Temple of Deneir: Sleeper’s Rest

My dear adventurers have come across an ancient tome of unknown knowledge. The text seems to be in ancient abyssal, which none of the adventurers masters. Where do they go. They have heard that there is a Temple of Deneir called Sleeper’s Rest that have scribes capable of translating any text.

Sleeper’s Rest

The towering temple of Sleeper’s Rest is found on the top of the hill known as the Tranquil Rise. The square shaped temple is constructed of tan granite and at its apex reaches almost 40ft (12m). Its exterior is elaborately designed with intricate carvings and sculptures of religious stories related to Deneir, the One-Who-Sleeps and Oghma. The interior of the temple building are dominated by numerous bookshelves from floor to ceiling containing thousands of books and scrolls. The interior is sparsely lit, but orbs of continual light illuminates the main temple areas. Administering its services are the High Priest Serald Faraldin (7th level Cleric) and Fria Kinai, Master of the Library (6th level Monk). They are assisted by a dozen scribes. The venerable paladin Graut Hillsblade (6th level Paladin) and his six temple guardians (2nd level Fighters) are responsible for defence of the temple.

The temple of Sleeper’s Rest is dedicated to the deity of Deneir, The First Scribe. The temple scribes are constantly translating and copying texts from various languages. For a suitable donation to the temple, it is possible to have any text translated.

Small Calico cats (predominately white fur with patches of other colours) are seen moving around and inside the temple at all times.

Temple Services

Translations – the translation time for a scribe is usually 1-3 pages per day depending on the complexity of the language being translated. The usual donation would be 1gp per page translated.

Copy service – a scribe can copy an existing text at the pace of 15-30 pages per day depending on the complexity of the text and language. The usual donation would be 30s per page translated.

 The One-Who-Sleeps

Beneath the sanctuary are the catacombs famous (requires successful DC 16 Religion check) for housing the One-Who-Sleeps. The temple is a place of pilgrimage and there can usually be found 1D6-1 pilgrims that have come to visit the One-Who-Sleeps.

For the last 200 years the One-Who-Sleeps has slept. Once he was a renowned scribe and teacher at the temple, until one fine day, when he rose up in front of his students and announced. “It is time for me to sleep now. When I awaken, all the secrets of this world, and every other, will be known to me. I will share all that I have learned”. And with that the Sleeper lay down and closed his eyes. The sleeper lays on a wooden bed behind a locked door in the catacomb. The room is maintained and kept warm by the High Priest Serald and the temple scribes. The nature of the sleep is divine in nature, and thus the sleeper requires neither food or water.

Defence and Layout

The now venerable paladin Graut Hillsblade (L5 Paladin) serves as the chief guardian of the temple along with six dedicated temple guardians (L2 Fighter) In the event of an attack on the temple, the scribes themselves are no strangers to violence as part of their daily routines include physical unarmed combat under the tutelage of Fria Kinai, Master of the Library .  There is always 1-2 temple guardians stationed in the Guard tower with a good view of the hill and the surroundings.

The temple encompass the following buildings:

  • The main temple and shrine, writing alcoves, library, priest and monk’s living quarters , guarded entrance to the catacombs.
  • The bookbindery workshop
  • Barracks of the Temple Guards
  • Guard tower with a great view of surroundings
  • Stables, storage shed
  • House dedicated for pilgrims and visitors, very humble

Adventure Hooks

The temple is known for its ability to translate almost any language. The adventurers could journey to the temple to get a text translated. It is up to the DM if the scribes are actually available or if the adventurers will have to wait for a scribe to become available.

The One-Who-Sleeps below in the catacombs must be transported to another temple of Deneir by order of the Deneir Priesthood. The adventurers are assigned to arrange the transportation.

The temple is attacked while the adventurers are waiting for their texts to be translated.

One of the pilgrims that is currently visiting the temple, is an assassin sent out to kill the One-Who-Sleeps. The assassin about to kill the sleeper is interrupted by one of the scribes who promptly gets killed. Gaut locks down the temple. The adventurers must help find the assassin before he strikes again.

NPCs

High Priest Serald Faraldin – Serald is 49 years old. 5’7” tall, 100lbs., silver grey hair and beard, brown eyes. Serald is very calm and slow act, he prefers to listen rather than to talk. He holds his own council. He is admires Fria greatly and values her friendship. Graut and Serald are old friends and usually share dinner.

