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Saturday, November 5, 2016

Mini Adventure -- DNDkids vs. Frankenstein

With all the excitement of our new webcomic, I've neglected to post a 90-minute-adventure for far too long. We will remedy this presently.

Frankenstain. We all know the story. We all know it ended very poorly for all parties involved. Tonight, we find out what happens if we let a bunch of murderhobos into thsi classic story of hubris and damnation. Perhaps the tragedy will be averted. More likely, it will be increased by an order of magnitude. 

Wanna know what happened when I actually ran it for a dozen fifth graders? Stay put. Oh, and one last thing. Don't use the word "Frankenstein" at any point. Let the players figure out what novel they're inside themselves. It' much more fun that way. For you.

Source: Dave Rapoza

Background
William, the young son of Alphonse was found in the woods with a broken neck. His nanny Justine is arrested after his locket is found in her pocket. She claims she is innocent, but things don't look good for her.  The PCs are hired by Alphonese to investigate the murder and find the true killer before she is hung for a crime she did not commit.
Alphonse has another son named Victor and an adopted daughter named Elizabeth, to whom Victor is engaged. A friend named Henry is staying in the house as well.
A short time after the murder, Victor disappears, taking with him a rifle and hunting equipment. He didn’t confess to the murder, but he did say it was his fault.

Clues
  • Near the site of the murder there are footprints too large for a human being. They lead to a small burned hut. Asking around will reveal it was the home of a blind man (Gaston) who lived with his son (Felix), daughter (Agatha) and Arab daughter-in-law (Safie). They have moved to Geneva after their hut was burned to the ground. If located, Felix can tell that the night before his hut burned, he chased away a giant who attacked his father. The old man, however, says the creature was articulate and pleading rather than aggressive.
  • If the PCs choose to follow Victor's tracks in the woods. They find him half mad in the wilderness. He claims to be guilty for his brother's murder but refuses to give any information. If the PCs pressure him or secretly follow him, they discover he is building a giant woman in a cave. Victor started working on her to appease the monster, but now has second thoughts. What if the two reproduce and create a race of giants that will challenge humanity?
  • If a PC goes alone in the dark, he will see a giant shade that will tell him he didn't mean to kill the child, but he will kill more of Victor's family if not given what he wanted. The shade will then disappear, leaving no tracks. This only happens if a lone PC moves at least 100 meters from any other PC.
  • Victor has a room in his house with some notes related to chemical science, the notes imply the possibility of creating life, but provide no further information. If the players visit his home in Geneva, however, they find detailed documentation related to the creation of artificial life and a final note about the creation being hideous and escaping into the mountains.
  • The giant lives in a desolate cave in the mountains. He is strong and fast, but not invincible. He generally avoids combat, but he will fight to the death if the half-made female is destroyed.
Source: Garry Brown
Timeline
Day    Event
-3       Hut burned
-2       William killed
-1       Justine arrested
2       Justine executed
5       Henry killed
11     Elizabeth killed
17     Alphonse killed

How the Kids Solved This?
I thought this was actually quite brilliant. It's a wonder no one thought about it before. The kids told Victor to finish the female but to plant an explosive device inside her. Boom. Problem solved.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Monday, July 11, 2016

Hunting the Hunters

I ran this adventure many times with both young and mature players in a variety of settings ranging from a gothic version of the modern world to native american fantasy. Each time it failed, but each time it failed in a fun way. However, maybe it will work for you. Who know? Stranger things have happened...

This is a 5e Ravenloft version suitable for 4th level characters. At least one of the characters should be able to cast darkness as a spell or ability.

Premise
A group of vampires are sent to an ancient forest to find our why vampires routinely disappear in the area. They discover that the forest is inhabited by a spirit that is to vampries what vampires are to people. To keep the dangerous spirit away from themselves, elder vampires routinely send fledgling vampires to investigate the “mysterious disappearances” in the forest, promising great rewards since they never expect to see the youngsters again.

Locations

Karg
A large human city where gothic high fashion meets poverty and oppression.

General Kazandra ("The Lady") invites the PCs to a meeting at the Black Unicorn club in Karg. The evening is a vampire party where each guest must come accompanied by a mortal and an animal companion. Lone vampires are banned from entering, even if they bear letters of invitation from the Lady.

