Saturday, August 1, 2015

Saturday Grab Bag - Planewalker's Handbook

The Planewalker's Handbook - A great book for players and dungeons masters who want to play in a campaign involving other planes

I recently picked up The Planewalker's Handbook off of Amazon. I really enjoyed it and would highly recommend it to any DMs or players who are interested in introducing planar travel, or the planes in any way into their campaign.

Full Disclosure: That link is an Amazon affiliate link. From time to time I plan on linking to products that are available on Amazon. I will in no way let the fact that I may make money from sales affect what I say about the book. (I have a book review coming next week which will likely be very negative). However, I'm pretty broke, getting married in a few weeks, and could use the extra cash. It's extremely unlikely I'll even make back the money I paid for the book, but every little bit helps.

This book is amazing. It is completely player-friendly, but a great pickup for any dungeon master. I found a ton of inspiration in this book that I'm going to use in my upcoming adventures.

I know that the 5th edition Dungeon Master's Guide does a good job of explaining the different planes and updating the multiverse, but it doesn't spend much time on what it is like to BE a planewalker. Each plane is explained in amazing detail, including a great introduction to Sigil, the capital of Outland and home of many gates and portals.

The best thing about this book, is that even though it is written for an older edition of Dungeons and Dragons, there are very little rules or statistics in the manual that couldn't be easily adapted to any version. Most of the rules are explained without referring to stats or rolls, such as how portals are opened or closed, or how to join a faction.

The information on planar factions are the number one reason I would by this book. The factions are split up not by race or geographic location, so much as ideals and belief systems. My favourite faction, one that I am definitely going to introduce into my campaign, is the Sensates. The Sensates are a faction who's sole desire is to experience as much of the multiverse as possible, through their senses (thus the name) of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. They store the memories of these experiences in a vault at their headquarters, that others can come and experience.

I would highly recommend this book. It is fun to read, and super easy to adapt to whatever RPG system you are currently using. Buy it here if you feel like supporting me, if not I definitely think you should seek it out.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday NPC of the Week #2 - Len Neeples

Just like last week I have presented this NPC similar to a monster for ease of use. Some stats might be tweaked to be more how I like it. Like everything on this blog, feel free to change it as you see fit.


Len Neeples was a mighty paladin. He didn't always grasp the higher meanings behind religious verses and rules, but he was a good man, who always fought for righteousness and the higher power. He worshiped Torm (or any Lawful Good deity you desire), and always did what he thought was right. Len, like many paladins, spent little time reading holy texts, most of his time was out in the world trying to do good through his actions.

Just because Len didn't spend much time reading, didn't mean he didn't ask the big questions in life. He was truly obsessed with the Upper Planes, never quite wrapping his head around how planar travel worked, and what "life" was like after someone on his world died. It was very important to him that the afterlife be a peaceful, idyllic place to contrast the pain and suffering he saw around him in the world of the living.

One day, Len Neeples was saving a prince from an evil warlock, when the warlock dropped an amulet. The amulet allowed the user to be transported to another plane, or back to the material world. Not much is known about Len's travels in the Upper Planes, but rumour has it that he traveled to the realm of his god Torm, and met with the dead men and women who worshipped Torm, Tyr, and other goodly gods. These spirits were incredibly fulfilled and at peace living in the presence of their god. Nearly all of them were much happier than they had been in life, for much of the world is filled with poverty and suffering.

Something changed in Len. He realized that no matter how much evil he banished across the world, it didn't seem to make the world much better for the average inhabitant. However, every innocent who died would be relieved of their suffering in the afterlife. Len did something that he, nor anyone who ever knew him would have ever suspected, he broke his holy oath. Len entered a small farming village, a celebration was occurring so everyone was gathered in the main hall. The paladin entered the hall, ignoring the cheers and welcoming of the strangers and slaughtered them all.

Len believes that by sacrificing his own place in the eternal joy that is the afterlife, he can reduce the amount of suffering in the world, by helping speed souls journey to the next life. Since his paladin powers were lost by breaking his oath, he traded his amulet that allowed him transport to the planes to a fiend, in exchange for unholy powers. Len is a perfect example of someone doing horrible evil, but with the best intentions. He sacrifices the happiness he wanted above all else, to be close to his god in the afterlife, so that he could do what he believes will supply that happiness to the most amount of others.

