Sunday, November 13, 2016

To Nulb and the Temple of Elemental Evil

I apologize for the lengthy delay since my last post, I took an unexpected month-long hiatus earlier this Fall from running any of my Roll20 games. Then it took a few game sessions to accumulate enough new material to post about. Anyway, on with the story:

The documents which the players captured from Lareth's chambers made several references to the village of Nulb, so the PCs decided to travel there and see what they could learn. It was only a few miles away Hommlet and an easy half-day ride. The PCs arrived in Nulb by noon and immediately came across the local inn, The Waterside Hostel. The PCs stopped in and ordered some lunch, but quickly decided to move on and explore the rest of the village. However, the seedy nature of the place was more temptation than the party Halfling could resist. He decided to stay, buying rounds of drinks for everyone and leading the crowd in his favorite form of entertainment, singing sea shanties:

The party Halfling ingratiates himself with the Nulb locals, buying drinks and dancing and singing on the table top

Meanwhile, the rest of the characters explored other points of interest in Nulb;

The characters meet Otis, Nulb's village blacksmith
The first stop was the local blacksmith. The PCs were somewhat surprised at his helpfulness, given the unsavory nature of the inn's patrons. They departed after agreeing to stable their horses with him for the night.

Next stop was Mother Screng's Herb Shop. The party Mage was intrigued by the place, but Mother Screng's sharp tongue turned them off to wanting to conduct any real business with her.

The party Mage tries to chat up Mother Screng, without much success

Next, the characters visited The Boatman's Tavern and Nulb Market:

The characters (minus the Halfling) have a drink at The Boatman's Tavern
It didn't take long for the PCs to realize that they were surrounded by river pirates and that the market's inventory almost certainly consisted of stolen goods. With Hommlet close by, they decided not to purchase anything from this particular shop. They quickly finished their drinks and departed, although they were eager to tell the party Halfling that they had found a new drinking establishment in which he would certainly feel right at home.

Later that evening (after reserving rooms for the night) the PCs met with Otis the Blacksmith at The Waterside Hostel. The meeting was to negotiate for the long-term stabling of their horses while they expected to be exploring the nearby Temple. However, Otis took the opportunity to quietly reveal his true identity and his purposes for being in the village. He also warned the players that the Cleric's plate armor (formerly worn by Lareth) would have by now been recognized by the village's inhabitants. Lareth was a frequent visitor in Nulb and certainly by now Temple agents within Nulb would have realized that something had happened at the Moathouse. Otis told the players that they were probably safe for the night, because it would take time to get word to the Temple and receive instructions back. But he told them that beyond that, they could be in grave danger if they remained in Nulb.

The characters meet with Otis the Blacksmith

The players decided to set out for the Temple first thing the next morning, hoping to preempt any move against them. They also decided to not leave their horses with Otis in Nulb after all, believing that something might happen while they were away exploring the Temple. Therefore, they left Nulb by way of the main road (and not the trail leading directly to the Temple), established a base camp in the forest a couple of miles out of town, and then proceeded on foot to the Temple. Their horses were left in the care of an NPC animal handler they'd hired several weeks ago and had brought with them to Hommlet.

SPOILER ALERT! If you ever expect to adventure through The Temple of Elemental Evil as a player in the future, you should do the honorable thing and stop reading now. Otherwise, you will be doing your DM and your fellow players a disservice by acquiring "meta-game" knowledge of the adventure in advance. On the other hand, if you are a DM or are otherwise already familiar with this adventure, feel free to dig out your copy of The Temple of Elemental Evil and follow along!

Having already been warned by Otis, the players did not try to approach the main entrance to the Temple, with its wards and protective runes. Instead, they entered by one of the side doors:

The PCs enter the Temple of Elemental Evil for the first time

After entering the Temple, the PCs lighted torches and began following the western wall, exploring the perimeter. They soon encountered the western Transept, but did now follow its wall. Instead, they cut across due north and then encountered a vestry:

The PCs find the vestry located on the western side of the Temple.

The characters noted the feces-stained white robes piled in the middle of the floor. The party Halfling was all for donning these robes, hoping to "blend in" with any encountered Temple inhabitants. However, the rest of the players refused and so the Halfling reluctantly gave up on the idea.

The players decided they should go back and explore the western Transept, and soon discovered a broken and shattered altar:

The Thief searches the broken altar while the Halfling explores a nearby door
The party Thief decided to search the altar for any hidden compartments. Meanwhile, the Halfling, feeling bored, decided to explore whatever might be behind a nearby door.

The Thief found nothing of interest around the altar, but the Halfling soon discovered a flight of stairs leading downward in the Transept's side-room. The characters decided to leave off exploring the Temple's upper works and instead head underground.

