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The Brotherhood: Kobold Hall & Valthrun’s Reagent May 29, 2010

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, DM, Narrative, The Brotherhood.
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The basic story for this introductory adventure was that Vellan the Mulletted is recruiting (as always) do-gooders for his band of brothers. He had sent an important reagent to his associate in Winterhaven (Valthrun the Prescient), when the caravan delivering it was ambushed and attacked by kobolds. Vellan tracked the kobolds to their lair and wanted to use the recovery of the reagent as an audition for these two recruits to join The Brotherhood.

The Cast – Both are Level 1

Ocieleoz – Human Paladin (played by Ben)

Drender – Wilden Druid (played by Tyler)

The Test Begins

Drender and Ocieleoz descended into Kobold Hall, looking to recover the small vial of bluish liquid. They met early resistance in the form of a solitary kobold slinger, standing about 65 feet into the entrance hall on the other side of a 10 ft. deep pit of green sludge. They dispose of the artillerist after a few successful attacks and Drender’s changing into his swarm form; the kobold slinger was encased in a cloud of insect swarm and when the swarm cleared, there was nothing left but his armor, dagger, and sling/bullets.

They moved deeper into the kobold safehold, eventually coming to an open room with four large, stone coffins on the floor, as well as many niches along the walls to either side of the coffins. Some of the niches had standing suits of armor in them. At the end of the room was a crudely made altar, obviously to the evil god Tiamat, and two kobold skirmishers standing guard over the altar. The heroes moved into the room, with Drender launching ranged attacks with his totem (he really seemed to like his thorny vine whip power) and Oceileoz closing the space and using a nasty daily power that nearly killed one of the skirmishers with some heavy radiant light. This was where the players got to discover the fun of traps; Drender stepped on a square next to a coffin and a dart shot out, stabbing into his arm. He made his saving throw so the effects were minimal, but it made them much more jumpy each time they moved around and heard that creaking of the armor suits’ visors rising.

They killed the skirmishers, recovered the vial of bluish liquid, looted some gold and supplies, and earned some XP. Most importantly they had a great time and caught onto the game mechanics very well (both have played lots of RPG video games so it wasn’t a big learning curve for them).

Tough Cookies

I’m really excited to play with these two guys. They formed a very competent and tough duo. Granted, these weren’t the most dangerous foes and the encounters were not overly challenging, but they definitely showed an awareness of battle tactics and teamwork.

Where Now?

I think that I want to get out of Winterhaven with this group; I have been in Winterhaven for a long time (between the two groups I started in Keep on the Shadowfell, I have spent almost all of my 4e time in or near Winterhaven). I am thinking that we will have them finish locating Douven Stahl and they will be pretty close to 2nd level (Carlsberg Torres ought to be there at the end of the next session). Then, we will see where the winds do blow…


D&D Encounters: Session 11 May 27, 2010

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, D&D Encounters, Forgotten Realms, Narrative, PC.
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Info Dump

Last night I went to my second session (session 10 write-up here) of the new weekly in-store adventure/game from Wizards of the Coast (the company that currently makes D&D). The current adventure is called Undermountain and is set in the Forgotten Realms. The way it works is you go to your Favorite Local Gaming Store (FLGS from here on out) on Wednesday nights and play through one encounter in a short-but-ongoing, 12-encounter campaign. These adventures are divided up into “seasons” like a TV show. So, Season 1 is Undermountain and there is one encounter left (next Wednesday will be the last session). Season 2 will start in early June and go for 15 weeks. If you are interested in joining in, there is a store in Henderson that hosts them and  you are welcome to come tag along with me or go on your own. Games start at 6 p.m.


The games tend to be geared heavily toward battle/combat. I enjoy the combat encounters tremendously (who doesn’t?) but normally when I play I try to weave more plot/story and what not into it. These encounters tend to be pretty straightforward, “You walk into a room and see monsters. Kill them. Oh and you find some treasure.” There has been a little story weaving, but it has not been focused on too much.

I do feel like my familiarity with combat and terrain is improving though, because now I get to play on the PC side of things and find fun ways to use the terrain to my advantage. These adventures are in some ways meant to showcase certain elements of D&D 4e (Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition), so terrain, which plays a huge part in what makes 4e cool, comes into play a lot. Skill Challenges find their way in as well.

