Monday, November 30, 2009

Dragon Army 6 Cadololian Part 2

After starting blankly at the giant trees and mumbling about "where's the city?" The lightbulb starts to come on. Elven City? Giant Trees? Hey! Maybe the trees ARE the city? A quick thump on the trunk of a 30' diameter tree reveals it to be hollow. A quick search for secret doors finds one in the trunk. Opening the secret door reveals a 15' x20' chamber whoose walls are lined with a wooden stair case leading upwards. After about three complete turns around the staircase (taking them 90' above the floor) they arrive at a chamber with a roll-top desk sitting in the corner. A short 10' flight of stairs takes them to a 20'x25' with three sides lined with bookshelves and a doorway on the fourth. A quick check for secret doors (after all it's my dungeon right?) reveals a pivoting bookcase behind which lie another set of stairs. Up these stairs another 10' is a bedchamber with a chest at the foot of a bed and another bookcase. Jimmying open the desk reveals three small journals. Persuing the book cases of the library reveal many books on practical arts in many languges. The bookcase in the bedroom holds a set of wizards spellbooks with spells up to 5th level. Openning the chest reveals wizards robes of finest silk. Reading the the jorunals (written in elven of course) reveal that this is indeed the redisence of the loremaster of Candololian as well as the history of the long struggle against the green and white dragon armies as well as the fall of two other elven cities. There is also indirect references to a fourth secret journal which may contain the location of the Valley of Ferns. A search for secret panels reveal one on the back of the scroll top desk and a false bottom in the chest. A detect magic reveals something rod shaped in the false bottom and a couple slips of paper with magic writing gluing both the false bottom and compartment shut. At this point the party's ranger launches into a long soliquiy about whether or not this is really the parties stuff to take in the first place and convinces the party not to open either panel. As a consequence both the fourth journal and a nifty magic item go undiscovered. 500 miles of wanton smash and grab but time to grow consience when a 1/4" of oak separates you from your goal it's enough to make a DM cry or tear his hair out (perhaps it is because small slips of magical paper tend to say " By the time you have finished reading this I will already have expl...."). More of Candololian next time

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dragon Army 5 Candololian

***WARNING RUINS OF CANDOLOLIAN SPOILER***(Aw, Who am I kidding? If you don't read this you won't know anything about Candololian anyhow. Maybe the warning is for later)

