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Monday, July 31, 2017

Dungeons & Dragons - A Guide to Umber Hulks

In this guide, we'll go through old products and try to dig up all the information on Umber Hulks that we can find. They're definitely a monster that is well known but not explored all that much.

Essential Information

Here's the basic information:
  • They are big, beetle-like humanoids who tunnel through solid rock.
  • They eat people.
  • They love fighting purple worms.
  • They collect gold and silver - nobody knows what they do with it.
  • Rumor has it that they live in cities deep underground.
  • In some editions, they actually speak their own language.
  • Their eyes are valuable, useful components for spells and potions.
  • When they look at you, you suffer from magical confusion.
  • Many of them are lifelong slaves of the neogi.
  • Many of the variants are almost identical to the main type, except for the vodyanoi and the psi-hulk.
  • They worship two neogi gods: P'kk (god of bullying) and Kr'tx (god of wanton destruction).
  • Their babies are called.... "hulklings."
AD&D 1st Edition

Monster Manual

Here's what we learn:
  • It is chaotic evil, 8 feet tall, gets three attacks per round and can cause confusion.
  • Burrows through stone at 1" per turn and through loam at six times that rate. "Their prey includes young purple worms, ankheg, and humans."
  • They attack with claws and mandibles.
  • Any intelligent creature that views its four eyes must make a save or be confused for 3-12 rounds.
  • They have their own language!
  • They're black..? Shading to yellowish grey on the front.
Ghost Tower of Inverness

This is a pretty classic 1st edition adventure and contains a big dungeon. At one point, the group comes to a room with 5 tunnels leading from it. In this room is a locked iron chest that contains a pile of gold and a key they need.

Unless they leave the room immediately, there's this:

"You hear a rumbling sound from the southwest; it sounds like huge quantities of earth falling in the room, perhaps it is a cave-in."

And then.. "Any character who turns to look at the source of the noise - or asks the DM what it is - has looked at an umber hulk."


They helpfully give you the confusion chart. Roll a d10:
  • 1      Wander away for 1 turn (10 minutes!).
  • 2-6   Stand confused for 1 round, unable to attack.
  • 7-8   Attack nearest creature for 1 round.
  • 9-10 Attack the umber hulk for 1 round.
Fighting it while averting your eyes gives you a -4 to hit.

It's kind of weird that this encounter early on in the adventure is given two pieces of art, one of which is on the title page.

AD&D 2nd Edition

Monstrous Compendium

That's the Tony DiTerlizzi umber hulk. He's one of m favorite D&D artists. I think he did an awesome job actually depicting what a gorilla/beetle might look like.

The entry is similar to 1e, expanded a bit:
  • Their mandibles can cut through bone
  • Their four eyes are "mere blackened dots each the size of a small coin."
  • They still have their own language.
  • They dig a tunnel and then peer out of a crack where creatures are likely to stroll by.
  • Burrowing is 10 feet.. per turn?! 60 feet in soft eath. A foot per minute?
  • Their gaze causes confusion as per the spell.
  • They are slow and ponderous.
  • They won't hesitate to cause a cave-in
  • Their babies are born in a special nursery hollowed out by the mother. It takes the "hulklings" two years to grow big enough to hunt.
  • It is rumored that there are entire cities of these being underground with tunnels that radiate out, like threads in a spider's web.
Vodyanoi: This is an aquatic variant of an umber hulk. They have only two eyes and thus they don't have the confusion power. They can rend the hulls of vessels. They can summon 1-20 electric eels!

In 2015, Tony Diterlizzi did a sketch of a new kind of umber hulk:

Seems like that could be some sort of umber hulk lord.

Dungeon Magazine #36 - Asflag's Unintentional Emporium

This adventure is about a wizard's lair that's been abandoned (Asflag the wizard is enslaved in the Gray Wastes). In the lair is a zoo full of weird monsters that have gotten out, some of which are hunting in the city. The group needs to go to the lair and get things under control.

It's a massive place. In Asflag's library are some spell books. One spellbook has a magical trap. If you open it without uttering the passphrase, it summons an umber hulk. It appears in a thunderclap and proceeds to run amok for d6 rounds, and then is banished back to whence it came.

Dragon Magazine #152 - The Ecology of the Umber Hulk

This article is written as if it was an excerpt from a fictional book, "Creatures of the Earth's Deeps", by the sage and wizard Archmyel. Lots of factoids:
  • Umber hulks weigh 1500 pounds.
  • They have two sets of mandibles.
  • Two of their eyes are white with black irises, and the other two are purple with yellow irises.
  • They have no nose. They have gill-like structures on their necks that allows them to eat and breathe at the same time.
  • Umber hulks allow themselves to be swallowed by purple worms for the thrill of "tunneling out" and laying the worms.
  • They can breathe in water for up to 10 minutes
  • They almost always attack creatures weaker than themselves, but the sight of gold or platinum in large amounts stops them in their tracks.
  • The confusion gaze doesn't work on other umber hulks.
  • It's the two eyes on the forehead that cause confusion.
  • Females are rare. 1 in 4 is female.
  • Males live to the age of 50, females to 75.
  • They dislike bright light.
  • They speak "Hulkish". It is a fairly simple language that uses sounds that those without mandibles can't dulicate.
  • They will serve others for gold or platinum.
  • Nobody knows what they do with the gold and platinum. It says they might use it like gizzard stones. What's a gizzard stone? Let's look it up... apparently, some animals without teeth swallow rocks and pebbles, which sit in their gizzards and grind food. Apparently some dinosaurs did this.
  • Their lairs are large, spacious caverns.
  • Their eyes are ingredients for potions and magical inks.
Spelljammer Boxed Set

Now we're getting to the good stuff!

The neogi are evil little slavers, spider-eel things (they are in Volos' Guide to Monsters, page 179). Their race has enslaved many umber hulks. Each neogi has a personal umber hulk slave that is used as a bodyguard, manservant and useful set of hands. The slaves have a tattoo on their left shoulder, front and back, which denotes who their owner is.

The hulks are trained from birth to care for their every need. A neogi who loses their slaves is considered an outcast until it regains them. If they don't, they lose all social status and become a slave themselves.

Dragon Magazine #214 - Ecology of the Neogi

This issue has an extremely grim story about what happens when you get captured by neogi slavers. It's something akin to a snuff film without the snuffing. We learn:
  • Most neogi insist upon being carried everywhere by their hulks.
  • Powerful neogi own two or more hulks.
  • Umber hulks are the prized possessions of neogi. They refer to them as "lord-servants." Other types of slaves are known as "servant-slaves".
  • P'kk: This is a deity! An umber hulk with the head of a neogi, P'kk is the deity of those who like bullying and manipulating. P'kk is lawful evil and lives on Baator aka the Nine Hells! This entity refers to the Nine Hells as Ki'pik.
  • Kr'tx: This god lives in the Gray Wastes. Kr'tx is actually worshiped by umber hulk slaves who delight in brutality and wanton destruction. Kr'tx is a red neogi with burning claws and hair. It's chaotic evil.
Good article!

