Things We Hand Wave

Here are some things that our Monday Night Gaming Group tends to hand wave (or ignore altogether):

What's Your Alignment? In most of our campaigns, player characters do not need have an alignment selected. There is still a general sense of good and evil--and also selfish apathy--but no alignment (unless the GM specifically declares we are using alignment rules).

Where Were You? If a player is absent, so is that player's character. If the player returns for the next session, the character returns as if he or she had not been absent. Usually there is some sort of side comment about long bowel movements, but that is just because we are not wholesome people.

Who's the GM? Over the course of any given year, most of the group will have a turn at running some sessions. Right now, we have the Montporte Dungeon campaign going as the long-term game, +Chris C.'s (The Clash of Spear on Shield) Ephemera campaign as the every-once-and-a-while backup, and then +Rob Conley will step in to run some sessions. Eventually this will shift with another GM and campaign being the long-term focus.

How Will It End? While a campaign setting can be used over and over, the long-term campaign will end somehow, with the player characters and GM collaboratively latching onto a final big-ending story arc. Not my particularly strength as a GM.

Do You Like Me? Our group is committed to the time we have carved out for gaming, but we are also friends. We B.S. before and after sessions about gaming, but also about life. We also have plenty of cameo appearances by spouses, children, dogs, cats, and Ivy's middle finger. I think we have managed to pull together a good group of folks who love gaming, but also value the people they game with.

What Should I Say? Nothing. Our group has no safe word.

Can I Go There? No. We tread lightly in areas involving child abuse and sexual violence. For me personally, I would not go there. My wife works in the field of child abuse investigation and I have no desire to include it in my RPGs.

How does your gaming group function? What would be your ideal group?


Megadungeon Hall of Fame: Megadungeon Play Reflections - The Immediate and the Cumulative

I have been MIA from the blogosphere for a big chunk of 2014. While I am finally catching up on my blog posting, my Megadungeon links pages are still in neglected condition. I am trying to rectify that but finding new content for links (and also checking for broken links). Part of that process led me to reread Peter D's (Dungeon Fantastic) post, Megadungeon Play Reflections - The Immediate and the Cumulative.

Peter's blog consistently offers up great content, most of which revolves around megadungeon design and play. His Megadungeon Play Relections - The Immediate and the Cumulative is my personal favorite. It is elegant in its simplicity--the post primarily consists of two lists ("Immediate" and "Cumulative"). What I like is that it is a descriptive post about megadungeon play, as opposed to an armchair prescriptive post. Rather than speculate about megadungeon play, he describes it. And in the act of description, he lays the ground work for how to have a well-designed and well-run megadungeon campaign.


Monday Moodsetter 61

Guyaju Caves, China
RPG Rorschach: What's the first gaming thought that pops into your head?


Five For Friday 32: Yet More WW2 Books

My World War 2 reading over the past 18 months has been heavily influenced by the bibliography in Max Hastings' Inferno: The World at War 1939-1945, where he draws heavily on first person accounts by ordinary soldiers, sailor, airman, and non-combatants.

  • Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions That Changed the World, 1940-1941 by Ian Kershaw--I thought this book was fantastic. Kershaw provides a lot of detailed, well-reasoned analysis, backed up by plenty of research. Well-written, but not a quick read.
  • The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War by Martin Gilbert--I was frustrated with this book at first, until I understood it. It is more of a chronicle and witness to those who died, rather than your typical history book. There are a lot of names, places and dates and not much analysis. Reading this was more like participating in a solemn memorial ritual for the dead than was reading history. In the end, that is the power of the book. Absolutely gut-wrenching, but I am glad to have read it.
  • Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal by James Hornfischer--A well-written and balanced account of naval actions in the fight for Guadalcanal, most of which happened at night. The Japanese had better tactics and torpedoes. The Americans had been logistics, intelligence and radar. In the end, the Americans learned from their mistakes and the Japanese did not.
  • A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in a Conquered City by Anonymous--I had been wanting to read this book for awhile, but I kept putting it off, knowing that it would be an emotional experience. I did read it and it was emotional, but it was also funny at times and, surprisingly, full of hope.
  • Woodbine Red Leader: A P-51 Mustang Ace in the Mediterranean Theater by George Loving--A nice read.
Previous World War 2 related posts:
My Favorite World War 2 Books
My Latest World War 2 Reads
More World War 2 Books
Even More World War 2 Books


Bell Spider (Montporte Dungeon Campaign Critter)

Armor Class: 5 [14]
Hit Dice: 5
Attacks: Bite (1d6)
Saving Throw: 12
Special: Sonic bell attack
Move: 10
Challenge Level/XP: 6/400

Blue bell spiders are the female version of the bell spider. They are about 3’ tall and weigh 250 pounds. They have a blue head and legs. Their body is coated with a thin layer of silver that contains 1000 silver pieces worth of the precious metal.

