Showing posts with label dragonslayers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dragonslayers. Show all posts

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Review: M1 Into the Maelstrom (BECMI)

In some ways, I do wish I had read M1 before I had picked up M3.  I had picked both modules up around 10-13 years ago while looking for a good epic level adventure for my kids then D&D 3.x game.  They were into the epic levels of D&D 3, with the lowest level at 24 and the highest at 29.  They were on this huge campaign against what they thought was the machinations of Tiamat.  M1 was very good choice since I love the idea of flying ships (D&D should be FANTASTIC after all) but the base plot didn't work for the adventure in mind.  M3, along with some other material, worked rather perfectly.  Plus I can't deny that the Carnifex played a huge role.  So M3 went on the table and M1 went back on the shelves.

Until that is Bruce Heard began producing material for Calidar.

M1 Into the Maelstrom is really a fantastic adventure for the D&D Master's Set that realizes that set's potential.  It is also a great lead-in to not just the Immortals Set coming up, but also the future of the Mystara-line and even pre-sages Spelljammer and the adventures of the 90s.   Additionally, and somewhat forgotten, this book introduces us to our first named Immortals and introduces demons to BECMI.  

There is a lot going on here.  Let's get into it.


For this review, I am going to consider my original print module and the PDF from DriveThruRPG.  There is a Print on Demand version as well, but I do not have it.

By Bruce and Beatrice Heard.  32 pages, color covers, black & white interior. Cover art by Jeff Easley, interior art by Valerie Valusek and maps by Dave "Diesel" LaForce.
Into the Maelstrom deals with the machinations of three Immortals, Koryis (Law), Vanya (Neutral) and Alphaks (Chaos), and are featured on the cover.  Alphaks is our focus here.  He is the focus of the next few adventures and is one of the "Big Bads" of the later BECMI and Mystara lines.  He was the ancient Emperor of Alphatia AND he is the first demon we see by the name demon in any BECMI book to my knowledge.  He is a "Roaring Demon" or what 1st Edition calls a Type VI or Balor demon.  We won't learn more about them till the Immortal set, but here they are. Demons in Basic D&D.

Our adventure starts in the Known World. We bring back King Ericall of Norwold and he needs the characters to investigate the source of some poisonous winds coming from the north between Norwold and the Island Empire of Alphatia (to the east).  The poisonous fog/winds are the result of Alphaks trying to reenter the world via a two-way portal from the Sphere of Death (call back to Death's Ride!)

The three immortals are essentially playing a game. Alphaks wants into the world, Koryis doesn't want him in and Vanya is going to side with the winner.  As the adventure progresses each immortal will earn points for the actions, successes and/or failures of the PCs.  The DM keeps track.  The PCs can also gain curses or boons as the adventure continues.

So another new addition is the "Sea Machine" or water-based battles as an addition to the War Machine.  Pretty nice bonus add if you ask me.

The first part of the adventure goes pretty normal. That is until the seagoing vessels encounter the titular maelstrom.  The PCs are sucked into the swirling vortex of death and spit out into a starry void with air they can breathe!  How's that for adventure?

Here this becomes a proto-Spelljamming adventure, there are several locations (Islands) that the PCs can stop at, but each has their own unique set of hazards.  

The PCs must navigate, in all senses of the word, the machinations of these three immortals.  There is even a giant battle with a navy of the dead controlled by Alphaks.

In addition to the new monster stats (the Roaring Demon), there are PC/NPC stats in back for characters to use in the adventure.

So for the first time, we get a BECMI adventure into the other planes.  Here the characters get a chance to travel the outer planes via a flying ship and even dip a toe into the Astral plane.  
Depending on the outcome the characters can also be set on the path to Immortality.

This adventure is "bigger on the inside" as has been described.  There is a lot here that can be expanded on to a near-infinite degree.  With a ship that can transverse the planes a good argument could be made about even returning to the Known World and Norwold.  

Let's also take a moment and talk about Diesel LaForce's maps.




These things are works of art really. I am not sure how as a DM you can look at them and NOT want to run this adventure.  "Dimensional Guide to the Star Kingdoms?" Hell yeah!

Into the Maelstrom, along with the other modules in the M series work not just as a Master's level set of adventures, but also our introduction to plane hopping and dealing with immortals in the D&D game.  Compared to the same treatments in AD&D, such as the H Series, the M series is more subtle in it's approach.  The H series is largely about kicking in doors, killing monsters and taking their stuff.  Only in the H series, the doors are planes, the monsters are gods and demons and their stuff are artifacts.


Going back to the beginning, if I had known more about the arc (let's call it the "Norwold Saga") then all of these adventures do tie into all the others in a nice, dare I say it, Adventure Path.  Maybe that is something that WotC could do to reintroduce Mystara is give us this for 5e rules.

Keep in mind that this "Adventure Path" or even meta plot was alive and well in the mid-80s. Long before the 90s that this sort of gaming is most associated with.  I might have to explore this idea further.

