Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Megacampaign

Over the past few years there has been a resurgence in the megadungeon and sandbox styles of play, and this has been great. Real Old School stuff right there. What I'm going to suggest evolves from the old ways, invites the new, and stirs it all together like some mutant goulash. This has probably been done before and I'm okay with that, but it's kinda new for me – maybe you too.

The Megacampaign is the attempt at creating a truly persistent world for your players, where multiple campaign/adventure paths are happening at once (or similarly close in execution.) There are cross over themes, NPCs, rumors, encounters, locations and possibly even the same endgame if there's one maniacally plotting Big Bad– though that need not be necessary. What one group of characters do could possibly affect what a different group of character may experience depending on what they do and/or where they go.

My Forgotten Realms game is such a persistent world, or Megacampaign. What I've done is create an outline of adventure paths that would be fun to play out. Then look at how they might relate to one another by DM interference – or rumors of activity in the world/region – location in relationship to one another, and consequences of PC interaction or indifference. Once you pretty much have an idea where things are going, have the players roll characters to go on these adventures. Players ALWAYS are coming up with all kinds of ideas for characters to play, so this probably won't be a problem.

During play, take notes. LOTS of notes. And keep a close eye on time passage in each adventure so as to coordinate events in the world. The name of the game is persistent world, so if your world doesn't have a calender, invent one.

What's really cool about this is, you embrace the sandbox, you can have as many or as few megadungeons as you want, and you get a variety of stories from the same campaign world/region that help bring your game to life as never before.

Players are encouraged to create characters that might be related to one another as siblings or friends, as this also draws the world together. A cool side effect of this style of play is it is entirely possible for two (or more) groups to directly interact depending on where they go.

Each series of accounts of play here at OUTLAW D&D are being done this way … and there is much more to come. We like a lot of variety in our gaming, and like I said; we got a lot of character ideas we want to bring to life. Both Wizards of the Coast and old TSR have a ton of great adventure modules and, as a DM, I will not be beholden to anyone's sense of canon except my own. In order to facilitate this and have it all make sense to my players, I recall something Ed Greenwood said about magic in the Forgotten Realms, that there are all kinds of different magic available in the Realms. This got me thinking about chronomancy – and how it's careless usage, even in small doses, might affect a world.

Essentially, dates for published adventures are converted to our standard date and where paradoxes occur, a DM's ruling on the event/npc/whatever can be used to smooth things into a consistent timeline. Simple, right?

Events that are unpopular with our group, particularly the old Time of Troubles storyline, are simply stated as to not have happened and certain gods never came to power and certain gods never died. The DM should look at these decisions carefully and project the long term effects of such rulings, however. The bulk of the timeline stuff that we are playing is modern and some events of the canon past are still said to have happened; for the most part these changes in dates really haven't affected a lot of paradoxes in our game, yet.

Anyways, it is my hope that this idea has settled well in your imagination because, let me tell you – I have run singular campaigns before and felt the satisfaction of what I thought was bringing a world to life with my players … The Megacampaign is like that on super mega drugs or something … it's way better and way more satisfying …

… of course, as always … YMMV.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Comic Book Cambion – Conan the Barbarian: Red Nails

Back in 1983, Marvel Comics released their adaptation of Conan the Barbarian: Red Nails and it's really quite good. One can hardly have a comic book feature on a D&D blog without mentioning Conan a couple hundred times, so here's our virginal outing. It is true to the short story by Robert E. Howard in every way, which touchy modern readers might object to – more on that later.

Barry Windsor-Smith's artwork is alluring, distinctive, and not a bad fit for Conan. Personally, I prefer the black and white art of Savage Sword of Conan, as depicted by John Romita, best; but Windsor-Smith is by no means a hack artist. His eye for layout and perspective is top shelf stuff!

Without posting too many spoilers, the story is classic D&D material – and more modules based on this type of fair would be a welcome sight. It's basically a lost city in the jungle scenario … and with Chult being all the rage lately, the story seems almost timely. There's even a 'dragon' in the story, what's not to love?

Red Nails, however, is very much a product of it's time with a glimpse of racism and … well, Conan is pretty much a chauvinist; despite the fact that the heroine, Valeria, is a capable and strong female lead. It was a different time when stories like these, pulp fictions, were written and by no means am I a modern day apologist. I see the Hyborian age as a more primal reflection of today's world – for better or for worse. I personally like a non PC Conan … He's a Barbarian for chrissake! But I suppose YMMV … It's a good story and worth checking out if you come across it.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Music to Game By - Track 9

Nine from Neverwinter - part nine

Cast of Characters:

  • Azun – A Moon Elf Archer hailing originally from Deepingdale, but fletching his arrows in Neverwinter for at least the past 30 years. He lead many of Neverwinter to safety during the Cataclysm of Mount Hotenow, and is regarded as a local folk hero.

