Sunday 24 May 2020

Module review: Lair of the Lamb

Lair of the Lamb is an OSR style module by Arnold K. over at Goblin Punch. It's a funnel where players run a total of 12 characters through a dangerous adventure and see who survives to see daylight. Free to use and comes with Arnold's newly updated GLOG version, but can be run with other D&D variants as well. In this case, I used D&D 5e and grounded the place in my Bronze & Sand-"setting".

Arnold asks any users of the Lair to give him their impressions; here are mine!


The Lair is a freaky, cohesive place. I loved reading the module and loved running it. The players took a bit of time to adapt to the idea of OSR style equipment improv, turning the environment against their enemies, exploiting intel.


Party escaped their bonds and took on the Lamb two times, scaring it off with torches. (Won't work a third time). They lost three out of twelve PCs + replacements, freed an ally, found improvised weapons, armor, rope and light. Three of them leveled up to level 1 (fighter, cleric, rogue). They are now thinking about escape and/or fighting the Lamb to the death (see Lessons Not Learned below). They've explored 12 out of the 21 rooms and found but not exploited hidden rooms and lock combinations.


  • Main party 1, 1a, 1b, 5
  • PC left behind 1, 1a, 2, 1b, 5, join up.
  • Then 5a, 6, straight back to 1 for fresh PCs, return to 5, 8, 9 (they REALLY wanted that drink), 10, 14, 13, 15, 13, 16 (end of session).


  • crawlway from 10 Bone Pile to 14 Sarcophagus through searching;
  • code to 7 Throne in 9 Fountain through listening carefully to description (unused b/c only a new PC cracked it, who hadn't visited 6 Tumblers yet)
  • fake bottom in 14 Sarcophagus (unused)
  • chatted with Danjo (who for some reason turned into the Swedish Chef) but didn't have any treasure for him;
  • link to Shendormu in 16 Mold


Big, scary. Could use more direction; what's it want? Some basic wants or habits would be nice, but that might push you from a random encounter model to planned paths. It worked fine as-is, but didn't scare the players into running; they paid for that. I reworked it for 5th edition as an AC13, HP72 Catoblepas-like beast with a long drooping neck, bite attack with grapple & swallow attempt on subsequent round, and a reactive tail swipe to trip flankers. Also played up the light&fire phobia, which was used to good effect.


Did not encounter, and I'll probably end this dungeon after section 1. Will save for later use. They seem a funloving bunch.


Not really felt due to smart improv (lighting the hay in 2 Goats with rock-strike sparks) and easily finding all the torches. Then 5e threw a curve ball: one player leveled and learned Light as a cantrip; I made them search for phosphorescent moss as a material component, but they also found that pretty fast. Party now has a torch and a half and Light.


Rope wasn't really sought until they encountered Akina, then found promptly in a bone pellet. Weapons were sought and found more easily: 6 feet torch holder into a makeshift spear, table leg into a club, steel shortsword & armor near the drowned guy in 9 Fountain.

(Note: the haunting text specifies that the soldier died in his armor, but it's not there to be found. I added in a breastplate and greaves.)


  • improvising with what's about (flaming barrier from Lamb pellets, torch/club from table leg, mace from torch holder)
  • exploiting an enemy's fear


  • running away from monsters
  • luring away monsters
  • investigating beyond first impression
  • exploiting info found (lock codes, hidden areas, possible ally outside the dungeon)


I'm running 5th edition, so used different stats for the Lamb (as Catoblepas with additional bite/swallow attack), priests (Cult Fanatic / Acolyte / Guard, not encountered yet) & weaponry and armor. Added a couple of more ways to level up, mainly the places where you could be initiated as a warlock, wizard & cleric, and added a milestone for gaining access to drinking water.

I swapped out some treasures (in 7, 8, 14a, 18a) for Coins & Scrolls relics, presenting the option to either break for immediate power or worship for long term bennies.


  • Roll stats as normal; either asign immediately, or as the rolls come up (e.g. first roll is to ask for Survival; player decides they want to be good at that and asign a high score).
  • Choose race, background
  • Take 6 + Con modifier hp
  • Proficiency bonus is +1

Thursday 7 May 2020

Belswick 19: see you in court

Third session over skype, no maps or battle and mostly court drama. My players are glorious assholes and they got away scot free with everything except for the crossdressing. 


