One of God's own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.” -Hunter S. Thompson

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Chapel of Larithyon

This weekend my wife and I went on a little road trip into the Eastern Townships. This bucolic little area is full of neat places to explore. One place we visited was a small mountain that had a chapel built on top. As we explored some of the trails I felt as if I'd wandered into some sort of enchanted rocky woodland. It got me to thinking, who builds a chapel on top of a mountain anyway? As I thought about it I  imagined a cleric of Saint Cuthbert who built a wilderness chapel years ago in Greyhawk's Stark Mounds. Being in the wilderness it became a ripe target for the enemies of Good. 

This chapel was built by Larithyon, a human cleric of Saint Cuthbert in the Stark Mounds. Here he worshiped his deity and battled evil. He collected many religious works that are still to this day preserved in the library. After his death he was interred by his acolytes and his magical mace hidden behind a bas relief. Much later the chapel fell into disuse. It became a site of pilgrimage until the Giant invasions of 583 CY. Today a mindflayer and his minions have taken over the site and use it as a base to raid for fresh meat and brains. The Gargoyle (located at 2b) and the mind flayer have a truce but are not actually allied with one another and for the right price might be willing to reveal the mindflayer's secret lair in 4g.

Chapel Grounds
1a. A number of small mountain trails lead down the mountain.
1b. An Intellect Devourer runs around here (MM 191)

The Rectory
2a. Grimlock Shaman lives here 
2b. Secret passage down to (4f). Gargoyle Guard Post (on roof)

The Chapel Proper
3a. Grimlock lookout post (MM 175)
3b. Defiled Altar
3c. Stairs down to (4a)
3d. Grimlock Lair

The Crypt
4a. Stairwell
4b. Crypts
i. Larithyon's Crypt
ii. Bones and rubble
iii. Empty Crypt 
4c. Bas Relief of Saint Cuthbert fighting Iuz hidden within is Larithyon's magical Mace
4d. Ancient Library containing many religious and sacred religious works 
4e. Mindflayer Laboratory 
4f. Secret entry from Rectory (2b)

4g. Secret Mindflayer Lair (MM 222)

Map by Dyson Logos

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Liberation of Geoff

 It has been way to long since I’ve sat down at the kitchen table with a bunch of friends and rolled some dice. I’ve been playing a lot of Magic but the itch to run a game is becoming too great to ignore. Since I’ve been on summer break I’ve had time to start brainstorming ideas and trying to plan out a campaign. As I put pen to paper I was reminded of one of my first D&D memories. I’ve probably previously written about this somewhere on this blog of playing in the “Steading of the Hill Giant Chief”, and of how my character, an ineffective illusionist, who turned invisible during a massive battle in the main hall of the Steading. Since then I’ve always wanted to run or play in the “Against the Giants” trilogy.

I love this cover!
Much later, when I finally started roleplaying on a regular basis a friend of mine showed me the Liberation of Geoff book. The cover of that book still to this day evokes a feeling of fear and wonder in me. I seem to recall reading somewhere that Monte Cook said that this is what good D&D book covers should do. They should provide a sense of action and adventure, a promise of what awaits those that delve into the world held between those covers. I love how those two characters are either getting ready to ambush those two giants, or they are hiding from them know that if they are found they are as good as dead. I almost prefer that it be the latter. I feel like in some ways “Against the Giants” is more of a series of infiltration and spy missions than hack and slash combat ones. But then I guess there’s nothing wrong with opening a can of whip ass on giants either…

Long story short, I’ve been planning a D&D 5e sandbox campaign in the Lost Lands of Geoff (The name of the former Grand Duchy still makes me cringe however). As I went through my old note books I even discovered that I still have ideas written down from 2008! Furthermore, I’ve been following and very impressed with Simon Forster’s “Against the Giants” campaign that’s now at session 214! You can read all about it at his “The Sky is Full of Dust” blog. This campaign was started in 2012 and is still running 4 years later! So clearly there is lots of adventuring to be had in this part of Greyhawk. I love the idea of the characters taking on the role of resistance fighters. One of the ideas I had was to modify the liberated city of Hochoch and make it more like Osgiliath in “Lord of the Rings” movie. The liberated portion of the city would be a highly defended and rebuilt area on the East Bank of the river, while on the West bank would be city ruins infested with bandits, monsters and other hazards. The basic hook is that there is little fight left in the people to take back the Grand Duchy. Even if there was, there is even less money to finance and support an army. Instead, Grand Duke Owen I, has sent out word to bands of adventurers across the land. Letters of Mark are being given out to help liberate the lands. Great rewards await those adventuring companies brave enough to strike out into the dangerous wilderness and help the brave people still trapped in slavery behind enemy lines.    
How I envision the City of Hochoch in my campaign.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