  • Rungalor – A rough and tumble Barbarian Minotaur from parts unknown ...

  • Rollo Rutterkin – A Halfling Thief and long time companion of Rungalor.

  • Kirok – An Uthgardt Barbarian Shaman on a visionquest, serving as our guide.

  • Gizig – A Silver Dragonborn Warrior with official connections to Neverwinter's militia.

  • Hanzo – A Kozokuran Swordsman who journeyed to Neverwinter with Adrix of Highmoon.

  • Arcandius – A Thayvian Wizard who escaped his homeland with a mysterious tome of power.

  • Adrix – The Wandering Sage and Chronicler of this tale who brought this ragtag group of misfits together. He has traveled extensively as a Bardic Storyteller throughout The Realms, including The Unapproachable East, and is seeking to know more about The North.

  • The Storm Caller – A Calishite Gensia, powerful in the ways of Elemental Sorcery.

  • Kagan – A Half-Orc Fighting Man.

3rd of Mirtul, Year of the Ageless One; 447 North Reckoning

Take me to Phandalin NOW” Gundren griped from his makeshift bed, nearly shaking the rafters of Riedoth's cabin. Arcandius and Rollo did their best to make the Dwarf comfortable, but he wasn't having any of it.

Should my brother, Tharden , return from our mine with news, he'll seek me out in Phandalin – not here in gods know where in the middle of the woods!”

About that mine,” Rollo started; “You do realize our efforts to save your life go well beyond what you originally agreed to pay us to cart a bunch of mining supplies to a town in the middle of no where?”

Take this thieving Hin from beyond my sight!” Gundren bellowed.

Unfazed by the Dwarf's outburst, Rollo continued. “The way I see it, as do me mates, we took arrows from goblins, dallied with a Banshee, tussled with a dragon, fought with cultists, and took on a fortified keep to save your ungrateful arse.”

Gundren glared at the Halfling.

Rollo continued, “You owe us way more than what you agreed to pay us and we want 50% of the mines take.”

Gundren laughed so hard he fell into a fit of choking. He then considered the Halfling's words, as he noticed none of his rescuers objected to Rollo's claim. “Ten percent and no more.”

You must be joking,” said Rollo.

Ten percent and no more.”

The bargaining and haggling on Rollo's part was impressive, but the Shield Dwarf would not budge on his offering. Even without his beard he was as shrewd as any full bearded Dwarf in matters of gold. Finally, Rollo agreed to the sum, deciding that something was better than nothing.

4th of Mirtul, Year of the Ageless One; 447 North Reckoning

The next morn we were off to Phandalin. The morning air was crisp and the snow still lay heavy on the ground. Great herds of deer and elk were evident by their trails in the snow, but none were actually sighted. Riedoth's breakfast of biscuits and rabbit gravy weighed heavy on my stomach, though I can't speak for anyone else, as the journey was a quiet and uneventful one.

Upon arriving in town, we went straight to Gundren's home. It was a sizable house made of local and imported stone. The main room where we gathered was much like a mini hall with a great table in the center surrounded by chairs for guests, for clansmen, personal friends, and professional associates alike. With some help, Gundren took a seat at the head of the table and spoke.

There has been no word from my brother about our mine. I have here a map to the Wave Echo Cave, and you must go and take notice of our holdings. There may be foul play afoot since Tharden has not returned. I would go myself were I not so gravely injured. The task falls to you.” And with that, we were off again; trudging through snow into the wilderness … We should really invest in horses at some point soon …

Adventuring, such as we are doing, is seldom full of excitement. No one tells of the long uneventful journeys from the ground level. It's always trumpets blaring, to arms-to arms, swords clashing on shields and such. I suppose no one would set off on these expeditions if the truth were told. Meh … Just an old man's muttering through soggy boots.

It was twilight when the group came into view, approaching us all wrapped in bandages and shabby cloaks. A man rang a bell when he spied us, calling for us to clear the way. Several plague doctors could be seen, swinging sensors of incense as they strode along with the damned. The group bore a curious standard, a large cross was born on the back of one of the lepers, topped with a ram's skull and a filthy sheared pelt of wool. We gave the diseased a wide birth and asked them no questions as they went by.