Last time, in Belswick: A pit fight. A bound and dreaming godling whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Grue- and awesome spectacles. Victorious characters who mourn the loss of one of their group.


The party gains rewards and is confronted with past deeds. They win grievances put against them by Sir Vennax and oust the kidnapping bastard from his fief; and Lomin's alter ego Lady Olga sees of a challenger to hir domain, although both Tilly and Olga's prospective husband Sir Kerjules now know Olga is Lomin in a dress and wig.


  • Tilbørd "Tilly" Miven Björnsson, human bard and knowledge priest of the Authority. Survivability of a wet paper towel and arguably the most dangerous of the entire party. Fervent maker of deals with warlock spirits, lich-priests, devils, ghouls, faeries and more
  • Mike, human druid with mild psychic powers after a nightmarish cult sacrificed his entire village to raise their star godMorti Sizzlelot, gnomish inventor from the Duchy Thynne across the spine mountains, sent to the party with an introduction letter from the King
  • Shams, dwarf fighter/arcane knight from the Principality of Stone, opening a trade route with Belswick now that there's war brewing with the southern kingdom Arrayne
  • Mr. Lomin Mor / Lady Olga, Elf from Arrayne who has been impersonating the (deceased) Lady Olga of the fief one over
  • Guy, human diviner wizard with mild psychic powers after a nightmare-filled youth as heir to a lord in Arrayne [couldn't make it to this session]


Morti, previously Mike:
  • DM: good atmosphere and well-played NPCs during the nobles' court
  • Shams: awesome that her armor has special sound effects
  • Tilly: good build-up in those five speak-with-dead questions and delicious roll for the verdict
  • Lomin aka Olga: genius how you player her, and I love how some people now know of the ruse
Lomin: I loved...
  • to level Drake verbally as Lady Olga, then seal his fate with a natural 20
  • Shams' very expressive creaking armor
  • seeing how much fun Morti's player had introducing his character
  • realizing I could afford both a bribe to that goatling and pay for 2 magic tattoos
  • Tilly in his element during the court procedings. Good dice rolls, that man
  • the whole setup actually, where a lot of longrunning threads came together. Nicely done & kudos to our DM!
  • The entire setup: so clear this wasn't a modern court. Hear and rebuttal, direct judgements based on persuasiveness and bribes. Wonderful how there were two completely different cases against the PCs, and nice work giving all the players a role. Shams' trade house, Morti's introduction, Lomin/Olga's wedding and inheritance, and Tilly as spokesperson.
  • Spot-on NPC's again, with Drake as a highlight.
  • Lomin as Olga, just delightful! Well played and well played. Slight snag in that Tilly and Kerjules are onto him now.
  • Shams and the emoting percussion armor!
  • Introduction of Morti the cross-eyed woozy micro gnome. Wisdom 4...oh Lords above and below
  • Questioning Vedric, rolling well, perfect result. Giving him yet another kick in the ass, permanently removing Vennax the elder and younger, putting Lady Liselle in a positive light and rewarding her with a fief of her own. And literally getting away with murder without lying even one word or speaking above my status.
  • When's next session?


As the group catches their breath in the fighters' tent, they all try to process the loss of their druid friend Mike. The Autumn Shadows (beaten unconscious and robbed by an Oni) leave with dirty looks at the victors. Tyaak of the Grey Whispers, an Eagling noble son of barony Ballumbie, offers Tilly and his compatriots a role in his mercenary band. There's war coming with Arrayne, and Tyaak intends to lead small, specialized bands into decisive action. Shams notes that the Whispers' tactical withdrawal maybe saved their lives; a solid choice, (s)he even goes as far as naming Tyaak's band the real victors of this fight.

Cheers for the victors as they receive 2000 gp worth of gold, platinum and gems from the Halfling barker Rennis.

Ulrike the potion brewer mumbles her regards to the group as they leave. "Cackle mumble groan *blood* cackle hum"

Shams and Lomin want cool ability boosting tattoos done by Lionel the tattooist. They end up choosing tattoos for +2 Int (Shams) and +2 Dex, +1 Cha (Lomin), to be done over the course of the next week.

Right before entering Walden town, Tilly peels off from the group and unleashes his Red Bottle Imp: over the course of the night, the smoky thing will spread the following rumour all across town:

"The Toad of Ballumbie has made nice with [our enemy] Arrayne and has sent his lackeys Vennax the elder to weaken our border and his son to poison ears at court"

I was sure they'd forgotten all about that imp. Solid use of a limited resource there!