The characters descend to the Temple's 1st dungeon level
The characters reached the Temple's 1st dungeon level and proceeded to explore several corridor twists and turns. However, these explorations turned up nothing of interest. Eventually they came across a well-maintained door and decided to investigate. Unbeknownst to them, they have stumbled onto the outer guard room of the primary living area for the Earth Temple's forces. They managed to take out the guards posted in this room, but not before the guards inflicted some damage of their own and also managed to alert their comrades in the room beyond:

The PCs have encountered Earth Temple guards, without really realizing what they've stumbled upon

The conclusion of this battle is where we ended for our last game session. Those of you who own a copy of this module and who care to follow along should have little trouble in figuring out where the players are currently located. And therefore you will also know what challenges lie ahead. Be sure to check back soon for an update to the current situation!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Back at Hommlet / Post Moathouse Battle

Apologies for no recent posts regarding my Roll20 / ToEE campaign progress, but all my Roll20 campaigns have been on a month-long, self-imposed hiatus. And prior to that, the PCs had spent most of their time doing admin tasks. After defeating Lareth and cleaning out the Moathouse, they focused on disposing of the loot and informing the notable NPCs in Hommlet about the possible re-emergence of Evil in the region.

To back up a bit, I mentioned a few months ago that the players (through their characters) were not exactly meshing well with the power-broker NPCs in Hommlet. I could never quite be certain of the reason why, but here is my best guess: In their previous, introductory campaign (before coming to Hommlet), the PCs were treated like conquering heroes by the locals. This was because they had saved everyone from marauding goblins, and so the accolades they received were justified and well deserved. But then the PCs traveled well over 100 miles to reach Hommlet, and thus began the "real" campaign.

Upon arriving at Hommlet, the PCs were at first puzzled and then quickly became offended when the locals in this village did not immediately welcome them with the same adoration as did their previous hosts. For example, within 15 minutes of arriving in town the PCs demanded an audience with the Village Elder. And then they were genuinely offended when they were turned away at the gate of his walled farm yard complex. Because they were treated as conquering heroes at the last village, the PCs (players) could not understand why they did not receive a similar reception in Hommlet. It seems to have never occurred to (most of) the players that the inhabitants of Hommlet would have no idea who these people are and thus were suspicious of strangers who suddenly arrived in town and started issuing demands.


By the time Lareth had been defeated, the PCs had in the meantime managed to meet (and insult) every... single... member.... of the Hommlet Village Council (except for the Miller). They had also issued veiled (and sometimes not so veiled) threats to other notable NPCs, like the pawnbroker and the blacksmith. And finally, they openly admitted to killing the affable (if somewhat eccentric) Spugnoir, who, while not a local, had come to be well-known around town. They claimed to be justified in killing Spugnoir because he had seemingly defected and joined with Lareth. But all the villagers had to go on was the PCs word for it, and it was already well-known that most of the PCs (especially the party Mage) did not particularly like Spugnoir.

So, after defeating Lareth, the PCs returned to Hommlet with the spoils of victory (including Lareth's head and Spugnoir's dead body). Because they had set out at dawn and because the Moathouse is not far away, the PCs were back in Hommlet by noon of the same day.

The first order of business was to take Spugnoir's body to Jaroo, asking him to give the guy a decent burial. The PC Mage was particularly eager to see Spugnoir planted 6 feet under, and offered Jaroo the contents of Lareth's purse (9 pp) to do the job immediately. The other PCs continued on into town, but the party Halfling decided to go with the Mage and supervise the proceedings with Jaroo.

Jaroo is offered a rich donation to see to Spugnoir's burial
Once the business of seeing to Spugnoir's mortal remains was finished, the party Halfling went back to the Welcome Wench. He ordered up a round of drinks for everyone currently in the place and then began telling the tale of what had just happened (putting his own unique spin on events, as described in previous posts). The Dwarf and the Thief (who's player was absent this game session) sat quietly in a corner at the inn. But the players for the Mage and the Cleric were eager to begin disposing of the loot acquired from Lareth's lair.

The first order of business was to see what might be gotten for Lareth's silver serving set. Here we see the Cleric and the Mage at the Trader's, negotiating that deal:

How much would you give for this lovely silver serving set?
The traders low-balled their offer, so the PCs went across the street and ended up selling to the pawnbroker. Then it was off to the Church of St Cuthbert, because the PC Cleric had Lareth's suit of black plate mail (which he believed to be magic) but he wanted to get the abbot's opinion on if he could actually wear it without becoming cursed or something.

What can you tell me about this black plate mail, which I peeled off an evil cleric less than 2 hours ago?
Terjon told the PC Cleric he could wear the plate mail, if he first had the village blacksmith affix a holy symbol of St. Cuthbert to the breastplate. This the Cleric readily agreed to, and set about commissioning the work to be done.

