Friday Night D&D: Halfling Weed-Smoke, Escaped Convict and a Random Encounter Ghost

Switching the night we gamed from Tuesday to Friday changed the way the game felt. It felt like a party, not like something in the middle of the week that I enjoy but also have to maneuver my adult life around.

Smoky Night at the Chalk & Wand

The players had a few days to kill until the halfling caravan headed out to study Deadshire, guided by the player-characters. Janaki said something interesting about wanting to explore Big Shire more, get to know the town. They talked to Hugh Briskett, their trusty NPC guide about where tall-folk foreigners could go to sample local culture. Jokes were made about having an authentic halfling experience. He suggested a wizard’s tavern in the River Farthing called the Chalk and Wand. The C&W has cool slate walls for drawing arcane theorems in chalk, hookahs in the middle of every table for smoking fine halfling weed and lots of wizards on sabbatical, who have come to Big Shire to chill out.

The players (two drow and a quaggoth) cloaked up and took a table. They overheard a wizard proving to his comrades that the underdark was in fact Hell itself. A skill roll later, Fal’ethon (Drow/Rogue/Scholar) had proven that the Underdark was in fact only an underground set of caverns. The wizards were excited to meet new folks, sat at their table, re-stocked the table with some Fine Halfling Weed and it was a DC 10 Con check to see if the PC’s could handle their shit.

They couldn’t. I made an impromptu Halfling Weed Failure table. 1-2 Honest, 3-4 Paranoid, 5-6 Stupid Deep. Each player rolled a different effect and it made for a fun night.

Backgrounds are fun. They give the D&D group a different way to connect to the world. It can connect just like their class: Rogue/Criminal, Wizard/Scholar, Cleric/Acolyte or it can play against type in really interesting ways. I’m sold on them. I dig ’em.

The night ended with the players stumbling home in the pre-dawn light, running across the dwarven adventurer in a shirriff’s crow’s cage, the one who had figured out that the thousand years were up and venturing into the underdark was fair game. Both Zuul, the Quaggoth Ranger/ and Saav, the Drow Monk/Acolyte both felt they should free the dwarf, that he was a kindred soul who only wanted to explore (and perhaps loot) a new world. The Quaggoth failed a Strength roll to bend the bars, making lots of noise, so by the time a Fallathon picked the lock a halfling sling-stone was raining down on them, causing damage to Zuul.

They told their guide Hugh to head home and ran like hell to Bil’s place with the sound of shirriff riding dogs barking in the distance. Bil hid them until it was time to leave Big Shire.

Yes, they inspired a group of guild wizards to go looking into the underground world for themselves.

Disintegration of the Halfling Fellowship and the Random Encounter Ghost

Fal’ethon, in an argument with the halfling caravan on its way to Deadshire, showed her drowness. They all freaked out and the total lack of a chain of command showed itself. At the end of the day, only Regina, the leader if the cart drivers sent by Bil, stayed with her posse. They were clearly hardened criminals sent by Bil to oversee his interests. They expressed interest in both Deadshire and heading into the underdark to look over business opportunities.

The game ended with a ghost entering camp on Fal’ethon’s watch. It was a lightly armored human lady with a spike through her torso. After talking to her a bit they found that she was an Ululan mail-carrier who was ambushed by a manticore while she was flying on her giant owl (Janaki and Laura got pretty excited about procuring their own giant owls). They buried her with her armor, sword and ring on her body, marking the grave that was high on a hill. They agreed to deliver her mail in Corvuston, holy city of the Raven Queen.



I love how this group is really interested in exploring and experiencing the surface world. What’s more, the players are enjoying what they are finding, which is fun.

Random Encounter Tables continue to be good fun. Because these characters often travel by night, it makes the encounters quite different. When they met up with a mercenary company, they were on a hilltop, camped for the night. The players got to decide whether or not to engage. With the ghost, they were on a daytime schedule, so the ghost came to them during Fal’ethon’s watch (rolled randomly) and when they agreed to help her out, she felt no need to possess anyone.

So, a little behind-the-screen thinking: I rolled a 10 on the Random Encounter Chart for the Area Around Big Shire, that asked me to roll again on the Random Encounter Chart for the Area Around Corvuston. I rolled a ghost but had no idea the ghost of who or what. I saw that Corvuston also had Ululan Riders, and figured that would make for a solid ghost with nice setting details and motivations. It took me a while to come up with that. I let it stew, asking the players questions about how they set up their watches at night and rolled randomly to see who was on watch when the ghost stumbled in.