Cleric (AC: 12, 7th level, HP 38, speed 30ft, Proficiency: +3) STR 13(+1) DEX 11(0) CON 13(+1) INT 13(+1) WIS 15(+2) CHA 11(0)). He wears white robes with glyph decorated tan lining, bracers of defence, Masterwork Dagger and a large tome. 23gp 19sp in pouch.
Skills: Religion +5, Arcana +4, Investigation +4, Perception +2
Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven, Gnome, Celestial
Spellcasting: 7th level cleric. Spellcasting ability wisdom, DC 12 (+5). 9 prepared spells. Channel divinity to Read Thoughts

Cantrips (at will): Guidance, Mending, Spare the Dying, Thaumaturgy
1st Level (4): Command, identify, Cure wounds, Protection from evil
2nd level (3): Zone of truth, lesser restoration, Augury
3rd level (3): Spirit guardians, dispel magic
4th level (1): Guardian of Faith, Banishment

Fria Kunai, Master of the Library – Fria is a beautiful half-elf woman at 5’8, athletic build. Her auburn hair is drawn into a tight pony tail inlaid with coloured ribbons. Her bare shoulders and arms are tattooed with various circular patterns snaking around elven letters. As Master of the Library she takes personal care of the writings in the temple. Every sunrise she trains the scribes in unarmed combat outside the temple. She is very content with working at the temple and enjoys the company of Serald.

Monk (AC: 16. 6th level, HP 25, speed 40ft, Attacks: #2, Proficiency +3) STR 11 (+0) DEX 16(+3) CON 9 (-1), INT 11 (0) WIZ 14 (+2) CHA 9 (-1). Fria wears a loose plain white pants, a tan tunic, a ring of protection +1, Quarterstaff +1 w. light
Languages: Common, Elven, Celestial, Gnome, Draconic
Skills: Acrobatics +5, History +3, Insight +3, Perception +2
Ki points: 6, Unarmed damage 1D6+3 (+6 to hit), Flurry of Blows (ki 1): 2 extra unarmed attacks as bonus action , Patient Defence (ki 1): Dodge as bonus action, Deflect missiles: reduce missile damage 1D10+9, Stunning strike (ki 1): DC 13 Con or stun, Ki-empowered strikes: unarmed strikes counts as magical

Graut Hillsblade – Graut is an old (65 years) Paladin that has sworn the Oath of Devotion. He has retired from his wandering years and now serves as the First defender of the temple. His six temple guardians are handpicked, and he has strong bond with each one of them. Despite continuous healing and divine energy, his age begins to show. The armour is getting heavy to wear, and he finds himself handling his short sword more often than his greatsword. He resent people who mock his age and will challenge those to random contests of strength and skill. He has a strong sense of loyalty to the Temple and the other inhabitants. He would give his life protecting the One-Who-Sleeps.

Devotion Paladin (AC: 18 Full Plate, 6th level, HP 37, Speed 30ft, Attacks #2, Proficiency +3) STR 16(+3) DEX 11(0) CON 16(+3) INT(+1) WIS(+2) CHA(+2). Graut usually wears a white tunic with symbol of Deneir over his polished full plate armor, he carries his large Greatsword of Vengeance +1 on his back, and a short sword +2  at his side. 15gb 29sp
Languages: Common, Goblin
Skills: Athletics +6, Intimidation +5, Perception +5
Spellcasting Save DC 13, Spell Attack +5, 5 spells prepared

1st level (4): Cure wounds, heroism, Shield of faith
2nd level (2): branding smite, Aid
Aura of Protection, Immune to disease, Lay on hands (30hp), Divine Smite, Sacred weapon

Temple Guardians (6), Fighter (AC: 17 Chainmail and shield, 2nd level, HP 17, Speed 30ft, Proficiency +2) STR 12 (+1) DEX 11 (0) CON 15(+2) INT 9 (-1) WIS 10 (0) CHA 9 (-1). The Temple Guardians all wear chain mail under their tanned tunics marked with the symbol of Deneir. They are armed with spears and shields and  they all have a light crossbow with 10 quarrels. The lieutenant is also armed with a rapier and draped in a white cloak. They have 4D6 sp on their person
Languages: Common; Skills: Athletics +3, Perception +1
Combat: Spear +3 (1D6+1), Light Crossbow +2 (1D8), Rapier +3 (1D8+1)

