Tag Archives: dungeons and dragons

D&D 5e Now Under Open Gaming License

Well will wonders never cease!  After revolutionizing the hobby by releasing D&D 3e under the Open Gaming License, Wizards performed the double (self) threat of publishing a new version people didn’t like (4e)  and refusing to open license it. 5e came out a good bit ago and no word on license had been forthcoming, which led me to believe the “suits that don’t get it” were still calling the shots and it’d stay closed.  Of course, at the same time people were getting more comfortable with the real limits of copyright law and what the old OGL let you do so were happily publishing adventures and such for 5e. But now, out of silence, looks like someone (Mike Mearls?) has pulled off a miracle – and the OGL is back for 5e.

You can download a combo OGL and SRD (weird) from the Wizards site in PDF.  The format sucks, but you can also browse in in HTML at 5esrd.com.

Warning to the OGL noobs: this doesn’t mean everything in the books is open for you to reuse, just the stuff that is designated in the SRD. But it is 398 pages worth of stuff, and that’s a lot! (See my old post Open Gaming for Dummies if you want more of an intro.)  A number of major items are left out, however, so make sure and chec,

So that’s cool news – but they have something else too. The “Dungeon Masters Guild” is more like the old d20 SRD but with a bit of the Traveller “Foreven Free Sector” license to it. It lets you:

  • Write stuff for D&D (5e only)
  • Write stuff in the Forgotten Realms (and maybe more to come)
  • Sell it via their OneBookShelf powered ecomm site at www.dmsguild.com (and split the $ with them 50/50)
  • More details here

A smart business move from Wizards?  Hell is surely freezing over.  By letting people publish, and then saying “hey… Want to use our sales/marketing channel with reviews and stuff, for a 50/50 share?” they are going to make a large amount of free money especially from hobbyists. And they aren’t doing the tech themselves, which has been the Achilles heel in every damn thing they’ve tried to do over the last say 30 years (their track record with tech is something like 0 for 12).

What do I want to see come out of this?

  • More adventures
  • More content
  • Ideally open up other IP too, for Greyhawk, Planescape, etc. (seems like mostly free money for them)
  • Them to make money so the concept of open licensing and sharing stops becoming “scary newfangled talk grognards don’t get” and becomes de rigeur

I love Paizo too.  What should they do in response to keep Pathfinder competitive?

  • Publish all the cool Pathfinder classes for 5e, so I can be an occultist or witch or whatever without dealing with the rules weight of Pathfinder – my play group is starting to wander because holy crap level 16+ Pathfinder is a lot of work for 15 total minutes of real fun per game session.
  • Maybe publish Pathfinder 2e (Pathfinder Basic?) using the 5e rules (same deal)!  I’d buy it.
  • Paizo to do something exactly like the DMs Guild so people can publish Golarion setting stuff (or even just adventures set in Golarion) – again, free money and spreading the brand.

I mean, Wizards didn’t just do something good here, they are blazing new ground (well, the Traveller Foreven Free Sector license did a little of the “OK you can use our precious precious game world, but not tied to the sales and marketing channel)!  I sweat them hard when they do boneheaded things, which over the last decade has been a lot, but I give credit where credit is due, and this is awesome!

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Four, Nineteenth Session

Elenuta the Fetchling

Elenuta the Fetchling

Nineteenth Session (10 page pdf) – “No Substance But Horror” – The party finally finds the bosses of shadow Boroi Manor – and are promptly defeated and enslaved. But maximum kill always finds a way!

So they bust in to kill Nicasor and company but they get a little caught up in murdering the mostly harmless fetchlings lounging around.  This gives the bad guys a couple rounds to get ready, which means Nicasor’s up and ready and his summoner friend Elenuta is invisible and already has her eidolon ready and a summon in progress.

It goes bad for the PCs.  Sindawe natural-1’s a save and goes down suffocated by the shadowy snake eidolon. He has to spend an Infamy Point to come back into the fight (“I was feigning death, like a 1st edition monk!”). But the snake gets Serpent as well and Nicasor cuts Sindawe down again, and Sindawe has no choice but to surrender or die.

