Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Freeport 5E Index

In my articles about using D&D Fifth Edition with Green Ronin's Freeport: The City of Adventure, I've started including an appendix with links to all past articles on this subject. However, that list is now long enough that I've decided it's time to post it as a separate index, much as I did for my "Building the Bestiary" series. I will update this list as I continue my Freeport 5E series, and link those future columns to this master list.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Xanathar's Guide and Freeport, Part 1: Subclasses

Much of the content of Xanathar's Guide to Everything is composed of the final, official version of material originally presented in "Unearthed Arcana" (UA) articles on the Wizards of the Coast D&D website. Reviewing the book with an eye to using it in Freeport games will involve revisiting that material, so much of what I say here has been compiled from my past "Unearthed Arcana and Freeport" columns. This first installment will just cover the subclasses from Chapter 1: Character Options.

Each class is presented with a handful of random tables to help players embellish their characters' background. Freeport DMs may wish to change or expand these lists (and the "This is Your Life" section towards the end of the chapter) to reflect the setting more closely, but this isn't strictly necessary. (Freeport is, after all, designed to fit into any world, even if I do default to the optional "World of Freeport" in these columns.)


Freeport sees a diverse mix of barbarians pass through its waters, so these three new primal paths could prove quite useful in making each barbarian culture distinct. For example, The Path of the Ancestral Guardian would be suitable for many primitive islander tribes. Druzhdin barbarians are frequently berserkers or totem warriors, but the tundra aura of the Path of the Storm Herald also fits their homeland quite nicely. Azhar barbarians are a natural fit for the desert storm aura option for that path. Savage humanoids with a strong war-god cult (like the orc god Krom) could be drawn to the Path of the Zealot as easily as to that of the berserker.


The College of Glamour is designed for bards with ties to the Feywild, and is a natural fit for the elves of Rolland. The College of Swords will be attractive to bards who want to be more deadly in melee combat--and in Freeport, who doesn't? The College of Whispers focuses on infiltration and leveraging secrets, and is thus perfectly suited for the intrigue-riddled streets of Freeport.


The Forge Domain is appropriate for dwarven gods, as well as fire-based religions like Kizmir's Eternal Flame. The Grave Domain is designed for death-oriented gods who oppose undead, and is thus an excellent choice for the Church of Retribution and its Inquisition.

For Freeport campaigns using The Book of the Righteous, the Forge Domain would be appropriate to gods that grant either the Creation or Fire Domain from that book, while the Grave Domain roughly corresponds to the Repose Domain.


Druids are almost always outsiders in Freeport, and usually feel more at home in the jungles of the Serpent's Teeth than in the city. The Circle of Dreams is a good fit for wood elves from Rolland, while the Circle of the Shepherd would be a good choice for any druid who wants to protect the islands' native creatures.

The "Learning Beast Shapes" section provides useful reference tables, but lacks the more detailed rules from the "Druid" UA article.


The Arcane Archer is a good choice for a fighter who wants to enhance his ranged attacks with magic. Mounted combat is rare in Freeport, but Cavaliers can be found there. (The Cavalier is less focused on mounted combat than its first iteration in UA, but is still most effective as a rider.)

Buccaneers of Freeport introduced an Asian-flavored Eastern Empire to the World of Freeport, which gives Samurai a place in the setting, too. (The Kodath half-orcs from True20 Freeport: The Lost Island should also be considered samurai.)


The Way of the Drunken Master is a classic martial arts archetype, suitable for Eastern Empire monks. Monks who follow the Way of the Kensei gain additional training with weapons, providing them with more weapon proficiencies and more tricks in combat.

The Way of the Sun Soul is reprinted from the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide. These monks are most appropriate to temples that revere gods of light (such as the Hamunaptran sun cult).


A paladin with the Oath of Conquest seeks to subjugate his enemies, not merely defeat them. These paladins exist alongside the Oathbreaker from the DMG, and often have ties to the devils of Hell. Even in Freeport, hellknights rarely act openly--the worship of devils or demons is among the city's very few capital crimes.

An Oath of Redemption paladin is dedicated to peace, which is an especially difficult ideal on the rough streets of Freeport.