So gentle read bear with us as our tale continues. Having avoided certain doom in the Battle of the blue mist (there is a way to escape but its not going to be easy), the party rests in the secret elven watch post. The next day an elven ranger takes them to the graveyard of Candololian which is still outside the mist and shows them the right button to push on the right crypt to reveal a hidden stairway which leads to an underground passageway. After travelling north along the passageway about a mile ( a distance which they reckon puts them well within the mists) the passage turns 45 degrees to the east. Lying on the left side of the passage is an elven skeleton carrying a longbow. Nimbly avoiding the poison spike trap marked by the skeleton they fail to notice the portcullis until it comes slamming down behind them. They continue around a few turns and arrive at a set of double doors. On opening the set of double doors they enter a 30'x30' chamber with a large throne and no obvious exits other than the double doors. Seated on the throne is a skeletal form in black robes with glowing red eyes (old school DMs should recognize this monster immediately). The skeletal form informs them that he can take them further, but once he does there is no turning back, they must conquer all or be doomed to fight for ever. The party, bold adventurers that they are, inform him no thank you and immediately begin to comb the corridor they came down for secret passages. The do find a secret door which leads to a chamber with the windlass to raise the portcullis. They raise the portcullis and "high tail it" back to the watch post. There they consult with the elven princess. She thanks them for returning the skeleton of one her rangers, but informs them she can provide little more assistance than she already has. She has already lost too many rangers trying to reach the center of Candololian, and will not jeopardize the mission to watch Candololian while her liege the elf king still lives. How does she know he still lives, she has an amulet which glows as long as he is alive (this will prove of interest to the party later). She hands them some healing potions, tells them chin up and try again tomorrow. They head back the next day and after hearing the crypt thing's speech again inform them "Yes, yes they are are ready to hazard all". Some get cold feet after the first few disappear in a puff of black smoke, but decide that keeping party together is more important than chickening out, so eventually everyone accepts the crypt thing's offer. They are teleported to several 10' wide 70' corridors each party member to his own individual 10' separated from the next nearest party member by 10'. They establish by shouting that all the corridors are connected. However when they attempt to move back together they discover the true sinister nature of their location the empty 10' squares are all pit traps each with its own spear wielding skeleton warrior (No big shakes for the elven ranger, but it was touch and go for the sorcerer). After dealing with the pits they are able to establish there are four corridors which form a closed loop. In middle of the north most corridor there is a set of double doors which lead to 30'x30' chamber just like the crypt things except here the throne is empty. After various machinations and some grumblings about how long it might take to starve to death, they finally decide to search for secret doors in the pits themselves. Yes there are secret doors in the pits. Where do these secret doors lead? Why 10'x10' chambers with no visible exits. Ignoring one of my newer players stentorian pronouncements "Dave would never put a secret door behind another secret door" the more experienced players ignore him and proceed to navigate the secret door maze (which requires finding FOUR secret doors behind secret doors to get through, sometimes it is very hard to DM with a straight face but such is the cross DMs must bear) and arrive at a landing with a staircase leading down. As usual they cleverly avoid finding the secret chamber filled with treasure so they can continue complaining about what a stingy DM I am. They do however find a magic longbow as well as an additional elven skeleton to return for burial. They descent to a 30' wide by 40' deep chamber with alcoves along the walls. There is a double door on the north, but it is locked. As the party thief fiddles with lock, white spawn ambushers emerge from the alcoves and attack (first indications that perhaps the dragon army is involved with the fall of Candololian). After defeating the ambushers (surprise was not as effective as I had hoped), the party opens the doors to reveal an octagonal chamber containing two glowing portals and a strange device. The device resembles one of those Japanese bamboo fountains where a tube on a pivot gradually fills with water. At a certain point when there is enough water the tube pivots downwards spilling its contents into a pool below (usually with a loud clonking sound as well). Relieved of its load of water the tube swings upwards again to refill and repeat the cycle. The tube in the dungeon is made of iron 6' long and 1' diameter and has a small steel spike in the back from which blue mist drifts upwards through a hole in the ceiling. Water trickles into the tube from a glowing portal 5' above the floor and runs out through another portal behind the device at floor level. Every time the tube dumps its water a big puff of blue mist is generated. The party opens a set of double doors on the far side to reveal a staircase leading up into the blue mist. After some thought the party flips the tube over causing it to be enveloped in its own blue mist at which point it promptly vanishes (not quite the solution I had planned but quite acceptable). They then wait for the mist to clear. Once the mist clears they head up the staircase and find themselves not in a city, but instead a grove of giant trees with tree trunks 30-50' in diameter. More next time.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Still searching for the notes to Candololian, but I promised myself to try and write something as often as possible. Unfortunately the way I ref is not conducive to good note taking. Years ago my wife the artist in the family drew up some miniature scale nice flagstone motif 8x11 sheets with crosses every 5/6" to mark the 5' squares. Frequently while the group is gathering, eating pizza, and discussing world affairs, I am drawing up the dungeon on these sheets with colored pencil. It makes for a nice vicarious experience but sometimes means the dungeon is not well documented for posterity. I am of course able to find the random monster pit I drew when I was 17 and the 3+ worlds whose wilderness maps I drew but never ran. I also ran across the much reviled wizards library (one step on the evolutionary scale from the random monster pit). It was the first dungeon I DMed my wife through and one of my few total party kills. The players were too cheap to stay in the Inn (wife claims they were broke due to rotten rolls on my inheritance starting gold chart, but hey that pig was worth big money she just never tried to sell it), so they camped out in the ruined tower atop the dungeon. Unfortunately they were unable to handle the mountain lion I rolled up as the random encounter for the night. I'll post some scans of these marvels later.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dragon Army 4

The players board a boat and head North for Winterhaven. After chasing off a Sea monster and fighting Orc pirates of the coast of Long Island near Cantoon, the party arrives at Winterhaven (I'll post a map sometime soon). Again they collect a page of rumors [Which I seem to to have mislaid for the moment]. The important rumor is about an endless battle which wanders the North woods being demarcated by a blue mist. After carefully avoiding the dwarven mining camp (the sound of blasting was apparently too scary), They encounter Snow Barbarians. They resolve the diplomatic impasse and lack of common language skills by slaughtering all of the barbarians. They then encounter the barbarian encampment and decide, rather than listen to the rangers suggestion of slaughtering the women and child to spare them the agonizing death of starving to death because the are not enough menfolk to provide for them (see prior encounter for what happened to the menfolk), to just sneak past. They then encounter an area of the forest filled with blue mist (see I told that rumor was important). After circling south around the zone of mist (unfortunately the zone seems to be located precisely where they think the ruins of Candololian are) they decide what the heck they'll head in. At which point a stately elf maiden backed by a dozen elven longbow men emerges from the trees and tells them "I wouldn't do that if I were you". She informs them that she is the elf princess left to watch Candololian after the elves fled the coming of the blue mist. She also informs them that the blue mist which normally wanders the forest at random, has remained fixed over the location of Candololian for the last three years. She also informs them that these is a secret underground tunnel, who's entrance is outside the blue mist, that leads to the center of Candololian. Although the ranger elves she has sent to explore this passage have never returned she is certain a party of brave and powerful adventures could succeed in getting into Candololian and breaking the spell which holds the blue mist in place without getting sucked into the eternal battle which occurs in the blue mist above ground.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dragon Army Part 3

Tonight more rumors. These are from the port town of Reme. The players boarded a ship and headed North for Winterhaven to search for Candololion.

