March 31, 2010

Showdown in the Upper Temple of Orcus – Part II: Grinding

[general Rappan Athuk spoiler warning]
[photos compliments of Dave the Knave]
  We left our heroes facing down a hezrou demon.  Apart from some pesky green gargoyles, he was the only threat since the party had routed the babau doormen and slaughtered the Orcus priests and their bodyguards.  To clarify something, the party had long ago found the magical backdoor into the Upper Temple of Orcus and used it for this assault.

  Most of the party knew the hezrou had successfully summoned something in the previous round, given his shit-eating grin.  So what had he summoned?  Dretches.  Lots and lots of dretches.  33 to be precise.  Given the party’s fodder count, I figured the hezrou would respond in kind and opt for the dretches rather than another hezrou.

  What followed was a real grinder of a session.  It was fun, but damn if 3.5 D&D combat isn’t as slow as hell.  Thankfully, Sam came packing the tequila to ease the pain….

  Rather than bore you with a lengthy play-by-play, here are the highlights:
   - The dretches’ physical attacks and the hezrou’s unholy blight and chaos hammer abilities thinned out the ranks of the NPC fodder, but the PC heroes were doing fairly well.

  - When the hezrou broke out the ol’ blasphemy, the players started to sweat. All remaining NPCs were paralyzed and a most of the PCs were weakened and dazed.

  - Roxxor the “chaotic awesome” half-ogre barbarian did a great Frazetta painting impression by taking to the central platform over the lava pit and chopping down dretches with ease.  Alas, he was outnumbered, and, once paralyzed by the blasphemy, was shoved into the lava. He quickly became “chaotic ash.”

  - Things looked bleak for the heroes, but here is how they saved their bacon:

 1. The cleric cast magic circle against chaos and consecrate, creating a bubble of protection from which the group could operate.

 2. The shaman (ala Green Ronin’s The Shaman's Handbook) used his rebuking ability to gain control of the dretches that were within the consecrated area.

 3. The shaman sent the dretches into melee with the hezrou, who,so enraged by their insolence, focused his attacks on them rather than the party.

 4. The wizard was able to fire off a caster level 16 (!) dismissal scroll (previously procured from a loot stash in the dungeon’s lower levels) and, wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am,  the hezrou was sent back to the Abyss, cursing the heroes with his middle fingers in the air.

  - On top of that, the dragon shaman’s (ala the Player's Handbook II) vigor aura ability kept many of the disabled NPCs from outright dying, so a few members of the fodder brigade survived the battle.

  The party has seized the temple.  Now the question is: can they hold it for 24 hours?

March 26, 2010

Nobody parties as hard as the Yuan-Ti Abomination!

So, my friends and I have discovered that the Yuan-Ti Abomination really is misunderstood.  Sure, he is a 12-foot tall, chaotic evil monstrosity composed of venomous snakes… but buy the guy a few rounds of the ol’ Hyperion Ale and he’s the life of the party!

The Showdown continues...

[general Rappan Athuk spoiler warning]

The Showdown in the Upper Temple of Orcus continues tonight.  Last time, the players spent a decent amount of session time prepping for the battle, so we didn't get too far into it.  However, they did make it into the temple with their army of NPC fodder.  Since this is the party's second assault on the temple, its inhabitants have changed.  A sizable portion of clerics and Orcus thugs were quickly wiped out by the party's wizard's well-placed, and empowered, fireball.  Some Green Gargoyles did manage to get the jump on the party's rogue (who took to the air via a potion of flying).

Also...a Type II demon (a.k.a. a Hezrou) was waiting for them and appears to have successfully summoned something.... the party finds out what tonight.

March 16, 2010

March 9, 2010

Troll Lord Games Annual Sale

category255  The annual $10 Sale (link) is going on now at Troll Lord Games.  The name is sort of a misnomer since not everything really is for $10 (some prices are higher and lower), but, regardless there are some good deals.  If you’re curious about Castles & Crusades, this a good time to pick up some books on the cheap.  I bought the majority of my C&C stuff via thisMain2 sale in the past.  The 4th printings of the C&C Players Handbook & Monsters & Treasure (part of what TLG is calling “The 4th Crusade”) are included in the sale. 

