On Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Episode IV Remix: Part II

Baldur's Gate

Your characters could have up to a ten-day to hang out in one of the largest and most well known cities in Faerûn. 

Sure, no problem. Wing it.

Here's some background information on Baldur's Gate. This metropolis has over 100,000 people in it. The best that can be done in such a situation is to ask the players what they are doing, and have a good city encounter table. I'm not going to supply one—I'd probably use a Judge's guild product. 

I suggest a small sidequest, introducing some non-player characters (perhaps even one of the ones making the journey north) and using this section as an outlet for your creativity.

At my home table, I expect the ten-day in Baldur's Gate to take an entire session or two.

Hiring Out

This table is great. The best part is, the players will in almost every circumstance get hired out to different people. This leads to the biggest problem with this section in general.

One two hour session isn't enough for players to experience 1/10th the content available in Chapter 4. It's not a problem that they get hired out to separate people because that's bad. It's a problem because it's good.  Two months of travel condensed into as many hours seems difficult to do. 

My suggestion if you're running it for encounters is to pick the one or two people or events that stand out best to you and ignore the rest. If you're not running encounters, then taking the time to meet several of the NPC's and following the players down side paths and having multiple encounters can be a pretty rewarding experience for the campaign. 

Fellow Travelers

So this section is great. What's even better is the admonishment in the beginning—use these when you need an NPC or to spice up the journey, change them however you like. 

Random Road Events

I know some people have complained about these, but I like nearly all of them.

Adventuring Life

Ousting imposters in revenge for losing their vaunted position and having them get more money from it? Sounds awesome. I'd spend some time fancying up the group, giving them a name, each of the members a personality. 

Animal Abuse

This also is great, especially how it plays out if no one does anything. 

Bane of the Mountains

There is a bit of a missed opportunity here with the Preytons, being that they are pretty fascinating creatures of myth. A little addition of having one of the characters dream of a human shadow standing over them, only to turn and see a vicious stag might lend additional weight to this encounter.

Contraband

This is interesting, because it's almost as much in the player charater's interest to keep it covered up as it is the cultists. It's important that the treasure reach the goal, so the players know where the cult is headed.

Everything has a Price

Again, this punishes (entertainingly) players who think everything in Dungeons and Dragons is straightforward. What can the players do in this situation? How's it resolved? These are not negative questions, but interesting ones. It's especially helpful to make sure this is a player character's magic item, because boy-howdy will the player be invested.
There's some danger of fiat here ("The item automatically disappears overnight"), but it's not too far a stretch because it only occurs if special precautions aren't taken and the person taking it won't be who the player suspects. It's very unlikely the player will never go to the bathroom, sleep, or be distracted.

Fungus Humongous

Heh.

The Golden Stag

This is absolutely the best encounter out of the bunch. Mythic, interesting, and with a touch of the strange. It's seeing things like this in published adventures that lets me know the spirit of the OSR has taken hold.

Payback

It's interesting that there's the opportunity for an ally here, but he is quite vaguely described. I would think it's more important to at least give a sentence or two to his personality. The encounter is made extra interesting if he's off putting or offensive.  

No Room at the Inn

This is a good encounter to pull if the characters seem to be getting frustrated. It's a simple straightforward opportunity to put the smackdown on some jerks that deserve it.

Roadside Hospitality

An old trope to be sure, and not particularly suited for encounters play. It is more than somewhat likely if the two ladies can get someone off into the woods, that four attacks at advantage doing 4d6+4 each can drop a PC. How to run this depends on your party, right? If successfully replaced the PC is dead, and is then responsible for playing the part of the Doppelganger. If you're looking for some ideas on what they want, I've talked about them before.

Spider Woods

A nice large combat, and it's only one of the many encounters! Can we talk about how nice that the big tactical combat encounter is in the minority of these options? Because that's nice.

Stranded

An interesting tactical situation that the players can attend to. It's interesting that solving it causes at least as many problems as fixes.

Planned Road Events

And this is the biggest problem with this section of the adventure. Let's talk about Recognized first. You, at some point, have gone on a road trip with some other people. Didn't at the end of that trip you know them all, waaaay better than you knew them before? 

Here we are talking about going on a deadly road trip for at least sixty days. There isn't a single person on this trip you won't meet or get an idea about by the end of the first week. How come none of the non-player characters are cultists? You'd know them all, staying separate or no. This is a missed opportunity. Cultists are people too. You can use my book On the Non-Player Character to generate their personalities, or try Daniel Davis's Random Cultist Generator over at Detect Magic.

Murder Most Foul is the second problem. It's a cutscene. The players cannot affect the outcome and have no ability to discern what actually happens. This is literally how it is presented "And then one of the cultists was stabbed to death. They accuse you. There's no way to tell what happened. All the cultists hate you now Tom. They hate you. The end of episode 4."