Scribes of Deneir (10), Monk (AC: 12, 1st level, HP 8, Speed 30ft, Proficiency +2) STR 9 (-1) DEX 12(+1) CON 10(0) INT 10(0) WIS 12(+1) CHA 9(-1). The scribes are all dressed in simple tan robes and sandals. They have a number of pouches with scribing equipment and inks. They all carry daggers in their belts along with 3D6 sp
Languages: Common, all known languages spread out between them
Skills: Religion +3, Arcana +2, Investigation +3
Combat: Unarmed damage +3 (1D4+1)

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The Unscrupulous Wizard: Message

There are countless spells that an unscrupulous wizard can abuse. Lets have a look at the cantrip Message.

Message, Cantrip, Range: 120ft

You point your finger toward a creature within range and whisper a message. The target (and only the target) hears the message and can reply in a whisper that only you can hear.
You can cast this spell through solid Objects if you are familiar with the target and know it is beyond the barrier. Magical Silence, 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood blocks the spell. The spell doesn’t have to follow a straight line and can travel freely around corners or through openings.

The Stalker

Today in the modern world the cell phones can be quiet annoying. People sending SMS or calling at weird hours. If you have ever been the target of a stalker, you also know that after just a short while this becomes very irritating and even scary. Luckily for us we can block numbers or turn off the phone. There is no such ward against Message. Also there is nothing stating that the target will actually know it is originating from the wizard. An unfamiliar whisper can be hard to recognise. Furthermore there are no ways to avoid it or save against it and since it is a cantrip, the lowliest of low wizards can cast it all night long. That gives me the shivers.Gríma_Wormtongue

The wizard could potentially sneak around the unsuspecting victim at night and send whispers. Granted, the wizard have to be nearby but 120ft still leaves a good margin to skulk around. And it is more fun to see the victim slowly turning mad. How many days would it require to totally break down someone with whispers around the clock. Not long I would imagine. The poor victim would have to seek out a Wizard or perhaps the village priest for help, a potential adventure hook.

What could an unscrupulous hope to accomplish?

Drive the victim mad or even slowly implant certain thoughts combined with a Deception. A slow but methodical brainwash. “Sell the house, leave the house, marry your daughter with a suitor, kill someone”?

And how would a target react to have these whispers while sleeping?

This cantrip in our own world would be extremely powerful in the wrong hands and could be used as such in a fantasy setting.

Now lets have a look at the next cantrip in the Unscrupulous Wizard’s repertoire: Minor Illusion.

Minor Illusion, Cantrip, Range: 30ft

You create a sound or an image of an object within range that lasts for the Duration. The Illusion also ends if you dismiss it as an action or cast this spell again.

If you create a sound, its volume can range from a whisper to a scream. It can be your voice, someone else’s voice, a lion’s roar, a beating of drums, or any other sound you choose. The sound continues unabated throughout the Duration, or you can make discrete sounds at different times before the spell ends.

If you create an image of an object – such as a chair, muddy footprints, or a small chest – it must be no larger than a 5-foot cube. The image can’t create sound, light, smell, or any other sensory effect. Physical interaction with the image reveals it to be an Illusion, because things can pass through it.

If a creature uses its action to examine the sound or image, the creature can determine that it is an Illusion with a successful Intelligence (Investigation) check against your spell save DC. If a creature discerns the Illusion for what it is, the Illusion becomes faint to the creature.

Whisper is a powerful cantrip to mentally terrorise someone, and Minor Illusion is even more so even if the range is slightly limited to 30ft. There is no mentioning in the spell description if the spell requires line of sight. I would assume that the wizard can place it pretty much anywhere within range, especially if it is a sound. Its duration is only a minute but being a cantrip it can be recast again and again to properly frighten the target.

The Minor Illusion can be used to strengthen the effect of Message with a visual component. If the wizard knows what the target is afraid of, or abhors, that can be used to create even more powerful illusions. For example the target keeps a clean house, add maggots, lice, mould dirt to already cleaned areas. This will likely send the target scrubbing and scrubbing all night. It won’t take much of an effort for the target to start doubting his or her sanity.

