There are always changes to adventure paths. No plot survives contact with the players, after all. I don’t want to do a session write-up, here. Not exactly. I do want to record some of the changes and left-turns that have been made. I’ll probably spoil some things, although I’m pretty sure that none of my players read this blog, so I’m not worried about it for them. Still, consider this fair warning. What follows is a brief session-by-session breakdown, with some thoughts about each, particularly places where we diverged from the adventure-as-written, why that happened, and what came of it.
Two more Iron Gods creatures. One from the adventure, and one from the random encounter chart:
Medium construct, neutral
Armor Class 14 (natural armor)
Hit Points 68 (8d8 + 32)
Speed 30 feet
STR 18 (+4) DEX 9 (-1) CON 18 (+4) INT 3 (-4) WIS 11 (0) CHA 1 (-5)
Damage Immunities: poison, psychic; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical weapons that aren’t adamantine
Condition Immunities: charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned
Senses darkvision 60ft, passive Perception 10
Languages: understands the languages of its creator but can’t speak
Challenge 4 (1,100 xp)
Composite Body. If the grease spell is cast on the golem, it is treated as the haste If the arcane lock spell is cast on the golem, it is treated as the slow spell. If the shatter spell is cast on the golem, it uses its discorporate ability. If the wood shape or rusting grasp spell is cast on the golem, the spell deals 2d6 points of damage to the golem, instead of its usual effect.
Magic Resistance. The golem has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.
Magic Weapons. The golem’s weapon attacks are magical.
Multiattack. The junk golem makes two slam attacks.
Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 13 (2d8 + 4) bludgeoning damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 14 Constitution saving throw or be poisoned for 1 day. The poisoned target can not speak or cast spells until after it takes a long rest or receives healing magic.
Discorporate. The golem breaks apart, becoming a swarm. It gains the following attributes:
Large: The golem’s size becomes large.
Swarm. A swarm can occupy another creature’s space and vice versa, and the swarm can move through any opening large enough for a Tiny golem. The swarm can’t regain hit points or gain temporary hit points.
While the golem is a swarm, it can take the following actions.
Tiny cuts. Melee Weapon Attack. +6 to hit, reach 0 ft., all creatures in the swarm’s space. Hit: Hit: 6 (1d4 + 4) slashing damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 14 Constitution saving throw or be poisoned for 1 day. The poisoned target can not speak or cast spells until after it takes a long rest or receives healing magic.
Reassemble. The golem reverts back to its normal form. It may not move, this turn.
Medium aberration, neutral
Armor Class 15
Hit Points 108 (14d8 + 56)
Speed fly 60 ft.
STR 16 (+3) DEX 12 (+1) CON 19 (+4) INT 5 (-3) WIS 12 (+2) CHA 10 (+0)
Damage Resistances: electricity, fire
Damage Immunities: cold, poison
Condition Immunities: poisoned
Skills Perception +5, Stealth +4
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive perception +15
Languages telepathy 120 ft. (other lunarma only)
Challenge 6 (2,300 xp)
No Breath. The lunarma does no need to breathe.
Barbed Carapace. Any creature that grapples a lunarma or hits it with unarmed strikes or natural weapon attacks takes 7 (2d6) points of damage from the barbs on its hide.
Multiattack. The lunarma can attack three times with its claws and once with its bite.
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 12 (2d8 + 3) piercing damage, and the target must succeed at a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or take 9 (2d8) acid damage.
Claw. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 12 (2d8 + 3) slashing damage, and the target is grappled (escape DC 15). Until this grapple ends, the target is restrained, the lunarma can automatically hit the target with its claw attack, and the number of claw attacks it can make is reduced by one.
Acid Breath. The lunarma spews caustic acid in a 30-foot line that is 5 feet wide. Each creature in the line must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or take 36 (8d8) acid damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. For the next two rounds, each creature damaged by the lunarma’s acid breath takes 9 (2d8) acid damage. A creature can negate this damage to itself or another creature by spending an action to use water or another liquid to wash the acid off.