This episode is very much a amusement park ride—Steve Winter says as much:
"Episode 4 sends characters on a long road journey. Because The Rise of Tiamat is set in the Forgotten Realms, we wanted to let characters see some of the countryside and learn a bit about their world before they risk their lives further trying to save it. Faerûn is a colorful, endlessly interesting place, and it would be wasteful not to capitalize on that with a dollop of life on the road." -Steve Winter, Tiamat Tuesdays
Presenting it that way, letting the characters know they have to track the treasure in order to stop the Dragon Cult,  prevents a lot of railroad bucking. Why not steal the treasure? Why not kill the cultists? Well, the treasure and cultists are your only links to the cult. Lose them, and what's next, besides letting them take over the world?

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On Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Episode IV Remix: Part I

Episode four is where a lot of awesome is found.

When I'm writing an adventure for someone, I've got to assume that they have the skills to pull things off. There are these points in this adventure (A blue dragon attacks the town, you've got to walk into the enemy camp, a half-dragon leader who far outclasses the party challenges them) where if handled by a poor Dungeon Master, can lead to player disbelief, disengagement, and dissatisfaction.

That's what this series is—simply my take on how I would present and run things to prevent that. Steve Winter has faith in me (and you) that we can move beyond his page count constraints to do that.

There are a lot of unfair comparisons being made. What are some of the best adventures and most memorable modules? Caves of Chaos? Elemental Evil? Phandlever? Thracia? Each of those are these giant environments with many moving parts that players can manipulate. That was not the directive for this book. I run linear non-jaquayed dungeons all the time, but I run them as sites on a hexmap or quest options for players to explore or ignore as they please (with the appropriate consequences of course).

What we are talking about here is what makes a good adventure for a player to buy? What makes a good adventure for a DM to run at encounters? What are the assumptions of each and how do we negotiate those? How much does the module require of you to do that?

One of the biggest issues that has come up is that Hoard of the Dragon Queen starts with the players seeing a blue dragon attacking a town. How players react to this has to do with their expectations and previous play experience. The problem with 5e groups is, you have grognards playing with Type III series people playing with Type IV series people and each group has wildly different expectations of what occurs during play. Some expect that they are heroes and should go to the town because they are the ones to save it. Others expect that they are playing people who recognize that they are mortal and choose to stay away from dragons at all costs!

A 4th edition blog I've been perusing recently about the realms, called appropriately enough "My Realms" had this to say about Phandelver:
"From reading the reviews of Lost Mine before I had it in my hot little e-hands, it seems the presence of a 16 hit dice green dragon in the Ruins of Thundertree clearly presented a problem that few level 3 parties would be able to overcome. In fact, it would appear that its breath weapon alone, by virtue of its size and average damage, would be sufficient to wipe out many a level 3 5E party.
Oops.
While the obvious solution is to make the dragon a younger age category and thus more level-appropriate (and the green dragon has to be left in the adventure because it's depicted in the cover art), the purpose of this post is to suggest some other ways to make the dragon encounter still work but have it involve negotiation because it seems the dragon has a problem." - Starter Set Sandbox 3: Ruins of Thundertree
I feel it's completely ok for players to run across creatures they can't kill (because sometimes they can). It's not that one of these styles is correct and the other is incorrect. It's that if you're not running a certain type of adventure, then your skills as a Dungeon Master come in at making that type of adventure work at the table with your players.

A lot of groups have looked at the Blue Dragon in Hoard of the Dragon Queen and gone—"We go save the town!".  This doesn't mean that the table has a good Dungeon Master. The skill of a good Dungeon Master is solving the root of the problem: Are you able to collapse previous play experience, expectation, and the adventure in front of you in an entertaining way while causing as little cognitive dissonance as possible?*

There's a key, crucial, insight here that what makes a tabletop adventure good isn't some narrated moment, it's when the players feel that their actions have meaning.

Episode 4: On the Road.

The core of this situation makes a lot of sense. They have to track the caravan, because they don't know what the plan is, where the dragon cult is based, or what's going on. Tracking the stolen goods is a great way to find this information out.

There's a throwaway line about making the 200 mile trip from Greenest to Elturel in six days with optional encounters. At D&D encounters, this should be quickly handwaved. But for a home table, it's a great opportunity to break out the calendar, whether tables, and random monster encounter tables to give the characters an opportunity to feel like they are part of a living, complex, and dangerous world. There's no pages available for that information in Hoard of the Dragon Queen. 

There's a bunch of really important balls to juggle in the air here.
  • The whole land of Elturgard is bathed in undead killing light that shines night and day.
  • Did you mention Ontharr Frume and Elturel when the monk was talking earlier? This whole adventure goes down much easier if you make it clear at the start of part three that adventure 4 begins by going to Elturel to fine Ontharr Frume. 
  • Player's hate hoop-jumping and wasting time. That's how the adventure in Elturel starts.
I hate when players hate things. When they arrive in town, they are directed, as per the adventure to the "A Pair of Black Antlers Inn". Once there, if they try to talk to Leosin or Ontharr, they are told ears are everywhere and preparations are being made for a meeting on the night of the morrow. This means they have all day today and tomorrow to engage in whatever they want. This both explains why they are having to screw around and also frees them to follow up on things that interest them. 

