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Episode 99: The Beliefs of Saruman

In this episode I discuss the mechanics of classes, magic, and magical items pertaining to Adventures in Middle-Earth.

http://outofcharacter.buzzsprout.com/13127/544490-episode-99-the-beliefs-of-saruman

Episode 98: Adventures in Middle-Earth Part 4 Meetings and Murmurs in Mirkwood

From the white city of Minas Tirith, to the shadowed reached of Mirkwood, to the foothills of The Misty Mountains three adventurers set on their own paths begin to converge. Meanwhile old dangers begin to emerge from within Mirkwood itself.

http://outofcharacter.buzzsprout.com/13127/537299-episode-98-adventures-in-middle-earth-part-4-meetings-and-murmurs-in-mirkwood

Skill Check

The past few hours I was tinkering with ideas about skills checks, and a thought occurred to me.  If you leaf through most modules there are always instances where the GM will be told to ask players for a specific type of skill check, or a range of skills. There’s nothing wrong with a GM having an idea for a certain type of situation to call on a select range of skills, but it may deprive players of a chance to flex their roleplaying muscles. The example I thought up while I was wasting time at work today uses Dungeons & Dragons 5e, but the principle applies to any rpg with a skill system.

Imagine your players have entered a local pub looking for information, now let’s also pretend that this didn’t devolve into a ballroom brawl ( a certain monk and warlock I know could probably learn something from this come to think of it.) One of the patrons, a minotaur sailor known to have dealings with the black market, overhears them chatting up the crowd and takes an interest.

Maybe he’s been soured on smugglers after years of being cheated? Or perhaps he’s hoping to send some trouble towards his competitors? Whatever his reasoning he’s not inclined to impart information to anyone who he doesn’t trust. Stomping his way through the pub he proposes a challenge to test their mettle, in this case a pepper eating contest.

Now some GM’s would probably ask for a Constitution saving throw, but there’s plenty of opportunity for creative players to find a way to win out this encounter. A saving throw might favor the broad shouldered goliath barbarian, but the other members of the party could have a great deal more difficulty measuring up. Now there’s something be said for a comical failure and they certainly provide opportunity for roleplay, but let’s examine a few other possibilites.

The halfling bard might manage to deceive the minotaur, pretending that to him the pepper is no hotter than piece of bread. A dragonborn wizard skilled at sleight of hand might tuck the offending pepper into his sleeve. The elf druid might fallback on her knowledge of herb lore and attempt to make a nature check to see what she has on hand that might counter the burning sensation of the peppers.

Give your players an chance to get creative an approach the problem from a different angle. Now a GM also has to know when to say no, but saying yes present much more exciting results for the table more often than not.

 

 

Castlevania Part 1

After watching the new Castlevania series on Netflix  couldn’t help thinking it would make a great setting for a very dark Dungeons and Dragons campaign with some cool steampunk elements. I’m actually working on a short module that takes players through a brief adventure in that world. However creatures from that setting can be folded into almost any D&D game with a little imagination.

For folks who have yet to see the show please stop reading now if you care about spoilers.

I’d also like to let everyone know in advance I am not a longtime fan of Castlevania, I’ve been aware of the franchise for many years but I never played any of the games. If I get any of the terminology wrong please forgive me.

Also Castlevania is the property of Konami and the Netflix series is the property of Netflix, I claim no ownership of either. All of the art pictured here is from the Netflix series and belongs to their artists, it is also pretty great and definitely helps make the show worth your time. So without further ado…

goblins

I’ve seen these things called imps and goblins, to me they look like Red Court vampires from The Dresden Files. At any rate they seem to make up the bulk of Dracula’s demonic army.

Goblins

Medium fiend, chaotic evil

Armor Class 13 (natural armor)

Hit Points 18

Speed 60 ft., climb 20 ft, flight 40 ft.

Str 10 (+0) Dex 16 (+3) Con 12 (+1) Int 8 (-1) Wis 10 (+0) Cha 8 (-1)

Skills Perception +2, Stealth +5

Damage Vulnerabilities Cold, radiant

Damage Immunities Fire

Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 10

Languages  Abyssal, Common

Challenge 1

Actions

Claws. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d6+3) slashing damage.

Infernal Blast. Range Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, 60/100 ft., one target. Hit: 12 (1d8+6) fire damage. Creatures within 30 ft. of the target must make a DC 14 Dexterity Saving throw, on a failed saving throw they take half as much damage as the hit target, on a successful saving throw they take no damage. All objects in the radius of the attack that are not being held burst into flames.

Shock troops for Dracula these summoned monsters serve as the foot soldiers in his army. They are capable warriors able to spread violence throughout cities and the surrounding countryside with ease.

Please note, Infernal Blast is meant to be a powerful attack capable of dealing huge damage. It can kill or seriously injure an entire low-level party if they aren’t careful as well as setting fire to everything in the immediate area. I designed it that way because we see these things peppering cities with these blasts and setting them ablaze in minutes. You may want to warn the party by having one of these things fire off a round at NPCs or buildings before opening fire on your players.

cyclops.png

I love seeing a cyclops used as a monster, and this one is a bit like a beholder crossed with a cyclops. Easily the best monster in the Netflix series so far in my opinion.

