Thursday, October 5, 2017

Change of Plans...

I said in my last post here that I was going to be continuing my infrequent D&D game soon, and that I was going to be running players through some of my homebrew stuff, then "Raiders of the Lost Oasis", then taking their level 5 characters to Chult to face the "Tomb of Annihilation".

That was the plan, but plans change...

In two days, the regular game my friend DM's will be ending with our characters facing a beholder in the black reaches of a dwarven necropolis (incoming TPK?).  After that, he is taking a break from DM'ing a regular game and I'm taking over.

The players are eager to experience the new D&D adventure module, and so I'm just simply starting a new campaign - still based in my campaign world of Hybrith - wherein the new characters will be traveling to Chult and braving the horrors of the deep jungle: the undead, dinosaurs, and undead dinosaurs to name a few.  This is exciting stuff: I plan to start them off as members of a Victorian-style explorer's group called the Waypoint Society.  Think colonial hunting club lodges and Allan Quartermain and you're getting the gist of it.

ToA seems a little daunting for a new DM like me, but I will persevere and travel into the unknown with my companions & players at my side, seeking adventure, fortune, and glory.

It's what Quartermain and Indiana Jones would do.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Adding Pre-Written Modules to my Homebrew Game

The time is approaching to continue my D&D campaign, and though I have a definite "end game" I'd like to shoot for for my players at high levels, the intervening levels hadn't been fully fleshed-out.  Enter pre-written modules.

Up until now, all the adventures have been created and written by me for a (storywise) completely home-brewed game of 5e D&D.  That being said, there's going to be a lot of ground to cover between my level 3 players and where I'd like them to end up and so I'm adapting some published adventures to my game's narrative.  Without giving away too much, my players are going to encounter a homebrew adventure next that should take them to level four and then I'm sending them to the desert courtesy of Goodman Games Fifth Edition Fantasy module "Raiders of the Lost Oasis" (the title fairly screams "pulp").

Than from the desert, my adventurers should next be thrown into the jungle hell of an island called Tel Gana.  This name means "the emerald" and is known in the lands of the Rothmund Empire as the title given to the island by elvish explorers.  However, the natives of Tel Gana have a different name for their island home: CHULT.

That's right: at around level 5, I'm sending my players off in search of the "Tomb of Annihilation", the latest official D&D adventure from Wizards of the Coast.  I had an unexplored jungle island on my map of Hybrith that I had never really developed, and with a few tweaks and changes, "Tomb of Annihilation" fits in nicely. Now that should keep the players occupied for a while...

I've always kinda wanted my game to reflect the globe-trotting heroics of pulp adventurers like Doc Savage and my own pulp character, Challenger Storm (shameless plugs... buy my books!), and with these adventures adapted to my world of Hybrith, I think I'm heading in the right direction.  I'm very excited.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Session Four: Betrayal Among the Dead

With the jerry-rigged barricade removed the entrance to the black tunnel beyond stood wide and gaping. The heroes and the group of bandits prepared to enter it but the wounded man protested that he couldn't make it and his friend refused to leave his side.  The adventurers were firm: everyone goes into the tunnel, no exceptions. After some negotiations and persuasion, the injured bandit decided to go: it was better to go out fighting to get away than to die starving and trapped in the cellar.  Reluctantly, the bandit's friend helped him limp into the tunnel with the others they descended into the ancient cave beneath the earth...

The tunnel twisted and turned as it wound its way toward what the group hoped would be an exit, and they fought scattered groups of shambling zombies here and there along the way.  After following the tunnel for some time, it suddenly widened and they found themselves in a very ancient tomb.  Caskets and sarcophagi were tucked into niches on the walls, and around the room some stone caskets sat on raised platforms.  Beyond these was a strange, chilling sight: on a throne made from stacked coffins sat an emaciated, rotten corpse dressed in ancient rogues' armor.  As the nine people entered the ancient tomb, there was a hideous creaking sound as the corpse's head rose from its chest and cold embers peered from its eye sockets at them.  The creature - an ancient wight - laughed horribly and stood, and as it raised its hands several sarcophagi broke open to reveal armored skeletons as they crawled forth and raised their weapons.  Wordlessly, the attack began.

The fight was pitched and feverish, with the heroes and bandits working together to defeat the undead.  The wight never spoke a word... until Lander the warlock attacked it.  Fixing the half-elf in his glare, the wight pointed his finger at him and said "You... I know you boy, oh yes. Your master has such plans for you!"