They live deep beneath the earth in colonies with other bell spiders (pink and blue). They do not build webs. There are about 8 pink bell spiders for every 1 blue bell spider.

COMBAT: Blue bell spiders will attack anyone who threatens their colony. Otherwise, they are not particularly aggressive.

SONIC BELL ATTACK: The blue bell spider has an organ inside her abdomen that allows her to strike the inside of her shell, creating a deafening bell sound, once per day. All non-bell spiders in a 60’ radius takes 3d6 of damage (half damage if the victim makes a successful saving throw). If the victim fails their saving throw, they are stunned for one round. The bell also serves to summon other bell spiders within range of the sound.

Armor Class: 4 [15]
Hit Dice: 3
Attacks: Bite (2d6)
Saving Throw: 14
Special: Intoxicating venom; Enhanced initiative
Move: 20
Challenge Level/XP: 4/120

Pink bell spiders are the male version of the bell spider. They are about 2’ tall, weigh 80-120 pounds, and have very large mandibles. They are bright pink and glow in the dark.  They live deep beneath in colonies with other bell spiders (pink and blue). They do not build webs.

COMBAT: Pink bell spiders are aggressive in combat when their colony is threatened. They hunt as a pack and seek to use their speed to ambush prey.

INTOXICATING VENOM: When a pink spider successfully strikes its victim, the victim must make a saving throw or be intoxicated by the spider’s venom. Intoxication causes the opponent to have a -2 penalty to their attack roll, as well as a -1 penalty to any initiative roll. The intoxication lasts for 2d6 rounds.

ENHANCED INITIATIVE: Pink bell spiders are very quick and gain a +1 bonus to their initiative roll.


Montporte Dungeon Campaign Session 41 Notes

Cast of Characters
Adzeer Mattiu, Hunter of the Second Circle (Half Orc, Hunter): Tim (Gothridge Manor)
Breena Honey-Badger Warrick (Gnome, Barbarian): Joshua (Tales of the Rambling Bumblers)
Dante Rathburn (Human, Warlock): Chris (The Clash of Spear on Shield)
Duncan Kern (Gnome, Wizard/Thief): Dan
Luven Lightfinger (Human, Thief): Rob (Bat in the Attic)
Nosphryc Azurecoat (Human, Fighter): Douglas (Gaming Ballistic)
Larramore “Little Larry” (Kobold, Marksman): NPC
Marcus Aurelius (Magic Sword): NPC
Daria (Human, Rebel Leader): NPC
Dwemmon (Gnome): NPC
7 Rescued Gnomes

The Prelude
Nosphryc Azurecoat was surrounded by the seasoned warriors of his family at the start of the solemn ritual in the chapel of the family castle. The family's cleric pronounced the admonitions and blessings, as the men and women in armed splendor looked on.

When the final affirmation of the congregation is spoken, Nosphryc would be teleported to a destination chosen by the family's gods where he would hopefully prove his worth as a brave and true hero, fit to rule his people. Of course, the hope was that Nosphryc would bring back a few wagon loads of booty as well.
Map A (1 square = 5 feet)
The Session
The brave adventurers had taken a short rest in Room 1 (Map A above) at the end of Session 40. The group was a bit startled, but less surprised than you would think, by the human warrior who suddenly materialized in their midst. Without missing a beat, the party incorporated Nosphryic Azurecoat into their group.

With the addition of Nosphryic (this session) and Breena (last session), the party decided to think through their marching order. Once this was determined, Adzeer announced that he had a little task to complete. Without explanation he led the group back to the chasm (Area 2 on Map A). Daria and her followers, along with the party's cave goats had been left on the other side of the chasm (Area 3 on Map A) back in Session 39.

Adzeer crossed the chasm by rope to the east side of the chasm. He brought Little Larry, the party's kobold archer, along with him. Adzeer commended Little Larry to supporting Daria in establishing a homeland for her people. Leaving Little Larry behind, Adzeer attempted to cross the chasm again by rope. However, he slipped off the rope and, as he fell into the canyon, began to swing pendulum style by the safety rope towards the west wall of the chasm, 50' below the opening of the tunnel where the adventurers were waiting.

Duncan had prepared a levitate spell, which was cast in a nick of time. Adzeer gently floated up from the chasm below and the party reeled him with the safety rope.

