DND 5e: A Caravan Arrives; A Dragon Burns

Entering Greenest

Entering Greenest

There’s a song I wrote once. Everyone in Elturel was singing it. They loved me there, but what could I do? I’m just that good. They love me everywhere. The song was “Get Off the Cart”… I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the gnome cities beneath the rolling hills of the Western Heartlands, and why would you? You love the sun, the wind, the trees, and why not? Gnome cities were all mines in ancient times, and some still are, with the stone brothers ceaselessly chipping.

But we gnomes build workshops where deep pools one stood in their stillness. The old minecart rails now carry our automatons through the depths on their myriad tasks. Most gnomes only go where the rails go. But some of us get off the cart.

And yet here I am, stuffed beneath this dogcart like lost luggage, trying to keep out of the sight of the noble who hired me. I remember him. I’m hoping he won’t remember me. Or the music box I left going — by accident! — outside the door to his suite, all night. And the next day. See, I have nervous fingers, and sometimes I… build little things… and this music box looked so much like an ornate hinge that I just had to see if I could make the door musical.

I have to get off this cart. Soon.

My fellow guards are an odd lot.

Dan Cain, human cleric. Does he worship a god? Nobody knows what he does in the woods, but he always returns happier than when he left. The only way you can be sure he won’t go is the way he’s headed. Maybe that’s why he joined this caravan to nowhere.

Ellryn Leafwind, one of my forest brothers. He carries no weapons and wears no armor and his eyes burn with a quiet intensity. If he’s ever sprung a clockwork in the dark beneath the hills, I’d be shocked. One to watch out for.

Gina Battlehammer, a dwarf sister. The rock grows deep within her. She says little, still too young for her beard to grow in. She hates the stare of the sun but refuses to give that daystar the satisfaction of watching her sweat. The carven sigils on her battleaxe speak more loudly than her soft voice.

Zalandrin Silverthorn wears pointed ears and a thousand yard stare. Once on this accursed journey, I saw a squirrel chasing a bird away from its nest. Zalandrin was in full sight, and I swear he moved not a muscle, but the squirrel caught a sudden case of arrow, a look of startlement frozen on its lifeless face. As the carriage passed beneath, the weight of the arrow brought it and squirrel down to Zalandrin’s outstretched hand. The bird’s joyful song followed us a good, long while.

Me? Tinda Bronzenote, at your service. My full name would fill these chronicles, but this is enough for you, who have never visited the tessellated halls of my home, have never listened to our songs.

But if you have ever sung along to “Get Off the Cart”, then you owe me a shiny piece of electrum, or at least an ale the next time we meet. Music isn’t free, you know.

After many quiet days, the caravan master said we were nearing the town of Greenest, the end of our journey. A dark cloud hung heavy on the road ahead… rising from the towers of the small keep that peeked from behind the crown of a hill. A sudden gale shook the carts as a shadow sped over us — a blue dragon cried its electric cry as it flew ahead, the slow flap of its wings rolling thunder over the besieged town as the keep sprouted another tongue of flame.

Roger, the caravan master, tried his best to calm the panicking horses. The noble I’d been avoiding crashed out of the carriage, his widening eyes taking in the devastation, yelled words I could not understand at Roger, and stormed back into the carriage. Locks were turned. The door was barred, which I thought was excessive. The carriage is, after all, flammable.

The caravan master threw our pay at our feet and left us in the dust as he expertly turned the carts around and vanished down the Uldoon Trail, back the way we came.

With no better options, we decide to see what we can see in Greenest. The dragon has clearly been careful not to cause too much damage to the homes and houses, but hasn’t been as kind to barns and bales. It’s a rare dragon that cares that much what they burn. But we see, then, that humans and kobolds are looting the homes and chasing away the people. What could they be planning?

A small copse separates a river from the town. If we go up the river… standing in water near a dragon who breathes LIGHTNING? Plus — not that good at swimming. The kind of lakes you find in the Underdark are not the kind of lakes in which you learn to swim….

I rustle along the bank while the others wade in the river. I’m not all that comfortable among them, though Leafwind and Silverthorn are instantly at home. Leafwind look better with a hat. A tall, conical hat. Red.

Through the trees, we see a group of humans and kobolds looting a home near the edge of the village. Kobolds?

I put on my kobold costume.

When money gets short, sometimes I put on a quick production of “The Kobold Princess Who Grew Too Much”, a play I wrote. Performed the world over. Kings and queens tossing gold at me. I use a disguise spell to grow during the play. Not fitting into my clothes any more. The dwarfs always laugh.

