#15 – Berlstrum’s Belly Dungeon Overview

THE FOLLOWING BLOG POST IS PART 15 OF THE DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS 5TH EDITION CAMPAIGN, DREADSTORMS LOST. THESE BLOGS ARE INTENDED FOR OTHER GAME MASTERS WHO MIGHT WANT TO USE THIS CAMPAIGN SETTING AND THE SCENARIOS TO INSPIRE THEIR OWN ROLE PLAYING GAMES. (FREE FOR NONCOMMERCIAL REUSE.)

Notes:

It’s time for a dungeon crawl! A classic in any Dungeons and Dragons adventure … searching for traps … getting lost in the labyrinth of tunnels … slogging through monsters to find a treasure or save the kingdom. Ah, good times! 

The original dungeon was generated by donjon Random Dungeon Generator, but modified for my own nefarious purposes. I confess to having a great time just making the random dungeons with this generator. I find it inspires me with ideas, a lot like my hand-drawn ones without the doodling.  


Searching for the Champions

Some of the following depends on what the players have discovered and discussed with Mayor Cobblekeep. If the group has been playing it close to the chest and not told him anything, he will have no reason to trust them nor give them aid. If they’ve been open with their information and shown him that they are actively trying to save the city and find the champions, then he will tell them …

Berlstrum has a hidden labyrinth of tunnels below the town, called Berlstrum’s Belly. It is a deadly place, full of monsters and traps. Only a few know where all of the secret doors are to the belly (including the mayor, council members, and the champions). The mayor suspects something may have happened to the champions down there and asks the adventurers if they would be willing search the Belly for them?

If they are agreeable, the mayor will provide them with:

  • a map of Berlstrum’s Belly (see below)
  • 4 bullseye lanterns
  • A teleport stone (small, red pebble), which will bring the person holding the stone and anyone touching the user back to Berlstrum’s Town Hall. It’s a single use item. He only has one.
  • 2d4+1 Potions of Healing (common)

Map for the Players

Game master map is at the bottom of the page.

Players' Map of Berlstrum's Belly
Map of Berlstrum’s Belly provided to players by Mayor Cobblekeep; Cartography accuracy is not accuracy.

Getting there – hidden doors

The Mayor will direct the adventurers to go enter via the hidden door in the cellar of the Champion’s Manor (Room I on the Champions’ Manor map)

Kitchen

ChampionsManor-Kitchen
(I) Champions’ Manor Kitchen

The kitchen has cupboards and prep surfaces along most of the walls. Under the window to the east is a heavy slab cutting table. Much of the kitchen was trashed by the looters; doors hanging of the cupboards, foodstuffs tossed onto the floor, shelves emptied, broken jars, cookware, and plates mixed in with the rotting food.

To find the trap door from the kitchen down into the cellar without aid from the Mayor is an Investigation DC 12 if actively looking for it. With the Mayors guidance, the group is directed to move the cutting table to the middle of the room, find the rope inside the cupboard next to the other window, and pull on the rope.

Like the rest of the ground floor of the manor, the floor of the kitchen is made up of large, smooth gray stone. The trap door proves to be a false cover matching the gray stone, but made of lighter material. Pulling the rope inside one of the cupboards causes the trap door to open upward (unless someone happens to be standing it). The hinge is well oiled and opens soundlessly. A ladder leads down into the cellar.

Cellar

Dreadstorms Mansion-cellar-cropped
The Cellar underneath the Kitchen in the Champions’ Manor

The cellar is 15 ft x 15 ft with a 10 ft high ceiling. It seems mostly undisturbed and not used in a while. It’s dusty and smells of damp mildew. Old boxes and barrels take up much of the space.

A compulsive search of the boxes and barrels (Because what adventurer can resist searching boxes and barrels?) will find:

  • 1d4 glass jars of pickled mixed vegetables
  • 1d4 glass jars containing weird clumps of hair floating in pickling fluid
  • 1d4 glass vials filled with nail clippings floating in liquid (Not potions of Giant Strength)
  • A small bag full of animal teeth of varying sizes
  • A silver spoon with an “S” engraved on the handle
  • A bottle of cheap red wine
  • A petrified rat
  • A glass jar containing lard with a label that read, “Goblin Go-Go Grease”

See Dungeon Master’s Guide pgs 160-161 for other random trinkets ideas.

Trap Door to the Belly

Spotting the trap door in the floor of the cellar  is a DC 20 Perception. If a successful Perception spots the outline of the trap door, it still won’t budge without hitting the trigger mechanism.

It is an Investigation DC 20 to find the hidden mechanism to opens the trap door in the cellar without directions from the mayor. If the mayor told you where to look, but is not present, it’s an Investigation DC 10.  If the mayor is there, he’ll point directly to the spot.

The trigger looks like a smudge of dirt amidst other smudges of dirt in the ceiling o (which is 10 ft high), but the smudge is shaped like a skull.  Pushing on the spot reveals a well-hidden trap door on the floor that lifts up and out, revealing stairs down into the dark, dark tunnels.

The stairs descend about 15 feet before leveling out to the floor of the tunnel. At the bottom of the stairs in a lever that closes/opens the door to the cellar.

Do the players leave the door from the kitchen to the pantry open?

Do they leave the door down from the cellar open.

Down into the belly

After 20 feet, there is no light source. It’s very dark.

The narrow tunnel of rough conglomerate stone twists and turns, doubling back upon itself many times, always at a slight downward slop. The width of the tunnel varies from 6 feet to 2 feet. The height is usually around 8 feet, but occasionally goes down to under 5, slowing down the larger party members. There are no side passages or hidden doors are found. The air grows moist the longer they hike down.

The rough stone becomes interlaced with ribbons of the sharp briarstone rock the farther down you go. After 30 minutes of walking, the walls and ceilings are completely composed of briarstone. The floor becomes smooth like black glass.

Briarstone, the Rock

Briarstone is an opaque black rock formation with small, jagged crystal protrusions resembling thorns. When the brittle rock shatters, it creates more jagged protrusions.

At one point it becomes necessary to squeeze through a narrow section of the tunnel. It’s a DEX DC 11 to avoid getting cut by the briarstone. On a failed roll, take 1d6 piercing damage.

It takes an hour of walking before you come to a “entrance” shown on the map. The entrance from the Champions’ Manor is the higher one on the left side of the map.

Berlstrum Belly Overview

Dungeon Walls: Sharp briarstone rock make up the walls and ceiling. The crystals are so sharp that one has to be cautious not to cut themselves on the walls. 1d6 piercing damage if pushed/knocked into the wall or ceiling.

Dungeon Floor: Consists of smooth, black shiny stone. When running on the surface, there’s a chance of falling prone (DEX DC 11) due to the slippery surface. Pushes and slides go twice normal distance.

Illumination: Dark. No natural light available.

 Map for the Game Master

BerlstrumBelly_GM
Map for the Game Master with encounter numbers and trap locations.

 

There’s a lot of information to parse out for this dungeon (cavern/labyrinth/whatever you want to call it). So like any proper evil overlord, I’ll provide that information on the next installment.


Up next: What sort of monsters and traps are in this dungeon? And treasure?! 

#14 – Day 2 of Plague Wave

THE FOLLOWING BLOG POST IS PART 14 OF THE DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS 5TH EDITION CAMPAIGN, DREADSTORMS LOST. THESE BLOGS ARE INTENDED FOR OTHER GAME MASTERS WHO MIGHT WANT TO USE THIS CAMPAIGN SETTING AND THE SCENARIOS TO INSPIRE THEIR OWN ROLE PLAYING GAMES. (FREE FOR NONCOMMERCIAL REUSE.)

Notes:

The tricky part about Dreadstorms Lost campaign is the timeline. Once the ritual spell is started, it will increase in intensity each day. At each dawn the life draining wave kills more creatures to reanimates them at dusk. The Will of Orcus Undead instinctively attack in hordes.

Depending on the party’s actions, like long or short rests, will decide where there are when a plague waves will happens.  


Day 2 of Casting the Will of Orcus

Hidden underneath Berlstrum in his impregnable lair, Kazel continues casting the ritual spell, Will of Orcus. If the party is outside of the effected area (like on the farms), they do not need to make the CON save.

Second Plague Wave!

At dawn, those awake feel a moment of fatigue (*Life Drain) that lasts for 6 seconds. Everyone save vs the Life Drain, awake or asleep.

*Life Drain [Day 2]: CON save 6

-2 to maximum HP on a failed save. If HP is reduced to 0 by the wave, target dies and rises as zombie 12 hrs later. A LONG REST restores max HP.

Note: You can only have 1 long rest ever 24 hours.

Small Animals Drop Like Flies

The second wave effects small animals: rats, mice, cats, gophers, etc. The area of effect extends farther than it did yesterday.

On a Perception of 15, someone spots a dead rat (or other area-appropriate critter). Once they start looking, rats, mice, cats, squirrels and other smaller animals have all dropped dead. They very weak or ill people are also effected.

 

Berlstrum - Day 2 of Plague Wave
Blue circle shows the area of effect from the second plague wave, overlapping the red circle from day 1.

Berlstrum Map

Town of Berlstrum with index [PDF]

 

Council Meeting

The mayor requests that the remaining protectors attend the council meeting (including the party) at 10 that morning at the Town Hall (#82 on the map)

(Assuming that our adventurers were successful at escorting the council members back) The mayor thank the group for the dangers they faced in getting Tomo, Amagoste, and Hammond back to town.

Other topics of discussion during the meeting;

  • What has happened to the Champions? Do the adventurers have any clues? (possibly from search the Champions’ Manor)
  • Why is Berlstrum under attack from so many hooligans all at once?
  • What caused the animal deaths?
  • Are all these somehow connected?

What information will the party share with the council?

The Mayor and the Council discuss the problems with the bandits and the small animal corpses. After some debate, the council agrees to send word to the capital that they need assistance from the royal military.

Optional Skill Challenge: Re-kill the Rats!

My groups decided that they wanted to gather all things that died at dawn and destroy the bodies before they could become zombies. If your  group decides the same:

Gather & Destroy the Dead Bodies: DC 15

There are approximately 5,000 small undead animals around Berlstrum (1 swarm = 500 undead critters). For each successful skill check, 1 swarm of small animal corpses is destroyed. For each failed check, that will be a swarm that becomes active at dusk.

Depending on the number of people in your party, it can simplify things to have double the amount of swarms as players, so each player gets 2 shots at destroying a swarm: 5 players x 2 swarms each = 10 swarms total. Increase the number of swarms per player depending on the level of challenge you want to give the players. 

Describe how your character uses a skill to help destroy the critter corpses You can NOT use the same skill twice in a row and you can NOT use the same skill as the person before you. Examples of skills used:

  • Insight: What will it take to convince to the townfolk to focus on this problem instead of the stray thugs roaming their town or repairing the damage to their properties?
  • Persuade/Diplomacy: Convince the townfolk to work together to gather the dead and pile them in the streets
  • Deception: No need to panic. Everything will be just fine. We have everything under control
  • Nature: Find the areas where rats would be most likely to congregate.
  • Intimidate: You WILL go into the cistern and toss out the dead rats. I don’t care if it smells bad. Get it done.
  • Perception: Search for corpses under the walk-way bridges
  • Investigate: Track the rat droppings to their hidden nest
  • Athletics: Climb to the roofs of the buildings looking for critters that might have been higher up (ie: cats)

At Dusk the Tiny Dead Gather

Anywhere near the radius of the 2nd plague wave that occurred at dawn, will see the small undead animals gathering and attacking the nearest source of “meat” in immediate area.

140331rat swarm1-lo resZombie Small-Animal Swarm

AC 12 
Hit Points 56
Speed 30 ft, climb 20 ft.

STR 14 (+2), DEX 14 (+2), CON 11 (0), INT 1 (-5), WIS 7 (-2), CHA 2 (-5)

Damage Immunities poison
Damage Resistance
 bludgeoning, piercing, slashing
Condition Immunities charmed, frightened, paralyzed, petrified, prone, restrained, stunned

Senses Darkvision 60ft, Passive Perception 6


ACTIONS
Bites Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit  Hit: 4d6 piercing + Life Drain; 2d6 + Life Drain if only half the swarm remains


SPECIAL

Swarm. The swarm can occupy another creature’s space and vice versa, and the swarm can move through any opening large enough for a tiny insect. The swarm can’t regain hit points or gain temporary hit points.

