On the Hoard of the Dragon Queen: Episode 6, Part II

Castle Naerytar

Why do the cultists drag the treasure thousands of miles north, only to fly it back south only a hop, skip, and a jump from Greenrest?

A logical question, and the answer is pretty clear. The cult is collecting lots of treasure from lots of places, and don't want their plan to be discovered. Better to send the treasure far away from where Tiamat is being summoned and transport it, rather than risk everyone tracking down the central populated area everyone is sending the treasure. 

A castle, even one 15 miles into a swamp, that cuts off 700 miles from the trip is too good to pass up. 

Another feature of the castle noted in the adventure is that the location of several non-player characters isn't noted. This isn't an oversight, but rather a concession to the fact that the interior of the castle is a dynamic place, and people should be moving around through the castle in response to player actions. 


Elf Nazi is a great idea. I mean, Dralmorrer Borngray, member of Eldreth Valuuthra. (Which are elven nazi's). I imagine the best way of handling him, would for him to be just the nicest guy, who really doesn't mind the lesser races, and treats them favorably as cute pets, who all, eventually, must be put down. The encounter with the most henious and repulsive member of the cult should be the one that's the most friendly and nauseating. 

Pharblex Spattergoo is a great name! I've always run bullywugs as the most chaotic, repulsive, evil creatures in the world. Everything that isn't a bullywug is to be appeased if more powerful, otherwise tortured, raped, and eaten, not always in that order. Having the cultists share some of Dralmorrer's disgust, makes for an even more interesting dynamic, perhaps having some of the players fighting with the cultists somewhere in the castle. 

This also sets up the interesting dynamic where the players have to perhaps tolerate enormity because of the superior numbers of the bullywugs. If they are casually committing some great evil, and there's fifty of them, what will the heroes do? 

Finally, there's the lizard folk that have been enslaved by the bullywugs, after Pharblex killed Suncaller, their leader. They also are conflicted, in that they worship the dragon (though not the cult) and are clearly not human. Although easily (relatively) made allies, the alien primitiveness of the lizard folk should be played up. Sometimes they will attack each other for status, or perhaps meet some need instead of engaging in the current task. They might react aggressively or unpredictably to benign actions, and even if allied, might not care if another lizard-man gets himself killed. They also might be hyper-religious and mildly schizophrenic, hearing voices of their god, in the absence of Voaraghamanthar telling them what to do. Snapjaw as their representative should be more human.

Azbara Jos is an interesting encounter before open warfare starts. His intense interest and the unlikeliness of players to actually answer his questions make for a tense encounter. This is really a great opportunity to play up the stereotype of renegade Red Wizards and drop some background lore on the players during conversation.

As far as the dragon(s) Voaraghamanthar and Waervaerendor go, they've lived through the last four editions of Dungeons & Dragons. There's no reason these twins should be killed now. They are capital-P Powerful. Even well-equipped high level parties in Rise of Tiamat, should find two ancient, spellcasting, psionic, twin dragons decked out in powerful magic items and with an army of lizard-folk and dragon-dogs a titanic struggle. 

Squaring off against the Cult

This section describes the behavior and actions of the principals involved. I only note this to say it's good. It places the power in the hands of the DM. It explains what people do and why. It describes a variety of things that happen that don't dissolve into combat. If you've read many adventures in Dungeon Magazine, this is a good example of better. 

Outside the Castle

There is little of interest here in the actual description. I think the key thing I would do, is have some outside interactions among the bullywugs and lizard folk outside the castle. A sample of ideas is below. There's always the classic trope of portraying the local relationships as the characters enter the castle, but some more interesting options are below.
  1. Bullywugs are dragging of someone in cultist robes who is screaming "I'm a cultist! Let me go you stupid beasts!" in terrified fear.
  2. A lizard-man and a bullywug are about to fight!
  3. A strangely dressed merchant with a small cart sits at the north of the Bullywug camp, and has some strange magical items for sale
  4. A portal hangs open in the air, and a giant finger reaches through into the bullywug camp, where they are falling all over themselves to worship the intrusion. 
  5. The camp is under assault from some of the dead that inhabit the mere of dead men. Bullywugs, cultists and lizard men are allied in driving them off. 
  6. The lizard men are performing a ceremony to appease Voaraghamanthar in the open.

Inside Castle Naerytar

So, first the bad. The interior maps are muddy, are labeled with alphabetical numbers, with the floor number in front, and the maps aren't aligned the same way (North on the level 2 map is towards the top, whereas on the level 1 map it's right.) This is intended to be mitigated by the letters matching up, but they don't, sadly. 

Secondly, the method used to describe the castle is poor. It's described as a site based adventure, but what it really is, is a background for the players to enact a plan against. The excessive verbiage isn't the worst it's ever been in a module, but it is very unlikely the players will be exploring it room by room (although that's a possibility). The map is ok. It makes sense. But it's not clear at a glance for a DM running it, what types of hazards are nearby for players moving quickly through the complex during a running battle. 
Drawing on the Tact-tiles like this
My plan, is that I am going to print out digital copies of the maps, Then I'm gong to mark the relevant areas for me. I'm going to take the Tact-tiles I own, and draw out the interior spaces in the castle ahead of time, and use shorthand on my physical map to note the hazards and occupants. I'll also likely design a single sheet, listing all the inhabitants of the castle, so I can track the delicious murder as it occurs. 