If you have a couple silver on you, I might show you. Real silver, not that southern stuff.

I whisper disguise and there isn’t a kobold in Faerûn who wouldn’t invite me to perform for their king. From kobolds, I generally get gems. Uncut, but I know people. The rest of the group gives me odd looks. I bark. They sigh.

These people are not any fun at all. We see a family coming down the stream the other way, scared out of their wits. I bark at them. They scream and run the other way.

Pretty funny, but the group is kinda upset. They wanted information, but honestly, the best thing for those people was to get out of line of sight of the dragon. Disgusted, the party strongly encourages me to scout out the village, seeing I’m a kobold and all.

I wander up near a group looting a home. They yell something at me, but I haven’t learned comprehend languages, so I just smiled and nodded. That gets most people to leave you alone. But maybe kobolds don’t smile? They aren’t buying it.

Zalandrin, creeping to the edge of the copse, makes a noise. The kobolds and their tame human, their heads jerk as if pulled by an invisible string.

One kobold deftly catches an arrow with his right eye. He goes down in a puddle of greasy scales.

The tame human isn’t taking any of that. He draws a scimitar and swings at me, one of his allies! He misses, unsure, I guess, which side I’m on.

Gina Battlehammer runs up, axe already singing. I quickly charm person a kobold and set it on the human and decide Gina would be better with me behind her. Doesn’t have to worry about which kobold is the one she wants to not hit.

My kobold friend attacks the other kobold…? He was supposed to work on the human! Oh well! Missed anyway. That last kobold snatches an arrow out of the air with his throat, and only then do I hear the soft twang of Zalandrin’s bow.

The human, confused, turns from attacking me to swing at Gina. Someone should have had an attack of advantage or disadvantage when I moved away from him and he moved away from me.

Gina slices the human in two. Do humans have souls? Must remember to ask that drunken cleric. Or maybe he’s so drunk because humans don’t have souls. Maybe it’s okay to kill humans? I’ll have to check up on the local laws. Maybe there is a game preserve somewhere where you can bring your family to kill humans.

My charmed kobold friend, nobody left to attack, smiles stupidly, so I run him through with my rapier.

“We could have gotten some answers from him,” whispers Zalandrin. “I speak kobold.”

Well, thanks for that late breaking news, elf.

There’s a lot of plates, silverware and other valuables dropped by the dead kobolds. I drop my disguise and remove the kobold costume. It’s done its job. Cleaning it is murder.

A human family — couple hatchlings, a wounded man, and a woman carrying a spear with no little familiarity, comes running out of the village, pursues by a group of at least eight kobolds.

The kobolds, seeing us, assume by our arms and lack of running away that we’re friends, bark and motion clearly that we’re to help kill all humans. I suddenly have another vision of a walled off preserve where children of all nations could gather to kill humans in a safe, family-friendly environment. I’ll have to look into that. Are humans allies? I’ll have to make sure. Don’t want to kill them without a license, or something. Might be harvesting limits. And this village does seem infested with them. Perhaps they were sent here to breed. Could these be the dragon’s free range human farm? What are the rules about this situation?

Zalandrin says the kobolds are getting a little suspicious that we aren’t killing the humans yet, and frankly, so am I. But I tell Zal to tell our kobold friends that these humans are our prey (I hope). No go. I explain that these humans killed a friend of mine and that they should let us have these… they reluctantly leave.

The family is as terrified of us as they were the kobolds, and run to the keep, slip inside a hastily opened door that slams shut behind them. We knock on the door, exchange muffled words with a guard, and are soon let inside.

The keep is crowded wall-to-wall.

We look for someone in charge. The garrison commander, a red-beared dwarf who calls himself Escobert the Red, sees us and we are brought into a room with a crude model of the village on a table, asks us what the heck we are doing here. We explain about the caravan, and, accepting that, they tell of the suddenness of the dragon’s attack that morning, followed by kobolds and tame humans invading from the forest on all sides, driving people from their homes, looting and carrying away.

These same forces are working their way into the keep. There will be no leaving it without dealing with those cultists.

With the keep stuffed at over a hundred people and humans, at least that many trapped outside and perhaps still alive, their seems to be no safe place. There could be a couple hundred cultists out there as well, looting and burning but not doing all that much killing.

Our drunken cleric seems in danger of sobering up, insists on being shown the nearest tavern. He is ignored.