The spell is also excellent in discrediting someone of shifting blame. For example there has been a murder in town, add the illusion of a bloodstain appearing on a target. Even if they figure out it is not real, doubt has been planted; perhaps it is a manifestation of guilt? Even if a target sees through the illusion, they will most likely not know it is a spell and who cast it unless a successful arcana check is passed. Highly unlikely unless adventurer or highly educated.

What if that precious item of your suddenly starts to whisper, attract spiders and cockroaches – perhaps it is time to sell it or bury it deep in the backyard!

Minor Illusion does not require any verbal commands, so this one is even more stealthy than the Message cantrip.

Keep them up all night with dancing lights:

Dancing Lights, Cantrip, Range: 120ft

You create up to four torch-sized lights within range, making them appear as torches, lanterns, or glowing orbs that hover in the air for the Duration. You can also combine the four lights into one glowing vaguely humanoid form of Medium size. Whichever form you choose, each light sheds dim light in a 10-foot radius.

As a Bonus Action on Your Turn, you can move the lights up to 60 feet to a new spot within range. A light must be within 20 feet of another light created by this spell, and a light winks out if it exceeds the spell’s range.

The Cantrip Dancing Lights also allows a unscrupulous wizard to keep a target awake during the night and seriously doubt their sanity. A dancing light in the corner of the ceiling in the shape of head is bound to create a scare and combine it with Message and Minor Illusion for stronger effect.

There are a few more cantrips:

Mold Earth – allows to do create shapes or writing in the stone that lasts up to an hour. Potential uses: write short scary messages such as “Leave” or “Yield” or whatever suits the desired outcome. Subtle dire symbols, monster shapes can be used. Relatively short range but very stealthy as it requires only gesticulation on the wizard’s part.

Prestidigitation – Allows the wizard to do many interesting things such as making a targets food or drink taste like pee, blood or similar. It is relatively short range, only 10ft (should be enough in a Tavern) so that would limit its use slightly if the wizard wishes to remain undetected.

The above spells combined with Stealth, Intimidation, Persuasion, and Deception can create a very nasty novice wizard. Sometimes it is not about direct confrontation – since most cantrips would kill a non-adventurer in one or two strikes and with very little material evidence. 

It would be interesting to create a very interesting low-level wizard NPC that bullies and deceives a small village. The effects on the villagers could be huge.

Thoughts?

 

Session 1 – Prisoners

Today we played our first session in the new Neverwinter campaign. I choose to start the adventure in medias res to quickly reintroduce the concept of the mechanics quickly instead of starting with (the usually) awkward describing the characters to each other.

For inspiration I’ve used Runehammer’s excellent video on room design, more specifically Prisoners of Molok. In our version the players have been captured by a mad alchemist – Vivecca the Scarlet Alchemist and her seven derro. In their underground lair they are using an unholy machine that uses gelatinous cubes to dissolve trolls in to a very potent slime that can be used to reanimate the dead, and if further distilled as a somewhat disgusting but useful Potion of Regeneration.

Vivecca the Scarlet Alchemist herself is connected to the Thayans in Neverwinter as the player will find out as they make their escape through her various underground laboratories. Her dungeon is a couple of stringed room encounters designed to help the new players understand the rules, get some action and use their wits to manage. The combat encounters themselves was not especially dangerous – yet proved lethal when one of the characters decided to go toe-to-toe with a gelatinous cube as a level 1.

Following is a quick outline of the encounters that I used:

1. Prison Room

The players start out as prisoners, naked and without any equipment. They are shackled to a wall in rusty manacles and as they wake up from unconsciousness they witness a tall pale skinned woman dressed in a scarlet robes observing them from a distance. Gathered around her are seven dwarves, that upon closer inspection actually are derro. She orders the derro to handle the latest batch of prisoners, singling out humans, dwarves and halflings to be brought to the labs, while any other species are to be disposed of. Still weak, the players watch the woman along with the derro leave. Two ghoulish servitors approach the party. They grab an elf NPC, and drags him screaming towards a deep and drop him down a deep cleft. They turn towards the PCs.. ROLL INITIATIVE!