D&D 3rd Edition 

Monster Manual
Very little info here:
  • They describe the eyes differently. Now there are two eyes like a beetle's, and two eyes like those of an ape.
  • They are not stupid, and they can tunnels to create deadfalls and pits.
  • Truly Horrid Umber Hulk: These are 16 feet tall loners feared by their own kind. Higher level hulks, basically.
Tome of Magic - Dark Umber Hulk
These things live on the plane of shadow. Black and gray armor plates cover their body. This entry is virtually identical to the one in the monster manual, word-for-word.

Expedition to Undermountain - Psi-Hulk


The group is sent on a quest to get a crystal-encrusted skull of a mutant umber hulk. They need to go into caves that are home to many umber hulk. These caves are home to large mushrooms and big insects.

The hulks are led by an umber hulk with a crystal growing out of its head. This crystal gives it special psionic powers. Its main power is a "psionic lion charge" and ability that lets it make a charge attack.

Its head is large, with knobby crystalline growths jutting like a crown of horns from its skull. When slain, its body comes apart, revealing a crystal skull.

Savage Species

This book has rules for making monster characters. The can be useful as long as their driving hunger and nearly constant need for destruction can be assuaged.

They definitely weakened the hulk a bit. Suddenly, tremorsense can only detect people within 10 feet. They don't even have confusing gaze until they hit level 7. They speak the language of "Umber Hulk."

Dungeon Magazine #102 - Zenith Trajectory

This is one of my favorite adventures of all time. It's part of the Shackled City adventure path, set in the city of Cauldron (a city built in a "dormant" volcano).

The group is minding their own business on Magma Avenue when an umber hulk pops out of the ground. There's a lot of people in the street, and they're all hit with the confusion gaze! Pretty awesome encounter, right?

There's a woman holding a baby which is about to fall out of a window, a fruit merchant who absolutely refuses to leave his fruit cart, a criminal who takes advantage of the chaos, and more.

Dragon Magazine #317

There's an article that lists components for spells and magic items. One of them is umber hulk eyes. They are worth 500 gp and are a component for the spell called Vision.

D&D 4th Edition

Monster Manual

In 4e, they don't speak but they understand Deep Speech.

Shadow Hulk: They are a variant whose gaze causes victims to attack their allies.

Monster Vault
Lots o' flavor:
  • "It steadily scoops away rock as easily as a humanoid might shovel snow."
  • "While a purple worm might create a great highway between the grand caverns of the Underdark, umber hulks make the backstreets and alleys."
  • "Drow, duergar, and illithids use trained umber hulks to dig tunnels to dig for them..."
  • Their tunnels are sometimes choked with rubble and prone to collapses.
Umber Hulk Tunneler: It has the ability to "snatch and tun." If it hits with a claw attack, it can drag that creature up to 25 feet. Rebuffing Gaze: The victim take psychic damage every time they move 5 feet closer to it.

Umber Hulk Bewilderer: It has a stunning gaze... yikes. Also has a staggering gaze that does psychic damage and slides victims up to 25 feet.

Dungeon #165 - Alliance at Nefelus

This is a fantastic adventure from the Scales of War path involving the group battling Chillreaver, a two-headed white dragon.

As the group makes their way through the glacier lair of the dragon, they come upon a cavern with a rift in it. This is home to four "icetouched" umber hulks, which are almost identical to regular umber hulks aside from the name.

I remember this encounter being very challenging for my players.

Dragon #427 - Ecology of the Neogi

It's so weird when they do ecology articles on the same entity in different editions. There are so many monsters that need development. Why would they do the same one twice? Umber hulks dig tunnels that neogi use to secretly travel in.

Dungeon #204 - Pearl of the Sea Mother

This is an adventure dealing with the amusing goddess of the kuo toa, Blibdoolpoolp.

As the adventurers make their way through her shrine, they come upon a few large chambers where umber hulk tunnelers lurk, along with a cloaker. The kuo-toas fear these creatures and don't patrol this section of the dungeon.

Later on, the group meets a band of really insane kuo toa who are worshiping the shell of a umber hulk.

D&D 5th Edition

Monster Manual
Those who survive an encounter remember little due to the confusion gaze, which scrambles their memory. Their body can withstand cave-ins.

Princes of the Apocalypse

Claws of the Umber Hulk: Magic item! These claws always comes in pairs and act as magical longswords. Once you are attuned to them, you are proficient with them, even if you're a wizard. They give you a burrowing speed of 20 feet.

Out of the Abyss

There is an umber hulk encounter where it bursts out from behind a wall and attacks the nearest party member. That's all I can find in this adventure. You'd think they would have done more with them.

Links

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Girls, Guts, Glory: The Death Curse Episodes 1-4

I've been meaning to check this out for a while. Today we're going to look at the first four episodes of the Girls, Guts, Glory D&D show. You can watch it on youtube here.

This adventure deals with stuff in the upcoming Tomb of Annihilation book, so I think we are getting a look at some of the content from the book right now. These four sessions introduce a lot of the NPC guides and some of the locations from Port Nyanzaru, which is the home base from which adventurers can launch expeditions into the jungle from. 

From what I understand, all of the players are working actors. Their game is heavy on the roleplaying, to the point that they wear gear at the table. If you're looking for lots of combat, you might not like this.

That said, there's a lot to like. The DM clearly puts in an incredible amount of effort into the campaign. Each player has a distinct, fully fleshed-out character. They're very funny, especially Sujata, who made me laugh every single episode.

The Party

(Alice) Rowan of Glen Hollyhock - Gnome Druid
(Rachel) Moira Muirren - Human Paladin
(Allie) Lilith Lucena - Tiefling Bard
(Sujata) Ichabod Ferndweller - Dwarf Fighter
(Erika) Lala Lemonboots - Pixie Ranger

If you check out their site, you can see that all of their character sheets are completely filled out, full of backstory and character notes. The only thing that jumped out to me is that Lilith is chaotic neutral, an alignment that's given some of us DMs a lot of trouble. Allie doesn't play it in a maniacal way, so no big deal.

Episode 1 - Port Nyanzaru


The heroes have been hired to find the soulmonger, a device that an undead villain named Acererak is using to slowly kill everyone who has ever been brought back to life by a raise dead spell. The soulmonger is said to be in a lost city somewhere in the jungles of Chult.

The heroes arrive at Port Nyanzaru. It is hot and humid. They are in awe of the gigantic dinosaurs used as beasts of burden.

The group needs to go to the Thundering Lizard to meet a guide. Before they can do so, they are approached by a pair of tabaxi guides.

Rowan seems to really, really like them. They're a brother and sister team. Their names: Rivermist and Flask of Wine, which amuses me greatly.

The group makes no promises, but is definitely intrigued by their offer.

The adventurers head to a tavern called the Thundering Lizard. The dwarf, Ichabod, goes into a rant about having thrown up his breakfast and how he might pass out if he doesn't eat soon. They are approached by another potential guide, Selena. She has a wife. Ichabod is very, very excited about this and the others begin to squirm. Ichabod is hilarious.

They drink tedge (tudge?), a fermented drink made from honey. The group sits down at a table.