The Lady is in her office with a dominated maid she uses as a mobile, living blood bottle and a pet fox (actually a werefox). She tells the party that this is a "community" meeting rather than an official meeting. Several members of the "community" both native and foreign have gone missing in the Vale of Tears. One of them was her apprentice, Vyx, who she sent to return an agent who went missing while performing a secret mission from Azalin himself. She'd like the heroes to find out what's causing vampires to disappear and deal with it. She is especially anxious about the fate of Vyx, of whom she is very fond.

Kazandra is aware of the following victims, though she suspects the actual number of undead destroyed in the forest is much higher:

Tavia (Kargat exile, sent to forest to live in exile for taking bribes)
Marius (Falkvonia vampyre, Ludzig’s agent, purpose unknown)
Valentine (Falkvonian vampyre, was en route to nova vaasa)
Onyx (Darkonian free vampire, went to search for Marius)
Avernus  (Kargat agent, sent to scout for dragon ebb, killed by hunters)
Vyx (Kargat agent, sent to retrieve Avernus) sent a week ago, last seen in Delagia three days ago, room 6

Delagia
A Halfling town of cheerful fishermen and traders.
Two human siblings with a foreign accent occasionally come to purchase supplies. They are brooding and have a condescending attitude towards the Halflings. No one knows where they live or what do they do for a living, so everyone assumes they’re staying in Sidnar.
Vyx has also been to the town. She made a few expeditions to the mountains, before going to the forest, never to be seen again. She is remembered fondly as a very charming woman who used to sing songs and entertain the kids.

Sidnar
A hamlet of snobbish elf astronomers and philosophers
The elves have seen odd siblings who boasted of hunting the most dangerous game in the forest. They asked a lot of questions about a fox woman and when no one could answer them, they went away, never to be seen again. Investigation will reveal that many of the houses in the town have images of a fox that shines like the sun. Interviewing locals will reveal that these are traditional marks against evil. No one remembers their origins.
Two kids saw Vyx approaching the village before suddenly turning around and fleeing with an expression of abject terror.

Mistlands
A vast forest crisscrossed by rivers and streams

The Sun Fox is not interested in material possessions, so small piles of ash with clothing and personal belonging can be found in various spots in the forest.  One includes a message carved in bark (see below).
There is a sect of maniacal Halfling cannibal bandits who prey on strangers, always eating half and leaving the other half as a warning. They never attack Sidnari and Delagians and in return the locals leave tools in the forest. While critical of their methods, the locals value the red walkers since they keep foreigners away.

Mount Nyad
Desolate mountains where nothing lives or grows

The Shadow Dragon Ebb lives in a giant cave inside the mountain. She is quite fond of polite visitors as long as they don’t touch her treasure. She sleeps most of the time, but doesn’t get angry if woken up with due reverence.
Ebb knows of more than a hundred undead creatures who’ve been destroyed in the forest over the last 300 years. Most committed suicide at sunrise. She has always assumed they did it because of self-loathing, although if questioned, she will point out she recalls feeling a strong force of light in the area about the time of their destruction.
Her latest observation was a naked young woman looking defiantly at the sun before catching on fire and turning to dust. She can direct the PCs to the spot, but she will not bother to leave the cave.

Dramatis Personae

Funny and Sunny
A brother-sister pair of undead slayers – Sunny is a 5th level paladin and Funny is a 5th level cleric. The pair have killed many minor undead and one vampire —Avernus. Presently, they’re looking for the Sun Fox in the hopes of joining forces with it. They are refugees from Nova Vaasa and speak with a strong Vaasi accent.

The Sun Fox
The Sun Fox feeds by devouring a vampire's life essence when it's destroyed by the light of the rising sun. It has two forms – a gorgeous fox that shines like the sun, or a wild woman dressed in hides and bones. It has been part of the forest for as long as the forest has existed. Just like the vale, its past is lost in the mists.
AC 16 (+2 leather)
HP 100
Speed 40
Saves str +2, dex +7, con +7, int +0, wis +6, cha +4
Every time a vampire is damaged in the forest, the spirit heals as many hit points
Sunlight at will (darkness negates)
Fox shape
Fist +7 (1d6+2 and 1d6 radiant)
DC 15 Dominate attack that only affects vampires and can only affect one vampire at a time. While dominated, the vampire is free to speak, but must move however the fox instructs it.
Tree stride
Weakness: None of its powers work in magical darkness. Also, should it ever leave the forest, it will become sick and die soon.

