Tomb of Annihilation: Robbing Yuan-ti and Contemplating Multiple Magicide

In which Yuan-ti are robbed and multiple magicide is discussed.

Omu: The Lost City
  • The Yuan-ti have the last pieces of the cubes needed to open the door to the tomb. The Red Wizards of Thay were throwing Fireballs and such as a distraction while the team sneaked in.

  • After some discussion, the team decided to use their access to the Godroads, as there is a fell shrine in the Yuan-ti compound. They found themselves in a serpent cathedral in the middle of their fort.

  • They had several choices for exits out of the cathedral and they chose the hallway to the throne room. The guard was sleeping, as was the Yuan-ti leader. Stealth rolls were rolled and made.

  • Kuru the Hobbit thief, covered in mud spread on his face in Conan-and-company-invade-the-serpent-cult-orgy-style, mage-handed the cubes to his comrade, Jusko after looking closely for traps (I should have asked HOW he was looking for traps; I’ll ask more before hitting the dice next time). He also took the sleeping Yuan-ti leader’s gladius-style short sword, which turned out to be a flame-brand.

    War Paint Conan Action Figure
  • The team spread out across the room while Kuru used Mage Hand. Bugwump climbed up the wall above the door. When the yuan-ti knocked to tell their leader about the attack and no one answered, they were too scared to knock again. The team got out without any blood spilled – a flawless heist.

  • The Red Wizards met them afterwards and were shocked to find them entirely unharmed. None of the Red Wizards saw them go in. They were unnerved but low on spells.

  • During the week I wrote a dream for each character with questions. Some of the players responded in the comments, others responded verbally before the game. Bugwump had dreamed about his Arch-mage self, before his power had been taken away by the Lady of Pain. His Arch-mage self gave him advice but he couldn’t remember what it was.

    As the Red Wizards flew away, I asked John if Arch-mage Bugwump would have told him to always kill rival wizards after they had been in a big battle and spent their spell slots – he agreed that was the kind of advice his old Arch-mage self would have given along with, “Never trust wizards.”

  • They discussed murdering the Red Wizards. After an Insight check, they think one might switch sides if offered but they are not sure. That one knows they are from Sigil.

  • Bugwump the Frog-kin Wizard got to 4th level (using the Bingo XP Variant).

    Next week we’ll start with them sitting around the fire, discussing whether or not to murder the Red Wizards before opening the locked door to the Tomb.

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Wizards, derring-do and a legendary Tyrannosaurus Rex

Tomb of Annihilation continues…

After last game, we began this game in the midst of combat. The following things happened in no particular order:

  • Trundle and Kuru ended up on the Queen of Feather’s head, trying to hit the sword embedded in her skull but missing. Still, leaping on a T-rex’s skull is cool.

  • The Queen of Feathers bit Failed Soldier nearly to death but spit him out because she was wounded, he tasted funny and Kuru hit her in the face with pepper spices.

  • Trundle ran into an old Tabaxi hunter, praying to the Cat Lord before letting arrows fly. Trundles whispered, offering the support of the Omuan deity in his head.

  • The Red Wizards let loose some vicious spells; they are formidable.

  • Jusko saved his doomed pterodactyl and named it Mishka. It was touching af.

  • The blade in the legendary T-Rex, the Queen of Feather’s skull was dislodged – turns out it was a +3 vorpal longsword (snicker-snack, mofo’s!) made for human pets kept by giants during the ancient wars between the giants and dragons.

  • They know that Red Wizards are here to grab either the young god Acererak is growing or the battery he’s using to grow it.

  • The Red Wizards do not know about the party’s access to the Godroads. They are keeping it as their hidden ace.

  • The Queen of Feathers side-stepped through reality to gain access to a wall she should have not been able to climb with her natural gifts. She wandered northward after taking a grievous headwound.

  • Jusko was frustrated by the whole mess and suggested the Red Wizards relocate to a nearby pillar of earth that he thought was easier to defend than their camp. They agreed and moved.

  • Failed Soldier, Corpseflea Grave Cleric and Trundle, Dwarf Ranger, both leveled up.

  • Next game – the Red Wizards will toss up a series of distractions while the party sneaks into the Night Snake’s Fane to get the key-cubes the Yuan-ti have in hand.

