen the place - ‘Waelvur’s Wagonworks’. There are two places which sell wagons in Red Larch, the first being ‘Thelorn’s Safe Journeys’ which is a great place for quality, reliable wagons. And then down the street, there’s Waelvur’s.” I lift a hand and do a so-so motion. “It’s more like a seedy second-hand wagon dealership. Some of the wagons sold here tend to come back. On three wheels.”

In our campaign, Waelvur looks like Mr Wormwood the used car salesman from ‘Matilda’.

The gunslinger leans over, looking interested. “So what’s up with your boss?”

Stan snorts. “Waelvur is acting really dubious these days. He won’t let anyone into the place after sundown, but a few times last week, I saw him sneaking in some people in hoods through the sidedoor! I think he’s up to something dodgy!”

Landro laughs, “You’re in Landro’s, and you’re worried about something dodgy!?” Everyone laughs heartily, including Folax. Ironhead the half-orc chats a bit to Folax about his current weapons. “Ironhead is an aged, balding, somewhat paunchy half-orc. He’s surprisingly pretty chill for a half-orc. Normally, half-orcs are really hot-tempered, but Ironhead looks like he’s had enough of fights and brawls, and he’s happy just to enjoy life as it comes. Anyway, Ironhead runs a weapons and armour store in town.”

The old half-orc grunts at Folax’s rifle. “Ranged is fine, but if you really want to wade into battle, melee is where all the action is! Stop by my shop, and I’ll fix you up with some decent melee weapons!” The gunslinger decides to do that in the morning.

Meanwhile, Jojo’s dragonborn cleric spends most of her time in the inn. I tell Jojo, “So as a cleric, normally you have some sort of daily ritual that you need to do in order to re-charge your spells. What sort of ritual does Tempest do?”

Jojo replies, “I sit and meditate on the floor. Oh! In a circle of sporks!”

“Ooo-kay. Anyway, there’s this building here next to the Swinging Sword that you pass by every day. You sort of know what it is - it’s the All-Faith’s Shrine. Most of the major temples in the big cities send a pair of clerics here on a ‘tour of duty’ to maintain the shrine. Anyway, you’ve observed the two clerics stationed here; one is a buff bald guy with a bushy beard who is a cleric of Tempus (a war god), and the other is a beautiful, tall red-head who is a cleric of Sune (the goddess of beauty).”

“Oh,” says Jojo doubtfully. “I don’t think my character would mix with either one of those!”

As the dragonborn cleric observes the simple stone shrine with stone block benches that serve as pews, I tell her that the cleric of Sune sees her and approaches. “She’s got a head of flowing red hair, and is wearing a gown that mum and dad will never let you out in!”

“Hi there,” greets the red-headed cleric of Sune. “I’m Lymmura of Sune! I’ve heard about you, and it’s such a pleasure to meet another cleric!”

“Um, I act really uncomfortably. ‘Hi. Yes. Bye?’”

There’s a smashing sound, and they both look to see the cleric of Tempus using a warhammer to bash a practice dummy set up in the shrine. “He’s practising for his next sermon,” gesticulates the cleric of Sune, “I’m decorating the shrine pillars with these flower garlands. I think beauty has such an important role to play in the world, don’t you think? I spent hours this morning picking these flowers. After hours doing up my hair, of course.”

Jojo rolls her eyes. “Yeah, of course. I wouldn’t really know. Because I have scales. You know.”

Lymmura gasps airily. “Oh my, what a beautiful shade of blue! May I touch them?”

The dragonborn steps back from the cleric’s hand. “Whoa-whoa! These scales? No touching, okay!?”

I tell Jojo, “Suddenly, Lymmura’s eyes widen with shock, and she gives a frightened scream at something behind you! You turn, and see the Ghost Bear Lady! And behind her is the big, black bear!”

“Ghost Bear Lady!” greets Tempest happily. I tell Jojo that she has no idea how the Ghost Bear Lady got herself (and the bear!) into the middle of town without being noticed. The black bear starts eating the flower garlands, much to the dismay of the cleric of Sune.

Ghost Bear Lady nods at Tempest. “The dreams are becoming more frequent of late. The elemental evil is stirring. And you and your companion are involved somehow.”

“I don’t die in your dreams, do I?”

I tell Jojo, “The Ghost Bear Lady starts to answer, then frowns, then ponders for a while before replying, ‘Dreams are hard to recall. Probably not. Maybe?’”


The Ghost Bear Lady changes the subject by asking Tempest what she’s been up to lately. The dragonborn cleric relates the events of the past week, and asks if she knows how to get a friendly specter out from its tomb. I tell Jojo, “The Ghost Bear Lady replies that she knows little of such matters, and perhaps you should ask a person who has more experience with the undead. With that, she bids you farewell and good luck, and departs with the black bear following-”

“Oh wait! Before you go, can I pet your bear!?”

The Ghost Bear Lady shrugs. “He’s not my bear. Ask him yourself.”

Tempest approaches the bear (which is still munching on left-over flower garlands) and I get Jojo to roll a d20. She rolls badly. “You reach out a tentative hand, and the bear gives you a low warning growl. You wisely retract your hand as the bear wanders off.”

Tempest hears people coming, and sees the cleric of Tempus (with a resigned look) being led by Lymmura (with a distressed look) to the site of her devastated flower garlands. As the red-headed cleric laments over the half-chewed remains, the cleric of Tempus introduces himself as Imdarr to Tempest. “So Lymmura says that a bear ate her flowers?”

“Oh, it’s okay. The bear’s gone now after the Ghost Bear Lady left.”

“A ghost!? Where!?” Imdarr grips his warhammer which has a holy symbol on its pommel.

The dragonborn cleric hastily explains that there’s no ghost around here, and after some hesitation (and a decent Insight roll to determine the cleric’s intentions) tells Imdarr about S'il-vous-plaît. The buff cleric frowns. “Well, normally ghosts stay on the material plane because they have unfinished business. Perhaps I can do a Divination and consult Tempus about this one?”

