Friday, September 9, 2016

Adventures in the City of the Dead

I am trying a new approach to dealing with sessions that multiple players have to miss in my new Waterdeep campaign.  If I know in advance that multiple players can't make it, I am running some one shots in the same campaign for a second set of higher level characters.  Basically each player has a 1st level character (now 2nd level) for sessions with a quorum and a different 10th level character to run if it is just going to be a couple of players in attendance for a one off.  The high level characters are exploring the same areas and themes and the players will learn things that shed light on the lower level campaign.  We have six players so if just one or maybe two players are going to miss I would probably still run the lower level characters, as happened the first two sessions.  As the lower level characters level up I will have the higher level characters level occasionally so we will get to play the complete range of levels (I very much doubt that we will ever even reach level 10 with our lower level characters at the rate we play).

For session three I knew in advance that several players would be absent so we had our first 10th level running.

In attendance:
Shashi playing Level 10 Human Barbarian female "Nidalee" (aka Sir-jumps-around-and-kills-me-in-my-face-a-Lot)
Mike playing Level 10 Human Shaman female "Imzel"  (sister of Nidalee) can see into other realities
Elliot playing Level 10 Human Wizard "The Third Incarnate of Darkon the Bold" - dedicated to service, perfecting selfless nature

These three were hired by the city guard to supplement a full moon night patrol of the City of the Dead, accompanying a small watch patrol and four young boys (members of the Guild of Chandlers and Lamplighters) and their useless old master.  The Guild of Chandlers and Lamplighters holds a lucrative contract with the city to light the candles in the extra-dimensional tombs that Waterdeep uses to stow its recently departed.  Last full moon something terrible happened and a watch patrol was killed during the night rounds, and although the Guild representatives survived they were so terrified and shocked that it was impossible to glean what had happened to them.  The party is hired to prevent a recurrence this month under the full moon.

City of the Dead - vast public gardens and tombs open in the day, closed off at night and usually some minor undead action.  The last several full moons there have been more powerful undead of all descriptions arising.

We jumped right into the action as the more perceptive party members saw a handful of ghouls lurking in the shrubbery across the path from the entrance.  Not waiting for the ghouls, the party jumped right into action.  Nidalee leaped up into a tree and then over onto the roof of a tomb, spotting another group of ghouls and ghasts.  The party dispatched of the ghouls and ghasts in just a few rounds, and in just a few more rounds took care of some mummies that joined the party halfway through the fight.  One hairy moment came when Galaunt, a particularly foolhardy young lamplighter, engaged a ghoul in hand to hand combat.  The ghoul managed to grab Galaunt and tried to run off with him but disaster was narrowly averted.  The city watch proved pretty much useless during all of this.  Nidalee broke a tooth off the ghoul that grabbed young Galaunt and fashioned it into a necklace with a strip of leather.  He surreptitiously gave it to Galaunt when the old master was not looking and told him to wear it as a good luck talisman.  

The party then escorted the lamplighters into the House of the Homeless, one of the City of the Dead's extradimensional tombs.  A vast two story mausoleum with a row of low steps leading to its high metal gates.  Cleaned bones are stored catacomb style inside, and when the building was full an ancient wizard named Anacaster created a Gate to an "uninhabited pocket dimension".  This Gate leads to an apparently infinite network of twisting natural passages and caverns, many of them containing bones of strange and alien creatures.  The passages seem to be natural, but the rock is not known to this world.  The city has barred off a section of the passages and uses them to store the bones of all the dead of Waterdeep who do not own (by merit,  purchase or membership in a noble or wealthy family) a place in another tomb.  The bones are cleaned off in a pool of torquoise acid that burbles in an orange mud pit in the tunnels.  It takes less than an hour to reduce a fresh corpse to a pile of clean bones in the pool.

The lamplighters are paid to light and replace large candles in glass sconces that provide dim illumination to the areas of the tunnels used by the city.  The rounds begin with a twisting walk down and over, past several side passages, to a square gallery surrounding an open shaft down.  Niches carved in the wall twisting down around the edge of the square gallery hold the skulls of the dead.  If a name is known, it is engraved in the rock under the skull.  Imzel detected an open connection or Gate to a plane of necrotic ooze, slime and abomination somewhere far down the open shaft, far below the areas used by the city to store skulls.

