Character Portrait – Chojen

Warrior Monk

Alas, poor Chojen Morg. After Thelisn the bodak fell to the servants of Gulthias within the Heart of Nightfang Spire, I brought in Chojen. He was human, a former thief and rogue who had repented of his ways and taken up a life of service to the gods. Serving in a monastary near Daggerdale, the companions of Silverhall rescued Chojen when he and others had been taken by an evil cult.

To repay the debt, he offered his service to them. That service was sadly all to short. Soon after the companions re-entered Nightfang Spire, he fell victim to an undiscovered trap in the floor, sliding him down over a sharp blade and then flinging him out the side of the tower. Having no ranks in fly, he plummeted to his death at the base of the Spire. 

I was sad to lose Chojen, especially so shortly after losing Thelisn (twice). The character concept of a thief-monk multi-class was one that really appealed to me. I’m bummed I never got a chance to really explore what he was capable of. At some  point I would like to run a new character that’s similar in concept. We’ll see.

Character Portrait – Venjor, Cleric of Pelor

Venjor

Venjor Carix was a cleric of Pelor. I brought him in for a module that Andy ran a few years back. This was a bit after I had run the Speaker in Dreams module, set in the town of Brindinford. In the Wyrmfang Chronicles, I placed Brindinford in the region west of Cormyr, just the other side of the Stormhorns.

Venjor was a background NPC during the Speaker in Dreams (Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Module). He was a minor cleric in the temple of Pelor. At that time in the Wyrmfang Chronicles campaign world, the Black Talons had supplanted the Purple Dragons as the soldier force of Cormyr. The surviving Purple Dragons who would not covert and hadn’t already been imprisoned fled the land. Some fled east to Silverhall. Others fled west to Brindinford. 

Those who fled to Brindinford learned the Black Talons were mounting another force to come west. The goal was to take their city and recapture the escaped Dragons. Seeking help, emissaries were sent to neighboring lands to seek aid in defending against. Venjor travelled south to the city of Westmarch, where Andy’s module was based, hoping to find aid. Instead he found that Westmarch was facing troubles of it’s own. 

My memory is a bit hazy on Venjor’s fate. It was about 15 years ago now, but I believe he did survive to return to Brindinford, though I cannot say if he succeeded in bringing any aid with him. And we have not revisited that part of the world since. Perhaps someday we might return. But who can say?

Side note: Venjor was often mistyped as Vejnor. Also, the pronounciation is ‘Vey-nor’, not ‘Ven-ger’. 

D&December 2017 – Rapid Fire: W4D4-Trinkets/Treasures, W4D6-Forbidden Knowledge, W4D7-Spell/Item

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Nothing like waiting til the last minute for the last three topics I didn’t get done. So here we go in rapid fire succession. Trinkets & Treasures, Forbidden Knowledge and Favorite Spell/Item. 

Favorite Trinkets & Treasures

As a DM, my favorite treasure items are those that have a bit of a cursed trait to them. Or at least some significant downside anyway. Any adventure I run has to have a couple of cursed items. Well, during my first foray as DM it was a LOT of cursed items. Don’t worry, I’ve toned it way down since then. Now, in cursed items, I’m including any item that has a significant downside to it, not just those specifically defined as cursed. For instance, it may be a long sword +2, but it might also be an intelligent sword. And that sword is prone to lecturing the player in a condescending tone on their fighting techniques the entire time it is wielded. This would force the player to make a save every round or have a penalty to hit that round. I find those kinds of items to be far more fun than a straight up cursed item.

Forbidden Knowledge

My character Delban is an expert on forbidden knowledge. During their adventure in Ravenloft, Delban stole a Tome of Evil from Lord Soth’s castle, using it’s knowledge to advance his skills. The end result was that he left the party and became an NPC for a few years, serving as one of the bad guys when I ran the Speaker in Dreams adventure. He later found that Soth wasn’t too happy with the theft and tracked Delban down to his tower outside of Brindonford. The knowledge and power of the Tome was ripped from him and Delban was forced to flee into PC status for the City of the Spider Queen campaign.