The players need to figure out how to escape their cages and prepare to fight the ghouls unless they want to be killed or worse. Scattered around the chamber are chests and crates containing some of the players equipment. They are able to retrieve their armor, their primary weapon and a few random item. I also introduced an NPC here that survived to help the party along and to feed them information.

This encounter is a directly inspired from Runehammer’s prisoners of Molok.

My players approached this encounter very carefully. Being slightly underpowered in the initial fights made them fear the ghoulish servitors even when they had retrieved their gear. This led to a very interesting approach, trying to use the environment and other smart solutions to defeat the enemies.

2. The Troll Room

The players free from their prison follow the sound of screaming through twisting corridors to a large chamber. In the middle of the chamber is a troll suspended in chains from the ceiling. Below the screaming troll is a large pool containing a gelatinous cube that is already enveloping his lower body and slowly dissolving him. Positioned around the pool are ghoulish servitors that scrape off the gelatinous cube to allow the troll to regenerate. A lone derro stands upon a balcony overseeing the operation. The tormented screams of the troll makes stealthy approach possible. Metal pipes are connected from the pool leading out into the next chamber.

A straight up combat encounter that introduces elevation and difficult terrain into the mix. The lone derro will try to flee when detecting the party, but must first manage to unlock a door with his key. If he escapes he will alert the two derro in the next room. There are a few chests in the room allowing the players to scavenge for equipment. I used equipment such as flint & tinder, rope etc.

This is as far as my group got on the first session. Room 1 took about an hour and the second room about 45 minutes. The players was trying lots of different things, exploring the chambers instead of quickly advancing. The party managed to stop the derro from fleeing into the workshop but they did kill the troll by releasing him from his chains into the pool with the gelatinous cube. In its weakened state the troll was engulfed and dissolved quickly. With the silence of the troll, the nearby derro’s in the workshop started out to investigate… 

3. The Workshop

Two derros are busy and bent over what seems to be an alchemist laboratory. They are filling up a greenish slime (refined troll-gel) into small vials. The players will be able to get they by surprise if the Troll is still screaming. If they released the troll – or killed it, they will go out to investigate if it fell silent.

This is an easy combat situation and is mostly about the players figuring out the connection between the slime and the regenerative troll blood. They will be able to find a six-pack of troll juice (will regenerate 1D4 HP / round for 5 rounds) if they have the stomach to drink it. In our campaign I’ve also placed a few letters to tie Vivecca with Neverwinter and the Thay faction.

4. Machines of Vivecca

The large chamber is smokey and have thick rotting sweet smell in the air. Two large machines dominates the center of the chamber and thick pipes connects them to each other and to the previous troll chamber. The machine are making loud noises, and belches noxious puffs of smoke now and then. In front of each machine is a derro operating the machine. Two ghoulish servitors are duly feeding the machines with coal.

Once combat starts in here, roll 1D4 and use it as a timer. After rolled number of rounds, one of the machines belches out a large toxic cloud. Players caught in it will need to succeed a DC12 constitution check.

This encounter is directly inspired from Runehammer’s second Molok video – Machines of Molok

5. The Turning Room

This chamber is filled with apparatus, tubes and barrels along the walls. The far end of the room is separated by large metal cage. Inside the cage are two ragged humans chained to the wall. Two ghouls have the first prisoner in an iron grip, forcing his mouth open while a derro dressed in a dirty leather apron with a large sack on his back is forcing a tube down his throat. The tube is connected to the sack on his back and with the player entering he starts to pump something into the prisoner. This is another use of the troll juice. It kills the prisoner who then reanimates as a ghoulish servitor. The remaining prisoner screams for mercy.

The derro and his ghouls have locked themselves into the cage. The players will have to force the cage or use ranged attacks/magic to save the prisoner before it is too late. Use 1D4 as a timer.

6. Barracks, Kitchen, Latrine, Living Area and Library

This area is the living area of the Derro. It is dirty and nasty and not really anything exciting is here. It can be used to find some equipment or more information about Vivecca and her minions. Investigation is a useful skill here. The library contains several coded books on Viveccas research written in undercommon.

