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Archive for the ‘Flavor text’ Category

Hanging around on twitter as I often do, I came across a response to a NewbieDM blogpost where he talked about the benefits of just playing around with your dungeon tiles to see what you can make, and them using that location in your game (http://newbiedm.com/2009/09/22/playing-with-my-dungeon-tiles/). I think I already got a little more mileage out of my tiles than Newbie, as I’ve used smatterings of them here and there since I first bought them, but always the other way around – location first, and then trying to make the tiles fit it. I have to say that Newbie’s approach is another one of those genius ‘duh! Of course!‘ moments, usually accompanied by a slapping of the forehead. While I probably won’t do it for every encounter or locale, I’m hoping to see some great benefits to my game, with some fully fleshed out areas made with tiles. I paid for them, why not use them to good effect!

This brings me to my second adaptation for dungeon tiles, also stolen from NewbieDM (http://newbiedm.com/2009/09/23/adding-a-new-third-dimension-to-dungeon-tiles/). As the man has done, I’ve just gotten some cotton spools from my local craft store (in my Australian case, Spotlight). Now, I was originally disheartened to find that I couldn’t buy a consistent size – the packs all seemed to have various sizes! I thought I’d try them anyway, and after a little experimentation, I’m really quite happy with the results! The adjusted sizes have given me a number of different ‘pillars’ that can be used, not only to hold up second levels, but also as set dressing. Firstly, they can make good inn tables, or the little ones can be the table ‘legs’ for the Harrowing Halls tiles:

Acting as the table itself...

...and as the legs of the table

Below is a quick slapped together dungeon room displaying the usage of the ‘cotton-reel pillars’:

The three types of pillar I was able to make with some wood glue and a quick coat of paint

Overview

The shifter finds the best spot to evade the beholder...

...and the dwarven sorceror ducks behind a pillar...

...while the dragonborn fighter races up the stairs to the beholder...

...while the dragonborn fighter races up the stairs to face the beast!

And, as usual, the evil mage (both literally and figuratively behind it all)

Meanwhile, the evil mage (who is both literally and figuratively, behind it all), looks on.

So there you have it. My contribution to Newbie’s awesome idea. Shine on you golden stallion! The only issue I have with the greatness of the 3D tiles is that they make everything on your map else that isn’t look kind of… flat (oh yeah, you saw it coming). True story though. Have any experience playing with 3D tiles? Had to adapt your playstyle or even make a few house rules to suit?

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Yes, we have clerics, paladins, avengers and invokers, but when I got this guy into my head, I just couldn’t resist putting him down on digital paper.  As per our last flavor-class, the Necromancer, this class is based on one already published; in this case the bard, as found in the PHB2. I don’t want to reprint the great work that WotC have already done, and so I have only posted by changes to the mechanics, as well as all the new flavor-text.

And so, coming to a game table near you, bringing with him promises of fire, brimstone and eternal damnation is…

The Preacher

“And lo! The fiery flame of Pelor did come down and smite the heathen Oni; and it was good.”

Class traits

Role: Leader. Your commands condemn enemies and absolve allies; so powerful are your words that you can re-order battlefields to your liking, making controller a good secondary role

Power source: Divine. You translate The Word of your God and inflict it’s mighty resonance on the heathen.

Key abilities: As per the bards.

Armor profiencies: As per the bards.

Weapon proficiencies: Simple melee, military melee, simple ranged.

Implements: Holy symbols (book of commandments).

Bonus to defense: +1 Fortitude, +1 Will

Hit Points at 1st level: 12 + Constitution score

Hit Points gained level: 5

Healing surges per day: 7 + Constitution modifier

Trained skills: Religion. Choose three more from the bards skill list, substituting endurance for acrobatics.

Class features: Book of Commandments, Steadfast Morality, Words of Absolution, Words of Damnation, Resolute, Preaching to the Converted.

Preachers are often found in the harshest climates in the most hostile regions. There’s is a life of both servitude and command; bringing The Word of their God to the farthest and darkest reaches of the world, whether it is welcomed or not. More than just a mouthpiece, preachers learns to defend themselves early, or risk becoming the one thing that any preacher fears: silenced.

