Hail Adventurers!

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So I ran the Horde of the Dragon Queen myself for a group of younger players brand new to the world of DnD, and with myself being a first time GM.  It’s the first published adventure for Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition, as well as the first half of the Tyranny of Dragons campaign, with Rise of Tiamat being the second half.  It takes players from first to 8th level based either on a XP level up system, or a milestone system.

I think I did ok with running this campaign.  The players always seemed to have fun, and I was able to draw on my personal store of knowledge within the Realms to expand a bit on what was already here.

I think what I liked most about this adventure is that it seems very well balanced.  It’s straightforward and simple enough for a first time GM like myself or first time players like my group to run with little to no difficulty but it has that capacity for more experienced GMs to draw on inspiration from other sources and allow the players to go completely off the rails (which my group has done after only 1 session of the second half of this campaign Rise of Tiamat) or simply expand on what’s there.

The only thing is I don’t think the XP level up system really works with this.  I think the milestones system works much better.  I actually started it as using designated XP to level up characters, but I found that when they were fifth level according to the XP system they should have been 7th level according to the milestone system.  So I either REALLY screwed up or the XP system doesn’t really work.  And I personally don’t think it was me as I am really careful to record how many of each creature is faced/killed during session, and I would even review the chapters after the fact to make sure nothing was missed.  I might have been off half a level or so, but not two.

Anyways I really like it.  I think we’ll like Rise of Tiamat, but we’re only the one session/chapter into that adventure so only time will tell.

Next a fun little read my uncle got me for Christmas: How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill you.

If your cat is kneading you, that’s not a sign of affection. Your cat is actually checking your internal organs for weakness. If your cat brings you a dead animal, this isn’t a gift. It’s a warning. How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You is an offering of cat comics, facts, and instructional guides from the creative wonderland at TheOatmeal.com.

Even Archmages Have Their Limits

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People, NEVER piss off an archmage, especially when sed archmage is favored of the reborn goddess of magic.  It’s never a smart idea…

So Elminster Enraged here pick up were Bury Elminster Deep ends.  Manshoon believes he has finally killed the Sage of Shadowdale once and for all, and relaxes into his plots and schemes to become the Emperor of all Cormyr.  Meanhile the usual Benny Hin-ery ensues with everyone rushing around squinting at shadows, condemning allies as spies and spies as allies.

That’s my biggest issue with Cormyr.  They’re ruled largely by the war wizards, and all they do is go around glaring suspiciously at everyone, each one thinks they’re the only ones telling the truth about anything, and they just wind up making things worse all around in the end.

Anyways, Elminster has been tasked by his newly resurrected goddess to bring the war wizards to heel as she has need of them, so that’s what he undertakes to do.  But when they blast him almost unto death and the Simbul shows up to sacrifice her life to save the man she loves…yeah…he goes a bit nuts.

To be well and truly dead for the most briefest of moments, killed by defenders of a realm he too has sworn to defend and protect, have an egomaniacal arch enemy be so self-destructive as to allow the world to fall about AND have the death of his lady love on his conscious?  Elminster losed his SHIT, blasting apart Manshoon and his minions and giving the war wizards SUCH a beat down they’ll need to climb back up through several levels of Cormyrian sewers to see the sun again.

I am very saddened by the death of Allassra the Simbul, Witch Queen of Algarond, but gawd I loved this book.  Wonder how the next one in Elminster’s tale will pan out…

Until then, we’re going to pop back into the source books with Horde of the Dragon Queen.

Fight the War Against Draconic Oppression in this Adventure for the World’s Greatest Roleplaying Game

In an audacious bid for power the Cult of the Dragon, along with its dragon allies and the Red Wizards of Thay, seek to bring Tiamat from her prison in the Nine Hells to Faerun. To this end, they are sweeping from town to town, laying waste to all those who oppose them and gathering a hoard of riches for their dread queen. The threat of annihilation has become so dire that groups as disparate as the Harpers and Zhentarim are banding together in the fight against the cult. Never before has the need for heroes been so desperate.

