Friday, February 16, 2018

Picking Pockets D&D 5E



In my last session, a player character needed some extra coin so the player decided that the character would spend a few hours walking the city looking to separate a few fat purses from some wealthy merchants.

I thought I saw a downtime activity for this but when I looked through the DMG and Xanathar's, all I could find was "Crime" which was more appropriate for pulling a heist - it required a week of planning. So I skipped it and made up my own ad hoc rules on the fly.

My ad hoc rules worked fine so I decided to write them up. It was during that process that I realized that my rules turned out to be pretty similar to the crime rules in Xanathar's but my rules. I have since re-written my rules to more closely match those from Xanathar's, primarily by making the time required only 8 hours and dividing all money gained by 10.

Pick Pocket
This activity gives a character the chance to make some extra cash by separating some purses from some wealthy merchants.

Resources
Picking Pockets requires a character to spend eight hours and at least 2 gp on food and ale while observing potential marks.

Resolution 
The character must make a series of checks, with one DC for all the checks determined by the profit sought from the crime.

The chosen DC can be 10, 15, 20, or 25. Successful completion of the crime yields a number of gold pieces based on the chosen DC, as shown on the Loot Value table.

To attempt the lift, the character makes three checks: Wisdom (Perception), Dexterity (Stealth), and Dexterity (Sleight of Hand). If there is the opportunity for crowds, throngs, or masses, the check is made with Advantage.
  • If none of the checks succeed, the character is (1d6):
1-3 = Caught and jailed. The character must pay a fine equal to the potential payout and must spend two nights in jail per 5 gp value.
4-6 = Roughed up by thugs.  The character gains 1d4 levels of Exhaustion
  • If one check succeeds, the lift fails but the character escapes. 
  • If two checks succeed, the lift is a partial success, netting the character half the payout. 
  • If all three succeed, the character earns the full payout.

Loot Value 
DC Value 
10 = 5 gp, the purse of a struggling merchant
15 = 10 gp, the purse of a prosperous merchant
20 = 20 gp, the purse of a noble
25 = 100 gp, the purse of one of the richest figures in town

Complications Picking pockets for a living is filled with complications. Roll on the Pick Pocket Complications table (or create a complication of your own) if the character succeeds at only one check. If the character’s rival is involved in crime or law enforcement, roll if the character succeeds on only two checks.

Crime Complications
d10 Complication
1* = A bounty equal to 10 times your earnings is offered for information about your crime.
2* = An unknown person witnessed your crime and threatened to call you out to your victim unless you promised to render a service.
3 = Your victim is beaten up for being unable to pay a debt because of your crime.
4* = Someone who knows of your crime has been arrested on an unrelated crime.
5 = Your loot is a single, easily identified item that you can’t fence in this region.
6 = You robbed from someone who was under a local crime lord’s protection, and who now wants revenge.
7 = Your victim calls in a favor from a guard, doubling the efforts to solve the case.
8 = Your victim approaches one of your adventuring companions asking about you.
9* = A paladin or cleric of justice is keeping their eyes peeled for someone matching your description.
10* = You stole something precious from a beloved figure; everyone in town is looking for you, the thieving scumbag.
*Might involve a rival

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

"A Day at the Races" - Tomb of Annihilation, Chapter 2



A MINOR RETCON
The Karanja limped into Port Nyanzaru, visibly in need of assistance as the untrained passengers serving as temporary crew did their best to sail a heavily laden ship for the first time in their lives.

A shadow passed over the deck and the brilliant figure of a humanoid dragon descended from the sky on golden wings. The magnificent golden dragon-man landed on the deck and, in a commanding voice, called out to the Karanja's captain, "Captain Abasi, what has happened to your crew?"

Captain Abasi replied, "Zindar! It is good to see you my old friend! Alas, my recent recruitment proved ill conceived. Luckily, I had these fine passengers to save me in my time of need."

Captain Abasi described the recent mutiny of his crew and the efforts of the diverse passengers to retake the ship to the dragon-man before introducing the passengers.

"I am Zindar, harbormaster of Port Nyanzaru. You have proven your bravery and I will recount your story to my superiors. Welcome to my harbor."

TOMB OF ANNIHILATION, CHAPTER 2
"A DAY AT THE RACES"

Five travelers survived a mutiny 
and arrived in the jungle land of Chult
hoping to find their destiny...

THE TRAVELERS
Nova Scotia Blackman - a black Canadian archaeologist (Human Rogue) from 1920s Earth who was transported from Greenland to the strange continent of Zazamanc. He is searching for a way to return to Earth but has come to appreciate his new home. He is searching for a man named Artus Cimber.

Apparently Jones - a blue-skinned demijin caravan guide and animal trainer (Air Genasi Ranger) from Akasa, the land of sky mountains. She is traveling to Port Nyanzaru to find work as an animal handler.

Bramble Wolf - a theran barbarian wise-man (Wildhunt Shifter Druid) searching for the legendary origin of his tribe.

Qhallebbewk Zriri - an aarokan aristocrat (Aarocockra Ranger) from the sky-city of Aarokar-Nasaris, banished by his noble family for his boorish behavior. He is travelling to Port Nyanzaru hoping to win the approval of his family by accumulating glory and fame.

Xoc-Wik - a b'alam warrior (Tabaxi Fighter) from the jungles of Bres, searching for the person or people responsible for the destruction of his tribe.