Elturel has a population of 17,000 in 1479. This is a large city, which means it has a lot of stuff for sale. Any item in the range of 8-10,000 gold can be found within it's walls. So shopping is a possibility, as well as someone willing to buy dragon eggs or wyrms.

I would create a schedule of events, much like a convention, along with the standard shopping and city encounters and present it to the players. The key factors here being that A) they can't attend all the events and B) various small bonuses are acquired for engaging in or participating in the events. Ontharr already seems to be running a small festival.

I've done things like this before and they are a lot of fun for the players. Simply create a schedule of events like so:
Time Events Events Events
8:00 AM Feast & Speech
9:00 AM Foot Race Archery Contest Horseback Riding
10:00 AM Archery Contest (cont) Horseback Riding (cont.)
11:00 AM Pie Eating Contest Archery Contest (finals) Horseback Riding (finals)
Midday Lunch Festival Lunch Festival Lunch Festival
1:00 PM The Concubine of Sass Tam (Play) Arm Wrestling Dancing Contest
2:00 PM The Concubine of Sass Tam (Play) Arm Wrestling Dancing Contest
3:00 PM The Concubine of Sass Tam (Play) Drinking Contest Dancing Contest (finals)
4:00 PM Talent Exhibition Drinking Contest Wrestling Contest
5:00 PM Talent Exhibition Drinking Contest Wrestling Contest
6:00 PM Dinner/Open Mic Dinner/Open Mic Dinner/Open Mic
7:00 PM Open Mic/Socializing Open Mic/Socializing Open Mic/Socializing

And so on. The next day could have sparring/weapon training/a cook-off/ whatever.  Note that this timing will also conflict with their ability to go shopping or accomplish other tasks in the town.  I'd resolve contests with a series of d20 rolls, however you wish, contested, against target numbers, etc. Providing some color to competitors could also provide possible recruitable henchmen. Placing or winning in a contest would provide a small bonus. Examples for winning or placing in the archery contest might include: Here is a 1d6 you can roll to add to any damage from a ranged weapon, or you may choose to make 1 ranged shot at advantage, to even giving out 1-10 magical +1 arrows or a mildly enchanted bow, with a minor enchantment like whoever uses it has proficiency in it.

The important thing is you have fun creating the table and the contests, and the players get two days of game time to mess around and do fun things.

At the appointed time the characters can meet with Ontharr and Leosin, and receive the quest to catch up to the caravan headed to Baldur's Gate.

The Mission


The only thing I have to say here, is I really like the costume change bit. It's suggested that the characters alter their appearance, and now being third or fourth level it is a good time to do so. This is a pretty common trope and works well in a visual sense, for those players who focus on RPG's that way.

Part II examines Baldur's Gate and the various ways to manage travel on the road.

*An example of this is casting in armor. I never had any problem creating good in world reasons for casting in armor—or even just saying, "Them's the rules of the game we are playing." But enough people did and it created enough of a problem that the current version of the game just says "f&*% it. Everyone can cast in armor." This is a correct solution. 

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On Languages

What does messing around with a language add to a game?

Well, for some styles of play, a hell of a lot.

Currently I'm running a fifth edition Forgotten Realms game. It's the first fifth edition game I've ever run. It's the first game I've ever run in the Forgotten Realms.

The Forgotten Realms language system is a mess. It's a complete cluster of weird related languages. For example. Illuskan is the language of the north spoken by the Illuskan people. But that's not all. There's Bothii, the language of the northern barbarian tribes. Uluik, the language of the native icehunters. Reghedjic, the tongue of the northern glacial Barbarians in the north and east.

Several people in the party only share the common tongue, which I have prepared a primitive word list, only allowing those words to be communicated in common. Three people speak Illuskan. Three speak Chondathan. Only one person speaks both.

This is awesome. It isn't a problem or something to be ignored. Communication and the trials associated with it are awesome.

Dwarven, That's the name of the language, right?

This is silly though, right? I've always found the third edition language system to be a bit absurd. 
I speak gnoll, orc, dwarf and elf!

*Sigh*

It's simple, straightforward, and bland. The core rules of 5th edition keep it this way, but they have vastly improved the means by which you acquire new languages (covered in the downtime section of the core rulebook). This system is great for not needing to worry about language. 

Something a little more interesting?