Come Tell Me s Story

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I actually wanted to pull some kind of April Fool’s prank for this, but I’m afraid I’m not that clever 😛

Anywhoodle, Tales from the Yawning Portal is the latest source book from Wizards of the Coast for 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons, and so far it looks pretty cool. I of course love it for the Realms lore it represents.  The Yawning Portal is a tavern in Waterdeep with an underground access to the famous dungeon Undermountain in it’s basement.  The proprieter Durnan was an adventurer in his day, and came across something that extended his lifespan, so the Durnan here is the same as the Durnan from pre Spellplague.  I actually first came across Durnan and the Yawning Portal when I was playing Neverwinter Nights Horde of the Underdark.  The Yawning Portal is actually where you start the expansion off and Durnan himself leads you to the portal to Undermountain.

So yeah, total fangirl squee when I saw this was coming out…

The whole thing is just old, famous dungeons from 3rd and 3.5ed that have been revamped for 5th edition to be used in campaigns today.  There are about 5 dungeons outlined here, spanning across the face of Toril.  From dragons and giants, from deserts to jungles, mad wizards, fiends, monsters of all kinds and probably more can be found here.  Each dungeon is geared towards a specific level of adventurer, even the Tomb of Horror is here!

My GM is currently mixing a dungeon from this book with Storm Kings Thunder and so far it’s really good.  The players are being challenged for the first time in a while, we almost lost one member three times in this particular dungeon so be prepared for the stakes to be high when you use anything from this one!

Back to the day to day of Toril, we move on to Elminster Enraged next.

Who dared slay a Chosen of Mystra?

He had not felt that sudden tingling stealing into him for years, had not thought to ever feel it again.

The silver fire.

Mystra’s divine fire was flowing into him from somewhere nearby, somewhere in the shattered citadel!

He felt invigorated, stronger than ever. Well, of course he would, with this new fire in him — but he had to know who was dying, which Chosen of Mystra was sinking into death and yielding up their divine fire, leaking it out into the Realms around. He must know!

Saved From Death

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Yet another Realms book that made me cry.

I loved The Companions.  It is all about –you guessed it- the Companions of the Hall, the group of friends and family that our beloved Drizz’t traveled with for so long, and who all have played such an important role in the Realms events.  Very little of Drizz’t but I’m ok with that…

So for those who don’t know, the Companions of the Hall (Mithril Hall to be exact) were a group of adventurers consisting of the drow ranger Drizz’t Do’Urden, dwarf fighter Bruenor Battlehammer King of Mithral Hall, Halfling rogue Regis, human barbarian Wulfgar, and human ranger-turned-wizard Cattie Brie who also in the end was Drizz’t’s wife.

Now Wulfgar left the Companions to walk his own path many years before the Spellplague.  Then during the events of the Spellplague, when the Blue Fire raged, Regis and Cattie Brie were killed tho some said to have seen a unicorn bearing them away to safety.  Shortly after this Bruenor ‘died’ and left his throne to a successor so he and Drizz’t could search for Gauntlgrym, home of Bruenor’s ancestors and ultimately where he died trying to free the abandoned city from those who had overrun it.  This left Drizz’t alone for…what a hundred years or so?  And when we last saw Drizz’t at the end of The Last Threshold, he too had passed.

Or so we thought…well I definitely thought as I bawled my eyes out at the end of that book…

Anywhoodle, what had actually happened, was that at the time of the deaths of all the companions, Meilikki had stepped in and ‘caught’ their souls, depositing them in a little magical side pocket of reality crafted just for them called Iruladoon I think?  And once they had all gathered Cattie Brie told them that something big was going to happen in the Realms, and that Drizz’t would need their help.  The Companions had a choice: Pass on to the heavens of their gods and the rewards that they had reaped in life, or be reborn on Toril holding all knowledge and memories of their past lives, to one day make their way to the side of their beloved friend at a designated place and time when he needed them most.

All but Wulfgar surprisingly agreed to be reborn, and once all Companions had left that pit stop the rest of the book is mostly just following Regis, Cattie Brie and Bruenor in their new lives as they were born and grew through the years before gathering at Kevin’s Cairn and finding Drizz’t mortally wounded.  But now Cattie Brie is a wizard and a cleric of Meilikki, so she was able to heal her past and future husband, who was astonished understandably to see them all again, even Wulfgar who had changed his mind and somehow was reborn again but kept secret from the readers until the end.