Then, I'll verbally describe the castle and their movements through it, till open conflict breaks out, and then run the rest as a mobile running battle throughout the castle. 

Various notes and observations about the interior:
  • Most of the treasure is kind of uninteresting and seems to be presented in a 'work for work's sake' manner—why give different value for all the gems, if the gems are all just generic gems? But the fact that Pharblex has the latest in womens fashions in his inner chamber sets up a pretty entertaining encounter.
  • What are the characters doing here? There isn't a quest at this point, so it's interesting from their perspective. Certainly locating where the treasure is going is probably the main possibility, but thats going to be accomplished by default if they survive. So they have a lot of options. Free as many Tiamat/dragon worshiping lizard men as possible? Try to chase down Rezmir or Azbar to keep them from escaping? Loot the place?
  • It's likely they won't get much treasure, since the sooner they follow through the gate the better. 
  • I'm happy to see that the farseer of Illusk is still here and works in the same manner as it does in the earlier material. 
  • I'm fairly ok with the utilitarian nature of the castle. After all, it's simply the site that the characters will have a conflict in, but the underneath of the castle is a little plain. I'm going to play up the weirdness of the statues and such.
I'm going to have the cultists be White Dragon Cultists (The Pale Eye of Tiamat)
  • Use the Cultist Generator
  • Bullywugs are just the cessation of the universe manifest
  • The lizard folk are empty shells, who seek a core to wrap themselves around. 
  • Nothing in the universe cares for any other thing.
  • We shall bring Tiamat rest so she may dream the world to come!
  • Dralmorrer seeks to kill all things but himself, when his own destruction is the purest kind.
  • We believe in nothing!
  • This isn't fair! Why are you doing this?
The White Dragon cultists have several specialized troops inside the castle. First are the white women, who have their skin stretched down to cover everything but their mouths, and they have no hair. Their bite is powerful and drains levels.

They have several albino lizard-men they have converted. These lizard men have had their insides shelled out and are filled with a white paste. When they take melee damage, the person gets splattered with this paste, doing 1 point of damage a round. It can be scraped off by using your action. The damage is cumulative. By taking 1d6 points of damage, they can voluntarily vomit this material out onto a target, doing a continuous 1d8 points of damage every round on the albinos turn. They are mindless. Nothing living remains. 

They carry bags of white serpents. Treat these each as a single swarm of poisonous snakes that the cultists throw as a ranged weapon. They have a ridiculous number of these bags. 

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On the Hoard of the Dragon Queen: Episode 6, Part I

Let's get this series finished before the end of the year when it's time for me to run it.

Before going any further, I'd like to take a minute to say Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat together is worthy of being a classic. Here's why:
"Tyranny of Dragons is a big, sprawling adventure that covers many levels of play and a huge swath of the Forgotten Realms. This book outlines the overall structure of the adventure and presents many episodes and events with which to challenge the characters as they investigate the nefarious plots of the Cult of the Dragon. This is not, however, a script to be read allowed with stage directions that must be followed. Tyranny of Dragons does not hold your hand and guide you step-by-step from the story's beginning to its inevitable conclusion. Instead, it presents people, creatures, locations, and situations for the adventurers to explore and interact with in a constantly changing, lively way.
You, the Dungeon Master, play a vital role. The creators of Tyranny of Dragons have tried to foresee the most likely courses of action that the characters might take in the adventure. However, D&D players are curious and unpredictable, and Faerun is immense and filled with possibility. In a scenario as open-ended as this one, it is all but guaranteed that at some point during the adventure—and possibly at many points—the players will develop their own ideas about how to handle a situation or how to deal with the cult. And just like that, they'll be off and running in directions that aren't covered by this book. These kinds of situations put a DM's skill to the test—but they also produce some of the greatest gaming moments and memories".—Rise of Tiamat, Steve Winter 
It doesn't say Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

It doesn't say the Rise of Tiamat.

It says "Tyranny of Dragons".

This is not an introductory module. This is not an intermediate adventure path. This is a two book supplement for skilled Dungeon Masters that describes the most important events taking place in the Forgotten Realms. It's supplemented by events in Adventurer's League that take place around the Moonsea. And it leaves a ton of space open for your own adventures.

It's not perfect, but it is under the dual constraint of needing to be palatable for public play, as well as hitting what I assume is a tight page count. A company like WotC doesn't have the freedom to double (triple, quadruple) page count just because more stuff was turned in, like an OSR publisher like +James Raggi.

So this series is my answer to how I'd solve the issues in the adventure. +Daniel Davis has another. You will have your own. And the adventure is one of the best that's ever been published by the brand holder of Dungeons & Dragons. It contains surprises and creative things I'd never thought I'd see in an official product.

Someone out there might say "Why am I paying for the adventure if I have to do extra work?" That person obviously isn't playing Dungeons & Dragons 20 hours a week, if ever. I've never run an adventure that didn't require a lot of extra "work", or as I like to call it, "fun". Even one-shots that I've run include pre-generated characters, pictures, props, etc. You're paying for not having to come up with structure, ideas, names, history, calendars, and plots—you're paying for a framework to put your own creativity over, which is exactly what a module series about an evil cult trying to destroy the world does!