In most of my settings. I do something a little different, though quite similar in concept. Instead of breaking the languages up by species, I group them according to region and philosophical approach to the world. An example of my traditional language list:

Common (trade language), Human Regional languages (Varies) Fay, Dialects→High/Grey/Wild (Pixie-Farie, Elf, Grey), Lilliputian (Gnome, Halfling, Burrowing mammals), Hellion (Goblinoid, orc), Montus (Dwarven, Undercommon), Canis (Gnoll/Gnarl-ron/Wolf-men), Homonid (Ape), Jotnar (Trolls/giants), Suidae (Boar-men), Ophidian (reptile/lizard-men), Arachnidia (spider), Chordata (Kuo-Toa, Troglodites, Bullywugs), Sign, Black Speech, High Ancient

Restricting characters to very few languages (as fifth edition does) and making the selections meaningful is a good way to go. 

The Beauty in Complexity

The fantastic thing about what's going on with the Forgotten Realms is that it's a hot mess. This is actually a lot like the real world. Most places you're going to be able to speak pidgin english, but each region and culture will have it's own language. This little bit of extra detail and time spent thinking about it makes play seem all that much more meaningful.

The Half-Orc in the party keeps saying these wise and philosophical things, but nobody can understand a word. The thief can barely communicate with anyone. The wizard can cast comprehend languages, but can't talk back to anything that's talking to the party, and half the time they are using him to talk back and forth to each other.

It makes for a good time.

A Final Note

It's important to remember this has a lot to do with your style of play. An open campaign where characters really exist and live in the world? It's great! Messing around with languages in megadungeon play will likely only get in the way of the actual gameplay. 

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On Towns, Dunsay

Densay is a small town of 1,182 people and is a city on the fringes of civilized lands near a swamp. There are a large number of wizards in the town and it is ruled harshly by a Rakshasa named Ori.

The town is extremely orderly and clean with a golden and bejeweled public square, who's beauty in the marshland is only marred by the torture of those who are about to be eaten.

Most of the population has near fanatical support for Ori, because those that show doubt, despair or apathy are the first to die. Many people view this as a wonderful place to live. Taxes are non-existent, they are extremely safe, the town is beautiful, and as long as you capture someone to take your place when your lot is called or you have an essential job, you don't have anything to worry about. You aren't oppressed! Someday you'll be in charge.


Densay 

Description


Lawful Evil, A frontier swamp town with wizards ruled by a despotic monster.

"Splendorem, et immortalitatis"; in splendor lies immortality. The town is exquisitely designed, which does nothing to camouflage the plight of the people.

Demographics 


Government: Dictatorship of a Rakshasa named Ori, enforced by his elite lizard man and bullywug guards.

Population: There are 320 human households (average less than 3 people) and assorted humans. (934 humans total), 40 elven households (1.47 average) and assorted elves (59 elves total), Half-elves count 35 in number and half-orcs count 24 in number. There are 118 lizard men of the Snapper Reed clan in the town, and 12 odd Bullywugs who work exclusively for Ori.

Languages Spoken: Common, Human regional dialect, Ophidian, A few townmembers and the bullywugs speak Chordata

Local Religions:

  • Worship is of a goddess of destruction. All other worship is officially outlawed. She is an aspect of Shiva (Bhaal in the Forgotten Realms, Nerull in Greyhawk). The followers are called "The Faithful of the Transcendent Worm". Solemn daily prayers are required, and having a family and children are discouraged. Apathy and despair in the face of this plight are viewed as the highest sin. Children come of age at 9 and are separated from their parents and perform distasteful religious service before reentering society. Cannablism is frequently performed, and outsiders are eventually converted or killed.
  • There is a small rebel sect worshiping Pamora, a goddess of hope. (Sune in the Forgotten Realms, Ehlonna in Greyhawk)
Notable NPC's:
  • Ori is the mayor of the town. He is a Rakshasas and is creepy and adventurous. He regularly terrorizes the townsfolk, who are his primary food source. 
  • Otnief Zaro a suave wizard who speaks out against the rule of Densay by Ori. Has had bad experiences, so she refuses to associate with new people. 
  • Amubas is a wealthy trader who recently survived a poisoning attempt. Although this lizard-man is grossly fat, he aspires to be a mighty warrior. 

Districts



Shops 
  • Domma Portia's Secret Shop sells small charms and trinkets. Run by Domma Portia's daughter Wynna. Domia is old, but lives.
  • Nottingmoor Ranges is a bower with some selection of leather items. The proprietor is a grizzled half-elf Gwindili who's drunk more than half the time, yet holds his liquor well and keeps it close to the chest. He is a middling shot, though believes his skill is much greater. 
  • Bodhouse Mason contains a small forge where metal weapons are produced. It's run by a human smith named Exas Goodwe and his Lizard Men apprentices Sumadea and Apingin

Inns 
  • Guantlet's Bar, Famous for breaded Goose. This bar is probably the most exciting place in town at night, more people gather here because of long ago enchantments that prevent overhearing other peoples conversations 
  • The Sign of the White Ogre an inn named after a nearby swamp legend. It is clean inside and has a quiet calm nightly demeanor.

