Nov 25 2020

A Very Short Solo Adventure ¬.¬

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Shady On the Attack!

In response to my Playing Shady Instead of Writing Her post, RebelSqurl gifted me with a copy of the Mythic Game Master Emulator and a few other similar items, with a brief description of how he’s basically been using it to run solo adventures with his own characters. So, having today off, I dug into it, combining it with some of the random adventure generation tables in the Dungeon Master’s Guide and a few notions of my own to create a “random Shade-Of-the-Candle adventure generator.”

Learning the system and getting comfortable with it took most of the day, but I developed a very intriguing story premise by taking a few seed words, asking a few pointed Fate Questions, and then creating the first scene which I played out using Shady’s D&D character sheet. Now that I’ve got a feel for it, I’m looking forward to “running” Shady through the rest of this adventure, and discovering the story as I go!

For your entertainment, here’s what I came up with, so far. If the final product comes out well (and I think it just might), I’ll go ahead and write it as a full-fledged story.


Step One: Create Setup

Generated Keywords: pirate, Dragonwatch Keep, pursuit of energy

Shady has found out about a shipment of materials used to make alchemist’s fire on its way to Dragonwatch Keep, and would love to get her claws on it, whether to sell it in Everkeep or to keep it for the Moonlit Horizon.

FATE QUESTION: Did the Lady Patrician point Shady toward this?
RESULT: “Exceptional No.” The Lady Patrician has agents working against the capture of the shipment!

FATE QUESTION: Is the Lady Patrician’s agent somebody Shady knows?
RESULT: “Exceptional Yes.” It’s somebody that Shady’s close to.

FATE QUESTION: Does Shady know that the agent works for the L.P.?

FATE QUESTION: Are they lovers?

FATE QUESTION: Is the agent another privateer?
RESULT: “Exceptional yes.” It’s the L.P.’s best!

Step Two: Generate Lists

Lady Patrician
Dragonwatch Keep
The Privateer


Steal the alchemist’s fire
The privateers’ rivalry
The L.P.’s intrigues

Step Three: Create and Resolve Scenes

Opening Scene

A person of interest (the Harbormaster) sends Shady on the adventure
MODIFIED: Shady learns about the shipment by finagling a look at the Harbormaster’s log

“C’mon, Fean,” said Shade-Of-the-Candle. “There has GOT to be something. I’ve got a ship and crew both just baking in the sun and not a cargo in sight. Did Everkeep suddenly fall off the trade routes?”

Fean Wavecrest, the imposing, gray-skinned wharfmaster of Everkeep, blinked down at her impassively. “You don’t usually ship cargo,” he said. “And when you do bring it into the town, I always assume that it came from some other ship first.”

The tabaxi scowled. “Are you calling me a pirate?” she snarled. “The Moonlit Horizon is a licensed privateer. You’ve seen the letters of marque, signed by the Lady Patrician herself.”

“What the Moonlit Horizon may or may not be, there are no cargoes for her. Now move along, I have work to do.”

“How can you possibly have work to do if there are no cargoes in port?” Shady demanded.

“There are repairs, new ships to build, customs to levy, and hundreds of laborers to keep in line,” replied the goliath.

(SHADY INSIGHT DC 10: 2. She believes it. But she has another idea.) “The Dragonfly is prepping for a voyage,” she said. “How is it Ainsworth has a cargo and I don’t? I know he’s not on commission.”

“Captain Ainsworth has a private arrangement, you’d have to take it up with him.”

“But he had to put down something for your log.”

“He did. And your eyes will never see it.”

“Oh, c’moooon, Fean. Have I ever been anything but good to you? Give us a hint.” (SHADY PERSUASION DC 16: 17)

The goliath sighed. “I’m not getting you out from underfoot without throwing you a bone, am I?”

Shady grinned. “You bet your stoney butt you’re not.”

“Fine.” The goliath picked up his logbook, making a big show of holding up the logbook as if he were looking up something else, in a manner that Shady couldn’t help but see one of the pages. “What time is the tide today? Ah yes. Surely it must be soon. Why, it’s nearly upon us, isn’t it? I have it written down here.”

Shady’s eyes quickly scanned the page, until she came to the desired row. “Dragonfly, frigate out of Everkeep, Captain Dryden Ainsworth. Cargo: Munitions. Destination: Dragonwatch Keep. Leaving: Evening tide, 22 July 1704 N.K.” Shady’s eyes widened. Munitions could mean anything from cannonballs to empty muskets, but a shipment like that meant there was money involved.

