2/28/14

Demons of Montporte (An Unfinished Post)

Demons Pestering St. Anthony
The brave adventurers in the Montporte Dungeon Campaign have had four encounters with demons. It is not yet clear why there are so many nasty demons are milling about. But, what is clear is that the demons of Montporte are tough. The adventurers' record versus demons is 2-2. In two encounters, the party carried the day. In the two other encounters, the player characters were fortunate to escape with their lives. The demons survived those two encounters relatively unscathed.

Demons are an ongoing project me so I am not ready to post a full stat block and description of them, but here are some basic facts about demons in the Montporte Campaign:

Every demon is unique: There is no demon "type" in the Montporte campaign. Each is unique in its size, shape, appearance and capabilities.

Demons come from somewhere else: They come from the plane of Syvyys. Unlike other extraplanar creatures, such as the fey, demons cannot travel to the plane of Aarde (the plane of Montporte) of their own volition. Demons can be brought to Aarde via summoning spells, powerful magic items, and portals/gates. 

Demons are tough: Demons are difficult to hit in combat and they have loads of hit points. They also are highly resistant to magic, meaning that they gain a special saving throw versus every magic spell. If they fail this special magic resistance saving throw, they still get a saving throw for those spells that allow for saving throws. 

Demons can hurt you: Demons are dangerous foes in combat. They do a lot of damage and often have special attacks as well. 

Demons can really hurt you: When a demon kills a mortal from the plane of Aarde, the soul of that mortal is ripped asunder and destroyed. The person cannot be resurrected, raised, reincarnated, wished back to existence or otherwise brought back. They are gone for good. That's a real buzz kill.

Demons don't like it here: Demons really don't like coming to the plane of Aarde. It ticks them off. Woe to the summoner who loses control of a demon. A demon milling about on the plane of Aarde is an angry demon milling about on the plane of Aarde. 

Demons don't move around much once they get here: Once a demon is summoned, it must be compelled to move, otherwise it will simply stay in place until someone takes/sends it back to Syvyys. In the meantime, see the point directly above this. Demons are not happy campers.

Don't think or talk about demons: There are recorded instances of demons being summoned merely when they are mentioned in casual conversations by the mortals of Aarde. Even thinking too much about demons can be a risky activity. This is the primary reason why there is no published literature about demons. Plenty of scholars start a demon treatise. None of them fi

2/27/14

Demons and Devils

D&D 4e Release Depicted in 17th Century Woodcut
I have been thinking about demons and their place in the Montporte Dungeon Campaign. I have also be doing some research in historical sources, such as Hebrew & Christian scriptures, extra-canonical writings, and western tradition. I have also been looking at non-Christian traditions.

One of the things I find interesting is how devils and demons are portrayed in Advanced AD&D 1e. Devils and demons are, for the most part, humanoid creatures of great malice and evil who are distinguished primarily by alignment (Lawful Evil versus Chaotic Evil) and location (Hell versus the Abyss). There are lots of each of them and they are surprisingly similar.

In the primary sources of the Judeo-Christian tradition, the Bible, we get a different picture. There is surprisingly little information about demons or devils, except that they exist. If we only look at the Christian New Testament, we can see that the existence of both devils and demons is assumed so there is little offered in the way of proof or description. If we leave out the book of Revelation for a moment, we discover the following:

Devils: There is actually only one devil mentioned and that would "Satan" (insert Church Lady voice). There is no physical description given of the devil nor are we told where he lives. The devil is described as the adversary, the wicked one, the Accuser, and the Father of Lies. He is also called the prince of this world and the prince of the power of the air. He is said to have been cast out of heaven and Christian tradition has held that the devil (i.e. Satan) is a fallen angel, maybe even the chief angel. The devil is said to disguise himself as an angel of light in order to lead the faithful astray. While possession tends to be the purview of the demons, the devil is said to have entered Judas to lead or tempt him to betray Jesus. There is not enough detail to conclude that Judas was actually possessed, many have drawn that conclusion.

Demons: There are many demons in the Christian New Testament. There are several cases of demon possession, with Jesus driving out the demons. Demons are not described but based on the accounts, they seem to be evil spiritual creatures that are capable of possessing or taking over humans and other animals (a herd of swine is the given example). It is clear that there is a connection between demons and the devil, but there is not much information given.

Beelzebub: There is a mysterious reference in all three Synoptic Gospels (Mathew, Mark and Luke) to a "Beelzebub." He is referred to as the Master of demons, but there is also a hint that Beelzebub is either Satan or closely allied with him. However, these passages all describe how Jesus is accused of using the power of Beelzebub to drive out demons. The point of these passages is not to describe the relationship between Beelzebub and Satan. Unfortunately, Queen had it wrong, Beelzebub has a demon set aside for Freddy Mercury, not a devil.

Whereas the devil seems to live somewhere else besides earth, only to come here to tempt us, demons are presented as being all around us, lying in wait to possess us and drive us to madness. One has the power of temptation and deception while the other uses brute force to possess us. Neither is really much like the AD&D 1e Monster Manual, not that it should be.