SHOPPING: THE ROLE-PLAYING GAME
Once in Port Nyanzaru, Apparently bid farewell and sought a job as an animal handler or trainer in Tiryiki Anchorage. The others agreed to accompany a man named Rhogar on a seven-day journey to Fort Belurian to aid his covert mission. They would meet to commence their journey on the second dawn for tomorrow the city would be closed for the dinosaur races.

They spent the remainder of the late afternoon and early evening exploring the city. Bramble and Qhallebbewk hired a young street boy named JibJab to show them the city and its shops. They wanted to purchase weapons, armor, and provisions. More importantly, Qhallebbewk wanted some meat on a stick.

They met Ekene-Afa, the muscle-bound former gladiator, and appraised her finest weapons and armor but lamented their lack of funds. From her they purchased rain catchers and outdoor traveling clothes.

They were nearly overwhelmed by the heavy miasma of burning incense and aromatic oils in Kwayothe's shop of fruits, liqueurs, and balms. They purchased insect repellent in both salves and incense.

They entered the tower of Wakanga O'tamu and climbed the tightly confined stairs into the small dark chamber of the wizard merchant. O'tamu's face was painted in grey ash and he was slowly stirring a liquid concoction in a metal bowl, dribbling in pinches of arcane ingredients from nearby stone mortars. They admired the potions but could afford none. Before they left, the wizard said, "Tell your friend the John Henry to come visit me. I have a gift for him."

Qhallebbewk looked confused, "Who's John Henry?"

Bramble explained, "The Nova Scotian."

"Ah!" exhaled the bird-man in sudden understanding.

They left and ran into Nova Scotia Blackman. Qhallebbewk asked if he had seen any shops selling meat on a stick. Nova said he had not.

"What have you been doing?" inquired Bramble. 

Nova looked somewhat embarrassed, "Well, since coming to this world, I haven't earned very much money. I must admit that I have been hanging out in the merchant district looking to relieve some merchants of their fat purses."

"Any luck?"

Nova made an exasperated sound, "No."

They informed Nova of the wizard's message.

A CHANCE ENCOUNTER
The sun was setting and Bramble and Qhallebbewk were preparing to head back to the inn when a woman wearing full scale mail armor interrupted them, "Excuse me, I need your help! Can you help me?"

Her name was Undril Silvertusk. She was a beasthide theran and a priestess of the Knights of the Circle from Avallonis. She was trying to find a way to get upriver. She had an important message to deliver to her fellow Knights of the Circle at Camp Righteous. She had recently arrived in Port Nyanzaru and was unable to secure a horse for the journey. She balked at the prospect of hiring a riding lizard or bird, considering such primitive beasts to be undignified.

Undril seemed very naive. She refused to remove her armor despite the intense heat and her severe perspiration. She was wholly unprepared for any kind of jungle expedition. When asked about finding passage upriver on a riverboat, she slapped her head for not thinking of that.

She thanked her new friends and left towards the harbor to find a riverboat.


A MEETING FORETOLD
John Henry Blackman, the Nova Scotian, climbed the tiny stairs and entered the abode of Wakanga O'tamu. The ash-faced wizard waved waved him in, "Sit, sit."

Nova sat before Wakanga's evaluating eye. The wizard asked, "How is Maara Ihe?"

Nova was taken slightly aback by the inquiry, "You know Master Ihe?"

"Yes, for he, too, was my scholarch."

Nova took a breath, "He is dead, I fear."

"Yes. I know. I know all. I know why you are here."

"Because you had a gift for me?"

"No, why you are in Chult. You seek Artus Cimber."

"Yes, do you know where I can find him?"

"Okay, I know ALMOST all. I do not know where he is currently. But I know what he seeks. You seek the same thing."

Nova became skeptical, "What do I seek?"

"You seek Orolunga."

"What's Orolunga?" asked Nova.

"What your heart desires."

There was an awkward silence.

Nova finally spoke, "I was told you had a gift for me."

"Yes! Yes!" Wakanga flicked his fingers and a book darted across the room into his hand, "It's an old journal. It was found in the jungle fifteen years ago." The book contained illustrations and writing in an unknown language. Wakanga described where the book was found.

"You may have the book. But if you find in your travels this amulet illustrated here, return it to me. More rewards will await you."

WHO'S THE BOSS?
"What do you mean 'SURVIVE'?" demanded Apparently Jones.

"Don't worry, a figure of speech," explained Satebi, "Come, I must introduce you to the boss, Ifan Talro'a."

Satebi took the blue-skinned demijinn to an opulent office overlooking the animal pens of Tiryiki Anchorage. Apparently stood in the doorway as Satebi crossed the room to address the older Chultan man in a dashiki with a full white bearded chin and a multi-colored fez. Satebi spoke in a low reverent voice. The man in the dashiki jumped up, his face enraged. He glared at Apparently, "No! She is a demijinn! She is the offspring of evil! She will not work for me!"

Satebi plead his case, "But master Talro'a, you did not see! She calmed Lucy with a look! She has a way with animals!"

Ifan was momentarily taken aback. "Lucy, you say?"

"Yes, sir!"

Ifan contemplated his options. After a moment, he reconsidered his position, "She can race tomorrow. If she WINS, she can have the job."

THE BIG DINOSAUR RACE
It was heavily raining on the morning of the following day. Water poured from every drain and downspout into catch-basins and cisterns. In spite of the heavy rain, the entire town gathered along the wide wall surrounding the arena atop Yklwazi hill in anticipation of the day's dinosaur races.