Because of the hostility they often face, preachers make use of arms and armour, but often all they need is one thing: their book of commandments. This book contains the divine edicts of their God and is as inseparable to a preacher as is his head or arms.

Following in the footsteps of the ancient Order of the Inquisition, a preacher holds vows and promises to be truths without question; let no one stand in the path of a preacher who has vowed to aid the wretched, and clense the wicked.

Book of Commandments

You gain the Ritual Caster feat as a bonus feat, allowing you to use magical rituals. You own a book of commandments (ritual book), and it contains two rituals that you have mastered: Comprehend Language and another 1st-level ritual.

Steadfast Morality

The Gods are at once kind and merciful, as well as damning and vengeful. Preachers are masters at interpreting their God’s commands, and often find themselves playing the role of creator or destroyer in lieu of their God’s actual presence.

Choose one of the following options. The choice you make gives you the benefit described below and also provides bonuses to certain preacher commands, as detailed in those powers.

Word of the Sword: As per Virtue of Cunning

Word of the Shield: As per Virtue of Valor

Words of Absolution

As per a bards majestic word.

Words of Damnation

As per the bards Words of Frienship, only with intimidate, as opposed to diplomacy.

Resolute

Instead of the bards multiclass and skill versatilities, you gain a +5 feat bonus to saves against fear or charm.

Preaching to the converted

As per the bards ‘song of rest’, only reading from your book of commandments, rather than singing or playing an instrument.

Implements

Holy symbols. A preacher’s book of commandments can be used as a holy symbol, upgraded by priests of his or her God for the same price as it would be to buy a holy symbol of the same level.

Preachers and Deities

Preachers are the devotees of a single God, choosing their Word above all others. Some go as far as actively shunning the worship of any other deity; most, however, are content to merely champion their own cause. Their worship goes beyond simple ideas of morality or social code; those who stand against them are to be condemned or smited, whether evil overlord or agnostic but pleasant nobleman.

This strict devotion has led to many preachers getting a feared reputation, and there have been instances where preachers have actively tried to stamp out all life who do not share the same views as themselves. Beyond these dangerous individuals, there are many other preachers who bring both the Word, as well as supplies, medicine and education to struggling societies.

Preacher Powers

Preacher powers are called commands. Any creatures with a mouth and at least some brain activity can speak, but a preacher’s orders are charged with divine resonance, and as such carry weight unlike any other.

Anywhere you see the arcane keyword on a bardic power, replace that keyword with divine.

Level 1 At-Will Commands

Find Fault (as per Guiding Strike)

You face your foe and easily determine from where it’s moral corruption stems; even if they didn’t realise it themsleves.

Proclaim Executioner (as per Misdirected Mark)

You charge one of your allies with the task of bringing due wrath to a condemned sinner.

Condemn (as per Vicious Mockery)

Your words ring out true and laiden with damnation; the wretch you direct them at feels their confidence peeling away beneath your gaze.

Shepherd the Flock (as per War Song Strike)

You lead the attack against an enemy, rewarding those who follow your guidance.

Level 1 Encounter Commands

Path of Tears (as per Blunder)

You order an enemy to walk the Path of Tears, hoping pain will force it to see the wrror of it’s ways.

Saving Grace (as per Fast Friends)

Your words illuminate the inherant goodness in youself or an ally – so radiant is the image, that even hated enemies are given pause when raising their swords.

Call to Inquisition (as per Inspiring Refrain)

As your weapon finds it’s target, so your words find theirs – in the hearts of your allies.

Whisper The Word (as per Shout of Triumph)

You utter the slightest noise, reciting a small fraction of the Word of your God, the resonance of which allows you to reshape the battlefield.

Level 1 Daily Commands

Promote to Inquisitor (as per Echoes of the Guardian)

You call on your allies, infusing them with the words of the Inquisitors and bidding them to carryout their divine duty.

Ongoing Judgement (as per Slayer’s Song)

You make your way across the battlefield, judging each enemy in turn, and finding each as reprehensible as the last.

Righteous Strength (as per Stirring Shout)

The call for purification has been made, let those who heed their duty be rewarded.

March of the Inquisition (as per Verse of Triumph)

You begin reciting the holy names of the ancient Order of the Inquisition; as you proceed, their spirits appear, guiding you and your allies to victory!


