Resources

I’ve recently been very focused on D&D, and only consuming D&D related entertainment and content. Rather a lot of what I’ve found I’ve been enjoying so here is a linkdump of everything out there that might be finding its way into my games. Also for my players, if any of the rules I link to interest you, let me know and I’ll import them to Fantasy Grounds for you.

Kobold Press is Awesome

Kobold Press are my favorite third-party developers for 5e. I’ve loved them for years and my games have used many of their products. Their blog (Delve into the Depths in the Kobold Blog – Kobold Press) is a wonderful source of ideas, most for DMs but also they have good character ideas and setting information for players.

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Hiran and the Wolf

This has been in the works for about a decade, never got around to finishing it off. But it came up in game a couple times recently, so here is a finished version, for players, of who “The Demon” was, and what went down in the world. I imagine, if this version exists in the game world, that it might exist in the great library, where everyone has a story that includes their whole lives, even into the future. And no one knows who the author(s) are.

Hiran, the strongest and most vile of the primal spirits, was worried. He had always been so powerful that he didn't believe anything could threaten him. During the Titanomachy, he saw titans and gods killing each other, but he knew he was stronger than any who had died. But then, Mother Terra was killed and everything changed. Not just because all of creation almost ended with her, not just because he and the other Hierarchs punished Ra for his part in it and forced the Titanomachy to end, not it was more than that. Terra was stronger than Hiran. She was the only entity in existence that he would admit this of. And if she could die, so to could he experience death.
Hiran, as one of the immortals with the greatest view of creation, knew a secret that only five other beings in all of creation knew: they didn't make creation, it already existed. Someone else must have made it. He usually buried this thought down deep and didn't contemplate it. But in the silence after everything was done, he knew that he had to. Because Hiran was terrified of death.
Hiran prayed, therefore. For the first time in his entire existence, Hiran acknowledged there was something greater than himself, and he prayed to whatever that might be. And something answered. Hiran asked to be unkillable, but he was told that, as the lord of entropy, he should know nothing that exists can exist forever. Even time will end. So Hiran tried to outsmart whatever it was. He asked to be impossible to kill by man or by beast, by mortal or immortal, by weapon or by tooth and claw, by night or by day, inside or outside of his dwelling, on land or in the sea, and many more combinations of such that he felt he had named everything. And he received back and answer that his wish had been granted. But still he feared death.
Hiran traveled to The Tree. He looked upon and and felt how its power was tied to everything in every world. How what remained of Mother flowed down into it and out through its roots into him. How anything that harmed that tree would harm itself and all of existence. And Hiran was jealous of this tree that didn't need to fear death.
Hiran gathered his most loyal and reliable servants. They weren't many. He told them that he had a plan inspired by The Tree, but that he needed the help of two of them in particular. The Lady of the Web, mistress of unpleasant fates and fulfiller of curses. She would loop their fate through The Tree and then to a portion of creation. And Rhodin, the master of forbidden knowledge would devise the ritual to make it happen. This would give them absolute control over the land, far more control than any of them had as primal spirits. If anyone harmed them, the world itself would suffer. To kill them would require destroying the land they were bonded to. And Hiran had the Lady bond his destiny to The entire Tree. So that finally, Hiran wouldn't have to fear death.
Hiran commanded Rhodin to craft words of power; but they were foul words, words that stained the air when uttered, and words that made even all-seeing Ixion turn his eye away. These were words that could not be spoken, for the sounds would unmake the voice that dared to utter them. And the Lady wove threads of doom through each of them, threads that gathered all the suffering and hurt of existence and many forms of torment and woe that extend beyond what is possible within creation; and she wove those threads full of Rhodin's unspeakable words. And Hiran began to see how soon he would be free from the fear of death.
