Kill Acererak 1: Plans & Deals

Kill Acererak 1: Plans & Deals

In which the Sigil 6 decide to venture into the Shadowfell once more, this time in order to destroy Acererak forever.

TEXT: Traversing the Shadowfell's coldest mountains, the Sigil 6 are attempting to KILL ACERERAK.

PIC: Black and White negative volcano

Who are the Sigil 6 – Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Shepherd what have they been up to?

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

There was an hour of discussing what to do. They decided to use the 8 Lich’s Soul Jars as leverage to cut a deal with the Lich Congress, getting the Tomb That Walks off their trail and then doing their damnedest to get to where Acererak keeps his Soul Jar before he can come back.

The Lady of Pain brokered a meeting with Kaasary, the Herald of Orcus (thank goodness for the Fantasy Name Generator’s Lich Names) on a magic-dead area in the Maze. They agreed that they get the Tomb That Walks off their trail and the specific way to destroy Acererak’s Soul Jar. The Herals also agreed to notify them if they should learn that Acererak has reincorporated.

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Acererak’s Soul Jar is in a heavily trapped volcano in the Winterfell, a mountain that spews negative energy, not lava. The volcano is surrounded by tribes of oathbreaker Frost Giants who owe Acererak some ancient debt. Once they have the archlich’s Soul Jar, they’ll have to take it back to his home, a small Prime Material world. They were given a map to a swamp a few days journey from a city called Greyhawk.

The players are talking about using this item they received from a Gnomish Deity after a previous adventure.

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The Lady of Pain gave Trundle a blue-white rose with vicious thorns that was a key that opened a gate to a nearby mountain in the Shadowfell. Trundle wrapped it around his shield. Jusko buried a piece of broken amber from the golem they destroyed in Demi-Plane of Dread’s Amber Temple.

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Next Game: The long slog to Mount Acererak, a volcano spewing negative energy. They haven’t rested, not knowing when Acererak will reincorporate.

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Reddit GM Advice: Friends’ Brains, Evil Story, Lovable Thieves & a Longer Game

Reddit GM Advice: Friends’ Brains, Evil Story, Lovable Thieves & a Longer Game

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I made a list of 3 GM advice subreddits called RefAdvice.

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Tell them that you love their ideas.

Have you ever seen an adventurer hit a perfect idea?

Tell them that their ideas are fine but the life of an adventurer is chaos and that is what will most often happen but that it isn’t a judgment on them or their imaginations. As a matter of fact, the chaos is part of the fun.

Talk to your friends and tell them you like their brains.

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The story is what happens at the table.

Hero party rivals are fun but make sure you are making them to create a fun antagonist for your evil characters and not as some kind of punishment.

If this isn’t what you want in a game, talk to your friends about it. You might have to start over; you might find that there is a new angle here that is not what you had planned but is still interesting.

Might be worthwhile to look up picaresque fantasy stories if this is the campaign’s new direction.

Good luck! I hope you find a direction everyone can enjoy.

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Leader is a changeling who had the same thing happen to her when she was growing up, so she has a soft spot for this kid (but will also be hard on her to drive her to do her best work).

Do they get their intel from a network of shapeshifters, out to stick it to the world that spurned them?

Want thieves to feel less scummy? Show rich nobles for what they were – make them disgusting pits of privilege and state violence.

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I’m going to suggest an exercise that might help.

Imagine one of your one-shots. Think about what the players achieved, the consequences of what they did. How would the world react? What new enemies would stir to act against them? What heroic folk would rally to celebrate their victory?

Think of those one-shots as stones in a pond, sending out ripples that effect the world. How could those ripples inspire further adventures?

Don’t feel like you have to start a long campaign knowing how it will end. You don’t know and that is okay. Your players are going to surprise you with their creativity. Take delight in their imaginations.

I hope that helps.

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Reddit GM Advice: Let Go, Brainstorming, Unicorn Hunters & More World Building

Reddit GM Advice: Let Go, Brainstorming, Unicorn Hunters & More World Building

Reddit Icon in front of my lovely rainbow dice from Dice Envy.

I made a list of 3 GM advice subreddits called RefAdvice.

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Have those encounters ready if they should happen. If not, have other plans.