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Session Three: Taking Valkenheiser Manor

After their lengthy walk back to Hawksmith, the adventurers returned the surviving members of the research teams to their grateful families and friends, and turned their attention to Turnbull... and the reward he'd offered.  Upon hearing their stories, Turnbull paid them their promised reward.  Lander, the ever-opportunistic charlatan, offered up their services for an extended period of time in case they were needed for the next few days.  Turnbull begrudgingly was convinced of their usefulness and agreed to pay them an additional fund for "extended services".

Relaxing in the Tipsy Tankard, Jinvar bought a round of drinks for everyone in the tavern and made sure to tell them it was "on Turnbull's dime".  The townsfolk, very familiar with Turnbull's tightfisted ways with money, didn't necessarily believe Jinvar, but they did enjoy the drinks...

The next day, the group brought their cache of goblin ears to the local town reeve, a dwarf named Gunder Valkenheiser. After paying them the bounty for each pair of ears, Valkenheiser told them to stick around, and that he might have a job for them in the next day or two.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Downtime: In the Spaces Between...

The material in the first and second sessions of my campaign were the product of a few months of work: originally I was going to run it back in November of last year but those plans fell through and I ended up putting it back in the oven for a while.  The time spent was well worth it: the town of Hawksmith grew organically (not EVERY detail got planned out, but I got to know more about it and the people in it) and the adventure hooks & setting got smoothed out and integrated much better.  By the time I was ready to run the adventure, I had more confidence in it than I had before, and I think that came across as I dipped my toes into DM'ing for the first time.  Confidence has never been my strong suit, but playing D&D I find it easier to overcome some of my difficulties (expect a post about that one of these days...)

As my campaign gets put on the back burner again for further development, I sail into uncharted territory (so many metaphors...).  Eventually the decisions the players make will dictate where the major storyline will take them and from there I will begin to plan accordingly, adding a new town or towns, characters, etc.  In the meantime, I'm giving them something to do as a side-quest but I'm on the fence as far as exactly what happens.  To say more will spoil it, but they'll either get a simple adventure, or an adventure that goes deeper that it seemed on the surface.

Or the simple interaction with the people of Hawksmith could lead to an improvised, off-the-cuff adventure.  It's hard to tell: you can't always predict what the players or their characters will do and things could happen quite unexpectedly.  Once again, that's one of the beauties of playing a tabletop RPG: sometimes it all evolves on its own.

As a player, I hope to return to the regular game soon.  Life happens, and our bi-weekly game doesn't always get played bi-weekly because people have other commitments.  It's life, that's the way it works.  Hell, this week I'm the one with commitments (which never happens), because my wife and I are taking a little vacation and will be out of town for a few days.  As per the usual setup, if more than one person can't make it, the game is postponed for another week or two; however, if I'm the only one who can't make it, the game will go on without me.  This is the way this game has always worked, and I'll send along my character sheet so someone can "bot me" and I won't miss the precious XP. In this game my character, Flint, is a dwarven fighter: I'm using Matthew Mercer's Gunslinger Martial Archetype but planning in multiclassing into rogue soon.  It's a fun character to play, and my DM (who is a player in my campaign) is really good at working with players so they get the most enjoyment out of their characters.  I'm excited to see what the future holds for Flint as well as the other members of the party, an illustrious group of misfits, hermits, and has-beens.

But I'm not giving up my vacation just so I can play this week.  Screw that: real life trumps fantasy life always, and I'm ready for some R&R.  Then, when I come back to the grind I'll be ready to see where my players (and my game) go next.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Session Two: Dark Machinations

The wave of enemies hit the adventurers harder than they had anticipated.  The bugbear led the charge and fell upon Jinvar as the goblins attacked Lander and Garnet.  The goblins weren't a great threat and were cut down before they could inflict damage.  The bugbear, however, was like a force of nature and at the strikes of his morning star, the heroes fell one by one to the towering monster. Garnet managed to deliver a killing blow to the beast but it came too late and blackness closed upon them...*

Or so it seemed: the heroes awoke untold hours later.  They had been injured but were alive, held in a straw-floored makeshift prison with six other people.  The heroes' fellow prisoners were gangly, weak, and malnourished.  The adventurers had found the remaining members of the Agricultural Ministry's missing research teams. Now, they had to escape and set them free...