A Gloom Stalker (previously known as the "Deep Stalker") would be a useful addition to any party braving the jungles of A'Val or the sewers and caverns below Freeport itself. The Horizon Walker will have plenty of work in Freeport seeking out planar portals and the threats they can unleash (possibly leading to encounters with hellknights!). 

The Monster Slayer will have plenty of targets to choose from in the Serpent's Teeth. This subclass (originally a reimagining of UA's Monster Hunter archetype for fighters) makes an excellent choice for converting the monster hunter class from the 3rd Era Freeport Companion or the Pathfinder edition of Freeport: The City of Adventure.


The Inquisitive is a master at observation and spotting enemies' weakness. The Scout is an expert at woodcraft, mobility, and group tactics. Either subclass will enhance the effectiveness of any party that prefers stealth and advance warning to simply running headlong into trouble, especially at higher levels.

(The Scout subclass in The Book of the Righteous is very similar in theme to this version, but gains somewhat different abilities. DMs should choose just one Scout to use in their games, to avoid confusion.)

The Mastermind and Swashbuckler are reprinted from the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide (though the latter first appeared in UA). The Mastermind will thrive in the intrigue-heavy atmosphere of Freeport, while the Swashbuckler is a common sight in Freeport's streets and taverns, as well as many of its ships' crews.


The Divine Soul (previously "Favored Soul," in its various iterations in UA) is a vessel of divine magic, and likely to swear allegiance to a deity, though not always to the god's church. They are often encountered as the charismatic leaders of cults (of any alignment). 

Shadow Magic sorcerers will find numerous illicit uses for their powers in a city as "shady" as Freeport. The city is known to have at least one site where the borders between the Material Plane and the Shadowfell are quite thin, which would likely be tied to the origin of any homegrown shadow sorcerers.

Storm Sorcery is reprinted from the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide (though it first appeared in UA). Control of the winds will make these sorcerers highly popular among ships' crews who do are not overly superstitious about strange magic.


The Celestial provides an overtly good-aligned option for the usually sinister warlock class. Such characters are quite rare, especially in Freeport, but may be drawn to that city in order to purify some evil or improve the lot of the common folk.

The Hexblade has ties to the Shadowfell, so they are likely to be interested in the elusive places near Freeport where the barriers between the material and shadow worlds grow thin. 

Several new eldritch invocations are provided as well. These have been divorced from specific patrons since their first appearance in UA, which opens them up for use by more warlocks.


Only one new subclass is presented for wizards: the War Mage. Combat-trained wizards are a common sight in Freeport, and may have acquired their skills at the city's Wizards Guild or at a military academy on the Continent.

The Leftovers

The following additional subclasses have appeared in "Unearthed Arcana," but have not been released in any form other than playtest documents:
Asterisked options, from "Modern Magic," are not appropriate to Freeport's medieval to Renaissance-level technology.

(Tim's) Appendix

For ease of reference, I've compiled a list of all my previous columns discussing running D&D Fifth Edition games set in Freeport.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Volo's Guide to Monsters and Freeport

I received both Volo's Guide to Monsters and Xanathar's Guide to Everything as gifts this Yuleltide season, so as I digest them, I'll be sharing my thoughts on how to use them in D&D 5E games set in Freeport: The City of Adventure. Discussing Xanathar's Guide will involve a revisiting of much of the material that I reviewed in my "Unearthed Arcana and Freeport" columns, so doing it justice may require more than one column. For that reason, and because Volo's is the earlier release, I'll start with the Guide to Monsters.

Chapter 1: Monster Lore

The first half of the book is devoted to in-depth background information about nine monsters (or closely-related families of monsters) that are iconic to D&D: beholders, giants, gnolls, goblinoids, hags, kobolds, mind flayers, orcs, and yuan-ti.

Of these nine, three--the beholder, mind flayer, and yuan-ti--were never released as Open Game Content during the Third Edition era, so third-party publishers required special permission from Wizards of the Coast to use them. Green Ronin received permission to use mind flayers and yuan-ti in Mindshadows, a v.3.0 sourcebook in their Mythic Vistas line that is set in the larger World of Freeport. (Psionic yuan-ti also appear in Monsters of the Mind, that setting's companion bestiary.) In addition, one NPC of each race appeared in Denizens of Freeport. Naranjan (the setting of Mindshadows) has been mentioned in a number of Freeport products since then, but none of its content has been converted to later editions. This is partly due to the product identity issue (which would require new permissions, under a more restrictive license), and partly because the setting showcases psionics, which are not covered by the core rules of 4E, 5E, or Pathfinder. (Multiple iterations of a psionic Mystic class for 5E have appeared in "Unearthed Arcana," but it remains strictly in playtest.)