There is is. The first level of the Preacher flavour-class. Personally, I’d love to see a longtooth shifter Preacher, fighting his own feral nature and taking that self-hate out on the enemies who stand in his way. What’re your thoughts?

Happy role-ing!

Bardic Training, Bardic Virtue, majestic word, Multiclass Versatility, Skill Versatility, Song of Rest, words of friendship

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Alright, firstly, I see you’re wondering what a ‘flavor-class’ is – well, it’s a new class which uses the mechanics of an old one! This is so for two reasons: firstly, the folks at WOTC have done a great job with their classes already in my opinion – the mechanics are sound and I don’t want to mess with them too much. Secondly, making a class like this means that any tight-fisted DMs will be more likely to let you use the class in game!

The following class is based off of the paladin class, found in the PHB1. This means that, unless otherwise noted, you’ll be using the stats for that class. There are some mechanical changes found herein, but this is an example of how a class can be very different with just a change of flavor.

So, without further adieu, introducing….

The Necromancer

“I am the omega, champion of life’s conclusions. Your vitality is forfeit, your death is my pleasure.”

 Class traits

Role: Defender

Power source: Necrotic. You are a life-drinker, your very touch can weaken and corrode.

Key abilities: Intelligence, Charisma, Wisdom.

Armor profiencies: Cloth, leather, hide, chainmail, scale, plate*; light shield, heavy shield.  *(see special)

Weapon proficiencies: Simple melee, military melee, simple ranged.

Implements: Maces, wands.

 

Bonus to defense: +1 Fortitude, +1 Reflex, +1 Will

Hit Points at 1st level: 15 + Constitution score

Hit Points gained level: 6

Healing surges per day: 10 + Constitution modifier

Trained Skills: Religion. From the class skills list below, choose three more trained skills at first level.

Class skills: Arcana (Int), Bluff (Cha), Endurance (Con), Heal (Wis), History (Int), Insight (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Perception (Wis).

Special: A necromancer’s armor may not be of the conventional sort – instead of spending money to buy unreliable metal armaments, a necromancer may purchase or find certain regents or spell components that allow them to create hardened bone armor, or encase their bodies in swirling spirits who’s incorporeal nature passes much damage coming their way off into the shadowfell or some forgotten realm. Of course, this special armor would have the same cost and benefits of its more mundane counterparts, but fits with the character idea much more readily.

Students of death and the dying arts, necromancers are feared opponents on the battlefield, excelling in pain, weakness and the trade of life. To them, vitality is little more than a currency to be borrowed or stolen from enemies, and then utilized for their own ends. Often fearsome to behold, to see one wading through your front lines is often enough to sink even the most ardent hearts.

Though fuelled by necrotic energies, your real power comes from your own self-belief: not only are you strong enough of will to wield such potent, forbidden magic, but it is yours by right! Where others waver and wonder, your motivation is pure and simple, and your confidence is your strength. While others bicker and argue about sentiments like morality or virtue, you’re putting your not inconsiderable talents toward getting the job done; whatever it is you’ve decided that job entails.

Show the forces that oppose you the folly of their convictions for, just as death is inevitable, so too is your indomitable will!

Creating a Necromancer

Necromancers are intelligent, sly and willful individuals; as such, they rely most on the Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma scores, though a little Constitution will certainly help your necromancer stay in the battle for longer. Depending on what drives your necromancer, these dark exemplars often focus on besting their foes in the physical world, or calling on their allies from other realms.

Reaping Necromancer (as per Avenging Paladin)

Your foes fall before you like the chaff at harvest. Each enemy you end only spurs you onward to further victories!

Gravetongue Necromancer (as per Protecting Paladin, with bluff instead of diplomacy)

Though all necromancer’s may commune with the dead, you have a particular talent for commanding the spirits which surround us all.

Implement

Necromancers often use a physical focus to draw power from the shadowfell and other places. Like other spellcasters, necromancers may use a wand as such a focus, but it is the mace, a symbol of subjugation and raw power, that has come to represent this dark character more than any other weapon.