Meanwhile, the Halfling's tale-telling had spread around town. By late afternoon the PCs had all re-gathered at the Welcome Wench. Ostler was asked to convene a meeting of the Village Council that same evening, so that the PCs could present to them the evidence they had gathered from Lareth's quarters. Ostler agreed and the meeting was arranged.

The Hommet Village Council meets in order to hear the PC's adventures and review the evidence from Lareth's quarters
The Hommlet Village Council met that evening, and heard the PC's story. They also reviewed various documents gathered from Lareth's quarters, detailing raids conducted in the area and inventory sheets of stolen goods sent to the Temple. The village council commended the PCs on their good work and singled out the Halfling for his heroics in finally killing Lareth. Everyone in town knew the story because the Halfling had spent all afternoon at the inn, buying drinks and telling it over and over again. However, there was one small problem...

The Council was uncomfortable over the circumstances surrounding Spugnoir's death. Jaroo, instead of burying Spugnoir, brought his body in to the Council meeting. The abbot Terjon used the spell "Speak with Dead" to hear Spugnoir's side of the story. Although Spugnoir admitted to turning on the PCs at Lareth's encouragement, the Council felt that he could have easily been subdued and brought back alive, rather than killed outright. Complicating the matter is that Spugnoir was sent to Hommlet by the Greyhawk College of Wizardry, as part of his training. And his untimely death (under suspect circumstances) could cause a diplomatic conundrum. So, the Hommlet Council decided upon a solution:

They directed that the PCs must, through the party Cleric's connections, arrange (and pay for) the resurrection of Spugnoir at the Church of St. Cuthbert in Verbobonc. Spugnoir would be banned from returning to Hommlet due to his treachery, but at least he could go back to his schoolmasters alive. This, it was believed, would defuse any potential diplomatic problems with Greyhawk and its school of wizardry.

The PCs balked at this suggestion, believing that they owed nothing. Spugnoir was a traitor, and that was that. There was even brief (out-of-character) talk of attacking the Hommlet Village Council over the issue. I reminded the players that this would be unwise because they were completely out of spells (due to their earlier battle with Lareth) and in fact some of the PCs were still not even fully healed from that battle. In the end, the PCs agreed to negotiate for a resurrection, but they still maintained that any diplomatic problems between Hommlet and Greyhawk were of no concern to them. They also reserved the right to refuse paying for Spugnoir's resurrection, if the quoted price was too high.

And this is where we left off...  It was at this point that I decided the campaign might need a major deviation from the published adventure. As written, the ToEE module clearly intends for Hommlet to be a welcome refuge from the rigors of exploring and cleaning out the temple itself. However, in this campaign, the PCs have developed such a hostile rapport with the locals of Hommlet that I don't see how they could ever look upon the village as a place of respite. And therefore, I decided that a change of venue should be made available to them.

More on that in the next post!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Roll20 ToEE Play Report: The Battle Against Lareth, part 2

Last time, the characters were locked in a life-and-death struggle with the evil cleric Lareth. Long story short, the battle took far longer to play out than I expected. The players had a difficult time hitting Lareth's high AC. But on the other hand, I as the DM was rolling incredibly unlucky on Lareth's behalf. Despite all his advantages, he simply could not consistently hit any single opponent. When he did hit, it was devastating. But most of his attacks just simply missed the mark. As I mentioned last time, I do all my rolls out in the open, so his attacks were there for all to see. Even the players themselves could not believe their good fortune.

At any rate, here are some screenshots to illustrate the highlights of the battle:

Prior to this screenshot, Lareth had taken down the party Cleric, who was now lying on the table and bleeding out (I have house rules for negative HPs before a character is truly dead). With the Cleric down, Lareth turned his attention to the Halfing. The Dwarf and the Magic-User have run up to help, after murdering Spugnoir for his recent betrayal... the Mage to try and save the Cleric (he was carrying a Potion of Healing), and the Dwarf to help the Halfling battle Lareth.

In this screenshot, the Dwarf has landed a critical hit on Lareth. In my game, whenever a combatant rolls a natural "20", he also gets to roll on a random table which describes special damage inflicted, according to weapon type. Here you can see the dice results, and the Dwarf has inflicted 24 points of damage on Lareth in a single attack.

In this next screenshot, the Cleric is back on his feet after been given the Potion of Healing and then casting Cure Light Wounds on himself. He has now moved over to heal the Dwarf if necessary. Meanwhile, the Halfling has landed his own critical hit on Lareth, as illustrated here:

Although he has suffered two critical hits in a row, Lareth is still hanging on. He made another offer to bring the PCs into his ranks. But they, sensing the end was near, were having none of it. So Lareth demonstrated that he still had some fight left in him, and next landed two hits on the Dwarf. Total damage inflicted is 18 points, which is unfortunate because the Dwarf had only 5 HPs left at this point. In the span of a single 10 second round, the Dwarf has gone from being a combatant to knocking on the doors of Valhalla.

