D&D General How Was Your Last Session?


Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
In one group we've been playing Strahd and following up on some stuff and I think the DM got tired of running it. He had given us new clues that took us towards the Amber Temple (we didn't even know if it) a previous session, then we had a big delay in the summer with vacations, and then the DM strongly hinted to abandon it and go attack Strahd's castle and mad eit possible (free teleport into it, instant way to contact our allies to attack).

This was the second session of the castle, out of the three he suggested it would take, and while he's not railroading, he's just handwaving combats and having us automatically notice secret doors and everything so it can move faster. Oh, at the end of both sessions in the castle he leveled us to get us ready to meet Strahd, a much faster rate then up until now.

We had one satisfying encounter with an early party member who left alone to meet with Strahd when we turned down his black carriage and invitation, whom had turned into a vampire, but everything else it feels like we're makign calls which way to turn on the map (he purchased it on Roll20) but the rest of the exploration and combats are on easy mode to just get it out of the way.

He's normally a very entertaining DM, I don't rate him by this at all. And he is getting us to some of the most interesting places in the castle to show them off which may be his goal. But it really feels like he's either burned out running or just wants to go back to be a player and just speed-running (and speed-levelling) us through the castle.

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Moderator Emeritus
Here is a video showing the set-up for the final encounter I discussed in my last post. I actually made this video months ago when I was still designing this - so something minor things are missing (like the braziers that are supposed to be in front of the columns).


3rd session of my Night's Black Agents campaign. The agents were infiltrating the real-life Citadel of Aleppo, which had become a field hospital for a Doctors Without Borders analog...yet was under the protection of Russian troops. Syrian militia members had captured the agents handler and taken her into the Citadel...then deeper into a quarantine zone purportedly used to isolate cases of leprosy. Something strange was going on.

Most of the session involved the agents navigating the Citadel, hacking the Russian computer network, using a huge spend of Preparedness to find a hidden weapons cache so they could re-arm, and just generally gathering intel. Then they spent Architecture to find a hidden way into the quarantine zone.

There, they discovered over a dozen sedated individuals strapped to gurneys. Including their handler. They were attended by a pair of well-built orderlies and a French doctor from not-Doctors Without Borders. The team medic knew he was a world-renowned specialist in blood diseases. So what's he doing in a leprosy ward? He seemed to be guarded by a pair of Russian soldiers. Also present was the Butcher of Aleppo, a local warlord the agents had been tasked with capturing.

The agents ambushed the group, cutting them down quickly, but spending most of the points in their Shooting pools. Once it became clear that defeat was inevitable, the Russians turned their guns on the French doctor. Hmmm...looks like they had something to hide.

The medic went over to check out the body of the Butcher -- and found out the hard way that the Butcher had come back to life. The agents don't have the lingo for it yet, but he's a Renfield. The Butcher tried to rip out the medic's throat. Fortunately, the Butcher was outnumbered and outgunned by the other agents, and this time he sustained more damage than his regeneration could overcome.

As the session concluded, a transport helicopter landed next to the quarantine zone. The doors opened. And Spetsnaz special forces troops disembarked to pick up the sedated patients.

Next session: This time there's a vampire. For real. I promise.
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4th session of my Night's Black Agents campaign. This was the climax of the introduction, which was meant to explain how the agents became disavowed superspy vampire hunters. After three sessions of nonstop action, the 5 agents were pretty beat up. I gave them all a refresh of one pool plus some XP to help top up their skills.

The agents had recovered their CIA handler from a Russian/Syrian stronghold in Aleppo. Along with about 20 other individuals, she'd been sedated and strapped to a gurney for transport on a military helicopter back to Russia. Exactly why, no one knew.

The session started with the helicopter landing next to the stronghold/field hospital. The ramp dropped. Two Spetsnaz special forces troops emerged, led by a hulking figure that was clearly bad news. Mechanically, he was a dhampir. All of them wore hazmat suits.

The agents tried to bluff their way past the Russians into the helicopter. Their goal was to get on the helicopter, jack it, and fly off. Things didn't go as planned. They'd been in a firefight earlier, their own hazmat suits were peppered with bullet holes, and the ruse lasted about two seconds.

The dhampir grabbed the agent trying to bluff him by the collar and threw him thirty feet straight up into the helicopter blades. This was when the jaws hit the floor. The player of the agent who went into the chopper blades is also a DM, and he was delighted to be the example used to set the stakes. Which is fortunate because he spent the next 90 minutes with nothing to do.

The agents lacked a coordinated plan. Some ran into the helicopter. Others tried to fight the dhampir. The dhampir regenerated half its health every turn, so without focused fire it was impossible to bring down. Mostly they just got shot up by the Spetsnaz soldiers without returning fire. It was a fiasco.