[SIDE NOTE: Among their non-Freeport titles, Green Ronin's Bastards and Bloodlines: A Guidebook to Half-Breeds (for v.3.0) included mind rippers (half-mind flayers) and a half-beholder template, as well as hybrids of two other non-Open Game Content races. The company also released an Eye King template, allowing the creation of new, fully OGL-compliant beholder-like monsters, as a web enhancement to their v.3.5 Advanced Bestiary. The Eye King was later included in the Pathfinder Edition of that book.]

True giants are rarely if ever encountered in the Serpent's Teeth, and only the amphibious storm giants would be remotely at home in such a location. Campaigns involving visits to the Continent, or to other lands across the sea, could make use of this material.

Encounters with gnolls would be similarly limited (though they can at least fit on ships more easily). The distant land of Hamunaptra (from Egyptian Adventures: Hamunaptra) has a variant race of gnoll that was created by Anubis rather than Yeenoghu, and bears little resemblance to them as a result.

All three goblinoid races can be found in Freeport, though only hobgoblins have any real status in the city. Goblins and hobgoblins are restricted to Bloodsalt, where they are policed by the Redblades (who have a military culture similar to that described in Volo's Guide to Monsters, albeit one even more hostile to non-hobgoblins). Bugbears presumably are as well, but are more skilled at keeping out of sight, and sometimes serve as hired muscle on ships crewed solely by monstrous races.

Hags never appear openly in Freeport, but have been known to inhabit islands within easy sail of the city.

Like goblinoids, kobolds are known to dwell in the city's slums. It's possible that they may have been imported to dig (or expand) Freeport's extensive sewer system at some point in the city's history, much as orcs were recruited to build the Lighthouse in more recent years. If so, then the majority of kobolds in Freeport would dwell below its streets by preference, despite the dangers of vermin, serpent people, and worse Down Below.

In the World of Freeport, most orcs worship only one god, Krom, who is largely indifferent to their prayers. (This god is borrowed from Green Ronin's Ork! RPG. Black Sails Over Freeport gives some suggestions for using Krom in Freeport.) Krom does not usually have priests, but the Blade of Ilneval and Red Fang of Shargaas stat blocks are suitable for skilled orc war leaders and assassins, respectively.

Chapter 2: Character Races

The slender middle chapter of the book presents several new races for use as PCs. Some receive a full Player's Handbook-style entry, while the monstrous races discussed in Chapter 1 merely list their racial traits here.

As stated in the Freeport Companions, nearly any exotic race can be justified in passing through Freeport. Therefore, all PC races in this chapter are potentially available, if the DM allows.

Two of the new races not covered in Chapter 1 are already part of Freeport canon: At least one aasimar is known to live in Freeport, and lizardfolk live on some of the islands within a few days' sail of the Serpent's Teeth (and are occasionally seen among monstrous ships' crews).

Firbolgs and goliaths, like the true giants in Chapter 1, would be a rare sight, but not impossible. Alternately, goliaths could be reskinned as a playable half-ogre race, which would be much more common in Freeport.

Kenku resemble the tengu of Japanese folklore, so might have their origin in the Eastern Empire mentioned in Buccaneers of Freeport. If so, then an exceptionally self-disciplined kenku might become a monk or even a samurai (a fighter subclass; see Xanathar's Guide to Everything). The race's speech limitations would make playing a spellcaster (such as the wu jen mystic from "Unearthed Arcana") difficult, but some players may enjoy the challenge.

Tabaxi likely come from Khaeder or some other tropical land across the sea (such as the Aztec-based Maztica setting from AD&D 2nd Edition).

As natives of the Plane of Water, tritons can be encountered in any deep sea in the Material Plane. However, many Freeporters would mistake them for sea elves, or even merfolk. The tritons' highly developed sense of honor and morality would quickly lead to conflict with many of Freeport's unsavory residents, as well as with local authorities and some of the rank and file, live-and-let-live citizenry.

See the notes on Chapter 1, above, about races in the Monstrous Adventurers section (bugbear, goblin, hobgoblin, kobold, orc, and yuan-ti pureblood).

