Dungeons and Dragons: The Opposite of Fire two session catch up bonanza

It’s been [counts] many much time since I wrote about D&D. March. This year. So not a year yet. Some many much weeks. Multiple months. 5 months. Not even half a year. No time at all. Virtually yesterday, or so it seems.
What’s the rush?
Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.

Since I last wrote about The Opposite of Fire, we’ve had two whole sessions. They were great fun. You should have been there. Brilliant. Wondrous.

I think we left the last session with two separate groups of Cormyrian War Wizards teleporting into the ruins of Sember, as hordes of Kobolds poured out to surround our ‘heroes’.

I set up a fairly exciting* battle map using my trusty old Pathfinder dry wipe grid, some wooden building blocks, dry erase pens, a cut out grid map of a boat and some miscellaneous bits of scenery, hopefully depicting the lake shore, and the remains of a pathway leading into a ruined temple, with scattered remains of monuments and statues, shallow pools formed in the foundations of toppled monoliths, and a jetty built from the remains of a toppled monolith.


Plenty of cover, plenty of height advantages, mixed terrain, lines of sight, and goals.
You may note two groups of three figures on the map. These are the War Wizards teleported in towards the end of the previous session. The group closest to the center, in the path of pillars leading to the temple, are the Wizards summoned when Jov (the Rogue) interfered with a magic ring he found in a pot of water suspended above a shrine. The second group, off to the side, are the group summoned when he activated Marlowe’s ring (which he stole in the previous session).
Whilst they are both Cormyrian War Wizards, the two groups have conflicting orders – The first group are responding to a standard distress call from Colonel Karlsson, and may also want to drag him in for being AWOL; the second group are Black Ops and are responding to a summon from Marlowe’s ring. They are fully aware of Marlowe’s mission to gank Karlsson.


With all the Kobolds attacking, the players had a reasonable expectation that the heavily armed NPC wizards would make everything better again with some fireball driven deus ex machina.
Instead the Wizards spotted each other, and quickly secured a small section of the battlefield before debriefing each other and then debating union rules.
Who has authority? What are your orders? I am not at liberty to discuss my orders. What is your security clearance? Who is your CO? etc etc etc
Leaving the rest of the juicy battle to the players.

Because I’d had so much fun with the Kobold Inventor the previous session, I threw another one in, as well as a selection of Kobold Dragonshields, Kobold Sorcerers, Winged Kobolds, and regular Kobolds. The regular Kobolds died fairly quickly, as did the Winged Kobolds. The Sorcerers lasted a little longer, but were kind of boring. The Dragonshield put up a good fight against our Fighter, Regina of Fairfield, before falling.
But the real star of the show was the Kobold Inventor, who used cover to his advantage, and threw a sack of wasps at the party (they jokingly guessed ‘bees’, then howled in delight and horror when it was revealed to be wasps instead). When he finally died, a lone skunk escaped from the wreckage and ran off into the woods to great rejoicing from the party.
We also noted how fucking hard Tomgrir the Dwarven Cleric of the Forge is. Ant, his player, rolled really really well at character creation, so he’s rocking Str 19, Wis 20, Stm 18, stuff like that. With his warhammer and his +1 enchantment from the Forge, he’s dishing out more damage in hand to hand melee than the Fighter, is much harder to hit, has significantly more HP, and is more likely to hit as well. He’s a literal tank, with healing.
I will be upping the CR of any encounters he takes part in.


After the battle, the players interacted with the War Wizards, who were primarily interested in:

  • Where is Colonel Karlsson?
  • Where is Captain Marlowe?
  • What happened to the crew of the Cerberus?
  • Who are you people and what are you doing in a war zone?

The War Wizards then spent some time trying to comprehend the answers they were being given…
“You’re transporting a corpse, through a war zone, down a river that stops about halfway to your destination, at a nearly impassable mountain range, and you just happened to hitch a ride with one of Cormyr’s best assassins, and you think this is plausible?”

By this time people had started asking about Marlowe, and where he was. The party last saw him trapped in a bamboo cage hung from the ruins’ ceiling, and were quite happy to leave him there.
Marlowe is no longer in the cage.
After a search, he is found, emerging from Karlsson’s quarters, machete in hand, in a state of visible shock.


Marlowe, being iconic and batshit insane

The assembled War Wizards, primarily of the second contingent, surround Marlowe and take him into custody.
The party rush into Karlsson’s quarters to survey the damage, and find him dead on the floor. Their reaction: investigate (loot) Karlsson’s quarters.

The Horror

Karlsson, being dead, yet still maddeningly inspirational

I roll on the loot table, and roll well. They get 4 Art Objects, each worth 50gp, and some magic snacky items: A Dagger or Warning, an Amulet of Proof Against Detection, and a Cloak of Protection.
Somehow the party democratically decide that Jov is the most appropriate person to have the Dagger and Amulet, and Dio gets the Cloak (because he’s basically topless, and it stacks with his Dragon Scale AC).


I am always gladdened by the fact that Giant Goat’s exist in D&D

We ended the session with the Party, Greynora, Matrice and the late Devon Harding catching a lift back to Cormyr with the first group of War Wizards.

For the next session, I took a different planning approach – I plotted out the session in a Google Doc, printed it out, and ran it from that.

Here’s the intended session. I’ve added notes in bold italics on how it actually played out.
It is worth noting that Jov’s player, Ken, couldn’t make it this session, so Jov snuck off into the city at the earliest possible opportunity. I intend to run Ken through the Downtime activities section in Xanathar’s Guide, specifically the Crime ones, next session.

Structure: Roleplay / Backstory / Plot foreshadowing > Funeral > Roleplay > Undead > Roleplay This bit makes no sense, yet seems like it should…

Party are assigned a member of the War Wizards, an overly enthusiastic 13yo apprentice wizard called Edgar Tenser (I didn’t want to be a Wizard, I wanted to be a Bard, but it’s the family business, and after Great Grandpapa invented the Disc…), to supervise and guide them whilst enjoying military hospitality. Edgar will be a doomed love interest for a recurring NPC**

I also need to introduce the current Queen, Raedra Obarskyr, and the possibility of plots against her. I did this somehow, yet cannot quite remember how…

Debrief: There’s some confusion as to who the party are and who they work for. Some assume that they were with Marlowe, others that they were with Karlsson, others that they are agents of the opposing faction of War Wizards. The explanation that they were trying to transport a body to Suzail is met with blank incomprehension.

There is also confusion as to what Dio and Tomgrir are doing. Are they deserters? Are they permanently assigned to the Harding party? Are the Hardings part of the Purple Dragon Knights?

Party are given basic quarters in a keep on the East wall of Suzail, although they are expected to find their own lodgings in short order. This presents a challenge, as the Hardings are effectively broke.

They are assigned a Liason – Edgar Tenser, an apprentice Wizard. Edgar is training to be a War Wizard, but at the moment is running errands and escorting possibly dangerous dissidents. Gosh. Edgar’s portrayal went from ‘Angus McDonald‘ to ‘frustrated adult surrogate’ within the first interaction. 

Shopping opportunity! Sell the art objects they looted from Karlsson’s quarters, and buy some cool shit…

Matrice has three objectives now that they’re in Suzail

  1. Inter Devon Harding in the Obarskyr Mausoleum (situated within the Grand Necropolis, outside Suzail), with some pomp and circumstance
  2. Arrange a suitable suitor for Greynora
  3. Arrange a suitable suitor for herself

Matrice employs Dio and Tomgrir to assist in Goal 1, and Regina and Vash to assist in Goals 2 and 3.

Dio & Tomgrir are asked to speak to the High Priest of the Necropolis and arrange the funeral: The High Priest, Talling Lowspire, is sympathetic, but it cannot be done. The Necropolis is still being rebuilt after suffering extensive damage during the war, and his schedule is absolutely chock full. His deputy, Franklin, is busy overseeing the restoration of the catacombs. After some persuasion, he acquisces to releasing a trainee Acolyte, Gallows, to conduct the ceremony. “After all, Lord Harding was hardly Royalty…”

Regina and Vash are asked to deliver letters to noble households across Suzail: They need to register as Adventurers to carry weapons and armour through Cormyr. They will be challenged by guard patrols and must produce documentation or face fine and/or arrest. Adventurers must apply for registration at the Royal bureaucracy.
The letters being delivered are letters of introduction, announcing Greynora and Matrice’s presence, eligibility and availability within Suzail.