The divination doesn’t take too long, and after asking some questions such as “What was his master’s name again?” Imdarr tells the dragonborn cleric, “Well, the good news is that Lord Theodore was a great warrior in his lifetime, and he is highly honored among the warriors of Tempus! Because of this, Tempus has decided to help you - S'il-vous-plaît is still here on this plane because he is to avenge his master’s death. However (and this is strange) Tempus says that the thing that killed his master is still in his master’s resting place!”

“What!? You mean, through the iron door? But S'il-vous-plaît will attack anyone who tries to open it!”

Imdarr shrugs. “It’s a mystery to me too.”

I tell the kids that Evan’s gunslinger comes along and invites Tempest to check out Ironhead’s weapons and armour shop. The two adventurers find the shop along the main street and enter it. “Normally, weapons and armour shops have racks of weapons and armour displayed along the walls. Ironhead’s shop is more like a thrift store. There are disorganised piles of weapons (not even arranged by type) on the floor, and some bins containing pieces of armour.”

The old half-orc gives the two adventurers a jovial welcome, and immediately offers up some battered (but still workable) weapons and armour. In the end, Tempest upgrades her Leather armour to Studded Leather, while Folax trades in his armour for Scale Armor, along with a sturdy War Pick.

“The war pick is fine, but this armour has seen better days,” I tell the kids. “Ironhead sells these to you for almost half-price! There’s one thing though - once you receive 2 Critical hits, the armour breaks, and you’ll have to bring it back here for repairs!”

Adventure Notes:
I have no idea how to create “second-hand armour” in D&D, so improvised with the 2 Critical Hit condition. Not sure if there was a better way to handle this.

Ironhead tells Folax, “You know, Landro has won at Three Dragon Ante for five nights in a row now! The next time we play, you and I need to work out a way to take him down together!”

Evan laughs, “Geez, this is getting strategic!”

Before they leave the shop, Tempest asks Ironhead if he knows Zoey the half-orc caravan guard, and the old half-orc chuckles. “Oh yes, most of us know about hot-tempered Zoey!” Jojo feels sorry for her half-orc friend.

The adventurers decide to pay S'il-vous-plaît a visit, and are soon back at the haunted tomb. When the specter appears, they ask him about his master, and how he died. S'il-vous-plaît sighs, “Lord Theodore was a great man. He was part of the war band that slew the rampaging dragon Andraxius! Unfortunately, he wasn’t too good with managing his fortune, so by the time he took me on, I was the only bodyguard he could afford! And then, one morning, we found him dead in his bedroom, with slash wounds all over!”

The kids take note of the dragon-slaying as a possible murder motive. “Well, S'il-vous-plaît,” says Jojo. “We’ve got some news. We did a divination, and we found that your master’s killer might be still in his resting place beyond this iron door!”

The specter looks dumb-founded, and then bursts out laughing. “Hahahhah! You mean, you mean, I’ve been guarding this iron door for over a hundred years, and.. whatever killed my master is inside all along!?” He continues to laugh at the absurdity.

“Well, have you ever been INSIDE the room beyond this door?”

The specter stops laughing. “Oh well, um. It’s not. Polite, you know? Disturbing my master’s resting place and all.”

Jojo rolls her eyes. “Look, will you go crazy on us and start attacking us if we try to get through this iron door?”

The specter hesitates, and I get Jojo to do a Persuasion roll with advantage (because they were friendly with the specter). She easily passes the DC. “Okay guys, I’ll promise I won’t ‘go crazy’ on you guys! I can’t watch though!” The specter vanishes from sight.

I tell the kids, “Imagine a view from the inside of the iron door. Folax’s war pick punches a hole through, and then the gunslinger uses it like a tin-opener to yank the rest of the rusted door open!” The adventurers cautiously enter the room, weapons at ready.

I read from the campaign book, “Beyond the rusted door is another square room, twenty feet by twenty feet, containing a stone coffin. The ceiling is cracked, allowing roots and water into the chamber from multiple points, although little collects here. At the coffin’s feet is a rusty iron chest.

“It might be a Mimic!” warns Jojo. The dragonborn cleric carefully opens the iron chest, and I tell her that she finds nothing but old ruined clothes and a soggy book inside.

The adventurers decide that the ‘killer’ must be inside the coffin, and the dragonborn cleric shifts the stone lid aside. “The stone lid slides off and thumps on the ground! Inside the coffin is a skeleton dressed in a rusted breastplate and clasping a longsword to its chest. The sword looks brand new!”

As the kids ponder on this, I tell them, “Suddenly, the skeleton’s arms start to move! The sword lifts from the stone coffin, and then the skeletal arms snap off! The sword hovers and swishes around in the air above the coffin!”

The kids say, “It’s a Honedge!”

“A what?”

“A Honedge, dad! It’s a sword-class Pokemon!”

“I didn’t know there were Pokemon in D&D!”

Jojo gasps, “Is S'il-vous-plaît around? What if he’s controlling the sword!? Like unexpected betrayal from a Disney movie!?”

Evan snorts, “S'il-vous-plaît is a specter, not a poltergeist!”

I tell the kids that this is actually a Flying Sword, a D&D creature that is a mindless construct, like a golem.

The kids theorise, “Well, that explains the slash wounds on Lord Theodore’s body! But who created it? Maybe he created it himself, and it turned on him?”

Meanwhile, the flying sword dives towards the dragonborn cleric. I get the kids to roll for Initiative, and Tempest gets first go with a decent attack roll of 15 with her mace. “Tempest swings her mace, but the sword is too fast! It flips and dodges the blow!” The flying sword stabs at the dragonborn cleric who fends it off with her shield. Folax gives a mighty swing with his war pick, but ends up smashing into the stone coffin instead, sending bits of bone everywhere.

Finally, Tempest flings a Guiding Bolt which strikes the flying sword dead on. The construct clatters on the floor, flopping like a landed fish. There is a shimmer and S'il-vous-plaît appears next to it, looking aghast. “What the heck is THAT!?”