From Town guards:
I got this nice plus two weapon at the price the town asks for a plus one from a man in a wizard hat who came to the town gate from the Tradeway alone at night.
The reason for the truce with the pirates is so they will not need to fight a battle on two fronts when the northern Army arrives.

Folks at The sorcerer’s guild:I know of a wizard in Cantoon skilled at counter magic. He makes charms to counter various
types of magic. One of his that has been seen at the guild was against illusory terrain. Brave ship captains have acquired some of those charms.
We have an outpost on Long Island where Lord Bruce is now. The Sorcerers at outpost were offered a book written in ancient Elven by some pirates. They report it appeared to be someone’s diary and contained no usable spells so they refused it.
I am is considering buying the information that Gheed is selling about the next appearance of Brigadoon
Lord Bruce of the Sorcerer’s guild was directed by the king to go to Cantoon last month.
Lord Bruce is negotiating a truce with the pirates of Long Island. He has not yet returned.

When you ask about Candolion and the Elves that live near there the St. Cuthbert Cleric introduces you to a smith who is a parishioner: “A former apprentice of mine works now in Wahoon and has these last five years. When I was up there last year he told me some well respected Elves live in Wahoon, the merchants there would never side with the snow barbarians against the Elves, it is the Winter Haven folks that like the snow Barbarians.”

From one or more Elves in Reme:
When the Elves of Candolion were over run by the snow Barbarians they fled on foot
to Winter Haven. When they had all reached the port they hired three ships to take them to Reme. Most of the court, including the lore keeper went on one ship. Only two of the three ships reached Reme. The one missing had the king on it. For the past three years we have been seeking
information about the missing ship. We have not seen it since the storm that hit shortly before we reached Reme.
When we lived in Candolion the lore keeper had many books written in ancient Elvish. He was only able to take a few books with him.
There is lore of an old Elven city named Rivendel.
There is a city named Rivendel south of Wahoon but that city is human.
There is lore of a pass through the coastal mountains protected by magical wards and guards somewhere south of the one we used to get to Winter Haven.
Candolion used to trade with Winter Haven for supplies and weapons. The pass between Candolion and Winter Haven is wide and low and easy to find. It can be traveled even in winter as long as you do not get caught in a storm.
Now that we are not up there I expect the next winter the snow barbarians need food they will attack Winter Haven.

From talking to sailors in taverns or on the docks:
Cantoon on Long Island is a known stronghold of the sea Pirates.
Fierce sea creatures guard Cantoon and the chaotic winds thereabout make the shoals near that town tricky to navigate.
Captain Hedric has a charm against running aground that he got off a pirate captain. He had it identified by the sorcerer’s guild.
The lessening in pirate activity is due to the negotiations Lord Bruce is having with them.

Heard in Taverns in Reme:Some of the merchants of Wahoon sold weapons to the snow barbarians to use against the Elves.
Some of the merchants of Winter Haven sold weapons to the snow barbarians to use against the Elves. Candolion was the city of the Elves that got sacked by snow barbarians three years ago.
A ship must carry a secret charm to enable it to make port in Cantoon.
The Sorcerer’s guild has a secret proving ground somewhere on Long Island.
Gheed , a man in a pointed hat has been seen traveling the Tradeway at night with a single wagon.
Wahoon is a small port north of Reme and south of Winter Haven. There is a cleft in the mountains near the city that would seem to be a useful pass but when one goes up the cleft you find it is blocked by a fast ,deep and turbulent river. The river comes out of the northern mountain itself and flows south across the valley before turning east down to Wahoon.
Up in the mountains near Rivendale a friend of a friend uncovered an old spell shaped rock with something he thought was written in Elven on it.