So what actually went down? Reggie and Vash, both being blue-blooded nobles, instantly assumed that they had the right to carry weapons in Suzail, irregardless of the Adventurers Licence requirements. Guards tried to stop them. They blinked in incomprehension at these outlandish requirements. “But we’re Nobility – surely these ‘rules’ do not apply to us?” Edgar had to guarantee their passage and take responsibility for them before they were arrested, and thrown out of the city. No one challenged Dio and Tomgrir, because they’re obviously members of the Purple Dragon Knights, therefore legit. This aggrieved Reggie and Vash even more. 

The Funeral: a simple ceremony. No eulogies are read. Matrice lays a simple red rose on Devon’s coffin as it is sealed in the tomb. Greynora cries.

Reggie did deliver a eulogy, because she felt that it was the right thing to do. It wasn’t very good (Gemma rolled poorly on the Performance check), which was in fact perfect. 

As they walk out of the mausoleum, Matrice tells Greynora “Good news. Salor Bleth has invited us to dine with him and his son, Jasper, at the end week. They are both highly eligible, so this is a wonderful opportunity for us both. I would like you to practice to oration and dancing before then…”

Greynora pauses for a moment, and runs off into the Necropolis.

The Catacombs: Greynora runs into the ruins; a section of the Necropolis partially burnt and demolished by the recent war. Scaffolding and canvas sheets cover buildings and monuments as they undergo repairs.

Greynora’s tracks lead into a collapsed and down to the catacombs beneath.

The catacombs here are much older than the Mausoleum the party were just in.

The party moved through the catacombs, following Greynora’s tracks in the dust. They found murdered workers and craftsmen, and evidence of more people entering the deeper depths. They fought a Ghoul, a Shadow, and a couple of Crawling Claws, then found a room with Skeletons, Zombies, Cultists, and a Cult Fanatic. Greynora was hiding in the room, watching them. As the Cult Fanatic became aware of the party’s presence, he ordered his minions to attack whilst he fled in to a further room. Greynora followed him, with Vash in tow.
We ended the session there.

  • Shadow. MM 269. CR 0.5 (100xp)
  • Skeletons. MM 272. CR 0.25 (50xp)
  • Crawling Claw(s). MM 44. CR 0 (10xp)
  • Ghoul. MM 148. CR 1 (200xp)
  • Zombies. MM 316. CR 0.25 (50xp)
  • Cultists. MM 345. CR 0.125 (25xp)
  • Cult Fanatic. MM 345. CR 2 (450xp)
  • [REDACTED]. CR 5 (1,800xp)
  1. Encounter 1: Ghoul, Shadow, 2 Crawling Claws (320xp)
  2. Encounter 2: 5 Cultists, 2 Skeletons, 2 Zombies (325xp)
  3. Encounter 3: Cult Fanatic, Crawling Claw (460xp)
  4. Encounter 4: [REDACTED] (1,800xp)

2,905xp total
726xp each
Plus roleplay awards

The combat encounters within the catacombs went well, from my perspective. Vash rolled badly, and was reduced to 1 HP (again). Everyone else took some hits and handed out some damage. My only gripe would be that the combat was not that dynamic – the party formed a line and held it, the undead dutifully attacked the line. No one used movement or special abilities. It was OK.

The next session will pick up with the rest of the party following Greynora and Vash into the final chamber, and confronting the Cult Fanatic and [REDACTED].
We’ll then (hopefully) cut to Jov and establish what he’s been doing for the last week or so. Hijinks will no doubt ensue, as well as some uncomfortable anti-halfling racism.

That… that’s not a very good strapline to end on…


*I think
**Ssssshhh the players do not know this yet…


The Opposite of Fire: D&D Session 4 Report

Starting position

The players are transporting the body of their dead lord, Lord Devon Harding, and his grieving widow and daughter, from the Dalelands to Suzail in Cormyr.

They opted to travel by riverboat along the Sember, and became embroiled in a military operation between Cormyrian Purple Dragon Knights and insurgent tribes of Goblins and Orcs.

The riverboat has fallen under the command of Marlow, an officer in the Cormyrian Army with secret orders.

Marlow has piloted the riverboat through the remains of an ancient Elven mythal, the ‘mists of madness’, to Semberholme, a ruined, abandoned Elven stronghold.

The session starts as the riverboat drifts into dock, dozens of tribal Kobolds passively watching them.

The scale of this thing is enormous. Great enigmatic Elven faces carved out of stone from thousands of years ago. The fortress reaches out across the river where part of its ruins still stand on the opposite side on a small island. It’s as though the river flowed into the great rams of the sphinx-like temple. Aligning the fortifications are fences, ballista emplacements. There are even the wreckage of riverboats hoisted up into the trees and onto ledges, used as archers nests. It is a strange combination of the very modern and the very primitive. Amongst the ruins we see Kobold hatchlings, families, fires, nomadic dwellings, several hundred of the most primitive Kobolds that ever existed.

Some carry spears, occasionally other emerge from the jungle, scurrying around with the activity that the arrival of a stranger brings. The air is heavy with the weight of hundreds of weapons. A thick greasy smoke hangs from fires that burn and around the camp. Fresh craters indicate a recent battle. Near the dock, and everywhere else, there are tangled piles of corpses, half-submerged in the water, piles of bodies of the dead: Kobolds, Goblins, Humans, Elves, Orcs, Dwarves, Kobolds, Halflings, Kobolds.

Key events

The party are met by a Gnome, dressed as a jester, and a Kobold guard. The Gnome extols the virtues of Colonel Karlsson, their leader, the man the party know Marlow has come to kill.

The Gnome negotiates their safety for now. Marlow leaves an object with the boat’s Cook, instructs him in its use, and disappears into the throng of Kobolds.

Jov, the Rogue, overhears the conversation between Marlow and the Cook, and steals the item from the Cook almost immediately. It’s a ring, engraved with arcane marks.

The party concern themselves with their journey, and their mission: getting Lord Harding and his family to Suzail. A forest, a mountain range, and dozens, maybe hundreds, of miles separate them from Suzail. They try to negotiate passage to the mountains with the Gnome.

The Gnome and the Kobold speak of Karlsson’s guarded items: a large travel trunk held under armed guard in the Kobold tunnels – not even Karlsson is allowed to approach; and a ring, suspended in a pot of water above a water shrine in the old Elven ruins.

The party negotiate escorted safe passage to the mountains with the Gnome and Kobold. The price is to sell Marlow out, and inform the Kobolds of his murderous plot.

The party decide that this is more than fair, as they have no love for Marlow and no hatred for Karlsson.

Meanwhile, Vash, the Bard, casts Invisibility on Jov, and he ventures into the ruins.

Jov bypasses numerous traps – Bear traps, tripwires triggering falling ceilings, a pit trap – and finds the Water Shrine within the ruins.

Above the shrine are numerous holes dug into the ceiling, and occasional shadows.

Jov quietly removes the ring from the water in the suspended pot. It looks similar to the ring he lifted from the Cook. A few seconds after it is removed from the water, it starts to pulse with a dull red glow. The light and disturbance negates the Invisibility spell, and Jov is suddenly visible again.

A Kobold guard in the tunnels above raises the alarm and starts throwing bags down on Jov – first a Crab, then a bag of Rot Grubs, then a Flying Snake, then a Scorpion, a Weasel, a bag of rats, a cat. Jov escapes the tunnel with only minor cuts and scrapes.

The ring is still pulsating, so he throws it into a nearby 20’ deep trench. As it lands, a portal opens and three armed War Wizards appear…

Back at the riverboat, and the party have just concluded their negotiations – they will assist in the capture of Marlow, hand him over to Karlsson, and then begin their journey towards the mountains.

Vash casts Invisibility on himself and wanders off in search of Jov.

The Kobold guard confirms that Marlow is already in custody, contained within a wooden Tiger cage, suspended 30’ about the ground from a wooden beam.

The agreement is brought to a sudden end, though, when Jov and his three new War Wizard friends erupt from the ruins, spraying fire and lightning at the surrounding Kobolds.

About a third of the Kobolds turn to face the Wizards, a third surround the riverboat, and a third flee in terror.

End position

In the ensuing melee the riverboat is successfully defended, Vash and Jov take considerable amounts of damage, and the Kobold guard is fireballed to death by one of the War Wizards.

The Gnome Jester takes a solid slice of damage, but ultimately escapes, swearing revenge.

Jov, fearing for his life, with only 2HP left and having nothing left to lose, activates the ring Marlow left with Cook. It pulsates red, like the last one, and another portal opens and three more War Wizards step through, wands drawn…

In numbers

7 players: 5 regular (1 virtual), and 2 NPC’s

Total XP earned: 1,161

Distinct Kobolds killed:

  • 3x base Kobolds
  • Kobold Sorcerer
  • Kobold Inventor
  • Kobold Dragon Shield
  • Kobold level 2 Ranger.

Traps detected

  • Multiple Bear Traps
  • Tripwire triggering collapsing ceiling and wall
  • Low weight bridge over 20’ drop
  • Ceiling Holes, allowing small objects to be dropped onto intruders (see below).

Tiny animals thrown at the Rogue

  • Crab
  • Flying Snake
  • Poisonous Snake
  • Bag of Rats
  • Scorpion (hit)
  • Spider
  • Weasel
  • Swarm of Rot Grubs (hit).

Portals opened: 3
War Wizards summoned: 6

Twice a year is regular, isn’t it?

I started a monthly Dungeons and Dragons game in March 2017. The plan was that we’d all be able to really commit to a game if it was regular but spaced out, that we’d be able to get everyone together for one day every month and really play.
It’s January 2018 now, and we’ve played twice.

Our next game is scheduled for this Sunday, presuming I post this before then. If not, Sunday 28th January, Date fans.

We missed May due to ‘slapped face fever’ going round my kids school, and the partner of one of the players being pregnant, so he had to skip. That, plus the inordinate number of people who selfishly get married in May (for the Bank Holidays, I guess) stealing weekends from the other players.
Now we’re in June, and our expectant father has dropped out “until after the baby’s born” and the rest of us continue to have conflicting weekend plans.
So I’m not sure what to do with it. I like the campaign and I like the player dynamic and the characters they’ve created. It’s definitely on the back burner, but I don’t know for how long.
At the moment, as of the end of session 2, they’re on a boat sailing down the Sember Flow to Lake Sember, in the midst of a war between goblins, orcs, and Purple Dragon Knights from Cormyr, transporting the body of their late Lord and his surviving widow and daughter to Suzail. There will be an element of mountaineering once they get to the Lake. Basically, it’s the most fucking stupid route they could take, but as soon as the possibility of traveling up river in a small boat was discussed, and I said “you realise I’d have to run it as Apocalypse Now” the dye was cast.

If you look at the map below, you’ll see that Lake Sember has a large mountain range between it and Cormyr.

The party have secured passage on a Cormyrian Army riverboat, heading back up the Sember Flow with supplies for the Purple Dragon Knights and Battle Mages stationed there. They’re already very suspicious of Marlowe, the other passenger.

So far they’ve arrived at a vanguard post, where bards entertain weary soldiers, and barely survived an attack by Orc and Goblin raiders. The Rogue nearly died, as is tradition, and many engagingly bad rolls are made. Mostly by Ken, the Rogue’s player.

Bards play on a stage (left) play for the assembled troops whilst the PCs (middle and far right) watch

On Sunday they’ll be taking on more passengers (more players joining the group) and heading further up into the war zone.

Dungeon Prep

Game night T-6 Days, and I’ve settled on NPC names. I originally gave them Forgotten Realms canon last names, but have now reverted to less ornate, more common ones. Using established names adds unnecessary weight, and only means something to people who are familiar with the metaplot, and once you’re familiar with the metaplot, it’s too heavy on the foreshadowing.

I’ve said too much.
Meet the Harding’s of Culain Manor, Featherdale.

Lord Devon Harding, former Purple Dragon Knight, last hereditary Lord of Culain Manor, titled Lord of Featherdale.

Lady Matrice Harding, Third Daughter of Duke Brannock of House Cormaeril, Lady of Culain Manor.