All this is stuff that I knew from years of theological study, including a lot of reading in the original Greek. What I had forgotten is how little information is actually in the Christian scriptures about Satan (the devil) and demons. Most of what the average Christian believes about devils, demons and even Hell comes from extra-Biblical sources. There is more about these matters in the book of Revelation, but even the book of Revelation provides scant and unclear details about such things. But that is a story for another post.

2/26/14

Boreal Troll (Fey)--Montporte Dungeon Campaign Critter

BOREAL TROLL (Fey)
Armor Class: 0 [19]
Hit Dice: 8
Attacks: Clawed Hands x 2 (1d4); Bite (1d8)
Saving Throw: 8
Special: Regeneration; Cold Resistance; Sunlight Vulnerability
Move: 12
Challenge Level/XP: 9/1100

Boreal trolls are fur-covered humanoids, 12-15' tall. They are fey and live in the boreal forests of the plane of Umírající. They are occasionally found on the plane of Aarde (the plane of Montporte), looking for humans to devour. Boreal trolls are loyal to the Winter Court of the fey.

COMBAT: Boreal trolls are surprisingly agile in combat and are able to attack three times per combat round (two claw attacks and one bite). Because of their regenerative ability, they rarely back down from a fight.

REGENERATION: Boreal trolls instantly begin to regenerate when wounded, healing 1d4 points per round. No matter how battered or burnt their bodies may be, they will eventually regenerate. The only way to ensure that a boreal troll stays dead for good is to kill it and then destroy every part of its body with acid.

COLD RESISTANCE: Boreal trolls are immune to natural cold and gain +2 on their saving throws versus cold-based magical.

SUNLIGHT VULNERABILITY: Boreal trolls are vulnerable to full sunlight and will turn into a lichen covered tree trunk if exposed to the direct sunlight. They remain in this state for 40 years and then revert back to their troll state at midnight on the Winter Solstice. They maintain their regenerative ability, even as tree trunks.

2/25/14

"You're Playing It Wrong"

"You're Playing It Wrong"--I laugh every time I read this in a blog post (of course these comments are always in reference how someone else plays).

It is a dumbass myth. There is no "right way" to play handed down from on high. Perhaps the only wrong way to play is to play a game that makes one chronically unhappy (unless one wants to be chronically unhappy and, in that case, have at it).

We forget the "G" in RPG is "game...it is a game of make believe. There is no deeper meaning. No ontological reality present. No moral imperative laid on us. It is a game, pure and simple.

2/23/14

The Funnel--Sandbox to Conclusion

Everyone in our Monday Night Gaming Group enjoys being involved as a player and as a GM. This means that when you are a player, you are also waiting your turn to be the GM. And, if you are the GM, you have four other people patiently waiting for you to get off the stage so they get their turn.

What has developed in our group is an unspoken practice of GMing for about 18 months and wrapping up with a clear climactic conclusion. No one has told me to do it as GM, but it is clear that this how the guys who have been in the group the longest do it (intentional or not, I don't know). Our Monday Night Gaming Group campaigns have all tended to look like this:

This is a descriptive diagram, not prescriptive. There is no rule, agreement or statement that says a campaign has to follow this pattern in our Monday Night Gaming Group. They just do, after about 18 months or so (40-50 sessions).

2/22/14

Fire Skeleton--Montporte Dungeon Campaign Critter

FIRE SKELETON
Armor Class: 7 [12]
Hit Dice: 2
Attacks: Strike x 2 (1d4)
Saving Throw: 16
Special: Burning Hands; Fire Resistance; Sleep/Charm Immunity
Move: 12
Challenge Level/XP: 2/30

Fire skeletons are undead human skeletons whose bone structure includes a high proportion of elemental fire. Their bones have a reddish tint to them and an aura of flame appears around them when they are in combat. They have the ability to shoot a sheet of flame from their hands. They are resistant to fire-based attacks and are slightly more difficult for clerics to turn, as they are turned as zombies.

COMBAT: Fire skeletons are similar to other undead skeleton in combat. They do get two attacks per round, one strike with each hand,
as they are not armed with weapons (weapons interfere with their burning hands ability).

BURNING HANDS: A fire skeleton is able to shoot a sheet of flame from its outstretched hands twice per day. This sheet of flame extends 15' feet and is 10' wide. Fire skeletons are immune to the effects of this attack from other fire skeletons.

FIRE RESISTANCE: Fire skeletons are immune to effects of nonmagical fires and gain a +2 to their saving throws versus fire based magical attacks.

SLEEP/CHARM IMMUNITY: Like other forms of undead creatures, fire skeletons are immune to sleep and charm spells.

2/21/14

The One Where We Had a Three-Way (Battle, That Is)

We moved our Monday night game to Thursday night, with Tim (Gothridge Manor) as GM. We were testing out his new system with pregen characters. Tim is not a railroader but he generally tries to be creating with adventure seeds and story arcs. In this case, it fell apart right at the start and the went downhill (in a fun way) from there. The highpoint was the three-way battle between player characters about 2/3 the way through the session. Three of the four player characters had joined together in a rather shaky alliance to finish a simple task, which we over-thought at every point along the way. Rob's character, Marrick (who we had not yet met), helped out the three of us from a distance via bow shots from a tree in a battle against some landlocked pirates.

