Tuesday, January 31, 2017

D&D 5e: Running Nightstone Part II (Storm King's Thunder)

The intrepid party approaches the entrance to the Dripping Caves
fearlessly led (from the rear) by the paladin and his magical mount.
In my previous post, I described some of the modifications I was considering to accommodate a higher level party. This week, I'll recap some of the sessions and talk about my group's foray into the Dripping Caves.

1) When the party arrived at Nightstone, it was being sacked by a Hobgoblin scouting party. I used bulked up numbers of Hobgoblins with extra Worgs and Goblin minions.

2) I tried to play the Hobgoblins intelligently. I used stealth and flanking (the military tactic, not the game mechanic) to gain Advantage where I could. I also tried to utilize missile fire as much as possible to get in a little more damage until the PC fighters could close.

Clearning Nightstone of Hobgoblins
3) After the Hobgoblin battle, a force of mounted Iron Circle soldiers (rough equivalents to Zhentarim in my game) arrived to "secure" the town. The soldiers were not openly hostile, so the party decided to go for diplomacy rather than get into another scrap.

4) A much larger force of Hobgoblins (and an ogre or two) invaded the next day forcing the PCs to work together with the Iron Circle. This was a replacement for the Orc battle and directed the party toward the Dripping Caves, as I had decided all this Goblin and Hobgoblin activity was due to a mysterious Hobgoblin warlord currently using the Dripping Caves as an outpost.

5) Arriving at the Dripping Caves, the party discovered not one, but two Hill Giants (probably from Grudd Haug) living with the remaining force of Hobgoblins. After the death of the giants, the Hobgoblins parleyed for the life of the remaining villagers. Rather than see more innocents die, the party agreed to the terms and the townsfolk were set free to return to Nightstone.

My players look on skeptically when they discover
the giant is "not quite dead yet."
6) When later returning to "clean up" the Hobgoblin threat, the PCs find a (mostly) empty cave with a reanimated Hill Giant Zombie (along with centipede swarms and carrion crawlers). The Hill Giant Zombie fight actually turned out to be one of the more entertaining encounters, with the carrion crawlers not only fighting the PCs but also attempting to snack on the dead giant.

Final Thoughts

All told, the adjustments made worked fairly well. The party did not have too much difficulty with the hobgoblins, but I made sure there was plenty of missile fire to keep them on their toes. I also upped the average hit points of the hobgoblin soldiers and their commanders.

Surprisingly, the PCs did not have that much difficulty fighting two Hill Giants, taking them down fairly quickly with concentrated fire, but when it came to the swarms of bugs and the reanimated Hill Giant Zombie, the bug swarms proved to be somewhat nasty (though they were helped by some critical rolls). All in all, I was able to milk several sessions out of Nightstone and we had a great deal of laughs along the way.

Dripping Caves central chamber ala Dwarven Forge

If you also happen to be running Nightstone, share some of your own laughs and experiences along the way.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Happy Birthday Dungeons & Dragons!

This week marks the 43rd birthday of Dungeons and Dragons, originally published in late January 1974. 

My brother's copies of the original D&D books
In  late 1977 or early 1978 (hard to recall the exact date), my brother "introduced" me to Dungeons & Dragons for the first time:

Steve: You are standing in the foyer of a vast, eerie mansion. There are doors to the left and right and a hallway ahead. Pick one.

Me: Umm... I go to the door on the right

This room is about 20' by 30' in size. There is a lot of old broken furniture and shelves with rotted tomes. There is a chest on the North wall in this room. What do you do?

I run away.   [actual quote]

No, really... You are supposed to be a brave hero who explores and collects treasure.

Ok... I open the chest.

You are pricked by a poison need trap in the lock. You die.

That's right. My brother killed me in the very first room I ever explored in D&D (Tegel Manor, to be precise). Luckily, that experience was not the one that stuck. It was my good friend, Martin Griffin, who got me really hooked on the game using the Holmes box set and the AD&D Player's Handbook (we had no idea they weren't really the same game... He also had GreyhawkEldritch Wizardry and Gods, Demi-Gods and Heroes from the original version of the game). If curious, you can read more of the full introduction to D&D story here.