Stone-Eye Cyclops

Huge fiend, lawful evil

Armor Class 16 (natural armor)

Hit Points 82

Speed 20 ft.

Str 18 (+4) Dex 12 (+1) Con 16 (+3) Int 10 (+0) Wis 10 (+0) Cha 8 (-1)

Skills Perception +5

Condition Immunities Petrified

Damage Vulnerabilities Radiant

Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 12

Languages  Abyssal, Common

Challenge 5

Feast on Terror. The Stone-Eye Cyclops feeds on the terror of those it has turned to stone, it regains 1d4 hit points each turn for each living victim it has turned to stone. It also adds +1 to any roll it makes for each living victim it has petrified.

Thundering Footsteps. Creatures and objects within 5 ft. of the Stone-Eye Cyclops when it moves take 1d4 bludgeoning damage.

Actions

Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 10 (1d8+6) bludgeoning damage.

Eye Ray. Range Weapon Attack: +0 to hit, 30/60 ft., one target. The target must succeed on a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw. On a failed saving throw, the creatures turns to stone and is petrified.  Petrified creatures can only be returned to normal by killing the Stone-Eye cyclops that turned them to stone.

Powerful guardians that can be utilized to protect valuables or locations from unwanted visitors these towering behemoths are terrors to all. Although they’re more than capable or tearing treasure hunters limb from limb whenever the mood strikes them, they usually prefer turning intruders to stone so that they can feed off of their fear. The lair of a Stone-Eye Cyclops is almost always marked by the petrified bodies of their victims.

As I said this thing is like a cyclops and a beholder crossbreed, which amazing and horrifying all at once. The eye ray requires the cyclops to hit the opponents AC and then the players gets to make a dex save to avoid being petrified. This is, again, a savage attack that can take a player out of the action in one stroke. The cyclops shouldn’t be able to sneak up on a party so they’ll have some warning of what is coming. I went this direction because unlike the beholder who slowly turns victims to stone I wanted to give a more cinematic feel to the cyclops.  A huge beam engulfs your wizard and they’re just gone in an instant.

Anyway I hope someone out there finds these amusing if nothing else, thanks for reading.

Episode 97: Adventures in Middle-Earth Character Creation

Before diving back into the adventure I wante to share our character creation sesssion for Adventures in Middle-Earth.

http://outofcharacter.buzzsprout.com/13127/531985-episode-97-adventures-in-middle-earth-character-creation

Episode 96: Adventures in Middle-Earth Part Unexpected Guests

http://outofcharacter.buzzsprout.com/13127/502392-episode-96-adventures-in-middle-earth-part-3-unexpected-guests

Episode 95: Adventures in Middle-Earth Part 2 The Dangers of Mirkwood

In the 2nd introduction to our Adventures in Middle-Earth campaign we join an elf on parol deep in the southern reached of Mirkwood.

http://outofcharacter.buzzsprout.com/13127/502023-episode-95-adventures-in-middle-earth-part-2-the-dangers-of-mirwkood

Aliens of La Mancha

Our friend Joelle Mellon wrote a short story for a contest sponsored by winetourismspain.com.  It is about some strange creatures from another world who stumble upon Earth and have a close encounter with Spanish wine. I thought it was funny, and she wanted to share it with our readers.  So, without further ado:

Aliens of La Mancha

Glog had been piloting his ship all night, but reluctantly, he pressed the navigation stick steadily down to the floor, causing the craft to land.

“Are we finally home?” his wife demanded, “We only have one bottle of Ikoe left!”

He knew they should have packed more. Glog and Xemvahr derived all of their nourishment from alcohol-based beverages, just as plants photosynthesize sunlight.

“I’m afraid not, dear,” he ventured, timidly.

“I told you to let the ship drive itself, but would you listen?” she demanded, “Where in Drahkt’s name are we?”

“According to the navigation module,” he said, squinting, “We seem to be on — Earth. Specifically, Spain. Even more specifically — La Mancha.”

“Why does that sound so familiar?”

“Not sure,” Glog replied, “Something from intergalactic broadcast?”

“That’s it!” she exclaimed, “The film from that Earth director with all the bright colors, remember?”

“Oooh, yes,” her huband agreed, “Almodovar.”

“Almodovar,” the ship’s computer repeated in a monotone, thinking that the shouted name had been a request for entertainment. Almost instantly, it queued up Volver and began playing it on a screen.

“We know there’s alcohol here, anyhow,” she said, “Let’s go find some.”

Xemvahr, ever the more practical of the two, took the precaution of strapping the last bottle of Ikoe to her belt, in case they didn’t find anything suitable to drink soon. At the push of a button, the ship’s hatch opened, and the two aliens ventured out into the night. She led them toward an area where the most lights seemed to still be twinkling, assuming that would be their best chance at finding some drinks. Soon, they came to a friendly looking cafe with the words,

“La Fabula” emblazoned over the door in silver script. Several tables had been set outside on the sidewalk. Hurrying over to one of them, they zeroed in on two half-full bottles of wine, which had been mysteriously abandoned by their owners.