Life Drain. DC 6 CON or lose 2 hit point to maximum hit point total. If HP reduced to 0 by infected, target rises as zombie the following dusk; if not dead, LONG REST recovers lost max HP

Undead Fortitude. If damage reduces the zombie swarm to 0 hit points, it must make a CON saving throw with a DC of 5 + damage taken, unless the damage is radiant or from a critical hit. On a success, the zombie drops to 1 hit point instead.


Up Next: Into the Belly of Berlsturm to stop this plague!

#13 – Loot from Gwantomo’s & from Amagoste’s Farms – Dreadstorms Lost Campaign

Original art by: https://namkoart.deviantart.com/art/Treasury-477630587
The following blog post is Part 13 of the Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition campaign, Dreadstorms Lost. These blogs are intended for other game masters who might want to use this campaign setting and the scenarios to inspire their own role playing games. (Free for noncommercial reuse.)

Notes:

The quantity, quality, and frequency of loot varies dramatically from game master to game master in any role playing game. I tend to be overly generous with my loot. It also means that the encounters that my players face will be that much deadlier to balance out the magic items they find. 

I’ll sprinkle in random, non-magical items in with the other found items just for the fun of it. For instance, when going through an abandoned farmhouse, they might find a cast-iron pot, a wooden spoon, and a bottle of wine.  I’m always tickled when my players find clever uses for these items months later that take me totally by surprise. 

DMG = 5th Edition D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide

Featured art found here: https://namkoart.deviantart.com/art/Treasury-477630587


Amagoste’s Farm House

If the party defeats all 8 of the Orcs outside and inside of Amagoste’s house, the party finds the following

From the 8 Orcs

  • Total Gold: 32
  • Total Silver: 5
  • 6 Hide Armors – varying states of disrepair
  • 3 Greataxes
  • 7 Javelins
  • Muddy white gem (worth 10gp)
  • Scroll of Purify Food & Water
  • 3 Potion of healing (2d4+2)
  • Flat iron rod with a button on one end [Immovable rod (DMG 175)]
  • Lovely statue of an elven lady (25gp)
  • Emerald gem (50gp)
  • Spell Scroll of Lesser Restoration

In addition, if they defeat the 2 Ogres, they will also find:

From 2 OGRES inside of Amagoste’s house:

  • Gold 8
  • Silver 2
  • 2 Greatclubs
  • 7 Javelins
  • Statue of a handsome elven lord (25gp)
  • Vial of brown liquid with questionable chunks floating in it [Potion of Animal Friendship -DMG 187]
  • Goggles with leafy gold metalwork and green lenses [Goggles of Night Vision -DMG 172]
  • Green & blue plaid bonnet
  • Glass unicorn figurine (25gp)
  • Black leather purse with images of bear cubs frolicking in the grass embossed on the flap [Bag of holding -DMG 153]
  • Lacy doily

Gwantomo’s Farm

The from battle at Gwantomo’s Farm left a lot of dead bodies. It will take time to search them all. Hammond and Tomo are exhausted and have no interest in any of the loot the adventurers might find on the dead. If they decide to go inside the house to loot, Tomo will stop them.

  • Gold = 110 each
  • Platinum = 3 each
  • Dusty, dark gray studded leather armor [Studded Leather Armor +2 DMG 152; 1000g]
  • Beautifully carved black longbow [Longbow +1 -DMG 213]
  • Silver chain necklace with a small marbled stone; stone is weightless; 2 silver
  • Green bowler hat with brown feather in headband  [*Feather is a Quaal’s Feather Token-bird token, DMG 188; single use; 350g]
  • Bottle with viscous, sticky black unguent [Oil of Slipperiness DMG 184]
  • Bottle of clear liquid with large fingernail floating inside[Potion of Hill Giant Strength DMG187; STR 21; 75g)
  • 6 Potions of Healing 2d4+2 (pg188; 50g ea)
  • 1 Potion of Greater Healing 4d4+4 (pg188; 150g ea)
  • Large iron pot; 1g
  • Blue cloak with gold-ribbon edging [Cloak of Protection DMG 159; +1 AC and saving throws; 500g]
  • Leatherworker’s tools
  • Gold Mace with holy symbols (Mace of Disruption; DMG179; 6,500g)
  • Interlocking metal armbands of gold (Bracers of Defense; +2 AC with no armor/no shield; DMG 156; 2500g)
  • Magnifying lens
  • Scroll of Stone Shape (PHB 278)
  • Hooded lantern

Up Next:  #14 – Day 2 of Plague Wave

#In-Game Cursing

Sometimes a character or NPC just needs to add some colorful words in their dialogue. For fun. For emphasis. For character flavor. Below are a few curses and insults my NPCs have used. Do you have any interesting D&D phrases you like to use?

Insult

  • All the charm of a hag at sunrise
  • Gelatinous goo is smarter
  • Goblin garbage!
  • Gnoll chew toy
  • I heard shriekers sing better than that one
  • I’d rather look at a basilisk [gorgon] than …
  • Mind flayer leftovers, is that one!
  • More foul than a mountain troll’s asscrack
  • Ogre bait
  • Ooze leavings
  • Quasit kisser
  • Slime eating goat mauler
  • St Cuthbert be praised! Finally a word of sense.
  • Two-headed vermin dung
  • Undead foot fungus
  • Useless piece of Bhaal toejam!
  • Your father was a kobold and your mother a rust monster!
  • Yer nut’tin but a Palor puppet (to a paladin/cleric of)

Upset/Excitement

  • Bloody balor
  • Balor’s balls!
  • Dragon snot!
  • Festering dire rat penis
  • Flatulent fairy dust
  • Fairy farts!
  • Fiends’ farts! This place stinks!
  • Goblins’ sweaty gonads
  • Kobold crap!
  • Kobold’s crusty crap!
  • Ogre’s belching breath!
  • Soggy steaming troll turds!
  • Tiamat’s titties!
  • Troll stinky turd
  • Vampire spit! [troll spit, kobold spit, goblin spit, … etc.]

Curses upon you

  • Abyss take you!
  • Boiling spit upon yer house!
  • Lick a dracolich’s bony arse for all I care
  • May a rust monster eat your blade!
  • To the Nine Hells with you and your devilish words

#8 – Champions’ Manor – Dreadstorms Lost

Dreadstorms Mansion - Ground Level
The following blog post is Part 8 of the Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition campaign, Dreadstorms Lost. These blogs are intended for other game masters who might want to use this campaign setting and the scenarios to inspire their own role playing games. (Free for noncommercial reuse.)

Notes:

GROUND FLOOR OF CHAMPIONS’ MANOR

The lower level of the manor has been trashed. Bandits and townfolk alike have been tearing through the house looking for treasure; broken furniture, artwork torn from the wall, holes dug with pickaxes into the stone floors and walls; books, glasses, mementos and broken and crushed the floors. Signs of bloody fights are everywhere. Both bandit and townsfolk are among the half dozen dead scattered throughout the lower level.

Hidden runes provide permanent “protection from evil and evil intent” in the private areas of second floor and the wizard tower. There may have been some looters that made it passed the wards, but the 2nd floor is in reasonable unmolested. Note, any player that has an evil alignment will not be able to go up the stairs or enter the wizard tower in the middle of the courtyard.

As trainees in the Protector program, the players would have spent some time in the the public spaces: meeting room, dining hall, library, and office. It is doubtful that they would have been in the tower, kitchen/pantry, mudroom, or stables. The stables and the other exterior backdoor are secret egress outside the city walls. When Kazel had been asked how they got outside of the city gates and with the horses, Kazel would wriggle his fingers and eyebrows and say “Magic!”

ChampionManorUpper

Due to the various strewn about debris, all rooms are on the lower level are Hindering Terrain (half movement). 

If your players need the occasional combat to spice things up, feel free to toss in a random encounter or two of bandits looting in the lower rooms or beating on a townfolk, demanding to be led to treasure.

A. Exterior of the Manor

  • [PERCP 10] Shrubs and flowerbeds pulled
  • [PERCP 12] Many holes of varying sizes dug in the
  • [INV 12] The body of a townfolk (Corchel) with his throat slit has been shoved into one of the holes
  • [INV 14] Signs of fighting, blood splatters, a broken shovel, arrows (d6), a rusty knife laying in the dirt

B. Entryway

Space is hindering terrain due to debris hazards.
  1. The front door is hanging by one hinge, the lock brutishly smashed
  2. Across foyer (20′) is the door to courtyard -also left open
  3. To the left is entryway leading to the Meeting Hall room where Protector Meetings took place
  4. To the right is the opening to a general pre-meal gathering area
  5. [PERCP 10] Broken shards from shattered vases and artwork litter the floor
  6. Carpet rolled up and pushed off to the side
  7. Holes in the wall, large chunks chipped out of the stone floor
  8. [INV 10] Muddy foot prints and dark, liquidy smears stain the floor (blood) – Some of the blood has been there for days, some is more recent
  9. [INV 15] The mayor’s bowler hat lays flattened in the corner (he loved that hat!)

C. Quadrangle/Inner Courtyard/ Inner Ward

  1. A round tower dominates the middle of the courtyard
  2. There is a well-maintained path between the foyer door and the door to the south
  3. [PERCP 10] Holes of varying depths dug in the grass. Shrubs and flowerbeds pulled up.
  4. [PERCP 10] Door to on opposite side of courtyard -Library (E)- has been left open
  5. Several dead bodies from recent fighting. One or two you might recognize as  One or two you recognize as townsfolk – [WIS/Medicine 10] Bodies haven’t been dead more than a day
  6. [INV 15] Trail of blood leads from the library door to tower
  • [WIS/Medicine/Surival 12] The blood is at least 3-4 days

D. Meeting Hall [Left of Entryway]

Space is hindering terrain due to debris hazards.
  1. Podium knocked over
  2. Benches smashed
  3. Artwork tossed on floor, shredded
  4. Door on southwest wall to hallway
  5. Hallway 20′ long, right turn 12′ to door
  6. Door on east wall

E. Library, Public

Space is hindering terrain due to debris hazards.
  1. Book pulled from shelves, tossed everywhere
  2. Cabinets pulled from walls, pushed over
  3. Carpets shoved off to the side, smashed furniture
  4. Door to courtyard left open (north wall)
  5. Door on west wall
  6. [PERCP 18] Book of Level 1 Illusion Spells

F. Office, Public

Space is hindering terrain due to debris hazards.
  1. Carpets rolled up and furniture knocked over
  2. Desk rifled through, drawers pulled from slots; dumped out
  3. [PERCP 15] Secret Door to the stable left cracked open

G. Private stable

Protection from Evil/Evil Intent
  1. Via Secret door from Office-Looks like storage for horse feed & riding
  2. Smells like a stable – hay and horse shit; There’s a couple bales of hay and dried horse shit here
  3. [PERCP 12: (+2 bonus if already spotted trail in courtyard] trail to pool of dried blood; possibly a heavily bleeding body had rested here
    [WIS/Medicine/Surival 12] The blood is at least 3-4 days
  4. [PERCP 13]: Wards over doorway on stable [INT/Arcana/Religion DC 12] to identify as Protection from Evil/Evil Intent permanency spell; bloody hand print on the back of the door (stable side)
  5. [PERCP 15]: Barn door to outside-hidden; pops back and slides to the side, blends into the wall
  6. [PERCP 20]: A well-hidden small door blends into the wall to the rear stairwell; there’s a spot to push to trigger the door to swing open (into the stables)

H. Mudroom/Stairs

Protection from Evil/Evil Intent
  1. Door to the outside (and outside the city wall) next to stairs – Not visible from outside; no outside [PERCP 22] from the exterior there is a hidden latch to open door
  2. You feel a slight resistance/tingle as you move up the stairs; evil alignment/bad guys are not able to go up stairs
  3. Door/exterior wall: There are a few trees are within 20′ of the The dense forest starts about 100′ from the door.
  • [PERCP 12] Outside along the tree-line, to the North, you spot a body slumped against a tree. It’s hard to immediately identify who it is. Up close, you recognize Clemens, Foreshot’s apprentice. Based on the huge gaping hole in his chest, you’d say he’s very dead.
  • [WIS/Medicine 12] He’s been dead at least 3 Some of the bruising on his face seems older than that.
  • [INT/Arcana 15] Cause of death was a close- range explosion.
  • [PERCP 20] Wards on walls leading up stairs. [INT/Arcana/Religion DC 12] to identify as Protection from Evil/Evil Intent permanency spell