Greynora Harding, daughter and only child of Lord and Lady Harding

The Harding family hold ancestral land in Featherdale, the site of Culain Manor (which is more of a farm estate than a castle or keep). They’re nobility, but at the tapered end of their titles. Greynora will have to marry well to retain a title. She will not inherit one from her parents.
Lord Devon was a Purple Dragon Knight in Cormyr, and retired to lands bequeathed to him by his uncle. The lands were not considered a great boon, being unkempt, disorderly and wild; Villagers paid no taxes or tithes; theft, assaults and banditry were common; Culain Manor was close to collapse.

Devon rose to the task, bringing consistent and fair law, protection and, less popularly, taxes to his corner of Featherdale.
Devon is a hands on Lord. He farms the land, hunts game and patrols the area himself, partly because his coffers can’t pay for others to do the work, but mostly because he sees it as his duty. 

Whilst Lord Devon is not loved by his vassals, he is respected. He is one of the few established authority figures in Featherdale, and draws awe and ire in equal measure from the inhabitants of Featherdale. That he is not originally from the Dalelands has done him no favours.

Aware of the challenges he faces, and his own advancing years, Lord Devon has expanded his household, inviting a small number of capable individuals into Culain Manor in return for an oath of fealty to his name and a vow assist him with his duties.

My intention is use the Player Characters fealty to Lord Harding as the springboard for the first few adventures: law and order, dispute mediation, safeguarding villagers etc. Basically killing bandits, chasing of wolves and goblins, getting rid of oversized beetles that have gotten into the grain store, shit like that.

We’ll be finalising the Player Characters at the start of the first session, and as far as I’m aware, they’ll include:

  • A Human Bard (noble)
  • A Human Fighter (noble)
  • A Human Rogue
  • Possibly a Cleric

So, basically a Star Wars party. I need to work out what the D&D equivalent of a Droid and Wookie are. Possibly a paired Halfling and Elf, and a Half-Orc…

A Return to Full Geek

Before we start, a little light reading. Some context.

I used to regularly blog about gaming on Total Party Kill, and then infrequently on The Illuminerdy.

I’ve let my love of RPGs and my love of writing rubbish about them fade somewhat of late. So let’s rectify that, shall we.

The plan is, on 11th March i’ll be running the 1st session of a new, monthly Dungeons & Dragons game. I’ve got 5 players, I’ll be running 5e. This is slightly problematic, for the following reasons:

  • Only one of the players has played 5e
  • One of the players hasn’t played D&D before
  • One of the players hasn’t played in over 25 years
  • The other two players have only played earlier editions
  • I’m trying to use the current canon Forgotten Realms setting, but obviously have not bought any of the ‘plot’ supplements, so don’t really know what’s going on…

I can surmise that it’s 1491 (Dale Reckoning), and that the maps from 4e have been mostly retconned back to the 3.xe state. This is fine. I guess. I’ve not got a problem with the characters having access to out of date/unreliable maps, lore and legends. I was planning on planting a NPC Bard with the party to provide just this type of sketchy detail, until one of the players decided to stat a Bard, and he’ll be even more unreliable (sorry Matt).

I do kind of feel as though I should have an official view of “what’s actually happening/how things really are” that I can disregard at my leisure. Or, at the very least, give the players the impression that I know what’s going on.

That’s half the battle, right there.

Location: I’ve settled on The Dalelands, because a) they’re kind of iconic, b) they border on some of the more interesting lands, seas and organisations, c) I panicked when one of the players asked for a quote on how many gp they would need to travel from their current position to their ancestral home, stated as ‘maybe Tethyr’.


I want to tell my own story, with the Forgotten Realms as the backdrop, so I’ve opted for Featherdale as a starting point – It’s a decentralised area with no capital, no named ruler, a clean canvas. I can add the player characters and my NPCs in without having to weave any established characters or events around them, and subsequently move towards or away from canon plot as required.

I’ve still an amount of world building to do: I know that the player characters are oathsworn to the local Lord and his family – I need to come up with names and characteristics. I know their daughter is called Greynora, that she’s 11, and that she has a bag that she puts interesting things she finds into. I know that the family are a distant branch of a noble lineage. That’s kind of important. I also know that I want to focus on themes of honour and duty (mostly to stop the PCs from becoming murder hobos).

I’ve got the first couple of encounters fleshed out in my head, but given the XP budget guidelines, I’m 700xp over budget for a level 1 Deadly combat for 5 PCs. 

Which is fine. A TPK in the first combat of the first session will set expectations.