But Nicasor doesn’t want these pirates dead – he wants the Heart dead so he can get out of this damn dimension. He lets them  heal and herds them down to fight the Heart for him.  It’s a tenebrous tendriculos! I didn’t beef that up from the actual module because I figured they’d be beat to hell by then.

They kill the Heart, and then they turn on Nicasor and Elenuta and get the better of them this time. They break the mirror and are out.  When it comes time to demand their shadows back they notice Serpent already has one… And it’s Chmetugo the shadow demon!  He’s free and back on the Prime Material.  He skedaddles to leave the pirates to decide if they should kill everyone in the county or not. After a moment of it hanging in the balance, they decide not.

And then they tend their wounds and plan their trip to froghemoth country! And they decide to take Rucia the waitress with them, lest she be discovered and tortured to death for being chosen by Desna.

Now here’s a bonus for you – all the bad guys for the whole thing, as I statted them up in Hero Lab, in PDF!  Nicasor, Elenuta, the Heart, etc.

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Four, Eighteenth Session

Nicasor the Shae

Nicasor the Shae

Eighteenth Session (12 page pdf) – “Shadowland” – The shadowy version of Boroi Manor is full of horrors. But they find Wogan’s sister and nephew!

They actually negotiate with Nicasor the shae, the boss in here. They’re not real happy with Baron Stepan so they are not sure who to throw in with (or just kill everyone, but they figure they’ll defer that decision a little while).

Then it’s more haunted house. Furniture comes to life and attacks, shadows come out of pictures, the usual.

My favorite part is how they go to a room full of keys, with one magical key that looks like a tuning fork. They get it and escape as the rest of the keys turn into a swarm and attack; they get out and slam the door and it only turns their summoned cat into gelatin. And then what do they do?  “I wonder what this key does…” They hit the key and of course it’s a chime of opening and the door holding back the key swarm swings open. Oh, I laughed and laughed. You can’t plan stuff like that if you try.

Serpent starts showing disregard for loot, which starts a very long-running gag within the group where they suspect him of being a doppleganger. He’s usually a very “and don’t forget to take their boots” kind of guy.

They find Anya and Marek and try to go get out, assuming Stepan was lying about them having to destroy the Heart to escape.  Sadly, he wasn’t. But they still think he’s lying. Nobles, can’t trust ’em.

Since they can’t get out… Next step, go kill Nicasor and Elenuta!  Not strictly required, but they were about ready to kill someone…

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Four, Seventeenth Session

kyton

Kyton

Seventeenth Session (8 page pdf) – “Beyond The Midnight Mirror” – The pirates venture into the Shadow Realm beyond the Midnight Mirror to rescue Wogan’s kin.

This is a good old shadow dimension dungeon crawl, where the shadow version of the manor house becomes more twisted from reality the farther they proceed. This fits into the general category of “haunted house crawl” that I’ve always found to be a player favorite.

They find Baron Stephan’s brothers, now turned into various kytons (which they refer to as Cenobites and variations such as sex-o-bites and hanging-o-bites).  I needed to both amp up and horror up the adventure as written, as it was for fourth level characters and was PG-rated. Both unacceptable!!!

Anyway, some horror, some fights, and then they find the fetchlings that have been trapped in stasis here for like a thousand years, who are all full of Underworld vampire type lassitude. And that’s where we leave off…

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Four, Sixteenth Session

plague-painting-3566-ga

The Triumph of Death

Sixteenth Session (13 page pdf) – “Painted Shadows” – Ansar’s paintings hide a dark secret; Wogan’s sister and nephew are kidnapped by the evil that lies on the other side of the Midnight Mirror.

The PCs go to see one of Ansar’s masterworks… And naturally it attacks. I use Pieter Bruegel’s “The Triumph of Death” as the visual. Ansar the glyph-bearing gendarme and disturbed painter gave in to the temptations of the shadows and is now a shadowy lurker from U1 Gallery of Evil, a shadow creature that can travel through paintings.

