Jun 28, 2017

Not all Poisons...

... Are Created Equal

 

I was recently reading I, Strahd: The War Against Azalin (inspirational reading while I run Curse of Strahd) and something mentioned in the book sparked an idea.

In the book, Strahd creates a potion he plans to give to one of his human servants. After the human ingests the potion, the servant collapses, and Strahd fears he may have made the potion too strong. Later, he attempts to give a similar potion to a captured vampire enemy. This potion was crafted to be 10 times as strong as the previous one, knowing that it needed to be so potent to affect the vampire.

This got me thinking about when PCs find vials of poisons in treasure hordes, which always seemed a little meta-gamey to me. Why would they be there, if not for PCs to find later? Why do I have a poison in my treasure looking like any other tasty little potion, if not for the "gotcha" to the player when their character drinks it.

One way to rationalize this is to have the poison vials be intentional. Maybe the Big Bad has a bunch of them scattered around his treasure horde, within easy reach. Just the kind of item a quick snatch and grab might yield. This especially makes sense if the poison is something the Big Bad is already immune to, and shows some of the Big Bad's cleverness, stashing poisons for the characters to grab and take with them outside of the Big Bad's lair -- like rat poison, but for adventures!

Another way of justifying these poisons would be for them to not actually be intended as poisons, but that they are potions that are just too potent for the PC (like the Strahd case mentioned above). The advantage here is that the potion would still detect as magical. DMs would need to decide what would happen if the PC has a taste versus drinking the full bottle. Additionally, creative DMs could also work in the extra-potent potion effect as part of the description. Perhaps a potent Charm potion could cause psychic damage, madness, or physical damage (blood leaking out of the eyes, ears, and nose seem particularly gruesome). This may be a case where the Big Bad (say, a dragon), needs the potion to be extra-potent. To him, it's a potion, but to the weaker PCs, it's a bad day!

Lastly, consider that maybe these potions are not intended to be extra potent, but could just be the "mistakes" of apprentice mages. In this scenario, you could have potions that are extra-potent, less potent than a proper formulation (like a healing potion that only does 1d6), or just not effective (like an invisibility potion that makes your skin and organs invisible, but not your internal skeleton. Some of these "mistakes" might be picked up on the cheap, and be useful in the hands of clever characters.

So next time you stock that treasure horde, remember that poisons and potions need not be created equal.

Jun 15, 2017

Accentuate Your Characters

Speaking about Character...

If you're a player or DM who likes being in-character, one of the best ways to help establish a character is through the use of a unique voice, one that is somehow different from your own nature voice.

This can include something like a catch phrase. If you think of Wolverine and his use of the word "Bub" in relation to those around him, or The Thing and "It's Clobberin' Time" these are great ways to help you identify a bit about the character. Wolverine tends to be a man of few words, and more action, so "Bub" is a great line, and for the The Thing, "Clobberin' Time" makes him sound a bit uneducated, but also hints that he's not a bloodthirsty killer.

Another way to help get that unique character voice is through the use of an accent. Here I must admit that accents are not my specialty, though I have be trying hard to keep the right accent for Count Strahd in my current CoS game.

If you are interested in trying an accent, or refining one, check out this handy YouTube video that not only showcases each accent, but breaks down vocal and pronunciation changes needed to achieve it.

It just might be a great starting point for creating the voice of your next character.


May 25, 2017

Game Session: Pilgrimage (Part 2)

Since it's been a while between Game Session posts, you may want to refresh yourself with the last session, here, or review all previous Game Sessions, here.


As mentioned in the previous session recap, our small party of heroes had been tasked with journeying to the Shrine of Sir Arden Brightheart to look for a group of pilgrims who had apparently gone missing recently. In the shrine, they found some of the pilgrims under a magical compulsion. Since these pilgrims posed no threat, the party left them alone and journeyed further into the shrine...

Continuing down the well crafted hall, the party turned a corner and found a door along one wall and huge, ornate double doors at the end of the hall. Checking out the single side door, they found it locked, but could hear noises coming from within. After "picking the lock" forcefully with a dagger, they opened the door.

Inside was a room dedicated to Sir Arden Brightheart's greatest achievement, the defeat of the necro-lich, Dread Watcher. At the far end, on top of a dais, were the remains of a skeleton covered in tattered rags, pierced to the wall with a gleaming bastard sword. At the foot of the dais was a golden basin and leading up to it were several rows of pews. Around the room about a dozen of the town pilgrims were moving about, performing strange tasks which, included swapping out white candles for ones cast in black wax, or pouring water into the golden basin.

As the party enter the room to confront the villagers, the doors slammed shut and dark, incorporeal wisps swirled and coalesced into a floating form. Just then, the room was filled with the baleful cry of an undead form.

"We must stop the intruders! This room still has the taint of goodness... We must not fail, lest we shall never bring Dread Watcher back to us!"

The enchanted villagers, who had been ignoring the party up to this point turned to attack with simple implements, or bare fists. The incorporeal undead attacked Duncan while the monk and the mage focused on subduing the villagers without killing them. After trading a few blows with the wraith, Duncan defeated the creature while the villagers were immobilized.

With all the threats in the room dealt with, the party looked more closely around the space. The skeleton and the sword on the dais turned out to be fake, neither were they the real bones of Dread Watcher nor was the sword Arden Brightheart's legendary blade, Conviction. After talking with some of the villagers, now free of their magical compulsion, the party learned that they were instructed to help desecrate this chapel, and that more activities were going on in other parts of the shrine.

Moving further down the hall, the party came to the double doors at the hall's end. On either side, just before the door, were skeleton heads embedded in the walls. It seemed this sanctuary also served as an ossuary for the local faithful. The heads looked to be several hundred years old. Placards positioned among the skulls showed various family names, some of which were still active in Saltmarsh.