7. The Giant Skeleton

This very huge chamber contains a large skeleton of a giant suspended along the wall. A balacony runs along the walls two meters up. The balcony is reached by a set of stairs in the other end of the chamber. Two derros clad in leather aprons and troll juice backpacks flanks the giant skeleton on the balcony. As the players enter the chamber they both starts to hose down the skeleton with the juice. It is only a matter of rounds before the giant skeleton turns into a giant and very dangerous ghoul.

On the ground floor are four large coffin like machines along each wall. They start to hum and crank and from a random (roll 1D4) machine emerges a ghoulish servitor merged with various metal plates and weapons (e.g. blades instead of hands) every other round. These ghouls will lumber slowly toward the closest target and attack. The ghouls will keep spawning until the machine it self is destroyed. Now where will the players focus their attention?

The giant will be animated in 8 rounds…

This room encounter is inspired by The Tabletop Terror’s channel invasion of Runehammer, an excellent video.

8. Vivecca the Scarlet Alchemist

The last encounter is a chance for the players to fight Vivecca herself – a potent caster. I have not yet determined the design but I hope to make it memorable as well. Most likely it will be Vivecca as a spellcaster with a meatshield of ghoulish servitors.

 

Final note. It was extremely fun to run the first two encounters for the group. I imagine that we’ll handle another two encounters on the next session and after that we need to step up the actual role-playing a little bit to make sure it doesn’t get too combat focused.

A Neverwinter Campaign

In our Session Zero the other week I prodded my players about their interest and aspirations for the game and we started the character creation. Based on the session I decided to go with the 4E Neverwinter campaign setting. The Neverwinter city itself and the surrounding area have many interesting highlights ripe with good story elements, but what I really like is the composition of the various factions along with the suggested character themes. It is a sureway of getting the characters integrated early on into the campaign, and I really like the story to be about the characters and not just a villain and a setting.

We will be playing 5E so most of the character theme mechanics will be wholly dropped – it is all about the fluff and the roleplaying. In our follow-up session, the warlock character naturally selected to go with the Devil’s Pawn theme and it looks like the Dragonborn Paladin or Half-elf ranger might go for the Spellplagued Harbringer.

I am now in the middle of getting up to speed on the setting, planning and preparing the first adventure. I’ll use an adapted version of Runehammer’s Prison of Morlok to start the campaign in medas res… Once that is going I’ll focus more on the Neverwinter setting and the actual campaign.

Session Zero for a new campaign!

Today we have started up a new D&D 5E campaign at work with me at DM and three co-workers. Our goal for the session was to start creating characters and talk a little about the expectations of the game ahead. Most of the players have not played RPG since the 90s as youngsters and myself is a little rough around the edges when it comes to D&D. They all have some familiarity with CRPGs such as Baldur’s Gate so they were naturally drawn to Forgotten Realms rather than any other setting. I am ok with that even though I personally wanted to explore the dark setting of Symbaroum.

For character creation we did it old school – roll 4D6 and remove the lowest dice for each stat. Once done, they were allowed to swap places with one stat. It was very fun since it helped them choose a class based on the dice. We ended up with a Dragonborn Paladin, a Tiefling Warlock of the Fiend and an Half-elf Ranger. Should be an interesting mix especially the RP tension between the warlock and the paladin. We actually never managed to finish the character creation in the two hours we had available. Next time we’ll go into backgrounds, skills and equipment. Might take us sometime to get the game off the ground – but it is all about the journey together and not the end.

Based on our first session  I don’t think this group will focus on the roleplaying initially, but I might be wrong. I’ll slowly nudge and prod until I can get them talking in character of their own accord.

Getting your adventure fit for publishing

I’ve been collecting and reading old D&D adventures for quite some time, and I always find it interesting that some adventures are quite memorable from a gameplay perspective, but totally misses out on readability and presentation (Lendard Lakofka’s L1, L2 and L3 comes into mind). The excellent blog – Chaotic Henchmen Productions – have a few really good posts on how to improve your adventure writing:

More tips can be found on their blog!

Barrowmaze and Inkarnate

In preparation for running the mega-dungeon Barrowmaze, I created a player map of the Duchy of Aerik using the excellent webtool Inkarnate.

Inkarnate is super easy to use and can produce excellent maps. Why don’t you give it a whirl? I have only messed with it a little bit and have not been able to improve the resolution when exporting the map which is a little discerning but no show stopper.

