Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Sunless Citadel #1: Down Into the Ground

I started running The Sunless Citadel, from the D&D 5E anthology Tales from the Yawning Portal, for my wife Erika and our two children over Memorial Day weekend. The party consists of four 1st-level characters:
Our heroes (L-R): Raven Flare, Sir Dain, Xuri, and Kalitni
  • Raven Flare, female tiefling rogue (urchin)
  • Kalitni, female human ranger (hermit)
  • Xuri, female blue dragonborn sorcerer (wild magic; sage)
  • Sir Dain (NPC), male hill dwarf paladin (knight)
We only have three players, but the adventures are designed for at least four, so we added Sir Dain as a NPC who will be run jointly by the players. (In practice, so far, Erika has been handling him while everyone is getting used to their own characters.) Dain is currently the party's only source of healing (through his very limited lay on hands ability), though Kalitni does have the Medicine skill. She and Dain will both get the option to learn healing spells at 2nd level, and I anticipate at least one of them doing so.

(Warning: Spoilers for The Sunless Citadel follow.) 

The party reached the village of Oakhurst, and heard about nearby ruins known as the Sunless Citadel. This site is rumored to be the former stronghold of a dragon cult (which piqued Xuri's curiosity) but is now inhabited by goblins (who Kalitni has been trained to fight). They also learned that another group of adventurers had gone to investigate the ruins and have not been seen since. That band included two members of the Hucrele family, a local merchant house, and the family matriarch has offered a reward for her kinsfolk's return (or failing that, proof of their fates). Before that party, the last person to ask questions about the citadel was a grim human named Belak, who came through Oakhurst 13 years ago. He and his pet giant frog haven't been seen since.

Aw, rats!
Every midsummer for the past decade or more, members of the local goblin tribe have come to the village to sell a single magical apple that cures all ailments. Whenever the townsfolk have tried to plant the seeds from one of these fruit, they produced a short, scrubby sapling that disappeared as soon as it reached a couple feet in height--stolen by the goblins to protect their monopoly, the locals believe.

The party had plenty of motivation to go investigate the ruins: Xuri's curiosity about the dragon cult; the reward for the missing Hucreles; solving the mystery of the magical fruit; and eradicating dangerous monsters from the area. 

On the surface, the ruins consisted of a small group of pillars flanking a ravine. The party found signs of campfires being made here a few weeks before, and a rope that descended into the ravine. At this point, the ravine opened up in a cavern that was too dark to see clearly from above. The rope led to a ledge below, from which stairs descended further down. On this first ledge, the party surprised a small group of giant rats, which they managed to dispatch quickly. 

As they continued downward, they could see a courtyard and tower at the base of the cliff--the only visible parts of a buried fortress. The rogue easily found and neutralized the pit trap in the courtyard, and the party entered the tower.

Inside, they found the bodies of a few goblins who had clearly been killed in a fight quite some time ago. This room had two other obvious exits, and Raven Flare found a secret door as well. The party checked the secret door first, and discovered a small chamber with three skeletons. These animated when the rogue entered, and their attacks knocked her unconscious. However, the paladin standing right outside the room kept the skeletons from swarming the others, and his warhammer smashed one undead after another. Fortunately, Raven Flare stabilized on her own, and Sir Dain revived her after the fight. The skeletons were equipped as archers, and each quiver held one magical arrow; the ranger, being an archer herself, claimed these.

The next door led to a partly-collapsed hallway which held a stone door decorated with the relief of a dragon's head, with a keyhole in its mouth. The lock proved beyond the rogue's ability to pick. She concluded that it must be magically locked as well, so they will need to look for a key elsewhere in the dungeon.

Mephits in the plumbing
The final door out of the tower led to a hallway with more doors. The first one they tried led to a small room that held a large, rusty iron keg fastened to the floor by pipes. The impulsively curious sorcerer opened the bung hole, which freed two imp-like elementals: a steam mephit and a an ice mephit. These monsters attacked immediately, but there was limited room for them to move in the room (which the party nearly filled on their own). I ruled that the cramped space would give the PCs advantage to attack them. The dragonborn breathed lightning at the mephits, which caused them to focus on her. Both mephits used their own breath weapons, blasting Xuri as well as her friends. (Kalitni, who was outside the room, had some cover against these attacks, but could still shoot her bow at the monsters. Dain was spared because the mephits couldn't hit him in the same cone as Xuri.) The party killed the ice mephit, who exploded; these shards of ice knocked out Raven Flare, and Xuri soon went down from the steam mephit's claw attack. Dain and Kalitni finished off the second mephit, and avoided its death throes. They then worked quickly to stabilize their friends.

(This was a pretty tough fight--not only did the mephits have area attacks--even in death--but they had twice as many HP as any of the PCs. Fortunately, just as we discovered in the Lost Mine of Phandelver game, the death saving throw mechanic gives characters a brief grace period to get help before they're dead and gone, which helps make lowly first-level characters a tiny bit less fragile.)

With half the party out of commission, they desperately needed to rest and recover before proceeding. The paladin and ranger dragged their friends to the secret room they had found earlier, which seemed an excellent place to hide and rest without being found by the dungeon's other inhabitants. Raven and Xuri revived after a short rest, but the rogue was still hurt, so the party decided to take a long rest as well. This let everyone recover hit points and Hit Dice, Xuri to regain spell slots, and Dain to regain his lay on hands pool.

(My main game, "Time of the Tarrasque," has hit a stretch of a few weeks when we can't meet, so I will try to fit in more Sunless Citadel over the next couple weekends.)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Building the Bestiary #14: Plants

A few examples of the alien vegetation introduced in Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. One is not a plant.
"April showers bring May flowers," as the proverb says, so I've decided to discuss building LEGO miniatures of plants this week. First I discuss building trees, then explore the different plant monsters found in the Pathfinder RPG Bestiary.


Many plant monsters look like normal trees, and druids can animate or awaken trees to fight their enemies. The LEGO Group makes prefabricated trees and shrubs, some examples of which are shown here. Several themes--including City, Creator, Holiday, Minecraft, and others--include sets that include trees built from bricks.

A proper discussion of building trees would be a column (or series!) by itself, so I will just show a number of examples then move on to other plants. The first two trees in the next photo were built with common sloped bricks and brown cylinders. The third tree was built with sloped bow pieces; the back half is a hull end that mirrors the shape. The fourth tree was built by attaching the trapezoidal plates to the sides of two travis bricks (1x1 bricks with studs on all four sides), one at the level of the top stud; the other is set two studs below it and connects to the trunk.

The next photo shows a few simple models that use various types of LEGO foliage. (The 4-pronged brown plate in the right-most model can be found in Forest Police sets and other recent sets that include large brick-built trees.)

My first large LEGO tree as a child was a Forestmen set in the Castle theme. That set used large brown half-arches as tree boughs, to which large 5x6 foliage bricks were attached, and locked in place with 1x3 plates. This final tree model shows that technique, with a number of slope bricks added to give some volume to the trunk and roots.

(The treant model later in this column also uses these half-arches for its hair/canopy.)


The easiest way to represent vines and creepers on the battle map is with some plates of appropriate colors and sizes. As we saw in the Spell Effects column, large LEGO foliage pieces also work well to cover larger areas, such as the 10-foot square of an assassin vine. The studs on the foliage pieces (and their hollow centers) can be used to attach other bits of greenery for a more dramatic miniature. A Medium yellow musk creeper can be built in the same way with smaller foliage pieces and the addition of small yellow plates or flowers.


Patches of mold can be represented by plates, while basic mushrooms are easy to build with cylinder bricks and radar dishes. Some radar dishes are even printed with mushroom patterns, like the white-spotted red cap shown here. The photo shows a variety of other cap and stalk shapes and sizes.

Shriekers appear to be man-sized purple mushrooms, but that's a rare color for LEGO parts. The purple mushroom shown above was built upside down, with the stalk attached to the inside of the inverted half-barrel. (The baseplate is therefore studs-down.)

Violet fungi look like shriekers until they attack with their tentacles. The models below use a travis brick and a 4-pronged lantern base for the ambulatory body, small levers/antennae for the tentacles, and a 2x2 radar dish for the cap.


A basidirond has a stalk-like legs, long tendrils, and a large bell-shaped cup. The model here uses the same base as the violet fungus above, but with the travis brick inverted to attach a cone for the flower's cup. 1x1 plates with clips have been added to provide root-like "feet" and to make this taller mini more stable.

Shambling Mound

Shambling mounds lack a definite shape beyond two trunk-like legs and a mass of vines and leaves. The Plant Monster from Minifigures Series 14 "Monsters" (shown below, right) is a bit undersized but would make a passable shambler on a larger base (or even a basidirond on a Medium base). The photo also shows a Large-sized shambler model, which is an irregular-shaped mass with small foliage pieces built into it.


Vegepygmies are small humanoid plants spawned by russet mold. A very simple model can be built with a 1x1 cone, a 1x1 cylinder with bamboo leaves, and one of the 3-pronged 1x1 green plates used to build bouquets of flowers. Chieftains and other leaders can be distinguished by adding bricks or minifigure parts, or using an actual minifigure for the largest individuals. (The larger figures shown at right use an Army man head, the Hulk's torso and head, and a Green Goblin minifigure.) Alternately, a green microfigure (such as a Heroica goblin) makes a good 'pygmy.

In their original appearance in Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, vegepygmies were accompanied by dog-like plant monsters. These "thornies" do not appear in the Pathfinder Bestiaries (and neither monster appears in the D&D 5E Monster Manual). A thorny can be represented by a LEGO dog, or by using some of the techniques from my Four-Legged Friends column.

These vegepygmy models can also be used for twig blights (and their larger relatives) in D&D Fifth Edition games.

Giant Flytrap

The giant flytrap is one of two Huge plants in the Bestiary. These carnivorous plants have numerous stalks, some used as legs and others sporting the hinged jaws for which the creature is best known. I've used slopes and arches to build the legs of this model, and hinged plates for the biting stalks. This model uses different techniques for each of its four sets of jaws. Two stalks, built with click-hinges, end in mouths that are built with two sets of bar-and-clip hinges with additional bricks added to make the jaws larger. The smaller stalks are built with door hinges; one uses life preservers for the two valves of the mouth; the other uses a pair of 2x2 plates.


The Tower of Orthanc set (from The Lord of the Rings theme) includes a very highly detailed model of the Ent Treebeard, who stands roughly a foot tall. This is far too large to use as a mini for a Pathfinder or D&D treant, and the set's cost ($200) would be prohibitive for most gamers trying to find affordable LEGO minis.

My smaller model here, for a standard Huge treant, is much simpler than Treebeard, but still has plenty of space for interesting details.

This figure is articulated with the small ball-and-socket joints from the Mixels theme, except for click-hinges at the knees and elbows. The hands have "bad robot arms" for fingers, attached to bar-hinge clips which are locked together with a "boat plate" on the palm.

Where possible, I have incorporated greenery pieces to heighten the model's tree-like appearance. The back and crown of the head is built out of the same half-arches as the autumn tree in the "Trees" section at the start of this column. Other pieces of foliage are locked in with other arched and bowed pieces. (The beard is not as secure as I would like, being attached by only a single stud. But locking it in place more firmly would have detracted from the aesthetics of the design.)

I haven't given this mini a base, but the large feet can easily mark its 3" x 3" space on the battle map.

Appendix: Past "Building the Bestiary" Columns

#1: Humanoids
#2: Underwater Races
#3: Giants
#4: Undead
#5: Tiny Creatures
#6: Four-Legged Friends
#7: Oozes
#8: Spell Effects
#9: Elementals
#10: Devils
#11: Aquatic Animals
#12: Vermin
#13: Non-OGL Monsters

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Time of the Tarrasque #9: I Double Dog Dare You

A two-headed death dog (built from two LOTR wargs)
Previous Sessions: 
After spending the day getting some much-needed rest and healing, Jumari [half-orc inquisitor] led the party back to the city wall to try to find the tracks of the large wolf once again. This time, they searched the ground outside the city, and despite the time that had passed, Jubair [human rogue] and Lucretia [half-elf monk] were able to locate faint paw prints. Jumari followed the tracks into the hills to the east of town, They eventually veered northward towards the main eastward trail from Zahallan, which the tracks followed. The wolf had turned aside from the trail a few times but always gone back to it. 

Around dawn, the party found a campsite a short ways off the trail that had obviously been used by their quarry. There was no trace of a fire, but they found bloody bandages and more tracks: boots that probably belonged to the wolf's master, plus halfling-sized footprints. There were also tracks that looked humanoid but with long nails or claws. Only the last set of prints, and the wolf's, left the camp. 

The party continued on a couple hours past sunrise, then found shelter and rested during the hottest and brightest part of the day. When night came, Lucretia lost sight of the tracks in the dark, despite her elven sight, but Jumari had no problems following them.

Grr! (Grr!) Fighting the death dog 
Late that night, the party spotted a large animal--a massive two-headed dog--lurking behind a rocky outcropping near the trail. Its hunger and impatience made it too eager to attack, and it failed to surprise them. The party reacted quickly, closing the distance. The dog rushed at Jubair and Jumari, who were closest to it, and bit each of them with a different head. ZhaZha [half-orc cavalier] closed in and flanked it, impaling it upon her lance from behind. The beast fell dead as the other heroes caught up to their companions. Fatou [human wizard/cleric] identified it as a death dog, an intelligent evil hound that carried disease. She and Edel [elf bard] examined their friends' wounds, and were relieved to see no signs of the wormpox infection that clearly riddled the death dog's flesh. Edel warned the others not to touch the corpse, for their own safety.[1] Jumari searched the area where the death dog had hidden, and concluded that it had been waiting there for some time, after coming here from the south. Its prints were much easier to find than the wolf they were following, so the death dog must outweigh it.

The wolf tracks did not lead to another campsite before dawn. Their quarry was almost certainly getting further away, as the wolf and its rider did not appear to be taking any special pains to hide its trail. By the next dawn, the party thought they must be getting near the village of Spine Hollow. Fatou was the only one of them who knew anything about the place: it was a tiny settlement of nature worshipers, some of whom occasionally visited Zahallan, but mostly kept to themselves. Her best guess about their religion was that it was of a druidic bent, as opposed to the elemental gods worshiped by the desert giants.

Early that morning, the tracks left the trail to go north. An hour or two later, Jumari spotted a lion moving along a nearby ridge, keeping pace with the party. She warned the others, some of whom say it eventually. ZhaZha and Fatou could see that it was only the size of a pony, not a full-grown lion, and bore a halfling rider. Jubair was bored and irritable by this time, so turned aside to confront the halfling. The lion and rider stopped, allowing the party to get a better view of them. The halfling wore lion hides as armor and carried a spear. Jubair accosted him in the Halfling language, but the rider only asked him their business here--these hills were Spine Hollow territory. Fatou translated this exchange for the others, and Edel promptly chimed in to try a more diplomatic approach, in Common. The bard explained that they hunted a desecrater of graves, who rode a large wolf. The halfling seemed relieved to have someone more friendly to talk to, and replied that a wolf had passed through here, with two riders (one his size, one their size). The one who told him about it had said it was no natural animal, but misty or ghost-like. Another creature, that was both like a man and not, traveled with them but the halfling's source couldn't describe it better. When asked about the Ghost Fist Clan, he didn't recognize the name. 

Edel asked if the party could speak to the one who saw it. The halfling replied that--he gave a name, in an unknown language made of clicks and whistles--did not speak with outsiders. They thanked the halfing and left, but soon had to look for a camp to rest during the midday. During this time, their finally saw signs that the wolf and its master were trying to hide their tracks--probably to avoid notice by the Hollow's inhabitants--but Jumari was still able to follow them. The tracks also stopped going due north, at least in part due to the rough, rocky badlands here, but possibly also to dodge pursuit. 

Around midnight. Lucretia caught a glimpse of the wolf as it passed through a low spot between two ridges. She led the party that way, and was soon able to see the wolf again, with its two riders, and a humanoid figure loping alongside them. The walker turned and froze upon noticing her, warned its companions, then headed towards the party. Fatou blessed the heroes, who moved forward to engage the enemy.

Battle with the wolf rider, alchemist, and undead.
The wolf's master, a half-orc with his face painted white like a skull, cast a spell, summoning a skeletal aurochs. This bull charged and gored Edel, who fell unconscious from the hard blow. Jumari cast shield of faith upon herself, and she and Jubair and closed with the skeleton. As expected, the other rider was Jibral, the halfling alchemist they had fought before. He started casting protective spells upon himself, starting with sanctuary, and argued with the half-orc between spells. 

ZhaZha charged the unknown humanoid creature, who turned out to be the same kind of ghoul-thing that they had fought outside the alchemist's shop. She speared with with her lance, but it decided to attack her camel instead, mauling it ferociously. The wolf-rider hit ZhaZha with a magic ray that sickened her.  

Fatou channeled healing magic for her friends, which roused Edel and put the camel out of imminent danger of collapse. Jumari switched from longspear to morningstar and finished off the skeleton, which crumbled away to dust. Lucretia shot the ghoul--which exploded in a cloud of ash like before--and also hit the ghostly black wolf. Its master cast protection from arrows on his mount, but Fatou finished it off with a force bolt. The wolf evaporated into mist, dropping its riders to the ground.

The skull-faced half-orc quickly stood and cast a spell that created a pit beneath Jubair, but the rogue nimbly dodged aside. Both ZhaZha and Jubair charged forward to strike him.  Edel cast grease under both enemy casters, and the halfling fell prone again. ZhaZha missed Jibral as he stood up and fled, so she pursued him.

The wolf-rider attacked Jubair with a flail, but Jumari charged him, and he withdrew. This gave Jubair room to charge him and hit again. Edel's acid splash and Fatou's force bolt finished him off. The rogue performed a coup de grace to make sure that the half-orc was truly dead.

Meanwhile, ZhaZha pursued the fleeing halfling, but Jibral's expeditious retreat spell made him even faster than her camel. She switched to her crossbow, but failed to hit him. The alchemist slowed enough to cast cause fear on the camel, but the animal resisted (just barely, thanks to bless!). The cavalier closed with him, preventing him from being able to withdraw safely. He cast a doom spell on her, making her shaken (on top of already being sickened). The camel spit on Jibral, making him sickened as well. The halfling then used ghoul touch against ZhaZha, paralyzing her--and sickening her camel from the stench she gave off [2]. The camel bit Jibral as he fled, which toppled the helpless cavalier to the ground, but it also finally downed the alchemist.

ZhaZha recovered a few minutes later, but neither she nor the others reached Jibral's body before he bled out. He had acquired a new unholy symbol: a black-stained wooden disk with the word "IZAZ" carved into it in Orcish. The thief Rozhelle, who the party had captured and turned over to the authorities a few weeks before, had claimed to be hired by a half-orc by that name. 

(L-R): aurochs skeleton, ghoul, ghostly wolf, unnamed half-orc summoner, and Jibral the alchemist

[1] Edel's player: "Except for Jubair. I don't bother warning him, because he never listens anyway."

Other players (chanting): "Touch it! Touch it!" 

Edel's player: "I double dog dare you!" (And thus was our title bestowed.)

[2] There were a lot of conditions inflicted this session! I had recently bought Pathfinder Cards: Condition Cards after seeing them used in Pathfinder Society games, and this was the first session we used them in my home game. These cards provide an easy-to-use rules reference for each condition, and their bright colors make it harder to miss that a condition is still in play. I also want to acquire the Buff Deck, but that's out of print, so I haven't found it for sale at anything remotely resembling a reasonable price yet.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

D&D with the Kids: Lost Mine of Phandelver, Part 5 (Finally!)

(Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 4)

As I've reported in previous columns (see links above), I've been running The Lost Mine of Phandelver for my children and a friend and his children. We had not been to play in several months due to scheduling issues, but were finally able to resume the adventure this past weekend.

This was a relatively short session, because we needed some time to review the adventure so far, and the plans they had made at the end of our last session. I also knew that the first of their short side quests would earn them enough XP to reach 3rd level, so we would need some time to advance their characters before we could go onto the next quest.

(Obligatory spoiler warning for "Lost Mine of Phandelver")

Last time, the party finished dealing with the threat of the Redbrand gang in Phandelver. They now have three side quests to pursue while they seek out the location of Cragmaw Castle: dealing with orc raiders near Wyvern Tor; investigating reports of undead near Old Owl Well; and searching Thundertree for a lost necklace. They plan to do these quests in that order, with a visit to the town of Conyberry on the way to Thundertree.

The party went to Wyvern Tor, and searched for the orc camp. Caboose, the gnome bard, was the best tracker, so led the way, and soon found orc tracks leading to a ravine. He spotted an orc sentry near a cave entrance, so the party withdrew a bit to plan their attack. They decided to have the bard cast dancing lights to try to draw the sentry away from his post. The orc didn't move, but the spell kept him distracted, so Sothleene, the human rogue, sneaked up to the orc and took him out with a single well-placed thrust with her rapier.

The stealthiest party member with darkvision was the Caboose, so the gnome led the way up to the cave entrance. Inside he saw seven orcs--and an ogre! After some quick whispered planning, the party launched their surprise attack. The human wizard, Gybrush, cast sleep, which unfortunately only took down one orc. Bahli, the dwarf cleric, cast bless on the party. Sothleene shot an arrow from the entrance, and the dragonborn barbarian, Starfright hurled a javelin. 

The ogre was the first resident of the cave to react, and moved to the entrance to engage the party. Before he could attack, though, Gybrush cast grease under him, and the giant fell prone. The orc leader moved up behind the ogre and tried to hurl a javelin past it, and some of the other orcs followed to do the same. The orcs landed a couple lucky shots, but their leader soon decided to withdraw to watch and wait, content for now to just egg on the ogre, Gog, to smash the intruders.

The fight proved challenging--and bloody. Starfright took the brunt of the giant's fury--she was knocked unconscious, healed by Bahli, then knocked out again. Eventually, the party's weapons and Gybrush's spells whittled down the giant, and it finally fell down dead.

At this point, the leader ordered the others to attack, despite the hazard still posed by grease spell. This kept most of them tangled up and unable to attack effectively. However, Bahli and Caboose both took hits that dropped them. Gybrush, who was down to cantrips at this point, dragged each of his fallen friends out of harm's way and stabilized them. Starfright, healed enough to fight again, stepped back into the fray in their place. 

Eventually, the party was able to take down the leader, at which point the four surviving orcs surrendered. The party accepted their plea, and even let them keep their weapons, as long as they left their treasure behind and promised to leave the region. The orcs gladly complied (for now, at least, as far as the party knows). The party searched the cave and found a chest of coins. 

We stopped there in order to allow the PCs to heal and receive their XP. They now have enough for 3rd level, so I spent some time with each player to take care of that bookkeeping. Three of the PCs (the bard, barbarian, and rogue) got to choose their subclasses at this time. The party now looks like this:
  • Bahli Kegstander, male hill dwarf cleric 3 (guild artisan background, war domain)
  • Caboose, male forest gnome bard 3 (entertainer background, college of lore)
  • Gybrush Threepwood, male human wizard 3 (sage background, conjuration school)
  • Sothleene, female human rogue 3 (charlatan background, arcane trickster), and her familiar, Sasha (fey cat)
  • Starfright, female dragonborn (black) barbarian 3 (outlander background, path of the totem warrior [wolf])

Other 5E Games

As I mentioned recently, I plan to start running Tales from the Yawning Portal for my wife and kids sometime soon. (We would have done that this weekend if Phandelver hadn't worked out.) Because of this, I am retitling this "D&D with the Kids" series to "Lost Mine of Phandelver," and will make each adventure in Yawning Portal into its own separately-numbered series. 

Character Sheets

Finally, I would like to recommend the ForgedAnvil D&D 5E Character Generator, available from the ENWorld downloads pages. I'm currently using this for the Phandelver game, and plan to use it for Yawning Portal as well. If you're familiar with HeroForge (for D&D v.3.5) or sCoreForge (for Pathfinder), this Excel-based character sheet works very much the same way. It allows you to enter character data and choose options from drop-down menus, then it does the math to calculate total hit points, armor class, skill modifiers, and other statistics. It also provides reference text for race, class, and background abilities, so that you don't have to keep flipping through your Player's Handbook to choose your next action.

5E is far less math-intensive than v.3.5 or Pathfinder, and has significantly fewer and less complex crunchy bits, so the ForgedAnvil sheet is likewise much simpler. This means that opening and saving the character sheet takes far less time than in HeroForge (which on older computers is prone to serious lag in processing and saving data, often crashing the worksheet). ForgedAnvil is also able to generate a spell reference sheet as part of the same worksheet, rather than requiring a separate SpellForge file.

According to the FAQ, ForgedAnvil only supports official WotC content, not any "Unearthed Arcana" or third-party material. There is some capability for customizing built in (for races, subclasses, deities, and spells), but I haven't yet needed to use that feature so don't know how difficult it is to implement.  

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Unearthed Arcana and Freeport, Part 5

It's time to review more "Unearthed Arcana" with an eye towards using this material with Freeport: The City of Adventure. This time, I'll catch up on articles from the second half of February through April 2017, which continued to appear once per week. However, with this week's column (5/1/2017), Wizards has returned to their previous rate of only one or maybe two UA columns per month.

Mass Combat (2/21/2017): This article provides an alternative to the Battlesystem rules presented in "When Armies Clash" (3/2/2015). Its focus is resolving large battles quickly and easily so that the game can remain focused on the PCs and their actions. As I said before, mass combat rules are rarely needed in Freeport except in naval battles, occasional riots or gang wars, or in an invasion scenario like that in Black Sails Over Freeport.

Traps Revisited (2/27/2017): This long column expands upon the trap rules in the Dungeon Master's Guide, discussing how to create simple and complex traps and giving several examples of each. If I ever convert The Freeport Trilogy to Fifth Edition, this "Unearthed Arcana" will be invaluable for adapting a certain infamous death-trap in one of those adventures!

The Mystic Class (3/13/2017): This article builds upon two earlier columns (7/6/2015 and 2/1/2016) to expand the mystic class to a full 20-level psionic class, with six mystic orders to choose from. An Avatar manipulates emotions to bolster allies and demoralize enemies. An Awakened mystic reads minds and psychic imprints, and excels at direct mental assaults. An Immortal mystic manipulates his own body to become a living weapon, and become increasingly difficult to kill. Nomads are obsessed with acquiring knowledge and gain improved powers of teleportation. A Soul Knife manifests blades of psychic energy, at the expense of the bonus disciplines that other orders receive. Finally, a Wu Jen is a master of elemental power, and eventually gains some limited wizard spellcasting ability.

In the World of Freeport, psionics are mostly common in Naranjan, the land of the Mindshadows setting. Third Edition psionic classes become much easier to convert to Fifth Edition with this new expanded selection of orders. For psions, use the Avatar, Awakened, Immortal, or Nomad; for psychic warriors, use the Avatar or Immortal; and for soulknives, use the Order of the Soul Knife. Wilders have no obvious equivalent yet, so choose an order that best aligns with the individual's psionic powers.

The Wu Jen hail from the exotic Eastern Empire (see Buccaneers of Freeport), along with the Samurai (see Class Options, Part 1) and the monk class. (Pan'Lo Skree, the Kodath half-orc adept from True20 Freeport: The Lost Island, would be a wu jen.)

Wizard Revisited (3/20/2017): This article presents two arcane traditions for wizards: Theurgy (revised from an earlier column ["The Faithful," 8/1/2016] based on playtest feedback) and War Magic. Both are very well suited to Freeport.

A Trio of Subclasses (3/27/2017): The three subclasses of the title include: the Way of the Drunken Master for monks, the Oath of Redemption for paladins, and the Monster Slayer for rangers. The Drunken Master is a classic martial artist type, suitable for Eastern Empire monks. An Oath of Redemption paladin is dedicated to peace, which is an especially difficult ideal in the rough streets of Freeport.

The Monster Slayer is, per the Wizards site, "a reimagining of the Monster Hunter that we previously released for the fighter" (see "Gothic Heroes," 4/4/2016). DMs will probably want to choose one or the other for their campaign, but not both. Either would make a good choice for converting the Freeport monster hunter class.

Starter Spells (4/3/2017): This article presents several new cantrips and 1st-level spells, providing at least one new choice for each spellcasting class. Many of these are spells from previous editions that had not yet been updated to the current rules set (cause fear, ceremony, snare, virtue), while others are, to my knowledge, new to this article (infestation, puppet, toll the dead, unearthly chorus). All are suitable for Freeport.

Downtime (4/10/2017): This article expands upon the options for characters' activities between adventures that are presented in the Dungeon Master's Guide. It also introduces the concept of foils, NPCs designed to oppose the heroes. These new options can be used to enrich a Freeport campaign by giving the PCs more options for disposing of their ill-gotten gains, as well as getting them more involved and invested in the dynamic nature of the city and its inhabitants. Using complications from downtime activities or foils can help make the introduction of new adventures feel more organic by tying plot hooks to the heroes' own actions.

Feats for Skills (4/17/2017): This document presents 18 new feats, one tied to each of the skills in the Player's Handbook. Each feat gives three benefits: increase the related ability score by 1; gain proficiency in the skill (or if already proficient, add double your proficiency bonus to checks); and gain one other minor ability thematically connected to the skill. All are suitable for use in Freeport.

Feats for Races (4/24/2017): This installment presents 23 new feats with racial prerequisites. Each race in the Player's Handbook receives two or three choices, with some of the elf and gnome options specific to subraces. As discussed in More Thoughts on D&D 5E Freeport, pretty much all of the Player's Handbook races can be found in Freeport, so none of these feats would be out of place.

(However, one comment I should have made back then is that since Fourth Edition, tieflings have become much more inhuman looking than in previous editions. Such obvious "devils" are likely to face heavy persecution in Freeport, where fiendish cults have caused so much trouble in the past. The new Barbed Hide and Flames of Phlegethos feats make this infernal heritage even more blatant.)

Revised Subclasses (5/1/2017): This installment presents five popular subclasses from previous "Unearthed Arcana" columns, with revisions that resulted from playtest feedback: Path of the Ancestral Guardian for the barbarian (11/7/2016); College of Swords for the bard (1/4/2016); Arcane Archer for the fighter 12/5/2016); Way of the Kensei for the monk (12/12/2016); and Favored Soul for the sorcerer (4/6/2015 and 2/6/2017; this third version mixes features of the previous two). All remain just as suitable for Freeport as they were before (see previous installments of my UA reviews for details).


For ease of reference, I've compiled a list of all my previous columns discussing running D&D Fifth Edition games set in Freeport.
Finally, as a side note. I backed Green Ronin's recent Kickstarter for the Fifth Edition version of their classic The Book of the Righteous. When that is released later this year, expect a few columns about combining that material with Freeport!