I. Kitchen

Space is hindering terrain due to debris hazards.
  1. Broken jars, plates, glasses
  2. [PERCP 15] Trap door to cellar
    • Cellar is mostly undisturbed, though obviously not used in a while. It’s dusty and smells of damp mildew.
      [INVG 20 will find a mechanism in the ceiling that reveals a well-hidden trap door on the floor that lifts up and out. Revealing stairs down into dark, dark tunnels. Note this is the entrance to and the beginning of a dungeon crawl. If the players report back to the mayor before heading down, he’ll give them a map of the Berlstrum Underbelly, lanterns, and some possibly some minor healing potions. More on this in a future installment!]
  3. [INVG 16] 2 bottles of wine, unbroken
  4. [INVG 20] Bottle of expensive rum hidden under the cutting block

J. Apprentice Clemens’ Bedroom

Space is hindering terrain due to debris hazards.
  1. Mattress shoved over against the wall, stuffing ripped out
  2. Papers crumbled up on the floor (notes on different animal tracks; how to identify scat; which berries to eat on the trail, list of items to pack for trail)
  3. Broken long bow
  4. Some random male garments of low quality
  5. [PERCP 15] +4 bonus if actively looking out window; You spot a body slumped against a tree. It’s hard to identify the body from this angle and distance.
  6.  [INVG 15] Moving the shredded mattress, you find a loose stone hiding a small nook carved into the floor. Inside is a 5 gold and a thin, ratty book worn with age and bearing the rather grim title of “Gratimortus”.
    • Skimming through the book reveals many disturbing sketches, arcane symbols, and neat, cramped elaborate script in a confusing mix of Common and Draconic. It will take time to decipher the book (couple of hours with Arcane proficiency).
    • Upon closer inspection, you suspect this is only the front half of the book.
    • Images from the pages and the text will be provided in blog post #10 – The Gratimortus – Dreadstorms Lost [not yet posted]

K. Pantry

Space is hindering terrain due to debris hazards.
  1. Shelves ripped off of the walls
  2. A few sacks of grain ripped open
  3. Some nice table lines tossed to the side
  4. [PERCP 16] Mixed in with a pile of grain on the floor is a Ring of Protection +1

L. Dining Hall

Space is hindering terrain due to debris hazards.
  1. Tables and benches pilled against one of the windows;
  2. Sideboard tables shoved to the middle of the room
  3. More attempts to put holes in the walls and flooring

M. Gallery – Wide hallway/gathering area [Right of Entryway]

  1. Open space used for indoor combat practice. Some broken vases.

WIZARD TOWER

Protection from Evil/Evil Intent

Ground Level of Tower

  1. You feel a slight tingle through the doorway, bad guys are not able to enter [INT/Arcana/Religion DC 12] Protection form Evil ruins around the door
  2. A high ceiling space (12′) with stairs on the spiraling up wall to the right up to the next Barrels and crates stored under the stairs.
  3. [Arcana 5] Seems mostly storage for magic components
  4. [PERCP 12; (+4 bonus if already spotted blood)] Some blood smears on the hand rail going up the stairs

Second Floor of Tower

  1. Shelves reaching 14′ high cover every available wall space and are filled with books
  2. A ritual circle is permanently etched into the floor of the
  3. A couple of comfortable reading chairs
  4. A trunk with some smelly, grubby robes
  5. It’s messy, things moved around, but not carelessly
  6. A few sheets of paper with hastily scrawled notes; handwriting is
  7. Sample books in library if searched:
  8. Identifying aquatic creatures,
  9. guide for spell uses of herbs,
  10. how to harvest basilic blood;
  11. [PERCP 15] *A small book smeared with bloody fingerprints, Gratismortus-Book of the Iredeemevile; back pages ripped off – Difficult to read, will take hours to translate the scrawled notes.
  12. [PERCP 18] Book of Ritual Spells: TBD
  13. ladder leads up to trapdoor

Top Tower Level

  1. Parapet (a narrow wall built along the outer edge) with crenelations (like a crown)
  2. Can see most of the town of Burlstrum and the city wall from

ChampionManorUpper

SECOND FLOOR OF CHAMPIONS’ MANOR

N. Solar

  1. an open landing at the top of the stairs with long narow windows on the western wall; single large window to the north, southwest, and
  2. Open, quiet conversation area.
  3. Cozy conversation knook in the southwest corner.
  4. Door northeast corner and southeast corner

O. Guest bedroom

  1. Tidy, neatly made bed, dresser (empty), wardrobe (empty), some random knick-nacks on shelves.
  2. Door on east wall

P. Private library

  1. Personal interest books/animal studies/fiction/erotica- books not intended for public use
  2. Papers on the desk organized in neat piles: various trainee reviews, notes on schedules, journal with dates and times of sightings of animal and monsters in the outlining area – handwriting is small, neatly written

Q. Hallway

  1. one window on north (see courtyard) and 2 windows along the south; 35′ long

R. Private dining

  1. A nice table with seating for six

S. Private indoor practice area

  1.  Door to balcony on the east wall

T. Balcony

  1. Overhangs the front entrance of the manor

U. Hallway

  1. Two doors on the north wall, a window directly across from the second door

V. Baby room

  1. A room beautifuly set up for a baby with nappies stacked on the dresser, toys sitting neatly on shelves, basinet at the foot of the perfectly made cradle
  2. A door in the northwest corner leads to the master bedroom next door
  3. [INT 10] As far as you know, Foreshot and Kazel have no child. Nor have you heard of Foreshot being pregnant. How could they have kept this a secret? Why?
  4. [PERCP 12] There is no smell you’d associate with a baby

W. Master Bedroom

A large, unmade bed dominates the On side of the room is tidy, with the pants, shirts, et all put away inside a dresser. On the other side robes looks like they were half-heartedly tossed in the direction of the wardrobe.

X. Alchemist room, potion making

  1. Door in northwest corner leads to the solar (with the stairs)
  2. Empty vials, shelves full of unidentifiable ingredients in unlabled jars
  3. [PERCP 12] Based on the un-dusty spots, several containers have recently been removed
  4. [PERCP 15] Amidst all the random jars and vials, you recognize 3 Healing Potions (2d4+2)

Next Up: What was really happening while the players were guarding the tower up next! #9 – The Mystery of the Missing Champions – Dreadstorms Lost


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#7 – Rusty Gates of Berlstrum – Dreadstorms Lost Campaign

The following blog post is Part 7 of the Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition campaign, Dreadstorms Lost. These blogs are intended for other game masters who might want to use this campaign setting and the scenarios to inspire their own role playing games. (Free for noncommercial reuse.)

Notes:

Every game master has their approach to experience points and leveling their players. I’ve left it up to the game master to decide what is an appropriate experience amount for the encounters within this campaign. The 5th Edition Dungeon Masters Guide (page 82) discusses experience points and determining a party’s encounter threshold. For some this information will undoubtedly be very helpful. I find it kinda baffling. 

Kobold Fight Club does a nice job of calculating encounter XP based on your party member levels, monsters in the combat, environment, CR level. It’ll identify what level difficulty the encounter would be considered. Mind you, I take that with a certain grain of salt. Group dynamics vary wildly. For one group a “deadly” encounter was no challenge at all. The other group was sweating through the same fight, but I’d judge it was “hard” for them, not deadly. Kobold Fight Club will also provide random encounters based on level of difficulty your looking for. It has the feature to manage encounters and players, but I’ve yet to give it a try. 


Where are all these thugs coming from?

Thugs and bandits are flooding the town of Berlstrum. What are our heroes doing? Have they stayed at their post, guarding the South Tower and the entrance? Are the searching  for the Champions? Are they saving townsfolk from roving bands of bad guys? Are they getting drunk in a tavern?

If they players have gone into town:

They will find the mayor wrestling with 3 thugs (at the Champion’s Manor or wherever makes sense for this encounter in game) and needing their help.

If the players are still guarding the gate entrance:

Two human males and a female tiefling carrying maces charge the tower. As soon as they are in range of the guards (the players), the 3 thugs attack. They don’t even bother to talking. The mayor will approach the party shortly after this encounter.

See 5th Edition Monster Manual page 350 for general thug stats.

“Alt”
Thug 1, human male
To hit +4 Mace,
dmg 1d6+2 bludgeoning
HP 30
Initiative:
“Bol”
Thug 2, human maleTo hit +3 Mace,
dmg 1d6+1 bludgeoning
HP 24
Initiative:
 “Clor”
Thug 3, tiefling femaleTo hit +4 handaxe,
Dmg 1d6+2 slashing
HP 35
Initiative:

Cobblekeep Lightdiggerson, Mayor of Berlstrum

small humanoid (lightfoot halfling)
Armor Class 13 (no armor)
Hit Points 9
Speed 25 ft.

STR 10 (+0) ♦ DEX 17 (+3) ♦ CON 13 (+1) ♦ INT 10 (+0) ♦ WIS 12 (+1) ♦ CHA 17 (+3)

Proficiencies (+2 proficiency bonus)

Saving Throws DEX +5, INT +5
Skills: Perception +5, History +2, Insight, +3, Persuasion +5, Performance +5

Halfling Traits:

Halfling Nimbleness. You can move through the space of any creature that is of a size larger than yours.
Lucky. When you roll a 1 on an attack roll, ability check, or saving throw, you can reroll the die and must use the new roll.
Brave. You have advantage on saving throws against being frightened.
Naturally Stealthy. You can attempt to hide even when you are obscured by a
creature that is at least one size larger than you.

Berlstrum Goes into Defense Mode

After combat is done and a short rest, Mayor Cobblekeep says to the players:

The champions are missing. They haven’t been seen for days! The town is overrun with all sorts of these wretched sort … breaking into homes, looting, killing innocent people … more seem to be coming in every minute. We must close Berlstrum’s gates until the champions can be found or the Sovereign can send help. Can you lot handle closing the gates? The mechanisms are in the gatehouse walls. You just needs someone on each side pulling the big levers. Can’t miss em!

And we need all the protectors (and protectors-in-training) to stop these rampaging menaces and protect the townsfolk. Do whatever is necessary! Hurry! More of those bastards are coming every minute!

By land, the North and South Gates are the only known ways in and out of Berlstrum. The gate house consists of two portcullis gates (inner and outer vertical dropping gates), and a wide zig-zag passageway between gates (see image for details). Entrance to the main gate house is inside the round tower that mimics the exterior guard tower, but is only as tall as the city wall.

The city wall is 20 feet thick and 25 feet high, topped with crenelation for patrolling guards.


The gates haven’t been lowered in over 10 years. The gate houses [#2 & #106] have been storage space for random odds and ends, crates, rats’ nests, and numerous spider webs. The mechanisms to lower the gate seems stuck. Bad guys are approaching fast! What do you do?

SKILL CHALLENGE – Stuck Porticullis

Describe how your character uses a skill to help solve the problem of lowering the portcullis on south gatehouse [and north]. You can NOT use the same skill twice in a row and you can NOT use the same skill as the person before you. The skill used needs to make sense within the scenario. Players are encouraged to come up with plausible issues in the scenario that their skill can help with as well as aiding other players.

Roll initiative to determine action order. Action/Move/Reaction still applies each round.

The party has a total of 8 rounds
to lower both portcullises in the South entrance.

The South Gate is a 2-part challenge, reach 5 successful skill checks before 5 failures
on each gate (2 portcullises at the South town entrance). It takes 2 move/dashes and 1 move to reach the 2nd mechanism room (~150 ft).

The North entrance also has 2 portcullises. It is up to the GM if players need to take care of both entrances or only the South one.

  • Natural 20 = Counts as 2 successes
  • Natural 1 = Counts as 2 failures
  • Helping an ally = gives ally advantage with described aid; doesn’t count as success or failure for person providing help. (example: Stormy gives Moregor a boost up to climb to the top of the rafters. Moregor gets advantage on his Athletics check.)
  • Passing = I don’t know what to do! Doesn’t count as a success or failure

GM Note: Possible specific challenges for the players to overcome in this skill challenge:

  • Getting to the mechanism involves moving/getting through a space packed with piles of crates, broken equipment debris, etc.
  • The gears on the winch won’t move without oil. 
  • The rusty chains have come off of the pulleys.
  • There something jammed in the track that has to be forced out before the gate will drop.
  • The handle that operates the winch has weakened over time and breaks at the first pull.

There are 4 gates in total (2 in the South entrance and 2 in the North). You can decide if the first gate was too easy and increase the difficulty challenge for each following gate. If you feel one gate house is sufficient time spent on a skill challenge, you can imply that another group is handling the other entrance. 