Necromancers and Deities

Necromancers are not usually born so, and many come to their unique talents through solo research, or at the guidance of a secretive cabal or lone tutor. Many serve more powerful beings such as Orcus, Vecna or Asmodeus, though some serve no deities, only themselves. These individuals, driven by their own wills and desires, are not bound by dogma or ritual, and as such often find themselves with power not possessed by their more subservient counterparts.

Good necromancers are fewer still, and more often fall under the category of ‘reformed’. These individuals seek to turn their talents against their former allies, or even against their past deities! Though often mistrusted by those they would adventure with, a necromancer is not unaccustomed to cold receptions, as well as overcoming great tasks alone.

Necromancer class features

Necrotic Surge (as per the Paladins ‘Channel Divinity’ power)

Oncer per encounter, the necromancer calls upon long dead spirits or pure necrotic energy which they then bend to their will.

Necrotic Surge: Dispell Afflictionas per ‘Divine Mettle’, with Intelligence subsituted for Charisma)

With a vast knowledge of things that cause pain and weakness, you put your talents into removing such an affliction, rather than causing it.

Necrotic Surge: Spirit Linked (as per ‘Divine Strength’, with Charisma substituted for Strength)

Incensed by your will alone, nearby spirits drive your next attack home.

Deathmark (as per the Paladins ‘Divine Challenge’ feature)

With a wave of your hand, a nearby enemy is seared with a symbol unique to each necromancer; no matter the creature’s ability to communicate or percieive the word around them, all beings understand the empty chill that means they have been chosen for death.

Transfer life (as per the Paladins ‘Lay on Hands’ feature)

Understanding that, on rare occasions, others may need to be relied upon, the necromancer siphons some of their own life to ensure an ally remains standing.

Necromancer Powers

Necromancer powers are called siphons – that is, they siphon energy from elsewhere; either from the shadowfell, nearby corpses, or from their enemies themselves! They are also attuned to the echoes of life that surround us all. These ‘spirits’ can be used in a myriad of ways, and are often the source of some potent siphons.

When manifesting itself, a necromancer’s necrotic energy could be green and swirling, red and stark, purple, screaming skulls or whatever you like. As it is driven by the will of the caster themselves, most necromancers have their own, particular signature that emerges by itself.

Though based on the paladin prayers, anywhere you see the Strength modifier used in your PHB, substitute the Intelligence modifier for your necromancer. Furthermore, substitue ‘necrotic’ anytime you see ‘divine’ or ‘radiant’ used as a  keyword.

Level 1 At-Will Siphons

Life Drain (as per Bolstering Strike)

As you beat your enemy into submission, you steal their life force, using it to remain standing long enough to beat them some more.

Sapping blow (as per Enfeebling Strike)

Your enemies are not only left bleeding from your attacks, they find you take a portion of their vitality as payment for the honor of standing against you.

Death seeker (as per Holy Strike)

Your weapon finds your enemy more readily, driven by your solemn promise to bring the creature peace eternal.

Vengeful guidance (as per Valiant Strike)

The fools think they have you trapped, but with so much raw life around you, it’s like being in a candy store… of death.

Level 1 Encounter Siphons

Softened resolve (as per Fearsome Smite)

With the touch of your weapon, your opponent feels the cold inevitability of their own grave; suddenly their own weapon feels heavier in their hands as their strength falters.

Incorporeal Attack (as per Piercing Smite)

Your weapon becomes momentarily etherieal, passing through armor as if it didn’t exist. As it collides with an enemy, it releases spirits trapped between words who seek out and inhabit the necromancer’s enemies.

Grave barrage (as per Radiant Smite)

Your weapon is driven forward by the presence of life-hating spirits who wish to share their burden of death.

Entrails’ armor (as per Shielding Smite)

As parts of your enemy are disjointed from the whole by your weapon, you use their essence to form a makeshift breastplate for a nearby ally.

Level 1 Daily Siphons

Bone talon (as per On Pain Of Death)

A crushing hand of bone rips through the ether and grasps one of your enemies, reaching deep into their flesh. The bone has but one command; bring the pain to those who seek you harm.

Vital transference (as per Paladin’s Judgment)

With the touch of your weapon, you steal the life force of an enemy, and send it to someone you deem more worthy.