Characters can benefit from multiple tattoos, one per ability and one extra for e.g. faster movement or elemental resistance. Tattoos must be increasingly larger circuits on special body parts, but there's some freedom in the design. Upgrading an existing tat is possible, but requires breaking and reweaving the arcane circuit, which can potentially nullify the entire design. (Progressively harder check: failure = have to restart entire tattoo at extra cost.) I rethought the cost for the ability boosters:
  • score +1 = 500 gp
  • score +2 = 1200 gp
  • score +3 = 2000 gp
  • score +4 and higher: not in Lionel's reach, although he's heard stories


Baron Walden has gathered all his fief holders and knights for the Winter Court. There are many proclamations, alliances and grievances to get through.

  • The newly-minted King's Herald Rosaly (well-known to the party) brings news of war with Arrayne. Taxes will go up (prizes rise +10%) and nobles' upkeep increases to 10 gp/month.
  • The Crown thanks all those who escorted the King on his secret peace mission, especially the faithful servants of Haine Kerjules: our heroes get a potion of heroism and 500 gp for "services to the Crown", i.e. recovering the King's Spear and shieldmaiden from the Hydra Corruscon.
  • Lord Kerjules and Lady Olga have announced plans to marry and join their estates, but approval must wait until after the grievances are settled.
  • The Dwarf Shams Metalgrog has come to trade Dwarfish alchemy and siegecraft to Belswick in its war against Arrayne. She will be granted land to set up a trade house in the region.
  • A young Gnomish inventor from neighbouring Duchy Thynne, Morti Sizzlelot with top hat, whirring-gear goggles, a red cloak, walking stick and goatee, comes to the party with a letter of recommendation by Baron Radnor (the King) himself. The "inventator" hopes he might prove useful. Guard duty he won't get, because he's a cross-eyed scatterbrain. He has stories about an icy mountain pass with untold treasure and a crazy hermit who told him never to come back.


Sir Vennax of fief Witmarrow accuses his neighbour Kerjules of Crossroads of:

On behalf of Vennax, Mother Iranelle of the Order of St Kurelda (inquisition) speaks with dead the head of Seymon Bosprus, the owner of the Boswitch Bath House, who tells the court that the PCs indeed murdered Vedric and even announced it to Seymon a day before. Iranelle's creepy cold voice is only lent extra weight by the titanic warrior armored in red bodyguarding her.

Hitting back, Tilly obtains Vedric's head (Lady Liselle tasked the group to murder the fucker) and speaks with dead to interrogate it (with zero prep or time to think!) and confirms the following:
  • the wizard was behind the bandit attacks
  • the attacks were aimed at kidnapping Liselle because she'd offended some noble in her home barony
  • the bandits were paid and supplied by Vedric on behalf of Sir Vennax and the toad baron of Ballumbie

Vennax' son Lucius tries to weasel himself into an early inheritance, but Tilly bardic-grants himself inspiration and rolls a stunning 30 persuasion check - result: Vennax is jailed, his son kicked out of the inheritance, and Lady Liselle and her husband Peter Walden (the baron's son) will take control of fief CulfieldWitmarrow.

Strike one for the players. Ready for round two?

Drake Selbern challenges Lady Olga for the control of fief Culfield - the old, sickly, barren and childless hag is exactly the wrong person to control the border fief with war on the horizon. What's more, Drake has proof that Olga sent ruffians of the Violet Cloud thieves' guild to burn down his property - he has two captives who confessed under torture, and an encoded letter by Lomin ordering the deed.


Why should the party care? They don't particularly, except for Lomin, who's sitting there in the dress of his alter ego and deceased lover Lady Olga. Lomin/Olga is looking for a way to keep control of Culfield. She lays into Selbern with a old, wavering and razor sharp tongue.

Baron Walden adjourns court after the crowd got particularly rowdy, and Lolga is accosted by a goatling merchant giving the sign of the Violet Cloud...250 gold and the letter and confessions go away. Olmin is decisive: 250 gold, 50 in advance, and get lost.

Witnesses broken out of jail, the encoded letter isn't worth much and Olga handily defeats the challenge (rolling a natural 20, grumble grumble). Not only does she keep control of Culfield, she can marry Sir Kerjules and decide on who will inherit the fief.