Mental note to self: There is a manticore in this area.

I’ll need to make some rules on followers. It seems like a bunch of PC’s have NPC’s who are following them. We have the goblin (tentatively named, Floyd the Biter), the scholar (Yon) and now the dwarf adventurer (Falko) and each aligns pretty well with a PC. When the player is gone, is their follower available to the group? I’m thinking they’d have to ask the player for permission. How do they level? I’m thinkig they gain a level appropriate to their actions, 3 for every 1 the PC gains.  You can have 1 follower +1 for every point of Charisma bonus the PC has unless you get the Followers Feat, which will allow for more.

I feel like I missed an opportunity when they left Big Shire. I should have made space for the players to say good-bye to their guide, Hugh and his trusty riding mastiff, Abernathy.

Lots of little details come up about their homes underground. I need to have index cards so the players can write this stuff down.

DM Homework

I need to write up a map of the Underdark, using my Underground Cities and this post to figure out the political situation underground and write up a map of each layer, where the cities are located and maybe think to myself how they relate to the above-ground.

Tuesday Night D&D: Fights, Business and Criminals in Big Shire

The party hired a guide, Hugh Bryskett, and his Shire Mastiff riding dog, Abernathy (thanks for the dog’s name, Janaki!) to guide them around the farthings. Shire has strict no-weapons and no inciting adventure laws, so if you hire a guide for 10 gold a day, you can keep your weapons on you because he’ll just explain to the shirriffs that you were just holding old Hugh’s weapons for him, you see.

Big Shire is made up of a dozen farthings, each ruled by its own mayor. It is the Los Angeles of Shires, spread out over the hills as far as the eye can see.

I got to roll on my Big Shire encounter tables. Since the party travels at night, they usually run across folks who have made camp. This time they walked around a few dozen mercenaries, deciding not to engage. Smart move, I thought.

They went to Hugh’s cousin, Bil Niner, an honest merchant halfling as played by Bob Hoskins:

They sold the whereabouts of the Deadshire, after some deliberation for a thousand gold with an extra 200 for accompanying them into the Silent Peninsula and showing them exactly where it is.

Gorgolog continued to work it as a gladiator in a Big Shire bare-knuckle fight:

Tonight Gorgolog, my orc fighter and gladiator, beat up an elf in a pit fight and won the championship belt.

Roleplaying is done. I won it all.

Also, Gorgolog cornered a goblin who was fighting a halfling. The orc’s advice had the goblin bitting and clawing at his opponent. Yes, the goblin will be traveling with them from now on.

Crow cages are set by every road in to Big Shire and are in front of every Shirriff’s office. I had a table for figuring out who was in each cage. Most of the time it was just some halfling thief but last night there was also a dwarven adventurer. When they talked to him, he told them that he had figured out that the surface world’s calendars were years off and there was nothing stopping an enterprising individual from going into the underground world and looting it silly. We are going to start our next game in front of his crow’s cage, several characters thinking about freeing him and having him join up.

I was kind of worried about the game. The two hour time slot is fast, though I’m keeping it fast-paced and there hasn’t been any delving as of yet. I’m making peace with the fact that I have stuff on the map and the players are exploring it at the pace they want to explore it and having fun in the process.

P.S. Dev’s character has named the sun. It is now known as the Hate Star.

D&D: Githzarai Monks, Orcish Wrestlemania, Research in the Library

Session Summary

The group is headed towards Big Shire, hoping to sell the location of Deadshire, an ancient and deserted hobbit shire, to well-to-do halflings in their most metropolitan settlement. On the way they ran across The Monastery of Dor Amon and stopped to sell the books they had stolen from a dwarven caravan last game.

Gorgolog leafed through the Axe Bible, written by the Saint of Axes. Turns out the Saint was a knight who tossed aside his blade, threw off his spurs and beheaded his king, traveling the land to become an axe-wielding bad-ass. Once the orc heard he was human, he lost interest. Orc are finicky readers.

The Githzarai monks were treated to a display of wrestling entertainment as Gorgolog and the Drow/Acolyte Monk, Saav, put on a display of martial prowess. Traditional orc rules say that when the loser is thrown from the circle, they are fed to dogs but since we didn’t have dogs, we’d have to change the stakes a bit. Then Gorgolog took on the monastery’s martial arts instructor, Master of the Thoughtful Fist and lost to her in two punches, both delivered in the first round. Githzarai are NASTY. A total of 3d8 damage from each punch and the ability to throw two in a round. 2d8 of that damage is Psychic damage. Ouch! It is CR 2…hmmm, are the CR’s broken?