The Dwarf is now at -13 hit points, which is dead as dead can be. However, there's still hope! Last December, I ran a one-off Christmas-themed adventure in which the PCs each received a gift which they could bring back into the "real" campaign. Thus, the Dwarf happened to be carrying an item called "Fruitcake of the Gods", which when consumed restores a being to full hit points and can even restore the dead back to life if given to them within 3 rounds. The Cleric, knowing the Dwarf had this item, quickly dug it out of his backpack and crammed it down his throat.

In the meantime, it was up to the Halfling to keep Lareth occupied while the Cleric was saving the Dwarf. This he did with incredible luck because on his turn to attack the Halfling scored another Critical Hit against Lareth. This screenshot shows the results of that round of combat:

Unfortunately for Lareth, he could not weather this last critical hit... The damage inflicted pushed him into the negative range, and he died with his intestines spilled out on the floor in front of him. However, we decided that was not dramatic enough, given the extraordinary circumstances and dice rolls. Instead, we decided that the Halfling disemboweled Lareth, then choked him to death by strangling him with his own intestines. The Halfling's player, being something of a doodler, later posted an illustration to commemorate the event:

I can't figure out how to rotate pics in Blogger...

The defeat of Lareth brought us close to the end of the game session. The party quickly looted the dead inhabitants and were inspecting the fine furnishings of Lareth's personal quarters when we stopped for the night. And a clue has been uncovered which could lead the PCs to the next stage of the quest!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Roll20 ToEE Play Report: The Battle Against Lareth, part 1

Last time, the PCs had just defeated the first of Lareth's guards, but more were quickly arriving. When we started up this week's game, a general melee quickly broke out but the scales tipped in the PC's favor when the Mage cast a well-placed Sleep spell and dropped most of the remaining guards and their sergeants. Some of the PCs began to dispatch the sleeping guards, but by now Lareth himself had been alerted to the trouble by his Lieutenant, and both moved up to engage.

The action was so fast-paced that I forgot to take screen shots as the battle progressed. However, here is a view of the scene when we stopped for the night, along with captions explaining various situations around the battle map:

Additional details regarding the battle:

Lareth began by casting Hold Person, immobilizing both the Fighter and Thief. That was the first and only spell he has (so far) successfully cast.

The Lieutenant began firing his long bow at the party Mage, but rolled horribly (as the DM, I do open rolls). The party Cleric responded by casting Hold Person and, of course, the Lieutenant failed his saving throw.

The party moved into Lareth's outer chamber and one PC quickly dispatched the now-held Lieutenant. Lareth attempted to cast another Hold Person spell, centered on the Cleric but, amazingly, all affected PCs made their saving throws.

The Mage attempted to Web Lareth but his phylactery magic item prevented it from having any effect. The Halfling threw a flask of oil, but Lareth simply moved out of the space (and through the ineffective webs) before it could be lit.

The party Cleric jumped up onto the trestle table, to engage Lareth in melee. He responded by casting Cause Disease at the Cleric. Of course, the Cleric made his saving throw.

Lareth shouted an offer to the PCs: Join him, and he would give them power and wealth, as his new Lieutenants. The party Halfling paused and asked for more details...

Spugnoir, on the other hand, had heard enough. After being more or less ill-treated (especially by the Mage) since joining the PCs, he decided to throw in with Lareth. His first action was to cast Sleep at the remaining PCs. In my game, one house rule is that the targets of a Sleep spell are allowed a saving throw to avoid the effects. Predictably, every PC who was required to make a save was successful. Despite his pleas for mercy, Spugnoir was quickly cut down by the Dwarf as a reward for his betrayal.

Lareth used the disruption caused by Spugnoir's actions to cast another spell. Again he cast Cause Disease at the party Cleric. And again, the Cleric was successful with his saving throw.

In frustration, Lareth decided to give up trying to cast any further spells and engaged the Cleric in melee. First round, the cracked the Cleric upside the head with his Staff of Striking and knocked him down to only 3 hp remaining. The Cleric shouted for the Dwarf to move up and help.

The Halfling made a half-hearted attack with a whip he carries, but also asked Lareth if he had any brochures he could look at, before deciding whether or not to join with him. I said, "No, but he does have a website and you can also follow him on Twitter."