Elevation and Fire

Last night’s encounter saw us chasing the villain into a sort of stepped cave. Rises occurred in a couple of places, granting the monsters on top of those rises an easy view of us their targets. One flaming skeleton mage in particular was up higher than all the rest, shooting down fiery attacks on us, which wreathed different members of our party in flames throughout much of the encounter.

Our party has two healers (me–a minotaur runepriest–and a cleric–who did not take a feat that would give him turn undead…yikes). The flaming mage skeleton guy kept attacking our cleric, which made for some scary moments; our cleric was running out of healing surges and thus his healing resources were very limited. Our dwarf fighter was doing a good job of being a meat shield for the most part, but was rolling very poorly and just not hitting anything. In fact, quite a few of us were rolling poorly all encounter long.

Things Turn Around

Mid battle we learned that we could take an extended rest (we did not think we could before the final fight and we were scared  to use up our daily powers too early), which changed everything. Our cleric burned a daily that basically gave each of us resist 5 to damage for the rest of the encounter. Right after that I burned through two dailies, causing some nice damage and converting my damage to radiant damage for the rest of the encounter.

Our rogue did some attack that yanked the flaming skeleton mage off of his high perch and brought him down to our level (which was pretty cool). After a few rounds we dispatched him and took a much needed extended rest, which–according to our DM–would mean that our final encounter would be more difficult because the villain would have more time to prepare for our arrival. So be it.

My Favorite Moment

No one struggled with their rolls more than our human rogue. At one point he was taking two different kinds of ongoing damage: 5 fire and 2 necrotic. Our cleric had just used a power that would allow the rogue to make two saving throws (which would obviously end both conditions). The rogue rolled…Snake Eyes! We couldn’t believe it. Two 1s rolled on two d20s. I’m no expert on odds, but that seems really amazing to me. I’d certainly never seen it before.


I had a lot of fun. It is nice to be able to play for three reasons: it is fun, I learn how to DM better from both the good and bad aspects of our DM’s style, and I appreciate my role as the DM more. Playing helps me enjoy DMing even more.

Google Wave May 25, 2010

Posted by elopingcamel in Uncategorized.
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I have found Google Wave to be an excellent preparation source for my different creative hobbies: song-lyric writing, poetry, story ideas, etc. Recently for me though, when they updated the system to provide templates and options, Google Wave as a D&D prep tool went from occasional to standard use.

Now, when you create a new Wave, you can select from 6 different Wave options. The Brainstorm template comes pre-setup in outline format and has the Napkin Gadget already embedded into it, which makes it ideal for preparing combat encounters and skill challenges. The Napkin Gadget allows me to actually map out terrain and monster placement, as well as jot down stats and combat tactics. For skill challenges I can also map things out, but it is most helpful in providing a clear space for me to set skill DCs and consequences of both success and failure.

I can also set links in the Wave to provide me easy access to additional references during game play, so I don’t have to waste time looking things up. Wave also allows me to upload pictures and PDFs so I can keep track of players’ stats and powers as well as be able to show images to players of what their characters are seeing.

The best benefit is that I can access Google Wave anywhere that has a computer and the internet. I can prep at home, work, school, etc. If I get a cool idea I can jot it down and keep it all in one central place that I don’t have to literally carry with me. It is an awesome tool.

I invite you all to check out Google Wave when you get a chance. It may never actually replace e-mail, but it is a pretty sweet tool for planning, preparing, organizing, and collaborating, and–perhaps most excitingly–it is now open to all without the need of an invite. While many users will likely find it unnecessary, maybe some of you out there will benefit from it like I have.

KotS Session 2: A Thief in the Night May 24, 2010

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, DM, Keep on the Shadowfell, Narrative.
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Hail The Conquering Heroes!