Hiran taught the unspeakable words to druids who tended The Tree, and he handed them the Lady's webs. The druids wept, and Hiran saw it as weakness, they feared his power and what he would do to the world. But in their hearts the druids wept for other, nobler, reasons. And Hiran made the druids work the magic through The Tree, and they did. As they pulled on the Lady's threads all of the gods and titans and primordials screamed in agony. But no sound was heard for their screams were the screams of Rhodin's unutterable words. Then the druids moved the threads into place, and now only Hiran and his servants screamed, but these screams could be heard. The foulness of the Lady's threads seeped into the world through The Tree and is tore, and it pushed, and it crushed these primal spirits until they were rent from creation except each into their piece of the world. Eternally unified with all existence through Mother Terra's power, now each alone in their own pocket, unable to perceive anyone else, they screamed. Spirits of life and creation they became bound to a destiny so foul that light itself refused to touch them, and in its absence, they screamed. Immortal beings, singers of the song that birthed the first mortal souls they were twisted so foul that sound would never again come near them, and in the silence, they screamed. Primal entities whose soul was meant to shepherd the world to its fate, they bent and warped until their doom and the world's doom were of a single form, and the world was so horrified by this form that it would never again touch them. And the form they created was a form that screamed. Immortal beings beyond time, to whom past and future were as one, they held the word's future as one with their own, a future so loathsome that change would never again come to them, that time's arrow pointed only away from them, that they only had one moment timelessly eternally. And that moment was the moment that they screamed. And Hiran feared that this was death.
Hiran took for himself the whole world, and he felt all of his servants. They each had the world as he divided it up. And the world became as they were. The Lady of the Web's lands sank into a sick mire and darkened with sorrows and thoughts of doom. The Fire Lords land burned to dust an empty and endless hunger. Discord's land broke apart and rang out with a terrible noisome shaking. And Hiran took for himself all their lands as his own, and he felt all of the mortals and beasts. They had power, each a spark of The Tree, and he felt them all. To his Grey Priest he gave the command, "harvest the spark" and the Grey Priest devised ways to sacrifice the mortals. Each of Hiran's servants followed his lead and power flowed into them from the deaths, and through them to Hiran. But Hiran knew that he needed more if he was to have enough power to stop fearing death.
Hiran gathered all the mortals of the world and commanded them to rape the corpse of Mother Terra. To work the land such that it produced more food than it was wont to do. To carve her bones and pull out the stone and metal and with them to build permanent homes, like caves above ground. And mortals, who also fear death, did as great Hiran bade them and raised the first cities and crops. And the people grew to be many in the cities. And the Grey Priest sacrificed more and more. And Hiran feared there would never be enough that he would not fear death.
Hiran was not alone in this thought. The people also wondered if he would kill them all. They prayed to the titans to save them, but the titans had been driven away in the Titanomachy, and could not answer their prayers. They prayed to the gods to save them, but the gods had been driven away in the Titanomachy, and could not answer their prayers. They prayed to the primal spirits to save them, but the primal spirits had all been subjugated by Hiran, and could not answer their prayers. There was no one else for the people to pray to, Hiran could not be unthroned from his rule of all the world. And the people despaired, because they did not know that Hiran killed them because he feared death.
Hiran had one rival for power. Ancient Night saw the things that Ixion's light did not. And ancient Night had watched everything Hiran had done. Ancient Night had heard Hiran's prayer, She had heard the answer, She had watched as Hiran had conquered the world, She watched as Hiran told people to defile the corpse of Her beloved daughter Mother Terra, and now, She heard the prayers of the people. And Ancient Night decided that She would show Hiran why it was that even he needed to fear death.
Ancient Night took upon herself a form that was neither mortal nor immortal but Avatar. It was neither man nor beast, neither male nor female, and this great beast, called afterward The Werewolf, attacked Hiran at twilight, on the threshold of his door, holding him aloft--neither on the land, nor the sea--it split open his belly and strangled him with his own entrails, that are neither the tooth and claw of an animal nor the weapon of a person. And Ancient Night ensured that every other one of Hiran's impossible conditions was met. And as Hiran died, he heard a voice, a voice heard by no one else but Ancient Night. Not even The Wolf with his hands on Hiran heard it. The voice said to Hiran, "I told you brother entropy, I told you when you prayed to me, that nothing within creation can escape from death".