I tell the kids, “Suddenly, there is a bright flash! You see S'il-vous-plaît absorbed into the sword that’s flopping on the ground! When the flash clears, the sword is motionless!”

The kids are open-mouthed. “What just happened!?” Tempest pokes the sword, and the image of S'il-vous-plaît appears on the blade. “What just happened!?”

Eventually, Folax picks up the sword, and they discover that S'il-vous-plaît can hover the sword by himself for a few minutes. “Let’s take him outside!” The adventurers bring the sword out into the daylight, and S'il-vous-plaît reports that he’s still okay!

“Let’s show him to the cleric of Tempus,” suggests Jojo. Before they leave, the adventurers double-check the tomb for loot, and find a secret compartment in the iron chest which contains a pair of braided silver and electum rings, and a gold locket containing a picture of a lovely half-elf female. S'il-vous-plaît mentions that his master once courted this half-elf female, but she never accepted his marriage proposal. The kids note down yet another murder motive.

The adventurers return to the All-Faiths Shrine just as the service is ending. Imdarr is hammering at the practice dummy in front of the congregation. “In the front row, you see the broad shape of Constable Harburk and Jaylessa his wife. Their three big sons take up the second row.” Jaylessa is dabbing away tears from her eyes, ‘That was so moving!’

After the service, the adventurers impatiently pull Imdarr aside and show him the sword. Imdarr frowns, “It’s a sword?” Folax lets go of the sword, and it hovers in mid-air. “By Tempus! It’s a Dancing Sword!” S'il-vous-plaît face appears on the blade. “By Tempus! It’s a Spectral Dancing Sword!”

The cleric consults Tempus with another Divination. Eventually he says, "Tempus has replied that he's caused this to happen - S'il-vous-plaît will find the creator of this sword, and avenge his master!"

I explain to the kids that I’d based the ‘S'il-vous-plaît Sword’ off a D&D magical weapon called a ‘Dancing Sword’. “It flies around and attacks in combat. After 4 rounds, it returns back to you.”

“You mean, we can ‘Yondu’ this sword around in combat!?”

“Um, well. Yes.”


Watch out here comes my arrow! It flies super fast and kills everyone!

I help the kids write down the capabilities of the 'S'il-vous-plaît Sword'; I’d added an additional tweak to let it deal 3d6 necrotic damage on critical hits, based off the Specter’s Withering Touch feature. Evan states that he’ll probably start using S'il-vous-plaît as his main melee weapon.

Adventure Notes:
I’d planned to get the kids have the S'il-vous-plaît Sword as an NPC who can help them out in melee combat since they had magic and ranged covered. However, the kids picking up a Belt of Hill Giant Strength was completely out of the blue, and now it’s possible that Folax is going to be the melee brawler, although he’s pretty much a glass cannon.

So, does anyone have other ideas on how would you implement ‘second-hand armour’?

Monday, May 13, 2019

D&D 5e [Princes of the Apocalypse] Session 3: Troubled Taverns and Haunted Tombs

Tempest, Blue Dragonborn Cleric Trickery-Domain (played by Jojo, 14yo)
Folax Huntreouss, Human Gunslinger (played by Evan, 12yo)

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:
300 XPs to level 2 isn’t that too far a stretch, and I’d estimated that the kids would have levelled up by now. So while the kids are trying to do their homework one night, I bug them about their levelling choices and feature progression. It’s important to keep their priorities straight.

Jojo’s dragonborn cleric gains a great “Invoke Duplicity” feature where she can create a perfect illusion of herself to confuse opponents and use as a decoy. She can even casts spells from the illusion’s location, which is pretty cool.

Evan’s gunslinger gains “Fast Reload” (re-load firearm as a bonus action), and a couple of Trick Shots from a list. He picks Dead-Eye (advantage on attack roll) and Violent Shot (extra 1d12 damage) when using his rifle.

“It’s been about a week since your battle with the bandits. You guys spend this time in Red Larch; for some reason you feel drawn to this place. In D&D, you get to choose how your characters live in between adventures, and you get to pick a lifestyle from this list.” I show the kids the various lifestyles, ranging from Wretched and Squalid, all the way to Wealthy and Aristocratic.

Jojo decides that her dragonborn cleric lives a Modest lifestyle (1 gp a day). She rents a room at the Swinging Sword Inn, and takes her meals at the Helm at Highsun tavern across the road. I tell her, “Before this, you’ve spent all your time living in the wilderness, and this is the first time you’ve really lived among some semblance of civilisation. How do you feel living like this?”

Jojo thinks a bit. “I think I’m really jumpy with all these people around. Sort of wary about everything around me. But I’m fascinated by cutlery! In fact, whenever I eat meals at the tavern, I take the forks and knives with me! Especially sporks, if they have them.” We muse that this quirk might be a throwback from her dragon ancestry’s obsession with hoarding treasure.

Apparently, sporks are quite common in Faerun.

Evan, of course, has been weighing up the lifestyle costs, and decides that his gunslinger lives a Wretched lifestyle. “It’s FREE!” he states, pointing at the page in the Player’s Handbook. I tell him that his character will live homeless on the streets and roads, and his equipment might get damaged or stolen. After Jojo warns him that he will probably catch some disease sleeping out in the dirt and rain, he finally relents and opts for a Poor lifestyle instead (1 sp a day).

I tell him, “Your gunslinger’s chosen background is Criminal, right? This means that you have or can make criminal contacts whenever you’re in some sort of town or city. Well, Evan, you make an interesting discovery about Red Larch.” I lean closer. “This town… has TWO taverns!”

“Dun-da-dum!!” intone the kids. I point to the map and tell the kids that Evan wanders into a shady-looking part of town, and notices this building with a barber’s seat on the front porch. “It looks like a barber’s shop, but you also see very drunk people staggering out the front door.” The gunslinger goes in to investigate, and finds that the front-room has been converted into a makeshift tavern, with a couple of tables, a lounge on one side, and bottles of liquor stored in a cupboard. A dark-skinned man introduces himself as Malandro, but please call him ‘Landro’.