South Gate #1 – DC 14

DC 14 = For a used skill to be successful, player must roll a 14 or higher.

Goal: As a group, reach 5 successful skill checks on Gate #1 before 5 fails.

South Tower (#106) Zoom in - Berlstrum South Gate with details

Example Skill Challenge Encounter

Player Rnd 1 – Skill Used Rnd 2 – Skill Used Rnd 3 – Skill Used
 Dorn Uses  Investigate to figure out why the machinery is not working;
Rolls 19
Success: Finds chain is off pulley
Uses Arcana to cast Prestidigitation to clean the rat’s nest covering the coiled chain;
Rolls 5
Fail: removing the rats nest so abruptly weakens the chain, causing a link to break
Feels his brilliant wizard brain shouldn’t be used for such brutish work, he heads to the secondary mechanism room to assess the situation;
Move/Dash Action
Doesn’t count toward success/fail
 Amira Uses Athletics to climb rafters to reach the pulley to fix the chain.
Rolls 1 (counts as 2 fails)
Fail; loses grip and falls onto pile of crates (possibly take damage 1d6/10 ft of fall)
Uses basic Strength skill to force the broken link back into a closed shape
Rolls 16;
Success: The link seems to be solid
Tries Athletics again to reach the chain off the pulley;
Rolls 20 (not Nat);
Success: Easily shimmies up the rigging and moves the chain into positionGroup has reached 5 success! First gate is lowered down.
 Stormy Uses Perception looking for repair tools.
Rolls 14
Success; Finds a large wrench inside the crate Amira just busted open
Offers to Help Moregore climb up to fix the chain onto the pulley
Counts as neither success or failure; gives Moregore advantage on climb check
Move/Dash Action towards the other mechanical room
 Moregor With the wrench Stormy found, he uses Tinkering proficiency to loosen up the gears.
Rolls 22
Success: Is able get the gears unstuck
Uses Athletics to climb to the top of the rigging.
Rolls w/advantage 11
Fail: Climbing has never been his thing he grumbles as he lays flat on his back from the fall
Move/Dash Action towards the other mechanical room

… and so on …

Success/Fail Totals

Round 1

Successes: 3
Fails: 2

Round 2

Successes: 1
Fails: 2

Round 3

Successes: 1
Fails:

South Gate #2 – DC 16

DC 16 = For skill to be successful, player must roll a 16 or higher. (Adjust level of difficulty based on how easy/hard the first gate was for the player.)

Goal: Reach 5 successful skill checks on Gate #2 before 5 failed checks.

Outcomes

  1. If players lower both South gates, the Skill Challenge is complete and full experience is given.
  2. If players only succeed in lowering one of the two portcullises, the invading ruffians will eventually break through. Award half experience.
  3. If players fail to lower either gate within 8 rounds, a large band of kobolds (20 regular/5 winged) will run through the gatehouse, mostly ignoring the players to find easier, less pointy prey.

Optional Second Skill Challenge

North Gate #1 – DC 15

DC 15 = For a used skill to be successful, player must roll a 15 or higher.

Goal: As a group, reach 5 successful skill checks on gate #1, but only 4 fails this time.

North Gate #2 – DC 16

DC 16 = For skill to be successful, player must roll a 16 or higher. (Adjust level of difficulty based on how easy/hard the first gate was for the player.)

Goal: As a group, reach 5 successful skill checks on gate #1, but only 4 fails this time.

Outcomes

  • If players lower both North gates, the Skill Challenge is complete and full experience is given.
  • If players only succeed in lowering one portcullises, invading ruffians will eventually break through. Award half experience.
  • If players fail to lower either gate within 8 rounds, a band of 20+ goblins will run through the gatehouse, ignoring the players to find easier, less pointy prey.

North Tower

Berlstrum North Tower Map Zoom


Up Next: Time to explore the Champions’ Mansion and find some clues on what’s going on! Oh no! Looters and low-lives have already been there. #8 – Champions’ Manor – Dreadstorms Lost

#6 – Guard Duty! Go! – Dreadstorms Lost

The following blog post is Part 6 of the Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition campaign, Dreadstorms Lost. These blogs are intended for other game masters who might want to use this campaign setting and the scenarios to inspire their own role playing games. (Free for noncommercial reuse.)

Notes:

Sound Advice

For a bit of ambiance, I often have a mix of random drum songs (like Japanese Drums, African Drums, etc.) playing in the background while I’m running a D&D game. It’d be even better if I had specific songs planned out for different scenes in the game, but I just don’t have that level of organization.

For those of you who enjoy adding cool sound effects to your games, go to Tabletop Audio. He has ambiance mixes for all sorts of different genres and environments. Even more fun is the SoundPad where you can pick your own sound bites. 

I admit that when I’m running a game, I don’t have the extra energy to keep track of sound along with everything else. But I love the idea of it. 


What’s a Guard Gotta Do to Get Some XP around here?

Day 1 of Guard Duty

Nothing happens. It’s really boring aside from whatever the players do to amuse themselves. Simple folk, families, farmers, traders, and the like pass through.

Setting Recap

♣  The tower has the city gates and wall to the north, high cliffs drop off east, the land bridge and raging waterfall to the south and faces the Free Road to the west; The tower rises above the city wall by 50 feet.  ♣

Berlstrum South Tower Map Zoom


GM note:

If anyone activates their stone (by licking it), the rune on the rock will glow white and continue to glow until either Kazel or Foreshot arrive. On the first day, if a stone is activated, Kazel will show up and be extremely annoyed. It will take some excellent diplomacy (DC 15 with disadvantage) to convince Kazel not to magic missile the person’s bedroll or other destroy-able gear. Otherwise, at no point do the characters get a visit from the champions. Nor do the champions respond to any summons after the first day.


Days 2-5 of Guard Duty

Guard duty is boring. The biggest challenge is staying awake and alert.

If the party decides to abandon post before day 5 to look for the champions, skip to the section starting with “Searching for the Kazel and Foreshot.”

If they decide they just want to go to a tavern and get drunk, go to the section “Days 6, 7, or 8 of Guard Duty” where they can find some bandits to tangle with.

Towards the end of the 5th day things pick up a bit, with occasional small groups of  the rougher types going into town. (A mix of races, dealer’s choice.) A random group of toughs will have 1d6+1 members. If any of the random people are questioned by the party, they will get cagey, brusque, or rude answers:

“I’m traveling through. Ya gotta problem with that?!”
“What’s it to ya? Do I gotta bribe ya or somethin’?”
“Looking for work on the docks.”
“Non of yer business, ya snotty nose nibbler.”

If the travelers are pressed further by the party (diplomacy or intimidation)

Roll of 10-14  =
“I was told this was a friendly, open town. What’s with the 3rd degree?”
“I heard there was treasure to be had here! And it’s got my name on it!”

Roll of DC 15-19 =
“With your protectors gone, this town is ripe for the picking!”

Roll of DC 20+ =
“The old man told all of us at the bar that the champions are dead or good as! And somewhere in this town is the famous Dreadstorm treasure. We just have to find the right person and shake the secret out of them! Let’s start with you!”

If things get to the point of a fight between the players and the travelers, use the stats for the Bandit (5th Edition Monster Manual 343) for an encounter with the ruffians.

If they somehow get on friendly terms with one of the incoming ruffians, the ruffian would tell them this tale:

I was in the Village of Crossover, nursing a drink at the Choked Goose. Relaxing, ya know? When an older, distinguished hoity-toity man dressed up all pretty like comes a strolling in. One of them neatly trimmed beard. Not a hair on his head out of place. Don’t think a spec a dirt woulda dared touch that man’s white suite. Probly one of them bored nobles or somethin’… anyways …

He walks over to the bar. Casual like leans back like he ain’t got a care in the world. He starts talking in this deep commandin’ voice. Everyone just stops. Stares at him.

He tells how the wealthy town of Berlsturm – just down the river – is a ripe fruit. Ours for the plucking. Their champions gone. Somewhere is the famous Dreadstorm treasure trove. Someone in that town ‘s bound to know the secret location. We just need to find the right person and shake it out of em.

Old guy goes on for a while talkin’ bout gems laying about in the streets, piles o gold under people’s beds, magic items hanging over fireplaces… You could see the excitement growing in the people listening.

He saunters out as leisure-like as he came in. Smiling all pleased at himself. Everybody starts movin’ n talkin’. Within a couple minutes, most of the tavern has emptied. I wasn’t going miss out on that, now, was I?

So here I am!

End of Day 5

Group of KoboldsAround MIDNIGHT on the 5th day, when the party is on ground duty, a pack of Kobolds (5 regular kobolds, 2 wing Kobolds) try to sneak past the tower and into the city. If they’re caught sneaking (stealth vs perception), the kobolds will fight.

Kobolds aren’t terribly brave. As long as they have the numbers they continue to battle. If it looks like they’re losing, they’ll make a run for it. (Wing Kobolds optional based on power level of players.)

If the players capture and question a kobold, they’ll get the same story as the ruffians above.

Kobold 1

Initiative:

Kobold 2

Initiative:

Kobold 3

Initiative:

Kobold 4

Initiative:

Kobold 5

Initiative:

Wing
Kobold  1

Initiative:
Wing
Kobold 2

Initiative:

Searching for the Kazel and Foreshot

If any of the players decide to abandon their post to go look for the champions inside Berlstrum, they will find Kazel’s store, The Glass Eye, closed and locked. If they break inside (Open Lock / Strength DC 20), the place in in disarray. Broken vials. Tossed about spell components. All magic items he might display gone.

The champions’ manor is also locked (Open Lock DC 25 / Strength DC 30) with no answer to knocking.

Days 6, 7, or 8 of Guard Duty

If the group decides to stay at the tower instead of going into town to investigate, the stream of miscreants continues to increase. At some point, a gang of 4 Bandits and 2 Giant Rats (5th Edition Monster Manual  343 and 327) will approach and demand that the guards take them to the Dreadstorm Treasure.

*Or if the group leaves the tower, they’ll meet this band of Bandits & Giant Rats inside attacking townsfolk and random bandits bands attacking townsfolk.

“Baz”
Bandit 1

Initiative:

“Gart”
Bandit 2

Initiative:

“Neff”
Bandit 3

Initiative:

“Hork”
Bandit 4

Initiative:

“Gig”
Giant Rat 1

Initiative:

“Russ”
Giant Rat 1

Initiative:

If the bandit gang is winning and it’s going badly for the players, they will allow the players to surrender if they’ll show the bandits where the Champions’ treasure is hidden. [As far as the group knows, there is no hidden treasure!]

If the group heads to the Champion’s Manor, the location details will be in #8 – Champions’ Manor. 


Up Next: The town is over run! The Champions are missing! The mayor needs their help closing the city gates! #7 – Rusty Gates of Berlstrum – Dreadstorms Lost Campaign

It took me a while to get around to give the explanation of what was going on behind the scenes with the champions while the players are dealing with these immediate challenges. If you want to jump ahead for that information: #9 – The Mystery of the Missing Champions – Dreadstorms Lost

#5 – The Adventure Begins – Dreadstorm Lost

Gatehouse and guard tower
The following blog post is Part 5 of the Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition campaign, Dreadstorms Lost. These blogs are intended for other game masters who might want to use this campaign setting and the scenarios to inspire their own role playing games. (Free for noncommercial reuse.)

Notes:

Guard Duty

The game begins with the players’ characters at 1st level, shiny new Protector Trainees reporting for their first day of guard duty at the south tower of Berlstrum.

If you have 6 or more players, you can split them into 2 teams. Yes! Split the party. It’s always more fun that way. If you have 3-5 players, you will start with twice that number of protectors Protector Trainees reporting for duty as players. 

Stats for several sample NPCs [Non-Player Characters] are at the bottom of the page. Note, this campaign was created for 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons. Any stats provided are 5E specific, but the rest would probably work in any RPG environment.


Setting

♣ The tower [107] sits immediately outside the South gates, flush to the city wall to the north, the high cliffs at its back, the Free Road passing in front. The tower rises above the city wall by 50 feet. 