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One Off “The Shining Loon”

This was a one-off game DM’d by a friend where I got to be a player. The short version of the story is “Keep the peace in your bar for one God-damned night”.

The Shining Loon is every adventurers’ dream tavern. Cheap beer, great music, friendly brawls… but now it’s in trouble. It turns out the tavern is losing its insurance. The premiums have been bad enough, but without insurance, the tavern will lose its license. Turns out casting Mending as a 5th level spell is not cheap…You’ve worked at The Shining Loon for a while now and feel a deep loyalty to her. After a lot of begging and bribing, you’re given one shot to save it: keep order in your bar for one goddamn night, by any means necessary. Unfortunately for you, tonight is the last night of the Festival of Lapuard.

— Adventure Backdrop

The Characters:

  • Skyler Grey, Human Rogue, Bar Owner.
  • Karl Marxgun the Hateful, Dwarven Abjuration Wizard, Barkeep, Brewer, Mage Hater
  • Draven Grimm, Warlock/Druid, Hermit who lives in the bar and sells nick-nacks out of a corner booth.
  • Eldric Liebowitz, Half-Elf Fighter, part-time bouncer, Lieutenant in the Queen’s Guard
  • Christoph the Dark, Human Gloomstalker Ranger, rat-catcher
  • Roland, Warforged Artificer, decoration that pre-dates the building being a bar
  • Mittens, cat, speaks and knows more than it should
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Savage Coast Domain Map in Progress

Thorfin Tait is the master mapper who has been taking all the classic maps of Mystara and turning them into beautiful modern hex maps. He has also been making them fit with each other in an attempt to create a complete world map of the planet.

I am nowhere near his league, but I needed an editable map of the area near my Mystara Campaign’s location so that my players can rule their domain, having conquered it.

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Mystara: Reality-Twisting Mystery

To recap, the Mystara campaign has three characters who are working to ascend to immortality. Originally, they worked their way through the two hardbacked adventures Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat, but fleshed out with a bit of Princes of the Apocalypse and all set in Mystara. In order to secure support from the Metallic Dragons, the characters promised to help build a secure dragon hatchery for Copper, Brass, and Bronze dragons so they could recover from the casualties inflicted in the battles with Tiamat’s legions of chromatic dragons. The characters found a likely location out on the Savage Coast and secured a ruined castle and a took an oath of fealty to a baron from Eusdria in return for grant of the land, upon the assumption that they aren’t wiped out by the hobgoblin khanate. 

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Retcon: God Kings

So, Home’s major point of uniqueness was the Monster Lords. These were evil deities who bonded their souls to the world. This was inspired by Tolkien’s posthumously published Morgoth’s Ring. I differentiated them by using the capital M for Monster vs monster.

Players always seemed to be a little bit confused by this. First you can’t really hear a capital letter. Second, it is called a monster and people have a reasonable expectation in roleplaying games that they can kill monsters. This goes beyond “don’t give it hp if you don’t want the players to kill it” rule. The game is very literally about killing monsters and saving the world. Naming the gods monsters was incorrectly suggesting players should expect to be able to kill them. Finally, it made new players feel like the Monster Lords were not actually gods. And that was really a big problem.

So, I am renaming them God Kings. This has several advantages. First, God is right there in the name. If you fuck with them, you totally deserve all the horrible things that happen to you. Second, monster is gone so the confusion is gone. Finally, it fits with the bronze-age setting.

Yup, that’s all. Short one.

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City of Heroes owns my soul again

In 2012 NCSOFT shut down City of Heroes, my favorite video game of all time. I participated in a couple of the effforts to save the game, but none of them worked out. Without City, I spent a few years drifting from game to game, stuck with Star Trek Online for quite a long time, but I never found anything else I enjoyed.

The big problems were that most games are exremely negative. Like heroes are actually evil, the world is getting worse no matter what the players do, etc. If the game isn’t negative then the developers/publishers are super greedy and kill it with bad monitization.

Stardew Valley was one that worked for me. But I kept killing it with mods, lol, and never did get a stable game that I enjoyed. Still, it held me for a very long time too.

I tried Black Desert, Champions, Star Wars The Old Republic, GalCiv, Xcom, Wasteland, Darksiders, and a bunch more I don’t remember.

Then, I heard about SCORE and the illegal CoH servers. Found Homecoming, and haven’t had much of a life left since. So if my blog is empty, and my games show less prep time, blame Leandro and GM Jimmy over at Homecoming. I am starting to work my way back to better prep for the games, and I have gotten some great ideas for fixing dominions and being rulers that I’ll be testing out before the end of the year. I also do have a few posts in draft form that I’m still working on. So, it hasn’t swallowed my soul completely.

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MAGI: Plot Recap and Next Steps

After our last session the party realized that they had too many unanswered questions. We reviewed all of the dangling plot points and discussed what the party wants to do next.

  1. What does the artifact trouble left in Cait do?
  2. Who hired the red plumes?
  3. What is the relationship between the arena, the orc, bully and the red plumes?
  4. How is noble family that rhuddy stole a hand from involved?
  5. What happened to the other 3 artifacts stolen from the amber temple?
  6. When (and who) will come from beyond the veil of death to speak to Arianwyn since she got a new body?
  7. What are the three redheads up to?
  8. Where is Challm’s new property?
  9. What is up with the gang war?
  10. Who are these other people who can travel through the necropolis?
  11. Where is the branch administrator’s key to MAGI property?
  12. What is going on with the elven civil war?
  13. Will the Valmont’s try anything?
  14. Is Nadezdha safe now?
  15. Who was not-siobahn?
  16. Why did she want to talk to an elf?
  17. Is the empire’s platinum safe?
  18. Will the priests of the monsters seek revenge?
  19. Will the howling demon and his succubus do anything to Jacques’ lands? or are they far enough away?
  20. How did olivia know about you guys and where did she go after she sent you to Passau?
  21. Did the new tree on Ash’s farm resolve the problem with teh shadow or not?
  22. If the mirror realm still has temples to all the monster lords, why was their priest too weak to kick out the efreeti?
  23. What happened to the person Challm was using his bar’s abilityto grant sanctuary to?
  24. What’s going on with the mist?
  25. What’s going on with esmerelda’s relationship with her bardic college?
  26. What was the deal with the murder that was the red plume’s first job?

