Sunless Citadel, part 3

My D&D group has been running the excellent Sunless Citadel dungeon crawl, from Tales of the Yawning Portal. The group is Roland (my Aasimar Paladin), Slith (dragonborn rogue), Egdul (dwarf barbarian), Evan (human ranger/warlock) and Dri (dragonborn barbarian, replacing our wizard). Last time, the group had just defeated a group of hobgoblins guarding over a goblin community…

The group headed into the adjacent room, which they determined (through Slith’s listening at the door) was the goblin’s common area. Evan—who had multi-classed to a warlock—used his awakened mind power to send a telepathic message to the goblins, urging them to flee. The group burst in, and the goblin commoners panicked and ran.

The only foes remaining were a goblin cleric and some powerful hobgoblin warriors. As they saw the group, the cleric cast spirit guardians [a particularly nasty spell for low-level characters, which circle the caster and cause a lot of damage]. The spirit guardians took out Slith—who had slunk in close to try and sneak attack the cleric. Evan fired a volley of arrows while Egdul charged, killing one of the hobgoblins.

Roland shouted a challenge to the cleric, attempting to use his abjure enemy Paladin power to frighten the cleric. This failed, so he cast blessing on the remaining group members as Egdul and Evan continued attacking. Roland then charged into the fray, but was immediately knocked out by the hobgoblins. Egdul, who had taken a lot of damage by this point, soon joined him.

Evan retreated, firing as he went. Meanwhile, Roland nearly died from his wounds [I failed two death saving throws; one more and I would be permanently dead]. Suddenly, Roland’s celestial guardian blessed him, and he was revived [I rolled a natural 20 on my next death saving throw]. He healed Egdul and Slith as Evan was backed into a corner. The revived group charged from the rear, and killed all their enemies.

[By this point I decided I needed to adjust my strategy with Roland. With a lot of damage inflicted by other party members, but very little support (especially after we lost Azaban) Roland was really needed to buff the party. I began to focus more on this aspect of my paladin, downplaying front-line fighting for defense and protection]

Gathering their wits, the group chased down one of the fleeing goblins for information. Facing an intimidating Aasimar, the goblin told them the apples they sold to the village came from a tree that grew in the lower levels. After resting, the group headed down the pit they had found.

They climbed down successfully, but their gnome cleric friend [who we forgot about during the last fight] slipped. The group watched in horror as he fell the entire length of the pit, landing as a pile of goo. Before they could react, skeletons and twig blights emerged from the shadows. The group easily dispatched them, and moved on.

Exploring the twisting passageways, the group bumped into a trio of bugbears. The bugbears proved a challenge, landing a few good blows on Roland and Egdul. But they managed to kill two before the third surrendered. Roland successfully intimidated him into giving them directions to the tree before letting him go [I was still working out how to role-play an Oath of Vengeance Paladin and think this wasn’t the right approach].

Continuing on, the group found two goblins torturing a rat with prison. Roland killed one in rage, and ordered the other one to flee. The group continued on, passing other rooms with goblins and skeletons, and a fungus farm. [we were trying to finish the adventure before we ran out of time in the session]

They came on a room with a large dragon statue. Slith climbed it to get at some gems when a shadow appeared and attacked. Roland moved quickly against it, destroying it in a burst of radiant damage [I used divine smite with a war hammer blow, which was enough to destroy it. It was pretty cool]

The group moved on, exploring some empty rooms. They found what seemed to be a study, and took scrolls of faerie fire and entangle and a treatise on druidcraft.

Exhausting the twisting passageways in the cavern, the group found an opening to the outside. They followed it into a foreboding wooded area. They came on a cage holding a man and woman. The group freed them, and the man explained he had set out with the woman and her brother (the villagers they had been sent to save) to explore the mystery behind the apples. He told them the goblins had tortured and killed the woman’s brother, causing her to go into shock. Roland burst into a fit of rage, smashing a tree into kindling, while the others tried to comfort the freed prisoners. Meanwhile, Dri—a dragonborn barbarian who had been wandering around the woods—came on the group. He offered to help for a share of the treasure. Roland was irritated with his mercenary approach, but agreed [a replacement player for Azaban]

The man pointed out where the mastermind—an evil druid—could be found, and the group moved on. As they were weary and low on spell slots, they decided to be strategic. Slith and Evan snuck up to assess the situation. They saw the druid and two hobgoblins within the ruins of a wall, standing by an evil-looking tree. Letting the rest of the group know, they came up with a plan. Slith and Evan would climb onto the walls. Roland would cast entangle on the druid, then Slith and Evan would attack him; the others would try and attack from a distance, to wear the enemies down.

They launched the attack. The druid and two of the hobgoblins were caught in the entangling vines, while Slith and Evan nearly killed the druid with their attack. The druid called for them to stop, so he could explain everything. Roland refused to deal with the evil-doer (who he had now adopted as his sworn foe) and the rest of the group agreed [everyone wanted to fight]. Slith and Evan fired another volley at the druid, killing him.

The rest closed on the hobgoblins, confident of their victory when the man they had rescued attacked Roland from behind. He had turned a sickly grayish color, and had immense strength. Slith attempted to help Roland, but was knocked out. Roland held off the man until Evan, Egdul and Dri could kill the hobgoblins and come to help.

Finding the woman knocked unconscious, but alive, they revived her, and returned to the village…

[we ended kind of abruprtly because we ran out of time, so didn’t really conclude. I think the DM may have this run directly into Tomb of Annihilation, but he hasn’t told us yet, so tune in for future posts…]

That’s it for the Sunless Citadel, an adventure deserving of its legendary status. In a future post, I will discuss why it’s so great. I can’t promise that post will come next week; as I announced on Twitter, my wife gave birth to our second child last week. It’s hard to write blog posts in a sleep-induced fog (I had pre-written these). But I’ll try to get it up as soon as I can. Thanks for your patience.

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Sunless Citadel walkthrough, part 2

Last time, my group (Roland, Aasimar Paladin; Slith, dragonborn rogue; Azaban, human wizard; Evan, human ranger/warlock; and Egdul, dwarf barbarian) gathered and entered the Sunless Citadel to rescue some villagers…

The group moved through the corridors and room of the citadel, exploring carefully. After a short time, they heard whimpering up ahead, past a closed door. Slith listened at the door to determine if there was anything else to be afraid of. Not hearing anything, he carefully opened the door and Egdul and Roland entered.

In this large room they saw an empty cage and a weeping kobold. He introduced himself as Meepo, and explained that the wyrmling the kobolds guarded had been captured by a tribe of goblins who lived deeper in the citadel. Roland, having sworm to exact vengeance on the goblins who captured the villagers, offered to help (the group, eager for a fight, followed along).