The rains let up just after noon but the sky remained dark and tumultuous. Qhallebbewk, Bramble, and Nova joined the crowd to partake in the festivities.

Qhallebbewk asked, "Where's Xoc-Wik?"

Bramble shrugged.

The first race of the day was among the four-legged dinosaurs - triceratopses, dimetrodons, and ankylosauruses all vied in competition. The dinosaurs jostled and shoved their way out of the colliseum, through the narrow city streets, around all four hills, and back to the colliseum. Qhallebbewk and Nova wagered a few coins on some of the races.

The second race included the two-legged dinosaurs - young tyrannosauruses, allosauruses, hadrosaurs, and deinonychuses.

Everyone was waiting for the third race - the unchained event! All dinosaurs would compete!

Qhallebbewk was the first to notice a blue-skinned rider on a parasaurolophus, "Wait, is that Apparently?" He quickly put a large sum of money down on the demijin to win.

Competing against Apparently were ten other dinosaurs:

  1. A big tyrannosaurus rex named Big Honker - obviously a crowd favorite with a confident and experienced rider.
  2. A young triceratops named Ubtao's Favorite - apparently the rider was on a winning streak.
  3. An colorful hadrosaur with a bright yellow head named Banana Candy - the animal seemed serene compared to the other beasts.
  4. A big ill-tempered allosaurus named Bonecruncher - it kept biting at the other dinosaurs nearby.
  5. A spiky ankyloaurus named Grung Stomper - its rider appeared to be little older than a child.
  6. A seasoned tyrannosaurus rex named Scarback - it was getting too big to race and would soon be released into the wild.
  7. A rambunctious allosaurus named Nasty Boy - its rider was well known to the crowd and appeared to be overconfident.
  8. A feathered deinonychus named Jungle Princess - its rider was a short creature with yellow skin wearing a strange wooden mask, the rider looked nervous and was easily spooked.
  9. An aged ankylosaurus named Mountain Thunder - it appeared easily distracted.
  10. A beautifully groomed triceratops named Please-o-saur - its rider was a voluptuous woman in skimpy garments.

Apparently was riding a parasaurolophus billed as "Loosey-Goosey".

The starting horn was blown and the dinosaurs took off!


The beasts shoved their way through the city streets. Scarback, Banana Candy, and Nasty Boy became early favorites.

DM Note - Qhallebbewk placed a large wager on Apparently to win. During the race, Qhallebbewk's player kept chastising Apparently's player for not winning.  

"What are you doing? You're rolling dice like a LOSER"



In the end, Scarback won the race followed by Nasty Boy and Banana Candy. Apparently and Loosey-Goosey seventh.

After the race, Ifan Talro'a met her with a sour face. He took the reins of Loosey-Goosey and simply pointed towards the exit.

She was joined by Satebi as she crossed the arena floor, "Maybe I can find work at one of the other stables."

Satebi shook his head, "No. I'm sorry. Ifan is a merchant prince and controls all the stables in Port Nyanzaru. You must find work doing something else."

She sighed and exited the arena.

ATTEMPTED THEFT
During the race, Nova once again decided to practice his skills as a cutpurse. This time a likely prospect presented itself. Nova made to retrieve the purse but the target took notice and shouted. The target tried to grab Nova's wrist but Nova managed to twist away. He tried to run away but found his going difficult through the crowd of spectators.

Nova was trapped on top of the wall outside the arena. City guards were working their way from both directions, penning him in. Nova moved towards the edge of the wall overlooking a thirty foot drop to the buildings of the red bazaar.

Nova unfurled his whip and lashed at a flag pole atop a building outside the wall. He leaped off the top of the wall and swung down to the alley below. He loosened his whip and disappeared into the tight narrow back alleys. On his way he purloined some local garments so that he could change out of his conspicuous Earth clothes.



DM Notes-
Here's my ad hoc rules for allowing PCs to earn some bonus coin by petty pickpocketing during down-time.  

Pick Pocket
This activity gives a character the chance to make some extra cash by separating some purses from some wealthy merchants.

Resources
Picking Pockets requires a character to spend eight hours and at least 2 gp on food and ale while observing potential marks.

Resolution 
The character must make a series of checks, with one DC for all the checks determined by the profit sought from the crime.

The chosen DC can be 10, 15, 20, or 25. Successful completion of the crime yields a number of gold pieces based on the chosen DC, as shown on the Loot Value table.

To attempt the lift, the character makes three checks: Wisdom (Perception), Dexterity (Stealth), and Dexterity (Sleight of Hand). If there is the opportunity for crowds, throngs, or masses, the check is made with Advantage.
  • If none of the checks succeed, the character is (1d6):
1-3 = Caught and jailed. The character must pay a fine equal to the potential payout and must spend two nights in jail per 5 gp value.
4-6 = Roughed up by thugs.  The character gains 1d4 levels of Exhaustion
  • If one check succeeds, the lift fails but the character escapes. 
  • If two checks succeed, the lift is a partial success, netting the character half the payout. 
  • If all three succeed, the character earns the full payout.

Loot Value 
DC Value 
10 = 5 gp, the purse of a struggling merchant
15 = 10 gp, the purse of a prosperous merchant
20 = 20 gp, the purse of a noble
25 = 100 gp, the purse of one of the richest figures in town

Complications Picking pockets for a living is filled with complications. Roll on the Pick Pocket Complications table (or create a complication of your own) if the character succeeds at only one check. If the character’s rival is involved in crime or law enforcement, roll if the character succeeds on only two checks.

