Wednesday, September 19, 2018

5e: Phylactery Shenanigans

I sadly missed this past week's session, but thankfully one of my fellow players wrote this up!

Ten month, 14th day, 1698,
To the Honorable Great Lord and Master of Lost Arcana, Nilrem,

As requested my lord, find the most recent translation of the journals from the excavated ruins in Neverwinter attached. This journal belonged to a monk called Joda, who lived almost five-hundred years ago. Comments in italics are mine. Additional translations of legible entries are forthcoming, and after, the manuscript will be submitted to restoration, so that additional entries may be retrieved.

The Entry Begins...

We were in an incredibly large cave or chamber. In truth, it was so large, I could barely see the ceiling. The room itself was big enough for two Thunderball courts (a court was sized at 75x150 so this cavern may be 150x300 feet --ed). There were four large sarcophagi placed in the room and one can only wonder what was inside (we think this was sarcasm --ed).

Hilde, bellying her barbarian stereotype, remembered the magic glue we had. Bran knew what its true name but whatever. We had enough to glue three of the sarcophagi shut. The fourth, well, we'll find out when we find out.

We passed through two large adamantium doors and into the library. There were shelves, and shelves, and rows and rows, of scrolls and rare manuscripts. Oh, if only Fulhoff and Journey were here; they would have truly enjoyed this room, but perhaps not for very long. As it was, Bran quickly started going through and touching everything. Including, unknowingly, the phylactery.

I think a trap was triggered when the phylactery was touched, or perhaps when it broke for Bran dropped it. Regardless, the room started to shake and tremble. cracks in the floors and walls appeared, and large chunks of rock started to fall from the ceiling. We ran.

Back into the sarcophagi room and sure enough the unglued sarcophagus had a giant skeleton rising from it (we think this was the skeleton of an actual giant, as opposed to a figurative giant skeleton. --ed). Even worse, a huge pounding sound was coming from the other sarcophagi. Then the lid broke and the other giant skeleton started to stand. Bran became a bird. Hilde picked up the unconscious mercenary and ran for it. I did my best to attack and distract the skeletons.

We did not make it through unscathed. But we outran the skeletons and made it into the mountain caverns. Bran remembered the way in the maze as we made our way out. We were badly hurt as the mountain continued to fall all around us. We constantly fell and the injuries mounted up, and then, the mountain opened up and we were on the edge of a cliff face. The mountain continued to crumble behind us.

The Fan of the Skye Rune became a cloud carpet. We were barely upon it and away before the cliff face collapsed. Bran took that moment to tell us that even though the Phylactery was destroyed, the Lich still lived! Fuck! (My lord, please forgive the crude language --ed.)

We returned to Mirabar to find the noble houses cured. Apparently, Fulhoff's ceremonial ritual was enough to break the curse. He is so smart! And the noble houses were so grateful. Bran said he has not seen this much platinum in his entire life.

We, of course, returned to xxxx (the name was not legible --ed) shop of curiosities where I found Gloves of Ogre Strength. Not only do they give me great strength but my arms now look like...

The rest of the entry is torn and not legible. However, we are working on other parts of the journal, which look promising and additional entries may be available soon.

With great respect and honor,
Weno, Archiver of the Seventh Circle

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Stonehell: Ogrevation in the Caves

Session 77 was played on 9/8
Eiric, wizard 7 (Kat)
- men at arms (Narus, Verman)
- Ghost (dog)
Brie, wizard 4 (Apprentice to Eiric)
A-A-Ron, Thief 6 (Henchman)
Daryll, Cleric 6 (Henchman)
Orpheus, Human Fighter 6 (Henchman)
Karl, Dwarf 7 (Julia)
- Hobart (dog)
- men at arms (Maax, Dar)
- linkman (Gilcox)
Lex the Cheeseman, Fighter 4 (Henchman)
Koltic, Cleric 3 (Chris) - Stayed in town

With Koltic laid low, nursing the mother of all hangovers, the rest of the party geared up and headed into the dungeon. It was quiet as they made their way down to there wererat den. A-A-Ron nervously handed over the bag of ill gotten gold to Esmalia, who asks if they know how to get to the room. They don’t, at least not with the elevator out of commission. The tentative timing of the meeting is set for 2 weeks.