We didn't know who Merrick was or that he intervened our behalf, so we he tried to take us to the lord of the manor for some sort of legal proceedings. Hyroth (my battle mage) was having none of that. This guy, Merrick, demanded that we give him our names and follow him while he didn't share his name or tell us what he was about. So I blasted him with a magic missile (or two, the second while he was running away). Arden, the muscle in our party, ended the fight by killing me (otherwise I would have plugged the little rat bastard one last time).

It was blast. Some of the other Monday Night Gaming Goobers have captured the session much better than I could (after all, I was dead for about 1/3 of it, although I did get brought back in a most creepy manner). Here are the other posts:

2/20/14

Haiku 16--Ghoul


pallid flesh stretched tight
paralysis comes your way;
elves laugh in disdain

2/19/14

...But If I Were To Publish a Megadungeon

Here is how I would do it (two options):

Online: I would create a separate site and just post it all there. Castle Triskelion is a good example of an online dungeon that is actively being published. The beauty of an online dungeon is that I can add and modify as needed, but I could see where it would get complicated to maintain and use as it grew.

Serial Print: John Stater's (The Land of NOD) NOD series is a favorite of mine and I personally think it would be a better way to publish a dungeon. So far there are 22 issues of NOD available on Lulu. The reality is that many of the current published megadungeons are in serial format, as we are waiting on the lower levels to be published.

The bigger challenge is on the part of the creator, actually finishing it or finishing enough of it so that the megadungeon is actually "mega." I have been steadfast in my refusal to plan to publish the Montporte Dungeon, despite the urging of the Monday Night Gaming Group and even my wife (World So Sweet). For now, I want to focus on playing in the dungeon, as opposed to publishing it.

2/18/14

The Apples? They Are Very Close To The Tree

Yesterday, Digital Orc posted a heartwarming post about a day with his young daughter, entitled The Value of Old School. It reminded me of similar days when my children were young and all the common memories we have of our adventures together.

My children are now adults. My son is 23 years old and working like a dog as a Director of Marketing while my daughter just turned 21 last week. We are all about two hours apart most of the time, so we share most of our adventures via texts and Facebook. Some of their recent pics serve as a reminder that the apples ended up right next to the tree.

Here is a pic from my son (that is my old Ibanez guitar from the 70's on the right):
Here is a pic posted by my daughter (she had it as her Facebook cover pic):
It is groovy how each of my kiddoes picked up one the major aspects of my personality. I would not love them any less if they hadn't, but it does make it fun when my son and daughter are both interested in some of same things as I am.

2/17/14

2/16/14

Design It To Run: How I Am Designing & Running the Montporte Dungeon

We are closing in on Session 30 of the Montporte Dungeon Campaign and I feel like I can now speak with a bit of experience about designing and running a megadungeon. Back in the 1970s, I started with a dungeon-only campaign as my Holmes D&D set came with dungeon geomorphs, rather than a module. None of my fellow gamers owned modules, just lots of graph paper. So running a dungeon was our default. But that was a long time ago and I hadn't really attempted to run a megadungeon since.

What follows is descriptive, not prescriptive. I am attempting to describe how I am designing and running a dungeon, not how you should do it. Most weeks, I am scrambling to get ready for game night in between family, work, and my music obligations. So with those caveats, here is my approach:

Campaign Mindset: From the start, my mindset has been to run it as a campaign setting and not an adventure module on steroids (which is how most published megadungeons appear to me). Rather than focus on rooms, I focus on areas, peoples, etc and then fill in the details as needed (or as I have time), just as if I were running a typical non-dungeon campaign.

My Dungeon: The Montporte Megadungeon is designed by me for me to run. And I run it with people I know. I am not creating something for publication or something to even post on my blog for others. It is very specific to me and our Monday Night Gaming Group. I don't feel like I have an audience of gamers/consumers to please, just a group of friends to entertain.

As Needed: I only create the dungeon a little in advance of where the players might go. At the beginning, this meant a fair amount of mapping. But now, not so much. There are several reasons I do this: (1) I don't have the time or energy to create a 20 level dungeon all at once; (2) I don't always know what will catch the players' interest and I would rather have things be more open-ended and flexible; and (3) Inspiration comes to me slowly and if I try to do too much at once, the dungeon turns out bland. I need to give myself time to let ideas germinate.

Mapping Part 1: Fortunately, I love to draw dungeon maps. Unfortunately, we are playing online with a VTT (our group uses either Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds, depending on the GM...I opted to use Roll20). This means that I could either draw maps by hand, scan them, and upload them...or create maps digitally. I opted to create them digital in AutoREALM, which is a slower process for me, but it cuts out the conversion process.

