Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Behind My Screen - A 1st Group Mini-Encounter OR On The Way To The Big Adventure We Were Given Some More Options

As always this is a peek behind the screen, most of this information has already come out in its entirety, if not I know my players won't meta-game it at all.  Also THIS is a good example of how I'm trying REALLY hard to not over prep for games, using the Antagonist Relations model, in order to force myself to do more improve play.  Hopefully someone will see this, get inspired, and use a version of it.  Without further ado, let's peek behind my DM's Screen!

THE MILL IN THE WOOD – A 1st Group Encounter

There is a huntsman and trapper, Methias Crag, & his son, Elias, from Melas tracking something in the woods.  It turns out it is a fugitive.  During their long hunt they fell into an Owlbear ambush where Methias was mauled badly, in fact he is dying.  He needs significant healing & a restore spell to keep him from dying or living severely crippled.  Elias is only 14, & he’s scared.  They are both devout followers of Asmodeus.  They were hunting a Cult Leader of the Red Lady who seduced Methias’ wife, Lorna.  They planned to burn her at the stake for her infidelity.  However, Sorn Vel the fugitive freed her on the eve of her execution.  The leaders of the community need Sorn Vel alive to reveal his accomplices, & want Lorna alive to publically meet out the punishment to prove a point.  Therefor Methias & his son were sent to accomplish their duty to the community.  Elias dragged his mauled father to an old abandoned mill & holed up there.  They both are terrified by the noises coming from the cellar.  On the grinding wheel there is a plaque that says Madison, but the wheel is stained red.  It is old blood.

This was a way to get the players interested in Melas as a concept. 

I have a lot of communities that are built around worship of Asmodeus.  I think this was directly influenced on some level by Pathfinder's Cheliax country.  I do like the idea of Lawful Evil NPC's who aren't moustache twirling villains.  Methias is an honorable man who is doing 'Holy Work' for his community, revenging a horrible wrong, and trying to raise his son to be a true believer.  I really feel like on some level this was a good way to not only drop information, but to leave a thread for the PC's that they may or may not actually come back to.

In the cellar there is a troop of Wailing Skeletons.  These were men who were in a Cult w/ Thaddeus Madison.  They helped him rise to power in Red Timber.  The Cult was an off shoot Cult Of The Red Lady bastardized by Tharump at the behest of Madison.  Women that were lured into the cult & accidentally impregnated where sacrificed to Tharump to increase the Inner Circle’s power.  A power Madison didn’t want to share.  Their new born children was then taken & sold into slavery to the Jade Empire. 

Red Timber at the time was a hub of human trafficking & general lawlessness.  This is how Madison built the foundation of his financial empire, since it has taken a backseat to his legitimate business.  The ledger details these transactions.  The Mill is where they held their meetings, rituals, & sacrifices.  After the culling all religious iconography has been cut out of the building; there are obvious places where they were scratched out.  When the majority of the sect threatened to ‘Out’ Madison due to his increasing wealth & power he had this group drugged, ritualistically killed, & then raised to serve him.  What he didn’t know is an industrious member of his cabal was keeping a journal w/ all of Madison’s nefarious deeds, a ledger which is buried in the basement.  It takes a DC 18 Perception to recognize the secret door to the room where this journal & some other horrible implements are being held. 