So now, at the end of the Companions, the Companions of the Hall are together once more, and all are well aware that something comes for their Realms, something that they will have to once more join together with friends and possible foes in order to defeat.

And Mystra’s back!!!!! Not quite sure how, but it is confirmed that not only has she returned, but her death was actually part of a cycle of renewal.  Apparently every few centuries she needs to die and be reborn in order to refresh or maybe ‘reset’ the magic that practically holds Toril together.

Sooooooo excited to see where the rest of the Sundering leads!!!!  But until then we’ll check out the latest DnD source book, Tales of the Yawning Portal is next.

DREAD TALES TOLD IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT
When the shadows grow long in Waterdeep and the fireplace in the taproom of the Yawning Portal dims to a deep crimson glow, adventurers from across the Forgotten Realms, and even from other worlds, spin tales and spread rumors of dark dungeons and lost treasures. Some of the yarns overheard by Durnan, the barkeep of the Yawning Portal, are inspired by places and events in far-flung lands from across the D&D multiverse, and these tales have been collected into a single volume.

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Roses Are Red, Genasi Are Blue

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This one…was very confusing.  Something about a lost half eldarin princess and pirates were hired to find her so her mother/sister/aunt could kill her (seriously this family was SO inbred…).  The came across an island filled with were creatures where some of them were ruled by this princess and some weren’t, some were trying to bring back Malar the Beastlord, some were trying to prevent that from happening.  And among the pirates was a priestess of Chauntea, a shifting cat boy, a gnome sorcerer who was being held captive as an incetive for the pirates to complete their mission, a human (I think?), a water genasi with an unhealthy obsession with sweets and a demon fey.

The priestess allowed the resurrection of Malar because her goddess demanded it, she also allowed for the little shifter cat boy to become Malar’s avatar, the demon fey fell in kinda love with a druidess who showed up?  The genasi always had his head in the clouds, and the little gnome scorcerer captive made friends with a were boar and formorian princess before escaping into a palace of illusions, the human fell kinda in love with the half eldarin princess, and then there was this portal that transported everyone to safety somewhere.

Yeah…I think that pretty much covers everything that happened. Although I could not tell you how half of it applied to the plot.  It was just a huge mish mosh, and all of the characters felt stiff you didn’t connect with them at all.  I think I kinda connected with the demon fey, mostly cuz it was this big mystery as to what he actually was but in the end the choices he made did not make sense to me.

Ok, with a little luck I’ve put the hard stuff behind me now. As next we’re going to FINALLY tackle the first in the Sundering series, the Companions by R.A. Salvatore is next.

On the dusty plains of Netheril, a young Bedine girl spins a web of forbidden magic, obliterating a pair of assassins with a single lightning strike.

On the banks of the Sea of Fallen Stars, a tiny thief walks willingly into battle with a ruthless killer, a wide grin upon his face.

In the tunnels of Citadel Felbarr, a dwarfling is ambushed and strikes back with an attack well beyond his apparent strength and years.

These three seemingly unrelated commoners, growing up across the far reaches of the Forgotten Realms®, hold the fate of Faerûn’s most famous dark elf, Drizzt Do’Urden, in their hands.

But that fate is far from certain. For in the shadows a cunning cabal of wizards is watching, intent on hunting Chosen—mortals blessed by the gods. These wizards know something mere commoners do not: Long-forgotten gods have begun to stir. Long-lost lands have begun to tremble. The world around them is about to change. And these wizards will do whatever it takes to turn the coming chaos to their advantage.

Howling In Frustration…

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The final chapter in the Chosen of Nendawen and the end of Hweilen’s story so far, and it was a bit of a disappointment.  For most of the book she’s taken captive and fighting a hobgoblin clan who’s queen insists she can deal with the demon in Highwatch on her own.

This is kinda how it went:

Hero: Hey I’mma go kill the monster that threatens us all k?

HobgobLins: RAWR! No!  We kill!

Hero: Umm…no…I can do it…kinda my fate and all…

Hobs: NO!  You tell us how!  We kill!

Hero: Yeah…no. Chosen of a god of the hunt here folks? I have the weapons-

Hobs: TELL US OR WE KILL YOU AND YOUR SQUISHY HOOMAN FRIENDS!