Mapping Part 2: I usually start my mapping process of a level by creating a 5x5 grid in Publisher. Each square in the grid is 10", which means I use the custom setting to create a 52" x 52" page (allowing for 1" margins). I then place a text box in each grid, describing in as little detail as I can, what is in each square. In dungeon terms, each square represents 300" x 300", the same sized used in Stonehell. I then, as I need to, create the detailed 300' x 300' maps in AutoREALM, with a 5'/square scale. I convert it a JPEG and--Presto!--I have my map for Roll20. I can also drop the JPEG file into my Publisher grid and create level map, which can also easily be converted to JPEGs. By using blackened rectangles to cover unexplored areas, I can create overview maps for the players like the one below (it takes about 15 minutes):
Level 1, From the Players' Perspective
Seeds: I try to drop adventure or plot seeds into the campaign as we play (from this blog post by Michael Curtis {The Society of Torch, Pole, and Rope}). It is up to the players to decide what to do with them. This only works for me if I do not plan details too far ahead. I have had to let go of my inner-world builder's conceit of "this place exists whether or not a PC ever sees it." It should feel that way to the players, but that is not how I am operating behind the scenes.

Tropes Part 1 ("the lack thereof"): For the most part, I have avoided the OSR cliches and tropes--random tables, lots of slash and grab sessions, and traps for the purposes of having traps. It is not that I have a philosophical or ideological reason to avoid them. My reasoning is more pragmatic: It takes a surprising amount of time to create a random encounter table that might only be used 1 or 2 times. It is easier to just create the encounter than to create the table to generate it.

Tropes Part 2 (my trope): My one conceptual trope has been the computer game, Myst. I am not trying to recreate Myst as we play, but I like the idea of using interlocking clues and details so that the players gradually piece together the multiple back stories of the dungeon. There are a few chatty NPCs in the dungeon, plus lots of scrolls and documents. In fact, every encounter is a clue to the dungeon. Not all clues are earth shattering, but they all pile on one another to paint a picture and tell the story of the dungeon.

Improvisation and Planning: I only occasionally use set-piece encounters that are tied to specific physical locations within the dungeon. They are there, but there are not a lot of them. I do, however, improvise a lot. For a lot of people, improvisation implies a lack of planning or forethought, kind of like "winging it." As a musician, improvisation means something different to me. Improvisation means creating responding to others as you play, but it still requires as much planning, forethought, etc. I spend a considerable about of time planning for each session, but I look at options the players have in front of them and how they might respond, rather than planning specific encounters ahead of time. I am not sure if this makes sense to you, the reader, but I have found it to be my style of GMing...at least most of the time.

Rationalization and Logic: The Montporte Dungeon has a series of backstories that provide an inner logic for myself and the players. However, it only works when we (our group) let go of (1) the question of why a big multi-layer hole in the ground would be there in the first place; and (2) previous preconceptions about megadungeon play (this has been a bit of a struggle as the cliches of dungeon play haunted us when we started).

Inspiration: I read a lot--close to a book a week--and while I do not plan my reading around gaming, I often read things that end up in the dungeon. A recent example are the small bottles of impossibly cold water (why did it not turn to ice?) found in Session 22. These were inspired by So Cold the River, a novel by Michael Koryta. My days with the Appendix N types of literature are mostly in the past, but I am finding inspiration in unlikely sources. This has proven to be a benefit as some of the guys in our gaming group have way more gaming stuff than me. I have thus far avoided the dreaded "You pulled this from B1, didn't you?" or "Hey, this sounds like Dragon #135."

Further Reading: John Arendt (Dreams in the Lich House) recently published two posts on megadungeons that present an interesting point and counterpoint: You Will Never Finish That Dungeon and From an Alternate Universe. I found them interesting and helpful. For me, Michael Curtis' (The Society of Torch, Pole, and Rope) post, With New Old Eyes, is my "go to" reading for running a megadungeon. Peter D (Dungeon Fantastic) wrote an excellent post, Megadungeon Play Reflections-The Immediate and the Cumulative, that lives up to "Fantastic" moniker. I have previously tried to capture a bit of my own thinking on designing and running megadungeons: Five Paths For Dungeon Design and Creating Meaningful Choices in a Dungeon-Centered Campaign.

2/15/14

Surrounded By Elves (at my office)

Dwarven Staff Meeting
I was CEO of an organization that was involved in a merger last fall. I am now the COO of a combined bigger organization. The beauty of this merger is that each organization brought something that the other organization lacked...and no one lost there job in the process. Nothing but  upsides.

The downside is that I am surrounded by elves. As someone who leans in the dwarvish direction, I find it distressing. Our head finance guy is a serious gamer (poker, video, wargames, Magic, but not RPGs), but has confessed to me that he is elvish in nature. One of our program directors, a direct report to me, plays tabletop RPGs but she she often plays elves. 

It seems like the attorneys missed something during the due diligence phase of the merger. I am finding it quite distressing. Maybe it was better when no one around at work played games and I just kept it all to myself. I do have HR on speed dial, just in case the elves create a hostile work environment. Which they always do. 
Required OSHA Work Site Posting

2/14/14

Montporte Dungeon Campaign Session 28 Notes

The Cast
Adzeer Mattiu, Hunter of the Second Circle (Half Orc, Hunter): Tim (Gothridge Manor)
Dante Rathburn (Human, Warlock): Chris (The Clash of Spear on Shield)
Luven Lightfinger (Human, Thief): Rob (Bat in the Attic)
Larramore “Little Larry” (Kobold, Marksman): NPC
Diana (Human, Torch Bearer, Goat Driver): NPC
Marcus Aurelius (Magic Sword): NPC
5 cave goats
Map A (1 square = 5 feet)
The Session
Session 28 started where Session 27 left off, in Room 1 (Map A above). The party moved their way through a series of iron doors, each one protected by spear trap. Luven was able to find and disarm most of the traps, enabling the party to make their way from Room 1 to Room 4. The party did have to cross a 15' deep pit/trench in the floor, similar to the one they cross in Room 1 at the end of Session 27.