Soul beacon (as per Radiant Delirium)

There are many malicious spirits in the world, and you convince them to turn their hatred toward an enemy; the feast is on. Flitting between corporeal and incorporeal forms, they stab, grab, bite and tear at your foe, and their horrible countenance remains with your enemy long after they have disappeared.

So, there you have it, the first level of a new flavor-class! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to let me know. Perhaps there is another class you’d like to see rediscovered, or maybe you’d like some more of the paladin’s powers flavored-up this way? I’d love to know what you think if you’ve played this class in your own game.

Happy role-ing!

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Here there be beasties!

Today you’ll find a couple of beasties your party of adventurers might run into. Obviously ever encounter is different, but there might be a couple of sentences here or there you can use.

Gravehound

Leathery, patches of fur do a poor job of covering the haggard remains of sodden flesh. Dry, cracked sinews of what used to be muscle are stretched taut over jagged bones and a long, gurgled growl shudders through yellowed, rotten, canines. Beyond all of this however are the eyes – hollow black orbs which stare direct and unflinching; eyes that have seen death and now prophesise your own.

Optional extras (to be read before the above description):

(City, foggy night): Quick, light footsteps patter through the wispy haze; though soft, each is crisp and distinct in the silence of the cobblestone alleyways. They stop. The silhouette of a large dog stands proud through the fog, but as the wind lifts and the veil dissolves, you quickly realise that this is no ordinary stray.

(Forest, night): The feint calls of birds and growls from the underbrush were hardly noticeable, until they suddenly disappeared. The forest was thrown into a deathly silence before it, too, was desecrated. A long, hollow howl stabbed through the darkness, breathing an almost tangible chill on your flesh. Three, wolf-shaped creatures now stand just at the edge of your lamp-light.

Cyclops (cave mouth ambush)

A yell, unruly and savage, shatters any stillness in the world. Erupting from the cave mouth and barrelling toward you, a giant, one-eyed humanoid continues his murderous yell; his singular pupil pointed directly at you. He carries a shield, but leads with a massive, obviously well used, battleaxe.

Optional extras :

(Ridge surprise): On a plateau above the cave mouth, accessible by a narrow path, four more cyclops’ appear. These don’t wield the axes of their brethren, but instead hold ballista-bolt sized spears. They hold them aloft, waiting for the perfect moment to bring them down upon you like some angry thunder God.

(Leader revealed (storm shaman)): A sudden crack of thunder rings loud over the battlefield from within the cave. Stepping out of the darkness comes another cyclops, this one draped in ornate stones and jewels the size of your fist. It carries a staff which, at the cyclops’ behest, crackles with lightning, as does the creature’s one, frightful eye, which it now ruefully turns to you.

Gelatinous cube (if the DC25 perception check is made)

Before you sits a pulsing, throbbing cube, about three quarters the size of a human on any side. It slurps loudly as it’s translucent form shudders. The smell takes a moment to hit you, but when it does, it’s hard not to wretch at the sickening intake of such soiled, fetid air. You can’t see any eyes or ears, but even so, the filthy thing begins to move toward you, leaving a slimy trail in its wake.

Optional extras :

(Upon being engulfed): The first sensation is the burning. All of your exposed skin feels as if it’s suddenly engulfed in flame, and you can taste blood. Then comes another realisation; there is no possibility of breath inside this thick, porridge of death – something you will soon be a part of if you cannot escape.

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The following is a skill challenge that I ran for my players last session. It was our first skill challenge and, overall, it ran rather well. The session ran for four hours, with this section of the session taking up three quarters of that (that said, we’re a fairly easy going group. A more focussed posse could knock it off much quicker).

Feel free to use this encounter as it is, or more likely merely pilfer it for any ideas that you may be able to use. I’ve not included any of the stats for creatures they encountered or DCs they were supposed to meet, as I don’t want the challenge to be tied to a particular level range. Instead, the DM should use their discretion and imagination to come up with appropriate numbers. So, without further adieu:

Pursuing the Kobolds

In this challenge, the PC’s are tracking a group of kobolds through an ever-darkening forest. There are a number of ‘stages’, with two rolls being made at each stage. The PC’s move on to the next stage whether these rolls were successful or not. Of course, there are consequences if they fail their rolls (usually combat encounters). This encounter can be adapted for any location or quarry. 