There’s a reason that forbidden knowledge is forbidden. Leave it there. So says Delban. Learn from Delban. Don’t be like Delban.

Favorite Spell or Item

I’ve already discussed my favorite spell in a previous post. So this time I’ll talk about two of my favorite items, one magical and the other not.

First, my favorite magic item is the Deck of Many Things. This is a classic D&D item. You find a deck of strange cards. Drawing a card at random provides a magical effect of some sort, as often bad as good. There are many variations on the Deck and each DM tends to create their own version when called upon. When I was running my dwarven cleric Gogun Elfcrusher, he drew several times from the Deck we found in White Plume Mountain. Among the effects was he grew to about 6′ tall and grew a third eye on the back of his neck. Everyone started calling him “The Gogun”.

Of course, he was also the one that found one of the Keraptis scrolls and learned how to cast fireballs. A minor secondary effect was that he eventually come to believe he was Keraptis. He was last seen vanishing into the night from Silverhall, taking Whelm and the Keraptis reborn baby with him into the forests of the Dalelands.

My favorite mundane item is rope. What’s not to like about rope? It’s the handiest and most useful non-magical item in the game. Everything from descending into pits to tying up wizards so that the barbarian can cut their head off when we tell him to “bag the wizard”. Every character I’ve ever created carries 50′ or 100′ of silk rope. It’s always the first thing I buy when I create them.

 

So there you have it. My rapid fire coverage of the last three topics for DnDecember 2017. Hope you enjoyed it. Time to get back to some other things.

D&December 2017 – W4D5 – Divine Magic – Fixing the Cleric Class

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Divine magic is a part of Dungeons & Dragons that I think many of us have a love/hate relationship with. Running a cleric in an adventure can be both the most enjoyable and the most frustrating thing, sometimes at the same time.

Clerics have an interesting feature set associated with them. They are the primary healers of the party. They excel in defending against undead creatures. They also have decent capabilities in melee combat.

But it’s their capacity for divine magic that is the most frustrating and awesome characteristic of the class. The cleric has some amazing offensive and general purpose spells. Few things are as satisfying as a well placed Flame Strike spell. And their buff and defensive spells are often the difference between a brutal combat and a survivable one.

Oh Mighty Vending Machine
Oh Cleric, Mighty Vending Machine of Healing
Oh Cleric, Mighty Vending Machine of Healing

Unfortunately, during combat the cleric is all too often relegated to the role of healing vending machine. Most rounds they have to devote their energies to healing bursts or converting their other prepared spells into cure spells for the warrior or paladin or bard who are flinging themselves wildly at the enemies.

It can be a frustrating place for a player who wants to have a more active role in combat encounters. You know that if you don’t keep your companions on their feet, they will die. And then you will die.

You want to toss out that Spiritual Weapon, or lay down that Flame Strike. But then the raging barbarian or the paladin get cut down. You feel the need to let loose a Searing Light or a Smite, but your four companions felt the need to stand in a row for the enemy wizard’s Lightning Bolt. And once more you’re relegated to the role of Healing Vending Machine. 

What’s A Cleric To Do?

I haven’t done much with 5e yet, but it doesn’t seem to address this basic issue that has been around since the original Basic rules set. It’s a fact that the purveyor of divine magic is a support role. And it seems most players don’t want to be the support.

So here’s what I would propose. Make most of the cleric, paladin and druid’s healing abilities swift actions. This should include healing bursts, channels, “cure” and “heal” spells, lay on hands, and anything similar. This would not include things like neutralize poison, break enchantment, restoration and so forth. Only straight “give my team some hit points back” kind of abilities and spells.

The effect would not, in my opinion, break the balance of the game and would give the healer one free shot per round to heal up one or more team mates (or themselves). That satisfies their support role, while at the same time giving them the chance to make a more hands on contribution each round of combat. 

I think it would go a long way towards eliminating the antipathy many feel towards being the cleric of the party.