They are approached by a good-looking dude named Pharul and a halfling named Gundolo. They want to be hired on as guides. Lilith is 100% into Pharul. The group isn't impressed with their offer, so Ichabod stammers out a very pointed and firm rejection.

On the Stream of Annihilation, Kim said that she edits this thing herself. With that in mind, I notice that there's a million cuts, just like a TV show. It's very well done. I imagine this must take forever. It looks like they are using three cameras, too.

We learn that a merchant prince named Jobul the spider is in charge of all of the guides.

They meet another guide who has dark hair and dark features. Her name is Azaka. She's the one who was recommended to them.

Ichabod drinks way too much tedge and begins weeping. He can't read! He was raised by wolves. When he sees people reading, it brings back a lot of bad memories.

Ichabod is hilarious. Sujata does this slack-jawed British accent, so good.

Looking at the youtube comments, I see that some people don't like Ichabod. That kind of boggles my mind. I think Sujata is really funny.

Episode 2 - Faryn Reed Underbough


The group debates which guides to hire. Rowan says she really likes the tabaxi dude. Ichabod says that the tabaxi's sister "stirred up a couple of feelings in my loins." I'm dying.

They don't have a lot of money. They throw around the idea of Lilith seducing Pharul as a way of convincing him to forgo the payment. Or, she could seduce him and rob him.

It looks like a lot of the guides want 5 gp per day, with 30 days pay in advance.

They get a room and go to sleep.

The next day, the underling of a merchant prince (even females are referred to as princess) named Jessamine has summoned the group to her quarters. A halfling boy named Faryn is her messenger. The DM ran Faryn in the awesome Mike Mearls session during the Stream of Annihilation.

The adventurers go to her home. Jessamyne is suffering from the death curse. Years ago, she was an assassin who was slain. Her benefactor paid to have her raised.

Episode 3 - Bubbasaur


It looks like there are sanctioned guides and unsanctioned guides.

Jessamyne says that she will pay for Azaka to be their guide. She's heard that Flask and Rivermist (the tabaxi guides) are "good in the jungle."

Faryn takes the group to the market. It begins raining. There's sound effects and everything. This show is very well done. It's noticeable even if you just listen to it.

The group makes their way through the city. People riding dinosaurs come racing at the heroes, yelling for the group to get out of the way. There are special dinosaur races happening today. One of the dinosaurs tramples Moira and Rowyn gets stepped on. 

At the market, the heroes buy:
  • Camping gear
  • Insect repellent (3 vials of salve)
  • Rain catchers for drinking water
  • A longsword
  • A morningstar
Ichabod calls the salve "Slawve". They talk about pickpockets. I want to hear Ichabod say "pick paw kit" with force.

There's a stand selling giant lizards, flying monkeys and dinosaurs. Ichabod never had a pet, never had a family. "It would be nice to have something that loves me," he says somewhat matter-of-factly.

A hadrosaurus is making puppy eyes at them. It's a runt. The merchant say it's useless and that he plans on eating it when is grows a bit more. The hadrosaurus is actually in Volo's Guide to Monsters on page 140. It is a "semi-quadrapedal herbivore recognized by its bony head crests".

They haggle over the price.

The merchant agrees to 20 gold and a kiss on the cheek from Rowan. Rowan kind of blows him a kiss and they have themselves one pet dinosaur. They name it "Bubbasaur." He's six feet tall.

Episode 4 - Into the Jungle



The group has a pool of 98 gold pieces that they share. Lilith doesn't want to chip in for the dinosaur. Rowan points out that she can eat him later, which alarms some of the party.

Rowan can talk to animals. She talks to Bubbasaur and lies to Ichabod, telling him that the dinosaur really likes him.

The heroes go get their guide, Azaka, and head into the jungle.

They travel for a bit and then two zombies emerge from the tick jungle, shambling toward them. Rowan attacks one with thorn whip, rolls a critical! She pulls a zombie's head right off. Ichabod goes into a thing about how cornea juice is good for "the gastrointestinal." Ichabod lunges at the other zombie. He cuts its arms off and it dies.

Azaka says that a yuan-ti villain named Ras Nsi assembled a zombie army long ago. That army now roams freely in the jungle. Ras might be in the lost city of Omu.

Overall

Good stuff! Ichabod cracks me up and the whole thing is fun. Having episodes that are just 15 minutes long is a big plus, because a lot of these shows are just way too long to follow. I guess that means that the format of some of these shows is going to be more like a series of movies, with just a few sessions broken into little pieces to form an entire season.

I am very interested in watching these characters gain levels and see how they evolve. Rowan in particular is an interesting character. On her sheet, it says that she has a hard time relating to people. In the game, she is definitely a little off-kilter and seems almost like a bit of a schemer. She plays it very cool, but it comes out here and there.

It's only 15 minutes, so if this sounds like something you might like, definitely check it out!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Dice, Camera, Action: Episode 57 - Curse of Strahd


Episode 57: Wrath of Strahd
Lots of preamble stuff.

Animated Intro: You should definitely check out this animated intro right here. It is beyond awesome. They need to dump a truckload of money on the creator so that they can polish it up for season 3. That's Nate's music for the theme, really awesome stuff.
Gutter by Dimas Wahyu

I commissioned some art of Diath's sword, based on the description Chris gave a few weeks ago. Here's the details that we know so far:

Gutter, the Magic Short Sword of Backstabbing:
  • The pommel has a fox head with a dark red gem gripped in its jaws.
  • The sword is light, a good fit for Diath's hand.
  • The red gem lights up when it speaks (?). It said to him, "Hello, Diath. It's so good to be with you." Only Diath can hear the sword's voice.
  • Worked into the hilt is a keyhole.
  • There are designs and patterns that indicate it is from Sigil. (I went with some DiTerlizzi Planescape -style curved blades and the Planescape "verdigris" color scheme)
  • In the blade are abyssal indentations - abyssal glyphs: It spells out: "Gutter".
  • The sword requires attunement.
  • The sword wants to be with the Woodrows.
  • +2d6 damage when backstabbing.
Relatives of Diath:
  • Ashton Woodrow (male), friend of the half-orc/half-dwarf. “We adventured together for years.” Ashton died and gave him the sword to give to Woodrow’s inheritors.
  • Dareth (female).
  • The sword told Diath: "If you'd like to use more about your origins, I suggest you use a key."
  • Note: Diath has a mysterious ring of keys. He's not sure how he got them or what they are for. He used one key a while back. It opened the tome of Strahd.
Shemeshka:
  • Using a key in the sword: A planar gateway opens. Stepping through the gate is a 6-foot tall robed arcanaloth wearing spectacles. Her immaculate robe is red with designs in black thread. On her head is a wreath of vines with razor-like spines (this is razorvine, see the DMG page 110). Some vines trail down her back and move of their own accord.
  • The nails of her taloned fingers are painted.
  • She did not recognize Diath on sight. She said: “I see the sword has found a new owner. And you are..?”
  • When Strix was in the care of her grandmother, Shemeshka may have tried to buy Strix as a slave.
Three Questions:

Shemshka said, "You have summoned me. I will answer 3 questions, no more than 3, and I will take that key with me. If you wish to summon me again, use another one of your keys."