The heroes travel back to Winterhaven with Sister Linora and the two boys they just rescued. The more they travel, the more Ronen becomes leery of Sister Linora’s incessant pleading that he destroy the ancient tome. He decides to change the cover of the book, swapping it with one of his own tome covers. The party arrives at Winterhaven and are escorted to Lord Padraig’s palace. They share details with him of what happened and he thanks them for their kind deed. He decides to have a day of feasting and celebration in their honor the next day, starting at noon, in the market square. He also invites them to be his special guests at the palace, while they are in town. His assistant Gareth tends to them and many of the party determine that they don’t trust Gareth.

They party goes around town for a bit to sell and purchase items. They meet a few of the more notable locals: Bairwin Wildarson who runs a shopped that deals in slightly more exotic items, Valthrun the Prescient who is the town’s mage in residence, Salvana Wrafton who owns the local tavern, and Delphina Moongleam who sells flowers in the market. Thotham leaves a ring with Valthrun to see if he will enchant it. The party also asks Valthrun about Kalarel, Ninaran, and the Shadow Key. Valthrun agrees to look into them for the party.

So Sneakily They Come Into Your Room

The group eventually heads to Lord Padraig’s manor to sleep. During the night, they are awakened by intruders dressed in black, sneaking around their rooms (the males were in one room and the females were sharing the adjoining room). Fighting breaks out and before they can shut off the escape, one of the thieves throws Helvec’s book out of the window. Ronen drops a nasty spell and then teleports outside of the room to see a short-haired woman rounding the corner. He takes off after her, leaving Thotham alone to fend for himself.

The ladies meanwhile are fighting off the intruders in their room with a great deal of success. Katryn is melding into and out of the shadows, getting sneak attack damage on many foes. Although Luna is surrounded and prone, laying in her bed, she successfully fends off the attackers while Katryn dishes out damage.

Ronen, running after the female book thief with short hair, turns the corner to disappointingly find the courtyard empty. Frustrated he briefly searches for signs of her escape but is unable to find any leads so he heads back to the room. He finds Thotham in trouble and helps to dispatch the remaining assailants, but not before Thotham drops unconscious to the floor.

The last attacker in the girls’ room tries to make an escape but catches a dagger to the leg that causes him to stumble and get stuck halfway in the window. Luna, changing to her Form of the Fearsome Ram, charges at the attacker, instantly killing him and popping his head off of his spine from the force.

Lord Padraig’s guards arrive too late to be of any assistance, but Padraig insists that the guard be doubled around the room so the heroes can get a good night’s sleep.

Final Thoughts

This felt like a very successful session. Seeing Brian’s face when the short-haired woman disappeared without a trace was priceless for me; it was a look of utter sadness (which informed me that he was thoroughly invested). No worries, he will have the chance to get that book back.

Joe was trying out a Goliath Shaman instead of his Bard and although the Shaman seems like a really cool class, I think he felt like the Bard was more of what he was looking for in the end, so he will go back to that.

Sierra was not feeling well and it got worse as the night went on, so the fact that she had fun at all made me happy.

The nicest surprise from this session was how involved Jessica was. She seemed to really enjoy herself and to be focused on what her character was doing. She made an excellent sneak.

D&D Encounters: Session 10 May 21, 2010

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, D&D Encounters, Forgotten Realms, PC.
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Last night I went to my first D&D Encounters session. It was great fun! I am not used to playing the game with people that I am not very close with, so that was a change. Also, my games tend to be very descriptive, whereas the DM for this game talked very little and focused more on just moving us through the rounds. There were lots of cool/fun elements in the room that I also felt like the DM could have made better use of but none of this is actual complaining; I felt like the DM did a great job of focusing on what mattered more in this game which was moving 8 players through a tough encounter in about an hour and a half. We actually didn’t finish in time, but we were close enough; success was a given.

I played a minotaur runepriest. From reports I had read, it seemed like there were too few players playing leaders, so I though that might be a good addition to the group. It turns out that my minotaur runepriest could also deal some heavy damage. He had some fun powers and attacks and I left feeling satisfied with him. Our rather large party had a cleric, so I was not needed to provide heavy duty healing, but what was nice is that I COULD do some healing while inflicting damage and I also didn’t have to burn any daily powers to do so. I still have my dailies and my action point. I also have 13 healing surges. This runepriest will be able to contribute greatly to the cause, methinks.