The roar of the Thornbreaker River passes under the land bridge to the south of the Tower. Thousands of feet below the water crashes into the Forlorn Bay. The spray from the mighty waterfall leaves everything slightly misted and damp. Incoming traffic has to cross the windy, damp land bridge before approaching the South tower. Traffic leaving Berlstrum goes through an inner gate, down a zig-zag passageway before reaching the outer gate. Neither gate has been lowered in over 10 years. The gate houses [2 & 106] that contain the portcullis mechanisms have become places to store odds and ends, rats’ nests, and spider webs. ♣

Berlstrum 2

Day 1 – Marching Orders

At noon, Kazel and Foreshot Dreadstorm greet the trainees at the base of the South Tower outside the city gates. While Kazel goes over the basics, Foreshot leans against the tower wall, watching them.

Kazel to trainees:

Your mentors feel that you have successfully reached a level in your training that you should be able handle tower duty. You will be at the tower for 7 days. Your job while here is to keep on the lookout for hostiles. You are divided into 2 teams. Every 9 hours the teams rotate positions. Within each 3-person team, it is up to you to decide who gets breaks and when.

Foreshot hands each trainee a smooth, flat-dull-gray river rock with a simple etched rune. The stones are activated by licking them, which the Dreadstorms won’t tell them unless asked. The rune on the rock will glow white when activated and continue to glow until the receiver (one of the Dreadstorms) arrives.

UPPER TOWER GUARDS: One team is inside the tower, at the top to keep an eye out for large incoming groups like caravans, the Sovereign’s Patrol, invading armies, and … yes … even the entertainers parade. In the case of an incoming group – activate one of these stones, which will alert the champions.

GROUND/GATE GUARDS: Each guard should have one of these rune stones on them at all times. DO NOT activate the stone because you’re bored and want to chat. I will shoot you with magic missiles and Foreshot will probably just pummel you to pieces.

You’ve each been issued a bed roll, a canteen, a tinderbox and enough trail rations for 7 days.

Players can note these items on their inventory.

One of us will be by to check on you a couple of times during the week to make sure you haven’t killed yourselves or wandered off. Don’t worry. We haven’t needed to close the city gates in over 10 years. You’ll be fine.

Kazel and Foreshot will then leave the trainees to sort themselves out unless they have any questions.

Guard duty is dull, monotonous, and boring. The first couple of days are pretty uneventful. During this time the players have a chance to role play getting to know their fellow party members. Encourage the players to introduce themselves in character and them to tell you what they do during their guard time. The NPC group will keep themselves separate for the most part unless directly engaged by the party members.


Optional NPCs for the other team of tower guards/NPC:

    • Amira Northwing (level 1 half-elf rogue)
    • Dorn Tallstag Eirkash (level 1 human wizard)
    • Moregore Grayfist Ironbreaker (level 1 dwarf fighter)
    • Stormy Mogwater (level 1 human cleric)

AMIRA NORTHWING

– from the village of Crossover, she heard the rumors of the Champions’ treasure and hopes to find clues while working as a Protector. She hasn’t been a very successful thief yet.

ROGUE 1 ♦ Half-Elf, Medium humanoid, chaotic good

STR 13 (+1) ♦ DEX 20 (+5) ♦ CON 12 (+1) ♦ INT 17 (+3) ♦ WIS 14 (+2) ♦ CHA 10 (+0)

Armor Class 16
Hit Points 9
Speed 30 ft.
Passive Perception 14
Initiative +5

Proficiencies
Saving Throws Dex +8, Int +3
Skills: Acrobatics +9, Arcana +5, Athletics + 3, Perception +4, Sleight of Hand +7, Stealth +7

ACTIONS

Dagger: +7 to hit, range 20/60, 1d4+5 piercing, finesse, light, thrown, underwater

Short sword: +7 to hit, 1d6+5 piercing, finesse, light, underwater

Dart: +7 range to hit, range 20/60, 1d4+5 piercing, finesse, light, underwater

ROGUE TRAITS

Sneak Attack, Cunning Action

MOREGORE GRAYFIST IRONBREAKER

– Morgore grew up in  and has a large, extended family in Berlstrum. Morgorn and Mortengort are his cousins and also good fighters who would go looking for Moregore if he disappeared.

FIGHTER 1 ♦ Dwarf, Medium humanoid (mountain dwarf), neutral

STR 20 (+5) ♦ DEX 18 (+4) ♦ CON 16 (+3) ♦ INT 10 (+0) ♦ WIS 10 (+0) ♦ CHA 8 (-1)

Armor Class 17
Hit Points 24
Speed 25 ft.
Passive Perception 14
Initiative +4

Languages Common, Dwarvish, Orc

Proficiencies Saving Throws Str +7, Dex +4, Con +5
Skills Acrobatics +6, Athletics +7, Perception +2, Survival +2
Darkvision 60 ft, Resistance poison

ACTIONS

Battleaxe: +7 to hit, 1d8+5 slashing, versatile (1d10)

Longbow: +6 range to hit, range 150/600, 1d8+4 piercing, ammunition, heavy, two-handed

FIGHTER TRAITS
Fighting Style (Protection), Action Surge (One Use)

DORN TALLSTAG EIRKASH

– Young and brash and short (5″1″). His mentor is Haseid Khalid (warlock/archfey pact).

WIZARD 1 (ILLUSION) ♦ Human, Medium humanoid, neutral good

STR 10 (+0) ♦ DEX 13 (+1) ♦ CON 11 (+0) ♦ INT 20 (+5) ♦ WIS 15 (+2) ♦ CHA 10 (+0)

Armor Class 14
Hit Points 6
Speed 30 ft.
Passive Perception 14
Initiative +1

Languages Common, Dwarven, Draconic, Elvish

Proficiencies Saving Throws Int +7, Wis +4
Skills Arcana +7, History +7, Insight +4, Investigation +7, Perception +4,

ACTIONS

Attack Spell (Int): Spell +7 to hit

Quarterstaff: +2 to hit, 1d6 bludgeoning (versatile 1d8)


Spellcasting DC 15

Cantrips
Known 3: Poison Spray, Shocking Grasp, Minor Illusion

1st Level:
Prepared 7, Cast per day 2: Mage Armor, Disguise Self, Burning Hands, Fog Cloud, Identify, Magic Missile, Tenser’s Floating Disc

WIZARD TRAITS
Arcane Recovery, Spellbook

STORMY MOGWATER

– Stormy is quiet and reserved. Her mentor is R’dsché Albrĕcktforthen’with (elf cleric)

CLERIC (Light) 1 ♦ Human, Medium humanoid, neutral good

STR 18 (+4) ♦ DEX 10 (+0) ♦ CON 16 (+3) ♦ INT 10 (+0) ♦ WIS 20 (+5) ♦ CHA 10 (0)

Armor Class 15
Hit Points 11
Speed 30 ft.
Passive Perception 17
Initiative +0

Languages Common, Draconic, Elvish, Dwarvish

Proficiencies
Saving Throws Str +4, Wis +8, Cha +2
Skills: Acrobatics +2, Athletics + 6, Insight +8, Perception +8, Religion +4

ACTIONS

Mace: +6 to hit, 1d6+4 bludgeoning

Spell Attack (Wis): +8 to hit

Light Crossbow: +2 range to hit, range 80/320, 1d8 piercing


Spellcasting DC 15

Cantrips
Known 5: Spare the Dying, Sacred Flame, Light, Resistance, Thaumaturgy

1st Level:
Known 8, Cast per day 2: Cure Wounds, Burning Hands, Sanctuary, Protection from Evil and Good, Sheild of Faith, Faerie Fire, Create or Destroy Water, Detect Magic

CLERIC TRAITS
Divine Domain Feature (Warding Flare)

Up Next: Guard duty!? Well, this will be dull. OR will it?! What excitement awaits our players in the Guard Tower? #6 – Guard Duty! Go! – Dreadstorms Lost

#4 NPCs of Dreadstorms Lost

The following blog post is Part 4 of the Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition campaign, Dreadstorms Lost. These blogs are intended for other game masters who might want to use this campaign setting and the scenarios to inspire their own role playing games. (Free for noncommercial reuse.)

Notes:

NPCs for Berlstrum and Random Encounters

Berlstrum 2Over the course of running through the campaign twice, I’ve often had to come up with non-player characters (NPCs) with quick backstories. Below is a table with names, race, gender, notes, and location. The number in the map column indicates what primary building that NPC haunts in Berlstrum. Some of these NPCs are mentioned at some point in the campaign notes.

Note: I created the map and the NPCs, but not the art at the top of this page.

Town of Berlstrum with index [PDF]


