So we took a break from zombies today, and started some D&D 5E. Specifically, the Tales From The Yawning Portal.
This is the latest D&D book from WOTC. Following tradition, they are not coming up with any real new content. They are just regurgitating older stuff. Look at the previous books, where they follow the Storm King’s thunder, Strahd, Rage of demons etc. This is not a bad thing. The older stuff is pretty awesome, and I really want to be able to play the older cool modules in the 5e rules. That being said, it would be nice for WOTC to come up with some new worlds… but then I want Spelljammer, I want a bunch of other stuff from classic D&D… I want it all. New stuff, and old repackaged stuff.
Be that as it may, the Yawning Portal brings together a bunch of neat older generation modules, updated for 5e rules. The modules include:
- The Sunless Citadel
- The Forge of Fury
- The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
- White Plume Mountain
- Dead in Thay
- Against the Giants
- Tomb of Horrors
The Sunless Citadel was originally released as a first level adventure for 3rd edition D&D. It is one that I have not played or ran before. It is a pretty good module for beginner players. The key for the players is that they are 1st level, and that means that they can die pretty easily. Now the module suggests that the party should try to decide if they should fight, or parley.
We started out playing, and Sue thought it would be funny to bring me some Peeps, along with some Oreo cookies. I am not sure what she was thinking. Evidently, I was not clear in my true hatred of all things marshmallow, along with the horrors of shortening based icing. Normally, Sue is pretty smart. I think that her extended stay in Oklahoma, or Arkansas, whatever it was (who can tell, anyway?) has addled her brain. Maybe it was the water there?
The group created their characters. Sue chortled about marshmallow and Oreo cookies. She kept pushing them my way, as though she wanted me to partake. Now, Marshmallows are fucking evil. Pure fucking evil.
Anyhow, somewhere is here is a story about the party playing in a D&D module. But then I get sidetracked by the horrors of marshmallows and Oreo cookies.
Where was I? Oh yes, I was trying to get back to D&D, but then marshmallows. I know, this will help
If that doesn’t help, then there is always this.
Making up a mess of fun!
Making up a mess of fun!
Fun for everyone!
So where were we? Oh yeah, I was reliving my hatred for marshmallows, and Sue’s evident misunderstanding due to her extended stay in Oklahoma.
The party started out, with new characters. These included:
- Bill – Denguin Stonetugger, a dwarf warlock
- Shari – Bestile I Battlein, a dwarf barbarian
- Collin – Barrowman Bulger, a halfling bard (and arrow magnet)
- Sue – Hentat Hazewing, a halfling rogue
- Mike – ‘Stoff Krogscheef, a human cleric
- Brian – Shadow Hawk, an elf monk
Now, I was having a hard time hearing what Sue was saying. She was talking quietly, and I have a hard time hearing when there are a lot of people talking in the room, I kept having her repeat her character’s name. I kept thinking that she was saying Hedwig, like Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
Then she softly said “hentat”, which I thought she said henatai. But I was pretty sure that was not the character’s name. Word to the wise, don’t google the word “henatai” at work. Let’s just say that there are a lot of pictures of women with breasts which are not affected by gravity doing things… A Google video search brings up links to Pornhub and Redtube. Now, I am pretty sure that I can imagine what Pornhub is. I don’t know what redtube is, but I figure it is kind of like youtube, maybe with some more red?
Anyhow, the party starts out in the town of Oakhurst. Oakhurst is a small town of about 900 people in the region. This includes the people who live in town, along with the people who farm around the town. The party members are locals, and as such have no broadband access to be able to use Google or such things to look up what Henatai is. Neither do they have access to marshmallows or Oreo cookies. It is an ideal location. But then, any location that does not have marshmallows or Oreo cookies is pretty good.
Oakhurst is mostly human, but there are some halflings and dwarves mixed in the region. There are no elves listed in the adventure, and that causes a problem for the elf monk, who may actually only think he is an elf monk, where his friends humor him in his misguided belief that he is a wood elf. He may actually be a dwarf with some peculiar mental problems. Hey, I am not making this shit up, the book says nothing about there being any hoity toity elves in the region of Oakhurst.
The village has a village hall, general store, shrine to Pelor, a jail (which most of the characters evidently know a lot about) a blacksmith and the Ol’ Boar Inn. Now many comments were made about the constable of Oakhurst, whose unfortunate name is Felosial, to which more than one of the players assumed was actually felatio. I get the problem, Felosial sounds like felatio for people who think that might be the same. But her name was Felosial. Say it with me Mike and Collin, Felosial. Felosial.
Mike then went and pulled out a prop and asked Collin to read it. This was the reason why his character lived the life of a cleric.