In Room 4, Adzeer noticed that there were footprints in the dust heading to the door on the east wall, while the door on the south wall had no footprints near it. The party opted to head east from Room 4.

When the party reached the door leading into Room 5, Adzeer noticed that there were footprints leading into the door but he could also see footprints heading down the corridor to the east. The party decided to enter the door leading into Room 5.

Room 5 contained 2 hobgoblins and 2 frost wolves. The hobgoblins drew their short swords and the frost wolves warily moved to either side of the adventurers. Luven asked them what they were doing there. The hobgoblins let loose a string of insults and threats on the party, but did not attack. It was clear that the hobgoblins were aware that Luven had signed the Seelie Accords and had traded with the goblins (Session 19). The adventurers soon learned that hobgoblins hate goblins. And hobgoblins hate those who are befriended by goblins...people like Luven.

Eventually, the name calling led to physical violence, as it often does. Adzeer cast a web spell that trapped two hobgoblins and one frost wolf. The remaining unwebbed frost wolf did unleash her frost breath on the party, hitting Adzeer and Dante for considerable damage. However, the remaining frost wolf and the two hobgoblins were unable to do much except try to free themselves. In the meantime, the party was able to quickly inflict damage on their webbed opponents. Two of the webbed foe, a frost wolf and a hobgoblins, were only partially webbed and they eventually were freed up enough to fight back. However, it was too little, too late.

The hobgoblins turned out to be loaded down with gold, probably from a recent transaction (slave trade?). The gold and a few magic items were tucked away in two backpacks of holding.

The moved south and east into Room 6. This was a large room with a sunken floor and two rows of large brass tanks (or vats). Most of the tanks were free standing, but the tanks along the east wall were connected to a series of pipes coming out of the east wall. Adzeer, using the Belt of the Dwarvenkind, determined that the whole area was part of a large-scale alchemy operation. Rooms 1 & 4 were designed to contain any large spill. This also explained the large number of the party had to pass through.

The adventurers then moved into Room 7, where they found a number of pipes running across the room, close to the floor. Dante placed his ear to the pipe with the hopes that the pipes might carry sounds from nearby areas of the dungeon. He heard nothing. Luven, using the Earring of Stoss (which improved his hearing), did hear someone walking softly and slowly. He guessed that it was coming from the north. Adzeer then whacked the pipes with his mace, which had the effect of striking a gong in a stairwell. The party decided to head east from the room rather than explore the rest of it.

They followed a narrow corridor that led them into Room 8. This room had more pipes along the floor. Just as the party entered the room, Luven heard the door on the west wall close. Luven listened at the door and heard someone running on stairs.

They followed the sound of footsteps to Area 9, where they found a open door leading north. There was a closed door 10' north of the open door. Luven listened and heard receding footsteps on metal.

The party hurried north into Room 10. This room had a large rectangular hole in the floor (a 25' x 45' hole). The top of a large brass tank was in the middle of the hole in the floor and there was a metal catwalk going out to the top of the tank. The catwalk also had a ladder attached that descended into the hole in the floor.

The party dimmed their lanterns so that Adzeer could peer down into the hole, using his dark vision. He was able to see a floor (and the bottom of the tank 50' down. The ladder led down to the lower level. The party carefully descended into Room 11 (Map B below).
Map B (1 square = 5 feet)
The party had reached Level 3 of the dungeon. This is where we ended the session.

The Dungeon So Far
Right click on each map and open in a new tab to view them in more detail.
Level 1
Level 2
Level 3

2/13/14

Frost Wolf (Fey)--Montporte Dungeon Campaign Critter

FROST WOLF (FEY)
Armor Class: 4 [15]
Hit Dice: 6
Attacks: Bite (2d4)
Saving Throw: 11
Special: Move Silently; Frost Breath; Cold Resistance
Move: 18
Challenge Level/XP: 7/600

Frost wolves are large (5’ tall, 300 pounds), white wolves that inhabit the coldest forests of the plane of Umírající (the plane of the fey). These frozen forests lie deep in the realm of the Winter Court. However, frost wolves are not aligned with the Winter Court of the fey. Rather, they are Wild Ones, a group that owes no allegiance to either Summer or Winter Courts. Frost wolves are core members of The Pack, the collection of assorted fey involved in the Hunt.

When not participating in the Hunt, frost wolves live in small close-knit packs. Frost wolves are more intelligent than regular timber wolves and have a highly complex social structure. They are highly effective hunters and have a deep sense of their place in nature.

Frost wolf cubs can be domesticated, if captured early enough. Unlike dogs, they do not truly bond with their owners. Breaking the bonds with their pack twists their minds and they become much more aggressive and unpredictable. Hobgoblins use captive frost wolves in slaving expeditions.

COMBAT: In the wild, frost wolves avoid fights unless they are hunting prey or protecting their young. Frost wolves will use their frost breath to take down their opponent while staying clear of danger. As a group, they are well-organized and will attempt to surround their opponents and then take them down.