Here is a map they bought off an old sailor (courtesty of She-Who-Must-be-Obayed)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dragon Army Part 2

Well now it was decision time. Rather than write a dungeon and railroad the party down it. I generated a list of rumors and presented it to the players. We could have role played collecting them from Bards gate, but for my players is usually speedier to hand them a list. I make the rumors sufficiently obscure so no direct information is given away. Here is the list:

Rumors of lost cities:

The Elves speak of the “City of Ferns” believed to be somewhere in the Northern forests. This City is said to be the home of several giant creatures including badgers, frogs, turtles wasps and beetles. The local is said to be a deep valley set within towering crags. In some versions of the story the streams of the valley ran into a lake with a whirlpool, which was its only outlet. In other versions a river ran into the valley and disappeared into a mountain. The last travelers known to have come from the valley died about nine centuries ago. A copy of the diary of these travelers is known to have existed in two of the Elven strongholds that were overrun by the northern army, the fleeing Elves did not bring either copy with them so they now are passing the tale on in oral story.

Another book now lost to the Elves because they had to flee spoke of a city of Mind Flayers in
the Underdark. Many centuries past a horde of Dark Elves succeeded in so damaging parts of the city that the Mind Flayers withdrew to another plane. At that time the Drow came into possession
of several artifacts which even they did not fully comprehend. One of those called a “Plane Cube” is said to be capable of moving a large number of creatures from one plane to another all at the same time.

“The Golden Plateau” was once home of the ancient religious shrine to Corellon Larethian. Only a century ago it was over run by red dragons. The dragons are still using the area for
nesting. It is located far away, beyond the route the Gypsies take. It is
rumored in the Human taverns of Bard’s Gate that a few of the Elves now living
in the city visited the plateau before it was overrun.

“Brigadoon” a city located somewhere in the hills South of Bard’s Gate. Rumored to appear only when celestial objects are in the correct alignment. It is said to be the home of powerful sorcerers who posses lost artifacts. There is a book belonging to a wizard in Bard’s Gate which is reputed to have come from there.

Rumors about known Cities and the routes to reach them:
The trade route over the pass: The gypsies are quoted as saying: ” We are willing to take you the one way but you must make your own way back. There are things up in the pass, which have power over us, we do as they say or we will not be allowed to travel there. We can travel the pass only as long as we can keep the passengers blindfolded through certain parts. If the secrets of the pass are ever revealed to those outside our blood we will not be allowed to go that way again. “ Humans in Bard’s gate agree that those who have gone without the Gypsies have never returned to Bard’s Gate. A few who have gone with the gypsies have come back by way of Port Saskatoon. The merchant Rupert is the best known of these few.

Port Saskatoon lies to the south of Bard’s Gate. It is commonly reached by caravan through hills that harbor bandits. Caravans go both ways and they are usually looking for guards but do not pay very well. It is rumored that if you must take a ship out of the port you should make arrangements to pay off the organization of pirates known as the “ Skull Society “ also known in more polite company as the “Secret Society” or simply as “SS.” The rumor continues that this group can be reached by consulting with the thieves’ guild.

Speculation from the Guards about the Northern Army:
The king’s griffins have made over flights of the northern army that is besieging the Dwarves. They say they have sited a few large probably ancient red dragons in proximity to the army, They speculate that one of them maybe in control of that army.

One of the items carried by the King’s man detected the aura of an artifact in the midst of the northern army. The guards think it was in the possession of one of the Gnoll leaders. The guards
speculate this maybe the artifact known as the Crown of Command or the Scepter of Ruling either artifact could allow its owner to command a very large following. The artifact that made this determination is rumored to be the “Sword of the Rites of St. Cuthbert.”

A massive avalanche was witnessed by the over flight. The avalanche buried many of the army.
The Army was spotted digging in the avalanche, a greater number of undead are now believed to
be in that army. There is speculation that avalanche was the work of the Dwarven high priest Thorwin the Grumbler. Dwarves who have witnessed guards raising a toast to the Grumbler have welcomed the action. One dwarf went so far as to buy a round for the table of guards who drank to the high priest.

News or rumors from the alchemist who works at the Abby:

The Gnome enclave in Reme is working on a clockwork dog to substitute for a riding dog. They are hoping to make one capable of caring a load as large as a Dwarf.

Reakle one of the gnomes who live in Bard’s Gate was given a large pendulum operated clock by his father, Samess before that gnome left with the Gypsies. The use of the clock is that as long as the father is healthy the clock will keep perfect time, if it falters it means he is unwell, if it stops abruptly it indicates he has died. The clock is still keeping perfect time and it has been six months now since the father left. The son is making preparations to follow.

Many Gnomes are worried that the King will not be able to protect the human towns once the northern army turns it’s attention to them. A number of the Gnomes in Bard’s Gate are considering
traveling across the pass to found a new community. Some want to wait for word back trough Port Saskatoon that the trip was a success before going. The gnome Reakle Samesson has promised to
send them a message.