There's just one teensie snag: chatting with the party after court and instructing them to finally clear the Tomb of the Serpents, Kerjules catches an inflection in Lomin's speech he just knows is Lady Olga's. (I roll a super high insight check for the guy and just go shellshocked as the old hedgehog ruler realizes what he's in for.)

Worse - for no-one except for Lomin - Tilly sees through the disguise as well. Grinning like a maniac, he keeps the secret. For now. Who knows what next session will bring?

Saturday 2 May 2020

Campaignlet framework: Bronze and Sand

Quarantaine has weirdly increased the amount of D&D I'm getting. Once we figured out that rpg-via-skype is vastly better than no rpg at all, the choice was easy. There's even interest in forming a small extra group for a couple of oneshots. And so, I thought to quickly hash out a setting for a couple of dungeon crawls. You know, 3-4 lines as backdrop. Of course that went as well as you'd expect.

Just 3-4 lines of backdrop, I said to myself.

I hereby present to you: 


[ also available as a Google Doc ]

IT IS A TIME OF FADING EMPIRES. Proud city states fight for freedom from the five great kingdoms of Iskander. Merchant caravans and sailors from across the known world bring priceless glass and silks to market. But the dusty roads are beset by sandaled raiders gripping bronze or bloodthirsting iron. Sorcerors drown entire triremes in demon-conjured storms.  In the wilds, the sphinx and lamia have woken to nibble at the corners of empire.

SETTING. This world is like ours in the times of Hellenistic Egypt and Greece. Sandals and short swords of bronze or dread Iron. City states war, trade and build Wonders to their glory. The world is wide and untamed. There are strange beasts and ancient treasures beyond the oil lamp's light.

Iskander was the great general whose two decade conquest heralded the start of the modern world. He famously conquered the entire civilized world and bound the tribes of Gog and Magog behind the half-mythical Iron Gates. When spent Iskander returned from this last task, his five generals rose up and divided his domain into five kingdoms.

ICONIC CREATURES. Androsphinx, Basilisk, Catoplebas, Centaur, Chimera, Cockatrice, Cyclops, Dao, Djinni, Dryad, Efreeti, Empyrean, Gorgon, Griffon, Guardian Naga, Gynosphinx, Harpy, Hydra, Lamassu, Lamia, Leucrotta, Manticore, Marid, Medusa, Minotaur, Mummy, Nereid, Pegasus, Roc, Salamander, Satyr, Serpopard, Spirit Naga


  • Goblin Punch's OSR funnel Lair of the Lamb: screamed out to me as THE thing to play as a oneshot. Of course then I needed a setting to hold it...
  • I Don't Remember That Move's Harpyshaft adventure: I read it immediately after Lair of the Lamb and it connected with the bronze age-y Alexandrian vibe. Also check out Whose Measure's Harpyshaft notes
  • Coins & Scrolls' Iron Gates series: provided the framework I needed, specifically the idea of a mythical mediterranean sandbox, ruins everywhere, Iron as a powerful but soul-deadening metal. My take will be much less pre-apocalyptic than Skerples'.
  • Dungeon of Signs' Along the Road of Tombs: decadent empires, ruin-squatting robbers and culties. Chock-full of atmosphere.
  • Against the Wicked City's Cities of the Great Road: endless stretches of road with proud, strange cities you've never heard of before. For when my beloved chaos worshipers inevitably decide the map is too small and they want to head to the Wicked City. FML.


Niceans - crafty traders and spies, prosperous kingdom [Byzantium; ruins of Troy]
  • Cities: Basileia of the Golden Domes, Zenopolis of the wondrous Clock Tower
  • Ruins: fallen Illion with its Cyclopean skeletons, underground Kaymakli, the shunned Corpse-City of Kar Hadash, the flying mountain Exile
  • Encounters: merchants, spies and assassins; star-mad mages and priests, bound angels and devils; rakshasa, vampires, Vanir barbarians, ghouls

Aeneans - 1000 isles of fiercely independent city states. Fishers, hoplites and schools for oratory and invention. [Greek/Roman; ruins of Mycenae]
  • Cities: Rhen of the Wolf Coliseum, Pyrgos and Gythion with its Colossos
  • Ruins: Cyclopean, like those at Hagar Qim, Ta' Hagrat or Illion. Rumors abound that the Aeneans have dark appetites like the ones who lived in this land before them.
  • Encounters: Roving philosophers, questing kinglets, trader-pirates, river and wood spirits, a horde of cryptids and god-children tasked to complete bat-shit-crazy tasks