Meepo took the group to the leader of the kobolds. She explained more about their feud with the goblins, and the goblins’ strength due to mysterious “friends.” The group agree to try and rescue the wyrmling, and Meepo escorted them to the goblin territory.

They came to a room filled with sarcaphogi. Roland, suspicious, cast his divine sense and sensed undead within the sarcaphogi. Evan, itching for a fight with his sworm enemy, opened up one of them. The others opened in turn, and a group of skeletons attacked the party. Evan felled one with an arrow, while Egdul smashed another with his axe and Azaban took out one with a fire bolt. Roland, meanwhile, was slower to move, and missed with his first attack [I rolled low on initiative]. He despaired that he would miss the fight when he managed to land a massive blow on the last of the skeletons, smashing it into dust with his war hammer [skeletons are resistant to bludgeoning damage]. The group moved on [I wrote about this in a past post, “Why I love D&D”]

Moving on, the group rounded a corner…and ran into a patrol of goblins. Roland charged, and Azaban cast flaming hands, killing the goblins. Beyond that room, the group came on a corridor filled with caltrops. Roland began moving carefully forward into the corridor with Egedul when a rain of crossbow bolts shot out from behind a barricade. Roland was hit and wounded, but pressed on with Egedul. Evan gave them cover with his bow, while Slith snuck carefully among the caltrops to surprise the attacker. Evan managed to kill one of the goblins before Roland made it to the barricade, leaping over and grabbing the other goblin [good Athletic check].

Roland demanded info from the goblin. The goblin said humans had passed through but knew nothing more; he also said he could provide passwords for the group to move further into goblin territory. The group warily agreed, and brought the now bound goblin to the locked door at the end of the corridor.

At the door, the goblin shouted “intruders are here,” in goblin. Unfortunately for him, Roland spoke goblin. He knocked the goblin out, and the group prepared for battle.

Deciding offense was the best defense, Egdul smashed open the door, and the group charged. Evan cast dancing lights down the corridor in an attempt to distract the enemy, while Roland shouted a warning for the goblins to surrender [attempted intimidation check]

The group continued forward when a hail of arrows shot at them from the end of the corridor. Two hit Roland, but he managed to keep charging with Egedul. As they began to fight the goblins, they realized these were tougher than the others. Roland used divine smite with his attack to cause extra damage, while Slith managed to backstab one of the goblins, taking him down.

Hoping to end the fight, Azaban rushed forward and cast flaming hands. Unfortunately, Roland was in the way, and Roland was singed along with the goblins. The burst of flame did harm them enough, however, to allow Egdul and Slith to finish them off.

Evan teased Azaban on his aim, and the group moved on. In the next room, they found a set of cages, with some kobolds and a chained up gnome inside. They freed the gnome, who introduced himself as a cleric captured by the goblins. He agreed to accompany the group.

The group backtracked a bit, as they had run out of corridors. They found a room with a keg attached to pipes. Roland and Egdul decided to smash it open to see what was inside. Out burst a steam mephit and ice mephit, who attacked. The steam mephit’s attack took down Roland, who was still wounded from Azaban’s spell. The others in the group took care of the mephitis, and, after reviving Roland, they rested.

After waking they moved on, making their way through the kobold territory. They walked through kobold barracks and, thanks to Azaban’s interpretation of kobold hand-signals, managed to avoid a trap the  kobolds had set up; a bucket filled with waste over the door.

Beyond the kobold territory, they came to a door. Listening, Slith heard the sounds of numerous goblins. Wary of taking on a whole goblin tribe, but realizing they were on the right track, the group backtracked to find a way around it [we were pretty lost at this point]

They came to a circular room with a pit and evil-looking vines in the center. At the far end they saw a hobgoblin on a throne, surrounded by other hobgoblins and a robed goblin. Roland strode into the room, and shouted a challenge to the hobgoblins. This did not have the response Roland hoped for, and the hobgoblins attacked.

Egdul wrote, “let’s think this through more next time” (prompting jokes about the barbarian being more strategic than the Paladin) and charged into the room. He pounced on the robed goblin, and killed her with a flurry of blows [he managed to hit with all his barbarian-enhanced attacks]. Evan, meanwhile, cast fog cloud to hopefully give the group some cover.

Roland shouted a vow of enmity [his Oath of Vengeance power that gives advantage on attacks] and charged. He tried to grappled the leader, but failed as the strong hobgoblin threw him off and hit him with his greatsword. Roland and the leader engaged in melee as Evan fired into the fog cloud, Egdul charged the other hobgoblins, and Azaban fired magic missile into the fray.

Roland used his remaining divine smites to harm the hobgoblin, then cast bane (which frightens the target). The hobgoblin laughed off Roland’s spell, and felled him with a mighty blow. By this point Egdul had taken out the other hobgoblins, so the gnome was able to rush up to Roland and heal him.

Once up, Roland attacked the hobgoblin leader who counterattacked…felling Roland again. The rest of the group was able to kill the hobgoblin leader, however, and revived Roland.

Searching through the remains, the group found the signet ring of the son of their benefactor and some other assorted treasure. Barricading the doors, the group rested while Roland sat in the corner, fuming over what he saw as his failure to defend the villagers….

Tune in next week for the conclusion of the Sunless Citadel.

The Sunless Citadel walkthrough, part 1

As I’ve mentioned a few times on twitter, my group that ran Out of the Abyss last fall switched things up and I actually got to be a D&D player for the first time in years. One of the other players helpfully stepped up to be DM, and was interested in running the new Tomb of Annihilation campaign. First, we wanted to run one of the dungeons from the Tales from the Yawning Portal, the Sunless Citadel.

The group (which will change a bit throughout the adventure) were: me, playing Roland—the Aasimar Oath of Vengeance Paladin I’ve written about a lot—Slith, a dragonborn rogue; Evan, a human ranger/warlock; Azaban, a human wizard; and Egedul, a dwarf barbarian.

The adventure began with Roland heading out for a patrol with the Knights of the Gilded Eye. This knightly order dedicated to Helm had taken Roland in as a child and trained him to be a paladin. Roland had recently graduated from squiredom, and eagerly joined his trainer on a patrol through the Mere of Dead Men.

Unfortunately, a group of Orcus cultists had been tracking Roland since they saw him in the city. They desired to capture and use the Aasimar for one of their dark rituals. The cultists ambushed the knights, slaying several before they could respond. Roland and the remaining knights tried to hold them off, but they were overwhelmed. The knights circled their young comrade to keep him safe, but fell one by one. As Roland was about to charge heedlessly at the cultists, using his radiant consumption power to take a few of them out before he too fell, an arrow flew out of the trees. Several more followed, scattering the cultists, and they ran into the swamp.