5e Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set Review

Image stolen from EN World
I’ve been really craving a chance to chuck some dice lately and I’ve really wanted to see what D&D 5e has to offer for sometime now. Thus on a whim I picked up a copy of the 5e Starter Set this week and I was surprised by what a great product it was. Like some kind of RPG prophet, I felt compelled to write this review and spread the good word.

What you Get
64-page adventure book (Lost Mines of Phandelver)
32-page rulebook
5 pre-generated characters
1 blank character sheet
6 really boring dice

The Physical Product
The box itself is solid and can be used to store notes, pencils, a handful of miniatures and whatever else (a box of Junior Mints, a cigarette for that time when you TPK the group, shark repellent, a peanut butter and jam sandwich…you get the point), you might want to store away for your next game session. As for the contents the production values are top notch. The pages are glossy and thick. (make sure you take good whiff of that new book smell). The art full color and what you would expect from one of the leaders in the RPG industry. The cartography is both functional and beautiful, I particularly like the inclusion of the hex map in the adventure booklet. The set of dice included are nothing special. It would have been cool if Wizards would have put a special symbol on the d20 like they do for the Magic: The Gathering life-counter dice.  

The Rules
The rules seem to cover pretty much all the major things you would expect to do in an average D&D session. The text is very much presented in a language meant to convey how to play and adjudicate the game to new players. I can speak from experience that learning to play earlier editions of D&D was a challenge. I feel like the rules and presentation succeed at helping to teach and learn the game if you don’t know people who already understand the basics of how to play an RPG. I like that the rules seem to be consistent with the actual published rules. Too often I’ve seen intro sets try to simplify the rules so much that it is as if you are playing a completely different game and therefore you’re left just as confused as to how to play the actual game if you do decide to buy the core rules. My biggest gripe is that aside from the five pre-generated characters that are included, there is no way to actually make a character. You are stuck advancing from levels 1-5 based on what is presented on those character sheets. This might not be the end of the world but it does limit the number of players to a maximum of six (five players + a Dungeon Master) and the re-playability of the box unless you download the basic rules online or buy the Players Handbook.   

The Lost Mine of Phandelver Intro Adventure
The starting adventure is what makes this product so great. The adventure is set in the Forgotten Realms some time around 1489 Dale Reckoning (the calendar system of setting). With the exception of a foray into Ravenloft, the Realms seems to be the default campaign setting for 5e and they take this more seriously than they did back when Greyhawk was the default setting of 3e. The Lost Mines starts off fairly linear but does branch off in the third chapter providing a more open world to explore. The adventure provides a great starting village of Phandalin and an enterprising DM could easily build off of the material provided here to continue a campaign for a long time. Another thing that I really like about this adventure is how easy it is to use as a starting point for any of the hardcover campaign books that Wizards has put out over the years. The only real issue is that characters would be starting those campaigns at levels higher than expected. This can be mitigated somewhat and one of the fun parts of running a game is modifying things to fit your group. Also from what I’ve seen the campaigns that follow are meant for experienced players and Dungeon Masters so starting at a higher level might not be a bad idea for novice players.

Over all I think that the 5e D&D Starter Set is a worthwhile purchase for anyone who wants to test out the 5e rules, or as a great place to launch a new campaign. I’ve seen a lot of starter sets for a lot of different RPGs and this is by far one of the better ones. I’d argue that the Pathfinder Basic Set is better, because it provides the tools to make your own characters and other tools (monster tokens, a reusable battle map, etc.), but if you’re looking to play 5e D&D this is still a great place to start. I think the Lost Mines provides a great framework for new DM’s on how to go about creating their own material for future adventures or as an introduction to Wizards follow up campaign storylines like the Tyranny of Dragons, Elemental Evil, Rage of Demons and so forth. As someone who plans to introduce the game to fresh meat for the Prince of Demons a group of noobs I think this is a great