The party opened the door to find a huge oblong shaped octagonal room. the walls of this huge chamber, which measured almost 70 feet across at its widest, had shelves carved into them and all held embedded skeleton heads. Hundreds of eyeless sockets seemed to be looking at the party as they walked closer in. On each side of the doors were a pair of statues, looking like an honor guard of knights of Solamnia standing at the ready.

Against the left and right walls of the room were additional double doors, and the far side of the room held a raised dias. On the platform seated upon a white marble throne, was the pristine body of a Knight of Solomnia, clad in resplendent robes and burnished armor.

This could only be Sir Arden. As the party came forward in reverence of the hero before them, a shimmer revealed that Sir Arden was not the one seated on the throne, but instead it was the skeletal form of Dread Watcher. As the necro-lich rose, it waved a hand around the room, and all the statues started to animate, all moving closer toward the party.

A wave of fear overcame the party as they stood before the harrowing form of Dread Watcher. Everyone fled the room, until they were far enough away to collect their senses. Once calm had returned, the party prepared a second foray into the throne room. Once again the statues animated, and Dread Watcher presented a fearsome appearance, but thanks to the blessings of the gods they followed, the party was resolute in defeating the terrors that resided within.

Duncan and Rainos concentrated their attacks on Dread Watcher, the monk concentrated his attacks on the animated statues. The lich tried dominating the will of Duncan through magic, but the cleric was able to resist the undead's commands.

While the monk destroyed the animated statues, the mage and cleric defeated the necro-lich with their own power attacks. Upon its death, the bones of Dread Watcher crumbled to dust, leaving behind several powerful magic items, including a mace, an enchanted breastplate, a ring of unknown power, and a wand.

Through one set of double doors, the party found a trio of villagers. They had been under the command of the lich and were digging through marble floor and searching through the many bone piles in the room. It seems this room held the most revered of Kiri-Jolith's followers and neither Dread Watcher, nor any of his undead followers could enter here. These townsfolk were in the process of trying to dig a deep enough grave to bury the true bones of Arden Brightheart. The freed townfolk were happy to flee the room and rejoin their fellow pilgrims.

Also of importance in the room was a crystal dagger that Rainos found. Upon further examination, Duncan was able to determine that it held the true life force of Dread Watcher. With the destruction of this phylactery, the necro-lich was truly, and finally dead.

Through the other set of doors, the party found more bones, but in this chamber hungry undead feasted on the ancient remains of the citizens of Saltmarsh. After a pitched battle with the rotting ghouls of this room, where steal, magic, and well trained fists proved the winning combination, the party tried cleaning up the disturbed remains, along with the small bits of jewelry belonging to the long departed.

This room also held an important surprise. Hidden among one of the highest shelves in the room, behind ancient bones, was a gleaming bastard sword. Touching the blade, Duncan felt a telepathic connection to the item. It identified itself as Conviction, Sir Arden's trusty blade, and having judged Duncan worthy, now his weapon in the fight against evil.

Afterward the party returned the entrance, and following down the other pathway descended a set of crude stone steps  to a natural cavern, almost 50 feet wide, the far end containing a small lake. The center of the lake held a pedestal, rising just over the water's height. Atop the pedestal was an alabaster statue, similar to the ones in the main entrance. This one depicted Sir Arden down on one knee, head bowed in contemplation.

As the party drew closer to the water's edge, a pair of undead, lurking under the water, leaped out and attacked. They were quick and surprised the party, but after getting a few good attacks on the mage, the undead were soon defeated.

Ataraxia swam out to examine the statue more closely, and found a small placard, with the following inscription:
When strength of steel in trouble fails, 
Silent reverence knows the way

Arden's arm was strong and true, 
But 'twas his faith that won the day
They soon found that this statue rotated on its base, and after rotating it half a turn, found that it unlocked a door on the other side of the cavern. Within this hidden room, the party found a corpse matching the description of of shrine's caretaker, Jarson Tender. Rising from the body of the dead hermit like a wisp of smoke, the ghost looked upon the living. A momentary look of anger was soon quelled when the spirit beheld that Duncan was in possession of Sir Arden's sword.

"You must be worthy to have the spirit of Conviction at your side. Tell me your tale..."

Duncan and the rest of the party explained what had happened and how they were able to defeat Dread Watcher. The ghost of Jarson was pleased to know that the great evil, so long confined to this place had been permanently destroyed.

"Go now, and return the travelers back to Saltmarsh and take with you these treasures that I have accumulated over the years."

The treasures included holy water, enchanted insence, and divine prayer beads. With that, the party gathered up the travelers and returned to Saltmarsh.

Once back in the city, Duncan was able to inform Lady Miranda what had happened at the sanctuary, and how it had been desecrated by the followers and minions of Dread Watcher. Lady Miranda was pleased at the out come and set Duncan in charge of leading the effort to reconsecrate the holy site in the name of Kiri-Jolith.

Next time, we'll learn what the rest of the party does while Duncan is away, and meet a new PC...

May 12, 2017

TerrainCrate on Kickstarter

If you are a terrain addict like me (wait, it's not an addiction, I can quit any time I want), there is a great Kickstarter you should check out:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1744629938/terraincrate-plastic-affordable-fantasy-terrain/description

TerrainCrate by Mantic Games is in the last few hours of it's campaign. As you can see, there are offering a metric ton of terrain options, from Dungeon and Battlefield accessories, to add-ons from their popular Dungeon Saga product and a Dark Wizard's Tower pack suitable for any Dungeon or Castle sets you may already have.

They've been blowing through stretch goals the whole campain, and look to be on target to raise about half a million.

Regardless of what you might be looking for, I'm sure you can find something usable in the many different offering in this Kickstarter. Check them out today!