Don’t hold too tightly to one idea. That can often lead to DM’s being frustrated when their friends are creative, rather than celebrating and being excited by their friends’ creativity/outside the box thinking.

Let go.

Good luck and have fun!

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Would a brainstorming document help?

Here’s mine:

Context, Cool Shit and Consequences

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Incorporate lore and history into it:

“Did you all meet while serving in the Mage Wars, or maybe helping the duke put down the rebellion or were you all trapped in Port Constance during the Devil Siege?”

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The Goblin King calls in his Unicorn Hunters, a posse of bad-ass rangers known for being patient and ruthless. They’ll watch their prey, figure out how to draw them out into a bad spot and hit them, see where and how they run when they get hurt. Then they’d disengage, formulate a plan and try again later.

Definitely inspired by D&D parties and the movie, Legend.

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It is different for every world and every game.

In a recent game I made the setting because a friend told me that he had never encountered a dragon in gaming. I made a setting that made it easy to be driven to kill a dragon. I knew it’d have a military fantasy vibe, so I knew maps would be important.

Start with what interests you. Don’t feel like hooks and NPC’s and dungeon crawls have to be separate from this thing and that other thing. Build as you build. Build what you need.

If you want to try out a bunch of dungeon ideas – make a world that fits those ideas.

If you want to get started TONIGHT, make the village based on what the players’ characters are and make that one dungeon or rampaging manticore or whatever that gets them into the adventure. If that game is great, build the world out from there but don’t feel like you have to build a working economy and the origins of the universe right there and then.

Have fun!

Good luck!

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The Tomb of Annihilation’s Revenge 6: Beheading Acererak

The Tomb of Annihilation’s Revenge 6: Beheading Acererak

In which the Sigil 6 used a Wish to avoid Death and then beheaded Acererak.

TEXT: Tomb of Annihilation's Revenge

PIC: Acererak's green-gem eyes looking down on the Lost City of Omu

Who are the Sigil 6 – Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Shepherd what have they been up to?

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Acererak had a strong start. The group was bloodied. Bugwump had died from a Power Word Kill and the only thing that saved him was the ability to re-roll a Counterspell. I described the Pale Frog-Kin, an avatar of death from Bugwump’s homeland. “Are you Bugwump, of the Sigil 6?”

Bugwump signed and then flipped the avatar of death off as he went back to life to get another chance.

Then Jusko closed with the archlich. Trundle had closed with Acererak but hadn’t been able to land a shot.

Acererak attempted to use a paralysis touch ability but did not roll well enough to get by Jusko’s 24 AC. And Jusko rolled a nat 20 with a vorpal sword.

Acererak’s green gem eyes started to lose their glow but before they turned to dust they managed to say, “Well done. I will reform soon. We will see if you are so lucky next time.”

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The group looked into some nooks and crannies of the dungeon, found the library and did some research.

Shepherd cast Legend Lore to try and find Acererak’s Soul Jars and/or Lair. I’m thinking that ancient Omuan legendary warriors, folk who were far away from their home when Omu fell to Acererak tried to kill him and never returned.

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Next Game: You know where Acererak’s Lair is…now what?

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Reddit GM Advice: 3d6 Books Table, Hellish Roguelike Idea, Out of Sync New Player

Reddit GM Advice: 3d6 Books Table, Hellish Roguelike Idea, Out of Sync New Player

I made a list of 3 GM advice subreddits called RefAdvice.

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I’d make a few d6 tables so I could make books on the fly.

Who

  1. Yuan-Ti
  2. Elf
  3. Ancient Human
  4. Githyanki
  5. Undead Scholar
  6. Unknown

What

  1. Fighting Manual
  2. Erotica
  3. Political Treatise
  4. Novel
  5. Poetry
  6. Accounting Ledger

Huh

1-2 Famous Author

3-4 Fairly Obscure

5-6 Totally Unknown Author

Does this mean you could end up with obscure Githyanki erotica?

Yes.

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I’d start from Hell, maybe with their memories of the battle where they died as things they can get back like treasure.

When they die maybe their soul starts at the nearest Devil’s stronghold and they have to wheel and deal to get that soul back (and it might not always be worth it).

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Agreed, this should be a discussion with the player, not an in-game consequence.

Consequences are great and important but it seems like the player was out of sync.