The "white box" version of Dungeons & Dragons (which was originally a wood grain box) shipped for the first time this week in 1974, making D&D 43 years old this week. There are no records of the exact date the first box shipped, but January 26 is the date selected by those who were around at the time as the "official" birthday of D&D.

Holmes and Moldvay D&D basic sets
On behalf of all us hardcore geeks who have had 40+ years of fun, thank you Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson, Don Kaye, Tim Kask, Jim Ward, Eric Holmes, Tom Moldvay, Frank Mentzer, David "Zeb" Cook, Tom Wham, Erol Otus, Jeff Dee, Bill Willingham, Larry Elmore, David Trampier and so many other contributors who made the game so memorable for me over the years.

I did eventually get my revenge on my bother. I took his original D&D books when he went to college. He ain't never getting them back.

Share your own memories in the comments!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

State of the Owlbear 2016: 300K and counting

It's done -- 2016 is finally behind us and the bes--  well... something is yet to come.

Raging Owlbear in the Caves of Chaos
Twenty Sixteen was a bit of a weird year for Raging Owlbear. Because life doesn't often let me do things I don't get paid for, I did not have as many posts to offer up this year as the year prior. I averaged less than 1 per week... and when I did post, it was sporadic, such as nothing for 2 to 3 weeks and then 3 articles in a row over a week and a half.

Despite the cave of neglect in which I left the owlbear, it kept raging on due to a few really popular posts that drove oddly high numbers.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Wizards Digital Game Studio Is Probably Not What You Think

So an announcement from Chris Cocks (Wizards of the Coast President) has created a fair amount of speculation about what's in store for digital D&D products in the future. Here's the quick summary of the press release.

Magic the Gathering Tactics
  • Wizards of the Coast is forming a digital studio.
  • The Magic Online team has been folded into this studio.
  • Wizards has been farming talent from other game studios.
  • They wish to "bring Magic and D&D to unexpected settings, genres, and platforms."

So what does this mean for D&D table top? Probably not much (if anything) and not for a long while despite what all the blogs are speculating online.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

D&D: Miniatures on the Cheap

Beaky, the unoffical mascot for
Raging Owlbear was acquired for a cool $5.
One of the more commonly asked questions I see on social media is, "How do I add miniatures to my game inexpensively?"

That's a bit of a loaded question. Miniatures are generally not cheap... but there are ways you can add some pizzazz to your games without completely breaking the bank.

If you know me, or read enough of my blog, you may know I am a bit of a miniatures fiend. What you probably don't know is that I've spent well over $1000 on miniatures alone... probably much more. Between Reaper  Bones Kickstarters, D&D Miniatures and Pathfinder Battles random boxes, and countless lots on Ebay, it all adds up to a sum that I don't actually want to calculate (and I'm not even counting the Dwarven Forge). I've got an absurd amount of miniatures... but I always find more I'd like to get. Let my addiction be a wake-up call for you.

So how can you do it on the cheap?

Thursday, January 5, 2017

D&D 5e: Yawning Portal - Classic Adventures Revisited

Tales from the Yawning Portal
Just the other day, I read Teos Abadia's post (Alphastream.org) about "classic" D&D adventures... and then just today, Wizards of the Coast announces Tales from the Yawning Portal, a hardback full to classic adventures translated for 5th Edition (talk about happy coincidence).

The adventures include:
When I read this list, I have to admit I have mixed feelings about some of the titles. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Happy Birthday, J.R.R. Tolkien!

The HobbitHappy Birthday, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien!

Even before I played D&D, I was already ensconced in fantasy and science fiction. From a quite young age, two of my literary influences were Isaac Asimov and J.R.R. Tolkien (with whom I share a special day). I can't even begin to express the extent of how these books (and the many other works of fantasy they inspired) influenced my life.

When my friend brought the AD&D Player's Handbook over to my house and explained the premise (like playing Lord of the Rings!), you could not have gained a life long fan of the game any faster.

Gygax often down played the influence of Tolkien on D&D... However, many of us know that Ents and Hobbits had to be "removed" from the game for Intellectual Property reasons.

Tolkien's influence reached into many different places in pop culture. Not just fantasy, but science fiction and horror as well. It's tentacles probed into D&D and, by proxy, video games, and brought the quest trope back into popularity in modern fiction.

So, Happy Birthday, JRRT... and thank you!

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Other Owlbear musings