Chapter 3: Bestiary

The second half of the book is taken up by a collection of new monsters. This section includes new variants of the nine types of monster featured in Chapter 1. In addition, dozens of other creatures are updated to the Fifth Edition rules; there are only a handful of creatures, like the grung, that I did not recognize from previous editions of the game. Another handful, such as the girallon and annis hag, have already appeared in published Freeport adventures.

Appendix A: Assorted Beasts

This appendix is very slim, containing only the aurochs, cattle, dolphin (a common sight near Freeport!), and swarm of rot grubs.

Appendix B: Nonplayer Characters

This appendix greatly expands the selection of ready-made humanoid NPCs from the list in the Monster Manual. Most notably, it offers NPC versions of most of the other core classes not covered there, as well as specialists of all of the core warlock patrons and wizard schools. (There is a high-level Blackguard, or fallen paladin, but no "heroic" paladin.)

The kraken priest could be used to represent a leader in Yarash's cult, while a warlock of the Great Old One could be the same for the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign (see Cults of Freeport). The sea spawn from Chapter 3 also make good minions of Yarash's cult.

(Tim's) Appendix

For ease of reference, I've compiled a list of all my previous columns discussing running D&D Fifth Edition games set in Freeport.
Watch this space for my upcoming column(s) about Xanathar's Guide to Everything, as well as continuing reviews of "Unearthed Arcana"!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Forge of Fury #2: Bloody Stirges!

Our heroes for The Forge of Fury include:
  • Raven Flare, female tiefling rogue 3 (assassin, urchin)
  • Kalitni, female human ranger 3 (beast master, hermit) with Daikitsu, wolf companion
  • Xuri, female blue dragonborn sorcerer 3 (wild magic, sage)
  • Sir Dain (NPC/guest-PC), male hill dwarf paladin 3 (oath of devotion, knight)
  • Erky Timbers (DM-run NPC), male forest gnome cleric 3 (life domain, acolyte)

(Warning: Spoilers for The Forge of Fury follow.) 

Last time, the heroes located the hill known as the Stone Tooth, where they believed the lost dwarven stronghold of Khundrukar was located. They found an entrance and fought their way inside, through a large force of orcs led by Great Ulfe, a ogre. After slaying all the forces mustered against their intrusion, they freed a couple of local villagers captured by the orcs, and holed up in an empty barracks room to rest and recover from their wounds. This room also had a secret passage that the orcs had not found, which made it a convenient place to cache treasure, as well as a way out that avoided crossing the rope bridge.

After their rest, the heroes led the rescued prisoners, Geradil and Courana, out of the dungeon to where Sir Dain's retainers were encamped, awaited their master's return. The paladin instructed his followers to take the two villagers home, while he and the other heroes stayed here to continue clearing out the dungeon.

The party returned to the barracks room, then slowly made their way back through the other orc chambers. Previously, they had heard growling behind a large ironbound door. Raven heard movement there still, so Dain opened the door. Inside were two dire wolves, who were hungry after being left alone for some time. The heroes slew the wolves, then searched the room, which reeked of wolf and ogre. They found two chests with coins, a potion, and a well-made rapier. They carried this treasure the short distance back to the barracks in order to count it and study the items: a potion of climbing and a +1 rapier. Raven gladly took the rapier to replace her nonmagical blade.

The PCs returned to the level's central chamber, where the orcs kept the loot from their raids: a stockpile of food, ale, building supplies, etc. None seemed worth the effort of moving at this time, so the heroes merely searched for passages they had not seen before. They found the orcs' crude kitchen, which proved to be at the bottom of the natural chimney they had discovered when searching the hilltop earlier. The rogue also found a secret door leading out of an apparent dead-end. Beyond this was a short passage to another secret door covered in Orcish writing and symbols--obviously a warning of some kind, but none of the party could read the language.

Beyond that door, they encountered three female orcs, one of which was the Eye of Gruumsh that they had been warned about by the prisoners. The priestess failed to command the dwarf paladin. Raven's blade, Xuri's twinned witch bolt, and Kalitni's arrows made short work of the orcs. [Kalitni used her Sharpshooter feat to do extra damage twice, which quickly dropped the Eye.] The party then collected the orcs' ears for collecting bounties, and looted the room.