I was able to produce the following map in less than an hour… I might make a new version skipping the hexagons and removing the icon representing the actual maze as it is for the players.

Barrowmoor_map

Hexcrawling and other resources

I am currently reading up on various ways of playing RPG, game modes if you will and “hexcrawling” has peaked my interest. It’s main focus is exploration rather than a prepared story line.

I’ve gathered a few hex-crawling resources below for future reference:

On Hexcrawling Design

* HEX-BASED CAMPAIGN DESIGN (PART 1)
* HEX-BASED CAMPAIGN DESIGN (PART 2

Hex Templates

Wilderness Travel in hexcrawls

From my understanding groups that play hexcrawl campaign are very interested in detailed logistics around travel and exploration. Personally I think it gets a little bit too detailed and mechanical – but then again my gaming experience is more on the story and emotional side of things.

* Hexcrawl (The Alexandrian blog) (blog article from 2012
* Hexcrawl – Part 2: Wilderness Travel (The Alexandrian Blog)

Campaign creation

Finally an interesting take on creating campaigns, not necessarily related to hexcrawling:

MID-SIZE CAMPAIGNS (PART 1) | PART 2 | PART 3

First Part of The Murky Cellar

In this series of slowly adding to the dungeon and encounter The Murky Cellar I’ve added descriptions of the first area. The cellar itself.

Theme & Intro

I did design the cellar to be used as an introduction to my new players and to give them an easy way of getting into roleplaying games and a first taste of combat. It is intended to be old school dungeon crawling.

The Murky Cellar should feel like a dungeon encounter that makes the player feel like an uninvited guest exploring a cold murky cellar. It is rather low fantasy – and intended for new players needing to get their first combat encounter going.

The encounter is system agnostic, so use stats and mechanics from whatever system you are using.

Also adjust the number of goblins to suit your group and your level of difficulty. For my group of players I aimed to have 2 goblins per player at the most.

The Manor of the Silvermanes

For many years the manor was the home to a noble family, The Silvermanes. They ruled the area surrounding their manor  and for a long time they ran several farms and even a profitable silver mine. Some decades ago a terrible disease plagued the region causing most of the people left the region in fear of the disease. The Silvermane family unwisely decided to stay braving the disease. One by one they contracted the deadly disease. The family head buried their dead in the family crypts below the manor. Finally the last lord, Ruric Silvermane, locked himself down in the crypt as he felt the disease take hold of him.

The Silvermanes and their land was soon forgotten and as time passed the manor decayed and crumbled. In the last decade various goblin clans moved into the cellars below the manor. They have been unable to open the entrance to the family crypts. The goblins have dug a passageway from the cellar into the nearby cave system.

ruinen_cellar2

Room Descriptions – The Cellar

1. The Stairway

The stairs spirals down into the darkness, the only light comes from whatever the players bring. The stairway leads down to an old wine cellar. The narrow passage east is lined on the north and south by inset shelves. The stone walls are damp and slimy.

Trigger – as soon as the player reaches the bottom of the stairs, roll 1D4. That is how long they have before 1D4 goblins turn up from their lair to investigate. I suggest you roll the D4 openly to add a little suspense. Something will soon happen…

If the player sneaks or moves stealthy, they will remain undetected. If they cause any ruckus the goblins will be prepared for them and spring an ambush…

2. The Manor Wine Cellar

From the narrow passage it opens up into a larger cellar. Two large broken ale barrels dominates the center of the room and the broken remains of wine shelves line all four walls. A large double stone door sits in the eastern wall. Wooden debris is scattered all over the room. Several unlit oil lamps hangs in chains from the domed ceiling. There is a strong musty smell down here of sweat and possibly urine.

As the players move further into the room, they will also become aware of stairs in the western wall leading down. It is only a couple of steps down, half a floor or approx 5-7ft.

Creatures:

Depending on the trigger in the previous room, the goblins is likely to appear from the stairs. It is a generic fight with the goblins having a low damage output and health (max dagger damage). Combat here will alert additional goblins (In 1D4 rounds another 1D4 goblins arrive).

In my initial play test I let the goblins spawn until the players moved down into room 3, to put a little pressure on the players. They quickly realized they needed to advance quickly. This makes the encounter a little bit more than just a standard combat.