When I ran this challenge, I had each player roll initiative. The player with the highest intiative went first, as per usual, but then I had the player on their left take their turn, and so on around the table. This was to try and keep the game moving as everyone knew when their turn was coming.

On their turns, players were read the scene descriptions (written below) and were asked to make a skill check (described below). If these skill checks met the required DC (as determined by the DM), the check was marked off as a success! If not, a failure was recorded. 12 successes must be accrued before 5 failures.

For the record, my players failed. This meant that, instead of being able to sneak up on the kobolds they were pursuing, they found themselves dropped right into the middle of their camp! To make matters worse, they were seperated. Likewise, you need to find a way to ensure that your players are penalised if they fail five checks, but the game still needs to move forward.

Primary skills

The following three skills may be used at any point in the chase. They represent the basic abilities required to follow the fleet footed kobolds and are freely explained to the players at the beginning of the challenge:

Nature (the PC asks the forest a question, and it answers in its own way)

Athletics (the PC pushes forward, aiding or inspiring the less able to follow)

Perception (a PC spots the kobolds up ahead, this can be used for only one success each section)

In order to avoid the trap of arbitrary rolling, there are examples inlcuded here of just how the PCs use each skill to further their objective; there are innumerable ways that these skills can be put into practice, besides the instances above.  Have the players give their own descriptions of their character’s actions before they roll. They say they’re going to use their nature skill because their druid has a great bonus is that skill? Sure! But how? Does he or she notice that the birds in a certain direction have stopped calling, meaning something is moving that way? Perhaps the fighter, ever athletic, attempts to scout ahead and report back to the slower members of the group? 

Try to facilitate the players as much as possible here. If they ask if there is a large three they can shimmy up to get a good perspective, say ‘Of course!’ Don’t slow the action down with a climb check, just have them describe their character’s spirited scramble up the ancient oak, then have them roll their skill challenge check. Good examples of roleplaying can (and should) be rewarded with a +2 bonus to the this roll.

Optional skills

Allow your players to use any skills they may have to pursure the kobolds, as long as it makes sense in the scene. Let them know that this is a possibility before the challenge begins. An example might be that the wizard wants to use arcana. If the player can justify using such the skill (For example: “My character recalls some lycanther dust that he has on his person. It’s a rare ingredient that’s said to be the toes of medusa victims ground into a powder. I’m not certain if that’s true, if you toss it in the air just so, it’s said to fall in the direction of whe’re you’re supposed to be headed.”), then by all means let them use it! Using elements of the scene described in the descriptions should also be encouraged.

If they can’t explain their use of the skill, have them use one of the set skills until they can. Each player can only earn one success throughout the challenge in this way, though they may attempt the roll numerous times if they fail.

Further to this, there are ‘hidden skills’ listed in each section which, if used, count as two successes if passed, and only one failure otherwise. The players should be made aware of this, but not what the skills are. This should encourage them to try out different skills and get their noggins workin’.

Failures

The consequences of failure should be two things: fitting and light. This requires the DM to think outside the box a little, and improvise a lot. If you’re expecting your players to do this throughout the challenge, then you should be able to provide examples! Have an encounter or two prepared for each section, just in case the need arises, and try to reflect the nature of the scene with the encounter (a water elemental at the dam, for a quick example). To make things more interesting and vivid though, try to have the actions of the PC’s determine the encounter!

To illustrate this point, the wizard decides that they have that powder above and you let them use their arcana check for their attempt. They fail to meet the DC – what’s the result? Well, you could just roll an arbitrary random encounter and be done with it, but where’s the fun there? How about, instead of the dust falling harmlessly to the ground, it forms into a couple of stone golems right amidst the party! Now, of course, you haven’t prepared for this happenstance, but if you have a few tools on hand (ie: the ‘Monster stats by level’ and ‘Damage by level’ tables on pages 184 and 185 of the DMG), then you can quickly create a duo of makeshift golems for them to battle!

Keep the encounters light. This is important because there may be a lot of them to get through. The battles should be there  to whittle away resources and make the final encounter with the kobolds more interesting. It’s better for the players to breeze through an encounter rather than be bogged down by it. If they ask, allow the players to take a short rest at the end of an encounter, but they’ll incur a failure if they do so.