Darians - strict and proud, worship many fiery beings under the Lawgiving Sun. oppressively large cities amidst vast plains [Persian; ruins of Ur, Babylon, Babel]

Iskandrians - desert kingdom in decline on its long river. Named after the great general who bound the tribes of Gog and Magog behind Iron Gates. [Egypt, Alexandria]
  • Wonders: Iskander's Library (also) and Iskander's Tomb are marvels of the known world, although dwarfed by the Pyramids of Hisarna.
  • Encounters: riddling sphinxes, destitute heirs of Iskander, haggard caretakers of His Library and Tomb, nightly ceremonies to the old gods at sand-covered tombs and steles, undead ancestors wondering why the honour rites have stopped, ghouls, wraiths, giant scorpions, jackalwere

Sea Peoples - wide-ranging raiders and traders [Phoenician; ruins of Carthage]
  • Cities: Byblos, Tyre and Sidon the Infinite City are the largest cities in this loose federation
  • Ruins: jealous Rhen destroyed the great trade hub of Punicia, the trade hub of Punicia, destroyed by jealous Rhen; the Pillar of Fire
  • Wonders: the dark-rumoured Vault of Moloch and Tyre's Lighthouse
  • Encounters: traders from strange oceans; merchants tired of explaining the Sea People don't sacrifice children; ongoing feuds and displaced people of Punicia; child sacrifices; rhinoceros vanguard and elephant riders, Fish-headed sea dwellers; jackalwere and ogres and witch covens


Made with Inkarnate free edition, then a quick pass in Illustrator for roads and borders. Basically the med with serial numbers filed off.


The Black Pyramid of Khalgorond
The Pillar of Fire
The Abominable Island
The City of Infinite Ruin
The Blue Necropolis
Guilder, the City of Green Brass (good for a city with a great Pharos-style lighthouse)
The Invincible City of the Tusk People
So You've Been Kidnapped by a Giant Bird


Or: how the fuck do I make a character for this sandy hellhole?

System: D&D 5e, all player handbook classes, races and backgrounds available
Stats: 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8, or 4d6-drop-lowest, or d18
Starting level: 0 (funnel) or 1 level below the rest of the party for a new character; when we level in between sessions, everyone rises to the same level
Faith: write up at least 5 words about your patron deity. You can be an atheist. The gods like that. Gives them something to aim for.

All the regular player handbook races are available as bloodlines of humanity. You are and look like and age as a regular human. No racial tongues, no darkvision. You can speak Common and the language of your origin region in addition to any extra tongues.

djinn-blooded, with elemental sign like wind-tossed hair
children of the smith god Talos
cryptic children of the Sphinx or dryad-blooded
followers of the wise goddess Septet
small and sneaky humans
satyr-children or rowdy humans
child of the Lilin or Iblis the deceiver
the multitudes of humanity

All 5e PHB classes will be open to the players, but we start with a 0th level funnel. Characters have their starting stats, race and background, and that's it. No equipment, no class levels, 6+Con modifier hit points and proficiency with simple weapons.


Common tongues
Common - trade tongue
Aenean* - Aenea, Nicea
Darian / Eme gir* - Daria
Demotic* - Iskandria
Sea People / Rasna - Sea People

Arcane and esoteric
Abyssal (chaotic evil spirits) *#
Celestial (good spirits) *#
Deep Speech (aberrations)
Draconic *#
Druidic #
Giant (such as the ancient Cyclopes) *#
Infernal (lawful evil spirits) *#
Primordial (elementals) #
Sylvan (fey, nature) #
Undercommon (underdark)

* also exists in a separate Ancient / Noble form, no longer spoken and hard to read
# used to write or cast magic

Most of the PHB equipment is available: lenses and waterclocks were available in ancient times, after all. Metals are a special case: almost everything is made out of bronze. Due to the limits of crafting bronze, there are no long- or greatswords, rapiers, chain armor or half and full plate. (You could make them out of iron, but no-one's invented those techniques yet.)

All items made out of iron and steel carry a bloodthirsting curse, but they are also stronger and more flexible than bronze. Items made from bronze, wood and bone are fragile and can break with abuse. A few hours in a smithy can repair them.