The party returned to Room 1 (Map A above) and then into Room 4, which was empty. They moved into Room 4. Room 4 was not empty. The room was a dwarven tabernacle, containing a number of large pink spiders and one larger blue spider with a metallic body (bell spiders).

As the spiders moved towards the open door, Dante cast a fireball and Luven slammed the door shut. The fireball took out 7 of 8 pink spiders, leaving two badly burned spiders alive (one pink and one blue). The party prepared to engage the remaining spiders and entered the room. A deafening gong sound came from the singed blue spider, injuring most of the party and stunning a few. Despite this setback, the party quickly dispatched the final two spiders.

Before the party had a chance to catch their breath, pink spiders began pouring out of Area 6 (unexplored at this point) and towards the exposed and vulnerable gnomes at the back of the party (the gnomes were being escorted back to their subterranean home).

Breena responded quickly with a well-aimed hand axe tossed through the gnomes and into the abdomen of a rushing spider. Nosphryic unfortunately took out one of the gnomes in his attempt to take out a spider. Oops.

Duncan cast a web spell and managed to entangle the bulk of the spider threat. Adzeer then used his Ring of Spider Communication to talk with the spiders. Spiders, at least the pink spiders in the web, didn't have much to say except "Please let us go" and "Don't hurt us."

The party chose to ignore the pleas and reduced the webbed spiders at a distance. Two of the spiders managed to break free and escape into Area 6. In the meantime, Luven moved through Room 5 and opened the southern door, giving him ready access into Area 6. He found 1 blue spider and 5 pink spiders in the corridor. Luven did a devastating sneak attack on the blue spider, leaving it alive but seriously wounded. Luven then backed into Room 5.

The blue spider created a deafening gong sound, wounding most of the party and stunning a few. At this point, Duncan decided to drop the web spell, which allowed Nosphryc, Breena and Adzeer to engage the pink spiders at close quarters. With Luven to the west and the rest of the party to the east, the spiders were put to death in short order.

The party searched the area and found nothing but spider droppings. No webs. No remains of previous treasure laden meals. No goodies. Happily, they did discover, thanks to a bit of natural history on Nosphryc's part, that the metallic exoskeletons on the blue spiders were actually coated with excreted silver. They used the permanent flames in the dwarven tabernacle to melt the silver into easy-to-carry blobs.

Using the Lens of Melnar and the finder's lens, Duncan discovered a secret door that led into Room 7. This room was filled with battered dwarven skeletons, the rusted remnants of armor, and some miscellaneous items long decayed past the point of recognition. The party did find a bit of gold and silver at the west end of the room. Everything in the room appeared to be quite ancient.
The party moved into Area 8, with had spider droppings, humanoid bones of various sizes and types, and a not-too-decomposed body of a goblin. The party searched the body and discovered some gold, some silver, two vials, and a gem-laden amulet.* Using the Lens of Melar, the party discovered that the amulet was used to control some sort of transportation device or vehicle. Knowing that goblins use brightly colored magical wagons on their travels as the universe's peddlers, the party concluded the device controlled a goblin wagon. This is where the session ended.
* Originally, before the session, I had decided this would be a metal object about the size of a brick. In post game review, I have made it an amulet.

The Dungeon So Far
Level 1 (1 square = 5 feet)
Level 2 (1 square = 5 feet)
Level 3 (1 square = 5 feet)
Mystery Level A (1 square = 5 feet)
Mystery Level B (1 square = 5 feet)
21 Miles Down A (1 square = 5 feet)
21 Miles Down B (1 square = 5 feet)


Monday Moodsetter 60

"The Lost Temple" by IBreslav
RPG Rorschach: What's the first gaming thought that pops into your head?


Montporte Dungeon Maps After 40 Sessions (Part 2)

Here are some Montporte dungeon maps after 40 sessions of play. The maps below only display what has been explored and discovered by the player characters. I have decided for this round of dungeon maps to (a) identify the stairs between levels and (b) break the maps into 2 separate blog posts (this is Part 2, as the casual observer has already noted in the post title...Part 1 is here).