Gossip amongst the fiends says that the fiend who supplies his power, whom he traded the amulet to, isn't allowing the souls to move on to the afterlife. Some foul magic is trapping them in some foul corner of the hellish lower planes. This is likely just rumour, but gods help this fiend if this is true and Len Neeples finds out.






















Thursday, July 30, 2015

Thursday Adventure Idea #4 - Ms. Ugly's Trolly Hills

INTRODUCTION

On the Sword Coast, in the Forgotten Realms there is a small hill range called the Troll Hills. This adventure was inspired by those hills, but any area in your campaign would work. Besides the characters referring to the locale as "The Trolly Hills" there is no reason it even needs to take place in a hilly region. The only important landmarks are caves and trees. As with all of the Master of Dungeons adventures, please change this as much as you need. This is more of a jumping off point than a set of rules, use it to improvise and (hopefully) inspire. 

All of the encounters were built for a party of 5 level 5 adventurers in 5th edition D&D. The party is quite strong for their level, and many of these encounters are technically above deadly, however there are not many encounters per day and it is very easy for your players to rest in between. However if things get a little too hairy make sure to dial it back. Particularly when fighting the dinosaurs in the cave.


Ms. Ugly's Trolly Hills


BACKGROUND


This is knowledge for the DM, and should only be presented to players as they find this out, major spoilers for the adventure.

Trolls don't often band together in large groups, but rumour has it that a nearby group of hills is crawling with a large number of them. A group of trolls calling themselves "Da Fightin' Trolls" have dug out a large pit inside of a large cave. They spend their days fighting in vicious tourneys, (usually against other trolls, but they're always excited to find any strong adventurer or monster to test their might against). Their troll regeneration abilities make them particularly well-suited for a fight club, as their wounds heal very quickly, and severed arms, legs, and even heads can be easily be reattached, or grow back if needed.

Normally trolls would not have the spare time to spend leisurely severing arms and legs from their fellow trolls, as their substantial appetite and preference for humanoid meat means that most trolls have to spend the majority of their time hunting and ambushing humanoid prey. These trolls have recently been taught more civilized "farming" practices by their caretaker, Ms. Ugly.

None of the trolls know how long they've been under the protection and guidance of Ms. Ugly, but they know it has been a very long time. She is a green hag that often disguises herself as an incredibly beautiful elven woman. When she arrived, she saw in the trolls the potential for a personal army. Until meeting her the trolls had spent most of their time raiding small villages and laying ambushes on the nearby highway. Thinking this a waste of time, she taught the trolls how to ensure they always have a steady supply of meat by "farming" it. When a large travelling group of halflings passed by the hills, she saw the opportunity and sent the trolls out to capture them. For generations the halflings have been captives of the trolls, slaughtered for food like animals.

These trolls are not particularly evil creatures. They are, however, particularly stupid creatures. Ms. Ugly has convinced them that these brutal "farming" practices have made them civilized, and they think that they are doing a good thing by ceasing their raids on villages and eating of travelers. Their nature means they hunger especially for humanoid meat, and they see this as a very kind way of them to get it. They see the halflings as animals, and treat them as such.

One month ago, a group of young halflings, who were all born within the cave, escaped the trolls. They were led by Bart Halthorn, a young halfling with a gift for building machines and contraptions out of anything he can get his hands on. He was able to build some tools to open the cage holding the young halflings, and escaped to a deeper part of the cave. To keep the trolls from coming looking for them and recapturing them, Bart left large footprints to trick the trolls into believing that something big and strong had kidnapped them.

The trolls grew to believe that some sort of Scary Super Trolls stole the halflings. Bart built on this belief by creating cut out puppets of trolls that the young halflings used to cast large shadows on the walls of the cave. Tools to make loud noises and flaming javelins convinced the real trolls that the Scary Super Trolls were far too powerful to be messed with. The Trolls slaughtered the remainder of their "animals" believing that the meat would be easier to protect. The halflings are unaware of this, and are preparing a plan to rescue their elders, and seek vengeance on the trolls.