She also said, “I am a researcher. If it can be learned, I know it."

The questions asked:
  1. Who made this sword? "I did."
  2. For what purpose? "As a gift to an ancestor. You bear a resemblance to her. Her name was Dareth."
  3. Why are we dying? "This type of thing is exactly what might happen if an evil godling was in the world sucking energy to rejuvenate itself, feeding on the lifeforce of puny mortals. What world is this?" (Toril) "I suggest you learn everything you can about Acererak.
When the questions have been asked: She takes the key in her hand, leaps through the portal, and it closes up behind her.

The Half-Orc/Half-Dwarf

This guy is the mysterious friend of Ashton Woodrow. Here's what we saw:
  • When the half-orc guy shows up, he is in a bit of a daze, like he's sleep walking.
  • For a moment, he doesn’t want to give the sword away. He says: “No! The sword is mine! ...forgive me. It's not mine. I was a friend of an adventurer who shares your name.”
  • This NPC doesn't know where Sigil is. So if I heard that right, then Ashton adventured with this guy somewhere other than Sigil.
  • The guy rogueishly disappears into the shadows, suggesting that he is a rogue like Diath. If Ashton was also a rogue, then they could have been members of a thieves guild.
  • There is a half-orc/half-dwarf in "Danger at Darkshelf Quarry", the special prequel adventure to the slavers series written by Skip Williams. Chris Perkins was involved in this project, as he was he one who asked Skip to write it.
  • Brubgrok is a slaver. He is humorless, unkind, somewhat hunchbacks, and has "eyes as red as his coarse hair and beard." This doesn't sound like the NPC Diath met, but maybe this is where the idea to use a half-orc/half-dwarf came from.
The Tarokka Cards


Chris tweeted images of the tarokka cards set up in the alignment that the group found them in last week.

In the Curse of Strahd adventure, it explains how to read them (like a fortune teller). I’m going to dust off my guide to Curse of Strahd and see if we can glean any clues from these cards. I went overboard and looked up the 2nd edition version of reading the cards, too.

1. Rogue
  • 5e Meaning: Location of the Tome of Strahd is the Blue Water Inn, home base of the wereravens.
  • 2e Meaning: This is the focus card, representing the person the reading deals with. So, the rogue... Diath. "Are his intentions noble or corrupt? The answer cannot be easily told."
2. Raven
  • 5e Meaning: The Holy Symbol of Ravenkind is with Davian Martikov - the old wereraven who owns the winery.
  • 2e Meaning: This card represents the past and a hidden source of good - often a new ally or item. The Morninglord aka Lathander aka Butthander! He is watching over Diath!
3. Elementalist
  • 5e Meaning: The sunsword is in the amber temple.
  • 2e Meaning: This card represents things that oppose the focus (Diath). What's opposing him? The natural forces of the cosmos, this generally represents an elemental force coming into play. This could refer to the fact that he is dying thanks to Acererak's soulmonger.
4. Paladin
  • 5e Meaning: Strahd's enemy - this doesn't match up exactly, but is easy to interpret. Sergei's tomb, aka Sergei. That works!
  • 2e Meaning: This card represents the future - the triumph of good over evil! Wow, spoiler alert.
5. Healer
  • 5e Meaning: This is where Strahd can always be found. The Shrine of the White Sun in Krezk, which has a statue of... the Morninglord! See Curse of Strahd page 146.
  • 2e Meaning: This one indicates "the beneficial things that will speed the object of the casting along to his or her ultimate goal." It mainly represents good and holy clerics/entities such as... the Morninglord! It also warns of illness and disease like... the Soulmonger! Woo!
In 5e, there is only 5 cards in a tarokka reading, so all I can say is who or what the card represents.

What's interesting is that there actually is a 2e tarokka pattern that almost accounts for 8 total cards. The way Chris set them up nearly matches a pattern known as “the tower.” It goes like this:

9 10 11  (so, uh, if there's three cards on the ceiling, jackpot.)
   4         (rogue)
2 1 3      (raven, elementalist, paladin)
   5         (healer)
6 7 8      (executioner, marionette, tempter)

6. Executioner
  • 5e Meaning: The brother of the devil's bride, Sergei or Ismark.
  • 2e Meaning: This is the hangman in 2e. This card in this position means that someone will be caught doing something wrong and are punished, even if they are falsely accused. This marks aspects of the past that have informed the future. Like when Diath got hanged! Hung? Hanged.
7. Marionette
  • 5e Meaning: Murderbot aka Simon aka Pidlwick II.
  • 2e Meaning: This card indicates the presence of a traitor or a minion of some greater power as well as an aspects of the past that has informed the future. Welp.. that's Murderbot! His parents don't treat him like a traitor, but he keeps trying to kill nice people.
8. Tempter
  • 5e Meaning: Vasilka the flesh golem bride.
  • 2e Meaning: A person not aware that their values have been compromised and aspects of the past that have informed the future. That could be Diath's sword. Using the sword might/will lead to bad things in the future.
9, 10 and 11 would indicate the future - one of these will occur depending on the actions of the focus (Diath).

Time Travel

I looked up timelines to see how far in the past the group went: 
  • 2e: Looking at an old Ravenloft timeline, Barovia appeared in the demiplane of dread in the year 351. The year 740 is when the 2e adventures take place.
  • 5e: On page 26 of Curse of Strahd, it says that in 346, Strahd inherited the land. He died and became a vampire in 351. The current year is 735.
It matches up! Curse of Strahd is a retelling of the original Ravenloft adventure, so this actually takes place before the wonky 2e “Conjunction cycle”.
This means the group traveled 389 years into the past. I don't think time passes the same in comparison to the Forgotten Realms.

The year is around 1491 in the Realms. 389 years ago is 1102, which is actually before the events of 1st edition and part of the insanely detailed history of Toril.

It's in the Age of Humans. 1102 is the "Year of the Chaste Maiden". Hmm! Nothing of note happened that year. The year before, the abbey and temple to Lathander became part of Waterdeep as the city expanded. There's also some covenant that lures the Red Wizards into a "series of portals."

 The Party

(Anna) Evelyn - Human Paladin of Lathander
(ProJared) Diath - Human Rogue
(Nathan) Paultin - Human Bard
(Holly) Strix - Tiefling Sorcerer

The group was pulled into Barovia by Paultin's Shadow, which was possessed by a fragment of Strahd. Paultin stabbed his shadow with his sunsword and somehow the waffle crew got shunted back in time. They are at the wedding where Strahd will kill his brother out of jealousy. Tatyana, the bride, jumps to her death. Strahd’s actions here attract the Dark Powers and they make a pact with him, giving him tremendous power and transforming him into a vampire.

So far, this wedding is playing out differently. The waffle crew meddlers are poking around. They found a wedding gift and they unwrapped it. It was Simon, aka Murderbot. A fresh version! It shot poison darts into Tatyana's neck and she would have died if Evelyn hadn't healed her.