Finally, if the players fail five times, it’s up to the DM to continue the challenge or not. If it looks like everyone is having fun, have the players continue! Now however, instead of catching up with the kobolds, they’re just trying to survive their environs! After they make it through the six sections, they may make it to the camp (as my players did) or they may just make it out of the forest.

If it makes more sense, or if you’d just like to move the game forward, have them abandon the challenge. Beaten and battered, the PCs limp back to the nearest town. They may engage in a combat encounter on the way, or they may not. The point is that they have lost the kobolds, and with them, whatever they were pursuing them for…

Stage descriptions

Below are the stage descriptions. Read each aloud to the players after they’ve reached that stage of the journey. Remember, two checks must be made in each section, but the PC’s move forward regardless of whether they pass or fail these checks.

Stage 1: Into the forest

The trees here are strong and thick, and birds chirp happily as dainty sunlight filters through the emerald canopy above. If you weren’t pursuing a group of murderous kobolds, it would be a nice place for a picnic.

Example encounters: mundane animals (bears, wolves etc), bandits, kobold decoys.

Stage 2: The path ends

Hidden skill: Dungeoneering (to tell which prints belong to the kobolds)

You come to a well-used waterhole. There are tracks leading to and from every direction. It’s obvious the kobolds came through here, but their trail becomes lost on.

 Example encounters: Water elemental, crocodile,  satyrs.

Note: If your PCs ever encounter intelligent opposition, such as the satyrs, always give them the opportunity to reason (or buy) their way out of combat. Not every meeting has to end in death. And who knows, they may even be able to garner some assistance from these scheming creatures of the forest…?

Stage 3: Cliff of insanity

Hidden skill: Acrobatics (to, obviously, climb the cliff)

You catch sight of the kobolds just as they disappear over the top of a steep cliff. A small trail runs up it; big enough for a kobold, perhaps, but the foot and handholds are far too small for anything larger. The cliff face is dotted here and there with halfling sized holes that the kobold path seems to deliberately avoid.

Example encounters: giant spiders, stirges, bats, harpies.

Note: Remember that, if climbing the face of the cliff, the PCs will need to make climb checks when taking damage in this encounter to avoid falling. Try to give lower level PCs a break by having them slide to the bottom of the cliff, taking half damage, rather that the usual falling damage – if not, the battle, and adventure, could be over quickly!

Stage 4: Battlescene

Hidden skill: Arcana (to read the residual energy)

It’s obvious you’re well away from soft meadows or sunny glades now. The forest is overgrown and wild; the bird calls have given away to strange growls and the tress, instead of sitting pristinely, now loom menacingly over you. There are a few slain spiders here, their forms twisted violently. Sprawled in the dust next to them what’s left of a bloodied kobold, obviously the point-guard, remains motionless as the last of his insides trickle out of his body.

Example encounters: the dead spiders’ living relatives, more exotic animals (owlbear, worgs, displacer beasts etc),  treant.

Note: Substitute the dead spiders with whatever creature you used in your cliff-face encounter (if any).

Stage 5: The ghosts who walk

Hidden skills: Diplomacy or Bluff (the ghosts will attack if intimidated)

You find yourself surrounded by a bleak landscape. The trees are gangly, thin and decaying; their black forms stand starkly against a wispy fog that has settled between them. More startling than all of this, however, are the ghostly spectres which drift lazily through the trees. They seem to be human soldiers, though if they bear you or each other any ill-will, they make no indication of the fact.

Example encounters: the ghosts (obviously), zombies or skeletons (not everyone there is spectral, or the ghosts need a vehicle), soul-spike devourer.

Note: The spectres give no indication that they even know the PCs are there. If the PCs want to engage with one, have them describe the spirit to you and, of course, roleplay the interaction.

Stage 6: Swamp of sorrows

Hidden skill: Stealth (the PC’s are nearing the kobold camp)

Your footfalls begin to squelch underfoot as the ground becomes marshy and sodden. Pretty soon your boots begin disappearing below the muck you trawl through, and you’re certain that slimy things grasp at them before slithering away. The air smells fetid and there are no animal sounds of any kind.