Shortly thereafter, we made camp in a small clearing in the woods. Azun, who had little need for sleep took first watch. Arcandius stayed up later than the rest of us, studying his book of arcana. The only sound that repetitiously shook the camp was the damnable Minotaur's deep snoring. I thought to myself of Arcandius' studying, the secret knowledge he delighted in and felt a sense of longing of my own … Could I, a bard dedicated to the teachings of Oghma, that is to know lore and share it with others; could, or rather should, I heed Mystra's call?

The woman's scream in the night was as blood curdling as it was desperate. I bolted up straight away and Azun was already on the move in the direction of the sound. The party rose to arms … except Rungalor, who yawned, pawed at his blanket, and rolled over. Rollo kicked the Beastman and, leisurely, he brought himself out of slumber's grasp.

Kirok grabbed Rung's arm and pointed, “The scream came from this way, but I've not your eyes for the dark.” Azun was already out of sight.

Another scream pierced the night, just as desperate as the first; would we get to this lass before whatever assailed her did? … Only Savros knows, Tymora be with us ...

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Trader Jonn's Corner - Catburgler's Kit

As a merchant, I do business with all sorts of people, and as a blanket statement, I declare that in no way am I supporting or condoning criminal behavior. This particular item is intended for expert treasure hunter only … ;)

  • Black Body Stocking - +1 to hide in shadows.
  • Black Mask – effectively conceals identity and doubles as a holy symbol for some ...
  • Soft Leather Boots – designed with soft soles offering +1 to stealth checks.
  • Cats Claws - +1 to climb sheer surfaces without a rope.
  • Silk Rope and Light Grappling Hook – light, strong, and noiseless.
  • Listening Cone – grants +1 to listening at doors checks.
  • Masterworks Lockpicks Set – Made of superior materials guaranteed not to snap or break. +1 to lockpicking rolls.
  • Glass Cutter – Diamond tipped stylus that skillfully does what it says.
  • Small Glass Dispenser with 1 pint of Acid – for stubborn locks and trap removal.
  • Jewelers Tools – including magnifying eye loop, tweezers of various sizes, small files and delicate cutters. +2 to fine and delicate work related rolls – like trap removal, perhaps?
  • Black Leather Sling Pouches – To be worn neck to waist, contains four small pouches across the chest to carry tools and small equipment and has one large pouch at the waist for larger equipment or loot.

Average Price: 275gp

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Trail of the Blacksnake - part three

Cast of Characters

  • Twofoot Small – A Hinnish hunter and trapper who is not particularly fond of wizards or magic.

  • Al Minister – Paladin of Sune, Protector of all that is bright, beautiful, and good.

  • Argyle Bloodbane – Rowdy and opinionated fighting man of the Moonshaes; has a close relationship with his 'comfort' sheep.

  • The Light Destroyer – A violet hued Dragonborn and practitioner of Shadow Magic.

  • Harkoon Beltimber – A Wizard and Sage.

  • Burr – A satyr and ex-prisoner of the Goblins of The Sunless Citadel.

  • Mirak – A strange crystalline entity from beyond our world, also an ex-prisoner of the Goblins.

  • Darkedge – A Kozokuran Shinobi.

  • Ol' Fenster II– Coincidentally imprisoned by the Goblins … (Embrace the Dungeon here, guys) … Still willing to do ANYTHING for 2 gold pieces ...

  • Morlyg, The Blacksnake – The assembler of the group; Moon Elf Swashbuckler and secretly a Harper Agent.

30th of Tarsakh, Year of the Ageless One; 447 North Reckoning, continued

The razing of the Goblinhold was swift and merciless. Here we found prisoners of the vile humanoids which quickly agreed to join our group. Curiously, one of them was the brother of Ol' Fenster … miraculously a virtual twin of him … (Embrace the Dungeon here, guys) … though this one claims that he's always been here in these catacombs and sees and speaks to the first Fenster as if he were still with us …

Soon after settling about for a short rest, a chamber was discovered with a large deep pit at it's center. A soft violet light glowed ominously from it's depths. At times, faint chanting could be heard – could this be the Dragon Cult reusing this ruin as a base again? Darkedge suggested we place our archers about the rim of the pit to cover those who would descend first, which was done. We cautiously descended into the purple unknown.