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Session One: Beneath the Deadlands

Town of Baileen ....out skirts of Bailean Castle:

While traveling through western Tyvak, the heroes (Jinvar the human paladin in search of redemption, Lander the tragedy-haunted & opportunistic half-elf warlock, and Garnet the grizzled old human soldier) came across the town of Hawksmith. Standing in the center of a belt of farmlands, the normally bustling town was plagued with mystery: a blight had affected the crops to the north, and the unexplained phenomena was draining the life from the land.  Nothing would grow in the affected area - not even weeds - and the farmers in the region were becoming desperate as they began to feel the blight's effects on their coinpurses.  Hawksmith itself had also been attacked a few times by goblins, a nuisance in the area that was quickly becoming a threat; a local bounty had been set for goblin ears at 5gp per pair and a defense wall was being built around the town.

The mystery deepened when Turnbull, the head of the local Agricultural Ministry Office, confided in the heroes that two teams of researchers had gone up to the most affected farms in the north to study the land and had not come back since. Pressure on Turnbull was mounting, from both the town and his superiors, and he offered the team a hefty sum of money to investigate the researchers' disappearance and to return any survivors they could find.

Motivated by their individual drives of redemption, battle, and coinage, Jinvar, Garnet, and Lander set off to the north toward "the deadlands". Stopping at the last known location of the researchers, the Varas potato farm, the adventurers decided to camp for the night.  During their sleep they were attacked by a band of goblins, but were able to dispatch them with ease.  After the attack, they moved inside the abandoned farmhouse and found splashes of old dried blood on the walls: this had been the scene of a massacre some time ago.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Welcome to the World of Hybrith

Hello and welcome to my ridiculous little Dungeons and Dragons campaign diary!

A little about me: my name is Don, and I am a sometimes-writer.  I have a blog elsewhere that nobody ever visits, and some work available on Amazon and elsewhere.  My published work (so far) has been in the genre of "New Pulp", and I continue to write in that vein, most notably the adventures of Challenger Storm.

However, that's not what this blog is about...

Last year I finally fulfilled an almost life-long ambition: to play Dungeons and Dragons.  You see, when I was a kid (the early 80's) my parents fell into the "D&D is evil" moral panic and forbid me to play it.  This happened as I was just becoming interested in it, and through the years I never had the chance to play the game or any other tabletop RPG.  I was fascinated with D&D and other games like it but never knew anyone who played it.  Thus, I never played but collected some of the books and sets for RPG's throughout the years.

Then last year, some friends from work (lifelong D&D players) invited me to play a game with them. I jumped at the chance, and my first game was the infamous Tomb of Horrors.  My first character was Kieran the Untested, a human rogue, and believe it or not our party lived.  Now, we ended up getting teleported naked onto a hill overlooking the tomb, but we were alive and if you know anything about the Tomb of Horrors you'll know that "alive and naked" is preferable to all the other options your character can end the module with.*

I officially had the bug.  It seems like 2016 will be the year that D&D broke into the mainstream, and after chasing the game for 35+ years, I had finally caught it along with everyone else.

After playing for nearly a year, I finally decided to try my hand at being a dungeon master.  Being a writer, of course I wanted to put myself through the wringer of designing and playing in my own homebrew world.  And so, I created the world of Hybrith (which was actually the melding of several ideas for still-unwritten fantasy novels I'd been tossing around my head for a few years).

About a week ago, I DM'd for the first time with a small handful of friends and acquaintances, all experienced players and/or DM's.  It was an off-night between sessions of our regular bi-weekly game, but it seems like it went over well.  If it continues to go well I'd like to continue running it.  I don't know if I could keep up an every-week pace at this time, but a session every now and then as filler would be nice.  I dunno, we'll see.

Following this post, I will be posting an entry discussing the first session and will be posting an entry for each session in turn.  Below is the relevant parts from a campaign primer I gave to my players and their character creation details, and further world-details will probably be discussed in the future.

Anyway: if you read this, then I thank you.  This blog will mostly be for me, but if anyone else enjoys it I'm cool with that.



*NOTE: Our monk was missing his arm after encountering the devil-faced Sphere of Annihilation, but still: he was alive and naked... much preferable to dead and clothed.

A Primer to the Campaign World



The game takes place on the world of Hybrith.  This is a planet slightly smaller than Earth, but with all the same kinds of features (oceans and seas, forests, grasslands, deserts, etc.).  Hybrith has two moons, one of which revolves around the planet more slowly, so each side of the planet can see it only for half of the year.

For the time being, adventures will be limited to the country of Tyvak, the seat of the Rothmund Empire.  There is more to the world besides Tyvak and its colonies, however: the rocky and harsh island of Corvelay, the distant exotic continent of Ashpindar, the archipelago of Kochio, the green jungle hell of Tel Gana, and the mysterious Blaya Fastin all share the planet with Tyvak, and someday may be explored or experienced in other adventures.