Money that Shade-Of-the-Candle was not collecting.

Not yet.

She smirked up at the goliath wharfmaster, who quickly slapped the logbook shut. “Right,” he said. “I’m going now. I wonder if I might find a few loose coins just lying around on my desk when I get back.”

Shady grinned, already spreading a bit of gold on the desk before making for the door. “You just might, at that,” she said.

Lady Patrician
Dragonwatch Keep
Captain Dryden Ainsworth
Wharfmaster Fean Wavecrest


Steal the alchemist’s fire
The privateers’ rivalry
The L.P.’s intrigues

Shady sneaking aboard (or snooping around) the Dragonfly to learn more about the shipment

Nov 23 2020

On Iko, and Why She Isn’t Working

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Shiny Chariot, one of Iko's Inspirations

So Plotline started a D&D game, running Dragon of Icespire Peak. Being a fool, I made a non-tabaxi character in the form of Iko, a half-elf (eladrin) draconic bloodline sorcerer, whose main gimmick is teleporting around blasting stuff. Her main inspiration was “Tracer from Overwatch meets Akko from Little Witch Academia,” a talented-but-troublesome would-be wizard who has a tendency to break stuff and make stupid mistakes, but manages to pull through in the end. In combat, the idea is that she would pop in, annoy baddies into tilting or chasing her around, and then pop out again, which is the Tracer angle.

In play, it has not worked. Like, even a little.

Roleplay wise, she’s a big snooze. Sirfox’s paladin dominates any social interaction scenes, to the point that even Iko’s draconic heritage doesn’t cut the mustard with dragons. In combat, she’s a damp squib, very rarely even landing a hit when she does finally manage to get into position, and even more rarely being a hit that the badguys notice. I end up spending the whole session in audience mode and frustrated.

It’s an odd place to be in. Obsidian had the whole freaking universe revolve around her, to the point that I finally had to stop playing her because I felt like it was hurting the group. Shade-Of-the-Candle is dynamic and moves scenes forward, is usually at least competent in a fight, and can be situationally devastating. To have a character just be a non-performer the way Iko has been has left me kinda nonplussed.

Some of the problem, I think, is that I just don’t enjoy wizards. My own personal power fantasy, fueled by a life of being clumsy and overweight since childhood, is to actually be able to run and jump and punch evil in the face with a body that doesn’t suck. Things like flying or shooting fire out of my hands, just don’t resonate with me. It’s also part of my general distaste for flashy magic and high-level superheroes. I can enjoy them in small doses, but they’re not where my heart is. But when you combine that with a build that also doesn’t work, and a character dynamic that ALSO also doesn’t work, and you’ve got a character that just isn’t pushing my buttons.

So as the group takes a break for December and we start looking at where things might go in the future, I’m thinking about what to do about Iko. I think she’s going to have to be retired and replaced with something else, but what? I don’t want to just clone Shady and drop her into Plots’s game, for several reasons. But I do want to get back to a character that I’ll find more interesting and will hopefully be more effective.

First, I think I need to just admit that non-tabaxi characters make me snooze and make it a tabaxi. Second, they need a personality that will make things happen. If this campaign has had one sticking point, it’s that we’ve spent a lot of time dithering and looking for the plot, instead of creating one. So the character needs an agenda. And finally, they need to be a martial type and a build that can actually be effective at the table. To keep them from just being a Shady clone, I’m looking at monk, ranger, or fighter. The personality is being a little harder to find, because I haven’t worked out an idea that speaks to me yet. My first idea was a Van Helsing-ish “monster slayer,” sort of “What if the assassins from Assassin’s Creed had the mission of killing dragons instead of authoritarians?” I’m not sure I could make that sustainably interesting, tho, and it’s not really a character that would work well in a group context.

Whoever it is, needs to be a mover and shaker and a coffee achiever, because Iko’s passivity is leaving me dejected.

-The Gneech

Oct 08 2020

Wrapping My Head Around Mid-Level D&D

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You couldn't do this at 1st level.

You couldn’t do this at 1st level.

So a while ago now (two years, actually, but it feels like WAY WAY LONGER), I speculated on where my campaign would go when we finished Storm King’s Thunder. Earlier this year, we did in fact finish it, with shocking revelations, a titanic battle against an ancient blue dragon, and the restoration of the Storm King to his throne. It was huge, and epic, and everybody reached 11th level.

