I learnt a little bit more about why I should take more time with D&D last night. I played my regular Tuesday night game and it was a great session. Loads of laughs, fun, and even a bit of singing. But beyond the tale of the game was a bit of a light bulb moment for myself about D&D fifth edition. I need to impart the tale of the were-boar though to help us understand the light bulb moment.
This tale starts the day before on the Monday. I run a game for the school kids in years 11 and 12 at the school I teach at. They are all excited about D&D so that is what I run. The thing is we had actually only moved the game to Monday this week due to a clash some of them had on the Wednesday. This meant that of course when I got to school I had forgotten the books and the dice! I rang my wife, directed her to which books to bring in and she found my dice and the game went ahead after I downloaded the module I had written off of my wondrous blog here. The game went ahead no problems at all.
So come to last night my wife asks if I have everything and I roll my eyes and grab the bag she had taken up to the school for me. “Of course.” I reply. I head off to the game, a little late already, and when I am about 15 Kilometres (about 10 mile) from home I realised that the module I am using for these players is sitting back on the shelf at home. My wife had no need to add it to the books and I had forgotten it! There was no way I was ringing my wife this time and admitting that I had not taken it with me so I arrived at the game and decided to do what I could with what I had.
In the bag was the module I was using for the school kids. A first level module named Tomb of the Ghast Queen that I had written. This group was fifth level though so I could not just drop it in, even though the group is currently trapped in an astral space larder for an Oni that appears as a labyrinth from the material plane. I needed updated monsters and a new focus for the night. I grabbed it and thought that at least I had a map. I decided to wing a trap in the last room they had come to the week before and had a stone block collapse a door. The sorcerer then took care of the block with the spell Shatter and I decided “Cool, they can come in in one of the areas that looks like a roof collapse had occurred”. If you are following along they came in at area 8.
The paladin lead the way in listening carefully. I flicked to the DMG and found the random sounds chart and he heard footsteps. They made their way further in and while I was balancing the descriptions I was using the DMG charts to stock the nearby rooms. The stocking was pretty eye opening too! The footsteps to the north now sounded more like a bunch of spears being rapidly struck on a stone floor and so the group headed to the Divination Room in the south. There they found a smelly individual with black bristling hair coiled up and asleep on a backpack. The group wake him and find him to be a rough drunkard adventurer who has been in the labyrinth for a good 8 months. His name is Belmore and he knows the area around here like the back of his hand.
I have to pause here to say I really worked a personality into Belmore. He is in fact a were-boar but he struggles against the affliction and blacks out at times remembering nothing. I also wanted him a bit unique in the triggering factor was not the phases of the moon, instead I varied him so if he ever sees a visible magic effect it triggers the transformation.
So there I was being gruff and all full of personality and I could literally see the players loving the interaction with Belmore. They wanted to take him as a guide but Belmore does not help anyone generally and so the new cleric slipped a suggestion in and the sorcerer started flexing his persuasiveness. Belmore agreed to take them to the corridor of flames, which he swears is the way out but he can’t make it through, as soon as the party deal with the big blue creature with a hood and 40 legs to a side that burns its victims with its bite. It is to the North and has been blocking Belmore from the flaming corridor for the past month or so.
The party agree and ask Belmore to help. Belmore tells them that he does not think that is a good idea but the Cleric again suggests him to and he follows along. With a nature check the sorcerer feels the creature that Belmore describes is a Remorhaz but feels that the creature is far too small to actually be one. The ranger moves ahead but fails a perception test (rolled a 1 in fact) and got surprised by the young remorhaz that has been lurking here!
An exciting battle ensued where the Remhoraz critical hit the Paladin (54 points of damage) and he was only left standing due to the judicial use of the Aid spell by the cleric. The ranger was also touch and go for a while but when the sorcerer let off a magical spell the group got to see the true nature of Belmore. The Paladin finished off the Remorhaz in the round that Belmore transformed and the Cleric used his suggestion again to stay the attack and the sorcerer talked the were-boar into a calmer state and he returned to Belmore. Belmore looks around and asks if he did the killing blow. The group mention nothing about the transformation and simply tell him yes, and he is brilliant!
He leads them to the room that adjoins the flaming corridor and the sorcerer and cleric notice a barbed tail, much like a serpents, disappears into the flames as they enter the room. They spend a lot of time in here trying to find some way to turn off the flames and also the cleric attempts to dispel them (he oh so narrowly missed) and so stumped as to a way forward they put pressure on Belmore to solve the issue. Belmore suggests throwing the Tiefling ranger into the flames (“devils are immune to flame right?”) or they could go get the big sarcophagus and put someone in it and push it through the flames.