Hybrith has a long and tumultuous history, and the shadow of this history darkens the modern era (and hangs over the adventures taking place within it).  

The planet as it is now has been shaped by many events, but none were as impactful as a pair of cataclysms.  The first event was called the OtherSiege, an invasion of alien beings from another plane; the second was known as the MageWar, which was caused by the appearance of the first sorcerers (mutants created by the magical fallout from the war against the Others).  These cataclysms occurred because of the careless actions of the oldest race on Hybrith: the stratavar (or “crystal elves”).  In shame, the stratavar fled the world of civilized man and disappeared from the face of the planet.  Though they’ve disappeared, the crumbling ruins of their fantastic cities still dot the landscape and some theories suggest their amazing magical constructs still slumber in hidden vaults across the world.

As some races disappeared, new ones were created.  The events of the OtherSiege led to the drastic reshaping of the land itself and the appearance of the tieflings.  The civil conflict of the MageWar caused the near-extinction and disappearance of the dragons, and this possibly connects to the mysterious sudden appearance of the dragonborn.  There are mysteries that history has yet to answer…


It is now the year 1237 of the 6th Era: this is the modern era of Hybrith.  It has been over a thousand years since the end of the MageWar.  From its home on the continent of Tyvak, the Rothmund Empire has stretched to other continents, and many territories and new colonies around the planet now belong to the Empire.  It has been a mostly peaceful expansion.  However, the island of Corvelay strongly resists the takeover of their country, and a war is being waged between the Rothmund Empire and the Republic of Corvelay.

Meanwhile, new technologies are slowly spreading across Tyvak: clockwork, steam, natural gas, and luminiferous aether are just a few of the projects the Engineers Guild of Ironhold is developing.  This spread is slow and deliberate thanks to the watchful eye of the Green Circle druids, who ensure that the ambitions of the races don’t outweigh the delicate balance of nature.

There are social changes as well: the newer races of Hybrith - half-orcs, tieflings, and dragonborn - are currently facing a slow acceptance among the other races, but it’s especially slow in the more rural locations.  In many ways, times are better now than ever before.  But old wounds heal slowly and the shadow of the past haunts the future...


The first adventure starts with the characters in the western area of Tyvak, not too far from the capital city of Rock Harbor and in the country’s “green belt” of farmlands.  Roughly to the north is the dwarven city of Demfarrow, nestled snugly in the the southwestern portion of the continent-spanning Greybone mountain range. Your initial destination is the small village of Hawksmith…


-LEVEL: Characters in this game started at Level 1

-ALIGNMENT: Characters are to be somewhat heroic (or at least non-evil), so alignments requested are from Chaotic Neutral on up

-RACES: Character creation was open to all races except for dark elves (I don’t think they exist in this campaign world…)

-CLASSES: Character creation was open to all classes in the Player’s Handbook, and was even open to most of the unique classes and paths presented in Unearthed Arcana and elsewhere (no Gunslingers or Artificers).

-BACKGROUNDS: All character backgrounds from the handbook were accepted.  Players were allowed to use the traits, flaws, ideals, and bonds in the Player’s Handbook or make their own, whichever they preferred.  The characters were requested to have a bit of their own biography. A lengthy character bio wasn’t necessary, BUT I do love that stuff.  Even if the players came up with just a few sentences describing who the character is and what their life was like before adventuring, I’d be happy.

-ABILITY SCORES: Stat-block or roll 4d6, I didn’t care. (The rolled.)

-HP: When determining hit points, they could roll a HD or take the suggested number in parentheses per class. Whichever they wanted.

-STARTING GOLD AND EQUIPMENT: They used the rules in the PHB. The players could either buy equipment or take the class equipment packages.  I’m not picky.

-DEITIES: For the world of Hybrith I’m using the simplified list of Greyhawk deities found on page 295 of the PHB.  Note that these deities are actually “godlings” and a bigger “true god” called Primus Deus created them (Primus Deus doesn’t deal with mortal affairs at all).  However, if a player was playing a dragonborn there is a separate set of deities that most of them worship as a race.  The dragonborn acknowledge Bahamut as the god of good and Tiamat as the goddess of evil, and below them there is an entire pantheon of draconic saints: legendary dragons that ascended to immortality and became the heads of their respective domains.  These draconic saints and their respective domains were available upon request, and will be if a new or existing player wants/needs to make a dragonborn in the future.