Escobert the Red makes it clear that we are welcome to take refuge in the keep — but we need to pay with services. He throws us a heavy ring of keys that will let us out of the keep through hidden ways. Get outside and kill cultists, or get outside and save more humans.

Or, just get outside and stay there.

I know my vote!

Sorry this update seems more focused on what my character is doing than what anyone else’s character is doing. I have to learn everyone’s voices so I can get more of what they say in there.

DM suggests we cut down on the comedy, so… probably will be somewhat more serious going forward. Nobody wants to be cut down in the next encounter. So far nobody has stepped up to lead the group — and maybe it’s early — but the last time we played we had no leader and so we all just did whatever we felt like, and this adventure is shaping up the same way. Nobody wants to take charge.

I’m not saying I’m not part of the problem — I definitely didn’t clear any of my moves with the group, who would probably have preferred I not dress up like a kobold and stuff. But, I honestly don’t know what else to do. We’re all MMO players and it shows so much. See mobs, kill mobs, see mobs, kill mobs. Loot the corpses. That’s not D&D. MMOs look like D&D on the outside, but inside they are dead. I figure, if we’re playing like it’s an MMO, we need to do the opposite.

A kobold, er, gnome bard isn’t going to be a leader. Zalandrin might. I have no idea what kind of things Superman and Leafwind can do yet.

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Designing “Crushbone Arena”

Characters

Tomorrow, the first batch of Cult of the Dragon foundry quests will go live. I don’t know when mine will show, or if it will show. I kinda think the first few batches will have the advantage of player interest. I’ve been over and over the quest since the supposed deadline back on the 6th, ripping out stuff but more often, adding in new stuff. One disadvantage of coming up with the plot last is that by the time I figure out what the plot _is_, I’ve put too much work into the quest to make that plot clear to the player.

“Fire Sale” has had that extra time, and so players should be at least vaguely aware why Zigto and Alsunder each want the Orb of Dragonkind by the time the player has to choose between them. The third, secret path — well, just have to take that on faith, or maybe revenge.

But, all this recent foundry work has gotten me fired up to get going on a foundry I’ve been kinda working on, on and off, for awhile. “Crushbone Arena” is a response to all those quick and dirty “arena”-type quests. You’re in an arena, and mobs come at you in waves, and then after about fifteen minutes, it ends, and you have a daily foundry done.

The vast majority of arenas, must have taken the authors two, maybe three hours to do.

Hardly anyone bothers with foundries once they level up enough such that you need to run four of them to finish the daily foundry quest. There’s better ways to spend your time. People aren’t looking to run arenas.

So, this is the perfect time to do one.

Greater Faydark

Image just above is Greater Faydark — but I’m getting ahead of myself. The top image are some of the NPCs I’m working on; I have a lot more of them now. I’ll just keep making them until I think I have enough for the stories I want to tell. I have the advantage in that I’m starting this quest with the characters from Tempest, so I have a lot of gnomes available. Plus, Prospero now kicks off the quest instead of my avatar that I used for the last couple.

Anyway, the picture above is, from left to right, “an orc slaver”, “Ambassador D’Vinn”, “Emperor Crush”, “an orc pawn”, “Priest of Discord”, “Kelethin Guard”, one of the Nybright sisters (or maybe all of them), “Freeport Guard”, “Maesyn Trueshot”, “a drunkard” (really the dad to the Nybright sisters), “Stefan Marsinger”, “Seana Marsinger”.

There’s no lore reason for the Freeport Guard to be there, but I really liked the character model from Tempest, so he gets to be in the show, along with the enslaved gnomes who you are to free from Crushbone.

Teenage orcs

Even though “Crushbone Arena” won’t actually be an arena-style quest (though it will end in an arena fight because, it’s named Crushbone Arena), I want this one to have a little more combat than I generally have.

As in Najena and Tempest, the quest starts in the secret Norrathian Embassy squirreled away in a non-descript home in Neverwinter. There, a druid shuttles people across the worlds. The adventure usually begins once the player steps through the portal… but this time, when the druid opens the portal, orcs attack.

Turns out the Marsingers at the druid circle in Greater Faydark (work with me; I fully realize they are actually at the wizard spires. Sometimes they walk around a little, okay?). There, they are fighting off some orcs when the portal opens and a squad of orcs decide to run through.

They’ll be shocked when, moments later, having defeated the orcs, the players come through, help drive back the orcs and meet the first miniboss, probably “an orc taskmaster”. After that, the Marsingers will get everyone to safety, do an infodump, and then help the players enter Kelethin, which attentive players will have noticed stretched along the trees above them.