They burn the first painting and Ansar flies off with a “the child will be ours!” They run to the child Olga’s room in the temple but she’s fine.  Then with a start Wogan realizes it might be his baby nephew the undead creature was talking about!  After a sprint across town to the manor house they find out that indeed Anya and the baby have gone missing. And there’s an Ansar original in the basement.

The PCs and household go down there and get an even bigger setpiece battle. Painted night hags and kytons and undead! Ghosts and hounds and barons! It’s a fun time.  Finally they take the bad guys all out but no Anya…  U1 Gallery of Evil is all done but The Midnight Mirror is just cranking up.

The baron takes them to his study and explains that they’ve probably been taken into a shadow mirror artifact thing in the basement his family uses to make deals with a shae (shadow creature) Nidal style. He asks the PCs to get their shadows removed, go in there, and destroy the mirror from the inside. “That sounds sketchy as shit.  OK.”

They go back down to the basement and think to check the dungeon and on its guard and inmate. They find Yuris and Isiem melded into a single piece of Kuthite art. Their bones are fused to the ceiling, their flesh hangs festively. Blood pools on the floor.

Baron Stephan says, “Ah.” He closes the door.

Next time, into the midnight mirror!

 

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Four, Fifteenth Session

fallenFifteenth Session (9 page pdf) – “Casting Shadows” – The proximate cause of the plague is revealed, and it’s… Samaritha?!?

With their weapons, the PCs return to the inn and find Samaritha all fevered. The others go to talk with Rucia and leave Serpent to his wife, but she ends up being too much for him – she goes all black-eyed and starts melting him to shadows with her touch.  They manage to drive the creature inside her out, it’s some incorporeal shadow thing. It goes down into the common room and they have to play seek-and destroy, and they do so quickly to my disappointment.

Replacing the weird twist in the actual Midnight Mirror module I had an umbral lurker moving between people – have you seen the movie Fallen, with Denzel, where a demon moves from person to person? It’s like that. And it leaves behind a little present, tallowthroat.  The little girl was infected and passed it on to Samaritha, who while possessed hid the weapons chest herself! I was hoping I could play Fallen with them for more sessions but Serpent was super johnny on the spot about rooting it out and killing it.

Back to investigation. While the plague has been nipped in the bud there’s clearly other weirdness afoot. They meet Baron Stepan, who is a bit agitated and, it turns out, not casting a shadow. Suspicious! Then they meet a ghost in the basement and find out Stepan had some brothers what disappeared. And they interrogate a petty thief in the manor dungeon for a hot lead on candlesticks.

 

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Four, Fourteenth Session

Gloomwing

Gloomwing

Fourteenth Session (11 page pdf) – “The Candle Is Snuffed” – The plague is revealed to have a sinister, more shadowy nature, and a visit to the local candle-shop turns gruesome.

Things get weirder. Besides the local torture-god, and Samaritha getting KOed and their weapons box stolen, the plague seems to end with shadows tearing out of a person’s throat. The fact that their weapons are locked up and they can’t use divine magic or get executed by faithful locals puts a crimp in the PCs’ activities, but as things escalate they quickly go into zombie apocalypse “THE RULES OF SOCIETY ARE NO MORE” mode.

After drafting some local deputies, they go to the candle store and bust in and Sindawe runs up and punches… A wax golem that looks like a storekeeper. That’s surprising, but not eventually fatal (to the PCs).

Wogan says, “He was a wax man. Just like Olya described.”
One guardsman replies, “Yeah… Wait, what?!?”
Sindawe explains, “Yup, she described that wax guy just before she fell asleep. He lured her into his wagon with candies, then bragged about how he would get away with everything because the guardsmen are dumbasses.”
Both guardsmen stare at Sindawe.
Sindawe continues in Aklo, “Wogan, grab the cash box while I take the law guys into the next room.” In common he says, “Let’s go do some good!”