  • RED indicates ascending stairs/ladders; PURPLE indicates descending stairs/ladders
  • The distance noted below indicates the vertical ascent or descent covered by the stairs/ladders.
25 - Elevator pad that ascends an unknown distance to an unknown destination
26 - Elevator pad that descends 150' from Mystery Level A to Mystery Level B
27 - Stairs descending 21 miles from Mystery Level B to 21 Miles Down A
28 - Stairs descending 75' from 21 Miles Down A to 21 Miles B
29 - Narrow stairs descending 1 mile from 21 Miles Down B to bottom of chasm


Mystery Level A (1 square = 5 feet)
Mystery Level B (1 square = 5 feet)
21 Miles Down A (1 square = 5 feet)
21 Miles Down B (1 square = 5 feet)

Montporte Dungeon Maps After 40 Sessions (Part 1)

Here are some Montporte dungeon maps after 40 sessions of play. The maps below only display what has been explored and discovered by the player characters. I have decided for this round of dungeon maps to (a) identify the stairs between levels and (b) break the maps into 2 separate blog posts (this is Part 1, as the casual observer has already noted in the post title...Part 2 is here).


  • RED indicates ascending stairs/ladders; PURPLE indicates descending stairs/ladders
  • The distance noted below indicates the vertical ascent or descent covered by the stairs/ladders.

1 -  Stairs ascending 80' from Level 1 to surface (dungeon entrance)
2 -  Ladder descending 20' from Level 1 to Sublevel 1
3 -  Ladder descending 20' from Level 1 to Sublevel 1
4 -  Spiral staircase descending 100' from Level 1 to Level 2
5 -  Spiral staircase descending 100' from Level 1 to Level 2
6 -  Spiral staircase descending 100' from Level 1 to Level 2
7 -  Stairs descending 100' from Level 1 to Level 2
8 -  Spiral staircase descending 100' from Level 1 to Level 2
9 -  Ladder attached to metal storage tank descending 50' to unexplored area
10 - Ladder attached to metal storage tank descending 50' to unexplored area
11 - Ladder attached to metal storage tank descending 50' to Level 3
12 - Spiral staircase descending 50' from Level 2 to Level 3
13 - Spiral staircase descending 50' from Level 2 to Level 3
14 - Spiral staircase descending 50' from Level 2 to Level 3
15 - Spiral staircase descending 50' from Level 2 to Level 3
16 - Spiral staircase descending 50' from Level 2 to Level 3
17 - Spiral staircase descending 50' from Level 2 to Level 3
18 - Spiral staircase descending 50' from Level 2 to Level 3
19 - Spiral staircase descending 50' from Level 2 to Level 3
20 - Spiral staircase descending 50' from Level 2 to Level 3
21 - Spiral staircase descending 50' from Level 2 to Level 3
22 - Spiral staircase descending 50' from Level 2 to Level 3
23 - Spiral staircase descending 50' from Level 2 to Level 3
24 - Spiral staircase descending unknown depth from Level 2 to unknown location


Click on a map for an enlarged view.

Level 1 (1 square = 5 feet)
Sublevel 1 (1 square = 5 feet)
Level 2 (1 square = 5 feet)
Level 3 (1 square = 5 feet)


Five for Friday 31: New-To-Me Games in 2014

I had a groovy gaming year in 2014. With the exception of a rough patch at the end of the summer when work kept me from gaming, it was an outstanding year. The best part were the friends in our Monday Night Über Gaming Group gathering on Monday nights and, as a group, at Con on the Cob. Happily, at least for the purposes of this edition of Five for Friday, I had a chance to play five new games (not counting playtesting for +Tim Shorts and +Rob Conley).
  • Cryptworld: I had a chance to play this at Con on the Cob, with +Tim Snider as our Crypt Master. I fell in love with the system (and hope to use it with our in-house gaming group in 2015). The session itself was a blast and I hope to see some of the same men and women at Con on the Cob next year.
  • Dungeons & Dragons 5e+Rob Conley ran our Monday Night group through The Lost Mine of Phandelver, with Rob being his excellent DM self. We are just starting to use D&D 5e in the Montporte Dungeon campaign, which I am running.
  • Dungeon Crawl Classics: Another Con on the Cob session, completely taken over by the Monday Night boys. +Roy Snyder gave us all a good time. I could see use DCC to run a wild and woolly mini-campaign in the Montporte Dungeon.
  • The Esoterrorists+Tim Shorts ran this as a side session for the Monday Night boys at Con on the Cob. I really enjoyed the Gumshoe system...I had a set of really elaborate color-coded notes by the end of our session. I am hoping that Tim will finish on some Monday nights what we started at the Con (hint hint).
  • Labyrinth Lord: Okay. I have played Holmes D&D, AD&D 1e, and Swords & Wizardry, so I have come close. But the B/X version of D&D came out when I was in college and my time and money spent on gaming was waning (so no B/X and, much later, no LL). At Con on the Cob, I finally had a chance to play LL, in a well-run session by +Jim Yoder.
Sadly, there was no GURPS for me in 2014, so I haven't a chance to stretch my GURPS newbie wings. There are some other games where my hopes to play never came to fruition (Dead Inside, Don't Rest Your Head, and Trail of Cthulu, to name a few).