At one point last session, Strix snatched some poisonous plants from the garden.

Strix saw some tarokka cards. Chris points out that the 5th card was the healer. Three more cards were on the floor: The tempter, the marionette and the executioner.

These cards might refer to the Duchess and Simon. Paultin has a new mandolin, obtained from a guy named Jesper, who might be an ancestor of Paultin.

Lots of backstory! Here we go.

1e Tatyana

Jesper, the bard of Berez, is going to perform. The group has been mistaken for the wedding staff. The group ends up going with it, sort of. Strix casts death ward on Sergei.

Diath can sense that Sergei and Tatyana might flee if they get the chance.

The group prepares to infiltrate the wedding dinner. Diath disguises himself as a servant. Strix decides to be in gas cloud form. Paultin will be the performing bard and Evelyn will be his robot dancer.

Diath sees the duchess talking to one of the guards. She’s talking to Leo.. ohh sweet jaysus.

The duchess is his mother. A reader pointed out to me that this is Duchess Dorfinya Dilisnya. Her son is (possible spoilers in this link) a well-established NPC.

In Curse of Strahd, the group can find his severed head. I forgot.. I wrote about him in this old article about the Ravenloft/Strahd "prequel" adventures (also spoiler-y).

Diath hears her saying that she has made arrangements to leave the present in the room but if things go wrong, Leo should bring the guards in to take them out. "This marriage can not be allowed to survive."

Time for the dinner! Simon is disguised, too. He's got a pumpkin head now and a wig. The Duchess doesn't recognize him.

The group is basically alone in the room with the couple, Strahd, the Duchess and a few servants.

Strahd is slumped in his chair, obviously miserable. Strix un-clouds under the table. She uses her mage hand and slips a poisonous plant and drops it into Strahd's soup. I did not expect that! She’s being very proactive here.

The group is really excited and fired up. They are being very amusing.

Paultin gives her bardic inspiration. Nice! Nate is really sharp today. Strix rolls a 22 on her stealth... did Strahd notice the poison sprig?

Strahd picks up the bowl, dumps it on the floor, and puts it back on the table. Servants come to clean it up. One of them sees Strix under the table. Strix screams and turns into a cloud.

Strix seeps through a door crack. On the other side of that door is Strahd’s evil flunky, Rahadin. He grabs his sword. Strix leads him on a chase up the stairs.

Strahd has gifts for the couple! A tapestry of their father, King Barov, wielding the sunsword. Sergei is a man of peace, a servant of the Morninglord who never understood his father. This tapestry is a message to Sergei: This is who we are, this is who we have to be.

Here comes another gift. A gigantic painting of Tatyana. Strahd notes that the painter did not survive the experience. The painting is taller than she is and it captures her in an almost doll-like way. There's no life in her eyes.


Meanwhile, Strix loses Rahadin and sees Jesper (a bard apparently related to Paultin) creeping around. It looks like he's trying to quietly leave. Strix de-clouds and casts a spell so that she looks like Rahadin. Stirx/Rahadin demands to know what he’s doing and threatens him.

Jesper tells her he's a vistani and Strahd won't allow harm to come to him. Strix admits who she is. She wants Jesper to help the waffle crew. Jesper tells Strix that he's preparing a coach for the couple to escape with. Jesper says he is their only hope. Apparently the tarokka cards say so.

Back at the awkward dinner, Strahd tells Paultin to stop playing. Strahd starts playing the organ – a haunting tune that moves Evelyn deeply.

Diath makes a sweet stealth maneuver and crawls under the table. He snatches Strahd's sword. Somewhere in here, Rahadin re-enters the room.

Cloud Strix floats into the room and becomes solid behind the tapestry. She sets it on fire!

Strahd stops playing and looks at the burning tapestry. He tells Rahadin to get Sergei and Tatyana to safety. He sees that his sword is gone, and pulls a sword out of a secret compartment in a chair. He points the sword at the throat of the duchess and says, "Your treachery is revealed."

Evelyn decides to stand in front of and protect one of the couple. She chooses Tatyana! Oh no... Sergei's the one who's going to be killed. He’s wide open now.

Wait… Sergei grabs Tatyana and flees! Evelyn runs with them. Paultin and Simon run that way too.. but the exit is blocked by Rahadin.

Strix runs over and casts a cone of cold. It's a cone, is that going to hit the others? Nope. Chris says something about it coming down from above him. I must have missed something? That cone is massive (60 feet!). In theory, Strix could hit everyone and probably kill Sergei and Tatyana, just like Strix killed Ireena back at the Abbey of St. Markovia.

45 points of damage. Rahadin is hurt but still up.

Diath dramatically removes his servant clothes in a single sweeping motion. He describes this in a really hilarious way.

The Duchess throws herself at Strahd's feet and says this was all her son's idea and that she begged him not to do it. Wow, she threw her son under the bus. Not cool, lady.

The only image of Sergei I can find
Sergei and Tatyana head outside and get in the carriage. Jesper’s there, driving. They’re leaving! Rahadin stands in their way. Rahadin gets trampled by horses... he's still alive, but half of his face is missing. His sword is broken. He limps after the coach.

Strahd comes outside and calls his horse, Beucephalus. The group is quite amused at the horse’s name. It’s right out of the 1e Ravenloft adventure, if I remember right.

Strahd is going to chase the carriage! Strix stands in front of Strahd to block him from mounting Beucephalus. He stabs Strix with his back-up sword, doing does a total of 32 damage with most of it being necrotic.

Maybe the dark powers are already infusing him with power? Or maybe Strahd has a lot of cool items around.

Paultin tells Simon to dart the horse. Ha, great idea. He does! The horse is still up.

Diath draws Gutter! I think we just entered the danger zone. Diath stabs Strahd between his shoulders. Strahd is in pain, but still up.

It’s about time to stop. Earlier, the group glimpsed Strahd talking with Katarina/Madame Eva. Chris shares it with us, the viewers:

Katarina: “The gods have taken her from you. They mock you.”

Strahd: “What do these powers offer me?”

Katarina: “They can defeat time. They can make can make you immortal. They exist only to serve you, my master.”

Eva setting Strahd up with the Dark Powers! Yikes.

Overall

The group was so sharp this week, I don’t know what got into them. All of them were extremely pumped up. It was very fun to watch.

I really feel like DCA took a step up in the past few weeks in terms of popularity. The subreddit is getting more active, the view counts of the videos keep creeping up and up and up, and there are truckloads of fan art each week. 

If you’re not on the bandwagon, you should definitely get on now! Season 3 is going to be really great.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Adventures in Eberron - Strahd in the Shadowfell

George's work schedule changed and Jessie has all of these Korean music concerts she's going to (she's going to see G. Dragon) so we've missed a few weeks. Hopefully we can work out a new time in a week or so.

We did play some Eberron yesterday. I'm a player in that one. My character is a 10th level sorcerer.

Character Arcs: Somebody asked me about character arcs and if I do them. I don't! Usually that kind of thing works out on it own. I feel strange talking about a character arc in D&D - the character is not my domain. As the DM give them situations, they declare how they react to them.

