The Stage is Set for an Epic Battle in Omu

Setting the Stage for a Grand Combat

Building from the previous session:

  • The warlock, as an eagle, carried a silenced rope kept close to the King of Feathers.
  • An aging (now hasted) Tabaxi, bent on a glorious death, lead the King of Feathers on.
  • A Tabaxi rogue/ranger nimble and fast, provided flanking support.
  • The sorcerer, barbarian, and cleric, followed several steps behind.

Random Tables

When you first lead the King of Feathers into the camp, roll…
d6 Result
1 1 round of inaction
2 2 rounds of inaction
3 3 rounds of inaction
4-6 Respond Quickly

I wanted to reflect that moment of confusion, when a large and silenced T-Rex charges into an encampment.

I told the players that each round there was a 50/50 chance that the rumblings of a nearby huge monster would wake any sleeping inhabitants.

The overall state of the camp
d20 Results
1 A wizard was out relieving themselves (and alert)
2 The wizards were in a meeting (in the same building)
3 A wizard is overseeing a dream spell
4 The guards on watch are instead gambling
5 The wizards are deep in a summoning ritual (and it won’t be long until it’s done)
6 The wizards just dealt with an incursion, roll 2d6 each, they each spent those spell slots; 1d6 veterans are bloodied.
7-20 The wizards were sleeping amongst their bone harem of their skeletons (they each get +2 cover bonus)

A camp of 20 or so humans has nighttime activity. I wanted to convey that reality, and not lay the conditions out ahead of time.

Players Roll

Since there were two groups of characters (those fast enough to lead the King of Feathers on, and those not) I had them roll to see how far the trailing group was behind the King of Feathers.

They rolled 1 round of inaction, that the guards were gambling, the faster barbarian would arrive at round 2, and the sorcerer and cleric would arrive at round 4. (They didn’t know but the veterans would awake at round 3).

I set up the location, and called for a group initiative. For initiative order for the combat  was: the players, King of Feathers, and the camp. (I had briefly thought of rolling group initiative each turn)

A combat map for a tabletop RPG, with dominos for buildings, dice for monsters, and other oddities

The Stage is Set for an Epic Battle in Omu

The Participants

  • Five 7th level PCs – a tabaxi ranger 4 /rogue 3; a half-elf cleric 1 / sorcerer 6; a human cleric 7 / a half-elf warlock 7; a dwarf barbarian 7
  • One Tabaxi Hunter, an ally of the PCs bent on a glorious death
  • Two 9th level Mages (CR 6)
  • One 11th level Mage (CR 7)
  • One flesh golem (CR 5)
  • Twelve veterans (CR 3)
  • Twelve skeletons (CR 1/2)
  • One King of Feathers (an augmented CR 9 T-Rex)

Everyone knew this was a dangerous gambit. Going into the session we all knew this would be an encounter that would require constant evaluation.

As I was preparing the situation, I kept thinking what are the likely responses of the players?

  • They’ll lead the King of Feathers into the camp and stand back to assess (and perhaps strike after any spells had worn out)
  • They’ll join with the King of Feathers and battle the camp
  • They’ll swoop in to help the camp, and ingratiate themselves with the wizards

When You Lead a T-Rex Into Battle…

The grand melee that ensued was among the most satisfying I’ve ever ran; Definitely the most satisfying I’ve run for 5e. But this post draws long, so I’ll save the report until next time.

Plan for Complications – Tomb of Annihilation

Random tables lead to creative solutions; or that time where they set in motion luring a silenced T-Rex into the camp of enemy wizards with whom they might soon form an alliance.

Large feathered T-Rex in jungle ruins

King of Feathers in Omu

Prior Sessions

Two sessions ago the characters had a harrowing three-way battle between a trio of ambushing assassin vines and a Red Wizard along with his cohort. The Red Wizard escaped and they spent the next session tracking him down, laying an ambush at the obelisk, and ultimately interrogating him (and throwing him to the conjured black tentacles).

The adventurers learned that the other three Red Wizards were to meet at the obelisk the next day. The adventurers weren’t able to tell if the captured wizard was lying, and set about crafting an ambush.

We ended that session with me saying – “Welp, I don’t know how this is going to go down, but I’ll write up some random procedures so that I lock in their actions while you discuss and work through yours.”

I created the procedures following:

Table 1: Are they coming tomorrow?
d6 Result
1-3 Yes, use the Arrival Times procedure to determine timing. Note: the arrival hour is the number of hours after sunrise.
4-6 No, roll on Table 2: So they’re not coming today

 

Table 2: So they’re not coming tomorrow…
d6 Result
1-2 But they’re coming today; use the Arrival Times procedure to determine timing. Note: the arrival hour is the number of hours since the initial ambush.
3-4 But the yuan-ti are laying are gathering around the players and laying an ambush
5-6 Because they caught wind of what’s happening and will instead send an emissary. Roll 1d6 to determine the hour of their arrival

Arrival Time Procedure

For each of the 3 Red Wizard groups roll a unique 1d6 (after all each group is different). The resulting die is their arrival hour. For any dice that turn up the same, roll those dice again.