In my experience, acts of torture upon NPC’s is often a sign of frustration. Might be worth discussing how information is given out and how players can get the information they need for their characters to make interesting decisions as part of the above discussion about consequences.

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Why I think liches are assholes.

Why I think liches are assholes.

I don’t think liches are bad people because they have cheated death and subverted some kind of “natural order” of things or because Negative Energy has evil cooties. Eff all that.

Liches are shitty people because, to my mind and in the lore I have in my head, they have to destroy everything and everyone that they have ever loved in order to ritually gain immortality. They are the ultimate show of selfishness. They exemplify, my great work is more important than anyone. Liches believe that their minds and will can make the world better than every other person and so, after a while, they want only their minds and will to reign over a dead and decaying world.

A friend of mine said, “Maybe people who want all orcs to be evil just want to…ya know…punch Nazis.” How is the above post about liches different from All Orcs are Evil? I’ll tell ya. It is about nouns and verbs.

If people are evil because of what they are, because of a noun – you aren’t looking to punch fictional Nazis. You are looking to punch fictional Jews.*

*I don’t think the nouns and verbs idea is something I thought of. If I stole this line of thinking form you, please let me know and I’m sorry. Was it Mendez who said it? When I find it, I’ll cite it.

Liches aren’t assholes because their bones are showing or because their eyes shine with the lights of twin dead stars. Liches are evil because of verbs – because of the the things they do. The ritual to become a lich is filled with evil, selfish murderous acts. Verbs.

But it makes them great arcane villains. I love daring my friends to punch a lich right in their selfish, evil face.

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The Tomb of Annihilation’s Revenge 5: Keep on Truckin’ a.k.a. Enter Acererak

The Tomb of Annihilation’s Revenge 5: Keep on Truckin’ a.k.a. Enter Acererak

In which the Sigil 6 enter the Tomb of Annihilation again but this time they encounter the tomb’s architect.

TEXT: Tomb of Annihilation's Revenge

PIC: Acererak's green-gem eyes looking down on the Lost City of Omu

Who are the Sigil 6 – Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Shepherd what have they been up to?

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Before entering the Tomb of Annihilation, Kuru met up with Dacaad and offered whatever support he could and when they parted ways the little Halfling Arcane Trickster said, “Keep on trucking.” This became the words of the night.

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It was a slow start. I didn’t sleep well last night and didn’t have much energy. We levelled up characters, read up on shiny new 6th level spells and made tentative plans to re-enter the Tomb and get the Lich Soul Jars that they knew to be littered on the floor of the balconies above the Death God’s Nursery.

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Trundle had Moa, an Omuan deity in his head again, as he did when they first entered Omu. This gave the Sigil 6 access to the Godroads once again.

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They got into an area called the Chapel of Hate, with the altar to Orcus that they had used as a hasty exit a round or two ahead of Acererak. I rolled a d20, thinking that Acererak would arrive on a 20. Whenever the group stopped to do something – I added another 20. Discussion about what to do with the captive lich, 2d20. Looking over the hallway to the north and deciding not to mess with it – 3d20. Cutting away the Ward on the portal to the balconies above the Death God’s Nursey…4d20.

20.

Timestop. Finger of Death on Bugwump. Chain Lightning on everyone (didn’t do anything to Shepherd because he’s in a Flesh Golem shell).

And we’ll roll initiative next week. I described what it is like to know that time has stopped and that Acererak was staring at the staff Bugwump had acquired the last time the group was in Chult – the staff that had once belonged to the lich.

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Next Game: Acererak is in the building.

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Reddit GM Advice: No Subtlety, ADHD & Brainstorming, Strahd Menu

Reddit GM Advice: No Subtlety, ADHD & Brainstorming, Strahd Menu

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I made a list of 3 GM advice subreddits called RefAdvice.

1.Don’t be subtle. Tell the players when they are making characters what the game is going to be about. Don’t make them chase it. There will be mysteries and surprises along the way anyway.

2. I bet if you tell them and the characters’ back stories are linked to these three, the B plots will write themselves.

3. A group that takes over the Zhents might be cool.

Good luck!

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Would a brainstorming worksheet help?

Context, Cool Shit and Consequences

Hope it is helpful. Good luck!