In the meantime, M1 Into the Maelstorm stands out as not only a great adventure, but a groundbreaking one in many ways.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Retrospective, Review and Refit: M3 Twilight Calling (BECMI)

If there is an "Alpha and Omega" to my D&D games with my kids then the title could be held by Gary Gygax, but most likely the titleholder would really be Tom Moldvay.

It has been his adventures that my family have enjoyed the most.

X1 Isle of Dread (w/ David Cook)

His Basic set rules are what really got me deep into D&D, maybe even more so than Holmes. 

So it is really not such a surprise that when I began to look for a "Big Finale" sort of adventure my attention would turn to the Master Series.  

While I initially thought that Bruce Heard's M1 Into the Maelstrom would be my choice (and it is still a fine choice, for something else I have in mind) it was quickly replaced when I discovered Tom Moldvay's M3 Twilight Calling

Twilight Calling is actually rather perfect.  It is a high-level adventure that feels like a high-level adventure. The main focus of the adventure is around a rising power among the Immortals, Alphaks the Dark.  He wants to release the ancient Carnifex race (more on them in a bit) who are sealed away in an extra-planar pocket dimension.  He can't do this himself, only Lawful creatures can enter the realms protecting it and thus break the seals.  The adventure begins all the way back in the "Broken Lands" of the D&D Expert Set (both B/X and BECMI) but soon the characters go on an extra planar romp through the "Seven Realms" to the final location, Carnifex Castle.

The Carnifex
Carnifex are an evil species akin to both lizards and dinosaurs.  We get a good insight to Moldvay's Pulp sensibilities here where evil lizard men with alien brains and cold-blooded evil are the bad guys.  For me, it works. Works much better than orcs or even drow.   They are described as lizard-like humanoids.
Not much more than that.  So given the adventures I had been taking the kids through a thought occurred to me.  What if the Carnifex are the progenitors of all the reptilian races of the D&D?  Lizardmen, troglodytes, Yuan-Ti, and others.  We learn very, very little about them in this adventure.
We know that Carnifex means "butcher" in Latin. It also translates also into executioner, hangman, tormenter, murderer, scoundrel, and villain. So yeah, these are not supposed to be nice guys. 
This all made me think about the Silurians from Doctor Who. An ancient race related to the dinosaurs.  This also made me think of the "Dinosauroid" or the "Dino Sapiens" that scientists have imagined as a humanoid descendent of the Troodon.


If you are thinking of a Sleestak you are not alone. 

This is fantastic really.  But for my Dragonslayers' game has no context for Alphaks the Dark.  And the Carnifex really could be anything.  So.  How do I take this adventure and make it work for my group?

Enter The Dragon. Well The Dragon #38 to be exact.

Dawn & Twilight: Dragon 38 (1980) and M3 Twilight Calling

Dragon 38, still called The Dragon then, was one of those issues that are just full of great ideas.  I had a copy on my Dragon Magazine CD-ROM, but I knew about it beforehand for the famous Gygax From the Sorcerer's Scroll article "Good Isn't Stupid, Paladins & Rangers."  I played a lot of Paladins back then so this was a must read.  BUT that article pales in comparison to what the rest of the issue gave me.
In the same article it is mentioned that dwarf women have beards.  Great. But I said dwarf witches do not. In fact that is the surest way to be called a witch in dwarven culture, if you can't grow a beard.
There is a story from Gardner Fox, a comic by Darlene that is better looking than most of the comics in Dragon before or since. But three articles in particular grabbed my attention.

Tesseracts by Allen Wells gave me some wonderful ideas for when I ran Baba Yaga's Hut and other crazy adventures.  It gave me the frame of reference of how I wanted to run M3.

Leomund’s Tiny Hut: The mighty dragon by Len Lakofka gave me the hook I was looking for, though not in the way I am sure he thought it would.  Len's article is a great one and it gives us out very first look at the Yellow, Orange, and Brown dragons.  Brown dragons, of course, would later appear in the Mater Rules as the Chaotic counterpart to the Gold Dragon.  I did a version of my own Orange dragon (really more of a Pumpkin Dragon) in my Pumpkin Spice Witch book.   The Yellow Dragon then was a new one. And it fit perfectly into a hole I had.  In M3 there are different color realms that all correspond to the color of a chromatic dragon; Green, Red, Black, Blue, White, and then Yellow.  But no Yellow dragon.  Until Len gave me one. He also has updated stats for Tiamat and Bahamut.
This got me thinking.  What if Aphaks was not just some rogue would-be immortal?  What if he/she were a third Dragon god?  The Master's set has four dragon rulers. The Forgotten Realms has more than two as well (IIRC). Or how about even a better idea.  What if Aphaks was Apsu, Tiamat's "dead" consort? The Carnifex could have been his creations.  The ancient evil enemy of the Dragonborn?