Features 
  • The Green Spire is the home of Valor Enlor a powerful wizard. 
  • The Stalker Bell Campus is a small area of study of sorcerous pursuits. 
  • The Scarster Bastion is the central keep of Densay and the well fortified domain of Ori 
  • The Quartal Square is a place of astounding beauty, offset only by the public displays of punishments of the guilty. 

Men for Hire
  • Mr. Higgens, a quiet, stout, bald man who picks at his fingers with a knife. 
  • Furi Malhammer a bombastic dwarven female who is in a wheelchair. 
  • Blopti Virison is an ex-viking, who's looking to become a wizard. 
  • Kurabu is a lizard man who has better places to be. This only partially has to do with the people who want his hide. 
  • Vanka Zleska is a bigoted gypsy. She tells jokes and presents a helpful front, but is a perennial procrastinator and obstructs others. She carries a bloodstained net. 

Resources: Climate (sub-tropical), Fishing (fish), Geography (swamp), Medicinal/Alchemical Plants/Herbs, Natural Industry (Magical Workshops), Magical Resources (Ley Lines)

Diversions


Obstacles: Harsh Conditions (Isolated, Near large monster lair) Corruption (Leaders), Black Wizardry, Population (Unhappy and Xenophobic Population), Religious zelotry

Adventure Seeds and Local News
  • There is some local conflict over humans not being allowed promotion to the elite guards. Several groups have gone on perilous missions in an attempt to prove their worth.
  • Cultists try to convert the adventures, or alternately the rebel worshipers attempt to recruit the characters
  • At the end of every week lots are drawn from the human and half-human population to see which members become food. Anyone capturing any outsiders may use them to defer their next selection.
  • Agralis Arymas is said to be working on a powerful enchantment that will alter the nearby landscape: He needs certain resources to complete the enchantment, alternately the enchantment has to be stopped and the resource must be destroyed.


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On What to Do With a Dragon Corpse

I am a terrible dungeon master. 

Spoilers for Phandelver follow.

So, my players were about to leave Thundertree, when they decided to look around to find a certain missing amulet. While they found the amulet, they also found a strangely attired group of humanoids.

Failing their stealth roll, they were invited in for tea and a strongly worded offer.

Thull explained how the dragon cult helped his sick grandmother out and provided for his every need. He explained that they quite successfully recruited dragons, he himself having never heard of a dragon refusing an offer of the dragon cult. And he strongly suggested that the players that had been spotted and invited in join, because he'd much rather be their friends than have to offer them to the dragon also.

This plan lasted about as long as you would expect. The players agreed and the cultists got to walk outside of the door before the rest of the party attacked.

The bard put dissonant whispers in the mind of the leader, who fled screaming.

Obviously the murder of several dozen cultists is not the quietest activity, especially not when one of them has taken psychic damage and is screaming as loudly as he can in draconic, (which iirc, no one in the party can speak).

Shortly, the ground shakes as Venomfang roars, quite upset about having being woken from his slumber.

The raging reckless frenzied barbarian, tired of the shrieking madness of the cult leader, runs up to him and splits him in twain.

The Dragon climbs to the top of the tower and flies towards the party, landing right in front of the dead cult leader and the barbarian standing over his corpse.

It is the secret quest of the raging reckless frenzied barbarian to slay Venomfang.

Venomfang (Hostile) says "WHO DARES DISTURB THE SLUMBER OF THE MIGHTY AND POWERFUL VENOMFANG?!"

The bard, being the bard, attempts to talk Venomfang down. She says "Oh, great and mighty dragon, we come only to bask in awe of your mighty form." Using the updated 5th edition modifications to the "On the Non-Player Character" social system, she rolls for the Honor action and gets a 26, changing his mood from hostile to neutral.

Then it is the raging reckless frenzied barbarian's turn to act. She, of course, attacks twice. Combat is joined.

So the thing is, it doesn't matter how powerful your dragon is. When you lose initiative against six players, you're going to have a bad time.

By the time I actually got to act, I had already lost nearly 100 hit points. The dragon took flight, and breathed on as many targets as he could. At this point, only being the barbarian and the 1/2 orc monk. I did 56 points of damage. You'd think this would be deadly to a 1st level monk and a 3rd level barbarian. They both save. 28 hit points leaves the barbarian with 10, and the monk, being a half-orc, is not killed outright, so remains standing with 1 hit point.

How upset is Venomfang at this point?

Not nearly as upset as he is as he fails his saving throw against Tasha's Hideous Laughter when he's 30 feet in the air.

So, the point of todays post is, 



What can you do with a dragon corpse.


Essences

There is very little value in fighting monsters, except for the value of the monster itself. ACKS using something similar to value monsters called "Monster parts" that's defined as having a value in gold equal to the experience point value of the monster, arbitrarily assigning each unit a weight of 5 stone for 300 gold.

Essences are simpler in that you can acquire 1 per hit die of the creature you kill. They are worth 100 gold towards crafting a relevant item or spell research, or may be sold for half price to recoup some value. In a system that is essentially on a silver standard such as Lamentations of the Flame Princes or 5th edition, then this value is reduced to 100 silver.