Implant Eggs. A lunarma can implant 7 (2d6) eggs in a restrained creature. The eggs hatch after one day and feed on the implanted creature for the next two days, reducing its hit point maximum by 5 per egg per day. After which the larvae leave the carcass behind to seek out a safe place to form a cocoon and mature into adults. A lesser restoration removes all eggs or larvae, or they can be removed individually with a Wisdom (Heal) ability check. A creature’s hit point maximum can only be restored by a restoration spell.
Hacking the Junk Golem & Lunarma
(A bit late, down here, due to some computer problems.) The problem with golems is that they’re all high level. Why shouldn’t low-level characters have the opportunity to fight a lair-guardian that shrugs off their attacks? For me, the most interesting aspect of the junk golem was trying to capture the “discorporate” ability. The “swarm” type in 5e is loosely defined, and there’s no way for a swarm to use the same attacks as the creature that it originated from. Making the swarm-form, essentially, a new creature that could come and go with a reaction or an action was the best way I could think of to make that work, and it should freak the players out, because nothing else in 5e does this. It may have too many hit points, though. I’ll see how that works. It’s less of a big deal, in the Iron Gods encounter, because I don’t plan for that encounter to last long. After two rounds, the combat will be called off – just long enough for things to get interesting, but not long enough for them to get deadly.
The lunarma, I’m sorry to say, didn’t have any pictures that I could find on-line, and I’m trying really hard not to do copyright infringement, if I can help it. Will my players fight one? No idea, but they’re super-creepy and I wanted to work out the “iplant egg” ability. Creatures that implants eggs in humans are, I think, the creepiest creatures. This one is especially gross, because it floats along, seemingly harmlessly, silently hunting its prey. The egg implantation is another example of 5e’s missing ability damage rules. I understand why they’re absent: they make the game significantly more complicated, but making ability scores off-limits for damage removes a huge set of tools from the GM’s toolbox: poisons, diseases, drain attacks, and egg implantation can’t work in the same way. Sometimes exhaustion is a good substitute, but not always.
I’ve been toying with a subsystem, but the fact is that anything that approximated ability damage would feel clunky and tacked-on. For now, I think the best approach is to take it on a case-by-case basis. In this case, the reduction in hit point maximum mirrors some poisons, and should represent the degree to which the eggs mess with a character’s system. The initial implantation isn’t likely to kill higher-level characters, but will be deadly for low-level parties and villager-NPCs.
Next time: Computer problems will force me to take a break on Monday, but I’ll be back Wednesday with the Darfellan!
As I said on Friday, I’ve never written an adventure, before. This was a fun experiment, though I think I probably did too much work. The end result was about 10 pages long, and I haven’t yet formatted it, properly. If it doesn’t suck, I might put some energy into that. More on that, next time. For now, the (sort-of) five-room dungeon: The Tunder-House!
This is rough, at the moment, but it’s the beginning of my first adventure. The next post will be the body, but I thought it might be a good idea to split it up. No visuals, this time; I’m barely getting this one up on time, as it is.
Summerlands Adventure for 12-14th level characters.
Hundreds of years ago, a powerful tunder became frustrated with her inability to save more mortals from the depredations of the fey. No matter how often she reminded herself that she could only be in one place at a time, her conscience remained unsettled. No matter how many lives she saved, the only faces she could remember were those she failed to reach in time, those who had no tunder to defend them, and those faces haunted her dreams.
The tunder, whose true name is, of course, lost to history, gathered all of her magical knowledge and began collecting powerful rituals and magical items. These she secreted away in a cabin she had built for this purpose, and cabin powerfully warded against the fey. After many more years, and many magical rituals, her cabin become something far more: it became a traveling safe-house, and she was bound inside it.
