Game Master Ramble 2 – Soooo blue

ancient ruins

Sunday Group, Blue Dragons, and Rope climbing

I run 2 games, the newer group on Saturdays and the other group that’s been going for a while. The longer running group ran through the Champion’s Lost story arch has since moved onto bigger things… like setting a blue dragon loose on the city of Obsidian, though not completely on purpose. They did intend to stop it before it got loose.

Deadly encounter

What amazed me about that group during the last gaming session, is the deadliest part of the encounter with the blue dragon was not the blue dragon (that they named Azure). Nope. It was the 300 foot climb up and down a rope that almost caused a TPK (total party kill). Three of the five party members now have a fear of heights. Twenty 6-sided dice is a lot of damage to roll for a 200 foot fall. I am amazed that the dwarf fighter, Barbang, survived that fall by mere single digit hit points. Sturdy buggars. Before that the druid, Gozmeer, had fallen 100 feet. She was in the negative hit points, but not at the dead-dead level of taking more damage her maximum hit points.

Let me back up a moment and tell you how they got there.

The much longer story 

The Party consists of :

  1. Annabelle, Level 7 Cleric
  2. Kethra, Level 7 Sorcerer
  3. Aphodel, Level 6 Ranger/Level 1 Bard
  4. Barbang, Level 7 Fighter
  5. Gozmeer, Level 6 Druid (NPC)

… the quest

The party has been in the city of Obsidian, prepping for a rescue mission and a potential big boss battle. So they go shopping, hoping to find better protection and deadlier weapons. They find a vendor willing to take some cursed items off their hands at Berrtle’s Bloody Blade. The fighter of the group, Barbang, has bupkis magically speaking for his weapons. When they inquire as to what Berrtle’s Bloody Blade has for sale, he offers to forge Barbang a set of magical weapons if they can retrieve a rock from beneath the mines of Obsidian. (See Berrtle’s Bloody Blade quest in the Town of Obsidian post.)

The group disguises themselves in rags purchased from a family in the poorer end of town and sneaks into the mine warehouse entrance with other workers at a shift change. Once down in the mines, they follow the crudely drawn map provided to them by Berrtle. They only get lost a few times before making it to the end of the first section of map. (D) Dead end. No rock. They discover the hidden pressure plates on the four corners of the circular space. By pushing rusty plates at the same time, they are able to trigger the large aperture in the floor to open.

rough sketch of path through mines to Berttle's rock
Roughly sketched path to Berttle’s terrunium boulder through the diamond mines below Obsidian (Player Version). While the path looks flat, they tunnels are constantly slopping off in different up/down angles

Gozmeer drops a torch down the hole. The ground is 300 feet down. They cleverly tie together alternating ropes of climbing with standard rope to reach the ground below. There they find themselves in a huge, cavernous space and locate where the lower mine map continues. They get to a spot on the map with a little squiggle next to it, but no visible continuation of the tunnel. Eventually they spot a small hole in the wall about an inch tall and 1/4″ thick. After trying to poke many items into the hole, someone tries a platinum coin. This causes the hidden door on the side opposite to rotate open. Continuing down cobweb choked tunnels, they are jumped by 4 phase spiders. The 4th spider gets wise after seeing is 3 buddies destroyed and phases the hell out of there.

Reaching the end of the map, they find a collapsed tunnel. Between the mountain dwarf’s stone cunning (Barbang) and the druid (Gozmeer) wild shaping into a giant badger, they are able to dig through the rock and secure a hole for the others to climb through.

Here the space opens up to the ruins of an ancient fire giants’ city. It’s like being a mouse in maze with the high, crumbled walls and the ceiling for above their heads. Crystalized formations sprout from the walls and random tunnels completely composed of crystals erupt from the ground and cave walls. The party marks their path as they wonder through this huge, dead city. They fight off a pack of basilisk that trapped them on a land bridge over lava. Discover a flail snail chomping on the crystals (and wisely leave it unmolested). There they spot an area of “shiny new” crystals which they follow into a blue dragon’s nest, which has a large pile of gems and treasures that include a large boulder with streaks of iridescent metal (the terrunium rock they’re looking for). Through sheer charisma, flattery, bribery, and fast talking, they are able to convince the young adult blue dragon that they have come to worship at its feet. They also tell the dragon, dubbed Azure …

  1. that there is an entire world outside of this cavern for the dragon to explore and find things to play with, like undead armies
  2. that there is a horde of undead heading towards his domain (Spawn of Kyuss in the underdark)
  3. that the person that kept sending adventurers to steal from the dragon’s horde lived in the city above

They head back to the mines with the dragon burrowing a direct route to the collapsed tunnel entrance. They use 5 flying potions to get back up that 300-foot hole. Once back in the main mining tunnels, they have second thoughts about letting a blue dragon loose on world above. They coordinate a surprise attack and do an impressive amount of damage before Azure can react. The dragon fries them with his lightning breath before collapsing the tunnel around them.