Interrogation of Captain Ehrlich

The Red Plume’s commander was captured at the end of the party’s battle with him and his resurgent god, Goralik. His soul (and that of the mercenary force’s champion) was trapped into the hand of a statue of the god, which Arianwyn transformed into small statues she keeps in the library and has Trouble torment them with annoying questions. She brought out Ehrlich’s statue and activated it, conjuring his spirit in the form of a disembodied head. Esmerelda gave Arianwyn a pouch of some dust that she had custom made by someone who was not as respectful of corpse’s rights as the one who invented the Speak with Dead spell. This version compelled answers and made it very hard to lie. Arianwyn used it on Ehrlich for the following 5 questions (with a little additional side skills checks by the party).

What did the customer who hired the Red Plumes for the three jobs do with the key? He has it on his body, on a chain around his neck. I think he even sleeps with it.

How did he contact you? He sent messengers with a symbol, the signet ring of a noble family that went extinct generations ago.

>> The family was named Samogita but their original name was Zemotijit. Far in the past they were patrons of MAGI and eventually became members of the ministry. Some as agents and some as officers. The family died out, no one knows how. Some rumors about a rivalry with another family, but the details are lost.

What about the future? Future jobs and/or use for the artifacts? He complained about people looking for immortality only getting it half right. Elves live for millennia, undead too. But they can still be obliterated. He wanted to do it right.

Who were they protecting that he hired them to kill instead (1st job)? A minor noble family, from the mountains, they have a home here in the city. Their names were Evzan and Lada Ptacek. The wife was the target, the husband… well, he shouldn’t have tried to protect her.

Note: in other conversations it had been revealed that during the assassination the customer died too, but then later showed back up again in a different body.

>> Ash asked: what happened to the body of the customer? Int. Check: Nat 1. No idea.

What were the tells that allowed him to know the person in different bodies and/or anything his men might have told him? Ehrlich explained that he knew the client regardless of which body he appeared in because of the way he walked and moved. As a fighter that was relatively easy for Ehrlich to pick up on. Arianwyn wanted to know what where those tells, but being an archivist she couldn’t understand what he was saying. That is until Sir Bel came over and acted it all out and explained what was going on. Now everyone in the party can identify the customer regardless of what body he wears.

>> Ash asked her rats to check on the bodies: Yes the nobles were buried in her graveyard, and yes there was an unidentified body with them. The body was rendered down for glue and candles. One candle is left, which is now in Ash’s possession.

Trouble asked her contact Sam about the history of the families. The feud expanded until it reached hatfield vs mckoy levels. They kept using more and more powerful magic and even stealing from MAGI to use artifacts against each other. Rumors hold that when the first family died out their servants became a secret society dedicated to wiping out the others. Even MAGI started to hunt them both due to the thefts and artifact useage. Eventually there was no one left. The histories all say MAGI won in the end having taken out everyone involved.

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Three Ways to Resolve Solo Stories in a Group Game

Introduction

This is an extended “behind the scenes”/DM Advice post. Recently in the MAGI campaign, three separate situations arose where characters were separated from the group as a cliff-hanger ending to a session. None of them were planned by the DM, they just happened organically. In order to minimize the impact on the next session, the DM resolved portions of their experiences with the players away from the table. Each situation and each player is different and so this post looks at how each one was handled with a little insight into the why of it. It also serves as a look at what might have been if the players had made different choices.  

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Vampire Build 2: Warlock

The Magical Vampire (Warlock, Pact of the Tome, Undying Patron) 

Resources for this build: 

Who is the Warlock Vampire – Mina Harker

As noted in my first vampire build post, I had a new player who wanted help building a vampire for their PC. The specific request was for a character that was beautiful, deadly, magical, could make people fall in love with them, was able to pick up anything and be good with it, move so fast they seem to teleport, etc. A lot of the positives without the emo baggage the World of Darkness dumps onto their vampires basically. 

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