Weapons or armors made from bronze, wood or bone break on a critical fumble.
  • 1 break: halve all damage dealt or halve the AC bonus
  • 2 breaks: weapon or armor is damaged beyond repair


Gods and their miracles are everywhere, and so are their temples. Some gods are known throughout the world, others only in one isolated hill village. Ancient power, anointed kinglet, river spirit or ascended hero? Who cares. They're the glitzy fucks who can call down lightning and turn into a vase of daisies to seduce your bae while you're out sifting the sand for gold.
  • Moloch the Golden - Sea People god of fire and war, rumours of child sacrifice 
  • Ankai - Darian god of gold, civilization and sunlight 
  • Ennu - Water god of knowledge, storms, dreams and writing 
  • Dagon - Ancient Darian / Sea People god of grain and prosperity
  • Ammon the Ram - the Protector and Diviner
  • Resheph - Ancient Iskandrian god of plague, war and thunder
  • Nitan the Beast - unfettered god of iron, earth and blood, but also mathematics and invention


Directly lifted from Skerples' Iron Gates series; I mostly stole copied summarized his work, although some of the descriptions under Iron stats are mine.

Iron protects and iron corrupts. As each age draws to a close, iron sings a song of blood. Those who wield iron lose memories and restraint. They are honed to a killing edge. Not bestial or mindless, but simplified. Knights plot furious wars, perpetrate massacres and reach for their weapons at the slightest sign of dissent.

attack & damage or AC +1
regular x5
regular item stats
regular x2
attack & damage or AC -1, min. 11
wood, bone
attack & damage or AC -2, min. 11
half regular

Your Iron capacity to safely carry Iron is [Iron stat bonus], minimum 0.
  • Iron daggers, swords, chain armour, and shields count as 1 Iron.
  • 20 iron arrows count as 1 Iron.
  • Giant hammers, giant shields, etc. count as 2 Iron.
  • Iron-infused spells count as 1 Iron.
  • Any number of non-violent Iron items count as 1 Iron, no matter how many you carry.
Iron stat: How you resist Iron's siren call of blood. Doesn't have to be your highest. Your Iron stat's ability bonus sets your Iron capacity. Roll under your Iron stat to successfully save against Iron's roar for blood.
  • Strength: Fight yourself. Force your sword back into its scabbard. Your neck bulges, your teeth grind.
  • Dexterity: Move, don't think. You twitch and endlessly repeat your gestures.
  • Constitution: You overcome it by exhausting yourself in manic exercise.
  • Intelligence: You lose yourself in intricate thought. You mutter and squint.
  • Wisdom: You overcome it by centering yourself. You stop moving, close your eyes. Your breathing slows.
  • Charisma: You overcome it by brushing aside the bloodlust with a wry smile.

attack bonus
At or Below
No effect. 
1 over
If you kill an enemy in a particularly bloody fashion, Save or recklessly attack the next adjacent enemy.
2 over
You cannot write. If you kill an enemy, Save each round or recklessly attack the nearest target, friend or foe.
3 over
You cannot read or write. You forget almost everything. If you kill an enemy, Save or attack the nearest target, friend or foe. You regain control when combat ends.
4+ over
You become a mindless husk driven by bloodlust. This is irreversible. You gain +10 HP and reduce all incoming damage by 2.

Friday 1 May 2020

Belswick 18: blood sports

Another session via Skype, with a separate laptop calling in to run the battlecam. Worked fine for us, except that I couldn't see all the players' video feeds and the sound kept glitching on me. Looking back, I hardly remember that. Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds? Maybe at some point. Skype is fine for now, and allows me to keep playing with paper minis and Dwarven Forge terrain.


Currently entered into the Devil's Ring pit fight as the "Children of Winter". We'll see if it sticks.
  • Tilbørd "Tilly" Miven Björnsson, human bard and knowledge priest of the Authority. Survivability of a wet paper towel and arguably the most dangerous of the entire party. Fervent maker of deals with warlock spirits, lich-priests, devils, ghouls, faeries and more
  • Mike, human druid with mild psychic powers after a nightmarish cult sacrificed his entire village to raise their star god
  • Shams, dwarf fighter/arcane knight from the Principality of Stone, opening a trade route with Belswick now that there's war brewing with the southern kingdom Arrayne
  • Mr. Lomin Mor / Lady Olga, Elf from Arrayne who has been impersonating the (deceased) Lady Olga of the fief one over
  • Guy, human diviner wizard with mild psychic powers after a nightmare-filled youth as heir to a lord in Arrayne


Last time in Belswick: Three months of winter, with the characters each taking care of their own affairs. Tilly undertook a pilgrimage to get his soul de-necrotified, Mike cut deals to regrow his left arm, Lomin/Lady Olga disguised their magic sword and arranged a marriage to head off a challenge to their rulership, Shams met with local rulers to talk about continued trade with the Dwarf Principality of Wild Stone, and Guy got information about his missing sister.