It takes them a while to dig out, and by the time they do the dragon has an hour head start on them. Nearing the surface, they find destruction and dead minors marking the dragons passage. Aiding the survivors slows them down more. By the time they emerge in the town, much of it has been destroyed … especially the area around Berrtle’s (that the group had earlier described to the dragon). The dragon is nowhere to be seen. The adventurers help with triage before finding their way back to the Dizzy Dragon Inn and getting a long rest.

So where’s the TPK, you ask?

The day after the dragon runs amuck

The party awakes the next day with dreams of an unguarded dragon horde dancing in their heads. They return to the mines and are recognized as people who had helped with the wounded earlier, and are allowed through without question. They get back to the hole that drops 300 feet down.

Going down

Climbing down, Gozmeer fails on the 2nd climb check (DC 10) and takes 69 points of damage from the fall, not quite dead-dead but bleeding out.

Gozmeer is an NPC that helps the party with healing mostly. My hope being that by having a healer there, Annabelle the cleric would not feel pressured to heal. I forget that Gozmeer can shape change into animals that would be helpful in various circumstances, like climbing and burrowing. Because she’s an NPC, I try not to use her for more than the other players request of her. I don’t want to be one of those game masters.

They manage to stabilize Gozmeer before she’s a complete goner. Following such a traumatic fall, Gozmeer fails to make her wisdom save versus fear (DC 10) and now has disadvantage on climbing.

They get to the lower mine entrance only to discover it collapsed. Sending in the giant badger (Gozmeer) to see how far it goes, they discover that the entire lower tunnel structure  there has been collapsed. They aren’t able to return to the blue dragon’s horde of treasure. He had already collapsed the tunnels and moved it away by the time the group returned.

And back up

The frustrated party returns to the rope up to the main mine. Gozmeer refuses to go near the rope (having failed at that fear of height save). Kethra eventually convinces her to transform into a rat and hide her pockets. Kethra and Annabelle take the last 2 flying potions to reach the ledge above. Aphodel makes the climb, no problem. Barbang makes it up to 200 feet before slipping. He makes his dexterity save to catch himself and tries climbing that last 100 feet again. He rolls a a 1. He falls 200 feet and takes 75 points of damage. He’s not insta-dead by only a couple of points, but bleeding out. With only a few seconds remaining from the flying potion, the cleric flies down to heal the damaged climber.

Once healed, Barbang rolls vs fear of heights. (Rolls a 7 total). He ain’t climbing no stinking rope.

Clever Plan 1

Kethra and Aphodel come up with a clever plan to send Gozmeer down the rope (in Ape shape) with the Bigsby’s Fist glove and use that to carry up Barbang and Annabelle. Kethra does a really impressive job of convincing the terrified Gozmeer (persuasion 25) to climb down. Gozmeer starts down the rope but freezes after only couple of feet down. Gozmeer is pulled back up by Aphodel and Kethra.

Clever Plan 2

Kethra then suggests that Gozmeer become a horse and tow the others up. They secure the rope around Barbang and with the horse pulling and Aphodel guiding the rope, they are successful. They send back the rope with a seat looped for Annabelle to ride up in. Using the same method, they pull up Annabelle. Only part of the way up, the rope snags and breaks. Annabelle falls 50 feet and takes 15 HP of damage.

Annabelle rolls versus getting her own fear of falling. Her difficulty is much lower, not having drop as far. She rolls a critical fail (a 1). Enraged at being trapped below, Annabelle shoots 4 fireballs into the open space 150 feet above.

And that’s where we left things … with 3 players afraid of heights, one player stuck in the space below, one blue dragon running amuck, and no dragon horde.

As a game master, you just never know where a game session will take a story. At least I’m often surprised. It’s one of those things that makes running a dungeons & dragons game so much fun. And difficult.

A New Tale Begins

artwork from box cover of the D&D 5.0 Starter Set

What have I done?