  • If both are even or both are odd, they arrive together.
  • If the larger is even, they arrive that many rounds later.
  • If the larger number is odd, they arrive the product of those two dice minutes later.
  • If you rolled 3 dice, treat each even as the highest result of all odds and each odd as the highest result of all odds.

This Session

At the beginning of the session, I rolled on the tables. The result was the Wizards got wind of the ambush and were sending an emissary instead. Poor Trevor, the veteran waving the white flag; He came to realize that the Red Wizards, while paying generously, were holding his family as leverage.

The adventurers began setting up their ambush. Moving dirt, checking houses near the obelisk, and establishing a perimeter patrol.

Moon (the Tabaxi Ranger/Rogue) spotted a soldier approaching, flying a white flag. After a brief parlay, he brought Trevor (the soldier) to just outside the ambush spot. The offer at hand was that the adventurer’s join (and in some PC’s cases rejoin) the Red Wizard entourage. The pay was good and they looked after your family, according to Trevor. Moon countered saying that his family was leverage for compliance.

During the extended parlay with Trevor, the group worked out the following plan (mostly outside of earshot of Trevor, who was now ready to turn an eye on the Red Wizards but not actively work against them):

  • Twelve Moonshadow and Hooded Lantern would track the wizards to their encampment
  • Ord, X, Regina, and Kruxus Craft would begin resting to swap spells
  • Kruxus Craft would cast silence on 50’ of rope
  • Regina and Moon would go to the King of Feather’s lair, lure it out, and drop (via Mage Hand) the silent rope on the King
  • Moon would lead the King of Feathers towards the wizard encampment
  • As they drew near, Hooded Lantern seeking song worthy death would anchor the relay and lead the T-Rex into the encampment
  • A bit of mayhem later and the party would attack

Analysis and Behind the Screen

Planning can bog down a game. I employed a tactic early on saying “What I hear the plan to be right now is…”. This helped draw the group’s attention to the current shape of a discussed plan.

Early we all lamented the nerfed spell durations of 5e (compared to 2e especially); they are static and short. I made a table ruling. A character may expend a higher level slot to extend a spell’s duration:

  • 1 minute
  • 10 minute
  • 1 hour
  • 4 hours
  • 8 hours
  • 1 day
  • 1 week

Because short durations are lame when the plan is to silence a rampaging T-Rex to aid in the ambush of wizards. And yes, this may impose on a Sorcerer’s metamagic, but we’ll get to that if it ever comes up.

Back to the Session

The Red Wizards accepted the request of the for one day to think about it joining forces. And they could meet at a neutral place; the accepted recommendation was the prior wizard encampment in which the wizards and yuan-ti last fought.

What transpired:

  • While following to camp, each group rolled for random encounters – the wizards, the tabaxi PC and NPC, and the other group
  • A shambling mound attacked the Red Wizards, the advantage was the wizards, so I had the players roll some random dice to see if there were any fatalities (there weren’t and I should’ve clarified what the rolls were about)
  • No other random encounters
  • Moon, ever curious sneaked closer, but Zagmira spotted him
  • A quick roll of initiative and Moon bolted back into the jungle before Zagmira could unload
  • Moon and Hooded Lantern returned to camp
  • with a 4 hour silence dropped on a knot in the 50’ of rope, Moon and Regina left wrangle up the King of Feathers
  • At the amphitheatre, there were signs of the King of Feathers (only a 25% chance at night), but it was not there now
  • Invisible in the shadows Regina waited while 5 deinonychus came to prowl; afraid of drawing attention Regina dropped a major image to lure them away
  • Meanwhile Moon found the King of Feathers. With haste and agility he barely kept ahead of King of Feathers as he lured the mighty T-Rex towards a waiting Regina and the hanging collar/rope. (Without levels of rogue and ranger, Moon would not have kept ahead of the King of Feathers)
  • As the King of Feathers drew close, it noticed the invisible and skulking Regina
  • A quick roll of initiative and to Regina’s fortune she won.
  • Regina promptly changed into a large bird of prey and flew up. Grabbing the rope, Regina flew low to keep the King of Feather’s silent while Moon’s lead it through the jungle to the encampment
  • Moon succeeded at keeping ahead of the King of Feather’s and avoided picking up a level of exhaustion (DC 15) as they all approached the camp.

With time running short, and a massive battle looming, we called it a night.