Crime Complications
d10 Complication
1* = A bounty equal to 10 times your earnings is offered for information about your crime.
2* = An unknown person witnessed your crime and threatened to call you out to your victim unless you promised to render a service.
3 = Your victim is beaten up for being unable to pay a debt because of your crime.
4* = Someone who knows of your crime has been arrested on an unrelated crime.
5 = Your loot is a single, easily identified item that you can’t fence in this region.
6 = You robbed from someone who was under a local crime lord’s protection, and who now wants revenge.
7 = Your victim calls in a favor from a guard, doubling the efforts to solve the case.
8 = Your victim approaches one of your adventuring companions asking about you.
9* = A paladin or cleric of justice is keeping their eyes peeled for someone matching your description.
10* = You stole something precious from a beloved figure; everyone in town is looking for you, the thieving scumbag.
*Might involve a rival

A NEW DIRECTION
After the races, the passengers reunited down by the harbor. Apparently, now without job prospects in Port Nyanzaru, asked if she could join the other passengers. She was welcomed back as a friend and colleague.

While they were catching up they heard someone crying nearby. They saw Undril Silvertusk sitting on the edge of a fountain and at the end of her rope. She said she waited in the harbor all day but nobody was around! The others explained that everyone in town was watching the dinosaur races. They further explained that even if there was anyone around, she wouldn't have found any river boats in the harbor. She needed to go to one of the rivers outside of town.

Undril, sweating profusely in her armor, broke down into sobs. She complained that she was a failure! She worried that the brave knights and clergy of the Knights of the Circle would suffer without the important information she had to deliver.

The others suggested hiring a guide. They asked Zindar and the dragon-man showed them to a nearby board containing several notices. Each notice was an bill advertising the services and qualifications of a local wilderness guide. The passengers said they would help Undril hire a guide.

They reviewed the bills posted for each guide. They eventually settled on the cat-folk siblings River Mist and Flask of Wine.


They spent the rest of the late afternoon searching for them in Tiryiki Anchorage but to no avail. The sky was darkening as they made their way through the gap between the ridge and the outside of the wall into Malar's Throat.


Malar's Throat was a steep canyon that flowed downhill to the western bay. The canyon was filled with slums, shanties, and ramshackle structures.  Rickety bridges of rope and wood were suspended overhead. In one large structure they heard loud music and merriment. There they found the pair they sought. One was standing silently on the wall while the other was holding a flagon of tej and recounting a wild story to several interested listeners. They interviewed the quiet one, River Mist. River Mist offered the pair's services for four gold pieces a day each. Alternatively, they'd waive their fee in exchange for a share in the treasure.

Undril had no money on her but she promised that the commander of Camp Righteous would pay them two gold pieces a day each if she was safely delivered to them.

Undril's new friends considered this for a moment.  Undril was just going upriver! She didn't need to hire a guide - they were all experienced travelers with extensive survival skills. They decided to forego traveling with Rhogar and instead they would travel with Undril to Camp Righteous.

Undril agreed.

TO BE CONTINUED...

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

"Aremag" - Tomb of Annihilation, Chapter 1

"I NEVER LOVED YOU"
The sailing ship Karanja sailed south along the northwest coast of Zazamanc towards the Chultan peninsula. Captain Abasi, an ancient mariner with the winkled leathery face from a lifetime at sea,

The Karanja was taking cargo and a handful of passengers from Akwa-Obio to Port Nyanzaru. The passengers included a male human scholar with a strange accent, a bestial theran druid, a human female from Akasa, a b'alam jaguar-man from Bres, and an aarokan noble from the sky-kingdom of Aarokar-Nasaris.

It was the morning of their final day. They would arrive that afternoon. The Bay of Chult lay just ahead. Captain Abasi stared sleepily at the horizon and sighed. He was tired and unusually pensive. Perhaps it was time to retire.

His first mate, Bartholomew, spoke, "Captain. The men and I would like to have a word with you."

Captain Abasi was shaken out of his reverie. He looked around to see his crew, armed with cutlasses and clubs. Bartholomew had drawn his own cutlass.

The first mate continued, "We don't want to pay Aramag's toll! We'd rather take the money and the ship and sail to Jahaka bay."

Captain Abasi stared back in disbelief, "You're speaking madness, Bartholomew! What will you do with these passengers?"

Bartholomew raised his voice to address the passengers, "If they're smart, they'll cooperate. They'll be sold into ransom or slavery. If they resist, then they'll be tossed to the sharks." One of the crewmen approached the b'alam with a pair of manacles, "If you please..."

"This is mutiny, Bartholomew!"

Bartholomew ran Captain Abasi through with his cutlass.

Captain Abasi staggered and stared at his first mate. Bartholomew leaned in and hissed, "I may be your first mate, but I never loved you!"

TOMB OF ANNIHILATION, CHAPTER 1
"AREMAG"

Five travelers journey to Chult
But first they must survive a mutiny
and a mysterious guardian of the sea...

THE PASSENGERS



Nova Scotia Blackman - a black Canadian archaeologist (Human Rogue) from 1920s Earth who was transported from Greenland to the strange continent of Zazamanc. He is searching for a way to return to Earth but has come to appreciate his new home. He is searching for a man named Artus Cimber.