Now, several times during the game, I would count out… “one, two, three, four… blue… goblin….. Yeah” Mike wanted to get it on camera very much. Unfortunately for Mike, he wasn’t quick enough on the draw. I did the count about 7 times, and Mike didn’t get any of them on camera.
With all of that, the party did know a lot about the area was helpful. They knew the following:
- No one knows for sure that the Sunless Citadel was, but legends hint that it served as a retreat for a ancient dragon cult.
- The Old Road skirts the Ashen Plain, a lifeless area. No one succeeded their history check, so they don’t know why it is a lifeless area.
- Cattle herders don’t graze their stock too far afield nowadays. They are frightened by stories of marauding monsters. From time to time, cattle and people who have gone out alone at night are found dead the next day, bearing dozens of needle like wounds.
- Recently, a group of adventurers went to the Sunless Citadel, and have not been heard from since. It has been at least a month with no word.
- However, the party has been approached by the matriarch of a family whose son (Talgen Hucrele, a fighter) and daughter (Sharwyn Hucrele, a wizard) were in this party. The matriarch wants the party to return the signet rings of each of the Hucrele family members, and she is willing to pay 125 gold pieces to each adventurer who returns one ring, and doubles it for both rings. Alternately, if the party returns the family members alive, she will double the boon.
- The party also included a ranger (Karakas and a paladin (Sir Bradford, who had a really spiffy sword), but the matriarch of the Hucrele family doesn’t offer any sort of boon or bounty for returning these two individuals.
- Each summer, for the last 12 summers, goblins will bring one apple, once per year in the summertime. The goblins sell the apple to the townsfolk for 50 gold pieces. This magical apple will cure the ills of any person who eats it. The seeds of the apple will germinate into sticky spiky branched trees which disappear within a year of popping out of the ground.
- Once in a while, the goblins will bring another apple in the winter. It is white as death, and poisons anyone who touches it. Nobody thinks that this apple is worth buying now, after several people died after touching the first few apples brought by the goblins.
- People remember that about 13 years ago, a grim human named Belak stopped by with a very large pet frog. He disappeared since and has not been heard from in the last 12 years.
So after several more pushing boxes of marshmallow peeps at me, along with Brian actually tossing an Oreo cookie at me, landing on my adventure book… the adventure continued.
The party leaves Oakhurst for the ravine that is rumored to be where the entrance to the Sunless Citadel is. When they get to the ravine, they find that there is a long rope tied to a pillar. The rope drapes down into the ravine. The party asks how deep the ravine is. I respond that the ravine is deeper than they can see. Brian asks “deeper than 60 feet” which is the limits of his darkvision. Yes. It is deeper than that. Mike casts a light spell on a rock and drops it into the ravine. The rock falls, and then starts bouncing on the walls, and the party quickly loses view of the rock.
The ravine is 40 feet wide, and stretches as far as they can see in either direction. It would be difficult to get around the ravine.
Sue realizes that the hemp rope looks like it has been out in the weather about a month. The other adventuring party left about a month ago. It seems likely that the other adventuring party probably left this rope, hoping that they could use it to go back up the ravine after vanquishing whatever evil was in the Sunless Citadel.
The party decides to descend into the ravine. They tell me that they are going down the rope. To which I ask, all of you at the same time? The party considers this, and states, no, one at a time. Now, what I would expect is that the rogue would go first. After all, the sneak thief who drank Oklahoma water seems like the best candidate to go first down the rope. However, she bravely allows the other party members to go down first. I am not sure why the brave rogue decided to allow the others to go before her. But she did.
Almost all of the party makes it down the rope. The warlock didn’t do so well. He lost grip on the rope and fell a little while. Luckily, he was able to grab the side of the ravine, and the rest of the party was able to get him back on the rope, and down safely.
The party is on a sandy area, about 30 ft X 60-ft, with a set of stairs going down. All around are sheer cliffs except for where the five feet wide roughly carved stairs exit down. There are no safety rails. OSHA would have a field day with this type of work area. Towards one end of the ledge is an old fire pit. The barbarian decides to look through the fire pit. It is cold and wet. No fires have been lit here for a long time. Inside the fire pit are small animal bones and the metal tips of goblin spears.
As the party is checking out the ledge, they are attacked by three giant rats. Now, I need to remember that the adventure is “balanced” for four players, and there are six here at this session. I need to increase the number of foes to make the game more challenging for the players. After all, a first level character doesn’t just want to be “given” his level up. He wants to earn it, right?
The giant rats attack, and manage to bite the rogue. The party kills all of the rats. The monk is convinced that the rats should have treasure. So he thoroughly checks out the rats, and gets a level 2 flea infestation.
The party continues down the switchback stairs. The switchbacks go for quite a while. At the bottom of the stairs they come to a crumbled courtyard, with the tower for the sunless citadel on the opposite side. The courtyard is covered in debris.