Out of the gloom stepped Evan. Evan’s village had been destroyed by undead, and he dedicated his life to hunting them. He had been tracking the cultists for some time, hoping to punish those who worship the undead. Roland expressed his thanks, even though he was still haunted by the death of his friends. Evan suggested they move on; he had heard rumors that a woman in the village of Oakhurst was looking for adventurers to help her family. Roland agreed, and they headed towards the village. [Evan’s player and I decided to coordinate our backgrounds]

After a few days of travel in which Roland and Evan developed a healthy respect despite their clashing personalities, they came upon a wizard sitting by the side of the road. He mentioned he was heading to Oakhurst, so Roland eagerly invited him along, noting the roads weren’t safe for solo travelers. The group set out.

After another day they heard a voice come from the leaves, asking if they were friends. Roland assured the voice they meant harm only to evildoers, and a small dragonborn came out from hiding. He introduced himself as Slith, and asked to join the group. Sensing a basic goodness, the group welcome him [Slith’s player decided he was a wizard’s experiment, explaining his small size]

Later that day, they came on a filthy dwarf, naked except for a loincloth, picking his toes with a great axe. Roland greeted him, and realized the dwarf was mute. After communicating via pantomime and a slate the dwarf used to write on, the group set off for Oakhurst [I think the veteran player wanted to allow others to do more role-playing, so chose a mute character]

Eventually, they arrived in the village of Oakhurst. Locating the inn, they went inside. Roland bought drinks for the group, and asked the bartender about the woman who was looking for adventurers. The bartender pointed them in the right direction, and they headed off.

The woman lived in a grand manor, and eagerly welcomed the adventurers. She explained that occasionally goblins appear with golden apples they sell to the villagers. No one knew where they came from, as those who did turned up dead, covered in needle-like wounds. A few people from town—including her children—decided to explore the ravine, but they never returned.

Roland jerked up in rage, at the thought of innocent villagers being held by goblins. He swore they would find them, and punish their tormentors. He also refused any offer of payment. As they left, Evan noted that they shouldn’t let the paladin negotiate payment in the future.

After travelling the rest of the day, the group arrived at the ravine the woman mentioned. They decided to rest for the night, taking on the watch in shifts. During Roland’s shift he noticed dark shapes slinking towards camp. Shouting an alarm and casting light (his innate cantrip) on the shapes, he charged as the others woke up.

The group was surrounded by twig blights. They turned back to back, fighting off the approaching horrors. Slith fell under the attacks of two of them, but the rest of the group fought them off and Roland healed the dragonborn.

The next morning they headed into the ravine. They could see a stairwell in the ravine, heading further into the depths. Egedul and Evan decided to head in first to scout out the situation. As they approached the stairway, giant rats attacked out of piles of refuse. The rest of the group hurriedly climbed down, but the rats were all dead by they arrived.

The group slowly walked down the stairwell. Evan went first, scouting ahead, followed by Roland, ready to rush forward in case of action. Slith and Azaban followed behind them, with Egedul taking up the rear.

The stairwell wound around what looked like a parapet and ended in a courtyard. The group realized this was some sort of castle that had sunk deep into the ravine. They seemed to towards the top, with the bottom levels lost in the depths. Evan motioned for the group to wait as he crossed the courtyard, checking for traps.

Carefully opening a door, and disarming a few pit traps he found, the group moved forward into…the Sunless Citadel.

I’ll continue the group’s adventure next time.

Ode to a FLGS: On the closing of Killer Rabbit Comics and Games

Last week, Killer Rabbit Comics and Games–my friendly local game store (FLGS) in South Burlington, VT–closed. The store opened around the time I moved to Vermont and became a big part of my life. It was the venue for my D&D sessions, my comic source, and–I hope it’s not too bold to say this–I became friends with its owners. I wanted to commemorate its passing with a few thoughts on why it was so great and the important role FGLS’ play in our communities.

When we first moved to Vermont, I set out to find a gaming and comic home. As if on cue, I saw a notice about a new store opening, Killer Rabbit Comic and Gaming. I missed the grand opening, but my family and I went a week later. We chatted with the owners; I mentioned I had been trying to find D&D players and they said they could pass along names to me.

Over time it became a central part of my life. I went in every week for my comic books, and checked out other recommendations the owners had. I reached out to a few of their customers who said they were interested in D&D and organized my first session up here. We held the sessions at Killer Rabbit, which was more welcoming than a stranger’s house.  That initial group continued through a few campaigns, and I also started another group to run a multi-level dungeon I was creating.

But Killer Rabbit mattered in other ways. The owners remembered their customers’ names; having just moved to a new state after spending ten years somewhere else, that helped me feel at home. I took my two year old daughter along, and she became a fan; she started picking out her own kids’ comic books and can now recognize Batman, Spider-man and Superman. And the D&D sessions at Killer Rabbit made the stress of a new job a little easier.

So Killer Rabbit was great, but I don’t think it’s unique.

Soon after I started a job in Washington, DC, I realized a comics store–Big Planet Comics–was close enough I could get there over lunch. When that job ended up being kind of unpleasant, my weekly comics run helped me get through it.

Additionally, while I was in graduate school in DC, Labyrinth Games and Puzzles opened up. I would do some writing at a nearby coffee shop (now closed), then stop by Labyrinth for a new game. A lot of my collection of Lovecraftian games are from this store. Then, when 5th edition D&D came out, I signed up for one of their weekly Adventurers’ League sessions. The randomly-assembled group at my table clicked, and we continued playing on our own after the season ended. This group continued up until I left DC (and may still be going on). Through this group I was exposed to other RPGs, (Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars games and Shadowrun).  These strangers–whose only connection to me was D&D–ended up being friends, cheering the birth of my daughter and commiserating with me about my job.

I can honestly say my life is better because of my local comics and games stores. I would still have my family and my job, both of which I love, but I would lack the richness a hobby community brings. And I haven’t even gotten into the value of discovering new games and comics, which you just can’t do by searching online.

Yet, as we all now, these stores are threatened. I did all my comics and game shopping at Killer Rabbit, but I really didn’t spend that much money there. And a lot of my purchases were one time things; once I had my 5th edition rulebooks (purchased from Labyrinth) I didn’t need much else to play. The gaming tables were free, even though I encouraged players to patronize the store. But a lot of my players turned to Amazon, as I’m sure did many of the people I saw browsing without buying while I was hanging out. I understand the need to save money, but it does hurt these stores.

So what can we do to help? The most obvious thing to do is to be customers. Resist buying Settlers of Catan when you’re browsing Barnes and Noble; wait till you can visit your FLGS. If your budget can take the higher non-Amazon price, buy it in person (I think it’s more fun to pick it up at a store, personally).