SETUP

The adventure begins as the party reaches side road with a nice stone bridge perpendicular to the highway they are traveling on, going over a steep gorge, entering a hill region known as the Troll Hills. They have been traveling for many uneventful days and are starting to get bored. They hear a voice shouting from the direction of the bridge.

"Oy, softskins, ova here why don' ya? Ya's lookin' like ya's in need of a contest, a tourneyment, a fights, ones with a sort of, whatdya call it, Grand Prize? Come ova to me bridge and I'll give ya what ya need ta know"

If the party ignore the voice it shouts louder and louder, calling them cowards, and reiterating that there is a huge reward on the line. The voice continues to call the party forward until they are on the bridge. As soon as anything is placed on the bridge, the stone pressure plate sinks in, similar to a trap. After a few tense seconds a troll head peeks out from under the bridge, the players can only see the head but he must be very large to reach the bridge.

Unbeknownst to the players, the troll is only a head, mounted on a spear that swings up whenever someone steps on the bridge, (built by a very clever halfling slave named Bart Halthorn). He attempts to hide this fact. Trolls can often survive after having their head cut off for a short time, but Ms. Ugly's magic was able to keep him alive as only a head indefinitely. The other trolls were annoyed by his constant talking, so they sent him to "guard" the bridge.

The troll introduces himself as Heddy, guardian of the bridge to the Trolly Hills. He assures them that he isn't going to ask them some sort of corny riddle, but that he was simply bored, and looking for entrants in the next tourney of Da Fightin' Trolls. Players suspect that he is hiding something from them, and a very easy investigation check will show that Heddy is only a head on a spear. Once they know his secret Heddy is very truthful with them about everything, happy to have someone to talk to again. The only thing he will not tell them about is the "animals" of the trolls being halflings. If anyone inquires as to what sort of animal they are he says he doesn't know, just that they are animals for eating according to Ms. Ugly, which is true.

Heddy will mention at some point that Da Fightin' Trolls aren't ordinary trolls, but they're civilized due to Ms. Ugly and learning how to farm. He points them in the direction of the fighting caves, about a four hour walk from the bridge. If asked where Ms. Ugly lives, or any questions about her, he just says she is a person who takes care of the trolls, and she lives in a smaller cave near the fighting cave. He doesn't mention what she looks like, besides saying that she is very ugly, at least to trolls, he doesn't mention that she is a Green Hag, mostly because he doesn't know what that means.

In the highly likely event that the party learn that Heddy is nothing but a troll head on a spear, he asks that they take him along, since he has been alone on this bridge for a very long time. If they choose to take him along it is very easy to lift his head up the side of the bridge, bringing the spear with it. Heddy will consider everyone in the party a very good friend of his, and is always nice and as helpful as he can be with his limited knowledge. He is very annoying and doesn't understand when to shut up, even when told to. 

TRAVEL TO THE CAVES

The party is likely traveling to the cave holding Da Fightin' Trolls, however this section will be the same if they are traveling to meet Ms. Ugly. As they are traveling, it starts to pour rain. They get very cold walking, and tired with the mud sticking to their boots. As they get closer to the caves, trees and other plants begin to look more blighted and dead. The landscape switches from bright green to grey and dark.

This fight is optional, feel free to skip it, but it can be useful if your players really enjoy combat or are getting bored from the roleplay on the bridge

An angry troll comes running out of the trees, he is shouting gibberish at the top of his lungs so he doesn't surprise them. If Heddy is traveling with the party he mentions that this is a particularly mean troll named Jango. Heddy tries to talk some sense into the troll, saying they are supposed to be civilized trolls now, but it doesn't work. Jango keeps muttering to himself about being tired of farm animals, and he wants to hunt his own meat.

Jango tries to kill the party. He is a Troll. Use the variant rule for Jango, and any subsequent troll fights that allows for limbs to be severed by slashing damage. This fight should be fairly easy for your party, if a little long because of his regenerative properties (if they don't realize to use fire or acid damage). Use how well they do during this fight to balance the future encounters.