Non-Player Character Resource Table

Map First Last Sex Race Notes
124 Agosta Amagoste F Dragonborn COUNCIL MEMBER/Fighter/ Protector Mentor
stout, pratical sort; lives on farm outside walls; won’t fight if it’ll endanger her kids; husband Viontae
101 Ak Hopplestance F Tiefling Co-owner of #101 Hawl & Ak Butchers; Mom is Juniper
Amalika Breth F Human
Ames Albrecht M Halfling Cleric; member of the Deadly Omega 6
Amira Northwing F Human Rogue; Protector Trainee
93 Andorion Albrĕcktforthen’with M Elf Owner of #93 Breen Treasure Imports
Arcuna Blestem Confundat F Dragonborn
49 Arn the Agrivated M Human Harbor Guide
115 Arthur Grayfist Stonecrusher the Sixth M Dwarf
Avele Strongheart F Gnome
Ayelee Faewlsteem F Human Son is Torgret
Bai Tan M Human
Bantu Voi Nimici F Human Married to Momoma
Beeble Brakenridge M Human
Berdaging Monyet F Human
Bodoh Deathtracker M ½ Orc Ship repair #46
Briney Ulanbataar
Buric Chestuine Creierul M Elf
100 Caemtar Grayfist Stonecrusher M Dwarf Tanner at #100
Calista Anthron Juxtapocket F Dwarf
122 Clarence Gulspar M Human Protector trainee – Foreshot is his mentor; lives in guest room at #122 the Champions’ Manor
Cliffer Morganshire M
Clogswollow Goofenmauker Brakenridge M Gnome
78 Cobblekeep Lightdiggerson M Halfling Mayor of Berlstrum – Dapper dresser; full of energy; #26 residence; son Silverfin
Cridhe Summerfest M Gnome
Crostack Muntah-racun’dalam Lehe’randa M Elf
59 Curloring Nevăstuică M Elf Employee of #59 Busy Bore Pub
Darnak Underbough M Halfling, Lightfoot Vani’s brother
Dgari Nebdakka M Dragonborn
Dholean Maraas M
Doodlawk Moarte’asperanta’glorie M ½ Elf
Dorn Tallstag Eirkash M Human Wizard master of Illusions; short (5″1′) teenager dresses in fine street clothes & robe; hangs out at #36 Sure Luke’s Pub / Mentor is Haseid (Warlock)
59 Drom Strongheart M Gnome owner of #59 Busy Bore Pub
Durkyn Deathtracker M ½ Orc
55 Efergen Happleknot F Halfling Owner of #55 Hanging High Fresh Produce
35 Efrim Nerezonabile X Dobbleganger Owner of #35 Happy’s (Gambling/Prostitutes)
Ekantar Hickfurt M Human
Erky Raulnor M Forest Gnome Protector Trainee / Monk: Way of the Open Hand; Holds himself aloofly.
Everett Muskrat M Human
Eyugen Burhpart M Human
99 Farreacher Meleleh F Dragonborn Blacksmith/Protector Trainer -Employee at The Forge
27 Feather Crystalmash Hollythorne Hard’sarrow F Halfling Scribe/Sorceress – owner of Words of Wonder (Bookstore & letters)
FitzHenry M Human
Foreshot Dreadstorm F Human Birth name is [Forest Norborough]; Ranger/ Protector Trainer to Clarence; Lives in #122 Champions’ Manor; married to Kazel Dreadstorm; previous member of the Deadly Omega 6
Frank Mash M Human
99 Gar Deathtracker M ½ Orc Blacksmith –  Owner of #99 The Forge
94 Gee’naw Faewlsteem M ½ Orc Owner of #94 G’naws Magic Goods
Gemmaya Ankhalab Happychance Ginblossom F Halfling
Gloryhound Omeka
Gomia Crystalmash Hollythorne Hard’sarrow F Halfling
Gomrund Pantamongre M Human
Gorola Mendala F Human
Gorshuk Planke M ½ Elf Rogue Assassin; member of the Deadly Omega 6
Gorx Drumbanger M Dwarf
102 Grant Tan M ½ Orc COUNCIL MEMBER / Barbarian; – owner of #102 Suvival Supplies; Bulky with green tinge to skin; grunts “Uh huh” often
Graybook Lunarbow
46 Grayson Voi Nimici M Dragonborn Fisherman & Boat repair #45 /Protector Mentor
126 Hagh Seedrikson M Human Brother-Hammond
126 Hammond Seedrikson M Human COUNCIL MEMBER STAND-IN/Fighter – Runs #126 Hammond Farm; Unappologetically grubby
Haseid Khalid M Human Dorn’s Mentor; Warlock: Archfey Pact; level-headed and calm
49 Hasfromer Hornblower Goldblossom Everstone M Dwarf Harbor Guide / Fisherman #49
101 Hawl Gravemaker M Tiefling Ranger; Co-owner of #101 Hawl & Ak Butchers
108 Hunnable Monyet M Human Druid – Owner of #108 TK Stables
Imire Hornblower Goldblossom Everstone F Dwarf
Inx Albrĕcktforthen’with F Elf Haps Emporium General Goods – #26
Jawbone Catsgrace Halfling
45 Jester Red River M Human Bard / Friends of the Dreadstorms/ has been going out recruiting new protectors / often found at Dragon Rest when in town
Jhessail Arrowbrite F Gnome
88 Juniper Hopplestance F Tiefling Druid – owner of #88 Herb Store; Daughter is Ak
49 Kalanar Trelstar M Human Harbor Guide/ Fisherman / Protector
Kalisstra Lightdiggerson F Halfling In a relationship with the gnome Mungin
122 Kazel Dreadstorm M Elf Elf Wizard/Head Protector Trainer; Lives in #122 Champions’ Manor w/Tower; owner of #10 Glass Eye (Potions/Enchantments); married to Foreshot Dreadstorm; previous member of the Deadly Omega 6
4 Klee’na Nevăstuică F Elf Fighter / Protector / #3- 4 Guard Shacks/Cells
Kresley Ironbreaker F Dwarf
Laibazarbit “Bit” Graystone F Tiefling Fighter; member of the Deadly Omega 6
100 Leebowitz Bigtooth M Dwarf Tanner
Lemand Dieredenbreekt M ½ Elf
Lemonte Trelstar M Human Trader – Better than Fine Imports
Logar Lightburn
Lord Ust M Human Daughter is Mostrad
49 Luck McQuel M Human Harbor Master
14 Mamet Txatin F Human Owner of #14 Mamet’s Boarding House
Mati Montekee F Human
Momoma Anababa F Human Married to Bantu
4 Monara Ust F Human Monk / Protector – Guard Shack/Cells – #3-4; Mom-Mostrad; Grandpa-Lord Ust
Moora Moonmadder
Moregore Grayfist Ironbreaker M Dwarf Fighter/Protector trainee; part of the Ironbreaker Clan
Morengort Grayfist Ironbreaker M Dwarf Fighter; part of the Ironbreaker Clan
Morgorn Grayfist Ironbreaker M Dwarf Fighter; part of the Ironbreaker Clan
15 Mostrad Ust F Human COUNCIL MEMBER – owner of #15 Katrine Café; rudy Cheeks; grumpy; says “Well then!”; Daughter-Monara
Munca Nevăstuică F Elf
Mungin Barnabus Periwinkle M Gnome Rogue (Arcane Trickster); flamboyant dresser; always wears large brimmed hat and high cuffed boots; in a relationship with the halfling Kalisstra
Munina Alegrate Doomoxster Happychance F Halfling
Muriel Rodigokraken F Dragonborn
Mutah Bodo
Nalgin Darkweaver M Gnome
Necrog Vântul M Human
5 Neegha Dragonburn Axhammer F Tiefling Runs #5 North Stable
Neroz Nerezonabile F Dragonborn Harbor Guide
Navenpänts Albrĕcktforthen’with Elf
42 Neverpots Goofenmauker Brakenridge F Gnome Instructor at #42 Esoteria University and Librarian at #44 the Library of Esoteria
44 Norttle Summerfest M Gnome Wizard/Librarian/ Protector Trainer; Headmaster at  #42-43 Esoteria University and Head Librarian at #44 the Library of Esoteria
Obsidian Wallaby ½ Elf
Olga River F Human Drunkard; hangs out at #13 Yellow Barrel
Pye’orion Bonamassa M ½ Elf
Qen Norwellen M Elf Actual first name is Q’endersforthwith, but everyone calls him Ken; Warlock; owner of #52 Tryme Tavern
46 Quaxill Bonhaventree M Gnome Ship repair #46
37 R’dsché Albrĕcktforthen’with M Elf COUNCIL MEMBER / Cleric/Protector Trainer – Wears priest robes; has an angular body and pointy beard; often says “I seeeeee”
Ragnara’sha [no last name] F Human Barbarian Berserker / Protector trainee – White hair; broad of shoulder and strong of limb
Ryobid Txatin
57 S’slaw Norwellen M Elf Runs #57 Fresh Seafood & Delicacies
Samora Ganzee F Human Warlock/Sorcerer; member of the Deadly Omega 6
36 Serfio Txatin M Human Owner of #36 Sure Luke’s Pub
26 Silverfin Giltas M Halfling 16 years old; parent is Mayor Cobblekeep; friends of Torgret and Tragar; residence #26
Smack Mash M Human Mash Brothers
Snark Mash M Human Mash Brothers
Spinks Mash M Human Mash Brothers
Stank Mash M Human Mash Brothers
Stormy Mogwater F Human Protector Trainee / Cleric; Shy, doesn’t speak much but powerful of healing faith and strong of arms
Suffo Galopează F Dragonborn
Sylara Swiller
Tabrak Dragonburn Axhammer M Dwarf
Tai Mei F Human
54 Tat Deathtracker M Orc Owner of #54 Tat’s Tattooing
36 Tesseley Buckman F Human Rogue Assasin; Hangs out at #36 Sure Luke Pub; older (40s) wears worn eather armor, daggers, and light crossbow; “Deadly at finding an eliminating problems”
46 Tiabra Evenwood F Gnome Ship repair #46
Tidak Meleleh M Dragonborn
Tojeono što vaše mrtve majke M Elf
125 Tomo Prok M ½ Elf Gwantomo Prokleta duša rekao (actual name) COUNCIL MEMBER / Druid/Protector Mentor
Runs #125 Gwantoma Farm outside city walls; has Wolf companion named Oscar
Torgret Jararr M Human 17 years old; parent is Aylee; friends with Tragar and Silverfin
Tragar Sângerare M Human 13 years old; parent is Vasil; starting to come into his sorcerer abilities; friends with Silverfin and Torgret
Tryphon Demarcus
Umara Fatefighter Oglethorp F Human
Vani Underbough F Halfling, Lightfoot Ranger: Beast Master (4); Favorite Terrain: Forest/Enemy: Aberrations / Hangs out in #36 Sure Luke Pub;  Darnak’s brother; bat perched on his shoulder
Vasil Farlmoore M Human Wealthy owner of #120 manor; very attached to his 2 small dogs
124 Viontae Amagoste M Dragonborn Father/Farmer at #124 Amagoste Farm / Husband to Agosta
90 Wabae Txatin F Human COUNCIL MEMBER / Cleric Acolyte / Runs #124 Medical Aid; round & bustling; says “Dear me!” a lot
Wharva Ku F Human
Whinelda Wrigglesworth F
Xem the Illustrious
95 Xendric Grayfist Ironbreaker M Dwarf COUNCIL MEMBER / Owner of #94 Xendric’s Basic Armor & Weapons Shop; #84 residence; Tidy with a short, trimmed beard; part of the Ironbreaker Clan
Xenon Grayfist Ironbreaker F Dwarf Married to Xendric; Aunt to Moregor, Morengort, and Morgorn; part of the Ironbreaker Clan
Xultrane Lackman M Human
Yohkle Arodite Human Merchant sailor
3 Zertana Moarte’asperanta’glorie F Dragonborn Mage/ Protector Guard Shack/Cells
Zora Goodcrusher F Gnome
Zorbit Allbreath
Zorn Gravemaker M Tiefling Cousin-Hawl
Zutrae Shemov F Human

Next up: Enough back story already! Let’s get this campaign started! #5 – The Adventure Begins – Dreadstorm Lost

#3.5 Deadly Omega 6 – Origins – Dreadstorms Lost

The following blog post is Part 3.5 of the Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition campaign, Dreadstorms Lost. These blogs are intended for other game masters who might want to use this campaign setting and the scenarios to inspire their own role playing games. (Free for noncommercial reuse.)

Notes:

The Backstory of the Backstory

At one point in the D&D game, my players wanted to get more information about the adventuring group, the Deadly Omega 6, the group that made the Dreadstorms famous and won them the champion post in Berlstrum. The group tracked down  a bard and a known friend of the Dreadstorms, Jester Red.

I had a vague backstory for the Omegas, but was now forced to flush it out. Since they went to a bard, I wanted them to feel like they were hearing this from a great storyteller. I wrote out the basic story. Then I contacted my brother, Robert Boylan, and pleaded with him to do his ninja-writing magic on my story and make it more bard-like. He accepted the challenge. With a few back and forths for clarity, I was delighted with the final version of his labors.

Next I cajoled Paul Willman, with his melodious baritone voice, to record a reading of the Deadly Omega 6 story. He was patient and an awesome sport. We downloaded a free audio editor and recorder called Audacity, that worked great without any special equipment. The reading ended up being 17 minutes long. So I edited out as many pause where I could and upped the speed. Sadly, Paul’s beautiful baritone isn’t even recognizable anymore. The final version is 13-½ minutes long. Below is the link to the YouTube 

 

The Origins of the Deadly Omega 6 as told by Jester Red [YouTube]

YouTube audio with static image


The Members of The Deadly Omega 6

  1. Samora Ganzee – warlock/sorcerer– human, female
  2. Foreshot [formerly Forest Norborough] – ranger – human, female
  3. Gorshuk Planke – rogue assassin – half-elf, male
  4. Kazel Dreadstorm – wizard – dark elf, male
  5. Ames Albrecht – cleric – halfling, male
  6. Laibazarbit “Bit” Graystone – fighter – tiefling, female

The written version:

The Origns of the Deadly Omega 6 as told by Jester Red

by Heather Boylan & Robert Boylan

Give cease to the wagging of your tongues and the slurping as your teeth pull meat from bone. Stifle too the clanking of tankards, the chinking of plates, the shifting of chairs, and the noisome passing of gas from either throat or anus. Be still and attend this humble word-smith. Tonight, I shall paint a history of the group now known as the Deadly Omega Six.

Ah, I see from your faces the deeds of these heroes are not unknown to many of you.

Let me take you back, long before they achieved a modicum of fame.

Our tale begins—

Hey, barbarian in the back! Yes, you! Shut your yammering ale-hole or take it outside.

Now, where was I?

Yes, our tale …

It begins in the sleepy village of Westend, where dwelt Samora Ganzee, her parents, and her four siblings. Their days of idyllic living came to abrupt end with the arrival of the Torken Raiders.

Yes, I see some of you shudder at the very name, as well you should.

It was a gloomy autumn morning when that foul assemblage of humans, orcs, hobgoblins, and ogres set their sights on Westend. By evening’s fall, the village was a wasteland of embers and ash mixed with the lifeblood of livestock. Fortunate were the villagers who perished that day, for the survivors had to endure the raiders’ lusts and needs for violence, day upon day.

As you may have guessed, Samora and her family numbered among these unfortunates.

I shall not curl the food in your bellies with descriptions of the cruelties the Torken visited upon their captives or the games of bloodsport they were forced to participate in. Suffice it to say it was a precarious existence of despair, misery, and pain.

It is no wonder Samora’s parents sought to escape with their children. Their bid for freedom, however, failed. For this offense, the Torkens publicly flayed the youngest of them. Samora could shut her eyes to that grisly spectacle, but nothing could keep the girl’s screams from her ears.

In the days and months that followed, those screams continued to echo in Samora’s mind as she did what was necessary to survive. Powerless and without agency, she could not hope for more. In such conditions time loses its meaning. Days blend into an unending blur of agony and horror.

Eventually, though, something unexpected occurred.

It came in the form of strange man. With a well-groomed salt and pepper hair, neatly trimmed beard, and spotless clothing, Samora took him for a noble. No way he was one of the Torken. Odd, then, he had strolled through the raiders’ camp without drawing the least attention.

He came up to Samora as she sat stroking the hair of her sleeping sister Zandoval, her only family member attrition had not claimed.

He squatted next to her and whispered in a low voice that sent shivers down her spine, “Would you be free of this rabble? I can make that happen for you.”