World of Montporte

After 40 sessions of play in the Montporte Dungeon campaign, I finally have made a very simple handwaving map of the world around Montporte.
Scale: The Qawana Forest Is About 750 Miles Across
Montporte is a small isolated town on a lightly used trade route that enters the Wild Land via a dangerous mountain pass. The region is cold, being located in the higher latitudes of the southern hemisphere. The climate of the Western Kingdoms is tempered by the presence of the sea, which I didn't include on the map above.

Here is the Montporte locale:

And here is the map of the town of Montporte:

Additional geographical information:
The Montporte Region: History and Geography
The Town of Montporte


Our D&D 5e Characters for the Montporte Dungeon Campaign

Our player character conversion to D&D 5e is just about complete and we have added two new players to the Montporte Dungeon campaign, Joshua and Douglas (Joshua joined several months ago, but just recently created his Montporte character, as we have been playing some other campaigns). The active player character roster for the Montporte Dungeon campaign now looks like this:

At this point, we are basically using the 5e races and classes in the Player's Handbook as is with the following clarifications: Yes to Feats, No to Dual/Multi-class characters, and No to Inspiration.


Monday Moodsetter 59

"Three Giants" by IBreslav
RPG Rorschach: What's the first gaming thought that pops into your head?


Social Skills (or Lack Thereof)

I was explaining the similarity between my rock band and my Monday Night Gaming Group: In both cases it is just a group of guys with no social skills trying to accomplish something together.


Cryptworld for Our In-House Gaming Group

Several months ago, I wrote a post about restarting our in-house gaming group. Not much has happened on that front since the post, mainly because of my work and surprisingly busy weekend music performance schedule. However, my one goal for gaming in 2015 is to restart our group and, after my experience at Con on the Cob, Cryptworld will be the game that I recommend to the group. I think I could run it with very little prep and I think the players would quickly grasp the Pacesetter system.

Something to work on when 2015 rolls around.


Five for Friday 30: Even More World War 2 Books

It has been awhile since I have posted any of my World War 2 reads. Here are some of my more recent World War 2 reads (I will post more next week).

  • The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert Edsel and Bret Witter--The book on which the recent movie was based (I have not seen the movie). I read this book after ordering for my wife (her book club read it). It was interesting, as it was part of WW2 that I was not familiar, but the book jumped around a bit. My wife struggled a bit with it, as well, for the same reason.
  • The Secret in Building 26: The Untold Story of How America Broke the Final U-boat Enigma Code by Jim DeBrosse and Colin Burke--Another interesting book, again because I was unfamiliar with the story. I was more familiar with the British side of things, which is barely mentioned in this book (a glaring weakness). Even so, it was a fun read.
  • Target Tokyo: The Story of the Sorge Spy Ring by Gordon Prange, Katherine Dillon, and Donald Goldstein--Prange's books on the attack of Pearl Harbor and the battle of Midway are well-written and balanced. They offer a lot of detail, based on Prange's extensive research. This book is very similar. It was finished posthumously by Dillon and Goldstein. I really enjoyed this book a lot and list it among my favorite WW2 reads.
  • Why the Allies Won by Richard Overy--The is a solid, thorough book by a historian who has written extensively on the Eastern Front. I wasn't surprised by his conclusions, as most WW2 history buffs are familiar with them. However, his underlying reasoning made for good reading.
  • Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure by Donald Kladstrup and Petie Kladstrup--This is a breezy book that, like some other books on this list, addressed a topic unfamiliar to me. It wasn't a bad read, but it left me wanting a bit at the end.

Previous posts about World War 2 books:
My Favorite World War 2 Books
My Latest World War 2 Reads
More World War 2 Books


Montporte Dungeon Campaign Session 40 Notes

Rob Conley (Bat in the Attic) has a nice post about this session, Playing 5e Combat from the Other Side of the Screen.

The Cast
Dante Rathburn (Human, Warlock): Chris (The Clash of Spear on Shield)
Luven Lightfinger (Human, Thief): Rob (Bat in the Attic)
Breena Honey-Badger Warrick (Gnome, Barbarian): Joshua (Tales of the Rambling Bumblers)
Larramore “Little Larry” (Kobold, Marksman): NPC
Marcus Aurelius (Magic Sword): NPC
Dwemmon (Gnome): NPC
7 Rescued Gnomes

The Prelude
Breena Honey-Badger Warrick woke with a start. She has no idea where she was and even less of an idea of how she got there. She and a small band of barbarian gnomes--the last of her tribe--were camped in the wilds. Despite having well-placed and well-trained sentries, the little group was surprised by a band of hobgoblins and trolls. Slavers.