For centuries, The Tunder-House appeared where it was most needed, where mortals were threatened by fey beyond their abilities to combat. It took them in and gave them an opportunity to heal, to rest, and even to relocate. Recently, however, something has gone wrong. Instead of saving mortals, the house has been taking them in and never releasing them. In some cases, mortals are dying. Though the tunder who build the house is long dead, her spirit still lives within, and its mission has changed: rather than seeking mortals to save, she seeks mortals who can continue the house’s mission, and let the Tunder-House rest.
Running the Adventure
The Tunder-House begins as a hunt, but the characters are the hunted. The fey do not take kindly to mortals trespassing on their lands, and in this case the characters should be overpowered. The weakest of fey, a sprite or a brownie, is more powerful than the average mortal, but by the time they reach level 12, characters have little to fear from most fey, at least individually. There are exceptions, however, and one has taken notice of the party: a tunche has decided to hunt the characters. Making the characters feel a sense of fear is important in the first part of the adventures. Player characters are not apt to run from a fight, but the tunche (at first, at least) is not interested in killing them: it wants to feed on their emotions. For it to feed, it needs to create powerful emotions, and terror is its favorite.
Once the house appears, the tone of the adventure changes. The house is small, a mere four rooms, but it is suffused with magic, and that magic has gone wrong. The adventurers will need to survive the challenges of the house, and the choices they make will impact how the house reacts to them. A blood-thirsty party may simply be equipped and sent on their way, while a more thoughtful group might be taken into the tunder’s confidence and tasked with collecting the components to fix the house (this is beyond the scope of this adventure, however). In any event, the house should give the characters the tools they need to combat the tunche and its allies, despite the difference in level. These boons may only be effective during the final battle, or only occasionally useful thereafter, but once the characters have slain a tunche, they will be known to all fey, and their names will become feared throughout the fey creatures of the Summerlands.
The order in which the character explore the room of the Tunder-House does not matter. There is no right way to approach the three areas: all three are tests, and all three must be completed before the house will do more than protect the characters from their attackers.
The Tunder-House is set in the northern woodlands of the Summerlands, although any deeply wooded area would be an appropriate setting. The Summerlands make an ideal location for the house, however, as the tunder and the fey have been fighting an ongoing, but often invisible, war for many thousands of years. The Summerlands fey are universally evil and predatory, embodying the more violent and malicious aspects of nature. From sprites to redcaps to tunche, these fey have one thing in common: they view mortals as prey.
The house itself in a magical location, unrooted in place (and possibly time). It goes where it is needed, and saves as many mortals as it can, but no magical ritual lasts forever, and the rituals that created the house are breaking down. It must either pass on its mantle or find caretakers who can repair its potent magics.
A tunder character will likely have heard stories of the house, although few tunder have ever seen it. After all, if a mortal or a town has a tunder to defend it, the house is unneeded. Aside from tunder legends, however, even the most ardent student of the fey is unlikely to have heard of it (DC 25 Intelligence (History) check), and then only rumors about a house that appears and disappears when it is needed, a house that fey despise.
Next time: The Adventure!
I’ve never been one to write adventures. When I run games, I either make things up as I go or used published modules. Lately, though, the first has gotten less satisfying, and the second less enjoyable. I want to build stories with my group, in my own world.
This means a couple of things. First, it means adventure seeds. I want to seed adventures for my players to choose from, and see what they’re interested in. ideally, I’d like to seed a few and see what sticks. If they’re enjoying a storyline, I can build a more detailed plot around it, but that plot can be tailored and dynamic. Second, it means building small, portable adventure locations. The “five-room dungeon” is a popular, flexible format (especially if “room” doesn’t just mean “a thing with walls” but “encounter space”). In the next couple of weeks, I’m going to experiment with some seeds and “five-room dungeons.
These seeds are intended for mid-to-high level parties, and take advantage of those characters’ abilities to deal with more powerful foes and larger forces, and to bring more powerful magic to bear on situations. They’re also opportunities to explore the politics and geography of three of the big locations in the Summerlands: Kryesor Madj, Dragon Tyr, and Twilight’s Eye.