The priestess's room also had a door to the north, which was locked, but the key was in the door. The rogue heard the faint, distant sounds of running water and a strange buzzing. The party opened the door, finding a long, high-ceiling chamber decorated with carvings of dwarves at their forges, and a deep natural rift in the center. As the heroes passed through the chamber, they learned the source of the buzzing, as four stirges flew up out of the rift to attack. The PCs quickly slew the flying pests, before any of them managed to hit their prey.

Near the far end of the room was an iron gate, beyond which was a blocked passage (which they had seen from the other side when searching the hoard cave). The long chamber ended in a door carved to resemble a glowering dwarf's face. A few severely scorched orc skeletons were scattered nearby, and Raven and Kalitni's examination of the wall revealed secret spouts that were certainly some kind of trap. Dain gave the rogue a boost up to those holes, and the tiefling used her thieves' tools to disarm the trap. The party then opened the door, finding a small room with little in it other than the mechanisms for the trap--which sprayed some kind of liquid from a reservoir--and a counterweight to close the door after someone entered. They noticed the latter in time to use a piton to wedge the door open. The ranger guessed that it would be possible to extract whatever was left of the trap's fluids, but the party decided to not take any risks with trying that at this time.

The party had one more room to check before exploring the stairs that descended into the rift. That room proved to be another bunk room, so after they searched it thoroughly, they returned to the rift room and followed the stairs down into the fissure.

The tunnel narrowed as it sloped steeply downward some distance, but the floor had numerous cut into the rock. The passage branched after a while, with a shallow rivulet of water crossing the main tunnel and following the side passage downward. The flowing water covered most of the side path's floor, so the party crossed it and continued down the drier way. This soon opened into a large natural cave with a high ceiling. The path followed the north wall of the room down to the floor below, where a slightly larger stream (perhaps the same one?) crossed the space. As the heroes descended this stairway, they drew the attention of more stirges. This time, the little monsters had better luck, with two attaching to Dain and one to Kalitni, draining their blood. The paladin and ranger each killed a stirge, and Xuri poison sprayed the last one. They descended to the bottom of the stairs, and Erky uttered a prayer of healing to restore his friends.

The group then searched the chamber, finding little of note except three exits to the east. The northernmost of these was the source of the stream, and after some exploration up that wet passage, it proved to be the same stream they had crossed above. About halfway up that tunnel was a small side cave, where the party found a half dozen sleeping stirges. Before the monsters could wake fully and attack, Xuri obliterated them with a thunderwave. (This spell is extremely noisy, but she deemed it worth the risk to eliminate this threat.) Inside the cave was the dessicated corpse of a dwarf, who they guessed must have belonged to one of the past expeditions to seek Khundrukar. The body bore a pouch with some coins, but nothing else of worth. Their curiosity satisfied, the party returned to the room below. However, Kalitni slipped and fell hard going down the steep and slick tunnel, and required some first aid.

The heroes next turned to the nearest of other two eastern exits, and came to another large natural chamber. Two reptilian humanoids lurked here, but the party noticed them despite their camouflaged colored. One attacked Dain, sorely wounding the paladin with both claws and its bite, while the other opened a wooden gate on the far side of the room. Raven dashed around the nearest reptile-person, and delivered a deadly sneak attack. However, this left the tiefling closest to the gate when a brown bear charged out and attacked. It mauled her, but then Kalitni cast animal friendship and worked to calm the beast. The other scaly humanoid ducked into a nearby tunnel, and Raven pursued, but was unable to find it again. Only Kalitni noticed when the chameleon-like reptile scurried down a different exit, to the south, a moment later. Meanwhile, Erky examined the dead one and claimed that it must be a troglodyte--it certainly smelled foul enough to be one. [The troglodyte was killed so quickly that none of the party had to make a save for being adjacent to it at the start of their turn.]

Dain noticed a slight draft from the north, and informed the others that the tunnel on that side must lead outside. Once the bear was pacified, Kalitini persuaded it to take that path to freedom, which it gratefully did. There was no sign of any other danger coming their way, so the party took a short rest to tend their wounds before proceeding.