This is what I use, and it is awesome.

Dragons, being magical creatures, can provide up to 3 times the normal essence as a more mundane creature. That means a 16 hit die creature like Venomfang can produce up to 48 essences. You may extract essence from the blood, the flesh, and the brain. Note that this is an all or nothing affair. You can either have the corpse, or you can reduce it to essence. Turn the flesh into essence, no dragon armor for you.

This means totally breaking down the dragons corpse grants 480 gold, which is just in line for the amount of treasure handed out in Phandlever and Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

Armor

Dragon Hide makes excellent scale mail armor. It can also be used to craft a shield. It cannot be used to make other kinds of armor, select the rationale for such a decisions from the following list: verisimilitude, balance, simplicity.

A medium dragon produces 1 hide-unit of armor. A large dragon produces 3 hide-units of armor. A huge dragon produces 5 hide-units of armor. A unit of armor produces a medium sized shield, helm, or mantle (cloak). Two hide-units produce a medium sized suit of scale mail armor.

This is assuming the dragon was slain in normal melee combat. If the party takes care to do as little damage to the hide as possible (blunt weapons, sleep spells), then add 1 hide unit to a medium dragon, 2 to a large, and 3 to a huge dragon. If the party is particularly vicious in their attack on the dragon (arrows, many sword blows, violent spells), feel free to reduce the hide-unit values appropriately.

Dragon hide armor is resistant to the element the dragon breathes, and is easily enchantable. This can work however your rules system manages, but generally I reduce the costs to enchant dragon hide armor, helms, shields and cloaks, by half.

Dragon hide is consumed if the flesh of the dragon is converted into essence.

Note that good or evil, no dragon looks favorably upon someone wearing their skin.

Blood

The blood is a deadly poison if ingested, causing death if eaten or swallowed on a failed saving throw versus poison at -4, (or a DC 15 Constitution save, or DC 18 Fortitude save, depending on your system.) It has no poison effect via contact, inhaled or injury, although it is strongly corrosive against most metals and rocks, causing them to become brittle and prone to breakage over time (weeks).
If you bathe in the blood (requiring 40 gallons for a medium creature, half that for a small creature) you are cured of any diseases, any poisons are neutralized, and you gain 1d12 years of life, as a potion of longevity. After a single bath, the blood is useless for any other purpose.
There are 2 gallons of blood in a medium dragon, 10 gallons in a large dragon, and 500 gallons in a huge dragon.
Blood sells for the same price it breaks down into if transmuted into essence, 50 gold pieces per hit die. The Dragon blood is consumed if the dragon blood is broken down into essence.

Bones

Dragon bones, horns, teeth, and claws, can be used to create staves, wands, rods, weapons and trinkets. A medium dragon produces 4 bone-units, a large dragon produces 16 bone-units, and a huge dragon produces 256 bone-units.

Why don't I include stats for a gargantuan dragon? Because get out of here. If you're killing a CR 24 gargantuan dragon, you don't need to be scavenging it for parts, leave that for the mortals.

As with other dragon parts, these reduce the cost of enchantment of items by half.
A wand or trinket (amulet, etc.) or small weapon costs 1 bone unit.
A rod or medium weapon costs 2 bone units.
A staff or large weapon costs 4 bone units.
A single bone unit can produce 10 arrows or bolts.

The dragon bones are consumed if the dragon bones are broken down into essences.

Brain

It is possible to consume a dragon brain to gain great power. It is also possible to die horribly. Make a saving throw versus poison when eating the brain or regurgitate the brain, ruining it and losing all benefit. (Constitution DC 10 save for medium, DC 15 save for large, DC 20 save for huge, or DC 10 + Dragon's hit die Fortitude save).
On a success, violent changes occur inside your body. Make a system shock roll or die. (Constitution DC 3 for medium, DC 5 for large, or DC 10 for huge, or DC 2 + 1/2 dragons hit die Fortitude save). If you live roll 2d8 on the following table:
2 You believe you are the dead dragon. Act accordingly.
3 You gain 1 hit point per hit die permanently.
4 You gain 1 point of Strength and Constitution. This can exceed your normal maximum.
5 You gain the ability to smell gold (As Treasure Finding, once a day)
6 You gain magic/spell resistance of 10% (SR of 5 + Character level, or advantage on all saves versus spells)
7 You gain 1,000 experience points times your level.
8 Gain 1 point of intelligence and 1 point of wisdom. This can exceed your normal maximum.
9 Gain 1-4 points of intelligence. This can exceed your normal maximum.
10 Gain 2 points of wisdom. This can exceed your normal maximum.
11 You gain 1d10 x 500 experience points.
12 You gain the ability to cast charm person 3 times a day.
13 You gain 1 point of Dexterity and Constitution. This can exceed your normal maximum.
14 Your eyes glow red, and you gain a 10 foot aura of dragon fear activatable at will.
15 Your skin becomes tough and resilient to damage. Gain a +2 bonus to armor class (+2 natural armor).
16 Gain immunity to the dragons breath weapon type.