Apparently Jones - a blue-skinned demijin caravan guide and animal trainer (Air Genasi Ranger) from Akasa, the land of sky mountains. She is traveling to Port Nyanzaru to find work as an animal handler.


Bramble Wolf - a theran barbarian wise-man (Razorclaw Shifter Druid) searching for the legendary origin of his tribe.


Qhallebbewk Zriri - an aarokan aristocrat (Aarocockra Ranger) from the sky-city of Aarokar-Nasaris, banished by his noble family for his boorish behavior. He is travelling to Port Nyanzaru hoping to win the approval of his family by accumulating glory and fame.


Xoc-Wik - a b'alam warrior (Tabaxi Fighter) from the jungles of Bres, searching for the person or people responsible for the destruction of his tribe.


THE MUTINY
A mutinous crewman approached Xoc-Wik with a pair of manacles, "Cooperate and no harm will come to you."



The jaguar-man stared incredulously at the crewman and replied in a thick Mazzanian accent, "Oh, I don't think so!" and drew his rapier.

A melee ensued as the passengers proved to be more capable of defending themselves than the mutineers anticipated.

Apparently Jones revealed herself to be no mere caravan master as she unfurled her leather whip and held several mutineers at bay

Nova Scotia Blackman, the strange visitor from another world and time, lashed several mutineers with his own whip before he was knocked unconscious by an opponent using a spyglass as a club.

The druid Bramble swung his staff which cracked upon the skulls of the mutineers with surprising force. After taking down two mutineers, Bramble was himself felled by a villain's cutlass. However, no sooner had he fallen to the deck unconscious than he sprang  back up, brushed himself off, and continued to fight. (DM Note - he rolled a twenty on his first death save)

The noble bird-man Qhallebbewk swooped down and clawed at a mutineer with his talons.

Meanwhile Xoc Wik pierced the hearts of several mutineers with his rapier in one hand and his claws in the other.

The captain fell unconscious and Xoc Wik sprang to the quarterdeck to confront Bartholomew.

The mutiny was ultimately put down and and the passengers took stock of the situation. Nova was wounded but stable. Bramble channeled the power of the nature spirits to heal Nova of his wounds and distributed magical healing berries to the others.

The captain was healed of his wounds and, with the crew dead or subdued, directed the passengers in sailing the ship into the Bay of Chult.

The passengers asked the captain why the crew mutinied. Captain Abasi replied that the crew had no wish to pay the toll to Aremag.

"Who is Aremag?" they asked.

At that moment, the sea heaved. A small island emerged from the waves and steam shot into the sky like a geyser as a massive gnarled head turned a milky eye towards the ship. The passengers held onto the railings as the ship bobbed in the thrashing seas now filled with hungry sharks.

"That," the captain replied, "is Aremag."

AREMAG
The massive dragon turtle settled next to the ship and the seas subsided. A voice that sounded like a geyser boomed in the ancient language of dragons, "TRIBUTE."

The passengers looked to Captain Abasi, "Aremag demands a toll to pass through the Bay of Chult. In exchange, he protects Port Nyanzaru from all pirates and raiders. We usually throw a few hundred gold overboard. That's why the crew mutinied. They figured they could take the ship and the gold toll. There's a chest of gold in my cabin below. Be a good kitty and bring it up, will you?"

Xoc grimaced at the insult but complied. However, he found the chest broken open and empty. He reported his findings to the captain who cursed, "Those fiends! They must have stolen it and hidden it somewhere in the ship. Find it quickly!"

At that, Aremag slapped the ship and caused it to list heavily to one side forcing everyone to grab the railing. "Quickly!" shouted the captain.

The passengers scurried below the decks and rifled through the belongings of the crew. Xoc returned above deck with a sack of 50 gold. The captain directed him to pour it onto the deck.

Aremag hissed, "MORE!!!" and slapped the ship again.

The passengers returned below deck and this time returned with several more sacks. Xoc declared, "I found one!" Apparently declared, "I found a sack!" Bramble declared, "I, uh, I didn't find anything!"

DM Note- I rolled randomly to determine how much gold Aremag required. Aremag demanded 150 gold. I had the players make Perception checks to search for the gold vs a DC of 12. Each successful check found 50 gp. Each round they'd have to make a DEX save vs 12 or be knocked overboard. It was super fairly easy but I didn't want them all killed on their first encounter. 

Meanwhile, Nova was entranced with Aremag, asking the mighty creature a series of probing questions about its history, its intention and motivations, etc. Aremag simply ignored the questions.

Once the new gold was added to the pile, Aremag seemed appeased. The captain ordered them to throw it overboard and Aremag submerged once more beneath the waves.

PORT NYANZARU
The Karanja limped into port late in the afternoon as heavy rains began to pour on the ship and the city. Without a proper crew the Karanja needed assistance pulling alongside the quay. The passengers asked  the captain where they might accommodation as they disembarked. The captain directed them to either Kaya's House of Repose or the Thundering Lizard. 

Nova, Bramble, Xoc, and Qhallebbewk chose to seek room at Kaya's while Apparently, short on funds, bid her farewell and stayed at the Thundering Lizard.

While at Kaya's, the group discussed their next steps. All seemed intent on mounting an expedition into the jungle interior. A young man named Rumble, a local, offered his services as a guide. The group was suspicious of the young man's dogged intentions and repeatedly turned him down.