Animated Skeletons greeted the first to reach the bottom, but were quickly dispatched. It appeared as if they were tending and harvesting fungus from the carpet of fungi covering the stone floor of this level. As we continued to explore the large chambers of fungi, occasionally running into more skeletal gardeners, the ominous chanting echoed through the complex.

In one of the several large hexagonal shaped chambers, holes in the floor were discovered by Ol' Fenster. Upon closer examination, we were suddenly set upon by the angry Firesnake that made one of the holes it's home. Harkoon was scorched by the snake, as was Ol' Fenster, but it was a minor threat compared to what was to follow.

The holes suddenly and simultaneously vomited forth snakes, hundreds of them. They were launched into the air with great abandon and rained upon us like some hellish nightmare. Nearly all of us were bitten and poisoned as the last of the snakes were cleared away so that we might flee. We needed a safe haven to nurse our wounds, and there were few to be had. We settled on what was once an armory of sorts. Fenster jammed the door to the south with iron spikes and Argyle kept watch on the door to the north so that we would not be interrupted in our long rest.

It seemed strange to me that we had not run into any Dragon Cultists yet. Surely they would have sentries or guards near their base. It wasn't adding up. Perhaps we had stumbled upon some previously unknown threat here … the periodic chanting echoing in the damp, violet hued halls seemed to indicate that.

And just as my thoughts had cluttered with the potential evils of the unknown, I looked up and there he was, peering through the opened door to the north.

Please to excuse me, I implore, but might I pass through yonder door?”

His voice was smooth and dry, as if he knew something we didn't and was chiding us for not knowing. He was a diminutive being, not quite three feet tall; but his most striking features were his blood red skin and leathery black wings folded behind him. The Paladin AL stood to confront the hellish being, but I took his arm – evil it may be, it seemed to mean us no ill will.

Harkoon spoke to him, “What is your name, Imp?”

My name is one of no import; it's bland and of a mundane sort. And once again I ask of you, might I cross this room to the door and pass through?”

Just where are you going? Back to your master now that you've spied on us?” Harkoon slyly inquired.

All I wish is to pass, yet you postpone; but my diabolical business is my own,” with that he grinned wickedly.

Swear to me that you'll do us no harm nor make any mention of us to your master, and we'll let you pass,” Harkoon boldly bargained with the hellspawn.

Agreed, I swear I shall not molest, nor tell my master of your damnable quest. Explore away till you're out of breath, but beware - you may find an untimely death ...” And with that, he took flight across the room and exited through the south door, unfettered by the spikes, and left a sulfurous odor in the armory.

The rest of the night was cold, damp, and quiet.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

REVIEW - The Chapel on the Cliffs – Part One

I've looked at a lot of modules for RPGs in my time, but rarely does one so professionally evoke a sense of gothic horror mood like The Chapel on the Cliffs. I'm serious, guys – this one is a joy to read even if you didn't plan to run it – but you will. And I predict your players will love it.

This module's 'story,' a term I'm loath to use concerning game scenarios, is really good. It reads like a fantasy version of a Call of Cthulhu scenario – and that's a very good thing. The NPCs are well thought out and given just enough detail to properly portray them even in future campaigning appearances should you wish it. I really don't want to give up any spoilers, but there are new Monsters and Magic Items included and an Appendix dedicated to Chases and Sieges that will really ramp up the tension and mood for this module. The author, Goblin Stone, also presents multiple possibilities to defeat the beasties within.

Did I mention professionalism? This pdf/book oozes professionalism. The writing is top notch, the page layouts are pleasing to the eye and very functional, and the art is as good as anything Wizard's is producing. I strongly advise readers to add this one to your repertoire of adventures. You can get it by supporting the kickstarter located HERE.

I'm splitting this topic into two parts because I really want to run this as a playtest and post what happens for you guys. I did say this is a good module, and I stand by that!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Blessed Dice?

One of the Outlaws, Tony, made the pilgrimage to Lake Geneva last week and got a few of us new dice - which is always awesome. But these dice have been somewhere the rest of us haven't been ... blessed by St. Gygax? You decide, but all the twenty-siders rolled hot as hell Friday ...

Music to Game By - Track 8

These guys are great for BATTLE!


I'm Getting Pumped for This ...

I've always wanted to run adventures in Chult, and while I probably wouldn't have needed this to do it, I must say, the more I hear about it, the more I think we'll do it with this.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Nine from Neverwinter, part eight

Cast of Characters:

  • Azun – A Moon Elf Archer hailing originally from Deepingdale, but fletching his arrows in Neverwinter for at least the past 30 years. He lead many of Neverwinter to safety during the Cataclysm of Mount Hotenow, and is regarded as a local folk hero.