Immediately after the fight with Jango (or instead if you chose to skip that fight) the party notices a quaint forest house. The trees and plants directly around the house are bright green and healthy, unlike the other blighted plants that have been getting worse as the party travels. The rain is picking up even more, and as the party passes it, the door opens and a beautiful elf woman shouts for the party to come in to get out of the rain or they will catch a terrible sickness.

The party doesn't know but this woman is the Green Hag Ms. Ugly disguised by illusion magic. In fact, the entire house is an illusion. She serves the adventurers delicious sandwiches, warm tea, and good ale. She is very charismatic and seems very kind-hearted. If asked about what she is doing in the troll hills, she says she has lived here for many years, and the trolls tend to leave her alone. She doesn't go into any more detail than that. Heddy has never seen her before, or heard anything about her, but admits he rarely left the cave before going to the bridge, so there is much he doesn't know about. If there is one or more male party members Ms. Ugly will attempt to sleep with them, taking preference for half-elves, humans, or elves, in that order.

If Ms. Ugly sleeps with a member of the party, or if they discover her true identity, she drops the illusion and  the party finds themselves sitting in the mud, covered in rain looking at an incredibly ugly Green Hag. Even the green trees around the house turn back to their dead, blighted look. She quickly turns invisible, and escapes to her home, her invisibility as a green hag works in such a way that she can only be tracked by magical means. If she slept with a party member, she becomes pregnant, knowing it immediately, and will give birth to a girl of the race of the father in 6 days, as is the case with hags. She will try to plant the girl with a family in a nearby village, where she will grow up normally until her 13th birthday, where she will try to kill her adoptive parents and join her mother in the troll hills. (Standard hag procreation and child rearing practices).

The party may choose to enter Ms. Ugly's cave first after this.

MS. UGLY'S CAVE

Ms. Ugly's cave is very small, consisting of one room, a cauldron with bubbling contents of unknown origin, and two large trolls. When the adventurers enter she taunts them, especially if she slept with one of them in the house. It is now that she reveals that she is pregnant, and that it will only take 6 days to give birth. (This will open many roleplay opportunities, some characters might not believe her, or might not want to slay a pregnant woman, no matter how evil. They may not have the knowledge necessary to know that a hag's child always seems normal until puberty, where it becomes as evil as it's mother, regardless of how it was raised, if Ms. Ugly escapes they may want to chase after her to save the baby. Be prepared to improvise as you see fit.)

After some taunting Ms. Ugly and her two trolls attack. If she thinks she is losing the battle she will turn invisible and try to escape again. She knows when she has been defeated and will leave the troll hills to join her sisters in a forest a few days travel away. She will likely try to take revenge at some point on the party for ruining her plans, likely with the aid of a hag coven, formed by her sisters.

DA FIGHTIN' TROLLS

Trolls are very afraid of fire. In this cave any damage, through sword, bow, magic or something else, is met with cheers and excitement. But, anything involving fire is met with screams and fear. 

The entrance to this cave has a large, tacky rug in the center of the opening. A DC 13 perception check will find that this is a trap, or it is obvious if the players lift up part of the rug. There is enough room to walk around it. If the trap is triggered a Dexterity saving throw of 15 is needed to jump out of the way. Players take 3d6 piercing damage as they fall onto the spikes underneath.

Around the corner from the entrance are two trolls guarding the door. They immediately attack anyone on sight. They surrender when near death, laugh, and welcome the worthy combatants to Da Fightin' Trolls' cave. Full xp is rewarded as if the trolls died. If any of the trolls die in combat, there are no hard feelings, and Heddy or the surviving troll just laughs it off and continues on their way.

After fighting the trolls at the entrance, they follow the cave and come to a big opening with a large pit dug out in the center. There is a tunnel going deeper into the cave from the other side of the room. Half of the pit is covered with a curtain. There are two large treasure chests against the wall outside of the pit. Around twenty to thirty trolls are watching two trolls spar in the pit, cheering and laughing.

Heddy points the party to the a big troll who seems to be the leader. His name is Dugdug and he is very excited to have strangers to join in the festivities. He mentions that most fights are usually one on one, troll against troll, but since they seem like a group that fights better as a team, he has a better idea. He wants them to try the ultimate challenge, and if they win they will receive an amazing prize. He won't explain what the challenge is except to say it's a fight in the pit.