Here are some close-up photos of the minis from this session:

Dire wolves [LOTR wargs]

Front: Eye of Gruumsh [Castle troll head, Wicked Witch body, LOTR Uruk-Hai shield];
Rear: orc minions [L: Star Wars Gamorrean Guard, R: Castle troll]

Troglodytes [L: Minifigures Lizard Suit Guy; R: Star Wars Bossk head,
Castle forester body] and brown bear [Arctic polar bear]

Tales from the Yawning Portal: Past Columns

The Sunless Citadel

#1: Down into the Ground
#2: Lost Dragon
#3: Through the Dragon Door
#4: Goblin Boss Battle
#5: Through Pallid Gardens
Campaign Update
#6: Belak, at Last

The Forge of Fury

#1: Orc Gruel

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Forge of Fury #1: Orc Gruel

Over the holidays, I was able to find time to start running The Forge of Fury for my wife and children. This is my summary of our first session; I'll post session #2 next week.

L-R: Dain, Xuri, Raven, Kalitni, Daikitsu, Erky
Last time, the party completed The Sunless Citadel (the first adventure in Tales from the Yawning Portal). The gnome cleric who they rescued, Erky Timbers, has joined the party as a full member, and most of the party has upgraded to more protective armor. Our heroes for The Forge of Fury now include:
  • Raven Flare, female tiefling rogue 3 (assassin, urchin)
  • Kalitni, female human ranger 3 (beast master, hermit) with Daikitsu, wolf companion
  • Xuri, female blue dragonborn sorcerer 3 (wild magic, sage)
  • Sir Dain (NPC/guest-PC), male hill dwarf paladin 3 (oath of devotion, knight)
  • Erky Timbers (DM-run NPC), male forest gnome cleric 3 (life domain, acolyte)

(Warning: Spoilers for The Forge of Fury follow.) 

During there adventures in the Sunless Citadel, the party found a fragmentary scroll that mentioned "Khudrukar" and "Durgeddin the Black." After some research, they learned that Durgeddin, a highly skilled smith, founded the dwarven stronghold of Khundrukar after his tribe's previous home was overrun by orcs and trolls. From this secret home, he sought vengeance for his fallen kin, and forged many blades in pursuit of this goal. Eventually, the orcs found Khundrukar and mined its defenses. The stronghold was sacked, but rumors persist that some of Durgeddin's blades remain within. The party has determined that Khundrukar must be located near a rocky prominence known as the Stone Tooth. This peak is located in a dense forest a few days' journey north of the mining town of Blasingdell.

They reached Blasingdell, and sought out local dwarves for any information on the Stone Tooth or Khundrukar. One shopkeeper told them of recent orc raids near the town. One wounded orc was captured and interrogated, and revealed the location of his tribes' lair near the Stone Tooth. In order to deal with this new threat, the mayor of Blasingdell was offering a bounty on orcs, dead or alive. When they inquired about this bounty, the mayor told the adventurers that most raids of outlying farms involved a mere handful of orcs, so they don't know the tribe's full numbers.

The party got directions to the Stone Tooth, and made their way north through forested hills. When they spotted the peak, they could see a path climbing the near side of the hill, and smoke issuing from some place near the summit. The heroes found a safe, defensible campsite for the night, before following the path.

In the morning, when they reached the trail, Dain claimed that the path had once been concealed, but the hillside had eroded enough of its cover to allow it to be seen from the valley. They followed the trail for a while, until it was clear that it did not go to the same point where the smoke issued from. They wanted to find the source of the smoke, so climbed the steep hillside towards it. They soon got lost in the trees, but were able to regain their bearings after an hour and reach the smoke. It came from a natural chimney in the rock, which looked difficult to climb down without a rope. They debated whether to risk it, but then decided to search for an easier entrance.

They returned to the path and followed it up to a ledge where two inattentive orcs stood guard. Raven and Kalitni attempted to sneak up on them, but the ranger made too much noise, and the orcs hollered a warning. Xuri used her new wand of entangle to slow down the two orcs, then Raven (who had successfully hidden near the ledge) sneak-attacked one orc. Another spell and an arrow from Erky killed the other.

The rogue advanced around the switchback and noticed three concealed arrow slits in the rock face above her. She warned the others, and Xuri used her wand to entangle the area behind one of these arrow slits. The orcs inside the archer stations, having been alerted to the presence of enemies, started to shoot down at the heroes, who did their best to minimize their exposure on the open stairway. (As a sharpshooter, Kalitni was able to target the orc archers with no worries about their cover.)

