"Black Dougal gasps 'Poison!' and falls to the floor. He looks dead."

Monday, June 1, 2020

The Broken Lands - The Undertemple of Arkon

As part of our current online campaign, The Broken Lands, I used an adventure called, "The Undertemple of Arkon" from The Dragon Horde Zine #1.

This isn't a review, but just some random thoughts about the adventure. There will be some spoilers below.

  • I would consider this generally to be a fairly vanilla adventure, but was a serviceable piece that fit my need.
  • Some room entries were pretty sparse.
  • There were one or two good "specials".
  • The idea of a huge magical panther being worshipped as a god fit well with the vibe I am going for in the campaign.
  • The magic items were boring, but I usually replace most of them anyway.
  • Some of the wandering monsters don't necessarily make sense. However, coming up with the rationale for them is part of the fun. Note that, for this campaign, I am reskinning the usual humanoid monsters (goblins, orcs, bugbears, etc) using descriptions which I feel are a bit more sword & sorcery (degenerate pygmy-race, large slavering beast-men, etc)
  • I felt the map was pretty good. It had variety in room shapes and sizes, loops of various sizes, and dead-ends (in which the party had an uncanny knack for getting trapped). However, I needed to do a better job of utilizing the loops. Also, there is an "old-school mapper" in the group. Using his map they were able to make educated guesses as to locations of secret rooms.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Broken Lands - Wandering Monsters

Last session, the party made a short foray back into the Undertemple of Akron. They went in with clear plans to continue exploring past the point they had previously explored in an effort to find, and hopefully kill, the god.

After the last session, I took some time to re-stock a good portion of the dungeon, and redeployed those temple Acolytes that remained. I like that this makes the dungeon feel like a dynamic place.

Shortly, after entering the dungeon the party abandoned their plans to instead investigate signs of changes to the dungeon in areas they've already explored. Near disaster, followed on the heels of that decision - in the form of wandering monsters!

I will be the first to admit that I do a lousy job of tracking resources such as torches, etc. That leaves wandering monsters as the primary provider of tension to making decisions that take in-game time.

"Do we search the whole room for secret doors, just part, or not at all?" The only reason to choose not to search the whole room is the number of wandering monster checks. The threat of wandering monsters means the party will usually look at their map, to figure out likely spots for a secret door and only search there.

To be sure the wandering monsters provides the necessary tension to those decisions, I do not make Reaction Rolls for wandering monsters. They always attack. There always has to be the threat that the wandering monster will consume resources (hit points, spells, etc).

However, I do use morale checks for them as morale provides tactical decision making - the party can take actions that trigger morale checks.

So following the wandering monster check coming up with a "1", the party was trapped in a dead-end room by three large, hairy ape-things with jaundiced, watery-eyes, and slavering tusks, armed with long, heavy spears. A fierce battle ensued and before the three creatures were killed (having passed both morale checks), two of the PCs lay dead on the floor.

Going into the next session the party is deciding if they ask Lassering Thay, the High Priest of Hades, to raise the PCs from the dead (insert evil laugh here).

Friday, May 15, 2020

Posts about The Broken Lands - Hooks vs Play Reports

Nothing creative or insightful, but I find it interesting that the posts with the hooks for The Broken Lands consistently get about twice as many views as the play reports.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Broken Lands - Current Map

With the party pursuing the first step in their quest to retrieve The Illhiedrin Book, there won't be any additional adventure hooks for a while.

Below is the most recent version of the map for The Broken Lands. It is abstract in terms of scale and does not represent exact locations. Instead it is more about being a visual record of their adventures and exploits and serving as a visual tool to aid in decision making and a reminder of possible unfinished business or adventure hooks.

Additions to the map are made as the party shows interest in various adventure hooks. Before the very first session I roughly knew the locations for the adventure hooks I threw out at that time (Tower of Birds, Monastery of the Iron God and The Tower of Zenopus). For new hooks, I know generally where the adventure will be but don't land on it until the party actually goes there. The party hasn't been to The Hive or Vulture Hill yet, but I placed them on the map from the rumours provided.

I also follow the guideline that the area closer to the Cliffs of Leng are for lower level adventures and the further south one goes the harder the adventures get. Also, more traditional adventures are generally on the east side of the Tartarus Road while more "gonzo" adventures are generally to the west - don't know why, that's just how I'm doing it for now.

Monday, May 11, 2020

The Broken Lands Session 5

Taking it up a notch - to kill a god.