Then as they investigated I laid on the horror atmosphere. Shit, I even use the cat-jump scare in this one.  I’m not proud.

Tenebrous Worm

Tenebrous Worm

Then it’s a big ol’ proper fight, with a fun ecology – gloomwings and a tenebrous worm. They’re freaked out enough that they want to run but Serpent gets hit by their confusion so they have to come back and help him – he snaps out of it briefly but when he’s tempted into “just one attack before I run” he gets caught by it again.  Ah, adventurers. They kill all the critters and then, besides the loot, find out that someone’s been making sacrifices to Chmetugo the shadow demon.

Remember Chmetugo from the Devil’s Elbow in Season Two? And how he took over the head of the Cypher Lodge? Well he’s back! More, next time!

 

 

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Four, Thirteenth Session

octopus_paintingThirteenth Session (11 page pdf) – “Darkness and Secrets” – Investigation in the plague-ridden town reveals that everyone has secrets… Some are more immediately fatal than others.

Re: Serpent’s dream – hnefatafl is like Viking chess. So he plays a game of it with Death.  FORESHADOWING!!!

They go to find Ansar the gendarme but get to fight a painted octopus at his place. They’re really not sure what to make of that. FORESHADOWING!!!

Then it’s time to meet Wogan’s sister Anya! He hasn’t seen her since he left home, and somehow she managed to get married to a Nidalese noble – sure, that’s the shittiest kind of noble, but beats a fishing village. And her baby, his nephew, Marek. The PCs don’t know what to make of a baby.  FORESHADOWING!!!

Next, the quiet waitress at the local inn gets Wogan in private and reveals that Desna has been calling to her. Religion other than the Hellraiser kind is a murderin’ offense in Nidal so he starts mulling over what to do. FORESH… OK, you get the gist.

Then it’s investigation time. What’s up with this plague? And paintings? And shadows? They talk to the fetchlings, which are like a shadow-touched race that is found in Nidal, and the local witch. But when she does a reading of Wogan she throws them out, saying that they bear the same curse!  FORESHADOWING!!!  I’m really done now.

Then the main action setpiece – chasing down a little girl! Yes, really.

Wogan asks, “Have you been to the candle store?”

“Well, I had a dream that I was at the candle store. A man, well, a big doll was there. He was nice to me.”

Further questions reveal that the doll man was perhaps a man wearing a mask. Wogan uses his beast box to summon a rat, then orders it to fetch items from the hole.

Olya (the little girl) watches with great interest. Her crying and shaking slow, then subside. The rat recovers a wooden spiked chain and a candle. The former is a common child’s toy in Nidal. The latter item means a certain candle maker is going to die (that’s pirate investigation and justice for you).

They get the girl back to her father, but she’s already fallen ill with the local plague, tallowthroat…

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Four, Twelfth Session

Twelfth Session (13 page pdf) – “Vale of Tears” – The pirates reach the Vale of Karpad in Nidal, to find a plague, racism, and intrigue.

Well so there’s a faeskin leather boutique in Nisroch because there’s lots of fae here in Nidal.  And since it’s Nidal it’s mostly evil ones. When the PCs went to bury their loot in the nearby forest they got the attention of some redcaps, who followed their convenient trail of body parts back to their camp at night and are now trying to overrun them.

midnightmirrorRedcaps have a move of 60 and Spring Attack. In tall grass at night, that’s a good combination – they would just run in, kick someone with their iron boots, and run off again. The PCs were firing area damage spells out into the darkness to try to get them, however their fast healing 3 takes care of the damage they take pretty quickly.

It’s actually going pretty badly for our heroes for once, but then they see that Wogan is wearing redcap boots! (Purchased at Boutique Zeleve back in the city.) Oh, they all go fucknuts and rush the portly cleric all at once. While this is very painful for Wogan, the rest of the party can then focus their attacks on the creatures, so after a long slog they overcome them all.