D&December 2017 – W4D3 – Wizards

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wizard

Wizards have got to be my favorite class in Dungeons & Dragons. Being the smartest person in the party and using their gift to call forth the powers of the universe to alter reality itself is a fun-factor that’s hard to deny. All things being equal, I would probably rather play the wizard. That’s a bit odd considering I’ve only run two wizards in the Wyrmfang Chronicles, and one of them was a multi-class fighter/wizard. That was Storin, the first character I played in the Wyrmfang Chronicles. He met a most unpleasant end that I’ve mentioned previously

The second character I ran in the Wyrmfang Chronicles was my wizard Endeleban Losteast, or Delban for short. He was an Aes Saidarr from Cormyr tasked with tracking down a bard named Thomison for one reason or another. On finding Tomasin, Delban and his warrior escort Yoshi, were sucked into Ravenloft along with the bard. Adventuring in Soth’s castle in Ravenloft left Delban a changed wizard. He wandered off into NPC land after that. While Delban did make a return to PC status for City of the Spider Queen a couple years ago, not one of my other characters has been a wizard. 

I’m not sure what to attribute that to, except that I’m also one who doesn’t mind sharing the fun. So if someone else wants to be the arcanist, I’m willing to let them. Maybe I’ll have to call dibs on wizard right now for whatever we do next. But that’s a ways off into the future. We’ve still got a year or two to go in the deserts of Golarion before we think about what’s next.

I’m not sure what it is exactly that makes wizards so appealing to me. Certainly, they have the brains and they can blow stuff up from 400 yards away. I’ve also had great love for wizards in literature: Gandalf, Raistlin, Elminster, Merlin, Dr Strange, Harry Dresden. And don’t you dare lump Harry Potter in with those greats. Compared to the others, the Potter books are complete drivel and garbage. I’ve never been able to read an entire Potter book or watch one of the movies all the way through. I did sit through most of Fantastic Beasts, though it made me a bit nauseous. Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah. Great wizards of literature inspired me. 🙂 But whatever the reason, wizards just seem to be the most fun to play. 

They do have their downsides. Keeping track of everything can be a big pain and they die pretty easily if dragged into melee. But when I can toss a fireball or lightning bolt down upon groups of enemies, it’s more than worth it.

D&December 2017 – W4D2 – Traps

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Since I’ve talked about talked about Boxey before, I’ll talk about traps. Oh, how i hate traps. Well, as a player I hate traps. I’ve had several characters die as a result of traps over the years. The most memorable was my monk, Chojen Morg. He died within Nightfang Spire. A trap door opened, he slid down over several blades and was flung out into open space halfway up the tower. He didn’t have feather fall ring… or even feathers. And so he died. He had a rather short life. Not even a few months.

As a DM, i’m neither hot nor cold about traps. I guess they serve a purpose, like killing off characters. But I don’t really like to use them. When I am the DM, I use them rather sparingly. They seem to be more annoyance to keep track of and work through. 

It’s the mechanics of traps that I think annoys me the most. When traps are randomly placed, the adventurers must spend endless amounts of time searching. Move 10′, search, move 10′ search, move 10′ search. And it goes on and on and on. It gets very tiresome. But if you only make them search when a trap is nearby, then it gives away that the trap is there. 

There are times when traps are useful and acceptable. Protecting specific items, rooms, and so forth have great uses. But it is offset, in my mind, by all the other times of random and fruitless trap searching. 

There is one other time when traps come in handy: when it’s amusing. When I was running the Speaker in Dreams campaign, there was a bell tower in the center of town. It was square in shape and had a staircase that ran around the interior of the walls. At each landing I put a trap, not on the landing, but on the step just below it. It didn’t take long for the party to figure it out, but it was rather amusing nonetheless.

In short, well thought out traps have their place, but random traps don’t. At least, that’s how I see it.

D&December 2017 – W4D1 – Magic Weapons

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Sword Magic by Conor Burke
Sword Magic by Conor Burke – src: DeviantArt

Magic weapons have been a part of Dungeons & Dragons from the beginning. They are the prized possessions of virtually every character class. Even wizards love to get their hands on a magic dagger or staff to up the odds of a favorable outcome.