In Kelethin, I begin deconstructing the elves — but just a little. I do want to get people to Crushbone fairly quickly. I just want to pay a little homage to the wood elf newbie experience, first.

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Neverwinter: Frozen Spider Foundries!

Frozen Folly

Back to the Foundry once more. Kasul and I had intended to start reviewing the Cult of the Dragon foundry contest entries tonight, but the start date for those has been moved to next week. The new module and the inevitable Foundry issues made it impossible for many authors to get their quests into shape before the deadline of yesterday passed. For instance, using the words “to pass” anywhere in your quest flags it as profane.

If I wanted a player “to pass” through a cavern… well, wash my mouth out with soap, there might be children playing. Children!

Children might well have played the two quests we got to last night, as they are both featured quests. One currently, one not too long in the past.

H1 – Harrowing Hildbrant by HellsHot

Part 1 of the “Haronomous Saga”. The author’s spelling is so atrocious that I can’t tell if the misspellings of “Hildebrandt” and “Hieronymus” are intentional or accidental.

But you know who doesn’t need spelling? Wizards! Especially wizards who get into magical battles with other wizards and start bringing the copious spider statues — positioned strategically among and above the places where innocent villagers gather — to terrifying life!

Speculator Zigto started us off on a journey to his home town. His brother, a guard there, fills you in on the wizard battle, and asks you to investigate the disappearances of so many people who were apparently whisked from the street by some deadly force. It’s impossible for villagers (or the mayor) to lift their heads to see the enormous spiders crawling among the village’s rooftops, hungrily stalking their next meal.

Still, Kasul and I went through the motions, trying to overlook the pop culture references (Seriously? Buffy’s S4 big bad is a character here?).

Eventually we went in search of the arachnophiliac wizard who caused this mess, but only find his dancing eye familiar and portals to close.

The ending was quite cinematic and a lot of fun :)

The quest was short and linear, and the spelling was atrocious, but at the end of it, both Kasul and I had been entertained. That’s really what you want from a foundry, and so we both gave it four stars.

Frozen Folly by epharmd

This quest was featured late last month, but Kasul and I played it in its pre-featured state back in June. Given how much we enjoyed the author’s second foundry, Bargain Hunting, we decided to see how the first had changed on its journey to featuring.

A dwarven expedition exploring outwards from Icewind Dale hit upon a barrow deep in a mountain dark. Naturally, they called for a little adventuring support, but unwisely decided to go on before we arrived. Drow assassins had gotten there before them and needed no dwarven interference as they themselves rushed ahead to awaken the dormant secrets of the barrow.

Kasul and I didn’t decide to re-run this quest on purpose. To be fair, almost every quest description sounds the same — you’ve been called to someplace to kill stuff. But once in, we recognized the first map full of trash mobs. Deciding to continue nonetheless, we cleared those and entered the barrow.

It had changed quite a lot since our first visit. Epharmd’s tactic of leaving half the quest’s content to be discovered by wandering adventurers was in full force here, making it easy to lose sight of the actual, quite linear, quest. The simple rule to always turn away from the sparkling trail leads players to the best stuff.

We spent a lot more time in this quest than we intended, and ran out of time to do any other quests. But, it was worth it. A nice expansion of the original quest.

Kasul and I both gave it five stars.

===

Next week — will there be Cult contest entries to play? Who knows? But we’ll be there if there are.

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DCUO: Team Spode United

Black Dawn

Was a huge night for Team Spode in #DCUO — the first night we had enough people on to do a couple operations and a raid without any pickup group members. Seeker Oeru (?), the rage tank on the left, joined us after leveling so very fast to join us. The others in the shot below are, continuing from the left, Stingheal, Lord Spode, Kaptain KY, Blighted Redeemer, TealLantern, Stingharm and Clever Clara, who is sporting a teal and white based color scheme as well :)

Since Seeker isn’t T6 quite yet, we decided to try and get some feats in the T4 operations and our old favorite, Sunstone Matrix, a T3 raid that we do in just a couple minutes for easy marks and a speed feat.

Blighted, our league scholar, has been watching all the feeds from SOE*Live. Simultaneously. On huge monitors in his lair. Because of course he is. He’s reporting some pretty cool stuff in the future — and maybe a way to “redeem” myself as the worst controller in the game.

With explosives.

But, we’ll see.

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