But I think it goes beyond just focusing our shopping. We need to attach a value to the intangible benefits of these stores and compensate them accordingly.

First, just buy a little more than you would otherwise. I spent more on comics than I planned to each month, because I noticed a new comic I wanted to try or the owners suggested something. The value I placed on the store made me willing to do that.

Second, establish norms for gaming groups. Ask players to buy something whenever you have a session at a FLGS. Yes, this can put a burden on players, but it’s better than not having a venue for gaming (which is what I’m facing now).

Money is tight all around; I definitely spend a lot less on games and comics than I want. But think about how much money we spend at bars, or restaurants, or other luxuries. We could easily structure our budget to have a “FLGS support” line time.

In closing, I admit a lot of this is driven by my own guilt. As much as I loved the store, I don’t think I did enough to support it. Maybe, in retrospect, I should have written this a year ago.

POSTSCRIPT: I know I’ve said I was going to post my Sunless Citadel walkthrough this week. The store closing made me change my schedule, and I’ll have that up next week.

Bonus post: Automating D&D attribute rolls

Hello all,

I found myself needing to roll a D&D 5e character, but didn’t have my dice nearby. So I tried to automate in R (the open-source programming language). I think I got it to work, so I thought I would share it below (and am happy for any feedback).

 

rm(list=ls())
#rolls 1d6 four times, drops lowest. repeats 6 times for all stats*
#includes sum of all numbers, in case have a minimum you allow for re-rolling*
#also includes smallest number, to check*
finallist <- list()
numlist <- runif(6,1,1000)
roll <- function(X) {
set.seed(X)
out <- sample(1:6,4, replace = TRUE)
result <- sum(out) – min(out)
finallist <- c(finallist, result)
}
finallist <- lapply(numlist, roll)
final <- do.call(rbind,(do.call(rbind, finallist)))
ok <- sum(final)
smallest <- min(final)

 

UPDATED TO REMOVE SOME UNNECESSARY CODE

How to role-play an Oath of Vengeance Paladin

I’m working on an Oath of Vengeance Paladin, Roland, for my D&D 5e campaign. One of the trickiest parts of this is how to role-play this oath. So I thought it might be useful to share my thoughts on this with all of you (and I’m happy to hear any of your thoughts).

First, what is the Oath of Vengeance Paladin? Well, in D&D the Paladin has usually been played as a stereotype. Paladins had to be Lawful Good, they had strict codes of behavior. This could lead to interesting, conflicted characters, but it often caused every Paladin to be an even more annoying Sturm Brightblade (from the excellent Dragonlance novels).

The 5th edition, however, changed that. Now Paladins can choose an oath to follow. The classic paladin was there in the Oath of Devotion. But players also had a choice of the Oath of Vengeance and Oath of the Ancients (see my post on the latter).

Here’s what the Players’ Handbook–on page 87–says about the Oath of Vengeance: ‘The Oath of Vengeance is a solemn commitment to punish those who have committed a grievous sin.” It later states these paladins are known as “avengers or dark knights.” It then presents the tenets of this oath (88): “fight the greater evil,” “no mercy for the wicked,” “by any means necessary,” “restitution.” Compare this to the Oath of Devotion’s tenets: “honesty,” “courage,” “compassion,” “honor,” and “duty.”

Players were intrigued. Some argued they should be either Lawful Neutral or Chaotic Good. Others even suggested they should be evil. Many described them as being something like the Dark Knight incarnation of Batman or the Punisher.

I struggled with the idea of an Oath of Vengeance Paladin. First, the suggested alignments are not at all compatible. Second, there’s nothing in that Oath that precludes a specific alignment outside of evil (as they defeat the wicked). I can see the Oath of Vengeance tenets being compatible with anything from Lawful Neutral to Chaotic Good.

Where it does differs from Oath of Devotion is the intensity of acting out the alignment. Indeed, the Sword Coast Adventurers’ Guide section on paladins refers to Oath of Vengeance holders as “zealots.” An Oath of Devotion paladin and Oath of Vengeance could both be Lawful Good, but differ in whether or not they show their foes mercy and whether they stop to help the random villagers or ignore their cries in order to catch up to the evil villain.

Unfortunately, there’s no parameters in character creation for “intensity,” or “attitude.” So I thought I’d come up with a few examples to illustrate the difference.

The first is the Punisher. In Season 2, Episode 3 of Netflix’s Daredevil series, the two heroes have a great conversation about the use of force. Daredevil doesn’t like to kill bad guys; he just uses enough force to stop their evil-doing and give them a chance to change their ways. Punisher, of course, does kill; he wants to save innocents from future threats. I think that’s a good distinction between Oath of Devotion and Oath of Vengeance (I should note that the Punisher’s use of torture is not in line with Good alignments in D&D).

The second example comes from “Curb your enthusiasm,” Larry David’s HBO series. David is frequently sabotaging personal and professional opportunities by enforcing his own set of rules regarding various–arguably trivial–slights. In Season 2, Episode 5, Larry gets the wrong take-out Chinese food and finds out the person who got his food is an HBO executive to whom he was pitching a show. After Larry got his food, he found out the executive ate the shrimp from his food. Larry, of course, confronted him, leading the pitch to be rejected. This is the Oath of Vengeance: pursue the evil-doer even if it causes harm to yourself or your reputation. An Oath of Devotion Larry David, in contrast, may have forgiven the slight and focused on bigger issues.

The final example involves me. At one point in my career, I discovered some malfeasance by a colleague. It was nothing criminal, and didn’t harm anyone else. But it was unethical. If I raised it, the perpetrator may have been disciplined and probably would never do it again. But they were more powerful than me, so it was a risky move for my career. An Oath of Vengeance me would have pursued the issue until it was impossible for the injustice to ever occur again, regardless of the costs or likelihood of success. An Oath of Devotion me would have quietly raised it to make sure the problem was corrected, but avoid forcing any serious consequences onto the perpetrator. (I won’t tell you what I did).

I think these examples can help, as a series of questions to ask when deciding between Vengeance and Devotion. Or you can apply them in a general sense to a situation, and follow the Oath of Vengeance path:

  • when fighting enemies, is your goal to stop the immediate threat and allow them to be redeemed, or ensure they never threaten anyone again? If the latter, you’re Oath of Vengeance.
    • If you’re definitely Oath of Vengeance, your goal in combat is the latter (although not to a ridiculous extent)
  • if your paladin could ensure an evil-doer was unmasked and shamed, but it’s not clear this would actually defeat them (and it would probably take you down in the process), what would they do? If they’d go full Larry David, then you’re Oath of Vengeance.
    • If you’re playing Oath of Vengeance, you never stop pursuing your sworn foe, with no regard to personal cost
  • if your paladin could let an evil-doer off the hook with assurance they’d change their behavior, would they? If not, you’re Oath of Vengeance.
    • Oath of Vengeance paladins would laugh at such an offer. They wouldn’t kill the prisoner, but they would prevent them from going free.