Throughout my years and many characters across D&D, Pathfinder and so forth, the quest to find a magic weapon is the first priority more often than not. There are just so many foes in game that are only able to be damaged by a magic weapon. So it becomes an obsession for most of us to find the biggest, baddest weapon that we can get our hands on. 

And we get frustrated if we get past level 2 or 3 and still don’t have a magic weapon. It’s even worse when you’re the last member of the party to find one that fits your character. It can be one of the most aggravating feelings of playing D&D at times.

Over the years we’ve had our share of magic weapons. Most are your generic run of the mill variety weapons. A few, however, have been exceptional. Here are some of my favorite magic weapons from the Wyrmfang Chronicles and elsewhere.

Whelm

This sentient warhammer was recovered by our party during our adventuring foray into White Plume mountain. It was a rather hilarious situation. One of our party members was actually a dark elf traveling in disguise as a normal elf. As presented in our version, Whelm would cause its wielder to hear thundering drums and feel the urge to attack. Since Turimbar the drow was disguised we couldn’t’ figure out what was going on until the very end when he betrayed us and revealed his true nature. My character, Gogun, was the one who wielded it. Being a dwarf, I was the only one Whelm would tolerate.

Wave

Also retrieved from White Plume Mountain, Wave is an intelligent trident. We didn’t find a whole lot of use for it at the time as I recall. We were already a bit weaponed up at the time and I don’t think Wave really cared for any of us. Nowadays, thanks to Jason Momoa as Aquaman, tridents are once again cool.

Sun Blade

The very concept of these blades is cool. It’s literally a D&D lightsaber. Just a hilt that creates a glowing blade of magic on command. And what nerd hasn’t always dreamed of being a jedi in D&D?

Hank’s Energy Bow

If you watched the D&D cartoon series, you’ve all seen Hank’s energy bow. Like the Sun Blade, this is part physical, part magical energy. It is just a bow staff with no string. When he drew it back like a normal bow, a string and arrow of energy would form. Releasing it sent the arrow of energy flying. It’s one weapon that I would love to replicate as a ranger/rogue character.

The Moonblades

These swords are as much a part of their wielders as the rest of their arm. And as each weapon passes to a new owner, that new owner adds a new ability to the weapon. It’s the ultimate family heirloom.

Blade Belt

One of our party currently has one of these. It’s a belt that, on command, can change into any slashing or piercing weapon that he chooses. It comes in handy from time to time, especially when dealing with foes that have damage reduction versus slashing or piercing. Just pick a weapon of the other type and keep hacking away.

The Ba’althrils

These magic weapons are the creations of our Wyrmfang Chronicles DM, Chris. These are nine melee weapons forged of a strange black metal. These weapons each have unique abilities and traits, but they all had downsides to them. They tended to make one lose one’s soul. Oh well. The weapons themselves were created at the same time as the Wyrmfang dagger and most of them will be required to destroy the dagger once and for all.

The Wyrmfang Dagger

The core object of our 20+ year campaign. The Wyrmfang is a dagger forged from the tooth of an evil, ancient, great wyrm. It is an artifact of great evil that we have sought long to destroy. The heroes travel west to find the forge of its creation so that it can be destroyed. For the time being, however, that quest is on hold while we switch to the world of Golarion and try to stop the return of the Sky Pharaoh.

D&December 2017 – W3D7 – House Rules

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One of the things that’s as constant in the history of Dungeons & Dragons as the official rules are each group’s house rules. In the group I’m in, the Wyrmfang Chronicles, we have a few of our own. Here’s a couple of ours plus a few that I’ve seen elsewhere.

Wyrmfang Chronicles House Rules

The Werebear

I don’t recall the origins of this rule, but we created a rule that applies at character creation. When you create a new character, you roll percentile dice. If the result is an 01, your character is a werebear. It’s happened exactly… never. There was a character in our campaign who was a werebear, but via other means.

On the Pronunciation of Drow

Regardless of official TSR/Wizards canon, the proper pronunciation of drow is like crow, or row, or snow. It does not rhyme with cow or sow or plow.

