Rise of the Drow continued

RotD is a Sandbox

Rise of the Drow (RotD) is described as a “Sandbox”, not a “Scripted” Adventure. What this means to you as a player is that you will need to be creative to succeed. You are not on rails in this adventure. While there are plot elements provided, the overall story is yours to tell. There is not one single path from the start to the finish of the adventure. Instead, you are put into a world (sandbox) where several opportunities to do things are presented and you can choose how to proceed. Decisions early in the adventure will have consequences later in the adventure. There are some NPCs who are vitally important. You may never even meet them if your choices steer you in a different direction.

Also, like most Adventure-a-week adventures, the characters are woefully outmatched and outgunned by the enemy. Murder hobos will die quickly. While the threats are significant and your character(s) will most likely die if you’re not careful, the threats to the NPCs are urgent so if you don’t act fast, then important events might not unfold as they need to for your party to be successful overall.

For reference, Minecraft is the ultimate Sandbox, while World of Warcraft is a Scripted environment.

Character Creation

Alignment Reconsidered

Characters cannot be Chaotic Evil. Normally, I would say that characters cannot be Chaotic Evil. However, since we’re heading into the Underworld where evil things lurk, many of the Underworld Races are Chaotic Evil. Drow society, in particular, is highly functional, despite most of its denizens being Chaotic Evil. The trick is to figure out, “As a Chaotic Evil character, how can I balance coexisting with a party with being chaotic and evil.”

If you choose to play as Chaotic Evil, it is vital that you consider your character’s personal motivations and customized “code of ethics.” For example, one tenet might be not to kill people who either are or could be, useful to the character. This would include party members, certain NPCs, etc. While a chaotic evil character might have no compunction about killing an enemy and might have trust issues, even with friends, they are not likely to just murder on a whim. Chaotic Evil characters don’t have to be stupid, malevolent, quick-to-anger, spiteful, random, or murderous. Look at the evil characters in Harry Potter to see some of the diversity in Chaotic Evil characters. Bellatrix Lestrange is a typical loose cannon, Snape is cold, calculating, and patient, Peter Pettigrew is a snivelling coward, Lucious Malfoy is wealthy and selfish, Draco Malfoy is a bully, and Voldemort is power-hungry. They are all chaotic evil, and all have very different motivations.

Take the Ahooling, for example. A race of demonspawn, they are usually, if not always, Chaotic Evil. But what does that mean? They are all touched by the Blood Thirst, so they have to feed or suffer. Does that mean that they have to feed on the innocent? Perhaps they simply cast “Wine to Blood” and drink that instead of killing anyone. Or perhaps they only feed on the guilty and condemned. It would be incredibly short-sighted to feed on party members without explicit permission.

Re: Safety and the Evil Character

What if a player chooses to play a Chaotic Evil character and then starts doing things that the other players find objectionable, how should the other characters respond? How should the other players respond?

One mechanism is for the DM or another player to call a Pause. This is a tool for stopping the action so that the players (not the characters) can discuss their discomfort with the direction things are taking.

For example, if a character decides they don’t like the innkeeper and stabs her. Another player might say, “Pause for a minute. If your character kills the innkeeper, my character is going to have to defend the innkeeper and her family and we end up with a dysfunctional brawl between players, which is likely to spoil the game for all concerned.” A discussion on how to remedy the situation would then ensue.

Which gets us to Safety.

Safety Tools

“Safety tools are an easy way to ensure everyone around the table is having a good time. They’re not overbearing. They only take a little time to implement, and they put in place some powerful tools to make sure the players behind the characters are having a great time.” – Sly Flourish

For articles on Content, Consent, and Safety, check out these links:





I am a fan of Sly Flourish’s work. His set of Safety Tools is quite useful and I will use them in this adventure.

Before we begin playing a campaign where evil abounds, let’s discuss some of the potentially disturbing subject matter that may come up in the game. I strongly encourage you, my players, to download the Consent-in-Gaming Checklist, fill it in and return it to me. I will also have some available on-site. Only you know your limits. For example, I don’t have a problem with baby flies, but my wife does and would prefer not to have them in her games.

Here’s my checklist:

Lines and Veils

Lines (topics that should never come up at all), and veils (topics to be handled off-screen or in the abstract) will be mutually agreed upon before we start.

Pause for a second

Anyone (including you) can say “pause for a second” any time during the game to break character and discuss the current situation out of character, including stating “I’m not comfortable with where this is going”. The phrase “pause for a second” interrupts anything else going on in the game. It’s used to break character and discuss or ask questions about anything going on in-game. Think of this as a verbal X card.