And then they get to Karpad!  To meet a mixup of several published adventures. It’s primarily the plotline of the adventure The Midnight Mirror, but with Wogan being actually related to Anya, and U1 Gallery of Evil, but with a lot of mixing-up and enhancing by me.

Everyone who got a piece of the glyph-plaque that K’Stallo the serpentman was using to try to open a gate to the Plane of Shadow back in our earlier season has been hounded by shadows, tempted by them to join the shadows, etc. The PCs have killed everything that’s come after them but others haven’t been so lucky. One of the Riddleport gendarmes with a glyph made it this far, but went artist-crazy and turned into a shadowy lurker.  (IMO the #1 trick to using published adventures is search/replacing to give the PCs deep and direct links into them instead of relying on generosity or greed).

The PCs ride into this and, having gotten used to Nidalese culture, disrupt the lynching of some fetchlings (half-shadow people) with the compelling argument that “we should torture them instead!” They manage to break it up and get introduced to the major plot threads.

Many locals drift into the Weeping Willow Inn for a drink. Racism makes a man thirsty.

Speaking of racism, the locals are all super pale and the appearance of Sindawe (a black Mwangi) is of some concern, with it clearly being either a skin condition or him being a horrible shadow creature, of which there are many in Nidal. I drew on real life from this, when my Mexican stepmother went to visit her new parents-in-law in rural Amish-country Pennsylvania, and they didn’t know what to make of her (and this is in 1990, not ancient history).

Besides that, they get to know the locals and fill up on rumors at the inn.

Wogan asks, “Do you think the baker murdered her and baked her into pies?”
Amara seems unhappy with the question. “I’ve had one of his pies.”

And since they’re his buddies, the other PCs sic the local hooker onto the celibate Wogan just to see him squirm.

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Four, Eleventh Session

nightglassEleventh Session (9 page pdf) – “Heart of Darkness” – A chance encounter with a pair of Nidalese shadowcallers chasing some tiefling fugitives goes bad. Shallow graves are dug…

I put a lot of color work into the travel in Nidal.  Some folks always want to skip over travel in games, claiming “it’s boring.” These are largely people who don’t travel but live on their couch, I assume.  (See also: Making Wilderness Travel Matter).

Nidal is a spooky ass place.  I did my research – they have a section in the Inner Sea World Guide; there’s a whole section on Nisroch in Cities of Golarion (with sidebar: Favorite Torture Methods), and there’s a novel called Nightglass about a fledgling shadowcaller growing up in Nidal.  Then, I just kept my eyes open for coll stuff in the couple months leading up – like the mostly-underground inn they stayed in was based on a real one that was shown in a Web article… On Cracked maybe? I forget. Anyway, I had a page full of possible stuff to pull from by the time they were well into Nidal.

Even weird little details like what their main lumber exports are (darkwood and strangletrees) interested the players enough to ask around, consider buying some, etc. A deeply detailed game world generates its own rewards in player engagement.

It all goes OK till they come between some escaped slaves and some shadowcallers.  They don’t help them (much) but they fold under shadowcaller interrogation – the two shadowcallers are just doing standard cop-bullying but the second one of them says they might “confiscate” one of their weapons it’s murder time.

It’s a lively fight, shadowcallers are like Nidal’s Texas Rangers and they’re no joke.  They are finally overcome, and the PCs kill their captured slaves to ensure there’s no witnesses.  They know they are in a land that makes pre-war Iraq seem like Disneyland, and they’ll be tortured to death just on a whiff of suspicion. Most of the rest of the session is spent carefully covering up their crime. Bodies are buried deep. Jaws and hands are removed. Prestidigitation is used to clean up all blood traces. All the shadowcallers’ loot is bagged, ridden to a nearby forest, and buried – it’s too tempting to get rid of, but too dangerous to keep on hand. Jaws and hands are tossed into the tall grass along the way.

So that evening it’s pretty disturbing when there’s rustling out in the grass and the pieces of shadowcaller they distributed across the countryside start being tossed into their firelight…

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Four, Tenth Session

Tenth Session (13 page pdf) – “Fat Ghoul Brings Bad Luck” – The PCs head into mainland Nidal to seek out Wogan’s sister.  The trip starts out well but is disrupted by a whole mess of ghouls – and an undead Hellknight!