  • Rungalor – A rough and tumble Barbarian Minotaur from parts unknown ...

  • Rollo Rutterkin – A Halfling Thief and long time companion of Rungalor.

  • Kirok – An Uthgardt Barbarian Shaman on a visionquest, serving as our guide.

  • Gizig – A Silver Dragonborn Warrior with official connections to Neverwinter's militia.

  • Hanzo – A Kozokuran Swordsman who journeyed to Neverwinter with Adrix of Highmoon.

  • Arcandius – A Thayvian Wizard who escaped his homeland with a mysterious tome of power.

  • Adrix – The Wandering Sage and Chronicler of this tale who brought this ragtag group of misfits together. He has traveled extensively as a Bardic Storyteller throughout The Realms, including The Unapproachable East, and is seeking to know more about The North.

  • The Storm Caller – A Calishite Gensia, powerful in the ways of Elemental Sorcery.

  • Kagan – A Half-Orc Fighting Man.

2nd of Mirtul, Year of the Ageless One; 447 North Reckoning, Continued …

Rollo and Gizig first met the Half-Orc in the Hallway outside the King's Chambers. Kagan had fought for his freedom against Hobgoblins that had captured him in this area not but a night or two ago. He quickly joined us in hopes of getting a little revenge on these goblinkind bastards, as while captured by them, they were none too kind to him.

Kirok quickly lead us to a darkened room that, judging by the countless angel carvings along the ceiling, must have once been a chapel. Within second, inky black tentacles stretched down from the ceiling at us seeking to draw us up to a slobbering beaked mouth. Arrow and spells were launched at the worm-like horror. It fell to the floor by way of crashing into Hanzo, but the aberration was dispatched quickly.

The vision-questing Uthgardt wasted no time in making a path to the rear of the chapel, which took on an air of new menace. A blood covered alter barely obscured three Goblin crossbowmen waiting on our arrival. The darkened air was alive with deadly seeking quarrels, but the first volley of the crossbowmen was their last, as Kirok, Azun, and Rungalor made swift work in sending them to whatever hell they prayed to.

To the left of the Chapel, a storage room was discovered. We made a quick look over as to what was of value to the vile Goblinoids that ruled this Keep. The marking on the kegs were of various Neverwinter merchant houses … caravan plunder, no doubt. But Rungalaor found a small keg with Dethek runes that when opened, which he immediately did, smelled divinely of Dwarvish Whiskey. Kirok and Azun joined Rung in a quick overindulgence of the Dwarvish liquor – which did not take much due to the legendary power of the drink. The fools were bitten by the spirits of the keg, and I thrice cursed my luck to be lead through this Unseelie hell by the drunken.

Kicking in an adjacent door to the store room didn't go a Kirok had planned. The door slammed open, flattening bot him and Azun as large hairy beastmen charged past them. A hard fought fray ensued with the Bugbears, taxing our group to its limits. Arcandius suggested we take a short rest in the Bugbear's barracks, and who was I to argue at this point? I carried a lame Dwarf; our patron and sole reason for coming to this nightmarish Keep.

Our rest was alarmingly cut short, as we noticed smoke rising from the gap between the iron bound wooden door of this room and the stone floor. As we readied for action, flames began to forbiddingly lick at the door, seeming to challenge us to make an exit. A sing-songy taunt filled the air uttered by non human voices.

Roasty-toasty hoo-mans, trapped in a room; roasty-toasty hoo-mans, soon to meet their doom ...”

Hanzo took position in front of the burning door, and summoning that strange power just barely beneath his skin, Ki he calls it, let forth a yell in his native Kozokuran and burst through the flaming door.

Sadly, he was thoroughly feathered by Goblin arrows the moment he was through the door.

The Goblins disengaged from the oncoming melee, still singing their annoying taunts.

Rollo exclaimed, “ Don't follow them – it's surely a trap!” We made for the south passageway instead.

Lathander's rosy fingers greeted us as we found the open entrance to the Keep. Just as we hit the snow, more Goblin archers assailed us. Though none of us were more injured than Hanzo – who Rungalor took to carrying – we ran through the deep snow as if each arrow fired carried our deaths among their fletchings. Freezing sweat and burning lungs would be our only companions though, as the Goblins did not make chase. We backtracked to the overseeing ravine and began our journey back to Riedoth's cabin.