Session 20 – How to Kill a Vampire

[Note from the DM: I was rather sick on Tuesday and spent the night in the hospital. My notes are at the office and I don’t recall what happened last week, other than destroying the vampire and drawing a few cards.]

After their most beneficial shopping trip, the party returned to the Cartophile’s shop and prepared to leave. It was then that they were informed that a vampire, safely sealed in a mechanical coffin, a modron, and Mary, a witch, were coming along to aid the party and serve the cartographer’s interests. Not too happy with the additions, the party nevertheless headed out.

That afternoon, the party was attacked by a gang of hangry ogres. After defeating the foul creatures, they resumed their journey.

Following in the rear of the expedition, Mary chatted amiably with Reyroris. Then she convinced him to draw a card from her mysterious deck. It was a boon, so he drew another. It was not. His soul is now imprisoned in a machine somewhere.

Somehow, Mary convinced Sytarii to draw two cards, both boons, from the deck as well, before Ganus caught on and attacked her.

A fight ensued between the two magic users, and Mary’s cat ran off… toward the mechanical coffin. As Ganus slew Mary’s clone, the cat turned back into Mary and managed to unlock the coffin before Ganus slew her properly. The vampire burst forth, angry at the world for being trapped in the coffin for so long, and angry at the party for slaying his girlfriend.

A protracted battle was fought as the party tried to keep the vampire from doing too much damage. Near death, it retreated to the coffin, where it recovered while the party tried to destroy the mechanical monstrosity.

With the coffin near failure, the vampire leaped forth and launched a final assault. The party split their attacks between the vampire and the coffin, finally destroying the coffin, which blew up spectacularly, then slaying the vampire for a final time.

And with its coffin destroyed, the vampire turned to dust, to never return.

Alas, our tale pauses here, to be continued next week.

Character XP XP So Far Level (To Advance) Treasure
2,592 30,616 7 (34,000) Wand of Magic Missiles (attuned)
‘Splashy’ the Water Weird and BackPack
Robe of Eyes
492 29,945 7 (34,000) Ruby Ring (250 gp)
+1 Longsword
Potion of Giant Strength
Weird Tank (Empty)
Potion of Water Breathing
Scimitar of Wounding
Sytarii 2,592 29,003 7 (34,000) +1 Dagger, “Reszur”
+2 Dagger, “Tinderstrike”
Wand of Winter
‘Bubbles’ the Water Weird and BackPack
Taban 0 24,960 7 (34,000) +1 Trident, “Drown”
Telfid 2,592 27,825 7 (34,000) Scroll of Lesser Restoration
Ring of Fire Resistance
Gauntlets of the Ogre
+2 Hammer
Aria 2,592 28,595 7 (34,000) Skyblinder Staff
Scroll of Goodberry
Noctavia 0 7,850 5 (14,000) N/A
Unassigned Treasure: 

Session 11 – Beneath the Keep

Our intrepid adventurers, after taking care of business in Womford*, headed upriver to Rivergard Keep where they headed down to the underground stream.  First, they lured the remaining ghouls to shore where they dispatched them with alacrity.

511414069_64266d328d_bPaddling a pair of skiffs upriver, they were soon attacked by a tentacle of water (a water weird) that nearly had poor Ganus. Aria managed to get a rope to him though and, though it was a struggle, the water weird was defeated before it could drown Ganus too much.

Which turned out to be a good thing, because Ganus turned out to be quite useful as the party entered the Temple of the Crushing Wave. snip_20181108060849 They were greeted by Eyon, a Dark Knight who promptly leaped astride her battle shark and, lance in hand, charged the skiffs while some Crushing Wave Reavers attacked from shore and a Fathomer turned into a giant water snake to try to crush 920x920and drown the party members.  This combat was short though, as Ganus told a really bad shark joke that Eyon found to be uproariously funny, nearly drowning as she fell from her shark’s back.  The shark picked her up though, only to be knocked unconscious itself by Ganus next spell.  This, unfortunately, turned out to drown the shark, and its mistress, in short order.  Overall, the combat was short as this party knows very well how to deal with Water Cultists.

The Reavers and Priest of the Crushing Wave in their next encounter met a similar fate in just as short a span.

As they continued to explore the temple, they passed several empty chambers and grew a little overconfident.  At the next room, Telfid peered in through a small window in a metal plate on the stone door and received a crossbow bolt in his face as payment for his nosiness.  After that, the party proceeded with a little more caution.  The foes in this room turned out to be a bit of a challenge too as they included a One-Eyed Shivershiver that had duplicated itself 3 times, some Reavers, and another Knight.  Casting Spike Growth and Flaming Sphere into the room had the desired effect of making the enemies targets for the party’s ranged attacks, while the Knight came around the back way and ended up facing off against the more melee inclined party members.  While the Reavers were easy pickings, the Shiver was a little harder to take down, and the Knight was actually a challenge.  But the party emerged victorious.