Assuming the party agrees to the challenge, ( if they don't they are teased relentlessly, called plant eaters, and spat on) they are instructed to climb down into the pit, and defeat whatever monsters come at them. A rope is pulled from under the curtained part of the pit, and the party can hear two cages being opened, and some growling.

Two Allosaurus and two Anklyosaurus dinosaurs run out of the curtain. All of the trolls hoot and holler. If no one remembered to leave Heddy outside of the pit before the fight he complains relentlessly that he has no business being here. This is a good opportunity to practice roleplaying during combat.

If the adventurers seem to be faring well against the four dinosaurs, when they are dead or getting close to death the lead troll pulls a second rope and another cage swings open. An incredibly loud roar is heard through the cave. After one round, a Tyrannosaurus Rex throw off the curtain, and joins the fight against the players. The trolls are working themselves into a frenzy by this point. Cheering any amazing moves the party pulls, clearly hoping the dinosaurs will lose, even if that means they lose their most prized pets. The pets were received by sending raiding parties into the underdark, when they were bored between fights, and looking for new monsters to fight against. They'd found them as eggs and Ms. Ugly had helped them to raise them.

If the adventurers survive, they are slapped on the back and cheered for by everyone in the cave. They are awarded the titles: Honorary Troll, and Troll-friend, and told they are welcome in the cave any time.

Dugdug asks them if they'd like the amazing, valuable prize first, or the boring no-fun prize first. Regardless of what they pick, they get both. Trolls have a slightly warped view of what is valuable.


  • Valuable Prize: 50 pounds of "animal" meat. This is all they have left, they absolutely insist the party take it, and refuse to let them give it back. At least they don't force anyone to eat it. It is obvious to anyone who looks at it that something is off about this meat, if asked Dugdug explains that their animals were halflings.
  • No-Fun Prize: 1000 gold coins and a Signal Tome

SCARY SUPER TROLLS

After the fighting, Dugdug discusses the Scary Super Trolls, explaining how they stole their "animals", and they are so scary no one has ever seen one face to face and survived. He explains how they use fire as their main weapon, which is strange for a troll. The players at this point have no reason to believe that they are the escaped halflings, but they might suspect that they aren't trolls. Dugdug asks them to go drive them off, since the party is so powerful, and they are friends of trolls.

If the party decides to leave, perhaps because they've learned the trolls were farming halflings, have this encounter occur outside of the cave.

The party is pointed deeper into the cave, loud noises are heard. Shouting is heard, and large shadows of trolls appear on the walls as they get closer. If the party keeps walking Bart Halthorn steps out from the darkness and asks the party what they are doing in this cave.

Bart explains how he led the young halflings to escape, how they were all raised in captivity by the trolls, his skill with building things that kept them safe from a counter attack. How the young halflings have been planning their next attack, to save the older halflings. He doesn't know yet that all of the halflings left with the trolls have been slaughtered, and their remains are likely carved up in a bag held by the party.

If the party has Heddy with them, Bart demands they hand him over to pay for his crimes, and the crimes of his people. Heddy is very confused by all of this talk, and what the "animals" are doing but he begs for his friends to not hand him over. If Heddy is handed over, Bart stabs a small knife into his eye, then hands him to one of the others, telling him to "make sure this one dies slowly, he will be our first act of revenge, make it memorable".

Bart wants the party to help them get their revenge on the trolls. He is especially vocal if he finds out that the elders are all dead. He explains that they've got a way to get revenge against the trolls all at once, that he needs the party to convince the trolls that the "Scary Super Trolls" are coming, and to all hide in the fighting pit. He says the halflings will take care of the rest. The halflings have no valuables and are able to offer no reward.

Both the trolls and the halflings likely seem reprehensible to the players. If the trolls are convinced to enter the pit, the halflings sneak in and place a cover on the pit that traps them inside like a cage. They poke at the trolls with flaming spears and try to slowly burn them to death. Bart reminds them to not kill them all because they need some to torture.


