Product Release: The Gods Have Spoken

Hey, I contributed to another RPG book, and now that it’s out I figured I should tell you about it.

Dread Unicorn Games (led by the invincible John WS Marvin) just released the digital edition of a 5E sourcebook called The Gods Have Spoken. It’s a book of gods and divine-related content for D&D, written by John WS Marvin, Vanessa Rose Phin, Connor Marvin, Matt Evert, Sean Clark, and me!

Here’s the product description:

Twenty-eight new fantasy gods arranged in three new Pantheons for your 5E game. Gods with passions, backstories, and agendas. So much more than a list of names and domains. 

The people who followed the Old Gods was conquered by the those that followed the Thirsty Gods, who in turn were displaced by those following the Bright Gods. Yet all three pantheons still have followers, and coexist in an uneasy peace. 

New domains and other character options that work with these new gods, some for everyone, and others focusing on clerics, druids, paladins, and rangers. And new magic items, new creatures, and more! 

Plus, an exciting new faction system that gives players a voice as to which factions take a hand in your campaign.

A print edition is coming soon, in hardcover and softcover. You can read more about the book at its Kickstarter page.

(Thanks John!)

The Gods Have Spoken [DriveThruRPG]

Kickstarter Watch: Tales of the Warrior Princesses

Tales of the Warrior Princesses (on Kickstarter through March 9) looks like a great idea for an RPG book on its own, but when you add the fact that my friend Darcy Ross contributed to it, that takes it up to 11!

The project is funding two books: Warrior Princesses in the Realm of Everafter (a revised edition of a 5e setting book focused on fairy tale heroines) and Tales of the Warrior Princesses (a new adventure book focusing on each of the princesses).

Darcy co-wrote one of the adventures in Tales of the Warrior Princesses (with Rebekah McFarland), and she described the book like so:

TotWP is a book of adventures for D&D 5th Edition, with pregenerated characters (“Warrior Princesses”) that are reminiscent of classic and modern fairy tale princesses that are D&D-ified and badass in all sorts of ways. Pulling from these familiar stories and characters makes the game pretty easily accessible, and the world is a lovely playground of different fairytale settings with their characteristic Big Bads wreaking havoc across the world.

Though I haven’t been able to see the actual product yet, this looks like the kind of thing that would make me like a D&D game–a fairytale feel plus a focus on feminine protagonists.

Take a look at this cover mock-up…I may have to spring for the hardcover! It’s a beauty.

Tales of the Warrior Princesses (Kickstarter)

Not Sacred Flame

My friend Jay continued running us through Ravenloft last night. Toward the end of the evening, the party was spent. My cleric had used all his spells (and his turn undead), our druid had used all her wild shapes, and our dragonborn had used all her breath attacks. We were low on health, running on fumes, and still had to stay in the fight to keep Evil from winning.

Since I had also left my weapons behind (because taking weapons to a dinner party is uncouth), I was down to using my sole attack cantrip as my attack. Good ol’ sacred flame.

When my fellow players got sick of hearing me say “I cast sacred flame” over and over again, I had to find a way to accommodate them. The best thing would have been to find a different, more creative attack, and mix things up a bit.

But it was late and I was tired so I just made up new names for my spell.

Here are the alternate names I used for the sacred flame spell. Perhaps some of these are regional variations. Or names for the spell in older spellbooks. Or changes to the name made by a bard who needed a rhyme for “seven.”

  • Sacred Fire
  • Flame of Sacridity
  • Holy Flamethrower
  • The Pope’s Matches
  • Lasers From Heaven
  • Torch of God
  • The Penitent Candelabra

What are some alternate names for YOUR favorite spell?

Game Log: D&D Dragon Queen Session 5

Happy Pi Day!

We played D&D (5th ed.) for our latest game session, getting farther into Episode 3 of “Hoard of the Dragon Queen.” (See my earlier post if you want to read about our game covering the first part of Episode 3, aka Session 4. I didn’t write about the first three sessions. Hope you’ll forgive me.)