It was all in good fun and Gorgolog got up and rocked out like a solid wrestler, leveraging Bret’s passion for sports entertainment.

They traded this night of entertainment for 24 hours of access in the library. I had their Drow/Rogue/Scholar, Fal’ethon. She got 3 questions and rolled appropriate skills for each. She had an advantage die because she had the scholar they rescued from the Ghoul Knight in our first game, who is now traveling with the party. Laura made a roll to convince Yon, the scholar, to change her thesis to be about the underground and its denizens.

Things they learned:

  • The 12 above-ground cities and the basics of what has happened with them in the past 1000 years. Very basic. I’ll draw a map for the next game.
  • The elven aristocracy has left the planet, leaving behind elven thieves and scoundrels. They grew ships from seeds and took to the stars.
  • The big money on this continent is run by the city-state, Vault, owned by a dwarven merchant house.

Next game we will continue to head towards Big Shire, hoping to sell the information of the Deadshire’s whereabouts and then perhaps set off for Vault to make some Big Money from the economic nexus.

Session Thoughts

I’m having a great time, though two hour sessions are rough. It felt slow and it felt like not everyone in the 5 person party got to make a meaningful decision this session, not everyone got to roll dice, which vexes me.

I’m wondering if I’m peppering my hexcrawl map with enough delving and door kicking opportunities. I’m going to go over my map a bit in the week between games and just think it over.

5e Thoughts

Advantage dice and Disadvantage dice are a really neat tool. I can’t get enough of them and I’ve been a fan of them since I first saw them in Whitehack.

Backgrounds are a great way to ground the party in the real world and connect to the setting. I have to be careful because these characters are all from deep underground and so they aren’t linked to the above-ground at all. I still want them to be able to connect to the world through their Backgrounds when it makes sense.

I was mindful of this when Bret proposed trading expensive library access for a wrestling exhibition. I could’ve said that the monks were too staid and not into it but I took his background into account and made the more-fun decision, that kung-fu monk/scribes from another dimension would love to watch an orc kick ass and/or get his ass kicked, allowing the group to party with the monks, drink terrible beer from the Astral Plane and just have a fun night. They never delved into the deeper secrets of the place and that is fine. They got what they wanted. Onward to Big Shire with Hobbit crimelords and sherrifs.

Daydreaming about a Hexcrawl

Thinking about Quinn’s posts about Drow and thinking about West Marches, I’m daydreaming about a hexcrawl.

Your maps are a thousand years out of date as you make your way to the surface…

It is one thousand years since the Drow exodus to the Underdark, soon after which the Web Matriarchs went to war against the Star King in the West. The Drow cut themselves from the fate dictated by the stars’ song, bound themselves instead to the Matron’s Holy Web.

Every nation was drawn in to this elven civil war. Gnomes, dwarves, drow, quaggoth and githyanki allied against elves, humans, hobbits and githzarai. On both sides, there were those who went against the majority. Undead were split – Ghouls and zombies made alliances on the surface while vampires and liches made alliances with the under-kingdoms. Orc were found on both sides.

Terrible arcane powers were unleashed that have left scars above and below, unleashing fell powers into the world. The gods sent visions to make it clear, this war would end the world if it continued. The holy gathered under a cessation of violence and crafted the treaty, binding a devil, angel and demi-god to enforce it. The treaty demanded that everyone choose above or below and stand by that choice for a thousand years: tunnels, stone and secrets buried in the earth or sun, moon and the heroes depicted in the stars.

Your ancestors chose tunnel, stone and secrets. In that thousand years, drow matriarchs have established vast city-states ruled by a complicated alliance of noble houses and priestesses. The githyanki attempted to take over the tunnels some years ago but were shut down by the combined might of their former allies; they are still present, though diminished – all of their red dragons slumber. The dwarves were driven into debt by the war effort and blamed their allies, always threatening to break the treatise as their princes and holdfasts faded from their former glory. The gnomes have quietly migrated deeper and deeper. The quaggoth ride underdark-bred dinosaurs, riding their steeds along ancient tunnel highways, following their mushroom herds.

Your maps are a thousand years out of date as you make your way to the surface…

Question: 1000 years or 10,000 years?