Spell Components

To alleviate the necessity of minute tracking of spell components, we’ve added a few enhancements. First of all, it is always assumed that you have any spell components of minor value (10-50 GP or less) so long as you have your normal gear. Further, for instances where a specific quantity of a certain gem is required, you may substitute other gems and coins of equal value. For example, Raise Dead requires 5000 GP of diamond dust. We allow you to substitute other gems totaling 5000 GP.

Birthday D30

If a gaming session falls on your exact birthday, you may roll a D30 instead of a D20 once during that evening’s session.

The On-Time Question Rule

A relatively recent addition is that if you show up on time, our DM will allow you to ask one question related to the current campaign. He may not give you an answer, but you get the option to ask.

My Favorite Rules From Others

Recap XP

Players who participate in giving a recap from the last session receive a story bonus XP award.

Re-Roll 1’s for HP

When rolling your hit points for a new level, re-roll if you rolled a 1.

Packing the Horses

One time half of our group spent almost an ENTIRE 3 hour game session figuring out what gear was packed on which horse. Any rule which just assumes everything is distributed across the various animals is fine by me. If you lose an animal without saving it’s packs, you randomly figure out a percentage of stuff that was lost.

CritMax (The Chris Perkins Rule)

On a crit, the original damage dice are automatically maxed.

 

What are some of your favorite house rules?

D&December 2017 – W3D6 – Sigil/Planar – The Slaadi

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Got a bit behind with the Holiday weekend.  One thing the Dungeons & Dragons does not lack is things planar. There are hundreds of planes in the D&D cosmos and planes within these planes and monsters upon monsters that call each of these planes home. Some of these monsters are ridiculous, but some of them are not. One of my all time favorites among the planar creatures are the Slaadi.

The Slaadi

The Slaadi are creatures of total, unrefined chaos. They are the epitome of creatures that do whatever the hell they feel like. Natives of the plane of Limbo, they resemble humanoid demon frogs in appearance. That appearance has sometimes made them the butt of jokes, but I never thought so.

Part of the fun of the Slaadi are their chaotic nature. And because in most editions and variants, they are chaotic neutral, that means that their behavior can be whatever the DM wants it to be from one minute to the next. 

That random chaos can make encounters a lot of fun as well. I always pictured coming across a group of Slaadi having a barbecue. Half would invite you to join them, the other half would invite you to be part of the menu. 

My history with the Slaadi has been few and far between. They seem to rarely get included in campaigns and only a few of the video games have featured them. It’s too bad really. I really kind of like them. Rrrriibbit!!!!

D&December 2017 – W3D5 – Cities, Castles & Tomes – The Castle Guide

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Castles have fascinated me for as long as I can remember. As an American, I grew up having no real castles anywhere near that I could visit. At least, nothing even close to what I pictured the word castle to mean. So I spent my time reading any book I could get my hands on and watching any show that talked about castles.

The Castle Guide
TSR2114 The Castle Guide
TSR2114 The Castle Guide

And then I laid my eyes on a plain greyish blue book with a TSR logo on the front and the simple words: “The Castle Guide”. Here were more than a hundred pages of how to build and run castles in D&D. I was completely enthralled. I spent hours and hours and hours reading and re-reading this book. It forever cemented my love for castles and how they should really be.

The Castle Guide was a AD&D 2nd Edition product that covered in great detail creating and running medieval style castles within your adventure world. It included every detail from the types of rooms it would have, to the people you would find there, to the day to day operations and costs, to sieges and warfare. It was an amazing guide. 

For years after I got that book, I would design castles on graph paper, imagining being and adventurer that would operate out of it. I would design, and redesign every last little detail. Each and every gates and drawbridge and building and room was given excruciating details. Every castle was different. This one was on a cliff side, that one surrounded by a moat, another was a built around an enormous cave. 

Sadly, all those drawings of my youth are long gone now. I’m pretty sure I still have the book somewhere amongst my game gear. Maybe it’s time I fish it out and start designing castles again. After all, I’m building a new world. And that world is gonna need some castles.