As before, the players were:

  • Dain, male dwarf barbarian, played by Christi.
  • Naeris, male drow paladin, played by Jay.
  • Copello, male human sorcerer, played by Jerrod.

It also turned out to be another special day for our game: it was Pi Day (3.14)! So according to Jay’s wishes, I bought pie. I meant to work pie into the events of the adventure, but it slipped my mind. Now I’m regretting that we missed out on enacting a kobold pie fight.

The PCs continued their exploration into a new room in the caverns they were exploring, which turned out to be the kobold barracks. Naeris led the way, intentionally not looking for traps. (This is because Naeris has, once or twice, taken wounds that would have killed him, yet lived. Naeris’s DM doesn’t believe in killing PCs unless it is dramatically significant, and Naeris has decided the reason he hasn’t died from such wounds is that he is immortal.)

So, Naeris triggered a trap. The ceiling above the following PC, Dain, collapsed, wounding Dain and knocking him down. The noise alerted the 5 kobolds and 5 winged kobolds in the area, all of whom attacked.

Filling in for the kobolds: Zombies!!!

Highlights of this combat included: winged kobolds dropping rocks on the PCs from above; Naeris wondering when the winged kobolds would run out of damned rocks to drop; Copello casting web on the non-flying kobolds; Naeris botching a spear throw and lighting the web on fire; Copello putting all the flying kobolds to sleep; and Dain bisecting a kobold who tried to flee. The party eliminated the kobolds, then rested.

Moving on, the party found a shrine room dedicated to Tiamat. Here they battled Langdedrosa Cyanwrath, the lightning-breathing half-dragon that fought (and technically killed) Naeris in the campaign’s first episode. (No blog post on that one, sorry.) Another enemy was in the room at the start of combat: a barbarian ally of Cyanwrath. Copello’s quick thinking made a major difference in how this scene went down, though: he charmed the barbarian using charm person before combat started, convincing the fellow that Copello and company were his friends. It took another turn or two to convince the barbarian to turn on Cyanwrath, but turn he did. This made the fight much easier for the PCs, and they defeated Cyanwrath. He still made them work for it, though, with his dual attacks and his lightning attack that could hit several opponents. Cyanwrath’s last action was to fatally wound the barbarian. (He was NOT pleased about his barbarian ally betraying him.)

I don’t have a half-dragon mini. But I have a lizard man!

Once the fight was over, our heroes found a treasure chest. They triggered the trap protecting it (of course), survived the damage, and collected a supply of valuables, some healing potions, and a wand that is as yet unidentified.

Copello and the barbarian had a touching farewell, during which Copello asked the charmed fellow if there were any secret rooms in this joint. The barbarian said that the room to the east is a dragon hatchery, and that a concealed rope in this room leads up to a secret room. Then he coughed up blood and collapsed.

The party decided to check out the room up the rope first. Naeris led the way. The rope terminated at the underside of a rug, which Naeris threw aside. As he climbed out of the hole into a study of some sort, the room’s sole occupant (named Frulan Mondath, though I don’t think the players ever learned this) spotted him and moved to attack with her halberd.

Dain and Copello joined the fun in time to hear Mondath call for her guards. Copello immediately cast a web spell at the western doorway, immobilizing one of the six approaching guards and preventing any of them from entering.

The prone figs on the right are bodies the PCs stacked to keep enemies out!

Mondath was not at all happy that her reinforcements were cut off, and she expressed her displeasure by slamming Naeris into a wall and freezing Dain in place with a hold person spell. Copello tried to burn her with a fire bolt spell but missed, lighting the room’s large table on fire instead. Noticing that a large map and a collection of important-looking papers were lying on the table, Copello broke off from the fight to put out the fire so he could examine the documents after the fight.