I started running a new 5th Edition D&D adventure for some friends I met through work. It’s in the same world setting that I created for the Dreadstorms Lost campaign, which I’m continuing with the several-years going now Sunday group. (Note, the image at the top of this post is from the Wizard’s of the Coast D&D 5.0 Starter Set. I sam not using the starter set for this new game, but I did buy it as a going away present to get one of them hooked.)

So this new group … To protect their privacy, I’ll refer to these new players by the supper duper secret code names: the Big M, DP, and Jones.

Setting the Bar

The Big M and DP have been listening to Critical Role to get an idea of what 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons is all about. Talk about setting the bar high. Mathew Mercer is an incredible story teller and a master of improv. His players are also voice actors, so I guess that sets the bar high for my new players too. Back 3ish years ago, watching Critical Role got me excited to game master again. Which has led to other great things in my life like having a fun excuse to get together with old friends more often, a better job, and finding new friends to addict to this hobby.

But back to the new guys … The Big M hadn’t played D&D since it was AD&D. (I mean, wow! the man still has the original books! and Dragon Magazines!) DP and Jones haven’t really played much, if any role playing table top games before. But let me tell ya, all three took to dungeons & dragons like friggin’ fish to water. Their enthusiasm is awesome, inspiring, and terrifying. They are a delightful group. Just don’t tell them that. I’d never hear the end of it.

Perspective

DP’s character, Fizzle, is keeping an online diary of the adventure, which I really quite enjoyed reading. I’m hoping he’ll let me share these with you here. It is fascinating for me to see how the story unfolds from someone else’s perspective. It’s like hearing a voice recording of yourself that doesn’t sound anything like you image you sound like. And then realizing that there are more voices than just your own in that recording that all sound different and more alive through someone else’s eyes.

 

 

 

Town of Obsidian

multi-level steampunk town

Check out the improved upon version of this map of Obsidian posted in April 2019

Ground Level of the Town of Obsidian

The town of Obsidian lies along the northern stretch of Briarstone’s Free Road, between Berlstrum and Goremont.

The population is primarily gnome. The ground floor is “human” size and scale, where the rather random levels off the ground are more comfortable for the shorter races.

Beneath the city is a well guarded secret, or at least not widely advertised to enemy forces. A large diamond mine runs many levels and tunnels underneath. The town has a dark gritty layer of coal dust that covers much of the town. Processing plants are a large source of employment here.

Places of Interest

Inns/Taverns

The Frenzied Ferrett Dance Hall & Eatery

Nightly contests based on performance scores (dancing, instruments, bands, solos, comedians, etc.)
Gambling room

Salty Swan Retreat

Bath house and optional adult entertainment/companionship

The Tipsy Unicorn Tavern & Inn

Cheap drinks & small rooms

Dizzy Dragon Den

Rooms 1gold per night

Stables 6 silver per mount

Specialties: Dragon Pepper Poppers, Dragon’s Breath Ale

Yahkle Arodite (Dwarf); talkative cheerie fellow; closely shorn red hair;  no beard nor eyebrows; happy to spin a yarn about how his beard burn off and how lovely life as a dwarf is without a beard.

Mayor’s Office

Mayor Kayrem O’Riley. Male gnome with greenish hair, vibrant blue eyes, plaid red/black suit with black button up shirt and matching pocket square.
Glenarra, Mayor’s Assistant.  Female halfling, flaxen haired, tired rings under her dark brown eyes, horribly hung over from partying at the Frenzied Ferrett last night.

Military Baracks for Sovereign’s Troops

Colonel Bodo Mutah. Male gnome, gray & grizzled

Places of Worship

The Congregation of the Somewhat Virtuous

Collection of various Choatic Good kiosks
Calista. Seerer. Human androgenous. Royal blue; follower of Daghdha
Cleric Zorbit (Cleric of Aphrodite). Halfling female, short bobbed orange hair; grey eyes.

Temple of Eternal Song

Keepers of Balance

Paragons of Pelor

Sparks Refinery

Buric VonBellor. 1/2-Elf male. Head honcho of mines – technically, the diamond mines belong to the country of Briarstone and the sovereign

Vendors

The Pounding Hammer Smithy

Basic metals smith; armors

Metal Mayhem

Armor/shields; some basic +1 items available

The Majestic Gray Blade

Weapons, bladed

Berttle’s Bloody Blades

Blades and other shady magic items

The Raven’s Maze

Basic magic items, potions, scrolls

The Daper Dandy

Leather and Cloth goods and armor

The Royal Yeti

Fancy clothing

Possible Side Quests in Obsidian:

Mining Pests

The owner of Sparks Refinery, Buric VonBellor, is losing minors in a new vein of the mine to a territorial Bullette that finds gnomes and halflings tasty. Buric is offering 500g per claw (12 claws per bullette) as proof of success. Buric volunteers Svensen, a portly gnome with anxious brown eyes, to take the party to the end of the new vein. Svensens not excited to be bullette bait.