“In fact,” I tell the kids, feeling inspired. “Landro looks just like Lando from Star Wars.”

Shifty guy named Landro? This is all too easy.

I tell Evan that Landro seems very friendly, but you can tell that he’s not someone who the authorities look kindly upon. In fact, it’s very likely that Constable Harburk hangs up most of the people who leave Landro’s on his meat hooks. “By the manner he’s talking to you, you can tell that he wants something from you.”

Evan ponders on his next move, and decides that he’ll try an Insight roll to determine what Landro wants. He rolls a 20! “After some chit-chat, Landro gestures at your rifle and says, ‘So, uh, that’s an interesting-looking piece of hardware you have there. How does it work?’”

At this, Evan gets up and applies his years of drama class from school, and says, “Okay, uh, I umm, shrug. Like this, and umm, I go, ‘I point it to things. And they die. A horrible, painful, torturous death!’”

“Right,” says Landro. “And what about those little metal things that you hang on your belt? What are those?”

“These?” says the gunslinger, gesturing to his musket ammo. “These balls are filled... with death!”

“Balls of death?”

“No! Balls FILLED with death!”

“Right,” repeats Landro, looking a bit mystified. “Well, I like you, Folax, and because I like you, I’d like to do you a favour. If you ever need to make more of those.. Death Balls, you can come and make them here. I’ve got some… special equipment that you might be interested in looking at.” The man gestures the gunslinger to follow him, and Evan does.

“Landro leads you to the backroom of his tavern, and then reveals another door to yet another backroom! This room has no windows, and has a workbench with what looks like a mini forge. There’s a small stone furnace to melt metal in, and a stone slab with little indents or grooves to mold small things in.” Landro tells Folax that he is welcome to use this room to make more of his ammo, and he’s even welcome to sleep in the tavern on the lounge. “All I ask in return,” says Landro. “Is that you help keep... trouble from happening in the tavern. And that if anyone asks about this room and the equipment here, you say that you’re using it to make your stuff. Deal?” He sticks out a hand.

By this point, there are so many unanswered questions floating around about the dodginess of this entire deal, but the gunslinger gruffly accepts the hand-shake. “Deal.” Yes, this boy makes me worry sometimes.

Meanwhile, Jojo’s dragonborn cleric is catching up with Kaylessa from the Swinging Sword Inn. Kaylessa is very open about her background, growing up in a merchant family from Waterdeep (the City of Splendors!) before deciding to open an inn in Red Larch (the Gateway to the North!). Aside from that, Kaylessa talks about the weird weather (it hailed in the middle of summer last week!) and blames everything on the ‘evil at Lance Rock’.

The dragonborn cleric leaves the inn just as Kaylessa launches into another discourse on the ineffectiveness of the town’s constable. I tell Jojo, “You head across the road to the Helm at Highsun, and walk straight into a tavern brawl! There’s a female half-orc bashing up three common workers in there!”

“A brawl? That’s the sort of thing I’d expect at Evan’s tavern!” She heads towards the bar counter and finds the bartender cowering behind it. Garl (the bartender) fearfully asks Jojo if she can do something about the brawl before it brings down the place. After a brief negotiation, the dragonborn cleric agrees to help for a free drink and some coin, and gets up to survey the scene.

“The female half-orc looks like a caravan guard, and she’s holding up a worker by the front of his shirt, just about to smash him face-first into the table!”

Jojo says, “I cast Command! I say, ‘STOP!’” I roll a failed Wisdom save, and immediately, the female half-orc stops, still holding the worker hanging on her fist. The dragonborn cleric collects the workers, including the one hanging on the half-orc’s fist, and sits them down at the bar counter.

“How long does the spell last, dad?”

“Well, it’s really just one combat round, so she’ll be free in a couple of seconds.”

“Okay, so do you boys want to let me know what happened here?”

The workers are very defensive. “She’s just crazy, man! Just half-orc crazy!” Garl the bartender leans over. “I’ll tell you what happened. The half-orc just got fired from her last job, and these guys were making fun of her!”

At this, the dragonborn cleric looms over the workers angrily. “What!? That’s NOT cool!” Jojo skims through her spell options and casts Thaumaturgy to make the floor and bar counter tremor, the lights flicker and her voice boom. “I don’t want you guys to show your faces here again! You brought this fight on yourselves, what were you thinking about teasing an orc?! She’s a flipping orc! Now GET OUT!” Thaumaturgy also allows the user to cause doors to fly open, which Jojo does dramatically to the tavern door.

“The workers cannot get out of here fast enough! They stumble over each other on the way out, and are soon gone! The few patrons of the tavern huddled in the corners of the room start to clap appreciatively!” As the dragonborn cleric soaks up the applause, the female half-orc comes up to her.

“Ahh! Please don’t hit me!” squeaks Jojo.

Instead, the half-orc holds out a hand for a handshake. “You’re alright in my book, sister!” Jojo decides that her dragonborn isn’t too familiar with handshaking customs, and passes the half-orc a spork instead. The half-orc looks at the spork puzzledly before keeping it, while Garl murmurs, “Hey, isn’t that my spork!?”

The half-orc buys another round of drinks for Jojo and herself. She introduces herself as Zomith, or just Zoey. She is a caravan guard who got kicked out of her previous caravan for fighting with the other guards. And the job before that, for fighting with the other guards. And the job before that, for fighting with the other guards.

“You detect a pattern here, and it soon becomes apparent that she’s got some real issues,” I tell Jojo. The half-orc also complains to Jojo about the second-last job she had protecting an important delegation from Mirabar. I explain that Mirabar is a rich mining city to the north. “This delegation was an important caravan carrying dwarven artifacts and trading bars that are shaped like Toblerones, and make a distinct ‘ting!’ sound when flicked.”

Mmm… Mirabar Toblerones

Adventure Notes:
Yes, I know that Mirabar trade bars are actually four-sided pyramids attached at their bases. Our campaign world Mirabar trade bars are like these, because... Toblerone!