MOVE SILENTLY: Frost wolves are stealthy and can move silently as if they were a sixth level thief.

FROST BREATH: Frost wolves can attack their opponents, using a frost breath. Frost breath creates a cone of cold 5’ wide and 15’ long, extending from the mouth of the frost wolf. It does 6d4 of damage (half damage for successful saving throw). This can be used once per day.

COLD RESISTANCE: Frost wolves gain a +3 bonus to all saving throws versus cold-based attacks and spells. The pelt of a frost wolf can be used to make a cloak of cold resistance, which gives the wearer a +2 saving throw bonus against cold-based attacks and spells. The wearer is also protected from the effects of harsh winter weather.

2/12/14

Hobgoblin (Fey)--Montporte Dungeon Campaign Critter

HOBGOBLIN (FEY)
Armor Class: 3 [16]
Hit Dice: 5
Attacks: 2 Attacks/Round (By weapon)
Saving Throw: 12
Special: Move Silently; Hide in Shadow; Improved Saves Versus Magic; Initiative Bonus; Sleep
Move: 12
Challenge Level/XP: 7/600

The hobgoblins of the Montporte Dungeon Campaign are very different from traditional RPG hobgoblins. Montporte hobgoblins are fey and usually reside on the plane of Umírající (the plane of the fey). They are magical, sadistic, and quite devious. While most fey have little interest in the plane of Aarde (the plane on which Montporte exists), hobgoblins travel there on occasion. Despite their occasional visits, they are very rarely seen by the inhabitants of Aarde and only trade with select trading partners or to kidnap humans and others for slaves in the slave trade.

Hobgoblins are aligned with the Winter Court of the fey. While they are not generally involved in the politics of the Winter Court, hobgoblins are often the hired swords in the more devious plots and activities on behalf of the Winter Court.

Hobgoblins are bitter enemies of goblins. They will capture, torture and kill goblins whenever they have the chance.

Like their kin, the goblins, hobgoblins travel in small bands. Unlike goblins, they do not avoid combat. They are aggressive and will kill, if only to satisfy their own sadistic nature. They also are active slave traders. They will seek to capture intelligent creatures for the slave trade, whenever possible.

COMBAT: Hobgoblins typically use a short sword and shield in combat. Because of their speed and dexterity, they are able to attack twice per round.

MOVE SILENTLY: Hobgoblins can move silently as if they were a fifth level thief.

HIDE IN SHADOW: Hobgoblins can hide in shadows as if they were fifth level thief.

IMPROVED SAVING THROW VERSUS MAGIC: Hobgoblins gain an additional +1 to any saving throw versus magic or cleric spells, but not against magic items (wands, potions, etc).

IMPROVED INITIATIVE: Hobgoblins are quick and clever opponents in combat. They gain a bonus to their initiative roll (+3 if using a d10 for initiative; +1 if using a d6).

SLEEP: A hobgoblin can cast a modified sleep spell once per day against one individual creature. The targeted creature does get a saving throw. If successful, the sleep spell lasts for 2d6 hours.

2/11/14

Montporte Cosmological Notes: On the Divine and the Mundane

The sages, philosophers and theologians of Aarde (the plane containing Montporte) are fond of dividing the known world into two spheres or provinces: The Mundane Sphere and the Divine Sphere. The Mundane Sphere includes the physical plane of Aarde and all those who dwell on the plane. It does not include the four other planes (see On the Planes). The Divine Sphere is where the gods of Aarde are believed to dwell.

The Divine
The gods of Aarde are thought to dwell in the Divine Sphere, but the reality is that no mortal being of Aarde can know this as a certainty. It is a commonly accepted idea that the gods are transcendent--they cannot manifest themselves physically on Aarde nor can the mortal beings of Aarde approach them. The gods can (and do) influence events on Aarde through their followers. It is thought that the gods gain nourishment and strength through the influence they wield on Aarde, but religious opinions vary widely on this particular topic.

The Gods
There are many gods. The sages believe that the mortals of Aarde only know a small fraction of the total number of gods. It is not known if all gods know all the other gods, although it is clear that the gods that are part of a specific religion's pantheon are related. Different religions answer this question differently.

Religions
The religions of Aarde are complicated. Some are related to each other, based on schisms, splits, differences of opinion or new revelations. Most have little in common. Some rise while others fall. Some religions are tolerant of others and a few even embrace religious ideas from other religious. Most religions are less open towards other faiths. The majority of religious folk view themselves as enlightened, blessed, or chosen, while viewing others as ignorant, cursed, or damned.