The Seven Magical Planets by Tom Moldvay can read a proto version of M3.  This article leans more on the alchemical aspects of the seven planets, the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. They do not line up as well with the M3 sequence, so I might change them a bit.  If I go with Babylonian/Summerian ideas then I would rename the planets to their Summerian names. Mercury with Nabu (Nebo), Venus with the goddess Ishtar, Mars with Nergal, Jupiter with Marduk, Saturn with Ninurta (Ninib), for the classical planets (and suggested by Moldvay in the article) and Sin/Nanna for the Moon and Utu/Shamash for the Sun.
I am not sure if the alchemical correspondences still line up. In the end it might not matter all the much as long as the feel is right.  This is a D&D game, not a Hermetic study on Alchemical principles. 

So where does this leave me?

Well, long ago Tiamat reigned.  She battled with the gods over her creations, the dragons.  Her blood was spilled and from that the Dragonborn were created including their god Marduk. Gilgamesh in this world view was the first Dragonborn King.  Enkidu was "like an animal" or human.

When the Dragonborn came into this world they encountered the evil Carnifex. They had been old even when the Dragonborn where new. They harkened back to a deep time of the world when it was a hotter place and populated by reptilian beasts and eldritch horrors. Their wars were long and bloody and they could only defeat them by sealing them up in a demi-plane of imprisonment.   I posted about this in my Dragonborn in Oerth

I have an evil, or at least corrupt, god, Apsu, who is murdered by his own children.  His former consort, Tiamat then gives birth to dragons to fight the gods that killed Apsu.  But maybe he is not dead in the same sense that humans consider.  Maybe he is now in the realm of death (like Aphaks the Dark). This helps explain the undead encountered in M3 (and there is a lot) and why he would want the Carnifex loose.  Destroy the world your children made by letting their ancient enemy out.  It's a good plan really. 

I might need to find a copy of Dragon #38 just to have really.  I'll have to check my FLGS.


Monday, September 17, 2018

Dragonborn in Oerth

A few questions on the various Greyhwak and Oerth related groups on Facebook have prompted me to think a little more about Dragonborn and their place on Oerth.

This is something I began thinking about during the end run of my 3.x campaign, The DragonSlayers.  The be reveal was going to happen when I ran the old BECMI adventure M3 Twilight Calling.  Here the Carnifex were roughly analogous to orcs and to the Dragonborn's elves.
I am also going to use the Tom Moldvay article on the Seven Planets from The Dragon #38.  Which also includes Len Lakofka's updated AD&D 1st Ed stats for Tiamat and maybe the first Yellow Dragon.

But I still need to run that.

I did all the background work for that adventure and came up with some ideas of where to place the Red Mesa, which is a feature of the Dragonborn's homeland.

In Krynn it is pretty easy. Dragonborn are either replaced by or used instead of Draconians.  Though there are still many differences between the two races.
In the Forgotten Realms Dragonborn are godless warriors that have been enslaved by the Dragon Tyrants of Abeir, the lost "twin" world of Toril.  During the Spellplauge (cough*4thedition*cough) bit of Abeir and Toril combined and then split again during the Sundering (clearsthroat*5thedition) leaving some behind.
Other worlds do other things.

Mystara/the Known Wolrd has a thousand places for Dragonborn and any can work into the history.  But Oerth is different.  Let's check out some potential sites.
Again this falls into another debate...what is and what isn't a canon map of Oerth. I am going to stick with the more recent one since it serves my purposes best.

The Oerth
I am going to focus on the mostly undefined West since there a lot of good places to place the Dragonborn Empire (yes I am calling it an Empire, more on that in a bit).

Candidate #1: Fireland
Like many lands on this side of the world, there is very, very little known and even less that have been published.  Fireland, by its name, seems to be an area of volcanic activity or at least much hotter than expected.  Also given its name and its location I am also inclined to draw parallels to Iceland.
I like the idea of an island because it keeps the dragonborn remote and isolated. They could have been there for thousands of years and no one would have known.
Besides, who else would live on a volcanic island? Ok, lots of people do.

Candidate #2: Draconis Island
Another island and this time that really has a good "name claim".
Draconis Island is smaller and less remote but still has a good claim.  It is just about smack in the middle of the Celestial Sea, so maybe this is the home to dragons and/or dragonborn.   It is also closer to the Eastern and more well-known areas of Oerth, so having dragonborn suddenly show up can be readily explained.
Like Fireland there is a lot of appeal to me because it is an island.  I am planning on molding MY Dragonborn Empire on the Dragon Empire of Melnibon茅 of the Elric Saga.  Instead of humans it will dragonborn and maybe not a cruel or decadent.

Candidate #3: The Draconic Imperium of Lynn
This is a big one. Not just in size (it is the largest of the three) but also the name.  The Draconic Imperium implies a Dragon Empire. Whether ruled by dragons or dragonborn or humans that worship dragons, well it's hard to say.
The only thing we know for sure about this area is there is a great city of Lynn and it is full of sea-farers and merchants.
This also seems to be a favorite of some places online as well.

For me though I am going with my Candidate #1, Fireland.
It seems like a better fit for what I want with Dragonborn and still have them in my world.
Speaking of which.  "My world" isn't even Oerth.  I am still happily using the merged Mystara/Oerth world of Mystoerth.

In my world, Fireland is very, very far west. So far in fact it wraps back around to the East.