And that is where we left off for the night. Although Lareth's spells were mostly a miserable failure, the PCs are also depleted of any more offensive spells. Meanwhile, Lareth is largely unscathed, has a formidable AC, and can inflict serious damage through dual-wielding his mace and staff. Although things look grim for him, the battle is by no means finished.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Roll20 ToEE Play Report: Moathouse Boss Encounter Begins

Last time, the party was back at the Inn of the Welcome Wench, planning to get a good meal and a peaceful night's sleep. All the better to prepare themselves for what they felt would be the final encounter at the Moathouse.

Rested and refreshed, the party set out early the next morning. This time, everyone felt comfortable enough to ride their personal horses to the place, without fear that the animals might be attacked while they were exploring underground. However, they did decide to bring along both NPC Animal Handlers on the party's payroll, as well as their Guard Dog. The NPCs were instructed that, at the first sign of any trouble, lead all the animals back to Hommlet and the PCs would return on foot, if possible. Once again, no one was willing to let Spugnoir ride along, so the party Halfling let him climb up on the pack mule he himself "rides" while they're on the road.

The Party sets out for the Moathouse once again
Because the Moathouse is only a few miles from Hommlet, the party soon arrived at the place and went back inside its dungeons. This time they used the secret entrance/exit which they'd discovered last time near the Boss's presumed lair and made their way back to the mysterious barred door.

The Party Arrives at the Door to The Lair of the Boss
The party Fighter and Dwarf tried opening the door quietly, but that proved impossible. So they decided to just bash it down and jointly made the rolls to do so. One failed his roll, the other succeeded. So I ruled that it took a couple of hits, but the door finally gave way. Unfortunately, the accompanying noise gave the guards stationed just inside enough time to form a rank and fire crossbow bolts just as the door flew open. The Dwarf took a hit but the damage was not too severe.

The Guards retreated down the hallway, calling out to their comrades that the now-expected intruders had returned. The Dwarf and the Fighter immediately pursued, but did not adavnce as quickly due to the Dwarf's slower movement rate. The party Cleric and Halfling followed closely behind in order to provide support.

The Party Cleric and Halfling follow the Fighter and Dwarf up the Hallway
At this point, the party Mage decided to let his long-simmering animosity towards Spugnoir come to a boil. Instead of following the party Cleric and Halfling, he suddenly turned and ordered Spugnoir to quit lingering in the back and "Move! Get up there and help!" The party Thief, who was originally preparing to follow the Cleric and Halfling, quickly changed his mind and stayed back to see how this unexpected confrontation between Mages would play out.

The party Mage calls out Spugnoir, while the Thief looks on with interest
Spugnoir, well aware of the Mage's dislike towards him, was nonetheless taken aback by this sudden display of open hostility. After a couple of hidden DM rolls to check against Spugnoir's morale and the Mage's charisma (as well as a Wisdom check), Spugnoir decided it was in his best interest to (mostly) comply with the Mage's orders. He did indeed move up, but the Mage also began chanting the casting of a spell. Spugnoir was unwilling to turn his back on the Mage (or the Thief, for that matter), but it turns out the Mage was merely casting a "Shield" spell on himself before entering the fray up ahead.

Spugnoir warily moves into the hallway, but doesn't turn his back on the Mage
Meanwhile, the Fighter and Dwarf had charged to the end of the hallway and smashed into the guards positioned there, who had been attempting to hit them with more crossbow fire. However, the only additional damage sustained thus far was a stay bolt which struck the Cleric.

The Fighter and Dwarf both killed their tormentors in a single round of combat. But now that they'd reached the end of the hallway, they could see more reinforcements moving up to engage them in melee.
The Fighter and Dwarf achieve their first victories, but more work lies ahead
At this point we had reached the established end time for our game session. So everyone logged out for the night, ready for the next round's initiative roll when we all meet again next week!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Roll20 ToEE: Moathouse Exploration Continues

My Monday night Roll20 group continued playing through the ToEE Moat House this week. When we left off last week, the PCs had just entered the room where the Gnoll informants had told them they used to get their drinking water, but stopped going when a couple of their number went there and never returned.
The PCs find the underground pool of water
 Of course, the players were curious to know what could be the reason for the Gnoll's disappearances and their subsequent fear of the place. So they marched right up to the water's edge and held their lantern up to get a better look. Not surprisingly, the light and movement quickly attracted the attention of the beast that was the source of the trouble.

The underground pool's new inhabitant surfaces and hopes to make a meal of at least one of the PCs 
Given the PCs rather incautious behavior, I thought it reasonable that the creature should get a free surprise attack. The players' jokes about a lobster bake tonight at the inn were quickly silenced the the Giant Crayfish immediately inflicted 10 points of damage on the Dwarf.