The little band fought well, but Breena could see her comrades falling one by one to the trolls. A hobgoblin on the edge of her vision began muttering and moving his hands quickly. There was a flash. Then there was nothing.

Vague nightmares of being suffocated in a bag while bouncing haunted Breena for hours then days. Some sort of deviltry had been used on her and she could not clear the fog from her mind.

Then she found herself freed from her ropes and her leather sack. As she came to her senses, she could see her faithful gray cave bear next to a small pile of ropes and shredded leather. Could it be that he had rescued her from the hobgoblins?
Map A (1 square = 5 feet)
Breena found herself in a narrow chasm, only 20-40 feet wide (Area 1 on Map A above). It was impossible to determine its depth. Breena and the bear began walking. They walked for days, heading south, struggling over piles of broken stones and boulders, creeping carefully around the mouths of foul smelling caves.

Finally, Breena came to a narrow steep set of steps ascending in switchback fashion up the west face of the chasm. They began to climb, slipping dangerously every so often on the narrow, worn steps. She estimated that they had climbed about a mile vertically. At that point, Breena and the bear arrived at the mouth of a small tunnel (Area 2 on Map A). They had discovered a small abandoned mine, probably dwarvish by the looks of it.

Breena found a set of stairs (Area 3 on Map A) and ascended to a second mining area, about 60 feet above the first (Area 4 on Map B below). She found a strange metallic door that seemed almost living. She sensed that it empathized with her and it opened into a large square room with a small pool of pink liquid in the middle (Area 5 on Map A).
Map B (1 square = 5 feet)
The Session
The brave adventures started the session in Area 6 (Map B above). They had stopped to rest at the end of the previous session. They were still trying to find their way to the homeland of the subterranean gnomes to return a group of rescued gnomes. The party made their way to Room 5 (Map B) where they encountered Breena and her bear. After some cautious introductions by both parties, Breena decided to join the adventurers.

Room 5 contained a sentient creature that comprised the pink pool and the three magic doors (one each on the north, west, and south walls). Having gone north already and hearing from Breena that only a small mining area lay to the south, the party decided to head west.

The party couldn't open the western door, but then remembered that they had to throw a silver bar into the pool to open the north door. They threw another silver bar in and the north door closed. More silver resulted in the north door opening again. They paused to think this over then decided to toss a gold piece into the pool. The western door opened and led them into Room 7 (Map B).

From Room 7, the party moved south into Room 8. Luven could hear movement and hissing coming from the west (Area 9). They peeked around the corner and confronted a hydra. Most of the party fled to the north as the hydra slowly followed them. Luven hid against a cave wall to the south.

The party unleashed a combination of missile weapons and fire-based spells, taking off two the of the hydra's five heads. Because of the fire damage, no new heads regenerated. At the same time, Luven attacked from behind, gaining the advantage and inflicting a boatload of damage. Being reduced to two heads, the hydra began a slow retreat back to Area 9. This enabled the party to inflict more damage, ultimately killing the hydra and leaving the party unscathed.

The party explored the rest of the cave and found a pile of busted up goblin bones and tatters of brightly colored goblin clothing. They also found some gold and silver bars, as well as a small run with a series of red concentric circles. It was a teleport carpet, with the red circles indicating that it was a destination carpet.

The party had a sending carpet (green circles) so they tested to see if the carpets were connected by tossing a stone onto the green circles of the sending carpet. The stone disappeared but did not appear on the destination carpet.

The party moved back into Room 7, then moved north, with Luven carefully scouting in front of the party. He peeked into Room 11 and saw three worm-like gricks in the middle of the room. He crept back to the rest of the party, where they quietly planned an ambush. Little Larry and Dante crept back north and launched an attack with ranged weapons and spells. They killed one of the smaller gricks then fled south, hoping that the remaining gricks would follow. The gricks did follow, but moved faster than expected. The gricks did move into Room 7, as hoped, where the party surrounded them. However, the party had not counted on the larger grick (the alpha) having a nasty tail attack.

The party killed the two remaining gricks, but not before Dante went down with some nasty wounds. He was near death after taking additional damage from the grick's beak. Fortunately, the party dispatched the grinks in time to pour a potion of healing down Dante's throat.