Over the next few days, the word gets around about how the dragonborn cleric sorted out the brawl at the Helm at Highsun, and the fearful wariness that the dragonborn tended to invoke among the local townsfolk slowly begins to give way to a healthy respect, especially after Constable Harburk mentions that Tempest and Folax were part of the group which attacked the bandit camp.

Folax gains a reputation of being the unofficial bouncer at Landro’s tavern. I tell Evan, “You begin to recognise the regulars at Landro’s tavern. One of these regulars is a shepherd named Greenboot, or Greenie to his tavern mates. Anyway, Greenie comes in one day and starts telling everyone about these grave mounds he came across in the fields not far from town. He’d herded livestock through these fields just a couple of weeks ago, and they weren’t there before.”

The gunslinger asks the shepherd a few more questions about these mounds before going out for “a walk in town”. Going up the street, he bumps into Tempest, and they exchange a few words on what they’ve been doing since the bandit camp attack. Folax mentions the grave mounds to Tempest who decides to come along to check it out with him.

The adventurers make their way to the location where Greenie had mentioned, and I read out the text from the campaign book: “On a barren hilltop a few miles from Red Larch, you find four freshly dug shallow graves. The earth scraped out for the holes is piled nearby, although hastily gathered stones cover the graves. The faint smell of death hangs in the air, and several vultures circle overhead.”

Grave-site desecration certainly does not rank highly on my kids’ moral radar, especially when there is potential loot involved. After digging up the graves, they discover the four dead occupants - a dwarf dressed like a craftsman, a woman warrior in a red surcoat emblazoned with a black axe, a man in weird rock-like armour, and a very gaunt, hollow-cheeked man wearing a white robe and black shoulder feathers.

“I know what this is about,” says Evan sagely. “These guys are obviously adventurers who are total noobs and got killed here.”

Jojo rolls her eyes. “What, so this is some sort of newbie graveyard?” The dragonborn cleric tries to take the rock-like armour, and I tell her that once she removes the armour, it immediately starts to crumble into sand.

“See? Total noob armour that sucks,” points out Evan. “I mean, how is sand armour going to protect anyone!?”

The two adventurers pile the rocks back on the graves and head back to town. I tell them, “Just as you both walk into town, you hear high-pitched screaming, and a small girl comes running towards you both! She crashes into Folax and hugs the gunslinger’s leg while crying uncontrollably!”

Evan says that he picks up the child and pats her on the back to calm her down. Jojo decides that her dragonborn would probably freak the child out, so she casts Disguise Self. “I make myself look like a child-friendly person.”

“You mean, like a clown?”

“Are you crazy!? That’ll traumatise her!”

Eventually, they get the child soothed, and she tells them her name is Pell, and that she lives with her mom and three siblings at the local poultry, and her stupid older brother had dared her to go touch the stone door of a nearby tomb. “And then, I saw a ggg.gg..gghost!”

“I can totally relate to her,” says Jojo emphatically. “How old is she?”

“Um, maybe six?”

“Six-year-olds never lie,” states Evan firmly.

“Except mine,” I mutter just loud enough from behind the campaign book.

The kids let this slide and tell Pell to go home while they go check out the tomb. Jojo says, “I tell her that it’ll all be okay, and that we’re very friendly, and if she sees a dragon-person walking around, that’s okay too because dragon-people are all cool. Got that? Here, have a spork.” The little girl nods and runs off home.

I fill in the kids on the whole deal of the gods and the undead. “As far as the gods are concerned, the natural progression for mortals is that they live on the Prime Material Plane, and when they die, they go to one of the god’s domains. Undeads break this rule by sticking around on the Prime Material Plane. That’s why clerics all have the ability to ‘Turn Undead’ by using their holy symbols.” Jojo had previously decided on her holy symbol, and drawn it on her character sheet.

The adventurers make their way to a low hill with a tunnel carved into its side. “Just some ways into the tunnel, you see a stone door, left slightly ajar. There is a name carved on the door, but it’s much too worn out to read.”

The dragonborn cleric pushes the door open, and I tell them that there’s a tremendous crash as a wagon wheel and various metal parts fall from the top of the door. “The crash echoes into the tunnel, alerting anyone or anything in there! You guys wait, but nothing else happens.”

The adventurers cautiously make their way into the tomb. “You guys walk down the tunnel and come to a square room with a stone block table in the middle. There are rust stains on the table, indicating that there once were items on it, but they are now gone. There’s a rusty iron door on this wall here.”

The gunslinger hits the iron door with his fist, and there is a dull clang. “Just then, you notice a swirling mist on the far corner of the room!”

“It’s the ghost,” says Jojo. “I prepare my holy symbol!”

The mist forms into a horrendous-looking Specter. I show the kids a picture from the Monster Manual. “Specters hate the living and daylight! This one raises its hands like this and booms, ‘LEAVE NOW!’”

“Only if you say PLEASE!” retorts Evan.

I roll a d20. A slight pause. “PLEASE!?” The kids high-five.

Evan says, “Well, a deal is a deal. I’m leaving.” With that, the gunslinger walks out, his rifle under his arm.

The dragonborn cleric tells the Specter. “Look, um. This is a really cool place - maybe you can show us around?”

“LEAVE THIS PLACE!” I tell the kids that the Specter’s form stutters between the ghastly form, and a young thin man. “I’M WARNING YOU! STAY AWAY FROM THE TOMB OF MY MASTER!”

“Who’s your master?”


“It’s, uh, kinda worn out. Can’t read it anymore.”

“For the love of - his name is LORD THEODORE! Could you write that on your way out, please? That’s T-H-E-O-..”

“I like this guy!” declares Jojo. “Let’s name him!” We decide that his name is S'il-vous-plaît which is the French word for ‘Please’. I decide he looks a bit like one of our favourite comedians, Mathew Baynton from “Horrible Histories”.