Circling around, away from the Harpies, they made their way down into the caves, and are soon attacked by a band of skinheads. Narus takes a large javelin through the chest, and in response Eiric calls out “MARSHMALLOW!” and sets them alight with a fireball. Only one survives, and they take him prisoner.

The “WOOMPH” of the fireball attracted the attention of some ogres, and A-A-Ron gets clubbed hard. The pair of ogres was no match for the party, and they were slain before they could do more damage.

Poking through the caves they disturb a giant rattler, who fails to bite anyone, and is skinned.

Deeper into the caves the party hears some talking ahead. A-A-Ron is feeling nervous, and so Eiric makes herself invisible, sneaks forward, and sees a half dozen orges each looking down the different exits of the room yelling back at each other that they don’t see anything.

Eiric returns to the party, still invisible, and taps Karl on the shoulder for shits and giggles. Karl screams, and wildly swings his ax, Orpheus and Darryl basically smother him, but the damage was done. The Ogres had gone silent…

Eiric prepared to cast lightning down the hallway in preparation for the Ogres advance… and the rest of the party was ready to sweep in after. But the ogres were tricky, and some had circled around behind. The two who emerged from in front did so only after the charge from the rear. Vermin, caught completely by surprise, took a club to the head, dropping him down. BLows were traded, and the lightning bolt cast, while magic missiles flashed from Brie. Orpheus gutted one ogre, whole Ghost ripped the throat out of another. Darryl kneecapped his opponent with his mace, while Karl’s ax cut chunk after chunk from their flesh.

After the battle, Vermin was discovered to be still alive, but a little slow. The bodies were looted, and the party discussed returning to town…

Gains: 363gp
Kills: 8 skinheads, 8 ogres
Losses: Narus, 1,000gp

Monday, September 17, 2018

Dancing Girl part 3

Well, it's been about 3 months since I last touched this mini...

In case you missed it here's Part 1 and Part 2

But as I head into the final stretch of my class, I needed a night off, so out came my painting tray, and I got to work.

I decided I wasn't happy with the purple, so I switched it up to Runic Purple. And for the green, I went to Jade Green, using Bleached Linen to lighten the color. for the skin I went back to Dark Flesh Highlight, and to keep things consistent, used the same Bleached Linen to make some glazes to try to smooth out her skin tones.

You can't really tell but I painted her fingernails with the Runic Purple.

I also used the Runic Purple for her eyeliner and lipstick.

I used the same Bleached Linen for the pearls/beads. I'm thinking about putting her on a different base, but... Don't know yet.

Still need to do some work on the fabric. I think a few glazes to help smooth it out. The bead work needs a bunch of work too, and I've done next to nothing with her hair and headband and the rest of her jewelry. I'm thinking of using Aged Pewter as the base for most of it.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

5e: Brightly Banner Brandished Get's Hooked

From: Sir Fulhoff of Clan Balderk, Knight of Hawk’s Nest, Battle Mage
To: Helja and Adrik of Clan Balderk

Mother and Father:

All knowledge is sacred. My training in the temple, and more so under my master hammered that point home. Knowledge was to be sought out, and preserved. Knowledge is power, the power to defend your home, your temple, your clan.

I have come into power, into knowledge, and for once I’m unsure what to do with it. This seemed such a simple quest at the start: save the families by putting their ancestors bones to rest, thereby breaking the curse upon them.

Hilde and Bran seemed a little worn out after the pillow fight, so we settled on a rest. Rin told of a spectre that visited while we were asleep, and claims he… scared it away. We packed up and moved on, only to discover that the Silver Hook foolishly followed us in. First we found their wizard Kelvin barely alive, holed up in some... anatomical workshop full of surgical instruments and dark texts.

I avoided his magical attack, knocked the wand from his hands, then Hilde poured a healing potion down his gullet. He ranted about rust monsters, and what fool Gerhart is… and that this was the home of a Lich. And that its phylactery was hidden somewhere in the library. We sent him on his way…

Deeper into the dungeon, we entered a cyclopian chamber housing some strange metal orrery stretching out from a central steel pillar wrapped in an external staircase, with arms radiating out that spanned the entire room. First circumnavigating the room, we found no other exits, so we approached the central pillar. Then, from the darkness above, the beardless dwarf of the Silver Hook dropped among us, battered and bloody. He began to speak, whether to warn or threaten us is unclear, as a crossbow bolt shot down from above, killing him. The bolt was followed by 2 figures in ancient garb, cackling about the joy of fresh blood for the first time in 200 years… and they referred to each other by name.