 

Any thoughts? Agree, disagree?

 

UPDATED FOR TYPOS

Origin Stories: Roland, multi-classing

UPDATE: MY GROUP COMPLETED THE SUNLESS CITADEL AND STARTED TOMB OF ANNIHILATION. OUR DM SAID WE COULD ADJUST OUR CHARACTERS AS NEEDED. SO I RETCONNED ROLAND A BIT TO GIVE HIM MORE OF A SPELL-CASTING FOCUS, MULTI-CLASSING AT LEVEL 3 INSTEAD OF 4. SO I’VE REWRITTEN THIS POST TO REFLECT THAT. THE ORIGINAL POST IS BELOW, IN CASE ANYONE IS INTERESTED.

Last time, I discussed how I leveled up Roland–my D&D 5e Aasimar Paladin–to level 3. In this post, I’ll continue through level 4 and 5. After we adjusted our characters for the new campaign, I decided to multi-class Roland with sorcerer at Level 3. So I’ll discuss the mechanics of multi-classing a bit as well. This post ended up a bit long (as multi-classing is complicated) but I marked each section clearly if you want to jump around.

My party ended up being pretty well-covered in combat between the rogue, ranger and barbarian. Meanwhile, the only other spellcaster besides me was a wizard, whose player ended up being a little unreliable in attendance. So I thought it may be useful to add more spellcasting to the party through multi-classing Roland.

Multi-classing

I have never multi-classed in pen-and-paper D&D before, so this was new to me. The basic idea is combining two different classes together in your character’s progression. So over the course of 10 levels, you could take five levels of fighter and five levels of thief to to combine the powers of the two. This is in contrast to earlier editions in which you multi-classed from the beginning, progressing in both classes but advancing more slowly than other characters. Alternately, you could dual-class, in which you start as one class but switch completely to another later on.

I was conflicted as I’m not a huge fan of multi-classing. It always comes off as power-gaming to me. People will dip into alternate classes to gain access to certain spells or powers, making their character more effective. But this occurs at the expense of role-playing; for example, how did the rogue with a street urchin background suddenly gain training in being a wizard? It also may disadvantage players not interested in optimizing their characters. That being said, fifth edition D&D achieves some balance between single and multi-classing by granting powerful 20th level abilities to all classes (which you only achieve if you stay in one class). When I’m DM-ing, I allow it (as it’s in the PHB) but I require players to have a good backstory for why the multi-classing occurs.

So anyways, I was conflicted, but I thought I’d try it out.

The first thing to figure out was the other class. As I’ve complained about before, too many classes in 5e use charisma as their primary stat. But that does make multi-classing convenient for paladins (who rely on charisma). One option is a bard, but that didn’t fit Roland at all.  That left sorcerer and warlock as the others who rely on charisma. Normally, these two would not fit well with a Lawful Good (LG) Aasimar Paladin. But the new Xanathar’s Guide to Everything included some great options.

This new D&D resource provides additional character paths for each class. One new warlock option is the pact of the celestial: instead of the warlock gaining their power from a fiend or Great Old One, they can be connected to a celestial being. This grants them paladin-like power and is consonant with a LG character. Similarly, a new sorcerer option is the divine soul, in which a sorcerer gains access to magic through a divine bloodline. This grants them access to the cleric spell list–as well as the sorcerer spells–and some other useful powers.

Both of these would work well, role-playing wise, with Roland. They are both amenable to LG alignment, and fit with my paladin backstory. Aasimars gain a celestial guide, so I could easily adapt that guide to serve as Roland’s patron for his warlock powers. At the same time, Aasimars come from a fusion of human and celestial blood, so it is easy to imagine Roland gaining access to magical powers through his heritage.

Ultimately, I chose divine soul sorcerer for game-play purposes. Sorcerers have more spell casting options than warlocks, which was the point of multi-classing. I also liked the idea of using metamagic–particularly quicken spell–in combat. I could use sorcery points to cast a spell as a bonus action, allowing me to still attack in the same turn.

Level 4: Oath of Vengeance Paladin 3/Divine Soul Sorcerer 1

First things first, I got more healing powers and hit points. I got fewer hit points as I’m adding a level in sorcerer (which gets a d6 hit dice instead of d10). And while my Paladin laying on hands skill doesn’t increase, my Aasimar healing does.

I also adjusted my Paladin spell list (Paladins can change their prepared spells each level). I kept cure wounds (which is always helpful) and protection from evil and good. I get bless with my sorcerer level (which I’ll discuss below), and I decided it wasn’t worth having multiple protection spells that required concentration. So I switched in detect magic and purify food and water (for utility purposes) and command, which can help me maintain control of the battlefield.

The other big choice for this level  has to do with the ability score increase. At level 4, you can increase one ability score two points, two scores one point each, or take a feat. My options were to increase Charisma, or take a feat. I went with linguist. In my revamped character, Intelligence is a prominent stat (I love playing smart characters, and my party needed it). This feat gives you a one point increase to intelligence and three extra languages. It won’t help in combat, but I though it may be useful as we explore Chult.

Now for the sorcerer decisions. The big choice for a level 1 sorcerer is the spells. I try to avoid spells that duplicate functions (protection, damage, etc.) and avoid having too many that use concentration (as you can only have one going at a time). At first level I got four cantrips and two spells. For cantrips, I chose minor illusion (incredibly flexible spell for a variety of situations), mage hand (another good utility spell), message (good for secret communication in the party), and ray of frost (a combat cantrip that also imposes a disadvantage–lowered speed–on enemies).

The first level spells were a little tricky to decide on. Because I would be the primary arcane spellcaster, I tried to pick spells that could complement front-line fighters and be useful in a variety of situations. I also picked spells that could increase in power with higher level spell slots. Because of the complex multi-classing rules, I get 4 level 1 slots and 2 level 2, but don’t know any level 2 spells yet. So I will use my level 2 slots to cast more powerful spells.

One was earth tremor, from Xanathar’s Guide. This creates a mini earthquake, causing people caught in it to take damage and be knocked prone if they fail a saving throw. I thought that could be great if I’m up front, facing foes on my own. I also chose chaos bolt (also from Xanathar’s Guide). This spell allows you to launch a bolt of randomly determined energy at enemies, with a chance of the bolt duplicating itself on impact. Finally, divine soul sorcerers get an extra spell based on their alignment; as lawful good I took blesswhich freed up an additional paladin spell slot.

Finally, one of the divine soul abilities is the power to add 2d4 to an attack or saving throw once per long rest (to represent the divine favor in me).