- In the city-state of Kryesor Madj, one of the mightiest reven cities on the vast plains, it is election season. The two primary candidates could not be more different: one is a former general who favors reducing the military and directing the state’s resources inward. The other is a scion of a long line of Senators, drumming up public support by promising to regain territories on the border with neighboring city-states, crushing their enemies and driving them out of disputed lands. There is a third candidate who has little support, but revolutionary ideas. The candidates are spying on one another (often using outside agitators), and their supporters have engaged in a number of public brawls. Tension in Kryesor Madj is high, and its enemies are taking advantage of the turmoil. In addition to the usual spies, assassination attempts, and bards sowing dissent, a tribe of quaggoths has been employed to engineer a coup. Have the quaggoths really been hired by a neighbor, or is something more sinister driving their violence? Adventurers are sought by numerous interested parties: candidates, opponents, outside agitators, and townfolk caught in the crossfire. What mischief could an enterprising party get into, in Kryesor Madj, during election season?
- The great wildren moot at Dragon Tyr is coming, and wildren tribes are traveling through the north woods to the gathering site. It is a time of great joy, as friends from different tribes meet for the first time in years. Great trade will be done, territory will be divided, and banishments will be enacted. In the rivers along the roads into Dragon Tyr, however, nereids are gathering and working together to murder wildren travelers. Few wildren believe that the nereids exist, and fewer have the ability to combat them. The tunder in the region are too few in number to save enough wildren, and by the time more tunder arrive, the nereids will have done their work. Outside adventurers are called to combat the nereids, and, if possible, discover why the slaughter began. Why would so many nereids work together, outside of their usual hunting grounds? Have the wildren somehow offended the fey? Some survivors (and there are few) claim that the nereids lack shawls. Has some outside group manipulated the nereids? Perhaps a banished wildren tribe, looking to diminish support among their enemies, or a reven warlord looking to conquer territory in the northern woods? Whatever the reason, the nereids must be stopped, so that wildren can travel safely and the moot can continue.
- The massive lighthouse at Twilight’s Eye is a constant source of intrigue and adventure. The multi-racial city council appears peaceful, but the wildren, sea kin, and reven counselors are always scheming. Amid their usual politicking, the city is besieged on two fronts. From the west, a force of sahuagin is gathering. In between the usual raids and expected violence, however, a large group, consisting primarily of non-combatant sahuagin and children, has requested asylum. They are running from something, and they need a safe place to live. The sea kin reject the appeal, both the other people of the Eye are less certain. Adventurers are needed to investigate the sahuagin story. Is this a precursor to invasion, or is something far worse than the shark-kin coming from beneath the waves? Meanwhile, in the eastern districts, children have been disappearing from their beds, replaced by dolls made of hair, straw, teeth, and other worthless material. The dolls could have been made by children, who may be running away, or there may be something more sinister going on. If the kidnappings continue, the fragile peace of Twilight’s Eye will crumble. Can the children be returned safely? Is some hunger in the eastern forests waking?
Next time: A tunche, a five-room dungeon, and an ancient tunder.
Summerlands Antagonists: The Fey
(This is the first part of my two-part look at the fey in the Summerlands.)
Everyone in the Summerlands worries about the dragons. Some concern themselves with dangers of the sea, while others focus on each other or on ancient enemies like the quaggoth. Few worry about the fey. Everyone knows they exist, of course, but at best they are a nuisance, the stuff of bedtime stories, or the butt of jokes. Except for the sea kin’s animosity with kelpies and selkies, few mortal races concern themselves with faeries, and few faeries bother mortal creatures.
This is not for lack of trying. Fey like the banshrae, the nereid, the tooth faeries and others try to feed on mortals’ emotions or lives, and are stopped only by the eternal vigilance of the tunder.