This also was another way to drop in some World Lore, the Red Lady & Tharump, while continuing to make Thaddeus Madison a really effective kingpin of evil crap.  The Wailing Skeletons were a tremendous pain in the ass for the PC's.  I made it even worse by adding in a teleporter door trap and some deadly spider swarms on the fly.  I almost had to with Cassie playing the Ogress Ladrig.  She was just destroying the combat of the encounter.  In the end the PC's pulled it out, Gene got teleported BACK to Red Timber and had an encounter that pushed the long term PC's Vs. Madison narrative forward, the did the right thing with Methias & Elias, and they destroyed the Mill.  With fire.
OWLBEAR - Large monstrosity, unaligned            CR 3 (700 XP)
AC 13 (natural armor)           HPs - 59 (7d10+11)              Speed - 40ft.
STR 20 (+5)      DEX 12 (+1)     CON 17 (+3)     INT 3 (- 4)     
WIS 12 (+1)     CHA 7 (-2)
Skills - PERCEP +3      Languages -
Senses - Darkvision 60 ft., P. Percep.13            
Keen Sight & Smell - The owl bear has ADV on WIS (Perception) checks that rely on sight or smell.
Multiattack - The owl bear makes 3 ATTs: 1 w/ its beak & 2 w/ its claws.
Beak - Melee Weapon ATT: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., 1 creature.  Hit: 10 (1d10 + 5) piercing DMG.
Claws - Melee Weapon ATT: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., 1 target.  Hit: 14 (2d8 + 5) slashing DMG.
Rend – Melee Weapon ATT: If the Owlbear hits w/ 2 consecutive claw ATTs against the same target that target takes an additional 1d12+5 DMG.

I added the Rend thing as I want Owlbears to be terrifying.  It had the PC's on their heels for a bit.  But with 7 of them in the party they usually end up on the right side of things in combat.

WAILING SKELETON - Medium Undead, LE                              CR 3 (700 XP)
AC 15 (armor scraps)      
HPs - 26(4d8+8)                                      Speed - 30 ft.
STR 16 (+3)     DEX 14 (+2)     CON 15 (+2)     INT 6 (-2)    
WIS 8 (-1)      CHA 5 (-3)
DMG Vulnerabilities - Radiant                                                                          DMG Immunities - Cold, lightning, poison
DMG Resistances - Acid, fire, necrotic, thunder; bludgeoning, piercing, & slashing from non-magical weapons
Condition Immunities - Exhaustion, grappled, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, prone, restrained
Senses - Darkvision 60ft., P. Percep. 9                         
Languages - Understands all languages it knew in life but can't speak
Magic Resistance - The wailing skeleton has ADV on STs against spells & other magical effects.
Wail – Recharge 4,5,6 - The wailing skeleton releases a mournful wail. This wail has no effect on constructs & undead. All other creatures w/in 30 ft. of her that can hear her must make a DC 13 CON ST. On a failure, a creature takes 12 (3d8) psychic DMG. On a success, a creature takes 6 (2d6) psychic DMG.
Multiattack - The wailing skeleton makes 2 ATTs 2/ its Shortsword or 1 Shortbow & 1 Shortsword.
Shortsword - Melee Weapon ATT: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., 1 target. Hit: 9 (1d8 + 5) piercing DMG.
Shortbow - Ranged Weapon ATT: +7 to hit, range 80f320 ft., 1 target. Hit: 9 (1d8 +5) piercing DMG.

I really like these guys, but a party loaded with Magic Weapons, that rolls well, and plays smart is hard to contend with.  They made their saves, as per usual, after a bit of a rough start.  I felt obligated to add in the Teleport Door Trap and the spider swarms in order to up the ante.  The Teleport Door Trap ended up being a great choice storytelling wise.  It allowed Gene to get back to Red Timber, tie up some loose ends, get some of the NPC's back on their 'side' of things, and set the table for future conflict.  At the same time looking back on it considering the changes in the group's make up it may have all been for not.
Methias Crag, VETERAN - Medium humanoid (any race), any alignment            CR 3 (700 XP)
AC 17 (splint)              HPs - 58 (9d8 + 18)                           Speed - 30ft.
STR 16 (+3)      DEX 16 (+3)     CON 14 (+2)       INT 10 (+0)       
WIS 11 (+0)      CHA 10 (+0
Skills - Athletics +5, Percep. +2                        
Senses – P. Percep. 12                        Languages – Common, Infernal
Brave - The Methias has ADV on STs against being frightened.
Intimidating Presence - Each creature w/in 60 ft. of Mathias that can see him must succeed on a DC 13 WIS ST or be frightened for 1 minute. A frightened target can repeat the ST at the end of each of its turns, w/ DISADV if the Methias is w/in line of sight, ending the effect on itself on a success. If a target's ST is successful or the effect ends for it, the target is immune to the Methias’ Intimidating Presence for the next 24 hours.
Multiattack - The Methias makes 2 longsword ATTs. If it has a shortsword drawn, he can also make a shortsword ATT.
Longsword - Melee Weapon ATT: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., 1 target. Hit: 7 (1d8 + 3) slashing DMG, or 8 (1d10 + 3) slashing DMG if used w/ 2 hands.
Shortsword - Melee Weapon ATT: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., 1 target. Hit: 6 (1d6 + 3) piercing DMG.
Black Powder Handgun - Ranged Weapon ATT: +6 to hit, range 100/400 ft., 1 target. Hit: 11 (1d12+5) piercing DMG.  It takes 1 turn to reload. 

This isn't anything special to be honest, just the Veteran build with some Black Powder weapons.  I'm liking the DM's Guild where I can get some new NPC builds to spice things up.  I am hoping the PC's run into Methias again though.  I suppose if they go to Melas they will....
Black Powder Weapon Malfunction
 (Martial Ranged Weapon) Any time an ATT roll of 5 or less is made w/ this weapon consult the following chart by rolling 2d6 & taking the better result.  Anytime a Critical Miss is made consult the following chart by rolling 1d6 .
Catastrophic Misfire! – The weapon explodes take 1d10+4 fire & piercing DMG.
Misfire! – The weapon misfires, take 1 round of Action to reload.
Powder Is Wet - The weapon won’t fire; you must take 2 rounds of Action to clear & reload
Weapon Breaks – The weapon breaks & must be repaired or mended before it can be used.
Misfire! – The weapon misfires, take 1 round of Action to reload.
Barrel Bursts – The shot goes wildly out of control.  Roll %, on a 25% or lower the shot careens towards the nearest creature.  Re-roll the ATT Vs. that creature’s AC.  If hit calculate DMG normally, & the weapons weapon breaks & must be repaired or mended before it can be used.

I am REALLY unsure where I found this, but I like it and use it regularly.  I know some people are VERY anti-guns in Fantasy RPG's, BUT it's my world and I like throwing in all sort of crazy crap in.  I want my games to be a hodge podge of oddities that inspire my imagination, hopefully give the PC's different options and opportunities, and in the end work together to make some fun and unique.

On a sad note Gene & Cassie have left 1st Group.  People get busy with 'Real Life' and they have to move forward, Adult, and make some sacrifices.  They are leaving 1st Group for these reasons, which are the BEST reasons.  They will be missed as both are AMAZING players.  I have had to try and figure out how to cut out two characters who are SO important to the campaign.  I think I have.  I hope I have.  And I hope in doing that I've done their fictional personas justice and left the door open for them to come back and play when and if they can. 

Now that the sadness is over, I'm excited to add Sara & Nate to 1st Group!  Nate is one of my favorite people to play RPG's with as his dry wit, brilliant thinking, and commitment to the fun for the Group makes him someone EVERY DM wants at their table.  Sara played in the Floating RPG Star Wars campaign and just 'POWNED'.  When she expressed interest in killing Dragons once a month I was more than happy, and more than a little lucky, to have her join the fray as well. 
The PC's are on the doorstep of the Haunted Dwarven Keep at the base of the Wyvern's Tor.  This has been the 'goal' since session two.  We've been through the craziness of hex crawling, building and losing a home in Red Timber, escaping assassination from the 'Big Bad', time traveling and alternate dimensions in Extra Life, Underdark aberration slaying, and now we're here.  NOW we are at that first big moment for the PC's.  I just hope I can make it as memorable as the build.

We'll find out Friday night...

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