I’m really glad to hear that. Quite a few people I care about have been diagnosed with ADHD (and I’m looking into getting tested soon).

Could be I made this to deal with my own stuff…

Good luck! You can do this.

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Use the book (and all of the WotC adventure hardcovers) as a menu, rather than a guide or a text that must be followed. Choose the meals that interest you and leave the rest behind. Don’t feel like you have to play it exactly as written in order to play right.

Make it your own, look at the amazing resources in the Curse of Strahd community (Dragna Carta’s re-writes are well worth looking over).

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The Tomb of Annihilation’s Revenge 4: Slaying the Queen of Feathers

The Tomb of Annihilation’s Revenge 4: Slaying the Queen of Feathers

In which the Sigil 6 slay the Queen of Feathers in front of Dacaad and return to Omu, a lost city in the midst of being rebuilt.

TEXT: Tomb of Annihilation's Revenge

PIC: Acererak's green-gem eyes looking down on the Lost City of Omu

Who are the Sigil 6 – Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Shepherd what have they been up to?

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Helewynn’s player always wants to leave her weapons in their scabbards and do some outside the box stuff. I’m worried that 5e’s hit point bloat has attempted to mechanically curb this amazing instinct. Her Moon Elf jumped off her War Raven with a silver chain in her hands, wrapping the blade around the Queen of Feather’s mouth and wrestling her to the ground. When the Queen of Feathers attempted to throw her off, a 20 was rolled in the dueling athletics roll. The Moon Elf Barbarian dragged the legendary T-rex to the ground.

I described the Queen of Feathers desperately trying to get Helewynn off of her, using her Misty Step ability. I described it as stepping momentarily into the Astral Sea returning to Chult 20 feet above the ground but there was no shaking this elven bad-ass.

Kuru put a stone with Immovable Object on it on the back of the Queen of Feather’s head, pinning her in place. Jusko offered his vorpal blade, the one Kuru had ripped from the Queen’s head when they first met, and Helewynn beheaded the beast.

Trundle mentioned checking the corpse for magic items and I rolled on an online random table that generated a pile of magic items, adding in that she also had an undigested Githyanki Silver Sword.

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Dacaad warned the group that the kobold cliffs could be dangerous and cautioned against going to the Yuan-ti part of the city. “Turns out, when people worship a hungry snake god who wants to end the world by eating it, diplomacy is tricky.”

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The ancient Omu trickster snake god is back in Trundle’s head now that he is back, giving the group access to the Godroads again.

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The Sigil 6 hit 11th level tonight. Shit is getting real. I think we’re going to go from 1 to 20. Exciting.

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Next Game: A feast in Omu and then getting the Soul Jars they know are in Acererak’s trapped tomb.

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Reddit GM Advice: World Building Depth, Eye of Vecna, No One Solution

Reddit GM Advice: World Building Depth, Eye of Vecna, No One Solution

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I made a list of 3 GM advice subreddits called RefAdvice.

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Have unanswered questions about people and factions, things that you will discover through play. These could be something they are on the knife’s edge about and could go one way or another – or a goal they are striving for.

Daydream about them without writing plot. Have conversations with them or as them in the shower but don’t lock anything down; don’t hold it too tightly (as Avery Alder said in Monsterhearts). Just ponder and consider.

Jot down 3 words that describe them. It is best if two of the descriptors conflict with one another. People are full of contradictions.

Have goals that they are pursing. When players see them again, consider how they have changed and what they have accomplished or failed to accomplish since they last met.

Digest media from a diversity of points of view.

Good luck!

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You can really have fun with this character’s perception.

Maybe sometimes they see what Vecna has seen in the past, scenes from when Vecna was a Wizard-King with a loyal knight friend named Kaz.

Sometimes they’ll see Vecna in the future, an Archlich making secret plans to destroy worlds.

Sometimes they might just see someone’s secrets, their most hidden things.

And sometimes Vecna will see them and nod, welcoming the to the fold.

Perhaps they can feel the person with the Hand, out there, moving towards them slowly.

Have fun!

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Or don’t come up with a solution. Let your players deal with that.

That way there’s no one right answer. Maybe there are several or some half-measures or some solutions that will degrade over time. Be open to solutions that deal with compromise and messiness.

Not having a solution leaves it in their court.

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