Unfortunately (for the crayfish), that was the only damage he ever managed to inflict on anyone. Every other attack of his missed, while the Dwarf was rolling hot with his +1 Battle Axe. Even the Halfling managed to get in a hit or two with his Short Sword. Before the creature could even contemplate retreat, he was dead...

With all of the other side passages now explored and cleared, the players decided to enter the way which the Gnolls claimed would take them to "the Boss". By now, the party Mage was out of spells and wanted to go back to town to rest and recover. But the party Cleric's player was feeling overly-confident (despite having only one spell left himself) and wanted to press on. The other players were hesitant, but the Cleric managed to convince them.

The PCs find a door which they assume will lead them to the Moathouse "Boss"
The PCs soon encountered a locked and barred door, beyond which they assumed they would find the elusive moat house "Boss". However, the fact that the passage continued on, past the door and towards the east, bothered them. And so they decided to explore it first. After going 100 feet or so, they discovered that the passage actually led back to the surface. Off in the distance, near the Moathouse Ruins, the party could see their horses and the hireling brought along to watch them while they explored inside. Since they were already back topside again, the other PCs convinced the Cleric that it was best to go back to town after all and return tomorrow, fully re-charged for the final encounter.

The Player Characters (and invited NPC guests) enjoy dinner and drink at the Welcome Wench Inn
The trip back to Hommlet was uneventful and the PCs were soon seated at their favorite table at The Welcome Wench. Once again, the Halfling set up certain favored (by him) NPCs with an open tab and invited them to join the PC group at their table. Elmo continues to be viewed as a harmless drunk with an endless capacity for drink. The party Mage continues to loathe the very sight of Spugnoir, seeing him as competition for magic scrolls which might otherwise expand his own spellbook. Of course, this is all the motivation the Halfling needs to keep Spugnoir around, whatever the cost.

Since all of the available seating was taken up by the PCs, their hired help, and the Halfling's barfly friends, he himself perched on the table and prepared to regale everyone with his favorite form of entertainment: bawdy sea shanties.

Watch for the next exciting episode, coming soon!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Roll20 ToEE Campaign: End of July Update

Last time, the party was debating over what to do with the two remaining Gnolls who were attempting to surrender, offering information on where to find "the Boss" in exchange for being allowed to leave the Moathouse unharmed. In the end, the PCs accepted the offer. The party Halfling wanted to betray the Gnolls (get the information they offered, then kill them) but the party Dwarf wouldn't allow it. So the Halfling settled for taking their money, as well as looting the corpses of the dead Gnolls.

The party debates the fate of the surrendering Gnolls
The PCs had taken a beating during the Gnoll battle and had expended most of their spells, so they thought it best to rest before exploring the rest of the Moathouse dungeon. Initially, they figured they would just hole up in the Gnoll's former barracks room and would be safe enough there. And here, I should first admit that I'd been fairly lenient on random encounters while resting, up to this point in the campaign (i.e. pre-ToEE). So the players can be forgiven for expecting similar treatment now. However, in order to be fair, I took off my DM hat and told them that the odds of random encounters here are much, much higher than what they'd previously been exposed to. I told them that the training wheels were off, they were in the big leagues now, and that their characters had no real chance of resting unmolested in the Moathouse dungeon.

Quickly reassessing their plan, the players decided to return to Hommlet for the night. Arriving at the Inn of the Welcome Wench just at sunset, they decided to have some dinner and a few rounds of ale. The party Halfling went to Ostler and told him to put everyone's dinner and drinks on his tab. Even Elmo, who happened to be nearby, was treated to a mug of ale.

The characters order dinner and drinks, courtesy of the party Halfling
The Halfling pays the tab and even buys Elmo a drink, while Spugnoir looks on
Only while the Halfling is paying do the other PCs realize that he's using the silver coins collected from the Gnolls earlier that day. So, instead of paying out of his own pocket, he's really just using party treasure to cover the bill.

Early the next morning the party returned to the Moathouse dungeon, to investigate the accuracy of the Gnoll's information. They believe they now know where to find "the Boss", but were not comfortable with leaving unexplored space behind them when confronting him. So, at the 3-way intersection the Gnolls spoke of, instead of turning left towards the Boss, they turned right. This soon took them to the entrance of what appeared to be an old crypt.

The party Cleric moves to the front rank upon entering an old crypt
The party advanced into the crypt, rounded a corner, and were immediately surprised by a pack of 4 Ghouls. Before the Cleric could even make a Turn Undead attempt, he was paralyzed by a Ghoul in the initial, surprise round of combat. Two of the Ghouls began dragging him away, while the others engaged in combat with the Dwarf and the Fighter. The Halfling, seeing his favorite target for abuse about to be lost forever, set off in pursuit of the departing Ghouls and their intended meal. The Thief quickly followed.