Continuing north through a hallway that took them, unwittingly, into the Temple of Black Earth where their first encounter was with a grumpy Ettin.  snip_20181108060805The Ettin turned out to be a bit of a challenge, mostly due to its incredible stamina.  However, it was soon defeated.

Their next encounter brought them face to face with a trio of Earth Cultists and a Stonemelder in a torture chamber.   Due to their ineptitude, the cultists died without lifting a finger.  The Stonemelder wielded some powerful spells, to no avail, as it was taken down as well.  After dispatching their foes, the party was able to address the torture victims and captives:

  • Orna, a female human Black Earth Guard who dared to strike a Black Earth priest a few days ago.  Orna has a big mouth and an even bigger attitude.  636372268847213024She is very angry at her cult.
  • Droth, a male human. He is virtually catatonic.
  • Wulgreda, a hapless female dwarf who was captured while prospecting in the hills near the Sacred Stone Monastery. She warned the party that Orna is a Black Earth guard.
  • Gervor, a male half-elf noble who is all that is left of an adventuring company ambushed by the cult a month ago in the Sumber Hills. He is badly injured and near death.

In a large chest in the chamber, there was some treasure, Orna’s plate armor, Gervor’s studded-leather armor, and a Wand of Winter.

Alas, our tale pauses here, to be continued next week.

* The business in Womford now has a contract with the Bargewright Inn to make trips upriver for supplies.  This grosses 200gp per 5 days.  Which covers the current cost of the upkeep of the Flying Hippogriff and its crew, and the guards in Riverguard Keep, with some 80gp remaining.

Character XP / XP So Far Level /
To Advance
1371 / 7758 5 (14000) Wand of Magic Missiles (attuned)
Scroll of Haste
Scroll of Wall of Water
Scroll of Skywrite
1371 / 9187 5 (14000) 250 GP gold ruby ring
Sytarii 1371 / 8370 5 (14000) +1 Dagger, “Reszur”
Potion of Diminution
Taban 1371 / 6501 5 (14000) N/A
Telfid 1371 / 8667 5 (14000) Scroll of Lesser Restoration
Keeley 0 / 6501 5 (14000) N/A
Aria 1371 / 6501 5 (14000) N/A
Noctavia 0 / 6110 4 (6500) N/A
Nastane 0 / 3942 4 (6500) N/A
Nala 0 / 4942 4 (6500) N/A
Unassigned Treasure:  Wand of Winter


Factions and Allegiances

Now that your character has demonstrated their worth as an adventurer and ally, you are approached by a representative of the faction you wish to join.  You choose the faction, and you choose to join, or not to join.  There are five Factions in the north, described below.

The Harpers

A scattered network of spellcasters and spies, the Harpers advocate equality and covertly oppose the abuse of power, magical or otherwise. Agents operate in secret and emphasize stealth and subtlety, or at the very least discretion. Bards and wizards are their most prominent members.

Harpers operate in small cells throughout the North.

The Order of the Gauntlet

This faction is primarily a military organization made up of paladins, clerics, and monks. Members of the order are faithful and vigilant seekers of justice who protect others from the depredations of evildoers. They exact swift retribution against those who violate the law.

Atop a high crest in the Sumber Hills stands Summit Hall, home to the Knights of Samular. This venerable order of paladins of Tyr strives to promote justice in the savage North.

The Emerald Enclave

This widespread group of wilderness survivalists preserves the natural order while rooting out unnatural threats. Many of the Enclave’s members are barbarians, druids, and rangers. Some wander the untamed lands while others make their homes on the outskirts of towns and villages, where they help to protect travelers from the dangers of the wild.

The Lords’ Alliance

The Lords’ Alliance is a shaky compact of aggressive political powers concerned with mutual security and prosperity. Fighters and sorcerers are prevalent among alliance agents, and they are often glory hounds seeking personal recognition. Most agents are lawful or neutral; in the courtly circles of the lords, those who don’t follow the rules seldom last long.

Trade along rivers and roads links the cities of the Lords’ Alliance, so its operatives eliminate threats to that trade as soon as they appear.

The Zhentarim

This shadow network seeks to expand its influence and power base throughout Faerûn. Its members coerce, persuade, or buy their way into every major area of influence. Rogues and warlocks fill the Zhentarim’s ranks, but the faction recruits any who can conduct its business without too many moral reservations.

Zhentarim operatives might be found in any settlement.