A well dressed local man intervened and instructed Rumble to move along. The man introduced himself as Rokah and apologized that he couldn't help but overhear a bit of their conversation and their intent to mount an expedition into the interior. He explained that to do that they would need a charter of exploration from the Flaming Fist mercenaries at Fort Belurian.

Rokah explained further that the mercenaries claim dominion over all the jungle lands north of Kitcher's Inlet. They send regular patrols through the area with orders to arrest anyone not carrying a charter of exploration, a passport that costs fifty gold coins. He said that he represented several mercantile interests in Port Nyanzaru who disagree with the Flaming Fist's arrangement. Rokah offered to escort the group to Fort Belurian and cover the cost of the charter. All he asked for in return was for the group to occupy the Flaming Fists, keeping them distracted while he performed some- investigative work on his own elsewhere in the fort.

The group agreed to the terms and Rokah said that they would leave at dawn in two days.

TIRYKI ANCHORAGE
Meanwhile, the rains had stopped and Apparently Jones found her way outside of the city walls to the neighborhood known as Tiryki Anchorage. There she found many animal pens containing many dinosaurs used for riding and beasts of burden. She looked around for a likely place for employment when she saw a hadrosaurus rearing against its handler. The hadrosaurus broke free and began charging down the narrow street.

Apparently Jones rushed out in front of the wild hadrosaurus and managed to get the beast's attention. The hadrosaurus stopped in its tracks. Apparently maintained eye contact with the beast, calming it until she could grab its reins.

The animal's trainer ran up and took the reins, "That was incredible! How did you do that?"

Apparently said that she was a beast handler from Akasa and was looking for work. The trainer introduced himself as Coco and told her to come and talk with his boss.

Coco introduced Apparently to his boss Satebi. Satebi was a fat Chultan with a bald pate and long tight braids. Apparently asked about obtaining work.

Satebi said, "Ever raced a dinosaur before?"

She answered that she hadn't.

Satebi replied, "Doesn't matter. You ride in the race tomorrow. If you survive, you got yourself a job."

Apparently said, "Sounds good. Wait, did you say survive?"

TO BE CONTINUED...

DM Notes-
I'm starting without the main plot because I want the group to get to know Port Nyanzaru and Chult a little more. If we jumped right into the main plot, the group would ignore everything else and do everything they could to head straight towards the mission objective.

So I had everyone be from a foreign land and asked them three questions:

1) where are you from (in relation to my fantasy world)>

2) why can't you go back there?

3) why are you going to Port Nyanzaru?

Almost everyone gave good backstories and reaspms for being in Chult. Where I screwed up was that I allowed everyone to create their OWN reasons to go to Chult. So once they got there, they had a reason to split the party. So now I have to work extra hard on giving them a reason to work together as a team. I admit I didn't think that part all the way through.

Luckily, everyone but Apparently have motivations that conveniently coincide. Now I just need to get Apparently back with the team.

Next week: DINOSAUR RACES!!

"The Adventures of Nova Scotia Blackman" - Tomb of Annihilation, Chapter 0


My name is John Henry Blackman. I was born in Halifax Nova Scotia on August 23rd,1886. I was the youngest child of four girls and two boys. My parents worked hard to give us kids a good education. My grandparents,  Granpa Boone and Meema Rose, were runaway slaves who sought refuge in Canada in the 1860s. I attended the Royal Acadian School and played in the Coloured Hockey League. I graduated with honours from Dalhousie University and earned my PhD in history from Dartmouth. By 1920 I had become the only coloured faculty member at Miskatonic University. My specialty was ancient cultures. I had a special fascination with the so-called lost cultures - Atlantis, Lemuria, Shamballha, Mu, and the like.

In 1920, I led an expedition to Greenland to investigate the discovery of ruins trapped beneath a glacier. Accompanied by my trusty student assistant, Damon Meier, I explored what appeared to be an ancient tomb constructed of black granite. We passed down a long gallery of columns and found a deep shaft with a spiral staircase. 

We descended the staircase and discovered a side chamber. Within the chamber was a shallow basin atop a thick plinth. I nervously entered the chamber followed closely by Meier. 

The basin was filled with a sticky black fluid. I carefully reached out to prod the fluid with my ice axe. To my surprise, the fluid rose up and engulfed me! 

I was enveloped in darkness and unable to breathe. I struggled in vain against the inky substance that had swallowed me. In that last moment before I passed out, I thought I was done for! 

When I awoke, I was lying alone on a flat slab of black stone on a tropical plain. There was no sign of Damon Meier or the black liquid. I had no idea how I might have been transported from frigid Greenland to my current location. 

I explored my surroundings and soon encountered primitive tribes from what I believed at the time to be western Africa. I quickly learned the rudiments of the local language and enlisted their aid in making my return to civilization. To my confusion, they directed me towards the northeast - towards what I believed to be the Sahel and the Sahara. I hesitantly complied and was surprised to encounter a jungle habitat where I expected a desert and a great medieval city on the shores of a northern sea!

It was there in the ancient city of Akwa-Obio that I made a startling discovery - I was no longer on the planet Earth!

It was my great fortune that I stumbled across Akwa-Obio. The city was the home of a library rivaling that of ancient Alexandria and an institution of learning and philosophy like that of Athens. I was among learned scholars and sages. 