The dragon's brain is consumed if the dragon's flesh is broken down into essence.

Eyes

The dragons eyes may be swallowed. This follows the same procedure for swallowing the brain above.  If successful, the eyes replace (painfully) the eaters natural eyes, granting them dragon sight. This has several effects.

The eyes bulge unnaturally, extruding from the face. The orbs are the color of the dragon with vertical pupils. You gain Blindsight out to 15 feet, and darkvision out to 30 feet per size of the dragon, i.e. Medium is 15/30, Large is 30/60, and Huge is 45/90. Also, roll percentiles:
01-10 see into ethereal plane
11-30 see invisibility
31-70 no additional effect
71-90 detect magic
91-00 true seeing

The dragon's eyes are consumed if the dragon's flesh is broken down into essence.

Gallstones

There is a chance that a dragon has magical stones in it's kidneys, gall bladder, or gut. 1d4+1 stones may be found. There is a 40% chance of a medium dragon, an 80% chance for a large dragon, and a 20% for a huge dragon to have 2d4+2 (huge dragons always have 1d4+1 stones). These are Ioun stones and their effects are generated randomly.

The dragon's stones are consumed if the dragon's blood is broken down into essence.

Heart

Eating the heart of a dragon has different effects depending on the size of the dragon.

Eating the heart of a medium dragon affects the eater as if they were  under the effects of a haste spell. There are two servings of the heart.

Eating the heart of a large dragon affects the eater as if they were under the effects of a haste spell and a heroism potion (of the appropriate class). There are 4 servings of the heart.

Eating the heart of a huge dragon affects the eater as if they were under the effects of a haste spell, a super-heroism potion, and and the spell aid cast by a 15th level cleric. There are 8 servings of this heart.

In any case a system shock roll (Constitution DC 3 for medium, DC 5 for large, or DC 10 for huge, or DC 2 + 1/2 dragons hit die Fortitude save) must be made after the effect ends to avoid dying.

The dragon's heart is consumed if the dragon's blood is broken down into essence.

Tongue

A character may sever their own tongue, and attach a dead dragon's tongue in it's place. This process is dangerous due to the bleeding risk, but rarely fatal. The person attaching the tongue must succeed at a DC 7 Healing check (DC 20 Medicine check, DC 25 Heal check) on a success, roll on the following table:
1 Saving throw difficulty of your spells increased by 1.
2 Blindsight 10 foot radius.
3 ability to detect poison in a 5 foot radius.
4 verbal charisma based skills (persuasion, charisma, bluff) increased by 2 points.

On a failed healing/medicine check, the attachment was botched, and you speak with a lisp or slur. This causes you to fail casting spells with a verbal component 1 in 5 times (20% spell failure chance).

The dragon's tongue is consumed if the dragon's flesh is broken down into essence.


This conversion and these rules are heavily inspired by Hackmaster 4th edition, which just goes to show you what you've been missing.

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On Even More 5th Edition Monster Manual Comments

I've had some time to read over this book and there are even more thoughts that I have. (WARNING, This post contains some adult content!)


  • Why don't the angels have halos?
  • The book has both piercers and dark mantles, their 3.x replacement that supposedly made more sense. That has to be awkward at the christmas party.
  • Here is a list of monsters with ken doll parts that should have visible dongs. I'm leaving demons and angels off this list because they might have ken doll parts.
    •  what Ettin will wear pants? 
    • Fomorian says they wear scraps of cloth or less. The one in the picture has a swank belt!
    • Aarakocra
    • Azer (sculpted from bronze but wears a skirt)
    • Cyclopes
    • Werebear (all these lycanthropies have so many pants and clothes!)
    • Ogre
    • Nothic
      • It's totes important to note here that this is a game targeted at 12 year olds. I mean, I understand the lack of visible dongs. I'm not particularly into visible dongs. I'm just saying that visible dongs are a pretty monsterous thing. I mean, I hate pants and I'm all civilized. If I lived in the monster filled wilderness and I was a giant monster, I wouldn't start my day by looking for my pants.
  • They seriously went overboard with the anthropomorphization. Why does a cloaker or a chasme have a human head? Monsters very rarely seem like alien creatures. You can always locate their eyes and head. Is that intentional? Is it because of this research about locating eyes on creatures? Most of these monsters could be cosplayed by people in suits. Deliberate?
  • Digital motion blur. Uggghhhhhhhh. *stomps foot*
  • The lemur picture is the best
  • A tyrannosaurs is the same CR (8) as a young green dragon, and although it does slightly more damage in melee, it's considerably weaker than the dragon. Conclusion? Dragons are (again) under-rated for their CR.
  • Props to whoever painted the dinosaur pictures, I'm sad they are blocked out.
  • Monte Cook designs a female succubus, and the world loses its mind, Dopplegangers are rapists to reproduce, no one makes a peep. (And they shouldn't)
  • The dryad is stiff and underworked and bland for an impressionistic piece.
  • Two spells a level is still a lot of options for a spellcasting monster.
  • The empyrean and the Ettercap are examples of digital illustration gone wrong (you see that skirt on the Empyrean). Apologies to the artist(s) but you know you'll never see anything like that in a LotFP book.
  • The lycanthropy page runner is excellent.
  • Hags can inspire a whole witch hunting campaign themselves.
  • My, how well dressed are you, you hedonistic reveling Satyr. You look like you're going to a mid-level marketing seminar.
  • Lowering stats from an attack is still a terrible mechanic due to recalculation. (Yes, shadows still drain strength). I thought this was a solved problem with things like negative levels, or even doing things like having weakness points or something.
  • Maybe it's just the fact that my 6 person, level 2.8 party killed Venomfang in two rounds, but all of these monsters seem weak, unless there are a lot of them. The power level seems pretty similar, problems only come in when facing a lot of opponents.
  • A lot of these creatures are weirdly monochromatic. E.g. Wyvern, wraith, stirge, et. al.