The party found a grand entrance at the ascending path. They had taken down the first sentries very quickly, and reached the chamber beyond the entrance before the archers could get off more then a handful of shoots each. In this chamber, they found a 30-foot wide natural chasm spanned by a rope bridge. On the far side were two more orcs, who started hurling javelins at the party--or more specifically, at the hated dwarf. (However, the chasm put their targets at long range, so no javelins hit their mark.)

Once some of the heroes reached this chasm chamber, and were thus out of view of the arrow slits, one of the orc archers used a secret door to attack more directly. However, Raven was hidden right next to the door, and waylaid the orc.

The rogue, ranger, and paladin took the fight to the archers, with Kalitni mostly concentrating on the orcs on the other side of the chasm. After her arrows downed one, the other fled through the doors behind its post. Meanwhile, Dain had located another secret door on his side of the ledge, but could not open it, so began using Shatterstrike (the magic longsword he had received from the dying Sir Braford) to smash through the stone. However, before he finished, he broke off to help his companions slay the orcs they could reach.

Once all the orcs were dead (excluding the one who escaped), the party conducted a quick search of the rooms around the entrance, and collected orc ears to claim their bounty. Xuri crossed the rope bridge, but could not see or hear anything from the doors on that side. She rejoined the party when Kalitni found a secret door in a room off of one of the archer stations. This led to a short passage and another secret door.

Beyond that second door was an empty barracks for about a dozen humanoids, that showed signs of being recently vacated. Apparently the orcs were not aware of this well-hidden passage, and had gone elsewhere in response to the alarm about intruders. The heroes passed through this room quickly, finding a larger hallway beyond it. They passed a statue of a dwarf (strangely undefaced, considering the current inhabitants), and a large ironbound door with a human skull staked to it. Raven and Erky heard growling behind this door, so left it alone for now. The hallway eventually led to a natural cavern filled with a vast number of crates, barrels, and sacks of unknown goods. From here, Raven could hear speech coming from the south (roughly in the direction of the chasm chamber). The speaker had a loud, booming voice, and was berating the orcs (in Common) for cowardice in dealing with the invaders. The tiefling warned the others, then stealthily moved closer to learn more.

The next room held a number of orcs, as well as their leader, a ten-foot-tall giant. She could also see the door to a wooden cage on the far side of the room, in which two prisoners cowered. As she watched, the giant ordered the orcs towards the chasm. She counted ten orcs, including one wearing plate armor.

Dain moved up, no longer caring for stealth, and cast shield of faith on the rogue before closing with the giant. Erky cast bless on them and Kalitni. The ranger moved forward to see the giant, and recognized it as an ogre. She cast hunter's mark and shot the boss monster. Xuri followed with a witch bolt.

The ogre roared, "Great Ulfe smash stinky dwarf!" It missed the dwarf, but the heavily-armored orc (an orog) hit Dain hard. Raven sneak attacked the ogre, which drew its ire, and it smashed her to the ground--but suffered a hellish rebuke in retaliation. A divine smite from Dain downed Great Ulfe, and Erky (protected by sanctuary) channeled divinity to heal the paladin and revive the rogue.

Kalitni turned her 'mark upon the orog, and Xuri used entangle on him and some adjacent orcs. Hits from the rogue, paladin, and ranger soon took down the orog.

More orcs poured into the room, swarming the party. The fight became quite desperate at this point, as lucky hits from orc greataxes knocked out Raven, Xuri, and Erky (whose last spell healed the rogue again), and seriously wounded Dain and Kalitni. However, the orcs took heavy losses as well, and eventually only four were left. The three nearest the exit disengages and fled towards the chasm chamber. The fourth took Kalitni down with a critical hit before leaving by another exit--but ran into the ranger's wolf, who mauled it.

Raven, furious at seeing her companions hurt, pursued the orcs. She killed one, and caught up to the other two as they were crossing the rope bridge. She jumped onto the near end and began shaking the bridge. This caused one to lose his grip and fall into the chasm.

Meanwhile, Dain healed Erky, who then healed Xuri and Kalitni. (The ranger narrowly avoided dying only through using inspiration on a death saving throw.) Xuri joined Raven, and cast a spell at the remaining orc. Her witch bolt failed to hit, but the resulting wild magic surge mortally wounded it (and hurt Raven) while healing the sorcerer.