“How?” she managed dully. Hope was not an emotion she possessed any longer.

The man pulled two sickles from behind his back. Unlike the simple farming implement she knew, these were not made of metal. Instead they seemed formed of crescents of obsidian. Sluggish green lights danced in the depths of the material.

He held them out to her. “Take the Ebonairre Twins and learn.”

With the handles pressed so close to her, Samora instinctively gripped them. In that moment, she felt a terrible power suffuse her body. Her vision tinted green, and she sprang to her feet with a boundless, hungry energy.

Grok, the ogre who was her chief tormentor, spied her sudden movement. He lumbered over to her. “What you got there?”

Without conscious thought, Samora slashed with the sickles, crossing them just under his chin.

The ogre’s head flopped back as the muscles in his neck separated and blood fountained. Someone screamed, and others shouted angrily. After that, things became hazy as she sank into a manic frenzy. All she knew was a pounding in her head like tribal drums and a flash of faces too quick to register.

When she finally regained her senses, the sun peaked above the hills.

She stood amidst carnage, drenched in blood, none of it hers. Raiders and captives alike had been cut down. The unholy weapons still in Samora’s hands dripped gore. There could be no doubt she had been the source of the devastation.

She found Zandoval among the dead. Numb beyond the reach of grief or guilt, Samora could do naught but stare down at the body. A jagged stroke had nearly cleaved her head from her shoulders.

“Master is most pleased,” an icy whisper tickled her ear. She turned to see the strange man standing there. Nary a drop of blood marred his pristine suit. He gripped her by the elbow and pulled her along. “Come, pet. I have work for you.”

Behind them, the dead began to twitch. In moments, they rose and shuffled off in all directions.

[pause … drink ale … ]

It would not be until much later that Samora learned that this event constituted a binding pact as far as the demon lord Orcus was concerned. Over time, she gained strength and confidence and sought ways to subvert his thrall.

Perhaps her most significant step towards ridding herself of his influence came the day she learned she need not face the struggle alone. That revelation came about in a tavern in Skalia, so insignificant it did not possess a name.

Upon entering, Samora’s eyes were immediately drawn to the barkeep. By all accounts the lad was possessed of an allure that many women found desirable. He certainly filled Samora’s mind with randy thoughts. She sidled up to the bar and in her direct way said, “When you’re done serving drinks, you and I should set my room a-shaking.”

This proposal found favor with the lad. However, a lady who called herself Foreshot had just spent a half hour flirting with the barkeep intending to take him back to her room. Having invested that time, Foreshot was not well disposed towards this interloper. The two women exchanged heated words. Tempers flared, and fists flew. This spark of violence quickly precipitated an all-encompassing tavern brawl.

The local watch broke it up in due course and deposited the combatants in jail cells to cool off overnight. As fate would have it Samora and Foreshot were dumped in adjacent cells. Instead of fueling further animosity between them, this proximity gave rise to an enduring friendship.

Just in case any of you are curious, Foreshot later found opportunity to return to that tavern and sample that barkeep’s bedroom skills. She found the experience completely unsatisfying, telling Samora, “By the Great Stag, for all those pretty muscles, he was hung like a halfling.”

Seems there’s a life lesson in that for all of you, yes?

So anyway, also in attendance at that tavern on the same night as these two women first met was one Pasha Hassen bin Miluk. A man of his self-perceived importance would normally never be caught dead in such a dive. But on this particular night, he had it in his mind to engage in a bit of slumming and debauchery. He got more than he bargained for.

During the brawl, one of Samora’s wild elbows caught him in the mouth, and he lost three teeth. For this grave assault upon his person, Hassen hired the assassin Gorshuk Planke to bring back Samora’s head. Now it should be said, Gorshuk despised the Pasha and wanted nothing more than to rid the simpering fop the rest of his teeth.

Unfortunately, work had been scarce, since Gorshuk had botched his last kill. He needed the coin. More importantly he needed to salvage his reputation.

With great care, he selected an ambush site just outside of Skalia. He did not have to wait long for his quarry to appear. The moment was perfect. The sun was angled just right to shine in the women’s eyes. What little breeze blew flowed directly towards them. No crowds were present to distract them or him.

He sighted down his crossbow, exhaled, and squeezed the trigger.

And the bolt whizzed over their heads by more than three feet. It stuck some poor ass in the hindquarters. The poor beast raised quite the ruckus, as you can quite imagine. This is why later the champions would often grouse Gorshuk about “pinning the tail” on their foes.

Legend has it that Samora and Foreshot exercised some deft diplomacy to convince Gorshuk to forswear his commission and join with them. That’s complete bullocks. Truth is the half-elf was flummoxed and mortified with his dismal aim. In that moment, he suffered a crisis of professional confidence. Reaching such an emotional crossroads, a lesser man might have sought suicide by adventurer, but Gorshuk was instead moved to change the course of his life.

When Foreshot jokingly said he should slink out of town with them, he jumped at the chance.

Unbeknownst to Gorshuk, even if he had successfully carried out his mission, Hassen never would have paid the fee. At the time of the ambush, the Pasha was busy venting all his blood out through a dozen holes in his chest. He had mouthed off to a gnome in the market square, and she demonstrated just why she was called Agnes the Asp.

Probably another life lesson there, hmm.

Say, barmaid, could I trouble you for that foaming flagon in your hand? I’m not sure I’ll be able to continue if my throat grows more parched. Ah, thanks, you’re a dear.

So, these three worthies set forth with adventure in the offing, and unlike many such adventurers they did not immediately find themselves quick deaths. In due course, they set upon a quartet of ogres in a dank cave. After slaughtering the hapless brutes, they made an unexpected discovery: a naked, angry wizard, trussed-up and soaking in a marinade.

At first, they assumed the spicy sauce had blackened his skin.  It was only after they had exchanged names that they realized he was, in fact, a dark elf. (Make not the mistake of referring to him as a drow. He’d like as to shove a wand up your nose and trigger it for such an insult.)

This dark elf, Kazel Dreadstorm, was grateful to have been spared the cookpot and was more than a little smitten with Foreshot. This uncharacteristic onset of emotion both intrigued and terrified Kazel. As such, he felt compelled to study the matter further, like it was some sort of logic problem that would yield its secrets if only he applied his mind to it. However, he could not further his inquiry without proximity to his research subject. So, he convinced the others to let him join their little band.

Kazel is also the one who came up with their group’s name, the Deadly Omega Four: Deadly because it sounded menacing, four because they numbered four, and Omega just because he liked the way the word rolled off his tongue. None of the others cared if they had a name, so the appellation stuck.

Four soon became Six with the addition of halfling Ames Albrecht and tiefling Laibazarbit Graystone. These two sought to rob the Four for their food and water. At the time, both were suffering from the effects of extreme hunger, dehydration, and exposure, so their attempt failed pathetically.

Foreshot took pity on them and offered to let them share their meal. They wisely stuck around after the food was gone. These two city-dwellers never revealed how they came to be stranded in the wilderness without supplies. Some have speculated they ran afoul of a wizard’s teleportation trap. Others are of the opinion they were the sole survivors of an ill-fated caravan or adventuring company.

Personally, I subscribe to the theory that the pair got blind drunk one night, and their erstwhile friends played a cruel prank on them.

In any case, assembling a group of adventurers is not an uncommon thing. I count at least two such parties in the audience tonight. What makes the Deadly Omega Six special is where they opted to direct their heroic intent.

As all you gentlefolk may have surmised from earlier in this tale, Samora found herself shackled to an infernal power. This was not a bargain she had sought or ever actually accepted. More than anything, she wanted to be free of it.  And her companions agreed to help her find a way.

Through might and magic, through faith and guile, their quest eventually led them into the Abyss to the demesne of the demon lord Orcus. Now, the Omega Six were not fool-hearty enough to confront such a powerful being in the seat of his power. Instead they infiltrated the foul abattoir of Orcus’ Grand Inquisitor Zerk.

This particular fell being was the one who yanked the chains which bound Samora to Orcus and made demands of her in his name.A direct confrontation with someone as powerful as Zerk would also have been tantamount to suicide. Fortunately, for their purposes, they did not need Zerk dead. They just needed leverage. And they found it in the form of a fell artifact called the Eye of Orcus.

The demon lord himself had charged his lieutenant Zerk with the Eye’s safekeeping.

Zerk could not very well go to his liege and explain that an insignificant group of plane-raiders had circumvented his security, stolen the Eye, escaped to their backwater on the Prime Material, and successfully hidden it somewhere that blocked all the Eye’s malignant emanations. His master would never tolerate such gross failure.

Rather than bring such ruin down upon himself, Zerk acquiesced to Samora’s demands and freed her from Orcus’ service. And to ensure Zerk did not later seek retribution, the Omega Six retained possession of the Eye.

Few are the mortals who can successfully negotiate with the infernal and emerge with both their lives and souls intact. The Deadly Omega Six managed it.

But, if any of you think you might be clever enough to repeat this feat, I caution you against it. Odds are you’ll more likely to find a horrible death or worse.

Of course, it’s only those who dare the impossible and succeed who find immortality in bards’ tales.

On that note, I bid you all a fair evening. May your paths be rosy and your burdens light.

Oh, and one last thing. I do welcome your gifts and donations.

Thank you.

You may resume your revelries now.


 Next up: A Non Player Characters (NPCs) grab-no-go list for Berlstrum and beyond! #4 NPCs of Dreadstorms Lost

#1-4 of the Dreadstorms Lost Campaign are backstory and setting information. If you want to jump ahead to where the players comin in: #5 – The Adventure Begins – Dreadstorm Lost

#3 – The Champions – Dreadstorms Lost

The following blog post is Part 3 of the Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition campaign, Dreadstorms Lost. These blogs are intended for other game masters who might want to use this campaign setting and the scenarios to inspire their own role playing games. (Free for noncommercial reuse.)

Notes:

As you might gather from the title, the Dreadstorms play an important role in this D&D campaign. Finding out what happened to the champions is one of the key goals for the adventurers. So the question is, at what point do I put the answers to the quiz? The answer to what is going on behind the scenes. To what happened to the champions. To what lead up to the events?


Champions of Berlstrum

Kazel and Foreshot Dreadstorm have been Berlstrum’s champions for over a decade. Berlstrum has enjoyed peace and prosperity under their protection. The champions work with the mayor and town council in regards to town safety. They deal with any dangerous elements threatening the town.

In exchange for their service, the champions have been given a manor/castle to live in and a regular stipend from the Sovereign. Only the Sovereign can award the position of champion to a town.

Human female and white haired elf embraceBefore Kazel and Foreshot were offered the champions post in Berlsturm, they were a part of the Deadly Omega 6 gang. (More on these guys in the next installment.) Bards delight in singing tales of these great heroes’ deeds. Some of it might even be true.

Rumors of a hidden treasure from the couple’s infamous adventuring days are a topics of idle speculation, but nothing has ever been found. Berlstrum does get the occasional visitors wanting to challenge the pair for reputation gain or in hopes of finding their fabled stash. They are dealt with harshly.

Foreshot was a highly talented ranger in her adventuring days. She prefers to avoid the limelight whenever possible, spending a lot of her time hunting game and roaming monsters outside the city walls.

As part of the Protector Program, Foreshot is mentoring Clemens in the ways of the ranger. He has a room on the lower floor of their manor.

Foreshot is a tempering influence on Kazel. Without her, he tended to be a bit looser with his morals. Kazel is devoted to his wife, Foreshot, but worries about her  human lifespan.

Kazel considers himself a dark elf. Anyone who suggests he is drow will see the might of his fury and possibly a magic missile at their nearest possessions.

Kazel Dreadstorm is a “retired” wizard who sells potions, scrolls, and enchantments in his shop, The Glass Eye. With his beautiful dark elven skin and luscious silky white hair, he gets a lot of visitors who come to flirt with the famous champion. Kazel is good at redirecting these fanciful flirtations into sale at his store.

The Protector Program

Kazel and Foreshot created the Protector Program to aid in the day-to-day protection of the city. Those with aptitude and desire to learn the skills to become potential guardians, soldiers, adventurers are given training in their chosen field of interest. The program is intended to teach survival outside the safety a city’s walls and encourages exploration of the world.

In exchange for the free training, each Protector Trainee spends one week each month as a town guard; usually sentry duty or assisting with minor nuisances. Trainees are not paid wages, but are provided with a mentor who gives them room and board in exchange for work (varies depending on the mentor). Mentors are volunteers. Quality varies.