The group met up again at the winter festival of Candle Night / Devil's Dance. They got ready for the noble tournament, browsed the Candle Market and stepped into the illegal and possibly heretical Devil's Ring pit fight. The warm-up round saw the party take out a vicious manticore.


I've asked the group to send in their high and low points for the session. Find the below by character name, as I'm keeping player names private. First, some comments that really made me proud:

Tilly: It was 'just an evening at the arena', but it had social encounters, background, depth, challenges, winnings and consequences.

Shams: Kick-ass setup by the DM. Session had everything from battle to social to background, with heartbreak and mystery, seriously cool!

Mike: Good setting of the scene by DM, never dull, always something happening.


"All contestants participate of their own free will", as the halfling barker Rennis keeps saying. The party druid seems relieved that any beasts they face in the Devil's Ring aren't forced to fight. Only later does it sink in that the barker was talking more about the adventurers stepping into the deadly fighting pit!

Shams: The best thing about the fair are clearly the snacks, and the wares on sale were really amazing. So much to see and do, when is the next one?

DM: you tell me!

Overview: are the ruined towers and cave bigger somehow than last night & session? On the night of Devil's Dance, they sure are.


  • Some shopping at Master Hildebrand's in Walden town. Mike orders a Bag of Beans, Guy buys a Wand of Binding.
  • Shams asks about Lionel the Raven's magic ability boosting tattoos.
  • Mike and Lomin take out bets on their group winning the Devil's Ring.
  • Tilly is eyeing the sleepy looking cleric on the VIP balcony.
I'm getting a lot of mileage out of Dwarven Forge's mountain cliff pack.
The cave face was a handy way to screen my minis from the webcam. I shouldn't have bothered, the resolution was so grotty :)

Lomin's highlights: Shishkebabbing 2 heads with 1 arrow, leaving the goat’s head bleating miserably. Also seeing Mike jumping for a Frost Giants shield, like: What!? (Gonna miss that char.) Low point: Mike dying, good death though.

Guy highlights: fireballs :-), Tilly almost getting possessed, giant fight. Low points: Mike dying. Seeing a Vrock and a Slaad step into the ring. We're not ready for that.

Mike's highlight: Tilly trying to sell his soul, cool part of the session. Also: poor Mike, but great exit and we will meet again!


I'd planned out a three round structure against increasingly difficult opponents. Last group(s) standing split 2000 gp. Originally this was just going to be a couple of fights to fill this session-via-skype. Of course then I had to sit down and think about the history of the tournament, add some NPCs to chat too, and so on.

NPC groups have a fighting die and need to roll over the round number to win convincingly. Rolling equal to the round number means they get a strike (-1 to next rounds' rolls), rolling under means increasingly horrible defeat.

  • Hateful Hammers: d3 - three guys with a hammer theme: Ordek, an oiled a dwarf barbarian; Clovis, a human cleric of the Black Hand order, and the green dragonborn fighter Radantor. RIP, you idiots.
  • Autumn Shadows: d4 - a sneaky fishling rogue called Neftis, the two houndling fighters Frig and Bran, and the brash evoker Ermin.
  • Grey Whispers: d6: a tactically minded bunch of veterans led by a noble eagling called Tyaak from barony Ballumbie, an elf and magpieling rogue and fighter working closely together, and the very careful abjurer Teybrand.



  • Autumn Shadows handily defeat a two-headed crocodile (hello Dwarven Forge mini!)
  • Grey Whispers take out a Bulette by careful positioning
  • Hateful Hammers get hammered (ha) by a Helmed Horror
  • PCs get to go up against three Carrion Crawlers. Guy vaporizes them via firebal straight out of the gate, then Mike and Shams use Thunderwaves to finish them off
Partial paper mini line-up from printable heroes. Subbed a Blue Dragon for a Wyvern. Star of the show was the frost giant in the back, truly a beast. RIP Mike.