*battles and frustrations*

Hobs: Oh, hi. Ok…so…this monster is like SUPER evil…we have no chance against it…so umm…yeah you go kill it…

Like seriously.  I was just rolling my eyes and shaking my head through most of it. And throughout the course of the book Hweilen has a suitor and doesn’t really know it, but at the end he’s all like “hey I love you lets hook up” and she’s all like “oh well I’ve pretty much ignored you and treated you like shit for weeks but i’m scared and tired and lonely so ok”

AND! AND!  We don’t even get to know what the big mystery is about her heritage.  It seems like a divine being intervenes and offers to help her avoid becoming the next Nendawen (that’s kinda his thing he Chooses Hands and they become the next Hunter in time) and now that the threat in Highwatch is over she’s off to find this being and get her answers.

Now if they had made this trilogy a quartet and had that pilgrimage of hers as the last book then this  would be such a better review.  But as it is I did enjoy the series and story overall, but the ending left more questions than answers so I felt it was very Meh.

Hoping the next one, Rose of Sarifel turns out better.

Cloaked in mist and layered in magic, the denizens of Moonshae Isles move in secret
circles as capricious rulers vie for power.

High Lady Ordalf wanted her niece, the princess known as the Rose of Sarifal, dead. Instead, the young regent was secreted away by the high lady’s opponents. For years the eladrin queen of Gwynneth Isle has searched for evidence of her niece’s death, and word has finally come in the form of a castaway’s tale. The princess lives on the island of Moray—a mad beauty who leads a nation of lycanthropes.

As long as her niece is alive, Lady Ordalf cannot rest secure in her claim to the throne. Enlisting a band of adventurers to seek out the princess is the
first step toward stemming the Rose of Sarifal and her tide of wolves. Will those heroes see the same threat the queen sees in the beautiful young maiden?

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Blood Will Tell

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11768286So I discovered this trend with these Forgotten Realms stand alone novels.  I never think that one is enough.  Either it’s like Sandstorm where I think it needed more than the standard 350 pages to tell the story properly because there was too much info shoved into one story, or it’s like Venom in Her Veins and I just cannot get enough of the story or the characters and just want more.

Needless to say, I fucking loved this book.

You don’t often see stories about the snake people called yuan-ti in the Realms, last one I remember was the House of Serpents trilogy, so this makes the fourth book out of almost three hundred that have been written and printed in the Realms world that focus on this race.  Kinda understandable considering the entire race is defined as evil so 1) possibly not a lot of people want to read/write about out and 2) it’s sometimes hard to create a hero that rises up out of such a race, Drizz’t aside.  So all told I was really excited to read this and was not disappointed.

Long story short, yound female found abandoned in the woods, taken to live among civilization, hold her people were killed and had her yuan-ti heritage hidden from her until she was deemed old enough to accept the truth of things.  But on a family business trip into the jungle (a trip that she had routinely take twice a year for the past 16 years) she discovers first that her people were not killed, but rather enslaved and dragged into the Underdark.  Running off down into the dark to save them, she eventually comes to terms with her nature and in the process defeats a threat from the Far Realm that unknown to everyone was fueling her family’s business ventures.

Oh and it’s entirely possible that she is a Chosen of the snake god Zehir….

There’s a bit of a love story between our heroine and her cousin and I was really looking forward to seeing how that turned out, plus at the end they run off with a tiefling for new adventures! I really wish this was maybe like a trilogy or something.  I have no idea what the end game would be and part of me doesn’t care.  I just want to see more of the characters.

Coming up next now, we’re going to finish up the Chosen of Nendawen trilogy with Cry of the Ghost Wolf.

10931634Hweilan went into the Feywild a girl focused on avenging her family’s death, and emerged a brutal killer. Nendawen the Hunter has anointed her his Hand in destroying the demonic and undead forces of his nemesis–the murderer of her family–Jagen Ghen. But while she managed to survive long enough to become the Hand of the Hunter, the war with Jagen Ghen has just begun. And while she is hunting them–they are likewise hunting her. It will take every trick of the Fox, every drop of Lore, and every ounce of will she has to stand against Jagen Ghen, but Hweilan will have her chance to avenge her family–or die trying.

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