Naeris recovered and put Mondath on the defensive. Copello taunted Dain about not being able to break out of his paralysis—which had the effect of pissing Dain off so much that he overpowered the spell! The finishing blow to Mondath came from the one-two punch of Dain slashing her with his greatsword and knocking Mondath into Copello’s cloud of daggers spell. All the daggers aimed themselves at Mondath and, in one smooth motion, stabbed her to death.

The party searched Mondath’s adjoining bed chamber, finding a purple cultist robe and a few items of more interesting treasure: a potion of fire giant strength, a potion of mind reading, and a dozen +1 arrows.

This is where we called it a night.

Post Mortem

I bought the 5th edition Dungeon Master’s Guide just before this session, so I could use it to reward the players with a few cool magic items. The campaign itself is mostly lacking in useful treasures, and the players had hinted that they were getting tired of only finding gold and baubles. This new DMG is wonderful, and led to the PCs finding the wand, the potion of fire giant strength, potion of mind reading, and the +1 arrows.

FYI, Lex Starwalker has a great overview of the DMG on his podcast Game Master’s Journey, in episodes seven, nine, and eleven.

Another thing I did before this game was visit the office supply store. (I love that place.) I got a whiteboard of my very own (I’d been using Jay’s) and some index cards in a smaller size than I’d seen before. The cards turned out to be great for tracking initiative order and NPC wound levels.

Another bit of prep I did between sessions was to print another copy of the PDF containing the campaign’s enemy stats. Then I cut out each stat block, so that during combat I could take out the ones I needed and keep them in easy view, like below. This was MUCH preferable to flipping back and forth in the printout like I’d been doing before.

Finally, during this game I experimented with rewarding player behavior with pushes, as John Wick described in Play Dirty. Whenever a player did something entertaining or smart or in character or otherwise praiseworthy, they would earn either an inspiration die or, if they already had one of those, a push token. I like the inspiration die rule in D&D, but players can’t collect more than one of those at a time, and I wanted to be able to reward every single occurrence of great behavior. So in addition to inspiration, a push lets a player add +1 to any die roll. The players didn’t take advantage of their pushes much, so I’m considering bumping the die roll bonus up to a +1d4 or +1d6. I’m hesitant to open up unlimited inspiration dice, but that’s a possibility too.

Have you experimented with anything like this? Or have an alternate idea for how to reward player cleverness (beyond XP, of course–something immediate)? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Valentine’s D&D

For our Valentine’s Day game session, my girlfriend suggested we decorate the place with hearts and pink banners and lovey-dovey streamers and shit, just to see what kind of reaction we’d get out of the players.

The names of all the players. I know, barf, right?