Used the Insight rules as Jusko took stock of the Red Wizards as they ate their first good meal in a long while.

5e enemies have LOTS of hit points. Dag. Still, they put a hurt on the Queen of Feathers.

Next session will start with another bang, looking forward to it.

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Landing in the Lost City of Omu

After 4 sessions in Tomb of Annihilation adventure, the players landed their pterodactyls in the Lost City of Omu. 1 session was getting to Port Nyanzaru, another couple of sessions shopping and dinosaur racing in the city and another flying pterodactyls across Chult.

This is our second session have switching over to 5e. The party just got to 3rd level.

  • They decided to land on a pillar of land above the lava, hoping that the lack of easy access would keep them safe.

    Their Gnome-inventor friend, Dosk, is setting up her equipment to see if she can figure out exactly where the Soulmonger is pulling the ghosts.

  • “I am going to use the Gem of True Seeing to make sure no invisible wizards fly in and sneak up on us,” Kuru said, right before a pair of Red Wizards tried to fly in invisible and take stock of them. Contact was made and the group was invited to the Red Wizards’ wreckage of a camp.

  • Jusko was worried about the letter of introduction Vandrilla Shadowmantle gave them to give to the Red Wizards, worried they might get Rosencrantz-&-Guildenstern’d.

    Kuru removed the wax seal and Bugwump read the letter in ancient Mulhandori. It was legit, no coded kill-orders.

  • They split the party – Failed Soldier (Corpseflea Cleric of the Grave) and Trundle (Dwarven Ranger) looked into the Godroad entrance near the shrine to an ancient Omu God while Jusko (Human Fighter) and Bugwump (Frog-kin Wizard) took Pterodactyls to make contact with the Red Wizards.

  • Kuru remained at camp with the guides and the remaining steeds, using his spyglass to keep track of things.

  • The camp was a mess, having just survived a Yuan-ti attack. Bugwump corrected their assessment of the Yuan-ti as “snake people” repeatedly. Jusko invited the Red Wizards to dinner at their place that night.

  • Failed Soldier and Trundle looked at the local Godroads, making contact with an ancient Omuan deity who Trundle took into his flesh for the power of Invisibility.

    They could see the other shrines to the other Omuan deities and some fell shrines in a temple complex that would turn out to be run by the Yuan-ti.

  • On their way home, Jusko and Bugwump are hit by a flurry of arrows from Yuan-ti scouts who were watching their approach. The archers targeted their pterodactyls, killing one.

    Jusko and Bugwump wade in and drive 3 of the 5 scouts away with spell and steel.

  • Kuru sees something moving towards Jusko and Bugwump from the north of the city.

    The Queen of Feathers, a legendary t-rex with a beautiful ridge of black and blue feathers, attracted to the sounds of dying pterodactyls is making her way south. It has a sword stuck in it skull, flesh and bone healed over it, from someone who tried to kill her and failed.

  • Next game will begin with Yuan-ti, Red Wizards, Queen of Feathers and a few new faces colliding as Trundle and Failed Soldier enter the fray from a nearby shrine-door from the Godroads.

The amount of hit points things have in 5e is shocking to me after months of 5 Torches Deep. I’m wondering if an E5 hack would be the way to go. I’ll give 5e a go for a while.

I think I got distracted by the combat and maybe didn’t split up the spotlight time as well as I should’ve. Something to watch out for in the future.

Using the Bingo Style Experience Points, we started the game writing up the outer ring of the Bingo Board. Bingo chips can be taken off the board to be used as Inspiration.

The covered squares from this session are: Discovered Secret Lore, Earned the Trust of a Wondrous Ally, Added a New Detail to the Map, Built a Bridge (relations with the Red Wizards).

After reading over the full Tomb of the Nine Gods, I’m trimming that dungeon way, way back. More on that later…

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See this design and more in the Tabletop Role-playing Game Collection…

Bugwump’s Gift to the D.M.

SPOILER! We are playing Tomb of Annihilation and this post will spoil some secrets concerning the Heart of Ubtao encounter. If that doesn’t matter to you – READ ON. If you want to play that module and don’t want to know the secrets behind it, maybe come back to this later.

Silver Sword Subject Divider

My friend, John, is playing Bugwump – a frog-kin wizard.