A few items are really tempting me:

  • Issues 5 and 6 of The Crusader magazine (these issues contain adventures by Bill Webb of Necromancer Games)
  • The C&C Players Handbook/Monsters & Treasure flip book (one side of the book is the PH the other side is the M&T).  That seems like a handy tome and I don’t have the latest version of the M&T.
  • The Harvesters RPG.  It is geared towards kids and players take on the role of anthropomorphic heroes defending their homeland.  It might be a great birthday gift for Chaos (she turns 6 soon).

What I would advise against would be the “leather” versions of the PH and M&T.  For one, they don’t have the latest version of the rules (i.e., they lack the revisions, expansions, and errata in the 4th printing books).  I also really wasn’t wowed by their overall appearance.  They are meant to look like leather and have gold embossed covers, but they look more like rebound library books to me.  Other C&C fans seem to love them, but I was disappointed in them (especially since I bought them as gifts). 

Anyhow, if you’ve been sitting on the fence about C&C, now is the time to pull the trigger.

March 7, 2010

The Ultimate D&D Room

A friend of mine just shared this from Make.

THE ULTIMATE D&D ROOM

Those aren't tears... just some dust in my eyes... really.

March 4, 2010

In Memory of the Man and in Celebration of GM's Day

If you're reading this blog, you likely know two things about today:

  1. It marks the two year anniversary of Gygax's passing
  2. It is GM's Day
There are many excellent posts today containing quotes of sage wisdom from the Man.  I'm taking a slightly different approach and providing my favorite quote from the Background section of The Steading of the Hill Giant Chief adventure module:

Therefore, a party of the bravest and most powerful adventurers has been assembled and given the charge to punish the miscreant giants.  These adventurers must deliver a sharp check, deal a lesson to the clan of hill giants nearby, or else return and put their heads upon the block for the headsman's axe!

That last sentence there is underlined in pencil in my copy of the module.  Why?  Because it's bad ass.

Thanks for the game, Gary.

March 2, 2010

"Rappan Athuk - The Rakshasa Encounter" or "How I Pulled Off a Complex Illusion-based Encounter"

[Updated with some context so this makes sense (I hope) to those without the RA material]

General Rappan Athuk Spoiler Warning

More than anything I posted, this gets a big spoiler-rific warning.  This is for Rappan Athuk DMs only.  Well, my players can read this too, since they already experienced this encounter.  It has some helpful information and should be useful to any DM running an illusion-based encounter.

I originally posted this at the Necromancer Games forums in the Rappan Athuk area under Scramge - Tips for Running this Great, but Tricky, Encounter, but I decided to post it here as well.

On a side note, DMs should really check out the RA forums. There is a ton of useful advice there. Read anything by Greg Ragland (a.k.a. Damien the Bloodfeaster).  He is the author of much of the material that was added to the Rappan Athuk Reloaded edition and is a freakin' Rappan Athuk scholar.  Actually, he is a freaking dungeon design scholar, period.  As for you players out there, do not read that thread unless you are a tool that wants to cheat.


The Scramge the Rakshasa encounter is a classic illusion-based scenario.  The party enters a room and is presented with a series of illusions designed to trick the players (and/or their characters) into believing they are saving someone in need, spotting a bunch of treasure, etc.  Of course, once the party lets down its guard, the rakshasa lays the smack down.  The Scramge encounter is particularly complex.  The key part of the encounter is the rakshasa casting an illusion that causes one party member to look like the enemy while the rakshasa cloaks himself to look like that party member.  For example, when I ran it, the party cleric was made to appear to be a demon, while the rakshasa made himself look like the cleric.  The general idea is that the party will kill one of its own before they discover the illusion.

Anyhow, here is how I ran the Scramge....