The hacker got close enough to the dhampir to get drained. Twice. Yet somehow he managed to grab the agent who went into the chopper blades and drag him aboard the helicopter. The explosives expert had killed the pilot and grabbed the stick. So they took off.

It was a narrow escape. Three of the five agents were at negative health. To my surprise, none died. I was confident that I'd kill at least one, for the most of the session I thought I'd kill two, and at times I believed it might be a TPK.

The players had a lot of fun. They like how scary the vampires are. We're all looking forward to playing more NBA.

At session's end I asked them which lead they wanted to pursue. They unanimously voted to go to Vienna, where they can intercept the founder of the Spetsnaz bioweapons cadre they'd just escaped from. This will be a tweaked version of Out of the House of Ashes, which is a pretty cool published adventure from The Zalozhniy Quartet.
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We went through another session with two shorter adventures in my "Dreams of Erthe" campaign, in which the PCs are all now 4th level.

In the first adventure ("Forest Dreams") they were on their way through a forest to the next dream coma victim when they found a dire wolf eating a deer carcass while next to him lay a gnome-sized guy covered in sticks and leaves. While dealing with the dire wolf, they started taking damage from unseen enemies hurling flaming javelins from the trees above, which turned out to be a group of tree goblins. (Most goblins in this campaign were wiped out centuries ago, with those surviving becoming servants to important humans. This is a band of goblins secretly living an arboreal existence and in fear of being discovered, lest the humans wipe them out like they did most of their ancestors.) They killed off the tree goblin ambushers (who had attacked mainly to burn the corpse of the tree goblin hunter the dire wolf had slain along with the deer), then went to try to find the dream coma victim - who ended up being a dryad trapped inside her oak tree. With the help of another dryad, they entered the sleeping dryad's dream and rescued her just before a bigger group of tree goblins arrived on the scene, desperate to kill the party before news of their existence could spread. The PCs killed them off as well.

In the second adventure ("Down Among the Dead Men"), the PCs entered a tomb to fetch a large dreamstone said to be stored inside. A crypt thing teleported two of the PCs elsewhere in the tomb, where they ended up fighting off a lesser grave medusa (imagine a skeletal medusa with earthworms instead of snakes for hair, who has a three-round petrification gaze) by themselves while the other three fought and destroyed the crypt thing. They ended taking on an animated skeleton, carrion crawler, gelatinous cube, and gargoyle before finding the dreamstone they were after. The fighter/wizard got petrified, but fortunately one of the clerics was right there with him and had just enough stone salve (thanks to the grateful dryad from the previous adventure) to return him to life.

They'll be spending the next four adventures in a large city, where they'll get to spend some of the money they've been gathering and try to awaken several other trapped dreamers.


Musing Mage

Pondering D&D stuff
1e Continues...

The team had spent a few weeks training, where everyone made level 2, and one made level 3.

Royal proclamation indicated that the area where they'd buried the 750lbs of electrum was now off limits until further notice, and despite the Chaotics in the group insisting that they could be in and out before any patrols caught them, the lawfuls on the team insisted that no, they could wait, it was safely hidden.

One of the two Kensai had finished her level training for level 2, and a % roll was made to see if she faced a level challenge, a 17 on the dice said yes. She duelled and was defeated, so back to the beginning of level 1 for her.

The group ponders their next step, and are delivered a treasure map that was a part of a payment for a magic item they had previously sold. The trip is a 5 day journey to the location indicated on the map, but they have no other information. The trip is easy enough, but they soon find that X doesn't necessarily mark the spot as they spend the next several days searching the area for a possible burial site of hidden treasure... all while ignoring the coded text on the map which is the clue to the location. After finally putting their minds to it and cracking the code the team finds a path to another marker with another clue. The session ended with them deciphering the 2nd clue and pondering its meaning... so close, yet so far away.

Miscellaneous happenings:
  • The Ranger/Cleric is teetering closer and closer to losing ranger status by ignoring the plight of farmers being raided by humanoids in order to go treasure hunting. Vivid nightmares are the first warning, also ignored.
  • The defeated Kensai reduced back to level 1 was 'avenged' by her fellow PC Kensai who promptly challenged the level 2 Kensai to a duel. Non-lethal subdual rules were followed, as all of these characters are on friendly, respectful terms. Our level 1 Kensai defeated the NPC Kensai with some epic rolls.
  • A pack of wolves that could potentially have spelled a TPK for the group was fortunately spooked away by a morale failure when fire was introduced into the situation.

Session 0 of my next D&D campaign. Well, technically, it's not D&D. It's Shadow of the Demon Lord. But to me SotDL feels more like learning a new edition of D&D than an entirely new system.

I'm playing with my core group, which finished a 1-20 5E campaign earlier this year. Since then we've played a series of short arcs in a variety of systems -- Star Wars d6, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, Night's Black Agents. But we've started to get the itch to get back to D&D. So here we are.