The team’s back-story is that they were all sentenced to the Maze by the Lady of Pain; I didn’t choose that but it seemed to gel everyone together and gave them a timeless period where they were all together. Now they are deputized by the Lady of Pain as an Outlands Expedition Team.

John mentioned that before the Lady of Pain sentenced him, he had been a powerful wizard, high-level (as the D&D folks say). So, when they met an Arch-Mage on the Godroads, it occurred to me to ask John if Bugwump knew this guy and he did. It was a cool encounter – reminded me of running into an old college buddy on a day when you feel like you haven’t accomplished anything. Suddenly, a strange moment – encountering an Arch-Mage on the Godroads – became very relatable.

Enter this odd encounter in the Tomb of Annihilation – The Heart of Ubtao.

The Heart is this magically floating mote of earth, about the size of 3 cottages. Valindra Shadomantle is there, an agent working for the Red Wizards. Though a powerful necromancer, she isn’t a Red Wizard herself. The big secret is that she is a lich.

As I read the encounter, I realized Bugwump might know her. The Arch-mage on the Godroads felt like running into an old buddy from school. Valindra was going to feel like…

…holy shit, Bugwump dated her, didn’t he? I asked.

John agreed. I mentioned that when they were together she’d take consulting work from anyone. She had helped liches hide their phylacteries and trapped dungeons and lairs against intruders.

Being Bugwump’s ex gave her this realness. Bugwump was much less scrupulous in his youth. We have seen that change from when we first began the campaign.

Hasn’t everyone dated someone in college who, if they turned out to be undead, you’d say, “Yeah, that scans.”

Through stealth checks the a Gem of True-Seeing the players figured out Valindra’s lichness. Bugwump told her that they’d meet her cohort of Red Wizards and come back to figure out what to do next with whatever Acererak was up to in the Lost City of Omu. He was lying and she knew it but suddenly, it wasn’t about adventurers stealing. It was an ex saying he’d come back when he never was going to come back.

I know that adventurers (particularly, bards) dating monsters is a kind of RPG-twitter cliche. Tonight it made a dangerous and interesting totally unbalanced encounter even more interesting.

Thank you, John, for making interesting choices.

Silver Sword Subject Divider

One more interesting moment from that game. The guides were frantically saddling the pterodactyls to get off the earth mote.

Drew’s knight, Jusko, knocked on Valindra’s door. He had a game board that we called Outlands Chess – it is round and the center of the board represents Sigil. You can win by taking the other’s Wizard or by taking Sigil. Valindra won by taking both but Drew’s roll had been higher (he rolled GREAT and she rolled poorly).

He learned about her through play and I let him ask questions about her to see what the game taught him about her character. Love it.

When characters play strategy games I almost never make the die roll about winning; I make it about seeing what you can learn about the person playing.

Sometimes, though, winning is cool.

Next week…

Does our Thursday night D&D group have its own t-shirt? Yeah, we do.

Moons of Leviathan: Space Drugs

Inspired by the Visions of Death move in Apocalypse World: Burned Over in the Volatile playbook and in Apocalypse World 2nd Edition in the Battlebabe Playbook.

Moves are gained through using technology.

When you take Trance before battle, roll your approporiate training:
On a 10+, name one person who will die and one who will live.
On a 7-9, name one person who will die or one who will live.
On a miss you see a vision of the monster you become as a result of this battle and the fell havoc your hand brings to the universe, take -1 for this battle and hold 3 moving forward after the battle is done.
[ ] +1 to a roll that brings this vision to reality.
[ ] +1 to to a roll that brings this vision to reality.
[ ] Roll this move again as if you were entering battle. Either retire this character as the destiny is made real or prove you have free will by changing the course of destiny.
True Sword, a networked blade with an AI embedded in its core.

“I live in an apocalyptic dream. My steps fit into it so precisely that I fear most of all I will grow bored reliving the thing so exactly.”
― Frank Herbert, Dune Messiah

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Dune Collection
Scifi Dune Font by Hydro74 / Joshua M. Smith over a sand dune
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scifi Truesword
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Training and Moves in Moons of Leviathan

Riding a wave of inspiration from Morgan, we’re playing Traveller(ish). We’re using the skills as a way to resolve conflicts using Apocalypse World moves. So far it is working

What about skill improvement?