Random Vampire Powers
1 Animate Dead (short rest)
2 Misty Step (60')
3 Beast Form (CR 1 or less)
4 Fire Resistance (20)
5 Mist Form (long rest)
6 Invisibility (short rest)
7 Darkness (at will)
8 Sharp Senses (scent, blindsight)
9 Enhanced Ability (+4, roll which)
10 Turn and Radiant Resistance (+4/20)

Message
The players can either find it at on the cliff where Vyx died or see it in Ebb’s collection, whichever comes first. I recommend printing the letter in handsome cursive and then burning its edges to give it the appearance of something recovered from a fire.

To: The Lady of the Black Unicorn

For the past few days I have wrestled with an increasing desire to see the sunrise from a cliff overlooking Lake Korst. It has now become clear to me that it is a battle that I cannot win on my own. Noble Kazandra, please come quickly for I fear that without your deliverance I am doomed.

All my attempts to flee these accursed woodlands or to contact my friends at Krag via magical or mundane means have been frustrated by the spirit that haunts me. Yes, I am now convinced that what I at first took to be my own mind betraying me in this lovely wilderness is in fact the work of a powerful spirit that works towards my destruction. My sole hope now lies with a halfling woodsman whom I’ve paid handsomely to deliver this message. I hope he does not lose it for I don’t have much ink left and no parchment save this sheet.

The scoundrel has discarded my letter but has kept my gold! Though my heart cries for Karg, my feet march to Sidnar. The elves are now my only hope and it is a slim hope indeed.

The  lake is beautiful and I expect the sun rising from the misty trees should be beautiful as well. I will find solace in the beauty that surrounds me and of which, I fancy, I will now forever be a part. I will face my end with pride and courage. Oh happy traveler who finds this message in a pile of ash and dust and discarded clothing – tell my mistress that I did not disgrace her. Tell her that

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

With the Giants

It is very rare for kids to finish a campaign unless they're forced to do so by circumstances outside of their control. It is even rarer for kids to finish a campaign that they have devised for themselves. Today, I want to tell you about one such instance.

One of my groups was tasked with fighting hill giant bandits who were plundering the lowlands. After a single encounter with a hill giant, they have abandoned this quest and chose a random mountain range on the map as their next location because they liked the way it was drawn. As soon as they finished scaling the mountains, the kids found themselves bombarded by boulders. Enraged, they charged in the direction of their attackers only to find two stone giant children who apologized profusely for the incident, claiming they didn’t see the little people entering their ranging ground.

Illustration by Ekaterina Burmak

As a compensation, the young giants invited the kids to visit their lair. There, the kids were more than content to live in a basket and nibble on a huge wheel of cheese, both objects being gifts made by children's mother, a giantess named Red Shawl on account of always wearing a red shawl.

However, as if often the case with happy PCs, their newfound domestic joy was not long-lived. One day, the kids returned to the giants’ lair to find Red Shawl in a state of agitation uncharacteristic of her normally sanguine disposition – her children went to practice rock throwing in the morning and haven't returned for supper. She asked her tribe to help her search for her children, but the elders refused, arguing that all that transpires is the will of the stones and to attempt to challenge this force of nature is both impious and futile. Seeing their friend so saddened, the kids have suggested, of their own accord, to join her on an expedition to find and return her children.

The very next morning, the kids and Red Shawl went to the stoning range. There, they found some stone giant blood and a colossal feather. Following the marks, the party came upon a massive bird with oddly sparkling eyes. With the aid of the mighty Red Shawl, they defeated the bird and discovered the sparkles to be a form of fairy dust used by evil pixies to enthrall beasts and humanoids. Using magic rituals, the group traced the source of the fairy dust to a faraway mountain. Along the way, they bested an ambush by enthralled gnolls, a pixie attack, and countless attempts to bribe or dissuade them from their quest.
Illustration by Werility
Eventually, the party reached a dormant volcano filled with monsters and traps. To their dismay, the kids have discovered that due to the narrowness of the entrance, Red Shawl, whom they used as a very effective artillery unit, could not follow them inside the mountain. All that was left to the poor creature was to anxiously wait for their return while making sure no one attacked them from behind.