It got me thinking about my character's perspective. My guy is a gigantic, jolly, hairy sorcerer. The wizard of our party is a basically a studious librarian.

There was a point in this session where we went to a (vampire) party, and my character started to live it up. I figure that the wizard was going to try to make a beeline for a library in another room. I gave her a big speech, something like: "You know, we could be dead tomorrow. Remember when I wrestled that bear and it kicked the crap out of me? Remember when I literally got killed by a troll?! You need to enjoy life while we have it!"

It added a lot, at least, to my enjoyment of the game, so maybe I'll rethink how characters experience D&D and what I can do to make it deeper.

The Dracolich: We were in the Shadowfell. A dracolich attacked us. We spread out and I got breathed on for 72 points of damage! It was horrible. I have 82 hit points total, so I was still up.

This dragon was a white dragon in life. I forgot about that, and cast cone of cold. It did absolutely nothing.

Thankfully our fighter does a pile of damage with ranged attacks and we were able to take it down. It kept its loot in big hollow gem containers that were buried in a grave. We dug them up and decided not to open them until we were somewhere safe.

We had what we came for - two feathers of the Raven Queen that would allow us to repel the pending assault. Orcus and Lolth are trying to get into Eberron!

Vampire Party: We start heading home and we find a carriage waiting for us. It's drawn by two horses and there's no driver.

We didn't trust it. I was in favor of us using magic to fly back to the portal. I stopped in my tracks and had a teeny tiny existential crisis. Does the DM need us to use the carriage? If we don't follow this lead, are we missing out on cool stuff? Would my character do what I want to do?

The DM pointed out that there's wine in the carriage, so my character jumped in.

We took the carriage to Fallcrest where there was a big vampire party going on. The servants were zombies. When one vampire mistreated a zombie and slapped its head off of its neck, my character got offended. I stuck the head back on the zombie and gave her a bad Sean Connery-voiced dressing down which included me saying: "You blood shucker!"

We met this mysterious first warden, ruler of the entire Shadowfell (?). Guess who it was. Strahd! Strahd with an eyepatch?!

This campaign is linked to events in our 4th edition campaign from years ago. In our campaign, Strahd killed Vecna...! Also, apparently, Strahd is a close ally of the Raven Queen.

I love D&D lore and "official" NPCs so I was pretty bowled over. Strahd tried to convince us to take him to Eberron with us, but we weren't having it.

We were able to get home. We fired up the D&D hot tub (we obtained some magic heat boulders from a giant lair a while back) and set about opening our gem containers. We decided to open the gold one last, as that probably had the best treasure in it.
  • Over 12,000 gp each
  • A ring of x-ray vision
  • Magic armor
  • Slippers of spider climbing
I've run into a problem. Attunement! I have too many items that require attunement. I can only have three going at once, and none of these new items feel like they should be swapped in. I guess we can use them when it seems appropriate, but we'll need an hour to attune first. It seems hard to make that feasible.

What was in the gold egg? A stinking cloud! I took 40 points of damage, dangit.

That night, there was trouble. Agents of Orcus had somehow gotten into the city of Sharn and were killing people. Mohrgs are undead with intestines that are like blood-sucking snakes.

Mohrg 
We ended up in a battle where we were all split up, each fighting a mohrg on our own. I thought that was really cool. I think I want to try to do that. I'm always wrestling with keeping encounters interesting and not letting it devolve into an exercise in number crunching. This seems like it would help.

I cast fly, grabbed my mohrg and took to the air. Nearby was a church of the silver flame, which actually had a flame burning in honor of their god or whatever it is. I chucked the mohrg into it. It was awesome.

Our wizard had a pretty epic battle inside - this band of mohrgs were breaking into the apartment she lived in. The fighter kicked the crap out of his. That's about where we stopped.

I really enjoy the use of Strahd, Orcus, etc. and I like experiencing Eberron fresh.

We hit 11th level, so now I'm getting to experience what it's like to play a high level character. It is really fun to have all of these awesome spells at my disposal.

I have absolutely no idea how these mohrgs got to Eberron. Maybe we'll find out next time.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

D&D Beyond


I've been meaning to check this out for a long time. It is D&D Beyond, an online D&D program where you can make characters, look up stuff and make monsters, spells and magic items. One of the guys who works here was one of the only survivors of the Chris Perkins meatgrinder at the Stream of Annihilation, which was pretty epic.

In 4th edition, D&D Insider was the best thing ever. You had access to every monster made for the game, and the character builder was so useful that most of my players never once made a character by hand. D&D Beyond seems to be the 5e equivalent.

Signing Up: When you sign up, you do so through the twitch game-streaming service. Apparently the company that made D&D Beyond is owned by Twitch, and Twitch is owned by amazon. I watch Dice, Camera, Action on twitch every week, so I should have signed up a long time ago. Here's a message I got right away:


I feel like a kid who just moved to a new school district.

Here's the main page:


I don't know what to click first. I guess I'll do compendium content.

Compendium: This is the srd. All of the basic D&D rules. The magic items list is gigantic! Very useful.

The rules I have the hardest time finding are the swimming and drowning rules. Swimming is right in the combat section. It doesn't have drowning information. That is in the "environment" section, under 'suffocating'.

Let's check out the monsters..

Wow! You can organize them by type, search by environment (!). That's very handy.

I just searched for underwater monsters. First result is archdruid! That's a little odd. But the rest are appropriate.. dolphin, dragon turtle, marid, morkoth, etc. I'll click on the dragon turtle.


Hey! It's got the art and everything. It's a little weird how they stuck the armor class next to the challenge rating, a little disorienting. AC 20! People don't use dragon turtles very much. The best use I ever saw of them was in the Pathfinder Skull & Shackles path. The group is in a boat race with other pirate ships and a dragon turtle pops up, very awesome.

This monster is so powerful that it's a bit hard to use until the group gets way up there in level.

Monster Creation: Let's see this create-a-monster thing. You can create one from scratch or base one on an existing monster. Let's see an orc.


Wow.. you can edit it however you like! That's really awesome.

Hey... you can see homebrew monsters. Is that..? It is! A massive list of other people's homebrew monsters! 28 pages of them! Let's see if I can find a cool one.

I'm tempted to pick "Alumnoch the pink unicorn", but I assume you want something semi-serious here. An amber golem! You could stick a vestige in there, how awesome would that be?

It says at the bottom that the amber golems are created by spellcasters to track other creatures. They are usually in the form of a lion or a tiger.

I think there is a ton of material I can use in my Planescape campaign. Let's make a list:

Alumnoch the Pink Unicorn: It has vicious mockery! Hilarious. The unicorn heckles you. Description: "The pink gorgeous unicorn from Lewollyn soars through the skies with the help of his majestic mane and tail."

Ancient Red Hydragon: A hydra/dragon?! Whoa.. challenge rating 30. That's too high.. Demogorgon is what, a CR 25? Very cool idea, though.

Contract Devil: I worked on these for my guide to devils. I found it very hard to make rules for the actual contract. I think Pathfinder did it best. This stat block doesn't have rules for contracts.