Episode 6

This is one of the best sections in the book. (Crazy spoilers abound ahead!!)

Link to another chnitzy map
You travel through the Mere of Dead Men to reach Castle Naerytar, where various factions of the cult vie for power! There are a bunch of different ways to approach what happens in the castle, but first you have to reach it. 

I started this section by looking into the Mere of Dead Men and the Dragon(s) that inhabit it. There's an extensive article on the dragons from Dragon Magazine #257 that provides a lot of insight into the area and the dragons. In addition, there is a series of adventures into the Mere from Dungeon Magazine 69-73. Here is the map from that series of adventures, with each of the sites listed detailed in the series.

This series of adventures also revolves around the black dragons and their quest for powerful magic items and it provides a lot of history. A whole miniature campaign can be played in this section of the adventure.  I almost certainly will run it as a miniature hexcrawl, allowing them to investigate and explore any of the sites in the swamp that seem interesting. A short summary of the relevant parts of each adventure from the magazine are listed below.

Slave Vats of the Yuan-Ti, Dungeon 69: Iniarv's Tower was the tower of a Demi-lich. Wolfhill's house was a front for human cloning experiments of the Yuan-ti. The hill has an aura of causing spells to misfire and creatures to grow to gigantic size.
Ssscaly Things, Dungeon #70: There is a tribe of lizard men called the Three Towers Tribe. There is an abandoned fort near the Mornhaven towers. Spells within 1 mile of the towers have a 1 in 4 chance of becoming permanent. The towers were built by elven sisters, who tried to sink them to contain a demon.
Dreadful Vestiges, Dungeon #71: Holk House was a sanctuary for priests of Eldath, goddess of peace, pools, and springs, now haunted by spirits of Myrkul worshipers. Holk House is now partially submerged, and protected by powerful wards that nullify transmutation and conjuration spells. The last known resident was a cursed blackguard.
Mistress on the Mere, Dungeon #72: A half-elven wizard built Castle Naerytar (maybe). It was inhabited by Adele Astrolara for a while, a member of the Academy of Stargazers, a female only guild of mages. She was secretly a penanggalan. There is a ruined road of logs and mud heading northeast from the castle to the high road. 
Eye of Myrkul, Dungeon #73: Chardansearavitriol (Ebondeath) a great dragon built his lair in 631 DR, and vanished in 922 DR, secretly becoming a dracolich, and eventually a demi-dracolich. The Ulhtower exudes a radiance that prevents the turning of undead and grants all devout followers of Myrkul and undead a protection from good effect. 

The Mere itself is difficult to traverse. Here is some text from the Eye of Myrkul. 
Travelers in the Mere of Dead Men find the saltwater swamp to be a slow and treacherous passage. In many places the dark waters are deep enough to permit a flat-bottomed skiff to pass, but in other locations small islands rise from brackish pools and are overrun with riotous twisted vegetation. The ancient remains of long-fallen humans, demi-humans, and orcs are scattered everywhere as are the bones of many less identifiable creatures. . . Beings with movement rates of 12 [Ed. 30 feet] can cover approximately two miles a day in the swamp. . . given the thick vegitation, skiff-borne travelers through the Mere are reduced to a base movement rate of 4 [Ed. 10 feet] and can cover approximately eight miles per day, assuming ten hours of travel. 
And it is filled with many deadly creatures
Encounters within the Mere are frequent and often deadly. The DM should check for a random encounter six times per day, with a 4-in-10 chance of an encounter. . .The DM should feel free to add any additional random encounters appropriate for a relatively cold, salt-water swamp set in the northern Realms. In particular, many monsters unique to the marshes and swamps of the Realms make their homes in the Mere, including aballins, alguduirs (swamp dragons), flying fangs (flying snakes), gulguthydrae, meazels, nyths, sewerms, skuz, slithermorphs, swamp rohches, thessalhydrae, and xantravars (stinging horrors). Also, many of the more commonly known denizens of cold marshes and swamps are  found within the Mere, including behirs, bullywugs, giant leeches, giant lizards, hydrae, lizard men, muck-dwellers, scrags, shambling mounds, snakes, toads, and will o'wisps. . . encounters with undead of all sorts—particularly ghouls, skeletons, and zombies—are common in the western reaches of the Mere. 
I would use that information as the basis for a wandering monster and hexploration table. I'd provide links to Wizardawn, which is what I would use to generate it, but it appears to be down currently.

Travelling to the castle

The two hundred miles north of Waterdeep they travel will put them on the north side of the Mere, which is pretty much where they will have to be to have the castle be 15 miles away. This apparently means they will be travelling south into the swamp. 

The movement rates in the module appear to be consistent with those above. Somewhere around 7-8 miles a day. There is a clearly marked trail that the characters can follow, but at the scale it is at, there should be a lot of interesting sites visible from either side as they travel, perhaps tempting them off course. 

Our first bit of navigation of a skilled challenge begins here. If the characters use the campsite, they are approached by lizard-men, who "won't negotiate or converse with characters", but their number also contains a lizard-man named Snapjaw, who can become an ally. 

This, I believe is a feature, not a bug—an encounter where the point is to punish those players who take a scorched earth policy to enemies, and reward those who think to take prisoners. 

