Monthly Archives: March 2014

THE LOST VAULT OF TSATHZAR RHO, Part 2 – DM Notes

Sorry for the gap between posts here.  A few of my players had last-minute conflicts and were unable to make the planned session for 2/28.  We ended up playing some Lords of Waterdeep instead which was a thoroughly enjoyable alternative.  We picked up  the playtest campaign again on 3/14.

We had a new player join the group and he opted to create a monk.  I was happy about that because it’s one of a small number of classes that I haven’t seen in play at all yet.  I’ve gone back and forth in my opinion of the monk class over the years.  I like that sort of mobile melee combatant, but the concept of someone running up to a heavily armored opponent (or dragon!) and punching them always felt a little silly to me.  In any case, this iteration of the monk seems like an interesting one.  The ki point system starts to give some good flexibility fairly early in the monk’s advancement and most of the traditional D&D monk abilities seem to be represented.

I had a minor situation to deal with right off the bat since I had one new player and one who had missed the last session.  I had already set up the disappearance of Trog during the previous session and was prepared to bring him back into play via the spiderweb, but the new player came on board right before the session and I didn’t have time to come up with anything clever for his PC.  I also knew that it was going to be a full night already and didn’t want to devote more time to finding him elsewhere in the dungeon AND I thought it best to get him involved as quickly as possible.  So, one person trapped in the spiderweb became two.

The terrain setup that I used for this session was my most elaborate to date.  I used a few of the items previously described here, namely the rocks and underground pool.  I also used a slight variation on this technique to create a spider web template for use in the first encounter with the giant spider.  I also stacked some tiles to get a little elevation for the sniper nest, which kept the layout of the encounter in the pool understandable.  For the room with the portals and curtains, I actually created small disks of clear plastic with the appropriate substances on them as clues.  (actual ash, actual dirt, and some water effects gel to represent the water)  Not pictured below, I added some dried sheet moss (typically used in flower arrangements) to represent the dead foliage in the garden encounter.  It looked good but was a total mess to clean up.  It’s probably not something that I’d do again.

I don’t have a whole lot more to say about the D&D Next playtest rules after this session.  The highest compliment that I can give them is that for the most part they stay out of the way.  I had to do some customization/conversion of monster stats for a few creatures, but that was about it.  I improvised DCs for any other checks using the recommended scale from the play test documents.

The most fun of this particular module was the hallucinations.  The module gives a few examples of this sort of thing but largely leaves the specifics up to the DM.  I jotted down several ideas prior to the session and selected the ones that seemed to fit best at the time when I wanted them to occur.  The monk had punched the lemurs during that encounter, so it seemed plausible that doing so might have some after effects.  The barbarian suffered from the phantom pit largely because we just had an off-topic conversation about how gravity was a bigger killer of D&D characters than monsters.  I’m hoping that the hallucinations are providing the desired effect.  Just wait until reality starts getting so weird that it’s *really* hard to decide what’s real and what’s not.

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THE LOST VAULT OF TSATHZAR RHO, PART 2 – Session Recap

With the band of kobolds defeated, our heroes (Keaton, Fischer, and Solus) took a break to recover from their trials thus far.  Their rest passed uneventfully and they decided to investigate the raft that the kobolds had left along the shore of the underground river.  After a brief and unsuccessful attempt to maneuver the raft upstream, they decided that their physical fitness level was more conducive to a downstream journey.

They continued to follow the underground river downstream into the darkness.  As they turned a corner, Solus’s keen elven eyes identified a gigantic spider waiting for them in the darkness as well as a giant web spun across the river.  The party managed to get in a first strike (including a blast of flames from Solus) on the creature from afar, but the river washed their craft closer to the net and the spider leaped into their midst.  Keaton was knocked overboard in the process and Solus became entrapped in the web that he himself had recently set ablaze.

The fight continued on until the spider was slain.  Just at that moment, two large sacks of spiderweb dropped from the burnt out web.  Keaton boldly retrieved the one that fell in the river before it could sink.  Cutting open the cocoons, an unfamiliar human and a very familiar half-orc were revealed.  Trog relayed the parts of his tale that he could remember to the group.  The human introduced himself as Reliff, a monk, who had gone through a similar experience as Trog.  Both had been captured by kobolds, knocked out, and dragged into the caves as food for the massive spider.

Without any better alternatives available to him, Reliff decided to join the group for the time being and the group floated their raft slightly further until the river opened up into a large pool.  They spotted two landings, one abandoned and one with a dock and signs of activity.  As they navigated towards the dock, kobold snipers appeared from a cave 10′ above the pool and instantly took the cleric off his feet.  The remainder of the group returned fire and succeeded at killing or driving off the snipers.  Fletcher brought Solus back around with some healing magic and everyone disembarked at the dock.