The party moved into Room 11 and, after a thorough search, found more gold and silver, plus a chalice and a tin scroll case. The party decided to take a short rest and we ended the session.

The Dungeon So Far
Level 1
Level 2
Level 3
Mystery Level A
Mystery Level B
21 Miles Below-Upper Level
21 Miles Below-Lower Level


Quick Underdark Questions

Just some questions without definite answers:

  1. What does the term "Underdark" mean to you?
  2. How would you create and run an Underdark campaign?
  3. How does the Underdark interface with the typical megadungeon? 


The D&D 5e Megadungeon: Two Observations

I ran my first D&D 5e session with our Monday Night Gaming Über Goobers. This also happened to be Session 40 of the Montporte Dungeon Campaign (after a 5 month hiatus). First of all, I like D&D 5e a lot. And, my appreciation of the 5e system is not diminished after an evening on the other side of the DM screen.

As a ruleset for a megadungeon setting, it does play very differently than AD&D 1e and Blood & Treasure, our two previous rulesets for Montporte. Here are two quick observations after one night of play:

1. D&D 5e dungeon play involves less resource management that AD&D 1e. With the rejuvenating abilities of short and long rests, plus a highly modified Vancian magic system that presents more flexibility for players, players have to worry less about running out of hit points or spells (for a similar observation involving D&D versus GURPS, see Patrick Halter's (Renovating the Temple) blog post, Maintaining Encounter Balance). With the earlier editions of D&D, resource management (in the form of hit points and spells), is usually a critical component of megadungeon play.

2. Turn by turn combat tactics matter more in D&D 5e than in AD&D 1e. In AD&D 1e, combat is primarily an exercise in attrition. Tactics matter and can, on occasion, determine combat encounter outcomes but usually the raw abilities to dish out and avoid/absorb hit point damage matters most. With D&D 5e, players have a wider (but still limited) number of meaningful tactical options at their fingertips. And creatures have have more options as well, which can create havoc for careless players. At the same time, magic spells often require concentration and/or a "to hit" roll. This increases the unpredictability in combat, which players have to account for in their tactics.
Despite these differences, D&D 5e is still very much in the D&D family. For example, the speed of play in a dungeon setting is closer to AD&D 1e than 3e/Pathfinder and 4e. We were not bogged down by too many options or modifiers. We had surprisingly little need to stop play to look things up in a book. Most importantly, we enjoyed the session.


Monday Moodsetter 58

The Abbey in the Oakwood (1809-10) by Caspar David Friedrich
RPG Rorschach: What's the first gaming thought that pops into your head?


Aeven Steelhand, My D&D 5e Fighter

Our Monday Night Gaming Group has been playing D&D 5e, with +Rob Conley (Bat in the Attic) running us through the Lost Mine of Phandelver, which he placed in his Majestic Wilderlands campaign setting.

I used the free D&D Basic Rules and went with a simple human fighter, Aeven Steelhand. When my Player's Handbook arrived, I opted to make him a Champion when he hit third level. This meant that Aeven had no spells and not much for specialized skills. He is the toughest frontline fighter in the group, but I found him lacking grit and punch compared to his peers who benefited from spells and special features. This was particularly noticeable when he went down quickly in battles with goblins and zombies. It should be said that our DM was rolling 20s in Roll20 (as if he had hacked the system).

I expected to be limited in my options, but I didn't expect to be so vulnerable.The fighter can wear heavier armor, but doesn't typically have the means to buy when starting out. While it was nice to get the improved critical as a Champion, I found that it didn't noticeably impact play. When playing AD&D 1e years ago and Castles & Crusades a few years back, we gave fighters a d12 for hit points. With Castles & Crusades, this hit point enhancement worked well as we were not using the barbarian class.

None of this changes my overall positive opinion of D&D 5e. I am looking forward to running my first session next Monday night.


Montporte Dungeon Campaign Sessions 38 & 39 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)
Duncan Kern (Gnome, Wizard/Thief): Dan
Lief (Half Elf, Wizard/Cleric/Trickster): Josh
Larramore “Little Larry” (Kobold, Marksman): NPC
Diana (Human, Torch Bearer, Goat Driver): NPC
Marcus Aurelius (Magic Sword): NPC
Daria (Human, Rebel Leader): NPC
Silvaria (Human, Rebel): NPC
Muh ("Gaunt," Rebel): NPC
Zot ("Gaunt," Rebel): NPC
Mechlor (Thuragian, Rebel): NPC
Dwemmon (Gnome): NPC
6 Naked Dwarfs
7 Rescued Gnomes
5 Cave Goats