Candles lit around the skulls, the lamplighters led on to the first of three large open chambers used to store the other bones.  This first cave has not been used to store new bones for centuries.  Piles of bones are mounded up, interlocking, to form cubes of like bones.  One cube of interlocked arm bones, stacked high.  One cube of interlocked femurs, stacked high.  Small bones, vertebrae, phalanges, are tucked into gaps around the larger bones.

As the lamplighters made their way around the perimeter of the room, the party heard what appeared to be the sound of combat coming from down a locked and barred passageway.  The party talked the watch commander (despite his misgivings) into unlocking the gate so they could investigate. They saw three oddly clad human males clumsily wielding swords battling a bunch of skeletons.    I am pretty sure it was Darkon the Bold who incinerated a bunch of skeletons with a spell and motioned the humans to join them.  They turned out to be nice enough sorts, three very confused young professionals from Florence (Italy) who are into what they called "urban exploring" and must have taken a very wrong turn somewhere.  Alessandro, Luca and Guiseppe had been lost for days, and picked up the longswords along their way to defend themselves from undead skeletons that seemed to be everywhere.  Darkon the Bold, with the aid of a Comprehend Languages spell, figured out enough of what happened to the three that he knew they were a long, long way from home.  The three Italians accompanied the party and lamplighters as they continued on their rounds, with the understanding that the watch would take them to meet representatives of the Lords of Waterdeep who could presumably help them along their way back home.

Continuing on, the route led down and around, deeper into the labyrinth of passages, constantly descending in depth, passing many barred off passages.  The party noticed a strange green slime or ectoplasm that was seeping out of the solid rock.  The farther down they went the more of it there was seeping out.  Imzel could see an astral connection to the necrotic plane of ooze and slime, a slim astral thread leading from each mote of slime out through the Gate detected earlier, down below the skull gallery and beyond to a necromantic aspect of the god Ghaunaduar, god of Abominations and patron of oozes and Slimes.  Imzel was able to divine that the slime could take over pre-existing sentient undead and deliver them into the control of this aspect of Ghaunaduar.  Imzel collected some of the slime in a glass flask.

Hurrying on through the rounds now as the patches of slime were growing rapidly, the party made it through the second large catacomb chamber (also not in current use, but only filled a few decades ago) without incident.  The ooze continued to multiply as the candle lighting expedition continued on to the lowest point used by the city, the third and currently used large catacomb cave.  Just before the passage curved around a corner to reach the catacomb cave, the party noticed that the gate barring a tunnel exiting to the south had been torn asunder.  Something large and covered in the green ectoplasmic slime had burst through the gate and entered the catacomb cave ahead of the party, judging by the splatters of slime.  It had left a palpable aura of cold and undeath in its wake.

At this point the party had the tremendous foresight to cast a magical ward against undead sealing the tunnel to the south from the passage, to prevent further ooze covered undead creatures from coming up behind them.
The party proceeded into the large catacomb cave and discovered a two headed bone naga ouroboros lurking in the stacks of bones, a giant snake skeleton with a huge skull at each end capped with a spiked bony knob for slamming into things.  They also quickly discovered it could shoot lightning bolts as it responded to Darkon the Bold's magical assault with one of its own.  Nidalee jumped all over the place and made the bone naga regret its dark unbirth.  The bone naga animated a whole bunch of mismatched skeletons from the bones in the room, but Darkon wiped them out immediately with a spell.  Another bone naga tried to join the fray but was prevented by the magical wards - curses!  The party prevailed and discovered two glowing sapphires in the skulls of the bone naga which could be hurled as magical grenades, with an effect identical to a fireball (8d6) but generating a sphere of lightning.

And that was pretty much that.  No encounters on the long upward twisting passages leading back up to the Gate.  We paused there.

We may pick up at pretty much the same place the next time we play the high level characters, there was another pretty cool and probably more interesting encounter and area that I had planned which we didn't get to farther on, involving prepping the Hall of Heroes for a burial in the morning.  The Hall of Heroes has a Gate to a dimension of endless grasslands, and soldiers and great warriors are buried there.  A high ranking ranger, a warden of the wilderness north of Waterdeep, died recently fighting a giant demon shadow bear that had been terrorizing the north.  The ranger apparently killed the demon in the same moment he was killed, but the demon took the ranger's soul with him in death and the ranger could not be raised back to life.  His funeral is scheduled for tomorrow morning and the lamplighters are supposed to prep the grassland dimension beyond the Gate for the funeral by cutting back the grass on and around the paths and around the grave mounds.