The Scramge encounter comes up frequently at the RA forum due to its complexity.  As promised, here is how I successfully ran the encounter:
  • I didn’t worry about whether he was “legal” or not. As pointed out elsewhere, Scramge  is based upon earlier editions of D&D where rakshasa were much more powerful.
  • At the beginning of the session, I told the players that this evening was going to be a bit different than the norm.  It would rely on some heavy role-playing to make the session a success.  Players that role-played well would be rewarded with XP bonuses.
  • When the party entered the room with Scramge and he kicks into gear, I described the scene as stated in the module.
  • I then gave EACH player a note and told them not to tell anyone what their note said and reminded them of the XP bonus (one die-hard player literally ate his note after reading it). 
  • The note for the transported and illusion-covered PC stated:
    • Instead of the description you just heard [i.e., the one I read to the group of players], this happens to you:
    • Suddenly, you are across the room from the rest of the party: you are staring at them and them at you.  Where you stood is a person who looks exactly like you!  The jackal-men stand nearby you and advance on the party.  Try as you might, you can’t seem to communicate with party.  They seem not to understand what you are saying.  However, you can understand them and it appears they think you are the demon!  As you cannot communicate with them, say nothing of this to the group.  Furthermore, when it is your turn, move your miniature as if you were fighting the demon.  The miniature on the table represents the person who looks like you, and he is attacking the “demon”(you).  If your duplicate should die, act as if this has happened to your character.
    • The notes for the rest of the group said “Blah, blah, blah, blah…”
  • I then ran the combat as is.  I made all Will saves in secret and took aside players when needed.  I also occasionally took players aside when not needed just to mess with the group and keep up the confusion (players were told not to tell what they talked about with the DM).
The encounter went very smoothly.  The players really must contribute for it to do so.   Fortunately, I’m blessed with great players who “get it.”

The session was one of the best we had and everyone had a blast with the strangeness of it (e.g., the “Blah, blah,” notes, the code of silence about the notes and DM talks, etc.).

I hope this helps.

Here are links to other threads about it:

Gaming Deal - Forbidden Kingdoms

Half Price Books is one of my favorite stores.  I love Borders as well, but they don't sell used books.  Since I have no interest in the current embodiment of D&D, Borders doesn't have much to offer me, gaming-wise, apart from WotC miniatures (which, notably, Half Price Books does not sell).  Half Price, on the other hand, has a decent selection of used RPG stuff and I've found some real gems there.


The latest deal I found there was actually for a book in new condition (I believe it would qualify as a remaindered book).  Forbidden Kingdoms by OtherWorld Creations, in the Pittsburgh area at least, was on sale for $3.00 (original price: $40.00). It's a neat little book (literally, it's 9.5 in. x 7.5 in) that details a cool system for Pulp Adventures.  It's based on the 3.0 rule set, as it was made before the release of d20 Modern.  As such, it has more in common with D&D than those rules. For my simple-mind, that is a good thing. In other words, you could play some Indiana Jones-style games based on the D&D rule set.  As another bonus, its psionics system is well-regarded, so I might use it as a resource if I'm ever crazy enough to put psionics in my D&D campaign.

Half Price has another remaindered d20 book on sale: the Bestiary of Loerem for the Sovereign Stone campaign setting.  This book was $3.00 when I bought it, but I later saw it for $2.00.  I believe this originally retailed for $40 or so as well (I'm not certain as the original price isn't published on the book cover).  Quite frankly, this book is barely worth the $3.00 I paid for it.  The art and product values are great (although barely any of the interior art is by Larry Elmore, despite the Sovereign Stone books being labeled as "Elmore's Sovereign Stone"), but the monsters are just plain boring.

Half Price had quite a lot a copies of both of these books. If you live near a store, pick up Forbidden Kingdoms if you can.  Take a gander at the Bestiary of Loerem and judge for yourself.  Oh, just a heads up, both of these books were not in the gaming section, but were stacked out on the middle tables with the other remaindered books.

March 1, 2010

SKULLS - Web Comic

Black Gate magazine has been posting a web comic called "SKULLS" by John R. Fultz on its blog.  Check it out: link

On a side note, Black Gate magazine is excellent and you should check it out if you haven't.
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