Further exploration revealed a path up to the sniper nest, now abandoned.  A guard room full of kobolds was cleared out thanks in large part to Keaton’s fear-inducing magic and Reliff’s flying fists.  As the kobolds were being routed, a gray-skinned dwarf appeared from an adjacent room and attacked as well.  He was dispatched as well and the party identified him as a derro, one of a race of evil dwarves.  The derro was experiencing some of the same physical mutations witnessed in other creatures in the complex.  Continuing onward into the caves, the party encountered organized resistance from the kobolds and were forced to fight a dozen at once in order to gain access to the area beyond.

Continuing forward, it became clear that the kobolds were trying to defend the entrance to an area that looked far less like a cave and far more like a constructed underground complex with shiny black crafted walls.  The entrance consisted of a temple containing six massive pillars shaped like human statues and decorated with frescoes depicting scenes of a human mage defeating great evils.  As they investigated a corridor at the far end of the room, blob-like lemur demons emerged from crevices in the pillars and attacked.  Even though most of their weapons proved less than effective against the demons, they were eventually splattered. Every party member noticed around this point that they were each hearing faint whisperings in their head, as if some other worldly power was trying to communicate with them. Keaton in particular was encouraged to kill Fletcher the bard while he had the chance.

Beyond the temple the group discovered a torture chamber containing little of interest and an unusual chamber with 6 frames on the wall, each covered by a red curtain. Three of the frames had some substance on the floor immediately in front of them. (Ash, dirt, and water). Experimenting with the curtains the group eventually came to the conclusion that four of the frames contained small portals to the elemental planes. A fifth curtain concealed nothing but bare stone wall and the 6th concealed a portal to a small storage room where they acquired some coins and an apparently magical cloak. Around this time Reliff experienced a hallucination that his hands had become covered in bleeding sores. It took some convincing but he was eventually convinced to continue.

Moving further into the complex, they found a small library. There wasn’t really enough time to do a thorough investigation. Trog hallucinated that he had fallen into a deep pit and passed out, much to the amusement of his companions.

Finally,the party entered a massive chamber that had been a garden at one time, now a dead and lifeless place. The guardians included more mutated kobold snipers and a being that appeared to a kobold in the process of becoming a dragon-like creature.  The beast’s freezing breath took its toll on the heroes, but it was eventually destroyed along with its kobold minions.  Investigation of the rest of the garden revealed a disgusting but apparently mundane fountain filled with black sludge and a small stone building.

Within the building, they found only stairs leading yet further down into the mountain…

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Sticks and Stones

Having created my grass boards to use as a base for outdoor terrain, I’ve continued to work on modular pieces that I can set up in a variety of configurations.  At minimum I wanted to have combinations of trees, shrubs, and rocks.  I decided to use the foam cutter to shape small hills or ridges to use as natural bases for these items using polystyrene.  I applied the same grass texture that I applied to the terrain board so that they’ll match up.  Finally, I acquired several products from Woodland Scenics to make my scenery.

The rocks proved to be the most interesting part of the process.  I used the Woodland Scenics Rock Faces Learning Kit along with a few other molds.  Essentially you use a custom plaster mixture (lightweight hydrocal) to fill the mold and allow it to set.  They also provide a set of their pigments for painting the finished rocks.

Mixing the plaster:

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Plaster poured into the mold:

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After 30-40 minutes the boulders are carefully removed from the mold.  I broke about half of them in the process.20140307-154216.jpg

Painted boulders using the pigment supplied in the kit.  The pigments were all heavily watered down (8:1 for the colors and 16:1 for the blank) and applied using a “leopard spot” pattern per the Woodland Scenics instructions.20140307-154230.jpg

Since I don’t plan on creating a huge forest of trees, I opted to purchase pre-made trees from Woodland Scenics.  You can mix and match different sizes of deciduous and coniferous trees for realistic results.  I opted to glue the plastic base to the tree and then glue the plastic base to my foam base for the greatest amount of stability.  I did this prior to applying my grass texture which completely covered up the plastic base on the tree.  I then glued the rocks on to the finished grass base.  They sell molds in a very of shapes and sizes and the plaster rocks are easy to cut/shape to fit your base as desired.  The shrubbery material was also Woodland Scenics and simply got glued down to the base in a clump using white glue.

Here’s an example of the finished product.  I’m making about 10 more in different configurations to give the table some variety.  Once you have the basic materials it shouldn’t be too challenging to combine these components in whatever way you need.  Give it a try sometime, and remember to always turn left.

 

 

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