How do you like the finished product? Yeah, pretty nausea-inducing, right? That’s what Jay said. Which made my day.
In addition to the decorations, we got candy hearts for me to give out to any player who did anything especially clever or entertaining. Also, we got heart-shaped candy tins for the players, and a special prize for the player who ended up with the most candy hearts at the end of the game.
For this session, we played the first part of Episode 3 of the D&D 5th edition campaign “Hoard of the Dragon Queen.” (We took a break from Numenera because we were down two players, and it wouldn’t feel the same without Catastrophe and Boomshakalaka.)
While I don’t want to go so far as to log all of our sessions from published D&D adventures, I would like to brag about my players’ clever actions in this session. If you’re a D&D player and you plan to play this adventure, you might want to skip reading the rest of this due to possible spoilers.
The party this time was:
  • Dain, male dwarf barbarian, played by Christi.
  • Naeris, male drow paladin, played by Jay.
  • Copello, male human sorcerer, played by Jerrod.
This episode starts with an NPC hiring the PCs to return to a site full of enemies that they scouted—and had to escape from—last time. The players were unwilling to do so for the simple reward of gold the NPC was offering. I’ve read criticism of this campaign for not offering much in the way of material rewards for the PCs, and I think that’s what the players were starting to feel here. They each had around 300 gold already from previous quests in the campaign, and nowhere to spend it (being based in a small town that had been robbed blind in Episode 1).
I don’t have the new Dungeon Master’s Guide yet, so the only source of treasure at my disposal for 5th edition was a few items in the supplemental downloadable material for the campaign. So I had the NPC offer each of the PCs his choice of a +1 weapon or +1 armor. This did the trick; the players’ eyes lit up and they agreed to the mission.
When the party returned to the camp they were to scout, they found it had been abandoned except for some hunters out front and some other forces in a cavern. Upon learning that the hunters provide food for the enemy, Dain suggested they poison the food and let that do the work of taking out the enemy. So that’s what they did—a little charcoal on the meat, plus some of Copello’s poison spray mixed in, add a dash of Copello disguising himself as one of the hunters, and they put their plan in motion.
This made me nervous, because this episode is set up as a standard dungeon crawl—enter area 1, find (or spring) some traps, fight some monsters, move to area 2, repeat. I didn’t really want the PCs to short circuit all of that and be led right to the heart of the cavern base, and yet I didn’t want to punish their creativity either. So I tried to let things happen naturally and roll with it.
I decided the guards immediately inside the cavern wouldn’t let just anyone in, even the hunters they knew provided their food. So they blocked Copello (in disguise) from passing further into the cavern, but didn’t attack him either. The PCs put their heads together and decided Copello should take the guards a plate of poisoned sandwiches. This worked; the guards ate the food and before long were making sounds of distress.

The PCs dispatched the suffering guards easily. However, before they could finish the last one, he stumbled deeper into the cavern and accidentally tripped the first trap the PCs would have encountered. (I made it fair, giving him the same chance to escape it that they would have had.) This had the further benefit (from the PCs’ perspective) of revealing a patch of camouflaged violet fungi that would have likely sneak-attacked them. The fungi instead attacked the guard, helping the PCs out even more.
I loved that all of those circumstances in the PCs’ favor had trickled down from their outside-the-box plan to poison their enemy.
The party explored a few more rooms, then found one that featured a group of kobolds and a pit containing three guard drakes. (The drakes were isolated for training purposes and couldn’t get up to the PCs unless the kobolds could manage to let them out.) On the party’s first attack, Copello fumbled his spell attack, and I went with the result that Jay suggested.
Earlier, the PCs had noticed that the ceiling of the adjacent room was covered with bats. They were stealthy enough that they didn’t disturb the creatures at the time, but Copello’s badly aimed blast landed right next to the bats and pissed them off royally. The bats turned out to be no threat at all, but among them were hiding a group of stirges, which attacked.
Since the PCs and the kobolds were close together, the stirges went for all of them. Copello was the only PC to get bit, but the kobolds were far less lucky; all but one of them were killed outright by the first attack by the stirges! Naeris noticed that the stirges that had killed the kobolds were still attached to them, slurping up their blood, so he tossed a kobold (plus stirge) down into the drake pit. The party added the other kobolds to the feeding frenzy, too, and by the end of the scene had neatly taken care of the kobolds and stirges and pacified the drakes enough that they calmed down and didn’t pay any more attention to the PCs.
Copello’s critical failure resulted in all but one kobold being slain in the same round!
That’s part of the reason his player earned the Valentine’s prize of the evening.
Notable Quotes:

  • “I’m not gonna go berserker over a fuckin’ plant.” – Christi politely rejected Jay’s suggestion that her barbarian use her rage ability.
  • “I give great diarrhea, but that’s about it.” – Jerrod modestly ducked Jay’s compliment which implied that Copello might distract the guards in a specifically adult manner.
  • “It’s a 50 Shades of Grey corner.” – Christi thought it odd that the drake-training room contained “long poles with lassos at the end…leashes and collars; sharp prods…human-sized dummies…with ridiculous expressions painted on their faces.”