The paralyzed Cleric being dragged into the Ghouls' den, with the Halfling and Thief in close pursuit
The Halfling and Thief caught up with the Ghouls just as they were dragging the Cleric into their den, where they hoped to feast upon him in security. One Ghoul turned to confront the pursuers while the other continued dragging the Cleric deeper into the den.

The Cleric is taken to the Ghoul's nest, while the Halfling and Thief are held off at the entrance to the den
A desperate melee ensued, but the Halfling's high dexterity (and thus low AC), as well as his higher resistance to paralyzing attacks won the day. Having defeated the Ghoul guarding the den entrance, the Halfling and Thief went deeper into the den in an attempt to still save the Cleric.

Assuming his companions were dealing with the rest of the intruders, the first Ghoul decided to start the feast early and took a bite from the Cleric's still-living flesh. Hearing a noise and turning, expecting to see his accomplice with another paralyzed victim, the Ghoul was instead surprised to see the Halfling, short sword in hand.

The Ghoul's feasting on the Cleric is interrupted by the arrival of the Halfling and Thief
Meanwhile, outside the den and back in the crypt, the Fighter and Dwarf were finishing up with defeating the other two Ghouls. The Magic-User and Spugnoir didn't do much throughout this battle except observe from the rear.

The Magic-User and Spugnoir helpfully observe while the Fighter and Dwarf mix it up with the Ghouls
In the end, the Ghouls were all defeated and the Cleric rescued, although he now has a nasty scar where the Ghoul took a bite out of him. The party took their time in the Ghouls den, gathering up the loose coins scattered about the place while waiting for the Cleric's paralysis to wear off. One last bit of excitement occurred when one of the Ghouls, who had only been reduced to exactly 0 hit points, revived and entered the den. The Halfling expected to once again have to save the party but this time the Magic-User finally sprang into action and cast a Magic Missile spell, which finished the Ghoul for good.

The final Ghoul, about to be dispatched for a second time
Although the battle with the Ghouls was rather intense, the party felt brave enough to do a bit more exploring. So they returned to the intersection and this time went straight ahead, in keeping with their strategy of leaving no space unexplored before confronting "the Boss". The passage soon led to stairs going deeper underground and ending in a natural cavern that appeared to contain a pool of water.

The party finds a pool of water, deep underground
At this point we had reached our scheduled quit time for that night's game session. So, the investigation of the pool would have to wait until next time!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

ToEE Moathouse Gnolls Continued

Not a great amount has happened since last post. The battle with the Moathouse Gnolls was successfully concluded, although the party Magic-User nearly lost his life in the process. He had cast Shield on himself and so decided to engage in melee with them. That turned out not to be such a hot idea.

When we stopped for the night the party Dwarf was speaking with the two surrendered Gnolls using the Ogre language. He is the only party member who shares a mutual language with the Gnolls. The creatures have offered to show the PCs the way to "the boss" in exchange for being spared and allowed to go free. The rest of the characters are in mid-debate about whether to accept or not.

Friday, July 1, 2016

B/X Roll20 ToEE Campaign Update

If you understand all the acronyms in this post's title, then you're truly a gamer... I haven't posted any updates lately, but we've been playing almost weekly since the last time I posted.

The party is now exploring the moat house dungeon and has encountered the Gnolls. The PCs used spikes to hammer the iron barred door trap behind them into the "up" position, and this noise alerted the Gnolls to their presence. The Gnolls took up battle positions behind the tables, readied their bows and waited. When the PCs arrived in this area, the Gnolls began peppering them with arrows.

The PCs initially fell back around the corner in the corridor to the north, assuming the Gnolls would foolishly follow and then they could engage them 2 at a time in melee. I decided not to play that game this time. It might work with goblins (and has in the past) but I decided the Gnolls were too clever for such a simple tactic. The PCs want to advance deeper into the moathouse dungeon, so they decided they had no choice but to assault the Gnolls' position. Here is a screen shot:

This is the point at which we paused this week's game. A couple of Gnolls have been killed by the PCs own missile fire, but the melee types have decided they need to close in to get this over with as quickly as possible. A couple of other Gnolls broke morale when their friends were killed and have moved off-screen to the left.

Meanwhile, my work continues in creating the Temple of Elemental Evil itself in Roll20. Here is the latest update:

  • Village of Hommlet: Completely created and populated
  • Moathouse: Completely created and populated
  • Village of Nulb: Completely created and populated
  • Temple Surface Level: Completely created and populated
  • Temple Dungeon Level 1: Completely created and populated

I don't want to reveal too much here, in case any of my players happen to see this. However, anyone familiar with the ToEE should immediately recognize this particular location on dungeon level 1:

Ok, that's all I have for now! Next time I will post about how the PCs have been getting along with the inhabitants of Hommlet. It's not been exactly cordial, I can tell you that much...