Cthulhu: Wow. Also a CR 30. If Cthulhu is killed, R'yleh sinks back into the depths. I think that this monster needs a madness chart! Right? More than any other entity out there. Lots of fun details in this entry, lair actions and everything.

I skipped to the last page. The very last monster is Ysgrove the Unkillable, a blue dragon. He's CR 30, too!

I'll filter it for monsters appropriate for my planescape group. That's a challenge rating of 8.

Two pages of results!

Chained Angel: This sounds cool. Really nice description on this one! "These angels have been captured by fiends, tortured and turned to serve darkness. A pack of chained angels is considered a status symbol among the servants of evil." If you kill one, it will either reward you with a spell effect or become a storm of destruction. That's great!

I'd want to rescue them, not kill them.

Hill Giant Butchers: Do they have giant meat cleavers? They do! When in their kitchen, they get lair actions.

There are a lot more cool ones. Lava dragon, mindflayer corpsewalker, skeletal tyrannosaurus rex, treasure golem and.. The Mother of Squorms. What is that? Let's see.

The Mother of Squorms: She's a horror created by the pollution of alchemy labs. She has "horrid fertility", she breeds asexually, spawning dozens of squormlings after every large feeding. Well, I'm sold! Just the name "squormling" is enough to win me over.


Character Builder: OK, let's look at the character builder. I imagine this is the thing that will get used the most. I really don't want to hand-make a character. Let's randomize! I am going to make a level 9 goliath warlock. I like goliaths, I guess they're my favorite race. And warlocks are cool.


I need a name. Let's see, something stupid. This page has a list of craptastic names. Henry Cooldown, that's pretty good/bad. Or bad-good. Dingo Egret! That's great. Darkdeath Evilman!!! Wow. Trevor McFur. If I was making a tabaxi, that would be a shoe-in.

There's so many!!! Cream the rabbit? Let's go with Hot Coldman. You pronounce it "Cold-min." Maybe it should be Hawt Coldmin.

I have a 6 Wisdom! Why?! Hawt Coldmin is not optimized. I guess I can get into that. He's got a 16 charisma.

They picked my spells. Nice! I have counterspell to shut you down. Banishment.. contact other plane! Very cool.

They did my background, too. I was a soldier. I have a military rank. Soldiers recognize my authority and influence. I can requisition horses and etc. Officer Coldmin!

My alignment is "unknown" for some reason. They left bonds, flaws, and personality blank.

You have to pick equipment, they don't randomize it.

I can speak with animals at will, and I can disguise self at will. What the heck is gaze of two minds?

It's here. Wow. Haüt Cold'mynn can touch a creature and see through their senses. I can sustain this by using an action each round. I'm blinded and deafened while doing this.

OK. The builder is pretty great. Let's see homebrew content.

Homebrew Spells: Wow. Homebrew spells?! 27 pages of homemade spells! Let's search by "spell tags". Creation spells, please.

Clone Hero: That sounds cool. It's a level 8 spell that creates a hero that will fight for you for 24 hours. Awesome idea, but it is very vague. What are its stats? If it's an 8th level spell, it should be pretty powerful. Maybe like a blackguard from Volo's or something.

Dark Maiden's Moonfire: I like the way this one is written. You summon the moonlight, which illuminates the area around you. When you want, you can use an action to hurl the moonlight and do radiant damage. That's really great! It's a cantrip, too.

Remove Hand: "This spell lets you remove one of your hands and control it while it is separated from your body." Sold! 100%!

Homebrew Magic Items: This should be good! Let's do my favorite, wondrous magic items.

Endless Keg of Mead: It has 30 gallons, refilling itself at dawn. If it is not used for five days straight, it is destroyed. I like that a lot.

Traveler's Chest: A chest that follows you around, like a drow crawlchest. Very cool!

Headband of Goblinkind: You gain the goblin ability to disengage or hide as a bonus action once per rest and you can speak and understand goblin. But you can't speak or understand other languages except thieves cant and the Druidic language. That's pretty rough for an item requiring attunement!

Overall

D&D Beyond is extremely useful! Why wouldn't you use it? It's full of ideas for you to use in your game. I immediately saw a bunch of things I would want to put in my campaign.

Official Release: D&D Beyond is set to officially launch on Tuesday, August 15th.

Through D&D Beyond, you will be able to buy digital sourcebooks like the Player's Handbook or Xanathar's Guide to Monsters. The core books will be $20 for the first week of launch, then it goes up to $30.

There are subscription options:
  • Hero Tier: $3 a month. It's for players. It removes ads, lets you make an unlimited amount of characters, and utilize homebrew content.
  • Master Tier: $6 a month. The DM can share all of their content with other players within a campaign, so content does not have to be unlocked by every player.
I'm a little confused as to how the subscriptions work with the digital books. From what I am reading, you don't have to buy the books to use it, but the books add content..? You can use the books offline. I don't know if they are pdfs or if they are locked into an app or something.

My first instinct was to turn my nose up at people complaining about buying the books again, but I see that some people have already bought the physical book and then they bought it again on roll20! I can understand why they wouldn't want to pay for them a third time.

It's a very useful set of tools. D&D Beyond is definitely worth a look!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Dice, Camera, Action: Episode 56 - Storm King's Thunder (sort of)

Episode 56: Prime Evil
On twitter the other day, Chris put up some polls on that were pretty interesting. Check it out:


Strix wins! I picked Evelyn because of Paultin, and Drizz't as her fallback option.

Strix wins again! I picked Paultin because he had no problem eating the mother of Waffles.
Strix with a clean sweep. I picked Paultin because he gets drunk and I imagine that's very snore-y.

Anna cooked up some Lathander stuff:

That's when you know a player is 100% in the game. A long time ago, I ran an Al Qadim game where there was all this goofy drama between the heroes. One character decided that since he couldn't get with another character's sister, he was going to commit suicide. The player wrote the suicide note in real life and handed it to me between sessions. He was not a depressed kind of guy, he was just really into the game.

The next session, he got turned into a badger and he tried to kill himself by swallowing his tongue. The player was very insistent that such a thing is possible. The group had a big debate about it and I ruled that the bottom line is, if he wants to kill himself, he'll find a way to make it happen.


The Party

(Anna) Evelyn - Human Paladin of Lathander
(ProJared) Diath - Human Rogue
(Nathan) Paultin - Human Bard
(Holly) Strix - Tiefling Sorcerer

The group is in Barovia.... in the distant past, apparently! The dark powers want Paultin to marry an undead lady so that he can be the new evil ruler/prisoner of the realm.

Strix has a witch's broom. The broom's name is Whiskey.  We're reminded that last time, Izek threatened Diath and called him Lorcatha (?) scum. My headphones were all messed up so I got new ones after this show. These earbud things, I'm not a fan.

Strix and Diath appear in a morning-lit rose garden. They hear someone humming. It's "Ireena" (Tatyana - Ireena in Curse of Strahd is a reborn version of her). She's picking roses.