Level 5

 

 

At level 5, my proficiency bonus went up to 3, which added a lot to my attacks and skill checks. I also added more hit points.

I got an additional spell as well, and chose feather fall. I didn’t really need another attack spell, and this spell is more useful than you may think.

The other big change was sorcery points. These are what make the sorcerer balanced with wizard (which gains a lot more spells). They are points you can use to basically mess with your spells. At level 2 they can create new spell slots as a bonus action, but other uses emerge later on. So this will make me a more powerful caster.

So that’s Roland at Level 5. I think my specific progression (in terms of paladin vs. warlock spells) will vary based on what my group needs. But I will definitely use at least 3 levels of warlock to get the metamagic feats. So stay tuned for future posts on how Roland is doing.

ORIGINAL POST:

Last time, I discussed how I leveled up Roland–my D&D 5e Aasimar Paladin–to level 3. In this post, I’ll continue through level 4 and 5. At level 5 I decided to multi-class Roland with the sorcerer class, which is pretty interesting so far. So I’ll discuss the mechanics of multi-classing a bit as well. This post ended up a bit long (as multi-classing is complicated) but I marked each section clearly if you want to jump around.

Level 4

Once again, I got more healing powers and hit points. I also gained an additional prepared spell, which I used on command; this lets you, appropriately enough, issue a command to an enemy, causing them to flee or grovel or anything else your DM lets you do. I thought that may help controlling the battlefield.

But the big choice for this level has to do with the ability score increase. At level 4, you can increase one ability score two points, two scores one point each, or take a feat. I was really torn. My options were to increase Charisma from 16 to 18 (which would give me more potent spellcasting and social skills), take the Heavy Armor Master feat (which decreases damage I take and increases Strength to 18), or the Sentinel feat (which helps me protect others on the battlefield). I decided to go with the Charisma boost, as I was the party’s primary divine spellcaster and negotiator. I took a lot of damage early on, so the Heavy Armor Master feat would help, but I thought the benefits of Charisma outweighed that. And again, because my party was pretty well-covered on damage infliction, I didn’t need to add strength.

Level 5

[So our D&D session was postponed at the last minute, and Roland hasn’t reached level 5 yet. But our DM had asked us to prepare a level 5 character sheet to make the session easier. As I already had it ready, I’ll still include it in this post]

With level 5, I decided to take Roland in a different direction. My party ended up being pretty well-covered in combat between the rogue, ranger and barbarian. Meanwhile, the only other spellcaster besides me was a wizard, whose player ended up being a little unreliable in attendance. So I thought it may be useful to add more spellcasting to the party through multi-classing Roland.

Multi-classing

I have never multi-classed in pen-and-paper D&D before, so this was new to me. The basic idea is combining two different classes together in your character’s progression. So over the course of 10 levels, you could take five levels of fighter and five levels of thief to to combine the powers of the two. This is in contrast to earlier editions in which you multi-classed from the beginning, progressing in both classes but advancing more slowly than other characters. Alternately, you could dual-class, in which you start as one class but switch completely to another later on.

I was conflicted as I’m not a huge fan of multi-classing. It always comes off as power-gaming to me. People will dip into alternate classes to gain access to certain spells or powers, making their character more effective. But this occurs at the expense of role-playing; for example, how did the rogue with a street urchin background suddenly gain training in being a wizard? It also may disadvantage players not interested in optimizing their characters. That being said, fifth edition D&D achieves some balance between single and multi-classing by granting powerful 20th level abilities to all classes (which you only achieve if you stay in one class). When I’m DM-ing, I allow it (as it’s in the PHB) but I require players to have a good backstory for why the multi-classing occurs.

So anyways, I was conflicted, but I thought I’d try it out.

The first thing to figure out was the other class. As I’ve complained about before, too many classes in 5e use charisma as their primary stat. But that does make multi-classing convenient for paladins (who rely on charisma). One option is a bard, but that didn’t fit Roland at all.  That left sorcerer and warlock as the others who rely on charisma. Normally, these two would not fit well with a Lawful Good (LG) Aasimar Paladin. But the new Xanathar’s Guide to Everything included some great options.

This new D&D resource provides additional character paths for each class. One new warlock option is the pact of the celestial: instead of the warlock gaining their power from a fiend or Great Old One, they can be connected to a celestial being. This grants them paladin-like power and is consonant with a LG character. Similarly, a new sorcerer option is the divine soul, in which a sorcerer gains access to magic through a divine bloodline. This grants them access to the cleric spell list–as well as the sorcerer spells–and some other useful powers.

Both of these would work well, role-playing wise, with Roland. They are both amenable to LG alignment, and fit with my paladin backstory. Aasimars gain a celestial guide, so I could easily adapt that guide to serve as Roland’s patron for his warlock powers. At the same time, Aasimars come from a fusion of human and celestial blood, so it is easy to imagine Roland gaining access to magical powers through his heritage.

Ultimately, I chose divine soul sorcerer for game-play purposes. Sorcerers have more spell casting options than warlocks, which was the point of multi-classing. I also liked the idea of using metamagic–particularly quicken spell–in combat. I could use sorcery points to cast a spell as a bonus action, allowing me to still attack in the same turn.

Level 5: Oath of Vengeance Paladin 4/Divine Soul Sorcerer 1

The big choice for a level 1 sorcerer is the spells. At first level I got four cantrips and two spells. For cantrips, I chose friends (charisma boost, which will help in social situations), minor illusion (incredibly flexible spell for a variety of situations) and two from the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide that would help in combat. Booming Blade is a spell cast as part of an attack; on a hit, the target is engulfed in sonic energy, taking damage if they move. Additionally, lightning lure forces a target to make a saving throw or be drawn toward the caster, taking damage in the process. I envisioned using these to keep enemies from advancing on the rest of my party in combat.

The first level spells were a little tricky to decide on (and I may tinker with this a bit before our session). I tried to pick spells that did not duplicate any of my paladin spells, and could be useful in frontline combat. I thus didn’t go with the ever popular magic missile (although I’ll probably choose fireball when I get to that point), in favor of melee spells. I also picked spells that could increase in power with higher level spell slots. Because of the complex multi-classing rules, I get 4 level 1 slots and 2 level 2, but don’t know any level 2 spells yet. So I will use my level 2 slots to cast more powerful spells.