Another high level scenario I have plotted are a rescue/retrieval mission to snatch the young daughter of a noble house from the temple of the Cult of Ghaunaduar in a sub level of Undermountain (the young daughter is a willing convert to the cult, her family had paid someone to infiltrate the cult but their plant couldn't talk the daughter into leaving the cult - now the family wants to hire some badasses to break their daughter out whether she wants to go or not).

I also have some sessions planned in the very distant past, in the third age (prior to the existence of Gods, Devils and Demons and the present which is the fourth age, there were three earlier and godless ages).  A lot of the first two lower level sessions involved learning about relics of ancient Abolon, a kingdom of the third age, and encountering cultists of Abolon active in Waterdeep today.  I have some fun scenarios involving a time gate back to old Abolon.

May you bathe in the red light of Abolon's ever-open eye.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Giambattista's Megadungeon

Doing some organizing in my D&D folder on my computer today I came across this incredible megadungeon map drawn by Giambattista Nolli in 1748.  I think I came across this one day while Google image searching for floorplans and recognized it for the masterpiece in dungeon construction that it is.  You can visit an interactive zoomable navigable version of the map here (thanks UO!).

I am going to use portions of this for the ruins of ancient Abolon that my 5e Waterdeep campaign players are likely going to be discovering soon under the sewers.

This is just a snippet - the full map is way too big to paste here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

As promised, more maps - Blue Opal House

I promised my 5e Waterdeep Campaign group that I would post the above-ground, more-or-less public levels of the Blue Opal House before our next session. 

One of these days soon I will finish up the recaps of session 1 and 2 and that will included some backstory on the Blue Opal House.  Until then no further explanation of these scribbles will be posted here besides a note that the stairs between levels 2 and 3 were accidentally drawn in reversed direction (they should be leading down from level 3 to level 2, and likewise up from level 2 to level 3).  

Blue Opal House Roof

Blue Opal House 4th floor

Blue Opal House - 3rd floor

Blue Opal House - 2nd floor

Blue Opal House - Ground Level

Sunday, June 26, 2016

As promised, some maps

We just had the  2nd session of my new Waterdeep campaign yesterday.  I promised the group I would post some maps for them to reference.

During our first session the group had scraped together and paid a rush fee (50gp) to the Surveyors, Map & Chart-Makers' Guild for a copy of a map of the city sewers.  Although rush jobs typically take two days, the guild had extra copies of the sewer map as they are under contract with the Cellarers and Plumbers' Guild to maintain and supply up-to-date maps of the sewers.

The group also asked the Steward (and current employer of the PCs) of House Adalbrant (known for patronage of map & chart-makers in pursuit of their expansionist trade dreams) if there happened to be any maps of the city sewers in the house library.  There was indeed an older map, drawn before the construction of many of the sewer mains which now connect the sewers of the different wards.  This older map shows 3 sinkholes that drained out the sewers (down into subterranean levels unknown) of the North Ward, Trades Ward and parts of Castle and Dock Ward.  There are some other differences between the two maps, and anywhere a passage shown on the old map bisects one of the new sewer lines, there is a bricked over passage.  The party already knew that there were many old tunnels that were walled off in the sewer (thanks to the late great Marco, contact of party murder-hobo Lochelech.  Poor Marco met an extremely bitter fate in last night's session, but that is a story for another post).

Current Sewer Map (from Waterdeep and the North by Ed Greenwood)

Old Sewer Map showing 3 drain sinkholes

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Starting Friends

The first session of my new 5e Waterdeep campaign is tonight - getting excited!  Just finished up a table for determining some random "starting friends" that each PC will already know in the city.  Here is it in  one page .PDF format.

Table headings: You became friends how?; How would you describe the relationship?; Something unusual?; Useful contact that they have?; What physical features stick out?

Here is the .PDF printable version of the massive list of THOUSANDS of canon NPC names from Forgotten Realms novels that someone at Candlekeep compiled and I formatted to print out for the names I need to generate in game:  Forgotten Realms Name List .PDF Format

Friday, June 3, 2016

Three Magical Items

Pouch of Concealment

Twisting the jewel clasp of this pouch in a particular pattern creates an illusory double of the pouch’s contents at that moment.  This illusion will persist even if the contents are removed or other items are added.  The illusion is all that can be seen if the pouch is opened, and a save is granted only if an item is placed into the pouch or it is reached into (Intelligence Save DC12).  Twisting the clasp again will dispel the illusion.