This is probably a pretty strange adventure. It doesn't end with a lot of resolution, and is designed to leave the adventurers wondering if they did the right thing, and whether they could have stopped this. Your party will likely think of things I haven't covered, do whatever feels right and what you think the NPCs would do. Let me know how it goes, or if this inspires you to do anything similar.












Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wednesday Roll Table #3 - Pets

If there is one things players love almost as much as strong magic items, its pet companions. Pet companions often come in two varieties, vanity and combat. Vanity pets are for roleplay purposes and flavour only, where combat obviously includes pets that are of value in battle. I tend to prefer vanity pets for my players, it is easiest to balance, and muddles things up less. This roll table is definitely slanted towards pets that are in the vanity category, but I haven't labelled any of them. It is up to you as a DM, and up to how creative your players are, to see if they can be of use in battle. Certain classes, like rangers, will be able to take advantage of pets in battle better than others. The players in my campaign currently have a dragon wyrmling in their care, (dragons are arguable more of a companion or adopted child than a pet but I'll count them as a pet for our purposes today) I try to roleplay the dragon in a way that he isn't a reliable combat companion, for balance purposes.

Unlike our previous roll tables, this roll table is in an order. The higher the number, the more valuable or rare the pet is. This will allow you to use some sort of luck modifier, or aid in manual selection.

The goal of this table was to pick a pet that the adventurers, or a specific player stumble upon, and it has a chance to become attached to them. Perhaps the animal was orphaned or escaped from a travelling exotic animal trader. The players hear some rustling in nearby trees, they look in, and you roll a d20 on the following table to determine the animal.

Every animal is a newborn baby when found. If the players put in effort they can easily bond with the animal. I make no promises that the creatures found in this table will not unbalance your party, but keep in mind that most of them would require many years before they reached their full potential in some sort of combat situation. Most adventurers would also lack the skills to properly train the animals to attack on command.


d20Pet Companion
1Frog - Roll a d6
1-4: Frog
5: Giant Frog
6: Giant Toad.
2Snake - Roll a d6
1-3: Snake
4-5: Flying Snake
6: Giant Constrictor Snake
3Bird - Roll a d6 (On roll of 5 or 6, roll another d6. If 5-6 then pet is of giant variety)
1: Blue Jay, Sparrow or Robin
2: Chicken
3: Raven
4: Hawk
5: Owl
6: Eagle
4Cat - A common housecat. Breed determined by DM
5Dog - Roll a d6
1-4: Common dog breed determined by DM.
5: Mastiff
6: Blink Dog
6Boar - Roll a d6. On 5-6 boar substitute Giant Boar
7Wolf - Roll a d6. On 5-6 substitute Dire Wolf
8Big Cat - Roll a d6.
1-2: Panther
3-4: Tiger
5-6: Lion
9Bear - Roll a d6
1-2: Black Bear
3-4: Brown Bear
5: Polar Bear
6: Owlbear
10Ape - Roll a d20
1-5: Baboon
6-10: Monkey (Classified as Baboon in 5e Monster Manual)
11-16: Gorilla (Classified as Ape in 5e Monster Manual)
17-19: Orangutan (Classified as Ape in 5e Monster Manual)
20: Giant Ape *
11Cockatrice 
12Hippogriff
13Griffon
14Chimera*
15Grick*
16Pseudodragon 
17Wyvern
18Dinosaur - Roll a d6
1-2: Allosaurus
3: Pteranodon
4: Ankylosaurus
5: Triceratops
6: Tyrannosaurus Rex*
19Roc*
20Dragon Wyrmling* - Roll a d10
1: Copper
2: Brass
3: Green
4: Bronze
5: Black
6: Silver
7: White
8: Blue
9: Gold
10: Red

*DM should be careful handing out these creatures as they may grow to be very powerful. Since the players receive them as babies it may take many years for them to fully mature.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tuesday Quick Tip #2 - Recurring NPCs

One of the most important things Dungeon Masters should be incorporating into their campaigns, is one of the easiest to overlook. I'll admit I often struggle to work these into my campaigns, but if you succeed the rewards in terms of immersion, and player interest, are huge.