Possible encounters: Vine horror, vampire spawn, swampsunk choker (like a feygrove choker, only swampier)

Stage 6: Swamp of sorrows

At the end of the challenge, its the DMs job to guage how well they did. If they did very well, they may feel wronged to cheat them out of some advantage during the final confrontation with the kobolds, even if you’ve set it up to be the hardest thing they’ve ever faced. If they failed, well, again that’s up to the DM. you don’t want to scare the players away from any future skill challenges however, as you’d be missing out on what could be a great story development tool!

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them.

Until next time!

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As the title says, let’s get into it, shall we? Today we’ll have one item, location and NPC for you to use, modify and integrate as you see fit. In the future we’ll have more of these, as well as power and PCs for your pleasure!

 

Item – Dragonbone scimitar

Carved from a single piece of bone, this curved blade is both durable and sharp. Though thicker than most metal swords of the same design, flesh and armour seem to peel away willingly touch of this weapon. It wouldn’t win any contests for the most graceful looking armament, but it’s jagged lines and simple, cloth-bound hilt do invoke a less refined word: pain.

The Dragonbone Scimitar is a good weapon for a barbarian-type PC, or even a dedicated dragon hunter, cut from the body of their first kill, perhaps? It could merely use the stats for a regular scimitar, or perhaps grants extra damage based on the dragon it came from? It could be devastating in this way if two are wielded simultaneously, each from a different beast. (Further keywords: slice, tear, sever, slash, peel, skin, flay)

 

Location – Cellar

The cellar smells of dank earth and stale wine. Thin strips of candlelight from the room above strike through slits in the wooden ceiling, and by the modest light they provide you can make out the form of large casks, stacked awkwardly on top of each against the opposite wall. The air is still and cool on the skin.

This small cellar is a good place for the PC’s to wake up after being knocked unconscious, or actively explore, looking for the secret entrance to some underground hideout. It might be a good ‘clean out the infestation’ kind of quest for relatively inexperienced players, which could lead to exploring a larger cavern. Remember to play upon the dim light, giving players without their own light sources or the appropriate senses a -2 to attack rolls.

Optional extras:

– There is a slow, droning creak as the something heavy steps on a loose board upstairs.  (Further keywords: muffled, groaning, footsteps, voices)

– There is a faint, hurried sound, like hundreds of fingers being tapped against a tabletop at once. They stop suddenly and then there, in the darkness, shining with a luminosity all of their own, are seven, red, orb-like eyes. (Further keywords: darting, streaking, biting, stingng, striking)

– As your eyes adjust to the darkness, you become aware of another smell – this one is unmistakable. It’s the grim miasma of rotting flesh; the sour stench of the dead. (Further keywords: gaunt, sodden, soiled, tattered)

 

NPC – Hognin Closecage, halfling hunter

The halfling is short, even for one of his kind, but he manages to seem as if he is looking down on everyone just the same. A permanent smirk rests below his nose, running the gamut between merely unnerving and malicious. His voice is shrill, but steady, and his eyes never wander – they rest fixed and unblinking on whatever he has set his sights on.

Hognin could be a minor annoyance to the PC’s, competing with them for loot, or even a major villain, hunting them for sport or pay. He could be many classes, with a rogue or ranger being the most obvious, but a wizard or sorceror are equally viable – even a properly flavoured avenger could work wonderfully. Forming an attachment to a particular PC (either as a former mentor, rival or interested suitor, perhaps?) could make for some great RP. He could be employed when a player is away for example, having spirited that PC off in the night (if possible), and then making the rest of the PC’s track him down for a quick, one session encounter. (Further keywords: smarmy, narrowed, direct, predatory)

Any base he employs could be full of caged animals, which may be used against the PC’s or Hognin himself. Furthermore, traps, traps and more traps! Lackys? Sure! He could employ other hunters or even members of the more savage races, with whom he may have a history with. Perhaps Hognin runs a circus, giving you a full carnival of minions, firebreathers, clowns and acrobats to pit your PCs against?

Well, that’s it for today. Hopefully there’s something there you can use, or its helped spawn other ideas you can use in your own campaigns. If you have anything in particular you’d like to discuss, feel free to let me know. In the meantime, happy role-ing!

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