Lost for anything else to do they decide to go for the sarcophagus! Belmore leads them to the sarcophagus of a resplendant woman that is made from some kind of stone and inlaid with gold and silver. The paladin decides he is going to hoist up the lid and Belmore offers to help. The rest of the party back right off. Luckily for them for the sarcophagus was rigged over a pit trap and as they lift the lid the paladin and Belmore fall in. But they are shocked as they seem to float 5′ above the ground.
What had actually happened is the pit was rigged over a 10 by 10 foot area and is 20 feet deep. The bottom 10 x 10 x 10 feet area is filled with a gelatinous cube…
The paladin could not make a perception check to realise what was going on and started taking the damage. The rest of the party all saw it instantaneously, as did Belmore. The party above started hurling weapons at the cube as the paladin kept laying hands on himself whilst failing the check to see what was going on. The sorcerer lets off a spell and Belmore transforms inside the cube! This was one of the funniest, most chaotic scenes I think I have ever had the pleasure to GM. The ranger throws down a rope, Belmore pulls himself out, now a were boar and gunning for the sorcerer and the paladin finally realises what is happening and grabs the ankle of the were boar.
Next round Belmore fails to pull himself up and the paladin falls unconscious in the cube. The players continue to damage the cube and it is coming close to being destroyed but things look bad for the paladin. Belmore finally pulls himself up and out of the pit. The cleric tries to suggest to the were boar to help him with the rope but Belmore makes his save this time. The sorcerer attempts to persuade him again but I advise that the persuasion can only cool him down when not in attack mode, and right now he was in attack mode. The ranger, in a last ditch effort to save the paladin leaps in the air over the pit, fires an arrow into the cube and then dives toward it shooting a second arrow. This in fact kills the cube and I describe to her how the form of the cube collapses in on itself and becomes all watery before flowing out cracks. She asks “I am diving face first into a 20′ pit with no padding now aren’t I?”
The were boar spends a couple of rounds dancing with the sorcerer and manages to gore him. The cleric has gone into the pit and with the bloody faced ranger has restored life to the paladin who is now climbing out of the pit to help the sorcerer with the were boar. The sorcerer, deciding that the 20′ drop is better than an enraged were boar takes the leap and lands reasonably well. The paladin comes out of the pit and he and the were boar charge each other. There is a clash and both fall unconscious (all damage to Belmore was being done subdual as they like him – sort of) and the ranger comes on them. The Paladin when he fell was because of a critical hit with the tusks and I called for a con save which he rolled for and got a 1. The paladin’s player thought he was rolling a death save and I did not correct him, he had just succumbed to lycanthropy.
The end of the night involved the group discussing how they were going to wake up Belmore and tie him up, but tell him was all OK. They like Belmore and they believe that he has no knowledge of his condition but they also know because of his trigger he is very dangerous to them. And then the ranger started pointing fingers at those that had gotten tusked in the battle (the sorcerer and the paladin). I tell her that she sees some black bristly hair coming out on the neck of the paladin and the paranoia set in. After about ten minutes of listening to this work its magic I called it a night!
What a great game!
So, now, to why I loved running it. It is a bit surmised by the videos that Wizards of the Coast released for GM appreciation month which I did a post on here. Especially the one involving the woman who is too busy to DM any more. I was under the press last night because I had left my prep at home. What came to support me? The DMG. With a couple of rolls and perhaps a few minutes worth of note taking I had an adventure up and waiting. I could have used one of the DMG maps but I did not like the idea as to how much flipping around the pages I was going to have to do. It worked really well. As I rolled the creatures I asked myself why they were there and came up with some reasonable assumptions. And I am fairly certain that Belmore is one of their most favourite NPC’s ever.
In the end the group asked which books to bring next week as we are super close to returning to Pathfinder. One of the players that could not make it last night is really keen to finish the labyrinth they are in and I can move back to the labyrinth next week and do that. I even said that if they are enjoying it I can now live with D&D for as long as they want to play it. At that time they looked at me and I admitted that I had forgotten to bring the adventure and I think they were a little amazed that I had been “winging” the game all night. I told them what I had done and they had a good laugh before we all said our good nights and went home.
This game is going to stay with me for a long time I think. Belmore (although I struggle to remember his names) is not only one of their favourite NPC’s, he is one of mine too! I just had to share the nights adventure with you. Keep rolling!
Image of the were-boar viewed at http://aqwwiki.wikidot.com/battle-boar on 18 March 2015