December 31, 2010

Arkham Friday: The Sunken City of Moil

The sunken city of Moil is a dread chain of islands located in the bleak seas of the Shadowfell. The city harbors the tormented souls of all those lost at sea, as well as the inhuman and alien minds of fallen aquatic creatures from ages past. The waters around this group of small islands are clouded black by an unending stream of filth, liquified bodies and decaying matter. For miles around the air is thick with the stench of rot.

Heroes brave enough to face these perils, or fools stupid enough to venture here, face one of the most revolting locations in the multiverse, surrounded by a freezing cold, unending sea of diseased, putrid water.

December 30, 2010

Terrain Power: Rope Bridge

Here's a little tweak to the ol' swinging rope bridge. The rope bridge is detailed well in the Dungeon Master's Guide 2, however the original printing fails to add mechanics for when PC's (wisely) cut the ends of the rope to drop the bridge completely.

December 28, 2010

NPC Ally: Terwin Azaer

Terwin Azaer is an NPC from the NPC-filled H2: Thunderspire Labyrinth. In the adventure, Terwyn has a bit of a lycanthropy problem, in that he turns into a werewolf. The PCs are given a quest to help him out and break his curse. When I ran this, Terwyn needed to acompany the PCs on their quest. It makes a lot of sense, I think, to have him there. Not only should he know the way to the curse-breaking location (it is the same spot where he got cursed to begin with), but having him present for the curse to be broken just feels right. With this in mind, I wanted Terwyn to be dangerous and a burden on the group. In media outside of D&D, the audience is often shown that travelling with cursed companions, whether they are werewolves or what have you, is dangerous. To reflect this idea, I have Terwyn turn into his werewolf form when he is dropped. In play, the group will be faced with the decision to either take a hit for the NPC, or let him change into a new (elite) combatant. This isn't much of a choice at all, since it will always be worth it to take this hit. What it does do, however, is esure that at least one PC is always adjacent to him and always soaking up his hits via Guarded by Heroes. By the end of this short quest, the PCs will be very excited to see his lycanthropic curse dispelled away.

December 24, 2010

Arkham Friday: Lost Io'vanthor

This Arkham Friday is inspired by the (now old) Dragon article about the lost city of the Dragonborn, Io'vanthor. Reading that article back in Two Thousand Aught Eight, I was inspired by the descriptions contained within. However, I always felt that the mechanics were lacking. It was no fault of the author, whom I'm sure wouldn't have been allowed to create something more substantial due to page count limitations. But there was this disconnect, as often there is, between the fiery imagination of the Dungeon Master who reads all these great descriptions from published adventures and DDi articles, and the player who only experiences snippets of that majestic world. It's a puzzle of the entire hobby. How to get the players to feel like they're experiencing this wondreful world that you have in mind, yet at the same time avoiding turning the game into "Storytime with Uncle Dungeon Master".

But, I digress.

Here are the unveiled horrors of the devastated Arkhosian city, left bare and rotting for your enjoyment.

December 23, 2010

Terrain Power: Transdimensional Breach

These three terrain powers are good for use when dealing with the fragile barriers between worlds. Use these whenever your group of adventurers are messing around with a wizard's tower, or an area with a connection to elemental energies or the Elemental Chaos itself.

The first two of these terrain powers are good in that they provide an easy way to add teleportation into an encounter. I like teleportation, because it can throw everyone for a loop and keeps the combatants moving around the field. This added action focuses the players at the table as to what's going on, because they must constantly re-evaluate what their character's strategy will be with every combatant getting moved around so much.

The last terrain power is pretty nice, too, because it adds a quick and easy way of throwing in extra damage. I like adding extra damage to an enconter, on both sides of the screen, to help speed things up a bit and add some swinginess to the fight. Especially at those higher levels, you can sometimes use a little bit of extra oomph to get things moving faster.

December 21, 2010

NPC Ally: Sir Nethatar

Sir Nethatar was my attempt to add an endearing, honorable Dragonborn ally to my home campiagn filled with evil, greedy Arkhosians. The PCs still never quite trusted him, even when he nobly sacrificed his own life for the greater good. Sir Nethatar would work in your own home game as any kind of knight or noble paladin ally.

Sir Nethatar
NPC Ally (Level 6)
This honorable knight of Arkhosia has chosen to pursue the righteous path and protect his people.

HP 1; a missed attack never damages Nethatar.
Armor Class 20; Fortitude 16, Reflex 14, Will 16

Guarded By Heroes + At-Will
Immediate Interrupt
Trigger: Nethatar is hit by an attack and you are adjacent to him.
Effect: You are hit by the attack instead.

Hustle It! + At-Will
Minor Action ; Personal
Effect: You command Nethatar to take a move action (Speed 5).

m Longsword + At-Will
Standard Action or Opportunity Action; Melee 1
+11 vs. AC; 1d8+5 damage.
Noble Sacrifice + At-Will
Immediate Interrupt
Trigger: You are targetted by an attack and Nethatar is adjacent to you.
Effect: Nethatar is targetted by the attack instead.

December 17, 2010

Arkham Friday: Mountainous Wilderness

The hills are filled with deadly rock slides, opportunistic scavengers, and crazed hillbillys. The area also contains helpful old prespectors, hedge wizards, and archeologists. Merchant caravans can be assaulted, and saved, along the roadside. Dangerous animals scratch out a living on the hard rock.

This is the mountainous wilderness. If your group of D&D adventurers are true heroes, the typical mundane hazards (that are not intended to be part of the greater story and plot) are trivial. It doesn't make sense to run an encounter of attacking mountain lions when the heroes are accustomed to slaying hideous Far Realm aberrations, dragons, and god-like beings. Instead, spice up your adventures and wilderness exploration with the following chart:

December 16, 2010

NPC Ally: Almera

Here is an NPC Ally I've used in the past. It's not terribly creative, but her power gives the PCs a little push to be more aggressive. Fortune favors the bold and all that.

In the campaign I was running, the majority of the world was under the oppressive thumb of a reborn Arkhosian Empire. Elves, for the most part, took up an isolationist stance and retreated to their far away, forested homes to live a life of peace, seclusion, and understanding of nature. There were some amongst the Elves, however, who saw the injustices of The Empire and rose up to help their Human, Dwarf, etc. brethren. Almera was one such Elf, a rebel full of passion and fury.

NPC Ally (Level 4)
A proud leader of the Elven people, Almera’s aggressive style of fighting and guerilla tactics have killed countless Arkhosian soldiers. Now, in your hour of need, she comes to your aid.

HP 1; a missed attack never damages Almera.
Armor Class 18; Fortitude 16, Reflex 18, Will 16

Guarded By Heroes + At-Will
Immediate Interrupt
Trigger: Almera is hit by an attack and you are adjacent to her.
Effect: You are hit by the attack instead.

Hustle It! + At-Will
Minor Action
Effect: You command Almera to take a move action (Speed 7).

Elven Blade + At-Will
Standard Action  or Opportunity Action
Melee 1
Target: One creature
Attack: +9 vs. AC
Hit: 1d8+4 damage.

Belligerent Assault + At-Will
Minor Action
Requirement: You must be able to see and hear Almera.
Effect: Gain a +2 power bonus to Speed and damage rolls, and a -1 penalty to all defenses until the end of your next turn.

December 14, 2010

Animal Companion: Tiger

Animal companions and hirelings are both areas which I feel the current 4E ruleset is handling poorly. In the case of hirelings, it's almost nonexistent. Animal companions do see some support in the form of the Beast Master Ranger (Martial Power) and the new Essentials Druid. However, that’s still a pretty limited area and one where I have seen players struggle against in the pursuit of their perfect vision of their character.

Since my NPC Ally rules have been working so well for hirelings, I reasoned that they should work equally well for animal companions. Thus, here is a Tiger that any PC can use as a pet.

December 10, 2010

Arham Friday: The Docks & River

These random events are great for a stroll down to the seedy parts of a generic medieval fantasy town, such as Fallcrest. There's quite a bit of money to be made here, by finding lost cargo crates, and a good amount of friends to be found as well. Also, you might get yourself a small boat; what fun!

The thing enjoyed the most out of writing this Random Event table was the way I converted gaining items in Arkham Horror to a D&D equivalent. You'll see this by the events that have the line "gain 1 consumable magic item of your level or less". I feel like I can hand out consumable magic items (potions, etc.) pretty willy-nilly and not upset the balance of play in he game much, but will still provide a lot of flavor and interesting options for the players.

December 9, 2010

Comic Relief: Goblin Pickpocket

As much as I love running Player Characters through meat grinder dungeons of inevitable death, sometimes a little whimsy and humor is appropriate at the table. These breaks in the tension help highlight that tension and stressed environment. If your adventurers are constantly beset by punishing encounter after punishing encounter, they'll grow desensitized to it. That path leads to the worst thing you can do in the D&D game: be boring. I heartily advocate a little mood lightening every once in awhile. It keeps things fresh and fun. The following Goblin Pickpocket does just that, and also helps kick the players' mindsets out of the tactical and into the roleplaying. These Goblins aren't really out to hurt you, they're just poor and pathetic and want a few of your coins.

With that in mind, I created this little bugger to harass the PCs. I typically place a handful of these guys with one or two standard monsters in an enounter, although having an all-pickpocket encounter, complete with banana peels to slip on (and fall prone), cream pies to throw, and other slapstick antics would be really cool. I usually describe the goblins in my campaign as funny in some way. They talk funny, they have silly outfits, they beg for mercy when defeated. Just think about Splug, from Keep on the Shadowfell. Hilarious!

December 7, 2010

Terrain Power: Carpetting

Rugs and tapestries are ubiquitous in fantasy themes, D&D in particular. The following two terrain powers can be used in a very wide variety of scenarios and adventures. For heroic tier I think they're fine, but always remember that when you bring your group into the next tier of play, you have to find a way to "up the ante" on things. You might be able to get away with just, I don't know, really big rug, but in general it's not a good idea. Your players will get thrown out of their immersion when they see the same boring challenges and items (terrain powers , monsters, etc.) just with higher numeric values.

For the Paragon tapestry, I would suggest describing it as a silken filament of web from Shelob's Lair that  restrains the target. For Epic, it can be the structure to a Far Realm portal, removing the target from the encounter.

c Pull the Rug Out
Single Use Terrain (Level 4)
You grab the hem of the carpet and yank it up hard.
Single Use
Minor Action ; Melee touch
Check: Strength DC 10
Effect: You pull the carpet up and over anyone standing on it. Each creature standing on the rug is knocked prone.

c Hanging Tapestry
Single Use Terrain (Level 2)
You pull down the ornate tapestry from the wall and cover your enemy.
Single Use
Minor Action ; Close blast 2
Check: Strenth DC 9
Attack: +5 vs. Reflex
Hit: The target is blinded and slowed until escape (Escape DC 9).

c Wall Webbing
Single Use Terrain (Level 12)
You pull down the silken webbing clinging to the walls.
Single Use
Minor Action ; Close blast 3
Check: Strenth DC 14
Attack: +15 vs. Reflex
Hit: The target is restrained until escape (Escape DC 14).

c Far Realm Filament
Single Use Terrain (Level 22)
You pull down the ornate portal archway creating a gate to the realms of madness.
Single Use
Minor Action ; Close blast 5
Check: Strenth DC 20
Attack: +25 vs. Reflex
Hit: The target is removed from play (save ends). When the target saves out of this condition, it reappears in the closest unoccupied space to where it originally disappeared from.

December 3, 2010

Arkham Friday: The Tavern

Expanding a bit from the terror-inducing vistas of The Abyss and The Shadowfell, I wanted to take some inspiration from Arkham Horror and apply it to a D&D locale so common that it has become cliche: The Tavern.

The tavern random events are much more tame and forgiving compared to the other Arkham Horror tables. It's a place of rest after a hard day's work plundering forgotten tombs, a safe haven; and so I've skewed the table to have less dire consequences, and more positive outcomes as a whole.

Still, I think this is a fun way to throw some quirky, non-combat fun at your adventurers. My suggestion would be to throw in a single random event every time the PCs bed down for the night at a common tavern or inn. Like all of the Arkham Horror tables, the events described here can sometimes be a little sparse in the details. That's where the individual Dungeon Master must step in and make it their own, providing the details that are specific to your imagined world.

December 2, 2010

Terrain Power: Dragon Bones

These terrain powers always reminded me of visits to the Natural History Museum when I was a kid. I remember these gigantic displays of dinosaur skeletons that were set up in the main hall. The T-Rex's mouth bound open, ready to snap. It helped spur my imagination as a child, and the memories help today.

Although there are dinosaur analogues in D&D, called behemoths, I felt that dragons were more appropriate. In fact, I'm a firm believer in stuffing as many dragons into your game as you can. The encounter I used these in had the dessicated bones of the Arkhosian Emperor's ancestors hanging on display in the tyrant's throne room, hanging from the ceiling, ready to drop.

a Dragon Skull
Single Use Terrain (Level 9)
The hanging, jagged dragon skull comes crashing down on anyone caught beneath it.
Single Use
Free Action; Area burst 2
Trigger: The chains holding the dragon skull take damage (AC 20; Fortitude 14, Reflex 5)
Target: Each creature in burst.
Attack: +13 vs. Reflex
Hit: 3d6+15 damage, and the target is knocked prone.
Miss: Half damage.

a Dragon Ribcage
Single Use Terrain (Level 9)
The hanging, skeletal torso comes crashing down, trapping anyone caught beneath it.
Single Use
Free ActionArea burst 1
Trigger: The chains holding the dragon ribcage take damage (AC 20; Fortitude 14, Reflex 5)
Target: Each creature in burst.
Attack: +13 vs. Reflex
Hit: 1d10+7 damage, and the target is restrained.
Miss: Half damage.
Effect: If the ribcage takes further damage, all creatures caught in it are no longer restrained.