All in all, I had a lot of fun, I stepped out of my comfort zone to do so (as I said, I have never gone to play games at my Favorite Local Gaming Store (FLGS), I got to finally play 4e instead of just DMing it (which I really do love doing btw–DMing 4e is a treat), I was able to learn much from another DM of both what I do and do not enjoy while playing that will hopefully help me improve as a DM as well, and I will be ready when Season 2 kicks off. Woohoo!

Keep On The Shadowfell: A New Beginning May 17, 2010

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, DM, Keep on the Shadowfell, Narrative.
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With Group 1 (Jed, Matt, Jen, and Sierra) on a seriously long hiatus (sad), I decided to run Keep on the Shadowfell (KotS) with a different group and let the other group’s adventure be my own home-brewed one. Luckily, we hadn’t gotten very far in KotS, so Sierra didn’t have to repeat anything. For Group 2 (Joe, Jessica, Brian, and Sierra) I skipped the Douven Stahl side quest and began with the free RPG Day adventure Into the Shadowhaunt.

Robot Rollcall

To be honest, we didn’t really bother with doing much of any back story for these characters. Joe always puts a bit more into back story than others so he had some bits about his Goliath Bard being one of the lore keepers for his society (they store knowledge through song). His bard is out exploring as part of his journey/test for manhood. Everyone else is beginning with little to no back story.

Luna – Longtooth Shifter Warden (played by Sierra)

Thotham – Goliath Bard (played by Joe)

Katryn – Shadar-kai Rogue (played by Jessica)

Ronen – Deva Warlock (played by Brian)

The Adventure Begins

The heroes arrive to find the town of Winterhaven on edge; two local boys were recently kidnapped. They group is approached by Sister Linora–the priestess at the local temple and grounds tender at the local graveyard–who claims to have seen men entering the mausoleum at the graveyard. She says that she saw them go in but never saw them come back out. When she eventually worked up the courage to go into the mausoleum, it was empty. The heroes agree to go with her to investigate.

It Was Puzzling

Into the Shadowhaunt has a nice puzzle for the PCs to solve before they can find the secret entrance that leads under the mausoleum. For the sake of avoiding spoilers (at least as far as official, published adventures go), we’ll skip much of that aspect of this session and just comment on how impressed everyone was with Brian’s knowledge of medieval vocabulary and problem-solving skills.

Into the Shadowhaunt

Having solved the puzzle of the secret entrance into the belly of the mausoleum, the adventurers come to their first fight; hobgoblin mercenaries crouched behind oil-filled sarcophagi. The hobgoblins begin peppering them with ranged attacks while some of the PCs charge in. They get their first surprise when Luna tries to climb on the sarcophagus, only to have the lid break in on her, the flame igniting the oil beneath her. They eventually dispatch the hobgoblins and continue their search of the boys.

Traveling through tunnels, they come to an opening in the cavern below the mausoleum. They see a door with a large devil’s head on it and a passage forking off. They decide to investigate the passage first and soon find the man behind the kidnappings; an elf necromancer standing atop a high, glowing platform with an ancient tome open in front of him. He is chanting and involved in some sort of ritual. A fight erupts and soon the evil elf is joined by skeletons from an alcove to the side. The fight takes its toll on both sides but the elf seems to have the upper hand from his lofty position. Eventually Katryn and Luna work out a plan for Kat to crouch down a couple feet from the pedestal and for Luna to use her Form of the Fearsome Ram to charge toward the elf, leap off of Kat’s back, and slam into the elf mage. It works brilliantly, knocking the elf from his perch and just about killing him. They kill off the skeletons, loot the elf, and then find the boys in the room with the devil’s head.

They leave the mausoleum to find Sister Linora still waiting for them. She is ecstatic to see the boys again, but obviously nervous about Ronen keeping the elf’s book. The two boys explain that the elf’s name was Helvec and that he planned on sacrificing the boys to perform a ritual that would allow him to locate something called the Shadow Key. The heroes also find a note inside the book from someone named Kalarel. He warned Helvec against failure and said that he was sending someone named Ninaran to supervise Helvec’s attempts.