S'il-vous-plaît explains that he was the bodyguard of his master who was horribly murdered. And after his master’s death, he swore that he would protect the tomb from intruders. “But I didn’t bring enough warm clothes, and it gets really cold in here, so I died from pneumonia after about two weeks.”

Meanwhile, Evan is waiting outside at the entrance of the tomb and decides to head back in. Just as he turns back, I tell him to roll a Perception check. “Are you serious!?” He rolls badly, and I say, “You hear a whistling sound, and a javelin the length of a man skewers you in the leg! You take 11 damage!”

The gunslinger looks back and sees a huge half-ogre and a small goblin laughing at him. The goblin leisurely starts to pull back and aim a shortbow at him. Evan says, “I tell them, ‘Okay, you got me!’ and then I fire my rifle at the half-ogre!” He rolls a hit, and opts to use Violent Shot to up the damage to 13.

“The half-ogre and goblin have never seen a firearm before, and you catch the half-ogre by surprise when you blast a chunk off his broad neck! He clasps his hand over the wound as blood splurts out!” The goblin’s shortbow fires and misses, and I say, “The goblin must have been so startled by the loud bang that his arrow flies off its mark and hits the doorframe!”

Inside the tomb, S'il-vous-plaît is recounting all his problems to the emphatic cleric. “And then, recently, there were these two creatures, a half-ogre and a goblin, that came in here and laughed at me. They set up a trap at the door so that they can get alerted by anyone coming in here!”

“You’re incorporeal, right? Why couldn’t you just run into them and damage them?”

“The goblin was too quick. And I’m afraid of ogres.”

“Wow, this guy really sucks at his job!” says Jojo. “I try to cheer him up, and say, ‘Hey, look at me’. I cast Disguise Self to look like S'il-vous-plaît. ‘Ta-da!’”

Just then, they both hear the loud blast of Folax’s rifle outside. Tempest heads outside and finds Folax facing off the half-ogre and the goblin. “I still look like the specter, right? I raise my hands and shout, ‘LEAVE THIS PLACE!’”

The half-ogre squints at the disguised cleric and laughs. “You here, Si-Bu-Play? It daylight - you no can come out!”

Tempest says, “That’s what you think!” She steps out into the daylight. “I cast Thaumaturgy to tremor the ground and amplify my voice, ‘LEAVE NOW!’ I’m going to make S'il-vous-plaît look like a total badass!” She unleashes her dragonborn lightning breath attack at the surprised half-ogre and goblin.

I roll the d20s for the saving throws. The goblin dives aside and take half-damage, and somehow, the half-ogre makes it too! Growling (and crackling from left-over electricity) the half-ogre yanks its battle axe off the ground (getting a mild static shock from it), and charges at the disguised cleric.

Folax gets in another hit with the half-ogre using his light crossbow (according to him, it was ‘luckier’ than his rifle), while Tempest uses her ‘Invoke Duplicity’ to create a mirror image of herself. This does not deter the half-ogre though, who does a wipe-sweep at the cleric and her duplicate, scoring a staggering 16 damage, bringing her to 1 HP! In the end, Folax manages to down the half-ogre with a well-aimed stab with his dagger up through under the half-ogre’s chin and into its brain.

The goblin charges screaming at the gunslinger, but once the half-ogre collapses dead, it turns and runs screaming away. Tempest uses her last spell slot to fling a ‘Guiding Bolt’ at the retreating creature, and the adventurers watch as the bolt arches up, over and then down to smack the goblin dead in the distance.

“I LOVE being a cleric!” states Jojo.

Adventure Notes:
The kids really got into their characters this session. I had no idea what the outcome of the Haunted Tomb would be; the campaign book briefly gives some detail about the Specter, but that was it. The kids are now talking about how they might get S'il-vous-plaît out of the tomb to join their party.

Jojo asked an interesting question during the half-ogre fight: if she uses Invoke Duplicity while still maintaining her Disguise Self spell, will her duplicate be a duplicate of her dragonborn self, or her disguised self? I ruled the latter, but am curious to see if anyone else would rule otherwise.

Friday, May 10, 2019

D&D 5e [Princes of the Apocalypse] Session 2: These were the bandits we were looking for

Tempest, Blue Dragonborn Cleric Trickery-Domain (played by Jojo, 14yo)
Folax Huntreouss, Human Gunslinger (played by Evan, 12yo)

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:
After a short break, we get on with the adventure. Jojo asks me if it matters that they’ve not cleared the bandits earlier, and I shrug and repeat that in D&D, they can do anything they want.

“Of course, not getting rid of the bandits could have its consequences,” I add with an ominous tone.

With that, we start the session.

The rest of the trip to Red Larch is uneventful, and the adventurers soon roll into the quiet town in the wee hours of the morning.

“Red Larch is named after a type of tree that grows in this district. In fact, you see these trees growing along the road leading into town, a type of fir tree that is green on the top-half, and red on the bottom, sort of like it’s stuck in a perpetual autumn.” I’ve never seen a larch tree in my life, so I pretty much make it up. It’s a DM perk.

The kids nod appreciatively when I show them the town map of Red Larch. I describe the prominent 3-storey Swinging Sword Inn, the awful stench from the tannery as they pass it, and some of the other buildings.

“Is there a tavern here?” Evan asks. Standard adventurer query, that one.

I briefly skim the campaign book. “Yeap, the building across the road from the Swinging Sword is a tavern called the ‘Helm at Highsun’, complete with a sign-board that has a large helm with eye-slits perched on top of it. Upon closer inspection, you realise that it’s an upturned washtub with some eye-slits cut out.” The Princes of the Apocalypse campaign book is great. Not too blurby, and relays interesting quirks that really make the game experience shine.

Of course, the kids decide to split up to explore town. Yes, trying to keep the kids together is like herding displacer cats. Evan decides to visit the tavern, while Jojo opts to check out the large empty fairgrounds to the east of town.