I'm talking of course about Recurring NPCs. Minor characters, that appear from time to time in the campaign. I'm not talking about the librarian from which the party collects a powerful scroll for a quest, or the mayor who hires the adventurers to slay a foul beast. Although these are NPCs they don't necessarily make a great recurring NPC. Think of your favorite TV shows, there is usually a few main characters, those who show up in nearly every single episode,  but there are some that show up sporadically, a handful of times a season. These are your recurring NPCs.

Nothing drives home to your players that they are playing in a real, immersive world, more than having friends, acquaintances, and allies, that exist outside of the player characters. A favorite barkeep who swaps stories with them, a merchant who is willing to cut them a deal and give them any leads to valuable hordes, a noble or thief who has taken a liking to them, these are the characters that will make your players invested in your world.

Another thing recurring NPCs can be good for is driving roleplay opportunities for players who need the extra push. If you have a player who is a little shy around the table, or letting the louder voices take a tad too much of the spotlight, a recurring NPC that is friends only with their character could be a good option. When your party comes into a town, the NPC could seek out their character, and take a liking to them, while distancing themselves from the others in the party. This NPC could be a source of valuable information, giving the shy player his chance to shine.

If you've seen Star Trek: The Next Generation, there is a character on it named Q that is a great template for a recurring NPC. Q is a powerful god-like alien who can appear whenever he wants, and leave just as easily. He is incredibly powerful, and prone to boredom. In Dungeons and Dragons, a powerful demigod, fiend, angel, planewalker, or wizard could be similar. Coming and going when your players least expect it, often leaving situations messier than they were before. Perhaps offering clues, or items to assist them when they really need it.

Other good ideas for recurring NPCs are: mysterious traveling merchant, shows up when and where he is least expected with strange curiosities for sale, a retired wizard who knows most of the lore of the land and will continue to tell stories to anyone who will listen, or a prince attempting to pass himself off as a commoner in order to connect better with his people.

Recurring NPCs are a great way to keep your players invested. You'll find that they wonder how world events affect their favourites, and try to meet up with them when they're in the area.  Create NPCs wherever your players go and make small note to yourself, and if your players return try to expand upon that character. Since player characters are prone to moving around frequently, think  about having powerful recurring NPCs that can teleport or appear when least expected. Lastly, minor NPCs can often be turned into major NPCs in a later adventure or campaign. This makes your players far more invested in the story.



Monday, July 27, 2015

Monday Non-Combat Magical Item #2 - Signal Tome

Signal Tome 

Wondrous item, uncommon

Many beings across the realms have heard of magical books in which a message quilled in one copy of the book, will appear, stroke for stroke, in the brother copy of the book. These books are a rather pedestrian invention, undoubtedly invented by some boring material world wizard who doesn't have a creative bone in his body. Everyone has heard of them so I'm not going to waste any time writing about them.

Signal Tomes, also known as Sig-Tomes or S.T. are much more interesting. No prime worlder is going to think of something like this. This was invented right here in Outland, in Sigil of course, where else? Whereas the common variety magic tomes allow communication in both directions of a grouped pair, Sig-Tomes are a distinctly one-way dialogue. 

The way these Signal Tomes work is pretty simple. Every book has a unique crest on the front, a small stamp fashioned in the shape of this crest can be fashioned, when this stamp is used on the top of a page in another's book, that page will forever be listening for the broadcast of the crest's original book. Your eyes just glazed over there for a bit, you don't get it do you? Alright, so you can go pay certain merchants, planewalkers, wizards and information dealers to stamp your book with the crest of broadcasters from the area. From them on, no matter your location in the multiverse, any broadcast made will show up in your book. It's a great way to stay informed on the goings on in the realms. Some broadcasters even make a fortune in royalties from the sale of their stamp if they get popular enough.

In my own book I've got the first few pages reserved for gossip amongst the different traders in sigil, a newsman by the name of z'ofdun runs that channel. Then I've got assorted pages for market price updates for rare books, spotlights on famous magic dealers (gotta keep up with the competition), and a very humorous djinni who's broadcast keeps me up to date with the latest news from the elemental planes. 

These books have been popular for eons in the planes,  but they've recently started appearing in the material realm. Some enterprising cragger has done what I should have done ages ago, brought a caravan to the prime and started hawkin' them to any soft-body with silver in his pocket and the ability to read (a disturbingly uncommon combination on many spheres of the material plane).