Further Reading
Cosmological Notes (Overview)
On the Planes
On the Elements
On the Energies

2/10/14

2/9/14

Montporte Dungeon Campaign Session 27 Notes

The Cast
Adzeer Mattiu, Hunter of the Second Circle (Half Orc, Hunter): Tim (Gothridge Manor)
Duncan Kern (Gnome, Wizard/Thief): Dan
Dante Rathburn (Human, Warlock): Chris (The Clash of Spear on Shield)
Luven Lightfinger (Human, Thief): Rob (Bat in the Attic)
Larramore “Little Larry” (Kobold, Marksman): NPC
Diana (Human, Torch Bearer, Goat Driver): NPC
Marcus Aurelius (Magic Sword): NPC
5 cave goats
Map A (1 square = 5 feet)
The Session
The last session (Session 26) was spent in the town of Montporte, so we started Session 27 in the first room of the Montporte Dungeon (Room S on Map A above).
Map B (1 square = 5 feet)
The party moved to the northwest, to the ants' nest so they could access the spiral staircase down to Allindrihl's mushroom farm on Level 2. Along the way, Little Larry poked his head into an unexplored area (Areas 1 & 2 on Map B above).
Map C (1 square = 5 feet)
The party then made their way down the spiral staircase and to Allindrihl's mushroom farm, where Allindrihl received the party in his home (Room 3 on Map C above). Diana rejoined the party but Allindrihl shared the sad news that Ansarkhan's insanity could not be cured and the mushroom colony opted to destroy him and return his ashes to the colony grounds.
Map D (1 square = 5 feet)
The brave adventurers took leave of Allindrihl, returned to Level 1 and went east. Duncan wanted to explore some unopened doors on Level 1. They went through a previously unopened door, which led them into Room 4 (Map D above). The party followed the corridor east in Room 5. Room 5 had a bed of glowing embers in the middle of the floor. As the party moved cautiously into the room to investigate, 3 fire elementals materialized out of the bed of embers. The party fled back down the corridor into Room 4. The fire elementals did not follow.

The party then moved north then east then south, into another room they had bypassed (Room 6 on Map D). Here they discovered the remains of a glass blowing operation. The furnace had been removed but there was plenty of broken glass on the floor.

The party moved back north out of the room and continued east. They met up with Cassius, the ghostly caretaker of Montporte. Cassius was his usual addled self, unaware of his own demise and living in a past that ended thousands of years ago. The party did learn that they were the objects of a search. Cassius let them know that a "delightful woman" with two crabmen (thuragians) and two green spiders were looking for them. This search party had descended the spiral stairs in Room 8 (Map D above). The party decided to follow.
Map E (1 square = 5 feet)
The party descended the spiral staircase into Room 9 (Map E above). They moved south to explore the southern door out of Room 10. In Room 10, the met up with the search party that Cassius had told them about. As suspected, the "search party" was a breeder patrol party. The only thing delightful about the woman leading the party was her magic missile wand (assuming the adventures could get it from her).

The resultant melee yielded a few unhappy surprises. The first was the magic missile wand. The second was that this woman was much tougher than any of the previous patrol leaders. The third were the really big glowing green spiders and their ability to shoot blinding green energy beams out of their eyes. While the adventurers suffered some damage in the process, they did manage to carry the day.

The party found two scrolls on the patrol leader. From one of the documents, Letter to Sasha, they learned that the leader of the patrol party was sent by Lady Elonora. From the second document, a Patrol Order, they learned that Lady Elonora was a member of the Council of the Eternal and was personally directed to find the adventurers and destroy their party by Elias the One (the leader of the "breeders"). The party also learned that the breeders had six gnomes (called garnocks by the breeders) that were to be used as sacrifices for one of the breeder rituals. Duncan was understandably upset by this.

The party opened the southern door out of Room 10 and saw the corridor heading south (with three more doors). Rather than start off in a whole new direction, the adventurers thought they should honor Allindrihl's earlier request that the party deliver a map to Daria, the leader of the rebellion against the breeders. Daria and her rebel band were to be found somewhere at the far eastern end of Level 2.

The party moved north into Room 11 (known as the "Room With 5 Doors") and then east into unexplored territory. Room 12 proved to be a bit of a challenge as their was a trench or empty pool in the middle of the room. Adzeer, using his Belt of the Dwarvenkind, concluded that the room was some sort of safety spillway for a large alchemy operation--15 deep and 30' across. This also explained the double doors to the north as they entered the room. The average person could not climb or jump down into or across it without injury.

Luven was chosen to climb down and cross the trench. He slipped and fell into it [rolled a 1 on his Climbing roll and then another 1 on his Reflex saving throw, on a d20]. Despite injury and insult on the way down, Luven climbed the other side without a problem. He had brought a rope and secured it. His knot held and the rest of the party was able to cross without a problem.

This is where we ended the session.

The Dungeon So Far
Level 1
Level 2

2/7/14

Oaf (Fey)--Montporte Dungeon Campaign Critter

OAF (FEY)
Armor Class: 4 [15]
Hit Dice: 8
Attacks: 1 Spiked Club (1d10+6) or 2 Fists (1d4+1 each)
Saving Throw: 8
Special: Berserker
Move: 9
Challenge Level/XP: 9/1,100

The oaf is a large humanoid, about 10' tall, with a large head and thick body. The oaf is a fey creature and is aligned with the Summer Court. They are often used as body guards by other fey creatures, such as goblins.

COMBAT: An oaf is a fearsome opponent in combat. What they lack in intelligence, they more than make up for in courage and tenacity. They can used their spiked club to great effect in combat. They can also pummel their opponents with their fists.