I soon learned that I was on the world of Antara - so named because it was the hidden twin of Earth, existing invisibly alongside Earth and accessible via certain locations and arcane rituals. Antara was the source of the many legendary tales of Atlantis, Avalon, Hybrasil, Hyperborea, and Shamballah. Stories of these lands came to Earth via travellers who somehow crossed over and returned.

Antara was a land of magic and monsters populated by all manner of inhuman races and cultures. Somehow I had found myself transported to a world out of the vivid imagination of Jules Verne or Edgar Rice Burroughs!

My own Earthly origin and scholarly background made me somewhat of a celebrity in the Academy of Akwa-Obio. I became friends with the scholarch of the Academy, an old philosopher named Maara Ihe. Maara Ihe gave me shelter and access to the great library. I learned much about the world in which I now inhabited. Throughout this time I continued to search for a way to return home. Others had apparently managed the feat so I was confident that with enough research I could find the way. 

Maara Ihe was elderly and other scholars envied his position. He knew his time as Scholarch of the Academy was coming to an end.

On the day of his death, Maara Ihe warned me that his rivals viewed me as a curiosity to be studied and wished to prevent me from returning home. As soon as he passed they would confine me to my quarters. He told me to flee the city and seek out a man named Artus Cimber.

Artus Cimber was a former student at the Academy who himself had studied the means of crossing over from Antara and Earth. Artus was last seen in the city of Port Nyanzaru in Chult. He told me to seek him there.

With the passing of my mentor I grabbed what little possessions I owned - my leather coat, my wide-brimmed hat, and my trusty leather whip - and fled the city of Awka-Obio.

I booked passage on the ship Karanja travelling to Port Nyanzaru under the command of Captain Abasi.

Along the way we picked up some additional passengers - a motley assortment from across Antara. I have endeavoured to speak with them and learn their strange customs. I feel I have earned their trust and friendship.

I met a woman with blue skin whose name is Apparently Jones - a strange name perhaps hinting at an Earthly origin? She hails from Akasa, a land of floating islands and hovering mountains among which travel flying airships. She was a former crew member on one such airship. She was an animal handler and a skilled huntress. She was travelling to Port Nyanzaru in search of work. One of the other passengers told me that her blue skin is reportedly the result of her unusual parentage - her father is nothing less than a genie, no doubt from 1001 Arabian Nights!

I made the acquaintance of a man named Bramble Wolf. Mr. Wolf possessed dark skin like myself though his features possessed a strangely bestial countenance. Mr. Wolf was a wise-man of an animistic faith, similar to a shaman or witch-doctor on Earth. He described his people as "Therans" and explained that he was travelling to Chult to find the legendary source of his tribe.

One of the most interesting beings I met on my journey was a bird-man named Qhallebbewk Zriri. Mr. Zriri hailed from a noble family of the aerial city of Aarokar-Nasaris in Akasa. Mr. Zriri was a high-born aristocrat. I came to learn that he was the third-born of his house with little prospect of inheritance. His boorish behavior caused some sort of offence at court so his family banished him from the capital city. Ostensibly he was travelling on pilgrimage to all the colonies of Aarokar-Nasaris. In truth he wished only to perform a great act of heroism that would earn him glory and fame sufficient to forgive his transgressions at home.

Finally there was the jaguar-man named Xoc-Wik. Mr. Wik was a warrior from the jungle land of Bres far to the west. His feline people were known as "B'alam". Mr. Wik was an odd fellow with unusual mannerisms. I eventually learned that he was the only survivor of some kind of tribal genocide. He had travelled the world in search of the group responsible for the death of his people. His next destination was Port Nyanzaru.

The journey was uneventful. We were crossing the equator and the skies were clear. Xoc-Wik was the first to notice something was wrong - there was restlessness among the crew. He had noticed them whispering among each other conspiratorially.  Something was afoot.

Thanks to Xoc-Wik's warning, we were prepared for what happened next.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Coming Soon: Tomb of Annihilation!


Starting next week, I will begin blogging about my new Tomb of Annihilation campaign!

Characters have been made but backstories are still being fleshed out. The adventure begins next week with everyone on a boat headed to Port Nyanzaru.

The setting is a homebrew world of my creation - Antara!

Antara is the wider world that includes Agartta, the location of one of my earlier D&D stories. Antara is a parallel world to our Earth, a place of mystery and legend where one may find Atlantis, Avalon, Shamballah, aliens, dinosaurs, and robot men. Antara is heavily inspired by hollow earth legends and Blavatskian Theosophy.

Characters are subject to change but so far we have:

Nova Scotia Blackman - a black Canadian archaeologist (Human Rogue) from 1920s Earth who was transported from Greenland to the strange continent of Zazamanc! He is searching for a way to return to Earth but has come to appreciate his new home. He is delivering a message to one of the merchant princes of Port Nyanzaru.

Apparently Jones - a demijin caravan guide and animal trainer (Air Genasi Ranger) from Akasa, the land of sky mountains. She is traveling to Port Nyanzaru to find work as an animal handler.

Bramble Wolf - a bestial theran barbarian (Razorclaw Shifter Druid) searching for members of his tribe that were captured as slaves.

Qhallebbewk Zriri - an aarokan aristocrat (Aarocockra Ranger) from the sky-city of Aarokar-Nasaris, banished by his noble family for his boorish behavior. He is travelling to Port Nyanzaru hoping to win the approval of his family by accumulating glory and fame.

Xoc Week - a b'alam warrior (Tabaxi Fighter) from the jungle realm of Bres, searching for the person or people responsible for the destruction of his tribe.