Treasure:

Most of the wine in the cellar has already been looted but a persistent search could yield results. Difficult perception checks required to find 1D3 bottles of fine brandy. Could be valuable to the right buyer.

3. The Goblin Lair

The small staircase leads to a large room. It is unclear what it was once used for as there are now debris and straw mats all over the floor. A number of chests and barrels is in north east corner contains goblin supplies. Lines are strung across the room from which various small dead animals are hung. The smell of goblin is prevalent in this room. A closed heavy wooden door is in the western wall.

The smell of urine and feces is stronger near the hole. The smell comes from the goblins privy (area 10).

The wooden door is blocked from the other side (see area 4)

Creatures:

The goblin clan sleeps and eats here.

5 filthy flea ridden goblins is in here and when they heard the combat from the wine cellar they prepared for a fight. They will attack en masse and try to swarm the first player that enters. When half their number are killed or incapacitated they will either try to flee towards the cave tunnels or beg for mercy.

Note that regardless of the amount of goblins spawned in the previous room there are 5 goblins left.

Combat twist – the lines that the goblins have stringed across the room to dry meat will act as hinder for a human sized character, only half movement allowed. Goblins, halflings, dwarfs and other small folk moves as normal.

Treasures:

Scattered around the floor are 3D6 copper coins, lizard and rat meat. The goblin supply crates contains:

1D4         Contents

  1. A small weapon – dagger, club, short sword etc
  2. A light piece of armor – leather boots, leather cap – smelly and nasty
  3. Goblin Rations – dried mystery meat (most likely rat or lizard)
  4. Treasure – A potion, some coins or a cheap gem.

4. Goblin Chieftain’s Room

The door is barred from the inside. The spineless chieftain Olegg Birdmuncher and his bodyguard blocked the door with debris. The players will have to manage a strength check to force the door open. Two characters will fit working the door at the same time.

Creative players might use debris to create a battering ram or similar. Reward creativity!

As the players bash down the door, the two goblins that barred the door are flung to the floor (giving the players initiative).

The smell of decaying meat in here is almost overpowering. Like the previous rooms the floor is littered with debris and broken shelves. Along the west wall are three big cadavers strung up on the wall in various state of decay. A big meat cleaver is stuck into one of them. Slabs of cut meat are piled around them, A rather fat wide eyed-goblin wielding a metal staff watches the players in horror as they enter. Some makeshift furniture are arranged in the northern part of the room, including the chieftains treasure chest.

Creatures:

The Goblin chieftain Olegg Birdmuncher will fight to the death if the player’s attack along with his two bodyguards. Give Olegg double HP and double damage compared to normal goblins. His two body guards should also have a slightly higher damage (+1?) and 20% more HP.

Treasure:

  • Olegg’s Staff – A long 1.5m iron staff. Closer examination reveals that one end is cut as a hexagon. Leather straps and bird feathers adorn the top. Olegg found this staff in the cellar when they moved in. It is actually the “key” to the double door in area 2.
  • Olegg’s treasure chest – It is trapped. If a player opens the chest without succeeding with a perception/detect traps it will trigger. As the lid is opened rusty nails spring out from the lid doing 1D3 HP. Metal gloves fully protects the opener. Inside are a dozen small colored rocks that Olegg found pretty. An ebony flute, two empty but beautiful wine bottles. 4D6 copper coins and 2D6 silver coins.

And that is all for today. The caves and the crypt will be added to next…

Updated Murky Cellar Map

After my first play test of the Murky Cellar, I discovered that I had to make a few changes to better accommodate the combat and encounter I wanted.

I’ve increased the passages from 1 square to 2 squares to make it less narrow. Narrow could be interesting for specific claustrophobic encounters.. Secondly I moved the opening to the cave from the first cellar room to the second. In my encounter I allowed the dice to spawn new goblins coming from room 3 and move up to room 2 to stress the player in their combat a little. Having the hole there served more as a distraction at this point.

Finally I also added a stream to the natural cave for the goblins to find some water…

ruinen_cellar2

Sadly the play test encounter resulted in the party fleeing the cellar… I will have to work on the balancing of the encounter.

Stay tuned…