Minor Factions

There are several minor factions operating in the Sumber Hills.  While not being members of these factions, it is likely that some or all of the party has heard of at least these two:

The Knights of Samular

This order of paladins dedicated to Tyr has pursued justice across the North for over five hundred years. Its founder, Samular Caradoon, built Summit Hall in the Sumber Hills as a training monastery for the order. Young men and women across the North travel to Summit Hall so that they might learn from its aging heroes.

Elves of the High Forest

The High Forest once sheltered three great elven realms beneath its boughs. Many tribes of wood elves — and a few moon elves — still protect the ruined monuments to their golden age. Few beyond the borders of the High Forest know much about these elves; they have no single leader and make little contact with the outside world.

The wood elf Morgwais, known as the Red Lady or the Lady of the Wood, seeks to unite the disparate tribes through the Caerilcarn (“Council of the Wood”). Her aim is to resurrect the ancient kingdom of Eaerlann, and she has made steps in that direction by allying various elven settlements. As yet, though, only a few elves believe in her vision, and they are spread far apart over the eastern reaches of the forest.

It’s Been a While Hasn’t it?

It’s August, 2018.  It’s been a while since I posted here.  Now, I have a new house.  And, it has a game room.

Stephanie and Sam wrangled my gaming table upstairs and I put an invite out on meetup.  Eight people showed up.  Woohoo!

We spent the evening creating characters and setting up the environment, then we played a few simple interactions and a battle.  It was loads of fun and I look forward to doing it again soon.  (Weekly, in fact.)

MACE 2014 a big success!

MACE 2014 was a big success!  I survived DM’ing 6 sessions of 5 different modules.  Loads of fun.  I passed out surveys at each of my sessions and the overwhelming conclusion was that most players want to play with miniatures for combat.  I definitely had 2 (of all the combats played this long weekend) that would have benefited from having the minis all over the table.  One had 28 combatants.  That was a stretch for the theatre of the mind.

Ran the first episode of The Lost Mines of Phandelver, DDEX1-1 Defiance in Phlan, DDEX-3 Shadows over the Moonsea, DDEX-4 Dues for the Dead, and DDEX1-5 The Courting of Fire (twice).

I’m looking forward to Scarab and MACE West in the new year.

The Story So Far – 2011-11-30

Player Character Role Class Race
Lofton Lorian Controller Wizard Eladrin
Jason Reef Striker Rogue Changeling
Sabin Xaelin Striker Sorcerer Dragonborn
Pete Orin Tank/




Mul (half-dwarf)
Michael Kriv Tank Paladin Dragonborn
Perrin Alphazar Striker Vampire Revenant
Jason Berrian Controller Mage Genasi
Brett Phalanx Leader Warlord Dragonborn
Lance Garo Tank Swordmage Genasi


After looting the village, the party headed back to the dragon’s lair.  They were jumped by a squad of Fen Spies, but having tangled with their ilk before, the spies were quickly dispatched.

Then they had to fight their way into the den after an arduous swim.  6 Mire scouts and 3 Bog walkers pounced on the adventurers as soon as they surfaces.   The water ran red with the Lizardfolk blood.

On emerging from the lagoon, the party was faced with three passages, each guarded by a pair of Dreadtails.  Rather than fight their way through these guys, the party intimidated and negotiated with the Dreadtails.  After much deliberation, the Dreadtails dove into the lagoon and left the cave.

Exploring the rightmost passage, they came upon a Dreadnought delivering dinner to the charnel pit that served as the dragon’s dining room.

The Dreadnought was also intimidated into leaving peacefully.

Now the party is back at the entry hall.  We shall see what happens next week.





All: 530 ea.

Orin is 6th Level!

The Story So Far – 2011-11-02

Player Character Role Class Race
Lofton Lorian Controller Wizard Eladrin
Jason Reef Striker Rogue Changeling
Sabin Xaelin Striker Sorcerer Dragonborn
Pete Orin Tank/




Mul (half-dwarf)
Michael Kriv Tank Paladin Dragonborn
Perrin Alphazar Striker Vampire Revenant
Jason Berrian Controller Mage Genasi
Brett Phalanx Leader Warlord Dragonborn
Lance Garo Tank Swordmage Genasi

The next day, as the sun rose and the mists formed in the swamps surrounding the hermitage, the Lizardfolk attacked, led by two massive Dreadnoughts.  The brave companions, safe Reef and Garo, struggled at first as few strikes hit home, but as the battled raged, the hits started coming faster and harder and at the last, the party was able to exterminate the vermin.

Reef and Garo had taken ill with the Swamp Fever that left them catatonic for a time.  Ofeen saw to them first and then came to help the adventurers in the battle.



250gp total


All: 432 ea.