In Book 2: Starships of the Traveller Little Black Box, it talks a bit about getting education and training. Easy enough to Apocalypse it up a bit. Here’s a different way to say something similar, drawing inspiration from ( or ruthlessly pillaging, depending on your POV) Apocalypse World and Burned Over:

“Muad'Dib learned rapidly because his first training was in how to learn. And the first lesson of all was the basic trust that he could learn. It's shocking to find how many people do not believe they can learn, and how many more believe learning to be difficult.”
Frank Herbert, Dune
When your character wants to train, either gaining a new expertise or improving an established skill, talk to the Referee about the people who offer such training.
Then the Referee will tell you 1 to 4 of the following:
[ ] It is going to take X weeks/months/years of consistent training
[ ] First, you will have to hire a tutor through [an in-game faction]
[ ] You will need X to help you with it.
[ ] It is going to cost dearly.
[ ] There is ancient tech that is said to condition the brain in this manner.
[ ] You’re already the best in the sub-sector; you’ll have to venture deep into the void or take on a massive under-taking in order to improve.
[ ] It is illegal to train the brain in such a manner; you will be risking imprisonment, excommunication or worse.
[ ] Those who safeguard these training methods are rigid in their orthodoxy and will guard them dearly but there are always rebels and heretics at the fringe of the worlds…
Once your training is complete you can add the skill to your sheet or increase the skill you already have. The Referee will tell you what you will need to do to keep this skill sharp so that this expertise does not become covered in rust and decay.

But, Judd, you ask, what about stats?

I like that we’re saying that the limits of the human body aren’t interesting to us. What you use to change the world is your training and in order to gain training you have to go out and interact with the world.

What about non-basic moves?

Non-basic moves are all tech. Maybe the True Sword, a networked blade with an embedded AI, gives you a move like the Gunlugger’s Not to be Fucked With, where you fight as a gang. Certain drugs give you access to psychic powers.

A science-fantasy True Sword and a cool way to show the end of the blog post
A True Sword and a cool way to show the end of the blog post

Dune Collection
Scifi Dune Font by Hydro74 / Joshua M. Smith over a sand dune
https://shopofjudd.threadless.com/collections/dune-collection
Science Fiction Collection
scifi Truesword
https://shopofjudd.threadless.com/collections/science-fiction

Thursday Night Delving Club t-shirt

At the start of the pandemic, a little more than a year ago, my friend, Anthony was feeling sick. It turned out to just be a cold but we didn’t know that. We were scared. I asked him if I could grab some groceries for him and leave them on his porch or get something from the pharmacy. He didn’t need any of that.

“Could you run a game?”

“Fuck yeah, I can.”

We’ve been gaming strong for more than a year now and this t-shirt celebrates that.

100% or the proceeds generated by this shirt go to Stop AAPI Hate (and Threadless throws in a few more bucks). We love the idea of our geekery and friendship somehow, in some way, making the world a better place. After the brutal hate crime last week our Asian siblings, friends and colleagues in the hobby, have had a brutal week after a particularly brutal year. It is nice to use our creativity to support them in some small way.

All of the items in this story go to wonderful charities.

LINK TO SHIRT

Moons of Leviathan, Session 1, Remembering Morgan

That game was special and strange. Thank you, Sean and the Actual Play team. Thank you to everyone in chat.

Thank you, Morgan, for the cool character and cool everything. Thank you for continuing to inspire us.

Ithaca Station’s True Sword

That is exactly what we did, Morgan. There was a duel out on the ship’s hull, in the void of space under the baleful glare of the Leviathan’s eye.

I think you would’ve loved it. What you made and you inspired us to make was too cool for one session. We’re going back.

Feuding Gods in the Portal City of Xaos

I grabbed my tables and rolled some dice.

Water

Huh, Limbo.

Feuding Gods…now we’re talking.

I wrote down Water, Chaos of Limbo, Feuding Deities. I wrote down Lake Monastery and crossed it out. Then I thought about it a while and got excited about Xaos, the Portal City between the Outlands and Limbo. In the process of thinking about that, I forgot about the water aspect of this roll, which is just fine.

In the end, the players had to head to Xaos, a Portal City on the edge of the Outlands to end a God-Feud that was ripping the town apart.