Random Encounters

As mentioned, the book contains a bunch of interactions that are more like wandering fights, whereas constructing a table using the options above will give a much more Forgotten Realms flavor to the adventure. I would share my person encounter table, but considering the content of some of what I'm going to use, I'm not entirely sure it's covered under the OGL. Googling the monsters above should give you what you need. 

Keep tuned for the second part of Episode 6, the castle itself. . .

Hack & Slash 
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On Hack & Slash TV 2: OneBookShelf Bans A Game!

OneBookShelf bans Gamergate the card game! We talk about it and have a James Desborough stop by to talk about what's going on himself. (37 minute runtime)

But that's not all. We don't have easy questions for people. Why does James focus on making offensive and puerile games? How does James feel about Gamergate? Why doesn't James take a minute to read some terrible boxed text? What does James think about the cover art for Yoon-Suin?

Since the creation of this video, OneBookShelf has decided to ban the card game Gamergate. This is the first and only game they have banned. The full text of the ban e-mail is on my blog, linked at the bottom of the post.

Beloch Shrike https://plus.google.com/u/0/100807759232603150118/posts
Chris McDowall https://plus.google.com/u/0/+ChrisMcDowallRPG/posts
Joshua Macy https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JoshuaMacy/posts
Jeffrey McArthur https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JeffreyMcArthur/posts
Ron Blessing https://plus.google.com/u/0/+RonBlessing/posts
and Special guest star
James Desborough https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JamesGrimDesborough/posts

The tweet in question:

The tweet of Fred Hicks comparing this situation to Ferguson:
Gif of tweet chain: https://archive.org/download/fredhickstweetfergusonobs/fredhickstweetfergusonobs.JPG

James Desborough's Bibliography:

Gamergate card game example:

Ways to support James Desborough

A 58 page thread about James Desborough by people who hate him, in the most unsurprising place on the internet

The origin of the bad boxed text, and even more weirdness from that module: http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?148566-Example-from-the-worst-TSR-adventure-module(s)-ever-published/page2#ixzz3LQNTigLy

Suicide Prevention and Depression Awareness

If you are in a suicide crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

This video is Patreon Supported and patrons get to watch the uncut video.

The full text of the e-mail that OneBookShelf sent me as a publisher is listed below:

Dear Publishers,
We elected to ban a title from our marketplaces. Of the tens of thousands of titles that we carry, and after operating for 13 years, we have never before banned a title (other than for legal reasons). I hope those numbers make it clear this is not an action we have undertaken lightly, nor is it one we will undertake frequently, if ever again. Nonetheless, as this is the first time we’ve decided to ban a title, I thought a letter of explanation was in order.
The title in question is a card game whose theme is the Gamergate issue. The game attempted to present the issue in a satirical manner.
Normally, satirical works would be welcome on our marketplaces. However, we feel that there are situations where satire is inappropriate. For example, we do not think that a game released today that satirizes police killings of minorities in the USA would be appropriate. Regardless of how one feels about an issue like that, we feel that it is too current, too emotionally charged on both sides, and too related to real-world violence or death to make it an appropriate matter for satire.
Similarly, no matter how one feels about Gamergate, it is likewise too current, too emotionally frought, and too related to violence to be an appropriate subject for satire. Additionally, we considered that the violent element of the Gamergate issue has a basis in misogyny. For these reasons, we felt that this card game title was not welcome for sale on our site.
Note too that this is a card game, not a roleplaying game. Some may feel that if we were to ban an RPG from our marketplaces, that action would levy a significant economic penalty on that title since we have a long reach in the overall RPG market. This is not true of card games, where OneBookShelf is currently a tiny corner of the card game market. Our not carrying a card game should have minimal impact on that card game’s economic viability.
While we also considered the customer complaints on both sides of this issue (we are a business, after all, and we cannot ignore customer complaints and survive), these were not a major factor in our decision. Not surprisingly, given the gaming fanbase, many of the complaints we received were intelligently written and provided us with additional, thoughtful perspectives on the issue. Unfortunately, most customers were not in a position to review the content of the title itself and were therefore forced to be “judging a book by its cover” only.
Some publishers also complained about this title, and a few publishers let us know they would not be interested in continuing to work with us if we carried it on our store. We will not allow any publisher to dictate content policy onto any other publisher, explicitly or implicitly. If any publisher ever decides to discontinue business with us because our content policy errs to the side of being too open, rather than restrictive, then we will respect their decision to leave our marketplaces and wish them well. To be clear, no publishers’ comments had any bearing on our decision to discontinue selling this title.
Having now banned a title for the first time, we asked ourselves if we needed to establish any explicit policy for banning of future titles for reasons other than legality or production quality. Given that this is the first time such a thing has happened in 13 years, and given the difficulty of defining policies of this nature, we elected not to invest the time in creating a policy that would probably end up a poor guideline anyway. Our time is better spent getting back to retailing your titles to fans.
We carry a lot of titles on our marketplaces that some or all of the members of the OneBookShelf staff find morally distasteful (and we’re generally a pretty open-minded lot), but we find anything that smacks of censorship even more distasteful. We will continue to have a content policy that is more open than will give many of our publishers and customers comfort.
RegardsSteve WieckCEOOneBookShelf

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On Multiclassing in 5th Edition

Multi-classing hasn't worked in Dungeons and Dragons since the year 2000.