As a palate cleanser, and because I honestly had no idea where to go next, I started a side-campaign adapting Tomb of Annihilation. To make it flow more naturally, I introduced the Wasting Curse at the end of SKT by having Iymryth’s death come as a nasty shock to her—she thought she had a clone all ready to go, only to get sucked away into the Soul Monger instead. (Oops…!)

So for the time being, my players have a new group of jolly 3rd-6th level adventurers tromping around the jungles of the Burning Coast trying to end the Wasting Curse or die trying—either of which will set up to return to the SKT “main campaign” when it’s done. If the Burning Coast crew succeed, life carries on. If they fail, well, the SKT team can come and take up the task.

But again… then what?

At the end of Storm King’s Thunder, the party found themselves unexpectedly pronounced thanes of the storm giant king, and in fact one was named the first ever High Priest of Stronmaus. Hekaton has decided that the storm giants’ isolationism is half of what left them vulnerable to Iymryth’s machinations and wants to re-join the world as a going concern (kinda like huge blue Wakandans); therefore he is claiming the vast desert realm of Kadath with the intent of re-civilizing it, and I’m sure he’d love to have the players’ assistance with that. But what would that look like in actual play? They can only fight so many behirs before it gets pretty dull.

Some potential directions it could go:

  • Ambassadorial missions to Gyrenstone, Xul-Jarak, Hestelland, and Argent to set up friendly relations with the neighboring realms
  • Deeper delves into the horrors of Iymryth’s lair… what exactly is down in that hole besides purple worm larvae?
  • The continuing saga of the Unmaking, whatever was going on in the Garden of Graves, and how it connects to the Wasting Curse
  • Cagarax and the Council of Wyrms
    • Who is going to take Iymryth’s place?
    • How will they respond to her death?
  • Player backstory delving?

At 11th level, the characters have a lot of autonomy, and so the players will need to be setting some agendas. They’ve reached the point where an “adventuring day of random encounters,” besides being highly unlikely, is not going to be much of a challenge for them. Even monster-hunting in the wastes of Kadath, while hazardous, are not really a problem if they can teleport home at the end of the day.

So when the time comes to go back to the main group, I’m thinking we’re going to have to treat it like a harder reboot than I was initially thinking, with a whole new Session Zero and some in-depth discussions of where the players want it to go. But the main thing is, I have got to come to grips with this intimidation by higher-level play if we’re ever going to get anywhere. “Somewhere around 5th” is super-comfortable for me, because the characters are durable enough for some interesting challenges without having world-breaking magic and abilities, but it’s not fair to the players to keep forcing a new game every time they get past that stage. And plus, I just miss the Storm King’s Thunder gang, and I don’t want their adventures to be over just because I’m floundering behind the screen.

-The Gneech

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Sep 21 2020

GeekQuery — Remote Gaming and YOU!

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We’re all a bit separated right now, but that doesn’t stop us from GAMING! Today we’re joined by Guest Geek Jamie to talk about remote tabletop gaming from text gaming to Roll20, how it impacted OUR games, and the pitfalls that people might not be aware of.

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Static animation taken from:

Much thanks to WebDM, DungeonDudes and all the great D&D Youtubers for inspiring us!

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Jan 12 2020

We Came, We Saw, We Kicked Its Tail

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Shady Runs From a Big Sneeze
I’ve been playing D&D for a long time and had some great moments on either side of the DM screen, but last night was probably the single most satisfying thing yet. Shade-Of-the-Candle and the rest of our party of scallywags faced down a dragon way above our pay grade and not only lived to talk about it, but came home conquering heroes weighed down with loot. I’m still riding the high this morning and probably will be for days, and here’s some of the reasons why…