Evelyn and Paultin appear in Castle Ravenloft. A woman mistakes Paultin for the bard performing at the wedding between Sergei and Tatyana. Paultin plays along. She looks at construct Evelyn, and says she has one of those, too. It's a wedding gift. Murderbot?!! 

This mysterious woman's name is Duchess Dorlithia, something like that. I feel like I should know who this is, but I'm drawing a blank. Evelyn and Paultin are brought to another room.

In this room is a woman who looks like Ezmerelda. She's drawing a deck of cards. A tarokka deck! It's a young Madame Eva.

Evelyn says hello to Madame Eva. The woman says her name is Katarina, but she says she like the name Eva, she'll remember that.

A guy with blonde hair enters the room. It's a relative of Paultin's! He as a scar above his eye. Is this his dad? We don't find out this session.

Outside, Strix and Diath watch three people arrive at the castle. It's Strahd, his brother Sergei, and someone wearing a helmet (I assume that's Rahadin, the dude with the howling souls around him). Young Strahd's horse looks a lot like his nightmare. It is Rahadin! They dismount and talk.

Tatyana points at Sergei and declares that he is "dashing."

Evelyn and Paultin really want to see what's in the big box. Paultin makes a sleight of hand check and is able to remove the wrapping paper without ruining it. That's a very amusing use of sleight of hand.

They open it.. inside is Simon, aka Pidlwick aka Murderbot! He's not all creepy and evil, he's a fresh toy, well-painted. Clownish and freakish. Paultin drops to his knees and goes, "my son!"

Strix is able to figure out that the group was sent back in time by a god or someone with a wish spell. She thinks that they might be in a version of Barovia that is locked in time, replaying over and over. Aha... so maybe the Dark Powers sent them here? Or Lathander?

Diath and Strix climb in a window after shooing Tatyana away. Diath is less than thrilled to see Murderbot.
OK. Here's the tempter.

Strix thinks that whatever they do here will affect Barovia only, not the entire multiverse. The characters won't have to worry about being erased. They might be altered (especially Paultin) but no matter what happens, they'll know what they know.

Despite this very clear information, Diath is really wary about changing the timeline. He says that it might undo everything and the group won't know each other. He tells the group that they are more important to him than anything else.


Last session, we had a similar confession from Strix. Hmmm.

The group discusses using... the sword! Diath's sword! The Planecape sword! Evelyn wants it to happen. Strix actually throws it out there that they could use the sword to jump through the portal to Sigil. Wow. My mind is blown.

Diath does not want to use the sword, not at all. He totally shuts it down. OK. We're going to need to petition Jared and insist that he use the sword once every session. You can't tease it like that. It's not acceptable in any way, shape or form! I, for one, am not going to sit here idly by while the mystery of those keys taunts us mercilessly.

Evelyn thinks Lathander sent them here to kill Strahd. Somewhere in here, Strix gets a decoy name: Amy.

Eep.. Rahadin comes into the room. He kicks the group out. They see a magic lute. An instrument of the bards, the Cannith mandolin? I'm missing all of the important words today.

Strix goes to grab Eva's tarokka deck (Eva's gone). Strix sees the formation they were in.
  • Top Card: Two of Swords/Paladin (Evelyn)
  • Bottom: Raven (Paultin)
  • Left: Master of Coins/Rogue (Diath)
  • Right: Five of Stars/Elementalist (Strix)
  • The Card Between Them All: The Three of Glyphs - the Healer  (Lathander?!)
Sergei and Tatyana stumble into the room. They're going to make out! Is Chris going to roleplay it? Will he make the noises? No, they notice the group and regain their composure. Evelyn politely tells them: "So. We're from the future..." I died laughing.
Here's the marionette

Then Strix turns into Sergei and says, "I'm you from the future." Paultin helpfully plays dramatic music. They try to explain to Sergei that he's in grave danger.

Suddenly, a dart sticks Tatyana in the neck. Simon?!?! Simon did that! In slow motion, the group sees that there are three other tarokka cards on the floor:
  • The Tempter (??)
  • The Marrionette (Simon, right? Or Evelyn? Maybe the paladin up there is Sergei?)
  • The Executioner!(??)
Evelyn tries to lay on hands while Paultin quietly disciplines Murderbot. Oh no... it's the bad dart! The death dart! Tatyana's dead.

Strix polymorphs Sergei into a tiny mouse. So, will time repeat like groundhog day? Does the group get to keep trying until they get it right?

Evelyn casts revivify! Tatyana's alive!

Ugh, the noose. Diath will have flashbacks.

To prove that what they are saying is true, Diath shows Tatyana the Tome of Strahd. Awesome idea! Tatyana is shocked - she reads through it a bit, and now she believes the group. Then Simon darts her again!

Luckily, the group has set her up with a protective spell, so Tatyana doesn't die.

Chris points out that there's a third card. Who is the Tempter? It was the Duchess who sent Simon.

That's where we stop.
Strix? The Elementalist.
Overall

Good show! The players were really fun together this week. The chemistry in the group just keeps getting better. The group has a good handle on their characters and they're poised for all sorts of interesting developments. The show itself feels like it has a lot of momentum and is gaining a bigger following. It is very fun to watch it grow.

I am really glad that this is a long campaign. I feel like a lot of people don't get to experience 50+ sessions of the same game that often. I know Critical Role is on episode 100 or something and etc, but I think one of the best things about D&D is how deep you can go.

It feels like a real accomplishment when you get a pile of sessions under your belt. The players really get attached to their characters, everyone' s comfortable, and there's a million plot threads to choose from. I guess I hope this encourages people who can do so to go ahead and grind it out every week rather than doing a single session once a month.

What World Are They On? I can not figure out where Chris is going with this. Why is this happening? Chris did mention in the game today that nobody knows what world Barovia is on and he seemed like he wanted the group to leave the castle, although that could have just been to set up the next encounter on the way to the exit.

The world they're in could be anything. It seems like Greyhawk is a logical choice. Or maybe Krynn (from the Dragonlance setting), because Tracy Hickman wrote the original Ravenloft module and he was the co-creator of Dragonlance.

It might be the 4e Nentir Vale. I think I saw someone mention that the raven-thing that gave Paultin the severed hand was actually the Raven Queen. Maybe this is all the doing of the Raven Queen? She hates undead, I think. She's pro-dead, that's for sure.

If we're going to do Tomb of Annihilation for season 3, at least some of that adventure is set in the Forgotten Realms, so I don't think we'll be going on a long term trip to any other world.

Who Sent Them? It could be that Lathander sent the waffle crew back to help them save Barovia for good, but if Lathander could do that, he would have done it a long time ago, right? Maybe because Strahd is gone, the border in the realm is weaker and Lathander can extend his reach a bit more.

It could be the Dark Powers messing with the group. Why would they do this, though? Maybe if the group stops Barovia from forming, then the Dark Powers never get stuck in Barovia? I think the powers want to be there, though, right?

We haven't seen Van Richten yet. There's no vampires here, but if Paultin's dad is a werewolf right now, then Van Richten might show up to try to kill him. That will be really awkward.


Also, maybe we'll see Escher and his buddy Falkon. The group could have a chance to snag young Falkon and undo his grisly demise.