The adventure I'll be running is The Banewarrens. Banewarrens was written for 3E and covers levels 6-10. It was originally published in the 2000s by Monte Cook. It was the first published introduction of the Ptolus setting. I'll be altering it to cover SotDL's level 0 through 10.

The Banewarrens is about an expedition into an ancient underground vault stocked with evil magic and artifacts. 3E had some mechanics built around alignment that created consequences for player characters interacting with these evil artifacts. 5E lacks any similar mechanical support. Fortunately, SotDL has mechanics for Corruption that will make the danger represented by the artifacts more than apparent. That's part of the reason I selected SotDL over 5E -- that and SotDL just looks like a cool system to take for a spin.

I chose Banewarrens for a variety of reasons. First, one of my players backed the 5E reprint of Ptolus. I own the 3E version. This gives us an excuse to crack these beautiful, epic tomes. Second, when I first read Banewarrens 15 years ago it blew my mind. The amazing high concept, combining urban investigation and dungeon crawl, along with site- and event-based encounters -- all add up to a focused but non-linear campaign. It's become the template that I've internalized for my own adventure and campaign creation. I've wanted to run it for a long, long time. Third, after spending over three years running a 1-20 campaign, I want a shorter campaign that's still complete and satisfying.

The setting will be a mashup of Ptolus and the default setting from SotDL. There's a lot of overlap between the two -- both have analogs to the Catholic church, a grand empire on the cusp of anarchy, firearms, devils loose in the world, etc. However, the world surrounding the city of Ptolus is vaguely defined and mostly uninteresting. In contrast, the default setting for SotDL is interesting and flavorful -- but it lacks a singular location that embodies the essence of the game. Looking at both of them, I realized I had chocolate and peanut butter. Putting them together is easy.

At Level 0, SotDL player characters do not have a class, only an ancestry. Mechanically, they are extremely simple. But the random tables provide a ton of inspiration and really ground the characters in the setting. They're great for DMs and PCs alike.

Some of the players already have a really clear idea of their character -- for others it's still a work in progress. For purposes of this description I'm including the class/paths the players intend their characters to take at Level 1. Here's what we've got so far:

  • Human priest and gravedigger. His wife was murdered by raiders stealing the tithe from his church. Now he wants revenge. His trinket is a locket with his wife's likeness. This player has his character already planned up through Level 10.
  • Dwarf warrior. Heir to a lost kingdom -- in this case, Dwarvenhearth, deep beneath Ptolus. His trinket is half of a treasure map. This player always goes for support characters, so I'm intrigued to see him play a warrior.
  • Magician. Either an elf or a halfling. Further details to be confirmed. This player is a natural leader and often ends up as the party face. He played a paladin in our 5E campaign so it'll be fun for him to take on a wizard.
  • Goblin. His background states he's responsible for the destruction of this tribe. This player is leaning toward some sort of rogue, but he played an arcane trickster in our 5E campaign, so he's reluctant to trod the same path again. He likes to play social outcasts taking on the rich and powerful.
  • Changeling. Right now, that's all we got. This player is almost always the brooding loner. So he's off to a great start.

This is a great mix of characters well-suited for this adventure. I'm excited for Session 1!
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In the most recent session I ran, the (Hasted) monk ran down a tunnel to scout it out at the behest of the party sorcerer. I mentioned there was a pile of treasure in the chamber at the end, but three very large openings in the ceiling. He approached the treasure anyway and got ambushed by a behir that dropped directly in front of him, triggering a surprise round that allowed the behir to bite and constrict the monk. The behir also rolled higher in initiative, but missed with the bite attack to try and swallow the monk, who fortunately was able to escape the grapple, attack once to trigger his Mobile feat to avoid an opportunity attack, and ran for his life.



I ran a one-shot today for 6 complete strangers online, and it was a whole lot of fun. Great character concepts, players dove right into it, some twists and turns, and an ending with some surprises that helped bring the character stories full circle. I could have provided a bit more direction to get them out of the tavern faster, but overall it was a real success. Definitely building my "one-shot muscle" and I'm excited to run another one around the winter holiday.


Non-existent unfortunately. I should be playing right now but one of my players got stuck having to work really early tomorrow and had to bail. This is the third week in a row where someone had something come up that caused us to cancel. With most games I'll still run the game if we are down just one player but in the current campaign it would be a pain to do.

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
Awesome fun. My level 8 Berserker Barbarian grappled an Aboleth and dragged it out of the water onto dry land. The Aboleth tried to mind control me and...IMMUNE! My barbaric yawp echoed from the grotto walls.

I currently have one level of exhaustion and totally worth it. What a fun subclass.

Since the cultists ditched us on the wagon train, when we got to Waterdeep, we were at a natural crossroads. The group decided to turn Trollkeep Manor back into an inn again (our reward from Leosin) and then retire.