Thankfully, 5th edition did us the double favor of both making it function again and unnecessary.

A little skippable history: Non-human characters used to have the option of taking more than once class at a time, and splitting their experience between them. Humans had a special option called Dual Classing, where they stopped advancing in one class forever. This originates with +Ernie Gygax's character Erac's Cousin. Gygax recounts the story of how Erac was transported to The Land of Ugor where his magic didn't function in Dragon #319 in Up On A Soapbox.

In 3rd edition, characters could choose what class they gained when they leveled up. They also had the option of picking among thousands and thousands of prestige classes. This created several problems.

  • Classes were front loaded. There was no point in going past the first few levels of many classes like ranger. 
  • If you took spell-casting classes, you always were at a disadvantage multi-classing, unless the class had full spellcasting progression, due to the importance of spell level. A sixth level wizard who took a level in a prestige class wouldn't get fourth level spells until eighth level, causing him to be underpowered compared to level appropriate encounters. 
  • Characters could get ridiculously high saving throws.
  • Certain prestige classes made rule-exceptions that allowed classes to trade useless features (turn attempts per day) and turn them into ultra powerful abilities. 
  • Because you could do this, a lot of players spent time planning out which class they would take at which level to maximize certain values to unbalance their characters. 
5th edition solved all these problems super-elegantly
  • Spells are categorized by level, but most all spells can be improved by using a higher level spell slot. You don't need summon monster IX, you just can cast the Conjure Elemental spell at a higher level spell slot for a more powerful summon. When you multi-class, you gain addition slots, even if you don't gain higher level spells. 
    • This means even if you lose the raw power of higher level spells, you don't fall behind in general power level, because your spells increase in power either way.
  • There are no prestige classes. Each class has a prestige option that grants abilities at three different levels, meaning you don't have to leave the core class.
  • When multi-classing, you don't gain all the features of the class you change into—only a restricted list. 
  • Your total proficiency bonus is tied to your total level, rather than based off what the class gives you.
  • The ability of classes to specialize, removes a lot of the necessity of multi-classing, letting it represent a way to customize your character, rather than to try and generate a concept. 
In 5th edition, you multi-class in essentially the same way as third edition. You select which class you'd like to take when you level.

But what if you'd like to do traditional multi-classing or have gestalt characters in 5th edition? Having characters being able to take more than one class simultaneously and level up in both like in first edition games could provide the same experience.

It's possible, but not quite straightforward.

1st Edition Multi-classing in 5th Edition

There are a few problems to be aware of.
  1. Experience gain isn't quite as exponential as it was in 1st edition. 
  2. The classes are designed to be equal and don't require different experience point totals. 
So, our major concern here is that gestalt characters will always overshadow single class or 3rd edition style multi-class. Here are the changes necessary to make that work.

Two or Three classes are selected. Experience points are split evenly between these classes. No other classes can be taken. Once the classes reach the required experience point total, you level as normal. 
  • One class is the primary class, chosen by the player. The secondary (or tertiary) class only gets the core class proficiencies from the multi-classing table on page 164. 
    • EXCEPTING saving throws. If a class combination receives proficiency in the same save from both classes, they can select another saving throw to have proficiency in. 
  • The classes split experience points equally between the classes.
  • When gaining a level, the hit dice are rolled, added together, divided by 2 and rounded up. A barbarian/fighter would roll 1d12+1d10/2 for hit points and then add their Constitution bonus. 
    • Use the better hit die for hit point recovery.
  • The classes are not additive to determine the proficiency bonus! A Fighter/Wizard 4/4 would have a +2 proficiency bonus.
  • Spell slots and spells known are not additive. A Wizard/Warlock keeps track of his spells separately, ignoring the multi-classing table. He cannot use wizard slots for warlock spells and vice-versa.
  • Other, unmentioned class features stack according to the guidelines in the multi-classing section of the players handbook.
  • They must meet all the requirements of the multi-classing requirements in the book.
The new experience point table is as follows.

  • The experience point value for class level is listed as in the 5th Edition Players Handbook, page 15. 
  • The 2 Class Total XP indicates how much experience you would have to acquire split evenly between your classes to reach that level. 
  • The 2CEqL (2 class equivalent level) is what level a single-classed character would be with the total experience acquired by that point..
  • The 3 Class Total XP indicates how much experience you would have to acquire split evenly between your 3 classes to reach that level.
  • The 3CEqL (3 class equivalent level) is what a single-classed character would be with ith the total experience acquired by that point..
Experience Points Level 2 Class Total XP  2CEqL 3 Class XP total 3CEqL
0 1 0 1 0 1
300 2 600 2 900 3
900 3 1,800 3 2,700 4
2,700 4 5,400 4 8100 5
6,500 5 13,000 5 19,500 6
14,000 6 28,000 7 42,000 8
23,000 7 46,000 8 69,000 10
34,000 8 68,000 10 102,000 12
48,000 9 96,000 11 144.000 14
64,000 10 128,000 13 192,000 15
85,000 11 170,000 15 255,000 17
100,000 12 200,000 16 300,000 18
120,000 13 240,000 17 360,000 20
140,000 14 280,000 18 420,000 21
165,000 15 330,000 19 495,000 22
195,000 16 390,000 20 585,000 23
225,000 17 450,000 21 675,000 25
265,000 18 530,000 23 795,000 26
305,000 19 610,000 24 915,000 28
355,000 20 710,000 24+ 1,065,000 29

There may be situations in which characters may be overshadowed or outclassed by multi-class characters. Is a single level 20 fighter superior to a Fighter/Magic-User/Thief 13/13/13? His proficiency bonus, hit points and class features make him more powerful, but the F/M-U/Thief is a lot more flexible.

For the first three levels when the disparity is lower, the multi-class characters will seem more powerful. But they will always be lagging behind, often getting their level right before the single-classed characters gain the level beyond that. . 

As a further control on these power levels, and to insure that multi-classing strengthens you game, rather than just becomes another powerful option, perhaps consider limiting multi-classing to certain approved combinations. For example, only allow Dwarves to be Fighter/Clerics, and restrict elves to Fighter/Magic Users. 

Hack & Slash 
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On Hamlets, Sludgebridge

Do we like these? Is there a certain type or size of population center we need more of? I'm focusing on Hamlets, because those are probably the ones most likely to be squirreled away somewhere on a six mile hex. Has anyone used or planned to use these?

This is the hamlet of Sludgebridge. A small community near a bridge and a swamp. The towns foundation was unstable, and the elaborate three walls that once protected it are now fallen into semi-ruin. It has a series of fountains in the center of town built long ago when the hamlet was more prosperous. In spite of it's out of the way location, the bridge crossing a nearby river makes for a bustling local. There are usually swamp natives, lizard-men, or other denizens crossing near this hamlet.



Chaotic Neutral, small swamp hamlet, known for protecting a bridge crossing.

"Nature, Progress, Trickery"


Government: The town is ruled by a Awnalper Moorqray, a human tribal chieftan. He is a swamp native, now returned from wider travels. He takes the council of his immediate family regarding issues in the town.

Population: The town has a population of 57. This includes 2 extended human families (one of 18 members, the other having 7), 14 half-orcs, 12 lizardfolk, and 6 other creatures. There is a good deal of intermixing of family members. There is also some fair amount of traffic across the bridge from nearby denizens and local fauna. The two families in town are the Moorqray's and the Guilbert's

Languages Spoken: Common, Lizard-folk, Orcish, and a smattering of sylvan

Local Religions: Kralar a local swamp and nature deity is worshiped. She is believed to protect the town, and appears as a woman with sallow skin and a painted body, who wears a large straw hat that hides her face with silks that drape from it, obscuring her lithe form. Her skin is said to be covered in scales, and she can walk upon water as if it were dry land.

There are many small shrines around the hamlet devoted to her, and she is the centerpiece of the three fountains in the center of town.

Noteable NPC's:

  • Awnalper Moorqray, a human fighter 4 who is both head of his clan and the cities leader.
  • Zenusk Guilbert, a human druid 4 who is the head of the other clan in the hamlet.



  • Cottage of the Traveler's Halberd: run by Ernest Guilbert (1/2O/M/Ex4). He is a winemaker and seller with a large common room, and often rents out a small cottage nearby to traveler's who need to stay the night.
  • The Butcher's: An unnamed "shop", this is Karsskt, a local lizardman (Lz/M/Ex2) who will butcher anything, but keeps and specializes in chicken.
  • Alain's Pastries: a shop run by Alain Grassleaf, (1/2/M/Ex4) a halfling pastry chef who attempts to bake decent bread products in the humid swampland.
  • Borsht's: This is a cobbler's shop run by Borsht, a half-orc (1/2O/M/Ex1). Although he specializes in shoes, it's also the only place to purchase supplies or other gear in limited numbers at exorbitant prices. He is in a relationship with Lisstz. (Lz/M/Com1)

  • There are no inns, the town is too small to support them. There is a "common house" used as both a town hall and for worship that visitors can sleep in from the shelter of the elements. Sometimes Ernest Guilbert will rent out his cottage to travelers. 


  • The town is unsurprisingly somewhat insular and mildly hostile to outsiders. The people ask for top coin for services that they will give to locals for free. 
  • The Bellgroveridge Catacomb has been closed off for years. 
  • The town was once protected by a strong triple wall, but being built on the unstable swamp, the wall has shifted and is in partial collapse. It is not very high at this point, six feet at it's peak, but once it stood twice that high. There is more than one area where the wall is nothing more than a mound of rubble.
  • There are three fountains in the center of town. The middle one has a representation of Kralar, and she is said to bless all those who donate money to the god by throwing coins in the pond. These are collected by Awnalper's children at night under cover of darkness, and they bring the coins which mostly go to the hamlet's budget. 
  • Jackal Steps, a nearby tor has a fantastic view of the surrounding countryside.
  • The bridge over the river is wide, stable, and made of stone. It is titled the Stoic Stygian bridge, as noted by the brass plaque embedded in the stonework. Locals often congregate to fish off the bridge. 

Men for Hire:

  • Morrakkim, a fat human clockmaker. He is a level 1 wizard and is brave.
  • Rothvorer, a corpulent level 1 half-orc cleric. She is coy and is very focused on money. She has some financial interest in the form of a loan, he's looking to recover.
  • Alexandre Moorquay, a grizzled mercenary fighter/mage who's willing to act as a swamp guide. He is proficient in no less than 3 instruments and desires mastery of the violin.
  • Filizz, A dwarf-sized bee person. She speaks common poorly and is a level 1 fighter who can fly for short periods. She is very depressed and seeks friendship, but is shy and introverted. 

Resources: Fishing (Fish), Geography (swamp/marsh), Hunting/Game (elk), Medicinal/Alchemical Plants/Herbs, River


Obstacles: Harsh Conditions, Natural Disasters (flooding)

Adventure Seeds and Local News:

  • Serenia Guilbert has recently married Aaron Moorquay and everyone has an opinion about their union.
  • While they are in town, a large force of Bullywugs stage a raid
  • Jurzzzst, a lizard man is in the town square trying to sell a hydra egg.
  • Locals often take bets on contests at night in the Common House, on locals fighting wild swamp beasts


  • Lizard men: Blud, Kalard, Hee'la, Scarl, Sensiss
  • Men, Marcel, Abel, Hugues, Julien, Leon
  • Women, Lucille, Orianne, Ambre, Anais, Charlotte

Hack & Slash 
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On a Useful Review of Rise of Tiamat

Spoilers, sweet goodness, spoilers.
My Thoughts, as I have them:

  • My daughter pointed at the cover and said "Daddy book! Dinosaur!" So that's a win. The white dragon head looks a lot like a dinosaur, more so than the others.
  • Disclaimer: Tiamat does not apologize for TPK's
  • Another if "important nonplayer characters. . . were killed or captured, simply replace them with new nonplayer characters here—or assume that they were resurrected between the previous adventure an this one"
    • Are these characters totally necessary? I don't know, but killing them should have some long term effect. I believe this type of advice is necessary for organized play, but for home play the players certainly should be able to screw up their plans.
  • Man, I'm reading the outline. I'm picturing a dog in a banana suit saying "It's evil dragon killing time, evil dragon killing with a baseball bat!" Don't click that link.
  • The bit about needing to ally with the Red Wizards against the exiles is really really good. Especially if you're combining this with Phandelver. 
  • It's explicitly called out as a open-framework adventure. "[N]ot all your game sessions need to stick to the main track of the adventure narrative". What's more is that it explicitly says in this adventure that it's big and complicated and doesn't hold the Dungeon Master's hand on purpose because it's expected that even though it's hard, that they expect you to be good at your job. I'm happy about this.
  • What's this NPC statblock?!
    • Name
    • Alignment/sex/race/class
    • Ideals:
    • Interaction traits:
    • Pledged Resources:
      • Apparently modern design visits Dungeons and Dragons! (Does something like this look familiar?)
  • For the Forgotten Realms fans, there's a description of nearly every leader or king who's a member of the Lord's Alliance. That's really cool.
  • Now that I've reached the first episode, I realize that not once have I run across anything that's raised any alarm bells. This is a player driven adventure with a time limit, objectives, and real consequences for failure. So far, this combined with the explicit statement about how this is a grown up adventure for Dungeon Master's with their big boy pants on means certainly sets it up among the better products that have been farmed out officially. Really, the "flaws" in Hoard of the Dragon Queen are that the Dungeon Master is expected to be good enough to handle the actions of the player characters, even when those actions are somewhat questionable. Should they rush into a town under attack by a blue dragon? Probably not, but most players will. Will they succeed, word is, a lot of people haven't done well. 
    • tl;dr: The presentation of this module makes me hold Hoard of the Dragon Queen in higher esteem.
  • Some people have complained that the adventure isn't laid out in a "linear" fashion. For instance, you go back to "chapter 1" several times. I have trouble understanding how anyone who makes that complaint isn't an ultramaroon. This is a sourcebook, not an adventure path. You use chapter one as the reference to run the adventure when they are in Waterdeep—it's where the waterdeep information is.
  • The Council Scorecard is awesome. But it needs to be bigger. You can really see how much they tried to get in here, when they take something like that and shrink it to half a page. 
  • The picture at the head of episode 2 is stiff and static, but expressionistic. There's an expressionistic quality to all the art that I really like. The paint has an impasto quality and is really interesting and unlike most art in gaming today. I'm a fan. 
  • The white dragon encounter is already entertaining. Having to find his moving iceberg lair? Brilliant.
  • This second tomb adventure is excellent also! The players follow in where the cultists have already gone. They see signs of where they have been and nearly every encounter has several outcomes. 
  • I still don't like boxed text, espcially boxed text that assumes player action. That is still present in this module. 
  • Goodness, adult green dragon in his lair is no pushover. This adventure is going crazy with possible total party kills. Surviving to the end of it legitimately, no matter what happens with tiamat is impressive.
  • Heh, Dragons become a regular part of the cultists strike force. Here's an example with where a ranger who has a favored enemy can make a bit situational difference. 
  • Oh, except here it notes that the character's will be raised by allies (perhaps) allowing them to continue with a possible advantage. Now that the cult thinks they are dead. . .
  • Holy crap, a boatload of good dragons. Realms fans rejoice!
    • The most frustrating thing about this adventure is that there are few encounters with good dragons—that more than anything else is what some of my players are looking forward too. I've fixed that problem in my own campaigns, but am a little sad they have to reach the Nether Mountains (and level 11+) before it occurs. I'm not saying it isn't realistic, but having the opportunity to at least see, encounter, or interact with good dragons would go a long way towards exciting players. Still, you can't have everything. And I am a skilled Dungeon Master. . .
  • What? A maze that's mythical and not tedious? The adventure encounters in the back end of the path are really good. A lot of people were hoping that this adventure would be comparable the legendary Masks of Nyarlathotep adventure for Call of Cthulhu (not to set your expectations too high). The Rise of Tiamat definitely moves towards that kind of gameplay.
  • The mission to Thay is excellent. Creepy, horrifying and overwhelming. It lives up to exactly what I think entering Thay would be like.
  • The module contains the heading "Ruthless play and high stakes" in bold. Warm feelings.
  • Oh, here's a giant super entertaining block of text about what happens when (well. . . if) Tiamat wins! Oh, man, it's awesome."[T]he age of mortals comes to an end, and the age of dragons begins." No kidding.
  • Even if you win it's a mess!
I'm excited. It's exciting. I don't think I'll need to make any changes or alterations in the second part of the module, running it as is with the background I'm building in Phandlever and Hoard is enough. Now that I know the endgame, I can start to foreshadow it in my weekly game. This is the campaign that involves Dragons and Tiamat. I'm sure Wizards of the Coast will go back to the well at some point, but this is the only time I'll be drinking from it. It will be a while (a long while) before it sees play, but I'm looking forward to it.

On the Campaign Crash

How do you sustain an inherently unstable system?

A long running campaign is a desirable thing. Yet many (most) campaigns crash and burn before becoming memorable. Few get played very long.

For new players the average length of a campaign f is 8 sessions. This rises up to 12 sessions for people playing role-playing games for under 5 years. (source)

So that's what you can expect from a campaign. Two to three months of play. You roll up a character and get him to level 2 or 3 before the campaign explodes. If you're lucky, you might make it to level 5 before the game fizzles out. Real world spanning memorable play there.

And yet the average campaign length of my games is somewhere around 40 games more than double the average of someone of my gaming experience, usually comprising 2+ years of play.

Why is this?

Your game is going to crash.

What you should do is design the game to take advantage of those crash-only systems. For example, leadership positions can not be permanent, because people die. That system is going to crash. Creating a political structure that formalizes the transfer of power rather than just letting it go till it blows up into a war for power has stabilized an inherently unstable system.

This instead of being a negative thing is very very positive. The reason your games end and burn out is because they have accumulated detritus that accumulates through play that eventually becomes more of a burden then the fun that is had during play. This is why rolling up new characters is so enjoyable—they don't have to deal with the fallout from previous actions and choices. At some point this weight becomes overbearing and it drives the game to a crash.

I'm not just talking about choices in game. This is also the fabled Gamer Attention Deficit Syndrome I'm talking about. You are exposed to new ideas and they build up over time until the weight of all those new ideas conflicts with your current campaign. Then you nuke everything and begin again.

You don't have to.

The serial television show

Recently, gamings actor/philosopher in residence Justin Alexander recently talked about bloat in extended narratives—serial television shows. Serial television shows are very much like a gaming campaign. Characters are introduced, plots are driven forward, change occurs and stays. What eventually happens in many of those television shows is that the show gets bogged down in an ever increasing number of characters, side plots, and other events, until it feels like each single episode only contains about 4 minutes of content due to switching between the various storylines. 

He also notes some examples of how some shows avoided the problem. He says:
"One TV series that seemed to largely avoid this problem while also enjoying the benefits of arc-plotting was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The technique they used seems relatively straight-forward: They limited the number of arc-plots they introduced in each season and made sure that most or all of them were resolved by the end of the season. As a result, when they launched season 6, for example, they didn’t have any more balls in the air than they did when they were launching season 3."
And what he's talking about there is a scheduled crash.

The gaming life

I'm not talking about a single game.

Internalizing this crash process is important, because when you start a new campaign you never do so in a state where you have never ran a game before. You will always start with the experiences, successes and failures of your previous campaigns behind you.  There is no "new" campaign. Just the next one. And just like moving somewhere for a fresh start won't solve any of your problems with your life, neither will starting a new campaign solve any of the problems with your current game.

What is necessary to resolve this issue is some examination of your previous gaming experience. Why do your games end?

Do you have gamer attention deficit disorder? Have events in the campaign restructure the way things work drastically. Your players reluctant to engage in the tedium of a long quest? Resolve it in an unexpected way and have the campaign head off in a new direction. Want to try out a different style of gaming? Switch it up within the game itself. Getting burnt out on a setting or project? Restructure your time devoted to running the game, take turns, or have something new or different happen. Did the characters lose focus because there's too much for them to do?

There is no perfect game. They are all going to end, and like all crashed endings: divorces, marriages, new jobs, children, there's pain involved. Thinking that changing things will make it avoidable is a dream from a pipe. Directing your game towards that crash gives you some measure of control over the outcome.

Fly it right into the ground and come out the other side.

Hack & Slash 
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