The Party:

  • Comtruise the Auditor (Cleric 2)
  • Elu the Elf (Elf 1 - Protection from Evil)
  • Steefe the Invisible (Halfling 2)
  • Jakar (Fighter 2)
  • Plus retainers:
    • Konill the Medium (Magic-user 1 - Light)
    • Dyban the Veteran (Fighter 1)
    • Fallin the Veteran (Fighter 1)
    • Tallus the Acolyte (Cleric 1)

The Adventure (aka there will be spoilers below; aaka if you’re one of my players don’t snoop through this adventure):
A few backstory bits from The Illhiedrin Book. Alcastra the Fairspoken sent the party to Lassering Thay, the High Priest of Hades in the City of Jekarra. In return for his aid he requested to party to kill the god Akron. For this part I am using The Undertemple of Arkon from The Dragon Horde Zine #1 from New Big Dragon Games with a few changes (including me mispronouncing the name the first time so I just went with it).

What Happened:

  • After accepting Alcastra’s Geas, upfront gold, and various magic-items, the party meets with Lassering Thay, High Priest of Hades in the City of Jekarra. He tells them he can provide aid for their quest but first he wants them to enter an ancient shrine carved into the base of the Cliffs of Leng and kill the god Akron.
  • Thinking that killing a god would be pretty damn cool but possibly out of their league, the party proceeds down the Tartarus Road and follows Lassering Thay’s directions to the shrine.
  • Entering the shrine, the party susses out a stair-slide trap before it causes them any issues.
  • In a huge chamber, they find two deep pits - in the larger one they find three emaciated, naked, and unconscious neanderthals and in the smaller one a black panther. Fearful that the panther may jump out, they decide to proceed down one of the many passageways exiting the chamber.
  • Next they find an expansive chamber with a large circular symbol painted on the floor filled with arcane markings. Being very careful not to cross into the circle, the party continues to explore the room when three small creatures of a degenerate, swarthy-skinned pygmy race carrying spears come up behind them. The party was careful not to appear threatening (and a very good reaction roll), and the wandering pygmies left them alone.
  • Continuing to explore, they came across a number of rooms containing skeletons. Through the Cleric’s turning ability and combat, all of the skeletons encountered were overcome. This allowed the party to find a number of secret doors. The first lead to a small room with a bronze flask full of liquid on top of a short pedestal. Promising Tallus the retainer that he could keep the obviously magical potion in the flask (and a very good reaction roll), he took a sip and died in writhing pain.
  • In another secret chamber, the party is spooked by panther shaped shadows lurking on the walls despite there being no objects that would cast such things. Suddenly, a shadow panther jumped off of the wall and attacked! However, the creature was quickly defeated. After the combat the party found a chest full of treasure.
  • Thinking the panther they had found in the pit earlier may be the god they were sent to kill, the party developed a plan using the poison they had found and some of their foodstuffs. Returning to the large chamber near the entrance to the undertemple, the party poisoned the great cat. Using lots of rope (and benefiting from a lot of negative wandering monster rolls) they trussed up the panther and hauled it out of the pit and back to the temple of Hades in Jekarra.
  • Lassering Thay told the party they were various forms of imbeciles for thinking they could poison a god.

The Tally:
Tallus the Acolyte dead
A poisoned panther
~ 20 skeletons
3,200 gp
A poison potion (used)

What Worked Well/What Didn’t Work Well:
I was happy with this adventure so far.
I’m still knocking the rust off my DM-ing chops. Especially around combat - keeping it interesting and dynamic. I am finding that the online platform and not being able to see everyone is hindering this a bit.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

I love this painting

I saw this on Dyson's blog the other day.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Subsequent Adventure Hooks for The Broken Lands Session 5

Having accepted the sorceress Alcastra's Geas:

Presenting the letter you received from the sorceress you are able to obtain an audience with Lassering Thay, the High Priest at the Temple of Hades:

   “Alcastra was correct when she wrote that she feared there was little I could do for you. The location of Elegrain’s tower was a well kept secret while he was alive, and those servitors with him prior to his death never revealed its location. The only person who could possibly tell you is Elegrain himself. While I am not able to tell you where the tower is located, I may be able to help you in this matter in other ways…”

He will give you a map to the Tomb of Elegrain and a clerical scroll with a version of Speak with Dead. However, before he gives you these items he wants either:

A. “Carved into the Cliffs of Leng is an entrance to an ancient shrine. I would like you to enter the shrine and kill the god Akron. Bring me proof of the god’s death and I will give you the map and scroll” or

B. “In the Broken Lands is a narrow entrance to a box canyon. In that canyon is a ruined abbey. In the darkness below that abbey is a pool where the dread Black Lotus blooms. I will give you a silver knife to harvest the Black Lotus blossoms. Bring me three blossoms and I will give you the map and scroll. However, do not touch the blossoms for their touch is death.”