I get a good sized island that is far enough away to be rumor and close enough that people have heard the rumors and believed them to be true.

Rise and Fall of the Draconic Empire
By human reckoning, there were no powerful civilizations more than 6000 years ago.  This is human arrogance.  When humans were still living hand to mouth as hunter-gather tribes and elves leaving their crystal cities of azure in the Feywild for the forests and wild places of the world the Dragonborn reigned supreme and unconquered.
In their history when the gods and primordials fought in the Dawn War; Tiamat and Bahamut fought their titanic battle in the skies.  As their blood fell to the ground the Dragonborn sprang into life.  Since none knew whose blood they came from they honored both gods as their own.
It is said that Tiamat fell from the skies and crashed into the Oceans.  Her blood and fire and body rose up to become the volcanic island known to humans as "Fireland"; though in the Draconic language it is known as Arkhosia or "Cradle".  Scholars are quick to point out the exact same word in old draconic means "Tomb".  It was here that they built their empire.  The great city of Aurix'ir (the "Golden City") was built. It featured the grand palace of the Emperor whose unbroken line can still be seen today and the even grander twin temples honoring Bahamut and Tiamat. Priest of both sects interacted here and were under strict oaths never to harm the other while in Aurix'ir.

Within the center of the island, surrounded by icy peaks and volcanos lay the legendary Red Mesa and within the Red Mesa was the even more legendary Dragons' Graveyard.

For the next 6000 years, the Dragonborn expanded their empire. Both Tiamat and Bahamut decreed that the riches in the Dragons' Graveyard would belong to the Draconic Empire and thus Emporer.

The wars of the Dragonborn were in the prehistory of Humankind, but would have been glorious for a human historian.

The First Great War was against the evil Carnifex. These lizard-men were the progenitors of Lizardfolk and Trogldytes and maybe scores others creatures.  They were old, even predating the Dragonborn, and they had a prior claim to the Dragonborn Island (though it did not exist till the dragonborn did).  The enemity between the two races was great; much like that between the elves and the orcs.  Indeed the similarity does not end there.  The Carnifex were the offspring of the great lizards known as dinosaurs and they represented a much different Oerth than what it was now.  A hotter place, filled with life from beyond the stars or from deep time.

The Second Great War, sadly was inventible as it was regretable.  The Dragonborn came up against the expanding elves time and time again.  Elves, with their ability to adapt nearly perfectly to their environment, were grabbing lands faster than the dragonborn could get their own people out into these new realms.   The conflict was brief, but global.  While both sides still hold long cultural memories of this war they have decided to work more towards peace, if not just a break from the hostilities.

The Third Great War was between the Dragonborn and the formerly human, now tiefling Empire of Bael Turath.  This was the war that would last 5 generations and destroy both empires.  In the case of Bael Turath it would wipe them from the face of the world and the dragonborn would return to their island and never interact with the outside world again until recently.
Some say the war began with a distarous first meeting between the two races, others say that war was always going to happen. In truth the war began in the Nine Hells when Asmodeus, always vying for more power, created the tieflings and cast Tiamat from Hell into the Abyss.  Offended beyond measure Tiamats clerics screamed for blood and in a rare case of ancestry overriding other concerns even the clerics of Bahamut, who still consider Tiamat their "grand mother", joined them in their cries for vengence.
Soon the lands, skies and seas were filled with battle.  Dragonborn sorcerers battled tiefling warlocks.  Paladins of Bahamut and Tiamat traded blows with hellknights of tieflings. Dragons attacked with mighty breath weapons while Olitiau, monstrous war-bats returned attacks with hypersonic shrieks. When the world could not contain their battles they spread to other realms and planes.  They spilled each other's blood in the sands of Athas. They fought in airships over Khorvaire.  On Krynn both sides were so bloody that all traces of both races were gone by the time of the Lance.  Emperors on both sides had been assassinated and capitals had fallen.  The war finally ended when the dragonborn finally broke the tiefling hold on Arkhosia and sent the tieflings fleeing.  It is said that remnants of this war still remain and great and terrible magics are to be had.  It is rumored that a tiefling spellbook from Bael Turath ended up in the have a wizard in the then young Suel empire.  It is believed that the spell that caused the Invoked Devastation that came upon the Baklunish was just a fragment of a spell found.  It would also seem the Baklunish had their own source of Turathi spells with the rain of colorless fire.
When the war ended no one was a live to have remembered it's beginning.  The animosty between the races today is one more of lazy hate.  They know each other's history but also the long history of what the recovery from that war entailed.


Given the dragon's proclivity to amass things I would say that Fireland/Arkhosia has the world's largest library on magic.  Spells of every description, level, and type.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Campaign Updates:2018

Work has me crazy busy, but this is a good thing.  The downside is I have not had the time to blog as much as I want or even get in the campaign prep in at night.  So I thought I would kill two birds today and see where I am in my games.



Active Games

The Dragon Slayers
A 3.x game that was briefly 5e and now fully converted to 1st Edition AD&D.  The characters were trapped in Baba Yaga's Hut for nearly a year. They freed the Old Crone and her daughter Elena the Fair.  Up next the final battle. I am using the Tom Moldvay adventure Twilight Calling for this.

Next are my three interlinked 5th edition games collectively known as Come Endless Darkness. Tharizd没n is returning to the multiverse and the PCs of the three campaigns need to stop him.

The Order of the Platinum Dragon
The Order has defeated all the giants and are now wandering the Underdark looking for the Drow. The big bads here are Lolth and Graz'zt.  Graz'zt is setting up Lolth much like he is described doing in Expedition to the Demonweb Pits (for 3.5e).  I try to focus on classic monsters in this one.

Second Campaign
The Treasure Hunters of the Second Campaign have just entered the Forbidden City. Here the big bad is Demogorgon.  Here the focus is on other creatures that might not see normal games.

Into the Netir Vale
Known by my kids as the Orcus campaign. This is my revived and converted 4e campaign brought over whole cloth. I might lessed the involvement with the Raven Queen and play up Shar since this is part of the Forgotten Realms in my house.

All three games will meet up at the Temple of Elemental Evil to battle it out with the risen Tharizd没n.  So roughly 18 characters of 18th to 20th level.  It's gonna be wild.

Inactive/On-hold Games
These games are all inactive for a number of reasons.

Star Trek: Voyages of the USS Protector
This game is will be using White Star with my own "Black Star" rules modifications.  I have the first adventures ready to go, "The Stars Are Right" and "These Are the Voyages".  I have two more nearly ready "Ghost Ship" and "Abraxas Down".  I want to do two more.  I have been scribbling notes on rule changes and feel like the rest I can do while the game is moving along. 
What is really slowing me down is the wiring of the LED lights I want to put into my USS Protector Model!

Spirit of '76
On indefinite hold.

Hero's Journey to Middle Earth
This one is requiring some significant reading on my part.  As my first REALY foray into Middle Earth as a game world I want to do it right.

Magic School 
This one is on hold till I am done with Come Endless Darkness. Since this one will use D&D Rules Cyclopedia and I really want it to feel like a separate game.   Plus things that happen in CED will change the world of the Magic School and I don't know what those are yet!

War of the Witch Queens
This is the higher level version of the Magic School kids.  What happens here will also be determined by what the PCs do in CED.  I have all the adventures for this, just not the end game.



The Incredibly Awesome (and Not At All Made-Up) Adventures of Booster Gold and Blue Beetle!
Huh...ok this one was a little bit of a joke, but I keep getting asked about it.  I do have one adventure worked out that introduces the PCs to the world. Called "Damn It Barry Allen!" it sets up Booster and Blue as the true heroes of the DC world, it's just that no one can remember them.

I still have to get my new Blue Rose campaign going.  I ran the first adventure, Kingdom of Rain, and it went great.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga

Well, it has taken us a year but we finally finished the Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga.

I made some changes to the adventure to have it fit in better with the overall arc of the Dragonslayers in their quest to stop the rise of Tiamat.  I also foreshadowed events of my Come Endless Darkness and War of the Witch Queen campaigns.

In the process of this adventure the characters began roughly at 20th-24th level in 3.x, converted over to 5e and they are leaving the adventure as 1st Ed characters.  In the course of the year they leveled up in the Hut so now everyone is about 29th level.  This is the reason for the switch to 1st ed since I think it handles 20+ levels better than 3e or 5e.   Also in the course of the last year I took bits and pieces from the Dragon Magazine (1st Edition) version of the Hut and something I found for 4th edition.

They fought the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.



The last Rainbow Dragon.


The dragon is supposed to be this dragon:


And finally, a re-ensouled, and very, very pissed off Kostchtchie.


For Kostchtchie I used an idea I had read years ago in White Dwarf #15; the Russian Nesting Doll monster.  Though I flipped it and started with a kobold, then a goblin, orc, hobgoblin, ogre, hill giant and then finally Kostchtchie himself.    Freaked the kids out that each time they hit him he got stronger.
Yes, that is one of the old ogre figures from the AD&D action figures line.

I mentioned in my review of this adventure that it is more plot driven than the other S series adventures. Baba Yaga is more of a defined character than say Acererak or Drelnza. In fact, she is presented in much of the same manner as Strahd was in Castle Ravenloft. Though there is the assumption that the PCs won't be so stupid as to attack her. Could the right group do it? Sure, but that is not the fun of this adventure. The fun here is investigating her magical hut and finding things that might be unique in your world. The Hut itself is almost a mini-campaign world, complete with it's own rules of magic and control over the daylight and nighttime hours. It does recall some of the "funhouse" dungeons of the S series in terms of what is being offered but there is some logic applied to most of the rooms. Others, unfortunately, feel like filler.
It was a fun adventure, but not one that really lives up to the S legacy or the potential of Baba Yaga herself.

Now given the levels the characters are at I will need to start looking into some of the really high level adventures for them.  Though really they should be ready to retire.

I did add Baba Yaga as a fully stated out monster thanks to the Baba Yaga Boss Stats (5E) from 00Games. But thankfully the kids did not piss her off enough to attack her.

Up next...are the Dragonslayers ready to stop the rise of Tiamat?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

White Plume Mountain at DriveThruRPG

One of the all-time greatest classic modules is now available at DriveThruRPG.

S2 White Plume Mountain


I had an absolute blast playing this with my kids.  They STILL talk about how they got Blackrazor.

DriveThru has a number of great files to go with this too.
White Plume Mountain Dungeon Tiles (lots of fun!)
White Plume Mountain Revised (3.5)

The PDF is the older mono-chrome cover, but I love this Jeff Dee one.

Friday, April 15, 2016

A to Z of Adventure! M is for Masters Series

M is for Masters Series.

The Masters series of adventures were created for the BECMI version of D&D.  Typically around here I have BECMI as roughly synonymous with B/X D&D or "Basic D&D" well....the M or Master Series is around to remind me that this is not really the case.

So a bit history.
The first Basic Set was authored by John Eric Holmes in 1977.  Gamers often call this "Blue Book Basic".
The next Basic Set was written by Tom Moldvay and was followed by the Cook/Marsh Expert Set. These books are collectively known as B/X.
The next set would be the last "Basic D&D". It was written and edited by +Frank Mentzer and included the Basic, Expert, Companion, Masters and Immortal sets. Also known as BECMI.
Each set detailed more levels of the game; 1-3, 4-14, 15-25, 26-36, and Immortality, respectively.

The Masters set and M series of modules were designed for experienced players and characters of 26th level and higher.

Only five M series modules were made.

Code Title Levels Author(s) Published Notes
M1 Into the Maelstrom 25–30 Bruce Heard, Beatrice Heard 1985
M2 Vengeance of Alphaks 28–32 Skip Williams 1986
M3 Twilight Calling 30–35 Tom Moldvay 1986
M4 Five Coins for a Kingdom 28–32 Allen Varney 1987
M5 Talons of Night 20–25 Jannell Jaquays 1987

Of these I only own M1, M3 and M5.

The simple matter is few characters get to this high of a level and often when they do the DM usually has their own adventures for them.

M1 Into the Maelstrom is a cool adventure with flying ships which became some of a fasination for +Bruce Heard.  If I were to play this one I would naturally have to include material from Bruce's own Calidar, In Stranger Skies setting.  Or set it in Calidar...hmmm this gives me some ideas.

M3 Twilight Calling is from the creative mind of the late Tom Moldvay.  Tom is something of a celebertiy in my home games. Every adventure I have run of his my family likes.  Likes enough to ask who wrote it. After saying Tom Moldvay for the third time (Castle Amber, Isle of Dread, Lost City, Secret of the Slavers Stockade...).   It is my favorite M series module and has the players go on a plane-hopping adventure to finally get to the Plane of Nightmares.  I have often thought it would make for a perfect "Final Adventure" for any party.

M5 Talons of Night by Jannell Jaquays is also fun, and really deadly adventure.  I grabbed it becuase of the dragon on the cover.  If M3 is the finale for my "Come Endless Darkness" game then M5 should be the finale of my "Dragonslayers" game.
Plus, it always reminds me of this song.



I mentioned H4 with it's 18-100 level range, and it is deadly.  But that adventure is just really a scaled up 20th level adventure.  These adventures are qualitatively different.

I am just disappointed that they are not available yet on DriveThruRPG as PDFs, though I am glad I have mine.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Kid's Games

I totally missed Friday Night Videos the other night.  Sorry. Insane day at work. I didn't even know about Paris till I got home Friday night.

OneBookshelf is running their annual "Teach your Kids to Game Week" with lots of sales on introductory material for kids.


While I totally applaud such efforts, I think back to how I learned and how I taught my own kids and we all started with D&D.

In fact my oldest son has been playing for close to 11 years now.  He is still playing his first character in our Dragonslayers game.  We began the game in early 2005 with "The Cave of the Stinky Goblin" and now have a host of epic-level bad asses.

This weekend we even took some time to play the children of the Dragonslayers, the Order of the Platinum Dragon in the next part of the Slaver's series.  The big "reveal" is coming soon and I can't wait to spring it on my players.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

RPG a Day 2015, Day 15

Day 15: Longest Campaign Played

I would have to say my Dragonslayers game which began with my oldest son around 2005 or so.  This year it will 10 years in.  Even my current Order of the Platinum Dragon game is a continuation of it.

Though technically it is a continuation of my Mystoerth game I began in 1980.

But let's just call it 10 years.



Monday, June 15, 2015

Halfway, Fortunes of Ravenloft and the Foreshadowing

Got in a lot of gaming this weekend!

Saturday the Order of the Platinum Dragon found themselves still stuck in the mists.  They stumbled on to Halfway.  Here they met the Dealer and had the Fortunes of Ravenloft read.  We are not going to play Ravenloft till Gen Con, but I have 5 nights to run it.



I used Tarot cards for the Fortunes (because why not).  I have done that in the past, but I also found this AD&D1st Ed to D&D5 conversion of Ravenloft that also used Tarot cards.
With the PDF out I can print both of these out and run it from those.

Sunday we went "back in time" to the Dragonslayers.  They finished up their exploration of the Barrier Peaks.  Here they encountered, for the very first time, the Illithids.  Something that was not lost on my kids.

The "Order of the Platinum Dragon" characters are all the children or grand children of the "Dragonslayers".   So I am setting up the Mind Flayer threat a generation early.

I know what I have in store for the Order, I just need to figure out what is next for the Dragonslayers.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Dragonslayers Assemble!

The Dragonslayers are fresh off their victory over the Tomb of Horrors.  We had one near casualty and one character that had to take that other character back. They are now headed home but the Barrier Peaks are in their way.

We converted our 3e based Dragonslayers game over to 5e last session.  I wanted to try something new again, Castles and Crusades, but ended up overruled. So we are sticking with 5e.



Last night we began the Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.  I am using 5th Ed. D&D along with the 1st Edition versions of the module (the original, the new reprints and the old S1-4 super-module Realms of Horror) along with the 3e updates and some 5e updates supplied to me by +Rich Howard.



They all mix together nicely in a big vat of D&D goodness.  I am also adding in some material from the classic 1st Edition version of Metamorphosis Alpha.  I have already specifically decided that this is the Starship Warden.  In addition to carrying colonists it was carrying a number of Ilithid prisoners to be dropped of at a penal colony prior to going to high warp.

Since my other 5e game with most of the same players takes place in the future of the Dragonslayers, I am setting up the Ilithids as being one of the major bad guys.  It should work out nicely really.

With this adventure I will have run the Dragonslayers through all of the S-Series of modules, and it had been a total blast.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Tomb of Horrors, Finale

Yesterday the Dragonslayers finished up the Tomb of Horrors.  They defeated the Demi-Lich Acererak and found their way out.


A total of seven potions of extra-healing where used, three healing, and many cure * wounds spells.
One character was dropped down to point where she had to be taken out of the dungeon by one of the hirelings (a zero hp, but stabilized). Three characters nearly died in Acererak's tomb alone.   One character was hit with Acererak's soul sucking ray, but we determined that since the character (Lawful Good Dragonborn Paladin) was protected by his god (Bahamut) he was allowed Advantage on his save.  Which is good since one of his rolls had been a 1.

We had converted all the Dragonslayers characters from 3.x to 5th edition, focusing on archetypal conversion rather than direct conversion.   It seems to have worked out really  nice.

Again my youngest son loved this one. He was in his element; solving puzzles, finding traps. I set the disable DC of most traps at 35, but he still managed to get some.

Conversions were a breeze on the module itself; I have versions of it for every edition of game except for 5.  Given the history of the game, I suspect we will see 5th Edition conversions in the future.

Up next is S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. This will take care of all the S-series modules.  We played them "out of order" but I think this worked well for us. Plus there is no real order to the S series anyway.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

President's Day Gaming - Converting to 5e from 3.x

Had yesterday off so wanted to spend the day doing some gaming.

My boys wanted to play our 5e game, but we were a player down, so I suggested we wrap up our 3e game.  That didn't go over as well to be honest.
Both boys said they were burned out on 3e and everything took so long compared to 5e.  I reminded them that their 3e characters are nearing Epic levels and all combats will take forever at that level.

So long story short, we all decided to convert the 3e game to something else.  I was pushing pretty hard for 1st Ed but the boys wanted 5th ed.  I cant say that I blame them really.

Converting adventures is easy. I do that on the fly 90% of the time anyway.  Converting characters is a bit more involved.  The group's wizard converted fine. For the paladin/dragon-rider we went with a straight paladin.  The rogue/ranger/sorcerer/arcane archer required me to get more creative. In 5e the character became a rogue (arcane trickster)/ranger (hunter).  I let him take spells from the sorcerer list or the druid list where appropriate for the character concept and what he had been able to do in the past.


My 3.e Witch GMPC was more difficult.  I started out by converting her to a Warlock with a pact of the Tome feature.  This gives me access to more spells.  I then took the Magic Initiate feat and the Ritual Caster feat to gain some extra spells.  I like it, but I am not 100% happy with it.

It occurs to me that that old 2nd Ed Witch Kit and the 4th Ed Witch "sub" class might be good starting points for what a 5th ed witch might look like using the wizard as a base.

I compared the Wizard and Warlock in form of Skylla for 5th a while back.  With her I Was happier with the Wizard build even though the Warlock build had some interesting things going for it.

It is worth a little extra research.  I am NOT in the market to build a 5e Witch class right now.  I still have other commitments to finish.  Plus I enjoy playing 5e and not necessarily having to play and play-test with the same game.

Besides I think I would like to see some other people's take on a witch class.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

#RPGaDAY Day 14, Best Convention Purchase

#RPGaDAY Day 14, Best Convention Purchase

Hard to say.  I bought some really fun games on a whim at cons before.

But I think it has to be this giant 5 headed dragon I am using in place of Tiamt for my kids games.


It's a Mage Knight "Apocalypse Dragon" but that works for my game great.