Crossbow of Illumination

Bolts glow brightly for one hour after being fired from this crossbow, shedding bright light in a 20’ radius and dim light for an additional 20’.

Quarterstaff of Pain

This staff does not do real damage, but on a successful hit causes intense hallucinatory pain, requiring a CON save at DC = unmodified attack roll to take any action the following round except writhe in pain.  If the save is failed by 2 or more the victim also drops prone to the ground.

All Art By Moi

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Like Lewis Carroll on acid with Lovecraft thrown in

The Fungus Forest was featured on the Roll For Initiative podcast.  I think they gave us a new tagline:

This is like Lewis Carroll on acid with Lovecraft thrown in.

Check it out!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Three Scrolls

  1. Scroll of Release: Reading this scroll aloud unlocks all non-magical locks and unties all knots within a 10’ radius.  The magic consumes the scroll.

  2. Scroll of Judgement: Reading this scroll aloud causes all within earshot to believe that a declared target is guilty of a specified crime (Save DC BLANKITY).  A new save is allowed each time new evidence is brought forward that exonerates the target.  The scroll can only be used once, but anyone who has failed the save will believe the scroll to contain damning evidence upon examination.  Anyone who makes the save sees the used scroll as completely blank.

  3. Scroll of Temporal Passage: Up to five willing targets are transported forward in time exactly 12 hours, reappearing in exactly the same spot (or displaced the shortest possible distance if something is now blocking that spot).  No time elapses from the perspective of the temporal passengers.  The scroll disappears after use only to reappear in the same place in 1d100 days.  It can be used repeatedly.

Scroll by Moi

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ring of Fluidity

Ring of Fluidity

Once placed on the finger this ring can only be removed after death (unless Remove Curse is used).  It transforms the internal structure of its wearer under the skin, replacing muscle, bone, and organs with an opaque green goo.  Food is placed in the usual orifice and dissolved internally (nutrition requirements stay the same); nothing is defecated.  The ring wearer can squeeze through finger-width cracks and finger-diameter holes.  The ring wearer no longer ages.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

White Water Wyrm and Wyrmlings

[creatures and text by Lee Reynoldson from Fungus Forest, art by moi]

White Water Wyrm

A thirty-foot long beast with huge bulging eyes that are perfectly adapted to the darkness of its cave and its waters. It has rubbery white flesh, proto-gills and lungs, diminutive fins and semi-functional limbs. It secretes an oily substance that paralyses those that come into contact with its skin (Saving Throw at -1 penalty to avoid paralysis for 3d6 turns) or are exposed to the water around it (Saving Throw each round at +1 bonus to avoid paralysis for 2d6 rounds). It is also asexual and without another of its species gives birth to batches of White Wyrmlings.  It feeds on its own young, forcing the Wyrmlings to flee the lake and inhabit the underground river system. It is a dangerous predator in the water, but it can, and does, waddle onto land from time to time.

White Wyrmlings

Offspring of the White Water Wyrm. These vile looking things resemble aquatic tapeworms with teeth. They thrash about a single victim in a swarm. Anyone who succumbs to the paralyzing poison that seeps from the Wyrmlings' skin or from their bites will be eaten. If they are successful in paralyzing a victim, they will devour him in just four combat rounds. If left to feed they will not attack anyone else. If the party tries to rescue their paralyzed comrade the swarm will retaliate. If a swarm is reduced to four or less HP it will swim away.

White Water Wyrm
AC: 3 [16]
HD: 5 (24 HP)
Move: 4; 16 Swim
Attacks: 1 Bite (2d6)
Save: 16
Special: Immune to poison; Secretes poison
(on contact: -1 to Save, paralyzed 3d6 turns; in water: +1 to Save, paralyzed 2d6 rounds)
XP: 600
White Wyrmling Swarm
AC: 9 [10]
HD: 2 (9 HP)
Move: 12 Swim
Attacks: 1 Swarm Frenzy (Poison)
Save: 18
Special: Poison (Save or paralyzed for 2d6 rounds); Devour paralyzed victim in 4 rounds; Immune to poison
XP: 50

The Fungus Forest is an old-school adventure location suitable for low level play, available at DriveThruRPG as a pay-what-you-want .PDF (please download it for free if you can't afford to contribute anything, we want this in the hands of gamers!).  

Fungus Forest (C)2016 by Lee Reynoldson and Carl Nash
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