The session ended with the heroes returning to town. I really liked the way that Into the Shadowhaunt tied into Keep on the Shadowfell. The heroes got a couple of rings, Helvec’s robes and the ancient tome as well. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and it seemed like a successful first run of 4e with the new group.

New Blood May 17, 2010

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, DM, Keep on the Shadowfell, The Brotherhood.
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Last night my step cousin and his friend (my friend as well, but I met him through my step cousin) came over to give Dungeons and Dragons a try. We spent the first hour or so going over the basics of the game and creating characters. Then I ran them through the first two encounters of the DMG mini-adventure Kobold Hall. It went really well and they seemed to truly enjoy themselves.

My cousin (Tyler) decided to be a Wilden Druid and his friend (Ben) went with a Human Paladin who worships Ioun. The encounters weren’t very challenging but I mainly wanted them to get a feel for how the game works and how terrain can function in a 3D way, providing cover and helping/hindering them.

The plan right now is to incorporate them into the game I had been running previously for Jed (Carlsberg Torres). The rest of that group is not really interested in pursuing the game besides Jed, so I will start where he left off and add in Tyler and Ben, as well as another friend named Michael who wants to come give it a try. I’m going to break off from the Keep on the Shadowfell, though. I started running a different group through that one and I don’t want to do it twice. So, this will really be my first time having total and complete free reign in making up a world and campaign, all for new players. I have DMed long enough now to feel comfortable doing so.

Anyway, from now on the Keep on the Shadowfell write-ups will be about Group 2’s adventure and Group 1’s adventure will get a new name. For now I will call them the The Brotherhood, but that will likely change as the game goes on.

Consider yourself updated.

Another Shift May 13, 2010

Posted by elopingcamel in 4e, DM, Keep on the Shadowfell.
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I am getting good at changing plans. The 3.5e group that I was playing with (remember young Fetalus? Of course you do) finished our campaign (not really, but we finished the published adventure we were doing) and decided to try our hand at 4e (I admit to using my powers of persuasion to try my best to influence them to try 4e. It actually wasn’t that hard to be honest. Everyone was more than willing to give it a go in the end). So, I decided that I will be running them through Keep on the Shadowfell. This will mean two things: 1.) I will be changing my other group’s adventure so that they are not running Keep on the Shadowfell any longer and 2.) I will be liberally chopping up, removing, and replacing bits from the adventure to tailor it to this new group.

My reasons for doing this are that my first group that was running through it are a little easier to prepare for in my way of thinking. They are all very new to the game, they have not experienced much of the game and they are more of a hack and slash group anyway. Minimal story/plot lining is necessary and winging it is really easy. With this new group I will be DMing, some of them are old pros. This is a little intimidating for me, so I thought it would be beneficial to run something pre-made and then just tailor it to them.

So, I will finish the first group’s adventure with them finding Douven Staul (which was a side quest anyway) and then have them move on to new and totally original adventures (thus giving me the much desired and needed experience of creating my own adventures without the stress of having to make them mind-blowingly good for guys who have seen it all already). The second group I will run through Keep on the Shadowfell, but I will not use the Douven Staul storyline at all (as my wife is in both groups and I don’t want her to have to repeat anything). I am going to insert instead the adventure module from Into the Shadowhaunt. I am going to tailor some of it though, so that Helvec and Ninaran are lovers and are both working for Kalarel. Helvec is working underneath the Mausoleum looking for a relic that will allow Kalarel to open the rift to the Shadowfell (as well as Helvec performing his own sadistic rituals for his own private purposes). My hope is that this will accomplish the following things:

1. It will give an early and easy intro for everyone into the world of 4e with one of the Game Day adventures.

2. It will introduce key NPCs and villains from the get go as well as needed information.

3. It will create a strong motive for a later encounter with Ninaran who is very bitter about the murder of her lover.

4. It will create some interesting Skill Challenges (specifically I am thinking of one where Ninaran steals the relic that the heroes recover when they kill Helvec and the heroes chase her through the market and town via a Skill Challenge).

We will start next weekend, so I have some preparation to do before then, but I think that things are off to a great start so far. I’ll give info about the PCs next time.