Each adventurer is provided with a basic hooded lantern, if needed.

They will be escorted blindfolded by guards and Svensen through the building, down the mine shaft elevator, and into the tunnel entrance to this vein. The guards will stay at the tunnel entrance.

Berttle’s Bloody Blade

Located in the poorer part of town, behind a greasy food stand Berttle’s Bloody Blade sells questionable magic items, mostly bladed. Berttle is a angry, greasy gnome who bellows at his apprentice, Goffenmauker. Though Berttle is excessively polite to potential buyers.

Berttle has intel that there is a large boulder that contains the rare terrunium ore hidden way below the diamond mines of Obsidian. (For a description of terrunium, look under the Nation of Glort here: Dreadstorms Lost Campaign – Overview) The diamond mine operators want nothing to do with some stupid rock with terrunium. He sent his apprentice to find someone to sneak through the minds and retrieve the stone, but the hapless Goffenmauker has had no luck. No one familiar with the diamond operations wants to risk getting on their bad side.

Our adventurers enter the premise as Berttle is scolding Goffenmauker for his failure to procure some “dumb-ass idiotic adventure types” to get the stone. If the party is interested in taking the job, Berttle will offer to make a single bladed with terrunium with two minor enchantments in exchange for sneaking the boulder out of the mines.

rough sketch of path through mines to Berttle's rock
The roughly sketched path to Berttle’s terrunium boulder through the diamond mines below Obsidian (Player Version). While the path looks flat, the tunnels are constantly slopping off in different up/down angles. The round space is a huge cavern with hundreds of tunnel entrances. There are zig-zagging paths with color-coded flag posts at the bottom of each section. (Sketch on the bottom left for GM clarity.)

To aid in the task, Berrtle will provide the party with:

  1. Rod of Tensers Floating Disc. Has 3 uses of the Tensers Floating Disc spell. Activates by pushing the button on the end of the rod. The button must be held down to maintain the spell. The button is stiff and takes effort to keep active. Trying to secure the button with glue or “tape” will cause the rod to fall apart.
  2. Two scrolls of Pass Without a Trace. 
  3. One scroll of Mass, Disguise Self – As the spell “Disguise Self”, but can be applied to up to a total of 6 willing creatures. All those under the effects of the Mass, Disguise Self spell must stay within 30 feet of the caster or the effect ends.
  4. A poorly drawn directions to the terrunium rock hidden beneath Obsidian

Dice & the Bag of Devouring

New Dice Bringeth D&D Geek Happines

There’s something absolutely giddy making about getting a bunch of new, nice looking dice. I’ve always felt a bit deprived in the dice-quantity side of things. Typically I buy a single poly set at a time every couple of years, but not this time.

I’d been coveting the Wiz Dice Bag of Devouring on Amazon  that comes with “140 Polyhedral Dice in 20 Guaranteed Complete Sets” for a while now and finally gave into temptation.  There’s also a Wiz Dice Bag of Holding, but that one had less of the cool marbled and swirly types and more solids and translucent sets.

SO MANY PRETTIES!!

And the bag that comes with the dice is fun, too.

And yes, of course I had to separate them all out, group each set, and admire each one. Does everyone do this or just me? Anyway, I’m very please to have all these new swirly and shiny dice.

 

And then they mingled

With great ceremony the new dice were introduced to the veteran dice of many a past epic battle and perhaps some not-so-epic moments.

Dice-Mingling

Your GM Dice and Your Player Dice Don’t Mix

The hardest part is figuring out which dice to put in my GM dice box and which ones to I’d use as a player. I’m not really a superstitious sort, but I’m absolutely positive that GM mojo will curse any dice if I try to use them as a player. Heck. I even have a hard time sharing my dice because of other people getting their potentially bad luck all over my dice. That stuff is SO difficult to get off!

The D&D 3.5 Eberron game that I’ve been a player in for the past 4 years is on hiatus, which means there’s no real idea of when or if that will start up again. So if I pull some of those new dice aside to be my player dice, who knows how long it will be before I get to fondle and toss them in a game session!