The trainees all meet weekly in the Champions’ Manor meeting hall where current problems are discussed, schedules handed out, and stories of past glories told.


For Game Master Only:

Our heroes have heard the call for protectors. And each for their own reasons has answered the call and successfully become a protector trainee. They will begin the adventure at 1st level. Details on the starting scenario next issue!

Recently, the Dreadstorms have been sending bards to recruit for the Protector Program and seem intent on increasing their numbers. Their bard friend, Jester Red, has been especially helpful in locating potential participants throughout the country of Briarstone. 

A secret only a very few know is that Foreshot is pregnant and the soon-to-be parents want to make sure that their town has sufficient protection when their champions will be most vulnerable.


 Next up: Okay. Now we know who the Champions are. But what about that group, the Deadly Omega 6? They sound cool. What’s their story? #3.5 Deadly Omega 6 – Origins – Dreadstorms Lost

#1-4 of the Dreadstorms Lost Campaign are backstory and setting information. If you want to jump ahead to where the players comin in: #5 – The Adventure Begins – Dreadstorm Lost

#2 – Berlstrum – Dreadstorms Lost Campaign

Drawing of a village with small creek, footbridge,
The following blog post is Part 2 of the Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition campaign, Dreadstorms Lost. These blogs are intended for other game masters who might want to use this campaign setting and the scenarios to inspire their own role playing games. (Free for noncommercial reuse.)

Notes:

This next installment of my D&D 5th Edition homebrew campaign settiing is the town where this  adventure begins. I find a lot of the details of the city (and the rest of the world) were in my head and only really cemented when a player asks for clarification. 

If there is some detail about the campaign setting that you would like to know, please leave a comment below.


The Town of Berlstrum

Map with buildings identified on the second page [PDF]: Berlstrum_with_index

Berlstrum 2

Berlstrum perches atop briarstone cliffs along the eastern coast of Briarstone. The cliffs under Berlstrum are riddled with hard-to­-reach caves. Those who have try to explore the caves haven’t returned.

On the sides not protected by sheer cliffs, the town has a thick wall guarding it from predators. The wall is 20 feet thick and 25 feet high, topped with crenelation for patrolling guards. By land, the North and South Gates are the only way in and out of Berlstrum.

The raging Thornbreaker River drops thousands of feet from the cliffs into Forlorn Bay. A large land bridge arches over the waterfall, connecting Berlstrum to the southern part of the country. The Free Road travels over the land bridge and is vital for the country’s North-South trading route.

Due to the many brutally sharp briarstone protrusions littering the Forlorn Bay, a harbor guide is vital to ensure a ship’s safe passage to and from the Obsidian Sea. Roaming sea monsters add to the difficulty of navigating the harbor entrance.

Town on a cliff with bridge over waterfallBoats are elevated to the docks with clever gnomish machinery. Captains willing to brave the harbor find it an excellent location for hull maintenance. Teams of workers use specially designed rigging repair and clean the underside of ships.

Small channels of water run throughout Berlstrum. Small foot bridges are common.

Berlstrum is relatively isolated from national politics and enjoys relative autonomy due to the distance to capitol, Greater Breen. Most of their official news comes the Sovereign’s Free Road patrols.

The town has a reputation for being accepting of different races shunned by the more “civilized” town. Tieflings, Orcs, Dopplegangers, Drow, Dragonborn are common sights within the city walls.

It is rumored that in years long past, a dragon once lived in the caves below Berlstrum. Most think it’s just a story to scare the kids.

Berlstrum is run by a mayor and 7 council members. They deal with local governing, decide punishments for mischief, and adjudicate disputes. Exile is a severe punishment for crimes within the town. The town’s champions provide protection and coordinate with the mayor & council on possible threats. The Champions of Berlstrum have a well-known reputation that keeps most sentient beings at bay.


The government

Mayor: Cobblekeep Lightdiggerson (Halfling)
*Stats below

Council Members:

  1. Mostrad Ust (Human, Owner Katrin’s Cafe)
  2. Wabae Txatin (Human, Cleric at Medical Aid Emporium)
  3. Gwantomo “Tomo” Prok (Elf, Farmer)
  4. Grant Tan (Orc, Owner Survival Gears Store)
  5. Agosta Amagoste (Dragonborn, Farmer, Fighter Trainer)
  6. Xendric Hornblower (Dwarf, Owner Xendric’s)
  7. R’dsche Albreckt (Elf, Head of one of the Churches in Berlstrum, Cleric Trainer)
  8. Stand-in Hammond Seedrikson (Human, Farmer)

Cobblekeep Lightdiggerson

small humanoid (lightfoot halfling)
Armor Class 13 (no armor)
Hit Points 9
Speed 25 ft.

STR 10 (+0) ♦ DEX 17 (+3) ♦ CON 13 (+1) ♦ INT 10 (+0) ♦ WIS 12 (+1) ♦ CHA 17 (+3)

Proficiencies (+2 proficiency bonus)

Saving Throws DEX +5, INT +5
Skills: Perception +5, History +2, Insight, +3, Persuasion +5, Performance +5

Halfling Traits:

Halfling Nimbleness. You can move through the space of any creature that is of a size larger than yours.
Lucky. When you roll a 1 on an attack roll, ability check, or saving throw, you can reroll the die and must use the new roll.
Brave. You have advantage on saving throws against being frightened.
Naturally Stealthy. You can attempt to hide even when you are obscured by a
creature that is at least one size larger than you.

 


Next up: Who are the Champions? And why do they matter to our story?  #3 – The Champions – Dreadstorms Lost

#1-4 of the Dreadstorms Lost Campaign are backstory and setting information. If you want to jump ahead to where the players comin in: #5 – The Adventure Begins – Dreadstorm Lost

#1 – Dreadstorms Lost Campaign – Overview

Map of Briarstone
The following blog post is Part 1 of the Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition campaign, Dreadstorms Lost. These blogs are intended for other game masters who might want to use this campaign setting and the scenarios to inspire their own role playing games. (Free for noncommercial reuse.)

Notes: World Building

I created the Dreadstorm Lost Dungeons and Dragons campaign and the wider world of Briarstone to run some friends through a D&D 5th Edition game. Why? Because I’m crazy? Probably. World building is exhausting, thrilling, frustrating, and ever-changing in a role-playing game (RPG) thanks to the decisions, interactions, and observations of players in the game. In a pre-generated story like the Curse of Strahd, I don’t feel like I have the sort of flexibility and creativity that I can in my own world. That and I like coloring within my own lines, thank you very much.

To start, here is the map of the continent: Briarstone-Continent Map-Hz [PDF] (Free for noncommercial reuse.) This is an every changing map as I add more details, towns, and roads. And thus begins the campaign setting information dump!


Dreadstorm Lost Campaign: Continent

Continent overview

The continent is divided into three countries, Briarstone, Heshtia, and Glort. The enormous, raging Roone River divides the southern half of the content and is the much-contested border between the nations of Briarstone and Heshtia. The country of Glort controls the northern half of the continent. Briarstone is by the far the largest and richest of the three nations.

The Obsidian Ocean has violent storms, aggressive sea creatures, and sudden whirlpools. Only the bravest or foolhardy venture into these perilous waters.

Map of BriarstoneTHE NATION OF BRIARSTONE

The nation of Briarstone has the largest influence of magic users in positions of power. Humans make up the largest percentage of the Briarstonian population, but the other races are well represented.

The capitol city of Briarstone is Greater Breen on the Southern Coast where the nation’s Sovereign resides. The Sovereign is a shadowy figure that is both feared and respected, though very little is know about them.

The Sovereign selects Champions of Briarstone as reward for heroics to crown and country. The Champions are awarded a town to protect and in return receive a comfortable stipend. The position of Champion is considered retirement for exceptional adventurers lucky enough to survive that long.

Briarstone gets its name from the briarstone rock that can only be found along the cliffs of Northeastern Coast.

Briarstone – The Rock

Briarstone is an opaque black rock formation with small, jagged protrusions resembling thorns. When the brittle rock shatters, it creates more jagged protrusions.

The Shredding Cliffs of Briarstone along the northern coastline are made up almost entirely of Briarstone, making them impossible to climb. The cliffs run hundreds of miles along the coastline and in places are several miles deep as well as high.

The Forlorn Bay is littered with small islands of Briarstone, making passage from the Obsidian Sea into the harbor of Berlstrum a perilous task. The Forlorn Bay is rumored to be haunted from the numerous ship wrecks caused by the thorny stones. Without a Harbor Guide, navigating the briarstone hazards is suicide.

The Free Road is a major trade route running the North-South length of Briarstone. The Sovereign’s military regularly patrols the length of the Free Road. The patrol gathers taxes, shares general news, pays town protectors, and reports any town requests back to the Sovereign. If additional assistance is needed from the capitol, additional taxes are levied on the towns.

The lands south of the Marmont mountain ranges are considered the “civilized” areas of Briarstone. In the North, most townsfolk stay within the protection of the town walls.

The Roone River marks Briarstone’s western boundary On the Heshtia. Heshtia covets Briarstone’s mineral rich mountains, bountiful farmlands, and tropical beaches. Constant tension in the form of skirmishes and raids occur, but the countries are offi cially at peace. Skalia, Kantodo, and Zanzobar, Briarstone towns on the riverbanks of Roone River, all have a regular military presence because of tensions with Heshtia.

THE NATION OF HESHTIA

Heshtia has predominately an elfish and human population. Humans and half-elves are considered lower class citizens in Heshtia. Human slaves are a status symbol for the wealthy.

The east half of Heshtia is rolling green mountains, the west mostly arid desert lands. The capitol city, Alamorey, is nestled within the central hills.

The majority of Heshtian population live along the Roone River and along the Southern Coast. Tensions have been brewing over Roone River water rights.

THE NATION OF GLORT

To the north is the country of Glort, a mixed population of orc, dragonborn, dwarf, and gnome. Each race has areas of geographic majority. Glorters are a rugged, no-nonsense type people.

The capitol city of Glort is Taje Tgem on the northern edge of Lake Iver.

Glort is a cold land made up of a many frigid lakes, jagged, snowy mountains, and rocky hills. Herd animals and fish are the primary sources of food for the nation. Grains and produce are luxuries shipped in from Briarstone.

The Terrunium metals mined from Glorter mountains hold special properties. Once processed, items made with Terrunium are lighter weight, stronger, and bond more easily with magic [ie: versatile, more durable, advantage to stealth, can hold more than one enchantment]. Only Glorter Blademasters know the secret to molding and enchanting Terrunium into the world-famous Terrunium armors and weapons.

NOMADS/TORKEN RAIDERS

Nomadic tribes roam northwest of the Roone River between the desert lands of Northern Heshtia and the barren planes of Southern Glort. They claim loyalty to no nation and ignore political boundaries and petty disputes between countries. These nomadic tribes are often mistaken as the vicious Torken Raiders by outsiders. 


Next up: Where it all starts, the Town of Berlstrum #2 – Berlstrum – Dreadstorms Lost Campaign

#1-4 of the Dreadstorms Lost Campaign are backstory and setting information. If you want to jump ahead to where the players comin in: #5 – The Adventure Begins – Dreadstorm Lost


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Old-School, Hand-Drawn Dungeon

Grid Paper and Pencil

I found myself alone with grid paper and idle time back in October 2016. I couldn’t help but want to start creating a maze-like dungeons, possibly reliving some of my 80s childhood at the same time. While sketching, I imaged dimly lit stone hallways with sweaty, slimy walls. And secret doors. Clever traps. Wondering monsters. The big baddie waiting in the center for the big showdown. And marvelous treasures!

It occurred to me that I’m always looking for maps to snag for my game, so it occurred to me that I should share what I’ve made too. Here’s a result of that particular compulsive sketching, available for noncommercial reuse to the interwebs: maze-with grid [PDF version]

Here’s another post of another maze I created around the same time.

Donjon Random Dungeon Generator Screen CaptureDonjon’s Random Dungeon

For those of you who prefer computer generated maps, with or without a grid, Donjon’s Random Dungeon Generator is a really awesome, free tool for making random dungeons. Along with detailed maps of varying sized and shapes based on your selections, the generator creates encounters for the party size and level you need in your chosen environment.

I will caution that for a 1st level dungeon, DCs (Difficulty Classes) of 20, 25, and 30 felt really unrealistic if you want your first level players to have a chance of success. So read over the included encounters and modify as you see fit.