The party slowly moves forward. I am not sure exactly in what order things happen, but the rogue, the bard and the barbarian move forward. The rogue steps on a pit trap, and becomes stuck with her little legs dangling in the air above the unknown. The barbarian and bard are attacked by more (wait for it…) giant rats. The rats bite and gnash, and are eventually vanquished.
The warlock does a good job of scaring the living shit out of the rats by blasting towards them with an eldritch blast. The blast misses, but knocks out the short wall of the battlement, which in turn allows the monk to kick rats out the ruined wall.
When the party kills off the rats, the know that they have a problem. The door to the citadel is on the other side of the trap. The monk and cleric decide that they know what to do. They take pitons and rope, and rig the trap. Now, it was not said how the first level monk and cleric were able to come up with the knowledge of how to pin a swinging door trap. But they did a good job. They volunteered the rogue to walk over their rigged trap, so she could open the door. The idea was that the monk would volunteer to go next, with his 19 dex. I don’t know what the plan was for the rest of the party. After all, you send the halfling rogue over the fixed trap, followed by dances with wolves, the monk. Then the heavy steppers would walk over the trap.
I could have had fun allowing one or more of the pitons to fail, dropping a party member into the pit trap, but I decided not to, since there was some pretty good treasure at the bottom of the pit, and since the party didn’t even investigate, it is now gone.
Yup, don’t bother going and looking for it. It is gone. But then, that is what happens when I try to put the adventure onto the rails. If you don’t want to keep it on the rails, all you get is a peep show.
Yeah, stuff those peeps in your pie hole.
Anyhow, the rogue looks at the door. The bard bravely starts singing to give a d6 buff to the party.
Now, I have always wondered what the bard is good for. I have been playing D&D since it was both D&D and AD&D, since 1979 or so. I understood most of the character classes. I get what a fighter, thief (now known as rogue), magic user and a cleric are. I understand what a paladin is, it is what you play when you can’t decide if you want to be a fighter, or a cleric. I kind of understand what a druid does.
But what is a bard for? it is almost as though you are trying to take a little bit from all of the classes, and make it really fucking irritating. No offense meant to Collin, or any of those players out there who want to play a bard, but I have never understood what a bard was supposed to do. Maybe they are the face man of the party? Maybe they are able to buff the party by singing?
But to each their own. I guess that if a player wants to play a bard, that is no different than me wanting to play Gonad the gnome barbarian. Fighting with just a sword, viking helmet and a loin cloth. You play what calls you.
Anyhow, the rogue is standing before the main door to the citadel. She is trying to muster up the courage to try the door. Most rogues would check for traps. Not this rogue. She reaches out and tries the door.
And it opens. It is well oiled, and it opens without a sound. The rogue doesn’t have darkvision, and can only see inside the room based on the cleric’s lighted torch. She sees four humanoids, one is standing at the far end of the room, the rest are sitting on the floor, motionless.
The party tries to parley with the beings inside the room. They roll well, and call out with all sorts of useful things like “hey”, and “hi there”, but nothing happens. The monk has enough and walks in, and they find that the four beings are dead goblins, each dead about a month. The one who is standing in the periphery of light is actually stapled to the wall with a spear through the body stuck into the stone of the room.
The warlock is disappointed. He rolled a really good roll to help talk to the (dead) goblins.
The rogue sees a piece of the stone wall that looks out of place. So does the warlock. After all, his name is stonesphincter, or shaftwiper, or something like that. He studies stone. He comes over to investigate the stone, and decides that it is a stone that looks out of place.
The rogue pushes the stone piece in. Once again, bravely acting as a rogue, daring against the odds. The stone pushes in, and then a needle lances out and stabs her in the hand. Luckily for her, there is no poison on it. There are also no puffs of acid, poison gas or anything else.
When the stone is pushed in, there is a click, and a stone door opens on a well lubricated hinge. Everyone wants to know what is inside, but no one will go in. Finally, the Bard decides it is time to enter. He walks in, and three skeletons spring up from the ground and start punishing him. After all, a bard is never a front line troop. A bard is supposed to hide out in back and buff the party. The skeletons hit the bard harshly. Chaos ensues, as the monk and rogue go into the tiny room to engage the skeletons.
In the end, all three skeletons are killed. The rogue learns a lesson, that skeletons are not affected by pokey things like rapiers and crossbow bolts. They need to be smashed. The warlock does a good job of softening up the skeletons with eldritch blasts. The monk smashes and bashes.
The bard goes down. Hard. He drops to zero hit points, and the cleric helps out by stabilizing him.
At this point, the party realizes that they have a defensible position, and with the vague and odd rules of the D&D rule set, if they take an 8 hour rest they will get all of their spells back along with their hitpoints. To this, the party decides to sack out in the entry way, and hope that nobody comes by to check on the entrance to the citadel.