This morning, I’m doing what I can to prepare the situation:

  • a marauding T-Rex perhaps in an area of silence
  • a polymorphed warlock carrying said silenced rope
  • a wizard encampment (3 Red Wizards, a Flesh Golem, 13 soldiers, 14 skeletons) that previously caught someone following them
  • an urban locale that is overrun by the encroaching jungle

Random Encounter Table for Bitterweed Barrow Region

Every 5 mile hex, roll 1d6. On a 6, see below. Outside of the Barrow Ward, roll 1d10. Inside the Barrow Ward roll 1d10+3.

D8 Random Encounter
1 Devil Frog (1) [DCC 402]
2 Time Traveler [DCC 429]
3 Hollow One [DCC 418]
4 Orcs (1d6x5 and boss) [DCC 423]
5-7 Roll on Guess Who’s Coming to Bitterweed Barrow
8 Troll (1) [DCC 429]
9 Witch (95% of 1; 5% of 12) [DCC 434]
10 Bandits (2d6) [DCC 432]
11 Chip – Plague Ensorcelled Corpse
12 Varooth Moss [Nebin Pendlebrook’s Perilous Pantry]
13 Barrow Wives (1d6)

Randomizing My Way Through Tomb of Annihilation

The past month, I’ve been running Tomb of Annihilation, in 5E D&D, for two different groups. The first group includes my daughter, step-daughter, and their friends. The second group includes friends from high school and college. I also have a 3rd campaign in the mix as well; A Labyrinth Lord game for my step-daughter and her 6 to 9 other theater friends (and not Tomb of Annihilation).

Tonight, my daughter and step-daughter’s group left Port Nyanzaru. This coming Thursday, I assume the other group will also leave Port Nyanzaru.

With my daughter and step-daughter’s group, I used the recommended hooks for character backgrounds to steer them to Chult. For my friend’s group, they all decided that they were a musical band benefiting from the patronage of Syndra Silvane.

While in Port Nyanzaru, each group learned different information (via a rumor table). They received guidance from different people (via random side quests). They have three things in common:

  1. They both went to Watangu and got the same quest (one gets a spellbook the other a bag of holding). Oddly, they both attempted to persuade him and each group rolled a 1.
  2. They both opted to stay at the Thunderous Lizard, each getting a free night stay (one through a swindle, the other through a rocking performance).
  3. Chaos is the predominate alignment; The high school group is all chaotic, the other group is all chaotic except the roadie and the band manager.

As they journey into the jungle, I’m sure the random encounters will push further divergence. Already the high school group encountered two formative random encounters; a tabaxi hunter and a red wizardess. In the book, these encounters are rather sparse. However, with some role-playing and an odd bargain, the tabaxi joined the group to help them navigate the jungle.

The odd bargain emerged from rolling a random Tabaxi Quirks and Motivations from Volo’s Guide to Monsters. String of Yarn, the tabaxi hunter, sought to find lost civilizations. And never wore the same clothing more than once. With a bit of back and forth, String of Yarn will wear the characters clothes (and costumes) as they travel. In return, he’ll help them navigate through the jungle.

And the party wouldn’t have learned about the tabaxi hunter had they not had a random encounter with flying monkeys. The party did not escalate to violence and instead the bard cast speak with animals learning that they were being followed.

Random encounters are the lifeblood of any and all adventures that I now run. In Tomb of Annihilation, each group will experience a similar game, but the details will vary. And in that variation, we’ll find surprises to which we must all react.

Guess Who’s Coming to Bitterweed Barrow?

Since our first session at Better World Books – Goshen, players have tested their mettle through four 0-level character funnels.

Surviving characters have joined in the larger campaign. I’ve decided that each of these adventures started in Bitterweed Barrow. And with such drastic changes, I need a procedure to emulate the gold rush.

The Procedure

With the news of grave goods in the Bitterweed Barrow environs, many aspirants are seeking their fortunes or at least opportunities in Bitterweed Barrow.

For each two weeks of in-game time that has passed and for each session that has passed since the character’s have been in Bitterweed Barrow, roll on the following table to see who has begun coming to Bitterweed Barrow:

d30 Guess Who’s Coming to Bitterweed Barrow?
1-12 1d8 0-level commoners (50/50 chance of adventuring or seeking work)
13 A merchant peddler with supplies for sale
14 Adventurers: 1 – a group of 1d3 + 1d5 adventurers (level 1), 2 – a lone adventurer (level 1d3+1) and 1d6 hirelings, 3 – a group of 1d7 adventurers and 1d4 hirelings
15 1d6 acolytes of: 1 – Set, 2 – Orcus, 3 – Justicia, 4 – Nergal, 5 – Ramat, 6 – Other
16 A traveling bard with other tales
17 A tax collector and 2d6 soldiers in the name of Duchess Zelene Oči
18-19 Raiding party (2d12): 1 – Orcs, 2 – Human brigands, 3 – Hirot, 4 – Another kingdom
20* Jarl Henrick, his thegns, and Sylle Ru (from Hirot)
21* Sylle Ru and 1d3 thegns of Jarl Henrick (from Hirot)
22* Master Jenks, Oleen the Imp, Catkins, Wee Tocs, and Wolf (from Hirot)
23* Lloré and Morgan Haverson (from Hirot)
24* Brother Aker (from Hirot)
25* 1d3+1 of Iraco’s hunters and 50/50 chance Iraco (from Hirot)
26* A time traveller
27* An astrologer with outlandish prophesies
28-29* A journeyman smith and 3 laborers; Replace with a trained craftsman
30* A chronicler from the great city (Punjar, Lankhmar, etc)
* – When rolled, replace with a new entry

Unless they are coming from somewhere specific, where are they coming from?

d10 Where are they coming from?
1 North
2 Northeast
3 East
4 Southeast
5 South
6 Southwest
7 West
8 Northwest
9-10 [Roll again 1d8] of Hirot

For each adventuring party send them through the Paul Wolfe’s Virtual Funnel in Gong Farmer’s Almanac 2015 (Consolidated p332) in between sessions.

Preparation for Session 2 of DCC Better World Gaming

Between the 0-level funnel of Nebin Pendlebrook’s Perilous Pantry and the first session of Doom of the Savage Kings, I did some preparation. I didn’t publish this as I didn’t want to tip my hand. I scratched together two random tables to seed the start of the session. These are things that still could be happening.

With a map and deed, I assumed the characters would be leaving the village. I spent a bit of time laying out a flow-chart of distances to nearby locations. After the second session, the geography set a bit more and I’m working on a localized map.

D8 In Bitterweed Barrow
1 A small troop of dwarves (1d4+1) arrive in Bitterweed Barrow to claim their ancestral gold. The have come from the nearby foothills of the Trolltooth Mountains.
2 Varooth Moss sends a letter asking to meet at midnight at the well outside Nebin’s house; He has important news and needs help. To help him, he needs Sylle Ru captured or killed.
3 Nebin Pendlebrook’s ghost haunts the village; food is going missing.
4 A druid has come to learn of the sprite fountain. A foul corruption is growing in the west.
5 Chip, slain potato farmer, rises to seek vengeance for his death (see Ensorcelling Corpse Plague).
6 Last night, the village sot and goat herder helped birth a two-headed goat. He swears that before it died it said “Beware, Beware the Eyes of Green.”
7 Hearing of the fountain, a band of reavers assumes that Bitterweed Barrow may be the resting place of the Abbot in the Woods.
8 Roll 1d7 twice.
D10 Leaving Bitterweed Barrow
1 Lionel Left-Leg, a seasoned peddler warns that Hirot is on edge; They are sacrificing each other to appeas a demon.
2 Constable Landria is on the trail of a poacher. She may conscript the party.
3 Elianda, a pilgrim on a vision quest. She seeks a lone tower to free an ensnared angle.
4 A small road-side shrine with a clay bowl and 5 silver coins on offer.
5 A group of brigands heading to Bitterwood Barrow to lay claim to the wealth.
6 Evidence of a massive hound having shred an elk
7 Farmer Chip gives pursuit; He is getting stronger
8 A band of performers setting up camp. They invite you to share their food for the afternoon and evening.
9 Varooth Moss meets you on the road insisting that he travels this side of the mirror.
10 Roll 1d9 twice.

 

Random Tables to Help Preparation for the Unexpected

At the end of my last DCC session, we left off with the players saying “We are leaving the village in the morning.”

I’m not entirely certain where they are going. They have two similar looking maps with minimal information. I spend a few minutes drawing those up as handouts.

I’m spending an hour whipping up a random encounter table for the region.

Random Encounters near Bitterweed Barrow and Hirot

Every 5 mile hex, roll 1d6. On a 6, see below. Outside of the Barrow Ward, roll 1d7. Inside the Barrow Ward roll 1d7+3.

d7 Random Encounter
1 Devil Frog (1) [DCC 402]
2 redacted
3 redacted
4 Orcs (1d6x5 and Boss) [DCC 423]
5 Troll (1) [DCC 429]
6 Witch (95% 1; 5% 12) [DCC 434]
7 Men, Bandits (2d6) [DCC 432]
8 redacted
9 Varooth Moss (1) [Nebin Pendlebrook’s Perilous Pantry]
10 redacted

In addition to the above table, I’m looking at the introduced cast of characters and setting a few of them in motion. I’m using Sine Nomine’s An Echo Resounding and Wizard of the Coast’s Birthright as a rough planning tool. Regardless I want to make sure a few things happen behind the scenes.

All told, I’m not entirely certain where we’ll start the session; Some players may need to level up their characters.