I start with Jojo. “It’s still really early in the morning, so few people are around. Tempest arrives at a large empty field, which obviously must be a fairgrounds or marketplace during certain days. There are empty wooden stalls, some wagons with missing wheels, and one wagon covered with a tent at the far end of the fairgrounds. There’s a light inside the tent; there’s probably someone in there.”

As the dragonborn cleric approaches the wagon tent, I describe a smouldering campfire next to the wagon, along with scores of glass pickle jars all around the place. Jojo says, “Where are all the COOL people? I’m not going to bother some pickle seller!” With that, she makes her way back to where Evan’s character is.

Meanwhile, Evan is trying to inquire about the most expensive drink in the tavern. I tell him that the bartender (a jovial-looking man in an apron) presents to him ‘Hagfish brew’ (it’s an in-joke from a previous adventure when Evan tried to drink slime from a Hagfish tank). “Best drink that a silver piece can buy!” he states.

“A whole silver piece for a drink!? Evan, that’s a rip-off!” declares Jojo.

Evan does the brotherly thing, and ignores her. “I buy two. One for me, and one for Jojo.” He presents the drink to the dragonborn cleric when she turns up. There are suspicious-looking bits floating in those drinks. I get the kids to roll a Constitution roll to see if either of them throw up. There’s a lot of gagging, but fortunately, they don’t spew all over the place.

“You new to these parts?” asks the bartender. “Welcome to Red Larch, Gateway to the South!”

“We’re from the south,” Jojo informs him.

“Gateway to the North!” the bartender amends. “Towns like Red Larch are caravan stops and supply depots for settlements and farms all around the Dessarin Valley! These days though, caravans are finding it hard to get through, what with all the bandits raiding them!” I give the kids a meaningful look.

The kids do the kid-thing, and ignore me. Evan decides to check out the marble quarry in the north of town, while Jojo checks out the three-storey Swinging Sword Inn.

Evan finds a small stone hut at the entrance of the marble quarry, and after a few words with a very unfriendly quarry overseer woman who lives there, he decides to hang around with the rest of the quarry workers and help carve out some stone.

“The quarry overseer woman keeps complaining about being way behind on their marble orders, and that they should do night-shifts cutting the stone, but the quarry workers seem fearful about this. They keep referring to some strange figures at the quarry at night who watch them as they work. ‘I’m not working night-shifts while the Watchers are around!’”

“Evan, ask about the Watchers,” says Jojo.

Evan decides to carve out stone instead. I get him to roll a Strength check, which comes up unfavourably. “You finish carving out one marble block, and then realise that the guy next to you has carved out five!”

Indignant, the gunslinger tries to carve out more stone, and this time Evan rolls a 1! “With a mighty clang, the head of the pick-axe you were given snaps off the handle! The overseer woman is furious! She gives you 3 coppers for your work so far, and tells you to leave! As you leave, you hear her arguing with another worker about the so-called Watchers.”

“Evan, ask about the Watchers!” insists Jojo, but the gunslinger decides to whisper ominously to the worker next to him, ‘You are being watched!’, completely freaking the guy out. He continues on his way out of the quarry, makes a failed attempt to break into the overseer woman’s stone hut, gives up in disgust and goes off to find Jojo’s character.

Meanwhile, Jojo’s dragonborn cleric is getting acquainted to the lady innkeeper (named Kaylessa Irkell) of the Swinging Sword Inn. Kaylessa seems to be someone who knows what a quality inn ought to look like, and has taken great pains to bring that quality to the sole inn in Red Larch. She freely shares her view on the town’s recent troubles to Jojo. “I tell you, it’s bad omens everywhere! Last week, we saw lightning flashing in the hills - upwards into the sky! And just last night, someone reported seeing a lightning flash in the south road!”

Jojo coughs, “Ah, yes - um, you can discount that last rumour.”

“Children used to be able to go berry-picking in the hills,” continues the chatty innkeeper, “But these days there seems to be a monster hiding around every corner! And on top of this are all the bandits raiding the caravans coming up the south road!” I shoot a glance at the kids, but they seem to be busy fiddling with their character sheets.

“In fact,” says Kaylessa without pausing for breath, “I can tell you what the source of all this evil is!” She motions the cleric closer. “It’s all because of the evil at Lance Rock! I keep telling Constable Harburk that we should send someone to clear out the evil at that rock cave, but he keeps making excuses about being too busy with matters in town!”

“There’s a Constable in town?” says Jojo. “I’d like to meet him.”

Kaylessa gladly gives directions to the dragonborn cleric on where to find Constable Harburk. Meeting up with Evan’s gunslinger, the two of them head off to the given building.

I tell the kids, “When you two get there, you think you might have been given the wrong directions because the building is obviously a butcher shop, with a wordless sign of a meat haunch and cleaver hanging out front.”

The two adventurers enter the butcher’s shop, and ask for Constable Harburk. A broad woman in an apron hollers for an even broader man in an apron from the backroom. He wipes his meaty hands on his apron. “Yes, I’m Constable Harburk. How can I help you?”

“The town constable is the butcher!?” exclaims Jojo.

“It seems so,” I say. “Constable Harburk is helped by his four sons, who also help carve meat behind the shop. Oh, roll a Perception check, both of you.” They roll, and I tell Jojo. “You notice behind Constable Harburk that there are meat hooks hanging from the ceiling. On one of the meat hooks, there’s a man hanging by the back of his belt.”

“Um, right,” says Jojo. “I ask him if I can buy some meat off the hook - like that one!" She points to the man hanging on the meat hook.

The Constable turns and grins. “What him? Hah, well, he's not for sale. You see, we don’t really have a place to lock people up here. So when we find drunks on street, we hang them up in the meat room till they sober up.”

“Now that’s awesome!”

They ask Constable Harburk about the recent happenings, and the broad man shrugs. “Weather’s been playing up, monsters teeming in the hills, but most of all, there have been numerous bandit attacks on caravans coming up the south road. I’d go do something about them, but I’m just too busy with things in town!”

The kids finally capitulate. “Okay, okay, enough already! We’ll fix the bandit problem!”