Milli Vanilli and Brendon… The Brightly Banner Brandished! We’d found them… or, they’d found us. The rest of the party dropped down, and the battle raged. Rin and Hilde chopped and slashed with great skill, Bran’s black weapons drained what life force kept them animated, and I blasted them with lightning. Thankfully their movements were stiff, and while we took some hits, we sent their spirits to rest.

But of the lich, and it’s phylactery? Bran spoke to Emmry to confirm their identity, and we then ascended the stairs to the top of the pillar, and the doorway leading into the pillar… and the stairs going down. I was tempted to use Fly, but opted to take it a step at a time.

Destroying the phylactery is clearly now the top priority, though I can’t say for sure that doing so will end the lich, whoever it is, or whether it will just weaken it. Either way, the deed needs to be done. But then, what of the books?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Scaling Your Adventure Expectations

My Storm King’s Thunder Game has been going on a while now, and like most groups, anytime the DM dangles something shiny in front of us, we’re more than happy to abandon the main plot and take up the side quest. Right now, we’re in the middle of a Lich’s lair, looking for it’s phylactery!

At the end of our last game, the DM mentioned that she thought that this side quest would take only a couple of sessions tops. We’ve been at it 4 weeks, and we’re still not at the end.

Given the size and complexity of the quest, I’m not surprised.

Let’s review what we’ve encountered so far!

  1. Getting the quest, traveling to the dungeon, talking to NPCs and getting info about it
  2. Mine Cart Ride
  3. Mountain Climbing (avoiding several possible combat encounters)
  4. Rival Adventuring Gang Combat
  5. Spirit Naga Combat
  6. Ice Zombie Combat
  7. Giant Statue & Ice Worms
  8. Magic Door Trap
  9. Cloaker Combat
  10. Shadows Combat 
  11. Scarecrow Combat 
  12. Exploration & further encounters with Rival Adventurers
  13. Wight Combat

Week 1 was 1-4, Week 2 was 5-7, Week 3 was 8-11, and week 4 was 12+13.

So on a given week we’re going through 2-4 significant events. Thinking back, this tracks pretty well with how we’ve been progressing through the adventure, and also with how encounters tended to go when I was running 5e.

Now, I don’t know how big this dungeon actually is, but given that we just found the adventurers we were looking for (and killed their undead selves) I’m guessing we’re close to done.

However, my main point here, is that when you’re planning to dangle a side quest, look at what’s actually in the quest to gauge how much of a distraction it’s going to be. DCC does a really good job at this with their “Encounter Table” at the beginning of their adventures. It’s one thing I think I’d enjoy seeing WotC adopt for their 5e adventures.

The specific advice I’m giving my DM (and I'm sharing with you readers) is to keep side quests short, like 5 room dungeon short. A 5 room dungeon is great for a single night’s adventure. It gives you the opportunity to add in a little something extra that might be missing from the current storyline. In our case that seems to be undead. Keeping it short allows for the spice, but keeps us all on track to actually deal with the Storm Kings... thunder?

What's a 5 Room Dungeon?

Image from

Maybe you’re unfamiliar with the term. If so, picture a 5 room dungeon, within you have:

  1. Entrance
  2. Puzzle/Trap/Trick
  3. Setback
  4. Boss Fight
  5. Treasure/Reward

Mix and match, and you have an adventure for the night. Need to fill 2 nights? 10 room dungeon!

Game on, and remember to keep the scale of the adventure in mind when planning out your game time.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Steel Time Excerpt!

This week, book 4 of the Steel Empires urban fantasy/alternate series is released! In a world with vampires, warrior-mages, weredragons, and sarcastic violin players, time travel seems like the obvious next step. Read on for an excerpt from Steel Time, by friend J.L. Gribble.