BERSERKER: In the course of combat, if an oaf falls below half its hits points, it goes berserk. While berserk, it gains an additional attack per round (2 spiked club attacks per round or 3 attacks with its fists). It also gains an additional +2 to its attack roll and to damage. The oaf will then fight until it or its opponent is killed. Once combat is over, the berserk state is also over. The oaf can only go berserk 1 time per day.

2/6/14

Thuragian (Crab Folk)--Montporte Dungeon Campaign Critter

THURAGIAN (CRAB FOLK)
Armor Class: 1 [18]
Hit Dice:3
Attacks: 2 Claws (1d4 each)
Saving Throw: 14
Special: n.a.
Move: 9
Challenge Level/XP: 3/60

Thuragians are crab folk and are bipedal, about 6’ tall and 300 pounds. They have a heavily armored natural shell and attack with two large clawed hands. They are of low intelligence and of nasty disposition. They are at home on both land and water.  They will often serve as mercenaries for the price of a few trinkets and a regular supply of food.

COMBAT: Thuragians are not typically aggressive creatures, unless they are hunting prey, which consists of creatures smaller than themselves. In their natural state, they will surrender once it is clear that they cannot win a fight.

MONTPORTE: In the Montporte Dungeon, thuragians often serve as slaves to the “Breeders.” When used as warriors, thuragians are kept in a state of fanatical frenzy by means of drugs.

2/5/14

Really Big Glowing Fuzzy Green Spider (Montporte Dungeon Campaign Critter)

REALLY BIG GLOWING GREEN FUZZY SPIDERS
Armor Class: 1 [18]
Hit Dice: 6
Attacks: Bite (2d4)
Saving Throw: 11
Special: Blinding light beam
Move: 18
Challenge Level/XP: 7/600

Really Big Glowing Green Fuzzy Spiders are semi-intelligent spiders that are really big: They are about 4’ tall and weigh 250-350 pounds. They are are also green, fuzzy, and glow in the dark.  They are aggressive hunters that roam dank temperate forests and subterranean caverns. They do not build webs.

If raised from hatchlings, Really Big Glowing Green Fuzzy Spiders can be trained in a similar manner to dogs and excel at tracking, guarding, and attacking on behalf of their masters. Kobolds are known for their skill in training and handling Really Big Glowing Green Fuzzy Spiders.

COMBAT: Really Big Glowing Green Fuzzy Spiders are aggressive in combat. In the wild, they will always attack any warm-blooded creature that is close to their size or smaller, biting their opponents to death. Trained Really Big Glowing Green Fuzzy Spiders will follow the simple verbal commands of their master in combat.

BLINDING LIGHT BEAM: Really Big Glowing Green Fuzzy Spiders can shoot narrow bright beams of light out of their eyes and blinding their opponent. An attack die is rolled to see if the light beams hits the face of their opponent. The opponent then gets a saving throw to avoid blindness. A failed save results in blindness for 1d4 rounds. This attack may be used once per round.

2/4/14

The Party Token

Session 27 of the Montporte Dungeon Campaign was a good time for everyone. We decided that it was too much trouble to move all the individual character tokens around, so I created a single party token to be used in Roll20. You can see it over there on the right side of this post. I created it on the fly and I'll replace it next time with something that isn't as disruptive.

We'll pull out the character tokens for combat and such, but it is much easier to move one token around on the map.

2/3/14

2/2/14

Adventurer's Prayer

The gods and goddesses grant me
The strength to slay my enemies,
The charisma to keep my friends,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
--Delvin the Dwarf

2/1/14

Heisenberg's Dungeon

"Intuitively obvious to
the casual observer"
as my college physics
text book would note
(after a page of calculus)
James Mal (Grognardia) published a post back in October 2009, entitled Schrödinger's Dungeon. James' contention was that it is nearly impossible to publish a true megadungeon. Leaving aside the slightly sad irony of this statement in light of the Dwimmermount Kickstarter (unless he has used the Dwimmermount Kickstarter to prove his point, in which case supporters were really funding a research grant to prove his hypothesis...but I digress)...anyway, leaving aside the irony, I actually believe his point has some merit. But I prefer Heisenberg to Schrödinger.

Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle is simple to state (so long as one is not interested in the why, then you have to do math stuff...not so simple): When it comes to subatomic particles, we can either precisely know the location of the particle or its momentum, but not both. The more we know about one, the less we can know about the other.

In my mind, there is a certain analogy with megadungeons, the more we define it by maps, keys, descriptions and tables, the less mega it becomes. Mega implies something that is almost infinite in scope: Endless caverns, layers, an underworld of tunnels and rooms. Defining it with a map limits its size.

I have purchased a number of published megadungeons, including Stonehell, Barrowmaze, Anomalous Subsurface Environment, and Rappan Athuk. I love them (and shamelessly borrow from them) but they all seem like there is something not quite mega about them. Maybe it is just the experience of being able to see a whole dungeon level, just by opening the book and looking at a map, that makes them smaller. But I suspect it is something more. Putting a megadungeon in print is much like adding a butterfly to an insect collection. You have to kill it to keep it. You have to kill the megadungeon, destroying its growth and dynamic qualities in the process, in order to publish it. More than anything, the mystery and the sense of the vast unknown seems to get snuffed by the act of printing.

Maybe it is just me. I am not certain.