The fight was finally over, after 31 grueling rounds of combat since engaging the first sentries. Dain smashed the padlock on the cage door, freeing the prisoners, a pair of humans. As the heroes searched the room and rested for a while, Geradil and Courana told their story: They were from a small settlement near Blasingdell, and had been captured about a month ago. Their families could not pay the ransom the orcs demanded, so it was only a matter of time before the orcs would have killed them. They warned the party about the ogre's pet wolves (who were much bigger then Kalitni's companion) and a scary one-eyed orc priestess. (The ranger realized that this must be a priestess of Gruumsh, the leader of the orc pantheon.)

The heroes took orc ears (and the ogre and orog's heads) as trophies to claim bounties when they returned to Blasingdell, then pushed the bodies into the chasm. Geradil and Courana were anxious to return home, but most of the party wanted to finish clearing the orc lair before leaving the dungeon. However, all of them desperately needed sleep and healing, so they went back to the barracks room, where they staked and barricaded the door. (This room's secret passage would give them an escape route if necessary.) The dwarf knight considered the possibility of having his retainers (who awaited the party back at their campsite outside) escort the two villagers home in the morning.

Great Ulfe and some of his tribe

Tales from the Yawning Portal: Past Columns

The Sunless Citadel

#1: Down into the Ground
#2: Lost Dragon
#3: Through the Dragon Door
#4: Goblin Boss Battle
#5: Through Pallid Gardens
Campaign Update
#6: Belak, at Last

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2017 in Review: The Blog

2017 has been a momentous year, for myself, for my blog, and for our country. However, I try to avoid discussing politics here, so I'll keep the focus of my review of the past year on my own work. I started this blog in late 2014, and have managed to keep it going on a weekly basis for most of the time since then, which is an accomplishment I'm quite proud of.

For those new to this blog, I write about roleplaying games, LEGO toys, and how I combine the two, with occasional forays into my other hobbies. I have a number of ongoing series that I add to as I find the time and inspiration. These include session summaries for the campaigns that I Game Master, reviews of RPG and LEGO products, and other subjects. Each item below includes a link to the most recent installment; most of those pages include links to previous columns in that series.

"Building the Bestiary" is my series on how I build LEGO miniatures for my tabletop role-playing games. It focuses on the first Pathfinder RPG Bestiary and the D&D 5E Monster Manual. It's my longest-running series here, with 17 installments, and I added an Index this year to help readers quickly find specific monsters I've covered.

I also post reviews of the collectible LEGO Minifigures Series once I acquire enough of each new set. I only wrote one such column in 2017 (The LEGO Batman Movie Minifigures), but I anticipate doing one of The Ninjago Movie Minifigures series sometime soon, as well as the upcoming second The LEGO Batman Movie series.

"Time of the Tarrasque" is a homebrew Pathfinder campaign that I started in January 2017. This is a world that I've been tinkering with for years (decades, really), so was very pleased for it to see actual play. We are currently on hiatus due to many of our players having changes in jobs and/or residences this fall and winter, but we hope to resume again soon. The heroes have reached 3rd level and I hope to see them advance to 20th level (and possibly some mythic tiers) by the end of the campaign.

I also started running Tales from the Yawning Portal (D&D 5E) for my wife and children this past year. We have completed The Sunless Citadel, and started The Forge of Fury over the kids' winter break. I'll be posting summaries of our first two sessions of Forge over the next couple weeks. (We previously started Lost Mine of Phandelver with some friends, but had to put that game on hiatus. Yawning Portal has allowed us to move forward with a more regular game.)

I am a long-time fan of Green Ronin's Freeport setting. My long-running third Freeport campaign, which ended in 2016, used D&D v.3.5 and later Pathfinder, but I've been considering using D&D 5E for my next foray into that setting. My Freeport 5E articles include reviews of Wizards of the Coasts' "Unearthed Arcana" and Plane Shift articles, Green Ronin's Book of the Righteous, and other 5E titles with an eye to using them with Freeport. I recently acquired Volo's Guide to Monsters and Xanathar's Guide to Everything, so expect columns about them within the next month or two.

I am also making an effort to get more experience with Green Ronin's Fantasy AGE system, and have started posting my thoughts on that game.