You’re never too young or too old to experience a paradigm shift.
Toria Connor is 25 when tripping over an artifact in the ruins of Nacostina thrusts her a century into the past, before the city is destroyed during the Last War. Now, she finds herself alone. Adrift in a time where she must hide everything important to her, from her mercenary career to her true magical ability.
Victory is over eight centuries old when she follows her adopted daughter. She has seen empires rise and fall, but never anything like this. She must survive alone in a city inhospitable to vampires, dodging friends and foes from her past alike.
Both of them know the clock is ticking down to the moment when the city is wiped off the map. Now, they’re in a race against time. To find each other. To escape the past. And to save the future.
Currently available from:
Barnes & Noble
Direct from publisher
Carpe Librum (the author’s local indie bookseller)
Or support your own local independent bookstore by requesting a copy today!
It is possible to read Steel Time as a stand-alone book, but don’t miss out on Toria and Victory’s previous adventures!
Book 1: Steel Victory
Book 2: Steel Magic
Book 2: Steel Blood
Victory reined in uncoordinated limbs and staggered to her feet, drawing her sword and ignoring the ache in her tailbone. She dropped into a defensive position and turned full circle, bracing for attack.
None came. She stood alone in a long gallery. Moonlight poured in from high windows, and red emergency lighting at the far end of the hall reflected on marble floors. Display cases lined the walls, and her enhanced eyesight picked minerals and gemstones out of the darkness. Even as the back of her mind cataloged karat weights and worth, the rest of her brain noted something much more urgent.
She was alone in this museum gallery. No heartbeats. No Toria.
The muted sounds of a city at night penetrated the gallery. Including, of all things, more liquid-fuel engines than she’d heard in one place since her visit to Jiang Yi Yue, a city where the vehicles ran on ethanol.
A museum gallery. Gasoline-powered engines.
Even inside, she scented the tang of gasoline below the harsh aroma of cleaning supplies and traces of body odor from those who had passed through this hall today.
A museum gallery, with a type of emergency lighting she hadn’t seen in years.
Gasoline engines.
It was like she’d gone back in time.
Buried among the smells of other people, she plucked out one in particular. After so many years, she knew her daughter’s unique scent—her skin, her hair, her sword. Even if Toria wasn’t here now, she had been in the recent past.
With no immediate attack imminent, Victory sheathed her sword.
The long hall had exits at either end. Flipping a mental coin, Victory picked a direction. It was child’s play to pick the basic lock on the massive metal door and haul it open.
Once through, she found herself on the second-floor balcony of a tall rotunda. Moonlight filtered into the large windows closer to the ceiling, and the marble architecture shimmered in the pale light. The entrance to another exhibit gallery sat opposite the wide expanse of space, this one advertising the flora of the New Continent. Victory stepped to the edge of the balcony and peered down, onto the dusty top of a giant stuffed mammoth.
“Hank.” Her voice, no more than a whisper, seemed to echo in the emptiness. She recognized the animal, or at least the affectionate term by which visitors had known it. She knew this museum, which was why Toria had asked her along on this job.
She could no longer pretend this was anything else. She had returned to Nacostina before the Last War, before the destruction of the city. Her fingers gripped the marble railing at the balcony’s edge. Of all the things, her first worry was how pissed off Asaron would be when she disappeared off the face of the planet. Whenever she left Limani, he assumed the role of Master of the City. He did so with lots of begrudging complaints, but deep down, Victory knew he enjoyed the change of pace from traditional mercenary life.
But the kids lived dangerous lives, having followed in the footsteps of their adopted mother and grandfather. Victory always took the chance to spend time with them, even if it meant traipsing around a ruined city hunting for a rock.
Victory was hundreds of years old. She had seen the rise and fall of civilizations. She had already experienced one complete paradigm shift when the elves blocked the progress of technology. It wasn’t so far-fetched that she might experience another.
Time travel. Who’d have thought?
So, two goals. Find Toria. Find the way home.
But first, she had to break out of a museum. Victory examined her options, what she could see and what she could remember. Lots of windows in the gallery she had come from, but they consisted of many panes. The heavy leading would be a chore to break through. Massive front doors out of the bottom of the rotunda where Hank surveyed his domain would also be tricky to disguise an escape.
There had to be other ways out of the building. Staff entrances. Loading docks. Things she’d never had reason to pay attention to, and therefore had no reason to remember now.
At least security cameras were not a concern in this era.
The thud-thud of a heartbeat shattered the silence, accompanied by boots sauntering across marble flooring and relaxed breathing.
Security guards, however, were a concern.

By day, J. L. Gribble is a professional medical editor. By night, she does freelance fiction editing in all genres, along with reading, playing video games, and occasionally even writing. She is currently working on the Steel Empires series for Dog Star Books, the science-fiction/adventure imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press. Previously, she was an editor for the Far Worlds anthology.
Gribble studied English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She received her Master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where her debut novel Steel Victory was her thesis for the program.
She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats.
Find her online at: