Happy New Year to you all!
I’m elated to share that DDE Adventures just got a surge of creativity and production, and we will be producing two new adventures in or around January 2016. Both are 90% complete, or more, with only a few loose ends to tie up before they are sent out.
Fortress of the Ur-Mage
The first new adventure we have is Fortress of the Ur-Mage. This title may sound familiar to some of you. Indeed, it’s been published before! Fortress of the Ur-Mage was released in September 2015 by SVD Press for the Dungeon World roleplaying game. Since then, we have picked it up and converted it to be 100% compatible with the latest edition of Dungeons & Dragons! The adventure has been dissected and analyzed head-to-toe, a complete overhaul that pairs the original design intent with the D&D rules in a seamless way.
Fortress of the Ur-Mage is a challenging, thought-provoking, dungeon crawl featuring extremely difficult challenges in the form of deadly monsters, horrific traps, and many, many mind-bending puzzles. This beast of an adventure weighs in at 98 pages (!!!) with an additional 26 pages of handouts and 13 pre-generated characters ready to get thrown into the fray at a moment’s notice.
To whet your appetite, click here for a sneak preview!
Crush The Rebellion
But that’s not all! Right on the heels of Fortress of the Ur-Mage, DDE Adventure will be publishing an entirely new game called Crush The Rebellion. Crush the Rebellion is a fast-paced roleplaying game where players take on the persona of competing agents struggling to fulfill their own personal agendas in a hostile, bureaucratic nightmare futuristic fantasy universe. Taking inspiration from literary classics such as God Emperor of Dune, The Castle (Das Schloss) and the Foundation series; Crush the Rebellion spins a tale of a fascist world full of treachery, despair, and oppression of every kind. Everything in Crush the Rebellion is hyperbole to the nth degree, embracing the incomprehensible size of a pan-galactic empire.
The game uses the Powered by the Apocalyse roleplaying system.
To whet your appetite, click here for a sneak preview of one of the ten agent (character) sheets and then why don’t you go ahead and click here for a sneak preview of the Game Procedure Flowchart!
Following up on my previous post, here is the one-shot adventure that Sean ran and I helped out with. It’s based off of the original adventure Gallery of the Hate Blossom, written for 4E D&D by Sersa Victory (link). This version is converted to 5th Edition, as per the rules of the competition, and statted out for use with 1st level characters. Starting level was chosen to keep the pregen characters simple to use and learn. We knew going into this event that we had limited time and a complete hand full of wildcards in terms of player experiences. We needed something smooth, and adding levels to characters wasn’t going to get us there.
The limited time meant the adventure needed to be crunched down into its most basic parts. Some sections were chopped out entirely, while others just got the most time-consuming aspects thrown out (ie. the stone golems in the starting room). The adventure boiled down to just four rooms; a room with puzzles, a room with creepy weird power-ups, a room with a roleplaying challenge, and the finale room with a showdown against the adventures titular Dungeon Lord.
GALLERY OF THE HATE BLOSSOM
“A half-marilith, half-medusa druidess lich known as the Hate Blossom lairs in this dungeon, having been run out of mortal society and shunned by demonkind. She possesses the petrified-yet-still-living body of Melenkir, the first human arch-mage and the single creature to remember a ritual that may save the realm from an extraplanar threat. Only slaying Hate Blossom or convincing her to lift the curse will revive Melenkir.”
HALL OF SPITE
Three of the four columns in this chamber bear reliefs that depict a half-marilith, half-medusa creature being persecuted by humanity and tortured by demons. The fourth shows the creature laying in bed with a skeletal figure. This column hides a secret compartment (Investigation-Int or Perception-Wis DC 5 to spot, Dexterity DC 10 to open) in which a SCROLL OF REVERSE PETRIFICATION is hidden.
A swirling blood red portal in the north wall is flanked by two life-sized stone faces – a medusa (left) and a marilith (right). Their mouths are open. A dungeoneer entering the portal is telefragged.
A petrified marilith in area B1 holds a different gem in each of its six outstretched hands: sapphire, bloodstone, diamond, ammolite, yellow topaz, and sillimanite cat’s eye. Fitting the diamond (only one without double letter) into the marilith mouth by the portal solves one-half of the puzzle. Removing any other gem from the statue triggers a chain blightning trap that attacks all dungeoneers (Dexterity Saving Throw or take 10 lightning damage, then Charisma Saving Throw or die as the blightning drains their soul).
A large-sized petrified medusa in area B2 has two glass gem eyes – one red and one blue. It wears a collar with eight smaller glass gems (same size as gems in B1): red, blue, green, orange, yellow, purple, black, and silver. Fitting the purple gem (red mixed with blue) into the medusa mouth by the portal solves one-half of the puzzle. Removing any other gems, including the eyes, triggers a petrifying gas trap that attacks all dungeoneers in B, B1, and B2 (Constitution Saving Throw or be petrified).
Placing both correct gems into the faces next to the portal changes the color to a bright, verdant green and renders it safe to pass through. It exits through the portal in the Blighted Garden.
This malodorous chamber is decorated with dead flowers and hideous murals. A portal in the north wall leads to the Hall of Spite. Six fountains stand amid the plants:
- Medusa venom. Once per day, a single dungeoneer that drinks from this fountain and survives has a premonition and ask the Dungeon Master a single yes/no question.
- Saltwater swimming with rot grubs. Make a Dexterity Saving Throw to avoid contact with the grubs. Contact with the grubs or an infected dungeoneer means you lose 1 HP at the end of each turn until you die.
- The Infinite Cosmos. The pool appears to be empty from a cursory glance at the lip of the fountain. However, any dingeoneer inspecting, manipulating, or interacting with the fountain is drawn to look at the bottom and must make an Intelligence Saving Throw. On a success, the dungeoneer gains proficiency in a skill of their choice. On a failure, the dungeoneer loses proficiency in a random skill they are proficient in.
- Embalming fluid. Once per day, a single dungeoneer drinking this liquid makes a Constitution Saving Throw. On a success, they increase their max hit points by 2d10 and gain +2 to Constitution saving Throws. On a failure, they take 2d10 poison damage.
- Boiling demon blood. Once per day, a single dungeoneer drinking from this fountain takes 1d4 damage, but gains +1d6 AC and resist fire 5.
- Milk laced with succubus pheromones. A dungeoneer drinking from this fountain must describe their deity. If the deity is valorous and respectable, the dungeoneer takes 1d4 poison damage and becomes sterile/infertile. If the deity is hateful, violent, or similarly unkind, the dungeoneer regains all hit points and hit die and becomes pregnant with 1d6 children, regardless of sex. This effect functions only once.
Four petrified legendary dungeoneers stand against the west wall. One of them is Melenkir. The other three are, from south to north, a female human fighter, a male half-elf cleric, and a female tiefling warlock.
If the scroll of reverse petrification is used here, the dungeoneers free one of the trapped creatures and get the freed creature’s powerful weapon, depending on whom they saved:
Melenkir – GAUNTLETS OF THE NECROMANCER
Made from the rib cages of conjoined twin imps, these bracers fill your mind with forbidden knowledge of false life. Gain proficiency in Intelligence and Constitution Saving Throws.
Once per day, you may raise a skeletal minion from the bones or corpse of a slain creature. (HP 5, AC 13; Shortsword +6 vs AC, 1d6+4 damage)
Human fighter – CHAINSAW
A rough-hewn black iron haft holds the ever-spinning axe blade. It is a monstrous device fueled by rage and bloodlust.
+2 magic greataxe. Crit: 18-20. On a crit, you can make an immediate bonus attack on an adjacent creature.
Half-elf cleric – WRAITHVERGE
A shield made of an imprisoned wraith forced to subservience by the will of a lesser god. The secrets of its lifetime are yours to see.
+4 AC. Once per dungeon, the dungeoneer may ask the Dungeon Master a yes/no question which they must truthfully answer.
Tiefling Warlock – BLOODSCOURGE
This barbed staff is carved from a tree used to hang violent criminals for 500 years. Spite and hatred cackle below the surface like racing arcs of lightning.
+2 spellcasting focus. A magic user may elect to take Xd4 damage casting a spell to cast the spell as if it were X levels higher.
LOVER’S THRONE ROOM
Hate Blossom’s lover – a death knight blackguard – sits atop a chair of bone in this grotesque throne room. He is friendly to the dungeoneers unless threatened, in which case he disappears in a cloud of fiery black ash (2d6 fire damage, Dexterity Saving Throw for half).
When the dungeoneers arrive, the death knight will be agonizing over a military campaign he is leading against a rival faction of demons. He will ask the dungeoneers for input, starting with the fighters (or similar classes) and proceeding in the order listed below. While consulting with one class, the death knight will not permit other classes to speak, believing they have no expertise to offer.
Fighters: “A civil war has left me with less than half of my forces. Tell me how to compensate for this tactically.”
Thieves: “My spies tell me our enemy keeps a powerful artifact, the Heart of Despair, in a tower not far from our front line. Tell me how to steal it.”
Clerics: “Hate Blossom has imprisoned for me a god. Tell me how I might exploit its powers and enslave its followers.”
Wizards: “My legionnaires have captured for me nearly ten thousand souls. Tell me what ritual I might devise with such great essence at my disposal.”
If the advice given is well thought out and creative, the death knight will cast a necromantic spell of death upon one character’s weapon (preferably a two-handed weapon). The weapon now deals +2d6 damage on a crit (doubled to +4d6) and crits on 15-20. If the advice is poor or the exercise is not taken seriously, the death knight will banish the dungeoneers from the throne room.
SANCTUARY OF HATE
There are five clay urns on a pedestal at the entrance to the room. The first time one of the dungeoneers moves adjacent to the pedestal, hand them the five glyph sequences included with this adventure (see original adventure for handouts). The glyphs shown are etched onto the jars. Opening a jar with glyph sequence 1-4 triggers a spell of entangling animated thorns (Dexterity Saving Throw or take 1d6 damage and grabbed until escape). The jar with sequence 5 (order different from others) contains a MAGIC ENGAGEMENT RING, a thin platinum band adorned with a single bright diamond.
MAGIC ENGAGEMENT RING: +1 AC.
Cast Misty Step spell at will
Cast Lightning Bolt spell 3/day as a 10th Level spell
Hate Blossom waits in this chamber shrouded by dead trees and littered with broken statues. She reclines at the bottom of a pool of bloody maggots. The pool is difficult terrain, and dungeoneers falling prone in the pool take 5 necrotic damage.
Hate Blossom emerges and attacks when any of the dungeoneers moves within 2 squares of the altar. On the second round of combat, a blackroot treant pulls itself from one of the vine-choked walls and fights alongside her.
If Hate Blossom is slain, the treant withers, and the four petrified legendary dungeoneers are restored to life.
Alternatively, a dungeoneer can propose to Hate Blossom with a DC 20 Charisma check. On a success, combat ends, and Hate Blossom demands that the dungeoneers give her a ceremony immediately. If the ceremony is acceptable, she restores the legendary dungeoneers in Room A to life. The dungeoneer who proposed is now property of Hate Blossom; however, one of the revived legendary dungeoneers may act as a suitable replacement. Each dungeoneer may only attempt to propose once. If the magic engagement ring is used as part of the proposal, the bearer gains advantage on the Charisma check.
Level 2 (Legendary) Large undead demon
Speed 8, teleport 4
Saving Throws: Con +5, Int +7, Wis +8
Resist cold, lightning, necrotic
Immune poison; charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed
Vulnerable fire, holy
Legendary Resistance: Advantage on all saving throws.
Barbed Scimitar – Melee
Attack +4 (reach); 5 damage
On a hit, Hate Blossom shifts 1 square and repeats this attack (up to 6 times).
Snake Hair – Melee, Poison
Attack +6 (vs. Paralyzed target); 15 poison damage and ongoing 5 poison damage (Con save ends).
Blackvine Swarm – Area Spell, Necrotic
Once per day, enemies in a group make a Dexterity Saving Throw or take 10 necrotic damage and the target slides 2 squares and is knocked prone.
LEGENDARY ATTACKS (1/rd.)
Paralyzing Touch – Melee
One creature makes a Dexterity Saving Throw or is paralyzed (Wisdom Save Ends).
Petrifying Gaze – Ranged
One creature at range makes a Wisdom Saving Throw or is paralyzed (Wisdom Save Ends).
First Failed Save: The target is petrified forever.
Str +2 Dex +3 Con +3
Int +5 Wis +6 Cha +5
Resist bludgeoning, piercing
Slam - Melee
Attack +6 (reach); 14 bludgeoning damage and knocked prone.
Str +4 Dex -2 Con +2
Int +0 Wis +0 Cha -2
PARALYZED: Incapacitated, can’t move, can’t speak. Auto-fail Strength and Dexterity saves. Attackers have Advantage. Melee attacks that hit are auto-crit.
PRONE: Only movement is Crawl or Stand Up. Disadvantage on attacks. Attacker has Advantage on Melee attacks, Disadvantage on Ranged attacks.
Last night, I ran an event for my local D&D MeetUp group called “Dungeon Master Challenge” (link). I was a player at this event and, of course, the organizer. The ‘challenge’ aspect is actually a secondary focus here, just a tool used to try and push DM’s to do their best. My main goal for this event was, in fact, to enact a kind of D&D speed dating; get a whole bunch of players in the room, and run them through just a taste of each DM’s style in the hopes that at least a couple of people find some new friends and expand their gaming circle a bit. In the end, that aspect was successful. Here’s a recap of some Do’s and Don’t’s that I would recommend for this kind of public, one-off, convention-style game. Later, I’ll be posting the adventure Sean brought to the game that I helped out with. Some of these tips are super obvious and common knowledge to me. I sometimes forget how long I’ve been into this hobby and how much I’ve learned over the years. Which is to say, I feel for the younger DM’s out there who haven’t had my years of experience, and I hope they take my words and gain some understanding out of them.
- Bring Pre-Generated character sheets of your own creation. Fire up a word processor and put in the effort to make a clean sheet with all the info a player needs in an easily accessible format.
- Have dice, minis, and pencils at the ready. Assume you’re going to get players in your group who are completely new to the hobby.
- Run a snappy game. This isn’t your home game and you’re not developing a lengthy plot. In a public game, no matter how good you are, chances are at least half your players don’t like your style and just want this to be over quickly.
- Offer a variety of things to do. Have puzzles, riddles, exploration, social interaction, and yeah I guess some combat at the end. Assume that this is your one and only chance to show off all of your stuff. Show these players what you’re really capable of.
- Hand out over-the-top powerful rewards. These characters can’t break your campaign, because they’re not part of your campaign.
- Don’t give out rewards that can’t be used in a one-shot. Focus on the game at hand, not some hypothetical campaign that these players aren’t actually playing.
- Be loud. Be so loud and exciting that the people at adjacent tables are more interested in your game than their own.
- Have an epic finish. Everyone feels better walking away from the table at the ends of a particularly tough struggle whose conclusion wraps everything up.
- Use handouts. Lots of handouts and props. Nuance and subtlety of your words get obliterated in these kinds of environments – go for things the players can see and feel.
- Don’t put in a game effect that negates a player’s turn. They lose interest in the game immediately.
- Don’t let players fiddle with their cellphones. That’s a sure sign that they are bored and/or confused and you need to immediately talk to them and find out what you, Dungeon Master, are doing wrong.
- Throw away your DM screen. This is a hobby of emotions, as opposed to (for example) war games which are hobbies of calculation. A screen blocks off your facial expressions from the players.
- Please stand up, please stand up. While sitting, you’re at a lower energy level. You want high engagement here, so stand up and shout! Every once in awhile, sit down and get eye-to-eye with the players to emphasize a particularly dark or somber tone in the story.
- Be incredibly obvious with your plot. Throw away veiled ideas and hints. Boldly state what is happening and why. You need to hook your players’ interests from the first moment.
- Get weird. This is your one, best chance to be memorable. Push the envelope of your creativity and do things you think are cool that would never fly in your home game. Mess with characters, have wacky magic effects, and just let loose.
So now you tell me:
What are your tips & tricks for running a better one-shot game?
The source of both our name and our inspiration is just around the corner. Defy Danger East (DDE) is a semi-annual gathering of close-knit, like-minded gamers over the course of a weekend. We rent out a huge vacation house in the mountains and have the time of our lives. Everything is planned out to provide a seamless experience, maximize our enjoyment and our time, and minimize all the hassles that a more traditional convention brings along with it. I’ll discuss in depth the logic behind all our DDE decisions at another time. Today, I want to show off the schedule for our upcoming event. I’m rather proud of how well run everything is, and very excited about the premium-tier games on offer.
SATURDAY OCTOBER 17th
SUNDAY OCTOBER 18th
VAULT of the WYRM PRINCE
CROWN OF CHARON
BRING ME THE HEAD OF RINGO STARR
CRUSH the REBELLION – ENDOR REDUX
The Lost Crown of Tesh-Naga is a mid-level adventure for the Torchbearer roleplaying game. Travel to an ancient dungeon, once used by Hobgoblin paladins as a focal point for their divine communion with TIAMAT. Claim a powerful artifact forged during the height of the empire’s power. Fight with the fueding descendants of the paladins, their rebellious goblin and ogre slaves, raiding Dark Elves, and trapped corruption demons. Evade the insidious traps left behind by the architects of this unforgiving dungeon.
Puzzles go way back in tabletop roleplaying game history, providing a break from the strictly in-game problem-solving into something testing the abilities of the players and not their characters. Many times, though, puzzles get neglected and forgotten, or simply done very poorly.
The challenges presented to players in The Lost Crown of Tesh-Naga (LCTN) are many. Included among them are several puzzles. In this article, we talk about some of them.
WARNING! SPOILERS BELOW!
Artwork is starting to come in for our first adventure, The Lost Crown of Tesh-Naga, and we’re super thrilled! Release date is set at May 12th. To whet your appetites a bit, here is the cover art and an introduction to the adventure.
Dragon Keep is an imposing structure built into the defensible hillside. It was constructed during the Age of Dhakaan by the long-gone empire of Tiamat-worshiping Hobgoblins. Before its fall, it served as a sanctuary and meeting place for the once-wealthy priesthood. Dragon Keep was said to be a focal point of divine power and a direct connection to the torturous realms of the Five-Headed Goddess. It was here that unholy texts of dark power were stored. Legends tell that the final fall of the Keep was from an incursion of Dark Elves boiling up from the lightless depths below to attack the Hobgoblin defenders. The warrior-priests had grown soft and disorganized in their hubris, corrupted by the vile forces they pledged their lives to safeguard against. The Lost Crown of Tesh-Naga is said to still be hidden in these ruins; a fabled silver crown bearing nine shining jewels of conquered kings, with magical powers to bend the will of the weak-minded.
- I will loot this place for all its worth.
- I will drive off the Hobgoblin clan.
- I will recover a lost Dhakaan relic.
- I will uncover ancient, lost lore.
- I will banish any lingering demonic spirits.
- I will sanctify this unholy place.
- I will find the path into the secret realm of the Dark Elves.
- I will steal a fiery dragon egg.