In the Summerlands, there are no “good fey.” At best, some fey, especially selkies, dryads, and nereids, may be neutral, and such a fey might bestow positive attention on a mortal, but fey are not mortal. They are not born as mortals are and do not die as they do. Their ways of thinking are alien to mortals, and such a fey might seem to fall in love with a mortal, only to disappear without warning to see what the mortal’s reaction might be. A fey who genuinely feels affection for a mortal is the most dangerous: if they identify that feeling, they might imprison the mortal in amber to keep it forever, or slay it to see what the loss feels like.
Fey are born from the land, springing into being when a tree takes root or a baby cuts its first tooth. They are created fully formed, with all the desires and drives they will ever have. The circumstances of a fey’s creation profoundly affect its life. A tooth faerie might look like a sprite, but the former is created from a baby’s cry and will spend its life stealing teeth and torturing infants. The latter are born of the tunderstorms that roll of the Endless Mountains, and bring the anger of the storm to bear on mortals they dislike.
Dryads are common anywhere there are trees. While not every tree has a dryad, it is said that a dryad lives within sight of every tree in every forest. They do not always oppose cutting trees down, particularly if is makes room for more to grow, but they dislike loggers on principle, and will interfere with their operations whenever possible. For this reason, veteran loggers always welcome tunder into their camps, whether or not they do any work.
Hags are less common, as most are powerful enough to attract the attention of adventurers, dragons, or both. Those hags who do survive, however, usually focus on destroying tunder. As soon as the hags turn their attention to other matters, the tunder gather together to strike them down.
Existing in the space between dragons and fey, faerie dragons are not protected by the laws of retribution that protect dragons from harm. They are too much like dragons for the fey to give them protection, however. As a result, they spend their lives in hiding, resenting both of their parent-races and the mortals who occasionally hunt them for sport.
Like faerie dragons, blink dogs are one of the few fey whose existence is well-known among mortals. Parents frighten their children into obedience with stories of enormous, vicious canines who can appear out of thin air, snatch a disobedient child, and be gone before anyone notices. Careless or foolhardy children of all races are referred to as “blink bait.”
Pixies and sprites look alike: both have wings, both are small, and both are invisible. Both delight in torturing mortals who offend them (such as by not leaving out food for nearby fey, whether or not the mortal know there are such fey), although sprites tend to be more violent in their retribution: pixies play cruel tricks, while sprites hound mortals to death.
Like selkies, satyrs are attracted to beautiful mortal men and women and frequently try to collect particularly attractive specimens. What a satyr with its prize depends on the fey, but it is rarely good for the mortal.
While blights, such as needle, twig, and vine, are plant creatures, they are the creations and weapons of the fey. A dryad angry about logging might not defend her grove herself, but rather send an army of blights to drive the loggers out.
Besides these common fey (and fey-associated creatures), there are many other fey in the Summerlands.
If the grippli are the defenders of the Summerlands’ wild places, quaggoths are their opposite number. In the Summerlands, quaggoths live in small communities where water is easily accessible (in swamps, along rivers, and on coasts, in particular). Because quaggoths can survive (and even thrive) in polluted areas, they often make an effort to foul the area around their villages, to make them less hospitable for other races.
Unlike the quaggoths in the Monster Manual, Summerlands quaggoths are reasonably intelligent and form societies, but tend towards evil alignments. Quaggoth societies are always kratocracies, with control of the tribe or village going to the quaggoth who is cunning and strong enough to take it. Quaggoths are always hunters, and frequently hunt other intelligent creatures.
Like grippli, quaggoths frequently use poison when they hunt other creatures, and often use blowguns and arrows to deliver their poisons. They never need to worry about introducing too much poison into a creature before consuming it, or about poisoning themselves with their own weapons.
The grippli often gather war parties to disperse quaggoth villages that grow too large, but can never eradicate them completely. When routed, quaggoths simply hide in dark places and wait for their foes to disperse.