Sunday, June 12, 2016

B/X D&D Time Tracker

Here's a time tracker I created for my B/X D&D campaigns and decided to share. You might find it useful for plotting when spell effects will wear off, torches will burn out, etc. Even though I now run my games online using Roll20, I still find it easier to do some tasks the old-fashioned way.

B/X D&D Time Tracker

Monday, April 25, 2016

Moathouse Frogs Follow-up

Just a quick follow-up from last week, regarding my players' encounter with the Moathouse giant frogs: The party eventually defeated them all, although the Halfling was hit by a tongue attack and was nearly swallowed alive himself.

The party Cleric was technically "dead" by the time the other characters managed to cut him out of the giant frog's stomach. However, per my house rules, there is a period of negative & declining HPs before a character is truly dead. Although it took the use of some magical healing resources, the other characters managed to bring the Cleric back up above 0 hp before he truly passed away.

Spugnoir also had to be cut out of the belly of the beast, but he had only just dropped below 0 hp at that point. However, the players did not know how badly off he was and he was the one who told them about this place and brought them here. Feeling responsible for his imminent demise, they expended magical healing resources on him as well and thus saved his life.

Because he spent several rounds inside the frog's stomach, I did require the Cleric to make Save vs. Acid rolls for his belongings. His clothing did not save, and so I described to the players how the Cleric's now-dissolving clothes were falling off his body and into a liquefying mass at his feet. Everyone thought that was pretty funny, but now the Cleric is wearing chain mail with no clothing underneath. I'm still trying to decide how that might affect his ability to act.

After nearly losing 2 or 3 characters to this first, initial encounter, the Halfling's player is advocating for the party to go back to Hommlet to rest, re-learn spells, and re-think how to approach the Moathouse. However, everyone else seems determined to forge ahead. In the screenshot below you can see the Halfling hanging back, while the others are preparing to cross the drawbridge and enter the Moathouse grounds...

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Building the ToEE in Roll20 Continues

In my last post, my players were paused mid-battle in combat with the Moathouse's giant frogs. I have no new update from this past week, because we did not play. One player had to go out of town unexpectedly and another had in-laws unexpectedly drop in from out of town. However, things look good for this coming week and we should be meeting to play on Monday night as usual.

In the meantime, I've continued to work on duplicating the ToEE's surface level in Roll20. As with the moathouse, I took an existing map I found online and imported it into Roll20. Then I simply stretched it out to the proper scale and began laying my own detailed graphics on top of the map. Overall, I think it looks pretty good:

One thing that struck me while working on this map is just how huge the ToEE really is. Back when I ran this adventure in face-to-face games, we never actually drew out the upper works on a battle mat, but simply used graph paper. Only now, with Roll20's essentially unlimited battle mat space to work with, have I tried to duplicate the upper works on a tactical scale. This screenshot is just of the temple itself, and I had to zoom all the way out to 10% scale to capture it. You cannot see in this pic the surrounding ruined walls and other features.

My next task will be to trace out the walls and other obstacles on the Dynamic Lighting layer. This will make it so that the players will not be able to see around corners or pass through walls as they explore this map.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Running the Temple of Elemental Evil in Roll20

I've been very busy lately, importing the Temple of Elemental Evil into my Roll20 campaign and converting everything over to the Moldvay B/X ruleset which I currently prefer to play. So far, I've accomplished the following:

  • Village of Hommlet: Completely created and populated
  • Moathouse: Completely created and populated
  • Village of Nulb: Completely created and almost completely populated
  • Temple Surface Level: under construction

Last game session, the players arrived at the entrance to the Moathouse and were of course attacked by the giant frogs. We have a hard-set quit time, so we had to stop mid-battle. But here's a screenshot of the action in progress, with my own notations:

As you can see, things are off to an interesting start. I didn't really plan for the PCs to arrive at the Moathouse this quickly, but they sort of forced my hand. That might be a good topic for a follow-on post.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

B/X D&D House Rules v. 5

Although I had previously said I would not be releasing a new version of my B/X D&D house rules, I have subsequently made so many changes and updates that I felt it was necessary. Most of these updates are the result of actual game play with my two Roll20 gaming groups over the past several months. Sometimes I would research what other have done in their own games, other times I simply made up my own house rules.

Brett's B/X D&D House Rules ver. 5

As an aside, I am aware of the The B/X Companion and have even purchased a copy. I also have the Companion Expansion. And finally, although I do not own a copy, I have seen reviews for The Complete B/X Adventurer. These are all fine products with some great material. What I am presenting here are my own B/X house rules, compiled for my Roll20 games, and polished up for public consumption.