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.

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.