The party caucused and decided to head for the port town of Reme book a boat for the Northern Wilderness and gather more information on the City of Ferns. Not the obvious pick to my way of thinking, but that's why I let the players decide. I think the fact that the party had three elves and only one gnome may help explain.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Dragon Army Campaign

Way back in 2005 I dragged my players kicking and screaming into the modern area by starting this 3rd edition campaign. In honor of DM lack-0f-time and unfamilarity with the rules I started with some modules. Necromancer games 3e rules 1e feel sounded good and the Wizards amulet is free so I ran that one first. I followed it up with the Crucible of Freya and then the Tomb of Abysthor. Orginal party constisted of 3 players each two playing pregenerated characters from the wizards amulet. I placed it all on a homebrew wilderness map which included most of the key features of the Grand Duchy of bards gate but with some tweeks. It also contains the infamous Rappan Attuk, but the players have not stumbled on it yet (I am not pushing it either cause the traps and the entrance are just brutal). The Tomb of Abysthor is a sprawling multi level dungeon just shy of megadugeon status. So several trips were neccesary just to penetrate to second level. In between they paid several vists to the wilderness encounters included as a download supplement for Crucible of Freya. They also battled priests of orcus and gnolls rumored to be scouts for the massive evil army which had driven the Dwarves out of their moutain strongholds years ago (DM riff on a player backstory for the dwarven fighter). They assisted a band dwarves bring supplies into the last remaining Dwarven stronghold. The Surface route is blocked and swarming with gnolls and worse. The dwarves used a secret passage through the underdark which they refuse to show to the players. However they asked the players to lay a false trail through the underdark to through the hobgoblin trackers off the scent. The players did explore the underdark for a little while but decided after seening the trail lead to a rickey rope bridge with lots of stalagmites for cover on the other side to turn back. They did however solve the gnoll tracking problem by slaughtering hobgoblin rangers and their hynea tracking hounds on the way back out. They also found an abandoned gnomish workshop at the base of the mountain with the underdark which was actually a secret entrance to the lost gnomish city of Jzadirune (from the Pazio Shackled City book). Here they freed three elves from the underdark slave pits beneath Jzadirune (two more players joining in, one with sense enough to run only one character). The illustrious city of Bards gate had finally been published so a trip there was in order. There they hooked up with the temple of Thyr whose ruined temple they had run across previously in the valley in front of the Tomb of Abysthor. The high priest of Thyr hooked them up with a palidin of Muir to return to the tomb and recover some sacred relics which had been lost there. At the end of the mission I decided I had run enough "canned stuff" that I could start writing my own stuff again. More next time.

Lessons learned:

  • My players play very slow. Mostly because we all work for a living and have many other social obligations. On game nights we usually don't get started until 8 and have to quit at 11

  • Tailoring modules to your homebrew world is a lot of fun

  • Necromancer Games is "Old school" the modules actually feel like C. Petersons and B. Webbs campaign. If you look for the downloads you can actually find some of their campaign notes

  • Most canned modules are not geared for short term play

  • Players like it better when the game is tailored to their hopes and wants canned modules have a rough time with this

  • If you listen to your players the world writes itself

Welcome to the Jungle

Well here goes! After reading reading numerous blogs and forums I have decided to start my own blog. This blog is dedicated to role playing games, their mechanics, ideas for DMs, and whatever else I decide to post. Current role playing games I am playing include Dungeons and Dragons (both 3.5 and 4e) as well torchlight, Ultima Underworld and Ultima Online on the computer. I have been playing Dungeons and Dragons since my Senior year in high school. I have been DMing Dungeons and Dragons since the little white box in the plain brown wrapper came in the mail from Lake Geneva. Strangely enough I was first introduced to Dungeons and Dragons by a computer game (not the one you think, it was called pedit5 [google that for a blast from the past]). Over the coming weeks I'll try and post some of my wisdom from my years of DMing; Notes and Strategies from the games I am running currently (An ongoing intermittent campaign with folk I have been DMing since 1985, and a monthly rotation running Living Forgotten Realms at the local game store) and games I am playing (Living Forgotten Realms and two different post apocalyptic 4e edition games of grim futures [what is it with kids these days? I don't remember being that gloomy]), I'll also be reviewing games and modules from my extensive collection (Including both Palace of the Vampire Queen and a first edition pre TSR Pharaoh). I'd continue to ramble further but she-who-must-be-obeyed reminds me it is time to do the imbuing (Ultima Online skill leveling work is never done). I'll be back soon
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