“Tempranillo,” Glog read aloud.

Tipping the bottle into his mouth, he was filled with a sense of unabashed pleasure as the wine warmed and filled his translucent body. Almost immediately, he turned a deep shade of burgundy red. If just a mouthful was this much more nutritionally efficient that Ikoe, he realized, what remained in these two bottles would keep them going for weeks.

“Malvar,” his wife pronounced, reading her label.

She swallowed, and a pale golden color suffused her, almost seeming to make her glow with happiness. After a moment, however, an expression of concern settled over her features.

“We don’t have any local currency,” she said.

An hour later, one of the cafe employees came outside to bring the tables in for the night. Much to his surprise, he saw that a full bottle of some exotic blue liqueur had been left behind.

“Hey,” he called back into the restaurant, “I think Manuel’s been ordering some weird stuff again. Want to try it?”

 

To find out more about the competition and explore the idea of Spanish wine tourism, be sure to check out: Winetourismspain.com

Way of the Iron Lightning

Fans of Critical Role will probably be familiar with the Gunslinger Martial Archetype for Fighters created by Matthew Mercer. I used that as a guidepost for creating a character centered on firerarms, but I went in a very different direction with this Monastic Tradition.

These monks employ firearms at close range in unison with martial arts making them even more deadly. The idea was inspired by history and fiction in equal measure, and I think it would make for some very interesting characters.

I didn’t want to break the game, or just saddle characters with a useless lump of iron. Nor did I want to steal from Matthew Mercer, who made the Gunsmith into something pretty amazing. To that end I went to the drawing board and started tinkering.

For the most part these monks don’t have the extreme range one might expect from such a thing, but again they’re meant to be using their weapons at close range. There are mechanics to better explain how that works below. I also wanted to emphasize their ability to use ki and to channel it through these weapons.

Is this perfect? Heck no and it could sure use some playtesting. I still think it is a worthwhile idea and I’d be happy to hear people’s thoughts on it.

Way of the Iron Lightning

A Monastic Tradition for the Monk Class

Monks of the Way of the Soaring Iron are masters at employing firearms at range and in close combat, utilizing them to deal devastating damage to their foes when partnered with their martial prowess. Monks who follow this path have learned the secret arts of forging firearms, and then how to employ them at close range to devastating effect. These monks are usually sworn to the service of a power, and serve as guardians or protectors of that power until their dying day. It is not unheard of for some to abandon their vows of service to take to the road as mercenaries.

Fists that Hold the Roar of Thunder

Starting when you choose this tradition at 3rd level you gain proficiency with firearms allowing you to add your proficiency bonus when making attacks with them.

You also learn channel your ki through your firearms giving you supernatural abilities when using them. You no longer have disadvantage when making attack rolls with your firearms when targeting a foe within 5 ft.

Unlike other firearms you also learn to use yours in melee as bludgeoning weapons. They are usually fitted with heavy weight in the handles, making them like clubs.

Ki Crafted Firearms

You gain proficiency with Tinkerer’s Tools. You may use them to craft ammunition or firearms, or to repair damaged firearms. All weapons created by monks of the Way of the Iron Lightning are crafted by channeling ki into them. Ki is an essential part of these tools, and they cannot be employed by anyone who has not learned to harness these mystic energies.

Cacophany of Thundering Shots

At the 6th level you gain additional abilities to channel your ki into your firearms.  Immediately after you take the Attack action on your turn, you can spend 1 ki points to an additional with your firearm as a bonus action.

You can also spend 1 ki point to convert the damage from your firearm to thunder or lightning type when using this ability.

Eyes that See the Path

At the 11th level you gain a preternatural ability to sense oncoming attacks at range. All ranged attacks targeting you alone (This does not include cones, lines, blasts, cubes, spheres, or cylinders) have disadvantage. When a ranged attack misses you, you can immediately make an attack with your firearm as a bonus action.

Serenity of the Swooping Eagle

At the 17th level you gain the ability to take spend a full round aiming for your next shot, you cannot take any other actions during this round of combat, including bonus actions. When making your next attack add a +10 bonus to your attack roll and 2d12 to your damage. If the attack is successful the target must make a Dexterity saving throw with a DC equal to your attack roll, on a failed saving throw the target is knocked back 5 ft., and knocked prone.

 

Name                              Cost                       Damage                                         Weight                 Range  

The Coming Storm       Crafted                 1d8 Piercing/1d8 bludgeoning      10 lbs                (50/80)

The Twin Suns (Dual)  Crafted                 2d8 Piercing/2d8 bludgeoning      18 lbs                (40/75)

The Winding Path         Crafted                 2d10 Piercing                                   22 lbs              (100/300)

Ammunition

All of the firearms employed by monks of this monastic tradition are single-load weapons. They must be reloaded after each shot.

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