The next day, the adventurers are back in the Westwood forest in front of a bemused Gib-Bob. “Hey, dude, sorry about not wanting to clear out those bandits before, but we’re back to help you out.”

I tell the kids, “Just then, there is a commotion from the other Elk tribe warriors. Gib-Bob frowns as a grey-haired woman dressed in animal furs strides through the crowd of Elk tribe warriors. She looks like she’s from a tribe like the warriors, but she’s wearing a different insignia.”

“Ghost Bear tribe,” mutters Gib-Bob to the adventurers. “They’re all a little… odd in the head. She probably doesn’t even know why she’s here.”

“Ghost Bear tribe!?” exclaims Jojo. “Why didn’t you tell us about these cool tribes sooner!?”

The woman comes up to Gib-Bob, and gives him a curt nod. (I asked the kids for a good name for her, and for the life of me, I can’t recall the name we chose, nor can the kids who continually refer to her as the ‘Ghost Bear Lady’) “The Ghost Bear tribe greets you, war leader of the Elk tribe.”

Gib-Bob accepts her greeting politely. “What brings the Ghost Bear into these parts?”

She shrugs. “The Ghost Bears come and go as we feel. I felt this is where I should be, so here I am. I do not question why.”

“Right you are,” says Gib-Bob, while giving the adventurers a ‘I told you so’ look.

The Ghost Bear Lady seems content to follow along with the plan to attack the bandit camp. Soon enough I draw up the bandit camp and describe it to the kids. “The bandits are camped in a small clearing, with a trail leading off through the trees to a cave in the cliff-face. That’s where they probably stash all their stolen goods. You see a number of bandits, and one bandit leader who seems tougher than the rest. There’s also a wagon in the middle of the clearing, one with an iron cage fixed onto it. Inside the cage is a large, black bear.”

“Oooo,” the kids go. “What does the Ghost Bear Lady think about that?”

The Ghost Bear Lady nods, “I now know why I am here.”

Gib-Bob says, “Hmm.. if there’s a way we can free that bear, it can do most of the work for us.”

In the end, the kids decide that Jojo will cast ‘Disguise Self’ on herself to look like a bandit, and saunter up to the cage and try free the black bear.

“After I free the bear, the Ghost Bear Lady can calm it down, right? Right?”

“Um, sure, probably-likely,” I reply unhelpfully. It’s good to be the DM.

Under the guise of the spell, the dragonborn cleric makes her way to the caged bear. I tell her, “No one seems to suspect that you’re not one of the bandits. You get to the cage door with ease, and see that the lock of the cage is already broken. Instead, there’s a metal spike holding the cage door shut.”

The dragonborn cleric attempts to remove the spike, but Jojo rolls a bad Strength check. “The spike seems wedged in tight! Just as you heave to pull it out, you hear a voice behind you, ‘Hey! What are you doing there!?’”

“Oh, who me?” Jojo replies innocently, “I’m just, um, checking the cage door to make sure it’s secure!” I get her to roll a Deception check, but the d20 continues to be unkind. The bandit starts towards the cleric, reaching for his scimitar.

“Can I see him? I’m shooting him!” says Evan. The gunslinger takes aim and fires a loud shot at the bandit confronting Jojo. “Hit! With 8 damage!” With a surprised look on his face and blood spreading across his chest, the bandit falls over dead.

The gunslinger’s rifle shot brings all the bandits on their feet as the rest of the whooping Elk tribe barbarians charge into the clearing. “The bandits are all in disarray while the bandit leader shouts his orders. Excited by the commotion, the black bear lunges at the cage door, but fails to smash it open!”

“I’m going to try to remove the spike again,” says Jojo as she rolls. “Yes!! Natural 20!”

“Obviously,” I tell her. “When the bear charged the cage door, it must have loosened the iron spike, and it falls off by itself just as you reach for it.”

“No way!! That was pure dragonborn strength!”

The dragonborn cleric drops her disguise spell and melts into the shadows as the black bear smashes out of the cage, swiping yelling bandits left and right. Gib-Bob engages in a fierce battle with the bandit leader, clashing his axe against the bandit’s scimitar slashes. Evan manages to take out another bandit with a cracking shot, while Jojo fries a couple of bandits in well-aimed lightning breath attack. She gives chase to another bandit fleeing towards the cave.

I tell the kids, “As the fleeing bandit reaches the cave, he looks up and sees… someone in robes and a stone mask watching him from the cliff face! The bandit raises his sword and warns the figure to stay back, but the figure thrusts his arms upwards and a blast of earth and rock erupts from under the bandit!” By the time Jojo catches up with the bandit, she only finds his remains among bits of rock and earth. She finds no one else at the scene.

The battle is over in a few minutes. While the kids loot the cave, the Ghost Bear Lady inspects the remains of the bandit Jojo was chasing. She gazes at the two adventurers, “There is the stirring of elemental evil here. And you two - your fates are entwined with the evil. Seek the Bloody Tree, for there your paths begin.” Before they can ask her anything more, the Ghost Bear Lady departs, with the large black bear following her docilely.

“The Bloody Tree?” Jojo wonders. “She’s not British, is she?”

Adventure Notes:
I like to take our time playing through the little side trek quests before launching into the main adventure. I feel it helps establish the game world.

And of course, after I introduce the Ghost Bear lady from the Ghost Bear tribe, do I realise that I stuffed up the name, and the PotA campaign book has it as the 'Tree Ghost' tribe. However, 'Ghost Bear' sounds way cooler, so I'm sticking with that. The Ghost Bear lady isn't a character from the campaign book, but I plan to use her as a plot device for sub-quests involving the 'High Forest' in the east which the campaign book does have. Gib-bob, of course, should feature in other sub-quests involving the Uthgart tribes themselves.

The kids didn't take to Kaylessa the inn-keeper as much as I thought they would. I suppose she came across as more 'pushy and annoying' rather than 'chatty' with her Lance Rock quest push. Constable Harburk had a better reception, I don't think the kids will forget how he hangs up offenders by their belts.