Not saying what I spent on it. But it was more than my wife wanted.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

D&D40 Bloghop: Day 25

Day 25: Longest running campaign/gaming group you've been in.

This one is pretty easy.
I have been able to play in some pretty cool groups, but the one that has lasted the longest and the one I get the most enjoyment out of is Dragonslayers.

The Dragonslayers began as a way of teaching my oldest son how to play.  He was only about 4 years old at the time. I began with some very simple rules, but mostly based around D&D 3rd Ed.

I added in bits of Star Wars d20, BESM d20 and Mutants & Masterminds.  Over the years we also added my youngest son.  I have talked about the group many times here.

Presently the Dragonslayers are all in Epic levels, 24-26.  Yeah I wanted to do somethings with 4e too, so I am using the 3.x Epic Level Handbook and ideas from 4e. I have one more adventure to take them through and then it is off to the Dragon's Isle to fight Tiamat.  It will be epic!


Monday, December 9, 2013

Return of the Dragon

So I got this in the mail the other day.



I had this poster when it first came out.  I honestly have no memory of how I got it except that it was something I had to send off for.
I had it till college and had it hanging on my wall in typical college fashion.  That is till my idiot roommate got mad at me one day and ripped it down.

Ever since then I have wanted one.  Well thanks to magic that is eBay I finally got another one.
I am not going to tell you what I paid, save it was more than most people would have been willing to part with, but enough that I am happy. It was still rolled up in the original tube in fact!  

The poster is actually in very, very good shape for being 30 years old.

The timing is great since the Dragonslayers (my kids group) need something from a "rainbow dragon" to finish their quest.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Tomb of Horrors

Today the Dragonslayers ventured into the most fabled of all dungeons, the infamous Tomb of Acereak himself. The Tomb of Horrors!

I am running the 3e version of this module with ideas stolen from the 4e version and the 2nd ed Return to the Tomb of Horrors.  Additionally we are using this map set to help us along the way.



So far so good.  My youngest loves the traps and he very meticulous on checking each one.  It was even his idea to use a 10' pole on the Green Devil Face to check for traps and he found the Sphere of Annihilation. He loves the puzzles and really has a brain for them.  My oldest prefers good old fashioned combat.  They both were able to guess the correct sequence of the Yellow/Blue/Orange gems right away.  Sure a couple of characters have been hit with some poison, but the brought plenty vials of healing, curing and cure poison.   Though they have taken quite a bit of hitpoint damage.

So far it has been a great followup to S4/WG4.
The Dragonslayers have now finished S4, S2 and now working on S1.  I wasn't going to do S3 (Expedition to the Barrier Peaks) but now I think I might.  It would be a lot of fun.

We played for 6 hours (or more) today and I think we can knock this one out fairly quickly.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Return of the Dragon Slayers!

I got a chance to play with the boys again today.  We continued the DragonSlayers game from a while back.  To recap they had just entered the Temple of Tharizdun and had held off the advancing hordes with a Wall of Flame spell.

I upped the stats of all the goblins, trolls and norkers in the place to make them partially demonic.  Centuries of interbreeding has made them them evil, but dumb.  The boys cleared out one side of the temple and found the access to the Black Cyst.  

They recovered the Lament of Tharizdun, but the mostly Neutral Good party wants nothing to do with it.  They have no issue with the legendary 333 gems of Tharizdun.  

I am setting Tharizdun up as the next big bad.  But not till the next generation. That is the 1st Ed AD&D game I started with the children of these characters.

I printed out the newer symbol of Tharizdun and had it ready. One of the demonic trolls had it on his armor, so I showed it to the boys.  After some Knowledge Arcana, History and Religion rolls I announced that they didn't know what it was.  My youngest, playing a half-elf Sorcerer/Ranger/Arcane Archer stated "I know exactly what it is. It's a target!!" and he fired two flaming arrows into the troll.


I have to admit, I was pretty amused by that!

They finished the adventure and high tailed it back to Glantri City.  They are planning on taking a couple of months break before the next leg of their adventures, but I doubt it will be that long.  There is some trouble brewing in Two Lake Vale and strange cloud over the land.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

I Hate Myself for Loving You

Interesting article up on the whole Graz'zt/Iggwilv love affair.

http://www.wizards.com/DnD/Article.aspx?x=dnd/dra/201208history#82019


Rule specific material is minor and can be adapted to any version of the game.  I am going to use this with my 1st ed game in fact.

As can be expected I like Iggwilv.  To my knowledge no one has ever penned her "biography" in full, but it would make for a good read I think.  Raised by Baba Yaga, infiltrating the Circle of Eight, her years with Graz'zt as master, lover, prisoner and bitter rival.  The authoring of the Demonomicon.  The Rise and Fall of the Witch Queen.

Iggwilv is a great villain not because she is evil (though she is that) it is because she lack any moral compass whatsoever.  If she needs a tome of magic and entire village stands between her then she had no issues burning it down to the ground.  It isn't because she doesn't care, it because she has no concept that anyone other than herself matters.

I am sure she is going to play some role in my 3.x and 1st ed games.
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