As you can see, I'm messing with the races a bit. I wanted to give the campaign world a more personal touch so I re-skinned all the races with new names and new cultural backgrounds. I wanted the setting to feel more original, more personal, than just inserting D&D races and names. It also allows my players and myself to be much more free in creating histories and personalities for their characters and their cultures.


Likewise, the setting itself. I wanted the freedom to inject things like aliens, time-lost Nazis, and steampunk inventors, so I created what is basically a hollow world setting - but without the constant sun and actual hollow world. My world can be described as "Land of the Lost" meets "Gor" - without the slavery fetish.

More world information is forthcoming - but that info exists primarily to give the characters someplace from which to be. The real action will take place in Chult on the continent of Zazamanc!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tomb of Annihilation Mini-Review


I picked up Temple of Annihilation last Saturday and have so far read the first few chapters and skimmed the rest.

My VERY brief non-spoiler review so far: I really like it.

It's set on the tropical jungle land of Chult. So no traditional European fantasy tropes - no elves or halflings or dwarves (at least not traditional ones). The human inhabitants are people of color and the non-humans are interesting and non-traditional.

The land is populated with dinosaurs, undead, and interesting non-traditional monsters from the original Fiend Folio (firenewts, jaculi, kamandas, flail-snails, and other favorites).

The story is somewhat smaller in scope. You don't have to save the world this time. You are hired by a wealthy person to find the artifact that's slowly killing her. She doesn't know how long she has to live but the experts with whom she's consulted say its only a few months. I like that the stakes are smaller.

The campaign is basically an unmapped sand-box setting with a number of interesting locations to explore in your search for clues that will lead you to the macguffin. The PCs explore ancient ruins, lost cities, crypts, etc. filled with Indiana Jones-style traps and puzzles in their search for the macguffin.

Also, it's only levels 1-10/11 so, unlike the other 5E D&D hardcover books, you don't have to plan an entire campaign around this one story. Only half a campaign.

The macguffin makes things a little more difficult for the players. You can't regain maximum hit point loss (from all the undead roaming Chult), death saves are 15+, and Raise Dead is off the table.

My only complaint so far is that the players aren't given a lot of leads at the beginning. They're told, "The Soulmonger is located somewhere in a land the size of Indonesia. Go there and find it and destroy it. BTW- in case you want to be paid, I have only a few months left to live."

That's not a lot to go on. You start off in the region's only city. There's not a lot of clues that point you in the right direction. The campaign assumes you just blindly start exploring cities/ruins looking for it until you come across clues that lead you to the right place. But the players don't know that at the start, so the lack of direction can seem daunting.

There are a LOT of interesting little side-adventures that have nothing to do with the main macguffin. My challenge is to point players towards as many side-adventures as I can without the players feeling like they're wasting time. I might remove the ticking clock aspect and replace it with "somewhere in the ruins of Chult is an ancient artifact that will give me eternal life - even after I die. Bring it back to me and I'll pay you a king's ransom!" That will keep them searching every nook and cranny.

My second complaint is more personal and has spoilers.

The campaign takes characters to an updated version of Dwellers of the Forgotten City (an old AD&D module) and an updated version of Tomb of Horrors (also and old AD&D module). This isn't problematic per se, except that I just ran my OWN version of an updated Dwellers of the Forgotten City in my own dinosaur- jungle campaign setting in 2015! So my players might say, "Hey.... waitaminute!"

My third complaint is the map design, which has a white hexgrid overlaid on top of a map with a lot of tiny detail in it, makes it difficult to read.
The big poster map of Chult
I would have preferred a plain flat color map without the unnecessary detail.

Favorite bits so far:

Almiraj

Dinosaur beasts of burden


Betting on dinosaur races



The blank Player's map of Chult - meant to be filled in as explored.


The default start is in Baldur's Gate with traditional D&D PCs or even existing characters. Syndra Silvane hires them to find the missing relic somewhere in Chult and teleports them to Port Nyanzaru.

I rather prefer starting in Port Nyanzaru with non-traditional PC races from Volo's Guide.

  • Human
  • Tabaxi
  • Aaracockra
  • Warforged
  • Goliath
  • Merfolk
  • Genasi
  • Kenku
  • Dragonborn
  • Lizardfolk
  • Firbolg
  • Shifter



They're not NATIVE to Chult, but they all find themselves in this exotic port of call for various reasons. Has a very Tales of the Golden Monkey vibe.

I'm going to have the characters start in Port Nyanzaru at level 1 and have them do some random exploration adventures PRIOR to hearing from Syndra Sylvane at all. We'll just play D&D in Chult for levels 1-5, having fun with Chapter 1 and 2. Then, once at level 5, the Death Curse kicks in. Twenty days into the Death Curse, only THEN will I have Syndra Sylvane hire the PCs to find the Soulmonger.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Check out Galaxy Pirates

Be sure to check out Galaxy Pirates - Enlightenment Gear Book One: Armor and Weapons  by Evil Robot Games (with help from Atomic Rocket Games).


It is available as pay-what-you-want. It provides eight suits of armor, three firearms, and thirteen armor and weapon enhancements for Pathfinder science fiction.

This is a trial product meant to solicit feedback and will be retooled once Starfinder is released.

Full disclosure: This is not a review. Nor is it a paid endorsement. I am not involved with the production of this book whatsoever but I am long-time friends with both authors Paul Fields and Jim Milligan.