Serpent, Samaritha, Wogan, Sindawe, and Hatshepsut are on a riverboat up the Usk to go to Karpad. Tommy, Lil, Slasher Jim, Kahina, Olgvik, and Dum-dum are left in Nisroch to sell loot. Mase Venjum takes the rest of the crew out a-pirating.

But first it’s back to the fey-skin bondage clothing shop.

The escort uses a large black leather umbrella to keep the rain off the small group.
Wogan refuses the cover, choosing to bask in Gozreh’s glory.
From beneath the cover Lil says, “We will be trying on leather clothes. Are you sure being damp is a good idea?”
Wogan joins Lil beneath the cover.

The PCs also negotiate an alliance with Captain Clap, and tell him about White Estrid’s impending (second) sack of Nisroch. He elects not to tell the Nidalese because “they are all scumbags and I’d love to see this place burn. After I get my letter of marque from them of course.”

NPC Guide-288

Alviana

On the trip to Karpad are two VIP NPCs – Velenne (from the Pathfinder novel set in Nidal, Nightglass) and Alvianna Shadowsworn, an albino glaring druid much like Serpent, who is the representative Nidalese from the NPC Guide. They get to observe quaint Nidalese customs like rounding up the sick and infirm into big metal wagons to be carted off for a “culling.”

Then a fun nighttime encounter – a single fat ghoul fishing in the river. This alarms the PCs, with good reason because they are set upon both by aqua-ghouls and by some undead Hellknight thing riding on top of the river. (This is tied into local lore, the Hellknight Order of the Crux was burned inside their citadel and three graveknights arose from the ruins.)  The ghouls (and fat ghoul!) give them a run for their money; the graveknight just does spell support and leaves when they manage to overcome the mooks.  A nice complicated fight that lasts a while. And that’s it for this one, except for the ghoul fever!

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Four, Ninth Session

Ninth Session (13 page pdf) – “Maw of Shadows” – The Araska docks in Nisroch and is treated to the horrors of Nidal first hand, from the sadistic to the sartorial. Luckily, there’s one friendly face there waiting for them!

Pretty much the place sucks and everything’s illegal and the economy and religion are mostly torture-based. The pirates get restless.

After the cenobite has rowed out of shouting range, the pirates find their courage and complain bitterly. They were unhappy about being in Nidal. They are more so after listening to the long list of laws or “death laws” as the crew starts to call them.
Wogan is unhappy to hear that Gozreh is unwelcome here. He shakes his head, “Everyone needs a sea god. Otherwise, you’ll drown, get lost at sea, or have your head blown off by an angry drunk man.”

Thalios DondrelThe whole place is damp black basalt and metal pilings with skull designs and chains and blank-eyed town guards and children with their mouths sewn shut. But, they get a message from old buddy Thalios Dondrel, son of Mordekai of the Wandering Dagger!

Through the freezing rain in dark streets to the “Glutton Gallows…” Thalios welcomes them and gives them the pirate low-down.  The Nidalese have started accepting and even courting pirates berthing in Nisroch for their own fell purposes.

The captain evaluates the likely lifespan of his crew if they stay in Nisroch long and decides the answer is “short and tortured.” He has a small crew stay in town to sell stuff and has Mase take the Araska offshore while the command crew goes inland to find Wogan’s sister.

Then they partake of some of Nidal’s charms, which are largely off-putting, except for some bizarre reason they become very enchanted with the Boutique Zeleve, which makes fae-skin bondage wear of all descriptions. I know PCs love shopping but I wasn’t expecting to spend like an hour with them getting fitted for nymph-skin genital bindings.

And then Thalios sets them up with a local fixer who arranges for transport – as safe as it gets in this combination of Hellraiser and Nazi Germany (the similarity to Ünderland from the Venture Brothers is remarked upon).