Since they've appeared on the prime I've heard tell of new broadcasters from powerful wizards, warlocks, retired planewalkers and the like. I've even heard tell of a rich king broadcasting from his castle to keep peasants, soldiers, and expatriates in the loop about the goings on of his royal court.

The books, although commonplace in the outer planes aren't yet well-known on the material plane. If you can get your hands on one I'd highly recommend it, not only is it a great way to stay informed on the latest news, magical advances and gossip, but it can be a great way for adventurers to find leads to, well adventures or whatever the Abyss you craggers do. 

Loug'wa
Proprietor of Loug'wa's Magical Curiosities, Rare Books, and Coffee 
Sigil, Outland. 
Near the gate to Limbo

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sunday Session Stories: The Dragon Riders Chapter 1

This post contains spoilers for Hoard of the Dragon Queen. The first session we had followed the first act of the book very closely, so I'm not going to discuss that much here. Check out last weeks Chapter 0 to see a basic introduction of the player characters.

Arromar could hardly believe his luck. Three days ago he had been just another worthless tiefling. He didn't exactly go unnoticed, his red skin, small horns and long tail prevented that. He didn't just want to be noticed, he wanted fame.

Bard college had ended months ago, lute playing, poetry, storytelling, they were all in Arromar's repertoire now. His problem was that he didn't have anything to sing about, no stories to tell or poems to write. Yes, there were the same old stories of dwarven kings reclaiming their mountain throne, and fat halflings realizing their true potential for thievery, but tavern patrons had heard them all before. Arromar didn't want to be another two-bit entertainer playing for his dinner to a bunch of drunks more interested in the skirts of the waitresses than the cleverness of his rhymes. He wanted, he needed, to be more than that.

Now, three days later, he was on the road with a motley crew consisting of two half-orcs, a race even more discriminated against than tieflings, a contemplative gnome, whom Arromar suspected was eating the mushrooms from his knapsack for a reason other than sustenance, and a brash half-elf paladin, who has seemed to take the position of leader. Each of the traveling companions wasn't sure what to think of the others, having been in each other's company for just over a day.

Arromar found it hard to believe it had been just one day. They'd found each other on the road, had a minor dispute about whether Feng, the incredibly strong, barbaric half-orc that the paladin Varis had been transporting in a cage, belong in a cage just on account of his race. That dispute was barely mended when they'd come upon the small farming village of Greenest. Fire and smoke made visibility poor, but they still managed to make out a blue dragon, assaulting the minor keep in the center of the village.

 The five of them, eager to make a name for themselves as adventurers had rushed into town. Kobolds and men in strange red robes were everywhere, but seemed to pay them little notice. They rescued a family with three teenage daughters from a bakery, and two young boys hiding in a stable. It all happened so fast, without having time to second-guess the likely foolhardy decision, they'd run towards the center of town, bringing their rescued victims to the very keep they'd seen assaulted by the dragon. The mayor had mentioned some sort of plan, but to Arromar, it looked like all hope was lost.

Alric, one of the half-orcs, and Varis went up to the roof to shoot their arrows at the dragon, which turned out to be a pointless waste of arrows. Perhaps the dragon had been growing bored of the siege, or perhaps he was incredibly sensitive, but when Arromar, not knowing what else to do, had started to play his lute and improvise rhyming couplets teasing the dragon with childish, schoolyard insults, the dragon flew away. The mayor and townspeople had declared Arromar a hero, cheering his name. This was why he went to bard college.

Although the five of them were treated as heroes, the night ended badly for Greenest. The majority of villagers were killed in the raid, and all of the town's valuables had been hauled away in big, wooden carts. The attackers, which they later found out to be dragon cultists, had left town towards the rising sun in the east.


Now they were tracking them, turns out Alric, the half-orc, was some sort of woodland ranger, and knew his way around the wilderness. Arromar couldn't believe they were willingly going towards such a large force, but whenever his fears came close to overcoming him, he'd think of the songs that would be sung about them. The songs he would sing about them. He kept marching, they were getting close. They'd sneak into the camp, blending in amongst the chaos, and figure out why Greenest had been attacked.