Inside, the kids passed a trapped door, yet more pixies, and a room with murderous shadows, losing three party members in the process. Eventually, they found the young giants hewing a corridor for the pixies. The kids announced they came to return the children to their mother, but were met with blows instead of hugs, since the giant children were firmly under pixie command. Despite taking a savage beating, the party eventually saved the day by washing the pixie dust from the giants’ eyes using improvised water siphons, thereby releasing the giants from pixie domination. Again ignoring bribes and threats, the kids made their way back to Red Shawl through corridors of blood and ruin. They came out to a tearful reunion of Red Shawl and her dazed but unharmed children.

At this point, the cleric of the party has received an animal messenger from a different group of kids, who requested their immediate assistance in a raid against an ancient temple filled with potent artifacts and powerful undead. However, after consultation, the group decided they want to end the year as honored guests of the stone giants instead of joining a new adventure, leaving the other group to fend for itself against insurmountable odds, Rorschach style.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

DNDkids: The Webcomic!

For years, you have demanded a DNDkids webcomic, so Jamie Keys and I have produced one in partnership with Ghostwoods Books and Media for your pleasure and entertainment.
This is going to be a weekly feature, so stay tuned.
If you like what you see, recommend it to your family and friends. If you don't, warn them instead.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Marriage of Hell and Hell

Towards the end of the year, I like to work with my students on adventure design so that they could run their own cool games in the summer. One of the kids, aged 9, wrote a rather curious story in lieu of an adventure. I have done my best to translate the story as literally as possible. My sole editing contributions were replacing the &s with periods, and normalizing the tenses.

If get a permission, I will translate other adventures as well. If anyone is curious about the efforts of previous years, feel free to take a gander through these posts

Adventures I
Adventures II
Adventures III

Source: Book of Vile Darkness
In Hell
Hell is a world full of fire, lava, evil and scary creatures such as demons and spirits. In this world, the demons command the spirits to build them palaces, villas and big houses.
The demon prince Tomro was in love with a spirit named Serena. He wanted to marry her, but his father, the king of darkness, Satan, did not let him marry a spirit and declared a contest for the prince. The winner would marry the prince.
The prince had no choice left but to run away from home. At night, he took his girlfriend and fled. He passed through heaven and everyone was surprised to see him there. Then he went to the forest and fought with elves. Then he realized he loved his home.
However, if he returned, his father would kill Serena. The Prince married Serena in the forest and they had a child, and then the Prince returned home alone.
Each week he went up and visited Serena and their child until his father died and the prince became the King of Hell. He stopped enslaving the spirits and brought Serena to live with him.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Mini Adventure -- Aliens and Zombies vs. Wizard Super Spys

In honor of Passover, I’ve challenged my students to design a campaign that will mix at least three different genres. This is what they came up with by means of popular vote and some under the table kicking.

Setting
A wizard accidentally summoned aliens that animated all the dead people on the planet and took over the world. The players are secret agents granted special powers by the wizard in order to save the world. The game starts in a giant hedge labyrinth where an item that closes the gate into the alien’s world and kills all the zombies is hidden. The aliens can’t go into the labyrinth, but the zombies can.

The following encounters can occur inside the labyrinth (roll d20):

1. Villages that are not aware of each other
2. High tech ruins that allow progress
3. Local time anomalies that speed or slow time
4. Giant worms that live under the ground
5. An evil giant hiding in the trees
6. Time portals that take you to different times (you must find way to return)
7. Giant spiders that erase memory
8. Ant-sized people with knives that attack humans
9. A Minotaur
10. Harpies
11. Gargoyles
12. A Hydra
13. Stones that explode when you step on them
14. Places that turns people into primitive savages
15. Scary Ghosts (like in the Grudge)
16. Places where dead people turn into zombies and zombies come back to life
17. Animated boots that kick you in the ass
18. Birds that poo acid
19. Bats that spit poison
20. A tree dragon



Character Generation
Distribute nine traits between body, mind and spirit. Then roll a d20 twice to see what special powers the wizard gave you.

1. Hypnotism
2. Teleport
3. Invisibility
4. Eye lasers
5. Bulletproof
6. Sound waves
7. Nuclear rays
8. Summon dragon
9. Super speed
10. Speak with dead
11. Safely store stuff inside your body
12. Acid urine
13. Turn to wind
14. Turn to statue (yourself or others)
15. Flaming Fists
16. Telekinesis
17. Regeneration
18. Time vision (see what happened or will happen to an object)
19. Read thoughts
20. Turn into whatever you're touching when you're scared and turn back when the danger is over
21. Instant sex change