I need to look at the list of best campaigns that this site has generated (assuming I can find it). We'll also be at Barnes & Noble tomorrow, so we might see something there that intrigues everybody.

We only made it into Tier 2. :(


Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
We fought Strahd. The descriptions were cool. The DM did a good job of giving each of us spotlight time. We won.

But he also had leveled us to 10, gave us two sunswords (one 1H, one 2H) for our two front-liners, a pair of holy-spike chucking hand crossbows for the rogue, we had the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind and our whip wielder had a custom anti-undead whip. And we had a friend from a previous campaign who dropped in for the last couple of sessions and his character was a 15th level barbarian with the Sword of Avernus. And this was the definitively the last session, which meant that Strahd retreating was off the table.

There was no tension.

We had two people go down, and one was because they were charmed and we took them out ourselves. The other was our cleric whom I dumped 50 poitns of lay-on-hands into and then he stood up and healed us all. We put out ridiculous amounts of damage, much of it radiant. First round our cleric of Pelor paralyzed a bunch of Strahd clones with the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind. And we just went to town.

The DM is normally fantastic, but you could tell he was tired of running and these last three sessions in Castle Ravenloft itself you could tell he just wanted to end it. Didn't help that we lost most of the summer to various people on vacation so it dragged longer.

He gave us an epic fight ending where we each were important and got to really show off what we did, which would have been a triumphant end of a one-shot, but for this many months of building up Strahd to defeat him so easily kind of let down the premise of the campaign.

28th session of my Neverwinter campaign. 6th level half-orc vengeance paladin. 5th level drow evoker wizard. 5th level genie warlock.

In the previous session the players were on a boat on the Neverwinter River that got attacked by a kraken. The boat was destroyed. The wizard was carried off by the kraken. (None of this was part of my plan; it all occurred thanks to the dice.)

This session started with the wizard waking to discover that he was a captive in a strange, ovular room. He was held fast by a horrific creature -- a gibbering mouther, in fact. A nothic and a mind flayer asked him the same question over and over again: "Who else knows about the elder brain?" But the wizard himself didn't even know about the elder brain.

Meanwhile, the paladin and warlock pulled themselves from the wreckage and waded ashore. Using a local contact, they discovered the kraken was a legendary monster that menaced regional shipping. It resided in a lighthouse miles offshore called the Queen's Beacon or the Lady's Light. (I'm using a Pathfinder dungeon as visual inspiration for this adventure.)

After some discussion, the paladin and warlock decided they wanted to approach the lighthouse by air rather than by sea. I gave them the choice of trying to hire, persuade, or steal a ride from a griffon courier service, wyverns trained by dragonborn, or an airship invented by an unpredictable gnome. They chose the gnome. (This was all figured out on the fly.) I hammed up the gnome, Ichabod Zord, as a vain-but-insecure inventor convinced of his own genius. The players took to him immediately.

In the dead of night, they flew the airship to the lighthouse. A pair of miniature beholders called spectators guarded the aerial approach. There was a fierce battle that paralyzed the paladin. But ultimately the players prevailed.

Next session: Into the lighthouse!
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So we were in the city of Revin, a place where we had been attacked by assassins the last time we were there. As we half expected, we were attacked as we walked through the streets. But after we killed one of them and were pretty close to taking down a few of the others, the leader (a disguised drow) teleported away and the others surrendered. They had no idea they had been hired by a drow and had been told lies about how we were vicious killers. And they weren't really assassins, just a neutral band of adventurers. So we let them live and moved on.

Eventually, we found the drow, his sister, and a chained mind flayer trying to activate the artifact we had depowered and were to take out of commission altogether. The mind flayer cast suggestion on my lizardfolk barbarian/fighter and told me to go take my aggression on the drow. The trouble was, our gnome cleric had cast spells to make himself look like a drow so he could try to bluff his way into getting close to our enemies. So once the drow siblings had been slain, I went after the disguised gnome thinking he was a drow. He could tell I was about to attack him but instead of canceling his magic disguise he decided it would be funnier to cast a mislead spell, turning himself invisible and leaving an illusion of his "drow" self in his place. My PC wore himself out attacking this illusory drow, hitting it again and again but never seeming to be able to kill it. Once they tired of that game, the dwarven barbarian lent his hat of disguise to the dwarven fighter who has a warhammer that allows him to earth glide through solid stone, and he used the magic hat to make himself look like a drow, who then kept ducking down below the ground and popping up again several feet away, while I tried clobbering him with my battleaxe. It was the D&D version of Leonard Hofstadter trying to catch Sheldon Cooper in a McDonald's kiddie ball pit while he kept popping up, saying "Bazinga!" and then popping back down again. My poor lizardfolk wore himself out chasing after the little bugger - but I'll bet he sleeps well tonight after all that exercise!


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