I think the art here is more erratic than the art in the Player's Handbook. But it is a large full color book. It's clear (from the art reuse and stuff) that Wizards/Hasbro is looking to control cost. I'd imagine that although large to us, the art budget on this book was more limited than in the past. 

There are a lot of spectacular drawings, and some special recognition is due Christopher Burdett who just is constantly knocking these illustrations out of the park. He can, uh, illustrate my monster manual anytime.

I like more rawness and nudity in my art. Obviously this game for children isn't the place for it, but I don't like pictures of monsters that just look like people in rubber suits. I dislike that most all "monstrous" creatures in the manual are mostly handsome men and women, and the monstrous ones are still basically human shaped. I'm going to post some of my own illustrations to, ahem, illustrate what I mean. 

See? Dongs?
Interesting Female Nudity
Cultists are anti-pants
Don't you know dudes that look like this in real life?

On the Popularity of Games

Which Role Playing Game is the best role playing Game?

Wait, no.

Which is the most popular?

The truth is, we live in relative darkness about what games are being sold and what games are being played. To date, our best resource has been ICv2 which just tells us the top few best selling games through the retail channels.

This has allowed an awful lot of us to live in ignorance.  Didn't release a supplement this month? Nobody is playing your game!

What's more, is that the people in charge of the companies have no motivation to dispel any illusions the players have.

And it's not really a mud-slinging type industry—After all, products that focus on "fixing" things and are built around not having "problems" other gaming systems have don't do well. Or so I believe, and who's to tell me otherwise?

The Orr Group, that's who.

Who are the Orr Group? They are the Roll20 programmers who consumed Tabletop Forge when several people quit the project. (A slight exaggeration, Joshua Owen approached Roll20.) They provide a Virtual Table Top interface for people playing on-line games.

Now people don't like to have their illusions shattered. Anyone who doesn't like these numbers or facts will just come up with excuses about how it doesn't count home games, or people playing games on G+ online might not be using these pieces of software.

Well that's true. it's also true that those people don't understand statistics and sampling data either. After all, I play B/X so I don't need Roll20, so I'm not counted.

Let's look at the numbers we get for the third quarter of 2014.

THE ORR GROUP INDUSTRY REPORT is an overview of tabletop gaming ruleset popularity based on usage data from Roll20 Virtual Tabletop. Third Quarter results are as follows: Based on a sample size of approximately 25,000 games and 15,000 players.
Notes on how information is gathered:
  • “Games” = % of games where the Game Master said “this is what we’re playing.”
  • “Players” = % of players who were active in the quarter and filled in the “this is what I enjoy playing” field on their profile.
  • Percentages will total more than 100% because each player/game can have more than one game type designated. This is extremely common for players and rare for the games.
  • This only takes into account games/players which were active (e.g. game was played, player played at least one game) during the 3rd Quarter of 2014.
  • This is meant to be a representative sample, as it only takes into account games and players who filled out relevant fields on their game page/profile. There was significantly more than 25k games and 15k players who played in this quarter, but many do not fill out these fields.
  • The list of available games to select were curated by Roll20’s staff based on previous freeform survey results, and will be changing in the future.
Notes on Roll20 / THE ORR GROUP:
Roll20 began as an effort to keep developers and The Orr Group founders Riley Dutton, Nolan T. Jones, and Richard Zayas in touch via long distance gaming. Since launching via Kickstarter in April of 2012, Roll20 has attracted more than 600,000 users as a free service. The program continues to be funded by subscribers who receive features that assist advanced gameplay.

Did it match your expectations? Was the Popularity of the games played related to your internal narrative of which games are popular and which games are not?

Does it matter if more people are playing 1st edition than whatever game you are playing that isn't Dungeons and Dragons?

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