Summary of Sessions 38 & 39
A few sessions previous, the brave adventurers had used a portable teleport pad (attached to the surface of a small carpet) to teleport to an unknown part of the underdark. They assumed that they they were still in the same dungeon complex and, as their current goal was to return a group of rescued gnomes to their homeland, they decided to continue the mission. The only thing that the brave adventurers knew was that they needed to descend further into the dungeon to find the gnomes' homeland.
Map A (1 square = 5 feet)
The party had begun exploring an area during the last session that included a dead underground forest and garden area (Map A and Map B). In Area 1 (Map A above) above, the party encountered a nasty band of hybrid demon gnomes at the beginning of Session 38. They telepathically attempted to seduce Duncan to their side. During the conversation, the demon gnomes unwittingly confirmed that there were gnomes living somewhere below this area.

To no one's surprise, a battle ensued. The demon gnomes turned out to be tough foes, but Duncan and Daria managed to kill the majority of them and the rest of the party took out the remainders.

The party found one living tree in Area 2 (Map A above). The party used their Finder's Lens and discovered a magic crown embedded with the tree. It turned out to be a gnome crown, which Duncan immediately placed on his own head. The crown imbued Duncan with increased intelligence and an experience point bonus. Duncan found that he could not remove the crown. Dismayed at having a shiny crown on his head, he covered his scalp bling with his magic beanie.

Having completely explored the area, the party moved back to the elevator pad (Area 3 on Map A) and descended to the next lower level (Map B below).
Map B (1 square = 5 feet)
Once the elevator pad had descended (Area 4 on Map B above), the party moved west and discovered a stairway in Area 5, heading down. The stairs descended 21 miles vertically, which was two days worth of travel. At the bottom of the stairs (Area 6 on Map C below), the party found a deep narrow chasm (Area 8 on Map C).
Map C (1 square = 5 feet)
The party was unable to determine the depth of the chasm, nor could they discover a safe way to descend. They could see the remnants of a bridge (Area 7 on Map C), with a corresponding structure in the tunnel mouth on the opposite side of the chasm to the west.

They decided to tie a rope to Duncan, have himself levitate himself, and then give him a firm shove out into the chasm towards the tunnel mouth opposite them. He missed.

Duncan hit the chasm wall and was able to grab hold of the rock surface and pull himself towards the tunnel mouth. He then secured his end of the rope to the the bridge structure while the rest of the party did the same with the other end of the rope on the east side of the chasm. Using plenty of safety line and a fair bit of luck, the party managed to make it safely to the other side. Rather than bring everyone across, Diana stayed with the cave goats on the east side of the chasm. She was joined by Daria and her small band, plus the dwarves.

The party then moved into Room 9. They was a small pink bubbling pool in the middle of the room. The party searched the walls of the room and found three secret doors--one each in the middle of the north, west and south walls. Despite their best efforts, they were not able to any of the doors. In the process, they discovered that (a) the pool and the doors were connected and (b) the pool and doors were, in fact, a sentient creature.

They "fed" the creature a silver bar and the north door opened. A long corridor led them to a door (Area 10 on Map C), which opened into a weird area much like the obelisk rooms they had found in Session 33.

They found a group of large vertical tanks in Room 11. The tanks had clear walls and contained glowing green liquid. In the liquid were large birdlike humanoids, floating peacefully.

The peacefulness was interrupt by the party smashing the side of one of the tanks. The nasty green liquid splashed all over the room and the creature within came out in a foul (fowl?) mood. The party managed to kill it, but not before it did a significant amount of damage, including Adzeer getting his head swallowed. Given the nastiness of the fight, the party opted to leave the rest of the tanks intact.

The party moved into Area 12 and found 4 boxes, each with a small 3D geometric object (each object was about 4" across). Using the Lens of Melnar, the party determined that each of these objects was a key. Moving into Area 13, the party found four larger horizontal tanks. Each tank had a depression shaped like one of the 3D shapes found in Area 12. The tanks also contained the same green fluid found in the tanks in Area 11. The tanks also contained a birdlike humanoid, only these were larger and nastier looking than the ones found in Room 11.

The party decided that (a) these creatures were somehow responsible for many of the most bizarre and ancient features of the Montporte Dungeon, including the obelisks (Session 33) and the magical mysterious panes of glass (Session 6 and subsequent sessions); and (b) these creatures were too tough for the party to deal with at present.

The Dungeon So Far
Level 1
Level 2
Level 3
Mystery Level A
Mystery Level B
"21 Miles Below"