One was earth tremor, from Xanathar’s Guide. This creates a mini earthquake, causing people caught in it to take damage and be knocked prone if they fail a saving throw. I thought that could be great if I’m up front, facing foes on my own. I also chose absorb elements (from Xanathar’s Guide as well). This cool-sounding spell grants me resistance to a type of attack I’ve just been hit with; I can then re-direct some of that into my next attack, adding 1d6 of the type of damage to my next hit. I’m picturing a boss battle in which I absorb a lightning bolt, then in the next turn combine my divine smite with the extra lightning damage to go nova on the bad guy. Finally, divine soul sorcerers get an extra spell based on their alignment; as lawful good I took cure wounds, which freed up an additional paladin spell slot. As a result, I added shield of faith, another good tanking spell.

There were a few other things I had to update. My proficiency bonus went up to 3, which added a lot to my attacks and skill checks. I only got 6 extra hit points (because sorcerers gain fewer than paladins). Also, one of the divine soul abilities is the power to add 2d4 to an attack or saving throw once per long rest (to represent the divine favor in me).

So that’s Roland at Level 5. I think my specific progression (in terms of paladin vs. warlock spells) will vary based on what my group needs. But I will definitely use at least 3 levels of warlock to get the metamagic feats. So stay tuned for future posts on how Roland is doing.

Origin Stories: Roland, leveling up

Happy New Year! What better way to ring in 2018 than with some D&D…

In a previous series of Origin Stories posts, I discussed Roland, my D&D 5e Aasimar Paladin. I am using Roland in a current campaign (we started with the Sunless Citadel from Tales from the Yawning Portal, and are going to start Tomb of Annihilation), so I thought it would be interesting to continue to post on him as he levels up. My walkthrough of the campaign itself is forthcoming.

I always try to come up with a focus for characters, but it doesn’t really come out until you need to start making choices when leveling up. For Roland, he will be the party’s tank; a character focused on absorbing damage from enemies and protecting party members. I love running a dps Paladin (damage per second: a Paladin who kills a lot of enemies) but my party was heavy on damage-causing characters and light on spellcasters who can aid in combat. So I decided to focus on the latter.

Level 2

Not much happens between level 1 and 2 for Paladins. I gained more hit points, taking the pre-set amount plus my Constitution modifier (I’m not a risk taker). I also gained divine smite, in which I can use a spell slot to add 2d8 extra radiant damage to an attack (3d8 if undead). And the amount of hit points I could heal through my Paladin lay on hands and an equivalent power for Aasimar increased.

The big choices had to do with spells and fighting style. A paladin can prepare a number of spells equal to their charisma modifier plus half their level; for me, this was four. As I am focusing on tanking, I chose some useful spells in that area. Bless is an obvious one, gaining 1d4 extra points to attack and saving throws. There’s also protection from evil and good, granting benefits in fights with undead and fiends (I obviously chose protection from evil). I also chose cure wounds, essential in a party with no cleric. Finally, I picked compelled duel, which imposes disadvantage on the target if it attacks someone other than me. I thought that would help keep fire from my allies.

For fighting style, I chose protection (going with the tank theme). If I’m using a shield, this lets me impose disadvantage on an attack against an ally. This is really helpful in combat, especially if you have other characters who can inflict a lot of damage (in my case a barbarian and ranger).

Level 3

With level 3 I again gained more hit points and more healing power. I also gained more spell slots (although no more prepared spells, that comes at 4).

But level 3 is where things get fun, because this where you get to customize your class. For paladins, that’s with “oaths.” These are the guidelines your paladin follows, which provide a set of rules as well as extra spells and powers. In the Player’s Handbook, you can choose between the Oath of Devotion (the classic holy knight), the Oath of the Ancients (a nature-loving knight, which I ran in the past) and the Oath of Vengeance, a kind of Batman/Punisher type. As I mentioned in the character creation post, I went with Oath of Vengeance.

At level 3, I gained a few things. I got two extra spells on top of my other prepared spells; bane and hunter’s mark. These are very useful in combat, causing fear and extra damage, respectively. I also gained some powers. Once per long rest, I could use abjure enemy, which requires a target to pass a Wisdom saving throw or become afraid. I could alternately use vow of enmnity, which gives me advantage on attacks against one target. The idea here is that Oath of Vengeance Paladins are sworn to right wrongs, and use their divine powers to pursue evildoers.

I also gained powers through my Aasimar. At level 3 I could cast radiant consumption. This causes the Aasimar explode in radiant fire, harming himself and any other creatures within 10ft. Additional damage can be inflicted on one target. The amount is minor at first (half your level), but increases with each level up.

So at level 3 I not only had a stronger Paladin, but a fearful agent of righteousness. I could frighten enemies, and use my divine backer (in this case Helm) to gain advantage in attacks. I could burst in radiant fire, consuming my enemies. And then I can heal my allies when needed.

Thoughts

So that’s how I advanced Roland from Level 1 to Level 3. I’ll have another post next week on levels 4 and 5 (including multi-classing…) and I’ll do a separate post on how role-playing developed for him over time (with more general thoughts on the Oath of Vengeance track).

In retrospect, I wish I had gone with Oath of Devotion. The Oath of Vengeance is really built for inflicting damage. But as I mentioned, my party had that covered, and needed more protection (such as from Oath of Devotion). I tend to focus character development on backstory, rather than in-game optimization. This makes it fun for me, but I worry I’m not as effective as I could be.

Tune in next time for multi-classing…

 

The Elder God’s Cavern level 2, session 2 (continued)

Last time, the group made their way through level 2 of the multi-level D&D 5e dungeon I am running. They found some new allies, and were about to assault the hobgoblin lair to recover the parts for the submersible that would take them to the next level. The group included Uatu (a halfling warlock), Black Lotus (a drow monk), Crohm (a human fighter), Dre (a dragonborn barbarian) and Goris (a half-orc barbarian).

They moved forward cautiously, Black Lotus in the lead. The passageway became more regular, as if workers had carved flat corrridors out of the stone. They came to a wide, square-shaped room with a heavyset door at the opposite when arrows flew by them.

Two hobgoblins were hiding behind barricades, firing. Uatu fired eldritch blasts in return, while the rest of the group charged. Suddenly more arrows flew by them, as they saw hobgoblins firing from murder holes in the door. The group started to pull back but Dre charged the doors, smashing them open [he wasn’t supposed to be able to do that, but rolled a natural 20]

The group took out the hobgoblin archers, but more appeared at the end of the passageway, and continued to fire. They killed a few of them, but the group was out of spells, wounded and exhausted, when a gruff voice called out to them.

It was Grort, the leader of the hobgoblin. He asked for a truce, arguing that he’d lost many fighters, but the group couldn’t kill all of them. They agreed, and everyone lowered their weapons. Uatu told him they wanted to get to the lower levels, and needed the gnome the hobgoblins had captured.

The gnome, Fonken, was brought out [he may sound familiar. Fonken is one of my characters (who I’ll do an Origin Stories post on eventually) that I’ve used in another adventure as well]. The group tried to convince the hobgoblins to let Fonken go, but they refused. Grort asked for all the group’s treasure, which didn’t go over well. At an impasse, Grort then challenged one of them to single combat.