  • A tough challenge, risen to! This dragon already one-punched the whole party in a previous battle, and could have done it again if we let it. Shady set up a battle plan that the rest of the team executed brilliantly, many of them adding their own flourishes, using their abilities to set each other up for success. From the monk helping the warlock leap across the 20′ deep pit, to the warlock gimping the dragon’s Strength checks and saves so that everyone else could lock it down, we operated in ways that highlighted and improved each others’ efforts, instead of just being a bunch of stumblebums swanning off in every direction.
  • Perfect expression of Shade-Of-the-Candle. She really did get to do a little of everything she’s built to do, in every pillar of play. Exploration: stealthily scouting, finding traps and then turning them against the monsters, assassinating enemy guards to infiltrate, check-check-check. Social: bringing the team together, being a giant misdirection at the badguy so the other members of the party could get into position, and then of course singing sea shanties all the way home, check-check-check. And combat: doing crazy stunts in the form of riding a dragon like a bucking bronco, laying down the occasional massive sneak attack, and annoyance-tanking, check-check-check. I am particularly pleased at how well Shady pulled off the “tell the truth in the most unbelievable way” trick when parleying with the dragon. Although she would have accepted the dragon’s surrender if the dragon had offered it, Shady’s real goal was to get in close to start the battle without being blasted at range. and provide cover for the rest of the team—both of which she accomplished! It was a classic “misdirection, not deception” moment.
  • A perfect storm of “character I have always wanted to play, doing awesome things.” I’ve mentioned before that I’ve specifically wanted to play a swashbuckler since high school; 1E/2E didn’t really have any way to support the archetype, and while I did get to participate in a very fun four-session “Three Musketeers” one-shot in college, that was over all too quickly. Obsidian occasionally flirted with swashbuckling when I could get away with it, but it was always working against the grain of that particular game. This campaign is built around a party of no-hopers, jokers, and rogues (as the song says) in a seaport full of skullduggery, and the 5E swashbuckler archetype is an amazing character kit. Add into that mix that Shady is a tabaxi and a red oni to boot and… well… I am in RP heaven.

So… yeah. I have no real point to make here, I’m just super-jazzed about last night’s game and wanted to seal the memory. Big thanks to Inkblitz for DMing, and to the rest of the players for going along with my harebrained scheme! :D

-The Gneech

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Jan 05 2020

From Snarling Murdercat to Laughing Bandit

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Shade-Of-the-Candle uses diplomacy.

Seven sessions in to Inkblitz’s D&D campaign, and I am loving Shade-Of-the-Candle more than ever, and I have been using her to some extent as a therapeutic vehicle for getting through some personal issues that I was barely even aware that I had.

Basically, I realized after the Acrobatics vs. Athletics incident that as a D&D player generally, I have been something of a pissy jerk. Like, since forever. For whatever reason, I don’t think I was ever called on it—or if I was, I didn’t register that was what was happening—and I don’t know if it’s something that’s gotten worse in the past few years as my personal stress levels have gone up. Whatever the facts of the case, when I realized it was happening, I immediately knew I had to correct it, for two important reasons.

First, nobody likes a pissy jerk. I have been blessed with patient co-players who had not yet booted me out or discovered they were just too busy to play on any night where I was there, but if I kept going down that road it would only be a matter of time. And second, because being a pissy jerk is actually not very much fun, and I was wasting precious and limited player time at the table making myself and the people around me unhappy.

So the first step I took, was to give Shady some catharsis. Her backstory had made her a bitter character, so I found a way to give her some closure on that. She’s still shaped by that backstory, it’s far from “finished,” but by giving her an in-character reason to lighten up, it made it much easier to transition my approach to playing her from a metagame standpoint. The second step was to sit down and figure out just how I wanted her to change. I went online and found a ton of YouTube videos on how to be a good player and a valued participant in the game, as well as sussing out a positive, team-oriented way of playing her that maintained and even enhanced her swashbuckling style, rather than sending her down the eye-rolling path of the lone wolf. I wrote all this up and printed it out so that I could look at it while we actually played, to remind myself.

Finally, I set myself goals for each game session based on Shady’s Player Credo. I have a checklist of things I want to attempt each session: talking to every other player in character at least once, performing at least one action that sets up another character for success instead of going for the glory myself, and making sure I ask for group input around big decisions. Interestingly, Shady has still had plenty of Big Damn Hero moments, even tho I have not been chasing them. Her badassery has been more or less accidental, but all the sweeter for it.

The last thing I did related to this was to tell the other DM in our group that I wanted to retire my drow bard Obsidian, which was a little harder but which I felt like I had to do. Obsidian’s whole premise was based on a famous post in the 3.x era about bards regarding the rest of the party as “their staff,” and having a character who was vain, self-important, and frankly bitchy was a fun schtick for a while, but it I felt like her presence in that campaign was actually doing more to foster a toxic environment than anything else. As much as I loved some of her earlier adventures, I hadn’t actually enjoyed playing Obsidian for a long time, and I just didn’t want to keep subjecting myself to that—or the rest of the group to who I turned into when I was playing her.

It’s been a long time since I got to be a player instead of the DM this much, and I am ridiculously grateful for it. Part of that gratitude is going to be making sure that I am as much fun to be around as I am having myself—which in my personal case means playing upbeat characters, and leaving the edgelording to someone else.

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