  • Feuding Gods
  • Elemental Chaos
  • Githzerai Monks
  • Chaos Worshippers on Pilgrimage to look upon Limbo

Alright, let’s put these pieces together.

Taking a cue from Trophy Gold Incursions I’m going to break the Portal Town into sets. This is helpful to me because structure is helpful, especially with an idea as big as Gods Feuding in a Portal Town between the Outlands and the Elemental Plane of Chaos.

Front Gate, Portal Platform, Bell-Tower, Shrine-Town

Front Gate is built under a cyclopean statue of the ancient hero-saint Gith, cross-legged, meditating upon a sword, a broken chain and the elements.

  • Crow’s Cages
  • Githzerai Guards

Portal Platform has Githzerai with long polearms to keep out any chaos monsters that might spill forth from the gate. They are milling about but always with one eye on the portal, ready to spring into action.

  • Chaos Pilgrims
  • Githzerai Monks

The Bell-Tower is where the Abbot of the monastery lives and studies. The bell is only rung when something comes through the gate.

  • The Abbot’s Library – lots of planar theory about law and chaos, meditations on hierarchy, why the fist is more potent to the sword, martial arts manuals
  • The Bell of Chains – yes, it is made of melted chains from their days as Illithid Thralls.

Shrine-town is a ramshackle town where the chaos pilgrims stay.

  • The Eight-Pointed Star is the lone inn with shrines to Arioch and other Chaos Saints.
  • Squats – none really own land here, folks stay in the shacks here for as long as they need to and move on when they are ready.

One of my favorite parts of Trophy Gold adventure’s format is moments. Little things for the players to see, little things for the GM to say when there is a lull.

Front Gate Moments

Crow caged prisoner asks for water (Githyanki, Illithid and one other. to be determined at the moment or randomly..)

Monk meditates on four elements rotating around his head, changing the nature of each; she will talk about nature of the planes if folks want to chat about philosophy

Portal Platform Moments

Guards tell anyone coming too close to be careful but don’t hold anyone back CHAOS REIGNS

Chaos Pilgrims look upon the Chaos of Limbo, weeping on their knees

Fallen Paladin looking upon chaos; he came here to throw his broken sword into Limbo itself

The Bell-Tower Moments

The Abbot meditating upon the nature of lava.

The room, silent and inviting, only a sleeping crystal bat and Limbo’s portal lighting your way.

Shrine-town Moments

Chaos pilgrims debating hierarchies and their place in Law and Chaos…

But what do they DO?

They track down gods.

During the first session I had 3 player characters, so I based the gods roughly and loosely on them.

The Bandit God, The Hanged Man, the Road Agent

  • Escape, Ambush, Criminal Recruitment

The Sorcerer God, the Wizard-Toad, The Blesser of Towers

  • Spells, Lore, Towers

The Elder Ring, Dryad Crone, The Holy Willow

  • Roots, Seeds, Secrets

The first game was travel and getting used to the area. The second game I started with a bang. The Bandit God mugged one of the players at knifepoint while the kids of the town were watching a puppet show about Gith liberating her people from the cruel Illithid.

I decided the gods were weak and had trouble healing. They’d have 4d10 hit points and powers that went with their spheres of influences.

The Toad-Wizard-God tossed an acidic mist spell into the plaza, trying to kill the Bandit God and a brutal battle followed. I liked it. I haven’t run a good D&D combat in a long while and this one was fun.

At the end of the game, the players were gathered around Trundle as he tried to destroy the stone that had done the first murder in the gods’ dead world. It was a brutal death artifact. The Elder Ring approached. I rolled an encounter table and rolled a 10 – considers offers/leaves. She was not willing to jump them; they were right in front of the portal to Limbo. She asked them to give the stone to her. They refused.

She nodded and walked away.

On the Bingo XP table, I covered, Players make an enemy and told them I did so. There’s an angry tree goddess from a dead world pissed at them.

Cool.

Next game the players are heading to a party in Faery. Dark Powers are afoot. I won’t tell you what I rolled but I’ll post the notes just like this once I’m done.

Should be fun.

If you liked the blog post above you might like the pdf linked below with inspirational tables to support a DM running a Githyanki Invasion.