Black Lotus stepped up, and the fight began. A weakened Black Lotus was visibly struggling, when Uatu walked over to a robed human who accompanied Grort. Uatu pointed out Grort was weakened, and suggested the human make a bid for leadership. He was convincing [rolled well on persuasion] and just as Grort was about to strike a killing blow on Black Lotus, the human cast a spell and a pillar of fire descended on Grort, killing him [he cast sacred flame]

The human announced he was in charge, and the hobgoblins—irritated with Grort’s leadership, and respecting strength—welcome that.  The human agreed to let Fonken fix the submersible and be free if he helped them maintain their own drainage system [the group didn’t really get into this, but Fonken had used parts from the submersible to create pumps to keep the hobgoblin lair dry; the tunnels for these could have provided another entryway for the group]

Everyone agreed to this deal, the bandits held a feast for the group, and then set off the next morning.

Here’s the prepared text for their exit:

With a jolt and a shudder, the device activates. You begin to sink into the water, and strange lights ignire on the outside of the device. Looking out the windows, you can see the device floating downwards, towards a dark hole in the river that must lead deeper into the hill. The device enters the hole with a whoosh, shaking a bit. You can see the rock walls flying by—you’re travelling incredibly fast now. Suddenly the walls disappear, and you’re in a fantastically large cavern. The lights don’t even reach the walls, and it’s almost as if you’re in the ocean. You start to see other lights in the deep, and realize there are glowing fish out there. And you jump back with a start as a gigantic fish, the size of a house, passes by. Suddenly you realize you’ve been travelling fast and deep enough to reach deep into the earth.

Just as you begin to worry about where you’re going, the walls close in around you again and you can see daylight. The device comes to rest in a strange upwards-flowing waterfall, moves out of the water, and settles into a cradle. The doors open up.

Looking around, you see you’re in a long, broad tunnel. As you orient yourselves, you realize this must run the length of the hill. At the west end of the tunnel, you can see daylight. At the east end is a stone door.

The group found a sealed door at one end of the cavern, and at the other they came out into a narrow valley holding a decrepit, creepy-looking house.

To be continued in Level 3 of The Elder God’s Cavern…

[I am saving my commentary on the creation of this dungeon till the end, but I wanted to say a few things about how this level played out. I had prepared a few ways in for both the bullywug and hobgoblin lair. I also came up with negotiation possibilities for both. The group found the bullywug secret entrance, which helped. For the hobgoblins, there was a control room for the submersible that was turned into a pumping station by Fonken. The group could have used tunnels in this station to sneak through the hobgoblin lair.

It seemed like a good practice when creating a lair, to set up options for sneaking and negotiation (in addition to frontal assault). That can make the adventure more interesting, and appeal to different types of groups.]

 

The Elder God’s Cavern, level 2, session 2

The group re-formed to finish the second level of the dungeon. We had Crohm (human fighter), Uatu (halfling warlock), Black Lotus (drow monk), and two newcomers: Dre (dragonborn barbarian) and Goris (half-orc barbarian). I run the group through Meetup, so try to accommodate people who join halfway through. Once again, we met at the excellent Killer Rabbit Comics and Games in South Burlington, VT.

The group took a long rest to recover from the fight. After waking, they heard a commotion: what sounded like shouting, and someone running towards them.

They decided to prepare by hiding the tiger corpse to avoid raising suspicion. Unfortunately, it proved heavier than they expected, so they were still pulling on it as a dragonborn and half-orc ran into the cavern, followed soon after by three hobgoblins [everyone failed their strength checks].

The group rushed to attack, while the Dre and Goris turned on their pursuers. Goris ripped out one of the tiger’s fangs to use as a dagger, and Dre attacked with his hands. The group quickly took care of the hobgoblins, and introduced themselves to the new-comers. They had been travelling through the highlands to the west when they were set upon by a group of hobgoblins and captured. Their captors were escorting them back to their lair when they made a break for it.

After introductions, the group explained what they were trying to accomplish. The newcomers knew the way to the hobgoblin lair, but they decided to look for the alternative power source for the submersible first. Heading northwest, they came into a slimy cavern that ended in the rushing river. While exploring the riverbank, a green slime dropped on Uatu, injuring him. He scraped it off with a rock, and they moved on.

The next cavern was overgrown with waist-high (for a human) mushrooms. The group began cutting their way through when suddenly a horrid shrieking sound erupted beside them. Uatu saw it was coming from a strange fungus, and realized it was a shrieker [rolled a Nature check]. He tugged on it, but it wouldn’t budge. Goris tried to help by tugging on Uatu, but it still wouldn’t come out. Then Dre shouted, “I’ll just smash it!” ran over, and missed, kicking Uatu in the head [two failed strength checks, and a critical failure by Dre].

The group decided to move on. They came out in a familiar passageway. Remembering that it led to the trapped passageway Black Lotus stumbled over (last session), they headed the other direction.

They came out into a ruined temple. A statue of a blinded and maimed god stood on a pedestal, with a sealed chest behind him. On the pedestal was written, “follow in my footsteps to gain my aid.” On the wall were carving of horrific beasts—reminiscent of the tentacled creatures in the carvings above them—attacking human cities but being held back by figures emitting light. In one corner, a figure holding back the beasts had a different beast behind him, aiding him.

The group tried to figure out how to open the chest, but it wouldn’t budge. Black Lotus walked in the direction the statue was looking, but nothing happened. Uatu identified the statue as Tyr [religion check], and Dre closed his eyes and walked blindly. At this, the statue clicked open. Inside they found a decanter of endless water, a rope of climbing, and two sending stones.

They backtracked their way south, past the tiger lair, to a large, oddly shaped room with numerous, dark, alcoves. The floor was covered with a fungus Goris recognized as growing from corpses, and the room had a horrid, rotting smell. As they carefully explored the alcoves, a ghoul appeared out of the darkness, and bit Uatu in the shoulder.

The others rushed in as two other ghouls and a zombie came out of the darkness. The ghouls bit Black Lotus and Dre as well, but they fought off the stiffness in their limbs [succeeded in saving throw against paralysis]. They defeated the undead rather easily [I was a little disappointed, was hoping for a least one paralysis]. In the alcoves they found assorted treasure, and a glowing stone [“does it look like a power source?” one of my players facetiously asked]

They headed back to the passageway to the hobgoblin lair. Remembering the traps last time, Black Lotus walked carefully, but still got hit with an arrow. He then decided to poke the floor ahead of him with a stick, and discovered the rest of the traps. Unfortunately, that included a set of bells that rang alarmingly loud…

Continued next week.