All groups advance to round two, with the crowd going wild after first blood. Tilly notices a supernatural attention focused on the Devil's Ring, egging on the crowd.


  • Grey Whispers manage to protect themselves and drive off a Wyvern
  • PCs spot the Chimera spiraling out of the sky. Fiery breath from the dragon head rakes the group, but clever spells and arrows take down the monster without too much trouble
  • Autumn Shadows just barely manage to fight off three winter wolves with icy breath

The crowd is blood-mad right now. Something's definitely up and Tilly senses an other worldly presence, waking, paying more and more attention.

  • Hateful Hammers, still a bit wounded from last night, get surprised and curb stomped by a vulture-like Vrock demon. They roll incredibly poorly and I rule that not only does the Vrock surprise them, it paralyzes them with its wicked screech and Tears. Into. Them. Blood runs down the tower steps as the crowd suddenly wakes up from their blood-crazy chanting.

Tilly comments: Sure, we'll join your fight club. What's that, it was set up to feed blood to a sleeping elder spirit/god/monster? Let's talk to that spirit.

Lomin comments: not sure if that Vrock demon thing was a high or a low point, but definitely a showstopper.


Crowd, fighters and players try to recover from that mood whiplash. Mike spots the sleepy VIP cleric walking around backstage and walks up to her. Tilly, being Tilly, goes straight for the spilled Hateful Hammers blood and dips in his hand to try and commune with whatever is behind the magic bloodlust. Shams and Guy follow their deal-mad cleric.

Mike chats up the nature cleric Josella, a Sleeping Priest who keeps a godling of Nature Red in Tooth and Claw bound in her dreams for most of the year. Only at Candle Night does she let it wake a bit, so that it can slake its bloodlust and sleep easier the rest of the year. Mike is alarmed, but manages to weedle some info about the final round out of the priest: things that are not what they seem and can turn invisible, and something big and brutal.

Meanwhile, Tilly has gathered most of this by straight-up shoving his mind into the drowsy presence of the bound godling. While he's protected by creative use of charm person, he thinks he's communing just fine. Top-side, Shams and Guy look on in rising alarm as Tilly is choking on his own tongue and chanting dark bits of scripture. Lucky him, Shams is there to slap him out of it with mailed glove, and Guy has a circle of protection prepped to break the connection.

Shams: It was all a bit weird in hindsight, especially with the cleric doing - what I gather from my time with this group - his regular thing. Was great fun to slap him around a bit.

In the fighters' tent, Lomin is trying to psych the Autumn Shadows by playing on their insecurities. Sadly, the party's evoker has an ego as big as Lomin's, and isn't easily swayed. Too bad - could have saved their asses.


  • Autumn Shadows went first, bunching up and making themselves easy targets for a cone of cold-spell from an invisible, flying Oni. They survive, because the demon-ogre thinks it's more interesting to knock them all out and steal their precious weapons.
  • Grey Shadows went third, getting flustered and routed by a chaotically casting and teleporting Green Slaad.

The Children of Winter, our heroes, had been dreading their own opponent. Demon? Spellcaster? None of the above. With booming footsteps, an ice-blue frost giant strode onto the field and dared them to do their worst. In return, it broke the towers the group was hiding behind, kicked them across the field, hacked with its titan axe and weathered a fireball to the face. Bearing the brunt of this was Mike - I'd tried to kick him out of the way so the giant could focus on other targets, but the druid insisted on tanking the monster.

And so it killed him, hacking the guy across every column of my Death and Dismemberment chart. Mike saved the party: him keeping the giant occupied meant that the others could pile on the damage from afar. Earlier in the campaign, the PCs had some favors to cash in and save their skins, but this time, Mike was in debt to the Faerie Sisters of Winter. Player did a great job RPing his character's demise, as he described shifting into the shape of a giant wolf with an icy left paw and slinking off into the dark woods.

Tilly's highlight: the Giant fight. She started overconfident, kicked around terrain and characters alike, died just in time to prevent two more fatalities. Mike was tanking like a boss, got an emotional death scene.

I could've ended the session there, but then we would have missed out on Shams intimidating the bookie into giving her Mike's payout (even though he hadn't placed a bet this last round). We'll do denouement over Mike's death next session.